“The Grand Ole Opry, to a singer, is what Yankee Stadium is to a baseball player…Broadway is to an actor. It’s the top of the ladder, the top of the mountain. You don’t just play the Opry, you live it.” —Bill Anderson
As first time visitors to Nashville, we never expected to have such fun and diverse experiences. It has all the excitement one would expect of a big city coupled with a small town feel that exhibits southern charm and gracious hospitality. It is full of recording studios, historical sites, amazing restaurants and has the cool vibe of of country as well as rock’n’roll music. The residents and tourists that come to visit Broadway Street know how to party. There are horse and buggy rides, trolley, double decker buses, Segues, rickshaws as seen in the photos that clearly outnumber automobiles. If you like drinking beer, you have many creative outlets such as pedal taverns to celebrate birthdays, private parties, and bachelor and bacheloratte parties. The vendors of these services offer an experienced bartender, a premium sound system and electric assist motor that everyone can pedal without strain while drinking their favorite brew.
Aside being the epicenter of the country music industry, we saw The Parthenon at Centennial Park where we witnessed a full scale replica of the Greek Parthenon built in 1897. Before it was known as “Music City,” Nashville was referred to as the "Athens of the South.” Why? By the 1850s it was the first American southern city to establish a public school system, and several higher education institutions like Vanderbilt University, St. Cecilia Academy, Belmont University to name a few. Nashville was filled with wealth and culture, had several theaters and plenty of elegant accommodations. Everything was going well until the onset of the Civil War beginning in 1861 when Nashville was devastated until 1865, when the city began to rebuild itself.
We had tickets for the Grand Ole Opry for 7PM. We heard about a dozen performers from the old country musicians to newcomers on the scene. To name a few we saw Brook Eden, “Act Like You Don’t (Feb 2017 release) which scored 18 million plays on Spotify; Jesse McReynolds, 88, a veteran bluegrass performing artist playing the mandolin; Carson Peters, age 14, a child prodigy who plays the fiddle with his Iron Mountain band; Linda Carter, who performs with her All Star Band and sometimes with her daughter Jessica. Carter is also an actor who played “Wonder Woman.” But, Cecile and I especially wanted to see our favorite Charles “Chip” Esten who played the role of “Deacon Claybourne” on the hit ABC TV drama series “Nashville.” Esten made his theatrical debut in London portraying Buddy Holly, singing, acting, and playing the guitar in the hit West End Musical, Buddy. He performed for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phiip and eventually for President and Mrs George H.W. Bush at the White House. During his first season on Nashville, Esten or “Deak” as he is called on the show was honored to make his debut on the Grand Ole Opry stage.
Before moving to the Opry House in 1974 and began to proudly boast that theirs was “The show that made country music famous,” it was housed at the Ryman Auditorium for 40 years. The Opry puts on three live shows a week in the same live radio format it has used for more than 90 years.
The history of the Grand Ole Opry began on the evening of November 28, 1925, as a simple radio broadcast when an announcer on Nashville’s radio station WSM introduced fiddle player Uncle Jimmy Thompson as the first performer of the new show: “The WSM Barn Dance.” From these humble beginnings it became the live entertainment phenomenon it is today. The Opry has become an American icon and the city of Nashville’s number one tourist attraction for audiences of all ages.