"The Jennings Opry" by Kelsey J.
The Jennings Opry by author

​Have you ever wanted to enjoy good country music, and other entertainment? Then all you had to do was go to the Mark Twain Opry every Saturday night at eight the year round near Frankford on Highway 61 some 80 miles north of St. Louis Missouri. This is the place where many Frankford people went for a little entertainment from their busy lives in the late 60’s to the late 90’s. You couldn’t get better hospitality from any other people.

The opry building, styled like a barn, was started in April, 1967. The building was built by its owner Ivan Jennings and with the assistance of his brother Raymond Dale; they began the country music center, with an investment of nearly $30,000. Raymond Dale appeared occasionally on the show, but it was Ivan who maintained the business, and along with his wife Edna Jennings who was the mother of the opry since its infancy also helped with the business. Edna would make refreshments for the guests after the show people could wash down homemade coffee and sandwiches before they left.

The opry building set 600 people in comfortable theater seats and its air conditioned for summer. The first big show was held on Jan. 20, 1968 with a full house turn out. The opry fans packed the red barn regularly. In the first four year span of the making of the opry 83,200 had attended the shows. One devoted fan named Manford Lamberson had attended every show since the beginning.

There was Nashville talent brought in every week, Ivan promoted country music in the area that back then in Frankford town that boasted a population of 500 people. He used anyone who had talent including family members as his guest on his show. Not only was there country music, but comedic entertainment as well he was called uncle Zeke which had the audience roaring with laughter just by coming onto the stage. His real name was Harold Elder he was the banjo man who played in the band since the beginning. The band members changed over the years, but the music was always the same old country music that the fans of the opry grown to love.

Ivan Jennings is a man that loves country music so much that he created his own place to make his dream come true. That according to an article in the country music digest in 1971 “its pioneer’s like Ivan Jennings that has made America the great country it is today.” Ivan and Edna are retired now living in Kentucky. Still have some shows playing when they come up, but not what they used to be. They would also use the opry for bible school in the summer, and for other events such as reunions. They also built a loft house on the side of the building so they could live there for a while. The opry building also changed names from being the Mark Twain Opry to The Jennings Opry. Even though it seems that the old opry is not in its glory days anymore it will always be remember for the amazing music, and times that people had shared there and will always will cherish forever.

Works Cited:

Powell, Herb. "Opry Fans Pack Red Barn Regularly." Hannibal Courier Post 1972.
Helms, Jimmie. "CMD visits The Mark Twain Opry." "Frankford's 'Opry' Has Home Talent". Country Music Digest December 1971
Jennings, Sharon. Personal interview. 24 March 2010.
Photos also provided by Ivan and Edna Jennings.