The Grand Ole Opry is the longest-running radio show on the air in the United States and it recently held its 80th birthday party in Nashville, Tennessee. This institution of country music has kept listeners, and now viewers, entertained for eight decades. VOA's Craig Fitzpatrick went to the birthday party and talked to some of those who have been picking and singing on the Grand Ole Opry stage. |
When you throw a birthday party, it's nice to invite all of your friends.
The Grand Old Opry is the longest-running radio show in the United States, a show devoted to country music -- music uniquely American, music about hard-working folks, and love and loss.
Pete Fisher, the general manager, explains why the Opry has lasted for eight decades. "The Opry never really plants its foot in one era of country music. A typical Opry show features the past, the present, and the future of country music.”
And the legends were here, like little Jimmy Dickens, the oldest member of the Opry . . . and Porter Wagoner . . . and Bill Anderson. More contemporary stars, like Travis Tritt . . . and Diamond Rio. And Garth Brooks, who sold over 100 million albums in the 90s, came out of retirement to join in the festivities.
Porter Wagoner showed up, as he always does, in one of his signature rhinestone and wagon wheel suits. Diamond Rio said performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage is like spending an evening with friends.
“The Opry is a big family reunion almost, you know. Every weekend we get together and the family gets together and picks and shares. And there happens to be about 5,000 people out there watching us. It's just a big living room, is all it is, just a great big living room,” he said.
Performing in the living room tonight are Jimmy C. Newman -- the "C" stands for Cajun -- and Diamond Rio singing a song about God and country. These folks seem to like songs about God and country.
Pete Fisher explains. “In part our audiences are more conservative in their values and definitely value faith and religion in their lives.”
The Grand Ole Opry literally had its roots in religion -- broadcasting from a church in downtown Nashville for more than 30 years. But as the popularity of the show increased, the pews could not hold all of the Opry fans who wanted to get in. The show is now broadcast from a huge convention hall just outside Nashville, Tennessee. And this hall is jam-packed every weekend with non-stop entertainment.
“So if you don't enjoy what's going on at the moment, just wait a couple minutes and another performer will be on,” offers Mr. Fisher.
As the cake rolled out at the end of the evening, one birthday wish was that this show will still be packing them in and thrilling country music fans for another 80 years.