During the CMA Music Festival, the Grand Ole Opry has a special matinee performance on Saturday afteroon. This year’s performance on June 9 featured current stars such as Kellie Pickler and Mark Wills, as well as past country stars such as Little Jimmy Dickens, Jim Ed Brown and Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.
The Saturday matinee gives festival-goers a break from the typical festival activities. Many of the people there indicated it was their first Opry performance. Though the crowd seem to prefer the younger stars, the crowd to enjoy Little Jimmy Dickens performance and particularly the amazing performance of “All The Gold In California” by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. The show is a great way to bridge generations of country music, celebrating today’s stars while bringing country classics to a new fans.
Despite the many stars that stood on the Ryman stage during the performance, it was the stage itself that was the biggest star of the day. While not every person in the audience may not have know the history of the Ryman, or how special it is to country music in general, it became very evident when the stars took the stage and spoke of their reverence for the Ryman.
Wade Bowen may not have achieved national fame and mainstream radio airplay yet, but the Texas star was quick to let people know how much it meant to him to be able to play on the stage of the Ryman. “It might be the understatement of the day, but it’s a pleasure to be here,” Bowen said, as he told the crowd that he had dreamed of playing there.
Mark Wills played “Looking For America,” “Don’t Laugh At Me,” and “19 Somethin’.” He told the crowd that the Ryman was one of his favorite places to play. Kellie Pickler told the audience that it was an honor to sing on the American Idol stage, but she had dreamed of singing at the Ryman.
Why is the Ryman so important to artists? It was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974 and it is known as the most famous home of the Opry. In the years that the Ryman was the Grand Ole Opry House, many legends stood on that stage including Hank Williams, Sr., Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and others.
The “circle” from the Ryman stage was removed and the circle was added to the stage at the new Grand Ole Opry house. The stage was under four feet of water when Nashville flooded in May of 2010, but the circle was restored. Despite the flood, the Opry never missed a performance. Performances were moved to the War Memorial Auditorium and Ryman Auditorium while damage to the Grand Ole Opry House was being repaired.