Friday, March 9, 2012

March 9, 1974-Final Saturday Night at the Ryman

Continuing with the March theme, Saturday March 9, 1974 was the final Grand Ole Opry show at the Ryman Auditorium before moving to the new Grand Ole Opry House. Of course the final Opry show was the Friday Night Opry that took place on March 15, with Saturday March 16 the 1st show at the new Opry House.

Not to discredit the Friday Night Opry, but for most of its history, the Saturday Grand Ole Opry was always considered the "big" show and with it being the final Saturday show there was a lot of emotion involved. While most of the Opry's members were happy and glad to be getting out of the old building and into a modern facility, there was still memories that they were leaving behind. A lot of history took place at the Ryman and a lot of performers crossed that stage.

I found an old magazine article that was written right after that night, and here is how it described it, as written by Patrick Carr:

Saturday March 9th was a big deal. Stars like Tanya Tucker and Jody Miller flew in specially for the ocassion, even though they weren't scheduled to appear. Celebrities like Peter Bogdanovich and Barbi Benton showed up to mill around backstage and watch the Opry stars walk out onto that crowded, funky old stage and sing for the fans squirming on Captain Ryman's hard oak pews, fanning themselves with those little cardboard fans in an attempt to keep cool.

There was a conflict of emotions that night. As fans and stars have been saying ever since Roy Acuff turned the first sod of turf at the Opryland site, the Ryman Auditorium was where Hank Williams sang. It was the the scene of country music's growth from backwoods obscurity to the status of a major national industry. The Ryman was where it all happened. It wasn't the Opry's first home, but it was the most important.

Watching Minnie Pearl on Saturday night, you could see the conflict of bright new hopes and leaving sadness. On the Ryman stage, she was telling the folks about the new Opry House. "You wouldn't believe it. Why, they've even got places to sit down! And mirrors, with lights around them!" A few minutes later she was talking about her first Opry appearance when Judge Hay told her, "Don't you worry honey. Just go out there and love 'em, and they'll love ya right back." She looked down into the audience and said, "And I do love ya." The audience responded with a standing ovation, and as Minnie tried to leave the stage, you could see that she was crying. Roy Acuff called her back, trying to comfort her, "This is a very special night for Minnie. This is the last show here and there are some pretty wonderful memories." And as the audience cheered her again, she managed to compose herself a little. "I'm all right" she whispered.

To remember that final Saturday night, here is the Opry line up from that night. As you will see, Jody Miller and Tanya Tucker both made it out on stage, with Jody performing on both shows and Tanya on the 2nd. The other thing you will notice is the number of Opry stars missing on that final Saturday night. Many of the Opry's biggest names were not there.

1st show
6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Willis Brothers (host): Give Me 40 Acres
Stu Phillips: There Must Be A Better Way To Say Goodbye
Willis Brothers: Cool Water

6:45: Rudys
Bobby Bare (host): Detroit City
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art
Ernie Ashworth: Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor
Bobby Bare: The Mermaids

7:00: Rudys
Billy Grammer (host): Under The Double Eagle/Black Mountain Rag/Wildwood Flower
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Nine Pound Hammer
Bill Carlisle: Too Old To Cut The Mustard
Billy Grammer, Jr: Orange Blossom Special
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: To My Mansion In The Sky
Bill Carlisle: I'm Moving

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jeanne Pruett: You Don't Need To Move A Mountain
Lonzo & Oscar: Charming Betsy
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Ida Red
Roy Acuff: Back In The Country
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets

8:00: Martha White
Wilburn Brothers (host): Roll, Muddy River
Justin Tubb: Rambling Man
Jody Miller: Good News
Jerry Clower: Comedy
Wilburn Brothers: Knoxville Girl
Justin Tubb: Texas Dance Hall Girl
Jody Miller: Let's All Go Down To The River

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jan Howard: My Kind Of People
4 Guys: Let Me Be There
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Katy Hill
Hank Snow: Brand On My Heart
Jan Howard: Sunshine On My Shoulder
4 Guys: Top Of The World
Hank Snow: Hello Love

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Bobby Bare: Come Sundown
Willis Brothers: Truck Stop
Wilma Lee Cooper: Philadelphia Lawyer
Bobby Bare: Blowing In The Wind/Worried Man Blues/Gotta Travel On
Willis Brothers: Maiden's Prayer
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: I Shall Not Be Moved
Bobby Bare: Daddy, What if?

10:00: Fender
Stu Phillips (host): Pride
Jody Miller: Darling, You Can Always Come Back Home
Bill Carlisle: Little Liza Jane
Stu Phillips: There Must Be Another Way To Say Goodbye

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): When I Lay My Burdens Down
Minnie Pearl: Jealous Hearted Me

10:30: Trailblazer
Wilburn Brothers (host): It Looks Like The Sun's Gonna Shine
Lonzo & Oscar: Traces Of Life
Wilburn Brothers: God Bless America Again

10:45: Beechnut
Billy Grammer (host): Gotta Travel On
Jerry Clower: The Coon Hunt
Crook Brothers: Liberty
Billy Grammer: How Great Thou Art

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): In The Misty Moonlight
Jan Howard: Where No One Stands Alone
4 Guys: Streaking With My Baby On A Bright & Sunny Sunday Afternoon
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Tanya Tucker: Delta Dawn
Sam McGee: Freight Train/Victor Rag/I Don't Love Nobody
Hank Snow: I Don't Hurt Anymore

11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host): I Walk Alone
Jeanne Pruett: You Don't Need To Move A Mountain/Satin Sheets
Justin Tubb: Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry/Big Boss Man/I'm Wanting To/Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms/Love Me/Now Is The Hour

Jeanne Pruett said later that her most moving moment at the Grand Ole Opry was that last night at the Ryman. "Marty Robbins and I did the last show. I can remember when that curtain came down, well, we were going from what we knew and loved and held dear, to the unknown. And I just wondered to myself if it was the end of the Opry, or was it the beginning?"

While the small, intimate feeling of the old Ryman Auditorium was lost with the move to the new Opry House, I think almost everyone agrees that it was a good move that allowed the Opry to draw new fans and to continue its growth.

5 comments:

  1. There are photos of Minnie Pearl crying that night, in one of them standing next to Mr. Acuff, who said that the Ryman held some great memories, but they were going to prefer the new place. The term he used to describe some summer nights in the Ryman was "punishment."

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  2. I took a picture of Minnie crying that night. Glad somebody else got the same view and shared it.
    My favorite memory was Marty Robbins continuing to sing as the curtain went down for what we were afraid would be the last time.
    I MUCH prefer to see the 'Opry at the Ryman, as the view and acoustics are far superior to the "new" 'Opry house.

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  3. I whole heartedly agree that the Ryman is the best place to see the Opry. I sure wish they would do a few shows at the Ryman during the warmer months when travel is not so iffy.

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  4. I remember as a boy,in 1970,my family loaded the old pontiac up,and we went the back highways to the Ryman. It was so Hot,my sister,and I couldn't stand it-being kids.We were in the balcony. One act that caught our attention,was Stringbean. He had the striped long shirt/shortpants on,and Jackie Phelps,was pickin' a red,electric Gibson Guitar,like Chuck Berry, and my Dad,both had. There was Roy Acuff,and Peggy Little,and Jack Green,& the Jolly Green Giants.

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  5. This is a great blog post about the Opry's final night at the Ryman. I am working with Jody Miller on various projects. Does anyone have any photos of Jody performing or waiting in the wings at the Ryman that night? Thanks.

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