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Grand Ole Opry

GRAND OLE OPRY

GRAND OLE OPRY began in Nashville, Tennessee, in November 1925 as weekly radio broadcasts playing old time, or hillbilly (later called country and western), music from the fifth floor of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company building. Founded by George Dewey Hay, known on air as "the Solemn Ol' Judge," who had helped organize a similar program in Chicago, the program was originally called the WSM ("We Shield Millions") Barn Dance and became the enduring Grand Ole Opry in 1928. The show thrived during the radio era of the 1920s and grew with the emerging recording industry and the advent of television. The popularity and expanded exposure of Opry performers gave birth to live tours and Opry films. Many bluegrass and country and western performers were launched or promoted by the Opry, including Hank Williams Sr., the Carter Family, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and the comedienne Minnie Pearl. One of the most enduring Opry careers was that of Roy Acuff, who was with the Opry from the 1930s until his death in 1992. In 1943, the Opry, after moving to successively larger venues, became a live stage show at the Ryman Theater Auditorium in Nashville. It remained there until 1974, when it moved to the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland Amusement Park, an entertainment center on the outskirts of Nashville.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dawidoff, Nicholas. In the Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

Malone, Bill C. Country Music U.S.A. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985

Deirdre Sheets

See also Music: Bluegrass ; Music: Country and Western .

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Grand Ole Opry

Grand Ole Opry, weekly American radio program featuring live country and western music. The nation's oldest continuous radio show, it was first broadcast in 1925 on Nashville's WSM as an amateur showcase. Founded and shaped by station manager George Dewey Hay ( "The Solemn Old Judge" ), it was called the WSM Barn Dance until 1926. Hiring professionals beginning in 1930, the Opry won wider popularity during the decade as Roy Acuff starred and other country luminaries became regulars; in 1939 it debuted nationally on NBC. The Opry moved to a permanent home, the Ryman Auditorium, in the early 1940s, and established a live stage show there. By the end of the 1950s it was the nation's favorite radio program. As it developed in importance, so did the city of Nashville, which became America's country music capital. Over the years, the Opry has featured a wide variety of country styles and its cast has been a virtual who's who of the field, including the Carter family, Ernest Tubbs, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, the comedienne Minnie Pearl, and such later stars as Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and Reba McIntire. Since 1974 the show has been broacast and televised from Nashville's Opryland USA amusement park.

See C. Hagan, Grand Ole Opry (1989); J. Hurst, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry (1989); M. Tassin, Fifty Years at the Grand Ole Opry (1991); P. Kingsbury, Grand Ole Opry History of Country Music (1995); R. J. Bedwell, ed., Unbroken Circle (1999); C. K. Wolfe, A Good-Natured Riot (1999).

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