Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Night At The Opry

As in any town with a tourist attraction, you can often live there a long time without a visit to what other people travel across the world to see. So it is with the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Every Friday and Saturday night you can drop in to see Country Music veterans, rising stars and newcomers perform live at the Opry House located in the Gaylord Hotel complex.

Originally held at the War Memorial auditorium, eventually moving to the legendary Ryman Auditorium, the Opry is the longest running radio show in history, broadcast on WSM AM 650, and now online as well. There is a televised portion that is carried by GAC.

Our good friends Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll were on the 8:30 slot last night, so we accepted thier kind offer of backstage passes to watch the proceedings. In a storage locker just off the stage are some old framed photographs of the Opry and it's stars in the Golden years of the '50's and '60's.

The Louvin Brothers, Chet Atkins and Grandpa Jones

The large room is a meeting place for the friends and families of the performers and for the musicians to hang out and catch up on the latest news and gossip.

Donna and Tim

We met Australian singer Melinda Schneider and her family there. Donna sang on a track of Melinda's new record, which was co-written by Melinda and Elizabeth. Melinda and Elizabeth were posing for pictures, so I snapped the shot below.

Melinda and Elizabeth

A good steel guitar player can always draw a crowd. One of the old photos I saw had what might be the Cherokee Cowboys (Ray Price's backing band) checking out a pedal steel. The non-pedal in the foreground was soon to be overshadowed by the pedal version.

Backstage Back in the Day

The stage is large and open. You can sit onstage, behind the band and watch the show. Stagehands and crew routinely walk across the stage during performances in keeping with the radio show tradition. The Whites opened the show.

The Whites Onstage

You can't see an Opry show without cloggers. These youngsters were due to hit the stage early on during the first set.

Junior Cloggers

Clogging is Hillbilly Aerobics...lots of movement and flash and lots of athletic ability to do it well.


The house band gets a copy of the song chart and an mp3 of the actual track to listen to before going on. Elizabeth did two songs "He Got No Heart", an up-tempo Rockabilly tune, and "Before I Go That Far" a pretty ballad. Songs and parts are worked out in the rehearsal cage, right offstage.

The Rehearsal Cage

Elizabeth has a new record coming out soon, and Tim is in the middle of getting his new release distributed. They are great friends and extremely talented people.

Elizabeth and Tim

The ballad had a signature piano lick, and it was quickly learned by the house piano player.

Running Over The Piano Intro

Long-time Opry band member and session legend Jimmy Capps has probably played more songs on guitar than anyone else in Nashville. He is a master of acoustic rhythm guitar, which is something of a lost art in modern Nashville.

Jimmy Capps and Elizabeth Cook

"He Got No Heart" is a brisk two-beat Honky Tonk tune. The band read down the chart in a few minutes and EC was ready to go on.

"He Got No Heart" Chart Run Through

In the wings, you can see musicians and emcees hobknobbing. From left to right is Jimmy C. Newman talking to General Manager Pete Fisher, Jonathon McEuen tuning his Taylor 12-string, and Eddie Stubbs talking to John McEuen right before the father and son McEuens did Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" for Father's Day, and then a rousing guitar and banjo workout of Prince's "Kiss".

In The Wings

All of the seats in the Opry House are good, but a big video screen makes it hard to miss anything.

On The Big Screen

It's common to see old friends backstage. I ran into Mike McAdam, who was playing with Pinmonkey later that night. Pinmonkey drummer Mike Crouch was the sound engineer when I was Lee Roy Parnell's guitar tech. Mike McAdam played guitar in Lee Roy's band at the time. Small world.

Mike McAdam and Me


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