By Cillea Houghton
NASHVILLE, TN — Nashville Municipal Auditorium celebrates its 55th anniversary this month and looks to a bright future while honoring its storied past.
Opened on Oct. 2, 1962, the venue has seen the likes of Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Led Zeplin, Elvis Presley and more legends pass through its halls, dubbed the “rock house” in the 1970s and 80s for bringing in premiere rock acts, according to General Manager Bob Skoney. It’s also been home to the first CMA Music Festival (formerly known as Fan Fair), a Church of Christ Revival and Charlie Daniels’ annual Volunteer Jam for many years.
“It’s one of the first venues outside of the Ryman and the Opry house to really curate music here in Nashville and part of Nashville becoming a Music City was all the live music that came through here” said Commission Chairman Blake McDaniel. “It’s an amazing place, it’s very important…There’s something here that’s really special that we’re really proud of.”
In 2016, the venue formed a partnership with Live Nation, launching a revitalization of the backstage area that includes renovations to artists’ dressing rooms, in addition to updated seats.
Since Live Nation has come on board, the number of concerts at the venue has nearly tripled over the past year and for the first time in almost 20 years of being in a deficit budget, the auditorium is operating in the black.
McDaniel also hopes to modernize the outside aesthetic of the venue and incorporate elements from the Musicians Hall of Fame and Grammy Museum Gallery into the auditorium. “So as soon as you walk into this venue, there’s an experience that starts immediately, not when the artist starts performing, but when you walk into the venue,” he said.
Skoney has been the general manger of the auditorium for 25 years and attributes its proximity to downtown and “good bones” to its longevity. “It just serves the public really well. It’s been a very good investment for the city,” he said. Skoney also said the five-year agreement with Live Nation is “making us a viable financial endeavor for the future,” with refurbishing the dressing rooms being the first step to revitalization. “They’re wonderful to work with,” he said of Live Nation. “They’re in the game as much as we are as far as wanting to just continue to try and improve the venue and the use of it.”
McDaniel sees the value of the auditorium akin to the historic Ryman Auditorium, comparing its rescue from demolition to the commission’s desire to breathe new air into the Municipal Auditorium. “We’re doing the same thing. This is a jewel that needs to be shined up a little bit and so that’s what we’re in the process of doing,” he said. “Just like with the Ryman or the Bluebird Cafe, there’s a spirit that lives there, the venues themselves have a spirit, and this venue has a spirit as well, it’s just been dormant for a little while. So we’re revitalizing that and bringing that out and letting everybody really experience that.”