Guitarists hoping for a little country music magic in their playing can now buy an instrument carved out of oak pews from the former home of the Grand Ole Opry.
The Ryman Limited Edition Acoustic Guitar will debut tonight at a news conference. Only 243 are being made by the Washburn International company, each costing $6,250.
Among the first customers were singers Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Loretta Lynn, said Larry English, an executive at Chicago-based Washburn.
“Loretta bought two,” English said. “These hunks of wood will now live forever. They could have been sent off to the dump years ago.”
Fans sat in those Ryman pews while stars like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl and Elvis Presley performed on the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The show on WSM-AM continues to this day, now based at the Grand Ole Opry House in suburban Nashville.
About 20 pews weren’t needed anymore when the 108-year-old Ryman was renovated in 1992. They were put into storage until the deal was made with Washburn.
Only the seats of the pews were used to make the guitars. Grand Ole Opry officials are considering using the backs of the pews in some other product.
“We’re trying to decide what that could be,” said Opry spokesman Jim Hennessey.
The guitar was designed by English, with several design features tying into the Ryman. A carving design on the guitar is based on the one on the original pews, and the serial number of each guitar will correspond to the seat from which it was made.
“If there was a screw hole or nail hole, we left it,” English said. Nails removed from the wood will be shipped with each guitar.
English said he wasn’t sure during the design stage whether the guitars would be viable instruments, besides their value as a keepsake.
“The guitar really sounds great, which I didn’t necessarily expect,” he said.