At the risk of being too simplistic, Emmylou Harris saved the Ryman Auditorium. Now, for a building with 125 years of history, the idea of one artist really “saving” it seems preposterous. But the truth is, Emmylou saw musical value in the crumbling building when few others did.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Ryman Auditorium served only as a tourist trap. People came to take tours of the venue. But nobody played it. In fact, many areas couldn’t support people due to dilapidation. The balcony remained off limits thanks to structural concerns.
But Harris didn’t care. She still saw tremendous acoustic opportunity in the venue. Not to mention a history that many saw as too valuable to simple let die. Even some of Nashville’s biggest musical players like Roy Acuff thought the Ryman should come down.
But not Emmylou Harris. In 1991, she staged a three-night concert at the venue with her band the Nash Ramblers. Fans could only sit on the floor, and nearer the stage. Harris recorded and filmed the concert.
In 1992, Emmylou Harris’ At The Ryman album won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 34th annual Grammy Awards. That award became her sixth Grammy win. She now has more than twice that.
The performance at subsequent love helped reinvigorate interest in the Ryman. Along with revitalizing the rest of downtown Nashville, the Ryman Auditorium became a focal point for renovations. Now, the venue is one of the hottest tickets in town and a bucket list venue for just about every artist out there.
Emmylou Harris and her band the Nash Ramblers plan to return to the Ryman to commemorate that monumental record (and achievement). She and the band will play a special 125th anniversary show on May 2. Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m.