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.


  1. What a great historical roundup! Thanks.

    I should mention that, if I'm correct, Tom T. Hall gave up his Opry membership in 1974, either because he didn't like moving to the new building or because he wasn't allowed to use horns with his songs. Some debate about that. But I agree: he should give up his membership if the Opry means that little to him. I can say the same for Clint Black and some others. And then I think of The Potato, who keeps coming back off of his sickbed and doing the show.

  2. To answer your question about Marty Robbins and his bypass surgery, the St. Thomas Hospital newsletter said he was the seventeenth patient at that hospital, and about 300 such surgeries had been done in the nation.

  3. Thanks Diane for answering the question. I know you are working on a Marty Robbins book and I can't wait for it to be done. You did such a fine job on the Faron Young biography. If you read this, is there any timetable for the book?

  4. I saw Hank Williams III on the Marty Stuart program and was fairly impressed. He even looks like Hank Sr. I then made the mistake of listening to the song "The Grand Ole Opry Ain't So Grand Anymore' on YouTube and it is pure profanity laced garbage! As one viewer commented, "If Hank Sr. were alive today he would have paddled his grandson for recording this piece of junk!" I can't blame the Opry for not having him back on the show.