Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grand Ole Opry 12/27 & 12/28

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.

1st show
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

6:45: Rudy's
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

7:00: Rudy's
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

8:30: Stephens
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

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
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

10:00: Fender
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

10:30: Trailblazer
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

10:45: Beech-Nut
Ernest Tubb (host): Texas Troubadour
Crook Brothers: Black Mountain Rag
Ernest Tubb: Dear Judge
Herman Crook: Unclouded Day

11:00: Coca-Cola
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!!!


  1. Fred, Bismarck:

    Nice of you to remember Tex, Byron -- a true great and one of those stylists who was instantly recognizable on the radio.

    Tex's glory musical days were before my time -- before my age of musical awareness, at least -- altho I knew him well as a movie cowboy (from Grade B re-runs in the early days of TV). Since then, I've gotten acquainted with his wonderful music -- country as well as cowboy -- from the 1940s, which should be discovered by everybody.

    In his latter days, Capitol did not give up on him, and he could still dent the charts once in a while. "Just Beyond the Moon," from 1967, is one of my all-time favorites.

  2. Ralph wrote very affectionately about Tex in his first book, and about what a great person he was.

    Interesting that Tex was on Mr. Acuff's segment in the first show and Bill Monroe--complete with a visit from Jimmy Martin!--in the second show, and all Hall of Famers. And how many band members performed--Osward, most of the Nashville Grass, and Kayton Roberts doing my favorite number of his, "The Bells of St. Mary's," after which Mr. Snow used to say, "You'll notice at no time did his fingers leave his arms."

  3. Nice to see Ray Pillow getting more Opry time.

  4. It looks like Ray Pillow is off the schedule for tonight and George IV is doing an extra evening. Brenda Lee popped in during the first segment, which has me wondering whether she just didn't want to perform or they didn't want to lengthen the show!

  5. Why in the world would the 'Opry not let her sing one song? I guarantee the band could play along just fine without practice.
    'Opry probably didn't want to pay her.
    Brenda appeared on Bill and Charlie's the other morning. She referred to herself as "a midget with big hair." She also recently gave her first full concert in Nashville (for a charity, of course).
    One of Nashville's true gems.

  6. Fred, Bismarck:

    Enjoyed the Riders' half-hour last night, including Bobby Osborne, whom I hadn't heard in ages, since before Sonny's retirement. Loved him, his fearless tenor and energy. (I'll let somebody else tell the burly former Marine that he might want to 'key' some of his classics, like "Rocky Top," just a tad lower, as a concession to age.)

    Lord, I bought my first yellow MGM Osborne Brothers singles almost 60 years ago!

    Bobby got a laugh last night when, mentioning upcoming dates and such, he said Rocky Top X-Press was on Facebook. "I don't know how to get to it," he admitted, "but we're there, anyway."

    Then, thanks to Michael peeking at the schedule on the piano again, I waited out the intermission and caught another favorite, George IV.

    The only pain was in having to sit through two songs apiece by Kristen Kelly and Striking Matches. I don't begrudge them (and so many other of Pete Fisher's guests) their ambition. They're doing the best they can, by their lights, and I don't wish them any bad luck.

    But that's not the same thing as them bringing something to the table for the satisfaction of the rest of us ... by whom I mean, not being very inclusive, fans of what I consider real country music. God knows Kristen Kelly's "How Do You Sleep at Night" is no worse than Jeannie Seely's "Don't Touch Me" (which we also had to listen to last night). But it isn't any better, either.

    In short ... please, more like Old Crow Medicine Show and Caroline Chocolate Drops; fewer Willis Clans, Sons of Fathers, Kristen Kellys, et. al.

  7. Fred, I'm glad I looked at the schedule! I got to hear a little of Bobby last night, and, yes, it's a bit more of a struggle for him, but he can still get where he's going ... unless it's Facebook!