This is part of a series of articles commemorating the Grand Ole Opry’s 5000th weekly broadcast, which takes place Saturday, Oct. 30 on WSM and Circle TV, live from Nashville’s Opry House.
If there’s anything you could bet on in country music, it’s that Ashley McBryde is a future Grand Ole Opry member… and probably, much further down the line, a Country Hall of Famer, too. But she hasn’t been at it for that long, in the historical scheme of things. Ask her if she remembers her first Opry appearance, and it pops out immediately: “Absolutely! June 16th, 2017. We did my makeup probably four times that day because I kept crying. I cried when I got to room four, because I knew about room four before I walked into it.”
What’s room four? It’s the dressing room reserved exclusively for first-timers. “You’re terrified, but I was constantly hearing, ‘Hi Ashley. We’re so glad you’re here.’ And I knew that this would be the only time I get to stand in this room, but what I didn’t know until I walked in was what the contents of the room are, and it’s pictures of different people — you’ve got Carrie Underwood and Darius Rucker and Taylor Swift and Alan Jackson making their Opry debuts. From them. So you, you feel like the Opry puts its arms around you immediately. Then you don’t get to go back and room four and use it as a dressing room. The only time you’ll go back is to congratulate somebody else on their debut. And I’ve done that, but I won’t even go in past the threshold. I just stick my head and say ‘I want to congratulate you on your debut.’ I’m not going to go back in because it keeps it sacred. We have so few things like that.”
McBryde is a big believer in upholding traditions, just for her own sake. “I’m sure everybody has their little rituals. There’s that big picture of Minnie Pearl back by the artists’ entrance, and she’s got her fingers laced and her palms are toward the floor and her elbows are locked and she’s smiling in the spotlight. It was one of my first favorite things about the building. So when I come in, I say, ‘Good evening, Minnie.’ Then when I leave, I say ‘Goodnight, Minnie.’ But there have been times where it’s almost time to get on stage and I’ve took off running down the hallway past security because I realized, I hadn’t said hello to Minnie. These girls can attest to it,” she laughs, looking at some of the others around the backstage area who’ve seen her sprint.
That portrait, she says, “has just got good juju on it.”