Nashville, Tennessee is often called Music City and The Home of Country Music – but when did it start? How did it get its reputation?
From the Grand Ole Opry.
Though folk music and, thus, country music is an intrinsic part of Nashville’s history, its rise on the national scene as the home of country music likely started with WSM Radio.
In 1925 WSM’s weekly Saturday night program, the WSM Barn Dance, is what later became the Grand Ole Opry, a reference by the program’s host to the grand opera program that preceded the Barn Dance.
Then the radio segment was aired on national television. In 1939 it debuted nationally on NBC, securing its place in country music history and significantly growing America’s interest in country music.
As it grew in popularity, so did Nashville, slowly becoming the Country Music Capital that it is considered today. Established as a live stage show in 1941, the Opry presented the best in folk, gospel, bluegrass and country music, featuring popular artists such as Roy Acuff, considered the King of Country Music.
The Opry outgrew many venues, changing homes often, and on June 5, 1943, the show moved to the Ryman Auditorium, its most notable home, where it stayed until 1974 when the seating could no longer accommodate demand.
Today the Grand Ole Opry has been moved to its very own Grand Ole Opry House, a 4,000-seat theater that hosts the biggest stars in country music.
To become a member of the Grand Ole Opry is to become an elite artist in country music and is considered a type of hall of fame. That said, many of the artists live in Nashville and often drive themselves to the show, parking in back and entering to one of the many dressing rooms they might be assigned. Members are expected to frequently attend the Opry and actually have a required amount of shows they must perform on the famed stage.
The Opry’s current slogan is “The Show that Made Country Music Famous,” though it has also been called the “Home of American Music” and “Country’s Most Famous Stage.”
To preserve the history of the show, a large round circle of the original floor in Ryman’s was cut out and set in place in the new Grand Ole Opry house, connecting those who stand in the circle today to the top country stars of the past.
The Grand Ole Opry House is well-worth a visit. Even those who aren’t fans of country music can appreciate the significance and lineage of country music’s main base. One of the longest-running radio broadcasts in America, the Grand Ole Opry is a present-day glimpse into country music history. Tune in!