I think that everyone has noticed that over the past several months the quality of the line-ups for the Friday and Saturday night Opry shows have really decreased in quality. While there has been the occasional good show, on most weekends, the shows have just not been as good as they could be. And, if you look at the Opry website and the list of upcoming artists that are scheduled to appear, it is a pretty skinny list.
I know that we are now in an era where the shows are only 2 hours in length and there are only 10-15 artists per show. But, there has to be more than the same 7 or 8 veteran Opry members, one or two "name" Opry members and several no-name, or non-star performers appearing each week. Last night's line-up was another example. I originally had tickets to the show, but at $54 for a prime seat, I just did not have the urge to go. I called and changed my tickets to another show. The Friday night line-up was just not worth $54. While tonight's shows are better, with Charlie Daniels and John Anderson, you have to ask the question, where are most of the Opry members?
I know that this has been discussed before, but the majority of the stars are missing in action. Also, the Opry seems to have lost the ability to book big name, non-Opry members. I think the lost of the television contract has had a big affect on the booking. In the past, management was always able to dangle the opportunity to be on television when trying to book a big name act. Now, there is really nothing to offer except the opportunity to be on the Opry, and that doesn't seem to be enough any longer.
They key is to put pressure on the Opry members to fulfill their 10 appearances per year requirement. I would give the healthy and active Opry members 1 year to do that. I would recommend to Peter Fisher that he have a talk with each Opry member and their managers, and find out if these entertainers really want to be Opry members or not. Maybe they have not been asked this question before, and maybe some of them just no longer want to be Opry members, that they have moved on with their careers. If you remember your Opry history, many Opry members in the past left the Opry on their own and moved on. Recently, only Holly Dunn has given up her Opry membership. If they don't want to be Opry members,then drop them. If they do, then set up times when they will appear. At this point, while 10 is the ideal number, I would be willing to take just about anything from a few of them.
The publicity of losing members would not be that good. But, the Opry has been through this before and has survived. Besides, replacing some of the members with those who want to be a part of the Opry may not be so bad. At least the fans buying tickets can expect to see a good quality line-up each week.
And it can be done without cutting the appearances of the veteran Opry members who are there each week. It can be done by not booking unknown or local artists. These week was another example of scrambling to fill out the line-up. And, we end up with Matt Kennon and Jamie O'Neal.
I know that it seems like I have been on this topic of Opry members being at the Opry a lot lately. But, I just think it is important. We have lost so many of the great legends over the past decade, and who knows how long Jimmy Dickens, the last of his generation, will be with us. Except for a few, the younger members have not stepped up to fill the void as these great artists have passed away. Now is the time, before it is too late.