The Carolina Opry


May 1986

The Carolina Opry Opens

The impressive variety of live music shows in Myrtle Beach can be traced back to one man, Calvin Gilmore, and his singular vision that first-rate entertainment could thrive along the Grand Strand. The Carolina Opry was the first show to open in Myrtle Beach and the only show in the area for 7 years.

On June 2, 1986, when Calvin Gilmore opened his doors to the first paying customers of The Carolina Opry, few locals or vacationers knew what to expect. Another country bar? Maybe Hee Haw at the beach?

What they got was a breath of fresh air. A sensational show in a cool theater. The kind of show you could take your kids or your grandmother to—but it also blew back the hair of your hard-to-please brother-in-law from New York. By late summer the word had gotten around that something spectacular was happening at The Carolina Opry, and the long line of patrons snaked out the door and around the building. Tour buses stood bumper to bumper. Gilmore had only 12 entertainers and musicians to work with, himself among the number, but they packed a wallop.

December 1986

Christmas Special Debuts

The inauguration and phenomenal success of The Carolina Opry Christmas Special (“The Christmas Show of the South”) made Myrtle Beach a year-round destination.

Many may have forgotten that thirty years ago Myrtle Beach rolled up the sidewalks after Labor Day. It was hard to find a restaurant open for lunch in December. Then the Christmas tour busses began to roll to The Carolina Opry Christmas Special. Families from throughout the region came to Myrtle Beach in December just to see the show. Hotels and restaurants not only opened—they filled. And a new seasonal market was born.

February 1987

Named Most Outstanding Attraction

The Carolina Opry is named the State’s Most Outstanding Attraction by the Governor of South Carolina.

September 1989

The Dixie Jubilee Opens

Selling out nightly, The Carolina Opry had outgrown its original 1,000-seat location and in 1986 Gilmore opened his second theater in North Myrtle Beach, The Dixie Jubilee. Still the only theaters in the market, Gilmore continued to expand the Myrtle Beach tourism season.

June 1992

New State-of-the-Art Theater Opens

Again, Gilmore was outgrowing his two theater locations. In 1991 Gilmore broke ground on the 2,200-seat state-of-the-art theater that The Carolina Opry now calls home.

It was also around this time that national media exposure of The Carolina Opry began to culminate. Gilmore was a legend in the area and was beginning to bring Myrtle Beach into a national light. It was during this time that corporate investors saw Gilmore’s model and his success and decided to try their hand at it as well. Numerous theaters came to Myrtle Beach and the theater market eventually reached saturation and many of those theaters closed shortly after they opened. Throughout this period, The Carolina Opry remained the standard other theaters tried to live up to and was one of the few theaters to remain not only standing, but successful through this period.

The Carolina Opry is the only show on the Grand Strand to have one owner that is local, performs in the show, produces the show, directs the show, watches the show constantly and reads every single comment card himself. Gilmore’s dedication, creativity, ingenuity, and courage brought theater to Myrtle Beach and have kept The Carolina Opry at the forefront of that industry.

July 1992

Southern Country Nights Opens

Calvin Gilmore opens his third Grand Strand theater, Southern Country Nights in the Surfside Beach theater that was the original home of The Carolina Opry.

July 1992

Calvin Gilmore named South Carolina’s Country Music Ambassador

Governor Campbell names Calvin Gilmore “South Carolina’s Country Music Ambassador” and The Carolina Opry is designated ad “The Country Music Center of South Carolina.”

November 1992

USA Today Credits Calvin Gilmore with “Starting the Myrtle Beach Boom”

USA today credits Calvin Gilmore and The Carolina Opry with “Starting the Myrtle Beach boom” and attracting investment groups to follow in his footsteps with attractions like Broadway at the Beach and theaters like Alabama Theatre, both of which were yet to be built at this time.

January 1993

Country Music Spotlight airs on The Family Channel live from The Carolina Opry Theater

South Carolina’s first weekly television series, Country Music Spotlight, airs on The Family Channel live from The Carolina Opry Theater, named for the company’s in-house showbill, Spotlight Magazine.

It starred Calvin Gilmore and other featured performers from The Carolina Opry along with Merle Haggard, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Travis Tritt, John Michael Montgomery, the Gatlin Brothers, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless.

February 1993

The Governor’s Cup

Calvin Gilmore Productions wins the state’s highest and most coveted award, the Governor’s Cup for Overall Excellence in the Tourism Field.

Calvin Gilmore accepted the prestigious award from Mac McIlroy, Executive Vice President of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and John W. Lawrence, Executive Director of the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Speaking to some 500 tourism industry professionals from across the state, Gilmore said, “This is a special evening for all of our 240 employees, who have worked very hard to make a significant impact on South Carolina tourism.”

September 1993

Family Channel Sale

Calvin Gilmore Productions sells 80% to the Family Channel Television Network.

July 1994

NASCAR Salute to Fast Cars Taped at The Carolina Opry Theater

NASCAR Salute to Fast Cars, taped live before a studio audience at The Carolina Opry, featuring Calvin Gilmore, the Carolina Opry, Denver Pyle, and Tom Wopat.

January 1995

All Three Shows Move to One Location

Gilmore brings all three shows together under one roof at the 2,200-seat Carolina Opry Theater to bring the biggest live entertainment experience Myrtle Beach has seen.

April 1995

The Wall Street Journal Credits Gilmore with “Touching Off Next Boom in Myrtle Beach”

The Wall Street Journal credits Gilmore with “touching off the next boom in Myrtle Beach,” influencing several developers to follow suit with attractions such as Fantasy Harbour and Broadway at the Beach, and adding over 10,000 new jobs to the area.

June 1995

Myrtle Beach Walk of Fame

Calvin Gilmore receives a star on the Myrtle Beach Walk of Fame along with Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White.

September 1995

The Serenade Show Opens in Charleston, SC

Calvin Gilmore painstakingly restores one of America’s oldest passenger train stations into his fourth theater, housing The Serenade Show in Charleston, SC.

May 1997

Hard Rock Cafe Hall of Fame

Calvin Gilmore is inducted into the official Hard Rock Café Hall of Fame and Gilmore’s Taylor guitar and custom Manuel jacket are added into the Hard Rock Café museum and proudly displayed in the Hard Rock Café pyramid in Myrtle Beach, SC.

April 1998

Gilmore Buys Back 100% of Gilmore Entertainment

Murdock buys Family Channel Television Network, and Gilmore buys back 100% of Gilmore Entertainment/Calvin Gilmore Productions.

August 2001

Gilmore Interviewed on Fox News Success Stories

Pat Summerall interviews Gilmore on Fox News Success Stories highlighting the national spotlight he brought to Myrtle Beach and his successful negotiations with one of the largest national television networks.

April 2003

Calvin Gilmore Debuts on The Grand Ole Opry

Calvin debuts on the Grand Ole Opry, followed by numerous appearances over the following years.

August 2003

Calvin Gilmore Album – Better Late

Legendary producer Barry Beckett produces Calvin’s album, Better Late, in Nashville.

September 2003

New York Times calls The Carolina Opry “A Hit with Visitors”

National press continues to roll in as The New York Times calls The Carolina Opry “A hit with visitors.”

March 2004

Tribute Theater Opens

Calvin Gilmore opens Tribute theater in North Myrtle Beach.

August 2005

Calvin Gilmore Receives Best Producer Award

Gilmore accepts the Best Producer award from The Entertainment Network at the annual convention of the International Guild of Celebrity Impersonators & Tribute Artists in Las Vegas.

May 2006

Governor Proclaims May 31st as The Carolina Opry Day

The Carolina Opry celebrates its 6,000th show with guest, Governor Mark Sanford, who proclaimed May 31 as Calvin Gilmore and The Carolina Opry Day.

May 2007

Calvin Gilmore Cameo Appearances

Calvin Gilmore makes small appearances in two films, “Bolden,” and “Get Low,” featuring Bill Murray and Robert Duvall.

November 2010

Pioneer Of The Year

Calvin Gilmore is named Pioneer of the Year, an honor bestowed each year on the individual who has best exhibited a significant, positive impact on the Myrtle Beach area. Gilmore is also presented with the Palmetto Patriot Award, recognizing individuals who have made outstanding contributions to their fellow citizens and the State of South Carolina. The award is the highest the Lieutenant Governor can bestow.

November 2012

Calvin Gilmore recognized on Wall of Honor for lifetime achievements

Calvin Gilmore is honored in his hometown of Lebanon, Missouri, with an induction to its Wall of Honor at an annual banquet and gala. He is recognized alongside 4 others, including the late playwright Lanford Wilson and writer Ellen Gray Massey, for bringing honor to the community through their lifetime achievements. Gilmore is introduced with remarks by childhood friend and farm neighbor Steve Swaim, now a successful businessman in Lebanon and Springfield.

January 2015

Calvin Gilmore Introduces the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Series

Calvin Gilmore launches The Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Series on January 25, 2015. The Carolina Opry Theater quickly becomes known as the premiere venue for celebrity entertainment, in addition to its well-established reputation for producing stellar variety shows. The series has since featured such greats as Gladys Knight, Art Garfunkel, Wynonna Judd, Travis Tritt, Garrison Keillor, The Russian National Ballet, Charlie Daniels, America, Kansas, Gaither Vocal Band, LeeAnn Rimes and Tanya Tucker.

April 2020

National Republican Debate National Anthem Performance

Calvin Gilmore and cast are asked to perform the National Anthem on Fox Television Network for the National Republican debate, aired live from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

April 2022

35th Anniversary Season

The 2020 season of The Carolina Opry Theater brings a level of production diversity never seen in Myrtle Beach. This unprecedented season marks nearly 35 years of award-winning live entertainment in Myrtle Beach; an accolade unmatched by any other live variety show. Among the 2020 season shows are the classic Carolina Opry, the Time Warp show, The Carolina Opry Christmas Special, Pure Magic and Calvin Gilmore’s Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Series.