Lorenzo Washington is an East Nashville native, father, avid music lover, and the founder of the Jefferson Street Sound Museum. A unique cultural attraction preserving the back in the day sound of historic Jefferson Street. When you think of a must-do attraction in the city, a trip to the museum definitely needs to be on your list. As we always say, Nashville’s Not Just Country Music and it was such an honor to chat and learn about this historical gem.
What inspired you to create the Jefferson Street Sound Museum?
I was living in South Nashville, and the gentleman that owned the building I was staying in said they were remodeling, and I had to move. The crazy part about it is that I was coming up Jefferson Street and said to myself “I want to be on Jefferson Street.” I looked on Jefferson and didn’t really see anything initially. When I came back one day, I saw a sign on a poster. I’d never seen that sign before, but it said: “for rent.” The landlady was pulling in the driveway at that same time. I pulled into the driveway behind her and asked her about the place. After speaking with her, she let me have the place, but it was in terrible shape. We put in a lot of work and were able to finally settle into our new home.
What brings you the most joy running the museum?
I’ve had people come in here from Canada, California, New York, Switzerland, London. People have come here from all over the place, and they knew about it before even coming here. This was something I really just took on. I wasn’t born for this. This just happened when I became the owner of a museum. I call myself the founder, and I give the titles to my three kids who do everything I don’t do.
We heard you dabbled in music writing, also?
No, and I’m still not a writer. It was just me being in the right place at the right time. I was so close to Moses and Jesse. Those guys were real writers. Sitting in the writing sessions with them triggered something in me to where I started coming up with lyrics. I came up with the title first and then proceeded to come up with the verses. Before I knew it, I had a song. They tweaked it, so now, we’re all co-writers on the song. That’s how we got to Music Row. We were the first Black production company to be accepted on Music Row.
So, music has alwasy played a significant role throughout your life?
In 1974, I opened a record store, The Soul Shack Record Shop & Boutique in Nashville. We were selling albums, and we redesigned old blue jeans and resold them. We would promote artists in the shop because we had huge speakers that could play their music. People like Chaka Chan and Teddy Pendergrass would visit because they knew we were playing their songs. It felt kind of like how the museum feels today. I was doing the record store for about 4 years and then moved to East Nashville. I had a game room and a pool room with a record shop in the front. At that time, Moses Dillard and Jesse Boyce sought me out to come to Music Row to be a part of what they were doing as The Saturday Night Band.
That took me out of the record store, selling records, and put me in the record business, making records. We worked in all the major studios on Music Row. I considered myself a producer, just giving my opinion. If my groove was good, they kept going; if my groove stopped, they stopped. I didn’t even realize that that’s what they were doing. We had some great musicians to come by and help with recording. We went from recording music here and there to the album, Come On Dance, Dance, getting 2 Grammy nominations. That was major to say we got a Grammy nomination.
What next Mr. Washington?
I’m working on a book that will hopefully be ready to come out around June or July. It starts when I was about 10 or 11 years old living on Wichita Street in East Nashville until I made my way to Jefferson Street by way of Music Row. We were near Music Row for a number of years with Moses Dillard and Jesse Boyce. They were making disco and gospel music, but disco was their main genre. I ended up writing a song called “Groovin’ With You” for their second album. That album was number 2 on the national disco charts. Donna Summer was number one. Those are the stories I am looking to share with the new generation of music lovers.
To get more guides and stories of the people behind the culture and soul of Nashville, subscribe to our weekly newsletter HERE.