Friday, September 30, 2011

October Opry Highlights

October has traditionally been one of the more significant months in the history of the Grand Ole Opry, with lots of historical and important events having taken place during the month. As I do each month, here are those events that took place in the history of the Grand Ole Opry in October:

October 5, 1925: WSM went on the air. Edwin Craig was given the honor of starting off the broadcast, and he simply said, "This is WSM. We Shield Millions. The National Life and Accident Insurance Company." National Life president C.A. Craig dedicated the station to public service. Shortly afterward, George D. Hay, who was present that night, would be offered the job of program director at WSM.

October 27, 1934: The Grand Ole Opry moved from Studio C at WSM to the Hillsboro Theater. The theater sat 2,400 people. For the first time, the performers had dressing rooms and since there was now a sizeable audience, they were told to "dress" for their performances. Mostly that meant to wear rural clothes that reflected the image of a country show. This also marked the beginning of Vito Pellettiere as the Opry's stage manager. Many feel that Vito was the most important person at the Opry and he kept the show running on schedule. Many of the Opry's veteran members have often said that the Opry has not been the same since he passed away. He would be at the Opry for over 40 years, working his final Opry on April 2, 1977. Several days later he suffered a stroke and would pass away on April 14.

October 12, 1939: The NBC radio network begins carrying a half-hour Opry segment, hosted by Roy Acuff and sponsored by Prince Albert Tobacco. The show begins on a number of regional affiliates, but would over time expand to the NBC national network.

October 28, 1939: Bill Monroe becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. On his first night at the Opry, he performed "Muleskinner Blues." Opry founder George D. Hay is so impressed with the performance that he would tell Bill that if he ever wanted to leave the Opry, he would have to fire himself. Bill would never do that and would remain an Opry member until his death on September 9, 1996.

October 2, 1954: Elvis Presley makes his first and only appearance on the Opry. He sang the great Bill Monroe hit, "Blue Moon of Kentucky." The story went that after Elvis's performance, he was told by Jim Denny, the Opry's manager, that he should go back to driving a truck, but there is some doubt if that incident ever took place. While Opry management did not think much of Elvis to invite him back, Bill Monroe said he was impressed with how Elvis did his song (and even more impressed with the royalty checks he would receive.)

October 30, 1955: Jim Reeves joins the Opry cast. Over time, he would become the biggest star on the Opry, but like many others, realized the limitations of being an Opry member and would move on. For a while, he would be known as the Opry's "new Eddy Arnold."

October 15, 1960: Loretta Lynn made her first appearance on the Opry. The Wilburn Brothers were instrumental in getting her the guest slot on the show. She was on the Ernest Tubb segment and Ernest introduced her. Since she did not have a band, Leslie Wilburn played bass and Lester Wilburn played rhythm guitar for her. She sang, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl."

October 27, 1962: Sonny James becomes a member of the Opry.

October 23, 1965: Roy Acuff, Jr. made his first appearance on the Opry. He sang, "Baby Just Said Goodbye", while his father stood behind him. His recording and performing career were short as he preferred to work behind the scenes rather than be in the public eye.

October 10, 1966: The Browns gave their final performance as Opry members. Jim Ed Brown would continue as an Opry member, as a solo artist, while Maxine and Bonnie would appear with Jim Ed on occasion. Many feel, and I am included in this group, that the Browns should have been elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame a long time ago. They had a huge impact on country music and sang some of the finest harmonies in the history of the Opry.

October 14, 1966: Del Reeves joins the cast of the Opry. He was introduced that night by Porter Wagoner and in a story that has been told many times, it was a very emotional night for Del with his parents in attendance that night. Del broke down and couldn't make it through his song.

October 8, 1968: Harry Stone, former WSM executive, passed away at the age of 70. The influence that Harry Stone had on the Opry was great. While George D. Hay wanted to keep the show simple and down to earth with local and regional performers who were not professional musicians, Harry moved the show forward by hiring established and professional entertainers. Harry was the general manager of WSM, starting in 1932. Among the first artists that Harry brought to the Opry were Pee Wee King and Roy Acuff. Harry saw what the show could do for WSM and National Life on a national level.

October 19, 1968: In an interview with the Nashville Tennessean, Irving Waugh, WSM president said that the Opry's days at the Ryman Auditorium were numbered. In the article it said, "The initiation of plans for the relocation of the Opry, possibly as the center of a multi-million dollar hotel and amusement complex, was announced at a breakfast at Municipal Auditorium sponsored by WSM." Irving Waugh said, "Our feeling is that the Grand Ole Opry needs a new, modern facility. And we would like a facility that would be very active. It is estimated the center, which would be called Opryland USA, would require between one hundred fifty and two hundred acres of land. The location would not be in the Music Row area." Over time, detailed plans would be announced, including the location out of the center of town.

October 27, 1973: Comedian Jerry Clower becomes a member of the Opry. He was the last Grand Ole Opry member to join the cast before the Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Grand Ole Opry House. When he joined the Opry, Jerry followed in the tradition of a long line of Opry comedians including Minnie Pearl, Archie Campbell, Stringbean, Lew Childre, Duke of Paducah and Rod Brasfield. Sorry to say, but comedy seems to be a lost art on the Opry today.

October 18, 1975: The Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 50th anniversary. The 50th anniversary show is considered one of the greatest in the Opry's history with just about every Opry member present for the weekend.

October 16, 1982: Doyle Wilburn passed away in Nashville at the age of 52. The Wilburn Brothers had first come to the Opry as children but were forced to leave because of their age. The later came back, becoming members in 1953. The were one of the greatest duets in the history of country music and they also owned a publishing company. After Doyle passed away, Teddy would continue as an Opry member until his death in 2003. Much like the Browns, a solid case can be made that the Wilburn Brothers deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

October 24, 1983: Opry member Kirk McGee passed away. Along with his brother Sam, Kirk made his first appearance on the Opry in 1926, and over the years they were a part of the Fruit Jar Drinkers and the Dixieliners. When he passed away, he was one of the last links back to the start of the Opry.

October 3, 1989: Grand Ole Opry member Del Wood passed away in Nashville. Del, whose real name was Adelaide Hazelwood, had joined the Opry in 1953. She was famous for her ragtime piano, and her great record, "Down Yonder." I don't think there was ever an Opry show that she didn't do that number. And, as the Opry Picture History Book said every year, "She was famous for her canning and jams."

October 4, 1989: Holly Dunn becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. She would remain with the Opry until retiring from the music business and leaving Nashville.

October 6, 1990: Garth Brooks becomes a member of the Opry. Garth remembered that Johnny Russell was the one who introduced him the first time that he played the Opry and he would always insist on being on Johnny's segment whenever he did the Opry. On the night he was inducted, Johnny was the segment host and Garth sang, "Friends in Low Places," "If Tomorrow Never Comes," and "The Dance." Sorry to say, but Garth would make rather infrequent visits to the Opry once he became a member. On another note, it was on this same night that Alan Jackson made his first appearance on the Opry.

October 4, 1991: Diamond Rio made their first appearance at the Opry. They would later join the Opry on April 18, 1998. Not only have they been good Opry members, but they have been very involved in the Nashville community.

October 19, 1991: Grand Ole Opry announcer and Country Music Hall of Fame member Grant Turner passed away hours after announcing the Friday Night Opry. He was a Grand Ole Opry announcer for 47 years and he set the standard that every Opry announcer has tried to follow. Grant also hosted the Opry's warm-up show on WSM and also had served as the announcer on Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree.

October 24, 1991: Gaylord Entertainment Company, owners of the Grand Ole Opry, listed it's stock on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time and offered its stock to the general public. Many say that this started the downfall of Gaylord and the Opry.

October 23, 1992: Roy Acuff makes his final Opry appearance. It was a Friday night show and Roy did his segment sitting in a directors chair. Exactly one month later, he would pass away at the age of 89.

October 25, 2003: Del McCoury becomes a member of the Opry. This will be his 8th year as a member and Del has always fulfilled his Opry commitments since joining the show. Many times, if he is on the same night as Vince Gill, Del and his band will back up Vince.

October 1, 2005: Dierks Bentley joins the cast of the Opry. This will be his 6th year as an Opry member. He had spent several years working for The Nashville Network and hanging around the Opry. He made his Opry debut in April 2003.

October 15, 2005: The Grand Ole Opry celebrates it's 80th anniversary. Garth Brooks marked the occasion by coming out of retirement and performing for the first time in five years. He was joined on the Opry stage by Porter Wagoner, Bill Anderson and Jimmy Dickens, and sang with each of them.

October 27, 2007: Josh Turner, after being a guest of the Opry many times, became an official member of the cast. He had been asked previously by Roy Clark to become a member.

October 25, 2008: Craig Morgan joined the Opry. John Conlee handled the induction and since joining the show, Craig makes about 10 appearances per year. This will be his 3rd year as a member.

October 22, 2010: Blake Shelton joins the Opry after being invited to became a member of the cast the previous month by Trace Atkins, during the re-opening night of the Opry House after the flood. Sorry to say, but since joining, Blake has made very few appearances at the Opry.

There you have it for this month. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grand Ole Opry 9/30 & 10/1

The big news at the Opry this week was that Rascal Flatts will be the Opry's newest members. That will happen next Saturday night, along with the Opry's Birthday Celebration, but in looking at this weekend, on Saturday night they go back to having 2 shows, which will continue through October. While the line ups are not terrible this weekend, I don't know if what they have for Saturday is worthy of 2 shows.

Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry will feature Sarah Darling and James Wesley returning to the Opry stage. Also country music veteran T.G. Shepard will be on, along with Laura Bell Bundy, whose Opry appearances always seem to be out on the edge. This week's Opry newcomer, making his first appearance on the Opry will be Jason Jones. He has a digital single out and is working on his first album.

The Friday Night Opry will feature the return of The McClymonts, who made their Opry debut several weeks back. Also, Josh Kelley and Exile will be on the show, along with Opry favorite Rebecca Lynn Howard.

Friday September 30
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; The McClymonts
8:15: The Whites (host); Rebecca Lynn Howard; Josh Kelley
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); T.G. Shepard; Exile

Saturday October 1
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jason Jones
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jack Greene; Sarah Darling
8:00: Jean Shepard (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; James Wesley; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Laura Bell Bundy; T.G. Shepard

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Jason Jones
10:00: Jeannie Seely; Grand Master Fiddle Champion; Sarah Darling
10:30: Jean Shepard (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; James Wesley; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Laura Bell Bundy; T.G. Shepard

As I do each week, for those counting at home, on Friday night, there are currently 11 acts scheduled, with 1 more to add, of which only 6 are Opry members. My comment is that the Opry has 65+ members, and Pete Fisher could only round up 6?

On Saturday night, each show features 12 acts, of which 7 are Opry members for the 1st show and 6 are Opry members on the 2nd show. My same comment that I made regarding Friday night applies to Saturday night.

The big news at the Opry for this week's shows, is the Tuesday night Opry, where the line up is "loaded". (If there was ever a night for 2 shows, it would be Tuesday). Based on how the line up has been posted, I would say that the 2nd half of the show is being set up for a TV taping, to be shown later on GAC.

7:00: Craig Morgan; Josh Turner
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Carrie Underwood
8:15: Randy Travis; John Anderson; Carrie Underwood
8:45: Josh Turner; Joe Stampley; Connie Smith; Gene Watson

That is 9 artists of whom 6 are Opry members and the other 3 are country music veterans.

In the coming weeks, there are some very strong shows coming to the Opry as they continue to celebrate their birthday the entire month of October.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rascal Flatts Invited to Join The Opry

During last night's Tuesday Night Opry, Vince Gill came out on stage during the final segment that featured Rascal Flatts and invited them to become the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. Of course, the members of Rascal Flatts were emotionally stunned and said "yes". The actual induction will take place during the Opry's 86th birthday celebration on October 8.

As many of my readers know, I have speculated for the last several months that I thought they would be invited to join the show. And if you remember, some time back I had a post on 10 people who I thought should be Opry members, and they were on my list, along with the Oak Ridge Roys.

My initial opinion is that this is a good move by the Opry. Rascal Flatts are one of the top 5 acts in country music right now, if not the top act, and over the past year they have made numerous appearances at the Opry. They seem to enjoy being there and the crowd loves them, especially the younger fans. I really believe they "get it". Now, of course, comes the question that you never really know the answer to until later and that is, "Will they honor their commitments to the show and be there the 10 times per year asked of new members?" All we can do is to wait and see.

Congratulations to Rascal Flatts and I will be there on October 8 to witness their induction. I also know that the Opry will be televised on GAC that night, so for those who cannot attend, they will be able to watch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Johnnie Wright Passes Away

Country music has suffered another great lost as Johnnie Wright, 97, the husband of Kitty Wells and one half of the recording duo Johnny & Jack, died today at 97 at his home in Madison, Tennessee.

Born in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, Wright first performed with Jack Anglin in 1936. In 1937, he married Wells, who was 18. The two, along with Wright's sister Louise, performed as Johnny Wright & the Harmony Girls. In 1939, Wright and Anglin formed Johnnie & Jack. They teamed up full-time in the 1940s and, except for the time Anglin spent overseas during World War II, remained together for more than two decades.

In 1952, Johnnie & Jack's "Poison Love" led to tem being on the Grand Ole Opry, where they and Wells were invited to join and stayed for 15 years. They continued having hits in the 1950s, including "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)". Following Anglin's in a car accident in 1963 on his way to the funeral for Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Randy Hughes, Wright continued performing and releasing records.

In 1964, he and his Tennessee Mountain Boys had a Top 25 hit with "Walkin', Talkin', Cryin', Barely Beatin' Broken Heart". The following year, he had a big hit with "Hello, Vietnam", which went to number one. In 1968, he and Wells recorded an autobiographical duet, "We'll Stick Together" and continued playing live shows together through the early 1980s.

In 1992, the couple and their son Bobby began playing together again. On December 31, 2000, the duo performed their farewell concert at the Nashville Nightlife Theater in Nashville.

Wright and Wells had three children, two daughters Ruby, who died in 2009, and Carol Sue and a son, Bobby. Each had minor success individually as recording artists. Both Bobby and Ruby performed as part of their parents' road tour for many years. (from wire reports).

Johnnie & Jack first joined the Opry in 1947. They spent a year at the Opry and then left to move to Shreveport and be a part of the Lousiana Hayride. In 1952, they returned to the Opry, where the remained members as a duo until Jack passed away in the car accident in 1963. Johnnie Wright, along with Kitty Wells, remained Opry members until both were fired on December 6, 1964, for failing to meet the Opry's attendance requirements. While the Opry announced they were fired, Johnnie would maintain that they quit and the reason had to do with paying the 5% commission to the WSM Artists' Service Bureau.

I saw Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright perform once. They put on a great family show. Johnnie had been retired and in declining health for a number of years. In retirement, they still lived in the same house in Madison that they had lived for most of their married life. And out front in the driveway, their tour bus was still parked and ready to go, "just in case."

It seems like everytime a legend dies, we lose a part of country music's history and legacy. In the last several months, we have lost, in addition to Johnnie, Wilma Lee Cooper, Billy Grammer and Charlie Louvin. All have been missed.

All of our prayers go to Kitty and the family.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Former Opry Manager-D. Kilpatrick

I wanted to take a look back into Grand Ole Opry history tonight as it was on April 25, 1956 that Walter David "D" Kilpatrick took over as the "general director" of the Grand Ole Opry. He replaced Jim Denny, who was fired by WSM the previous day.

I know that many of my younger readers might not know who D. Kilpatrick was, so here is a brief biography by John Rumble of the Country Music Hall of Fame:

"Walker David "D" Kilpatrick was a notable music executive from the late 1940s to the late 1960s. After high school, service with the marine corps, and sales experience in the auto parts field, he broke into the record business as a salesman with Capital Records' Charlotte, North Carolina, distributorship, servicing retailers and jukebox operators in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. This prepared him for three years as Atlanta branch manager, beginning by early 1948. While there, he recruited and produced James and Martha Carson and the Statesmen for the label. In 1950 Kilpatrick became the first salaried country producer to be based in Nashville. In this role he recorded numerous acts at various studios around the nation, including Hank Thompson, Carl Butler, Jimmie Skinner, Tex Ritter, and Bob Atcher.

In 1951 Kilpatrick shifted to Mercury Records' country A&R slot. Although he remained heavily involved in southeastern sales and promotion he concentrated on recording Jerry Byrd, Johnny Horton, Jimmy Dean, Benny Martin, Ernie Lee Carl Story, and Bill Carlisle and the Carlisles. In 1956 Kilpatrick became manager of WSM's Grand Ole Opry and its associated booking operation and brought in new blood such as Rusty and Doug Kershaw, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Porter Wagoner, and the Everly Brothers. In 1958 Kilpatrick helped found the Country Music Association (CMA). In mid-1959 Kilpatrick left the Opry to form Acuff-Rose Artists Corporation (ARAC)-a booking agency-with Roy Acuff and Wesley Rose. A companion firm to Acuff-Rose Publications and Hickory Records, ARAC promoted not only Opry acts but also pop stars such as Roy Orbison and Mark Dinning. Next, Kilpatrick moved on to serve as southern district regional sales manager for Warner Bros. Records (1962-64), South and Southwest distribution and promotional manager for Philips Records (1964-65), and national sales and promotion chief for Mercury Records (1965-66). A number of smaller musical ventures followed, until Kilpatrick essentially left the music industry to run a custom drapery and fabrics business."

On a final biographical note, he spent his final years living in retirement in the Nashville area. He passed away on May 21, 2008 at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. he was 88 years old and died from lung cancer.

At the time that Kilpatrick was hired at the Opry, there was a lot of turmoil going on behind the scenes. Some reports called the atmosphere in the corporate offices as an "armed camp." There were differences between WSM president Jack DeWitt and several of his executives. And the board of directors of WSM were concerned over the increasing moonlighting of their employees. So, they decided that outside business activities would not be allowed by WSM employees, especially in those instances deemed to be in conflict with their WSM employment. The employees were told to make a choice, WSM or their outside jobs. Several, including engineers Aaron Shelton, George Reynolds and Carl Perkins, who had founded the very successful Castle Recording Studio, elected to stay with WSM. Jim Denny, who was running the Opry and the artist's booking agency, also operated Cedarwood Publishing, while Jack Stapp, WSM program director, was operating Tree Publishing, which was a smaller company than Cedarwood.

"The board of directors," executive Irving Waugh said, "had indicated that Denny and Stapp should be given the option of resigning or giving up their publishing interests. DeWitt didn't do that. He just fired Denny in September of '56 and brought in a new manager for the Grand Ole Opry."

That was how Kilpatrick was hired. His official title was Grand Ole Opry 'general director', and he was also named the manager of the radio station's Artists' Service Bureau. Also with his appointment, Stapp was removed from any control of the Opry.

When he took over, Kilpatrick faced a very strong challenge. He was quoted at the time as saying, "They asked me what I thought was wrong. We'll, back when I was working with Mercury Records I was at the Opry every Saturday night I was in town, and I could look at the audience and see what was wrong. The Opry didn't have the appeal to the younger audience that you have to have if you're going to keep growing. All I could see there were older people and little teeny kids. There weren't any teenagers." And he did add many younger acts, including those I listed previously. In addition to those, he also brought back the Wilburn Brothers, and added Stonewall Jackson and Ferlin Husky. While he was trying to attract younger people to the audience, he was also up against some of the Opry's long traditions, including the issue of drums. He sided with tradition on this one, leaving the drums out of the Opry.

During his time as the Opry's manager, two issues came up that had an effect on the Opry for many years. The first had to do with the string bands. When he took over, there were four of the groups on the Opry, and they were all from the start of the show. Those were the Possum Hunters, the Crook Brothers, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, and the Gully Jumpers. Each band was getting its own spot on the show, time was being used that might more profitably go to newer acts-acts to attract audience and sponsors.

He proposed a consolidation of the older musicians, from four to two bands, on the theory that the groups weren't really the old-time groups anyway, many of the original members having died. Herman Crook was incensed, taking his anger to WSM president DeWitt, arguing for status quo with the old string bands. He lost the argument. The old-timers were consolidated into the Crook Brothers and the Fruit Jar Drinkers. Herman was still angry about it years later. He was quoted as saying, "It shouldn't have changed...We had a lot of stuff on the Opry that didn't really belong. You need fiddles guitars, banjos, and things like that. And play the old-time tunes and songs. That's what it's supposed to be. It made National Life, I'm telling you. It really made them money."

The second incident was the firing of Webb Pierce. Webb was fired on February 19, 1957 for his refusal to pay commissions on bookings and other services to WSM. Kilpatrick was quoted as saying the Pierce was no longer associated with the Opry, WSM, or any of it's affiliates because of his "unwillingness to conform to long-established rules and regulations. Pierce failed to comply with the standard laws which govern the payment of commissions to the WSM Artists Services Bureau. The Artists' Services Bureau operates as the station's booking and publicity agency for personal appearances of Grand Ole Opry talent. For these services, and for use of the name, Grand Ole Opry, the WSM Artists Bureau receives a small commission from all Opry appearances. It was over the latter that Pierce and the Opry came to a parting of the ways." Kilpatrick then added that the Opry and Pierce departed "as friends."

Pierce, who had left the Opry once before but came back, claimed that he resigned from the Opry on February 19 because of the fee payment. He claimed that the Artists Services Bureau was doing nothing to promote or help Opry artists. Pierce went on to say that he didn't think that things were running too smoothly over at the Opry and pointed to the number of artists who had left the Opry in the previous months including Carl Smith, Red Sovine, Goldie Hill, George Morgan, Anita Carter, Lew Childre, the Duke of Paducah, Moon Mulligan, Rose Maddox and Martha Carson. He went on to say that he hoped the Opry and the station would correct the conditions that caused these artists to leave, although he did not specify what those conditions were. Kilpatrick finished off the debate by asking if things were so bad at the Opry, why were new members joining? He specifically named Porter Wagoner and Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper.

D Kilpatrick only lasted as the Opry's manager for a little less than three years, resigning in 1959. Why did he leave after such a short amount of time? There was some contention at the time that Kilpatrick had crossed swords with several of the established stars. Kilpatrick also thought that he had been undercut in the WSM executive offices by Irving Waugh, who held a position of power at both the WSM radio and televison. For what it is worth, Waugh never denied that he did not care for Kilpatrick.

After hiring someone from outside WSM and the Opry previously, this time the Opry stayed in-house and hired Ott Devine, who had been WSM's program director, as the Opry's new manager. Ott would have a successful run as Opry manager, due in no small part to the fact that he knew the radio station, the Opry, and its performers.

Many times we look back at the Opry's history and forget about some of the problems that the Opry had. In many ways, D. Kilpatrick faced some of the same issues that Pete Fisher has been facing, and in many ways, the two of them are similiar. Both came from outside WSM when they received their jobs. In fact, both came from artist promotion. Both had to deal with issues concerning the age of the Opry's audience and trying to attract new members to the Opry. Both have faced issues with the membership and terminating members--Kilpatrick with the consolidation of the bands and Fisher with the 4 Guys. Both faced criticism over their moves to modernize the Opry. And both had detractors among the Opry's members. The only difference is that Fisher seems to have the support and backing of Gaylord managment, while Kilpatrick lost the backing of National Life management.

Isn't it interesting that even though this was over 50 years ago, the Opry is still battling many of the same issues today?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Remembering Roy Drusky

As I look back into Grand Ole Opry history, I want to remember one of the Opry's long time members, who had one of the smoothest voices in the business, and that is Roy Drusky, who passed away on September 23, 2004, at the age of 74 from lung cancer. (Boy, how many entertainers have died from lung cancer over the years?).

Country music has always had its crooners, whose smooth voices are devoid of any twang. With his full mellow baritone, Roy Frank Drusky, Jr. is one of the best examples. According to Drusky, music did not enter his mind until he joined the navy and met some fellow sailors who enjoyed performing. His interest piqued, Drusky purchased a guitar and taught himself to play. After his service stint he enrolled at Emory University in his hometown of Atlanta to study veterinary medicine. To make extra money he formed the Southern Ranch Boys, began to perform around the area, and soon had his own fifteen-minute radio show on WEAS in Decatur, Georgia.

Choosing music over animal husbandry, Drusky began a recording career with Starday Records in 1953 and moved to the Columbia label in 1956. Failing to hit the charts on either label, Drusky took a disc jockey position at KEVE in Minneapolis. During that tenure, his songwriting ability began to be noticed. Faron Young recorded the Drusky composition, "Alone with You." and the ballad spent thirteen weeks at #1 on the country charts. Young had two more notable hits with Drusky songs: 'That's the Way It's Gotta Be" (#11, 1959) and "Country Girl" (#1, 1959).

In the fall of 1958, Owen Bradley signed him to Decca Records and Drusky joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in June 1959. He co-wrote his first two hits, "Another" (#2, 1960) and"Anymore" (#3, 1960). After three years of hits with Decca, Drusky moved to Mercury Records, where he stepped out of character and recorded the novelty tune "Peel Me a Nanner" (#8, 1963). In 1965 "Yes, Mr. Peters," a cheating-song duet with Priscilla Mitchell (Jerry Reed's wife), became his only #1 hit. Drusky continued to place records on the charts well through 1977, racking up a total of forty-two chart hits over a seventeen-year period.

I will have to say that my favorite Roy Drusky song was, "Second Hand Rose." I always enjoyed it and thought Roy did a very nice job with it. Roy kept up a heavy Opry appearance schedule over much of his career, however over his last decade, his appearances only averaged a couple of times each year, as he settled into "senior status" at the Opry.

Roy's last Opry appearance was during the 2nd show on Saturday June 21, 2003. In memory of Roy Drusky, here is the Opry line up from that night:

1st show:
Jimmy Dickens (host)
Connie Smith
Jimmy C Newman
Billy Yates

Jim Ed Brown (host)
BR 549
Mandy Barnett
Steve Azar
Oak Ridge Boys
Helen Cornelius

Porter Wagoner (host)
Jeannie Seely
The Whites
Miranda Lambert
Opry Square Dance Band
Opry Square Dancers

Brad Paisley (host)
Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys
Jean Shepard
Hal Ketchum

2nd show:
9:30 Jimmy Dickens (host)
Connie Smith
BR 549

Porter Wagoner (host)
Jimmy C Newman
Steve Azar

Jean Shepard (host)
The Whites
Oak Ridge Boys
Opry Square Dance Band
Opry Square Dancers

Brad Paisley (host)
Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys
Billy Yates
Mandy Barnett

Jeannie Seely (host)
Ray Pillow
Miranda Lambert

Roy, thanks for the memories!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 9/23 & 9/24

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for this weekend's shows. The highlight this weekend will be the return of Opry member Dolly Parton to the Opry stage. Dolly, who is usually good for 1 or 2 appearances each year, will be making her first appearance of 2011 on Saturday night. Joining her will be Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. For the "youngsters" among the Opry's fans, Holly Willams and Bradley Gaskin will be featured.

The Friday Night Opry will feature frequent Opry visitors Jimmy Wayne, Mark Wills and Point Of Grace. All of these non-members have performed many times at the Opry over the past year. It seems that every weekend the Opry is featuring a newcomer and this week's candidate is Katie Armiger, who will also be on the Friday show. So far in her career, she has released 3 albums, of which only 1 has made the charts. She has also charted 2 singles.

Finally, as of Thursday evening, Jimmy Dickens is scheduled to be back this weekend. He missed last weekend's shows, along with the Tuesday Night Opry.

Friday September 23
7:00: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Jimmy Wayne
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); George Hamilton IV; Katie Armiger
8:15: Jean Shepard (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Point Of Grace
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Mark Wills

Saturday September 24
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Connie Smith; Bradley Gaskin
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
8:15: Jean Shepard (host); Charlie McCoy; Holly Williams; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jesse McReynolds; Dolly Parton

For those keeping track at home, both the Friday and Saturday shows have 12 acts each, with 8 Opry members scheduled each night.

Finally, here is the line up for the Tuesday Night Opry, September 27:

7:00: The Whites; Brett Eldredge
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Terri Clark
8:15: Larry Gatlin; Charlie Daniels Band
8:45: Rascal Flatts

A pretty good show for a Tuesday night.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Birthday June Webb

Today I want to extend birthday wishes to June Webb who will be celebrating her birthday on September 22. June was a popular country music singer in the 1950s, who spent time with Roy Acuff as the female member of his Smoky Mountain Boys. As a part of Roy's group, she spent many Saturday nights at the Opry. In addition, she also had a very nice solo career. Because she left the business in the 1960s, it is hard to find good information about her. I checked my various country music encyclopedias that I have, and there is very little information about June. Since I consider June a friend of mine, I went right to the source and thanks to June and her good friend John, I will pass along this biographical information on June:

June Webb's life's journey began in L'Anse, Michigan but like many folks in the entertainment business she moved around quite a bit. Born into a musical family, the most influential shaping of June's life was at an early age in Miami, Florida when her parents got her brother (Ford), sister (Shirley) and her involved in singing, dancing, and playing various instruments. As the journey continued to wind it's way through life, Shirley and June, backed up by the family band, became the Harmony Sweethearts. That was a busy, yet exciting time that eventually found the sisters performing with many of the country music greats, including the great Hank Williams. In fact, the Webb Sisters were scheduled, along with other acts, to perform with Hank the night he died, January 1, 1953. (The concert was to have taken place in my home town of Canton, Ohio.) Not long after, June's path took her to a solo career with many memorable appearances including the Grand Ole Opry. In the mid 1950s, after a brief stint with RCA, which included a little guitar mentoring from none other than the wonderful Chet Atkins, June signed with Roy Acuff's show as the group's lead female singer. It was during this time that June, embarking on a solo career in addition to singing with Roy's group, received the "Most Promising Female" award. In the early 1960s, after many years of performing as both a solo artist and as the lead female singer on the Roy Acuff show, June made the decision that it was time for a change, and due to family matters and life in general, she decided to leave the day-to-day grind of a high profile country music career. She basically disappeared from a very public life and started to lead a very private one, outside of country music and performing.

After that, though her life to some degree included singing and playing guitar, in general like most everyone else, the passing years along with life's path played out like an old country song. There were good times and bad, immeasurable joy and nearly unbearable sorrow while in between raising a family, putting food on the table, and doing everyday stuff. All the while, however, there was always this faint but ever present tugging at her heart, a yearning, a just below the surface feeling of missing her beloved country music.

But, just like a country song, things happen unexpectedly, and in 2008, June received an email from an interesting character, via a family friend. This gentleman told June a story about his mom and dad gathering the children, a cup of Sealtest Ice Cream and a little wooden spoon in hand, around their black and white TV on Saturday nights to watch June sing country music. That little blast from the past made it all come rushing back, the music, the Opry, the fans. June wrote the gentleman back and over time, he sent June clips of her on various shows, recordings of her 45s on personal CDs he had made, and wonderful photos of her family and her. One thing led to another and as a result June now has a wonderful website to share these memories with her many fans. is a great site. I highly recommend that everyone visit the site.

The site includes a great CD for sale, by June, called, "June Webb then....with a hint of now!" I have the CD in my collection and it is excellent and really brings back memories. You can also see June's performances on YouTube. There are several clips of her singing. Just by watching these clips, you can see that June really had a promising career going.

As she has come back into the public eye, she is also being recognized by those in the music community. Just this past month, June was inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.

Even though she left the music business in the 1960s, her friends in the business did not forget her, especially Roy Acuff. In the last year of Roy's life, he specifically got in touch with June and asked her if she would come up to Nashville and appear with him on the Grand Ole Opry for a final time before he passed away. And of course, June did. The night of that performance was Saturday August 15, 1992. There were 2 shows that night and June was featured on the 2nd show. In honor of June Webb's birthday, here is the Opry line up from both shows on Saturday night, August 15, 1992, when June appeared on the Opry for a final time with her friend, and former boss, Roy Acuff:

1st show:
6:30: GHS Strings
Porter Wagoner (host): Tennessee Saturday Night
Wilma Lee Cooper: There's A Higher Power
Porter Wagoner: Misery Loves Company/Dooley

6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Jim Ed Brown (host): Looking Back to See
Jeannie Seely: Houston
Jim Ed Brown: Send Me the Pillow that You Dream On/Morning

7:00: Shoneys
Bill Monroe (host): I'm On My Way Back to the Old Home
Jeanne Pruett: Temporarily Yours
Charlie Louvin: The Family That Prays
Del Reeves: There She Goes
Billy Walker: Smokey Places
Bill Monroe: Tennessee Blues

7:30: Standard Candy
Ricky Skaggs (host); Same Old, Same Old Love
Justin Tubb: Imagine That
The Whites: San Antonio Rose
Alison Krauss: A New Fool/Another Night
Ricky & Sharon Skaggs: Love Can't Ever Get Better Than This

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Connie Smith: Did We Have to Come This Far to Say Goodbye/Satisfied
Jimmy C Newman: La Cajun Band/Jole Blon
Opry Square Dance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Sugar in the Gourd
Roy Acuff: That's the Man I'm Looking For

8:30: Opryland
Hank Snow (host): I Don't Hurt Anymore
4 Guys: Big River
Jean Shepard: Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me
Jack Greene: Statue of a Fool
George Hamilton IV: Break My Mind
Hank Snow: The Rainbows End

2nd show:
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Stonewall Jackson: Why I'm Walkin'
Bill Carlisle: Same Old Tale that the Crow Told Me
Alison Krauss: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name
Alison Krauss & Cox Family: Standing By the Bedside of a Neighbor
Porter Wagoner: I'm Gonna Act Right

10:00: Little Debbie
Bill Monroe (host): Why Did You Wander
Roy Drusky: Blues In My Heart
David Houston: My Elusive Dreams
Bill Monroe: A Beautiful Life

10:15: Tennessee Pride/Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
4 Guys: My Prayer

10:30: Pet Milk
Ricky Skaggs (host): I Wouldn't Change You if I Could
The Whites: Pins & Needles
Ricky Skaggs: Country Boy

10:45: B.C. Powder
Jack Greene (host): Try A Little Kindness
Jan Howard: Rock Me Back to Little Rock/Evil on Your Mind
Opry Square Dance Band: Lost Indian
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): I've Been Everywhere
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up on Your Way Down
Jean Shepard: Above and Beyond
Charlie Louvin & Charlie Whitstein: Knoxville Girl
Ray Pillow: Please Don't Leave Me Anymore
Hank Snow: My Little Old Home Down in New Orleans

11:30: Creamette
Jimmy C Newman (host): Colinda
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells
Connie Smith: Once a Day
Johnny Russell: In a Mansion Stands My Love/He'll Have to Go
Jimmy C Newman: Jambalaya

There you have it. Again, I wish my friend June a very happy birthday and I hope that she has many more. And again, please visit her website, And, leave her a message!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Remembering Red Foley

2 former members of the Grand Ole Opry passed away on September 19. One was Skeeter Davis, and I covered her last month in relation to when she joined the Opry. The other former Opry member who passed away on this date was Red Foley, who passed on September 19, 1968 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. To say that Red led a difficult life would be an understatement. He was an outstanding talent, but he had some serious issues, including a drinking problem and with the IRS. Clyde Julian Foley was born in Blue Lick, Kentucky on June 17, 1910. The following is a short biography on him.

Red Foley began his career with occasional performances as a vocalist with The Cumberland Ridge Runners on the WLS National Barn Dance in the 1930s. He hosted WLS National Barn Dance road shows in the late 1930s and early 1940s and started recording for Decca in 1941. His first big record was teh sentimental "Old Shep." He had several other big hits, including the World War II tune, "Smoke on the Water." He left WLS in 1946 to replace Roy Acuff as host of the Grand Ole Opry's Prince Albert Tobacco segment. (Acuff had quit the segment in a contract dispute.) Coming to Nashville with a band that included Chet Atkins, Foley brought the house down at his debut performance. And though some on the Opry had been upset when Prince Albert's ad agency hired an outsider, the cast quickly accepted him.

Foley had a string of hits thoughout the 1940s including "New Jole Blon" (1947), "Tennessee Saturday Night" (1948) and "Tennessee Border" (1949). In 1950, "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy" topped both the pop and country charts; the flip side, "Sugarfoot Ray," featuring Hank Garland on guitar, sold strongly, too. He recorded a number of hit novelty duets with Ernest Tubb for Decca in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He has cut other boogie numbers like "Birmingham Bounce." His 1951 version of (There'll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me)" quickly became a gospen standard. Adverse publicity began to dog Foley in 1952, when his wife committed suicide, allegedly over his constant philandering. Two years later, his daughter, Shirley, married Pat Boone. That same year, Foley remarried.

In 1954 Foley left the Opry to become the star of Springfield, Missouri's Ozark Jubilee, but by then his hitmaking career was on the wane. Over time, his alcoholism worsened. In the late 1950s, he found himself in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. Though he continued performing after the Jubilee ended, including his role in the TV series, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, his career never recovered. Ralph Emery's autobiography, Memories, discusses Foley's increasing alcoholic and emotional dissipation. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967, he died while on tour at a Fort Wayne, Indiana, motel in 1968. Hank Williams Jr. had been with him on the tour and later recorded "I Was With Red Foley (The Night He Passed Away."

Red took over the "Prince Albert Show" in late April 1946. Minnie Pearl remembered that time:
"Oh, he was the best-lookin thing. He'd wear a white shirt and a white jacket, sort of zipped up in front-kind of an Eisenhower jacket, you know. And a white hat, black boots, black trousers, very tight; he had a good figure. He was a snappy dresser. Red Foley was snappy-that's the only word that describes him."

Foley remembered his Opry debut: "I guess I never was more scared than I was the night I replaced Roy Acuff.....The people thought I was a Chicago slicker who had come to pass himself off as a country boy and bump Roy out of his job."

Red stayed at the Opry until 1954, when he left to go to do televison. One of the reasons that he left was because of his personal problems and when he expressed his desire to leave, the Opry management made no attempt to keep him. Not only Ralph Emery, but Bill Anderson has also written about Red and his problems. I obviously never saw Red, but I have heard him, including old Opry performances and I can tell you that nobody, and I mean nobody, could sing a tune with emotion and feeling as Red did when he sang, "Peace in the Valley." Red's period at the Opry was short, but he had a big impact on the show and helped the show achieve even greater popularity than it had prior to him coming to the show.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wilma Lee Cooper Passes at Age 90

Grand Ole Opry member Wilma Lee Cooper passed away Tuesday September 13 at her home in Sweetwater, Tennesee from natural causes. She had been a member of the Opry since 1957 and was 90 years old. Her last solo performance on the Opry was at the Ryman Auditorium on February 24, 2001. Wilma Lee joined the Opry cast at the grand re-opening of the Opry House on September 28, 2010 for a group sing-along.

Wilma Lee was preceded in death by her husband Stoney Cooper and is survived by her daughter Carol Lee Cooper, Hendersonville, Tennessee; granddaughter Vanessa Brusseau and her husband Mark of Hermitage, Tennessee, and granddaughter Shannon Rogers and her husband Mark of Hendersonville, Tennessee. Per Wilma Lee's wishes there will not be a memorial service. She will be remembered for her music and her faith.

Wilma Lee spent nearly her entire life singing and entertaining. Born Wilma Leigh Leary, she began working early as a member of West Virginia's regionally-famed Leary Family. Her celebrated delivery of gospel and devotional songs emerged at the same time. First achieving national prominence in the 1940s performing with her late husband, champion fiddler Stoney (Dale T.) Cooper, Wilma Lee sang and played guitar with a bursting-at-the-seams energy. From the outset, the Coopers had success with story songs, from "The Legend of the Dogwood Tree," "Little Rosewood Casket," and "Sunny Side of the Mountain" for Rich-R-Tone and Columbia Records in the 40s to "Wreck on the Highway" and Philadelphia Lawyer" for Hickory Records in the early 1960s. It was likely Wilma Lee and Stoney's rousing, old-style jubilee hits of the 50s and 60s including "There's a Big Wheel", "This Old House," and "Big Midnight Special" that audiences have responded to most of all. Wilma Lee and Stoney were members of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

In memory of Wilma Lee Cooper, here is the Opry line up from Saturday February 24, 2001, which was her final solo appearance on the Grand Ole Opry:

Porter Wagoner (host)
Connie Smith
Bill Carlisle
The Derailers

Bill Anderson (host)
Tammy Cochran
Mel McDaniel
Allison Moorer
Keith Urban
Jeannie Seely
Eddy Raven

Jimmy Dickens (host)
Billy Walker
Opry Squaredance Band
Melvin Sloan Dancers

John Conlee (host)
Holly Dunn
Jim Ed Brown

Porter Wagoner (host)
The Whites
The Derailers
Mel McDaniel

Jimmy Dickens (host)
Del Reeves
Tammy Cochran

Jeannie Seely (host)
Billy Walker
Keith Urban
Opry Squaredance Band
Melvin Sloan Dancers

Bill Anderson (host)
Holly Dunn
Jimmy C Newman
Eddy Raven

John Conlee (host)
Ray Pillow
Charlie Walker
Allison Moorer

God Bless Wilma Lee and her family

Wilma Lee continued performing with her group the Clinch Mountain Clan after Stoney's death in March 1977, and was appearing on the Opry reguarly until a stroke suffered on stage in 2001 forced her to cease performing.

Jeannie Seely-Celebrating 44 Years As An Opry Member

It was on September 16, 1967 that Grand Ole Opry member Jeannie Seely joined the cast of the Opry. She will be celebrating her 44th year as an Opry member tonight. Jeannie was born on July 6, 1940 in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Here is a short bio of Jeannie:

"A Strong-voiced country singer who emerged in the 1960s, Jeannie Seely is perhaps best known for her 1966 smash 'Don't Touch Me.' A popular fixture on the Grand Ole Opry, she has remained an audience favorite over the years, in large part due to her vibrant onstage personality.

Born Marilyn Jeanne Seely, she was raised in a poor family in western Pennsylvania; her father was a steelworker and farmer. By age eleven she was singing on radio station WMGW in Meadville, Pennsylvanai, and by sixteen on television in Erie. While attending banking school, Seely moved to Los Angeles in 1961. There she combined more financial schooling with songwriting, singing and working as a disc jockey. In 1965 she shifted to Nashville-at the urging of songwriter Hank Cochran-and briefly joined Porter Wagoner's road (and television) show. She signed with Monument Records, for whom she recorded 'Don't Touch Me.' Written by Cochran, the ballad shot up the charts to #2, stayed there for three weeks, and won her a Grammy. In 1967 Seely joined the Opry, breaking its prudish standards by wearing miniskirts. In that same year, 'I'll Love You (More Than You Need)' became her second Top ten hit.

Seely became a popular figure on television shows (the Wilburn Brothers, Ernest Tubb), and in 1969 she formed a road show with Jack Greene. Also in 1969, she married Cochran (they later divorced); entertained U.S. military troops in Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand; and signed with Decca Records. A duet with Greene, 'Wish D Didn't Have to Miss You,' soon went to #2. Her last Top Ten hit, 'Can I Sleep in Your Arms?' (by Cochran), went to #6 in 1973 for MCA records. In 1978 Seely was injured in a perilous car wreck near Nashville.

A versatile artist, Seely has written songs for Norma Jean, Connie Smith, Dottie West, Ray Price, Faron Young and r&b singer Irma Thomas. She appeared in musicals in the 1980s and even compiled a witty book of earty epigrams, 'Pieces of a Puzzled Mind (1989). (written by Steve Eng-The Encyclopedia of Country Music).

In honor of Jeannie Seely's 44th year as an Opry member, here is the line up and running order of the show, from Saturday night September 16, 1967, that night Jeannie joined the Opry:

First Show
6:30 Mrs Grissoms
Ernie Ashworth(host): A Week in a County Jail
Paul Moore: Cold, Cold Heart
Spider Wilson: Wildwood Flower
Ernie Ashworth: My Love for You

6:45 Rudy's
George Hamilton IV(host): Break My Mind
Jerri Lynn(?): Ain't Had No Lovin
Jerry Whitehurst: Hey, Good Lookin
George Hamilton IV: The Urge for Going

7:00 Luzianne
Bill Anderson(host): Get While the Getting's Good
4 Guys: Swing Down, Chariot
Jimmy Gatley: She Want's to Be Like You
Tammy Wynette: You Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad
Bill Anderson: No One's Gonna Hurt You Anymore
Duke of Paducah: Four-Leaf Clover
4 Guys: Walking in the Sunshine
Bill Anderson: I Love You Drops

7:30 Standard Candy
Billy Grammer(host): Mabel, You Have Been a Friend to Me
Willis Brothers: A 6th 2 by 4
Stringbean: Gonna Make Myself a Name
Margie Bowes: Men Around the House
Billy Grammer: The Real Thing
Harold Weakley: Since Never
Billy Grammer: Pennsylvania Polka
Willis Brothers: Chattanogga Shoe Shine Boy
Billy Grammer: Gotta Travel On

8:00 Martha White
Wilburn Brothers(host): It's Another World
Justin Tubb: As Long As There's A Sunday
Dottie West: Like a Fool
Crook Brothers: Sally Goodin
Wilburn Brothers: Your Standing in the Way
Pete Sayers: Little Darling Pal of Mine
Justin Tubb & Dottie West: Love is no Excuse
Dottie West: Paper Mansions

8:30 Stephens
Roy Drusky(host): Rainbows & Roses
Grandpa Jones: Mountain Dew
Hugh X Lewis: You're So Cold I'm Turning Blue
Roy Drusky: White Lightning Express
Opry Staff Band: Speeding West
Grandpa Jones: Everything I Had Going for Me is Gone
Roy Drusky: Anymore

Second Show
9:30 Kelloggs
Tex Ritter(host): Boll Weevil
Willis Brothers: Big Daddy's Alabamy Bound
Dottie West: Funny, Familiar Forgotten Feelings
Hank Williams Jr: There's Be No Teardrops Tonight/Wedding Bells/Mansion on the Hill/Half as Much/Lovesick Blues
Tex Ritter: Working Man's Prayer
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Bill Cheatham

10:00 Schick
Billy Grammer(host); Gotta Travel On
Stringbean: Gonna Make Myself a Name
Margie Bowes: Makin Believe
Billy Grammer: Mabel, You Have Been a Friend to Me

10:15 Pure
Roy Drusky(host): Reel Me A Nanner
Grandpa Jones: Dear Old Sunny South by the Sea
George Hamilton IV: Break My Mind
Roy Drusky: New Lips

10:30 Buckley's
Ernie Ashworth(host): My Love for You
Willis Brothers: Give Me 40 Acres
Ernie Ashworth: Sad Face
Willis Brothers: Bob/God Walks These Hills With Me

10:45 Newport
Wilburn Brothers(host): Goody Goody Gumdrop
Justin Tubb: Take A Letter Miss Gray
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Wilburn Brothers: Knoxville Girl

11:00 Coca-Cola
Tex Ritter(host): Green Grow the Lilacs
4 Guys: Shenendoah
Hank Williams, Jr: Long Gone Lonesome Blues/Can't Take it Much Longer/I'm in No Condition to Try to Love Again/I'm Nobody's Child
Tex Ritter: Just Beyond the Moon
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Gray Eagle
Tex Ritter: I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven

11:30 Lava
Bob Luman(host): Let't Think About Living
Osborne Brothers: Roll Muddy River
Jerry Green: Turn the World Around the Other Way
Tammy Wynette: I Don't Wanna Play House
Bob Luman: You Can't Take the Boy from the Country
Harold Weakley: Since Never
Osborne Brothers: Making Plans
Bob Luman: Memphis

Some interesting observations regarding the Opry that night. Did you notice how many of the Opry's big names were missing: Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, Minnie Pearl, etc. Quite a few names. Also, Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams, Jr were both on. And this was early in their careers. Finally, some interesting booking. Tex Ritter and Hank Williams, Jr were not on the first show, but they had 2 segments on the 2nd show. Also, Bob Luman and the Osborne Brothers, in the last segment, were only on the 2nd show. On this particular night, the 2nd show was definitely stronger than the first.

Again, congratulations to Jeannie Seely!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 9/16 & 9/17

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for this weekend's shows. As is the pattern, there is one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday night. In looking at the schedule, a couple of items stand out. First, the line up is stronger than in recent weeks. And secondly, no Jimmy Dickens this weekend. He was on the original schedule that came out on Tuesday, but he was taken off the schedule this afternoon.

Friday night will feature the 44th anniversary as an Opry member for Jeannie Seely. I will have more on that tomorrow. Also on Friday night, Opry members Montgomery Gentry will be making a visit to the show. In addition, non-Opry members Jim Lauderdale, Dailey & Vincent and Gene Watson will be on.

Saturday night's show will have a return appearance by Will Hoge, who made his 1st Opry appearance several weeks back. Also appearing on Saturday night will be The Boxcars. This is a newer bluegrass group, but a good one that features performers that were previously members of other groups. Also, this group was recently nominated for 9 IBMA awards, so they are talented. Finally, another newcomer for Saturday night will be Kristin Chenoweth. Kristin has been around a while, doing mostly broadway and theater work. She also has been in numerous movies and television shows. What brings her to the Opry is that she recently made her first country music video and it is being currently shown on CMT.

Also appearing on Saturday night will be Opry members Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, along with Pam Tillis, who will be appearing both nights.

Friday September 16

7:00: John Conlee(host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Lauderdale
7:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); George Hamilton IV; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Pam Tillis(host); Riders In The Sky; Gene Watson
8:45: Mike Snider(host); The Whites; Montgomery Gentry

Saturday September 17
7:00: Pam Tillis(host); Jimmy C Newman; Jean Shepard
7:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jack Greene; Will Hoge
8:15: Steve Wariner(host); Kristin Chenoweth; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Ricky Skaggs(host); Jesse McReynolds; Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; The Boxcars

While I have nothing to confirm it, with an all bluegrass segment for the final part of the Saturday show, perhaps there will be some sort of tribute to Bill Monroe. And, as I do each week, for those counting at home, both the Friday and Saturday night shows feature 12 artists each, 9 of whom are Opry members.

The Roys will be the host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree this weekend.

Finally, here is the line up for the Tuesday Night Opry, September 20:

7:00: Jean Shepard; Randy Houser
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Jim Ed Brown; The Quebe Sisters
8:45: Bill Anderson; Thompson Square

Remembering Roy Acuff

It was on September 15, 1903, that the "King of Country Music" Roy Acuff was born. Roy was born in Maynardville, Tennessee and grew up in the Knoxville area. He came to Nashville and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1938. He would remain an Opry member until his death on November 23, 1992.

The Roy Acuff story has been told many times, including by myself, so instead of writing the usual biography, I thought I would do something different. I have a book called, "Grand Ole Opry" that was published in 1952. This small, hardcover book is about 70 pages and gives you a history of the Opry and short stories or biographies of the Opry's main performers. Here is what was written in this book about Roy Acuff. Just remember that it was written in 1952:

"As the Caruso of country singers, Roy Acuff has a larger and more loyal following than the great Enrico ever had. In eighteen years, his recordings of country songs have sold more than twenty-five million copies. American soldiers stationed in Europe voted him more popular than Frank Sinatra. And although he was not elected governor of Tennessee when he ran in 1948, more people are said to have listened to his campaign speeches than to those of any other candidate in the state's history.

In Washington's Constitution Hall, a capacity audience paid $6.60 top to hear a country music program staring Acuff. When he packed seventeen thousand shouting fans into Venice Pier in California, officials feared it would collapse.

In the center of the country music world, Nashville, Tennessee, Roy is really a king. He puts on five radio shows weekly on WSM, makes frequent television appearances, has a road company that makes as much as five thousand dollars a working night, operates one of the largest music publishing firms in the business in conjunction with songwriter, Fred Rose, and owns and operates a resort called Dunbar Cave, which includes a large lake, a $75,000 swimming pool, restaurant, dance floors, concessions, and a one-hundred room hotel.

Roy was born and brought up on a farm near Maynardville, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. His father, a preacher, and his mother played the fiddle and sang for their own enjoyment and relaxation. Roy thus learned to fiddle at an early age. He was a skillful baseball player and planned to play professional baseball, but a serious illness kept him from fulfilling a contract. After he recovered, he joined a medicine show. Later he played in a country band on two radio stations in Knoxville adn then organized his own band. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1938.

Roy sings serious songs, many of them religious in nature. He sings with shouting zeal and great emotion and so projects himself into the song that tears sometime roll down his cheeks from the sadness of the story. Many of the songs he wrote himself. Among the most popular of his records are 'The Great Speckled Bird', 'The Night Train to Memphis', and 'The Wabash Cannon Ball.'

Roy dresses in a modest plaid shirt adn slacks for most of his performances, prefering to appear in a garb that might be worn on any Tennessee farm or small-town street rather than adopt the fancy cowboy costume so many folk singers wear. He has a large collection of hand-painted neckties. Other members of his group, the jug band and the La Croix sisters, a vocal trio, dress in traditional mountain costume, with the comedian of the show in exaggerated hillbilly dress.

Roy is married. He and his wife, Mildred, have an eight-year-old son, Roy Neal."

I thought that little write-up on Roy covered it all.

In honor of what would have been Roy Acuff's 108th birthday, here is the Opry line up from Saturday October 17, 1992. The was the annual Opry birthday celebration and it would be Roy's last Saturday night appearance on the Opry (his final appearance was the following Friday, October 23). I, along with several others who read this blog, were at this show and you could sense that this might be the last time to see Roy. When Bill Anderson and Roy did the great song, "I Wonder if God Likes Country Music", there was a total hush in the Opry House and a prolonged standing ovation when they finished. There were also many tears in the Opry House that night. Bill wrote about the night in his book, "I Hope You're Living As High On The Hog As the Pig You Turned Out to Be." If you get a chance, read the story. It will move you as it did those of us who were there that night.

Saturday October 17, 1992:

First Show
6:30 GHS Strings
Bill Monroe (host)
Jim Ed Brown

6:45 Country Music Hall of Fame
Grandpa Jones (host)
Skeeter Davis
Roy Drusky

7:00 Shoney's
George Hamilton IV (host)
Jeanne Pruett
Mike Snider
The Osborne Brothers
Jean Shepard

7:30 Standard Candy
Porter Wagoner (host)
Shelly West
John Conlee

8:00 Martha White
Roy Acuff (host)
Connie Smith
Bill Anderson
Opry Squardance Band
The Melvin Sloan Dancers

8:30 Kraft
Hank Snow (host)
The 4 Guys
Jan Howard
The Carlisles
The Whites

Second Show:
9:30 Dollar General Stores
Porter Wagoner (host)
Wilma Lee Cooper
Stonewall Jackson
The Osborne Brothers
Mike Snider

10:00 Little Debbie Snack Cakes
Bill Monroe (host)
Roy Drusky
Jeannie Seely

10:15 Sunbeam Bread/Tennessee Pride
Roy Acuff (host)
Hank Locklin

10:45 Pet, Inc
Grandpa Jones (host)
Jean Shepard
Charlie Walker

10:45 B.C. Powder
George Hamilton IV (host)
Shelly West
Opry Squaredance Band
The Melvin Sloan Dancers

11:00 Coke
Hank Snow (host)
The 4 Guys
Connie Smith
John Conlee
Justin Tubb

11:30 Creamette
Jim Ed Brown (host)
Jan Howard
The Whites
The Carlisles
Johnny Russell

(I do have it in my notes that Hank Snow cancelled out for the night and the 4 Guys hosted. Not 100% on that one).

Thanks Mr. Acuff for the memories.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Grand Ole Opry Returns To GAC

It was announced this morning that the Grand Ole Opry is going to be returning to televison with Great American Country (GAC), back in the picture. Here is their press release:

"Country music's most famous show is returning to television. The Grand Ole Opry will return to GAC: Great American Country for six star-packed 'Opry Live' episodes to begin airing Tuesday Oct. 4. The first show scheduled to air, an 80th birthday salute to country legend George Jones, was filmed last night and will feature performances by Alan Jackson, Jamey Johnson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Ann Womack, and more. Shows airing on Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays in subsequent weeks will feature a who's who of new stars, superstars, and legends of country music, including Trace Adkins, Lauren Alaina, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Ronnie Dunn, Scotty McCreery, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes, Randy Travis, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood and more. Airdates will be announced at and
GAC has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the Opry over the past eight years, partnering with them on 'Opry Live' and specials including 'Country at the White House', 'Music City Keep on Playing' and 'Country Comes Home.' Special moments happen on the Opry stage and GAC is pleased to be able to share those moments with our viewers', said Sara Trahern, SVP/GM, GAC. 'We can't wait to showcase some of this fall's great Opry performances by the biggest names in country music with fans across the country on 'Opry Live' on GAC', said Pete Fisher, Opry vice president and general manager.' The return of 'Opry Live' to television is being sponsored by Humana."

A couple of thoughts:

In the list of artists being presented in upcoming shows, while I saw a lot of names listed, some of whom were actually Opry members, I also saw a number of names missing. Folks such as Jimmy Dickens, Bill Anderson, Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, Jim Ed Brown, Jean Shepard, Jeannie Seely, Jack Greene, along with many of the other Opry veterans. You get the picture. I believe that GAC is telling the Opry and Pete Fisher who they want on and who they don't.

And, don't believe that Pete Fisher had much of a choice here. The Opry does need some type of television exposure and GAC is apparently the only network to come calling. There are not many options and I have heard that Pete does not really care to deal with GAC, but again, he doesn't have much of a choice.

I am glad that they are going to tape the shows and edit them instead of showing them live, which seems to be the way they are headed for most of the shows. GAC can take a two hour Tuesday night show and edit it down to 1 hour and not disrupt the live show at the Opry House. Too many times when GAC was televising the Opry, it seemed like it was actually 2 shows you were attending: a 1 hour radio show (almost like a warm-up show), and then a 1 hour television show, which of course, only had 3 or 4 artists on. And, with the Opry actually running over on its time schedule most Friday and Saturday nights, this will still allow the Opry to do this, instead of being so focused on the clock.

We shall see how this will work out. With attendance again down, except for the really big shows, and many of the bigger name artists not doing the Opry without the television exposure, this may help the Opry out. Like you, I will check out the shows that GAC puts on and see if there is any improvement from their last run.

I will end this by saying that to me, the only network that did the televised Opry right was TNN, which did nothing more than show a half hour of the radio show. Nothing fancy, nothing dictated. They just showed what Hal Durham and Bob Whittaker scheduled.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Bill Monroe

It is time to take a look back and remember the life of Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music. Bill was born on September 13, 1911 in Rosine, Kentucky. He passed away on September 9, 1996, several months after suffering a series of strokes. This Tuesday will be the 100th anniversary of his birth and the Grand Ole Opry, which owes much of it's success to Bill and the followers of bluegrass music, has nothing planned to mark the occasion. Instead, the Opry is doing an 80th birthday salute to George Jones. Nothing against George, but he is seldom at the Opry (in fact, this will be his 1st appearance of the year), while Bill was a mainstay of the Opry's cast. He belonged to the Opry for over 50 years. What I would like to know is where are his followers? I am talking about Opry members such as Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss, Bobby Osborne, Patty Loveless and Jesse McReynolds. Many of these individuals owe their success to Bill Monroe and bluegrass. Did any of these folks go to Pete Fisher and ask for a tribute show for Bill Monroe? If they did, were they rebuffed? I sure would like to know.

The following was written by John Rumble of the Country Music Hall of Fame:

"As a singer, songwriter, bandleader, showman, and instrumentalist, no individual is so closely identified with an American musical style as Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music. For more than half a century he shaped bluegrass with his forceful mandolin playing; high, lonesome singing; and mastery of his band, the Blue Grass Boys. In doing so he gave older country sounds new life; gave the mandoline a new role as a lead instrument in country, pop, and rock; and set standards for musicians as diverse as the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, George Jones, and rock star Jerry Garcia.

William Smith Monroe was the youngest of eight children born to James Buchanah 'Buck' Monroe, a prosperous farmer who also ran timber and mining operations, and Melissa Monroe, who kept house and helped pass along dance steps and British-American folksongs to her children. Other musical influences of Bill's youth include the old-time fiddling of his Uncle Pendleton 'Uncle Pen' Vandiver and the bluesy guitar playing of Arnold Shultz, a black musician with whom Bill and Uncle Pen sometimes worked local dances.

Bill lost both his parents by age sixteen and then followed some of his brothers north to the Chicago area, where they worked in a Sinclair Oil refinery. He also performed as a square dancer on Chicago's WLS National Barn Dance, and sang and played mandolin with brothers Charlie and Birch. Charlie soon left the trio and Bill and Charlie decided to pursue music full time as the Monroe Brothers, first gaining exposure on stations in Iowa and Nebraska. The Monroes really hit their stride after moving in 1935 to the Carolinas, where they based themselves mainly in Charlotte, North Carolina's 50,000-watt WBT. Their popularity soon equaled that of any of the era's many duos and they distinguished themselves by their hard-driving tempos, piercing harmony, and Bill's lightning-fast mandolin solos. In 1936 RCA producer Eli Oberstein recorded them for the first time. Their early releases sold well and the duo soon had a sizeable regional following. However the Monroe Brothers feuded as brothers will, and the act broke up in 1938. Bill would record two more sessions for RCA with his new band, the Blue Grass Boys, named for Kentucky, the Bluegrass State.

After rehearsing his group and working Carolina radio, Monroe headed for Nashville to audition for the Grand Ole Opry, WSM's George D. Hay, Harry Stone, and David Stone, impressed with Monroe's talent and star power, hired him in October 1939 on the strength of his performance of his trademark 'Muleskinner Blues,' formally a hit for Jimmie Rodgers. WSM's 50,000-watt transmitter and guest spots on the Opry's NBC network portion quickly made Monroe's name a household word. By 1943 he was grossing some $200,000 a year from show dates, many of them staged as part of his own Opry tent show, which combined music and comedy in delightling rural and small-town audiences throughout the South. While no one was yet calling Monroe's style 'bluegrass' (this would not come until the mid-1950s), many of its basic elements were already present, including its pulsing drive and the intensity of Monroe's high-pitched vocals. During World War II he added the banjo, first played by Stringbean (David Akeman), and experimented briefly with the accordion and harmonica, which complimented the basic mandolin-guitar-fiddle-bass combination Monroe would always retain. In 1945 he added the revolutionary three-finger banjo picking of Earl Scruggs, who provided bluegrass with its final building block. Monroe's late 1940s recordings for Columbia, made with Scruggs and Lester Flatt, his singer-guitarist at the time, are now widely regarded as definitive.

In 1948 Scruggs teamed with Flatt to form the Foggy Mountain Boys, and by the early 1950s several bands were playing their own variations of the bluegrass style, including the Stanley Brothers, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, and Reno & Smiley. Monroe made his band sound higher, bluer, and more lonesome than ever, with help from singer-guitarist Jimmy Martin and other expert sidemen, some of whom launched bluegrass bands of their own. As ever, Monroe's repertoire included both sacred and secular material as well as both songs and instrumentals, and he composed much of his material himself or with members of his band.

Through the 1950s and beyond, Monroe's acoustic sound provided an alternative to honky-tonk, country-pop, and rockabilly. By 1963 he began to attract the attention of the urban folk music audience, with help from folklorist and promoter Ralph Rinzler, who promoted Monroe as the true Daddy of Bluegrass to listeners who thought bluegrass began and ended with Flatt and Scruggs. The year 1965 saw the first multiday bluegrass festival making Monroe the centerpiece, and in 1967 he launched his own annual festival at Bean Blossom, Indiana. By 1970, when he won election to the Country Music Hall of Fame, he had become the acknowledged patriarch of the bluegrass movement, a cult figure to hordes of fans for whom bluegrass was akin to a religion.

During the last twenty-five years of his life Monroe propagated the gospel of bluegrass to worldwide audiences in all fifty states and Canada as well as tours of Japan, England, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, and Israel. He recorded more than 500 songs during his career. Monroe also won recognition for his accomplishments. In 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts gave him its prestigious Heritage Award, and in 1988 he won a Grammy for his album Southern Flavor-the first bluegrass Grammy ever bestowed. A 1991 inductee into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Honor, Monroe was also a 1992 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

A stroke suffered in April 1996 ended Monroe's career as a touring artist and hastened his death on September 9 of that year. Memorial services at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium and later in Monroe's native Rosine, Kentucky, where he is buried, united hundreds of friends and fellow musicians who continue to nurture his legacy as one of country music's great historical personalities."

It is no secret that Bill Monroe was not one of the easiest people to know or to get along with. His feuds were famous and pretty much included anyone who ever was a Blue Grass Boy. The Flatt & Scruggs feud was among the longest. And it was his personality and his inability to get along with many of his fellow bluegrass performers that allowed Flatt & Scruggs, along with a few others, to move to the forefront of the bluegrass revival movement in the 1960s, that left Bill behind and catching up.

As these other bluegrass performers became more successful, things got tougher for Bill. It got so bad in the 1950s and early 1960s that Bill had to disband his band and play with local players when he went out on the road.

Many of the new Opry performers over the years have said that they were afraid to approach Bill at the Opry because of his personality. But, in his later years, he mellowed and changed. I think one of the telling quotes from Bill was after he suffered his stroke in 1996, he told a visitor, "I didn't know until I was sick that people cared for me as much as they do."

His last Opry show was on March 15, 1996, a Friday Night. They next day he was rushed to the hospital, never to perform again. I can't begin to tell you everything about Bill Monroe, but if you want to read an excellent biography, I recommend "Can't You Hear Me Calling", The Life of Bill Monroe, written by Richard D. Smith. It tells the good and the bad, but I believe it is excellent.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bill Monroe and in memory of his death, 15 years ago, here is the line-up from the Friday Night Opry, March 15, 1996, his final appearance.

7:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Jeanne Pruett; Ray Pillow; Jan Howard; Brother Oswald
8:00: Bill Monroe (host); Bill Carlisle; Skeeter Davis; Del Reeves
8:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Billy Walker; Stu Phillips
9:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Connie Smith; Charlie Walker
9:30: Bill Anderson (host); Charlie Louvin; Jean Shepard; Justin Tubb; 4 Guys
10:00 Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jeannie Seely; Jack Greene; Johnny Russell

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grand Ole Opry 9/9 & 9/10

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for this weekend's shows. There is one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday night. In looking at the line-ups and who they have scheduled, let me just say that these will not be the strongest shows that the Opry has put on. And, as we have discussed before, that is one of the issues with the Opry. When you are collecting $54.00 for a prime seat and people are coming from miles away, you have to give them a show worth the money that they are paying.

When you look at Friday night, I would have to say that the two biggest stars on the show are Collin Raye and Exile. And, both are well past their prime. Then you have two acts who are trying to make a name for themselves in the business. The Black Lillies, who are an Americana musical group who are nominated for several awards, but they are not household names. They will be making their second Opry appearance. Also appearing on Friday will be The McClymonts. They are a female trio of sisters from Australia. This will be their first Opry appearance and while they have made records and have had some success in the "Land Down Under", nothing has happened to their careers stateside. In other words, they will be an unknown to most of the Opry audience.

Saturday night offers Danny Gokey and Randy Montana, who have made several Opry appearances this year. Opry semi-regular Mandy Barnett will be on and I am sure she will be promoting her new Patsy Cline CD. Also appearing will be Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. This is a quality bluegrass group that bluegrass fans will recognize and have supported over the years. Finally, Saturday night will feature two of the Opry's veterans. Ray Pillow will be hosting a segment and one of his guests will be Stonewall Jackson, who have made very few Opry appearances so far this year. Nice to see Stonewall back.

Friday September 9
7:00: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; The Black Lillies
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jack Greene; Collin Raye
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); The Whites; The McClymonts
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Jim Ed Brown; Exile

Saturday September 10
7:00: The Whites (host); Jimmy C Newman; Randy Montana
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mandy Barnett
8:15: Ray Pillow (host); Stonewall Jackson; Russell Moore & IIIrd Time Out; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Danny Gokey

Interesting that Bill Anderson is leading off the Friday Night Opry and Jimmy Dickens seems to have settled into the 2nd slot on Saturday nights. And, as Pete Fisher will do when he has a shortage of segment hosts, he has called upon Ray Pillow, who seems to be the "go-to" guy when everyone else who could host is out of town. I know that Jimmy C Newman is on Saturday night, but I don't think he has hosted a segment in years.

And for those keeping track at home, there are 13 artists scheduled for Friday night, or whom 9 are Opry members and 12 artists for Saturday night, of whom 8 are Opry members.

The host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree on Saturday night/Sunday morning will be country music veteran "No-One", as it is the employee showcase show. We'll, at least it is free.

Finally, the big news this week at the Opry will be the upcoming Tuesday Night Opry on September 13 as the Opry pays tribute to George Jones upon his 80th birthday. Who could have believed that George, with the life that he led, would live to see his 80th!! But, sorry to say, George is not scheduled to perform on the show. Hopefully they can talk him into singing at least one number. But, there is no shortage of stars on this show. Alan Jackson, who seems to be good for one Opry show a year, if there is a special occasion that they can talk him into coming for, will be there, along with Jamey Johnson, Pam Tillis and the Opry's newest members, the Oak Ridge Boys. Also appearing will be Blackberry Smoke, who I had to look up. They are billed as the primary Southern Rock band in America. Then you have Eric Lee Beddingfield. I think the reason he was scheduled is that his new record is called, "The Gospel According to Jones." He has been around for a while, trying to make it.

Tuesday September 13
7:00: Bill Anderson; Blackberry Smoke; Pam Tillis
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Joe Diffie; Oak Ridge Boys
8:15: Jamey Johnson; Eric Lee Beddingfield
8:45: Lee Ann Womack; Alan Jackson

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Great Ernest Tubb

It was on September 6, 1984, that one of the greatest men in the history of country music and the Grand Ole Opry, Ernest Tubb, passed away. Trying to put his life story in a few short paragraphs is next to impossible, but I came up with this from the Country Music Encyclopedia.

"E.T. might be a science fiction creature to kids. However, in Nashville, E.T. still means Ernest Dale Tubb, the 'Texas Troubadour.' a tangible link to the Jimmie Rodgers tradition, he was also far more: a founder of the honky tonk style of country music, humanitarian, businessman, talent scout, father figure and benefactor to many younger musicians who became stars.

Ask Hank Snow about Ernest Tubb. He'll tell you that without E.T.'s support in Nashville, his own career might have ended in the early 1950s. Ask Loretta Lynn about two decades of inspiration and friendship. Ask Jack Green and Cal Smith, both ex-Texas Troubadours, how far their careers would have gone without his wise counsel. Johnny Cash and June Carter can also talk at length of the good advice he gave them. Carl Smith had one of his biggest hits literally handed to him by the man. Hank Williams got much fatherly advice from Ernest.

Ernest Tubb's birthplace was Crisp, Texas, south of Dallas; the year: 1914. The youngest of five children, he had little formal education. His folks separated in 1926 and he worked much of the time, staying with different relatives. By then he was marveling over Jimmie Rodger's records, much as later generations would marvel over his own.

The year Tubb started singing-1933-was also the year Rodgers died of tuberculosis. Ernest bought his first guitar and started teaching himself many of Rodger's songs after finishing his day job on a road-building crew. He moved to San Antonio where he met and married his first wife in 1934. He got a part time job playing mornings over KONO Radio.

The year 1935 was a turning point. Ernest's first child, Justin, was born in San Antonio. He also visited with Carrie Rodgers, Jimmie's widow, who lived in San Antonio. During their visit, he asked her to listen to his radio show. Impressed with his knowledge of Rodger's songs, Carrie got him two recording dates with RCA, Jimmie's label. In October 1936, he recorded six songs, two Rodgers tributes and four Tubb originals written in the Rodgers style. The following year he did two more songs, but none sold. Rodger Dale Tubb, his second child, was born in 1938 but died seven weeks later, inspiring Ernest's composition 'Our Baby's Book.' A daughter was born in 1939. Throughout this time Ernest alternated between singing on various Texas radio stations and working convential day jobs. He asked Carrie Rodgers, by then his informal adviser, if perhaps Decca Records (now MCA) might be interested in him. Both she and Ernest solicited them, and in April 1940, he went to Houston for his first session. That fall he moved to Fort Worth as KGKO Radio's 'Gold Chain (Flour) Troubadour.'

'Blue-Eyed Elaine' and 'I'll Get Along Somehow,' from the first Decca session did well, and Ernest recorded 12 more numbers in Los Angeles in October 1940. These failed amid complaints from jukebox operators that nobody could hear Tubb's records in noisy bars. As a solution, Ernest brought electric guitarist 'Smitty' Smith along for his April 1941 session in Dallas. The first song they cut ws Ernest's new composition, 'Walking the Floor Over You.' Smit, accustomed to playing from written music, simply played the song's melody for his solo, setting the style for every guitarist who worked for E.T. over the next 41 years. Ernest knew the commercial potential of 'Walking the Floor.' He urged Decca to release it first. They did, and it wound up a million-seller. Legendary country music promoter Joe L. Frank brought Ernest to Nashville for his first Opry appearances in December 1942. Three encores later he was an Opry regular, and his use of electric guitar helped make amplified instruments acceptable on the show. By 1943, he had formed his first Texas Troubadors band and the hits continued.

After fans griped that they couldn't find his records in local stores, he opened the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville. He was also among the first to see the potential of selling mail-order records over the airwaves. When he launched his Midnight Jamboree over 50,000-watt WSM from the record shop every Saturday night after the Opry, he used the show to hawk records. The store prospered. Tubb also successfully pushed the music industry to replace the descriptive term 'hillbilly' music, which he felt derogatory, with 'country and western.'

Illness plagued him, and for a time he was forced to leave the Opry. A heavy drinker and smoker, he also had his wilder moments. In 1957, well in his cups, he shot up WSM's lobby with a .357 Magnum, fortunately injuring no one. From 1955 to 1958, after having had several very successful duets with Rod Foley, he wasn't on the charts at all. In 1958, he was back with 'Half a Mind.'

His final Top Five success came in 1963 with 'Thanks a Lot.' From then on, his records tended to stay in the lower half of the charts. His excellent duets with Loretta Lynn in the mid-1960s resulted in four hits. After that his own albums had a standard form, balancing his hits with covers of everyone else's. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1965.

Ernest was suprisingly candid about his vocal limitations. In a 1967 interview he admitted, 'I've never been able to hold a note longer than one beat. All over the country, guys sit in bars trying to impress their girl. My voice comes on the jukebox adn they say 'I can sing better than that'. And in about 90 percent of the cases, they're right.'

By the 1970s, emphysema was causing him constant respiratory problems. He quit smoking. He kept an oxygen tank on the bus and took more offstage breaks between singing. On June 18, 1975, Ernest completed his last session for MCA. His last MCA release in 1973 barely made the top 100. In 1977 and 1978, he recut many of his old hits for Pete Drake's label, First Generation. Without telling Ernest, Pete overdubbed other country artists including Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, George Jones and others into an album called 'The Legend and the Legacy.' The album showed how artists, not record executive, felt about Ernest. On tour he packed them in. He was an elder statesman; the road was his life.

On November 13, 1982, he played his last show in Berlin, Ohio. After that, he remained at home, following doctor's orders, struggling to recover. He saw few people before he was hospitalized for the last time in the fall of 1984. He died on September 6. Tributes poured in from everywhere."

An excellent book on the life of Ernest Tubb is the biography by Ronnie Pugh. It is an excellent book that I highly recommend. Ernest's last Grand Ole Opry performance was on Saturday August 14, 1982. He performed on both shows that night, and also hosted his Midnight Jamboree. That was also the last night he would host his own show.

In honor of Ernest Tubb, is the line up and running order of the August 14, 1982 Grand Ole Opry, his last Opry performances:

6:30 Mrs Grissoms
4 Guys (host)-Turn Your Radio On
Wilburn Brothers-Arkansas
4 Guys-A Blaze of Glory

6:45 Rudys
Billy Grammer (host)-Georgiana
Skeeter Davis-Just When I Needed You Most
Billy Grammer-Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party

7:00 Shoney's
Ernest Tubb (host)-Thanks A Lot
Jean Shepard-Blanket On The Ground/I'll Be There
Lonzo & Oscar-Ramblin' Fever/Windy City
Jack Leonard-I Can't Help It/Take These Chains From My Heart/Half As Much/Your Cheating Heart
Ernest Tubb-Waltz Across Texas/Walkin' The Floor Over You

7:30 Standard Candy
Billy Walker (host)-When A Man Loves A Woman
Jeannie Seely-You Don't Need Me, But You Will/I'm All Through Crying Over You
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers-Cotton-Eyed Joe
Bill Carlisle-No Help Wanted
Billy Walker-You Gave Me A Mountain

8:00 Martha White
Roy Acuff (host); Wabash Cannonball
Connie Smith-The Key's In The Mailbox/Till I Kissed You
Charlie Walker-Don't Squeeze My Sharmon
Roy Thackerson-Orange Blossom Special
Carolee Singers-A Song The Holy Angels Cannot Sing
Roy Acuff-I'll Fly Away

8:30 Acme
Bill Monroe (host)-My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darling
Roy Drusky-I Really Don't Want To Know
Del Wood-The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
Vic Willis Trio-Faded Love
Fruit Jar Drinkers-Katy Hill
Bill Monroe-Little Cabin Home On The Hill

9:30 Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb (host)-Seaman's Blues
Skeeter Davis-Me and Bobby McGee/The Old Rugged Cross/The King Is Coming
Wilburn Brothers-I Know A Goodbye When I See One/Because He Lives
Ernest Tubb-Another Story, Another Time, Another Place

10:00 Little Debbie
Bill Monroe (host)-On & On
Connie Smith-Satisfied
Bill Monroe-Come Hither To Go Yonder

10:15 Sunbeam
Billy Grammer (host)-Wildwood Flower
Lonzo & Oscar-Old Songs
Billy Grammer- I Was Born In Renfro Valley

10:30 Martha White
Roy Acuff (host)-Meeting In The Air
Roy Thackerson-Sally Goodin/Orange Blossom Special
Roy Acuff-Cabin In Gloryland

10:45 Beech-Nut
Billy Walker (host)-A Millon & One
Jean Shepard-Alabama Jubilee
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers-Liberty
Billy Walker-Cattle Call

11:00 Coca-Cola
Roy Drusky (host)-There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You For Me
Jeannie Seely-I'm Almost Ready/Healing Hands Of Time
Fruit Jar Drinkers-Sugar Tree Stomp
Kirk McGee-Blue Night
Bill Carlisle-Elvira
Roy Drusky-Just A Closer Walk With Thee

11:30 Bama
4 Guys (host)-Cottonfields/Mariah
Del Wood-There's A Big Wheel
Charlie Walker-Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas
Vic Willis Trio-Shenendoah/You Were Always On My Mind
4 Guys-Made In The USA

Thanks for taking the time to remember with me, Ernest Tubb

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Remembering Carl Butler

Today I wanted to take a moment and remember former Grand Ole Opry member Carl Butler, who passed away on September 4, 1992. Carl was born on June 2, 1927 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He achieved success as a vocalist and songwriter. He also recorded with his wife Pearl.

"Carl & Pearl Butler's first charted duet became their greatest success; 'Don't Let Me Cross Over,' which spent eleven weeks at #1 on the country charts in 1962 and 1963. On the strength of that success Pearl joined her husband on the Grand Ole Opry, where he had been a regular since 1958.

Carl Butler had been playing guitar in public since age twelve, when he entertained between square dance sets. Later he was featured on WROL and WNOX in Knoxville and WPTF in Raleigh, North Carolina. While in Knoxville he began amassing credits as a tunesmith with such songs as 'My Tears Don't Show,' 'If Teardrops Were Pennies,' 'Guilty Conscience,' 'Hold Back the Dawn,' and 'Cryin My Heart Out Over You.' The songs were recorded through the years by Roy Acuff, Carl Smith, Bill Monroe, Rosemary Clooney, Flatt & Scruggs, and Ricky Skaggs. Pearl Jones co-wrote 'Kisses Don't Lie,' a Carl Smith hit.

Carl Butler kicked off his solo recording career in 1951 with Capital Records, switching to Columbia in 1953. His early recordings included 'River of Tears' and 'That's What It's Like to Be Lonesome,' but 'Honkytonkitis' became his first record to hit the country charts (#25, 1961).

Although Pearl often sang with her husband at shows, she resisted recording until 'Don't Let Me Cross Over.' In 1964 the couple had another Billboard Top Ten hit, 'Too Late to Try Again' (#9), and a few months later scored again with 'I'm Hanging Up the Phone' (#14). Their last chart entry, 'We'll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning' (#63, 1969), was later recorded as a duet by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

In Knoxville the Butlers took in child performer Dolly Parton when she performed for Cas Walker's local TV show and later helped arrange for Parton's first appearance on the Opry in 1959.

The Butlers appeared in the film, 'Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar (1967)."
(Walt Trott)

In the 1970s, Carl and Pearl continued to tour and record, but they spent much of their time on their ranch, 'Crossover Acres', which was located in Franklin, Tennessee. By the 1980s, they were basically retired, although they continued to make some appearances on the Opry. Pearl Butler died on March 1, 1988 at the age of 60. After her death, Carl attempted a comeback with his solo career, even making several Opry appearances, but he had little success and he passed away on September 4, 1992, after suffering a heart attack.

Several people who would know this information, told me that after their career tailed off, the Butler's had a very difficult time and had some serious financial problems. It was to the point that they were close to losing their beloved 'Crossover Acres' home. But without knowledge to anyone, Dolly Parton, in an act of kindness and remembering how Carl and Pearl had helped her out on her way up, and in gratitude for what they did for her, quietly helped them out in their later years, allowing them to keep their home and their furnishings.

(I guess it goes back to the saying that you will meet the same people on the way down as you met on the way up and a lot of how you will be treated when you are no longer the hot superstar will be dictated by how you treated folks when you were on top. People do remember, as Dolly did in this case).

Carl Butler was not one of the superstars of the business, but almost everyone remembers that big hit, 'Don't Let Me Cross Over.' I don't think there has ever been a country music info-commercial that has not included that song. It was a great one. Thank's for taking a moment with me to remember Carl Butler.