The Grand Ole Opry is the longest running live radio programme in history. It is the ‘home of country music’ and ‘the show that made country music famous.’ It is an institution that has brought country music into the homes of millions of listeners, and has become one of the busiest venues in Nashville every Saturday night.
The Opry began as the WSM Barn Dance in 1925, and original cast members included Uncle Dave Macon and DeFord Bailey. But the show grew rapidly; an auditorium (capacity of 500) was purpose built, but the Opry outgrew the venue and moved to its most famous location- the Ryman Auditorium. The Opry again outgrew this historic venue, and in 1974 the Opry House- the Opry’s current home, was built at the Opryland complex, a few miles outside of downtown Nashville. However, the legacy of the Ryman- the Mother Church of Country Music, was not lost. There is a circle of floorboards, cut from the Ryman’s stage, that presides at the front of the current Opry stage, and not even the 2010 flood could destroy this country music relic.
The Opry is a celebration of country music’s diversity; from bluegrass, traditional, Texas swing, to pop country and even country rap in this day and age. Artists are paid a nominal fee to perform, but playing at the Opry, and becoming a member, is seen as one of the highest honours in country music. Even though it is a weekly show, it is a guaranteed star studded performance. To give an example, At my last trip to the Opry Ralph Stanley, Joe Diffie, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and many others performed. There is always a variety of both country legends and contemporary country artists.
The Grand Ole Opry is proof of country’s longevity and widespread appeal. Thousands of people tune in every week to listen on the radio, online, or the app. The Opry has made the most of this modern age, and these modern ways of delivering country music to its fans. The show has survived for almost ninety years, and is not waning in popularity. It is an institution that is respected by artists young and old alike, and I’m sure will continue to bring country music to fans and new listeners alike for many decades to come.