The Grand Ole Opry celebrated 40 years of country music at the Grand Ole Opry House Saturday evening (3/15) as the newest members of the Opry, Old Crow Medicine Show, led the cast in a show-opening performance of Opry patriarch Roy Acuff’s “Wabash Cannonball.” The 40th Opry House Anniversary Show began as the very first Opry performance at the Opry House did, with video footage of Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys from 1940 performing the band’s signature song. That performance transitioned to footage of Acuff and the Opry cast singing the song on March 16, 1974 before finally seamlessly transitioning to the curtain going up on Old Crow and a stage full of tonight’s other performers finishing the number for the live audience.
The Opry House’s 40th Anniversary celebration leads into next year’s mark of 90 years since the Opry was founded on Nov. 29, 1925. Among the additional artists appearing on tonight’s two sold-out shows were Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year nominees Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton as well as Bill Anderson, Clint Black, Connie Smith, Josh Turner, and more.
“It’s good to be here tonight, y’all,” Lambert said on stage after performing her current single, “Automatic.” “I thought this next song would be appropriate to sing tonight to celebrate the Opry,” she continued.
Photos of special moments in the history of the Opry House then played on the Opry’s signature barn screen as Lambert performed her smash, “The House That Built Me.”
Lambert’s husband Blake Shelton took the stage next, performing his hit “Honey Bee.”
“Happy 40th anniversary to the Grand Ole Opry House!” Shelton cheered. “This particular building is the one I grew up dreaming of performing in someday. … I was trying to think coming in here today: ‘what’s something I can do that’s cool?’ There’s nothing cool about me whatsoever. The only real cool thing about me that’s cool is my wife, so if it’s OK, I’ll have her come back out here.”
Lambert then returned to the stage and the couple performed Shelton’s hit “Home.”
The Grand Ole Opry House is the Opry’s sixth home. It is also the only home built specifically for the Opry and the residence the Opry has called home the longest. The Opry House opened on March 16, 1974 with a standing room only Opry performance attended by President and Mrs. Richard Nixon, among other VIP guests. The evening marked the first time a U.S. president had ever attended the Opry. Nixon still stands as the only president ever to have performed on the Opry, having played “My Wild Irish Rose” and “God Bless America” on the Opry’s upright piano in addition to “Happy Birthday” in honor of First Lady Pat Nixon, who was celebrating her birthday that night. Even more memorably, President Nixon received an impromptu on-stage yo-yo lesson from Opry stalwart and yo-yo enthusiast Roy Acuff. During the lesson, Nixon famously quipped, “I’ll stay here and try to learn how to use the yo-yo; you go up and be President, Roy!”
The Opry House 40th Anniversary Celebration continues throughout the year with numerous shows and events and will include a 40th Anniversary exhibit unveiled tonight as a regular stop on Opry House Backstage Tours. The exhibit includes both the yo-yo and the piano used by President Nixon during his Opry visit. Grand Ole Opry House Backstage Tours are available seven days a week and after most Opry performances. Opry shows are scheduled for every Friday and Saturday of the year. Tuesday shows will take place March 4 – Dec. 9, and Wednesday shows return June 11 – Aug. 6. Among those coming soon to the Opry stage are The Band Perry, Hunter Hayes, Patty Loveless, and Ronnie Milsap.
Tickets and information are available at opry.com, 800-SEE-OPRY and at the Opry House Box Office.
Photo by: Chris Hollo