Friday, September 2, 2011

September Opry Highlights

Another month is upon us, and as I do each month, here are the historical and important events that took place in the history of the Grand Ole Opry, for the month of September. Enjoy!

September 15, 1903: Roy Acuff was born in Maynardville, Tennessee.

September 26, 1925: Former Opry member Marty Robbins was born near Glendale, Arizona. Marty first appeared on the Opry in 1953 and became a member shortly after that. He would remain one of the Opry's most popular members until his death on December 8, 1982.

September 28, 1926: Jerry Clower was born near Liberty, Mississippi.

September 1, 1931: Lecil Travis Martin, otherwise known as "Boxcar Willie" was born in Sterratt, Texas. Much later in his life, on June 19, 1980, he made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry. He had been playing a festival in England and Wesley Rose saw him there and invited him to Nashville, where he met Roy Acuff. He had started being Boxcar in 1975, which was the year that John Denver and Olivia Newton John had won some of the CMA awards, and many were unhappy with the direction of country music. On February 21, 1981, he became a member of the Opry and would remain a member until his death on April 12, 1999.

September 12, 1931: Opry member George Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas.

September 18, 1947: On this night, and the night that followed, Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl, along with other Opry members, played two shows at Carnegie Hall in New Youk. Here is how Ernest Tubb remembered it: "The radio and newspaper people ignored us the first night we were there, but we turned away six thousand people and the next night every reporter was there." Billboard magazine also reported that, "Such screaming and wild applause after each number hasn't been heard in town since Frank Sinatra brought out the bobbysoxers at the Paramount."

September 24, 1948: WSM began the Friday Night Frolics. This program originally took place in Studio C at the WSM studios. In 1964, the show was moved to the Ryman Auditorium and became known as the Friday Night Opry. This show was originally started to keep Eddy Arnold, who had left the Opry, on WSM.

September 24, 1956: WSM radio fired Opry manager Jim Denny. He was replaced by Dee Kilpatrick. Jim Denny owned Cedarwood Publishing company, which was a force in the music publishing business. Jack Stapp, who was also dismissed, owned Tree Publishing. WSM executive Irving Waugh said, "The board of directors 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."

September 25, 1956: Dee Kilpatrick was named the Grand Ole Opry's "general director." Kilpatrick would succeed Denny not only as Opry manager, but also as manager of the radio station's Artists' Service Bureau. He was a former record company executive. Here is what he was quoted as saying when he was appointed Opry manager: "They asked me what I thought was wrong. Well, back when I was working with Mercury Records I was at the Opry almost 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." (Sounds like a lot of the same issues that Pete Fisher has been facing since he became the Opry's general manager.) Kilpatrick would begin to add younger acts to the Opry's cast, including the Everly Brothers and Porter Wagoner.

September 30, 1958: Marty Stuart was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

September 25, 1962: Loretta Lynn joined the Opry. Although her appearances have been very infrequent over the years, she will be celebrating her 49th year as an Opry member.

September 27, 1963: The National Life and Accident Insurance Company purchased the Ryman Auditorium from the city of Nashville for about $200,000. WSM, which operated the building, changed the name to the Grand Ole Opry House, but it would always be known as the Ryman. With ownership, WSM was able to do repairs that were needed on the building that the city could not afford to do.

September 16, 1967: Jeannie Seely joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This year will be her 44th year as an Opry member. Here is how she remembers that night, "So it was September 16, 1967, when I joined. My parents came down from Pennsylvania for the show. About halfway through 'Don't Touch Me' the realization hit me of what this really meant. I was twenty-six, and from four years old I wanted that moment. I started crying. Then I encored and that was even worse. Strictly emotional."

September 19, 1968: Former Grand Ole Opry member Red Foley passed away in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Red came to the Opry and took over the Prince Albert show in April 1946. He would stay with the Opry for about a decade and then leave to go work in television in Springfield, Missouri.

September 17, 1977: Reba McEntire made her first appearance on the Opry.

September 6, 1984: Ernest Tubb passed away in a Nashville hospital. Ernest had been in declining health for a number of years and had made his last appearance on the Opry on August 14, 1982. That was also the last night that he hosted the Midnight Jamboree. He was 70 years old when he died. Jack Greene had some memories of Ernest Tubb: "He was a great man for taking enough time for a songwriter that was trying to get a song cut; he'd listen to all their songs and he'd write 'em a letter back. And he'd take time for the disc jockey that wanted an interview, and he'd take time for the fan that wanted an autograph. He'd take time for the promoter; he'd always mention the promoter's name on stage. He knew all those promoters all over the country and he wanted everybody to make a dollar. I've seen him take all the money from a gate and put it back in the guy's pocket. He'd say, 'You didn't make a dime on this, so I don't want any money.' He'd really do that." Ernest had been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1965.

September 4, 1991: Grand Ole Opry member Dottie West died in a Nashville hospital from injuries suffered earlier in a car accident while on her way to perform on the Friday Night Opry. Dottie had been a member of the Opry since July 1964.

September 4, 1992: Former Opry member Carl Butler died in Franklin, Tennessee. Carl, along with his wife Pearl, became members of the Opry in 1962. Carl had first played the Opry in 1948 and was a fine songwriter, having written a number of songs including, "If Teardrops Were Pennies." Dolly Parton would later call them instrumental in helping her out when she came to Nashville. After they left the Opry, and Pearl had passed away, Carl would still occasionally play the Opry.

September 9, 1986: Grand Ole Opry member Bill Monroe passed away after being in declining health after suffering a stroke earlier in the year.

September 11, 1993: The Stoney Mountain Cloggers made their final Grand Ole Opry appearance. The group leader was Ben Smathers and they joined the Opry on September 13, 1958. Ben Smathers himself had passed away on September 13, 1990 at the age of 62.

September 20, 2004: Grand Ole Opry member Skeeter Davis passed away in a Nashville hosptial from cancer. She was 72.

September 23, 2004: Opry member Roy Drusky passed away after a long illness.

September 1, 2006: Taylor Swift makes her first appearance at the Opry.


  1. Byron, are you saving one for us? September 13, 1911? Big centennial coming!

  2. I know who you are talking about and that is the Father of Bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe. The only thing I am not happy about, at least so far, is that the Opry is not planning anything to commemorate the date. They are doing a special show for George's 80th birthday, so you would at least think that you could get Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Bobby Osborne, Alison Krauss, Jesse McReynolds, Del McCoury and the others in for a special show.

  3. I remember they did a special show to commemorate the Roy Acuff postage stamp, which, if I recall, was part of his centennial, wasn't it? One would think that Ricky and/or Marty would have made noise about this.

  4. Wow, and time is growing short, too -- the opportunity already lost to give most fans a chance to make travel and ticket plans around such an event. -- Fred in Bismarck

  5. I hate to say this but Pete Fisher may not know that it is Bill's 100th birthday coming up.

  6. I believe Rod Brasfield died in 1958.

  7. You are so right Brian. Thanks for pointing out my typo mistake on the date. Especially after I had the post on Rod last It is nice to have readers who catch my mistakes.