Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 12/30 & 12/31--Updated

Update: Jack Greene has cancelled out for the Friday Night Opry. No replacement for him.

getting into the line ups for the final 2 Grand Ole Opry shows in 2011, I wanted to write a few words on the situation regarding Carol Lee Cooper and some of the rumors and questions that are out there regarding her situation and the Opry.

As most of you are aware of, Carol Lee has not been on the Opry since March. While I do not want to get into the reasons for her not being on, what I can tell you, and it has been confirmed by several others, is that it was for a legitimate health related issue. Over the past several months, whenever I or someone else asked about the status of Carol Lee, it was the same answer and nobody would say anything else or go on the record of saying anything.

Several weeks back, I received an email from one of my readers saying that he saw on another internet site that Carol Lee Cooper had been fired from the Opry. That was news to me so I started doing some research. I found the message board that this was posted on, and I found it to be suspect as the way it was written it did not make sense. I then emailed or called at least a half dozen of my sources and friends that I have in the music community who usually know what is going on at the Opry. The answer from each of them was that they had not heard a thing regarding Carol Lee, and 2 of these people I asked are journalists who I think would know, or would report it if they knew. But, I will say that at least 1 of them did check with their Opry sources and they were told there was nothing new to report regarding Carol Lee. Another person that I asked is backstage almost every weekend and they had not heard anything.

The internet message board said that Carol Lee was fired from the Opry in mid-September, right around the time that her mother Wilma Lee Cooper passed away. The reason I discount this report is for a couple of reasons. First, even on the Opry several weeks ago, a few of the entertainers, including Jim Ed Brown, were still referring to the back up singers as the Carol Lee Singers. Second, in the latest edition of the Opry Picture History Book, which was published in October, Carol Lee is still pictured with the Carol Lee Singers. And this edition had already taken out her mother and Billy Grammer and had already added Rascal Flatts, so it was up to date. Third, after the firing of the 4 Guys and the Opry Staff Band members several years back and the big publicity it created, I can't believe Pete Fisher would go that route again. I know that Pete is a tough businessman, but even I can't believe that he would fire someone at the same time that their mother passed away. And I do know that Carol Lee was backstage at the Opry the Saturday night of the tribute to her mother. Finally, a check of Carol Lee's website has nothing unusual on it.

Now even with all that, could something be up regarding Carol Lee Cooper and the Opry? I think so. Just the fact that nobody, and I mean nobody, will go on the record or say anything publicly, is a red flag to me. Also, while there are some who still refer to the back up singers as the Carol Lee Singers, I have also heard others call them the Opry Singers. And finally, this issue that has kept Carol Lee off the Opry has seem to have been going on for a long time now, over 9 months.

It would not surprise me at all if we have seen the last of Carol Lee Cooper on the Opry. I hope I am wrong. I keep asking and if I receive anything new, I will certainly report it. But at the least, it is a mysterious situation.

Now regarding the Opry this weekend, since it is the show closest to January 1st, which was the date that Hank Williams died, his daughter Jett Williams will be on the Opry, as she is every year around this time. I know that the Opry has had an open invitation to Hank Williams, Jr to appear, but that has happened only once in recent memory. And of course Hank Williams III, who has appeared on the Opry previously around January 1st, will not be getting an invitation anytime soon to appear at the Opry, for obvious reasons.

Also appearing on the Opry this weekend will be 4 non-Opry members who have appeared on the Opry more times this past year than a majority of the actual Opry members and those 4 are Mandy Barnett, Jimmy Wayne, Restless Heart and Dailey & Vincent. It would finish out the year in a fine way if one of those would receive an invitation to join the Opry

Here are the line ups for this weekend:

Friday December 30
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jeannie Seely; Craig Morgan
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mandy Barnett
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Restless Heart

Saturday December 31
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jett Williams
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jan Howard; George Hamilton IV; Mandy Barnett
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Jimmy Wayne; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee (host); Jim Ed Brown; Dailey & Vincent

This week's Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be hosted by Jett Williams. After this week, the Midnight Jamboree goes with taped archive shows until March as the attendance and out of town folks coming to Nashville really drops during the winter months.

If I don't post again before the end of the year, Happy New Year to everyone.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers

It was on Christmas day in 1976, that Larry, Steve and Rudy, the Gatlin Brothers, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. Here is a short biography of brothers:

Raised in a musical family, the Gatlin Brothers were joined by their sister LaDonna, who sang on several Gatlin albums through 1976. The boys and their sister grew up on the gospel harmonies of the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen Quartet. The brothers first performed in public at the 1954 Gavalcade of Talent at Hardin-Simmons University when Larry was six, Steve was four, and Rudy was two. They later sang on Abilene radio and had an Abilene TV series.

Larry won a football scholarship to the University of Houston, where he majored in English and studied law. He later worked various jobs and sang with the gospel group the Imperials. While touring with the Imperials in 1972, he met Dottie West in Las Vegas. After he later sent her a tape containing eight original songs, West sent him an airplane ticket to Nashville. A few months later he moved to Nashville permanently. In 1973 Larry and Rita Coolidge provided backing vocals for Kris Kristofferson's #1 record "Why Me." In the same year Larry charted for the first time with his Monument Records single "Sweet Becky Walker."

Before joining Larry, Steve and Rudy were members of Young Country, as were LaDonna and her husband Tim Johnson, which was a group that provided background vocals for Tammy Wynette. Larry's career with his brothers featured smooth country stylings and went through several name incarnations (Larry Gatlin; Larry Gatlin with Family and Friends; Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, etc.) They won a Grammy in 1976 for "Broken Lady" and reached #1 in 1977 with "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love." After switching from Monument to Columbia, they again hit #1 with "All the Gold in California." (1979) and "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)" (1983). In 1989 the Gatlins moved from Columbia to Jimmy Bowen's new Universal Records, then to Captial Records when Bowen took over the helm of that label.

Besides writing his own hits, Larry's songs have been cut by such artists as Elvis Presley, Hank Snow, Dottie West, Barbra Streisand, Charlie Rich, Johnny Mathis, the Carpenters, Judy Collins, Tom Jones, Anne Murray, and Johnny Cash.

Drug addiction led Larry to a California treatment center, where he made a recovery in 1984. He has since lectured on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. The Gatlin Brothers have performed at the invitations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.

Larry Gatlin especially, has had a very solid career as the front man of the group and as a songwriter. It would not surprise me to some day see him in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I do have a couple of impressions of the Gatlin Brothers. My first one is when I watch the Time/Life infomercials featuring country music's greatest hits, they will many times show Tammy Wynette singing, usually in a clip from Nashville Now. And in the background, you will see Rudy doing the vocals. My second is that I remember in the early 1970s when Larry was touring with Johnny Cash as his opening act. During that time period, Johnny was helping out a lot of young writers and Larry contibuted a couple of songs to the Johnny Cash album "Gospel Road."

Since joining the Grand Ole Opry on December 25, 1976, Larry has appeared many times on the Opry stage as a solo act. I know for a period of time, the group had basically broken up. They have gotten back together in recent years and have performed in Branson in additon to taking their show on the road.

To honor Larry Gatlin on his 35 years as an Opry member, here is the line up from Saturday December 25, 1976, when Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers joined the Opry.

1st show
6:00: Vietti
Bill Monroe (host): Love Come Home
Ray Pillow: Love is Slowly Coming Over Me
Marion Worth: Just a Little Lovin'
David "Lonzo" Hooten: If We Make it Through December
Bill Monroe: Bluegrass Breakdown
Ernie Ashworth: Shamrock Hotel
Bill Monroe: Mule Skinner Blues/Ashland Breakdown

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Forgive and Forget Us
Charlie Louvin: Let's Put Our World Back Together Again/A Toast to Mama/Love Has to Die All By Itself/I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow/I Want A Happy Life
Del Wood: There's A Big Wheel
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Philadelphia Lawyer

6:45: Rudy's
Ernest Tubb (host): Women Make a Fool out of Me
Skeeter Davis: Desperado
Billy Grammer: My Life's Been A Pleasure
Ernest Tubb: Another Story

7:00: Shoney's
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Minnie Pearl: Comedy/Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes
Jimmy C. Newman: Blue Lonely Winter
Stu Phillips: Have a Nice Day

7:30: Standard Candy
Porter Wagoner (host): Wake Up Jacob
Dottie West: Country Sunshine
Justin Tubb: You Nearly Lose Your Mind
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Black Mountain Rag
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus

8:00: Martha White
Lester Flatt (host): Shuckin' the Corn
Jack Greene: You Don't Need a Cowboy
Jeannie Seely: Mama Never Told Me About Cowboys
Vic Willis: Christmas Carols by the Old Corral
Lester Flatt: Corn, Corn, Corn
Bob Luman: A Satisfied Mind
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything
Lester Flatt & Charlie Nixon: Dobro Instrumental

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
The Carlisles: I've Waited Too Long
Jim & Jesse: Then I'll Stop Going For You
Fruit Jar Drinkers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Bill Cheatham
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb (host): I'll Get Along Somehow
Charlie Louvin: Sweet Texas
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Wayne Hammond: Welcome to My World
David "Lonzo" Hooten: Daddy Looked a Lot Like Santa
Billy Grammer: I Dreamed of an Old Love Affair
Ernest Tubb: Blue Christmas

10:00 Fender
Bill Monroe (host): A Beautiful Life
Ray Pillow: Gone at Last
Ernie Ashworth: My Love Will Never Change
Del Wood: My Country

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Old Time Sunshine Song
Marion Worth: Just a Little Lovin
Charlie Walker: Who'll Buy the Wine
Onie Wheeler: Old Roy

10:30: Trailblazer
Lester Flatt (host): Why Do You Wander
Jack Greene: Birmingham
Jeannie Seely: American Trilogy
Jimmy C Newman: The Potato Song
Lester Flatt & Marty Stuart: Rawhide

10:45: Beech-Nut
Porter Wagoner (host): Highway Headed South
Justin Tubb: Sweetwater Texas
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: 8th of January
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Lester, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey
Bob Luman: Blue Christmas
Vic Willis: Cool Water
Fruit Jar Drinkers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Katy Hill
Kirk McGee: Always Be Kind to Daddy
Hank Snow: Silent Night

11:30: Baltz Bros.
Marty Robbins (host): Don't Worry
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Bill Carlisle: Have a Drink on Me
Marty Robbins: El Paso City/Love Me/Among My Souveniers/Way Out There/El Paso

Talk about a great line up for a Christmas night show!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Christmas Greetings and Wishes

I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I hope that it is a blessed day for all of you. I also hope that Santa brings each of you everything you asked for. As far as the Grand Ole Opry, as I have done for the last 2 years, I have some greetings to send to them also, along with my own Christmas "wish list" for the Opry:

To Pete Fisher and Steve Buchanan, I hope for a new Opry television contract, and for RFD-TV, I hope you are the ones to get it. I also hope that you will consider more on-line streaming of the Opry's shows. And, please, don't mess with the show any more. Most of us thought it was fine the way it was.

For Jimmy Dickens, Jean Shepard, Carol Lee Cooper, Stu Phillips and Hal Ketchum, I wish each of you better health this coming year. And in the case of Carol Lee and Hal, a return to the Opry stage. For Loretta Lynn, congratulations on your upcoming 50th anniversary as an Opry member, but it would mean more if you would actually appear more often. Please try to remember how important the Opry was to your career.

For Jim Ed Brown, Charlie Daniels, George Hamilton IV and Connie Smith, a call from the Country Music Hall of Fame welcoming you as a new member. For Gene Watson, Rhonda Vincent and Mandy Barnett, a call from Pete Fisher asking you to be the Opry's newest members.

For the families of Charlie Louvin, Wilma Lee Cooper, Billy Grammer and Mel McDaniel, peace this holiday season. We are all so sorry that these great Opry members have passed away. They are all missed.

To veteran Opry members such as Stonewall Jackson, Ray Pillow, Jack Greene, Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely and Jimmy C Newman, my Christmas wish is for more Opry appearances. Please Pete, call them more often. They enjoy playing the Opry as much as we enjoy listening to them. To Bill Anderson, congratulations on your 50th anniversary as an Opry member. I hope you last 50 more years on the Opry. To Mike Snider and Riders In The Sky, thanks for keeping humor on the Opry stage. To Vince Gill, Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs, thanks for supporting the Opry over the years and the hope is that you will continue to do so. For Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts and the Oak Ridge Boys, the Opry's newest members, please don't forget where the Opry House is out. We need you to support the show.

To Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Tom T. Hall, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, a GPS system for your car locked into 2804 Opryland Drive. To Lorrie Morgan and George Jones, please come back to the Opry and please remember how important the Opry once was to your careers. We do miss you. To Clint Black and Randy Travis, thanks for coming back to the Opry. Please return more often. And to Dolly Parton, I know you are busy, but we would all love to see you more than once a year.

To Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, Ralph Stanley and Del McCoury, thanks for carrying on the bluegrass tradition. And to Alison Krauss, it was nice to see you this year. Your sweet voice was missed and we need to hear it more often. To Jeanne Pruett, Barbara Mandrell and Ricky Van Shelton, continue to enjoy your retirements. All of you have earned it. And if any of you get the itch to come back, the Opry will welcome you.

To Trace Adkins, Craig Morgan, Josh Turner, Montgomery Gentry, Carrie Underwood and Dierks Bentley, please keep remembering where the Opry House is. And to Brad Paisley, thanks for being there after the flood, but you kind-of went away this year. Please don't forget how good the Opry was to you before you became a star.

To Mandy Barnett, Elizabeth Cook, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Restless Heart, James Wesley and Holly Williams, thanks for answering the phone when Pete calls at the last minute. My wish is that each of you has a million selling record this coming year.

To Connie Smith, Emmylou Harris and Patty Loveless, my wish is that three of the sweetest voices on the Opry continue to keep these voices. And Patty, the Opry is still there for you. It needs you more than a couple of times each year. And to Emmylou, congratulations on 20 years at the Opry. Keep coming back. I think you enjoy it. I know the Opry enjoys you.

To John Conlee, Terri Clark, Martina McBride, Joe Diffie, Steve Wariner, Diamond Rio, Charley Pride, The Whites and Mel Tillis, my wish is that each of you gives the Opry another year of great performances. And to Pam Tillis, it was great to see you back more often this past year. To Larry Gatlin, thanks for hosting the Opry Country Classics show and for bringing your down home style to the show.

To all the non-Opry members who came out to the Opry this past year, thanks. There are too many to mention, but my wish is that we see more of you this year. You help to keep the show fresh and help to fill out the line-up when the missing Opry stars to not appear.

To Mike Terry, Bill Cody and Eddie Stubbs, thanks for the great introductions that you give us each week on the show. And Eddie, congratulations on the Hall of Fame induction. It is well deserved. To the Carol Lee Singers and the Opry Staff band, thanks. The show would be missing something without the talents each of your groups bring. And to the Opry Square Dancers, my thanks also. I know I could not dance like that.

To Gaylord Entertainment, may you continue to give the Opry the resources and respect that the show needs and deserves. And please, get the Opry Museum back open again. People do miss it.

And to all the Opry fans, please continue to support the show. Some weeks it is not easy, but if we are not in the audience or listening on the radio, there would be no Opry. To the new readers of the blog, welcome and thanks for checking us out. And for those who have been with me since the beginning, my continued thanks. And thanks for the comments. We are all friends here and I enjoy the chat and the emails you send. And to those I have met while attending the Opry, thanks for making my trips to Nashville even more enjoyable.

Finally, Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. May peace be with each of you.

aka: Fayfare

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Grand Ole Opry 12/24/1983

Here is another Christmas Eve line-up from the Grand Ole Opry. This one is from December 24, 1983.

1st show
6:30: Bonanza
Charlie Walker (host): My Window Faces the South
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Charlie Walker: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer/Jingle Bells

6:45: Rudy's
Jimmy Dickens (host): May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose
Jeanne Pruett: Temporarily Yours
Jimmy Dickens: There's No Place Like Home on Christmas

7:00: Shoneys
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
Riders In The Sky: I'm Trying to Forget It's Christmas
Jeannie Seely: I'm All Through Crying Over You
Billy Grammer: The Old Spinning Wheel/Detroit City
Del Wood: Jingle Bells
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name

7:30: Standard Candy
Bill Monroe (host): Christmas Time's A' Comin
Jean Shepard: The Tips of My Fingers
Roy Drusky: Silent Night
Wilma Lee Cooper: Rachel's Guitar
Lonzo & Oscar: Jangle Bells/Frosty the Snowman
Crook Brothers/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Black Mountain Rag
Bill Monore: Life's Railway to Heaven

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jesse McReynolds: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Minnie Pearl: I Wish You A Merry Christmas
Bill Carlisle: Same Ol' Tale the Crow Told Me
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art/Sing, Sing, Sing

8:30 Acme
Hank Snow (host): Gonna Find Me A Bluebird
Billy Walker: He Sang the Songs About El Paso
Jan Howard: White Christmas
Stu Phillips: C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
4 Guys: My Fannie Mae
Jimmy Dickens: Take An Old Cold Tater
Charlie Louvin: My Baby's Gone
Ray Pillow: You're Playing Hard to Forget
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name/Ol' Slewfoot

10:00: Little Debbie
Stonewall Jackson (host): Me & You & A Dog Named Boo
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Del Wood: Waitin' For the Robert E. Lee
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry

10:15: Sunbeam
Bill Monroe (host): Ol' Ebenezer Scrooge
Jeannie Seely: When Will I See You Again
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A' Comin

10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
Vic Willis Trio: Colorado
Teddy Wilburn: Because He Lives
Roy Acuff: From Cradle to Cross to Crown/I Saw the Light

10:45: Beech-Nut
Roy Drusky (host): Mississippi
Connie Smith: Go Tell It On The Mountain
Crook Brothers/Melvin Sloan Dancers: New Five Cents
Roy Drusky: White Christmas

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On
Jesse McReynolds: What About You
Jean Shepard: Kentucky
Wilma Lee Cooper: Anywhere Just Inside Your Arms
Lonzo & Oscar: Gone, Gone, Gone
Hank Snow: A Letter to Santa Claus

11:30: Hardee's
Billy Walker (host): Cross the Brazos at Waco
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Bill Carlisle, Jr: Blue Christmas
Jan Howard: Rocky Top/Gold Watch & Chain
Billy Walker: He Sang the Songs About El Paso

Grand Ole Opry 12/24/1988

As I mentioned, I am going a line-up or two from previous Grand Ole Opry shows that were held on Christmas Eve. This show is from Saturday December 24, 1988. As usual from that era, there were 2 shows that night. Here is the running order and song list from that night:

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
4 Guys (host): How Married Are You, Mary Ann
Jan Howard: I Don't Know A Thing About Love
4 Guys: When You Got A Good Woman, It Shows

6:45: Rudys
Bill Monroe (host): Blue Moon of Kentucky
Jeannie Seely: The Divorce Song
Charlie Walker: Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A-Comin

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Y'All Come
Jean Shepard: So Used to Loving You
Roy Drusky: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Stonewall Jackson: Old Chunk of Coal
Bill Carlisle: Leave That Liar Alone
Porter Wagoner: Happy Birthday Jesus/Sugarfoot Rag

7:30: Standard Candy
Jimmy Dickens (host): Family Reunion
Skeeter Davis: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top
Lorrie Morgan: Hard Candy Christmas
Jimmy Dickens: There's No Place Like Home on Christmas

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Connie Smith: Sing, Sing, Sing/The Key's In The Mailbox
Opry Squaredance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Bill Cheatham
Minnie Pearl: Comedy
Roy Acuff: I Saw The Light

8:30: Music Valley Merchants
Hank Snow (host): We'll Never Say Goodbye; Just Say So Long
Jim & Jesse: The Big Dreamer
Charlie Louvin: Small Men Cast Long Shadows
Ray Pillow: The Kind of Love I Can't Forget
Vic Willis Trio: Sioux City, Sue
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses

9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
4 Guys: What'll You Do About Me
Jan Howard: I'll Be Home for Christmas
Roy Drusky: Silent Night
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
Porter Wagoner: Forty Miles from Poplar Bluff/Tennessee Saturday Night

10:00: Little Debbie
Jimmy Dickens (host): Me and My Big Loud Mouth
Jeannie Seely: It Should Be Easier Now
Jimmy Dickens: I Leaned Over Backwards for You

10:15: Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
Jean Shepard: Someone's Gotta Cry/Second Fiddle
Roy Acuff: I'll Fly Away

10:30 Pet Milk
Bill Monroe (host): Santa Claus
Skeeter Davis: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Bill Monroe: What A Wonderful Life

10:45: BC Powder
Charlie Walker (host): Cherokee Maiden
Osborne Brothers: Kentucky
Opry Square Dance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Liberty
Charlie Walker: White Christmas

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Paper Roses
Jim & Jesse: When I Dream About the Southland
Connie Smith: Satisfied
Justin Tubb: Texas Dance Hall Girl
Charlie Louvin: New Dreams & Sunshine
Hank Snow: Silent Night

11:30: Creamette
George Hamilton IV (host): C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
Ray Pillow: I Wonder Where You Are Tonight
Vic Willis Trio: Be Glad/Let It Be Me
Bill Carlisle: White Lightning
George Hamilton IV: Silent Night

I am surprised that more artists did not sing Christmas songs. It just didn't seem right to have Bill Carlisle singing 'White Lightning" and Ray Pillow singing 'I Wonder Where You Are Tonight' right before midnight on Christmas Eve. I also notice a couple of the artists sang the same song, such as Hank Snow and George Hamilton IV both doing 'Silent Night.' I am sure both did their own unique versions.

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 12/23 & 12/24

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-up for the 2 shows this weekend. They are still at the Ryman Auditorium with 1 show on Friday and 1 show on Saturday. With Saturday being Christmas Eve, I was concerned with what kind of line up they would have, and over all it is ok.

Saturday night will feature non-members Laura Cantrell, Eddy Raven, David Ball and Suzy Bogguss. The Friday night Opry will have Julie Roberts, Dale Ann Bradley and Jimmy Wayne performing. I also notice that Stu Phillips is listed for Friday night. As I mentioned the last time he was scheduled, he has cancelled out on his last few scheduled appearances so let's see if he can make it this weekend. I know he has had some voice issues.

Friday December 23
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jeannie Seely; Julie Roberts
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Stu Phillips; Dale Ann Bradley
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Elizabeth Cook
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jim Lauderdale; Jimmy Wayne

Saturday December 24
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Lauderdale; Laura Cantrell
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Johnny Counterfit; Eddy Raven
8:15: George Hamilton IV (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; David Ball; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Riders In The Sky; Suzy Bogguss

There are 12 artists scheduled for both Friday and Saturday night, of whom 7 are Opry members that will be on the Friday night show, and 6 Opry members on Saturday night.

The host of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be Dianne Sherrill and she will be joined by Laura Cantrell. And yes, the show will be live at midnight on Christmas Eve.

I have gone through my files and have located some past Opry line ups from when the Grand Ole Opry took place on Christmas Eve and I will be posting some of those over the next couple of days.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Jimmy Dickens

I think it is no secret to any fan of the Opry that on Monday December 19, Jimmy Dickens will be celebrating his 91st birthday. He has been called the Opry's greatest treasure and the fact that he is still at the Opry almost every weekend is amazing. So far in 2011, he has made 140 Opry appearances, more than any other member. And I would say that considering some of the health issues Jimmy has had in recent years, 2011 has been pretty good to him. He looks much better than he has in the past year or so and his voice has been holding up pretty well.

I thought what I would do is to reprint the biography of Jimmy that appeared in the Grand Ole Opry book that was published in 1952. He had been a member of the Opry for 4 years at that point of his career, making him one of the Opry's younger members. Here is what they wrote:

"Little Jimmy Dickens is definitely the smallest star on the Grand Ole Opry, and he probably has the loudest voice of any man his size in the entertainment field. He is only four feet and eleven inches tall, but every inch of him helps to make up a dynamo of energy and a captivating personality.

Jimmy was born in Raleigh County, West Virginia, near Bolt, and was brought up on a farm. When he was seventeen years old, he entered radio in Beckley, West Virginia where his big voice and friendly smile made him a local success. From there he went to stations in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jimmy joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, and within a short time he had become a nationwide favorite for his performances both on the air and in personal appearances. The songs that Jimmy sings most are those reminiscent of rural customs and the country way of life, some serious, some humorous. Best example of this is the song that first made him famous: 'Old Cold Tater.' It harks back to childhood days when he had to wait to eat at the second table on Sunday when the preacher came for dinner at his house, and his mother said: 'Jim, take a tater and wait.' Similar songs that he has made famous and recorded for Columbia are 'Sleepin' At The Foot Of The Bed,' 'The Galvanized Washing Tub' (a familiar bathing vessel), 'Get Them Cold Feet Over On The Other Side', etc. Others of a slightly different nature but equally successful are 'Bessie The Heifer', 'I'm Little But I'm Loud', and 'It May Be Silly, But Ain't It Fun.' Like all other folk artists he also sings religious songs. One of his latest is 'They Locked God Outside The Iron Curtain.'

During his performances, Jimmy is a diminutive cowboy. He wears a smaller version of the traditional Western carb, usually two-toned. He wears cowboy boots, and his favorite pair have sterling silver toes. As his loud voice goes into action, he pats his foot vigorously, jumps and bounces in time with the music. He never loses his infectious smile, and his eyes twinkle with good humor. Between his turns at the microphone, he is usually engaged in some spontaneous comic routine with other members of the cast. Jimmy is married, but he has no children. He and his wife live in a modest home in Nashville's suburbs. He keeps a horse and is found of riding and hunting."

As the article in the Grand Ole Opry stated, Jimmy first joined the Opry in 1948. Here is what Jimmy said about him joining the Opry:

"I was working in Saginaw, Michigan, on a small station there with a five-piece band and Mr. Acuff came to our city. I had, made his acquaintance before that in Cincinnati in 1945. And then in 1948, why, he asked me if I would come down to the Grand Ole Opry, and at that particular time Red Foley had the network show for the Prince Albert people on NBC. I came as a guest. I had ten years of radio experience doing shows across the country and I thought I was ready for that-you know, I was over the stage fright and all that. But when I walked on that stage of the Ryman I've never been no more scared and shook up in all my life. My knees were knockin' and I couldn't understand it, because I thought I was ready for that, but I wasn't. But I did very well, luckily, I mean as far as response was concerned, and then a month later they asked me to come down again, and when I came that time Mr. Acuff asked me if I would be interested in staying."

It's interesting to note that when Little Jimmy Dickens first came to the Grand Ole Opry, he had no background at all as a recording artist. But being on the Opry brought him to the attention of Columbia Records, and his first release, 'Take a Cold Tater and Wait' was a smash hit.

In 1957, after 9 years as an Opry member, Jimmy left. He had accepted an offer to head up a major road show for the Philip Morris tobacco company. But at that time, the Opry's sponsorship by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company prohibited any Grand Ole Opry member from traveling with a tour sponsored by a competitor. So, Jimmy left Nashville and the Opry. He would say that there were no hard feelings, but some didn't believe that. On February 8, 1975, after being gone for 18 years, Jimmy would rejoin the Opry.

I know that Jimmy is known for his humor and his comedy songs. Early in his Opry career, he would often do humor with June Carter. And his comedy songs are classic. But in my opinion, Jimmy was one of the finest ballad singers in the history of country music. Even though his voice is not what it once was, I still enjoy the fact that Jimmy closes out almost every one of his Opry segments with one of his ballads.

So, a very Happy Birthday to a Hall of Famer and a great Grand Ole Opry member, Jimmy Dickens. May this next year bring good health, good humor and the wish that he will continue to entertain us from the Opry stage each and every week.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 12/16 & 12/17

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for the 2 shows this weekend at the Ryman Auditorium. The Friday Night Opry continues as 1 show while the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry has now started their winter schedule of just 1 show. I really hate to see that as I have enjoyed listening to the 2 Saturday night shows over the past several weeks.

The Friday Night Opry will be highlighted by Opry members Ricky Skaggs, Joe Diffie and Steve Wariner. Steve in actually scheduled for both shows this weekend. The Saturday night show will feature an appearance by Opry member Emmylou Harris. Also appearing will be non-Opry member Keb' Mo', who in an earlier Opry appearance was pretty well received. And appearing on Emmylou's segment will be a couple of newcomers, Ella Mae Bowen and The Civil Wars.

The final big news regarding Emmylou Harris is that in January the Opry will be celebrating her 20th year as an Opry member with a special show that will include Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell. While I am glad that the Opry is planning a show for Emmylou, I will have some more definite opinions when we get closer to that show.

Friday December 16
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Ed Brown; Joe Diffie
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); John Conlee; Steve Wariner
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jack Greene; Jesse McReynolds; Will Hoge
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); Connie Smith; The Whites

Saturday December 17
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jean Shepard; The Grascals
7:30: Mike Snider (host); George Hamilton IV; Jimmy C Newman; John Conlee
8:15: Steve Wariner (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Keb' Mo'; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Emmylou Harris (host); Ella Mae Bowen; The Civil Wars

That comes out to 14 artists on the Friday Night Opry, of whom 13 are Opry members. While that may seem like a pretty low number, that is the most Opry members on one show in a long time. Saturday night's show has 13 artists of whom 9 are Opry members.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be hosted by George Hamilton IV, who will be bringing his special Christmas show to the Jamboree, as he does every year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just Some Thoughts After Listening To The Opry

With the coming of winter and the early darkness along with the colder temperatures, I get more time to sit and actually listen to the Opry shows each weekend. During the summer it is pretty busy with outdoor activities so while I tend to hear most of the Opry shows, it is with my attention divided among other things. But come winter, I usually go up to my desk and while I am catching up on my paperwork or other small projects, I will listen.

Over the past several weeks the shows have been pretty good. But I thought something was missing and I think I hit on it. A while back, Jean Shepard was on and sang, "Wabash Cannonball" and I thought, wow, that is the first time I have heard that great Roy Acuff song sang on the Opry in a long, long time. For years and years, we got used to hearing that song each week, but since Roy passed away, I bet it hasn't been heard from the Opry stage more than a handful of times.

And it is the same with some of the other great songs in the history of country music. I know Jack Greene will occasionally sing "Walking the Floor Over You", but not often. And when was the last time you heard anyone sing such classic songs as "I'm Moving On", "Carroll County Accident", "8 More Miles to Louisville" "Thanks a Lot", or "El Paso"? How about the last time you heard any Hank Snow, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Grandpa Jones, Faron Young, Porter Wagoner, Marty Robbins or Carl Smith song at the Opry? The weekend after Billy Grammer died, Vince Gill started the show with that great song, "Gotta Travel On", and it sounded great. And I thought of Billy as Vince sang it. You name an artist from the 1950s into the 1970s, and you can name their classic hit.

While today's artists and younger Opry members have their own hit songs, they just don't seem to have the staying power of those great old hits. And, while I don't expect the Opry's newer members to go back and sing these old songs each and every week, once in a while it would be nice to hear a classic number. This past weekend, Del McCoury did "Christmas Time's-A-Comin" and it sounded great. And once in a while I will hear Jeannie Seely do a Dottie West or Patsy Cline song. Mandy Barnett almost always reaches back into country music history to pick out a song. Lorrie Morgan will do "Candy Kisses", and the bluegrass groups will go back and sing a Bill Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs song every now and then.

As I post the classic line ups, I will sometimes think back and try to remember if I listened to that particular show or not and what I remember from it. And when I list those shows and I see the names of the artists that have passed on, I think back to such wonderful memories. I know we all think of the "big stars", but I also think back to Cousin Jody, Lonzo & Oscar, Bill Carlisle, The 4 Guys, Brother Oswald, all of whom were not the biggest names, but great entertainers.

Like I said, I don't expect today's Opry stars to sing those older songs. But sometimes I think that it wouldn't be so bad to hear some of those classic songs again from the Opry stage.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 12/9 & 12/10

The Grand Ole Opry continues it's winter run at the Ryman Auditorium with 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. The Friday Night Opry will feature guest artists Darius Rucker and Joey+Rory, who have each appeared on the Opry several times. Also on the Friday night show is very frequent Opry guest Mandy Barnett.

The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night includes a guest appearance by Rhonda Vincent. I know that for several years there was a lot of thought that Rhonda might become a new member of the Opry, but that talk has cooled down. I still think it should happen and maybe someday it will. I think she would be a nice addition to the Opry cast. Also guesting on Saturday night will be Sarah Darling and Eamonn McCrystal.

Friday December 9
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Del McCoury Band; Mandy Barnett
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jesse McReynolds; Jack Greene; Diamond Rio
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Joey+Rory
8:45: John Conlee (host); Jan Howard; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Darius Rucker

Saturday December 10
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Sarah Darling
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Eamonn McCrystal; Connie Smith
8:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Jean Shepard; Rhonda Vincent; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Del McCoury Band; Exile

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Sarah Darling
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Eamonn McCrystal; Connie Smith
10:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jean Shepard; Rhonda Vincent; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Del McCoury Band; Exile

Interesting that both Saturday shows have the same exact line up. Anyways, the Friday Night Opry has 14 artists booked, which is the most that they have had in a while. Of the 14, 11 are Opry members. Both Saturday shows have 12 artists, of whom 8 are Opry members.

Leona Williams will be the host of the Midnight Jamboree at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. I have seen her before hosting and she does a great job and has a fine following. That should be a good show.

The Tuesday Night Opry on December 13 will have the following line up:

7:00: John Conlee; Diamond Rio
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Matthew West
8:15: Bill Anderson; Phil Vassar
8:45: The Whites; Ricky Skaggs

I am sure that The Whites and Ricky Skaggs will do some Christmas numbers together that they have been doing on their Christmas tour. RFD-TV will also be showing the Skaggs Family Christmas special this weekend at various times.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remembering Marty Robbins

I just wanted to take a moment and remember one of the greatest and most popular Grand Ole Opry members of all time, Marty Robbins, who passed away on December 8, 1982 at the age of 57.

I am not going to give a full biography of Marty as I think everyone pretty well knows his story, but I will say that Martin David Robinson was born on September 26, 1925 in Arizona. He first came to the Grand Ole Opry in 1953 to make a guest appearance, after being brought to the attention of Columbia Records by Jimmy Dickens, who saw him on a television station in Phoenix, where Marty was appearing and hosting a live country music program. He joined the Opry in 1953. He would remain an Opry member until his death.

Like I said, I am not going to do a full biography of Marty, but I do want to share some of Marty's history at the Opry. Early in Marty's Opry career he appeared several times on each Opry show and in various time slots. However, as Marty began to get involved in auto racing, he began appearing only on the 11:30 segment, which quickly grew into a legendary time slot at the Opry.

Opry announcer Hal Durham explained how the Marty Robbins 11:30 Opry show got started: "When I first started announcing, Marty would occasionally work the first show. And then he would go to the racetrack in Nashville and race. And he would come back and do that last show. He wanted to do the last show because it enabled him to race and still work the Opry. I think he was more at ease working that last show. He didn't have the constrictions of time; somebody else waiting in the wings to go on. So when more and more people began expecting him on the last show, he gave up working the first show altogether. And, as the eleven-thirty segment became more and more 'his show,' so to speak, he began to take liberties with the time. Instead of running over five minutes, he'd run over fifteen minutes. Some of the other people grumbled a little bit about it, particuarly if there were down at the Tubb Record Shop show waiting to go on. But we saw that the people at the Ryman enjoyed it very much and we never had any intention of squelching it. The eleven-thirty show with Marty was something very special at the Grand Ole Opry."

Hal Durham also said that Marty realized that as a clear-channel radio station, WSM was at its strongest signal later at night, meaning more people across the country could hear him on the Opry than at an earlier hour. From Hal,"What happened was that none of the artists wanted to do the 11:30 show, cause it was late at night. But from a clear-channel standpoint, the signal was the strongest. The later at night it was, the stronger the signal and the greater the reach. Marty realized that, so he wanted to do the 11:30 show whenever he did the Opry."

Regarding the liberties that Marty was taking with the time, Hal was also quoted as saying, "When he started closing the show, we were still doing live commercials with jingles provided by our artists. The sponsor for that last segement was Lava Soap, and the Willis Brothers did their jingle, so when Marty ran late they'd have to wait around to sing that last commercial. Finally, we put the commericals on tape."

Hal also remembered that Marty would talk to Ernest Tubb on the air. "'Just a couple more songs, Ernest, then we'll turn it over to you.' One night, we taped a thing with Tubb so taht when Marty said that, we'd punch in a tape of Tubb saying 'Okay, Marty, you've had your time. Now it's my turn.' Eventually, we'd punch in a closing of Marty singing 'El Paso' and went to sign-off. At the Opry House, they'd still be watching a Marty Robbins concert, but the radio station would switch to Tubb."

In 1969, Marty suffered a massive heart attack while he was touring in Ohio. He was transfered to St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville and given three to six months to live. He became one of the first people in the nation to under go a new operation, which was a triple arterial bypass, which we now know as Open Heart Surgery. The operation was performed on January 27, 1970. On Saturday March 28, he returned to the Opry to host the final half hour of that night's show.

Reporter Jerry Thompson was there: "The sound from the jam-packed crowd was deafening. They couldn't hear the words to the song the familiar figure behind the Opry mike was crooning, but there was no mistake, Marty Robbins was back where he belonged. Midway through the show Robbins sat at the piano and told the audience, 'I had so many things I was going to say tonight. I want to thank all my friends for their concern and I want to thank God for letting me be here. Now, I can't think of anything so say, so I guess I'll have to sing for you.' And sing he did until 12:27 a.m. when the curtain closed amidst repeated shouts of 'More, more, more.' Throughout his performance, a woman in the third row remained in a condition best described as just short of hysteria. She would clap her hands to her cheeks, rise out of her seat and, in a shrill, trembling voice, shout phrases such as, 'Lordy, Lordy!' 'Oh, mercy, Marty!' Or, 'Lordy, I can't hardly stand it!'"

Marty Robbins had once more extended the Opry a half-hour past its assigned off time. Performers waiting at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop to begin the Midnight Jamboree must have smiled; the Grand Ole Opry was once more back to what might have been described as normalcy.

Marty Robbins remained one of the key stars of the Opry as it moved through the 1970s and into the 80s. But his health would remain in question. In January 1981, he suffered another heart attack, which forced him to end his racing career. By March, he was back performing again.

In December 1982, Marty suffered a third heart attack, which required doctors to perform another bypass operation. However the damage was too severe and after an eight and a half hour operation he passed away. His funeral was like nothing ever seen before in Nashville. Thousands of fans decsended at the church, along with almost ever major country music star and Opry member. Many described the scene as being like a circus. Nothing like it has been scene since.

Marty is missed to this day and people who saw him perform one of his 11:30 Opry shows still talk about it today.

The final Opry show that Marty did was on Saturday August 28, 1982. As usual, Marty hosted the 11:30 segment that night. In honor of Marty Robbins, here is the running order of his final Grand Ole Opry show, the 2nd show on August 28:

9:30 Kelloggs
Porter Wagoner (host): Company's Comin'
4 Guys: Marie, The Dawn Is Breaking
Jean Shepard: I Thought of You/It's Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels/You Win Again/A Dear John Letter
Wilburn Brothers: Arkansas
Skeeter Davis: Satisfied
Mac Magaha: Rocky Top
Porter Wagoner: I've Enjoyed as Much of this as I Can Stand

10:00 Little Debbie
Jimmy C Newman (host): Jambalaya
Lonzo & Oscar: I'm My Own Grandpa
Cajun Country: Cajun Stripper

10:15 Sunbeam
Grandpa Jones (host): Little Pink
Vic Willis Trio: Last Cheater's Waltz
Ray Pillow: One Too Many Memories
Grandpa Jones: Fallen Leaves

10:30 Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Back in the Country
Wilma Lee Cooper: When My Time Comes To Go
Del Wood: Keep on the Firing Line
Roy Acuff: Lord, Don't Give up on Me

10:45 Beechnut
Roy Drusky (host): Fraulein
Connie Smith: Till I Kissed Ya
Crook Brothers: Lafayette
Roy Drusky: Slowly

11:00 Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Send Me The Pillow You Dream On
Jan Howard: When I Dream
Jim & Jesse: The Major Little Garden
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Sugar Tree Stomp
Justin Tubb: Pull the Covers Over Me
Kirk McGee: St. James Infirmary
Hank Snow: My Happiness

11:30 Bama
Marty Robbins (host): Ribbon of Darkness
Jeannie Seely: You Don't Need Me But You Will/I'm All Through Crying Over You
Charlie Louvin: I Don't Love You Anymore/Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep/See the Big Man Cry
Bill Carlisle: Have A Drink on Me
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry/Good-Hearted Woman/This is the Moment/Some Memories Just Won't Die/Return to Me/Beyond the Reef/That's All Right/To Get To You/Tonight Carmen/Don't Let M Touch You/Cool Water/18 Yellow Roses/Love Me/El Paso

Yes, Marty did all those songs that final night and his final song was El Paso. He performed until 12:50 a.m.

Marty is sure missed at the Opry and even with some of the more recent members that have come along, I don't think there has been anyone as popular with the fans than Marty Robbins. He was a legend and one of a kind.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Opry Drops 12 Top Stars--December 6, 1964

On Sunday morning, December 6, 1964, Nashvillians awoke to find spread across the top of their newspapers an eight-column banner headline in bold type usually associated with war or public disaster: "OPRY DROPS 12 TOP STARS."

The story read, "Twelve top country and western music stars will not appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, and have been prohibited from using the Opry name in their outside billings, it was learned yesterday. Another entertainer, long-time favorite Minnie Pearl, has been given a leave of absence from the show for the coming year, but will continue to use the Opry billing in her present contracts, a WSM spokesman said."

Those who were dismissed from the Opry included George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires (background singers for Elvis Presley's records and concert dates), Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson, and Ray Price. Opry officials, after using the policy only minimally before, had insisted on strict adherence to a rule that said Opry performers had to appear on twenty-six shows in a year to be retained on the roster.

WSM public relations director Bill Williams tried to put the best face on it, insisting, "Nobody is mad at anybody. It's just that periodically we have to take stock. It's just a routine thing." Irving Waugh, somewhat removed from the Opry in his capacity as general manager of WSM television, nevertheless thought the announcement was ill advised. He viewed the action as an "antagonism" of the country music community by WSM president Jack DeWitt.

Looking back on it, the "Purge of '64" might have been a monumental public relations goof. Within a day of the release of the original story, Opry manager Ott Devine had to remove Chet Atkins name from the list of the original twelve. His name should not have been included, Devine said, because "Chet has not been officially connected with the Opry for many years." That admission suggested to some that the entire incident reflected adversely on the quality of Opry management.

Money is what really generated the hassle. Faron Young remembered: "When they insisted on the twenty-six week thing, I put a pen to it and figured it out. I was gonna lose $180,000 a year to work the Opry twenty-six weeks out of the year." Percentages paid by artists to the WSM Artists' Service Bureau (make that read "booking agency") also were in contention. Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells's husband, explained: 'They booked some of our dates, and then some of the dates were booked by our personal managers and booking agents. They were charging us fifteen percent on the dates they booked, and then if they didn't book a date you still had to pay them five percent of the dates that you booked yourself. Some of the artists stopped paying the five percent, a lot of them. But Kitty and I paid it right up to the very last, and I told Ott Devine, 'Ott, I don't think it's fair for us to pay that and some of them not paying it. Unless you get everybody to pay it, then I'm not gonna pay it.' They didn't fire anyone. We just quit because we didn't wanna pay the five percent."

Quit or fired? It didn't make any difference; the public perception was that their favorites had been summarily dismissed. If anything good came out of the incident, it was a realization in the city-in some quarters, for the first time-that the Grand Ole Opry was really important to Nashville. On December 8, the Nashville Tennessean ran an editorial under the heading, "Opry Has Duty of Protection." It said, "The Opry has been, and continues to be, the nucleus of Nashville's $40 million music industry. There is hardly a successful music enterprise in the city that does not owe its origin and its longevity to the Opry. Thus, it seems the Opry has a responsibility to compel observance of reasonable restrictions for its own protection and for the protection of the rest of the music industry in Nashville. Most of the thousands of people who line up at the Opry House every Friday and Saturday night have traveled long distances to see in person the stars that they have come to love by radio. It must be a disappointment for these fans to arrive at the Opry on this one big night for them and find that their favorite stars have found a more profitable audience in some other state. Opry manager Ott Devine says the 11 released stars will be missed. And they will be. But there is a feeling that such a loss would be more keenly felt if the stars had not already been missed too often at the Opry."

Eventually, a number of the Opry members fired would return to Opry membership, with those being Billy Grammer, Don Gibson, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson and George Morgan. And those who did not rejoin would continue play the Opry as guest artists.

Of course, the Opry's battle with its members regarding Opry appearances continues to this day. Those who joined the Opry while Hal Durham and Bob Whitaker did so without any appearance requirements and that continues to haunt the Opry today. Just look at some of those who became members then and they include Clint Black, Travis Tritt, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson, among many others. You are hard pressed to find them at the Opry. I will give credit to Pete Fisher in that since he has taken over as the Opry's general manager, he has asked each new artist that has joined while he has been in charge to commit to 10 shows per year. Most of those have kept to that.

Could the Opry get away with firing 12 artists today? I don't think so. The publicity fall out would be too great. Look at what happened when Pete Fisher fired the 4 Guys. And, while they were great Opry members, honestly, they were not superstars. But it sure gives us something to think about and I think we would all like the Opry's members to support the show and to appear on a regular basis. After all, that is what membership is all about.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Opry Highlights

It's December, so it is time for the December highlights in Grand Ole Opry history. Here are the important and historical events that have taken place during this month.

December 19, 1920-The Opry's oldest member, Jimmy Dickens was born in Bolt, West Virginia. Jimmy joined the Opry in 1948.

December 26, 1925-The WSM Barn-Dance was formally listed on the WSM program schedule that was printed in the Nashville, Tennessean. From the Tennessean, "Because of this recent 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."

December 8, 1928-It was on this night that the WSM Barn-Dance became the Grand Ole Opry. The Barn-Dance came on the air at 8 p.m. From 7-8, WSM broadcast a classical music show, via the NBC radio network called, "Music Appreciation Hour," which was under the direction of Dr. Walter Damrosch. At the conclusion of the Music Hour, George D. Hay announced, "For the past hour we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera, from now on we will present The Grand Ole Opry." The name stuck. (As a disclaimer I will say that a few some felt that the date was December 10, 1927, but further research has discredited that date).

December 7, 1940-Minnie Pearl joined the Grand Ole Opry.

January 16, 1943-Ernest Tubb becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Ernest would bring a whole new sound to the Opry stage, and would set the stage for many other performers. He would remain a member of the Opry until his death of September 6, 1984. His last Opry appearance was in August 1982.

December 30, 1944-Bob Wills makes an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He was brought in to appear on the Prince Albert portion of the Opry that was broadcast on NBC radio. Minnie Pearl remembers that night, not only because a lady fell out of the balcony and onto the stage, but because of other reason. As Minnie said, "That was the first time we ever put electrified fiddles on the Opry. Roy Acuff said it would ruin the Opry forever! I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard something like that." But, those electric fiddles were not the first electrified instruments to be on the Opry as Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys and Ernest Tubb had been using electric instruments before then. Another story from that Bob Wills appearance was that he was the first to bring drums to the Opry, and that Opry management said that they had to be kept behind a curtain. The story is interesting but there is no documentation that it ever happened. Regarding drums, they were already a part of the Opry. Harold "Sticks" McDonald, who was part of Pee Wee King's group had brought drums to the Opry earlier in the 1940s. They used the drums for a couple of weeks and were not allowed to announce on the air that they were using them. After those couple of weeks, Judge Hay told Pee Wee to leave the drums at home. In a final comment on the drums, Bud Wendell was quoted in 1985 as saying, "That story about hiding drums behind a curtain is just one of those old tales around here. As long as we remained at the Ryman, though, we never used anything other than just a standup snare drum. But that had as much to do with space restrictions as with the purity of country music. You just couldn't fit a whole set of drums on the stage at the Ryman; it just wasn't that big."

December 8, 1945-Earl Scruggs makes his debut with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. He was the final member to join what is considered the greatest of the Blue Grass Boy's line-up, and the one that is credited with creating the famous bluegrass sound. That line-up included Bill Monore on mandolin, Earl Scruggs on banjo, Lester Flatt on guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on bass. As great as this band was, it would not stay together for very long, with Earl leaving in the Spring of 1948. Among those who were watching on Earl's first night on the Opry was Uncle Dave Macon, who billed himself as "The World's Greatest Banjo Player." Some of the Opry members watching were making comments about Earl within earshot of Dave. Dave stood in the wings watching the newcomer for a few moments, then he turned and stalked away. "He ain't one damned bit funny" he grumbled.

December 28, 1950-Left Frizzell makes his first appearance on the Opry. During his segment, he sang two of his classic songs, "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time" and "I Love You a Thousand Ways." Later in 1952, Lefty would return to the Opry, but he only stayed a few months. As Lefty said, "I just didn't like the Opry. It wasn't the dream I thought it would be."

December 24, 1960-The last Prince Albert Grand Ole Opry show is broadcast on the NBC radio network.

December 6, 1964-The Grand Ole Opry fired 12 of its members for not making the required number of appearances on the Opry. From the Tennessean, "Twelve top country and western music stars will not appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, and have been prohibited from using the Opry name in their outside billings, it was learned yesterday. Another entertainer, long-time favorite Minnie Pearl, has been given a leave of absence from the show for the coming year, but will continue to use the Opry billing in her present contracts, a WSM spokesman said." Those who were dismissed from the Opry were George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, Chet Atkins, Justin Tubb, Stonewall Jackson and Ray Price. At the time, Opry members had to appear on 26 shows each year. It was later found out that Chet Atkins was not actually an Opry member. Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright would later say that they quit and were not fired. Faron Young would say it was a money issue. Many of the ones fired would later rejoin the Opry. Those included George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Justin Tubb and Stonewall Jackson. Most of those who did not rejoin would make guest appearances later in their careers. On Tuesday December 8, the Nashville Tennnessean, in an editorial, put it this way, "The Opry has been, and continues to be, the nucleus of Nashville's $40 million music industry. There is hardly a successful music enterprise in the city that does not owe its orgin and its longevity to the Opry. Thus, it seems the Opry has a responsibility to compel observance of reasonable restrictions for its own protection and for the protection of the rest of the music industry in Nashville. Most of the thousands of people who line up at the Opry House every Friday and Saturday night have traveled long distances to see in person the stars they have come to love by radio. It must be a disappointment for these fans to arrive at the Opry on this one big night for them and find that their favorite stars have found a more profitable audience in some other state." The Tennessean said it better than I could and could you imagine what would happen today if the Opry fired those who did not meet their attendance requirements, which is 10 per year.

December 23, 1967-Jack Greene becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be Jack's 44th year as an Opry member. Jack Greene was another of the performers who owe their success to Ernest Tubb. What is interesting is that in the recent edition of the Opry's Picture History Book, they changed the date of Jack Greene's Opry membership date to January 1, 1971, which happens to be the date Tom T Hall joined the Opry. Obviously, a misprint.

December 15, 1973-Skeeter Davis was suspended by the Grand Ole Opry. As Skeeter said, "Hank Williams got kicked off the Opry for drinkin' too much old wine. Me? I got kicked off for singing about the new wine." What happened was that Skeeter was on her way to the Ryman for an Opry performance when she witnessed the arrest of what were known as "Jesus freaks", which was another name for the young people who were protesting not only in Nashville, but around the country. The arrests enraged Skeeter and on the Opry that night, she expressed her rage and by talking about it, singing about it and weeping about it. When she came off the stage after her performance, she was dismissed from the Opry. Later, a newspaper account of it said, "Her support of the 'Jesus loves you' street people made headlines, made enemies, made for a quick review of the unwritten rules against editorial comments on the Opry. She was stunned when told she was no longer a member." 18 months later, she was invited back to return to the Opry.

December 28, 1973-Tex Ritter made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. He would die less than a week later, on January 2, 1974, of a heart attack. He joined the Opry late in his career but he was a very popular and loyal member of the show.

December 25, 1976-Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers join the Opry. This will be Larry's 35th year as a member of the Opry.

December 8, 1982-Grand Ole Opry member Marty Robbins died in a Nashville hosptial. He had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 8, 1982. On the night of his Hall of Fame induction he said, "I never had any idea this would happen because I feel there are other people who deserve it before I should get in. But I think possibly it night not happen again, so I'm gonna take it tonight!" Marty's 11:30 Opry shows were legendary in the history of the Opry and have never been repeated. The clock meant nothing to Marty as he would sometimes perform for more than an hour in that final Opry segment. Marty was just 57 when he died.

December 20, 1986-Randy Travis joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. Randy is celebrating his 25th year as an Opry member. Ricky Skaggs introduced Randy to the Opry audience and spoke of the George Jones hit, "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?" Ricky said, "This is the man who's gonna fill their shoes-Randy Travis!" Randy is a fine country music singer who will be elected at some point to the Country Music Hall of Fame-maybe even this year. But, he has not been much of an Opry member, making few appearances on the Opry's stage.

December 17, 1993-Herman Harper, the famous and very popular bass singer for the Carol Lee Singers, passed away.

December 20, 1999-Country Music Hall of Fame member and Opry legend Hank Snow passed away at his home in Madison, Tennessee. Hank would have celebrated 50 years as an Opry member of January 7, 2000. He had last appeared on the Opry in September 1996. Hank was from Canada and was also a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

December 16-2000-Brad Paisley was surprised on stage at the Opry by Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely, who were dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, with an invitation to become the newest member of the Opry. In February 2001, Brad was formally inducted.

December 14, 2002-Toby Keith makes his first appearance on the Opry. Also appearing that night were Keith Urban and Trace Adkins. They Opry had no trouble selling tickets that night.

Hope you enjoy that look back at some Opry history.