Grand Ole Opry Airs 5,000th Broadcast Saturday Night On WSM Radio!

Most folks who have a broad sense concerning the evolution of radio in our country know of George D. Hay. He was affectionately known as the “The Solemn Old Judge”. He started the radio program WSM Barn Dance and shortly thereafter uttered a sentence that was a major step in creating the famed and deeply-loved Grand Ole Opry.

His one line has been repeated often in the annals of American broadcasting.

“For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry.

That was in 1927.

On Saturday night, October 30, 2021, the longest continuously running radio show on WSM will air the 5000th broadcast of the Opry! What a remarkable history has been recorded over those decades.

To lend my voice and delight with this weekend I recorded and released a podcast episode on Wednesday that pays tribute to classic country music, WSM, and Grant Turner, an iconic voice of the Opry from the stage where all the radio magic happened.

George D. Hay and his steamboat whistle that started each Saturday night’s radio broadcast.

We need to make sure this weekend Hay is remembered. I know the Opry will be front and center with his importance, and here is why.

Initially, he had been a newspaperman, on The Memphis Commercial Appeal. It was there that he earned his nickname, the Solemn Old Judge, covering jury trials and where he was first attracted to mountain music while attending a country hoedown in Mineral Springs, Ark. That gave Hay the inspiration for a “radio barn dance” after he became a radio announcer, first in Memphis and later at Chicago’s WLS, where he helped create “The National Barn Dance.”

Hay’s initial “WSM Barn Dance,” on Nov. 28, 1925, turned a lot of heads in Nashville; some people were horrified that the new prestige station of the National Life & Accident Insurance Company was allowing “those dreadful hillbillies” on its airwaves. In fact, Hay often had to fight the station moguls to keep the show on the air until it was noticed that “The Barn Dance” was selling an awful lot of insurance policies through its rural salesmen.

At 7 PM CST, nearly 96 years to the week the show made its debut, the Opry will take to the airwaves for the 5,000th time! The tradition continues!

And so it goes.

Gregory Humphrey’s Tribute To Bill Anderson Makes Top Of Country Legend’s Website

Super pleased to find out tonight that my blog post this weekend on Bill Anderson made top billing on his website.

The country music legend celebrated 60 years on the Grand Ole Opry Saturday night. I wrote how I sang his songs as a boy while using the picnic table as a stage back home. And how my Aunt Evie, who lived next door, smiled about those ‘shows’ decades after the last one was performed.

Over time I have expressed how it felt when this little space on the intent highway has such a moment. Such as when the family of Porter Wagoner commented on my words following his passing, or the same type of interaction following the death of famed WSM announcer Grant Turner. In fact, my words about Turner are linked at the Tennessee Radio Hall Of Fame.

Tonight, I can say the picture below from Bill Anderson’s website tickles me completely and means more than money. After all, this has been a six-decade journey with smiles and memories still being made.

Bill Anderson Celebrates 60 Years On The Grand Ole Opry

It is not all politics here at Caffeinated Politics. This blog has always been home to the wide array of interests that make life delightful. From books, space, radio, and yes, the Grand Ole Opry. As such, it is time to post about Bill Anderson’s 60th anniversary this weekend at the Grand Ole Opry.

The Grand Ole Opry starts at 7 PM Central Time on WSM Radio, and don’t forget to catch Opry Live on Circle TV starting at 8PM Central Time.

Grand Ole Opry veteran Bill Anderson performs on the famed circle of wood at the center of the stage in the Grand Ole Opry House on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, in Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

I am not a fan of contemporary country music.  Too much of it is struggling to be more than just country, while in search of a broader audience.  For me, the classic country sound of many decades ago is where the tire meets the road.  It is one of the musical types I often gravitate to when putting music on the stereo.

As a child, I would impersonate Bill Anderson in the backyard at the family home.   The garden hose would be my microphone, and the picnic table the stage.  Aunt Evie who lived next door smiled about those ‘shows’ decades after the last one was performed. The thing is, as I always told her, I still knew all the words to those old songs.  They are just as fresh in my mind now as when they were played endlessly on my mom’s record player.  The fact is that I have found it easy to sing much like ‘Whispering Bill’ all my life.  In my late 20s and 30s, I had given up the picnic table circuit for karaoke shows, however. But that now, too, is in the rearview mirror.

I have been able to meet and talk with Bill Anderson on several occasions both in Wisconsin and in Nashville.  He is one of the Opry legends who have signed my guitar. And this weekend he gets his night in the limelight at the world famous Grand Ole Opry.

When in the third grade my parents had tickets to see Bill Anderson and his singing partner at the time, Jan Howard, in Waupaca.  As the show date approached I came down with the stomach flu.  My mom said we probably would need to miss the concert.  Somehow, someway the flu was put aside and we all attended.  It was Jan Howard that missed the show that night for being sick!

Many decades from now someone, somewhere will be singing a Bill Anderson song.  His legacy is as much from the words he penned as the performing artist he became.  So on behalf of a grateful nation, Caffeinated Politics wants to congratulate Bill Anderson on 60 years at the World-Famous Grand Ole Opry.

So let’s go back to a time when country music had flavor and spice.  Bill Anderson as a young man in a suit that sparkled, as he sings his standard “Bright Lights And Country Music”.  At the end of each performance at the Grand Ole Opry Anderson leaves the stage with a line from this song.

This weekend will be no different.

Frustration With U.S. Senate Makes For Grand Ole Opry Reference

If you follow the actions of the United State Senate…or should I say antics…you will note that not much of substance has been achieved over the past many months.

One of the great desires that this blogger has pushed over the years is an infrastructure package. I had hoped that the Trump Administration would have led with that pressing need in January 2017. Needless to say there is no such legislation awaiting a presidential signature as 2020 comes to a close.

After the transformative changes our nation is processing relating to social justice and racial equality the Senate is found wanting as bills for police policy is right under that of infrastructure. We know the pandemic stimulus package that was needed back in September still has not found a time to get a vote on the floor. The political gamesmanship has created more than a serious logjam over legislation, it has put millions of our fellow citizens into great fiscal uncertainty. Even more of them the day after Christmas!

We all witness congressional dysfunction in our morning newspaper and the evening news. But it was stated most perfectly last week when retiring Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee stated the Senate is “like joining the Grand Ole Opry and not being able to sing.”

That sums up the last year in the Senate perfectly. And sadly.

Ryman Auditorium Gets Major News Coverage From CBS Sunday Morning

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In late June, theRyman Auditorium – a Nashville landmark for more than 125 years, and one-time home to the Grand Ole Opry – reopened for tours after closing due to COVID-19. CBS Correspondent Mark Strassmann looks at the history of the Ryman, which has hosted not just country musicians but also legends of folk, rock and hip hop; and talks with some of the artists (including Sheryl Crow and Ketch Secor, of Old Crow Medicine Show) who have graced its stage.

Eddie Stubbs Retires, Voice Of WSM, Grand Ole Opry, Never To Be Forgotten

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These are the types of posts that are bitter-sweet to write.  While the gem at the heart of this post was continually invited into our homes and vehicles via radio, it is now hard to close a long wonderful chapter of music and broadcasting history.

WSM broadcaster and Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs has announced his retirement.  Most of you, like me, have heard him far more than see him.  (Only once did I see Stubbs when sitting in the audience of the longest-running radio show in America.)

Stubbs began hosting WSM in 1996 and worked his way into becoming the longest-serving broadcaster in the 7 p.m. to midnight slot in WSM’s 95 years of operation.  I need to state that working in broadcasting is not easy. When it sounds relaxing and conversational that means the announcer is a top-notch professional. Such as with  Stubbs.

I mentioned this radio icon in my book Walking Up The Ramp for being a gentleman at the time my parents and I attended the Grand Ole Opry.  Mom and Dad were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and from the world-famous stage he announced that a couple from Hancock, Wisconsin was in the Opry House.   I had spoken to him personally that morning to make the arrangements. I had a nice, if short chat, with the man who I had long admired.  Told him that, too.  The entire crowd applauded the milestone of my parents, which was also aired live throughout the WSM listening public that evening.

Listening to Stubbs on AM 650 meant that there was the information to be learned about classic country music, as he is nothing short of a walking encyclopedia on the stars who sang from the Ryman and made records that still resonate with a large swath of the nation.

It was the pleasure of so many to have tuned into the ‘Air Castle of the South’ over the many years and found a familiar voice.  One they never needed to wonder if his professionalism would ever slip, or something come over the airwaves that they would not want to be uttered in their home.  Stubbs was not only a broadcaster of the best kind but also a gentleman.

Not a bad way to sum up a person.  Not bad at all.  He will be missed on the airwaves.

Stubbs, is of course, far more than just the voice we all recognize when hearing it over the airwaves.  As they say in the South, “That boy can fiddle!” 

Jimmy Capps, Grand Ole Opry Member, Dead At 81

In so many performances at the Grand Ole Opry and on reunion videos, Jimmy Capps was a face that always was welcoming. 

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Guitarist Jimmy Capps, a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame who played on such timeless country songs as Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning,” has died at 81. Capps was also a member of the Grand Ole Opry, playing lead guitar in the house band. A rep for the Opry confirmed his death.

Born May 25th, 1939, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Capps began playing guitar when he was 12. In 1958, he auditioned for the Louvin Brothers’ band and was ultimately asked to join the sibling duo by Charlie Louvin. “Thanks to Charlie…I guess I owe my whole career to him,” Capps said in his 2018 autobiography The Man in Black. “That one split-second decision that he made is the reason I am here. That decision made all the difference in my life.”

Capps made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry stage with the Louvins, performing their murder ballad “Knoxville Girl,” and became an Opry member in 1959. He joined the Opry house band in 1967, playing lead guitar behind the radio show’s guest artists every week up until his death.

Memory Of Saturday Night, WSM, And The Grand Ole Opry!

I am a huge classic country music fan—-mostly music prior to 1970–and love the Grand Ole Opry. I was able to tell the following story, and its meaning to me, nearly 30 years ago on a tour bus as we left Kentucky and headed southwards to Music City. I took the little microphone used by the driver and let my feelings flow.  This story came from my heart then and does so again on this post.

The story goes that a family in West Virginia, which played music at barn dances and weddings almost every Saturday night, finally had a free weekend. So instead of picking up the banjo, lap organ, quill harp, or fiddle instead put some biscuits and fried chicken into a basket and started to walk towards the nearest high hill in their area. With a couple blankets in their arms they made their way to the top of the hill, and while looking down saw friends and neighbors walking up from all points of the compass. They each carried food and blankets, in preparation for a night of fun. When at last all gathered they spread their blankets on the ground, and shared dinner and conversations. As the sun set, one of them who had driven an old truck to the top of the hill removed a radio from the bed of the vehicle and hooked it to the truck battery. The radio was then tuned to WSM out of Nashville, Tennessee, and there under the stars these folks listened, clapped, danced, and sang along to the Grand Ole Opry. If you try you can imagine the scene as the AM signal whistled and crackled in the nighttime air. That same mood is still created these many decades later in homes around the country, and now thanks to the internet, around the world as well though the crackle of the signal is absent.

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