Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nashville ~ Grande Ole Opry ~ Ryman Auditorium ~ Parthenon in Tennessee

We love rving but one of the challenges is driving in strange large cities with many freeways and not getting onto the wrong one in rush hour. Nashville, Tn has a population of 626,144 but the metropolitan population, which includes all the counties, is 1,550, 733 so that makes for a large center but we had no problems getting around and with all those freeways, the traffic flows well and easy.

We wanted to spend a couple of days in Nashville, Tennessee but had no plans of what we would see and do while we were there. We’d booked our RV park, which was a few miles north of the city and once settled in we would make a plan. All we knew was that we would have to see Nashville and the rest would just happen, much like the rest of our RV adventure!

Grande Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee

One could never come to this city without going to the Grand Ole Opry They have performances on four nights of the week, so we were lucky to find out in time that our first night there was the only night of our visit there was going to be a performance. Be sure to check that out if you’re going to Nashville, by visiting their webpage. You do not want to miss that experience.
We booked tickets on the phone and were able to catch a shuttle from the RV park, so that made this very easy, especially for our first evening before we’d found our way around the city. The shuttle was late picking us up due to heavy traffic so we were not able to look around before the show but went back the next day to take pictures. We are country fans but were not necessarily fans of the old country style but we found they have integrated both old and new so that the show was great and covered several decades of country music. Several artists are featured each night but sing only a few songs each so the show moves quickly.

Legendary Stage inside Grande Ole Opry

There is a five foot circle inlaid into the stage floor that was cut from the original Ryman auditorium floor and that is obviously a place of honor to stand. Some performers are long time Opry members and are wonderful to see in person after listening to them for years, the young singers are gracious and express their thanks for being able to perform on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. It was great to be here and feel the spirit.

The Grande Ole Opry is broadcast four times a week on radio and is the oldest continuous radio program in the US. It has been ongoing since the first broadcast October 5, 1925. It is now also televised on Saturday nights.

Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

The Ryman Auditorium was originally built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by Thomas Ryman. The story goes that when Ryman was 15 yrs old his father died and left him as the owner of a saloon. Within a short time, he had built his business to include 15 saloons as well as other businesses of the day that were not approved of by many. He built the Tabernacle to put himself in good standings with those people. It was renamed after him following his death in 1904.

Restored staircase in lobby of Ryman Auditorium

The stories we heard about the backstage and the stars of days gone by were great. Johnny Cash and June Carter were here, and there are windows donated by Johnny Cash  in order to be back in good standing with the Opry. They had very strict rules about a couple of things and one was that you could not be late for your performance, and there was no swearing or using cuss words allowed and they stuck to those rules with few exceptions. I wish could tell you more but I suggest you take that walking tour on your visit to Nashville and hear all those stories.

Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl

Minnie Pearl was one of the original Grande Ole Opry members, from 1940 until she died in 1996. Her name was Sarah Cannon but she built her icon act of Minnie Pearl to have wide recognition and when she was offstage, she corrected those that called her Minnie, her name was Sarah ! She’d gotten her theater major then taught dance and also became a drama coach previous to her Grande Ole Opry career. Her own personal battle with cancer caused her to become an advocate for cancer research and education and she willed her estate to benefit the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center when she passed away.

Ryman Auditorium Center Stage

The Ryman Auditorium was used for the Grande Ole Opry during the years 1943 to 1974 but once the Opry moved to the present facility, the Ryman sat vacant and fell into disrepair. Emmylou Harris performed several concerts there and created a renewed interest in the building and due to that, it was reopened in 1994. There are pews as seats so it is often called “The Mother Church of Country Music”.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway

We bought a ticket for a walking tour of downtown Nashville and had a great tour guide who told us lots of stories from behind the scenes of the music industry. It was great to hear some history and in such a fun way. Tootsies Orchid Lounge was and still is a very famous bar that features beginners in the country music scene. The interior has not changed in many years and has pictures of many very familiar famous faces of those that have performed there over the years. Many interesting stories about this place.

Broadway Street, downtown Nashville, Tn

Many of these buildings have a history related to the days of old. The printing business is one of the founding businesses of Nashville and there is one that has been making posters for the famous for many years and still work with the same system of all those years ago.

Nashville High School

The neoclassical architecture in Nashville added some very interesting buildings, altho I don't know if that fits the description of the school to those that know the difference. Whatever the style of design is, it certainly is a commanding figure sitting near the center of town where some famous names such as Dinah Shore graduated high school from. Nashville is the home of 24 post-secondary educational institutions, colleges and universities. Education is one of the top industries of Nashville.

The Parthenon Nashville

The Parthenon Nashville is a full scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. A temporary structure was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, which had been influenced by the fact that Nashville had been called the “Athens of the South”. The original was built of plaster, wood and brick as it wasn’t intended to be a permanent structure but was not demolished at the time. It was rebuilt on the same foundation in concrete in a project that started in 1920, the exterior was finished in 1925 and the interior was finished in 1931. It is used today as an art gallery.

Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park

The Pathway of History is a marble wall that extends 1400 ft (427 m) and covers a 200 year time line about the state’s history. It was built in the Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park across from the State capital building and is remarkable to see. At the one end of the park, it is filled with pillars with chimes in them that play on the hour ever hour. One of the songs played is the Tennessee Waltz. So pretty to hear. 
Nashville has much to offer and is a very diversified city to enjoy.  The welcome mat is always out there and nowhere will you find friendlier people.  Come and visit, you will enjoy it.

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