With the passing of another Grand Ole Opry legend in Jack Greene, it got me doing some thinking regarding the number of Opry legends we have recently lost. Over the last 10 years Johnny Paycheck, Bill Carlisle, Don Gibson, Skeeter Davis, Roy Drusky, Billy Walker, Del Reeves, Porter Wagoner, Charlie Walker, Ernie Ashworth, Hank Lockin, Charlie Louvin, Mel McDaniel, Billy Grammer, Wilma Lee Cooper and Jack Greene have all passed away. That comes out to 16 Opry members in that short time. 2011 was a particular brutal with 4 members passing away in a relatively short amount of time.
In that same 10 year span, the Opry has added 15 members, with Trace Adkins, Del McCoury, Terri Clark, Dierks Bentley, Mel Tillis, Josh Turner, Charlie Daniels, Carrie Underwood, Craig Morgan, Montgomery Gentry, Blake Shelton, Oak Ridge Boys, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban and Darius Rucker all joining the cast.
I have to ask the question, was the Opry better off before losing these legends, or is it better with the new members it has added?
When you look at who has passed away, with the exception of Don Gibson, all of those legends were pretty active members of the Opry. Johnny Paycheck, Skeeter Davis, Del Reeves, Mel McDaniel, Billy Grammer, Wilma Lee Cooper and Jack Greene had health issues toward the end of their lives that ended their Opry careers before their deaths. Roy Drusky, Ernie Ashworth and Hank Lockin were in semi-retirement. Bill Carlisle, Billy Walker, Porter Wagoner and Charlie Walker were active with the Opry right up until they died, while Charlie Louvin would have done the Opry more if someone had called.
Of those 15 who joined the Opry in the last decade, the most active member is Del McCoury. But then again, he is one of the veterans who understands what the Opry is all about. Of the others, Mel Tillis, Josh Turner, Charlie Daniels, Carrie Underwood, Craig Morgan and the Oak Ridge Boys give the Opry some appearances, while Trace Adkins, Terri Clark, Dierks Bentley, Montgomery Gentry and Rascal Flatts have given the show limited time. Blake Shelton has been a zero, while the jury is still out on Keith Urban and Darius Rucker.
So it goes back to my question, is the Opry better off with what we have?
My personal opinion is no. The Opry still needs to come up with a group of members who will support the show and stay with the show. I am particulary pleased with the increased appearances by Ricky Skaggs so far this year. But more members need to follow.
When you look at the Opry's membership, who knows how long Jimmy Dickens has left. Jean Shepard has had her health issues and Hal Ketchum has been unable to do the Opry for a number of years. Stonewall Jackson has had a few issues, as has Stu Phillips. And we have not even covered the Opry members over the age of 80 who are in pretty good health, such as Jan Howard, Bobby Osborne, Jimmy C Newman, Jesse McReynolds and Buck White.
As always, there is cause for concern. Like I said at the start, I was just thinking........