Opry Birthday Cake
Copyright Michelle Durham
In both 1995 and 2000, CBS taped special broadcasts for the Grand Ole Opry's Birthday Celebrations.
In October 2005, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated it's 80th Birthday in appropriate grand style, but as the "Grand Ole Opry" performances happen every week.
Earlier in the day, Bluegrass artists paid tribute to the Father of Bluegrass Music with the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Celebration performing inside the Opry House. The Grascals, Shawn Camp, The Del McCoury Band and more joined together for an hour and a half of the music Monroe created.
Party festivities continued on the "Opry Plaza." [The Plaza is the area right in front of the Grand Ole Opry House] Artists Catherine Britt, Ray Scott, Lane Turner and Little Big Town were scheduled to perform and the Plaza quickly filled as music drifted through the area. Karen Fairchild (Little Big Town) relayed that they had been in the Opry backstage area as Garth Brooks was ushered through. They got a little jealous when their producer got a hug from Garth, but because of the hustle and bustle of the night they didn't get to meet him. Hopefully their luck changed during the latter part of the night when they returned to the Opry House. The performance proved beneficial to the quartet as the week following, they were the top selling CD at the Tower Records in the Opry Mills shopping center.
A ticket to the birthday celebration was definitely the hottest ticket in town in that not a single ticket to either show was available. Audience members were treated to two and half-hours - each show - of both legendary and new talent.
Television audiences were given a backstage pass to see a portion of the festivities from their own living rooms. On television, it should be known that some songs are being performed on stage while backstage footage and interviews are being shown. There are five hours of music performed on the stage on Saturday nights and less than an hour of that music is shown on television each week.
Sometime during the night, a gentleman was overheard referring to Garth's limited time on stage. However, following his performance with Little Jimmy Dickens ("May The Bird of Paradise"), Bill Anderson ("Bright Lights"), and Porter Wagoner ("Green Green Grass Of Home") and the all-sing of "Y'all Come." Brooks took the microphone to do a duet on "Longneck Bottle" with friend Steve Wariner. Television coverage continued with the two performing "Some Fools Never Learn."
For the second show, Brooks' performance with Wariner was limited to "Longneck Bottle" and a moving acoustic rendition of his hit song "The Dance." The feeling in the Opry House during Brooks' performance was indescribable. He was visibly moved at the audience sing-along pausing his own vocals to hear that of the crowd. Note that in 2000, Brooks took the stage with legends Porter Wagoner, Bill Anderson, John Conlee, and Johnny Russell (who also officially inducted Brooks into the Opry and has unfortunately passed away) to perform Brooks' hit "Friends In Low Places" for a CBS special honoring the longest running radio show.
Brooks wasn't the only artist to receive a standing ovation through the night though. Diamond Rio received one for each of their performances of their new single "In God We Still Trust." Also included in the television coverage was superstar Travis Tritt who performed three songs on the radio show.
The most moving moment of the night had to be the unveiling of the newest statue by creator Bill Rains of legendary comedienne Minnie Pearl. The statue was to be unveiled at her professional home for the birthday celebration and will be moved to her hometown for her birthday on October 25th, 2005. The bronze sculpture will remind people for years to come that the city produced a much-admired lady. Rains' also designed the small WSM Microphone statuette presented to each Opry member, which Garth Brooks received during the second show of the night.
While we aren't able to go into every performance during the night, the highlights include performances by Ralph Stanley with long-time band member Jack Cooke providing some vocal work, newcomer Josh Turner, and Opry members Dr. Ralph Stanley, Jack Greene, The Whites, and Jeannie Seely. I have to admit it is still a shock when Jeannie Seely requests a show of hands for first-timers in the audience. And like she says, they've "been doing it for eighty years, where've you been?"
Article Written & Submitted by Michelle Durham