October 8th and 9th were spent doing cool touristy stuff in the Music City. We visited the Parthenon (yes, the Parthenon), Ryman Auditorium, Studio B, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Parthenon, situated in Nashville’s Centennial Park, is a full-scale replica of the Athenian Parthenon. Nashville was once known as the “Athens of the South,” so it was fitting for Confederate veteran William Crawford Smith to build it in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It was a special treat when we visited the original Parthenon in Athens a few years ago. Seeing this full-scale replica is also a treat, enabling us to visualize what the “real” one looked like before its decay. Equally interesting was to view the 42′ tall statue of the Athena Parthenos which stands at one end of the temple. This, too, is a copy of the statue which once graced the Athenian Parthenon. It was the most renowned cult image of Athens, and considered one of the greatest achievements of the most acclaimed sculptor of ancient Greece, Phidias, in the 440s B.C.
The historic Roman Auditorium, also known as “The Mother Church of Country Music” and “The Carnegie Hall of the South,” was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Nashville businessman Thomas Ryman built the auditorium in 1892 after converting to Christianity under the preaching of evangelist, Samuel Porter Jones. He originally went to heckle the preacher, but instead converted and was moved to build a church where he could preach to large crowds. The Ryman was initially called The Union Gospel Tabernacle. Over time, its use expanded beyond that of a church and has hosted world famous acts and performances over the last century.
On the morning of the 9th, we toured the historic Studio B, initially called just “RCA Studios,” built in 1956 at the request of Chet Atkins. It became famous in the 60s for its role in establishing the “Nashville sound,” replacing the rough honky tonk music which was most popular in the 1940s and 1950s with “smooth strings and choruses”, “sophisticated background vocals” and “smooth tempos.” The long list of artists who have recorded there reads like a who’s who of country music. Elvis recorded many of his hits in this iconic place.
After our visit of Studio B, we rambled through the halls of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, enjoying the special exhibits on celebrities as well as those outlining the history of country music. At the end of the tour, of course, we wandered through the Hall of Fame itself, where the plaques are found which honor those talented folks who have been inducted into the Hall.