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  • Grand Ole OpryGrand Ole Opry Nashville, Tennessee
    The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee has become one of the most enjoyed weekly country music shows in the nation, bringing the best country music singers in the country onto their stage since 1925. It is considered to be one of the longest-running broadcasts in the history of radio and other media since starting its one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM-AM; dedicated to honoring country music and its colorful history, featuring some of the greatest country music artists in the world, as well as those singing or performing gospel, bluegrass, comedy and folk. It has undoubtedly become one of the nation's most memorable icons, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe, along with millions of internet and radio listeners. This is the place that has made country music what it is today, and is often referred to as the "country's most famous stage" and the "home of American country music". By the 1930s, the opry had to hire professionals and enlarged their radio program to four hours; bringing it into our homes on Saturday nights in almost 30 states. The opry would gain national fame and attention in 1939 when it debuted on NBC Radio, and moved into a permanent home at the Ryman Auditorium in 1943. As it grew, the city grew and attracted more singers and bands that wanted, dreamed of standing on that stage, doing what they love to do, sing and play for a huge audience. It is considered an honor to be a member of this illustrious group, and one of country music's crowning glory, with such performing legends as Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline, the Carter family, Ernest Tubbs, Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells. While these performers would become regulars on the show, there were many others that just stopped by to perform for the crowds, whether it was on the radio, television and now internet. Some of them included; Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley. Beginning in 1974, the show would be broadcast from the opry house that sits east of the downtown area, with performances shown on the television often as well as on the radio. The Ryman had been the home of the Grand Ole Opry until 1974, when it would move into its own place, nine miles from downtown, with 4400 seats, becoming part of the new Opryland USA theme park. President Nixon came to the opening night on March 16, 1974, and he even played a few songs for the audience and viewers on the piano. The opry stage is a huge circle of wood that had been cut from the stage at Ryman's to bring a taste of the original to the new venue. The theme park would close it doors in 1997, but not the Opry, so they decided to replace the park with the new venue of the Opry Mills mall, incorporating the opry into that. It plays a few times each week, with a yearly performance still given at the Ryman.

  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
    Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Nashville, TennesseeThe Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee was created to identify and preserve the marvelous traditions and history of country music as well as educating its visitors about the fabulous industry that has grown so much a part of American's lives over the last half century. The facility is a wonderful venue to showcase country music's history, and is also an international arts organization, serving visitors and non-visiting audiences that includes; scholars, students, fans, the general public and members of the music industry. The CMA announced they would open a Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961, inducting Fred Rose, Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers that first year at a banquet held in November. Bronze plaques were created with the singer's facial image engraved on it, and a thumbnail biography of every new member would be cast in bas relief. The plaques were then unveiled at the Grand Ole Opry by Ernest Tubb, and the plaques, as well as subsequent members would be shown at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville until 1967. The CMA would announce in 1963, the creation of the hall of fame and its related museum that was to be constructed on Music Row in the city, and it opened on April 1, 1967. This location closed in 2000, the building taken down and replaced with a parking lot. Kathy Mattea and Trisha Yearwood even worked as guides for the museum before they became such outstanding stars. Five months later, on May 17, 2001, the grand opening of the new museum was held, at a cost of $37 million, which is just ten blocks away from downtown; and the museum showcases its excellent collections to highlight the story of country music as it went through two turns of a new century. There are exciting video clips, recorded music and a regular menu for live performances, a museum store, on-site dining and public programs. The outside of the facility is interspersed with music images, with the best being the windows that mirror the configuration of piano keys. Other significant images include the diamond shaped radio mast that is also a copy of the WSM tower that is just a few miles south of the city. There are numerous round discs encompassing the tower that symbolize different sized CDs and records that had been used to record the music during its fantastic history. If you should get an opportunity to see the museum from the air, you'll notice that the structure is shaped like a bass clef, with the northwest corner jutting out like a tail fin from a 1950s Cadillac. In 2010, Shout! Factory, working in partnership with the hall of fame, released two double DVD sets named after a television special called, "Country's Greatest Stars Live, Volume 1 and covers the first three hours of the star filled cast that was hosted by Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell and Roy Clark; and included performances by legendary artists, Gene Autry, Loretta Lynn and Carlene Carter, along with many others. Volume 2 showcases the last four hours; which were hosted by Charley Pride, Eddy Arnold, Crystal Gayle and Tennessee Ernie Ford and contains live performances by Asleep at the Wheel, Anne Murray, Freddy Fender and more.

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  • Belle Meade PlantationBelle Meade Plantation Belle Meade, Tennessee
    The Belle Meade Plantation, in Belle Meade, Tennessee has become a magnificent historical plantation mansion and grounds that are now part of a living museum, constructed in 1853, by General William Giles Harding, son of the original founder, John Harding. John, a Virginian, came to the area in 1807, and purchased Dunham's Station log cabin, along with 250 acres of land on the Natchez Trace, and began boarding horses for his neighbors that included Andrew Jackson. By 1816, John would also be breeding horses, thoroughbred horses, as well as shipping grain to New Orleans and Charleston, buying large tracts of land in Louisiana and Arkansas. John's son, William, would construct the beautiful mansion, as the family continued to prosper and increasing the size of their property to include 5400 acres and made it a plantation that became well known throughout the world as a breeder of champion thoroughbred horses. Then, the Civil War broke out and the dangers became evident. In the Battle of Nashville, both Union and Confederate forces would skirmish in the front yard, with the mansion large columns becoming pock marked with bullets that ricocheted off them. When you visit the marvelous mansion today, you will see those pock marks still visible. Even during and still afterwards, during Reconstruction, the plantation's reputation as a first class breeder would attract buyers from across the globe for the yearly yearling sale, under the management of the Harding's sons-in-law, Howell Edmunds Jackson and William Hicks Jackson; who also kept the estate's stud service thriving. After their deaths, the financial conditions would deteriorate, and finally, at the start of the 20th century, the estate would have to be auctioned off; forcing the fourth generation of Hardings to leave their beloved plantation. The majority of the lands that had belonged to the plantation would later become what is called Belle Meade today, since eight outbuildings and 30 acres, including the mansion would be deeded to the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities in 1953, which is still managed by the Nashville branch of that organization today. The plantation has become one of the highlights of this region, with a new winery located on the premises, the Victorian Society meets there and the Jane Austen book club also holds its meetings here; as well as many educational functions including summer camps, junior docent program, scouts, gamma gazette, teachers, outreach, home schools and birthday parties.

  • Tennessee State Museum
    Tennessee State Museum Nashville, TennesseeThe Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, Tennessee describes the amazing history of the state, beginning with the pre-colonization and spanning the years up to the 20th century, including the Civil War, the age of Jackson and the Frontier. It houses over 60,000 square feet of permanent displays and a hall with another 10,000 square feet for the changing exhibits. The whole area of this marvelous museum is 120,000 square feet spread on three floors, with an outstanding collection of battle flags for the Civil War that is perhaps one of the biggest and finest in the country, weapons and uniforms. The museum occupies the lower floors of the James K. Polk building in downtown Nashville, that is shared with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. It is in the planning for a new structure to be built in the Bicentennial Mall State Park very soon. The museum also houses a magnificent military museum that highlights the nation's military conflicts, beginning with the battles of the Spanish-American War and going up to and including WWII. Their store is a great place to pick up some state memorabilia, hand-made crafts and jewelry. The earliest records about the museum begins in 1817, when portrait artist, Ralph E. W. Earl would open a museum in the public square of then early Nashville. The initial large state museum would open in 1937, after the general assembly concluded that the state would need a museum to contain all the numerous collections from around the state and the many mementos that had been acquired during WWI. Today, it showcases weapons, textiles, quilts, furniture, paintings, silver and replicas of early grist mill, print shop and painting gallery. Permanent displays include; the new south, the first Tennesseans, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the frontier, antebellum and the age of Jackson. Some of the magnificent relics found in the first Tennesseans exhibit includes information about the first prehistoric Indian cultures that lived in the region some 15,000 year ago, and containing artifacts from the Paleolithic, Archaic, Woodland and Mississippian periods, including a mastodon skeleton that roamed the area about 10,000 years ago. Other well noted and worth mentioning items includes a steatite shaman's medicine tube, Dover flint mace that had been a symbol of power to a Mississippian leader that lived 500 to 700 years ago and a Thruston and Hutcherson pictographs, that are believed to be two of the most significant discoveries of the late prehistoric politico-religious art discovered in the region.

January 11, 2011