Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August 14, 1982-Ernest Tubb's Last Opry Appearance

It was 30 years ago tonight, August 14, 1982 that the great Ernest Tubb made his last Grand Ole Opry appearance and hosted the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree for the final time. Ernest had been in declining health for a while, suffering from emphysema, which resulted from years of heavy smoking. His Opry appearances and touring had declined and the appearances that he did make were difficult for his fans to witness. He was using an oxygen mask in his bus before shows in an effort to help his voice. While this was his final Opry show, Ernest would make several more concert appearances before finally calling it a career in November. In the history of the Opry, Ernest is probably considered one of the 5 greatest stars in the history of the show, right up there with Roy Acuff, Hank Snow and Bill Monroe.

Ernest joined the Opry in January 1943 and even with his heavy touring schedule, he always made the required number of Opry appearances each year and he valued his Opry membership. The story goes that at the first of each year, Ernest would give Opry management the 26 weeks that he would be at the Opry for that year. And he would always be there for those dates.

In honor of Ernest Tubb, here is the line-up from Saturday August 14, 1982, his final night at the Grand Ole Opry.

1st show
6:30: Mrs Grissoms
4 Guys (host): Turn Your Radio On
Wilburn Brothers: Arkansas
4 Guys: A Blaze of Glory

6:45: Rudy's
Billy Grammer (host): Georgiana
Skeeter Davis: Just When I Needed You Most
Billy Grammer: Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party

7:00: Shoney's
Jean Shepard: Blanket on the Ground/I'll Be There
Lonzo & Oscar: Ramblin' Fever/Windy City
Jack Leonard: I Can't Help It/Take These Chains From My Heart/Half As Much/Your Cheating Heart

7:30: Standard Candy
Billy Walker (host): When A Man Loves A Woman
Jeannie Seely: You Don't Need Me, But You Will/I'm All Through Crying Over You
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Cotton-Eyed Joe
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Billy Walker: You Gave Me A Mountain

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Connie Smith: The Key's In The Mailbox/'Till I Kissed You
Charlie Walker: Don't Squeeze My Sharmon
Roy Thackerson: (?)/ Orange Blossom Special
Carollee Singers: A Song the Holy Angels Cannot Sing
Roy Acuff: I'll Fly Away

8:30 Acme
Bill Monroe (host): My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darling
Roy Drusky: I Really Don't Want to Know
Del Wood: The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise
Vic Willis Trio: Faded Love
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Katy Hill
Bill Monroe: Little Cabin Home on the Hill

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Skeeter Davis: Me & Bobbie McGee/The Old Rugged Cross/The King is Coming
Wilburn Brothers: I Know A Goodbye When I See One/Because He Lives

10:00: Little Debbie
Bill Monroe (host): On & On
Connie Smith: Satisfied
Bill Monroe: Come Hither to Go Yonder

10:15: Sunbeam
Billy Grammer (host): Wildwood Flower
Lonzo & Oscar: Old Songs
Billy Grammer: I Was Born in Renfro Valley

10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting in the Air
Roy Thackerson: Sally Goodin/Orange Blossom Special
Roy Acuff: Cabin in Gloryland

10:45: Beechnut
Billy Walker (host): A Million & One
Jean Shepard: Alabama Jubilee
Crook Brothers/Soney Mountain Cloggers: Liberty
Billy Walker: Cattle Call

11:00: Coca-Cola
Roy Drusky (host): There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You For Me
Jeannie Seely: I'm Almost Ready/Healing Hands of Time
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Sugar Tree Stomp
Kirk McGee: Blue Night
Bill Carlisle: Elvira
Roy Drusky: Just A Closer Walk With Thee

11:30: Bama
4 Guys (host): Cottonfields/Mariah
Del Wood: There's A Big Wheel
Charlie Walker: Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas
Vic Willis Trio: Shenandoah/You Were Always On My Mind
4 Guys: Made in the USA

Ernest Tubb was a true Opry legend and his influence is still felt today.


  1. Fred in Bismarck:

    Thanks for the lineup, Byron.

    It is heartening to see that, as Byron says, E.T.'s name and music just keep rolling along so many years after his death. He's in the Hank Williams class that way. Just look at the availability of his music, in formats deluxe (Bear Family) and economy. Gotta be a lot of people out there who still want to hear, or are just getting turned on to, "Seaman's Blues" and "Another Story."

    Indeed, running through my 1950s E.T., as I happen to be doing at this time, I am more impressed than ever with the quality and variety of his songs, many of which he wrote or co-wrote. And the greatness of his performances goes without saying.

    My three top all-time heroes are very closely grouped. As I remember, Byron, Michael and I all award the top 2 honors to Roy Acuff and Hank Snow (not necessarily in that order). My No. 3, breathing right down their necks, is the great E.T.

    Thanks a lot for hearing out one old fan's gassy opinion!

  2. A big reason ET's music is so readily available and indeed his legacy is so intact is due in large part to his protege and current owner of the ET Record Shop David McCormick. McCormick has done more to promote and preserve traditional country music that almost anyone I can think of in the last 30 years. He has been a staunch support of the veteran Opry stars continuing to feature them on the Midnite Jamboree along side new and up and coming traditional country acts, even in the face of the so-called country music today. Example, the great Mandy Barnett got one of her first big breaks appearing on the Midnite Jamboree. And where do you find the veteran's celebrating their Opry anniversarys? On the Midnite Jamboree. He's stood up to the Gaylord Gang when they fired Jennifer Herron as a DJ and insisted she be allowed to continue as MC of the Jamboree and he's a big promoter of traditional Texas country music that is now so popular with folks like Justin Trevino, Amber Digby, Darrell McCall, etc. He hosted Kitty Well's 90th birthday party at the record shop and paid to have it broadcasted on WSM. I know it's been tough for him since the Opry has stopped the second show but he's weathered the storm and continued the Jamboree free. I can't tell you the great artists I've gotten to not only see but meet after the show because David McCormick continues the Jamboree -- people like Martha Carson, Roy Drusky, etc. Oh and he was a big supporter of Charlie Louvin and Stonewall Jackson when Fisher was so trashy to them. You wonder what we can do to preserve traditional country music? Buy your CDs and music from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and support David McCormick. It will probably never happen but I believe without a doubt McCormick deserves to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in the non-performer category. God Bless ET and David McCormick.(Oldtimeopry)

  3. Folks at the Opry don't know it but David McCormick sold three tickets for them this weekend. I'm going to the Opry with Family Saturday night but would not have been in town if it wasn't for the Heart of Texas show at the Troubadour Theater Friday night. Oldtime Opry is right on about McCormick. I am more likely to make a trip to see someone on the Midnite Jamboree than the Opry these days but wouldn't miss the Opry once I was in town.

    Opry management could learn a lot form David McCormick if they really wanted to. I still say there is room on the Opry for folks like Amber Digby, Justin Trevino, Dotty Jack and Jake Hooker along side the new country. They could continue to offer all styles of country if they wanted to but I think it is obvious they do not want to. I love bluegrass but it is not a substitute for hard core country like the folks we are talking about. I know Ray Price did three of his more polished songs Saturday night but they were still in stark contrast to all the other new (noise) music we heard and he went over nearly if not just as well as anyone that night. People may like the new music but they still appreciate songs of substance when they are performed well and I think Ray proved that Saturday night.

    Unfortunately, I never met Ernest Tubb or got to see him perform although I do have a few rough recordings of his last days on the Opry including that last Midnite Jamboree appearance. I agree his legacy is still intact thanks to David McCormick but I would also add as keepers of the flame, folks like George IV, Stonewall, Jack Greene, Cal Smith, Leon Rhodes and so many others who came along in the 50's or 60's and worked for or with him. That also included folks like Charlie and Billy Walker who we lost not too many years back. Their appreciation for the music, the Opry and the fans was surly influenced by ET. I also agree with Roy Acuff and Hank Snow being one and two and I am partial to Mr. Acuff but can't mention him without mentioning Hank Snow, its that close. Ernest Tubb would have to be next!

    Lets hope David McCormick can keep carrying the torch and giving respect to those living and past that the Opry has or wants to forget. He has carried the Ernest Tubb legacy with dignity and class and should be recognized and honored for it.


  4. You are so right about the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and David McCormick. I am in the shop all of the time when I am in Nashville and the staff that he has is great in looking for classic country items for you. It is also fantastic the great job they have done putting a lot of out of print Ernest Tubb items out there for people and the number of live CDs that they sell of Ernest.

    The Midnight Jamboree is well done and the artists line-up is always first rate. I know there was some concern a few years ago after the flood and the Opry cutting back to 1 show on most Saturday nights, but I have noticed that attendance has increased since they went back to being a live show at midnight.

  5. After reading about David McCormick,I agree he should be inducted in the Hall of Fame.

  6. Fred, I think Ralph Emery once said a Mt. Rushmore for Opry legends wouldn't be a bad idea. I confess that since I never really got to see the Opry until TNN started televising it, I didn't get to see ET in the same context as Mr. Acuff and Mr. Snow, but they are The Big Three. I think a case could be made for Minnie Pearl, too, if we were picking a fourth for our Mt. Rushmore, though I suspect The Thin Man From West Plains might be close from an Opry standpoint.

  7. Michael,don't forget Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr. on Opry's Mt. Rushmore.

  8. Fred again:

    Great comments, all, including about David McCormick.

    One more thing I wanted to say about E.T.:

    As his health worsened, we all know that E.T.'s voice got more ragged. Even so, it seemed to me he brought more energy and animation to his music than ever. Watch those old Opry TV shows from the '50s, and he was comparatively laid back. Not so in his old age. He seemed to hit the lyrics and notes harder, on stage and in his recordings. So that the re-recordings he made in the late 1970s with Pete Drake are some of my favorite tracks of all.

    I'm sure we Fayfarers could build a worthy Mt. Rushmore, a super distillation of the Hall of Fame. But could we find a mountain big enough? We've already proposed more country immortals than Rushmore has presidents!

  9. Fred, I'm with you all the way. Also, like all great entertainers, ET knew how to make the most of what he had. He knew he didn't have a great singing voice. But he knew, as Mr. Acuff liked to say of himself, how to sell a song. A lot of today's performers don't have that, unfortunately.

  10. I was about 8 years old when I saw ET on one of his final tours. I will never forget it. He came to our little town and my dad loved him. That started my love of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. My folks took a picture of my younger brother and me next to the bus with "Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours" pained on the side. He wore a powder blue suit and of course, his white cowboy hat. I remember very clearly at the end of the show when he flipped is guitar that had "Thanks" on the back and tipped his hat. After the show, he came to the front of the stage to sign autographs. My mom asked him if it would be okay to "take a picture with my little boys." ET looked at her and said, "Well, if you can get 'em up her honey" and winked. Up we went. That picture is one of my prized possessions. Years later, my brother and I had the chance to be guests on the Midnite Jamboree. What a thrill! I will never forget telling that same story live as the Jamboree went out over WSM and I closed by saying, "Somehow, some way, I feel like ET is here with us tonight." I'm with everyone else who says Roy Acuff and Hank Snow are at the top of my list along with Jimmy Dickens and Porter Wagoner but I'm one of those people who Ernest Tubb touched and I felt like even all those years later helped with our music. I'm a little older than the 20 somethings on today's country radio but to me the problem is clear: while my friends were listening to Prince and Michael Jackson, etc., I was listening to Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, etc. mixed in with the country of the 80s and 90s -- Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, George Jones, Haggard, Dolly, etc. Our music would be a lot better off if today's artists learned to love country music the way I learned to love it because of Ernest Tubb. (Oldtimeopry)

  11. Fred here:
    I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of people still with us cherish similar personal memories of E.T. Little wonder he is so loved -- for himself as well as for his timeless music. Thanks for the memory, Oldtime.

  12. I think the other thing is that ET came across as the giving person he was. When he died, a reporter called Hank Snow for a quote and Mr. Snow said that if not for Ernest Tubb, there would be no reason to call HIM--he got him onto the Opry. I read that he gave "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" to Charlie Walker to help him. He put Willie Nelson on his TV show when Ol' Wilver was just trying to get going. And another one I remember hearing is that one day he and Ray Price went to play golf and heard a recording on the radio. ET spent the whole game telling Ray he needed to record it, that it was a great song that needed better singing, and finally, around the 17th, Ray said he would. It was "City Lights," and thus he gave a big career boost to Ray and got Bill Anderson his first big hit as a songwriter. The list is really endless.

  13. Fred again:

    Right you are, Michael. Great quote from Hank!

    The photo in Ronnie Pugh's bio from E.T.'s funeral is eloquent ... mourners from across the gamut of our music, including Hank Jr., Carl Butler, Carl Smith and Bill Monroe.

    I was always tickled that E.T. snuck in one last No. 1 before the end ... his intro to "Leave Them Boys Alone," with Hank Jr., Waylon, et al. The "outlaws" seemed to respect our man as much as anybody.