Nashville’s venerable Grand Ole Opry has been broadcasting over WSM radio coming up on 94 years next month, and was a crucial factor in the spread of the early bluegrass music to the rest of the southeastern US from the late 1940s up to the ’60s when Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll music stole the spotlight. In those days radio was king, and WSM brought country and bluegrass music into the homes of rural folks from Texas to Florida, and north into the upper midwest.
When television emerged as a common medium in the 1950s, a couple of attempts were made to put the Opry on TV, but it never caught on with a national audience. The move from The Ryman to the new Opry House in 1974 found the show in a venue equipped for television broadcast, but the weekend Opry shows were rarely shown. In the 1980s The Nashville Network would show bits of the Saturday night program on their channel, and for a time the Opry broadcast them online, a practice since discontinued.
But now the Opry’s parent company, Opry Entertainment Group, has acquired a cable/satellite channel they have named the Circle Network, so titled for the classic circle on the floor of the Ryman stage. Together with partner Gray Television, Inc in Atlanta, they plan to offer “country lifestyle entertainment,” to include original programming based around country artists and their lives, plus movies, documentaries, and other programming directed at a rural, or rural-at-heart audience.
Details are scant at this time, but also announced is a return of the weekly Grand Ole Opry broadcast. It isn’t clear whether the Opry will be shown live, in its entirety, or later as an overview. Requests to the Opry staff were unanswered by the time this was published, but we will update when we get clarification.
Let’s hope that full shows will be televised, as bluegrass acts are regularly featured on the weekend Opry.
Circle Network will begin operating in 2020, launching on all the systems operated by Gray Television, with additional affiliates being added throughout the year.