The Grand Ole Opry makes a return to television on Circle, the recently launched country music and lifestyle network, with the weekly live-recorded series Opry. Bobby Bones has been tapped to host the show, which debuts Feb. 26, and will serve as executive producer. The 60-minute episode will included culled performances from the previous week’s shows.
Dan Rogers, VP/executive producer of the Grand Ole Opry, sees Bones as a good fit for the legendary institution. “He has a really great appreciation for the Opry’s traditions,” Rogers says, “but there’s no question that he is very much in tune with the country music of today and has certainly brought in new fans to the fold.”
Growing up in Mountain Pine, Ark., the Opry was an important part of Bones’ childhood. “My grandmother raised me for a long time [and] the Opry was really what we would bond over listening to it on the radio,” says the host of the nationally syndicated radio program The Bobby Bones Show. “My goal after moving to Nashville was to play the Opry.”
Bones has fond memories of listening to the late comedian Jerry Clower with his grandmother and honored them both in his inaugural Opry performance. “My grandmother passed away when I was in college, so the first Opry appearance that I did, I told the story about my grandmother and how she was such a big part of my life,” says Bones, whose Opry appearances now number in the double digits. “We used to listen to Jerry Clower when he would play the Opry. That got us into his records and that’s what bonded us. So I told a Jerry Clower joke on the Opry stage in her honor and it was a full circle moment for me.”
Opry will feature performances, interviews and behind-the-scenes segments. “When I bring my friends to the Opry, what they really geek out about is [what’s] on the walls of the Opry, in the [dressing] rooms, and that’s the stuff you can’t see if you are watching from the seats or you can’t hear if you are watching through the app or listening on the radio,” Bones says. “So what I want to do is not just do a history lesson, but show them how much cool freakin’ stuff is backstage and talk to people about it.”
Opry marks the first time the legendary show has aired on TV in years. The Opry was televised live in its entirety for the first time on March 4, 1978, as part of a PBS pledge drive special. During The Nashville Network’s existence there were various shows including Bill Anderson’s Backstage at the Opry, but the most recent television exposure was Noteworthy at the Opry, which aired on the GAC Network in 2013.
“When the Opry began in 1925 radio was new, it was the thing everyone was excited about and talking about and through the years, we have added the internet. Now of course being back on television is important but equally important, to me, is that you’ll be able to also watch on your mobile device via Circle as well,” Rogers says. “It’s always been important to be entertaining thousands of people in the Opry House in Nashville, but it’s also equally important to us that the artists who come play our stage are seen and heard by folks around the world.”
Bones is excited about his part in the Opry’s future. “I’m hoping to be a part of the team that completely pays respect and loves the past history of country music and also opens up the eyes of 13-year-olds or eight-year-olds that are starting to love country music now. I just never want the Opry to go away.”
Circle launched Jan. 1 with major distribution partnerships with Grey Television and CBS Television that will broadcast the network in markets covering more than 50% of U.S. television households. The initial slate amasses 16 original shows, including Craig’s World, hosted by Craig Morgan, and The Write Stuff, which reveals how some of country’s top songs were penned. Each Wednesday evening, Opry will air as well as Opry-centric shows Backstage at the Opry and My Opry Debut.