Our first stop was Jackson, Tennessee and the home of Casey Jones, the heroic railroad engineer who's attempts to stop his train, the Cannonball Express, from colliding with a stalled freight train saved many lives but resulted in his death.
Jones was also famous for his peculiar skill with the train whistle. It's unique sound was described as a sort of whippoorwill call and people living along the route of the train recognised it saying "There goes Casey Jones", as the train roared by.
Casey Jones' Engine
At the rest stop in Jackson there was a quaint general store
Which sold absolutely everything you could imagine
and we spent an entertaining hour mooching in the store then grabbing a cup of coffee before it was time to board the coach again to complete our journey to Nashville.
We arrived in Nashville before lunch and as it was too early to check into the hotel our first stop was The Ryman Auditorium, the original Grand Ole Opry.
The History of the Ryman dates back to the 1880s when Thomas G Ryman, a riverboat captain and Nashville businessman, attended a revival by famed travelling evangelist Sam Jones. Legend has it Captain Ryman planned to heckle the preacher but instead was converted on the spot and decided to raise money for a permanent place for Jones to preach. Seven years and $100,000 later, in 1892, the Union Gospel Tabernacle was completed. It would be renamed Ryman Auditorium upon Captain Ryman's death in 1904.
Thomas G Ryman
The Ryman served as a venue for a wide variety of events: religious revivals, jazz recitals etc and in 1943 a contract was signed to rent the Ryman out on Saturday nights for a popular live radio show The Grand Ole Opry - a decision that changed the course of history for the Ryman and for country music. The Ryman was the home of The Grand Ole Opry from 1943 until 1974.
Grand Ole Opry House, there was a public outcry at talk of razing the Ryman which caused the building to be left standing and it deteriorated into a sad state. It was renovated in 1994 and named a National History Landmark in 2001. Now it is a living monument that continues to present the best in entertainment to a new generation of audiences.
After a delicious lunch at Demos we headed down Broadway for a little retail therapy, our aim was to purchase some real 'cowboy boots' and we weren't disappointed. We found this store
so in we went and bought these.
Mine, MWM's, Mine
Here's me posing with the lady who was portraying Minnie Pearl, the comedienne who appeared at the Opry for more than 50 years.
Of course I wore my jeans and a pair of my brand new cowboy boots, what else would one wear to visit the Grand Ole Opry?
The atmosphere as we made our way into the Opry was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.! We had great seats right down near the front and we couldn't wait for the show to start.
Here's the programme for the evening, we were thrilled to see who was on last, and we took a picture of every act, which I've put in a slide show below. I've also put a link in to each act if you want to read more about them.
Saturday - May 14th 2011
7.00 - 7.30
Old Country Store
Jimmy Dickens - Host
7.30 - 8.00
Riders In The Sky - Host
8.15 - 8.45
Mike Snider - Host
Opry Square Dancers
8.45 - 9.15
Bill Anderson - Host
The pics are a little dark but if you click on View All Images and then on Full View you should be able to get a better picture.
All of the acts were fabulous and we found the advertisements for the sponsors really funny and it seemed strange being part of a radio show that was being broadcast live. The highlight of the evening was Charlie Daniels playing The Devil Went Down To Georgia - that really got the place rockin'! Then, long before I was ready, the show was over and we had to leave the place that had featured in my dreams for so long, it is a memory I will cherish forever.
We made our way back to the coach for the short trip to Downtown Nashville where we hit the honkytonk bars, specifically Robert's Western World, for a couple of drinks to round off the evening before making our way back to the hotel to dream of Country Music and the Grand Ole Opry - well I did, don't know about any one else!
I hope you'll join me for Dixieland 9 where we have a Nashville City Tour when we visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, RCA Victor Studio B and had dinner at the Loveless Cafe. YEEHAW!
Read Dixieland Part 1 here
Read Dixieland Part 2 here
Read Dixieland Part 3 here
Read Dixieland Part 4 here
Read Dixieland Part 5 here
Read Dixieland Part 6 here
Read Dixieland Part 7 here