Pan Am Music From And Inspired By The Original Series Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry – The Old Violin

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Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry – The Old Violin

Approaching from any direction, Nashville’s city limits sign reads “Music City Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County, Home of the Grand Ole Opry.” Nashville is proud of its country music heritage today, but it wasn’t always that way. When Edwin Craig first started WSM radio in 1925, Nashville’s “old money” didn’t want anything here that portrayed the city as backward or queer. The early years brought endless battles with Nashville’s conservative institutions, which fiercely defended Nashville’s image as the “Athens of the South.” They told Craig, “You need to train those mountain animals, not care for them.”

Originally, WSM had studios on the top floor of the National Life and Causality building. They were on the top floor of a 5-story building, so they chose the nickname “Southern Air Castle”. They built a large one-room studio with a grand piano and very fine red curtains, which seemed quite a formal place and was reserved for the big dance groups and opera artists of the day.

In early November 1925, WSM’s fortunes changed when they hired a young broadcaster, George D. Haigh, as manager, away from the mighty WLS in Chicago. George Hay was famous in his own right, and although only 30 years old at the time, he was known on the air as “The Once Judge”. He got the nickname as a child when relatives said of the serious Rock, “He’s as imposing as a judge.” Early in his life, Hay had heard and loved local folk music, which he believed would appeal to the new medium of radio, the “crowd”. He hired Uncle Jimmy Thompson, a 78-year-old fiddler, to play one night. The response from listeners was so strong that Hay announced that for the next month, WSM would broadcast an hour or two of oldies every Saturday night and call the show WSM Barn Dance. Hey, “Solmenn Ole Judge” will be the first host.

In December 1927, following a Saturday night Musical Appreciation Hour featuring classics, the WSM Barn Dance opened with Deford Bailey, whom Hay called “The Harmonica Wizard.” Bailey called “The Harmonica Wizard”. Pan American Blues “Hey” “For the past hour we’ve been listening to music from the Grand Opera. From now on, we’re going to introduce the Grand Ole Opry.

Seventy years later, in 1997, I returned to the now-famous Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time. Over the next several years, I would become a backstage regular at countless Saturday night performances at the Grand Ole Opry. My kids grew up cutting backstage at the Opry on Saturday nights when it was normal, but it wasn’t. Everyone who attended had a chance to see history in the making.

I remember one such incident best in 1998. It was a typical Opry night, except for one thing. Johnny Paycek has been sick for a while in Ohio. The night will mark her return to the Opry. Now it’s usually backstage backstage where people visit and do what the old-timers used to say and say hi to each other and everybody else and it’s very active backstage. Sometimes it’s hard to hear what’s going on in front of you. But tonight, when Paycheck stepped up to the mic and his fiddler licked that signature, you might have heard a pin drop. Paycheck leaned into that famous microphone with a triangular stand marked WSM Grand Ole Opry and sang. “I don’t remember, once in my life I’ve been so lonely as tonight, I lie down and I feel like I can’t get up. It’s the most terrible feeling, I’ve never felt it before. Tonight I’m going to play songs like “Old Violin” soon, won’t play again.

I wonder if the tribute was a kind of acknowledgment of the passing of time to the older generations of Country Music. But was it really? Won’t live forever? I think so. I think the fact that the Grand Ole Opry is still considered the mother church of country music is proof that the roots of County music will never be lost. Times and sounds will certainly change. The artists of the 70s were very different from the artists of the previous 50 years, but they still respected the great artists of the past. A new generation of country singers brings their own style, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear influences that stretch all the way back to Deford Bailey. Every now and then, a new generation pulls out an old violin and reminds us that the best sounds come from the oldest instruments.

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