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.

My New Doty Land Podcast: Tribute To Grant Turner, Classic Country Music Stars

Doty Land, my podcast, following a long hiatus due to truly swear-worthy technical issues and the pandemic which made it most difficult to have the equipment in our home worked on, is now back ‘on the air.’

Humbly written here, but I am mighty pleased with the 16-minute multi-track production which offers my sincere tribute to WSM radio announcer Grant Turner. I also offer my thoughts as to what essential quality the classic country singers had which then allowed for them to have such faithful fans many decades later.

You can hear Doty Land and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartradio, Spotify, Castro, and many other sites. Pandora and Amazon are the next sites I am working with that will be offering my podcast for your listening enjoyment.

You can also link here and head directly to my podcast page.

From memories of Loretta Lynn,  Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, WSM radio announcer Grant Turner and others this tribute looks at how classic country music still resonates across the land.  Heartfelt memories galore! Podcaster Gregory Humphrey takes listeners on a journey from his Hancock home to the stages of country music shows.  The fiddles are warming up, now.  

This project will not put me on the map, but it made me very happy if for no other reason than everything is working as the manufacturer of the studio equipment intended! Broadcasting and now its offshoots remains a great love of my life. Therefore, it was most rewarding to ramp up the production values for this episode. I admit to a few ‘bumps’ that perhaps my ear is more accustomed to discerning, but overall I am very content to offer this episode to the listening public.

Grandma Schwarz landed at this angle for the promo pic. As in radio days, I like to have photos of special people around as it makes for a more genuine type of conversation when recording. She seemed the one who would best connect with the topic of these recordings.

And so it goes.

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.

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!” 

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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Tennesee Radio Hall Of Fame (And Caffeinated Politics)

Many years ago a friend of mine, who worked in marketing for a New York firm, advised me how to make this blog more focused.  More niche-oriented.  She told me I was aiming for an audience that was too diverse, and in so doing missing a larger share of a certain type of reader looking for content of a specialized type.  I have no doubt that was sage advice.

But I like to write about the topics of the day which strike my fancy.  That means almost anything under the sun might be found, at some point, to have been posted on CP.  Which is how the voice from over the airwaves on Saturday nights, which I loved to hear as a boy, made it to this blog.  Grant Turner was an announcer from WSM, broadcasting live from the world-famous Grand Ole Opry stage.   In 2007 I paid tribute to Turner in a post, which attracted attention from his daughter.

Today it came to my attention that the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame website has my post as the one singled out when Turners’ picture is selected.  I can not express how I felt upon learning this news, given my deep admiration for Turner, and my decades-long love affair with the Grand Old Opry.  The world’s longest-running radio show.

Yes, this blog could have been more focused and laser-oriented in the content which appears in over 14,000 posts.  My friend was right.  But today I know I am right too, as there are just too many topics in the world that ignite my passion to limit what might be posted tomorrow.

Grant Turner made me smile as a boy on many Saturday nights.  These decades later he is doing the same on this winter-like Saturday night in Madison.

And so it goes.

Dolly Parton And 50 Years At Grand Ole Opry

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It is a magical night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as Dolly Parton celebrates 50 years of standing on the famed stage and being a part of the longest-running radio show in American history on WSM.

There is no way such an occasion could happen without a salute from Caffeinated Politics.   I found the perfect way to showcase Dolly, and the Opry.  This video starts with an Opry announcer I heard as a boy, admired as a man, and even these many years after his passing, still consider his smooth vocal delivery to be worthy of a listen.   Grant Turner has been praised on CP, and I am glad to do it again with Dolly in this video.  Grant’s daughter saw my tribute and commented on this blog.  This little part of the internet highway has brought many smiles.

Dolly Parton performed at the Dane County Coliseum a number of years ago.  It was James’ first-ever large concert.   The night remains a special one for us both.  Dolly as a  singer is simply superb, but the entertainer persona that Dolly has mastered in her performance was one of the best I have witnessed.  And I have seen Frank and Wayne.

I am delighted that Dolly has received this awesome weekend–she is a national treasure.  The stars on the stage in this video are a way to sum up Opry history and Dolly’s history, too!

Goodbye Dear Old Ryman

With this being the 94th Birthday weekend for the Grand Ole Opry, and the fantastic Ken Burns documentary on Country Music concluded on PBS, I want to post a long ago forgotten song.

In 1974 the Opry moved from downtown Nashville to a new home about six miles down the Cumberland River.  The Ryman Auditorium had such an acoustically perfect sound that it was restored in later decades, with the winter months of the famed radio show once again broadcast over WSM from that stage.

But at the time of the final show in 1974 it was mighty sad.  In the Hank Locklin song, Goodbye Dear Old Ryman, the background voices of  The Jordanaires can be heard.  They were also the voices that sang background on so many Elvis recordings.