Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. I’ve been looking forward to our stop in Tennessee for some time, hoping to enjoy good music, food and beverage, along with taking in the Volunteer State’s rich history. So, let’s eat, drink and be merry:
Motto: “Agriculture and Commerce” – At least Tennessee is telling things like they really are.
Food: An item I’ve fallen for as it’s reached my part of the world is recent years is Nashville Hot Chicken. The traditional serving features cayenne-spiced breaded chicken atop white bread with pickle slices. It was first served at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville and can now be found on the menu of chains such as KFC. Nashville hosts the Music City Hot Chicken Festival annually.
Drink: When discussing drinks in Tennessee, the conversation begins and ends with Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, which operates out of Lynchburg. JD is best selling American whiskey in the world and its distillery is visited by an estimated 250,000 people each year. If liquor isn’t your thing, Mountain Dew was also created in Tennessee in 1940 by brothers Moses and Ally Hartman.
Site to See: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in U.S. with 10 million guests each year. The mountains are named for the blueish natural fog that typically emanates from them, appearing like large plumes of smoke. Within the park, the Appalachian Trail can be found, which extends from Georgia to Maine.
Street: The Beale Street Historic District in Memphis was once voted the most iconic street in the U.S. by USA Today. The street is a major attraction thanks to its many blues clubs, along with outdoor concerts and festivals, such as the Beale Street Music Festival. The street has been mentioned in songs by artists like Joni Mitchell, Cab Calloway and Bette Midler.
TV Show: Nashville is a drama focused on the country music industry, particularly a rivalry between ‘Queen of Country Music’ Rayna James (Connie Britton) and rising young star Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). The show ran for six seasons and 124 episodes and expanded into successful CD releases and music tours based on songs performed on the show.
Movie: The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock, tells the true story of the Tuohy family of Oslo, adopting high school football player Michael Oher, to provide him with a better life and opportunity to play college football and later be drafted into the NFL. Bullock won a Best Actress Oscar (and Golden Globe) for her role in the film, which was nominated for Best Picture.
Book/Author: While Quentin Tarantino – born in Knoxville – is best known as a director, he has also written each of his films. These include classic movies such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and The Hateful Eight. My favourite Tarantino credit though, is his appearance as an Elvis Presley impersonator on a 1988 episode of The Golden Girls.
Fictional Character: Lt. Aldo Raine, commander of the Jewish-American unit The Basterds in the Tarantino film Inglorious Basterds, is from Maynardville. The Basterds’ mission is to strike fear in German soldiers during World War II, by executing and scalping the ones they capture. Other Nazis have swastikas carved into their foreheads so they can’t hide their affiliation.
Fictional City: Miley Stewart, otherwise known by her stage persona Hannah Montana, is from the fictional small town Crowley Corners. The setting is largely used for Hannah Montana: The Movie, where the teenager living the double life of normal girl/pop superstar returns home to reconnect with her roots… and save the town from an evil land developer.
Actor/Actress: Two Memphis-born thespians, Kathy Bates and Morgan Freeman, have enjoyed successful careers well into older age. Bates won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in horror film Misery. Meanwhile, Freeman earned critical acclaim for movies such as Driving Miss Daisy, Glory and The Shawshank Redemption. Both are still going strong, aged 72 and 83, respectively.
Song: Tennessee has 10 different State Songs, including My Tennessee, Tennessee Waltz, Rocky Top, The Pride of Tennessee, and Smoky Mountain Rain. Popular artists, such as Johnny Cash, Tim McGraw, Dolly Parton, Billy Ray Cyrus and others have also produced odes to the state, making it very difficult to narrow down a top choice for this category.
Band/Musician: A number of superstar musicians have hailed from Tennessee. This includes the ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin, the ‘Queen of Country’ Dolly Parton, the ‘Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ Tina Turner and ‘The Prince of Pop’ Justin Timberlake. That’s quite the lineup of music royalty, who have been making hits for decades and dominating the charts.
People: More on Dolly Parton, who was born in Pittman Center. Aside from being a popular musician, Parton is also known in the state for her Dollywood Parks and Resorts, which is the second most visited attraction in Tennessee. The resort includes an amusement park, water park, dinner shows and more. Also, the Dolly Parton Parkway leads to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Animal: Doug the Pug is a celebrity dog from Nashville. The pug has millions of followers on the various social media platforms, earning accolades such as a 2019 People’s Choice Award for Animal Star and being listed by Forbes as the #2 most influential pet of 2018. Doug has appeared in music videos and commercials and has his own line of merchandise.
Invention: Bristol has been recognized by the U.S. Congress as the Birthplace of Country Music. In 1927, producer Ralph Peer began amassing musical talents in the city and recorded 76 songs in a span of 10 days by artists such as the Carter Family (the First Family of Country Music) and Jimmie Rodgers, in their commercial debuts. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum can be found in Bristol.
Crime: On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, while a fugitive from prison. Ray plead guilty, avoiding a jury trial and possible death sentence, and was given 99 years in jail, where he died in 1998. The motel has since become the National Civil Rights Museum, including room 306, where MLK had been staying.
Law: The Scopes Monkey Trial occurred in 1925, when teacher John Scopes was fined $100 for teaching evolution at his school in Dayton. Scopes lost the staged trial, although the verdict was later overturned. While the trial garnered the national attention desired towards the new state law against teaching evolution, the subject didn’t return to Tennessee curriculums until the 1960’s.
Sports Team: The state is covered in three of the four ‘Big 4’ sports leagues with the Memphis Grizzlies (NBA), Nashville Predators (NHL), and Tennessee Titans (NFL), who play out of Nashville. Pro wrestling has also been a major draw in Tennessee, with promotions like the Continental Wrestling Association and Smoky Mountain Wrestling leaving lasting legacies.
Athlete: Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White was born in Chattanooga. White played for three NFL teams over a 15-season career. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice, while being selected to 13 Pro Bowl games. White became a Super Bowl champion in 1997 with the Green Bay Packers. Sadly, White died in 2004, at the age of 43, due to cardiac arrhythmia.
Famous Home: Graceland, the Memphis mansion formerly owned by Elvis Presley, is the second most-visited home in the U.S., averaging 500,000 guests annually. It was opened as a museum in 1982, as the Presley family was in need of money to continue the property’s upkeep and pay taxes on it. Each year, Elvis Week celebrates the ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’.
Urban Legend: In Robertson County, the Bell Witch haunted the family of John Bell beginning in 1817. Incidents included tapping on windows and doors, sheets pulled from beds, strange animals seen on the farm and physical attacks on the children. Bell may have committed suicide to end the witch’s torment. The curse lives on today with some events occurring at the nearby Bell Witch Cave.
Museum: The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is located along the Music Row district in Nashville. Established in 1961, the museum boasts one of the largest collections of music in the world, with 200,000 sound recordings. The museum also displays photographs, instruments, clothing worn by artists and even iconic vehicles of musicians.
Firsts: The first atomic bombs, later dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were developed in Oak Ridge, as part of the Manhattan Project. The research and development operation was so secretive, many didn’t know Oak Ridge existed and those who lived there and worked on the project were kept in the dark about what exactly they were creating.
Company: What became Lay’s Potato Chips was founded in Nashville in 1932 by salesman Herman Lay, who sold the snack food across the southern states from the trunk of his car. The company has come a long way since those humble beginnings, merging with the Frito Company in 1961 and is now part of the PepsiCo corporation, holding a large share of the savoury snack market.
Events: Tennessee’s nickname, the Volunteer State, was earned through the participation of fighters from the state in the War of 1812. Tennessee has gone on to play major roles in wars since, being the last state to secede from the Union and first to be readmitted before and after the Civil War, as well as providing soldiers to both sides of the conflict (38 battles were fought on Tennessee land).
Miscellaneous: The Grand Ole Opry is not only a famous music venue in Tennessee, it is also the oldest running live radio program (originally the WSM Barn Dance) in the world, broadcast weekly on Friday and Saturday nights since 1925. The Grand Ole Opry House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the Ryman Auditorium, which hosted the shows from 1943-1974.
- 2 oz Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
- 1 oz Triple Sec
- Top with Cola
- Splash of Sweet and Sour Mix
- Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry
The obvious cocktail to do for Tennessee is the Lynchburg Lemonade, but since I’ve already profiled that drink before, I went with this beverage instead. I figure, as long as the recipe incorporates Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, you really can’t go wrong.