NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) - As it turns out, the circle is unbroken.
Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens helped a handful of construction workers install the circle in the center of the Grand Ole Opry House stage Wednesday after flood waters nearly destroyed the precious piece of country music history. The two then performed the Opry standard, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”
“That is a classic song that’s been sung here for generations and it’s taking on new meaning with all of this,” Paisley said.
Officials announced the Opry House will reopen to the public with a star-studded performance Sept. 28 and the Opry’s 85th anniversary celebration will go on as scheduled in October.
“We’re having a party,” Opry president Steve Buchanan said.
The circle, made in 1974 from a part of the old stage from the Opry’s former home at Ryman Auditorium, was submerged in 46 inches of water during the May flood that damaged the Opry house and the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort in Nashville.
Many musicians and fans consider the circle the heart of country music. The wood carries scuffs from the boots of the genre’s biggest stars and is a destination for aspiring singers from all corners of the world.
“This is absolutely the one place that matters more than any other in country music,” Paisley said.
Buchanan said the 6-foot circle of oak buckled but proved to be sturdier than the modern Opry stage. It was refurbished by Nashville’s CC Cabinet Inc., and is now surrounded by a dark brown teak that helps the lacquered circle stand out under stage lights.
Paisley said he’s amazed at how far the reclamation project has come since the days following the flood, which caused more than $2 billion damage in Nashville alone.
“When I first walked in here everything you see including the rafters and the very top pews were covered in a sort of brown film from the dried mud that had become dust and it was horrendous looking,” he said. “I didn’t know how they were ever going to get it clean and rebuilt and all of these things that needed done.”
AP reporter Caitlin R. King in Nashville contributed to this report.