A Dream Come True!
~Thursday, June 17, 2021~
A day I’ve dreamed about for so long. In my teens, when music became the center of my life (and still is to this day), I was introduced to country music. And I’ve been a fan ever since. Thank goodness my husband is too! So touring the Grand Ole Opry would be the icing on the cake. Not only did we get to see the audience’s view, but the performer’s view as well. The funny thing is, I’ve always imagined this live music venue to be right in the center of downtown Nashville, but is 12 miles from “Music City”. A little background on the Opry…….
It is a weekly American country music stage concert
In it’s 95 year history, even after the flood in 2010, never has a show been missed. Much of Nashville was flooded when the Cumberland River overflowed its banks (the Opry was flooded 3 feet above stage level)
Was founded as a one-hour radio “barn dance” on WSM, from a 5th floor radio studio
It is the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history.
It showcases a mix of famous singers and chart-toppers performing folk, Americana, country, bluegrass and gospel music.
To this day, every Friday and Saturday night, on channel WSM-AM and on Willie’s Roadhouse channel 59 on Sirius Radio, the show is broadcast live at 7:00 p.m. central time. You can also stream on WSM’s website. February through December, Tuesday Night Opry is also aired live.
In 1943, the Opry moved to a permanent home, the Ryman Auditorium (which you can also tour). Ryman is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music”.
Ryman Auditorium was home to the Opry until 1974, when a need for a newer, larger, more modern venue became necessary, due to demand.
A circle of wood was cut from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium and later placed at the center of the stage of the Opry’s new location where the main performer proudly stands.
National Life & Accident purchased farmland owned by a local sausage manufacturer. The 4,000-seat Opry House made its debut on March 16, 1974. And not a weekly show was missed, even during the move.
For most of these artists, it is the pinnacle of achievements in their country world. In February of 2021, Rhonda Vincent became the 214th member of the Opry. There are 66 living, standing members.
Each performer is paid the same $150 per Opry appearance-union scale, no matter how famous.
Our tour began inside a small theatre with a short film introduction by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, from the musician’s perspective.
Being asked to become a member, let alone perform at the Opry is without a doubt, an honor of the highest form; like “Hall of Fame” status. With that being said, as you tour, you are imagining what it would be like to be a performer on that stage. We first toured the backstage band room officially named the Jimmy Capps Music Room. The Opry provides a 14-piece house band for performers should they choose to use them. We also toured a separate backstage studio where the comedy show, “Hee-Haw” was filmed as well as segments of the TV show “Nashville”.
Then we toured the artist’s backstage area anywhere from their “family room” where they hang out, to their dressing rooms and lockers.
As we entered this area, the guide was directing us as if we were the artist walking in, checking in, stopping at the mailbox (yes, each Opry member has a fan-mail box), etc. When the Opry artist arrives, they enter a covered walkway where actress Minnie Pearl of “Hee Haw” fame greets them, though not literally. But upon her death, she requested that a fountain be placed in that walkway so she could still “greet” all of the incoming performers as she did for 50 years. Across from the check-in area, there is a wall of fame listing every member, past and present over the Opry’s history. The 18 dressing rooms were not overly lavish, some decorated neutral, some feminine, some masculine. Some of those rooms had piano’s in them, but all donned couches and chairs, mirrors and photos of past performances on this famous stage.
And finally…….THE STAGE!!!
As we came from the back and walked onto that stage, I was totally imagining being in the performer’s shoes. What a thrill. The auditorium looked bigger than I thought it would, but maybe it was because of the perspective. It was just amazing to see where all the magic happens, and a thrill to stand on the “circle” where all of these famous feet have been. An absolute must see tour if you love music. Last stop….the gift shop. Of course I couldn’t resist buying an Opry t-shirt with mine being a little girlie-girl with a little shimmer! Long sleeve, so it will be a while before I can wear it with all of the humid weather we’re currently having.
About 30 minutes away from Nashville, is the town of Franklin, which we decided to investigate. Franklin’s history goes back to the American Civil War, with museums, forts and plantations to tour. This has been on our radar for quite some time, though we know it to be quite expensive. It definitely feels upscale when you arrive with its super clean, well manicured city scape, lined with charming retail shops and inviting restaurants. With a population of around 70,000, it has a St. Helena, CA vibe, but on a bigger scale. We stopped at Bink’s Outfitters to look for a few shirts for Jeff. Success! A few t-shirts and shorts later, I must say it was kind of funny seeing my husband walk around town with a boutique bag in hand. In fact, I think it was a first. We walked into St.. Paul’s Episcopol Church (we’ve always liked going into churches). Built in 1831, it is described as “one of the finest remaining” Gothic Revival style churches in Tennessee and is the oldest church building in Tennessee.
Late afternoon and not eating since breakfast, we decided to get a mini pizza at the Mellow Mushroom. We got a very nice table outside, the weather perfect, and our waitress terrific (a college student at the University of Tennessee), who grew up in Franklin. She absolutely raved about it. We love the town and its history, but we’re not sure if it checks all of our boxes in terms of being close to mountains, water, and outdoor recreation.
Topped off the day with a little Cornhole. Lost both games….not a shock!