Sometimes when it comes to predicting who the next new Opry member might be, it is like connecting the dots. You have to look for clues and guess how Steve Buchanan and Pete Fisher are thinking. Not to pat myself on the back, but I did correctly predict Blake Shelton, the Oak Ridge Boys and Rascal Flatts becoming Opry members. (Just for purposes of total honesty, I did miss on Rhonda Vincent, which many of us still don't know why is not an Opry member).
Now, in looking at some upcoming Opry events, I am taking a guess, and understand that it is just a guess, that Keith Urban might become an Opry member, and the invitation might come as early as on the Friday Night Opry.
Keith Urban has been a very popular country music superstar for a number of years and he has played the Opry in the past, to a great reception. He has stated that he loves the Opry and Opry management seems to like him. In the past, they have featured Keith on the Opry website and have really promoted his appearances. Keith is a strong supporter of the Country Music Hall of Fame, as his benefit concert for the Hall is one of the most popular and successful fundraisers.
Now, to connect some dots. This week, Keith is scheduled for the Friday Night Opry. The first dot is that this will be Keith's first "official" appearance since his vocal surgery. I know he was scheduled for a couple of Opry shows that he had to cancel due to the surgery, but it is interesting that his first show back is at the Opry.
The next dot pertains to the Ryman Auditorium and it's famous stage. Gaylord announced this week that they will be replacing the stage at the Ryman with a new stage. The current wooden stage, the most famous in country music, has been there since 1951. The new stage will be more durable and be able to hold more weight, which will allow the Ryman to be used for more purposes. In the 1990s, when the Ryman Auditorium was renovated, the famous stage was not replaced but was sanded and refinished. According to Steve Buchanan, because of the age and condition of the stage, that can not be done this time. The new floor will be made of Brazilian teak, which is the same floor that is currently at the Grand Ole Opry House. The new stage will be slightly darker than the current one. Gaylord is not announcing what is going to be done with the old stage, other than it will be under 24 hour guard so that pieces of it do not disappear and that portions of the old floor will still be used on the edges of the new floor. (the complete story is in the Tennessean).
Now, to connect this dot. I saw one announcement that Keith will be the final performer on the old floor at the Ryman. If that is the case, that would hold some signficance. In the past, the Opry has used special events as a backdrop for inviting a new member. The final performance on the old Ryman stage would sure qualify.
The final dot is that Keith is scheduled to perform at the Opry in March and with an invitation in February, the March show would be the perfect opportunity to do the induction.
Granted, that is a lot of speculation on my part and a lot of "connecting the dots". But, I am throwing this out there and it will be interesting to see what happens.
My final thought on the old Ryman stage. First, I have to admit even though I have stood on the stage many times, I never really had thought that the floor had never been updated. I know that the wood is different where the circle was cut out, but I just never thought. Secondly, if the rumors are right that Keith will be the last performer to play on that stage, that is just plain wrong. It should be Jimmy Dickens, who is the only Opry member with a link back to when the stage was installed in 1951. Maybe he will be. Let's hope.