Saturday, November 10, 2007

Southern hospitality in Nashville

By E. Thomas Wood

This week in Nashville's history is all about receiving visitors. We'll look back at the arrival of a "Solemn Old Judge," age 30, who lived up to the hype about his hiring. We'll witness one of the moments when Nashville first began to realize its potential as a tourist destination. And we'll see how sit-in protesters were greeted at a downtown Krystal one day in November 1960 — and how their response earned them a place in history.

November 12, 1925: George makes hay with hayseeds

This week 82 years ago, one person who rolled into town got a rousing welcome from the morning newspaper, which intuited that his coming could herald something big for Nashville. The Tennessean put George D. Hay on the front page as he arrived to take over the new radio station that National Life and Accident Insurance Co. had started the month before, WSM:
Mr. Hay, whose voice is known wherever radio"bugs"turndialsandadjust amplifiers, drove through the country from Chicago in his new "trick lizzie," as he terms his car, accompanied by his wife and two daughters, Cornelia, 6, and Margaret, 2. They left the Illinois metropolis Sunday and, much fatigued and bespattered with mud, arrived at Nashville.

The rest of the story is well known. The WSM Barn Dance grew and grew in popularity, despite some discomfort among the urbanized controlling families of National Life and other Nashville bluebloods at the redneck caricature personas that Hay encouraged his performers to project. One night in early December 1927, with the Barn Dance about to air just after a performance of grand opera, Hay told listeners that they would now be hearing the "Grand Ole Opry."

Read the entire story in the Nashville Post.

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