Grand Ole Opry Documentary in Theaters Now
Nashville radio personality Bill Cody shines a light on the new Grand Ole Opry movie, American Saturday Night.
The Grand Ole Opry is coming to the big screen, and it’s surprising that it took so long to get there. The Opry show, after all, has been a part of American culture and our national media for a solid 90 years. But such quibbling aside, a lush and star-packed movie centering on the Grand Ole Opry, American Saturday Night: Live From the Grand Ole Opry, hits theaters nationwide on Feb. 12. The film premiered in select cities this past December.
American Saturday Night eschews the documentary form of storytelling in favor of a more concert-styled movie. The focus stays mainly on younger acts, featuring Grand Ole Opry members such as Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker. Brett Eldredge and The Band Perry also appear. Blake performs “Boys ’Round Here” and others, while Brad reprises his hits “Country Nation” and “American Saturday Night”—the basis for the movie’s title—while also giving a nod to the past with a tribute to Brad’s buddy and mentor, Opry great Little Jimmy Dickens.
The glue keeping it all together, so to speak, is Opry announcer Bill Cody, whose main gig is holding down the morning slot at WSM-FM radio in Nashville. With his smooth, easygoing demeanor, Bill handles all the artist introductions in the movie. As a radio personality for more than 20 years, along with his role as a regular Opry announcer, Bill has been part of some memorable Opry moments, including the membership inductions of Darius Rucker and Brad Paisley. But being an integral part of American Saturday Night likely tops them all.
“There have been so many videos or TV shows about the Opry over the years,” Bill says in the rich, perfectly modulated voice so familiar to WSM listeners. “But nothing like this, obviously. The movie looks incredible. The lighting is great. And the performances, of course, are a given, with the artists we have on there. This is really special.”
Beyond the performances, American Saturday Night also offers a glimpse of the artists backstage before and during the Opry show. The cameras chronicle the back-and-forth banter and occasional antics that make the Opry a signature venture unto itself. Those vignettes prove equally as fascinating as the onstage excitement.
“You’re going to see the backstage conversations that capture that college-dorm atmosphere,” Bill says. “A variety of artists are always getting together backstage and telling stories. You might have a bluegrass star and a longtime Opry member and a young artist, all gathered in Keith Urban’s dressing room. There is no other place in music where that happens.”
Outside of the Opry’s executive branch, Bill recalls, no one was even slightly aware that a movie was being shot. All Bill remembers receiving was a rather cryptic heads-up from Opry vice president and general manager Pete Fisher.
“Pete just told me to hold a date,” Bill says, chuckling at the memory. “I think that was back in August. I kind of remember thinking that this sounds intriguing. I certainly knew by his tone that it wasn’t going to be a bad thing. Once the date got closer, Pete told us what was going on. I guess they wanted to keep it as much under wraps as they could, even to those who were going to be part of the movie. When we finished, we all were saying that it was the smoothest production that any of us could remember being a part of.”
But now, the secret’s out. “I think this movie will do amazing things for the Opry,” Bill says in a markedly upbeat tone. “It will bring even more people to Nashville who will now want to experience the Grand Ole Opry in person.”
For Bill, the movie provides a personal thrill. As a youngster growing up in rural Kentucky, he dreamed of one day working for WSM, the flagship station of the Opry. “I listened to that when I was young,” Bill says warmly. “That’s where I wanted to be. I came here [Nashville] in 1994 and on April 1, I will celebrate 22 years with WSM. And now, obviously, I am very excited about this movie,” Bill adds with evident enthusiasm.
“To be featured in a prominent role has been beyond my wildest dreams,” he says. “This is a big deal for me—and for the Grand Ole Opry. Country music fans are going to love it.”
Look for American Saturday Night: Live from the Grand Ole Opry showtimes at your local movie theaters.