SINCE 1997

Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry was originally known as the WSM Barn Dance, and its inaugural broadcast was made from that stationís small fifth floor Studio A on November 28, 1925.  "Uncle" Jimmy Thompson, who claimed he could "fiddle the bugs off tater vine," was the initial performer, and the cast included Dr. Humphrey Bate and his daughter Alcyone, the Crook Brothers, and Kirk McGee.

By the time the show moved to Studio B of WSM, still in the National Life & Accident Insurance Building at 7th Avenue North and Union Street, its name had been changed from the WSM Barn Dance to the Grand Ole Opry.

The change reportedly came about in an accidental way, the result of an ad lib by announcer George D. Hay, who called himself  "The Solom Old Judge," and who had originated the National Barn Dance on WLS in Chicago in 1924.  Apparently, the WSM Barn Dance came on the air immediately after a broadcast of the NBC Music Appreciation Hour, conducted by Dr. Walter Damrosch.  Hay opened the program by saying:  "For the past hour, you have been listening to Grand Opera.  Now we will present Grand Ole Opry!"

The name stuck, and in succeeding years, as the live audience grew, the program moved, first to a newly built studio that accommodated about 500, then to the Hillsboro Theatre, and East Nashville Tabernacle, and later to the auditorium of the war memorial, which seated about 1,200.  Two years after the Opry became a network show, with a half hour broadcast coast to coast, it moved to the famous Ryman Auditorium where it remained until 1974.

With the opening of Opryland USA, and amusement park dedicated by President Nixon on March 16, 1974, the Opry moved into a new $15 million theatre, the largest broadcasting studio in the world, with a seating capacity of 4,400.

The home of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.  For over thirty years, the auditorium began as the Union Gospel Tabernacle.  It was built by a roistering riverboat captain, who came originally to scoff and disrupt services conducted in downtown Nashville by Rev. Sam Jones.

The visit in 1885 resulted in such a thorough conversion that Captain Ryman began financing the building of the Tabernacle in 1889.  After his death, the Union Gospel Tabernacle was renamed the Ryman Auditorium at the suggestion of the Rev. Jones.

Recognized as one of the best concert halls in the south, with almost perfect acoustics, the the auditorium continues to be used by many performers for many occasions; but, it remains the mother church of Country music, its well-worn stage bearing the historic footprints of all the Country music stars of the forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies.  The Ryman remains at 116 5th Avenue North.

Arnold Shaw - American Dictionary of Pop / Rock.

Who was one of the first stars of
The Grand Ole Opry?

DeFord Bailey

A Good-Natured Riot:
The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry

A Good-Natured Riot gives a full and authoritative portrayal of the colorful beginnings of WSM's barn dance program up to 1940, by which time the Grand Ole Opry had found its national audience and was poised to become the legendary institution that it remains to this day.



Saturday Nights with Daddy at the Opry

From the Publisher

Saturday Nights With Daddy at the Opry is both the story of growing up with a backstage pass to the entertainment world in Nashville as well as a heartwarming tale of a beautiful father-daughter relationship. From the time she was a baby, Les Leverett, who was the official photographer for the Grand Ole Opry took his daughter, Libby, with him each Saturday evening to witness country music's greatest entertainers. 

The Ryman Auditorium

Jubilee Hall, Fisk University


By Carl P. McConnell

Mabel McConnell talks about the Carter Family, Doc & Carl,
The Original Virginia Boys and the early days of radio.