Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grand Ole Opry 7/19 & 7/20

They call these the "dog days of summer" and as the Opry rolls through summer, things seem pretty quiet on Opryland Drive in Nashville. There is the usual one show each on Friday and Saturday night this weekend and while the line-ups are "ok" there is nothing spectacular about them.

The Friday Night Opry will feature Opry members Larry Gatlin and Mel Tillis, along with guest artists Angie Johnson and our old friend Tracy Lawrence. Back in the 1990s when Tracy was having hit after hit, there was speculation that Tracy would perhaps become an Opry member. He may have even been asked, or at least an inquiry made. I remember at the time that Tracy had said that he was too busy at that point in his career, but perhaps later on. Well, Tracy is now 45 and his hit-making days are pretty much behind him and I don't think an Opry invitation is coming any time soon. But it is nice to see him back at the Opry.

Saturday's Grand Ole Opry will feature another guest appearance by "Nashville" star Jonathan Jackson, who actually is a pretty good singer. With the Opry's Steve Buchanan as the Executive Producer of the show, and the continue involvement of the Opry, we probably will continue to see more of the "Nashville" stars on the Opry and the Opry being featured on the television show.

In addition to Jonathan Jackson, Darryl Worley and Andy Gibson will be making guest appearances. Also on the schedule for Saturday night is Jesse McReynolds, who has missed the past couple of weeks. Saturday night will also feature this week's Opry newcomers, Sons of Fathers. This is a Texas based duo.

Friday July 19:
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Mike Snider
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jimmy C Newman; Tracy Lawrence
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Angie Johnson
8:45: Larry Gatlin (host); Mel Tillis

Saturday July 20:
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Andy Gibson; Mike Snider
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); The Whites; Sons Of Fathers
8:15: John Conlee (host): Jesse McReynolds; Jonathan Jackson; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Larry Gatlin (host); Connie Smith; Darryl Worley

This week's look back in Grand Ole Opry history will feature a couple of line-ups. The 1st is from July 21, 1973 (40 years ago), when Jeanne Pruett joined the Grand Ole Opry. Jeanne was the last singing member of the Opry to join the show before it moved to the new Grand Ole Opry House (Jerry Clower did join after her but he is a comedian). Jeanne originally came to Nashville from Alabama and was a songwriter with Marty Robbins Enterprises. She then started singing and RCA signed her to a recording contract. Jeanne mentions that she was actually an Opry member for about a year before her formal induction, which was delayed because Dolly Parton wanted to be the one to introduce Jeanne as the Opry's newest member. Of course "Satin Sheets" was her career song. Jeanne is now 76 and is retired from the music business. Her last Opry appearances were in 2001. There are some who say that she saw the writing on the wall at the Opry as her appearances went from 64 in 2000 down to 23 in her final year, and she didn't appreciate some of the comments being made by new Opry manager Pete Fisher concerning the direction he wanted to take the show. As classy as a performer that she is, she decided the time had come to move on, which she did without a fuss. At time she did say that she hoped the Opry would replace her with a younger female singer, such as Rhonda Vincent, which as we all know, did not happen.

I have printed the running order previously from July 21, 1973, the night Jeanne Pruett joined the Opry, so I will just print the artist line-up from that night:

1st show
6:30: Tex Ritter (host); 4 Guys
6:45: Tex Ritter (host); Ernie Ashworth
7:00: Roy Acuff (host); Hank Williams, Jr; Sandi Burnette
7:30: Osborne Brothers (host); Jean Shepard; Stringbean; Crook Brothers
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Jeanne Pruett
8:30: Billy Grammer (host); Arlene Harden; Fruit Jar Drinkers

2nd show
9:30: Tex Ritter (host); Bob Luman; Ernie Ashworth; Sandi Burnette
10:00: Osborne Brothers (host); Jean Shepard
10:15: Roy Acuff (host); Jeanne Pruett; Stringbean
10:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton
10:45: Billy Grammer (host); Jerry Clower; Crook Brothers; Billy Grammer, Jr.
11:00: 4 Guys (host); Arlene Harden; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam McGee
11:30: Marty Robbins (host); Louie Roberts; Don Winters

We talk many times about the "thin" line-ups that the Opry has these days, but I think all of us have to be honest that this July 1973 was not one of the Opry's strongest. To be fair, this line-up was fairly typical of the Opry during that time period. It was summer time and the Opry's final year at the Ryman, which was miserable in the summer.

Moving on to another Opry line-up, how about July 25, 1964. This one was significantly stronger than the one that I posted above. Nothing really special about that night except that it was a pretty solid show. 1 show that night from the Ryman

7:30: Billy Grammer (host); Bill Carlisle; Ernie Ashworth; Cousin Jody; Sue York; Stan Hitchcock
8:00: Flatt & Scruggs (host); Bill Anderson; Carter Family; Ray Pillow; Dottie West; Crook Brothers
8:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper; Charlie Louvin; Del Wood; Sonny James; Norma Jean
9:00: Ernest Tubb (host); Leroy Van Dyke; Jim & Jesse; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Jack Greene
9:30: Hank Snow (host); Roy Drusky; Bobby Lord; The Browns; Billy Walker; Homesteaders
10:00: Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (host); Ernie Ashworth; Cousin Jody
10:15: Flatt & Scruggs (host); Bill Anderson; Bill Carlisle
10:30: Billy Grammer (host); Carter Family; Sonny James
10:45: Ernest Tubb (host); Crook Brothers; Jack Greene
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Charlie Louvin; Leroy Van Dyke; Del Wood; Roy Drusky; Fruit Jar Drinkers
11:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Walker; Bobby Lord; The Browns; Jim & Jesse

On a final note, over the last week the reports on Randy Travis seem much better. He is reportedly awake and alert, responding to words from his family and doctors. He still is not out of the woods and has a very long recovery and rehabiliation period ahead of him. Nobody can predict when or if we will see Randy performing again, but the progress seems good. Nice to hear.

Enjoy the Opry this weekend.


  1. Oh, I don't know...Tex Ritter, Roy Acuff, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins, Jean Shepard...that 73 lineup still had more star power for it's day than we get on many shows today.

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  3. Yea Barry, I have to agree that I may have been too harsh with my comments. I just noticed less than 15 Opry members. But upon further review............any show with Tex Ritter cannot be all bad.

  4. Tracy Lawrence's hit making days may be behind him, but I believe that it is artists such as him that would make wonderful Opry members; Lawrence; Tracy Bryd; Aaron Tippin; Suzy Bogguss; Gene Watson; Crystal Gayle; Billy Dean; Restless Heart; Janie Fricke; & others. Very big names in the 1980's and 1990's. They still draw crowds, and I believe would probably be faithful Opry members if given the chance.

  5. I wouldn't say "harsh"....because a lot of those summer shows were short on numbers. But I was looking at the 7:00 portion with Acuff, Hank Jr. (still a few years away from superstardom) and Sandi Burnette who never really got the big breaks in spite of being a great performer (she and Tennessee Ernie Ford fronted the first American country music to play the Soviet Union a year or so later). You know Oswald got a number, and Jimmy Riddle probably got a number, and Howdy Forrester did a fiddle tune and the whole gang gathered around for a gospel song. Porter and Dolly did some duets and may have even trotted out Speck Rhodes or Buck Trent for a solo spot. There was still probably more and a better variety of music in each 30 minute segment than you typically get today. The difference to me between the modern country artists and the "old timers" is that the old guys were "entertainers"...and they surrounded themselves with entertainers as well. Acuff's yo-yo, balancing the fiddle on his nose, dumping Oswald in the Coke cooler....they knew that they had to keep an audience's attention and they knew exactly how to do it. Acuff could do an entire half hour standing on his head and only do one song to open the show and let his group do the rest. Nobody does that anymore and I miss that.

  6. Any word how Jimmy Dickens is doing now that he's into the radiation treatments? Great news on Randy Travis. Whether or not he performs again is irrelevant; the important thing is that he has a reasonable chance at making a recovery and leading a somewhat normal life post rehab. The outlook a few days ago was grim indeed. Hopefully he'll use this second chance at life to continue the process of clearing out the alcohol and other negative influences from his lifestyle.

  7. I have not heard any new news on Jimmy Dickens. Hopefully that is good news in itself.

  8. The Opry has added Jimmy Wayne and Rebecca Lynn Howard to their line-up for this week, specifically Friday night. I have nothing against either one, especially Rebecca Lynn, but how many times do we have to have Jimmy on the Opry, singing basically the same 2 songs each week. But as has been mentioned before, many times when the Opry has an opening, Jimmy gets the call. He must to the least amount of touring of anyone in Nashville!!!

  9. Here's a question to stir the puddin', Lucy. Since the Opry management is booking more members than non-members on the show these days (particularly the weeknight shows), the newer members don't show up for the most part and the older members apparently aren't really wanted is there any point to adding "members" to the cast anymore? I mean, the newer members (Carrie Underwood being the notable exception) seem to see Opry membership as just another trophy to hang on their wall but not worthy of much more than lip service. The Opry stars who have been loyal to show over the years (and, without whom, the show would have gone the way of the dinosaur years ago) have pretty much been told "thanks but no thanks and don't let the door hit you on the way out". And most current lineups are overloaded with B and C list acts, old rock stars or the Nashville flavor of the day or celebrity du jour. So, based on the lack of commitment required and the lack of loyalty from the management toward the cast it has, and the fact that just about anybody can walk in off the street and get a spot on the show, is the concept of Opry "membership" outdated?

    I will now sit back, munch some popcorn, and watch the arrows fly. :P

  10. Fred, Bismarck:

    'Membership' outdated? I do believe so. Gaylord seems to be getting along nicely with the humdrum lineups week in and week out, with the occasional blockbuster to fill the house and plump up the box office. As Byron has pointed out, the blockbusters are booked and marketed months ahead of time, concert style: Who cares if the headliners are members or not?

    There is bound to be more of this as the remaining stalwarts die off. It won't be our old Opry -- but, then, the audience is not our old Opry audience, either.

  11. Agree with you Barry and the follow-up - no arrows here

    1. Fred, Bismarck:

      Golly, I do object to acts like Sons of Fathers -- just listened to -- on the Opry. I'm not denying their talent, musicianship, etc., only their presence on a venue supposedly devoted to country music. They and other acts too frequently heard on the Opry are to traditional country music as free verse in poetry is to iambic pentameter ... great, maybe, on their own terms, but totally out of what the medium has always been.

      The incongruity is shown when their atonal songs are followed by Jim Ed Brown's latest -- which is "modern" in sentiment without being Salvador Dali in execution.

      I always ask, why don't acts like Sons pick on their own crowd instead of ours? Historically, that's been because acts that like to sing pop or rock find it easier to break into country radio than in pop or rock radio.

      In this case, of course they were asked ... by the Opry itself. Many in the audience squealed with pleasure, and that's part of what we're dealing with these days, the bubble-gum chewers.


  12. Fred,

    Even though the rock or pop music is not my taste, I'm sure it takes a certain talent and sound to be accepted in those musics. I have held for many years now that country music has become the Island of Misfits. Remember the Island of Misfit Toys on the children's classic Santa Clause is Comin' to Town? I feel like in order to broaden it's base country music has grown to accept all of the rejects that weren't good enough for the other types of music. Shows that country folks do have open minds and are not really hillbillies or hicks. Hogwash!

    Knightsville, IN

  13. I did not listen last night but as one of my great readers informed me, Jeanne Pruett was introduced on stage last night by Jeannie Seely on the night of her 40th anniversary as an Opry member. I was told they talked for a bit and Jeanne told everyone she is doing fine and enjoying the easy life. Nice of the Opry to do that.

  14. Fred, Bismarck:

    I like your Misfits theory, Jim. Combine it with country's age-old inferiority complex, which makes country anxious for recognition from any quarter, and we can see how it has become welcoming to anybody willing to flatter it by calling himself or herself "country."

    Just about the limit in hypocrisy was Jim Ed saying last night, after Sons of Fathers had concluded their noise: "That's great, boys ... fantastic!"

    You know he didn't mean a word of it. His willingness to say it anyway might explain why he is one of the favored veterans who still appears on a regular basis.

  15. You know Fred, I am trying to think of the last time I heard an Opry host not be complimentary toward a guest artist. I am sure there have been some that have been indifferent, but I would have to think.

  16. Mike Snider and Jean Shepard come to my mind. Neither have ever said anything bad but their dry remarks or lack of comments has sometime been obvious at least to me. On the other hand, both have also done what Jim Ed did when I think their heart wasn't in it. Ask me to back this up with examples and I have to admit I can't site exact examples at the moment.

    I have to say that I would be disappointed if Jim Ed, Mike, Jean or any of the hosts, especially the longer standing members, made an off color or bad comment about a guest. Maybe as brief a comment as possible but nothing bad.

    Knightsville, IN

    1. Fred, Bismarck:

      Agreed, Jim, that graciousness to guests must always prevail. But you don't have to gush, as Jim Ed did, when it is clearly inappropriate. Something simple, such as, "Let's hear it for Sons of Fathers!" would surely fill the bill.

      If Jim Ed truly thought the Sons were "great ... fantastic," I think his own music would have sounded a whole lot different over the past 60 years.

  17. I remember reading in Paul Hemphill's book on country music that as Bob Luman left the stage one night, Mr. Acuff smiled a little and said, "I GUESS it's all right," and the suggestion was that he didn't like it at all. I don't know. There's a clip of Luman performing on the Opry and using Jimmy Riddle on harmonica; I doubt that would have happened if Mr. Acuff had a problem with him.

    So, I would expect everyone to be gracious. And to go back to a point I've made, I wouldn't mind a group like Sons of the Fathers, who I also did not need, if they were not now the rule at the Opry rather than the exception. And that's terrible to contemplate.