How One Canadian Bad Ass Saved Nashville's Mother Church
Updated: Feb 2
When the live broadcast for The Grand Ol' Opry moved from The Ryman Auditorium to the Opryland Theme Park in 1974 (latimes.com), it wasn't long before the whole place became dilapitated and run down (tennessean.com). Musical acts stopped coming through all together. The Ryman Auditorium had seen many changes over the years, shifting from The Union Gospel Tabernacle, mainly built for the purpose of preaching, to a performance centre, seeing the likes of Johnny Cash and Elvis to Charlie Chaplin, Teddy Roosevelt, Helen Keller and the Opry's sweetheart, Minnie Pearl. Unfortunately, a lot had changed since the Ryman's heyday. Just like that, a legendary Nashville venue with beautiful bones hung in the balance.
So in 1991 when Canadian folk artist Emmylou Harris sought out a Nashville location to record her new album, the Ryman wasn't looking so hot. Nonetheless, Emmylou was determined (and for that matter, didn't have a lot of choices) that this would be her spot.
Gathering up her new band, The Nash Ramblers, Emmylou performed a stint of three live shows at The Mother Church (aka The Ryman Auditorium) that managed to provide the venue with a breath of much-needed fresh air. She covered amazing musicains from Springsteen to Steve Earle. She even had Bill Monroe up on stage one of the nights! From the shows, an album was recorded and it went down in grammy-winning history. At The Ryman was released in '92 and was followed closely by Emmylou's induction into the Grand Ol' Opry. More than that though, it inspired real restoration to the historic musical landmark including an $8.5 million dollar renovation (tennessean.com) that same year. How's that for putting your money where your mouth is?
So if it hadn't been for this one female, Canadian musician, the Ryman as we know it today may not even exist.
Peace, love & history.