Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August Opry Highlights

As I do each month, here are the important and historical highlights from the history of the Grand Ole Opry that took place during the month of August.

August 22, 1910: Country Music Hall of Fame member and late Opry member Rod Brasfield was born in Smithville, Mississippi. Rod was famous for his comedy routines with Minnie Pearl that were featured on the Prince Albert Opry shows for many years. Rod also appeared in several movies, the most famous being "A Face in the Crowd" with Andy Griffith. Rod led a difficult life that ended way too soon, as he passed away from a heart attack on September 15, 1958. He had joined the Opry in 1947.

August 30, 1919: Muriel Ellen Deason, better known as Kitty Wells, was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Kitty, along with her husband Johnny Wright, had been Opry members for several years beginning in the early 1950s until they left the show in December 1964 in a dispute over booking fees. While she left the cast of the Opry in 1964, she would still continue to make Opry appearances. Kitty passed away earlier in July.

August 8, 1921: Former Opry member Webb Pierce was born in West Monroe, Louisiana. He first appeared on the Opry in 1952, but he quickly figured out he could make more money by not being an Opry member, so he left the show and proceeded to have a great career in country music. As to the reasons for leaving the Opry, Webb was quoted as saying, "You had to be there every Saturday night, and that was too much, because, you see, most of our money, we made it on Saturday night. Of course, we'd be on a tour and then we'd have to turn around at the end of the week and be back at the Opry. I don't care if you was in Podunk, Canada!" Of all the great stars of the 1950s, Webb had the greatest chart success, but he made a lot of enemies along the way. Several of those enemies said that they would never vote Webb into the Country Music Hall of Fame while he was alive, and they were true to their word. Finally in 2001, after his death, he was elected to the Hall as part of the mass induction that year. Webb was also famous for having a guitar shaped swimming pool at his home, that resulted in a famous feud with Ray Stevens, his neighbor. On a side note, Webb's house is now owned by Colin Reed, the chief executive officer of Gaylord Entertainment. And yes, the guitar shaped pool is still there.

August 28, 1925: Billy Grammer was born in Benton, Illinois. Billy joined the Opry in 1959 and remained an Opry member until his death in August 2011.

August 12, 1927: Porter Wagoner was born in West Plains, Missouri. Porter would come to the Opry from the Ozark Jubilee, joining the show in 1957. He would remain an Opry member until his death on October 28, 2007, shortly after celebrating 50 years as an Opry member. During his career, this member of the Country Music Hall of Fame had over 80 singles on the country charts. He was also famous for his duets with Norma Jean and Dolly Parton. He is also remembered for inviting James Brown to appear on the Opry.

August 27, 1927: Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy C Newman was born in High Point, Louisiana. Hard to believe that Jimmy C will be 85 years old this year and still sounds great on the Opry.

August 4, 1931: Former Grand Ole Opry manager Hal Durham was born in McMinnville, Tennessee. After the Opry moved to Opryland and the new Opry House, Bud Wendall was promoted to general manager of both Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry, and he asked Hal to take over as the Opry's manager. In 1978, he was promoted to the position of general manager of the Opry and he held that position for 15 years. While many people want to blame Pete Fisher for the fact that many of the Opry's members make few appearances on the show, it was actually Hal who was responsible for relaxing the membership requirements. He was also the one who invited many of the stars of the 1980s and early 90s to join the show, including Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, The Whites and Riders In The Sky, among many others. He left the Opry in 1993 and was the President of the Opry Group until 1996, when he retired. He died in March 2009. In many ways, it was Hal who started the Opry down the path that led to the position that the Opry is in today.

August 20, 1935: Justin Tubb was born in San Antonio, Texas. Justin would follow in his father's footsteps and become a successful country music artist and songwriter. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 at the age of 20, and remained an Opry member until his death on January 24, 1998.

August 14, 1941: Constance June Meador, otherwise known as Connie Smith, was born in Elkhart, Indiana. Connie has been recognized for having one of the greatest female voices in the history of country music and has been an Opry member for many years. Earlier this year, she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

August 7, 1942: Former Opry member B.J. Thomas was born in Hugo, Oklahoma. He joined the Grand Ole Opry on his 39th birthday, August 7, 1981. His stay at the Opry was very short, so short in fact that he is rarely remembered as an Opry member. He still performs on the Opry from time to time.

August 11, 1946: Grand Ole Opry member John Conlee was born in Versallies, Kentucky. John would come to Nashville and join the Opry in February 1981. He is a former funeral director and has one of the most distinctive voices in country music.

August 11, 1952: Hank Williams was fired as a member of the Opry. Jim Denny, the Opry's manager, made the call to Hank, with Ernest Tubb in the room with him. Hank always hoped to make it back to the Opry, but it never happened.

August 14, 1954: Ernest Tubb took a leave of absence, which lasted until November, from the Opry. Even though he was on "sick leave", he did continue to host the Midnight Jamboree. It was also during this period that Ernest brought Elvis Presley to the Jamboree.

August 28, 1954: Grand Ole Opry member Stringbean left the cast of the Opry to join the cast of the Ramblin' Tommy Scott Show. Stringbean would eventually rejoin the Opry and would remain a member of the show until his death in November 1973.

August 4, 1956: Jimmy C Newman joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 56th year as an Opry member and he is the 2nd longest consecutively-tenured member of the Opry's cast, one year behind Jean Shepard.

August 11, 1956: George Jones first joined the Grand Ole Opry. George and his history with the Opry is very interesting. See if you can follow these dates. The August 11, 1956 date is listed in the current Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book. Prior to this edition, his Opry induction date was listed as January 4, 1969. In the 1979 edition of the book, he is listed as having returned to the Opry in 1973 after a short absence. In the 1972 edition of the book, he is not mentioned at all. Not that it all matters as George rarely appears on the Opry. But if you go by the 1956 date, this will be his 56th year as an Opry member. Thinking back, I do not remember the Opry ever honoring him for 50 years of Opry membership.

August 22, 1957: Former Grand Ole Opry member Holly Dunn was born in San Antonio, Texas. Holly retired from the music business in 2003 and moved to New Mexico to operate an art studio. After leaving Nashville, she was dropped as an Opry member.

August 4, 1959: Skeeter Davis joined the cast of the Opry. With the exception of a short period of time when she was suspended from the show, Skeeter would remain an Opry member until her death on September 19, 2004. Skeeter was known for her colorful skirts and bursts of energy while doing the Opry. She last appeared on the show in 2002, when illness no longer made it possible for her to perform.

August 12, 1963: Jim Ed Brown joined the Grand Ole Opry. Actually it was The Browns, which included Jim Ed and his sisters Maxine and Bonnie. After his sisters retired from performing, Jim Ed would continue as a very successful solo artist and there were times when The Browns would get back together and perform on the show. Jim has had a great career in country music and has been one of the few performers that has had success as a solo artist, as part of a group, and as part of a duet with Helen Cornelius. The Browns have been finalists for the Country Music Hall of Fame the last several years and deserve induction. This will be Jim Ed's 49th year as an Opry member.

August 23, 1963: Former Opry member Milton Estes died. He was 49 years old.

August 27, 1963: Former Opry manager Jim Denny died from cancer at the age of 52. In 1966 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Jim Denny was the first WSM employee who was specifically assigned the job of Opry manager. When he started at WSM, he would hang around the backstage area at the Ryman Auditorium and became friendly with many of the artists. He also ran the concession business. During his time at the Opry, he signed many of the major stars of country music to Opry membership. Along with Webb Pierce, he started Cedarwood Music Publishing and it was this business, and the success of it, that caused Jim to leave the Opry and WSM. When he left, many of the Opry's members joined him and his new artist bureau, favoring him over the one operated by the Opry and WSM. If you believe the story, he was the Opry manager who told Elvis Presley after his only Opry appearance, to go back driving a truck and he was also involved in a long feud with Ernest Tubb.

August 8, 1964: The Osborne Brothers joined the Grand Ole Opry. Bobby and Sonny would remain a duo until Sonny retired in 2005. Bobby continues as an Opry member, with his group the Rocky Top X-Press. The Osborne Brothers are still listed as Opry members and this year will be their 48th as Opry members. While Bobby is still active, Sonny is involved with teaching banjo at camps around the Nashville area for students.

August 14, 1965: Bobby Bare joined the Grand Ole Opry. Bobby would remain an Opry member for a number of years, before he would leave the show. Bobby did not totally break his Opry ties and would appear on the show from time to time. Bobby's contributions to country music are often overlooked and he deserves election to the Hall of Fame.

August 17, 1967: Charlie Walker joined the Grand Ole Opry. Charlie would remain an Opry member until his death in September 2008. I had the opportunity to meet Charlie back in the 1990s, and I can tell you what a fine gentleman he was and a pleasure to visit with. He started out as a DJ in Texas and even after he became a big star, he always remembered his radio fans. In addition to being a fine singer, rumor has it that he was a good golfer. He was elected to the Country Music Radio DJ Hall of Fame in 1981.

August 5, 1968: Grand Ole Opry member Terri Clark was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. As a Canadian, she would join Hank Snow and Stu Phillips as Opry members who came from up North.

August 21, 1975: Former Opry member Sam McGee died in a tractor accident on his farm in Tennessee. He was 81 and still worked his farm. Along with his brother Kirk, he first performed on the Opry in 1926. During his time on the show, he would appear with several different groups, including the "Dixieliners." Sam was also the first Opry member to use an electric guitar at the show, after which George D Hay politely told him to put it away and not bring it back.

August 14, 1982: Ernest Tubb made his final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He was suffering from emphysema and that made it too difficult for him to tour or to make public appearances. He also gave up hosting the Midnight Jamboree, turning those duties over to his son Justin. He would spend his final years at his home and would pass away on September 6, 1984. His influence in country music is still felt to this day.

August 22, 1987: Roy Clark joined the Grand Ole Opry. I know that since Roy joined the show, he has not made many Opry appearances, usually only several per year. But in the case of Roy, he told Opry management that he was very busy with Hee Haw and his concert appearances, so he could not guarantee how often he could appear on the Opry. Even with that, the Opry still accepted Roy as a member. His honesty is appreciated which is more than can be said for a few others who have joined the show and this will be his 25th year as an Opry member. Let's see if the Opry does anything special for this milestone.

August 29, 1987: Former Opry member Archie Campbell died in Knoxville, Tennessee from a heart attack after a period of declining health. Archie joined the Opry in 1958 and was also one of the main writers of Hee Haw. Archie made most of his Opry appearances during the winter months as he spent the summer performing at a theater in Gatlinburg. A strong case can be made that Archie deserves election to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

August 10, 1991: Vince Gill joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 21st year as an Opry member and over the years, he has been a strong supporter of the show. On the night he joined, Roy Acuff introduced him as a member. On a side note, when Vince was first asked to make a guest appearance at the Opry, he turned it down because he had promised to be at a school function with his daughter.

August 30, 1991: Opry member Dottie West was critically injured in a car accident on her way to the Friday Night Opry. On September 4th, she would pass away from her injuries.

August 24, 1998: Opry member Jerry Clower died in Jackson, Mississippi after heart surgery. He was 71 years old. He joined the Opry in November 1973 and was the last member to join the show while it was still at the Ryman Auditorium. Jerry was one of the greatest story tellers of all time and was also a deeply religious man.

August 26, 2000: Pam Tillis joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be her 12th year as an Opry member.

August 18, 2001: The Grand Ole Opry moved their televised portion of the show from TNN to CMT. The first show on CMT was highlighted by Vince Gill, who was celebrating 10 years as an Opry member. He hosted the show and was joined by Steve Wariner, Sonya Isaacs, Jimmy C Newman, Brad Paisley, Elizabeth Cook and Loretta Lynn.

August 10, 2002: During the televised portion of the Grand Ole Opry that night on CMT, the Dixie Chicks announced that Porter Wagoner and Bill Carlisle were the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. I always thought in watching that show that the Opry and the Hall of Fame did a great injustice to Porter and Bill by having the Dixie Chicks make the announcement. In Porter's case, he was long overdue. I know he had made some enemies during his career and many have speculated that was one of the reasons for the delayed induction. I also found it sad that Dolly Parton had been elected to the Hall before Porter. On a final note, if you ever get a chance to watch the video from that night, watch the expression on Porter's face during the announcement and right after it. I think he was thinking, "it's about time" and he looked like he would have rather been somewhere else. He also looked like he had a few things he wanted to say, but knew that was not the time or place.

August 23, 2003: Trace Adkins joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 9th year as a member. When he joined, Ronnie Milsap handled the induction.

Finally, it was in August 1948, that Jimmy Dickens first became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The exact date is lost to history. In 1957, after 9 years as an Opry member, Jimmy left the show. He accepted an offer to head a major road show sponsored by Philip Morris company, which was a rival to R.J. Reynolds, a long time Opry sponsor. R.J. Reynolds prohibited an Opry member from working with a competing company, so Jimmy left the Opry, although he said later, there were no hard feelings. Jimmy rejoined the Opry on February 8, 1975 and was introduced that night by Hank Snow. He was gone for 18 years. So while it is accurate to say that Jimmy first joined the Opry in 1948, he has not been an Opry member consecutively since 1948. Technically, he has been an Opry member for a total of 46 years, not the 64 years as is sometimes mentioned. Jean Shepard has been the Opry member with the longest tenure of the current staff, which will be 57 years in November. Right behind her is Jimmy C Newman with 56 years as an Opry member. As in the case of George Jones, it is important to be accurate in the telling of the Opry's history.

Hope you enjoy that look back.

Tuesday Night Opry 7/31 & Wednesday Night Opry 8/1

Here are the line-ups for the two mid-week Opry shows this week:

Tuesday July 31
7:00: Ricky Skaggs; Love and Theft
7:30: Jimmy Dickens; Lorrie Morgan
8:15: Bill Anderson; Del McCoury Band
8:45: Connie Smith; Marty Stuart

A nice line-up for the Tuesday Night show featuring 7 Opry members. And it is nice to see Lorrie Morgan and Marty Stuart at the Opry two weeks in a row.

Wednesday August 1
7:00: Jim Ed Brown; Josh Thompson
7:30: Connie Smith; Joey+Rory
8:15: Del McCoury Band; Darryl Worley
8:45: Aaron Tippin

Not as strong as Tuesday night, but still a good looking show.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 7/27 & 7/28

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the 2 shows this weekend. As usual, there is 1 show on Friday night and the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. As I am sure most are aware of, the Friday Night Opry will feature the Opry debut of Barry Gibb. That should be interesting. Perhaps he will sing, "Staying Alive." As previously noted, he would not be the first non-country performer to be at the Opry. The list includes James Brown, The Pointer Sisters, Perry Como among others. I actually think that the Opry should include non-country acts from time-to-time, but not at the expense of the Opry's members.

In addition to Barry Gibb, the Friday night Opry will feature non-members Darryl Worley, James Otto and Dailey & Vincent, all of whom have appeared on the Opry many times. The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will include guest artists Elizabeth Cook and Rhonda Vincent, along with Jimmy Wayne, who will be appearing both nights. For Jimmy, these will be his 8th and 9th Opry appearances of the year, which is more times on the Opry than 45 of their members.

Friday July 27
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; James Otto
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: John Conlee (host); Jimmy Wayne; Darryl Worley
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Barry Gibb

Saturday July 28
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Mallary Hope; Rhonda Vincent
7:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Troy Cassar-Daley; Connie Smith
8:15: Jimmy C Newman (host); Jan Howard; Elizabeth Cook; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: The Whites (host); Jean Shepard; Jimmy Wayne

That is not a misprint!! Jimmy C Newman will be hosting a segment of the Opry on Saturday night. Jimmy at one time was a regular host, but in the last several years, he has not hosted a segment. In fact, according to what I have, his last hosting assignment was Friday May 14, 2010. I do find it interesting that Pete Fisher is going with Jimmy C and The Whites as segment hosts over Jean Shepard. Either way, I am glad to see Jimmy C in the spotlight as I always thought he did a nice job.

That comes out to 12 artists for each show, with 7 Opry members each night. Wow!!

The great Leona Williams will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree this week.

Finally, I thought it would be interesting to compare this weekend's line-up to the one from Saturday July 27, 1991, 21 years ago, as a comparison.

1st show
6:30: Bonanza
Del Reeves (host): Good Time Charlies
Johnny Russell: Act Naturally
Del Reeves: Two Dollars In The Jukebox/A Dime At A Time/Looking At The World Through A Windshield

6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Grandpa Jones (host): Bald-Headed End Of The Broom
Jean Shepard: Bouquet Of Roses
Grandpa Jones: Blessed Jesus, Hold My Hand

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Ole' Slewfoot
Connie Smith: You've Got Me Right Where You Want Me
Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top/Rank Strangers
Jim Ed Brown: Scarlet Ribbons
Bill Carlisle: Shanghai Rooster
Porter Wagoner: What Ain't To Be Just Might Happen

7:30: Standard Candy
Jack Greene (host): Oh, Lonesome Me
Alison Krauss: Steel Rails/Heaven's Bright Shore
Ricky Van Shelton: A Simple Man/Keep It Between The Lines
Jack Greene: Statue Of A Fool

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Charlie Walker: A Way To Free Myself/San Antonio Rose
Jan Howard: Ozark Mountain Jubilee/Where No One Stands Alone
Roy Drusky: Second Hand Rose/One Day At A Time
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Forked Deer

8:30: Pops Rite
Hank Snow (host): Address Unknown
Skeeter Davis: I Ain't Never
4 Guys: Tied Up
Charlie Louvin: Where The Roses Never Fade
Laurie Lewis: Miss The Mississippi And You
Hank Snow: It's Over Over Nothing At All

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Y'all Come
Jeannie Seely: When He Leaves You
Stonewall Jackson: Leona
Ricky Van Shelton: A Simple Man/Keep It Between The Lines
Porter Wagoner: Dooley

10:00: Little Debbie
Grandpa Jones (host): Stop That Ticklin' Me
Osborne Brothers: Farther Along
Grandpa Jones: When The Southbound Pulls Away

10:15: Tennessee Pride/Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Once More
Ray Pillow: One Memory To Another/Too Many Memories
Dan Kelly: Turkey Buzzard

10:30: Pet Milk
Jim Ed Brown (host): Don't Bother To Knock
Mike Snider: Shuckin' The Corn
Jim Ed Brown: Distant Drums

10:45: B.C. Powder
Billy Walker (host): Cross The Brazos At Waco
Jean Shepard: Let's All Go Down To The River/I Saw The Light/Will The Circle Be Unbroken/I'll Fly Away/Somebody Touched Me
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Snow Flake Reel
Billy Walker: Funny How Time Slips Away

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Bummin' Around
4 Guys: When You Got A Good Woman It Shows
Laurie Lewis: The Cowgirl's Song
Justin Tubb: Waltz Across Texas
Roy Drusky: Go Bring My Children Home
Hank Snow: The 3rd Man

11:30: Creamette
Charlie Walker (host): Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind
Skeeter Davis: The End Of The World
Charlie Louvin: Everytime Your Leave
Johnny Russell: Baptism Of Jesse Taylor
Charlie Walker: Take Me Back To Tulsa

A last note regarding Jack Greene. No, he had not been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but the Hall did announce that they are going to have a Jack Greene exhibit. I am not sure what all it will include, but it is scheduled to open in 2 weeks.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Tuesday Night Opry 7/24 & Wednesday Night Opry 7/25

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the 2 mid-week shows. The quality of the line-ups are pretty good. Tuesday night, Lorrie Morgan returns to the Opry. What is sad about Lorrie is that we are into July and this is only her 2nd Opry appearance this year. Also joining her will be former Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune, who always does a nice job. Wednesday night will feature a half hour with Rascal Flatts. There is no television taping this week, so the format will be normal both nights.

Tuesday July 24:
7:00: Diamond Rio; The Whites
7:30: Jimmy Fortune; Edens Edge
8:15: Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys; The Grascals
8:45: John Conlee; Lorrie Morgan

Wednesday July 25:
7:00: Jim Ed Brown; Canaan Smith
7:30: Exile; Steel Magnolia
8:15: T.G.Sheppard; Lauren Alaina
8:45: Rascal Flatts

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 7/20 & 7/21

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for the 2 shows this weekend. It looks like the Friday Night Opry is the better of the 2 shows this weekend as Opry members Marty Stuart and Joe Diffie will be making appearances, along with guest artists Darius Rucker and J.T. Hodges. Darius has made a few Opry appearances over the past year and as been very well received as his country music career moves forward.

The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will feature Charley Pride, who also is appearing on the Friday Night Opry, along with a group of non-members including Greg Bates, Andy Griggs and Radney Foster.

Friday July 20
7:00: Mike Snider (host); John Conlee; J.T. Hodges
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); George Hamilton IV; Joe Diffie
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Darius Rucker
8:45: Marty Stuart (host); Connie Smith; Charley Pride

Saturday July 21
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; Greg Bates
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites; Andy Griggs
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jimmy C Newman; Radney Foster; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Kristen Kelly; Charley Pride

That comes out to 12 acts on Friday nigh, of whom 10 are Opry members, and 13 on Saturday night, of whom 9 are Opry members.

My friend Teea Goans will be the host of the Midnight Jamboree on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Teea has a brand new country album out "That's Just Me" that I have heard and it is just a great. I recommend it.

Finally, it was July 21, 1973, 39 years ago this Saturday, that Jeanne Pruett became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jeanne was the last 'singing' member to join the Opry before it moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Grand Ole Opry House (of course, Jerry Clower was the last member to join before the move). Jeanne was a fine writer and was also recording hit country records, which led to her Opry membership. Jeanne is now retired, making her last Opry appearance in 2001. I have heard that she does visit backstage at the Opry once in a while to visit with her friends.

I thought it would be nice to look back and revisit the line-up from July 21, 1973, the night Jeanne Pruett joined the Opry.

1st show
6:30: Mrs Grissoms
Tex Ritter (host): Boll Weevil
4 Guys: Turn Around; Look At Us
Tex Ritter: Fall Away

Tex Ritter (host): There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder
Ernie Ashworth: My Love For You
Tex Ritter: High Noon

7:00: Rudy's
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Hank Williams Jr: Hank/You're Cheating Heart
Sandi Burnette: Stand By Your Man
Hank Williams Jr: Cajun Baby
Sandi Burnette: Delta Dawn

7:30: Standard Candy
Osborne Brothers (host): Rocky Top
Jean Shepard: Virginia
Stringbean: Mt. Dew
Crook Brothers: Eighth of January
Osborne Brothers: You Win Again/Today I Started Loving You Again
Jean Shepard: Slipping Away
Stringbean: Battle of New Orleans
Osborne Brothers: Ruby

8:00: Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host): Wake Up, Jacob
Dolly Parton: Traveling Man
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: If Teardrops Were Pennies
Porter Wagoner: Katy Did
Dolly Parton: Joshua

8:30: Stephens
Billy Grammer (host): Gotta Travel On
Arlene Harden: Special Day
Jerry Clower: Comedy
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Sally Goodin
Billy Grammer, Jr: Orange Blossom Special
Arlene Harden: Walk With Me, Jimmy
Billy Grammer: Peace In The Valley

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Tex Ritter (host): Wayward Wind
Bob Luman: When You Say Love
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Sandi Burnette: Stand By Your Man
Bob Luman: Honky Tonk Man
Tex Ritter: I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven

10:00: Fender
Osborne Brothers (host): Midnight Flyer
Jean Shepard: Slipping Away
Osborne Brothers: Nine Pound Hammer

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Stringbean: Hillbilly Fever
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird

10:30: Trailblazer
Porter Wagoner (host): Wake Up, Jacob
Dolly Parton: Traveling Man
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: If Teardrops Were Pennies/Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man

10:45: Beechnut
Billy Grammer (host): Detroit City
Jerry Clower: Comedy
Crook Brothers: Ida Red
Billy Grammer, Jr: Orange Blossom Special

11:00: Coca-Cola
4 Guys (host): Cottonfields/Maria
Arlene Harden: Special Day
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hickory Leaf
4 Guys: Hello Walls/Big Bad John/Wings of A Dove
Arlene Harden: Will You Walk With Me, Jimmy
Sam McGee: When The Wagon Was New
4 Guys: Turn Your Radio On

11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host); Singing The Blues
Louie Roberts: How Great Thou Art/Just A Little Lovin/Anytime/Bouquet of Roses/Cattle Call
Don Winters: Jambalaya
Marty Robbins: I Walk Alone/They'll Never Take Her Love From Me/Big Boss Man/Love Me/Don't Worry/I'll Step Aside/Letters Have No Arms/Long Gone Lonesome Blues

When I look back on the Opry's line-ups from years gone by and compare them, this is not one of the stronger ones. Lot's of filler acts and a few who never made it big on this night. But you did have Marty Robbins, Porter & Dolly and Tex Ritter, so it wasn't all bad.

Congratulations to Jeanne Pruett on her Opry anniversary.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kitty Wells

In the history of country music, many of the entertainers are known by their nicknames. When you mention "The Man in Black", "Coal Miners Daughter", "The Singing Ranger" and "The King of Country Music", you know immediately who it is. And when you mention "The Queen of Country Music" you know it is Kitty Wells, and today we were all greeted with the sad news that Kitty had passed away at her home in Madison, Tennessee.

I am not going to go through all of her career highlights as those are available elsewhere, including on the website of the Nashville Tennessean. But I will write about her history at the Grand Ole Opry. Kitty first came to the Grand Ole Opry in 1947, when Johnny and Jack joined the show. Johnny was of course her husband, Johnny Wright and Jack was Johnny's brother-in-law Jack Anglin. They stayed at the Opry for about a year and then they left to go to the "Louisiana Hayride." In 1952, Johnny and Jack went back to the Opry, but Kitty had retired and was not part of the act.

In May 1952, Kitty recorded "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels" which sold over 1 million copies and was #1 on the country charts. With the biggest record of her career and in country music at the time, efforts were made to get Kitty on the Opry as a solo artist, but there were issues. According to her husband Johnny, "We were trying to get her on the Opry but Vito Pellettieri, the guy that cleared all the songs on the show, says 'You can't sing that song on the Opry because of the lyrics.' You know, that part about the trusting wife going wrong. Anyway, Roy Acuff went up and talked to Jim Denny and Jack Stapp and he told them: 'Kitty Wells is a female Roy Acuff. She sells songs with her sincerity.' And 'Honky-Tonk Angels' got to be such a hit, you know, that they had to let her sing it."

Kitty Wells would remain a member of the Opry until December 1964 when she, along with some others including her husband Johnny, were dismissed from the Opry for not making the required number of shows for the year. According to Johnny, it was a dispute over booking fees and percentages, and he claimed that they quit. "They didn't fire anyone. We just quit because we didn't wanna pay the five percent."

After leaving the Opry, Kitty would continue to make guest appearances at the show. It was not as often as many fans would have liked but at least she did appear. In later years it was reported that she had wanted to rejoin the Opry but it just didn't happen. Personally, I had the opportunity to see Kitty do a show just one time. It was at the Tower Records store in Opry Mills and she was there on a Saturday afternoon. She performed for about an hour and did all of her hits. Sorry to say that only about 100 people made the decision to watch the "Queen" perform.

I went through my Opry files to find a couple of line-ups with Kitty Wells listed. The 1st one is an early one, from Saturday September 5, 1953:

7:30: Prince Albert
Ernest Tubb (host): You Nearly Lose Your Mind
Minnie Pearl: Comedy
Faron Young: Baby My Heart
Square Dancers: Sugar In The Gourd
Ernest Tubb: Stand By Me
Jordaniaires: I'm So Glad Jesus Lifted Me
Rod Brasfield: Comedy
Faron Young: Going Steady
Stringbean: Ida Red
Ernest Tubb: My Wasted Past

8:00: Martha White
Carl Smith (host): Just Wait Til I Get You Alone
Bill Monroe: Rocky Road Blues
Johnny and Jack: South In New Orleans
June Carter: You Flopped When You Got Me Alone
Possum Hunters: Soldier's Joy
Kitty Wells: Honky Tonk Waltz
Carl Smith: Trade Mark
Carter Family: The Sun's Gonna Shine In My Back Door
Bill Monroe: Uncle Pen
Carl Smith: Don't Just Stand There

8:30: Royal Crown Cola
Roy Acuff (host):  Lonesome Joe
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Molly Neely
George Morgan: I'll Furnish The Shoulder For You To Cry On
Pap and Jug Band: Darling Nellie Grey
Webb Pierce: It's Been So Long
Grandpa Jones: Are You From Dixie
Oswald: Roll On Buddy Roll On
Howdy Forrester: Say Old Man

9:00: Martha White
Ernest Tubb (host): I'm So Alone In A Crowd
Jimmy Dickens: Galvanized Wash Tub
Hank Snow: For Now and Always
Moon Mulligan: Cherokee Boogie
Anita Carter: Why Should I Cry Over You
Lonzo and Oscar: Charming Betsy
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Ernest Tubb: Driftwood On The River
Chet Atkins: Sweet Georgia Brown
Jimmy Dickens: What About You

9:30: Warren Paint
Roy Acuff (host): Tennessee Central No. 9
Lew Childre: El Rancho Grande
Cowboy Copas: Gone and Left Me Blues
Roy Acuff: Just To Ease My Worried Mind
Howdy Forrester: Cripple Creek

9:45: American Ace
Roy Acuff (host): Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
Marty Robbins: Sing Me Something Sentimental
Jimmy Riddle: Casey Jones
Roy Acuff: Drifting Too Far From The Shore
Oswald: Blue Ridge Mountain Blues

10:00: Wallrite
George Morgan (host): Everything Rolled Into One
Bill and Jimmy Martin: Cabin of Love
Webb Pierce: I'm Walking The Dog
George Morgan: Crying In The Chapel
Don Slayman: Fire On The Mountain

10:15: Dr. Le Gear
Hank Snow (host): Golden Rocket
Faron Young: I Can't Wait
Bill Monroe: I'll See You In Church Next Sunday
Hank Snow: A Fool Such As I
Fiddle Tune: Ricketts Hornpipe

10:30: Jefferson Island Salt
Ernest Tubb (host): Let's Say Goodby Like We Said Hello
Jimmy Dickens: Bessie The Heifer
Jordanaires: My Rock
Duke Of Paducah: Comedy
June Carter: Kawliga
Lonzo and Oscar: Hole In The Bottom of The Sea
Ernest Tubb: Fortune In Memory
Chet Atkins: Rainbow
Jimmy Dickens: Asleep At The Foot of The Bed
Fiddle Tune: Old Joe Clark

11:00: O-Cello-O
Howdy Forrester: Liberty
Marty Robbins: I'll Go On Alone
Roy Acuff (host): No One Will Ever Know
Bobby Hebbs: Mr. Spoons
Roy Acuff: Jesus Died For Me

11:15: Darimix
Carl Smith (host): Hey Joe
Johnny and Jack: Poison Love
String Bean: John Henry
Gully Jumpers: Old Joe Clark
Carl Smith: This Orchid Means Goodby

11:30: Hester Battery
Hank Snow (host): Message From The Tradewinds
Lew Childre: Maple On The Hill
Moon Mullican: A Thousand and One Sleepless Nights
Crook Brothers: Mississippi Sawyer
Hank Snow: Honeymoon On A Rocket Ship

11:45: Grand Ole Opry
Cowboy Copas (host): Filipino Baby
Sam and Kirk McGee: Goodby and So Long To You
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Going Home To Julie
Grandpa Jones: Gold Old Mountain Dew
Cowboy Copas: Love Me Now

Another line-up I have that featured Kitty Wells is from Saturday October 16, 1976, when Kitty appeared on the 2nd show that night, which was part of the annual D.J. Convention that was held annually in October:

9:30: Kelloggs
Porter Wagoner (host): Tennessee Sunshine
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Bury Me Beneath The Willow
Dottie West: Country Sunshine
Guy Willis & C.W. Mitchell: Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
Matt Magaha: Orange Blossom Special
Porter Wagoner: When Lea Jane Sang/Cold Hard Facts of Life/Carroll County Accident/Green, Green Grass of Home

10:00: Fender
Ernest Tubb (host): If You Don't Quit Checking On Me
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Kitty Wells: It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
Johnny Wright and Kitty Wells: Ashes of Love
Ernest Tubb: Waltz Across Texas

10:15: Union 76
Stonewall Jackson (host): Washed My Hands in Muddy Water
Hank Locklin: Send Me The Pillow You Dream On
George Hamilton IV: Early Morning Rain
Stonewall Jackson: Waterloo

10:30: Trailblazer
Grandpa Jones (host): I Don't Love Nobody
Lonzo & Oscar: Crawdad Song
4 Guys: Hello Walls/Big Bad John/Wings of A Dove
Roy Clark: A Sweet Bunch of Daisies/Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Jimmy Henley: Orange Blossom Special/Bluegrass Breakdown

10:45: Beechnut
Wilburn Brothers (host): It's Another World
Jerry Clower: Selling Butter to See Tarzan
Brother Oswald: The End of the World/The Great Speckled Bird
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Lafayette

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jimmy C Newman: Diggy Liggy Lo
Jeanne Pruett: Hold to My Unchanging Love/Love Me/You Don't Need to Move A Mountain/Satin Sheets
George Lindsey: Comedy
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Del Wood: Chosen Children
Kirk McGee: While I'm Away
Hank Snow: I Almost Lost My Mind

11:30: Elm Hill
David Houston (host): Almost Persuaded
Stu Phillips: Have A Nice Day
Jimmy Dickens: Family Reunion
Marion Worth: Afraid
Stu Phillips: Let Me Love You All Over Again
Jimmy Dickens: The Preacher Man
David Houston: Come On Down

I have other line-ups with Kitty Wells listed, but I thought that I would post those 2. It would be nice if the Opry dedicated the shows this weekend to Kitty, but from past history, if a performer is not a current member, they will not. Kitty was a trailblazing woman in country music and her Hall of Fame induction was well deserved. God Bless Kitty Wells!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tuesday Night Opry 7/17 & Wednesday Night Opry 7/18

The Grand Ole Opry begins its series of Wednesday night shows this week, which will continue for about a month. This week's Wednesday Night Opry will feature Vince Gill, who will get the last segment to himself. The Wednesday night show appears to be structured the same way as the Tuesday Night Opry, as far as four, half-hour segments. And speaking of the Tuesday Night Opry, they have changed the format a bit for this weeks show as they are going with 2, hour long segments. I don't know if that is a permanent change or not.

I have received a few questions asking my thoughts regarding the Opry adding a Wednesday night show. I really don't have much of an issue with it as this is something the Opry has done before. If you remember, and for those who are to young to remember, when Opryland opened and was going strong, the Opry was having matinee shows most of the days of the week. I found some old schedules, and in the spring of 1974, right after the Opry moved to Opryland, there was 1 show on Friday night, a Saturday matinee, 2 Saturday night shows and a Sunday Grand Ole Gospel show.

By the spring of 1976, there was a Friday matinee, a Friday night show, a Saturday matinee, 2 Saturday night shows and a Sunday matinee. By 1978, in addition to the shows listed for 1976, the Opry was up to 2 shows on Friday night, for a total of 7 shows. And I know that they were also running a matinee or two during the week. By the 1980s, the Friday matinee was dropped and the Sunday show was only run during the peak season. So really, the Opry having multiple shows during the week is really nothing new.

I often worried that having more week night shows would take away from the Friday and Saturday night shows, which were considered the "big" shows during the week. At this point, and the way the Opry is being run today, it doesn't seem to matter. While Saturday will always be the night most associated with the Opry, I see nothing wrong with promoting the Opry brand through other shows. And it gives those missing Opry members, or those who tour on the weekends, more opportunity to appear at the Opry. And many of the Opry's members seem to be taking advantage of those chances. In the coming weeks, the Tuesday and Wednesday shows will feature Opry members Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Rascal Flatts, Marty Stuart and Lorrie Morgan. As long as they don't forget about the weekend shows, I am fine with it.

It has also been noticed that Opry seems to have lost a couple of their sponsors in recent weeks. Bass Pro Shops appears to be gone, while Cracker Barrel has been missing from the Friday Night Opry. Currently the Opry is using the Country Music Hall of Fame as a sponsor on Friday night, which brings them back as sponsors, and Opry Backstage Grill, which is owned and operated by Gaylord. It will be interesting to see what the Opry does for sponsorship in the coming months. Could Marriott be coming aboard, now that they are operating the Gaylord hotel properties? Or possibly a former sponsor such as Martha White or Coke? Or maybe someone like Southwest Airlines, who does a lot of cross-promotion with the Opry.

Tuesday Night Opry, June 17:
7:00: Oak Ridge Boys; Lee Brice; Jimmy Dickens
8:15: Brantley Gilbert; Kevin Costner & Modern West; Lily Costner; Charlie Daniels Band

Wednesday June 18:
7:00: John Conlee; Dustin Lynch
7:30: The Whites; Mark Wills
8:15: Bill Anderson; Point of Grace
8:45: Vince Gill

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 7/13 & 7/14

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the 2 shows this weekend, 1 on Friday night and the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. There is a good mix of entertainment this weekend, with the Friday Night Opry being highlighted by the return of Opry member Randy Travis to the Opry stage. Randy is another of those Opry members who joined in the 1980s and can't seem to find where the Opry House is located these days. This will be Randy's 1st Opry appearance this year, after making just 1 appearance in 2010. Joining Randy on Friday night will be guest artists Jimmy Wayne, Sarah Darling and Will Hoge. All 3 have made frequent Opry appearances over the past year.

The Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night will feature non-Opry members Chuck Wicks, Sam Bush, Casey James and Sunny Sweeney. I had the chance to see Sunny at the Opry in February, and not only is she a very nice looking young lady, she has a solid country voice. She will be featured in the segment hosted by Opry member Larry Gatlin, who is always a pleasure to have at the Opry.

Friday July 13
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jimmy C Newman; Brett Eldredge
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); George Hamilton IV; Jimmy Wayne
8:15: John Conlee (host); Sarah Darling; Will Hoge
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Ray Pillow; Randy Travis

Saturday July 14
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Chuck Wicks
7:30: John Conlee (host); Jeannie Seely; Holly Williams
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jean Shepard; Casey James; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Larry Gatlin (host); Sunny Sweeney; Sam Bush Band

With still 1 spot to fill Friday and Saturday night, there are 12 artists on each show, with 8 Opry members on Friday night and 7 Opry members on Saturday night. Regarding Larry Gatlin, I find it interesting that many times when he is on the Opry he is with his brothers, while other times he appears solo. I do know that he, along with his brothers, are making personal appearances. Just an observation on my part.

Randy Travis joined the Grand Ole Opry on December 20, 1986. Just for the fun of it, I thought I would post the line-up from the night Randy joined the Opry, 26 years ago this year, to compare it to the line-up that we have this Saturday night.

Saturday December 20, 1986
1st show
6:30: Del Reeves (host); Skeeter Davis
6:45: Porter Wagoner (host); Riders In The Sky
7:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); Lorrie Morgan; Jim & Jesse; Randy Travis
7:30: Roy Acuff (host); Jean Shepard; Roy Drusky; Crook Brothers/ Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:00: Bill Monroe (host); The Whites; Stonewall Jackson; Archie Campbell; Connie Smith
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Boxcar Willie; Osborne Brothers; Mel McDaniel

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); 4 Guys; Del Reeves; Jan Howard; Billy Walker
10:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Randy Travis
10:15: Roy Acuff (host); George Hamilton IV
10:30: Bill Monroe (host); Charlie Louvin
10:45: Archie Campbell (host); Bill Carlisle; Crook Brothers/ Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Jean Shepard; Justin Tubb; Charlie Walker; Mel McDaniel
11:30: Boxcar Willie (host); Osborne Brothers; Connie Smith

On the 1st show there were 20 artists and 21 on the 2nd show, and all were Opry members, Just interesting to look back.

This week's Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will be hosted by Justin Trevino.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Barbara Mandrell

It was 40 years ago today, on July 8, 1972 that Country Music Hall of Fame member Barbara Mandrell became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Here is what Barbara remembered about joining the Opry: "It was in July when Bud Wendell asked me to join the Grand Ole Opry. I was very honored. And I was introduced on the Roy Acuff segment. At the time, while I was acquainted with Mr. Acuff, I can't say we were friends. By coming to the Opry we became dear friends and now he's so special to me. You know what I recall most about the old Ryman? It's dressing and getting made up and all in the toilet, which was the women's dressing room. That was really close, and warm and friendly, sharing the crowded space with Loretta Lynn and Connie Smith and Dolly Parton and Jeannie Seely. I'm so thankful I became a member of the Opry just before we moved into the big, beautiful Opry House. We would all be perspiring so bad and it was so hot in there. But we were full of love and passion for our music and the people who would come to see us." Barbara went on, "When I was asked to become a member I asked the question, 'What must one do to be able to host a segment of the Opry?' and I was told , 'You must have gained enough status and you must be a man.'"

Barbara Mandrell had started in show business at a young age, as a member of the Mandrell Family Band. She first appeared on television in 1961. In 1969 she signed with Columbia Records as a solo act, and began regarding with Billy Sherrill as her producer. She also did a duet with David Houston. In 1978, she had her first #1 record, "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed" and from there on, Barbara was a major star. In 1980, her hit NBC television show began, which lasted until 1982. Several years after that came the famous car accident that almost took her life and literally ended her career. While she did come back from the accident, she never again acheived the success that he had before the accident and many of her fans viewed her differently after that. In 2009 she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her final appearance took place in 1997 and then retired.

In looking at Barbara's career, I do give her credit for retiring while she was still in top form. So many times we see entertainers continue to go on well past their prime and watch them age and their voices go away. She left her fans with a good memory of her. My other observation is that like so many of the Opry's members, once she hit it big, she made very few Opry appearances. When she joined, she was still an 'up and coming' artist, looking for that 1st #1 record. And once she got it, her career took her to other places. In her later years, when she appeared on the Opry, if Roy Acuff was performing on the show, it was always on his segment. And Barbara was always well received. It's too bad that she did not make more appearances over the years, because I think the Opry would have been better off in seeing her more.

To remember Barbara Mandrell on her Opry anniversary, here is the line-up from Saturday night, July 8, 1972, when she officially joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Billy Grammer (host): Wabash Cannonball
Oak Ridge Boys: (?)
Billy Grammer: Peace In the Valley

6:45: Rudy's
Charlie Walker (host): I Don't Mind Going Under
Bill Carlisle: I'm Moving
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down

7:00: Luzienne
Tex Ritter (host): Green Grow The Lilacs
Bobby Bare: The Streets Of Baltimore
Johnny PayCheck: Love Is A Good Thing
David Houston: Danny Boy
Tex Ritter: Lorena
Bobby Bare: Me & Bobby McGee

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Just A Friend
4 Guys: Turn Your Radio On
Stu Phillips: I'd Rather Be Sorry
Crook Brothers: Lost Indian
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird

8:00: Martha White
Del Reeves (host): Girl On The Billboard
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Doin' My Time
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Ronnie Dove: Right Or Wrong
Del Reeves: The Best Is Yet To Come
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: White Dove
Del Reeves: Philadelphia Fillies

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I Don't Hurt Anymore
Bob Luman: When You Say Love
Marion Worth: For The Good Times
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Blackberry Blossom
Justin Tubb: Lodi
Mel Street: Borrowed Angel
Hank Snow: Giesha Girl

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Billy Grammer (host): Lonesome Road Blues
4 Guys: Shenendoah
David Houston: Soft, Sweet, & Warm
Shoji Tabuchi: Rainbow In the Valley
Billy Grammer: What A Friend
David Houston: Jambalaya

10:00: Fender
Charlie Walker (host): Little Old Wine Drinker Me
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Johnny PayCheck: She's All I Got
Charlie Walker: I Don't Mind Going Under

10:15: Union 65
Tex Ritter (host): High Noon
Bobby Bare: Come Sundown
Tex Ritter: Fall Away

10:30: Trailblazer
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Justin Tubb: Traveling Singing Man
Roy Acuff: Where Could I Go

10:45: Beechnut
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Coming Down From God
Ronnie Dove: Okie From Muskogee
Crook Brothers: Chicken Reel
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Each Season Changes You

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Golden Rocket
Stu Phillips: Crystal Chandeliers
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Cracklin Hen
Stu Phillips: A Castle, A Cabin
Sam McGee: Wheels
Hank Snow: I'm Glad I Got To See You Once Again

11:30: Elm Hill
Del Reeves (host): Down In The Boondocks
Bob Luman: When You Say Love/Guitar Man/Heartbreak Hotel
Marion Worth: Faded Love
Mel Street: Borrowed Angel
Del Reeves: The Bells Of Southern Bell/A Dime At A Time/Looking At The World Through A Windshield/Whole Lot Of Shaking Going On

A pretty interesting line-up for this summer show. I know Barbara is now retired from performing, but I would have expected the Opry to have done something to honor Barbara for 40 years of Opry membership. Even if the Opry failed to mention it, I wanted to.

Of course, maybe the Opry is waiting until July 29th to celebrate Barbara's 40th anniversary. I mention that date because in the current edition of the Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book, that is the date listed for her induction as a new member. We have commented before about the Opry's poor record keeping. This looks like another example of that. Regardless, congratulations to Barbara Mandrell.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 7/6 & 7/7

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the 2 shows this weekend, 1 on Friday night and 1 on Saturday night. Some interesting artists are appearing this weekend including Pure Prairie League and Old Crow Medicine Show, both of whom will be appearing on both shows. Pure Prairie League has been around for a long, long time with a variety of line-ups. Of course their big hit was "Amie." The group has disbanded over the years and has gotten back together at different times. And at one time, Vince Gill was a member of the group. From what I can tell, Vince is not scheduled for any shows this weekend, so it is possible that he might pop in with the group.

Old Crow Medicine Show is a string band that has been around since the late 1990s, and have been very popular and have a nice sound to them. They have been at the Opry on numerous occasions over the years. Joining these two on Friday night will be Darius Rucker, along with Mandy Barnett, while on Saturday night, they will be joined by Andy Gibson and Billy Dean.

Friday July 6
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Mandy Barnett
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Pure Prairie League
8:15: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Old Crow Medicine Show
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith; Darius Rucker

Saturday July 7
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; Andy Gibson
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jean Shepard; Pure Prairie League
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jan Howard; Billy Dean; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Old Crow Medicine Show

Over all, not a bad couple of shows. 12 artist on Friday night and 13 on Saturday night, with 8 Opry members on Friday and 9 Opry members on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Death of the Grand Ole Opry/Can Garth & Reba Save It?

While I was at my local grocery store today, I happened to look at the various celebrity magazines that are for sale by the cash registers and the headline printed above was on the cover of the "National Examiner" July 9th edition. Naturally that caught my eye, so I am reprinting the article below with my comments at the end. The article was written by Roger Hitts.

Music city movers and shakers have rallied in a desperate bid to save the Grand Ole Opry from being shut down by greedy corporate wheeling and dealing. "Someone needs to breathe new life into Opry's heart and soul," a country music source tells The Examiner. Nashville insiders have launched a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to convince country music's biggest stars to rescue the historic venue from extinction. "We're talking the likes of Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, along with some of the younger stars like Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift, who have played the Opry," says the insider. "If they pooled their resources, they could keep the Opry alive."

The loyal supporters of the Opry also hope to recruit stars as diverse as Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, George Jones and Keith Urban, because Opry lovers fear the time-honored venue may end up on the chopping block. Gaylord Entertainment, a resort and entertainment company which has owned the Opry since 1983, may soon cut a deal to merge with a hotel giant. According to the published reports about the deal, Gaylord would still own and operate the Opry. But insiders are afraid the corporation will eventually unload the Opry under pressure to boost stock prices. "If the Opry falls into the wrong hands, it will die a tragic death," veteran country music promoter Marty Martel tells The Examiner. "It would be a godsend to have one or a group of major stars purchase the Opry as a lifesaver." The source adds: "There are some folks who feel Gaylord hasn't been the greatest steward for our beloved Opry. And there's fear of the unknown. If Gaylord gets taken over, whoever buys it could decide it's not a cost-beneficial operation and mothball it entirely."

Launched in November 1925, the Nashville-based barn-dance show was beamed to more than 30 states during its heyday, thanks to the freedom afforded to old-time AM radio stations. Over the 90 years, the Opry has helped the careers of legends like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Roy Clark and Minnie Pearl. The show has also hosted contemporary stars like the Dixie Chicks, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood. Devoted fans call it The Mother Church of Country Music. But the beloved symbol of Americana has increasingly suffered under the onslaught of FM radio, cable television, the Internet and wireless devices like iPads. The program has been kept alive by a devoted group of legendary stars like Jean Shepard, Little Jimmy Dickens, Bill Anderson, Jimmy C Newman, Jack Greene and Stonewall Jackson.

But the Opry needs modern star power to survive, say Music City insiders. The Opry has inducted more than 100 artists, only to see many of them skip out on their agreement to perform at least 10 shows on the hallowed stage. These artists prefer to book tours at major venues that pay more than the Opry. "The artists inducted need to hold true to their promise of taking care of The Mother Church of Country Music," says Martel, "not to give lip service, but to make regular appearances so that they can breathe new life into the heart and soul of the Opry."

Now for my thoughts and comments:

First, you have to remember that this is the National Examiner and as you can tell by reading the article, they have a few facts wrong. And they are known to sensationalize a story. While Gaylord has had some issues and is working on an operating agreement with Marriott for the resort and convention business, there is nothing new to report on the Opry. Gaylord has said they are not selling it and will continue to operate the show and nothing has changed since they made that statement.

I do find it amusing that the artists they list as those who should buy the Opry are members who never appear or support the show now. Garth Brooks? Alan Jackson? Reba McEntire? Later in the article it mentions about the lack of support from the various members who do not appear 10 times each year. If these artists really cared about the Opry, they would be there. Let's face it, if Garth, Alan and Reba actually appeared at the Opry, there would be no need for this discussion. As far as the non-Opry members listed, Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift have appeared several times on the show. It's not like they are regular performers.

Now, I will say it is open to debate whether or not Gaylord has been good stewards of the Opry. Early on, they were. While the Gaylord family was actively involved with the management of the company, and folks like Bud Wendell were still around, the Opry was operated just fine. But when you have current management doing things like cutting show lengths, ridiculously raising ticket prices, cutting sponsors and reducing the number of acts per show, you have to question how much they really think of the history and tradition of the show.

Marty Martel does a great job with the legends of country music. He does a lot of promoting of shows and really does care about the Opry and the history of the show. But, he also has had his differences with Gaylord and how he feels the legends have been treated. He is right in the fact taht if the Opry ends up in the wrong hands, it could be worse than what it is now. But the last sentence in the story, which is a quote from Marty, is right on, "The artists inducted need to hold true to their promise to take care of The Mother Church of Country Music, not to give lip service, but to make regular appearances so that they can breathe new life into the heart and soul of the Opry."

I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Opry Highlights

Here are the historical and important events that took place in Grand Ole Opry history during the month of July:

July 15, 1913: Cowboy Copas was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Although he went by the name of Cowboy, his mother named him Lloyd Estel.

July 27, 1925: Former Grand Ole Opry member Annie Lou Dill was born.

July 24, 1926: The Crook Brothers made their first appearance on the WSM Barn Dance show. The Crook Brothers, in one form or another, would remain a part of the Opry for the next 62 years.

July 7, 1927: Charles Loudermilk, better know as Charlie Louvin, was born near Section, Alabama.

July 9, 1929: Grand Ole Opry member Jesse McReynolds was born in Coeburn, Virginia.

July 7, 1930: The late Opry member Doyle Wilburn was born in Hardy, Arkansas.

July 14, 1933: Del Reeves was born in Sparta, North Carolina.

July 4, 1937: Grand Ole Opry member Ray Pillow was born in Lynchburg, Virginia.

July 19, 1937: George Hamilton IV was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. George has been a Grand Ole Opry member for 52 years and is known as the "International Ambassador of Country Music" for his world-wide travels to promote the music. George continues to travel and has made recent tours to Canada, England and Ireland.

July 5, 1939: The Grand Ole Opry moved to the War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville. They would only stay at War Memorial for a few short years as the type of people who came to see the Opry were not the type that were wanted at War Memorial. The Opry moved to this facility from the Dixie Tabernacle, which while able to hold more people, was basically a barn.

July 6, 1940: Jeannie Seely was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

July 15, 1944: Country Music Hall of Fame member Rod Brasfield joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death in September 1958. Years later, Minnie Pearl would lead the effort to have Rod elected to the Hall of Fame. Minnie and Rod would become famous for their comedy routines on the Prince Albert show. Rod joined the show to replace comedian Whitey Ford, who left the show after a contract dispute with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and it's advertising agency. Whitey stayed on the Opry but was no longer a part of the network portion of the show. Rod was not only a gifted comedian, but a fine actor who sorry to say led a troubled personal life.

July 24, 1948: Roy Acuff announced he was running for Governor of the state of Tennessee, after he felt that the current Governor had made some poor comments regarding country music. As a Republican in Tennessee in 1948, he did not stand much of a chance and lost the election by a wide margin. It was said that his campaign rallies drew large crowds that would listen to him sing and play, then would begin to leave after he began speaking.

July 21, 1951: Lefty Frizzell made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He would become a regular in 1952, but as Lefty would later admit, it just didn't work. "I just didn't like the Opry. It wasn't the dream I thought it would be."

July 9, 1952: Opry members Carl Smith and June Carter were married. Their marriage would only last several years, but it did produce one daughter, Rebecca Carlene Smith, better known to her fans as Carlene Carter. Carl would go on to marry Goldie Hill, while June would eventually settle down with Johnny Cash.

July 18, 1954: Grand Ole Opry member Ricky Skaggs was born in Cordell, Kentucky.

July 7, 1956: Johnny Cash joined the Grand Ole Opry. He would only remain a member until 1958, when he relocated to California. In 1965, after he was no longer an Opry member but still appearing on the show, he kicked out the Opry stage lights during a performance. He was told by Opry management that he was no longer welcomed at the Opry. He did stay away for several years, but would later begin to make guest appearances on the show. At one point, he was asked by Roy Acuff to return to the show as a member, but he declined due to his heavy touring schedule.

July 24, 1957: Pam Tillis was born in Plant City, Florida. The Grand Ole Opry member is the daughter of another Opry member, Mel Tillis.

July 12, 1961: Bill Anderson becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 51st year as an Opry member. Bill had made his first Opry appearance in 1958, and would guest on the show over the next several years. Ott Devine was the Opry manager at the time and he was impressed with Bill after seeing him perform in concert in Panama City, Florida. He told Bill he would call him later when he got back to Nashville and he did, and Bill was asked to join the Opry.

July 8, 1964: The late Dottie West joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry.

July 31, 1964: Former Grand Ole Opry member Jim Reeves, along with Dean Manuel, died in a plane crash just outside of Nashville.

July 10, 1965: Roy Acuff was seriously injured in a car accident in Sparta, Tennessee. Roy suffered two pelvic fractures, a broken collarbone and broken ribs. Also injured in the accident were band members Shot Jackson and June Stearns. Roy would return to the Opry stage in August, while June decided to no longer tour with the Smoky Mountain Boys.

July 29, 1966: Martina McBride was born in Sharon, Kansas.

July 29, 1972: Barbara Mandrell joined the Grand Ole Opry. Although currently retired from the music business, Barbara will be celebrating her 40th year as an Opry member, as she was allowed to keep her Opry membership after she retired. Barbara remembered when she became an Opry member, "It was in July when Bud Wendell asked me to join the Grand Ole Opry. I was very honored and I was introduced on the Roy Acuff segment. At the time, while I was acquainted with Mr. Acuff, I can't say we were friends. By coming to the Opry we became dear friends and now he's so special to me." In the years before Roy passed away and Barbara was scheduled to appear on the Opry, she would always insist on being on Roy's segment.

July 21, 1973: Jeanne Pruett joined the Grand Ole Opry. Like Barbara Mandrell, Jeanne is retired from the music business but was allowed to continue as an Opry member. This will be her 39th year as an Opry member and while she no longer appears on the show performing, once in a while she will show up backstage to visit and watch the show. Her last Opry appearance was in 2001. Before becoming successful herself, she was a songwriter for Marty Robbins Enterprise and after joining the Opry, she would normally appear on the final segment with Marty. She was the last singing artist to join the Opry before it left the Ryman Auditorium and move to the Grand Ole Opry House. Of course, the last Opry member to join the show while it was still at the Ryman was Jerry Clower.

July 7, 1975: Grand Ole Opry member George Morgan died in Nashville after suffering a heart attack. He had been an Opry member since 1948 and would later be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. When George joined the Opry, he was considered the replacement for Eddy Arnold, who had recently left the show. At the time, George was coming off his monster hit, "Candy Kisses." George actually left the Opry in 1956 to star in his own television show, but returned to the Opry in 1959. In May 1975, he suffered a heart attack at his Nashville home. He returned to the Opry in June, but he needed open heart surgery. He had the surgery in July, but there were complications that led to his death.

July 2, 1982: Country Music Hall of Fame member, and former Opry member DeFord Bailey died in Nashville at the age of 82. DeFord was one of the first members of the Grand Ole Opry but was fired from the show in 1941 by George D. Hay. There were various reasons and excuses given on why DeFord was fired, but over the years it became apparent that race played an issue. DeFord was very bitter about his firing and would remain so for many years. He resisted invitations to appear on the show, but finally on February 23, 1974, he returned to the Opry stage as part of the annual "Old Timer's Night." Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl made sure he was treated with the respect he deserved and many said his performance was the highlight of the night. He performed "Pam American" and "Fox Chase." His final appearance on the Opry was on April 3, 1982, during that year's reunion show.

July 1, 1983: Gaylord Broadcasting Company of Dallas, Texas purchased the Grand Ole Opry from American General Corporation of Houston, Texas. Even though it was called Gaylord Broadcasting, it was actually Edward Gaylord and his wife Thelma who were the owners of the Opry. At the time, the Gaylords owned the television show, "Hee Haw." When they purchased the Opry, they also bought the entire Opryland complex and everything associated with it. The price was rumored to be between $250 and $300 million. Over time, Gaylord Broadcasting would become known as Gaylord Entertainment and would go from a privately held company to a publicly traded one and it's primary focus would change from broadcasting to resort and hotel management. It is hard to believe that Gaylord has now owned the Opry for 29 years.

July 3, 1996: Alison Krauss becomes a Grand Ole Opry member. At the time, she was the youngest member of the cast. Garth Brooks was the member who officially inducted her that night and she was the first bluegrass artist to join the show in 19 years. This will be her 16th year as an Opry member.

July 3, 2001: Johnny Russell died in Nashville after a long illness. After he joined the Opry, he began to follow the tradition of Marty Robbins and either appear on, or host the final segment on Saturday nights. Not only was he a good performer, but he was an even better songwriter. Johnny had joined the Opry on July 6, 1985. I had the opportunity to meet Johnny and share a lunch table with him at Opryland, and he was one of the nicest individuals I had ever met.