by Influencer Andi Eaton
photo of Andi by Ben Alleman | dressing room image by Tobias Ferrell
It was a cold evening in a sleepy Tennessee town, November 28, 1925, when across the AM air waves a radio announcer introduced Uncle Jimmy Thompson as the first performer on a new show “The WSM Barn Dance.” Now almost a century later that show that made country music famous, continues to launch guitar players and songwriters and fiddle players too, out into the star stratosphere year after year.
While the country stars of past paved the way for a new generation of musicians, each Grand Ole Opry performance is made up of official Opry members and guest artists too – together they represent performers across a broad spectrum of country music styles. Consider the current list of members for a moment: Clint Black, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, Roy Clark, Charlie Daniels, Joe Diffie, Vince Gill, Trace Adkins and so many more.
As a girl that loves music of all varieties, imagine the thrill that shot through me the day I received an invitation to join a small group of Nashville locals for a cocktail hour in the backstage dressing rooms, a private tour and songwriter’s performance right up on the stage and then free reign of the entire theatre to walk in the footsteps of those country legends. I’d spent a month in Nashville in September and hadn’t yet experienced the Opry so within an hour of receiving that invite I booked a flight and made arrangements to head back up to the home of American music.
The night was absolutely everything I hoped it to be. The small group of us explored the theatre from the rafter seats to each backstage room while songwriters whose credits top every chart serenaded us acoustic style. After the night was over, walking the length of the Opry resort, it finally hit me – I gazed into the mirrors where gals like Dolly Parton and Carrie Underwood get dressed before their shows… I stood in the circle where Johnny Cash once strummed tunes about Folsom Prison. And I thought… take me back anytime Nashville… in the words of Mr. Cash: “I love songs about horses, railroads, land, Judgment Day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love” and you’re certainly full of that.