Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 Grand Ole Opry Recap

With 2013 upon us, it is now time to do a recap of 2012 at the Grand Ole Opry, including show counts and member appearances. Looking at the year 2012, the Opry started the year with 65 members. 2 were added this year, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker. That brings the total number of Grand Ole Opry members to 67. No Opry members passed away this past year. Both Keith are Darius made 7 Opry appearances in 2012, with several of those taking place before they became Opry members. (Just as a point of reference, Pete Fisher has asked for a commitment of 10 Opry appearances by each of the new members that he has been adding to the cast).

Of the remaining Opry members, 3 are listed as retired. Those are Jeanne Pruett, Barbara Mandrell and Ricky Van Shelton. In additon, Hal Ketchum and Jack Greene made no Grand Ole Opry appearances due to health reasons. In addition to those 5, 8 additional Opry members made no appearances in 2012. Those were Garth Brooks, Tom T Hall, George Jones, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Blake Shelton, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood. 5 of those 8 did not make any Opry appearances in 2011 either, those being Garth, Tom T, Reba, Travis and Trisha. In addition to that group, there were a number of Opry members who made only 1 appearance in 2012. Those were Clint Black, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Ronnie Milsap and Randy Travis. And to add to this shameful list of "so-called" Opry members, Stonewall Jackson, Loretta Lynn and Martina McBride made only 2 Opry appearances, while Dierks Bentley, Roy Clark, Terri Clark, Patty Loveless, Montgomery Gentry and Stu Phillips made only 3 appearances each. That list totals 27 of the 67 Opry members, or just over 40% of their membership. (I do give slack to both Stonewall Jackson and Stu Phillips, both of whom had some health issues in 2012 and would have done more Opry shows if they had been asked).

In 2012, there was a total of 184 Opry shows, with 71 on Saturday night, 52 Friday Night Opry shows, 43 Tuesday night shows, 13 on Thursday night, 4 on Wednesday night and 1 Saturday matinee. By comparison, in 2011 there were 181 total Opry shows, with 188 in 2010, 200 in 2009 and 201 in 2008. The additional shows this past year versus 2011 were the result of the Wednesday night shows being added.

Looking at the list of Opry members and the number of appearances in 2012, the leader was Jimmy Dickens, who appeared on 120 shows. Considering that Jimmy is the Opry's oldest member and has had his share of voice issues this past year, that is amazing. Here is a look at the top 10 for Opry appearances last year:

1) Jimmy Dickens-143
2) Bill Anderson-81
3) Jim Ed Brown-79
4) Mike Snider-76
5) Jeannie Seely-75
6) Connie Smith/The Whites-73
7) Jimmy C Newman-66
8) Riders In The Sky-64
9) John Conlee-59
10) Jean Shepard-46

What is amazing about the top 10 list from 2012 is that it is the same 11 acts that were on the top 10 list in 2010. So 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, these are the members who made the 10 shows that are being asked for by Pete Fisher:

Bobby Osborne-45
Jesse McReynolds-42
Ricky Skaggs-32
Del McCoury-28
George Hamilton IV-27
Diamond Rio-25
Jan Howard-21
Vince Gill-19
Larry Gatlin-18
Charlie DanielsMarty Stuart-11
Craig Morgan/Ray Pillow/Steve Wariner-10

That comes to just 25 of the Opry's 67 members, or 37% of the membership, honoring their commitment to the show. (Remember that in today's Opry world, an Opry appearance is counted for any show that the member appears during the week).

Of those listed, Ray Pillow and Marty Stuart added themselves to the list of 10 or more shows, while Joe Diffie, Jack Greene, Charley Pride, Terri Clark, Oak Ridge Boys and Pam Tillis dropped off the list from the previous year.

As far as the rest of the Opry's members, here are their 2012 appearances:

Charley Pride-9
Carrie Underwood-8
Joe Diffie/Oak Ridge Boys/Mel Tillis-7
Josh Turner-6
Trace Adkins/Alison Krauss/Lorrie Morgan/Ralph Stanley/Pam Tillis-5
Brad Paisley/Rascal Flatts-4

That takes care of all 67 members. Obviously more than a few of the Opry's members are not holding up their end of the bargin. And to take it further, of those who did not appear in 2012, Garth's last appearance was a walk-on in 2008, while his last singing performance was in 2005. Tom T last showed his face at the Opry in the early 1990's, George Jones came on his birthday in 2011, Reba made 1 show in 2009, which was her only show since 2000, and Travis Tritt last came to the Opry in 2007. Blake Shelton has only been an Opry member since 2010, and it would appear that he is now going to be a member of the "no-show" club. I have to ask why in the world are Tom T, Reba and Travis still Opry members? I could also ask that same question to a few others.

As far as who hosted segments in 2012, 21 of the Opry's members had that honor, with Jimmy Dickens leading the way with 91. The rest of the list is as follows:

Mike Snider-71
Bill Anderson-69
Jeannie Seely-48
Riders In The Sky-42
Jim Ed Brown-38
John Conlee-35
Ricky Skaggs-21
Vince Gill/The Whites-10
Ray Pillow/JeanShepard/George Hamilton IV-8
Marty Stuart-7
Larry Gatlin-6
Steve Wariner-3
Charley Pride/Mel Tillis-2
Emmylou Harris/Jimmy C Newman/Connie Smith-1

Ray Pillow saw an increase in hosting assignments in 2012 and it was nice to see Jimmy C Newman host a segment after going several years without, and Connie Smith getting an opportunity.

Finally, the Opry had a number of guest artists perform in 2012. Those who had more than 10 guest appearances were:

Jimmy Wayne-23
Sarah Darling-18
Elizabeth Cook-17
Mark Wills-16
Mandy Barnett/The Grascals/Andy Gibson/Canaan Smith-13
Love and Theft-12
Holly Williams-11
Rhonda Vincent/Dailey & Vincent/Dustin Lynch-10

Compared to the 2011 list, Jimmy Wayne, Sarah Darling and Elizabeth Cook went up, while Mandy Barnett went down. And yes, several of those on the guest list should be Opry members.

That is a recap of 2012. I think it is always interesting to go back and look at the numbers. Many of the Opry's members have done a nice job fulfilling their obligations to the show. I think a number of the legends woudl have made more Opry appearances if asked. But, there are still a great number of Opry members who need to step up their appearances and support the show. I know I have said 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.

Now that 2012 is in the books, let's see what 2013 brings us.


  1. What stands out to me is that only one member appeared on more than half of the shows. I wonder how much of the lack of appearances by the members is their decision, and how much of it is management's decision.

    Being one of the old fashioned types who thinks of the Opry mainly in terms of the Friday and Saturday night shows (and especially the Saturday night show), I would be curious about how often the members appeared on these nights. (By the way, Byron, this is just a statement, not a request for you to do any extra work breaking the data down.)

    If I were Opry manager, I would require 10 appearances by members, but within that total would have to be 4 Saturday nights. If a member did not meet their commitment in consecutive years, they would be dropped from the roster. Of course, this would not apply to members who cannot appear due to poor health; some of the Opry's greatest legends and most committed members were unable to appear on the show during their final years. Such a standard might keep some people from joining, but I would rather have a smaller cast of committed members than a larger cast of people who show no commitment to the show.

  2. Great job, Byron. I remember that after some of the rules were relaxed, Ernest Tubb still made it on 26 Saturday nights, although he didn't have to. But I'll offer a favorite analogy. In the 1970s, when the economy was bad, at many newspapers, they cut back. At The New York Times, editor Abe Rosenthal said, instead of adding water to the soup, they added tomatoes. The Times is still with us. The point is, Fisher has been watering the soup from the day he arrived as manager, and if the Opry is now less profitable or has less attendance, perhaps he might think about that.

  3. Great piece Byron. Makes me wonder what 2013 will bring to the Opry as far as new members.

    Dailey & Vincent, The Grascals and Rhonda Vincent all should be members. It is very UNLIKELY to happen, as they all are primarily in the Bluegrass field. If it happens for them at all, I would say it will be after Bobby, Jesse & Del are gone.

    Mandy Barnett (no hit records that I can think of?), has put her dues in as well. Elizabeth Cook (without many hit records) is making a great name for herself in the industry, and could be a great member someday.

    I would love to see artists such as Crystal Gayle, Gene Watson, Jimmy Fortune, Neal McCoy and others added to the roster as well. Well known artists that have "slowed the touring down" and could focus a great portion of their performing around the Opry.

    My goodness just watch one of the "Country's Family Reunion" shows on RFD. You could see in less than 15 minutes who would make great Opry members. Moe Bandy, Barbara Fairchild, Doug Stone, T. Graham Brown and T.G. Sheppard also come to mind.

    One act that seems to be a GREAT favorite around town is Leroy Troy. To me, his act is a picture of a great part of what the Opry used to be. No doubt, the Opry would look at him as another Mike Snider, and an invitation to join (or perform much) would never be given to him. Let's face it, Mike Snider probably wouldn't be a member if Fischer was around in the early 1990's. Like Sinder, I think Leroy Troy would add traditionalism and comedy.

    The organization is going to have to be looking ahead: Let's face it; Of the top 11 listed by Byron look at the ages; Dickens 92; Newman, Shepard and Buck White all over 80; Anderson, Seely, Brown and Smith all over 70; The Riders and Conlee all over 60; The lone "non senior citizens" are the White sisters and Snider. Not to mention the ages of a few just below that includes, Bobby Osborne, Jan Howard, Jesse McReynolds and George Hamilton IV.

    In the words of the song "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?" .. Blake Shelton?, Dierks Bentley?, Keith Urban?, Garth Brooks?, Trisha Yearwood?...from the looks of things, probably not.

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    I've thrown this out here before, and I won't call it my favorite idea in the world, but ...

    Our old Opry being a shadow of its former self already; and given the advanced age of the remaining stalwarts; and with little relief in sight by way of support from the younger acts:

    Isn't the future more a concert-type format? Forget "members" and sign contracts with 4-5 acts per Saturday night, offering a mix of old and new -- with some comedy thrown in -- that is guaranteed in advance and can be marketed in the same way as an old-fashioned package show.

    If I knew in January I could buy tickets for a show in June that featured, oh, personal favorites like Riders in the Sky and Ricky Skaggs, along with 2-3 other acts that were just as pleasing to other fans as Riders and Ricky are to me, I'd be going to Nashville twice a year.

    These tickets would have to cost more, but it would be value received. (Go to George Strait's web site and see what he's getting for tickets to his farewell appearances. Similarly with all the other hot acts, including Opry "members," we seldom see around the old barn.)

    As Byron said a thread or two ago, the old Opry ain't coming back.

  5. We've talked before about the fact that the Opry cast is not getting any younger. While we made it through 2012 with no Opry member passing away, I fear that 2013 will be a different story. Not only is the majority of those on the top 10 list of appearances over 75, but more than a couple of them have been battling some health issues. Yet, they are still at the Opry performing.

    After adding Blake Shelton, Oak Ridge Boys, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker, and also realizing that the vast majority of the Opry cast is male, it is time to add a female member or 2. Crystal Gayle and Rhonda Vincent deserve membership. Elizabeth Cook has been doing very good on the Americana charts. But based on the track record of Pete, I don't think that is what we are going to get.

    And while I agree that Mike Snider would probably not be an Opry member if Pete Fisher had been making the decision back then, Pete likes Mike enough that he is getting a high number of hosting assignments. And we do need a true stringband back at the Opry. At this point, Earl White is it, and when he passes away, there will be nobody.

  6. I really wish that once a year they would set aside some time to honor those veterans who are still keeping the show alive. I just don't see how anyone can deny that the show would be gone if those in that top 10 list decided to quit the Opry. Wouldn't it be nice to say "thanks for your continued support of the Opry, we're glad you are still around"? And, when they are gone, then what? I agree with Fred that the future probably holds a mini concert theme and also with Byron that the old Opry isn't coming back. Again, with that said, WHY can't they pay tribute to those loyal veterans? I almost wish they wouldn't even mention them when they pass. If they are not important enough to appreciate and respect while they are living and able to perform then why honor them when they are gone. If the thought is that the audience isn't interested in them while they are still performing then why should they care to hear how great they were when they are gone? Anyone remember Tandy Rice calling for all the over 65 members to retire back when Jeanne Pruett retired and make room for the kids?

    Byron mentioned a lot of folks who have neglected the Opry but Reba McIntire is at the top of my list. I have lost count but she has been a member since 1985, going on 30 years, and she has made maybe just over a dozen appearances, most in the first couple years before she really went superstar. Why is she still a member. If the Opry promotes here membership they are deceiving the public.

    Byron, thanks for compiling this list. It's a great picture of what has happened over the past year. I just wonder how many of the veterans who appeared a couple dozen times or less would have appeared more if allowed or ask. I have had one tell me that they will go when called but they don't get the call. Such a shame.

    One last thought. I was not able to participate in any of the discussions or comments around Christmas or New Years. I would like to say thanks to Byron for a great site and also to all who participate. I have learned much in the last year and it has been great to interact with other true fans of the Opry. Not everyone understands our love and passion for the show and the people.

    Knightsville, IN

  7. Jim, thanks for the kind words. If nothing else, wouldn't it be nice if the Opry started back up the yearly reunion shows, or "old-timer's night" as they used to call them, that took place back in the 1970s and into the 1980s. The show usually took place in April and they invited back all the former Opry members and was a great success.

    Tim, I did some checking on and I know it was not really a request, but it got me thinking, so I did come up with some numbers regarding some of the Opry's members and their appearances on the Friday and Saturday night Opry shows. I did not compile a complete list, but I did come up with some interesting information.

    The following list has the total Opry appearances listed first, and the number of appearances on Friday or Saturday after that:

    Trace Adkins-5 total/ 2
    Dierks Bentley-3 total/ 0
    Clint Black-1 total/ 0
    Charlie Daniels-11 total/ 7
    Diamond Rio-25 total/ 18
    Larry Gatlin-18 total/ 7
    Vince Gill-19 total/ 13
    Alan Jackson-1 total/ 0
    Alison Krauss- 5 total/ 4
    Loretta Lynn-2 total/ 0
    Martina McBride-2 total/ 0
    Ronnie Milsap-1 total/ 0
    Montgomery Gentry-3 total/ 2
    Lorrie Morgan-5 total/ 0
    Oak Ridge Boys-7 total/ 2
    Rascal Flatts-4 total/ 1
    Ricky Skaggs-32 total/ 27
    Marty Stuart-11 total/ 8
    Pam Tillis-5 total/ 1
    Josh Turner-6 total/ 4
    Carrie Underwood-8 total/ 5
    Steve Wariner-10 total/ 7
    Keith Urban-7 total/ 5
    Darius Rucker-7 total/ 5

    That shows that while a number of the Opry's members have been making some appearances on the show, for some it is on a Tuesday night and not on the traditional Friday or Saturday night.

  8. Wow. Thank you so much for this list.

    The only young female really trying to carry on the tradition of the Opry is Carrie Underwood. She was announced today to be performing her first show of the year on February 1. I wish Miranda Lambert would show some interest.

  9. Well when you have a certain fanbase who only cares for the records she breaks, and think that the country world revolves around her, what do you expect?

    I am young, but I like the Nostalgia of the Opry, and want to see it continue and get it where it belongs back in Country Music.

    The Opry management doesn't seem to care, but I hope they realize they need to rejuvenate it, before it fades away.

    I know the 100th anniversary will be here in a few years, but can it make to that date? There should be serious planning for it to be the biggest celebration country music has ever seen.

    1. What do you mean? Shouldn't it be a good thing that Carrie continues to show her support of the iconic institution and still performs there even while touring across the world? Wouldn't you want that?

      As a Country music fan first and foremost, it makes me glad that Carrie has shown such dedication to the genre. She's proven how much she loves it.

      I just wish more younger artists, especially females, would show as much love for it as so many of the greats have done over the years.

    2. Jason:
      If you are interested in female traditionalists I suggest you look up Amber Digby of Texas. She will blow your socks off.

      I have seen her once on the Opry with Ronnie Milsap. I really do not know just how many times she has preformed. Bryon may know.

    3. As Fayfare pointed out, it's been a few years since Amber's done the Opry. I'm talking about continuing the traditions into a new generation. The best way to do that is having someone like Carrie, who is current with a big career that's still hot, embracing the Opry and continuing to perform there.

  10. Good for Carrie Underwood!
    It's absolutely a good thing when she appears.
    Place sells out, and crowd gets introduced to some traditional country music in the process.
    Win/win for all involved.

  11. I think it has been a few years ago that Amber did the Opry. I know she was not on last year, and I don't think she was on in 2011 either.

    As far as Carrie Underwood, I am glad she is doing the Opry in February and with the way her career is going, I am ok with the fact that she does the Opry 8-10 times a year. That is way more than many other members who are less busy. Whatever side deals the Opry has made with her is working.

    As far as the Opry making it to 100, I think it will but there will be some kicking and screaming to get there. And the show may not look like the show that they are presenting today.

    1. Honestly, people may hate Carrie, but having someone like her is the best way to get the Opry to 100 years. I wish more younger mainstream artists were taking as much of an interest in continuing the traditions there.

  12. Question: Did Miranda perform at the Opry last year at all?

  13. Jason, about Carrie Underwood, I can take her or leave her, but I am all for her because she does show respect for the Opry and its traditions. To be honest, there are plenty of country singers, especially among today's, who I could take or leave!

  14. The music of Carrie Underwood or for that matter most of today's mainstream country radio dose not appeal to me. However, I don't have to listen to it and can find my way to satellite or my CD's and records to hear young folks like Amber Digby do what appeals to me. I think it will take folks like Carrie Underwood to keep the show on a national scale so, even though I'd rather her not be there when I go, for the good of the show I'm glad she comes around. She certainly doesn't need the Opry. If the Opry only had the kind of music I prefer, I think it would become a regional show if it survived at all.

    As for Amber Digby, she was backstage at the Opry one evening last fall because George IV mentioned her. I would be shocked to hear that any of the younger traditional Texas folks would turn down a spot on the Opry if ask when they come to town to do the Midnite Jamboree or other venues. Another really good female singer out of Texas is Dottie Jack. She is a little older than Amber I believe but has pleasing strong voice and records for Startex with Jim Loessberg.

    Ladies like Amber or Dottie will never be the star Carrie Underwood is and I doubt if they care to be. However, I still say that the rainbow that Bill Anderson often relates the Opry to is going to become one color soon if only the folks like Carrie Underwood are what Pete Fisher and crew continue to embrace. Gone will be any trace of the history of the Opry and the music that made it famous. There should be room for all types of country on the Opry both past and present.

    And because I can, I'll say it again, WHEN is Rhonda Vincent going to be ask to join. I just don't understand!

    Yes Byron, in response to your comment yesterday evening, I think the reunion show would be nice to see again and since they have created so many options it wouldn't even have to be on Saturday night....although I would prefer that!

    Knightsville, IN

  15. Fred, Bismarck:

    Probably the best argument for the Opry making it to 100 is the huge investment in the plant, including the hotel. Walking away wouldn't be as simple as walking away from just the Ryman, as it would have been before 1974.

    I have no idea how much of the hotel's business depends on the Opry's various shows through the week, but guess it must be substantial. If I were Gaylord, I'd be sweating bullets, surveying the present model. And showing more signs of looking for creative solutions.

  16. I used to think that Gaylord did not give much thought to the Opry until the flood took place in 2010. They reinvested in the Opry House and got it back up and going pretty quickly. And for those of us who have been there, they have done a very nice job with it.

    According to what I heard, this will be the Opry's most profitable year in history and one of the better attendance years, so something must be going right for them.

    There is still concern in Nashville over this deal between Gaylord and Marriott and where it will go. The hotel and other attractions are now being managed by Marriott. The Opry and WSM are still under what is called Ryman Hospitality, the new name for Gaylord. Except for the radio station and the Opry, the rest of their holdings involve real estate. Despite what is being said, there are some who still feel that WSM and the Opry are in play. Time will tell.

    For what it is worth, I know that last winter that when conventions were booked at the Opryland hotel, many of those attending were being offered free Opry tickets.

  17. Country Music Hall of Fame is offering its members 2 for 1 tickets at the 'Opry in January and/or February.

    I'll bet the 'Opry is making record profits, since they keep paying fewer and fewer artists for each show!

  18. I guess you could add Sonny Osborne to the retired list. How is his health?

  19. I saw the question in the other post also, so I will answer it again. (no problem David). Anyways, last I heard, Sonny was doing fine and was still involved with some youth music camps around Nashville teaching banjo.