Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who Should Or Should Not Be An Opry Member

A topic that comes up from time to time is the question of who should be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Some of the discussion concerns current members that should be dropped from the cast, along with the names of new members that should be added. With the start of the new year I thought it would be a good time to open this topic up for more discussion.

I looked at the list of the current Grand Ole Opry members and came up with 10 artists that I would immediately drop as members of the Opry. Here is my 10 and the reasons why, which should be obvious:

1) Clint Black: Clint joined the Grand Ole Opry in January 1991, making him an Opry member for 21 years. So what has Clint given the Opry? Since 1998, he has made 20 Opry appearances. That averages out to just over 1 Opry appearance each year. From 2004 through 2010, he made 2 appearances. Last year he managed 1 Tuesday night show. His high point for Opry shows was in 2002 and 2003, when he made 5 appearances each year. Clint continues to be based in California and makes very few Nashville trips.

2) Garth Brooks: Garth says he is retired but for the past several years, when the money was right, he did weekend shows in Las Vegas. It would be just as easy for Garth to fly from Oklahoma to Nashville for a few Saturday night shows as it is to fly to Vegas. Garth says Opry membership is the most important thing to him and that anytime the Opry calls, he will be there for the Opry. Either Pete Fisher has lost Garth's number or feels no reason to call him, or Garth is just fooling everyone. In 2000, he made 4 Opry appearances, all the weekend of the 75th anniversary of the Opry. Since then, he has appeared just 3 times, with his last Opry visit coming in 2008 to induct Carrie Underwood as a member. He last sang on the Opry in 2005 for the Opry's 80th birthday. To carry the retirement thought a little further, for most of the Opry's history, when you retired from performing you gave up your Opry membership. I think the first member who retired and asked to stay a member was Barbara Mandrell. I think the show needs to go back to the policy that except for illness, as long as you are an Opry member, who need to be an active performer. (oh by the way, you will notice that I did not put Trisha Yearwood on the list. She should also go, but the reason I did not include her was the if Garth goes, Trisha will probably follow It has been a couple of years since she has done the Opry).

3) Tom T Hall: Tom T has not performed on the Opry for 20 years. He has said that he is never coming  back to the Opry, so why keep him a member? Really it is too bad as in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he actually was on the show often. And he was well received. But for some reason, he just quit coming. Time for Tom T to go.

4) Alan Jackson: Why is Alan Jackson a member of the Grand Ole Opry? He joined the Opry in 1991. In 2011, the Opry wanted to do a show to honor Alan for 20 years of Opry membership. The show was never scheduled because Alan would not commit to it. I think that says it all. It is not hard to figure out how often he is at the Opry. In 2012-1; 2011-1; 2010-1; 2009-0. His high point was 4 shows in 2005, but except for that it was generally 2 shows per year through 2008. With his love of George Jones and traditional country music, you would have thought Alan would be there to support the Opry, but that is not the case. Actually, in many ways, he is following the example of his idol when it comes to supporting the Opry.

5) George Jones: I really hate to put this name on the list, but George has given up on the Opry a long time ago. While he has battled voice problems the past few years, he has still toured, but his tour schedule does not seem to include the Opry House. His last show was a Tuesday night in 2011 when he was honored for his 80th birthday. In 2008 and 2009 it was 1 show, with 2 in 2010. While he originally joined the Opry in 1956, he has left several times but comes back. The question is why, as even when he returns to the Opry, he does not perform on the show. As a legend who was influenced by Roy Acuff, he understands what the Opry is all about. And of course, he recorded, "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes". With George retiring this year, perhaps this is the time for George to retire from the Opry.

6) Reba McEntire: Since 2001, Reba has appeared on the Opry 1 time. That was in 2009 when the Opry extended a Saturday night show by an extra segment that was for her, and she was the only performer for that segment. She did 3 songs and hit the door. She is active in the business and tours. While she has been busy with television work, she still finds time to come to Nashville. I think in 12 years, she could have made it out to the Opry House more than once. The Opry would not lose anything if they dropped her from the cast.

7) Randy Travis: I know Randy has had some personal issues lately. I wish him well, and that is not the reason I would drop him as an Opry member. The reason is that Randy really doesn't seem concerned about doing the show. For the past couple of years, he has appeared once per year, with the 2011 show honoring him for 25 years of Opry membership. In 2008, he appeared 3 times, which included the night that he surprised Carrie Underwood with an invitation to join the Opry. From 2002 thru 2007, he made no Opry appearances. Randy needs to get himself straightened out and get his career back on track. If that includes the Opry, that is great. If not, time for Randy to go.

8) Travis Tritt: Travis joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1992. He last appeared on the Opry in 2007 and nobody seems to know why he has not been back. I do not know if there is something behind it, but Travis has not appeared on the Opry since Porter Wagoner passed away. We'll, I don't think Porter is coming back anytime soon, and I don't think Travis is either. When Travis was appearing at the Opry, his high point was 5 in 2001 and 2006. Other than that, it was an average of 2 shows per year.

9) Blake Shelton: Pete Fisher has had pretty good luck with the members that he has asked to join the Opry, in relation to Opry appearances. He has asked for a commitment of 10 shows per year, and most have come pretty close. But I think in the case of Blake, he missed. Blake joined in 2010, when the Opry House reopened after the flood. In 2011, he did 4 Opry shows, while in 2012 he did zero. He is busy with television work, and seems to be hosting a lot of "specials". But he apparently does not have time for the Opry. Even before he joined the show, he did not make a lot of guest appearances. I know Blake is a big name and his career is hot right now, but as an Opry member, it just is not working.

10) Ricky Van Shelton: Yes, I know Ricky is retired. He has not been at the Opry since 2005. But, while Barbara Mandrell and Jeanne Pruett are also retired, they both are still around Nashville and are involved with Opry events. Jeanne is a backstage visitor to the show, while Barbara is still involved in the music industry. Ricky is in Virginia and shows no sign on coming back to town. Even when he was a member, he was not making a lot of Opry appearances. It is time to give Ricky's spot to someone else.

Now, if these 10 were to go, who could they be replaced with? I have my own list of whom I think would make good Opry members and would support the show. Most of them have been guest artists at the Opry for a number of years and come whenever asked. It is time to take the guest label off of them and make them Opry members. Here is my list of 10:

1) Rhonda Vincent: The person I get asked the most about when it comes to Opry membership is Rhonda Vincent. When is it going to happen? Why is she not a membership? Who at the Opry is mad at her? Is her Martha White association hurting her? Those are the questions I get and I just don't have the answers. From what I have been told, Rhonda would love to be an Opry member. She appears more than most of the members, with 16 appearances over the last 2 years. Here is another fact: of the Opry's 67 members, only 18 are females and that includes several who are retired. The last group of new members have all been male. I think it is time to add some females to the cast to help balance it out. And in the case of Rhonda, she would be only the 2nd female bluegrass artist to be at the Opry.

2) Elizabeth Cook: Like Rhonda, Elizabeth has been a frequent guest artist at the Opry. In Americana music, she has been making a name for herself and brings a lot of energy when singing. She also has a great voice. Over the past 2 years, she has made 29 Opry appearances, more than a majority of the members. Time to bring her on board.

3) Mandy Barnett: Mandy seems to be on the Opry a lot and her past CDs were produced by the Grand Ole Opry and distributed by them. She is a Pete Fisher favorite. No, she has not had any hit records and in that way, I would view her more like former Opry member Marion Worth. Someone with a nice voice that can fill a spot. She has made 39 Opry appearances over the past 2 years. Again, she would not bring star power but would be there.

4) The Grascals: This group is another popular bluegrass act that brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to their Opry appearances, which have numbered 25 since 2010. They have won numerous bluegrass awards and are headliners on the circuit. Bluegrass music is a foundation of the Opry and with the aging of many of the bluegrass acts, they would fill a void.

5) Crystal Gayle: A legend, she would be the female version of such performers as Mel Tillis, Oak Ridge Boys and Charley Pride. She has had numerous hit records and at some point, will be elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has made guest appearances at the Opry over the years and is well received. I think at some point, she could be an Opry member.

6) Sarah Darling: Ok, I will admit that she is a personal favorite of mine. She is popular with Opry audiences and has the beginnings of a good career going. The Opry has treated her well, much like Brad Paisley and Josh Turner were at the beginning of their careers. Both of those eventually became Opry members and the same could happen to Sarah. She is young, beautiful and talented and good things are going to happen to her in the next few years.

7) Gene Watson: While I don't see this happening, Gene would make an outstanding Opry member. He is a legend who has always done the Opry over the years. I think a lot of the reason why Gene has never become an Opry member is that he does the majority of his touring and work in Texas and Oklahoma and just doesn't get to Nashville often enough. But, he would make a good member.

8) Love and Theft: This group made 12 Opry appearances last year, and were at the Opry the first weekend of this year. They are up and coming and do a nice job. They seem to enjoy the Opry and are well received. They, along with Sarah Darling, would bring some youth to the Opry.

9) Jim Lauderdale: Jim is another popular Nashville artist who's work is much admired by many in the industry. He also is a frequent Opry visitor. He is a star on the Americana music scene and plays all types of music. He also has an appreciation of the history of country music and bluegrass and has recorded and played with many of the legends. He has averaged about 8 Opry appearances over the past several years. In addition, he has hosted his own show on WSM.

10) Jimmy Wayne: Jimmy performs at the Opry so much that most people think he is already a member. ln 2012, he was at the Opry 23 times, while in 2011 it was 17 shows. What hurts Jimmy is that after his first CD, he has not followed it up with anything new. And from what I have been told, he seems to turn some people the wrong way. While the Opry likes him as a guest, they really don't want him to become a member. But everytime the Opry calls, he answers and comes. He would be there more than most of the members. He already is.

Now, while we hope some of this could happen, in reality we know it will not. The Opry is not going to fire 10 of the most popular acts, even if those 10 are not appearing at the Opry. The Opry wants publicity, but not that kind. On the other hand, I think true Opry fans would understand and appreciate the fact that the Opry is doing something to make Opry membership important again.

So for now, the Opry Picture History Book will continue to be filled with pictures of members who rarely appear at the Opry, or not at all. And while new members will continue to say how important Opry membership is to them, the proof is otherwise. And the audiences will continue to see more and more guest artists, and as the Opry continues to blur the line between who is a member and who is not, many in the audience will not know otherwise.

And for true Opry fans, it gives us another topic for discussion.


  1. WOW, it's pretty hard to argue with either list.
    Great work.
    I would add Daily and Vincent to the list of folks who should be members.

  2. ADD to the list - The Time Jumpers (even with two of them already members (Vince and Ranger Doug); plus Kenny Sears is
    (or used to be) at the Opry most nights. They are great.
    Definitely get the "retired" people out.
    Rhonda would be great. Mandy too. Have never seen Sarah Darling. Daily & Vincent are good.
    I'm lukewarm about Crystal Gayle (even though we have seen her at the Opry).
    Bottom line is that the ticket prices have climbed and the number of acts have fallen. The Opry just isn't what it used to be; maybe that's why a lot of those members just don't come; it's not the money. The "local members" aren't compensated in comparison to the price of the tickets either. Also, as you and others have also mentioned, let the Opry members do more than one song; if that means adding time to the shows, then do it. We have become more and more disappointed in the Opry shows; used to travel several times a year from MD and now PA and the trip was worth it because we went to all the shows (3 or 4, depending on the weekend) and they had a lot of acts; remember when the shows went to almost midnight and then we went to the Midnight Jamboree. It is very frustrating to see the complacency from the ones on your 10 (and there are quite a few others) and sad that they have forgotten why they accepted Membership.

  3. Fred, Bismarck:

    Happy Saturday night, all!

    I agree with Byron that the Opry is not about to make a negative splash by firing the 10 miscreants. What it could do instead is just let them quietly slide out of the web site and picture books ... the same way that the 10 have not quit the Opry but just quietly slid out of participation in it.

    Media coverage of the Opry -- real reportage -- is so poor that hardly anybody would notice or make a big (negative) deal out of that.

    I'm not sure what the Opry would have to gain here, unless the no-shows represent some kind of on-going cost, as for medical insurance. And it would lose bragging rights, such as they are, to the pseudo members.

    Country radio is so terrible that I'm the first to admit I am not conversant with the present scene and therefore unable to comment on Byron's candidates for membership beyond a few of the obvious ones. I would put in a request for an old-fashioned string band or two, "hot" or not. Maybe the Opry could make them hot, as it used to do for new talent.

  4. I would like to see a little more country-related country acts, which would negate Jimmy Wayne (the first song I heard from him was a note-for-note copy of Daryl Hall & John Oates' mid-70s rock hit "Sara Smile," and he even had Hall & Oates sing on it). I totally agree about the someone else's suggestion of the Time Jumpers, and I would also suggest the fabulous Quebe Sisters. I would also like to see the comedy duo Doyle & Debbie added for comedy, given how the Grand Ole Opry, once rich with comedic acts, now has ONE comedian (Mike Snider).

    As for your "ten to go" list, I agree 100%. If you can't show up for ten lousy shows a year (which is down from the old commitment of 26 weekends [NOT shows, WEEKENDS] a year) then get your name off the rolls...and stop doing interviews where you talk about how much the Opry means to you. It's painful to see George Jones' stats, given that he was, according to Craig Havighurst's book on WSM, one of the people leading the "protest" at WSM when the owners were considering dropping the country format in favor of becoming an ESPN station. But he won't show up for the Opry?

  5. Interesting list here that you have. I certainly agree that Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson should both be members, they Opry crowd goes wild for both of them each time they are on. Crystal Gayle also has star power and seems to do the Opry when she is asked.

    However Elizabeth Cook, Mandy Barnett, and Jim Lauderdale... while they may be talented and each have their own style they bring to the Opry... none of the three are likely to sell a single ticket. I find Mandy Barnett to be highly overrated anyhow. If they want a Patsy Cline impersonator, then just get one. No need to have her.

  6. Let's take it a little father. The Opry should change things up. There should be 3 catagories. 1. current stars that will do the Opry. 2 legends that use to be big. 3. newcomers that are trying to make a mark of their own, and i mean country not pop or rock etc. Each time have a segment of all 3 during the show. Everything changes whether for the better or not. The Opry should change this up to stay current while honoring the past & looking foward to the future.

  7. In reviewing the 10 names of existing members I count four hall of Famers (Jones, Brooks, Reba and Tom T.), 2 others that are certain to be Hall of Famers (A.Jackson and R. Travis) and 2 others (C.Black and T. Tritt) that are likely to be considered and possibly elected to hall of fame someday. All of these will be Opry members as long as they wish, whether they perform or not.

    As far as Ricky Van Shelton, I agree with Byron: I would not put him in the same position as Jeanne Pruett and Barbara Mandrell. To me, he is in same category as Holly Dunn, who lost her Opry membership when she retired. He should be let go. As far as Mandrell and Pruett if they do not want to perform, I understand. But they could host a segment from time to time. If they have been asked to do that, I do not know?

    Blake Shelton, in my opinion, has gotten to big for his britches. I really believe he thinks his career has evolved beyond the Opry, and I do not look for him to be back. He and his wife, Miranda Lambert, are living in Los Angeles and I'm certain will only come to Nashville now to record and attend the CMA awards. His membership was a mistake - plan and simple.

    Now let's look to potential Opry members: First of all I would love Pete Fischer to extend and invitation to past Opry members to come back. Namely, Bobby Bare, Leroy Van Dyke and Ray Price. All three are still performing, and are doing well. Now the case may be that none of them want to be reinstated as a member? Bryon may be able to shed light on that.

    I will agree that Rhonda Vincent and The Grascals should be made members. I would add Dailey & Vincent as well. I cannot see however many Bluegrass acts being asked to join as long as Bobby Osborne, Del McCourey and Jesse McReynolds are all still as active as they are. I'm certain the management does not want to turn the Opry into a complete Bluegrass show.

    Crystal Gayle and Gene Watson are exactly the type of acts that the Opry needs. Big in their day, but slowing not touring as much and can focus on Opry performing. A few others I can think of along those lines are Moe Bandy, Doug Stone and Neal McCoy. These five all had big, big hits and solid careers.

    As far as the others mentioned (Darling, Love & Theft, Barnett, Cook, Lauderdale and Wayne), I think the Opry does not want to "jump the gun" and make Opry members out of folks that are not going to "endure" much on the charts. Stu Phillips and Ray Pillow (who I enjoy personally) did not have much chart success, and I can't help believe that is not really the reason we do not see more of them these days.

  8. Fred, Bismarck:

    This is one for Byron:

    Does the Opry have a membership "quota," a number beyond which it does not want to go? Would the no-shows have to be purged before a like number of new members are added?

    Or maybe the Opry is simply afraid that a roster that gets too big would no longer be seen as "exclusive" -- I don't know. I will say that, at present, the Opry gives the impression of being very exclusive, with the same 10 or 15 member acts showing up all the time. You and I are glad to see them, of course, but I can understand the kids not getting excited.

    Trouble is, the acts that excite the kids are mostly not very country. And don't seem to regard appearing at the Opry as much of a plum. Lose-lose for the Opry, whether these acts come or don't.

    Maybe country music, like youth, is wasted on the young?

  9. Fred, there is no set number as far as Opry members. I know that during the 1950s and 1960s, the Opry membership numbered in the 50s. In the early 1970s, there were 60 members listed and that included the Crook Brothers and the 2 square dance groups. And there was a time in the late 1990s when there were just over 70 members. Currently there are 67.

    I think that the current formula in finding new Opry members is that management does not really want any members who will or want to be there every week. They seem more interested in new members who will only be there about 10 times a year. I think in Pete Fisher's mind, he wants variety and not the same show every week, which was one of the problems the Opry ran into during the 1970s thru the mid 1990s.

    I know many of those that I mentioned are not huge stars, which is the direct opposite of what the Opry is looking for. Let's face it: announcing Darius Rucker as the newest member of the Opry gets more publicity then announcing Sarah Darling as a new member. That I understand. But in the long run, who will do more good for the Opry. Would it be Darius Rucker or say, Rhonda Vincent. But, there are those who will buy tickets and come to Nashville thinking they are going to see members Darius or Keith Urban and instead will see non-members Rhonda or Jim Lauderdale.

    David, to answer your question, I have not heard anything in regards to Ray Price, Leroy Van Dyke or Bobby Bare asking to become Opry members again. I know Ray and Bobby will usually do the Opry at least once each year, while Leroy was last at the Opry a few years back. I think there is just no longer the interest on either side.

    I still have an eye on Scotty McCreery. Nothing concerete. Just a feeling.

  10. I'll echo Byron on his choices, though I wonder if they should do what happens in my line of work (college professor) and have "emeritus" members for those who don't want to perform any more--as in Barbara, Jeanne, and Ricky Van--or cannot, such as Jack Greene. I like Byron's suggestions. Now, as to selling tickets, etc., if the Opry survives--I think it will, despite Fisher's best or worst efforts--there will always be people who want to play it as members or guests and thus big-name acts who will prompt ticket sales. But we need some people to be "anchors." Not necessarily there EVERY week or even available, but people who will be there, say, half the time, where the ticket buyer can reasonably expect to see certain acts. The Potato is 92; Jimmy C., Stonewall, Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne, Jack Greene, George Jones, Jan Howard, Ralph Stanley, and Mel Tillis are past 80; and Jean Shepard, George IV, Whisper, Jim Ed, Ray Pillow, Stu Phillips, Tom T., Roy Clark, Charley Pride, Del McCoury, and Charlie Daniels are over 75. I may even have missed a few. Several of them are regulars, and they won't be there forever, but the old-time fans need to know some regulars will be around.

  11. Mike, we have discussed this before and that is how old many of the Opry's main stars are, the ones who are appearing the most at the Opry. If you look at the top 10 in appearances you have Jimmy Dickens (92); Bill Anderson (75); Jim Ed Brown (78); Mike Snider (51); Jeannie Seely (71); Connie Smith (72); Buck White (82); Jimmy C Newman (85); Riders In The Sky (avg: 66); John Conlee (66) and Jean Shepard (79). That is an average age of 64. Now add others who appear on a regular basis and you have Bobby Osborne (81); Jesse McReynolds (83); Ray Pillow (75); Del McCoury (73); and Jan Howard (82). Even Ricky Skaggs is 58 and Vince Gill is 55. Now add to the fact that many of those that Mike named are not in the best of health and you have a real problem.

    It is not beyond reach that within the next 5 years, half of those who are making the most Opry appearances will not be alive (as much as I hate to say it). You will need people to fill those slots and it just will not work if it gets down to just 2 or 3 Opry members on a show with 10 or 11 guest artists.

    That to me is another reason why the Opry needs to start looking at the membership. In many ways it is much the same as what Hal Durham had to do in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Opry had already lost Ernest Tubb and Marty Robbins. He realized that Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones and more than a few more could go at anytime. He moved to add new and younger members. His mistake was not holding those who he picked to be Opry members accountable for Opry appearances. Which is one of the reasons the Opry is in the position it is today.

  12. Sorry, I meant to say that the average age of the top 10 is 74, not 64.

  13. Seems to me that the next member will be Kellie Pickler..she has been featured on Opry telecast,Opry Goes Pink..NoteWorthy at the Opry..Reflections from the Circle..Into the Circle. On the Reflection show,she's the only none member interviewed by Eddie Stubbs. Not so sure Scotty McCreery is as available as you might think.

  14. Pickler might be a good choice. She's not had a lot of hits, but she is known. She's also pretty, talented, and knows how to entertain, thus she could bring another member in the same vein as Jeannie Seely.

  15. I posted back during the Anniversary weekend about our disappointment in the line-ups and guests and how they high-lighted NON-Opry Members over the Members who were celebratng THEIR anniversary. They also cranked up the music way too loud for the venue when those people were on (Jason Aldean in particular). The majority of the audience was polite (while they held their ears) and the groupies who surrounded the stage were pushy and rude. I did send my comments/concerns/disappointment to the Opry (not that it was probably ever read). That is NOT what you expect when you go to the Grand Ole Opry; if you buy a ticket for Jason Aldean show (or any other individual concert) you know what you're going to get. Just picking "popular, hot" performers to bring more audience isn't the way to go either. I like the idea of "emeritus members" and definitely REAL country-related country acts. Unfortunately even the new Members who expressed their dream of Opry Membership and were selected just don't support it anymore; maybe management needs to have less "guests" and more "Members" in the line-up for a while and see what that does. Of course, I won't hold my breath waiting for it!

  16. You want to talk about Grand Ole Opry appearances by Opry members, I was going through my files last night and looked at Roy Acuff. From 1986 thru 1991, there were 1092 Friday Night Opry shows and Saturday Grand Ole Opry shows. Roy appeared on 1088 of them. Only 3 missed shows in 6 years!!! From 1986-1989, he did not miss one show!!!

    Talk about dedication to the Opry. And consider that at this time in his life, Roy was in his mid-80's, battling eye site and heart issues, along with the general ups-and-downs that comes with old age. Amazing.

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    1. Byron:
      It's funny you should mention Roy. I was only reading last night, that when his son told him that it had been announced he was one of the 1991 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors (the highest honor in the USA for the performing arts), his first reaction was, "Will I have to miss the Opry"...

      On a humorous note, when he returned back to Nashville, after the honor had been bestowed upon him, he was asked about the award by the Nashville press and what he thought about the honor; Roy stated: "Well, it's a heavy thing. It must be made of solid gold". Referring to the golden medallion given to the honorees.

      We have talked about will there ever be another "Roy Acuff". 20 years after his death, much credit is given to Little Jimmy Dickens, who does not miss much; Others say it will be Vince Gill; my opinion is there will never be another Roy Acuff. I think Little Jim and Vince both love the Opry, but Roy Acuff was truly "in love" with the Opry. In fact, he was the Opry. After his 1992 death you slowing began to see a change that has led to what we have today.

      In the modern Country music world it amazes me how little the name of Roy Acuff is mentioned. As Jean Shepard so boldly put it in a recent interview; "These young new singers wouldn't know who Roy Acuff was if he hit them in their rear with his yo-yo". And that is a shame and disgrace. Get off the pot or do your business I say. Either be Country or leave the building.

      I am 32 years old with 3 children under the age of 8. My kids WILL be able to tell you who Roy Acuff was. Long live "The King"... Roy Acuff.

  18. David B., you give me hope! About 30 years ago, my mother called the "country" radio station here and asked them to play Roy Acuff and the DJ said, "Roy Orbison?" Justin Tubb at the time was singing about radio stations that "ain't foolin' nobody/when they call themselves country, but ain't."

    As to Mr. Acuff's attendance record, he missed several months in 1985 with what I later learned--maybe from Byron--was a pulmonary embolism. He returned on the birthday show in October just to say hello and that his doctors said he wasn't well enough to perform. He was back the following week. Bill Anderson wrote a beautiful tribute in one of his books about Mr. Acuff's last Saturday night at the Opry and how his band members almost literally had to carry him onstage, but I remember my mother, who introduced me to country music, saying that in Mr. Acuff's mind, the perfect death would have been right at the end of his Opry segment.

  19. I feel a little stupid asking this question but where is Patty Loveless in this discussion. I like her and I think she loves the Opry and the people but she doesn't appear much either. Am I missing something on her?

    Things have really changed since the late 80's in which Byron provides stats on Mr. Acuff's appearances. There were times that he was on that stage that you could even tell on the radio that it took all the energy he had to be there and perform. Some nights he would ask one of his guest to close the show because he felt so bad. There are many others over the years who were and are loyal to the Opry but I still think Mr. Acuff was a one of a kind. As I have said here before, once Mr. Acuff passed in 1992 the Opry began to drastically change forever. Others here know more inside info than me but I always thought that Mr. Acuff's presence gave a since of direction and provided a set of values for the artist and what the Opry should provide the family's that came to visit each week. The only other person in the Opry's history with that type of presence was George D Hay. Most artist who came to the Opry to perform in that era wanted to live up to those values or were ashamed not to so they performed accordingly. So many of the folks appearing today, if honest, would site performers other than country acts as their influences thus the performance and music standard we as Opry and country fans appreciate has changed. I'm glad I have my recordings, photo's and memories of those days!


  20. Jim, I know that Byron has mentioned that Mr. Acuff asked Johnny Cash to come back to the Opry and become a kind of central figure, as he was, but Cash realized he couldn't give it the time--which shows more respect for the show than a lot of other people who join and then ignore it. I think Mr. Acuff realized that no one else around there had the ... well, the popular term is gravitas, and I think it covers it.

    As for Patty Loveless, I am not sure about her. I believe her husband, Emery Gordy, has had health problems off and on over the years. But, barring that, she really should be there more.

  21. I still cannot understand how Rhonda Vincent's association with Martha White can be a bad thing considering they were sponsors of the Opry for many, many years. It has been said that they have tried to rebrand the Opry with more current, hip sponsors but considering how one of these sponsors (Bass Pro Shops) dumped the Opry I would think a Martha White biscuit or a Goo Goo would like might good to Opry management right now.

  22. You see how far they have fallen on sponsors, Low T is now a weekly discussion. Good family entertainment, I can only imagine what similar sponsor they would take on. I listen to the Opry every Friday and Saturday and it had not occurred to me that Bass Pro was gone. In this day of internet sales you would think anyone with a web site local or national could benefit from advertising on the Opry.

    Knightsville, IN

  23. Jim, I can tell you that when I was at the Opry in December and the Low T commerical came on, people in the audience started chuckling. And actually, it was kind of funny. But so was "Jogging In A Jug" which was the only Opry commerical that I can remember that they had to run a disclaimer before the commerical.

    As far as the other sponsors, the Opry several years ago decided to go with "presenting" sponsors and Martha White, Standard Candy and several others did not want to pay the money that Gaylord was asking. For a while, Martha White would sponsor when there was a 2nd show on Saturday night or if one of the presenting sponsors bailed out. They also sponsored the intermission show for a while. I know that Martha White is now under new ownership by Smuckers, and at their store in Orrville, about 20 miles from my house, they have a nice Opry display and the history of Martha White with Flatt and Scruggs. As far as Rhonda Vincent, there has been speculation by more than one person that because Martha White bailed out on the Opry and Rhonda's sponsorship of her tours by Martha White, that could be a reason why Rhonda has not been asked to be an Opry member.

    As far as Patty Loveless, who I personally believe has one of the sweetest voices around, she does not tour that much and last I heard, lives in Georgia. I haven't heard anything lately regarding the health problems of her husband, but I know in the past that was a reason why she cut back on touring. Either way, I do believe she should be at the Opry more.

    And yes, if was after Roy Acuff's death when we started to see little changes in the Opry, that really accelerated after 1999. But then again, it has been reported that Roy owned a bunch of Gaylord stock and he was friends with the Gaylord family, which could be a big reason why nobody messed with the Opry when Roy was alive.

  24. Hello Byron,

    Have you or any of your members ever heard of a man named Cliff James? He had a country band called the Rhythm Ramblers in the 1950s and 1960s and performed with many of the big stars during this time. He was also a disc jockey at radio stations in Kansas, Texas and Oregon and he was a representative for the Jim Denny Artists Bureau and promoted Grand Ole Opry Performances across the Midwest. According to one newspaper article he performed at the Grand Ole Opry and the Jubilee USA TV program.

  25. Byron,

    Thanks for the information on Patty Loveless. I enjoy her singing too. Understanding that she may have personal things more important, I still wish she could be on the Opry more. There is too little of Her style and voice and voice on the Opry.

    Thanks too for the Roy Acuff items. I knew he was tight with the Gaylords but I did not know about the investments.

    The thoughts about Rhonda Vincent and Martha White may be correct but there was plenty of oppurtunity to make her a member before Martha White left the Opry!

    Knightsville, IN

  26. When you are considering possible new members, definitely consider Kellie Pickler! What a stand-out down-home country voice she has. Another pure country voice belongs to Scotty McCreery. I know he's pretty new on the country scene but wow that voice says country through and through.

  27. I agree Kellie Pickler is someone who should be invited very soon. I definitely believe Scotty McCreery should be there some day as long as he continues to put in his time (and I'm sure he will), just too soon for himm

  28. Would be interesting to know why some of the traditional country singers are no longer going to the Opry. Is it because they just don't fit it into their schedules or have they become disillusioned with the Opry's inclusion of pop singers (i.e. Carrie Underwood) into its membership.

  29. I've been there,felt the incredible history and talent that has graced that stage...and to me the best have been the true country people...The ones that are true to the love they feel for country music,the ones that aren't gonna sell themselves out for money.....Scotty Mccreery has brought so many people back to country...maybe too young still,,,,,,,But boy,country is on the rise..because of him..Should be inducted !!!!!!

  30. Interesting list and can't say I disagree.

  31. How about TG Shepard