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Grand Ole Opry on TV in 1955

Grand Ole Opry
Getty Images, photo by Ed Rode

The Grand Ole Opry has a rich history being on radio and T.V. since 1925. It wasn’t on T.V. in 1925, but the anniversary of its television debut happened October 15, 1955. The Grand Ole Opry started as a radio show in 1925 on WSM just five years after commercial radio was born in the United States. The Accident Insurance Company started a radio station with the hopes of using it as a public service to sell and advertise their insurance policies. According to Opry.com, the stations call letters, WSM, stood for their motto:  ‘We Shield Millions’. The show changed its name to the Grand Ole Opry in 1927.

On November 28, 1925, program director George D. Hay, introduced championship fiddle Uncle Jimmy Thompson and kicked off what would become the WSM barn dance. By 1932 most of the United States and parts of Canada could tune into the Opry on Saturday night. The Opry started off with mainly instrumental performances where the band was king but that all changed when Roy Acuff joined the cast in 1938 and changed the Opry forever. The show became so popular it was picked-up by more than 140 NBC radio affiliates and started traveling around the country  playing country music in tents and auditoriums.

Ernest Tubes took a group of Opry stars to Carnegie Hall in 1947 and during the Grand Ole Opry’s 80th anniversary the Opry returned to Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.  The Opry has gone through many changes since it started, but one thing that hasn’t changed, they still play country music.

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