Grand Ole Anniversary
The Grand Ole Opry began as a radio show on Nashville's WSM-AM on November 28, 1925. At that point, radio was a relatively new phenomenon and stations were still trying to figure out just how to gain audiences. The station, owned by the National Life & Accident Insurance Company, hired big-time on-air personality and program director George D. "Judge" Hay from Chicago's WLS-AM. Hay had launched the successful National Barn Dance program on WLS and was looking to recapture that magic in Nashville.
WSM had begun to find success in the genre a couple of weeks before Hay came onboard, featuring spots with "Dr. Humphrey Bate and his string quartet of old-time musicians" (whom Hay would later dub Bate's "Possum Hunters"). When Hay came to the station on November 2, it was just a matter of booking the right artists to create the ultimate showcase of "old-time music." He got his first bit of local talent at the suggestion of a station piano accompanist, who recommended her uncle, Jimmy Thompson, a local fiddler who learned to play songs as a boy from soldiers returning home from the Civil War. And so, with "Uncle Jimmy" Thompson booked, Hay launched the first WSM Barn Dance. more on this story
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