Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 6/8 & 6/9

Traditionally during the former Fan Fair, the Grand Ole Opry offered some of the strongest line-ups of the year as most of the stars were in town to meet and greet their fans. But now with the festival being called the CMT Music Fest and with most of the major shows on the weekend, the Opry doesn't get the star power like it used to do. Back in the Fan Fair days, there would be 2 Friday night shows, a Saturday matinee, 2 Saturday night shows and a Sunday matinee. Now we are left with 1 show on Friday and Saturday night and a Saturday matinee show at the Ryman Auditorium.

In looking at the schedule for this weekend, Friday night seems the stronger of the 2 nights with veteran Opry members Mel Tillis, Charley Pride and Larry Gatlin heading the show. The only non-Opry member scheduled is Lauren Alaina. The Saturday matinee show features Wynonna, along with Kellie Pickler and Larry Gatlin, while the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will again feature  veterans Mel Tillis and Charley Pride, along with non-member Sarah Darling, who seems to be making a lot of appearances on the Opry of late. Also scheduled on Saturday night is Jan Howard, who has just returned from doing a series of concerts in Norway. The still love the traditional country music over there.

Friday June 8
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jeannie Seely; George Hamilton IV
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Mel Tillis
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard; Lauren Alaina
8:45: Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers (host); John Conlee; Charley Pride

Saturday June 9-Matinee
3:00: Jimmy Dickens; Wade Bowen
3:30: Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
4:00: Jim Ed Brown; Kellie Pickler
4:30: Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers; Wynonna

Saturday June 9
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Sarah Darling
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); The Whites; Mel Tillis
8:15: Mike Snider (host); Jan Howard; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Charley Pride

Sometimes I wonder about the booking and show line-ups at the Opry. (I think we all do at time). With Mel Tillis, Charley Pride and John Conlee on the Friday show, why is Mike Snider hosting a segment? I know Mike usually does, but there is some star power and Hall of Famers on the show who have experience hosting segments. Same on Saturday night. Mike again is hosting, and you have Mel and Charley again that could have hosted. One the good side this weekend, it is nice to see that the majority of those performing on Friday and Saturday night are actually Opry members. Good to see.

Speaking of Mel, he will be pretty busy over the weekend as in addition to the Opry shows, he will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree on Saturday night/Sunday morning. That should be a great show.

Finally, here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry on June 12:

7:00: Jim Ed Brown; Aaron Tippin
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Craig Morgan
8:15: Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Charlie Daniels Band; Luke Bryan

That is the 2nd week in a row with just 7 artists on the show. Wonder if this is the way they are going to go with the Tuesday night show. With Gaylord always looking at the bottom line, they might figure that 7 pays less than 8 and they can make a few more dollars on the show. The future will tell.

It should be a great weekend in Nashville and at the Opry and let's hope in the festivities and shows downtown that the fans do not forget about the Opry and head out to support the show and have a great experience.


  1. It's a sad fact that the CMA Fest (since the marketers decided Fan Fan was too rural of a name) which was STARTED and sponsored so many years by the Opry has now become the monster that ate the Opry. The Opry is completely irrelevant to the CMA Fest audience and I'm afraid it's pretty much become irrelevant to the so called "country music" artists who flock to the CMT awards so they can play with rock and pop stars. I always wanted to go to FanFair and finally made it in 2001... even then it was a joke... an autograph hall filled with no name artists... barely a recognizable name any where around to interact with the fans... and one other thing that just really burns me up... the Hall of Fame has become so high brow with their autograph signings, it's MANDATORY that only items be signed that are purchased in their store, most of the time they allow NO photos and the stars that still do "meet and greets" a lot of times can't be bothered with autographs at all! One last question -- any one heard anything about Jack Greene? About 10 years ago I worked a show with him and he appeared to be having some very serious memory issues that seem to have gotten worse as the years have gone on.

    1. I never was much for the large crowd at Fan Fair but for about four years in the early 2000’s I attended the Golden Voice Awards for the Performers Benefit Fund. Billy Walker’s wife Bettie put all but the last of these shows together. Bettie was able to get many artists and musicians to attend who had mostly retired or seldom came to Nashville anymore. The event gave the fans a chance to set and have brunch with the artists and get autographs and photos. It also proved to the artist and musicians that they had not been forgotten.

      I had some occasional communication with Bettie and she even did an interview with my brother on his radio show to promote the event. So, I know it was a lot of hard work for her and others but as a fan it was sure worth it to me and she knew that. We met Goldie Hill and Sonny James among others we would have never met. I wish there was still some focus on the older artist such as this event. As far as I know there is not unless maybe Marty’s Jam counts.

      Sorry if I am off subject here but I have a side note to the GVA. At the first one I attended I gave Billy and Bettie a portrait of Billy and ET. Bettie saw it that day but Billy did not. In a few days I got a call at home while I was at work. Billy insisted that he talk to me and got my work number and called there to thank me. I hear that he was quite a rounder in his early days but in the later years he seemed to be a kind person interested in helping his fellow man. He and Bettie were a nice couple and my brother and I both were in shock when we heard the news that Sunday in May 2006! He was on the air and I happened to be with him. He played several Billy Walker songs and the next week he did a tribute to Billy that we put together. Nice memories!

      Thanks for letting me share some personal notes with everyone.

      Knightsville, IN

  2. I have no inside information regarding Jack Greene.
    I saw him sing roughly a year ago at the 'Opry. He was pointed to the microphone. When he was done singing (and got a standing ovation, as I recall)a nice lady grabbed him by the hand and lead him away. He looked lost.
    The amazing thing to me was that his vocal performance was totally awesome. How a guy in that condition could pull that off was dumbfounding.
    I'm afraid he just can't do it anymore, which breaks my heart.
    On another note, I'm listening to WSM online, Gene Watson live. Hats off to WSM. They have not yet been eaten by today's "country music" machine.

  3. I have had the sense, seeing photos, that Jack Greene was having vision problems--he looked like he had some trouble focusing. But I don't know.

    I am going to say something in possible defense of Pete Fisher, which means the apocalypse is nigh. I have heard of some Opry performers who aren't that thrilled with hosting the segment, and I've had the impression that Charley Pride may be one of them. He has hosted, but he doesn't seem entirely comfortable. In Mel's case ... we might joke about the segment running over?

  4. Fred in Bismarck here:

    Granted that Mel and Charley are bigger names, and John Conlee may have been bigger at one time. But who makes a more genial and entertaining host than Mike Snider? I think those duties should not be based on star power but go to those who are most comfortable with them and have the knack.

    I recall the story about Bob Luman, who was upbraided by some backstage management type as he hastily tried to recruit some extra musicians to take onstage with him. The issue with the management guy was, of course, expense.

    "Listen," Luman said. "Do you want me to wake up these 'billies [meaning the audience] or not?"

    He got his extra musicians.

  5. Great comments by all. I will say that I have seen Charley Pride host some segments on my visits to the Opry and he will usually do his opening song and turn it over to whoever is announcing and let them take it from there. Very little small talk with the audience. Also when he does his final number, he will usually head off stage before the curtain goes down.

    As far as Jack Greene, he has not been on the Opry this year. His last appearance in December, for those who listened, was not one of his best. My own observation is that he was having some problems remembering the words to his song. And yes, he does have vision problems and had to be led on and off the stage. But his voice still sounded great.

    While Mike Snider does do a good job hosting and relates well to the audience, I have not cared much for some of his humor lately. His attempt at a joke at the expense of Bobby Osborne, Jr. several months back was close to a low point for him. And while we talk about Jimmy Dickens and some of his jokes pushing the edge, Mike has come a lot closer to the edge of the cliff than Jimmy has.

  6. Sometimes when you go back and look at Opry schedules, you find some interesting things. Last year during this same week of the CMA Music Fest, Carrie Underwood and the Oak Ridge Boys did the Tuesday night Opry, as they did this year. Same with Carrie Underwood the year before. It is starting to look like the Tuesday Night Opry right before the start of the Music Fest, might be becoming an unofficial starting event, as with Marty Stuart's Late Night Jam on Wednesday night,

    As far as the Opry this weekend, when looking back on last year's shows the same weekend during the CMA Music Fest, Mel Tillis and Charley pride were both at the Opry, same as this year. Same with Lauren Alaina. Just interesting. Oh, and Mel and Charley both hosted segments in last year's shows.

  7. I notice that George Hamilton IV is getting a well deserved big honor tommorro nite - June 9, 2012.

    Induction Into Blue Ridge Music Hall Of Fame Wilksesboro NC at


  8. <<< I recall the story about Bob Luman, who was upbraided by some backstage management type as he hastily tried to recruit some extra musicians to take onstage with him. The issue with the management guy was, of course, expense.
    "Listen," Luman said. "Do you want me to wake up these 'billies [meaning the audience] or not?" >>>>

    I remember that like it was yesterday. The song was "Guitar Man," and Luman would walk around and ask everybody (anybody) with a guitar to plug in. It did indeed wake us 'billies up.
    He did some sort of semi-eefin'/yodelin'/scat thing that made the song even better. Great memories. Thanks!

  9. That story appeared in Paul Hemphill's book, The Nashville Sound, as I recall, along with the note that they tried to play up that Mr. Acuff wasn't thrilled with Luman. There's also a clip of Luman on You Tube at He's doing "Guitar Man" with a harmonica player ... Jimmy Riddle, as in one of the longest-tenured Smoky Mountain Boys.

  10. Fred here:

    Thanks for the youtube ref., Michael ... just caught Luman with Riddle and loved it.

    Right you are about my source for the Luman story. Yikes, that book is more than 40 years old now, and the contemporary scene it captured so well has "melted and vanished away," to quote a lyric by one of our favorites.

  11. I have read all comments with interest. Starting in 1993 & for 8 straight years, I attended Fan Fair. The very last time I attended was the first year the name & move downtown took place, 2001. Didn't care for the chaotic mess & never went back but every year at this time I am in Fan Fair withdrawal & this year is no different so I'm on various websites reading everything I can on who was on what stage & all that good stuff. We sat in the grandstands in 100 degree heat & humidity but we had all that wonderful music to listen to. At the fairgrounds, everything necessary was there & a free lunch was served for two of the days & we also received one free day at the Opryland Themepark, that is where I received my autograph from Mike Snider.

    Back then Tues. & Wed. nights concerts for the Opry Trust Fund were held at the Opry House. Both nights the concerts went until 2am when Jack Greene was the last to perform. Now they have the Tuesday Night Opry show like any other Tuesday night Opry show. There was so much music to go see & listen to back then that it was dizzying - did we stay at Fan Fair to hear Ricky Van Shelton or did we head for the Opry House to listen to Marty Stuart? It was at the Opry Trust Fund concert that we were introduced to Tim McGraw for the first time when he came out with Indian Outlaw. We were also introduced to Kenny Chesney on the main stage that same week. Night time concerts saw Waylon, Alabama & George & Tammy, together, hitting the stages. But the good times are over for good & that is too bad. There is no going back on this & scaling it back to the fairgrounds & 25K people - they are getting 65K downtown & making all sorts of money.

    While I agree with Byron, this week's Opry line-up is not nearly as strong as yesteryear Opry line-up. When I attended, the Fan Fair concerts started on Tuesday morning & went thru Friday morning. So Fri./Sat. nights were open to attend the Opry & the line-ups were unbelievable & the House was packed both nights. With the concerts starting Thurs night & not ending until Sunday, I would think that Opry management knows that close to 65K will be sitting in LP Field seats for the night time concerts & they will schedule just one Opry show each night.

    As far as Little Jimmy Dickens & Mike Snider's humor on the Opry - the two of them sure are very close to the edge of the cliff & one of these days one of them is gonna jump. I just wonder why Mike never talks about his wife, Sweetie anymore. He used to tell a lot of jokes about things she did & said & at times that is what got a bit edgy but it was so funny but he hasn't mentioned her or their kids in a long while now.

    Happy Fan Fair week-end everyone - it's all about the wonderful music! Hopefully next year I will get to Nashville to sit in the Ryman for the Marty Stuart Late Night Jam ... now the question is - how do I stay away from the Fan Fair concerts going on? :-)


  12. Well, I haven't butted in here for a while but I'll add some random thoughts to the always interesting conversation here! First off, I do know something of Jack Greene's health and all I can really say is that it's not the best. Still, I can only hope that my voice is still half as strong as his has been when and if I get to be 80!

    I watched the Bob Luman clip and if you pay attention you can also spot Spider Wilson, Jerry Whitehurst, Joe Edwards, Jimmy Capps, Weldon Myrick and Hal Rugg among the musicians playing (and wandering) onstage. You can also spot some of the square dancers sitting in chairs at stage right. In addition to being a great musical performance this clip really shows just how small and crowded the Ryman stage was on a Saturday night! I never got to see Bob Luman perform live but I did hear him on the Opry a lot in the late 70's and it always seemed like he and everybody with him on the stage was always having an absolute blast! Years after his passing, his home out on Old Hickory Lake (on the road to Johnny Cash's house) was still an attraction for the tour busses.

    Regarding Charley Pride: I agree with Fred and Byron that he probably isn't especially comfortable with hosting duties. Years ago I had the opportunity to work with his show from time to time and got to see him quite a bit off stage as well as on. And while I always found him to be a very friendly man he also struck me as rather introverted....he never did talk a lot between songs and when he did it always seemed like he was a bit uncomfortable about it. Never told jokes or did any comedy with the band. Just hit the stage singing and just pounded out hit after hit for an hour or more which was what his audience wanted. I think a good Opry host (or any host for that matter) needs to be able to "stretch" when necessary. Porter Wagoner, Archie Campbell and Bill Anderson are all people who were blessed with that ability to improvise and talk off the cuff. Bob Luman was another one who could take nothing stretch it out for as long as it took.

  13. Barry, first, great point about the Bob Luman clip. That is how the Ryman looked and, frankly, the way most of us think about the Opry. That wouldn't have to continue at the "new" building, but I think of the times on the TV portion I saw Debbie Logue, Hal Durham's assistant, on the bench by the announcer's stand and someone would be sitting with her, or people would wander behind the bandstand. My favorite is on one of the PBS Opry telecasts in the late 1970s. Ernest Tubb was starting his segment and started turning and looking behind him. The camera pulled back and you could see Roy Acuff creeping onstage. He said, low, "I forgot my fiddle," and took it off of a music stand. ET nodded and continued singing.

    About Jack Greene's voice: whatever his problems are, they aren't with his lungs!

    Now to hosting, which is an interesting topic to me. My mother adored Jimmy C. Newman and complained in letters to Hal Durham that he didn't host enough. I won't deny he wasn't one of the top hosts, partly because he thinks in Cajun French and then speaks English--there's a second spent on translation. Others might not have been ideal hosts but their status entitled them to it: Bill Monroe would be the classic example. When TNN started televising, I noticed that three members would host a bit more often than the others: Porter, Bill, and Jim Ed. And I realized, they were the three with the most experience hosting their own TV shows. Today, Mike Snider doesn't have the TV experience but he has something else that Archie Campbell and Jerry Clower had: since he does a lot of jokes, he can cut off more easily than if he was in the middle of a song.

  14. I think one of the reasons Mike makes a good host, although I personally wish he wasn't used so much, is that he does a nice job introducing the artists on his segment and does not overshadow them. He also is good from a time standpoint. If the segment is running long, he will skip his final song and get off stage. Not a lot of the hosts will do that. I would have a very hard time remembering the last time Jimmy Dickens or Bill Anderson ever skipped their final number. Heck, I don't ever remembering them cutting it short.

    Mike also does a nice job interacting with the audience. I have seen so many of the hosts act like the audience is not there once they go to a commercial break.

    But regarding hosts, the Opry seems to have a pretty short list on who does host segments. So far this year, the list is as follows:

    Mike Snider-36
    Bill Anderson-33
    Jimmy Dickens-33
    Jeannie Seely-24
    Jim Ed Brown-17
    John Conlee-13
    Riders In The Sky-11
    Ricky Skaggs-11
    Vince Gill-6
    Marty Stuart-4
    Larry Gatlin-3
    Ray Pillow-2
    Mel Tillis-2
    Jean Shepard-2
    George Hamilton IV-2
    Emmylou Harris-1
    Steve Wariner-1
    Charley Pride-1
    The Whites-1

    Obviously, after you get past the top 9, folks such as The Whites, George Hamilton IV and Ray Pillow are only used when there is no one else available. Heck, we have seen the Opry a few times have someone host 2 segments in a row because they have felt there was no one else qualified to handle the hosting duties.

    As far as Bill Monroe, it was years before he was hosting segments on a regular basis. I even think management knew he wasn't really good. I also know that Grandpa Jones and Jimmy Dickens had to wait for a time before they were hosting segments also. One of the better hosts was Hank Snow. In listening to old Opry tapes, he really did a nice job. But I think he used the phrase, "and now friends and neighbors, here for your entertainment" in just about every introduction that he did.

    And Mike, I remember the Roy Acuff/Ernest Tubb thing. Classic.

  15. The numbers are interesting--of course, if Jimmy Dickens hadn't been out for a bit, he would have led the pack. I remember that he didn't host much until he went into the Hall of Fame and, even then, if a Hall of Famer wasn't hosting a segment, it was The Potato or Grandpa. Mr. Acuff and Mr. Snow ALWAYS hosted. I remember one night Mr. Monroe was coming back from an appearance and they didn't know if he'd make it, so he was on with Hank Snow, who commented that it had been a long time since he had introduced him. Mr. Snow RAN his segment; Mr. Acuff just did what he wanted, pretty much, including the night then-Vice President George Bush was on and he changed the order of the show because, well, he felt like it!

    As for his hosting, Mr. Monroe's way of introducing the commercial was to give a big nod toward the announcer, except for one night when he said, "Now it's time for the commercial," which was a major achievement for him. Then there's the story I read about ET asking Marty Robbins why the Midnight Jamboree always started so late and Marty replying, "Hank Snow keeps running over at 11."

  16. Thanks so much for the Bob Luman Youtube video. It's great that somebody took the time to put it up for all of us to see.
    The song was exactly as I remembered it, and pretty much like I described it above (which is rare these days).
    It had ENERGY. Who provides the 'Opry energy today?

    Eddie Stubbs: "Country Music. Admit it, you miss it!"

  17. Nat, last night, having spent a full day at the computer--mostly working, sometimes coming here and to other sides--I put on the TV and clicked the remote. I came upon "Noteworthy at the Opry," on GAC. I wondered who half the people were, and what any of it had to do with the Opry. Well, that's GAC. But the truth is, I think part of the problem is this: the people now running the Opry were not raised in and with the culture of the Opry. Change is fine. Change that destroys everything in its wake is not.

  18. Mike, I agree with your comments about the GAC Opry show. Very little Opry at all. It is certainly not something I am going to be watching much of. It makes you wonder if this is the best we can get from GAC and the Opry.

    Regarding Opry management, it was June 19, 1999 that Pete Fisher ran his first show as the Opry's new general manager. When it gets closer to the date, I will have some comments regarding Pete and I am going to try to post a recent interview that he did where he offers some extensive views on the Opry. I think it will make interesting reading.

  19. Michael;
    I had never thought about it quite that way, but I think you're on to something. I have to believe a lot of folks currently involved in the 'Orpy don't quite get what the 'Opry used to be. They loosely understand the tie-in with country music, but don't see its unique qualities.
    I will be attending Tuesday night's show, and I'll bet all of my concerns go away when the curtain rises and I hear the first notes of the Grand Old 'Opry.

  20. Changes for the Tuesday Night Opry. Jimmy Dickens and Charlie Daniels are out and have been replaced by Jeannie Seely and Dierks Bentley. I know Jimmy sounded weak last weekend, especially by the time we got to Saturday night. Hopefully it is just a case of resting his voice.