Grand Ole Opry – NBC Radio Monitor – June 25, 1955 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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An ode to Americana this weekend. One of the benchmarks of Country-Western music was the weekly radio program Grand Ole Opry.
The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly American country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio “barn dance” on WSM. Currently owned and operated by Opry Entertainment (a division of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc.), it is the longest-running radio broadcast in US history. Dedicated to honoring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of famous singers and contemporary chart-toppers performing country, bluegrass, Americana, folk, and gospel music as well as comedic performances and skits. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and internet listeners.
The Opry’s current primary slogan is “The Show That Made Country Music Famous.” Other slogans include “Home of American Music” and “Country’s Most Famous Stage” and most importantly “The Mother Church of Country Music.”
In the 1930s, the show began hiring professionals and expanded to four hours. Broadcasting by then at 50,000 watts, WSM made the program a Saturday night musical tradition in nearly 30 states. In 1939, it debuted nationally on NBC Radio. The Opry moved to a permanent home, the Ryman Auditorium, in 1943. As it developed in importance, so did the city of Nashville, which became America’s “country music capital.” The Grand Ole Opry holds such significance in Nashville that is included as a “home of” mention on the welcome signs seen by motorists at the Metro Nashville/Davidson County line.
Membership in the Opry remains one of country music’s crowning achievements. Since 1974, the show has been broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House east of downtown Nashville, with an annual three-month winter foray back to the Ryman since 1999. In addition to the radio programs, performances have been sporadically televised over the years.
This week it’s a performance from the NBC Monitor weekend service series on their first 24 hours of broadcasting. This show is headed up by Little Jimmy Dickens and features Chet (Chester) Atkins, Minnie Pearl and a host of other artists who were prominent during the 1940s and 1950s.
Needless to say, much has changed in the ensuing 65 years since this broadcast last aired. Humor is way different – nobody smokes (or if they do, it’s huddled in some dark corner with other pariahs) and Country Music bears little resemblance to what you hear now. The style and presentation have all changed.
But there was a time . . . .