The Grand Ole Opry is different today

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Grand Ole Opry today is nothing like it was in the 1940s and the 1950s. Today’s music, style of dress and culture has no relevance to those early days.

Many of us living in this older generation find it difficult to identify with the Opry stars of today. But that was not the case way back then.

In those long ago days, Saturday nights would not be complete without our turning our radio dials to WSM, Nashville’s high powered clear channel radio station. Musical performers and vocalists would fill the air with entertainment from 6 p.m. until midnight.

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Stars like Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow and Bill Monroe were household names that we all identified with. Other star performers included Eddie Arnold, Lula Belle and Scotty, Cowboy Copas, The Willis Brothers, Robert Lon and George Morgan.

The Opry also featured several comedians. Minnie Pearl and Rod Braswell were two of the more popular ones. Whitey Ford, a story telling comedian from Kentucky, was another favorite. Jam Up and Honey were the favorites of many others. Dave “Stringbean,” a lean, tall storyteller and singer was liked by all.

The Opry was sustained with a devoted core of advertisers. Some of those sponsors were Martha White Flour, Prince Albert smoking tobacco and GOO GOO candy bars (Standard Candy Co.)

Many of the performers traveled to small towns throughout the south and performed in tent shows.

I remember in the late 1940s watching Wally Fowler perform in a tent show in Perdido. The “Duke of Paducah” was with him that night. A big sign with the emblem “Martha White Flour” was attached to the front on the tent.

I can remember some of the songs these performers made popular. Roy Acuff sang “The Great Speckled Bird,” Eddie Arnold had “The Cattle Call,” Ernest Tubb sang “Walking The Floor Over You,” Cowboy Copas rendered “My Filipino Baby,” Hank Snow warbled “I’m Moving On,” Billy Walker sang “Cross the Brazos at Waco” and George Morgan rendered “Candy Kisses.” Walker came to the Opry later than others mentioned.

Through the years tragedy befell some of these performers. Patsy Cline was killed in a 1963 plane crash in Western Tennessee. Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins also died in that crash. Dottie West was killed in a tragic automobile wreck in 1971. The lives of Billy Walker, his wife and two of his band members were snuffed out in a 2006 automobile crash. That wreck happened only 65 miles from here near Ft Deposit. Stringbean was gunned down following an Opr performance in 1973. Several other Opry performers passed away from natural causes including Ernie Ashworth, Marty Robbins and Porter Wagner.

Yes, today’s Opry is like daylight and dark difference from the 1940s and 1950s. I simply cannot identify with these contemporary performers. But that’s what happens in generation turnovers. And probably many of the younger readers cannot identify with those performers of yesterday.

In some other news from 1952, Atmore Mayor H.H. Dees was reelected without opposition and other city council members who were elected that year were Randolph Maxwell and Grady Rhodes.

In the mid 1960s, Postmaster C. Williams won a highly advertised gold tournament here. Well-known golfers from throughout the area participated in that tournament. The amazing thing about that tournament was the fact he took the play into sudden death and winning by hitting the golf ball with a left-handed swing.

In the 1950s, three barbers devoted their part time hours to serving in the pulpit at area churches. Pastors White, Taylor and Lewis were always in demand for their services.

In the early 1960s, Ed Mason, Cary Powell and their wife’s found pleasure in fishing outings on the St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Fla. They always brought home nice catches affording friends and relatives nice “messes” of succulent seafood.

I was watching a TV quiz show recently and the contestant told the emcee she had visited all the states in the Union. She related the last state she visited was Florida. She further stated she and her family were traveling through Alabama on Interstate 65 and “we darted off that Interstate for about 5-6 miles through a nice little town called Atmore which was situated partly in Florida and we took pictures of the Florida sign at the state lines.” She said the Florida visit completed her list of “all states visited.” I thought that was very interesting seeing my hometown mentioned in a national quiz show.

And, finally, do not take your cell phone or iPads into the bathtub with you when you bathe. Just last week, a young lady dropped her phone into the bathwater and was electrocuted. Always be safe.

More next week.