Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 28, 1925 & Happy Birthday Glen Thompson

As we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, and blessings to all, there are 2 very important dates that I want to mention.

While the Grand Ole Opry has it's annual birthday bash in October of each year, it was actually on Saturday November 28, 1925 that the Grand Ole Opry started. In the words of George D. Hay, the founder of the Grand Ole Opry:

"The Grand Ole Opry is a very simple program and it started in a very simple way. WSM discovered something very fundamental when it tapped the vein of American folk music, which lay smoldering in small flames for about three hundred years. Realizing the wealth of folk music material and performers in the Tennessee Hills, I welcomed the appearance of Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who went on the air at eight o'clock Saturday night, November 28, 1925. Uncle Jimmy told us that he had a thousand tunes. He was given a comfortable chair in front of an old caron microphone, while his niece, Miss Eva Thompson, played piano accompaniment. Uncle Jimmy was about eighty years of age. He told us that he had recently come out with a blue ribbon in a big fiddler's contest and shindig in Dallas, which had lasted about a week. WSM's studio was rather small and beautifully decorated in a quiet way with red drapes, suggesting a very dignified type of music. Uncle Jimmy was somewhat amazed but by no means rattled or thrown for a loss. He was the extrovert type and nothing about the radio seemed to bother him, not even the fact that it was a new proposition. After he had played for about an hour, we suggested very softly on account of the microphone that perhaps he had played enough. His reply came back not so softly: 'Why shucks, a man don't get warmed up in an hour.'"

From there the Opry took off as Uncle Jimmy was followed in the early days of the WSM Barn Dance by DeFord Bailey, Henry Bandy, The Binkley Brothers and Their Dixie Clodhoppers, The Crook Brothers, Kitty Cora Cline, The Fruit Jar Drinkers, The Gully Jumpers, Theron Hale and his Daughters, Fiddlin' Sid Harkreader, Uncle Dave Macon, Uncle Joe Mangrum and Fred Shriver, The Pickard Family, W. Ed Poplin and his Barn Dance Orchestra, Dr. Humphrey Bate and his Possum Hunters, Arthur Smith and Mazy Todd, all of whom were part of the WSM Barn Dance/Grand Ole Opry in the 1920s. A very impressive group.

It is also fitting that November 28 is also the birthday of the Founder and President of the Grand Ole Opry Fan Club, and my good friend, Glen Thompson. While not as old as the Opry, Glen has done much over the years to promote the Opry and to help remember it's history. While I can't say for sure what year the Opry Fan Club started, I believe that it started in the mid 1980s. I know I still have my original membership card, and for those of us who were members, we all looked forward to "The Opry Observer" that came out several times each year, along with the annual button and other items that would come each year of your renewal, items such as scarfs and key chains.

Over the past decade, the Fan Club has somewhat disappeared, but Glen is still at work promoting good, classic country music. Each month, he hosts "Country 101" at his home and each program offers a look back at classic and true country music with the legends. Among the artists that Glen has featured, the list includes Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, George Hamilton IV, The Whites, Riders In The Sky, Kayton Roberts, Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, Rhonda Vincent and Jesse McReynolds. There are so many more I can't name them all.
I can honestly say that Roy Acufff is Glen's all-time favorite country music artist and Grand Ole Opry star. And don't get into any type of argument with Glen over this as he will defend Roy to his death.

Each time I visit Nashville, I look forward to my visit with Glen. I just wish I could spend more time with him as it is always a great visit as we talk not only about days gone by at the Opry, but also our mutual enjoyment of baseball.

Knowing Glen, he probably is embarrassed as I am writing all of this. But I just wanted everyone to know what a great man Glen is and how much the Opry means to him and how much we have to thank him for. Hopefully, the Grand Ole Opry Fan Club, or Circle Club as it was called more recently will get going again and I hope when it does, Glen continues as the President.

Happy Anniversary to the Grand Ole Opry and Happy Birthday to Glen Thompson!!


  1. Years ago, my mother wrote an unhappy letter to Glen about the direction of the Opry and he wrote back (imagine how she would feel NOW). I always appreciated that. I know he's a good friend of yours, and he's a good friend to country music, too.

    And lest we forget, we always knew when Glen was there if Mr. Acuff was hosting because he would ask, "Is anybody here from Kenosha, Wisconsin?" and Glen would let out a shriek. I also remember that one week, Mr. Acuff called him David, and when Mr. Acuff bollixed up your name, you had truly made it! Happy birthday to Glen.

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    1. Thank you for the warm happy birthday wishes about my father. Yes, he is probably a little embarrassed by the kind words. You also reminded me of how embarrassed I would get sitting in the front row with him and hear Roy Accuff call out, "Is anyone here from Kenosha, Wisconsin?" and just sinking in my seat sensing my dad getting ready to shout out. Oh good times!

      My father has always been passionate about the Grand Ole Opry and it has inspired me more than he will ever know. Just to see that moment when a song starts up and you can see a smirk on his face as he sings along with it. Pure joy! I hope that everyone can find that one thing that they're passionate about and chase it like he does.

  3. Jerel, your dad is a true country music fan and has done a lot for the rest of us country music fans. Tell him to keep yelling!

  4. Thanks Michael for those kind words. Those were special times in my life. If you're ever in the Nashville area we'd love to have you for our country 101 program. In the meantime if you care to correspond my email is opryglen@yahoo.com