After the Civil War, Nashville grew rapidly in the New South as a cultural and commercial center of the new South. Adding to its importance as a riverport on the Mississippi, it became a railroad center, adopted electric streetcars by 1889, built banks and insurance firms, schools and theaters, to gain the reputation as the "Athens of the South." Captain Thomas Ryman built his Union Gospel Tabernacle by 1897, with a gabled red brick facade. In 1901 a new stage was built for performances of the New York Metropolitan Opera. The acoustics of the auditorium became legendary, and for the next 50 years the Ryman attracted the best musical talent in the world. The auditorium became the home of the Grand Ole Opry radio program in 1943. Nashville's WSM started radio broadcasting in 1925 at National Life and Accident Insurance Company, and its popular Barn Dance program was renamed the Grand Ole Opry in 1927 when announcer George Hay coined the term to introduce the country music program on NBC that followed the "Grand Opera" of the NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Walter Damrosch. The WSM program grew rapidly in popularity due to its NBC network affiliation and increased power. The WSM tower in 1932 with its diamond shape antenna was tallest in North America at 878 ft. for a clear channel 50,000 watts at 650 kc by 1932. "WSM engineers would look to other locales to perfect their recording techniques and they soon fashioned a studio out of the ballroom of the now defunct Tulane Hotel. Dubbed 'Castle Studio' (after the station's nickname 'Air Castle of the South'), it was the busiest studio recording country music in the early 1950's. " (WSM history) WSM had the nation's first FM station 1941 at 44.7 mhz, changed 1947 to 100.1 mhz until off air 1951, back on air with WLWM-FM at 95.5 mhz. WSM moved to Opryland 1982 and soon started with AP the Country Music Radio Network via satellite, in 1983 became WSM-FM "Nashville 95 FM." The Nashville downtown area today includes the renovated Ryman Auditorium and the new Country Music Hall of Fame and the Gaylord Center for arena football and hockey with a distinctive 22-story tower that emulates the famous WSM tower of the 1930s.
- 2002 by Steven E. Schoenherr. All rights reserved.