Known as Nashville's Premier Performance Hall, the Ryman Auditorium was originally a church named the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Ironically, it was built by Captain Ryman, a roistering riverboat captain who came to Nashville in 1885 to disrupt services conducted by the Reverand Sam Jones. His visit resulted in an unexpected religious conversion and Captain Ryman began financing the building of the Tabernacle in 1889. and it was completed in 1892. After his death, the Union Gospel Tabernacle was renamed the Ryman Auditorium at the suggestion of the Rev. Jones. By the turn of the century the Ryman had transformed itself into one of the South's premier performance halls and launched a tradition of showcasing a wide variety of entertainment genres. Over the next half century, the Ryman stage attracted performances by legends ranging from stars of the silver screen such as Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin to famed composers such as Edward Strauss and Sergei Rachmaninov. The stage also hosted Opera stars like famed African American contralto Marian Anderson and Vaudeville personalities such as humorist and cowboy singer Will Rogers.
The Ryman Auditorium was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 -1974. During that period, the building gained nationwide recognition as the "Mother Church of Country Music" featuring pioneering performers such as Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline who helped shape the future of country and bluegrass music.
During 1994, the Ryman Auditorium was completely renovated. In 2004, the Ryman stayed true to its traditions, featuring an eclectic concert schedule which included sold-out performances by R.E.M., Merle Haggard, Carole King, Moe, Ryan Adams, the Pixies, John Prine, Larry the Cable Guy, Erykah Badu, and Keith Urban. The Ryman begins 2005 with a diverse line-up that includes concerts by rock & roll icon Elvis Costello, country legend George Jones, neo-soul diva Jill Scott, and CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Keith Urban, who is back in 2005 with a three night sold-out engagement. "For me," says Urban, "the Ryman is a magical place. Music just sounds and feels right there, and I've been fortunate enough to not only perform there many times, but to also witness some extraordinary nights sitting out front on those old wooden pews. From Merle Haggard to Coldplay, a concert at the Ryman is quite simply a beautiful musical experience."