NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Inside a little house on Jefferson Street sits a man with a whole lot of history.
“I moved in but had no intentions of starting a museum,” said Lorenzo Washington.
It’s been over a decade since Washington transformed his home into the Jefferson Street Sound Museum.
“It’s very important for this museum to continue to exist,” he said.
Photos, artifacts, and Jefferson Street’s rich musical history is what Washington shares with visitors.
“Nashville was a very popular spot back in the day,” Washington said.
Dubbed the original music row by natives, Jefferson Street was the place where African Americans came to perform back in the day.
“Ella Fitzgerald touched Jefferson Street and left her footprint,” said Washington. “Nat King Cole… you had personalities that were renown.”
Washington grew up in East Nashville, but constantly traveled to the city’s north side to experience its music scene.
“I’ve shook hands with Jimi Hendrix at the Del Morocco nightclub,” he said.
Washington remembered legendary names like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Church and even Louis Armstrong graced clubs and businesses along Jefferson Street.
“It was a lot of action,” he said. “It was a lot going on over here on Jefferson Street.”
This rich musical history is something many visiting and even living here don’t even know.
“One of the promises we made as we built this museum here at Fifth and Broadway was that the Nashville story would be prominent,” said Henry B. Hicks.
Nearly three miles away history is also coming alive at the National Museum of African American Music where Hicks serves as CEO and president.
“If you go back another two or three decades you really think about R&B and jazz music that was so prominent here,” Hicks said. “The emergence of gospel forms of music, and even the early participation of African Americans and what is now considered country music.”
This museum started as an idea over 20 years ago, and now has become a place that showcases all aspects and genres of music and African American artists.
“Nashville music and its music scene going back again generations over generations has always been really important,” said Hicks. “So no matter where you go throughout the museum you’re going to find Nashville and you’re going to find the state of Tennessee.”
Hicks added Jefferson Street and even Charlotte Avenue were big contributors musically.
“This was a place that was known to be rich in culture,” he said. “Here in Nashville we love to celebrate our Civil Rights experience, and we love to celebrate our education experience. We love to celebrate the heritage of our athletes that have come out of the HBCU’s, and so with all of that culture, you can’t have that without music as the backdrop.”
All of that history can be found off Broadway, or on Jefferson Street, and it’s history Washington wants to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to hear and see.
“Here I am with all of this and they left this in my hands to protect, to promote, to respect, and that’s what I’m doing on Jefferson Street in this museum,” he said.
A large portion of the pieces in Washington’s museum were gifted to him by local artists who performed along Jefferson Street.
You can learn more about the museum HERE.
You can also learn more about the National Museum of African American Museum and their latest events HERE.