The days of cutting your teeth in the honky-tonks of Nashville's Lower Broadway aren't gone. They're just slightly less familiar to current country audiences than the ones of yesteryear.
The stories of young country stars paying their dues, playing seven nights a week for tips, hoping to be discovered have seemingly fallen out of view with the greater world thanks to the changing tides in the music business and advances in technological culture.
Let's face it: with enough social media followers and a solid YouTube page, anyone can be a star.
But Lower Broadway is still crawling with world-class musicians, and many respected artists have been part of its rich musical history. Folks like Willie Nelson, Dierks Bentley, Dustin Lynch, Chris Janson and Alan Jackson all got their start in town playing for the rowdy crowds in the honky-tonks that line the street.
Back in 2017, Jackson opened his first honky-tonk, aptly titled AJ's Good Time Bar amidst iconic bars like Tootsie's, Robert's Western World, and such. Each day and night, there's a wide variety of up-and-coming talent playing their hearts out for yours, and for tip money to pay the bills and often all the costs that come along with funding a music career.
Some long and work for one chance at a big break, which is exactly what Jackson is giving back to them. The superstar has a long history of giving rising stars their first chances to perform on national tours -- artists like Brad Paisley, LeAnn Rimes, Sara Evans and Chris Young.
So, this year, in addition to stars William Michael Morgan and Randy Houser, many of Jackson’s shows will include a brief performance by an aspiring singer-songwriter who currently performs his self-owned honky-tonk in downtown Nashville.
Newcomers James Carothers, Amanda Daughtry and Jay Bragg will rotate taking the stage at various stops on the tour. Two more AJ's Good Time Bar artists will be determined by a fan-voted “Wild Card” contest that runs through Feb. 8 on the bar's website.
It's not only a benevolent gesture but also an important move and statement, for all of us in country music to remember our roots. And of course, there are dues to be paid however you managed to get your foot in the door in the music business.
The initial dates and ticket information for Jackson's 2019 tour can be found by visiting his website.