Thursday, December 30, 2010

Skeeter Davis

I did not want today to pass without taking a moment to remember Skeeter Davis, who was born on December 30, 1931. To say that Skeeter had a difficult life would be an understatement. Her given name was Mary Francis Penick, and she was born and raised in Kentucky. She received the nickname of Skeeter early in her life, from her grandfather. As far as the last name of Davis, that came from her duet partner, Billy Jack Davis, and together they performed as the Davis Sisters. In 1953, they achieved a #1 record, with the hit, "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know". It was in August of 1953 that Skeeter and Billy Jack were involved in a serious car accident that took the life of Billy Jack and severly injured Skeeter.

In 1956, Skeeter started to record as a single act, under Chet Atkins at RCA Records. She charted a number of hits over the next several years, culminating in the #1 song, "The End of the World", which would become Skeeter's most famous song. The hits would continue through the rest of the 1960's.

She would join the Grand Ole Opry in August 1959. Her Opry career was not without some controversy. In 1973, she dedicated a song to evangelists who were outside and being harassed by the Nashville police. For that, and other political and religious statements that she made at the Opry, she was suspended from the show in 1974. Over a year later, she was reinstated.

Skeeter at one time was married to Ralph Emery, and in books written by both Skeeter and Ralph, they each gave their side to what was not a very good marriage. I think Ralph got the best line of the two, when in his book, "Memories", he wrote, "I thought about including a chapter here, with a headline reading, 'Things I Enjoyed About My Marriage to Skeeter Davis'. I was going to leave the pages blank. No one would have been hurt by the text, and the idea seemed clever".

Skeeter battled a lot of health issues during the last decade of her life, including breast cancer. She was a survivor and would continue to play the Opry as the cancer spread to her bones. She was famous for wearing colorful, full length skirts with usually a head band, or cover.

She would remain a member of the Opry until her death on September 19, 2004. As she battled cancer and she became weaker, she was forced to give up her Opry appearances. In 2000, she appeared on the show 63 times, but that would drop in 2001 to just 4. Her last Opry appearances were on Saturday night, February 3, 2001, when she appeared on both of the Saturday night shows.

In honor of Skeeter Davis, who would have turned 79 today, here is the Opry line-up from Saturday February 3, 2001.

6:30: Porter Wagoner(host); The Whites; Bill Carlisle; Jim & Jesse; Jack Greene
7:00: Jean Shepard(host); Wilkinsons; Billy Walker; Hal Ketchum; Peasall Sisters; Alison Krauss & Union Station; Emmylou Harris
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Skeeter Davis; Mike Snider; Holly Dunn; Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Del Reeves; Vince Gill

9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); The Whites; Skeeter Davis; Peasall Sisters; Vince Gill
10:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Billy Walker; Alison Krauss & Union Station
10:30: Jimmy C. Newman(host); Osborne Brothers; Wilkinsons; Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Stonewall Jackson; Mike Snider; Emmylou Harris
11:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Charlie Walker; Hal Ketchum

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 12/31 & 1/1

The Grand Ole Opry will say goodbye to what has probably been it's most challenging year in history on Friday night, while on Saturday, they will welcome in 2011. This week also looks like the return of Jimmy Dickens to the Opry stage, as he is scheduled for both nights. Jimmy has missed the last couple of weeks after being hospitalized with pneumonia. Emmylou Harris is also scheduled for both nights this weekend. Saturday night will feature the annual appearance by Jett Williams, giving the Opry a chance to honor the memory of her father, Hank Williams, who died on January 1, 1953. And I see that Charlie Louvin is also scheduled on Saturday night.

Friday December 31
7:00: Mike Snider(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jack Greene; Craig Campbell
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jean Shepard; Michael Cleveland & Flamkeeper
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); George Hamilton IV; John Conlee; Elizabeth Cook
8:30: Emmylou Harris(host); The Whites; Old Crow Medicine Show

Saturday January 1
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jean Shepard; Jett Williams
7:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Troy Olsen; The Bowling Family
8:15: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Restless Heart; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Emmylou Harris(host); Charlie Louvin; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Buddy Miller

It does look like the Opry is covering itself in case Jimmy Dickens cannot make it. The options on Friday night include having either Jean Shepard moving up to host, or sliding John Conlee over from the 3rd segment to host. On Saturday night, Jean again could step into the host role.

You never know with the Opry, but I find it interesting that this week they list an intermission for Saturday night, but not for Friday. I am sure there will be an intermission both nights, but maybe they wanted to get the folks out a little earlier on New Years Eve.

After the 1st of the year, I will post my annual recap of the Opry's year, including the number of Opry shows during 2010 and number of Opry appearances by each artist.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers 12/25/1976

On Christmas night, December 25, 1976, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Steve and Rudy, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. To the best of my knowledge, they are the only Opry members to have joined on Christmas day. Larry was, and still is, a great songwriter and it was that talent that led him to Nashville. Larry started on his own, but wanted to work with his brothers, which led to him writing his own material.

They had their 1st #1 record in 1976 with "Broken Lady." Their hits continued through the rest of the 1970's and 1980's. As their recording careers stalled out, Larry went his separate ways from Steve and Rudy and began to do solo projects. They reunited in 2002 and then again in 2009 with tours and recordings.

Larry was close to Johnny Cash, and in fact, named one of his children after John. Much like John, Larry also battled a serious drug problem, that after treatment, he was able to overcome.

As far as the Opry, Larry has made many solo appearances over the years as well as with his brothers. In 2009, Larry became the main host for the Opry Country Classics show on Thursday nights, and he does a great job. His brothers join him on occasion. Like many others, when Larry first joined the Opry, he appeared on a somewhat regular basis. As the years went on, his appearances became more infrequent. In fact, from 2000 thru 2008, prior to when he started to host the classics show, he appeared on the Opry a total of 9 times. While he has a regular hosting job with the classics program, he still makes very few Saturday night appearances. But, at least he has re-established his relationship with the Opry.

Here is the line-up from Christmas night, December 25, 1976, when The Gatlin Brothers became official members of the Grand Ole Opry.

First Show
6:00: Bill Monroe(host); Ray Pillow; Marion Worth; Lonzo; Ernie Ashworth
6:30: Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper(host); Charlie Louvin; Del Wood
6:45: Ernest Tubb(host); Skeeter Davis; Billy Grammer
7:00: Roy Acuff(host); Charlie Walker; Minnie Pearl; Jimmy C. Newman; Stu Phillips
7:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Dottie West; Justin Tubb; The Gatlins; Crook Brothers; Opry Square Dancers
8:00: Lester Flatt(host); Jack Greene; Jeannie Seely; Vic Willis; Bob Luman
8:30: Hank Snow(host); Jeanne Pruett; Stonewall Jackson; Carlisles; Jim & Jesse; Fruit Jar Drinkers

Second Show
9:30: Charlie Louvin(host); Ernest Tubb; Skeeter Davis; Lonzo; Billy Grammer
10:00: Bill Monroe(host); Ray Pillow; Ernie Ashworth; Del Wood
10:15: Roy Acuff(host); Marion Worth; Charlie Walker
10:30: Lester Flatt(host); Jack Greene; Jeannie Seely; Jimmy C. Newman
10:45: Porter Wagoner(host); Justin Tubb; The Gatlins; Crook Brothers; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow(host); Bob Luman; Vic Willis; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Kirk McGee
11:30: Marty Robbins(host); Jeanne Pruett; Carlisles

Yes, this was the period of time when the 1st Opry show started at 6:00 and was a 3 hour show. It's kind of funny that during the winter months, they would sometimes do a 3 hour Saturday night first show because so many Opry members were in town and wanted to be on. During the summer, they would go back to starting at 6:30. Also, I have the square dancers listed. I am not sure if it was the Bill Jones Promenadors, The Tennessee Travelers or The Stoney Mountain Cloggers that were on this particular week. What a line-up!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 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 sent 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. And, I hope that you will consider more on-line streaming of the Opry shows. And, please don't mess with the show any more. Most of us thought it was fine the way it was.

For Jimmy Dickens, Roy Clark and Charlie Louvin, better health and a hope that you will still be making regular Opry appearances. For Bill Anderson, congratulations on your upcoming 50th anniversary as an Opry member, and good health to you this year.

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 for Mel, good luck on your new CD and tour and a return to the Opry stage. I hope it happens. And continued good health to the "older" Opry members, such as Jack Greene, Jan Howard and Jimmy C. Newman.

To veteran Opry members such as Ray Pillow, Stu Phillips and Stonewall Jackson, my Christmas wish is for more Opry appearances from each of you. Please Pete, call them more often. They enjoy playing the Opry as much as we enjoy hearing them. To Mike Snider and Riders In The Sky, thanks for keeping humor on the Opry stage. 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. For Blake Shelton, the Opry's newest member, please don't forget for the Opry is at. And for Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson, a call from Pete Fisher asking you to become an Opry member.

To Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Tom T. Hall, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire and Travis Tritt, a GPS system for your car locked into 2804 Opryland Drive. And to Randy Travis, Ronnie Milsap and Dolly Parton thanks for returning to the Opry stage this year, and now, please don't be strangers. 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 more often. And to Hal Ketchum, please come back soon. The Opry misses you.

To Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, Ralph Stanley and Del McCoury, thanks for carrying on the bluegrass tradition at the Opry. And to Alison Krauss, please join them. To Jeanne Pruett, Barbara Mandrell, Billy Grammer and Ricky Van Shelton, continue to enjoy your retirement from the music business. All of you have earned it.

To Trace Adkins, Craig Morgan, Josh Turner, Montgomery Gentry, Carrie Underwood and Dierks Bentley, keep remembering where the Opry House is. And to Brad Paisley, thanks for a recommitment to the show this past year. Your support of the show is vital.

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

To Connie Smith, Emmylou Harris and Patty Loveless, my wish is that three of the sweetest voices on the Opry continue to keep those voices. And Patty, the Opry is still there for you. It needs you more than once a year. And to John Conlee, Mel Tillis, Steve Wariner, Charlie Pride, Jeannie Seely and the Whites, my wish is that you give the Opry another year of good performances.

To Martina McBride, Terri Clark, Joe Diffie, Diamond Rio, Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis, thanks for supporting the show, but please give us more performances. And to Larry Gatlin, thanks for hosting the Opry Classics show and for bringing your down home style to the show.

To all the non-Opry members who came out to do the Opry this past year, thanks. There were too many to mention, but my wish is that we see more of you this year. You help to keep the show fresh and help to fill out the line-up when the missing Opry members do not appear.

To Mike Terry and Eddie Stubbs, thanks for the great introductions that you give us each week on the show. To the Carol Lee Singers, thanks for the great backup vocals you give us each week, and to the Opry staff band, thanks.

To Gaylord Entertainment, thanks to your commitment to the show this past year. You showed me a lot after the flood. You kept the show going, even when it was hard to find a suitable location, you saved the historical artifacts and the fans remained loyal to the show. Thanks for getting the Opry House up and running again, and thanks for updating the dressing rooms and backstage area. And please, don't forget the Opry's historic past and restore the Opry Museum soon.

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. And, thanks for reading and commenting on the blog. I enjoy the chat and the emails you send. Thanks!!

Finally, Merry Christmas to all and a great New Year:

aka: Fayfare

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Previous Opry Shows on Christmas Weekend

When I posted this, I said I would try to add a few more. I have some Grand Ole Opry line-ups from when Christmas fell on Saturday night, but I don't have the line-ups from the Friday Christmas Eve shows for these years. Hope you enjoy. (I have added them at the end of this post).

I said in an earlier post that I would try to find Opry line-ups from previous years when the Friday Night Opry fell on Christmas Eve and the Grand Ole Opry was on Christmas night. I have come up with a couple. It is interesting to see what the line-ups were like on those nights and how many of the Opry stars were there for the shows.

This line-up is from the last year that this happened, in 2004

Friday Night Opry December 24, 2004
7:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Osborne Brothers; T. Graham Brown
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Stonewall Jackson; Ray Pillow; Pinmonkey
8:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Jack Greene; Rodney Atkins
9:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Sherrie Austin
9:30: Jean Shepard(host); Elizabeth Cook; Hal Bynum

Saturday December 25, 2004
6:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Jack Greene; Pinmonkey
7:00: George Hamilton IV(host); Gail Davies; Melonie Cannon
7:30: Jean Shepard(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Elizabeth Cook; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Billy Walker; Sherrie Austin
8:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Osborne Brothers; Mandy Barnett

Note: Even though this was the period of time when there were 2 Saturday night shows each week, on Christmas night, there was only 1 show scheduled.

In 1999, it was the same deal regarding the Friday Night Opry on Christmas Eve and the Grand Ole Opry on Christmas Night. Here are the line-ups from those 2 nights.

Friday Night Opry December 24, 1999
7:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Bill Carlisle; Billy Walker
8:00: Jean Shepard(host); Osborne Brothers
8:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Stu Phillips; Ernie Ashworth; Riders In The Sky
9:00: Jeannie Seely(host); George Hamilton IV; Jim & Jesse; Charlie Walker
9:30: Johnny Russell(host); Stonewall Jackson; Ray Pillow

Saturday December 25, 1999
First Show
6:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Bill Carlisle; Billy Walker
7:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Jim & Jesse; Mandy Barnett
7:30: Jean Shepard(host); Osborne Brothers; Mike Ireland
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); George Hamilton IV; Wilma Lee Cooper; Riders In The Sky; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Johnny Russell(host); Mike Snider; John Berry

Second Show
9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Jim & Jesse; Riders In The Sky; Mandy Barnett
10:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Wilma Lee Cooper;
10:15: Billy Walker(host); Osborne Brothers;(Jan Howard was scheduled in this slot but cancelled)
10:30: Jean Shepard(host); John Berry
10:45: George Hamilton IV(host); Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Stu Phillips; Charlie Walker; Ray Pillow
11:30: Johnny Russell(host); Mike Snider; Mike Ireland

Saturday December 25, 1993
First Show
6:30: Bill Monroe(host)
6:45: Jim Ed Brown(host); Bill Carlisle
7:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Charlie Walker; Wilma Lee Cooper; Marty Stuart
7:30: The 4 Guys(host); Jeanne Pruett; Charlie Louvin; Connie Smith; Osborne Brothers
8:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Billy Walker; Jeannie Seely; Opry Square Dancers; Opry Square Dance Band
8:30: Hank Snow(host); Jean Shepard; Stonewall Jackson; Grandpa Jones

Second Show
9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Jan Howard; Osborne Brothers; Jean Shepard
10:00: Bill Monroe(host); Wilma Lee Cooper
10:15: Charlie Louvin(host); Grandpa Jones
10:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jim & Jesse
10:45: Billy Walker(host); Jeannie Seely; Opry Square Dancers; Opry Square Dance Band
11:00: Hank Snow(host); Connie Smith; Stonewall Jackson; Charlie Walker; The 4 Guys
11:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jeanne Pruett; Johnny Russell

Interesting that Grandpa Jones was not in a hosting role that night.

Here is another one, from Saturday December 25, 1982
First Show
6:30: Charlie Louvin(host); Jeannie Seely
6:45: Jack Greene(host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Riders In The Sky
7:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Jimmy Dickens; Skeeter Davis; Charlie Walker; Billy Grammer
7:30: Bill Monroe(host); Jean Shepard; Lonzo & Oscar; Billy Walker; Bill Carlisle
8:00: Roy Acuff(host); Jan Howard; Roy Drusky; Stonewall Jackson; Stu Phillips; Opry Square Dancers; Opry Square Dance Band
8:30: Hank Snow(host); Connie Smith; Jimmy C. Newman; The 4 Guys; Vic Willis

Second Show
9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); The 4 Guys; Jack Greene; Ernie Ashworth; Skeeter Davis; Ray Pillow
10:00: Charlie Walker(host); Jimmy Dickens; Teddy Wilburn
10:15: Bill Monroe(host); Stonewall Jackson
10:30: Roy Acuff(host); Connie Smith
10:45: Billy Walker(host); Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dancers; Opry Square Dance Band
11:00: Hank Snow(host); Jeannie Seely; Justin Tubb; Jimmy C. Newman
11:30: Roy Drusky(host); Jan Howard; Vic Willis; Bill Carlisle

And finally, here is a show from Christmas night, December 25, 1971. There were 33 members on the show this night and look at the quality of this show:

First Show
6:30: Tex Ritter(host); Archie Campbell; Jimmy C. Newman; Ernie Ashworth; The 4 Guys;
6:45: Wilburn Brothers(host); Earl Scruggs; Ray Pillow; Tom T. Hall
7:00: Lester Flatt(host); Bill Monroe; Grandpa Jones; Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper; Charlie Louvin; Stu Phillips; Stringbean
7:30: Roy Acuff(host); Tex Ritter; Jean Shepard; Stonewall Jackson; Del Reeves; Lonzo & Oscar; Charlie Walker; Del Wood
8:00: Ernest Tubb(host); Dottie West; Earl Scruggs; Wilburn Brothers; George Morgan; Jack Greene; Jeannie Seely
8:30: Hank Snow(host); Vic Willis; Marion Worth; Archie Campbell; Jim Ed Brown; Tom T. Hall; Jimmy C. Newman

Second Show
9:30: Bill Monroe(host); Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper; Charlie Louvin; Stringbean; Ray Pillow
10:00: Roy Acuff(host); Tex Ritter; Jean Shepard; Del Wood
10:30: Lester Flatt(host); Grandpa Jones; Stonewall Jackson
10:45: Ernest Tubb(host); Wilburn Brothers; Stu Phillips; The 4 Guys
11:00: Hank Snow(host); Dottie West; Vic Willis; Lonzo & Oscar
11:30: Marty Robbins(host); Marion Worth; Charlie Walker

I hope you enjoy these.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grand Ole Opry 12/24 & 12/25

You never know what you are going to get whenever the Grand Ole Opry has a show that falls on either Christmas Eve or Christmas night. Any Opry member, or entertainer, who does not live in Nashville is usually home with their families. Many performers who do live in Nashville go away to a vacation spot for the holiday and those who do stay in town are usually with family and friends and just don't want to work on the holiday.

With that said, the line-up for Christmas Eve and Christmas night is not too bad. As expected, Jimmy Dickens is among the missing as he continues to recover, and I would not be suprised if we see very little of him during the cold winter months. Ray Pillow gets an opportunity to host a segment on Friday night, and on both nights, there is a good mix of entertainment.

Friday December 24
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Holly Williams
7:30: Ray Pillow(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Eddy Raven
8:15: George Hamilton IV(host); Jack Greene; James Intveld
8:45: Jeannie Seely(host); Johnny Counterfeit; Dailey & Vincent

Saturday December 25
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Emily West
7:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Jack Greene; Eddy Raven
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Holly Williams; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Jan Howard; Dailey & Vincent

Over the next day or two, I hope to post some Opry line-ups from previous years when the Opry was held on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. That might be interesting to some.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hank Snow

I have a confession to make. I know all of us have our favorite Grand Ole Opry stars, either present or former. I know that my top 10 list includes current Opry stars Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Jim Ed Brown, and former Opry stars such as Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb. But on the top of the list, as my favorite Opry member of all time, is the Singing Ranger Hank Snow.

Hank passed away on 11 years ago on December 20, 1999. I am not going to cover the entire career of Hank Snow. But, I will cover just a couple of the important events. Hank was born on May 19, 1914, and was 85 years old when he died. He lived his early years in poverty, and while he was a Canadian star for many years, he really never made it in the states until after he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Hank became an Opry member on January 7, 1950, on the recommendation of Ernest Tubb. It would be hard to believe today, but that was Hank's first appearance on the Opry. It was touch and go, until he had his career hit, "I'm Movin' On". After that, everything else was history.

When Hank passed away, he was 2 weeks shy of celebrating his 50th year as an Opry member. Unfortunately, his health started to decline in the mid 1990's, and Hank made his last Opry appearance on Saturday August 31, 1996. He was scheduled to appear on the Opry on Friday September 6, 1996, and on Friday and Saturday September 13 and 14, but cancelled those appearances. That was the last time he was ever on the schedule for the show.

I highly recommend Hank's autobiography, "The Hank Snow Story", which he published in 1994. In my opinion, it is one of the better books written on a country music star. Hank is pretty honest in the book, and touches on a lot of subjects. I did find it interesting that 2 items that he did not mention in his book was why he started to wear a toupee (and we all have to admit that some of those that he wore looked pretty bad), and the whole deal with his duet partner Kelly Foxton. That one just did not make sense.

I have a couple of personal memories of Hank. I will always remember that after Hank did his opening number on his segment, he would go over and stay pretty much at the announcers stand. And, we all know Hank was not the tallest person in the world (he is taller than Jimmy Dickens), but you would only see his head at the podium. Another memory is that Hank was always perfectly dressed. And, what a great guitar player he was. Toward the end of his career, he had a small musical stand, with the words to his songs written on small index cards. He wanted to make sure to get the songs exactly right. If nothing else, Hank was a perfectionist.

Hank was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979, a well deserved selection. I still find it funny when watching his induction speech, he thanks "Mrs. Hank Snow." He was very formal. For years, a section of the Opry Museum was devoted to him.

In honor of Hank Snow, and remembering him, I am posting the Opry line-up from his final Opry performance on Saturday August 31, 1996. As an extra bonus, I have included the sponsors and a few other notes. Hank was on both shows that Saturday night.

6:30 (GHS Strings) Mike Snider(host); Bill Carlisle
6:45 (Jogging In A Jug) Grandpa Jones(host); Jan Howard
7:00 (Shoney's) Johnny Russell(host); Charlie Louvin; Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown
7:30 (Goo Goo) Jeannie Seely(host); The Cumberland Boys; Ray Pillow; Margaret Whiting; Opry Square Dance Band
8:00: (Martha White) Porter Wagoner(host); Jeanne Pruett; Stonewall Jackson; Del Reeves; Charlie Walker
8:30 (Kraft) Hank Snow(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Stu Phillips; The Whites; Connie Smith

9:30 (Dollar General) Porter Wagoner(host); Brother Oswald; Jeanne Pruett; Jimmy C. Newman
10:00 (Massey Ferguson( Grandpa Jones(host); Stonewall Jackson
10:15 (Opryland) Jean Shepard (host); Roy Drusky
10:30 (Purnell's) Jim Ed Brown(host); The Cumberland Boys
10:45 (Fairfield) Mike Snider(host); Opry Square Dance Band
11:00 (Coca-Cola) Hank Snow(host); Del Reeves; Connie Smith; Charlie Walker; The Whites
11:30 (Loreal) Johnny Russell(host); Stu Phillips; Jeannie Seely; Roy Pillow; Colleen Walters

This Saturday night was Hank's only Saturday night Opry appearance in 1996. The songs he sang on this night were "In The Misty Moonlight" and "It Kinda Reminds Me Of Me" during the 1st show, and "I Don't Hurt Anymore", along with "I Almost Lost My Mind", which was the final song that he performed on the Opry.

As far as 1996, his final year as an active performer, Hank was scheduled to be at the Opry on January 20, 27; February 3, 17, 24; and March 2. He cancelled each of those nights. He would not be on the schedule again until July 27, and he cancelled that night also, along with August 3. He finally did return to the Opry stage on Friday August 9, after an absence of 9 months, due to a respiratory illness. He appeared on the 1st show that night, and that was his final Friday Night Opry.

The Opry is a better place for having performers such as Hank Snow as a member, but the days of Hank Snow are long gone. Actually, I think the Opry would be better today if more entertainers followed the example set by Hank. He was a true country music legend.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bill Carlisle/ Jimmy Dickens

Pretty much everyone knows that Sunday December 19 is the 90th birthday of Jimmy Dickens. But, another great Opry performer and Country Music Hall of Famer was also born on the same date. Bill Carlisle was born on December 19, 1908, and on Sunday would have celebrated his 102nd birthday.

Bill was born in Wakefield, Kentucky and originally performed as a duet with his brother Cliff. They performed on radio stations in Lexington, Kentucky and achieved their greater fame while performing in Knoxville, Tennessee. They remained a duet until 1950, when Cliff retired from the music business and Bill decided to continue as a solo act. He put together a group called The Carlisles, and began to have a string of hits, mostly novelty songs. Later, his children would join his group. While Bill only had a few #1 records, he had numerous top 10 hits.

He was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry after he had a hit with the comedy song, "Too Old to Cut the Mustard", but not before there was some confusion. After the song was recorded, Bill was invited to be a guest on the Prince Albert portion of the Opry, and as Bill said, "From there is where we started negotiating for me coming to the Opry full time. They set a date for me to come down here and I turned in my notice at Knoxville. But then they decided at the Opry that they were going to wait for a while. In order to save face, I couldn't go back to WNOX, I just started to write letters. I wrote letters to, like, Wheeling and Shreveport, and most of them said they weren't looking for anybody. I told my wife, I'm going to write a song called "No Help Wanted." And sure enough I did, only I mixed up a little romance in it, and we recorded it. We went to the 'Louisiana Hayride' in Shreveport right after we recorded that song, and in six weeks it was way up in the charts. Then we had 'Is That You, Myrtle?' and 'Rough Stuff,' and finally the Grand Ole Opry brought us in.

Bill would join the Opry in November 1953 and would remain an Opry member until his death on March 17, 2003, at the age of 94. Over the last decade of his life, Bill suffered several health issues, including open heart and hip replacement surgery. While for most of his career he was known as "Jumpin Bill Carlisle", in his later years he would still say he could jump, but just couldn't stay up as long. He would also come out with a walker and then when he was done, would ask for a standing ovation, and leave the stage with the walker up over his shoulder, to laughs from the crowd.

Bill was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002, along with Porter Wagoner. I will always remember the CMA Awards that year, where Dolly Parton hosted a short segment, honoring Porter with his induction into the Hall, with Porter allowed up on stage, thanking everyone. All Bill got was an introduction in the audience, which I thought was shameful!!

Bill was one of the Opry's true caracters, and in honor of what would have been his birthday, I want to present the line-up from Bill's final Opry performance on Friday March 7, 2002, a performance that he would make in a wheelchair. The following week, he suffered the stroke, that would within two weeks, end his life.

7:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Jeannie Seely; Mike Snider; Jeff Bates
8:00: Jean Shepard(host); Bill Carlisle; The Whites; Rodney Foster
8:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jan Howard; Billy Walker; Suzy Bogguss
9:00: Bill Anderson(host); Ernie Ashworth; Connie Smith; Andy Griggs
9:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Stevens Sisters; Jack Greene; Gene Watson

The other great Opry performer celebrating a birthday on Sunday is Jimmy Dickens, who will be 90 years old. Jimmy was born in Bolt, West Virginia, and grew up about as poor as anyone could. Jimmy was brought to Nashville in 1948 by Roy Acuff, and the rest is history. It should be noted that while Jimmy was a great radio and stage performer when he joined the Opry, he had not had any recording hits. He has had a tremendous career, which culminated with his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.

Jimmy originally joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, but left for 18 years, before rejoining the show on February 8, 1975. Even though he was gone from the Opry for all those years, he is introduced to this day as a member of the Opry "for over 60 years." When Jimmy returned to the Opry, he was introduced by Hank Snow, who said, "Jimmy is one of the greatest showmen of all time. It's like replacing the most important spoke in a wheel to have him back on the Opry. We need more Jimmy Dickenses." Jimmy that night would sing, "The Family Reunion", and he would say later that it was appropriate. "It's hard to put in words and say how you feel about being back in the family. It's been so long."

Jimmy is considered the Opry's most treasured member. While he has battled illness the past several years, he is sill on the Opry most weekends. And, even if the voice is not what it once was, or that the jokes are the same each week, he still gets a big ovation and a big laugh. Here is to another year of good health and entertainment for Jimmy Dickens.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 12/17 & 12/18

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-up for the shows this weekend. There will be one show on Friday night, and the Opry is back to just one show on Saturday night, which will be the case until April. The only exception will be if there is a demand based on ticket sales to add a 2nd Saturday night show.

A couple of things that I noticed regarding the line-up. Jimmy Dickens is not scheduled for Friday night, but he is on the schedule for Saturday. And, he is not in his traditional "lead-off" position on Saturday, but is hosting the final segment, with only Jeannie Seely so far listed as a guest. I am going to make a couple of possible reasons why. 1st, Pete Fisher is still waiting on a confirmation on someone who might be on for that last segment. 2nd, with Jimmy gone last weekend, there might still be no guarantee that he will be there on Saturday, so Jeannie would probably step in and host and Pete will fill out the segment with a couple of guests, or the 3rd reason, which I think is probably the right one, is that Sunday is Jimmy's 90th birthday and maybe the Opry is going to do something special on that last segment for Jimmy. That would not suprise me at all and would be a nice tribute to Jimmy. I know that this is the weekend for the big Garth concerts in Nashville and there is no Garth show on Saturday night. Wouldn't it be nice if Garth came over to the Opry to honor Jimmy on his birthday? Or even good Jimmy friends such as Brad Paisley, who just finished up his concert tour, or Vince Gill is another friend of Jimmy, but I know Vince is on tour with his Christmas show right now, so that one might not be possible. I will be anxious to see what happens.

Friday December 17
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Joey + Rory
7:30: John Conlee(host); George Hamilton IV; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Eric Church
8:45: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Jamey Johnson

Saturday December 18
7:00: Mike Snider(host); John Conlee; Steel Magnolia
7:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jack Greene; Del McCoury Band
8:00: Marty Stuart(host); Roger McGuinn; Jim Ed Brown; Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely

Really, not a bad line-up on either night.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ernie Ashworth

I would like to take a moment to honor former Grand Ole Opry star Ernie Ashworth, who was born on December 15, 1928, and on Wednesday, would have celebrated his 82nd birthday. Ernie was born in Huntsville, Alabama, and would remain associated with Alabama through most of his career.

He came to Nashville in 1949 and was signed shortly after that as a writer for Acuff-Rose Music. He left Nashville in the late 1950's, returning to Alabama to work. In 1960, through the help of Wesley Rose, he signed a recording contract with Decca Records, releasing several records that made the country charts.

In 1962, he signed with Hickory Records, which was owned by Acuff-Rose, and it was at Hickory that he achieved his "career record". "Talk Back Trembling Lips" would be his only #1 record, but what a record it was. Released in 1963, it would spend 42 weeks on the country charts, and also appeared on the pop charts. Thanks to the success of that record, he was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, which he did on March 7, 1964. While he would continue to record, and had singles on the country charts up until 1970, he never again achieved the success that "Talk Back Trembling Lips" brought him. He did have a #1 record in Europe in 1999, "Lonely Only Bar."

In 1992 Ernie was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. During his career, he purchased several radio stations and as he went into semi-retirement, these stations occupied more of his time.

He remained a member of the Grand Ole Opry up until his death on March 2, 2009, at the age of 80, after heart bypass surgery. Unfortunately, like many of the Opry's senior members, he saw his Opry appearances reduced in his last decade as a member. In his last full year, he made 5 Opry appearances, with his last one being on Friday October 10, as part of the Opry's 83th birthday celebration.

I have 2 memories of Ernie and one of them is in regards to that night. I was at that show, which was the 2nd show that night. Ernie was introduced by Riders In The Sky, and he came out as he always did, in that suit with the "trembling lips" on it. He apparently had trouble seeing as he was not really facing the audience and was turned sideways when he was talking. Then he started singing, "Talk Back Trembling Lips', and let me tell you, he "nailed" the song. I never heard him sing it better and the audience really responded. It was great. And, it was a great memory to leave him with.

My other great memory of Ernie is kind of funny. On a Friday night in October 2004, a couple of years prior to his death, Ernie was scheduled to appear only on the 2nd show, in the 11:00 segment. I was walking in the lobby of the Opry house between the 10:30 segment and the 11:00 segment, just stretching my legs, when I looked out the Opry doors and swore that I saw a car on the sidewalk right up against the main entrance. I went over to the doors and sure enough, it was a car and it was being driven by Ernie Ashworth. How he got there, I don't know. Anyways, he gets out of his car, with the pink, trembling lips suit on, and looks very confused, as Opry security and crew members walked over to him to see what was going on. I went outside and stood there, listening to Ernie tell the Opry workers that he didn't know where the parking lot was to park his car and had just followed the driveway!! He didn't follow the driveway, but instead was following the wide sidewalk that runs between the Acuff Theater and the Opry Museum, where the Opry workers use golf carts to bring the disabled people in from the buses. As the Opry security people were trying to figure out what to do about Ernie and his car, Ernie tells them that he is due on stage in a few minutes and he would be back. With that, he left the car and walked into the Opry House, through the lobby and into the door to go backstage. His last words to the security people was that he was scheduled more often, maybe he would know where to go!!! I just loved that. I don't know if that was the reason, or if it was due to his declining health and the health of his wife, but that was Ernie's last Opry appearance until 2008. It just goes to show you never know what you will see at the Opry!!

In honor of Ernie's last Grand Ole Opry appearance, and in honor of his birthday, here is the Opry line-up from that 2nd show, on Friday October 10, 2008.

9:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Connie Smith; Marty Stuart; Jamey Johnson
10:00: Jean Shepard(host); The Whites; Mandy Barnett
10:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Ernie Ashworth; Phil Stacey; Rhythm-N-Motion
11:00: George Hamilton IV(host); Jack Greene; The Time Jumpers

Ernie, it was a pleasure to see you perform many times on the stage of the Opry.

Friday, December 10, 2010

George Jones---Cancelling Shows

I just wanted to mention something about George Jones. We know that he is now 79 years old, and for those who have seen and heard him lately, including his last couple appearances at the Opry, it is apparent that his once great voice is not as good right now as it once was. He is having lots of difficulty reaching the higher notes in his range, and I have also heard that at his most recent concerts, there is less of him and more of his band and back up singers.

I say that in leading up to this. Last night he was scheduled to appear in Akron, Ohio, and it was a show that I was planning on attending. On Wednesday, it was announced that he was cancelling the show and rescheduling it for February, because of illness. Specifically, that he was having trouble with his voice. He had a show scheduled for tonight in Pennsylvania, and that show was cancelled also. The people in Wilkes-Barre are saying that they were told that George is ill. The promoter there said George's next show is scheduled on December 30 in Louisiana, and that George's website makes no mention of George being ill.

I also did some checking and saw that these are not the first shows that George has cancelled this year. In the past several months, it looks like several shows have been cancelled, including one in Florida in October.

Various rumors are being reported and commented on. One is that George's health is not all that good. It was noted that he and Nancy did cancel their annual Christmas display at his home, although the reason given was traffic concerns in Franklin. Along with his health, it has been reported that he has been having voice issues and the reviews of his recent shows have not been all that good. Another report has been that ticket sales for both of these shows were pretty slow, with not much of a pre-sale.

Finally, and I hope that this is not the case, various people are making comments that maybe, since it involves George Jones, there is more to this story. I have not heard anything that would lead me to believe that. I does make me sad for George that every story that I read regarding the cancellation of the Akron show, points out that his nickname is "No Show Jones" and that he has a history of alcohol and drug abuse. Like I said, I hope there is nothing to these rumors and I am sure there is not, and that it is just ill informed people making comments. I know it is hard to shake a reputation, but as I commented on 1 on line story, give the guy a break. He is 79 years old now, has had a hard public life, and maybe the fact is that he is having voice issues and feels bad about performing when he is not in top form.

I hope for the best for George and that he does get to feeling better and that he is able to get his voice back in shape. To many George is country music's greatest singer and nothing should take away from that.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 12/10 & 12/11

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-up for this weekends shows. There will be 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. Unless ticket demand shows otherwise, this will be the final Saturday with 2 shows until April. The shows this week, as they will be until February, will be at the Ryman Auditorium.

This week's Friday night Opry features Mel Tillis and Jimmy Wayne, while the Saturday night shows will feature Emmylou Harris. Emmylou pretty much only plays the Opry when it is at the Ryman Auditorium and she has said many times that she considers the Ryman a much better place to play on the Opry than at the Grand Ole Opry House. Also being featured on each of her segments on Saturday will be Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen and The Low Anthem. Chris Hillman and Herb Pedesen have a new CD out that features the great Louvin Brothers song, later recorded as a hit by Emmylou, "If I Could Only Win Your Love." And yes, this is the same Chris Hillman from the Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Desert Rose Band. Herb Pedersen and Chris have worked together for a long time. The Low Anthem is a folk band based out of Rhode Island. They have been around since 2006 and have developed a following. We know from the past the Emmylou is given a lot of freedom to ask whoever she would like to appear with her on the Opry and I think this is the case again this weekend.

Friday December 10
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); The Whites; Emily West
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jack Greene; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Mel Tillis(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Connie Smith

Saturday December 11
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Heidi Newfield
8:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jan Howard; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Emmylou Harris(host); Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen; The Low Anthem

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith; Heidi Newfield
10:30: Jean Shepard(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Emmylou Harris(host); Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen; The Low Anthem

Obviously, there is one spot to fill on each of the shows before the square dancers.

The Tuesday Night Opry on December 14 will be the final Tuesday night show until March. Here is the line-up for this weeks show.

7:00: The Whites; Danny Gokey
7:30: Jimmy C. Newman; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Rascal Flatts; Elizabeth Cook
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Diamond Rio

Now a bad way to finish out the Tuesday night series for this year.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 12/7 & Opry Notes

The Grand Ole Opry has announced the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry on December 7th, at the Ryman Auditorium.

7:00: Jean Shepard; Restless Heart
7:30: Jack Greene; The Quebe Sisters
8:15: Bill Anderson; Julianne Hough
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Lee Greenwood

Not a real bad line-up for the Tuesday show.

Now, just a couple of Opry notes involving Opry members:

Mel McDaniel is reporting on his facebook page that he has suffered a setback as his medication has been changed. Mel had set a date for himself to do a final tour and that is now in doubt. He does have some new merchandise for sale on his website and is saying that will be the final offerings from Mel.

Bill Anderson will be celebrating his 50th anniversary as an Opry member in July. It promises to be a big year for Bill and one of the big things that will be happening is Bear Records will be releasing a new box set late next year. It will be a total of a 5 CD set and will cover his recording career from 1958 to 1966. The set will also contain several unreleased numbers and songs that he wrote that became hits for others. If you have ever purchased a Bear Record box set before, you know that they always come with excellent books and photo collections, along with notes from the artist, which Bill said he would be doing for this one.

And, Alison Krauss will be getting back with Union Station for a new CD, coming out in February, on Rounder Records. The last Union Station CD was in April 2007, so Alison fans should be anticipating this release as she comes back to her bluegrass roots.

Good luck on both of these projects.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 12/3 & 12/4

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for this weekend. As with the previous weeks, there is one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday night, both nights taking place at the Ryman Auditorium.

Friday night's line-up features The Steeldrivers and Love and Theft visiting, along with Opry member Joe Diffie. Saturday night has Curtis Potter, Rodney Crowell and Bo Bice visiting. To be honest, the line-up for both nights are not overwhelming.

Friday December 3
7:00: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; The Steeldrivers
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Love and Theft
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Jack Greene; Mandy Barnett
8:45: Riders In The Sky(host); Stonewall Jackson; Jeannie Seely; Joe Diffie

Saturday December 4
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); The Whites; Curtis Potter
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jimmy C. Newman; Rodney Crowell
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jan Howard; Bo Bice; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Cherryholmes

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); The Whites; Curtis Potter
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jeannie Seely; Rodney Crowell
10:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Bo Bice; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Cherryholmes

As with last weekend, the same four acts are hosting the segments on all three shows, and on Saturday night, both shows are in the same order.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Opry Highlights

I cannot believe that we have entered the final month of 2010. Where has the year gone? As I do at the start of each month, I want to offer the historical highlights for the Grand Ole Opry that took place during the month of December.

In December, 3 Opry members will be celebrating Opry anniversaries.

Randy Travis joined the Opry on December 20, 1986 (24 years).
Jack Greene became an Opry member of December 23, 1967 (43 years).
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers joined the Opry on December 25, 1976 (34 years).

The following events took place at the Grand Ole Opry in December:

December 5, 1925: The Nashville Tennessean announces that WSM Radio will have a new Barn Dance program on the radio every Saturday night.

December 26, 1925: The WSM Barn Dance officially becomes a weekly radio program on Saturday nights, on WSM. As George D. Hay wrote, "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. 'Uncle' Dave Macon, the oldest banjo picker in Dixie, and who comes from Readyville, Tennessee, and 'Uncle' Jimmy Thompson of Martha, Tennessee, will answer any requests for old-time melodies. Uncle Jimmy made his first appearance a month ago and telegrams were received from all parts of the United States, encouraging him in his task of furnishing barn dance music for a million homes."

December 8, 1928: The Grand Ole Opry officially receives it's name. For the first several years, the program was called the "WSM Barn Dance." Before the Barn Dance, the NBC network carried a program called, "Music Appreciation Hour." According to George D. Hay, "It so happened on most Saturday nights, from seven to eight o'clock, WSM carried the 'Music Appreciation Hour' under the direction of the eminent conductor and composer, Dr. Walter Damrosch. Dr. Damrosch always signed off his concert a minute or two before eight o'clock, just before we hit the air with our mountain minstrels and vocal trapeze performers." On that night, Dr. Damrosch said, "While most artists realize that there is no place in the classics for realism, nevertheless I am going to break one of my rules and present a composition by a young composer from 'Ioway' who sent us his latest number, which depicts the on-rush of a locomotive." Then Hay continues, "After that announcement the good doctor directed his symphony orchestra through the number which carried many shoooses depicting an engine trying to come to a full stop. Then he closed his programme with his usual sign-off." After the sign-off and a short introduction by Hay about realism and down to earth music, he had DeFord Bailey respond with his harmonica and performed the song, "Pan American Blues", which featured Bailey doing his imitation of a fast-moving freight train. At the conclusion of that number, Hay gave his now famous reply, "For the past hour we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera, from now on we will present The Grand Ole Opry." The name stuck and it has been Grand Ole Opry ever since. (Some have given the date of this occurance as December 10, 1927, but the 1928 date seems to be the right one).

December 30, 1944: Bob Wills, the great western swing bandleader, makes his only appearance at the Opry. He caused a serious issue with Opry management by bringing on stage a full set of drums, which had never before happened at the Opry. He was supposed to keep the drums hidden behind a curtain. During the show, a woman who was sitting in the balcony became so excited that she fell out of the balcony and onto the Opry stage. In the early years of the Opry, George D. Hay took a hard-nosed approach about what went over the air, and that included what instruments were allowed. His saying was, "Keep it close to the ground, boys!" Hay wanted the music played with string instruments only, and horns and drums were banned from the Opry. The subject of drums would continue to be debated at the Opry for decades to come. According to Archie Campbell, in a television interview, "I remember when Grandpa Jones came on and he saw some drums on the stage. And they asked him, 'Grandpa, you want drums on your number?' And he said, 'Very little, if any.'" Bob Wills also featured an electric fiddle, which also was not allowed on the Opry. Roy Acuff's comment to that was it would ruin the Opry forever!!

December 8, 1945: Earl Scruggs makes his debut as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. He would be the final addition to what is considered the greatest bluegrass band of all time, which featured Bill Monroe on the mandolin, Earl Scruggs on banjo, Lester Flatt on guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on bass. Although Bill Monroe had other band members before this line-up, this was the group that really defined bluegrass and this group would go down in history as Bill Monroe's greatest band and the band that achieved the greatest success for Monroe. The band would remain together until the spring of 1948.

December 30, 1950: Lefty Frizzell makes his debut on the Opry. It was Hank Williams that pushed to get Lefty on at the Opry. At the time, Lefty had the #1 and #2 records in the country with "Always Late" and "Mom and Dad Waltz". According to Lefty, "I forget where we were at the time, but one day Williams says 'You need to join the Opry.' I looked at him an' said, 'Look, I got the number-one song, the number-two song, the number-seven song, and the number-eight song on the charts. An' you tell me I need to join the Opry?" Hank thought about it awhile, then he laughed an' said, 'Darned if you ain't got a heck of an arguement.'" Lefty would join the Opry in 1952, but it would not work out. He left after a couple of months.

December 6, 1964: The Grand Ole Opry fired 12 of its members for failing to meet the Opry's appearance requirements. According to the Nashville Tennessean, "Twelve top country and western music stars will not appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, and have been prohibited from using the Opry name in their outside billings. 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 in her present contracts, a WSM spokesman said." Fired from the Opry 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. Opry officials had insisted on strict adherence to a rule that said Opry performers had to appear on 26 shows in a year. It was later reported that Chet Atkins was not actually an Opry member and his name was removed from the list. According to Faron Young, money was the issue. "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 for twenty-six weeks out of the year." Johnny Wright, husband of Kitty Wells, had a different explanation and it involved percentages paid by the artists to the WSM Artists' Service Bureau, the Opry's booking agency. "They booked some of our dates, and then some of the dates were booked by our personal managers and booking agents. They were charging us fifteen percent on the dates they booked, and then if they didn't book a date you still had to pay them five percent of the dates that you booked yourself." According to Wright, he and Wells were not fired, they quit. Regardless, a number of those who did leave the Opry did eventually rejoin as members, including George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Justin Tubb and Stonewall Jackson. Others, such as Ray Price and Faron Young, would play the Opry on a very infrequent basis. Opry manager Ott Devine put it this way, "The 11 released stars will me missed. And they will be. But there is a feeling that such a lose would be more keenly felt if the stars had not already been missed too often at the Opry." That statement could be said about many of the Opry's members today!!

December 8, 1982: Marty Robbins passed away from heart disease at the age of 57. Earlier that year, he had been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was one of the Opry's most popular members and often performed on the 11:30pm segment, a segment that over the years became famous as being his own personal show, and often running up to an hour over the usual ending time of the Opry.

December 20, 1999: Country Music Hall of Famer and 49 year Grand Ole Opry member Hank Snow dies at the age of 85. He was just weeks away from celebrating his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. Due to declining health, Hank had now appeared on the Opry since 1996.

December 14, 2002: Toby Keith makes his debut on the Opry. Also appearing on the Opry that night were Keith Urban and Trace Adkins.

Hope you enjoy the look back!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Teddy Wilburn

I want to take a moment and remember the late Grand Ole Opry star Teddy Wilburn. Teddy was born on November 30, 1931 and would have celebrated his 79th birthday on Tuesday. Teddy was born in Hardy, Arkansas, and came from a very musical family. The performed with their family members as The Wilburn Children. Roy Acuff discovered them and brought them to the Grand Ole Opry in 1940. However, they were found to be in violation of child labor laws and were forced to leave the Opry six months later.

In the early 1950's, Teddy teamed up with his brother Doyle to form The Wilburn Brothers. Although they were very popular, they never had a #1 record. The closest they came was in 1963 when the song, "Hurt Her Once For Me", went to #3 on the charts. "Trouble's Back In Town", perhaps their most popular number, went to #4 in 1962. They had a recording career that lasted from 1954 to 1981. Doyle died in 1982 and Teddy continued to appear on the Opry as a solo act.

In addition to being successful recording artists, the brothers also owned a publishing business and a talent agency. They signed a number of new artists, most notably Loretta Lynn and Patty Loveless, who were both part of their road shows and television shows, which ran from 1963 to 1974. The show can still be seen on RFD-TV. One incident that does stand out in their career is that they had signed Loretta Lynn to their publishing company and then after she became very successful, they refused to release her from her contract. It has been reported that Loretta stopped her songwriting after that, and it is rumored that she signed with another company and wrote under an assumed name.

Doyle and Teddy joined the Opry in 1953 and Teddy remained an Opry member until his death on November 24, 2003, although making very few appearances in his later years. As Opry members, they were very popular, and were often segment hosts for the shows. For many years, The Wilburn Brothers have received consideration for election to the Country Music Hall of Fame. They were one of the most influential duo acts in country music during the 1950's and 1960's, but what has hurt their chances are the fact that they never had a #1 record and the problems, that became very public, with Loretta Lynn.

In all the years of attending the Opry, I find it hard to believe that I saw Teddy Wilburn only one time and that was on Friday September 30, 1989. On that Friday night, the Opry had 2 shows and Teddy appeared only on the 2nd show. In memory of Teddy Wilburn, here is the Opry line-up from that night.

9:30 (Music Valley Drive Merchants): Grandpa Jones(host); George Hamilton IV; Teddy Wilburn; 4 Guys; Jimmy C. Newman
10:00 ( Goody's Headache Powder): Roy Acuff(host); Jean Shepard; Billy Walker
10:30 (Pillsbury Hungry Jack Biscuits): Bill Monroe(host); Connie Smith; Jimmy Dickens; Justin Tubb
11:00 (Luck's Foods): Hank Snow(host); The Osborne Brothers; Jeannie Seely; Carlisles
11:30 (Heinz): Jim Ed Brown(host); Jack Greene; Jan Howard

Tuesday Night Opry 11/30

The Opry finishes out the month of November with the Tuesday Night Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. Here is the line-up:

7:00: Jeannie Seely; Jimmy Wayne
7:30: Riders In The Sky; The Grascals
8:15: Bill Anderson; Justin Moore
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Darryl Worley

The same pattern as usual, with an Opry member on the 1st segment of each half hour, then a guest performer on the 2nd segment.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 1925

November 28, 1925 is officially recognized by WSM and the Grand Ole Opry as the official start date of the show. It was on that Saturday night, that Judge George D. Hay introduced Uncle Jimmy Thompson on the air at 8:00pm that night, for an hour of fiddle music.

Here is how George D. Hay remembered that night:

"Because the Grand Ole Opry is a very simple program it started in a very simple way. Your reporter, who was the first program director of WSM, had considerable experience in the field of folk music when the station opened in October 1925. Realizing the wealth of folk music material and performers in the Tennessee Hills he welcomed the appearance of Uncle Jimmy Thompson and his blue ribbon fiddle who went on the air at eight o'clock, Saturday night, November 28, 1925. Uncle Jimmy told us that he had a thousand tunes. Past eighty years of age, he was given a comfortable chair in front of an old carbon micrphone. While his niece, Mrs. Eva Thompson Jones, played his piano accompaniment your reporter presented Uncle Jimmy and announced that he would be glad to answer your requests for old time tunes. Immediately telegrams started to pour into WSM. "

"One hour later at nine o'clock we asked Uncle Jimmy if he hadn't done enough fiddling to which he replied, 'Why shucks, a man don't get warmed up in an hour. I just won an eight-day fiddling contest down in Dallas, Texas and here's my blue ribbon to prove it.' Uncle Jimmy Thompson, Mrs. Jones and The Solemn Old Judge carried on for several weeks for an hour each Saturday night....."

"To the best of our recollection the first old time band we presented on the Saturday night show, which at that time we called the WSM Barn Dance, was headed by a very genial country physician from Sumner County, Tennessee, named Dr. Humphrey Bate."

Over the years, the November 28 date has been challenged, specifically by Mrs. Alcyone Bate Beasley, who claimed over the years that her father, Dr. Bate, was actually the first performer who originated what is today the Grand Ole Opry. According to her, Dr. Bate was doing a Barn Dance on WSM radio at the end of October 1925, 3 weeks after the station went on the air. She said that his band played on the station for about four to five weeks before George Hay came to the station.

Later research that was done through the files of the Nashville Tennessean seem to confirm her version of the events. The Tennessean mentioned in an article on Sunday October 18, 1925, with the headline, "WSM Announces Week's Program", that on Saturday from 10-11pm, a program would feature Dr. Bate and his string quartet of old-time musicians. " That would seem to confirm the date of Saturday October 24, which is the date mentioned by Mrs. Beasley.

According to the Opry's history, Saturday December 26, 1925 is the date that the WSM Barn Dance was officially added to the WSM schedule, and that is also according to the Tennessean. Again from the Tennessean, " WSM has arranged to have an hour or two every Saturday night, starting Saturday December 26." This appears to be the date that George Hay decided to make the WSM Barn Dance a regularly scheduled show.

All interesting stuff, but it goes back to no matter what may or may not have happened, or in what order, November 28, 1925 is considered the birth of the Grand Ole Opry. Congratulations to the Opry for another milestone of achievement.

By the way, here is the line-up from the WSM Barn Dance, November 28, 1925:

8:00: Uncle Jimmy Thompson

There you have it!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 11/26 & 11/27

As we enter the holiday season, things seem pretty quiet at the Opry. Not much is making news and normally it stays that way through the holiday season. This weekend, the Opry continues its winter run at the Ryman Auditorium with 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night.

This weekend's line-up features many of the Opry's veterans including Jack Greene, Ray Pillow, Stu Phillips, Jimmy C. Newman, Jan Howard and Jean Shepard. Several groups who had hits in the 1980's, Highway 101 and Restless Heart will be on, along with veteran country stars Crystal Gayle and T. Graham Brown.

Friday November 26

7:00: John Conlee(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jean Shepard; Thompson Square
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Highway 101
8:15: Riders In The Sky(host); Stu Phillips; Jim Ed Brown; Holly Williams
8:45: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith; T. Graham Brown

Saturday November 27

First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jack Greene; Brett Eldredge
8:00: John Conlee(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Crystal Gayle; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Riders In The Sky(host); The Whites; Jim Ed Brown

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Del McCoury Band
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Jack Greene; Brett Eldredge
10:30: John Conlee(host); Ray Pillow; Crystal Gayle; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky(host); The Whites; Restless Heart

Interesting that the same 4 performers (Dickens, Snider, Conlee, Riders), are hosting the segments on all 3 shows. Also, it would appear that the veterans are being limited to just 2 of the 3 shows over the weekend. Those would include Brown, Newman, Shepard, Greene, Smith and Whites. The 2 veteran bluegrass groups (Osborne, McReynolds) each get one slot, as do the senior Opry members (Phillips, Howard and Pillow). Interesting booking pattern.

I listened to the Opry shows last weekend and Jimmy Dickens sounded in pretty good voice and actually had sounded pretty good over the past several weeks. Then I listened on Tuesday night and he sounded pretty bad. Maybe this many shows in a week is catching up to him again.

The host of this week's Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree taping will be Norma Jean. That should be just a great show to see this veteran country music star who really gave up a promising career. It is too bad that she was not invited to do the Opry, as she performed on the show so many times with Porter Wagoner, and as a solo act. The Midnight Jamboree that will be on WSM was taped last Saturday and will be hosted by Jean Shepard.

Finally, a very happy Thanksgiving to all my readers. I hope all of you have something to be thankful for and are able to enjoy the day with family and friends.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 11/23

After 3 pretty good Opry shows this past weekend, the Opry enters Thanksgiving week. This week's Tuesday Night Opry will continue to take place at the Ryman Auditorium, with the show at 7:00pm.

7:00: Jim Ed Brown; James Otto
7:30: John Conlee; Elizabeth Cook
8:00: Bill Anderson; Eric Church
8:30: Jimmy Dickens; Dailey & Vincent

As you can see, the Opry continues the pattern of most Tuesday night shows, with an Opry performer in the first half of each half hour and a guest in the 2nd slot of each half hour.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dierks Bentley/Josh Turner/Jean Shepard

This weekend, 3 Grand Ole Opry members will be celebrating birthdays. On Saturday November 20, Dierks Bentley will be celebrating his 35th birthday. Dierks was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Since he started his recording career, he has had 14 songs that have made the charts, including 7 #1 hits. When Dierks first came to Nashville, he worked for the Nashville Network and would hang out backstage at the Opry. He first played on the Opry in April 2003 and became an Opry member on October 1, 2005. Since joining the Opry. Dierks has been somewhat on the low end of fulfilling is Opry commitment. In the partial year that he joined in 2005, he appeared on the show 4 times. In 2006, he was up to 8 appearances, followed by 9 in 2007, and then down to 4 in 2008, 5 in 2009, and so far in 2010, 6 times on the Opry.

Here is the line-up from October 1, 2005, which was the night that Dierks Bentley became an Opry member. He was inducted on the televised segment, with Marty Stuart as the host and handling the induction.

6:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Billy Walker; Jimmy C. Newman
7:00: Marty Stuart(host); Chely Wright; Chris Cagle; Dierks Bentley
8:00: Porter Wagoner(host); John Conlee; Jim Ed Brown w/Helen Cornelius; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); T. Bubba Bechtol; Osborne Brothers

9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Mel McDaniel; Jeannie Seely; Chely Wright
10:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Jan Howard; John Conlee; Chris Cagle
10:30: Marty Stuart(host); Stonewall Jackson; Connie Smith; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jack Greene; Dierks Bentley
11:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Helen Cornelius; T. Bubba Bechtol; Osborne Brothers

Also on Saturday, Josh Turner will be celebrating his 33rd birthday. Josh first appeared on the Opry on December 21, 2001, singing the song that would become his first hit record, "Long Black Train." Josh made numerous Opry appearances and on September 29, 2007, he was asked by Roy Clark to become the Opry's newest member. His official Opry induction took place on October 27, 2007. Since joining the Opry, Josh was pretty steady in his Opry appearances in his first two years as an Opry member. In 2007, he made 12 appearances on the Opry, followed by 11 in 2008. But in 2009, he dropped down to 7 appearances and so far in 2010, 6 appearances.

For Josh's birthday, I would like to post the line-up from Friday December 21, 2001, when he made his first appearance on the Opry.

7:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Osborne Brothers; Clark Family Experience
8:00: Jean Shepard(host); Bill Carlisle; Jeannie Seely; Mike Snider
8:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jim & Jesse; Stu Phillips; Dale Watson
9:00: Bill Anderson(host); Josh Turner; Jan Howard; Brad Paisley
9:30: Ricky Skaggs(host); The Whites; Mel McDaniel; Phil Vassar

Finally, on Sunday November 21, one of the Opry's great legends will be celebrating her 77th birthday. Jean Shepard was born in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. In her great career, she has had 44 singles that have made the country music charts. She was married to Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died in the plane crash that claimed country music Hall of Famer Patsy Cline. She later married Benny Birchfield, who plays guitar for her at the Opry. (In fact, her wedding date is also November 21). For a time she was the president of the Association of Country Entertainers, that was formed in the 1970's, in response to the pop sounds that was dominating country music at the time.

Not only is November 21 Jeans birthday, it is also the date that Jean joined the Opry in 1955. In terms of consecutive years as an Opry member, Jean is only trailing Charlie Louvin, who joined the Opry earlier in 1955. (Jimmy Dickens joined in 1948, but left for a number of years). When Jean reached her 50th anniversary as an Opry member, she became the first female singer in the Opry's history to reach that milestone. Jean tells the story about the announcement on her becoming an Opry member. "Jim Denny (then the Opry's manager), was making some announcements to the DJs (during the annual disc jockey convention) and the media, and he said, 'By the way, we would like to welcome the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Shepard. Happy birthday Jean.' And what a thrill."

In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, one of the great injustices in country music history is the fact that Jean has not been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. She was a pioneering female in the history of country music, in fact having the first million selling record by a female artist after World War II. She became a star in a male dominated business and set the stage for the later success of Kitty Wells and many others. Some people feel one of the reasons she has not been elected is that she has been very outspoken in her views and opinions over the years regarding country music (the same thing happened to Porter Wagoner). Another fact that hurts her getting elected is the age of many of the voters, many of which are much younger than she is and do not know her as a million seller recording artist, but instead as "the elderly lady who plays the Opry every week." Hopefully, this injustice will be corrected while Jean is still healthy enough to enjoy the honor.

In honor of Jean Shepard, I would like to post the Opry line-up from Saturday November 26, 2005, when Jean was honored by Pete Fisher on her 50th anniversary as an Opry member. In another bit of injustice to Jean, the Opry on that Saturday night was not televised and even on the televised show the following week, Jean was not honored for her accomplishment.

6:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Osborne Brothers; Danielle Peck
7:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Mel McDaniel; Restless Heart
7:30: Hal Ketchum(host); Jean Shepard; Shannon Brown
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Billy Walker; Cherryholmes; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jack Greene; Marty Stuart

This Saturday night, Jean will be the host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, where she will be honored for her 55th anniversary as an Opry member, her birthday, and her wedding anniversary. Hopefully, the Opry will have some special mention for her as she will be on the first show on Saturday night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 11/19 & 11/20--Updated

The Opry has made several changes in this week's line-ups. On Friday night, Rebecca Lynn Howard and Daryle Singletary have been added. Also on Saturday night, Paul Shaffer, from the Dave Letterman show, will be with Marty Stuart.

I also neglected to mention, that on Sunday November 21, Jean Shepard will be celebrating her 55th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted their line-ups for this weekend's shows. There will be 1 show on Friday night and again, 2 shows on Saturday night, all 3 taking place at the Ryman Auditorium. Looking at the line-ups, it would appear that it will be a pretty good weekend.

Friday night is highlighted by the return of Charley Pride to the Opry stage, along with Ralph Stanley, and for the 2nd week in a row, Craig Morgan. On Saturday night, Charley Pride is back, along with Ralph Stanley, and joining them will be the Charlie Daniels Band. If you enjoy some of the Opry's veteran performers, this is the place to be this weekend.

Friday November 19

7:00: John Conlee(host); Mike Snider; Jean Shepard; Rebecca Lynn Howard
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jack Greene; Daryle Singletary
8:15: Charley Pride(host); Stonewall Jackson; George Hamilton IV; Ralph Stanley
8:45: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Craig Morgan

Saturday November 20

First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Radney Foster
7:30: Charley Pride(host); Jean Shepard; Mike Snider
8:00: Marty Stuart(host); Connie Smith; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: John Conlee(host); The Whites; Charlie Daniels Band

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Radney Foster
10:00: Charley Pride(host); The Whites; Mike Snider
10:30: Marty Stuart(host); Connie Smith; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: John Conlee(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Charlie Daniels Band

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 11/16

Here is your line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, November 16 at the Ryman Auditorium.

7:00: Jimmy C. Newman; Billy Dean
7:30: Larry Carlton; Diamond Rio
8:15: Connie Smith; Anna Wilson & Friends
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Luke Bryan

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 11/12 & 11/13 and Opry Notes----Updated

The Grand Ole Opry has filled out its Saturday night line-up by adding Ricky Skaggs for both shows. That is a welcomed addition. I am suprised that Ricky is not hosting any segment on either of the shows. Usually Ricky would take a host spot over Jeannie Seely or Jim Ed Brown. Nothing major. And in looking at the line-up again, I see that Jeannie Seely is hosting with Jack Greene as her guest. Years ago, it would have been the other way around, especially when Jeannie was singing the duets with Jack.

Also, nice too see Brad Paisley winning the CMA Entertainer of the Year award last night. Of those nominated, I think he deserved it. I know things change and so has country music. I remember watching the first CMA show with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans hosting, which was on tape delay because the networks were afraid on how the "hillbillies" would act on television. And I can remember when watching the CMA Awards Show was "must see" tv. To me, the highlight was always watching to see who they would name as the newest member to the Hall of Fame. But, for a couple of years now, I just can't seem to get excited about the show. I caught a bit of it last night. I saw George Strait singing and that was fine. I also saw the Zac Brown Band win the new artist award, and I would not believe how they were dressed. It used to be "Sunday best" for the show, but I guess that is long gone. And, to hear Blake Shelton's response on winning an award so early in the show, basically saying that now that he won, he could go out drinking! I know that this is a new era of country music performers and they act and do things differently than the legends did. Folks such as Cash, Jennings, Willie, Loretta, Monroe, Tubb, Snow and on and on. Maybe that is why some of these new folks will have such short careers and never become, truly legends. Sometimes I wonder if they really respect the music. Finally, it was nice that they did the tribute to Loretta Lynn. I would also have loved it if they would have taken 5 minutes out of a 3 hour show and paid tribute to the new Hall of Fame members.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for this weekend's shows. There will be 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night, all taking place at the Ryman Auditorium.

Friday November 12:
7:00: Mike Snider(host); Jeannie Seely; Josh Kelley
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jan Howard; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Craig Morgan
8:45: Marty Stuart(host); Riders In The Sky; Connie Smith

Saturday November 13:
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman ; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Connie Smith; Ricky Skaggs
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Gretchen Wilson; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); The Whites; Craig Morgan

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jean Shepard; Del McCoury Band
10:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jack Greene; Ricky Skaggs
10:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Gretchen Wilson; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); The Whites; Craig Morgan

One of the things that struck me about this line-up is that tonight are the CMA Awards in Nashville. Remember in days gone by when many of the country stars would hang around an extra couple of days and do the Opry? Looks like no more. And, do all of you remember when Gretchen Wilson was going to be the next big female star in country music?

On Tuesday night, Charlie Louvin returned to the Opry stage for the Tuesday night Opry. Eddie Stubbs gave Charlie a very nice introduction, as he always does. Charlie did 3 songs and he sounded pretty good, much better than his couple of appearances on the Midnight Jamboree. Here is hoping that Charlie will be making more of the Opry shows. Also, he was plugging his new album that was released yesterday, "The Battle Rages On." Check it out. It is pretty good.

A couple of former Opry musicians are having some health issues. Billy Linneman, who played bass in the Grand Ole Opry staff band is in the hospital for surgery for bleeding in the brain. Billy was a member of the staff band from 1962-2005, when he was let go by Pete Fisher. At the time there was a lot of discussion with the changes that were being made in the staff band.

Bill Carlisle, Jr. is the other former Opry musician who is having a health issue. Bill Jr, who performed with his father Bill Carlisle as part of the Carlisles, reportedly broke his neck and suffered spinal injuries in a motorcycle accident. He was riding is motorcycle between Goodlettsville and Hendersonville. He was in Vanderbilt University Medical Center in critical, but stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit. He is on a ventilater and when his condition allows, he is to be moved to a facility in Atlanta for his recuperation. If you remember, Bill sang as part of the Carlisles with his dad, his sister Sheila, and later with George Riddle. Of course, Marshall Barnes, who Bill would often introduce as the world's greatest base singer, and Joe Edwards, were also part of the group at various times.

Finally, last Sunday 2 Opry members were honored with stars on the Music City Walk of Fame, in Walkway of Fame Park in Nashville, which is located across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame. Jimmy Dickens and Mel Tillis were both honored in the ceremony. Also honored with a star was former Opry member, Eddy Arnold. For more information on the ceremony and pictures, check out the Tennessean on line.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 11/9

This week's Tuesday Night Opry will be highlighted by the hopeful return of Charlie Louvin to the Opry stage. I say hopeful, because the last time Charlie was scheduled for the Opry after his surgery, he cancelled out. Since then, however, he has done the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree two times and last Saturday night he was hosting his benefit show. From media reports, he is feeling a bit better and is gaining weight again. Also on the line-up is Rhonda Vincent, who's new bluegrass album is #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Album chart for this week.

Tuesday November 9

7:00: The Whites; Rebecca Lynn Howard
7:30: Charlie Louvin; Rhonda Vincent
8:15: Jim Ed Brown; Josh Thompson
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Sam Bush

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Stonewall Jackson

Best wishes go out today to Grand Ole Opry member Stonewall Jackson, who is celebrating his 78th birthday. Stonewall was born on November 6, 1932 in Tabor City, North Carolina. And yes, Stonewall is is real name. He was named after the Civil War general.

Stonewall joined the Grand Ole Opry on November 3, 1956. He was the first member in the modern history of the Opry to be offered membership without having a major recording contract. His first release was in 1958 on Columbia Records and it was the song, "Don't Be Angry." His first big country hit was later in 1958 with the song, "Life to Go", which peaked at #2 on the billboard charts. The song, by the way, was written by George Jones. He followed up that record with "Waterloo", which was his 1st #1 record and stayed #1 for several weeks.

While he has had many chart records through the years, he would only hit #1 on one other occasion, and that was with his song, "B.J. the D.J.", which was #1 in early 1964. By the time his popularity started to end in the 1970's, he had 35 records on the country charts.

For the most part since joining the Opry, Stonewall was a very loyal member. However, as he became one of the Opry's senior members, his appearances on the Opry began to be cut back. In 2000, he made 37 appearances on the Opry. That was followed by 40 in 2001. Starting in 2002, his appearances started to decline. In 2002 he made 22 appearances, 21 in 2003 and 22 in 2004. He also became very vocal about his lack of appearances. In 2005 he made just 4 Opry appearances.

In 2006, Stonewall sued the Grand Ole Opry and its management for $10 million, claiming age discrimination. While I will not go into all the details of the lawsuit, Gaylord and Stonewall settled the suit on October 3, 2008. After making no appearances in 2006 and 2007 while the lawsuit was being processed, he returned to the show after the settlement. While terms were not released, Stonewall's Opry appearances began to increase from the pre-settlement level. In the later part of 2008 he made 10 Opry appearances. In 2009 he was on the show 27 times and so far in 2010, he has made 24 appearances.

Once again, congratulations to Stonewall Jackson on his 78th birthday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 11/5 & 11/6

The Grand Ole Opry has posted this weekend's line-ups. Now through January, the Opry will be at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, returning to the Opry House the first weekend in February. Also this weekend, the Opry is back to two shows on Saturday night. Now, see if this makes sense: For first 4 Saturdays in October, the Opry has 2 shows on Saturday night. Then last Saturday, it was back to 1 Saturday night show. How this weekend, it is back to 2. And looking at the line-up, I find it hard that the Opry could fill both shows this Saturday.

Looking at the artists and performers scheduled, the name that sticks out is Robin Meade, the morning news anchor on HLN. I will admit that she does a good job with the news, but what about performing on the Opry? We'll, Charles Osgood suprised me!! Seriously, I have heard she is talented. Jim Brickman is also scheduled, as is Montgomery Gentry.

Here are the line-ups:

Friday November 5
7:00: John Conlee(host); Mike Snider
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; Mountain Heart
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Holly Williams
8:45: Marty Stuart(host); The Whites; Connie Smith

Saturday November 6
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; James Wesley
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jack Greene; Point Of Grace
8:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); George Hamilton IV; Jim Brickman; Victoria Show; Robin Meade; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Montgomery Gentry

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); The Whites; James Wesley
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Point Of Grace
10:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Stonewall Jackson; Jim Brickman; Victoria Shaw; Robin Meade; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Montgomery Gentry

A couple of other Opry notes:
>It has been reported that Lorrie Morgan has married for the 6th time. She married Randy White on September 15. Good luck to Lorrie.
>Jeannie Seely is engaged to be married. Her marriage will take place November 20 to attorney Gene Ward. Congratulation to Jeannie.

I don't know if anyone else listened to the performance turned in by Opry guest Laura Bell Bundy on last Saturday's Opry show. She performed a song that was a take off of the great Tammy Wynette song, "Stand By Your Man", which I think she called "Just Slap Your Man." If you have not listened to it, you can hear it on the archived Opry show on To put it simply, it was, in my opinion, way beyond the bounds of good taste and what you would expect from a family show. It was filthy and offensive. I am suprised that Pete Fisher would allow this type of performance. The Opry is a family show and this song had the sexual references and bathroom references had no place. Listen to it and let me know what you think. I know what at least one of my readers feels and I agree.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree continues with their 10:00pm taping and this week the host will be George Hamilton IV, who has hosted the show many times in the past and has always done a good job.

Finally, Charlie Louvin is scheduled to be on next week's Tuesday Night Opry. I hope Charlie can make it. Last Saturday night was the benefit for him at Bell Buckle, Tennessee and I have heard that they had a standing room only crowd. Alison Krauss did a great performance, singing only Louvin Brothers songs. The only downer to the event was the Ed Bruce failed to appear as advertised. And the reason for him not appearing is not good. The report is that he took offense to the fact that he was not mentioned in the preview article that ran in the Nashville Tennessean prior to the event and so he decided not to appear. And this was for a benefit for Charlie!! Talk about putting yourself first. A true friend would have been thinking of Charlie first and not worried about the publicity. I think that shows Ed's true motives. Even Charlie had some harsh words for Ed at the event.

Enjoy this weekend's Opry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Opry Highlights

The month of November is now upon us and as I do each and every month, I wanted to highlight the important events that have taken place in Opry history during the month of November.

First, 5 Grand Ole Opry members will be celebrating Opry anniversaries this month:

Stonewall Jackson became an Opry member on November 3, 1956 (54 years).
Jean Shepard joined the Opry on November 21, 1955 (55 years).
Joe Diffie became an Opry member on November 27, 1993 (17 years).
Marty Stuart became an official Opry member on November 28, 1992 (18 years).
Martina McBride joined the Opry on November 30, 1995 (15 years).

Now, a look at Opry history in November:

November 2, 1925: George D. Hay begins working at WSM radio in Nashville, accepting the position of Radio Director. Later in the month, he would start the WSM Barn Dance and manage the early years of the Opry.

November 28, 1925: WSM launches the "WSM Barn Dance", which would eventually turn into the Grand Ole Opry. The first broadcast featured Uncle Jimmy Thompson, who at the time was 77 years old. The first song performed by Uncle Jimmy was "Tennessee Waggoner."

November 2, 1948: Roy Acuff, who was running for Governor of Tennessee as the Republican candidate, lost the election. While Roy would not run for office again, he would continue to campaign for Republican office seekers, including Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. During his campaign appearances, Roy would sing and feature his Smoky Mountain Boys, but the story went that when the music stopped and the speeches started, the crowd would start to leave.

November 13, 1949: The Grand Ole Opry sponsored its first overseas trip as a group of Opry performers traveled to England, Germany and the Azores as part of a USO sponsored tour. The Opry stars on this trip were Roy Acuff, Rod Brasfield, Jimmy Dickens, Red Foley, Minnie Pearl and Hank Williams.

November 3, 1956: Stonewall Jackson, as mentioned above, makes his Grand Ole Opry debut. I think everyone knows the story on how Stonewall just showed up outside the Opry one day and so impressed folks with his singing that he was asked to become a member even though he never had recorded a hit record. Stonewall would take care of that as he has had a number over the years. Sadly, several years ago, Stonewall filed a lawsuit against Gaylord Entertainment and the management of the Opry claiming age discrimination. Although still offered his slots to perform on the Opry, Stonewall elected to stay away until the lawsuit was settled out of court. Since then, Stonewall has returned to actively performing on the Opry, and in fact, his appearances have increased greatly since the lawsuit.

November 29, 1961: A group of Opry performers performed a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Among the Opry members who were part of the show were Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline and Grandpa Jones. With a line-up like that, no wonder it sold out.

November 28, 1963: Willie Nelson joined the Grand Ole Opry. He did not last as an Opry member for long and often complained about the low pay at the Opry. Of course, his first night there, he was introduced by the wrong name. Willie left Nashville in 1972 for Texas, where he established himself as country music's outlaw singer. Willie would continue to play the Opry over the years, although not frequently. If you remember back that far, when Willie joined the Opry, he was clean shaven and wore suits and ties.

November 12, 1971: Construction officially begins for the new Grand Ole Opry House located at Opryland. This would become the first building built specifically for the Opry and would take until March 1974 to complete.

November 30, 1973: David Akeman, otherwise known professionally as "Stringbean" made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. That night, when he and his wife, Estelle, returned home, they were ambushed and killed by two men who were waiting to rob him. The killers sat in his house and listened to the Opry on the radio so they could judge when he would return home. The rumor at the time was that Stringbean had money, and lots of it, hidden in his small cabin. Nothing was found, but over twenty years later when the house was being worked on, $20,000 of rotted money were found within the walls of the house. The bodies of Stringbean and Estelle were found on Sunday morning by Grandpa Jones, Stringbean's closest friend. Grandpa was so shaken by the killings that he left Nashville for a number of years and moved to Arkansas and had a country dinner theater there. Roy Acuff and other Opry members called for the death penalty for the killers. Although the killers were quickly captured, they were not sentenced to death, but lengthy prison terms. A&E did a program on these murders several years ago and they still show it from time to time.

November 3, 1990: Minnie Pearl was honored on her 50th anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member. When Minnie joined the Opry in 1940, she was immediately accepted into the Opry's cast.

November 15, 1992: The Grand Ole Opry is inducted into the Museum of Broadcast Communication's Radio Hall of Fame.

November 23, 1992: Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Famer Roy Acuff passed away in Nashville. His influence on the Opry and in country music in general, can never be overstated. Thanks in part to Acuff-Rose Publishing, Nashville moved to the forefront of country music, and his publishing company gave country music songwriters and entertainers a place to publish and claim ownership of their material. Roy played the Opry right up to within a month of his death. He was the first living performer to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. It is ironic that one of those younger entertainers who have tried to carry on the Opry tradition as Roy Acuff would have wanted was Marty Stuart, who became an Opry member just 5 days later.

November 30, 1995: Martina McBride became an Opry member as part of a CBS show that celebrated the Opry's 70th anniversary. Loretta Lynn, who was a big influence to Martina, handled the formal induction.

November 23, 1996: Trace Adkins makes his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. Trace would later become an Opry member on August 23, 2003.

November 7, 1998: Jimmy Dickens celebrated his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. Although he joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, it should be mentioned that Jimmy left the Opry for a number of years. With that in mind, and although he is often introduced from the Opry stage as a member of the Opry for 62 years, in actuality Jean Shepard and Charlie Louvin are the longest consecutive members of the Opry.

November 30, 2002: Tim McGraw makes his first appearance on the Opry. Although never becoming an Opry member, Tim would perform on the show several times during his career.

November 14, 2005: The Grand Ole Opry returns to Carnegie Hall in New York for the 3rd time to perform an Opry show. This show was featured in a special on GAC-TV and would be released in a DVD. The performers on this show were Trace Adkins, Bill Anderson, Jimmy Dickens, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Ricky Skaggs and Trisha Yearwood. (Wouldn't you love to see this line-up at the Opry House on a Saturday night?)

November 8, 2008: Actor Kevin Costmer and his country band, Modern West, performed for the first time on the Opry. They would make another appearance in October 2010.

November 14, 2009: For the first time, the Opry streams part of its show on MySpace, it's first online video stream. The show featured Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Jack Owen and Rodney Atkins. It drew more than 300,000 viewers. Despite some technical glitches, the Opry would repeat this again.

Finally, as a way to remember the career of Roy Acuff, I thought that I would post the line-up from his final Saturday night performance on the Opry. It was Saturday night, October 17, and the Opry was celebrating it's 67th birthday. Roy had been in failing health for some time, but I was even shocked at how bad he looked at that night's show. What is amazing is that he did the 3:00 matinee show and then was taken to the hospital after that show by ambulance. However, he checked himself out in time to make it back to do the 8:00 on Saturday night's first show. And, he came back at the last minute. Bill Anderson writes about that night in one of his books that I recommend to everyone.

Now here is that line-up on Roy's final Saturday night at the Opry.

6:30: GHS Strings: Bill Monore(host); Jim Ed Brown
6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame: Grandpa Jones(host); Skeeter Davis; Roy Drusky
7:00: Shoney's: George Hamilton IV(host); Jeanne Pruett; Mike Snider; The Osborne Brothers; Jean Shepard
7:30: Standard Candy: Porter Wagoner(host); Shelly West; John Conlee
8:00: Martha White: Roy Acuff(host); Connie Smith; Bill Anderson; Opry Squardance Band; Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Kraft: Hank Snow(host); The 4 Guys; Jan Howard; The Carlisles; The Whites

9:30: Dollar General Stores: Porter Wagoner(host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Stonewall Jackson; The Osborne Brothers; Mike Snider
10:00: Little Debbie Snack Cakes: Bill Monroe(host); Roy Drusky; Jeannie Seely
10:15: Sunbeam Bread/Tennessee Pride: Roy Acuff(host); Hank Locklin
10:30: Pet, Inc.: Grandpa Jones(host); Jean Shepard; Charlie Walker
10:45: B.C. Powder: George Hamilton IV(host); Shelly West; Opry Squaredance Band; Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Coke: Hank Snow(host); The 4 Guys; Connie Smith; John Conlee; Justin Tubb
11:30: Creamette: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jan Howard; The Whites; The Carlisles; Johnny Russell

This was from the program that I saved from that night, but if memory serves me right, Hank Snow was missing that night and The 4 Guys hosted both of his segments. I am not 100% positive on that and might be wrong. If I am, I am sure one of my loyal fans will correct me. Also, Roy did the Friday night Opry the following week, sitting in a chair, and that was his final Opry show. He was hospitalized the next day, where he would remain until he passed away.

I hope you enjoy this look back at Opry history.