It is hard to believe, but we have reached the end of 2013 and the final Grand Ole Opry shows of the year. The Opry will finish out the year with one show each night.
The Friday Night Opry will feature another appearance by The Willis Clan, who seem to be making the Opry their second home. Also guesting will be John Berry, TG Sheppard and Jimmy Wayne. Frequent Opry guest Mandy Barnett will be on, along with Dailey & Vincent, who will be appearing both nights.
Joining them on Saturday night will be a couple of more frequent Opry guests, Chris Janson and Kristen Kelly, along with Striking Matches. As far as actual Opry members this weekend, it will be the Opry's veteran members carrying the load both nights.
Friday December 27:
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jimmy Wayne; TG Sheppard
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jean Shepard; Dailey & Vincent
8:15: George Hamilton IV (host); John Berry; Mandy Barnett
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); The Willis Clan
Saturday December 28:
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Chris Janson; Jimmy C Newman
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Kristen Kelly; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
8:15: Ray Pillow (host); Jan Howard; Striking Matches; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jenn Bostic; Dailey & Vincent
For this week's look back into Grand Ole Opry history, I go back 40 years ago this Saturday night, to December 29, 1973, which was Tex Ritter's final Grand Ole Opry appearance. Tex became an Opry member on June 12, 1965. When he joined the Opry, he was 60 years old and on the down side of his career. He was no longer in the movies, nor having hit records. In fact, on several tours he was Johnny Cash's opening act. Tex's signature song was "High Noon", from the 1952 Gary Cooper/Grace Kelly film. Another of his biggest hits was "I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven", which was released in 1961.
When Tex moved to Nashville in 1965, not only did he join the Opry, but he co-hosted the late-night radio program on WSM with Ralph Emery. He was also involved with the Country Music Association, of which he was one of the founding members. In 1964, he was just the 5th person to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Tex died a week after his last Opry appearance on January 2, 1974. He suffered a heart attack while at the Nashville jail, where he was bailing out one of his band members prior to starting his next tour.
When Tex joined the Opry, there were some who questioned the move. After all, he was a singing cowboy star and not truly a country music singer. But you have to remember back then, it was not called "country" music, but 'country & western" music. There was no need to worry as Opry audiences loved Tex and he loved doing the Opry. He became one of the Opry's more loyal members.
Here is the Opry line-up from December 29, 1973, Tex Ritter's final Opry appearance.
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Bill Anderson (host): Don't She Look Good
Justin Tubb: Texas Dance Hall Girl
Mary Lou Turner: Poor Sweet Baby
Bill Anderson: The World of Make Believe
Bill Monroe (host): It's Mighty Dark For Me to Travel
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Little Darling Pal of Mine
Bill Monroe: The First Whippoorwill
Roy Acuff (host): Cotton Fields/Night Train to Memphis
Tex Ritter: Green Grow the Lilacs
Del Wood: There's A Big Wheel
Oswald: Columbus Stockade Blues
Tex Ritter: Americans
Del Wood: Keep on the Firing Line
7:30: Standard Candy
Ernest Tubb (host): A Million Miles from Here
Charlie Louvin: You're My Wife; She's My Woman
Willis Brothers: Truck Stop
Crook Brothers: Cotton-Eyed Joe
Ernest Tubb: Another Story, Another Time, Another Place
Charlie Louvin & Diane McCall: American Trilogy
Willis Brothers: Cool Water
Wayne Hammond: Release Me
8:00: Martha White
Lester Flatt (host): Salty Dog Blues
Ernie Ashworth: My Love for You
Curly Seckler: Moonlight in My Cabin
Charlie Nixon: I'll Be All Smiles Tonight
Ernie Ashworth: Honky-Tonk Hardwood Floor
Lester Flatt & Marty Stuart: The Bluebirds Singing for Me
Kenny Ingram: Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Ernie Ashworth: Talking Back Trembling Lips
Marty Stuart: Roanoke
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jim & Jesse: Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
4 Guys: Turn Your Radio On
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Katy Hill
Jim & Jesse: A Bird With Broken Wings Can't Fly
Hank Snow: I've Cried A Mile
4 Guys: Catfish John
Kayton Roberts: Bells of St. Mary's
Hank Snow: Geisha Girl
Bill Anderson (host): If You Can Live With It
Willis Brothers: Truck Stop
Jim & Jesse: Ashes of Love
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Thank God I Am Free
Bill Anderson: My Life(Throw It Away If I Want To)/Happy State of Mind/Gentle on My Mind
Mary Lou Turner: Slipping Away
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: Nobody's Darling But Mine
Bill Anderson: A World of Make Believe
Tex Ritter (host): There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder
Del Wood: Power in the Blood
Tex Ritter: Jealous Heart
10:15: Union 76
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Bill Monroe: Tallahassee
Bill Monroe & Jimmy Martin: Uncle Pen
Bill Monroe: Jerusalem Ridge
Lester Flatt (host): Country Boy
Ernie Ashworth: Honky-Tonk Hardwood Floor
Marty Stuart: Rawhide
Lester Flatt: Is Anybody Going North to Cincinnati/Before I Met You
Ernest Tubb (host): Texas Troubadour
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Ernest Tubb: Dear Judge
Herman Crook: Unclouded Day
Hank Snow (host): Wreck of the Old 97/One More Ride
Charlie Louvin: Love Has to Die
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Bill Cheatham
Charlie Louvin & Diane McCall: Baby, What's Wrong with Us
Sam McGee: San Antonio Rose
Hank Snow: Once More, You're Mine Again
11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host): I Couldn't Believe It Was True
4 Guys: Let Me Be There
Justin Tubb: Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
Ronnie Robbins: If We Make it Through December/Too Much Love Between Us
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry/Big Boss Man/Love Me/Letters Have No Arms/El Paso
On Friday January 4 and Saturday January 5, 1974, the Opry dedicated the shows to Tex Ritter. Here is the tribute that was read before the show on Saturday night and printed in the programs that were sold those nights:
"The Grand Ole Opry and country music fans around the world are saddened by the sudden death of Tex Ritter, America's most beloved cowboy. Across the nation devotees of country-western music-from U.S. Senators to the man on the street-expressed grief for one of our great cowboy heroes, the victim of a massive heart attack on Wednesday January 2.
Few names have sparked the imagination or permeated the entertainment industry as has that of Tex Ritter. His 40 year career spanned every major entertainment medium. Born in Murvaul, Panola County, Texas, Tex learned the rawhide arts of ranching, riding, and roping from practical experience. Influenced by his father's knowledge of the cowboy and the old time community singings, Tex Ritter was destined to sing the story of the American cowboy. In fact, Tex had become the embodiment of the American West. Few personalities in the history of the American stage attained the heights that Tex enjoyed.
Tex Ritter was a true legend in his own time. He was a big man with enormous love for his God, his country, his friends, and especially his lovely wife Dorothy Faye and sons, Thomas and Johnathan.
As we begin a new year saddened by the loss of such an extraordinary human being, let us reflect on the great things that Tex stood for, and the exemplary life he led. And let us hope that now Tex Ritter has reached that 'Hillbilly Heaven' of which he sang about so often."
That will wrap up the final Opry show for this year. Next week I will be posting the January highlights and doing my annual "Year In Review" of the Opry, with the usual statistics and high or low points of the year.
Enjoy the Opry this weekend!!!