WOUB-HD to Broadcast ‘Emmylou Harris – At the Ryman’ August 10< < Back to
From 1943 to 1974, Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium was the physical manifestation of the cultural icon that is the Grand Ole Opry. Every week the iconic show would broadcast from the 2,362-seat venue, which was built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Over the course of those three decades, the Ryman became a part of what defined the ever-growing, ever-changing tradition of American country music.
By the ’80s, the venue lay in shambles. The Grand Ole Opry had long since moved on, and the Ryman was crumbling, having fallen victim to the nasty disease that is generalized urban decay. In 1989 Gaylord Entertainment began to invest in beautifying the exterior of the Ryman, although the interior remained dangerously dilapidated.
From April 30 to May 2, 1991, American music legend Emmylou Harris performed three shows in the theater’s crumbling interior with the Nash Ramblers, spearheading efforts to resurrect the building. Audience members were not allowed to sit in or underneath the balcony for the sake of safety concerns, and the conditions in the venue were far less than ideal. Shortly after, interest in salvaging the landmark was significantly upped, something that is attributed almost solely to Harris’ performances in the building.
In 1992, her performances at the Ryman were released via the Grammy Award winning At the Ryman, which she replicated, nearly song-by-song, for a set of shows that she put on at the now fully restored landmark earlier this year. Entitled Emmylou Harris: At the Ryman, the 90-minute television special will be broadcast on WOUB-HD Thursday, August 10 at 8 p.m. Harris’ backing band is entirely the same as it was in ’91, with the exception of the loss of bassist Roy Huskey Jr., who passed away in 1997. Sam Bush plays mandolin and fiddle; Jon Randall is on guitar; Al Perkins handles the Dobro; and Larry Atamanuik hammers away on the drums. A photo of Huskey is on display throughout the performance on stage, his spot filled in by Byron House.
Local musician and self-professed music geek Chris Pyle said that he first was introduced to the deeply American music of Emmylou Harris via her 1995 Elektra Records debut, Wrecking Ball.
“It really took me a while to get into country music in general,” said Pyle on a steamy morning in late July in his decked-out, music-centric office in Donkey Coffee. “I was fresh out of college, and Wrecking Ball had been produced by Daniel Lanois – who had worked with U2 on some of my favorite albums, and the album definitely had that ‘Daniel Lanois feel’ to it.”
Pyle found himself enamored with the album, which features songs written by the likes of Steve Earle (“Goodbye”), Jimi Hendrix (“May This Be Love”), Neil Young (“Wrecking Ball”), Bob Dylan (“Every Grain of Sand”), Gillian Welch (‘Orphan Girl”), and many more.
“At first, I was a little scared of traditional country – which makes me think of a Tom Petty quote about modern country music, ‘it’s like bad rock ‘n’ roll with fiddles,’” said Pyle, who said that he soon found out that Harris’ work wasn’t anywhere near the cringe-y tunes he was associating with the genre.
“To me, Emmylou Harris is a great interpreter of songs,” said Pyle. “Sometimes musicians who don’t write their own material aren’t credited as much – like people say that Elvis Presley’s work isn’t that impressive because he didn’t write it – but that’s just nonsense, the interpretation of a song is everything. On Wrecking Ball, it sounds like (Harris) wrote all of those songs – even though she didn’t. That’s her strength, her tastefulness in general.”