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Photo of Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff dancing and singing in front of a band
Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, 1987

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Grand Ole Opry
A Local Legacy

Do you know how the Grand Ole Opry got its name?

It began as a live music show at radio station WSM in Nashville, Tennessee. Started by radio announcer George D. Hay in 1925, it was originally called "The WSM Barn Dance," and it featured live local musicians.

In 1927, George Hay's radio program followed a classical music show. He joked that the audience had been listening to grand opera, but from then on the station would be presenting "the grand ole opry." The name stuck and has been used ever since.

At first, some people in Nashville were against the mountain folk music the Opry promoted. Nashville was trying to present a cultured image, and some local leaders believed that the rural music Hay had on his show presented the wrong image. Nevertheless, people began to drop by to watch the musicians performing through the small studio window. Then the radio station decided to let the people in, hoping an audience would liven up the show. After a while, the crowds got so big that they had to move to a larger studio to hold the audience!

Over the years, the show continued to expand. The Grand Ole Opry is the longest-running live radio program in the world. Almost a million people visit the Opry every year to see their favorite stars. Musicians like Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Randy Travis, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks have performed on the stage at the Opry, as have hundreds of others.

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