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.