When Nashville was flooded in May, the tragedy was best symbolized for the world by the Grand Ole Opry House. Muddy water from the Cumberland River stood nearly four feet over the Opry stage, and the manager of the Opry literally surveyed the damage by kayaking through the venue.
The Opry House reopens Tuesday, September 28 with an all-star Opry edition that airs on GAC at 9/8c as Country Comes Home: An Opry Live Celebration. The lineup features a ton of artists, including Trace Adkins, Keith Urban, Josh Turner and the two men who helped put a famous wooden circle back in the restored Opry stage: Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens.
The wood is a six-foot section of oak taken from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, the previous home of the Opry, when the Opry House originally opened in 1974. At the Ryman, that wood supported the likes of Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. But the Opry has now been at the Opry House for 36 years — longer than any home it’s previously occupied.
The Opry House is certainly the place Brad associates with the radio show, which celebrates 85 years on WSM Radio this fall. And the reopening has a lot of sentimental meaning for him.
“I was born in the ‘70s,” Brad says, “and I don’t remember the Opry at the Ryman, other than I’ve seen it obviously when I played it when we go back there. I didn’t get to be a part of the generations that Jimmy has, so [I grew] up watchin’ Bill Anderson host the ‘Opry Backstage’ or Porter Wagoner and seein’ a guy like Jimmy Dickens bring on the show when it was on The Nashville Network back then. And it’s always been the [The Opry House].”
Brad watched the Opry on television with his grandfather, and of course, the stage was the site for numerous TV specials over the years, including the Country Music Association awards. Reba McEntire, Randy Travis, Vince Gill, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson all had big nights on that stage, so the Opry House helped form Brad’s understanding of country.
“So much has happened in this building,” Brad says. “My moments and my milestones happened here. And so when [the Opry House] was destroyed, of all places for me, that was the most heartbreaking thing about the flood. No personal loss of property to me came anywhere near.”
Expect a lot of smiles — and maybe a few tears — when the Opry House reopens next week. Among Brad’s fellow performers that night will be Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley, the Charlie Daniels Band, Blake Shelton, Del McCoury, Lorrie Morgan, Marty Stuart, Connie Smith, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs and Montgomery Gentry.