Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Could Keith Urban Be The Next New Opry Member? New Ryman Stage

Sometimes when it comes to predicting who the next new Opry member might be, it is like connecting the dots. You have to look for clues and guess how Steve Buchanan and Pete Fisher are thinking. Not to pat myself on the back, but I did correctly predict Blake Shelton, the Oak Ridge Boys and Rascal Flatts becoming Opry members. (Just for purposes of total honesty, I did miss on Rhonda Vincent, which many of us still don't know why is not an Opry member).

Now, in looking at some upcoming Opry events, I am taking a guess, and understand that it is just a guess, that Keith Urban might become an Opry member, and the invitation might come as early as on the Friday Night Opry.

Keith Urban has been a very popular country music superstar for a number of years and he has played the Opry in the past, to a great reception. He has stated that he loves the Opry and Opry management seems to like him. In the past, they have featured Keith on the Opry website and have really promoted his appearances. Keith is a strong supporter of the Country Music Hall of Fame, as his benefit concert for the Hall is one of the most popular and successful fundraisers.

Now, to connect some dots. This week, Keith is scheduled for the Friday Night Opry. The first dot is that this will be Keith's first "official" appearance since his vocal surgery. I know he was scheduled for a couple of Opry shows that he had to cancel due to the surgery, but it is interesting that his first show back is at the Opry.

The next dot pertains to the Ryman Auditorium and it's famous stage. Gaylord announced this week that they will be replacing the stage at the Ryman with a new stage. The current wooden stage, the most famous in country music, has been there since 1951. The new stage will be more durable and be able to hold more weight, which will allow the Ryman to be used for more purposes. In the 1990s, when the Ryman Auditorium was renovated, the famous stage was not replaced but was sanded and refinished. According to Steve Buchanan, because of the age and condition of the stage, that can not be done this time. The new floor will be made of Brazilian teak, which is the same floor that is currently at the Grand Ole Opry House. The new stage will be slightly darker than the current one. Gaylord is not announcing what is going to be done with the old stage, other than it will be under 24 hour guard so that pieces of it do not disappear and that portions of the old floor will still be used on the edges of the new floor. (the complete story is in the Tennessean).

Now, to connect this dot. I saw one announcement that Keith will be the final performer on the old floor at the Ryman. If that is the case, that would hold some signficance. In the past, the Opry has used special events as a backdrop for inviting a new member. The final performance on the old Ryman stage would sure qualify.

The final dot is that Keith is scheduled to perform at the Opry in March and with an invitation in February, the March show would be the perfect opportunity to do the induction.

Granted, that is a lot of speculation on my part and a lot of "connecting the dots". But, I am throwing this out there and it will be interesting to see what happens.

My final thought on the old Ryman stage. First, I have to admit even though I have stood on the stage many times, I never really had thought that the floor had never been updated. I know that the wood is different where the circle was cut out, but I just never thought. Secondly, if the rumors are right that Keith will be the last performer to play on that stage, that is just plain wrong. It should be Jimmy Dickens, who is the only Opry member with a link back to when the stage was installed in 1951. Maybe he will be. Let's hope.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 1/27 & 1/28

Update #1: George Hamilton IV is off the schedule for Friday night.

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for the shows this weekend. This will be the final full weekend at the Ryman Auditorium as next Saturday the Opry returns to the Grand Ole Opry House.

Friday Night's Opry will feature newcomer Casey James, along with Opry members Del McCoury Band, Craig Morgan and Diamond Rio. Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry will have Opry member Ricky Skaggs performing along with guest artists Love And Theft, along with John Anderson.

Friday January 27
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jimmy C Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Craig Morgan
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Casey James
8:45: Mike Snider (host); Ray Pillow; Diamond Rio

Saturday January 28
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); John Conlee; Love And Theft
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jim Ed Brown; Connie Smith; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; John Anderson; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Mike Snider; Diamond Rio

That comes down to 13 artist for each night, 12 of which are Opry members on Friday night and 11 Opry members on Saturday night. I personally am glad to see the majority of those performing each night being Opry members.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree contines this week with their archived shows. This week's show will be hosted by Carl and Pearl Butler, which should be great. Very rarely do we hear this great duo and former Opry members. Like I mentioned, it should be a good one. Next week's show will feature an archive hosted by Roy Acuff.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Grand Ole Opry 1/20 & 1/21

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line ups for the 2 shows this weekend, 1 on Friday night and 1 on Saturday night. The big event his weekend will be on Saturday night, when the Opry honors Emmylou Harris on the 20th anniversary of her Opry membership. (Her actual Opry induction date is January 25, 1992). The Opry is going to devote a whole hour to Emmylou and she will be celebrating with a bunch of her friends, including Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell and Buddy Miller.

According to Pete Fisher, Opry vice president and general manager, "Emmylou is treasured not just by all of us at the Grand Ole Opry, but also by fans around the world. She's shared so many great musical moments with us over the past 20 years, singing with and introducing us to some of her favorite musical collaborators. We're excited to celebrate her Opry anniversary at the Ryman, a stage on which she's displayed such incredible artistry through the years."

Taking the information from the Opry's press release, "During her career, Harris has successfully erased boundaries between country, folk and rock n' roll. During the 60s she fell in love with folk music and began performing while in college. In the late 60s Harris met Gram Parsons, formerly of The Byrds, and he became her mentor and singing partner, drawing her into the 70s country rock movement. She toured with and recorded with Parsons until his death in 1973. Since then, Harris has continued to develop her musical style by combining folk music with an electric base and has a sound that is uniquely her own. She has enjoyed seven No. 1 and 27 Top 10 hits. Among her most memorable releases: 'If I Could Only Win Your Love,' 'Together Again,' 'Sweet Dreams,' 'Making Believe,' 'To Daddy,' and 'Heartbreak Hill.' In 1999 Billboard Magazine recognized her distinguished career achievements with its highest honor-the Century Award. Harris was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and has won 12 Grammy awards."

As far as my comments, I will admit that I am an Emmylou Harris fan. I have seen her many times at the Opry and she has always done a fine job. When she joined the Opry, I was pleased and being located in Nashville and an active part of the music community, I really thought Emmylou would take her Opry membership seriously and would have appeared on the show more than she has. In that respect, she has been a disappointment. In 2006, she appeared at the Opry 9 times, and that is her high water mark. In 2010, she made 8 appearances, but only 2 last year. Since 2000, she has made just 44 Opry appearances, or an average of just under 4 per year.

When I see her at the Opry, she seems to really enjoy it. She gets a great crowd reaction, will usually host a segment on which the Opry will allow her to bring pretty much anyone she wants to perform with, and will usually dance a bit with the square dancers. I do know that she enjoys the Ryman Auditorium more than the Opry House, and most of her appearances with the Opry have come when the show is at the Ryman.

My other issue is not so much with Emmylou but with the Opry. In the past year, the Opry has devoted large segments of their shows to honor Vince Gill on his 20th anniversary as an Opry member, to honor Randy Travis on 25 years on Opry membership and to honor George Jones on his birthday. I know that they tried very hard to get Alan Jackson in to honor him for 20 years as an Orpy member last year, but they couldn't come up with a date. (I guess Alan was too busy for the Opry!!). My issue is how they have treated the real milestones of Opry membership. When George Hamilton IV, Jimmy C Newman, Billy Grammer, Charlie Louvin and Jean Shepard all celebrated 50 years of Opry membership, they were "allowed" to sing 2 songs, get a watch from Pete Fisher, and then sent on their way. They were not even given the honor of hosting a segment on their big night. Granted the Opry did better with Bill Anderson's 50th anniverary last year, and I am sure there will be a big, big show for Loretta Lynn's 50th anniversary later this year.

Opry membership is important to many of the artists and all should be honored for reaching certain levels of membership. While George, Jimmy C, Billy, Charlie and Jean were not the big stars they once were, they are still important to the history of the Opry and of country music. The Louvin Brothers might be the greatest duo in country music history. Honor them the way they should be honored!!

My thinking is that you can mark the occasion of an artist being an Opry member at the 10 year mark, then at 20 years and every 5 years after that. And special mention should be given to those artists who actually show up and support the show. To me, the biggest laugh was honoring Randy Travis on 25 years of Opry membership and he probably hasn't even done 25 Opry shows in his life

Anyways, sorry for being on the soapbox.

As far as the rest of this week's line up, both nights look very good. In addition to Emmylou and Vince on Saturday night, Craig Morgan will be on. The Friday Night Opry will feature Opry members Diamond Rio, Terri Clark and Ricky Skaggs.

Friday January 20
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; Connie Smith; Diamond Rio
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Terri Clark; Darryl Worley
8:45: John Conlee (host); Eric Paslay; Ricky Skaggs

Saturday January 21
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jean Shepard; Jesse McReynolds; Craig Morgan
8:15: Emmylou Harris (host); Shawn Colvin; Rodney Crowell; Vince Gill; Buddy Miller; Kimmie Rhodes; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers

With 1 more slot to be filled on Friday night, there are currently 12 artists scheduled, of whom 10 are Opry members. On Saturday night, there are currently 13 artists scheduled, with 1 slot to fill. 9 of those are Opry members.

This week's Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree will feature an archived show hosted by Mac Wiseman. That should be a good one.

For the ranting that I did, both shows this weekend look pretty good and my congratulations to Emmylou Harris on 20 years of Opry membership.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Information on Posting on the Blog

As I am sure some of you have noticed, and based on the emails I am receiving I know some of you have, the format has changed with the blog and it has resulted in some of you having difficulty leaving comments. First, I am sorry about what has happened. I admit, I am not a computer genius, but apparently what has happened is that Internet Explorer sent down some type of update or change in their program and as a result, if you are using Internet Explorer as your web browser, you are now unable to leave comments and your screen actually freezes up when you try to leave a comment. Again, I am sorry for this and if I could fix it I would. (In fact, if anyone has any ideas, send them or email to me (bfay54@gmail.com), and I will try.

I do know that if you use firefox or google chrome, the blog works fine. For me to comment, I did switch from internet explorer to firefox. Not suggesting anyone do that, but it is working for me. Perhaps the internet explorer issue will self correct itself and everything will be fine.

Again, I am sorry about this. I know one option I have is to switch to a different blog service but that would be a last resort for me. Anyways, for those who can comment, please continue to do so. I look so forward to reading them. If not, you can email me and we can trade comments that way also. The blog will continue so please keep checking and thanks again for your patience.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Remembering Charlie Collins

I found out earlier this morning that Charlie Collins has passed away at the age of 78. Charlie was born in 1933 near Caryville, Tennessee. After serving in the Army, he joined the Pinnacle Mountain Boys and after entering the Pet Milk talent contest, they made it all the way to the Grand Ole Opry. In 1966, Charlie moved to Nashville and joined up with Roy Acuff, becoming one of the Smoky Mountain Boys. He remained a member until Roy's death in 1992, after which Charlie played guitar with Brother Oswald. Charlie also was part of the Opry's Squaredance Band with Earl White, continuing in that role through last week's Opry show.

I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie one time and that was in Opryland back in the 1990s. He was friendly and I enjoyed meeting him. He even signed a birthday card for my wife. People tell me he was a joy to have around the Opry and he will be missed.

I know Charlie was not an official member of the Opry, but he has been a part of the show for the last 45 years. I hope that during this weekend's shows Pete Fisher will give a special mention to Charlie and that the shows will be dedicated to him. For sure, I would expect something to be said when the squaredancers come out for their performance.

Prayers and thoughts go to Charlie's family through this difficult time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Comment Issues

I have received emails that some of you are unable to bring up and place comments on the blog. I am trying to figure it out. Sorry about the issue. I will keep everyone posted. But, I am still posting and checking. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Night Opry In 2012

I was doing some checking this evening and found that the Opry is going to schedule a Wednesday Night Opry show for a couple of weeks this summer. The dates will be from July 18-August 8. I know that they were going to do this in 2010, but then the flood happened and the Wednesday night shows never took place. Last year they did not try it. It will be interesting to see how this additional mid-week show will do.

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 1/13 & 1/14

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the schedule for the 2 shows this weekend. 1 show on Friday night and 1 show on Saturday night, both down at the Ryman Auditorium. The shows don't look too bad for this weekend.

Friday night will feature Opry member Vince Gill. Ricky Skaggs and Del McCoury, who will also be on the Saturday night show, join him. Saturday's show will feature a return Opry appearance by non-members The Black Lillies, Katie Armiger and Rodney Atkins, who has had his share of problems lately.

After several weeks away from the Opry, Bill Anderson returns this weekend for both shows, while Jimmy Dickens will be making a personal appearance this weekend and will not be at the Opry.

Friday January 13
7:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jesse McReynolds; Restless Heart
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard; Brett Eldredge
8:45: Vince Gill (host); The Whites; Ricky Skaggs

Saturday January 14
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; George Hamilton IV; The Black Lillies
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Katie Armiger; Del McCoury Band
8:15: Ricky Skaggs (host); Jan Howard; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Rodney Atkins

No Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree this weekend. The archived show Saturday night will be hosted by Jimmy Martin.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Charlie Collins

I received word this morning from a couple of people that Charlie Collins, who spent many years with Roy Acuff as one of his Smoky Mountain Boys, suffered a massive stroke on Sunday and is in the hospital in critical condition. Thoughts and prayers are with Charlie and his family. Since Roy's passing, Charlie has played guitar for the square dancers, joined by Earl White on fiddle. As I receive more information, I will pass it along.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Former Grand Ole Opry member Norma Jean

It was on January 9, 1965 that former Grand Ole Opry member, and duet partner of Porter Wagoner, Norma Jean, joined the Grand Ole Opry.

Norma Jean Beasler was born near Welliston, Oklahoma on January 30, 1938 (is it possible that "Pretty Miss Norma Jean" is going to be 74 this year?). Norma Jean was known for her cheerful, sisterlike smile and uncompromising, woman-oriented songs. She also had a certain, likeable quality about her.

At an early age, she moved with her family to Oklahoma City, where at the age of 12 she traded her bicycle for a guitar. Her aunt taught her how to play, and while still in school she had three weekly radio spots on KLPR. Her chief influence was Kitty Wells. After working with western-swing bands, she joined the cast of the ABC show Ozark Jubilee in 1958. It was on that show that she met Porter Wagoner.

In 1960 she moved to Nashville, soon joining the Porter Wagoner Show on syndicated television, where she was known as Pretty Miss Norma Jean. After an unsuccessful debut on Columbia Records in 1959, she moved to RCA in 1963. Her first hit, "Let's Go All the Way" (#11, 1964), became her best known song. Of her twenty-two chart records, her highest was "The Game of Triangles" (#5, 1966), recorded with Bobby Bare and Liz Anderson. On most of her records, Porter Wagoner functioned as de facto producer. Though he and Norma Jean occasionally sang live duets, they never recorded as a duo. She was a member of the Grand Ole Opry from 1965 until leaving in 1969.

She left Wagoner's show in 1967 to marry Harold Taylor, yet stayed with RCA until 1973. (Of course, she was replaced on Porter's show by Dolly Parton). A confessed recovered alcoholic and devout Christian, she later married Nashville musician George Riddle. The last that I heard about Norma Jean was that she was performing in Branson as part of Cowboy Church and had a show in a theater there. I know that she is no longer married to George Riddle and I believe that she had a new album out a couple of years ago. I know several of her older ones are still available at various sites.

I am not going to go into the subject of her relationship with Porter Wagoner, which I think is pretty well known by just about everyone, including the subject of her daughter. If you wish to read the whole story, much of it from interviews with Norma Jean, I recommend that you read the Porter Wagoner biography by Steve Eng. It is an excellent book that covers the subject very well.

As I mentioned, Norma Jean joined the Grand Ole Opry on January 9, 1965. Here is the running order of the show that night. (remember back in those days there was just one Saturday night show). She left the Opry in 1969, after she left Porter's show and left Nashville to return to Oklahoma.

7:30 Luzianne
Jimmy C Newman (host): (?)
The Carlisles: The Great Snowman
Bobby Lord: (?)
Loretta Lynn: Before I'm Over You
Jimmy C Newman; You're Still On My Mind
Del Wood: Piano Roll Blues
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Bobby Lord: You've Gotta Take The Bucket To The Well
Ed Hyde: Ida Red
Jimmy C Newman: (?)

8:00: Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host); Howdy Neighbor, Howdy
Charlie Louvin: I Don't Love You Anymore
Dottie West: In Its Own Little Way
Willie Nelson: Hello Walls
Osborne Brothers: This Heart Of Mine
Porter Wagoner: One Way Ticket To The Blues
NORMA JEAN: Lonesome Number One
Crook Brothers: Liberty
Charlie Louvin: Once A Day
Buck Trent: (?)

8:30: Stephens
Roy Acuff (host): (?)
Wilburn Brothers: Never Alone
Bill Anderson: Three AM
Archie Campbell: Comedy
Roy Acuff: Freight Train Blues
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: This Train
Margie Bowes: Big City
Wilburn Brothers: I'm Gonna Tie One On Tonight
Bill Anderson: In Case You Ever Change Your Mind

9:00: Pet Milk
Leroy Van Dyke (host): Your Money
Skeeter Davis: The End Of The World
Sonny James: The Minute Your Gone
Curly Fox: Listen To The Mockingbird
Leroy Van Dyke: Lonely Street
Glaser Brothers: The Ballad Of Kitty Wells
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Katy Hill
Sonny James: You're The Only World I know
Leroy Van Dyke: Ann Of The Thousand Days

9:30: Kelloggs
Hank Snow (host); The Wishing Well
Bill Monroe: There's An Old Home
Roy Drusky: Strangers
Willis Brothers: Give Me 40 Acres
Hank Snow: Lonesome 7-7203
Marion Worth: The French Song
The Browns: The Three Bells
Hank Snow: (?)

10:00: Schick
Bobby Lord (host): When The Snow Falls
Loretta Lynn: Happy Birthday
Osborne Brothers: Give This Message To Your Heart
Del Wood: Night Train To Memphis
Bobby Lord: Y'all Come

10:15: Mary Carter
Jimmy C Newman (host): Summer Skies & Golden Sands
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: I Couldn't Care Less
Bill Anderson: You Can Have Her, I Don't Want Her
Bill Carlisle: Little Liza Jane
Jimmy C Newman: Cry, Cry Darling

10:30: Harvey's
Porter Wagoner (host): Will You Be Loving Another Man
Sonny James: Young Love/You're The Only World I Know
Porter Wagoner: I'll Go Down Swinging

10:45: Newport
Roy Acuff (host): All The Things That Might Have Been
Margie Bowes: Overnight
Wilburn Brothers: I Don't Care
Crook Brothers: (?)
June Stearns: Release Me

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Bill Monroe: Goodbye Old Pal
Leroy Van Dyke: The Auctioneer
Glaser Brothers: All Night Cafe
Hank Snow: My Life With You
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Alabama Gal
Dottie West: Here Comes My Baby
Sam & Kirk McGee: Nine Pound Hammer
Hank Snow: My Blue Eyed Jane

11:30: Lava
Roy Drusky (host); Second Hand Rose
Charlie Louvin: Just Between The Two Of Us
Marion Worth: He Thinks I Still Care
Willis Brothers: Blazin' Smoke Stacks
Roy Drusky: Strangers
The Browns: Everybody's Darling, Plus Mine/Then I'll Stop Loving You
Willie Nelson: Family Bible
Curly Fox: Alabama Jubilee
Charlie Louvin: Less & Less
Roy Drusky: Anymore

There were some really great Opry members on that night. Willie Nelson, Bobby Lord, Leroy Van Dyke and Sonny James among many others.

Here's to Norma Jean, who I hope is doing well and still making music. She had a great voice!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Grand Ole Opry Recap

With 2012 upon us, it is now time to do a recap of 2011 at the Grand Ole Opry, including show counts and member appearances. Looking at 2011, they year started with 67 Opry members. The current number entering 2012 is 65, as 4 members passed away in 2011 and 2 were added. Charlie Louvin, Mel McDaniel, Billy Grammer and Wilma Lee Cooper were those who passed, while the Oak Ridge Boys and Rascal Flatts were added.

Of the 65 Opry members, 3 are listed as retired. Those are Jeanne Pruett, Barbara Mandrell and Ricky Van Shelton. 1 Opry member as been unable to appear due to health issues and that is Hal Ketchum. That leaves 61 active Opry members. Of those 61 active members, 4 made no Opry appearances in 2011. Those 5 were Garth Brooks, Tom T Hall, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood. With the exception of Tom T Hall, who has not appeared on the Opry in over 15 years, Travis Tritt is the Opry member who has gone the longest without appearing on the show. Travis made his last Opry appearance in 2007.

In 2011, there were a total of 181 Opry shows. That compares with 188 in 2010, 200 in 2009 and 201 in 2008. The breakdown last year was 53 Friday Night Opry shows, 72 Saturday night shows, 43 Tuesday Night Opry shows, 12 Opry Country Classics on Thursday night and 1 Saturday matinee show. The reduction in shows from last year was primarily from a reduction in the number of Opry Country Classics shows

Looking at the list of Opry members and the number of appearances they made in 2011, the leader was Jimmy Dickens, with 143. Considering that he is the Opry's oldest member, that is amazing. As I list the appearances for each Opry member, please remember in today's Opry world, an Opry member gets credit for appearing on the show no matter what night they appear. (Back in the old days, only Friday and Saturday night shows counted). Also, remember, particuarly in the case of the new members who have joined since Pete Fisher has been the Opry's general manager, he has asked each of the new members to commit to 10 shows per year.

Here is the top 10 in 2011 Opry appearances:
1) Jimmy Dickens-143
2) Bill Anderson-84
3) Jim Ed Brown-77
4) Jimmy C Newman-75
5) The Whites-74
6) Riders In The Sky-73
7) Jeannie Seely/Mike Snider-69
8) Connie Smith-63
9) Jean Shepard-61
10) John Conlee-58

As you can see, many of the Opry's legends and senior members are still carrying the bulk of the work load despite the efforts to make the Opry younger and more relevant.

Continuing on with the list, here are numbers 11-20:
11) Bobby Osborne-54
12) Jesse McReynolds-46
13) Jack Greene-44
14) Jan Howard-32
15) Del McCoury-26
16) George Hamilton IV-25
17) Diamond Rio-20
18) Vince Gill-18
19) Ricky Skaggs-17
20) Larry Gatlin/Pam Tillis-16

Now for the rest of those who made at least the 10 appearances asked for by management:
21) Charlie Daniels-12
22) Joe Diffie/Charley Pride/Steve Wariner-11
23) Terri Clark/Craig Morgan/Oak Ridge Boys-10

Of the Opry's 61 active members, only 29 made at least 10 appearances in 2011, or 47.5% of its members. Here is the rest of the list:
Ray Pillow/Marty Stuart-9
Mel Tillis/Josh Turner/Carrie Underwood-8
Rascal Flatts-7
Trace Adkins/Montgomery Gentry-6
Dierks Bentley/Stonewall Jackson/Martina McBride/Ralph Stanley-5
Alison Krauss/Ronnie Milsap/Lorrie Morgan/Stu Phillips/Blake Shelton-4
Clint Black/Emmylou Harris/Brad Paisley-3
Roy Clark/Patty Loveless-2
Alan Jackson/George Jones/Loretta Lynn/Dolly Parton/Randy Travis-1
Garth Brooks/Tom T Hall/Reba McEntire/Travis Tritt/Trisha Yearwood-0

Of the 61 active Opry members, 25 were segment hosts this past year. Here is that list:
1) Jimmy Dickens-106
2) Bill Anderson-65
3) Mike Snider-54
4) Riders In The Sky-44
5) Jeannie Seely-40
6) Jim Ed Brown-39
7) John Conlee-36
8) Vince Gill-17
9) Jean Shepard-16
10) Ricky Skaggs-9
11) Charley Pride/Marty Stuart/Pam Tillis/Larry Gatlin-8
12) Steve Wariner-7
13) The Whites-6
14) Mel Tillis-5
15) Ray Pillow-4
16) Emmylou Harris/Trace Adkins/George Hamilton IV/Diamond Rio-3
17) Ronnie Milsap-2
18) Lorrie Morgan/Roy Clark-1

In 2011, a total of 215 non-Opry members made guest appearances on at least one of the Opry shows, with many of these making their first appearance ever. Of the non-members, here were the top 8 in 2011:

1) Mandy Barnett-26
2) Jimmy Wayne-17
3) Dailey & VincentJames Wesley-14
4) Elizabeth Cook/The GrascalsMark Wills-12
5) Holly Williams-11
6) Sarah Darling/Restless Heart/Joey+Rory/Edens Edge-10
7) Rebecca Lynn Howard/Exile/Rodney Atkins/Darryl Worley/Gene Watson/Jim Lauderdale-8
8) Point of Grace/Brett Eldridge/T.G. Sheppard-7
8) Rhonda Vincent/Suzy Bogguss/Josh Thompson-6

That is the recap of 2011. I think it is interesting to go back and look at the numbers. Many of the Opry's members have done a great job fulfilling their obligations to the show. I think a number of the legends would have made more Opry appearances if asked. But, there are still a great number of Opry members who need to step up their appearances. I know we have covered this before, but there is no excuse for some of these artists to be showing up once or twice per year and calling themselves Opry members, especially when they still have active careers going.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this look back.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Grand Ole Opry Schedule 1/6 & 1/7

Before posting and commenting on this week's Grand Ole Opry schedule, I just wanted to follow up on the Carol Lee Cooper item that I had last week. Yesterday I received my electronic copy of the Bill Anderson Fan Club Newsletter. In it, he has a section where he answers letters and questions from fans and one of this months questions had to do with Carol Lee Cooper and asking why she doesn't sing with her group anymore. The response from Bill was that "Carol Lee has had some health issues and has taken a leave of absence from singing and performing. We all hope, as she does, that she will be able to return shortly. We miss her just as you do." So that is the latest and I will say that Bill seems to be the first Opry member to comment on her situation publicly.

As far as the Opry this weekend, the show continues its winter run at the Ryman Auditorium with one show on Friday Night and one show on Saturday night. Looking at the line ups for the shows, there is really nothing special to report. No blockbuster names this weekend, but a good mix of talent. The very talented guitar player Doyle Dykes is scheduled for both shows this weekend. Joining Doyle on Friday night will be Opry members Ralph Stanley and Diamond Rio and non-Opry member, but frequent Opry guest, Danny Gokey. Saturday night's Grand Ole Opry will feature non-members Eden Edge along with newcomer Andy Gibson. He is another in the string of newcomers that Pete Fisher seems to be inviting to perform on the Opry. He is from the west coast and has been featured on GAC.

Friday January 6
7:00: John Conlee (host); Connie Smith; Danny Gokey
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Doyle Dykes
8:15: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Ralph Stanley
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Diamond Rio

Saturday January 7
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; Andy Gibson
7:30: Mike Snider (host); George Hamilton IV; Connie Smith; Bo Bice
8:15: John Conlee (host); Jean Shepard; Edens Edge; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Bobby Osborne & Rocky Top X-Press; Doyle Dykes

That comes out to 12 artists on Friday night, with 10 Opry members and 13 artists on Saturday night with 9 Opry members. Also interesting is that the segment hosts are the same 4 that hosted segments last week.

No live Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree this weekend as now through the middle of February they will be running archived shows. This week's show is hosted by Ernest Tubb. I don't know from what year and who the guest artists are, but it will be interesting and fun to listen back and her old Ernest again.

Monday, January 2, 2012

January Opry Highlights

Here are the important and historical events that have taken place in Grand Ole Opry history during the month of January.

January 16, 1943: Ernest Tubb makes his Grand Ole Opry debut. When he comes to the Opry, he plays a guitar that belonged to his idol Jimmie Rodgers, and was given to him by Carrie Rodgers, Jimmie's widow. Ernest would remain one of the Opry's most loyal and important members until his death in September 1984.

January 7, 1950: Hank Snow makes his first appearance on the Opry. As he wrote in his book, this was one of the few times on the Opry that Hank wore a hat. Ernest Tubb, who convinced Opry management to give Hank a chance, allowed Hank to use his band because Hank could not afford to pay any musicians. That night, Ernest introduced Hank by saying, "From up Canada way, here's the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, the Singing Ranger, Hank Snow!" Hank later said he didn't know if he was considered an Opry member or not and had not asked. Hank sang "Brand On My Heart" and as he said, received little audience reaction. He told his wife Min after the show, "Min, I am never, never going back to the Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is not for me." Min responded, "Now, you can't expect everything to happen in just one night. People will become more familiar with you as time goes on. You're lucky you've been given this chance." Hank of course stayed with the Opry and was about to get fired but right before it was to happen "I'm Movin' On" was released and became a monster hit. As they say, the rest is history.

January 7, 1950: On the same night that Hank Snow made his first appearance on the Opry, so did Tennessee Ernie Ford, who was featured on the Prince Albert portion that was hosted by Red Foley. Ernie forgot what he sang that night, as his son had been born when he was flying from California to Nashville the day before. Minnie Pearl would later say that he sang, "Anticipation Blues." While he never became an Opry member, Ernie Ford had an open invitation to appear on the Opry whenever he was in the neighborhood and he would take the Opry up on it's offer many times during his career.

January 1, 1953: Hank Williams is found dead on the back seat of his car as he was being driven to a show in Canton, Ohio. By the way, the auditorium where he was set to perform is still standing and in use today, and is located about 3 miles from my house. On an additonal note, Jimmy Dickens was also booked for that show in Canton but because the weather was so bad, he didn't make the trip.

January 19, 1953: Marty Robbins makes his first Opry appearance.

January 1, 1960: Billy Walker joins the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain an Opry member until passing away, along with his wife, in a car accident while returning to Nashville from on concert in Alabama, in 2006.

January 9, 1960: Patsy Cline joins the Grand Ole Opry. In a pretty famous and often told story, Patsy, who had been appearing as a guest artist for a few years, approached Opry manager Ott Devine and asked if she might one day become an Opry member. Devine's responsed by saying to her, "Patsy, if that's all you want, you are on the Opry."

January 7, 1967: Charley Pride becomes the first black solo singer to perform on the Opry. He was introduced by Ernest Tubb and sang, "The Snakes Crawl At Night" and "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You." Shortly afterwards, he would be asked to join the Opry, but he declined. He would eventually join the cast in 1993.

January 4, 1969: Dolly Parton joins the Grand Ole Opry cast. This will be her 43rd year as an Opry member. While she was at the Opry often while she was singing with Porter Wagoner, her appearances dropped dramatically after she separated herself from Porter. She has made several Opry appearances over the past couple of years. Carl and Pearl Butler, who knew Dolly and were friends with her, first brought her to Nashville at the age of 12. She remembers her first night to perform on the Opry. "They used to have this Friday Night Frolics and I went up there one night with the intention of being on it. I kept telling everybody I'll sing just one song. Most of the Opry artists had two spots on the show and I walked up to Jimmy C Newman, who was going to sing his second song next and I told him I wanted to be on. I didn't know why he did it, but Jimmy gave me his spot and I sang a George Jones song."

January 1, 1971: Tom T. Hall accepts an invitation and joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 41st year as an Opry member. After he joined in 1971, he quit the show when it moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Grand Ole Opry House, but rejoined the show at the urging of Ernest Tubb in March 1980.

January 2, 1974: Grand Ole Opry member Tex Ritter passed away in Nashville from a heart attack. He had joined the Opry in 1965 on the tail end of his great career, and he would become one of the Opry's most popular members.

January 27, 1979: Sissy Spacek, you would play the part of Loretta Lynn in the movie Coal Miner's Daughter, joined Loretta Lynn in a performance on the Opry stage.

January 11, 1986: Mel McDaniel, who passed away in 2011, joins the Grand Ole Opry. In his later years, he was famous for singing his great song, "Stand Up" at just about every Opry appearance he made. After the 9/11 attacks, he changed the words of the final verse to a patriotic theme and always received a standing ovation.

January 10, 1991: Clint Black joins the cast of the Opry. This will be his 21st year as an Opry member. Sorry to say, but he is one of those members who very rarely makes an Opry appearance. His 2 appearances this past year were his first since 2007.

January 25, 1992: Emmylou Harris joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be her 20th year as an Opry member.

January 22, 1994: Hal Ketchum joins the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 18th year as an Opry member and hopefully he will be well enough to return to the Opry stage.

January 7, 1997: Gaylord Entertainment, in a move that sounded good at the time, acquired Word Records and Music, a contemporary Christian music company. A few years later, when Gaylord was selling off many of their properties, Word Music was one of the first to go.

January 3, 1998: Grandpa Jones makes his final Opry appearance. After hosting his segment on the 2nd show that evening, Grandpa suffered the first in a series of strokes. He was taken directly from the Opry House to a Nashville hospital. His condition continued to decline and he passed away on February 19, 1999.

January 24, 1998: Justin Tubb, son of Ernest Tubb and a member of the Grand Ole Opry passed away.

January 15, 1999: The Grand Ole Opry returns to the Ryman Auditorium for the first time since moving to the new Grand Ole Opry House in 1974. There were 3 shows that weekend, which included 1 show Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. During the 1st show on Saturday night, Trisha Yearwood is asked by Ricky Skaggs if she would like to become an Opry member. Of course she said yes, and joined the show officially on March 13, 1999. On a personal note, I was at all 3 shows that weekend and they were fantastic.

January 15, 2000: Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley joins the Grand Ole Opry. He had actually been asked to join the previous evening and immediately accepted the invitation. This will be his 12th year as an Opry member.

January 4, 2003: Hank Williams Jr and Hank Williams III perform together at the Grand Ole Opry in a show commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams. Also appearing in the tribute were Jimmy Dickens, who actually knew Hank, along with Vince Gill and The Whites.

January 1, 2007: Grand Ole Opry member Del Reeves passed away from an extended illness. He was 73 years old and had been an Opry member for 41 years.

January 19, 2008: Charlie Daniels becomes an Opry member. This will be just his 4th year as a member. He had been asked in December by Martina McBride during his annual Christmas concert at the Ryman Auditorium.

As I had mentioned, the Grand Ole Opry returned to the Ryman Auditorium for the first time in 25 years, on January 15 & 16, 1999. It was during the 1st show on that Saturday night that Trisha Yearwood was asked to become an Opry member. Since 1999, the Opry has returned to its former home each winter. To remember that weekend in 1999, here is the line up from all 3 shows that weekend.

Friday January 15, 1999:
7:30 Cracker Barrel
Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Walker; Jeanne Pruett; Del McCoury Band; Bill Carlisle
8:00 Williamson Dickies/Opryland Hotel
John Conlee (host); George Hamilton IV; Skeeter Davis; Daryle Singletary
8:30 Johnny Walker Tours/Fiddlers Inn/Sunterra Resorts
Jimmy Dickens (host); Charlie Walker; Stonewall Jackson; Holly Dunn
9:00 Local Lincoln Mercury Dealers
Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Jack Greene; Vince Gill
9:30 Standard Candy
Bill Anderson (host); Del Reeves; Jimmy C Newman; Jim & Jesse; Hank Locklin
10:00 Ryman Auditorium
Johnny Russell (host); Sherrie Austin; Jim Ed Brown; The 4 Guys; Mike Snider

Saturday January 16, 1999:
1st show
6:30 GHS Strings
Jimmy C Newman (host); Wilma Lee Cooper
6:45 Williamson Dickies
Billy Walker (host); Skeeter Davis
7:00 Shoney's
Jimmy Dickens (host); Holly Dunn; The 4 Guys; Joe Diffie
7:30 Standard Candy
Ricky Skaggs (host); Steve Wariner; Trisha Yearwood
8:00 Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host); Jeanne Pruett; Mike Snider; Jim Ed Brown; Opry Squardance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30 Physicians Mutual Insurance
Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Hank Locklin; The Whites; Bill Carlisle

2nd show
9:30 Wildhorse Saloon
Porter Wagoner (host); Oswald & Charlie; Charlie Louvin; Trisha Yearwood
10:00 Local Lincoln Mercury Dealers
Jack Greene (host); Jim & Jesse
10:15 Opry History Picture Book
Jimmy Dickens (host); Martina McBride
10:30 Epiphone Guitars
Ricky Skaggs (host); Joe Diffie
10:45 Jogging In a Jug
Stever Wariner (host); Charlie Walker; Opry Squardance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00 Coke
Bill Anderson (host); Holly Dunn; George Hamilton IV; Vince Gill
11:30 Detro Sales
Johnny Russell (host); Stu Phillips; Del Reeves; Mike Snider; Stonewall Jackson

All 3 shows that weekend were great!!!

There you have it for this month. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Missing & Mysterious Tom T Hall

Happy New Year!!!

There are some Opry members such as Jimmy Dickens, Jeannie Seely, Mike Snider, Jimmy C Newman and a few others who are at the Opry almost every weekend. There are those such as Barbara Mandrell, Ricky Van Shelton and Jeanne Pruett who are retired and no longer perform at the Opry. And then there is Opry member Tom T Hall who hasn't performed at the Opry in years. In fact, according to my records, he has not been at the Opry since at least the mid-90s. Yet, unlike Holly Dunn, who moved away from Nashville and lost her Opry membership, Tom T continues as an Opry member. It is not as if he is not doing anything. Tom T continues to make records (and some good ones I might add), he continues to write songs, he has written books and he continues to perform live, including performing on the Music City Roots program that is on WSM radio. Yet, for reasons that has never been explained, Tom T refuses to do the Opry.

It wasn't always that way. Tom T is listed as first joining the Opry on January 1, 1971, which has him celebrating 41 years as an Opry member today. Yet, his first appearance on the Opry as a member was actually Saturday January 9, 1971. He stayed at the Opry for a couple of years and then he left. He came back to the Opry in March 1980, yet during that month, he did not perform at the Opry at all. But during the 1980s after he returned, Tom T did the Opry quite often. After making just 5 appearances in 1980 and 1981, he was up to 15 in 1984 and 1985, and then he appeared 31 times in 1986 and 28 in 1987, before dropping to 17 in 1988, back up to 25 in 1989, 18 in 1990, 12 in 1991 and finally 11 in 1992. After that, he has become a missing person at the Opry.

I really don't understand what happened. He was popular at the Opry and I think the music he plays and even records today, would be a perfect fit at the show. And with him making no appearances for at least the last 15 years, I have to ask, why is he still an Opry member? That I do not understand.

Looking more indepth at Tom T's history at the Opry, he made his first guest appearance in 1969. He had impressed Bud Wendell, who was the Opry manager at the time. Here is how Tom T remembered it. "I think it was Ernest Tubb who went to Bud Wendell and said, 'You know, there's a young guy out there singing odd kinda songs. He's really good. His name is Tom T Hall and you oughta get him as a guest on the Opry.' So, the first night on the Opry, Roy Acuff introduced me as 'Tom P. Hay'! I guess he was thinking of George D. But I didn't mind. I went out, took a bow, and sang 'A Week in a County Jail.' I was amazed at the informality of it all. Wendell called me back to his office and said, 'We'll Tom, do you want to be a member of the Opry?' And I said, Yes, sir. That would be a great honor. And he said, 'Well, you'll have some insurance in case you get killed out there on the road, you know.' I never really understood what I had to do to collect."

As I mentioned, he was an Opry member only for a couple of years. In fact, he quit the Opry when it moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Opry House in 1974. The papers in Nashville printed a page one story saying that Tom T quit the Opry because Opry management had denied him permission to use his own band, which included horns. As Tom T explained, "It's true that when the Opry left the old Ryman I didn't go with it. But I'm a romantic, you know. I didn't care about the new Opry House at first-it just didn't seem right with me. Just out of a romantic notion. So the newspapers called my agent, Bob Neal, to find out what it was all about. They got Sonny Neal, Bob's son, on the phone. And he says, 'Well, I'll tell you, by God, they won't let Tom use his horns on the Opry.' That got me in all kinds of trouble. There was a lot of press about it. Of course, I didn't have a damned orchestra. I had a hillbilly band, like everybody else. But I made a record, 'The Year That Clayton Delaney Died,' with a trumpet on it; I used a Jimmie Rodgers arrangement on that song. So, Sonny took my 'cause' in hand."

And, Tom T did come back to the Opry a few years later. Again, from Tom T. "But I finally got back on the Opry a few years later-I think it was 1980-the same way I got there in the beginning. I was at the Opry House doing something else; doing my TV show. And I met Ernest Tubb in the parking lot and he said, 'You get back on the Opry. You belong over there.' And I said, 'Yes, sir.' You know, what could you say to Ernest Tubb? I went back on the Opry again."

As mentioned above, Tom T Hall's first night appearing on the Opry as a member was on Saturday January 9, 1971. He appeared in the 7:30 Standard Candy segment hosted by Roy Acuff and the 10:30 Trailblazer segment hosted by Lester Flatt. Here is the running order for those 2 segments.

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: Another Lonely Night
Charlie Walker: Don't Squeeze My Sharman
Roy Acuff: Pins & Needles
Jean Shepard: Second Fiddle
Charlie Walker: Waiting For A Train
Roy Acuff: I Saw the Light

10:30: Trailblazer
Lester Flatt (host): I've Been Walking
Grandpa Jones: I'm Sorry I Caused You To Cry
Willis Brothers: I Still Do
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Uncle Josh: Just Joshin'

There you go. Congratulations to Tom T Hall for 41 years as on Opry member. It would just mean more if he was actually a part of the Opry.