Sunday, July 31, 2011

August Opry Highlights

As I do at the start of each month, I like to review the Opry's history for that month. So here are the historical and important events that have taken place in the Opry's history in the month of August.

August 22, 1910: Former Opry member Rod Brasfield was born in Smithville, Mississippi. This Country Music Hall of Fame member was famous for his comedy routines with Minnie Pearl. Rod also appeared in several movies. But his life was short and he would pass away from a heart attack on September 12, 1958. At the time, he was living in a house trailer in Nashville. He had joined the Opry in 1947.

August 30, 1919: Muriel Ellen Deason, better known as Kitty Wells was born in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1976, she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Kitty was an Opry member for many years, but she was fired from the Opry in December 1964, along with a number of Opry stars for failure to appear on the show the required number of times each year. I was one of those who had wished that Kitty had come back to the show. She did appear on the Opry several times after the firing, but never again expressed an interest in becoming a member. She and Jimmy Dickens are among the last stars to still be alive that were involved in country music before the 1950's.

August 8, 1921: Former Opry member Webb Pierce was born in West Monroe, Louisiana. He first appeared on the Opry in 1952, but he quickly figured out he could make much more money by not being a member of the Opry, so he left the show and proceded to have a great career in country music. At the time, this is what Webb was quoted as saying, "You had to be there every Saturday night, and that was too much, because, you see, most of our money, we made it on Saturday night. Of course, we'd be on a tour and then we'd have to turn around at the end of the week and be back at the Opry. I don't care if you was in Podunk, Canada!" He was the biggest star of the 1950's. But, he made a lot of enemies along the way, many of whom refused to vote for Webb for the Country Music Hall of Fame while he was still alive. Finally in 2001, he was inducted, after his death. He was famous for his guitar shaped swimming pool in Nashville and his feud with Ray Stevens over the pool and the tour buses who came to see it.

August 28, 1925: Grand Ole Opry member Billy Grammer was born in Benton, Illinois. Billy is still an Opry member today, although he made his last Opry appearance in February 2009, when he celebrated 50 years as an Opry member.

August 12, 1927: Opry member Porter Wagoner was born in West Plains, Missouri. Porter would join the Grand Ole Opry in 1957 and would remain an Opry member until he passed away on October 28, 2007, after celebrating 50 years as a member of the show. During his career, he had over 80 singles on the country music charts.

August 27, 1927: Jimmy C Newman was born in High Point, Louisiana. Jimmy became a member of the Grand Ole Opry on August 4, 1956. This is his 55th year as an Opry member.

August 4, 1931: Former Opry manager Hal Durham was born in McMinnville, Tennessee. After the Opry moved to Opryland and the new Opry House, Bud Wendall, who had been the Opry's manager, was promoted to general manager of both Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry, and he asked Hal to take over as manager of the Opry. In 1978, after 4 years as the Opry's manager, he was promoted to general manager, and held that position for 15 years. Hal was the one who was really responsible for the Opry relaxing its membership requirements and it was Hal who offered Opry membership to many of the popular stars of the 1980's, including Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, The Whites and Riders In The Sky, among many others. He left the Opry in 1993 and was the President of the Opry Group until 1996, when he retired. He died in March 2009. In many ways, it was Hal who put the Opry in the position it is in today, with many of the Opry's members not appearing on the show more than several times per year.

August 20, 1935: Former Opry member Justin Tubb was born in San Antonio, Texas. Justin would follow in the footsteps of his father and become a country music singer and a songwriter. While not a superstar in either field, Justin did have some sold success. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Although in his final years he rarely appeared on the Opry, he remained a member until he died on January 24, 1998. He had joine the Opry in 1955 at the age of 20.

August 14, 1941: Constance June Meador, otherwise known as Connie Smith, was born in Elkhart, Indiana. Connie has been recognized for having one of the sweetest voices in country music and has been an Opry member for many years. She is currently married to fellow Opry member Marty Stuart and has recorded a new album that is due out shortly.

August 7, 1942: Former Opry member B. J. Thomas was born in Hugo, Oklahoma. He would become a member of the Opry on August 7, 1981, his 39th birthday. He would only remain an Opry member for a short period of time. He was there such a short amount of time, he is rarely mentioned in the history of the Opry.

August 11, 1946: Opry member John Conlee was born in Versallies, Kentucky. John would come to Nashville and join the Opry in February 1981. The former funeral director has one of the most distinctive voices in country music and continues to be a loyal member of the Opry.

August 11, 1952: Hank Williams was fired from the Grand Ole Opry. Opry manager Jim Denny made the call to Hank, with Ernest Tubb in the room with Jim when the call was made.

August 14, 1954: Ernest Tubb took a leave of absence from the Opry. He was gone from the Opry until November, on "sick leave." He did continue to host the Midnight Jamboree during this period. It was also during this period that Ernest hosted Elvis Presley on the Jamboree.

August 28, 1954: Grand Ole Opry member Stringbean left the cast of the show to join the cast of the Ramblin' Tommy Scott Show. Stringbean would eventually rejoin the show and would remain an Opry member until his death of November 10, 1973, when he and his wife, Estelle, were murdered at their home after his Opry appearance that night.

August 11, 1956: George Jones joined the Grand Ole Opry. George and his history with the Opry is very interesting. See if you can follow these dates. The August 11th date is the date listed in the current Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book. Prior to this edition, his Opry induction date was listed as January 4, 1969. In the 1979 edition of the History Picture Book, he is listed as having returned to the Opry in 1973, after a short absence. In the 1972 edition of the History Picture Book, he is not listed at all. Not that it all matters as George rarely appears on the Opry. But, if you go with the 1956 date, he will be celebrating 55 years as an Opry member this month.

August 22, 1957: Former Opry member Holly Dunn was born in San Antonio, Texas. Holly retired from the music business in 2003 and moved to New Mexico to start an art studio. She was dropped as an Opry member several years ago.

August 4, 1959: Skeeter Davis joined the Grand Ole Opry. Skeeter would remain an Opry member until her death on September 19, 2004. Skeeter was known for her religious views and at one time was suspended from the Opry for discussing those views on stage. She last appeared on the Opry in 2002, when illness caused her to no longer be able to perform.

August 12, 1963: Jim Ed Brown joined the Grand Ole Opry. Actually, it was The Browns, with Maxine and Bonnie, along with Jim Ed who joined the Opry in 1963, 48 years ago. Jim Ed would continue as a solo act after the sisters retired from the act as they began to have families in the mid 1960's. The Browns would continue to appear from time to time at the Opry until just recently. Maxine wrote a wonderful book on her career and the Browns, called, "Looking Back To See", that I highly recommend. Jim Ed has had a great career with the Browns, as a duet partner with Helen Cornelius and as a solo artist. Jim Ed still has a great voice and deserves membership to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

August 23, 1963: Former Opry member Milton Estes died. He was 49 years old.

August 27, 1963: Former Opry manager Jim Denny died at the age of 52, from cancer. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966. Jim Denny was actually the first WSM employee who was specifically assigned the task as Opry manager. When he started at WSM, he would hang around the backstage area of the Opry at the Ryman Auditorium and become friendly with many of the artists. He also ran the concession business. During his time at the Opry, he signed many of the major stars of country music to Opry membership. Along with Webb Pierce, he started Cedarwood Music Publishing and it was this business that caused him to leave the Opry and WSM. Many of the Opry's members joined him and his new artist bureau, leaving the Opry's booking agency. He was the Opry manager who told Elvis Presley to go back to truck driving (if you believe the story), and he was famous for his feud with Ernest Tubb.

August 8, 1964: The Osborne Brothers joined the Grand Ole Opry. Bobby and Sonny would remain a duo until Sonny retired in 2005. Bobby continues as the head of his group, Rocky Top X-Press. In the list of Opry members, the Osborne Brothers are still listed and will be celebrating their 47th year as Opry members. You might want to know that Sonny is still active and involved in teaching banjo at camps around the Nashville area for students.

August 14, 1965: Bobby Bare joined the Grand Ole Opry. Bobby would remain an Opry member for a number of years, before leaving the show. Bobby did not totally break his ties to the Opry and still appears on the show once in a while. Bobby's contributions in country music have been overlooked by many, and he deserves to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

August 17, 1967: Charlie Walker joined the Grand Ole Opry. Charlie would remain a regular member of the Opry until his death on September 12, 2008. I had the opportunity to meet Charlie back in the 1990's, and I can tell you he was a fine gentleman. He started out as a DJ, and always remembered his radio fans, even after he became a big star. In 1981, he was inducted into the Country Music Radio DJ Hall of Fame, in Nashville.

August 5, 1968: Opry member Terri Clark was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

August 21, 1975: Former Opry member Sam McGee died in a tractor accident on his farm in Tennessee. He was 81. He performed at the Opry along with his brother Kirk. They first appeared on the Opry in 1926. During their time on the Opry, they appeared with different groups, including the "Dixieliners". Sam was also the first performer to play an electric guitar at the Opry, after which George D. Hay politely told him to put it away and not bring it back.

August 14, 1982: Former Opry member Ernest Tubb made his final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He was suffering from emphysema that made it too difficult for him to tour or to make public appearances, and he did not want to be seen in public with his oxygen tank. He would spend his last days rotating between his home and the hospital, and would pass away on September 6, 1984.

August 22, 1987: Roy Clark joined the Grand Ole Opry. I know that since Roy joined the Opry, he has not made very many Opry appearances, usually only a couple each year. But in the case of Roy, he told Opry management that he was very busy with Hee Haw and his concert appearances, so he could not guarantee how often he could appear on the Opry. Even with that, the Opry still accepted Roy as a member.

August 29, 1987: Former Grand Ole Opry member Archie Campbell died in Knoxville, Tennessee from a heart attack. Archie had joined the Opry in 1958 and he was one of the main writers of Hee Haw. I thought that it was interesting that fellow Hee Haw star Roy Clark had been inducted as a new Opry member just a week before Archie died. And, I would make the case that Archie deserves election to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but I am not sure it will ever happen.

August 10, 1991: Vince Gill joined the Grand Ole Opry. In 2 weeks, the Opry will be celebrating his 20 year as an Opry member. He has been a solid member and has strongly supported the show since he joined. On the night he joined, Roy Acuff introduced him as an Opry member.

August 30, 1991: Opry member Dottie West was critically injured in a car accident while on her way to the Friday Night Opry. On September 4, 1991, she would die from her injuries.

August 24, 1998: Opry member Jerry Clower died in Jackson, Mississippi, after heart surgery. He was 71 years old. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in November 1973. He was the last member to join while the Opry was still at the Ryman Auditorium, before moving to the Grand Ole Opry House. As with many members, Jerry was emotional when he joined the Opry. Over the years, here is how he remembered the experience, "It's undescribable, because, you see, I had prayed as a little boy that at the end of a crop year we'd clear enough money for us to go see the Grand Ole Opry. And we never did make it. Now, here I was on it! Grand Ole Opry star Jerry Clower! Woooo!" Jerry was certainly one of the greatest story tellers of all time.

August 26, 2000: Pam Tillis joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be her 11th year as an Opry member.

August 18, 2001: The Grand Ole Opry moved their televised portion of the show from TNN to CMT. The first show on CMT was highlighted by Vince Gill, who was celebrating his 10th anniversary as an Opry member. He hosted the show and was joined by Steve Wariner, Sonya Isaacs, Jimmy C Newman, Brad Paisley, Elizabeth Cook and Loretta Lynn.

August 10, 2002: It was announced that Porter Wagoner and Bill Carlisle had been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The announcement was made by the Dixie Chicks during the televised portion of the Opry that night on CMT. No, Porter and Bill were not on that portion, but were called out on stage for the announcement. I know that the Dixie Chicks were on top of the music world at that time, but I think that the Hall of Fame did a great injustice in having them making the announcement. Also, Porter especially, should have been elected years before, especially before Dolly Parton. On a final note, if you ever get a chance to watch a video from that night, watch the expression on Porter's face during the announcement and right after it. I think he was thinking, "It's about time", and he looked like he would have rather been somewhere else at that moment.

August 23, 2003: Trace Adkins joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Finally, it was in August 1948, that Jimmy Dickens first became a member of the Opry. The exact date is lost to history. In 1957, after 9 years as an Opry member, Jimmy left the show. He accepted an offer to head a major road show sponsored by Philip Morris company, which was a rival to R.J. Reynolds company, a long time Opry sponsor. R.J. Reynolds prohibited an Opry member from working with a competing company, so Jimmy left the Opry, although as he said, there were no hard feelings. Jimmy rejoined the Opry on February 8, 1975. He was gone for 18 years. So while it is accurate to say that Jimmy first joined the Opry in 1948, he has not been an Opry member consecutively since 1948. Technically, he has been an Opry member for a total of 45 years, not 63 as he is sometimes introduced. Jean Shepard has been the Opry member with the longest tenure of the current cast. As in the case of George Jones, it is important to be accurate in the telling of the Opry's history.

Hope you enjoy this look back.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 7/29 & 7/30

The final weekend of July is upon us and with it, the Opry goes back to the schedule of only one show on Saturday night to go along with the one show on Friday night. Frankly, with the line ups that the Opry has had over the month of July, only one show on Saturday night is needed as attendance for the 2nd show has been pretty low.

This week's Opry will feature the return of Opry member Loretta Lynn, as she will be appearing on the Opry Saturday night. She will be joined guest artists Dailey & Vincent, James Otto and Mark Wills. The Friday Night Opry will feature Juice Netwon, along with Steve Holy and Bo Bice. Also appearing on both nights this weekend will be Ralph Stanley and all of his Clinch Mountain Boys.

Friday July 29
7:00: Riders In The Sky(host); George Hamilton IV; Bo Bice
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jesse McReynolds; Steve Holy
8:15: Jeannie Seely(host); Jack Greene; Juice Newton
8:45: Pam Tillis(host); Jean Shepard; The Whites; Ralph Stanley

Saturday July 30
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C Newman; James Otto
7:30: Jean Shepard(host); Jan Howard; The Whites; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Jim Ed Brown(host); Ralph Stanley; Mark Wills
8:45: Riders In The Sky(host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Loretta Lynn

I will say that with only 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night, and with the shows being only 2 hours long, it really cuts down on the slots for the Opry's veterans.

The next couple of weeks, the Opry has a couple of special events scheduled. On August 6, the Oak Ridge Boys will become the Opry's newest members. Nothing as been announced so far to indicate who will be handling the official induction, but there are a number of people who could do it.

On August 13, Vince Gill will be celebrating his 20th anniversary as an Opry member. The line up is loaded for that night.

Finally, Rex Allen, Jr. will be the host for this weeks Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. He has been around the music business for a long time and it should be a great show.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Who Is Your Favorite Opry Member-Current & Former

On Saturday August 13, Vince Gill will be celebrating his 20th anniversary as an Opry member. While not as important as Bill Anderson's 50th anniversary that took place several weeks ago, it is still an important milestone for one of the Opry's most popular members. They are planning a big celebration that night with Martina McBride, Emmylou Harris, The Time Jumpers and John Anderson already scheduled, along with Vince's wife Amy Grant and his daughter Jenny Gill. It looks like it is going to be a big night and I already have my ticket and will be there for that show.

While thinking about Vince Gill and the fact that he has been part of the Opry's family for 20 years, I got to thinking on how Vince is important to the Opry today. Since joining the Opry, he has taken his Opry membership seriously and has challenged others to appear on the show and to support the show. I can remember one night when the Opry was on TNN, and Vince was on the backstage show with Lorrie Morgan. In the course of the discussion, Vince basically confronted Lorrie on the fact that even though she was an Opry member, she rarely appeared on the show. Let's just say that Lorrie looked very uncomfortable and mumbled some sort of answer. To say the least, she wasn't expecting that question from Vince that night.

Maybe that is one of the reasons why Vince Gill is my favorite current Opry member. I have always been a Vince Gill fan and think he is one of the finest ballad singers in country music today, and maybe in the history of country music. I have seen him on the Opry many, many times and he has always put on a great performance. And with Vince, you never know what you are going to get. One night it might be just him and his guitar, another night it might be bluegrass, and on other night, it might be his full band doing a fast country number. When I was at the Opry in April, he performed a song that he had not yet recorded called, "If I Die". It was one of the most emotional ballads I have ever heard. I hope that he records it some day. If you have not heard the song, there are videos of it on YouTube that you can watch.

As I said, Vince is my favorite current Opry member. But while thinking about it, I starting thinking, who are my favorite Opry members of all time? As I answered the question, I limited it to those Opry members that I have seen at the Opry or actually heard on the radio listening to the Opry. Naturally, I am too young to have heard Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Uncle Dave Macon, Jim Reeves and others. But as I made out my list, I thought of those Opry stars that gave me that extra excitment of listening to the show, those that I made sure to catch their segment or those who I would go to the Opry just to see them. In my mind, they were worth the entire ticket price. While some of these may not be the most famous Opry members in the Opry's history, they are my favorites.

1) Hank Snow is my all-time favorite Opry member. I always enjoyed his great singing and guitar work. When going to the Opry, I could not wait to see what outfit Hank would have on that night. And he had a regal look about him. One of the things about Hank that I enjoyed was that during his segment that he hosted, after singing his number, he would go back behind the announcers stand and do the introductions from that spot. It was as if he was saving center stage for the next performer. I had heard that at times he was not the easiest person to get to know, but then others have told me that he had a great sense of humor. Hank is number one on my list.

2) Roy Acuff is #2. I appreciated Roy more as he got older than I did in his younger days. And I always enjoyed the Smoky Mountain Boys. The were not the most talented musicians around, but they were loyal to Roy and they kept his sound pure. What I remember most about listening to Roy on the radio was that before TNN started televising the 7:30 segment, that was the segment that Roy usually hosted. Living in the eastern time zone and up in Ohio, that would make it 8:30, which was usually the time that the Opry would just be starting to come in on the radio as the sun went down. Roy was missing a few shows at that point as he started to have some heart problems, so when I played with the radio around 8:25, trying to get WSM in, I never knew for sure if Roy would be on or not. They would play the GooGoo candy theme, then you would hear Grant Turner say, "Here he is, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The King of Country Music and the GooGoo man himself, Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys". Then he would kick in to the Wabash Cannonball and I would think that all was well with country music and the Opry, because Roy was on. While simple, I thought it was the greatest introduction ever.

3) Ernest Tubb is #3 on my list. And sorry to say, I never saw Ernest in person at the Opry. My first visit to the Opry was in December 1973 and Ernest was not there that week. And, while not hard to believe because of all the touring he did, he was never there when I did make the Opry. But I always enjoyed listening to him. What I thought was special about Ernest was the extra time he gave to his guests on his segments and he would spotlight a newcomer or members of his band instead of singing a second song. Of course, some of that was because of his voice issues that he had later in his career, but to me, he was the one country music and Opry star who really tried to help out a newcomer to the business.

4) Vince Gill is 4th on my list and the highest rank of the current Opry members.

5) Porter Wagoner is 5th on the list. I always thought Porter was perfect for the Opry. He gave it a real commitment and devoted his final years to the show. He helped to bring on new talent and after Roy Acuff passed away, Porter became "Mr. Opry". I don't think anyone really replaced him after he died. In his final years, he would always open the Friday Night Opry, and you could tell what kind of a night it would be based on how Porter started the show. He was a true showman who loved the Opry and appreciated everything it did for his career.

Those are my top 5. Other Opry stars that I would list as my favorites include Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury, Jesse McReynolds, Connie Smith, Jim Ed Brown and Bill Anderson from the current cast. Don't ask my why, but I have always enjoyed Ray Pillow, and while he is only on the Opry once each month, I look forward to his appearances.

Of those who have passed away, Grandpa Jones was one of my favorites, especially toward the end of his life. Nobody will really know how many times he actually forgot things or acted like he could not remember names, but he was one of a kind. And much like I can't really explain why I am a big Ray Pillow fan, I have to admit that I really enjoyed Ernie Ashworth. Just something about him and the suit with the lips on it. I am sorry his Opry career ended the way it did. Del Reeves was also one of my favorites. He had so many popular country songs and always cared about the audience. And how can forget Minnie Pearl, Archie Campbell and Lester Flatt. How I miss them.

I do like the majority of the Opry's members, but the ones I have listed are my personal favorites. How about you? I would love to hear who you have enjoyed on the Opry over the years.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Grand Ole Opry Line Up 7/22 & 7/23-Update #1

Update #1-Johnny Rivers has been added to the 2nd show on Saturday night. Since I know of no other Johnny Rivers, I assume this is the "legendary" Johnny Rivers. Nice addition to the show.

The hot summer in Nashville continues and the Grand Ole Opry has posted the line up for this weekends shows. Following the July schedule at the Opry, there is one show scheduled on Friday night and two shows scheduled for Saturday night. Regarding Saturday nights show, Loretta Lynn was originally scheduled to perform, but has cancelled out due to a heat related condition. She also cancelled a couple of shows this past weekend. She is scheduled to do the Opry next Saturday night.

Friday night looks like the stronger of the two nights. Larry Gatlin is almost becoming an Opry regular again, and will be hosting a segment on Friday. Also appearing will be Opry members Josh Turner and Diamond Rio. Saturday night will feature the return of Point Of Grace. This female gospel trio has made several Opry appearances this past year. Also on Saturday night will be bluegrass favorites The Grascals, along with Holly Williams and Monte Warden, who will be on both nights.

Friday July 22
7:00: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jimmy C Newman; Connie Smith; Matt Kennon
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jesse McReynolds; Diamond Rio
8:15: Larry Gatlin(host); Jeannie Seely; Monte Warden
8:45: John Conlee(host); Ray Pillow; Josh Turner

Saturday July 23
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C Newman; Holly Williams
7:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Connie Smith; Monte Warden
8:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jack Greene; The Grascals; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: John Conlee(host); The Whites; Point Of Grace

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Holly Williams
10:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jack Greene; Johnny Rivers; Monte Warden
10:30: Jim Ed Brown(host); Jan Howard; The Grascals; Opry Square Dancers
11:00; John Conlee(host); The Whites; Point Of Grace

Here is the schedule for the Tuesday Night Opry, July 26:
7:00: Jim Ed Brown; Josh Thompson
7:30: Jimmy C Newman; Pam Tillis
8:15: Jean Shepard; Michael W. Smith
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Ricky Skaggs

Finally, my friend Teea Goans will be hosting this weeks Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. Teea of course, is the host of "Inside the Opry Circle", which will be on WSM between the Opry shows on Saturday night. She also has a great CD out, which I have in my collection and I highly recommend.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not Grand Ole Opry, But The Carter Family Fold

This past Saturday night, I headed to Tennessee, not to go to the Opry, but instead, going to the Carter Family Fold, which is located in Hiltons, Virginia. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it as it is a trip back in time to the way country music used to be. I have been there several times before and while it is not the easiest place to get to, it is well worth the trip.

The Carter Family Fold sits next to the A.P. Carter General Store, which has been renovated and is now The Carter Family Museum. It is a one room building, but it covers the story of The Carter Family very well, from the days of A.P., Sara and Maybelle, right up to the present time. There is also some good information on Johnny Cash, and on Marty Stuart and Tom T. Hall, who helped to keep the Carter Family Fold going. Next to the store is A.P. Carter's birthplace, the original log cabin that has been moved to the present location from up in the mountains. The cabin is just like it was back when A.P. was born and is very interesting. There is a photo album in the cabin that covers all of the Carters who live in the area, which would include all the cousins, etc. Again, very interesting and both of these buildings have no admission charge, just a donation. The buildings are only open on Saturday evenings, starting at 6:00 p.m. and then during intermission of the show.

The Carter Fold itself is next to the general store. Saturday night music started back in the 1960's in A.P. Carter's General Store and when the crowds outgrew the store, A.P. and Sara's daughter, Janette, along with brother Joe Carter, build The Carter Fold. Since Janette passed away, her daughter Rita Forrester runs the place.

The shows are on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., and go year round. The Carter Fold is now enclosed althought the doors are opened for additonal seating on the upper lawn. It now has inside seating for about 850 people and Saturday night's show with The Dollar Brothers, drew about 400. They are a bluegrass group from North Carolina and played from 7:30 until past 10, with a 15 minute intermission. And, they were pretty good. I bought one of their CD's that they had for sale. The Carter Fold does not allow electric instruments, with the only exceptions made for Johnny Cash, who used to play there once each year, and Marty Stuart, who still plays at the Carter Fold. The admission is only $7.00, with reduced rates for children. Many of those who were there on Saturday night were regulars and I would say it reminded me of the Saturday night square dances that you would see in the western movies.

The other feature about the Carter Family Fold is that there is a big dance area down in front of the stage, where many people were up and clogging to the songs, which were kept fast paced, for the most part. Many of the cloggers, which I would number up to 50, were on the floor all night.

It was another great experience and if you are interested, they have a website with their weekly schedule listed up until the end of the year. They also have a yearly festival, celebrating the first Bristol recordings, that is held the 1st Saturday in August. I have attended the festival before, and it draws thousands of people. Again, well worth the price.

If you want to see where and how country music began and what it was like back in the old days, I recommend at least one trip up to the Carter Family Fold, for some good country music.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cowboy Copas

It was on July 15, 1913, that Lloyd Estel Copas, otherwise known as Cowboy Copas, was born in Jefferson Township. located in Adams County, Ohio. Cowboy started out performing locally in the Cincinnati, Ohio area before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1940.

In 1943, his career really stared to take off on a national level when he was picked by Pee Wee King to replace Eddy Arnold in his Golden West Cowboys. His first big career solo records was "Fillipino Baby", which was released in 1946. He continued to have hit records through out the 1940's. He also appeared on the "Ozark Jubilee".

While the 1950's saw the decline of his recording career, in 1960 he achieved the biggest song of his career, "Alabam", which was #1 for 12 weeks. Signed to Starday Records, his career surged forward as "Flat Top" was the follow up to "Alabam".

Cowboy Copas first came to the Opry with Pee Wee King in 1943, when he was part of the Golden West Cowboys. After he left the group and embarked on his solo career, he continued as part of the Opry. His final Opry show was on Saturday March 2, 1963. The following day, Sunday March 3, he performed as part of a benefit concert in Kansas City. On March 5, after being delayed in Kansas City, Cowboy Copas, along with Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes left by plane for Nashville. The evening, after being caught up in a storm, the plan crashed near Camden, Tennessee, killing all aboard.

In memory of Cowboy Copas, here is the running order from his final Grand Ole Opry show, which was on Saturday March 2, 1963. In most cases, I was able to verify the songs that were sang by the artists. This was also the final show for Hawshaw Hawkins. The interesting thing in looking at the line up, is that Cowboy Copas actually hosted the final segment that night and did the final song.

7:30: Kelloggs
George Morgan(host)-Little Dutch Girl
Carter Family-14 Carat Nothing
Jimmy C Newman-Bayou Talk
Willis Brothers-Eat A Little More
George Morgan-Untie The Knot
Harold Morrison-Pretty Little Pink
June Carter-Comedy
Jimmy C Newman-Fallen Star
George Morgan-Down Memory Lane

8:00: Martha White
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper(host)-Come Walk With Me
Billy Walker-I've Got A New Heartache
Wilburn Brothers-Roll Muddy River
Stringbean-Pretty Little Widow
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper-There's A Higher Power
Del Wood-Are You From Dixie
Margie Bowes-Think It Over
Crook Brothers-Black Mountain Rag
Wilburn Brothers-Trouble's Back In Town
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper-Philadelphia Lawyer

8:30: Stephens
Hawkshaw Hawkins(host)-Darkness In The Face Of The Earth
Lonzo & Oscar-There's A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea
Bobby Lord-Out Behind The Barn
Archie Campbell-Comedy
Hawkshaw Hawkins-I Don't Apologize
Glaser Brothers-Lover's Farewell
Curly Fox
Hawkshaw Hawkins-Silver Thread & Golden Needles

9:00: Jefferson Island Salt
Cowboy Copas(host)-You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry
Bill Monroe
Roy Drusky-Second Hand Rose
Minnie Pearl-Comedy
Cowboy Copas-Alabam
Fruit Jar Drinkers-Bill Cheatham
Bill Carlisle-Shutter & Boards
Bill Monroe
Cowboy Copas-The Man Upstairs

9:30: Pet Milk
Roy Acuff(host)-Plastic Heart
Marion Worth-Shake Me, I Rattle
Cousin Jody-Lady Cop
Roy Acuff-The Wreck On The Highway
Brother Oswald-Roll On Buddy, Roll On
Justin Tubb
Jimmy Riddle-Fox Chase
Roy Acuff-I'll Fly Away

10:00: Gates Rubber
George Morgan(host)-Roly Poly
Curley Fox
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper-Satisfied
Del Wood-Bill Bailey
George Morgan-Who's Jealous Now

10:15: Luzianne
Wilburn Brothers(host)-Day After Day
Bill Carlisle-Leave That Liar Alone
Margie Bowes-Within Your Crowd
Harold Morrison-The Cat Came Back
Wilburn Brothers-Not That I Care

10:30: Harveys
Jimmy C Newman(host)
Carter Family
Billy Walker-Thank You For Calling
Jimmy C Newman

10:45: Ford
Hawkshaw Hawkins(host)-Big Old Heartache
Stringbean-There'll Be Moonshine In Them Old Kentucky Hills
Crook Brothers-Sally Goodin
Hawkshaw Hawkins-Lonesome 7-7203

11:00: Coca-Cola
Roy Acuff(host)-Little Pal
Marion Worth-Tennessee Teardrops
Lonzo & Oscar-I'm My Own Grandpa
Brother Oswald & Roy Acuff-Stuck Up Blues
Sam & Kirk McGee-While I'm Away
Justin Tubb
Brother Oswald-John Hardy
Fruit Jar Drinkers-Nubbin Ridge
Roy Acuff-Shake My Mother's Hand For Me

11:30: SSS Tonic
Cowboy Copas(host)-Down In Nashville Tennessee
Bill Monroe
Roy Drusky-It Worries Me
Cousin Jody-Mockingbird
Archie Campbell-A Fools Side Of Town
Glaser Brothers-Odds & Ends
Bobby Lord-So Doggone Lonesome
Bill Monroe
Cowboy Copas-Flat Top

There you have it as we take a moment and remember Cowboy Copas

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Remembering Del Reeves

I didn't want this day to pass without taking a moment to remember former Opry member Del Reeves, who was born Franklin Delano Reeves on July 14, 1933, in Sparta, North Carolina.

Del was the youngest of 11 children and at the age of 12, he was singing on local radio. He attended Appalachian State College in Boone, North Carolina and then served in the air force. While he was in California and serving our country, he made his first recordings for Capital Records. He also did some TV work. Del was married to Ellen Schiell, and they co-wrote "Sing a Little Song of Heartache", which in 1962 was recorded by Rose Maddox and went to #3 on the charts.

Del's own recording career really got into full swing in 1961, as he recorded for Decca Records and with the support of Hank Cochran, moved to Nashville in 1962. He bounced around between a couple of record labels until he signed with United Artists Records in 1965, and then the hits started coming including "The Girl on the Billboard", which was #1 in 1965, "Belles of Southern Bell" a #4 record the same year, and "Looking at the World Through a Windshield", which went to #5 in 1968.

In addition to recording, he appeared in several movies, including "Sam Whiskey" in 1969, and he had his own syndicated television show, "Del Reeves Country Carnival", which was aired from 1970-1973. He stayed with United Artists Records until 1978, and then bounced around between several labels.

Del and his wife made news in 1989, when they agreed to promote Billy Ray Cyrus. After Billy Ray's career hit, "Achy Breaky Heart", Del and his wife sued Billy Ray, looking for a return on their investment. Billy Ray settled out of court.

Del Reeves joined the Opry on October 15, 1966 and for many years was one of the Opry's greatest entertainers. Not only was he a great singer, but he did great humorous impressions of various country music entertainers including Roy Acuff, Jimmy Dickens and Johnny Cash. He also did Jimmy Stewart and Walter Brennen.

Del told the story about how he came to the Opry and the night he was introduced as a Opry member:

"At that time if you wanted to be on the Opry you had to do twenty-six Saturday nights per year. When 'Girl on the Billboard' made number one, and 'Belles of Southern Bell' made number one, they asked me to join the Opry. And my manager, Hubert Long, rest his soul, says, 'It's an impossibility. You can't join the Opry now.' That almost broke my heart. I told Hubert: 'But I worked all my life from a little boy in Sparta, North Carolina, to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry! And you tell 'em I can't join!' He said, 'Don't worry, they're gonna call you back.'"

"And in 1967 I finally joined the Opry, during DJ convention week. Porter Wagoner introduced me. And my mother and daddy, who at that time were seventy-eight and eighty-one, were in the audience to see one of their seven sons-there were four girls too-make the Opry. I don't even think I got out 'Doodle-do-do-do-do', which has been a trademark with me, before I started cryin'. Porter came up and put his arms around me. And when he done that I laid my head on his shoulder, and the band kept playin', an' Porter started gettin' tears in his eyes, an' it was just one big cryin' mess. I think I finally did begin to compose myself. An' then Porter, being the showman he is, said, 'Ladies an' gentlemen, his mother and father is in the audience.' An' they stood up, an' when they did I just fell apart. I mean, there ain't no way I'm gonna be able to sing. An' Porter's got tears runnin' down his face, an' I'm cryin'-literally boo-booin'. So Porter just stood there with his arms around me. An' I'm tryin' to think 'Where am I at in the song?' I finally went to the last verse an' got through the last verse an' the chorus. An' that was it. The whole place stood up at the old Ryman."

What a great story, although he did get the year wrong.

Sad to say, but like several country music singers of his era, Del developed lung problems, in his case, emphysema, and passed away on January 1, 2007. His last Opry appearance was in August of 2002. At the time, Del had felt disrespected by Opry management, specifically Pete Fisher, as his Opry appearances had been cut back and he told the story of being critized by Pete Fisher for going over his allowed minutes when performing. After that, Del rarely appeared on the Opry.

Now in memory of Del Reeves, here is the running order of the Opry, from Saturday night October 15, 1966, the night that Del Reeves became an Opry member:












What a line-up!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grand Ole Opry 7/15 & 7/16

I think everyone knows by now that Bill Anderson will be celebrating his 50th anniversary as an Opry member on Saturday night. He will be hosting the final segment on both shows that evening and will be joined by Connie Smith, who's career is connected many ways to Bill's and who has had great success recording Bill Anderson's songs through the years, and Jon Randall, who has co-written many songs with Bill.

In addtion to honoring Bill on Saturday night, Ronnie Milsap returns to the Opry stage and will be hosting segments on both shows. Saturday night will also feature Darrell McCall, who will be co-hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree later that evening, James Wesley and Jimmy Wayne.

The Friday Night Opry will feature non-Opry members The Cleverlys, a bluegrass act who will be making their first Opry appearance, Randy Montana, Michael Grimm, who was featured on "America's Got Talent", and Restless Heart, along with a return appearance by Stonewall Jackson, who has made only a couple of Opry appearances so far this year.

Friday July 15:
7:00: Jeannie Seely(host); Jimmy C Newman; The Cleverlys
7:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Mike Snider; Randy Montana
8:15: George Hamilton IV(host); Stonewall Jackson; Jean Shepard; Michael Grimm
8:45: Riders In The Sky(host); Jack Greene; Restless Heart

Saturday July 16:
First Show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; James Wesley
7:30: Mike Snider(host); Jean Shepard; Jimmy Wayne
8:00: Ronnie Milsap(host); Riders In The Sky; Darrell McCall; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Jon Randall

Second Show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens(host); Jean Shepard; James Wesley
10:00: Riders In The Sky(host); George Hamilton IV; Jimmy Wayne
10:30: Ronnie Milsap(host); Jan Howard; Darrell McCall; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Jon Randall

Here is the line up for the Tuesday Night Opry, July 19:

7:00: John Conlee; Brett Eldredge
7:30: Sunny Sweeney; Steel Magnolia
8:15: Mandy Barnett; Ricky Skaggs
8:45: Jimmy Dickens; Dierks Bentley

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bill Anderson-50 Years As An Opry Member

This Friday night, July 15, Bill Anderson will celebrate his 50th anniversary as an Opry member. The formal activities will take place on Saturday night as Bill will be on both Opry shows that evening and there are other events scheduled involving Bill and his fans.

Bill made his first appearance as an Opry member on July 15, 1961. He had been asked to join the Opry by Opry manager Ott Devine earlier that week. I know that I have repeated the story several times, but here is how Bill was quoted as remembering the events that led to his Opry membership:

"I think what probably led to me getting on the Opry was a show I did in Panama City, Florida, in late spring of '61. Opry manager Ott Devine was down in Panama City on a fishing trip and I was booked at the auditorium there as part of a package show. Ott came over to see the show. At the time, I had the record 'Po' Folks' out and it was getting pretty hot across the country. I did it on that show in Panama City and got about two or three encores--just really stopped the show with it. Ott came backstage and seemed quite impressed. I had been a guest on the Opry a few times--the first time when I had my first record for Decca in '58. 'That's What It's Like to be Lonesome'--but I hadn't really been on that much. Ott said when he got back to Nashville he was going to call me. So I was sitting home watching the All-Star baseball game on TV and about one o'clock in the afternoon my phone rang and I thought, 'Golly, I can't believe somebody is calling me and interrupting the ball game.' But it was Ott Devine and he said, 'How would you like to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry?' Needless to say, I forgot the ball game."

"I was totally in awe of the Opry. It was just so hard for me to believe that I was there with all those people I had listened to and idolized all down through the years. And it took me a long time to be comfortable. Because, if anything, I was a super fan. It was very, very hard for me to relax. And not just with the stars, but with the outstanding sidemen and musicians. It was very difficult for me to go up to them and ask them to play with me on the Opry. That was the days before I had a band. To me, the Grand Ole Opry has always been the pinnacle. I mean, it's like a kid growing up who wants to be a baseball player--in my era he wanted to play in Yankee Stadium, because that was the tops. Or if a guy wanted to be in the movies, he wanted to be in Hollywood. And for somebody who wanted to be in country music, the pinnacle, the top, the ultimate was the Grand Ole Opry. And even though its role has changed somewhat in the modern concept of country music, to me it's still the pinnacle."

The All-Star game took place on Tuesday July 11, 1961 and he signed his contract to become an Opry member on July 12, which is why sometimes that date is given as his Opry anniversary date.

Many consider Bill one of the greatest all-around talents in the history of country music. He has had 37 Top-Ten singles on the Billboard chart and he has earned more than 50 BMI songwriter awards. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia. He 1st recorded "City Lights" in 1957 and Ray Price made it a #1 hit the following year. He then was signed by Decca records, and his recording and songwriting career were well under way. Not only is he a great songwriter and performer, but he has discovered new talent, notably Connie Smith, he has written books, hosted several television game shows, has hosted several radio programs and was a host for "Backstage at the Opry'. He also was the duet partner for Jan Howard and Mary Lou Turner and in its prime, his Po Folks Band was considered one of the best around. In 2001, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he is also a member of the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Even today, at the age of 73, he is one of the best songwriters around and his songs are recorded by many of the top stars in country music today.

In honor of Bill Anderson's 50th anniversary as an Opry member, here is the line up from the show on Saturday July 15, 1961, the night that Bill Anderson officially was introduced as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.








10:30 ROSES

10:45 DE CON


11:30 MOHAWK

I hope that you enjoy this look back and congratulations to Bill Anderson for 50 years as an Opry member.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

New Opry Members---Oak Ridge Boys

Last night while listening to the Friday Night Opry, Bill Anderson was finishing up his segment and he made the statement to the crowd that there was still lots more to go and that they would be glad that they picked this night to be at the Opry. Right away, I thought, this is finally the night for the Oak Ridge Boys. And it was. After they finished their first song, "Y'All Come Back Saloon", Jimmy Dickens came out on stage with a beard to match that of William Lee Golden's. And after some laughter and much applause, Jimmy asked them to become the Opry's newest members.

Here is the press release from the Opry:

"After the Oaks performed their hit "Y'All Come Back Saloon," 62-year Opry member Jimmy Dickens surprised the group by walking on stage dressed as a 4'11" William Lee Golden, including long beard and sunglasses. "All my life I've wanted to be a little bitty Oak Ridge Boy," Dickens announced to raucous laughter in the Opry House. "On August 6, I will become the newest member of the Oak Ridge Boys, and at that time, you will become the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry!"

Joe Bonsall responded for the group, saying, "Jimmy, that's the funniest thing we've ever seen, first of all. This is a brotherhood and sisterhood unlike any other. We have been friends of the Opry for a long time....We will get on our bus later and let this process, and I guess we have until August 6th to let it sink in."

The group concluded its set with the classic "Elvira," then returned to join Larry Gatlin on"All the Gold in California."

The Opry got this one right. The Oaks have been Opry guests and friends for decades. Their Opry roots go back further than that. While they will not make the Opry any younger, they will bring lots of energy and excitement to the show. They appeal to all age groups. I have seen them several times on the Opry and each and every time, it has been a standing ovation. I will be curious to see who handles the actual induction of them as it could be just about any Opry member.

I have said on this blog several times that the Oak Ridge Boys have had discussions with the Opry several times about becoming Opry members, but the group felt that they would be on the road so much that they could not be serious members and give the show the commitment it should. With their careers starting to wind down, it looks like this was the time to do it. I for one, am glad that they are joining the cast.

Congratulations Oak Ridge Boys and nice job by Pete Fisher on this one!!!!!

Friday, July 8, 2011




Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grand Ole Opry 7/8 & 7/9

The Grand Ole Opry has posted their line-ups for this weekend's shows. With July now upon us, the Opry is back to 2 shows on Saturday nights. I have mixed feelings about this. While I am very happy that there are 2 shows on Saturday, and the shows are somewhat different, I have also enjoyed the single shows, especially with the fact that most Friday and Saturdays, they have been running over by up to a half hour each show. There has been a bit more music, and the shows seem to be more laid back.

My big concern is the attendance. When I was down in Nashville in April and the Opry had 2 shows on Saturday night, the 2nd show that I attended couldn't of had more than 500 people there. They Opry House was virtually empty. That does not give you a great deal of confidence in the future of the show. For there to be 2 shows on Saturday, you have to have a real strong line up and a demand for tickets. In October, with Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton there, both Saturday shows sold out. Carrie Underwood has sold out 2 shows a night. But, looking at the line up for Saturday, I just don't see that. The line up is nice, but not for 2 sellouts. Until the mall gets back open and the convention center is finished, which will draw more tourists to Nashville, it will take some real special shows to sell out 2 shows on a Saturday night.

As far as this weekend, Friday night will feature opry members Pam Tillis and Larry Gatlin making appearances. They will be joined by non-members The Grascals, Edens Edge and the Oak Ridge Boys. Saturday night will feature the return of guest artists Dailey & Vincent, Joey+Rory, and Kip Moore.

Friday July 8
7:00 Pam Tillis(host); Jim Ed Brown; Jean Shepard; Mike Snider
7:30 Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; The Grascals
8:15 Bill Anderson(host); The Whites; Edens Edge
8:45 Larry Gatlin(host); John Conlee; Oak Ridge Boys

Saturday July 9
1st Show
7:00 Jimmy Dickens(host); Jimmy C Newman; Joey+Rory
7:30 Mike Snider(host); Jim Ed Brown; John Conlee; Kip Moore
8:00 Pam Tillis(host); Jean Shepard; Riders In The Sky; Opry Square Dancers
8:30 Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Dailey & Vincent

2nd Show
9:30 Jimmy Dickens(host); Jeannie Seely; Joey+Rory
10:00 John Conlee(host); Jack Greene; The Whites; Kip Moore
10:30 Pam Tillis(host); Jan Howard; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Opry Square Dancers
11:00 Bill Anderson(host); Connie Smith; Dailey & Vincent

Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, with Elizabeth Cook and Laney Hicks as special guests.

Finally, next Saturday night will be a very special night at the Grand Ole Opry. Bill Anderson will be celebrating his 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. It will be a big weekend for Bill with lots of activities planned. The line up should be a good one and I hope that lots of Bill's friends are there for the special night. I know that Bill has been planning it for the last 6 months.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cause for Concern? The Aging of the Opry's Cast

Over the past week, I have received several emails from my readers asking my opinion on the Opry's cast. Specifically, if Pete Fisher would like to see the Opry become more relevant with the younger country music fans, does the Opry need to become younger? I know one of my readers even asked me if I knew the age of the Opry's members. I know I have covered this topic before, but I also know that I have some new readers, so I thought this would be a good time to revisit the topic.

Currently, the Opry has 65 members. Here is the current age of each Opry member:

90-Jimmy Dickens; Wilma Lee Cooper

85-Billy Grammer
84-Ralph Stanley
83-Jimmy C Newman
81-Jack Greene; Jan Howard; Jesse McReynolds

79-George Jones; Loretta Lynn; Bobby Osborne
78-Roy Clark; Stonewall Jackson; Stu Phillip; Mel Tillis
77-Jim Ed Brown; Jean Shepard
75-Tom T Hall
74-Charlie Daniels; Ray Pillow; Jeanne Pruett
73-Bill Anderson; George Hamilton IV; Charlie Pride
72-Del McCoury
70-Jeannie Seely

69-Connie Smith
68-Ronnie Milsap
65-Dolly Parton
64-John Conlee; Emmylou Harris
63-Larry Gatlin; Riders In The Sky(average age); The Whites(average age)
62-Barbara Mandrell

59-Ricky Van Shelton
58-Hal Ketchum
56-Reba McEntire; Ricky Skaggs; Steve Wariner
54-Vince Gill; Patty Loveless;
53-Pam Tillis; Diamond Rio(average age)
52-Joe Diffie; Alan Jackson; Marty Stuart; Randy Travis
51-Lorrie Morgan; Mike Snider

49-Trace Adkins; Clint Black; Garth Brooks
48-Travis Tritt
46-Trisha Yearwood
45-Montgomery Gentry(average age); Craig Morgan
44-Martina McBride
42-Terri Clark

39-Alison Krauss
38-Brad Paisley
35-Dierks Bentley; Blake Shelton
33-Josh Turner

28-Carrie Underwood

The average age of an Opry member is just over 62.

To further break it down, 12% of the Opry's members are over the age of 80; 40% are over the age of 70 and 52% of it's members are over the age of 60. Just under 10% of the Opry's members are under the age of 40.

That's considering all of the Opry's members. Now, let's consider the Opry's most active members in terms of appearances so far this year. Here is how they rank, along with their age:

1. 63-Jimmy Dickens (90)
2. 46-Bill Anderson (73)
3. 42-Riders In The Sky (63)
4. 37-The Whites (63)
5. 33-Jim Ed Brown (77); Jimmy C Newman (83)
6. 32-Mike Snider (51)
7. 31-Jeannie Seely (70); Connie Smith (69)
8. 29-John Conlee (64); Bobby Osborne (79); Jean Shepard (77)
9. 24-Jack Greene (81); Jesse McReynolds (81)

Average age of this group is 73. It does not print a pretty picture for the future of the Opry.

Just looking at the members under the age of 40, here are their appearances so far this year:

6-Carrie Underwood
4-Josh Turner
3-Blake Shelton
2-Dierks Bentley; Alison Krauss; Brad Paisley

Now, of the Opry's 65 cast members, there are a number who do not appear on the show, either through retirement or illness. Those members include Wilma Lee Cooper; Billy Grammer; Hal Ketchum; Barbara Mandrell; Jeanne Pruett and Ricky Van Shelton. That accounts for 7 members, which brings the active number of Opry members to 58. Of those 58, there are several who choose not to appear on the Opry, for whatever reason.

In the past year, the Opry has lost 2 of its members, Charlie Louvin and Mel McDaniel. Several of the Opry's members have had health issues over the past several years and just with the age of many of the Opry's members, we can expect some more of the Opry's members to pass away in the coming year or two.

I do not mean this as any criticism of any of the Opry's older members. The majority of the legends and veterans do not travel any more and are available for most of the Opry's shows. And, the vast majority of them still sound and look great. I personally enjoy seeing them on the Opry's stage. At the same time, I understand that the Opry's younger members have strong careers going and are on the road a lot making personal appearances. But at the very least, I would like to see these younger stars making the 10 appearances per year that is asked of them. And to be fair, the majority do. It is the artists in the 40 to 60 age range that are causing most of the appearance issues, and that is due to the fact that when they joined, there was basically nothing asked of them as far as appearing on the show. I know that seems strange, but that is the way Hal Durham and Bob Whitaker set it up. At least Pete Fisher has tried to change that, and has been getting a commitment from those he has asked to support the show. But, some of the various media outlets have also reported that Pete Fisher has implied many times that he wanted to make the Opry younger and more relevant to today's country music fan.

And Pete Fisher has invited many non-Opry members to appear at the show. And, most of these have been younger acts or newcomers to the business. Here is a fact for you that I found amazing. So far this year, there has been a total of 89 Opry shows. Of the Opry's 65 members, 48 of them have made at least 1 Opry appearance this year. In addition to those 48, 132 non-Opry members have appeared on the show, a few of them more than once. That is a total of 180 different performers for the 89 shows. Talk about variety. At least he is trying to make each show somewhat different.

We all know what the solutions are and that is to bring on new Opry members who will support the show and help to draw a younger crowd to the Opry. When you bring on the younger performers, the younger fans will come. I have seen it many times. At the Opry's birthday celebration last year, Taylor Swift was there for both shows on Saturday night. Both of the shows were sell-outs and the younger fans loved Taylor (I have to admit, so did I). And for the older fans, Dolly Parton was on the same show. So you had something for the moms and dads and for their sons and daughters. That is how the Opry should be booked every week.

I know that when you mention bringing on more of the younger artists, the first thing the older fans say is that you are shoving the legends aside. There is room for both and most shows do have a good mix. But, attendance is down, the age of the artists are increasing and measures need to be taken for the long term survival of the Opry. I know that each time I write something like this, I always say that now is the time to act and add new members. And as we continue to lose more Opry members, I will continue to write and promote the same message.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July Opry Highlights

As I do each month, I want to take a moment to look back and review the important and historical events that have taken place at the Opry during the current month. With July upon us, let's look back during the month of July and see what has happened during the month:

July 15, 1913: Cowboy Copas was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Although he went by the name Cowboy, his mother named him Lloyd Estel Copas.

July 27, 1925: Former Grand Ole Opry member Annie Lou Dill was born.

July 24, 1926: The Crook Brothers made their first appearance on the WSM Barn Dance Show. The Crook Brothers would remain a part of the show for the next 62 years.

July 7, 1927: Charlie Louvin was born. The Country Music Hall of Famer was born Charles Loudermilk, near Section, Alabama.

July 9, 1929: Jesse McReynolds was born in Coeburn, Virginia.

July 7, 1930: Former Opry member Doyle Wilburn was born in Hardy, Arkansas.

July 14, 1933: Del Reeves was born in Sparta, North Carolina.

July 4, 1937: Grand Ole Opry member Ray Pillow was born in Lynchburg, Virginia.

July 19, 1937: George Hamilton IV was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. George has been an Opry member for 51 years and is known as "The International Ambassador of Country Music", for his world-wide travels to promote country. Even today, George continues to make numerous concert appearances in England and Ireland.

July 5, 1939: The Grand Ole Opry moved to the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. It's previous home was the Dixie Tabernacle.

July 6, 1940: Jeannie Seely was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

July 15, 1944: Rod Brasfield joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain an Opry member until September 1958, when he died of a heart attack in Nashville. Years later, thanks to efforts by Minnie Pearl, Rod would be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Minnie and Rod would become famous for their comedy routines on the Prince Albert show. Rod joined the show after Whitey Ford left the show after a contract dispute with R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and its advertising agency. Whitey stayed on the Opry, but was no longer on the network portion of the show.

July 24, 1948: Roy Acuff announced he was running for Governor of the state of Tennessee. As a Republican in Tennessee in 1948, he did not stand much of a chance, and lost the election by a wide margin.

July 21, 1951: Lefty Frizzell made his first appearance on the Opry. He would become a regular in 1952, but as Lefty would admit, it just didn't work. "I just didn't like the Opry. It wasn't the dream I thought it would be."

July 9, 1952: Opry members Carl Smith and June Carter were married. Their marriage would only last several years, but it did produce one daughter, Rebecca Carlene Smith, better known to her fans as Carlene Carter.

July 18, 1954: Ricky Skaggs was born in Cordell, Kentucky.

July 7, 1956: Johnny Cash joined the Grand Ole Opry. He would only remain a member until 1958, when he relocated to California. In 1965, after he was no longer an Opry member, he appeared on the Opry and in a fit of rage, he kicked out the Opry stage lights. He was told by Opry management that he was no longer welcomed at the Opry. He did stay away for several years, but after his marriage to June Carter he started to appear again at the Opry, although on an irregular basis. He would later be asked by Roy Acuff to once again become an Opry member, but he turned it down, due to his heavy touring schedule.

July 24, 1957: Pam Tillis was born in Plant City, Florida. The Grand Ole Opry member is the daughter of Mel Tillis.

July 12, 1961: Bill Anderson becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This year will be his 50th year as an Opry member. Bill had made his first Opry appearance in 1958, and had made several appearances over the years. Ott Devine was the Opry manager at the time and was impressed with Bill after seeing him in concert. In fact, Ott was at a Bill Anderson concert in Panama City and told Bill he would call him when he got back in town. As Bill told the story, "So I was home watching the All-Star baseball game on TV adn about one o'clock in the afternoon my phone rang and I thought, 'Golly, I can't believe somebody is calling me and interrupting the ball game.' But it was Ott Devine and he said, 'How would you like to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry?' Needless to say, I forgot the ball game."

July 8, 1964: Dottie West joined the Grand Ole Opry.

July 31, 1964: Former Grand Ole Opry member Jim Reeves died in a plane crash in Nashville. Also killed in the crash was one of his band members, Dean Manuel.

July 10, 1965: Roy Acuff was seriously injured in a car accident in Sparta, Tennessee. Roy suffered two pelvic fractures, a broken collarbone and broken ribs. Also injured in the accident was band member Shot Jackson and June Stearns. Roy would return to the Opry stage in August. June Stearns decided to no longer tour and never appeared with the Smoky Mountain Boys again.

July 29, 1966: Martina McBride was born in Sharon, Kansas.

July 29, 1972: Barbara Mandrell joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be the 39th year as an Opry member. She is retired as a performer, but has shown up at various Opry events from time to time. Barbara remembers when she became an Opry member, "It was in July when Bud Wendell asked me to join the Grand Ole Opry. I was very honored. And I was introduced on the Roy Acuff segment. At the time, while I was acquainted with Mr. Acuff, I can't say we were friends. By coming to the Opry we became dear friends and now he's so special to me." In the years before Roy Acuff died and Barbara was scheduled to appear on the Opry, she would always insist on being on Roy's segment.

July 21, 1973: Jeanne Pruett joined the Grand Ole Opry. Although she retired from performing several years ago, she has maintained her Opry membership. This will be her 38th year as an Opry member. She made her last Opry appearance in 2001. Before becoming a successful singer, Jeanne was a songwriter for Marty Robbins Enterprises. Prior to her induction, Jeanne called herself "the only semiregular who was not a cast member." She had been appearing on the show since the early 1960's. As far as her membership, she said, "Actually, as it turned out, I had been a member of the Opry for almost a year before I could get inducted. Dolly Parton wanted so badly to introduce me as the new member of the Opry, but her schedule and mine conflicted and we just couldn't seem to find a time to arrange the induction. Anyway, I joined on July 21, 1973. And Dolly did introduce me." She was the last singing artist to join the Opry before it left the Ryman Auditorium for the new Opry House. Jerry Clower would later join before the Opry moved.

July 7, 1975: Grand Ole Opry member George Morgan died in Nashville, after suffering a heart attack. He had been an Opry member since 1948, and would later be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. When George joined the Opry, he was considered the replacement for Eddy Arnold, who had recently left the show. George had one of the biggest hits in the history of country music, "Candy Kisses." It was the success of this song that led him to the Opry. He actually left the Opry in 1956 to star in his own television show, but returned to the Opry in 1959. In May 1975, he suffered a heart attack at his Nashville home. He returned to the Opry in June, but he needed open heart surgery. He had the surgery in early July, but there were complications that led to his death.

July 2, 1982: Country Music Hall of Famer and former Grand Ole Opry member DeFord Bailey died in Nashville at the age of 82. DeFord was one of the first members of the Opry, but he was fired from the Opry in 1941, by George D. Hay. Deford was very bitter about his firing and would remain so for many years. However, on February 23, 1974, he returned to the Opry stage for the Opry's "Old Timer's Night. Many said he was the highlight of that night, as he performed his harmonica songs, "Pan American" and "Fox Chase." His final appearance at the Opry was on April 3, 1982, during that year's "Old Timer's Night" at the Opry.

July 1, 1983: Gaylord Broadcasting Company of Dallas, Texas purchased the Grand Ole Opry from American General Corporation of Houston, Texas. Even though it was called Gaylord Broadcasting, it was actually Edward Gaylord and his wife, Thelma, who were the owners of the Opry. At the time, the Gaylords were also the owners of "Hee Haw." When they purchased the Opry, they also bought the entire Opryland complex and everything associated with it. The purchase price was rumored to be between $250 and $300 million. Over time, Gaylord Broadcasting would become Gaylord Entertainment, and would go from a privately held company to a publicly traded company, and it's primary focus would change from broadcasting to resort and hotel management. It is hard to believe that Gaylord has owned the Opry for 28 years.

July 3, 1996: Alison Krauss becomes an Opry member. At the time, she was the Opry's youngest member. Garth Brooks was the member who officially inducted her, and with her induction she was the first bluegrass artist to join the Opry in 19 years.

July 3, 2001: Johnny Russell died in Nashville after a long illness. After he joined the Opry, he would often host the final segment, much as Marty Robbins had done. He was famous for saying, "Can You See Me Ok?". Not only was he a great performer, he was an even better songwriter. He had joined the Opry on July 6, 1985.

There you have it. I hope that you enjoy this look back.