NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Country stars were heartbroken to learn Monday that the mecca of their music, The Grand Ole Opry House, was hit by floodwaters that washed over the city and are concerned about how much damage was done to the landmark.
The stage is of particular concern. At the center is a circle made of floorboards cut from the old stage at the Opry's former home of Ryman Auditorium. It's considered by many to be the heart of country music.
"As a country singer, there is only one place you dream of playing in your lifetime, and that is the Grand Ole Opry House," singer Blake Shelton said in an e-mail. "Standing on center stage in the 6-foot circle of wood cut from the stage of the Ryman is something I never take for granted. The history and legacy of that circle is awe-inspiring."
‘We’ve all been affected’
Grand Ole Opry member Dierks Bentley canceled a couple of shows over the weekend for the first time in his career to take care of flooding at his house, which paled in comparison, he said.
"We've all been affected by it," Bentley said of the flooding. "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."
Bentley, whose hits include "Sideways" and "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes," said the destruction at the Grand Ole Opry House was topic No. 1 for country music players Monday. It's unclear how much water inundated the entertainment complex. Pictures put out with a news release show water at least 3 feet high and this week's scheduled shows have been moved to alternate venues.
Shelton, who's hits include "She Wouldn't Be Gone," and this year's "Hillbilly Bone," a duet with Trace Atkins, is scheduled to play there May 13.
"The Opry House is hallowed ground," Shelton said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "We all need to help to make sure it lasts. I am devastated to hear that it is affected by this disaster."
‘A heartbreaking thing’
The Opry House is part of the large Gaylord Opryland Hotel complex that took on water when the Cumberland River rose nearly 12 feet above flood stage due to record rains that have inundated middle and western Tennessee. An aerial view showed the area surrounded by water.
"My first job in music was at Opryland USA," singer John Rich said in an e-mail. "To see it under water is a heartbreaking thing. I am sure the country music community will pull together and help overcome this disaster. I am ready to roll up my sleeves as soon as I get the call."
The flood hit as the Opry was poised for an 85th birthday celebration. Tuesday night's Opry show will be at War Memorial Auditorium and weekend shows will be moved to the Ryman Auditorium. Both are former homes to the Opry.
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The Grand Ole Opry has been held at the Opry House in east Nashville since 1974, with an annual winter sojourn to the Ryman each February since 1999. The Opry puts on 150 shows a year and the House hosts other concerts and performances.
This is the second time the Opry has been forced from the complex. Flooding on the Cumberland in 1975 also pushed the show to Nashville's Municipal Auditorium.
"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 in the release.
It's unclear how long shows will have to be moved to other venues and it did not give details on how much water is in the Opry House. Pictures of the stage door show water above the door knob and a shot of the facade showed water several feet high as well.
The nearby hotel had 10 feet (three meters) of water inside early Monday hours before flood waters reached their crest early Monday evening at nearly 12 feet (3.6 meters) above flood stage. City officials said earlier in the day the hotel would be closed for weeks up to several months. The hotel's website said reservations would not be accepted for several weeks.
Based on his own experience with the flood damage at his home, Bentley wasn't optimistic about the Opry's stage: "At my house, if water touches anything, it's ruined. That wood, hell, maybe it's got enough magic on it that it can survive the worst. I think everything in there is toast."
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