10. Ryman Auditorium
What You’ll See: Ben Harper, Boz Scaggs, Bonnie Raitt
The Ryman is in many ways the house that bluegrass built. Originally opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, it has subsequently undergone numerous renovations and changes in ownership. Perhaps most significant was the period during which Lula C. Naff oversaw operations. A female executive working in a male-dominated field, Naff often went by L.C. to avoid prejudice. In her time running the Ryman, the venue became known for its battles against censorship, as well as its variety of bookings that spanned popular culture and included names like Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, and Harry Houdini.
The auditorium gained new acclaim as the home for the Grand Ole Opry, a country radio music program that became wildly popular for their live broadcasts in the late 1940s. Eventually a period of dormancy set in, decades punctuated with the occasional film being shot on location and one very bizarre bomb threat (look it up). It was a concert Emmylou Harris held in the early ’90s that helped get the Ryman back on the map, where it has now returned to its rightful place as one of Nashville’s historic music venues.
Nowadays, the Ryman is a 2,362-capacity theater renowned for its sterling acoustics. It served as the site for Neil Young’s Jonathan Demme-directed concert film Heart of Gold and earlier featured as the setting for the majority of episodes of Johnny Cash’s ABC Series, The Johnny Cash Show. The Ryman is the venue to play for a band visiting Nashville, an honor made all the more impressive in a town ripe with music history.