1944-1974

1944
May 02

Ice Skating at Ryman

Sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol, Ray Schulte’s Hollywood Ice Revels appeared at the Ryman for a four day run on May 2-5, 1944.  The show boasted 72 performers skating on a real rink of ice on the building’s stage.  Sadly, the Hollywood Ice Revels’ 16 week tour ended poorly at Cincinnati, Ohio’s Music Hall. The show operator had three lawsuits brought against him over the cost of show expenses, rental of rink/machinery and costumes, which ultimately caused the production to fold 19 days after their appearance at the Ryman.

1945
Dec 08

The birth of bluegrass

December 8, 1945 — Earl Scruggs makes his debut with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, completing the historic line-up that would serve as the prototype for the bluegrass sound-Monroe on mandolin, Scruggs on banjo, Lester Flatt on guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle, and Howard Watts on bass.

1948
Aug 01

Little Jimmy Dickens

August 1, 1948 — Little Jimmy Dickens joins the Grand Ole Opry. Roy Acuff first brought Litlle Jimmy to the Grand Ole Opry in 1948. He’s known as “the littlest but the biggest star on the Opry.”

1949
Jan 16

Bob Hope

January 16, 1949 — Bob Hope brought Doris Day and the Les Brown Band and broke all records for attendance and receipts at the Ryman. In fact, Lula Naff, the one who officiated the box office from 1904-1955 and became manager of the Ryman in 1914, tore strips of brown wrapping paper and stamped Ryman Auditorium on them to substitute for tickets. Holders paid top price for these tickets and sat wherever they could, many sitting on the stage.

Nov 13

November 13, 1949

The Opry partners with the USO to send Opry stars Roy Acuff, Rod Brasfield, Jimmy Dickens, Red Foley, Minnie Pearl, and Hank Williams on a tour of U.S Air Force bases in England, Germany and the Azores. It’s the first overseas trip for the Opry.

1950
May 29

Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters join the Grand Ole Opry

May 29, 1950 — Mother Maybelle & the Carter Sisters with her three daughters June, Helen, and Anita in 1943 after the original Carter Family trio stopped recording together. The group continued to perform together in various family forms for the next five decades. June Carter would meet her future husband, Johnny Cash, at the Ryman. They married in 1968.

1951
Feb 01

Mae West

February 1, 1951 — Diamond Lil with Mae West and Rusty Fields–Website: Mae West Performs. Those who paid $3.60 for main floor seats were “(certain) to get their eyes and ear full,” remarked manager Lula Naff of Miss West.

Mar 14

March 14, 1951

Spike Jones and his City Slickers liven up the Ryman stage. Jones and his City Slickers charmed audiences with their musical comedy variety show. They performed such tunes as “Clink! Clink! Another Drink” and “Pass the Biscuits, Mirandy.”

1952
Oct 13

October 13, 1952

The Ryman undergoes renovations. Improvements included new men’s restrooms ($7750) and the purchase of new stage curtain ($4000).

1954
Oct 02

October 2nd, 1954

Elvis Presley makes his first and only appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and sings two songs including “Blue Moon Over Kentucky.” Elvis receives tepid applause during this song.

Nov 29

November 29th, 1954

American Ballet Theater with Igor Youskevitch, Nora Kaye and John Kriza in Swan Lake, A Streetcar Named Desire and Helen of Troy.

1955
Jan 23

Jim Reeves joins the Opry

Jim Reeves joins the Opry cast. Among the internationally popular member’s biggest hits is “He’ll Have to Go.”

Nov 01

November 1st, 1955

Lula Naff retires as general manager of the Ryman. Naff was replaced by her assistant Henry Draper.

1956
Jul 07

July 7th, 1956

Johnny Cash joins the Grand Ole Opry. Cash would meet his furture wife, June Carter, backstage at the Ryman that same year. Upon their meeting Cash said to Carter: “I’m going to marry you someday.” They were married twelve years later and had one son, John Carter Cash.

1957
Mar 04

March 4th, 1957

Louis Armstrong and His All Stars with Velma Middleton.

May 11

May 11th, 1957

The Everly Brothers make their Opry debut the same week their first single, Bye Bye Love,” enters the country chart.

1960
Jan 23

Patsy Cline joins the Grand Ole Opry

Patsy Cline joins the Grand Ole Opry. Cline (birth name Virginia Paterson Hensley) received three encores after performing “Crazy,” which was written by a young songwriter named Willie Nelson.

1961
Nov 29

November 29th, 1961

American Ballet Theater performs for 70th birthday celebration. The Opry was at Carnegie Hall this night.

1962
Apr 15

April 15th, 1962

Jackie Robinson who in January was inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame joins African American Nashville Civil Right Leaders and speaks on Ryman Stage.

1963
Mar 05

March 5th, 1963

Tribute during Opry for Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, Randy Hughes and Jack Anglin//Book: A silent prayer is held during the Opry in tribute to members Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, and Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died March 5 in a plane crash near Camden, TN. Also remembered is Jack Anglin of the duo Johnnie and Jack, killen en route to a prayer service for Cline. Opry manager Ott Devine encourages the audience “to keep smiling, and to recall the happier occasions. I feel I can speak for all of them when I say…lets continue in the tradition to the Grand Ole Opry.”

Sep 27

September 27th, 1963

National Life Insurance Company purchases Ryman Auditoriums for $207,500. Official name of the building changed to “Grand Ole Opry House.”

1965
Jan 23

Johnny Cash Banned

Johnny Cash drags his microphone stand across the front of the Ryman Auditorium stage, breaking all the footlights. He is banished from the Opry but, four years later, returns to the Ryman stage as host of his own ABC television series.

1967
Jan 07

January 7th, 1967

Charley Pride becomes the first black solo singer to perform on the Opry. Following Ernest Tubb’s introduction, Pride sings “The Snakes Crawl At Night” and “I can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You).” Pride soon receives a standing offer to join the Opry cast but does not accept until 1993.

May 13

May 13th, 1967

Merle Haggard debuts at the Opry.

1968
Mar 15

March 15th, 1968

Rock group The Byrds, deatureing Gram Parsons and future Desert Rose Band member Chris Hillman, perform on the Opry. The group sings Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” then substitues their own “Hickory Wind” for a previously announced cover of Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home.”

May 11

May 11th, 1968

The Opry pays tribute to founder George D. Hay, who died in Virginia on May 8th. Opry announcer and Hay protégé Grant Turner says: “He called himself The Solemn Old Judge. Is he was solemn, it was only in the face of those who sought to change or corrupt the purity of the barn-dance ballads he sought to preserve. We, the performers and friends of the Grand Ole Opry, salute the memory of one whose influence is felt on the stage of the Opry tonight- The Solemn Old Judge, George Hay.”

1969
Jun 07

June 7th, 1969

The Johnny Cash Show, filmed at the Ryman, debuts on national television. Cash insisted the show by filmed in Nashville and that, “The Ryman was the place, the true home of country music, slap bang in the middle of all the authentic stuff and real country people, both musicians and fans.” Artists such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, the Who, Eric Clapton’s Derek & the Dominos, Louis Armstrong, and Stevie Wonder performed on the groundbreaking show.

Oct 13

October 13th, 1969

National Life Insurance announces plans to build a brand new theatre spcifically for the Grand Ole Opry. Despite the fact that the company had invested money to upgrade the Ryman Auditorium in 1966, National Life announced that the Opry would be leading the Ryman for a new theatre at the Opryland USA. Shortly after the announcement a multi-year battle began over the fate of the Ryman. Once concepts was to demolish the building and use the bricks to build the “Litlle Church of Opryland.”

1972
Jan 23

Loretta Lynn Wins Entertainer of the Year

Sixth Annual CMA Awards. Loretta Lynn Entertainer of the Year. First woman to win this honor.

Sep 27

September 27th, 1972

In preparation for his New York City one-man show, Neil Diamond appeared at the Ryman on September 27 & 28, 1972.  According to an August edition of Billboard Magazine “Diamond said he had played virtually every major concert stage in the world he had ever wanted to play, except the Grand Ole Opry House”.   Despite it not being announced to the public, Diamond appearing as a guest on the Johnny Cash Show in 1970 leaked-out and crowds had to be turned away.  Upon Opry manager Bud Wendell hearing about Diamond’s interest in performing in the building, he said: “Neil Diamond most certainly can have his wish of doing a concert at the Grand Ole Opry House”.

1973
Nov 10

November 10th, 1973

Popular Opry member Davod “Stringbean” Akeman appears on the Opry for the final time. When Stringbean returns home from the Opry that night, he and his wife are ambused and murdered by two men who plan to rob the couple of money Stringbean reputedly had hidden in his home. Twenty-three years later, some $20,000 will be found, rotted and worthless, in the chmney of the house.

1974
Jan 23

Save the Ryman

Local and national proponenets of preserving the Ryman make their voices heard. As the final days of the Opry at the Ryman drew near, please to save the Ryman from demolition travelled from Nashville all the way to Washington. Tennessee Senators Howard Baker and Nill Brock pulled in the White House to support saving the structure and began conversations about designating the Ryman, a National Historic Landmark. Locally, Historic Nashville, Inc., a non-profit preservation base for the city. National Life Insurance soft-peddled the imminent demolition. Chairman of the Board William C. Weaver, Jr. said “We have received many suggestions for its use, and as I have said before, we plan to consider them all carefully before making any final decisions.”

Mar 15

March 15th, 1974

Grand Ole Opry Final Show at Ryman before move to brand new Grand Ole Opry House. The entire cast joins Johnny Cash on stage as he leads the singing of “May The Circle Be Unbroken” as the last song. //Website: George Morgan clised the show with “Candy Kisses.” After the Opry, Johnny and June Carter Cash sang “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” on Grand Ole Gospel Time to end the final broadcast from the Ryman. A young writer named Garrison Keillor covered the Opry’s final Ryman performance and was inspired to create his own unique radio show, A Prairie Home Companion

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