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.