Will The Circle Be Unbroken?
November 28, 2017
It was called the Golden Age of Radio and one of the best known programs was first produced on November 28, 1925. In fact, that program is still heard every week as a live stream on the internet and is the longest running radio broadcast in US history.
WSM radio called the program a ‘barn dance.’ The name we all know it by: The Grand Ole Opry.
From the infallible Wikipedia:
“The phrase ‘Grand Ole Opry’ was first uttered on the air on December 10, 1927. At the time, Barn Dance followed the NBC Red Network’s Music Appreciation Hour, a program of classical music and selections from grand opera presented by classical conductor Walter Damrosch. On that particular night, Damrosch had remarked that ‘there is no place in the classics for realism.’ In response, Opry presenter George Hay said:
‘Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the earthy.’
Hay then introduced DeFord Bailey, the man he had dubbed the ‘Harmonica Wizard’, saying:
‘For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on, we will present the Grand Ole Opry.’
Bailey then stepped up to the mic to play ‘The Pan-American Blues,’ his song inspired by the Pan-American, a premier L&N Railroad passenger train.”
When people wanted to watch the broadcasts, the producers obliged but the show quickly outgrew its original locale. It moved a half dozen times – to larger and larger facilities – before finding a home in the 3,000 seat Ryman Auditorium in 1943. Then, in 1956, a new medium entered the equation and once a month, for the next few years, the Opry was broadcast on television.
In the 1960’s it was determined that the Ryman – old and falling into disrepair – was no longer adequate. Additionally, Nashville’s central core suffered from urban decay and the show’s owners made the decision to build a new facility on farmland east of town. The 4,000 seat facility opened in June 1974 and, despite catastrophic flooding of the Cumberland River in May 2010, continues as the home of the Grand Ole Opry.
One interesting thing is that a circle was cut from the floor of the Ryman Theater and installed in the center of the new Opry stage. When our family visited Nashville in March 2013 we toured the facility and stood in the famous ‘circle.’ Later that evening we attended a show which featured Craig Morgan as that night’s main act. I was surprised, however, by the number of long time Opry acts which were still being performed including a ‘Minnie Pearl’ impersonator and also Little Jimmy Dickens who, until he died in 2015, was the oldest Opry member.
If you go to Nashville, a visit to the Grand Ole Opry is a must and very worthwhile.
For more about the Opry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Ole_Opry
There’s a song which is sung following the induction of new members into the Opry ranks. It’s titled “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” Take a listen: