Very interesting read. I'm a Nashville native but have lived in 14 other towns over the years. I never was into country but have always respected the players. The real pickers are fun to listen to and watch. I started playing in high school and switched to bass because no one had one AND I loved the sound of a good bass player - Chris Squire, Greg Lake, John Wetton, Tony Levin, Anthony Jackson, Stanley Clarke, ect were probably the first guys that really caught my attention. I got a Rick 4001 as my first bass - sweet purchase in 1981 BTW. Took a few lessons and jammed with friends. But I never really took it serious.
Fast forward 20 years and I started playing guitar in our church's praise band. Our bass player left, and I jumped right in - wow I forgot how to play! A few years later, I'm pretty good and loving it! And even added a couple more basses to the stable. But I never had any pretensions of going pro.
I had friends at Belmont that could play anything. Several went on tour for a while, finally got a degree and a everyday job. Some still play for the fun of it. Nashville is definitely not an easy place to get started. I work at a small engineering firm, and almost everyone there plays something - guitar, bass, violin (boss played at Opryland in HS and college and could have been in the symphony), drums, and singers. A couple are still trying to break into it. But they have to eat and pay bills. But most of us just like playing for the fun of it.
And speaking of Opryland - it was a huge blow on Nashville when they turned it into a freaking mall! I know lots of folks that played and sang there. It was a place where new talent could actually make some money. Our keyboard player in our praise band played there as well as his wife and two guys from work. Such a shame.
I once met a session bass player from Jackson and he no longer enjoyed playing - it was just a job for him now. Such a shame.
Most of the guys I personally know in the biz work as studio engineers, bass and guitar techs, sound board guys, teach music, or are choir directors. I do have a few friends that play for money though.
And yes - it's hard to actually make music in town, partially due to the "free" players. The weird thing is, I once met Vic Wooten and he said there is nowhere good to play in town. I though that was odd, but then again, it is Nashville.
Alembic Rogue 4 (fretted), Alembic Elan (fretless), 1975 Rickenbacker 4001, MIM Fender Jazz Fretless - I like nice basses :o)