If you're as enamored with music history as I am, you could devote several hours to a self-guided tour of this National Historic Landmark where you're free to stand onstage -- even belt out a few bars if the spirit moves you -- or sit in the hardwood "pews," and wander the halls upstairs and down, looking at memorabilia in glass showcases. However, the typical tourist may be satisfied with a quick walk through the stately redbrick building. In either case, the best way to experience the Ryman is to attend a performance here. The site of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, the Ryman Auditorium is known as the "Mother Church of Country Music," the single most historic site in the world of country music. Originally built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by riverboat captain Tom Ryman, this building served as an evangelical hall for many years. By the early 1900s, the building's name had been changed to honor its builder and a stage had been added. That stage, over the years, saw the likes of Enrico Caruso, Katharine Hepburn, Will Rogers, and Elvis Presley. The Grand Ole Opry began broadcasting here in 1943. For the next 31 years, the Ryman Auditorium was host to the most famous country music radio show in the world. However, in 1974, the Opry moved to the then-new Grand Ole Opry House in the Music Valley area. Since its meticulous renovation in 1994, the Ryman has regained its prominence as a temple of bluegrass and country music. Its peerless acoustics make it a favored venue of rock's best singer-songwriters and classical musicians, as well. Acts as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma, Coldplay, and Keith Urban have performed here. In 2005, director Jonathan Demme filmed Neil Young's performance for the concert film Prairie Wind. Allow at least an hour for a self-guided tour.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2010