There have been more than a few songs penned about the Grand Ole Opry in the past eight decades. Narrowing down that list to just five songs wasn’t an easy task, but here are my five favorites.
5. “Tears at the Grand Ole Opry” – Wanda Jackson
Country music works wonders on the heartbroken, but maybe not so much for this lonesome gal, who’s surrounded by a bunch of happy Opry-goers. Robbie Fulks delivered a nice cover on Jackson tribute album Hard Headed Woman.
How many people have lived this song at one time or another in the past eighty years? Too many to count, probably.
3. “Tear Down the Grand Ole Opry” – John Hartford
This song can be found on 1971’s Aereo-Plain, just a few short years before the Opry would leave the Ryman. Backed by a group that includes Vassar Clements and Norman Blake, Hartford imagines the worst: the Ryman gets demolished, and “the sound that goes around our song” gets destroyed with it.
This Jones and Carter duet hit #12 in 1968, and it’s been covered by folks like John Prine, Dolly and Porter, and Milwaukee’s own .357 String Band since. The back-and-forth lyrics have Carter proclaiming her love for Opry star Ernest Tubb (though she’d gladly settle for “that bluegrass Lester Flatt”), while her fella threatens to hit the road until she figures out just what she wants. Hey, significant others come and go, but a country song will never let you down. A country singer? That might be another story.
1. “Grand Ole Opry Song” – Jimmy Martin
Martin was never an Opry member, but he sure namedrops a lot of ‘em on this excellent bluegrass song. Listen to the song if you haven’t, then go do some reading up on Martin’s Opry history.
Juli Thanki is the editor of Engine 145 and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bluegrass Unlimited, and M Music & Musicians Magazine. In 2011 she received the International Bluegrass Music Association Print Media Person of the Year award.