125 year timeline
Reba McEntire Makes Ryman Headlining Debut
Reba McEntire made her headlining debut with two shows on February 15. The shows were taped for a forthcoming concert special. Read more about the show on cmt.com.
“Little Big Town at the Mother Church” Is Held At Ryman Auditorium
February 24, 2017 – Little Big Town at the Mother Church saw the Grand Ole Opry members return to the historic Ryman, where they first graced the storied stage in 2005. Known for their progressive partnerships, fans came to expect the unexpected from the ten-show, year-long residency. The sold-out shows included Brent Cobb, Ashley Monroe, Lori McKenna, Raelynn, Midland, Kelleigh Bannen, and Charlie Worsham as openers. The shows also included a cavalcade of special guests including Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Alison Krauss, Ronnie Dunn, Maren Morris, Gladys Knight, Jamey Johnson, and more.
Carol Burnett Sells Out Three Shows
Inspired Exhibit Unveiled
March 16, 2017 – In celebration of the building’s monumental 125th anniversary, the newest exhibit, Inspired: 125 Years of Performance unveils historical artifacts that illustrats how the Ryman’s construction was born out of divine inspiration. Emmylou Harris is featured as a video host, detailing the building’s origins and sharing stories of the influence the Ryman had on suffrage, civil rights movements, and even fashion trends in country music. The exhibit showcases stage attire from Johnny Cash, Jimmy Dickens, and Little Big Town; famous guitars played by Jack White and Vince Gill; and long-time Ryman manager Lula Naff’s collection of playbills. One of the highlights of the exhibit includes the bible used on May 10, 1885 by Rev. Sam Jones. It was at a tent revival on that date where Ryman namesake Captain Tom Ryman first became inspired to build the Union Gospel Tabernacle. The name of the majestic tabernacle was changed to Ryman Auditorium in 1904 at Captain Ryman’s funeral.
Loretta Lynn Celebrates her 85th Birthday With Back to Back Sell Outs
April 14-15, 2017 – Grand Ole Opry member Loretta Lynn celebrated her 85th birthday on the stage of the Mother Church with a weekend of sold-out concerts. Of the performance, The Tennessean said: “At Friday’s show, the first performance of her two-night Ryman run, Lynn proved why she’s country music’s grande dame.”
Cage the Elephant Record Live Album
Cage the Elephant recorded their “Live and Unpeeled” acoustic album at the Ryman in the spring. Singer Matt Shultz said of the project, “Many times you’re adding sonic layers looking for something to hide behind, and what you don’t realize is that that vulnerability and that nakedness might be the most compelling and interesting thing about the song.”
Emmylou Harris & The Nash Ramblers Reunite
May 2, 2017 – Twenty-six years ago, Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers created her famous live record At The Ryman over a three-night performance at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, which spearheaded efforts to refurbish the now-National Historic Landmark. To commemorate the venue’s 125th anniversary, the 13-time GRAMMY® award-winning artist and singer/songwriter once again honored Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium with a sold-out show on May 2, 2017. The show included performances of many songs from the iconic live album and was taped for a special PBS program, EMMYLOU HARRIS – AT THE RYMAN. The PBS special was produced by Opry Entertainment.
“There are so many great moments in time that came to life here that have now become remarkable moments in history,” Harris shares in Ryman Auditorium’s Inspired: 125 Years of Performance exhibit video, “Those nights [at the Ryman] helped remind a lot of us why it was so important to fight for this building. Today, entertainers are still being inspired by the legacy and meaning of this amazing building.”
Emmylou Harris’ At The Ryman helped spearhead efforts to refurbish Ryman Auditorium’s renovations in the 1990’s when the venue was facing potential demolition after the Grand Ole Opry found a new home. Harris and her acoustic band, the Nash Ramblers, performed three nights in a row at the historic Ryman Auditorium in 1991, which were later released in January 1992 on her famous At the Ryman live album. The concerts’ and album’s high acclaim renewed interest in reviving Ryman Auditorium.
In 2017, At the Ryman was also released on vinyl to celebrate 25 years since the original release and to further commemorate the venue’s milestone 125th anniversary.
Ryman Auditorium Day
Mayor Megan Barry declared May 10 Ryman Auditorium Day in the city of Nashville.
“From its beginnings as a church to its years as the home of the Grand Ole Opry to its revival as the coolest concert venue in the world, the Ryman has a story like no other building – anywhere,” Mayor Megan Barry said. “I’m grateful for everything the Ryman means to Nashville, and I’m excited to celebrate its first 125 years while looking forward to many more.”
Nashville Predators Make Stanley Cup Playoffs
Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe Honored With Statues
Two of the most profound musical innovators in country and bluegrass music will forever remain part of the Soul of Nashville with the installation of life-size statues of Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium.
“Little Jimmy and Bill Monroe touched people around the world with their musical mastery, humility, and undeniable humor,” said Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties. “And now that influence and spirit will live on every day for thousands of visitors at the Ryman Auditorium. There is no better way to celebrate our 125th Anniversary than with the unveiling of statues honoring these two important pioneers.”
The bronze likenesses commissioned by the Ryman Auditorium in recognition of the 125th Anniversary took one year to create. Little Jimmy Dickens’ statue is adjacent to the landmark statue of riverboat captain Thomas G. Ryman on the Fourth Avenue plaza. The replica of the Father of Bluegrass Music Bill Monroe is located near the former Fifth Avenue entrance. The bronzes were sculpted by artist Ben Watts.
ACM Honors Ryman Auditorium Venue Of The Year
August 24, 2017 – Ryman Auditorium was honored as Venue of the Year (small capacity) at the annual ACM Honors & Awards show airing on CBS-TV.
SOURCE Honors Lula C. Naff
Ryman Auditorium is known nationwide for its architectural integrity and cultural significance as a National Historic Landmark, but fewer people are aware of the woman behind the scenes who was responsible for establishing it as the renowned venue it is today. At their 2017 Hall of Fame Induction August 21, SOURCE Nashville posthumously recognized Mrs. Lula C. Naff, who became the driving force behind the iconic development of Ryman Auditorium in the mid-1900s. From 1920 to 1955, Lula established Ryman Auditorium as a regular home to some of the biggest names in music, theater, and entertainment such as Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope, and Harry Houdini. It was under Naff’s management that the Grand Ole Opry came in from 1943 to 1974, bringing the likes of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams to its stage. To read more about Lula, click here.
Tom Ryman and Lula C. Naff Are Honored With Stars on Music City Walk of Fame
September 14, 2017 – The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau honored Ryman Auditorium historical icons Captain Tom Ryman and Lula C. Naff for their central roles in creating and developing the Ryman, along with country music super group Little Big Town, inducting each into the Music City Walk of Fame. The induction took place on September 14, in celebration of the historic venue’s 125th anniversary. The stars received the 75th, 76th, and 77th stars on the Music City Walk of Fame, which recognizes inductees for their significant contributions to preserving the musical heritage of Nashville and for contributing to the world through song or other industry collaboration.
“The story of Tom Ryman is not just a tall tale, but a parable for all of us,” shared Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, who presented Captain Tom Ryman’s star and shared riverboat captain Tom Ryman’s story of being inspired by Reverend Sam Jones in 1892 to build Ryman Auditorium, then Union Gospel Tabernacle. “Today in downtown Music City we honor and we thank the great Captain Tom Ryman for the great change in his heart that he made, and the great will that he expressed to the people of the world.”
Ryman’s star was accepted by Chairman and CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Colin Reed, who asked the crowd what Nashville would be like without the legacy of Ryman Auditorium. “If Ryman is the Soul of Nashville, our artist community is the heart,” Reed shared, “I am particularly thankful to share this stage with so many members of the Grand Ole Opry, and I accept this recognition on behalf of the person who was the originator of Ryman’s rich and storied legacy. Tom’s vision is where it all started, but it’s all of you who are fulfilling its destiny as you carry forward the rich traditions of the Mother Church of country music.”
Lula C. Naff’s star was presented by country singer Jeannie Seely, who shared the story of the small town business secretary who became Ryman Auditorium’s longtime manager and established the venue as the cultural icon it is today. “She was tough, determined, shrewd, and capable…under Lula’s leadership, everyone who was anyone played the Ryman. Her vision, tenacity, and work ethic did more than lay the foundation for the auditorium’s successes: Lula planted, nurtured, and grew a special kind of entertainment magic in the Ryman that lives on today.”
NSAI Celebrates 50 Years of Songs
Harry Styles Makes Ryman Debut
September 25, 2017 – Pop star and former One Direction member Harry Styles made his headlining debut at the Ryman on September 25. Between songs he told a sold out crowd, “When we booked this tour, this was kind of the reason, this room.”
MTV News said of the performance “The true beginning happened not in San Francisco or Los Angeles, but Nashville, where the young man — the teen idol, all grown up — stepped onto the same stage from which so many icons leapt soared to their initial ascents. If you’re going to take over the world with a guitar in hand, doing so with the blessing of the Mother Church is a pretty great place to start. And if it marked the sign of greater things to come for Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, it’ll certainly do the same for Harry Styles.”
Jason Isbell Sells Out Six-Night Run
October 13, 2017 – Fans unable to get tickets to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s six-night run of shows in October were able to tune into a special livestream.
The shows were highlighted by an unprecedented line-up of all-female openers including Southern-gothic sibling duo the Secret Sisters, soul singer Bettye LaVette, Amanda Shires, Julien Baker, Lydia Loveless, and the McCrary Sisters.
Lula Naff Ryman Trailblazer Award Is Presented For The First Time
October 17, 2017 – Nashville Business Journal and Ryman Hospitality Properties presented the first ever Lula Naff Ryman Trailblazer Award, recognizing an outstanding woman in music business history. The inaugural award was presented posthumously to Lula Naff, Ryman Auditorium’s long-term manager and significant player in the 1900’s, spearheading the establishment of the Ryman as one of the most culturally significant icons in the entertainment industry. Additional honorees at Nashville Business Journal’s Women in Music City Awards include Kelsea Ballerini and Jo Walker-Meador. The honorees were recognized at a red-carpet awards dinner on October 17 at Music City Center. To read more about Lula Naff, please click here.
Ryman Auditorium Is Inducted Into IEBA Hall of Fame
October 17, 2017 – The Mother Church of Country Music was inducted into the International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) Hall of Fame at their 2017 Industry Awards.
Prior to its induction into the Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium has been the recipient of multiple Theater of the Year awards from IEBA, the leading trade organization for live entertainment industry professionals. The organization concluded its 47th Annual Conference with an awards ceremony honoring those behind the scenes. Other honorees include music legend Kenny Rogers; iconic concert promoter Louis Messina; Adam Kornfeld, longtime booking agent for Metallica, Red Rocks Amphitheater, and the State Fair of Texas.
Nashville Lifestyles Cover
The auditorium is featured on the cover of the History issue of Nashville Lifestyles – within the cover story, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show says about the Ryman: “Places like that aren’t simply historic, or culturally rich, or even municipal treasures. They are fiery, awesome, other-worldly, and altogether holy. The Ryman is not just the Mother Church of Country Music, but the holy-rolling spiritual epicenter of Nashville.”