Sponsored By

E.W. "Bud" Wendell

  • Former General Manager of Grand Ole Opry, President & CEO of WSM, and President & CEO of Gaylord Entertainment
  • During his tenure, Gaylord launched The Nashville Network (TNN), acquired Country Music Television (CMT), launched CMT Europe, extended CMT’s reach into Latin America and Asia, expanded the Opryland Hotel into Nashville’s largest convention facility, and established the Opryland Music Group
  • A major hospitality industry award was created in his name, honoring Wendell's significant career

Wendell began his career with the National Life and Accident Insurance Company (then the parent company of WSM and the Opry) in 1950 as a door-to-door insurance salesman in Hamilton, Ohio. After several transfers, he moved to the home office in Nashville in 1962. He was named manager of the Grand Ole Opry in April 1968.

Wendell became vice president of WSM and general manager of the Grand Ole Opry and Opryland theme park in 1974, just as the Opry was being moved from the aging Ryman Auditorium to its present location near the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. He became president and CEO of WSM in 1978 and chairman in 1980. The Gaylord company acquired National Life's entertainment interests in 1983, and Wendell was named president and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment in 1991.

Under Wendell's leadership, Gaylord launched The Nashville Network (TNN) in 1983, acquired Country Music Television (CMT) in 1991, launched CMT Europe in 1992, extended CMT's reach into Latin America and Asia, expanded the Opryland Hotel into Nashville's largest convention facility, and established the Opryland Music Group (which acquired the massive Acuff-Rose publishing catalog). In addition, Wendell oversaw Gaylord's renovation of the Ryman Auditorium and the opening of the Wildhorse Saloon dance club, which helped revive a declining downtown Nashville.

In 2014, the Nashville hospitality industry honored Wendell's career by creating the first-ever major hospitality industry award in his name. The award is given at the industry's annual celebration and recognizes an individual outside of the hospitality industry who has contributed above and beyond to the overall success of tourism and convention business in Nashville. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Former Governor Phil Bredesen, and Vince Gill are past recipients.

Inducted to the Music City Walk of Fame on October 6, 2015.