Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Grand Ole Opry 12/6 & 12/7

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the shows this weekend and as the Opry continues its Ryman Auditorium run, it is back to 2 shows on Saturday night in addition to the Friday Night Opry. And both nights are looking pretty decent with some interesting acts scheduled.

The Friday Night Opry will feature guest artists Little Big Town. They have played the Opry before and each time they have received a huge ovation. Joining them will be Charlie Worsham and frequent Opry guest Chris Janson. As far as Opry members, you have Larry Gatlin, who is bring his brothers Steve and Rudy with him, along with Vince Gill and Del McCoury, both of whom will also be appearing for both shows on Saturday night.

As far as Saturday's Grand Ole Opry, in addition to Vince and Del, Connie Smith and Jean Shepard are scheduled to host segments on both shows. Kathy Mattea will be guesting, and what is an Opry show without someone from the "Nashville" show, and this week we have Lennon & Maisy, along with Chris Carmack. Finally, Stu Phillips is scheduled for the 2nd show. He cancelled out on his last scheduled appearance and I do hope that he is well enough to make it this week.

Friday December 6:
7:00: John Conlee (host); Chris Janson; Connie Smith
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Del McCoury Band
8:15: Vince Gill (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Charlie Worsham
8:45: Larry Gatlin (host) & The Gatlin Brothers; Little Big Town

Saturday December 7:
1st show
7:00: Connie Smith (host); Greg Bates; Jimmy C Newman
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); Sunny Sweeney; Chris Carmack
8:00: Jean Shepard (host); Jan Howard; Kathy Mattea; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Vince Gill (host); Del McCoury Band; Lennon & Maisy

2nd show
9:30: Connie Smith (host); Greg Bates; Del McCoury Band
10:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jimmy C Newman; Lennon & Maisy
10:30: Jean Shepard (host); Stu Phillips; Sunny Sweeney; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Vince Gill (host); Chris Carmack; Kathy Mattea

Nice to see that even though the hosts are the same for each segment, there is variety between both shows. Only difference in artists is Jan Howard on the 1st show and Stu Phillips on the 2nd. And that comes out to 7 Opry members on each show. The weather is forecast to be bad in Nashville this weekend, so let's hope everyone makes it.

The Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree this Saturday night/Sunday morning will be an interesting show. It is being called the "Sons & Daughters of the Legends" and will feature Robyn Young, Melissa Luman, Seidina Reed, Thom Bresh and George Hamilton V. All of these folks are very talented and it should be a great show.

For this week's look back into Grand Ole Opry history, I go to Saturday December 8, 1973. It was on this night that Skeeter Davis made some political and religious remarks on the Opry that resulted in her being terminated from the show effective the following Saturday December 15. Of course, there is a story behind it.

According to what Skeeter wrote in her autobiography "Bus Fare To Kentucky", she had called Annie Cooper, the secretary to Bud Wendell, the Opry manager, and asked to be scheduled for an early spot and a late spot so that she could catch up on Christmas shopping between shows. Based on that request she was scheduled for the 7:00 and 10:15 segments. After her first performance she drove out to One Hundred Oaks Shopping Mall and came upon a group of people associated with the "Christ Is the Answer" crusade who were out spreading the word that Jesus loved everyone. Skeeter went on with her shopping and when leaving the mall, she witnessed officers from the police department with their paddy wagon parked outside. Inside the wagon were members of the group.

Skeeter wrote that she asked what was going on and an officer said that these people were being arrested. She said that the mall manager admitted that he called the police because they were scaring shoppers and he didn't want them there. People thought they were "Jesus freaks." When Skeeter returned to the Opry, she was in a state of great agitation. Now in Skeeter's own words: "My band had assumed that I sing 'The End of the World,' or my new hit, or one of the many others. My daddy always said that the Opry audiences travel hundreds of miles to hear those hits. But on this evening I didn't think I could do my new record. Our spot was about to be called, when I told the band that I wasn't going to sing any of my hits. I went on stage that night leaving my band without a clue as to what I would sing."

"After my introduction, I began, 'Something wonderful has happened in Nashville. A bunch of Jesus people came and they're holding rallies here in Nashville at a big tent at Second and Lindley. Tonight some of them were out witnessing at the mall and they were arrested.'" She made a few more remarks and then decided to sing "Amazing Grace". After singing the song, she received a big ovation. Announcer Grant Turner said, "I know Skeeter appreciates that, but she's not coming back. Perhaps she'll take a bow."

When she came off stage, she was met by the Opry's security people who confronted her on what she had said. The next day, Sunday, the story was in the Nashville papers and remained a story for the next week. Skeeter said that when she called the Opry the following week, she was told she wasn't scheduled. This went on for several weeks until she asked Bud Wendell if she was fired. He said no, they would just call it a suspension. She was urged by friends and attorneys to sue the Opry for violating her right of free speech but refused, saying the situation would be settled in time.

In April 1975, Hal Durham, who had replaced Bud Wendell as the Opry's manager asked her back. What helped Skeeter was that a number of Opry members including Jean Shepard, Kirk McGee, George Hamilton IV and Teddy Wilburn, among others, spoke up for her and urged the Opry to bring her back.

Here is the line-up from Saturday December 8, 1973, the night Skeeter Davis got political at the Opry.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Osborne Brothers (host): Midnight Flyer
Ernie Ashworth: My Love For You
Bill Carlisle: Leave That Liar Alone
Osborne Brothers: Fastest Grass Alive

6:45: Rudy's
Del Reeves (host): Six Days On The Road/Truck Driving Man
4 Guys: Top Of The World
Del Reeves: Lay A Little Lovin' On Me

7:00: Rudy's
Bill Monroe (host): Uncle Pen
Skeeter Davis: I Can't Believe That It's All Over
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells
Jimmy C Newman: The Potato Song
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A' Coming
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Skeeter Davis: I'll Fly Away
Jim Ed Brown: Sometimes Sunshine
Bill Monroe: Bluegrass Breakdown

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: Slipping Away
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: White Dove
Willis Brothers: Truck Stop
Oswald: John Hardy
Crook Brothers: Ida Red
Jean Shepard: Second Fiddle
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: I Shall Not Be Moved

8:00: Martha White
Tex Ritter (host): Wayward Wind
Grandpa Jones: Are You From Dixie
Jeanne Pruett: Hold To My Unchanging Love
Charlie Louvin: You're My Wife; She's My Woman
Johnny Bond & Tex Ritter: Get Off Of My Horse
Mark & Ramona Jones: Old Joe Clark
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Charlie Louvin & Diane McCall: Did You Ever

8:30: Stephens
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Jim & Jesse: Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
Marion Worth: Delta Dawn
Charlie McCoy: Release Me/Orange Blossom Special
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Sally Goodin
Jim & Jesse: Please Be My Love
Hank Snow: Send Me The Pillow You Dream On

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
Del Reeves (host): Wild Blood
Willis Brothers: Truck Stop
Jimmy C Newman: Jambalaya
Bill Carlisle: Worried Man Blues
Del Reeves: Lay A Little Loving On Me
Jimmy C Newman: Potato Song
Del Reeves: I'm Walking/Blueberry Hill/Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

10:00: Fender
Osborne Brothers (host): Rocky Top
4 Guys: Let Me Be There
Osborne Brothers: Fastest Grass Alive

10:15: Union 76
Bill Monroe (host): Goodbye, Old Pal
Skeeter Davis: Amazing Grace
Jim Ed Brown: Sometimes Sunshine
Bill Monroe: I'm Sitting On Top Of The World

10:30: Trailblazer
Roy Acuff (host): Just A Friend
Grandpa Jones: Oh, Suzannah
Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper: A Mansion In The Sky

10:45: Beech-Nut
Tex Ritter (host): Just Beyond The Moon
Charlie Louvin: Little Reasons/Will You Visit Me On Sundays/What Are Those Things
Jim & Jesse: Diesel On My Tail
Crook Brothers: Eighth Of January
Stuart Hamblen: It Is No Secret/This Old House

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): In The Misty Moonlight
Jeanne Pruett: Hold To My Unchanging Love
Charlie McCoy: Orange Blossom Special
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Katy Hill
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Sam McGee: Kentucky Turkey Buzzard
Hank Snow: There's A Fool Such As I

11:30: Elm Hill
Marty Robbins (host): Devil Woman
Marion Worth: Shake Me, I Rattle
Ronnie Robbins: Too Much Love Between Us/Mama Tried
Marty Robbins: Don't Worry/Love Me/Letters Have No Arms/They'll Never Take Her Love From Me/Big Boss Man/El Paso/Singing The Blues

What is interesting is that politics have always been a part of the Opry. Roy Acuff ran for Governor of Tennessee in 1948 and used the Opry as his campaign platform. George Wallace was at the Opry several times and was publically endorsed from the Opry's stage by a number of artists. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush have all visited and made remarks, along with a number of Senators and Congressman. And of course, Senator Robert Byrd performed on the Opry's stage. I am not taking any position in this debate, but in looking at Skeeter's comments, you have to consider the times, and the fact that it was Skeeter making those comments. I am not sure what would happen in today's environment at the Opry if those types of remarks were made today, but I have a feeling that the folks at Ryman Hospitalities would probably react in somewhat the same manner.

Enjoy The Opry This Weekend!!!


  1. Byron - I really enjoyed reading the story about Skeeter and her stance. I always pick up great tidbits from country music history when reading your blog ! You are, unfortunately, probably correct that the same reaction would happen today, and that is such a shame.

    I remember going to the Opry on family vacations during the late-80's and the 90's and even then the shows seemed to have many more artists and more music. (I'll never forget my first visit in '88 as a 14 year old where I was introduced to Little Jimmy Dickens and his pink Nudie Suit that he joked made him the "largest bottle of Pepto-Bismoth ever", and looked forward to seeing him each visit afterwards.) My last few visits have been disappointments in the number of 'Nashville' actors instead of country music singers and the fewer songs and more talk by those who do appear.

    As others have mentioned in the last few weeks, I'll be thinking twice before I buy tickets at the new prices for the current caliber of Opry shows, which is not a decision that I ever thought I'd come to. As you know, living in Ohio makes Nashville an easy 'long weekend getaway', so it's a disappointment to have that feeling. Instead of visiting the Opry on my next trip, I may have to make a stop at a Joey + Rory Farmhouse concert to get some real country music entertainment!

    Keep up the good work!!! Janice

  2. Back in the mid-70's, between the Friday Opry and Jimmy Snow's Grand Ole Gospel program, WSM broadcast a show called "Opry Echoes" featuring more recent clips from past Opry shows. One of my favorites was the Tex Ritter / Johnny Bond clip of "Get Off My Horse". So this would have been the show that recording came from. Funny the little things you remember.

    1. Barry,

      I remember hearing Hearil Hensley play that one time back in the early 80's and I didn't record it. Sure like to hear it again.

      Knightsville, IN

  3. Fred, Bismarck:

    I agree with Byron that today's management would probably react the same, and I must say I wouldn't blame them. The venue belongs to them, not to the performer, so it is not a "free speech" issue. (Try out "free speech" on your boss at work.) And the performer's remarks reflect on management too.

  4. As I pondered all this, I wonder how much of the issue with Skeeter was that she was talking about the LOCAL authorities, as opposed to making a political comment about, say, the president--potentially controversial, too, of course, but not necessarily so big a deal as dealing with the Nashville people.

  5. By the way, I guess the big story last night was Jean Shepard falling, as she put it, not on her face. Glad she was ok. Stu Phillips sounded rough but I guess is feeling ok. Jimmy C. is 86 and still has enough to get by, if not more than that. He did "Blue Lonely Winter," and it's fun that he's going back into his old songs.

  6. I only listened to the 1st show last night, so I missed Stu. Glad that he made it. And agree with you regarding Jimmy C. I wish more of the artists would go back into their catalog. Folks like Bobby Osborne and Jesse McReynolds have a lot to choose from.

    Taking a look at this week upcoming, it really looks like the Opry has loaded up. Definitely worth the price of admission with Carrie, Vince, Emmylou, Ricky and lots and lots more scheduled.

  7. Byron, as I remember, didn't Hank Snow decide at one point to sing every one of his singles on the Opry? Although I guess eventually there would have been a riot if Mr. Acuff didn't do the Cannonball!

  8. Fred, Bismarck:

    I think it's a tug of war, Michael, between satisfying the needs of a stage show and a weekly radio broadcast. Weekly listeners will surely tire of an artist doing the same few songs, his biggest, over and over. At the same time, how could a Roy Acuff turn a deaf ear to the fan from out of town, perhaps making the trip of a lifetime, who begged him to do the "Cannonball" on the Opry that night?

    I'm sure I remember Acuff once describing his dilemma in just about these terms -- maybe in the Schlappi bio.

  9. Traditionally, an artist would either do their one of their greatest hits or their current hit. If allowed to do 2 songs, they would do both. One of my pet peeves, if you will, is when an artist comes on and either does a song that you never heard of or a cover of someone else's hit. (I do give exception to Jean Shepard when she does Tennessee Waltz, Wabash Cannonball or Lonesome 7-7203).

    Mike, you are right. There was a period of time, I think in the early 1990's when Hank Snow decided he wanted to sing each of his singles that he had recorded on the Opry, starting at the beginning and going in order. Not sure how far he got in his catalog as it was extensive. I believe he concentrated this on the Friday Night Opry, when the segment had 2 sponsors and Hank would sing an additional song at the 15 minute mark after introducing the sponsor for the second half of the segment. But in the case of Hank, almost all of his singles were hits so I don't think those attending were offended.