Owner of Robert’s Western World Buys Ernest Tubb Record Shop

photo: Bazonka

The owner of one of the last remaining true honky tonks on Lower Broadway in Nashville’s downtown entertainment district has purchased one of the most iconic and historical businesses that happens to sit right across the street. JesseLee Jones—owner of Robert’s Western World and the lead singer of the Brazilbilly band—has purchased the Ernest Tubb Record Shop.

First opened by Ernest Tubb in 1947 after he became frustrated at the lack of records for sale from country musicians, and moved to its current location at 417 Broadway in 1951, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop is a landmark, and a historical marker for many with its famous revolving sign. The purchase includes the building, and the business.

The purchase also reportedly includes the WSM radio program the Midnite Jamboree which broadcasts after the Saturday night Opry program, currently from the Texas Troubadour Theater, and previously from the record store itself, giving rise to many memorable country music moments, including Loretta Lynn once dedicating a song to Patsy Cline while she was in the hospital after an automobile accident.

The purchase also reportedly includes Ernest Tubb’s antique bus, “The Green Hornet,” which sits in a strip mall in Music Valley across the street from Gaylord Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry east of downtown. The bus is literally built into the building, which used to house another location of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, but was closed down in March of 2016.

“The city is going through a lot of changes, and someone has got to hold the torch for old-school Nashville,” JesseLee Jones told the Nashville Post. “Robert’s is the undisputed home for traditional country music. Having been on the side of traditional country music, which made Music City, it just makes sense to continue that tradition by my buying the Earnest Tubb Record Shop business and building. My purpose is to protect, promote and preserve this great history. So this just made sense that Robert’s and Ernest Tubb be strong, be one and be family to perpetuate the tradition. Ernest Tubb Record Shops will be here for another 52 years, if it’s up to me.”

The building sold for $4.75 million according to local records, though it is undetermined if that purchase price also included the business itself. That is quite the return on investment for the previous owner, David McCormick, who purchased the building and the property for $128,000 in 1992 when Lower Broadway was at a low point. After the shuttering of the Ryman Auditorium in 1974, the area became mostly abandoned, with dirty bookstores and pawn shops moving into many of the buildings that once supported music-oriented businesses. In the mid 90’s, the area began to be revitalized by businesses like Robert’s.

In 2015, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop business began suffering from financial concerns, with the Midnite Jamboree being suspended on WSM for a short period, and customers noticing bare shelves at both locations of the iconic record store. However after closing the Music Valley location and focusing more on the Lower Broadway store with store takeovers for important releases and other promotions, the store came back.

At one point there were numerous Ernest Tubb Record stores across the country, including in Pigeon Forge, TN and Fort Worth, TX. But the Lower Broadway location is the final one, which will now be in the hands of secure ownership for the foreseeable future.

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