The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville was once home to the Grand Ole Opry
The history of the Ryman Auditorium started with an 1885 tent revival led by fiery evangelist Sam Jones and attended by 5,000 people, including steamboat captain and prominent Nashville businessman Thomas G. Ryman. The captain was so moved by the preacher that he decided to dedicate his life and fortune to building and constructing the Union Gospel Tabernacle, a place where all people could gather and worship. When Ryman died, its name was changed to honor his legacy.
According to their website, ryman.com, “When fearless show promoter Lula C. Naff leased the building and took over the bookings in the 1920s, the Ryman became the anchor of Nashville’s cultural offerings. The venue was known as the Carnegie of the South, hosting sought-after traveling acts including John Philip Sousa, Roy Rogers, Harry Houdini, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Mae West, and even former President Theodore Roosevelt.”
The Grand Ole Opry put down roots at the Ryman in 1943. The world would never be the same as the live radio and TV show brought the likes of Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, and Roy Acuff to the stage and into living rooms around the country for thirty-one years.
This is the exact spot where bluegrass was born-where Johnny Cash met June Carter, where souls were saved and a slice of history was nearly lost. It was right here that country music found an audience beyond its own back porch, and countless careers took off as deals were signed on napkins and paper scraps backstage. This is a building where anything is possible: a soul can find redemption, a crumbling building can find salvation, and an unknown kid with a guitar can find his or her name in lights.
In the early 1970’s the Grand Ole Opry moved to its current location and abandoned the crumbling Ryman Auditorium. The building sat empty for over 20 years and then underwent a complete renovation. They kept the old wrap-around church pews to keep the old-time nostalgia feel alive.
According to Pollstar Magazine the Ryman Auditorium is ranked 25 thin the US for ticket sales in the theatre category. The Ryman attracts musical talent from every music genre across the globe, not just Country-Western.
Originally published at http://nightisalive.com on July 1, 2019.