Few Nashville institutions are as revered — and reliable — as the weekly Grand Ole Opry shows, which have for nearly 100 years taken place to packed auditoriums from East Nashville’s Dixie Tabernacle to the Ryman Auditorium to its current location, the Grand Ole Opry House. But with the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the world’s longest-running live radio show will go without a live audience for its centerpiece Saturday night broadcasts.
Beginning today, the Opry will be presented only on Saturday nights through April 4th. The Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday performances have been canceled, beginning with tonight’s show. In addition, the Thursday night Opry Country Classics series, staged regularly at the Ryman Auditorium, will not take place, and all backstage tours are being discontinued during this time.
The Grand Ole Opry’s revised format for Saturday nights returns the Opry to the earliest days of the landmark radio show’s 94-year history, when it emanated from the WSM studios in downtown Nashville, at first without a significant audience in attendance before its growth necessitated the move to larger venues.
The last — and only — time in the history of the Opry that a show was believed to have been canceled was on April 6th, 1968, when a citywide curfew was imposed in Nashville following the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis two days earlier. That night’s Opry broadcast consisted of a previously taped performance. Instead of the live show, Opry member Roy Acuff and other performers gathered that afternoon to stage a makeshift performance at a nearby square-dance hall.
The Saturday night Opry broadcasts can be heard via opry.com and wsmonline.com, as well as on Sirius XM satellite radio. They will also be accessible on the Grand Ole Opry and WSM Radio mobile apps, and on the Opry’s flagship station, 650 AM-WSM, which first aired the now-legendary program on November 28th, 1925.