The Opry and a pig bought on credit

Published 12:27 pm Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ever wonder how The Grand Ole Opry got its name?

Radio station WSM, owned by the National Life and Accident Co., began broadcasting Oct. 5, 1925. Its call letters were an acronym for the company’s advertising slogan, “We shield millions.” A couple of months after going on the air, the station started a program called — what else? — “The WSM Barn Dance.”

As the story goes, that program followed a Saturday night show, “The Music Appreciation Hour,” which offered, as you would imagine, symphonies, concertos and opera.

The young announcer, George D. Hay, started as a newspaper reporter. Gads — sounds like me. One night Hay, who called himself “The Solemn Ole Judge,” introduced the hillbilly show, by saying, “For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera, but from now on, we will present, “The Grand Ole Opry.” So, the Opry was christened.

Incidentally, in 1968 Hay moved to Virginia Beach, and he is buried there.

On a completely different note, I have to congratulate the Food Lion advertising folk who dreamed up the current series of commercials featuring the lion. The topper is the one currently being aired as the animal spends the day in the classroom of the little boy who “owns” him. It’s a classic and almost brought a tear or two to my eyes.

I can’t help but wonder how many little kids are asking for pet lions, rather than dogs or cats.

Top commercials, consistently, are the extremely clever Geico spots. Progressive Insurance, obviously trying to duplicate that success, also has ventured into the funny stuff, most of which are pretty blah.

Now, I leave you with this thought: “A pig bought on credit is forever grunting.”

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Western Tidewater and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at