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Tootsie’s Bar (1996)

Tootsie’s Bar (1996)

Words and Music ©1996, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1996). Tootsie’s Bar. Unpublished song.







Photo Captions in Order of Buttons, Left to Right

  • Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Photo by Dallas Denny, 2002
  • Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Charlie Dick (the late Patsy Cline’s husband), and singer-songwriter Mary John Wilkins
  • Me, Dr. Aaron Devor, and Dr. Sandra Cole in Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, 2002
  • Me standing near what was once the front door of the Ross Hotel. Note the rear of the Ryman Auditorium in the near background
  • Aaron Devor and myself. The Bat Building (AT&T Tower ) is a hundred or so feet behind us. The Ross Hotel once stood in the plaza between us and the Bat Building’s facade.
  • Printer’s Alley
  • The Bat Building dominates the Nashville Skyline. When I lived at the Ross Hotel, the Life & Casualty building (visible with neon at its summer) was the city’s tallest building
  • Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry occasional returns to the Ryman for its performances


Listen to Tootsie’s Bar 160 kbps (MP3)

Since 1960, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge has been a favorite of country music entertainers, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Charlie Pride, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Tom T. Hall,  Roger Miller, Tex Ritter, Mel Tillis, Hank Cochran, and Webb Pierce. Located in Nashville at 422 Broadway, there was a well-worn path to Tootsie’s from the back door of the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry. The path was clear even before 1960s, when Tootsie Bess bought the bar– hence my mention of Hank Williams in the song. The building  is a godawful orchid color, courtesy of a painter who used the color without Tootie’s knowledge.

The Opry is now headquarters on Nashville’s Perimeter at the site of the former Opryland amusement park, but occasionally show returns to the Ryman. I’ve no doubt the path gets some use when that happens. Today’s performers don’t have to sneak  there like the musicians of the 1950s, who were anxious to maintain their wholesome teetotaling image. I’m sure Willie, Waylon, and Kris never did sneak– but then, because of their outlaw image, Waylon and Kris weren’t members of the Opry. Willie, because of his long history of writing hit songs, was inducted in 1962, but no doubt didn’t give a shit.

In 1968, when I was a year or so out of high school, I lived at the Ross Fireproof Hotel at 33 Commerce Street. The Ross was situated at the corner of Commerce and 4th Avenue North, separated by a parking lot from the back door of the Ryman, by another parking lot from Printer’s Alley (the center of Nashville’s nightlife), and two short blocks from Church Street, home to the three big downtown department stores. Today the AT&T Tower— affectionately and sometimes not so affectionately called the Bat Building by Nashvillians, sits where the Ross once stood.

The Ross was a SRO, home to old men who sat around whittling and scrutinizing me through bleary eyes. I would sneak out the back door, dressed as a girl, and be at liberty in one of the world’s coolest cities.

Tootsie’s Bar is written from the standpoint of a female singer/songwriter who is trying to survive in a city overrun with singer/songwriters. The recording is a demo, just me and my guitar.

Tootsie's Bar Lyrics

Tootsie’s Bar

Words and Music by Dallas Denny


I was just a country girl

Dreaming of a better world

The small town humdrum same-ole thing

Wore on me like a ball-and-chain

So I left the farm and I moved away

To the city where I live today

And I took along my old guitar

And I found a job in Tootsie’s bar



Tootsie’s bar

Where the big stars played

And there’s echoes of the glory days

Six nights a week with my guitar

I work for tips in Tootsie’s bar


It would only be for a little while

I didn’t think it would cramp my style

To play for the tourists all the fake book songs

And sometimes slide in one of my own

And before long some Prince Charming would insist

That he take me away from all this

And we would drive away in his Cadillac car

And I’d not look back at Tootsie’s bar




Now I’m pushin’ forty and the nights get long

And I sometimes wonder was I right or wrong

To leave my small-town prairie life

And a future as a farmer’s wife

To live alone in the city like this

I think about the life I’ve missed

For six nights a week with my guitar

For this jukebox job at Tootsie’s bar