Category Archives: History

June 25, 2001:: This Day In Ryman History

On June 25 2001, the National Park Service formally designated Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium as a National Historic Landmark. Today, we are celebrating our 11th anniversary in remembrance of this special ceremony.

It is an incredible honor for the Mother Church of Country Music to be one of only 30 National Historic Landmarks in Tennessee. The National Park Service uses exceptionally selective criteria to evaluate potential National Historic Landmarks, only choosing places with astounding contribution to and significant representation of the American people, culture, history, and architecture.

The Ryman Auditorium has a rich history that begins with Reverend Sam Jones and riverboat captain Thomas Ryman. In May of 1885, Ryman attended Reverend Jones’ tent revival intending to raise a ruckus; however, when he heard the Reverend’s message, his heart was changed. Ryman repented his sins and vowed to build a great tabernacle for Reverend Jones so that he would never again have to preach under a tent in Nashville. Thomas Ryman built a beautiful tabernacle, and named it the Union Gospel Tabernacle, which was to project the Reverend’s voice clearly and powerfully to a great crowd. After Ryman died on December 23, 1904, thousands came to remember him on Christmas day at the Union Gospel Tabernacle he had built. While leading the memorial service, Jones proposed renaming the building the Ryman Auditorium. The idea was immediately embraced. By all accounts Ryman was an exceptional man of business acumen, faith, generosity, and kindness who was highly regarded in Nashville.

The Ryman Auditorium began hosting events for artists, speakers, magicians, political icons, and more. From Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft to entertainers such as Enrico Caruso, Harry Houdini, and more, the Ryman became, much like it is today, the cultural epicenter of Nashville.

In June of 1943, the Grand Ole Opry moved to the Ryman Auditorium. For 31 years, the Ryman hosted the Grand Ole Opry along with other performers, featuring country and bluegrass icons Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Chet Atkins, Red Foley, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Minnie Pearl, and many more.

In 1974, the Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman to broadcast from the brand new Grand Ole Opry House. For twenty years, the Ryman closed their doors to events and were only open during the day. Gaylord Entertainment decided to renovate and restore the Ryman Auditorium, cleaning up the Mother Church while also preserving the precious history that dwelled within. The renovators orders were to “pull the gum off the bottoms of the pews but leave the nicks and scratches.” Since the renovation, the beautiful Ryman Auditorium has continued to host world-class performers ranging from Norah Jones to Vince Gill.

The Ryman has been named the 2003, 2004, 2010 and 2011 Pollstar Theatre of the Year. Other awards include Venue of the Year nods from both the Academy of Country Music and the International Entertainment Buyers Association. Some of the world’s most renowned artists sing the Ryman’s praises, including Coldplay, who commented that the Ryman Auditorium is “The greatest theatre in the world!” Experts say the Ryman’s acoustics are among the finest in the world, second only to the Mormon Tabernacle, surpassing even Carnegie Hall. Performers and fans alike adore the Ryman Auditorium because of its rich history, beautiful architecture, and extraordinary acoustics.

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June 22 – 24, 1897 :: This Day In Ryman History

On the date in 1897, the Seventh Annual Reunion of United Confederate Veterans was held at the Union Gospel Tabernacle (later renamed the Ryman Auditorium.) It is said that this meeting doubled the entire population of Nashville during the weekend in which it was held. Tom Ryman took the lead in encouraging the town’s citizens to join together, and construct a gallery in the auditorium that was large enough fro those attending the veterans convention, to gather for speeches and memorials. The finished gallery increased the overall venue capacity to approximately 6,000. The Ryman currently seats 2,362.

The addition of the Gallery, which had been in the original plans during construction, saw the final completion of Ryman’s vision.

To read more about our history, please visit our interactive timeline.

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Birthplace of Bluegrass

Earlier this summer, we celebrated Bill Monroe’s upcoming 100th Birthday with a special edition of Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman featuring Doyle Lawson, Bobby Osborne, Sierra Hull and more.

During December 1945 on our historic stage, Monroe played with his band (featuring banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Cedric Rainwater) and Bluegrass music as we know it was born. The line-up have been widely credited with starting the musical genre during that Grand Ole Opry performance.

The Tennessee Historical Commission honored the Ryman with a historical marker (officially #3A-209 for you trivia buffs) to designate us as the offical Birthplace of Bluegrass on Sept. 29, 2006. The sign stands proudly on the northwest corner of the building near Fifth Avenue.

The plaque reads:

In December 1945, Grand Ole Opry star Bill Monroe and his mandolin brought to the Ryman Auditorium stage a band that created a new American musical form. With the banjo style of Earl Scruggs and the guitar of Lester Flatt, the new musical genre became known as “Bluegrass.” Augmented further by the fiddle of Chubby Wise and the bass of Howard Watts (also known as Cedric Rainwater), this ensemble became known as “The Original Bluegrass Band” which became a prototype for groups that followed.

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May 10, 1885

Captain Tom Ryman

Captain Thomas Green Ryman

Bit of Ryman history for you today – on Sunday, May 10, 1885 the Rev. Sam Jones spoke to a crowd of 10,000 Nashvillians as part of his touring tent revivals.

According to legend, Ryman and a few of his friends went to Jones’ revival to raise a ruckus. But, something in Jones’ speech affected Ryman so deeply that he repented his sins and vowed to build Jones a great tabernacle so that he would never have to preach under a tent again.

Rev. Sam Jones

The Reverend Sam Jones

That building was the Union Gospel Tabernacle which would later become the Ryman Auditorium.

The name was modified at Captain Ryman’s funeral in December 1904. His longtime friend, Rev. Jones asked the solemn crowd to rise if they agreed the name of the building should be modified to honor Captain Ryman.

According to newspaper accounts, more than 4,000 people in attendance rose to their feet. The Union Gospel Tabernacle was, from that day forward, known as the Ryman Auditorium.

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