In 1925, Nashville heard the start of a one-hour country music radio show. Broadcast on WSM, the Grand Ole Opry’s original purpose was to promote the station’s parent insurance company through the relatable medium of country music. Over time, the program became enormously popular, evolving into a stage show that soared to the national spotlight and attracted the brightest stars of its genre.
These photographs catalog the Opry in its prime. The positive post-war atmosphere of the United States was critical for the success of the radio show and of country music in general. Gillingham captures the spirit, camaraderie, and sheer joy of the era by focusing his lens both on- and off-stage. Photographs of Minnie Pearl, Chet Atkins, and Patsy Cline performing demonstrate the carousing spirit of the performances, while pictures of June Carter, Johnny Cash, and Roy Rogers interacting with their fans offer a backdoor perspective of the Opry.
Photography of the Grand Ole Opry provides insider access to the radio show that forever cemented country music’s role in American culture. The show is still on the air and has become the longest running radio program in the world. The exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. More information is available at www.maaa.org and www.eusa.org. The exhibit is a partnership with Art in the Loop Foundation.