Mom’s was the original name of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Tootsie Bess bought Mom’s in 1960. She credits a painter with naming Tootsie’s. She came in one day to find that he had painted her place orchid…thus the name Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. She was a singer / comedienne with “Big Jeff & The Radio Playboys”. Jeff Bess was the bandleader and Tootsie’s husband. She recorded, “My Little Red Wagon” and “Tootsie’s Wall of Fame” Records recorded about Tootsie’s include “The Wettest Shoulders in Town” and “What’s Tootsies Gonna Do When They Tear the Ryman Down?” Charlie Pride gave her the jeweled hatpin that she used to stick unruly patrons. It is rumored that Roger Miller wrote “Dang Me” in Tootsies.
Famous early customers were Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and many more. Movies filmed at Tootsie’s include “W.W. & the Dixie Dance Kings” starring Bert Reynolds, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” about Loretta Lynn and starring Sissy Spacek, and “The Nashville Rebel” starring Tex Ritter, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Loretta Lynn, The Wilburn Brothers, and Waylon Jennings.
- – A segment of the Dean Martin summer show was filmed at Tootsie’s.
- – TNN (The Nashville Network) did a 30-minute show about Tootsie’s, produced by Gus Barba.
- – Esquire and Penthouse magazines did articles about Tootsie’s.
- – Willie Nelson got his first songwriting job after singing at Tootsie’s.
- – The photo and memorabilia lined walls are called the “Wall of Fame”.
Tootsie was known to slip $5s and $10s into the pockets of luckless writers and pickers.
It was said that she had a cigar box behind the counter full of IOU’s from where she had given drinks and food to hungry pickers and writers. Supposedly, at each years end, a bunch of Opry Performers would take all the IOUs and pay Tootsie so she wouldn’t lose the money.
At her funeral were Tom T. Hall, Roy Acuff and Faron Young. She was buried in an orchid gown, with an orchid placed in the orchid-colored casket, so she could take her favorite flower with her to heaven. Connie Smith sang some of Tootsie’s favorite hymns at the funeral.