Grand Ole Opry House Flooding: 'It's Biblical,' Marty Stuart Says

This appeared in the Los Angeles Times - May 4, 2010

I just rang up country musician Marty Stuart, one of the mainstays of the Grand Ole Opry, to find out how bad the flooding in Nashville is to the Opry’s home of the last 36 years. He had two words: “It’s biblical.”

An Opry member since 1992, Stuart said he hasn’t been through the facility yet — “The river just crested last night” — but was told by Opry officials that water is chest deep. “They’ve just been through it in a canoe. I think that tells you all you need to know."

“It’s a profound sense of loss,” said Stuart, who took over the dressing room assigned to Porter Wagoner after the longtime Opry star died in 2007. He said he doesn’t have high hopes for recovering a rhinestone-bedecked tapestry he kept in that dressing room. The tapestry was fashioned out of what was to have been a new Nudie Cohn-style suit that was being made for Wagoner when he died.

“There was plenty of artwork, lyrics, artifacts, Nudie paraphernalia, Nudie boots and belts -- we will test the power of the rhinestone against the mighty waters,” Stuart said.

"We've all been affected by it," singer and songwriter Dierks Bentley told the Associated Press on Tuesday, after canceling performances over the weekend to deal with less-serious flooding at his own house. "There's devastation all over the city. But to see the Grand Ole Opry affected, that just really hit home for me, even more than having water in my house."

The Grand Ole Opry show itself, however, “will go on,” Stuart said. Tuesday night's performance is being shifted to Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium, a former home of the Opry, and on the weekend, it will move to its historic home at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, where the show originated for decades before the current Opry House opened in 1974.

"While we ourselves are shaken by the impact of the flooding of the Opry House and throughout the area, it is important that Nashville's most treasured tradition continues with this week's shows," Grand Ole Opry Vice President Pete Fisher said Tuesday in a statement posted at the Opry's website. "We look forward to coming together both as the Opry family and as a great American city just as we have every week for nearly 85 years. Our hearts go out to all of those affected in the middle Tennessee area."

There also are reports of minor damage to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home of the Nashville Symphony, both in downtown, several miles away from the worst of the flooding caused by the overflowing Cumberland River. The hall of fame closed on Tuesday because of the flooding.

“If you look through the history books, you’ll see that the way we deal with a profound sense of loss is with a profound sense of spirit,” Stuart said. “So the positive side is, at 7 o’clock tonight, we’re going to have a show.”

By Randy Lewis

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