Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 10/29 & 10/30

The Grand Ole Opry will celebrate its final weekend for the year at the Grand Ole Opry House before moving to the Ryman Auditorium for its annual winter run. After all the work and rebuilding of the Opry's home, it is a shame that it lasted for only one month.

This weekend, the Opry returns to just one show on Saturday night, which will feature the super group, Rascal Flatts. Friday night's show will feature the Oak Ridge Boys, along with the Opry debut of Brett Eldredge.

Here are the line-ups:

Friday October 29
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Connie Smith; Joe Diffie
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; Rodney Atkins
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Brett Eldredge; Craig Morgan
8:45: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Oak Ridge Boys

Saturday October 30
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; The Whites
7:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Laura Bell Bundy
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Jack Greene; Josh Thompson; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Rascal Flatts

Also on Saturday, a very special benefit concert and auction will be taking place for Charlie Louvin. This event will be held at the Bell Buckle Banquet Hall, in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, which is located south of Nashville. The event will run from Noon to 9 p.m., and the admission is just $10.00. This benefit will feature a silent and live auction, and will feature entertainment by Valerie Smith, Ed Bruce, Becky Buller, Wildwood Valley Boys and more. The featured entertainment will be a concert by Alison Krauss.

Hopefully, this event, which will be hosted by Charlie, will have a fine turnout and that also, more members of Nashville's entertainment community will attend. For just $10.00, and going to a good cause, you can't beat it. As most of you know, the surgery Charlie had for his pancreatic cancer was not successful and he has had a tough go. I always feel sad when I see a benefit held for anyone, especially an entertainer such as Charlie.

On a final note, Garth Brooks is back in the Nashville news. He announced today that he will take part in a flood relief concert on Friday December 17 in Nashville, at the Bridgestone Arena. This will be his first full concert in Nashville since 1998, and will also feature his wife, Trisha Yearwood. Tickets will be just $25.00 and it is possible more shows will be added. Garth left himself open to that. Obviously, this will be a big, big night in Nashville, especially with the Opry right up the street at the Ryman Auditorium. Wouldn't it be nice if Garth would walk up the hill and suprise the Opry audience that night? Let's see....the Opry starts at 7, his concert will probably start at's probably just wishfull thinking.

Happy Birthday Charlie Daniels and Brad Paisley

Happy Birthday greetings today go to 2 Grand Ole Opry stars. Brad Paisley was born 38 years ago today on October 28, 1972. Brad came to Nashville out of West Virginia, where he performed at the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. After making many, many appearances as a guest of the Opry, Brad became an official member on February 17, 2001. Sorry to say that since Brad became an Opry member, he has actually appeared less on the show than he did prior to becoming a member.

In 2001, his first year as a member, Brad appeared on the Opry a total of 28 times. In 2002, he appeared 13 times, and it was 12 times in 2003. Since then, his appearances have steadily declined. In 2004, it was 9 appearances, 7 in 2005, 5 in 2006, 4 each in 2007 and 2008, 3 in 2009, and so far in 2010, 3 times, all taking place after the Nashville flood.

When Brad became an Opry member, I really thought that he "got it", and would become one of the Opry's youngest, active members, much like Marty Stuart, Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs, and that he would help lead the Opry to a new generation of stars and fans. While he is proud of his association with the Opry, like I said, he just has not appeared on the show as much as I would have hoped.

Here is the line-up from the 1st Saturday show on February 17, 2001, when Brad became an Opry member.

6:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Connie Smith; Bill Carlisle; Don Edwards
7:00: Steve Wariner(host); BR5-49; Mel McDaniel; The Whites; Elizabeth Cook; Trisha Yearwood; Brad Paisley
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Ernie Ashworth; Del Reeves; Billy Walker; Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: John Conlee(host); Lee Ann Womack; Vince Gill

The 7:00 hour was televised on TNN. The other suprise when looking at the line-up from that night was the fact that 2 of Brad's closest friends on the Opry, Bill Anderson and Jimmy Dickens were both missing from the show that night.

The other Opry artist celebrating a birthday today is country music legend Charlie Daniels. Charlie was born on October 28, 1936, making him 74 years old today. Charlie is one of the greatest artists in country music history and will be a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame some day. He had a small health setback earlier this year and has bounced back well.

Charlie became an Opry member on January 19, 2008, at the age of 72. For Charlie, it was a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Charlie appeared on the Opry many times over the years, often with Roy Acuff, when they would fiddle together. Since joining the Opry, Charlie has been an active member. In 2008, he was on the Opry 15 times and in 2009, he appeared 13 times. So far in 2010, he has been on the Opry 10 times, and that was after missing most of the early part of the year. And, Charlie takes the show seriously.

Here is the line-up from the first show on Saturday January 19, 2008, when Marty Stuart and Connie Smith had the honors of inducting Charlie Daniels as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The 7:00 hour was televised on GAC.

6:30: Jeannie Seely(host); The Whites; Jimmy C. Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:00: Marty Stuart(host); Montgomery Gentry; Connie Smith; Charlie Daniels Band
8:00: Charley Pride(host); Jan Howard; Trace Adkins; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mel Tillis

Happy Birthday to both Brad and Charlie!!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 10/26 & Opry Country Classics 10/28

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, October 26 from the Grand Ole Opry House.

7:00: John Conlee; Love & Theft
7:30: Connie Smith; Chris Young
8:15: Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Lorrie Morgan
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Little Big Town

Not a horrible line-up for the show. By the way, Jesse McReynolds has a new CD out, "Songs of the Grateful Dead." I picked it up when I was in Nashville and it is a pretty good CD. 13 songs on it and Jesse and friends are all in good voice. He is joined by David Nelson and Stu Allen and the song selection covers such Grateful Dead favorites as "Ripple", "Franklin's Tower", "Fire On the Mountain" and "Standing On the Moon." Most were written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia. The final number is a Robert Hunter/Jesse McReynolds written song, "Day by Day." I recommend the CD.

Opry Country Classics will take place on Thursday night at the Ryman Auditorium. This will be the final show in this series and the plan is still to bring back the show in the spring. The host this week will be Bill Cody, who did an excellent job hosting the show several weeks back. The spotlight artist will be Lorrie Morgan. Now, nothing against Lorrie as I enjoy her music, but with Leroy Van Dyke making a very rare Opry appearance, he should have been the spotlight artist for this show.

Host: Bill Cody
Spotlight Artist: Lorrie Morgan
Also Appearing: Mandy Barnett; Shawn Camp; George Hamilton IV; Chuck Mead; Leroy Van Dyke

Friday, October 22, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 10/22 & 10/23-Update #2

Steve Wariner has been added for both shows on Saturday night, which is a nice addition. Also, Jim Ed Brown has been added for the 2nd show. I still find it hard to believe that the show is booked on the run, like this.

Amazing, but Pete Fisher found a couple of people from last night's Opry Country Classics who were able to do the Opry this weekend. Still spots to fill. Will update as they are added.

The big news at the Opry this weekend is the induction of Blake Shelton as the Opry's newest member. That will take place on Saturday night. Before I offer further comment, let me post the line-ups.

Friday October 22

7:00: George Hamilton IV(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Daryle Singletary
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Restless Heart
8:15: Mike Snider(host); Stonewall Jackson; John Michael Montgomery
8:45: Riders In The Sky(host); Connie Smith; Dailey & Vincent

Saturday October 23

First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Emily West
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C. Newman; Steve Wariner
8:00: Jean Shepard(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Trace Adkins; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Blake Shelton

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Emily West
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; Steve Wariner
10:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Trace Adkins; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Blake Shelton

My first reaction in looking at the line-up for both Saturday night shows is "you have got to be kidding me!!" Just when you thought that some of the line-ups were getting better you get this. First, they still haven't found any other acts to go in that opening slot except for Jimmy Dickens? I checked with the Opry this morning and it is still just Jimmy. What is Pete Fisher going to do, put a help wanted sign up on the readerboard? You telling me there is no one else available at 7:00 on Saturday night to sing? Just ridiculous that they are booking a show like this and expect someone to pay $54.00 for a seat!! Now, you do have the induction of Blake Shelton, which I was made to understand that Trace Adkins was going to handle. If that is the case, and I think it is, I am suprised that Trace is not hosting the segment that Blake is on. That has usually been the case in the past. But then again, with such an overall weak line-up, and with Trace and Blake they only real "big" names on that show, maybe Pete just wanted to spread the talent around. And, I am suprised that there are not more "stars" of the Opry on for the induction of a new member.

Now, for the 2nd Saturday show. Is that all we get? At first glance, it would appear that they are booking it like a Tuesday Night Opry show. Is it going to be a traditional Grand Ole Opry show or a Tuesday Night Opry special? Again, no answers from the Opry. If Pete had just scheduled some of the artists from the first show for the second show, it would at least look like an Opry show. Jan Howard, Jimmy C. Newman and Bobby Osborne all could have done the 2nd show. Stonewall Jackson is probably available and there are the legends that could have been scheduled to fill it out. Would any of them sold more tickets? Probably not, but at least it would have been a full line-up. And to fill out the first show, you could have probably added Connie Smith and George Hamilton IV, who are just scheduled for the 2nd show. Again, I just feel that for someone spending $54.00, why this? You might as well had only one show.

I will say that Friday looks ok. It is a full line-up with some variety.

Finally, as most of you know, the Opry has a toll free number that you can call to get tickets and other information, including the Opry's line-up. I called that number late last night and the Opry line-up that they are giving on the recording is the Opry line-up from the birthday weekend!! They have not updated their recording in 3 weeks!! Come-on folks. It is not that hard. I know some of those at the Opry read this, so please get your act together and quit running this place like a store front operation and instead, like a million dollar operation like it is!!! As we have complained before, at the ticket prices that are being charged, the fans coming expect a first class operation and quality line-ups with some star power. And just not occasionally, but every week. You have 67 members and a multitude of guests that you can book. Please do it!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Opry Country Classics--October 22

We'll, there are only 2 more shows in this series of Opry Country Classics. This week's show will take place at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday night.

Host: Larry Gatlin
Spotlight Artist: Aaron Tippin
Also Appearing: The Gatlin Brothers; Jeannie Seely; T.G. Sheppard; Daryle Singletary; Emily West

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grandpa Jones

Today I take a moment to remember one of the Opry's all time greats, Louis Marshall Jones, otherwise know to one and all as Grandpa Jones, who was born on October 20, 1913. As we remember him on what whould have been Grandpa's 97th birthday, I thought I would print the tribute to him that was in the Opry's program for the weekend of February 20-21, 1998.

"It's a sad day, indeed, whenever the grandfather of a family dies. But when that man is Grandpa Jones, then his Grand Ole Opry family and his friends and fans from around the world suffer the loss of an American treasure, the likes of which we'll never see again.

Grandpa Jones died this past Thursday, February 19, at a health care center in Hermitage, Tennessee, from complications of a massive stroke he suffered on January 3, following his final Grand Ole Opry performance.

Louis Marshall Jones was born in Niagra, Ky., October 20, 1913, the youngest of 10 children. At age 10 he remembers sneaking in and "foolin" with a guitar left in their house by a farm worker. Later, one of his brothers came home with a 75-cent guitar. It was the one Marshall would use when he and a friend began playing local dances and parties. In 1928, the family moved to Akron, Ohio, and two years later Marshall got his first big break in the music business, winning first place over 450 contestants in a week-long amateur talent contest. The next day he got a radio job on WJW in Akron and used his $50 prize money to buy a better guitar. Teamed up with harmonica player Joe Troyan, Marshall moved to a Cleveland radio station which led to a stint in the house band for the popular "Lum and Abner" radio show. Later Jones and Troyan, billed as Zeke and Harve, moved to WBZ in Boston. There they joined Bradley Kincaid's troupe. And that's where Grandpa Jones was "born."

On an early morning in 1935, Kincaid chided his guitar player to "Come on an' get up here to the microphone; you're just like an old grandpa." That introduction, along with the musician's elderly voice prompted listeners to write in asking "How old is that old man?" Marshall was only 22 years old at the time, but a pair of 50-year-old high top boots, bright suspenders, a false bushy mustache, fake white eyebrows and wrinkles drawn on his face with a grease pencil helped turn him into "Grandpa" Jones.

More jobs with radio stations in West Virginia, Connecticut and Cincinnati and a stint in the Army in Germany kept Grandpa Jones busy in the 1940s. After the war in 1946, he moved to Nashville and worked with Pee Wee King. This led to appearances on the Grand Ole Opry where he became a member in March 1947. By this time Grandpa had traded his guitar for a banjo which he played using the drop-thumb technique. His distinctive banjo pickin' style and his down-home country humor made him a natural for the television show "Hee Haw" when it made its debut in 1969.

"What's for supper, Grandpa?" soon became as familiar to country music fans as Grandpa's recordings of "Old Rattler," "Good Ole Mountain Dew" and his version of the Lonzo and Oscar hit, "I'm My Own Grandpa." Grandpa also proved marvelously adept in Hee Haw's comedy skits and was a vital cog in the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet during the show's record-setting 25-year run. It was during this period, in 1978, that Grandpa was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

During his long career Grandpa recorded numerous albums on a variety of labels and toured extensively. His wife, Ramona, who plays fiddle and other instruments, often joined him on tour. His book, "Everybody's Grandpa-Fifty Years Behind the Mike, was published in 1984.

Grandpa's death brings to a close one of the most important chapters in the life of the Grand Ole Opry. He was an active, supportive member of the Opry for more than half a century and brought a unique and distinctive kind of music to us and to the world. The Grand Ole Opry will simply never be the same without Grandpa, and there is no way to replace him. Although his death was not totally unexpected, there is still personal sadness and grief to realize that this wonderful gentleman who was loved so much, and in turn, loved the Opry so much, will no longer be with us. But while we will miss his presence, Grandpa's distinctive old time music and spirit will forever be a part of this show and a part of all the lives he touched. Our memories of Grandpa Jones will always be happy ones, and we are indeed thankful for all the years we were able to enjoy his love and friendship. He truly was "Everybody's Grandpa!""

I was in Nashville for the Opry's shows that weekend and there was a note of sadness in the air. The tribute that I just posted was read before Saturday night's show, and on stage there was a stool with Grandpa's banjo next to it, and his hat on it, with a lone spotlight shining on it. A half hour of the Opry was televised on TNN that night, and sorry to say on the televised portion, there was no tribute to Grandpa, at least on the Opry stage. However, in the segment following, which featured Porter Wagoner as the host, the cast came out on stage, along with Ramona and Grandpa's children, and led by Vince Gill and Bill Carlisle, the cast sang the great Grandpa Jones song, "Falling Leaves." I can remember all of the performers holding pieces of paper with the words of the song. It was a fitting tribute to this great entertainer.

I find it sad that within the words that were printed in the program that night, we these that were in the last paragraph: "But while we will miss his presence, Grandpa's distinctive old time music, humor and spirit will forever be a part of this show." Can we really say that today? Nobody plays Grandpa's style of music any longer. We still have Mike Snider on the banjo, but that is it. Mike might be the last in the string of banjo players and comedians to be a part of the Opry. But, Grandpa's style of music no longer fits in with today's Opry.

As a rememberance to Grandpa Jones, here is the line-up from the first show on Saturday night, February 21, 1998, when the Opry dedicated the show to the memory of Grandpa Jones. The tribute on stage took place during the 8:00 segment.

6:30: GHS Strings
Bill Anderson(host)
Skeeter Davis

6:45: Jogging In A Jug
Jimmy Dickens(host)
Bill Carlisle

7:00: Shoney's
Johnny Russell(host)
Charlie Louvin
Jimmy C. Newman
Stonewall Jackson
Jeanne Pruett

7:30: Standard Candy (televised)
Lorrie Morgan(host)
Leroy Van Dyke
Jim & Jesse
Jeannie Seely
Vince Gill

8:00: Martha White
Porter Wagoner(host)
Oswald & Charlie
Jack Greene
The Whites
Opry Squaredance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers

8:30: Clifty Farms Country Meats
Ricky Skaggs(host)
Jim Ed Brown
Riders In The Sky
Mike Snider
The 4 Guys

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blake Shelton--New Opry Member Induction This Saturday/ Potential New Members?

This Saturday night October October 23, Blake Shelton will become the Grand Ole Opry's newest member. With Blake, the Grand Ole Opry will have 67 members. It is always a risky prediction as to what kind of member Blake will be, but if recent history holds true, he will fulfill the current membership requirements at the Opry. Currently, the Opry asks its new members to commit to 10 appearances per year. While I would have prefered someone else, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to see how he will do.

It's funny who Pete Fisher and the Opry will invite as members. Blake is a good example. He started out in country music as one of the new young artists and had a string of hits. Then his career fell back and after a period of time, it has resurged, thanks in part to some clever marketing and promotion by his record company. For the majority of his career, he rarely played the Opry. Then in the past year, he has started to appear on the Opry, has lunch with Steve Buchanan, and then tweets about how great the Opry is and how he would love to be a member. And guess what? He gets invited to be a member.

Now that Blake will be the newest member, the question starts on who could be the next Opry member.

Let's start off with a bit of history and review those who have become an Opry member since Pete Fisher became the Opry's General Manager in June 1999:

1/15/2000: Ralph Stanley
8/26/2000: Pam Tillis
2/17/2001: Brad Paisley
8/23/2003: Trace Adkins
10/23/2003: Del McCoury
6/12/2004: Terri Clark
10/1/2005: Dierks Bentley
6/09/2007: Mel Tillis
10/27/2007: Josh Turner
1/19/2008: Charlie Daniels
5/10/2008: Carrie Underwood
10/25/2008: Craig Morgan
6/23/2009: Montgomery Gentry
10/22/2010: Blake Shelton

It's hard to believe that 14 of the Opry's 67 members have joined since Pete Fisher has been in charge. Also, you can see that members have been added on a fairly regular basis, although it will have been a year and four months between Montgomery Gentry and Blake Shelton. And, if you look at the members that Pete has added, it is pretty varied:

10 have been male acts
3 have been female
1 is a duet

2 are bluegrass
2 were veteran male singers
1 was a veteran female artist
The rest were at the top of their careers

Who could be the next Opry member? If you look at some of the Opry's recent guest artists, sometimes there is a clue there. Among those who have been on the show on a semi-regular basis over the past couple of years are Gene Watson, Crystal Gayle, Oak Ridge Boys, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Mandy Barnett, Lee Greenwood, Rhonda Vincent and Dailey & Vincent.

Out of that group, more than a few would make great Opry members. There is a lot of sentiment for Gene Watson, but I am afraid that with his career mostly behind him that he will continue to be a regular guest artist. I have heard that Lee Greenwood and the Oak Ridge Boys have been asked to join over the years, and have declined. Rhonda Vincent has been highly speculated and I honestly do not know why she has not been asked. I have been told that if she were to be approached, that she would love to join. But, perhaps it is her association with Martha White that is holding her back.

Finally we come to Dailey & Vincent, which would be my guess on who would be asked next to join the Opry. First, they are a bluegrass act and it has been since Del McCoury joined the Opry in 2003 that a bluegrass act has joined. And, if you look at the current line-up of bluegrass on the Opry roster, there is cause for alarm. Ralph Stanley and Jesse McReynolds are both over 80. Bobby Osborne is getting close. Alison Krauss is missing in action. In a few years, Del McCoury and Ricky Skaggs could potentially be the only bluegrass acts at the Opry, with the occasional bluegrass number by Marty Stuart or Vince Gill.

Secondly, Dailey & Vincent are the hotest thing in bluegrass right now, and have been since they got together three years ago. The have been the IBMA Entertainers of the Year for 3 years running. Their sound is innovative. And, I believe with Darrin Vincent's past association with Ricky Skaggs, that could work in their favor.

Finally, they play the Opry and I believe that they understand the history of bluegrass at the Opry. And, I believe that they respect the Opry's history and tradition.

Nobody knows for sure where the next Opry member will come from, or when. I have no inside information on this one, it is purely my guess and opinion. But, I like Dailey & Vincent would receive lots of consideration to join the Opry.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 10/19

The line-up has been posted for this week's Tuesday Night Opry:

7:00: Jimmy C. Newman; Josh Tompson
7:30: Jean Shepard; Diamond Rio
8:15: George Hamilton IV; George Jones
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Charlie Daniels Band

Obviously, the highlight this week is the return of George Jones to the Opry stage. This will be his 2nd Opry appearance in 2010. Believe it or not, his 2 appearances so far this year (counting this Tuesday) will actually be double the number of appearances that he had in 2009, when he appeared at the Opry only once.

Over the last decade, George's Opry appearances have been shaky at best. 2006 was his highpoint as he appeared on 6 times at the Opry, followed by 7 times in 2007, 3 times in 2002 and once each year in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008. In 2000, he did not appear at all.

In contrast to George, Charlie Daniels, who is one of the Opry's newest members, has been very supportive of the show. He joined the Opry in 2008, and appeared at the Opry 15 times that year. In 2009, he was on 13 times, and so far this year, 9 times. And, that was with Charlie having some health issues earlier this year.

We get into the habit of complaining about the number of appearances by many of the Opry's younger members. But, it is also some of the Opry's older veterans that fall into that same category. Among those veterans who are still active, yet have appeared at the Opry very little over the years are Tom T. Hall, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap and Dolly Parton. And, the thing with each of these artists is that they all live in the general Nashville area.

Yes, they are in the twilight of their careers, but their support of the Opry is still needed. They all are still popular and draw fans. And, they could be setting an example for the Opry's younger members.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 10/15 & 10/16

The Grand Ole Opry has posted this weekend's line ups. There is 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. The Friday Night Opry is the Opry's 2nd annual "Opry Goes Pink" as the Opry honors and salutes breast cancer awareness. The Opry backdrop will be pink for the night and the show will feature a performance by The Judds.

7:00: Marty Stuart(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Connie Smith
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jean Shepard; John Anderson
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Joey+Rory
8:45: Mike Snider(host); The Judds

The Saturday Night Grand Ole Opry will feature a performance on the first show by long-lost Opry member Randy Travis. Randy's last Opry appearance was on Saturday night November 8, 2008, when he performed on both shows. This was also the night Kevin Costner made his Opry debut. Also in 2008, Randy appeared as a suprise guest on the Opry on March 15, when he invited Carrie Underwood to become an Opry member. Prior to 2008, his last Opry appearance was in 2001, when he appeared on the show 2 times.

Saturday night's show will also feature Jimmy Wayne, who will be at the Opry for the 2nd week in a row. Holly Williams will also be appearing, along with Eamonn McCrystal. I had to look that one up, as to be honest, I had never heard of him before so I looked him up. It looks like he is connected to Randy Travis, because on his website it mentions that he opened for Randy on his Ireland tour in 2009. He appears to be making personal appearances and is working on a new album. And, he is signed with Elizabeth Travis's Management Group. So, he sounds like a younger talent that Randy is trying to bring along. That would appear why he is appearing with Randy on the first show, but is not on the 2nd show. I am guessing that he was booked on the Opry as a package deal with Randy, to expose him to a bigger audience.

First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Holly Williams
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jeannie Seely; The Whites; James Wesley
8:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jim Ed Brown; Jimmy Wayne; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Eamonn McCrystal; Randy Travis

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Holly Williams
10:00: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; The Whites
10:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Stonewall Jackson; James Wesley; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jim Ed Brown; Jimmy Wayne

Same order of segment hosts for each show. Leona Williams will be the host for this week's Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, taping at 10:00pm.

Finally, I did forget to mention that the Opry has a new picture history book out, highlighting the Opry's 85th birthday. I think the book is much better than some of the recent efforts as more has been added. All the Opry members are pictured, as you would expect, and some of the pictures have been updated. The Opry's history is covered more than in the past books, with more historical events noted. There is a list of Opry members by the decade, a couple of pages on WSM radio, and of course, a section on the flood. The is also the usual behind the scenes pictures featuring the Opry staff and various Opry departments. All in all, not a bad effort.

I did notice in the book there is one change. They have changed the date that George Jones became an Opry member from March 31, 1973 to August 11, 1956 and he is now listed as one of those who have been an Opry member for longer than 50 years. Interesting!! For years and years, they have used the 1969 date as George's induction date, as that is the date he returned to the Opry after being gone for a number of years, much like Jimmy Dickens. I don't know why they decided to change his induction date and as far as I know, there has been no public recognition given to George regarding him being a 50 year member. Either way, congratulations to George. It would be nice if he did the Opry more often.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 10/12 & Opry Country Classics 10/14

The line-up has been posted for this week's Tuesday Night Opry, which will take place at the Grand Ole Opry House. There is some good variety on this show with Opry Hall of Famers Bill Anderson and Jimmy Dickens, young talent with Chris Young and bluegrass with The Grascals.

7:00: John Conlee; Mandy Barnett
7:30: Jim Ed Brown; Chris Young
8:15: Bill Anderson; The Grascals
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Darryl Worley

Opry Country Classics on Thursday night will take place at the Ryman Auditorium. The host this week will be Larry Gatlin, and he will be joined on the show by his brothers. After not having a spotlight artist last week, this week Steve Wariner will be the featured artist.

Host: Larry Gatlin
Spotlight Artist: Steve Wariner
Also Appearing: Elizabeth Cook; Gail Davies; The Gatlin Brothers; Chris Scruggs; The Whites; Wilson Fairchild

Monday, October 11, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Birthday Weekend Wrap-Up & Observations

I spent this last weekend in Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry's 85th birthday celebration. First, before I give my observations and recap of the weekend, I want to say how happy I was to meet several of my readers and I thank them for the visit. I always enjoy talking Grand Ole Opry with people who have the same views regarding the show as I do. I appreciate all of you reading my blog and I hope you continue to do so, and please tell your friends and leave your comments. I enjoy reading them and responding to them. And, I take no offense at anything left.

Now for the birthday weekend. I attended the Opry Country Classics show at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday night. Overall, it was a very good show. The host was Bill Cody, the morning man on WSM radio and he did a great job, keeping the show moving along. Eddie Stubbs was the announcer and introduced the show and handled the commercials. Wade Hayes was the first artist and if you remember, he had a couple of hits a decade or so ago. He did 2 classic numbers, including "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" He did an excellent job. He was followed by Eddy Raven, who did 3 of his hits from the 80's. He was also the subject of the "3 questions" segment, where Bill Cody asked him 3 questions about his career. Eddy was followed by a newcomer, Bradley Gaskin, who was making his first Opry appearance. He opened with a Keith Whitley song and then I think he finished with a Lefty number. After his first song he was overcome with emotion at being on the Opry for the first time and actually broke down. John Rich and Paul Overstreet were in the audience, and they are working with him on his new album. He also had numerous family members present. Lynn Anderson was the last act before intermission and she was great. She started with "Rose Garden", then followed up with "Cry" and finished with "Rocky Top." She was well received and looked and sounded great. Then it was intermission. I was very impressed as during the intermission Lynn sat at the edge of the stage and signed autographs and posed for pictures with those attending. Bradley also came out and did the same and Eddie Stubbs and Bill Cody were also signing for people. It was a nice personal touch to the show. After the intermission, Johnny Lee was first out and he did 3 songs including "Looking For Love". He also looked and sounded great and Wade Hayes did some guitar for him. Then Wade did another song and then it was time for the last act of the show, Gene Watson. He was also very good and did 3 songs, finishing with his super hit, "Farewell Party". The show lasted about 2 hours and like I said, it was very good.

Now, I do have a couple of concerns. First, the attendance had the Ryman about a third full, at best. The lower level was filled in the middle and had a few on the wings. In the balcony, there was just a scattering of people. I know from attending last year, that the attendance has not really improved. I don't know how long Gaylord can keep this show going without better support. Also, for a show like this, the ticket prices are a bit high. The top seat was $54.00 and that is just too much for a show like this. I think a price cut is in order. Also, I had made the comment earlier about no Opry members on an Opry sponsored show. We'll, also Thursday night was the R.O.P.E. show in Nashville and it was their annual awards show. Bill Anderson and Charlie Louvin took top honors as the entertainers of the year. Jack Greene was also honored and Moe Bandy was the featured performer. Many Opry members were at that show/dinner, which may explain why they were not at the Ryman that night.

Friday night, I attended the Friday Night Opry. It was a pretty good crowd, with the lower level pretty much full and the balcony about half. And, it was a good show. The first segment had Mike Snider, The Whites and a newcomer making his first Opry appearance, Craig Campbell. I sat in the row in front of his wife, mom and other family members, and they were talking about how proud they were of Craig. He did fine, but like a lot of the younger perfomers today, there was really nothing special about him. The next segment was hosted by George Hamilton IV, with Bobby Osborne, Crystal Gayle, and a suprise guest, Charles Osgood, the newsman from CBS. Charles came on after Bobby did "Rocky Top", and I thought he was just going to announce, but he did 2 songs, singing and playing the piano. The 2 songs were "Side By Side" and "You Are My Sunshine." And you know what? He was pretty good and the audience enjoyed him. Crystal Gayle was great and there is no reason why she is not an Opry member. She did 2 songs including, "I Still Miss Someone". They were running over on the segment because of Charles Osgood, so no 2nd song from George. Then came that horrible intermission. As with most shows I have been at, most of those attending stayed in their seats or in the general area of their seats, just talking and killing time until the show restarted. It just kills the flow of the show.

After intermission, Bill Anderson was out, with Connie Smith and Jimmy Wayne. It was kind of funny that both Bill and Connie forgot the words to one of their songs. That rarely happens to Connie. Jimmy Wayne was good and Bill have him a good introduction, talking about his walk for hunger, which was nice. I think Jimmy would also make a good Opry member someday. The final segment on Friday night was hosted by Roy Clark. He sounded real good, much better than the last time I saw him. But, he was hunched over and had difficulty walking. Other than that, he looked fine physically and he played a great guitar. Stu Phillips was out next for 1 number, and he was a little hoarse in spots, which he has been the last several times out. Joe Diffie finished with 2 songs and was well received by the audience. Then the birthday cake came out, which is a new, rebuilt cake. It looked a little better than the older one, which I am guessing got damaged in the flood. Overall, a good Friday Night Opry.

I attended both shows on Saturday night. The first show lasted exactly the time scheduled and started off with Jim Ed Brown, Connie Smith, Jimmy C. Newman and Del McCoury. Jim Ed has some mic problems during his segment and Jimmy C. is starting to show his age a bit. Del was excellent as was his band. The 2nd segment with Mike Snider as host, had Sunny Sweeney, Jack Greene and Trace Adkins. Sunny was fine for her one song, and was also performing outside the Opry House before both shows. Jack was awesome with "Statue Of A Fool", but it looked like he was having eyesite problems, as he was kind of being led off the stage. Trace Adkins had a big crowd down front and I enjoyed him. He is a good Opry member. Roy Clark had the next segment and his only guest, besides the Square Dancers, was Taylor Swift. Before the show, they were passing out Taylor Swift glow sticks, so that tells you what the younger fans were doing when she came out. She had a huge rush of people at the stage for her and did 3 songs. I have to tell you, I am not a big Taylor Swift fan, but she was great and had nice things to say about the Opry. Very good segment. Bill Anderson and Dolly Parton finished off the show. Dolly was outstanding, doing 3 songs, "Jolene", "I Will Always Love You", which she dedicated to Porter Wagoner and said many kind words about Porter, and finished with "9 To 5", which got her an encore. The the cake came out and only several Opry members were out with it. I thought I saw Dolly, Trace Adkins and I did see Mel McDaniel come out with the cake. He was the only performer who was not on the line-up who came out. Mel did not sing, but stood by the cake. The Opry House was sold out, with standing room only. It was a very good show.

The 2nd show was also sold-out. The only complaints I heard between shows was that people had only 15 minutes to get it, which is pushing it when you have almost 5,000 people attending. They did open the balcony doors and allowed those who had tickets upstairs to enter that way. The 2nd show was just as good as the first, with Jim Ed Brown, The Whites, Ray Pillow and Del McCoury on the opening segment. Ray did, "Cinderella", and looked and sounded very good. George Hamilton IV did the 2nd segment, with Jan Howard, T. Bubba Bechtol and Trace Adkins. Jan was very good, Bubba was very funny and Trace repeated the same 2 songs as the first show. The next segement featured Taylor Swift and she also did the same 3 songs and in fact, said the same thing between each song as she did on the first show. The final segment with Dolly, who wore a different outfit from the first show, was also great. She did "Coat Of Many Colors" on the 2nd show. The cake again came out, with Jan Howard coming out with the cake. The 2nd show ran about 20 minutes over. Again, it was a fine show, with lots of enthusiasm from the audience.

I did go backstage and toured the Opry House on Saturday. The backstage area is great, with historic pictures on all the walls, great looking and furnished dressing rooms and a couple of historical displays, including Roy Acuff's fiddle. If you get a chance, the Tennessean on line has a huge number of pictures that can do more justice than I can trying to expain it. For those of you who have been to the Opry House before, you will know what I am talking about. For those who have not, I will try to explain. In the lobby, there used to be pictures, including large black & white photos of classic Opry members, including Red Foley, Patsy Cline, Bill Monore, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow and a few others. Those are all gone and the walls are basically bare. I was told that the pictures will go back up eventually, but we will see. The lobby area was very bare. Nothing was in it except for the concessions. The ticket office and the gift shop have been remodeled.

Finally, regarding inside the Opry House, the sound system seems much better, the video presentation is much sharper, with different camera angles being used, and they have updated the opening video that is shown to the audience, with Carrie Underwood now as the featured artist in the video. The updated version includes the flood the ending segment of the 10 minute film is devoted to the circle being restored and being placed back on stage. The ending of the video leads right into the Opry and leaves you with an emotional feeling about the circle. Nicely done.

Outside the Opry House, the old Hee-Haw gift shop/restrooms/ticket office (the building had various uses over the years), is gone. Also torn down is the Gaslight Theater, where Ralph Emery did "Nashville Now." Also gone is the old building that at one time had the Roy Acuff exhibits, and also gone is the old Minnie Pearl museum, that more recently was the WSM offices.

Regarding the Opry Museum. The building is still there and I had a look inside. It is completely empty and is being used for storage. I talked to a person from Gaylord who just happened to be working at the museum on Friday, and he told me that everything that was in the building is safe and not damaged. That is great news. I was fearing the worst, but he told me that the water in the museum only got to be about a foot deep and most of the items were out before the flood got to that building. He also said that the only things that did get wet were the wheels of the cars that were on the floor. He said that they are still deciding what to do about the museum. The options that are being considered are to repair the building and reopen, to scrape the building and build a new one, to remodel the current building, or to rebuild the museum in a different spot, and he pointed over to where the old Roy Acuff/Minie Pearl buildings were. That would be a great location as it would be in an area that is more of a high traffic area.

The Acuff Theater is still there, but the building is empty and is just being used for storge. Also, the Opry area is fenced in because of the mall being closed. You are only allowed to park in one area and there were traffic jams both nights getting out. But, I will say, that they did have people in the parking lots, directing traffic in and out, and directing where to park.

Finally, the mall is still closed, with only Bass Pro Shops opened. And, their area is also fenced in. I talked to a few people who believe that the mall will never reopen because of the cost involved and the fact that a few of the merchants have already relocated to other areas. Without that mall, the Opry area is going to seem like a ghost town come winter. Gaylord Opryland is scheduled to reopen on November 15.

That is my recap. I will add some more comments as I review my notes, but it was a great weekend and it was great that the Opry is back at the Opry House. (At least until November).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 10/8 & 10/9--85th Birthday Celebration

The Grand Ole Opry will be celebrating its 85th anniversary this weekend with 3 shows, 1 on Friday night and 2 on Saturday night. I know that the birthday celebration started years ago, but one of the things that I still do not understand is why the Grand Ole Opry does not celebrate its anniversary on its acutal date in November? And, I am old enough to remember when the birthday weekend was a "must" for just about every Opry member. However, that seems the case no longer.

On Friday night, there are 12 artists on the show, of which 9 are Opry members. On Saturday night, there are a total of 17 different artists over the 2 shows, of which 13 are Opry members. With soon to be 67 Opry members, that is a pitiful number. Many artists that have traditionally done the birthday weekend, including Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, John Conlee, Jesse McReynolds among others, are either out touring or have elected not to do the Opry on this night. Even such Opry veterans as Jimmy Dickens, Jeannie Seely and Jean Shepard will not be there this weekend. I know Jimmy and Jeannie have a show date this weekend. Not sure about Jean.

The other item that bothers me when looking at the schedule, is that on both Saturday night shows, they have 12 acts in the first hour of the show, in traditional segments, but only 4 for the last hour, with just 2 per each segment. Granted those last 2 segments feature Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton, but I would have liked to see several more artists for the show.

The first show on Saturday is a virtual sellout, with just single balcony seats left. The tickets for the 2nd Saturday show are also going very fast and I would expect that show to be close to a sellout also. I know that there are some prime tickets that are being sold as part of packages, and those will be released closer to show time.

Even with the star power for the last hour of each show, there will be no televised Opry this weekend on GAC. The grand opening of the Opry House was one of those special events regarding the Opry that GAC will televise, but there is still no news regarding the Opry returning to television. I still wish that the Opry would add live video streaming of their shows on the Opry website. I am sure that most people would pay a small price to be able to see Opry shows, at least once in a while. Hopefully that is on the table as the Opry continues to update their website and computer applications.

Now, here are the line-ups for this weekend:

Friday October 8
7:00: Mike Snider(host); The Whites; Craig Campbell
7:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Crystal Gayle
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Roy Clark(host); Stu Phillips; Joe Diffie

Saturday October 9
First Show
7:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Connie Smith; Jimmy C. Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Sunny Sweeney; Jack Greene; Trace Adkins
8:00: Roy Clark(host); Taylor Swift; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Dolly Parton

Second Show
9:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); The Whites; Ray Pillow; Del McCoury Band
10:00: George Hamilton IV(host); Jan Howard; T. Bubba Bechtol; Trace Adkins
10:30: Roy Clark(host); Taylor Swift; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Dolly Parton

I am sure they will do the birthday cake over the final segment and with the limited guests the final hour, at least you can say that the show will come in on time.

I will be enjoying this weekend at the Opry and will have a full report next week.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tuesday Night Opry 10/5 & Opry Country Classics 10/7

Here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, October 5 at the Grand Ole Opry House

7:00: The Whites; James Otto
7:30: Jack Greene; Quebe Sisters Band
8:15: Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Lee Brice
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Josh Turner

Here is the line-up for Opry Country Classics, October 7 at the Ryman Auditorium

Host: Bill Cody
Artists Appearing: Lynn Anderson; Bradley Gaskin; Wade Hayes; Johnny Lee; Eddy Raven; Gene Watson.

Amazing that we have an Opry show, with no Opry members present!!!!! How can that be? And, no spotlight artist or theme. I will be at this show and will offer a report on how this series of shows is doing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October Opry Highlights

October has been a pretty active month in the history of the Grand Ole Opry. It is the month that the Opry's birthday celebration has been traditionally held and it was also the month that the CMA Awards were held, which included the Hall of Fame announcements, which many times involved Opry members. Let's take our usual look at the history of the Opry, this time during the month of October.

A number of Opry members will be celebrating Opry anniversaries this month:

Dierks Bentley became an Opry member on October 1, 2005 (5 years).
Garth Brooks joined the Opry on October 6, 1990 (20 years).
Del McCoury became an Opry member on October 25, 2003 (7 years).
Craig Morgan became an Opry member on October 25, 2008 (2 years).
Josh Turner joined the Opry on October 27, 2007 (3 years).

I find it very hard to believe that Garth has been an Opry member for 20 years. I also find it hard to believe that he has said many times that being asked to join the Grand Ole Opry is the highest honor he has received in country music, yet he continues to appear at the Opry very little. Garth was first introduced on the Opry by Johnny Russell and over the years would always insist that he be on Johnny's portion of the Opry when he appeared. Johnny was also the performer who actually inducted Garth into the Opry. Another interesting note from the night of Garth's induction was that it was the first night that Alan Jackson sang on the Opry.

Now for the historical and important events in Opry history during October:

October 5, 1925, WSM begins broadcasting in Nashville, Tennesee.

October 14, 1939, the NBC radio network begins carrying a half-hour segment of the Opry, hosted by Roy Acuff and sponsored by Prince Albert Tobacco. At first, the Opry is only offered on a regional network, but within a few years, would be offered on the entire NBC national network, facilitating even greater growth for the Opry. Over the years, the Prince Albert portion would become the most prestigious of the Opry's segments, attracting the greatest guests. Over time, Roy Acuff would leave the Opry and Red Foley would become the host of this segment. After he later left the Opry, the Opry used rotating hosts for this segment.

October 28, 1939, Bill Monore joined the Opry. In a very famous quote, George D. Hay told Bill that if he ever wanted to leave the Opry, he would have to retire himself. He would remain an Opry member until his death on September 9, 1996.

October 2, 1954, Elvis Presley made his only appearance on the Opry. He, of course, sang Bill Monore's "Blue Moon of Kentucky". When Elvis recorded and sang the song, he took what had been a waltz and sang itin a much faster time. Bill was so impressed with Elvis's version of the song that he went back into the studio and recorded the song the same way. When asked about Elvis's recording of his song, Bill always had positive comments for him, saying that if it helped the boy he was fine with it. Bill also said that the royalty checks that he received for Elvis's recordings of that song were, "very powerful."

October 15, 1960, Loretta Lynn made her first appearance on the Opry. Loretta would later write about the experience, "Ernest Tubb was the one who introduced me. I was on the Pet Milk part of the show. And I bought this dress to wear-it was real thin and had big puffed sleeves. It was kinda like a party dress. Lester Wilburn's wife cut my hair and got me ready for my first time on the Grand Ole Opry. I remember going out on the stage and I remember tapping my foot. I was so scared I don't remember anything else." The song she sang was, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." She would later join the Opry on September 25, 1962. This year, Loretta is celebrating her 50th year in the music business in Nashville.

October 27, 1962, Sonny James joined the Opry. He would remain a member for just a short amount of time.

October 1967, Del Reeves joined the Grand Ole Opry. One of the great stories is that after Porter Wagoner introduced Del as the Opry's newest member, he burst into tears and could only sing the chorus and the end of his song. In my opinion, Del is one of the underappreciated stars in country music. Over his career, he had 9 #1 hits and was also famous for his impressions of various country and Hollywood stars. It's sad to say that in Del's final years, he was used very little on the Opry and was one of the artists who publicly voiced his dissatisfaction with the booking being done by Opry General Manager Pete Fisher. His last Opry appearance was in August of 2002, and Del would die on January 1, 2007. An argument can be made that Del deserves to be a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

October 14, 1989, Holly Dunn became an Opry member. She would remain an Opry member until leaving the music business in the late 2000's.

October 19, 1991, Grant Turner died. Grant was the Opry's main announcer since 1944 and he was still an Opry announcer until he died. In fact, he had just finished announcing the Friday Night Opry prior to passing away. Grant is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

October 24, 1991, Gaylord Entertainment Company is listed on the New York Stock exchange and offers its stock to the general public. Many people point to this event as the time that the Opry really started to change, with a much greater emphasis on the bottom line, since there were now stockholders to answer to who wanted a return on their investment.

October 23, 1992, Roy Acuff makes his final appearance on the stage of the Opry. This was the Friday night Opry, and his last Saturday appearance was actually during the Opry's birthday weekend the week before. I can remember sitting in the Opry House during that first show and being overcomed with emotion when Bill Anderson had Roy join him on that great song, "I Wonder If God Likes Country Music." There were tears flowing everywhere after that song and many in the Opry House knew that they were probably seeing Roy for the last time. He would die a month later.