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


  1. Fred in Bismarck:


  2. Seriously, Byron, when you think of people being asked to travel (sometimes) hundreds of miles to see a lineup like this, and pay the posted prices -- how long can the Opry as we know it last? -- Fred in Bismarck

  3. Fred, this isn't the Opry as we know it. Unfortunately, as there was with Jim Denny, there are no Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, and Ernest Tubb to go to WSM management and have the clout to say, get rid of him.

    I also find it interesting that Ray Pillow hosts with Stonewall Jackson on the segment. I think Ray is great. But if you want to talk about who has more hits or Opry tenure .... And Jimmy C. is actually the senior Opry male in consecutive service, since The Potato left for several years.

  4. I know that I get on about the line ups each week and like Mike said, the Opry is not what it used to be, but you have to have something to offer to the fans each week!! I know that sometimes the booking is out of Pete Fisher's control as he cannot get commitments from many of the members to show up-Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, for example). But there has to be more consistency each week, especially with the ticket prices they are charging.

    What is interesting is that much of the discussion covers how good the Opry line ups were back in the "old days". Our memories fool us sometimes. While the majority of the line ups were very good, in going back and looking, I have found some nights were there were only 8 or 9 Opry members present, and this was back in 1972 and 1973, while still at the Ryman. And, of the 8 or 9 we are talking about the headliners being The Four Guys, Stu Phillips and Charlie Louvin. I will find one of the line ups and post.

    And, remember that in the 1980s, one of the main arguments was that the line ups had 20-30 artists on each show, but it was the same 20 or 30 each week. No change. And of course, the attendance dropped. Which was one of the reasons Hal Durham started to add the younger stars as members, who didn't show up then and don't show up now.

    No matter how things seem to change, in many ways the issues are the same.

  5. One final comment on Ray Pillow. He is one of those guys that doesn't seem to make any waves at the Opry. He appears usually only 10 or 12 times each year, and like I said, seems to be Pete Fisher's guy to call to host a segment when nobody else is available. And, he does a nice job. Keeps the segment moving, introduces everyone by their right name and seems to know who all the artists are. His voice is still good.

    And when you look at Ray, like I said, he doesn't seem to make waves. Compare that to the ones who did over the years, people such as Stonewall Jackson, Charlie Louvin, Del Reeves and Billy Walker, and you do start to question the politics that goes on behind the Opry's scenes.

    Another one who did not cause waves and hosted segments was Charlie Walker. Like Ray, he did not make a lot of Opry appearances in this later years, but he seemed to be doing a lot of hosting, especially the 11:30 segments after Johnny Russell died.

  6. Byron, I agree. Life is politics (I'm in a college social science department, and Henry Kissinger once correctly said that academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small), and the Opry is no exception. Yet, as I look back, I know that after Marty died, nobody wanted the 11:30 segment, for two reasons: one, it was so associated with him and, two, it's the last segment and people were leaving for the ET Record Shop or wherever. Johnny changed that, but then there was the same problem. So it was a good way to have somebody who didn't get on much host.

    And the issues are similar. When Dee Kilpatrick added the Everly Brothers and merged the Gully Jumpers and Possum Hunters into the Crook Brothers and the Fruit Jar Drinkers, it was as though life had come to an end as we knew it.

  7. Fred in Bismarck here:

    Thank you both for some needed perspective, and I'm sorry for sounding such a crabby note. It does no good to put down today's entertainers because they aren't Marty Robbins and Ernest Tubb. (Tho I will continue to resent those who use country music as an opening wedge for the pop they really want to do.)

    I also shouldn't really hold it against the Opry that they chase radio "hitmakers." The Opry was doing the same thing when I started listening 57 years ago, and I was as guilty as any other young person of wishing people like the McGees and even Cowboy Copas off the stage so I could hear hot acts like Ray Price and Webb Pierce.

    What's really changed between then and now is the nature of the radio country music -- more country then, at least in instrumentation, more pop and rock now. (Although it's useful to remember that such as the Blue Sky Boys came back from World War II and were shocked at the development in their absence of honkytonk, which they didn't consider country at all.)

    Led by people like Chet Atkins, Ken Nelson and Owen Bradley, country started casting a broader net about 55 years ago, if not sooner -- and succeeded in finding its bigger market by changing the music. In the process, it not only attracted more fans for its record, radio and concert product, it changed the tastes of its old country core.

    So -- I'm gnashing my teeth over an accomplished fact, and most of my comfort these days comes from old recorded music and that of the revivalists.

    Which is no kind of a business plan at all, and I shouldn't really get mad at the Opry, as it is presently constituted (Gaylord), for not embracing it.

    Cheers, boys!

  8. Fred, I follow you. I've probably shared this here, but for what it's worth, WFUV in New York City (I was there for grad school in the late 1980s and early 1990s) had a great weekly country show hosted by a guy named Paul Bain. You would have loved him and he would have loved you. Anyway, one night, he played Randy Travis, who then was pretty new. A listener called in and complained. Bain went on the air and quoted the listener and said, almost in these words, I play songs that are COUNTRY, and a country song is a country song any time--and if it isn't country, it doesn't matter who's singing it. He then played a Gene Autry song that was just awful--all kinds of weird instruments, sung in a different style than The Cowboy normally sang--and Bain ripped it off the record-player in mid-chorus. It was great.

    Well, Randy was and is country. I find his failure to play the Opry offensive, but I don't think he could do something that isn't country. John Conlee put horns and stuff on his recordings, but that voice can't be anything but country. Ray Price used 47 strings on "Danny Boy," but it was Ray Price and it just came out as a country singer doing a song differently.

    Now, Dwight Yoakum once said Chet ruined country music with the Nashville Sound. I don't agree. If Dwight wanted to be that pure, he never should have had an electric guitar, and The Solemn Old Judge would have been pleased. But ET was the first Opry singer, I believe, with a lot of electric instruments (Pee Wee King might have used them before him--I'm not sure, but I bet Byron knows), and I'm sure it caused a bit of a ruckus. Still, these guys were true to their souls, I would say, and that's something a country fan knows when he hears it.

  9. Fred in Bismarck here:

    Well said, Michael!

    A city boy, myself -- whose parents were right off the farm, tho their own musical taste was classical -- I'm in no position to challenge anybody's country creds. I also remember Bill Malone saying that, while we might regret the passing of the country culture that gave us rural music, few would choose that culture today over what's available now.

    I also understand that "country" began to change the minute they began making records. Just listen to Jimmie Rodgers, who did Hawaiian, Dixieland and plain old nightclub in addition to country blues.

    I'll confess I'd still rather listen to Jimmie than the "pure country" Carter Family, whose arrangements are, to me, monotonous and the lyrics hard to understand.

    It's always been said that country is big enough to embrace a wide variety of styles, and I buy that. I do find today's styles too tilted toward what I don't consider country at all, include faux-country hymns to pickups, etc.

    But I'm old enough, God knows, to be more grownup about it than I am!

  10. Mike, thanks for bringing up Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys. Their manager was J.L. Frank, who happened to be Pee Wee's father-in-law. He arranged for an audition with Harry Stone, who was in charge of the Opry at the time, as George D. Hay was away from the show, due to health reasons. They passed the audition and joined the show in June 1937. This was ahead of Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe and Ernest Tubb. (In fact, Roy was upset that Pee Wee made it to the Opry before he did). During the late 1930s, the Golden West Cowboys were featured during the 9:30 and 11:00pm slots.

    Pee Wee and his group really had an effect on the Opry. They were one of the first professional groups to join the show and they were the first Opry performers to belong to the musicians union. They were among the first to dress in colorful outfits (and they were all color coordinated). They actually rehearsed their segments and they would come off without a hitch.

    When George D. Hay first show the Golden West Cowboys, reports say he was not happy at all. He challenged Pee Wee's use of the accordian. Judge Hay would later say that Pee Wee was ten years ahead of his time.

    Pee Wee was the first to use the trumpet, drums and the electric guitar on the Opry. (Many people think it was Bob Wills who first used drums, but they are wrong. Pee Wee had them for about 3 weeks, until Judge Hay told him to leave them at home).

    To answer the question, yes Pee Wee had electric instruments at the Opry several years before Ernest, but it was Ernest and his electric guitar that really pushed the Opry into a new era.

  11. Fred brings up the Carter Family. About once a year, my wife and I go down to the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, and we do get the chance to listen to non-electrified, pure country music. And yes, it still sounds great!!

  12. I would love to get to the Carter Family Fold. But I follow you, Fred. It took me years to figure out the lyrics to "Wildwood Flower"!

    If I am correct, the first horn on the Opry was when FDR died, and Pee Wee suggested playing "Taps." And Pee Wee was a tremendous showman and songwriter. It's funny. In his later years, he would come in for the reunion nights and sing, and he never really had been a singer. I loved the time he was on and Roy Acuff asked if he ever saw Pee Wee Reese up in Louisville. They were real baseball nuts at the Opry.

  13. You are correct. And even after the salute to FDR, Judge Hay told Pee Wee to take the horn home and not bring it back!!

    I always loved it when Pee Wee came up to do the reunion shows, old "old-timers" night as they were sometimes called. He left the Opry on good terms, as it was a difference of opinion regarding television and the future of it. Pee Wee saw the potential and WSM management did not. Anyways, after he left the Opry, he would always come back now and then.

    And you are right Mike, he was not a singer. When he had his band, even after he left the Opry, he always had another singer, from Eddy Arnold, to Cowboy Copas, to Wynn Stewart. And it was kind of funny to see Pee Wee come back to the Opry and actually sing!!!

    As much as I do love Pee Wee, as did many others in the business, my only criticism is that I thought he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame ahead of some others who should have gotten in ahead of him. But, he had connections as he was always involved in the CMA and the Country Music Foudation.

  14. I listened to part of the Opry last night and Stonewall Jackson sounded pretty good. He sang a nice song and his voice was pretty song. Jimmy Dickens also sounded good and Ray Pillow did a nice job hosting his segment.

  15. I couldn't be there--it was my wife's birthday, and I took her to see Jersey Boys. Interesting, and sadly, some of the stuff that Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons sang is sounding like country radio these days! But I'm glad to hear everybody was sounding fine. The Potato sounded all right Friday night, but maybe a little weak. When you're 90, you're entitled to have some days be better than others!

  16. For those who listened to the Tuesday Night Opry, then you will know that George Jones sounded terrible. Sorry to say that his voice has been that way for about a year now. I did see an interview that he gave Jimmy Carter earlier in the day, and in the video clip, he looked great. I think he is as shocked as anyone that he made it to 80!!

  17. I was at the George Jones 80th BD party... and I thought it was amazing. Eric Lee Beddingfield was great. He outshined some of the big names. Eric and Joe Diffie were the highlights of the night.