The Grand Ole Opry announced a short-term solution for the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic's impact on live entertainment on March 13: One that allows country music's best-known radio show to continue a 94-plus year tradition.
"Throughout our history, various events have led Opry management to make difficult decisions about how to alter the show's format and schedule," reads an email from WSM. "Amid recent COVID-19 concerns, the Grand Ole Opry, the world's longest-running radio show, will return to its original format as a live radio broadcast on Saturday nights only without a live audience. Fans around the world can still tune in to the Saturday night broadcasts as scheduled on 650 AM WSM, WSMonline.com and the WSM mobile app."
According to the Opry website, the show has only only missed one week, with that lone exception following a major event in US history.
"On Saturday, April 6, 1968, the show did not go on," reads an article by Katie Quine. "Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated two days prior in nearby Memphis, leaving the nation to reel with the tragedy and the resulting civil unrest. A 7 p.m. curfew was imposed on the city of Nashville, and no institution was exempt, including the Saturday Night Opry, which had taken place more than 2,200 times prior to that night. WSM broadcast recordings of past performances instead of a live show."
The World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11. The Opry's announcement came on the same day that President Donald Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency.