What a day in Music City! We started out at the Mother Church of country western music, Ryman Auditorium. It was originally an actual church, and then became the home of the Grand Ole Opry for 40 years. The Opry has moved – more on that later – but many performers still use the auditorium, which supposedly has better acoustics than Carnegie Hall. Playing Saturday night – the Lumineers. Between being refurbished and them moving, the hall was owned by an insurance company, who at least didn’t let it get torn down.
The hall also has many displays of past stars and all the many dignitaries and performers who graced its stage. (Think Caruso and Pavlova.) Guess anyone coming through Nashville hit the Opry. It’s a lovely building, but just not big enough for the crowds that they now command.
As for the rest of Nashville, they have an odd mix of the old honkey-tonk stuff combined with new buildings that are sometimes a bit surreal. (AT&T, what were you thinking? The architect just saw a Batman movie???) I shot it several times because I couldn’t believe it.
They are big on really huge venues, like a new convention center with somewhat of a guitar design, a stadium and the Museum of Country Music, all in one area. This must be a fun destination for conferences. Oh, also need to mention that they also built a full-scale version of the Parthenon 100 years ago, just to reinforce their view of Nashville as the Athens of the South. And the statue of Athena inside is the country’s largest figure – in case you were wondering who has a 40-foot statue knocking around.
Tonight we did what we had to do – went to the Grand Ole Opry itself. My my, that is one slick operation. The only thing is that now it is about seven miles from downtown, and it’s in one of the largest malls we’ve ever seen. They built it in the 70’s and I was so surprised to see how charmless the building is. They’ve retained the church pews for seating, but now 4,400 people can occupy them – and it was a full house. On center stage is a large circle of flooring from the original stage where they all stand, and it’s considered sacred ground by all the performers. Very sweet.
You probably already know that it’s actually a live radio performance, and it’s been on continuously since 1943. Four 30-minute segments, each with its own host.
We now know that we got to see some of the greats last night, along with some up-and-comers. Didn’t really know too many of these names, but you might:
Jim Ed Brown (Remember “The Three Bells” and little Jimmy Brown?)
Chris Carmack (now starring on “Nashville,” the tv show)
Riders in the Sky
The Black Lillies
Not to spoil the suspense, but in case you were wondering where we go next, Paul Simon tells all:
The Mississippi delta was shining
Like a national guitar
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war
I’m going to Graceland
In Memphis, Tennessee
I’m going to Graceland…..