Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 12/30 & 12/31--Updated

Update: Jack Greene has cancelled out for the Friday Night Opry. No replacement for him.

getting into the line ups for the final 2 Grand Ole Opry shows in 2011, I wanted to write a few words on the situation regarding Carol Lee Cooper and some of the rumors and questions that are out there regarding her situation and the Opry.

As most of you are aware of, Carol Lee has not been on the Opry since March. While I do not want to get into the reasons for her not being on, what I can tell you, and it has been confirmed by several others, is that it was for a legitimate health related issue. Over the past several months, whenever I or someone else asked about the status of Carol Lee, it was the same answer and nobody would say anything else or go on the record of saying anything.

Several weeks back, I received an email from one of my readers saying that he saw on another internet site that Carol Lee Cooper had been fired from the Opry. That was news to me so I started doing some research. I found the message board that this was posted on, and I found it to be suspect as the way it was written it did not make sense. I then emailed or called at least a half dozen of my sources and friends that I have in the music community who usually know what is going on at the Opry. The answer from each of them was that they had not heard a thing regarding Carol Lee, and 2 of these people I asked are journalists who I think would know, or would report it if they knew. But, I will say that at least 1 of them did check with their Opry sources and they were told there was nothing new to report regarding Carol Lee. Another person that I asked is backstage almost every weekend and they had not heard anything.

The internet message board said that Carol Lee was fired from the Opry in mid-September, right around the time that her mother Wilma Lee Cooper passed away. The reason I discount this report is for a couple of reasons. First, even on the Opry several weeks ago, a few of the entertainers, including Jim Ed Brown, were still referring to the back up singers as the Carol Lee Singers. Second, in the latest edition of the Opry Picture History Book, which was published in October, Carol Lee is still pictured with the Carol Lee Singers. And this edition had already taken out her mother and Billy Grammer and had already added Rascal Flatts, so it was up to date. Third, after the firing of the 4 Guys and the Opry Staff Band members several years back and the big publicity it created, I can't believe Pete Fisher would go that route again. I know that Pete is a tough businessman, but even I can't believe that he would fire someone at the same time that their mother passed away. And I do know that Carol Lee was backstage at the Opry the Saturday night of the tribute to her mother. Finally, a check of Carol Lee's website has nothing unusual on it.

Now even with all that, could something be up regarding Carol Lee Cooper and the Opry? I think so. Just the fact that nobody, and I mean nobody, will go on the record or say anything publicly, is a red flag to me. Also, while there are some who still refer to the back up singers as the Carol Lee Singers, I have also heard others call them the Opry Singers. And finally, this issue that has kept Carol Lee off the Opry has seem to have been going on for a long time now, over 9 months.

It would not surprise me at all if we have seen the last of Carol Lee Cooper on the Opry. I hope I am wrong. I keep asking and if I receive anything new, I will certainly report it. But at the least, it is a mysterious situation.

Now regarding the Opry this weekend, since it is the show closest to January 1st, which was the date that Hank Williams died, his daughter Jett Williams will be on the Opry, as she is every year around this time. I know that the Opry has had an open invitation to Hank Williams, Jr to appear, but that has happened only once in recent memory. And of course Hank Williams III, who has appeared on the Opry previously around January 1st, will not be getting an invitation anytime soon to appear at the Opry, for obvious reasons.

Also appearing on the Opry this weekend will be 4 non-Opry members who have appeared on the Opry more times this past year than a majority of the actual Opry members and those 4 are Mandy Barnett, Jimmy Wayne, Restless Heart and Dailey & Vincent. It would finish out the year in a fine way if one of those would receive an invitation to join the Opry

Here are the line ups for this weekend:

Friday December 30
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jeannie Seely; Craig Morgan
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mandy Barnett
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Restless Heart

Saturday December 31
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jett Williams
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jan Howard; George Hamilton IV; Mandy Barnett
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Jimmy Wayne; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee (host); Jim Ed Brown; Dailey & Vincent

This week's Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be hosted by Jett Williams. After this week, the Midnight Jamboree goes with taped archive shows until March as the attendance and out of town folks coming to Nashville really drops during the winter months.

If I don't post again before the end of the year, Happy New Year to everyone.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers

It was on Christmas day in 1976, that Larry, Steve and Rudy, the Gatlin Brothers, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. Here is a short biography of brothers:

Raised in a musical family, the Gatlin Brothers were joined by their sister LaDonna, who sang on several Gatlin albums through 1976. The boys and their sister grew up on the gospel harmonies of the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen Quartet. The brothers first performed in public at the 1954 Gavalcade of Talent at Hardin-Simmons University when Larry was six, Steve was four, and Rudy was two. They later sang on Abilene radio and had an Abilene TV series.

Larry won a football scholarship to the University of Houston, where he majored in English and studied law. He later worked various jobs and sang with the gospel group the Imperials. While touring with the Imperials in 1972, he met Dottie West in Las Vegas. After he later sent her a tape containing eight original songs, West sent him an airplane ticket to Nashville. A few months later he moved to Nashville permanently. In 1973 Larry and Rita Coolidge provided backing vocals for Kris Kristofferson's #1 record "Why Me." In the same year Larry charted for the first time with his Monument Records single "Sweet Becky Walker."

Before joining Larry, Steve and Rudy were members of Young Country, as were LaDonna and her husband Tim Johnson, which was a group that provided background vocals for Tammy Wynette. Larry's career with his brothers featured smooth country stylings and went through several name incarnations (Larry Gatlin; Larry Gatlin with Family and Friends; Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, etc.) They won a Grammy in 1976 for "Broken Lady" and reached #1 in 1977 with "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love." After switching from Monument to Columbia, they again hit #1 with "All the Gold in California." (1979) and "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)" (1983). In 1989 the Gatlins moved from Columbia to Jimmy Bowen's new Universal Records, then to Captial Records when Bowen took over the helm of that label.

Besides writing his own hits, Larry's songs have been cut by such artists as Elvis Presley, Hank Snow, Dottie West, Barbra Streisand, Charlie Rich, Johnny Mathis, the Carpenters, Judy Collins, Tom Jones, Anne Murray, and Johnny Cash.

Drug addiction led Larry to a California treatment center, where he made a recovery in 1984. He has since lectured on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. The Gatlin Brothers have performed at the invitations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.

Larry Gatlin especially, has had a very solid career as the front man of the group and as a songwriter. It would not surprise me to some day see him in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I do have a couple of impressions of the Gatlin Brothers. My first one is when I watch the Time/Life infomercials featuring country music's greatest hits, they will many times show Tammy Wynette singing, usually in a clip from Nashville Now. And in the background, you will see Rudy doing the vocals. My second is that I remember in the early 1970s when Larry was touring with Johnny Cash as his opening act. During that time period, Johnny was helping out a lot of young writers and Larry contibuted a couple of songs to the Johnny Cash album "Gospel Road."

Since joining the Grand Ole Opry on December 25, 1976, Larry has appeared many times on the Opry stage as a solo act. I know for a period of time, the group had basically broken up. They have gotten back together in recent years and have performed in Branson in additon to taking their show on the road.

To honor Larry Gatlin on his 35 years as an Opry member, here is the line up from Saturday December 25, 1976, when Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers joined the Opry.

1st show
6:00: Vietti
Bill Monroe (host): Love Come Home
Ray Pillow: Love is Slowly Coming Over Me
Marion Worth: Just a Little Lovin'
David "Lonzo" Hooten: If We Make it Through December
Bill Monroe: Bluegrass Breakdown
Ernie Ashworth: Shamrock Hotel
Bill Monroe: Mule Skinner Blues/Ashland Breakdown

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Forgive and Forget Us
Charlie Louvin: Let's Put Our World Back Together Again/A Toast to Mama/Love Has to Die All By Itself/I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow/I Want A Happy Life
Del Wood: There's A Big Wheel
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Philadelphia Lawyer

6:45: Rudy's
Ernest Tubb (host): Women Make a Fool out of Me
Skeeter Davis: Desperado
Billy Grammer: My Life's Been A Pleasure
Ernest Tubb: Another Story

7:00: Shoney's
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Minnie Pearl: Comedy/Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes
Jimmy C. Newman: Blue Lonely Winter
Stu Phillips: Have a Nice Day

7:30: Standard Candy
Porter Wagoner (host): Wake Up Jacob
Dottie West: Country Sunshine
Justin Tubb: You Nearly Lose Your Mind
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Black Mountain Rag
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus

8:00: Martha White
Lester Flatt (host): Shuckin' the Corn
Jack Greene: You Don't Need a Cowboy
Jeannie Seely: Mama Never Told Me About Cowboys
Vic Willis: Christmas Carols by the Old Corral
Lester Flatt: Corn, Corn, Corn
Bob Luman: A Satisfied Mind
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything
Lester Flatt & Charlie Nixon: Dobro Instrumental

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
The Carlisles: I've Waited Too Long
Jim & Jesse: Then I'll Stop Going For You
Fruit Jar Drinkers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Bill Cheatham
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb (host): I'll Get Along Somehow
Charlie Louvin: Sweet Texas
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Wayne Hammond: Welcome to My World
David "Lonzo" Hooten: Daddy Looked a Lot Like Santa
Billy Grammer: I Dreamed of an Old Love Affair
Ernest Tubb: Blue Christmas

10:00 Fender
Bill Monroe (host): A Beautiful Life
Ray Pillow: Gone at Last
Ernie Ashworth: My Love Will Never Change
Del Wood: My Country

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Old Time Sunshine Song
Marion Worth: Just a Little Lovin
Charlie Walker: Who'll Buy the Wine
Onie Wheeler: Old Roy

10:30: Trailblazer
Lester Flatt (host): Why Do You Wander
Jack Greene: Birmingham
Jeannie Seely: American Trilogy
Jimmy C Newman: The Potato Song
Lester Flatt & Marty Stuart: Rawhide

10:45: Beech-Nut
Porter Wagoner (host): Highway Headed South
Justin Tubb: Sweetwater Texas
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: 8th of January
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Lester, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey
Bob Luman: Blue Christmas
Vic Willis: Cool Water
Fruit Jar Drinkers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Katy Hill
Kirk McGee: Always Be Kind to Daddy
Hank Snow: Silent Night

11:30: Baltz Bros.
Marty Robbins (host): Don't Worry
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Bill Carlisle: Have a Drink on Me
Marty Robbins: El Paso City/Love Me/Among My Souveniers/Way Out There/El Paso

Talk about a great line up for a Christmas night show!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Christmas Greetings and Wishes

I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I hope that it is a blessed day for all of you. I also hope that Santa brings each of you everything you asked for. As far as the Grand Ole Opry, as I have done for the last 2 years, I have some greetings to send to them also, along with my own Christmas "wish list" for the Opry:

To Pete Fisher and Steve Buchanan, I hope for a new Opry television contract, and for RFD-TV, I hope you are the ones to get it. I also hope that you will consider more on-line streaming of the Opry's shows. And, please, don't mess with the show any more. Most of us thought it was fine the way it was.

For Jimmy Dickens, Jean Shepard, Carol Lee Cooper, Stu Phillips and Hal Ketchum, I wish each of you better health this coming year. And in the case of Carol Lee and Hal, a return to the Opry stage. For Loretta Lynn, congratulations on your upcoming 50th anniversary as an Opry member, but it would mean more if you would actually appear more often. Please try to remember how important the Opry was to your career.

For Jim Ed Brown, Charlie Daniels, George Hamilton IV and Connie Smith, a call from the Country Music Hall of Fame welcoming you as a new member. For Gene Watson, Rhonda Vincent and Mandy Barnett, a call from Pete Fisher asking you to be the Opry's newest members.

For the families of Charlie Louvin, Wilma Lee Cooper, Billy Grammer and Mel McDaniel, peace this holiday season. We are all so sorry that these great Opry members have passed away. They are all missed.

To veteran Opry members such as Stonewall Jackson, Ray Pillow, Jack Greene, Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely and Jimmy C Newman, my Christmas wish is for more Opry appearances. Please Pete, call them more often. They enjoy playing the Opry as much as we enjoy listening to them. To Bill Anderson, congratulations on your 50th anniversary as an Opry member. I hope you last 50 more years on the Opry. To Mike Snider and Riders In The Sky, thanks for keeping humor on the Opry stage. To Vince Gill, Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs, thanks for supporting the Opry over the years and the hope is that you will continue to do so. For Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and the Oak Ridge Boys, the Opry's newest members, please don't forget where the Opry House is out. We need you to support the show.

To Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Tom T. Hall, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, a GPS system for your car locked into 2804 Opryland Drive. To Lorrie Morgan and George Jones, please come back to the Opry and please remember how important the Opry once was to your careers. We do miss you. To Clint Black and Randy Travis, thanks for coming back to the Opry. Please return more often. And to Dolly Parton, I know you are busy, but we would all love to see you more than once a year.

To Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, Ralph Stanley and Del McCoury, thanks for carrying on the bluegrass tradition. And to Alison Krauss, it was nice to see you this year. Your sweet voice was missed and we need to hear it more often. To Jeanne Pruett, Barbara Mandrell and Ricky Van Shelton, continue to enjoy your retirements. All of you have earned it. And if any of you get the itch to come back, the Opry will welcome you.

To Trace Adkins, Craig Morgan, Josh Turner, Montgomery Gentry, Carrie Underwood and Dierks Bentley, please keep remembering where the Opry House is. And to Brad Paisley, thanks for being there after the flood, but you kind-of went away this year. Please don't forget how good the Opry was to you before you became a star.

To Mandy Barnett, Elizabeth Cook, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Restless Heart, James Wesley and Holly Williams, thanks for answering the phone when Pete calls at the last minute. My wish is that each of you has a million selling record this coming year.

To Connie Smith, Emmylou Harris and Patty Loveless, my wish is that three of the sweetest voices on the Opry continue to keep these voices. And Patty, the Opry is still there for you. It needs you more than a couple of times each year. And to Emmylou, congratulations on 20 years at the Opry. Keep coming back. I think you enjoy it. I know the Opry enjoys you.

To John Conlee, Terri Clark, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie, Steve Wariner, Diamond Rio, Charley Pride, The Whites and Mel Tillis, my wish is that each of you gives the Opry another year of great performances. And to Pam Tillis, it was great to see you back more often this past year. To Larry Gatlin, thanks for hosting the Opry Country Classics show and for bringing your down home style to the show.

To all the non-Opry members who came out to the Opry this past year, thanks. There are too many to mention, but my wish is that we see more of you this year. You help to keep the show fresh and help to fill out the line-up when the missing Opry stars to not appear.

To Mike Terry, Bill Cody and Eddie Stubbs, thanks for the great introductions that you give us each week on the show. And Eddie, congratulations on the Hall of Fame induction. It is well deserved. To the Carol Lee Singers and the Opry Staff band, thanks. The show would be missing something without the talents each of your groups bring. And to the Opry Square Dancers, my thanks also. I know I could not dance like that.

To Gaylord Entertainment, may you continue to give the Opry the resources and respect that the show needs and deserves. And please, get the Opry Museum back open again. People do miss it.

And to all the Opry fans, please continue to support the show. Some weeks it is not easy, but if we are not in the audience or listening on the radio, there would be no Opry. To the new readers of the blog, welcome and thanks for checking us out. And for those who have been with me since the beginning, my continued thanks. And thanks for the comments. We are all friends here and I enjoy the chat and the emails you send. And to those I have met while attending the Opry, thanks for making my trips to Nashville even more enjoyable.

Finally, Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. May peace be with each of you.

aka: Fayfare

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Grand Ole Opry 12/24/1983

Here is another Christmas Eve line-up from the Grand Ole Opry. This one is from December 24, 1983.

1st show
6:30: Bonanza
Charlie Walker (host): My Window Faces the South
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Charlie Walker: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer/Jingle Bells

6:45: Rudy's
Jimmy Dickens (host): May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose
Jeanne Pruett: Temporarily Yours
Jimmy Dickens: There's No Place Like Home on Christmas

7:00: Shoneys
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
Riders In The Sky: I'm Trying to Forget It's Christmas
Jeannie Seely: I'm All Through Crying Over You
Billy Grammer: The Old Spinning Wheel/Detroit City
Del Wood: Jingle Bells
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name

7:30: Standard Candy
Bill Monroe (host): Christmas Time's A' Comin
Jean Shepard: The Tips of My Fingers
Roy Drusky: Silent Night
Wilma Lee Cooper: Rachel's Guitar
Lonzo & Oscar: Jangle Bells/Frosty the Snowman
Crook Brothers/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Black Mountain Rag
Bill Monore: Life's Railway to Heaven

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jesse McReynolds: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Minnie Pearl: I Wish You A Merry Christmas
Bill Carlisle: Same Ol' Tale the Crow Told Me
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art/Sing, Sing, Sing

8:30 Acme
Hank Snow (host): Gonna Find Me A Bluebird
Billy Walker: He Sang the Songs About El Paso
Jan Howard: White Christmas
Stu Phillips: C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
4 Guys: My Fannie Mae
Jimmy Dickens: Take An Old Cold Tater
Charlie Louvin: My Baby's Gone
Ray Pillow: You're Playing Hard to Forget
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name/Ol' Slewfoot

10:00: Little Debbie
Stonewall Jackson (host): Me & You & A Dog Named Boo
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Del Wood: Waitin' For the Robert E. Lee
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry

10:15: Sunbeam
Bill Monroe (host): Ol' Ebenezer Scrooge
Jeannie Seely: When Will I See You Again
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A' Comin

10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
Vic Willis Trio: Colorado
Teddy Wilburn: Because He Lives
Roy Acuff: From Cradle to Cross to Crown/I Saw the Light

10:45: Beech-Nut
Roy Drusky (host): Mississippi
Connie Smith: Go Tell It On The Mountain
Crook Brothers/Melvin Sloan Dancers: New Five Cents
Roy Drusky: White Christmas

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On
Jesse McReynolds: What About You
Jean Shepard: Kentucky
Wilma Lee Cooper: Anywhere Just Inside Your Arms
Lonzo & Oscar: Gone, Gone, Gone
Hank Snow: A Letter to Santa Claus

11:30: Hardee's
Billy Walker (host): Cross the Brazos at Waco
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Bill Carlisle, Jr: Blue Christmas
Jan Howard: Rocky Top/Gold Watch & Chain
Billy Walker: He Sang the Songs About El Paso

Grand Ole Opry 12/24/1988

As I mentioned, I am going a line-up or two from previous Grand Ole Opry shows that were held on Christmas Eve. This show is from Saturday December 24, 1988. As usual from that era, there were 2 shows that night. Here is the running order and song list from that night:

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
4 Guys (host): How Married Are You, Mary Ann
Jan Howard: I Don't Know A Thing About Love
4 Guys: When You Got A Good Woman, It Shows

6:45: Rudys
Bill Monroe (host): Blue Moon of Kentucky
Jeannie Seely: The Divorce Song
Charlie Walker: Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A-Comin

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Y'All Come
Jean Shepard: So Used to Loving You
Roy Drusky: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Stonewall Jackson: Old Chunk of Coal
Bill Carlisle: Leave That Liar Alone
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus/Sugarfoot Rag

7:30: Standard Candy
Jimmy Dickens (host): Family Reunion
Skeeter Davis: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top
Lorrie Morgan: Hard Candy Christmas
Jimmy Dickens: There's No Place Like Home on Christmas

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Connie Smith: Sing, Sing, Sing/The Key's In The Mailbox
Opry Squaredance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Bill Cheatham
Minnie Pearl: Comedy
Roy Acuff: I Saw The Light

8:30: Music Valley Merchants
Hank Snow (host): We'll Never Say Goodbye; Just Say So Long
Jim & Jesse: The Big Dreamer
Charlie Louvin: Small Men Cast Long Shadows
Ray Pillow: The Kind of Love I Can't Forget
Vic Willis Trio: Sioux City, Sue
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses

9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
4 Guys: What'll You Do About Me
Jan Howard: I'll Be Home for Christmas
Roy Drusky: Silent Night
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
Porter Wagoner: Forty Miles from Poplar Bluff/Tennessee Saturday Night

10:00: Little Debbie
Jimmy Dickens (host): Me and My Big Loud Mouth
Jeannie Seely: It Should Be Easier Now
Jimmy Dickens: I Leaned Over Backwards for You

10:15: Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
Jean Shepard: Someone's Gotta Cry/Second Fiddle
Roy Acuff: I'll Fly Away

10:30 Pet Milk
Bill Monroe (host): Santa Claus
Skeeter Davis: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Bill Monroe: What A Wonderful Life

10:45: BC Powder
Charlie Walker (host): Cherokee Maiden
Osborne Brothers: Kentucky
Opry Square Dance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Liberty
Charlie Walker: White Christmas

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Paper Roses
Jim & Jesse: When I Dream About the Southland
Connie Smith: Satisfied
Justin Tubb: Texas Dance Hall Girl
Charlie Louvin: New Dreams & Sunshine
Hank Snow: Silent Night

11:30: Creamette
George Hamilton IV (host): C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
Ray Pillow: I Wonder Where You Are Tonight
Vic Willis Trio: Be Glad/Let It Be Me
Bill Carlisle: White Lightning
George Hamilton IV: Silent Night

I am surprised that more artists did not sing Christmas songs. It just didn't seem right to have Bill Carlisle singing 'White Lightning" and Ray Pillow singing 'I Wonder Where You Are Tonight' right before midnight on Christmas Eve. I also notice a couple of the artists sang the same song, such as Hank Snow and George Hamilton IV both doing 'Silent Night.' I am sure both did their own unique versions.

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 12/23 & 12/24

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-up for the 2 shows this weekend. They are still at the Ryman Auditorium with 1 show on Friday and 1 show on Saturday. With Saturday being Christmas Eve, I was concerned with what kind of line up they would have, and over all it is ok.

Saturday night will feature non-members Laura Cantrell, Eddy Raven, David Ball and Suzy Bogguss. The Friday night Opry will have Julie Roberts, Dale Ann Bradley and Jimmy Wayne performing. I also notice that Stu Phillips is listed for Friday night. As I mentioned the last time he was scheduled, he has cancelled out on his last few scheduled appearances so let's see if he can make it this weekend. I know he has had some voice issues.

Friday December 23
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jeannie Seely; Julie Roberts
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Stu Phillips; Dale Ann Bradley
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Elizabeth Cook
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jim Lauderdale; Jimmy Wayne

Saturday December 24
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Lauderdale; Laura Cantrell
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Johnny Counterfit; Eddy Raven
8:15: George Hamilton IV (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; David Ball; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Riders In The Sky; Suzy Bogguss

There are 12 artists scheduled for both Friday and Saturday night, of whom 7 are Opry members that will be on the Friday night show, and 6 Opry members on Saturday night.

The host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be Dianne Sherrill and she will be joined by Laura Cantrell. And yes, the show will be live at midnight on Christmas Eve.

I have gone through my files and have located some past Opry line ups from when the Grand Ole Opry took place on Christmas Eve and I will be posting some of those over the next couple of days.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Jimmy Dickens

I think it is no secret to any fan of the Opry that on Monday December 19, Jimmy Dickens will be celebrating his 91st birthday. He has been called the Opry's greatest treasure and the fact that he is still at the Opry almost every weekend is amazing. So far in 2011, he has made 140 Opry appearances, more than any other member. And I would say that considering some of the health issues Jimmy has had in recent years, 2011 has been pretty good to him. He looks much better than he has in the past year or so and his voice has been holding up pretty well.

I thought what I would do is to reprint the biography of Jimmy that appeared in the Grand Ole Opry book that was published in 1952. He had been a member of the Opry for 4 years at that point of his career, making him one of the Opry's younger members. Here is what they wrote:

"Little Jimmy Dickens is definitely the smallest star on the Grand Ole Opry, and he probably has the loudest voice of any man his size in the entertainment field. He is only four feet and eleven inches tall, but every inch of him helps to make up a dynamo of energy and a captivating personality.

Jimmy was born in Raleigh County, West Virginia, near Bolt, and was brought up on a farm. When he was seventeen years old, he entered radio in Beckley, West Virginia where his big voice and friendly smile made him a local success. From there he went to stations in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jimmy joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, and within a short time he had become a nationwide favorite for his performances both on the air and in personal appearances. The songs that Jimmy sings most are those reminiscent of rural customs and the country way of life, some serious, some humorous. Best example of this is the song that first made him famous: 'Old Cold Tater.' It harks back to childhood days when he had to wait to eat at the second table on Sunday when the preacher came for dinner at his house, and his mother said: 'Jim, take a tater and wait.' Similar songs that he has made famous and recorded for Columbia are 'Sleepin' At The Foot Of The Bed,' 'The Galvanized Washing Tub' (a familiar bathing vessel), 'Get Them Cold Feet Over On The Other Side', etc. Others of a slightly different nature but equally successful are 'Bessie The Heifer', 'I'm Little But I'm Loud', and 'It May Be Silly, But Ain't It Fun.' Like all other folk artists he also sings religious songs. One of his latest is 'They Locked God Outside The Iron Curtain.'

During his performances, Jimmy is a diminutive cowboy. He wears a smaller version of the traditional Western carb, usually two-toned. He wears cowboy boots, and his favorite pair have sterling silver toes. As his loud voice goes into action, he pats his foot vigorously, jumps and bounces in time with the music. He never loses his infectious smile, and his eyes twinkle with good humor. Between his turns at the microphone, he is usually engaged in some spontaneous comic routine with other members of the cast. Jimmy is married, but he has no children. He and his wife live in a modest home in Nashville's suburbs. He keeps a horse and is found of riding and hunting."

As the article in the Grand Ole Opry stated, Jimmy first joined the Opry in 1948. Here is what Jimmy said about him joining the Opry:

"I was working in Saginaw, Michigan, on a small station there with a five-piece band and Mr. Acuff came to our city. I had, made his acquaintance before that in Cincinnati in 1945. And then in 1948, why, he asked me if I would come down to the Grand Ole Opry, and at that particular time Red Foley had the network show for the Prince Albert people on NBC. I came as a guest. I had ten years of radio experience doing shows across the country and I thought I was ready for that-you know, I was over the stage fright and all that. But when I walked on that stage of the Ryman I've never been no more scared and shook up in all my life. My knees were knockin' and I couldn't understand it, because I thought I was ready for that, but I wasn't. But I did very well, luckily, I mean as far as response was concerned, and then a month later they asked me to come down again, and when I came that time Mr. Acuff asked me if I would be interested in staying."

It's interesting to note that when Little Jimmy Dickens first came to the Grand Ole Opry, he had no background at all as a recording artist. But being on the Opry brought him to the attention of Columbia Records, and his first release, 'Take a Cold Tater and Wait' was a smash hit.

In 1957, after 9 years as an Opry member, Jimmy left. He had accepted an offer to head up a major road show for the Philip Morris tobacco company. But at that time, the Opry's sponsorship by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company prohibited any Grand Ole Opry member from traveling with a tour sponsored by a competitor. So, Jimmy left Nashville and the Opry. He would say that there were no hard feelings, but some didn't believe that. On February 8, 1975, after being gone for 18 years, Jimmy would rejoin the Opry.

I know that Jimmy is known for his humor and his comedy songs. Early in his Opry career, he would often do humor with June Carter. And his comedy songs are classic. But in my opinion, Jimmy was one of the finest ballad singers in the history of country music. Even though his voice is not what it once was, I still enjoy the fact that Jimmy closes out almost every one of his Opry segments with one of his ballads.

So, a very Happy Birthday to a Hall of Famer and a great Grand Ole Opry member, Jimmy Dickens. May this next year bring good health, good humor and the wish that he will continue to entertain us from the Opry stage each and every week.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 12/16 & 12/17

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for the 2 shows this weekend at the Ryman Auditorium. The Friday Night Opry continues as 1 show while the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry has now started their winter schedule of just 1 show. I really hate to see that as I have enjoyed listening to the 2 Saturday night shows over the past several weeks.

The Friday Night Opry will be highlighted by Opry members Ricky Skaggs, Joe Diffie and Steve Wariner. Steve in actually scheduled for both shows this weekend. The Saturday night show will feature an appearance by Opry member Emmylou Harris. Also appearing will be non-Opry member Keb' Mo', who in an earlier Opry appearance was pretty well received. And appearing on Emmylou's segment will be a couple of newcomers, Ella Mae Bowen and The Civil Wars.

The final big news regarding Emmylou Harris is that in January the Opry will be celebrating her 20th year as an Opry member with a special show that will include Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell. While I am glad that the Opry is planning a show for Emmylou, I will have some more definite opinions when we get closer to that show.

Friday December 16
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Ed Brown; Joe Diffie
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); John Conlee; Steve Wariner
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jack Greene; Jesse McReynolds; Will Hoge
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); Connie Smith; The Whites

Saturday December 17
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jean Shepard; The Grascals
7:30: Mike Snider (host); George Hamilton IV; Jimmy C Newman; John Conlee
8:15: Steve Wariner (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Keb' Mo'; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Emmylou Harris (host); Ella Mae Bowen; The Civil Wars

That comes out to 14 artists on the Friday Night Opry, of whom 13 are Opry members. While that may seem like a pretty low number, that is the most Opry members on one show in a long time. Saturday night's show has 13 artists of whom 9 are Opry members.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be hosted by George Hamilton IV, who will be bringing his special Christmas show to the Jamboree, as he does every year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Some Thoughts After Listening To The Opry

With the coming of winter and the early darkness along with the colder temperatures, I get more time to sit and actually listen to the Opry shows each weekend. During the summer it is pretty busy with outdoor activities so while I tend to hear most of the Opry shows, it is with my attention divided among other things. But come winter, I usually go up to my desk and while I am catching up on my paperwork or other small projects, I will listen.

Over the past several weeks the shows have been pretty good. But I thought something was missing and I think I hit on it. A while back, Jean Shepard was on and sang, "Wabash Cannonball" and I thought, wow, that is the first time I have heard that great Roy Acuff song sang on the Opry in a long, long time. For years and years, we got used to hearing that song each week, but since Roy passed away, I bet it hasn't been heard from the Opry stage more than a handful of times.

And it is the same with some of the other great songs in the history of country music. I know Jack Greene will occasionally sing "Walking the Floor Over You", but not often. And when was the last time you heard anyone sing such classic songs as "I'm Moving On", "Carroll County Accident", "8 More Miles to Louisville" "Thanks a Lot", or "El Paso"? How about the last time you heard any Hank Snow, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Grandpa Jones, Faron Young, Porter Wagoner, Marty Robbins or Carl Smith song at the Opry? The weekend after Billy Grammer died, Vince Gill started the show with that great song, "Gotta Travel On", and it sounded great. And I thought of Billy as Vince sang it. You name an artist from the 1950s into the 1970s, and you can name their classic hit.

While today's artists and younger Opry members have their own hit songs, they just don't seem to have the staying power of those great old hits. And, while I don't expect the Opry's newer members to go back and sing these old songs each and every week, once in a while it would be nice to hear a classic number. This past weekend, Del McCoury did "Christmas Time's-A-Comin" and it sounded great. And once in a while I will hear Jeannie Seely do a Dottie West or Patsy Cline song. Mandy Barnett almost always reaches back into country music history to pick out a song. Lorrie Morgan will do "Candy Kisses", and the bluegrass groups will go back and sing a Bill Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs song every now and then.

As I post the classic line ups, I will sometimes think back and try to remember if I listened to that particular show or not and what I remember from it. And when I list those shows and I see the names of the artists that have passed on, I think back to such wonderful memories. I know we all think of the "big stars", but I also think back to Cousin Jody, Lonzo & Oscar, Bill Carlisle, The 4 Guys, Brother Oswald, all of whom were not the biggest names, but great entertainers.

Like I said, I don't expect today's Opry stars to sing those older songs. But sometimes I think that it wouldn't be so bad to hear some of those classic songs again from the Opry stage.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 12/9 & 12/10

The Grand Ole Opry continues it's winter run at the Ryman Auditorium with 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. The Friday Night Opry will feature guest artists Darius Rucker and Joey+Rory, who have each appeared on the Opry several times. Also on the Friday night show is very frequent Opry guest Mandy Barnett.

The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night includes a guest appearance by Rhonda Vincent. I know that for several years there was a lot of thought that Rhonda might become a new member of the Opry, but that talk has cooled down. I still think it should happen and maybe someday it will. I think she would be a nice addition to the Opry cast. Also guesting on Saturday night will be Sarah Darling and Eamonn McCrystal.

Friday December 9
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Del McCoury Band; Mandy Barnett
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jesse McReynolds; Jack Greene; Diamond Rio
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Joey+Rory
8:45: John Conlee (host); Jan Howard; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Darius Rucker

Saturday December 10
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Sarah Darling
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Eamonn McCrystal; Connie Smith
8:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Jean Shepard; Rhonda Vincent; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Del McCoury Band; Exile

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Sarah Darling
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Eamonn McCrystal; Connie Smith
10:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jean Shepard; Rhonda Vincent; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Del McCoury Band; Exile

Interesting that both Saturday shows have the same exact line up. Anyways, the Friday Night Opry has 14 artists booked, which is the most that they have had in a while. Of the 14, 11 are Opry members. Both Saturday shows have 12 artists, of whom 8 are Opry members.

Leona Williams will be the host of the Midnight Jamboree at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. I have seen her before hosting and she does a great job and has a fine following. That should be a good show.

The Tuesday Night Opry on December 13 will have the following line up:

7:00: John Conlee; Diamond Rio
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Matthew West
8:15: Bill Anderson; Phil Vassar
8:45: The Whites; Ricky Skaggs

I am sure that The Whites and Ricky Skaggs will do some Christmas numbers together that they have been doing on their Christmas tour. RFD-TV will also be showing the Skaggs Family Christmas special this weekend at various times.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remembering Marty Robbins

I just wanted to take a moment and remember one of the greatest and most popular Grand Ole Opry members of all time, Marty Robbins, who passed away on December 8, 1982 at the age of 57.

I am not going to give a full biography of Marty as I think everyone pretty well knows his story, but I will say that Martin David Robinson was born on September 26, 1925 in Arizona. He first came to the Grand Ole Opry in 1953 to make a guest appearance, after being brought to the attention of Columbia Records by Jimmy Dickens, who saw him on a television station in Phoenix, where Marty was appearing and hosting a live country music program. He joined the Opry in 1953. He would remain an Opry member until his death.

Like I said, I am not going to do a full biography of Marty, but I do want to share some of Marty's history at the Opry. Early in Marty's Opry career he appeared several times on each Opry show and in various time slots. However, as Marty began to get involved in auto racing, he began appearing only on the 11:30 segment, which quickly grew into a legendary time slot at the Opry.

Opry announcer Hal Durham explained how the Marty Robbins 11:30 Opry show got started: "When I first started announcing, Marty would occasionally work the first show. And then he would go to the racetrack in Nashville and race. And he would come back and do that last show. He wanted to do the last show because it enabled him to race and still work the Opry. I think he was more at ease working that last show. He didn't have the constrictions of time; somebody else waiting in the wings to go on. So when more and more people began expecting him on the last show, he gave up working the first show altogether. And, as the eleven-thirty segment became more and more 'his show,' so to speak, he began to take liberties with the time. Instead of running over five minutes, he'd run over fifteen minutes. Some of the other people grumbled a little bit about it, particuarly if there were down at the Tubb Record Shop show waiting to go on. But we saw that the people at the Ryman enjoyed it very much and we never had any intention of squelching it. The eleven-thirty show with Marty was something very special at the Grand Ole Opry."

Hal Durham also said that Marty realized that as a clear-channel radio station, WSM was at its strongest signal later at night, meaning more people across the country could hear him on the Opry than at an earlier hour. From Hal,"What happened was that none of the artists wanted to do the 11:30 show, cause it was late at night. But from a clear-channel standpoint, the signal was the strongest. The later at night it was, the stronger the signal and the greater the reach. Marty realized that, so he wanted to do the 11:30 show whenever he did the Opry."

Regarding the liberties that Marty was taking with the time, Hal was also quoted as saying, "When he started closing the show, we were still doing live commercials with jingles provided by our artists. The sponsor for that last segement was Lava Soap, and the Willis Brothers did their jingle, so when Marty ran late they'd have to wait around to sing that last commercial. Finally, we put the commericals on tape."

Hal also remembered that Marty would talk to Ernest Tubb on the air. "'Just a couple more songs, Ernest, then we'll turn it over to you.' One night, we taped a thing with Tubb so taht when Marty said that, we'd punch in a tape of Tubb saying 'Okay, Marty, you've had your time. Now it's my turn.' Eventually, we'd punch in a closing of Marty singing 'El Paso' and went to sign-off. At the Opry House, they'd still be watching a Marty Robbins concert, but the radio station would switch to Tubb."

In 1969, Marty suffered a massive heart attack while he was touring in Ohio. He was transfered to St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville and given three to six months to live. He became one of the first people in the nation to under go a new operation, which was a triple arterial bypass, which we now know as Open Heart Surgery. The operation was performed on January 27, 1970. On Saturday March 28, he returned to the Opry to host the final half hour of that night's show.

Reporter Jerry Thompson was there: "The sound from the jam-packed crowd was deafening. They couldn't hear the words to the song the familiar figure behind the Opry mike was crooning, but there was no mistake, Marty Robbins was back where he belonged. Midway through the show Robbins sat at the piano and told the audience, 'I had so many things I was going to say tonight. I want to thank all my friends for their concern and I want to thank God for letting me be here. Now, I can't think of anything so say, so I guess I'll have to sing for you.' And sing he did until 12:27 a.m. when the curtain closed amidst repeated shouts of 'More, more, more.' Throughout his performance, a woman in the third row remained in a condition best described as just short of hysteria. She would clap her hands to her cheeks, rise out of her seat and, in a shrill, trembling voice, shout phrases such as, 'Lordy, Lordy!' 'Oh, mercy, Marty!' Or, 'Lordy, I can't hardly stand it!'"

Marty Robbins had once more extended the Opry a half-hour past its assigned off time. Performers waiting at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop to begin the Midnight Jamboree must have smiled; the Grand Ole Opry was once more back to what might have been described as normalcy.

Marty Robbins remained one of the key stars of the Opry as it moved through the 1970s and into the 80s. But his health would remain in question. In January 1981, he suffered another heart attack, which forced him to end his racing career. By March, he was back performing again.

In December 1982, Marty suffered a third heart attack, which required doctors to perform another bypass operation. However the damage was too severe and after an eight and a half hour operation he passed away. His funeral was like nothing ever seen before in Nashville. Thousands of fans decsended at the church, along with almost ever major country music star and Opry member. Many described the scene as being like a circus. Nothing like it has been scene since.

Marty is missed to this day and people who saw him perform one of his 11:30 Opry shows still talk about it today.

The final Opry show that Marty did was on Saturday August 28, 1982. As usual, Marty hosted the 11:30 segment that night. In honor of Marty Robbins, here is the running order of his final Grand Ole Opry show, the 2nd show on August 28:

9:30 Kelloggs
Porter Wagoner (host): Company's Comin'
4 Guys: Marie, The Dawn Is Breaking
Jean Shepard: I Thought of You/It's Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels/You Win Again/A Dear John Letter
Wilburn Brothers: Arkansas
Skeeter Davis: Satisfied
Mac Magaha: Rocky Top
Porter Wagoner: I've Enjoyed as Much of this as I Can Stand

10:00 Little Debbie
Jimmy C Newman (host): Jambalaya
Lonzo & Oscar: I'm My Own Grandpa
Cajun Country: Cajun Stripper

10:15 Sunbeam
Grandpa Jones (host): Little Pink
Vic Willis Trio: Last Cheater's Waltz
Ray Pillow: One Too Many Memories
Grandpa Jones: Fallen Leaves

10:30 Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Back in the Country
Wilma Lee Cooper: When My Time Comes To Go
Del Wood: Keep on the Firing Line
Roy Acuff: Lord, Don't Give up on Me

10:45 Beechnut
Roy Drusky (host): Fraulein
Connie Smith: Till I Kissed Ya
Crook Brothers: Lafayette
Roy Drusky: Slowly

11:00 Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Send Me The Pillow You Dream On
Jan Howard: When I Dream
Jim & Jesse: The Major Little Garden
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Sugar Tree Stomp
Justin Tubb: Pull the Covers Over Me
Kirk McGee: St. James Infirmary
Hank Snow: My Happiness

11:30 Bama
Marty Robbins (host): Ribbon of Darkness
Jeannie Seely: You Don't Need Me But You Will/I'm All Through Crying Over You
Charlie Louvin: I Don't Love You Anymore/Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep/See the Big Man Cry
Bill Carlisle: Have A Drink on Me
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry/Good-Hearted Woman/This is the Moment/Some Memories Just Won't Die/Return to Me/Beyond the Reef/That's All Right/To Get To You/Tonight Carmen/Don't Let M Touch You/Cool Water/18 Yellow Roses/Love Me/El Paso

Yes, Marty did all those songs that final night and his final song was El Paso. He performed until 12:50 a.m.

Marty is sure missed at the Opry and even with some of the more recent members that have come along, I don't think there has been anyone as popular with the fans than Marty Robbins. He was a legend and one of a kind.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Opry Drops 12 Top Stars--December 6, 1964

On Sunday morning, December 6, 1964, Nashvillians awoke to find spread across the top of their newspapers an eight-column banner headline in bold type usually associated with war or public disaster: "OPRY DROPS 12 TOP STARS."

The story read, "Twelve top country and western music stars will not appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, and have been prohibited from using the Opry name in their outside billings, it was learned yesterday. Another entertainer, long-time favorite Minnie Pearl, has been given a leave of absence from the show for the coming year, but will continue to use the Opry billing in her present contracts, a WSM spokesman said."

Those who were dismissed from the Opry included George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires (background singers for Elvis Presley's records and concert dates), Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson, and Ray Price. Opry officials, after using the policy only minimally before, had insisted on strict adherence to a rule that said Opry performers had to appear on twenty-six shows in a year to be retained on the roster.

WSM public relations director Bill Williams tried to put the best face on it, insisting, "Nobody is mad at anybody. It's just that periodically we have to take stock. It's just a routine thing." Irving Waugh, somewhat removed from the Opry in his capacity as general manager of WSM television, nevertheless thought the announcement was ill advised. He viewed the action as an "antagonism" of the country music community by WSM president Jack DeWitt.

Looking back on it, the "Purge of '64" might have been a monumental public relations goof. Within a day of the release of the original story, Opry manager Ott Devine had to remove Chet Atkins name from the list of the original twelve. His name should not have been included, Devine said, because "Chet has not been officially connected with the Opry for many years." That admission suggested to some that the entire incident reflected adversely on the quality of Opry management.

Money is what really generated the hassle. Faron Young remembered: "When they insisted on the twenty-six week thing, I put a pen to it and figured it out. I was gonna lose $180,000 a year to work the Opry twenty-six weeks out of the year." Percentages paid by artists to the WSM Artists' Service Bureau (make that read "booking agency") also were in contention. Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells's husband, explained: 'They booked some of our dates, and then some of the dates were booked by our personal managers and booking agents. They were charging us fifteen percent on the dates they booked, and then if they didn't book a date you still had to pay them five percent of the dates that you booked yourself. Some of the artists stopped paying the five percent, a lot of them. But Kitty and I paid it right up to the very last, and I told Ott Devine, 'Ott, I don't think it's fair for us to pay that and some of them not paying it. Unless you get everybody to pay it, then I'm not gonna pay it.' They didn't fire anyone. We just quit because we didn't wanna pay the five percent."

Quit or fired? It didn't make any difference; the public perception was that their favorites had been summarily dismissed. If anything good came out of the incident, it was a realization in the city-in some quarters, for the first time-that the Grand Ole Opry was really important to Nashville. On December 8, the Nashville Tennessean ran an editorial under the heading, "Opry Has Duty of Protection." It said, "The Opry has been, and continues to be, the nucleus of Nashville's $40 million music industry. There is hardly a successful music enterprise in the city that does not owe its origin and its longevity to the Opry. Thus, it seems the Opry has a responsibility to compel observance of reasonable restrictions for its own protection and for the protection of the rest of the music industry in Nashville. Most of the thousands of people who line up at the Opry House every Friday and Saturday night have traveled long distances to see in person the stars that they have come to love by radio. It must be a disappointment for these fans to arrive at the Opry on this one big night for them and find that their favorite stars have found a more profitable audience in some other state. Opry manager Ott Devine says the 11 released stars will be missed. And they will be. But there is a feeling that such a loss would be more keenly felt if the stars had not already been missed too often at the Opry."

Eventually, a number of the Opry members fired would return to Opry membership, with those being Billy Grammer, Don Gibson, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson and George Morgan. And those who did not rejoin would continue play the Opry as guest artists.

Of course, the Opry's battle with its members regarding Opry appearances continues to this day. Those who joined the Opry while Hal Durham and Bob Whitaker did so without any appearance requirements and that continues to haunt the Opry today. Just look at some of those who became members then and they include Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson, among many others. You are hard pressed to find them at the Opry. I will give credit to Pete Fisher in that since he has taken over as the Opry's general manager, he has asked each new artist that has joined while he has been in charge to commit to 10 shows per year. Most of those have kept to that.

Could the Opry get away with firing 12 artists today? I don't think so. The publicity fall out would be too great. Look at what happened when Pete Fisher fired the 4 Guys. And, while they were great Opry members, honestly, they were not superstars. But it sure gives us something to think about and I think we would all like the Opry's members to support the show and to appear on a regular basis. After all, that is what membership is all about.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Opry Highlights

It's December, so it is time for the December highlights in Grand Ole Opry history. Here are the important and historical events that have taken place during this month.

December 19, 1920-The Opry's oldest member, Jimmy Dickens was born in Bolt, West Virginia. Jimmy joined the Opry in 1948.

December 26, 1925-The WSM Barn-Dance was formally listed on the WSM program schedule that was printed in the Nashville, Tennessean. From the Tennessean, "Because of this recent revival in the popularity of the old familiar tunes, WSM has arranged to have an hour or two every Saturday night, starting Saturday, December 26. Uncle Dave Macon, the oldest banjo picker in Dixie, and who comes from Readyville, Tennessee, and Uncle Jimmy Thompson of Martha, Tennessee, will answer any requests for old-time melodies."

December 8, 1928-It was on this night that the WSM Barn-Dance became the Grand Ole Opry. The Barn-Dance came on the air at 8 p.m. From 7-8, WSM broadcast a classical music show, via the NBC radio network called, "Music Appreciation Hour," which was under the direction of Dr. Walter Damrosch. At the conclusion of the Music Hour, George D. Hay announced, "For the past hour we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera, from now on we will present The Grand Ole Opry." The name stuck. (As a disclaimer I will say that a few some felt that the date was December 10, 1927, but further research has discredited that date).

December 7, 1940-Minnie Pearl joined the Grand Ole Opry.

January 16, 1943-Ernest Tubb becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Ernest would bring a whole new sound to the Opry stage, and would set the stage for many other performers. He would remain a member of the Opry until his death of September 6, 1984. His last Opry appearance was in August 1982.

December 30, 1944-Bob Wills makes an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He was brought in to appear on the Prince Albert portion of the Opry that was broadcast on NBC radio. Minnie Pearl remembers that night, not only because a lady fell out of the balcony and onto the stage, but because of other reason. As Minnie said, "That was the first time we ever put electrified fiddles on the Opry. Roy Acuff said it would ruin the Opry forever! I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard something like that." But, those electric fiddles were not the first electrified instruments to be on the Opry as Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys and Ernest Tubb had been using electric instruments before then. Another story from that Bob Wills appearance was that he was the first to bring drums to the Opry, and that Opry management said that they had to be kept behind a curtain. The story is interesting but there is no documentation that it ever happened. Regarding drums, they were already a part of the Opry. Harold "Sticks" McDonald, who was part of Pee Wee King's group had brought drums to the Opry earlier in the 1940s. They used the drums for a couple of weeks and were not allowed to announce on the air that they were using them. After those couple of weeks, Judge Hay told Pee Wee to leave the drums at home. In a final comment on the drums, Bud Wendell was quoted in 1985 as saying, "That story about hiding drums behind a curtain is just one of those old tales around here. As long as we remained at the Ryman, though, we never used anything other than just a standup snare drum. But that had as much to do with space restrictions as with the purity of country music. You just couldn't fit a whole set of drums on the stage at the Ryman; it just wasn't that big."

December 8, 1945-Earl Scruggs makes his debut with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. He was the final member to join what is considered the greatest of the Blue Grass Boy's line-up, and the one that is credited with creating the famous bluegrass sound. That line-up included Bill Monore on mandolin, Earl Scruggs on banjo, Lester Flatt on guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on bass. As great as this band was, it would not stay together for very long, with Earl leaving in the Spring of 1948. Among those who were watching on Earl's first night on the Opry was Uncle Dave Macon, who billed himself as "The World's Greatest Banjo Player." Some of the Opry members watching were making comments about Earl within earshot of Dave. Dave stood in the wings watching the newcomer for a few moments, then he turned and stalked away. "He ain't one damned bit funny" he grumbled.

December 28, 1950-Left Frizzell makes his first appearance on the Opry. During his segment, he sang two of his classic songs, "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time" and "I Love You a Thousand Ways." Later in 1952, Lefty would return to the Opry, but he only stayed a few months. As Lefty said, "I just didn't like the Opry. It wasn't the dream I thought it would be."

December 24, 1960-The last Prince Albert Grand Ole Opry show is broadcast on the NBC radio network.

December 6, 1964-The Grand Ole Opry fired 12 of its members for not making the required number of appearances on the Opry. From the Tennessean, "Twelve top country and western music stars will not appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, and have been prohibited from using the Opry name in their outside billings, it was learned yesterday. Another entertainer, long-time favorite Minnie Pearl, has been given a leave of absence from the show for the coming year, but will continue to use the Opry billing in her present contracts, a WSM spokesman said." Those who were dismissed from the Opry were George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson and Ray Price. At the time, Opry members had to appear on 26 shows each year. It was later found out that Chet Atkins was not actually an Opry member. Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright would later say that they quit and were not fired. Faron Young would say it was a money issue. Many of the ones fired would later rejoin the Opry. Those included George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Justin Tubb and Stonewall Jackson. Most of those who did not rejoin would make guest appearances later in their careers. On Tuesday December 8, the Nashville Tennnessean, in an editorial, put it this way, "The Opry has been, and continues to be, the nucleus of Nashville's $40 million music industry. There is hardly a successful music enterprise in the city that does not owe its orgin and its longevity to the Opry. Thus, it seems the Opry has a responsibility to compel observance of reasonable restrictions for its own protection and for the protection of the rest of the music industry in Nashville. Most of the thousands of people who line up at the Opry House every Friday and Saturday night have traveled long distances to see in person the stars they have come to love by radio. It must be a disappointment for these fans to arrive at the Opry on this one big night for them and find that their favorite stars have found a more profitable audience in some other state." The Tennessean said it better than I could and could you imagine what would happen today if the Opry fired those who did not meet their attendance requirements, which is 10 per year.

December 23, 1967-Jack Greene becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be Jack's 44th year as an Opry member. Jack Greene was another of the performers who owe their success to Ernest Tubb. What is interesting is that in the recent edition of the Opry's Picture History Book, they changed the date of Jack Greene's Opry membership date to January 1, 1971, which happens to be the date Tom T Hall joined the Opry. Obviously, a misprint.

December 15, 1973-Skeeter Davis was suspended by the Grand Ole Opry. As Skeeter said, "Hank Williams got kicked off the Opry for drinkin' too much old wine. Me? I got kicked off for singing about the new wine." What happened was that Skeeter was on her way to the Ryman for an Opry performance when she witnessed the arrest of what were known as "Jesus freaks", which was another name for the young people who were protesting not only in Nashville, but around the country. The arrests enraged Skeeter and on the Opry that night, she expressed her rage and by talking about it, singing about it and weeping about it. When she came off the stage after her performance, she was dismissed from the Opry. Later, a newspaper account of it said, "Her support of the 'Jesus loves you' street people made headlines, made enemies, made for a quick review of the unwritten rules against editorial comments on the Opry. She was stunned when told she was no longer a member." 18 months later, she was invited back to return to the Opry.

December 28, 1973-Tex Ritter made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. He would die less than a week later, on January 2, 1974, of a heart attack. He joined the Opry late in his career but he was a very popular and loyal member of the show.

December 25, 1976-Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers join the Opry. This will be Larry's 35th year as a member of the Opry.

December 8, 1982-Grand Ole Opry member Marty Robbins died in a Nashville hosptial. He had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 8, 1982. On the night of his Hall of Fame induction he said, "I never had any idea this would happen because I feel there are other people who deserve it before I should get in. But I think possibly it night not happen again, so I'm gonna take it tonight!" Marty's 11:30 Opry shows were legendary in the history of the Opry and have never been repeated. The clock meant nothing to Marty as he would sometimes perform for more than an hour in that final Opry segment. Marty was just 57 when he died.

December 20, 1986-Randy Travis joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. Randy is celebrating his 25th year as an Opry member. Ricky Skaggs introduced Randy to the Opry audience and spoke of the George Jones hit, "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?" Ricky said, "This is the man who's gonna fill their shoes-Randy Travis!" Randy is a fine country music singer who will be elected at some point to the Country Music Hall of Fame-maybe even this year. But, he has not been much of an Opry member, making few appearances on the Opry's stage.

December 17, 1993-Herman Harper, the famous and very popular bass singer for the Carol Lee Singers, passed away.

December 20, 1999-Country Music Hall of Fame member and Opry legend Hank Snow passed away at his home in Madison, Tennessee. Hank would have celebrated 50 years as an Opry member of January 7, 2000. He had last appeared on the Opry in September 1996. Hank was from Canada and was also a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

December 16-2000-Brad Paisley was surprised on stage at the Opry by Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely, who were dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, with an invitation to become the newest member of the Opry. In February 2001, Brad was formally inducted.

December 14, 2002-Toby Keith makes his first appearance on the Opry. Also appearing that night were Keith Urban and Trace Adkins. They Opry had no trouble selling tickets that night.

Hope you enjoy that look back at some Opry history.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 12/2 & 12/3--Updated

Small change for the Friday Night Opry. Jeannie Seely has cancelled out and has been replaced by Jean Shepard, who will host the opening segment.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line ups for the shows this weekend. There is one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday night, all from the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.

The Friday Night Opry looks the better of the nights this weekend, although Saturday is not bad either. Friday night will feature Opry members Montgomery Gentry, Alison Krauss and Dierks Bentley. In additon, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, who in my opinion are fantastic artists, are scheduled.

Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry features Opry members Terri Clark and Mel Tillis, along with newcomers (and what's an Opry show without at least one) Brent Anderson and a very talented young lady, Mindy Smith. And I am happy to say that Jimmy Dickens is scheduled for all three weekend shows after missing last Saturday night.

Friday December 2

7:00: Jean Shepard (host); Jimmy C Newman; Collin Raye
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Montgomery Gentry
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Mandy Barnett; Alison Krauss & Dan Tyminski
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Gillian Welch & David Rawlings; Dierks Bentley

Saturday December 3

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Terri Clark
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Brent Anderson
8:00: Mel Tillis (host); Jim Ed Brown; Suzy Bogguss; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Mindy Smith; Connie Smith

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Terri Clark
10:00: Mel Tillis (host); Jack Greene; Brent Anderson
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jesse McReynolds; Suzy Bogguss; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Mindy Smith; Connie Smith

That comes to 14 artists on Friday night, of which 9 are Opry members, and 12 for each show on Saturday night, with 9 Opry members on each show.

And if you don't get enough Mel Tillis on the Opry Saturday night, he will be the host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree at the record shop after the Opry. The crowd should be very good for the free show.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Charlie Douglas

I just found out today that former WSM and Grand Ole Opry announcer Charlie Douglas passed away on Thanksgiving day. Charlie began his career in 1953 at KLIC in Monroe, Louisiana. In 1956 he became the first program director at KOCY in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He then worked in Ashville, North Carolina and New Orleans before arriving in Nashville and working at WSM, where he stayed for many years. He retired in 1995 to devote time to running CDX, with his partner Paul Lovelace. Charlie was elected to the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 1994.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 28, 1925-Start of the Grand Ole Opry?

WSM and the Grand Ole Opry officially recognize Saturday November 28, 1925 as the birth of the Grand Ole Opry. It was on that night at 8:00 that George D. Hay introduced Uncle Jimmy Thompson, with his niece Mrs. Eva Thompson Jones playing the piano, and the "WSM Barn Dance" was underway. Of course the Grand Ole Opry name would come later.

Here is George D. Hay's version of how the Opry got started, which he wrote in 1945:

"Because the Grand Ole Opry is a very simple program it started in a very simple way. Your reporter, who was the first program director of WSM, had considerable experience in the field of folk music when the station opened in October 1925. Realizing the wealth of folk music material and performers in the Tennessee Hills he welcomed the appearance of Uncle Jimmy Thompson and his blue ribbon fiddle who went on the air at eight o'clock, Saturday night, November 28, 1925. Uncle Jimmy told us that he had a thousand tunes. Past eighty years of age, he was given a comfortable chair in front of an old carbon microphone. While his niece, Mrs. Eva Thompson Jones, played his piano accompaniment your reporter presented Uncle Jimmy and announced that he would be glad to answer requests for old time tunes. Immediately telegrams started to our into WSM. One hour later at nine o'clock we asked Uncle Jimmy if he hadn't done enough fiddling to which he replied, 'Why shucks, a man don't get warmed up in an hour. I just won an eight-day fiddling contest down in Dallas, Texas, and here's my blue ribbon to prove it.' Uncle Jimmy Thompson, Mrs Jones and The Solemn Old Judge carried on for several weeks for an hour each Saturday night."

George D. Hay finished up by writing, "To the best of our recollection the first old time band we presented on the Saturday night show, which at that time we called the WSM Barn Dance, was headed by a very genial country physician from Sumner County, Tennessee, named Dr. Humprey Bate."

Like everything else with the Opry, nobody is sure exactly when the WSM Barn Dance/Grand Ole Opry exactly started. There is a difference of opinion regarding the November 28, 1925 date and one of the individuals who felt that the date was not correct was Dr. Bate's daughter, Mrs. Alcyone Bate Beasley, who at the time challenged George D. Hay's version of events. According to Mrs. Beasley, it was not George D. Hay that originated the first barn dance program on WSM, but that it was her father and he should have received the credit for starting what has become the Grand Ole Opry.

According to Mrs. Beasley, who at the time was a thirteen year old piano player in her father's group, they did the first Saturday night barn dance on WSM at the end of October 1925, within a month of WSM radio going on the air. Many years later, she was quoted by a reporter on her version of the events: "I remember that night after it was all over, we drove back home in the old Ford car and Daddy, who always called me 'Booger,' said, 'Booger, we might've started something down there tonight, you just don't know."

She then went on to say, "We played there for about four or five weeks before Mr. Hay came. We would drive into Nashville and perform on WDAD in the afternoon, then we would walk up the hill and play on WSM later in the evening. I remember we would give Jack Keefe, who was the WSM announcer then, a list of the numbers we were going to play during the hour we would be on the air. And within just two weeks or so, bands from everywhere began to come up to be put on the air. One of the first of them was Mr. Ed Poplin's band from Lewisburg, Tennessee. I never felt badly about it toward Mr. Hay, because he wasn't well, but the fact remains that nothing was ever said about Uncle Jimmy Thompson being the first one on the show until long after my Daddy died in 1936. How that came to be the story has been the puzzle of my life."

In the 1960s, Norm Cohen, a researcher with the John Edwards Memorial Foundation, a research center at UCLA devoted to the study of American folk music, did some research and examined records of the Nashville Tennessean, specifically looking for country music broadcasts on Nashville radio stations for a three-month period, from October 18, 1925 thru January 17, 1926. His research showed that Mrs. Beasley's story might be the right one.

In the Sunday October 18, 1925 edition of the Nashville Tennessean was an item under the heading "WSM Announces Week's Program": Saturday....10-11 (p.m.) Studio program featuring Dr. Humprey Bate and his string quartet of old-time musicians, from Castalian Springs." That would have meant they appeared on Saturday October 24, exactly when Mrs. Beasley said that had appeared. Cohen's research also showed that Dr. Bate and his group also made regular appearances on WDAD, and were also featured on WSM again on Saturday November 14.

Uncle Jimmy Thompson wasn't mentioned in the newspaper's radio listings until December 20, when it was reported, "Station WSM--Saturday (Dec. 26), 8:00 p.m.--Uncle Jimmy Thompson, the South's champion barn dance fiddler, and Eva Thompson Jones, controlto, will present programs of old-fashioned tunes."

A week later, in the Sunday December 27 edition of the Nashville Tennessean, under the heading "WSM To Feature Old-Time Tunes," the following was printed:

"Old tunes like old lovers are the best, at least judging from the applause which the new Saturday night feature at Station WSM receives from its listeners in all parts of the country: jazz has not completely turned the tables on such tunes as 'Pop Goes the Weasel' and 'Turkey In the Straw.' America may not be swinging its partners at a neighbor's barn dance but it seems to have the habit of clamping on its ear phones and patting its feet as gaily as it ever did when the old-time fiddlers got to swing. Because of this revival in the popularity of the old familiar tunes, WSM has arranged to have an hour or two every Saturday night, starting Saturday, December 26. Uncle Dave Macon, the oldest banjo picker in Dixie, and who comes from Readyville, Tennessee and Uncle Jimmy Thompson of Martha, Tennessee, will answer any requests for old-time melodies. Uncle Jimmy Thompson made his first appearance a month ago and telegrams were received from all parts of the United States, encouraging him in his task of furnishing barn dance music for million homes."

In those days, it was standard policy for many newspapers to print articles that had been sent in my publicists to promote their companies or programs, and many historians feel that the Tennessean article had actually been written by George D. Hay. Based on the article and the comments by George D. Hay and Mrs. Alcyone Bate Beasley, the following conclusions can be drawn:

First, it would appear that from a scheduling standpoint, WSM did not offically put the barn dance program on their schedule until December 26, 1925, so a case can be made that December 26 was the "official" start date of the WSM Barn Dance/Grand Ole Opry. 2nd, with the comment in the article that Uncle Jimmy Thompson made his first appearance on WSM a month before, a month before that article would have been November 28, which is the date that George D. Hay wrote in his 1945 memoirs as the start of the show. And finally, it also means that Dr. Humphrey Bate and his group were the first "country" musicians to play on WSM, appearing in October 1925, but not as part of any formal radio program.

While this can be debated, WSM and the Grand Ole Opry many years ago decided that November 28, 1925 was the official birth of what has become of the Grand Ole Opry. And so it is. At the time of the Opry's birth, it was one of many barn dance programs on the radio, some of which have included the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree, the WLS Barn Dance, Renfro Valley, along with shows in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Richmond and just about every city in the country, big and small. But for various reasons, there is only one of the original barn dance programs left and that is the Grand Ole Opry. Time will only tell if the Opry continues to survive. Times have been tough and the world of country music has changed. I have talked to people who have told me that they will be surprised if the Opry makes it to it's 100th anniversary. I hope they are wrong. For all the reasons that we are concerned about the modern day Opry, we still listen and attend. The Opry is a one of a kind piece of American history. Enjoy it!!

(For those who want to know more about the early days of the Opry, a book that I highly recommend is Charles Wolfe's excellent book, "A Good-Natured Riot--The Birth of The Grand Ole Opry." It is probably the best book he has ever written and it covers in great detail the early days of the Opry, from its start, up until about 1940. I still use it as a reference tool today.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 11/25 & 11/26

Before beginning my look at the shows scheduled for this week, I hope that everyone had a very thankful and grateful Thanksgiving and that each one of you were able to enjoy the day with family and friends. I am thankful for all of you who read the blog, or post comments. I am always surprised that people actually read what I write and I thank each and every one of you. We don't always agree on everything except for the fact that each of us are fans of the Grand Ole Opry and care about the show. Thanks again!!!

As far as the Opry this weekend, Saturday night has 2 shows scheduled and that is because this was another of the nights that Keith Urban was scheduled to perform and the Opry set up 2 shows due to the expected ticket demand. The tickets sold quickly, but like the other date that Keith was forced to cancel, there were again unhappy fans who had tickets for the shows this weekend. Newcomer Hunter Hayes is scheduled for Saturday night and some fans on the Opry's facebook page were trying to pass him off as being as good as a younger Keith Urban. Don't know about that, but they tried.

Also appearing on Saturday night will be Charlie Daniels, who is set for both shows. And Stu Phillips is scheduled for the 2nd show on Saturday. He has had to cancel his last couple of Opry appearances as he appears to be having some vocal issues. I always thought Stu was a fine ballad singer and I hope he is well enough to appear.

Friday November 25

7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; James Wesley
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Sherrie Austin
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jan Howard; Jack Greene; Mandy Barnett
8:45: John Conlee (host); Jean Shepard; Del McCoury Band

Saturday November 26

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Hunter Hayes
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Elizabeth Cook
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Ray Pillow; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith; Charlie Daniels Band

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Hunter Hayes
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); George Hamilton IV; Elizabeth Cook
10:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Stu Phillips; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith; Charlie Daniels

The breakdown this week is 13 artist on Friday night, which is the most in a while, of whom 10 are Opry members. Each show on Saturday has 12 artists, with 10 Opry members.

The host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be Jim Glaser of the famous Glaser Brothers. The Glaser Brothers are former members of the Opry and it would have been nice if the Opry had invited Jim to be part of the show this weekend. Appearing with him will be the Chuck Wagon Gang. The Midnight Jamboree sounds like it might be a good show to listen to this weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering Roy Acuff

It was on November 23, 1992 that Country Music Hall of Fame member and Grand Ole Opry member Roy Acuff passed away in Nashville, one month after making his final appearance on the Opry. It can be said that Roy was the Opry and in many ways, he was the guiding force behind the Opry. His role cannot be understated and when we look at where the Opry has gone since he passed away, we all realize how much Roy is missed. It is safe to assume that many of the changes we have seen at the Opry since he has passed away would not have happened if he were still alive.

Roy was called "The King of Country Music" for a reason. You want to know how popular he was during his heyday? Toward the end of World War II, Japanese soldiers in the Pacific would try to psych out the American Marines by yelling, "To hell with Franklin Roosevelt! To hell with Babe Ruth! To hell with Roy Acuff! In San Diego, soldiers and sailors would hold "Roy Acuff contests," in which the object was to see who could do the best imitation of the singer. His records were so popular that the government had to issue them on V-discs so overseas troops could hear his hits. It was not unusual for 15,000 fans to show up at one of his concerts, and it was not unusual to see his name ranked with Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman in popularity polls among servicemen.

Contemporary fans who were used to seeing Roy Acuff as the stately, white-haired elder statesman of the Grand Ole Opry many have wondered what all the fuss was about and whether his popularity was the result of Opry hype. It wasn't. Acuff was country music's first great stylist after the death of Jimmie Rodgers and was a major influence on younger singers like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and George Jones. Though he had only several modest hits from 1950 o, his longtime presence on the Grand Ole Opry gave him a platform from which he continued to influence country music: as a publisher, a media pioneer, a spokesman and, in later years, a defender of older traditions and performers. His nickname, "The King of Country Music," may sound a bit old-fashioned, but in many ways, it was very accurate.

Roy was born on September 15, 1903 in Maynardsville, Tennessee, and yes, he was from the Smoky Mountains. He was born in a small house and his father was a lawyer and a preacher at the local Baptist church. His father taught him to play the fiddle, but Roy was more interested in baseball. He was also known as a fighter and got himself into trouble more than a few times. He was offered a baseball tryout but in 1929, on a trip to Florida, he suffered severe sunstroke. While recovering, he practiced and improved his skills on the fiddle and went to work with a local medicine show man, Doc Hauer. Working with Doc, he learned show business, including comedy and doing imitations, including that of a train whistle. He also learned to do tricks, including balancing things on his nose.

He proceded to get a job at Knoxville's WROL radio with a local band called The Tennessee Crackerjacks, later to be called "The Crazy Tennesseans." They were basically a local group until their big break in 1936. Roy and band member Red Jones met up with a young Bible student named Charley Swain, who had been featuring a gospel song called "The Great Speckled Bird." Roy offered Charley 50 cents to write down the words of the song as as Charley moved away from the area, Roy started singing the song over WROL. In October of that year, they got a recording deal with the American Recording Company. In 1938, Roy and his band auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry and "The Great Speckled Bird" was one of the numbers that they did. Thousands of letters poured into WSM and the Opry and Roy became the Opry's newest star.

The name of his band was changed to The Smoky Mountain Boys, which was a more dignified name. Roy did not care for the sound of that group and in 1939, after some discussion among the members of the group, three of the members left. Among the replacements was Pete Kirby, known as "Brother Oswald." It was his dobro work that help to create the Roy Acuff sound. Late in 1939 he became the host of the NBC network portion of the Opry and even went to Hollywood and made a number of movies

The hits that followed became country classics. They included "The Precious Jewel," "Wreck on the Highway," "Fire Ball Mail," "Wait for the Light to Shine," "Two Different Worlds," "Night Train to Memphis," and of course the all time classic, "Wabash Cannonball." What was interesting about "Wabash Cannonball" was that Roy did not do the original vocals on the record, but instead Dynamite Hatcher did. Roy would not record the song with his vocals until 1947.

In 1942, Roy joined up with Fred Rose to open Acuff-Rose, the first modern publishing company to be based in Nashville. It was an instant success and they would sign everyone from Don Gibson to The Louvin Brothers to Hank Williams. When many country entertainers suffered through hard times in the 1950s, Acuff-Rose helped to keep Roy afloat. In 1962 he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

While he experimented with different sounds, by the 1970s he had returned to his traditional mountain sounds. With his participation with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many other country music old-timers in the great project, "Will the Circle be Unbroken," a brand new audience opened up for Roy.

Even though his health failed in his final years, he was still performing at the Opry almost every Friday and Saturday night right up until the time of his death. In those final years, Roy would usually host the 7:30 or 8:00 segments on the early Saturday show, right around the time when the Opry would start to come in after dark up here in Ohio. And in those days before line ups were announced ahead of time, 7:30 meant that it was time to turn the old AM transistor radio to 650 WSM to see if the Opry would come through the static and to listen to Roy Acuff sing the "Wabash Cannonball." Man, do I miss those days.

Like I said, the Opry has not been the same since Roy died. He was the anchor, it's symbol and it's compass. He helped to keep the show down to earth and he always remembered his roots.
He sang country music the way it was meant to be song. The Opry could use a Roy Acuff today.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jean Shepard

Monday November 21st is a big day in the life of Opry legend and Country Music Hall of Fame member Jean Shepard. It was on November 21, 1955 that Jean became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. During tonights show, it was mentioned that she is celebrating her 56th year as an Opry member and she mentioned that she is the current Opry member with the longest consecutive years as an Opry member. November 21st is also Jean's birthday and it is also Jean's wedding anniversary.

Jean was born Ollie Imogene Shepard on November 21, 1933 in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma. She grew up in Oklahoma listening to both the Grand Ole Opry and Bob Wills's radio broadcasts out of Tulsa. Just before the end of World War II her family moved to the Southern California city of Visalia. While in high school, Jean and some of her friends formed the Melody Ranch Girls, with whom who both sang and played upright bass. In 1952, as a result of Hank Thompson's recommendation after hearing her perform, Ken Nelson of Capital Records signed her to his label.

Jean's debut single, on which she was co-billed with steel guitar legend Speedy West, fared poorly. But her second single, recorded May 19, 1953, was a #1 smash hit. That record was "A Dear John Letter," to which Ferlin Husky contributed the recitation part. The duet crossed over to the pop Top Five and established both singers' careers. From that point forward, she recorded one vibrant honky-tonk single after another, many featuring Bill Wood's band out of Bakersfield, California, which included guitarist Buck Owens.

In January 1955 Jean was part of the cast that inaugurated the Ozark Jubilee telecast. But in November that year, coming off successive Top Five hits with "A Satisfied Mind" and Beautiful Lies," she joined the Grand Ole Opry. The following months she recorded "Songs of a Love Affair", which is said to have been the first concept album ever recorded by a female country singer. During the late 1950s, Jean became romantically involved with fellow Opry star Hawkshaw Hawkins. On November 26, 1960, the two were married onstage in Wichita, Kansas. Tragically, Hawkins died in the same 1963 plan crash that killed singers Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas. Devastated, Jean gave up singing for several months. But by the close of the year she had returned to the Opry, and in early 1964 she scored a major comeback hit with "Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar)." In 1968, she married bluegrass musician Benny Birchfield, who was Roy Orbison's road manager at the time of Orbison's death.

Through the remainder of the 1960s, Jean enjoyed moderate success, both solo and in duets with Ray Pillow. Many of her records continued to feature her spunky intolerance of male behavior. In 1973 she switched labels from Capital to United Artists. She scored an immediate Top Five hit with Bill Anderson's "Slippin Away," but it proved to be her last major success. Like many singers of her generation, she found radio airplay harder to come by. She left United Records in 1977 and that basically ended her recording career.

In 2005, Jean Shepard became the first female singer to reach the 50-year milestone as a Grand Ole Opry member. She also was the first post-World War II female to have a million selling record with "A Dear John Letter."

When Jean found out she was joining the Opry in 1955, she would say later that it was somewhat of a surprise. She remembers being at Nashville's old Andrew Jackson Hotel during the annual Disc Jockey convention with then-Opry manager Jim Denny. As Jean said, "Jim was making some announcements to the DJs 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 2011, Jean Shepard was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, in what many felt was an honor that should have happened years before. Many people forget that it was Jean in the 1950s that set the stage for Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and the female singers that would follow. She was probably the only female tonky-tonk singer in country music during that period. And, she always stayed true to her roots. She was outspoken, brash and an independent woman singing songs that women should not have been singing at the time. She is one of the underrated women in the history of country music and I find it sad that many of today's younger fans who see her as the elderly lady on the Opry do not realize what she has accomplished during her career.

Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to Jean Shepard and congratulations on 56 years of Opry membership.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 11/18 & 11/19

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedules for the shows this weekend. The Opry continues its winter run at the Ryman Auditorium and there is one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday night.

In looking at the shows for this weekend, I have to tell you that I think they have 3 pretty good shows scheduled. The highlight will be the first Opry appearance ever by The Marshall Tucker Band, who is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. I know that they have created a lot of buzz and the ticket sales for both Saturday shows has been pretty strong. You can make the argument that The Marshall Tucker Band is not country, and never has been, but I will say that while I agree with that statement, they are much more country than some of the acts that have been playing the Opry lately. Also on Saturday night, Opry member Joe Diffie is scheduled, along with Diamond Rio and the Del McCoury Band, both of whom are scheduled for all three shows this weekend.

The Friday Night Opry will feature a return appearance by the great Wanda Jackson. Her new album has been doing well and when she appeared on the Opry earlier this year she received a good reaction. Also appearing on Friday night will be Brandi Carlile. She is another of the younger female singers and I checked out some of her songs on her website. Although I wouldn't call her country, she has an interesting voice and sounded very talented.

Friday November 18

7:00: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Diamond Rio
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Steve Wariner; Wanda Jackson
8:45: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Brandi Carlile

Saturday November 19

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Joe Diffie
8:00: Diamond Rio (host); Jim Ed Brown; Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; The Marshall Tucker Band

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Del McCoury Band
10:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jack Greene; Joe Diffie
10:30: Diamond Rio (host); Jim Ed Brown; Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; The Marshall Tucker Band

That comes out to 12 artists for each of the 3 shows, with 10 Opry members on Friday night and 11 on each of the shows on Saturday night, with The Marshall Tucker Band being the only non-Opry members.

Like I said, I think all 3 shows have good solid line ups and I know that if I didn't have commitments this weekend, I would be in the car heading down South for the shows.

Finally, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will feature a special show this weekend. Rockie Lynne will be the host and his special guest will be Jan Howard. The show is dedicated to Tom Davis, who was declared by President Lyndon Johnson as the first American to be killed in the Vietnam War. Bill Rains was commissioned by the Ernest Tubb Record Shops and the Davis Family to create a bronze statue that will be revealed on Saturday night. This statue will be on permanent display at the record shop. David McCormick, the record shop owner, was a neighbor and friend of the Davis Family, while Jan Howard had a son killed in the Vietnam War. Vietnam veterans will have priority seating and a limited number of tickets are available for this show, which is free. In my memory, this might be the first Midnight Jamboree that a ticket is required. This should be a very emotional night and I congratulate the Ernest Tubb folks for doing this.

All in all, it looks like a great weekend in Nashville.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 11/11 &11/12---Updated

As I thought, the Opry has updated the line ups for this weekend. Whoever they might have thought was going to appear didn't come through, so they basically just moved some things around so that there is now a host for each segment. The did add Dale Ann Bradley for Friday night. The corrected line up is listed below.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line up for the shows this weekend. There are a couple of things that stand out. First, there are 2 shows on Saturday night. Saturday was the night that Keith Urban was scheduled and the 2nd show was added because of ticket demand. I wonder how many people will actually come now that Keith is off the schedule or if they will turn in their tickets for another show. Usually, when a big name cancels out, the Opry will try to book someone of similar "star" value. But, in looking at those scheduled for Saturday night, it would appear that they were unable to get anybody. The second thing that stands out is that it appears that Charley Pride is going to host the final hour for all 3 shows this weekend. There is no host for the final segment on any of the shows and I checked again with the Opry right before posting this and nobody has been added. My thought is that they have received a preliminary commitment from somebody and they don't want to add them to the schedule until they are absolutely sure.

When you look at the Friday Night Opry, they have Mike Snider, George Hamilton IV and Riders In The Sky all scheduled and who are capable of hosting. Also on Friday night's show, Guy Penrod will be guesting, along with Holly Williams and the group, Love and Theft.

On Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry, Jim Ed Brown and The Whites are both scheduled for the first show and are capable of hosting, and The Whites are also scheduled for the 2nd show. Clair Lynch will be on both shows on Saturday night, along with Holly Williams, Bradley Gaskin and Love and Theft.

Friday November 11

7:00: Bill Anderson (host); Mike Snider; Love And Theft
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Holly Williams
8:15: Charley Pride (host); George Hamilton IV; Dale Ann Bradley
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Guy Penrod

Saturday November 12

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jim Ed Brown; Clair Lynch Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); The Whites; Bradley Gaskin
8:00: Charley Pride (host); Jan Howard; Holly Williams; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Love And Theft; Connie Smith

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Holly Williams
10:00: The Whites (host); Jack Greene; Bradley Gaskin
10:30: Charley Pride (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Love And Theft; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Connie Smith; Clair Lynch Band

There are 11 artists scheduled for each of the 3 shows this weekend, of whom 8 are Opry members on Friday night, while 7 are Opry members on each of the Saturday night shows.

The hosts of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree on Saturday night/Sunday morning will be Ricky Lynn Gregg and Jeannie C. Riley. That should be a good show.

Finally, here is the line up for the Tuesday Night Opry on November 15:

7:00: John Conlee; James Otto
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Jean Shepard; Randy Houser
8:45: Heidi Newfield; Josh Turner