Sunday, April 5, 2020

April Opry Highlights

April showers bring May flowers!!! Welcome to Spring, when the trees begin to bloom and everyone starts to get anxious to get their gardens in. Here in Ohio it is still a bit early but the warmer weather and later sunsets is a nice sign. As far as the Grand Ole Opry is concerned, here are the important dates in Opry history for the month of April.

April 19, 1924: The WLS "National Barn Dance" was aired for the first time in Chicago. The National Barn Dance was the first of what would be many weekly barn dance programs sponsored by various radio stations around the country. Among the performers who were part of the "National Barn Dance" were Lulu Belle & Scotty, Bradley Kincaid, Gene Autry and a host of others. The "National Barn Dance" lasted until 1960 when the station changed formats. As many know, especially my friends in the Chicago area, WLS stood for "World's Largest Store," which was Sears, who were the owners of the station.

April 17, 1926: Uncle Dave Macon became a regular member of the WSM Barn Dance, soon to be known as the Grand Ole Opry. At the age of 55, he was the first performer to join the show that had a national reputation and his hiring, in a way, would start the show on the path of becoming a group of professional entertainers instead of those, who as George D. Hay used to say, "came down from the hills for the weekend." Uncle Dave would remain a popular Opry member until his death on March 1, 1952, at the age of 81.

April 14, 1932: Grand Ole Opry member Loretta Lynn was born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. Loretta joined the cast of the Opry in September 1962. At the age of 87, Loretta continues her recovery following her hip surgery and stroke.

April 30, 1932: The Dixieliners, which consisted of Kirk and Sam McGee, along with Arthur Smith, made their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. All three had been performing on the Opry for several years, but this was the first time that they teamed up as an organized group. Their popularity and reputation grew and within a short amount of time they had two ten-minute segments on the show. It began to end for the Dixieliners in 1938 as Arthur had a drinking problem and was suspended from the Opry. On January 14, 1939, the Dixieliners made their final Opry appearance, after which Arthur left the Opry, while Sam and Kirk would continue on for many years.

April 11, 1933: Grand Ole Opry member Roy Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia. Roy, who joined the Grand Ole Opry in August 1987, passed away last year. In addition to being a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Roy was also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and gained fame as the co-host of Hee Haw.

April 29, 1933: The Delmore Brothers, Rabon and Alton, made their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. The brothers remained members of the Opry until 1938 when they left to pursue what they felt were better opportunities. Alton would later write an excellent book, "Truth is Stranger" in which he detailed their time at the Opry and the issues that they had with George D. Hay and Harry Stone. After leaving the Opry, the Delmore Brothers moved around the country and had shows at various radio stations until they played out the territory and moved on. They eventually ended up at WLW in Cincinnati, where they got together with Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis and recorded under the name "Browns Ferry Four." Each of these individuals would eventually be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. September 11, 1938 was the final Opry show for the Delmore Brothers and they sang, "What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul."

April 1, 1934: Country Music Hall of Fame member, and former Opry member, Jim Ed Brown was born in Sparkman, Arkansas. Jim Ed was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for over 50 years, which included time with his sisters Bonnie and Maxine.

April 15, 1937: Bob Luman was born. Bob gained fame as a member of the Louisiana Hayride, and then came to Nashville, joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1965. When Bob joined the Opry, many felt that he had too much "rock-n-roll" in him, but he was a very popular member of the Opry and fans enjoyed his performances. Bob remained at the Opry until he passed away in December 1978.

April 26, 1941: Ernest Tubb recorded "Walking the Floor Over You" in Dallas, Texas. This recording was also the first to use an electric guitar. The success of this record, which would become Ernest's theme song, led him to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry several years later.

April 14, 1945: Upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, a performance of taps was played from the stage of the Opry. This marked the first time that a trumpet was played during an Opry broadcast. Buddy Harroll, part of Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys was the performer, and while it was the right thing to do, George D. Hay was not thrilled. Also of note, while there was an Opry performance that night, it was not broadcast on WSM as the station was running NBC network programming commemorating the life and death of the President.

April 6, 1946: Roy Acuff quit the Opry in a salary dispute. At the time, he was the host of "The Prince Albert Show" segment of the Opry that was broadcast on the NBC radio network. He was making $15 per night at the Opry and asked for a raise to $100 per night. When WSM refused his demands, he left the show and went out to California for an extended tour. Over the years, Roy never talked much about the whole episode, but he knew that as the Opry's biggest star, he could make more money out on the road and have extra time to make movies. A year later, Roy would return to the Opry and when he did, he was paid more than union scale.

April 13, 1946: A week after Roy Acuff left, Red Foley became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and debuted as the new host of "The Prince Albert Show." There is a story behind this. After Roy quit, William Esty and Company, which was the advertising agency that represented R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the makers of Prince Albert chewing tobacco, undertook a study to determine how best to replace Roy Acuff as the host of the program. Most listeners wanted the Opry to continue without any changes, but it was clear after all the questioning was done that a large portion of the Opry fans wanted more music and less talk, suggesting that a singer needed to be hired as the replacement. Esty checked all the available data, which included record sales, jukebox plays and radio favorites, and it all pointed to Red Foley. Red would later say, "I guess I was never more scared than that night I replaced Roy Acuff. The people thought I was a Chicago slicker who came to pass himself off as a country boy and bump Roy out of his job." While it is true that Red came to the Opry from WLS in Chicago, he was actually born in Kentucky and had a string of country hits. It is interesting to note that while Red became a member of the Opry, he only appeared on, and hosted, the Prince Albert segment of the show.

April 13, 1946: The same night that Red Foley came to the Opry, so did Chet Atkins, who was introduced that night by Red. Chet stayed at the Opry with Red for just six months, when he left in his own dispute with Esty. Chet would return later with the Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters and he would continue to make guest appearances until his death.

April 2, 1947: Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris was born. Emmylou joined the cast of the Opry in January 1992, the last member of the cast to have been inducted by Roy Acuff. Sadly, Emmylou does not appear on the Opry as often as many of us would like.

April 19, 1947: Roy Acuff returned to the Grand Ole Opry. Roy left the Opry a year earlier in what some said was due to a salary dispute. On the night he returned, Roy was a guest on the Prince Albert portion of the show. The following Saturday, he would take over as the host of the Royal Crown Cola portion of the Opry.

April 26, 1947: Just over a year after leaving the Opry, Roy Acuff returned as host of the "Royal Crown Cola Show." There is a story that Ernest Tubb and Harry Stone went to see Roy, who was in a Nashville hospital, telling him that the Opry might go under if he didn't return. While there is no evidence that the Opry was about to go under, the words worked and Roy came back, this time to stay for good.

April 3, 1948: The Louisiana Hayride started on KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. Over the next decade, the Hayride would become known as a farm club of the Opry, with many of the Hayride's biggest stars leaving Shreveport for Nashville. Among those were David Houston, Billy Walker, Webb Pierce, Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. The Hayride was also were Elvis Presley got his start. While the Hayride was very successful with Horace Logan at the helm, the lack of a recording industry in Shreveport meant that the stars had to go elsewhere, including Nashville to record. Once there, the Opry grabbed many of them.

April 26, 1952: Martha Carson, the great gospel singer, joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. She came to the Opry on the strength of her hit "Satisfied." Martha remained a member of the Opry until 1957, at which time she took a leave of absence when her first child was born and to spend some time working in New York City. However, when it came time for her to return, the Opry would not hire her back. According to Martha, "I got a leave of absence from the Opry. I didn't quit and I wasn't fired. When I came back to Nashville, Opry manager Ott Devine said they had no openings. I never did go back. I never even got to be a guest." Obviously a poor decision by Ott and the Opry's management.

April 9, 1953: Grand Ole Opry member Hal Ketchum was born. Hal, who over the past several years has experienced some serious health issues, joined the Opry in January 1994.

April 18, 1953: Red Foley made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance as the host of "The Prince Albert Show." Red made the decision to leave Nashville and go to the Ozark Jubilee, which was televised. Red had numerous personal issues when he was with the Opry and when he decided to leave, the Opry had no objections. While many wondered about Red when he first came to the Opry, he become one of the Opry's biggest stars and one of the more popular members. After he left, "The Prince Albert Show" no longer had a permanent host.

April 12, 1957: Grand Ole Opry member Vince Gill was born. Vince has been a loyal and vocal member of the Opry since 1991. While Vince has always supported the Opry, and has been very vocal in that support, last year saw him just a few times on the show as he was busy touring with his own show and as a member of The Eagles. Who else finds it hard to believe that Vince will be 63 this year?

April 4, 1959: Bill Anderson made his debut as a guest on the Grand Ole Opry. Several years later, in July 1961, Bill would become an Opry member.

April 30, 1960: The WLS "National Barn Dance" aired for the final time. At one time, the barn dance was considered a major competitor of the Opry, and while it lasted much longer than others, like those others, it could not sustain itself as musical tastes changed.

April 30, 1966: Ray Pillow became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be Ray's 54th year as an Opry member. On the night he joined, Ernest Tubb introduced him. Ray hasn't been on the Opry for a few years so the thinking is that he is now retired.

April 22, 1967: The Four Guys became members of the Grand Ole Opry. They came to the Opry from the Wheeling, West Virginia area and spent 33 years as members of the Opry until they were fired in April 2000. The reason given for their termination was the fact that all four of the original members had left the group. For a number of years, they operated a very successful dinner theater in Nashville and were a popular cruise trip attraction.

April 6, 1968: Following the assassination of Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the city of Nashville imposed a curfew that forced the Opry to cancel the live show for that night. WSM played a previously taped Opry appearance. After being notified that the show was going to be cancelled, Roy Acuff, Sam and Kirk McGee, along with a few others, put on a makeshift show at a nearby square dance hall that afternoon for Opry fans who came to town to attend the Opry. WSM and the Opry claims this was the only time that the Opry was ever cancelled, however when looking at the Opry's history, it was not the first.

April 6, 1968: On that same evening as the Opry was cancelled, Bud Wendall became the new general manager of the Grand Ole Opry. He replaced Ott Devine, who had been in charge of the Opry since 1959.

April 21, 1971: After taking a break to raise her children, Connie Smith returned as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Connie joined the Opry in 1965. At the time she returned, Connie had been gone for about two years.

April 12, 1972: The first "Fan Fair" was held in Nashville. It was so successful that it would become an annual event, eventually moving to June and the summer tourist season. Fan Fair was a chance for the fans to meet their favorite country music stars and the Opry was a big part of the event. It still takes place, although it is now called "CMA Music Fest."

April 27, 1972: Opryland opens for the first time. The park was an immediate hit and within several years, the Opry House would be completed and the Opry would make the move. Opryland shut down at the end of 1997 and replaced by Opry Mills shopping center. Yes, while it may seem hard to believe, Opryland has been closed for 20 years.

April 28, 1973: Conway Twitty performed on the Opry for the first time. While never becoming an Opry member, Conway had one of the great voices in the history of country music.

April 5, 1975: After having been suspended from the Opry in December 1973, Skeeter Davis was welcomed back to the show. Several Opry members had gone to Bud Wendall, asking that she be allowed to return to the show. When Skeeter returned, she did apologize for those safety forces that she might have offended.

April 23, 1976: Don Williams is introduced as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jeanne Pruett did the honors. As everyone knows, Don and the Opry experience didn't really work and he left the show several years later. Even though he left the Opry as a member, he did return for a couple of guest appearances.

April 2, 1977: Vito Pellettieri worked his final show as the stage manager of the Grand Ole Opry. Several days later, he suffered a stroke and on April 14 he passed away at the age of 87. While very few people have heard of Vito, he was probably one of the most influential people in the history of the Opry, so much so that he was never really replaced when he passed away. Years after his death, one veteran Opry member said, "I miss Vito. You know, we don't have a marshal anymore. What we have out there is a piece of paper in a box, with a list of acts and when they're supposed to go on. But we don't have anybody encouraging us, goading us, giving us advice on how to do better. Nobody to jack us up." One of Vito's closest friends was Hank Snow and Hank wrote extensively about Vito in his autobiography, including the jokes they used to play on each other. Now for those who do not know, Vito was WSM's librarian and started as the Opry's stage manager in 1934. He was the one who set up the Opry on a schedule, with assigned times and slots for each performer. He broke the show into segments with sponsors. Before that, it had been a free-for-all, with the artists coming and going as they pleased. In 1959, Vito faced mandatory retirement at WSM. However, every one of the Opry's members signed a petition demanding that Vito be allowed to continue working at the Opry and that November at the annual disc jockey convention, Opry members staged a show in Vito's honor. By the way, Vito never drove or owned a car and took the bus to WSM and the Opry each day.

April 13, 1981: Guy Willis of the Willis Brothers died at the age of 65. The Willis Brothers consisted of Guy, Skeeter and Vic. They originally joined the Opry in 1946, but left in 1948 to go on the road with Eddy Arnold. They rejoined the Opry in 1960. Skeeter passed away in 1976, after which Guy and Vic continued on, until Guy retired from performing in 1979 due to illness.

April 3, 1982: DeFord Bailey made his final appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. An early member of the show, DeFord had returned in the 1970s and made several appearances on the Opry's annual reunion shows.

April 13, 1985: The Grand Ole Opry was broadcast for the first time on TNN. The original shows were a half hour in length, later expanding to an hour. In 2001 the broadcast moved to CMT and then later to GAC in 2003. The first televised show was a one hour edition and featured Roy Acuff, as the host for the first half hour, with Connie Smith, Minnie Pearl and the Four Guys as guests. The 2nd half hour was hosted by Porter Wagoner and featured Dottie West, Jack Greene, the Crook Brothers and the Melvin Sloan Dancers. Those original TNN shows were not scripted for television and were nothing more than the radio show with a camera. As a result, the timing was sometimes a little bit off and the hosts forgot they were on television and would mention the names of the radio sponsors.

April 22, 1989: Clint Black made his first appearance as a guest at the Grand Ole Opry. In 1991, Clint would become an Opry member.

April 20, 1991: Emmylou Harris began a three night run at the Ryman Auditorium, during which her recording of "At The Ryman" took place. It marked one of the first uses of the Ryman for a concert performance since the Opry had left in 1974. Due to the condition of the building, only a small portion of the seating was able to be used. Those shows with Emmylou helped to spark the idea of renovating and reopening the Ryman.

April 2, 1994: During the TNN telecast of the Opry, an all-star bluegrass jam took place that featured Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Husky, Jr., Marty Stuart, Alison Krauss and Earl Scruggs. Vince said, "That's what this place is all about. Night that are like that."

April 12, 1997: Lewis Crook passed away in Nashville at the age of 87. The Crook Brothers joined the Opry on July 24, 1926, so it is safe to say that they were original members of the WSM Barn Dance. The Crook Brothers remained at the Opry until 1988, a total of 62 years. Lewis was not with the Crook Brothers when they originally began at the Opry, joining the group later in 1928. After Herman passed away and the Crook Brothers name was retired, Lewis would continue to play and make appearances with the Opry's Square Dance Band. When you add it all up and do the math, Lewis was at the Opry on and off for almost 69 years.

April 6, 1998: Former Grand Ole Opry member Tammy Wynette passed away in Nashville at the age of 55. She had been battling health issues for a number of years. Tammy joined the Opry in 1969 and remained for just a few years.

April 4, 1998: Grand Ole Opry member Jerry Clower made his final appearances on the Opry. Jerry, who joined the cast in October 1973, appeared on both Saturday shows that weekend, along with the Friday Night Opry the night before. Jerry passed away in August 1998 due to complications from heart surgery.

April 18, 1998: Diamond Rio became members of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be their 22nd year as Opry members, and overall, they have been pretty good members of the Opry's cast.

April 12, 1999: Lecil Martin, known better as Boxcar Willie, passed away in Branson, Missouri after an extended illness. He was 67. Boxcar joined the Opry in 1981 at the personal invitation of Roy Acuff, who was a real fan of Boxcar, so much so that when Boxcar was on the Opry, and Roy was there, he would come out and do his famous train whistle during the Wabash Cannonball.

April 17, 2004: The Judds made their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. While never becoming Opry members, they would show up a time or two on the show.

April 30, 2004: The Grand Ole Opry took to the road and sponsored the "Grand Ole Opry American Road Show." The appearance took place in York, Pennsylvania and included Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, the Del McCoury Band and Rebecca Lynn Howard.

April 21, 2012: Keith Urban became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 8th year as an Opry member. Sorry to say that Keith hasn't been around much since joining the cast.

April 26, 2013: The Grand Ole Opry dedicated the shows that weekend to Opry member George Jones, who had passed away several days earlier. Those performing included Brad Paisley, Montgomery Gentry and John Conlee.

April 11, 2015: Long time Grand Ole Opry member Jim Ed Brown made his final Opry appearance. The newly elected member of the Country Music Hall of Fame had been an Opry member for just over 50 years.

April 30, 2016: Ray Pillow was recognized upon is 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Opry general manager Pete Fisher presented Ray with a gold pocket watch.

April 7, 2018: Former Grand Ole Opry member Bobby Bare was reinstated as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Bobby, who originally joined the Opry in 1964, left the Opry in 1974, just after when the show moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Grand Ole Opry House. It has been a few years since Bobby has appeared on the Opry and hopefully he is doing better.

April 16, 2019: Kelsea Ballerini became the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Kelsea was invited to join the cast by Little Big Town during the Tuesday Night Opry on March 5.

There you have it for this month and as usual, it was a busy one around the Opry.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Grand Ole Opry 4/3 & 4/4

It seems like every week is tough and this past one was another one as we lost two members of the Grand Ole Opry. Jan Howard and Joe Diffie passed away this past weekend. Both will be missed. Jan was one of the "Grand Ladies" of the Grand Ole Opry, while Joe was a very popular member who joined the cast in the early 1990s. Both will be missed and I have enjoyed reading the many tributes that have come in for both, especially the articles and comments on Jan. We should all have great memories of each one.

As to the Grand Ole Opry show for Saturday night, it will be a trio of ladies that will be performing on the Opry stage, which in addition to being broadcast on WSM and Circle, will also be available through the various streaming sites.

Opry member Terri Clark, and guest artists Ashley McBryde and Lauren Alaina, along with host Bobby Bones, will be on the stage this weekend. All are very talented and it should be another very nice show.

And now, here is the Grand Ole Opry line-up from 25 years ago, the first weekend in April 1995:

Saturday April 1, 1995
1st show
6:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Bill Carlisle
6:45: Bill Monroe (host); Wilma Lee Cooper
7:00: Jean Shepard (host); Skeeter Davis; Hank Locklin; Jimmy C Newman; Stu Phillips
7:30: Grandpa Jones (host); Jeanne Pruett; John Conlee; George Lindsay
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Roy Drusky; Jan Howard; Del Reeves; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Singers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Charlie Walker; Charlie Louvin; The Four Guys

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Roy Drusky; Brother Oswald; Jan Howard; Del Reeves
10:00: Bill Monroe (host); Jean Shepard
10:15: Grandpa Jones (host); Rhonda Vincent
10:30: John Conlee (host); The Four Guys
10:45: Jeanne Pruett (host); Hank Locklin; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Charlie Louvin; Ray Pillow; Jimmy C Newman;
11:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Charlie Walker

Now from 50 years ago, Saturday April 4, 1970:

1st show
6:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Stu Phillips; Del Wood
6:45: George Morgan (host); Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Ernie Ashworth
7:00: Roy Acuff (host); Ray Pillow; Stringbean
7:30: Archie Campbell (host); Willis Brothers; Leroy Van Dyke; Crook Brothers
8:00: Jack Greene (host); Jeannie Seely; Jim and Jesse; Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan
8:30: Ernest Tubb (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Grandpa Jones; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Lonzo and Oscar; Billy Parker

2nd show
9:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Willis Brothers; George Morgan; Ray Pillow; Del Wood
10:00: Stu Phillips (host); Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Ernie Ashworth
10:15: Roy Acuff (host); Archie and Phil Campbell; Stringbean
10:30: Jack Greene (host); Jeannie Seely; Leroy Van Dyke
10:45: Ernest Tubb (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Crook Brothers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Grandpa and Ramona Jones; Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan; Fruit Jar Drinkers: Snuffy Miller; Sam McGee
11:30: Marty Robbins (host); Jim and Jesse; Lonzo and Oscar

Looking  back at significant dates at the Grand Ole Opry, it was Saturday April 4, 1998 that Opry member Jerry Clower made his final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

Jerry Clower was known as one of the country’s top comedians, but he also wrote a number of books. He is not only known for his comedy, but also for his religious influence.

Jerry Clower was born in Liberty, Mississippi, on September 28, 1926. He grew up in Amite County among family and friends who became the source of his funny routines. After he graduated from high school in l944, he joined the navy. Soon after he was discharged, he earned a football scholarship at Southwest Junior College.  Later, he won another scholarship to Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi.

Jerry majored in agriculture at Mississippi State and received a job with Mississippi Chemical Company where he became the Director of Field Services for his company. While working, he gained popularity when his coworkers heard his Coon Hunt Story and other comedy routines. One of his close friends suggested that Clower record an album with some of his routines. Jerry liked the idea and recorded an album under the Lemon label.

His first album was named Jerry Clower from Yazoo City Talkin’, and it sold over 8,000 copies without being advertised. He received a contract with MCA in l97l, which sent his album to the billboard charts. Soon after, he recorded a second album, From the Mouth of Mississippi. His third album was called Clower Power, and his fourth was Live in Picayune. As a result of these albums, he earned the title of Country Music’s funniest man.

Jerry Clower joined the Grand Ole Opry in October 1973 and was the last member to join the Opry while it was still at the Ryman Auditorium. He passed away on August 24, 1998 following heart surgery.

Here is the running order from 22 years ago, the night of Jerry Clower's final appearance on the Opry:

1st show
6:30: GHS Strings
Bill Anderson (host): Family Reunion
Bill Carlisle: Is Zat You Myrtle
Bill Anderson: Five Little Fingers

6:45: Joggin' In A Jug
Jimmy C Newman (host): La Cajun Band
Skeeter Davis: Wait a Little Longer, Please Jesus
Jimmy C Newman; Diggy Liggy Lo

7:00: Shoney's
Jimmy Dickens (host): Out Behind the Barn
Brother Oswald: Never Grow Old
Holly Dunn: Daddy's Hands
Charlie Louvin: When I Stop Dreaming
Del Reeves: Girl on the Billboard
Jimmy Dickens: I Love Lucy Brown

7:30: Standard Candy
Jerry Clower (host): No Dogs in Hotel
Riders In The Sky: How Does He Yodel/Along the Timber Trail
Patty Loveless: To Have You Back Again/You Don't Seem to Miss Me
Jerry Clower: (?)

8:00: Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host): Lost All My Money But A $2 Bill
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
The Whites: Pins & Needles
 Vince Gill: When I Call Your Name
Vince Gill and Patty Loveless: Go Rest High on That Mountain
Opry Square Dance Band and The Melvin Sloan Dancers: Sugar in the Goard

8:30: Opry Book
Johnny Russell (host): Got No Reason Now for Going Home
The Four Guys: My Special Angel
Jean Shepard: Slippin' Away
Stu Phillips: The Great El Tigrae
Jeannie Seely: Speaking of the Devil
Johnny Russell: Making Plans

2nd show
9:30: Opry Book
Porter Wagoner (host): Tennessee Saturday Night
Wilma Lee Cooper: The Legend of the Dogwood Tree
Ray Pillow: Cinderella
Patty Loveless: To Have You Back Again/If My Heart Had Windows/Timer I'm Falling in Love
Christie Lynn: Head on Over to the Twist & Shout

10:00: Opry Book
Jimmy Dickens (host): Take an Old Cold Tater
Jan Howard: Love's Gonna Live Here
Jimmy Dickens: We Could/Mountain Dew

10:15: Banquet
Jimmy C Newman (host): Bayou Blues
Jean Shepard: Tennessee Waltz
Jimmy C Newman: Jambalaya/Cajun Stripper

10:30: Purnell's
Jerry Clower (host): Big Red Goat
Holly Dunn: Daddy's Hands
Jerry Clower: (?)

10:45: Ryman Cruise
Bill Anderson (host): I'm All Right
Opry Square Dance Band and The Melvin Sloan Singers: Ida Red
Bill Anderson: 3 A.M.

11:00: Coca Cola
The Four Guys (host): Cottonfields/Mariah
Riders In The Sky: That's Amore
Charlie Walker: Smoke, Smoke, Smoke
The Whites: He Took Your Place
Vince Gill and Patty Loveless: You're My Kind of Woman; You're My Kind of Man
The Four Guys: May You Always

11:30: Turbo Nutrition
Johnny Russell (host): Someday I'll Sober Up
Billy Walker: Funny How Time Slips Away/Jesus Walks In/Ashes of Love/Blue Moon of Kentucky/That's All Right
Jeannie Seely: Bubbles in My Beer/Another Bridge to Burn
Johnny Russell: Orange Blossom Special

There you have it for this week. I wish there was more to add. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I hope everyone enjoys the Opry this weekend!!

Be safe!!!!!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Joe Diffie

This one is hard. Just one day after the passing of Jan Howard, Grand Ole Opry member Joe Diffie has passed away at the age of 61.

Joe Diffie, a consistent country-music hitmaker throughout the Nineties, died Sunday due to complications related to COVID-19. His publicist confirmed the death to Rolling Stone. Diffie was 61.

With a traditional-leaning voice that drew comparisons to George Jones, Diffie populated his records with honky-tonk ballads and lighthearted novelty tunes, earning the Oklahoma native five Number One singles in the first half of the Nineties. These began with his debut release, the deeply moving “Home,” followed by “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock From the Sun,” “Pickup Man,” and “Bigger Than the Beatles.” In all, Diffie charted 18 Top Ten singles, with the majority reaching the Top Five, including the 1993 radio staples “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” and “John Deere Green.”

The singer was famously name-checked, as were a number of his best-known songs, in Jason Aldean’s 2013 single “1994.” “There are plenty of singers in this town, but not many with a range like his,” Diffie’s fellow Opry star Vince Gill told People magazine in 1993.

Joseph Logan Diffie was born in Tulsa and raised in the tiny community of Velma, Oklahoma. In the intervening years, the Diffie family lived in San Antonio, Washington state, and Wisconsin. His father, who held jobs as a teacher, rancher, truck driver, and welder, had musical tastes that ran more toward traditional country, but Diffie learned about harmony singing by working in gospel and bluegrass groups, including, respectively, Higher Purpose and Special Edition. Diffie also played bars, VFW halls, and honky-tonks as a solo act in Duncan, Oklahoma, where he lived with his wife and children while working in a local foundry. He also partnered with his father to run a small recording studio.

After the closing of the foundry and the dissolution of his first marriage, Diffie relocated to Nashville in 1986, implementing a five-year plan to make it in the music business. There, he took a job with the Gibson guitar company and also began singing on countless demos and writing songs.

In 1988, country legend Hank Thompson cut the Diffie composition “Love on the Rocks.” In 1989, Diffie co-wrote and sang backing vocals on Holly Dunn’s Top Five single “There Goes My Heart Again.”

Signed to Epic Records, Diffie released his debut LP, A Thousand Winding Roads, in 1990. The album produced his inaugural hit, “Home,” which set a record by becoming the first debut single to reach the top of the country charts on all three trade publications at the time: Billboard, Gavin, and Radio & Records. Opening for acts including George Strait and Steve Wariner, Diffie continued his hit streak with six Top Five singles in a row, one of which, 1992’s somber “Ships That Don’t Come In,” would likely have gone to Number One but for its use of the word “bitch” in the lyrics.

In 1993, the year he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, Diffie released the platinum-selling LP Honky-Tonk Attitude, followed by 1994’s Third Rock From the Sun, which was also certified platinum. Following moves to Monument and Broken Bow Records, Diffie signed with the Rounder label, returning to his bluegrass roots with Homecoming.

In 1998, he won a Grammy award for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for the all-star recording “Same Old Train” with Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Emmylou Harris, and more.

In 2013, Diffie and two of his country contemporaries, Aaron Tippin and Sammy Kershaw, teamed for the collaborative album All in the Same Boat. In July 2019, he released the honky-tonk tune “As Long as There’s a Bar,” and in November issued his first-ever vinyl LP, Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie, featuring updated versions of 11 of his hits and a cover of the Stevie Ray Vaughan tune “Pride and Joy.”

Representative of his workingman persona, Diffie took a no-nonsense approach to his craft. “I just like the songs themselves,” he told Rolling Stone in 2019. “Finding songs I really liked and that I related to. Really, it’s not any more complicated than that.”

Prayers and thoughts to Joe's family and friends.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Opry Legend Jan Howard

Singer-songwriter Jan Howard, known as one of “The Grand Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry,” has passed away at age 91.

During her long career, Jan Howard was a recording star, a hit writer, a member of Johnny Cash’s troupe, Patsy Cline’s demo singer, Bill Anderson’s duet partner, Harlan Howard’s wife and business co-owner, Tammy Wynette’s confidant and Wynn Stewart’s disc collaborator, as well as a matriarch of the Opry cast.

Her big solo hits included “The One You Slip Around With” (1960), “Bad Seed” (1966) and the Grammy-nominated singles “Evil On Your Mind” (1966) and “My Son” (1968). While working on the West Coast, she recorded such 1958-60 duets as “Wrong Company,” “How the Other Half Lives” and “Yankee Go Home” with Wynn Stewart.

Her hit Anderson duets in Nashville included “For Loving You” (1967), “If It’s All the Same to You” (1969), “Someday We’ll Be Together” (1970) and “Dis-Satisfied” (1971). She was also a member of Bill Anderson’s road show and TV series cast for seven seasons.

In addition, Howard logged a number of years as an “honorary” member of Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters. In this capacity, she can be clearly heard warbling, “Mama sang tenor” on the memorable 1969 Johnny Cash hit “Daddy Sang Bass.”

She also authored one of country music’s most compelling autobiographies, Sunshine and Shadow (1987). She said that she wrote it as therapy when she became suicidal. That is understandable: Howard had much trauma to heal via the book. Her saga included rape, spousal abuse, bigamy, poverty, war fatality, infidelity, divorce, suicide, financial ruin and mental illness.

She was born Lula Grace Johnson in 1930, the eighth of the 11 children of an impoverished farm couple during the Great Depression. Raised near West Plains, MO, she was enthralled by Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts as a girl and fantasized about being a country singer.

Howard recalled being raped at age 8 by one of her father’s friends. She kept it a secret from her family. She dropped out of school to marry at age 16. Her husband beat her viciously and tried to kill her. She fled with their three sons and had a nervous breakdown. Following her 1953 divorce, she wed a military man who turned out to be already married. This time, she and her boys got on a bus headed for California.

On the West Coast, she met and married aspiring songwriter Harlan Howard (1927-2002) in 1957. After two miscarriages, she had a hysterectomy at age 27. During her recovery, Harlan heard her singing as she washed dishes one evening. Painfully shy, it was one of the first times she had ever sung in front of someone.

Harlan was so excited by his discovery that he taped Jan singing his song “Mommy For a Day” and sent the result to Nashville. Kitty Wells had a hit with the song in 1958. Jan was soon constantly in the studio recording demos of her husband’s tunes.

Harlan believed that his wife could record hits, herself. When she signed with Challenge Records, the label changed “Grace” to “Jan.” She recorded Harlan’s “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” and “I Wish I Could Fall in Love Today” in 1958-59. Both later became country standards.

During these early years, she and influential West Coast honky-tonk star Wynn Stewart (1934-1985) recorded their duets. Jan scored her first solo hit with Harlan’s “The One You Slip Around With” in 1960.

The Howards moved to Nashville later that year. Despite chart success for her as a singer and for him as a writer, anxiety plagued Jan Howard. She developed phobias of heights, open spaces and the dark, as well as crippling stage fright. Harlan institutionalized her, and she went into therapy.

Because of her hit, Jan began getting calls to do guest appearances on the Opry. The show’s Jean Shepard (1933-2016), Skeeter Davis (1931-2004) and, especially, Patsy Cline (1932-1963) welcomed, comforted and befriended her. Jan sang Harlan’s song demos that became Patsy’s records, including “I Fall to Pieces,” “When I Get Through With You,” “That’s When Your Heartache Begins,” “You Took Him Off My Hands” and “He Called Me Baby.”

Patsy Cline recorded for Decca Records. The label’s Owen Bradley (1915-1998) was impressed with Jan’s demos. He signed her to a Nashville recording contract and became her producer. Bradley was an architect of a style of country recording known as The Nashville Sound.

Unlike most of her ballad-singing contemporaries, Jan’s version of The Nashville Sound featured up-tempo tunes. She brought brass and sass to the style. Despite her chronic inner doubts, insecurities and fears, she frequently expressed assertiveness, self-confidence and spunk in her recorded performances.

Harlan Howard wrote many of Jan’s singles of the 1960s, including “I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again” (1963), “What Makes a Man Wander” (1965), “Evil On Your Mind” (her biggest hit, 1966), “Time Out” (1966) and “Any Old Way You Do” (1967). But the marriage unraveled after she became aware of his infidelities. Jan said that Harlan duped her out of her half of their song publishing business before their divorce in 1967.

Now her singing became an economic necessity. Opry star Bill Anderson supplied her with the songs “Bad Seed” (1966), “Count Your Blessings Woman” (1968), “I Still Believe in Love” (1968) and “The Soul You Never Had” (1970), as well as most of their duets.

Jan was a songwriter, too. She wrote the Kitty Wells hit “It’s All Over But the Crying” (1966) and Bill Anderson’s hit “Love Is a Sometimes Thing” (1970), as well as her own singles “Marriage Has Ruined More Good Love Affairs” (1971) and “Life of a Country Girl Singer” (1981).

She and Anderson co-wrote their hit 1971 duet “Dis-Satisfied,” as well as Connie Smith’s 1970 hit “I Never Once Stopped Loving You.” Her songs “Ring the Bells for Jim” and “Christmas As I Knew It” were recorded by Johnny Cash. She wrote “Wherever You Are,” for Jean Shepard. She wrote songs recorded by Conway Twitty, The Osborne Brothers, Tammy Wynette and others.

Jan also wrote 1968’s “My Son,” a moving recitation that began as a letter to her son serving in Vietnam. Despite her reservations, Anderson insisted she record it. She wept throughout the recording session. This mother’s plea for the safe return of her boy was on the market for just two weeks when Jan’s son Jimmy was killed in the war.

During her mourning, Jan got more than 5,000 letters from soldiers and their parents, saying how much the Grammy-nominated single meant to them. She was never able to perform it live.
Four years later, her youngest son David committed suicide at age 21. A singer, dancer and actor, he had been a performer at the Opryland theme park.

June Carter (1929-2003) and Johnny Cash (1932-2003) helped the devastated Jan to cope with her losses by taking her on the road with them. She also sang backup on such Cash hits as “Ghost Riders In the Sky,” “Gone Girl” and “I Will Rock and Roll With You,” as well as “Daddy Sang Bass.”

Next, Tammy Wynette (1942-1998) hired Jan in 1980 to become a member of her ensemble as a backup singer. This troupe toured internationally, and the two women remained close thereafter.
Jan Howard’s 1987 autobiography was/is a testament to the survival of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming tragedy. She always maintained that it wasn’t a show-business book. Rather, she viewed it as the story of a woman who endured despite adversity.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Jan became ever more active in veterans’ issues. She campaigned for the establishment of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. and has been a spokesperson for the Veteran’s Administration and for several Armed Forces charities.

During her recording career, Jan Howard placed 30 titles on the country hit parade. She issued 15 albums between 1960 and 1986. She became a Grand Ole Opry cast member in 1971. Her trumpet-like tones were a fixture on the Opry stage for more than four decades thereafter. Along with Jean Shepard, Connie Smith and Jeannie Seely, Jan Howard was dubbed one of “The Grand Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry” during her later years.

She is survived by one of her three sons, Carter A. Howard and his wife Pamela, two grandchildren, Mitsi H. Lindsay (Keith), Anita H. Simpson (Travis), and three great-grandchildren, Cole, Alli and Charlie.

On a personal note, I can tell you that Jan was a wonderful and kind lady. Friday was her 49th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Grand Ole Opry 3/27 & 3/28

After last week's fine Grand Ole Opry that featured Vince Gill, Marty Stuart and Brad Paisley, Vince is back again this Saturday night for the show that will be on Circle, along with streaming on Facebook and YouTube.

Actually, it will be a family affair on Saturday as Vince will be joined by his wife, Amy Grant, along with daughters Jenny Gill and Corrina Grant Gill. As with the show last week, Bobby Bones again will be the host for those watching on video and it would appear that Billy Cody will handle the duties on WSM.

The streak continues as this will be the 4,917th consecutive Saturday night show.

I have been reading a few comments about about the Opry only having a one hour show and the lack of artists appearing. Let's be honest. These are difficult times and many of the Opry's members have been following the recommendations to stay home and practice social distancing. In no way would I expect any of the senior members to risk their health, or the health of their family, to appear on the show.

Also taken into account is the acoustical nature of these shows, with limited musicians on stage. This basically eliminates the majority of bluegrass acts, along with members such as Old Crow Medicine Show or Riders In The Sky. This type of format just doesn't work well for those.

Finally, there are a number of Opry members who live outside of the Nashville area. They are safely at home and are not going to risk flying to Nashville for an appearance on the Opry.

I applaud Vince for stepping forward to appear again this week on the Opry, as well as bringing his family with him. It again shows Vince's commitment to the Opry, and also his willingness to help out the show while others stay on the sidelines protecting themselves.

It will be interesting in the weeks and months ahead as the Opry tries to sustain itself going forward. There might be some difficult weeks going forward and in times like these, we need to continue to support the show. So instead of complaining about who isn't there, let's appreciate who is.

And now, here is the Grand Ole Opry line-up from 25 years ago, the last Saturday in March 1995:

Saturday March 25
1st show
6:30: Bill Monroe (host); Stonewall Jackson
6:45: Grandpa Jones (host); Jan Howard
7:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jack Greene; Alison Krauss; Charlie Louvin; Jean Shepard
7:30: Holly Dunn (host); Del Reeves; Nashville Bluegrass Band; Vestal Goodman
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Hank Locklin; Jeanne Pruett; Ricky Skaggs; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); The Four Guys; Charlie Walker; Mike Snider

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Holly Dunn; Jean Shepard; Vestal Goodman
10:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Alison Krauss; Ricky Skaggs
10:15: Bill Monroe (host); Brother Oswald
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); Billy Walker
10:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Jimmy C Newman; Hank Locklin; Nashville Bluegrass Band
11:30: Mike Snider (host); Roy Drusky; Charlie Walker

From 50 years ago, Saturday March 28, 1970:

7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Grandpa Jones; Stu Phillips; Bill Carlisle
8:00: Lester Flatt (host); Charlie Louvin; Billy Walker; Crook Brothers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; George Morgan; Jan Howard
9:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Bobby Bare; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Del Wood
9:30: Hank Snow (host); Willis Brothers; Leroy Van Dyke; Jim and Jesse; The Four Guys
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Grandpa Jones; Stu Phillips; Bill Carlisle
10:15: Bill Anderson (host); Charlie Louvin
10:30: Lester Flatt (host); Billy Walker; George Morgan
10:45: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Earl Scruggs Revue; Crook Brothers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Bobby Bare; Willis Brothers; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Del Wood; Kirk McGee
11:30: Marty Robbins (host); Jim and Jesse; Leroy Van Dyke; The Four Guys

Notice that each segment was hosted that night by a future Hall of Fame member.

Saturday March 27, 1971 was a very special night at the Grand Ole Opry as Jan Howard was introduced as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.

The following is from Jan's website:

It's safe to say that few people have been through as many hardships and heartbreaks as Jan Howard. When someone once suggested to her that she'd make a good soap opera actress, Jan laughed and replied, "My life has been a soap opera".

Jan is the survivor of a difficult life, but has always made it clear that she doesn't want pity. Her saga - which includes miscarriages, marital abuse, bigamy, poverty, war, suicide, cheating, divorce, thievery, depression, and mental collapse - has only made her stronger.

Born in West Plains, Missouri, Jan was the eighth of eleven children of an impoverished farm couple. Her humble roots include attending a one-room schoolhouse wearing the homemade, feed sack clothes of a rural Depression-era child.

Married at age fifteen, Jan had three sons before she turned twenty. After two divorces, she headed to Los Angeles in 1955 and took on jobs as a waitress and a secretary. A chance meeting with aspiring songwriter Harlan Howard resulted in a Las Vegas wedding just one month later. One evening while Jan was washing dishes, Harlan came in the room unexpectedly and heard her singing for the very first time.

Harlan coaxed Jan to make a demo tape of his song "Mommy For A Day" which went on to become a hit for Kitty Wells. Jan later sang demos for other artists like Tex Ritter, Johnny Bond, Ned Miller, and Buck Owens. She also recorded the original demo of the Patsy Cline classic, "I Fall To Pieces". Backed by Wynn Stewart's band, Jan released Harlan's "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" in 1959. She subsequently recorded several duets with Wynn including "Yankee Go Home" and "Wrong Company".

In 1960, Jan scored her first solo Top Ten hit with "The One You Slip Around With". That same year, the Howards moved to Nashville and Jan made her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

Meanwhile, painfully shy Jan was suffering from the psychological scars of her youth, as well as the anxiety of beginning a new adventure. When her weight dropped below ninety-seven pounds, Harlan hospitalized Jan and she went into therapy.

Although strong friendships were formed with several Opry members, Jan faced some resentment and had to deal with her lack of self-confidence. She soon felt out of sync with the Opry's expectations for female acts.

Jan's fans, however, found her blunt, no-nonsense manner and stylish, no-frills look appealing.She won Billboard magazine's Most Promising Country Female Award in 1960, and she brought feminine spunk to The Nashville Sound.

In 1963 Jan had a Top 40 hit with "I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again", but it was a couple years later that her career really caught fire. Jan's string of gutsy hits included "What Makes A Man Wander" (1965), "Evil On Your Mind" (1966), "Bad Seed" (1966), "Roll Over And Play Dead" (1967), "Count Your Blessings Woman" (1968), "We Had All The Good Things Going" (1969), "Rock Me Back To Little Rock" (1970), "Love Is Like A Spinning Wheel" (1971), and "Let Him Have It" (1972).

Several of Jan's songs of the period reflected her troubled marriage with Harlan which eventually ended in a 1968 divorce. For the first time in her life, Jan's singing became an economic necessity.

Between 1965 and 1973, Jan teamed with Bill Anderson to form one of country's hottest duos on the road, on his syndicated TV show, and on record. Their hits included "I Know You're Married" (1966), "If It's All The Same To You" (1969), and "Someday We'll Be Together" (1970). Jan and Bill's 1967 recording of "For Loving You" stayed at No. 1 for four weeks on the country singles chart.

Jan not only recorded songs, but wrote them as well. She penned the 1966 Kitty Wells hit "It's All Over But The Crying" and Bill Anderson's 1970 hit "Love Is A Sometimes Thing", as well as her own singles "Marriage Has Ruined More Good Love Affairs" (1971) and "The Life Of A Country Singer" (1981).

Jan and Bill co-wrote Connie Smith's hit "I Never Once Stopped Loving You". Together with Jan's son Carter, they co-wrote their own 1972 hit "Dis-Satisfied".

Jan's proudest composition is 1968's "My Son", a moving recitation that began as a letter to her son in Vietnam. Jan's plea for the safe return of her son Jimmy had been released for two weeks when he was killed. Thousands of letters from soldiers and their parents subsequently poured in to Jan. Recent world events have renewed interest in the song, which Jan has performed in response to several requests.

Four years after Jimmy's death in Vietnam, Jan's youngest son David committed suicide. Jan softened the edges of tragedy with her strong faith in God and her belief that there is a reason for everything.

In 1987 Jan released her candid, compelling, and best-selling autobiography titled Sunshine and Shadow. The outline for the book was actually a song called "My Story" which Jan composed during a low point in her life when she became suicidal.

"Never Let Yesterday Use Up Today" has been one of Jan's mottos for years. "You can't change the past," she explains, "so learn from it, cherish the good, and go on from there. This is not a rehearsal; this is the show and there are no retakes."

Throughout her career Jan has accumulated many accolades for her recordings and songwriting, including several Grammy and CMA nominations. She has received countless acknowledgements for her charitable contributions and has taken an active role working with Veterans groups across the United States. In West Plains, Missouri, the "Jan Howard Expressway" has been named in her honor.

From 1960 through 1978, Jan placed thirty singles on the Billboard country music charts. Her vocals can be heard on over twenty albums. Recently she released a boxed set collection containing eighty songs and a twenty-page photo album.

Jan has toured every state in the USA, along with twenty-one foreign countries. She's made television appearances on dozens of shows like Hee Haw, Family Feud, The Today Show,Nashville Now, Music City Tonight, Prime Time Country, and Opry Live.

Jan's most memorable moment in country music was her induction as a member of the Grand Ole Opry on March 27, 1971. For over thirty years she has been a regular performer and a fan favorite on the world-famous Opry stage. The charming, brown-eyed entertainer has also opened many doors for female country artists.

Over the years Jan has pursued a variety of interests including acting and golfing. Along with friends Jeannie Seely and Rita Coolidge, Jan appeared in a motion picture titled Changing Hearts which was released in 2003 and is available on DVD and VHS.

Words like "classy", "sophisticated", "witty", "determined", "strong-willed", and "compassionate" have often been used to describe Jan. She is undoubtedly a lady of rare talent and determination who challenges life on a daily basis.

Jan has the gift of communicating the emotions of life through her music. Her love of life touches everyone she encounters.

"It almost seems like an accident that I became a singer," Jan states, "but I'm so thankful for it."

So are we all.

Jan, who is now retired, is the Grand Ole Opry's oldest member, will be celebrating her 49th anniversary as an Opry member on Friday night.

And now, here is the running order from Saturday March 27, 1971, the night Jan Howard joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry:

1st show
6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Billy Walker (host): I Taught Her Everything She Knows
Ray Pillow: Grazin' in Greener Pastures
Del Wood: Are Your from Dixie
Billy Walker: How Great Thou Art

6:45: Rudy's
Jack Greene (host): There's a Whole Lot About a Woman A Man Don't Know
Jeannie Seely: Please Be My New Love
Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely: Wish I Didn't Have to Miss You
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything

7:00: Luzianne
Bill Monroe (host): My Little Georgia Rose
Earl Scruggs Revue: Loraderojosp III Breakdown
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper: Each Season Changes You
Ernie Ashworth: Jesus Is a Soul Man
James William Monroe: Come With Me Up Happiness Hill
Bill Carlisle: Too Old to Cut the Mustard
Earl Scruggs Revue: Foggy Mountain Top
Wilma Lee Cooper: The Legend of the Dogwood Tree

7:30: Standard Candy
Bill Anderson (host): Wild Weekend
Grandpa Jones: Mountain Dew
Jan Howard: Evil on Your Mind
George Morgan: For the Good Times
Bill Anderson: Always Remember
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Grandpa Jones: Fair & Tender Ladies
Bill Anderson and Jan Howard: Someday We'll Be Together

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Loretta Lynn: I Wanna Be Free
Tex Ritter: The Men in My Little Girl's Life
Willis Brothers: Women's Liberation
Lonzo and Oscar: Crawdad Song

8:30: Stephens
Porter Wagoner (host); The Carroll County Accident
Dolly Parton: Coming For to Carry Me Home
Stringbean: Hot Corn; Cold Corn
Tom T Hall: Ballad of 40 Dollars
Porter Wagoner: The Last One to Touch Me
Hank Locklin: She's as Close as I Can Get
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Walking in My Sleep
Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton: Better Move it On Home

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
Bill Anderson (host): You Can Change the World By Changing Your Mind
Willis Brothers: For the Good Times
Jan Howard: Were You There
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper: Nobody's Darling But Mine
Ray Pillow: Working Man Blues
Bill Anderson: I Love You Drops

10:00: Fender
Bill Monroe (host): Little Joe
Earl Scruggs Revue: Bugle Call Rag
Bill Carlisle: I'm Movin'
Del Wood: Are You From Dixie

10:15: Union 76
Billy Walker (host): When A Man Loves A Woman
Grandpa Jones: Dooley
Ernie Ashworth: Jesus Is A Soul Man
Billy Walker: Make the World Go Away

10:30: Trailblazer
Roy Acuff (host): I Wonder Where You Are Tonight
Jack Greene: There's a Whole Lot About a Woman a Man Don't Know
Jeannie Seely: Don't Touch Me
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird

10:45: Beechnut
Porter Wagoner (host): Big Wind
Dolly Parton: Joshua
Stringbean: Lonesome Road Blues
Crook Brothers: Arkansas Traveler
Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton: Better Move it On Home

11:00: Coca Cola
Tex Ritter (host): Have I Told You Lately That I Love You
Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner's Daughter
Hank Locklin: Country Hall of Fame
Fruit Jar Drinkers: (?)
Tex Ritter: High Noon
Loretta Lynn: I Wanna Be Free
Sam McGee: San Antonio Rose

11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host): Devil Woman
Lonzo and Oscar: There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
Ronnie Robbins: Put You Hand in the Hand/Today I Started Loving You Again
Marty Robbins: I Walk Alone/Don't Worry/A Heart Full of Love/Long Gone Lonesome Blues
Marty Robbins and Ronnie Robbins: It Finally Happened

There you have it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I hope everyone enjoys the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Grand Ole Opry 3/20 & 3/21

Good Thursday Afternoon All:

First, I hope everyone is safe and well. So much going on right now and we need to be taking care of ourselves. While it may take a little time, things will get back to normal, and that includes the world of music. Currently, tours and concerts are being cancelled or postponed, in some cases into summer. And that includes the Grand Ole Opry. While the Opry is still expecting to resume shows in April, and tickets are available for future shows, the feeling is that probably will not happen. While the lost of those shows takes away the pleasure of attending or listening to the Opry, the show has continued as the Opry staff is committed to keeping the circle unbroken by putting on an abbreviated Saturday night show.

Last week's show was very well received, with an estimated half a million viewers watching the show on the various platforms in which it was presented. And while many of us missed some of our favorites, it was nice to see Connie Smith, Bill Anderson, Jeannie Seely, and the guest artists. A nice variety. It was very strange to hear no applause or audience response and there was a little awkwardness between some of the songs, but overall, it was an excellent show.

Even more exciting is that the Opry has decided to continue these broadcasts, with the focus this Saturday night on The Circle network.  The Circle is an over-the-air network that hopefully most of you will be able to pick up. My understanding is that the show will also be available on the web.

As I type this on Thursday afternoon, the Opry has not released a line-up for Saturday night. When I contacted the Opry, there was no information to give. My guess is that they are still firming it up as things are probably pretty fluid right now.

Continuing forward, I will still be posting and updating information as I receive it and the blog will continue, even if there is little information from the Opry to report.

I'll post as soon as I receive the line-up.

But for now, here is the Opry line-up from 25 years ago, the 3rd Saturday in March 1995:

Saturday March 18
1st show
6:30: Grandpa Jones (host); Jeanne Pruett
6:45: Bill Monroe (host); Skeeter Davis
7:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jean Shepard; Brother Oswald; Jeannie Seely; Alison Krauss
7:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Ketty Lester; Charlie Walker; Joe Diffie
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Jack Greene; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); The Four Guys; Stonewall Jackson; Bill Carlisle; Jimmy C Newman

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Jim Ed Brown; Wilma Lee Cooper; Joe Diffie
10:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Riders In The Sky
10:15: Bill Monroe (host); Jean Shepard
10:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Alison Krauss
10:45: Bill Anderson (host); Billy Walker; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Jack Greene; Charlie Louvin; Jan Howard; Johnny Russell
11:30: The Four Guys (host); Connie Smith; Ray Pillow; Jeannie Seely

Who remembers Ketty Lester?

Ketty Lester was born Revoyda Frierson on August 16, 1934 in Hope, Arkansas. As a young child, she first sang in her church, and later in school choirs. She won a scholarship to study music at San Francisco State College, and in the early 1950s, she began performing under the name "Ketty Lester" in the city's Purple Onion club. She later toured Europe as a singer with Cab Calloway's orchestra.

Returning to California, she recorded her first single, "Queen for a Day", for the Everest label. She was introduced by Dorothy Shay to record producers and songwriters Ed Cobb and Lincoln Mayorga  who won her a contract with Era Records in Los Angeles. In 1961, they released her single "I'm a Fool to Want You" b/w "Love Letters". Radio listeners and disc jockeys preferred the B-side, a reworking of a 1945 hit by Dick Haymes, and Lester's recording of "Love Letters", which rose to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 early in 1962. The record also reached #2 on the R&B chart and #4 in the UK Singles Chart, selling over 1 million copies.

In 1962, she toured the UK as support act on the Everly Brothers tour. The follow-up, a version of George and Ira Gershwin's "But Not for Me" from the musical Girl Crazy, reached #41 in the U.S. pop charts and #45 in the UK. She released an album, Love Letters, which contained the tracks "You Can't Lie to a Liar" and a cover of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" (both of which were issued as singles) and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance category.

She continued to record for Era with little success until 1964, when she signed for RCA. She released several unsuccessful singles for that label, and two albums,  By the early 1970s, she gave up singing commercially and turned to acting. She reportedly was offered the role eventually taken by Diahann
Carroll in the 1968-71 TV series Julia, and appeared in a variety of movies.

She established herself as a television actress in the 1970s and 1980s, playing the roles of Helen Grant on Days of Our Lives (1975–77) and as Hester-Sue Terhune on Little House on the Prairie (1977–83). as well as making appearances on other television shows and movies.

At last word, she is still alive.

Now from 50 years ago, Saturday March 21, 1970:

7:30: Charlie Louvin (host); Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Stringbean; Justin Tubb; Darrell McCall
8:00: Lester Flatt (host); Stu Phillips; Connie Eaton; Crook Brothers
8:30: George Morgan (host); Grandpa Jones; Ernie Ashworth; Margie Bowes
9:00: Ernest Tubb (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Del Wood; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Penny DeHaven; Billy Parker
9:30: Hank Snow (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jean Shepard; Merle Travis
10:00: Stu Phillips (host); Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Stringbean
10:15: Charlie Louvin (host); Grandpa Jones; Justin Tubb
10:30: Lester Flatt (host); George Morgan; Connie Eaton
10:45: Ernest Tubb (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Crook Brothers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Ernie Ashworth; Merle Travis; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Margie Bowes; Sam McGee
11:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Jean Shepard; Ray Pillow; Del Wood

Looking back at past Grand Ole Opry dates, March 20, 1976 was the date of the Opry's annual reunion show, often called "Old Timer's Night." Held yearly beginning in 1974, it was a night in which former members of the Grand Ole Opry would return to visit and perform. It was always a great night of memories.

Here is the running order from 44 years ago, Saturday March 20, 1976

1st show
6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Charlie Walker (host): My Shoes Keep Walking to You
Willis Brothers: The World is Waiting for the Sunrise
Charlie Walker: Marbles

6:45: Rudy's
Stonewall Jackson (host): Me & You & A Dog Named Boo
Justin Tubb: As Long as There's a Sunday/Cold Brown Bottle
Stonewall Jackson: Why I'm Walking

7:00: Shoney's
Bill Anderson (host): If You Can Live With It
Dottie West: (?)
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper: Nobody's Darling But Mine
Duke of Paducah: If You Knew Susie
Paul Howard: Stay a Little Longer
Bill Anderson and Mary Lou Turner: Sometimes
Bill Anderson: I Love You Drops

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Honey Wilds: Sittin' on Top of the World
Chet Atkins: (?)/ Wheels/Wildwood Flower/Freight Train/(?)
Sid Harkreader: Mockingbird Breakdown/Red Wing
Minnie Pearl: Jealous Hearted Me
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Cotton Eyed Joe

8:00: Martha White
Grandpa Jones (host): Are You from Dixie
Connie Smith: Til I Kissed You
Hank Locklin: These Arms You Push Away
Jimmy C Newman: Alligator Man
Jimmy Driftwood: The Mixed Up Family

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I'm Movin' On
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Jimmy Dickens: Sleepin' at the Foot of the Bed
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hickory Leaf
Pee Wee King: Tennessee Waltz
Hank Snow: Paper Roses

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
Bill Anderson (host): Wild Weekend
Willis Brothers: Maiden's Prayer/Faded Love
Dottie West: Last Time I Saw Him
Stonewall Jackson: Washed My Hands in Muddy Water
Charlie Walker: Marbles
Bill Anderson and Mary Lou Turner: Sometimes/That's What Made Me Love You

10:00: Fender
Minnie Pearl (MC): (?)
Connie Smith: Til I Kissed You
Justin Tubb: Keep Me From Blowing Away
Minnie Pearl: Careless Love

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper: Nine Pound Hammer
Jan Howard: Make the World Go Away
Roy Acuff: I Saw the Light

10:30: Trailblazer
Grandpa Jones (host): Make Me a Pallet Down on the Floor
Stu Phillips: Great El Tigrae
Pee Wee King: Bonaparte's Retreat
Grandpa Jones: In My Dear Old Southern Home

10:45: Beechnut
Jimmy C Newman (host): Big Mamou
Alcyone Beasley: Silver Threads Among the Gold
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Mississippi Sawyer
Jimmy C Newman: Jambalaya

11:00: Coca Cola
Hank Snow (host): Wreck of the Old 97
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Hank Locklin: These Arms You Push Away
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Skeeter Davis: Midnight Blue
Kirk McGee: Blue Night
Hank Snow: Address Unknown

11:30: Elm Hill
Roy Drusky (host): Truck Driving Man
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets/Count Me Out
Jimmy Dickens: Family Reunion/We Could
Roy Drusky: This Life of Mine

Yes, Minnie Pearl was the MC of her segment, not the host.

Honey Wilds was one of the returning Opry members that night, and I wanted to just take a moment to remember his contributions to the Opry, as they are largely forgotten.

Honey Wilds was a Southern humorist and regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry between 1932 and 1952, He was the creative force behind the Opry's first tent tours, which were instrumental in bringing rural music to mass audiences. His recorded legacy was less substantial, resulting in only a handful of songs. Regardless, the reason why Wilds' name is frequently omitted from the official record is a simple -- yet infinitely complex -- one: he was a minstrel singer who performed in blackface for white audiences during the segregation era. Rather than serving as a painful reminder of America's past, he instead fell prey to the nation's notoriously selective memory, and has essentially vanished.

Lee David Wilds was born in 1902. His father, the owner of a brickyard, died of pneumonia at the age of 32. He grew up in a racially mixed community, learning to play the blues from the black musicians who performed at a nearby theater. He also took up the ukelele. In the mid-'20s, he joined a minstrel show, forming a duo with Lasses White, a blackface comedian and veteran of vaudeville. White, who had earned his nickname as a child because of his sweet tooth, was known for giving his partners complementary stage names, and so Honey Wilds was born.

Although music accounted for a large share of Lasses and Honey's act, the two men were primarily comedians. They performed novelty songs, often parodies of current hits. Like Al Jolson and Emmett Miller before them, their act consisted of material appropriated from African-American culture, allowing white audiences the opportunity to experience.  Most blackface performers insisted that their work sprung not from racism but from a deep admiration for black popular culture; the validity of such statements is debatable, although in Wilds' case it appears to be true, especially given his background and adult friendships with the likes of DeFord Bailey, one of country music's few black acts.

In 1932, Lasses and Honey were offered a six-week contract to perform at the Opry. Wilds ended up staying on for over two decades, his tenure broken only by a brief 1939 foray into Hollywood; although he soon returned to the Opry, White remained in California. Instead of going solo, Wilds formed another duo, Jam-Up and Honey, in 1940. Following his return from the West Coast, he also began pondering methods of improving the existing touring network, which consisted typically of two or three acts hitting the road together. With the Opry's endorsement, he bought an 80-by-200 foot tent, assembled a road crew and a wide variety of entertainers, and began promoting the tour throughout the country. The Opry tent shows proved highly successful, running annually from early April to Labor Day between 1940 and 1949.

Despite close friendships with Hank Williams (according to legend, it was Wilds who nicknamed Hank Jr. "Bocephus"), Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, and other Opry staples, Wilds rarely wrote or recorded his own material, focusing instead on live performances. Among his few existing recordings include "Alabamy Bound," a traditional country-blues, and "De Lion's Cage," an old Emmett Miller routine cut with producer Owen Bradley. In 1952, Jam-Up and Honey left the Opry to accept an offer in Knoxville; by that time, the duo no longer performed in blackface, and their act gradually fell out of favor. In 1957, the team split, and Wilds dropped out of music, running a service station until 1960, at which time he began hosting a local children's television program. By 1967, he had retired permanently, and died several years later.

There you have it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I hope everyone enjoys the Opry this weekend.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Opry Update

WSM Friends & Family,

The tradition of the Grand Ole Opry will continue on the airwaves of WSM Radio as it has since 1925. Throughout our history, various events have led Opry management to make difficult decisions about how to alter the show’s format and schedule. Amid recent COVID-19 concerns, the Grand Ole Opry, the world’s longest-running radio show, will return to its original format as a live radio broadcast on Saturday nights only without a live audience. Fans around the world can still tune in to the Saturday night broadcasts as scheduled on 650 AM WSM,, and the WSM mobile app.

WSM and the Opry’s first priority has always been the safety of our employees, guests and artists who have been key in keeping the show that made country music famous on the air every week for over 94 years, and we look forward to keeping that tradition alive.

If you were planning to join us live in the Opry audience for a show between now and April 4, 2020, please check your email or contact the Grand Ole Opry Customer Service at for rebooking information.

May the Circle Be Unbroken,
Your WSM Family

So it looks like it will be a Saturday night show only for at least a few weeks.

Also, Rhonda Vincent posted on her website that her Opry induction has been postponed.