Ryman Auditorium announced exciting plans this week for its new Icon Walk, a permanent outdoor exhibition on the historic venue’s grounds. The Icon Walk will feature a collection of detailed bronze likenesses honoring those who have made significant contributions to the historic venue and Music City. The announcement came during CMA Fest as part of a special matinee Opry show at the Ryman.
As the Icon Walk takes shape, new bronze statues of beloved music legends will join existing monuments to Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe, two of the most profound musical innovators in country and bluegrass music. Both statues were unveiled in 2017 as part of the Ryman’s 125 anniversary celebration.
The Ryman team will collaborate again with artist Ben Watts, the talent behind the current Dickens and Monroe statues. The next artists to be honored will be announced in early 2020.
“Thousands of people stop to pay homage to Monroe or pose for selfies with Little Jimmy Dickens in front of the auditorium every year, and we love seeing that,” said Ryman General Manager, Gary Levy. “As we add more stars and legends to the Icon Walk, we’ll create more opportunities to tell the story of the Ryman, Nashville, and the legends who have graced our stage.”
Today, visitors can find country music’s Little Jimmy Dickens standing atop the Ryman’s main steps facing Fourth Avenue, greeting each and every ticket holder and tour-taker as they arrive. Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music, stands at the corner of the northwest corner of the building near the venue’s driveway on Fifth Avenue. Monroe’s likeness is flanked by a Tennessee Historical Commission marker describing the night Bluegrass Music took the stage at the Ryman for the first time in 1945.
The Ryman, affectionately known as the Mother Church of Country Music, was founded as a beacon of hope for the faithful in 1892. The venue has become an international symbol of cultural significance drawing millions of people to Nashville to find their own inspiration from the wooden pews.
The iconic brick building, which is on the national registry of historic places, rose to prominence first as Nashville’s largest venue for civic gatherings and later for attracting national touring shows including the biggest names in music, theater, and entertainment including Katharine Hepburn, Harry Houdini, Bob Hope, the Ziegfeld Follies, and countless others including President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Ryman became the home of the Grand Ole Opry in 1943, and the world of broadcast entertainment changed forever as the live radio and TV show brought the likes of Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, and Hank Williams to the stage and into living rooms around the country. The program’s 31-year tenure at the Ryman ignited the growth of country music.
Dickens and Monroe were instrumental to that burgeoning popularity, and forthcoming statues will pay homage to others who helped to shape country music’s past, present, and future.