For years the Ryman Auditorium has celebrated the fact that it is regarded as the birthplace of bluegrass music by hosting their popular Bluegrass Nights Summer Series sponsored by Springer Mountain Farms. The pickin’ party started on June 21 and is running through July 26, 2018. On Thursday, July 05, 2018 the versatile Vince Gill performed as part of this weekly showcase. Vince is well respected in numerous genres but for this one evening it was all about bluegrass.
This annual event is an ongoing nod to the Ryman’s past. As the legend goes, back in 1945 during a Grand Ole Opry show a young banjo player named Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys on the Ryman stage for the first time. Scruggs added his revolutionary three-finger picking style to Monroe’s signature close harmonies, quick tempo, and “high lonesome sound.” It was a new and nuanced form of country music that energized listeners and left them wanting more of what would became known as “bluegrass music.” In 2006, the State of Tennessee declared the Ryman as the official Birthplace of Bluegrass and a historical marker was installed that tells the tale of the night Scruggs took the stage with Monroe’s band.
Vince Gill is a multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer and songwriter who has enjoyed commercial success as a member of Pure Prairie League along with a stellar solo career that includes countless collaborations. Vince has recorded more than 20 studio albums, charted over 40 singles on the U.S. Billboard charts as Hot Country Songs, and has sold more than 26 million albums. He has been honored by the Country Music Association with 18 CMA Awards, including two Entertainer of the Year awards and five Male Vocalist Awards. As of 2017, Gill has also earned 21 Grammy Awards, more than any other male country music artist. In 2007 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. On February 4, 2016 he was inducted into the Guitar Center Rock Walk and Gill is most recently a high-flying member of the Eagles.
“Welcome to the Ryman,” greeted Gill before declaring that this is a great place to hear and play music. Throughout his set Vince mentioned the greats who had performed there including Bill Monroe. Vince fronting a five-piece band paid tribute to that legend with a winning version of “Lonesome Wind Blues.” Later, they honored Earl Scruggs with a spirited “Shuckin’ The Corn.” After their agile and animated take of that tune Gill said he was “hanging on for dear life” before joking about his fluctuating weight which led to a story.
Vince shared that he was in Texas in a questionable neighborhood having lunch at a place that had been highly recommended. As he was trying to enjoy his meal Gill noticed a guy eyeballing him the whole time. Once the singer had put down his fork the local approached him swearing that Vince looked like Vince Gill would if he gained 70 pounds. Although Gill admitted he did and I am, the patron did not believe him – did he have to say 70 pounds – exclaimed the artist. Gill continued to build on his own humor when he noted that they would be done by 10 p.m. when the Krispy Kream hot light goes on. This was one of a number of comical commentaries Gill shared but he also continued to emphasize how he always loved this (bluegrass) music.
On Thursday night Vince Gill returned to his roots with pure passion. Although Gill is an acclaimed guitarist on this evening he played mandolin accept during his solo acoustic set. A highlight of that part of the show included a newer ballad written for his wife. “When Amy Prays” was a potent yet pretty piece about faith. While Gill was the clear leader he stressed that bluegrass is about a band – a democracy with each member contributing – thus Gill often turned the spotlight to his talented team who shined just as brightly as the star. The pickin’ paradise concluded with a peppy praise tune and the gorgeous-gospel infused “Drifting Too Far From The Shore.” Modern day artists such as Vince Gill are important links to the past as they spread the good news of bluegrass to the next generation of fans.
The Ryman Auditorium aka the Mother Church of Country Music continues to present a wide range of programs such as the annual Bluegrass Festival. Upcoming events at the well-respected venue include Donnie & Marie, Hot Rize, Janelle Monae, Indigo Girls, Buddy Miller, Ted Nugent, Boy George with Culture Club and O.A.R. In December of 2018, Vince Gill along with Amy Grant will perform 12 Nights of Christmas.
The Ryman will also be hosting a brand-new Americana Series featuring veterans and newcomers together for unique concerts each Sunday from July 15 to August 19, 2018. Folks can enjoy music at the Ryman’s plaza as part of the Pre-Show Shindig with Route 650, a “Good Ole Fashioned Cookout” at Cafe Lula, an Americana-themed pop-up shop and more. Hatch Show Print will be on site, and attendees can take advantage of a Ryman tour for only $15 with their ticket.