The Grand Ole Opry
If there’s anything you really must do while in Nashville, it’s go to see the Grand Ole Opry (2802 Opryland Dr., 615/871-6779 or 800/733-6779, www.opry.com, $35–50). For more than 80 years this weekly radio showcase of country music has drawn crowds to Nashville. Every show at the Opry is still broadcast live on WSM, a Nashville AM radio station. Shows are also streamed online and some are televised on cable. But nothing quite beats being there.
The Opry runs on Friday and Saturday night, with two two-and-a-half-hour shows each night. The early show starts at 6:30 p.m. and the late show starts at 9:30 p.m. Sometimes there is a bonus show on Tuesday evening. Since this is a radio broadcast, shows start and end right on time.
Every Opry show is divided into 30-minute segments, each of which is hosted by a different member of the Opry. This elite country music fraternity includes dozens of stars that you’ve heard of and others you haven’t. The host performs two songs; one at the beginning of their half-hour segment and one at the end. In between they will introduce two or three other performers, each of whom will sing about two songs. In between segments, the announcers read radio commercials and stagehands change around the stage set.
All in all, it is a fast-paced show that keeps your toes tapping. Even if there’s an act that you don’t like, they won’t be on the stage for too long. Of course, the flip side is that if it’s an act you love, well, they’re only on the stage for two songs too. Even when the biggest stars appear on the Opry stage, they rarely sing more than a few numbers.
The Opry usually releases the full line-up for each show about a week in advance. Some fans wait until then to buy their tickets so they’re sure to catch a big-name artist. My advice is to forget about bragging to your friends back home about who you saw at the Opry and buy tickets to any show at all. Each show is carefully balanced to include bluegrass, classic country, popular country, and, sometimes, gospel. It is a true showcase that every fan of country music will enjoy.
Most Opry shows take place in the Grand Ole Opry House, a 4,400-seat auditorium in Music Valley. The interior of the hall was designed to look like the Ryman Auditorium, although the seats are much more comfortable. A circle of the original stage from the Ryman was cut out and placed in the center of the Opry House stage, and it is here that artists stand when they perform. Several months out of the year the Opry returns to the Ryman for its Opry at the Ryman season.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition