Monday, November 30, 2015

December Opry Highlights

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

December 2, 1898: Herman Crook was born. Herman was an original charter member of the Grand Ole Opry, first appearing on July 24, 1926. His final Opry appearance was in June 1988, just short of 62 years. When he passed, the Crook Brothers were the last act that represented the original traditional sound of the Opry. As Roy Acuff said, "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 actually appeared on the Opry prior to Herman Crook, making his first appearance on June 19, 1926. DeFord was there the night George D. Hay changed the name of the WSM Barn Dance to the Grand Ole Opry, and played the first song on the newly named show. DeFord 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 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: James Clell "Tex" Summey was born. You may not recognize that name, as when he was an Opry member he went by the name of Cousin Jody. He first came to the Opry with Roy Acuff in 1937, and he later worked with Pee Wee King and Lonzo & Oscar, where he really stood out. He also performed on the Opry as a solo act until health issues forced him to retire. He passed away in 1975. On a historical note, he was the first person to play a dobro and the steel guitar on the Opry. 

December 19, 1920: Jimmy Dickens was born in Bolt, West Virginia. Jimmy first joined the Opry in 1948. He left the show for a period of time, but returned as a member 1975. He remained an Opry member until he passed away in January of this past year. 

December 26, 1925: The WSM Barn Dance was formally listed for the first time on the WSM program schedule that appeared 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 known as the Grand Ole Opry. The Barn Dance came on the air at 8:00. In the hour prior to the start of the Barn Dance program, WSM aired a classical musical show on 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 even. Some historians believe that the date was actually December 8, 1928 as the "Music Appreciation Hour" did not start on WSM until that year. However, to back the claim of the 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: On this date 85 years ago, Grand Ole Opry member Buck White was born. Along with his daughters Sharon and Cheryl, The Whites have been Opry members since 1984.

December 7, 1931: Grand Ole 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 84, Bobby still brings bluegrass and of course Rocky Top, to the Grand Ole Opry most every week. 

December 30, 1944: Bob Wills makes a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, appearing on the Prince Albert portion of the show that was broadcast on the NBC radio network. Minnie Pearl remembered that a lady in the balcony was so excited to see Bob on the Opry stage that she fell out of the balcony, onto the Ryman stage. And Minnie also said that it was the first time electrified fiddles were played on the Opry. Roy Acuff thought that this might ruin the Opry forever. While it may have been the first time electric fiddles were played on the Opry, both Pee Wee King and Ernest Tubb had been using electric instruments on the Opry prior to the Bob Wills appearance. There is another story from that night in which it was written that Bob Wills brought all his Texas Playboys with him, including his drummer who was told to stay hidden behind the curtains. Some say that it was the first time drums were played on the Opry, however Harold "Sticks" McDonald, a member of Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys had actually brought drums to the Opry years prior. He supposedly used them for a couple of weeks before George D. Hay told Pee Wee to take the drums home and to leave them there. However, within a few years, several other Opry acts were bringing drummers to the show. 

December 8, 1945: Earl Scruggs made his Opry debut as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. He was the final member to join what many consider the greatest of Bill's many groups. That group included Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Harold Watts, and they were credited with creating the great bluegrass sound that Bill would become famous for. While the most famous of Bill's pickers, they would only stay together until 1948. Earl and Lester would eventually become Opry members and after they broke up, Earl would remain a member for a short while longer. Even after he gave up his Opry membership, Earl would continue to make guest appearances. 

December 12, 1959: While he was performing on the Opry, Bill Monroe was served divorce papers from his wife Carolyn Brown. She charged that Bill was having an affair with his bass player, Bessie Lee Mauldin. The story goes that Carolyn was waiting for Bill outside the Opry and really laid into him. 

December 24, 1960: The final Prince Albert Grand Ole Opry show is broadcast on the NBC radio network. The decline of radio and the rise of television led to the death of the show. Hank Snow was the host for that final broadcast. 

December 3, 1961: "Doctor" Lew Childre passed away. Lew, who was born in 1901, became a member of the Opry in 1945, remaining with the show through most of the 1950s. 

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 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 spokesman 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. It was found out later that Chet Atkins was not actually an Opry member, which led to some comments concerning if Opry management really knew what was going on down at the show. At the time, Opry members were required to appear 26 times each year. Many of those fired would later return to the show as members including George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Justin Tubb and Stonewall Jackson, while Minnie Pearl would return from her leave of absence. The rest would come back to make guest appearances. 

December 23, 1967: Jack Greene became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jack, who would remain an Opry member until his death in 2013, started as a member of Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours before going on to have 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: Opry member Skeeter Davis was suspended by the Opry's management for comments 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 the Skeeter was on her way to the Ryman Auditorium 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 after performing, she faced an angry Opry management. She was told that she was no longer considered an Opry member. Happily for all, and especially for Skeeter, she was invited back to the Opry 18 months later. 

December 29, 1973: Tex Ritter made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. Tex had joined the Opry in 1965 and would pass away the following week. 

December 25, 1976: Larry, Steve and Rudy, The Gatlin Brothers, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be their 39th anniversary as Opry members. While they made few appearances during their hit making days, the Gatlins, and Larry in particular, have really increased their appearances over the past several years.

December 27, 1978: Grand Ole Opry member Bob Luman passed away at the age of 41. Bob had joined the Opry in 1965 and was known for his rockabilly sound. When he joined, 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 popular member of the Opry's cast. His last Grand Ole Opry appearance was on December 2, 1978, while December 15 was his final Friday Night Opry show. 

December 8, 1982: Marty Robbins passed away in a Nashville hospital at the age of 57. Probably the Opry's most popular member, 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 became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 29th year as an Opry member. Randy is a fine country music singer with many hits and I am sure it is just a matter of time until he will be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Sadly, Randy suffered a heart attack and stroke several years ago and has been unable to perform since. However, over the past year, Randy did make several appearances back stage at the Opry. 

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 act. 

December 24, 1994: Grand Ole Opry member Vic Willis performed on the Opry for the final time. The Willis Brothers were originally known as the Oklahoma Wranglers and they first came to the Opry in 1946. They left in 1949 to tour with Eddy Arnold, before returning to the Opry again in 1957. 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 him to retire. Vic continued on, forming the Vic Willis Trio. Vic passed away early in 1995 from injuries suffered in an automobile accident. 

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

December 19, 1999: Former Opry member Marion Worth passed away at the age of 69. Marion joined the Opry in 1963 and while never a superstar, she was very entertaining and a crowd favorite while on the Opry. She left the Opry's cast in March 1980 when she went into semi-retirement. 

December 20, 1999: The legendary Hank Snow passed away at his Rainbow Ranch in Madison, Tennessee, just 2 weeks short of celebrating 50 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Hank had last appeared on the Opry in September 1996 before retiring due to his declining health. In the history of the Opry, and of country music, Hank is considered one of the all time greats. 

December 16, 2000: Brad Paisley was surprised on stage while making a guest appearance on the Opry by Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely, dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus. The reason for the interruption was for Jimmy and Jeannie to ask Brad if he would like to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Brad accepted the invitation and would officially join the cast the following February. 

December 30, 2000: Grand Ole Opry member Skeeter Davis made her final appearance on the Opry. Skeeter, who had been battling various illnesses, would enter a period of declining health, making it difficult for her to continue performing. Skeeter would pass away in December 2004.

December 14, 2002: Toby Keith made his first guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Also appearing on the Opry that night were Keith Urban and Trace Adkins. 

December 31, 2002: Opry member Jim McReynolds, one half of Jim & Jesse, passed away in Gallatin, Tennessee after a long illness. Jim & Jesse had joined the Grand Ole Opry in March 1964, and along with the Virginia Boys, were bluegrass legends. 

December 30, 2006: The Grand Ole Opry's second show concluded at midnight for the final time. The following week, the Saturday Grand Ole Opry shows would be cut to 2 hours each, with the second show ending at 11:30 pm. 

December 13, 2013: Joe Diffie was honored for 20 years of Opry membership. Joining Joe on the Opry that evening were Opry members Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. 

December 20, 2014: Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy Dickens performed on the Opry for the final time. On Christmas Day, Jimmy was admitted to a Nashville hospital and would pass away shortly after the first of the year. His final song? "Out Behind the Barn."

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry and Glen Thompson

It was 90 years ago this evening, Saturday November 28, 1925, when George D. Hay introduced Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who proceeded to play his fiddle for the next hour. Over the following weeks, he was joined by Dr. Humphrey Bate and then eventually, in January 1926, a number of other acts, and the WSM Barn Dance was underway, eventually to be known as the Grand Ole Opry. It has been reported over the years that the first musical selection that Uncle Jimmy played was "Tennessee Wagoner" and I am sure that is the song that will kick off tonight's Grand Ole Opry show. I know that the Opry celebrates in October with their birthday weekend, but hopefully tonight, the historical significance of this evening is mentioned. 

And not to forget, a very Happy 70th Birthday to the founder and president of the Grand Ole Opry fan club, Glen Thompson. How lucky can one man be to be born on the Opry's birthday and then become one of the Opry's biggest fans? Glen has told me several times about taking the bus to Nashville as a young man to see the Opry for the very first time and he was hooked after that. He always has considered Roy Acuff to be the greatest Opry member of all time, and few can disagree. Females? I think Kitty Wells is at the top of his list. 

Glen is from Kenosha, Wisconsin and for many years he would make the trip to Nashville to see the Opry. And not just once a year, but several times each year. And he never missed a birthday weekend. He came up with the idea of starting a fan club for the Opry and I know many of us were members. He struck up a friendship with Roy Acuff, who encouraged Glen to start the fan club. I can still remember each year receiving my fan club pin, a special gift and the quarterly newsletter. In fact, I do believe in my collection I have every newsletter, pin and memento I ever received.  

I know many of us have met Glen over the years and have always enjoyed his company. So from all of us to Glen, let's all wish him a very special day on his 70th!!! 

Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry and Happy Birthday Glen Thompson!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grand Ole Opry 11/27 & 11/28

Before getting into the line-ups for the Grand Ole Opry this weekend, I first want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. I hope that each of you have the opportunity to spend the day with either family or friends and take a moment to appreciate all the each of us are grateful for. I know I am grateful for many things, including each of you who read and comment on the blog. Blessings to all!!

Now as far as this weekend, when I saw the first segment for the Friday Night Opry and the two Saturday night Grand Ole Opry shows, I thought at first that the Opry was going to run the same line-up for all 3 shows!! Well, they did for the 2 Saturday night shows, but the Friday show does have a few different artists scheduled. 

As far as Opry members this weekend, John Conlee, Mike Snider, Riders In The Sky and Connie Smith are scheduled for all 3 shows, while they will be joined by Vince Gill and Jesse McReynolds on Friday night and Bill Anderson and Bobby Osborne on Saturday night. That covers it for Opry members this weekend: 6 on each show. 

Guest artists on Friday include Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys, The Ellas, Elizabeth Cook, TG Sheppard, Chris Jason and Carly Pearce, who is also set for Saturday night. Joining Carly on Saturday night will be Granger Smith, Tracy Lawrence, Mary Gauthier and Restless Heart. 

The two new names on the list, and both making their Opry debuts are The Ellas and Granger Smith. The Ellas are a female trio consisting of Emily James, Jennifer Denmark and Melissa Fuller. They have just released their debut album, which is a Christmas album of all original music. While not a country album, these young ladies are all talented songwriters. 

Granger Smith is also known as Earl Dibbles, Jr. and is a country music singer and songwriter from Texas. He actually has been active in the business since the late 1990's and has recorded 7 albums. His new CD "Backroad Song" was recently released on Broken Bow Records. 

Friday November 27
7:00: John Conlee (host); Carly Pearce; Mike Snider
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys; The Ellas
8:15: Connie Smith (host); Elizabeth Cook; TG Sheppard
8:45: Vince Gill (host); Jesse McReynolds; Chris Janson

Saturday November 28
1st show
7:00: John Conlee (host); Carly Pearce; Mike Snider
7:30: Connie Smith (host); Granger Smith; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
8:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Tracy Lawrence; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Mary Gauthier; Restless Heart

2nd show
9:30: John Conlee (host); Carly Pearce; Mike Snider
10:00: Connie Smith (host); Granger Smith; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
10:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Tracy Lawrence; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Mary Gauthier; Restless Heart

And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from five years ago, the weekend of November 26 & 27, 2010:

Friday November 26
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jimmy C Newman; Thompson Square
7:30: Jean Shepard (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Highway 101
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Stu Phillips; Jim Ed Brown; Holly Williams
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; T. Graham Brown

Saturday November 27
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Jack Greene; Brett Eldredge
8:00: John Conlee (host); Jesse McReynolds; Crystal Gayle; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Riders In The Sky (host); The Whites; Jim Ed Brown; Restless Heart

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Del McCoury Band
10:00: Mike Snider (host); Jan Howard; Jack Greene; Brett Eldredge
10:30: John Conlee (host); Ray Pillow; Crystal Gayle; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky (host); The Whites; Restless Heart

And from ten years ago, the weekend of November 25 & 26, 2005:

Friday November 25
1st show
6:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Mel McDaniel; Erika Jo
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jean Shepard; Larry Stephenson Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jace Everett; Riders In The Sky
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Catherine Britt
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Charlie Walker; T. Graham Brown

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Mike Snider; Riders In The Sky
10:00: Jimmy C Newman; Mel McDaniel; Erika Joe
10:30: Jean Shepard (host); Larry Stephenson Band; Jace Everett
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Charlie Louvin; Catherine Britt
11:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; T. Graham Brown

Saturday November 26
1st show
6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Osborne Brothers; Danielle Peck
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jan Howard; Mel McDaniel; Restless Heart
7:30: Hal Ketchum (host); Jean Shepard; Shannon Brown
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Billy Walker; Cherryholmes; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jack Greene; Marty Stuart

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Mike Snider; Danielle Peck
10:00: Hal Ketchum (host); Osborne Brothers; Restless Heart
10:30: Jean Shepard (host); Jack Greene; Shannon Brown; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Mel McDaniel; Marty Stuart
11:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Billy Walker; Cherryholmes

There are a couple of milestones to mention this week. First, it was on Saturday November 27, 1971 that Margie Bowes made her last appearance as an official member of the Grand Ole Opry. From the WSM Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book, 1969:

"Margie Bowes is an animated, effervescent young singer whose lively presence has sparked the Grand Ole Opry for little more than a decade. Despite her comparative youth, Margie is an old pro when it comes to pleasing her audiences. In 1958, an extremely nervous teenaged Margie Bowes faced up to her first Opry House audience. The occasion was the Pet Milk Grand Ole Opry talent contest. Margie won, hands down."

"The little gal from Roxboro, North Carolina, has parlayed that shaky beginning into stardom. She had prepared for her contest appearance by performing on WRXO Radio in Roxboro. She rehearsed her songs before the other eight members of her family, thereby getting a wide range of opinions on everything she did. Margie is known for the wide variety of costumes in her wardrobe. She has a lively sense of humor, but has the ability to sell the tear-drop songs as well as the bouncier tunes. Margie was also a stand-out in her recent film appearance in 'Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers.' In addition to her performing talents, Margie is also an accomplished songwriter. Her 'When Dreams Go Out of Style' was recorded by Loretta Lynn. Margie's own recordings have steadily increased her nationwide audience. Her releases include 'Understand Your Gal,' 'Big Girl,' 'Lost,' 'I Can't Love That Way,' and 'Funny How Time Slips Away.'"

"The pretty North Carolinian manages to squeeze in an estimated one hundred thousand miles of date-to-date travelling each year but she makes as many Opry appearances as she can. If Margie's second decade with the Opry is as eventful as her first, she should set some impressive records in the future."

Margie was born on March 18, 1941. After winning the Pet Milk Grand Ole Opry contest, she signed with Hickory Records. Her recording career lasted until 1970 and included releases by Mercury and Decca Records. For a time, she was married to Doyle Wilburn. After leaving the Opry, she did make guest appearances, including several on the annual Opry reunion shows. She currently lives in the Nashville area. 

Here is the line-up from 44 years ago, Saturday November 27, 1971:

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
4 Guys (host): Let the Sun Keep Shining
Stringbean: Ruby
Margie Bowes: Understand Your Gal/Big City
4 Guys: Shenandoah

6:45: Rudy's
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): This Train
Ernie Ashworth: Sad Face
Del Wood: Raggin' the Keys
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: I Couldn't Care Less

7:00: Luzianne
Charlie Louvin (host): I Don't Love You Anymore/Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep/See the Big Man Cry
Earl Scruggs Revue: Lonesome Reuben
Grandpa Jones: Old Blue
Jack Barlow: Birmingham Blues
Charlie Louvin & Diane McCall: I'm Gonna Leave You
Earl Scruggs Revue: You Ain't Going Nowhere
Grandpa Jones: Eight More Miles to Louisville
Jack Barlow: It Ain't No Big Thing, But It's Growing
Charlie Louvin: Will You Visit Me on Sundays

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: Safe in the Loving Arms of Mine
Merle Kilgore: Ring of Fire
Crook Brothers: Chicken Reel
Oswald: Southern Moon
Jean Shepard: Just As Soon As I Get Over Loving You
Merle Kilgore: Honky-Tonk Man
Roy Acuff: I Saw the Light

8:00: Martha White
George Morgan (host): Easy Lovin'
Skeeter Davis: One Tin Soldier
Archie Campbell: Comedy
George Morgan: The Gentle Rains of Home
Louie Roberts: Sandy
George Morgan: Candy Kisses

8:30: Stephens
Wilburn Brothers (host): Roll Muddy River
Peggy Little: Little Henry Hurt
Jay Lee Webb: She's Looking Better By the Minute
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Walking in My Sleep
Wilburn Brothers: The War Keeps On Dragging On
Peggy Little: Son of A Preacher Man
Jay Lee Webb: The Happiness of Having You
Wilburn Brothers: That She's Leaving Feeling
Ed Hyde: The Grey Eagle

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Doin' My Time
Margie Bowes: Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Louie Roberts: Come Back, Salina
Harold Weakley: Almost Persuaded
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Turn Your Radio On
George McCormick: Big Wind
Stoney Cooper: Back Up & Push

10:00: Fender
4 Guys (host): Over on the Other Side
Stringbean: Train 45 Heading South
Jack Barlow: Child Bride
4 Guys: Let There Be Peace

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Sunshine Special
Earl Scruggs Revue: Paul and Silas
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird
Earl Scruggs & Howdy Forrester: Sally Goodin

10:30: Trailblazer
Charlie Louvin (host) & Diane McCall: Something to Brag About
Grandpa Jones: Kitty Klide
Del Wood: Beer Barrel Polka
Charlie Louvin: I Placed a Call to My Conscience

10:45: Beechnut
George Morgan (host): Easy Lovin'
Jean Shepard: Safe in the Loving Arms of Mine
Crook Brothers: Ida Red
George Morgan: The Last Letter

11:00: Coca-Cola
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Skeeter Davis: One Tin Soldier
Merle Kilgore: Wolverton Mountain
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Katy Hill
Phil Campbell: A Thing Called Love
Skeeter Davis: Love Takes a Lot of My Time
Sam McGee: Under the Double Eagle
Merle Kilgore: Folsom Prison Blues

11:30: Elm Hill
Wilburn Brothers (host): It Looks Like the Sun's Gonna Shine
Peggy Little: Little Henry Hurt
Jay Lee Webb: The Happiness of Having You
Wilburn Brothers: The War Keeps On Dragging On
Peggy Little: My God is Real
Jay Lee Webb: Heart Over Mind

A couple of names from that night that everyone might not be familiar with: 

Peggy Little was born in Marlin, Texas in 1942. She began her career as a child vocalist on local radio in Texas. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, she had several records on the charts, including "Son of a Preacher Man" that was a cover of the famous Dusty Springfield hit. She recorded for Dot and Epic Records, with her highest charting singles being "Mama, I Won't Be Wearing a Ring" and "Sugarman," both of which reached #37 on the charts. Peggy left the music industry in the mid-1970s and moved back to Texas, where at last report, she still resides. 

Willie Lee Webb, known as Jay, was born in Butcher Hollow, Van Lear in Johnson County, Kentucky on February 12, 1937, and was the brother of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle. Like his siblings, he began music at an early age. He left home when he was 19 and moved to Washington State, where he lived with Loretta and her family. He was known as a very good guitar player and when Loretta formed her own band in 1959, he joined as the guitar player. After Loretta was a televised talent contest and left Washington, Jay continued to play the local clubs, finally getting noticed by Jack Clement. In 1960, he went to Memphis where Jack held a recording session for Jay, after which he was signed to Sun Records. In November 1960, after no success at Sun, he was offered a contract with Decca Records, but he declined. After the Sun contract expired in 1961, he began work with the Wilburn Brothers Publishing Company and played on their TV show, along with doing session work for Decca Records, playing on recordings by his sister Loretta and Patsy Cline. Eventually getting fired by Decca, Owen Bradley was approached by Loretta and in 1966, he signed Jay to a recording contract. His recording career lasted until into the early 1970s and he had several records on the charts, the most successful being "I Come Home A Drinkin;", which made it to #19 on the charts. All the while he continued to write songs and perform with the Wilburn Brothers. Jay Lee Webb passed away on July 31, 1996 from pancreatic cancer. 

Louie Roberts is the son of the great steel guitar player Kayton Roberts. Louie was 14 and had already made close to 100 guest appearances on the Opry, and also had appeared on several different TV shows, including the Mike Douglas Show and the Andy Williams Show. He also appeared on several country music specials on NBC. His success started when he won a WSM talent contest several years earlier. During this portion of his career, he recorded for Decca Records. Louie would continue to appear on the Opry into the 1980s. 

The final line-up I wanted to post is from Saturday November 27, 1993, as it was on this night 22 years ago that Joe Diffie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry: 

1st show
6:30: GHS Strings
Bill Monroe (host): Dear Old Dixie
Wilma Lee Cooper: Poor Ellen Smith
Oswald: Columbus Stockade Blues
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A Comin'

6:45: Hall of Fame
Jack Greene (host): Walking on New Grass
Bill Carlisle: I've Waited Too Long
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything

7:00: Shoney's
Jimmy Dickens (host): Take An Old Cold Tater
Skeeter Davis: ''T Ain't Nice
Congressman Collin Peterson: Make the World Go Away
Jimmy C Newman: Cajun's Dream
Mike Snider: Foggy Mountain Breakdown/The Fir Coat
Jimmy Dickens: Sleepin' at the Foot of the Bed

7:30: Standard Candy
Porter Wagoner (host): Tennessee Saturday Night
Joe Diffie: Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox
Jean Shepard: If Teardrops Were Pennies
Alison Krauss: Baby, You Don't Need Me Anymore
Joe Diffie: John Deere Green
Porter Wagoner: Indian Creek

8:00: Martha White
Bill Anderson (host): I Got the Fever
Billy Walker: A Million and One
Jeannie Seely: Tell Me About It
Charlie Louvin: Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Sally Goodin
Bill Anderson: Deck of Cards

8:30: Kraft
Hank Snow (host): Ancient History
Jan Howard: Gold Watch and Chain
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells
The Whites: San Antonio Rose
4 Guys: In the Middle of the Night
Hank Snow: Just A Faded Petal from A Beautiful Bouquet

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Dooley
Jan Howard: Heartaches by the Number
Stonewall Jackson: Old Chuck of Coal
The Whites: Swing Down Chariot
4 Guys: Let There Be Peace
Billy Walker: Cross the Brazos at Waco
Porter Wagoner: Tennessee Sunshine

10:00: Little Debbie
Bill Anderson (host): Southern Fried
Jean Shepard: Wabash Cannonball
Bill Anderson: Golden Guitar

10:15: Sunbeam/Tennessee Pride
Jimmy Dickens (host): John Henry
Jimmy C Newman; Allons A Lafayette
Jimmy Dickens: Another Bridge to Burn

10:30: Piccadilly
Bill Monroe (host): True Life Blues
Alison Krauss: I Don't Know Why But I Do
Michael Cleveland: Orange Blossom Special
Bill Monroe: I'm Working On a Building

10:45: Opry Book
Jim Ed Brown (host): Southern Loving
Jeannie Seely: Too Far Gone
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Black Mountain Rag
Jim Ed Brown: The Old Lamplighter

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): From A Jack to A King
Joe Diffie: Together Again/Honky-Tonk Attitude
Jeanne Pruett: Temporarily Yours
Mike Snider: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas/(?)
Hank Snow: Black Diamond

11:30: General Jackson
Charlie Walker (host): Right or Wrong
Charlie Louvin: Less and Less
Jack Greene: The Great Speckled Bird
Johnny Russell: In A Mansion Stands My Love/He'll Have to Go
Charlie Walker: Take Me Back to Tulsa

Enjoy the Opry this weekend!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Grand Ole Opry 11/20 & 11/21-Jean Shepard's 60th Anniversary

Before getting into the Grand Ole Opry's weekend line-ups, there are a couple of pieces of news that I wanted to pass along:

First, word came this morning that Ramona Jones, the widow of Grandpa Jones, had passed away at the age of 91. She was from Van Buren, Indiana before eventually moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she met Grandpa and began working with him professionally. They married in 1946. They continued to perform together as Ramona was an excellent fiddler who loved the old time country music. Personally, I always thought one of the best routines that Grandpa and Ramona did was when the did the Bells routine, using cowbells strapped to their feet and hands. I remember their version of Jingle Bells. Our prayers and thoughts go to her family. 

The second bit of news is that word was received late this afternoon that Bonnie Brown, former Grand Ole Opry member and one of the newest members into the Country Music Hall of Fame, has been hospitalized for the past week with a collapsed lung. The treatment as not gone well and the family, and others, have asked for prayers. 

Now to some positive news: 

It will be a big weekend at the Grand Ole Opry as the legendary Jean Shepard will be celebrating 60 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jean is scheduled for the first show on Saturday night and she is listed as Bill Anderson's only guest. Hopefully they treat her right and really honor her as the first female to reach 60 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. And that is 60 consecutive years!!!

Joining Jean on Saturday night, in addition to Bill Anderson, will be Grand Ole Opry members Vince Gill, Mel Tillis, Marty Stuart, Connie Smith, Jesse McReynolds and Jeannie Seely. Hopefully they all take part in the celebration. Also scheduled are guest artists Andrew Petersen, Charles Esten, and Glen Campbell's daughter Ashley Campbell. Ashley has been continuing the legacy of her father Glen and who knows, she may do a Glen Campbell song or two on the Opry Saturday night. 

The Friday Night Opry is looking a little thin. The segment hosts will be Opry members Jeannie Seely, Mike Snider, Connie Smith and Mel Tillis, while the only other Opry member scheduled is Bobby Osborne. There are two very nice guest artists scheduled in Gene Watson and Lee Greenwood. And the younger fans should be thrilled to see Jackie Lee and Lindsay Ell. And that is it currently for Friday night. I would think we will see at least a couple of more scheduled. 

Friday November 20
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jackie Lee
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Lindsay Ell; Gene Watson
8:15: Connie Smith (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
8:45: Mel Tillis (host); Lee Greenwood

Saturday November 21
1st show
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jesse McReynolds; Andrew Petersen
7:30: Marty Stuart (host); Connie Smith; Mel Tillis
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Vince Gill (host); Ashley Campbell; Charles Esten

2nd show
9:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jesse McReynolds; Andrew Petersen
10:00: Marty Stuart (host); Connie Smith; Mel Tillis
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); Ashley Campbell; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Vince Gill (host); Charles Esten

And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from five years ago this weekend, November 19 & 20, 2010:

Friday November 19
7:00: John Conlee (host); Mike Snider; Jean Shepard; Rebecca Lynn Howard
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jack Greene; Daryle Singletary
8:15: Charley Pride (host); Stonewall Jackson; George Hamilton IV; Ralph Stanley
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Craig Morgan

Saturday November 20
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Radney Foster
7:30: Charley Pride (host); Jean Shepard; Mike Snider
8:00: Marty Stuart (host); w/Paul Shaffer; Connie Smith; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Charlie Daniels Band

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Radney Foster
10:00: Charley Pride (host); The Whites; Mike Snider
10:30: Marty Stuart (host); w/Paul Shaffer; Connie Smith; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: John Conlee (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Charlie Daniels Band

Now from ten years ago, the weekend of November 18 & 19, 2005:

Friday November 18
1st show
6:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); The Whites; Del McCoury Band
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Miranda Lambert
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Mel McDaniel; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
8:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Osborne Brothers; John Corbett
8:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Jan Howard; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Darryl Worley

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Mike Snider; Connie Smith
10:00: Jimmy C Newman (host); The Whites; Del McCoury Band
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver/Miranda Lambert
11:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Osborne Brothers; Darryl Worley
11:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; John Corbett

Saturday November 19
1st show
6:30: Mike Snider (host); Mel McDaniel; Connie Smith
7:00: Carrie Underwood; John Corbett; Miranda Lambert; Rascal Flatts
8:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Elizabeth Cook; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Walker; The Whites; Vince Gill

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Connie Smith; Miranda Lambert
10:00: Mike Snider (host); Mel McDaniel; Rascal Flatts
10:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Billy Walker; John Corbett; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Vince Gill (host); The Whites; Carrie Underwood
11:30: Jim Ed Brown w/Helen Cornelius; Elizabeth Cook; Del McCoury Band

As previously stated, Saturday night is Jean Shepard's 60th anniversary as an Opry member. Much as she was the first female Opry member to reach 50 years as an Opry member, she will be the first to reach 60. And that is 60 consecutive years!! 

I thought it would be interesting to look back at previous editions of the Grand Ole Opry's Picture History Books and see how the biographies they printed about Jean have changed a bit over the years. The first one is from Volume 1, which was published in 1957:

"Pretty Jean Shepard traveled across the nation to join the Grand Ole Opry. She was singing on Hank Thompson's show in California when she decided to try for a berth on the Opry, the goal of all country music stars. Born in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma, Jean moved with her family to Visalia, Calif., in 1943, where she attended high school and sang with the school's glee club. Encouraged by her family to try singing as a profession, the petite Opry-star-to-be promptly signed with the Melody Ranch Girls. It was while with this group that Thompson heard her sing and arranged a contract with Capital Records. Jean's 'Dear John Letter' and 'Forgive Me John' in 1953 earned Cash Box magazine's 'Most Promising Star' rating and her spot on the Opry. Jean is versatility personified. She plays the drums, string bass and guitar in addition to her vocalizing-and her neat appearance adds prettiness and charm to stage shows. Miss Shepard is an expert horsewoman, and one of Jean's latest hobbies is teaching her Minah Bird to talk."

That was in 1957.Now here is how it was written in the Picture History book in 2000 on the occasion of the Grand Ole Opry's 75th anniversary:

"Jean Shepard was the first country female vocalist in the post-war era to sell a million records. She was the first to overdub her voice on record and the first to make a color television commercial. She was also the first singing female Opry member to celebrate 40 years with the Opry cast. And she'll be the last to sing anything but that upon which she's built her enduring career-pure country-emphasis on both words."

"Jean was born in Oklahoma but grew up in Visalia, California, one of 10 children who were all musically inclined. When she was 14 she formed an all-girl western swing band called The Melody Ranch Girls. Soon they were playing dances and local radio shows. One night The Melody Ranch Girls played a show with country legend Hank Thompson. He was so impressed with Jean that he introduced her to record executives and set up a recording deal with Capital Records. She cut her first record when she was only 15. Jean soon moved to Springfield, Missouri, to join Red Foley and the stars on the Ozark Jubilee. Next she enjoyed monster success with Ferlin Husky on the 'Dear John Letter' and its sequel 'Forgive Me John.' Both records sold more than a million copies and she and Ferlin played to crowds throughout the U.S. Jean then took her distinct country stylings to the Grand Ole Opry, earning Opry membership on November 21, 1955. She has recorded more than 25 albums-including the 1956 'Songs of a Love Affair' on which she wrote all 12 songs-and hit the charts with releases such as 'Satisfied Mind,' 'Another Lonely Night.' 'Then He Touched Me,' 'Seven Lonely Days,' 'Slipping Away,' 'At the Time,' 'I'll Do Anything' and 'Tips of my Fingers.'"

"Jean married Opry great Hawkshaw Hawkins and had a son Don Robin, named for their good friends Don Gibson and Marty Robbins. In March 1963 she was eight months pregnant with their second child when Hawkshaw died in the tragic plane crash that also took the lives of Opry stars Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline and Patsy's manager and pilot Randy Hughes. When Jean's son was born a month later, she named him Harold Franklin Hawkins II for his father. Jean today is happily married to Benny Birchfield, a musician, singer and member of Nashville's music community. Together with their versatile band 'The Second Fiddles' they tour extensively throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe entertaining audiences with pure country-emphasis on both words."

As you can see, the 2000 write-up was much more extensive then what was written in 1957. Now to finish it out, here is what the biography from the current 90th anniversary Grand Ole Opry Family Album: 

"In 2005, Jean Shepard became the first female singer to reach the 50-year milestone as a Grand Ole Opry member. But Jean's a performer whose career has been marked by a whole series of firsts. Her early hit 'A Dear John Letter,' sung with Ferlin Husky, was the first post-World War II country record by a woman to sell a million copies. Jean's most lasting breakthroughs can't be measured in numbers. When she began recording for Ken Nelson at Capital Records in 1952, there was really no precedent in country music for a young woman recording and touring on her own rather than as a member of a family team, couple, or as a band's 'girl singer.' The teenager who dared to sing 'Twice the Lovin' in Half the Time' as her first single would go on to have hard-country hits though the '50s with 'Don't Fall in Love With a Married Man' and 'The Root of All Evil (Is a Man).' In 1956, she took-for the first time on a country hit-the daring part not of a wronged wife but of 'The Other Woman.' These forceful hits set the stage for Loretta Lynn, Reba, and other assertive country women that followed. Jean's own high-charting hits continued right on through the classic 'Slippin' Away.'"

"Born in Oklahoma, Jean grew up in Visalia, California-one of 10 children in a musically inclined family that listened to the Opry on the radio but had to save pennies to buy a Jimmie Rodgers record once a year. Hank Thompson spotted her when she was just 14, singing and playing bass in an all-girl band she'd formed, called the Melody Ranch Girls. Hank quickly brought her to the attention of Capital Records. She was an early star, along with Porter Wagoner, of Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee broadcasts out of Springfield, Missouri, and she actually preceded Porter at the Opry. Over the years, Jean has been a vocal proponent of undiluted, hard honky tonk sounds onstage and on the air. We can all hear what she has in mind directly-every time she sings."

There you have it. 3 different biographies, each from a different era and point of her career.

Jean became a Grand Ole Opry member on November 21, 1955, which was actually on a Monday. That would have been the day that she accepted the Opry's invitation. Her first appearance as an Opry member would be the following Saturday night, November 26. Here is the Grand Ole Opry line-up from November 26, 1955-Jean Shepard's first appearance as a member of the Grand Ole Opry: 

7:30: Federal Fertilizer Co.
Marty Robbins (host): Maybelline
Fiddle Tune: Old Joe Clark
Minnie Pearl: Comedy
Don and Rita: Lonely Heart
Fiddle Tune: Grey Eagle

7:45: American Ace
George Morgan (host): Ever So Often
Goldie Hill: Ain't Gonna Wash My Face
Eddie Hill: Smack Dab In The Middle
George Morgan: Jesus, Saviour Pilot Me
Fiddle Tune: Devil's Dream

8:00: Martha White
Flatt and Scruggs: Theme Song
Jim Reeves (host): Looking For A Sucker
Hawkshaw Hawkins: Standing at the End of the World
Flatt and Scruggs: Flint Hill Special
Jean Shepard: Satisfied Mind
Moon Mullican: Mean Mama
Possum Hunters: Bile Them Cabbage Down
Jim Reeves: I've Lived A Lot in my Lifetime
Maybelle Carter: Wildwood Flower
Flatt and Scruggs: Bubbling In My Soul
Hawkshaw Hawkins: Car-Hoppin' Mama
Fiddle Tune: Blackeyed Susan

8:30: Prince Albert
Ferlin Huskey (host): I'll Baby Sit With You
Rod Brasfield: Comedy
Louvin Brothers: I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby
Fiddle Tune: Soldier's Joy
Ferlin Huskey: Sayeth The Lord
Del Wood: Smoky Mountain Polka
Minnie Pearl: Comedy
Louvin Brothers: I'm The Middle of Nowhere
Chet Atkins: Avalon
Ferlin Huskey: Walking and Humming
Fiddle Tune: Katy Hill

9:00: Royal Crown Cola
Hank Snow (host): Music Making Mama
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Tennessee Wagoner
Lonzo and Oscar: The Cow Jumped the Moon
Bill Monroe: I Used To Be
Carlisles: Knot-Hole
Marty Robbins: Pretty Mama
Hank Snow: I Can See The Love In Your Heart
Lonzo and Oscar: Snow Deer
Carlisles: Little Liza Jane
Fiddle Tune: Back Up and Push

9:30: Jefferson Island Salt
Jordanaires: Theme Song
Ray Price (host): I Don't Want You On My Conscience
Slim Whitman: Tell Me
Anita Carter: Mask On My Heart
Cousin Jody: Dear John
Crook Brothers: Girl I Left Behind
Louvin Brothers; Just Rehearsing 
Grandpa Jones: Night Train to Memphis
Chet Atkins: Five Foot Two
Jordanaires: Shaking Bridges
Ray Price: Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes

10:00: Wall-Rite
George Morgan (host): Almost
Bill Monroe: Close By
Moon Mullican: Cherokee Boogie
George Morgan: The Best Mistake I Ever Made
Fiddle Tune: Buffalo Gal

10:15: Dr. Le Gear
Marty Robbins (host): That's Alright
Carlisles: I Was On My Way to The Show
Goldie Hill: Why Don't You Leave Me Alone
Marty Robbins: Don't Let Me Hang Around
Fiddle Tune: Devil's Dream

10:30: Hester Battery
Jim Reeves (host): Looking For A Sucker
R.D. Heardon: To Be Announced
Jean Shepard: Beautiful Lies
Jim Reeves: I'm Hurting Inside
Fiddle Tune: Mississippi Sawyer

10:45: D Con
Hank Snow (host): Just Keep on Moving
Jimmy Snow: Go Back You Fool
Gully Jumpers: Bully of the Town
Hank Snow: Within This Broken Heart
Fiddle Tune: Bill Cheatham

11:00: W. E. Stephens
Lonzo and Oscar: Theme Song
Ferlin Huskey (host): I Feel Better All Over
Hawkshaw Hawkins: The Love You Steal
Rod Brasfield: Comedy
Lonzo and Oscar: Who Put That Brick Wall In My Way
Slim Whitman: Indian Love Call
Grandpa Jones: Call Old Rattler
Maybelle Carter: Gold Watch and Chain
Crook Brothers: Arkansas Traveler
Ferlin Huskey: Cuz You're So Sweet
Fiddle Tune: Old Joe Clark

11:30: Delited
Ray Price (host): Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes
Louvin Brothers: When I Stop Dreaming
Eddie Hill: Someday You'll Call My Name
Sam and Kirk: While I'm Away
Cousin Jody: Oh, Wonderful World
Ray Price: Release Me
Dot and Smokey: Contact
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Walking In My Sleep
Louvin Brothers: Just Rehearsing
Ray Price: I'll Be There
Fiddle Tune: Sleepy Lou

Congratulations once again to Jean Shepard for 60 years of membership on the Grand Ole Opry. Enjoy the show this weekend!!