Grand Ole Anniversary

(Gibson) On this date in 1985, The Nashville Network began broadcasting Grand Ole Opry Live, a weekly program of live music from "country's most famous stage." While the program featured some of the biggest names in country music, including Dolly Parton, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow and others, it was hardly something new. In fact, when Grand Ole Opry Live premiered, the weekly performance showcase was already 60 years old.

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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