History

-The Station Inn opened in 1974.

-It’s been owned by J.T. Gray since 1981.

Original Station Inn Owners

Red Smith, Bird Lee Smith, Jim Bornstein, Bob Fowler, Charmaine Lanham and Marty Lanham

-In 1974, the Station Inn was opened in Nashville by a group of six bluegrass pickers and singers, Red Smith, Bird Lee Smith, Jim Bornstein, Bob Fowler, Charmaine Lanham and Marty Lanham, along with Bob Fowler’s wife, Ingrid Fowler. Roland White has been part of that original Station Inn family from it’s beginning. He was instrumental in making it a success and has been a great “ambassador”over the years.

-It was originally located near Centennial Park and Vanderbilt University. The owners themselves were the house band, providing entertainment on a regular basis, with drop-ins always welcome. J.T. would frequently sit in with them. The atmosphere was much like that of a “coffee house” and the local college students who were into bluegrass frequented the club. The Station Inn became the gathering place for bluegrass performers and fans at a time when bluegrass was gaining in popularity.

-The Station Inn changed hands a number of times and was moved to its’ present location at 402 12th Avenue S. in 1978.

-In 1981 the owners approached J.T. about buying the club. He bought the Station Inn in March of 1981. J.T. saw owning the Station Inn “as an opportunity to have something of my own, and a way to be more into bluegrass music without having to be out on the road all the time.” He initially stayed with the same format.

-About a year later, he had an opportunity to feature The Bluegrass Cardinals. They played to a capacity crowd. “It was the beginning of the trend of getting more name bands in along with local bands, stated JT. It brought a variety of acts that people around Nashville couldn’t see and hear unless they went to festivals two or three hundred miles away.” J.T. began booking well-known and local bands every night, with his band, The Nashville Skyline, filling in the gaps when necessary. He also offered an open jam session on Sunday nights.

-During the early years of J.T.’s ownership, the Station Inn was home to many bands and individuals. Buck White and his daughters Sharon and Sheryl, were regulars and at times were joined by Ricky Scaggs who was married to Sharon. Other performers were Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Peter Rowan, Sam Bush, The Johnson Mountain Boys and Curly Seckler, and The Nashville Grass.

-The big names in bluegrass started dropping in unannounced, frequently after performing at the Grand Ole Opry on Friday or Saturday nights. They included the likes of Jimmy Martin, Bobby Osborne and Bill Monroe, and they would sometimes sit in for a few minutes with the scheduled band. The club became the place to go to hear the finest Bluegrass had to offer, and a place for new and established bluegrass bands to increase their exposure to dedicated fans. The well known stars who dropped in added to the appeal of the club for performers and audiences, alike.

-The Station Inn went from a slow start for J.T. in 1981, to the “Father of Bluegrass Music,” Bill Monroe playing to a packed house in 1985. J.T. is quick to give credit to the performers for “building the club back up really good.”

-Today, the Station Inn has become internationally known as the place to go in Nashville to hear Bluegrass and Roots Music.

-Twenty six years later, J.T.’s plan still works just as well as it did in the early days. Over the years he has given many new and promising bluegrass and roots music performers an opprtunity to showcase their talents. Alison Krauss played the Station Inn several times during the late 1980’s, and went on to become one of the hottest young stars in the Bluegrass and Country Music business. The roster of names, past and present, performing at the Station Inn reads like a “Who’s Who of bluegrass and roots music.”

-The top names in Bluegrass, Roots Music, Country Music and Rock still perform as well as drop in at times to relax, enjoy the music and sometimes sit in with the evenings’ band.

-In 2003, J.T. Gray’s Station Inn received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association for his contribution to the furtherance of Bluegrass Music. J.T. Gray is credited with doing more than any one person in Nashville to preserve the legacy of bluegrass left by Bill Monroe and others.

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