What started out in November of 1925 as a simple for-radio broadcast of old-time music from Downtown Nashville on 650AM WSM, the WSM Barn Dance, is today the longest continuously running live radio programme in the world. Known since the late 1920s as the Grand Ole Opry and branded as ‘The Show that Made Country Music Famous’, the Opry‘s permanent home since 1974 – prior to which, since 1943, it was staged in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium – has been the 4,400-seater Grand Ole Opry House located in the Music Valley neighbourhood some 9 miles east of Downtown Nashville. Both as big and as well-oiled a commercial enterprise as you’ll find anywhere in present-day Music City and a tourist must-do, embarking on a backstage tour of the Opry House, and especially in conjunction with a tour of the aforementioned Ryman Auditorium, gives an awesome insight into what it is that turned Nashville into the centre of the country crooning rhinestone universe.
– Opry founder George D. Hay describing the Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry House
– Garth Brooks
Grand Ole Opry House Backstage Tour
The Opry & Bluegrass
As a small sub-genre of country music, only a small percentage of all 215 (as of August 2021) Opry members were or are bona fide bluegrass artists, a list that includes Bill Monroe (member #37, joined on October 28 of 1939); Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs (member #88, joined June 1955); Jesse McReynolds (joined with brother Jim, member #124, on March 2 of 1964 and, at 92 (as of August 2021), currently the oldest living Opry member); The Osborne Brothers (member #126, joined August 8 of 1964); Ricky Skaggs (member #155, joined May 15 of 1982); Alison Krauss (member #176, joined July 3 of 1993); Ralph Stanley (joined January 15 of 2000); Del McCoury (member #187, joined October 25 of 2003); Jamie Dailey & Darren Vincent (member #204, joined March 11 of 2017); and Rhonda Vincent (member #213, joined, and after a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, on February 6 of 2021).
– © Extract from ‘Bluegrass – A History’ by Neil V. Rosenberg recounting Bill Monroe’s Opry audition on October 23, 1939.