Dec 8, 2021 - Things to Do

Jefferson St. museum needs help

Lorenzo Washington, founder of the Jefferson Street Sound Museum, in front of fall leaves.
Lorenzo Washington, founder of the Jefferson Street Sound Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum

Jefferson Street Sound, the museum that set up shop a decade ago to preserve the street's proud history, has fallen on hard financial times due to the pandemic.

  • Founder Lorenzo Washington is holding a book signing and donor drive on Saturday at the museum to help raise funds and keep his small self-curated museum running.

Why it matters: Jefferson Street is Nashville's original Music Row with an influence that rivals Lower Broadway. About a dozen clubs once lined Jefferson Street, providing touring opportunities for Black musicians and entertainment options for Nashville residents.

  • Aretha Franklin, B.B. King and Ray Charles were among the superstar musicians who played at clubs on Jefferson Street.
  • Future icons Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix cut their teeth on Jefferson Street.
  • Local legends Marion James, Clifford Curry, Herbert Hunter, and others served as the foundation for Nashville's rock, soul, blues, and jazz scene.

What he's saying: Washington tells Axios that the financial challenge hasn't reached the point that "if we don't get money this week we'll have to close."

  • But the pandemic forced the nonprofit museum — which has annual revenues of less than $50,000 according to public tax documents — to close down for much of the last two years.
  • "When I first came here (in 2010), my mission was to preserve the legacy of the musicians and artists that actually played on Jefferson Street," Washington says. "The local musicians were not getting any kind of publicity, or anything in terms of support from the community. And their legacy was just slowly going away."

Flashback: The construction of the I-40 interstate ripped through the road, leading to clubs closing in the 1970s and derailing Jefferson Street.

  • "I want people when they come into the building to feel like they've stepped back in time and to really appreciate what this (street) meant to Nashville," Washington says.

If you go: The Saturday event from 5 to 8pm will feature Washington signing his book "Rising Above," as well as live music performances and a rally in support of the museum. Tickets are $40.

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