It was a historic weekend, as on January 15th and 16th, 1999, the Grand Ole Opry returned to the Ryman auditorium for the first time in 25 years, to commemorate the 25th annivsary of the show's move to the Grand Ole Opry House. There was 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night, and all 3 shows were sold out. I had the privilage and honor to attend all 3 shows. While these 3 shows were the first "official" Opry shows to return to the Ryman since March 15, 1974, the Grand Ole Opry did hold a Ryman Reunion Celebration on October 18, 1998, which was a fundraiser for The Performer's Benefit Fund. On that Sunday night, 34 Opry members put on a show that was a big success. The success of this benefit show, and comments from Opry members, led to the Opry coming back to the Ryman for this weekend. As everyone knows, the return to the Ryman was so successful that the Opry has made an annual return to its former home every year since. Now let's go back in time to this historic weekend:
Friday January 15, 1999
7:30(Cracker Barrel): Porter Wagoner(host); Billy Walker; Jeanne Pruett, Del McCoury Band; Bill Carlisle
8:00(Williamson Dickies/Opryland Hotel): John Conlee(host); George Hamilton IV; Skeeter Davis; Daryle Singletary
8:30(Johnny Walker Tours-Fiddlers Inn/Sunterra): Jimmy Dickens(host); Charlie Walker; Stonewall Jackson; Holly Dunn
9:00(Local Lincoln Mercury Dealers): Ricky Skaggs(host); The Whites; Jack Greene; Vince Gill
9:30(Standard Candy): Bill Anderson(host); Del Reeves; Jimmy C. Newman; Jim & Jesse; Hank Locklin
10:00(Ryman Auditorium): Johnny Russell(host); Sherrie Austin; Jim Ed Brown; The 4 Guys; Mike Snider
Saturday January 16, 1999
6:30(GHS Strings): Jimmy C. Newman(host); Wilma Lee Cooper
6:45(Williamson Dickies): Billy Walker(host); Skeeter Davis
7:00(Shoney's): Jimmy Dickens(host); Holly Dunn; The 4 Guys; Joe Diffie
7:30(Standard Candy): Ricky Skaggs(host); Steve Wariner; Trisha Yearwood
8:00(Martha White): Porter Wagoner(host); Jeanne Pruett; Mike Snider; Jim Ed Brown; Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30(Physicians Mutual Insurance): Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Hank Locklin; The Whites; Bill Carlisle
9:30(Wildhorse Saloon): Porter Wagoner(host); Oswald & Charlie; Charlie Louvin; Trisha Yearwood
10:00(Local Lincoln Mercury Dealers): Jack Greene(host); Jim & Jesse
10:15(Opry History Picture Book): Jimmy Dickens(host); Martina McBride
10:30(Epiphone Guitars): Ricky Skaggs(host); Joe Diffie
10:45(Jogging In A Jug): Steve Wariner(host); Charlie Walker; Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00(Coke): Bill Anderson(host); Holly Dunn; George Hamilton IV; Vince Gill
11:30(Detro Sales): Johnny Russell(host); Stu Phillips; Del Reeves; Mike Snider; Stonewall Jackson
A couple of notes regarding those 2 nights:
>On Friday night, Johnny Russell introduced Bobby Bare, who was visiting the Opry. He did not perform, but he did invite everyone to his gift shop on Broadway, owned by himself and his wife, and featuring a large collection of teddy bears. Bobby would sit on a big chair inside the shop on a regular basis, and greet the fans and pose for pictures.
>On Saturday night, during the televised portion, Ricky Skaggs invited Trisha Yearwood to become a Grand Ole Opry member.
>Also during the televised portion, Steve Wariner introduced Chet Atkins from the stage of the Opry. At the time, he was very ill with cancer and was very frail. As a side note, Steve is in the process of releasing a new CD honoring Chet.
>During Saturday night's 2nd show, I spent some time in the sound section, up in the balcony. I was joined by Mike Snider, who said it was so crowded back stage that he needed to get away!! Also, he wanted to hear what the sound was like in the auditorium and he was amazed at the quality. Sitting in the top row of the balcony for part of the show was George Hamilton IV, just listening and enjoying.
>Also up in the upper balcony was Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys, who was just watching the show and listening to his wife perform(she is a member of the Carol Lee Singers). I mentioned to him that the Oak Ridge Boys would be a natural fit as Opry members, but he told me that their schedule was just too busy to commit to the show.
>I also spoke that night to Steve Buchanan, the President of the Opry group, and he was just pleased with how everything was going. He thought the crowds were very enthusiastic. I saw him later in the gift shop buying shirts and I kidded him that not even he could get free merchandise.
>The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree took place from the shop on Broadway. When I left the Opry to head over, I could not believe the large crowd that was gathered outside on the sidewalk in the chilly weather. The jamboree host that night(if I remember right), was Ricky Skaggs. The shop was jammed.
>The biggest complaint I heard, which I still hear, is how hard it is to park downtown if you are coming to the 2nd Saturday night show. If there is a hockey game at the arena, or a convention in town, it is just hard to find a spot close to park.
We'll, I hope you enjoy and look forward to more classic Opry line-ups. Thanks!!!