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From Flatwoods to Broadway, the legacy of Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess

Straight out of Nashville’s Big Back Yard, from the tiny community of Flatwoods, just south of Hohenwald, came Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess, the remarkable business woman and proprietor of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge from 1960-1978. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a Nashville institution, was built on Hattie Louise “Tootsie’s” shoulders, where her nickname became synonymous with Nashville’s famous Lower Broadway establishments.

As fate and luck would have it, only an alley separated the back door of the bar from the stage door of the Ryman Auditorium, home to the legendary Grand Ole Opry for more than 30 years.

Under Tootsie’s stewardship, her Orchid Lounge became a gathering place for country musicians and songwriters, including Charley Pride, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller (who reportedly wrote “Dang Me” at Tootsie’s), Tom T. Hall, Willie Nelson, and more, crossed that alley and entered perhaps the most famous backdoor in Music City.

Kristofferson called Tootsie’s “A home for homeless souls.” Hall called her a finance company, booking agent and counselor. Supportive during artists’ lean periods and forgiving of their debts, Tootsie became a beloved figure within the music community.

Tootsie is now a fixture on Tennessee’s Music Pathway, with a sign dedicated in her honor at the corner of Maple Street and Main Street in Hohenwald. Come and see on your next trip to Nashville’s Big Back Yard and pay homage to “Tootsie” who gave us the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.


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