The Grand Ole Opry celebrates its 97th birthday on October 8th, (tonight).
When I was a child on many a Saturday night the radio that always rested on the wooden buffet in the dining room would not only be turned on but equally importantly physically turned in such a fashion to best be able to hear WSM radio. The Grand Ole Opry was best able to be received in the cold months in our Hancock, Wisconsin home–as anyone who understands radio signals knows. It was always getting the radio in just the right location and also using the cord placement, that worked as an antenna, which allowed the nation’s longest-running radio show to fill our home with music and laughter.
I have been pleased to post many times about the music and the stars who have played such an important part in our country and also in my life. I have commented on their triumphs and felt sadness as they left us for the biggest stage of all. I have recalled the joys of attending the Opry and also being able to see some of those same ones perform in other venues where they were always content to let anyone who wanted to get an autograph or picture to do so. After all, as I was to learn from watching Porter Wagoner, Little Jimmy Dickens, or Charlie Louvin among others, the show was not really over until everyone had a personal memory to take home. They simply do not make entertainers like that anymore. My guitar attests to the truth of that statement with many signatures.
There is a richness that I carry with me from having had Saturday nights with the often scratchy signal from Nashville coming over the radio back home. Or telling ‘Whisperin’ Bill Anderson after a show, how as a kid, I used to impersonate him by standing on our picnic table in the backyard and pretending the garden hose was the microphone. Then came puberty and my country music career ended. I still see Bill laughing at that comment.
Many memories and thoughts will flood Americans around the nation as we celebrate this slice of Americana tonight when the big red curtain goes up at the Opry House. When trying to pick one song that sums up the mood and magic of the Opry over the decades I would opt for one of my favorite entertainers and singers who stood on the famed wooden circle. Not only would Roy Acuff, “The King Of Country Music” get people to tap their feet to the music but during the commercial breaks he would do tricks for the audience at the Opry House with his fiddle bow balanced on his nose or with his famed yo-yo tricks. He felt being an entertainer meant when one is on the stage they have a role to play. He played his part at the Opry with perfection for decades.