Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grand Ole Opry 50th & 75th Birthday Celebrations

Two of the most important anniversaries in the history of the Grand Ole Opry were the 50th, which took place in 1975, and the 75th, which took place in 2000. The 50th anniversary show took place the weekend of October 17th & 18th, with 1 show on Friday Night and 2 shows on Saturday night. As you would expect, Saturday was the big night of the weekend as in those days the Friday night show was not considered in the same class as Saturday's. In fact, many of the Opry's stars, including Hank Snow, would not do the Friday show.

Just to point that out, here is the line-up from Friday October 17, 1975, the night before the actual 50th anniversary show:

7:00: Cracker Barrel
Charlie Louvin (host); Skeeter Davis; Jim & Jesse
7:30: Varallo
Lester Flatt (host); Dottie West; Ray Pillow; 4 Guys
8:00: Odom Sausage/U.S. Borax
Del Reeves (host); The Carlisles; Willis Brothers
8:30: Kroger/Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host); Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper; The Promenaders
9:00: Baltz Bros./Schlitz
David Houston (host); Tammy Wynette; Roy Drusky
9:30: Acme Boot/Beech-Nut
Charlie Walker (host); Billy Grammer; Barbara Mandrell
10:00: Cee Bee/Schlitz
Archie Campbell (host); Marion Worth; Hank Locklin
10:30: Shoney's
Stonewall Jackson (host); Jeanne Pruett; Wilburn Brothers; Del Wood

Not really a bad line up, but compare that to the birthday celebration that took place the following night, Saturday October 18, 1975, 38 years ago this weekend. Here is that line-up:

1st show:
6:00: Vietti
Bill Anderson (host): Don't She Look Good
Stonewall Jackson: Waterloo
Billy Grammer: Family Man
Stu Phillips: Only You Can Hush the Wind
Justin Tubb: Keep Me From Blowing Away
Jimmy Gately: The Angel of the Bar Room
Bill Anderson: Thanks

6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Jack Greene (host): He Little Thing'd Her Out Of My Arms
Jeannie Seely: Take My Hand
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
4 Guys: Hello Walls/Big Bad John/Wings Of A Dove

6:45: Rudy's
Del Reeves (host): Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song
Barbara Mandrell: I Know My Lord Will Lead Me Home
Charlie Louvin: Little Reasons/Will You Visit Me On Sundays/What Are Those Things
Jimmy C Newman: When The Saints Go Marching In

7:00: Shoney's
Ernest Tubb (host): In The Jailhouse Now
Hank Locklin: Send Me The Pillow You Dream On
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Jim & Jesse: The Magic Little Garden
Ernest Tubb: Waltz Across Texas
Willis Brothers: Country Honey
Wayne Hammond: Release Me
Skeeter Davis: Silver Threads and Golden Needles

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: I'm A Believer
Minnie Pearl: Careless Love
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Don Gibson: Oh, Lonesome Me
Crook Brothers/Tennessee Travelers: Gray Eagle
Del Wood: Are You From Dixie/Down Yonder/There's A Big Wheel
Roy Acuff: I Saw the Light

8:00: Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host): On A Highway Headed South
Dolly Parton: The Seeker
David Houston: Almost Persuaded
Dottie West: Country Sunshine
Wilma Lee Cooper: Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: Say Forever You'll Be Mine
Porter Wagoner: Indian Creek

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Roy Drusky: Sunrise
Willis Brothers: Cimarron
Marion Worth: For The Good Times
Ray Pillow: Roll On Truckers
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Hickory Leaf
Hank Snow: Paper Roses

2nd show:
9:30: Kelloggs
Ernest Tubb (host): If You Don't Quit Checking On Me
Willis Brothers: Give Me 40 Acres
Connie Smith: How Can You Refuse Him Now
Stonewall Jackson: Waterloo
Barbara Mandrell: Johnny B. Goode
Stu Phillips: Only You Can Hush The Wind
Bill Carlisle: Same Old Tale That The Crow Told Me
Jim & Jesse: Paradise

10:00: Fender
Bill Anderson (host): Country DJ
Jean Shepard: I'm A Believer
Del Reeves: Half A Mind/I'm Moving On/Chug-A-Lug/Hillbilly Heaven
Skeeter Davis: On The Way Home
Hank Locklin: Country Hall of Fame
Justin Tubb: Lonesome 7-7203

10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Cottonfields
Roy Clark & Family: Sweet Bunch of Daisies/A Pain In My Heart/Blues On My Mind/John Henry
Minnie Pearl: I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes
Tammy Wynette: Clap Your Hands
Charlie Louvin: American Trilogy
Billy Grammer: Somewhere My Love
Jimmy C Newman: Alligator Man

10:30: Trailblazer
Porter Wagoner (host): Indian Creek
Dolly Parton: We Used To
4 Guys: Down By The Lazy River
Jack Greene: Statue of A Fool
Jeannie Seely & Dottie West: Don't Touch Me
Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton: Say Forever You'll Be Mine
Dolly Parton: The Seeker

10:45: Beech-Nut
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Dottie West & Jeannie Seely: Here Comes My Baby
Wilburn Brothers: Country Honey
Susan Raye: He Gives Me Something To Forgive Him For
Crook Brothers/Stoney Mountain Cloggers: Black Mountain Rag

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): I've Been Everywhere
Jeanne Pruett& Dottie West & Jeannie Seely: Satin Sheets
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Bill Cheatham
Del Wood: Keep On The Firing Line
Kirk McGee: Freight Train
Hank Snow: There's A Fool Such As I

11:30: Elm Hill
Roy Drusky (host): Sunrise
David Houston & Calvin Crawford: Sweet Molly
Marion Worth: For the Good Times
Ray Pillow: Roll On Truckers
Roy Drusky: I Really Don't Want to Know/I'm Throwing Rice/Four Walls

Wow, what a show!! The first show actually ran pretty much on time, while the 2nd show ended at 1:15 a.m. and that was with Hank Snow's segment lasting 25 minutes and Roy Drusky's just 20. Roy Acuff's segment, that was supposed to last 15 minutes, actually took 50. It was during that segment that the birthday cake was rolled out and all the speeches made. Also, Minnie Pearl had just been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier that week and she received a long, standing ovation. And, for those counting, that was over 40 acts on the 1st show and 42 acts on the 2nd show, all but Roy Clark and Susan Raye being Opry members. (if I counted right)

After the 2nd show ended, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree took place, lasting 2 hours. The guests included, in addition to Ernest, Moe Bandy, Willie Nelson, Jimmie Skinner, Lois Johnson, Justin Tubb, Brian Collins, Barbara Fairchild, Atlanta James and The Tumbleweeds.

Moving ahead to 2000,  when the Grand Ole Opry celebrated it's 75th anniversary with 2 shows each on Friday and Saturday night. Most of the Opry's members were scheduled for at least one of the shows that weekend and as you would expect, each of the shows were sold out. One of the things that I thought was nice about these shows was the mixure of veterans and new acts, including Garth Brooks doing all 4 shows that weekend.

Here is the line-up from Friday October 13, 2000:

1st show:
6:30: Gibson Musical Instruments
Jeannie Seely (host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites; Hal Ketchum; Jack Greene
7:00: Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host); Connie Smith; Bill Carlisle; Jeanne Pruett; Diamond Rio
7:30: Cracker Barrel
Steve Wariner (host); Holly Dunn; Del Reeves; Ronnie Milsap
8:00: Dickie's Workwear/Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce
Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Jimmy C Newman; Alison Krauss
8:30: Johnny Walker Tours/Fiddlers Inn/MCA
Jimmy Dickens (host); Osborne Brothers; Martina McBride; Garth Brooks

2nd show:
9:30: RCA
Porter Wagoner (host); Jim Ed Brown; Billy Walker; Jack Greene; Diamond Rio
10:00: Standard Candy
Jimmy Dickens (host); Hal Ketchum; Ernie Ashworth; Del Reeves; Connie Smith
10:30: Shoney's
Steve Wariner (host); Osborne Brothers; Charlie Louvin; Jeanne Pruett; Alison Krauss
11:00: Coca-Cola
Bill Anderson (host); Jimmy C Newman; Hank Locklin; Garth Brooks
11:30: Opry Picture History Book/Opry 75th Merchandise
Charlie Walker (host); Stu Phillips; Holly Dunn; Mel McDaniel

Here is the Opry show from Saturday October 14, 2000, the night of the 75th birthday celebration, which included the birthday cake on both shows, with the 7:00 hour televised.

1st show:
6:30: Tex-Mex Dinners
Jeannie Seely (host): You Don't Need Me, But You Will
Connie Smith: I Love Charlie Brown
Bill Carlisle: Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
Lorrie Morgan: Opry Walls/Crazy

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Howdy Neighbor, Howdy
Marty Stuart: Rock Island Line
Travis Tritt: Best of Intentions
Marty Stuart & Travis Tritt: The Whiskey Ain't Working Anymore/Here's A Quarter
Riders In The Sky: Woody's Roundup/You've Got A Friend In Me

7:30: Standard Candy
Jimmy Dickens & Pam Tillis: Out Behind the Barn
Trisha Yearwood: She's In Love With Boy/Till I Can Get It Right
Loretta Lynn: Country In My Genes/Coal Miner's Daughter
Grand Ole Opry Cast: Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry
Porter Wagoner: Y'All Come

8:00: Martha White
Vince Gill (host): The Key to Life
Alison Krauss: Ghost In The House/Carry Me Across the Mountain
Dolly Parton: Train, Train/Coat of Many Colors
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers
Vince Gill & Alison Krauss: High Lonesome Sound

8:30: Physican's Mutual Insurance
Jean Shepard (host): Slippin' Away
Ricky Van Shelton: Matchbox/I Got A Hole In My Pocket
Steve Wariner: (?)/I'm Already Taken
Garth Brooks: Two Of A Kind
Garth Brooks & Steve Wariner: Long Neck Bottle
Garth Brooks: Make You Feel My Love

2nd show:
Porter Wagoner (host): Katy Did
Marty Stuart: Just To Satisfy You
Connie Smith: Wayfaring Stranger
Wilma Lee Cooper: Big Midnight Special
Alison Krauss: Baby, Now That I've Found You
Porter Wagoner: She Burned the Little Roadside Tavern Down

10:00: Local Lincoln Mercury Dealers/The Restaurants at the Opryland Hotel
Jimmy Dickens (host): Take An Old Cold Tater
Pam Tillis: Ophelia/How Strange/Heart Over Mind
Ronnie Milsap: Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me/All is Fair In Love and War
Jimmy Dickens: Life Turned Her That Way

10:30: Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover/Jogging In A Jug
Vince Gill (host): The Key to Life
Ralph Stanley: If I Lose
Lorrie Morgan: Good Lovin'/Standing Tall
Jack Greene: Highway To The Sky
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Bill Cheatham
Grand Ole Opry Cast: Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry

11:00: Coca-Cola
Riders In The Sky (host): How the Yodel Was Born
Jean Shepard: Tennessee Waltz
Ricky Van Shelton: Matchbox/I Got A Hole In My Pocket
Ricky Van Shelton & Jack Greene: Statue Of A Fool
Steve Wariner: Holes In The Floor of Heaven
Riders In The Sky: Rawhide

11:30: Grand Ole Opry Cruise
Johnny Russell (host): Truck Driving Man
Jan Howard: Where No One Stands Alone
Ray Pillow: That Ain't No Way To Treat My Heart
Charlie Walker: Home In San Antone
Garth Brooks: Two Of A Kind/It's What I Didn't Do
Garth Brooks & Steve Wariner: Long Neck Bottle
Garth Brooks: Til The River Runs Dry/Friends In Low Places/The Dance

When you look at the 75th line-up, it is hard to believe that this was just 13 years ago and Pete Fisher/Steve Buchanan had just taken over at the Opry. And it is hard to think that in just the last 13 years, the Opry members we have lost that were there for the 75th. Stars such as Porter Wagoner, Johnny Russell, Charlie Walker, Jack Greene, Wilma Lee Cooper, Bill Carlisle, Billy Walker, Del Reeves, Hank Locklin, Ernie Ashworth, Mel McDaniel and Charlie Louvin. Such great veterans. And of course, when you compare the 2013 birthday show to the 2000 show, the only Opry members who appeared then and now were Jan Howard, Steve Wariner, Jean Shepard, Jimmy Dickens, Connie Smith, Jeannie Seely, Jim Ed Brown and The Whites. Just 8. My, things have changed at the Opry in the last decade and you can really tell the difference as you go back and look at these great birthday celebrations from the past.

Enjoy the Opry!!


  1. Of course, we can't stop the march of time, and so we know that on each anniversary, we are going to think back to those we have lost. But the WAY of the show has been lost, too, and that's really sad.

  2. So agree with your commentary and Michael's follow-up is right on. We were there for the 75th Anniv in 2000; red carpet walk-in for many of the stars; place was packed; haven't seen anything even close since.

  3. Great article! Small nitpick - the song performed by the Riders in the Sky at the 75th anniversary was "You've Got a FRIEND in Me", not "fool". It is a standard pop tune and was featured in the Toy Story 2 movie. Also, I enjoyed seeing some of those special duets you used to hear on the Opry listed "LJD & Pam Tllis" and "RVS & Jack Greene" for example.

  4. A couple of thoughts. One, wouldn't any of us kill for that Friday night lineup today, as opposed to what passes for an Opry broadcast any night?

    Two, Byron, any idea when Hank Snow started doing Friday nights? I would guess it would have been in the mid-1980s when he got off the road, but I wondered.

  5. Mike, I checked my Opry line-ups, and it was toward the end of 1982 that he started doing the Friday Night Opry. In 1983, he was there the majority of the weeks, and by 1984 he was there just about every week.

  6. I think that would have been about when he quit traveling, except for the occasional Canada jaunt. I'll always remember him asking when he finished his first song, "Do we have any folks here from Canada tonight?" There'd be a few cheers and he'd say, "All my relatives."

  7. Fred, Bismarck:

    Michael, I enjoy your Hank Snow recollections, including of his various riffs from the Opry stage. You were -- are -- surely the consummate Hank Snow fan.

  8. We were at the 75th Birthday Bash. What a great show. Thanks for your updates and the history.