Thursday, December 31, 2009

January Opry Highlights

As we start the month of January, I wanted to cover the historical and important events in Opry history that happened during the month.

A number of Grand Ole Opry members joined the Opry in January. They are:

*Tom T. Hall joined on January 1, 1971 (39 year member).
*Dolly Parton officially joined the Opry on January 4, 1969 (41 years).
*Clint Black, who joined the Opry on January 10, 1991 (19 years).
*Mel McDaniel became an Opry member on January 11, 1986 (24 years).
*Wilma Lee Cooper joined with her late husband Stoney on January 12, 1957 (53 years).
*Reba McEntire joined on January 14, 1986 (24 year member).
*Ralph Stanley joined the Opry on January 15, 2000 (10 year member).
*Charlie Daniels became an Opry member on January 19, 2008 (2 years).
*Hal Ketchum joined on January 22, 1994 (16 years).
*Emmylou Harris became an Opry member on January 25, 1992 (18 year member).

The following historical and important events took place in Opry history in January:

*January 1, 1953, former Opry member Hank Williams dies on his way to a show in my hometown of Canton, Ohio.
*January 1, 1960, Billy Walker became a Grand Ole Opry member.
*January 1, 1971, as noted above, Tom T. Hall joined the Opry. Although it may seem like it, there is no truth to the rumor of that being his last appearance on the Opry!!!
* January 3, 1998, Grandpa Jones made is final appearance on the Opry. After doing the 2nd show that night, he suffered a stroke coming off stage and was taken to a Nashville hospital. He would later suffer a series of more serious strokes that would ultimately lead to his death. He was 84 years old.
*January 4, 2003, the Opry commemorated the 50th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams by honoring him at a show which featured Hank Williams Jr and Hank Williams III.
*January 7, 1950, Hank Snow made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He would be an Opry member for over 49 years, and become one of the true stars of the Opry. In his later years, Hank would always host the 8:30 and 11:00 segments on the Saturday night shows.
*January 9, 1960, Patsy Cline joined the Grand Ole Opry.
*January 15 & 16, 1999, the Opry returned for the first time since 1974 to the Ryman Auditorium for all 3 of the shows that weekend. It was on the first show on that Saturday night that Ricky Skaggs asked Trisha Yearwood to become an Opry member. I was there for all 3 shows that weekend, which were sell-outs, and the atmosphere was electric. It was one of the best weekends that I ever spent at the Opry.
*January 16, 1943, Ernest Tubb joined the Grand Ole Opry. In the history of the Opry, many believe that outside of Roy Acuff, Ernest was the most influential member of the Opry. It was through his efforts that among others, Hank Snow would become an Opry member. He also helped to drive the Opry sound forward with his use of the electric guitar.
*January 19, 1953, Marty Robbins made his Grand Ole Opry debut.
*January 27, 1979, actress Sissy Spacek joined Loretta Lynn on stage at the Opry that night, in a segment hosted by Ernest Tubb. Later that evening, Loretta Lynn and Sissy Spacek joined Ernest Tubb at the Midnight Jamboree, which at the time was being broadcast from the record shop on Demonbreum Street near the Country Music Hall of Fame. As part of the on-air talk, Ernest poked fun at Spacek, asking her, "What kind of a name is Spacek, hon?" When she did not answer, then he said, "I know what it is: it's a Polack name, isn't it?" More than once in his career Ernest would stick his foot in his mouth.

There you have it, a few notes from the month of January in Opry history. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up-1/1 & 1/2

First, Happy New Year to everyone. The line-ups have been posted for the shows this weekend. There is 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night, both at the Ryman Auditorium. I was kind of suprised to see Jimmy Dickens scheduled for both shows this weekend. The last he was on was two weeks ago and he sounded aweful and he made comments about being out against doctor's orders. I thought for sure that we had seen the last of him for at least a while. I know the weather in Nashville has been cold and wet, and at age 89, maybe that is not the best weather to be out it. But, Jimmy is a real trooper.

Jett Williams makes her annual Opry appearance on Saturday night. Pretty much every year, she does the Opry show that is closest to January 1st, which is the day her father, Hank Williams, died. She will usually do a couple of songs in tribute to him. She also will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, as she always does each year.

Suzy Bogguss is also scheduled for Saturday night, as is Big Kenny and Cherryholmes. Now for the entire line-ups:

Friday January 1
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jim Ed Brown; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Josh Thompson
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman
8:00: John Conlee(host); Jan Howard; Johnny Counterfit; Mountain Heart
8:30: Mike Snider(host); George Hamilton IV; Jean Shepard; Exile

Saturday January 2
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Big Kenny
7:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Riders In The Sky; Jack Greene: Cherryholmes
8:00: John Conlee(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jett Williams; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; Suzy Bogguss

There is still a slot to fill on Friday night. Also, it looks like they have themselves set up with a couple of other people who can host a segment if Jimmy Dickens cancels out.

One final note:
As many of you have mentioned, they have changed the layout at, the Grand Ole Opry website. At first I was not sure about the site as it was redesigned, but the more I move around it and get more familiar with it, I am coming to like it. They have added artist profiles of non-Opry members, who have appeared on the show, although there are some that are missing. There is also a link to their websites, which I thought was nice. It looks like more video has been added, although I wish they would add more of the older performers or those who have passed on from earlier eras. They have kept the history sections and other information. And, they have kept and expanded the area of upcoming shows, with direct links to buy tickets for any show into the future. If you get a chance, check it out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Grand Ole Opry Appearances

With 2009 ending, and no more Grand Ole Opry shows for the year, I wanted to take a look back on how many appearances each Opry member made during the past year, and also look at which non-Opry members appeared the most times. During 2009, if I did my math right, there were 199 Opry shows. These include the Friday and Saturday shows, the Tuesday Night Opry, Opry Country Classics, and the Opry matinee that they did during CMA week. It should be no shock to anyone that the Opry member with the most appearances in 2009 was Jimmy Dickens. Even though he missed shows due illness and being in the hospital, the 89 year old Dickens performed at 145 shows this past year. Just an unbelievable number considering everything with him.

As far as everyone else, here is the complete list, in order from most appearances to the least:
145-Jimmy Dickens
121-Mike Snider
108-The Whites
98-Connie Smith
96-Bill Anderson, Jimmy C. Newman
95-Jim Ed Brown
93-Jean Shepard
81-Jeannie Seely
63-Jack Greene, Riders In The Sky
53-Jesse McReynolds
51-John Conlee
47-Bobby Osborne
43-Jan Howard
37-Ricky Skaggs
34-Marty Stuart
32-Vince Gill, Del McCoury
30-George Hamilton IV
27-Stonewall Jackson
20-Hal Ketchum
16-Mel McDaniel, Lorrie Morgan
13-Charlie Daniels, Steve Wariner
12-Charlie Louvin, Pam Tillis
11-Ray Pillow
10-Trace Adkins, Joe Diffie, Craig Morgan, Stu Phillips, Ralph Stanley, Carrie Underwood
9-Diamond Rio, Larry Gatlin, Mel Tillis, Montgomery Gentry
7-Charley Pride, Josh Turner
6-Martina McBride
5-Dierks Bentley, Terri Clark, Alison Krauss
3-Roy Clark, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap, Brad Paisley
2-Billy Grammer, Emmylou Harris, Trisha Yearwood
1-George Jones, Reba McEntire
0-Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Wilma Lee Cooper, Tom T. Hall, Alan Jackson, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Jeanne Pruett, Ricky Van Shelton, Randy Travis, Travis Tritt

Some interesting numbers there, especially among some of the newer Opry members. One person that I found interesting was Mike Snider. In 2008, he appeared at the Opry only 20 times, yet he was up to 121 this past year. Also in 2008, Jimmy C. Newman had the most Opry appearances, at 115.

The other number that I find disturbing is that 31 Opry members, almost half of the Opry roster, made 9 or less Opry appearances this past year.

Among non-Opry members, these are the ones who had the most Opry appearances in 2008:
14-Restless Heart
13-Cherryholmes, Mandy Barnett, Emily West
12-Jimmy Wayne
11-Dailey & Vincent, The Grascals
10-Darryl Worley, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Gene Watson
9-Jamie O'Neal, Mark Wills, Rhonda Vincent
8-Chris Young, Point Of Grace
7-Buddy Jewell, Keith Anderson
6-Holly Williams, Aaron Tippin

When you look at those members who are in the top 10 in Opry appearances, 2 are over the age of 80 (Jimmy Dickens and Jimmy C. Newman), and several more are well past 70 (Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, Jack Greene, Jean Shepard). As as been noted in the past, the younger Opry members have got to step up and make regular Opry appearances to keep the show vibrant and moving forward. Of the members with no appearances in 2009, Wilma Lee Cooper is ill, and Barbara Mandrell, Jeanne Pruett and Ricky Van Shelton are retired. As far as the rest, Clint Black last appeared in 2007 with 2 appearances, but before that the last time he was at the Opry was in 2003. Garth Brooks has made 3 appearances since 2000, Tom T. Hall has not been to the Opry in a decade, Dolly Parton has made 4 appearances since 2002 and Randy Travis has appeared just 3 times since 2001. While Reba McEntire made 1 appearance this past year, before that the last time she was on the Opry was in 2000.

Just the opinion of this writer, but if you are not going to be a part of the show, then leave and make room for others. There is just no excuse for joining and to have the prestige of being an Opry member and then not showing up to support the show. Or even worst, to show up for a special event or when the Opry is going to be televised and you are going to be on the tv portion is just wrong. Let's hope that Pete Fisher continues to make wise choices this coming year on new Opry members and to pick those who will be there and support the show. As has been noted in the comments, Opry prices continue to go up, the show is shorter and the line-ups have been pretty weak at times. With over 65 members on the Opry's roster, and only 12-15 artists on each show now, you would think it would be pretty easy to have a quality line-up each week. The fans who are paying the high prices for tickets expect that and I agree.

As always I look forward to comments and opinions.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Greetings and Wishes

I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and I hope that it is a blessed day for all of you. I also hope that Santa brings you everything you asked for. As far as the Grand Ole Opry, I have some greetings to send to them also, and also my own Christmas "wish list" for the Opry:

To Pete Fisher, I hope for a new Opry television contract, and for RFD-TV, I hope you are the ones to get it. For Jimmy Dickens, a year of better health and still making regular Opry appearances. For Bill Anderson, my hope is that your new book is a bestseller and that your new CD is the same.

For Jim Ed Brown, Charlie Daniels, George Hamilton IV and Jean Shepard, a call from the Country Music Hall of Fame welcoming you as a new member. For Wilma Lee Cooper and Mel McDaniel, a return to good health. And continued good health to the "older" Opry members, such as Billy Grammer,Jack Greene and Jimmy C. Newman.

To veteran Opry members Charlie Louvin, Ray Pillow and Stu Phillips, my Christmas wish is for more Opry apperances from you. To Mike Snider and Riders In The Sky, thanks for keeping humor on the Opry stage. And to Vince Gill, Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs, thanks for supporting the Opry over the years and the hope is that you will continue to do that. And for Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson, a call from Pete asking you to become an Opry member.

To Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Rebe McEntire, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis and Travis Tritt, a GPS system for your car that is locked into 2804 Opryland Drive. To Loretta Lynn and George Jones, a wish that you realize how important the Opry was to your career and a return to the Opry stage.

To Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, Ralph Stanley and Del McCoury, a wish that you keep carrying on the bluegrass tradition at the Opry. And to Alison Krauss, please join them. To Jeannie Pruett, Barbara Mandrell and Ricky Van Shelton, continue to enjoy your retirement from the music business.

To Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley and Josh Turner, keep country music alive. And to Carrie Underwood, Montgomery Gentry and Dierks Bentley, keep remembering where the Opry House is. Your support of the show is vital.

To Mandy Barnett, Elizabeth Cook and Rebecca Lynn Howard, thanks for answering the phone when Pete calls to fill out the line-up. Also, my wish is that each of you has a million selling record this year.

To Connie Smith and Patty Loveless, my wish is that the two sweetest voices on the Opry continue to keep those voices. And to Mel Tillis, Charlie Pride, Charlie Daniels, Jeannie Seely and Jan Howard my wish is that you give the Opry another year of good performances.

To Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Larry Gatlin, Diamond Rio, Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tilis, thanks for supporting the show, but, please give us more performances.

And to all the Opry fans, please continue to support the show. Some weeks it is not easy, but if we are not in the audience or listening on the radio, there would be no Opry.

Merry Christmas to all:

aka: Fayfare

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 12/25 & 12/26

Here is this weekend's line-up for the Grand Ole Opry. There is one show on Friday night December 25 and one show on Saturday December 26. Both nights are at the Ryman Auditorium. As was speculated previously, the line-ups for both nights, while decent, are pretty light. Also, as speculated, no Jimmie Dickens this weekend and he might be gone for a while as he recovers from his latest illness.

Friday December 25-Christmas
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Blaine Larsen
7:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Elizabeth Cook
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jack Greene; Dailey & Vincent
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Charlie Louvin; T. Graham Brown

Saturday December 26
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Rebecca Lynn Howard
7:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Eddy Raven
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jan Howard; Dailey & Vincent: Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Jack Greene; Restless Heart

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hank Snow

It was on December 20, 1999 that Grand Ole Opry member, and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Hank Snow passed away at the age of 85. In January of 2000, Hank would have celebrated 50 years as an Opry member. He had been in declining health for a number of years, and his last Opry appearance was in August of 1996 when he returned to the Opry stage after being gone for almost nine months due to illness.

His autobiography, "The Hank Snow Story", is one of the best country music books ever written. Hank is pretty honest in his book about some of the major events in his life. The book is high on my list.

In country music history, Hank will go down as one of the all time greats. Johnny Cash considered Hank one of his favorite singers, and in fact, he had a picture of Hank hanging in his office at home, which I believe was the only picture of an entertainer that he had up.

On my own personal list of country music performers, Hank is on my top 5 list. I have always enjoyed his singing style and his guitar work. His guitar playing was precise and I never heard of him making a mistake. I know that one of my favorite items about Hank being on the Opry was that after he sang his song to start his segment, he always went over to the podium and introduced his guests from there, never going back to center stage until it was time for him to perform his next number. I think his last televised Opry appearance was on the birthday show when they honored the living Opry members who were members of the Hall of Fame. I forget what year it was, but I think it was in the mid-1990's and I remember Jeannie Seely doing the honors for him.

On the Opry in his later years, he always hosted the 8:30 and 11:00 segments. He had his favorites, and I know if Dottie West was on the Opry, she always did his segments.

It was within a few short years that the Opry lost Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe and Hank Snow. All were icons of the show and all were Hall of Famers.

I just wanted to take a moment to remember Hank Snow on the 10 year anniversary of his death.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jimmy Dickens

I am listening to the Opry tonight and Jimmy Dickens is on and he said he was "here against doctor's orders". He did not sing and he sounded awful rough. The band just played a brief instrumental when he came out on stage. Mike Terry did introduce him by telling the audience that it was his 89th birthday today. As he was telling his usual jokes, the voice sounded pretty hoarse and he just sounded tired. He did joke about playing his guitar. He also just said that his doctor told him not to sing and to rest his voice, but that he wanted to be at the Opry for his birthday.

He concluded his segment by doing his recitation of "17", which he has been doing lately on the Opry. They then rolled out a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to Jimmy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas At The Opry

Maybe I am just getting old, but in my mind something was missing at the Opry this year, and missing for the past several years, and that is the special Christmas shows that the Opry used to have. If all of you remember, the Opry stage would be decorated with a big tree and garland and tinsel would be hanging from the barn. I haven't seen the Opry stage this year, but I know last year the decorations were pretty sparce.

I also remember that the televised portion of the Opry would have almost all Christmas music in December and that the show that was on the Saturday before Christmas would have nothing but Christmas music. You would have Grandpa Jones singing his great song, "The Christmas Guest", Bill Monore doing, "Christmas Times' a Coming", and then after he passed on you would have Ricky Skaggs or The Osborne Brothers doing it. You would have Jim Ed Brown doing "Winter Wonderland", and changing the words to add his name as the snowman. There was Mike Snider doing his version of "A Night Before Christmas." Then there was Bill Anderson singing "A Poor Folks' Christmas", and Porter Wagoner doing, "Happy Birthday Jesus." I remember a few years back that Garth Brooks made a suprise appearance on the Opry before Christmas dressed as Santa. And, I am sure all of you remember Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely dressing up as Mr. and Mrs. Clause, to invite Brad Paisley to become an Opry member.

But that all seems to be missing now. I heard Jeannie Seely doing Christmas music and George Hamilton IV did the "Christmas Guest" a few weeks back in honor of Grandpa Jones. I heard Jim Ed Brown do a Christmas song, but not much else. And looking at this week's line-up, the last Saturday before Christmas, I do not see much opportunity for Christmas songs. I just don't picture Emmylou Harris doing anything or Amber Digby. Maybe some of it is that the Opry is not on TV any longer. And speaking of TV, the show that they are going to have on GAC tomorrow night, was taped last month and there is no holiday music on it.

Like I said, maybe I am getting old, but I miss the special feeling that the Opry had this time of year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-up-December 18 & 19

It looks like Jimmy Dickens has cancelled for Friday night, but he is still on the schedule for Saturday night. Jim Lauderdale has been added for Friday and they have put the Square Dancers back on the schedule. They are getting a big snowstorm in Eastern Tennessee and Virginia. Hope that Ralph Stanley can make it over the mountain ok. The updated line-up is listed below.

This weekend, the Grand Ole Opry continues its winter run at the Ryman Auditorium with 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night. The Saturday night Opry will have just 1 show through the rest of the winter and then WSM will have a classic Opry show following that. A couple of notes about this weekend:
>On Saturday, Jimmy Dickens will celebrate his 89th birthday. God Bless Mr. Dickens and may he have a year of good health. 2009 was a rough one for him. They mentioned his birthday several times during last week's shows, and I am sure they will have something special on Saturday night. If you look at the history of the Opry, you have the 1st generation of Opry stars, that would include Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe among others. They have all passed on. Then you have the 2nd generation of Opry stars, and of that generation, Jimmy Dickens and Kitty Wells would just about be the last ones still living. They are the last living link between the original Opry members and today's Opry stars. Kitty is pretty much retired now, but Jimmy continues on. Enjoy him while he is still here, and while his voice may not be as strong as it once was, he is a living legend of the Opry and will always have the respect of all Opry members and fans.
>Ronnie Milsap will be on the Saturday night show and he will be hosting a segment. I cannot really remember if he has ever hosted a segment before, but I think he might have on the night Trace Adkins became a member, but I would really have to research that one and check my records. Amber Digby will be making her first Opry appearance on Saturday night during Ronnie's segment and she has a connection with Ronnie and has recorded one of his songs.
>Emmylou Harris makes her first Opry appearance this year. With her respect for the history of country music and of the Opry, I thought that when she became a member, she would be on the Opry much more frequently than she has been. She lives in Nashville and is involved in lots of activities and causes in the Nashville area, so it is not like she is not around. I know that she prefers to perform at the Opry when it is at the Ryman Auditorium versus the Grand Ole Opry House, as I have read where she has said that the Ryman is where the Opry belongs. Most of the times that she is on the Opry, she hosts her own segment and it usually has on guests that she brings with her, especially for the Opry. This weekend is no exception as she hs Gillian Welch and David Rawlings with her, along with The Whites. Also, when she hosts, she tends to stay on stage during all of the acts and performs with them.

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Returns To GAC

The Grand Ole Opry will return to GAC (Great American Country), for 1 night, on December 19 at 9:00pm. This will be a network replay of the MySpace show that was on last month. The show features Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Rodney Atkins and Jack Owen. It will be hosted by Nan Kelly of GAC.

I attempted to watch the MySpace internet feed the night of the show and was frustrated at the poor quality of the stream. Others told me the same thing. I do not know if I will watch the show this Saturday night or not as I saw some of it once and the artist line-up is not one that really wants me to watch it again. I would be interested to see if GAC does any editing to the program or just replays the MySpace stream, since they were the onces that produced it in the first place.

I have not heard if this will mean that the Opry will return to GAC or not. Currently the Opry does not have a television contract and toward the end of the deal between the Opry and GAC, there were some issues, some of which was that Pete Fisher and the Opry management was not all that happy with GAC.

At the very least, it would appear that the Opry and GAC are open to running special shows on an irregular basis, and I am sure that if these specials were on, GAC would have a big say in who the artists would be that would be on these televised shows. As usual we will update when new information is available.

Finally, best wished to a couple of Opry members who have had some health issues. Del McCoury underwent emergency gallbladder surgery last week and is back at home recovering. And Loretta Lynn cancelled several shows due to the flu. She is to receive an honorary Grammy Award in January based on career achievement. Congratulations to Loretta.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry-December 15

Here is the line-up for the final Tuesday Night Opry show of the year, December 15, at the Ryman Auditorium

7:00: Jeannie Seely; Jimmy Wayne
7:30: Terri Clark; Darryl Worley
8:15: Bill Anderson; Chris Young
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Jamey Johnson

Also, on a different note, Marty Stuart returns for his 2nd year of The Marty Stuart Show, on the RFD network, starting next Saturday December 19. Connie Smith returns as does LeRoy Troy. Should be another great year as I always found his show entertaining.

And, Bill Anderson reports that he and Larry Black have been going over the tapes of his old television show, The Bill Anderson Show, and are just about finished putting them in to DVD format and that he hopes to have them on sale later in 2010. I would also hope that they would eventually show up on RFD-TV. He also has completed his latest book and should have it out after the first of the year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Opry Adds Wednesday Night Shows In 2010

The Grand Ole Opry, in addition to their current full schedule of shows, is going to offer a Wednesday night show during the summer months this coming year. The Wednesday night Opry shows will take place from June 23-July 28. The Tuesday Night Opry will resume on March 2 and run until December 14, similiar to this past year. Opry Country Classics on Thursday night will also return in 2010, however this coming year, the shows will take place at the Ryman Auditorium. The first group of Opry Country Classics will run from March 26-June 17, and then returning on September 9 until October 28. This will be pretty much the same schedule that the shows were in 2009.

The Friday Night Opry will continue with 1 show each week, with the exception of January 8, were currently 2 shows are scheduled. The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights will offer 1 show each night at 7, and on various Saturday nights throughout the year, will offer a 2nd show at 9:30. The Saturday nights with 2 shows are March 6-April 24; July 10-July 24; September 4; October 2-October 11.

All of the Opry shows starting in November will again be at the Ryman Auditorium.

In addition, Mike Snider will be back again in 2010 with his "Pickin & Grinnin" show. The first round of his show will be from April 2-May 1, on Friday and Saturday afternoons. From June 24-July 31, his show will be on Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. He will also have shows from September 15-October 30, on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and on select Wednesdays.

Here is a brief rundown of the 2010 Opry shows:
>Tuesday Night Opry: March 2-December 14
>Wednesday Night Opry: June 23-July 28
>Thursday Opry Country Classics: March 26-June 17; September 9-October 28
>Friday Night Opry: January 1-December 31 (1 show most nights)
>Saturday Night Grand Ole Opry: January 2-February 27, 1 show; March 6-April 24, 2 shows; May 1-July 3, 1 show; July 10-July 24, 2 shows; July 31-September 25; 1 show except for September 4; October 2-December 11, 2 shows; December 18 & 25, 1 show.

All shows start at 7pm. On the nights of a 2nd show, it will start at 9:30pm. And, as always, the Opry will add a 2nd show on any Tuesday, Friday or Saturday night if ticket demand is there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Grand Ole Opry 12/11 & 12/12

At the Grand Ole Opry, some weekends have better shows than others, and this weekend is one of those that has a pretty nice line-up for all 4 shows this weekend. Yes, that is right. The Opry is having 2 shows on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. This weekend, the Opry has Rascal Flatts in for both shows on Friday night, along with Vince Gill, Steve Wariner and the return of Jimmy Dickens, who missed the last couple of weekends. Saturday nights line-up features Trace Adkins, Nancy Griffith, Marty Stuart and Vince Gill. Also, at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be Marty Stuart. Overall, a fine weekend to be in Nashville. Now, for the line-ups:

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

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

My comment on the Friday shows is that there is some actual variety in the line-ups, which is nice to see. Also, based on where Vince Gill is scheduled, he must have a hockey game or another commitment elsewhere, as there is a 3 hour gap between his segments. I am suprised that Vince is not hosting a segment, as he usually does.

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

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

Again on the Saturday night shows, they have a couple of spots to fill. Vince Gill is only on the 2nd show, but he is advertised as such so I do not expect him to fill the spot on the 1st show. It is the final segment of the night and usually Pete Fisher tries to put in a "name" performer in that slot. But, regardless, it looks like a good weekend.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"Opry Drops 12 Top Stars"

It was on December 6, 1964, that the Nashville Tennessean displayed this headline. According to the article, "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."

The 12 who were removed as Grand Ole Opry members were George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson, and Ray Price.

At the time, Opry members were required to appear on 26 shows per year. According to WSM public relations director Bill Willams, "Nobody is mad at anybody. It's just that periodically we have to take stock. It's just a routine thing." Irving Waugh, the general manager of WSM television thought that the announcement was ill advised. He viewed the actions as an "antagonism" of the country music community by WSM president Jack DeWitt.

The following day, Opry manager Ott Devine had to remove Chet Atkins name from the list, since he was not even an Opry member at the time. Of course, this made the Opry management look like fools; not even knowing who was a member and who was not.

Faron Young later said that money was what generated the hassle. "When they insisted on the twenty-six-week thing, I put a pen to it and figured it out. I was gonna lose $180,000 a year to work the Opry twenty-six weeks out of the year." Johnny Wright would say that he and Kitty Wells were not fired from the Opry, but quit over paying the percentage fees to the WSM Artists' Service Bureau, which was the WSM and Opry's booking agency for the members.

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

Looking back at the editorial from the Tennessean, those same words could be written today about the thousands of fans who come to the Opry and find that the vast majority of Opry members are not there to perform, and that the vast majority of the Opry superstars are very rarely at the Opry. I wonder what the reaction would be in the country music community or at the Opry if Pete Fisher fired 11 Opry members today for not appearing? Would anyone care? Is Opry membership that important anymore? Many artists say it is, and they prove it by supporting the show. But there are others that after becoming Opry members, they do not appear. And, I think everyone knows what artists I am talking about: Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and Clint Black are three that come to mind. I know that if the Opry fired 11 members today, it would result in a horrible public relations disaster for the Opry that they might not recover from.

As far as the 11 who were fired, many came back to the Opry and fulfilled their membership requirements. Those were George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Justin Tubb and Stonewall Jackson. Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky and Ray Price never rejoined, although all continued to make guest appearances on the show. I do wonder if any of them, especially in the case of Kitty Wells, ever regretted leaving the Opry. And, it would be later in his career that Stonewall Jackson would sue the Opry for not allowing him to make appearances on the show when he wanted to, after firing him for not appearing.

In 1964, the Opry was such a big part of the Nashville community that this story made front page headlines for days in the Nashville papers. Even today, 45 years later, when something happens at the Opry, good or bad, it is still front page headlines in the Tennessean. Even if the Opry is not as essential to a career like it was in 1964, or as important to the music scene in Nashville like it once was, the Opry is still an important part of the Nashville community.

Grand Ole Opry on Sirius

I have Sirius Radio, which I have had pretty much since it started. Of course, back then WSM was part of the package, so you got the Opry every Friday and Saturday night. Recently, Sirius has had the Tuesday Night Opry, Opry Country Classics and the Friday and Saturday Grand Ole Opry shows on their schedule, but on a one week delay with no commercials, which made for short shows, and cut up shows. They started the replays at 8 on Friday night and 7 on Saturday night. And, since the Opry is on live at the same time on WSM, on my car radio, I would keep switching between the 2. Confusing, but interesting. Now, last Friday night, I turn to Sirius at 8, and no Friday Night Opry. No mention of it at all. I keep checking. Then, later in the evening, I check again, and it is now on, but not a replay, put that night's show. Here is what I found out: Sirius is now broadcasting the Friday and Saturday Opry shows on a delayed, same night basis at 9. They still play the show without the commericals, so it still makes for a cut up show. (I am thinking the 1 hour delay gives them time to edit the show). Sirius no longer broadcasts the Tuesday Night Opry.

That is the story on Sirius, how about XM? I know they were doing the Opry live for years, but have they changed?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry 12/8

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry at the Ryman Auditorium-December 8

7:00: John Conlee; Josh Turner
7:30: Jack Greene; Keith Anderson
8:15: Bill Anderson; The Grascals
8:45: Jim Ed Brown; Joe Diffie

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 12/4 & 12/5-Updated

It took until Friday evening, but Pete finally found someone to fill the slot-Jamie O'Neal

Here are this week's Grand Ole Opry line-ups. All 3 shows this weekend look like solid shows with pretty good line-ups. There is still 1 slot to fill on Saturday night. Over the past several months, it seems that when the preliminary line-ups are put out, there is always a slot or two to fill. I wonder if Pete Fisher gets an artist who says he might or might not be available and saves a spot just in case, but usually it ends up being filled by one of the standbys. And with just the slot on the 2nd show on Saturday needing filled, you would think that he would just schedule someone from the 1st show who is not working the 2nd show. Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy C. Newman or Jesse McReynolds could do that. Also, no Jimmy Dickens again this weekend. I know at the age of 88, and with a birthday in a couple of weeks, you don't want him to take chances with his health. Other than Mike Terry saying last week that Jimmy was "under the weather", I have not heard anything else regarding his health. Hope he is ok. Finally, Trisha Yearwood makes her first Opry appearance in over a year.

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Opry Highlights

We'll, it is hard to believe but the last month of the year is upon us. Here is to a Happy Holiday season to all. As I usually do at the start of a month, I want to take a look back at historical Opry events that took place during the month of December.

Several Grand Ole Opry members joined the cast of the Opry during this month:
>Randy Travis was inducted as an Opry member on December 20, 1986 (23 years).
>Jack Greene joined the Grand Ole Opry as an official member on December 23, 1967 (42 years). Of course Jack played on the Opry many times as a member of Ernest Tubb's band.
>The Gatlin Brothers became Opry members on December 25, 1976 (33 years).

Now looking back at Opry history, these important events took place:
>On December 26, 1925, The WSM Barn Dance started officially as a regularly scheduled program on Saturday nights on WSM radio.
>December 1927 (the date is lost to history), WSM program director George D. Hay, nicknamed the "Solemn Old Judge," proclaims, "For the past hour we have been listening to the music taken largely from the Grand Opera, but from now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry." The new name caught on and the show has been known by that title ever since.
>On December 30, 1944, western swing bandleader Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys played on the Opry. Because drums were not allowed on the Opry at that time, he hid his drummer behind a curtain. That was the only concession that he made as he said that if he appeared on the Opry it would be with his full band or not at all.
>December 8, 1945, Earl Scruggs made his debut as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. This would complete the historic line-up for the band that would serve as the prototype for the bluegrass sound. The band included Bill Monroe on mandolin, Scruggs on banjo, Lester Flat on guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on bass. Outside the Ryman Auditorium is a historical marker to signify the Ryman Auditorium as the birthplace of bluegrass music and recognizing this great line-up of musicians.
>On December 30, 1950, Lefty Frizzell made his Grand Ole Opry debut.
>December 1, 1954 saw the death of Fred Rose, songwriter and co-founder of Acuff-Rose, which was the largest publisher of country music.
>On December 3, 1957, Don Gibson recorded one of the biggest two-sided singles in country music history. The Opry member had "I Can't Stop Loving You" on side 1 and "Oh, Lonesome Me" on side 2.
>December 24, 1960 was the last "Prince Albert Show" broadcast on the NBC radio network.
>December 8, 1982, Marty Robbins passed away at the young age of 57. His funeral service several days later was one of the most attended services of a country music star in memory.
>In December 1989, Garth Brooks has his first number one record, "If Tomorrow Never Comes."
>On December 20, 1999, Hank Snow passed away at his home in Madison. He had been an Opry member for 49 years and was just within 2 weeks of celebrating his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. He had not appeared on the Opry for several years due to health issues. I highly recommend his book for any country music fan.

There you have some highlights for this month. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry 12/1-Updated

Jimmy Dickens has cancelled for Tuesday night.

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry-December 1st. Interesting that Jimmy Dickens is listed after not being on the Opry this past weekend. Perhaps he is feeling better or he just hasn't cancelled as of yet.

7:00: Jimmy C. Newman; Jason Michael Carroll
7:30: The Whites; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Bill Anderson; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Dierks Bentley

Friday, November 27, 2009

November 28, 1925

As we all know, the Grand Ole Opry historically considers it's official start date as November 28, 1925, when George D. Hay sat Uncle Jimmy Thompson down before the WSM microphones on that Saturday night, and Uncle Jimmy played a number of fiddle songs. However, the Barn Dance program, as it was called at the time, was not formally established on that night, although Uncle Jimmy returned the following week to play on WSM again. George D. Hay's formal announcement of the establishment of a regular program devoted to old-time music to be aired on Saturday nights came late in December 1925 when WSM announced the following: "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".

I mention this because this Saturday night November 28, the Grand Ole Opry will officially have been on the air for 84 years, despite the birthday celebration that is always held in October. Yet, according to WSM's historical records, the real start of the Barn Dance program, which became the Grand Ole Opry, took place on Saturday December 26. I wonder why, in George D. Hay's historical accounts, he considers the November 28 date as the offical start and not the December 26 date? I know that with Hay now deceased, that question will never really be answered. Also, I know that on Saturday night's program they will mention the "official anniversary" several times, but I wonder why they still hold the birthday celebration in October, since there is no longer a DJ convention or other activities to tie it to.

Happy "official" birthday to the Grand Ole Opry!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 11/27 & 11/28

It's Thanksgiving weekend and for the Opry that usually means a pretty good weekend of shows as many of the artists who live in the Nashville area are home for the holiday weekend. And this weekend's shows are pretty good with appearances by Brad Paisley, Lorrie Morgan, Rhonda Vincent and Jimmy Wayne among others. Overall, it is a pretty balanced line-up of shows for this weekend. Here are the line-ups:

Friday November 27
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jim Ed Brown; Rhonda Vincent
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Lorrie Morgan
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C. Newman; Matt Kennon
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith

Saturday November 28
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jimmy Wayne
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites
8:00: Lorrie Morgan(host); Riders In The Sky; Cherryholmes; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Brad Paisley

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Lorrie Morgan; Brad Paisley
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Charlie Louvin; Jimmy Wayne
10:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Cherryholmes

They have top loaded the 2nd show on Saturday night with Lorrie Morgan and Brad Paisley in the 1st segment. The Ryman Auditorium is always tough to get emptied and to get the people in for the 2nd show as there is limited lobby space and entrances to the building. Add that to the parking situation in downtown Nashville, especially if there is a hockey game or concert going on, and many, many people are late getting in to the 2nd show. Some of them I am sure will be unhappy if they miss the star power during that segment. Also, David Ball is hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree at the record shop. I am sure almost all of you remember back in the day that the Midnight Jamboree guest host was always on the Opry. Not so anymore. There is still a slot to fill on the Friday night show, during the final segment. Typically, that is a pretty good act in that slot, so maybe the Opry will fill it with a quality performer and not Mandy Barnett or Rebecca Lynn Howard, which seems to be usually the case. Have a great Thanksgiving weekend to all!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Classic Grand Ole Opry Line-up-April 19/20, 1974

It has been a while since I posted a Grand Ole Opry line-up from years long past. This time, I go back to the weekend of April 19 & 20, 1974. On this weekend, the Opry had 1 show on Friday night, 2 shows on Saturday night, a Saturday matinee and a Sunday Grand Ole Gospel show. Let's take a look back:

Friday April 19, 1974
8:00: Stu Phillips(host); Barbara Mandrell; The Promenaders; Bashful Brother Oswald
8:30: George Jones(host); The Carlisles; Patsy Sledd; Harold Morrison
9:00: Charlie Walker(host); Jan Howard; Mel Street; The Promenaders
9:30: Billy Grammer(host); The Willis Brothers; Jim Mundy
10:00: The Osborne Brothers(host); Louie Roberts; Del Wood
10:30: Bill Monore(host); Ray Pillow; Jim & Jesse

11:05: Grand Ole Gospel Show: Rev. Jimmy R. Snow; The Evangel Temple Choir & Special Guest

Saturday Matinee
3:00: Jimmy C. Newman; Jan Howard
3:30: Lester Flatt; Ernie Ashworth
4:00: Charlie Walker; Lonzo & Oscar
4:30: Stu Phillips; Louie Roberts

Saturday April 20, 1974
6:30: The Willis Brothers(host); Mac Wiseman
6:45: Jimmy C. Newman(host); Ernie Ashworth; Del Wood
7:00: Billy Grammer(host); Jan Howard; Stu Phillips; Norvel Felts
7:30: Charlie Walker(host); Minnie Pearl; Dottie West; Bashful Brother Oswald; The Crook Brothers; The Stoney Mt. Cloggers
8:00: Lester Flatt(host); Marion Worth; Lonzo & Oscar; Louie Roberts
8:30: George Jones(host); Justin Tubb; Patsy Sledd; Harold Morrison; The Fruit Jar Drinkers

9:30: Charlie Walker(host); The Willis Brothers; Minnie Pearl; Ernie Ashworth
10:00: Jimmy C. Newman(host); Jan Howard; Norvel Felts
10:15: Billy Grammer(host); Mac Wiseman; Dottie West
10:30: Lester Flatt(host); Lonzo & Oscar
10:45: Justin Tubb(host); Del Wood; The Crook Brothers; The Stoney Mt. Cloggers
11:00: George Jones(host); Patsy Sledd; Harold Morrison; The Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam & Kirk McGee
11:30: Marty Robbins(host); Marion Worth; Louie Roberts

Sunday Grand Ole Gospel
7:00: The Masters Four Quartet; The Joymen Quartet
7:30: The Regents Quartet; Alvis and the Barnetts
8:00: Coy Cook and the Premiers; The Dixie Echos
8:30: The Statesmen Quartet

I bet some of those Sunday Grand Ole Gospel shows were great. Some great quartet singing there. Also, looking at the Grand Ole Opry line-ups from that weekend, a lot of the big stars are missing: Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Grandpa Jones, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, Bill Monroe only on Friday, Ernest Tubb....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry-11/24

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry at the Ryman Auditorium-November 24

7:00: Riders In The Sky; Emily West
7:30: Jeannie Seely; Chuck Wicks
8:15: Bill Anderson; Justin Moore
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; The Time Jumpers

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up-11/20 & 11/21_Updated

As expected, changes were made in this weekend's line-ups. Holly Williams has been added to both Saturday night shows, and this will be here 3rd appearance in the last several months. The Whites will be hosting the 2nd Saturday segments.

Here is this week's Grand Ole Opry line-ups:

Friday November 20:
7:00: George Hamilton IV(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jason Michael Carroll
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Shane Yellowbird
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Stonewall Jackson; The Whites; Connie Smith
8:30: Vince Gill(host); Ralph Stanley; Little Big Town

Saturday November 21:
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Holly Williams
7:30: The Whites(host);Jack Greene; Ralph Stanley
8:00: George Hamilton IV(host); Jan Howard; The Lovell Sisters; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith; Charlie Daniels Band

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Holly Williams
10:00: The Whites(host); Jack Greene; Ralph Stanley
10:30: Mike Snider(host); Ray Pillow; Charlie Daniels Band; Opry Square Dancers
11:00; Vince Gill(host); Connie Smith; The Lovell Sisters

>Ralph Stanley will be autographing copies of his new book at the Opry Originals Shop on Friday night after the Friday Night Opry.
>George Hamilton is hosting a segment on Friday and Saturday night. I have always enjoyed it when he has hosted a segment as he gives his guests great and sincere introductions. Sometimes he has the habit of being a little too long on the introductions, but I always enjoy his style.
>On Saturday night, there is no host for the 2nd segment on both shows. It could be that there was no one else available to host, but looking at the artists scheduled that night, Jimmy C. Newman, Ray Pillow and The Whites have all hosted segments in the past. It has been many years since Jack Greene hosted, and he is not in the rotation of hosts. Or, it could be that adjustments are going to be made to the schedule. I notice that Vince Gill is only scheduled for the 2nd show on Saturday. The way it is listed now, Jimmy Dickens will be hosting the entire first hour on both shows. Hope his voice holds out-it has not been the strongest of late.
>Rockie Lynne will be hosting the Midnight Jamboree from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. At one time, he had the beginnings of a solid career, but seems to have hit a wall.
>Finally, the question of the week, is who is Shane Yellowbird? Again, with the ticket prices being charged at the Opry, the booking needs to be better. Don't get me wrong, as I am sure Shane is a fine artist. But???

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry 11/17

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry-November 17.
7:00: Bill Anderson; Rebecca Lynn Howard
7:30: Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Buddy Jewell
8:15: Jack Greene; Love & Theft
8:45: Jim Ed Brown; Mandy Barnett

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Observations on MySpace/Grand Ole Opry

Last night, I took some time to watch the Grand Ole Opry on MySpace. I did not watch the entire hour as at various points of the show, either the picture went away or the streaming just was not very good. A lot of skipping. It could have been the feed from MySpace, or my computer. Either way after a while, I just got tired of it. A couple of observations:
>It was presented on MySpace just as if the show was being televised by GAC. Of course, it was announced later in the show that GAC will be televising that performance later in December. After that was said, I now am wondering if the Opry is eventually going back to GAC, since no other viable television options seem to be out there, or if this was a test-run with MySpace and GAC, where they will do this on a irregular basis, and then televise the show later as a "special event."
>Nan Kelly from GAC hosted the show and she looked pretty good and did her usual good job. She has been battling health issues, as I am sure most of you know. She did interviews of the artists during the show, just as if it were on GAC.
>I found it interesting that they showed Mike Terry reading the commercials during the show when there were live commercials, and MySpace also aired the video of the sponsor's commercials, such as USBank during the commercial breaks.
>They changed the backdrop at the Ryman. Gone was the old red barn that had been used at the Ryman for the past several years, and was even used during the Opry Country Classics shows. It was replaced by the same barn that is used at the Grand Ole Opry House, although it looked like on the video stream that they took out the small center section to make it fit onto the stage. The video box at the top of the barn was missing and that was the section that looked like was not there. The mult-colored backdrop just did not look right at the Ryman.
>And as usual, they advertised the 4 artists to appear, along with "others", and I did not see any others. Maybe I missed them, or it was just the usual GAC ploy.
>Finally, on the MySpace stream, it gives you a count of how many people are watching the Opry on MySpace. The number ranged from 65,000 to 73,000 during the portions that I watched. That's a decent number for a computer based show, and I do not know how many they hoped to reach, but my first reaction is that they thought a lot more people would tune in.

As I said, let's see if this is a new media idea for the Opry and this was an experiment to see if it would work, or if this was just a one-shot deal. My opinion is that you will see more of this.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not Grand Ole Opry, But...........

This really has nothing to do with the Grand Ole Opry, but Taylor Swift winning Entertainer of the Year award last night at the CMA Awards???? 19 years old and just into the business??? I know that the awards have really gone downhill the last few years, with the emphasis on "New Country", but I think this is a little ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, Taylor had a nice year, but.. Entertainer of the Year??

I watched about 5 minutes of the show, which was about 4 minutes more than I watched last year, and the only reason I watched that much of the show was because I happened to turn it when Martina McBride was doing the tribute to Barbara Mandrell. I thought that was nice, but Roy Clark and Charlie McCoy were also elected to the Hall of Fame. I know that they no longer highlight the Hall of Fame members on the CMA show, but if you are going to give a tribute to one, you should give it to all three. Barbara did mention their names, but I did not hear of any other tribute being done for them. I still remember a few years ago when Porter Wagoner was elected, Dolly Parton gave a tribute to Porter and he came up on stage, much like Barbara did last night, and thanked everyone. Bill Carlisle was also elected that year, and all he got was to stand up in the audience and wave. Not right!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up-November 13 & 14

Here is this week's Grand Ole Opry Line-Ups:

Friday November 13
7:00: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jean Shepard; The Whites
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Joe Diffie
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Ed Brown; Steve Wariner
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); The Band Perry; Josh Turner

Saturday November 14
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Jim Ed Brown
7:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jean Shepard; Mike Snider; Opry Square Dancers
8:00; Carrie Underwood; Jake Owen; Martina McBride; Rodney Atkins

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); The Whites; Jack Greene; Martina McBride
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C. Newman; Carrie Underwood
10:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Jean Shepard; Rodney Atkins; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jake Owen

Comments and Observations:
>The 8:00 segment will be simulcast lie at MySpace Music. I have not heard if they will have a host/announcer/mc for that segment, which I assume they will, unless Pete Fisher decides to have Carrie Underwood as the host.
>I do hate to see that 1 hour segment on a two hour show. Observing it in person, it just feels as if the first hour is a warm up to the second hour and there seems to be a disconnect between those two sections of the show. By that, it seems as if the last hour is more of a "made for tv" production than a part of the radio show. Also, only 10 acts for the first show.
>That said, the second show on Saturday has a very strong line-up of acts. The first show is basically sold out while the second show has some tickets available in the wings.
>Say what you will about Carrie Underwood being an Opry member, but so far, she has been making appearances on the show. She will end up the year at the 10 appearances they have asked of new members, which is more than many Opry members.
>Jesse McReynolds is the host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree after the Opry on Saturday night.
>In the upcoming weeks, there is an impressive group of Opry stars who will be appearing on the Opry. Between now and Christmas, Ralph Stanley, Charlie Daniels, Rhonda Vincent, Dierks Bentley, Trisha Yearwood, Charley Pride, Trace Adkins, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris and Ronnie Milsap will all be making appearances.
>Finally, Jack Greene has a link on his website to sign a petition for him to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Next year's class should be announced sometime in January. I know a couple of the voters and I am trying to get a list of the finalists in each category. Regarding Jack, I have mixed feelings regarding him and the Hall of Fame. He has had a very nice career in country music and has a great voice. I think he has had 9 #1 records, which is a decent number. But, at the same time, I think there are others of his generation that are more deserving than him and have been overlooked. I think of Jean Shepard, Jim Ed Brown, Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, Dottie West, Jimmy Dean and a few others who I think might have a stronger resume and I think would require more serious consideration than Jack. But, if he were to be elected some day, I don't think that it would be a bad thing. At best, he would be a long shot. The problem is that there is a backlog of deserving candidates and with only 1 or 2 being elected each year, I am afraid only a few will ever achieve the recognition that they deserve. There has been a petition for the Wilburn Brothers for a couple of years now and I wish Jack Greene and his petition drive lots of luck.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Space to Stream Live Grand Ole Opry Performance on November 14

From the Grand Ole Opry:
The Grand Ole Opry, the world's longest-running radio show, and MySpace are uniting to live stream an Opry performance with video for the first time. On November 14, 9-10pm ET fans can view the live show featuring Opry member and country superstar Carrie Underwood, CMA new artist nominee Jack Owen and more. The show will be hosted on MySpace Music in cooperation with Ustream. For more information, go to

Underwood will perform music from her just-released CD "Play On" including the fastest-rising single of her career to date, "Cowboy Casanova."

Just a thought: Maybe since the Opry cannot seem to find it's way back to live television, they are going to try this method. I have a feeling they will operate it like they did the televised GAC hour, with only 3 or 4 guests, and no legends. I wonder if they will have an actual host for the hour or go with the announcer format. Time will tell, but it is still an opportunity to see the Opry taking place live.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dr. Ralph Stanley & The Grand Ole Opry

I recently read the new autobiography that Dr. Ralph Stanley wrote with Eddie Dean, "Man of Constant Sorrow." I found it an excellent book that really tells the story of The Stanley Brothers and of Ralph and The Clinch Mountain Boys. The book spends lots of time on the older days of the Stanley Brothers with some interesting stories and inside information. If you get the chance to get a copy, please do. It is an easy read and you will enjoy it and it will give you a different impression of the man and his music.

In the book, Ralph talks about his joining the Opry and the story behind it. I thought I would share it here:
For a long time, I played the Opry as a guest but I never did join. When I got to thinking harder about it, I had some people in Nashville work on it in my corner. They told me I had paid my dues years ago, and not to worry. Bill (Monroe) made the loudest noise. It was all his doing. I didn't have to say a word to him. Bill told them they needed me on the Opry and that was all it would have took. This was in 1993. Hal Durham was running it back then, and Hal told me, "You're the only man that Bill's ever asked for them to get on the Opry." Bill wouldn't even put in a word for his own son, James, to get into the Opry. With Bill behind me, I could have gone on the Opry full-time, but I just never did follow that up at the time. It was a big commitment back then. It used to be you had to commit for most of the year, at least twenty-six weeks, every Saturday night. My schedule wouldn't have allowed that. I was on the road with my band, and they counted on me for a paycheck. Later the Opry eased up on how often you had to play. That' s when I was interested in making it official and joining. By then Bill was gone, and I had Porter Wagoner on my side. Porter was a big man and host at the Opry, which he'd joined back in 1957, and he helped me a lot. He worked on my behalf for several years, talking to the people behind the scenes who could make it happen. It was in 2000 when I officially became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Porter was there with Patty Loveless, and they brought me out on stage to induct me into what they call country music's most "elite club."

Ralph also had thoughts on Jimmy Martin and the Opry:
I know that Jimmy Martin died a-wanting to get on the Opry and he'd never made it. That really hurt him. It was his life's goal to join the Opry and play there regular like his hero Bill Monroe, and it just never happened. Now, I don't think that was Bill's doing. I think it was more Jimmy's fault, really. He was his own worst enemy. He would always say things and do things to get him in trouble. There was no doubt Jimmy had enough talent to be a member of the Opry. He would have been a plus, talentwise, but he wasn't dependable and they knew it. He was too out of control and he wouldn't have helped the Opry after they added it all up, the good and the bad.

Ralph talked a bit about Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs:
Competition. That's the way most musicians looked at each other back then, and Bill was the same way. The way he looked at it was pure survival. Bill didn't think there was room on the Opry for any other bands playing his type of music. The better they were, the more he hated'em. He kept Flatt and Scruggs off the Opry for a long time. And a lot of others, too. Carter and me never did get to play together on the Opry, and I think Bill had something to do with that.

Interesting observations from Dr. Ralph. And, I think everyone knows that it was through the intervention and threats of losing the sponsorship of Martha White that eventually led to Flatt and Scruggs becoming a part of the Opry. Bill Monroe had even tried to get a petition going against Flatt and Scruggs joining the Opry, but he found few takers. Roy Acuff for one, said he was "fond of the boys', and thought they would make good members and that the Opry needed people like them. Looking at today's Opry, do you think any sponsor is as powerful as Martha White was back in the day, and could dictate who could become an Opry member?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 11/6 & 11/7-Updated

They added one of their old standbys: Rebecca Lynn Howard

Here is the line-up for this weekend's Grand Ole Opry show. The Opry begins its run at the Ryman Auditorium this week, where it will be through January. Also, the Opry goes back to 2 shows on Saturday night, for most of the rest of the year.

Friday November 6
7:00: Jean Shepard(host); The Whites; The Steeldrivers
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Bomshel
8:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Joey + Rory
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith; Gene Watson

Saturday November 7
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; the Isaacs
7:30: Mike Snider(host); The Whites; Jean Shepard; Sarah Buxton
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Ray Pillow; Rebecca Lynn Howard; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Gene Watson

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; The Isaacs
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Sarah Buxton
10:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Stu Phillips; Rebecca Lynn Howard; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Gene Watson

A couple of very similiar shows on Saturday night. I always liked it when they varied the line-up for both shows. I also enjoy having different hosts introduce different acts. Also, I do have to ask, who is Bomshel(on Friday's show). The name just does not ring a bell. And, still a slot to fill on both the Saturday night shows, 3rd segment.

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry-November 10
(At the Ryman)
7:00; John Conlee; Point Of Grace
7:30: George Hamilton IV; Collin Raye
8:15: Jean Shepard
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; The Grascals

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tough Times At The Opry? Buy 1 Ticket/Get 1 Free

Received an email from the Grand Ole Opry this morning:

"Psssst. We have a little secret just for you. As a past Opry at the Ryman customer, we are giving you the chance to take advantage of our 24-Hour Buy One Opry at the Ryman Ticket, Get One Free Sale before anyone else knows about it. But you'll need to act fast because everyone will be in on the secret tomorrow afternoon."

Yes folks, the Opry is offering a free ticket for each one you buy, up to 8, for shows at the Ryman Auditorium through the end of the year. Oh, buy the way, it is not valid on Saturday November 14, when Carrie Underwood is on the schedule. I guess they don't have a problem selling tickets that night. And, this offer is not valid for price level 1. Seriously, if you are in the area and would like to see the Opry at the Ryman, this is a great deal and there are some fine artists scheduled in December, such as Ronnie Milsap, Emmylou Harris, Josh Turner, Marty Stuart, Ralph Stanley, Charley Pride, Ricky Skaggs, and many others. A great opportunity to see some fine Opry shows at a reasonable price. On a final serious note, the Ryman seats less than 3,000. With the Christmas season and many of the Opry stars in town for the holidays, if tickets are moving this slow that management feels the need to give tickets away, it could be a tough winter for the Opry. Usually the crowds are good at the Ryman. It reminds me of the days in the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s, when I would attend Opry shows at the Grand Ole Opry House in January and February, and there would only be 400-500 people in the 4,400 seat auditorium. I know it makes it tough on the performers when they see that many empty seats.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gaylord Posts Sharp Loss In 3Q

I post this because of Gaylord Entertainment's ownership of the Grand Ole Opry. I did not print the entire report, but it is still not good news that Gaylord's Opryland facility is still showing declines from a year ago, which was not as good as the year before that. Shows that not as many visitors are coming to Nashville. Also, there is a significant drop in revenue from the Opry. What the release does not say is what the expenditures were to operate the Opry. With the cost cutting that has been going on at the Opry, such as cutting shows and the number of acts per show, that would be interesting to see. I assume that some of the decline is from less shows than a year ago(many Saturday nights are down to one show), and less sellouts. Also with no television, that would also drop revenue, along with smaller crowds. They keep their attendance figures pretty tight, but I am trying to see what I can come up with. The feeling from those I talk to is that the Opry is still doing ok, and that overall, upper management is ok with the performance of Pete Fisher and the team operating the Opry.

Gaylord Entertainment Co. posted a steep loss in the third quarter, falling short of analyst's expectations. The Nashville-based hotelier reported a net loss of $12.9 million, or 32 cents per diluted share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to a net loss of $5.5 million, or 16 cents per diluted share, in the year-ago period. Revenue came in at $199 million, down 12 percent from $226 million in the same period a year ago. Gaylord Opryland generated sales of $54.5 million in the third quarter of 2009, compared to $64.2 million for the same period a year ago. Revenue per available room dropped 12.1 percent, driven by a 7.9 percentage point drop in occupancy from group cancellations and attrition. The company's Opry and attractions segment saw revenue decline 25.4 percent to $17.1 million in the third quarter of 2009.

Monday, November 2, 2009

November Opry Highlights

The month of November is upon us, and I wanted to look back at historical and important Grand Ole Opry events that took place in November.

Several Grand Ole Opry members joined the Opry cast during November:
>Joe Diffie joined the Grand Ole Opry on November 27, 1993 (16 years).
>Martina McBride became an Opry member on November 30, 1995 (14 years).

And I want to give special mention to 3 Opry members who joined the cast in November. I single these 3 out for special mention because 2 are true Opry legends who have been members for over 50 years: Stonewall Jackson joined the Grand Ole Opry on November 3, 1956 (53 years ago). Stonewall had his differences with Opry management, but he is back and has been appearing reguarly on the Opry. The other legend is Jean Shepard, who became an Opry member on November 21, 1955 (54 years). One of the true Opry legends, there is no reason why Jean is not yet a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The final Opry member that I want to give special mention to is Marty Stuart, who joined the Opry cast on November 28, 1992 (17 years). Marty, along with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Lorrie Morgan, have led his generation of artists to support the Opry and what it stands for. Since the passing of Porter Wagoner, Marty has taken on a more public role as a spokesperson for the Opry and the number of Opry appearances he has made have greatly increased over the past year. Congratulations to all.

Now a look at historical moments from November:
>On November 2, 1925, George D. Hay accepted the position as WSM Radio Director. This would have a direct impact, as he is the one who started the Grand Ole Opry.
>Everything has a start and for the Grand Ole Opry it all started on November 28, 1925. On that date, the WSM Barn Dance-forerunner of the Grand Ole Opry-broadcasts for the first time from a fifth-floor studio in the National Life and Accident Insurance Company Building. Uncle Jimmy Thompson, a 77-year-old fiddler, who claimed he knew a thousand songs, played a set that began with "Tennesse Waggoner."
>In November 1940, Minnie Pearl, one of the most loved Opry members in its history, joined the Opry cast. On November 3, 1990, the Opry honored Minnie for 50 years as an Opry member.
>November 1960, Hank Locklin joins the Opry. He would remain an Opry member until passing away earlier this year.
>November 29, 1961, a group of Grand Ole Opry members performs at a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall in New York. The perfomers included Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Bill Monore and Minnie Pearl.
>On November 28, 1964, Willie Nelson joined the Grand Ole Opry. He would not last long, becoming frustrated over the low pay and the general lack of success he was having as a performer in Nashville. He was paid $35 for his 1st performance on the Opry.
>On November 10, 1973, one of the most tragic events in Opry history took place. David "Stringbean" Akeman appeared on the Opry for the final time. When Stringbean returned home from that Opry that night, he and his wife, Estelle, were ambushed and murdered by two men who hoped to rob the couple of money Stringbean reputedly had hidden in his home. Grandpa Jones, Stringbean's neighbor and best friend, discovered the bodies the next day. Grandpa Jones was so shaken by the murders that he moved from Nashville to Arkansas, and lived there for a number of years and this crime was one of the reasons that promoted Roy Acuff to move to a house at Opryland. 23 years later, some $20,000 would be found, rotted and worthless, in the walls of the house.
>In November 1992, Gaylord Entertainment formally announced their plans on renovating the Ryman Auditorium. It would formally reopen in June 1994. For those who have been there since the renovation, all would have to agree that a great job was done at modernizing and saving the old building. It is still a special place to watch a show, especially when the Opry returns there.
>November 23, 1996, Trace Adkins performed on the Opry for the first time.
>On November 7, 1998, Jimmy Dickens celebrated his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. At the time, only Herman Crook, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe and Grandpa Jones were the only Opry members to have celebrated 50 years as Opry members.

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry 11/3

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry November 3:

7:00: The Whites; Holly Williams
7:30: Jimmy C. Newman; The Lost Trailers
8:00: Mandy Barnett; Keith Anderson
8:30: Jimmy Dickens; Dailey & Vincent

Interesting that there is no intermission listed for the show. I wonder if they have given up on that idea?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 10/30 & 10/31-Updated

Here are this week's Grand Ole Opry line-ups:

Friday October 30
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); The Whites; Jean Shepard; Sunny Sweeney
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Doyle Dykes
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Jim Ed Brown; David Nail
8:30: Vince Gill(host); Connie Smith; Keith Urban

Saturday October 31
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jim Lauderdale
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; Restless Heart
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Doyle Dykes
8:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Connie Smith; Blake Shelton

This is the last weekend that the Opry will be at The Grand Ole Opry House for this year. Starting next week, they will be downtown at the Ryman Auditorium. With the lower crowds over the winter months, this is a much better setting as with the smaller building it does not seem so empty on many of the Friday and Saturday nights. Looking at the line-ups, there are obviously several holes to fill. I am sure they will update Thursday or Friday.

Monday, October 26, 2009

IBMA Keynote Address From Pete Fisher

Recently, I was given a copy of the Keynote Address that was delivered by Pete Fisher, Vice President and General Manager of The Grand Ole Opry, during the 2009 IBMA World Of Bluegrass convention held in Nashville the week of September 28. While there is no real newsworthy information in the address, I wanted to pass it along as he makes many interesting comments about The Grand Ole Opry and bluegrass music. The address was a bit long, so I am only printing the comments that relate to the Opry and the music business:

I am very grateful and extremely honored to have this opportunity to speak with you this evening. I believe the bluegrass music industry holds tremendous potential to grow. In my years at the Opry, I have personally witnessed how the power of bluegrass music and its artists can win over those who may not consider themselves fans of bluegrass.

It's hard to believe I've been at the Opry 10 years, and what an exciting 10 years it has been! It was around September of 1998 when Steve Buchanan first approached me about the General Manager position at the Opry. At that time I was in my fourth year of artist management, the second phase of my music industry career. To be honest, the call came as quite a suprise to me. Although I had a very high regard for the Opry, I never envisioned in a million years that my career would lead me to that revered institution.

In addition to the obvious musical compatibility, bluegrass music and the Grand Ole Opry have a lot in common. Introduced to the world by Bill Monroe on the Ryman stage 64 years ago, like the Opry, bluegrass music has a long rich legacy which celebrates excellence and tradition. Bluegrass music, like the Opry, is truly a slice of Americana. It's all-American. Bluegrass Music, like the Opry, is multi-generational-the performers and fans alike.

A frequently asked question I get from the media is, "What is country music?" I typically respond by saying country music, at its best, is about real people singing real songs about real life. If country music is that, then, bluegrass music is the espresso version of that! Both bluegrass music and the Opry are real-authentic to the core.

With each and every one of the 200 Opry shows we present each year, we strive to present a diverse array of generations and musical styles. So when one experiences a Grand Ole Opry performance, they are really witnessing the past, present and future of country music, as performed by it's new stars, superstars and legends. That is our core programming philosophy for the show. This approach serves us well because it broadens the Opry's relationship with performers and their representatives as well as those enjoying the Opry in person, on the radio or on television, online, or on satellite radio. This programming philosophy is best for the long-term interests of the Opry, the performers and from a tourism perspective, the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee.

As many of you know, bluegrass music plays a key role in the make-up of any Opry show. Many Opry shows feature performances by some of the Opry stars of bluesgrass like Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, Del McCoury and Dr. Ralph Stanley. Many also feature performances by some of the superstars of bluesgrass like Opry stars Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss. We also feature many guest bluegrass performers such as Dailey & Vincent, Rhonda Vincent, The Grascals, Cherryholmes, Larry Stephenson, The SteelDrivers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Steep Canyon Rangers, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Mountain Heart, Dale Ann Bradley, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Isaacs, Dan Tyminski, Steve Martin, Alecia Nugent and The Lovell Sisters, just to name a few.

I took the opportunity over the past several weeks to meet with various leaders in the bluegrass industry. I set out to see what challenges were unique to bluegrass as compared to the broader country industry. What I took away from those discussions is that there really aren't many differences. The challenges are really the same: to make music with impact-find the audience and have an ongoing relationship with that audience year-round and exceed their expectations to win their loyalty. Note, I said "exceed their expectations," as opposed to "meet their expectations." You know, true fan loyalty comes when we deliver the total experience in a manner which goes beyond what the fan expects. You've heard the saying, "Give'em what they want"? We actually should be saying, "Give'em more than they want!"

We are at our best when we have a strong team. Now, I know many of you may be thinking what a thankless job I must have. I know that because many of you have come up to me over the years and have told me, "Man, what a thankless job you have." Or you say, "Man you've got a great job. I wouldn't want to have it." Well, nothing could be further from the truth. So many folks have approached me over these years with a great deal of praise for what has been accomplished. Although I am very grateful to accept those compliments, I accept them on behalf of the incredible team we have at the Opry. It's very easy to recognize the great team of performers we have on stage, but what is not as easy to see is the great team of performers we have behind the scenes.

Just as any Opry show isn't about one single performer, the Opry is an organization isn't about any single member of our team. Just as we have generations of performers on each and every Opry show contributing to a diverse musical experience, we have generations of team members behind the scenes who lend their talents-whether they be hosts and hostesses, concession stand workers marketers, sales reps, audio, lighting and video technicians, etc. That's the beauty of it...both onstage and behind the scenes.

One observation I've had as it relates to many artists' careers, particulary artists in the more niche formats, like bluegrass, is that a team often does not exist. Or, if a team does exist, it is rather limited. I realize that a team can be cost-prohibitive at times. If that's the case, I would encourage the creation of an advisory board which might meet quarterly or even assist in providing some insights and do some strategic planning. We are at our best when we have a strong team.

We are at our best when we have the proper perspective. My time at the Opry has afforded me a number of memorable experiences over the years. I've also had the opportunity to meet and get to know some truly awesome people, whether they are performers onstage or guests backstage.

Another key, great thing is when I stand on the side of the stage during our Opry shows and enjoy the incredible perspective that I, and others are afforded. I recall during my days on Music Row feeling like the only artists and music that mattered were those who were on the charts at the time. It seemed like adds at radio, SoundScan and industry nominations and awards were the driving force in the business. Sure, these sorts of metrics are important measurements of success, but it seemed that was what it was all about. In other words, we had the biggest ballfield to play on, yet we only chose to play in one relatively small corner most of the time-the flavor of the moment, if you will. At the Opry, I and others are afforded the opportunity to view out industry from a perspective which spans over 60 years on any given Opry show which features music spanning from the traditional to the contempory to the alternative.

Talking about perspective-I believe a key element to success is that talking about perspective-I believe a key element to success is that perspective we hold. Even on the business planning side of the Opry, we shape our perspective, not by how one person in the organization sees it, but how our team collectively sees it. We have a management team who brings very diverse ideas to the table. We aren't afraid to challenge one another. If you don't have the proper perspective, simply, you will not make the best decisions. Personally, I love participating in discussion where all sides are represented. I often find myself bringing up thoughts and ideas in meetings not because that is my opinion, but because I want that thought to go before the team to get a reaction. That way, the game plan the team ultimately hammers out stands the best chance for success.

We are at our best when tradition is a treasure, not a trap. I mentioned earlier that bluegrass music, like the Opry celebrates tradition. Well, how do we honor tradition in today's seemingly topical world? Well, I believe one way to honor tradition is by presenting it in a manner which will resonate with today's culture. Multi-generational duets, contemporary arrangements of classics and imaging are all ways to achieve this.

As many of you are aware, the progress which has been made at the Opry has not always been easy. What I didn't tell you earlier when I said I was approached about the Opry job in 1998 was that it took me over six months to ultimately join the Opry. It took that long because I was fully aware taht succeeding at the Opry was not going to come easy and it would likely be controversial. However, it became apparent to me that not only could the Opry be relevent and viable, but it could thrive and serve to, once again, become a driving force for artists and the industry. So when I joined the Opry in June of 1999, we set out to focus on various aspects of the show which would drive contemporary artist participation, a segment of programming which has been waning over the years. Much of our efforts and investment were focused on a more proactive approach to talent booking, upgrading the production values of the show-one that could move from a traditional look to a more contemporary look as the music did onstage. In addition, we placed a focus on increasing the reach of the Opry by growing our distribution with the addition of our syndicated radio show with Westwood One, America's Opry Weekend and developing a retail and licensing program. We also set out to be more involved with the labels on Music Row, often participating in promotional partnerships with them. This really helped grow the value proposition for the artists who performed on the Opry. As I mentioned, growing the Opry's contemporary relevance has not come easy. I spoke earlier about brand attributes. Well, some of the Opry's key attributes include tradition and heritage and authenticity. On the flip side, those assets can become anchors if not managed properly. An over-reliance on tradition and heritage can lead to irrelevance in the eyes of the media and consumers.

I've learned that there are innovators, followers and preservationists in our world. Don't get me wrong. There is a place and need for all three. However, when preservation leads to irrelevance, or even extinction-what's the point? If you're solely focused on innovation with no regard for how that innovation is going to grow and be sustained -what's the point? At the Opry, we celebrate and honor tradition by not only presenting it and preserving it, but also making it relevant. A key way that we accomplish this, in addition to the show's production values, is through the show's programming. Having a contemporary artist honor a legend , like we did this past Thursday when one of our biggest new names on the scene, Jamey Johnson, performed a George Jones classic as part of our Opry Country Classics Salute to George Jones. We are at our best wehn tradition is a treasure, not a trap.

So to conclude, we are at our best when we have a great team-the right players playing the positions they are made to play. We are at our best when we develop and maintain the proper perspective with that team so we can make the best decisions possible. We are at our best when we stay true to who we are and "stand by our brand" in all we do. We are at our best when we honor tradition as a treasure and not a trap by balancing innovation with preservation.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry 10/27 & Opry Country Classics 10/29

Here is the line-up for this week's Tuesday Night Opry, October 27th:
7:00: Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band
7:30: John Conlee; Gloriana
8:15: Connie Smith; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Martina McBride

It pains me to type in the word 'intermission' for an Opry show. That said, a very nice line-up for the Tuesday night show.

Here is the line-up for this week's final Opry Country Classics, October 29th:
7:00-9:00: This week, 'Second Generation Stars'
Host: Storme Warren
Also Appearing: Gail Davies & Chris Scruggs; Grandstaff; Georgette Jones; Opry Square Dancers; Ronnie Robbins; Jamie Lee Thurston; The Whites
Spotlight Artist: Pam Tillis

This is the final edition of Opry Country Classics for this year. It will return in March. Hopefully, they take what they learned from this first year and work at improving the show. For most of the weeks, it just did not come across as I think they planned it.

Finally, I think someone fell asleep at the switch over at Sirius radio. On Tuesday night, they have a replay of the previous week's Tuesday Night Opry show. However, after promoting it and announcing it as the Tuesday Night Opry, they instead played the Opry Country Classics show from Thursday night. Then tonight, instead of playing last week's Friday Night Opry, they are playing last week's Grand Ole Opry from Saturday night, after introducing it as the Friday Night Opry. Obviously, they got the tapes mixed up and someone was not listening. The joys of radio!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 10/23 & 10/24

Here is the line-up for this weekend's Grand Ole Opry

Friday October 23rd
7:00: Jean Shepard(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Ashton Shepherd
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Emily West
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Keith Anderson
8:30: Ricky Skaggs(host); Riders In The Sky; The Whites

Saturday October 24th
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Mallary Hope
7:30: Mike Snider(host); The Whites; Montgomery Gentry
8:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Trace Adkins; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jean Shepard(host); Jack Greene; Oak Ridge Boys

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mallary Hope
10:00: Mike Snider(host); The Whites; Montgomery Gentry
10:30: Jean Shepard(host); Trace Adkins; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jack Greene; Oak Ridge Boys

A pretty strong lin-up for the Saturday Opry shows. Also, there is no live Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree this weekend, as they are going to play a tape of the Kitty Wells tribute show that was done several weeks back. I have listened to it and it is an all-star performance of some great country music legends, honoring Kitty on her birthday. Listen if you can.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Opry Country Classics-Thursday October 22

Here is the line-up for this week's Opry Country Classics-Thursday October 22nd

7:00-9:00: This week, "Great Country Duets"
Host: Dana Williams
Also Appearing: Jenna Basso; Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius; Charlie Louvin; Raul Malo; Opry Square Dancers; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; The Wrights;
Spotlight Artist: Lorrie Morgan

Just a couple of comments regarding this show:
>The theme is a good one as there have been lots of country duets in the history of country music and the Grand Ole Opry, but when looking at the line-up, except for a couple, I just don't see it. Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius was one of the top duets in country music for several years. Good choice. And, I hope that Sonny Osborne will come out and sing with Bobby, and have an Osborne Brothers mini-reunion. That would be nice also. But, I am trying to think: how many duets did Lorrie Morgan, Raul Malo and Jenna Basso have? Of Course, Charlie Louvin is famous for his duets, so I am thinking that one, or several of the artists, will do a few Louvin Brothers duets. I would ask why Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely are not in this line-up? And of course, there are others. Like I said, good idea, but I question the talent line-up.

Tuesday Night Opry 10/20

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, October 20th:
7:00: Jimmy C. Newman; James Otto
7:30: Jean Shepard; Eli Young Band
8:15: Bill Anderson; Eric Church
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Darryl Worley

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rhonda Vincent And The Grand Ole Opry

I came across this post, from "The Front Porch".

Bluegrass 'Queen' Rhonda Vincent Has Her Sights Set On Opry:

Rhonda Vincent still seems honored to have been named the "New Queen of Bluegrass" by the Wall Street Journal back in 2000. "It's a great honor....and it has kind of stuck," Vincent said. "It's wonderful to be thought of like that and know that you are representing bluegrass music. I'm so thrilled." Listen to any of her live albums and you will hear why that label has stuck. Backed by a group of ace musicians, her energetic live show is one of the best in the business, and the reason she has won the IBMA Entertainer of the Year in 2001, and was the reigning IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year from 2000-2006.

But after rising to the top of the bluegrass scene, Vincent does still have at least one milestone she wants to reach. Although she's played many times on the hallowed stage, Vincent would love to join the ranks of the Grand Ole Opry. "It's always been a dream to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry," Vincent says. "Growing up in Greentop, Mo., we would always listen to the Opry on the radio. Just to get to perform there is an honor. To be a member would be the ultimate.
(Jessica Phillips)

It has always been rumored that Rhonda Vincent has been up for consideration to become an Opry member. There is always back of the house politics going on at the Opry, and some of that may be a reason why Rhonda so far as not been asked. But in my opinion, this should happen today. Rhonda has played the Opry many times and has been well received. She gets it!!! And, I think, like Del McCoury has been, she would be a loyal member, who would be there on a regular basis to perform. And, she would fill a need. Currently, the only true female bluegrass singer on the Opry's roster is Alison Krauss, and she is hardly ever there. This would be a good fit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Garth Brooks And The Grand Ole Opry

As I am sure everyone knows by know, Garth Brooks announced yesterday that he was coming out of retirement to play in Las Vegas. During the press conference, a question came up that I wanted to comment on:

The question to Garth had to do with performing in Nashville. His answer was "I want to do more stuff everywhere. I want to do more stuff here. I'd love to play the Opry more. I know I owe them, and if they want it, then they should have it."

Garth always says he loves playing the Opry and it is the highlight of his professional career. His press conference was at the Grand Ole Opry House yesterday and Pete Fisher was involved in the conference. As far as playing the Opry, he has appeared 3 times since 2001. If he wants to appear at the Opry, what is stopping him? I am sure if he called up Pete and said he wanted to appear next Saturday night, they would let him. I remember when he appeared at the 80th Birthday celebration in 2005. He talked to the press then and he was asked about being on the Opry more. His response was that anytime they wanted him at the Opry, all they had to do was call and he would be there. I remember talking to one of the reporters at the time and she told me that Steve or Pete must have lost Garth's number for over 5 years and just happened to find it in a desk drawer!!!(His last appearance before that night was in 2000 at the Opry's 75th birthday celebration). And, since he made that comment 4 years ago, Garth has been at the Opry one time, the night they made Carrie Underwood a member. You would think with some of the attendance issues that the Opry is having, they would be calling Garth everyweek and asking if he wanted to stop by and do a song or two. I am sure that there are other issues involved and I know that Garth would not do the Opry everyweek, but for someone who loves the place, as he says, you would think that he would be there more than 3 times in 8 years!!! Oh, and since Pete and Garth were together yesterday, do you think Pete got the chance to ask Garth if he had a couple of free Saturday nights coming up soon and would like to stop by?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grand Ole Opry-10/17 & 10/18-Updated

Here is this week's line-ups at the Grand Ole Opry. This week, there is 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night:

Friday October 17
7:00: John Conlee(host); Riders In The Sky; Whitney Duncan
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; T. Graham Brown
8:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jean Shepard; Keith Anderson
8:30: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Ed Brown

Saturday October 18
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Holly Williams
7:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jean Shepard; Sam Bush
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Stonewall Jackson; Steel Magnolia; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Vince Gill

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Holly Williams
10:00: Jean Shepard(host); Charlie Louvin; Sam Bush
10:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Jan Howard; Steel Magnolia; Opry Square Dancers
11:00; Bill Anderson(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Vince Gill

Over all, not a bad line-up for this weekend. Still 1 slot to fill on the Friday night show. Both Saturday shows have basically the same line-ups with the exception of Charlie Louvin on the 2nd show instead of Jim Ed Brown. Also, Jan Howard will be the host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree after the Opry.