Celebrating Black History Month with a look back at barrier-breaking Channel 5 show 'Night Train to Nashville'

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Posted at 6:52 PM, Feb 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-28 19:52:42-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Before NewsChannel 5 set up shop on James Robertson Parkway, it was Channel 5 with the call letters WLAC and a claim on Music Row. But just like today, the station was innovative and groundbreaking.

Once a week, from 1964 to 1967, when the clock struck midnight, music of a different beat graced the airwaves of Channel 5.

"Night Train had a special place in our lives and in our hearts because Night Train was the first Black variety show on TV," explained Lorenzo Washington, founder of the Jefferson Street Sound Museum.

Washington says viewing the broadcast was actually a community affair.

"A lot of people in the neighborhood didn't have TVs so everybody sort of gathered at the house that owned TVs," Washington said.

And as a teen in the 1960s, Washington says Night Train was not only entertaining, it was inspirational.

"They were going to be on TV and back then, there wasn't a lot of TV stations that Blacks could even get on," he said.

Night Train also changed the lives of plenty of the performers like James Brown, Joe Tex, BB King, even Jimi Hendrix — just to name a few.

"It defined R&B in Nashville," Washington said.

All while breaking barriers on TV and giving Music City an even richer sound.

Many of the musicians on the show were also fixtures in the nightclubs on Jefferson Street.

To learn more, visit the Jefferson Street Sound Museum. It is open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.