Friday, May 14, 2010

Grand Ole Opry House Stripped Down For Repairs As Show Continues

(From The Tennessean)
Dressing room #1 at the Grand Ole Opry House is the one that Roy Acuff, the "King of Country Music," used. It's the closest room to the stage and on the door there's a plaque with words that served as a mantra for Acuff.

"Ain't Nothin Gonna Come Up Today That Me And The Lord Can't Handle," reads the plaque still in fine shape since it is placed about a foot above the line where the muddy waters crested on May 3 during the 2010 flood. The water rose to 46 inches throughout most of the Opry House, including over the stage.

The water is gone now from the damaged and dusty building. Hundreds of artifacts-audio and video tapes, musical instruments, photos and stage clothes-that were underwater are now being cared for away from the Opry House. The six-foot circle of pine cut from the Ryman stage and installed on the Opry House stage fared comparatively well, while the rest of the stage's wood is a loss.

"The strength of the Ryman Stage was superior to the rest of what we had in place," said Grand Ole Opry Group President Steve Buchanan.

Outside the Opry House, chairs that once supported country music's elite, desks and cabinets that held beloved trinkets and a dressing room mirror used by famous faces all baked in the sun: treasures to trash, courtesy of 36 hours of rain and one breached levee.

Workers have stripped most everything from the building. Anything remotely salvageable is off-campus, doctored by people who do this sort of thing for a living. A team of luthiers is working to restore stringed instruments that were in hall lockers, in dressing rooms or in the Grand Ole Opry Museum, and Acuff's personal instrument collection is among the things the luthiers are trying to save. All lower-level benches in the auditorium have been taken out.

And what is left? Several warped pianos, some muddy electrical equipment and loads of cleanup equipment. Plenty of people, as well. It's hard to tell the temporary, cleanup staff from the longtime employees.

"We have over 70 employees whose offices were impacted, but that hasn't kept them from showing up for work," Buchanan said. "Nobody is worried about job descriptions at a time like this."

Buchanan said it's still too early to get into damage estimates or specific timelines for reopening. Thousands of decisions must be made, many of them involving what to replace, what to renovate, what to let go. Backstage men's room was already on the list of things to make better, so the Opry's male performers can count on at least one new perk when the building reopens.

Most of all Buchanan is prone to mention that the Opry has taken place at a handful of buildings over the years, and that the current performance schedule-a mult-artist show's version of couch-hopping in which the Opry plays at the Ryman and other venues during renovation-is an unexpected reality but not a historically outrageous prospect.

The show goes on, no matter the venue. The Grand Ole Opry House spent hours underwater. The Grand Ole Opry was dry the whole time.

(The Tennessean does have a photo gallery of backstage pictures on their website. Also, this is th first I have heard mentioned of the Acuff musical collection since the flood. If you have never seen his instruments, they were among the most historical items in the Opry Museum and not only go back to the original stars of the Opry, but to perfomers before the Opry was even thought of. That is one collection that I hope can be restored.)

1 comment:

  1. Just a couple of additional notes and comments from my post above.

    Steve Buchanan, in some additional comments, did say what some of the artifacts were that were saved. Those included a copy of the Nashville Banner announcing WSM radio's first broadcast day, the steamboat whistle Opry founder George D. Hay for years blew to signal the beginning of Opry shows, the fiddle that Roy Acuff played during his first Opry performance and a pair of shoes Minnie Pearl wore during more than 50 years of performances.

    The Chicago Conservation Center has collected numerous other artifacts from the complex to care for in Chicago before returning them to the Opry. Another company in New Jersey has the Opry's video collection.

    A company in Texas, Belfor, is working on the Opry's photo archives and the instruments are being restored by a team headed by George Gruhn and Joe Glaser, both from Nashville.

    Most of the audio recordings that were at the Opry House are ok, but those at WSM radio were damaged and being restored.