Sunday, February 27, 2011

March Opry Highlights

Another month has passed and it is time to review the important and historical events that have taken place in Grand Ole Opry history during the month of March. March is one of the busier months at the Opry, and lots of events have taken place during the month.

Several members joined the Opry's cast during the month of March:

Jesse McReynolds joined the Grand Ole Opry on March 2, 1964 (47 years ago). When Jesse joined, it was with his brother Jim McReynolds, and of course, they were known as Jim & Jesse. Jim died on December 31, 2002, and Jesse has carried on since. On the Opry, he performs with the Virginia Boys, which currently include 3 of his grandchildren, who also perform as part of a group known as the McReynolds Tradition.

The Whites also became Opry members on March 2, but in 1984 (27 years ago). The Whites are a family group that consists of Buck White and his daughters, Sharon, who is married to Opry member Ricky Skaggs, and Cheryl. The are also joined at the Opry by another sister, Rosie.

Trisha Yearwood joined the Opry on March 13, 1999 (12 years ago). Prior to joining the Opry, Trisha said she had wanted to become a member and, like many who do join, promised to support the show and to appear when she could. And, sorry to say, like many others of her generation, her appearances have been few and far between.

Jan Howard became an Opry member on March 17, 1971, (although some list the date as March 27) and will be celebrating her 40th year as an Opry member. Jan was a frequent guest on the Opry prior to becoming a member, and in fact, she was on so many times that many thought she already was. In fact, Opry general manager Bud Wendell was one of those. When he realized that she wasn't, he immediately corrected the over sight. To celebrate her Opry membership, Jan will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree later this month. On an additional note, Jan's birthday is March 13, when she will be celebrating her 81st birthday.

The following historical events have taken place in Opry history in March:

March 22, 1952: Uncle Dave Macon, one of the early stars of the Opry, dies at the age of 82. Even with his advanced age, Uncle Dave continued to perform regularly on the Opry, making his last appearance on March 1, 1952. He would eventually be elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

March 9, 1963: During the Opry's performance that night, the Opry paid tribute to Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, who died in a plane crash earlier in the week, on March 5. They died near Camden, Tennessee, as they were returning to Nashville after appearing at a benefit concert in Kansas City. Also remember was Jack Anglin, of the duo, Johnnie and Jack, who died on his way to a service for Patsy. On the Opry that night, Opry manager Ott Devine read the tribute. "All of their friends standing with me tonight on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium know that it is impossible to put into words our thoughts, our feelings, our love for Patsy, Hank, Cope, Jack, and Randy. And so we ask that you in our audience please stand and join us for a moment of silent prayer in tribute to them."

March 29, 1963: Texas Ruby Owens dies in a fire at her home. Along with her husband, Curly Fox, they were popular during the 1930s and 1940s on the Opry. After her death, Curly would continue to play the Opry.

March 28, 1964: Connie Smith makes her first appearance at the Opry. She was a backstage guest of Bill Anderson. She also visited the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree that night. Later that year, Chet Atkins would sign her to a contract at RCA and the rest is history.

March 15, 1968: The Byrds appeared on the Opry. They performed Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowwher," and "Hickory Wind."

March 28, 1970: After undergoing a heart bypass operation on January 27, 1970, Marty Robbins returned to the Opry, hosting as he usually did, the 11:30 segment. Reporter Jerry Thompson was there and wrote, "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 there. Now, I can't think of anything to say, so I guess I'll have to sing for you.' And sing he did until 12:27 am. when the curtain closed amidst repeated shouts of 'More, more, more."

March 9, 1974: The Opry conducts its final Saturday night show at the Ryman Auditorium before moving to the new Grand Ole Opry House the following week.

March 15, 1974: The final Friday Night Opry takes place at the Ryman Auditorium. The final song sung was George Morgan's "Candy Kisses." After the show, Jimmy Snow hosted "Grand Ole Opry Gospel Time", with special guests Johnny Cash, June Carter, The Carter Family, along with his father, Hank Snow.

March 16, 1974: The new Grand Ole Opry House opens, with a special appearance by President Richard Nixon, the first time a President of the United States had appeared on the Opry. Roy Acuff was the first artist on stage, in the new home of the Opry, which was the first building built specifically for the Opry. In fact, the only request that Roy made regarding the first night at the new Opry House was that he be the first to go on. He was quoted as saying, "I've made my request that if I'm still here when the Opry House opens, they let me be the first one to go on the stage. I just want to open the curtain and sing two songs. Then they can have it." As it turned out, the management decided that the members would appear that night in alphabetical order, and according to the alphabet, Roy Acuff was first. He would be followed by Bill Anderson.

March 15, 1975: The Cumberland River floods the area around the Grand Ole Opry House, including the parking lots, forcing the Opry to move the show to the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Although the Opry House was not damaged in this flood, the same could not be said when the Cumberland River flooded in 2010.

March 4, 1978: The Grand Ole Opry is televised for the first time in its history, as part of a pledge-drive on PBS. To accommodate PBS's request of no commercials, the Opry slightly alters its commercial format, including covering the names of the sponsors that usually appear on the barn doors above the stage, and asking the artists not to mention any of the sponsors during their segments. The show was so popular, it was repeated in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

March 10, 1979: James Brown performed on the Opry. He was invited by Porter Wagoner. His appearance created much controversy. Many Opry members refused to welcome James to the Opry and some boycotted the show.

March 1, 1982: Grand Ole Opry member Roy Acuff was honored with a two-hour special that was televised on NBC. An all-star cast of performers and politicians honored Acuff, including President Ronald Reagan, Vice-President George Bush, Minnie Pearl, Tom T. Hall, Bill Anderson, Chet Atkins, Charlie Daniels and Gene Autry. Among those scheduled to appear but missing due to illness were Dottie West and Johnny Cash.

March 17, 2003: Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Carlisle passed away at the age of 95. He had suffered a stroke earlier in the week. Despite his age and health issues, Bill would perform on the Opry right up until his death.

March 15, 2008: Carrie Underwood is invited to become a member of the Opry. Opry member Randy Travis made a surprise appearance during Carrie's performance, which was being televised by GAC. She would formally become an Opry member on May 10, 2008.

March 2, 2009: Grand Ole Opry member Ernie Ashworth passed away. Ernie was 80 years old and was a long time member of the Opry. In fact, in joined the Opry on March 7, 1964. He was made a member based on the success of his hit record, "Talk Back Trembling Lips." It would stay on the charts for a total of 36 weeks, and would be Ernie's career record.

March 8, 2009: Grand Ole Opry member Hank Lockin passed away. At the time of his death, at the age of 91, he was the Opry's oldest living member. He had been an Opry member since 1960.

Hope you enjoy!!

A Few Comments Regarding This Weekend's Opry Shows

There has been a lot of discussion going on regarding this past weekend's Opry shows, specifically the appearance by The Dobbie Brothers and Keb' Mo', so I thought for what it is worth, I would add my observations and comments.

I did not attend either show this weekend, but like many of you, I did listen to both nights, Friday and Saturday. And I have to tell you that in my opinion, the shows were excellent. Some weekends the line-ups are just plain weak, and I hate to say that. I base that comment on the fact that the Opry is charging $54 for a prime ticket. For that price, I would expect a strong line-up every week. This past weekends line-up was a strong one, worth the $54 price.

On Friday night, Marty Stuart hosted the first segment and was excellent, as usual. Connie Smith and Bobby Osborne, both Opry veterans, performed crowd favorites. The final artist for that first segment was Mark Chesnutt, a country music veteran. He has been on the Opry before and I would love to see him do the Opry more often as the crowd responded well to him and I think he gets the importance of playing the Opry.

Jimmy Dickens hosted the 2nd half hour and sounded no worse than he has of late. Usually when he hosts a segment, he has only 2 guests, one an Opry veteran who does one song and then an artist who will do 2. This gives Jimmy time to not only sing, but to do his standard jokes. This weekend, he had 3 performers on both of his segments, which meant very few jokes, which was fine. He did have a little trouble with Riders In The Sky. Again, the segment was excellent.

After intermission, Bill Anderson did his usual fine job, and Neal McCoy was very good. I have seen Neal on the Opry before and he really has fun and gets the crowd into it. You can feel the energy from him. Gretchen Wilson really is country and sounds it.

The final segment on Friday night was hosted by Opry favorite Vince Gill. Counting Saturday night, Vince has done the Opry 6 times so far in 2011. After a drop in appearances last year, it is good to see Vince back on the Opry stage. The girls still love him. And, he had a couple of surprises not on the schedule, idol performers Crystal Bowersox and Bo Bice. Nice to hear Crystal on the Opry. I think she has a future in the music business. Vince broght on the Oak Ridge Boys. I know some disagree, but I do think they should be members of the Opry. They have been asked in the past, but have declined due to their heavy tour schedule. But, they do manage to play the Opry a couple of times each year. I have seen them on the Opry 3 times, and each time they have received a standing ovation. They are just so popular and they play their well loved hits. The energy is strong as they move around the entire stage. They were followed by Alison Krauss, with Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas and others. It was Alison's first Opry appearance since 2009 and you could tell that the audience was glad she was back and she seemed to appreciate being back on the Opry. She made several nice comments.

That brings us to Saturday night. The first segment was hosted as usual by Jimmy Dickens, with Jeannie Seely and Jimmy C. Newman, both veterans and both did a nice job. Then you had guests Joey+Rory. They have done the Opry numerous times and they are a very good duet, who did a couple of fine ballads. This was their first Opry appearance of the year and they were appreciated by the crowd.

Mike Snider hosted the 2nd segment and had Jean Shepard and Jim Ed Brown as his first 2 guests. Both sounded pretty good. Then he brought out The Dobbie Brothers, for their first Opry appearance, and the crowd was ready. What an ovation they received. They did 3 numbers and the audience was calling for an encore, which did not happen. And, the audience was singing along to their music. Now, there are many who feel that The Dobbie Brothers should not have been on the Opry. I thought about it, but I gotta tell you, they sounded more country than many of the country artists being played on country radio today. They seemed to appreciate being on the Opry and the reception they received. I don't want to see The Dobbie Brothers on every week, but once in a while, it is nice for the Opry to reach out on the edge of what is normally played on the Opry and take the opportunity to bring some new fans to the show. With the attendance down, the Opry needs to reach. A few weeks back, Wanda Jackson was on with Jack White, and they were well received. Of course, back in the 1970s, Porter Wagoner had on James Brown and also later in the decade, The Pointer Sisters made an Opry appearance. So, it is nothing new for the Opry to reach out. And, Mike Snider gave them a fine introduction.

Bill Anderson was again the host after intermission, with The Whites and Alison Krauss back on. Alison might have the sweetest voice in country/bluegrass music today. Outside of The Dobbie Brothers, I think she got the 2nd biggest ovation of the night.

Vince Gill started the final segment with one of his biggest hits, "Just Look At Us". A fine job. Sarah Darling was next and did a duet with Vince. She does a lot of the smaller clubs around Nashville and she does have a fine voice. Keb' Mo' was next, and I have to be honest on this one. Nothing personal, but I just did not care for him. Again, it was an opportunity for the Opry to reach out and the crowd did give him a good ovation.

With The Doobie Brothers, Keb' Mo', Wanda Jackson and the other non-traditional Opry acts that have appeared over the years, I often wonder if the artists reach out to the Opry or does Pete Fisher and the Opry reach out to them? I just can't believe Pete is sitting around his office one day and just calls out to his secretary, "Hey, give one of The Dobbie's a call and see if they are busy next Saturday night." I just don't think it happens that way.

I still think that the inconsistency of the Opry shows is an issue that needs addressed. This week's show was great, and next weekend looks fantastic also with Carrie Underwood, The Band Perry, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley appearing. Again, shows that should draw very well. We need to see line-ups like this every week, not every once in a while.

We'll, that is my opinion and observations on Friday and Saturday's Opry shows. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tuesday Night Opry

With the start of March, the Opry resumes its Tuesday Night Opry, which will continue into December. The 8 person line-up this coming Tuesday, March 1, does not look too bad.

7:00: Jim Ed Brown; Randy Rogers Band
7:30: Jack Greene; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Bill Anderson; Mark Wills
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Little Big Town

The Tuesday night show is following the pattern of most of last year's Tuesday shows with an Opry member in the first segment of each half hour, followed by a non-Opry member guest.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line up 2/25 & 2/26

After posting some historical Grand Ole Opry line-ups, it's time to get back to the present, and that means posting the Grand Ole Opry line-up for this weekend. There will be one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday night, and what line-ups they are. Both shows are pretty loaded with talent.

Friday night, you have Marty Stuart, Mark Chesnutt, Montgomery Gentry, Neal McCoy, Gretchen Wilson and the Oak Ridge Boys. In addition to those names, you have Vince Gill and Alison Krauss on both Friday and Saturday night. For Alison, this will be her first Opry appearances since 2009. I would expect that since she is now done touring with Robert Plant and is back with Union Station, and touring with them this year, that maybe we will see more of Alison at the Opry.

On Saturday night, a couple of new names will be at the Opry, the most prominent being the Opry debut of The Doobie Brothers. Yes, The Doobie Brothers. Are they really country? They probably have more of a country sound than many of the artists on the radio today and it should be entertaining to see them on the Opry. In addition to them, Sarah Darling and Keb' Mo' will be on Saturday. Sarah Darling's appearance will also be her first on the Opry and she is a young singer working the club circuit. As far as Keb' Mo', no he is not country.

Friday February 25
7:00: Marty Stuart(host); Connie Smith; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mark Chesnutt
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Riders In The Sky; Montgomery Gentry
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Neal McCoy; Gretchen Wilson
8:45: Vince Gill(host); Oak Ridge Boys; Alison Krauss & Dan Tyminski

Saturday February 26
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; Jimmy C. Newman; Joey+Rory
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; The Doobie Brothers
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); The Whites; Alison Krauss & Dan Tyminski; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Vince Gill(host); Sarah Darling; Keb' Mo'

If nothing else, this line up should draw some non-traditional Opry fans to the show.

Finally, it has been announced that the Country Music Hall of Fame will be announcing this years selections on Tuesday morning at 9:30am. I know that this topic created a lot of interest on the blog, so to make it simple, I am just going to list those Opry members that are eligible for the Hall of Fame, and are receiving consideration, in any of the categories that are being considered this year. The list is in alphabetical order.

Garth Brooks
Jim Ed Brown
Wilma Lee Cooper
Charlie Daniels
Larry Gatlin
George Hamilton IV
Alan Jackson
Reba McEntire
Ronnie Milsap
Jean Shepard
Ricky Skaggs
Connie Smith
Ralph Stanley
Randy Travis
Steve Wariner

Good luck to all the entertainers who are eligible, and while I do have my own personal favorites on who should be elected, I just hope that the Hall recognizes some of the veteran entertainers, who deserve to be in, before they pass away.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Patsy Cline

I wanted to take a moment and remember the late Grand Ole Opry star, Patsy Cline. I know that just about everyone knows the Patsy Cline story, so I will just cover her briefly. She was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8, 1932 in Winchester, Virginia. She started singing in her youth, eventually dropping out of high school to pursue her career.

In 1953, she married Gerald Cline, from which she would receive the last name that the world would know her as. That marriage did not work as she felt that her husband was not supporting her dream of making in the music business.

In 1954, Jimmy Dean became familiar with her from her appearances in the Virginia and Maryland area. That year, she became a regular on the "Town and Country" radio show, out of Washington, that also featured Dean. In 1955, she was signed to Four Star Records, and her career started moving forward. During the time at Four Star Records, she would record over 50 songs and this association would lead to several appearances on the Opry.

On January 21, 1957, she made national television appearance on "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts." Instead of singing the song that she had picked out, the producers of the show asked her to sing the recently recorded, "Walkin' After Midnight." She won the competition that night and was invited to return. Also, the song was so well received that it was released as a national single. The song would eventually reach #2 on the country charts and #12 on the pop chart, which would make Patsy one of the first country stars to have a country and a pop hit.

In 1957, she met future husband Charlie Dick, and in 1958, they moved to Nashville. In 1960, after her record contract expired, she signed with Decca Records and started working with famed producer Owen Bradley. Her career really started taking off and through the work of Owen, the richness of Patsy's voice would shine, along with the strong musical arrangements of the numbers.

On January 9, 1960, she became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Prior to her joining, she had been making regular appearances at the Opry, and her husband pushed her to join the cast. In fact, the Opry did not ask Patsy to join, Patsy asked them. Specifically, she asked Opry manager Ott Devine what someone had to do to join the Opry. Ott reportedly replied that if that is what she wanted, she could now consider herself a member.

Patsy became one of the Opry's more biggest stars and was also one who pushed for more women to get into the music business. She befriended and helped new stars such as Loretta Lynn, Dottie West and Jan Howard. She was also friends with many Nashville writers and was known to enjoy a "drink with the boys, now and then." And the boys included stars such as Roger Miller, Hank Cochran, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky and Harlan Howard. The music industry was dominated by males and Patsy's personality fit right in.

Patsy Cline, along with Randy Hughes, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas would pass away in a fatal plane crash on March 5, 1963. She was only 30 years old. They were returning from a benefit show to Nashville and the plane went down in bad weather.

After her death, the hits continued. In 1973, she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Chet Atkins.

Like I said, the Patsy Cline story is well known and I just presented a brief sketch of it. For someone who had such a short career in Nashville, she really was a huge star. Her influence is still felt today and you cannot visit the Opry or the Hall of Fame without her being mentioned and talked about.

I present all of this today because on February 23, 1963, 48 years ago Wednesday, Patsy made her last appearance on the Opry. In honor of Patsy, I wanted to post the line up from February 23, 1963. Through some research, I was able to come up with the song list for most of the performers.

7:30: Kelloggs
Faron Young(host): "Yellow Bandana"
Willis Brothers: "San Antonio Rose"
Marion Worth: "Shake Me I Rattle"
Harold Morrison: "Beaver Creek"
Faron Young: "How Much I Must Have Loved You"
Del Wood: "12th Street Rag"
Merle Kilgore: "I Am"
Willis Brothers: "Big Daddy"
Faron Young: "Hello Walls"

8:00: Martha White
Ray Price(host): "Heartaches By The Numbers"
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: "Doin' My Time"
Hawkshaw Hawkins: "Silver Thread And Silver Needles"
Patsy Cline: "Leavin' On Your Mind"
Ray Price: "Walk Me To The Door"
Crook Brothers: "Love Somebody"
Billy Walker: "Charlie's Shoes"
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: "Satisfied"
Ray Price: "Crazy Arms"

8:30: Stephens
George Morgan(host): "Mississippi"
Cowboy Copas: "Alabam"
Lefty Frizzell
Archie Campbell: Comedy
George Morgan: "Almost"
Curly Fox
Melba Montgomery
Cowboy Copas: "Don't Shake Hands With The Devil"
George Morgan: "Rainbow In My Heart"

9:00: Jefferson Island Salt
Roy Acuff(host): "New River Train"
June Sterns: "Call Me Up"
Bill Monroe: "How Will I Explain About You"
Minnie Pearl: Comedy
Roy Acuff: "Sweeter Than The Flowers"
Brother Oswald: "Southern Moon"
Bill Monroe: "Were You There"
Fruit Jar Drinkers: "Soldiers Joy"
Roy Acuff: "Stay A Little Longer"
Howdy Forrester & Jimmy Riddle: "Cowbell Polka"

9:30 Pet Milk
Hank Snow(host): "I've Been Everywhere"
Glaser Brothers: "Lovers Farewell"
Sonny James
Cousin Jody: "Lady Cop"
Hank Snow: "Beggar To A King"
Margie Bowes: "Think It Over"
Sonny James
Glaser Brothers: "I Wish I Had Never Seen Sunshine"
Hank Snow: "These Hands"

Faron Young(host): "Safely In Love"
Marion Worth: "Tennessee Teardrops"
Curley Fox
Faron Young: "Alone With You"

10:15: Luzianne
Hawkshaw Hawkins(host): "Darkness In The Face Of The Earth"
George Morgan: "Allegheny Rose"
Del Wood: "Blue Eagle"
Hawshaw Hawkins: "Twenty Miles From Shore"

10:30: Harvey's
Ray Price(host)
Cowboy Copas: "Filipino Baby"
Patsy Cline: "Bill Bailey"
Ray Price

10:45: Sustaining
Roy Acuff(host): "I Don't Know Why"
Willis Brothers: "Footprints In The Snow"
Brother Oswald: "Mountain Dew"
Crook Brothers: "Solders Joy"
Ray Price: "So Many Times"

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow(host): "Big Wheel"
Bill Monroe: "A Good Woman's Love"
Billy Walker: "Thank You For Calling"
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: "There's A Higher Power"
Hank Snow: "Yellow Roses"
Fruit Jar Drinkers: "Pile'em Cabbage Down"
Glaser Brothers: "Odds & Ends"
Sam & Kirk McGee: "Freight Train Blues"
Bill Monroe: "Big Sandy Breakdown"
Hank Snow: "Wreck Of The Old 97"

11:30: SSS Tonic
Marty Robbins: "Ruby Ann"
Margie Bowes: "Within Your Crowd"
Sonny James
Cousin Jody: "Mockingbird"
Marty Robbins: "Devil Woman"
Don Winters: "Too Many Times"
Margie Bowes: "I Really Don't Want To Know"
Marty Robbins: "Don't Worry"

Hope you enjoy this look back!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Remembering Grandpa Jones

It was on February 19, 1998 that the great Country Music Hall of Fame member, and over 50 year Grand Ole Opry member, Grandpa Jones passed away. Louis Marshall Jones was born on October 20, 1913. He joined the Opry in 1946 and would remain a member until his death.

I am not going to go through the career of Grandpa. It is well known. But, I just wanted to share 2 quick stories that have always stuck with me. The first was on a Friday night in 1989, Grandpa was hosting the opening segment of the 2nd show on the Friday Night Opry. He came out at 9:30 and did his opening number and then broke for a commercial. After coming back, someone in the audience yelled out the famous question from Hee Haw, "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?". I don't know if Grandpa was in a bad mood that night, or not feeling like being funny, but he just looked at the audience and said into the microphone, "I don't know. I haven't had my supper yet." And, he didn't say it in a funny way.

The 2nd Grandpa story that I witnessed was on day at Opryland, Grandpa was with a group of Opry stars that were signing autographs. I had a birthday card for my wife and I thought it would be fun to have some Opry stars sign it and all of them did, which she really enjoyed. Anyways, I walked up to Grandpa at his table and he is sitting there with his pen in his hand and he asks me what do I want him to sign. When I told him a birthday card, he said, thanks for not asking him to autograph one of his pictures because each one cost him $5.00. And, he said it with a straight face, so I don't know if he was joking or not.

Grandpa's last Opry performance was on January 3, 1998, when he suffered the first of a series of strokes after leaving the stage after hosting his segment during the 2nd Opry show. He was still in his stage clothes when he was taken to the hospital.

In honor of Grandpa Jones, here is the line-up from his last night on the Opry, January 3, 1998.

6:30: GHS Strings
Grandpa Jones(host)
Wilma Lee Cooper

6:45: Jogging in a Jug
John Conlee(host)
Bill Carlisle

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner(host)
Brother Oswald
Jimmy C. Newman
Osborne Brothers

7:30: Goo Goo
Johnny Russell(host)
Del Reeves
Tracy Byrd
Riders In The Sky

8:00: Martha White
Bill Anderson(host)
Ricky Skaggs
Vince Gill
Opry Square Dance Band

8:30: Clifty Farms
Jimmy Dickens(host)
Mike Snider
The Whites
4 Guys
Billy Walker

9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner(host)
John Conlee
Riders In The Sky
Kristy Lynn

10:00: Opry Book
Grandpa Jones(host)
Tracy Byrd

10:15: Banquet
Jimmy Dickens(host)
Jack Greene

10:30: Purnells
Bill Anderson(host)
Osborne Brothers

10:45: (?)
Ricky Skaggs(host)
Jean Shepard
Opry Square Dance Band

11:00: Coke
Del Reeves(host)
The Whites
Vince Gill

11:30: Johnny Russell(host)
4 Guys
Charlie Walker
Stu Phillips

Johnny Paycheck was scheduled for the 7:00 and 11:00 segments and canceled out. Jeanne Pruett was scheduled for the 7:00 segment also and canceled out.

As far as the songs that Grandpa sang on his final night, during the 1st show he did "Banjo Sam" During the 2nd show, he opened with "Stop That Ticklin' Me" and closed, as his final number, "Any Old Time."

Even though Mike Snider carries on the banjo tradition on the Opry today, Grandpa Jones and his humor and playing is still missed, even though he has been gone for 13 years.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts on the Country Music Hall of Fame

Before the month of February is complete, the Country Music Hall of Fame will probably announce their 2011 class of inductees. The ballots went out toward the end of last year and the voting should be complete.

I just wanted to take a quick look at the 3 categories for this year and offer some observations on who might be up for induction in these categories. Some of this is just based on my opinion and some is based on what I have heard.

Veterans Category:

Could this be the year that the Wilburn Brothers finally get in? They have been talked about for several years, and as many of their contemporaries have been elected, maybe it is their turn. They had solid careers, but the one negative is that the reportedly were not the most well liked people in Nashville. I know that should not be a consideration, but it kept Faron Young and Webb Pierce out until after they died.

How about Archie Campbell? He was a good one. Comedians have been elected to the Hall of Fame and Archie was not only a great Opry star, but he was a star of Hee Haw, and one of the show's main writers.

Jean Shepard should have been elected years ago. No excuse for her not getting in. In this category, I would say that Jean is probably the only female from her generation that has not been elected, and she should be.

Bobby Bare had a great career, and it was a career that was very similar to Tom T. Hall, Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Jimmy Dean, and they are all in. So will Bobby some day, and maybe this will be the year.

My final choice from this category would be The Browns. The hits are enormous and, quite honestly, Jim Ed should be elected on his own merits.

If I was a voter, my choices, in order, would be Jean Shepard, Bobby Bare, The Browns, Wilburn Brothers and Archie Campbell.

Modern Category:

This is always the one with the most competition because it includes those from back in the 1970's right up to today. There are many worth candidates who should be elected, and I am sure will be soon. Some of the top choices would be:

Connie Smith could fall into either the modern or the veterans category. Many call he the sweetest voice in country music. It does not hurt that she is married to Marty Stuart, who is very influential with the Hall of Fame. She cut he career short to raise her family, and that might be the only thing holding her back.

Reba McEntire is eligible and it is just a matter of time until she gets in. No question on her. But it seems like after Vince Gill got voted in, the voters have gone back further in time in this category, electing Emmylou, Dan Williams and Barbara Mandrell, all older artists.

Ray Stevens is one of the great songwriters and performers from his generation.

Now that the Statler Brothers are in, are the Oak Ridge Boys far behind? I don't think so. They deserve it and should get it. And, they are still active today.

A lot of people think Kenny Rogers will get in soon. How soon, I do not know. He was a leading hit maker in the 1970's and 80's. Of course, that was about 3 faces ago!!! He also expanded his career with his acting, much like Johnny Cash.

I am sorry to say that Ronnie Milsap will never see his plague in the Hall of Fame, but it will be there some day. And, it should be. What a talent and what a story he tells.

Randy Travis is eligible, and you never know with the voters. He might make it, but probably not for a few years.

And of course you have Hank Williams, Jr. Enough said.

Finally, Ricky Skaggs. He brought country music back in the 1980's, but his turn to bluegrass might hurt him with traditional voters. And like the Wilburn Brothers, there have been times that he has not been the nicest person in Nashville.

My votes, in order, would go to Hank Williams, Jr, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Milsap, Connie Smith and Reba McEntire, in that order.

This years final category is the non-performer. I would have to go with the late author, Charles Wolfe. His book, "A Good-Natured Riot" is a must read for the early history of the Opry. He has written many more books and his writing his missed since his death. But, it will probably go to some CMA or other Nashville executive that really hasn't done anything to add to the music.

That is just my opinion, based on nothing more than that. Like everyone else, I will be waiting to see what happens when the vote totals are released, possibly next week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 2/18 & 2/19--Updated

Jeannie Seely has canceled out for Saturday night. Nobody else has been added. They just moved Bobby Osborne into her slot.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for this weekend's shows. There is one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday night.

Some good artists are scheduled for this weekend. Terri Clark makes her 2nd Opry weekend in a row, along with Steve Wariner, Sunny Sweeney and Craig Morgan, who are in for both nights. Vince Gill is scheduled for Friday night, and Saturday night Andy Griggs is in.

Friday February 18
7:00: Mike Snider(host); Jimmy C. Newman; Sunny Sweeney
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Ray Pillow; Terri Clark
8:15: Steve Wariner(host); Riders In The Sky; Connie Smith
8:45: Vince Gill(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; John Conlee; Craig Morgan

Saturday February 19
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Sunny Sweeney
7:30: Steve Wariner(host); Jack Greene; Connie Smith
8:15: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Andy Griggs; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee(host); Terri Clark; Craig Morgan

Not too bad of shows for this weekend. And, if you look at the Opry's website, they have some very solid acts booked in the coming weeks, including a show next Friday night that looks absolutely loaded.

Finally, on a sad note, our thoughts and prayers go out to Grand Ole Opry member Jean Shepard, who's sister, Laquieta Alexander, passed away last Sunday morning. The funeral services will be on Thursday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Some Reflections On The Current Opry Membership

Last month as I was doing my year end review of the Opry, it got me to thinking about the current membership of the Opry, their commitment to the show and the future of the Opry. Last week while I was at the Opry, some of the same thoughts came into my mind, so I thought I would offer my analysis of the Opry's current membership.

Since the death of Charlie Louvin and the addition of Blake Shelton, there are currently 66 Grand Ole Opry members. Now, let's break this down into some different categories.

There are 3 Opry members who are ill and due to health reasons, do not play the Opry. Those include Wilma Lee Cooper, Hal Ketchum and Mel McDaniel. That brings us down to 63.

There are 4 Opry members who are retired and no longer play the Opry. Those are Billy Grammer, Barbara Mandrell, Jeanne Pruett and Ricky Van Shelton. That takes us down to 59.

There is the group of Opry members that for whatever reason, have not played the Opry in a number of years. Those are 5 of those and they include Clink Black, Garth Brooks, Tom T. Hall, Reba McEntire and Travis Tritt. That brings the number to 54.

Then there is the group that plays the Opry once or twice a year, just to say that they are staying active on the Opry. This is a large group of 12 and includes Roy Clark, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Pam Tillis, Randy Travis and Trisha Yearwood. That takes the number down to 42.

Now we have the group that will generally play the Opry between 5 and 10 times each year. This is the largest group of the Opry membership and numbers 18. These are Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Terri Clark, Charlie Daniels, Diamond Rio, Joe Diffie, Larry Gatlin, Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan, Charlie Pride, Ralph Stanley, Mel Tillis, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood and Steve Wariner. I will also include Blake Shelton in this group, even though he just joined. Now we are down to 24.

There are a couple of senior legends that only play the show about once per month. This is not their choice, but it is all they are scheduled. There are 3 in this group and they are Stonewall Jackson, Stu Phillips and Ray Pillow. Now the number is 21.

So out of 66 Opry members, you can say that only 21 of them, or one-third of the Opry roster, is really actively participating on the Opry on a regular basis.

Now of the 21 left, there are those that, give or take a few appearances, are good for about 20 to 25 shows each year (some years more than that, some less). That group would include Vince Gill, Del McCoury, Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart. That leaves 16 Opry members left.

Of the 16, you have some that appear on about 50 shows each year. Those include John Conlee, Jack Greene, George Hamilton, Jan Howard, Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne and Riders In The Sky. That list numbers 7. And, I will add the disclaimer that all of these would do the Opry more if they were just asked.

Now of the remaining, you have 9. And these are the 9 the are on the Opry most weekends of the year. These 9 are Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, Jeannie Seely, Jean Shepard, Connie Smith, Mike Snider and The Whites.

Now the scary part. Of the 16 that are participating in most of the Opry shows, Jack Greene, Jan Howard, Jesse McReynolds, Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman and Buck White are all over the age of 80. Then you have George Hamilton IV, Bobby Osborne, Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown and Jean Shepard all over the age of 70, with John Conlee, members of Riders In The Sky, Jeannie Seely and Connie Smith, all over the age of 60. Heck, Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, Marty Stuart and a whole bunch more are over the age of 50.

This is not good and should give all Opry fans some concern. George Jones sang, "Who's gonna fill their shoes?". When you look at the younger members who have recently joined the Opry, say in the last 10 years, there is nobody that is stepping forward to "fill their shoes" as far as the Opry is concerned. The generation before this current one, you did have Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart who stepped forward and challenged those of their generation to play the Opry and keep the tradition going. That was also the last generation who knew the early stars of the Opry, people such as Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow and the others. The current younger stars of the Opry do not know that historical link.

While it is not reasonable to expect any of today's younger Opry members to play the Opry each week, you would expect there would be one or two that would follow the example of Vince, Ricky and Marty and at least play the Opry on a semi-regular basis. When Brad Paisley joined the Opry, I really thought that he would have been the one to step forward and be that person. The one to challenge his generation of performers to support the Opry. He was that member when he joined, but then his career went into overdrive and, like so many others, he left the Opry behind. He showed back up when the flood severely damaged the Opry House, but then once the Opry House reopened, he has disappeared. And, Blake Shelton, the Opry's newest member, has yet to play the Opry since he became a member (although he is scheduled for an upcoming show), But, then again, he was not really a regular Opry performer before he was asked to join.

I really believe, that for the Opry to survive, there has to be some type of commitment from the newest members. And, for that matter, from future members. Joining the Opry and playing the show less than 10 times per year is not going to cut it. And, just taking into account the age of some of the veteran Opry members, it is possible that we could lose several more this coming year. These younger Opry members could be needed more than ever.

I look on the Opry's facebook page and you have those who ask why Keith Urban, George Strait, Taylor Swift and others are not Opry members. These people who ask, while having good intentions, just don't understand the history of the Opry. Now, more than ever, is the time for Steve Buchanan, Pete Fisher and the rest of the senior management of the Opry, to step forward and to clean out the roster of those who are not going to support the show, and to make a firm commitment to change the membership of the Opry, and to get as members, those who will fully support the show. Make new members sign a pledge and commit to doing at least 20 shows a year. While that is not ideal, it is a start. I am sure if they looked at the right people, they would have no problem finding those artists. Heck, there are guest artists that fulfill that already and they are not even members.

In conclusion, someone told me about 10 years ago, and it is someone close to the music industry in Nashville, that within 5 years, the Opry as we knew it then, would no longer exist. I laughed at her and told her no way. You know what? Maybe she was right. The Opry as we knew it back when we were growing up, does no longer exist. Now the question is, can the Opry be saved before it totally dies?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 2/11 & 2/12

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line up for the shows this weekend. There is one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday night, both nights at the Grand Ole Opry House.

Ronnie Milsap was originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday night, but has canceled out for both nights. Even with that, there is some talent on both shows. Friday night features Marty Stuart, The Gascals, Mel Tillis, Terry Clark and Diamond Rio. Saturday's show has Danny Gokey, The Secret Sisters and Aaron Tippin.

I did find it surprising that Ronnie Milsap was hosting the final segment on both shows. With Ronnie gone, Diamond Rio takes over on Friday night. I was surprised because Mel Tillis is on and he has been hosting segments on his last few appearances. Also, he is a Hall of Famer, and Opry management usually gives those folks seniority.

Finally, in looking at the booking of the line up since the first of the year, there seems to be several patterns taking place. First, Bobby Osborne and Jesse McReynolds each get one night, opposite of each other. Usually it rotates from week to week, who is on Friday and who is on Saturday. Jean Shepard, Jeannie Seely and The Whites now seem to be on only one show each weekend, joining Jimmy C. Newman, Jack Greene and Jan Howard. We will have to watch if that pattern continues.

Friday February 11
7:00: Marty Stuart(host); Connie Smith; The Grascals
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Riders In The Sky; Mel Tillis
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Mike Snider; Terry Clark
8:45: Diamond Rio(host); Stonewall Jackson; Jean Shepard; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press

Saturday February 12
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); The Whites; Terri Clark
7:30: Jeannie Seely(host); Jack Greene; Danny Gokey
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Jimmy C. Newman; The Secret Sisters; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Mike Snider(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Aaron Tippin

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering Ernest Tubb

I wanted to take a moment and remember the great Ernest Tubb, who today would have celebrated his 97th birthday. Ernest was born on February 9, 1914 and passed away on September 6, 1984. It goes without saying that Ernest was one of the all time greats in country music and in the history of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Country Music Hall of Famer was noted for the amount of touring that he did and for the way he helped out younger artists trying to make it in the country music business. He established the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. It was through the Midnight Jamboree that Ernest did most of his work with the newer artists. He was always willing to give air time to someone who he thought was worthwhile. The list is too long to name them all, but Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn are two of the more well known. It was also through his influence that Hank Snow became a member of the Opry. Both of them shared a love of Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music. He also pushed band members to move on to solo careers, with the most famous of these being Cal Smith and Jack Greene.

Even though he has been gone for over 25 years, his influence is still felt in country music. Almost every artist who comes out of Texas looks up to 2 artists, Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb. Willie Nelson is on the top of the list of admirers.

Ernest's influence on the Opry was great. He was the first to bring electric guitars to the Opry and he fought management all the way to make sure his sound was heard. He did not have the greatest voice in the world, and he admitted it. That was one of the reasons why he always had a great band. Toward the end of his career, after his health problems really took hold, his voice really faltered. He smoked and drank most of his life, and while he did quit later in his career, the damage was already done.

I am not going to go into all the hits that Ernest had, and there were many, or even do a review of his career. It would take too long. Ronnie Pugh, formally of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and later of the Nashville Public Library, wrote an excellent biography of Ernest and if you have not read it, I highly recommend it. Ronnie covers the good and the bad, and really gets into the history of the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and the Midnight Jamboree. I met Ronnie several times, once at the Hall of Fame, and also at the Nashville Library, and I told him on several occasions that I wished he would also write biographies on more of the classic Opry stars, such as Red Foley or Roy Acuff. But, Ronnie told me that a biography really is a lot of work, and for the time, Ernest's was enough.

Ernest made his first Grand Ole Opry appearance on January 16, 1943. At the time, the Opry was at the War Memorial Auditorium. He played the Opry several times over the next several weeks, and officially became an Opry member on February 13, 1943. Before too much longer, Ernest not only had the Midnight Jamboree, but was hosting warm up shows before the Opry on WSM. Although Ernest would remain an Opry member until his death, his final Opry show was on August 14, 1982. That was also the final night that he hosted the Midnight Jamboree. After that final Opry show, he made 4 more personal appearances, the final being on November 13, 1982, in Berlin, Ohio, which ironically is just 20 minutes from my home.

To remember Ernest, here is the Opry line-up and the song list from his final Opry appearance on Saturday August 14, 1982.

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
4 Guys(host): "Turn Your Radio On"
Wilburn Brothers: "Arkansas"
4 Guys: "A Blaze Of Glory"

6:45: Rudy's
Billy Grammer(host): "Georgiana Moon"
Skeeter Davis: "Just When I Needed You Most"
Billy Grammer: "Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party"

7:00: Shoney's
Ernest Tubb(host); "Thanks A Lot"
Jean Shepard: "Blanket On The Ground" "I'll Be There"
Lonzo & Oscar: "Ramblin' Fever" "Windy City"
Jack Leonard: "I Can't Help It" "Take These Chains From My Heart" "Half As Much" "Your Cheating Heart"
Ernest Tubb: "Waltz Across Texas" "Walkin' The Floor Over You"

7:30: Goo Goo
Billy Walker(host): "When A Man Loves A Woman"
Jeannie Seely: "You Don't Need Me, But You Will" "I'm All Though Crying Over You"
Crook Brothers: "Cotton-Eyed Joe"
Bill Carlisle: "No Help Wanted"
Billy Walker: "You Gave Me A Mountain"

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff(host): "Wabash Cannonball"
Connie Smith: "The Key's In The Mailbox" "'Til I kissed You"
Charlie Walker "Don't Squeeze My Charmon"
Roy Thaskerson: "Orange Blossom Special"
Carol Lee Singers: "A Song The Holy Angels Cannot Sing"
Roy Acuff: "I'll Fly Away"

8:30: Acme
Bill Monore(host): "My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling"
Roy Drusky: "I Really Don't Want To Know"
Del Wood: "The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise"
Vic Willis Trio: "Faded Love"
Fruit Jar Drinkers w/Earl White: "Katy Hill"
Bill Monore: "Little Cabin Home On The Hill"

9:30: Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb(host): "Seaman's Blues"
Skeeter Davis: "Me And Bobbie McGee" "The Old Rugged Cross" "The King Is Coming"
Wilburn Brothers: "I Know A Goodbye When I See One" "Because He Lives"
Ernest Tubb: "Another Story, Another Time, Another Place"

10:00: Little Debbie
Bill Monroe(host); "On & On"
Connie Smith: "Satisfield"
Bill Monore: "Come Hither To Go Yonder"

10:15: Sunbeam
Billy Grammer(host): "Wildwood Flower"
Lonzo & Oscar: "Old Songs"
Billy Grammer: "I Was Born In Renfro Valley"

10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff(host): "Meeting In The Air"
Roy Thackerson: "Sally Goodin'" "Orange Blossom Special"
Roy Acuff: "Cabin In Gloryland"

10:45: Beechnut
Billy Walker(host): "A Million To One"
Jean Shepard: "Alabama Jubilee"
Crook Brothers: "Liberty"
Billy Walker: "Cattle Call"

11:00: Coca-Cola
Roy Drusky(host); "There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You For Me"
Jeannie Seely(host); "I'm Almost Ready" "Healing Hands Of Time"
Fruit Jar Drinkers: "Sugar Tree Stomp"
Kirk McGee: "Blue Night"
Bill Carlisle: "Elvira"
Roy Drusky: "Just A Closer Walk With Thee"

11:30: Bama
4 Guys(host): "Cottonfields" "Mariah"
Del Wood: "There's A Big Wheel"
Charlie Walker: "Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas"
Vic Willis Trio: "Shenendoah" "You Were Always On My Mind"
4 Guys:"Made In The USA"

Just a couple of notes:
Ernie Ashworth was scheduled for the 9:30 segment, but canceled out. Also, if you notice, the 4 Guys were on the very first segment and the final segment. This was the time period when they had their dinner theater going and on a Saturday night, they would do the 1st Opry segment, then rush to do their 2 shows at their Harmony House, and then rush back to do the final segment, either as hosts or guests, on the Opry.

I think I got all the sponsors right and I have to admit, I draw a blank with one of the perfomers, Jack Leonard. I could not remember who he was and I even searched and could not come up with it.

Ernest's final night at the Opry was a pretty normal show. Mostly all Opry members and a few of the bigger names, such as Marty Robbins, Jimmy Dickens, Grandpa Jones, Loretta Lynn and Hank Snow among the missing.

Hope you all enjoy the look back at Ernest Tubb.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recap of My Visit to Nashville and the Opry

I spent this last weekend in Nashville and attending the McReynolds Memorial Bluegrass Music Spectacular and the Friday Night Opry and the Saturday Grand Ole Opry. It was a fun and interesting weekend.

On Thursday evening was the McReynolds Spectacular in Gallatin. If you are a bluegrass fan, it was a great show featuring not only Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, but also Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers; The Tennessee Gentlemen, New Foundation, Buddy Griffin & Friends, Danny Rothwell and McReynolds Tradition. Eddie Stubbs served as the announcer for the 1st half of the show and Sam Jackson handled the 2nd half.

For $15, you could not beat the 3 hour show. The music was great, the crowd, while a bit on the small size, was enthusiastic. The entertainers all had tables set up in the back of the gym and were meeting and greeting fans, selling music and merchandise and just having a good time. It was all for a good cause and hopefully I can be back for next year's show.

Now regarding my Opry experience. The crowds on both nights were pretty small. I was told the Friday Night Opry had about 1200 people in attendance and the crowd on Saturday appeared even smaller. And that was with Friday night being promoted as "WSM Appreciation Night", with a ticket offer of buy one, get one free. I would have hated to see what the crowd would have been without that promotion.

On Friday, with the WSM promotion, you had all the WSM personalities announcing a different segment. While Bill Cody, Mike Terry and Eddie Stubbs know what they are doing, the same could not be said for general manager Mike Ford and the other 2 announcers. They just seemed to go on and on. More music and less talk would have been nice.

The show Friday night was fine. Vince Gill was obviously the highlight and he used the Del McCoury Band as his back up for the night and did several bluegrass numbers with them. Colin Raye, Joe Diffie were fine and in fact, there was not one performer who did a bad number. While the line up on Saturday was not as strong as the Friday night line up, the show was just as good.

As far as the performers and my observations, Jimmy Dickens looked great both nights. It looked like he has added a little weight and seemed in good spirits. He sounded fantastic on Friday night, but his voice seemed not as strong on Saturday. Not sure how it all sounded on the radio. Jean Shepard sounded great with her 2 songs, but she looked a little ragged. Jack Greene received a great ovation and his voice was very strong, but he had to be guided off the stage. I am afraid his eye site might be failing him. Jimmy C. Newman sounded and looked good also. Jan Howard was her classy self and featured the Carol Lee Singers with her number.

As far as any negative comments, on Friday night you had a group called The Willis Clan. I had never heard of them before, and neither had Vince Gill, who was the host for that segment and introduced them. He had to read all the information about them off a sheet of paper. The Willis Clan is a family group, of mom and dad and what I think were 8 children, ranging in age from 7 to teenagers. The one teenager who did the talking said they were happy to be on "the Opry show." While they sounded fine, their music was not country, but was celtic. My complaint is that I am paying $54 a seat and I wanted to hear "professional" entertainers, not some family group that is not really playing country music. And, they did 2 songs and introductions of everyone, while many of the legends are limited to 1 song.

Also, on Saturday night, there were only 6 square dancers instead of the usual 8. The square dancing also seemed to be shorter. I don't know if this is a permanent cutback on the number of dancers, in a cost cutting mode, or if it was just for that night.

Finally, I want to address the appearance of some of those performing. While I don't expect entertainers anymore to dress in the rhinestone suits like Jimmy Dickens, or even to be in the suit coats and ties like Del McCoury, Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds and their groups, I do expect that for my $54 and the fact that these performers are playing the Opry, that they should not be dressed like they are going to Walmart on a Saturday morning. Don't get me wrong. Most of the performers looked nice in dress shirts, clean and wrinkle free jeans or sports jackets. Jean Shepard, The Whites and Jan Howard all looked fine. But, Mike Snider looked like he just came in off the farm. He had on his bib overalls, that were just messy looking, and what looked like a pair of long johns under them. He just looked bad. Same with Colin Raye, with a very wrinkled tee shirt on and really messy looking jeans. Mark Wills on Friday night came out on stage to sing with Joe Diffie, and he obviously looked like he was unprepared to go out on stage. I don't know. I just think if you are playing a show with the history and tradition of the Opry, you deserve to show a little more respect to the show.

As far as the Opryland area, no additional work has been done since I was last there in October. The mall is still closed and fenced off. The Acuff Theater is still up, but I was told that it is going to be torn town and the area was going to be used for bus parking. The Opry Museum is still closed and I heard 2 different reports. One was that the museum would be back open by Memorial Day, which I don't believe at all. The 2nd is that they are going to use the present museum as a storage building, but build a new one over where the Gaslight Theater used to be, that has been torn down. But, I saw no evidence of any construction getting ready to start.

With the mall closed and the convention business still down, the area around the Opry is still pretty dead. I stay at the Fairfield Marriott when I go to Nashville, and on Friday and Saturday night, only 22 of the rooms were booked each night. Shoney's, which used to be the place to see entertainers, was pretty empty after the Opry. And of course, there is no Midnight Jamboree taking place until March.

I know that the Opry will still be up and down as they go through the rest of winter. Nashville has had a tough winter also. I remember in the early 1990's of crowds of only about 500 for the 2nd Saturday show on some nights. But I really think that for what they are charging for tickets, they have to offer a stronger line up each week. The previous weekend at the Ryman, both shows were sold out on Saturday night, but Toby Keith and Trace Adkins were on the line up, and Toby will draw a crowd. This coming week, Mel Tillis, Ronnie Milsap and Marty Stuart, among others, will be there. I am sure the attendance will be better than this past week. It just makes it harder and harder to support the show as the ticket prices go up and the number of artists and the quality go down.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line-Up 2/4 & 2/5

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for this weekend's shows. There is one show on Friday night and one show on Saturday night, and both shows are at the Grand Ole Opry House, where the Opry will be until November. To be honest, I thought there would be a much stronger line up for this weekend, with the Opry heading back to the renovated Opry House.

On a personal note, I will be in Nashville this weekend, attending the Friday Night Opry and the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry. Also on Thursday night will be the 18th annual McReynolds Memorial Bluegrass Spectacular, which I will also be attending. That show will feature Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, The Tennessee Gentlemen and many, many more. Only $15 for this show, which could be the best bargain of the weekend.

Here are the Opry line-ups:

Friday February 4:
7:00: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jimmy Wayne
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Collin Raye
8:15: Bill Anderson(host); Riders In The Sky; Joe Diffie
8:45: Vince Gill(host); The Willis Clan; Del McCoury Band

Saturday February 5
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C. Newman; James Wesley
7:30: Bill Anderson(host); The Whites; Del McCoury Band
8:00: Mike Snider(host); Jan Howard; Jimmy Wayne; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Riders In The Sky(host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jack Greene; Mark Wills

One observation on first glance and that is the shortage of female singers on each show. Friday night features only Jean Shepard and Saturday night features only Jan Howard., although you could count the Whites. Usually there is more of a balance. I know that Jeannie Seely is on the Opry cruise and Connie Smith, I am guessing, is in England with the Marty Stuart tour. But, usually they will add a Mandy Barnett, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Elizabeth Cook or Holly Williams if the Opry veterans are not available.

I will have a full report when I return next week.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Opry Highlights

As we enter the month of February, and as I do each month, I want to highlight the Opry members having Opry anniversaries during the month and some of the important and historical events that have taken place in Opry history during February.

The following Grand Ole Opry members joined the cast during February:

February 6, 1960: George Hamilton IV (51 years).
February 6, 1976: Ronnie Milsap (35 years).
February 7, 1981: John Conlee (30 years).
February 17, 2001: Brad Paisley (10 years).
February 27, 1959: Billy Grammer (52 years).
February 29, 1992: Travis Tritt (19 years).

The following historical events took place in Opry history during February:

February 14, 1914: Pee Wee King was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pee Wee and his Golden West Cowboys would join the Opry in 1937, getting there ahead of Roy Acuff. Pee Wee's group, which featured Eddy Arnold as the lead singer, would remain on the Opry, although Eddy left early on, until Pee Wee decided to move to Louisville to do a regularly scheduled television program. He tried to talk WSM into the future of television, but they did not see it as amounting to much.

February 1, 1928: Harry Stone joins WSM as a staff announcer. He would later become the WSM Program Director and would take over the lead role in overseeing the Grand Ole Opry from Opry founder George D. Hay. He would also lead the effort to professionalize the Opry.

February 19, 1938: Roy Acuff becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Roy had first played the Opry in 1937 and was not very well received. He made a second appearance on February 5, 1938 and the response was so overwhelming that he was added to the Opry's cast. Roy was the first real singing star to join the show and with him becoming a member, the focus of the show started to shift from a show that emphasized instrumental music to a show that featured vocal performers.

February 26, 1938: Roy Acuff made his second appearance as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. What was different about this appearance is that it was his first appearance with the renamed, Smoky Mountain Boys, which would remain Roy's backup group until he died. Originally the name of his band was Crazy Tennesseans, but WSM general manager Harry Stone that that name was a slur on the state of Tennessee and insisted that Roy accept his idea of what the band should be called. Roy did and the rest was history.

February 23, 1952: Del Wood would make her first appearance on the Opry. She was a great ragtime piano player and had the number one hit, Down Yonder, which was her career record. In 1953 she would become an Opry member and remain a member until her death on October 3, 1989.

February 10, 1955: Ira and Charlie Louvin joined the Grand Ole Opry. They would perform together as a duet until the brothers decided to go separate ways in 1963. Ira left the Opry at that time, but Charlie would continue as a solo act and continue his Opry membership, up until his death last week. He was an Opry member for 55 years. (As a disclaimer, some accounts give the date of their Opry induction as February 29, 1955, with the February 10th date as when they started making regular Opry appearances. Their first Opry appearance was in 1954.)

February 23, 1957: Porter Wagoner joins the cast of the Opry. Porter would become one of the Opry's most influential and loyal members. He would be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and would remain an Opry member up until his death on October 28, 2007. Earlier that year, he celebrated his 50th anniversary as an Opry member, in a show that featured his long time friend Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless.

February 8, 1975: Jimmy Dickens, after an absence of 18 years, rejoins the Opry. Hank Snow introduced Jimmy that night with these words, "Jimmy is one of the greatest showmen of all time. It's like replacing the most important spoke in a wheel to have him back on the Opry. We need more Jimmy Dickenses." The song that Jimmy sang that night was "The Family Reunion." Today on the Opry Jimmy is introduced as an Opry member for over 62 years, but that is not actually the case. It would be correct to say that Jimmy first became an Opry member 62 years ago. Jimmy actually left the Opry to accept an offer to head up the Philip Morris tobacco company road show. One of the Opry's sponsors, R.J. Reynolds company prohibited any Grand Ole Opry member from traveling with a tour sponsored by a competitor. So, Jimmy left.

February 21, 1981: Boxcar Willie joins the Opry. Born Lecil Travis Martin, he would remain an Opry member until his death on April 12, 1999. He was one of the first entertainers to open a theater in Branson, Missouri, the Boxcar Willie Theater, in 1985. He would appear many times on Roy Acuff's segment and could be heard off to the side of the stage making the train whistle sound during the Wabash Cannonball. And I can tell you from meeting him, Boxcar Willie was about the nicest entertainer you could meet.

February 20, 1988: Roy Acuff celebrates his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. He is featured during a one hour telecast of the Opry on TNN. Also during that weekend, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton performed together for the first time in 14 years.

February 29, 1992: On the night that Travis Tritt became an Opry member, future Opry member Trisha Yearwood made her first appearance on the Opry. Porter Wagoner handled the actual induction of Travis into the Opry. Travis would go on to make infrequent appearances on the Opry, and in fact, has not done the Opry since the death of Porter Wagoner.

February 10, 1997: Gaylord Entertainment, the owners of the Opry announced that they had sold their two cable networks, TNN and CMT.

February 17, 2001: On the night that Brad Paisley became a member of the Opry, in honor of one of his mentors, Buck Owens, he wore Bucks yellow jacket that he wore on the cover of the Live at Carnegie Hall album that was released in 1966.

February 16, 2002: In a special tribute to Waylon Jennings, who had died the previous week, Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Hank Williams, Jr. performed a number of Waylon Jennings songs. Porter Wagoner was the host for this special tribute.