The rain of yesterday persisted throughout the night and into this morning, but soon gave way to sunshine as we began our downtown tour of Nashville. What a tour and what a city! Our tour guide, Big Jerry (an appropriate name for his 300 pounds) spoke fluent “Southernese” requiring some translation on occasion. He had a wealth of information and shared it with enthusiasm. We were all quite impressed with Jerry. We toured the “old” Ryman Auditorium (called “The Carnegie Hall of the South,” and the “Mother Church of Country Music”) which was originally built as a tabernacle for religious services. In 1901 it became a venue for jazz recitals, operas, ballets, political debates and Broadway musicals, orchestrated by Lulu C. Naff, a brilliant businesswoman in an era when there were but few like her. Rudolph Valentino, Ethel Barrymore, Katherine Hepburn, Al Jolson, Marian Anderson, Bob Hope and other great stars performed at the Ryman. In 1943 (the year I was born) the Grand Ole Opry started using the Ryman and continued to do so for the next 30 years, featuring great country music performers like Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams, Sr. What a treat it was to “feel” the spirit of that historic place.
Big Jerry showed us the “honky-tonks” on Broadway where many a country music star began. He showed us where Elvis Presley use to buy his automobiles, the many recording studios, the Parthenon (a replica of the one in Athens) Vanderbilt University, and so much more. The last stop of the tour was the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Yesterday I wrote that Hank Williams, Sr. and Ray Price were two of my favorites in country music, but today (after the tour) I could add many more to my “favorites” list: Bill Monroe, Marty Robbins, Merle Travis, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson—and the list goes on and on.
|The Ryman Auditorium|
Not everyone makes it in the country music business. Those few who do succeed struggle with their new affluence and fame and sometimes end up the worst for it. Some manage it well. Thousands of others, often just as talented, do not find success and end up playing “second fiddle” in countless venues around the country. I guess one could say, that making it in country music is like winning the Gold in the Olympics—one out of many—and out of the many only one gets the Bronze, and only one gets the Silver. In Nashville there is a Winner’s Bar and Grill and a Loser’s Bar and Grill right next door to each other! Big Jerry says the “Loser’s Bar” does a much greater business than the Winner’s.