Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 12/2 & 12/3--Updated

Small change for the Friday Night Opry. Jeannie Seely has cancelled out and has been replaced by Jean Shepard, who will host the opening segment.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line ups for the shows this weekend. There is one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday night, all from the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.

The Friday Night Opry looks the better of the nights this weekend, although Saturday is not bad either. Friday night will feature Opry members Montgomery Gentry, Alison Krauss and Dierks Bentley. In additon, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, who in my opinion are fantastic artists, are scheduled.

Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry features Opry members Terri Clark and Mel Tillis, along with newcomers (and what's an Opry show without at least one) Brent Anderson and a very talented young lady, Mindy Smith. And I am happy to say that Jimmy Dickens is scheduled for all three weekend shows after missing last Saturday night.

Friday December 2

7:00: Jean Shepard (host); Jimmy C Newman; Collin Raye
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Montgomery Gentry
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Mandy Barnett; Alison Krauss & Dan Tyminski
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Gillian Welch & David Rawlings; Dierks Bentley

Saturday December 3

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Terri Clark
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Brent Anderson
8:00: Mel Tillis (host); Jim Ed Brown; Suzy Bogguss; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Mindy Smith; Connie Smith

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Terri Clark
10:00: Mel Tillis (host); Jack Greene; Brent Anderson
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jesse McReynolds; Suzy Bogguss; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Mindy Smith; Connie Smith

That comes to 14 artists on Friday night, of which 9 are Opry members, and 12 for each show on Saturday night, with 9 Opry members on each show.

And if you don't get enough Mel Tillis on the Opry Saturday night, he will be the host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree at the record shop after the Opry. The crowd should be very good for the free show.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Charlie Douglas

I just found out today that former WSM and Grand Ole Opry announcer Charlie Douglas passed away on Thanksgiving day. Charlie began his career in 1953 at KLIC in Monroe, Louisiana. In 1956 he became the first program director at KOCY in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He then worked in Ashville, North Carolina and New Orleans before arriving in Nashville and working at WSM, where he stayed for many years. He retired in 1995 to devote time to running CDX, with his partner Paul Lovelace. Charlie was elected to the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 1994.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 28, 1925-Start of the Grand Ole Opry?

WSM and the Grand Ole Opry officially recognize Saturday November 28, 1925 as the birth of the Grand Ole Opry. It was on that night at 8:00 that George D. Hay introduced Uncle Jimmy Thompson, with his niece Mrs. Eva Thompson Jones playing the piano, and the "WSM Barn Dance" was underway. Of course the Grand Ole Opry name would come later.

Here is George D. Hay's version of how the Opry got started, which he wrote in 1945:

"Because the Grand Ole Opry is a very simple program it started in a very simple way. Your reporter, who was the first program director of WSM, had considerable experience in the field of folk music when the station opened in October 1925. Realizing the wealth of folk music material and performers in the Tennessee Hills he welcomed the appearance of Uncle Jimmy Thompson and his blue ribbon fiddle who went on the air at eight o'clock, Saturday night, November 28, 1925. Uncle Jimmy told us that he had a thousand tunes. Past eighty years of age, he was given a comfortable chair in front of an old carbon microphone. While his niece, Mrs. Eva Thompson Jones, played his piano accompaniment your reporter presented Uncle Jimmy and announced that he would be glad to answer requests for old time tunes. Immediately telegrams started to our into WSM. One hour later at nine o'clock we asked Uncle Jimmy if he hadn't done enough fiddling to which he replied, 'Why shucks, a man don't get warmed up in an hour. I just won an eight-day fiddling contest down in Dallas, Texas, and here's my blue ribbon to prove it.' Uncle Jimmy Thompson, Mrs Jones and The Solemn Old Judge carried on for several weeks for an hour each Saturday night."

George D. Hay finished up by writing, "To the best of our recollection the first old time band we presented on the Saturday night show, which at that time we called the WSM Barn Dance, was headed by a very genial country physician from Sumner County, Tennessee, named Dr. Humprey Bate."

Like everything else with the Opry, nobody is sure exactly when the WSM Barn Dance/Grand Ole Opry exactly started. There is a difference of opinion regarding the November 28, 1925 date and one of the individuals who felt that the date was not correct was Dr. Bate's daughter, Mrs. Alcyone Bate Beasley, who at the time challenged George D. Hay's version of events. According to Mrs. Beasley, it was not George D. Hay that originated the first barn dance program on WSM, but that it was her father and he should have received the credit for starting what has become the Grand Ole Opry.

According to Mrs. Beasley, who at the time was a thirteen year old piano player in her father's group, they did the first Saturday night barn dance on WSM at the end of October 1925, within a month of WSM radio going on the air. Many years later, she was quoted by a reporter on her version of the events: "I remember that night after it was all over, we drove back home in the old Ford car and Daddy, who always called me 'Booger,' said, 'Booger, we might've started something down there tonight, you just don't know."

She then went on to say, "We played there for about four or five weeks before Mr. Hay came. We would drive into Nashville and perform on WDAD in the afternoon, then we would walk up the hill and play on WSM later in the evening. I remember we would give Jack Keefe, who was the WSM announcer then, a list of the numbers we were going to play during the hour we would be on the air. And within just two weeks or so, bands from everywhere began to come up to be put on the air. One of the first of them was Mr. Ed Poplin's band from Lewisburg, Tennessee. I never felt badly about it toward Mr. Hay, because he wasn't well, but the fact remains that nothing was ever said about Uncle Jimmy Thompson being the first one on the show until long after my Daddy died in 1936. How that came to be the story has been the puzzle of my life."

In the 1960s, Norm Cohen, a researcher with the John Edwards Memorial Foundation, a research center at UCLA devoted to the study of American folk music, did some research and examined records of the Nashville Tennessean, specifically looking for country music broadcasts on Nashville radio stations for a three-month period, from October 18, 1925 thru January 17, 1926. His research showed that Mrs. Beasley's story might be the right one.

In the Sunday October 18, 1925 edition of the Nashville Tennessean was an item under the heading "WSM Announces Week's Program": Saturday....10-11 (p.m.) Studio program featuring Dr. Humprey Bate and his string quartet of old-time musicians, from Castalian Springs." That would have meant they appeared on Saturday October 24, exactly when Mrs. Beasley said that had appeared. Cohen's research also showed that Dr. Bate and his group also made regular appearances on WDAD, and were also featured on WSM again on Saturday November 14.

Uncle Jimmy Thompson wasn't mentioned in the newspaper's radio listings until December 20, when it was reported, "Station WSM--Saturday (Dec. 26), 8:00 p.m.--Uncle Jimmy Thompson, the South's champion barn dance fiddler, and Eva Thompson Jones, controlto, will present programs of old-fashioned tunes."

A week later, in the Sunday December 27 edition of the Nashville Tennessean, under the heading "WSM To Feature Old-Time Tunes," the following was printed:

"Old tunes like old lovers are the best, at least judging from the applause which the new Saturday night feature at Station WSM receives from its listeners in all parts of the country: jazz has not completely turned the tables on such tunes as 'Pop Goes the Weasel' and 'Turkey In the Straw.' America may not be swinging its partners at a neighbor's barn dance but it seems to have the habit of clamping on its ear phones and patting its feet as gaily as it ever did when the old-time fiddlers got to swing. Because of this revival in the popularity of the old familiar tunes, WSM has arranged to have an hour or two every Saturday night, starting Saturday, December 26. Uncle Dave Macon, the oldest banjo picker in Dixie, and who comes from Readyville, Tennessee and Uncle Jimmy Thompson of Martha, Tennessee, will answer any requests for old-time melodies. Uncle Jimmy Thompson made his first appearance a month ago and telegrams were received from all parts of the United States, encouraging him in his task of furnishing barn dance music for million homes."

In those days, it was standard policy for many newspapers to print articles that had been sent in my publicists to promote their companies or programs, and many historians feel that the Tennessean article had actually been written by George D. Hay. Based on the article and the comments by George D. Hay and Mrs. Alcyone Bate Beasley, the following conclusions can be drawn:

First, it would appear that from a scheduling standpoint, WSM did not offically put the barn dance program on their schedule until December 26, 1925, so a case can be made that December 26 was the "official" start date of the WSM Barn Dance/Grand Ole Opry. 2nd, with the comment in the article that Uncle Jimmy Thompson made his first appearance on WSM a month before, a month before that article would have been November 28, which is the date that George D. Hay wrote in his 1945 memoirs as the start of the show. And finally, it also means that Dr. Humphrey Bate and his group were the first "country" musicians to play on WSM, appearing in October 1925, but not as part of any formal radio program.

While this can be debated, WSM and the Grand Ole Opry many years ago decided that November 28, 1925 was the official birth of what has become of the Grand Ole Opry. And so it is. At the time of the Opry's birth, it was one of many barn dance programs on the radio, some of which have included the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree, the WLS Barn Dance, Renfro Valley, along with shows in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Richmond and just about every city in the country, big and small. But for various reasons, there is only one of the original barn dance programs left and that is the Grand Ole Opry. Time will only tell if the Opry continues to survive. Times have been tough and the world of country music has changed. I have talked to people who have told me that they will be surprised if the Opry makes it to it's 100th anniversary. I hope they are wrong. For all the reasons that we are concerned about the modern day Opry, we still listen and attend. The Opry is a one of a kind piece of American history. Enjoy it!!

(For those who want to know more about the early days of the Opry, a book that I highly recommend is Charles Wolfe's excellent book, "A Good-Natured Riot--The Birth of The Grand Ole Opry." It is probably the best book he has ever written and it covers in great detail the early days of the Opry, from its start, up until about 1940. I still use it as a reference tool today.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 11/25 & 11/26

Before beginning my look at the shows scheduled for this week, I hope that everyone had a very thankful and grateful Thanksgiving and that each one of you were able to enjoy the day with family and friends. I am thankful for all of you who read the blog, or post comments. I am always surprised that people actually read what I write and I thank each and every one of you. We don't always agree on everything except for the fact that each of us are fans of the Grand Ole Opry and care about the show. Thanks again!!!

As far as the Opry this weekend, Saturday night has 2 shows scheduled and that is because this was another of the nights that Keith Urban was scheduled to perform and the Opry set up 2 shows due to the expected ticket demand. The tickets sold quickly, but like the other date that Keith was forced to cancel, there were again unhappy fans who had tickets for the shows this weekend. Newcomer Hunter Hayes is scheduled for Saturday night and some fans on the Opry's facebook page were trying to pass him off as being as good as a younger Keith Urban. Don't know about that, but they tried.

Also appearing on Saturday night will be Charlie Daniels, who is set for both shows. And Stu Phillips is scheduled for the 2nd show on Saturday. He has had to cancel his last couple of Opry appearances as he appears to be having some vocal issues. I always thought Stu was a fine ballad singer and I hope he is well enough to appear.

Friday November 25

7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; James Wesley
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Sherrie Austin
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jan Howard; Jack Greene; Mandy Barnett
8:45: John Conlee (host); Jean Shepard; Del McCoury Band

Saturday November 26

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Hunter Hayes
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Elizabeth Cook
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Ray Pillow; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith; Charlie Daniels Band

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Hunter Hayes
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); George Hamilton IV; Elizabeth Cook
10:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Stu Phillips; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith; Charlie Daniels

The breakdown this week is 13 artist on Friday night, which is the most in a while, of whom 10 are Opry members. Each show on Saturday has 12 artists, with 10 Opry members.

The host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be Jim Glaser of the famous Glaser Brothers. The Glaser Brothers are former members of the Opry and it would have been nice if the Opry had invited Jim to be part of the show this weekend. Appearing with him will be the Chuck Wagon Gang. The Midnight Jamboree sounds like it might be a good show to listen to this weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering Roy Acuff

It was on November 23, 1992 that Country Music Hall of Fame member and Grand Ole Opry member Roy Acuff passed away in Nashville, one month after making his final appearance on the Opry. It can be said that Roy was the Opry and in many ways, he was the guiding force behind the Opry. His role cannot be understated and when we look at where the Opry has gone since he passed away, we all realize how much Roy is missed. It is safe to assume that many of the changes we have seen at the Opry since he has passed away would not have happened if he were still alive.

Roy was called "The King of Country Music" for a reason. You want to know how popular he was during his heyday? Toward the end of World War II, Japanese soldiers in the Pacific would try to psych out the American Marines by yelling, "To hell with Franklin Roosevelt! To hell with Babe Ruth! To hell with Roy Acuff! In San Diego, soldiers and sailors would hold "Roy Acuff contests," in which the object was to see who could do the best imitation of the singer. His records were so popular that the government had to issue them on V-discs so overseas troops could hear his hits. It was not unusual for 15,000 fans to show up at one of his concerts, and it was not unusual to see his name ranked with Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman in popularity polls among servicemen.

Contemporary fans who were used to seeing Roy Acuff as the stately, white-haired elder statesman of the Grand Ole Opry many have wondered what all the fuss was about and whether his popularity was the result of Opry hype. It wasn't. Acuff was country music's first great stylist after the death of Jimmie Rodgers and was a major influence on younger singers like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and George Jones. Though he had only several modest hits from 1950 o, his longtime presence on the Grand Ole Opry gave him a platform from which he continued to influence country music: as a publisher, a media pioneer, a spokesman and, in later years, a defender of older traditions and performers. His nickname, "The King of Country Music," may sound a bit old-fashioned, but in many ways, it was very accurate.

Roy was born on September 15, 1903 in Maynardsville, Tennessee, and yes, he was from the Smoky Mountains. He was born in a small house and his father was a lawyer and a preacher at the local Baptist church. His father taught him to play the fiddle, but Roy was more interested in baseball. He was also known as a fighter and got himself into trouble more than a few times. He was offered a baseball tryout but in 1929, on a trip to Florida, he suffered severe sunstroke. While recovering, he practiced and improved his skills on the fiddle and went to work with a local medicine show man, Doc Hauer. Working with Doc, he learned show business, including comedy and doing imitations, including that of a train whistle. He also learned to do tricks, including balancing things on his nose.

He proceded to get a job at Knoxville's WROL radio with a local band called The Tennessee Crackerjacks, later to be called "The Crazy Tennesseans." They were basically a local group until their big break in 1936. Roy and band member Red Jones met up with a young Bible student named Charley Swain, who had been featuring a gospel song called "The Great Speckled Bird." Roy offered Charley 50 cents to write down the words of the song as as Charley moved away from the area, Roy started singing the song over WROL. In October of that year, they got a recording deal with the American Recording Company. In 1938, Roy and his band auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry and "The Great Speckled Bird" was one of the numbers that they did. Thousands of letters poured into WSM and the Opry and Roy became the Opry's newest star.

The name of his band was changed to The Smoky Mountain Boys, which was a more dignified name. Roy did not care for the sound of that group and in 1939, after some discussion among the members of the group, three of the members left. Among the replacements was Pete Kirby, known as "Brother Oswald." It was his dobro work that help to create the Roy Acuff sound. Late in 1939 he became the host of the NBC network portion of the Opry and even went to Hollywood and made a number of movies

The hits that followed became country classics. They included "The Precious Jewel," "Wreck on the Highway," "Fire Ball Mail," "Wait for the Light to Shine," "Two Different Worlds," "Night Train to Memphis," and of course the all time classic, "Wabash Cannonball." What was interesting about "Wabash Cannonball" was that Roy did not do the original vocals on the record, but instead Dynamite Hatcher did. Roy would not record the song with his vocals until 1947.

In 1942, Roy joined up with Fred Rose to open Acuff-Rose, the first modern publishing company to be based in Nashville. It was an instant success and they would sign everyone from Don Gibson to The Louvin Brothers to Hank Williams. When many country entertainers suffered through hard times in the 1950s, Acuff-Rose helped to keep Roy afloat. In 1962 he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

While he experimented with different sounds, by the 1970s he had returned to his traditional mountain sounds. With his participation with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many other country music old-timers in the great project, "Will the Circle be Unbroken," a brand new audience opened up for Roy.

Even though his health failed in his final years, he was still performing at the Opry almost every Friday and Saturday night right up until the time of his death. In those final years, Roy would usually host the 7:30 or 8:00 segments on the early Saturday show, right around the time when the Opry would start to come in after dark up here in Ohio. And in those days before line ups were announced ahead of time, 7:30 meant that it was time to turn the old AM transistor radio to 650 WSM to see if the Opry would come through the static and to listen to Roy Acuff sing the "Wabash Cannonball." Man, do I miss those days.

Like I said, the Opry has not been the same since Roy died. He was the anchor, it's symbol and it's compass. He helped to keep the show down to earth and he always remembered his roots.
He sang country music the way it was meant to be song. The Opry could use a Roy Acuff today.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jean Shepard

Monday November 21st is a big day in the life of Opry legend and Country Music Hall of Fame member Jean Shepard. It was on November 21, 1955 that Jean became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. During tonights show, it was mentioned that she is celebrating her 56th year as an Opry member and she mentioned that she is the current Opry member with the longest consecutive years as an Opry member. November 21st is also Jean's birthday and it is also Jean's wedding anniversary.

Jean was born Ollie Imogene Shepard on November 21, 1933 in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma. She grew up in Oklahoma listening to both the Grand Ole Opry and Bob Wills's radio broadcasts out of Tulsa. Just before the end of World War II her family moved to the Southern California city of Visalia. While in high school, Jean and some of her friends formed the Melody Ranch Girls, with whom who both sang and played upright bass. In 1952, as a result of Hank Thompson's recommendation after hearing her perform, Ken Nelson of Capital Records signed her to his label.

Jean's debut single, on which she was co-billed with steel guitar legend Speedy West, fared poorly. But her second single, recorded May 19, 1953, was a #1 smash hit. That record was "A Dear John Letter," to which Ferlin Husky contributed the recitation part. The duet crossed over to the pop Top Five and established both singers' careers. From that point forward, she recorded one vibrant honky-tonk single after another, many featuring Bill Wood's band out of Bakersfield, California, which included guitarist Buck Owens.

In January 1955 Jean was part of the cast that inaugurated the Ozark Jubilee telecast. But in November that year, coming off successive Top Five hits with "A Satisfied Mind" and Beautiful Lies," she joined the Grand Ole Opry. The following months she recorded "Songs of a Love Affair", which is said to have been the first concept album ever recorded by a female country singer. During the late 1950s, Jean became romantically involved with fellow Opry star Hawkshaw Hawkins. On November 26, 1960, the two were married onstage in Wichita, Kansas. Tragically, Hawkins died in the same 1963 plan crash that killed singers Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas. Devastated, Jean gave up singing for several months. But by the close of the year she had returned to the Opry, and in early 1964 she scored a major comeback hit with "Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar)." In 1968, she married bluegrass musician Benny Birchfield, who was Roy Orbison's road manager at the time of Orbison's death.

Through the remainder of the 1960s, Jean enjoyed moderate success, both solo and in duets with Ray Pillow. Many of her records continued to feature her spunky intolerance of male behavior. In 1973 she switched labels from Capital to United Artists. She scored an immediate Top Five hit with Bill Anderson's "Slippin Away," but it proved to be her last major success. Like many singers of her generation, she found radio airplay harder to come by. She left United Records in 1977 and that basically ended her recording career.

In 2005, Jean Shepard became the first female singer to reach the 50-year milestone as a Grand Ole Opry member. She also was the first post-World War II female to have a million selling record with "A Dear John Letter."

When Jean found out she was joining the Opry in 1955, she would say later that it was somewhat of a surprise. She remembers being at Nashville's old Andrew Jackson Hotel during the annual Disc Jockey convention with then-Opry manager Jim Denny. As Jean said, "Jim was making some announcements to the DJs and the media, and he said, 'By the way, we would like to welcome the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Jean Shepard. Happy birthday, Jean.' And what a thrill."

In 2011, Jean Shepard was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, in what many felt was an honor that should have happened years before. Many people forget that it was Jean in the 1950s that set the stage for Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and the female singers that would follow. She was probably the only female tonky-tonk singer in country music during that period. And, she always stayed true to her roots. She was outspoken, brash and an independent woman singing songs that women should not have been singing at the time. She is one of the underrated women in the history of country music and I find it sad that many of today's younger fans who see her as the elderly lady on the Opry do not realize what she has accomplished during her career.

Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to Jean Shepard and congratulations on 56 years of Opry membership.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 11/18 & 11/19

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedules for the shows this weekend. The Opry continues its winter run at the Ryman Auditorium and there is one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday night.

In looking at the shows for this weekend, I have to tell you that I think they have 3 pretty good shows scheduled. The highlight will be the first Opry appearance ever by The Marshall Tucker Band, who is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. I know that they have created a lot of buzz and the ticket sales for both Saturday shows has been pretty strong. You can make the argument that The Marshall Tucker Band is not country, and never has been, but I will say that while I agree with that statement, they are much more country than some of the acts that have been playing the Opry lately. Also on Saturday night, Opry member Joe Diffie is scheduled, along with Diamond Rio and the Del McCoury Band, both of whom are scheduled for all three shows this weekend.

The Friday Night Opry will feature a return appearance by the great Wanda Jackson. Her new album has been doing well and when she appeared on the Opry earlier this year she received a good reaction. Also appearing on Friday night will be Brandi Carlile. She is another of the younger female singers and I checked out some of her songs on her website. Although I wouldn't call her country, she has an interesting voice and sounded very talented.

Friday November 18

7:00: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Diamond Rio
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Steve Wariner; Wanda Jackson
8:45: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Brandi Carlile

Saturday November 19

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Joe Diffie
8:00: Diamond Rio (host); Jim Ed Brown; Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; The Marshall Tucker Band

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Del McCoury Band
10:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jack Greene; Joe Diffie
10:30: Diamond Rio (host); Jim Ed Brown; Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; The Marshall Tucker Band

That comes out to 12 artists for each of the 3 shows, with 10 Opry members on Friday night and 11 on each of the shows on Saturday night, with The Marshall Tucker Band being the only non-Opry members.

Like I said, I think all 3 shows have good solid line ups and I know that if I didn't have commitments this weekend, I would be in the car heading down South for the shows.

Finally, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will feature a special show this weekend. Rockie Lynne will be the host and his special guest will be Jan Howard. The show is dedicated to Tom Davis, who was declared by President Lyndon Johnson as the first American to be killed in the Vietnam War. Bill Rains was commissioned by the Ernest Tubb Record Shops and the Davis Family to create a bronze statue that will be revealed on Saturday night. This statue will be on permanent display at the record shop. David McCormick, the record shop owner, was a neighbor and friend of the Davis Family, while Jan Howard had a son killed in the Vietnam War. Vietnam veterans will have priority seating and a limited number of tickets are available for this show, which is free. In my memory, this might be the first Midnight Jamboree that a ticket is required. This should be a very emotional night and I congratulate the Ernest Tubb folks for doing this.

All in all, it looks like a great weekend in Nashville.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 11/11 &11/12---Updated

As I thought, the Opry has updated the line ups for this weekend. Whoever they might have thought was going to appear didn't come through, so they basically just moved some things around so that there is now a host for each segment. The did add Dale Ann Bradley for Friday night. The corrected line up is listed below.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line up for the shows this weekend. There are a couple of things that stand out. First, there are 2 shows on Saturday night. Saturday was the night that Keith Urban was scheduled and the 2nd show was added because of ticket demand. I wonder how many people will actually come now that Keith is off the schedule or if they will turn in their tickets for another show. Usually, when a big name cancels out, the Opry will try to book someone of similar "star" value. But, in looking at those scheduled for Saturday night, it would appear that they were unable to get anybody. The second thing that stands out is that it appears that Charley Pride is going to host the final hour for all 3 shows this weekend. There is no host for the final segment on any of the shows and I checked again with the Opry right before posting this and nobody has been added. My thought is that they have received a preliminary commitment from somebody and they don't want to add them to the schedule until they are absolutely sure.

When you look at the Friday Night Opry, they have Mike Snider, George Hamilton IV and Riders In The Sky all scheduled and who are capable of hosting. Also on Friday night's show, Guy Penrod will be guesting, along with Holly Williams and the group, Love and Theft.

On Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry, Jim Ed Brown and The Whites are both scheduled for the first show and are capable of hosting, and The Whites are also scheduled for the 2nd show. Clair Lynch will be on both shows on Saturday night, along with Holly Williams, Bradley Gaskin and Love and Theft.

Friday November 11

7:00: Bill Anderson (host); Mike Snider; Love And Theft
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Holly Williams
8:15: Charley Pride (host); George Hamilton IV; Dale Ann Bradley
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Guy Penrod

Saturday November 12

1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jim Ed Brown; Clair Lynch Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); The Whites; Bradley Gaskin
8:00: Charley Pride (host); Jan Howard; Holly Williams; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Love And Theft; Connie Smith

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Holly Williams
10:00: The Whites (host); Jack Greene; Bradley Gaskin
10:30: Charley Pride (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Love And Theft; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Connie Smith; Clair Lynch Band

There are 11 artists scheduled for each of the 3 shows this weekend, of whom 8 are Opry members on Friday night, while 7 are Opry members on each of the Saturday night shows.

The hosts of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree on Saturday night/Sunday morning will be Ricky Lynn Gregg and Jeannie C. Riley. That should be a good show.

Finally, here is the line up for the Tuesday Night Opry on November 15:

7:00: John Conlee; James Otto
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Jean Shepard; Randy Houser
8:45: Heidi Newfield; Josh Turner

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Remembering David "Stringbean" Akeman

It was 38 years ago on November 10, 1973 that one of the most horrific events in Grand Ole Opry took place as David Akeman, known to all of us as Stringbean, and his wife Estelle were murdered at the home outside of Nashville, after arriving home from the Ryman Auditorium and the Opry.

Too many country fans remember Stringbean only for the way he and his wife died. But those who saw him perform in person or on Hee Haw realized that he was one of the most original comedians in country music as well as a fine clawhammer banjo player and traditional singer. His distinctive striped shirt, low-belted pants, and funny duckwalk were as familiar as Minnie Pearl's straw hat. His droll wit and deadpan irony were reflected in signature one-liners such as "Lord, I fell so unneccessary."

Stringbean was born on June 17, 1916 in Annville, Kentucky. He would grow up in eastern Kentucky and worked in Civilian Conservation Corps camps during the depression before landing his first musical job, as well as his nickname, from country performer Asa Martin. After playing banjo for several bands around the Lexington area, he came to Nashville around 1942 and became Bill Monroe's first banjo player. Later in the 1940s he teamed with fellow Opry member Lew Childre for a duet act and became a protege of Uncle Dave Macon. The older banjo player taught Stringbean much of his repertoire of old-time banjo songs and even gave him one of his own banjos. By the time Macon died in 1952, Stringbean was working as a solo act on the Grand Ole Opry and adapting current songs such as "Hillbilly Fever" to his clawhammer style.

Feeling his appeal lay primarily in personal appearances, Stringbean postponed making his own records until 1960, when be began doing a series of albums for Starday Records. The first of these was "Old Time Banjo Pickin' and Singin', released in 1960. His best known album was "A Salute to Uncle Dave Macon", which was released in 1963, and has been later reissued. Stringbean would record later for the Nugget and Cullman labels. Joining the cast of Hee Haw in 1969 rejuvenated his career, though his comedy was featured more than his music. He often teamed with fellow banjoist-comedian Grandpa Jones, with whom he had become a close friend and neighbor.

In 1973, the brutal murder of Stringbean and his wife, Estelle Stanfill Akeman, at their remote three-room cabin shocked Nashville's music community. The two gunmen, John and Doug Brown, were waiting for Stringbean at home after a Saturday-night Opry performance in hopes of robbing him of cash rumored to be hidden in his cabin; they came away with a few guns and a chainsaw. Though the killers were caught and convicted, many felt an important link with country music's tradition had been senselessly broken. In 1996, police discovered remnants of hundreds of dollars stashed in the walls of the Akeman's cabin.

Stringbean and Estelle's bodies were discovered the following morning by Grandpa Jones, who arrived at their home to pick up Stringbean for a fishing trip. Grandpa was so shaken by the murders that he moved from Nashville for a period of time, performing in a dinner theater he owned in rural Arkansas. Roy Acuff publicly called for the death penalty to be reinstated in Tennessee. After Stringbean's murder, Roy had concerns about living alone after the passing of his wife and this was one of the considerations to him moving to the house at Opryland, where he lived his final years. And, Skeeter Davis was very vocal in her comments regarding Stringbean's murder.

Stringbean was one of the last in a long line of Opry comedians, who would dress in the over exaggerated hillbilly style. Those comedians included Rod Brasfield, Lew Childre, Whitey Ford (known as the Duke of Paducah), Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, and in his earlier years, Archie Campbell. It is interesting that all but Archie and Stringbean have been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and both should be.

What a lot of people forget, especially after seeing Stringbean on Hee Haw, is what a great musican and banjo player he was. He really played the banjo well and could have played with any bluegrass group in the country if he had so desired.

As I stated above, I really believe that if not for his early death, Stringbean would have been elected to the Hall of Fame. With him being a part of Hee Haw, he was at the peak of his popularity and much like Hee Haw's exposure helped to get Grandpa Jones elected, I believe the same would have happened with Stringbean.

Stringbean appeared on both Opry shows the night of November 10. On the 1st show, he appeared on the 7:00 segment, while on the 2nd show he was on at 10:15. In honor of Stringbean, here is the Opry line up and song list from Saturday November 10, 1973, Stringbean's final night at the Opry.

1st show:
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Willis Brothers (host): Little Red Wagon
Johnny Carver: Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree
Willis Brothers: God Walks These Hills With Me

6:45: Rudy's
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Forget, Forgive Us #1
Bill Carlisle: Too Old To Cut The Mustard
Josie Brown: Precious Memories Follow Me
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: When My Time Comes To Go

7:00: Rudy's
Tex Ritter (host): Have I Told You Lately That I Love You
K. Wheeler: The First Time For Us
Tex Ritter: Green Grow The Lilacs
K. Wheeler: Listen, Spot
Tex Ritter: Fall Away

7:30: Standard Candy
Bobby Bare (host): Ride Me Down Easy
Jimmy Martin: Just Plain Yellow
Melba Montgomery: Crawdad Song
Crook Brothers: Chicken Reel
Bobby Bare: The Streets Of Baltimore
Jimmy Martin: Tennessee
Melba Montgomery: Wrap Your Love Around Me
Bobby Bare: Detroit City

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train To Memphis
Grandpa Jones: Mountain Dew
Jimmy Driftwood: Run, Johnny, Run/Tennessee Stud
Roy Acuff: Wabash Cannonball
Grandpa Jones: Orange Blossom Special
Brother Oswald: Roll On, Buddy

8:30: Stephens
Billy Grammer (host): Gotta Travel On
Marion Worth: Paper Roses
Billy Grammer, Jr: Orange Blossom Special
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Soldiers Joy
Billy Grammer: I'm Letting You Go
Marion Worth: Me & Bobby McGee
Billy Grammer: Just A Closer Walk With Thee

2nd show:
9:30: Kelloggs
Willis Brothers (host): Give Me 40 Acres
Johnny Carver: Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree
Jimmy Martin: Honey, You Don't Know My Mind
Josie Brown: Precious Memories Follow Me
Skeeter Willis: Maiden's Prayer
Johnny Carver: Tonight Someone's Falling In Love
Jimmy Martin: Who'll Sing For Me When I'm Gone

10:00: Fender
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Little Darling Pal Of Mine
Bill Carlisle: Have A Drink On Me/No Help Wanted
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Coming Down From God

10:15: Union 76
Tex Ritter (host): There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder
Tex Ritter: Willie, The Wondering Gypsy & Me

10:30: Trailblazer
Roy Acuff (host): Ball Knob, Arkansas
Grandpa Jones: Bright Morning Stars Are Rising
Jimmy Driftwood: The Mixed Up Family

10:45: Beech-Nut
Bobby Bare (host): Four Strong Winds
K. Wheeler: The First Time For Us
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Bobby Bare: Detroit City

11:00: Coca-Cola
Billy Grammer (host): Bonaparte's Retreat
Melba Montgomery: Don't Keep Me Lonely Too Long
Billy Grammer, Jr: Orange Blossom Special
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Billy Grammer: Somewhere My Love
Melba Montgomery: Let's All Go Down To The River
Sam McGee: Worry, Worry Blues
Billy Grammer: What A Friend

11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host): I Walk Alone
Marion Worth: Paper Roses/Sleeping At The Foot Of The Bed
Ronnie Robbins: Too Much Love Between Us/Mama Tried
Marty Robbins: Love Me/Big Boss Man/Crawling On My Knees/Don't Worry/El Paso

The following Saturday night, November 17, 1963, Bud Wendell started the Opry by reading a tribute to Stringbean. And, while Roy Acuff was there and was actually hosting his segments, he did not sing on that night's Opry. Howdy Forrester and Brother Oswald played instrumental numbers.

Thanks for taking the time with me to remember a great entertainer, David "Stringbean" Akeman.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Birthday & Congratulations to Stonewall Jackson

Happy Birthday greetings go today to Grand Ole Opry star Stonewall Jackson, who on Sunday November 6 will be celebrating his 79th birthday. And along with the birthday wishes, congratulations also go to Stonewall, who tonight will be celebrating his 55th year as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

From the Country Music Encyclopedia, I offer to you this biography of Stonewall:

"Stonewall Jackson is known as a longtime star of the Grand Ole Opry and as a staunchly hard country singer. Jackson's father, Waymond, claiming to be a descendant, had planned to name his third son after Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall". The elder Jackson, a railroad engineer, became injured in a work-related accident and died shortly before the birth of young Stonewall. Nearly destitute, his mother took her family and hitchhiked to Georgia to work on a brother-in-law's farm. After she remarried, Stonewall suffered years of physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather. At fifteen Jackson ran away to enlist in the army, lying about his age. The truth surfaced and he was discharged. At seventeen he enlisted in the navy for four years. In 1954 he returned to Georgia to work as a sharecropper, saving some $350 of his pay to finance a move to Nashville.

His career got off to a storybook start. Two days after his twenty-fourth birthday, Jackson drove his gray 1955 Chevrolet pickup into Nashville and walked uninvited that day into the offices of Acuff-Rose Publications. His singing and songwriting impressed Wesley Rose enough that Rose helped Jackson gain an audition the following day for the Opry's George D. Hay and W. D. Kilpatrick, who gave him a contract without the benefit of a label or hit record. On his third day in Nashville, November 9, 1956, he appeared on the Opry's Friday Night Frolics program and became a member of the cast.

Ernest Tubb, who met Jackson onstage at that first Friday night broadcast, took the young singer under his wing, buying his first stage clothes, giving him the opening berth on his road show, and steering him to Columbia Records. His first hit came in 1958-59 with 'Life to Go' written by George Jones, with whom he was then touring. His next hit, 'Waterloo' was a #1 country hit for five weeks in the summer of 1959 and crossed over into the Billboard pop charts (#4), generating bookings on such pop TV programs as Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Hot on the heels of his successes 'Life to Go' and 'Waterloo', Stonewall Jackson was named Most Promising Country Male Star by Cash Box. Other Top Ten hits in the sixties include 'A Wound Time Can't Erase' (#3, 1962), 'B.J. the DJ (#1, 1964), 'Don't Be Angry' (#4), and 'I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water (#8, 1965). He's also known for his pro-Vietnam War hit 'The Minute Men (Are Turning in Their Graves)'. He left Columbia in 1973 for MGM Records, where he logged his final chart hit, 'Herman Schwartz,' that year. Jackson and his Minute-Men band (including son Turp on drums) occasionally tour and still keep their weekend Opry appearances. His autobiography, 'From the Bottom Up' was published by L. C. Parsons in 1991."

In 1977 Stonewall was presented the Ernest Tubb Memorial Award for his contributions to country music. By the end of his charted recording career, Stonewall had placed 44 singles on the Billboard country charts.

When Stonewall joined the Opry, he was part of the youth movement that was started by Opry manager Dee Kilpatrick. Others who joined the Opry during the same time period were Porter Wagoner and the Everly Brothers.

Stonewall was one of the Opry artists who were fired from the Opry on December 6, 1964 for failing to meet the Opry's appearance requirements. Stonewall was gone from the Opry for almost four and a half years, rejoining the show on May 10, 1969.

Stonewall made news in 2006 when he sued the Grand Ole Opry for $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages, claiming age discrimination. As a member of the Opry for over fifty years, he believed that management was reducing his appearances in favor of younger artists. In his court filing, Jackson claimed that Opry general manager Pete Fisher stated that he did not "want any gray hairs on that stage or in the audience, and before I'm done there won't be any." Fisher was also alleged to have told Jackson that he was "too old and too country." The lawsuit was settled on October 3, 2008 for an undisclosed amount and Stonewall returned to performing on the Opry.

On the night that Stonewall Jackson returned to the Opry, on May 10, 1969, he was on the 7:00 segment hosted by Roy Acuff. Others on that segment included Jean Shepard and Leroy Van Dyke. Stonewall sang "Don't be Angry" and "Angry Words" during that half hour. On the 2nd show that night, he appeared in the 10:15 segment, again hosted by Roy Acuff and sang "Angry Words".

If there was ever a country singer, it was Stonewall Jackson. He had a distinctive voice and you knew a Stonewall song the minute it came on. Many of his songs had a honky-tonk beat to them. Pete Fisher was right was he said Stonewall was "too country."

I could never understand, with the number of hit records that Stonewall had, why he never received more recognition in Nashville, or on the award shows. And with his career accomplishments, in the opinion of this writer, Stonewall should have been in the Country Music Hall of Fame long ago. Yet, he has never received even serious consideration. Some of it could be that he was not a trailblazer in music and outside of his first few hits, he never had any crossover appeal. I think the other more recent reason is because of the lawsuit against the Opry. Gaylord is a big supporter of the Hall of Fame and I think people remember. Politics is in play many times with Hall of Fame voting and with the lawsuit, I think any chance Stonewall had pretty much went out the window.

But in my opinion, Stonewall was one of the great classic country music singers of all time and I am glad he is back on the Opry, although with reduced appearances, and I congratulate him on 55 years of Opry membership and send along my best wishes on his 79th birthday.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 11/4 & 11/5

Before I get into this week's schedule, how do you think some of those "younger fans" feel right now, who bought tickets for the Opry coming up in November, specifically to see Keith Urban and nobody else, and then he cancels out on the Opry for those two dates? Probably not so great, but that is what happens when the Opry tries to cater to a group that has no real interest in the Opry and specifically target an individual performer instead of promoting the entire show. Nothing against Keith Urban as I am sure it was a good reason why he had to cancel, but as "real" Opry fans know, you get used to performers who are advertised and not show up and we just accept it as part of the show. At least this time there was some advanced notice. But I am sure it created a lot of unhappy ticket buyers and considering how expensive it is to see the Opry, these same fans might think twice before buying a ticket again. And of course, that hurts the Opry's reputation and bottom line.

Anyways, the Opry is back at the Ryman Auditorium for the winter run and with the move, there is one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday night. Saturday nights show will feature the return of Stonewall Jackson to the Opry and this weekend will mark his 55th year as an Opry member. Congratulations to Stonewall and I am glad he is able to be at the Opry this weekend. Jean Shepard also returns to the Opry on Saturday, along with newcomers Sarah Darling and James Wesley.

The Friday Night Opry will feature a couple of newcomers with JT Hodges and Craig Campbell appearing at the Opry. I am pretty sure that this is JT's first appearance on the show.

Friday November 4:

7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); The Whites; Diamond Rio
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; JT Hodges
8:15: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jack Greene; Craig Campbell
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Rebecca Lynn Howard; Johnny Lee

Saturday November 5:

7:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Connie Smith; James Wesley
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Sarah Darling
8:15: Jean Shepard (host); Stonewall Jackson; Mark Wills; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Exile

I find it interesting that Jesse McReynolds is no longer listed as Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, even though his group is with him most nights he appears on the Opry.

For those counting at home, there will be 12 artists on each show, with 8 Opry members each night.

Connie Smith will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree on Saturday night. She is promoting her new CD and I hope the fans turn out.

Here is the line up for the Tuesday Night Opry, November 8:

7:00: Jimmy C Newman; Sunny Sweeney
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Danny Gokey
8:15: The Whites; Diamond Rio
8:45: Jim Ed Brown; Darius Rucker

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Opry Highlights

As I do each month, here are the important and historical events that have taken place in the history of the Grand Ole Opry during the month of November.

November 2, 1925: George D. Hay began working at WSM radio in Nashville as the Radio Director. Later that month, he would start the WSM Barn Dance and he would manage the Opry during it's early years.

November 28, 1925: WSM's Barn Dance, which later became known as the WSM Grand Ole Opry, was broadcast for the first time. The show took place from the fifth-floor studio in the National Life and Accident Insurance Company's headquarters in downtown Nashville. The first broadcast featured Uncle Jimmy Thompson, a 77-year-old fiddler who claimed that he knew over one thousand songs. "Tennessee Waggoner" was the first song played.

November 2, 1948: Roy Acuff, who was the Republican candidate for Governor of Tennessee, was defeated. While Roy would not seek political office again, he would continue to campaign for Republican office seekers including Ronald Reagan and George Bush. During his campaign appearances in the fall of 1948, Roy would sing and feature his Smoky Mountain Boys. But the story went that when the music stopped and his political speech would begin, the crowds would start to thin out.

November 13, 1949: The Grand Ole Opry sponsored its first overseas trip as a group of Opry performers traveled to England, Germany and the Azores as part of a USO sponsored tour. The Opry stars on this trip were Roy Acuff, Rod Brasfield, Jimmy Dickens, Red Foley, Minnie Pearl and Hank Williams.

November 21, 1955: Jean Shepard becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jean will also be celebrating her birthday and wedding anniversary on this date. This will be Jean's 56th year as an Opry member and she is the current Opry member that has been at the Opry for the longest number of years consecutively.

November 3, 1956: Stonewall Jackson became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This year will be his 55th as an Opry member and he is on the schedule for this Saturday night. I think everyone has heard the Stonewall Jackson story before, but for those who have not, Stonewall just showed up outside the Opry one day and so impressed folks with his singing that he was asked to become a member even though he had never recorded a hit record. In the course of his career, Stonewall would have many hit records and become a big star in country music. Sadly, several years ago, Stonewall filed a lawsuit against Gaylord Entertainment and the management of the Opry claiming age discrimination. Although still offered slots to perform on the Opry, including on his 50th anniversary as an Opry member, Stonewall elected to stay away until the lawsuit was settled, which it eventually was in an out of court settlement. Since then, Stonewall has returned to actively performing on the Opry and while his appearances greatly increased immediately after the lawsuit, they have become more sporadic over the past several years. On November 6th, Stonewall will be celebrating his 79th birthday.

November 3, 1961: The Country Music Association announced the beginning of its Country Music Hall of Fame. The first performers honored were Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose and Hank Williams. The following year, 1962, Roy Acuff became the first leaving member to be elected to the Hall.

November 29, 1961: A group of Opry performers played a sold-out show at Carneige Hall in New York City. Among the Opry members who were part of the show were Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline and Grandpa Jones. No wonder the show sold out with a line up like that.

November 28, 1963: Willie Nelson joined the Grand Ole Opry. He did not last long as an Opry member and often complained about the low pay at the Opry. And of course, on his first night there, he was introduced with the wrong name. Those were the days that Willie had the short hair and was clean shaven. In 1972, Willie left Nashville for Austin, Texas, where he established himself as country music's outlaw singer. Willie would continue to play the Opry over the years.

November 12, 1971: Construction officially began on the new Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland. While there were those worried if the crowds would continue to come to the Opry once it moved out of downtown, that would not be an issue. When the new Opry House opened in March 1974, it would be the first building built specifically for the Opry.

November 10, 1973: David Akeman, otherwise known professionally as "Stringbean" made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. That night when he and his wife Estelle returned home after the Opry, they were ambushed and killed by two men who were waiting to rob him. The killers sat in his house and listened to the Opry on the radio so they could judge when he would return home. The rumor at the time was that Stringbean had money, and lots of it, hidden in his small cabin. Nothing was found, but over twenty years later when the house was being worked on, $20,000 of rotted money was found within the walls of the house. The bodies of Stringbean and Estelle were found on Sunday morning by Grandpa Jones, Stringbean's neighbor and closest friend. Grandpa was so shaken by the killings that he left Nashville for a number of years and moved to Arkansas and had a country dinner theater. Roy Acuff and other members of the Opry called for the death penalty for the killers. Although the killers were quickly captured, they were not sentenced to death, but to lengthy prison terms. One of the killers was recently denied parole. A&E did a program on these murders several years back and they still show it from time to time. Not only was Stringbean famous for his work at the Opry, but he was one of the stars of Hee Haw. Opry announcer Grant Turner remembered Stringbean's final night at the Opry: "I'll never forget that night. I saw Grandpa Jones and Ramona talking with Stringbean and his wife. There were having so much fun; they were planning to go fishing. I was going to stop and say something to them, but they were busy talking. That was just a short time before Stringbean and his wife........" By the way, Stringbean was an early member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys.

November 21, 1985: Reba McEntire became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This was her first Opry show as a member, as she actually joined the show on November 14, as part of the Opry's 60th anniversary special on CBS.

November 3, 1990: Minnie Pearl was honored on her 50th anniversary as an Opry member. When Minnie joined the cast in 1940, she was immediately accepted into the Opry's cast. Minnie remembered her Opry audition: "I auditioned in front of maybe eight or nine people. Harry Stone, Jack Stapp, Judge Hay, Ford Rush, all of those people standing in that old control room in Studio B on the fifth floor of the National Life building, and they just looked at me. They never cracked a smile. I didn't get through to them, I don't think." Ford Rush then told her after the audition that they had investigated her "and he wasn't sure those people out there wouldn't think I was a phony." Rush was concerned that she had attended Ward-Belmont College. She was then told that she would have a tryout on the Opry the following Saturday and she was told to report at 10:30 and to be ready to go on the Crazy Water Crystals show at 11:05, when, she was told, normally not very many people are listening. She further remembered that night: "I went to Judge Hay and I said, 'I'm Minnie Pearl'. We'll, I didn't say, 'I'm Minnie Pearl', that was the funny part of it. I said 'I'm Ophelia Colley,' which was my name then. He said, 'Oh, yes, you're the young lady that's going to do the comedy.' And I said, 'We'll, I'm going to try.'" She was told to go back to one of the dressing rooms at at 11 to come back to the stage. This was at the War Memorial Auditorium and she said it was not full as it was late at night and cold outside. At 11, she stood next to Judge Hay and she was shaking and the Judge asked if she was scared and she said she was. Then he gave his famous line to her, "Just love'em honey, and they'll love you back."

November 15, 1992: The Grand Ole Opry is inducted into the Museum of Broadcast Communication's Radio Hall of Fame.

November 23, 1992: Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Fame member Roy Acuff passed away in Nashville. His influence on the Opry and in country music in general can never be overstated. Thanks in large part to Acuff-Rose Publishing, Nashville moved to the forefront of country music and his publishing company gave country music songwriters and entertainers a place to publish and claim ownership of their material without going to New York. Roy played the Opry right up to within a month of his death. He was the first living performer to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. It is ironic that one of those younger entertainers who have tried to carry on the Opry tradition as Roy Acuff would have wanted was Marty Stuart, who became an Opry member on the Saturday following his death.

November 28, 1992: Marty Stuart becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 19th year as an Opry member. Marty, along with fellow artists Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill, have done much to carry on the Opry's tradition and have supported the show over the years.

November 27, 1993: Joe Diffie becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 18th year as an Opry member.

November 30, 1995: Martina McBride became a member of the Opry as part of a CBS show that celebrated the Opry's 70th anniversary. Loretta Lynn, who was a big influence on Martina, handled the formal induction. This will be Martina's 16th year as an Opry member and what I will always remember is that earlier that year in October, Martina was invited to guest on the Opry on the night of the Opry's 70th birthday celebration. Martina was the final performer for that half hour, which was televised on TNN. The singing of Happy Birthday and the rolling out of the cake was to take place after Martina's songs, But, Martina song two ballads and she ran long on her slot and as a result the birthday celebration was not shown on televison, resulting in many unhappy viewers and some not-so-happy Opry members. Martina was crestfallen afterwards, believing that she had blown her chance to become an Opry member, and apologized to everyone. But a month later, her dream came true.

November 23, 1996: Trace Adkins makes his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. 7 years later, on August 23, 2003, he would become an Opry member.

November 7, 1998: Jimmy Dickens celebrated his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. Although he joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, it should be mentioned that Jimmy left the Opry 18 years, rejoining the show in 1975. With that in mind, and although he is often introduced from the Opry stage as a member of the Opry for over 62 years, it would be correct to say that he became an Opry member 63 years ago. (if you need a clarification, just ask Jean Shepard, who is real careful about her Opry history). Among those who came out to honor Jimmy on his special night wer Carl Smith, Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare and Bill Anderson. At the time, the only other Opry members who had been with the show for 50 years were Herman Crook, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe and Grandpa Jones. Since then, 50 year members have included Wilma Lee Cooper, Billy Grammer, George Hamilton IV, Stonewall Jackson, George Jones, Charlie Louvin, Jimmy C Newman, Jean Shepard, Porter Wagoner, Teddy Wilburn and most recently, Bill Anderson. I question seeing George Jones on this list, and to be honest, I completely forgot Teddy Wilburn.

November 30, 2002: Tim McGraw makes his first appearance on the Opry. Although he never would become an Opry member, he has made several Opry appearances over the years.

November 14, 2005: The Grand Ole Opry returns to Carneige Hall in New York for the 3rd time to perform an Opry show. This was was featured in a special on GAC-TV and would be released as a DVD. This performance was part of the Opry's 80th anniversary. The performers on the show that night were Trace Adkins, Bill Anderson, Jimmy Dickens, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Ricky Skaggs and Trisha Yearwood. (Wouldn't you love to see this line up at the Opry House on a Saturday night?)

November 8, 2008: Actor Kevin Costner and his country band, Modern West, performed on the Opry for the first time. 2 years later, they would return for another appearance.

November 14, 2009: For the first time, the Opry streams part of its show on MySpace. The show featured Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Jake Owen and Rodney Atkins. The show had numerous technical flaws and problems, but despite the issues, the Opry would repeat this again.

There you have it. Enjoy!!!