This post was written in partnership with the Grand Ole Opry.
Country music wouldn’t be what it is today without the Grand Ole Opry — The longest running music radio program in history is still going strong, with a range of performers that appeals to music lovers of all ages. But while I’ve been to see the Grand Ole Opry several times, I had never gone on the Opry’s backstage tour until a couple of weeks ago. Now that I’ve done it, I can enthusiastically recommend it to round out your Grand Ole Opry experience.Whether or not you’re a diehard country music fan, the story behind the Opry is a fascinating slice of American history — one you’ll learn a lot about while you’re on the tour.
You can choose from three types of backstage tours– a daytime tour, a post-show tour, or a VIP tour, which allows you to go onstage for a few minutes at the start of the show before being escorted to your seats. We opted for the post-show tour, which was extra exciting since several of the performers and musicians were still backstage while the tours were underway.
I brought my 12-year-old daughter and two of her friends — (You can read more about what we thought of the Opry itself here.) While they’re not country music fans, they all thought the tour was interesting and fun. Although quite a few people had bought tickets for the post-show tour on the night we were there, we were all divided up into smaller, more manageable groups, each with its own guide. Our guide was entertaining and knowledgeable; most importantly, he allowed plenty of opportunities for questions. We listened to the history of the Opry and watched a fantastic DVD hosted by Blake Shelton with some of the most memorable Opry moments. When an artist is invited to join the Opry, it’s always a surprise, so it was fun to witness some of those surprise inductions in the video.
What I loved most about the tour, though, was learning lots of ‘fun facts’ about the Opry– interesting tidbits of information that I wouldn’t be able to hear or read anywhere else. Here are a few of my favorites…
During the tour, we got to peek inside the many gorgeous dressing rooms used by the performers. Each room has a different theme, like ‘Women of Country,’ ‘It Takes Two,’ and ‘Welcome to the Family.’ Artists are assigned rooms based on which theme best suits them.
In the room where artists check in when they arrive at the Opry House, you’ll find a wall with the names of every member of the Opry. If you look closely, you’ll notice that some of the newer plaques are a little crooked. That’s because Blake Shelton hammered his own plaque into the wall when he was inducted back in 2010 — Artists have all put their own plaques on the wall ever since, and sometimes they get a little excited.
Another cool feature of the check-in room is the Grand Ole Opry Post Office. Every Opry member has their own mailbox– Fans can send mail to the Grand Ole Opry and the artist will pick it up the next time they perform.
Photos and memorabilia abound backstage — It seems that there’s a story behind just about everything. The iron band on this wall, for example, is the level the water reached here back in 2010, when much of Nashville flooded. Workers toiled around the clock — literally, 24/7– to make repairs on the Opry House and it reopened just six months later.
Evidence of the flood still remains, if you know where to look. This mural, painted by Hee Haw cast member Archie Campbell in 1966, was restored after the flood — but you can still see faint discoloration from the floodwaters on the lower third of the painting.
Of course, the best part of the tour is getting to take a picture on the special ‘unbroken circle’ that was carved out of the Ryman stage when the Grand Ole Opry moved to its own auditorium back in the 1970s. Its meant to symbolize the Opry’s unbroken history. Even as a jaded Nashville native, getting to stand on the Opry stage with my daughter and her friends was a thrill!
A few other fun facts out of the hundreds I learned on this tour–
-The Opry House is the only venue in Nashville that’s designed so that every single seat in the house is a good one. There are literally no seats with an obstructed view in the auditorium.
-You’ll notice a dividing wall on stage during the Opry. Performers standing behind the wall work for the Opry and are available to artists at no cost. Performers in front of the wall are paid by the artist. This helps artists appear on the Opry without having to pay a fortune out of pocket for backup singers and musicians. Artists are only paid about $150 for a show, so they typically take a loss each time they perform on the Opry. Now that’s devotion.
You want to know more, don’t you? Book a tour- It’s easy! Just head over to the Opry website and choose the tour that best suits you and your friends or family members.