Nashville has been called the “Mecca of all Country and Western Music lovers.” But if Nashville is the Mecca, the Grand Ole Opry is what put country music “on the map” in the United States and around the world. Things in the music world started to change right after World War II. Pop music still ruled the charts, but a radio station based in Nashville (WSM) began to garner national attention. It played the country and western sound that was being performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Soon the sounds of country and western music swept the nation and became more a part of our mainstream culture. By the early 1950’s, “Newsweek” was even referring to Nashville as “country music’s Detroit.”
Over the years, most of the great country and western stars of our times have performed at the Opry. In the 1950’s, there was Hank Williams (the King of Country Music), Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Kitty Wells, Minnie Pearl, Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers, and Bill Monroe. The great Marty Robbins was a cast member at the Opry his whole life. His music not only made the country and western charts, but regularly made the pop charts as well. Greats like Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill and Garth Brooks have also played at the Opry. Today, younger performers like Trace Adkins and Brad Paisley still pay “homage” by appearing on the Opry stage.
The appearance of Patsy Cline on the Opry stage was a game changer for female country vocalists. Cline, still considered by many to be the greatest female country vocalist of all time, paved the way for generations of female vocalists that followed her. Many of these vocalists, like Patsy Cline, have received national recognition. Names like Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Emmylou Harris, and Reba McEntire are known throughout the United States and even the world. And today’s female vocalists like Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, and Carrie Underwood are carrying on this proud tradition.One of the reasons the residents of Nashville consider their city so special is because the Opry is there. It’s possible to see performances by “the greats” of country and western music all year long. A nice meal followed by a few hours at the Opry – what could be better? Audience members never seem to tire of the traditions of the Opry. “Rush the stage” is when audience members are allowed to go up to the stage to get autographs and pictures. And there is, indeed, a rush! Country music aficionados are entranced by the six-foot circle cut from the stage of the Ryman Theater – “the mother church of country music.” Today’s performers stand on this circle as they perform. It’s where country music stars like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline stood as they sang their way into legend. There’s always a simultaneous, live radio broadcast when there’s a performance at the Opry. Even the radio commercials are performed live on the stage. There aren’t any retakes or editing. The Opry, and its historical significance to the world of country and western music, play an integral part in making Nashville such a great place to live.
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