The Ryman Auditorium is a 2,362-seat live performance venue located at 116 Fifth Avenue North in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., and is best-known as the one-time home of the Grand Ole Opry.
The auditorium was first opened as the Union Gospel Tabernacle
in 1892. It was built by Thomas Ryman
(1843–1904), a riverboat
captain and Nashville businessman who owned several saloons. After his death, the Tabernacle was renamed Ryman Auditorium in his honor.
The Ryman was also the home of Trevecca Nazarene University from 1911 to 1914.
It was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from 1943 until 1974, when the Opry built a larger venue just outside Nashville at the Opryland USA theme park. The Ryman then sat mostly vacant and fell into disrepair until 1992, when Emmylou Harris and her band the Nash Ramblers performed a series of concerts there (the results of which appeared on her album At the Ryman). The Harris concerts renewed interest in the restoring the Ryman; it was reopened as an intimate performance venue and museum in 1994. Audiences at the Ryman find themselves sitting in pews, the 1994 renovation notwithstanding. The seating is a reminder of the auditorium's origins as a house of worship, hence giving it the nickname "The Mother Church of Country Music".
In 2001, the Ryman Auditorium was designated a National Historic Landmark and included in the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the greats of country music
have performed at the Ryman over the years, including the legendary Hank Williams
, Jim Reeves
, Roy Acuff
, Johnny Cash
, Tammy Wynette
, Garth Brooks
, Patsy Cline
, Tennessee Ernie Ford
, Emmylou Harris
, George Jones
, Loretta Lynn
, Glen Campbell
, Reba McEntire
, Conway Twitty
, Dolly Parton
, Marty Robbins
, Ernest Tubb
, Dottie West
, Crystal Gayle
, and The Judds
Besides country, the venue also features alternative, bluegrass, blues, classical, gospel, jazz, pop, folk, and rock, as well as musical theatre and stand-up comedy shows.
Among the countless other artists who have performed on the Ryman stage are Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, Tallulah Bankhead, Ethel Barrymore, Sarah Bernhardt, Victor Borge, Jackson Browne, Ryan Adams, Damien Rice, Bright Eyes, Fanny Brice, James Brown, The Byrds, Enrico Caruso, Carol Channing, Charlie Chaplin, Kelly Clarkson, Neil Diamond, Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan, Wilco, Elvis Costello, Oasis, R.E.M., The String Cheese Incident, O.A.R., Hootie & the Blowfish, W.C. Fields, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, Erasure, Helen Hayes, Interpol, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Anna Pavlova, Norah Jones, Garbage, Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Van Morrison, Robert Plant, Smashing Pumpkins, The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Modest Mouse, Belle & Sebastian, Sigur Rós, The New Pornographers, Regina Spektor, The Shins, Sufjan Stevens, Wayne Newton, and Coldplay, who released a limited edition autographed poster from their performance there. On January 30, 2003, Patty Griffin recorded her live album A Kiss in Time at the Ryman Audiotorium.
In April 2006, Josh Turner recorded a live album at the Ryman ], and Nickel Creek planned to record a live DVD at the auditorium in late 2007. But however, the plans for the video shoot have been scrapped. Also in 1999, Bill Gaither recorded The Cathedrals' Farewell Celebration video and album there with many other artists such as the Statler Brothers, the Oak Ridge Boys, Guy Penrod, and Sandi Patti.
- Ryman Auditorium has been featured in several movies, including Robert Altman's Nashville (1975) starring David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, and Karen Black; W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) starring Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed, Ned Beatty, Don Williams, Mel Tillis, and Art Carney; Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones; Clint Eastwood's Honkytonk Man (1982) ; and Sweet Dreams (1985) starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris. Neil Young used the venue in his 2006 film Neil Young: Heart of Gold
- The Denishawn Dance Company appeared at the Ryman on December 14, 1923, with Martha Graham and Louise Brooks among their performers.
- The Ryman Auditorium was the venue for the The Johnny Cash Show, which ran on the ABC network from 1969 to 1971.
- The Ryman Auditorium was named Pollstar Magazine's National Theatre of the Year for both 2003 and 2004, beating out such venues as New York's Radio City Music Hall and Hollywood's Gibson Universal Amphitheater.
- Each dressing room behind the stage is dedicated to a legendary performer, including Johnny Cash and Minnie Pearl (among others).
- The visitor tour claims that the Ryman Auditorium has been rated as having the second best acoustics in the world (after the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's home, the Salt Lake Tabernacle).
- When the Opry opened at its new location in 1974, a circle, approximately five feet in diameter, was removed from the Ryman stage's original floor and inlaid into the stage floor in the new Opry, where it remains today behind the lead singer's microphone.
- The Grand Ole Opry currently returns to the Ryman Auditorium annually for a run from November through February.
- Eiland, William. Nashville's Mother Church: The History of the Ryman Auditorium. Nashville, 1992.
- Graham, Eleanor, ed. Nashville, A Short History and Selected Buildings. Hist. Comm. of Metro-Nashville-Davidson Co., 1974.
- Hagan, Chet. Grand Ole Opry. New York, 1989.
- Henderson, Jerry. "A History of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, 1892-1920." (Ph. D. Diss., Louisiana State University) Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1962.