In earlier postings, I mentioned that a casualty of the Great Flood of May 2010 was the Grand Ole Opry House. And how despite this, "the show goes on"!
Well, the Grand Ole Opry show, approaching its 85th anniversary on the airwaves, goes on being inextricably bound -- joined at the heart, if you will -- with the city that's its home. A city that certainly did NOT even like or accept the show in its earliest decades!
That's right, dear reader. When the WSM Barn Dance commenced in 1925 it immediately began attracting into Nashville the rural farm-folk who listened religiously to WSM on Saturday nights. Consider the city's proud nickname then: "The Athens of the South". Nashville aspired to be a leader in education, fine arts and culture worthy of that tag. A hillbilly radio show -- even (perhaps especially!) after the name change to Grand Ole Opry -- wasn't what the blue-blood, country-club types who led the city in business, politics and society, had in mind. Comedienne Minnie Pearl, alter ego of high society woman Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon (she and pilot husband Henry Cannon lived next door to the Governor's Mansion), tells in her autobiography about opposition of Nashville residents to WSM and its show. She herself hadn't paid much attention to the Opry, even tho' her lumberman daddy in Centerville liked it, before she was invited to appear on the show.
But as I've said before, time changes everything! The show fostered the music industry's birth and growth here, and not just Country and Western either! A WSM radio man revived the tag "Music City", first applied by none other than Queen Victoria when she heard the Fisk Jubilee Singers. National Life and Accident, parent company of WSM and its Opry, chose to move the show out of the inadequate Ryman Auditorium and into a suburban complex which would include a theme park. Opryland helped make Nashville a major tourist and vacation destination!
Eventually, Nashvillians were won over to the Opry and country music. Now, when one enters Metro Nashville-Davidson County on the highways, the green signs with white lettering greet you with "Entering Metro. . . Home of the Grand Ole Opry".
Tonite the Opry will return the compliment by helping with the Nashville flood recovery and relief. The Tuesday Nite Opry, in Ryman Auditorium where it was already scheduled as kick-off of the anniversary celebration, will include appeals for audience donations to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and its flood relief efforts.
The oh-so-special show will happen in two parts, the first a typical Tue. Nite Opry format, and the second a one-of-a-kind Opry Guitar Jam for Flood Relief. Prominent Opry cast members and million-sellers Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs, Brad Paisley and Vince Gill will perform, first individually and then jammin' together! Not only will this be broadcast live on WSM-AM 650 and at wsmonline.com, but the Opry Website will video-cast it.
How timely is this, that the show that's launching its 85th anniversary festivities -- in its best-known former home, in the heart of the city -- is lending its efforts to the flood disaster recovery of a hometown that took awhile to embrace it but now does so with a bear hug!