Nashville Behind the Scenes: Ryman Auditorium


Tonight the Series Premiere of ABC’s hit show “Nashville” kicks off, which means all of our family calls up asking us if we’ve ever been to the various places that scenes are filmed.  We thought it would  be fun to give you some history and info about the places that are featured.

Ryman Auditorium

 History

Ryman Auditorium NashvilleThe Ryman has a long and colorful history.  Built as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892, the building was built by a Nashville riverboat captain and local business owner Thomas Ryman (1843–1904).  The building was to be a tabernacle for the influential revivalist Samuel Porter Jones.  Porter Jones was a revivalist scheduled to speak in Nashville on May 10th, 1885.  Ryman and friends were to attend with the intention of heckling the preacher. According to the legend, Ryman converted that day decided to build a tabernacle in which to hold revival meetings. The Ryman was designed by architect Hugh Cathcart Thompson in the Late Victorian Gothic Revival style popular at the time.

It wasn’t until after Ryman’s death in 1904 that the building officially changed it’s name to the present day name.  The building being the biggest in the area was used as a community center and hosted many notable guests and historical figures before becoming a Country Music Mecca.  So of the notable guests were John Philip Sousa, Enrico Caruso, Ethel Barrymore, Roy Rogers, Harry Houdini, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Mae West and even president Theodore Roosevelt.  It also housed performances of the Metropolitan Opera and was dubbed the Carnegie Hall of the South.

Ryman Auditorium NashvilleMother Church of Country Music

It wasn’t until 1943 when George D. Hay was creating a radio show that would become an international phenomenon – the Grand Ole Opry.  This Radio Show found a home in the Ryman since it often attracted large and rowdy crowds.  Crowds would wrap down around Broadway (Seen in Photo to the Right).

Crowds lining up for the Opry on Broadway.
Crowds lining up for the Opry on Broadway.

 

The Opry would be housed in the Ryman for the next 31 years.  It was a place that signified you “made it” in the music business. Some of the acts to perform during this time included such legends as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline and Roy Acuff.

The Ryman is also the birthplace of Bluegrass.  On December 8th, 1945, the definitive sound of Bluegrass was born when a twenty-one year old Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe on stage for the first time.

The Dark Days

6 Foot wood section from the Ryman in the New Grand Ole Opry
6 Foot wood section from the Ryman in the New Grand Ole Opry

In 1974 the Opry moved to a newer, bigger and flashier stage just outside of Nashville in what is now known as the Opry Mills.  When the Opry moved they also removed a large section of the Ryman stage that is inlaid in the new stage at the Opry, which is still there today (which can still be seen center stage in the photo to the left).  This was so the tradition of the Ryman could live on forever in the new location. The six-foot circle of dark, oak wood in the Opry House stage is shiny but clearly well worn. Cut from the stage of the Opry’s famous former home, the Ryman Auditorium, this circle gives newcomers and veterans alike the opportunity to sing on the same spot that once supported Uncle Dave Macon, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, and others.

Many things about the Opry have changed over the years – its members, the sound of its music, even its home. But there’s always that oak-solid center to remind every singer or musician who steps inside that they take part in something much larger than themselves, that wherever they go they have a connection to the legends and the giants who came before them.

As that wooden circle is the heart of the stage, the Opry’s heart is its music and its members – a broad scope of styles by a wide range of artists.

Although the Ryman still attracted fans and vistors to step foot on the stage, although the performances seized and for the first time in 82 years the Ryman sat relatively quiet and in disrepair until 1992.

Rebirth

Country Music Star Emmylou Harris saw the potential in the space again and performed a series of concerts there.  In the following 2 years the Ryman went under Major renovations including the new dressing rooms, audio equipment, a museum and the iconic church pew seating.  The Church pews were to remind us of the humble beginnings of the building.  Central heat and air conditioning were added for the first time as well as a 14,000 square foot support building for ticketing, offices, concessions and a gift shop. The result was a state-of-the-art performance hall praised by performers for its beauty and, most importantly, for its acoustics.  The total price tag of $8.5 million in renovations.

Since then the popularity of the Ryman grew to what it is today and is still one of the top places to visit in Nashville.  Since then a few more renovations have been done, including completely replacing the old stage that was beyond Ryman Auditoriumrepair and obviously had a 6 foot hole in it. In January 2012, it was announced that the Ryman’s current stage would be replaced after a 61-year run. The stage was the second for the Ryman and had lasted far longer than Ryman officials had expected it would. It had been installed in 1951. The stage will be replaced with a medium-brown Brazilian teak that will be extremely durable and also camera-friendly, an important aspect that is often overlooked. It will retain a 36-inch lip of the blonde oak at the front of the stage, similar to the way the Ryman stage was commemorated in a circle of wood at the new Opry House. Beneath the stage, the original hickory support beams will be kept and reinforced with concrete foundations, crossbeams and joist work that will help triple the stage’s load capacity.

Many acts have performed on the stage since including the biggest names in Country, Rock and even Comedy.

For a List of Acts Click Here

Ryman Auditorium and Tootsies

The Ryman is known for it’s incredible acoustics and is a favorite for acts around the world.  The proximity to Broadway has been noted since it’s building, but has helped revitalize the area along with it’s many honky tonks.  There are still reports of some of the top acts in the industry today walking across the alley to Tootsie’s (as seen in the Picture to the left).  Many performers on Broadway aspire to walk from the honky tonks to the stage of the Ryman.  Many have, so make sure to grab the name of the entertainers performing on Broadway.  They could be the next big thing!

 

Next week we will take you inside the Parthenon, the Greek looking building where Hayden Panettiere performed!

Enjoy Nashville on ABC!

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