Monday, January 2, 2012

January Opry Highlights

Here are the important and historical events that have taken place in Grand Ole Opry history during the month of January.

January 16, 1943: Ernest Tubb makes his Grand Ole Opry debut. When he comes to the Opry, he plays a guitar that belonged to his idol Jimmie Rodgers, and was given to him by Carrie Rodgers, Jimmie's widow. Ernest would remain one of the Opry's most loyal and important members until his death in September 1984.

January 7, 1950: Hank Snow makes his first appearance on the Opry. As he wrote in his book, this was one of the few times on the Opry that Hank wore a hat. Ernest Tubb, who convinced Opry management to give Hank a chance, allowed Hank to use his band because Hank could not afford to pay any musicians. That night, Ernest introduced Hank by saying, "From up Canada way, here's the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, the Singing Ranger, Hank Snow!" Hank later said he didn't know if he was considered an Opry member or not and had not asked. Hank sang "Brand On My Heart" and as he said, received little audience reaction. He told his wife Min after the show, "Min, I am never, never going back to the Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is not for me." Min responded, "Now, you can't expect everything to happen in just one night. People will become more familiar with you as time goes on. You're lucky you've been given this chance." Hank of course stayed with the Opry and was about to get fired but right before it was to happen "I'm Movin' On" was released and became a monster hit. As they say, the rest is history.

January 7, 1950: On the same night that Hank Snow made his first appearance on the Opry, so did Tennessee Ernie Ford, who was featured on the Prince Albert portion that was hosted by Red Foley. Ernie forgot what he sang that night, as his son had been born when he was flying from California to Nashville the day before. Minnie Pearl would later say that he sang, "Anticipation Blues." While he never became an Opry member, Ernie Ford had an open invitation to appear on the Opry whenever he was in the neighborhood and he would take the Opry up on it's offer many times during his career.

January 1, 1953: Hank Williams is found dead on the back seat of his car as he was being driven to a show in Canton, Ohio. By the way, the auditorium where he was set to perform is still standing and in use today, and is located about 3 miles from my house. On an additonal note, Jimmy Dickens was also booked for that show in Canton but because the weather was so bad, he didn't make the trip.

January 19, 1953: Marty Robbins makes his first Opry appearance.

January 1, 1960: Billy Walker joins the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain an Opry member until passing away, along with his wife, in a car accident while returning to Nashville from on concert in Alabama, in 2006.

January 9, 1960: Patsy Cline joins the Grand Ole Opry. In a pretty famous and often told story, Patsy, who had been appearing as a guest artist for a few years, approached Opry manager Ott Devine and asked if she might one day become an Opry member. Devine's responsed by saying to her, "Patsy, if that's all you want, you are on the Opry."

January 7, 1967: Charley Pride becomes the first black solo singer to perform on the Opry. He was introduced by Ernest Tubb and sang, "The Snakes Crawl At Night" and "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You." Shortly afterwards, he would be asked to join the Opry, but he declined. He would eventually join the cast in 1993.

January 4, 1969: Dolly Parton joins the Grand Ole Opry cast. This will be her 43rd year as an Opry member. While she was at the Opry often while she was singing with Porter Wagoner, her appearances dropped dramatically after she separated herself from Porter. She has made several Opry appearances over the past couple of years. Carl and Pearl Butler, who knew Dolly and were friends with her, first brought her to Nashville at the age of 12. She remembers her first night to perform on the Opry. "They used to have this Friday Night Frolics and I went up there one night with the intention of being on it. I kept telling everybody I'll sing just one song. Most of the Opry artists had two spots on the show and I walked up to Jimmy C Newman, who was going to sing his second song next and I told him I wanted to be on. I didn't know why he did it, but Jimmy gave me his spot and I sang a George Jones song."

January 1, 1971: Tom T. Hall accepts an invitation and joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 41st year as an Opry member. After he joined in 1971, he quit the show when it moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Grand Ole Opry House, but rejoined the show at the urging of Ernest Tubb in March 1980.

January 2, 1974: Grand Ole Opry member Tex Ritter passed away in Nashville from a heart attack. He had joined the Opry in 1965 on the tail end of his great career, and he would become one of the Opry's most popular members.

January 27, 1979: Sissy Spacek, you would play the part of Loretta Lynn in the movie Coal Miner's Daughter, joined Loretta Lynn in a performance on the Opry stage.

January 11, 1986: Mel McDaniel, who passed away in 2011, joins the Grand Ole Opry. In his later years, he was famous for singing his great song, "Stand Up" at just about every Opry appearance he made. After the 9/11 attacks, he changed the words of the final verse to a patriotic theme and always received a standing ovation.

January 10, 1991: Clint Black joins the cast of the Opry. This will be his 21st year as an Opry member. Sorry to say, but he is one of those members who very rarely makes an Opry appearance. His 2 appearances this past year were his first since 2007.

January 25, 1992: Emmylou Harris joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be her 20th year as an Opry member.

January 22, 1994: Hal Ketchum joins the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 18th year as an Opry member and hopefully he will be well enough to return to the Opry stage.

January 7, 1997: Gaylord Entertainment, in a move that sounded good at the time, acquired Word Records and Music, a contemporary Christian music company. A few years later, when Gaylord was selling off many of their properties, Word Music was one of the first to go.

January 3, 1998: Grandpa Jones makes his final Opry appearance. After hosting his segment on the 2nd show that evening, Grandpa suffered the first in a series of strokes. He was taken directly from the Opry House to a Nashville hospital. His condition continued to decline and he passed away on February 19, 1999.

January 24, 1998: Justin Tubb, son of Ernest Tubb and a member of the Grand Ole Opry passed away.

January 15, 1999: The Grand Ole Opry returns to the Ryman Auditorium for the first time since moving to the new Grand Ole Opry House in 1974. There were 3 shows that weekend, which included 1 show Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. During the 1st show on Saturday night, Trisha Yearwood is asked by Ricky Skaggs if she would like to become an Opry member. Of course she said yes, and joined the show officially on March 13, 1999. On a personal note, I was at all 3 shows that weekend and they were fantastic.

January 15, 2000: Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley joins the Grand Ole Opry. He had actually been asked to join the previous evening and immediately accepted the invitation. This will be his 12th year as an Opry member.

January 4, 2003: Hank Williams Jr and Hank Williams III perform together at the Grand Ole Opry in a show commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams. Also appearing in the tribute were Jimmy Dickens, who actually knew Hank, along with Vince Gill and The Whites.

January 1, 2007: Grand Ole Opry member Del Reeves passed away from an extended illness. He was 73 years old and had been an Opry member for 41 years.

January 19, 2008: Charlie Daniels becomes an Opry member. This will be just his 4th year as a member. He had been asked in December by Martina McBride during his annual Christmas concert at the Ryman Auditorium.

As I had mentioned, the Grand Ole Opry returned to the Ryman Auditorium for the first time in 25 years, on January 15 & 16, 1999. It was during the 1st show on that Saturday night that Trisha Yearwood was asked to become an Opry member. Since 1999, the Opry has returned to its former home each winter. To remember that weekend in 1999, here is the line up from all 3 shows that weekend.

Friday January 15, 1999:
7:30 Cracker Barrel
Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Walker; Jeanne Pruett; Del McCoury Band; Bill Carlisle
8:00 Williamson Dickies/Opryland Hotel
John Conlee (host); George Hamilton IV; Skeeter Davis; Daryle Singletary
8:30 Johnny Walker Tours/Fiddlers Inn/Sunterra Resorts
Jimmy Dickens (host); Charlie Walker; Stonewall Jackson; Holly Dunn
9:00 Local Lincoln Mercury Dealers
Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Jack Greene; Vince Gill
9:30 Standard Candy
Bill Anderson (host); Del Reeves; Jimmy C Newman; Jim & Jesse; Hank Locklin
10:00 Ryman Auditorium
Johnny Russell (host); Sherrie Austin; Jim Ed Brown; The 4 Guys; Mike Snider

Saturday January 16, 1999:
1st show
6:30 GHS Strings
Jimmy C Newman (host); Wilma Lee Cooper
6:45 Williamson Dickies
Billy Walker (host); Skeeter Davis
7:00 Shoney's
Jimmy Dickens (host); Holly Dunn; The 4 Guys; Joe Diffie
7:30 Standard Candy
Ricky Skaggs (host); Steve Wariner; Trisha Yearwood
8:00 Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host); Jeanne Pruett; Mike Snider; Jim Ed Brown; Opry Squardance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30 Physicians Mutual Insurance
Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Hank Locklin; The Whites; Bill Carlisle

2nd show
9:30 Wildhorse Saloon
Porter Wagoner (host); Oswald & Charlie; Charlie Louvin; Trisha Yearwood
10:00 Local Lincoln Mercury Dealers
Jack Greene (host); Jim & Jesse
10:15 Opry History Picture Book
Jimmy Dickens (host); Martina McBride
10:30 Epiphone Guitars
Ricky Skaggs (host); Joe Diffie
10:45 Jogging In a Jug
Stever Wariner (host); Charlie Walker; Opry Squardance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00 Coke
Bill Anderson (host); Holly Dunn; George Hamilton IV; Vince Gill
11:30 Detro Sales
Johnny Russell (host); Stu Phillips; Del Reeves; Mike Snider; Stonewall Jackson

All 3 shows that weekend were great!!!

There you have it for this month. Enjoy!!!


  1. I think I counted 31 members in on that Saturday night. This also might have been one of the last appearances that Oswald made? I'm not too sure when he had to stop performing.

    Byron, I wanted to thank you for these monthly roundups and for the Opry lineups, which really bring back great memories. I am sure I've mentioned this before, but while I criticize Dolly for not being around the Opry enough, I have long been impressed that she ALWAYS mentions that Jimmy C. gave up his time for her, and that she appreciates that to this day.

  2. Fred here:

    I second Michael's appreciation. For veteran Opry fans, these lineups and monthly highlights are next-best to an old radio transcription or TNN tape. We know what all our old friends looked and sounded like.

    It is also sobering to count the (now) dead or retired from a short dozen years ago ... at least 16 from the Saturday-night show.

    Thanks, Byron.

  3. I wonder if Holly Dunn was to start performing again,would the opry accept her back?She is a very great vocalist,real country!Was very surprised that the opry did not let her be a retired member,i read an article she said after 2 years off the opry she got the call from Pete Fisher saying she would be dropped,she said it broke her heart,she loved the opry!