This weekend, 3 Grand Ole Opry members will be celebrating birthdays. On Saturday November 20, Dierks Bentley will be celebrating his 35th birthday. Dierks was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Since he started his recording career, he has had 14 songs that have made the charts, including 7 #1 hits. When Dierks first came to Nashville, he worked for the Nashville Network and would hang out backstage at the Opry. He first played on the Opry in April 2003 and became an Opry member on October 1, 2005. Since joining the Opry. Dierks has been somewhat on the low end of fulfilling is Opry commitment. In the partial year that he joined in 2005, he appeared on the show 4 times. In 2006, he was up to 8 appearances, followed by 9 in 2007, and then down to 4 in 2008, 5 in 2009, and so far in 2010, 6 times on the Opry.
Here is the line-up from October 1, 2005, which was the night that Dierks Bentley became an Opry member. He was inducted on the televised segment, with Marty Stuart as the host and handling the induction.
6:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Billy Walker; Jimmy C. Newman
7:00: Marty Stuart(host); Chely Wright; Chris Cagle; Dierks Bentley
8:00: Porter Wagoner(host); John Conlee; Jim Ed Brown w/Helen Cornelius; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); T. Bubba Bechtol; Osborne Brothers
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Mel McDaniel; Jeannie Seely; Chely Wright
10:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Jan Howard; John Conlee; Chris Cagle
10:30: Marty Stuart(host); Stonewall Jackson; Connie Smith; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jack Greene; Dierks Bentley
11:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Helen Cornelius; T. Bubba Bechtol; Osborne Brothers
Also on Saturday, Josh Turner will be celebrating his 33rd birthday. Josh first appeared on the Opry on December 21, 2001, singing the song that would become his first hit record, "Long Black Train." Josh made numerous Opry appearances and on September 29, 2007, he was asked by Roy Clark to become the Opry's newest member. His official Opry induction took place on October 27, 2007. Since joining the Opry, Josh was pretty steady in his Opry appearances in his first two years as an Opry member. In 2007, he made 12 appearances on the Opry, followed by 11 in 2008. But in 2009, he dropped down to 7 appearances and so far in 2010, 6 appearances.
For Josh's birthday, I would like to post the line-up from Friday December 21, 2001, when he made his first appearance on the Opry.
7:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Osborne Brothers; Clark Family Experience
8:00: Jean Shepard(host); Bill Carlisle; Jeannie Seely; Mike Snider
8:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jim & Jesse; Stu Phillips; Dale Watson
9:00: Bill Anderson(host); Josh Turner; Jan Howard; Brad Paisley
9:30: Ricky Skaggs(host); The Whites; Mel McDaniel; Phil Vassar
Finally, on Sunday November 21, one of the Opry's great legends will be celebrating her 77th birthday. Jean Shepard was born in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. In her great career, she has had 44 singles that have made the country music charts. She was married to Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died in the plane crash that claimed country music Hall of Famer Patsy Cline. She later married Benny Birchfield, who plays guitar for her at the Opry. (In fact, her wedding date is also November 21). For a time she was the president of the Association of Country Entertainers, that was formed in the 1970's, in response to the pop sounds that was dominating country music at the time.
Not only is November 21 Jeans birthday, it is also the date that Jean joined the Opry in 1955. In terms of consecutive years as an Opry member, Jean is only trailing Charlie Louvin, who joined the Opry earlier in 1955. (Jimmy Dickens joined in 1948, but left for a number of years). When Jean reached her 50th anniversary as an Opry member, she became the first female singer in the Opry's history to reach that milestone. Jean tells the story about the announcement on her becoming an Opry member. "Jim Denny (then the Opry's manager), was making some announcements to the DJs (during the annual disc jockey convention) and the media, and he said, 'By the way, we would like to welcome the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Shepard. Happy birthday Jean.' And what a thrill."
In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, one of the great injustices in country music history is the fact that Jean has not been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. She was a pioneering female in the history of country music, in fact having the first million selling record by a female artist after World War II. She became a star in a male dominated business and set the stage for the later success of Kitty Wells and many others. Some people feel one of the reasons she has not been elected is that she has been very outspoken in her views and opinions over the years regarding country music (the same thing happened to Porter Wagoner). Another fact that hurts her getting elected is the age of many of the voters, many of which are much younger than she is and do not know her as a million seller recording artist, but instead as "the elderly lady who plays the Opry every week." Hopefully, this injustice will be corrected while Jean is still healthy enough to enjoy the honor.
In honor of Jean Shepard, I would like to post the Opry line-up from Saturday November 26, 2005, when Jean was honored by Pete Fisher on her 50th anniversary as an Opry member. In another bit of injustice to Jean, the Opry on that Saturday night was not televised and even on the televised show the following week, Jean was not honored for her accomplishment.
6:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Osborne Brothers; Danielle Peck
7:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Mel McDaniel; Restless Heart
7:30: Hal Ketchum(host); Jean Shepard; Shannon Brown
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Billy Walker; Cherryholmes; Opry Square Dance Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Jack Greene; Marty Stuart
This Saturday night, Jean will be the host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, where she will be honored for her 55th anniversary as an Opry member, her birthday, and her wedding anniversary. Hopefully, the Opry will have some special mention for her as she will be on the first show on Saturday night.