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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff, 1987
Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff onstage at the Grand Ole Opry

Grand Ole Opry

For over 75 years, the Grand Ole Opry has been entertaining America with a kind of spontaneous, unpretentious, unabashed presentation that is unique in broadcasting. Founded by George D. Hay, a radio editor for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, on November 28, 1925, the Opry first aired on radio station WSM in Nashville. Hay became its announcer, launching the program as "The WSM Barn Dance." Two years later, Hay renamed it "The Grand Ole Opry." Hay's first commandment was: "Keep her down to earth, boys!" It came to be the goal of every folk musician, and later every country and western musician, to perform on the Opry. It wasn't long before crowds clogged the corridors of WSM to observe the performers. This led to the decision to allow observers into the studio, where their reactions would add excitement and enthusiasm to the program. The Opry has had to move to successively bigger auditoriums throughout the years to accommodate the ever-larger crowds. In 1974, President Richard M. Nixon dedicated the Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland USA.

Until 1938, the Opry presented nearly all instrumentals, until Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys stepped forward to sing. He was followed shortly by vocalists Red Foley, Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams, Sr. Minnie Pearl soon joined the performers, and Bill Monroe arrived to introduce bluegrass music. In 1939, the Opry was carried on the NBC network for the first time. From its inception, the Grand Ole Opry has continued to introduce new talents, many to become mega-stars in the country music pantheon.

From every state in the Union and many foreign countries, 700,000 Opry fans annually travel an average of a thousand miles round-trip to view the Opry's Friday and Saturday performances. Through the Opry, WSM had created a musical family that has in turn made Nashville "Music City, U.S.A." The advent of Opryland in 1972 marked a period of explosive growth, which has accelerated since 1983 when Opryland was acquired by Edward Gaylord. Gaylord had continued to build and acquire companies under the Opryland umbrella, with a focus in music, tourism, hospitality, family entertainment and interactive media. For over three-quarters of a century, the Grand Ole Opry has meant entertainment, vaudeville, and America's music packaged into one presentation, giving rise to a rapport between the Opry artist and audience unlike any other in the world.

Project materials comprise a 16-page report on the history of the Grand Ole Opry, ten color slides, 20 black-and-white photographs, and a videotape entitled: "Grand Ole Opry, 70th Anniversary."

Originally submitted by: Fred Thompson, Senator & William Frist, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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