We had two Grand Ole Opry experiences: a back stage tour in the afternoon and a show in the evening. They were both great!
We arrived at the sixth location of the Grand Ole Opry. It has been in this location since 1974 and is likely permanent as they built and own the facility.
The Opry seats 4400 people, double the size of their fifth site, The Ryman Auditorium.
Just inside the main entrance there are $90,000 worth of Gibson guitars overhead!
We began with a 30 minute video hosted by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood holograms. It was interesting and very well done.
Our guide led us back stage and we saw where the house band warms up. They back up most acts.
These doors are where the performers enter.
We entered Studio A where television programs like Hee-Haw were filmed.
This is a photograph of what the studio looked like set up for Hee-Haw.
Studio A is also where those invited to join the Opry have Induction Receptions. We saw video clips of how very emotional it can be for artists to be invited to join the Opry. The criteria seems somewhat subjective in that invitations are management decisions based on talent and commitment to the Opry.
Over the years there have been requirements for members to perform at a certain number of shows. It isn’t clear that any requirement remains but participation is expected.
The first members of the Opry were inducted in 1925. There have been 231 total members.
Blake Shelton was first to screw in his own name plate. It has since become a tradition. Currently there are 71 living members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Members can receive fan mail at the Opry.
Dolly Parton’s mailbox is number 163, but it is not required to know a specific mailbox number. Write to your favorite member at the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Tennessee and it should get to them.
There are 18 dressing rooms.
There is usually a theme, or dedication to a former member.
We were able to see all of them.
This is the Opry family room where artists can gather together before or after performing.The dark horizontal metal bar under the TV shows the height of the 2010 flood waters.
These cables looked important and impressive. I don’t know what they do.
We were able to walk out onto the Opry stage. Approximately 6024 songs are performed during Opry shows each year.
This circle was brought from the Ryman Auditorium. Stepping inside the circle and performing is an emotional rite of passage for a new artist.
We were able to step into the circle for a photo without having to perform! We did have to buy the photo.
While onstage we were able to see the first page of the line-up for our evening show.
Backstage we saw this large banner for Roy Acuff (1903–1992) – known as the “King of Country Music.” Acuff began his career in the 1930s and gained fame as a singer and fiddler. Hank Williams once said “For drawing power in the south, it was Roy Acuff, then God.” He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1938 and, over years, became an Opry elder statesman. In 1962, Roy Acuff became the first living person to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Grand Ole Opry built a house on the grounds for Roy Acuff in 1983 after his wife died. He lived in the home for nine years and was often working on projects back stage or making impromptu performances. The Acuff House is now an Opry Museum.
We saw a dress worn by Reba MacIntrye.
And another worn by Lorrie Morgan, designed by Bob Mackie. There were some guy clothes too and some of them were pretty fancy!
Tammy Wynette had a Beanie Baby Collection and it is on display!
The backstage tour complete, we had a few hours to wait. Our parking spot was too precious to give up since we had tickets for the 7:00 Opry.
We had planned to walk over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort. It is the largest hotel in the US that isn’t Casino based. We were told by several people that it was a “must do” especially during the holidays because of their extensive decorations. Unfortunately, they were requiring tickets to one of their events to be able to enter the resort so we were out of luck. There was an adjacent mall so we had dinner and wandered.
We went back for the show and found our seats. We bought good seats because this may be a one time thing. We were six or seven rows back from the stage and slightly to the left.
At the time I purchased the tickets, the only artist listed to perform was Bill Anderson. Over the intervening weeks I occasionally got online to see who else was in the show. Not being familiar with country music at all, I was very glad when Emmy Lou Harris was listed. At least she was someone I had heard of! Randy is much better with country music than I am. We both learned from Ken Burns’ History of Country Music series, but what we don’t know is still far greater.
The Grand Ole Opry began 97 years ago and is the world’s longest running live radio show. It began as a platform to sell insurance by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. It is credited with popularizing country music through its weekly Saturday night program. In 1932, broadcaster WSM boosted its power to 50,000 watts and was (and can still be) heard in much of the eastern and central United States.
Shows in the Grand Ole Opry take place several nights a week but Saturday Night shows are on the radio. It was interesting to see the interaction between the live show and the radio show. The announcer fills both roles. The sponsors of the day were Dollar General and the Johnny Cash Museum.
The format is music for 60 minutes, a fifteen minute intermission, and then another 60 minutes of music. The show moves quickly with each performer singing or playing two to four songs.
The show began with a performance by the Opry Square Dancers with music by the Grand Ole Opry house band.
Connie Smith was the next performer. She has been an Opry member for 50 years. We were close but it was usually easier to get a picture from the screen.
Bobby Osborne performed with his group The Rocky Top X-press. Bobby, 86, has been an Opry member for 58 years. Appropriately, they performed their hit Rocky Top. Even I knew that song because of the University of Tennessee sports teams.
The big surprise of the night was Garth Brooks coming out to introduces his friend Mitch Rossell before his very first performance at the Grand Ole Opry.
This was a really big deal for this performer, not only singing in “the circle” for the first time but the glowing introduction by Garth Brooks. His performance was outstanding.
Our next performance was by 38 year Opry member Lorrie Morgan. She was the one with the gorgeous dress in the museum. She had a little trouble with this dress and said she wouldn’t be wearing it again to perform.
Because we were close we could kind of see these dark clothed people giving us camera views from different angles. They were amazingly unobtrusive.
After the intermission we listened to Bill Anderson, a 62 year Opry member. He sang a bit and gave a full oration on Christmas.
The next performance was a comedian that most people seemed to enjoy very much. We did not. Usually I am the one with a stunted sense of humor, but Randy didn’t care for him either.
Our next performer was Holly Williams. Hank Williams senior was her grandfather and Hank Williams junior was her father. She performed with her husband. They had a baby just ten weeks before.
Singer-songwriter Emmy Lou Harris is a crossover performer with Pop, Rock and Country hits. She performed a couple songs solo.
Then she was joined by Gail Davies, a singer- songwriter and the first female producer of country music. Her father, a sibling and her son were or are country music performers.
During the Harris and Davies performances I was aware of a woman coming into the row behind us led by an usher. I just happened to turn and notice her because the people who were there previously left at intermission. I noticed the woman had no jacket with her which was odd because it was very cold outside. She seemed to belong there. Again, I don’t know country music but it was my impression that if I did, I might know who she was. At the end of the show I turned to get a quick picture to try and figure out who she was – but she was gone. She slipped out before the show finished adding to my impression that she was a country music performer coming in to watch Emmy Lou Harris and Gail Davies perform and slipped out before being noticed.
We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame the next day. I turned a corner – and there she was in an exhibit for Alison Krauss! At least I think so! I think the mystery woman behind us was Alison Krauss, Country Music Hall of Fame bluegrass singer and Grand Ole Opry member since she was 21 years old. Cool!