Ernest Tubb Record Shop Property Sold, Hope For Preservation Renewed

The iconic Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Lower Broadway in Nashville has officially been sold to a group of investors for $18.3 million, as well as the current contents of the Record Shop including the inventory and fixtures in a separate deal for an undisclosed amount. The new owners are Nashville-based real estate investor, developer, and former NFL player Brad Bars, Russian-born renown Nashville studio musician Ilya Toshinskiy, and Ernest Dale Tubb III, who is a businessman located in the Nashville area, as well as Ernest Tubb’s grandson.

The country music landmark had become embroiled in a legal dispute between the previous owner David McCormick, and the new owners JesseLee Jones and Emily Ann Cousins, who also own the honky tonk Robert’s Western World on Lower Broadway. Jones and Cousins purchased the property from David McCormick in 2020. What first appeared to be the perfect deal to preserve the property and business by transferring it to JesseLee Jones ended up with the respective parties announcing the Ernest Tubb Record Shop would be closing, and put up for sale.

“It’s with great sadness that we share the news that the Ernest Tubb Record Shop — building and business — will be sold,” the March 11th statement said conclusively. “Due to changes in circumstances out of our control, it’s now clear the best way forward is to sell the business and the real estate.”

The $18.3 million price for the 3-story historic building and the 0.08-acre parcel it sits on works out to roughly $2,000 per sq. foot, which according to the Nashville Post, is in line with recent deals for similar properties. JesseLee Jones and Emily Ann Cousins purchased the same property for roughly 1/3rd of that price in 2020—for $4.75 million. David McCormick purchased the building and property for $128,000 in 1992 when Lower Broadway was at a low point after the shuttering of the Ryman Auditorium.

The most pressing question many country music fans and preservationists have is what the plan is for the historic building and the iconic Ernest Tubb Record Shop business. Saving Country Music has attempted to contact all three of the new owners for comment on their plans for the property after the deal was announced Friday (7-29) afternoon, but have not heard back at the time of this post.

However, with the investment group including both a musician and a direct heir and namesake to Ernest Tubb, it should give individuals concerned for the future of both the property and business some guarded assurance. Including Ernest Dale Tubb III in the deal gives it at least some tie to the Ernest Tubb family.

Ilya Toshinskiy is one of the most prolific current studio musicians in Nashville, having played on recordings from George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Blake Shelton, and scores more. Playing guitar, mandolin, dobro, banjo, and other instruments, Toshinskiy is a two-time winner of the Academy of Country Music Player of the Year (Specialty Instruments), a five-time winner of the MusicRow Award for Best Guitar Player, and has been nominated for the CMA Musician of the Year. The 44-year-old also has his own band named Bering Strait.

Toshinskiy also has dabbled in real estate investment on the last few years, including purchasing a piece of property in the Nashville suburb of in Berry Hill and developing it into five townhomes, as well as purchasing a small downtown office building in March for $2,725,000 to also convert into residences.

Real estate investor Brad Bars played briefly for the New York Giants in the NFL, and has been a part of multiple development projects in Nashville over the last few years, including paying $4 million for a 2.37-acre property near Tennessee State University housing 46 apartment units.

What we do know is the new ownership group will not be able to demolish or significantly change the historic Ernest Tubb Record Shop building at 417 Broadway, which among other uses, once housed a Civil War hospital. In an interview with Saving Country Music in April, the Executive Director of Nashville’s Metro Historical Commission, W. Tim Walker, said the structure is protected by a historical designation.

“It is in a local historical overlay district. It’s in the historic Broadway Preservation District, which runs from 1st to 5th Avenue, and picks up all the properties on both sides of the street,” W. Tim Walker says. “The building cannot be demolished. It’s a contributing, or historic building to that local district.”

Though previous Ernest Tubb Record Shop owner David McCormick has refused to comment to Saving Country Music directly on numerous occasions about the sale and purchase, while commenting on an article here at Saving Country Music on Sunday, May 8th, he did say, “On a lighter note, the record shop will be reopening.”

Recording musician Cliff Gerken also said on May 9th, “Hundreds of news articles…Thousands of fans…Multiple petitions…And wonderful people who love country music and prayed for it’s heritage… Great news! The Ernest Tubb Record Shop is not closing!! They will be reopening soon!! Details will be forthcoming!!”

Cliff Gerken then posted in part Friday evening (7-29), “IT’S ALL OVER!!! MY TWO YEAR NIGHTMARE HAS ENDED. RECORD SHOP WILL NOW BE IN GOOD HANDS WITH ERNEST TUBB, III. I COULD NOT BE HAPPIER. THE ORDER JUST CAME DOWN FROM THE JUDGE. AND INCLUDED AN ORDER FOR THE “BAD GUYS” TO HAND OVER THEIR KEYS.”

Saving Country Music will continue to report on this developing story, and the plans for the building and business of the new ownership group when the information is available and confirmed.

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First opened in 1947 on Commerce St. as a retail enterprise for country legend Ernest Tubb, it moved to its more iconic location on Broadway in 1951. Frustrated at the lack of country records stocked at many retail establishments across the country, instead of complaining about it, Ernest Tubb decided to do something about it, opening up the store right around the corner from the Ryman Auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry was held.

The location also became the venue for the Midnite Jamboree—the official/unofficial afterparty of the Opry every Saturday night. Along with the record shop becoming a landmark, the Midnite Jamboree also became a cultural staple. This is where Loretta Lynn got her big break, and dedicated a song to Patsy Cline as she laid in a hospital bed after a tragic auto accident—just one of many legendary moments in country history facilitated by the Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and the Midnite Jamboree.

Soon both the Ernest Tubb Record Shops, and the Midnite Jamboree became national institutions. Multiple ET Record Shops opened across the country, including in Pigeon Forge, TN and Fort Worth, TX. The Midnite Jamboree was broadcast on WSM in Nashville, and simulcast in scores of markets.