The Grand Ole Opry, one of Western music’s oldest and most popular showcases, begins broadcasting live from Nashville, Tennessee on November 28, 1925. The showcase was originally called the Barn Dance, based on a Chicago radio show called National Barn Dance that had started airing the year before.
Impressed by the popularity of Chicago-based National Barn Dance, producers at WSM Radio in Nashville decided to create their own version of the show to meet the needs of southern audiences who couldn’t receive Chicago’s signal. The Grand Ole Opry and the National Barn Dance both aired on Saturday nights and featured folk music, violin, and the relatively new genre of country-western music. Both shows created a growing audience for a unique American style of music and paved the way for many of America’s most beloved musicians – vocalist cowboy Gene Autry got his first big break at the National Barn Dance. WSM producers acknowledged that Americans were increasingly nostalgic for the rural past, so all artists in the Grand Ole Opry were required to dress in period costumes and adopt names from the past.
Grand Ole Opry’s four-and-a-half-hour program has become one of the South’s most popular shows and, like its Chicago cousin, has helped make the country-western an enduring part of the popular American musical landscape.