10 Grand Ole Opry Facts You Might Not Know (Yet)

Ten Grand Ole Opry Facts You Might Not Know

The rise in popularity of the Grand Ole Opry helped Nashville

Often described as “country’s most famous stage,” the Grand Ole Opry is the world’s longest-running radio show, in country music or otherwise. The Opry’s radio broadcasts began on Nov. 28, 1925, and a weekly show has been broadcast for more than 4,600 consecutive Saturday nights. The Grand Ole Opry’s Saturday shows are broadcast on WSM-AM, a Nashville-area radio station, and also on SiriusXM satellite radio. Shows now also take place on Friday nights and some seasonal Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The rise in popularity of the Grand Ole Opry helped Nashville grow into country music’s home base. Keep reading to learn more about “the show that made country music famous,” and how it became the live music powerhouse that it is today.

In its nearly 95 years, the Grand Ole Opry has had six homes.

The Grand Ole Opry radio show began in November of 1925 in the office of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company in downtown Nashville (one of the founders of the company was fascinated by radio and built a studio). The live show quickly outgrew the insurance office, however, so it moved to the Hillsboro Theater (now the Belcourt) in 1934, then to the Dixie Tabernacle in 1936.

After that, Opry shows moved to the War Memorial Auditorium, in 1939, before finding a home at the Ryman Auditorium in 1943. The Grand Ole Opry moved to its current complex, the Grand Ole Opry House, in March of 1974.

The Grand Ole Opry’s original name was ‘WSM Barn Dance’.

The radio show wasn’t named the Grand Ole Opry until 1927, when radio announcer George D. Hay called the show by that name on air. He took inspiration from the show that ran on WSM directly before the WSM Barn Dance, which featured classical music and grand opera selections. Hay joked on air that while listeners had been enjoying grand opera, they would now be enjoying the “Grand Ole Opry” — and the name stuck.

It takes a giant transmission tower and 15.8 million feet of audio, visual and lighting cable to bring the Grand Ole Opry to life.
The Grand Ole Opry House complex uses 15.8 million feet of cable to broadcast live shows, which have been transmitted from the same tower, located in Brentwood, Tenn., since 1932. The tower was once the tallest in the United States.

Uncle Jimmy Thompson was the first performer on the Grand Ole Opry.
Thompson, a fiddle player, played live in the National Life offices on Nov. 28, 1925. He was 77 years old at the time.

The Grand Ole Opry has inducted more than 200 members.
From Hank Williams to Patsy Cline, Garth Brooks to Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood to Luke Combs, the Grand Ole Opry’s membership list is a who’s-who of country music legends and stars. Membership is not a posthumous honor, but being asked to join the Opry is still considered one of the highest achievements in country music.

“I’ve said it for the record a thousand times. I’ll state it again a thousand times. This is the pinnacle of what I do,” Brooks has said of Grand Ole Opry membership. “Nothing has ever touched being a member of the Grand Ole Opry.”

Kelsea Ballerini is the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Ballerini was invited to join the Opry in March of 2019, when Little Big Town changed up the lyrics to their song “Girl Crush” mid-performance in order to extend the ask. Ballerini was 25 years old at the time, and told the Associated Press that she was completely shocked by the offer. “At the end, they started singing my name, and I thought they were going to say, ‘Kelsea, we have a girl crush,'” she recalled. “And they said, ‘Will you join the Opry?’ And I had to completely change paths in my brain.”

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon performed at the Grand Ole Opry.
When the Grand Ole Opry relocated into its current complex in 1974, then-President Richard Nixon stopped by to play the piano. He performed “Happy Birthday” and “My WIld Irish Rose” as a tribute to his wife on her 62nd birthday.

When the Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium, it took a piece of history.
A six-foot circle of wood was cut out from the Ryman stage and installed in the new Grand Ole Opry House, so that all future Opry performers and members could share the same stage as all of the early Opry greats. Even though a flood devastated the Opry House in 2010, that circle was recovered, restored and reinstalled for the venue’s re-opening. The Grand Ole Opry still returns to the Ryman Auditorium for a run of shoes every winter.

About 6,000 songs are performed at the Grand Ole Opry each year.
The Grand Ole Opry estimates that 6,024 songs are performed live during Opry shows every year. The Opry House, which seats 4,400, regularly sells out for performances, and the Grand Ole Opry is one of the top tourist attractions in Nashville.

Elvis Presley once played the Grand Ole Opry — and totally bombed.
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll took the Opry stage in 1954. He played “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” but his rockabilly sound mixed with his now-iconic pelvic gyrations weren’t well-received by the audience at the Ryman Auditorium. The lack of interest from the Grand Ole Opry may have been a blessing in disguise, however. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll went to the Opry’s biggest competitor, the live radio show Louisiana Hayride, only two weeks later, and signed a contract to make 52 Saturday night appearances on the show, helping launch his legendary career.

The Grand Ole Opry Through the Years

Grand Ole Opry, 1950: In early 1950, Minnie Pearl and Pee Wee King took the legendary Opry circle. Pearl had been performing on the GOO for nearly a decade by this time.

Grand Ole Opry, Mid-1950s: Sometime in the mid 1950s, Jim Reeves performed on the Prince Albert Tobacco segment of the Opry.

Grand Ole Opry, 1956: Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two graced the Opry stage way back in 1956.

Grand Ole Opry, 1979: Ernest Tubbs, a talented country singer and guitarist, played on the GOO back in 1979.

Grand Ole Opry, 1957: Minnie Pearl and Hawkshaw Hawkins share some face time backstage at the Opry in 1956.

Grand Ole Opry, 1960: Loretta Lynn took the stage at the Opry many times, this one in the 1960s. The Opry was a large part of her career, helping her expand her audience.

Grand Ole Opry, 1970: This exterior shot of the GOO shows what it looked like circa 1970.

Grand Ole Opry, 1974: President Richard Nixon played the piano in 1974 during the dedication of the Grand Ole Opry.

Grand Ole Opry, 1994; Vince Gill performed on the iconic circle back in ’94. The singer is still an Opry staple today.

Grand Ole Opry, 1995: In 1995 the Grand Ole Opry was still going strong. They inducted powerhouse vocalist Martina McBride into the Opry family this year.

Grand Ole Opry, 2000: Roughly 16 years ago, Alan Jackson took the stage at the Opry, the iconic venue was celebrating their 75th anniversary.

Grand Ole Opry, 2001: The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” took the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville dressed in one of her signature gowns.

Grand Ole Opry, 2002: The Dixie Chicks prepared for their episode of CMT Crossroads with James Taylor. The TV event took place at the Grand Ole Opry.
The Grand Ole Opry went to the Big Apple in 2005 and Martina McBride was just one of the talented performers involved.

Grand Ole Opry, 2005: This was the view when the Opry went to Carnegie Hall. Here, Little Jimmy Dickens is performing.

Grand Ole Opry, 2009: Steve Martin made his Grand Ole Opry debut back in 2009. He showed the crowd he was more than just a comedic, talented actor.

Grand Ole Opry, 2010: This sweet photo from 2010 is the moment after Blake Shelton was surprised with an invite to join the Grand Ole Opry!

Grand Ole Opry, 2010: In 2010, the Country Comes Home: An Opry Celebration at the Grand Ole Opry House was an extra celebration. Dierks Bentley, Ricky Skaggs and more came together to celebrate the fact that the Opry was restored following severe flood damage.

Grand Ole Opry, 2011: In 2011, CMT’s Invitation Only brought Jason Aldean to the Opry House. The exclusive event was taped here in April of 2011.

Grand Ole Opry, 2011: CMT hosted a disaster relief concert at the Grand Ole Opry House and tons of country artists came out to help raise money. Here Tim McGraw is being interviewed before the event.

Grand Ole Opry, 2012: This was a big moment for Keith Urban back in April of 2012! Here he celebrates his induction into the GOO family with Josh Turner and Trace Adkins.

Grand Ole Opry, 2012: Loretta Lynn celebrated 50 great years with the Grand Ole Opry in 2012! The Opry House threw her a party and Trace Adkins was on hand to celebrate the milestone.

Grand Ole Opry, 2012: It takes a special person to have funeral services at the Opry, but George Jones was that special. In 2012, the venue hosted a celebration of life for the singer.

Grand Ole Opry, 2012; Kid Rock and Faith Hill shared a moment (and maybe a memory) at the Grand Ole Opry after George Jones’ funeral.

Grand Ole Opry, 2013: When Kellie Pickler won Dancing With the Stars, she celebrated with the Opry! Pickler brought partner Derek Hough along to celebrate their big win.

Grand Ole Opry, 2013: When Carrie Underwood celebrated her 5th anniversary with the Opry in 2013 she did it in style. She wrote a strapless formal dress and posed next to music note cupcakes!

Grand Ole Opry, 2014: The Grand Ole Opry House celebrated 40 years in 2014 and they threw one heck of a party! Bill Anderson, Clint Black, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and so many more were on hand to celebrate!

Grand Ole Opry, 2014: Little Big Town were welcomed to the Grand Ole Opry family back in 2014. As you can tell by the looks on their faces, they were very excited to join the family!

Grand Ole Opry, 2015: The Grand Ole Opry mourned a huge loss in 2015 when they lost longtime member Little Jimmy Dickens. The Opry celebrated his life on Jan. 8.

Grand Ole Opry, 2015: Here, Vince Gill is talking to the crowd before an intimate show with him and Keith Urban for Sirius XM.

Grand Ole Opry, 2016; Maddie and Tae took the Grand Ole Opry stage in 2016 to help kick off CRS with a little girl power!

Grand Ole Opry, 2016: Easton Corbin helped an Opry audience get ready for CRS 2016. He serenaded them in early February on the first night of CRS.

The Grand Ole Opry The Mother Church Of Country Music

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