Saturday, March 3, 2012

First Televised Opry Show on PBS-March 4, 1978

In the history of the Grand Ole Opry, there are 3 months that seemed to have had more happen than most. Those are March, June and October. Since there are many new readers to the blog, and many of my older members who like to see these, I am going to spend time during the March posting some of the Opry's important shows that took place during the month. March had a lot that has happened including the last shows at the Ryman Auditorium, the first shows at the new Grand Ole Opry House, the final Opry shows for Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Marion Worth, and several new Opry members, including Jan Howard.

Besides Jan Howard, who joined the Opry on March 27, 1971 (41 years), the other members of the Opry who joined this month were Jesse McReynolds, March 2, 1964 (48 years ago when he joined with him brother Jim), The Whites, who joined 28 years ago on March 2, 1984 and Trisha Yearwood, who joined 13 years ago on March 13, 1999.

Also taking place in March for 4 years, were the annual televised shows by PBS. The 1st show to be televised was on March 4, 1978, with the other shows being March 3, 1979, March 1, 1980 and March 14, 1981. The PBS telecasts came about when executives of the Public Broadcasting System approached the executives at the Grand Ole Opry with a proposal. They wanted to do something that had never been done before and that to put an entire evening of the Grand Ole Opry on television. PBS, faced with ever-increasing cuts in funding from the federal government needed to expand the base of its subscribers. It needed to reach people for contributions it had never been able to reach before and that was grass-roots America. So on Saturday March 4, 1978, the Opry was fully televised, carried coast to coast, just as it happened, on the PBS network. The only real concession to televison came when PBS covered the radio commericals with backstage interviews and features. (I can still remember the feature on the Opry post office).

To remember that night, here is the line up and the running order of the show:

1st show:
6:00: Vietti
Del Reeves (host): Two Dollars In The Jukebox/A Dime At A Time
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
George Hamilton IV: Cornbread, Beans & Sweet Potato Pie
Lonzo & Oscar: When The Fields In The Valley Turn Green
Billy Grammer: Birth Of The Blues
Willis Brothers: Boots & Saddle
Del Reeves: Folsom Prison Blues/Margaritaville

6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Jimmy C Newman (host): Diggy Liggy Lo
Jean Shepard: The Things That Might Have Been/It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels/You Win Again/ A Dear John Letter
Del Wood: Alabama Jubilee/Down Yonder
Bessyl Duhon: Opryland Special

6:45: Rudys
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Skeeter Davis: I'll Fly Away
Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top
Archie Campbell: Comedy

7:00: Shoneys
Porter Wagoner (host): Big Wind's A Comin
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art
Don Williams: Some Broken Hearts Never Mend/I've Got A Winner In You
Wilburn Brothers: Because He Lives
Don Gibson: Oh, Lonesome Me
Porter Wagoner: Cold Hard Facts Of Life/Carroll County Accident/Green Grass Of Home/Ole Slewfoot

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Sunshine Special
Minnie Pearl: Careless Love/Comedy
4 Guys: Cottonfields/Mariah
Crook Brothers/Ralph Sloan Dancers: Lafayette
Roy Acuff: How Beautiful Heaven Must Be

8:00: Martha White
Bill Monroe (host): My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling
Stu Phillips: She Thinks I Still Care
Jan Howard: Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Charlie Louvin: Warm, Warm Woman
Justin Tubb: What's Wrong With The Way That We're Doing It Now
Wilma Lee Cooper: Poor Ellen Smith
Bill Monroe: Crying Holy Unto The Lord

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Ronnie Milsap: Stand By My Woman Man/What Goes On When The Sun Goes Down/Day Dreams About Night Things/A Legend In My Time
Bill Carlisle: Leave That Liar Alone
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Hank Snow: I've Done At Least 1 Thing That Was Good In My Life

2nd show:
9:30: Kelloggs
Porter Wagoner (host): Dooley
Jean Shepard: If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time
George Hamilton IV: Only The Best
Archie Campbell: The Interview
Osborne Brothers: Midnight Flyer
Willis Brothers: Bob
Porter Wagoner: Tennessee Saturday Night/On A Highway Headed South

10:00: Fender
Bill Monroe (host): Mary Jane, Won't You Be Mine
Ronnie Milsap: What A Difference You've Made In My Life/Let My Love Be Your Pillow
Kenny Baker: The Lucky Lady

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting In The Air
Don Williams: Amanda/You're My Best Friend
Billy Grammer: Georgiana Moon
Howdy Forrester: Cotton Eyed Joe

10:30: Trailblazer
Jimmy C Newman (host): Colinda
Skeeter Davis: He Will Be There
Del Wood: Just Because
Jimmy C Newman: Big Bayou

10:45: Beechnut
Wilburn Brothers (host): Country Kind Of Feelins
Stu Phillips: I'd Rather Be Sorry
Jan Howard: Better Off Alone
Crook Brothers: Gray Eagle

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Tangled Mind
Justin Tubb: You'll Never Be Happy With Me
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Cracklin Hen
Wilma Lee Cooper: Bury Me Beneath The Willow
Kirk McGee: The Waltz You Saved For Me/Freight Train
Hank Snow: Once More, Your Mine Again

11:30: Elm Hill
Charlie Louvin (host): Let's Put Our World Back Together/A Toast To Mama/Love Has To Die All By Itself/I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow
Jeanne Pruett: Break My Mind/A Poor Man's Woman
Bill Carlisle: Amazing Grace
4 Guys: When Will I Be Loved
Charlie Louvin: Warm, Warm Woman

The 2nd show ended at 12:30am, so the show ran a half hour long. Del Reeves and Connie Smith and Don Gibson were only scheduled for the 1st show, while Lonzo & Oscar, Minnie Pearl and Stonewall Jackson were scheduled for both shows, but only did the 1st, cancelling out on the 2nd.

The video from that night has never been shown although bits and pieces have turned up in places. That would include the other 3 PBS shows also. I know I have been searching for videos of those nights forever and thanks to one of my great readers, I do have a DVD the 2nd show from 1981. I watch it on a regular basis and I am still looking to find more.

I hope you enjoy these looks back at Opry history.


  1. Thanks for posting. I remember it well! If I am correct, Grant Turner, Hairl Hensley, and Tony Lyons were the announcers that night and recorded stuff to fill the commercial time.

    Clips from the other shows were used on TNN, I remember, in an ad for the Opry, because Grandpa Jones was in it in front of the Martha White backdrop, so they used some other shows, and Marty Robbins appeared on a future telecast--a couple of clips from that are on You Tube.

  2. I just can't get over there being so much more entertainment each week than than there is now. I'm 31, and when I really begain listing to the Opry faithfully in the early 1990's, there was still a lot more than there is today.

    I'll never forget the "Go get a Goo-Goo" segment. To this day that is still my favorite candy.

  3. Fred in Bismarck here:

    Now THAT was televising the Opry right (a frequent subject around here)!

    For the 1979 show, I was all on fire from having seen Ernest Tubb in person for the first time a couple of months before, and went out of my way to see the PBS show. We didn't have cable yet in our little town, which you needed to get PBS; so I drove 30 miles and put up at a cable-equipped hotel.

    And a wonderful show it was. My only disappointment: Both of the E.T.-hosted segments started at the top of the hour, and at 25 minutes after the hour was when local stations were given 5 minutes to make their sales pitch. Which meant viewers missed E.T.'s closing number twice!

    Agony! E.T. even complained about it (in his usual good-natured way) on the Midnight Jambouree that night.

    The things that stick in the mind of us country fanatics! (I wish I could remember my high-school and college studies as well.)

  4. Those PBS shows were something special and never could be done today. The line up that I posted above is from the 1st year, but it was the 2nd year that was really amazing as Marty Robbins hosted the final segment and it went on until 1:00am. The same thing happened in the 4th year(1981) as Marty's final segment lasted until 1:20am. That was the year that Roy Acuff came out during Marty's segment and sang "Great Speckled Bird" with Marty.

    Also in 1979, the only Opry members who were not there to do the PBS show were Bill Anderson (who missed all 4), Archie Campbell, Grandpa Jones, Lester Flatt, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap, Bill Monroe, Don Gibson, Don Williams and Dottie West. 1979 was also the year that Senator Robert Byrd was on and played the fiddle with Roy on a couple of songs. That may have been the best show of the 4.

    1. I'm assuming that the reason Bill Anderson wasn't able to participate in the programs is because he could have been under contract with ABC-TV during this era. He had co-hosted a game show for the network for 1 season titled "The Better Sex" during 1977-1978 and then from there he appeared frequently as a fictional version of himself on the ABC soap opera, "One Life to Live", for nearly 3 years according to the information I found on-line. Bill also hosted his own syndicated television show for 9 years (1965-1974) and in the 1980's he hosted the game show, "Fandango", for 6 years (1983-1989). He spent a LOT of time as one can tell on television...and that isn't counting the many years he took turns hosting Opry Backstage on The Nashville Network throughout the 1980's and 1990's.

  5. Thanks for posting this one! Somewhere in my archives is a tape of this particular show. Someday, I need to hunt those tapes down and find equipment on which to safely transfer them to a format that won't deteriorate. I remember staying home on this night to watch the show on PBS...something that a kid who had just turned 16 four days earlier normally wouldn't do!

  6. someone needs to put this on youtube,or pbs,needs to put them on dvd,for sale to general public.

  7. Sadly, the only way these shows will be seen by the public is if collectors trade the videos they have wth each other - I was told by the Opry themselves that releasing these shows to the public would be a licensing nightmare and that they have apparently lost the tapes. I have a couple of the nights - the first show from 1980 with the middle section where they went backstage to dressing room number one to fill in the time between shows (not on every station, only on selected ones), as well as the "Live From The Grand Ole Opry" feature I taped from the TV in 1984, which was the show that replaced the live programming of the previous four years, and I may have another one. I don't have the first year, 1978 (which was the first show telecast 7-10 pm EDT). Am willing to trade with folks that have other shows that need what I have. contact me.

  8. Does anyone have any sections of this show on March 4, 1978? My father played Lead Guitar for Stonewall Jackson at the time and me and my 2 other brothers were following the cameras everywhere and my mom remembers watching it at home and seeing us all throughout the night along with my dad when he was playing his spots with Stonewall. I have not been able to find any portions of it. At one time I contacted PBS or Gaylord and they said they had it in their archives but could not release it. My father prior to that played for several different artists such as Roger Miller and rockabilly legend Gene Vincent and is also seen with Gene playing lead in the 1956 movie "The Girl Cant Help It" starring Jayne Mansfield. But anyways if anyone has any copies please call or text Richard at 615-389-6524 or e-mail me at I still live in Nashville. Thanks Richard