Monday, April 29, 2013

May Opry Highlights

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

May 1, 1894: Sam McGee was born. He would team with his brother Kirk and together would appear on the Opry. Sam passed away in 1975, while Kirk would remain with the show until he died in 1983. They made their first Opry appearance in 1926 and would appear individually, as a duet, and as part of the Fruit Jar Drinkers and Dixieliners.

May 12, 1901: Benjamin Francis Ford was born in DeSoto, Missouri. Later known as Whitey Ford, the Duke of Paducah, this comedian would join the Grand Ole Opry in 1942. He was brought to the Opry specifically to appear on the Prince Albert Show. He remained an Opry member until 1959, but he would continue to appear on the show at the annual reunion shows. He passed away in 1986, the same year that he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

May 30, 1909: Lewis Crook of the famed Crook Brothers, was born. While not an original member of the Crook Brothers, he would eventually join the group, and would perform on the Opry until his death in 1997, with the last several years as part of the Opry's Square Dance Band.

May 1, 1910: Ott Devine, who at one time was the Opry's manager, was born.

May 17, 1912: Grand Ole Opry announcer, and WSM staff member, Grant Turner was born. He joined the staff at WSM on June 6, 1944, D-Day. He would remain an Orpy announcer until his death on October 19, 1991, hours after announcing the Friday Night Opry. He was an Opry announcer for 47 years and was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. In addition to announcing on the Opry, he hosted the Opry Warm-Up show for a number of years.

May 30, 1912: Alcyone Bate Beasley was born. She was there at the start of the Opry in 1925, performing with her father's group, Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters. They would remain a part of the Opry until Dr. Bate's death in 1936. After his death, Alcyone worked to keep the Possum Hunters together but it was a struggle as the Opry went with a more modern sound. By the 1960s, the Possum Hunters had been merged with the Crook Brothers. In the 1970s, she went into semi-retirement after over 40 years of performing on the Opry. After that, she would appear yearly as part of the Opry's reunion shows. She passed away in October 1982.

May 9, 1914: Hank Snow was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. He would join the Grand Ole Opry in January 1950 and would remain an Opry member until his death in December 1999, jsut short of celebrating 50 years as an Opry member. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979.

May 1, 1926: Uncle Dave Macon joins the WSM Barn Dance, later called the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain a part of the Opry for the next quarter century, making his final Opry appearance on March 1, 1952. A short time after that show, he became ill and passed away several weeks later at the age of 81. He was considered the first professional performer to join the Opry with a national reputation. He always considered himself an old country boy, and in 1966 he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was known for his banjo playing and comedy.

May 25, 1936: Grand Ole Opry member Tom T Hall was born in Kentucky. And, much like Abe Lincoln, Tom T was born in a log cabin. The Country Music Hall of Fame member joined the Opry on January 1, 1971. He left the Opry in 1974 when it moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the new Grand Ole Opry House, but after a discussion with Ernest Tubb, he would rejoin the show. As many of you know, even though he is an Opry member and still active in the music business, he has not been at the Opry in decades and gives no indication of returning any time soon.

May 31, 1938: Donald Lytle was born in Greenfield, Ohio. He would be professionally known as Johnny Paycheck. As we was coming up in the music business, he would perform as a band member with Ray Price, Porter Wagoner, George Jones and Faron Young. In 1997, with the endorsement of his friend Johnny Russell, he would join the Grand Ole Opry. He would remain an Opry member until his death in February 2003 after a long illness.

May 2, 1948: Grand Ole Opry member Larry Gatlin was born. Larry, along with his brothers, joined the Opry on Christmas Day 1976. In recent years, Larry has returned to the Opry stage on a more frequent basis and spends many weeks hosting the Thursday night Opry Country Classics show, on which he does an excellent job.

May 29, 1950: Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters join the Grand Ole Opry. The sisters, of course, were Helen, Anita and June. When the Carters joined the Opry, they brought along their guitar player, Chet Atkins, who would continue on with a Hall of Fame career as a musician and a record company executive. Over the years, while the Sisters would come and go, Mother Maybelle would remain at the Opry. Later in her Opry career, she along with some of the veterans such as Sam and Kirk McGee, would spend some of their time complaining about their Opry spots being poorly timed and limited. The McGees were very vocal at always having to appear after 11:00, which was after the farmers went to bed. Sounds like some things haven't changed regarding how the veterans and legends are treated!! Mother Maybelle would remain an Opry member until the late 1960s, when she left the show to travel as part of the Johnny Cash show.

May 11, 1957: The Everly Brothers make their first appearance at the Opry. They were brought in along with a few others, in an attempt to capture the younger crowd that was turning to rock n' roll. They would eventually join the cast of the Opry, but would stay only for a very short period of time, leaving the Opry in 1958. In 2001, they were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

May 20, 1958: Don Gibson joined the Opry. This Country Music Hall of Fame member was part of a large group of Opry members who were fired by the Opry in December 1964 for not making the required number of annual appearances. He would eventually rejoin the show and would remain an Opry member until his death in 2003. However after he returned to the show, his appearances were very infrequent. On a related note, he never acknowledged his election to the Hall of Fame.

May 1, 1960: The WLS National Barn Dance, one of the Opry's early competitors, came to an end as WLS in Chicago changed formats, ending country music on the station. The Barn Dance had started on April 19, 1924, before the Grand Ole Opry started.

May 13, 1967: Merle Haggard makes his first appearance at the Opry. Former Opry manager Hal Durham would later say, "The girls were always crazy about Merle." While never joining the Opry, Merle would make some appearances over the years.

May 8, 1968: Grand Ole Opry founder George D. Hay passed away at his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He started the WSM Barn Dance in November 1925 and would later rename it the Grand Ole Opry. After he started the show, he would clash with WSM management, specifically Harry and David Stone, over the direction and management of the show. He wanted to keep the Opry "close to the ground" with rural and string performers, while the Stone's wanted a more professional show, with professional entertainers. We know who won that battle!! Over the years, he would suffer from various health issues and would see his influence and role at WSM and the Opry greatly reduced. By the time he retired from the Opry, his role was that of an announcer. On Saturday May 11, which was the next Opry show after his death, Grant Turner paid tribute to him, saying, "He called himself the Solemn Old Judge. If he was solemn, it was only in the face of those who thought to change or corrupt the purity of the barn-dance ballads he sought to preserve. We, the performers and friends of the Grand Ole Opry, salute the memory of one whose influence is felt on the stage of the Opry tonight-the Solemn Old Judge, George D. Hay." Of course, by the time of his death, Harry and David Stone were long gone from the Opry, but their direction helped to make the Opry what it has turned out today.

May 10, 1969: Opry member Stonewall Jackson rejoins the cast of the Opry. Stonewall had been fired from the Opry in December 1964, along with several other Opry members, for failing to make the required number of appearances. Stonewall remains an Opry member to this day. He created news several years ago when he sued the Opry for age discrimination. He refused to appear on the Opry for several years, until the lawsuit was settled. Since coming back to the Opry, he has made few appearances, and so far in 2013, has appeared just once.

May 27, 1972: Opryland opens. On the first day, it drew over 10,000 visitors and by the end of the year, over 1,400,000 would visit the park. Opryland would remain one of Nashville's most popular tourist attractions before Gaylord Entertainment officials made the decision to close the park. While Opryland opened in 1972, it would not be until March 1974 that the Opry House would be finished. After moving from the Ryman to Opryland, the Opry would enjoy a surge in attendance thanks to the out-of-town park visitors who would enjoy the park and stay to take in an Opry show.

May 22, 1977: The Grand Ole Opry held a special Sunday matinee show that was dedicated to their Canadian fans. The following day was Victoria Day in Canada, a national holiday.

May 11, 1979: Lester Flatt passed away in Nashville at the age of 64. He had been in declining heath for a number of years. After he split from Earl Scruggs, Lester stayed with a more traditional bluegrass sound and formed the Nashville Grass. As Lester moved forward with his solo career, he would reach legendary status among bluegrass followers. Lester would remain an Opry member until his death and would always host the Martha White segment while appearing on the show. One of the most famous members of Lester's band was Marty Stuart, who began his own professional career with Lester.

May 15, 1982: Ricky Skaggs joins the cast of the Opry. this will be his 31st year as an Opry member. When Ricky became a member, he was quoted as saying, "That was a childhood dream of mine. Because I used to go to sleep on my grandfather's lap listening to the Grand Ole Opry in his Ford pickup truck out by the barn. We'd pull away from the barn, and he would turn his radio on, an old tube radio that he had in his pickup and, of course, Nashville always came and went, you know, the frequency and the signal would just come and go up in those Kentucky mountains. But, you know, when it would come back in, you'd hear Earl Scruggs playing the banjo, it was the greatest sound in the world. And I used to listen to that. I'd been playing since I was five years old, when I played with Bill Monroe up in Martha, Kentucky, in a little high school." Ricky also said, "And I don't ever-ever want to get to the point where I don't come and play the Opry, where I feel like I'm too good to play the Opry. Mr. Acuff said that I would do that. He said, 'You'll get so big you'll do like all the rest of them.' And I said, you don't know me. You just watch me and see, I'm not made that way. I didn't join the Opry for that." After that, each time Ricky would come back and play the Opry and Roy was there, he would always make it a point of going to Roy's dressing room and telling him he was there. Except for a few bumps here and there, Ricky has stayed true to his word and has supported the Opry. He helps to keep the bluegrass sound alive at the show.

May 5, 1991: Travis Tritt makes his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. He would eventually join the Opry, becoming a member on February 29, 1992. And I make this little joke each time I write this, which is to remind people that it is only a rumor that his induction date was his last Opry appearance. In reality, his last Opry show was in 2007.

May 1, 1993: Charley Pride joins the cast of the Opry. This will be his 20th year as an Opry member and he was honored for that achievement last weekend. Charley had appeared on the Opry since the late 1960s and had been asked many times to become an Opry member, but he always declined the invitation due to his heavy touring schedule and the fact that he lived in Dallas. By 1993, he felt that the time was right and he joined. He normally appears around 10 times each year, which is the number that new members are asked to commit to.

May 11, 1996: Steve Wariner becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 17th year as an Opry member, and like Charley Pride, Steve has been pretty good about keeping up his Opry appearances. I had the chance to meet Steve backstage last year, and he was about the nicest guy around.

May 31, 1997: Lee Ann Womack makes her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. While never becoming an Opry member, Lee Ann would make numerous Opry appearances over the years.

May 21, 2006: Grand Ole Opry member Billy Walker, along with his wife Bettie and two members of his band, were killed in a traffic accident on their way back to Nashville after performing a show in Alabama. Billy had joined the Opry in 1960.

May 19, 2007: Porter Wagoner celebrated his 50th year as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He was joined on the special show by Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Buck Trent, and Marty Stuart, who hosted the segment. The celebration was shown on GAC as part of an hour long tribute. Sadly, Porter was in declining health and would pass away in October 2007. This was the last time that Porter and Dolly shared the stage together.

May 10, 2008: Carrie Underwood joins the Opry. This will be her 5th year as an Opry member. Even with her career as big as it has been, Carrie has always found time to appear on the Opry, making up to 10 appearances each year. While that may not seem like a lot, it is more than many of her fellow Opry members.

May 30, 2009: Comedian and banjo player Steve Martin makes his first Opry appearance. He led an all-star band in playing, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."

May 1, 2010: The Grand Ole Opry House sustained major damage as the Cumberland River spilled over its banks after heavy rain hit Nashville. The Opry was unable to return to the Opry House until September of that year as there was severe water damage. The Opry would spend the summer at a number of various sites prior to returning. Bill Anderson was the last Opry artist to be on stage prior to the flood and was the first be perform after the Opry House reopened.

There you have it for this month. Enjoy!!


  1. What a great roundup! Thank you, as always.

    As I remember, when the Opry was one show from 7:30 to midnight, 9:30 was usually where the "second" group would start appearing, although Hank Snow often was on at 9:30 and 11 p.m. in those days. It strikes me as strange that the management couldn't just put the Crooks on at, say, 10:00 and Sam & Kirk at 10:15. But in later years, with the televised Opry, Mr. Acuff got the 8:00 and 10:15 segments, Mr. Snow 8:30 and 11:00, and I thought the lineups got a little odd at times as Hal Durham tried to accommodate them.

  2. Mike, you bring up an interesting point regarding the segments that a few of the artists always appeared on. I know that Hank Snow started in his slots pretty early on and just kind of stayed there. Even if he was gone from the Opry for a while, such as illness or on tour, when he came back, it was always as the host of the same two segments.

    Roy Acuff hosted at 7:30 until TNN started to televise the Opry, then he went into the Martha White segment at 8. When he made the move, there was a big article in the Nashville paper, with the President of Standard Candy not happy that Roy left that slot to sing for Martha White. It shows back in those days how important a star was to the sponsor.

    Of course, Marty Robbins always did 11:30, then Johnny Russell would do it after Marty passed away. I think Johnny was trying to create the same magic as Marty, with an extended segment, but it just didn't seem to work. Of course, Johnny didn't usually host the segment but was usually the last artist to perform.

    Ernest Tubb always did 10:45 on the 2nd show for Newport, while Lester Flatt was always at 8 for Martha White, which followed the trend of Flatt & Scruggs hosting that slot. Grandpa Jones was usually Lester's first guest on that segment and most times Grandpa would host it when Lester was not there.

    In his later years, Porter Wagoner would host the opening slot on Friday night and then at 7 and 9:30 on Saturday. And after Hank Snow died, Bill Anderson unofficially took over Hank's slots. Now you have Jimmy Dickens always opening on Saturday night and at 7:30 on Friday.

    There were so many others such as the Willis Brothers at 9:30 for Kelloggs and Red Foley only doing the Prince Albert Show and rarely any other segment. Justin Tubb spent his later years only as a guest on the 11:00 segment, with the Fruit Jar Drinkers and McGee, while Jeanne Pruett would always do 11:30 if Marty was hosting, for obvious reasons. The 4 Guys, because of their dinner theater, would do the last segment of the first show and the first segment of the second show.

    In the later years, there was a trend to get a lot of the veteran acts "out of the way" pretty quickly, so you would see Bill Carlisle, Grandpa Jones, Oswald and Bill Monroe in a lot of the earlier slots on either show, while there also seemed to be a lot of veterans in the 11:30 slot, or as Eddie Stubbs would sometimes say, "they drew the short straws." I can remember Ray Pillow and Charlie Walker doing that final segment many times.

    We could go on and on.....

  3. Oh, we could! And I know that nobody really wanted to do the 11:30 after Marty died. Johnny Russell at least had fun with it. Another artist with interesting air times was Roy Drusky, because, as a Seventh-Day Adventist, he observed the Friday night-Saturday sabbath, so he couldn't come on until after sundown on Saturday. When the Opry was being televised on TNN, we knew we wouldn't see him for large parts of the year!

    By the way, one other May note: May 1 should be remembered at the Opry above all for Sam McGee, but it also is the birthday of Sonny James, who turns 84 tomorrow.

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    I can remember a brief period -- late in the 1950s, I think -- when the Opry dispensed with all artist hosts, leaving that chore to the announcers. The sole exception: Hank Snow's segments. The "Little Napoleon" simply refused to stand down -- made it stick, too. And the Opry soon gave up the whole experiment as a bad job.

    It's hard to figure where the Opry was coming from on this, unless an artist gets bonus pay for hosting. I'm sure the audience would much rather see one of their favorite stars up there than most announcers.

  5. Hey Guys Whats Your Predictions For Hall Of Fame Veteran And Modern Inductees For The Next 5 Years 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 And 2019?

  6. Mike,I am not surprised that you pointed out Sonny James's birthday. A great Hall of Famer.

    Fred, I am going to check some of my older line-ups from the 1950s and see if I can figure out what time period and shows were involved that did not have hosts for the segments.

  7. Fred, Bismarck:

    Byron, just a hunch, but to narrow the search, it occurs to me to suggest after the NBC Prince Albert show was discontinued, Dec. 24, 1960 (per your December 2011 highlights recap). That would have been a logical time, and when my informant for all things Opry -- as you are now -- was Mr. Merv Rawes of Cleveland (afterwards New Philadelphia), Ohio. He made the Opry about as often as you do now, and is the one who filled me in on some of the details.

    I already knew of the hosting change, except for Hank, from my own listening, which was every Saturday night in those days.

    I'll admit I've never seen a word about this episode in Opry history in any of my reading.

  8. I'd NEVER heard that about the hosting change--fascinating. But I also wonder how much of it had been that George D. Hay once had done all the introductions and maybe they were trying to go back? Or perhaps it was a Dee Kilpatrick move designed to make the Opry more fast-paced? Not that I would have favored that!

  9. I also remember when in the 1990s, Bob Whitaker had the idea to leave the curtain up for the entire show. It went up when the show started and came down when the show ended. It stayed up as they were switching segments and hosts. That is all except for one host. Yep, Hank Snow strikes again, as he insisted that the curtain go back down before and afer this segment. I can remember being in the audience for one of thw shows and some thought the show was over at 8:30 when the curtain came down prior to Hank's part.

  10. Byron:
    Are Steve & Rudy Gatlin still considered Opry Members? Curious...

  11. Whittaker also tried having the square dancers open and close the televised portion. Once. It was enough. They opened it fine. When the time came for them to come out, Billy Walker was hosting and I was afraid he and Earl White were going to have a collision.

  12. David, on the Opry's cast roster, Larry, Steve and Rudy are listed together as The Gatlin Brothers. Larry has a "side" deal to be the host of the Spring Opry Country Classic shows, which he has done for several years. It is interesting that Larry will appear on the Opry as a solo act without his brothers, even though they have continued to actively tour. (I know there was a brief time period when the brothers were inactive from touring). I do not know why other than Larry feels like doing the Opry and Steve and Rudy to not. All 3 have made several Opry appearances together over the past several years. For what it is worth, I do not recall Steve and Rudy ever making any Opry appearances without Larry.

  13. Fred, Bismarck:

    Not to beat the subject to death, Byron, but I have two other time possibilities for the Opry's no-host experiment. It could also have happened c. 1979 or c. 1983, years I made it to Ohio for visits with my old pal Merv Rawes and the subject could have come up. Altho I tend to doubt it, because you were already paying the Opry real close attention by then.

    Last possibility: I'm just an old goat who dreamed up the whole thing!

  14. Your find Fred!!! Anyways, I did some looking at some of my old programs to see if I could find any clues. I looked at the ones I have from the late 1950s into 1960. They all have what appear to be segment hosts, who open the segment and then close the segment, much as we have always seen the Opry do. I know for sure that in the 1979-1980s era, the segment hosts were used.

    My other thought regarding the late 1970s into the 1980s is that was when the Opry matinees and mid-week shows really got going with Opryland open. Much like the Tuesday night Opry now, these shows usually only had 8 artists for a 2 hour show and there were no hosts as each performer generally did 15 minutes, with an announcer doing the introductions. Perhaps that is what Merv was thinking.

    Other than that, I have no clues.

  15. Funny you mention that about when Whittaker did away with the curtain going up and down. I was about to post that I wrote him a letter that you could tell some of the excitement went out of the show listening on the radio when the audience didn't react as the curtain went up. How well I remember how exciting it was to be in the Opry House in the late 80s when the colored lights across the front of the balcony would come on and Mr. Acuff's theme music would start with the curtain down and that spotlight would hit the center of the big red (actually orange) curtain as it went up. Ditto for Tommy Vaden striking the bow across a refrain of Movin' On to signal the Singing Ranger was coming on for "Lucks -- Peas, Greens and Beans" (on the Friday Night Opry) or Watermelon on the Vine telling you Bill Monroe was next or Eight More Miles to Louisville announcing Grandpa Jones. We tend to forget that before the Internet most of us had no idea who was on the Opry from week to week ahead of time. About the only real theme left is Jimmy Dickens coming on to "Old Joe Clark" and we don't get that when he opens the show. And who can forget the Coca Cola theme song (I once heard the Osborne Brothers play that in concert)... Ah, good times! (oldtimeopry)

  16. Oldtime, when TNN started televising the Opry in 1985, it was the first time we got to see or hear it regularly since we are in Las Vegas and WSM doesn't reach here. When Keith Bilbrey was opening the show, it was always exciting if you could hear the theme music for whoever was coming on. So I can only imagine how it was IN the house.

  17. To comment on an earlier post regarding different performing slots, it seemed like a lot of the older performers like Bill Carlisle and Oswald would appear early (as they got older) so they could get home early. A lot of the older folks I know don't really like to drive after dark and I don't blame them. (Although driving with Hank Snow any time had to be an adventure...many a night I had to dodge his big black Cadillac coming down the service road at Opryland doing WELL over the posted 24 MPH speed limit with the little general at the wheel! :P)

    Everybody is bringing up some really good memories. One thing I miss about the Opry is that at one time, just about everyone who hosted an Opry segment had a theme song to lead in with...and unless there was a sponsor's jingle that's what you'd hear. Billy Walker, Billy Grammer, George Morgan and Jim Ed Brown (among others) would usually work the announcer's name into the song.

    Let's see if I can remember them all:
    Roy Acuff often closed his portion of the show with the instrumental version of "Carry Me Back to the Mountains".
    Bill Anderson: Bright Lights and Country Music (which he still closes with)
    Jim Ed Brown: Pop A Top (and for a time he would close with a fast instrumental version of the old bluegrass song, "Jimmy Brown, The Newsboy")
    Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper: West Virginia Polka
    John Conlee: Rose Colored Glasses (instrumental)
    Archie Campbell: Make Friends (instrumental)
    Jimmy Dickens: Old Joe Clark (instrumental)
    Roy Drusky: Anymore
    Lester Flatt: Martha White Theme (performed live when he was on the show, on tape otherwise...usually I could never tell the difference)
    The Four Guys: Instrumental (don't know the name but it was an upbeat number)
    Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything (for a while in the 70's when he changed his "style" the band would do a different instrumental number.)
    Billy Grammer: Gotta Travel On
    David Houston: Almost Persuaded
    George Jones: White Lightnin' (instrumental)
    Grandpa Jones: Eight More Miles To Louisville (instrumental)
    Stonewall Jackson: Waterloo
    Charlie Louvin: See The Big Man Cry
    Bill Monroe: Watermelon on the Vine
    George Morgan: Candy Kisses
    Jimmy C. Newman: Alligator Man
    The Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top
    Minnie Pearl: She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain (it wasn't played at the beginning of the rare segment she would host but I never saw her walk on a stage without some version of the song being played)
    Del Reeves: Goodtime Charlie's (instrumental)
    Hank Snow: I'm Movin' On (instrumental). Usually, Hank's portion would open with the Stephen's Work Clothes or Coca Cola jingle but when he first starting doing the Friday night show regularly they would open with a jazzy little number with Kayton Roberts taking the lead. After Tommy Vaden returned to the band I never heard that tune again and it was always "Movin' On".
    Ernest Tubb: I'm Walking The Floor Over You
    Justin Tubb: Lonesome 7-7203
    Porter Wagoner: Porter never really had a "theme" but you knew who was about to take the stage when the band kicked his opening song into high gear. There was a closing instrumental that the band usually played but I don't the name of that one either.
    Billy Walker: Charlie's Shoes
    Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
    The Wilburn Brothers: Trouble's Back In Town (followed by a quick instrumental version of "Little Liza Jane")
    The Willis Brothers: They didn't really have a "theme" either but they did more commercial jingles than any other Opry act and a lot of us can still remember them. The Kellogg's Corn Flakes commercials they did live would get as much applause as "Bob' or "Give Me 40 Acres". There were also jingles for Luzianne Coffee, Acme Boot and Fender Guitar over the years. I'm sure I'm forgetting something but that's the best I can do off the top of my head.

  18. Speaking of commercials, there were a lot of memorable jingles over the years. Loretta Lynn reworked a couple of her songs for SSS Tonic, Grandpa Jones reworked "Old Rattler" for Trailblazer Dog Food and Faron Young did jingles for Schlitz Malt Liquor. Just about everybody took a turn at "Go Get A Goo Goo" over the years. For a time, Jim Ed Brown did the Dollar Store jingle when he served as their national spokesman. The Martha White theme has become a bluegrass classic in its own right and the Stephens Work Clothes ("Just a little bigger....Just a little better") was an Opry staple for years as was the Coca Cola theme. Mrs. Grissom's, Vietti Chili, Elm Hill Meats and Rudy's all had memorable commercial jingles as well...all of which were part of the grand tapestry that was the Opry. Roy Acuff would usually bring Grant Turner center stage to read some of his commercials and who can forget Hairl Hensley and Harold Weakley reading their lines while digging in the other's ear, messing up his hair or giving a big fat kiss on the cheek. Whether it was that or Acuff and Oswald carrying on in the middle of the stage you would often hear the audience laugh and applaud in the middle of a commercial and the radio audience probably never knew why. That's something I really miss about the show. EVERYBODY was having fun.

    For a couple of summers, I worked in the Opry ticket office and would occasionally have a letter cross my desk complaining about "paying money and then having to listen to all those commercials". I wanted so badly to write those poor folks and say 'you just don't get it, do you?" but, of course, I couldn't. But the commercials were always one of the things that gave the Opry much of its unique character. I find a lot of the commercials today to be as dull as watching paint dry. Bringing back things like Minnie Pearl shouting "Elmer! Don't forget the American Ace Coffee!" might not be a bad thing!

  19. Barry, that was all great! And I can just imagine Hank Snow behind the wheel ....

    Mr. Acuff used to call Hairl and Harold the Goo Goo twins. The funny thing is that as I recall, Grant Turner's favorite commercial to do was for Goo Goo's, but he didn't announce that segment for a long time.

  20. Fred, Bismarck:

    You bet, Barry -- from time immemorial some people have complained of the "hicky" label applied to country, including even our sainted Ernest Tubb, who didn't like "hillbilly." (Of course, he was the same one who, in later years, complained of the dilution of what he considered real country music.)

    As for me, give me the colorful outfits -- up to and including the original Lonzo and Oscar, Bashful Brother, etc. -- and all the other trappings, like Minnie Pearl's. Reminds us of where the music came from, even if we fans aren't all wearing coveralls these days.

    A lot better than the Opry tonight. I tuned in at 7:30, enjoyed the Mike Snider instrumental, then switched it off in impatience as soon as his first guest burst into song, much as I almost reflexively turn off our AM radio station.

    I'd love and am ready to love our Opry as much as I used to, but it's hard, Lord.

  21. Fred again:

    Please excuse last night's confused rant. What I was TRYING to say is how much I miss the kind of colorful touches recounted by Oldtime, Barry and Michael. They sure beat the heck out of today's lame, faux-folksy attempts to incite the audience with things like, "Are y'all havin' a good time?" (If they're having a good time, they'll let you know all by themselves!)

    So much of the old stuff was unscripted, flowing naturally from these people simply being who and what they were ...

    But there I go, getting ready to rant again, to no useful purpose!

    But thanks for the memories, guys.

  22. Barry, you brought back some great memories with the theme songs of the various artists. Of course, we take our hats off to Pee Wee King, who was the first to use entrance music at the Opry.

    Besides the music, the other thing that is missing from today's Opry and country music in general, are the "nicknames" that the artists had. I can remember when an artist would be introduced at the Opry with their nickname as part of the introduction. I really got to thinking about this with George Jones, and everyone calling him "The Possum", but then I started to think of all the others. A few that come right to mind include:

    Roy Acuff: The King of Country Music
    Bill Monroe: The Father of Bluegrass
    Hank Snow: The Singing Ranger
    Sonny James: The Southern Gentleman
    Johnny Cash: The Man in Black
    Porter Wagoner: The Wagonmaster
    Bill Anderson: Whispering Bill
    Grandpa Jones: Everbody's Favorite Grandpa
    Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubador
    Jimmy Dickens: Tater
    George Jones: The Possum
    Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner's Daughter
    Billy Walker: The Tall Texan
    Jeannie Seely: Miss Country Soul
    Jimmy C Newman: The Cajun Man
    George Hamilton IV: International Ambassador of Country Music

    I know there are many others as those were the first to come to mind.

  23. Of course, Porter was also called the "Thin Man from West Plains."

    Tom T Hall: The Singing Storyteller
    Leroy Van Dyke: The Auctioneer
    Del Wood: The Queen of the 88's
    Kitty Wells: The Queen of Country Music

  24. Fred, Bismarck:

    Porter's very first nickname, I believe, was "the Singing Grocery Boy," for the West Plains store at which he worked and that may have sponsored his first radio show.

    I have a c. 1959 poster of the Coopers, including Carol Lee, that calls them "The First Family of Country Music." (Altho I can't remember this billing on the Opry.) Webb Pierce was "the Wondering Boy" and Eddy Arnold, of course, "the Tennessee Plowboy."

    I suppose these kinds of nicknames would be considered hicky by today's glamor girls and boys. I did see, during the George Jones coverage, Vince Gill owning up to the nickname bestowed on him by George, "Sweet Pea."

    At least two artists, Cowboy Copas and Clyde Moody, were "the Waltz King." Faron Young was "the Young Sheriff" -- and, when that was no longer true, "the Singing Sheriff."

    I got a special kick out of it when these nicknames were still printed on those 78s and 45s. It took a fair amount of space on a little 45 for "Hank Snow, the Singing Ranger, and his Rainbow Ranch Boys"!

  25. I've been too busy to comment much. I really enjoy all the memories brought back by Barry and others on this post. I hadn't thought much about the absence of the theme songs these days.

    Answeer this. How did they get a theme, introductin to the sponsor, introduction of the host, at least six performances, three commercials, a closing theme and a closing word about the sponsor in 30 minutes? Today the time is wasted on the Facebook Friend and longer boring commercials. And we don't get to learn as much about the artist or as much entertainment.

    Like many other things I hold dear, good radio and good live radio is becoming a lost art.

    I love the "little general comment about Hank Snow and his Cadillac.

    Great stuff folks.

    Knightsville, IN

  26. The Four Guys' theme song (at least when I listened to their hosted segments in the 80s and 90s) was an instrumental version of "How Married Are You, Mary Ann?".

    Kayton Roberts' "jazzy" instrumental used to open and close Hank Snow's segments before Tommy Vaden returned to the band was "Opryland Swing".

  27. Robert,

    I can hear Kayton now. I had forgot how that opening went but as soon as I read the title it came back to me. I'm sure I have it on tape.



  28. Here's Kayton doing the Opryland Swing:
    And another good one with Kayton telling a Hank Snow story:

    I never got to meet Mr. Snow but I'm fascinated by what kind of person he was on and off stage. Enjoyed the story of the cadillac. Anyone else got any good Hank Snow stories?


  29. Thanks Oldtimeopry for the links. I never met Hank either. I remember one night on the Opry when Marty was running way over he was joking about keeping ET from starting the Midnite Jamboree and he mention Roy Acuff and others coming out and taking up time and running the show over, why shouldn't he be allowed to do the same. As he was mentioning names he said "and there's that strange ranger, Hank Snow. As time passes since Hank's death you here more stories about just how true that was. Marty was joking but Hank must have been a different and interesting character!


  30. Thanks for the title of the Kayton Roberts instrumental. As much as I think I know about country music I still learn new things every day. At this point in time, it's getting to be like archeology but the nuggets you find are very cool. The Four Guys theme I'm thinking of was one they used in the late 70's. For a time, they would also use the intro to Anne Murray's hit "What About Me" but this was something different all together.

    There's a line somewhere...I'm thinking it's from Hank Snow's autobiography...that honestly is the best summary of the man I've ever heard. Chubby Wise once asked Willie Nelson to follow Hank around for a week or so to see if he could "figure him out". Willie came back a week later and reported that "there isn't anybody alive that can figure that little bastard out." He was certainly one-of-a-kind. The one thing I always admired about him (and Merle Haggard, too) was that he stood at that microphone and looked you straight in the eye and sang his songs without any phony showbiz emotion or resorting to the old "how y'all doin'" cliche that plagues everyone who crosses a stage these days. Call me old (I'm not) and cranky (ok, I'll give you that one) I wish more of today's modern performers would just shut up and sing.

  31. At the Country Music Hall of Fame, there is a video running that shows notable moments of Hall of Fame inductees making their acceptance speeches.
    My favorite is when Hank Snow thanks various people, including his wife, "Mrs. Hank Snow!"

  32. I think that just shows how "formal" Hank Snow was!! And I agree with Barry's comments, he would just stand there at the microphone with his guitar, nothing fancy, and sing and play the song exactly as it was recorded.

    As far as the Hall of Fame video and the Hall of Famer's, I know they have about a dozen of the clips that they show, including Grandpa Jones, Jimmy Dickens, Loretta Lynn and a couple of others. I would like them to add all of the Hall of Famer's. I know the early ones, such as Roy Acuff, were not recorded, but I am sure in their archives, they have the vast majority. I love their reactions, especially in the days when the announcement was made at the CMA Awards, with no advance notice.

  33. Marty Robbins induction in 1982 was precious. I remember him saying in a sheepish way something like "I really don't deserve this, there are others who deserve it more (Jimmy Dickens who I think inducted him) but I'm going to take it, I might not get another chance" and he just grinned from ear to ear. In less that three months he left us. One of the most timely inductions!

    Knightsville, IN

  34. One of my favorite acceptance speeches was Grandpa Jones when he said in his own unique way: "Weeeelll, I never thought itda come to this but I'm glad it did!" But my all-time favorite acceptance speech is Cindy Walkers poem: (oldtimeopry)