Everyone knows how lucky we Nashvillians are to live in Music City. We get to enjoy world class music, arts and entertainment, all year long. Needless to say, there is never a dull moment in Nashville. What everyone may not know, is how rich our city is in history. For instance, did you know that Nashville received the first FM license in the United States? You don’t have to go far to see a historical marker, or home that has been granted a preservation status. To find the historical heart of Music City, start downtown on Music Row, and just spread out in every direction from there. Throw a stone and it will land where an icon in the music industry sang, ate a meal, wrote a song or signed a deal.
You cannot talk about music history without mentioning the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium. The Auditorium was named after Captain Tom Ryman, who built the Union Gospel Tabernacle that eventually became the Ryman Auditorium in 1904. The Ryman was the original home to the Grand Ole Opry. The show was broadcast there from 1943 to 1974. The original name of the show was “WSM Barn Dance”. WSM was the acronym for ‘We Shield Millions’, a slogan of National Life & Accident Insurance Company, who sponsored the show. One night, before the show went on air…immediately following a classical opera broadcast from New York…announcer George Hay said, “We now present our own Grand Ole Opry”. The rest is history.
The Ryman was a proving ground for country music, and set the stage for how country music would be influenced for years to come. The Ryman has also played host to nonmusical acts, such as iconic actors Kathrine Hepburn and Bob Hope. It’s not only historic, its legendary! You can still catch music’s top acts performing there today. Check the calendar on their website for upcoming shows.
Due to the immense popularity of the show, The Grand Ole Opry had to relocate to a larger venue. It is currently housed at the Grand Ole Opry House, next to Opry Mills and Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. When the Opry moved from Ryman Auditorium to the Grand Ole Opry House, the sitting President, Richard Nixon, opened up the first show by playing a few songs on the piano. As a tribute to the Ryman Auditorium, they cut out a piece of oak from the stage, and placed it in the center of the stage at the new Opry House. To this day, most artist perform in that circle. The Opry still host live performances every week. The Grand Ole Opry is the recipient of numerous awards, distinctions, and designations. Some of those include the Peabody Award, National Radio Hall of Fame, and on January 27, 2015, the Grand Ole Opry was added to the National Register of Historic Places. For a really cool experience, try to get tickets for when the show is being broadcast live. The Grand Ole Opry also host non-country music artist such as Lorde and Sam Smith.
Receiving a charter in 1964, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has collected one of the world’s most extensive musical collections. Its mission statement is, “The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum seeks to collect, preserve, and interpret the evolving history and traditions of country music. Through exhibits, publications, and educational programs, the museum teaches its diverse audiences about the enduring beauty and cultural importance of country music.” Like rock and roll, jazz and R&B, country music is purely an American art, and the Museum strives to preserve and showcase our historical music culture. Along with its world class galleries and exhibits, the museum features a CMA Theatre that sits 776, the Ford Theatre that sits 213, and the Taylor Swift Education Center.
At the Country Music Hall of Fame, look closely at the architecture of the Museum. From above, the museum looks like a huge bass clef. On top, the tower is a replica of the WSM radio tower. The windows in front of the building have a striking resemblance to piano keys, and the shape of the building appears to look like a Cadillac tailfin. In 2015, the museum received more than 1 million visitors in a 12-month period.
Tours depart daily from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum for the Historic RCA Studio B. Elvis Presley recorded over 200 tracks at Studio B! Another mind blowing 1,000 songs recorded there hit the Top 10. They were produced by some of music’s greatest artist! There are countless stories and legends made here. One of the more popular ones, is while recording a Christmas album in Nashville’s hottest month, July, the crew decided to string up some Christmas lights, decorate a Christmas tree, and turn down the AC to create a festive mood for Elvis. Those lights are still hanging there today. Studio Manger Justin L. Croft said it brilliantly when he described the studio as, “this whole building is an artifact…the piano holds the history, just the hands that have touched it, the people who have warmed up around it.” Studio B is still an active music studio that records daily.