September 12, 2023
The Greatest Untold Story of Music City
by Paula Blackman
Harper Horizon
Music / History
Hardcover, 240 pages
Set against the backdrop of Jim Crow, Night Train to Nashville takes readers behind the scenes of one of music's greatest untold stories.

In another time and place, E. Gab Blackman and William Sousa "Sou" Bridgeforth might have been as close as brothers, but in 1950s Nashville they remained separated by the color of their skin. Gab, a visionary yet opportunistic radio executive, saw something no one else did: a vast and untapped market for R&B, a scene exploding in Black clubs across the city. He defied his industry, culture, government, and even his own family to broadcast Black music to a national audience.

Sou— the popular kingpin of Black Nashville and a grandson of slaves saw his New Era Club on the Black side of town flourish in the wake of this new radio airplay. As the popularity of R&B grew, integrated parties and underground concerts spread throughout the city. But a dangerous inflection point loomed: Could a segregated society ever find true unity?

Set during one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history, Night Train to Nashville explores how one city, divided into two completely different and unequal communities, demonstrated the power of music to change the world.
Dear Reader,

Night Train to Nashville tells the story of the origin of R&B in Nashville. This story has long fascinated historians, but the true account of what happened was never shared publicly. I grew up hearing these stories directly from my father and his father, people with firsthand knowledge of events. And I worried that if I didn’t document them, this true history of Music City might be lost forever.

I never suspected the journey from my initial conversation with Little Richard to publishing a well-researched creative nonfiction book would take fifteen years! But it was a labor of love and I enjoyed every moment. I hope you enjoy the journey on the Night Train to Nashville, too.

Paula Hope Blackman
Book Club Menu
While Southern fried chicken is the most frequently mentioned food in Night Train to Nashville, my grandmother Christine never used a recipe. And even if she had, the chicken would not turn out as hers did because she used a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Instead, I’d like to share her recipe for pimento cheese. My grandmother didn’t measure the ingredients for it either, but my mother watched and made notes.

In the book’s epilogue, I quote a letter from Jimmy Ward to my grandfather, Gab. Jimmy also wrote a letter to Christine, which included these lines: “Mary Jane and I were remembering all the fun we had with you and Blackie. Christmas parties, water skiing picnics on top of the narrows of the Harpeth [River]…lugging all that food up there… the pimento cheese sandwiches.” 
I too have fond memories of my grandmother’s pimento cheese sandwiches. During the hot, humid summers spent at her home on Old Hickory Lake, beginning at age 5, I ate the same thing for lunch every day: pimento cheese on white bread with corn chips and a four-ounce glass of ice cold beer! Summertime perfection.

Yes, she served me 3/2 beer, a brew with reduced alcohol content. Christine’s parents were Swiss/German and prior to prohibition, her father owned a popular tavern in downtown Nashville. She grew up drinking beer as a child and was of the opinion that children who learn to drink early learn to drink responsibly. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have been called a “perfect drinker” because I drink only white wine watered down with club soda and lots of ice. It's a refreshing beverage with an alcohol content similar to the 3/2 beer I drank as a child.

To this day, I can’t think of a more delicious lunch on a hot, humid summer day than a creamy pimento cheese sandwich and a refreshing low alcohol content ice cold beverage.
Lakeside Pimento Cheese Recipe
Follow us for more delicious highlights from
Night Train to Nashville on social media this month!
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  

Enter Book Giveaway
Join our Mailing List
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Pinterest