It was on March 16, 1974, that the Grand Ole Opry performed its first show at the new Grand Ole Opry House. It is hard to believe that it has been 36 years!!! I am very pleased that they have kept the new Opry House looking in mint condition and it is still a great place to see the show. I know many people who sit in the upper balcony feel that they are far away from the stage, but since the video screens have been added, it has been much better. And, the sound is terrific.
On the night of the first show, virtually every Opry member was there. If I remember right, and I may be wrong and I know I will be corrected if I am, Bill Monroe was one of those missing. On that first night, Roy Acuff requested that he go on first, and he did. The Opry management decided to have the artists appear in alphabetical order, and so it worked out for him.
During that first night, the Opry did not have the usual 15 and 30 minute segments, but had the artists perform one song, more or less in alphabetical order. The highlight for many was the visit by President Richard Nixon, which was the first time a President had been at the Opry.This first show was by invitation only and the show lasted well past the normal Opry ending time. In fact, the 2nd show did not get underway until after 11:00pm. I think one of the great stories of all time is that Porter Wagoner asked Ernest Tubb what he thought about the President being at the Opry, and Ernest said that was great, but that he wished it had been a different President. Of course Ernest was from Texas as was the previous President.
As the Opry's history continues, I did want to remember the final show at the Ryman Auditorium on Friday night, March 15th. I am going to post the line-up, even though many of you have seen it before. For the final show at the Ryman, it was good line-up, but many of the big stars of the Opry were missing. Back in those days, the Friday show was not considered as big or important as the Saturday night show and many of the stars did not regularly appear on the Friday night show. To many of them, the previous Saturday night was the night that they said farewell to the Ryman.
Here is the line-up for that last Friday night at the Ryman:
7:00: Cracker Barrell: Roy Drusky(host); Del Reeves; Charlie Walker; Jan Howard
7:30: Varallo: Bill Anderson(host); Bob Luman; Jim & Jesse
8:00: Odom Sausage/U.S. Borax: Archie Campbell(host); Bobby Bare; Dottie West; Justin Tubb
8:30: Kroger Stores: Roy Acuff(host); Jean Shepard; Stonewall Jackson; Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper
9:00: Baltz Bros./Schlitz: Wilburn Brothers(host); Osborne Brothers; Jeanne Pruett; Del Wood
9:30: Acme Boot Co./Beechnut Chewing Tobacco: Jim Ed Brown(host); Hank Locklin; Grandpa Jones; The Carlisles
10:00: Cee Bee Food Stores/Schlitz: Billy Walker(host); Charlie Louvin; Stu Phillips; The Willis Brothers
10:30: Shoneys Big Boy: George Morgan(host); The Four Guys; Ray Pillow; Lonzo & Oscar; Ernie Ashworth
After the Friday night Opry was the Grand Ole Gospel show hosted by Rev. Jimmy Snow, and featured among others, Johnny Cash, June Carter, The Carter Family, Carl Perkins and Hank Snow. It was suprising that none of these performers were on the Friday Night Opry that night.
Hope you enjoy the look back and while it is not the same feeling, it is still great that the Opry returns to the Ryman each winter so that many of the fans can at least experience the Ryman. I was lucky to have been at the Ryman back when the Opry was there before they moved.