THE NEW OPRY HOUSE
1974 to Present
Richard Nixon at the "new" Opry House. Roy Acuff's faith in the Opry's audience was justified, as the night of March 16, 1974 proved to be a turning point for the show. The dedication of the new Opry House at Opryland, a multi-million dollar entertainment complex on the outskirts of Nashville, included an inaugural performance featuring President Richard Nixon, who played "God Bless America" on the piano and learned a yo-yo trick or two from his host, Mr. Acuff. The show was broadcast over 1,300 radio stations worldwide, marking a milestone in the popularity of country music.
The new locale provided Opry members like John Conlee, Lorrie Morgan, Barbara Mandrell, The Gatlins and Ronnie Milsap with a state-of-the-art venue to showcase their talent. With its sophisticated sound/lighting systems and outstanding acoustics, the new Opry House was a shrine to a music which could no longer be simply considered a regional phenomenon.
These souvenirs were handed out to fans to symbolize the Opry's move from the historic Ryman to the new air-conditioned Opry House.Soon, a full set of traditions began to grow around the new Opry House. Those who were there in its early days will tell you about the Saturday nights when Marty Robbins spent the time between shows in Roy Acuff's dressing room learning dobro licks from Bashful Brother Oswald. Or about Bill Monroe's Saturday night ritual of having his Blue Grass Boys rehearse songs they must have played 5,000 times. And how Grandpa Jones loved to hold court on the couches just inside the artist's entrance, regaling listeners with whimsical tales like the time he fenced in his pasture only to tear out a section of barbed wire to free the tractor he absent-mindedly left inside.
The Opry's new home allowed the show to attract a wider cast and accommodate a larger audience but the Opry traditions remained intact. The section of the stage where the microphone was placed was transplanted from the Ryman to the new site, in a gesture of symbolic continuity. The Ryman and the classic Opry seemed inseparable in the minds of many, however, and fans began referring to the stately brick building as "The Mother Church of Country Music."
The skeptics were soon converts once they saw the opportunities afforded by the new venue. While producing Opry TV broadcasts from the Ryman had always been a challenge, the new Opry House was built with TV in mind. PBS soon took advantage of the building's facilities on March 4, 1978, airing the first national broadcast of an entire Opry performance as part of a network fund raiser.
With the creation of The Nashville Network (TNN) in 1983, the Opry quickly became a Saturday night tradition for millions of cable viewers. Grand Ole Opry Live features a half-hour of live performances from the Opry stage and is preceded by "Opry Backstage," a behind-the-scenes look at the show, chocked full of performer interviews and profiles.
The Grand Ole Opry has always played an integral role in popularizing country, helping to make it the most listened to music in America today. With a cast of 72 acts including contemporary members like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Patty Loveless, Travis Tritt, Holly Dunn, Steve Wariner and Alison Krauss, it's safe to assume that the Opry will continue to play an important role in presenting country music's new stars, superstars and legends to the world for generations to come.
As part of its commitment to those who love country, the Opry is also a co-sponsor of Fan Fair, a one-week event which takes place every spring. Over twenty thousand people turn out each year to enjoy concerts by country's top stars and celebrity autograph sessions.
Each year, nearly a million people visit the Grand Ole Opry House, traveling an average of 1,000 miles round-trip to hear their favorite stars. Why do so many journey so far? Maybe it's because the rapport between the Opry artist and the audience is unlike anything else in show business. Whether a person is attending the show at the Opry House, tuning in to Clear Channel Frequency WSM 650 AM (whose nighttime signal covers over 30 states), or watching each Saturday night on TNN, the Opry offers a unique blend of entertainment, pageantry, vaudeville and, of course, music that has become an American tradition.