For anybody who watches NBC’s Nashville, you’ve probably heard of Ryman Auditorium. For anybody who hasn’t seen the show…you’ve probably heard of the Ryman Auditorium. Former home of the Grand Ol’ Opry, The Ryman was actually built in 1892 under the ownership of Captain Tom Ryman and under the name The Union Gospel Tabernacle. It was a non-denominational House of God. Ryman was the owner of an industrious riverboat line which invited guests to drink and gamble on board. So how did this odd match come together?
The Ryman actually got its start when Ryma and a bunch of friends went downtown to a tent sermon to raise a little hell and disrupt the sermon. However, Ryman ended up being inspired and legend has it that he vowed there would never be another Nashville sermon with the need to be held in a tent. Our tour guide also informed us that myth held that Ryman then went to his ships and dumped all the whiskey into the lake to the point where the fish were drunk. Of course what probably happened he said, was that Ryman allowed his alcohol contracts to expire.
Upon his death in 1904, the Union Gospel Tabernacle was renamed the Ryman Auditorium. During his lifetime, many musical acts were brought in to keep the site afloat financially. This was the beginning of the Ryman Auditorium becoming a prestigious musical venue.
Eventually, the Ryman Auditorium became the home of The Grand Ol’ Opry (which for anyone who is confused, is a radio show). Musicians can be inducted into the Grand Ol’ Opry and must maintain their membership by visiting a certain amount of times each year. The Grand Ol’ Opry stayed there for 31 years beginning in 1943. The Ryman is now synonomous with the show and Minnie Pearl even though this is just a small part of the Ryman story.
On our own tour, we were able to see loads of amazing things from Hank Williams’s guitar and suit (Hank was a member for a long time but was asked to step down because of his lack of reliability and reliance on alcohol) to Minnie Pearl’s price tag hat. We were able to take a look into all the beautiful dressing rooms where performers stay today and step out onto the infamous stage.
As if I haven’t promised enough in these blogs, I am eager to write a post on Lula, who kept the Ryman out of the red financially for years. Till next time folks!
P.S. If interested, you can check out a few more Ryman pics below! No cameras were allowed in the dressing rooms so sorry for that. Photos courtesey of Ryan Mueller.