My road trip to Tennessee this summer was basically centred around my love of music – beginning with Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton and ending in Nashville with country music. With only a day to spend in Nashville, we stopped at two of the most famous country music places in the world: The Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry!
We started at The Country Music Hall of Fame, a place I soon learned I needed way more time at. There are always different exhibits moving in and out. While we were there, they had the following exhibits featured: ‘Blake Shelton: Based on a True Story,’ ‘Dierks Bentley: Every Mile a Memory,’ and a big Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan Exhibit called ‘Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City.’ Throughout the Hall of Fame, they also featured staple exhibits like the history of Country music. All those who were big stars in each era were honoured; Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, and Jimmie Rodgers in the early years; then Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline; then onto Reba, Garth Brooks, and Trisha Yearwood; up until present-day Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, etc. There’s also a room for really new and up-and-coming artists. Here, you can find a replica of Taylor Swift’s tour bus and a huge guitar. There’s also a room that features guitars throughout the years of country music. One of my favourite parts was right next to Elvis Presley’s gold Cadillac. There was a viewing area where a film was shown featuring video clips from great country music moments and shows through the years featuring all the old classic numbers and stars. The huge wall of inductees and gold records filled one whole section, with another wall of top hits leading you back downstairs. A country music fan could easily spend a day here looking at everything and reading all the information about the artists found here. The few hours we had were definitely not enough.
From there, we headed over to the Grand Ole Opry. Unfortunately, there was no show playing that night, but we still got to take a tour of the place most country artists dream of one day performing. It’s quite the place – such a beautiful building. The Grand Ole Opry show was first heard in 1925 and moved around to various locations in the early years. Then, from 1943-1974, it was hosted in the Ryman Auditorium, where the show still returns occasionally for classic shows. In March 1974, the Grand Ole Opry moved to its current locale, the Grand Ole Opry House. In May 2010, the venue was temporarily closed after being badly damaged by the flooding that took place in the city. Around-the-clock restoration took place and five months later, the Grand Ole Opry house was ready for the show to return. Each Opry performance is made up of official Opry members and guest artists. Currently, there are 61 Opry members.
The tour started with Blake Shelton greeting us onscreen and welcoming us to the Grand Ole Opry. He showed us some clips of performances and inductions, including his own when Trace Adkins invited him to join the Opry. From there, our guide, Rita, took us on a backstage tour. She told us all about Roy Acuff, who was a major contributor to the Opry; so big, in fact, that when his wife passed away, they built him a house right next door! She showed us the star entrance into the backstage area and explained that although they are big stars, most of them live in Nashville so many of them just drive themselves to the show, park their own car and walk up the star path into the security area! If they are a member, they have a mailbox located here for fan mail. We got to see the mailboxes for current, active members and plaques on the wall for anyone who’s ever been a member. To become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, you must meet the criteria, promise to keep the Opry going and be committed to performing here. Then we headed down the hallway of dressing rooms. Each room was designed for a different category, with décor that matched. It started with those making their Opry debut and moved on to hosts/comedians. There was one room for those who are Veterans and those who work a lot with the armed forces, like Kellie Pickler. This was followed by Duos, including Rayna and Deacon from the t.v. show “Nashville.” Moving along, we came to “Men of Country” and “Women of Country” (whose dressing room was larger with fancier décor!) Then “Friends and Family” and a few others. The final dressing room is “The Wagonmaster” for Porter Wagoner. This room was filled with rhinestones, bright colours and photos of him and Dolly Parton, who got her big break on his show. Each of the rooms were filled with photos of the performers who have been there.
From there, we continued on to Studio A, a soundproof TV studio where “Hee Haw” used to be filmed and where some of “Nashville” is currently filmed. They had a setup with some costumes, posters and scripts from the show and Deacon Claybourne talks all about the show and about filming here and around Nashville. Such a great show!
We then headed back into the Family/Green room. In 2010, the floods that hit Nashville did a lot of damage here, when 4 feet of water flooded the Opry. After the repairs were finished, they put up a marker on the wall in the Green room, showing where the water came to, which is the only remaining sign of the damage.
As the tour came to an end, we got to step past the sign that says “Performing Artists & Staff Only” and head out onto the Grand Ole Opry stage! What a beautiful spot. The Opry holds 4, 400 people. Just standing there, where so many of my favourite artists have stood, looking out at the audience in the bright lights was amazing! The big band is set up in the back and at centre stage is the famous microphone, located in the circle of wood that was taken from the Ryman Auditorium, so that even after they moved to the Grand Ole Opry House, all the stars have been able to stand on this same circle to perform.
What an incredible feeling it was to stand in that circle and look out into the lights as they took photos of us like we were stars. Definitely a highlight of this trip. Now, I just need to come back and see a performance here!
Country Music Hall of Fame Photo Gallery
For more info visit http://countrymusichalloffame.org/ Prices vary depending on the tour. For the main, self guided tour it’s $24.95.
Grand Ole Opry Photo Gallery
For more info about visiting the Grand Ole Opry, visit http://www.opry.com/ You can choose from a daytime tour or a post-show tour. Tours range in price from $24-$29 for adults and can be booked online or at the box office.