Nixon at the Opry

25 Sep 2015

Of all the many thousands of performers to appear on the Grand Ole Opry, the most intriguing and obtuse must surely have been President Richard Nixon.


On 16th March 1974, as the radio show moved from its iconic home at the Ryman Auditorim into the purpose-built Grand Ole Opry House, Nixon was invited to open the new building and did so with his customary awkward good humour.


The President, an accomplished pianist and lover of classical music, was encouraged to perform and he duly sat at the keyboard and offered a rendition of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America". The live audience applauded enthusiastically. They and the listeners at home were mainly comprised of middle-Americans, who loved their nation, worshipped country music and respected the President.


And bizarrely, it was a demographic that Nixon shared with Elvis Presley, who that very night was knocking them dead at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis. The two men had formed an unlikely bond in December 1970 when Presley just dropped in at the White House, and they kept in touch by 'phone over the next few years when the fates conspired against them.


But on this day, with the Southern crowds cheering and applauding the President and the King ... who could possibly have forseen the events to come?


[Picture from Rolling Stone website, copyright unknown.]



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