Monday, October 4, 2010

A Grand Ole Reopening

Magnet # 359:  Grand Ole Opry Guitar


Material:  Wood, Laminated Paper


Purchased By:  Mom

After months of renovations, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House, home of the Grand Ole Opry, is finally returning.  The events kicked off last week on September 28 when the Country Comes Home concert officially reopened the venue to the public.  Plenty of country's biggest stars were on hand to celebrate and perform, including Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels, Marina McBride, and Brad Paisley.  And today, which falls exactly five months after flood waters engulfed the Grand Ole Opry House, it will host the Spirit of Nashville Day, where the people of Nashville will be able to tour the restored complex for free.  Some of its most interesting new attributes that they'll be able to see include a new entrance area for the artists, 18 themed dressing rooms, and thin strip of green metal mounted 46 inches high on the green room wall, just how high the flood waters reached.  The festivities will also be going on outside, where bands will play in the Opry Plaza throughout the day.  And later this week, on Friday and Saturday, the Grand Ole Opry will hold its 85th Birthday Bash with even more concerts and shows, including a free party in the Opry Plaza. Sounds like the people of Nashville and everyone in the Grand Ole Opry have plenty to celebrate, especially considering how difficult life was for them earlier this year.  As you may remember, heavy rainfall caused the Cumberland River to run over into much of Nashville, causing extensive damage and ten deaths.  At the Grand Ole Opry House, the flood waters destroyed the pews, curtains, floor and walls, but at least a beloved 6-foot circle brought from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry's former home, was rescued.  Some think that the rest of the world would have ignored the dire situation if the flood hadn't reached the Grand Ole Opry House.  The damage was so extensive that the entire first floor needed to be rebuilt.  But those in charge of it made the best of the bad situation, spending the coming months not only repairing the venue, but making it over to a whole new level.  Many of the musicians who performed there last week commented on how impressed they were with the $20 million upgrades.  Luckily, the Grand Ole Opry continued on during this time, moving from one Nashville concert hall to another, including Ryman Auditorium.  Hopefully, it's only clear skies ahead for the even greater Grand Ole Opry House.

Given that today is the Spirit of Nashville Day and this post does fall in the midst of my Halloween-themed posts, I was curious to find out if any other kind of spirits were associated with the Grand Ole Opry, even though I'd not planned on including this magnet with my creepy posts.  And an Internet search didn't disappoint me.  Turns out the Ryman Auditorium, which housed the Grand Ole Opry until 1974, is the center of at least three alleged apparitions.  It was built by Thomas Ryman in the 1890's.  Earlier in life, he was a riverboat captain and businessman who was known for his hard drinking and other objectionable behaviors.  But he was converted and became a devout man, opening Ryman Auditorium under the name of the Union Gospel Tabernacle as a place where believers could join in worship.  Some believe has continued to visit his creation since his death in 1904, unhappy that it is no longer used solely for religious purposes, and sometimes creates noises loud enough to disturb performances or turns the lights on and off.  One story holds that a crew of Yankees were working there and laughed at the idea of Ryman haunting the building.  Later that night, they heard ghostly footsteps from above them, even though nobody was there and even saw dust tricking down.  Apparently, they cleared out in a hurry.  There is also a much quieter Gray Man who supposedly frequents the venue.  Employees claim to see him sitting in the balcony during rehearsals and after shows.  When they venture up to speak with him, he's gone, but he often returns once they have left the balcony.  Interestingly, he's never been seen during a performance.  And at least one country legend is said to have never left Ryman Auditorium - Hank Williams Sr.  Plenty have said that they've seen him backstage and when a singer tried to perform one of Williams' favorite songs during sound check, all of the power went dead in the theater - even the emergency exit signs.  No one was ever sure what caused the blackout, but some think Williams may not have liked hearing another performer using his tune.  And even the King of Rock n' Roll himself, Elvis Presley may have put in another appearance at the Ryman after his death.  His daughter, Lisa Marie, returned to her dressing room after performing there with her entourage, only to find that the door wouldn't open.  Neither using keys nor shoving the door worked for her bodyguards, who became convinced someone was behind it, blocking them.  They called out that the police were on their way and laughter broke out from the room.  Lisa Marie was not the only one in the crowd who had been close to Elvis, and they all agreed the laugh was his.  There's even a belief that the Grand Ole Opry is cursed, as many of those associated with it have met with untimely deaths.  While it's impossible to know for certain, it certainly seems like there may be more going on at the Ryman Auditorium than just great performances and that it has a unique group of attendees who may never leave.  And although the Grand Ole Opry may have moved away from there, it remains to be seen if that act has broken the alleged curse, or if bad luck will continue to follow the beloved program.  But I think it's earned a break from the bad luck, so here's to better times for this historic Nashville institution!

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