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.