When going to a concert, I prefer an intimate venue. Sure, I enjoy smoke and lights in an arena filled with power ballads from the gods of rock from time to time, but a more personal setting is always my first choice. The Ryman Auditorium provides just that place for me to satisfy my appetite for good music the way I like it. I love the atmosphere, the vibe, the acoustics, the history and the variety of performers. Over the years, I’ve been to the Ryman to see Ben Folds, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Paramore, Trey Anastasio and even the Fresh Beat Band. Did I mention variety?
My husband and I invited a friend from Boston a few years ago to come and do “Nashville stuff”, which consisted of a lot of new things for us, as well. One of the stops on our itinerary was the tour of the Ryman. There was so much more to it than I had ever imagined. I got chills sitting in a dressing room thinking of all the great artists that had been looking in the same mirror before taking the stage.
Recently, I was invited to take a personal tour of the Ryman to dig a little deeper into its history and see it from a different perspective. Upon my arrival, I received an apology that we wouldn’t be able to take a full tour due to Jamey Johnson’s band doing sound check and warming up, but I became even more excited. As a musician, seeing what goes on the day of a show was definitely right up my alley.
With levels being checked and instruments being tuned in the background, I listened to stories of how the Ryman was built and what the conditions were like. Something that you don’t hear on the regular tour is how the bricks were still warm when they were placed. They were made on site because there were no cars and trucks to haul them. There are dips in the bricks in certain places where the fingers of the men placing them went in. You can see a lot of the dips on the walls inside when you are about to enter the auditorium.
My list of performers is only a tiny fraction of the talent that has been brought to Nashville because of the Ryman. Elvis, Mae West, Louis Armstrong, Helen Keller, Bob Hope and many more have been on that stage. Hank Williams, Sr., was unknown when he first played at the Ryman at the Grand Ole Opry and was called back out for six encores that night. It’s the birthplace of bluegrass and where Johnny and June fell in love. Did you know that the “Hokey Pokey” was recorded there? I could go on and on…
If you haven’t been to the Ryman to see a show or take the tour, don’t wait any longer. It’s so much of what makes Nashville the wonderful place that it is. And when you go, be sure to touch the dips in the bricks. It will be our little secret.