On this Labor Day weekend, I wanted to take a moment to remember Mel McDaniel, who will celebrate his 68th birthday on Tuesday September 7. Mel was born in 1942 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. The highpoint in his career was in the 1980s, when he had such great hits as "Louisiana Saturday Night," "Stand Up," and probably his biggest hit, "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On."
Mel became a Grand Ole Opry member on January 11, 1986. He was one of the more popular members and was one of those members that regularly played the Opry. From 2001 through 2008, he averaged over 50 Opry appearances each year. On June 16, 2009, he suffered a very serious heart attack and has been in recovery since. While he has made appearances backstage to visit at the Opry, he has never performed since his heart attack and probably never will.
His heart attack was not the first medical issue that Mel has had. In 1996, while performing a show in Lafayette, Louisiana, he fell into an orchestra pit. The results were almost fatal and from that time on, he used a cane to help him walk and he always performed with the cane.
My personal favorite memory of Mel was in the 1980s he was in the Pro Football Hall of Fame parade in Canton, Ohio. I saw him in the parade and received a great reception from the crowd. Also in the parade as a celebrity that year was Lassie. Mel and Lassie made a great team for a day.
Since the September 11th attack on our country, Mel changed the words to his song, "Stand Up," to reflect a patriotic theme, and whenever he sang the song at the Opry (which was about every appearance), he would sing the song with the lyrics, "Stand up for America, Stand up for the USA." As he continued singing the final verse, the Opry video screens would display an American flag, while Mel would urge the audience to stand and applaud for America. The Opry announcers would always note that, "there's Mel McDaniel, with another standing ovation."
Mel's last Grand Ole Opry appearance was during the 2nd show on Saturday May 30, 2009. While not so long ago, I wanted to honor Mel on his birthday by posting the line-up from his final Opry show.
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Mel McDaniel; George Hamilton IV; The Whites
10:00: Marty Stuart(host); Jack Greene; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Connie Smith
10:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jeannie Seely; Joe Diffie; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Vince Gill(host); Amy Grant; Joh McEuen; Tim O'Brien; Steve Martin
Interesting that Mel made his final Opry appearance on the night that Steve Martin made his first Opry appearance.