By DJ Wilson
One of the greatest pleasures of life is listening to music. It is a universal language which transcends time. In the words of Ancient Chinese Philosopher Confucius, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Proudly nicknamed “Music City,” Nashville is the second largest city in the State of Tennessee. This vibrant Capital City is rich in music of all genres, including opera, classical, Christian Pop and Rock, and jazz, but is most noted for its important contributions to the country music industry. While there are many worthwhile things to do in Nashville, two places offer visitors fascinating journeys through country music history. The first is the historic Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, and the second is The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Country music takes root in the story-song tradition and is an important part of American life and culture. The birth of commercial radio in the United States led the way for the show that made country music famous, the Grand Ole Opry. In 1925, the National Life and Accident Insurance Company built a radio station to advertise insurance policies. They hired a popular announcer, George D. Hay, who went on the air featuring a barn dance show which eventually became the Grand Ole Opry. By 1932, most of the United States and parts of Canada could tune in to the beloved Saturday night radio show. NBC Radio Network began carrying the show in 1939. The Ryman Auditorium became home for the Opry in 1943, and remained its home for nearly 31 years. The Ryman was a former religious meeting house, originally built by riverboat Captain Ryman for a traveling evangelist. As the Grand Ole Opry gained notoriety, the Ryman Auditorium provided near perfect acoustics for the stars that graced the stage. The Opry continued to rise in popularity as the Prince Albert Show segment aired nationally with over 140 NBC affiliates. Throughout the years, stars like Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley walked upon the heart of the stage to perform. In the 1970’s, what was once a small radio show grew into a sponsored hour long network television show. In 1974, The Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium to a larger entertainment facility nine miles from Nashville. Today, many famous musicians like Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, and Tricia Yearwood call the Opry home. Capture the history of the Grand Ole Opry by taking a self guided or back stage tour of the nostalgic Ryman Auditorium, fondly known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.”
Just a short distance from the Ryman Auditorium is The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Located in a landmark building built in 2001, the $37 million structure spans an entire city block and is well worth the visit. The museum stands proud of its mission to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of country music and to educate its audience. It is both an international arts organization and a local history museum. It is operated by a non-profit, educational Country Music Foundation known as CMF. Inside, there are collections which detail country music’s story through two centuries. Enjoy video clips, recorded music, exhibits, and live performances. Check out the interesting artifact collection, displaying over 800 stage costumes, more than 600 instruments, and hundreds of historical objects. See Elvis Presley’s famous 1961 Cadillac on display. This accredited museum boasts a Museum Store, dining, and an inspirational experience unlike any other. The original Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened on Music Row in 1967 and closed in the year 2000. In 2001, the new facility opened featuring the Hall of Fame Rotunda with bronze plaques displayed for visitors to enjoy.
Today, with a modern day smorgasbord of musical choices at our fingertips, we often fail to remember and appreciate our musical past. The ability to download albums to an I-pod or watch music videos on computer makes songs easy to share; however, we ought to recognize those who made important musical contributions along the way. Nashville, Tennessee offers music and history lovers the opportunity to experience the evolution of country music. Take a fantastic tour of the Ryman and reconnect to the music of the past and present at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A trip to “Music City” is a journey through country music history you’ll never forget.