If you needed any more proof that country music is actually just a very large tourist industry that happens to feature a banjo or pedal steel sometimes, you should head to the Grand Ole Opry's Opry City Stage in New York City's Times Square. If you find yourself gripped with a desire to experience the distinct Essence of America, you should consider the Grand Ole Opry's Opry City Stage in New York City's Times Square. The Nashville institution has been around since 1925 and recently announced a $12 million renovation to the Grand Ole Opry House, a $14 million renovation to Ryman Auditorium, and an expansion to the heart of the Big Apple, giving NYC a kind of Hard Rock Cafe for Country Music vibe. I visited this week, it was an excellent lesson in keeping the brand strong for the sake of sales, no matter how dark the history of your product. I think.
One of the building's biggest attractions is its "larger than life recreation of The Father of Country Music Jimmie Rodgers’ Blue Yodeler guitar gifted to Ernest Tubb." Tubb was hired by the Opry in 1943, played with the Opry's house band the Texas Troubadours, and was there until the end of his life. The replica of the guitar is nice, and it seems like a sweet way to honor one of the people who helped establish the Opry, but Jimmie Rodgers has nothing to do with the Opry. He never played there, he just inspired someone to get into music and that someone went on to work at the Opry. Do you see what I mean? That's weird, right?
Technically, I need to say I was there to see Tegan Marie—a 14-year-old singer from the midwest whose current hit is a song called "Keep it Lit" and whose favorite pop song is the Chainsmokers' "Don't Let Me Down." She also has a song about horses and is the youngest artist to be signed to a major label since Tanya Tucker. I wonder how that turned out for Tanya. But look, I'm not going to berate a 14-year-old, though I will berate those around her who decided that making her into a country star at 14 is a good thing to do.
I didn't count the number of Johnny Cash photos they had on the walls (along with photos of Hank Williams, who was fired from the Opry yet he's still one of its biggest selling points?) because I can't count that high, but I can confirm that, as a friend pointed out, their entire vinyl selection was all Johnny Cash records and one Little Big Town record. I think it was Pain Killer, which is sort of funny in a sick way because Johnny Cash once relapsed after taking pain killers following a surgery, so the next time he had to have surgery he didn't use them.
At this point, I think the BBQ—which was dry and leaned heavily on the sauce to do most of the work for it by distracting you from the poor quality of the meat—is a metaphor for country music tourism in general. Here's a link to their website. They're pretty empty on Wednesdays. Did I mention it has four floors? It has four floors. FOUR.