Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quality of Weekly Grand Ole Opry Line-Ups

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.


  1. I don't think you are beating a dead horse, but at this rate the Opry will be a dead duck. The Opry can't stay the same, but it never has stayed the same. Old gives way to new because of inevitability. But the Opry always has offered a lot of entertainment for the dollar, and it isn't doing that any more.

    As for dumping some members, it happened in 1964 and it was a shame, but either you are a member or you are not. There ain't no in-between.

    Also, there has been some debate that Holly Dunn was asked to give up her membership when she moved and went into art. I don't know if that's true, but that was one rumor.

  2. When you bring up Holly Dunn, I also think of Jeanne Pruett, who when she retired, told the management of the Opry that she wanted to give up her membership and make room for a younger artist, and they did not do it. They allowed her to stay as a member.

    When Barbara Mandrell retired, she asked the Opry to allow her to keep her Opry membership, which they did. I know that she does Opry events once in a while (but no performing).

    Ricky Van Sheltonis another one who retired from the business at a relative young age and has kept his managment.

    I know in the older days, that if you retired then you were asked to give up your membership. In those days, they had the requirements that you had to be there a minimum number of times, and management didn't care if you were retired, or what, you were expected to be there.

    When you look at Holly, Jeanne, Barbara and Ricky, I often wonder exactly how the Opry management and Pete Fisher, decide who stays and who goes, and what resignations and retirements they actually accept or ask for.

  3. Sorry, it is early in the morning. The whole Ricky Van Shelton line in my comment didn't come out right. It should say: Ricky Van Shelton is another one who retired from the business at a relative young age and has kept his Opry membership.

    Sorry about all that.

  4. I've only been an active fan of the Opry for about 3 years now. The more I learn about the history of the Opry, the more I feel like I'm not getting the same value for my money as fans did in previous years. We got lucky the first time we attended at the Ryman in November of 2007: George Jones, Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley. Looking at the schedule that year, I felt that it was the best lineup of the year. I came up with a theory that the best show happened either the weekend before or the weekend after CMA Awards show (When a lot of stars are in town). It worked out again in November of 2008 with: Randy Travis (his 1st Opry appearance ever at the Ryman), Randy Houser's opry debut, Billy Currington, and Craig Morgan. However we were severally disappointed in 2009 when we chose the weekend before the CMAs when the better lineup (Carrie Underwood), came the weekend after the awards show. I guess my point is, it seems that there is only 1 or 2 weekends a year when we have a 50/50 chance of seeing a great show. It does seem that in years gone by, every show was special and chocked full of current opry stars. I also believe the Opry should do everything possible to get another TV contract. What a disappointment to see that go away!