Sunday, February 27, 2011

March Opry Highlights

Another month has passed and it is time to review the important and historical events that have taken place in Grand Ole Opry history during the month of March. March is one of the busier months at the Opry, and lots of events have taken place during the month.

Several members joined the Opry's cast during the month of March:

Jesse McReynolds joined the Grand Ole Opry on March 2, 1964 (47 years ago). When Jesse joined, it was with his brother Jim McReynolds, and of course, they were known as Jim & Jesse. Jim died on December 31, 2002, and Jesse has carried on since. On the Opry, he performs with the Virginia Boys, which currently include 3 of his grandchildren, who also perform as part of a group known as the McReynolds Tradition.

The Whites also became Opry members on March 2, but in 1984 (27 years ago). The Whites are a family group that consists of Buck White and his daughters, Sharon, who is married to Opry member Ricky Skaggs, and Cheryl. The are also joined at the Opry by another sister, Rosie.

Trisha Yearwood joined the Opry on March 13, 1999 (12 years ago). Prior to joining the Opry, Trisha said she had wanted to become a member and, like many who do join, promised to support the show and to appear when she could. And, sorry to say, like many others of her generation, her appearances have been few and far between.

Jan Howard became an Opry member on March 17, 1971, (although some list the date as March 27) and will be celebrating her 40th year as an Opry member. Jan was a frequent guest on the Opry prior to becoming a member, and in fact, she was on so many times that many thought she already was. In fact, Opry general manager Bud Wendell was one of those. When he realized that she wasn't, he immediately corrected the over sight. To celebrate her Opry membership, Jan will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree later this month. On an additional note, Jan's birthday is March 13, when she will be celebrating her 81st birthday.

The following historical events have taken place in Opry history in March:

March 22, 1952: Uncle Dave Macon, one of the early stars of the Opry, dies at the age of 82. Even with his advanced age, Uncle Dave continued to perform regularly on the Opry, making his last appearance on March 1, 1952. He would eventually be elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

March 9, 1963: During the Opry's performance that night, the Opry paid tribute to Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died in a plane crash earlier in the week, on March 5. They died near Camden, Tennessee, as they were returning to Nashville after appearing at a benefit concert in Kansas City. Also remember was Jack Anglin, of the duo, Johnnie and Jack, who died on his way to a service for Patsy. On the Opry that night, Opry manager Ott Devine read the tribute. "All of their friends standing with me tonight on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium know that it is impossible to put into words our thoughts, our feelings, our love for Patsy, Hank, Cope, Jack, and Randy. And so we ask that you in our audience please stand and join us for a moment of silent prayer in tribute to them."

March 29, 1963: Texas Ruby Owens dies in a fire at her home. Along with her husband, Curly Fox, they were popular during the 1930s and 1940s on the Opry. After her death, Curly would continue to play the Opry.

March 28, 1964: Connie Smith makes her first appearance at the Opry. She was a backstage guest of Bill Anderson. She also visited the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree that night. Later that year, Chet Atkins would sign her to a contract at RCA and the rest is history.

March 15, 1968: The Byrds appeared on the Opry. They performed Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowwher," and "Hickory Wind."

March 28, 1970: After undergoing a heart bypass operation on January 27, 1970, Marty Robbins returned to the Opry, hosting as he usually did, the 11:30 segment. Reporter Jerry Thompson was there and wrote, "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 there. Now, I can't think of anything to say, so I guess I'll have to sing for you.' And sing he did until 12:27 am. when the curtain closed amidst repeated shouts of 'More, more, more."

March 9, 1974: The Opry conducts its final Saturday night show at the Ryman Auditorium before moving to the new Grand Ole Opry House the following week.

March 15, 1974: The final Friday Night Opry takes place at the Ryman Auditorium. The final song sung was George Morgan's "Candy Kisses." After the show, Jimmy Snow hosted "Grand Ole Opry Gospel Time", with special guests Johnny Cash, June Carter, The Carter Family, along with his father, Hank Snow.

March 16, 1974: The new Grand Ole Opry House opens, with a special appearance by President Richard Nixon, the first time a President of the United States had appeared on the Opry. Roy Acuff was the first artist on stage, in the new home of the Opry, which was the first building built specifically for the Opry. In fact, the only request that Roy made regarding the first night at the new Opry House was that he be the first to go on. He was quoted as saying, "I've made my request that if I'm still here when the Opry House opens, they let me be the first one to go on the stage. I just want to open the curtain and sing two songs. Then they can have it." As it turned out, the management decided that the members would appear that night in alphabetical order, and according to the alphabet, Roy Acuff was first. He would be followed by Bill Anderson.

March 15, 1975: The Cumberland River floods the area around the Grand Ole Opry House, including the parking lots, forcing the Opry to move the show to the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Although the Opry House was not damaged in this flood, the same could not be said when the Cumberland River flooded in 2010.

March 4, 1978: The Grand Ole Opry is televised for the first time in its history, as part of a pledge-drive on PBS. To accommodate PBS's request of no commercials, the Opry slightly alters its commercial format, including covering the names of the sponsors that usually appear on the barn doors above the stage, and asking the artists not to mention any of the sponsors during their segments. The show was so popular, it was repeated in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

March 10, 1979: James Brown performed on the Opry. He was invited by Porter Wagoner. His appearance created much controversy. Many Opry members refused to welcome James to the Opry and some boycotted the show.

March 1, 1982: Grand Ole Opry member Roy Acuff was honored with a two-hour special that was televised on NBC. An all-star cast of performers and politicians honored Acuff, including President Ronald Reagan, Vice-President George Bush, Minnie Pearl, Tom T. Hall, Bill Anderson, Chet Atkins, Charlie Daniels and Gene Autry. Among those scheduled to appear but missing due to illness were Dottie West and Johnny Cash.

March 17, 2003: Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Carlisle passed away at the age of 95. He had suffered a stroke earlier in the week. Despite his age and health issues, Bill would perform on the Opry right up until his death.

March 15, 2008: Carrie Underwood is invited to become a member of the Opry. Opry member Randy Travis made a surprise appearance during Carrie's performance, which was being televised by GAC. She would formally become an Opry member on May 10, 2008.

March 2, 2009: Grand Ole Opry member Ernie Ashworth passed away. Ernie was 80 years old and was a long time member of the Opry. In fact, in joined the Opry on March 7, 1964. He was made a member based on the success of his hit record, "Talk Back Trembling Lips." It would stay on the charts for a total of 36 weeks, and would be Ernie's career record.

March 8, 2009: Grand Ole Opry member Hank Lockin passed away. At the time of his death, at the age of 91, he was the Opry's oldest living member. He had been an Opry member since 1960.

Hope you enjoy!!

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