Grand Ole’ Opry — Sheila Ingle
Today I’m happy to welcome author Sheila Ingle as she shares about the history of the Grand Ole’ Opry in the 1940’s. Read through to the end to find out how you can enter to win the giveaway.
The families who lived in Ingle Holler outside of Union, South Carolina enjoyed country music. On Friday nights, after a long week of work in the cotton mills, they gathered on porches to sing and visit. Country music was a favorite, as fiddles, banjos, dulcimers, spoons, and a piano would lead all ages celebrated life.
The Grand Ole Opry was first broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium (above) on June 5,1943 and originated there every week for nearly 31 years. It was the birthplace of Bluegrass Music.
This half-hour Prince Albert Show segment, which had been carried regionally on the WSM radio network, went national, carried by more than 140 stations.
Opry stars like Red Foley, Eddy Arnold, Grandpa Jones, and Minnie Pearl became ambassadors for country music, traveling throughout the nation during the week and returning home to the Opry stage on weekends.
Minnie Pearl/Sarah Ophelia Collie
As the gossip from Grinder’s Switch, Minnie Pearl opened each of her performances with a rousing, “How-w-w-DEE-E-E-E! I’m jes’ so proud to be here!” and “I love you so much it hurts!”
Colley’s cheerful hillbilly get-up — a frilly gingham dress with puffy sleeves, white stockings under Mary Janes and a straw hat decked out in plastic flowers — was a costume she dreamed up herself, inspired by clothing she picked up for less than $10 one afternoon in a South Carolina thrift store. “I dressed ‘Minnie’ the way I thought a girl would look who came to town from the country on a Saturday to do a little tradin’ and a little flirtin’,” Colley would explain.
This female comedian catered to the audiences with quips like, The doctor must have put my pacemaker in wrong. Every time my husband kisses me, the garage door goes up.
The price tag of $1.98 hanging from her hat was from the flowers she bought to go on her hat. New audiences loved the detail, so she kept the tag. Colley would later have this to say about that tag: “The price tag on my hat seems to be symbolic of all human frailty. There’s old Minnie Pearl standing on stage in her best dress, telling everyone how proud she is to be there and she’s forgotten to take the $1.98 price tag off her hat.”
Since I live in South Carolina, this fascinates me that her outfit was bought in my state. I remember meeting Minnie Pearl in Greenville, SC, where she was signing her autobiography. She was delightful and greeted everyone with a sincere smile. As a celebrity, she reached out to all of us as if we were celebrities, too.
The Grand Ole Opry brought crowds of music lovers to downtown Nashville. Many men and women wore hats for the occasion. Trucks, laden with mattresses and people, delivered scores to the front door. (One person said that these trucks were the first tour buses.) The wooden pews of this auditorium were jam-packed every week. It was the place to be on Saturday nights in the 1940’s.
Wearing farm clothes (Grandpa Jones above) and speaking often in Appalachian dialect established a rustic flavor over music that was already down-home. Much of this Opry’s simple image was contrived. Many early cast musicians were urban tradespeople who had learned their instruments from friends and family.
The Grand Ole Opry was a favorite of the cotton mill families. Friday night was all about gathering together to pick and sing religious and country songs; Saturday night was spent listening to the show on the radio.
The influence and pride in the Opry has not changed. Performers today continue to admire and exalt the Grand Ole Opry.
Garth Brooks, “I’ve said it for the record a thousand times. I’ll state it again a thousand times. This is the pinnacle of what I do. Nothing has ever touched being a member of the Grand Ole Opry.”
Brad Paisley, “Pilgrims travel to Jerusalem to see the Holy Land, and the foundations of their faith. People go to Washington, D.C. to see the workings of government, and the foundation of our country. And fans flock to Nashville to see the foundation of country music, the Grand Ole Opry.”
Loretta Lynn, (remembering her first Opry performance, “I came out the back of the building and I was hollering, ‘I’ve sung on the Grand Ole Opry! I’ve sung on the Grand Ole Opry!’”
Don’t you love to see history continuing?
Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a copy of “Tales of a Cosmic Possum”.
About her book:
Tales of a Cosmic Possum is a group of short stories based on the history of eight women in my husband’s family who worked in the cotton mills of SC. They worked together in the mills, shared their gardens, attended church, and enjoyed the playing and singing of the songs from the Grand Ole Opry. When five of the brothers went off to war, those who couldn’t fight took care of their families. The Ingles stuck together, just like they were taught in the Appalachia.
This book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Book Stores.
A graduate of Converse College with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Sheila Ingle is a lifelong resident of S.C. Her undergraduate degree was in English, with minors in psychology and religion. Besides taking various graduate courses at Wofford College, she also received her master’s degree in humanities at Converse.
Her second career of writing began after her retirement from teaching at USC Upstate. There she taught English and education courses, as well as supervising student teachers, for 22 years.
She loves to tell the stories of South Carolina history. The Class that Never Was relates the story of her father’s class at the Citadel. In 1943, his class was taken out of school their junior year and sent to serve in World War II. Finding Mr. Wright is the story of two audacious sisters who asked Frank Lloyd Wright to draw plans for their home in Greenville, SC, and he did.
Her published books, Courageous Kate, Fearless Martha, Brave Elizabeth, and Walking with Eliza focus on the bravery of Patriot women living in Revolutionary War South Carolina.
Tales of a Cosmic Possum, not only shares Ingle family history, but also South Carolina and cotton mill history. Continuing to focus on unknown women of South Carolina, this book spotlights eight women who worked in the upstate cotton mills during the early twentieth century. Three generations of her husband’s family on both sides become characters in these short stories.
As past vice regent and regent of the Kate Barry Chapter, she is currently serving as the Registrar of Kate Barry, the South Carolina State Chairman of Constitution Week, and District II Director SCDAR. Sheila also is a member of the Piedmont Chapter Daughters of the American Colonists and the National Society of the Magna Charta Dames and Barons. (She is waiting on approved papers for the Colonial Dames XVII.)
She enjoys speaking to community, church, genealogical, and school groups.
Serving on the board for eight years of Children’s Security Blanket (a 501c3 organization that serves families that have children with cancer), she is the Board Chairman. She is also a member of Chapter D PEO, where she served as vice president and chaplain; Circle 555(a local women’s giving group), where she has served on the grant committee; and a board member of Spartanburg County Historical Association, serving on the Walnut Grove Committee.
In her church, First Baptist Spartanburg, she was a Sunday School teacher for the youth for fourteen years, served as a discipleship leader for girls, and as chaperone for retreats. Besides leading a women’s Bible study for twenty-seven years, she has substituted as an adult teacher. For five years, she led the women’s ministry of her church.
Married for thirty-eight years to John Ingle, they have one son Scott. Besides being avid readers, the South Carolina beaches are their favorite spots for vacations.
EXCERPT FROM “LOIS” IN TALES OF A COSMIC POSSUM
Their Saturday night routine was hurried, and the minutes flew by,
It was time for the Grand Ole’ Opry. Oliver had strung a wire clothesline in the backyard. It was also the antenna for the Crosley radio that sat in the kitchen on a table. He ran another wire to the clothesline, and the reception was high-quality. Once, when turning to another station, Oliver picked up a shortwave station in Europe; the unknown language amused everyone.
On Saturday nights, a cast of regulars regaled their listeners on a live radio show. The Grand Ole’ Opry show was divided into thirty-minute segments. Produced at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, the music and comedy lasted for four hours. When Uncle Dave Macon, also called the Solemn Old Judge, blew into his brown, whiskey jug, then it was time for a new segment. Live commercials for the sponsors of that segment were then sung and narrated; there were no silences.
The Duke of Paducah, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, and Bill Monroe were favorites for Lois and Oliver. Their sons loved the whole show.
The Duke of Paducah and Minnie Pearl were stand-up comics. The Duke had a crazy laugh and ended his routine with “These shoes are killin’ me. I’m goin’ to the wagon.” He often created comic scenarios that he found himself in with his wife.
Minnie Pearl was Lois’ favorite; Minnie’s contagious “How-DEEE! I’m jes so proud to be here” always brought smiles to Lois’ face. With her signature straw hat and its dangling $1.98 price tag, Minnie was a man-chasing single woman who lived in Grinder’s Switch, Tennessee, onstage, but was actually a graduate in theater from Belmont College in Nashville.
“Kissing a man with a beard is a lot like going to a picnic. You don’t mind going through a little bush to get there,” commented Minnie Pearl one night. Every time Lois thought of that line she laughed. Oliver was clean-shaven, so she was content that it wasn’t an issue in their home.