Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What I Would Like To See At The Opry

As someone who has been attending the Grand Ole Opry for over 35 years and having been a fan of the show even longer, I have a few ideas and opinions on things that I think would make the show better. These are really nothing special, just some random thoughts from a fan:

I would like to see the Grand Ole Opry institute a Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame. Why not? There is a Hall of Fame for just about everything else. It could be incorporated with the Opry Museum right next to the Opry House. As far as membership, I would automatically include any Opry member who is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and any Opry member who has celebrated their 50th anniversary with the show. Other than that, perhaps several new inductees could be elected yearly, with the offical induction taking place during the Opry's birthday celebration in October.

Speaking of the Opry Museum, while they did update some of the displays a few years back, it is long over due for some new exhibits. For a long time, they have had exhibits honoring several great Opry stars including Tex Ritter, Roy Acuff, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Jimmy Dickens among others. Hank Snow was honored in the past. I think it is time to freshen things up and honor a few more stars. People such as Uncle Dave Macon, Red Foley, Rod Brasfield, George Morgan, Pee Wee King and many others. Also, I would include more video, such as showing past Opry shows. Not the few clips they show in the Opry Shop, but more from their older files.

In the Opry House, along the back wall in the lobby, there are black & white, full size photos of several past Opry stars including Roy Acuff, Patsy Cline, Grandpa Jones, Bill Monroe and a few others. Listed on the photos are the dates of their Opry induction and the date of their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. I would expand the picture display to include all the Opry members who have passed away and are members of the Hall of Fame. While the picture of Jim Reeves is fine and he is one of the greats in the history of country music, he did leave the Opry. Porter Wagoner was an Opry member for over 50 years and his picture should be up there also.

When you go to the Opry now, they give you a free souvenir program for that night's show. It is pretty basic with the line-up listed and a few ads. That is about it. A few years back, they actually sold a souvenir program for 50cents that was about 8 by 11, and featured not only the line-up for that weekend, but a page listing all the Opry members with a little fact about each one and had a page called the Opry Spotlight, that honored an Opry member, usually someone who was celebrating an anniversary with the show, or a new member. When you look at the program now, you have no way of knowing who is an Opry member of not, and it is not something you really want to keep. And by selling something at a very low price, you would be adding value to that item and Gaylord would be making some money on the deal, which they are always looking to do.

I would like to see the Opry get back to 2 shows each Saturday night and get back to the 6:30pm to Midnight Opry shows. There is just no excuse for a single 2 hour show on Saturday night. I am ok with the Friday Night Opry being just 1 show and a shorter show. But the tradition of the Saturday night show needs to return.

I would also like to see a reduction in the commercial time and more music. The commercials during the actual segments have not really changed, but between the segments at the top and bottom of the hour, they seem to be adding several commercials from advertisers that are not part of the Opry. Springer Farms and Martha White come to mind. On the radio they don't sound so bad, but when you are at the live show, it breaks down the flow of the show. Usually between the 3rd and 4th segment, they have not only a couple of commercials, but a few public service announcements also. They need to keep the flow of the show going.

I would like to see the return of at least 1 string band, featured on each show during the weekend. The Opry started on the basis of the string bands, and it is important for the Opry not to forget its past, although at times it seems as if they want to.

And, finally I would address the issue regarding the quality of the Opry line-up. There are too many weak shows that are just not worth the ticket price. If I had to program the Opry, in each half hour segment I would have a minimum of 4 artists. I would have the host, then perhaps a newer artist, then an Opry legend, with each of those artists doing 1 song, and then finish it up with a bigger name talent, who could do 2 songs. Oh, I would also bring back the encores. If you notice, they do not allow any artist to sing more than they are supposed to. There is too much clock watching and if an earlier segment in the show runs over, they will cut out a song later in the show to bring it in on time. If an artist gets a standing ovation, bring them back for another song. After all, Gaylord owns the radio station and the Opry and they are just paying themselves for the time. It doesn't seem to both the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree that runs over just about every Saturday night.

Those are just a few of my opinions and ideas. I am sure there are others.


  1. You make some fine points. I don't know about an Opry HOF, though. Would it minimize the Country Hall of Fame? It would be kind of duplicative in many cases. I do think they need to have, maybe, an interactive display of some sorts either in the museum (don’t believe they have this) or in the Opry House listing every current and past Opry member that is known with their career bio and years of membership..

    In regards to the commercials, I have no problem with the breaks between segments. It gives the audience enough time to stretch legs at the Opry House .However; I would love to see the number of commercials within segments reduced to 2 per segment instead of the current three. The commercials are extremely repetitive nowadays and everyone gets the point after the first commercial, especially those of us who listen regularly. Now, rather they could get their corporate sponsors to buy off on that is another story!

    I think Tuesday night is merely masquerading as the Opry. It is too much of a concert format, like you can go see anywhere, than what we have come to know as the Opry. Part of the Opry fun is the interaction between the hosts and the guests and you don't get that on Tuesday. I would change Tuesday to make it like the traditional format on Friday and Saturday with a host and 2 or 3 guests per segment. I would kill the 15 min. intermission too.

    It would be great if Square Dancing were featured on every Opry show. I know why it is not, but how much more entertaining would all the shows be!!

    Another thing I would love to see the Opry do is to have a true country comedian act on more shows. The Opry has no members anymore that are exclusively comedians. Perhaps a long shot, but would it be possible for the Opry to develop an in-house character comedy act or two like they do in the Branson shows/Carolina Opry?

    In regards to number of shows and length, I'm just hoping they don't get any shorter than the 2 hours. I can live with that.

    As we discussed time and again, what would improve the Opry dramatically (and I'm really hoping the Opry management can find a way soon to do this) would be to get the Dollys, Rebas, Garths, Tritts, Blacks, Alan Jacksons etc. there more often. Not getting any appearances out of some of these members in a whole year is ridiculous and sad and I don't see how anyone can be called a member when they rarely appear.

    I, too, would love to see the Opry increase the number of members dramatically. When they add new members they seem to be getting a nice commitment from them. There are a lot of veteran acts who probably would commit to making 8-10 appearances a year that have marketable names. Also, more of the contemporary megastars might be willing to make a specific commitment of appearances a year if Opry membership was offered to them. They really need more of the contemporary megastars at the Opry on a regular basis like Faith Hill, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Sugarland, Keith Urban, Lee Ann Womack etc. etc.who are never on the Opry or only rarely are on. I said the same thing when Conway Twitty, The Judds, Alabama, etc. etc. were rarely on the Opry during their eras. Whatever the reason for this, it was a shame.

    Again, as we have discussed before, they desperately need TV too, even if it was only 8-9 months of the year for 16-20 half hour shows. Again, “out of sight, out of mind.”

    The Opry is unique, an American treasure, and generally pretty good, sometimes great (like last Saturday). But a few tweaks here and there in the right direction, a little less concern about the financial bottom-line, and more of a commitment from about 6-8 of the Opry members would improve all the Opry shows greatly.

  2. All fine ideas worth discussing in the post and response. I can't think of anything more creative, but I'll expand on a couple of the points:

    --I don't think we have to have a minimum of four artists per segment, but I do think we need some more variety in there. Bear in mind, many of today's songs are longer than most of the older ones, so there's less time for more variety. But I do think it would be nice to vary things a bit. For example, on one segment, have a host and four of the older artists. Then the next segment might have the host and two bigger, younger names.

    --We definitely need more comedy on the Opry. At the same time, country music has, as the song says, gone to town. I'm not sure the "very" country comedy of the good old days would work well today, since the Opry audience has changed. I think that's one of the reasons there seem to be fewer country comedians.

    --I think Saturday night definitely should have two shows or, if they want to avoid that at times, one longer show. Only two hours? That's a disgrace.

  3. Good points, especially about the comedy aspect of country music and at the Opry. In the past we have had Minnie Pearl, Rod Brasfield, Jerry Clower and Archie Campbell. I guess today Mike Snider would be the closest thing to a comedian on the Opry, but he has been featuring his music and string band more than his comedy songs. If prompted from someone in the audience, he will tell a joke or two. It would seem to me that Jeff Foxworthy would be an excellent addition to the Opry and give it that humor.

    As far as more Opry members, I am fine with that as long as they actually appear. I know there is no set number of members, but they have been keeping it around 65 for the past several years. But, the past few years, through some members passing away, they have been losing more than what they have added.

    And yes, the Opry needs TV. If they can not hook up with GAC or RFD-TV, why not do a yearly show on PBS? That would at least be better than nothing and if they could show an entire Opry show once a year, like they did in the late 1970's, it think it would give today's country music fans a true look at the Opry and not just the 1 hour segment they have seen in the past number of years. Perhaps more people would be encouraged to attend the show.

  4. Opry management has no problem using a Minnie Pearl imitator to warm up the crowd every show, so I'm not sure they really have went all that uptown. Sometimes, the lady who plays Minnie is the only funny thing on the stage in an evening depending upon the lineup. Mike Snider isn't all that uptown either and current Opry management has him performing in back of the Opry House in his own show in the summer.

    The country comedy acts and character comedy acts are used in many of shows in Branson and are well-received. For example, Mickey Gilley's show has an hilarious country themed comedian with the "rubbery face". I've been to the Carolina Opry in Myrtle Beach and they have country character comedians that work there. Same at Renfro Valley. Again, I do think it might take some in-house development. The country shows that I have seen have had to develop their own (Branson, Renfro Valley KY, Myrtle Beach and a lot of the local jamborees and music shows around here.) On this Larry Black RFD show they developed an in-house character comic. . . an old church-going lady gossip that was a unknown that I believe Larry Black discovered at his church.

    In response to Mike Snider doing less comedy and more string music, when Jimmy Dickens is gone, Mike Snider better do a whole lot more comedy on the Opry than he is presently doing because he is going to be about the only funny one left at the Opry unless something changes.

    Foxworthy would be great as a member if you could get him to commit to a # of appearances. He doesn't live in Nashville and seems to be very busy. Has he ever appeared on the Opry? If so, it has been many years ago, because I don't remember him ever being on. James Gregory is a funny guy. He, I believe has been on the Opry before but it has been a long time. Ray Stevens. . .why isn't he a member of the Opry? I bet Johnny Counterfit would make a lot more appearances if he were asked more.

    Too, I was just thinking. . .I never understood why we didn't see more of George "Goober" Lindsey thru the years. Of course, he’s 81 now, but I thought he would have made a great Opry member during the Hee Haw years and in the years thereafter and could have transitioned this lost art of character comics at the Opry into the 21st century. What is mysterious about George Lindsey and that he has rarely been on the Opry, is that he has lived in Nashville yet never appeared much on the show. It always made me wonder if there was more than met the eye there.

    Finally, I think more of the members could be funnier on stage than they are and crack the occasional joke. Jean Shepard does it. Once in a while Vince Gill or Steve Wariner will crack a joke. There are just too many singers, though, in modern country music and not enough "entertainers," like Porter Wagoner was and Jimmy Dickens is.

  5. So right about George Lindsey. During the Hee-Haw years he did appear on the Opry once in a while, but with his work on the old Andy Griffith show, he would have been a natural fit.

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  7. I would LOVE to see the string band brought back. Seems the opry wants to get too big for their britches sometimes and forget how it all started.