Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 3/2 & 3/3-Updated

Update #2: Connie Smith is off the schedule on Friday night and Connie Smith has been added, while Jean Shepard has cancelled for Saturday night with Jan Howard added.

Update #1: Holly Williams has been added on Saturday night.

There Grand Ole Opry has posted the line ups for the 2 shows this weekend. Of interest is the fact that while the Friday Night Opry is at the Opry House, the Saturday Grand Ole Opry is at the Ryman Auditorium.

This week's line up is highlighted by the return of Opry member Mel Tillis, who will be at both shows this weekend. Appearing with Mel on Friday night will be Opry members Montgomery Gentry, while non-Opry member (and who should be an Opry member), Rhonda Vincent will also be on. This weekends newcomer who will be making his first Opry appearance will be Dustin Lynch.

Saturday night's show, in addition to Mel, will feature popular Opry guests Darryl Worley, Mark Wills and Exile.

Jimmy Dickens and Jean Shepard, both of whom cancelled out last Saturday night, are scheduled for this weekend. Jimmy is set for both shows, and in somewhat of a surprise, Jean is scheduled for Saturday night. While mentioning these two veteran performers, 2012 has been off to a rough start for a couple more of the Opry's veterans. Neither Stu Phillips, Stonewall Jackson or Jack Greene has made an Opry appearance since the first of the year. Stonewall is scheduled to be the host of the Midnight Jamboree next weekend. And speaking of the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, Ronnie Milsap is scheduled to be the host for this week's show, yet he is not scheduled for the Opry. I hope that is Ronnie's choice and not the Opry's.

Friday March 2
7:00: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Dustin Lynch
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Rhonda Vincent
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Jeannie Seely; Gloriana
8:45: Mel Tillis (host); Jesse McReynolds; Montgomery Gentry

Saturday March 3
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Mike Snider; Holly Williams
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jim Ed Brown; Darryl Worley
8:15: Mel Tillis (host); Jan Howard; Mark Wills; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Exile

That is 12 artists on Friday night of whom 9 are Opry members, while 12 are scheduled for Saturday night of whom 8 are Opry members.

On a final note, recently I received an email from the Opry, and if you are on the Opry's email list, I am sure you received it also, an offer for $10 off Opry tickets to shows through April. (if I have the offer right). If you go on the Opry's website for upcoming shows, you will see now that they have listed a number of shows where the discounts do not apply. Of course, those shows feature stars such as Keith Urban, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, and other big named talent. I guess what the Opry is saying is that there are some shows that are not going to be very good and not worth full price, so we are going to offer you a discount to buy tickets to those shows!! Not so sure about that move.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Breaking News-No Jimmy Dickens Tonight

With the Grand Ole Opry underway, Jeannie Seely is hosting the first segment as Jimmy Dickens is absent tonight. After her first song, Jeannie mentioned that she was there instead of Jimmy as she was called in at the last minute. She said Jimmy was fine, but that it was Saturday night and "he had a date for the night and I didn't".

As I mentioned when I gave a rundown of the Friday Night Opry, Jimmy sounded so-so on Friday night.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Grand Ole Opry---February 24, 1979

I was going through my items and found the Grand Ole Opry line up from February 24, 1979, which was 33 years ago. It was a Saturday night and there were 2 shows. Nothing special took place that night, but the line up was very, very good from that night, so I thought I would go ahead and post it. Enjoy the look back:

Saturday February 24, 1979

1st show
6:00: Vietti
Billy Walker (host): Come A Little Bit Closer
Jean Shepard: Heart, We Did All That We Could/If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down/Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas
Wilma Lee Cooper: Bucket to the South
Billy Walker: Lawyers

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Ernie Ashworth: Tak Back Trembling Lips
Jack Greene (host): Lord, I Need Somebody Bad Tonight
Billy Grammer: Maiden's Prayer/Faded Love
Jack Greene: Statue of a Fool

6:45: Rudy's
Roy Drusky (host): Alone With You
Lonzo & Oscar: Columbus Stockade Blues
Marion Worth: For the Good Times
Roy Drusky: Peel Me A Nanner

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Tennessee Sunshine
Dottie West: Sing Your Song, Sweet Music Man/When Two Fools Collide
Justin Tubb: What's Wrong With the Way that We're Doing it Now
Charlie Louvin: See the Big Man Cry
Willis Brothers: Cool Water
Porter Wagoner: Cold Hard Facts of Life/Carroll County Accident/Green Green Grass of Home/Ole' Slewfoot

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball/Tennessee Central #9/Sunshine Special
Connie Smith: Once A Day/Back Up on the Mountain
Stu Phillips: Thank God She's Mine
Crook Brothers/Ralph Sloan Dancers: Billy in the Low Ground
Roy Acuff: Mansion on the Hill

8:00: Martha White
Ernest Tubb (host): Jealous Lovin Heart
Skeeter Davis: Silver Threads & Golden Needles/I'll Fly Away
Ray Pillow: Hungry Man's Dream
Bill Carlisle: Same Ol Tale That the Crow Told Me
Jimmy C Newman: Happy Cajun
Ernest Tubb: Waltz Across Texas

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): Rhumba Boogie
Jeanne Pruett: I Can't Help It/May Tears Ago/Wild Side of Life/Satin Sheets
4 Guys: Let Your Love Flow
Jan Howard: When I Dream
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hollow Poplar
Hank Snow: Mysterious Lady from St. Martinique

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb (host): I'll Step Aside
Jean Shepard: Half A Mind
Billy Walker: Lawyers
Wilma Lee Cooper: Come Walk With Me
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything
Billy Grammer: Maiden's Prayer/Faded Love
Roy Drusky: One Day at a Time

10:00: Fender
Porter Wagoner (host): I'm Gonna Act Right
Dottie West: Sometimes When We Touch
Ernie Ashworth: You Can't Pick A Rose in December
Willis Brothers: Cimarron
Porter Wagoner: Ole Slewfoot

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting in the Air
Lonzo & Oscar: Bluegrass Melody
Marion Worth: Paper Roses
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird

10:30: Trailblazer
Charlie Walker (host): Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas
Connie Smith: When God Dips His Love In My Heart
Justin Tubb: As Long As Their's A Sunday
Charlie Louvin: Who's Gonna Love Me Now

10:45: Beechnut
Jimmy C Newman (host): River Road
Skeeter Davis: Georgia
Crook Brothers/Ralph Sloan Dancers: Mississippi Sawyer
Jimmy C Newman: Instrumental

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): With This Ring I Thee Wed
Jan Howard: Save the Last Dance for Me/I Never Will Marry
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Alabama Gal
Stu Phillips: It's A Heartache
Kirk McGee: The World is Waiting for the Sunrise/When the Saints go Marching In
Hank Snow: Mysterious Lady from St. Martinique

11:30: Acme
4 Guys (host): Freedom Lives in a Country Song
Jeanne Pruett: I Can't Help It/Many Tears Ago/Wild Side of Life/Satin Sheets
Ray Pillow: Texas When I Die/Hungry Man's Dream
Bill Carlisle: Gone Home
4 Guys: Love, Love, Love

If I counted right, that comes out to 29 acts appearing that night, all of whom were Opry members. The only ones still performing on the Opry today are Jean Shepard, Jack Greene, Connie Smith, Jan Howard, Jimmy C Newman, Stu Phillips and Ray Pillow. Jeanne Pruett is retired and the 4 Guys were fired.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 2/24 & 2/25

The Grand Ole Opry has announced the line ups for the 2 shows this weekend. As usual for this time of year, there is 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night.

The Friday Night Opry will feature the return of Vince Gill to the Opry stage. This will be just his 3rd appearance so far this yea. Also performing on Friday night will be Opry members Diamond Rio along with frequent Opry guests, Dailey & Vincent.

Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry will feature a trio of non-Opry members who have been appearing on the Opry in recent months, those being Josh Thompson, Jimmy Wayne and Will Hoge.

Friday February 24
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Lee Brice
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Riders In The Sky; Diamond Rio
8:45: Vince Gill (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; The Whites

Saturday February 25
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Josh Thompson
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Jimmy Wayne
8:15: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jan Howard; Will Hoge; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith

Just my opinion for what it is worth, but Jean Shepard, as a Hall of Famer, should be hosting the segment instead of Mike Snider.

There are 12 artists scheduled on Friday night with 10 Opry members, and 11 artists on Saturday night, of whom 8 are Opry members.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pee Wee King

Let's take a moment and remember former Grand Ole Opry star and Country Music Hall of Fame member Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski, otherwise known as Pee Wee King. Pee Wee was born 98 years ago Sunday, on February 18, 1914 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

As the Country Music Encyclopedia states, Pee Wee King was an unlikely candidate for country music stardom. Yet as a songwriter, bandleader, recording artist, and television entertainer, he broke new ground in country music, and he helped to bring waltzes, polkas, and cowboy songs into mainstream country music during ten productive years at the Grand Ole Opry.

He grew up in Wisconsin and was exposed to the polka and waltz style of music that was popular in the day. His musical debut took place at the age of fifteen when he played accordion in his father's polka band. He changed his name to King, after popular polka performer Wayne King. Into the early 1930s, he had his own radio show in Racine, Wisconsin.

His break came when he met promoter J.L. Frank in the spring of 1934. He moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1934 and backed up Gene Autry. He later appeared on WHAS in Louisville and in 1936 he married Frank's step-daughter Lydia. In 1937 he formed the Golden West Cowboys and moved to Nashville to begin a 10 year run on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1941-42 he and his band were featured on the Camel Caravan, a touring company that presented shows at military installations across the United States and Canada. At various times his band included Eddy Arnold, Redd Steward, Ernest Tubb, Cowboy Copas and Minnie Pearl.

After joining the Opry in 1937, he helped introduce an array of new instruments and sounds to the Opry, including the trumpet, drums, and the electric guitar. In addition, he dressed his band members in spiffy western outfits designed by the Hollywood trailer Nudie. His nattily attired Golden West Cowboys generally produced a smooth and danceable sound during their heydey in the 1940s. In the 1950s, they even branched out a bit into rockabilly.

He wrote or co-wrote over 400 songs, including some of the most popular songs in American musical history, including "Slow Poke", and "Tennessee Waltz". Patti Page's verison of the song sold 5 million copies. In 1965 it became a Tennessee state song. During his recording career he recorded more than 20 albums and had 157 singles.

He was a pioneer in television performing. In 1947, he left the Opry to move to Louisville, where he had a radio and television program. In the 1950s and 60s, his show reached into Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland and was on the ABC television network for 6 years. He also appeared in a number of movies.

In 1974, he was the 23rd member to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. His later years were spent in retirement with his wife in Louisville and it was there that he passed away on March 7, 2000 at the age of 86. Wade Hall, with the cooperation of Pee Wee wrote a very interesting biography called, "Hell-Bent for Music", which is the life story of Pee Wee King. I have it in my library and if you can find a copy, a recommend that you read it. It is very good.

As noted above, Pee Wee was one of the early stars of the Grand Ole Opry and it was Harry Stone who brought Pee Wee to the Opry. Here is how Pee Wee remembered that 1st night:

"On the first Saturday in June of 1937 we did our first program on the Grand Ole Opry at the tabernacle on Fatherland Street, and we were invited to stay as regular members. It was a hard decision for me to make, because there was no pay at the Opry at that time. All we could do was play the broadcast and announce our dates, where in other cities they paid you for your staff programs, or commerical programs. Joe Frank drilled into mind, 'You got to remember, kid, that one broadcast on the Grand Ole Opry means twenty weeks work somewhere else.' And with that in mind, we stayed."

As as previously noted, he brought some profound changes to the Opry. As he said, "I came in with a group, an organized group, and a group that belonged to the musicians union. The Nashville local didn't want to accept our Louisville AFM cards right away, but they finally did. And others of the Opry members started becoming union members. So I guess I had something to do with getting the Opry unionized."

While it was Harry Stone who brought Pee Wee to the Opry, it was George D. Hay who pushed back at Pee Wee everytime he tried something new. Pee Wee was the first to use drums, and he was told to put them away. He was the first to bring out an electric guitar. That caused issues until Ernest Tubb arrived and after that the electric guitar was accepted. He brought out a trumpet once and told to never bring it back. His was the first group to have entrance and exit music. So many things that Pee Wee did have influenced the Opry until this day.

When Pee Wee left the Opry, it was because of televison and the delay in WSM starting a television station. Pee Wee saw what television could do well before the Opry and Nashville executives did. And even though Pee Wee left the Opry, he still toured and performed with many of the Opry's members. And he was not a stranger to the Opry. He still returned to perform on the show and in his later years, could always be counted on to return to the Opry on the annual old-timer's night reunion show.

One of the final reunion shows that Pee Wee King performed on was on April 13, 1991. In memory of Pee Wee King, here is the running order from old-timers night, Saturday April 13, 1991:

1st show
6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Grandpa Jones (host): Ball Headed End of A Broom
Bill Anderson: Still
Grandpa Jones: Dear Old Sunny South by the Sea

6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Bill Monroe (host): Molly & Tenbrooks/Blue Moon of Kentucky
Ricky Skaggs: Let It Be You/Honey, Open that Door
Bill Monroe: Southern Flavor

7:00: Shoneys
Porter Wagoner (host): Company's Coming
Jim Ed Brown: The Three Bells
Jan Howard: Heartaches by the Number
Jim & Jesse: It's A Lonesome Feeling
The Whites: He Took Your Place
Porter Wagoner: Ol' Slewfoot

7:30: Standard Candy
Jimmy Dickens (host): Country Boy
Margie Bowes: (?)
Zeke Clements: No More Smoke On the Water
Faron Young: Wine Me Up/Hello Walls
Jimmy Dickens: Another Bridge to Burn

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Pee Wee King: Tennessee Waltz
Charlie Louvin: When You Can Only Dream That Far/When I Stop Dreaming
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted/Elvira
Opry Square Dance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Bill Cheatham

8:30: Pops Rite
Hank Snow (host): Send Me The Pillow You Dream On
Skeeter Davis: Who's Gonna Tell Marie
Ray Pillow: That Ain't No Way to Treat My Heart
Riders In The Sky: How the Yodel Was Born
John Conlee: Common Man
Hank Snow: My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans

2nd show (artist line up only)
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Jack Greene; George Hamilton IV; The Whites
10:00: Little Debbie
Grandpa Jones (host); Stonewall Jackson; Jeannie Seely
10:15: Tennessee Pride
Roy Acuff (host); Faron Young
10:30: Pet Milk
Ricky Skaggs (host); Jeanne Pruett
10:45: BC Powder
Bill Anderson (host); Jim & Jesse; Opry Squaredance Band
11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host); Jimmy Dickens; Justin Tubb; John Conlee
11:30: Creamette
Bill Monroe (host); Mike Snider; Charlie Louvin; Riders In The Sky; Charlie Walker

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 2/17 & 2/18

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for both shows this weekend and it looks like Jimmy Dickens is going to give it a go, as he is scheduled for both shows. Also on both shows again this weekend are Diamond Rio, who have really been making the Opry their home so far in 2012.

In addition, the Friday Night Opry will feature Ricky Skaggs and Steve Wariner, while Saturday night will feature non-Opry members Kip Moore, Matraca Berg and Canaan Smith.

Friday February 17
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Sarah Darling
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Riders In The Sky; Steve Wariner
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Mark Wills
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); John Conlee; Diamond Rio

Saturday February 18
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Kip Moore
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); Mike Snider; Joe Diffie
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); George Hamilton IV; Matraca Berg; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee (host); Canaan Smith; Diamond Rio

Couple of observations when looking at the shows this weekend. First, only 1 female for the Friday Night Opry (Sarah Darling), and just 2 females on Saturday night. Also, except for Ricky Skaggs on Friday night, it looks like to bluegrass this weekend at the Opry.

Currently, the Friday Night Opry has 11 acts schedule, with 12 for the Saturday show, with 9 Opry members each night.

Finally, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will present another archived show, this one hosted by Boxcar Willie. That should be a pretty good one to check out. I will tell you that when I was at the record shop over the weekend, several people were complaining about no live show for Saturday night. The had come from out of town and were looking forward to the Midnight Jamboree. I know that those of us listening at home enjoy the older, archived shows, but I can understand the unhappiness over not having a live show.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Remembering Hank Locklin

I wanted to take a moment and remember one of the finest singers in the history of the Grand Ole Opry and that is Lawrence Hankins Locklin, known to all of us as Hank Locklin, who would have celebrated his 94th birthday today, February 15. Hank Locklin had one of the most pleasing and popular country music voices of the 1960s. Not only was he very popular in the United States, but he had a strong career in England and Ireland.

Hank was born on February 15, 1918 in McClellan, Florida. He grew up and attended school in Munson and was singing in amateur contests by the age of 10. He worked various jobs until accepting his first radio job in 1942, at WCOA in Pensacola. He also did radio shows in Panama City and Mobile.

After serving in the military he moved west and appeared on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and then the Louisiana Hayride. He did some early recording on Decca Records before signing with Bill McCall's 4 Star label. His first hit was in 1949 with "The Same Sweet Girl" which made the top 10 in the country charts. His first number one record came in 1953 with "Let Me Be The One", after which he signed with RCA Records.

His first RCA hit was "Why Baby, Why" followed by "Geisha Girl", which became a top 5 hit. From that point on, Hank would show up on the charts on a regular basis. In 1958, he had the first of his 2 major hits, "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On", which was a top 5 hit. His biggest hit came in 1960 with, "Please Help Me, I'm Falling", which spent 14 weeks at #1 and was also a top 5 pop hit.

The success continued as Hank had 70 singles that made it onto the country charts, and he recorded 65 albums. He stayed with RCA until 1972, when he left to go to MGM. He stayed there for 3 years, finally moving to Plantation Records.

Hank joined the Grand Ole Opry on November 9, 1960. He would remain an Opry member until his death. While Hank was a regular performer on the Opry for most of his career, he prefered not to live in Nashville, but in Florida. In fact, his title was the honorary mayor of McClellan, Florida, and he was introduced that way many times on the Opry.

Hank's voice stayed strong right up until his death on March 8, 2009. Even in his later years, he was still recording new material. When he passed away at the age of 91, he was the Opry's oldest living member. Over the last decade of his life, Hank spent most of his time living in Brewton, Alabama, which is where he passed away. He would come up and do the Opry several times each yer, making his last scheduled appearance on Saturday September 8, 2007.

To remember Hank Locklin, here is the Opry line up from the night of his last scheduled appearance on the Grand Ole Opry:

6:30: Steve Wariner (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Wade Hayes
7:00: The Whites (host); Catherine Britt; Blue County
7:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Dale Ann Bradley; Jennifer Hanson
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); HANK LOCKLIN; Jeff Bates; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: John Conlee (host); Mel McDaniel; Buddy Jewel

Hank was one of those Opry members that had such a great voice and he had a fine career in country music.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Recap of Last Week's Opry

This past Friday and Saturday, my wife and I were in Nashville and attended both Opry shows. This was her 1st trip in 2 years, so I always enjoy hearing her opinions on what she sees and hears as it offers me a perspective of someone who does not see the show as often as I do. And, she does know enough about the Opry to offer some solid opinions on the show.

For the Friday Night Opry, the Opry House was actually pretty full. The lower level was completely filled as was a good portion of the balcony. I would guess the crowd at about 3,500, which for this time of the year, is very good. All the artists that were on the show looked and sounded great. Jean Shepard especially looked better than when I last saw her. Jeannie Seely looked a little ragged, but then she was saying that she was on the Opry cruise the previous week and apparently a number of people on the ship caught a virus, including Jeannie. But, she sounded good. The biggest reactions of the night were for Montgomery Gentry and Josh Turner, as you would expect. They each did 3 songs and really played up to the crowd. I also thought Diamond Rio did an excellent job. We were sitting in the 2nd row and Marty Roe of Diamond Rio gave my wife a little smile and wave, which made her day. (She did wave back). A new group called The Farm, was also on and I can't say I was really impressed by them. They are a trio and sounded good, but I just don't think they have the makings of being a big act. There already seems to be a number of country trio's out there right now. But all in all, Friday night was a good one.

Saturday night was very special. Thanks a friend in Nashville, (no names, please), we were granted access to backstage. I have to say, you know you are in for a special night when you park in the same lot as the artists and the bands behind the Opry House and when you walk into the performer's entrance to check in, (praying you are on the list), you are standing behind Jimmy C Newman and waiting for him to finish up at the desk. Anyways, it was a great night. We spent time walking the halls and checking out the dressing rooms and spent some time just hanging out in the green room behind the stage. We also able to be on the stage right before the show and able to say hi to the musicians getting ready to go. For most of the show, we either stood in the wings or sat in the seats up on the stage. (we sat right behind the drums and I was just amazed at how the musicians were switching off and communicating between the songs). My wife was thrilled that John Conlee came over and sat next to her for one of the segments. We also were able to get up close and personal with Craig Morgan, Buck White, Sunny Sweeney and James Wesley. They were all nice and pleasant and allowed us to listen in on conversations that they had with their band and friends.

As far as the show, it was another good crowd, with again the lower level pretty much filled out and all the balcony except for the very top rows and the wings. I would guess the crowd at about 3,800 or so. As with Friday night, it was a fine show and all the artists did a great job. There was a convention in town, the Wild Turkey Federation, and I think they made up a number of the crowd on Saturday. I have heard, though I cannot confirm it, that when conventions have been coming to town and staying at the Gaylord Opryland, that many of those attending the conventions have been offered free or greatly discounted tickets to the Opry. I do know that WSM was giving away lots of tickets over the weekend, so those 2 things might have helped to inflate the crowd. When we did walk out front for a short period of time, I did hear a few comments from people that while they were enjoying the show, they did not seem happy that there were no big names on the show.

As far as any news, I did not hear anything big. Jimmy Dickens has not been on the Opry for the past 2 weeks and I heard that it is just a case of Jimmy being week to week, which at his age, is understandable. Carol Lee Cooper is still not back and there was not a word of mention about her. Jack Greene has not been on the Opry so far this year, but I did not hear any information on Jack. I did hear that Jeanne Pruett was backstage but I did not see her. Some also said that she was at the Opry the week before also. There is no updated news on the museum, but the Opry is really pushing and promoting the backstage tours, so that might be the answer to what happens to the museum. No news on any new members, but a lot of people speak highly of Rhonda Vincent and wonder why she still is not a member.

As we were driving back yesterday, I asked my wife what she thought. She did say that both shows were very good. She did venture the opinion that as good as Montgomery Gentry are, they are not country. She also thought when Diamond Rio first came on stage that they were the stagehands moving equipment around as they were dressed pretty bad. And let's just say Josh Turner was not in his Sunday best. Like me, she was surprised at the crowd, thinking it would be a lot smaller. And, she was blown away by being backstage on Saturday night. She did say that when you read about the Opry and watch the videos, they give the impression that most of the Opry artists come before the show starts and hang around the dressing rooms all night, just visiting and playing their instruments. But she said that she saw a number of the artists come in just before their segments and leave right afterwards, which did surprise her.

Regarding the Hall of Fame, I did not hear anything specific, but there seems to be an opinion of some that Garth Brooks might be the one to get in this year. The comment seemed to be that he would get in eventually, so why not just get it over with. Interesting line of thought, but I just don't know.

It was a good weekend in Nashville and it is always great to be able to attend an Opry show. As my schedule looks right now, I should be back in mid-April.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 2/10 & 2/11--Updated

We'll, that didn't take long. Already changes in the Friday night line up. Larry Gatlin and his brothers are off the schedule and they have moved a few folks around. Not sure the reason for Larry not being there as he is still scheduled for a concert on Saturday night. Anyways, at this point, no replacement for Larry.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line up for the 2 shows this weekend. As usual during the winter, there is 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night, both at the Grand Ole Opry House.

I will be in Nashville this weekend attending the shows this weekend, and as always, when I get back on Monday, I will report on anything that I have heard or seen. But as the Opry goes through the winter, things remain pretty quiet.

The Friday Night Opry will feature Opry members Montgomery Gentry, Josh Turner and Larry Gatlin, along with newcomers The Farm. Saturday's Grand Ole Opry will feature Opry member Craig Morgan, along with frequent Opry guests James Wesley and Sunny Sweeney. As with last weekend, Jimmy Dickens is not scheduled.

Friday February 10:
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; The Farm
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jesse McReynolds; Diamond Rio
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard; Montgomery Gentry
8:45: Jeannie Seely (host); Josh Turner

Saturday February 11:
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; James Wesley
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); The Whites; Diamond Rio
8:15: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jan Howard; Sunny Sweeney; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Craig Morgan

Friday definitely looks like the better night this week. Each show has 12 artists scheduled, with 11 Opry members on Friday night and 10 on Saturday night.

After a live show last weekend, this week the Midnight Jamboree goes back to having a taped show, this one featuring Jett Williams.

That should do it and if anything develops in Nashville this weekend at the Opry, I will let everyone know.

Monday, February 6, 2012

George Hamilton IV--52 Years As An Opry Member

It was February 6, 1960, 52 years ago today that George Hamilton IV became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

George was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on July 19, 1937. Although he began his career as a teen idol with the pop hit "A Rose and a Baby Ruth," he was one of the first pop singers to switch to country music, and he broadened country's appeal with his recordings of American and Canadian folk music.

In 1956, as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, he recorded "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" on Colonial, a small local label. By the way, the song was written by the great John D. Loudermilk. ABC-Paramount records bought the master, and it became the label's first million-selling record. Hamilton then began touring with such pop music stars as Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. He also was making some national television appearances.

In the late 1950s, he was a regular on Connie B. Gay's Town & Country radio and television shows in Washington, D.C., starring Jimmy Dean and featuring Patsy Cline. He also had a TV show of his own in the late 1950s. He then moved to Nashville and began recording country music for RCA Records in 1960. In 1963, "Abilene" was a #1 country hit and a top 20 pop hit. In the mid-1960s, he met Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot and was introduced into the Canadian folk music circles, recording such hits as "Early Morning Rain."

Since the mid 1970s, Hamilton has recorded a number of folk/country/gospel albums, including several with his son, George Hamilton V. Also in the mid 1970s, he hosted his own country music television series in Canada and in the United Kingdom and was also one of the first performers to appear behind the Iron Curtain and in the Soviet Union.

His popularity overseas is so great that it has earned him the title of International Ambassador of Country Music. He still spends a great amount of time touring in such places and England and Ireland.

Here is how George remembered his first visit to Nashville and the Opry:

"I was one of those guys who grew up as a fan of the Opry. Although I was born in Winston-Salem, and was a 'suburban hillbilly', my granddaddy Hamilton was a real mountain man out of Beaver Creek, Ashe County, North Carolina, who came to Winston-Salem to work on the railroad. My earliest memories of country music were sitting on my granddaddy's knee and listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. It was a magical, wonderful fairyland in the sky to me, like the air castle of the South, you know. We'll, when I was about twelve or thirteen years old my parents let me catch the Greyhound bus and go to Nashville; I had saved my money from my paper route. I stayed at the YMCA, across from the old National Life building, and I got me a room on the corner where I could look down and see Red Foley and Ernest Tubb and all my heroes going into the National Life building to rehearse 'The Prince Albert Show' on Saturday morning. When I saw them go in, I ran across the street and went up to the fifth floor, where I knew the rehearsal would be held; I was a real backstage spook. And when I got up there, there was Chet Atkins leaning against the wall. I was so thrilled. And I walked up and said, 'Mr. Atkins, my name is George Hamilton. I'm from North Carolina and I just think you're great.' He just sort of yawned in my face and I thought, 'Man, this is the rudest guy I ever met.' I didn't realize how very shy he was, how unassuming. Anyway, I went away with my feelings hurt because I was so disillusioned. A little later in the morning I was watching the rehearsal and I heard somebody say, 'Hey, kid.' And I turned around and it was Chet. And I said, 'Yes, sir?' And he said, 'I'm gonna get a haircut. You wanna go with me?' So we went down to the Hermitage Hotel barbershop and I went in and watched him get a haircut. He didn't say three words to me, but it was just such a nice gesture. He realized that I was a hopeless fan and although he wasn't a backslapper and glad-hander and a loud-personality kind of guy, in his own quiet way he took me under his wing. After the haircut, we were walking back to the National Life building and he said, 'George, would you like to come backstage at the Opry tonight?' and I said, 'Are you kidding? I'd love to.' He said, 'We'll, meet me back in the alley there' And Chet took me backstage and introduced me to Hank Snow-I still got Hank's guitar pick that he gave me that night-and to Ernest Tubb. All those people were so kind to me; I didn't have anything to offer them, but they were so good to me. And Chet stands out in my mind because my first impression was that he was a cold fish, and he turned out to be the warmest of them all."

I will tell you from having met George Hamilton that he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He is very unassuming and is someone that you can have a fine conversation with. And his voice sounds as great today as it ever has. He just released a new recording of Hank Williams' gospel songs.

On February 6, 2010, George was honored at the Opry for 50 years of membership. I was there that night and it was a great evening. Here is the Opry's line up from that night:

7:00: Bass Pro Shops
Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; Chris Young
7:30: Cracker Barrel
Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; George Hamilton IV
8:00: Humana
Jim Ed Brown (host); Jimmy C Newman; Sandi Patty; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Dollar General
Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys; Oak Ridge Boys

Congratulations to George Hamilton IV

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 2/3 & 2/4

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line ups for the shows this weekend. There will be 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night. The Friday Night Opry will take place at the Ryman Auditorium, which is the last show for the winter run. As mentioned before, the 60 year old Ryman floor is being replaced starting on Saturday morning. The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night returns to the Grand Ole Opry House.

2 very nice shows this weekend. Both nights will feature Opry member and Hall of Fame member Charley Pride, while Opry members the Oak Ridge Boys and Steve Wariner will be joining him on Friday night. Non-Opry members Keith Urban and Edens Edge will also be featured. Saturday's Grand Ole Opry will feature guest appearances by Rhonda Vincent, Little Big Town and Gary Morris.

Friday February 3:
7:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Del McCoury Band; Edens Edge
7:30: Mike Snider (host); The Whites; Charley Pride
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Oak Ridge Boys
8:45: Steve Wariner (host); Keith Urban

Saturday February 4:
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; Rhonda Vincent
7:30: Charley Pride (host); The Whites; Little Big Town
8:15: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jesse McReynolds; Holly Williams; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Gary Morris; Diamond Rio

Yep, Keith Urban is Steve Wariner's only guest on that last segment on Friday night. Of course, that probably comes at the expense of an Opry member. I will say that Jean Shepard, Jan Howard and Jeannie Seely are off on the Opry cruise and you notice no Jimmy Dickens this weekend.

To recap, Friday night's show features 11 acts, of whom 9 are Opry members, while there are 12 artists on Saturday night, of whom 8 are Opry members.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree is going with a live show on Saturday night and it will be hosted by bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds.

Looks like a pretty good weekend of shows. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Opry Highlights

As I do each month, here are the important and historical events that have taken place in Grand Ole Opry history during the month of February:

February 1, 1928: Harry Stone becomes the Opry's staff announcer. Harry would eventually become the general manager of WSM and in that position, he and the Opry's founder, George D. Hay would clash over the direction of the Opry. George D. Hay wanted to keep the show rural and as he would say, "close to the ground." Harry Stone wanted to make the show more professional and bring on paid, full time entertainers to be on the show. It is no secret who won that argument.

February 5, 1938: Roy Acuff makes his second Grand Ole Opry appearance, along with his band, the Crazy Tennessseans. His first appearance had taken place several months prior and was not considered very good. Roy sang, "The Great Speckled Bird" and the listeners responded with an avalanche of mail to WSM. 2 weeks later, on February 19, 1938, he was added to the cast. With his addition to the Opry, it began to shift from an emphasis on instrumental music to vocal performers. On a final note, Harry Stone, the general manager of WSM, didn't like the name of his band, "Crazy Tennesseans." He contended that it was a slur on Tennessee. He recommended to Roy that since he was from the Smoky Mountain area, that he adopt that name. So beginning on February 26, 1938, it was Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys, and it would remain that until Roy's death.

February 23, 1952: Del Wood makes her debut on the Grand Ole Opry. The previous year, this ragtime piano player had a million selling instrumental record with "Down Yonder". When Del accepted the invitation to play on the Opry, she turned down a two-week engagement to play with Bob Crosby. She would remain an Opry member until her death on October 3, 1989.

February 26, 1955: The Louvin Brothers, Charlie and Ira, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. In 2001, the Louvin Brothers were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and some of the greatest songs in country music history came from this duo. Ira passed away in an automobile accident on June 20, 1965, which was after the Louvin Brothers had broken up. Charlie continued as an Opry member until his death in January 2011. (in some publications, the date Charlie Louvin's Opry membership is given as February 10.

February 23, 1957: Porter Wagoner joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. He would one of the Opry's most colorful and popular members until his death on October 28, 2007. Porter had made his first Opry appearance in 1956, and her would later talk about that night. "The first night I appeared on the Opry, I came off the stage and went back to the little dressing room area, and I met Roy Acuff in the hallway there. And he came up to me and he said, 'Porter, I'm awful glad that you're becoming a part of the Grand Ole Opry. We need more of your kind of people here.' It is ironic that after Roy died in 1992, Porter would replace him as the face of the Opry. The first night he was on the Opry, he was introduced by Carl Smith, who would later become one of Porter's good friends.

February 27, 1959: The late Billy Grammer joins the Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death in 2011. Billy was a gentle man and his great hit, "Gotta Travel On" is one of the great ones in country music history.

February 4, 1960: Billy Walker joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death in an auto accident on May 21, 2006.

February 6, 1960: George Hamilton IV becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 52nd year as an Opry member. I can tell you from personal experience, that he is one of the nicest Grand Ole Opry members.

February 23, 1963: Opry member Patsy Cline makes her final Grand Ole Opry appearance. Less than 2 weeks later, she would die in a plane crash, along with Opry members Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas. Randy Hughes also passed away in the crash.

February 8, 1975: After an absence of 18 years, Jimmy Dickens rejoined the cast of the Opry. Hank Snow introduced him that night by saying, "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." That night, Jimmy sang, "Family Reunion" and later said, "I thought it was appropriate. It's hard to put in words and say how you feel about being back in the family. It's been so long."

February 6, 1976: Ronnie Milsap joins the cast of the Opry. This will be his 36th year as an Opry member. Sorry to say, but Ronnie has not taken full advantage of his Opry membership, and his appearances have been few and far in-between. But whenever he plays the Opry, he receives a great reception.

February 7, 1981: John Conlee joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 31st year as an Opry member. I think as most every Opry fan knows, John was a licensed funeral director in his home state of Kentucky. He has one of the most distinctive voices in country music and his signature song, "Rose Colored Glasses" is one of the classics. After first appearing on the Opry, John was quoted as saying, "I made sure to stand on the circle from the stage of the old Ryman. That circle has been so important to me because so many big stars had stood on that wooden flooring." Early on as an Opry member, John made few appearances, but over the years as his touring has slowed down, John has become one of the Opry's more dependable members.

February 21, 1981: Boxcar Willie joins the Opry. Boxcar had made his first Opry appearance on June 19, 1980 at the age of 49. He was "discovered" while performing in England by Wesley Rose, who encouraged him to head to Nashville as he knew that Roy Acuff would want to meet him. He got to Nashville, met with Roy, who immediately put him on the Opry, and the rest is history.

February 20, 1988: The Opry honored Roy Acuff for 50 years of Opry membership. As part of that night's show, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton performed together for the first time in 14 years.

February 29, 1992: Travis Tritt joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 20th year as an Opry member. Although it may seem like it, there is no truth to the rumor that this was Travi's last Opry appearance. On an additional note, this was also the night that future Opry member Trisha Yearwood made her first Opry appearance.

February 21, 1998: During the show that night, the Opry honored Grandpa Jones, who died earlier in the week after previously suffering a stroke. Grandpa's close friend and neighbor, Bill Carlisle, along with Vince Gill and members of Grandpa's family, including his widow Ramona, led the cast in the singing of the great Grandpa Jones song, "Falling Leaves."

February 17, 2001: Brad Paisley joins the cast of the Opry. This will be his 11th year as an Opry member. An interesting historical note from that night is that Brad wore the bright yellow jacket that Buck Owens wore on the cover of his 1966 Live at Carnegie Hall album.

February 16, 2002: Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Hank Williams, Jr., performed on the Opry in tribute to Waylon Jennings, who had passed away earlier in the week. Porter Wagoner would call it "the most exciting night I can ever remember on the Opry." The 3 entertainers spent an hour on stage singing a number of Waylon hits.