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It was built in 1892 by subscriptions raised by Capt. Tom Ryman, owner of a line of river pleasure boats. He had gone to a tent meeting to jeer at a famous religious re­vivalist, the late Sam Jones of Cartersville, Ga. But that night the preacher chose for his topic, "Mother," which hit Captain Ryman in a tender spot. He was converted then and there, and built a great tabernacle, "so Sam Jones wouldn't have to preach in a tent."
This old building has narrow pointed windows, a ros­trum instead of a stage, primitive dressing rooms and old church pews that seat 3,572 persons. The 1,384 reserved seats, at 60 cents each, are taken weeks in advance. Often as many as 10,000 are turned from the door. The crowds come from every state, averaging 485 miles per person to get there. More attended from Alabama and Illinois than from Tennessee. People as far away as Saudi Arabia have attended, writing ahead for seats. An ice storm a few years ago paralyzed the city but failed to stop the Opry crowd.
The audience ranges from a few people who think the term "Opry" means they should come formal to those who take off their shoes and nurse their babies during the show. Many of them come in trucks.
In Nashville hotels, they often bed down eight to a room, and bring along their food. They clean their hotel rooms, never having heard of maid service. Many of them never heard of tipping either. Bellboys and elevator opera­tors, when the management isn't looking, may make up for this oversight by charging ten cents per elevator ride. Besides their radio programs and records, the Opry stars constantly manifest themselves to their followers through personal appearances, arranged by WSM Artist Service Bureau, under Jim Denny. Every night one or more troupes of Opry stars are appearing in some city about the land. They have crammed Carnegie Hall in New York and played before sellout audiences in white ties and tails in Constitu­tion Hall in Washington. More often they appear on Sun­days in picnic groves in Pennsylvania, Illinois, or Ohio. Not long ago, one troupe played to 65,000 persons in four days in Texas.
To fill this schedule, the Opry stars live a hard life.
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III