Nashville, Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame

4/21/13 Sunday at Hohenwald, TN ( Natchez Trace Wilderness Campground-TT)

Since we slept in, we didn’t get on the road until after 10:00 am. John was confident we could rely on the GPS, so we didn’t take my MS Streets and Trips, nor did we have a map of Tennessee. So let’s just say that getting to Nashville held a certain degree of tension, then we needed to find a parking place. I had researched some addresses, so at least we had that to work with. The best part is, after pulling into a Central Parking lot and approaching the pay station, a couple ladies gave us a receipt saying that it spit out 2. We were a bit perplexed, then realized this was a receipt we could use for OUR car. We thanked them heartily. We had 4 hours to visit Nashville.


The first order of business was lunch. Hungry, we kept walking past places, not sure what we wanted.  Finally we settled on Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. They had live music and a variety of offerings: a bacon burger for John and chicken cheese quesedillas for me. Yum! This was the best food ever. (John’s burger was dry, but he asked for well done, no pink, so what did he expect?) The poor servers have to go upstairs to get all the food, then down those stairs to deliver it.

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Now we walked to the Ryman Auditorium ($18/adult). The first image is of the front (on 5th Ave), where you enter for a show. The other is the back (on 4th Ave), where you go for backstage self guided tours. This building is where the original Grand Ole Opry was held. Before that, it had been built as a Union Gospel Tabernacle, by Thomas Ryman, a riverboat captain. Ryman had heard about an evangelist, Samuel P Jones and he wanted to create a scene at one of Mr. Jones’ gatherings. Mr. Ryman felt his livelihood of gambling and booze was in jeopardy. Well, after that visit, something happened to Thomas Ryman, not Samuel Jones.


He built the Union Gospel Tabernacle (completed in 1892) to house Mr. Jones, enabling his sermons to reach many more, with great acoustics. The United Confederate Veteran’s Association figured the crowds coming would be larger than the building could handle, so they contributed to the construction of a balcony, so by 1897, Thomas Ryman’s dream of a balcony came true. In 1904 the building was renamed Ryman Auditorium in his honor.

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By 1943 the Opry radio show had been shuffled to a variety of studios, theaters and finally to a glorified revival tent. It began in 1925 in the WSM radio studio, operated by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. The call letters came from its slogan: “We Shield Millions”. In time,

listeners became a live audience and, then such large numbers came, they moved to the Ryman. By October of 1943 they even started broadcasting on TV.

Among those who appeared at the Ryman:

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Helen Keller – 1913

Charles Chaplin – 1918

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Will Rogers – 1925,26

Katherine Hepburn – 1941

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Bojangles – 1945

Bob Hope – 1949

Elvis – 1954

In the late 60’s the Ryman was showing its age. It was 77 years old, with no air conditioning, no dressing rooms and increasingly seedy neighbors. National Life decided it couldn’t be renovated and moved the Grand Old Opry to the suburbs in 1974. The “Mother Church of Country Music” languished. Finally, in 1989, Gaylord bought the Ryman and began renovating it, so that’s what we saw.


We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame next. ($20/senior, over 60)


The steel guitars they displayed fascinated me: This is one of the earliest.

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Billy Mize’s Candy Apple Red model

A Regal resonator guitar in the middle (Merle Hagard’s)

Barbara ManIMG_8842drell’s steel guitar. I didn’t realize she was a child prodigy, skilled in the pedal steel guitar and other instruments.


I just loved Taylor Swift’s “Sparkle Guitar” (Taylor GS6), made with Swarovsky rhinestone crystals.

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Lester Flatt’s D-28 guitar

Hank William’s D-28 guitar

Johnny Cash (inducted)

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Reba McEntire.

Garth Brooks (inducted). I was surprised at who have been inducted (elected) into the “Hall of Fame” and who has not. Reba McEntire has not. Lots of people (in the early years) have that I’ve never heard of were, of course.

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Justin Boots, on the sidewalk in Nashville (I have to share – John’s favorite boot and coincidentally it has the same name as our son and John’s father.)

Joe Knows Nashville, seen from the sidewalk in Nashville (our other son is Joe)

We made it back to our car within the 4 hours, then struggled with following or not the GPS, making our way, this time, for the Trace (we came to Nashville via I-65, eventually). It took 2 hours, but it sure was pleasant and we didn’t need to figure out where to turn, just follow the Trace.

Home Sweet Home!

By the way, we came to Nashville on Sunday hoping for a better chance at parking.   Parking on the street (meters) was free, but all filled up.  Because it was early on Sunday, I believe, we were able to find a spot in a Central parking lot.

About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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