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.