Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 Grand Ole Opry Year In Review

With 2014 upon us, it is now time to review 2013 at the Grand Ole Opry, including show counts and appearances by Opry members and guests. Overall, it was a year that featured the usual ups and downs as the Opry entered into it's 89th year.

2013 started with 67 members. 2 Opry members passed away during the year, Jack Greene and George Jones. In September, Old Crow Medicine Show became the Opry's only new members in 2013, which brings the current membership to 66.

Of those 66 members, 57 made Opry appearances during the year. That included 2 Opry members who had been gone for a while. Jeanne Pruett, who is retired, made a return appearance to the Opry stage in honor of her 40th year as an Opry member. And Hal Ketchum returned after an absence of several years due to health concerns.

There were a total of 182 Opry shows during the year. That compares with 184 in 2012 and 181 in 2011. Of those 182 shows, there were 61 Saturday night shows (down 10 from 2012), 54 Friday Night Opry shows (up 2), 44 Tuesday Night Opry shows (up 1), 14 Opry Country Classics (up 1), 8 Wednesday night shows (up 4), and the 1 Saturday matinee both years. The drop in Saturday night shows can be attributed to the fact that the Opry scheduled only one show on Saturdays except in October and late November thru early December.

Looking at the Opry's members and their appearances in 2013, the Top 10 breaks down as follows (remember that in today's Opry, any Opry appearance, no matter what night, is counted):

1) Jeannie Seely-81
2) The Whites-73
3) Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown-71
4) John Conlee-70
5) Riders In The Sky-68
6) Connie Smith-54
7) Jimmy C Newman-52
8) Jean Shepard-50
9) Bobby Osborne, Mike Snider-45
10) Jesse McReynolds-38

Compared to the Top 10 last year, the only one who dropped out was Jimmy Dickens, who was down to 8 Opry appearances in 2013 (from 143 in 2012), with Bobby Osborne and Jesse McReynolds joining the list. What is amazing is that out of 182 shows, the top appearing Opry member was there only 81 times. And it should be noted that the great majority of the Opry's veteran members would have done more Opry shows if asked.

As has been reported before, the goal of Pete Fisher is for each Opry member to appear 10 times per year. That is the commitment he is asking of those who currently join the Opry. (Remember that for Opry members who joined during the mid 1980's thru 2000, no commitment was asked). In addition to those listed above, here are the members that made at least 10 shows:

Larry Gatlin, Ricky Skaggs-33
George Hamilton IV-31
Del McCoury-28
Vince Gill, Jan Howard-21
Diamond Rio-20
Mel Tillis-12
Charlie Daniels, Lorrie Morgan, Ray Pillow, Carrie Underwood-10

Of those with 10 appearances or above, compared to last year, Craig Morgan, Marty Stuart and Steve Wariner dropped off the list, while Mel Tillis and Carrie Underwood were added on.

24 of the Opry's members made 10 or more appearances in 2013. What about the rest? Let's start at the opposite end of those who made 0 Opry shows: Garth Brooks, Tom T Hall, Barbara Mandrell(retired), Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Ricky Van Shelton(retired), Randy Travis(disabled), Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood. Of those on this list, the big mysteries are Travis Tritt and Dolly Parton. Travis hasn't appeared since 2007 and has never said why. Dolly Parton lives close by and is active around town. On the other hand, Tom T Hall has said he is never coming back while Reba McEntire has said that the Opry no longer fits her image.

Then you have the group that made just 1 Opry appearance in 2013. That group includes Clint Black, Roy Clark, Alan Jackson, Alison Krauss, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap and Jeanne Pruett(retired).

And now the rest:

Steve Wariner-9
Terri Clark, Jimmy Dickens, Craig Morgan-8
Rascal Flatts, Marty Stuart, Josh Turner, Old Crow Medicine Show-7
Pam Tillis-6
Joe Diffie, Oak Ridge Boys, Charley Pride-5
Dierks Bentley, Montgomery Gentry, Darius Rucker-4
Stonewall Jackson-3
Trace Adkins, Emmylou Harris, Hal Ketchum, Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Stu Phillips, Blake Shelton, Ralph Stanley, Keith Urban-2

That accounts for all of the Opry's 66 members. If you look at a few of the Opry's newest members, such as Keith Urban, Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker, they are already trending toward the bottom of the list.

Looking at who hosted segments in 2013, 28 different members hosted. Connie Smith was added to the list of those who regularly host segments and she did a nice job. The Whites and Craig Morgan also saw more hosting duties. On the other side of the coin, Jimmy Dickens did not host one segment in 2013, while Mike Snider saw a big decrease, going from 71 to 22. The Top 10 list for 2013:

1) Jeannie Seely-67
2) Bill Anderson, John Conlee, Riders In The Sky-53
3) Jim Ed Brown-45
4) Ricky Skaggs-25
5) The Whites-24
6) Mike Snider-22
7) George Hamilton IV, Vince Gill-18
8) Connie Smith-15
9) Larry Gatlin, Ray Pillow-9
10) Jean Shepard, Steve Wariner-7

Taking a look at the non-Opry members who made appearances in 2013, a total of 227 guest artists made appearances. Most just did 1 or 2 shows, but there are some who were there much more often then members. The Top 10 list includes:

1) Mandy Barnett-22
2) Chris Janson-20
3) Sarah Darling-19
4) Kristen Kelly, Striking Matches-17
5) Mark Wills, Jimmy Wayne-16
6) Greg Bates-14
7) Grascals-13
8) Elizabeth Cook, Maggie Rose, The Willis Clan, Dailey & Vincent, Craig Campbell-11
9) Sara Haze, Jim Lauderdale, Exile-10
10) Joey+Rory, Lennon & Maisy, Restless Heart, TG Sheppard, Charles Esten-9

And 42 appearances were made by actors associated with the television show "Nashville".

The highlight of the year was the 50th anniversary of Jim Ed Brown as an Opry member. Bonnie and Maxine joined them and it was a wonderful tribute. The Opry also did a show to remember the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. And they continued the tradition of honoring Opry members for various years as an Opry member, including remembering Jeanne Pruett on her 40th anniversary and Joe Diffie for his 20th.

They Opry did a terrible job with the 88th birthday celebration. It was probably the weakest ever, and in fact, seemed like a very ordinary Opry show. And it was sad to see the decline of Jimmy Dickens and the serious health issues affecting Randy Travis.

Overall, we saw the Opry in 2013 continue the trend of having more guest artists perform than members. We also saw the continued decline in appearances by the veterans, and I would expect to see more of the same in 2014. 2014 will mark a couple of milestones with Jesse McReynolds and Bobby Osborne each reaching the 50 year mark as Opry members, while The Whites and Lorrie Morgan will become 30 year members, Hal Ketchum marking 20 years and Terri Clark reaching 10. I would expect the Opry to do a show for each of these members.

And here is hoping that the 89th birthday celebration of the Opry is much improved from the 88th. They did move it back a weekend, to the 2nd weekend in October. Maybe that will help.

All in all, 2013 continued to be a year of change at the Opry. What will 2014 bring? Only time will tell.


  1. Fred, Bismarck:

    The pessimist in me says 2014 will bring more of the same, as our stalwarts grow a year older -- and, dare one say it, poorer in voice -- giving Pete Fisher more of an excuse.

    Truly, that list of most-frequent guests is, to an old hand like me, pretty dismal.

    The optimist notes new membership by Old Crow -- or does that mean that now we will never see them? -- and hopes we will see more of their kind. Carolina Chocolate Drops? Tennessee Mafia? Dear Lord, there are a hundred out there like them, playing the Opry's former kind of music, if someone -- Fisher -- would only ask.

    But I am a stuck record on the subject of missed opportunities. I DO love what the Opry has been for most of its 88 years and wish it an even longer life.

  2. Frankly, I am offended by Marty Stuart more than most of the others because he usually walks the walk in addition to talking the talk. Obviously, health issues trump all, but many of those who are low on the list have chosen not to be there (not counting those older artists whom the management doesn't want there more often).

  3. FROM ANONYMOUS IN PA: Another GREAT annual report. Totally agree with all your comments and with others so far. Have made my resolution that October 2015 anniversary weekend (Opry's 90th) will most likely be our last. Not sure when other trips will happen, if any, it is just not worth it and I have no hope or expectation that it will ever be back to the wonderful shows we all remember and long for. We will just have to be happy with our records/cassettes/CDs, photos, and memories.

  4. Interesting about Reba McEntire. The Opry doesn't fit her image? I wonder if this is a direct hit towards the current leadership of the Opry or if Reba simply feels she has risen above the institution? Either way she should either resign her membership or appear now and then.

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  5. Fred, Bismarck:

    I believe somebody reported on here once that Reba doesn't like the barn backdrop. Seriously. From a twangy old Oklahoma girl like herself.

    Ah, well. When she played our Civic Center about a dozen years ago, she arrived with about 22 buses of stuff. (It was wasted on me, I didn't go.) And to think people like Hank Williams and Roy Acuff used to get their show into a station wagon and pup trailer!

  6. Fred, Bismarck:

    I should have said semis, not buses.

  7. I think Reba has made one appearance in the last decade or so, and it was a special segment. Now, I think Dolly's failure to appear is disgraceful, but when she has been there, she's performed like any other member. Perhaps Ms. McEntire--unless her last name is no longer part of her "image"--ought to check on some of her supposed heroes and see whether her ego has outstripped theirs.

  8. I wonder if Dolly having a falling out with Gaylord over building the proposed water park had anything to do with her lack of Opry appearances.

  9. Why doesn't Pete Fisher just book those on the low end of appearances for the entire year now? If each are supposed to make 10 appearances a year, why not book them months in advance when their schedules might have openings on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays? I would think that would be the easiest and most simple solution to get everyone to the minimum of 10 appearances.


  10. If those who joined the Opry Membership in the 1980's and 1990's were not given a minimum of appearances to maintain on a yearly basics, why was Holly Dunn let go when she retired/quit touring/stop performing and not Ricky Van Shelton ?

  11. There is a story behind the Holly Dunn deal that I will share privately.

    My general feeling is that being an Opry member is only for active performers. If you retire from the business, you should give up your Opry membership. Back in the "old" days, that was how it was done.

  12. I honestly dont believe Reba would ever say that. She is a very respectful person. She has always been humble and grateful, to suggest otherwise is not very kind nor do I think its correct.

  13. I'm gonna need a source for the Reba article. I don't believe it for one second.

  14. Where is the source for the Reba quote....NEVER heard Reba say anything but good things about the Opry & I've been following her career for over 20 years.

  15. Someone who should be invited to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry is KELLIE PICKLER. She is a terrific entertainer and lives up to everything that the Opry stands for.