Sunday, October 15, 2006

Still Ole, Still Grand

[For the next couple blogs, I'm reliving our recent vacation (sigh). Responding to a couple inquires from last blog, I don't surf. I meant "catching a wave" on film. Also, Doogie was okay when we returned, though he took a while to warm up to us. Our oldest son took care of him while we were gone.]

When radio was in its infancy back in the 1920s, a popular way to fill air-time was to broadcast live music by local musicians. In 1925, the year it came on the air, WSM in Nashville broadcast its first "barn dance," featuring what were called "hillbilly" musicians. Three years later the program was re-named The Grand Ole Opry.

What impressed me as Wendy and I sat in the audience of the Grand Ole Opry a week ago, was how true to its roots this program remains. The Opry is first and foremost, a radio show. There are commercials, an announcer, hosts for each half-hour segment, and a parade of musicians young and old coming on-stage to perform live.

During our two-hour program, and I imagine on other nights as well, the acts feature the gamut of what is included in country: western (with yodeling!), honky tonk, bluegrass, inspirational, old favorites and current GAC (Great American Country) top 40.

Usually, there are one or more "name acts" that even non-country folks might recognize. Wendy picked this particular night for us to go because Trace Adkins was performing. Then there are the Opry regulars, many of whom have been performing for decades there on stage. Little Jimmy Dickens, one such regular, was born the same year WSM came on the air.

I enjoyed the show very much, as it had the feel of live entertainment over the over-rehearsed, over-performed shows you might find in Pigeon Forge or Branson. The line-up for each night's show (Tuesday, Friday and two on Saturday) changes frequently as one performer cancels and another is added, right up to show-time.

My one complaint is that I could not find a post card with a scene like the one pictured above. Plenty of post cards of the outside of the building, the empty stage, the microphone by itself, and the opry plaza. Maybe there are legal encumbrances to producing such post cards. Post cards are cheap souvenirs, though, and I'm cheap.

Audience members are welcome to come down to the front of the stage and take pictures during the show. I recall one elderly lady, digital camera in hand, slowly making her way down front during the closing act. She walked right past the featured singer so she could take pictures of the four Opry regulars that sing back-up harmony (you can see them above and to the left, though they usually perform far back of the other musicians).

Whether it was because of this slight, the featured performer Johnny Lee (his big hit was "Lookin for Love" off the Urban Cowboy soundtrack) told a joke about how he entertained some residents of a nursing home.

Afterwards, he hung around to mingle and chat with the residents, most of whom voiced their gratitude for his performing. However, one lady he approached started in with some very personal comments about her relatives, her medical issues of late, her neighbors, etc. Not sure what to make of this, Lee asked, "Mam, do you know who I am?"

The woman hesitated for a second, perhaps dumbfounded by the question. Then she composed herself and replied, "No, but if you go to the front desk, they'll tell you who you are. Don't fret; it happens here all the time."

(By the way, Wendy and I would like to return to the Opry some day).


Blogger vicki said...

It's like BEING on vacation over here. I like your photos of big fish and waves and I esp. like the accounting- 4.00 here, 6.00 there. I'm like that.

I've noticed that you're not too much of a skinflint when it comes to dishing it to poor Bonnie. It may be that time in the season when we leave the poor woman alone and pretend we don't even know about the Spartans and their current (non)standing.


1:42 PM  
Blogger Kacey said...

My husband would jump at the chance to go to "The Opry". We used to lie in bed at night and watch the people line dance at the White Horse Saloon. There were young people dancing the east and west coast swing ---- reminded us of our glory days of jitterbugging. The older we get, the more cornpone we become. You might be cheap, but you sound like a ton of fun. Actually, you sound like my frugal son.
Thanks for stopping by my place and commenting --- makes me feel that I'm not quite dead, yet.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, so glad you posted this one, I've heard of The Grand Ole Opry for most of my life but I didn't know that it was still basically a radio show.
We learn something every day (if we have an open mind) sure wish I could have been there with you, but that was the next best thing.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Bernadette said...

I'm not a fan of country music. My husband is a violinist and I am a cellist. We forced, er, encouraged all of our children to study classical music. Out of eleven, we have only two renegades: a bass guitarist and a Texas Western fiddle player.

Great nursing home fodder for Hoss!

'Tis a good night for a bonfire. Will you supply the matches?

4:23 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...


That Johnny Lee story was hysterical. Also liked the one about the kids would've knocked over a table to see that action! You sound like you had a great time...isn't it always such a letdown to come home after an exceptionally great vacation? Looking forward to more stories!

Take good care,

4:23 PM  
Blogger Teri said...

I would love to go to the Opry some day. I would think of my father the entire time, as he loved country (real country, old country). I always made him turn his radio down whenever he dropped me at a friend's house or at school. Now, I turn it up as loud as I can, just so I can remember those days.

You do have a way with words Big your voice.

Ciao for now...

11:26 PM  
Anonymous enforcer said...


6:26 AM  
Anonymous Terri said...

Great post, Dave. I've seen the outside of the building, but never attended a performance there, so I really enjoyed hearing about your experience. Sounded like fun and that little old lady was a

6:28 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I'm not a country fan really but I probably would have enjoyed this anyway. I love live music!

8:27 AM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

And Old Hoss would like to go there someday. Fat chance....

Great trip, Dave.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Fred said...

Trivia question, Dave. Name the first radio station in America. (I was a broadcasting major, so I'm a nerd with this stuff.)

Okay, now that you got that one, what do the call letters WSM stand for?

I'll trust you won't use a search engine. (I would.)

7:50 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Fred - for those of us who don't know the answers to those questions, will you tell us?

Dave - I would love to go the the Grand Ole Opry one of these days. I'm not much of a country singer person, but I do remember stories about the Opry. I would have liked to see Minnie Pearl or some of the old banjo players.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Deb said...

Sounds like you had a blast. I've always heard the Opry is a magical place. LOL about the nursing home story.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

Wow, being quizzed on my own blog. Of course, my answers will be total guesses. Then I'll Google to find the right ones.

First radio station: WNBC? in New York?

WSM=?? I have no idea. "Southern Mojo" maybe?

9:35 AM  
Blogger Fred said...


1st - KDKA Pittsburgh.

WSM - "We Shield Millions" because it was originally owned by an insurance company.

How about WLS Chicago..."World's Largest Store" because it was owned by Sears.

Useless facts can be fun.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I've been to the "G.O.O" several times myself, and enjoy myself immensely each time. I'm actually old enough to remember seeing Grandpa and Minnie with her price-tagged hat . . . ahhh . . .

12:22 AM  
Blogger poopie said...

Shame on me...I live three hours from N'ville and have never even been there! Thanks for sharing.

2:15 PM  
Blogger MrsGreenThumb said...

Hey BigDave,
Check out for the event I'm working at next Saturday.

Have you ever been in Chicago around the 4th of July? That's a really good event, especially if you stay for the July 3rd concert at Grant Park.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Motherkitty said...

Okay, so my sister, mrsgreenthumb, beat me to the punch again. Thanks for coming to visit today. Appreciated your comments.

I loved your two posts on your vacation and the pictures. I've never been to the Grand Ole Opry, although I've driven by the building many times. Don't really like country music very much but would go if somebody else bought the tickets (how's that for stingy?). I agree that if you're in Nashville, you should go to the Opry at least once.
Loved the story at the end of this post about the mixed-up woman and Johnny Lee.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Nankin said...

We all have that problem at one time or another. NOt know who we are, that is.

Thanks for your insight on cats, I'll have to be sure to put the matches away so they can't play with fire.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:44 AM  

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