Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 1974-Grand Ole Opry House Grand Opening

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.


  1. You probably have this somewhere but since you mentioned the last Saturday night show at the Ryman I thought it might be of interest to see the lineup from that final full weekend. I was listening to the show that night and can vividly remember Minnie Pearl breaking down in tears after she finished singing "Jealous Hearted Me". Mr. Roy told the audience that Minnie was really a very sentimental person and that this was her final performance at the Ryman. You could hear her weeping in the background but after about 30 seconds she bounced back to the mic and said "I'm alright!" and broke out in that wonderful cackle of a laugh she had. The two of them went on to pay tribute to George D. Hay and Acuff even pulled out the Judge's old steamboat whistle. For some reason, another thing I remember about that show (I was pretty young then) was Tom T. Hall telling the crowd that Bill Carlisle was taking it a bit easy since the night he was jumping, heard a funny ripping sound and ended up streaking Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.

    Friday, March 8, 1974

    7:30-8:00 Varallo: Jim Ed Brown; Jerry Clower; Stu Phillips
    8:00-8:30 Odom Sausage, U.S. Borax: The Osborne Brothers; Ernie Ashworth; Bobby Bare
    8:30-9:00 Kroger Stores: Roy Acuff; Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper; Justin Tubb
    9:00-9:30 Baltz Brothers, Schlitz Malt Liquor: Billy Walker; Billy Grammer; Justin Tubb
    9:30-10:00 Acme Boot, Beechnut Chewing Tobacco: The Wilburn Brothers; Lonzo and Oscar; Jeanne Pruett
    10:00-10:30 Cee Bee Food Stores, Schlitz: Bill Monroe; The Willis Brothers; George Morgan
    10:30-11:00 Shoney's: Tom T. Hall, The Four Guys, The Carlisles
    11:05-11:30 Grand Ole Gospel Time

    Saturday, March 9, 1974

    3:00-3:30 Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper; The Carlisles
    3:30-4:00 Stu Phillips; Lonzo and Oscar
    4:00-4:30 The Four Guys; Jeanne Pruett
    4:30-5:00 Roy Acuff; Justin Tubb

    First Show:
    6:30-6:45 Mrs. Grissom's: The Willis Brothers; Stu Phillips
    6:45-7:00 Rudy's: Bobby Bare; Connie Smith; Ernie Ashworth
    7:00-7:30 Rudy's: Billy Grammer; Jean Shepard; The Carlisles; Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper
    7:30-8:00 Standard Candy: Roy Acuff; Jeanne Pruett; Lonzo and Oscar; The Crook Brothers
    8:00-8:30 Martha White: The Wilburn Brothers; Jody Miller; Jerry Clower; Justin Tubb
    8:30-9:00 Stephens Work Clothes: Hank Snow; Jan Howard; The Four Guys; Justin Tubb; The Fruit Jar Drinkers

    Second Show:

    9:30-10:00 Kellogg's: Bobby Bare; The Willis Brothers; Connie Smith; Ernie Ashworth; Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper
    10:00-10:15 Fender Guitar: Stu Phillips; Jody Miller; The Carlisles
    10:15-10:30 Union 76: Roy Acuff; Minnie Pearl
    10:30-10:45 Trailblazer: The Wilburn Brothers; Jean Shepard; Lonzo and Oscar
    10:45-11:00 Beechnut Tobacco: Billy Grammer; Jerry Clower; The Crook Brothers
    11:00-11:30 Coca Cola: Hank Snow; Jan Howard; The Four Guys; The Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam and Kirk McGee
    11:30-12:00 Baltz Brothers: Marty Robbins; Jeanne Pruett; Justin Tubb

    Although the square dancers weren't listed in the program that weekend, I seem to recall that it was Ralph Sloan and the Tennessee Travelers.

  2. As far as I know you're right about Monroe's absence that first night at the new Opry House. Bill is quoted in his biography by Richard Smith explaining to Willie Nelson why he would be out of town: "You know, Willie, I'm a Democrat. And besides that, I don't even have no yo-yo."
    Haha, seems EVERY Opry member wasn't excited to see Roy entertain the President.

  3. Barry:
    Thanks so much for posting that great line-up from the final Saturday night show. Besides all of the artists that performed, I know that there were a lot of folks backstage, that did not get on that night, who just showed up to be there, some Opry members, and many who were not.

  4. I could swear I saw a photo that included Sonny James on stage while Nixon was being introduced, and he was no longer an Opry member.

    You mentioned Ernest Tubb's comment about Nixon. Bill Anderson recalled Tubb saying it to him. When a line is that good, EVERYONE wants something to do with it. But I also remember Marty Stuart reading a telegram from Bill Clinton the night of Oswald's induction, and Porter making a snarky comment about him. So, we can't keep politics entirely separate, I guess.