Saturday, July 27, 2013

Former Opry Member Don Williams

It was on Saturday July 31, 1976, 37 years ago, that Don Williams made his first Saturday night appearance as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. (Don had actually joined the show in April 1976, but until that July date had only made a Friday night appearance).

Don Williams was born in Texas and grew up in the Southwest. By the age of 12 he was playing the guitar, taught to him by his mother. His first paid job as a singer was in Gregory, Texas during his sophomore year in high school. He later joined the Army and spent time in Japan. After leaving the Army, he took on various jobs before deciding to return to music. In 1964, he formed the Pozo Seco Singers, and they had a top 10 hit with "Time." They stayed together until 1970, when Don went out on his own. Don is one of the most talented songwriters in the history of country music, writing close to 500 songs. Not only have his songs been recorded by him, but by artists such as Sonny James, Jeanne Pruett, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell and Lobo. During his career, he has had 17 #1 hits and in 2010 was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Today, at the age of 74, Don still makes personal appearances, but they are few. That is not a surprise as even during the peak of his hit making days, he was not much of a traveler.

Don was only an Opry member for a short period of time, and during that time, he made very few Opry appearances. In 1977, he made 3 Opry appearances and after that he made no more shows until his final night as a member in 1981.

Here is the Grand Ole Opry line-up from Saturday July 31, 1976, the first Saturday night show for new Opry member Don Williams.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host): Big Midnight Special
Willis Brothers: Home On The Range
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Nobody's Darling But Mine

6:45: Rudy's
George Hamilton IV (host): Country Music In My Soul
Bill Carlisle: Too Old To Cut The Mustard
O.B. McClinton: Blanket On the Ground
George Hamilton IV: Early Morning Rain

7:00: Shoney's
Charlie Louvin (host): Did You Ever
Billy Grammer: Detroit City
Justin Tubb: Cold Brown Bottle
Brother Oswald: Mountain Dew
Charlie Louvin: Let's Put Our World Back Together/A Toast To Mama/Love Has To Die/I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow/I Want A Happy Life
Billy Grammer: Gotta Travel On
Justin Tubb: Keep Me From Blowing Away

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Drusky (host): Second Hand Rose
Bob Luman: Neither One Of Us
Don Williams: You're My Best Friend/Turn Out The Lights & Love Me Tonight
Crook Brothers/Ralph Sloan: Soldier's Joy
Bob Luman: A Satisfied Mind
Roy Drusky: I Really Don't Want To Know

8:00: Martha White
Lester Flatt & The Nashville Grass (host): Ain't Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone
4 Guys: Top Of The World
Melba Montgomery: Lonely Street
Jim Mundy: Never Met A Girl I Didn't Like
Paul Warren: Orange Blossom Special
4 Guys: The Morning Sun
Melba Montgomery: Don't Let The Good Times Fool You
Lester Flatt: Great Big Woman & A Little Biddy Bottle Of Wine

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): Miller's Cave
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Ronnie Milsap: I'm A Stand By My Woman Man/Day Dreams About Night Things
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hickory Leaf
Jeanne Pruett: It Doesn't Hurt To Ask
Hank Snow: That's When He Dropped The World In My Hands

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
Charlie Louvin (host): Will You Visit Me On Sundays/What Are Those Things
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Where Is America Going
Bill Carlisle: Business Man
Charlie Louvin: Poison Red Berries
O.B. McClinton: I'm The Other One
Brother Oswald: Dobro Chimes
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Poor Ellen Smith

10:00: Fender
Roy Drusky (host): Fraulein
Willis Brothers: Ghost Riders In The Sky
Don Williams: I Recall A Gypsy Woman
Roy Drusky: Alone With You

10:15: Union 76
Billy Grammer (host): Under The Double Eagle
Melba Montgomery: Don't Keep Me Lonely Too Long
George Hamilton IV: Break My Mind
Billy Grammer: Somewhere My Love

10:30: Trailblazer
Lester Flatt (host)
Paul Warren: Black-Eyed Susie
Justin Tubb: Sweetwater, Texas
Bob Luman: A Satisfied Mind
Lester Flatt: Mama Don't Allow It

10:45: Beech-Nut
4 Guys (host): Turn Your Radio On
Ronnie Milsap: What Goes On When The Sun Goes Down
Crook Brothers/Ralph Sloan: Gray Eagle
4 Guys: The Morning Sun

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Hello Love
Jim Mundy: Never Met A Girl I Didn't Like
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hickory Leaf
Hank Snow: Old Doc Brown
Jim Mundy: The Rivers Too Wide
Kirk McGee: The End Of Forever
Hank Snow: Traveling Blues

11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host): El Paso City
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets/Break My Mind
Ronnie Robbins: Good Hearted Woman/Bitter They Are
Marty Robbins: Cool Water/Love Me/Don't Worry/El Paso

While this was Don Williams first Saturday night as an Opry member, his final show was on August 22, 1981. To show how little Don played the Opry, this was his first Opry show in over 3 years. Here is the line-up for that final show for Don Williams.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Stonewall Jackson (host): Full Moon, Empty Pockets
Ernie Ashworth: Irene
Stonewall Jackson: Muddy Water

6:45: Rudy's
Charlie Walker (host): T For Texas
Jan Howard: Six Weeks Every Summer; Christmas Every Other Year
Charlie Walker: Little Old Wine Drinker Me/Waltz Across Texas

7:00: Shoney's
Charlie Louvin (host): What Are Those Things
Billy Grammer: When Your Hair Turned To Silver
Ray Pillow: Too Many Memories
John Conlee: Could You Love Me One More Time/Miss Emily's Picture
Joe Edwards: Black Mountain Rag
Charlie Louvin: Ten Years, 3 Kids; 2 Loves Too Late

7:30: Standard Candy
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Skeeter Davis: It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels/I'll Fly Away
Roy Drusky: If The Whole World Stopped Loving
Crook Brothers/Tennessee Travelers: Lost Indian
Archie & Phil Campbell: Hey Waiter

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Vic Willis Trio: Colorado
David Houston: Bandera Waltz
Bill Carlisle: Elvira
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird/Shake My Mother's Hand For Me

8:30: Acme
4 Guys (host): Loving Up A Storm
Jeannie Seely: When Your House Is Not A Home
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hollow Poplar
Don Williams: Living On Tulsa Time/I Believe In You/Amanda
4 Guys: Swing Down Chariot

2nd show
9:30: Kelloggs
4 Guys (host): Mama Rocked Us To Sleep With Country Music
Ray Pillow: She Never Likes Nothing For Long
Jan Howard: Good Hearted Woman
Don Williams: Living On Tulsa Time/I Believe In You/Amanda
4 Guys: Turn Your Radio On

10:00: Little Debbie
Charlie Louvin (host): The Way I Am
John Conlee: Could You Love Me One More Time/Miss Emily's Picture
Charlie Louvin: Is This How It Is When It's Over

10:15: Sunbeam
David Houston (host): Texas Ida Red
Ernie Ashworth: Irene
David Houston: Bandera Waltz

10:30: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): I Couldn't Believe It Was True
Charlie Walker: The One Rose That's Left In My Heart
Howdy Forrester: Cotton-Eyed Joe
Roy Acuff: Jesus Will Outshine Them All

10:45: Beech-Nut
Stonewall Jackson (host): Don't Be Angry
Skeeter Davis: The Old Rugged Cross/The King Is Coming/I'll Fly Away
Crook Brothers/Tennessee Travelers: Old Joe Clark
Stonewall Jackson: Me & You & A Dog Named Boo

11:00: Coca-Cola
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
The Pilgrims: When They Call My Name
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Kirk McGee: Blue Night
Jeannie Seely: I'm Almost Ready
Archie & Phil Campbell: The Interview

11:30: Bama
Roy Drusky (host): Billy Bayou
Billy Grammer: Somebody Loves You
Vic Willis Trio: Shenendoah
Bill Carlisle: Elvira
Roy Drusky: There'll Never Be Anyone Else But You For Me/Just A Closer Walk With Thee

Don Williams was only an Opry member for a little more than 5 years. Much like BJ Thomas, who joined the Opry during the same time period, Don came to realize that the Opry just wasn't for him. And instead of staying a member and not making any, or just a few appearances, he decided to move on. I give Don credit for that. In thinking about it, I wonder how many of today's Opry members have come to realize over time that the Opry just isn't for them. But instead of following Don and BJ's example, they have just stayed on as members.


  1. from PA anonymous: have always loved Don Williams (even if he left the Opry) and BJ Thomas too - your lists of shows makes me wonder why in the world the performers even make the effort to come out to sing one song on one show - hardly seems worth it; when they had those two long shows and often got to do multiples songs, they had more people to hang out with and it must have been more rewarding - now it seems an almost "tired" effort for them to be there

  2. They make the effort because it's still the Grand Ole of the legendary stages in not just country music but in the entertainment business and to most artists/members that "get it" that still means something.

    BTW, I was at that August early show in 81 and it was one of my more memorable shows because it was rare to see Archie Campbell, loved the Waiter routine Archie and his son Phil did(and Hairl Hensley did several times with Archie too), and as you noted above it was very rare to see Don Williams at the Opry. I didn't realize at the time that would be Don Williams last Opry performance as a member. It was a shame he didn't work out better as an Opry member, but I give credit to him for bowing out too if it wasn't something he could make a commitment to.

  3. Don Williams seems to be a very private person. I was not surprised at all when "illness" kept him from his Hall of Fame induction. When it was announced early in 2010 he was to be an inductee, I suspected something would come up and he would not be able to make it the medallion ceremony. He is probably the "cleanest" country legend of his generation. I have never heard of any scandal on him at all. He is just an all around nice man and a true country traditionalist legend.

    On B.J. Thomas - I would say he has made more Opry appearances in recent years than he did at all during the years he was a member.

    1. If you follow Don, you know that he was very ill during this time and had to cancel shows after being hospitalized while touring. "Illness" was the reason he could not be there, but he was fortunate enough to make to all of the events that followed, including a great live audience interview/Q&A hosted by Eddie Stubbs. It was fantastic.

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    Great lineups! In '76, I'd like to have caught Bob Luman on "Satisfied Mind." I wonder if he "rocked" it!

    Three of the four Coopers songs were newly recorded for Rounder and in a just-released album that had to have given them a boost. (Rounder re-released "Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper" as a CD a few years ago.) Stoney died the following March.

    Agreed, all praise to Don Williams, who "kept it country" with some of the very best music of the 1970s (which desperately needed it) and '80s.

  5. As a kid I remember going to the Grand Ole Opry as I sit here and wonder does the Opry ask too much of you there was a lot of country artists who never joined the Grand Ole Opry because they know that's a big commitment! There was Talk Amongst many of the artists the Grand Ole Opry was too strict too many rules that you had to follow! rules that the country artist had to go by like the dress code no long hair and many other things yes I can understand why some of these country music artist never was a member of the Grand Ole Opry! No offense Grand Ole Opry in the country music industry but you are too strict on these artists! In a lot of it had to do with mr. Roy Acuff after they turned every show the complete stage over to mr. Roy Acuff mr. Acuff was in charge of running that show! And you had to go by his rules are you did not play on the Grand Ole Opry.