Thursday, May 31, 2012

Breaking News: Gaylord Sells Hotel Brand to Marriott. Opry Safe For Now?

It was announced this morning that Gaylord Entertainment Company is spinning off its Gaylord Hotel brands to Marriott International Inc. for $210 million. According to the Gaylord press release, the Nashville-based company will continue to own the properties and will reorganize as a real estate investment trust effective January 1, 2013. Analysts had suspected such a move was possible, as Gaylord CEO Colin Reed had said the company was exploring ways to "unlock" shareholder value.

The details of the sale and transaction are detailed on various websites including the Nashville Tennessean and Nashville Business Journal. The deal is subject to the approval of Gaylord stockholders. The initial reaction from Wall Street is that they like the deal as Gaylord stock was up 6% today, or almost $2.00 a share.

As far as the Grand Ole Opry is concerned, Gaylord will continue to own and operate the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and other attractions as taxable REIT subsidiaries. According to the press release, "nothing will change at these iconic assets of the Nashville community, and Gaylord is fully committed to maintaining the legacy of these historic attractions."

My initial reaction is that we shall see. With Gaylord turning over the management of the hotels and resorts to Marriott while retaining ownership, I have to wonder if the same might happen to the Opry. That is, could Gaylord maintain ownership but at some point turn over the management of the Opry to someone else.

Time will tell, but the hope is that once Gaylord gets themselves straightened out financially they will put more money and effort into the Opry.

Grand Ole Opry 6/1 & 6/2--Updated

Update: Several changes to the original line-ups that were announced. For the 2nd week in a row, Pam Tillis has cancelled out. Mallary Hope replaces her. Jamie O'Neal has been added to the empty slot for Friday night. On Saturday night, Andy Griggs as been added, as has Chuck Meal & His Grassy Knoll Boys. The line-up listed below includes the updates.

The Grand Ole Opry is moving into one of its better months as June traditionally offers up some strong shows, especially those that take place during the period of the annual CMA Music Fest that takes place in Nashville. The city is loaded with tourists and there are many shows to choose from, including Opry performances.

As far as this week, I have to tell you in this era of the Opry announcing their line-ups ahead of time (versus the era for many of us when you didn't know who was going to be there until you got to the show), it still bugs me when you cannot get a complete line-up the day before the show. This week for example, the announced schedule has an opening on the Friday Night Opry and two on the Saturday Grand Ole Opry. If past behavior and booking policies follow, the slots will be filled by some lesser known talent instead of an Opry member.

As far as the Friday Night Opry, Vince Gill will be making a return to the Opry stage. He has been gone way too long for him. Also, the great Ralph Stanley will be joining Vince. Ralph will also be doing the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. I have enjoyed Ralph over the years and I will have to say I have been disappointed that he has not done more Opry appearances since joining. He is not that far away and he is still doing some limited touring. Pam Tillis, who failed to make it last weekend as advertised, is scheduled for Friday night, along with non-member, but frequent Opry guest Jim Lauderdale.

The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will have, along with Ralph Stanley, frequent Opry guests Steel Magnolia, and Mallary Hope, who have late has been on the Opry quite a bit.

Friday June 1
7:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jean Shepard; Jamie O'Neal
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jim Lauderdale
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mallary Hope
8:45: Vince Gill (host); Ralph Stanley; Connie Smith

Saturday June 2
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Mallary Hope
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Andy Griggs
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); George Hamilton IV; Steel Magnolia; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Ralph Stanley; Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys

As currently constructed, the Friday show has 11 artists, of whom 10 are Opry members, which is good to see, while on Saturday night, 10 artists are listed, of which 8 are Opry members. Still shameful to have only 8 of 65 Opry members on a show.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grand Ole Opry--May 25, 1991

It has been a while (really much too long), since I have posted an Opry line-up from years past. It's about time for a look back and for this line-up, I went back 21 years ago, to May 25, 1991. There were 2 shows that night and there was nothing special that took place that night. Just a typical Saturday night at the Opry a generation ago. So here is the running order from that night.

Saturday May 25, 1991
1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
Danny Davis: My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You
Porter Wagoner: You Gotta Have A License/Forty Miles From Poplar Bluff

6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Jim Ed Brown (host): Everyday People
Jan Howard: Heartaches By The Number
Jim Ed Brown: Four Walls

7:00: Shoney's
Jimmy C Newman (host): La Cajun Band
Stu Phillips: Castle A Cabin
Jean Shepard: Home In San Antone/Time Changes Everything/Deep Water/Roly Poly
Bill Carlisle: Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Tembling Lips
Jimmy C Newman: Colinda/Cajun Stripper

7:30: Standard Candy
Bill Monroe (host): Uncle Pen
Charlie Walker: There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere
Teddy Wilburn: She Loved You All Over The World
Margo & Holly Smith: Just The Beginning/Chime Bells
Bill Monroe: Cryin' Holy Unto The Lord/Blue Moon Of Kentucky/Watermelon Hangin On The Vine

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
4 Guys: I'm Bound For Higher Ground/How Married Are You, Mary Ann
Roy Drusky: It's My Way Of Loving You/One Day At A Time
Opry Square Dance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Rachel

8:30: Pops Right
Jimmy Dickens (host): Family Reunion
Skeeter Davis: My Last Date With You/Silver Thread & Golden Needles/The End Of The World
Ray Pillow: Too Many Memories
Charlie Louvin: Will You Visit Me On Sundays
The Whites: Doing It By The Book
Jimmy Dickens: I Love Lucy Brown

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Sugarfoot Rag
Jean Shepard: Let's All Go Down To The River/Will The Circle Be Unbroken/I'll Fly Away/ I Saw The Light
Stonewall Jackson: Ol' Chunk Of Coal
Stu Phillips: Here She Comes Again
Bill Carlisle: Rusty Old Halo
Porter Wagoner: Green, Green Grass Of Home/Country Music Has Gone To Town

10:00: Little Debbie
Jim Ed Brown (host): Pop A Top
Jan Howard: Wind Beneath My Wings
Jim Ed Brown: The Old Lamplighter

10:15: Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Just A Friend
Brother Oswald: Willy, Don't You Ramble No More
Roy Acuff: The Things I Might Have Been

10:30: Pet Milk
Bill Monroe (host): The Old Tennessee River
Jimmy C Newman: Pistol Packin' Mama
Bill Monroe: Sweetheart, You Done Me Wrong

10:45: B.C. Powder
Charlie Walker (host): A Way To Free Myself
The Whites: What About You
Opry Square Dance Band/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Sugar In The Goard
Charlie Walker: Take Me Back To Tulsa

11:00: Coca-Cola
Jimmy Dickens (host): Me & My Big Loud Mouth
Teddy Wilburn: Somebody's Back In Town
Roy Drusky: Go Bring My Children Home
Justin Tubb: As Long As There's A Sunday
Ray Pillow: If I Didn't Have You In My World
Jimmy Dickens: Life Turned Her That Way

11:30: Creamette
4 Guys (host): We're Only Here For A Little While
Charlie Louvin: The Precious Jewel/Something To Brag About
Skeeter Davis: The End Of The World/Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Down In My Heart
4 Guys: If I Didn't Care/Tied Up

Compared to the Opry line-up this Saturday night with 12 artists and 9 Opry members, this Saturday night had 21 artists on each show, with all but 2 being Opry members on the 1st show, while the 2nd show had all Opry members, if you consider that Brother Oswald would eventually join the Opry. On the 1st show, Danny Davis was a late addition for Wilma Lee Cooper, who had cancelled out. As you look at the line-up, you can see what 21 years has done to the Opry membership. The majority of the Opry members on this particular night are no longer with us. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 5/25 & 5/26

As the Grand Ole Opry gets ready for the Memorial Day weekend and the summer tourist season in Nashville, things have been pretty quiet around the Opry. Not much going on and really not a whole lot to report. Most of you know that George Jones remains hospitalized in Nashville as he is still being treated for the respiratory infection that he has had for the past several months. He has cancelled all shows through June. The other bit of news regarding an Opry member was the report that Loretta Lynn is older than has been reported. Press reports have her as being 80 years old instead of 77. While that might not mean a whole lot, it does change her life story and being married before she was 16. But I did like Loretta's response that it was nobody's business what age she was. Classic, which you would expect from Loretta.

As far as the Opry this weekend, there will be 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night. The Friday Night Opry will feature the Opry debut of Angie Johnson, who was on the television show, "The Voice." She will be joined by Opry members Pam Tillis and Ricky Skaggs, among others.

The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will feature another Opry appearance by new Opry members Rascal Flatts. That will make 2 Opry shows this week for them, as they appeared on the Tuesday Night Opry last night. Joining them will be guest artists The Grascals, Greg Bates and Jason Crabb.

Friday May 25
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; Andy Gibson
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Pam Tillis
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; Angie Johnson
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Connie Smith

Saturday May 26
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Greg Bates
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Jason Crabb
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); The Whites; The Grascals; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Rascal Flatts

13 artists on Friday night of which 11 are Opry members and 12 artists on Saturday night, of whom 9 are Opry members.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be hosted this week by Jett Williams. She usually puts on a pretty good show so it should be a good one.

Everybody enjoy the Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, May 21, 2012

George Jones

Thoughts and prayers go tonight to George Jones who has been admitted to a Nashville hospital for a lingering illness. I will leave it at that but if you are interested in the press reports they are elsewhere in the media.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 5/18 & 5/19

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for the shows this weekend. With Carrie and Brad back on the road so to speak, the Opry is back down to just 1 show on Saturday night, that in addition to the 1 show on Friday night.

The Friday Night Opry will feature guest artists The Black Lillies and Dustin Lynch, along with Opry members Diamond Rio and Ricky Skaggs. The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will feature non-members Mallary Hope, who did a very nice job on Opry Country Classics this past Thursday, Charlie Nagatani and Thomas Rhett. In addition, Gretchen Peters will be making an appearance, along with Billy Gillman. Billy had a very solid career going as a young teenager and then he grew up, his voice changed and his country hits ended. But it is still nice to see him making an Opry appearance.

Friday May 18
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Riders In The Sky; Diamond Rio
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; The Black Lillies
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Dustin Lynch
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites

Saturday May 19
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Thomas Rhett
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Charlie Nagatani; Mallary Hope
8:15: Mike Snider (host); Jean Shepard; Billy Gillman; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); The Whites; Gretchen Peters

That comes out to 12 artists on Friday night, of whom 10 are Opry members, while of the 13 performing on Saturday night, 8 are Opry members.

Diane McCall will be the host of this weeks Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop onMusic Valley Drive. That should be a decent show.

The Opry has also posted the schedule for the upcoming Tuesday Night Opry, May 22:

7:00: John Conlee; Mark Wills
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Montgomery Gentry
8:15: Kelliei Pickler; Ronnie Milsap
8:45: Rascal Flatts

The Tuesday night show is being dedicated to the American military, which is a nice salute by the Opry. And it is nice to see Ronnie Milsap and Rascal Flatts returning to the Opry stage. A very solid line up for the Tuesday Night Opry.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ricky Skaggs-30 Years As An Opry Member

This Tuesday night, as part of the Tuesday Night Opry, Ricky Skaggs will be celebrating 30 years as a Grand Ole Opry member. Ricky joined the show on May 15, 1982. When Ricky came onto the country music scene and joined the Opry, country music was being dominated by crossover artists. Ricky, along with Randy Travis among others, led country music back into a traditional movement that lasted for a few years. Since the death of Bill Monroe, Ricky as moved back into bluegrass music, at the expense of his country music career. But as a bluegrass performer, he has helped the Opry keep to its roots and has influenced a generation of bluegrass performers.

Since joining the Opry, Ricky has been a dedicated and loyal member. Except for a few bumps in the road, he has been a member who has taken his membership seriously and has support the show and has kept up his Opry appearances. He is also married to Sharon White of The Whites, and has performed on the Opry with their children.

Ricky has won numerous country music and bluegrass music awards over the years, including the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award. I fully expect to see Ricky elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame as his career has been that strong.

 In honor of Ricky Skaggs and his 30 years as an Opry member, here is the line-up and running order of both shows from May 15, 1982, the night Ricky Skaggs joined the Opry.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Jack Greene (host): I Need Somebody Bad Tonight
Boxcar Willie: Train Melody
Jack Greene: You Are My Treasure

6:45: Rudys
Stonewall Jackson (host): Don't Be Angry
Stu Phillips: Have I Told You Lately That I Love You/You Win Again/Release Me
Jeannie Seely: I'm Almost Ready
Stonewall Jackson: Me & You & A Dog Named Boo

7:00: Shoneys
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Jim & Jesse: Then I'll Stop Going For You
Charlie Louvin: The House on the Hill
Connie Smith: I Just Had You on My Mind
Justin Tubb: Texas Dance Hall Girl
Archie Campbell: Comedy

7:30: Standard Candy
Ernest Tubb (host): Driving Nails In My Coffin
Jean Shepard: America, Tighten Up Your Belts
Billy Walker: Welcome Back to My Heart (Your Old Stomping Ground)
Crook Brothers/Tennessee Travelers: Lafayette
Ernest Tubb: Waltz Across Texas

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jimmy C Newman:
Charlie Walker: Don't Squeeze My Sharmon
Tennessee Ernie Ford: Get A Little Dirt on Your Hands/Sixteen Tons
Roy Acuff: I'll Fly Away

8:30: Acme
Hank Snow (host): Paper Roses
4 Guys: It's High Time to Get Back on my Feet
Roy Drusky: Blues in My Heart
Wilburn Brothers: What You Think Is Fair
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Sugar Tree Stomp
Hank Snow: I Keep Dreaming of You All the Time

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb (host): The Women Make A Fool Out of Me
Stonewall Jackson: Ol' Chunk of Coal
Ernie Ashworth: Memphis Memory
Bill Carlisle: Elvira
Boxcar Willie: Train Melody
Ernest Tubb: Journey's End

10:00: Little Debbie
Billy Walker (host): Welcome Back to My Heart (Your Old Stomping Ground)
Ray Pillow: My Love Belongs to You
Vic Willis Trio: Faded Love
Billy Walker: Behind Closed Doors

10:15: Sunbeam
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Jeannie Seely: You Don't Need Me But You Will
Archie Campbell: Comedy

10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting In The Air
Billy Grammer: The Prisoner's Song
Connie Smith: Once A Day/Sing, Sing, Sing

10:45: Beechnut
Jimmy C Newman (host): La Cajun Band
Jean Shepard: America, Tighten Up Your Belt
Crook Brothers/Tennessee Travelers: Arkansas Traveler
Jimmy C Newman: Cajun Stripper

11:00 Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): From A Jack to A King
Charlie Walker: T for Texas
Justin Tubb: Travelin' Singing Man
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Cracklin Hen
Jan Howard: Beneath Still Waters
Kirk McGee: Victory Rag/Freight Train
Hank Snow: I'm Moving On

11:30: Bama
Marty Robbins: Ribbon of Darkness
4 Guys: Marie, The Dawn Is Breaking
Roy Drusky: There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You For Me
Wilburn Brothers: What You Think Is Fair
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry/Cool Water/That's All Right/18 Yellow Roses/I Don't Know Why/Devil Woman/Begging To You/Jumper Cable Man/Return To Me/Beyond The Reef/Good Hearted Woman/El Paso

Marty Robbins and his final melody lasted 50 minutes. Also, B.J. Thomas was scheduled on this night for the 8:30 and 10:15 segments, but cancelled out.

Finally, here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, May 15, where Ricky Skaggs will be honored for 30 years of Opry membership:

7:00: Jimmy Dickens/Edens Edge
7:30: The Whites/Ricky Skaggs
8:15: Dailey & Vincent/Josh Turner
8:45: Alison Krauss/Keith & Kristyn Getty

A very nice Tuesday night show. About the only thing that would make it better is if the Opry, in honor of Ricky, would invite a new bluegrass act to join the show. It would be a perfect night to invite Dailey & Vincent.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Cause For Concern?

Yesterday, news broke that involved Gaylord Entertainment, the company that owns WSM and the Grand Ole Opry. Gaylord's stockholders, at their annual meeting on Thursday, voted to make it more difficult, if not impossible, to extend beyond mid-August a poison pill that the company has used up to now to ward off a hostile takeover. The vote comes as Gaylord explores ways to increase shareholder value, a process that analysts said could lead to a sale of the company in parts or whole, or possibly spinning off some properties as part of a reorganization plan. One Wall Street money manager has talked of putting Gaylord properties in a real estate investment trust or REIT to monetize those holdings and help boost the hotel chain's stock price. Another opinion is that Gaylord will pursue something other than a sale, perhaps creating a separate real estate investment trust.

Cris Blackman, who runs Empirical Capital Management of Hendersonville, said he wouldn't be surprised if Gaylord's largest stockholder, TRT Holdings Inc, tries to scoop up the company. TRT, a fund controlled by Texas billionaire and Omni Hotel owner Richard B. Rowling, controls a 21.8 percent stake in Gaylord, plus two seats on the board. Or, Blackman said, Gaylord could spin off properties and create a separate company for its convention booking operations, which could then also book business at non-Gaylord properties to win additional revenue.

The reason for concern is several. First, we know that the hotel and resort operation is the primary business that Gaylord is in. With the exception of WSM, the Opry, the Opry House, Ryman Auditorium and Wildhorse Saloon, they have sold off everything entertainment related over the years. And we all know what they wanted to do with WSM several years back. The second concern is that in all the media coverage yesterday and today on this news, all of the speculation had to do with the hotel business. Nothing was stated or mentioned about the Opry or WSM. Third concern is that TRT Holdings are the ones involved in the new Nashville Convention Center and the Omni Hotel that is being built in downtown Nashville that will be connected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Convention Center. And finally, TRT Holdings has made it known over the past year that their real interest in Gaylord is with the hotel and convention business. I also read a report somewhere that mentioned that Richard B. Rowling, while based in Texas, is not a real fan of country music.

I think many of us can remember the uncertainty that Opry fans went through in the 1970s and early 1980s when National Life was taken over by American General. At the time, American General wanted nothing to do with the Opry or Opryland and Bud Wendell spent a majority of his time finding a buyer for the Opry and related properties.

I know many of us have strong opinions on how Gaylord and it's management has treated the Opry. But we also have to remember that Gaylord has kept the Opry going. Look at what happened when WWVA in Wheeling was sold to Clear Channel and Live Nation took over Jamboree USA. At the time, it was the 2nd longest radio program in the nation and it wasn't long after that when Jamboree USA was shut down. WLS changed format and new management ended the National Barn Dance. The Opry is the last of its kind. Who is to say what a new owner might or might not do.

Could WSM and the Opry be sold? I really think it is a possibility. If the primary business of the company is the hotel and convention part of it, then you would think the entertainment division could be sold off. And with WSM a 50,000 watt, clear channel station, it could bring lots of cash to a company that is struggling. Where does the Opry fit in? Good question. In my thinking, WSM and the Opry are tied together and I think it would be hard to put a value on the Opry alone. WSM can survive without the Opry but I really wonder if the Opry could survive without WSM. And what value would the Opry have without a 50,000 watt radio station to broadcast the show?

I know it has been mentioned before regarding who might buy the Opry. One idea that has come up many times is a non-profit trust that would preserve the show. That would be a great idea but it would take a substantial investment to pull that off. Gaylord just is not going to give the Opry away. They would be looking for some fast cash. After what Live Nation, the country's largest concert promoter did to Jamboree USA, do you really want them to purchase the Opry? Disney has been mentioned  in the past but I have heard nothing on that front.

The rest of 2012 could be very interesting for Gaylord and the Opry. The bad news is that with Gaylord trying to move its stock value up, there will probably be more cuts at the Opry and little spending done to improve the show. Whatever decision Gaylord makes, I hope it will be the right one and the Opry will be preserved and put into good hands. But whose hands those might be, I do not know.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 5/11 & 5/12

The Grand Ole Opry has posted their line-up for the 3 shows this weekend. There is 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. The big attraction this weekend is the return of Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley to the Opry stage, as they both will be performing on Saturday night. In addition to those 2 stars, American Idol contestant Scotty McCreery will be on, along with John, Johnathan & Nathan McEuen.

The Friday Night Opry will feature Opry members Joe Diffie, Del McCoury, Diamond Rio and Charlie Daniels. In addition, Jimmy Dickens is scheduled for all 3 shows this weekend. After missing the past several weeks, he did make it back for the Tuesday Night Opry and appears ready to go for this weekend. His voice sounded much better and he looked fine.

Friday May 11
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); The Whites; Joe Diffie
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); George Hamilton IV; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C Newman; Diamond Rio
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Country Current; Charlie Daniels Band

That comes out to 13 artists on Friday night, with 12 of those being Opry members.

Saturday May 12
1st show
7:00: Opry Square Dancers; Jimmy Dickens (host); Kristen Kelly
7:30: Mike Snider (host); John, Johnathan & Nathan McEuen; Scotty McCreery
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Carrie Underwood
8:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Love and Theft; Brad Paisley

2nd show
9:30: Opry Square Dancers; Jimmy Dickens (host); Brad Paisley
10:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Carrie Underwood
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); John, Jonathan & Nathan McEuen; Kristen Kelly
11:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Love and Theft; Scotty McCreery

For Saturday night, that comes out to 10 artists on show 1 and 11 on the 2nd show, with just 6 Opry members on the 1show show and 7 on the 2nd show. The one thing that I notice is that when the Opry has several big names on a weekend show, they tend to reduce the number of acts on the show, with the basic reason that they are allowing the big names to sing an extra song to satisfy those who came to the show.

Overall, 3 very good shows this weekend and all worth the ticket price.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Remembering Hank Snow

Today I want to take a moment as I do each year and remember one of the greatest Opry stars of all time, Hank Snow. Hank was born on May 9, 1914 and today would have been his 98th birthday. I am not going to go through the whole biography of Hank, as that has been done many times before and if you really would like a good review of Hank's life, I would highly recommend Hank's autobiography while is an excellent book. All of us have funny Hank Snow stories and many of us have questioned things that Hank did in his life, but the bottom line is that he was one of the Opry's main artists for almost 50 years. He supported the show and was proud to be an Opry member.

What I have done today is gone back to one of my old Opry history books, this one from 1952 and have copied what was written about Hank at that time. Remember when this was written that Hank had only been an Opry member for 2 years and was in the early stages of his great American career. Sometimes it is interesting to go back and review what was written about someone many years ago, so that is what I have done with Hank Snow. This is from "Grand Ole Opry" by William McDaniel:

"The songs of Hank Snow have delighted many audiences, especially in Canada, for a dozen years, but it was only after he joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1950 that he reached the peak of his success. Hank was born in Canada. He began his musical career at the age of thirteen, when he shipped to sea as a cabin boy with his guitar and began entertaining his shipmates with songs, dances, and guitar interludes. After three years at sea, Hank decided to become a professional entertainer. He worked his way to Halifax to audition for a radio job. He made the grade, and from then on radio was his career.

He organized a five-piece country band and played and sang regularly for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. He also made personal appearances throughout Canada and broad sections of the United States, all the while writing songs and making records. Hank joined WSM in 1950, and it was later that year that his recording of his own song, "I'm Movin' On" hit the top of the country song popularity charts. When it was followed closely by "Golden Rocket" and "Rhumba Boogie", he had definitely established himself as a country singing star. Most of the time since then, he has been represented on the top ten list by at least one song, the latest of which is "The Gold Rush Is Over." Among his other recorded hits on the RCA Victor label are "Marriage Vow", "With This Ring I Thee Wed", "I Cried But My Tears Were Too Late", "Drunkard's Son", "Nobody's Child" and "I'm Paving The Highway With Tears."

Hank's recording of "I'm Movin' On" was the top selling country record of 1950, and Hank himself was listed among the top ten country singers according to both retail sales and juke box plays in the annual recapitulation of top tunes, records and artists conducted by Billboard, trade paper of the entertainment industry. He was also named top folk singer in a poll conducted by the Southern Farmer Magazine, for which he received a special scroll. Early in 1952, he was named the favorite country singer in the area of Washington, D.C. as a result of a radio poll conducted by disc jockey Ray Armand of WARL in Arlington, Virginia. The poll drew thirty thousand letters and cards.

Hank is smll in stature, with blue eyes and brown hair. He wears Western type costumes, with white, blue and brown as the predominant colors. The songs he sings usually have many  more words in them than those written and sung by other performers. Hank lives with his wife and fourteen-year-old son in the Nashville suburbs, where he has room for his trained horse."

Hank joined the Grand Ole Opry on January 7, 1950. This was also his 1st appearance on the Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death on December 20, 1999, just a couple of weeks short of celebrating 50 years on the Grand Ole Opry. Hank was in declining health for a number of years prior to his death and his last Saturday night Opry appearance was on August 31, 1996. He played the Friday Night Opry a week later and that was Hank's last appearance at the Opry House.

I have printed the line-up from Hank's final Grand Ole Opry appearance before, so what I thought I would do today in honor of what would have been Hank Snow's 98th birthday is to print the Opry line-up from Saturday December 23, 1950. This is the earliest line-up that I have from a night that Hank Snow performed on the Opry.

7:30 Warren Paint & Color Co.
Roy Acuff (host): Night Train to Memphis
Lew Childre: Jingle Bells
Jug Band: Old McDonald Had a Farm
Gang: Precious Memories
Jimmy Riddle: Casey Jones

7:45 American Ace Coffee
Roy Acuff (host): Leaf of Love
Joe Zinkaas: Four Leaf Clover
Uncle Dave and Doris: Connon Country Hills
Girls: Remember Me
Oswald: Rice on Buddy
Benny: Arkansas Traveler

8:00 Martha White
Ernest Tubb (host): Throw Your Love My Way
Jimmy Dickens: To Be Selected
Chester Atkins: To Be Selected
June Carter: Oh For Crying Out Loud
Hank Snow: Golden Rocket
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Ernest Tubb: Christmas
Maybelle: Glory Special
Jimmy Dickens: To Be Selected
Ernest Tubb: Till the End of the World

8:30 Fortune Feeds
Cowboy Copas (host): Filipino Baby
Bill Monroe: To Be Selected
Possum Hunters: To Be Selected
George Morgan: To Be Selected
Wally Fowler: To Be Selected
Anita and Chet: To Be Selected
Carl Smith: I Overlooked an Orchid
Cowboy Copas: From the Manger to the Cross
Bill Monroe: Uncle Pen

9:00 Royal Crown Cola
Jimmy Riddle: Put Your Arms Around Me
Roy Acuff (host): We Planted Flowers on Our Darlings Grave
Lonzo and Oscar: I Lisp When I Say Ethica
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Goodbye Liza Jane
Jamup and Honey: Jokes
Hank Williams: Moaning the Blues
Jug Band: Uncle Noah's Ark
Roy Acuff: Glory Bound Train
Oswald: Late Last Night

9:30 Prince Albert
Red Foley (host): Here Comes Santa Claus
Foley Girls: Winter Wonderland
Dance: Chicken Reel
Jordanaires: The First Noel
Red Foley: Silent Night
Old Hickory Singers: Deck the Halls
Rod Brasfield: Jokes
Minnie Pearl: Jokes
String Beans: Here Rattler
Red Foley: Frosty the Snow Man
Fiddle Tune: Devil's Dream

10:00 Wallrite
Bill Monroe (host): I Saw a Star
Wally Fowler: To Be Selected
George Morgan: To Be Selected
Bill Monroe: A Call From On Hight
Bill Monroe: Blue Grass Stomp

10:15 Dr. Le Gear
Roy Acuff (host): When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold
Uncle Dave: Wish You All Well
Gang: Life's Railway to Heaven
Le Croix: White Christmas
Benny Martin: Katy Hill

10:30 Jefferson Island Salt
Ernest Tubb (host): I Love You Because
Jimmy Dickens: Blondes, Brunettes, Red Heads
Chester Atkins: Canned Heat
Carl Smith: This Side of Heaven
Jordanaires: One Day
Ernest Tubb: Remember I'm the One Who Loves You
June Carter: Bashful Rascal
Gully Jumpers: Hoot Man
Bob Eaton: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Dickens: Out of Business
Ernest Tubb: To Be Selected

11:00 Blevins Popcorn
Hank Williams (host): Why Don't You Love Me
Lew Childre: To Be Selected
Autrey: To Be Selected
Hank Williams: Nobody's Lonesome for Me

11:15 Baby Blues Eyes Doll
Cowboy Copas (host): Steppin Out
Sam and Kirk: Long John Green
Lazy Jim Day: Singing the News
Fiddle: To Be Selected

11:30 Weather House
Hank Snow (host): Will There Be A Santa Claus
Annie Lou and Danny: Hear Dem Bells in Heaven
Crook Brothers: Soldier's Joy
Hank Snow: I'm Movin' On
Crook Brothers: Cumberland Gap

11:45 Rat Poison
George Morgan (host): To Be Selected
Lonzo and Oscar: Cotten Eyed Joe
Fruit Jar: Cracklin Hen
George Morgan: To Be Selected
Fruit Jar: To Be Selected

(Note: I printed the program exactly as it was written that night, even with the mis-spelling of names and with just 1 name for some artists. Also, some of the artists announced their songs ahead of time, while others were undecided. The Prince Albert portion was the national broadcast on NBC radio  and with it being a couple of days before Christmas, there was a large number of Christmas songs).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 5/4 & 5/5--Updated

A couple of updates to the line up for this weekend. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver along with Opry favorite guest artist Jimmy Wayne have been added for Saturday night. The updated line up is listed below.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the shows this weekend. We are back to 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night. The Friday Night Opry will feature Opry member Terri Clark, along with guest artists The Grascals, Canaan Smith and Darryl Worley, all of whom have made numerous Opry appearances.

The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will feature Kristen Kelly, another in the series of young talent that Pete Fisher has been bringing to the Opry. Elizabeth Cook will also be a guest on the Saturday show.

Friday May 4
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Darryl Worley
7:30: George Hamilton IV (host); Jesse McReynolds; Canaan Smith
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Terri Clark
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jean Shepard; The Grascals

Saturday May 5
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; Kristen Kelly
7:30: George Hamilton IV (host); The Whites; Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
8:15: Jim Ed Brown (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Presss; Elizabeth Cook; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Jimmy Wayne

I assume that they are going to fill the 2 spots that are empty. But to be honest, even with 2 additional artists, these are not very strong shows. I feel bad for those who have paid the top price for this weekend. Jimmy Dickens continues to be missing, although he is scheduled for the Tuesday Night Opry next week. Also, for those counting at home, Friday night there are 12 artists, of whom 9 are Opry members, and currently, there are 10 artists on Saturday night, of whom 8 are Opry members.

Tonight is the Opry Country Classics show and I wanted to mention it because the spotlight artist is Charlie Daniels, and among those scheduled are Ronny Robbins, the son of Marty Robbins, and Jim Glaser of Thompall and the Glaser Brothers, former Opry members. In additon to those, the show will also feature Jacob Lyda and Emily West, along with host Larry Gatlin.

The Tuesday Night Opry on May 8 will feature Opry member Alan Jackson. If he follows his normal pattern, this will be his 1 appearance for the year. He gets a half hour segment to himself and it will be filmed by GAC for their new Opry series. As far as GAC is concerned, at least they are doing the filming on a Tuesday night and not messing up the Saturday night show. Here is the line up for the Tuesday Night Opry:

7:00: Chris Young; Bill Anderson
7:30: Josh Thompson; Jimmy Dickens; Jimmy Wayne
8:15: Little Big Town; Thompson Square
8:45: Alan Jackson

A pretty good show, but they way they have Jimmy Dickens booked, it is almost as if they expect he will not make the show.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree this week will feature a special show hosted by Glen Douglas Tubb and it will be the 65th anniversary for the Midnight Jamboree. Joining Glen will be his wife Dottie Snow Tubb, along with Leon Rhodes. And I am pretty sure there will be more.

On a final note, I am printing a couple of past Opry line-ups for everyone. The 1st one is from Saturday May 3, 1997, 15 years ago this weekend. This was the night that the Ernest Tubb Record Shop celebrated their 50th anniversary and I was in Nashville for the weekend. There were 2 shows on Saturday night.

1st show
6:30: Del Reeves (host); Jean Shepard
6:45: Grandpa Jones (host); Bill Carlisle
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Charlie Louvin; Billy Walker; Jeanne Pruett; The Whites
7:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Steve Wariner; Joe Diffie; Travis Tritt; Waylon Jennings
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jimmy C Newman; Oswald & Charlie; Connie Smith; Melvin Sloan Dancers/Opry Squaredance Band
8:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jack Greene; Justin Tubb; Loretta Lynn

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Steve Wariner; Joe Diffie; Travis Tritt; Waylon Jennings
10:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Loretta Lynn
10:15: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard
10:45: Mike Snider (host); Jeanne Pruett; Melvin Sloan Dancers/Opry Squaredance Band
11:00: The 4 Guys (host); George Hamilton IV; Jimmy C Newman; Del Reeves; Ray Pillow
11:30: Johnny Russell (host); Charlie Walker; Stu Phillips; Connie Smith

That comes out to 22 artists for each show. Of those, only Jean Shepard, Mike Snider, The Whites, Bill Anderson, Jimmy C Newman, George Hamilton IV and Connie Smith are on the shows this weekend.

Here is another line up. This one is from Saturday May 4, 1991, 21 years ago this weekend.

1st show
6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Wilma Lee Cooper
6:45: Grandpa Jones (host); Skeeter Davis; Bill Carlisle
7:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jean Shepard; Billy Walker; Del Reeves; Jim & Jesse
7:30: Jack Greene (host); Ray Pillow; Shelley West; Travis Tritt
8:00: Roy Acuff (host); Connie Smith; Jimmy C Newman; Melvin Sloan Dancers/Opry Squaredance Band
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); 4 Guys; Jim Ed Brown; Charlie Louvin; The Whites

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); George Hamilton IV; Jeannie Seely; Roy Drusky; Jan Howard
10:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Jean Shepard; Stonewall Jackson
10:15: Roy Acuff (host); Jim & Jesse
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); Del Reeves
10:45: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Melvin Sloan Dancers/Opry Squaredance Band
11:00: Jimmy C Newman (host); Justin Tubb; Charlie Walker; The Whites
11:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Charlie Louvin; Bill Carlisle; 4 Guys

Hank Snow was scheduled for both shows but cancelled and Travis Tritt, who only did the 1st show, was not an Opry member at this time. As with the previous show I listed, there were 22 artists on each show. Of those, only Jean Shepard; Jesse McReynolds Connie Smith, Jimmy C Newman, Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, The Whites and George Hamilton IV are scheduled this weekend.

It doesn't take much to see how far the Opry has fallen in the last decade.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Opry Highlights

Here are the important and historical Grand Ole Opry events that took place during the month of May.

May 1, 1894: Sam McGee was born. He would team with his brother Kirk and together would appear on the Opry. Sam passed away in 1975, while Kirk would remain with the show until he passed away in 1983. They made their first Opry appearance in 1926 and would appear individually, as a duet and as part of the Fruit Jar Drinkers and the Dixieliners.

May 12, 1901: Benjamin Francis Ford was born in DeSoto, Missouri. Later known as Whitey Ford, the Duke of Paducah, this comedian would join the Opry in 1942 and was brought to the Opry specifically to be on the Prince Albert Show. He would remain an Opry member until 1959, and would continue to appear as part of the reunion shows until he passed away in 1986, the same year that he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Duke was famous for his finishing line, "I', goin' back to the wagon boys, these shoes are killin' me."

May 1. 1910: Former Opry manager Ott Devine was born.

May 30, 1912: Alcyone Bate Beasley was born. She was there for the start of the Opry in 1925, performing with her father's group, Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters. They would remain Opry members until Dr. Bate's death in 1936. After Dr. Bate's death, Alcyone worked to keep the Possum Hunters together but it was a struggle as the Opry went to a more modern sound. By the 1960s, the Possum Hunters had been merged with the Crook Brothers. In the 1970s, she went into semi-retirement after over 40 years of performing on the Opry. After that, she would appear yearly as part of the Opry's reunion shows. She passed away in October 1982.

May 9, 1914: Hank Snow was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. He would join the Opry in 1950 and would remain an Opry member until his death in December 1999, just short of celebrating 50 years as an Opry member. In 1979 he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

May 1, 1926: Uncle Dave Macon joins the WSM Barn Dance. He would remain a part of the Opry for the next quarter century, making his final Opry appearance on March 1, 1952. A short time after that show he became ill and passed away several weeks later at the age of 81. He was considered the first performer to join the Opry that had a national reputation. He always considered himself an old country boy, and he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966. He was known for his banjo playing and comedy.

May 25, 1936: Grand Ole Opry member Tom T Hall was born in Kentucky. And, much like Abe Lincoln, Tom T was also born in a log cabin. The Country Music Hall of Fame member joined the Opry on January 1, 1971. As many of you know, even though his is an Opry member and still active in the music business, he has not been at the Opry in many years.

May 2, 1948: Grand Ole Opry member Larry Gatlin was born. Larry, along with his brothers, would join the Opry on Christmas Day 1976. In recent years, Larry has returned to the Opry stage at a more frequent rate, and spends many weeks hosting the Thursday night Opry Country Classics show.

May 29, 1950: Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters join the Opry. The sisters of course, were June, Helen and Anita. When the Carters joined the Opry, they brought along their guitar player to Nashville, Chet Atkins. Over the years, while the sisters would come and go, Mother Maybelle would remain with the Opry and along with veteran members Sam and Kirk McGee, would spend some of their time complaining about their Opry spots being poorly timed and limited. Sounds like not much has changed much over the years with the veterans and legends at the Opry.

May 11, 1957: The Everly Brothers make their first appearance at the Opry. They were brought in along with a few others in an attempt to capture the younger crowd that was turning to rock n' roll. They would eventually join the cast of the Opry, but would stay only for a very short period of time, leaving the Opry in 1958. In 2001 they were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

May 20, 1958: Don Gibson joined the Opry. This Country Music Hall of Fame member was part of a large group of Opry members who were fired from the Opry in December of 1964, for not making the required appearances. He would eventually rejoin the show and would remain an Opry member, although an infrequent one, until his death in 2003. On a related note, he never acknowledged his election to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

May 1, 1960: The WLS National Barn Dance, one of the Opry's early competitors, comes to an end as WLS in Chicago changes it format to rock and roll. The barn dance had actually started on April 19, 1924.

May 13, 1967: Merle Haggard makes his first appearance at the Opry. Former Opry manager Hal Durham would later say, "The girls were always crazy about Merle." Over the years, Merle would make occasional appearances at the Opry.

May 8, 1968: Grand Ole Opry founder George D. Hay passed away at his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia. On the following Saturday night's show on May 11, Grand Ole Opry announcer Grant Turner paid tribute to him, saying "He called himself the Solemn Old Judge. If he was solemn, it was only in the face of those who thought to change or corrupt the purity of the barn-dance ballads he sought to preserve. We, the performers and friends of the Grand Ole Opry, salute the memory of one whose influence is felt on the stage of the Opry tonight-the Solemn Old Judge, George D. Hay." He started the Opry in November 1925 as the WSM Barn Dance and would later name the show the Grand Ole Opry. After he started the show, he would clash with WSM management, specifically Harry and David Stone, over the direction and management of the Opry. He wanted to keep the show, "close to the ground" with rural and string performers, while the Stone's wanted to take the show into a more professional direction. We know who won that battle. Over the years, he would suffer from various health problems and would see his influence and role at the show greatly reduced. By the time he retired from the Opry, his role was that of an announcer.

May 10, 1969: Opry member Stonewall Jackson rejoins the Opry. Stonewall had been fired from the Opry in December 1964, along with several other Opry members for failing to meet the Opry's attendance requirements. Stonewall remains an Opry member to this day, and created news several years ago when he sued the Opry for discrimination. He refused to appear on the Opry until the lawsuit was settled and since coming back to the Opry, has made few appearances.

May 27, 1972: Opryland opens. On its first day it drew over 10,000 visitors and by the end of its first year, would draw just over 1,400,000 to the park. Opryland would remain one of Nashville's most popular tourist attractions before Gaylord Entertainment officials made the decision to close the park. While Opryland would open in 1972, the Opry House would not be finished until March 1974.

May 11, 1979: Lester Flatt passed away in Nashville at the age of 64. He had been in declining health for a number of years. After he split from Earl Scruggs, Lester stayed with more traditional bluegrass and formed the Nashville Grass. As Lester moved forward with his solo career, he would reach legendary status among bluegrass followers. Lester would remain an Opry member until his death and when appearing at the Opry would usually host the Martha White portion.

May 15, 1982: Ricky Skaggs joins the cast of the Opry. This will be his 30th year as an Opry member. When Ricky became a member, he was quoted as saying, "That was a childhood dream of mine. Because I used to go to sleep on my grandfather's lap listening to the Grand Ole Opry in his Ford pickup truck out by the barn. We'd pull away from the house where all the electric lines were and we'd pull down to the barn, and he would turn his radio on, an old tube radio that he had in his pickup and, of course, Nashville always came and went, you know, the frequency and the signal would just come and go up in those Kentucky mountains. But, you know, when it would come back in, you'd hear Earl Scruggs playing the banjo, it was the greatest sound in the world. And I used to listen to that. I'd been playing since I was five years old, when I played with Bill Monroe up in Martha Kentucky, in a little high school." Ricky also said, "And I don't ever-ever want to get to the point where I don't come and play the Opry, where I feel like I'm too good to play the Opry. Mr. Acuff said that I would do that. He said, 'You'll get so big you'll do like al lthe rest of them.' And I said, "You don't know me. You just watch me and see, I'm not made that way. I didn't join the Opry for that.'" After that, each time Ricky would come back and play the Opry and Roy was there, Ricky would always make it a point of going to Roy's dressing room and telling him he was there. Except for a few bumps here and there, Ricky has stayed true to his word and has supported the Opry.

May 5, 1991: Travis Tritt made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. It is just a rumor that this was his last Opry appearance. Travis would eventually join the Opry, becoming a member on February 29, 1992.

May 1, 1993: Charley Pride joins the cast of the Opry. This will mark his 19th year as an Opry member, although he first appeared on the Opry in the late 1960s. He had been asked many times through the years to become an Opry member, but had always declined due to his heavy schedule. Finally in 1993, he accepted.

May 11, 1996: Steve Wariner becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 16th year as an Opry member.

May 21, 2006: Grand Ole Opry member Billy Walker was killed in a crash while returning to Nashville from a show in Alabama. He was 76. also killed in the crash was his wife Bettie and two members of his band. Billy joined the Opry in 1960.

May 19, 2007: Porter Wagoner celebrates his 50th anniversary as a member of the Opry. He was joined by Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart and Buck Trent on the Opry stage that night during the one hour GAC telecast. Porter would pass away shortly after and this was the last time that Porter and Dolly performed together on the Opry stage.

May 10, 2008: Carrie Underwood joins the Opry. She will be back at the Opry next weekend to celebrate her new album release, along with her 4th anniversary as an Opry member. Even with her career as big as it is, Carrie has managed to appear at the Opry several times each year, which is more than many of the Opry's other contemporary members.

May 30, 2009: Comedian and expert banjo player Steve Martin makes his first appearance at the Opry. Martin led the band in the great Flatt & Scruggs classic, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Appearing with Steve that night were Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Stuart Duncan, Tim O'Brien and John McEuen.

May 1, 2010: The Grand Ole Opry House sustained major damage as the Cumberland River spills over its banks after heavy rain in Nashville. The Opry would be unable to return to the Opry House until September and would spend the summer months at various locations around Nashville including the Ryman Auditorium, Two Rivers Baptist Church and War Memorial Auditorium.