Grand Ole Opry

In 1925, the Grand Ole Opry, an American institution and the longest radio show in the country, began broadcasting on WSM, radio station of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. The idea was to broadcast a show of old-time music performed by amateur musicians as a way of promoting the insurance company in and around Nashville.

The show, still broadcast today on WSM, grew to become the radio home of some of the most prominent and influential artists in the country music genre, including Minnie Pearl, Chet Atkins, and Ernest Tubb, and it was an important and enduring chapter of radio history. It brought country music to the masses and created superstars out of a little-known genre of singers.

In 1954, Good Housekeeping published an article that proclaimed, “The mecca of all country and Western music lovers is Nashville, Tennessee, where the famous radio program Grand Ole Opry originates.”

ExhibitsUSA’s Grand Ole Opry features thirty gelatin silver prints by Gordon Gillingham, a commercial photographer hired to photograph the Opry between 1952 and 1960. The images document the radio show and the country music business during the zenith of country music’s postwar boom, and wonderfully capture the spirit, energy, camaraderie, and sheer joy of performing that permeated both musicians and fans of The Opry in its heyday. Gillingham’s photographs show us everything from Johnny Cash signing autographs backstage to artists rehearsing for the Grand Ole Opry television show to crowds of fans gathering outside The Ryman auditorium.

Today, The Opry is an American icon that continues to honor and showcase country’s longstanding legends like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton, as well as contemporary crooners like Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, and Blake Shelton. The Opry stage presents multiple concerts each week and draws thousands of music-lovers each year.

Grand Ole Opry is curated by Brenda Colladay, museum and photograph curator at the Grand Ole Opry. It is adapted for travel by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

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Grand Ole Opry is touring January 2014 through October 2017. The dates below reflect seven-week exhibition periods. Dates are subject to change; please contact or (800) 473-3872 x208/209 for current availability.

  • January 28–March 16, 2014 The Culture Lab at Mid-America Arts Alliance
    Kansas City, MO
  • April 6–May 25, 2014 Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial
    Red Cloud, NE
  • June 16–August 11, 2014 Panola College
    Carthage, TX
  • September 1–October 20, 2014 Guntersville Museum & Cultural Center
    Guntersville, AL
  • November 10, 2014–January 7, 2015 Argentina Branch Library
    North Little Rock, AR
  • January 28–March 16, 2015 Temecula Valley Museum
    Temecula, CA
  • April 6–May 25, 2015 General Tommy Franks Institute & Museum
    Hobart, OK
  • June 16–August 11, 2015 Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
    Duncan, OK
  • November 10, 2015–January 7, 2016 The Box Gallery/Downtown Council of Kansas City
    Kansas City, MO
  • January 28–March 16, 2016 Laurel Public Library
    London, KY
  • April 6–August 11, 2016 Bell County Museum
    Belton, TX
  • September 1–October 20, 2016 Paul Meek Library, University of Tennessee at Martin
    Martin, TN
  • November 10, 2016–January 7, 2017 The Museum of Western Art
    Kerrville, TX
  • January 28–May 25, 2017 Earl Scruggs Center
    Shelby, NC
  • June 16–August 11, 2017 Museum of the Western Prairie
    Altus, OK
  • September 1–October 20, 2017 Branigan Cultural Center
    Las Cruces, NM

Exhibition Details

30 gelatin silver prints by Gordon Gillingham

  • Content

    Fee Includes
    Press Kit
    Registrar’s Packet
    Programming Guide
    Text Panels
    Narrative Labels
    Full Insurance
    Installation Instructions
    Custom-Designed and Built Crates

  • Curated By

    Brenda Colladay, Museum and Photograph Curator, Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN

  • Organized By

    ExhibitsUSA, Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO

  • Out-of-Region Rental Fee


  • In-Region Rental Fee


  • Duration

    7-week display

  • Shipping

    Common Carrier

  • Running Feet


  • Square Feet


  • Security


  • Number of Crates/Total Weight

    3 crates/450 pounds

  • Insurance

    The exhibition is fully insured by ExhibitsUSA at no additional expense to you, both while installed and during transit.