Don Kelley Band at Robert’s Western World, Nashville

If I learned anything from two recent trips to Nashville it’s that Robert’s Western World is the best damned bar on Lower Broadway. While that little strip is filled with bars with bands, Robert’s is the only one that books bands that play only traditional country music. You simply cannot go wrong walking into Robert’s. At too many other places, you might hear a band cranking out covers of Tom Petty (not that there’s anything wrong with Tom Petty), but not at Robert’s. Only country here.

At the behest of a lovely couple from Louisiana that we met during a recent trip, we made sure we caught Don Kelley and his band. And boy am I glad we did.

Don Kelley Band at Robert's Western World Nashville
Robert’s Western World. Nashville, TN

As far as I can tell, Don Kelley gets some of the best players in Nashville to play these gigs. We were utterly blown away by the musicianship of Porter McClister on guitar, “Slick” Joe Fick on the big bass, and a great drummer whose name unfortunately escapes me John Radford on the drums.

And it’s not just the musicianship. The showmanship is top notch. These guys are entertaining and high-energy as all get out. I get the impression Don Kelley runs a tight ship and knows how to keep his guys and the audience going. The professionalism is evident at every turn, and became evident right out of the gate: there was no loud noodling up coming from the stage as they set up. Just four guys methodically plugging in and quietly tuning up. And then, *BOOM!* The show starts. Damn near knocked my tits off at the first note.

Photo by Tom DePaul (
Don Kelley Band at Robert’s Western World

My wife and I had dinner reservations at some of Nashville’s top restaurants for the each of the three nights we were there. We love to eat well. We travel to eat well. But every single night we ended up canceling those reservations, and staying right there at Robert’s for a cheeseburger, fried bologna sandwiches, grilled cheese, and Miller High Lifes, so we could stay for Don Kelley’s set. It was the cheapest damned vacation we’ve ever taken.

Don Kelley Band at Robert's Western World Nashville
Slick Joe Fick

As for Robert’s itself, it looks like not much has changed in the place over the years. It’s got exactly the feel that I’d hope a bar in Nashville would. The staff is great, from the bartenders to the cooks and door guys, and the food and beer is cheap. It’s just a perfect spot all around.

Don Kelley Band at Robert's Western World Nashville
Porter McClister

Well that’s enough about me. Here are some shots I took during my 20 hours of sitting at Robert’s Western World this past weekend.

I don’t dig the slideshow functionality of the blog here, so to check out the gallery of images of Don Kelley and the fellas doing their thing, just click here to visit my website. Please tell me you didn’t read all of this and then didn’t click to check out the pictures. Please tell me that’s not the case.



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