Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Grand Ole Opry 10/4 & 10/5-88th Birthday Celebration

This weekend the Grand Ole Opry will be celebrating it's 88th birthday with 1 show on Friday night and 2 shows on Saturday night. In years past, all of us looked forward to the birthday weekend as the shows usually featured some of the best line-ups of the year. The past few years have seen the quality and quanity of the shows decrease, yet we still look forward to the birthday shows hoping that this will be the year. Well, sorry to say, 2013 is not that year. To be honest, the line-up for the shows this weekend look no different than what we have seen most weeks at the Opry. For the birthday shows on Saturday night, there are no huge guest-stars and only 8 Opry members scheduled, the biggest name being Steve Wariner. There is no Bill Anderson, no Marty Stuart, no Dolly Parton, no Vince get the drift. And not even Ricky Skaggs, who traditionally has opened the Saturday shows playing Uncle Jimmy Thompson's fiddle. ( In what I call a strange booking, Ricky is actually scheduled for a show at the Ryman Auditorium on Saturday night with Bruce Hornsby. An Opry member in competition with the Opry!!).

What we do have on Saturday night are guest artists Casey James, who has appeared at the past several birthday shows, Sam Palladio, Tate Stevens and Sarah Darling, along with Opry favorite Mandy Barnett. As far as Opry members, Pete Fisher was nice enough to give us a few of the Opry's veterans. When you do look at the line-ups, you will notice an available slot during the first show. Perhaps Jimmy Dickens making a surprise appearance?

As far as the Friday Night Opry, this is the stronger of the 2 nights. Friday will feature two female artists who I wouldn't mind seeing as Opry members: Kathy Mattea and Crystal Gayle. Also scheduled are the very talented Secret Sisters, along with The Steeldrivers.

Friday October 4:
7:00: John Conlee (host); Kristen Kelly; Connie Smith
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); The Steeldrivers; Kathy Mattea
8:15: The Whites (host); Jesse McReynolds; The Secret Sisters
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Mark Wills; Crystal Gayle

Saturday October 5
1st show
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Sarah Darling; Jimmy C Newman; Jean Shepard
7:30: Connie Smith (host); Tate Stevens
8:00: John Conlee (host); Jan Howard; Sam Palladio; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Steve Wariner (host); Mandy Barnett; Casey James

2nd show
9:30: Steve Wariner (host); Sarah Darling; Jimmy C Newman
10:00: Connie Smith (host); Jean Shepard; Tate Stevens
10:30: Jeannie Seely (host); George Hamilton IV; Sam Palladio; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: John Conlee (host); Mandy Barnett; Casey James

I mentioned the lack of star power this year for the birthday shows. Just for the heck of it, I went back over the past few years of the birthday shows and here is who they have booked in the past, that would be considered in the 'big name' category:

2012-Steve Wariner; Ray Stevens; Jason Aldean; Casey James; Ricky Skaggs
2011-Craig Morgan; Ronnie Dunn; Rascal Flatts; Vince Gill; Charley Pride
2010-Dolly Parton; Taylor Swift; Roy Clark; Crystal Gayle; Trace Adkins; Del McCoury
2009-BJ Thomas; Josh Turner; Patty Loveless; Ricky Skaggs; Montgomery Gentry; Lorrie Morgan; Joe Diffie; Kathy Mattea
2008-Jamey Johnson; Ricky Skaggs; Kenny Rogers; Darryl Worley; Lorrie Morgan
2007- Vince Gill; Carrie Underwood; Travis Tritt; Ronnie Milsap; Emerson Drive

I think all of you get the drift. Also of note, and perhaps why there is a lack of star power this year, there is no televison for the birthday show. Even up to last year, GAC still televised the the anniversary shows.

For those who haven't bought tickets yet, there are thousands still available for the 2nd show. Why in the world would they schedule 2 shows for the birthday weekend without a few big names and still expect to sell tickets? The thought is that the Opry did reach out to a few people, and might have gotten the impression that one or two might appear, but apparently they fell through. At least that is my hope, that management actually tried.

As noted in the October Opry Highlights, I am going to post numerous Grand Ole Opry birthday show line-ups from past years so that all of you new Opry fans can see what great events these birthday shows were. The 1st one I am going to post is from 22 years ago this Saturday night, October 5, 1991, when the Opry celebrated it's 66th birthday.

1st show
6:30: Bonanza
Bill Monroe (host): I'm Going Back to Old Kentucky
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Bill Monroe: Dark as the Night; Blue as the Day

6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Charlie Walker (host): Right or Wrong
George Hamilton IV: Til I Can Gain Control Again
Hank Locklin: Send Me the Pillow You Dream On
Charlie Walker: Drinking Champagne

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Funky Grass Band
Wilma Lee Cooper: Ghost Train
Bill Carlisle: Leave That Liar Alone
Roy Drusky: The Last Farewell
Osborne Brothers: Kentucky

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Connie Smith: You've Got Me Right Where You Want Me
Jim Ed Brown: Just For Old Time Sake
Vince Gill: Little Liza Jane/When I Call Your Name
Opry Cast: Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry
Roy Acuff & Cast: I Saw the Light

8:00: Martha White
Grandpa Jones (host): Apple Jack
Jim & Jesse: When I Dream About the Southland
The Whites: Doing It By the Book
Bill Anderson: Still/Southern Fried
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Sugar in the Goard
Grandpa Jones: Gooseberry Pie

8:30: Opryland
Hank Snow (host): Address Unknown
4 Guys: Way Down Deep
Del Reeves: A Dozen Pair of Boots
Mike Snider: Old Joe Clark/Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Jeannie Seely: When He Leaves You
Hank Snow: I'm Glad I Got To See You Once Again

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): You Gotta Have A License
Osborne Brothers: Tennessee Hound Dog
Ray Pillow: The Days When You Were Still In Love With Me
Vince Gill: Look At Us/Crying Holy Unto The Lord/When I Call Your Name
Porter Wagoner: Big Wind

10:00: Little Debbie
Grandpa Jones (host): Kitty Clyde
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Roy Drusky: Mississippi
Grandpa Jones: Tritzem Yodel

10:15: Tennessee Pride/Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Low & Lonely
Connie Smith: The Key's In The Mailbox/Satisfied
Opry Cast: Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry
Roy Acuff & Cast: I Saw the Light

10:30: Pet Milk
Del Reeves (host): Two Dollars In the Jukebox/A Dime At A Time/Looking at the World Through A Windshield
David Houston: I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
Del Reeves: Lay A Little Lovin On Me

10:45: B. C. Powder
Bill Monroe (host): Mary Jane, Won't You Be Mine
Charlie Walker: Drinking Champagne
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Bill Cheatham
Bill Monroe: Wicked Path of Sin

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): White Silver Sands
Bill Carlisle: Knothole
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells
4 Guys: We're Only Here For A Little While
Jim & Jesse: A Flower In The Desert
Hank Snow: That Lucky Old Sun

11:30: Creamette
Bill Anderson (host): Don't She Look Good
The Whites: Love Is A Rose
Jeannie Seely: I'll Be Around When It's Over
Mike Snider: Foggy Mountain Breakdown/Putting On the Dog
Bill Anderson: Deck of Cards

You will notice that these birthday shows featured only Opry members, with Vince Gill being the newest member as he had joined the Opry in August of 1991. A lot different than this weekend. Also, I have a VHS tape of the televised segment and a few things stand out; first, Connie Smith stands out in the dress she is wearing. After her song, Roy tells her what a great job she did but there is no time for an encore. Second, after the birthday cake comes out, Roy has trouble finding his band to do the final song. Most of them eventually show up to play. And finally, most of the Opry's cast comes out to sing Happy Birthday with Hank Snow being the exception that stands out. And if Hank was not scheduled on the televised portion of the birthday show, he never came out with the cake.

To complete the Opry birthday weekend in 1991, here is the line-up from the Friday Night Opry, October 4. As with the Friday night show during the summer/fall months, there were 2 shows that night.

1st show
6:30: Grand Ole Opry Tours
Bill Monroe (host); Skeeter Davis; Jim Ed Brown; Charlie Louvin; George Hamilton IV
7:00: Randy Travis Enterprises
Porter Wagoner (host); Jimmy C Newman; Wilma Lee Cooper; Bill Carlisle; Del Reeves
7:30: Cracker Barrel
Roy Acuff (host); Grandpa Jones; Connie Smith; Jim & Jesse
8:00: Bush's Baked Beans/Rudy's
Bill Anderson (host); 4 Guys; Jeannie Seely
8:30: GMC Trucks/Hamburger Helper
Hank Snow (host); The Whites; Mike Snider

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host); Hank Locklin; Ray Pillow; Jimmy C Newman; Diamond Rio
10:00: Goody's
Roy Acuff (host); Grandpa Jones; Jim Ed Brown; Skeeter Davis
10:30: Hungry Jack
Bill Monroe (host); 4 Guys; George Hamilton IV; Charlie Louvin; Connie Smith
11:00: Fab-Ultra Laundry
Hank Snow (host); Justin Tubb; Del Reeves; Mike Snider; David Houston
11:30: Kraft
Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Jim & Jesse; Johnny Russell

Even though it is not a line-up worth of the birthday weekend, it should still be a good time in Nashville. I will be there and will offer a full report of all the festivities when I return. Enjoy the Opry this weekend.


  1. Thanks for the update, fayfare. This weekend is definitely a big disappointment. The birthday shows have really gotten slim over the past five years or so. But, like many aspects of the Opry, maybe they are deemphasizing the importance. I vividly remember watching the Opry birthday shows on TNN in the late 80s and early 90s (as a young teenager) and absolutely loving them. Normally, they would devote a full hour and televise two segments. Now, we have no Opry on TV at all. Probably one of the best TNN Opry birthday shows I ever saw was in 1990: Tom T. Hall, Hank Locklin, Stu Phillips, Steve Wariner, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, and Loretta Lynn. Sadly, we'll never see shows of that caliber again.

  2. We will be there too for the whole weekend; have been going for years and always purchase the tickets a year in advance; however, I called today and they are not yet selling 2014 - have always had the next year's Anniversary tickets before the start of current year. Agree with everything you posted (and Chris too); ho-hum, yawn; last weekend was better than this one which has 6 Opry/6 guests on Friday; and 7 Opry/5 guests on Saturday. I can't believe NO Bill Anderson, he is usually always there for the Opry Birthday. We said the same thing about Ricky Skaggs when first learned of his conflicting show. Where is the bluegrass on Saturday night - that genre of music is always well received, actually they love it ! Not having TV doesn't bother me - less distraction. The "Nashville" show performers really don't do anything for me - we don't watch the show, and it doesn't seem right, they are not out touring and paying their dues - they just show up for the Opry, because that's who produces the show.
    I'm ready to call it quits and not order another Anniversary when they finally start selling tickets, but my husband keeps saying, one more year - maybe we will stick it out until the 90th. Like so many fans, we plan for the trip and travel a long way and expect a lot more than we are getting lately.

  3. Fred, Bismarck:

    It's kind of Byron to give Pete Fisher the benefit of the doubt -- that maybe he tried for a better lineup. But I've got to say that this birthday comes around fairly regularly; and, assuming Fisher has a calendar, he's had years and years to line up this date.

    Maybe he simply doesn't care to pay the premium required to lure some of the "stars" off their circuit. Nor does he have to, as long as the true hearts continue to book ahead of time in the hope of better things.

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    Another possible explanation occurs to me for the skinny Opry birthday:

    Could it be merely budgetary? I don't know what Gaylord's fiscal year is, or how good a year it's been for them. But if their year coincides with the calendar year, the Opry's budget is getting down to those short strokes by which a manager's bonus is sometimes decided.

    (I had a publisher at my newspaper who used to clamp down on every possible expense as the bewitching hour approached. One especially tight year he turned the rest of us into petty thieves as we scrounged for office supplies ... down to reporter's notebooks and even paper clips!)

    Could be Pete Fisher couldn't spend any more money on the birthday without, in effect, taking it out of his own pocket.

  5. Like any other business that has projections - Pete Fisher should have budgeted for the "birthday" since it is an annual event. We were there for the Friday night show; it was very good, the only weak spot was Kristen Kelly, mainly because we couldn't understand her (too close to the mike ??) and we were in the third row! AND, the audience absolutely LOVED the bluegrass - it was great they gave a standing ovation to Jesse McReynolds and there is NONE scheduled for Saturday - what were they thinking ?!

  6. Fred, Bismarck:

    Glad you caught a good show, Anon.

    Re. budgeting: Sure, you set a budget, your bosses always requiring you to project a better year than last. But, if for any reason, the revenue falls short, there goes your dream sheet and, if you are Pete Fisher, your bonus. That's why I threw in the caveat about not knowing what kind of year the Opry has had to date.

  7. I thought it was a very good Friday Night Opry. Jesse looked good and sounded great. Steel drivers were awesome. We will see what happens tonight. As far as financial and budget thoughts regarding this weekend, I will share my thoughts when I get back.

  8. So glad you enjoyed the Friday Night Opry, Byron - the Steel Drivers are fabulous .... not overly impressed with Kristen Kelly.

    I keep saying it's all about money.

    Enjoy tonight's shows Byron (& anyone who is listening on the radio/online) .... looking forward to reading your thoughts.


  9. Fred, Bismarck:

    Could take about half an hour, from Jeannie Seely's painful "Ballad of Billie Joe" thru the truly awful Tate Stevens' first number.

    Jimmy Dickens' appearance was, to my mind, awkward at best ... exploitation by the Opry. If Mona is on the job, she will prevent any more.

    If this is the best the Opry can do ... on its birthday, yet ... it has truly outlived its time.

  10. Unfortunately I couldn't listen in tonight. Heartbroken to read the above comment about Tater. What specifically made this awkward? Is it just a poor voice or was he disoriented?

  11. Steve Wariner's matinee concert was very good. His excellent stage presence and great music made wonderful entertainment (for the matinee and then hosting two segments at the Opry). The two Saturday night shows were good, but for me, Friday was still the best night of the Opry weekend. Jimmy C. Newman was absent (and since they never make reference to any changes, no idea why). Connie Smith was a great host for her two segments and she, as always, was in great voice. Jean Shepard did well (although she had to refer to notes for the verses in Lonesome 7-7203). Mandy Barnett - simply outstanding. John Conlee always does well and is also a great host. It was wonderful to see Little Jimmy Dickens, however, believe he had problems hearing Bill Cody, who by the way did a fantastic job of assisting and guiding Jimmy, even though it was very awkward. Enjoyed George Hamilton IV/V and Tate Stevens. Not much to say about the rest (Jeannie Seely, Sarah Darling, Jan Howard). As for Sam Palladio and Casey James, they could have stayed home.

  12. During his concert at the Ryman Auditorium last night, it was announced that Ricky Skaggs will be the 2013 Artist-in-Residence at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. If I only lived a whole lot closer to Nashville (long sigh) - maybe this will be the year those doors open for him. Sure hope so.

    Love Steve Wariner - he did a great job last night of hosting his two segments, as did Connie Smith.

    Have a good Sunday everyone ~


    1. Ricky Skaggs will probably go in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014 or 2015. That artist in Residence has been the pre-runner to induction for several artists.

  13. David, normally I would agree but I will throw somebody else who I think will be the favorite in the modern category this year and that is Randy Travis. In the past, serious illness or death as always given a bump to somebody getting elected, not only to the Country Music Hall of Fame, but also the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With Randy in serious shape and probably unlikely to perform again, I would think there will be a lot of support to get him elected this year. Going way back, the main reason Chet Atkins got in so early was because they thought he was going to die. And I know Chet mentioned that many times.

    In the veterans category, for what it is worth, I will throw out 2 names who I think are the co-favorites. The first are the Oak Ridge Boys. They are currently celebrating their 40th anniversary as a group, at least in the non-gospel sense, and they are producing a lot of new music this year. They are very popular in Nashville and with The Statler Brothers in, they should be also. And a 40th anniversary is a good time to elect them. The other favorite has to be The Browns. With Jim Ed celebrating 50 years of Opry membership and Maxine and Bonnie coming back to Nashville this past August, I think it put some focus on them. And of course, you still have the fiasco of what happened last year with The Browns and the Hall of Fame.

    The preliminary voting is underway so it will be interesting. We could speculate on who might be on the final ballot, but I will remind everyone that both Bobby Bare and Jack Clement, who were elected last year, were not listed on any of the so-called lists of finalists that were being floated out there.