Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mel Tillis

Besides Lorrie Morgan, another current member of the Grand Ole Opry joined the cast on June 9, and that was Mel Tillis, who joined the Opry on June 9, 2007. Mel will be on both the Friday Night Opry and Saturday's Grand Ole Opry shows this weekend. In addition, he will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree.

While Mel officially joined the Opry in 2007, there was always speculation and rumor that he had been an Opry member previously. In fact, he was even pictured in some editions of the Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book, one of which I have dated 1969. But, what is interesting is that if you look at the book and read his biography and story written in the book, nowhere does it say he is actually an Opry member and no induction date is ever given. My best guess is that he was asked to become a member and actually accepted, which is why they put him in the Opry book. But then something happened prior to his official induction as a member, and he left.

In the current edition of the Opry's Picture History Book, Mel is quoted as saying, "I always wanted to be a member of the Opry, but I was always gone. I was doing the Johnny Carson show, the Merv Griffin show, the Mike Douglas show--every show, you could name--the Dean Martin show, Hollywood Squares, and 13 movies. I just didn't have the time to commit to being a member."

In looking at my logs, Mel appeared on the Opry 11 times in 1969, the year that he was in the earlier History Picture Book. By 1971, he was just on the Opry 3 times and that was pretty much it for Mel. You have to remember back in those days, the Opry had a tighter attendance requirement than they do now. Artists were expected to appear 26 times during a year. I think that once Mel really thought it over, he and the Opry realized that it just wasn't going to work. But in 2007, with the urging and help of his daughter Pam, he was able to become an Opry member. And since he joined, he has made the 10 show commitment per year that the Opry is looking for. In 2007, he appeared 15 times, and then it was 14 in 2008, 9 in 2009 and 10 in 2010.

In honor of Mel Tillis and his 4th anniversary as an Opry member, here is the line up from Saturday June 9, 2007, when Mel became officially a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Hal Ketchum; Jim Ed Brown
7:00: Pam Tillis (host); Darryl Worley; Carolina Rain; MEL TILLIS
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Mike Snider; Connie Smith; Riders In The Sky; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jeannie Seely; Charley Pride

9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); John Conlee; Darryl Worley
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jimmy C Newman; Mike Snider; Charley Pride
10:30: Pam Tillis (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; MEL TILLIS
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; Jeannie Seely; Carolina Rain


  1. Minor point: after the "purge" of 1964, the attendance requirement went down to 20.

    I wonder if Mel's membership or lack of it had anything to do with Porter Wagoner? They were very close, and occasionally feuded, too, and I think Mel was on Ol' Slicknickel's TV show for a while. So maybe the management thought that with Dolly going from duet partner to full-fledged member, Mel would, too? Anyway, I'm glad he's a member, glad his daughter pushed for it, glad he shows up as much as he does, and I wish he and Pam would do the Opry more often.

  2. That night was the last Opry show I've attended and it was wonderful.

    Amazing how much the show has declined in just 4 years.

  3. Brian, you are so right. The Opry isn't what it used to be, but even with that, I still try to get there when I can, especially if the line up is strong or if it is a special show.

  4. I agree with all the comments above.

  5. Michael, I have always wondered about Mel and Porter. When you read Porter's book and Mel's comments in the book, it would appear at times that they were not in complete agreement on things.

  6. There was a reference, I believe in Paul Hemphill's book, to Porter being hospitalized with exhaustion and somebody saying it was either an issue with women or with Tillis.

    It reminds me of the night Lonzo & Oscar retired from the Opry and Oscar Sullivan said in 39 years as a member, he'd never heard an angry word backstage. My mother laughed and said that's because when some of the Opry members were mad, they just didn't talk to each other!