Friday, November 27, 2009

November 28, 1925

As we all know, the Grand Ole Opry historically considers it's official start date as November 28, 1925, when George D. Hay sat Uncle Jimmy Thompson down before the WSM microphones on that Saturday night, and Uncle Jimmy played a number of fiddle songs. However, the Barn Dance program, as it was called at the time, was not formally established on that night, although Uncle Jimmy returned the following week to play on WSM again. George D. Hay's formal announcement of the establishment of a regular program devoted to old-time music to be aired on Saturday nights came late in December 1925 when WSM announced the following: "Because of this recent revival in the popularity of the old familiar tunes, WSM has arranged to have an hour or two every Saturday night, starting Saturday December 26".

I mention this because this Saturday night November 28, the Grand Ole Opry will officially have been on the air for 84 years, despite the birthday celebration that is always held in October. Yet, according to WSM's historical records, the real start of the Barn Dance program, which became the Grand Ole Opry, took place on Saturday December 26. I wonder why, in George D. Hay's historical accounts, he considers the November 28 date as the offical start and not the December 26 date? I know that with Hay now deceased, that question will never really be answered. Also, I know that on Saturday night's program they will mention the "official anniversary" several times, but I wonder why they still hold the birthday celebration in October, since there is no longer a DJ convention or other activities to tie it to.

Happy "official" birthday to the Grand Ole Opry!!!!!!


  1. Great post, as always. It's one of those historical mysteries. If we go with Uncle Jimmy Thompson's program, then it is November 28. But Humphrey Bate apparently had already been playing something like what Uncle Jimmy did on WSM before that. Dr. Bate let it drop, as did his daughter Alcyone, who played with the Opry's string bands until, I believe, close to her death in the early 1980s. She commented that Judge Hay was "a sick man"--several times he had what are called nervous breakdowns--that they thought might have had something to do with his version of events.

  2. Good point about Dr. Humphrey Bate. WSM radio went on the air on October 5, 1925. During the first month that the station was on the air, the main radio host/announcer was Jack Keefe. During that first month, he had on the air Dr. Bate and his band, Uncle Dave Macon and Sid Harkreader. They were not on a regular scheduled program. They were just on at different times. One of the things that George Hay noticed when he came to WSM, was the popularity of those artists. So, in reality, "hillbilly" artists and the music had already been featured on WSM before Hay came to the station and before November 28.