Monday, 3 January 2011

Grand Ole Opry

In 1925 the National Life and Accident Insurance Company created the WSM radio station in Nashville in order to promote their business.  The company was founded by Cornelius A Craig in 1902 and the station was opened by his son Edwin C Craig on 5 October 1925.  The call letters WSM stood for 'We Shield Millions' and the station opened with a 1,000 watt transmitter from the fifth floor of the company's downtown building.

Just a month after WSM opened George D Hay arrived from Chicago to become the station manager and on 28 November he broadcast an hour of old-time fiddle music.  It was very popular and in December 1925 he introduced an old-time music segment or Barn Dance.

On 10 December 1927 this Saturday show was renamed the Grand Ole Opry and it became a major factor in the popularisation of American country music.  As audiences for the live show increased the venue became too small and in October 1934 the Opry moved to the Hillsboro Theatre.  It moved again in 1936 to the Dixie Tabernacle and then to the War Memorial Auditorium. 

On 5 June 1943 the Opry moved to the historic Ryman Auditorium, which had opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, and the Ryman was home to the Opry until 1974.

After thirty years at the Ryman, the show moved to the 4,400 seat Grand Ole Opry House in the Opryland USA theme park.  The theme park closed in 1997 but the Opry continues to play several times a week at the Grand Ole Opry House, except for an annual winter run at the Ryman Auditorium.

The Grand Ole Opry has been described as 'the show that made country music famous' and it has its roots in a radio station that was set up by a Scotch-Irish businessman.

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