I fell in love with country music my freshman year of high school by accident. I was traveling to a soccer tournament with one of my teammates and her parents, going from Boca Raton to Tampa – a four hour drive. About two minutes into the trip, they turned on a country music station and I instantly wanted to kill myself. I had never listened to country nor did I particularly want to start at that moment. Top 40 radio (which at the time included The Spice Girls, Wyclef Jean, Ma$e and other classic artists), was more my speed. I remember settling into my seat very angrily.
About an hour into the drive, though, a song came on called Jacob’s Ladder. It was about a boy and a girl, and the girl’s father didn’t approve of their relationship. It has something to do with a Bible verse, and a baby, and the father drives the daughter away somehow. Doesn’t matter. The song was really beautiful and it told an entire story. Something about that song made me fall in love with country music. Later on that year, LeAnn Rimes’ first album became my first CD. I also know every single song the Dixie Chicks have ever sang by heart. Just a fun fact about me.
But I digress. When I found myself in Nashville last week, the only thing I wanted to see was the Grand Ole Opry. I didn’t realize when I got there that they actually offer a tour of the new building. So we purchased one for about $17 bucks (per ticket, for an hour) and it did not disappoint! I had an awesome time.
Our tour guide, Linda, was clearly a huge fan of her job, and of music, and so she made a great guide as we wound our way behind the scenes, onto the stage and in some of the other key areas of the site. Here were my highlights:
Just in case you forgot you were in Nashville, a few oversized guitars like this one greet you at the entrance to remind you:
The outside of the Grand Ole Opry, it’s new home after it left the Ryman Auditorium in 1974. I found it funny, however, that when you told folks from Nashville that you had been to the Grand Ole Opry, they all had to ask you if you mean the new or old one.
If you recall, Nashville suffered from a pretty horrific flood in 2010 when the Cumberland River overflowed its banks and damaged a pretty huge part of the city. The Grand Ole Opry received four feet of water, effectively ruining almost the entire building. However, given the history and meaning of the site, the community pulled together to restore it – and you honestly wouldn’t ever guess it had ever been damaged except for the few reminders they’ve kept to show you just how high the water came.
There is also a full sound stage behind the scenes, which is still in use. This was the home of Hee Haw…and also hosts parties. In fact, when Darius Rucker (I still love Hootie! Don’t judge!) was inducted to the Opry earlier this month this is where his party was held. I thought that was pretty exciting, because I am a huge nerd.
The Opry also keeps a full-on Post Office inside where fans can send letters to their favorite musicians. The boxes are in alphabetical order (with one exception for Lil Jimmy Dickens who is too small to reach the D’s.) I went nose to the glass to try and figure out whose was whose, and almost screamed when I saw No. 163 was Dolly Parton’s. As a lady, I am obligated to love Dolly, of course, but also Jolene is one of my favorite songs of all time.
I thought one of the very best parts of the tour was the original stage of the Opry, taken from the old building and put in the new one so that new stars could stand in the exact spot as the original ones. When the building flooded, luckily the stage was able to be saved. Then, they let you stand on it, which of course I wanted to.
Then, of course, I had to stand behind the mic and pretend it was me looking out, like a real singer would. I can’t believe people perform these crowds this big (and bigger.) One time I did stand up in front of like 100 people and almost died from fear.
This is an obligatory shot of my girl’s plaque.
They also let you peek into some of the dressing rooms for the shows. This one is the room that someone performing on stage for the first time gets to use. There are others for when you are getting inducted, and then some people have special ones of their own as well.
Finally, here is a picture of a Blake Shelton family photo, just cause I think he’s pretty great:
If you ever find yourself in Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry is a great tour — even if you don’t like country! You may not know all the stars, but the guides give you plenty of background and it’s just neat to be a in a place with so much historic significance.