Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Opry is Celebrating its 85th Birthday!!

The following is information from the Grand Ole Opry:

Get ready for a birthday party, Opry style! Giant guitars, one-of-a-kind cakes, and special shows are all on tap as the show that made country music famous celebrates its 85th birthday with country music's most popular artists and biggest fans throughtout a months-long celebration.

Grand Ole Opry superstars Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner are picking up their guitars and hitting the Opry stage Tuesday, May 25 to officially launch a months-long celebration of the Opry's 85th birthday with an all-star guitar jam. As a part of the night's Tuesday Night Opry, each Opry member will take the stage individually followed by a guitar jam finale featuring the group's take on some of the most popular songs in Opry history. The four artists-each known as a million-selling recording artist as well as an impeccable musician-have together amassed more than 75 Country Music Association and Grammy Awards.

The night will light the fuse on a celebration to continue throughout the year as the show that made country music famous celebrates its 85th birthday with country music's most popular artists and biggest fans.

Among the highlights of a banner year:

Guitar Greetings: Two new 20-foot, 3000 pound steel and aluminum Opry 85th guitars will be unveiled outside the Grand Ole Opry House, officially welcoming visitors to the Opry party. Both fans and superstars will also be invited to sign other oversized guitars on display throughout the landmark birthday year, and larger than life Opry 85th decor featuring Opry members Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels, Loretta Lynn, and others will cover much of the front facade of the Grand Ole Opry House.

Star-Packed Shows: Opry performances are scheduled for up to four days a week this summer (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) with upcoming performances by Lady Antebellum, Oak Ridge Boys, Charley Pride, Josh Turner, and more. Opry Country Classics runs Thursdays through June 17 and again this fall at the historic Ryman Auditorium, and Hee Haw alum Mike Snider honors the Opry's rich country comedy traditions in Pickin' & Grinnin': A Grand Ole Opry Comedy Revue on select dates June through October in Studio A at the Opry House. Meanwhile, the songs of one of the Opry's most enduring legends, Patsy Cline, are set to take center stage at teh Ryman this summer in the return of Always...Patsy Cline.

In Pictures: A gallery showcasing some of the Opry's most memorable moments captured by the Opry's official photographer for over a decade, Chris Hollo, as well as past staff photographer Les Leverett is one of three new exhibits set to open in celebration of the Opry's 85th in the Grand Ole Opry Museum, located steps away from the Opry House. Other exhibits will spotlight the Opry in the first decade of the new millennium, including artifacts from Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, Carrie Underwood, and more; a third salutes late Opry icon Porter Wagoner.

Be Our Guest: The Opry has for years welcomed famous fans from all walks of life to its stage, including every U.S. President from Richard Nixon through George W. Bush. Recent guests including Garrison Keillor and Good Morning America's Robin Roberts have played a part in the Opry by acting as Opry guest announcers. In celebration of the Opry's 85th, a who's-who of celebrities will appear as guest announcers while the show will also launch an "I'm With The Band" series. "I'm With The Band" will invite personalities from outside the country world who have an interest in music to sit in with the Opry band for a song on country music's most revered stage.

Star's Guitars: As country music devotees descend on Nashville fro CMA Music Fest, a June 11 Guitars of the Stars Benefit Auction will give fans the unique opportunity to bid on acoustic guitars decorated by some of country music's most popular stars including award-winners Luke Bryan, The Judds, and Darius Rucker. Proceeds will benefit the Opry Trust Fund, which has for more than 40 years assisted members of the country music community in need.

Birthday Bash: The Opry's 85th Birthday Bash weekend featuring Opry Birthday Shows and an Opry Plaza Birthday Party is scheduled for Oct 8-9.

Now for my opinion:
I think it is a great thing that the Opry is going to celebrate its 85th birthday for most of the year. Obviously with attendance down, the Opry needs to do something to create some excitement for the shows. All of these things will help (although I think the biggest help would be for the Opry to offer improved line-ups each week instead of what we have been getting most weeks).

I am disappointed that the big kickoff on May 25 is being held on a Tuesday night. It would have meant something more if a Saturday night was the kick-off night, as it was Saturday night that made the Opry famous, not Tuesday night. I also think that by adding a Wednesday night show, it continues to delute the Friday and Saturday night shows.

I also think that adding these other shows takes away the thrill and the importance of the birthday weekend, which traditionally has offered some of the stronger line-ups at the Opry. I can remember when almost every Opry star would be at the Opry for at least one show during the birthday weekend, and a ticket to the birthday weekend was a must have ticket, and hard to get. Who can forget the 75th celebration and even the 80th that featured Garth Brooks.

My other concern is that they have not announced any acts for the birthday weekend. Usually by now, you have a couple that have committed. Also, in looking at some of the tour plans of Opry members, there are already quite a few that have shows scheduled that weekend and will not even be in town. With enough notice, you would think that as many members would be at the Opry that weekend as could be. But, with a months-long celebration, the Opry members can choose when they want to appear as part of the Opry's 85th celebration.

I do have my tickets to the Birthday Bash weekend, and I am sure it will be good. But, again, I am concerned that it will be watered-down and considered just another event, along with the others ones scheduled for the year.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-up 4/30 & 5/1--Updated

The Opry did fill out it's line-up for this weekend with Mandy Barnett and Chris Scruggs.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-up for this weekend's shows. The Opry is back to just one show this Saturday night. Here are the line-ups:

Friday April 30
7:00: John Conlee(host); Jimmy C. Newman; The Grascals
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); George Hamilton IV; Sarah Buxton
8:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jack Greene; The Band Perry
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith; Mandy Barnett

Saturday May 1
7:00: The Whites(host); Connie Smith The Grascals
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Ray Pillow; Blaine Larsen
8:15: Jeannie Seely(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Chris Scruggs; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mandy Barnett

There are still a couple of spots to fill on each of the shows. Also, Sarah Buxton will be at the Opry shop on Friday night, signing autographs of her CD. The Grascals are hosting the Midnight Jamboree on Saturday night at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop.

There is good variety on both shows, but just my opinion, it is not one of their stronger line-ups.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grand Ole Opry--May 3, 1969

Here is another of my classic Grand Ole Opry line-ups. This one is from May 3, 1969, or 41 years ago this coming weekend. As I did with the last line-up I posted, I was able to do some research and have listed the songs that the artists sang or played that night. I hope you enjoy it.

7:30: Standard Candy
Hank Locklin(host): "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On"
Osborne Brothers: "Working Man"
Dottie West: "Here Comes My Baby"
Crook Brothers: "Grey Eagle"
Hank Locklin: "Where The Blue Of The Night Meets The Gold Of The Day"
Grandpa Jones: "T For Texas"
Osborne Brothers: "World Of Forgotten People"
Dottie West: "Reno"
Hank Locklin: "Country Hall Of Fame"

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff(host): "Wabash Cannonball"
Charlie Walker: "Honky-Tonk Season"
Lonzo & Oscar: "Hertz Rent-A-Chick"
Leroy Van Dyke: "Oh Lonesome Me"
Leroy Van Dyke: "Auctioner"
Del Wood: "Cajun Stripper"
Charlie Walker: "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You"
Roy Acuff: "Meeting In The Air"

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow(host): "I'm Movin On"
Justin Tubb: "The Great River Road Mystery"
Marion Worth: "Don't Look For Me"
Fruit Jar Drinkers: "Fire On The Mountain"
Hank Snow: "Down The Train Of Aching Hearts"
Marion Worth: "Faded Love"
Ray Pillow: "Wonderful Day"

9:00: Luzianne
Bill Monroe(host): "Love, Come Home"
Willis Brothers: "Monongahela Valley"
Norma Jean: "Dusty Roads"
Stonewall Jackson: "Muddy Waters"
Bill Monore: "I Haven't Seen Mary In Years"
Willis Brothers: "Moonlight Drive In A Diesel"
Norma Jean: "Jackson Ain't A Very Big Town"
Stonewall Jackson: "Don't Be Angry"
Bill Monroe: "Watermelon Smilin' On The Vine"

9:30: Kelloggs
Bobby Lord(host): "Take The Bucket To The Well"
Billy Grammer: "Beer Barrel Polka"
Skeeter Davis: "Silver Thread & Golden Needles"
Willis Brothers: "Alcohol & #2 Diesel Don't Mix"
Bobby Lord: "Yesterday's Letters"
Carol Northcutt: "In The Mood"
Skeeter Davis: "Going Down The Road Feeling Bad"
Billy Grammer: "Gotta Travel On"

10:00: Fender
Bill Monore(host): Goodbye, Old Pal"
Norma Jean: "Dusty Roads"
Del Wood: Ragging The Keys"
Bill Monore: "I'll Meet You In The Morning"

10:15: Pure
Hank Locklin(host): "Danny Boy"
Osborne Brothers: "A Working Man"
Grandpa Jones: "Darby's Ram"
Hank Locklin: "Country Hall Of Fame"
Hank Locklin: "Please Help Me I'm Falling"

10:30: Buckley's
Roy Acuff(host); "Sunshine Special"
Dottie West: "Come On Home"
Stonewall Jackson: "Angry Words"
Stonewall Jackson & Roy Acuff: "Life To Go"

10:45: (?)
Archie Campbell(host): "The Dark End Of The Street"
Bobby Harden: "Green Little Apples"
Bobby Harden: "A Trip To Nashville"
Crook Brothers: "Sally Ann"

11:00: Coke
Hank Snow(host): "The Gold Rush Is Over"
Hank Snow: "Wreck Of The Old 97"
Hank Snow: "One More Ride"
Justin Tubb: "Ballad Of 40 Dollars"
Lonzo & Oscar: "Columbus Stockade Blues"
Fruit Jar Drinkers: "Katy Hill"
Hank Snow: "Among My Souvenirs"
Lonzo & Oscar: "Love Took My Heart & Smashed That Sucker Flat"
Sam McGee: "Wheels"
Louie Roberts: Ka-lua(?)

11:30: Lava
Charlie Walker(host): "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down"
Ray Pillow: "Take Your Hands Off My Heart"
Marion Worth: "Almost Persuaded"
Leroy Van Dyke: "If A Woman Answers"
Charlie Walker: "Honky Tonk Season"
Ray Pillow: "Wonderful Day"
Marion Worth: "Don't Look For Me"
Leroy Van Dyke: "Heartaches By The Numbers"
Leroy Van Dyke: "Once A Day"

I hope that I got all of the song titles right. A couple were hard to catch. A couple of other notes:

As you can see, quite a few Opry members were missing that night, including such big stars as Lester Flatt, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, George Morgan, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner and Ernest Tubb among others.

During this time period, the Opry had 2 shows on Saturday night. The first show was from 6:30-9 and the seconds show was from 9:30-midnight. The live show on WSM did not start until 7:30. The 6:30-7:00 segment did not make it on the air. On this particular night, that segment was hosted by Bobby Lord, and featured Skeeter Davis, Billy Grammer and Archie Campbell. The 7:00-7:30 segment aired on WSM from 9:00-9:30, and that segment is listed above.

Also with this show, I listed the acts in the exact order that they appeared on stage. As you can see, some artists were on a couple of different times during a particular segment, while other artists did several songs together, like you see on the Opry today.

Hope you enjoy this look back.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 4/27 & Opry Country Classics 4/29

Here is the line-up for this week's Tuesday Night Opry, April 27th.
7:00: Riders In The Sky; Bucky Covington
7:30: Cherryholmes; Danny Gokey
8:15: Bill Anderson; Jewel
8:45: The Whites; Blake Shelton

It is one of their stronger Tuesday night line-ups, and it has a lot of appeal to the younger fans.

Here is the line-up for this week's Opry Country Classics, Thursday April 29th, at the Ryman Auditorium.
Host: Nan Kelley
Spotlight Artist: Steve Wariner
Also Appearing: Gail Davies; George Hamilton IV; Opry Square Dancers; Stu Phillips; Chris Scruggs; Leroy Van Dyke; Emily West.

Yes, you read it right, the great Leroy Van Dyke will be on Opry Country Classics this week. Leory had a couple of the greatest hits in country music history, with "The Auctioneer" and "Walk On By." I think that it has been years since he has been on the Opry. I know I saw him on one of my visits. What a treat for the fans. Stu Phillips is also scheduled. He has cancelled his last couple of appearances and I know that on his last Opry visit, he sounded pretty bad. Hopefully, whatever was ailing him is behind him. This looks like it could be a pretty good show.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-up 4/23 & 4/24--Updated

A couple of changes in the line-up. Connie Smith has been added for Friday and Saturday night. Jimmy C. Newman added for Friday night. Bobby Osborne has cancelled.

The Grand Ole Opry has announced line-ups for this weekend's shows. The highlight for many Opry fans will be the Saturday appearance of Loretta Lynn. The long time Opry member has made infrequent appearances in recent years, so this weekend will be a treat for her fans. Also appearing this weekend will be Charlie Daniels, Pam Tillis, Joe Diffie and Marty Stuart.

Here are the line-ups:
Friday April 23
7:00: Pam Tillis(host); John Conlee; The Whites
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; The Steeldrivers
8:15: Marty Stuart(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jack Greene; Connie Smith
8:45: Bill Anderson(host); Stonewall Jackson; Charlie Daniels Band

Saturday April 24
First Show
7:00: John Conlee(host); The Whites: Jason & The Long Road To Love
7:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Connie Smith; Point Of Grace
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Joe Diffie; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Mike Snider(host); Jack Greene; Loretta Lynn

Second Show
9:30: John Conlee(host); The Whites; Loretta Lynn
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Jason & The Long Road To Love
10:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Jan Howard; Point Of Grace; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Joe Diffie

With many of the Opry's usual segment hosts out of town this weekend, George Hamilton gets the opportunity to hosts two segments on Saturday night. Also, Jesse McReynolds and Jimmy C. Newman are doing both shows on Saturday and The Whites are appearing on all three shows over the weekend. And, there are still slots to fill for this weekend.

Finally, just a note on Gaylord and the Opry. We have commented before on what appears to be lower attendance at the Opry shows. Over the past several days, Gaylord has released their 2009 annual report and have scheduled their shareholders meeting. Getting a look at the report and trying to get a feel for how the Opry is doing is a little bit hard, as Gaylord includes the Opry in the category called "Opry and Attractions", which includes items other than the Opry. I can tell you that "Opry and Attractions" income and revenue are down for the 3rd consecutive year, which is not good news if you like the Opry. At some point, you would have to think that this would have to turn around, or as Gaylord moves more into the hotel and convention business, they could be looking to sell the Opry to create more revenue to expand their hotel holdings.

Many of us have thought that maybe the Opry would be better off if someone other than Gaylord Entertainment were the owners of the Opry, but you can never tell. As Opry fans, let us hope that good decisions are made about the future of the show.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The ACM Awards Show/WSM

Not related directly to the Grand Ole Opry, but I just wanted to make a couple of comments regarding the Academy of Country Music Awards show and WSM radio.

First, the ACM awards. The Academy of Country Music has always been "westcoast" based, and has always tended to favor the California sound of country music while the Country Music Association is a Nashville based organization that has always tended to favor "Nashville" based country music. The ACM awards, which are always held in the spring, tended to be a bit more progressive in their view of country music, and always has featured more fan interaction on the shows, and more actors and actresses giving out awards. The CMA show, always held in the fall and from the Grand Ole Opry House, tended to create more of a formal image in how it presented itself, and its winners, with a few notable exceptions, were usually more in line with mainstream country music. But, over the years as the sound of country music has changed, the difference between the two award associations has lessened. And that has especially been more noticeable when the CMA moved their awards show to what is now called the Bridgestone Arena.

The award shows almost seem like mini-concerts, with a rock feel to them, glitzy productions and lots of fan participation. And, with a few awards thrown in. Where at one time the awards were the focus, now it seems like the music is more important.

That brings me to the ACM show from Sunday night. Granted, I did not watch all of the show. But, I caught enough of it to tell you that it just did not feel like a "country music" awards show. Country music today has moved so far away from the country music of my generation that it is almost not recognizable any longer. They still call it country music, but with the production numbers on Sunday, I might as well been watching the MTV music awards than the ACM. Don't get me wrong: these young singers have talent. And to them, what they are singing is country music. It just isn't to the rest of us.

Pretty much all of the artists that won awards are cross-over artists and now the focus for these artists is to become a star in all areas of music, not just country. They are trying to have it both ways. Which is fine, but, please don't call it country music. A true country entertainer who does not have cross over appeal basically has no chance to make it in the business any longer.

I know that in my generation, we had some great country artists who became cross over stars, people such as Johnny Cash, Ray Price and Glen Campbell. But, they recorded country records that happened to cross over. When they recorded it was to have a top country hit, not a cross over hit and it was country.

As we all know, country radio today is only interested in the young and the new. It can be country, but not too country. There are a couple of exceptions like George Strait. But now, it is one or two albums and you are done. And, many sound alike.

I just wish country radio programmers would program based on the quality of the song and how well it is presented. Not the name of the artist or the age of the artist. At least we have satellite radio that gives us another outlit to listen to.

Oh by the way, the ratings for this years ACM show were down from a year ago.

Sorry for the rant, it is just how I feel and if you disagree, that is ok.

One more note on WSM radio. I was reading something that a friend sent me and he thought that there was cause for some concern with WSM. Currently the station is without a General Manager, as the previous one resigned from his position. And, in the words of the person who wrote to me, WSM is "broke", as in financially. Advertising rates are down and the ratings have stayed flat. We know that WSM almost became a sports station a number of years back, and there is no talk of that now, but, in the world of AM radio, WSM is a dinosaur. Let's hope that someone takes control that not only will preserve the traditional country music on WSM, but make positive decisions that will help the bottom line of the station.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 4/20 & Opry Country Classics 4/22

This week, the Tuesday Night Opry will be at the Ryman Auditorium. For the 2nd week in a row, only 7 artists are listed on the schedule. I don't know if that is just the way it worked out or if management has decided that 7 artists is enough for the Tuesday night show.

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, April 20
7:00-8:00: John Conlee; Wade Hayes; Jean Shepard; Aaron Tippin
8:15-9:15: Bill Anderson; Jimmy Dickens; Craig Morgan

My only assumption is that as the "headliner" for this show, Craig Morgan will get an opportunity to perform longer. We shall see.

Here is the line-up for Opry Country Classics on Thursday April 22
Host: Larry Gatlin
Spotlight Artist: Pam Tillis
Also Appearing: Andy Griggs; Rebecca Lynn Howard; Opry Square Dancers; Eddy Raven; Ronny Robbins; Rhonda Vincent

The Thursday show is definitely the stronger of the two mid-week shows this week.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Grand Ole Opry-December 21, 1968

I am posting one of my classic Grand Ole Opry line-ups. This one is from Saturday night December 21, 1968. At that time, the Opry still only had one show on Saturday night, and the Opry was still at the Ryman Auditorium. This show was also the last show before Christmas, so many of the Opry artists were in town and in fact, many of those artists did Christmas numbers, including Ernest Tubb who did "Blue Christmas." Hank Snow also sang, "Christmas Roses."

The usual pattern for the Opry was for each artist to appear once before 10 and then once after 10. You will notice on this schedule that Marty Robbins was one of the notable exceptions, as he did only the final segment, as was his usual pattern.

And, finally as a special treat, I did some research and came up with the actual song titles that each artist sang that night. (Hopefully I got the spelling right!!). I have a few more of these line-ups, including songs, that I will post in the future. Hope all of you enjoy:

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff(host) "Wabash Cannonball" "Branded Wherever I Go"
Grandpa Jones "Old Towzer" "Think A Little More Of Others & A Lot Less Of Me"
Margie Bowes "Jambalaya"
Ernie Ashworth "You Can't Pick A Rose In December"
Del Wood "Piano Roll Blues"
4 Guys "Delilah"

8:00: Martha White
Tex Ritter(host) "Texas" "Working Man's Prayer"
Jack Greene "Until My Dreams Come True"
Wilburn Brother "We Need Lots More Happiness"
Osborne Brothers "Rocky Top"
Archie Campbell "That Little Boy Of Mine"
Crook Brothers "Black Mountain Rag"

8:30: Stephens
Charlie Louvin(host) "Will You Visit Me On Sundays" "What Are Those Things"
Del Reeves "Girl On The Billboard" "If I Lived Here, I'd Be Home Now"
Jeannie Seely "Little Things" "Welcome Home To Nothing"
George Morgan "Silent Night"
Lonzo & Oscar "Columbus Stockade Blues"

9:00: Luzianne
Ernest Tubb(host) "In The Jailhouse Now" "Blue Christmas"
Bill Monroe "Christmas Time's A Comin"
Stu Phillips "Bring Love Back Into Our World"
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "I'm Going Home On The Morning Train" "Big Midnight Special"
Charlie Walker "Don't Squeeze My Charmin"
Fruit Jar Drinkers "Old Hen Crackle"
Stringbean "Gonna Make Myself A Name"

9:30: Kelloggs
Hank Snow(host) "I'm Movin On" "Christmas Roses"
Willis Brothers "I'll Be Home For Christmas"
Marion Worth "Shake Me, I Rattle"
Ernie Ashworth "Talk Back Trembling Lips"
Bob Luman "Guitar Man"
Jim & Jesse "Yonder Comes The Freight Train"
Del Wood "12th Street Rag"

10:00: Fender
Tex Ritter(host) "Boll Weevil"
Grandpa Jones "Raining On The Mountain" Now My Love"
Stu Phillips "Juanita Jones"
Margie Bowes "Break My Mind"

10:15: Pure
Roy Acuff(host) "Ball Knob Arkansas"
Wilburn Brothers "Someone Before Me"
Osborne Brothers "Roll On Muddy River"
Archie Campbell "Most Richly Blessed"

10:30: Buckley's
Bill Monroe(host) "Molly Tenbrooks"
Del Reeves "Looking At The World Through A Windshield"
Willis Brothers "Give Me 40 Acres"
Lonzo & Oscar "Movin On #2"

10:45: Kent
Ernest Tubb(host) "Waltz Across Texas"
Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely "Love Is No Excuse"
Crook Brothers "Cotton Eyed Joe"
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper "Each Season Changes You"

11:00: Coke
Hank Snow(host); "There's A Fool Such As I" "Christmas Wants"
Jim & Jesse "When The Snow Is On The Roses"
Bob Luman "Memphis"
Fruit Jar Drinkers "Sally Goodin"
Stringbean "Banjo Convention"
Sam McGee "How Great Thou Art"

11:30: Lava
Marty Robbins(host) "Devil Woman"
Marion Worth "Almost Persuaded" "Today I Started Loving You Again"
Charlie Walker "White Christmas" "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down"
Bob Bishop "Roses To Reno"

On the final segment, Marty ended it by singing 4 songs: "Ribbon of Darkness" "Begging to You" "Don't Worry" and "El Paso."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 4/16 & 4/17--Updated

A couple of changes already and we are only at Thursday. Jan Howard and Daryle Singletary have been added on to Friday night and Jesse McReynolds is out. Also, Daryle Singletary has also been added to the 1st show on Saturday night. There is still a slot to fill on the 2nd Saturday show.

Before I post this weekend's Grand Ole Opry line-ups, just a couple of notes regarding the Tuesday Night Opry and Opry Country Classics. Jesse McReynolds was originally scheduled for Tuesday night but cancelled out and Stu Phillips was originally scheduled for Opry Country Classics on Thursday night but has cancelled. Jesse is scheduled for this weekend's Friday Night Opry so he would appear to be fine, but I know that the last time Stu was on the Opry, his voice was pretty bad. I don't know if that is why he cancelled or if something else was up.

Regarding this weekend's Opry shows, there is definitely a strong pressence of bluegrass music with Ralph Stanley, Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne and Daily & Vincent scheduled. You also have Marty Stuart, who has been known to play a bluegrass number now and then. Also this weekend, Diamond Rio will be celebrating 12 years as Opry members, as they officially joined the Opry on April 18, 1998.

A couple of other items about this weekend's shows have caught my eye. For the 2nd show on Saturday night, Jimmy Dickens is on a later time slot. Also, you will notice that Connie Smith is not on the same segments as Marty Stuart. Since their marriage, just about every time both have been on the Opry, it has been during the same segments. And, they have done a pretty good job at mixing up the line-ups on Saturday night. Finally, there are still a couple of slots to fill, with 1 on Friday night and 1 for each of the Saturday shows.

With that, here are this weekend's line-ups:

Friday April 16
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Ralph Stanley
730: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jan Howard; Daryle Singletary
8:15: Diamond Rio(host); Stonewall Jackson; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
8:45: Bill Anderson(host); Jack Greene; Dailey & Vincent

Saturday April 17
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Daryle Singletary
7:30: Ricky Skaggs(host) The Whites; Connie Smith
8:00: John Conlee(host); Jean Shepard; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Marty Stuart(host); Jim Ed Brown; Dailey & Vincent

Second Show
9:30: John Conlee(host); Ralph Stanley; Daryle Singletary
10:00: Marty Stuart(host); Jean Shepard; Dailey & Vincent
10:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Ray Pillow; Connie Smith; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites

Finally, one more observation from my visit last week to the Opry. Martha White is no longer sponsoring a segment, even with the 2 shows on Saturday night. For a while, they were sponsoring one of the last two segments on the Friday night show. Also, if you notice during the broadcast, they are no longer doing a Martha White commercial during segments, like they were doing previously when Martha White was not sponsoring. The Martha White display is still up in the lobby of the Opry House. It makes me wonder if they only use Martha White as a sponsor if they do not have a full complement of "sustaining" sponsors, or if something else again is going on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Country Fans Want Gill, Loveless Back

I know that this does not tie directly into the Grand Ole Opry, but it does involve Opry members and not the "new" country music of today. A poll was recently conducted on Facebook by "Stark Country", affiliated with I found this article interesting and wanted to pass it on:

We recently conducted a Facebook poll, asking both country music business professionals and "civilian" country fans alike which '90s/early 2000s country stars they wished were still having radio hits today. It's an astonishing commentary on just how many former format staples have now fallen from radio favor that more than 40 different acts were named by poll respondents, and that's not counting the joke answers, which included non-hitmakers Cleve Francis, B.B. Watson and Eddie London, as well as "Chris Gaines."

Vince Gill and Patty Loveless were the artists most often cited as being genuinely missed. They were followed in the poll by Suzy Bogguss, Mark Chesnutt, Lee Roy Parnell and Trisha Yearwood, who each received an equal number of votes. Close on their heels were Kathy Mattea and Travis Tritt, followed by Tracy Bird, Billy Dean, Steve Wariner and Dwight Yoakam, who all received multiple votes.

Currently, those 12 artists are responsible for more than 200 top 10 country hits, and 47 No. 1s. All had a healthy chart run of more than a decade and, in the case of Gill and Wariner, more than two decades. The average length of time between the first and last charting records of these 12 artists is 16 and a half years, a career length most of today's young artists would be grateful to achieve.

The poll's best comment came from KCXY (Y95) Camden, Ark., PD Jay Phillips, who wrote, "I'd like to see some of our current artists have 'real' hits. We are becoming the format of 'play it and throw it away.' Many of the songs we play today won't be on the air three months from now."

Surprisingly, Garth Brooks was only cited by two people in our unscientific poll, netting him the same number of votes as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sons of the Desert, Pam Tillis and Wynonna.

Two people also wondered what Keith Whitley's career would be like now if he hadn't died in 1989. Impact Radio Networks VP of network operations Marcus Rowe speculated it would be "approaching Strait status, most likely."

Nashville music publisher and songplugger Matt Lindsey noted that singers like Yearwook, Loveless, Brooks Parnell, Tritt, Chesnutt and Yoakam, plus Radney Foster, Dixie Chicks and others, "were all artists. Today we have acts," he says. "There's a huge difference to me.

"To be fair," Lindsey continues, "there are some artists today we still have: Alan Jackson, George Strait, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley (and more,) so all is not lost. It's all subjective, I know, but anyone that carries auto tuners on live dates.....geez."

Again, I thought this was a nice little article to pass on.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 4/13 & Opry Country Classics 4/15

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, April 13
7:00: Connie Smith; Elizabeth Cook
7:30: George Hamilton IV; Big Kenny
8:15: Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Josh Thompson
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Josh Turner

A pretty good line-up for the Tuesday night show.

Here is the line-up for Opry Country Classics, April 15
Host: Larry Gatlin
Spotlight Artist: Lorrie Morgan
Also Appearing: Chuck Mead; Jimmy C. Newman; Opry Square Dancers; Stu Phillips; Jeannie Seely; Sunny Sweeney

Opry Observations

This past weekend, I was in Nashville and attended all 3 Opry shows. I wanted to offer a review of the shows and a few observations on what I saw and heard.

The Friday Night Opry's first segment was hosted by Jeannie Seely and she did a great job. She looked and sounded pretty good. Jimmy C. Newman did 2 songs and he also looked and sounded fine. A newer group, The Infamous Stringdusters did a couple of numbers. They are a bluegrass oriented group and did fine, and the Jeannie finished her segment with a fine duet.

The second segment was hosted by Jimmy Dickens. He looked great and was moving around on the stage and bantering with the audience. His voice was better than what I thought it would be, but still a little off. I don't know how it sounded on the radio, but it seemed like in the Opry House that they turned up the music a bit to cover his voice. Jesse McReynolds did one instrumental number, and there was no real audience reaction to the song. I like Jesse and his music, but he just did not pick out a good number for this show. Ashton Shepherd did a couple of songs and she is a fine, talented young singer that has been featured on the Opry several times. Jimmy finished off his segment with a final song.

Then came the intermission. It just killed the flow of the show. I would say about one-third of the crowd went out to get something, while the majority of the people stayed in their seats. They were not selling anything inside the auditorium, contrary to some of the rumors that I had heard. When the show restarted, not everyone was back in the auditorium, so some missed John Conlee's first song.

John Conlee hosted the next segment and he looked and sounded fine. He introduced Jean Shepard, who just did not look good at all. I found out later that she had been in the hospital earlier in the week, so that would explain that. She sounded fine and did one song. George Hamilton IV was good and then T. Graham Brown was next. He did 2 songs, including, "Tell It Like It Used To Be." The audience loved him. Lots of enthusiasm from him on stage. John finished his segment with a final song.

The last segment was Mike Snider and his guests were Jack Greene, who did two songs, and Gene Watson who did three. All sounded and looked good and were well received.

The Opry House was a little over half full for this show, with the lower level filled except for the ends and the balcony only having people in the lower, middle section. I was in the center section in the 3d row, so a good seat.

For the 1st show on Saturday night, the Opry House was pretty full, with only the upper balcony with empty seats. It was good to see the improved attendance. The first segment was hosted by Jimmy Dickens, and he sounded much better than he did on Friday night. Jimmy C. Newman and Emerson Drive were the guests and Emerson Drive was very well received.

The 2nd segment was hosted by Mike Snider and had Jeannie Seely and Jack Greene for one song each, and then a newcomer, Jerrod Niemann, making his first Opry appearance. He sounded very good and song a couple of nice country songs. He would appear to have a future in the business.

The next segment was hosted by Ricky Skaggs and if you have not seen Ricky lately, his hair is well past his shoulders. He could really use a haircut, but he seems to have adopted this style of look. Ricky did not have Kentucky Thunder with him and in fact, did not sing bluegrass. He sang a couple of his older, country hits. He sounded great. Jean Shepard and The Whites were next, and Jean looked a little better than on Friday Night. They also had a guest announcer from Arkansas, and I don't know how the rest of you feel, but I think they can do without these folks. I know it is a promotion to help the Opry sell tickets, but it just takes more time away from the music.

The final segment was hosted by Steve Wariner and it was just him without his band. Garrison Keillor from Prairie Home Companion was guest announcer during this segment as he had done his show from the Ryman Auditorium earlier in the evening and Steve was his musical guest. He was a great announcer, although he looked like an "odd" bird. I have listened to his show every once in a while, but this was the first time I had seen him in person. John Conlee and Connie Smith each did one song, and Connie looked great. Mandy Barnett finished out doing several songs. She is doing Patsy Cline again this summer at the Ryman, so I would expect her on the Opry more to promote the show. She looked stunning in a red dress and still has that great voice that you either like or hate.

The second Saturday show was almost two-thirds filled and I thought this show was the best of the weekend, and the crowd seemed more into this show than the other two. Jimmy Dickens again hosted the first segment, but his voice was just totally shot by this show. I would guess that one show per night is the limit for him. He also did very little comedy during this show, but he still looked great. Emerson Drive and Mandy Barnett were the guests.

Mike Snider, Jean Shepard and Merrod Niemann were on the next segment. They also had the guest announcer again, some local personality from Arkansas. Again, he spent so much time talking that it took away from the show to the point that the segment ran over and Mike did not do a final number. I don't mind when the guest announcer is a nationally known personality, but these local folks have got to go. They don't know when to shut-up, even though they have a script.

Ricky Skaggs was next and he had Jan Howard on. She featured the Carol Lee Singers during her songs and she sounded and looked great. Hard to believe she is 80. The Whites and the square dancers were also on and Buck White danced with the square dancers.

The final segment was hosted by Vince Gill. He was just absolutely great. Just him and his guitar, with limited back up from the Opry band. John Conlee and Connie Smith were his guests. Vince is looking more his age and wearing the glasses makes him look a bit older. But, his voice and the music.. just great and a standing ovation when he was done.

Overall, all three shows were pretty good and all the artists performed well.

I did pay the $5.00 and go into the Opry museum and see what improvements they made. If you have been in there before, you will know what I am talking about. They took down the Jim Reeves exhibit and added a exhibit for Porter Wagoner, which was well done, with lots of video from the TNN days. They also added an exhibit at the end that featured Carrie Underwood, Josh Turner and Montgomery Gentry. They also took out some of the older black and white photos and added some more recent colored ones. Finally, it appeared that they cleaned and updated a few of the other exhibits and all the videos were actually working. The museum was also cleaner. But, there were only about 10 people in it, an hour before the Opry. Many left when they found out it was no longer free. It is a good museum, but I would still like to see them have more exhibits featuring more of the legends from the earlier days of the Opry. Basically, there is nothing in the museum featuring Bill Monroe, Red Foley, Hank Snow, Grandpa Jones and many others. I would just like to see a few more updates.

All in all, a good weekend of shows.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 4/9 & 4/10

Adjustments keep being made to the line-up.

Here are the Grand Ole Opry line-ups for this weekend. There is one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday night.

Friday April 9
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jimmy C. Newman; The Infamous Stingdusters
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Ashton Shepherd
8:15: John Conlee(host); Jean Shepard; George Hamilton IV; T. Graham Brown
8:45: Mike Snider(host); Jack Greene; Gene Watson

Saturday April 10
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Emerson Drive
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jeannie Seely; Jack Greene; Jerrod Niemann
8:00: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jean Shepard; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Steve Wariner(host); John Conlee; Connie Smith; Mandy Barnett

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host; Emerson Drive; Mandy Barnett
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jerrod Niemann
10:30: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jan Howard; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Vince Gill(host); John Conlee; Connie Smith

Not too bad of a line-up for all 3 shows. Only 12 artists for each show, but the quality seems pretty good. I will be in Nashville this weekend and will be attending both shows on Saturday night and should be in Nashville in time for the Friday Night Opry. I will have a review of all the shows next week.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 4/6 & Opry Country Classics 4/8

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, April 6
7:00: Jeannie Seely; James Otto
7:30: Jack Greene; The Bowling Family
8:15: Jim Ed Brown; The Grascals
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Charlie Daniels Band

I am suprised that after hearing Jimmy Dickens on Saturday night that he is going to be doing the Tuesday Night Opry. Hopefully his voice is a lot better, or he just tells jokes.

Here is the line-up for Opry Country Classics, April 8
Host: Nan Kelley
Spotlight Artist: Gene Watson
Mandy Barnett
Suzy Bogguss
John Conlee
Opry Square Dancers
T.G. Sheppard
Daryle Singletary

Very nice move on the part of the Opry in making Gene Watson the spotlight artist. He has had a very good career in country music.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Should The Opry Do Live Webcasts?

I am currently watching the live broadcast of the Wheeling Jamboree on their website. Overall, the quality of the broadcast is pretty good. The sound is very good, and the video stream is pretty good, although there were a couple of problems with the stream.

Watching this webcast show gave me the thought how I wished that the Opry would do live webcasts. Maybe not everyweek, but certainly once in a while. It is something that I would pay a reasonable cost for. It would give people who live long distances away from the Opry the opportunity to see the show, and, I think it would help the Opry and encourage more people to attend. As the Opry continues to explore other media opportunites and with live television broadcasts not happening right now, perhaps this is something that they should explore.

Now, back to the Wheeling Jamboree. They have restarted the show and tonight was the 77th anniversary of the show. Jeannie Seely acted as the host and she looked and sounded great. Also on the show were Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius, who sang individually and together. Again, as with Jeannie, they both looked and sounded great.

Also on the show, and highlighting the show, was Little Jimmy Dickens. He looked great and was very, very funny with some great jokes, many of which we hear on the Opry each week. But, he also did some that I haven't heard lately. He moved around the stage and was very engaged with the audience. But, and I am sorry to say this, he sounded just horrible. He was completely out of tune and sang like he had a frog in his throat. Now, I will say, that he apologized to the audience for how he sounded and he said he had laryngitis. (I know that he always jokes at the Opry about having it, but tonight he was serious about it). He only sang a couple of songs. I know it has got to be tough being 89 years old, but God bless this national treasure as he keeps performing.

Even though he sounded bad, the crowd loved him. It looked like he received a standing ovation, although you could only see parts of the crowd. They were very loud with their laughs and generous with their applause. You could tell that they enjoyed having him back in West Virginia.

All in all, it was a very good show and if you did not get a chance to see it, you can go to the Wheeling Jamboree website and they have video on demand and you can watch it when you want.

And, finally, Happy Easter to all of you and I hope you get the chance to enjoy the day with your families.