Thursday, June 3, 2010

June Opry Highlights

I did not forget!!
The month of June is upon us and as I always do, I want to take a look at the important events that have taken place in Grand Ole Opry history during this month.

June as always been one of the more active months and there are a number of artists who joined the Opry during June. They include:

Stu Phillips--- June 1, 1967 (43 years)
Mike Snider---June 2, 1990 (20 years)
Alan Jackson---June 7, 1991 (19 years)
Lorrie Morgan---June 9, 1984 (26 years)
Mel Tillis---June 9, 2007 (3 years)
Ricky Van Shelton---June 10, 1988 (22 years)
Patty Loveless---June 11, 1988 (22 years)
Terri Clark---June 12, 2004 (6 years)
Connie Smith---June 13, 1965 (45 years)
Riders In The Sky---June 19, 1982---(28 years)
Montgomery Gentry---June 23, 2009 (1 year)

I remember when those celebrating Opry anniversaries always appeared on the Opry on that weekend and it was always acknowledged on stage. In the tv days, that artist was always on the televised portion. Those appearances on their induction dates just don't seem to happen much anymore. Also, a little historical note her. On the night that Connie Smith became an Opry member, another person also joined the Opry that night. The late Bob Luman.

The following Opry members are celebrating birthdays in June:

Too Slim(born Fred LaBour)---June 3, 1948 (62 years old)
Lorrie Morgan(born Loretta Lynn Morgan)---June 27, 1959 (51 years old)

The following historical events took place in June:

>June 19, 1926: DeFord Bailey, the Opry's first African American member, made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He remained a member until 1941, when he was fired by George D. Hay. The circumstances of his firing are still in dispute, even today.
>June 12, 1936: Dr. Humphrey Bate, one of the original stars of the Opry, dies. He was just 61 years old, and was a real medical doctor.
>June 13, 1936: The Opry moves to the Dixie Tabernacle, which was located on Fatherland Street in East Nashville. Although this facility sat 3,500, it was a very basic building, with sides that opened, sawdust floors, wooden benches and no dressing rooms.
>June 5, 1937: Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys join the Opry. He would remain a member until moving to Louisville, Kentucky to take advantage of television opportunities after WSM expressed no interest in television. George D. Hay was constantly on Pee Wee for being too progressive in his sound, but a mutual trust would develop between the two. Pee Wee was one of the first professional musicians to join the Opry and he helped to professionalize the show. He was the first artist on the Opry to introduce entrance music when each act came on. Previously, they would just walk on stage and wait to start. Pee Wee left the Opry in the late 1940s, but would continue to make appearances, especially on the homecoming shows that the Opry held for many years.
>June 28, 1940: The movie, "Grand Ole Opry", premiers in Nashville. The movie stared Roy Acuff and Uncle Dave Macon. The movie is long out of print and I don't think you can even get it on DVD today.
>June 5, 1943: The Opry moves again, this time to the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Here the Opry would remain until 1974. While the Ryman is now a great facility, during the time that the Opry was there, the building had limited dressing rooms and no air conditioning. Also as time went on, that area of Nashville became very run down and unsafe. But, the acoustics at the Ryman are just about perfect and it is still a great place to watch the Opry.
>June 6, 1944: Grant Turner begins work at WSM radio. He would eventually become the best known announcer in Opry history, and had the nickname, "The Voice of the Opry". He would remain an Opry announcer until his death in October 1991, just after announcing the Friday Night Opry.
>June 11, 1949: Hank Williams makes his first appearance at the Opry. As most Opry fans know about that famous night, he was called back on stage six times to perform his song, "Lovesick Blues."
>June 1, 1957: The Everly Brothers joined the Opry. They were added as an appeal to the younger fans of country music as the Opry tried to keep up with the changing times. As everyone knows, they did not last long at the Opry.
>June 13, 1958: Roy Drusky becomes a member of the Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death on September 23, 2004.
>June 12, 1965: Cowboy legend Tex Ritter becomes a member of the Opry. Although his time at the Opry was relatively short, he became one of the Opry's most loyal and beloved members.
>June 30, 1970: Grand breaking takes place for Opryland. This park would eventually become home to the Grand Ole Opry upon completion of the Grand Ole Opry House.
>June 28, 1974: Paul McCartney visited the Friday Night Opry and was introduced on stage by Roy Acuff. He did not perform, but he and his family were in town recording and visiting.
>June 17, 1978: In one of the more unusual Opry moments, Marty Robbins drove his new Panther DeVille onto the Opry stage. To add some humor to the moment, Roy Acuff had an Opry security guard write a parking ticket to Marty. (I had read somewhere that one of the complaints about today's Opry is that some of the fun and spontaneous moments have disappeared).
>June 9, 1984: As I listed above, Lorrie Morgan became an official Opry member. But, she was no stranger to the Opry. She is the daughter of Country Music Hall of Famer and long time Opry member George Morgan, and made her Opry debut with her father at the age of 13.
>June 28, 1985: Country artist Gary Morris became the first person to sing opera on the Opry. (And we complain about some of the music being played today!!). He performed Rudolfo's first aria from Puccini's La Boheme. (I wonder how many fans attending that night even recognized the song).
>June 3, 1994: The Ryman Auditorium reopens after an extensive renovation. The first show is a broadcast by of the radio show, "Praire Home Companion", hosted by Garrison Keillor. He would also do the show the following evening, June 4. At the time of the reopening of the Ryman, there were no plans to have the Opry perform any shows there.
>June 10, 2000: The Opry unveiled their new set that is still being used today. It was the first new backdrop in 25 years. While the barn-shape of the backdrop is still there, the basic red barn that many of us have come to know and love, is no longer a part of the stage. The Opry did add the large video projection screens to the Opry House, which has made a difference in the show.
>June 17, 2000: The Grand Ole Opry begins streaming on the internet. Ricky Skaggs started the evening by playing "Tennessee Waggoner", which was the song Uncle Jimmy Thompson reportedly played during the first broadcoast of the Opry in 1925.
>June 14, 2003: Jimmy Dickens invites Trace Adkins to become a member of the Opry. Of course he accepted.

That should do it for June. Like I said, it was a busy month in Opry history.


  1. There is currently a great photo of the work being done inside the Opry House at the Tennessean web site ( All of the main floor seating has been removed and it looks as though the orchestra pit has either been taken out or lowered to basement level at this point...hard to tell. It also looks like the main structure of the backdrop survived although the LED panels at stage level were damaged and probably have to be completely replaced.

  2. Great job, as always. That was some weekend in 1965--Tex Ritter, Connie Smith, and Bob Luman! I'd like to add a couple of things:

    --The night Ricky Van Shelton joined the Opry (and I wish he would either come back or retire his membership--what a voice), Herman Crook died--the last surviving original Opry member.

    --Gary Morris sang the aria on the televised portion, and I'll never forget Tom T. Hall (speaking of those who should come back or retire their membership--come on, Brother T, come back!) saying that was the first time there had been grand opera on the Grand Ole Opry, and whatever you thought of it, it sure beats hell out of rock-and-roll, which got a huge ovation. Morris also was invited to sing on Minnie Pearl's 50th anniversary celebration in 1990.

    --The night after Grant Turner died, George Hamilton IV was on the televised portion and said he was going to do a gospel number until George V reminded him of where Grant came from, and so he sang "Abilene."

    --Mr. Acuff having Marty get a parking ticket reminds me, indeed, of how much the Opry has changed, in this case for the worse. I realize we can't have all string bands and we need newer acts guesting, though we could do with more of the old-timers performing. But making the show more urbane and sophisticated doesn't mean it can't also be FUN, and that's what's missing.