“Take what you can from your dreams, make them as real as anything” – Dave Matthews Band
Miles traveled: 0.0
Today was another great day in the city of Nashville! After breakfast, I made my way back downtown to the Sobo area to walk around and browse the ridiculously voluminous selection of boots. Lots and lots of boots. I did come upon an amazing pair of distressed, brown beauties, but they didn’t have my size (stupid big feet). So while my wallet was excited about it, I was a little bummed! I strolled up and down the streets off Broadway and made my way to the legendary Ryman Auditorium.
This is a place that one day I will be back at to catch a live show. Since I wasn’t catching a show on this trip though, I decided to take the tour and check it out. The Ryman dates back to the 1880s when a riverboat captain and Nashville businessman by the name of Thomas Ryman decided to build a permanent place for traveling evangelist, Sam Jones, to preach. It took nearly 7 years and just a mere $100,000 to build the Union Gospel Tabernacle. It was renamed the Ryman Auditorium in 1904 after Ryman passed away. The Ryman was always a venue used for a wide array of events, and it wasn’t until it was under the management of Lula Naff that it became a premier performance hall. Musicians loved playing at the Ryman because of its near perfect acoustics. In 1943, Naff contracted out to a Saturday night radio show to rent the space for their live shows. That little Saturday night live radio show was called WSM, the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry used the Ryman from 1943 to 1974, and it became known as the “mother church of country music,” having artists such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, June Carter, Johnny Cash, and many others (Elvis actually only performed at the Ryman once, and it didn’t go well). When the Opry left the Ryman to move to its current location, the Ryman wasn’t used and began to deteriorate, leading to much talk of tearing it down. The city of Nashville pushed back and it was left standing and ultimately renovated and reopened in 1994. It is now a National Historic Landmark and hosts a wide array of artists, not just country. It is an amazing place. Just standing in it, imagining all of the people who have played there both past and present, it’s incredible. So much history in the Ryman….can’t wait to go back!
I hit a little local spot for a late lunch and walked around some more to soak it all in. It’s a great city, and it’s really growing on me (don’t worry mom and dad, I’m not moving again)! After spending a couple of hours downtown, I headed back to the hotel to change and then made my way to the one and only – Grand Ole Opry.
Since this was my first Opry experience, I decided – go big or go home. I wasn’t ready to go home just yet, so go big it was. I decided to go backstage before the show, so I got there early (Opryland is a ginormous mecca of shopping, music, a massive hotel – I did not stay there – and other activities) and got to go behind the stage, through the artists entrance (whaaaat!!), and to walk the halls of the Opry where all the artists and talent are. There were a couple of Opry debuts tonight, and I got to watch one of them (Brett Kissel) warming up with the house band. Awesome. The often overlooked house band is a talented group of people – if an artists doesn’t bring their own band, which many don’t, they use the house band at the Opry. So these folks are that good people. They can very quickly learn the set list of each artist, warm up with them before the show, and you’d never know it wasn’t the artist’s band. Incredible talent there! Saw a couple of the artists in their rooms, all were super friendly and nice to talk to. We walked by the Opry post office and the wall of Opry Members (newest members are Little Big Town, a personal favorite; and 2 years ago, Charleston native Darius Rucker was inducted into the Opry). Then we walked on stage where we got to watch the hustle and bustle behind the curtain, and then watch the first performance after the curtain went up. Ah-MAZING. It’s one of those times when you just go, wow – that’s pretty freakin’ cool! I went up to my seat – front row, center, in the Mezzanine and sat back to enjoy the live radio broadcast show. It was an awesome experience form beginning to end!
The Line up for the night was below (so each sings 2-3 songs as their set – and there are 4 segments each with a different host, that also performs):
Jeannie Seely (Opry Member & Host)
John Conlee (Opry Member & Host)
Brett Kissel (making his Opry debut)
Riders in the Sky (Opry Member & Host)
Craig Wayne Boyd (winner of The Voice)
Opry Square Dancers (yes, this is a real thing – and they were very good!)
Steve Wariner (Opry Member & Host)
Flatt Lonesome (Opry debut – this bluegrass group was incredible and opened with a cover of “Jackson”)
Charles Esten (Deacon from the TV show Nashville)
It was an amazing night of music – I had a blast! Cannot wait to do it again someday!
Until next time…