On This Day: Grand Ole Opry Hosts Final Performance in Ryman Auditorium in 1974

by Halle Ames
(Photo Credit:Grand Ole Opry/ Getty Images)

On this day in 1974, the final performance was held at the Ryman Auditorium before moving to the Grand Ole Opry House.

However, this wasn’t the first switch the iconic show has made. In fact, the Grand Ole Opry has called six locations home over the past nine decades.

The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry

With the Opry’s birth in 1925 from a small radio station, the founders of National Life and Accident Insurance Company started a tradition that has grown into the infamous show it is today.

According to the Opry’s website, “country music fans began showing up in droves to watch the show, crowding the building’s hallway at the aggravation of some National Life executives. Studio B and then the 500-seat Studio C were built to accommodate the growing crowds.”

It still wasn’t enough room, so in 1936 the Grand Ole Opry moved once again.

Hillsboro Theater

Still, in Nashville, the location was switched to a small community playhouse down the street from Vanderbilt University, called the Hillsboro Theater. Today, the theater has been renamed the Belcourt Theatre but is still in operation.

The location was still exceptionally small. So, artists would generally do two performances a night so more people could see the show. It was also during this time that the Grand Ole Opry began selling advertising on the radio broadcast.

The Dixie Tabernacle

Only two years later, the Opry leveled up to the religious meeting hall in East Nashville, called the Dixie Tabernacle. The Dixie Tabernacle wasn’t anything luxurious though, with dirt floors and wooden plank benches.

This was the first time the Grand Ole Opry began to sell tickets for the show in advance. This plan also aided in the selling of insurance for National Life.

War Memorial Auditorium

In June of 1939, the Grand Ole Opry was once again relocated to the War Memorial Auditorium. The Auditorium was seen as one of the most elegant performance halls in the Music City at the time.

Although after only four years, disorderly fans sped up the expiration of the Grand Ole Opry’s time at the Auditorium.

The show would be back here when a flood in 2010 would force producers to make repairs on the Hall.

Ryman Auditorium

From 1943 until 1974, the Opry called the Ryman Auditorium home. The 2,300-seat performance hall really helped the show take off in popularity.

The last night of performances at the Ryman Auditorium featured both the Friday Night Opry and the Grand Ole Gospel. The second half of the show lasted one hour but took place for over 25 years. The final night highlighted performances by Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, and June Carter. The show ended with a mass rendition of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”. Artists like Charlie Walker and Bill Anderson helped with the song.

Grand Ole Opry House

Although the location has since switched across town, the Grand Ole Opry hosts a special tribute concert to honor its former home each winter. The website also states that “the Ryman is one of the nation’s most active concert venues, hosting artists from all genres, renowned for its world-class acoustics.”

Today the 4,400 seat Opry House has hosted thousands of notable artists. Despite the flood that submerged the stage, the Opry’s iconic wooden circle at center stage was able to be salvaged.

On September 28, 2010, country artists like Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, and others proved that the circle would remain unbroken.