Cowboy boots, shiny shirts and women with really big hair; that’s what the Grand Ole Opry is all about, right? Guitar strumming, a fiddle and the faint recollection of something akin to a yodel, but with that distinct southern drawl? Yup, this was what country music was to me. You were not going to convince me otherwise.
I could not have been more wrong.
You Don’t Know Country Music
The Grand Ole Opry is an institution in the country music scene. That is a fact that can’t be denied. What the genre of country music actually encompasses is so much more than the stereotypical tunes you think about being on the radio. It’s not all Garth Brooks and old-school Billy Ray Cyrus (you know, Hannah Montana’s daddy).
Country music has its roots in folk music and the blues. Bluegrass is considered by many, including the Grand Ole Opry, to be country music. Who knew!
My Musical Background
As a kid, my dad took it upon himself to expose us to as much music as possible. My sister and I grew up on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Poco, Simon & Garfunkel, Jimmy Buffet, and BB King, as well as great female artists like Carole King, Emmylou Harris, Aretha Franklin, Peggy Lee, Alison Krauss and Mahalia Jackson.
As we got older, my sister and I would share the bands we were listening to with our dad, like Rusted Root, A Tribe Called Quest, Sarah McLaughlin, Taylor Swift, Amos Lee, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Opeth and I The Mighty. Needless to say, our family’s musical tastes run deep.
Grand Ole Opry Family
When I was invited to the Grand Ole Opry, I was nervous. I didn’t know many current country musicians. It’s not a genre I had kept up with.
Oh sure, I listened to the Dixie Chicks while pregnant with my oldest. It was an odd craving that went along with Paul Simon tunes, Muse and mint chocolate chip ice cream.
I knew Carrie Underwood, who happened to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. I didn’t think I knew anyone else.
During a VIP Tour backstage of the Grand Ole Opry, I found out a few old friends were members of the Grand Ole Opry though. Some of my favorite women, including Alison Krause and Emmie Lou Harris, are members.
Get introduced to the Young and Old of Country Music
Now, there is no real reason why I don’t listen to current country musicians. It’s just not something I gravitate towards. The men in my house lean in the rock n’ roll direction. I go rock, pop and hip hop most days. I still sing along to Carrie, Taylor and a few of my other favorite ladies who know how to belt it out about heart ache and men doing them wrong.
When I saw the lineup for my show, I started looking up all of the artists. I instantly feel in love with Carly Pearce. Where was her song “Every Little Thing” when I was dating idiots in college? I could have balled my eyes out right along with her. Her more upbeat number, “Hide the Wine,” many of us could relate to on a personal level as well as back in our twenties.
Rascal Flatts was headlining. Naturally, they had to sing their big hit, “Life is a Highway.” Thanks to my boys and their love of the Cars movie, I know this song by heart.
Now I had two artists I could sing along with during the show.
Finding a New Country Music Scene
The Grand Ole Opry does a marvelous job of mixing the old school country singers with the new generation coming up. The show kicked off with Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers. That twang and good ole boy sound came out loud and clear, but was still entertaining to behold in person.
The newer sounds of Brett Young was a refreshing surprise. Not only could he sing, but ladies, he was super cute as well. He has more of a rock country sound. I might even be able to sneak his music into my house, instead of just the car.
You know how many people sing in the shower? Well, I sing all of my secret music obsessions in the car where my family can’t hear.
What to expect at a Grand Ole Opry Show
It should come as no surprise at this point that the Grand Ole Opry wasn’t what I expected. Admittedly, I didn’t really research it at all.
I figured I was going to a show to hear a few bands play. What I didn’t realize is that the Grand Ole Opry still records like a radio show. And before you ask, yes, it is still broadcast over the radio on 650 AM/WSM and online.
Every artist plays three songs. The headlining act, in our case Rascal Flatts, gets to play about four songs. An announcer introduces each artist. Oh, and silliness ensues throughout the performance.
Larry Gatlin likes to pull ladies out of the audience to dance. Artists chat with the audience. Rascal Flatts stopped the entire show to find a pen that worked so they could sign a poster for a little boy who ran up to the front.
It’s that kind of show. Even more important, it’s that kind of family.
The Grand Ole Opry Family
The Grand Ole Opry is first and foremost a family. Members are close. Like brother, sister, aunts and uncles close. If you are invited into this exclusive club, it’s a really big deal. When you are invited to play on the stage, it’s a big deal.
Artists keep track of how many times they have played (Carly Pearce had played at least 43 times when I saw her). This is where a musician can have fun, be with their friends and do what they love.
Want in on a little secret? When musicians arrive, they go through the artist’s entrance, but there is no valet parking. Many of them live in Nashville, so they just drive over in their trucks, SUVs and sedans like the rest of us, park and walk in.
Oh, and they have to go through security too. While there are 18 dressing rooms, only two have bathrooms. No pre-Madonnas here. Famous people have to share bathrooms too!
Converted Country Music Fan
As I went to bed after my first show at the Grand Ole Opry, I found myself humming a little tune. One of the last songs of the evening was a big group sing-a-long with most of the artists who had performed that night.
I may not have switched all of my musical tastes over to country, but the Opry certainly has a new fan. I’ve already downloaded music from three artists I heard that night.
My kids have heard a few Carly Pearce and Brett Young songs in the car on the way to the dentist. They haven’t started screaming yet, which I would call a win. Now I just need to get them to the Grand Ole Opry to get them onboard with mom’s new music scene.
Speaking of which…
Kids at the Grand Ole Opry
Should you bring kids to the Grand Ole Opry
Absolutely! A Grand Ole Opry show is the best way to introduce kids to the country music scene, and concerts in general. The shows start early enough that you don’t have to push bedtime.
The crowds aren’t crazy. In fact, they tend to skew a bit older. People stay seated for most of the show.
During the last song, Rascal Flatts invited the audience to stand up. People swayed and clapped. There isn’t much room to dance.
It’s a tame set up, so little ones really can come and enjoy the show without fear of getting trampled.
Alcohol at the Grand Ole Opry
Alcohol is available at the concessions, but I saw no crazy drunken behavior.
Backstage, the green room is dry. No alcohol is offered. Again, it’s that family atmosphere with the musicians. They are here to play music and entertain their fans, and hopefully gain a few new fans, not have a rowdy, drunken time.
Where to eat in Nashville before the Grand Ole Opry
If you are looking for a nice meal before you head to the Grand Ole Opry, don’t miss these great Nashville restaurants. You could bring the kids, but we prefer to hang with our girlfriends or significant other at these trendy spots that make killer cocktails and fresh food.
- Geist, 311 Jefferson St, Nashville, TN 37208. Order the key lime for dessert. Don’t even ask what it is. Just order it and be amazed. Also, if the pork tagliatelle is on the menu, get that too. You can thank me later.
- Butcher and Bee, 902 Main St, Nashville, TN 37206. Perfectly portioned small and medium plates to share, plus great cocktails. Butcher and Bee is in East Nashville on your way to the Grand Ole Opry too.
This post is part of a paid partnership with the Grand Ole Opry. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know.