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How did Nashville get the Nickname "Music City?"

Updated: Mar 24

Nashville, TN, is known as "Music City" for a good reason. This vibrant city is home to a rich music culture that can be felt in every corner. Nashville has something for everyone from country music to rock 'n' roll. But how did Nashville earn the nickname "Music City"? Let's take a look at the history behind it.


The Fisk Jubilee Singers

Fisk Jubilee Singers Photo via: www.hymnologyarchive.com
Fisk Jubilee Singers Photo via: www.hymnologyarchive.com

The history of music in Nashville dates back to the late 1700s, when the settlers celebrated with fiddle tunes after arriving on the shores of the Cumberland River. However, Nashville's music scene really began to take shape back in the early 1800s. This is thanks in large part to the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The Fisk Jubilee Singers were a choir from Nashville's Fisk University. Their around-the-world tours helped fund the school's mission of educating people who were formerly enslaved after the Civil War. Legend says, upon playing for the Queen of England, the queen stated the Fisk Jubilee Singers must come from the "Music City." Many have said this theory can't be proven, but it's important to note the Fisk Jubilee Singers had a massive part in putting Music City on the map!


The Ryman Auditorium

The Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium

When looking at the roots of Music City, it's essential to talk about The Ryman Auditorium. Originally The Ryman Auditorium was a church called The Union Gospel Tabernacle. The church was built by riverboat Captain Thomas G. Ryman in 1892. On May 10, 1885, Ryman attended a religious revival with Reverand Sam Jones in the pulpit. Ryman left that evening with a strong calling to build a big beautiful church. He spent seven years and approximately $100,000 building the church. Reverend Sam Jones would do his first of many sermons at the church along with many other preachers as well. After Ryman died in 1904, The Union Gospel Tabernacle changed its name to The Ryman Auditorium in his honor. The auditorium slowly became a popular venue for live music and was given the name "Mother Church of Country Music." The Ryman Auditorium remains a popular venue for live music and is still standing today. Many music stars have graced the stage at The Ryman Auditorium, including The Fisk Jubilee Singers!

The Grand Ole Opry Radio Show


Grand Ole Opry photo from a 1944 advertisement
Grand Ole Opry photo from a 1944 advertisement

In 1925, the Grand Ole Opry radio show began broadcasting live from Nashville in the office of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company in downtown Nashville. The first broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry was on WSM, a local Nashville radio station with a powerful signal that could be heard across the country. WSM began referring to Nashville as "Music City." The show quickly became popular and soon moved to the Ryman Auditorium. The Grand Ole Opry is still being broadcast to this day!


Country star Dolly Parton sings on stage during a Grand Ole Opry live broadcast in Nashville, Tenn., April 23 as U.S. soldiers watch the show via a video feed in Iraq.
Country star Dolly Parton sings on stage during a Grand Ole Opry live broadcast in Nashville, Tenn., April 23 as U.S. soldiers watch the show via a video feed in Iraq.

So there you have it! A brief history of how Nashville came to be known as Music City. This city's rich musical history is evident in everything from the Grand Ole Opry to the Fisk Jubilee Singers. If you're ever in Nashville, make sure to check out some of its famous music venues! Thanks for reading!

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