By Ethan Colbert
Bowling Green Time
From 1943 to 1974, the white alabaster walls of the famed Ryman Auditorium echoed with the sound of Minnie Pearl’s shrill “How-dee” and the twang-filled tenor of Ernest Tubb and countless other country music artists and comedians of yesteryear.
On Saturday, those same walls echoed with the sound of the voice of Dennis Ebers, of Vandalia. Ebers performed a song made popular by the late Marty Robbins entitled, “Don’t Worry.”
The Ryman Auditorium gained national acclaim as the site of the Grand Ole Opry House, which operated out of the 2,362 seat theatre from 1943 to 1974.
On Saturday, Ebers, a former Frankford resident, was touring the former theatre when he was encouraged by his wife, Janice, to see if he could sing a song from the famed stage.
“There is a point in the tour when you can go up on stage and get your picture taken with the microphone and guitar,” Ebers said. According to Ebers, the Ryman Auditorium staff member said he could sing one verse of a song, if he would like.
Without hesitation, Ebers said he would.
As soon as he said he was going to sing, Ebers also knew what song he was going to perform.
“I loved Hank Williams, Sr., and Johnny Cash,” Ebers said on Monday in a telephone interview with the Times. “I’ve sang their songs, too. My favorite musician of all-time, though, is without a doubt, Marty Robbins. He always amazed me and I have always loved that particular song.”
As Ebers played, the multiple tour guides stopped giving tours of the upper-balcony and people started to find their seats in the iconic pews of the theatre.
“I usually close my eyes when I sing,” Ebers said. “So when I finished playing and opened my eyes, for a moment there, I felt like I was a star.”
When Ebers finished playing, there was just a moment of silence as those in Ryman appreciated the glimpse that Ebers had given them into what it was like to have taken in a performance in the historic building. Then, the crowd at the Ryman Auditorium erupted with applause.
With the experience, that Ebers describes as one of the best of his life now over, Ebers said he feels blessed to have had the experience.
“If I never sang there again, or never sang again anywhere, I will always have that experience,” Ebers said. Making the moment even more special for Ebers was that he was joined by his wife, Janice, and his grandson, Kyle Ebers.
“I looked up (at my wife) and saw that she had a really cute grin on her face,” Ebers said. “I figured based on her reaction that I must have done a good job.”
Ebers said he grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio with his parents, Harold and Jessie Ebers. The iconic show was broadcast live on 650 WSM.
The experience of listening to the Grand Ole Opry is still available today on the AM radio channel.
“Never in a million years did I think I would be up on the stage where Roy Acuff stood for all those years,” Ebers said. “And I never expected to be able to perform at the place known as the Mother Church of Country Music.”
During the 31-years the Grand Ole Opry was broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium, the venue became known as “The Mother Church of Country Music,” since the building had previously been used as a place of worship from 1892 to the mid-1900s.
After performing on the historic Ryman Auditorium stage, Ebers took in a nighttime performance of 1990s country music icons, Vince Gill and Patty Loveless, at the new Grand Ole Opry House.
Ebers said the experience of playing at Ryman and watching a live performance of the Grand Ole Opry only solidified his love of classic country music.
“I’ve just always loved that sound,” Ebers said. “I am not a fan of the new stuff, but I really like that old-time country music sound.”