After 5,000 Performances, the Grand Ole Opry is Still the Voice of Nashville

NASHVILLE – The survival of the Grand Ole Opry, nothing was guaranteed when Bill Anderson began performing sixty years ago. It was captivating rock ‘n’ roll fans. Radio stations were abandoning barn dance-style programs. He said there were nights when the musicians could look out of the Opry stage and see the empty seats.

But on Saturday night, when the curtain opened and she started singing “Wabash Cannonball,” the house was packed, her music broadcast on WSM, the Nashville station that has carried the Opry since the radio’s rookie days, and online. to viewers around the world.

Saturday’s show is the 5,000th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry. it was broadcast. perpetual American life through generations of turmoil and transformation, Depression and recessions, wars, cultural turmoil, and most recently, a pandemic.

Adding nearly 96 years of weekly shows, this landmark was a testament to the resilience of Opry, an unprecedented success in broadcasting, as a radio show, as well as a Nashville institution that enlists over 200 artists.

“The Opry is bigger than any artist,” Anderson said. one of the longest-serving members The Opry cast said in an interview. “As times have changed and things have improved, the Opry has somehow managed to become the star of the show.”

It was an evolution reflected in Saturday’s two-hour show, with a series of performances capturing the changes and advances in country music played on the Opry stage over the past century.

There were lots of nods to the past throughout the night. But there were just as many contemporary songs, the acknowledgment that nostalgia alone wasn’t enough to keep the Opry afloat.

The show featured staples like Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” and “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” first aired in 1935. Anderson joined in a duet with Jeannie Seely, a member of the Opry since 1967. “When Two Worlds Collide.”

Then, Seely introduced the singer-songwriter Chris Janson, who became famous in 2018, by describing him as “the one we call the family wild boy” as he stepped onto the stage to perform one of his hit singles, “Buy Me a Boat.”

“This NS Singer-songwriter Darius Rucker, who performed with Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Vince Gill on Saturday and was accepted to the Opry in 2012, said, “I hope it continues to be more diverse and people continue to see it and stay tuned. NS show in country music. ”

Aspect Opry gains tractionIt takes up a lot of ground with WSM’s 50,000-watt signal, and then NBC Radio takes it nationally. 1939emerged as a defining force in country music. The show flooded the stars and made Nashville the heart of the industry. (Signs inviting drivers to Nashville remind them that it’s “Home of the Grand Ole Opry.”)

He remembered his childhood in Perdido, Ala., where his family lived. “As poor as Eyüp’s turkey” however, his father raised money for a radio. Every Saturday night, they would gather around listening to the Opry for as long as the device’s meager battery would allow.

“People all over the country were doing it,” Leverett added. “It just has one charm. You can’t wait to see who will be the next entertainer. It just freezes in your mind.”

According to artists, producers and country music historians, The Opry’s agility has remained a vital element in the country music ecosystem. The show balanced an embrace of tradition with an effort to appeal to younger audiences.

“A quote from one of my favorite songs asks the question: Are you more surprised at how things have changed or how they have stayed the same? My answer is both,” said Dan Rogers, executive producer of the Opry.

“The black-and-white images of a man sitting and playing the violin,” he added, “developed into this show that is much more than a man sitting and playing the violin. But if someone plays ‘Tennessee Wagoner’, the song that started the Grand Ole Opry, they’ll still feel right at home on our stage.”

The Opry was in danger of being covered in amber, a valuable but no longer valid museum piece. For a long time, especially in the 1960s and ’70s, country music historian and longtime contributor to Music Row magazine, Robert K. Oermann, said, “It’s a little secretive, it’s kind of stuck.”

“You listened to the Opry to hear about your old favourites,” he added. “To hear the elders do their work.”

But over time, the Opry has been revived as country music’s resurgent popularity has welcomed new artists and used technology to expand its reach. In 2019, Opry launched on Circle, a digital television outlet named after the slice of wood floor in the middle of the Opry House stage brought in by the move from the Ryman Auditorium. Opry’s home until 1974.

“We’re really trying to put the Grand Ole Opry in front of consumers, left, right and center, across this entire planet,” said Colin V. Reed, president and CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, which owns the Opry.

The 5,000 tally began with a publication on December 26, 1925. “WSM Barn Dance” by George D. Hay About two months after WSM went on the air, it earned a regular spot on the station’s schedule.

The show aired weekly, with a few exceptions, such as the day of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945 and in 1968, when authorities imposed a Nashville curfew following the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in 2010, the stage flooded This swept Nashville, but the show was staged elsewhere while the Opry House was being renovated. (In the green room, a waist-high mark showed how high the water was reaching.)

Just as the Opry became a trusted presence in the lives of listeners, it offered the same to artists they found a community in a challenging job. “You have this home base,” Anderson said, noting that for traveling artists who are always on the go, it’s the place to hear about good places to eat in Omaha or be warned about an Ohio promoter writing a bounced check.

On Saturday night, the performers were performing two shows in a row. The backstage is a maze of dressing rooms, each with a theme (“Stars and Stripes,” “Honky Tonk Angels”) or long-time Opry artist (Roy Acuff, Little Jimmy Dickens).

Seely came out of the dressing room dedicated to the character Minnie Pearl. comedian Sarah Ophelia Colley played by Cannon He’s been at the Opry for over 50 years and has referred to it as “testosterone street”, pointing to the long corridor of rooms. Seely preferred the corner lined with photographs of women who are fixtures of the Opry. “I just think it shows the sisterhood as good as it can be,” she said.

Next, Isaacs piled into the “Welcome to the Family,” a locker room reserved for newly appointed members. In recent years, Opry has added younger stars to its ranks, such as: Carly Pearce and Dustin Lynch.

The Isaacs, a family bluegrass gospel band, were certainly not newcomers as they had their first Opry performance nearly 30 years ago. But they He was accepted as a member just last month.

“We were engaged and married,” said Becky Isaacs Bowman, joking about the long wait to be appointed.

“We’ve been dating for a long time,” added his sister Sonya Isaacs Yeary.

“This place feels like home,” said Lily Isaacs, the band’s lead vocalist and lead.

Recently, corridors have been quieter than usual as coronavirus measures have caused producers to limit who is allowed backstage. But Saturday was more like the old days.

Brooks and Yearwood thrilled the audience with their hit songs, while Isaacs filled Vince Gill’s dressing room with their instruments—Sonya had a mandolin, Becky had a guitar, and Ben Isaacs had a bass. They jammed and sang for their own entertainment until they had to return to the stage for the second performance.

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