This weekend, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated nine decades devoted to country music, with performances from Little Big Town, The Oak Ridge Boys, Carrie Underwood, Jeannie Seely, Larry Gatlin, Trace Adkins, members from the cast of ABC’s Nashville, and more.
Underwood’s first performance on the Grand Ole Opry stage came in June 2005, shortly after her win on American Idol. She was inducted into the Opry by fellow Oklahoman Garth Brooks, in May 2008. She returned to the Opry stage Saturday night to offer a rendition of her debut hit, “Jesus Take The Wheel,” before strapping on a guitar for her current single, “Smoke Break.” She ended with a chipper version of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts made the journey to Nashville to introduce Underwood to the Opry audience that evening.
“My first performance was a total whirlwind,” recalled Underwood at a press conference backstage. “I had just come off of American Idol and we immediately came to Nashville, because this is where I wanted to be. Stepping out on that stage, it was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ I felt very unworthy, and still do to a certain extent, just because it is the Grand Ole Opry.”
“I was scared to death,” said Adkins of his first Opry performance. The fear was more than just the nerves of a first-timer. “There was a miscommunication and somebody thought my band was going to be here, and I thought the Opry [house] band had learned my song, and neither one of those things had happened,” he recalled. “The stage manager asked if I was going to mic my guitar, and I said, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ because I thought the band was going to play my song. I was doing ‘Every Light In The House Is On.’ He said, ‘Well, are you just going to sing a cappella?’ I said, ‘No, is the [house] band going to play?’ A friend of mine, luckily, had a copy of my CD in his truck and ran out to get it. The Opry band listened to it one time through, charted it, and went onstage and played the song perfectly. I’ll never forget that. And then I proposed to Rhonda that evening, because I didn’t think I’d ever get to come back. I thought I might as well propose while I’m here.”
Adkins, of course, has returned to the Opry stage numerous times, and was inducted as a member in 2003. Saturday evening, he offered “Ladies Love Country Boys” and a version of Don Williams’ “‘Til The Rivers All Run Dry,” to the delight of the Opry crowd. Saturday marked the second day of performances for The Oak Ridge Boys, who also appeared on the Friday night Opry (Oct. 2) to perform a rendition of “Elvira” with Little Big Town.
“Every time we come down here, it is an honor to be among these people,” said The Oak Ridge Boys’ Joe Bonsall. “Minnie Pearl was one of the greatest people to walk the face of this planet and so was Sarah Cannon, I might add. Jimmy Dickens? Backstage at the Opry has not been the same since Little Jimmy Dickens has been gone. I mean, everybody wanted to be around him. Everybody wanted a piece of Little Jimmy Dickens, and it was fun to watch it. You try to carry the torch. That’s why I thought last night was so meaningful. There is always magic on the stage. When we came out onstage last night with [Little Big Town], it was a magical moment. I think the Opry is all about magic, tradition and magic. Everybody here feels that magic and tries to live up to it.”
On Saturday, the Oaks — who will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this month — offered their evergreen hit “Elvira” as well as a rendition of “Have A Little Talk With Jesus,” from their latest album, Rock of Ages: Hymns and Gospel Favorites. Meanwhile, Nashville‘s Charles Esten, Aubrey Peeples, Chris Carmack, and Sam Palladio performed for a combined 30-minute segment of the two-hour show, a testament to the positive attention the show has brought to its namesake city and the Grand Ole Opry. The 90th Anniversary celebration will continue on Tuesday, Oct. 6 with appearances by Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Marty Stuart, and more as well as upcoming appearances by Kelsea Ballerini, Easton Corbin, Charlie Daniels Band, Loretta Lynn, Alison Krauss, Rascal Flatts, and many others.
On Nov. 28, 1925, announcer George D. Hay introduced the one-hour WSM Barn Dance, with a performance from fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson. In 1927, the show was renamed The Grand Ole Opry, and today, it is the longest-running radio broadcast in United States history.
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