Grand Ole Opry: Country Music’s Most Hallowed Stage

Dolly Parton performs at the Grand Ole Opry in 2005 as U.S. military personnel watch on the screen. (Photo by Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF via Wikimedia Commons)
Dolly Parton performs at the Grand Ole Opry in 2005 as U.S. military personnel watch on the screen. (Photo by Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1925, the radio show that would become the “Grand Ole Opry” premiered in Nashville, Tennessee.

Here are some things you may not have known about the Grand Ole Opry.

The Opry began as the “WSM Barn Dance,” modeled after a similar program on WLS in Chicago. The first program featured 77-year-old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson. In the early days, the show included acts like Bill Monroe, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, the Binkley Brothers Dixie Clodhoppers, and the Gully Jumpers.

In 1927, the show took on its current name as a play on the show that preceded it, which featured classical music and opera.

In the early days, the show originated from a studio in the National Life and Accident Insurance building in downtown Nashville. In 1934, as audiences began to grow, the Opry began looking for larger venues until settling in the Ryman Auditorium in 1943. One of the reasons for settling at the Ryman was the auditorium’s wooden pews, which were difficult for the sometimes rowdy crowds to damage.

About 10 years before the move to the Ryman, WSM radio increased its power to 50,000 watts and became a clear-channel station, meaning no other station in the country was broadcasting on its frequency. This allowed the station, and the Grand Ole Opry, to be heard easily up to 500 miles from Nashville.

During this era, the shows were hosted by musician Roy Acuff, and frequently featured comedian Minnie Pearl.

It was during this time that the Ryman Auditorium became known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.” However, because of its small size, lack of air conditioning and dressing rooms, the company that owned the Grand Ole Opry began planning to build a new venue.

In 1974, the Grand Ole Opry House opened, with a performance featuring President Richard Nixon, who played a few songs on piano. A six-foot circle of oak was cut from the stage at the Ryman Auditorium and moved to the new venue.

In the 1990s, the Ryman Auditorium underwent a significant renovation, and the Grand Ole Opry returned for the first time in 1998. Beginning in 1999, the show moved back to the Ryman during the winter to take advantage of the smaller venue during the slower tourist season. The Ryman also hosted the Opry in the summer of 2010 after the newer venue was damaged by a flood.

Our question: Minnie Pearl’s hat featured what unusual decoration?

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Weekly question

What was the price on the tag on Minnie Pearl’s hat?


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