Mom (Ma) Upchurch's Boarding House
Did you know this nearly 100-year old stone house at 620 Boscobel Street in East Nashville's Edgefield neighborhood served as Mom Upchurch's Boardinghouse from the mid-1940s through the late 1960s? A widow, Delia "Mom" Upchurch (1891-1976) only rented to struggling male country music singers, songwriters, and musicians. "They don't mix too good with people in other livelihoods," explained Mom. "And I just like good ole hillbilly music."
Known as "Hillbilly Heaven," the house became famous as the first home of hundreds of struggling hillbilly musicians. Over the years, it is estimated that over 2,000 men in the country music industry roomed here. The list is a virtual who's who and includes Pee Wee King and His Golden West Cowboys, Carl Smith, Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Stringbean, Stonewall Jackson, Lloyd Green, Buddy Spicher, Hank Cochran, Grandpa Jones, Roger Miller, Okie Jones, Buck Trent, Howard White, Benny Williams, Stan Hitchcock, Butterball Paige, and the Carter family.
Mom would take in 6-14 boarders at a time in her 5-bedroom, 1-bath home, and only charged $7-8 per week. She took good care of her "boys," cooked for them, cleaned their socks, and took messages while they were on the road. The boys would rehearse in the house and in the yard during the summertime.
A native of Gainsboro, Tennessee, the "Den Mother to the Stars" died in 1976. Her home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and protected by a historic preservation overlay. Mom Upchurch's Boarding House is located directly across the street from the stone Bungalow that serves as Deacon's home on the "Nashville" TV show.
(Photo and text courtesy Robbie D. Jones)
Historic Nashville, Inc. - Facebook Page
After “Pa” Upchurch passed away in 1947, Delia opened the rest of her house to musical tenants and by the late 1940s, “Mom” Upchurch’s boarding house, at 620 Boscobel St, was the first stop for many young singers and pickers fresh off the bus to Nashville. For $5 a week, a musician could rent half of a double bed, with the understanding that it might be sub-leased while they were out on tour. A home-cooked breakfast was 75¢, supper 85¢ and friendly advice from “Mom” was always free.
Mom Upchurch became a surrogate mother to scores of young musicians. While she had strict rules forbidding alcohol, cursing and female guests, her “boys” loved her. Record producers and artists knew that if you needed a musician for a session or tour, Mom Upchurch’s was the first place to call.
Mom continued to run her boarding house until she turned 80 in 1971. Over the years, her tenants ranged from future stars and songwriters like George Morgan, Carl Smith, Faron Young, Roger Miller, Stonewall Jackson, and Hank Cochran to accomplished sidemen like Hank Garland, Grady Martin, Jimmy Day, Butterball Paige, Lightnin’ Chance, Shorty Lavender, Buddy Spicher, Dale Potter, Buddy Emmons and scores of others.
[Muddy Roots Records]
A Grand Ole Lady
(by Don Davis, former member of Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys)
There is a house at 620 Boscobel Street in East Nashville - a yellow stone house between Shelby Avenue and Woodland Street. It became famous because of the Grand Ole Opry stars and musicians it housed. Delia Upchurch was the owner and 'Den Mother' to all of us. We called her 'Mom.' Mom (or 'Ma' as some would say) was just a Nashville homemaker who opened her house in East Nashville to struggling young musicians, many of whom were so young they were experiencing their first time away from their own home and family.
Shorty Boyd was the first person who stayed there at a time when Mom's husband, Louis K. Upchurch, was still alive. Shorty talked them into letting him stay there, too, as we were both members of Pee Wee King's band then. When Mr. Upchurch died, I was in California, and when I got back Mom was grieving.