Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grand Ole Opry To Celebrate it's Most Loyal Fan Saturday June 16

(from the Grand Ole Opry)
There are loyal fans, and then there are loyal fans.
The Grand Ole Opry will recognize its undisputed most loyal fan, Nashville's Paul Eckhart, this Saturday June 16. Eckhart will mark 40 years without having missed a single weekend of Opry performances, and the Opry plans to celebrate during the show by honoring him with its first ever Opry Fan Award along with other surprises when he and his family enjoy performances from the Opry's front row.

Eckhart began his Opry streak the day he and his family moved from Northeastern Pennsylvania to Nashville, visiting the Opry the night before his family had even unpacked. Paul credits the Opry not with just years of entertainment but with also having played a pivotal role in his happy marriage. For nearly as many years as he's been spending his weekends at the show that made country music famous, his wife has headed in a different direction to play bingo.

"Of course there have been some true standout moments over the past 40 years," Eckhart says, "but every Opry show has been special, each one has been different, and every single one of them has been entertaining. I can't imagine spending my weekends anywhere else other than the Grand Ole Opry."

"Paul is family," said Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher. "Like so many other Opry fans, he's built an amazing connection with the show and with the artists on the Opry stage. None of use can imagine looking out on a weekend Opry performance and not seeing Paul in the crowd. We hope to make this Saturday night's show his most memorable yet."

What a nice thing for the Opry to do. I have met Paul several times as I was first introduced to him by someone who follows this blog and I have known for several years (if he wishes to step forward, he certainly can). Each time I go to the Opry, I walk down to his seat in the front row of section 5 and just say hi.

Congratulations to Paul and I hope that this is the first in something that the Opry will do more often.


  1. When the Opry does something RIGHT, it should be praised. And this is right.

  2. Hey Byron. I guess I will have to step forward....I am the one whom you are talking about who introduced you to my close friend, Paul Eckhart. Paul doesn't have a computer, so I will thank you for the above posting on his behalf.

    Pete Fisher and his staff have really went above and beyond on this one and have done some really nice things for Paul this week as well as thru the years since Pete become the Opry manager. Thanks to them!

    I am going down to the Opry Saturday night to be with Paul on this special night for him. I met Paul around 20 years ago when I sat next to him on a Friday night at the Opry and struck up a conversation with him during a commercial. I am glad I did that!

    Ever since, I have become like family to him and he to me. I have enjoyed his stories about attending shows at the country music parks in Pennslyvania during the 50s and 60s and the stories about the Opry people he has met and come to know (particularly the stories regarding being around Hank Snow, who Paul thru Kayton Roberts got to know in the 1980s and 90s in a way that most fans never get the opportunity to know a star, particularly this one, who could be difficult to know).

    I have also had the pleasure and unbeliveable experience of accompanying Paul backstage at the Opry numerous times thru the years, and have sat next to him in his favorite seat, 5-BB-1 at the Opry House more times than I can count. He and his wife are truly exceptional people and it has been a pleasure knowing them all these years.

    Paul starting going to the Opry for at least one show each weekend back in June, 1972. He moved to Nashville at that time primarily for one reason, to be where the Opry was. He had traveled to the Opry several times from Pennslyvania before that, and had listened to the Opry on the radio regularly since he was a boy.

    As the press release says, he went to Opry immediately upon arrival in Nashville. He started attending Friday nights every weekend because the Friday night show was the longest show of the weekend, three and a half hours. Some time in, after the Opry moved to Opryland, the ladies at the ticket office realized he was going each week, and recommended he just establish a standing order for the same seat.

    After the Friday night show was shortened a few years back, he started going each Saturday night instead. But through the years, when he went on Fridays, he also went to a lot of additional shows on Saturdays, so he figures he might have attended around 2500 shows all together to date.

    Looking forward to a few more years enjoying the Opry with my friend, Paul-- Lindy from Indiana.

  3. Lindy, thanks so much for the very kind comments and your great works about Paul. And thanks for filling in the "rest of the story." I know over the years you have told me what a fine person he was.

    It is so great that the Opry is doing this on Saturday night for him and I hope they really turn it into something special. I am glad you are going to go down for the show. I, on the other hand, will be listening.

  4. What a very cool story ... approximately 2500 shows Paul has attended? That is true love for a genre of music & the wonderful stage that brings it to us.

    I will also be listening as the Opry honor's Paul. Thank you Grand Ole Opry ... what a great thing to do for a country music/Grand Ole Opry fan!!!

    And thank you Paul for your continued support of the music & stage we all love ... though I did laugh at how your wife goes to play bingo instead!! Hilarious!!


  5. I'm just wondering.Has there been anybody who goes to the Opry evey weekend for 45-50 years.Or more then 50? Is there anybody who keeps track of that kind of a record.

  6. The best news to me is that the presentation didn't replace any music.

    Well done < this time :) >, Pete Fisher.

  7. This was a very nice and well done presentation and it was nice to here Mr. Fisher unprogramed for a change. I was surprised they did not bring Paul on stage and had to laugh at the comment Jimmy Dickens made when Fisher said "I belive this is the first time I have had to look up to you" after he had gone down into the audience to talk to Paul. For those that didn't hear, Jimmy said "maybe that's the way it's supposed to be".

    Congratulations to Paul and thanks to Pete Fisher and the Opry for a job well done.

    I hate to find something negetive to say here, but, it would be nice to see Opry members get similar treatment for thier dedication to the Opry. I know it happens but not as much as it should or could. I'm not taking anything away from tonights event, Paul deserved it.

    Knightsville, IN

  8. I posted a thank you on the Opry's Facebook page last night for honoring Paul. This was a very well done presentation by the Opry & Pete Fisher.

    A permanent name plate, the Opry fan award much like the Opry membership award & free Opry tickets for a year!! Wow! How great for Paul & his wife & the Opry!!

    And yes I did hear the exchange between Pete & Little Jimmy Dickens ... LOVED Little Jim's reply to Pete - so funny & so true!!!

    Thanks again Grand Ole Opry and enjoy the next year of Opry shows, Paul!!!


  9. Hi everyone Nice to see the kind words from you all regarding Paul. I'm back from the Opry last night.

    Obviously, it was a memorable night for Paul and my thanks to Pete Fisher and his staff. They really pulled out all the stops and to give Paul his seat for a year really was a shocker.

    To fill in some of the gaps:
    Paul knew nothing about what they were going to do, they didn't tell him anything up until the presentation happened. Then,I think the presentation ended up lasting more than 6 minutes.

    The award is a wooden plate with a stand and as Pete Fisher said is from wood from the flooded pews at the Opry House. It was very tastefully done. It was a nice thought to use the wood from the Opry House @ Opryland as that is where most of the 40 years of shows Paul saw were watched from.

    Pete Fisher had jotted down some notes on a little piece of paper and was working off that during the presentation and I think that why it came off so well, it obviously was in his words and (knowing how Pete Fisher has treated Paul as a friend thru the years) I have no doubt he defintely meant what he was saying too.

    It was nice too, of Jimmy Dickens to stay another half hour after his show to come out and hold the box with the gift for Paul's wife. That was a nice touch. By the way, when we got back to Paul's house after the show, Kitty opened it and it did indeed, have a deluxe bingo set in the box.

    To answer Jim above, they would have liked to have honored Paul on stage. Paul has had vertigo for around 6 years now and that affects his balance. Paul was afraid of falling on stage so that is why they did the honor from his seat. Pete Fisher did honor Paul on the stage for his 30th anniversary in 2002 and he was given a framed autographed print that evening.

    He was given a card too last night that touched him very much. It was signed by all the hosts and hostesses at the Opry which was a really nice gesture by them. Some of these ladies and gentlemen have been at the Opry for a long time and Paul considers many of them his friends. Many of them posed with Paul for pictures during the intermission and after the show.

    Finally, to answer Johny's question above, I'm pretty sure no one else has done or will do this again. It's amazing, doing at least one show each weekend for 40 years. Being able to be at the Opry every weekend for that long would be a dream to some of us, but just think, to be able to do that, he was unable to do anything else on Friday nights and then every Saturday night for 40 years. Also, you'd have to live in or near Nashville. And too, you couldn't take any vacations or business trips over 7 days as you would have to be in town each weekend for the Opry.

    Since Byron likes to do lineups, here are a few of the artists on Paul's favorite moment/show of the 40 years...the 75th Anniversary show-First Show...Saturday October 14,2000...Lorrie Morgan, Porter Wagoner, Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt, Jimmy Dickens, Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood, Loretta Lynn,Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, Ricky Van Shelton, Garth Brooks. Yep, that was my all time favorite show out of all the show I have seen in person too....


    1. Lindy,

      Thanks for the great first hand account. There is always more to the story than you can hear on the radio. Now I need to look at my notes and see if I noted Paul's 30th anniversary! Thanks for the remarks about Pete Fisher and his personal notes. It just seemed obvious to me that it was sincere as opposed to some of the dedications to members sometimes when he seems stiff and too business like. This was really a great and unique moment at the Opry.


    2. Looking at my notes, Paul was honored on June 28,2002 during Bill Anderson's portion. Bill presented him with two tickets to the 77th birthday show and two tickets to the Wild Horse as well as a poster signed by most of the cast.


  10. If only more of the Opry members had this kind of dedication to the show, I wouldn't be worried about it.