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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Music City Roots: Live From The Loveless Cafe

While not Opry news, it involves WSM and a new live show that they are presenting:

WSM 650-AM is proud to announce the launch of "Music City Roots: Live From The Loveless Cafe," a weekly show built on the remarkable Americana music scene and the legacy of WSM's historic roots in live radio. Airing Wednesday nights from 7-9pm CST live from the Loveless Barn, at the intersection of Highway 100 and the Natchez Trace Parkway, "Music City Roots: Live From The Loveless Cafe" is the newest addition to the grand tradition of live music programming on WSM, the historic broadcaster that laid the foundation of Nashville's music industry.

Opening night, October 14, 2009, will feature Americana icon Emmylou Harris, the acclaimed duo of Pam Rose and Mary Ann Kennedy, as well as emerging artists Annie Crane and Robin Ainger.

The official announcement came at the 2009 Americana Conference in Nashville, TN. Legendary WSM will carry the frist new weekly live music show in over 40 years-Music City Roots, LIVE from the Loveless Cafe. The New York Times called the Americana music scene "the coolest music scene" today. Upcoming acts include a who's who in Americana, Bluegrass, and Alternative Country world. Loveless Cafe entrepreneur Tom Morales says, "It's the most exciting movemement we've seen in a long time. The heritage of WSM in this town speaks for itself, and we're proud to be a part of the next generation history."

After the Music City Roots show, the music continues at the Loveless Barn with Eddie Stubbs doing his popular "Way Back Wednesdays" theme show, brought to you by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Vinyl enthusiasts will be delighted, as Eddie, "The Encyclopedia" of Country Music, digs deep into his vault of treasured recordings and spins rare records before a live and enthusiastic audience.

Upcoming Shows
10/14/09: Emmylou Harris, Pam Rose, and Mary Ann Kennedy.
10/21/09: Sam Bush, Mike Farris, and Miss Tess and The Bon Ton Parade.
10/28/09: Dex Romweber Duo, Peter Bradley Adams, Scott Miller, and Jonny Corndawg.
11/04/09: Missy Raines and The New Hip, The Grascals, and James Intveld.

>It is always nice to see live music programming on WSM, or on any station for that matter. I wish the show lots of luck.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grand Ole Opry-75th Birthday Celebration

On October 13 & 14, 2000, the Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 75th anniversary. I only mention this as it was a milestone in the history of the show. It was a star filled weekend as most of the Opry members performed at least during one of the shows over the weekend. I attended the entire weekend of shows and it was great to see all the Opry stars there. Taking a trip down memory lane, I wanted to post the line-ups from that weekend, which took place 9 years ago today.

Friday October 13th:
First Show
6:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites; Hal Ketchum; Jack Greene
7:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Connie Smith; Bill Carlisle; Jeanne Pruett; Diamond Rio
7:30: Steve Wariner(host); Holly Dunn; Del Reeves; Ronnie Milsap
8:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C. Newman; Alison Krauss
8:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Osborne Brothers; Martina McBride; Garth Brooks

Second Show
9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Jim Ed Brown; Billy Walker; Jack Greene; Diamond Rio
10:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Hal Ketchum; Ernie Ashworth; Del Reeves; Connie Smith
10:30: Steve Wariner(host); Osborne Brothers; Charlie Louvin; Jeanne Pruett; Alison Krauss
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Hank Locklin; Garth Brooks
11:30: Charlie Walker(host); Stu Phillips; Holly Dunn; Mel McDaniel

Saturday October 14
Saturday Matinee
3:00: Porter Wagoner; The Whites; Mel McDaniel
3:30: Jim Ed Brown; Osborne Brothers; Billy Walker
4:00: Jimmy Dickens; Travis Tritt
4:30: Trisha Yearwood; Loretta Lynn

First Show
6:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Connie Smith; Bill Carlisle; Lorrie Morgan
7:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Marty Stuart; Travis Tritt; Riders In The Sky; Jimmy Dickens; Pam Tillis; Trisha Yearwood; Loretta Lynn
8:00: Vince Gill(host); Alison Krauss; Dolly Parton; Opry Square Dance Band; Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Jean Shepard(host); Ricky Van Shelton; Steve Wariner; Garth Brooks

Second Show:
9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Marty Stuart; Wilma Lee Cooper; Alison Krauss
10:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Pam Tillis; Skeeter Davis; Ronnie Milsap
10:30: Vince Gill(host); Ralph Stanley; Lorrie Morgan; Jack Greene; Opry Square Dance Band; Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jean Shepard; Ricky Van Shelton; Steve Wariner
11:30: Johnny Russell(host); Jan Howard; Ray Pillow; Charlie Walker; Garth Brooks

>The 7:00-8:00 hour was the televised portion of the Opry that night.
>The 2nd Opry show did not end until almost 1am, with Garth Brooks being on stage for over a half hour. Jack Greene was the host of the mid-night jamboree that night, that did not end until after 2am.
>To fit in all the artists, many of them sang duets together. For example, Jimmy Dickens and Pam Tillis sang a song together as did Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart.
>The only Opry members who did not appear during any of the birthday shows were Clint Black, Roy Clark, John Conlee, Joe Diffie, Roy Drusky, The Gatlin Brothers, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, George Jones, Patty Loveless, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Brother Oswald, Charlie Pride, Ricky Skaggs, Mike Snider, Randy Travis and Teddy Wilburn. Several of those were ill. That makes almost 50 Opry members appearing sometime over the weekend.

As always, it is fun to look back in history.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review & Recap of the Grand Ole Opry's 84th Birthday Weekend

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Grand Ole Opry's 84th Birthday Bash. It was a great weekend of shows and I also had the good fortune to have my wife attend the shows with me. I add that note because while I attend at least 10 Opry shows each year, and some years many more, she only attends the Opry about once every 5 years, so she can give me a different perspective on what is seen. Also, she is not your 'classic' country music fan. In fact, she is what would be classified as a "deadhead", following the Grateful Dead. But, she does know country music and her opinion is valid.

The weekend started with us attending the Opry Country Classics show at the Ryman Auditorium. I was anxious to attend the Opry Country Classics because I had not attended any of the shows since they started and was interested in how they went when seeing the show live instead of listening to the show on the radio. And, I will tell you that I really enjoyed the show and thought that it was very well presented. When you come into the Ryman, the curtain is open with the backdrop that they have used at the Ryman for the past several years. They had the Minnie Pearl impersonator doing the pre-show announcements, just like before the Opry shows. Eddie Stubbs did the introduction and then introduced Storme Warren, from GAC-TV, as the host for the night. Storme introduced all of the acts and then would defer to Eddie, who handled the commercials. Storme did an excellent job as the host and added a lot of enthusiasm to the show. I could see him as an Opry announcer. He gave high praise to the acts that he introduced and noted their career achievements. The show opened with Mandy Barnett, who did Ernest Tubb's "Walk-In The Floor Over You". She was followed on stage by Jeannie Seely, who did 2 songs, with her honoring Dottie West with the 2nd number. She was followed by George Hamilton IV for one number and Jan Howard for her classic, "Evil On Your Mind". Also performing was new artist Sunny Sweeney, who did several Loretta Lynn numbers and Jim Lauderdale, who honored George Jones. Jack Greene then did his classic numbers, "There Goes My Everything" and "Statue Of A Fool". There was a 15 minute intermission, during which several classic country songs were played. After the intermission, the Opry Square Dancers came out. There were only 4 of the square dancers, instead of the usual 8, and then Mandy Barnett came back on to do several Patsy Cline songs and a Don Gibson number. The show finished with the Del McCoury Band doing Roy Acuff's "Wabash Cannonball", and then several Bill Monroe numbers. After the last song by Del McCoury, they played "Rawhide", and while the song was on, the curtin was pulled close as Eddie gave the closing announcements.

Like I said, the show had a very good flow to it, with the newer acts mixed in with the veteran acts. As far as the attendance, I would say that the Ryman was about two-thirds filled, mostly senior citizens. The crowd was very enthusiastic, with Jack Greene receiving the greatest response. The intermission did seem out of place, and with the limited restrooms at the Ryman, was really too short. I would just rather see them do away with the intermission. Also at times, it seemed as if the commercials were out of place, as in one sequence they had 3 in a row after only 1 song. The only down note was that Hal Ketchum was advertised to be on the show and was listed in the program, but was not there. One last note: for those of you who have been at the Ryman before, you will know that for years they had display cases in the back that were filled with different items and the displays had not been changed for years. The finally updated them. Along the back walls, there are displays to honor the Opry in the 40's, 50's and 60's, including items from Stringbean, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Connie Smith, Lester Flatt, Marty Stuart and others. The last big display is in relation to the Johnny Cash television show, that was filmed at the Ryman, and the display features items from Johnny Cash and June Carter. The little cases behind the back row of seats have also been updated, with one of the displays highlighting Skeeter Davis. It included a mention that Skeeter was one of the outspoken members of the Opry and at one time was banned for a year because of comments that she made on stage. Items from Grandpa Jones, Pee Wee King, Marty Robbins and a couple of others were also on display in the cases. A very nice update to the auditorium. All-in-all, I thought the show was great and exceeded by expectations.

On Friday, I attended the Friday Night Opry at the Grand Ole Opry house. While the Saturday shows were very good, I would have to say in my opinion, the Friday show was the better of the two. The line-up was great and all the entertainers were very good. I was anxious to see Jimmy Dickens, as over the past several months he has not sounded very good and there have been health problems. But, I was suprised as he looked great and sounded much better than what I thought he would. As you would expect, Josh Turner and Montgomery Gentry received the biggest reactions from the audience. The Opry House was at least 90% full, with only the upper corners having available seats. Patty Loveless was signing copies of her new CD in the Opry Shop before the show. As for Saturday night, again the Opry House was over 90% full for the first show and I thought it was a good show. The crowd for the 2nd show was not as large, and that show was fine also. Jimmy Dickens did have some trouble hitting a few of the notes during his songs and the radio host, Delilah was the special guest announcer. She was slightly embarassed as she was reading from the wrong spot on her script, and was ready to introduce Mike Snider as Diamond Rio, but she handled it well. Kathy Mattea was outstanding as was Lorrie Morgan. The first segment hosted by Jimmy Dickens ran about 10 minutes over, so they played catch up for the rest of the night. The 2nd show started about 7 minutes late, but finished up on time. Stu Phillips made one of his rare Opry appearances on the 2nd show and sang great. Jim Ed Brown was also very good as was Joe Diffie. And of course, they rolled out the birthday cake for all 3 shows over the weekend. Nobody pulled it out on Friday night, except for a couple of the stage hands. On Saturday night, Jimmy Dickens and Diamond Rio did the honors. Also, Diamond Rio was in the Opry Museum signing copies of their new book and CD before the show.

Just for the heck of it, I did some timing during the first show. The actual show lasts 2 hours, or in the case of this Saturday night, 2 hours and 10 minutes. For that show, there were 13 artists listed and they all appeared. The 13 artists played a total of 19 songs. With an average of 3 minutes per song, that comes out to about 57 minutes of actual entertainment for a show that lasted about 130 minutes. Add that to the fact that the top ticket is $53 and going up next year, it is no wonder why attendence is down at the Opry. Or another case in point: Would anyone pay $53 to see any of those artists in concert? Maybe some for Montgomery Gentry. But, the line-ups have got to be stronger each week to justify the price of the tickets. By the way, during the 2nd show on Saturday night, the 12 artists played a total of 18 songs; even less than on the 1st show.

All references to GAC-TV have been removed from the Opry house. Also, in case you missed it, Cracker Barrel is no longer the presenting sponsor of the Opry, but has been replaced by Humana. Cracker Barrel is still listed as a "Proud Sponsor" along with US Bank, Bass Pro Shop, and Dollar General. The other Opry sponsor is Martha White. I would like to see one change at the Opry House. Along the back wall in the outer hallways, they have several pictures of Opry stars, with Opry induction dates listed as well as Hall of Fame dates listed. Those include Roy Acuff, Patsy Cline, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, George Hay, Bill Monroe and a couple of others. If you are familiar with the Opry House, these are older, black and white photos. I would like to see these updated to include any former member of the Opry who is also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. There is space to add, perhaps Porter Wagoner, Bill Carlisle and a few others. They have done a nice job of honoring the past at the Opry House, I would just like to see them do a few more things.

Finally, I visited the Opry Museum as always. Last year, they updated the exhibits(finally), with a history of the Opry and some classic photos. But, it is time to update again. Some of the exhibits are looking very old and have been in place for many, many years. There is a story to tell about the Opry and the museum is the perfect place to do it. The same displays honoring Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Jimmy Dickens, Roy Acuff, Tex Ritter, Minnie Pearl and Patsy Cline have been up forever. The last change they made was removing the Hank Snow exhibit after he died. Keep the exhibits up, just reduce the size and add a few more. There are so many stars that could be honored. Just personally: they keep honoring Jim Reeves with a nice size exhibit, but he was an Opry member for such a short amount of time, and he had even quit the Opry. I would also love to see more of the video screens, showing classic Opry highlights. They have such a great vault of film that they could show.

That was a recap of the weekend. I have more to share, which I will do in future updates. My next trip is planned in December and then the usual trips in February, April and June.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry 10/13 & Opry Country Classics 10/15

We'll, I am back from the big Grand Ole Opry birthday celebration and I will share my thoughts on what I saw and heard in a column tomorrow. But for tonight, I wanted to post the line-ups for this week's mid-week Opry shows.

Tuesday Night Opry-October 13th:
7:00: Jim Ed Brown; Wade Bowen
7:30: Connie Smith; The Steeldrivers
8:15: Bill Anderson; Jamie O'Neal
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Justin Moore

Opry Country Classics-Thursday October 15th:
This Week: Celebrating Rockabilly
Host: Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives
Also Appearing: Shawn Camp & Billy Burnette; John Conlee; Eric Heatherly; Rebecca Lynn Howard; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jimmy C. Newman; Opry Square Dancers

My only comment regarding the Opry Country Classics show is that the theme is Rockabilly, and while Jesse McReynolds and Jimmy C. Newman are fine artists and singers, I do not remember either of them having anything to do with rockabilly. Also, the last I heard of Eric Heatherly was when he had his one and only hit, the remake of the Statler Brothers classic: Flowers on the Wall. He was a one hit wonder.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nashville, Tennessee & The Grand Ole Opry

Just wanted to let all my loyal readers know that I am off to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. It should be a great weekend with the Opry celebrating its 84th birthday. I will have a full report and update on all the activities on Monday. Who knows; I may hear a nugget or two to pass on. There are some people I do want to talk to. Until Monday, have a great weekend!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up-10/9 & 10/10-Birthday Weekend

Changes to the announced line-up for this weekend are already taking place. On Friday night, Mark Wills has cancelled and replaced by Ricky Skaggs. Nothing wrong with that. Also on Friday, Mike Snider and Bill Anderson have switched spots. The updated line-up is listed below:

This weekend, the Grand Ole Opry celebrates its 84th birthday with 3 star-filled shows, along with Opry Country Classics on Thursday night and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers in a big birthday concert on Saturday afternoon. The Opry's official anniversary date is November 28, but for a number of years(as long as I can remember), the Opry has celebrated in October(usually the 2nd or 3rd weekend). I will be in Nashville this weekend, attending all the shows and when I return next week, I will offer a full review of what I saw and heard. Now for the line-ups:

Opry Country Classics-Thursday October 8
This week, Songs That Made The Grand Ole Opry Famous
Host: Storme Warren
Also Appearing: Mandy Barnett; Jack Greene; George Hamilton IV; Jan Howard; Hal Ketchum; Jim Lauderdale; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers; Jeannie Seely; Sunny Sweeney.

A real solid line-up of talent for this show. No spotlight artist and I am sure that the various entertainers will be singing lots of songs from the earlier days of the Opry and songs that were made famous by many of the now-departed Opry Hall of Famers. This show will be at the Ryman Auditorium instead of the Grand Ole Opry house.

Friday Night Opry-October 9
7:00: John Conlee(host); Jeannie Seely; Riders In The Sky; Ricky Skaggs
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); The Whites; Patty Loveless
8:00: Mike Snider(host); BJ Thomas; Josh Turner
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jack Greene; Jean Shepard; Montgomery Gentry

Grand Ole Opry-Saturday October 10
First Show:
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); The Whites; Kathy Mattea
7:30: Lorrie Morgan(host); Jan Howard; George Hamilton IV; Jean Shepard
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jim Ed Brown; Joe Diffie; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Mike Snider; Diamond Rio

Second Show:
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Lorrie Morgan; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Ray Pillow; Kathy Mattea
10:30: Diamond Rio(host); Stu Phillips; Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jim Ed Brown; Joe Diffie

Again, real solid line-ups for both the Friday Night Opry and the Saturday Grand Ole Opry shows. The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be hosted by James Hand, who is a Texas honky-tonk singer, featured on Willie's Place on Sirius/XM radio. He will be joined by Heather Myles, another Texas singer, who I have heard many times and does a very nice job. Neither of these are Nashville based, or Nashville known artists, so it will be interesting to see what kind of a crowd they draw.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tuesday Night Opry 10/6

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry-October 6
7:00: The Whites; Hal Ketchum
7:30: Jack Greene; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Bill Anderson; Craig Morgan
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Charlie Daniels Band

Dailey & Vincent won the Bluegrass Association's Entertainers of the Year award for the 2nd straight year Sunday night at the awards show that took place at the Ryman Auditorium. Dale Ann Bradley, a favorite of ours, won the female vocalist of the year for the 2nd year in a row. Congratulations to the winners.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up Friday 10/2 & Saturday 10/3

Updated: On Saturday night, Jamie O'Neal has cancelled for both shows and replaced by Cherryholmes

Here is the line-up for this week's Grand Ole Opry shows. There are 2 shows both Friday and Saturday night, with Friday having a very strong line-up as the Opry is doing its part for breast cancer awareness. Looking the Friday night line-up, both shows are exactly the same with the exception of the third slot in the second segment. Jim Ed Brown is on the first show and The Whites are on the second show. Usually, you will see some variety in the shows and also you will see some performers on the first show and not on the second show, and some on the second show and not on the first. It is the same for Saturday night with the exception of the second slot in the third segment of the show. Kind of strange. Anyways, here are the line-ups:

Friday October 2:
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jo Dee Messina
7:30: Lorrie Morgan(host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; Caitlin Lynn; Mike Snider
8:00: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Terri Clark
8:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Mindy Smith; Carrie Underwood

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jo Dee Messina
10:00: Lorrie Morgan(host); Jean Shepard; The Whites; Caitlin Lynn; Mike Snider
10:30: Bill Adnerson(host); Connie Smith; Terri Clark
11:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Mindy Smith; Carrie Underwood

Before we leave Friday night, there is still one slot to fill on the first segment of each show. However, I know that they are having a special moment where Carrie Underwood will light a switch to turn the barn backdrop pink for the night. That may be why only one guest is scheduled for that first segment. Ray Price is scheduled for a concert at the Acuff Theater on Friday night, so it is possible that he could stop over at the Opry for a song or two. They have done that in the past. Also, Robin Roberts from Good Morning America will be on the first show as a special announcer. Finally, when they first announced that these shows would be dedicated to breast cancer awareness, I was under the assumption that most of the talent on Friday night would be female and that is the way it turned out, with 4 male performers on the first show and 3 on the second.

Saturday October 3:
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Cherryholmes
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jack Greene; Grand Master Fiddle Champion; Gene Watson
8:00: Jean Shepard(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Hal Ketchum(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top-X-Press; The Whites

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Cherryholmes
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jack Greene; Grand Master Fiddle Champion; Gene Watson
10:30: Jean Shepard(host); Stonewall Jackson; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Hal Ketchum(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; The Whites

One slot to fill on each show before the Square Dancers. Dailey & Vincent will be the host at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. They have had an amazing two year run since teaming up in bluegrass. They have been on the Opry several times and it is suprising that they are not on the Opry schedule for Saturday considering that they are going to be at the record shop.

Next weekend is the Opry's 84th birthday celebration.