There’s no kidding around about the “ole” in Grand Ole Opry: The most venerable of all American broadcast institutions, now 94 years old, will celebrate its 5,000th Saturday night show in October, to be preceded by a month-long countdown to the historic milestone.
Plans for the commemorative events were discussed at a press conference at Nashville’s Opry House Tuesday featuring WSM and “Opry” host Bill Cody talking with Carly Pearce, the newest member of the Opry, and musician and historian Marty Stuart (pictured above).
Although it’s a landmark occasion, the lineup for the Oct. 30 show looks a lot like it might on any other Saturday night, as far as its intergenerational lineup goes. It includes one performer whose recording career goes back to the late ’50s, Bill Anderson; two more who’ve been having hits since the 1960s, Jeannie Seeley and Connie Smith; the Gatlin Brothers, who came on the scene in the ’70s; Vince Gill, whose rise to fame began in the 1980s; Terri Clark, who started out in the ’90s; Chris Young, whose debut was in the 2000s; and bringing up the young end, Chris Janson, a child (professionally speaking) of the 2010s.
Tuesday also marked the opening of an exhibit, “Opry Memories: Celebrating 5,000 Saturday Night Broadcasts,” which includes artifacts and photos from early regulars on the show like Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff as well as current members from Dolly Parton to Luke Combs, as well as a history of the Opry’s broadcast home of all these years, WSM-AM.
“For 5,000 Saturday nights, the Opry has stood as a beacon not just for generations of listeners seeking top-notch entertainment, but for artists with big dreams and even bigger talent,” Scott Bailey, president of Opry Entertainment Group, said in a statement. “This stage has witnessed some of the most iconic moments in country music – debuts, duets, and everything in between – and it deserves celebrating. We’re excited for country music fans around the world to be able to join us for this historic occasion.”
More stars are said to be announced for the Oct. 30 broadcast, some in person and some remotely. Tickets to attend the live broadcast are on sale here.
The Saturday shows — which began in the pre-TV era as weekly radio broadcasts in 1925 — have had the Circle Network as their television home in the U.S. in recent years. with Ryman Hospitality Partners saying the show now has over 55 million weekly viewers in more than 100 countries.
“In a world of constant change,” Stuart said at the press conference, “we all long for something that we can hang onto that gives us a source of comfort, a source of steadiness, something we can count on.”
Since 1925, the show has only missed two Saturday nights, once following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and once after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. It continued during the pandemic in 2020, initially with no audience and 1-3 performers on stools, distanced from one another or a skeleton crew of stagehands.