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Remembering Grant Turner

October 16, 2007

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As the longest running radio show in America prepares to celebrate its 82nd birthday in Nashville this weekend, there are many reflecting on the many voices and musicians that make the Grand Ole Opry a true slice of Americana.  At the center of the current Opry stage there is a large wooden circle that was taken from the Ryman Auditorium stage, “The Mother Church Of Country Music”, where country legends once stood and sang for many decades.  When most people recall the Opry stars they talk about the folks who stood in that famous circle and made music.  (Part of the circle can be seen in the photo above.  Garth Brooks, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, and Little Jimmy Dickens are shown.)

But just off to the side of the stage there stands a podium where the announcing staff for each broadcast adds their talent to WSM’s signature show.  It was there that Grant Turner became for many a household name, as he would announce “now lets go center stage as the big red curtains rises….”

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I concede that many will not have ever heard of his name, or if so, may have forgotten him.  But as Nashville celebrates, along with classic country music fans everywhere, it is important to recall the name and sounds of Grant Turner.

His voice and pleasant conversational style was one of the reasons I had my radio tuned often to AM 650 as a teenager.  On the weekends he would introduce the host of the half hour (or quarter hour portion) of the Grand Ole Opry.  In between the music he would read the advertising scripts for the many products that were colorful and nostalgic.  Today most of us hate commercials, but Grant Turner made the ads fun.  In fact, the Grand Ole Opry ads were a part of the show, and still are.  The products were perfect additions for Grant’s homey gentle readings for items such as Martha White Flour, or Goo Goo Clusters .  This all was just another in a long list of reasons that I fell in love with radio.

He made his work sound effortless and easy.  The fact that it came across that way is testimony to his professionalism.  Anyone who has worked behind a broadcast microphone knows that it is not as easy as it looks…or sounds.  But Grant was able to blend his down home sensibilities with broadcast know-how in such a way as to encourage us to invite him into our homes.

And millions invited him in each week.

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Perhaps the reason he understood his role so well on the Opry stage was that he started in radio as a teenager on KFYO, a small station in Abilene, Texas. While still in high school he announced for the station, and also had his own show called “Ike And His Guitar.”  He would work in radio for many years, and major in journalism while in college.  But on D-Day 1944 he started his work at WSM, which made him famous.  In just a few months he became a Saturday night announcer for the Grand Ole Opry.

He was on that world famous stage on Friday night in October 1991 doing what he loved best.  When the radio show concluded he went home.  The big red curtain had come down on his last announcing performance on WSM radio.   The next evening every performer gave a nod to the podium and a few kind words about Grant Turner who had died at home from a heart attack.

Grant Turner proves that every star of the Grand Ole Opry did not have to stand in the famed circle on stage.  As we look back on the memories from 82 years of the Opry, let us recall that for 47 of those years there was the gentle voice from just out of the spot lights that made us all a part of the larger radio family.

It is a rare talent that can make so many people feel so included for so long.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Nancy permalink
    October 25, 2009 5:19 PM

    Thank you so very much for the very nice story you prepared and placed on this website. I am Grant’s daughter, and I still miss him each and every day. Last week was the anniversary of his death, and it touches my heart, recalling taking him to the hospital, not knowing his heart was tearing. My own mother died 50 days later. I missed her even more than he for she was an alcoholic. They married around 1951 and I was born in 53. Not many know about her, but her name was Audrey.

    Thanks again for the article.
    Nancy Turner Brown (Mrs. Joe Brown)

  2. Nancy permalink
    October 25, 2009 5:15 PM

    Hi,
    I am Lorene’s stepdaughter and she now lives in Indiana. If your mother would like her phone number or address, let me know.
    Thanks,
    Nancy Turner Brown (Grant’s only child)

  3. Karen Buck permalink
    September 2, 2009 11:20 PM

    My Mother was a close friend and co-worker of Grant’s wife “Lorene Turner” when they both worked for Tennessee State Government. After Grant’s death, She has since lost touch with her and for years hasn’t been able to contact her . Do you have any information on Lorene Turner?

    Thanks

    Karen Buck

  4. Russell Jordan permalink
    August 4, 2009 10:03 AM

    I met Mr turner in 1964, one of the best men i ever met,and became a good friend.
    i spent lot of time in Nashville back then.(lot of time in tootsie bar) , with lot of others that became stars of Grand Old Oprey. Mr Turner and I had lot of talks in person and over the phone. I was and overthe road truck driver. at the time.
    Had I listen to Mr Turner then I may have been more than a truckdriver
    ( Laughin) but like they say 20/20 is hind sight vision. when mr Turner pass away, i felt i lost my best friend. To me back then and still today Mr turner and Ralph Emery was the GrandOld Oprey..

  5. Nancy permalink
    May 24, 2009 9:55 PM

    Vernon,
    This was the first time I have seen this……thank you so very much for your kind words about my father……I always think of you when I make Martha White cornbread.

    God Bless you,
    Nancy Turner Brown

  6. December 30, 2007 12:58 AM

    Grant Turner became a friend of mine long before my wife and I made our first trip to Nashville and the Opry in 1979 where we met him and his wife Lorene.

    Prior to that, I corresponded with him as I was a radio announcer in Trinidad with a strong interest in country music.

    He was a gracious host in 1979 and when we returned to the Opry in 1982 and we kept upour correspondence ofr several years.

    We shall miss him always.

    VERNON A ALLICK
    TRINIDAD, West Indies

  7. November 1, 2007 1:03 PM

    I just love the classics!

  8. Kenny permalink
    October 19, 2007 7:12 PM

    Thank you for that info.I didn’t know that he was already in the Hall Of Fame.Great to hear.

  9. October 18, 2007 10:02 PM

    You are most welcome.

    Grant is already in the Country Music Hall of Fame. When I was there several years ago I saw his display. Thanks again for your kind words.

  10. Kenny permalink
    October 18, 2007 9:32 PM

    Thank you for the Grant Turner article.A great read.I think that Grant Turner deserves a place in the Country Music Hall Of Fame.Thanks again.
    Kenny

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