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The word opry is a diminutive form of the word opera, coined by broadcaster George D. Hay in 1927 as the new name of his program, the WSM Barn Dance, to demonstrate the realism of folk and country music compared to the theatrics of grand opera. At that time Hay's show followed a program of operatic music. One night Hay began the Barn Dance by stating, "You have just heard opera. Now you are going to hear the Grand Ole Opry".
The first reference in print to the WSM Barn Dance as the Grand Ole Opry occurred on December 11, 1927, in The Nashville Tennessean. Within six months of Hay's renaming of the program, the title Grand Ole Opry supplanted the generic Barn Dance and became used exclusively as the name of the show. “Opry” is a shortened form of "Grand Ole Opry" and is used by the brand owner and the public to refer to the Grand Ole Opry.
Dedicated to honoring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of legends and contemporary chart-toppers performing country, bluegrass, folk, gospel, and comedic performances and skits. Considered an American icon, it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and Internet listeners. The Opry is the "show that made country music famous" and has been called the "home of American music" and "country’s most famous stage". The Grand Ole Opry is owned and operated by Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc.
Many early Opry performers, such as Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Monroe, became musical foundations for the Opry during its years in residence at the historic Ryman Auditorium, later welcoming to the stage artists who became entertainment icons in their own right, including Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Bill Anderson.
Today Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Mel Tillis, and Carrie Underwood are among the performers who are members of the Opry. Thousands of people make pilgrimages every year to see and hear them, while millions tune in to the Opry via WSM-AM (650), Sirius XM Satellite Radio, syndicated radio, or opry.com.
While the phrase Grand Ole Opry is a registered trademark of the Grand Ole Opry organization, the word opry alone is not trademarked and thus is not protected any more than the words grand or ole. The owner has, with varying degrees of aggression and success, sued defendants that also have used that single word.
- Edmonson, Jacqueline (2013). Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories that Shaped our Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 513.
- "WSM Back in Court Again - Files 2d Suit Over Name". Billboard 81 (21): 51. May 24, 1969.
- "Opry Records Sued For Infringement". Billboard 80 (50): 29. December 14, 1968. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, opposition number 91188534.