Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July Opry Highlights

The month of July is about to begin and as I always do at the start of each month, I want to give you the Grand Ole Opry historical highlights for this coming month.

There are several Grand Ole Opry members who joined during the month of July:
Alison Krauss..........July 3, 1993 (17 years).
Bill Anderson..........July 12, 1961 (49 years).
Jeanne Pruett..........July 21, 1973 (37 years).
Barbara Mandrell.........July 29, 1972 (38 years).

In the case of Jeanne Pruett, she was the last singing artist to become a member of the Opry when it was still located at the Ryman Auditorium. Jeanne, like Barbara Mandrell, is now retired and no longer performs on the Opry. Jeanne was inducted as an Opry member by Dolly Parton. Oh by the way, Jerry Clower was the last Opry member to join while the show was still at the Ryman. Barbara Mandrell was first introduced as an Opry member by Roy Acuff. During her years as an Opry member, Barbara would always insist on being on his segment of the Opry and would appear with Minnie Pearl on the night Roy celebrated his 50th anniversary as an Opry member.

When Alison Krauss joined the Opry, she was its youngest member at the time, 21 years old. She was also the first bluegrass artist to join the Opry in 19 years. If you remember how Alison looked at the time, she has really changed her appearance over the years, adding a glamor look about her.

Several Opry artists have birthdays in July:
Ray Pillow..........July 4, 1937 (73 years old). Born in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Jeannie Seely..........July 6, 1940 (70 years old). Born in Titusville, Pennsylvania.
Charlie Louvin..........July 7, 1927 (83 years old). Born in Henagar, Alabama.
Jesse McReynolds..........July 9, 1929 (81 years old). Born in Coeburn, Virginia.
George Hamilton IV..........July 19, 1937 (73 years old). Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Alison Krauss..........July 23, 1971 (39 years old). Born in Decatur, Illinois.
Pam Tillis..........July 24, 1957 (53 years old). Born in Plant City, Florida.
Martina McBride..........July 29, 1966 (44 years old). Born in Sharon, Kansas.

The following Opry historical highlights took place in July:
*July 1939: The Opry moved to the War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville. With this move, the Opry instituted an admission fee of a quarter. The Opry would move several years later to the Ryman Auditorium after complaints about the crowds at the War Memorial.
*July 15, 1944: Rod Brasfield joined the Grand Ole Opry. He would later team with Minnie Pearl and be featured on the Prince Albert-NBC portion of the Opry. He would remain a member of the Opry until his death on September 12, 1958 of a heart attack In 1956, Rod had a staring role in the Andy Griffith movie, "A Face in the Crowd", and his performance was praised by critics. Sorry to say, like many comedians, Rod led a very unhappy private life. After his death, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
*July 21, 1951: Lefty Frizzell made his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry.
*July 9, 1952, Grand Ole Opry members Carl Smith and June Carter were married in Alcoa, Tennessee. They would later have a daughter, Rebecca Carlene Smith, better known as Carlene Carter.
*July 7, 1956: Johnny Cash joined the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain a member until 1965, when he was fired after an Opry performance where he stomped out the stage lights at the Ryman Auditorium in a drug-induced rage. After he left the Opry that night, he drove away in June Carter's cadillac, which he wrecked into a telephone pole. The police officer who responded to the accident was June's husband, Rex, who was a Nashville police officer. June later wrote that it was an uncomfortable night after she got home. Johnny would return in later years as a guest at the Opry and has written about the incident in several of his books.
*July 8, 1964: Dottie West joins the Grand Ole Opry. She would remain an Opry member until her death on September 4, 1991, after being injured in a car accident on her way to perform at the Opry. She had a number of successful duets with Kenny Rogers and sang the theme song for a series of Coke commercials. The song, "Country Sunshine", would later become a hit record for her. Many believe that Dottie deserves to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
*July 31, 1964, Jim Reeves, along with band member Dean Manuel, died in a plane crash in Brentwood, Tennessee.
*July 7, 1975: George Morgan died following a heart attack. He joined the Opry in 1948 as a replacement for Eddy Arnold. George hosted the final segment at the Ryman Auditorium on Friday Night March 15, 1974. He concluded with his hit song, "Candy Kisses". The following night, the Opry would move to its current home, the Grand Ole Opry House. He is the late father of current Opry member Lorrie Morgan and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
*July 2, 1982: DeFord Bailey, former Grand Ole Opry member, dies at the age of 82. Later elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, his controversial firing from the Opry by George D. Hay would be a subject of debate through out the history of the Opry. After years away from the Opry, DeFord started appearing again in the 1970's, at the annual Opry homecoming shows that were held, when former Opry members would appear as guests. His last Opry appearance was in April of 1982.
*July 1, 1983: Gaylord Broadcasting Company buys the Grand Ole Opry, Opryland, The Opryland Hotel, WSM Radio and TNN for a reported $270 million. Edward Gaylord and his wife Thelma were the owners of Gaylord and among their holdings was the television show, "Hee Haw". The company would later become a publically traded company and change its name to Gaylord Entertainment. In later years, the company would close Opryland, sell Acuff-Rose music, which he had bought earlier, sell TNN, which has become Spike-TV, and try to change the format of WSM to sports.

There you have it for this month. Hope you enjoy the look back in time.


  1. What a great job! Thanks for posting that.

    I always wished Lefty had stayed on the Opry, but I always loved his line to Hank Williams, who said he NEEDED to be on the Opry. Lefty said something like, "I've got four songs in the Top 10. Why do I NEED the Opry?" Hank said, "Hoss, you've got a point."

    By the way, the mention of Johnny Cash reminds me that the Opry asked him to perform for Acuff's 50th and he had to cancel because an ostrich on his farm kicked him in the chest and he couldn't sing. Cash led an interesting life!

  2. You are so right about Johnny Cash and his cancelling on Roy's 50th anniversary night. And, Roy had asked him specifically to be on with him, which shows the high regard that Roy had of Johnny Cash and June Carter (who was scheduled also). I know for years after Marty Robbins died, that Roy really pushed for Johnny to join the Opry and in fact, Roy thought Johnny would be perfect to do the 11:30 segment, just as Marty had done. But, Johnny always declined, saying he was too busy to do the Opry. At least he was honest about that.

  3. I knew that Mr. Acuff had pushed for Johnny to return to the Opry, and I appreciate that Johnny understood that he didn't have the time to take it seriously. As I think about it, Charley Pride was similar--he was offered membership in the late 1960s (that would have been quite a moment, given the era) and he and his manager felt that he couldn't give it the attention it deserves. He still hasn't been on as much as I think he should, but he certainly has made it a point to get in there.