Today we toured the building that Nashville, Tennessee is probably best known for. The Grand Ole Opry House. The house where country music stars are born.
We had to drive over a bridge on the way and it afforded me a good view of the Nashville skyline.
The Grand Ole Opry House is much newer than I thought it would be. Modern even. I soon found out that we weren’t in the original Grand Ole Opry House but the one that was built in 1974. All the years previous it was located in downtown Nashville in the Ryman Building. We’ll see that building later in our stay here.
So Bob and I signed on for a Backstage Tour of this home to country music. Expecting a very old building I was a little surprised to be parking in the lot of Opry Mills, a very large shopping/restaurant mall.
We were also surprised to see this sight on our way into the parking area.
Walking in the general direction of the House it was evident we were getting close when we saw these.
Close ups were in order.
Country music greats Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl were both extremely instrumental in getting this new building built and in the actual design of it.
The grounds are a park like setting with lots of benches set around so that people have a place to sit while waiting for the doors to open.
Speaking of doors, this is the entry way into the House.
We met up with our tour guide and the first thing we did was watch a video starring country music star Blake Shelton. In this video he welcomed us of course and gave us the first inclination that this building was involved in the flood of Nashville in 2010.
After the video we had souvenir pictures taken with Bob holding a mandolin and me holding a pink guitar in front of a stage setting. After this the tour began.
First thing was the entryway that the stars come in from their parking area. She told us that there no fancy cars out there. No Porsches, no Mercedes, not even a Cadillac, that the country stars drive to work in their pick up trucks and their everyday Chevy’s and Fords.
She pointed out a fountain that Minnie Pearl bequeathed to the walkway so that todays country music stars would know she watching over them.
The walkway shrubbery is shaped into stars.
When enter the building they see this wall in front of them that is painted in two tones.
The bottom color represents how deep the water was during the flood.
Did you know the Grand Ole Opry got its start as a radio show? The story goes that back in 1925 it started out with a one hour radio show called the Barn Dance with a string quartet. For one reason or another the quartet didn’t show one night and the announcer called on 77 year old fiddler known as Uncle Jimmy Thompson to fill in. The response from the listening audience was overwhelming and the rest as they say…was history.
Over the years the Grand Ole Opry radio show moved from its roots in a 5th floor radio studio to several buildings the next each larger than the previous. They had to keep moving to larger venues because the fan base was growing so rapidly. In June of 1943 it made its home in the Ryman Auditorium where it would stay until 1974. That said, the show moves to the Ryman ever year for November, December and part of January because the New York City Rockettes come to town and that stage is more appropriate for the show.
On October 2, 1954, a young teenage Elvis Presley made his only Opry appearance, which actually surprised me. It seems the then manager didn’t care for his hip swinging and told the young singer to go back to Memphis and stick to truck driving. Elvis swore he’d never go back.
As the artists enter the backstage area of the House, they are greeted by a portrait of none other than Minnie Pearl.
We watched another video with Blake Shelton and learned that becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry is something every country singer aspires to. Lots of artists play on the stage of this House but not all are asked to be members. We watched several country music stars get their invitation to be members during this video and each and every one of them were surprised and thrilled and brought to tears. Every one of them. When a country music star dies, so does his or her membership.
It was once a rule that each member must perform 26 times a year in order to keep their membership active. Over the years that rule was relaxed because of country and worldwide tours. So while there is no set amount of times, to keep active each artist has to now agree to perform frequently to show their dedication to the Opry.
The Grand Ole Opry has it own post office. Fan mail sent there is put in the slots and the next time the artists performs there he or she picks up their mail.
The mailbox locations move from time to time because they are assigned alphabetically. So because of death or a new inductee a mailbox can move to the right or left or even row to row. All except one. Box # 144 always stays the same and its out of order alphabetically too. The owner of this mail box is Little Jimmy Dickens who stands four feet eleven inches tall. If his box was where it belonged alphabetically, he wouldn’t be able to reach it.
Just down the hallway is a large section of wall with brass plaques of all the members, past and present. I was most interested in finding just one.
Eddy Arnold. I grew up listening to Make the World Go Away and Roger Miller's King of the Road because when I was a youngster they were my mom’s favorite singers.
Minnie Pearl’s dress and that famous hat with price tag.
We were shown all the dressing rooms and were surprised that they weren’t all that big. In fact, only two of the 18 dressing rooms have bathrooms. They have all been refurbished since the 2010 flood and are named. There’s the Cousin Minnie (Pearl of course), Mr. Roy (Acuff) Friends and Neighbors, Wagonmaster, Little Jimmy, The Cowboy Way and Honky Tonk Angels among others.
The room Porter Wagoner helped decorate.
Complete with purple leather sofa.
Roy Acuff was such a driving force in the Grand Ole Opry that he actually lived there, hence his full bathroom. Eventually a home was built for him right next door to the House. He lived here until his death and it is now used for offices.
Roy, known as the King of Country Music never closed his dressing room door. It was open to every one. There is a plaque on his door that reads: “There is nothin’ gonna come up today that me and Lord can’t handle”
This is the Green Room, if you will. This is where the artists wait to go onstage after they are dressed and ready to perform. Take note of the left side wall, you’ll see a black line running the length of the wall just under the pictures. That black line signifies how deep the water was in this room during the flood.
We were led out onto the stage and the first thing we all noticed was this.
This round section of flooring was taken from the Ryman Auditorium. It is on this circle that every member of the Grand Ole Opry and many others have stood on and sung from. There were ten of us in our tour group and our leader had all of us stand in this circle of 100 + year old flooring and sing You Are My Sunshine. Bob and I can now say we sang from the very spot that Johnny Cash, Eddy Arnold, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Trace Adkins, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, Patsy Cline, Carrie Underwood and hundreds of others have performed on. When we finished the song everyone talked about the goose bumps they had.
During the flood this piece of flooring was found floating, intact. It was saved because it wasn’t nailed down, just in-laid to the floor. It needed a bit of cleaning up but it was in good shape considering and again laid in its place.
Our tour guide used everyone’s own camera and took their picture in this famous spot.
We can’t figure out what that spot is on Bob’s shirt and what seems to run down his pant leg and leg. There wasn’t anything on his shirt so it shall forever remain a mystery. (Now that I’m re-reading this looking for spelling errors, I see that it is the shadow from the mircrophone…duh!)
I took this next picture while I was walking. You’d think I’d know better by now but I was trying to catch up to the group. The House has 4,400 seats and will sell an extra 100 tickets for standing room only if need be.
So we finished our tour of the House.
Of course the only way out is through the gift shop. We stopped and looked at our pictures that were taken at the beginning and since they turned out ok we bought them. Well, then I had to buy an appropriate frame that said Grand Ole Opry on it so we made our contribution to the gift shop also.
Once outside I took a picture of a group of women in front of one of the guitars as a favor and in return one of them took ours.
We enjoyed this backstage tour so much! We can’t wait to see what else Nashville has to offer.