Opry returns home, Shelton receives invite
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Opry returns home, Shelton receives invite

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 – The Grand Ole Opry is home.

Following the May flood that devastated many areas of Nashville, the Opry returned to its regular home. The Opry raised the curtain on its first show back Tuesday to reveal the silhouettes of 9-year Opry member Brad Paisley and 61-year Opry veteran Jimmy Dickens center stage on the circle of wood from the Ryman Auditorium. Paisley began singing the standard Will the Circle be Unbroken with Dickens joining in on the chorus as cast members began to join them on stage singing along. Fans acknowledged the moment with an extended standing ovation.

The historic circle on which Paisley and Dickens opened the show has welcomed generations of performers, but was covered by 46 inches of water during the flood. It was refurbished and returned to its rightful spot center stage last month.

"This night shows the heart of the Opry like I've never seen it before," Paisley said. "Every single artist on that stage tonight was absolutely overcome with emotion when that curtain went up. This American tradition is stronger than ever, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

"I thought I'd seen everything in all my years at the Opry and in country music," Dickens said. "After tonight I know the circle will never be broken. Never."

The show also was particularly special for Blake Shelton. He received the invitation to become an official Opry member. After he and Opry member Trace Adkins performed their award-winning number one hit Hillbilly Bone, Adkins acknowledged Shelton's heavy activity on Twitter. "You know Blake is famous for doing the Twitter thing; he's always sending tweets," Adkins said. "Well, the Grand Ole Opry sent Blake a tweet tonight."

Adkins then handed Shelton an iPhone while a tweet appeared simultaneously on the Opry's backdrop. The tweet read, "Blake Shelton, you are invited to join the Grand Ole Opry! See you 10/23/10." After collecting himself while leaning on the on-stage piano and sharing a hug with Adkins, Shelton said, "Man that takes a long time. I don't know what I did in the last year or so to turn Nashville's head a little bit, but whatever I did, man I'm lovin' this. This moment right here is hands-down the highlight of my career. Thank you all so much. Thank you Grand Ole Opry."

Martina McBride and Connie Smith dueted on Smith's signature hit Once A Day, and other collaborations included Dierks Bentley and Del McCoury (Roll On Buddy, Roll On), Josh Turner and Lorrie Morgan (Golden Ring), and Montgomery Gentry and Charlie Daniels Band (The Devil Went Down To Georgia). The show closed with an all-star guitar jam featuring Paisley, Keith Urban, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart.

Two hours of the three-hour show aired on GAC: Great American Country and streamed live on opry.com.

"This was an historic, seminal night for the Grand Ole Opry," said Opry President Steve Buchanan. "Seeing country music's top artists share unforgettable performances on stage after watching the endless hours of work a virtual army put into making sure the Opry House recovered from the flood and opened ahead of schedule gives me the utmost confidence in the Opry's future. The fact that we invited Blake to become an official Opry member makes the evening that much more special. I can't wait for what's to come."

The refurbished Opry includes 18 new dressing rooms, each themed to celebrate some of the people and styles of country music that have made the Opry an American icon. Other improvements include: a new artist lobby including a Grand Ole Opry Member Gallery featuring placards with the names of all Opry members throughout the show's 85-year history, a completely reconstructed Opry Shop and technical advancements including HD projection.

The night kicked off a month-long culmination of the Opry's 85th Birthday Celebration. Among special shows to follow:

"Spirit of Nashville Day": The Opry will celebrate Nashville's spirit and resilience since the flood by inviting its hometown to get an up-close look at the newly renovated Opry House during a full day of free tours five months to the day following the flood. The Nashville celebration will spill into the Opry Plaza with free music throughout the day, including a performance by hit-making new group The Band Perry. Performers on that evening's Opry shows include Charley Pride, Craig Morgan and Academy Award-winner Kevin Costner.

85th Birthday Bash Oct. 8 and 9: Three weekend shows featuring Adkins, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift and more; backstage tours; an afternoon salute to country comedy; and all-day fun in the Opry Plaza including a free Opry Plaza Party. CBS' Charles Osgood is scheduled to visit as part of the Opry's "I'm With The Band" series.

Opry Goes Pink Oct. 15: Country Music's legendary duo The Judds will take the stage to "flip the switch," turning the Opry's signature barn backdrop pink in support of breast cancer awareness month. Actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley will join the evening as a guest announcer. The 2nd Annual "Opry Goes Pink" event benefits Women Rock For The Cure and the Greater Nashville affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Blake Shelton Opry induction Oct. 23.

Upcoming performances by Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels Band, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Chris Young, Turner and others.

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