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.