Festivities will be held on March 16th
The Grand Ole Opry House, home of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Saturday, March 16th. The show falls 50 years to the day since the venue opened with a star-packed show attended by President and Mrs. Richard Nixon. The Opry House reigns today as the home of country music, the current ACM Theater of the Year, and a Venue of the Year nominee at next week’s CMA Touring Awards. In recognition of its effect on popular culture, entertainment and the communications industry, the Opry House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.
Throughout the evening, the Opry will honor its three members who were among those performing during opening night at the Opry House in 1974 and will be performing on this special show 50 years later: Bill Anderson, Jeannie Seely, and Connie Smith. Additional Opry members scheduled for the show include Mandy Barnett, Clint Black, The Gatlin Brothers, Del McCoury, Gary Mule Deer, Don Schlitz, Riders In The Sky, and Mark Wills.
Beginning on the Opry House’s anniversary weekend, the venue’s backstage tours will include an array of artifacts from the Opry House’s 50 years including the jumpsuit Dolly Parton wore during the opening night of the Opry House and on the cover of her Love Is Like A Butterfly album, designed by Lucy Adams.
The Grand Ole Opry House is the Opry’s sixth home. It is also the only home built specifically for the Opry and the residence the Opry has called home the longest. The Opry broadcasted its last Friday show from the Ryman Auditorium on March 15, 1974, where George Morgan closed out the show with “Candy Kisses,” and after the Opry, Johnny and June Carter Cash sang “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” on the Grand Ole Gospel Time to end the evening. The next night, on March 16, 1974, Roy Acuff opened the first show in the new 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House with a performance of “The Wabash Cannonball” in front of a standing-room-only audience attended by President and Mrs. Richard Nixon, among other VIP guests. The evening marked the first time a US president had ever attended the Opry. Nixon still stands as the only president ever to have performed on the Opry, having played “My Wild Irish Rose” and “God Bless America” on the Opry’s upright piano in addition to “Happy Birthday” in honor of First Lady Pat Nixon, who was celebrating her birthday that night. Even more memorably, President Nixon received an impromptu on-stage yo-yo lesson from Opry stalwart and yo-yo enthusiast Roy Acuff. During the lesson, Nixon famously quipped, “I’ll stay here and try to learn how to use the yo-yo; you go up and be President, Roy!”
Since that night on March 16, 1974, the Opry House has been witness to the Opry’s first live television broadcast and its first internet stream; its 5000th Saturday night broadcast; and countless “Opry moments” including debut performances, surprise superstar appearances, once-in-a-lifetime artist collaborations, and Opry member inductions.
In May 2010, the Opry House was ravaged by a once-in-a-lifetime flood forcing the Opry House to close its doors for five months for restoration. The show went on across other venues in Nashville including two former homes: War Memorial Auditorium and the Ryman Auditorium. The show returned to the Opry House on September 28, 2010.
Ten years later, in March 2020, a global pandemic (COVID-19) forced the Opry to temporarily cancel live audience shows. The Saturday night Opry broadcast went on via live stream from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry House, with millions of fans tuned in around the world even while the venue’s pews sat empty.