The Grand Ole Opry...
Oct 31, 2011
|This afternoon we stopped by the Grand Ole Opry & took a few daytime shots even though I had a few nighttime one's from our show here last evening. We were going to the hotel afterward and it is basically on the same property, well, sort of. Within walking distance.
In case you are too young to know what the Opry is all about here's a bit of a synopsis for you! The Grand Ole Opry is the show that made country music famous, and the Grand Ole Opry House is the place where the magic has happened for more than 35 years. The Grand Ole Opry House is not the Opry's first (or even second or third, fourth, or fifth) home. The Opry began in 1925 in the WSM radio studios in downtown Nashville.
The Grand Ole Opry began just five years after commercial radio was born in the United States. In 1925, the National Life and Accident Insurance Company built a radio station as a public service to the local community and with the hope that the new medium could advertise insurance policies. The station's call letters, WSM, stood for the company's motto: "We Shield Millions."
Soon after going on the air, National Life hired one of the nation's most popular announcers, George D. Hay, as WSM's first program director. Hay, a former Memphis newspaper reporter who'd most recently started a barn dance show on Chicago radio powerhouse WLS, joined the station's staff a month after it went on the air. At 8 PM, on November 28, 1925, Hay pronounced himself "The Solemn Old Judge" (though he was actually only 30 years old) and launched, along with championship fiddler, Uncle Jimmy Thompson, what would become the WSM Barn Dance.
Hay's weekly broadcasts continued and proved enormously popular, and he renamed the show the Grand Ole Opry in 1927. Crowds soon clogged hallways as they gathered to observe the performers, prompting the National Life company to build an acoustically designed auditorium capable of holding 500 fans. When WSM radio increased broadcasting power to 50,000 watts in 1932, most of the United States and parts of Canada could tune into the Opry on Saturday nights, broadening the show's outreach.
The popularity of the Opry shows was star driven. Until 1938, the show had emphasized instrumental performances. Any singer was subordinate to the band. All that changed when young Roy Acuff joined the cast that year. His performance of "The Great Speckled Bird" his first night forever changed the Opry.
It moved to the Hillsboro Theater, near Vanderbilt University in 1934. From there it moved to the Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville in 1936, and then back downtown to the plush War Memorial Auditorium in 1939. The new space wasn't enough to keep up with the audience's increasing enthusiasm for the weekly show. The Opry went through a number of homes in several parts of Nashville before settling, in 1943, at the Ryman Auditorium, a former religious meeting house built in 1892 by riverboat shipping magnate Captain Thomas Ryman for traveling evangelist, Reverend Samuel Jones. The Opry stayed at the Ryman for nearly 31 years. Many of the show's legends spent most of their Opry runs there. (Only in late 2004 did the Grand Ole Opry House pass the Ryman as the Opry's most enduring home.)
Throughout the '40s, Opry stars spent weekends performing on the show in Nashville and weekdays traveling around the nation, performing first in tent shows and later in auditoriums. Artists and musicians crammed into automobiles and later buses as they became ambassadors for country music and the Grand Ole Opry.
Ernest Tubb took a group of Opry stars to New York's Carnegie Hall in 1947. Another Opry group played Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., that same year. The Opry's first European tour in 1949 took Red Foley, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Rod Brasfield, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Williams, and others to U.S. Military bases in England, Germany, and the Azores. And in 1961, an Opry troupe including Patsy Cline, Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe and Jim Reeves played Carnegie Hall a second time.
It moved to it's current home in 1974. As country's popularity boomed during the 1980s, Opry management ensured the show's future by adding a new generation of stars to the roster, beginning with the induction of Ricky Skaggs, Lorrie Morgan, Reba McEntire, Ricky Van Shelton, and Holly Dunn. By the end of the 1990s, many of country's top superstars - including Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Steve Wariner, Diamond Rio and Trisha Yearwood could call the Opry home. The Opry's additions in the new century reflect the show's commitment to a broad range of country music. Recent inductees have included bluegrass greats Ralph Stanley and Del McCoury, second-generation singer Pam Tillis, and award-winners Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, and Carrie Underwood.
The touring tradition continued, when in 1991, the Opry conducted a 10-city Grand Ole Opry Tour to celebrate the show's 65th anniversary. In 2004, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Del McCoury, and others reprised an Opry tour. And the Opry's 80th anniversary festivities included a return trip to Carnegie Hall and a visit to Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center.
In addition to hosting more than 150 Opry performances each year, the Opry House has welcomed countless other events and shows over the years, among them:
Weddings (Connie Smith sang for more than 50 couples who were married on stage in 2000.)
Funerals (Porter Wagoner, Grandpa Jones, among others)
Concerts, among them Willie Nelson, Smashing Pumpkins, Bonnie Raitt
TV tapings, including "Wheel Of Fortune" and numerous award shows
Even a live cattle auction!
A bit of Backstage Trivia you might enjoy:
1. Alan Jackson once delivered mail to the "Opry Post Office," where he now has his own mailbox.
2. Little Jimmy Dickens' mailbox is the only Opry member's box not in alphabetical order, such that his box is easily within reach for the 4'11" star. Speaking of the Post Office, among the past Opry members who've had their own U.S. Postage stamps are Roy Acuff, Patsy Cline, and the Carter Family.
3. The list of artists who've taped TV specials in Studio A, the working TV studio located within the Opry House, is vast and varied. Among them: Kenny Chesney, Elton John, Uncle Kracker, Loretta Lynn, James Taylor, and ZZ Top.
4. When the Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium in 1974, the show took part of the Ryman with it. A round circle of wood from the Ryman sits center stage at the Opry House. Now, recent Opry additions such as Dierks Bentley and Montgomery Gentry can still perform on the same stage as legends such as Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, and countless others.
The Opry is currently 'Going Pink, Joining the Fight Against Breast Cancer', and decorated as such tonight with pink lighting, flipped on at the first show this evening by Martina McBride. We actually tried to get tickets for that show but it was sold out so we attended the second show this evening.
Unlike Vegas shows, this show was broken into 4 segments:
The first 30 minutes was hosted by Little Jimmy Dickens and included The Whites (Opry regulars) & Kelly Pickler (a former America's Got Talent contestant)
Second 30 minutes hosted by Bill Anderson & included Jeannie Seely (Don't Touch Me) , Lauren Alaina (runner-up of 2011 American Idol) & the Opry Square Dancers
Third 30 minutes hosted by Mike Snider & included Edens Edge & Ronnie Milsap with 6 Grammy's & 40 #1 Country hits
And the final 30 minutes was hosted by Riders In The Sky & included Jesse McReynolds, Connie Smith & Jeff & Sheri Easter (Gospel singers)
We enjoyed the show very much, but I have to say the advertising every few minutes was aggravating after awhile. We hear that's the norm but it was something we aren't accustomed to in all the shows we've seen over the years. It really breaks up the flow. I was also disappointed that I didn't bring my 'real' camera along for the evening. We decided they probably wouldn't allow flashes & video taping during the show...wrong! They highly encouraged it. My poor little point & shoot just wasn't up to the task. Frankly, my pics suck. But since they are all I've got, I'm sharing them anyway for all of you die-hard country music fans. That won't happen again, trust me!
Today, there are more ways to enjoy the Grand Ole Opry than ever before. From March through October, there are the Grand Ole Opry shows. Beginning November 1st you can see the show at the Ryman until January 28, 2012. There's the two-hour radio program, America's Opry Weekend, syndicated nationwide. Just as country greats like Jeannie Seely and Jim Ed Brown grew up listening to the Opry on radio, future generations of Opry stars may also hear it on the Internet, on satellite radio or via the American Forces Network.
However they hear it, and wherever they come from, those future Opry stars will one day take their place inside that famed round piece of stage. They will enter the circle that remains unbroken, and they will feel the presence of the hundreds who've come before. Hopefully they too will know the value of remaining genuine and honest, and they'll continue to entertain millions while keeping founder George D. Hay's first commandment: "Keep 'ER down to Earth, boys!”
P.S. You can see the actual performance we saw of Edens Edge this evening by clicking this link.....Enjoy!
Edens Edge Performance