Grand Ole Opry
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. Grand Ole Opry, opening on November 10th at The William F. Laman Public Library, is an exhibition that documents the radio show known as the “home of American music” through the work of commercial photographer Gordon Gillingham during the 1950s.
These photographs catalog the Opry in its prime. The positive postwar 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 Akins, 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. Though a crucial part of the Opry’s historical fabric, many of Gillingham’s remarkable photographs have never been published or reproduced. Grand Ole Opry unveils this view of a vital hallmark of American culture holistically, embedding the photographs in historical context and audio snippets of the radio show itself.
This exhibit will be on display in the exhibit hall at The William F. Laman Public Library until January 7th. The library is open from 9 AM - 9 PM. Monday-Thursday, 9 AM - 5 PM, Friday-Saturday, 1-5 PM Sunday. (Library will be closed on November 27, 28, December 24, 25, and January 1). Admission to the exhibit is free. For more information please call (501) 758-1720 or visit www.lamanlibrary.org
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.