This Tuesday night, the Grand Ole Opry will honor Loretta Lynn as she will be celebrating her 50th year as an Opry member. Her actual Opry induction date was September 25, 1962. While Loretta has been one of the greatest female singers in the history of country music, her history at the Opry has been spotty at best. As with many of the Opry's members, when she first joined the show, she made regular appearances, especially on segments hosted by her friend Ernest Tubb. Then over the years, as the hit records came and she moved into superstar status, she has largely ignored the Opry. In the past decade, her appearances have been few and far between. For 2012, this will be just her 2nd Opry appearance, while in 2011 she made it to the Opry just once. Since 2000, when she made 12 Opry appearances, she has averaged just 3 shows per year.
Loretta made her first Opry appearance on October 15, 1960. Teddy and Doyle Wilburn were instrumental in getting her to Nashville and helped to get her booked on the Opry. Loretta later recalled her first night. "Ernest Tubb was the one who introduced me. I was on the Pet Milk part of the show. And I bought this dress to wear-it was real thin and had big puffed sleeves. It was kinda like a party dress. Lester Wilburn's wife cut my hair and got me ready for my first time on the Grand Ole Opry. I remember going out on stage and I remember tapping my foot. I was so scared I don't remember anything else." That night she sang, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl." Leslie Wilburn played bass behind; Lester Wilburn was on rhythm guitar. She said the audience responded to her well. "Oh, yeah! They figured if you was good enough to be on the Grand Ole Opry, you must be okay.
After that Opry appearance, Loretta moved on, returning to Nashville in July 1961. On that return visit, she appeared on the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree. During the broadcast she mentioned Patsy Cline and the fact that she was hospitalized. Later, she met Patsy and they developed a strong friendship that lasted the remainder of Patsy's life.
Prior to her joining the Opry, Loretta was a guest on the Opry for seventeen straight weeks. As Loretta said, "It seems there were a lot of girl singers who were trying to get to the top at the same time. When I came along they got jealous and started complaining at the Opry because I got invited back so much. Then they started telephoning me and saying I ought to go back to the West Coast."
I have no issue with Loretta personally. While I have not met her, may wife has and she has had only positive things to say about Loretta. I have seen her on the Opry many times and she has always done a great job. And I have no issue with the Opry honoring Loretta for this great achievement of being an Opry member for 50 years. I just wish she was at the Opry more and remembers how important the Opry once was to her career.
I do not have the line-up from the night Loretta first performed on the Opry, or the night she became a member, but here is the line-up for the Tuesday Night Opry, September 25th, when Loretta Lynn will be honored for 50 years of Opry membership.
7:00: Jimmy Dickens; Lee Ann Womack
7:30: Crystal Gayle; Trace Adkins
8:15: Bill Anderson; Miranda Lambert
8:45: Pistol Annies; Loretta Lynn
Congratulations to Loretta Lynn