Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pete Fisher-11 Years as Opry General Manager

Can all of you believe that it has been 11 years since Pete Fisher became the General Manager of the Opry. Yep, it's true. On June 19, 1999, it was announced that Pete Fisher would replace the retiring Bob Whittaker as the Opry's first full time General Manager, starting on June 28, 1999.

A lot has sure happened over the past 11 years, and some of it has not been so good. We had the firing of The Four Guys and members of the Grand Ole Opry staff band, the reduction in shows and the length of the shows, the Stonewall Jackson lawsuit and the reduction of appearances by many of the Opry's veterans and legends.

We also had the start of Opry.com and the streaming of the Opry shows, the improvements in the presentation of the show at the Opry House, the shift to more appearances by many younger artists and many long time Opry sponsors leaving as the show shifted to more nationally known sponsors to help brand the show.

Oh, and we had the closing of Opryland and the great flood of 2010.

We have seen new Opry members such as Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Terri Clark, Del McCoury, Mel Tillis, Josh Turner, Charlie Daniels, Carrie Underwood, Craig Morgan and Montgomery Gentry.

We have also seen the passing of Ernie Ashworth, Bill Carlisle, Skeeter Davis, Roy Drusky, Don Gibson, Hank Lockin, Jim McReynolds, Brother Oswald, Johnny PayCheck, Del Reeves, Johnny Russell, Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner, Billy Walker, Charlie Walker and Teddy Wilburn.

Yes, a lot has happened in the 11 years. I think many of us are surprised that Pete has lasted this long, I think he cares about the show and the history of the Opry. But, I also think many of the decisions have been corporate based by Gaylord management. As he continues as the boss man of the Opry, he has many challenges. With the flood, the Opry is in a slump right now. Moving the show around Nashville is not helping. The hotel being closed means the convention business is not there. There is no television contract. The shows continue to get shorter and the ticket prices higher. And, attendance is way down.

Many of us are worried about the future of the Opry. I think Pete is also. I don't think he wants to be known as the man who had to carry out the decision to close down the Opry. I have met Pete one time at a meet and great and he came off well. I have seen him in action managing an Opry show and he does know what he is doing. And, he does have a vision for the Opry. It may not be our vision, but he has one. All the decisions regarding the show have been made by Pete and Steve Buchanan, Pete's boss. I think that the scorecard is mixed on how successful these decisions have been. Personally, I think some have been good and some not so good.

Hopefully, things will improve at the Opry once they get back to the Opry House and the hotel reopens. It will be a great opportunity to show Nashville, country music and Opry fans how great the show can be again. There will be pressure to bring the fans back. Pete will have his hands full.

But, congratulations to Pete Fisher for another year at the Opry.

1 comment:

  1. In terms of Opry history, I think of Pete Fisher as being in a position similar to Dee Kilpatrick, where he succeeded Jim Denny just as rock-and-roll was hitting it big. He brought in Rusty and Doug and the Everly Brothers, and the traditionalists were livid (Ira Louvin supposed threw his mandolin down a hallway on hearing Don and Phil get a big reaction). Kilpatrick also folded the Gully Jumpers and Possum Hunters into the Crook Brothers and Fruit Jar Drinkers because the original performers were gone anyway and he wanted to open the slot for newer artists. Fisher, like Kilpatrick is trying to address the market.

    However, it may be the times we are in, but I do not recall hearing of anyone before Del Reeves, Charlie Louvin, and Stonewall Jackson speaking of management the way they have of Fisher, and that tells me something about his respect for the people who made the institution that I do not like to ponder. He undoubtedly has had to react to empty suits upstairs, but he doesn't have to appear to feel good about it.