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Boots, Scoots and Roots: The Grand Ole Opry Turns 90

This Tuesday, March 24, the Grand Ole Opry will kick off a nine month long 90th Year Anniversary celebration with two shows featuring Brad Paisley, Del McCoury, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Asleep At The Wheel.

Special guests throughout the evening will recount stories behind some of the Opry’s landmark instruments and artifacts. Following the shows the items will be featured as part of an Opry House Backstage display spanning the 90 year history.

Some pieces include the fiddle played by Uncle Jimmy Thompson on the inaugural broadcast, in addition to a guitar played by late Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens.  Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, and Josh Turner are among some of the contemporary artists to have items featured as well.

The night culminates with Grammy award winners Asleep At The Wheel, joined by Opry guests, performing songs from their latest release Still The King: Celebrating The Music Of Bob Wills And His Texas Cowboys.

The Grand Ole Opry began as the WSM Barn Dance, a radio show, on November 28 1925 in downtown Nashville. Original host, George D. “Judge” Hay, brought on 77 year old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson to perform that night and the rest, as they say, is history.

The name “Grand OIe Opry” was coined in 1927 by Hay in reaction to denigrating statement made by classical conductor Walter Damrosch, “There is no pace in the classics for realism.” To which Hay replied, “From here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the ‘earthy’.” He then brought on Deford Bailey, a renowned “harmonica wizard”, who played selections largely culled from the Grand Opera. “From now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry”, exclaimed Hay, to which Bailey broke into his song “Pan American Blues”.

The Opry has gone through many incarnations and changes in venue. Most famously the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville by 1943. The “church of country music” remains one of the most visited sites in Music City. Since 1974 the show has resided in it’s current home, the 4,000 seat Opry House, adjacent to the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville.

From the firing of Hank Williams, to Johnny Cash kicking the lights out, to Brad Paisley surprising audience members with an impromptu salute to George Jones, the Grand Ole Opry has seen it’s share of the reality show-esque drama that circles our genre at times. Though, despite controversy, venue changes and floods, Opry membership continues to be one of the highest sought after honors among country artists.  They remain an active proponent for nascent country as well as ardent preservers of history.

Over the course of the two shows on March 24 the Opry will announce additional plans for the 90 Year Anniversary celebration which already include names like Florida Georgia Line, Charlie Daniels, Rascal Flatts and Reba.  Here’s to another 90 years!

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