I didn't want this day to pass without taking a moment to remember former Opry member Del Reeves, who was born Franklin Delano Reeves on July 14, 1933, in Sparta, North Carolina.
Del was the youngest of 11 children and at the age of 12, he was singing on local radio. He attended Appalachian State College in Boone, North Carolina and then served in the air force. While he was in California and serving our country, he made his first recordings for Capital Records. He also did some TV work. Del was married to Ellen Schiell, and they co-wrote "Sing a Little Song of Heartache", which in 1962 was recorded by Rose Maddox and went to #3 on the charts.
Del's own recording career really got into full swing in 1961, as he recorded for Decca Records and with the support of Hank Cochran, moved to Nashville in 1962. He bounced around between a couple of record labels until he signed with United Artists Records in 1965, and then the hits started coming including "The Girl on the Billboard", which was #1 in 1965, "Belles of Southern Bell" a #4 record the same year, and "Looking at the World Through a Windshield", which went to #5 in 1968.
In addition to recording, he appeared in several movies, including "Sam Whiskey" in 1969, and he had his own syndicated television show, "Del Reeves Country Carnival", which was aired from 1970-1973. He stayed with United Artists Records until 1978, and then bounced around between several labels.
Del and his wife made news in 1989, when they agreed to promote Billy Ray Cyrus. After Billy Ray's career hit, "Achy Breaky Heart", Del and his wife sued Billy Ray, looking for a return on their investment. Billy Ray settled out of court.
Del Reeves joined the Opry on October 15, 1966 and for many years was one of the Opry's greatest entertainers. Not only was he a great singer, but he did great humorous impressions of various country music entertainers including Roy Acuff, Jimmy Dickens and Johnny Cash. He also did Jimmy Stewart and Walter Brennen.
Del told the story about how he came to the Opry and the night he was introduced as a Opry member:
"At that time if you wanted to be on the Opry you had to do twenty-six Saturday nights per year. When 'Girl on the Billboard' made number one, and 'Belles of Southern Bell' made number one, they asked me to join the Opry. And my manager, Hubert Long, rest his soul, says, 'It's an impossibility. You can't join the Opry now.' That almost broke my heart. I told Hubert: 'But I worked all my life from a little boy in Sparta, North Carolina, to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry! And you tell 'em I can't join!' He said, 'Don't worry, they're gonna call you back.'"
"And in 1967 I finally joined the Opry, during DJ convention week. Porter Wagoner introduced me. And my mother and daddy, who at that time were seventy-eight and eighty-one, were in the audience to see one of their seven sons-there were four girls too-make the Opry. I don't even think I got out 'Doodle-do-do-do-do', which has been a trademark with me, before I started cryin'. Porter came up and put his arms around me. And when he done that I laid my head on his shoulder, and the band kept playin', an' Porter started gettin' tears in his eyes, an' it was just one big cryin' mess. I think I finally did begin to compose myself. An' then Porter, being the showman he is, said, 'Ladies an' gentlemen, his mother and father is in the audience.' An' they stood up, an' when they did I just fell apart. I mean, there ain't no way I'm gonna be able to sing. An' Porter's got tears runnin' down his face, an' I'm cryin'-literally boo-booin'. So Porter just stood there with his arms around me. An' I'm tryin' to think 'Where am I at in the song?' I finally went to the last verse an' got through the last verse an' the chorus. An' that was it. The whole place stood up at the old Ryman."
What a great story, although he did get the year wrong.
Sad to say, but like several country music singers of his era, Del developed lung problems, in his case, emphysema, and passed away on January 1, 2007. His last Opry appearance was in August of 2002. At the time, Del had felt disrespected by Opry management, specifically Pete Fisher, as his Opry appearances had been cut back and he told the story of being critized by Pete Fisher for going over his allowed minutes when performing. After that, Del rarely appeared on the Opry.
Now in memory of Del Reeves, here is the running order of the Opry, from Saturday night October 15, 1966, the night that Del Reeves became an Opry member:
JIMMY C NEWMAN-BACK POCKET MONEY
WILLIS BROTHERS-1 6FT 2 BY 4
BOB LUMAN-COME ON & SING
JEAN SHEPARD-IF TEARDROPS WERE SILVER
JIMMY C NEWMAN-CRY, CRY DARLING
ERNIE ASHWORTH-PUSHED IN A CORNER
WILLIS BROTHERS-BIG DADDY IS ALABAMA BOUND
JIMMY C NEWMAN-BRING YOUR HEART HOME
FLATT & SCRUGGS-WONDER IF YOUR'RE LONESOME TOO
TEX RITTER-HIGH NOON
BILL ANDERSON-I GET THE FEVER
STRINGBEAN-HOT CORN, COLD CORN
FLATT & SCRUGGS-HOUSTON
CROOK BROTHERS-8TH OF JANUARY
BILLY GRAMMER-THE REAL THING
FLATT & SCRUGGS-MAMA, YOU'VE BEEN ON MY MIND/LONESOME ROAD BLUES
PORTER WAGONER-OLD SLEW FOOT
GEORGE HAMILTON IV-EARLY MORNING RAIN
ARCHIE CAMPBELL-MOST RICHLY BLESSED
PORTER WAGONER-GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME
DEL REEVES-GIRL ON THE BILLBOARD
JEANNIE SEELY-IT'S ONLY LOVE
MARK MCGAHA & BUCK TRENT-TURKEY IN THE STRAW
9:00 PET MILK
ERNEST TUBB-DRIVING NAILS IN MY COFFIN
BILL MONROE-THE WALLS OF TIME
WILBURN BROTHERS-HURT HER ONCE FOR ME
MARION WORTH-MORE THAN YOU'LL EVER KNOW
ERNEST TUBB-ANOTHER STORY
FRUIT JAR DRINKERS-NUBBIN' RIDGE
JACK GREENE-THERE GOES MY EVERYTHING
ERNEST TUBB-SLIPPING AROUND
BOBBY LORD-CASH ON THE BARRELHEAD
WILLIS BROTHERS-DIAMONDS ON YOUR HANDS
DOTTIE WEST-HERE COMES MY BABY
BOBBY LORD-LOSERS LIKE ME
DEL WOOD-CAJUN STRIPPER
COUSIN JODY-ON TOP OF OLD SMOKEY
BOBBY LORD-THAT'S ALL RIGHT
BILL ANDERSON-I LOVE YOU DROPS
GEORGE HAMILTON IV (WITH PERRY COMO)-TRUCK DRIVING MAN
STRINGBEAN-20 CENT COTTON AND 90 CENT MEAT
JIMMY C NEWMAN-A FALLEN STAR
ERNIE ASHWORTH-AT EASE, HEART
LEON BUTLER-HE'LL HAVE TO GO
PORTER WAGONER-HOWDY NEIGHBOR, HOWDY
FLATT & SCRUGGS-PETTICOAT JUNCTION
JEAN SHEPARD-SECOND FIDDLE
GEORGE MORGAN-YOU'RE THE ONLY GOOD THING
FLATT & SCRUGGS-BALLAD OF JED CLAMPETT
ERNEST TUBB-THANKS A LOT
DOTTIE WEST-LET ME TALK TO YOU
RAY PILLOW-I'D FIGHT THE WORLD
CROOK BROTHERS-GREENBACK DOLLAR
ERNEST TUBB-I'LL STEP ASIDE
BILL MONROE-UNCLE PEN
TEX RITTER-I DREAMED OF A HILLBILLY HEAVEN
WILBRUN BROTHERS-IT'S ANOTHER WORLD
FRUIT JAR DRINKERS-WALKIN IN MY SLEEP
BILL MONROE-LIVE & LET LIVE
JEANNIE SEELY-DON'T TOUCH ME
SAM MCGEE-STEEL GUITAR RAG
BILL MONROE-A USED TO BE
MARTY ROBBINS-RIBBON OF DARKNESS
MARION WORTH-EVER SINCE MY BABY WENT AWAY
CHARLIE LOUVIN-SEE THE BIG MAN CRY
BILLY GRAMMER-THE REAL THING
MARTY ROBBINS-THE SHOE GOES ON THE OTHER FOOT TONIGHT
DEL REEVES-BELLS OF SOUTHERN BELL
MARTY ROBBINS-DEVIL WOMAN
MARTY ROBBINS-BOUQUET OF ROSES
MARTY ROBBINS-I COULD NEVER BE ASHAMED OF YOU
MARTY ROBBINS-TAKE THESE CHAINS FROM MY HEART
MARTY ROBBINS-LOVESICK BLUES
MARTY ROBBINS-EL PASO
What a line-up!!!!!!!!!!