The Grand Ole Opry – just the name sends shivers down the spine and forms goosebumps on the arms of every country music fan. From the very beginning, the Grand Ole Opry has been leaving an impression on music lovers and music stars alike. The circular piece of wood that stands in the middle of the stage, six feet across, has become a cultural icon, one that every country music fan can appreciate. The Grand Ole Opry has had many homes throughout the years, but wherever it went, it has become “the show that made country music famous.”
After World War II, a shift began in the music industry. While the sounds of Hollywood movie soundtracks and mainstream pop still dominated the radio waves, a new sound was taking the nation by storm. This change began with a network radio show, beaming from Nashville airwaves, called the Grand Ole Opry.
The show started as a free barn dance program in the 1920s, with bands such as the Possum Hunters, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, and the fiddle-playing Uncle Dave Macon. By the next decade, however, the show’s popularity increased so much it was forced to move locations four times and, eventually, an admission charge became necessary.
It was in the 1940s that the Opry settled into its most well-known home. The red brick of the Ryman Auditorium became a recognized national landmark just a few years ago, but, for country fans, it has always been one. It was during the Opry’s time at the Ryman that some of the greats in country music became a part of the family. Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Stonewall Jackson, Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and others all have stood on that notable piece of oak wood.
Although the Opry still performs at the Ryman Auditorium for its Country Classics specials, in the 1970s, it found a new home, one known for its splendor and beautiful structures. The Grand Ole Opry House welcomed new stars and regulars to take the stage and perform for their fans, who flocked from across the country. The Gatlin Brothers, Patty Loveless, Boxcar Willie, Randy Travis, Marty Stuart and Alan Jackson are just a few of the popular artists who called the Opry House home throughout the next three decades.
Throughout the years, these artists and more have made the Grand Ole Opry name one recognized throughout the country. Fans would come from all states to see their favorites perform. Today, fans can still experience the wonder in person, or from the comfort of their own home by radio, TV, and the Internet. More modern favorites that have been inducted into the Opry House include Josh Turner, Montgomery Gentry, Trade Adkins, Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley, among others. Most recently, Keith Urban has been welcomed into the large and always-growing family.
In 2010, a two-day flood hit Nashville, devastating most of the city. The Grand Ole Opry House was one of the many homes that sustained major damages. The entire stage was left underwater. The Opry stayed strong, however, debuting in a variety of locations around the city. Fans remained loyal, as well, still attending each event. The circle of the Opry family has remained unbroken, quite literally. The dark oak wood circle was returned by Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens to the Opry stage after the theater was finally restored, proving that the show will always go on.
Country music fans can appreciate the significance of the Grand Ole Opry. A visit to the theater will make anyone, even those who aren’t fans, feel the power and the heart of country music. As Brad Paisley put it, “Pilgrims travel to Jerusalem to see the Holy Land and the foundations of their faith. People go to Washington, D.C. to see the workings of government and the foundation of our country. And fans flock to Nashville to see the foundation of country music, the Grand Ole Opry.”