Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Grand Ole Opry 12/19 & 12/20

With the Christmas season coming to and end, the Grand Ole Opry is back to just one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday. The Tuesday Night Opry finished up for the year this past week and will resume in March. As for the Opry this weekend, let's just be kind and say that it isn't quite up to last week's schedule.

The Friday Night Opry will feature Opry members Jeannie Seely, Jesse McReynolds, Thw Whites, Bill Anderson and Riders In The Sky. Also scheduled are two of the Opry's more frequent guests, Chris Janson and The Willis Clan. It is really nice to see The Earls of Leicester scheduled. This group is headed up by Jerry Douglas and is a tribute to Flatt & Scruggs. The CD has been very well received. Among other guests on Friday, Karyn Williams is a Christian artist making her Grand Ole Opry debut in support of her debut CD, while Doug Seegers is also scheduled with this description, "modern country music is like aged whiskey, but Seegers if pure moonshine, raw and clear, giving a good burn all the way down."

Last week's shows featured no artists from "Nashville", this week they more than make up for it. Clare Bowen is scheduled for both Friday and Saturday night, while once again, Saturday's final segment is given over to actors from the show with Clare being joined by Jonathan Jackson and Charles Esten.

As far as Opry members on Saturday, Bill Anderson and Jeannie Seely return for a 2nd night, while Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White are scheduled. They will also be signing their new CD at the Ryman after the show. And, after missing last week, Mike Snider is back.

Friday December 19
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Chris Janson; Jesse McReynolds
7:30: The Whites (host); Karyn Williams; The Earls of Leicester
Intermission
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Exile; Clare Bowen
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Doug Seegers; The Willis Clan

Saturday December 20
7:00: Bill Anderson (host); Striking Matches; (Jimmy Dickens?)
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Eric Paslay
Intermission
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jonathan Jackson; Clare Bowen; Charles Esten

I would assume that Jimmy Dickens will be there on Saturday night, while I am hoping that another act will be scheduled for the 2nd segment. If not, I guess that will leave us with a Tuesday night type show.

There is no live Midnight Jamboree this weekend. Instead a taped show from last year will be run, a Christmas special hosted by George Hamilton IV.

And now, here is the Grand Ole Opry posted line-up from 5 years ago this weekend, December 18 & 19, 2009:

Friday December 18
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jimmy C Newman; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
7:30: Jean Shepard (host); Mandy Barnett; Ralph Stanley
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jim Lauderdale
8:30: Emmylou Harris (host); The Whites; Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

Saturday December 19
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Emily West
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Ralph Stanley
8:00: Emmylou Harris (host); The Whites; Gillian Welch & David Rawlings; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Ronnie Milsap (host); George Hamilton IV; Jean Shepard; Amber Digby

Now from 10 years ago this weekend, December 17 & 18, 2004:

Friday December 17
7:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Ralph Stanley; Lorrie Morgan
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Charlie Walker; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Josh Gracin
8:30: George Hamilton IV (host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C Newman; Del McCoury Band
9:00: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Josh Turner
9:30: Diamond Rio (host); Jean Shepard; Osborne Brothers

Saturday December 18
1st show
6:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Connie Smith; Jim Lauderdale; Blaine Larsen
7:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Joe Nichols; Jimmy Wayne; Trick Pony; Ralph Stanley
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jean Shepard; Billy Walker; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; Brad Paisley

2nd show
9:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Connie Smith; Blaine Larsen
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Walker; Osborne Brothers; Jimmy Wayne
10:30: Jean Shepard (host); George Hamilton IV; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Del McCoury Band; Joe Nichols
11:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Charlie Louvin; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Trick Pony

For this week's feature line-up, I go to Saturday December 20, 1986. It was this date 28 years ago that Randy Travis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Randy came to Nashville from North Carolina. When he first came to town, he was employed as a cook at The Nashville Palace, located across the street from the Opryland Hotel. At the time, he was known as Randy Traywick, then as Randy Ray. Finally as Randy Travis, he was signed by Warner Bros. Records in 1985. In 1986, his debut album was released, "Storms of Life" and sold over 4 million copies. The hits and awards followed. He was won 6 CMA awards, 10 American Music Awards, 9 ACM's and 6 Grammys. Many feel it will just be a matter of time before he is elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Sadly, the past several years have not been kind to Randy as he has gone through a divorce, a management shake up, and several arrests. He is currently living in Texas and continues to work at recovery from a series of health issues.

Let's remember the good times from Randy Travis and the night he was inducted into the cast of the Grand Ole Opry, Saturday December 20, 1986:

1st show
6:30: Bonanza
Del Reeves (host): Two Dollars in the JukeBox/A Dime at A Time/Looking at the World Through A Windshield
Skeeter Davis: The Rose
Del Reeves: Anywhere U.S.A.

6:45: Rudy's
Porter Wagoner (host): Sugarfoot Rag
Riders In The Sky: Christmas at the Triple X Ranch
Porter Wagoner: Your Old Love Letters

7:00: Shoney's
Ricky Skaggs (host): Love's Gonna Get You Someday
Lorrie Morgan: One Love At A Time
Jim & Jesse: When I Dream About the Southland
Randy Travis: Diggin' Up Bones/White Christmas Makes Me Blue
Ricky Skaggs: Walking in Jerusalem Just Like John

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: Kentucky
Roy Drusky: Silent Night
Crook Brothers/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Chicken Reel
Carolee Singers: A Song the Holy Angels Cannot Sing
Dan Kelly: Sally Goodin'

8:00: Martha White
Bill Monroe (host): Can't You Hear Me Calling
The Whites: It Should've Been Easy
Stonewall Jackson: Why I'm Walkin'
Archie Campbell: Make Friends
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A 'Comin'

8:30: Music Valley Merchants
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Boxcar Willie: Fireball Mail/Train of Love/Hand Me Down My Walking Cane/Wreck of the Old 97/Orange Blossom Special/Wabash Cannonball/Night Train to Memphis
Osborne Brothers: Makin' Plans
Mel McDaniel: Tennessee Saturday Night/Stand On It
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General Stores
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
4 Guys: God Bless the USA
Del Reeves: The Race is On
Jan Howard: Why Lady Why
Billy Walker: Coffee Brown Eyes
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name

10:00: Little Debbie
Ricky Skaggs (host): Cajun Moon
The Whites: If It Ain't Love
Randy Travis: On the Other Hand
Ricky Skaggs: Country Boy

10:15: Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting in the Air
George Hamilton IV: C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
Roy Acuff: That's the Man I'm Looking For

10:30: Pet Milk
Bill Monroe (host): Old Ebanezer Scrooge
Charlie Louvin: Sunshine on My Shoulders
Bill Monroe: You're Drifting Away/Christmas Time's A' Comin'

10:45: Heil-Quaker
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Crook Brothers/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Sally Goodin'

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Tangled Mind
Jean Shepard: The Old Rugged Cross
Justin Tubb: Lonesome 7-7203
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Mel McDaniel: Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On/Stand On It
Hank Snow: Silent Night

11:30: Quincy's
Boxcar Willie (host): Fireball Mail/Train of Love/Hand Me Down My Walking Cane/Wreck of the Old 97/Orange Blossom Special/Wabash Cannonball/Night Train to Memphis
Osborne Brothers: Me and My Old Banjo
Connie Smith: The Deepening Snow/Sing, Sing, Sing
Boxcar Willie: Cold, Cold Heart/Take These Chains From My Heart/Half As Much/I Can't Help It/Your Cheatin' Heart/They'll Never Take Her Love From Me/Wedding Bells/Lovesick Blues/Move It On Over

Congratulations to Randy Travis and enjoy the Opry this weekend!!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recap of Last Weekend at the Opry

As I had mentioned, I decided to head down to Nashville and attend the Opry this past weekend. I went to all three shows, which were at the Ryman Auditorium. Each of the three were sold out and the crowds were very enthusiastic. Just my opinion, but there is always something magical about seeing the Opry at the Ryman and I thought all three shows were very good, much better than many of the shows that the Opry has produced lately. I thought I would share my thoughts and observations, starting with the shows on Saturday night.

Each time I see Carrie Underwood at the Opry, I appreciate her, and her music more. And I really appreciate the fact that she is probably the only one of her generation who not only belongs as a member of the Opry, but actually shows up and performs. Bill Anderson said it best when he introduced her during the 1st show on Saturday, when he said that Carrie could be performing on any stage, in any city in the world and for a lot more money, yet she elected to spend Saturday night at the Opry. I can't speak for the veterans, but I think in their own way, they appreciate her supporting the show. What also impressed me was that she did three songs on the first show, and three different songs on the 2nd. So many times, the artists will do the same numbers on both shows. And yes, she is pregnant, yet it has not slowed her down.

I was very anxious to see Kacey Musgraves, and folks, she is the real deal. Not only is she great, and country, but so is her band. To see them dressed up in the suits, sparking in colors, was a great site. They looked like a country & western band. Yes, she did mispronounce Dawn Sears name, and she felt bad about it, but you could also tell she was very nervous. It showed. The audience loved when she did "Don't Fence Me In." A very nice tribute. Bill Anderson made some very nice comments, and he has mentioned in the past that he thinks Kacey has a big future in country music. Hopefully, nobody will mess with her too bad and change her style.

This was also the first time I had seen The Henningsens. The act consists of a father and his son and daughter. The first thing I thought of was The Wilkinsons, who you might remember had a hit or two in the 1990s, and then faded away. Brian, Clara and Aaron are their names and they did two Christmas songs from their new CD. They did a very nice job and I can see why they have been guests on the Opry so many times. Also, Clara is pregnant, which gave us two pregnant performers on the Opry on Saturday, which might have been a first. Kree Harrison, from American Idol, did a couple of ballads on each show. I think she has a very nice voice, not much in style. I don't know what the future holds for her. At this point, she has not had a breakout hit and continues to try to find her way in the industry.

As far as Opry members, I will start with Emmylou Harris. She is as pretty as always, and what a great voice. I hope it came through well on the radio. The first show she did the great Merle Haggard hit, "Kern River." I thought it was a strange song for her to start off with, but she nailed it. The audience was hanging on each word. She finished her segment with "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues", with Kree Harrison joining in along with another young lady who's name I did not catch. Also of note, when the curtain opened, Emmylou started looking around behind her and realized that her bass was missing. He came running out with his instrument. The second show, she opened with "Two More Bottles of Wine', and finished her segment with a Christmas number, again with Kree Harrison. Of note, she forgot the commercial break between Kree Harrison and Bobby Osborne and I was watching Eddie Stubbs try to get her attention, but she was turned the other way and the show kept rolling. Also regarding Emmylou, she read her introduction of Kree Harrison from a card. I have noticed this with several other Opry hosts, so it would be apparent to me that Pete Fisher wants to make sure that guest artists get properly introduced when on the Opry. Now, for Bobby Osborne. He did "Rocky Top" both shows, with a 2nd number on the 2nd show. Bobby was in fine voice but he has added the snare drum again to his band, with his oldest son playing it. I think the drum just takes away and adds a bad sound to "Rocky Top." That song was just fine without a snare drum being played on it. One last comment about Bobby and this is responding to the comment on Bobby doing "Rocky Top" every week. A lot of the song selection from the veterans is not their choice, but what they are being asked, or "suggested" by Opry management to do. I know several of them would love to do other material, but cannot. (Jack Greene did "There Goes My Everything" and "Statue of A Fool" each time he was on in his final years). While we may get tired of hearing "Rocky Top" each week, those in the audience love it and the song always receives one of the loudest ovations.

John Conlee opened both shows, wearing a sports coat and tie. John does a great job hosting and got the shows started on the right note. Jeannie Seely, who also appeared on Friday night, hosted a segment on the 1st show. Nothing really special out of Jeannie. She did two Christmas numbers, and actually the same two she has been doing the past several weeks. Craig Morgan was one of her guests on the 1st show and hosted a segment on the 2nd. As a host, I think he is great. Lot's of humor from him and real nice introductions. I compare his hosting style to that of Larry Gatlin. Just someone out there having fun with the other performers and with the audience. During the first show, he did a different version of "I Don't Remember Loving You", the great John Conlee song. John stood at the side of the stage and came out when the song ended. Craig said he has recorded it, so it might be out next year.

Finally, there was Jimmy Dickens. He appeared only on the first show. Came out as usual, told a few jokes which the audience loved, and did "Mountain Dew." He did not forget the words and I thought his voice was pretty good. You can tell he has lost some weight, but overall seemed in good health and good spirits. He is 94 this coming Friday.

To finish up Saturday, there was a comment made about the speed of the show, especially Emmylou's segment. I can tell you from watching, they were making a big effort to keep the first show on time and not running over. They had a sold-out crowd for the 2nd show waiting outside and with the construction on the Ryman going on, there is only one real entrance to the building and that is the side entrance if you are familiar with the building. But as far as the show, it did not feel rush and I thought the pace was ok. As far as the 2nd show, they held up the start by about ten minutes in order to get as many people in as they could before the start, and it ended about four or five minutes early. Again, from my perspective in the audience, it did not seem rushed, just the flow of the show that particular night.

Now for the Friday Night Opry and a few comments. There were three guest artists, Sara Haze, Amber Digby and Minton Sparks. There is nothing special about Sara Haze. If there was a weak spot on any of the shows, it was Sara. I am pretty sure she sang the same two songs that she did during the birthday weekend in October. Nothing special there. I had seen Amber Digby once before, hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. This was the first time I had seen her on the Opry, and again, she is real country and the real deal. She is part of the "Heart of Texas" group, and if you have heard her, then you know her voice is real country. She said she has a new CD coming out in February of Osborne Brothers material. I am looking forward to that. Friday it was just her, not her entire band. Minton Sparks was a name that I did not recognize and it was her first time on the Opry. She is a story teller and a good one. She did two, about her grandmother's purse, if I remember right, and another one that I can't remember the title. I thought the first story was good, with some humor to it. Comedy and the old-style story telling is something that I think the Opry could use more of. I think Minton did enough of a good job that she will be invited back.

As far as Opry members, the three big names were Joe Diffie, Marty Stuart and Dierks Bentley, all of whom did a very nice job. It is always a pleasure to see all three on the Opry and wish they were there more often. Marty Stuart is such a great host. Lots of energy and fun times. Thanks to that final segment with Marty, the show ran over by about ten minutes, with no complaints. Just an FYI, but Marty did not mention Connie at all. Marty also had Harry Stinson, his drummer out front and center, singing "Dixie." Very nicely done. Dierks Bentley was also fine, lots of energy and he had his full band with him.

As far as the veterans, Jesse McReynolds did two instrumental numbers. Jesse is looking good and his mandolin playing is still top notch. Ray Pillow hosted the second segment, and while he is still a great singer, I have to wonder about his hosting skills. He mispronounced Amber Digby's name, and even admitted that he had just met her. I just hate that. And he was reading the introduction off a card. I just think it could be a bit more professional. I am sure many have noticed that since Jimmy C Newman and George Hamilton IV have passed away, and with Jim Ed Brown ill, we are seeing much more of Ray on the Opry and hosting segments. I just hope they are not overworking Ray!!

Bill Anderson hosted on all three shows and Bill looked and sounded very good. It is hard to believe, but once you get past Jimmy Dickens, Bill would be one of the last veteran Opry performers left from his generation. Friday night he did "Po' Folks Christmas" and "Still", while on Saturday night he did his newer song about his feelings on Christmas (I admit I forget the exact title). He received a huge ovation from both audiences on Saturday. I thought that Pete Fisher made a good decision having Bill host the final segments on Saturday and doing two songs to start out, then having Carrie and Kacey do three, with Bill finishing up and concluding the show without having to follow the ladies with another number.

Finally, there is Jean Shepard. She was on and did "Second Fiddle." She sounds good but she is pretty frail looking. She had to be assisted out to the stage and when she was finished. She did her song sitting on a stool. But again, she was energetic and the audience appreciated the effort. Next year is her 60th year as an Opry member, and discounting the stringband members from the years past, that might make her the first solo artist to make it 60 consecutive years on the Opry. That would be an achievement and I am sure she is hoping to make it.

Looking at where the Opry is at today, I thought these were three very good shows. The line-ups were solid, and there was a nice mix of younger talent and veterans. The audience appreciated the efforts by everyone and as I have already stated, it still gives me hope for the Opry.

A last note on the Opry and what people expect when they go. On Friday night, I was sitting next to two very nice ladies, I would say in their 40s. We started talking a little bit before the show and I found out they were from North Dakota and it was their first trip to Nashville or the Opry. I told them I attend many times and I thought they would enjoy the show. At intermission the one lady turned to me and asked if this was what the Opry was always like. When I asked her what she meant, she said that she couldn't believe that Joe Diffie and the others did just one or two songs. She was expecting more!! I explained the Opry to her and what the show was about and she said it was nothing like she saw when she watched the Opry on GAC and the Opry scenes on "Nashville." I did tell her that the Opry on GAC was not the true Opry, but actually was a scripted hour with just three or four performers who did do four or five songs each, while the real Opry was a radio show. They had no idea who Ray Pillow was since they had never seen him on GAC. No, I explained to her that only the young, hot stars were on television. Sadly, they ended up leaving before the show ended.

Finally, I have a facebook page that I posted pictures from Friday and Saturday night. Many of you who comment and follow the blog already follow me on facebook and I appreciate the comments. It is not all country music and the Opry and if anyone wishes to follow me on facebook, just type in Byron Fay. Make sure to get the right one!!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grand Ole Opry 12/12 & 12/13

It is a day later than usual, but the Grand Ole Opry has finally posted the schedule for the shows this weekend. Looking at who is scheduled, it looks like a pretty good weekend for the Opry. I plan on being in Nashville this weekend and have plans to attend all 3 of the Opry shows.

The Friday Night Opry is highlighted by Opry members Marty Stuart, Joe Diffie and Dierks Bentley. Joining them will be guest artists Amber Digby and Sara Haze, along with Minton Sparks, who will be making her Opry debut. Don't know who Minton Sparks is? I have to admit that I did not know either until I looked her up. According to her website, "Minton Sparks fuses music, poetry, and her intoxicating gift of storytelling to paint word pictures of the rural South that put you square in the middle of the people and the places she knows like the back of her hand." To say the least, she should be interesting.

Also scheduled on Friday night is Ray Pillow, who has seen a big increase in his Opry appearances and hosting duties after years of having limited appearances. Jean Shepard is also scheduled. She missed last week so let's hope she is feeling well enough to appear.

Saturday's Grand Ole Opry will feature Opry member Emmylou Harris. For Emmylou, this will be her first Opry appearance of 2014, and probably her only 2014 Opry appearance. That seems to follow her pattern of appearing sometime during the Opry's Ryman run. I find that too bad as when Emmylou joined the Opry, I really expected more out of her as I really thought that when it came to the Opry, she got it. Also scheduled is Carrie Underwood, who does get it when it comes to the Opry. It has been mentioned before that Carrie has set a standard for the newer Opry members. With her pregnancy, I would think we won't see her at the Opry as much in the coming year, but I think we can all say that is a good reason. It is also nice to see Opry member Craig Morgan scheduled.

Guest artists scheduled include Kacey Musgraves, who has made a big impact on country music in 2014. Kree Harrison and The Henningsens round out the guests.

Friday December 12
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Sara Haze; Jesse McReynolds
7:30: Ray Pillow (host); Amber Digby; Joe Diffie
Intermission
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard; Minton Sparks
8:45: Marty Stuart (host); Dierks Bentley

Saturday December 13
1st show
7:00: John Conlee (host); The Henningsens (Jimmy Dickens?)
7:30: Emmylou Harris (host); Kree Harrison; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Opry Square Dancers
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Kacey Musgraves; Craig Morgan
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Carrie Underwood

2nd show
9:30: John Conlee (host); Carrie Underwood
10:00: Emmylou Harris (host); Kree Harrison; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
10:30: Craig Morgan (host); The Henningsens; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Kacey Musgraves

And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from 5 years ago this weekend, December 11 & 12, 2009:

Friday December 11
1st show
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Chuck Wicks
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jack Greene; Vince Gill
8:00: Steve Wariner (host); Connie Smith; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Rascal Flatts

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Chuck Wicks
10:00: Mike Snider (host); Ray Pillow; Rascal Flatts
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Connie Smith; Steve Wariner
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Stonewall Jackson; Vince Gill

Saturday December 12
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Trace Adkins
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jack Greene; Nanci Griffith
8:00: Marty Stuart (host); Dale Jett & Hello Stranger; Connie Smith; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jim Ed Brown; Nanci Griffith
10:00: Marty Stuart (host); Stu Phillips; Dale Jett & Hello Stranger; Connie Smith
10:30: Mike Snider (host); Trace Adkins; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Vince Gill

Now from 10 years ago this weekend, December 10 & 11, 2004:

Friday December 10
7:30: Porter Wagoner (host); The Whites; Jack Greene; Alicia Nugent
8:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Christy Sutherland; Del McCoury Band
8:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Stonewall Jackson; Connie Smith; Marty Stuart
9:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Osborne Brothers; Buddy Jewell
9:30: Jean Shepard (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Mel McDaniel; Chely Wright

Saturday December 11
1st show
6:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Mel McDaniel; Del McCoury Band
7:00: Marty Stuart (host); Sugarland; Craig Morgan; George Jones
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jan Howard; Jean Shepard; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Billy Walker; Connie Smith; Buddy Jewell

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); The Whites; George Jones
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Del McCoury Band; Connie Smith; Marty Stuart
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Craig Morgan; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jean Shepard (host); Stu Phillips; Osborne Brothers; Sugarland
11:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Ray Pillow; Billy Walker; Buddy Jewell

Now from 20 years ago Saturday night, December 10, 1994:

1st show
6:30: Bill Monroe (host); Skeeter Davis
6:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); Oswald
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bill Carlisle; The Whites; Jim Ed Brown; Jimmy C Newman
7:30: 4 Guys (host); J.D. Sumner & The Stamps; Blackwood Quartet
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jan Howard; Johnny Russell; Connie Smith; Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Jeannie Seely; Billy Walker; Riders In The Sky; Jimmy C Newman

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); J.D. Sumner & The Stamps; Blackwood Quartet
10:00: Bill Monroe (host); Riders In The Sky
10:15: Jimmy Dickens (host); Ricky Skaggs
10:30: Billy Walker (host); Roy Drusky
10:45: 4 Guys (host); Charlie Walker; Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Ed Brown; Stonewall Jackson
11:30: Johnny Russell (host); Jimmy C Newman; Mel McDaniel

Finally, from 40 years ago this weekend, Saturday December 14, 1974. What made this night so special is that early Opry star DeFord Bailey made a guest appearance.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Willis Brothers (host): Truck Stop
Jim & Jesse: Paradise
Ernie Ashworth: Oh, Lonesome Me
Willis Brothers: Buying Popcorn

6:45: Rudy's
Bill Anderson (host): Everytime I Turn the Radio On
Bill Carlisle: Same Old Tale That the Crow Told Me
4 Guys: What About Me
Bill Anderson: Proof

7:00: Rudy's
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
Billy Grammer: Wildwood Flower/Under the Double Eagle
Bob Luman: Let Me Make the Bright Lights Shine For You
Barbara Lea: May You Never Be Alone
Justin Tubb: Loving Arms
Porter Wagoner: Carolina Moonshiner
Billy Grammer: Whispering Hope
Porter Wagoner: Wake Up Jacob

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Stoney Cooper: Shackles and Chains
Crook Brothers: Eighth of January
Oswald: Little Darling
DeFord Bailey: Pan American Blues/Ain't Gonna Rain No More/Fox Chase
Carol Lee Cooper: Forgetting About You
Roy Acuff: I Saw the Light

8:00: Martha White
Lester Flatt (host): Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Grandpa & Ramona Jones: Jingle Bells
Connie Smith: I Got My Baby On My Mind
Stu Phillips: Let Me Love You All Over Again
Marty Stuart & Curley Seckler: Christmas Time's A'Coming
Grandpa & Ramona Jones: It Takes A Lot of Loving
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art
Charlie Nixon: Maggie Blues

8:30: Stephens
Roy Drusky (host): Second Hand Rose
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Late
Mel Tillis: Heart Over Mind
Fruit Jar Drinkers: (?)
Roy Drusky: The Bitter They Are, The Harder They Fall
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
Mel Tillis: Memory Maker/Sawmill

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
Bill Anderson (host): (?)
Willis Brothers: Cool Water
Jim & Jesse: Love Is A Fading Rose
Bill Anderson: City Lights
Ernie Ashworth: Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor
Mary Lou Turner: Poor Sweet Baby
Bill Anderson: Everytime I Turn the Radio On

10:00: Fender
Bob Luman (host): Kaw-Liga
Bill Carlisle: I'm Moving
Justin Tubb: Sunshine Lady
Bob Luman: Six Days on the Road

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Back in the Country
Billy Grammer: Somewhere My Love
Roy Acuff: Turn Your Radio On

10:30: Trailblazer
Lester Flatt (host): A Great Big Woman and A Little Biddy Bottle of Wine
Grandpa Jones: Heading South
Connie Smith: Dallas
Lester Flatt: Homestead on the Farm/Foggy Mountain Breakdown

10:45: Beech-Nut
4 Guys (host): Down By the Lazy River
Stoney Cooper: To My Mansion in the Sky
Crook Brothers: Soldier's Joy
4 Guys: Let Me Be There

11:00: Coca-Cola
Roy Drusky (host): Dixie Lily
Fruit Jar Drinkers: (?)
Mel Tillis: Life Turned Her That Way/Ruby, Don't Take Your Guns to Town
Roy Drusky: All For the Love Of A Girl/Three Hearts In A Tangle/Somewhere My Love
Sam McGee: Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Harold Weakley: Legend In My Mind
Roy Drusky: Anymore

11:30: Elm Hill
Stonewall Jackson (host): Me and You and A Dog Named Boo
Ronnie Robbins: If We Make It Through December/If You Love Me Let Me Know
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Late
Stu Phillips: She Thinks I Still Care/Let Me Love You All Over Again
Stonewall Jackson: Washed My Hands In Muddy Water/Don't Be Angry/Waterloo

Finally, here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, December 16:

7:00: Jeannie Seely; The Railers
7:30: Kristian Bush; Dailey & Vincent
Intermission
8:15: Bill Anderson; Lennon & Maisy
8:45: Hunter Hayes

Enjoy the Opry this weekend!! As usual, if I hear or see anything I will have a wrap up next week.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grand Ole Opry 12/5 & 12/6

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the 3 shows this weekend. I am very happy to say that the Opry actually found 3 Opry members for the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night: Bill Anderson, Mike Snider and Ray Pillow on the 1st show and Anderson, Snider and Vince Gill on the 2nd. I know it sounds like a broken record, but how can you have a show called the Grand Ole Opry with just 3 Opry members? And if that isn't enough, the 3 Opry members are hosting the first 3 segments, with no host for the final segment, which is devoted to 3 cast members from the "Nashville" television show. Maybe they are going to film and induct another "fake" Opry member for televison!! Sorry, maybe I am too harsh.

As far as the Friday Night Opry, the rounded up 6 members, with Mike Snider, Jean Shepard, Ray Pillow, Bill Anderson, Bobby Osborne and Vince Gill. That is not a bad group at all, but more could have been added.

Friday December 5
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Janelle Arthur; Jean Shepard
7:30: Ray Pillow (host); The Steeldrivers; Mandy Barnett
Intermission
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Vince Gill (host); Gene Watson; The Willis Clan

Saturday December 6
1st show
7:00: Bill Anderson (host); Greg Bates; (Jimmy Dickens?)
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Amanda Shires; The Henningsens
8:00: Ray Pillow (host); The Willis Clan; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Aubrey Peeples; Chaley Rose; Sam Palladio

2nd show
9:30: Bill Anderson (host); Greg Bates
10:00: Mike Snider (host); Amanda Shires; The Henningsens
10:30: Vince Gill (host); The Willis Clan; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Aubrey Peeples; Chaley Rose; Sam Palladio

Wow!!

I don't know who all listened last Saturday night, but Jimmy Dickens was on again during the first show and did "Out Behind the Barn." The was a pretty embarrassing moment when Jimmy forgot the words to the 2nd verse. He tried to make a small joke and I don't think the audience realized that he was being serious, that he couldn't remember. I kept waiting for someone to step in and help him out. He finally figured it out, but it made for bad radio. Maybe Jimmy just needs to stick to "Mountain Dew". Also, I have heard from a few folks asking about Connie Smith. All I know is that for about the last month, she has not been at the Opry and has been cancelling some concert dates. Marty Stuart has been out on the road and is scheduled for the Opry next Friday night, so hope it is nothing too serious. Speaking of next Friday night, I will be in Nashville next weekend and plan to attend all 3 Opry shows.

And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from 5 years ago this weekend, December 4 and 5, 2009:

Friday December 4
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jack Greene; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); John Conlee; The Whites
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Mike Snider; Mark Wills
8:30: Marty Stuart (host); Jan Howard; Jim Ed Brown; The Quebe Sisters Band

Saturday December 5
1st show
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jimmy C Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; Jamie O'Neal
8:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); Connie Smith; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Trisha Yearwood

2nd show
9:30: John Conlee (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Trisha Yearwood
10:00: Mike Snider (host); Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band
10:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Jean Shepard; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jamie O'Neal; Connie Smith

Now from 10 years ago, the weekend of December 3 & 4, 2004:

Friday December 3
7:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Mel McDaniel; Jennifer Hanson
8:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); Jean Shepard; The Whites
8:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Osborne Brothers; Shelly Fairchild
9:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; George Hamilton IV; Buddy Jewell
9:30: Hal Ketchum (host); Jimmy C Newman; Ralph Stanley

Saturday December 4
1st show
6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Jimmy C Newman; Connie Smith
7:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); Buddy Jewell; Blue Country; Sawyer Brown
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Walker; Jean Shepard; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Ed Brown w/Helen Cornelius; Radney Foster

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Osborne Brothers; Blue Country
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jan Howard; Mel McDaniel; Ralph Stanley
10:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Sawyer Brown; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Buddy Jewell
11:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; George Hamilton IV; Radney Foster

Now from 20 years ago Saturday night, December 3, 1994:

1st show
6:30: Grandpa Jones (host); Bill Carlisle
6:45: Billy Walker (host); Skeeter Davis
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Jimmy C Newman
7:30: Johnny Russell (host); Chonda Pierce; Garth Brooks
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jan Howard; Hank Locklin; Osborne Brothers; Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: 4 Guys (host); Stonewall Jackson; Mark Collie

2nd show
9:30: Johnny Russell (host); Oswald; Garth Brooks
10:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Ray Pillow
10:15: Jimmy Dickens (host); Roy Drusky
10:30: Billy Walker (host); Riders In The Sky
10:45: Jimmy C Newman (host); Jan Howard; Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: The Whites (host); Connie Smith; Hank Locklin
11:30: 4 Guys (host); Jeannie Seely; Mark Collie

Finally, from 40 years ago this Saturday night, December 7, 1974:

1st show
6:30: Willis Brothers (host); Justin Tubb; Ernie Ashworth
6:45: George Morgan (host); Marion Worth; Jim & Jesse
7:00: Roy Drusky (host); Bill Carlisle; Mel Tillis
7:30: Roy Acuff (host); Stoney Cooper; Crook Brothers; Howdy Forrester
8:00: George Jones (host); Tammy Wynette; 4 Guys; Lonzo & Oscar; Patsy Sledd
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Dottie West; Stu Phillips; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Jeanne Pruett

2nd show
9:30: George Morgan (host); Willis Brothers; Lonzo & Oscar; Marion Worth; Ernie Ashworth
10:00: Roy Acuff (host); Jim & Jesse
10:15: Roy Drusky (host); Mel Tillis
10:30: George Jones (host); Tammy Wynette; Bill Carlisle
10:45: Stoney Cooper (host); 4 Guys; Crook Brothers; Carolee Cooper
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Dottie West; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam McGee
11:30: Justin Tubb (host); Jeanne Pruett; Stu Phillips; Ronnie Robbins

(I posted these Opry line-ups from the past 40 years so that everyone can see how the line-ups have varied over the years and compare what is at the Opry this weekend with past weekends).

For this week's feature line-up, I go to Saturday December 5, 1964. I picked this date because it was the following day, Sunday December 6 that it was announced in the Nashville Tennessean's headline read, "Opry Drops 12 Top Stars."

"Twelve top country and western music stars," the story read, "will not appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, and have been prohibited from using the Opry name in their outside billings, it was learned yesterday. Another entertainer, long-time favorite Minnie Pearl, has been given a leave of absence from the show for the coming year, but will continue to use the Opry billing in her present contracts, a WSM spokesman said."

Dismissed from the Opry roster were George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires (background singers on Elvis Presley's records and concert dates), Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson, and Ray Price. Opry officials, after using the policy only minimally before, had insisted on strict adherence to a rule that said Opry performers had to appear on twenty-six shows in a year to be retained on the roster. WSM public relations director Bill Williams tried to put the best face on it, insisting, "Nobody is mad at anybody. It's just that periodically we have to take stock. It's just a routine thing."

Irving Waugh, somewhat removed from the Opry in his capacity as general manager of the WSM television station, nevertheless thought the announcement was ill advised. He viewed the action as an "antagonism" of the country music community by WSM president Jack DeWitt.

Looking back on it, the "Purge of '64" might have been a monumental public relations goof. Within a day of the release of the original story, Opry manager Ott Devine had to remove Chet Atkin's name from the list of the original twelve. His name should not have been included, Devine said, because "Chet has not been officially connected with the Opry for many years." That admission suggested to some that the entire incident reflected adversely on the quality of Opry managment.

Money is what really generated the hassle. Faron Young remembered, "When they insisted on the twenty-six week thing, I put a pen to it and figured it out. I was gonna lose $180,000 a year to work the Opry twenty-six weeks out of the year." Percentages paid by the artists to the WSM Artists' Service Bureau (make that read "booking agency") also were in contention. Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells's husband explained, "They booked some of our dates, and then some of the dates were booked by our personal managers and booking agents. There were charging us fifteen percent on the dates they booked, and then if they didn't book a date you still had to pay them five percent of the dates that you booked yourself. Some of the artists stopped paying the five percent, a lot of them. But Kitty and I paid it right up to the very last, and I told Ott Devine, 'Ott, I don't think it's fair for us to pay that and some of them not paying it. Unless you get everybody to pay it, then I'm not gonna pay it.' They didn't fire anyone. We just quit because we didn't wanna pay the five percent."

Quit or fired? It didn't make any difference; the public perception was that their favorites had been summarily dismissed. If anything good came out of the incident, it was the realization in the city, and in some quarters, for the first time, that the Grand Ole Opry was really important to Nashville.

On Tuesday, December 8, the Nashville Tennessean ran an editorial under the heading, "Opry Has Duty of Protection." It said, "The Opry has been, and continues to be, the nucleus of Nashville's $40 million music industry. There is hardly a successful music enterprise in the city that does not owe its orgin and its longevity to the Opry. Thus, it seems the Opry has a responsibility to compel observance of reasonable restrictions for its own protection and for the protection of the rest of the music industry in Nashville. Most of the thousands of people who line up at the Opry House every Friday and Saturday night have traveled long distances to see in person the stars they have come to love by radio. It must be a disappointment for these fans to arrive at the Opry on this one big night for them and find that their favorite stars have found a more profitable audience in some other state. Opry Manager Ott Devine says the 11 released stars will be missed. And they will be. But there is a feeling that such a loss would be more keenly felt if the stars had not already been missed too often at the Opry."

With that, the Tennessean put the onus squarely on the artists, perhaps unfairly. But a lesson was learned, expressed best in a bit of old country philosophy, "Don't try to fix what aint' broke."

Over time, many of those dismissed from the Opry 50 years ago this weekend would return as Opry members, however at reduced appearances. And those who did not rejoin the cast officially, were still welcomed back as guests.

I know it has been mentioned many times before what the reaction would be if Steve Buchanan and Pete Fisher were to drop those artists who fail to make the ten appearances per year that they are requesting of the members. To put it simply, if that rule had been in effect this year, the Opry would lose 30 of its members. In other words, almost half of the current cast. The Opry would not be able to survive the bad publicity that would follow. The key is to induct members who will honor the word they give and actually appear at least ten times per year, or something close to that number. But as we know, Opry membership doesn't really mean that much anymore. In fact, of the guest artists that the Orpy invites, almost 20 have appeared more than ten times. In other words, many more times then the majority of Opry members.

Here is the Opry running order from 50 years ago this weekend, Saturday December 5, 1964. Even without the 11 Opry members dismissed, it was still a pretty good show.

7:30: Luzianne
Porter Wagoner (host): Come On In
Jean Shepard: He Plays the Bongo; I Play the Banjo
Sonny James: (?)
Del Wood: Cattle Call
Porter Wagoner: A Satisfied Mind
Ernest Ashworth: Just One Time
Jean Shepard: Foggy Mountain Top
Sonny James: (?)
Porter Wagoner: Misery Loves Company

8:00: Martha White
Flatt & Scruggs (host): (?)
Skeeter Davis: (?)
Carter Family: (?)
Curly Fox: (?)
Flatt & Scruggs: (?)
Crook Brothers: Lafayette

Skeeter Davis: (?)
Cousin Jake: (?)
Flatt & Scruggs: (?)

8:30: Stephens
Roy Acuff (host): Plastic Heart
Wilburn Brothers: Somebody's Back In Town
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Rachel's Guitar
Archie Campbell: Comedy
Roy Acuff: No Letter In the Mail
Jimmy Day: Beautiful Dreamer
Oswald: Roll On, Buddy, Roll On
Wilburn Brothers: I Don't Care
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Matthew 24
Roy Acuff: Farther Along

9:00: Pet Milk
Bill Anderson (host): (?)
Margie Bowes: (?)
George Hamilton IV: (?)
Lonzo & Oscar: Gotta Find Julie
Bill Anderson: (?)
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hop Light, Ladies
Margie Bowes: (?)
George Hamilton IV: (?)

Bill Anderson: (?)

9:30: Kellogg's
Roy Drusky (host): Peel Me A Nanner
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A'Coming
Marion Worth: Shake Me, I Rattle
Willis Brothers: Good Night, Cincinnati
Roy Drusky: Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall
Stringbean: Run Little Rabbit, Run
Bill Monroe: I'm One of God's Sheep
Marion Worth: Kentucky Waltz
Roy Drusky: You Never Cried When You Were Mine

10:00: Schick
Porter Wagoner (host): Will You Be Loving Another Man
Carter Family: (?)
Skeeter Davis: (?)
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name


10:15: SSS Tonic
Flatt & Scruggs (host): (?)
Ernest Ashworth: You Can't Pick A Rose In December
Archie Campbell: Most Richly Blessed
Flatt & Scruggs: (?)

10:30: Harvey's
Sonny James (host): (?)
Jean Shepard: (?)
Del Wood: Night Train to Memphis

Sonny James: (?)

10:45: Newport
Roy Acuff (host): Little Pal
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: (?)
Crook Brothers: Ida Red
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird

11:00: Coca-Cola
Wilburn Brothers (host): I'm Gonna Tie One On Tonight
Roy Drusky: Second Hand Rose
Bill Anderson: (?)
Lonzo & Oscar: Country Music Time
Wilburn Brothers: I Guess I'm Crazy
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Stoney Point
Roy Drusky: All For the Love Of A Girl
Sam & Kirk McGee: Snowdrop
Wilburn Brothers: I've Got that Old Time Religion

11:30: Lava
Marty Robbins (host): Beggin't to You
Bill Monroe: Salt Creek
Curly Fox: Bully of the Town
Willis Brothers: Give Me 40 Acres
Marty Robbins: Ruby Ann
Marion Worth: Tomorrow Never Comes
Stringbean: Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy
Bill Monroe: Mule Skinner Blues
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry

Yes, the Opry got along just fine. Enjoy the Opry this weekend!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

December Opry Highlights

As the Grand Ole Opry prepares to close out another year, here are the important dates and historical events that have taken place involving the Opry, or it's members, during the month of December.

December 2, 1898: Herman Crook was born. Herman was an original charter member of the Opry and he performed on the Opry for the final time the week before he passed away in June 1988. Herman first performed on the WSM Barn Dance July 24, 1926 and when he passed away, the Crook Brothers were the only act left that represented the original tradition of the Opry. The band played for the cloggers and the square dancers. Roy Acuff said of Herman, "He loved country music, but he wanted it country. He didn't go for any of this rock' n' roll type stuff."

December 14, 1899: DeFord Bailey was born. DeFord first appeared on the WSM Barn Dance on June 19, 1926, and when George D. Hay changed the name of the show to the Grand Ole Opry, DeFord played the first song. He was fired from the Opry in 1941 in a move that left him very bitter. Despite repeated attempts by Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl and Bill Monroe, DeFord stayed away from the Opry until February 23, 1974, when he returned for the Opry's first "Old-Timer's Night." DeFord passed away in 1982 and in 2005 he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

December 11, 1914: Former Opry member James Clell "Tex" Summey was born. You may not recognize that name, but you would know him by his stage name of Cousin Jody. He first came to the Opry with Roy Acuff in 1937 and later worked with Pee Wee King and Lonzo & Oscar. He also performed on the Opry as a solo act and was an Opry member until health issues forced him to retire. He passed away in 1975. On a historical note, he was the first person to play the dobro and the steel guitar on the Opry.

December 19, 1920: The Grand Ole Opry's oldest member, Jimmy Dickens was born on this date in Bolt, West Virginia. Jimmy will be 94 and despite some health issues, he continues to appear most Saturday nights on the Opry.

December 26, 1925: The WSM Barn Dance was formally listed on the WSM program schedule that was printed in the Nashville Tennessean, which wrote, "Because of this recent revival in the popularity of the old familiar tunes, WSM has arranged to have an hour or two every Saturday night, starting Saturday December 26. Uncle Dave Macon, the oldest banjo picker in Dixie, and who comes from Readyville, Tennessee, and Uncle Jimmy Thompson of Martha, Tennessee, will answer any requests for old-time melodies."

December 10, 1927: While there seems to be some confusion as to the exact date, it would appear that this was the date that the WSM Barn Dance became the Grand Ole Opry. The Barn Dance came on the air at 8:00. From 7-8, WSM broadcast a classical music show, via the NBC radio network called "Music Appreciation Hour." At the conclusion of the Music Hour on that particular night, George D. Hay announced, "For the past hour we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera, from now on we will present The Grand Ole Opry." While this is the story as told by George D. Hay, there seems to be no independent verification of this event. Some historians actually think the date was December 8, 1928 as the "Music Appreciation Hour" did not start on WSM until that year. To back the claim of the December 1927 date, it was on December 11, 1927 that the Nashville Tennessean first used the words "Grand Ole Opry." Either way, the new name stuck.

December 13, 1930: Grand Ole Opry member Buck White was born. Along with his daughters Sharon and Cheryl, The Whites have been Opry members since 1984 and Buck is still doing a great job playing the piano at the age of 84.

December 7, 1931: Opry member Bobby Osborne was born in Leslie County, Kentucky. Along with his brother Sonny, Bobby became an Opry member in 1964. At the age of 83, Bobby still brings bluegrass and "Rocky Top" most every week to the Opry.

December 30, 1944: Bob Wills makes an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, appearing on the Prince Albert portion of the show that was broadcast on the NBC radio network. There are a couple of stories from that night. First, Minnie Pearl remembered that a lady was so excited that she fell out of the balcony onto the stage. But also Minnie also said, "That was the first time we ever put electrified fiddles on the Opry. Roy Acuff said it would ruin the Opry forever!." While it might have been the first night for electric fiddles, both Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys and Ernest Tubb had been using electric instruments on the Opry before Bob Wills made his appearance. Another story from that night is that Bob Wills brought a set of drums and was told to hide them behind a curtain. However, Harold "Sticks" McDonald, a member of the Golden West Cowboys, had actually brought drums to the Opry earlier. He used them for a couple of weeks until George D. Hay told Pee Wee to take the drums home and to leave them there. However, within a few years, many acts were using a snare drum.

December 8, 1945: Earl Scruggs made his Opry debut as part of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. He was the final member to join was is considered the greatest of Bill's many groups. That group included Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts and they are credited with creating the great bluegrass sound that Bill would become famous for. They only stayed together until 1948. Earl and Lester would eventually join the Opry as a duo, and after they broke up, Earl continued for a short period of time as an Opry member. Even after giving up his membership, Earl would still appear from time to time at the Opry.

December 12, 1959: While he was performing on the Opry, Bill Monroe was served with divorce papers from his wife, Carolyn Brown. She charged that Bill was having an affair with his bass player, Bessie Lee Mauldin.

December 24, 1960: The final Prince Albert Grand Ole Opry show is broadcast on the NBC radio network. Television and the decline of radio led to the death of the show. That final show was hosted by Hank Snow.

December 3, 1961: "Doctor" Lew Childre passed away. Lew, who was born in 1901, became an Opry member in 1945 and continued as a member through most of the 1950s. He often worked with Stringbean.

December 6, 1964: The Grand Ole Opry fired 12 of its members for not making the required number of appearances on the Opry. From the Nashville Tennessean, "Twelve top country and western stars will not appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, and have been prohibited from using the Opry name in their outside billings, it was learned yesterday. Another entertainer, long-time favorite Minnie Pearl, has been given a leave of absence from the show for the coming year, but will continue to use the Opry billing in her present contracts," a WSM spokeman said. Those who were dismissed from the Opry were George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson and Ray Price. At the time, Opry members were required to appear on 26 shows each year. It was later found out that Chet Atkins was not an actual Opry member, which led to some comments concerning if Opry management really knew what was going on at the show. Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright would later say that they quit and were not fired. Faron Young would say that it was a money issue. Many of those who were fired would later return to the show as members, including George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Justin Tubb and Stonewall Jackson, along with Minnie Pearl. Most of those who did not rejoin would come back and make guest appearances. On Tuesday December 8, the Tennessean in an editorial wrote, "The Opry has been, and contines to be, the nucleus of Nashville's $40 million music industry. There is hardly a successful music enterprise in the city that does not owe its orgin and its longevity to the Opry. Thus, it seems that the Opry management has a responsibility to compel observance of reasonable restrictions for its own protection and for the protection of the rest of the music industry in Nashville. Most of the thousands of people who line up at the Opry House every Friday and Saturday night have traveled long distances to see in person the stars that they come to love by radio. It must be a disappointment for these fans to arrive at the Opry an this one big night for them and find that their favorite stars have found a more profitable audience in some other state." The Tennessean put it better than I could and they were right in their comments. Of course times have changed and the Opry does not have the importance and influence in Nashville that it once had. But could you imagine what the reaction would be today if the Opry fired a dozen or so acts for not appearing on the show? I think most of us could come up with a list of 12 pretty quickly.

December 23, 1967: Jack Greene became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jack remained an Opry member until his death in 2013. Jack started as a member of Ernest Tubb's band before going on to a successful solo career.

December 14, 1973: Lorrie Morgan, age 14, made her first appearance on the Opry. She was brought on stage by her father, George Morgan, and sang "Paper Roses." A decade later, Lorrie would become an Opry member.

December 15, 1973: Skeeter Davis was suspended by the Grand Ole Opry for comments that she had made the previous Saturday night while performing on the Opry. As Skeeter said, "Hank Williams got kicked off the Opry for drinkin' too much old wine. Me? I got kicked off for singing about the new wine." What actually happened was that Skeeter was on her way to the Ryman for an Opry appearance when she witnessed the arrest of what were known as "Jesus Freaks," which was another name for the young people who were protesting not only in Nashville, but around the country. The arrests enraged Skeeter and on the Opry she expressed her rage by talking about it, singing about it, and weeping about it. When she came off the stage, she faced an angry Opry manager. She was told that she was no longer considered an Opry member, Happily for all, and for Skeeter, she was invited back to the Opry, 18 months later.

December 29, 1973: Tex Ritter made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. This member of the Opry, who joined in 1965, and of the Country Music Hall of Fame would pass away several days later, on January 2, 1974.

December 25, 1976: Larry Gatlin, along with his brothers Steve and Rudy, became members of the Opry. This will be their 38th year as Opry members. While making few Opry appearances during their hit making careers, the Gatlin's, and Larry in particular, have really increased their Opry appearances over the past several years.

December 27, 1978: Grand Ole Opry member Bob Luman passed away at the age of 41. He joined the Opry in 1965 and was known for his rockabilly sound. When he joined the Opry, several of the Opry's members, which included Roy Acuff, felt that Bob's music had a little too much rock in it for the Opry, but Bob proved to be a very popular member of the cast. His last Grand Ole Opry appearance was on December 2, 1978, while his last Friday Night Opry appearance was December 15.

December 8, 1982: Marty Robbins died in a Nashville hospital at the age of 57. Probably the Opry's most popular member in it's history, he was famous for hosting the 11:30 segment and making it his own. The previous October, Marty had been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

December 20, 1986: Randy Travis joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 28th year as an Opry member. Randy is a fine country music singer with many hits and I am sure it will be just a matter of time until he is elected to the Hall of Fame. Sadly, Randy suffered a heart attack and stroke last year and has been unable to perform since. He continues his recover in Texas.

December 17, 1993: Herman Harper, the famous and very popular bass singer for the Carol Lee Singers, passed away. Herman had been a member of the Oak Ridge Boys, back in the days when they were considered a gospel quartet.

December 24, 1994: Grand Ole Opry member Vic Willis performed on the Opry for the final time. The Willis Brothers originally came to the Opry in 1946 and were known as the Oklahoma Wranglers. They left in 1949 to tour with Eddy Arnold. After they finished working with Eddy, they returned to the Opry in 1957 under the name Willis Brothers. In addition to Vic, the group included his brothers Guy and Skeeter. Skeeter passed away in 1976 and Guy stayed until 1979 when ill health forced his retirement. Guy continued on, under the name Vic Willis Trio until his death from an automobile accident in 1995.

December 30, 1994: Grand Ole Gospel Time, which followed the Friday Night Opry and was hosted by Hank Snow's son, Jimmie Snow, was broadcast for the final time. The show, which was taped and broadcast on WSM Sunday mornings, was on the air for 23 years.

December 19, 1999: Former Grand Ole Opry member Marion Worth passed away at the age of 69. Marion had joined the Opry in 1963 and while not a superstar, she was a very entertaining and crowd favorite on the Opry. Her final Opry show was in March 1980, when she left the cast and went into semi-retirement.

December 20, 1999: The legendary Hank Snow passed away at his Rainbow Ranch in Madison, Tennessee. He was just 2 weeks shy of celebrating 50 years as an Opry member. Hank had last appeared at the Opry in September 1996 and had been in declining health since. In the history of the Opry and country music, Hank is one of the all time greats.

December 16, 2000: Brad Paisley was surprised while performing at the Opry by Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely, dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, with an invitation to became a member of the Opry. Brad accepted the invitation and would be inducted as a member in February 2001.

December 14, 2002: Toby Keith makes his first appearance at the Opry. Also appearing at the Opry that night were Keith Urban and Trace Adkins.

December 31, 2002: Jim McReynolds, who performed with his brother Jesse as Jim & Jesse, passed away in Gallatin, Tennessee after a long illness. Jim & Jesse had joined the Opry in March 1964 and along with their Virginia Boys, were very popular in bluegrass circles. After Jim passed away, Jesse continued as an Opry member and this year he celebrated 50 years as an Opry member.

December 13, 2013: Joe Diffie is honored for 20 years as a member of the Opry. Joining Joe that evening was Opry member Carrie Underwood, along with Brad Paisley.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 28, 1925 & Happy Birthday Glen Thompson

As we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, and blessings to all, there are 2 very important dates that I want to mention.

While the Grand Ole Opry has it's annual birthday bash in October of each year, it was actually on Saturday November 28, 1925 that the Grand Ole Opry started. In the words of George D. Hay, the founder of the Grand Ole Opry:

"The Grand Ole Opry is a very simple program and it started in a very simple way. WSM discovered something very fundamental when it tapped the vein of American folk music, which lay smoldering in small flames for about three hundred years. Realizing the wealth of folk music material and performers in the Tennessee Hills, I welcomed the appearance of Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who went on the air at eight o'clock Saturday night, November 28, 1925. Uncle Jimmy told us that he had a thousand tunes. He was given a comfortable chair in front of an old caron microphone, while his niece, Miss Eva Thompson, played piano accompaniment. Uncle Jimmy was about eighty years of age. He told us that he had recently come out with a blue ribbon in a big fiddler's contest and shindig in Dallas, which had lasted about a week. WSM's studio was rather small and beautifully decorated in a quiet way with red drapes, suggesting a very dignified type of music. Uncle Jimmy was somewhat amazed but by no means rattled or thrown for a loss. He was the extrovert type and nothing about the radio seemed to bother him, not even the fact that it was a new proposition. After he had played for about an hour, we suggested very softly on account of the microphone that perhaps he had played enough. His reply came back not so softly: 'Why shucks, a man don't get warmed up in an hour.'"

From there the Opry took off as Uncle Jimmy was followed in the early days of the WSM Barn Dance by DeFord Bailey, Henry Bandy, The Binkley Brothers and Their Dixie Clodhoppers, The Crook Brothers, Kitty Cora Cline, The Fruit Jar Drinkers, The Gully Jumpers, Theron Hale and his Daughters, Fiddlin' Sid Harkreader, Uncle Dave Macon, Uncle Joe Mangrum and Fred Shriver, The Pickard Family, W. Ed Poplin and his Barn Dance Orchestra, Dr. Humphrey Bate and his Possum Hunters, Arthur Smith and Mazy Todd, all of whom were part of the WSM Barn Dance/Grand Ole Opry in the 1920s. A very impressive group.

It is also fitting that November 28 is also the birthday of the Founder and President of the Grand Ole Opry Fan Club, and my good friend, Glen Thompson. While not as old as the Opry, Glen has done much over the years to promote the Opry and to help remember it's history. While I can't say for sure what year the Opry Fan Club started, I believe that it started in the mid 1980s. I know I still have my original membership card, and for those of us who were members, we all looked forward to "The Opry Observer" that came out several times each year, along with the annual button and other items that would come each year of your renewal, items such as scarfs and key chains.

Over the past decade, the Fan Club has somewhat disappeared, but Glen is still at work promoting good, classic country music. Each month, he hosts "Country 101" at his home and each program offers a look back at classic and true country music with the legends. Among the artists that Glen has featured, the list includes Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, George Hamilton IV, The Whites, Riders In The Sky, Kayton Roberts, Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, Rhonda Vincent and Jesse McReynolds. There are so many more I can't name them all.
I can honestly say that Roy Acufff is Glen's all-time favorite country music artist and Grand Ole Opry star. And don't get into any type of argument with Glen over this as he will defend Roy to his death.

Each time I visit Nashville, I look forward to my visit with Glen. I just wish I could spend more time with him as it is always a great visit as we talk not only about days gone by at the Opry, but also our mutual enjoyment of baseball.

Knowing Glen, he probably is embarrassed as I am writing all of this. But I just wanted everyone to know what a great man Glen is and how much the Opry means to him and how much we have to thank him for. Hopefully, the Grand Ole Opry Fan Club, or Circle Club as it was called more recently will get going again and I hope when it does, Glen continues as the President.

Happy Anniversary to the Grand Ole Opry and Happy Birthday to Glen Thompson!!