Just a few short months ago, Nashville's heart of country music--the historic Grand Ole Opry--was submerged under several feet of water as a result of record flooding in the area.
Music City mourned, then in true-grit style rolled up its sleeves and got to work. The building was cleaned; damaged areas were restored. The famed circle of wood from the Opry's original Ryman Auditorium home was placed back in the middle of the stage.
Then, on Tuesday night, the doors were opened, and a major celebration commenced--a blowout, star-studded party honoring both the past and future of the American landmark.
And for the future? Well, that was the big surprise of the night: In a fun twist for an organization seeped in history and tradition, the Opry took a decidedly modern turn near the end of the evening.
The singer, who is one of country music's most prolific tweeters, was surprised to see the message from @Opry: "@blakeshelton, you're invited to join the Grand Ole Opry."
Shelton, who will be inducted in October, will become the first new Opry member in more than a year (following Montgomery Gentry, which joined in June of 2009)--and he'll hold the distinction of the first member invited by Twitter.
Little Jimmy Dickens, who at 89 is the oldest living member of the Opry, kicked things off by performing the standard "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" along with Paisley. They were backed on stage by an ensemble consisting of dozens of Opry members.
"It is very touching for me to see what all they have done out here," Dickens said of the multimillon-dollar restoration.
The evening was filled with personal anecdotes from the artists. One heartbreaking example: Jeannie Seely, a prolific country hitmaker in the '60s and '70s, related her experience with the Nashville floods to the audience--she not only lost the Opry, she lost her own home in the natural disaster.
It was also a night for remembering the classic tunes that built up the history of the Opry. Dierks Bentley joined Del McCoury for a cover of Bill Monroe's "Roll On, Buddy, Roll On." Martina McBride and Connie Smith paired up to perform Smith's 1964 hit "Once A Day." Josh Turner and Lorrie Morgan delivered a rendition of George Jones and Tammy Wynette's famed "Golden Ring." And Montgomery Gentry performed "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" with--who else?--Charlie Daniels.
The evening closed with Paisley, Urban, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs, and Marty Stuart jamming out on a cover of Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues"--a fitting tribute to all the hard labor that went into the Opry's five-month restoration project.
What a night!
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