Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Opry Notes

With things a little slow around the Grand Ole Opry right now, as they usually are toward the end of summer, I thought I would take the time to pass along some Opry notes involving some of the Opry's veteran members and some thoughts.

It would appear that the Opry will honor Loretta Lynn for 50 years of Opry membership on Tuesday September 25. So far announced for that show are Crystal Gayle, Trace Adkins and Lee Ann Womack. But not Loretta!! It is expected that she will be part of the show and an announcement will be coming soon. Loretta officially joined the Opry on September 25, 1962. While it is great that Loretta has been an Opry member for 50 years, it would mean a lot more if she actually did the Opry more than a few times each year. Back in her earlier days, she was a regular performer at the Opry, but it seems that after Ernest Tubb died was when her appearances really went down.

The Opry's 87th birthday celebration will take place on Saturday October 6, with 2 shows. If that seems earlier than normal, it is. Traditionally, the Opry's birthday weekend, which grew out of the old DJ convention, took place the 3rd weekend of October. A few years ago, it moved up to the 2nd weekend, and now it is the 1st weekend. So far the only announced artist is Rodney Atkins for Friday night and Ray Stevens for Saturday. Usually by now there is a pretty good idea on who the "big" names will be, but with only 6 weeks to go until the big weekend, nothing has been announced. The birthday concert is scheduled for 1:00 on that Saturday, but as with the Opry, nothing has been announced. Usually it is one of the Opry's older members from the 80s. And for those who like me make a weekend out of it, Opry Country Classics will take place on Thursday night, but like the Opry's weekend shows, nothing has been announced. But, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree has Wanda Jackson scheduled to host that night. If you are thinking ahead to 2013 and the 88th Opry birthday weekend, the dates are again the 1st weekend, October 4 & 5.

October 25, 2012 will mark the 100th birthday of Minnie Pearl and on the October 23 Tuesday Night
Opry, a special show is planned to mark the date. While no artists have been announced as of yet, it is expected to be a star filled night. I hope that they add some of the Opry's veteran artists who actually worked with and remember Minnie.

Marty Stuart will be celebrating his 20th anniversary as an Opry member on Saturday December 1 with 2 shows at the Ryman Auditorium. Much like Vince Gill's 20th last August, I would expect a big show with some good guest artists. I have already purchased my tickets for that night as I plan on being there. While nothing has been announced, I would not be surprised if the Ernest Tubb Record Shop made an effort to have Marty host the Midnight Jamboree that night. Marty has hosted in the past and that would round out the evening.

The Country Music Hall of Fame has recently added an exhibit honoring Jack Greene. The display includes his CMA Awards, his drum set and a few other items. In 1967, Jack had one of the biggest years an artist has ever had in country music. Over the past several years there has been a growing underground movement to push forward Jack's name for consideration for the Hall of Fame and some feel that this exhibit will help in that effort. That I don't know as there are so many veteran artists up for consideration who honestly, have had better overall careers than Jack. Jack last appeared on the Opry in December 2011.

Fresh off sell-out Opry appearances, both Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban have scheduled additional Opry appearances in September. For Carrie it will be September 1st and for Keith it will be September 4th. I am glad to see both of them taking their Opry membership more seriously than some of the other younger members and continuing to support the show.

George Jones announced that he will be ending his touring career with one last tour in 2013. While as fans we hate to see George retire, it is time. Honestly it should probably have happened sooner. The great voice is just not there anymore and I have spoke to people who have gone to his more recent shows and said they were just sad at how George sounded. You always wish that the great ones would go out while still on top instead of hanging around too long. George does have a new CD coming out.

On August 14, Opry member Ricky Skaggs was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Congratulations to Ricky.

Finally, while this past weekend's Opry shows were not as strong as many this summer, it was still a good night. And I will say that overall, the Opry has presented some great shows this summer. Several weeks ago, Ray Price was outstanding and received standing ovations at both shows. As mentioned above, both Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, along with Rascal Flatts and Randy Travis have all made Opry appearances. The crowds have been good with 2nd Saturday shows added on a couple of the weekends. Upcoming shows also look strong with Dierks Bentley, Martina McBride and Roy Clark scheduled for appearances along with many others. It would appear that with the Marriott deal being completed and the ownership/management situation at Gaylord Entertainment becoming more clearer, the Opry will come out of this ok as management seems committed to the show.


  1. Fred in Bismarck:

    Sound and interesting observations, Byron.

    I, too, hate to see another great one, George Jones, leave the scene. For me, he is one of those landmark artists, coming up just as I was discovering country music so many years ago and "out there" for all this time.

    I honor him above all for having "kept it country" -- along with a few others, like Ray Price and E.T. -- back in the '50s when so many others were crossing over (or trying to) and the music really needed him.

    That said, he became more pop-flavored as time went on -- even as early as the '60s -- both in song selection and instrumentation (too many strings!), and he became less and less interesting to me as the years passed.

    Still and all! -- George has written a huge chapter in the history of country music, and deserves every honor. I assume he has his financial feet under him again and can afford to retire with his laurels. Maybe that retirement be a long and happy one.

  2. Typo time:

    MAY George's retirement be long and happy!

    -- Fred

  3. There isn't much to say about The Possum other than, yes, the greatest country singer ever (considering length of career, number of hits, style, etc.). I also remember him saying once that for all the talk of Lefty Frizzell's influence (Larry Gatlin once said Jones could get eight syllables into the word Thursday), Mr. Acuff was his all-time favorite. If you listen carefully, you can hear it. But I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't retiring (if his health allows), and he just won't do big tours any more, but still will pop up.

    Good for Marty (dare we call it a Marty Party), and good for Carrie and Keith. I'm happy to see Dierks showing up. Now, WHO is Blake Shelton?

    The night of Minnie's 50th, I remember that of course Mr. Acuff hosted. Chet Atkins and Gary Morris did guest appearances, with Chet playing and--sigh--singing her favorite song, "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" As I recall, they had the Hall of Famers come out, so Grandpa, The Potato, and Mr. Snow were on--I think Mr. Monroe was on the road.

  4. As we get closer to Minnie's birthday show, I will post the line-up from Minnie Pearl's 50th Orpy anniversary. And Mike, as usual, your memory is pretty good.

    As far as who Blake Shelton is, I believe he is a member of the Grand Ole Opry, joining in 2010. But I cannot confirm that fact as he is not around to ask!!

  5. I hate to see George retire,but if it has to be,it has to be.

  6. None can say much negative about Ray Price' voice at 86. His last performances on the Opry two weeks ago were awesome.
    The only thing that would have made it better is if someone would have came out of the wings and said, "Ray we would love to have you back as a member of our Grand Ole Opry".

  7. BYRON: On Jack Greene; I too thought that this exhibit might be a push for him to be inducted (or at least nominated) for the CMHF. I feel the same way about Kenny Rogers being the artist in resident this year as well.
    But as much as I like Jack I really do see a need for others to be inducted from that Veterans category before him. They include; The Browns (or at least Jim Ed), Bobby Bare, Hank, Jr. (over 45 years since his first Top-10 hit, he fits in this category believe it or not!) and Jerry Lee Lewis. Of Living artists Jack Greene would be my fifth pick.
    But If you threw in posthumous acts you could add; Archie Campbell, Dottie West, The Wilburn Brothers, Bradley Kincaid and Stringbean (in that order). I believe a posthumous category is needed. That would help with the bag log. You would then have 4 a year inducted.

    On the veteran artists I mentioned above I forgot one (as I believe most of the CM industry has!!), and that is the legendary Jimmy C. Newman. My order for the veterans would be; Browns, Bobby Bare, Hank, Jr., JIMMY C., The Killer and Jack Greene.
    His ballads of the 1950's, "Cry, Cry Darling" and "A Fallen Star" are now classics; He has one of the biggest 'behind the scenes' careers in Nashville, helping many new artists along the way; He is the longest tenured male member of the Grand Ole Opry (now compare his career to Bill Carlisle who is a CMHF member).
    The biggest scenario, to me, would be the Cajun music itself. Cajun is one of those "side" genres of Country Music (i.e., Rockabilly, Bluegrass, Comedy, Gospel) and has not been enshrined in the CMHF membership. I cannot think of a better person for that first honor than Jimmy C. Newman. Who is undoubtedly, "The King" of the genre.

  9. No arguments on your list for the Hall of Fame and I like the idea of a posthumous category very much because the living will always win out over those who have passed on... And I LOVE the suggestion of Jimmy C (if you remember, Jean said he should be inducted in her acceptance speech)... I would just add five to the list: Rose Maddox (pioneer of the west coast sound and a pioneer female who came on the scene shortly after Kitty and Jean); Skeeter Davis (another pioneer female who was the first to overdub her own voice as harmony, expanded country into the pop world and had a tremendous international following, besides which she was a faithful Opry Star for over 40 years); Johnny & Jack (If the Hall can honor Homer & Jethro and the Everly Brothers how in the world can we forget J&J?) and Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper (pioneers of mountain music all the way back to the 30s, probably the most popular husband and wife duo ever, great radio stars from the WWVA Jamboree 10 years before they made it to the Opry and enshrined in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.) HW Jr does probably deserve the Hall, although I'm no fan of his music or the way he keeps shooting his mouth off about politics. (Oldtimeopry)

    1. Oldtimeopry:
      I agree on Wilma Lee & Stoney and Johnnie & Jack. They should already be in the hall. Skeeter Davis, yes possibly (after Dottie West). Rose Maddox, I'm on the fence on. You could say she was an 'early influence', but an argument could also be made for Molly O'Day as far as that goes.

      Personally, I like Hank, Jr.'s music. I grew up in the 1980's, and he was 'the man' to us kids. Yes he as a big month, but that is his freedom and right. Let's face it. I would say 90% or better of his concert crowd wants to hear that stuff..lol..

    2. About a posthumous category:
      Look at the last 10 years: 2002-2012; Only 2 deceased artists have been inducted - DeFord Bailey & Pop Stoneman. And they really should have gone in with their peers, 30+ years prior.
      When these electors see a ballot with five names on it and two of the five or deceased, I believe the living artists will always take the vote. Because of that, Archie Campbell, Dottie West, The Wilburn Brothers, Jerry Reed, Johnnie & Jack, Stringbean, Bradley Kincaid, Vern Gosdin, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Cowboy Copas, Al Dexter, Skeeter Davis, etc.. may never get elected, or even nominated for that matter. I will say Ferlin Husky and Jimmy Dean (both getting elected right before their deaths) made it in just in time.

      A posthumous fourth category would help solve this problem of ignoring those artists who are deceased and also keep the exclusiveness of the Hall of Fame in tacked with only four inductions a year.

  10. One other thing -- I thing the Hall of Fame is way behind without a sideman category. Just like the Baseball Hall of Fame has a Managers Wing... we need a category to recognize people like Bashful Brother Oswald, Don Rich, Don Helms, Billy Byrd, Leon Rhodes, Bonnie Owens, The Tennessee Two, etc. (Oldtimeopry)

    1. I agree. If you think about the sideman category (and the new songwriters category as well) the back log is unbelievable. They start these two categories some 50+ years after the Hall of Fame is constituted, with over 80 years of mainstream Country Music already existing. In a way, I think it was almost 'too late' to even start.

      How could Brother Oswald or Don Rich or Don Helms or Billy Byrd get elected over Floyd Cramer, Charlie McCoy, Harold Bradley or Pig Robbins with the present electors? It's not going to happen.

      And think of the songwriters that were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame some 10 years before Bobby Braddock was. And yet, he goes in before Hank Cochran, Dallas Frazier and others.

      These two particular categories are going to be very interesting to watch in years to come.

      Also, I think Johnny Gimble and the Anita Keer Singers need to be considered.

    2. And I forgot the late Tommy Duncan. Really, I think he was the bigger influence than Bob Wills (yes....I said it).....

    3. Since the Anita Keer Singers were mentioned bringing in background vocals, what about Millie Kirkham. She added that mournful high voice to so many pop and country records. So many of Sonny James' great songs had her voice set the mood. She is one of those folks behind the scenes who added so much but is seldom remembered.


    4. I think many in Nashville would agree with you on Millie Kirkham. In fact, she is always on stage with the Hall of Famers at most of the gatherings. I think it was Ferlin Husky's induction she had a major part in two years ago.
      Personally, my favorite record she was on is "Blue Christmas" by Elvis.

  11. I think if they're going to have an "instrumentalist" category, they need to make sure that sidemen are considered--not just the big session players, which is where they seem to have gone with it. I can't argue against Charlie McCoy and Pig Robbins (if only because he once did a Bob Wills session and when it was time for his solo, Wills said, "Brother Pig").

    Hank Jr is ... ok, let me set aside my own political views. He isn't politic. I have heard--it may have been on this blog--that there were people in Nashville who said Webb Pierce wouldn't get in while he was alive because he made so many enemies. Nobody seems to remember Faron Young saying of himself if he didn't get in while HE was alive, he didn't want it after he died--in other words, he didn't fit the "image." He's had an incredible career (and I confess that when he has said or done stupid things over the years, I think of the upbringing his mother inflicted on him). I'm not a fan of his music, but that doesn't disqualify him, nor should his opinions or personality. But the latter may hurt him.

    We could make an argument for almost anybody. I KNOW I'm not objective about Jimmy C.--he was my mother's favorite and she introduced me to country and Cajun music, and we even met him. But I think he belongs. My opinion, which is worth nothing: he, the Browns, and Archie Campbell are the most deserving of those we have discussed in their categories, just in terms of impact and overall importance. That isn't meant to insult anybody else, but they would be my top votes.

  12. Fred here:

    Good Hall discussion. Of the names put forward here -- for what it's worth -- I would put the Coopers and Johnnie & Jack at the very top of the list. The scope and quality of the music of both of these acts are simply breathtaking. Fortunately, the Bear Family has rescued their classic recordings from the dust heap.

    Ironic that labels in other countries should be the main conservators of our country-music heritage.

    I also consider Hank Jr. most deserving of the Hall, but like others think politics will probably keep him out during his lifetime. When the personal stuff has faded, maybe the stuff that's supposed to count will prevail and he will get in.

    Speaking of the Bear Family, and reminded of Michael's enthusiasm for Jimmy 'C' and things Cajun, I want to make sure, Michael, that you know of a recent BF 3-CD box set, Acadian All-Star Special, of '50s Cajun recordings, that is simply superb. I got it from Collectors Choice for about $60.

  13. Fred, thanks--I didn't know, and I'll check it out.

    I should note, on Hank, Jr., I think the politics in his case aren't even partisan so much as internal Nashville politics. I wonder whether that has hurt Bobby Bare, since he's known for going his own way, while it may have helped Connie Smith to be married to Marty Stuart, who's been a good citizen for the industry. I don't mean to diminish Connie, but it's something to think about, I guess.

    Jim, I had not known about Millie Kirkham, and I'm off to find out more information. Thanks!

    David B., I think Oswald might have a chance since he was around the Opry in the 1990s. You'd think that the Buck Owens fans like Dwight Yoakum and Brad Paisley would lead a push for Don Rich. But again, it's hard to go wrong with any instrumentalist. And in connection with Oswald, how about Howdy Forrester, who was with Mr. Monroe in the old days, or Jimmy Riddle, who also had the Hee Haw connection?

  14. I agree the the posthumous and sidemen category.Induct 5-7 a year until everbody is in then 2-3 a year.

    1. No. I really don't like the idea of a "mass induction". I think 4 would be appropriate. Really,the only "living" artists left that comes close to Hall of Fame worthiness from the 1950's & 1960's are Jimmy C. Newman, The Browns, Bobby Bare, Hank, Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, and possibly Jack Greene and Stonewall Jackson.
      The deceased list is a little longer, Archie Campbell, Dottie West, The Wilburn Brothers, Bradley Kincaid, Stringbean, Cowboy Copas, Johnny & Jack, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, (newer acts - Jerry Reed, Vern Gosdin, Jerry Clower & Eddie Rabbitt) and then Elton Britt and Al Dexter (some think those two belong in). Of these I would say less than half will ever make it unless a posthumous category is added. Reed, Gosdin and Rabbitt for sure will make it. Maybe Dottie West and Archie.

    2. I would add George Hamilton IV to the list. Like the Wilburn Brothers, his importance to country music far exceeds his chart performance. George played a major role in spreading the popularity of country music overseas.

      As much as I love Jack Greene, I have never really seen him as a Hall of Famer, but if he were to be elected I certainly would not be upset. He would certainly make a Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame (assuming current Opry management wasn't running it), but his career lacks the chart performance or wide influence that in my mind makes one a Hall of Famer. Then again, he certainly is as worthy as George Morgan, Homer & Jethro, or Bill Carlisle. I think a stronger case can be made for David Houston, who had more #1 and more top 10 songs and played a role in the early career of two Hall of Famers (Tammy Wynette and Barbara Mandrell).

    3. I had not really thought of George Hamilton IV. I'll have to think on this. I love his music and I am currently trying to find his original recordings (other than "Abliene") for my iTunes. I'm having a rather hard time doing so. As far as the CMHF, right now, however, he would be behind Jack Greene and Stonewall Jackson for me.

      Now, as time progresses and he endures on the Grand Ole Opry, he may be considered one day. I think if Bill Carlisle would have passed away 15 years earlier he would not have a bronze plaque in the CMHF today.

      David Houston falls into the same boat as others: Al Dexter (1940's), Leroy Van Dyke (1960's), Freddie Hart (1970's), Earl Thomas Conley (1980's) and Dan Seals (1980's). I think their chart success far exceeds their influence on the County Music genre. I don't believe (and I may be fooled!) that any of those men will ever be Country Music Hall of Fame members.

      Take ETC for example. I think he had 17 No. 1 Hits for the whole decade in the 1980's. This far exceeds Gene Watson and Vern Gosdin by far. But because of the greater influence Gosdin and Watson has on other artists, I believe they will be Hall of Famers in the near future.

      That is why I chuckle when I see posts of people already wanting to put Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban & other acts of today in the CMHF. In six months those two (Carrie, Keith) could stop getting played and be off the Country Music radar screen totally. Not likely, I know, but it has happened. David Houston is a good example of it.

  15. I agree WITH the posthomous and sidemen category.They should have done that 30 years ago.Talk about slow.

  16. They should have started with the posthumous and sidemen category along with regular inductees every year since 1961.That way you would not have a backlog.

  17. I think I was, along with Michael, one of the earliest fans of this blog. I so rarely get a chance to join in on the discussion anymore and when I do I always get long winded and don't want to be a pest (or, as my little 3 year old nephew says, a "pesk"). But I stop by several times a week and absolutely LOVE the back and forth among the regulars. It's good to know there are other people out there who share my passion for the history of country music and your thoughts, gripes, opinions and memories are always enjoyable, entertaining and educational!

    Since Millie Kirkham's name has popped up on this thread I thought the following item that arrived in my inbox today might be of interest to some of you:

    If for some reason you can't open this link, Millie will be appearing at the Country Music Hall of Fame on September 29th for a program and sutograph signing as part of the Hall's "Nashville Cats" series. Here is the bio that was included in the e-mail:

    Nashville Cats

    Singer Millie Kirkham was featured as a harmony vocalist on many hit songs from the 1950s to the 1980s. Kirkham's strong, clear soprano could be heard on recordings such as Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," "Bridge over Troubled Water," "(You're the) Devil in Disguise," "Polk Salad Annie," and many others. She also contributed vocals to recordings by artists such as Ferlin Husky ("Gone"), George Jones ("He Stopped Loving Her Today"), Roy Orbison ("It's Over"), and countless others. Kirkham often collaborated with the Anita Kerr Singers and the Jordanaires to create the lush vocal arrangements that are a hallmark of the Nashville Sound.

    With some of the great programs that the Hall of Fame puts on today I really hate that I live so far away from my old home town!