Opry Entertainment Group President Steve Buchanan announced on Thursday that he is stepping down in June to take some time for himself and pursue personal projects. "I haven't really wanted to invest a lot of effort or brainpower into figuring out the next move," Buchanan said. "I have film and television ideas and projects, and I'm interested in seeing where they can go and if they can go and when they can go. I really just want to be open to considering new things."
Steve Buchanan has been with the parent company of the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium for 33 years. When he joined the staff at the Grand Ole Opry in 1985, he was the organization's first marketing manager. At the time, he said he had not budget, but was driven to find ways to revitalizing the historic radio show. At the time, popular opinion was that the Opry's relevance to country music fans had faded and many artists and members had lost interest in participating. Buchanan's first step was to entice the public back through the doors and then bridge the gap between the Grand Ole Opry and Music Row. With limited resources to work with, the solution he took was through basic public relations and promotional plans.
One the Opry was on the rebound, Buchanan shifted priorities to the revitalization of the Ryman Auditorium. He said that he had been enamored with country music's Mother Church, but the building had spent years in disrepair. Buchanan created a plan that he hoped would be a catalyst for the space's restoration. His plan worked and he oversaw the Ryman's initial renovation.
"The Opry and the Ryman have been central passions in my life for over 33 years to be exact," Buchanan said. "I look at it as my attachment will never diminish, but there are other things I want to do and accomplish. I have a mix of loss, fear and excitement. But, it feels like the time to make that leap."
Steve Buchanan is also the executive producer of the television show "Nashville" which is ending its run also. The show, originally starring Connie Britton and Charles Esten, was a boon for both Opry Entertainment and the city of Nashville.
I know that Steve along with Pete Fisher, who he hired to be the Opry's general manager in June 1999, brought a lot of changes to the Opry, some of which were controversial. However, during his tenure he added new members, many of whom do show up to support the show, brought the Opry into the modern era through the use of social media and web streaming the show, and significant improvements to the Opry House itself. The entire Opry experience is much different today than it was 33 years ago and it has brought new fans to the show. Many forget that back in the 1980's and 1990's, many considered the Opry a living museum of country music, with the same same group of members performing the same songs week after week. As the older members passed away, and some of the star power disappeared, attendance suffered. The show became old and tired. I can remember shows that I attended during that period that had less than 1,000 attending, especially during the winter months.
As I said, there were some decisions that created controversy, especially to us older Opry fans. Less veterans and legends scheduled, significantly higher ticket prices, shorter shows and less artists per show, however the show did flourish and grow. And I do believe that Steve had a vision and passion for the Opry and for that, we should all offer him our thanks.
I wish Steve Buchanan good luck in his retirement and success in his future products.