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How Country Music’s Biggest Artists In The 1960s Shaped The Genre Forever

Country Music’s

The Beatles turned the world of music upside down in the 1960s. There was a whole new dimension added to the word music by then, and the genres of music started jumping out from everywhere, from psychedelic rock to bubblegum pop. However, it was not just the world of electro music that became famous with this newly found musical conscience. Country music grew considerably as well.

Nashville

Nashville, America’s country music capital by then, was still the most popular place for it, and this had created a name for itself as the ‘Nashville Sound’. However, in the 1960s, a contrasting new style of country music emerged in California, much different from the polished sounds brought out on Music Row. Another new sound, the ‘Bakersfield Sound’ captured the ethos of high strung bars, which resulted in electrified crisp tracks with a noticeable backbeat. The Bakersfield sound gained a lot of momentum in this era, and was popularised extensively by the Buckaroos led by Buck Owens. ‘Act Naturally’, a chart topper by the same band, became so popular that even the Beatles made a cover of the song.

Another country singer that rose to fame during the 60s was the legend Johnny Cash. He recorded his biggest hit, the Ring of Fire, in 1963. June Carter was the writer of this song. They met backstage at a Ryman Auditorium during a Grand Ole Opry show in 1956. They soon fell in love, and got married in 1968. An activist, Johnny Cash wrote many songs that were topical and candid. Nicknamed ‘The Man in Black’ for his popular aesthetic, he was not one to shy away from issues that were quite sensitive at the time and made national headlines all the time. Cash went on to release several protest songs over his long career and played a series of concerts across the country as a way to bring about prison reform.

San Quentin

On one visit, Cash’s stop was San Quentin State Prison where he played a legendary live album in 1969. Merle Haggard, an inmate at the prison at the time, was in one of his 1958 prison shows. Cash became Haggard’s number one inspiration, and when he was released on parole, went on to become a country music star himself. Haggard offered different perspectives to sensitive topics like the Vietnam War with his songs Okie from Muskogee and Fightin Side of Me, Cash and Haggard teamed up quite often and sang about real life issues. They also shared a deep and close knit friendship. So in a way, his performances did bring about prison reform.

Country music is still celebrated as one of the gems of music, and will forever be one of the most unique and iconic genres in  the history of humankind.

The Grand Ole Opry

Grand Ole Opry

One of the most celebrated country music stage concerts of all time, the Grand Ole Opry was founded on November 28, 1925 by a gentleman named George D. Hay. The show started out as a one hour barn dance on WSM-AM, and it is surprisingly still going on even in 2020. It is credited as the longest running radio show in the history of the United States of America. It is currently owned and operated by the Opry Entertainment Group, which comes under a division of the Ryman Hospitality Properties Inc. There will be very few people disagreeing when it is said that The Grand Ole Opry is the prime reason why country music has the same respect and participants today as when it was most popular.

Five years after it began, the show extended from 1 hour to 4 hours, and started hiring professionals. By then they were already broadcasting at fifty thousand watts. WSM soon made the program a Saturday Night event, making it a musical tradition in almost 30 states. In 1939, the Grand Ole Opry debuted nationally on NBC Radio. Four years after their national debut, the Grand Ole Opry moved to their current permanent home, the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. Very soon, due to the influence of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville came to be known as ‘The Country Music Capital’ of America, and earned itself a plaque

Membership in the Grand Ole Opry is still considered one of the most prestigious achievements in country music.

Grand Ole Opry

BROADCAST

The show is broadcast live on WSM AM at 7 pm Central Time on Saturday Nights, changed from its usual previous time of 6.30 pm. Two similar programs also run parallel to the Grand Ole Opry: the Friday Night Opry which airs every friday night and the Tuesday Night Opry which is aired live from the month of February to the month of December. Wednesday night shows are also hosted in the summer, with a few Thursday night ‘Opry Country Classics’ airing sporadically. This features only older artists and is broadcast from Ryman Auditorium. The Opry even provides them with a 14 piece house band if the older artists do not have a band of their own. Even though the show is most famous on WSM AM, it can be heard live on Willie’s Roadhouse, channel 59 on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. In 1985, Gaylord owned ‘Nashville Network’ began airing half hour versions of the Grand Ole Opry programs as the ‘Grand Ole Opry Live’. The show then made its way into television where it expanded under the name of ‘Country Music Television’ and then moved to the Great American Country cable network. Recently, Gray Television and Ryman Hospitality Properties resumed telecasting the Grand Ole Opry on a new over the air digital subchannel called CIrcle

The History Of The Grand Ole Opry

Opry

The Grand Ole Opry was founded on 28 November 1925 by George D Hay in Nashville, Tennessee as an hour long barn dance. It began airing on WSM AM, and is amazingly still running today as a successful show even in 2020.

 

The Birth Date Of The Grand Ole Opry

October 17,1925 saw a program featuring ‘Dr Humphrey Bate and his String Quartet of Old Time Musicians’. Early next month, on November 2, 1925, WSM called on long time program director and announcer George D. Hay as an enterprising pioneer from the National Barn Dance program at WLS in Chicago. He had also been named most popular radio announcer in America, as a result of his radio work with both WLS and WLC in Memphis, Tennessee. George D. Hay launched the WSM Barn Dance with a 77 year old fiddler by the name of Uncle Jimmy Thompson on November 28, 1925 and it has been recognized as the birth date of the Grand Ole Opry. It would be another 2 years till the words ‘Grand Ole Opry’ would be uttered on radio for the first time, on December 10, 1927.

In Search Of Larger Venues

The National Life and Accident Insurance’s radio venue was the place this show started out, but it quickly became too small because of the public demand that the show was garnering. They made the studio a bit more larger, but it still was not enough. Soon, they had to come to the realization that the show needed to be sent out of its home office. So finally in October 1934, the show moved into the then Hillsboro Theatre, moving once again to the Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville on June 13, 1936. The show further moved to the War Memorial Auditorium, and to curb the flow of people, charged an entry fee of 25 cents, but it simply made them richer. And at last, the show finally found home in the Ryman Auditorium, where it is still being hosted even today.

Bands

Bands

Some of the most noted musicians during the early days of the Grand Ole Opry include the Possum Hunters, Bill Monroe, the Fruit Jar Drinkers with Uncle Dave Macon, the Crook Brothers, The Gully Jumpers, DeFord Bailey, the Binkley Brother’s Dixie Clodhoppers, Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith, and Sid Harkreader. It is said that Hay liked the Fruit Jar Drinkers so much that he asked them to perform last on each show because he wanted to end the show with some ‘red hot fiddlin’. There was however, an odd little teenage boy who performed at the Grand Ole Opry on October 2, 1954. Opry Manager Jim Denny told the producer of the kid that his work was not in the best taste of the show. This kid would later be known to the world as the one and only Elvis Presley. The first star of the show was a Tennessee based banjo player by the name of Uncle Dave Macon.