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The Ryman Auditorium 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. Ryman conceived of the
auditorium as a tabernacle for the influential revivalist Sam Jones.
After Ryman's 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 alarger 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 restoring the Ryman, and 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
The Ryman Auditorium was included in the National Register of Historic Places
in 1971, and was further designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001
Many country music greats have performed at the Ryman since its inception
the legendary Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Jim Reeves, Roy Acuff, Johnny
Tammy Wynette, Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline, Tennessee Ernie Ford,
Emmylou Harris, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell, Reba McEntire,
Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins, Ernest Tubb, Dottie West, Crystal Gayle,
Gretchen Wilson, Willie Nelson, 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.
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