Saturday, August 1, 2009

August Opry Highlights

As the month of August begins, let's take a look at past Opry moments that took place in August.

Several Grand Ole Opry members are celebrating Opry anniversaries in August, including 2 of the members who have been Opry members the longest:
>Jimmy Dickens joined the Grand Ole Opry in August 1948. This year marks his 61st year as a Grand Ole Opry member. Jimmy is one of the most treasured and loved Opry members in history. He is the last link to the earlier days of the Opry, and along with Kitty Wells, represents the last of that era of country music entertainers. Jimmy will be 89 years old later this year. Hearing him on the Opry in recent months, it is obvious that his voice is slipping a bit, especially on the ballads, and he has forgotten some names. But, when telling stories or talking to the guests, his voice is clear and strong. There is no one left like a Jimmy Dickens in country music today. Enjoy him while you can.
>Jimmy C. Newman joined the Opry in August 1956. This year marks his 53rd year as an Opry member. Whenever he comes on stage with his Cajun Country Band, he always receives a great reception. His music is bouncy and fun to listen to. He remains a popular member of the Opry.

The other members celebrating Opry anniversaries in August are:
>The Osborne Brothers-August 8, 1964(45 years).
>Vince Gill-August 10, 1991(18 years).
>Jim Ed Brown-August 12, 1963(46 years).
>Roy Clark-August 22, 1987(22 years).
>Trace Adkins-August 23, 2003(6 years).
>Pam Tillis-August 26, 2000(9 years).

The following Opry historical moments took place in August:
>August 11, 1952, Hank Williams is fired as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He was officially fired for failing to show up for scheduled shows, but Opry management was tired of his eratic behavior and drinking. After leaving the Opry, he went back to Louisiana and rejoined the Hayride. Of course he died on New Year's Day 1953.
>August 1959, Skeeter Davis became an Opry member.
>August 17, 1967, Charlie Walker joined the Opry. He would remain a member until his death late last year.
>August 1985, Johnny Russell joined the Grand Ole Opry. He would later become the primary host for the 11:30 segment of the Opry. On most Saturday nights, that was the only show he performed.
>August 10, 2002, The Dixie Chicks performed as guests on the Opry. During the televised portion of the Opry, they made the announcement that Porter Wagoner and Bill Carlisle has been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. In the case of both of these individuals, it was a long overdue honor. Porter, in fact, had made several comments over the years regarding his thoughts on not being a part of the Hall of Fame, and watching others go in ahead of him. Porter was never shy about voicing his opinion on the country music industry, and many felt that this delayed his election to the Hall.
>August 31, 2002, the Opry celebrated its 4,000th consecutive Saturday night broadcast. During the show, the Opry paid tribute to one of its most beloved members, Minnie Pearl. Steve Wariner received the Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award during the show. This was not the 4,000th consecutive performance of the Opry, as on April 6, 1968, the Opry was forced to cancel its Saturday night show due to a curfew in Nashville following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King. WSM broadcast a previously taped show that night.

There you have it for the high points in August in Opry history.


  1. I am going to dare to offer a slight correction, but it turns out that someone feels a bit strongly about it, so here goes. The Potato, as Hank Snow called him, came to the Opry in 1948, but he left in 1957, I believe to work with Connie B. Gay in Washington, D.C. The departure was friendly and he often guested on the Opry. In 1975, Hal Durham invited him to rejoin and he did. So, while Jimmy Dickens has been associated with the Opry for 61 years, he has not been a member for that long.

    When I say someone feels strongly about it, Jean Shepard has commented that she loves him and doesn't want to take anything away from him, but she has been there since 1955, so she has been a member for more years. As I think about it, The Louvin Brothers joined in 1955, so Charlie Louvin has been there even longer than she has--he arrived earlier in the year--but he was not a solo act until he and Ira broke up around 1963. So, Jean is the longest continually tenured member.

    That said, I hope The Potato is there for 61 straight years, and in 2036, at the age of 116, celebrates them!

    I'd also like to echo your thoughts on Slicknickel, as Mr. Wagoner was called for reasons I've never been able to find out. The idea that Dolly Parton went in before him is, with all due respect to her, criminal--he really got her started, after all. But I think of when Buck Owens and Ray Price went in--long overdue--in 1996, Buck said, "About time," and Ray said Buck stole his line.

  2. Mike:
    You are right about Jimmy Dickens. He left the Opry for a while, yet everytime he is introduced, they always say that he has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1948, or that he has been a member of the Opry for over 60 years. I have commented before on how the Opry handles issues and dates with members who leave and come back. George Jones is one of those and his Opry induction date is always given as 1973, which is when he rejoined. George Hamilton IV is another who left for a while, but his induction date is always given as his original date in 1960. I guess they make the rules based on the individual. In the case of Jean Shepard and Charlie Louvin, I remember her doing an interview at the Opry once and they were asking her about Opry members around the longest, and she specifically mentioned Charlie Louvin, and she said that she thought he had been around the Opry for the longest consecutive time of anyone. Finally, I agree with your comments about Dolly Parton going in before Porter Wagoner. I know there is politics involved with the Hall of Fame and some of the best known cases are Webb Pierce and Faron Young, who would not be voted in until both died. Several of the prominent voters even publically said that they would not vote for either individual while they were still living. Shame on them!!! Jimmy Dean is another one who should have been voted in long ago. Many artists who worked with him, and who he helped discover and promote, are in the Hall of Fame.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Yes, definitely a lot of politics, which is really no surprise--that's life, isn't it? Even if it's wrong. I mean, I was amazed at how long Ralph Emery had to wait, and I wonder if he offended some people with his books and/or his power.

    For too brief a time, TNN ran a series with highlights from the old National Life Opry, with rotating celebrity co-hosts who would talk about the performers. One time, Faron Young and Jeannie Seely co-hosted, and she referred to how he should be in the Hall of Fame someday. He said he didn't want it because the Hall of Fame honored some people it shouldn't have and ignored others who deserved it, and he wanted nothing to do with it. That was our Faron!

  4. I just flew in from Nashville this evening (and my arms sure are tired!) and caught your latest entry. You've touched on a topic that I could go on all day and all night about and I'm sure it would bore everyone to tears. As a lifelong country music fan, historian and musician who has also at times worked for the Opry, the Hall of Fame and TNN and now watches with interest from the sidelines, I think I have a unique perspective on the topic at hand. Having so said, I won't bore you with a lot of in depth opinions. The "who's in, who's out, who should, who shouldn't and who's next" debate is never ending and always will be. But you certainly can't ignore the fact that music industry politics has a LOT (but not everything) to do with the Hall of Fame voting these days. Actually, I think it always has but it just seems a bit more obvious these days.

    There is no one enshrined in the Hall who doesn't deserve to be there. Every inductee has had an impact in the music business in more ways than one. However, there are some like Jimmy Dean, The Wilburn Brothers, Jean Shepard and many others who should have been there years ago. There are others who, in my opinion, went in the wrong order. The timing of Vince Gill's induction certainly raised my eyebrow. Vince undoubtedly deserves the honor...for being one of the nicest people in country music if nothing else! But...and please don't flame because, like I said, he deserves without question his place in the Hall...I can't help but think that his election was a bit of a "thank you" for all the work he has done as a board member and fund raiser in recent years. I think their outspokeness on the topic probably hurt Charlie Louvin, Porter Wagoner and Jean Shepard (she seems to be on everyone's short list). Not being among the Nashville "in" crowd is the only reason I can think of that people like Horace Logan, John Lair and Bradley Kincaid have never been honored. The modern day movers and shakers have a real short memory when it comes to the people that came before them...sometimes it seems like last week is a stretch for them to recall. I fear that if it were up to today's voters Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and Uncle Dave Macon would be shunted aside in favor of Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire (both of whom will be in the Hall some day and not just for their phenomenal record sales).

    I'll close with a story that is somewhat humorous to me and yet very sad as well. I was on a visit to Nashville not long ago and made a stop at the Hall. As I was making my way around the rotunda, I came upon a mother and daughter (I assume) dressed in jeans and Kenny Chesney concert shirts. As they stood before the Carter Family's plaque, the daughter looked at the mother and said "Who are they?". The mother replied "I don't know". Naturally, I jumped back just in case the floor should open up and swallow them! (Not really...but I did want to scream just a bit!) Unfortunately, they are the fans that Nashville seems to be interested in these days. And the powers that be on Music Row don't seem to have a much better sense of the rich history country music. And that's the end of today's rant.

  5. Barry:
    Welcome back. I hope that your arms are now rested. As always, thanks for reading and offering your thoughts and opinions. When I read your comment, a big smile came on my face when you mentioned Horace Logan. He wrote a wonderful book, "Elvis, Hank, and Me.. Making Musical History on the Louisiana Hayride.". The book is in my library and I recommend it to everyone. If you believe what Horace wrote, he had everything to do with the starting of and the operation of the Louisiana Hayride, and one of the reasons it ended was because he left the Hayride. Others will tell you that he was nothing more than an announcer for the show, and that Dean Upson(formally of the Vagabonds, who were early Opry members), was the true head of the Hayride. Regardless of anyone's thoughts of him, he had a lot to do with many stars, and their careers in country music, including Billy Walker, Slim Whitman, David Houston, and of course, Elvis and Hank Williams. He seemed to know everyone in Nashville and country music. In his book, he says that at one time, WSM wanted to hire him as the Opry manager, but he did not take it. After reading his book, which I have read many times, he is one of those behind the scene "stars" of country music.

  6. I bow before both of you. Am I wrong, or did Vince Gill's induction come when they started doing the categories, so that he was up in the category for those over the age of 50 who have had recent careers? Someone made the comment that this is the Hall of Fame's way of being able to avoid saying they overlooked an older act--they can point to the categories.

    As to not knowing the Carter Family ... sigh.

  7. Yes Mike you are correct. He was inducted in the new category that honored those who achieved more recent stardom(I would have to look up the exact definition of the category on the Hall of Fame website). Alabama was the 1st artist inducted in that category and followed by George Strait, Vince and Emmylou Harris. This year, it was Barbara Mandrell. I forget what the exact