Saturday, July 2, 2011

July Opry Highlights

As I do each month, I want to take a moment to look back and review the important and historical events that have taken place at the Opry during the current month. With July upon us, let's look back during the month of July and see what has happened during the month:

July 15, 1913: Cowboy Copas was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Although he went by the name Cowboy, his mother named him Lloyd Estel Copas.

July 27, 1925: Former Grand Ole Opry member Annie Lou Dill was born.

July 24, 1926: The Crook Brothers made their first appearance on the WSM Barn Dance Show. The Crook Brothers would remain a part of the show for the next 62 years.

July 7, 1927: Charlie Louvin was born. The Country Music Hall of Famer was born Charles Loudermilk, near Section, Alabama.

July 9, 1929: Jesse McReynolds was born in Coeburn, Virginia.

July 7, 1930: Former Opry member Doyle Wilburn was born in Hardy, Arkansas.

July 14, 1933: Del Reeves was born in Sparta, North Carolina.

July 4, 1937: Grand Ole Opry member Ray Pillow was born in Lynchburg, Virginia.

July 19, 1937: George Hamilton IV was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. George has been an Opry member for 51 years and is known as "The International Ambassador of Country Music", for his world-wide travels to promote country. Even today, George continues to make numerous concert appearances in England and Ireland.

July 5, 1939: The Grand Ole Opry moved to the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. It's previous home was the Dixie Tabernacle.

July 6, 1940: Jeannie Seely was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

July 15, 1944: Rod Brasfield joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain an Opry member until September 1958, when he died of a heart attack in Nashville. Years later, thanks to efforts by Minnie Pearl, Rod would be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Minnie and Rod would become famous for their comedy routines on the Prince Albert show. Rod joined the show after Whitey Ford left the show after a contract dispute with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and its advertising agency. Whitey stayed on the Opry, but was no longer on the network portion of the show.

July 24, 1948: Roy Acuff announced he was running for Governor of the state of Tennessee. As a Republican in Tennessee in 1948, he did not stand much of a chance, and lost the election by a wide margin.

July 21, 1951: Lefty Frizzell made his first appearance on the Opry. He would become a regular in 1952, but as Lefty would admit, it just didn't work. "I just didn't like the Opry. It wasn't the dream I thought it would be."

July 9, 1952: Opry members Carl Smith and June Carter were married. Their marriage would only last several years, but it did produce one daughter, Rebecca Carlene Smith, better known to her fans as Carlene Carter.

July 18, 1954: Ricky Skaggs was born in Cordell, Kentucky.

July 7, 1956: Johnny Cash joined the Grand Ole Opry. He would only remain a member until 1958, when he relocated to California. In 1965, after he was no longer an Opry member, he appeared on the Opry and in a fit of rage, he kicked out the Opry stage lights. He was told by Opry management that he was no longer welcomed at the Opry. He did stay away for several years, but after his marriage to June Carter he started to appear again at the Opry, although on an irregular basis. He would later be asked by Roy Acuff to once again become an Opry member, but he turned it down, due to his heavy touring schedule.

July 24, 1957: Pam Tillis was born in Plant City, Florida. The Grand Ole Opry member is the daughter of Mel Tillis.

July 12, 1961: Bill Anderson becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This year will be his 50th year as an Opry member. Bill had made his first Opry appearance in 1958, and had made several appearances over the years. Ott Devine was the Opry manager at the time and was impressed with Bill after seeing him in concert. In fact, Ott was at a Bill Anderson concert in Panama City and told Bill he would call him when he got back in town. As Bill told the story, "So I was home watching the All-Star baseball game on TV adn about one o'clock in the afternoon my phone rang and I thought, 'Golly, I can't believe somebody is calling me and interrupting the ball game.' But it was Ott Devine and he said, 'How would you like to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry?' Needless to say, I forgot the ball game."

July 8, 1964: Dottie West joined the Grand Ole Opry.

July 31, 1964: Former Grand Ole Opry member Jim Reeves died in a plane crash in Nashville. Also killed in the crash was one of his band members, Dean Manuel.

July 10, 1965: Roy Acuff was seriously injured in a car accident in Sparta, Tennessee. Roy suffered two pelvic fractures, a broken collarbone and broken ribs. Also injured in the accident was band member Shot Jackson and June Stearns. Roy would return to the Opry stage in August. June Stearns decided to no longer tour and never appeared with the Smoky Mountain Boys again.

July 29, 1966: Martina McBride was born in Sharon, Kansas.

July 29, 1972: Barbara Mandrell joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be the 39th year as an Opry member. She is retired as a performer, but has shown up at various Opry events from time to time. Barbara remembers when she became an Opry member, "It was in July when Bud Wendell asked me to join the Grand Ole Opry. I was very honored. And I was introduced on the Roy Acuff segment. At the time, while I was acquainted with Mr. Acuff, I can't say we were friends. By coming to the Opry we became dear friends and now he's so special to me." In the years before Roy Acuff died and Barbara was scheduled to appear on the Opry, she would always insist on being on Roy's segment.

July 21, 1973: Jeanne Pruett joined the Grand Ole Opry. Although she retired from performing several years ago, she has maintained her Opry membership. This will be her 38th year as an Opry member. She made her last Opry appearance in 2001. Before becoming a successful singer, Jeanne was a songwriter for Marty Robbins Enterprises. Prior to her induction, Jeanne called herself "the only semiregular who was not a cast member." She had been appearing on the show since the early 1960's. As far as her membership, she said, "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 induction. Anyway, I joined on July 21, 1973. And Dolly did introduce me." She was the last singing artist to join the Opry before it left the Ryman Auditorium for the new Opry House. Jerry Clower would later join before the Opry moved.

July 7, 1975: Grand Ole Opry member George Morgan died in Nashville, after suffering a heart attack. He had been an Opry member since 1948, and would later be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. When George joined the Opry, he was considered the replacement for Eddy Arnold, who had recently left the show. George had one of the biggest hits in the history of country music, "Candy Kisses." It was the success of this song that led him to the Opry. He actually left the Opry in 1956 to star in his own television show, but returned to the Opry in 1959. In May 1975, he suffered a heart attack at his Nashville home. He returned to the Opry in June, but he needed open heart surgery. He had the surgery in early July, but there were complications that led to his death.

July 2, 1982: Country Music Hall of Famer and former Grand Ole Opry member DeFord Bailey died in Nashville at the age of 82. DeFord was one of the first members of the Opry, but he was fired from the Opry in 1941, by George D. Hay. Deford was very bitter about his firing and would remain so for many years. However, on February 23, 1974, he returned to the Opry stage for the Opry's "Old Timer's Night. Many said he was the highlight of that night, as he performed his harmonica songs, "Pan American" and "Fox Chase." His final appearance at the Opry was on April 3, 1982, during that year's "Old Timer's Night" at the Opry.

July 1, 1983: Gaylord Broadcasting Company of Dallas, Texas purchased the Grand Ole Opry from American General Corporation of Houston, Texas. Even though it was called Gaylord Broadcasting, it was actually Edward Gaylord and his wife, Thelma, who were the owners of the Opry. At the time, the Gaylords were also the owners of "Hee Haw." When they purchased the Opry, they also bought the entire Opryland complex and everything associated with it. The purchase price was rumored to be between $250 and $300 million. Over time, Gaylord Broadcasting would become Gaylord Entertainment, and would go from a privately held company to a publicly traded company, and it's primary focus would change from broadcasting to resort and hotel management. It is hard to believe that Gaylord has owned the Opry for 28 years.

July 3, 1996: Alison Krauss becomes an Opry member. At the time, she was the Opry's youngest member. Garth Brooks was the member who officially inducted her, and with her induction she was the first bluegrass artist to join the Opry in 19 years.

July 3, 2001: Johnny Russell died in Nashville after a long illness. After he joined the Opry, he would often host the final segment, much as Marty Robbins had done. He was famous for saying, "Can You See Me Ok?". Not only was he a great performer, he was an even better songwriter. He had joined the Opry on July 6, 1985.

There you have it. I hope that you enjoy this look back.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific as always. You inspired me to look up Annie Lou and Danny, and they were on the Opry for about 11 years until their marriage was breaking up.

    I would note that DeFord Bailey did appear on the National Life Grand Ole Opry in the 1960s, performing the numbers you mentioned. They are on YouTube and he was terrific.

    I am betting that Bill Anderson gets a big celebration for his 50th. He should. Others should have as well!