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
Vince Gill, Jan Howard-21
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:
Terri Clark, Jimmy Dickens, Craig Morgan-8
Rascal Flatts, Marty Stuart, Josh Turner, Old Crow Medicine Show-7
Joe Diffie, Oak Ridge Boys, Charley Pride-5
Dierks Bentley, Montgomery Gentry, Darius Rucker-4
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
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.