Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jeanne Pruett

I would be remiss if I did not make a mention today of Jeanne Pruett, who on Sunday is celebrating her 74th birthday. Jeanne joined the Opry on July 21, 1973. She was the last 'singing' member to join the Opry before its move to the new Opry House in 1974. (Jerry Clower was actually the last Opry member to join while the Opry was still at the Ryman Auditorium).

The story of Jeanne becoming an Opry member is interesting and here is how she described it: "Actually, as it turned out, I had been a member of the Opry for almost a year before I could get inducted. Dolly Parton wanted so badly to introduce me as the new member of the Opry, but her schedule and mine conflicted and we just couldn't seem to find a time to arrange the introduction. Anyway, I finally 'joined' on July 21, 1973. And Dolly did introduce me."

Jeanne was close friends with Marty Robbins and worked for a time as a songwriter for Marty Robbins Enterprises. She also appeared many times on the final segment of the Saturday night shows when Marty was in town hosting those segments.

Although Jeanne retired from performing, she is still an Opry member today and does appear at many music related events in town. Her retirement from performing was actually kind of sudden. In 2000 she performed on the Opry 64 times, and then in 2001, she performed on the show 23 times and then called it quits. In 2006, when she officially announced her retirement from performing, she actually offered to give up her Opry membership to allow room for a younger female artist to join the show, but the Opry management did not take her up on her offer.

Jeanne's last Opry appearance was on Saturday June 9, 2001, when she appeared on both shows. In tribute to Jeanne Pruett, and in wishing her a happy birthday, here are the Opry line-ups from both shows on Saturday June 9, 2001.

6:30: Jimmy C. Newman(host); The Whites; Bill Carlisle; Gail Davies
7:00: Porter Wagoner(host); Jeanne Pruett; Osborne Brothers; David Ball
7:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Joni Harms; Connie Smith; Dan Seals
8:00: Bill Anderson(host); T.G. Sheppard; Opry Square Dance Band; Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jack Greene; Mandy Barnett

9:30: Porter Wagoner(host); Connie Smith; Osborne Brothers; T.G. Sheppard
10:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeanne Pruett; The Whites; David Ball
10:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Gail Davies; Joni Harms; Hank Locklin; Opry Square Dance Band; Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00; Jimmy C. Newman(host); Del Reeves; Dan Seals
11:30: George Hamilton IV(host); Ray Pillow; Jack Greene; Mandy Barnett

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line-up 1/28 & 1/29

The Grand Ole Opry is finishing up its winter run at the Ryman Auditorium this weekend in a big way on Saturday night, with 2 shows scheduled. The featured attraction on Saturday night will be Toby Keith, who will be making just his 2nd Opry appearance ever. He will be joined by Trace Adkins, and despite comments made about her last Opry appearance, Laura Bell Bundy returns. Also returning for his 2nd Opry appearance will be Frankie Ballard.

You will notice that there is no Jimmy Dickens this week at the Opry. Don't sweat, he is fine. He actually will be making a personal concert appearance in Texas on Saturday night. Good to see that Jimmy is well enough to be making some appearances outside of Nashville.

Friday January 28
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jim Ed Brown; Brett Eldredge
7:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Jack Greene; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Darryl Worley
8:45: Ricky Skaggs(host); T.G.Sheppard; The Whites

Saturday January 29
First Show
7:00: John Conlee(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Frankie Ballard
7:30: The Whites(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Laura Bell Bundy
8:00: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Josh Thompson; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Trace Adkins(host); Carter's Cord; Toby Keith

Second Show
9:30: John Conlee(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Frankie Ballard
10:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jack Greene; Laura Bell Bundy
10:30: Bill Anderson(host); Stu Phillips; Josh Thompson; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Trace Adkins(host); Carter's Cord; Toby Keith

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Charlie Louvin

As I am sure everyone knows by now, Grand Ole Opry member and Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Louvin passed away early this morning. Prayers and thoughts go out to his family as I am sure it must have been very difficult for them during these past several weeks. And I am sure that the prayers for Charlie to be relieved of his pain and suffering have been answered.

I am not going to go through Charlie Louvin's career as all the various news articles have covered that very well. But, I did want to make just some personal observations and thoughts regarding Charlie.

I never saw Charlie give a full concert. I did see him dozens of times on the Opry and also saw him several times hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. My one story about Charlie that always brings a smile to my face is in regards to one of the times he hosted the Midnight Jamboree. It was several years back, during the time that Charlie had the Louvin Brother's Museum a couple of spots down from the record shop. It was either in January or February and it was a very cold night. For those of you who have been to the Midnight Jamboree, you will know that they always set up an autograph table in the record shop and after the show, the artists will sign books, pictures, records, tapes, cd's, etc. Well about 11:00 or so, a car pulls up to the front of the record shop and Charlie Louvin gets out. He opens his trunk and carries in a couple of boxes of cd's to sell that night. When he comes in the door, the record shop employee at the register says hi and asks Charlie what he has. Charlie tells the clerk that they are extra cd's that he had at his house, and he brought them to make sure that the record shop did not run out and that there was enough for everyone who wanted one. What I later found out was that Charlie was selling the cd's that he brought for the list price and keeping all the money for himself, while those that were sold from the record shop's inventory, were credited to the record shop, of which they got the money. I just found that humorous and it brings a smile to my face every time I think of it. And in the end, there were only about 100 people there that night for the Midnight Jamboree.

I always thought that Charlie Louvin was really unappreciated by the management of the Opry, specifically the current general manager Pete Fisher. Since Pete took over as the manager of the Opry, Charlie's Opry appearances really went down. And, they did not go down at Charlie's request Charlie, along with Del Reeves and Billy Walker, was very vocal about his lack of appearances at the Opry and even gave an interview to the Nashville Tennessean about it. But, nothing changed. He appeared on the Opry 38 times in 2001 and it went steadily downhill from there, with Charlie appearing on the Opry only 13 times in 2006, 9 times in 2007, 10 times in 2008 and 12 times in 2009 and 10 times in 2010. That averages out to just once per month. I can think of no other Country Music Hall of Fame member and Opry member who was treated more shabbily than Charlie.

As a Hall of Famer, just like Jimmy Dickens and Bill Anderson, he should have been allowed to be on the Opry as often as he wanted. I know that there are always behind the scene politics going on at the Opry and I can only think that Charlie just didn't want to "play ball" with the current management. And speaking of the Hall of Fame, the Louvin Brothers were elected as part of the mass induction of 2001.

I remember a few years ago when the Opry devoted the entire televised segment to the Louvin Brothers tribute album that was done with various artists. They had many of the artists on the show that night, including Ronnie Dunn and others, doing the songs from that album. And where was Charlie? They brought him on and acknowledged him only for the final number. He should have been featured on the whole show!!

The Opry always recognizes Jimmy Dickens as being an Opry member for over 60 years, but as Jean Shepard said in many interviews, nobody had been around the Opry for more consecutive years than Charlie. And, he remained loyal for all those years.

In some ways, Charlie's final years were some of his most productive. He found a nice sound for himself, was back in the studio (I think he must have recorded about 6 or 7 albums including several in the past year), and was making personal concert appearances. He was attracting new fans, and they loved him. Heck, he even played at Bonnaroo a couple of years back.

If the Opry follows tradition, they will devote Friday and Saturday night's shows to Charlie. Pete Fisher will probably start each show with a statement and a moment of silence. It will be interesting in what Pete says. Also, it would be nice if the Opry would devote a segment to Charlie Louvin and the music of the Louvin Brothers. But, I will be surprised if they do. Heck, as of late this afternoon, the Opry's website still had no mention of Charlie's death.

I know it was easy to forget what a great influence that the Louvin Brothers had, not only in country music, but in music in general. After all, it has been since the mid 1960's that any new Louvin Brothers material has been out there. But artists such as Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, the Byrd's, and so many others were heavily influenced by the Louvin Brothers. And after Ira's death, Charlie had a very nice solo career of his own.

Over the past several years, the Opry has lost many of their legends. Folks such as Hank Locklin, Ernie Ashworth, Charlie Walker, Billy Walker, Roy Drusky, Skeeter Davis, Bill Carlisle and Porter Wagoner. And now Charlie Louvin. The Opry will continue, but as each of these legends die, the Opry spotlight shines just a little less brighter. And it will continue to dim unless many of today's current Opry members step up and support the show. Supporting it like Charlie Louvin did.

God Bless Charlie Louvin. It was a pleasure and and an honor to enjoy your talents.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Opry Stars I Have Met

When I was writing the post about Johnny Russell and my personal experience on meeting Johnny, I got to thinking about the Opry members that I have met over the years. I have met quite a few and I thought that I would share some observations on some of them.

I met Bill Anderson about 20 years ago when he came to town and played at the county fair. Like most country dates, Bill did a meet and greet with the fans after his show. I had purchased his book to sign, which he did. Now, as many of you know, my first name is Byron. After Bill autographed the book, he asked if I had read it yet and I said no. He then went on to tell me that one of the people who helped him in his career was also named Byron and to make sure to read about him in the book. Bill came across as someone who really appreciated the fans.

George Hamilton IV is someone who I have talked to several times. Once was at Opryland, where he signed a birthday card to my wife. We talked for several minutes about his gospel singing and some of the songs that he had recorded. The 2nd time I met George was at the Midnight Jamboree, actually before the show as he was standing outside the Broadway shop just waiting for the Opry to end. Again, he took the time just to chat and he was really personable.

I have told the Jan Howard story several times and how she took the time at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop to spend about 15 minutes sitting on the side of the stage and talking to my teenage daughter. To me, Jan is a real classy lady who cares about her fans. Just to watch her talking to a complete stranger, asking her where she was from, where she went to school, etc., was nice.

Porter Wagoner was something else. Again, I was with my daughter at Opryland, when Porter was doing his television show there. Porter spent more time talking to her than me. He invited her "into his office", which was really a chair at the side of the stage. He was great with pictures and in signing items for us.

Jim Ed Brown has given me mixed experiences. I have seen him at the Opry, walking through the Opry House before the show and talking to fans and very friendly. At other times, I have seen him not want to talk to anyone. Everyone has a bad day, so nothing against Jim Ed.

Ralph Stanley I talked to after a show last year up here in Ohio. He looked pretty rough and then I found out he had just got out of the hospital the day before and still came up to do the show. He seemed a little unsteady, but again, it was a great experience talking to this bluegrass legend.

Marty Stuart I met up here in Ohio and he spent the whole time cracking jokes and just having a great time.

Charlie Walker asked me about a DJ that he knew from Texas and was now living in Ohio. After he found out I was from Canton he was very interested if I knew Jaybird Drennen. when I told him that I did, that was all it took for Charlie to tell me Jaybird stories and to make sure to call Jay and tell him Charlie said hi.

Del Reeves was talking to me between Opry shows at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. He was hosting that night when it was still downtown and he drove out on his bus from the new Opry House and had to go back. Del was running out the door when I young man in a wheel chair stopped him for an autograph. That was all it took for Del. He knelt down beside the young boy and talked to him for a good 5 minutes. His manager kept telling him they had to go to get back to the Opry, but Del kept saying that the Opry could wait. He was doing something more important. He was talking to a new friend. My respect for Del went up 100% after seeing that.

Grandpa Jones was completely different off stage then on. He was a very serious man who really thought things out before talking. At least, that was my impression. Very nice man.

Stu Phillips was at his winery when I stopped in to see what it was like. Stu was talking to all the customers and fans and he was a joy to talk to. I was impressed that he is a minister and we talked about religion. Sorry to say, that his wine needed a little bit of work, and I did find it strange that a minister would own a winery, but ok.

Jeanne Pruett was always at Opryland hawking her cookbooks. If you wanted to talk about receipes, she was the one to talk to . She was always looking for a new one and she would talk cooking with you.

Charlie Collins shared some great stories about behind the scene activities. And, what a fine guitar player he is. When I told Charlie it was my wife's birthday, he insisted on playing happy birthday to her on the guitar.

Jean Shepard was really down to earth and my wife even said that is someone she would love to have dinner with sometime.

Some of the others have included Wilma Lee Cooper, Bill Carlisle, Hank Locklin, Connie Smith, along with Johnny Russell.

Those are just a few. There have been many others. As a general rule, if I see someone famous, I am not shy about approaching them. But, I make sure that they are approachable. And I never approach them if they are eating or out with their families. And for whatever reason, some entertainers just are not approachable. I will not name those, but there are a few. All in all, I think that the country music legends really appreciate their fans and that they know that they would not be where they are at today if not for them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Johnny Russell

I just wanted to take a moment and remember Johnny Russell. John would have turned 71 years old on Sunday January 23. He was a great songwriter and recorded several hit records himself. But more than that, Johnny was just a nice person.

I had the pleasure of not only seeing him on the Opry many times, but also saw him in concert and had the opportunity to sit and talk to him. In concert, he put on a great show. He was funny and enjoyable to listen to. I still remember the day I was at Opryland and stopped at one of the food areas for lunch. I was sitting with my daughter at a table in a pavilion when this gentleman asked if he could sit and eat his lunch with us. It was Johnny!! We sat and talked for about 30 minutes and he was the one asking the questions. Such as where we were from, were we enjoying ourselves, etc, etc. He never once came across as a big, Opry star. When we all got up to leave, he was the one thanking us for our time.

I know that John battled a lot of health problems later in his life, many of his own doing due to his weight issues. He had open heart surgery and suffered a stroke, but he always came back to the Opry. After Marty Robbins died, Johnny kind of took over the 11:30 segment. While no Marty Robbins, he really tried to make the segment his own and he did a nice job. He did not do the early Saturday show on a regular basis, but when he did, it was usually to host the televised portion on TNN.

Johnny was the one to first introduce Garth Brooks on the Opry and Garth insisted that Johnny induct him as an official member when the time came. Garth always insisted on appearing on Johnny's segment when he played the Opry.

Johnny joined the Opry in August 1985 and would remain a member until his death on July 3, 2001, from complications while suffering from diabetes. He was only 61 when he did, which was much too young. His last years were not kind and he suffered greatly. Johnny last appeared on the Opry in 2000. After his death, the 11:30 portion of the Opry on Saturday July 7, 2001 was dedicated to Johnny. As was written that night:

"Johnny Russell embodied the spirit of the Grand Ole Opry. He was a friendly, self-effacing professional who loved the camaraderie of the musicians and the laughter and applause of the crowd. And he loved being home on the late show of the Saturday night Opry. Well, Russell, the wise-cracking mountain of a man and brilliant songwriter, died this week after a long battle with diabetes and related ailments. His funeral is today at the Opry House. That's only fitting. Then Johnny Russell goes home one more time when his spirit guides his colleagues through A Salute to Johnny Russell tonight. It's the late show: 11:30-midnight---Johnny Russell time."

As Johnny said ever show, "Can you see me alright?"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 1/21 & 1/22--Updated

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-up for the shows this weekend. Again, the Opry will be at the Ryman Auditorium for 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night. This week, the Friday Night Opry looks like the stronger of the 2 shows, featuring Montgomery Gentry and the Oak Ridge Boys. Ralph Stanley was originally scheduled for this weekend, but as was noted previously, he had a heart pacemaker recently installed and is resting.

Friday January 21
7:00: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band
8:15: John Conlee(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Montgomery Gentry
8:45: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith; Oak Ridge Boys

Saturday January 22
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Thompson Square; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys
8:15: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Holly Williams; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jean Shepard; Jack Greene; The Whites

Monday, January 17, 2011

2010 Grand Ole Opry Appearances

I have completed the list of Grand Ole Opry appearances by Opry members in 2010. In 2010, there were a total of 188 Opry shows. The complete breakdown was 54 Friday night shows, 70 Saturday night shows, 42 Tuesday Night Oprys and 22 Opry Country Classic shows on Thursday night. Just to give everyone some comparison, in 2009, there were 200 Opry shows, with the big difference this year being 11 less Saturday shows, as the Opry has only one show on the majority of Saturday nights. Going back to 2008, before the Thursday shows started, there were 201 Opry show, with 105 of those on Saturday night. So from 2008 to 2010, the number of Saturday shows has dropped by 35!!

In listing the appearances by Opry members, I have them in order from most appearances to the least. Also, in parentheses I have how that number compares to the year before, 2009. Also, I have included all the shows. So, even though Larry Gatlin has a number of Opry appearances, all were on the Thursday night show. Theoretically, more Opry shows spread over more nights is supposed to give Opry members more opportunities to be on the show. But, as you will see, that is not necessarily happening. Also, 2010 did have the flood, which did affect the show greatly as the Opry moved between various sights.

1. 126-Jimmy Dickens(145 in 2009)
2. 99-Mike Snider(121)
3. 82-The Whites(108)
4. 81-Jeannie Seely(81)
5. 79-Jim Ed Brown(95)
6. 78-Jimmy C. Newman(96)
7. 73-Jean Shepard(93)
8. 71-Bill Anderson(96)
9. 70-Connie Smith(98)
10. 68-John Conlee(51)
11. 66-Jack Greene(63)
12. 63-Riders In The Sky(63)
13. 49-Jan Howard(43)
14. 48-Bobby Osborne(47)
15. 45-Jesse McReynolds(53)
16. 39-George Hamilton IV(30)
17. 28-Del McCoury(32)
18. 27-Stonewall Jackson(27)
19. 23-Marty Stuart(34)
20. 19-Ricky Skaggs(37)
21. 17-Vince Gill(32)
22. 13-Diamond Rio(9)
23. 12-Ray Pillow(11), Charlie Daniels(13)
24. 11-Joe Diffie(10)
25. 10-Larry Gatlin(9), Charlie Louvin(12), Craig Morgan(10), Mel Tillis(9), Steve Wariner(13)
26. 9-Blake Shelton(0)
27. 8-Trace Adkins(10), Terri Clark(5), Emmylou Harris(2), Charley Pride(7)
28. 7-Montgomery Gentry(9), Lorrie Morgan(16), Stu Phillips(10)
29. 6-Dierks Bentley)5), Ralph Stanley(10), Pam Tillis(12), Josh Turner(7), Carrie Underwood(10)
30. 5-Roy Clark(3)
31. 4-Loretta Lynn(3), Brad Paisley(3)
32. 3-Martina McBride(6), Dolly Parton(0)
33. 2-Mel McDaniel(16), Ronnie Milsap(3), George Jones(1)
34. 1-Wilma Lee Cooper, Alan Jackson(0), Hal Ketchum(20), Patty Loveless(3), Randy Travis(0), Trisha Yearwood(2)
35. 0-Clint Black(0), Garth Brooks(0), Billy Grammer(2), Tom T. Hall(0), Alison Krauss(5), Barbara Mandrell(0), Reba McEntire(1), Jeanne Pruett(0), Ricky Van Shelton(0), Travis Tritt(0)

Currently there are 67 Grand Ole Opry members. I did include appearances by Wilma Lee Cooper and Mel McDaniel, because they were on the Opry stage during actual Opry numbers. It is hard to believe that only 25 of the Opry's members appeared at least 10 times in 2010.

It was disturbing to see a number of the Opry's popular veterans have reduced appearances in 2010, after really supporting the show the year before. Those would include Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis and Hal Ketchum. I feel some of the reduction had to do with less Saturday night shows as a number of the artists listed mostly appeared on Saturday nights and would do both shows. Also, I think the show moving around did not help. It was nice to see a jump in appearances by Emmylou Harris and John Conlee.

Most of the Opry's legends saw either a slight reduction in appearances or about the same number as the year before. Again with the legends, most of this is by management's choice, not the artists. Most every legend would do every Opry show if they were asked.

All of Blake Shelton's appearances took place before he became a member. And, it should be noted that a number of the Opry members with no appearances, have either retired or do not appear do to health reasons. Those would include Billy Grammer, Barbara Mandrell, Jeanne Pruett and Ricky Van Shelton.

As far as non-Opry members who appeared the most in 2010? Here are the top ones:

1. 16-Holly Williams, Chris Young
2. 15-Dailey & Vincent, Darryl Singletary
3. 14-Mandy Barnett
4. 12-Emily West
5. 11-Restless Heart, Rebecca Lynn Howard
6. 9-Jimmy Wayne, The Grascals, Elizabeth Cook, Joey+Roey
7. 8-Chuck Mead, Cherryholmes
8. 6-Point Of Grace, Sam Bush, Gene Watson, Eric Church

And, as always, I have tried to make sure the list is accurate. However, there is the possibility that I may have missed an appearance by someone. But, I think it is overall correct. Hope you enjoy this little look back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mel McDaniel/Wilma Lee Cooper/Ricky Van Shelton/Tex Ritter

I wanted to offer congratulations to a couple of Grand Ole Opry members. Mel McDaniel on Tuesday January 11, celebrated his 25th anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member. Mel has been a solid Opry member since joining the cast and he also co-wrote with Bob Morrison the great Opry tribute song, "The Grandest Lady of Them All." Amazingly, they wrote the song back in 1976. We all know that Mel had a serious heart attack several years back, and it has been a struggle. But it was great to see him on stage again at the Opry during the grand reopening of the Opry House and during the Opry's 85th anniversary show. Hopefully, it won't be long until Mel actually is able to perform again on the stage.

Congratulations also go to Wilma Lee Cooper, who on January 12 will be celebrating her 54th year as an Opry member. Wilma suffered a career ending stroke in 2001 and has been unable to perform since. But, she has made several appearances on the Opry stage, including in 2007 to be honored as a 50 year Opry member and again this past September at the reopening of the Opry House. She had kept the mountain music alive and well on the Opry and she is missed.

Congratulations go to Ricky Van Shelton, who today, January 12, is celebrating his 59th birthday. Ricky joined the Opry on June 10, 1988, just one day prior to Patty Loveless becoming a member. Hal Durham was the Opry manager at the time and this was during the period when the Opry was adding members and basically asking no committment from them as to appearances on the show. Sorry to say, Ricky would become one of those members who would make very infrequent appearances on the show over the years. In 2000, he made 7 appearances on the show, but from then until he retired in 2006, he only made a total of 3 more appearances. Even the year he became a member in 1988, he was only on the show 2 times. I always thought Ricky had a great voice and he could have been a real asset to the Opry. Like I mentioned, he retired in May 2006 from the music business, but as a retired artist, he was allowed to retain his Opry membership.

Finally, I want to mention the great Tex Ritter. Today we celebrate what would have been Tex's 106th birthday. He was born on January 12, 1905. He was a great singing cowboy star who made his way to Nashville and the Opry somewhat later in his career. In 1964, he became the 2nd living person to be elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and just the 4th individual overall. He came to Nashville to work at WSM radio and he became an Opry member on June 12, 1965. When he joined, there was some discussion among other Opry members on how loyal Tex would be to the show, but he ended up as one of the Opry's most beloved members, and he became very active in the Country Music Association, serving two years as president of the group. Tex would remain an Opry member until his death on January 2, 1974. Although his time at the Opry was relatively short, he had a great influence on the show. There is an older video that is out in the market called, "The Nashville Sound", and it covers a night at the Opry, and Tex is featured hosting one of the segments and singing. A great piece history.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 1/14 & 1/15

The Grand Ole Opry is getting an early jump in announcing this weekends line-ups. And, I can see why, as both Friday night and Saturday night have solid line-ups. Friday night, Charley Pride and Vince Gill are the highlights and they are joined on Saturday by Joe Diffie and a special appearance by rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson and Jack White.

Here are the line-ups:

Friday January 14
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); Jean Shepard; Lee Brice
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Connie Smith; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C. Newman; Rodney Atkins
8:45: Vince Gill(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Charley Pride

Saturday January 15
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Mike Snider; Joe Diffie
7:30: Charley Pride(host); The Whites; Riders In The Sky; Connie Smith
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Vince Gill(host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Wanda Jackson featuring Jack White

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 1/7 & 1/8----Update #2

Another change. Jesse McReynolds has cancelled out for tonight. No new addition, they moved George Hamilton IV over a slot.

Hold the presses!!!!!! The Opry has filled out the line-up for this weekend and has made a couple of changes in the line-up. Frankie Ballard (?) and The Grascals have been added for this weekend. Frankie Ballard you ask? Another newcomer to Nashville that we will probably not hear from again in a year. Meanwhile we have The Whites, Jan Howard, Jimmy C. Newman, Connie Smith, George Hamilton IV, all of whom are doing only 1 show this weekend and Ray Pillow and Stonewall Jackson, who are not doing any shows, available for only a phone call. I am sure any of these would see as many extra tickets as Frankie Ballard.

Before I get into the line-ups for this weekend's Opry shows, I wanted to make a couple of general comments and get a few items off my chest.

The Grand Ole Opry recently ran a contest on their website and on facebook for a chance to meet Keith Urban at the Opry, at some future date. Ok, so the winner gets a chance to meet Keith, but the winner doesn't know when that will be. In looking at the Opry's calendar of upcoming shows, Keith Urban is not listed. Hopefully the winner will get to see Keith at the Opry sometime, in say, the next year. Which brings up another point and that is why does the Opry, with 67 members, feel the need to run a contest to meet a non-member who very rarely plays the Opry? There are plenty of "big name" Opry stars that fans would love to meet. I could name Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, Alan Jackson among others. Of course the way things are at the Opry these days, Keith could be a member by the time the winner finally gets to see him.

And on the same vein, on the Opry website they are now running advertisements for the ACM Showcase at the Opry, hosted by Luke Bryan. Taking part in this Opry sponsored show later this month will be Eric Church, Easton Corbin, Randy Houser, the JaneDear girls, The Band Perry and Steel Magnolia. Again, as with the Keith Urban promotion, none of these individuals are Opry members. Granted, all but the JaneDear girls have played the Opry in the past, and several of them have played the Opry more than many of the Opry members, but we have again a big promotion and sponsorship of a concert by the Opry and no Opry members taking part in it.

Also regarding the Opry, January through April used to be some of the biggest months at the Opry. Not so much by attendance, but by the quality of the shows. Many of the Opry's members do not tour in the winter and are in town recording, and were ususally available and wanting to play the Opry. Again, looking at the schedule of upcoming shows at the Opry, it is pretty empty of anyone, much less the major Opry members. Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Terri Clark, Del McCoury and some others are listed for upcoming shows, but there are many, many weeks when nobody is listed. Is the Opry having that much trouble attracting stars to perform? It could be that or that the Opry management is just slow in updating the site. Many fans have gotten used to looking at the upcoming schedule to see who is coming and planning their trips. To me, it would help the Opry to be promoting the winter shows a little bit more.

Of course, in looking at this week's line-up, they haven't even filled that out, with a slot available on Friday and Saturday night. While the line-up is "ok", it is certainly not the strongest one we have seen in recent years. Friday night features Dailey & Vincent and Rodney Atkins. Dailey & Vincent have become regular visitors at the Opry in recent weeks. Saturday features Suzy Bogguss, Brett Eldredge and James Wesley, along with the Opry members. Here are the line-ups:

Friday January 7
7:00: John Conlee(host); Jeannie Seely; Frankie Ballard
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); George Hamilton IV; Chris Young
8:15: Riders In The Sky(host); Jim Ed Brown; Dailey & Vincent
8:45: Mike Snider(host); Connie Smith; Rodney Atkins

Saturday January 8
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; James Wesley
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Jim Ed Brown; Suzy Bogguss
8:15: Riders In The Sky(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Brett Eldredge; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee(host); The Whites; The Grascals

On a final note, the Ernest Tubb Record Shops have announced that there will be no Midnight Jamboree tapings (or new shows) in January and February. The first two weeks of January they will play previously recorded shows that have not aired as of yet, featuring David Frizzell this week, Norma Jean next week and then a show with Rhonda Vincent, from what it looks like, New York. After that, who knows. If nothing else, hopefully they will play some of the older shows that featured Ernest Tubb. But, regardless, it is still a sad day when the Midnight Jamboree takes a hiatus. I know that things have been tough over there, especially since the flood. But for over 60 years, the show has gone on. And that included the years when the shop was still downtown and the Opry had moved to the new Opry House. For a while, they were doing the show from the now-closed shop by the former location of the Hall of Fame. And yes, on some Saturday nights the crowd was pretty sparse.

I know that the flood and the moving of the Opry really has hurt. The crowds were way down and there are costs associated with the show. Whenever I go to Nashville, I always go to the Midnight Jamboree and yes, in the winter months, the attendance was really down. I can remember one show in January with Charlie Louvin as the host and only about a dozen people were there. And back about 20 years ago, I remember a show hosted by Justin Tubb and there were 6 people in the audience. But I also remember a couple of years ago Marty Stuart hosting a February show and it was standing room only and it was the same when Ricky Skaggs and Rhonda Vincent did the show a few years back.

The point is that if they were to keep the quality of the hosts up, the people will come and be loyal to the show. I have noticed over the past several years that there seemed to be more and more people hosting the show that had Texas connections, such as James Hand, Justin Trevino, and Curtis Potter. These are all good entertainers but they do not have much name recognition in Nashville.

I remember when the Wheeling Jamboree, which was the 2nd longest running radio show next to the Opry, went to taped archive shows years ago. And, it was just a matter of time until the Jamboree totally went out of business (yes, it is making a comeback thanks to Brad Paisley), and I would hate to see the same thing happen to the Midnight Jamboree.

That does it for me. I did not forget my year end review and as soon as I get all the numbers tabulated, I will print the information.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

January Opry Highlights

Happy New Year to all my readers!! I hope that 2011 is the best year that you will ever have. I also hope that 2011 will be the best year for the Grand Ole Opry, especially after all the problems in 2010. We shall see.

As I do each month, I want to review the historical and important events that have taken place in Opry history during the month of January

A number of Grand Ole Opry members joined the show during this month:
>Tom T. Hall became an Opy member on January 1, 1971 (40 years).
>Dolly Parton joined the Opry on January 4, 1969 (42 years).
>Clint Black became an Opry member on January 11, 1991 (20 years).
>Mel McDaniel joined the Opry on January 11, 1986 (25 years).
>Wilma Lee Cooper joined the Opry on January 12, 1957 (54 years)..
>Ralph Stanley became an Opry member on January 15, 2000 (11 years).
>Charlie Daniels became an Opry member on January 19, 2008 (3 years).
>Hal Ketchum joined the Opry on January 22, 1994 (17 years).
>Emmylou Harris became an Opry member on January 25, 1992 (19 years).

A few of the names on the January list are "questionable" Opry members at best. Why in the world is Tom T. Hall a member of the Opry? He hasn't been on the Opry in over 15 years!!! And, he has been active during that time, doing some personal appearances and song writing. He doesn't really associate himself with the Opry, and even after he first joined, he had questionable attendance. In 1971, the year he joined the Opry, he appeared 14 times on the show, and that was his high point. In 1972, it was 11 appearances, 8 in 1973, 3 in 1974, and then 0 in 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1979, and then in 1980, he appeared 4 times, and then back to 0 in 1982. In the mid-to-late 1980's, he made a comeback, with 9 appearances in 1985, 11 in 1988 and then back down to 9 in 1990. From that point on, the appearances were very infrequent. When Tom T. joined the Opry, it was on the recommendation of Ernest Tubb. On his first night at the Opry, he was introduced by Roy Acuff as "Tom P. Hay".

Clint Black is another "non-active" member. His last Opry appearance was in 2007, when he appeared 2 times. Prior to that, he was last seen on the Opry stage in 2003. And then you have Mel McDaniel who is doing whatever he can to get himself physically well enough to get back on the stage and do the show. I have said it before, if you are going to be an Opry member, be on the show. If you are not going to appear and give the Opry "lip" service, then please resign your membership. I think Opry membership still means something to most of the Opry members.

The following historical events took place in Opry history in January:

January 16, 1943: Ernest Tubb makes his first appearance as a member of the Opry. Of course, he would bring a completely new sound to the Opry stage and would become one of the Opry's most loyal members. He would also become one of the Opry's most influential members. The story goes that Ernest was on the road so much that at the start of each year, he would give the Opry the list of dates that he could appear at the Opry for that year, and he would make sure he got in his required appearances. Probably no one in country music history toured more than Ernest.

January 7, 1950: Hank Snow becomes a member of the Opry. In a rarity, this was also Hank's very first Grand Ole Opry performance and the first time that he had ever performed in Nashville. He had been trying, with the help of Ernest Tubb, to get to Nashville and the Opry for a number of years, and Ernest's influence at the Opry finally came through for Hank. He would remain a very active Opry member until his death in 1999.

January 1, 1953: Former Opry member Hank Williams is found dead in the back seat of his car in West Virginia. He was on his way to Canton, Ohio for a New Year's Day show.

January 19, 1953; Marty Robbins makes his first Grand Ole Opry appearance.

January 1, 1960: Billy Walker, the "Tall Texan", became a member of the Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death in an auto accident in May 2006.

January 9, 1960: Patsy Cline becomes a member of the Opry. The way the story goes, Patsy had been a guest on the Opry for a number of years, and she finally asked Ott Devine, the Opry general manager at the time, if she could one day become a member of the Opry. Ott's response was, "Patsy, if that's all you want, you are on the Opry."

January 7, 1967: Charley Pride makes his first Opry appearance and in doing so, becomes the first black solo artist to sing on the Opry. (Of course, DeFord Bailey was the first black Opry member). Ernest Tubb introduced him and soon after, he was asked if he wanted to join the Opry. He did not at the time, but would eventually join in 1993.

January 27, 1970: Marty Robbins undergoes heart bypass surgery in Nashville. He was one of the first people in the country to have this operation. (I have heard that he was the 7th, but I can't confirm that for sure). He would return to the Opry in March of that year.

January 2, 1974: Tex Ritter passed away from a heart attack in Nashville. He was getting ready to leave on tour and had to go to the jail to bail out one of his band members. He was sitting in the office, when he suddenly slumped over and died instantly. Tex joined the Opry late in his life and became one of the Opry's most loyal and popular members. He also co-hosted the all night radio show on WSM with Ralph Emery.

January 27, 1979: Loretta Lynn was joined on stage at the Opry by actress Sissy Spacek, who would play Loretta in the film, "Coal Miner's Daughter". They were introduced by Ernest Tubb and would appear later that night on the Midnight Jamboree.

January 3, 1998: Grandpa Jones makes his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. After he performed on the 2nd show that Saturday night, Grandpa suffered a stroke and was taken directly from the Opry House to the hospital. He would suffer several more strokes over the next month, eventually passing away on February 19, 1998.

January 15, 1999: For the first time since 1974, the Opry returns to the newly renovated Ryman Auditorium for the shows for that weekend. Porter Wagoner was the first artist out on Friday night and received a huge ovation from the crowd. The Ryman Auditorium looked and sounded great. Since that first weekend back, the Opry has returned to the Ryman Auditorium each winter since. As someone who was at all 3 shows that weekend, it was a great experience to be back at the Ryman. And, it was much more comfortable.

January 16, 1999: While at the Ryman Auditorium, Trisha Yearwood was asked by Ricky Skaggs if she would like to become the Opry's newest member. She did and she would officially join the cast in March.

January 4, 2003: Hank Williams, Jr, along with his son, Hank III, performed at the Opry to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams. Several years ago, Hank III recorded the song, "The Grand Ole Opry Ain't So Grand Anymore', and since then he has not been asked to do the Opry. If you have not, you might want to listen to the song and you will see why. A warning: it is not a PG rated song.

Hope you enjoy.