Taped in Nashville by Gaylord Entertainment. Executive producers, Tom Griscom , Hal Durham; producers, Gary Smith, Fred A. Rappoport; associate producer, Jerry Hammock; director, Walter C. Miller; script, Smith, Rappoport; lighting designer, Bill Klages; editor, Tom Edwards; production designer, Rene Lagler; sound, David Parrish, Marc Repp; music, David Briggs, Bergen White. TX:With: Chet Atkins, Clint Black, Carlene Carter, Roy Clark, Little Jimmy Dickens, Don Gibson, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Jim & Jesse, George Jones, Hal Ketchum, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Patty Loveless, Barbara Mandrell, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Bill Monroe, Lorrie Morgan, Mark O’Connor, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, Jeannie Seely, Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, Mike Snider, Marty Stuart, Pam Tillis, Travis Tritt, the Whites, Hank Williams Jr. Further evidence that country music shows should be left to Nashville producers, “The Grand Ole Opry 70th Anniversary Celebration” presents country music with class, respect and plenty of excitement. Those who do appear on contemporary playlists are well-selected, including Hal Ketchum, Alan Jackson, young bluegrass singer/fiddler Alison Krauss and recent Opry inductee Martina McBride.
To producers’ great credit, there are no TV or movie stars with dubious country music credentials brought in to hype audience appeal: This music should and does represent itself proudly.
Highlights include honky-tonk segment with Roy Clark, Ray Price, and teams of Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart and Pam Tillis and Connie Smith essaying past hits (pioneer Price dragging things down a bit with a crooning version of “Heartaches by the Number”).
Chet Atkins explains how he helped contemporize Don Gibson’s sound by miking the bass drum (a Nashville first, he theorizes) and adding a Bo Diddley guitar; the result was 1958 pop crossover smash “Oh Lonesome Me,” which Atkins and Gibson then duet.
Lengthy bluegrass seg begins with Vince Gill (“One of the reasons I quit playing bluegrass (professionally) was that I wanted to own my own home”) and climaxes with what seems to be 50 fiddle players and guitarists from Mark O’Connor’s annual Fiddle Camp.
While the program includes breathtaking array of performers, some known only to hard-core country fans, some influential and traditional-minded stars — such as Johnny Cash and Dwight Yoakam — are noticeably absent, and members of Riders in the Sky are onscreen only in ensembles (could a seg on Western music have been dumped?).
Rene Lagler’s set is a model of understated elegance, Bill Klages’ lighting and sound by David Parrish and Marc Repp is top-notch, and director Walter C. Miller has pared what must have been a long, complicated shoot down to a snappy two hours.