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Through The   eyeroll.gif (2357 bytes) Eyes Of A Fan

Tributes To Johnny Cash

RYMAN AUDITORIUM

 left Captain Thomas Green  - Right Samuel Porter Jones 

By the end of the 1800’s Nashville was the cultural, and commercial center for the post-reconstruction south. These achievements were the source of great pride to Nashville while the rest of the South was still struggling to recover from the Civil War. Nashville continued to modernize as the most important rail center and river port in the region. This achievement made commerce thrive as farmers, factories, and traders brought their goods to Nashville to be sold and transported. These forces of growth created and superceded population explosion from 43,350 in 1880 to 77,000 only 12 years later. Needless to say, this phenomenon created its own problems. For all of those that prospered, there were many more who struggled in the unrest and severe overcrowding of everyday life. Nashville’s crime rose, public drunkenness, and poverty heightened. Saloons, gambling halls, and prostitution establishments grew to proper in this atmosphere. 

Too counteract these social ills, citizens known as Moralists, swept up in the nation’s revivalism, mounted an attack on minds of the people. Nashville’s most influential was Samuel Porter Jones. Sam Jones was a flamboyant evangelist who’s preaching and revivals helped changed the consciousness of most Nashvillians in 1885. Actually, it was at one of Jones revivals that Thomas Green Ryman accepted the Lord. Thomas Green Ryman was born south of Nashville in 1841. This was just 23 years after the first steam-boat arrived on the Cumberland. Tom learned the ways of river life by fishing with his father. After the death of his father in 1880, Tom became the sole supporter of his mother, brother, and three sisters. He supported them by using the fishing skills he had acquired growing up. In fact, fueled by the business of feeding both Union and Confederated forces during the Civil War, Ryman’s commercial fishing enterprises made it possible for him to accumulate $3,500. With this money hidden on his person, he traveled to New Orleans where he purchased his first riverboat “The Alpha”

Tom Ryman could barely read and write, but the school of hard knocks had made him tough shrewd, and successful. His character was also blessed with compassion. He distributed coal to the needy from his basement and paid for the funerals of his employees as well as making sure their families did not suffer. This diverse man who owned saloons on Broad Street and sold whiskey for a nickel a glass on his river-boats attended Sam Jones revival  for the express purpose of disrupting and heckling instead, Tom and his friends got caught up in the emotions of the revival and were saved. Ryman devoted his life to cleaning up Nashville and saving souls. Legend has it, that same day, he and friends went to his own saloons and took all the whiskey to the Cumberland River and pored it out. It is said that there was so much whiskey that “even the fish got tipsy”. On the night of his conversion, Ryman discussed with Jones the building of a Tabernacle for all dominations. From this inspired idea, Tom Ryman began raising funds for what would eventually be known as the Ryman Auditorium. 

Tom Ryman and the other tabernacle trustees fought an uphill battle for next three years of fund raising and large debt to finally see the completion of the construction in 1882. The passion and stress that Ryman faced throughout the rest of his life can best be understood through his words. I have worked for this tabernacle hard 10 years. I have neglected my business and paid out money liberally for it. so much have done this that many people thought I had plenty of money. This is a mistake. I had my heart in it though. In 1893 the trustees invited the renowned preacher T. DeWitt Talmadge to speak in Nashville for one night service. This event was so well received that another revival was planned that same year featuring the Rev. B. Fay Mills. In 1896, Dwight L. Moody held a two-week revival. Such was Moody’s influence and popularity, this revival became the religious event of the year. The year of 1897 was to be Tennessee’s Centennial and many groups wanted to have conventions in Nashville to coincide with the Exposition and festivities. The confederate Veterans Association was one of these, but because of the size of the convention there was no venue large enough to accommodate them. 

Sam Jones and Captain Ryman still had the original architectural plans for the tabernacle’s gallery, They simultaneously began raising money and taking bids for the project,. A Sum of $10,000 was the lowest bid for the iron support structure, the woodwork, and enough seating for 2,500 people. The pews were made in Indiana Church Furnishing Company at a cost $2,799 and are very one still in the auditorium. In June of 1887, the reunion of Confederate Veterans convened in Nashville with nearly 100,000 participants. The Tabernacle served as the convention’s headquarters and the starting point for a stirring parade through the streets of Nashville because of Nashville’s hospitality to these visitors and the nostalgic mood it created, the veterans donated enough money to complete the Tabernacle’s balcony. In honor of these veterans, the balcony was named the Confederate Gallery

Although the tabernacle was built as an auditorium, Tom Ryman never lost his conviction that it should not be used for anything morally repugnant or frivolous. So not until Tom Ryman’s death was the building leased for any programs that were not of the higher plane. In 1904, after being ill for several years, Thomas Green Ryman passed away. In life he had refuse to accept the honor of having the Tabernacle named for him, but after the largest funeral ever staged in Nashville, popular opinion swayed the trustees to rename the Union Gospel Tabernacle the Ryman Auditorium. Tom Ryman died owing only $9,000 of the original $100,000 debt. Now entrusted to a group of 50 representatives, the Ryman’s final debt would be paid from the proceeds of a concert by the Metropolitan Opear Company. The produce this show, $10,000 would have to be quarantined to the 250 person company and a stage would be built to accommodate them. These hurdles seemed almost insurmountable, but with the personal guarantee of $200 each from the 50 represented citizen, the challenges were overcoming and show was a huge success. 

The Retirement of the Ryman’s debt was not the sole reward of Metropolitan’s performances of Carmen., The Barber of Seville, and faust. These performances changed the culture history of the city. By 1904, the Ryman had hosted the greatest and most famous people of that time. Jenny Lind and Adeline Patti were among the most renowned. With the prestige and notoriety of these acts came a string of world class individuals – Theodore Roosevelt, Sir Robert Baden Powell, Helen Keller, Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, famed aviator Eddie Rickenbacker, humorist Will Rogers, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chapin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks just to name a few. This glittering roster of performer gave luster to Nashville’s pas as Athens of the South and prepared its future as Music City USA. 

At the same time the Ryman was gaining recognition as an entertainment site, Judge George D. Hay was creating a tradition that was to become an international phenomenon the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry began as the WSM Barn Dance in 1925, broadcasting from a small radio studio in downtown Nashville. Soon on Saturday nights, and more space was needed. WSM then built its studio C which accommodated 500 but demanded grew. The Opry was moved to a movie theater, then to the Dixie Tabernacle with its sawdust floors and rough benches. In 1939, it relocated to the War Memorial Auditorium and WSM began charging 25 cents to keep the crowds down. It didn’t work. Finally, in 1943, the Opry moved into the Ryman Auditorium and two remained together for 31 years. The Ryman could seat 3,000 and rarely was a seat vacant on a Saturday night. Lines for admission began to form early in the morning, and by late afternoon, they extended around the building and down Broadway. 

The Ryman was not air conditioned. On summer nights, the temperature could soar to more than 100 degrees, but no one seemed to mind as long as there was music. The Opry began to attract fans from across America and foreign countries, and the Ryman Auditorium Board, and the name was officially changed to the Grand Ole Opry House. Finally, in 1969 WSM had to decide whether to renovate the building or move, to a new home. A decision was finally made to move, and on March 16, 1974 President Nixon officially opened the Opry’s new home at Opryland USA. In 1971, the Ryman was listed on National of Historic Places. 

Johnny Cash At The Ryman 

Johnny Cash Sings At The Grand Ole Opry

Johnny Cash preformed many times at the Ryman and on the Grand Ole Opry, although he never became an official member of the Opry he was always well received at Ryman through out his career. Johnny Cash Took over the ABC summer variety show for Glen Campbell in 1969, in 1970 & 1971 he did the ABC nationwide broadcasting TV varity Show for the next two September seasons. Most all of the Johnny Cash ABC Shows were televised from the old Ryman Auditorium. So in this final chapter of Johnny Cash’s career, this final Tribute and Memorial should have been no other place other then at the Ryman Auditorium in saying our last goodbye to him. 

I won't be able to attend the Johnny Cash Memorial In Nashville on November 10, 2003 since I wasn't able to obtain tickets to the event. So I will say my finial bye to Johnny Cash as I watch  the CMT's Telecast on November 15, 2003. Steven Menke 

The Cradle Of Country Music  
Ryman Auditorium Reopens after 20 Years

Host of stars, old and new belted out, crooned twanged, picked and fiddled their way through the history of country music at the recent re-opining ceremony for the industry’s 102-year-old Mother Church, Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium , the cradle of the Grand Ole Opry. As the cameras rolled for a CBS television special, The Fairfield Four (Actually Five) sang the first song at the renovated Ryman, which recently underwent a multi-million-dollar face lift and has been reborn as a 2,000 seat, state-of-the-art performance hall. 

To celebrate the rebirth, Grand Ole Opry member Marty Stuart read poetry, and Hal Ketchem sang “Wings Of A Dove” with The Sulivans as a nod to the Ryman’s beginnings as a church, while Carlene Carter strummed her Grandmother’s Autoharp while “Me And The Wildwood Rose. It was evident the Ryman still packs the same spiritual wallop. I just love places that are built for the human voice and that’s what the Ryman is, Ketchum said. You can’t beat the energy and I also believe spiritually that there are a lot of great old notes still floating around. When you on the stage you can feel it. They’re all watching. The Venerable old building was barely new again in time for the June 1 taping. Hours before curtain, workers were still installing soda dispensers and painting stairwells. 

Just in time after 20 years, the building that began as a drunkard’s penance return to its rightful place as a musician dream. The first time I ever saw the Ryman was a tourist Vince Gill said. In 1984 I brought my dad and my sister and took a tour. There’s a great spirit that lives in this building. Those spirits include Patsy Cline, Hanks Williams, and Tex Ritter who once graces its stage. Legend has it that Elvis Presley auditioned there, only to advised that he should go back to driving a truck. I used to come here to the old Ryman and watch everyone perform from backstage, Patty loveless, another of the opening night performers said, I’d just watch everyone go on and I’d be entertained just listening to everyone talk before they went on.  I remember the ladies would go to the bathroom to get dressed, because there wasn’t any other place to get dressed. Most would get dressed beforehand so they wouldn’t have to bother, but you’d still have to go in to touch up their makeup. I think the men always complained because they could never get to use it the women were always in there. 

Bathroom space is just one of many problems solved by the sorely needed $8.5 million renovation, funded Gaylord Entertainment Co, parent company of Opryland USA. I believe it instantly will become on of America’s coveted performance locations, said Gaylord president E.W. Bud Wendell. A restored, Grand Ole Opry’s home from 1943 to 1974 now contains top-notch museum displays accommodation for TV productions, and an accommodation for summer visitors – air-condition. Also restored was famed Confederate Gallery, the balcony that was installed in 1897 for a memorial service by 5,000 widows of Dixie soldiers.

 

 

Revised: September 03, 2007

 

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