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.
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.