Saturday, March 13, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Members--Where Are They This Weekend?

One area of discussion that has come up over the years is the fact that very few of the Opry members show up on any given weekend. I thought that I would look at this week's line-up for Friday and Saturday night and see who is there and who isn't and track down those not on the show.

This weekend's 3 shows feature a total of 24 performers of which 17 are Opry members. Currently, there are 66 members of the Opry. That leaves 42, or the vast majority of the Opry missing this weekend. Where are they?

Let's track it down this way:
The 17 members who are on the Opry this weekend are John Conlee, Jimmy C. Newman, Jean Shepard, Jimmy Dickens, Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely, George Hamilton IV, Jack Greene, Mike Snider, Stonewall Jackson, Jim Ed Brown, The Whites, Marty Stuart, Connie Smith, Joe Diffie, Bobby Osborne and Charlie Louvin.

In checking various websites, there are 13 Opry members who are on tour. Those members are Trace Adkins, Larry Gatlin, Riders In The Sky, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis, Carrie Underwood, George Jones, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, Del McCoury, Jesse McReynolds, Ronnie Milsap and Craig Morgan.

That totals 30, leaving 36 members to account for.

7 Opry members are either retired or in ill health and no longer perform. They are Wilma Lee Cooper, Billy Grammer, Barbara Mandrell, Mel McDaniel, Jeanne Pruett, Ricky Van Shelton and Tom T. Hall (I guess you can count him as he says he is retired, yet he still makes a few appearances).

2 more Opry members that can be accounted for are Bill Anderson, who is on vacation and enjoying Spring Training Baseball (wish I could join him), and Hal Ketchum, who is taking the year off (wish I could do that!!).

That accounts for 39, leaving 27.

Of those 27, several are Opry legends, that would be doing the Opry if asked. The legends not performing this weekend include Stu Phillips and Ray Pillow.

That leaves 25 Opry members who could have been at the Opry this weekend. Those 25 are Dierks Bentley, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Roy Clark, Terri Clark, Charlie Daniels, Diamond Rio, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Montgomery Gentry, Lorrie Morgan, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Ralph Stanley, Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis, Travis Tritt, Josh Turner, Steve Wariner and Trisha Yearwood.

Of those 25, I will give slack to a couple. Terry Clark and Diamond Rio are both doing the Tuesday Night Opry. Charlie Daniels had a stroke over the winter and his health may not be sufficient as of yet to perform, and Loretta Lynn and Ralph Stanley are getting up in years and their health as been up and down over the past year.

But the rest?? Dolly Parton was in Nashville Friday morning to attending the grand opening of her new gift show downtown. Are you telling me she could not stay and do the Opry? If you look at the rest of the list, it is a pretty impressive list of performers and many of them make very rare Opry appearances. I know some of you will say Vince Gill has been pretty loyal over the years and that is true. But, his appearances have been down so far this year as he has started to perform with the Time Jumpers most Monday nights at the Station Inn.

Can you imagine how great the Opry would be if most of the members would show up at least a majority of the time?

A couple of other points about this weekend's line-up. Of the 17 Opry members on this weekend, only 2, Jimmy Dickens and John Conlee are on all 3 shows. Of the legends, Jimmy C. Newman, Jean Shepard, Jeannie Seely, The Whites, Connie Smith,Jack Greene and Jim Ed Brown are on 2 shows, while Jan Howard, Stonewall Jackson, Charlie Louvin, George Hamilton and Bobby Osborne are on just 1 show. This has been a pattern of late. And, I think we all know that all of these legends would perform every show each weekend if asked.

I know management is cutting down on the number of acts to increase the profit at the Opry. There is no debate about that. They have done other things to cut costs. Seems to me a good plan would be to get most of these missing Opry membes to do some shows and with quality line-ups, the house would be filled. Then again, it just might be time to clean house of those not attending and add some more new members who will support the show.

Coming up soon, I will have some thoughts on the Opry's birthday celebration coming up in October. It is their 85th and you would expect some pretty big names to be there. But, already, a number of Opry members are indicating that they will be on tour over that weekend, including Vince Gill, and of all people, Jimmy Dickens is showing a road date for then.


  1. Dierks plays the Opry every chance he gets--once a month lately. He played December 1, 2009 (I was there front row!), January 16 and February 19. He does have a family and he is recording for his next album and he is preparing for a new tour and 4 more Miles and Music For Kids charity events. He loves the opry and I know he would be there more if he could...he can only do so much. Besides, all the legends do NOT have the full schedule Dierks has--they have all the time in the world to do the opry.

  2. That's a very informative and revealing run-down of the Opry members, on what's become a pretty much typical weekend nowadays - actually, maybe even a few more members than usual were on the shows this weekend since there were three shows. First of all, performing on the Opry should be a right EVERY Opry member has anytime he/she wants to perform. Secondly, I've been saying for a while now that the Opry should make it known how many weeks members are REQUIRED to play the show, and like they have done certain times in the past, any healthy members who do not make the required number of shows should be dropped from the roster. I don't pretend to think that the Opry is "bigger" than the stars of country music anymore, like it actually was at one time, but I don't see how having certain artists who rarely perform on the show as members is helping attendance (they could come in as guest artists to play the show once or twice a year if that's all they're going to play it anyway). Opry membership is not an award, like Entertainer of the Year or something like that; it's joining the regular performing roster of a radio program, which will go on the air every weekend, but will presumably suffer in quality if you (as a member) are not there (that's why they choose you for membership in the first place - to make the show better in quality). If you do not wish to perform regularly on the show, you shouldn't accept membership. And if members are not required to be on the show, what on Earth is the point in having Opry members??? The reason the Opry started signing singers as members of the Opry in the first place was to ensure that fans could expect a certain lineup of people would be on most shows, and as an extra bonus, the artists would have the exposure of being able to perform on the Grand Ole Opry every weekend. Well, the current management has already broken their end of the agreement by severly limiting, or even firing (Four Guys, for example) many members who would love to perform reguarly on the show. The current Opry management seems to have come into their jobs with little knowledge of the history of the Opry, the things that built it into what it is, or made it work, and they seem to just be playing with new ideas for growth rather than use the blueprint that was proven to be successful for decades.

  3. I do want to respond to the very nice comments regarding Dierks Bentley. Yes, I know that he does many good things and charity events in the Nashville community and he should be commended for that. I was just making a point about Opry appearances and the weak line-ups that the Opry has been having as of late.

    As far as Dierks, if you remember correctly, when he became a member one of the comments that was made by Peter Fisher was the Dierks was always hanging around backstage, almost every weekend, when he was an unknown and trying to get a break in the business.

    When he became an Opry member in 2005, I thought for sure, with his appreciation of Opry history, that he would be making appearances on the show, at least the 10 per year that is the unofficial number that management has been asking the new members to make.

    Since he joined the Opry, his appearances has been the following: 2005-4; 2006-8; 2007-9; 2008-4 and 2009-5. Last year there were 199 Opry shows and he made just 5 of those. Why did he become a member?

    And, while I am just using Dierks as an example, the sad thing is that he is no different than many of the other new member. Brad Paisley is another example. Before he joined, he was there many, many times. Last year, he managed to make it to 2804 Opryland Drive 3 times.

    While I would hope that some of these younger members "get it", I just wonder if they really do. And, I wonder if like Vince Gill, who wears his appreciation of the Opry like a badge on his shirt, if they really understand that if they do not come out and support the show, then there will be no show. And, I don't think it is asking too much of any member, young or old, to support the show at least 10 times per year.

  4. Interesting analysis, Byron. IMHO of the 25 who were unaccounted for this past weekend, the hardest to give any slack or benefit of the doubt to: Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood. These artists have made themselves way too scarce, some ever since they became members, others more so lately.

    It used to be the Opry could get away with a lot of these artists not appearing or appearing little when the old-timers were alive. But Roy, Minnie, Grandpa, Bill, Hank, and Porter and others that carried the show and kept the fans coming thru the 90s and into the 21st century(while a lot of these 25 made big money) ain't walkin back on that stage anymore.

    I'm like you, I don't understand why all these members can't make at least 8-10 appearances a year.

    Also, I would love to know just how aggressively the Opry tries to book these people. Do they try all the time and get blew off or do they just don't want to rock the boat. With the other crazy things they are doing to the Opry, it is hard to believe Opry management would have any problem rocking the boat though.

  5. I have enjoyed and felt pained at this discussion, since it addresses what I consider the lip service that too many members pay to the Opry. If it means so little to those who could be there that they can't show up, they should quit. It's that simple. And if you don't show up for two years, you should be out as a member and the reason should be given (excepting those like Wilma Lee Cooper who have health problems).

    I also wonder if some of the ones--Vince Gill comes to mind as you mention that he now is with The Time Jumpers--who do have some reverence for the institution are fed up with it. Vince knows his Opry history, and it is now, I am sad to say, a pale imitation of its former self. To do a two-hour show on a Saturday night when it used to run for 4 1/2 hours, with no more than four acts per half-hour and usually only three, is a slap in the face to the Opry's history.

    Yes, I get that times change and profits matter. I would point out that Grant Turner thought during the late 1950s, at the height of rock-and-roll, that the Opry might not make it. The Opry survived. Its leadership made concessions to the younger crowd by bringing in groups like the Kershaws and the Everlys, but they also, to use Ernest Tubb's phrase, danced with the ones that brung them. When legends can't get on the Opry but any guest can, there is a problem, and it is not entirely with the younger acts who don't care that Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb made it possible for them to be rich in the first place and gave up a lot of money to be in Nashville on so many Saturday nights.

  6. Just when I was ready to say that Vince Gill has not been on the Opry as much as he has been in the past, he is scheduled to be at the Opry this Friday and Saturday night, and also has Opry appearances scheduled in the coming weeks.

  7. Good for Vince. And that surely means he is not fed up, as I thought might be possible.