NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As the Grand Ole Opry celebrates its 5000th Saturday night broadcast, WSM host Bill Cody sits down with News 2 to recount some of his favorite memories over the years.
Cody joined WSM 27 years ago and has been a full-time Opry announcer for 10 years. Over the course of his career, he’s seen many lives change on the Grand Ole Opry stage.
Cody sat down with News 2 to recount some of his favorite moments. One that stands out above the rest is the night Darius Rucker was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
“He had no idea that it was coming, none,” Cody said.
Cody recalls the setup during one of Rucker’s shows. The plan was to interrupt Rucker’s show with an impromptu Q and A session with the audience.
“Well, Darius comes from the Hootie days, rock and roll. You do not stop the show once the show is underway,” Cody laughed. “So sure enough, I interrupt him and he turned his head and looked at me like what are you doing, I’m up here in the middle of my set?”
Audience members proceeded to ask their questions, but the third question came from someone Rucker wasn’t expecting. Brad Paisley was in on the plot and would be the one to invite him to become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.
“As soon as Brad popped up… I think [Darius] even at that moment wasn’t sure what was coming. But I remember he asked him if he was still the worst poker player in country music and followed that with ‘and would you like to become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry?’ And I mean the tears, you could just see how shocked and thrilled and for everybody else who was there so wonderfully emotional he was.”
Over the years, Cody has lots of laughs to look back on as he thinks about the shows that didn’t go as planned.
“Tell me, did they all go smoothly? And what’s one that didn’t go as planned?” Nikki McGee asked.
Cody burst out laughing.
“I remember one night at the Ryman we opened the curtain and the curtain caught the mic stand nearest center stage and proceeded to knock over every mic stand like dominos. And then caught the big TV monitor we use at the Ryman because it’s a different setup than the Opry House.”
Due to the season change, the show was taking place at the Ryman, not the Opry House. But the opening act didn’t get the message.
“Riders in the Sky, talk about these going smoothly, they were to open the Opry but they went to the Opry House, forgot to go to the Ryman about the season change. And so Casey [James] who was up second was literally getting dressed, coming down the stairs with his guitar and his gear and so when the curtain opened the stagehand is kneeled down in front of Casey, Casey’s looking at him going I’ve got nothing, I’ve got nothing!”
Although Cody has many more moments to look back on, perhaps his favorite part of the Opry is what it represents.
He recalls country music’s agricultural roots. He says to this day, he enjoys seeing what the Opry means to the people who travel far and wide to attend the show. It’s something he gets to relive with every episode he hosts.
“So once it reached out to those people who were the majority of the population in those days, it was home. There was something about it that resonated with them,” Cody explained. “And I think somehow when those people were able to, if they were able at some point to make a trip to Nashville and go to the Opry, they felt a family connection, a homeyness, if you will. And that has not changed. That will be the number one thing you hear from artists who play it regularly, who dream of becoming members, is I’ve never felt more at home on stage or backstage with my peers than I do when I’m at the Grand Ole Opry.”