The Grand Ole Opry began its week-long celebration of its 97th birthday on October 4 and I was fortunate to be in attendance. Unfortunately, that same day 60-year member of the Opry, and Country Music Legend, Loretta Lynn passed away. Performers that night included Jeannie Seely, Drew Baldridge, John Conlee, Kat & Alex, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Charlie McCoy, Carly Pearce and Chris Young. They all paid homage to Lynn in their own special way through songs and Carly Pearce played a phone message that Loretta left for her. It was a moving evening of music and performances with images of Loretta Lynn displayed on the backdrop of the Opry stage. The 97th Birthday celebration continued through the weekend of October 9 with many Opry members such as Vince Gill singing tributes to the Coal Miners Daughter. Other Country music artists that participated in Opry’s Birthday celebrations included Ricky Skaggs, The Gatlin Brothers, Chapel Hart, Jamey Johnson, LoCash and Jon Pardi. A special “Opry Loves The 90’s” Studio A live fan event was held on Saturday October 8 featuring Deana Carter. Best known for the song “Strawberry Wine” Carter played a backstage event at the Opry House for the event. On the Friday and Saturday free performances were provided in the Opry Plaza for music fans, even an Opry picnic lunch was held for Country Music lovers. The very first Grand Ole Opry happened a month after WSM radio was launched in November of 1925. What started out as the WSM Barn Dance with Uncle Jimmy Thompson became a Country Music and Nashville, TN institution. The name change to Grand Ole Opry occurred in 1927 thanks to a proclamation by George D. Hay on the radio. Although the Opry began at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville it eventually outgrew that location and moved to the current Grand Ole Opry House to accommodate more fans. History has been made at both locations with artists including Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash playing the venues. Some Country artists like Jeannie Seely, Connie Smith, Dolly, and Billy Anderson have graced both stages in their time and continue to perform. Roy Acuff opened the show for the Grand Ole Opry House that seats 4,440 people back in ‘74. An American President was in attendance, it was a sold-out show, and the list of Country performers was so long that each was allowed to play one song. Live television performances first started from the Grand Ole Opry House in March of 1978 as a PBS fund raiser. In 1985 the Opry started being broadcast on television regularly and can now be seen on Circle TV. Attending the Opry in person is always an amazing experience no matter how many times I have been. From the new acts to the legends, you know you are witnessing history in the making at every Opry show. To celebrate a 97th birthday is an incredible milestone for any institution, especially a music one that is dedicated to Country Music. We are merely 3 years away from the 100th Birthday in 2025. Jeannie Seely and so many of the Country Music legends that grace the Opry stage every week seem to defy age and time. They are fresh, lively, engage the crowd, make jokes, and still sing and perform at a top professional level just like they did the first time on the Opry stage.  As new Country acts are added in, and the Legends remain, the Opry and its historical significance will continue. Happy 97th to the Grand Ole Opry. 

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