On the morning of Friday, January 25, 1955, Charles and Ira Louvin, from Henagar, Alabama, arrived in Nashville to see about joining the Grand Ole Opry. They were no star-struck kids, but veterans of over ten years in the music business; their songs had been recorded by some of the biggest names in country, and they’d had their own Capitol contract for four years. Recently, though, their career had stalled, and from a phone booth in Birmingham they called their Capitol A&R man, Ken Nelson, to see if he could help. “We told him we wanted to get on the Opry,” Charlie Louvin remembers.
“We had auditioned before eight different times without any luck. Ken told me he’d get back to us next week. But I told him that we didn’t have enough food to last until next week, and we needed to know something now. We had to give him the phone booth number and wait by the booth until he could call us back.” The call finally came, and the boys were told to be at the Opry office three days later. It was only later that they found out that Nelson had bluffed them onto the show: He had told Opry boss Jack Stapp that the Ozark Jubilee also wanted the Louvins. For now, though, they were just happy to have their shot.
As four o’clock neared, they climbed the hill to the National Life Building on Seventh Avenue. Their meetings with Stapp and music clearance man Vito Pelletieri were cordial; then Vito said, “Come on, I’ll introduce you to the stage manager, Jim Denny.” The brothers exchanged nervous glances. Denny was the man for whom they had auditioned those eight times in the past, a brash and seemingly cynical individual who had little use for the Louvins’ gospel hits like “Love Thy Neighbor.” Later they would learn that at this time Denny really had no authority to hire anyone for the show, but now they were not sure if he was their final roadblock. As the late afternoon sun began to set, they entered Denny’s office.