It will be a big week at the Grand Ole Opry as the Opry has announced that beginning with the Friday Night Opry on May 14, the Opry will once again operate at 100% capacity for the first time since March 2020. It is a big step forward as Nashville has fully opened up and has removed all capacity limits on concert venues and the Opry didn't waste anytime. Hopefully it is the right move and everyone continues to be safe.
Looking at the schedule for this weekend, there are a couple of names on the schedule that stand out. First, Grand Ole Opry member Lorrie Morgan will be making her first Opry appearances in 2021 as she is scheduled for both shows this weekend. Nice to see Lorrie back at the Opry and she is also scheduled for the televised segment on Saturday night. Joining Lorrie on the Circle broadcast will be one of the newest Opry members, Lady A.
What is interesting is both Lady A and Rhonda Vincent became Opry members earlier this year. For Lady A, this will be their first appearance since becoming members during the 95th anniversary special. On the other hand, Rhonda Vincent, who is also on the schedule for Saturday night, will be making her 8th appearance since joining the cast. Why is it that I am not surprised at Rhonda fully supporting the Opry while Lady A seems not fully committed? I think many of us expected that.
Besides Lorrie and Lady A, Grand Ole Opry members Riders In The Sky are scheduled for both nights, and they will be joined on Friday night by the Oak Ridge Boys, and as noted above, Rhonda Vincent on Saturday night.
There are a couple of artists making their Opry debut this weekend as Brittney Spencer is on the schedule for Friday and Ryan Hurd is set for Saturday. Comedian Aaron Weber is listed for both nights, while Michael Ray and Charles Esten round out the line-up on Friday and frequent Opry guest Mandy Barnett is set for Saturday night.
Friday May 14
7:00: Lorrie Morgan; Michael Ray
7:30: Riders In The Sky; Brittany Spencer
8:00: Aaron Weber; Charles Esten
8:30: Oak Ridge Boys
Saturday May 15
7:00: Opry Square Dancers; Riders In The Sky; Mandy Barnett; Rhonda Vincent; Aaron Weber
8:00: Lorrie Morgan; Ryan Hurd; Lady A
One name missing is missing this weekend. Opry regular Jeannie Seely, who has been appearing most every week in 2021 is on the road this weekend.
Let's take a look at the two artists making their Opry debuts this weekend:
Brittney Spencer is a singer-songwriter with a free spirit and a love for molding life, truth and wild imagination into songs. Her love for storytelling drove the Baltimore native to Nashville in 2013 with dreams of singing and writing country music. She’s since toured and performed as a background singer for such artists as Carrie Underwood & Christopher Cross all while establishing herself as a songwriter in Music City.
In late 2020 Spencer began her ascent to stardom with the release of her debut EP which garnered rave reviews from the likes of Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, Billboard and American Songwriter. Morris even went so far as to name check Spencer as an artist to watch during her 2020 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year acceptance speech. Brittney is now part of CMT’s Next Women of Country class of 2021 and was named an Artist to Watch in 2021 by Spotify and Pandora.
Meanwhile, Ryan Hurd has been balancing Arista Nashville recording career with a songwriting portfolio that includes hits by Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Lady A, Diplo and more.
With nearly 400 million career streams, Ryan Hurd has the attention of entertainment tastemakers including Esquire, GQ, Maxim, American Songwriter, Billboard, People, NBC’s “TODAY,” “CBS This Morning” and more. Following the success of his Platinum-certified Top 20 “To A T,” Hurd continues his hit-producing path with “Chasing After You,” his first official duet with wife Maren Morris, which became country radio’s most-added song its impact week in March. Hurd and Morris performed for the first time on national television on the “56th ACM Awards” on CBS.
With the collections Ryan Hurd (April 2017), Panorama (re-issued July 2019), Platonic (September 2019) and EOM (June 2020), Hurd has created a body of work that is vivid, reflective, and laden with lyrics that are cinematic, scene-setting images that transport and deliver a genuine vulnerability capped by irresistible melodies.
In a songwriting room in 2013, Hurd met Maren Morris, his musical muse, now wife and, as of March 2020, mother of their son Hayes Andrew Hurd. They wrote a Tim McGraw song, “Last Turn Home,” that marked her first writing credit for a major artist, and their professional friendship soon blossomed into a romance. Hurd then recorded Panorama handing out 500 copies to ticket holders who came out to see a concert he did with Morris and fellow Nashvillian Ryan Beavers. The show, and the disc, made an impact. He got a manager, a booking agent, and soon picked up his recording deal with Sony Music Nashville. Hurd turned to Eshuis – who’s produced Scotty McCreery and written songs for Cole Swindell and Kid Rock – as his producer.
Performing live has been a natural extension of that progression. Hurd first hit the road in 2017 with Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line, helping to build his fan base and his comfort as a solo artist – rather than a member of the band. He took most of 2018 off the road, but the two shows he did play put him in a more stripped-down setting. He realized that his best form of expression relied less on big-personality entertainment and more on simple relationship with the audience.
In early 2020, Hurd headlined his Platonic Tour, wowing crowds with a sold-out stop in Nashville (Cannery Ballroom), two sold-out nights in Chicago (Joe’s on Weed Street), and a two-night capacity stand in New York City (Gramercy Theatre).
From 50 years ago, Saturday May 15, 1971:
6:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard
6:45: Billy Walker (host); Bill Carlisle; Del Wood
7:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Hank Locklin; Stringbean
7:30: Roy Acuff (host); Skeeter Davis; Willis Brothers; Crook Brothers; Tom T. Hall
8:00: Ernest Tubb (host); Charlie Walker; Kenny Price; Jim and Jesse; Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Glaser Brothers; Marion Worth; Justin Tubb; The 4 Guys; Fruit Jar Drinkers
9:30: Bill Anderson (host); Willis Brothers; Jan Howard; Bill Carlisle
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Del Wood
10:15: Billy Walker (host); Skeeter Davis; Stringbean
10:30: Roy Acuff (host); Hank Locklin; Charlie Walker
10:45: Ernest Tubb (host); Tom T. Hall; Kenny Price; Crook Brothers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Jim and Jesse; Jimmy C Newman; Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam McGee
11:30: Glaser Brothers (host); Marion Worth; The 4 Guys; Justin Tubb
Taking a look back, it was 39 years ago, Saturday May 15, 1982 that Ricky Skaggs became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. I think all of us know how much Ricky has contributed to the Opry over the years and he has brought much to the show. Before Covid, Ricky performed on the Opry on a regular basis and I am sure he will be back for many more appearances as the Opry continues to open up to more performers and more fans.
Here is the running order from May 15, 1982, the night Ricky Skaggs joined the cast of the Opry:
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Jack Greene (host): I Need Somebody Bad Night
Boxcar Willie: Train Melody
Jack Greene: You Are My Treasure
Stonewall Jackson (host): Don't Be Angry
Stu Phillips: Have I Told You Lately That I Love You/You Win Again/Release Me
Jeannie Seely: I', Almost Ready
Stonewall Jackson: Me & You & A Dog Named Boo
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Jim and Jesse: Then I'll Stop Going for You
Charlie Louvin: The House on the Hill
Connie Smith: I Just Had You on My Mind
Justin Tubb: Texas Dance Hall Girl
Archie Campbell: Comedy
7:30: Standard Candy
Ernest Tubb (host): Driving Nails in My Coffin
Jean Shepard: America, Tighten Up Your Belts
Billy Walker: Welcome Back to My Heart
Ricky Skaggs: Cryin' My Heart Out Over You/Blue Moon of Kentucky
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Lafayette
Ernest Tubb: Waltz Across Texas
8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host); Wabash Cannonball
Jimmy C Newman: (?)
Charlie Walker: Don't Squeeze My Sharmon
Tennessee Ernie Ford: Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands/Sixteen Tons
Roy Acuff and Tennessee Ernie Ford: I'll Fly Away
Hank Snow (host): Paper Roses
The 4 Guys: It's High Time to Get Back on My Feet
Roy Drusky: Blues in My Heart
Wilburn Brothers: What You Think if Fair
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Sugar Tree Stomp
Hank Snow: I Keep Dreaming of You All the Time
Ernest Tubb (host): The Women Make a Fool Out of Me
Stonewall Jackson: Ol' Chunk of Coal
Ernie Ashworth: Memphis Memory
Ricky Skaggs: Cryin' My Heart Out Over You
Bill Carlisle: Elvira
Boxcar Willie: Train Melody
Ernest Tubb: Journey's End
10:00: Little Debbie
Billy Walker (host): Welcome Back to My Heart
Ray Pillow: My Love Belongs to You
Vic Willis Trio: Faded Love
Billy Walker: Behind Closed Doors
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Jeannie Seely: You Don't Need Me, But You Will
Archie Campbell: Comedy
10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting in the Air
Billy Grammer: The Prisoner's Song
Connie Smith: Once A Day/Sing, Sing, Sing
Jimmy C Newman (host): La Cajun Band
Jean Shepard: America, Tighten Up Your Belt
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Arkansas Traveler
Cajun Country: Cajun Stripper
11:00: Coca Cola
Hank Snow (host): From A Jack to A King
Charlie Walker: T For Texas
Justin Tubb: Travelin' Singing Man
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Cacklin Hen
Jan Howard: Beneath Still Waters
Kirk McGee: Victory Rag/Freight Train
Hank Snow: I'm Moving On
Marty Robbins (host): Ribbon of Darkness
The 4 Guys: Maria, The Dawn is Breaking
Roy Drusky: There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You for Me
Wilburn Brothers: What You Think is Fair
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry/Cool Water/That's All Right/18 Yellow Roses/I Don't Know Why/Devil Woman/Begging to You/Jumper Cable Man/Return to Me/Beyond the Reef/Good Hearted Woman/El Paso
It is safe to say that Marty was in a singing mood that night as he didn't finish until 12:45. Of other note, B.J. Thomas was scheduled for both shows but cancelled, and Tennessee Ernie Ford performed on the first show, on the Martha White segment. As I have written before, Ernie was friends with the owners of Martha White flour and had an open invitation to appear on the Martha White segment of the Opry whenever he was in Nashville. Over the coarse of his career, he would make a few of those appearances.
One final thought: I was hoping with the Opry going back to full capacity, we would see more artists on the schedule and maybe a return to the traditional Opry format of a segment host introducing the acts. Not so this week as there are just seven listed for each show, with just three on the televised segment. And speaking of the televised portion of the Opry, from what I have learned, it will continue at least through the spring and summer. I know when Circle originally was showing the Opry, it was taped and edited for a future broadcast. When Covid hit and the Opry went to no audience, Circle started to show the Opry live. Looks like that will continue for now which means Saturday night's show will probably be in these two segments for the foreseeable future.
There you have it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I hope everyone enjoys the Grand Ole Opry this weekend.