Where to hunt a Nashville big-name surprise

Where to hunt a Nashville big-name surprise
(Mike De Sisti/McClatchy-Tribune)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Imagine parking yourself at the bar in one of Nashville's beaucoup music venues, expecting to listen to a house band — and suddenly

Kid Rock

shows up onstage. Or

Alison Krauss

. Or

Hank Williams Jr.

It's not that rare an occurrence in Nashville, where some of music's top stars frequently perform unannounced.

Last month, for example, Kid Rock played the Ryman Auditorium as part of his CARE charity tour. On short notice, he was invited to be part of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge's 51st birthday celebration.


Tootsie's is one of several venues where big names often mingle and perform.

Part of this is because, well, this is Music City — the cradle of

country music

. It's also a very unassuming place, where the distance between the hallowed Ryman and Broadway's honky-tonks is just a few feet.

Here are some of Nashville's musical high points:

The Broadway honky-tonks: Places like Tootsie's, Legend's Corner and the Stage play cover-free live music all day, with some of the best house bands in town, but big names such as

Dierks Bentley

, Kid Rock, Williams, Chesney and Randy Houser have given unscheduled performances.


Bridgestone Arena: When the


made the

NHL playoffs

last year, there were performances at the games by

Vince Gill


Alice Cooper


Carrie Underwood

, whose husband,

Mike Fisher

, plays for the team.

Station Inn: It might be the best bluegrass and roots music venue in the country. On Mondays the Time Jumpers are the regulars. Gill started sitting in a couple of years ago and plays with the band every Monday when he's in town. Bentley, Mumford & Sons and Krauss also have stepped onstage.

The Basement: Located in the basement of Grimey's New and Preloved Music, it has hosted several surprise shows, including


, Mumford & Sons and

Old Crow Medicine Show