It started off as a barn dance from an insurance building, but today marks the 88th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry’s first broadcast. Nashville’s Opry is widely considered the show that made country music famous, and its list of members resembles a Hall of Fame for country musicians.
Most of the year, the Opry’s concerts are held at the Grand Ole Opry House. But from November through January, the Opry is held at the smaller Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, which was the show’s permanent home from 1943-1974. You can buy show tickets from the Opry website, or listen to the broadcast on the WSM site or on Sirius XM Radio.
Among the country legends to become members of the Opry are Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks. But on this day in 1925, it was 77-year-old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson who led off the Opry, which was then known as the WSM Barn Dance. The event was held from the fifth-floor studio of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company, and it was hosted by George D. “Judge” Hay, a nationally popular announcer.
The Opry soon changed venues several times to support a larger crowd before settling on the Ryman in 1943. When the Grand Ole Opry House opened in 1974, it included a 6-foot circle of oak that was cut from the center of the Ryman’s stage. Artists are known to stand inside that circle when they perform.
Random trivia: The Opry is where Johnny Cash met June Carter in 1956, 12 years before they were married. Elvis Presley played the Opry just once, on Oct. 2, 1954. When Opry manager Jim Denny told the teenage Presley he should go back to truck driving, Presley vowed never to return.
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