This NInja recently enjoyed a visit to Nashville, Tennessee, a place many would regard as the home of Country music. And it’s hard to argue with that title, given the city is the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, Ryman Auditorium, the CMA awards, the famous Broadway honky tonk bars, and for any TV fans out there, the now famous Bluebird café from the hit TV show, “Nashville”.
However, when it comes to Nashville tourist attractions and country music, there is one ‘must see’ venue that earns the #NInjatastic seal of approval above any other, and that is The Grand Ole Opry.
The Opry, as it is affectionately known, is in fact a weekly radio show which started back in 1925. It has had a number of homes, most notably the Ryman Auditorium from 1943, but in 1974 the show moved to its current home, Grand Ole Opry House, just east of downtown Nashville.
Although still a radio show, fans are now able to attend concerts every weekend with some of the most famous country singers in the world. Those same singers consider it an honour and a privilege to be able to perform at the Opry, and those lucky enough get to be inducted as members. To be inducted to the Opry as a member is similar to an induction to a Hall of Fame, but due to the history of the Opry, it is the honour all country singers crave.
There are daily tours of the Opry, and this NInja was lucky enough to attend and see for himself just what it had to offer.
Upon arriving at the tour, you are sat with the rest of your tour group to watch an introduction video recorded by country singer, Blake Shelton. This video gives you a quick summary of the Opry and its history.
Once this is complete, you enter backstage and walk the same walk singers such as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers have tread.
The tour guide was pleasant and informative, showing us the storage area where the house band keep their instruments and equipment, and the soundproof studio used to film TV shows and where the staff occasionally get to let their hair down and party.
The Opry is very proud of its dressing rooms, and each artist performing on stage gets allocated their own room on the night of the performance. Each dressing room has a different theme, ranging from room 5, “Stars and Stripes”, paying homage to the US Armed Forces, to room 9, “It Takes Two”, which concentrates on country music’s great duos. Dressing room 3 is dedicated to the late ‘Little
Jimmy Dickens’, country music’s most diminutive star, who stood at 4’11” tall.
One thing you notice very quickly is that none of the dressing rooms have their own bathrooms, all the stars share communal restrooms, nor do they have wardrobes. All the stars are allocated lockers in the hallways. Members of the Grand Ole Opry can store instruments in their lockers, and so if they visit on any night and decide they want to perform, they just go to their locker, grab their guitar, and away they go!
One fascinating discovery is that the Opry has its own Post Office, and each inducted member has their own post box. So, if you decide one day that you want to write to Tim McGraw declaring your undying love, then just write your letter and pop it in an envelope addressed to “Tim McGraw, Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Tennessee”, and it will find its way to his post box at the Opry.
Without doubt the highlight of the tour is when you get to walk out on stage of the 4,400-seater auditorium. The house band instruments are sitting out ready to play, but of course please do not touch, but you get to walk out to the front of the stage, grip a microphone, and channel your inner Garth Brooks!
When the Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium to Opry House in 1974, they removed a six-foot circle of wood from the Ryman stage and installed it in the new home. This helped preserve the great history and honour that performing at the Opry means to the singers. It may just sound like a circle of wood, but the Opry are very proud of its roots, and it’s on this very circle that all performers want to stand on when they are out on stage. And this NInja got to stand right on that circle and let off a few fly-kicks whilst the official photographer captured the moment as a souvenir.
Like any good tour, it finishes in the gift shop. A visit to the Grand Ole Opry would not be complete without buying a memento of some sort, and boy does the gift shop deliver. From clothing to cowboy hats, caps to bags, music to coffee mugs, there is something for everyone!
This Ninja opted for some fridge magnets and a golden harmonica (of course!).
All in all, no visit to Nashville would be complete without a visit to the spiritual home of country music, The Grand Ole Opry.
And why not make a day of it, Opry Mills outlet mall is situated across the road, with shops and restaurants a plenty to allow you to replenish after your tour. The Opry is located less than 10 miles from downtown Nashville. There are all sorts of tour operators offering transport and entry, but for our NInja tour we opted to use our hire car and drive out there ourselves.; a journey of no more than 20 minutes.
*NInja Tip – if you are going to be in Nashville over the weekend, look online and book the concert performance and Opry tour combo. That way you get to sit in the Auditorium and watch some of the world’s great country singers perform, then after the show you get to tour the Opry and follow in the stars’ footsteps out onto the stage and that hallowed wooden circle.
For more information on The Grand Ole Opry – visit Opry.com
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