Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Remembering Marion Worth

I wanted to take a moment to remember former Grand Ole Opry member Marion Worth, who on March 22, 1980, made her final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. While never one of the superstars of the music business, Marion was one of the more popular female members of the Opry from the early 1960s through the 70s. She joined the Opry in 1963 and continued an Opry member before leaving in 1980 when she had some health issues. Up until she left the show, she had been appearing just about every week.

Marion Worth was born Mary Ann Ward on July 4, 1930 in Birmingham, Alabama. She learned to play the piano at an early age and by the age of 10 was entering local talent contests. In high school, she studied medical training, as she wanted to become a nurse. But after continuing to enter local talent contests and starting work as a bookkeeper for a record company, she decided to pursue a career in music. She made her raio debut on KLIF in Dallas, Texas, before returning to Birmingham to work at WVOK and WAPI, while also appearing on WAPI-TV. She met singer/songwriter Happy Wilson who began recording her.

In 1959, she had her first hit, "Are You Willing, Willie" on Cherokee Records. That song went to #15 on the country charts. In 1960, she had a top 5 song with "That's My Kind of Love." After that hit, Jack Stapp signed her to the Grand Ole Opry's Friday Night Frolic show. She then signed with Columbia Records and was produced by Don Law and Frank Jones. She had a top 10 hit with "I Think I Know.", followed in 1961 by "There'll Always Be Sadness." After that, she did not have another chart record until 1963 when she recorded "Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry", which went into the top 15 and crossed over on the pop charts. After that, she recorded a number of songs that made the country charts, but never breaking the top 20.

As her recording career ended, she remained a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and continued singing in Las Vegas and Canada, where she was popular. She was one of the first country music performers to perform at Carneige Hall in New York City, as well as one of the first to play Las Vegas.

Marion passed away on December 19, 1999 in Nashville at the Tennessee Christian Medical Center from complications of emphysema. She was 69 years old.

To honor Marion Worth, here is the Opry line up from Saturday March 22, 1980, when she made her final Opry appearance. She was only on the 2nd show that night, but I have posted the line up from both shows as in addition to Marion's final night, it was also the annual 'reunion show" or as it was called, "old-timers night". The show included Alcyone Beasley, Duke of Paducah, Curly Fox, Zeke Clements and Paul Howard, among others.

1st show
6:00: Vietti
Charlie Louvin (host): Will You Visit Me On Sundays
Skeeter Davis: The End Of The World
Lonzo & Oscar: Rocky Top
Billy Grammer: Indian Love Call
Paul Howard: Stay A Little Longer
Charlie Louvin: Apartment #9

6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Roy Drusky (host): Second Hand Rose
Vic Willis: Faded Love/Maiden's Prayer
Del Wood: Down Yonder
Roy Drusky: Strangers

6:45: Rudys
Justin Tubb (host): You Nearly Lose Your Mind
Jim & Jesse: Let Me Whisper
Justin Tubb: What's Wrong With The Way That We're Doing It Now

7:00: Shoneys
Porter Wagoner (host): Ole Slewfoot
Connie Smith: When I Need Jesus, He's There
Wilburn Brothers: It Look's Like The Sun's Gonna Shine
Zeke Clements: Just A Little Lovin/Why Should I Cry Over You/Smoke On The Water
Porter Wagoner: I've Enjoyed As Much Of This As I Can Stand/Everything I've Always Wanted/Tennessee Saturday Night

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Bald Knob, Arkansas
Wilma Lee Cooper: Poor Ellen Smith
Sid Harkreader: Sally Goodin/Amazing Grace
Alcyone Beasley: Silver Threads Among The Gold/Little Shoes
Crook Brothers/Tennessee Travelers: Lafayette
Roy Acuff: I'll Fly Away

8:00: Martha White
Bill Monroe (host): Mule Skinner Blues
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry/Washed My Hands In The Muddy Water
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down/Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas
Bill Carlisle: Shanghai Rooster
Bill Monroe: Just A Little Talk With Jesus

8:30: Acme
Hank Snow (host): Hello Love
4 Guys: Hangin' On
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Curly Fox: The Old Grey Mule/Mockingbird
Duke Of Paducah: Comedy
Hank Snow & Kelly Foxton: Stop Me From Loving You

2nd show
9:30 Kelloggs
Porter Wagoner (host): Sugarfoot Rag
Charlie Louvin: Who's Gonna Love Me Now
Lonzo & Oscar: Fox On The Run
Billy Grammer: Am I Blue
Skeeter Davis: It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
Porter Wagoner: A Satisfied Mind/I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name/You're Old Love Letters

10:00: Little Debbie
Jim & Jesse (host): Sleepy-Eyed John
Vic Willis: Beer Barrel Polka
Del Wood: Keep On The Firing Line
Jim & Jesse: Paradise

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Justin Tubb: Lonesome 7-7203
Roy Drusky: Welcome Home
Roy Acuff: Lord, Don't Give Up On Me

10:30: Trailblazer
Bill Monroe (host): It's Mighty Dark For Me To Travel/Blue Moon Of Kentucky
Connie Smith: Sing, Sing, Sing
Wilma Lee Cooper: The Legend Of The Dogwood Tree
Bill Monroe: My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darling

10:45: Beechnut
Wilburn Brothers (host): Release Me
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Crook Brothers: Gray Eagle
Wilburn Brothers: The Light House/God Bless America Again

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): There's A Fool Such As I
Bill Carlisle: Same Ol' Tale That The Crow Told Me
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hickory Leaf
Duke Of Paducah: Comedy
Kirk McGee: Railroad Blues
Hank Snow & Kelly Foxton: Hasn't It Been Good Together

11:30: Budweiser
Stonewall Jackson (host): Me & You & A Dog Named Boo
4 Guys: Let Your Love Flow/Daddy's Little Cowboy
Curly Fox: Alabama Jubilee
Stonewall Jackson: Why I'm Walkin/Waterloo

Like I mentioned, Marion was never on of the superstars of the Opry, but she was one of those solid members that made up the "backbone" of the show. She had a nice, pleasant voice and was a fine ballad singer.


  1. I'm really glad you posted these lineups--great stuff. I'm curious whether you or anyone else knows: did Marion Worth announce her departure and make this her last show, or did she simply do this show and then not return? I was thinking of the contrast between Lonzo and Oscar retiring, with some fanfare, and Jeanne Pruett and Holly Dunn walking away.

  2. Mike, that is a great question and I don't know the real answer to this one. I do know that she had been on just about every weekend of 1980 up to that point, so why suddenly leave?

    The only thing that I would say is if she did announce ahead of time that was going to be her last Opry appearance, why did they only put her only on the 2nd show and in the last segment with just 1 song? That was not a prime spot even in 1980 and most performers did not want to do that last segment. And the last song that she did was not one of her big hits.

    My guess is that she just walked away.

  3. What a great lineup! If I counted correctly, out of the whole night there are only three still with us: Jesse McReynolds, Stonewall Jackson, and Connie Smith. And 1980 doesn't seem that long ago.

  4. 1980 was not that long ago...Ha.. that was the year I was born.

    Was this the Duke Of Paducah's last time to perform on the Opry as well?

  5. Regarding the Duke of Paducah, the great Whitey Ford, he was born on May 12, 1901 and passed away on June 20, 1986, the same year that he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    No, this was not his last Opry appearance. I he appeared on the Opry April 4, 1981, which was that year's reunion show, or "old-timers" night. The "Duke" appeared on both shows that night. I will have to look it up to see if 1981 was his last appearance or not.

  6. 1980 is not that long ago---only 32 years.I was 28 that year.

  7. I've got to admit, Marion Worth has always been a bit of an enigma to me. I can't recall ever having seen her at that Opry although I have programs that prove she was there. I've seen very few photos of her with the exception of a handful of "glamour shots' from the Opry publicity department. I always recall her being a mainstay on the show throughout the 70s, usually singing a "standard". I don't ever recall hearing her do "Shake Me, I Rattle" on the Opry. By the time I started working for the show in 1982, she had already left but I never really knew when. And I never heard anything about her again until the late 90's when Jan Howard mentioned her as being in a Nashville hospital. Shortly thereafter, there was a brief mention of her passing in the Nashville paper. Another artist largely forgotten by today's audience but one who made the Opry the fascinating musical tapestry that it was. I'm glad to have been around at a time in history when the past and the present came together every Saturday night.

    Regarding the Duke of Paducah, I'm pretty sure he was still making appearances on the Opry as far as 1983. That was the time period when I was working for the company and although I don't ever remember him being at the show when I was there I know I've got some lineups from those years with his name on them. He made quite a number of guest appearances in the 70s and 80s. The last "reunion" show I attended was in 1984 and he wasn't on the show that night.

    Those "old-timer's nights" were a great treat for the audience but it was even more neat to be backstage for those shows because there were often a number of performers like Carl Smith and Goldie Hill who would come to visit their old friends but didn't perform on the show. For a reunion show, this lineup is a little thin and this might have been Paul Howard's last Opry appearance.

    Curly Fox was a real character always a mainstay of the reunion shows and his version of "Johnson's Old Grey Mule" always brought the house down. He taught me one of the funniest poems I've ever heard and I like to trot it out from time to time for an easy laugh. If you've ever lived or worked on a farm, I think you will appreciate the sentiment:

    A pretty maid put on her coat,
    And went to milk the family goat.
    She tried and she tried
    And then she cried "Hold still, Nanny!
    Hold still!'
    And the old goat sighed
    And then replied "I'm not Nanny!
    I'm Bill!!

  8. Bless Curly Fox! I got to see him do a reunion appearance that aired on Bill Anderson's show, Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, and he did Johnson's Old Grey Mule. What a talent he was!

  9. I've got his original recording of "Johnson's Old Grey Mule" in my collection and his recorded version sounds exactly the same way he did it live 40 years later. A very under rated talent and a funny, funny man.

  10. Barry, you are so right about Marion Worth. I never had the opportunity to see her on the Opry. The few times I attended in those days, she was not on the schedule.

    As far as the reunion shows, the 1981 show that I have the schedule for featured Curly Fox, Duke of Paduach, Zeke Clements, Pee Wee King, Alcyone Beasley, Jack Shook and Paul Howard(so Paul did make it another year).

    Interesting that Minnie Pearl was missing on both of these shows as she was someone who usually was at the reunion shows.