I don’t know why it has taken me so long to write about our trip to Tennessee in October. Maybe because it was so special, or because I know I don’t have the right words to describe what an incredible day it was, or maybe because I know I never deserved to get to do something so awesome in the first place and feel like I’m just bragging. Either way, I definitely wanted to share our daytrip up to Tennessee to see Loretta Lynn perform at the Ryman.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Ryman Auditorium or Loretta Lynn, here’s a one minute crash course. The Ryman Auditorium (nicknamed the “Mother Church of Country Music”) is essentially the birthplace of country music. It’s where it went from a bunch of people picking around on instruments to getting together and really creating something amazing. Every legend in country music spent time playing on the weekly shows (called the Opry) at the Ryman and most attribute their success to the time they spent there. Loretta Lynn, (who has been dubbed the Queen of Country Music) played on the Opry for about 17 weeks straight after her first song “Honky Tonk Girl” hit the charts and has played there probably over a hundred times since. For country music artist getting to play at the Opry is an honor that you can aspire to, but not an opportunity that all get. Even more rare, is to be inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry (Loretta Lynn is one of the oldest living members). After decades of sold out shows three nights a week, the Ryman auditorium fell into disrepair in the 70’s and was closed in 1974 and faced possible destruction. In the 90’s, money was finally raised to restore the Ryman which is now open for tours, concerts, and the Opry still plays there a few times a year. For any die-hard country music fan, the Ryman is a sacred place with more history than anywhere in Nashville. So to have Loretta Lynn, a living legend in country music return to the holy auditorium for a show, it was more than a big deal, and something I didn’t expect I would ever get to attend, however, after some kind of miracle, (and a little saving), I held two tickets to her show on October 11th in my hand.
So many times I have imagined what it would have been like to have sat in the pews at the Ryman fifty years ago and watched an Opry show. To see Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard, all the legends in their hey days, performing on that stage, and walking out the back alley doors. The Ryman has huge double doors on every side that they say used to be wide open during every show (because there was no a/c) and people used to just fill the place, standing room only for three hours, lined up and down the aisles and packed in the doors, cheering and enjoying music and sweating all together. That Saturday was about as close as I will get. There were so many people standing outside, and a hundred more packed around Loretta’s bus parked behind the building. I’ve never seen so many people waiting outside a venue, and more than a few people said they didn’t even have tickets, just were hoping to get a glance of the legend.
Doors opened, we had a fantastic view even though we were towards the back and had obstructed view seats(which wasn’t really all that obstructed). To open the show, Loretta’s grand-daughter Emmy Russell played a few songs, and she was awesome. I had seen her perform twice before, but she was about five years old, and sang twinkle twinkle little star. She has definitely grown up. She did great covers of “If I Die Young” and “Free Fallin'” and a few original songs. Then Loretta’s band took the stage; they reunited as many of the original Coal Miner’s as they could fo4r this show, and it was incredible. She came out, and there really are no words for the rest of the show, you’d just have to be there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and I was completely caught up in the whole experience for two hours until the show ended. I’ve seen Loretta in concert dozens of times, but this was really special. It was one of those out of body experiences everyone talks about, but I’ve never understood.
And this little angel slept through almost the whole thing! Yay for noise-cancelling headphones. The show was over before I knew it but we had an amazing night and I am so grateful that I got to be there, it really was a once in a lifetime kinda thing.
(For all of those who have asked, here is the link to Rhett’s headphones)