Grand Ole Opry


Grand Ole Opry

The "Grand Ole Opry" is a weekly country music radio program and concert broadcast live on WSM radio in Nashville, Tennessee, every Friday and Saturday night, as well as Tuesdays from March through December. It is the oldest continuous radio program in the United States, having been broadcast on WSM since October 5, 1925.

The Opry can also be heard on Nashville! XM Radio channel 11, and is televised on Great American Country network as "Opry Live" on Saturdays.

History

The Grand Ole Opry started out as the "WSM Barn Dance" in the new fifth-floor radio station studio of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company in downtown Nashville on November 28, 1925. On October 18, 1925, management began a program featuring "Dr. Humphrey Bate and his string quartet of old-time musicians." On November 2, WSM hired long-time announcer and program director George D. Hay, an enterprising pioneer from the "National Barn Dance" program at WLS Radio in Chicago, who was also named the most popular radio announcer in America as a result of his radio work with both WLS in Chicago and WMC in Memphis. Hay launched the "WSM Barn Dance" with 77 year old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson on November 28, 1925, which is celebrated as the birth date of the "Grand Ole Opry".

Some of the bands regularly featured on the show during its early days included the Possum Hunters (with Dr. Humphrey Bate), the Fruit Jar Drinkers, the Crook Brothers, the Binkley Brothers Clod Hoppers, Uncle Dave Macon, Sid Harkreader, Deford Bailey, Fiddling Arthur Smith, and the Gully Jumpers.

However, Judge Hay liked the Fruit Jar Drinkers and asked them to appear last on each show because he wanted to always close each segment with "red hot fiddle playing." They were the second band accepted on the "Barn Dance", with the Crook Brothers being the first. And, when the Opry began having square dancers on the show, the Fruit Jar Drinkers always played for them.

In 1926, Uncle Dave Macon, a Tennessee banjo player who had recorded several songs and toured the vaudeville circuit, became its first real star. The name "Grand Ole Opry" came about on December 10, 1927. The "Barn Dance" followed NBC Radio Network's "Music Appreciation Hour", which consisted of classical music and selections from grand opera. Their final piece that night featured a musical interpretation of an onrushing railroad locomotive. In response to this Judge Hay quipped, "Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the 'earthy'." He then introduced the man he dubbed the "Harmonica Wizard" — DeFord Bailey who played his classic train song "The Pan American Blues". After Bailey's performance Hay commented, "For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the 'Grand Ole Opry.'" The name stuck and has been used for the program since then.

As audiences to the live show increased, National Life & Accident Insurance's radio venue became too small to accommodate the hordes of fans. They built a larger studio, but it was still not large enough. After several months of no audiences, National Life decided to allow the Opry to move outside its home offices. The "Opry" moved, in October, 1934, into then-suburban Hillsboro Theatre (now the [http://www.belcourt.org/ Belcourt] ), then, on June 13, 1936, to the Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville. The Opry then moved to the [http://www.tpac.org/facilities/warmemorial.asp War Memorial Auditorium] , a downtown venue adjacent to the State Capitol. A twenty-five cent admission began to be charged, in part an effort to curb the large crowds, but to no avail. On June 5, 1943, the "Opry" moved to the Ryman Auditorium.

Top-charting country music acts performed there during the Ryman years, including Roy Acuff, called the King of Country Music, and also Red Foley, Hank Williams Sr, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Martha Carson, Lefty Frizzell, and so many others.

The Opry was nationally broadcast by the NBC Radio Network from 1944 to 1956; for much of its run, it aired one hour after the program that had inspired it, the National Barn Dance. From October, 1955 to September, 1956, ABC-TV aired an hour-long television version live from Nashville once a month on Saturday nights.

On October 2, 1954, a teenage Elvis Presley made his first (and only) performance there. Although the public reacted politely to his revolutionary brand of rockabilly music, after the show he was told by one of the organizers (Opry manager Jim Denny) that he ought to return to Memphis to resume his truck-driving career, prompting him to swear never to return. In an era when the Grand Ole Opry represented solely country music, audiences did not accept Elvis on the Opry because of his infusion of rhythm and blues as well as his infamous body gyrations, which many viewed as vulgar.

In the 1960s, as the hippie counterculture movement built, the Opry maintained a straight-laced, conservative image; "longhairs" were almost never featured on the show. The Byrds were a notable exception. Gram Parsons, one of the pioneers of the country rock genre, had worked with The Byrds on a country album and was allowed to perform with the band at the Ryman in March 1968. Audience response was muted. [Hundley, Jessica and Polly Parsons. "Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons". Thunder's Mouth Press, 2005.]

The Ryman was home to the "Opry" until March 16, 1974, when the show moved to the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House, located nine miles east of downtown Nashville on a former farm in the Pennington Bend of the Cumberland River. The "Opry" currently plays several times a week at the Grand Ole Opry House except for an annual winter run at the Ryman Auditorium.


=Impact and economics=

In many ways, the artists and repertoire of the "Opry" defined American country music. Hundreds of performers have entertained as cast members through the years, including new stars, superstars and legends. Being made a member of the "Grand Ole Opry", country music's longest, most endurable "Hall of Fame"" is to be identified as a member of the most elite of country music. Many linked the stripping of Hank Williams' "Opry" membership in 1952 to his death soon afterward, although it is more plausible that his death and his loss of membership were both due to his alcoholism.

The Opry's status as an elite fraternity of country music performers has created confusion about its lasting membership, particularly the controversy surrounding Hank Williams' untimely death. Opry membership is not only earned, but must be maintained throughout the artist's career. After artists die, they are no longer considered standing members of the Grand Ole Opry. However, their impact is often celebrated at special events, such as the 50th anniversary commemorating the death of Hank Williams in 2003, which featured performances from Hank Williams Jr. and Hank Williams III.

In the mid-1960s management decided to enforce strictly the requirement that members had to perform on at least twenty-six shows a year in order to keep their membership active. This imposed a tremendous financial hardship on members who made much of their income from touring and could not afford to be in or near Nashville every other weekend. This was aggravated by the fact that the "Opry's" appearance fee paid to the artist was essentially a token ($44 at the time). This requirement has been lessened over the years, but artists offered membership are expected to show a dedication to the Opry with frequent attendance.

Another controversy that raged for years was over allowable instrumentation, especially the use of drums and electrically amplified instruments. Some purists were appalled at the prospect; traditionally a string bass provided the rhythm component in country music and percussion instruments were generally little used. Electric amplification was regarded as the province of rock and roll, anathema to many country fans, especially older ones. These restrictions are reported to have kept Bob Wills from being invited into the Opry. The restrictions chafed many artists, such as Waylon Jennings, who were popular with the newer and younger fans. These restrictions were largely eliminated over time, alienating many older and traditionalist fans, but probably saving the "Opry" long-term as a viable ongoing enterprise.

Management has been very conscious of the need to enforce its trademark on the term "Grand Ole Opry" and limit use to members of the "Opry" and products associated with or licensed by it. However, it lost a legal case against the owners of a small, now-defunct Nashville record label calling itself "Opry Records". The record company's attorneys successfully argued that WSM's management indeed owned the rights to the words "Grand Ole Opry", but only in that order and combination, and no more owned the word "Opry" in isolation than they owned "Grand" or "Ole". It has also allowed a plethora of small-time country music shows to label themselves as "Oprys" of one sort or another, such as the "Bell Witch Opry"; "Carolina Opry"; "Ozark Opry", "Current River Opry", "Kentucky Opry", etc. (Much the same thing happened when the Coca-Cola company failed to trademark the term "cola.") The "Grand Ole Opry" has no association with any other "Opry" establishment.

In September 2004, it was announced that the "Grand Ole Opry" had contracted for the first time with a "presenting sponsor" and would henceforth be known as "the "Grand Ole Opry" presented by Cracker Barrel." Cracker Barrel, a long-time Opry sponsor headquartered in nearby Lebanon, Tennessee, is a chain of country-themed restaurants and gift shops whose market overlaps with that of the "Opry" to a great extent.
Show Choir Nationals is held every year at the Grand Ole Opry Stage.

Grand Ole Opry Members

: "See ": "See also "

ee also

*Country Music Association
*Country Music Hall of Fame

References

*Hay, George D. "A Story of the Grand Ole Opry". 1945.
*Kingsbury, Paul (1998). "Grand Ole Opry". In "The Encyclopedia of Country Music". Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 208-9.
*Wolfe, Charles K. "A Good-Natured Riot: The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry". Nashville: Country Music Foundation Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8265-1331-X.

External links

* [http://www.opry.com/ Opry.com]
* [http://www.gactv.com/gac/shows_goo Grand Ole Opry Live television shows and concert schedule at GACTV.com]
* [http://www.xmradio.com/onxm/features/2007_grand_ole_opry.xmc The Grand Ole Opry on XM Satellite Radio]
* [http://www.southernmusic.net/grandoleopry.htm Opry page at Southernmusic.net]
* [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cocoon/legacies/TN/200003532.html Library of Congress Local Legacies Project: Grand Ole Opry]


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