‘I get the same feeling walking into the Opry House as I do when I see one of my heroes.’ — Blake Shelton
That I was going to a show at the Grand Ole Opry was something that took a moment to grasp. As a kid, I remember watching CMT and TNN and seeing commercials for the Opry and Gaylord Entertainment Complex. It seemed like THE place to go to see country music. As I got older and my love of the genre continued to grow, I learned more of the history of that hallowed ground…started as a radio show 95 years ago (it’s the longest running radio show in the country), it has had several homes before arriving at its current location in the ’70s, and has a distinguished club who are members. See, lots of people play the Opry but only a couple hundred have their names permanently attached. While the venue is newer, ‘the circle’ is not. To keep a bit of the past in the present, a portion of the stage was removed from the Ryman Auditorium and placed at the Opry. The wood has been a part of the stories of some of the greatest singers in music history…Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Loretta Lynn to name just a few. And I stood there (more on that in a second)!
Thanks to B’s job, we had awesome seats to see Bobby and Teddi Cyrus make their Opry debut. I was excited to just be there let alone be so close to the stage! We got there early, got some snacks, and took our seats. They have videos playing about those who have sung at the Opry. It was fun to tell B, whom country is not what he gravitates too, about the artists who were featured. I had seen so many of them in person! I told him about the rules of members and the process of being invited to your induction. It was fun to share with him something I love so much and he had to listen to me, although he seemed to not mind. I think my sharing what a big deal the Opry is rubbed off on him because he was genuinely chuffed to be there.
Billy Ray Cyrus closed the show. His cousins, Bobby and Teddi, came out to sing their song and he sung several other. The Opry setlist is short, each artist sings between 1-5 songs. Billy Ray closed with his recent hit ‘Old Towne Road’ and his megabit, ‘Achy Breaky Heart.’ It was so much fun and the crowd was really into it. A great way to spend a Friday night!
Also on the bill was Crystal Gayle. I will be the first to admit that classic country is not where my heart lies but I know her! I actually couldn’t have told you off the top of my head which songs she sung (to be fair, I only know one of her older sister, Loretta Lynn’s, songs off the top of my head) but I have a vivid memory of watching Ms. Gayle on tv. I am not even sure what we were watching, and it had to be a rerun because it had a ‘Cher Show’ 70s vibe, but I remember watching her on tv with my mom. She had a sparkling gown and very long hair (which she still has) that touched the ground. I was in awe that someone’s hair could be that long. It wasn’t even a memory I was aware I had until I saw her name on the bill for that night and I’m so incredibly grateful as my memories of my mom are not a plentiful and that after 25 years, having a new one is special. What was even better is my dad had made a pun about one of her songs earlier in the night when I was texting him about my MRHH experience. I got the reference but didn’t realize it was her song. By sheer coincidence, ‘Brown Eyes Blue’ was one of the four songs she performed!
The Grand Ole Opry does backstage tours (I added the photo package-while I don’t regret it, the picture is not great and I look very, very shiny and orange. It’s expensive but it’s me in the circle and I would do it again-just wear more powder) and I booked one for Saturday morning. I went to the 9 am because, as you’ll see in my next post, I had a jam packed Saturday. You enter a private area and watch an amazing video about the significance of the Grand Ole Opry. It was hosted by Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks (two favorites) and I was in tears by the end. It was so well done! You then go through with a guide and get to see everything! Apparently, if you go on a show night, you might run into performers that night (Carly Pearce hugged the tour group on the night of her induction). You see where they shot ‘HeeHaw’ and the dressing rooms. There is the wall of members and their mailboxes (you can write to them). The highlight is standing in the famed circle. I got weepy again (thank god for masks which were required). Just to stand in the same spot as so many artists I love and knowing the significance of the circle, there are no words.
The Opry will be celebrating their 5,000 Saturday night show at the end of October. I wish I could go but, while I probably will have to watch it on Peacock, but I will be back! The circle will remain unbroken…literally, following a devastating flood, they had to close for nearly a year and they just found other venues to perform so the radio show, which the Opry is first and foremost, could continue. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, artists performed to an empty venue. But the show must go on and to be a very tiny part of its history is one of the greatest moments of my life. If the little girl watching TNN could see me now, she wouldn’t believe that we made it!
*I wasn’t sure if I could use my camera so most photographs were taken with my iPhone 11 Pro Max versus my usual Lumix G7.