The Grand Ole Opry
is more associated with Tennessee than country music and nothing is more
associated with country music than The Grand Ole Opry.
Many Southerners grew up on a steady diet of country music and
love it. Others have an attitude that seems to vary from perplexment to
indifference to hatred. A joke among newcomers to the Nashville area is,
"If you live in Nashville long enough, you'll get to where you can almost
stand country music."
Whether you love it or hate it, no trip to Tennessee or
Nashville would be complete without a visit to the Grand Ole Opry, rightly
billed as the "shrine of country music." This is the long-standing
variety show where older country music stars got their beginning. Even now, some
of the biggest names in entertainment are associated with the Opry and perform
there. The show has become legendary and several shows are performed in the Opry
House every weekend - unrehearsed.
A visit to The Grand Ole Opry will easily show why it has
reached the level of legend that has come to be associated with it. At a mere
$20 per seat, it is without a doubt the biggest professional entertainment
bargain you will every encounter.
The Opry House itself is plain, comfortable and functional. The
atmosphere is casual, more like a ball game or movie than a live stage
performance. People much on popcorn and watch the 3-hour show, which is almost
continuous with only brief pauses of a few minutes.
Fans leave their seats and walk forward to the stage to snap
pictures of favorite stars. Yet, there is no chaos, but complete order and
almost an awe of what is going on. The performers and audience alike seem to be
caught up in the nostalgic aspects and enjoy being a part of history, something
somehow greater than any one performance.
When attending it is necessary to "let go" and get
into the spirit of the music to really enjoy it. It is folk music - music of the
common folk. The songs are about loving, lying, cheating, drinking, and common
life. It is interspersed with unsophisticated comedy acts, a bit of dancing for
variety, and toe-tapping, fiddle and banjo playing. There are old stars and new
stars. One night, for example, Loretta Lynn sang "Cole Miner's
Daughter" and Vince Gill sang from his newest album at the same
When you make a reservation for the Opry, you never know who
will be performing. The lineup is announced Wednesday prior to the show.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the whole thing is that it is live on
the radio, and live radio commercials can be heard by the audience and seem to
tie the various parts of the show together.
Part of the show is also carried live on television on a cable
channel. The cameras are there filming, and monitors show the audience what the
television audience is seeing. It is truly amazing how everything continues to
flow and the show goes on without interruption.
Why is it called The Grand Ole Opry? It seems that way back in
the 20's when the show first began, it followed a radio show of classical music.
The announcer made a crack about the Grand Opera being followed by The Grand Ole
Opry and the name stuck. It is, of course, about as far from Opera as music can
Nashville is now a cosmopolitan southern city with live theater,
an orchestra, and a ballet. But the roots of Southerners and of Tennessee, and
the heritage for which they will probably always most be known, is still the
music of the common folk, country music.