To write a short history of Cotten Music Center is pretty much impossible. How can one encapsulate in a few paragraphs what this shop, founded by Richard Cotten in July of 1961, has meant to the music community of Nashville and beyond? Cotten Music, at the time of this writing, is the oldest guitar shop in Nashville. Richard, who in 1960 graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt in Math and Physics, opened his shop the next year in a location just off West End Avenue. By the mid-sixties, Cotten had moved to its home at 1815 21st Avenue, in Hillsboro Village. Most folks, when they think of Cotten Music, remember this location, where the shop was 12-1/2 feet wide, as long as a bowling alley, and with guitars hanging from the ceiling!
Richard, an accomplished jazz guitarist, walked easily among the greatest players of his era. The list of guitar greats that Richard knew and played alongside is well-known. Folks such as Lenny Breau, George Benson, and Chet Atkins, among others, come to mind. Countless guitarists, whether renowned or hardly known, found their instruments at Cotten Music with Richard's help.
After Richard's death from leukemia in 1995 at age 56, his widow Darcy worked against steep odds to keep Cotten Music going. In 1996 she asked Kim Sherman to be her partner. Darcy remained at Cotten Music until 2011, when Rick and Kit Crump became partners in the shop. Rick and Kit helped move Cotten Music from its Hillsboro Village location to its current home in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood in 2012. Rick and Kit, after eight years with Cotten Music, retired in early 2019. Kim as been with the shop 23 years now, and is excited about the shop's new life as The North American Guitar Nashville.
Regardless of name or location, one cannot forget the legacy of Richard Cotten and his influence on Nashville's music community. We wish to honor him and will not forget his legacy as we continue serving our customers.
Kim Sherman The North American Guitar Nashville Incorporating Cotten Music