Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 16, 1974-Opening Night of Grand Ole Opry House

It will be 40 years ago next Saturday night, March 16, 1974, that the new Grand Ole Opry House opened. It was one of the greatest nights in the history of the Grand Ole Opry, which also included the first visit by a President of the United States to the Opry.

I do this each year, but for the new readers, here is the actual running order of the shows that night, and then some comments that I have added at the end, as I look back 40 years later:

1st show
Roy Acuff: You Are My Sunshine
Howdy Forrester: Fiddle Tune
Bill Anderson: Po' Folks
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Jim Ed Brown: Morning
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Big Midnight Special
Roy Drusky: Satisfied Mind
Jerry Clower: Marcel's Talking Chain Saw
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Black Mountain Rag
Billy Grammer: Gotta Travel On
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything
Jeannie Seely: Don't Touch Me
Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely: Wish I Didn't Have To Miss You
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
President Richard Nixon: Happy Birthday, Mrs. Nixon/My Wild Irish Rose
Roy Acuff & Cast: Stay A Little Longer
President Richard Nixon & Cast: God Bless America
Jan Howard: My Kind Of People
Fruit Jar Drinkers/Tennessee Travelers: Sally Goodin
Jim & Jesse: Freight Train
Grandpa Jones: Are You From Dixie
Hank Locklin: Danny Boy
Lonzo & Oscar: Traces Of Life
Bobby Lord: Live Your Life Out Loud
Charlie Louvin & Diane McCall: American Trilogy
George Morgan: You Turn Me On
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Jimmy C Newman: Jambalaya
Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top
Stu Phillips: There Must Be Another Way To Say Goodbye
Ray Pillow: Countryfied
Del Reeves: Lay A Little Lovin' On Me
Jean Shepard: Second Fiddle
Hank Snow: I'm Moving On
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art
4 Guys: Cottonfields/Maria
Ernest Tubb: Walking The Floor Over You
Minnie Pearl: Jealous Hearted Me
Justin Tubb: Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Dottie West: Country Sunshine
Wilburn Brothers: Arkansas
Del Wood: Down Yonder
Willis Brothers: Truck Stop
Marion Worth: Delta Dawn
Sam McGee: San Antonio Rose
Porter Wagoner: I've Never Seen So Many Happy Faces
Dolly Parton: Jolene
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: The Right Combination

Before getting into the 2nd show, a few notes regarding the 1st show. The show lasted until 10:15. The Presidential portion lasted from 7:35-8:05. The artists pretty much went in alphabetical order with Grant Turner, Hairl Hensley doing most of the introductions and Ralph Emery doing interviews between shows. The 2nd show started at 10:47 and lasted until 1:55. Here is that running order and you will notice that while most of the artists stayed in alphabetical order, not all did. And yes, even on opening night, Marty Robbins played only the 2nd show.

Roy Acuff: Back In The Country
Howdy Forrester: Eighth Of January
Minnie Pearl: Comedy
Bill Anderson: A World Of Make Believe
Ernie Ashworth: Honky-Tonk Hardwood Floors
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells
Ernest Tubb: Waltz Across Texas
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Little Darling Pal Of Mine
Roy Drusky: Don't It Make You Want To Go Home
Crook Brothers: Liberty
Billy Grammer: Somewhere My Love
Jack Greene: Statue Of A Fool
Jeannie Seely: Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight, Mister
Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely: What In The World Has Gone Wrong With Our Love
Porter Wagoner: I've Never Seen So Many Happy Faces
Dolly Parton: Jolene
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: The Right Combination
Jan Howard: Sunshine On My Shoulder
Stonewall Jackson: Me & You & A Dog Named Boo
Jim & Jesse: Paradise
Grandpa Jones: Heading South With Nashville On My Mind
Connie Smith: Dallas
Bobby Lord: Mississippi
Charlie Louvin: You're My Wife; She's My Woman
Jerry Clower: The Last Piece Of Chicken
George Morgan: Red Rose From The Blue Side Of Town
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Jimmy C Newman: Potato Song
Osborne Brothers: Ruby
Stu Phillips: There Must Be Another Way To Say Goodbye
Ray Pillow: Countryfied
Del Reeves: Lay A Little Lovin' On Me
Sam & Kirk McGee: Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Hank Snow: There's A Fool Such As I
4 Guys: Let Me Be There
Justin Tubb: Rambling Man
Charlie Walker: Don't Squeeze My Sharmin
Dottie West: Country Sunshine
Wilburn Brothers: Knoxville Girl
Del Wood: There's A Big Wheel
Marion Worth: Me & Bobby McGee
Marty Robbins: Devil Woman
Ronnie Robbins: Mama Tried
Marty Robbins: I'm Wanting To/Big Boss Man/Singing The Blues

Those who only did the first show were Hank Locklin, Lonzo & Oscar, Jean Shepard and the Willis Brothers.

The Opry members who were not there that night were Archie Campbell, Bill Carlisle, Lester Flatt, David Houston, George Jones, Bob Luman, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Earl Scruggs, Billy Walker and Tammy Wynette. Bill Monroe was not there, but he called in during the 1st show.

Bobby Bare was not scheduled and in fact quit the Opry when it moved to the new Opry House. His final show as a member was the night before. And Tom T Hall was scheduled and did not appear. Of course, he also quit the show.

Looking back 40 years later, of those who appeared on the opening night of the Grand Ole Opry House, 13 are still Opry members today.

That list includes Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, Stonewall Jackson, Jesse McReynolds, Jeanne Pruett, Jimmy C Newman, Bobby Osborne, Dolly Parton, Stu Phillips, Ray Pillow, Jeannie Seely, Jean Shepard and Connie Smith.

Of those 13, you can say that Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, Jesse McReynolds, Jimmy C Newman, Bobby Osborne, Jeannie Seely, Jean Shepard and Connie Smith are the only ones who appear on the Opry on a regular basis.

Jeanne Pruett is retired, while Stonewall Jackson, Dolly Parton, Stu Phillips and Ray Pillow appear infrequently.

Of those who were members but did not appear that night, Bobby Bare quit the show, while Barbara Mandrell is retired, Loretta Lynn hardly appears and Tom T never appears.

2 other names to mention from that night. First, the 4 Guys were Opry members but were fired from the show, while I do want to mention Earl White, the last link to the square dance bands.

And 2 names missing that you would think would be on the list. George Hamilton IV and Jimmy Dickens were not Opry members at the time of the Opry House opening. Both had quit the show, but both would also return to be loyal members.

To say the Opry is a shell of what it once was would be an understatement. We know that this weekend's line-up will be nothing like opening night, but we can hope that they will come up with a good show. If nothing else, it would be great if those living members who were there 40 years ago were invited back this Saturday night.


  1. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had never seen the line up actually posted. I have seen photos, and some videos on youtube of this nite, but I am glad I got to take the time and read this. Great stuff!!!!

  2. Byron, thanks for sharing this and your thoughts. It occurs to me that at least one of the Tennessee Travelers at the time would have been Eddie Oliver, who is still with the Opry Square Dancers today, and Jimmy Capps is still there. And the show opened with what had to be the most electrifying moment (including the president): showing the footage of Mr. Acuff in the 1940 movie Grand Ole Opry, then bringing up the screen and having him pick up Wabash Cannonball with the cast.

  3. I would love to see the complete existing footage from this night! Although I feel in some way that the Opry lost "something" on March 16, 1974 that it was never able to get back (much like Bobby Bare and Tom T. Hall did, I'm sure), just about anyone would agree that this was probably THE most memorable single broadcast in the Opry's history. And to be fair, the Opry wasn't that much different on March 16 than it had been the night before... but the move opened the door for more change than would have ever taken place or even been possible at the Ryman. Each person is free to their own opinion as to whether the changes in the Opry in the last 40 years have been positive.
    Also, on the subject of Earl White: I'm not sure he wasn't present when the Opry house opened, but I think Ed Hyde was still fiddling for the Crook Brothers. I briefly tried to find an exact date for Ed Hyde's death with no luck, but I'm thinking it was 1975 when Earl White started fiddling with the Crook Brothers (although I know he was playing with others on the Opry for many years prior).

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    Thanks, Byron. As always, the payoff of these lineups for us oldtimers is that we can see and hear, in our minds, the individual performances ... as we heard (and sometimes saw) them on the Opry so many years ago. The next-best thing to being back there again!

  5. still LOVE the acoustics and sound at the Ryman !!

  6. Byron,

    Thanks for the great lineups and information on this special night.

    In your list of active members I believe you left out Jan Howard. I'm not sure if she would be considered regular or infrequent but she dose appear more than the four you have listed as infrequent.

    Hey, Blake and Miranda will be there so it will be a great evening regardless of the festivities. :)

    It will be nice to see Clint Black.

    As you say, it would be great to see them recognize the active members who were on stage that night. All of them on stage at one time would be impressive and make a great photo op. In my skeptical tone I have to wonder how much this will be about the history and the anniversary verses just a promotional tool for the bottom line. That is great and necessary but this type of anniversary can be a great history lesson and very inspirational if done well.

    And an astute President would send a message or a spokesperson and acknowledge the role of his predecessor as well. We'll have to wait and see about that. I would think that Lamar Alexander would have something to say.

    It should be an interesting night and we'll look forward to your insightful report.

    Knightsville, IN

  7. Maybe Obama will show up and yo-yo?

    1. Robert, I think Nixon established that presidents aren't very good at that!

  8. Jim, sorry for the Jan Howard miss. And she was on right after the President. And yes, she was a member back then.

  9. Tuesday's show:

    Members: Connie Smith, Jim Ed Brown, Pam Tillis

    Guests: Brett Eldredge, Exile, Holly Williams, Jason Crabb, Josh Thompson

  10. My wife and I were there, and also at the Friday night show at the Ryman. To get tickets to both shows we had to buy a weekend package , which included a couple of nights at a local hotel. Pretty expensive, especially for two college students who lived in Nashville, and did not need the hotel room. But I must say we've long since gotten over the money, and remember only the two great shows. Nixon flew in to Nashville directly from China, where he had gone to escape the growing Watergate scandal (and yes, he might have done a little legitimate foreign policy work there, too).

    The prez was pretty bad at the yo-yo, but he did play a pretty mean piano. The crowd loved him.

    The whole thing was pretty bittersweet. We loved the Ryman, and did NOT like the whole amusement park feel out at Opryland. But that night was a GREAT show. I especially remember that Jeanie Seeley was wearing a very, very short miniskirt, and that President Nixon commented on it. Weird what one remembers.