Friday Five: Grand Ole Opry

Juli Thanki | December 10th, 2010

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.

  • Lovin' Country Style5. “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.

  • Infamous Angel4. “Mama’s Opry” – Iris Dement

    How many people have lived this song at one time or another in the past eighty years? Too many to count, probably.

  • Aereo-Plain3. “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.

  • 24 Greatest Hits2. “Milwaukee, Here I Come” – George Jones and Brenda Carter

    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.

  • Good'n Country1. “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.

  1. Paul W Dennis
    December 10, 2010 at 6:28 am

    Jimmy Martin was the real deal and undoubtedly one of the most interesting characters bluegrass ever produced.

    Conway Twitty had a neat song about the Opry in 1978 – “The Grandest Lady of Them All” – but because it specifically mentioned WSM some nearby stations wouldn’t play the song (it reached #16 according to Billboard, the only Decca/MCA single between 1968 and 1972 to not reach the top six. Jack Greene had a neat single titled “Phantom of the Opry”

  2. Paul W Dennis
    December 10, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Troy Seals co-wrote (with Billy Sherrill) a song called “Grand Ole Blues” that he released as a single in 1977. Conway Twitty covered it on his 1979 album CROSSWINDS and as the B side of “I May Never Get To Heaven”. The song didn’t chart for Conway , but it did get some airplayfor Conway

    David Rogers released an album with the title FAREWELL TO THE RYMAN in 1973 about the Opry’s move to Opryland. The title song is one of my favorites

  3. Paul W Dennis
    December 10, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Almost forgot the Wilburn Brothers 1972 single “Opryland”. The song did not chart and was never released on an album. Fortunately, there is a YouTube video available

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIJCf0J4MSY

  4. luckyoldsun
    December 10, 2010 at 7:35 am

    How ’bout John Anderson’s “Hilbilly Hollywood” off of the great “Seminole Wind” album.

  5. badrockandroll
    December 10, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Bobby Bare Jr was born on the stage of the Ryman auditorium, and Roy Acuff cut his umbilical cord with his yo-yo. Well, that’s what he says in his song. Hank lll is no fan of the Opry, which ain’t so grand anymore. But my fave Opry song is by Tom Russell. He laments that Jimmy Martin never got to be an Opry member, something that he always wanted and truly deserved. The song villifies Pete whathisname, the guy who chairs the Opry, and merges him with Jimmy’s dog Pete, the best coon dog in the state of Tennessee – run Pete run – really good song. I know that Rick will be here in a minute blading Russell as a singer and for his politics. But I rather like his voice, love that he loves Ian Tyson, and I believe that he can turn a phrase and create an image as good or better than any songwriter I can think of.

  6. Dave D.
    December 10, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Audrey Auld/Sunny Sweeney’s “Next Big Nothing”. Speaking of Sunny, her version of Mama’s Opry might be in my top 20 favorite songs of all time.

  7. Rick
    December 10, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Hey BadRock&Roll, just because Tom Russell is a dyed in the wool Obamavoter libtard doesn’t mean I don’t like some of his music! I think “Since Sinatra Played Juarez” is a darn near perfect country song! Music doesn’t get much better than that.

    I think the Dierks Bentley’s Opry tribure song “Midnight Radio” on his “Don’t Leave Me In Love” indie debut album deserves a spot on this list! “We’ll be big stars in big cars wearing Nudie suits, singin’ on the Opry in our rhinestone boots…”

    The oft recorded “Hillbilly Heaven” is basically about re-creating the Opry in heaven with deceased former participants, so it qualifies as well.

  8. Cybergrass
    December 10, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Jimmy Martin was a class act and so is the Dirt Band (which is still going!!). Bluegrass has spread the world round and more and more artists are producing what they consider bluegrass music.

    From Dierks Bently to Merle Haggard or Janie Fricke to Lynn Anderson bluegrass is there. Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, Marty Stuart and Dolly Parton all have deep bluegrass roots.

    Jimmy Martin, however is still the king. There won’t be another like him just like there will never be another Lester Flatt or Earl Scruggs or Bill Monroe, the man who started it all.

  9. CountryFan
    December 11, 2010 at 5:47 am

    An interesting tidbit of info — Conway’s “The Grandest Lady of Them All” was written by current Opry member Mel McDaniel.

  10. luckyoldsun
    December 11, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Didn’t he almost kill himself by falling off a stage?

  11. Jon
    December 11, 2010 at 9:27 am

    The ACL video of King Jimmy is fun to watch, but that’s a pretty flabby version of the song. Check out the clip from his original recording here: http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-king-of-bluegrass-audium-r517955 . P.S. The song was written by the great Hylo Brown.

  12. Miss Leslie
    December 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I heart Jimmy Martin.

    @Jon – haven’t heard Hylo’s name in ages. My Dad has a Hylo Brown LP we used to listen to –

    Even though it is a type of traditionalist rebel anthem (yeah chew on that term), I have to say that I’m glad you didn’t include “Murder on Music Row” -

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