Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Opry Fires Tim Atwood and Hoot Hester

News from the Grand Ole Opry is that they have apparently decided to make some changes and have let go piano player Tim Atwood and fiddle player Hoot Hester. Tim was with the Opry for 38 years and Hoot has also been around awhile.

And in the Opry's usual manner, they apparently did it with a simple phone call. No explanation, no personal meeting.

This is not the first time that this has been done. One of Pete Fisher's first moves after becoming the Opry's General Manager was to let a bunch of the staff bands members go.

Tim and Hoot will still be able to perform on the Opry if invited by any of the artists to do back-up for them. They were both great musicians and will be missed.

Is the Opry trying to safe a dollar or just moving in a different direction. How much difference a new piano player makes, I don't know.

46 comments:

  1. Here I go with the outcry for the veterans. Other than Jimmy Capps who seems to be immune to all of this, Hoot, Tim and Tommy White are/were the ones left who have been around those we now call veterans and can help back them up in their style. Unless I have missed it Tommy is still staff steel man but he better be looking over his shoulder.

    Pessimist that I am, I have to believe it is a change in direction. I can't believe they would cut the band because many of the really new folks do not have a band. But, then,who really needs a fiddle and for that matter a piano. If a piano is really part of the act the performer probably plays anyway. More I think about it, a staff steel may really be in question!

    Here's hoping that Jeannie Seely, Riders, Jimmy C, and others will do as Porter and the Whites have done with Leon. I always felt Porter was making a statement bringing Leon out right after all those great guys were turned out. As I say, I always wondered why Jimmy Capps has been immune to all of it. Not taking anything away from him but he goes way back to the Louvins so he could be considered out dated too.

    From what I have picked up in various manners, all of these staff guys that have been let go have really been hurt by their termination. It is disappointing to me to see this kind of thing happen but I am speaking from the heart and not from a business stand point and I think with every move the Opry makes these days it is clearly all business. I guess that is how it should be given the environment they are trying to survive in. It still bothers me though!

    A little more pessimism, isn't it about time to shake up the announcers position? Eddie Stubbs is perfect for the Opry in my opinion but isn't he a little too straight, old fashioned and boring to fit the Opry these days. Do they dare?

    Jim
    Knightsville, IN

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  2. Jim, I am not sure, but I THINK WSM controls who the announcers are--thus, when WSM let Keith Bilbrey go, he was off the Opry any which way. But this is another example of why I much prefer the Saturday night transcriptions to the Formerly Grand Ole Opry.

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  3. Good point Michael. I hadn't thought about the announcers answering to WSM and not the Opry.

    Jim
    Kinghtsville, IN

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  4. I can still hear "The King", Mr. Acuff saying, "That's Tim Atwood at the Piano, It's the cannonball you've rode it before..".... I'm too young to remember the Jimmie Riddle days.

    I wonder if Bobby Osborne will continue to use Hoot Hester? He was always featured on "Rocky Top".

    It's sad to think how the Opry will look 10 years from now. I just don't understand it.

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  5. I am sure Earl White keeps wondering how long he will be around.

    Also, I have noticed a lot of comments by various fans of country music and by various country musicians, but not one comment by any Opry member. I think we know why.

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  6. Once again this is a ridiculous move. As of late on my facebook page I have been making memes with Pete Fisher dressed as Heinrich Himmler in full Nazi gear. I have no respect for him, and will continue to bash him publicly on facebook from over here in Spain with great pride.

    Sick and tired of seeing what they do to the veteran acts on this show. Frankly, when the current veterans are all done and gone, I think I may just resort to listening to opry tapes, dvds, and transcripts of the gold old days when it was a show. Cause frankly these newer artists will not cut it, nor anyone inducted after the year 2000.

    Hearing this today just makes me want to to cave my fist in in Pete Fisher´s chest. Sorry but I dont hold my feeling sback. I tell it like it is.

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  7. I'm done with the opry. Tim Atwood is a very good friend of mine and I'm really upset by this. He didn't deserve this. Neither did Hoot Hester who I love listening to.

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  8. David,

    I remember Mr. Acuff as you mentioned. He also like to hear Tim do Doug Stone's "Better Off in a Pine Box" song too as I recall.

    In Jimmie's time it was "that's James Lawrence Riddle at the Piano" as Jimmie played his break!

    Jim
    Knightsville, IN

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  9. This stinks. Plain and simple.

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  10. Listening to the Friday Night Opry from 2-7 and George IV did Abilene and use all three of the guys, Tim, Hoot and Tommy. Now what? Will Tim and Hoot come out to just play Abilene with George?

    Jim
    Knightsville, IN

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  11. FROM ANONYMOUS-PA: Another sad commentary about our beloved Opry. After being part of the Grand Ole Opry, it will be difficult for them to be just waiting
    backstage to go on for George IV or Connie Smith and others; a lot different than someone like Kenny Sears who does perform with others quite often but not a member of the system. What is next the Square Dancers - even though they are well received when they come out ?!

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  12. Byron, for whatever this is worth - I still keep on wondering if the very reason why many members do not appear, is because of the moves the Opry makes like this & they show their disapproval by purposely staying away. And I also wonder if the move the Opry made is keeping with the more "current country music" because you don't hear much in the line of fiddles on today's country music either - not that I agree at all with either musician being fired. Hopefully they will both be called by the artists & will find themselves on the Opry stage as much as they had been.

    (Jeanene)

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  13. Jim, you're right, although I also remember hearing, "Jimmy, get that Yamaha in business." Also, Tim Atwood used to trade off with Jerry Whitehurst during the Nashville Now years every other Friday, so that Jerry would be at the Opry, Tim on Ralph's Show, and Billy Linneman would run the Nashville Now band.

    I'm reminded that about 10-15 years ago, we were teed off at Pete Fisher for firing several musicians, including Joe Edwards, whom Hoot replaced. Back then, of course, the Opry wouldn't say that it was because of age, and now Hoot is too old. It's ageism and we all know it. Perhaps they should talk to Stonewall Jackson.

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  14. I have forgotten, but when did the mass firing of members of the Opry staff band take place? I know it was shortly after Pete Fisher began his regime, but I can't remember how soon.

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  15. The staff band is not the reason that the Opry is on life support. It's the lack of talent, both backstage and onstage.

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  16. ANONYMOUS-PA: agree with you Leonard

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  17. For what it is worth, and this is only what I have heard through the rumor mill, but the Opry might be doing away with a piano player as part of the staff band. Apparently, many artists no longer use a piano player. If an artist would like a piano player to play as part of their performance, the artist will have to supply that person. It could still be Tim Atwood, much like The Whites still use Leon Rhodes.

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  18. This might be a little off subject depending on why we think more senior members of the staff band have been let go but here's a question and a thought.

    Does anyone remember back when Jeanne Pruett announced her retirement and suggested that Rhonda Vincent take her place and Tandy Rice wrote a piece in I believe Music City News suggesting that the Opry set a retirement age of 65. At that time Bettie Walker was running the Golden Voice Awards and we were corresponding once in a while. This was April of 2006, just about a month before she and Billy were lost in the accident. She emailed me about the article and suggested I sign a online petition someone had started. I voiced my opinion and soon got an email from Bettie saying they had read and enjoyed my comments.

    Anyway, back to Tandy Rice. I was shocked that he was suggesting such a thing. I wondered if he would feel that way were Jerry Clower still living and appearing on the Opry. I also considered that Mr. Acuff would have been off the Opry in 1968. I have to wonder if Mr. Rice is haunting us or sending messages from on high to the Opry management. It sounds like they might support his idea.

    An earlier comment was made about the staff band not being an issue, that it is a lack of talent on the Opry these days. I would just say that the staff band has been a big part of the veterans like Ray Pillow, Jan Howard, now Jimmy Dickens, and in the past so many others being able to continue to work the Opry. With these changes, it is becoming harder for those veterans without a band to put on a good performance. Jan Howard was a good example many weeks back when they got her moving too fast and really made for an awkward performance.

    It just seems to be another nail in the casket.

    Jim
    Knightsville, IN

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  19. After this CRAP.....our 2-3 trips to the opry per year will be no MORE!

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  20. The Jamboree in Wheeling is experiencing a resurgence and you are likely to hear traditional Country from their staff and cast members still performing.

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  21. Fred, Bismarck:

    I wish they'd get rid of the ham-handed drummer -- whoever he is, nothing personal -- in the staff band.

    Hire a doghouse bass player!

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  22. Who is the new fiddle player? I hope it's that young man who had be filling in for hoot. I've seen him on nashville.

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  23. Being originally from Western Pennsylvania, concretely from PIttsburgh, when I travel home for Christmas each year I alwasy take in at least one show at The Wheeling Jamboree. It is true that there is a resurgence, and you can hear some good traditional country music. The kind that I was brought up on. Though I am 41 years old, I stated before I was given a steady diet of everything from 40s-80s country music, and bluegrass by my grandparents and parents.

    For me, there is nothing like Tim Atwood on piano, or Buck White tickling the ivory, or Leon Rhodes on take off guitar...... I love steel guitar!!!!!!!! Shame its not used enough......... What can I say I just dont like the Alan Jackson´s, Keith Urabans, MOntgomer Gentry´s, Rascal Flatts, and Florida Georgia Line´s of the world.

    Ohhhhhhhhh, and I think its hilarious that cause they put a cowboy hat on, and some jeans they think they are Ernest Tubb, if they know who he is.

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  24. OHHHHH and I dont know about all yinz around here..... but I have a "Nashville" cancellation voodoo doll!!!!!! Can someone please just euthanize the show and useless talent associated with it???

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  25. Jim, thanks for reminding me of Jeanne Pruett. Yes, she went to Opry management and said she was retiring from performing. She offered to give up her Opry membership as long as she was replaced by a younger female artist, and she specifically suggested Rhonda Vincent. For whatever reason, the Opry did not take Jeanne up on her offer, and even though retired, she is still an Opry member today. And Rhonda is not, even though she regularly performs on the show.

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  26. Since this started out as staff band discussion I have memory that we'll see if others recollect.

    Several folks fondly remember Archie Campbell being on the Opry. Do you recall that one of his favorite things to do in his last years was to have Weldon Myrick rev up his steel guitar like an Indy race car?

    Another fond memory was Harold Weekly being brought up front to sing "They Call Me a Playboy", "Big City" and a few other tunes. I liked to hear him sing and apparently Mr. Acuff did too!

    Both of these are memories form the 80's.

    Jim
    Knightsville, IN

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  27. Just so much to say here that I have pent up for so long so this may come across as a rant. I'm not trying to be insulting to anyone here, but much of what I see posted on these pages is every bit as much of the problem as Pete Fisher or the "flavor of the week" artists. Let's start with the "Staff Band" concept. That push came back in the 60's if I recall, and if I'm not further mistaken Jimmy Capps, Spider Wilson, and some others were part of that push. This laid the groundwork for the worn out, tired, same old, material played on the Opry week after week, because artists had to rely on them rather than their own band for backing. On one hand everyone bemoans how 'these new artists all sound the same!' but at the same time defend the Opry Staff Band who do the same thing week after week. Doesn't matter if its Jean Shepard, Jimmie Dickens, or Jeannie Seely, it all sounds the same with a different singer.

    I'm not putting down the folks who make up the Staff Band either. The Staff Band is what it is, and these people that got fired this week merely work within the framework provided to them and cannot be held responsible for the sins of the past which were committed by others. I'm sure they are fine folks and obviously talented musicians. I hate that these good people have lost their job this week, and it is shameful. It does cause one to reflect though on how the Staff Band felt when it was founded and pushed other musicians out of the way to situate themselves with a permanent job.

    Now, digging into something else that just rubs me a bit the wrong way that I'm sure won't sit well with many...the fact is, a lot of the "old timers" DO need to retire or be retired. You all have no idea how deeply this statement pains me, or how much respect and love I have for those artists. However, the reality is, many of them just don't have any business being out on a stage anymore. They flat cannot sing. It is embarrassing and makes the whole thing look like a joke to the rest of the world. I understand the nostalgia and respect for singer "X" to come out croak through the one or two songs they're famous for week after week, month after month, year after year. But how healthy is that for a business that you would like to see grow or maintain relevance? Certainly give them a place of honor as the elder statesmen(women) and celebrate their contributions, but their time has passed and they need to have the self respect to step aside and allow newer talent to share in the spotlight and carry on the torch. To my knowledge, at no point in the Opry's history going back to Uncle Jimmy Thompson was it ever designed to be a permanent job for people who were in effect career dead. Nor was it ever to be a retirement home for the select few who no longer have relevancy. Sadly, in many cases, some of these artists would have slipped off into oblivion 30-40+ years ago if the Opry hadn't artificially propped them up with a tenured career. This has also been fueled by a class of people who have cultishly clung to world of rhinestones and "used to be's" that died long ago rather than encouraging and supporting a newer generation that could carry on those traditions and ideals.

    End of Part I...

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  28. Part II

    I find it interesting that in preceding generations, each era of the Opry served as a building block to something bigger and better. No wailing and gnashing of teeth when Webb Pierce came on stage, even though groups like the Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers were disappearing or gone already. It was an understanding of reality, that life moves on and relevance must be maintained or putrification begins. That building process continued until the 70s and 80s when the first seeds of stagnation started. The sense permanency became an expectation. Fans following that lead also came to expect that permanency and ignored what else was going on around them. The heady days of Opryland, TNN, and the Opry itself were at their zenith, yet quickly coming to an end. Blindsided by this implosion, many became effectively locked in time only to be bypassed by the real world. Basically, everyone dropped the ball and allowed pop and rock and roll music to take over...and here we are today.

    I don't say this to be mean spirited, but only to speak the truth about the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about or admit. Please do not misinterpret my criticisms of the Opry, its staff band, nor its "old timers" as wanting to tear down an institution. Think of it more as a need for pruning so that it can grow and become healthy again. I have alluded to new talent, and I mean that...but not in a Taylor Swift, pop 40 radio kind of way. This is where YOU Mr. and Ms. Country Music Fan have to step up and put your money where your mouth is, rather than sitting around at home griping about "it ain't country no more" while listening to George Jones on your record player singing "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?".

    There are "new" country artists out there! Not "new" in the sense of the garbage on the radio, but "new" in the sense that they are young, fresh, and talented...while at the same time performing TRADITIONAL country music. What's more, I am convinced that they CAN "fill their shoes" if people would do more than talk and post videos of Merle Haggard from 1970 up on Facebook. When was the last time you bought one of these new artists CDs, attended one of their shows, joined or started a fan club for them, showed support for what they are doing? It seems to me a lot of times that these people get ignored or overlooked because they aren't famous, rich, or "sound just like Patsy." So you tell me Mr. and Ms. Country Music Fan...are you going to support the younger folks who actually are country, and actually have an opportunity at relevancy; or are you going to keep clinging to memories of what used to be and hoping for that "big comeback" that will never happen? Only you can make the decision to foster a new generation who wishes to carry on an art form into the future; or wallow in self pity while slipping into nostalgia and obsolescence.

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  29. Regarding the last 2 posts by anonymous, which I am sure will create a lot of discussion, I first want to say thanks. I really respect what you wrote and I can tell it is from the heart. I also appreciate the honesty. And in many of the areas you are correct.

    As a historical note, let's talk a bit about the concept of the staff band. For much of the Opry's history, each artist brought their band. They were part of the act and went together with the artist. For example it was always Porter Wagoner and his Wagonmasters; Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys, Hank Snow and his Rainbow Ranch Boys, Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadors, etc. I think everyone gets where I am going with this.

    Then over time, the nature of the business changed and artists started appearing without a dedicated band behind them. If they were part of a package show, they would use another act's musicians. Heck, in the beginning Hank Snow was using the Texas Troubadours for back up when he played the Opry. So when these solo artists began to play, they needed back up and thus came about the Opry Staff Band concept. And anonymous, you are certainly right in who was involved with the start of the band concept.

    The situation the Opry is in today regarding the staff band is a result of policy changes that have taken place over the past decade. Opry management, years ago in a cost cutting move, told many of the artists that they could not bring their own bands with them, or if they did, they were limited in the number of members they could bring. Same with back up singers, which many of the artists use. Of the veterans, Jim Ed Brown and John Conlee still has his own group, and Jimmy C Newman still have several, but Jan Howard, Stu Phillips, Ray Pillow and even Jimmy Dickens when he appears, is down to pretty much the staff band. Jean Shepard and Jeannie Seely might have 1 or 2 guitarists that they have. But it is just not the veteran artists. Heck, most times that Vince Gill appears he uses the staff band and I would guess that almost half of the guest artists use members of the staff band.

    Yes, membership at the Opry was not meant to be permanent. Members came and went, depending on their careers. Some left on their own, others were told to leave. But then you had those that stayed and as they grew older, there were some nights that the show was a little stale, and it showed in the attendance and age of the audience.

    And yes, there are some that have performed over the years, and today, that should not be up there. But I am not going to be the one to tell them to no longer come. The problem is correcting itself as these older artists have passed away or have just quite performing. There are only about a dozen left at the most and I think the majority have seen their appearances cut back. But I will say that most nights Jim Ed Brown, Jan Howard, Ray Pillow and Jean Shepard sound just fine to me.

    Yes, the Opry needs to attract the younger artists and we have said that before. But they need to attract the right artists. Those that will appear and support the show. And yes, the sound needs to be kept fresh. You reference Webb Pierce and you could have mentioned The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Bob Luman and others. They all had detractors but each added to the Opry.

    The Opry management has the right to decide who appears on the Opry and who doesn't. It's a private company and they only have to report to their bosses. My issue is how they handle the situation. In the case of Tim Atwood, after 38 years I think more than a simple Monday phone call would have been appropriate. And is Kenny Sears a better fiddle player than Hoot Hester? I just hope the Opry made these decisions for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

    Anonymous, thanks again for the contribution.

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  30. Anonymous I and II wrote some very well thought out words. I tend to agree with a whole lot of what he had to say.

    Towards the end, George Jones was absolutely painful to listen to, and nobody enjoyed the 'Possum for many years more than me. There comes a time......

    My biggest question for the 'Opry right now is this. Do they intend to replace the legends with true country music artists, or the no-talent rock'n'rollers they seem to favor now?

    Mandy Barnett and Rhonda Vincent are young and can flat sing real country music. So can Daily and Vincent, the Grascals, and several other current younger acts.

    It's up to you, Grand Old 'Opry. Go with real country artists (upcoming and current), or go with the trendy crap of no-talents today and watch the show fade off into the sunset. That, to me, is the real question - traditional true country music (like the stuff I hear on WSM 650), or the junk of "country radio."

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  31. First I must admit the time period of the Opry so dear to me is the 1980's because that was my teenage years when I really began listening every minute of every weekend I could. I missed out on a lot of socializing with friends to get home from ball games in time to hear Roy Acuff and others. So, at a time when some have said the Opry took a turn for the stale repetition
    and management was making decisions that some say put us where we are today, I was falling in love with the music being played by the staff band behind many of those who for various reasons did not have a band on the Opry. And I must say that hearing them play behind Roy Drusky and Charlie Walker was not like listening to the same thing but I do understand that it did make the overall sound more generic. But, I really liked that sound! Therefore, for reasons of the heart, I have hated to let go of the band that I remember best. I offer no apologies.

    I appreciate the words of anonymous and also agree with many of the comments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The truth often hurts. I feel your sincerity and the points are well taken.

    I do take issue with the statement about some of the veterans ability to still sing. I would agree there are some who need to quit as much as it pains me to say it. However, those that Byron named and maybe a few others still sing better than many of these new young acts that appear each weak. Therein lies the real shame. If they could fill the Opry each week with new acts that could really sing and better yet, did true traditional country, then the neglect of the veterans might not be such a hard pill to swallow. And I still hold that until management started going to EVERY available place to find new faces of any type of music, the veterans kept the show going. I will admit that at that same time, the fact that they were the only ones performing may have lowered ticket sales. Is that their fault? Would the Opry still be going if they had walked away?

    As for new singers I couldn't agree more. I agree with those that Nat Hill mentioned and there are so many others that are lesser known. Lets hear those new young acts that sing real traditional country included in the Opry lineup. I know they are out there, love the real country and are very capable of keeping country alive. I buy their music and go to their shows any time I can. That doesn't change the Opry. Only management can do that by inviting these folks to perform. They ask the new unknown non country folks to appear so how about the real country too.

    I hate to think of the good music we would have missed had Ray Price or Jim Ed Brown and some others had quit performing at age 65.

    The Opry must find new acts to sustain the show if they truly want it to go forward with any resemblance of the past. I'm not sure they do. As Byron has discussed before, membership seems to be fading in importance to both the Opry and the artist. Is it going to become an open venue for any and all types of music? I hope not. If so, this discussion is kind of pointless. I strongly believe in supporting the traditional country artist old and new by buying the music and going to the shows. Is that enough to turn the tide? We can only do our part as Anonymous suggests and hope so.

    Jim
    Knightsville, IN

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  32. Fred, Bismarck:

    Great discussion; thanks to all.

    I can see a staff band to back someone who no longer tours and keeps his own band, like Jimmy Dickens. And I can't think of many modern artists whose bands are an essential ingredient of their sound. Seriously, who is Brad Paisley's Billy Byrd, or Vince Gill's Chubby Wise? I think the staff band serves most of these quite adequately.

    Face it, starting about 50 years ago studio musicians started killing the importance of bands to artists' recorded sound, and the Opry staff band is the logical extension of that.

    There is the problem of uniformity breeding monotony. So, for other (mainly older) artists who do still maintain a band, I think the Opry is charging ticketholders enough that it can afford to pay them union scale. Of course, if Gaylord prefers to stick the money in their own pocket, what are you going to do?

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  33. Fred, Bismarck:

    I should add that any show-biz operation, such as the Opry, with any ear at all or sense of its tradition would think twice before cutting lose someone with a euphonious moniker like "Hoot Hester." I'll wager that name filled a few balcony seats every week all by itself!

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  34. In April 2007 I wrote a post on my blog growing old at the Grand Ole Opry. I think in light of recent events some might like to read this.

    http://dekerivers.wordpress.com/2007/04/23/getting-old-at-the-grand-ole-opry/

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  35. This might make the url like easier to use.

    http://dekerivers.wordpress.com/2007/04/23/getting-old-at-the-grand-ole-opry/

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  36. Nice piece dekerivers. Thanks for sharing.

    Jim
    Knihgtsville, IN

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  37. Yes, thanks dekerivers. You put it beautifully.

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  38. Response Part I

    Thanks to all for the kind words...one never knows what kind of buzzsaw you're going to walk into when you try to honestly speak your mind. In general, I think we're all in agreement here, at least those who have responded to my posts. Regarding the Staff Band topic, I understand what everyone is saying and agree. As I mentioned, it is what it is, and there's no sense in griping about something that came to fruition 40 years ago and expecting it is going to go back to what I think it should be. That being said, they are all outstanding musicians and have my highest respect and admiration, and I agree that this, along with the bout of firings a few years ago were inexcusable and handled very poorly. It is my sincere hope that both Hoot and Tim are able to recover and land on their feet much like Leon has over the years.

    Similarly, as fayfare points out, the situation with the artists is quickly becoming moot as health issues and such overtake them. I deliberately chose not to mention names as to those who should stay or who should step aside so as to not be unnecessarily cruel, but we all know the score. In these waning days, it realistically doesn't matter much anymore, and as others have pointed out, we have much bigger fish to fry. To wit, who is going to replace them and what direction is the Opry going to go? Frankly, I think we all know the answer to the second part whether we want to face it or not, and it ain't pretty. Much like country radio in the 80s, I quit listening to or worrying about the Opry long ago. As a traditional country fan I didn't give up on them, they gave up on me. Were I to be perfectly candid, I'd just as soon see them shut the doors and turn out the lights as I would see them follow the course they have for the last several years.

    As to who can carry on the torch? I think there’s quite a bit of talent out there, albeit I don't know if there is enough to sustain an operation like the Opry for the long haul. The so-called "Americana" set and their spinoffs certainly haven't produced anything interesting or worthwhile to my mind. Then there's the Hank III crowd and their ilk who seek to debase themselves and everything they come in contact with. Not exactly something I want speaking for me musically. Unfortunately, "real" country music has been so stifled and choked out of younger generations to a point that I don't know if many of them even really know what it is, nor appreciate the culture which spawned it.

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  39. Response Part II

    I've seen Mandy Barnett and Rhonda Vincent mentioned in other posts here, and that's all well and good, but how about some other people that are off the radar and who haven't been given any chances at the spotlight? I know for fact there are acts that play in Nashville every day who are seriously talented, and serious traditionalists, yet nobody knows who they are because they get absolutely no support from anyone for their efforts. There's also a nice little cadre of folks down in Texas who have caused a stir within Texas and on satellite radio, but they are hardly getting rich or famous off of their efforts. Fortunately, they at least have some support from folks like Tracy Pitcox, Bill Mack, Joe Bielinski, and Willie's Roadhouse to help them out as much as they can. So far as I know, Amber Digby is the only one who has made any serious inroads to playing the Opry, and that predominantly is likely because Ronnie Milsap is her godfather. By no stretch am I implying she doesn't deserve that opportunity, because she absolutely does, and I would be delighted to see her made an Opry member. I am saying that from my perception there is seriously a culture of "who you know" not "what you know or how well you can do it" that determines who gets the nod; and I honestly don't think she would have gotten that chance were she not connected to Ronnie. Compare that to Jake Hooker who is every bit as deserving of that chance, yet nada. Remember the days when Ernest Tubb or whomever would see an act that impressed them out on the road and invite them to appear on the Opry during their segment? Can you imagine today a big hick from Georgia rolling into Nashville with nothing but a dream and a guitar and appearing on the Opry within days like Stonewall Jackson did back in '56? It just strikes me that back then it was more about the art, talent, and music, than who your daddy was, how much money you had to grease the wheels, or who you had to play bed spring poker with to get some help or an opportunity. From my view on the sidelines (which admittedly may be a bit skewed or uninformed), over the last several years a lot of the older stars if they bothered at all, spent more time pushing karaoke queens and/or folks who stroked their ego rather than actively looking at real acts to support and promote. I have long suspected a big part of that may be they were more concerned about clinging to what they have rather than risking the ire of Opry management by pushing it.

    Unfortunately, for all of our hue and cry, it's not going to get better or go back to what it was. Management has been quite vocal about their plans are, and it doesn't involve more traditionalists just because they are younger than the "blue hairs." I predict that within the next 10 years it will have completely shed any resemblance to the halcyon days of the Solemn Old Judge, Jim Denny, et al. Essentially, we are watching the long and painful passing of a loved one to a cancer that has spread so thoroughly that it's effects can never be reversed. Sad days indeed...

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  40. Yes, it will eventually be that the "Grand Ole Opry" if they continue to call it that, will evolve into just a Friday and Saturday show in Nashville, that may have performers who you recognize or not. They will have to bring their own bands though because it will just be an empty stage like any other theater in any other town. Soon there won't be a need for the Carol Lee (oops) Opry Singers either! It will no longer be a destination, just a local theater having shows - maybe not even every Fri/Sat. We have a wonderful music theater near us that has a multitude of performers booked throughout the year, a great variety as well - much better than what has been playing recently at the Opry - I'm off my bandwagon for now.

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  41. To anonymous second Part I and Part II.

    It pains me to say this but I have said it here and in letters to various folks before. I hate to see the Opry end but there is a part of me that would rather see it die a graceful death than this terrible slow death it seems to be going through now. Like Hank Snow and the Statler Brothers who got out while they were still respectable performers, a part of the me wants it to end while it can still be recognized as the Opry.

    I try not to bring up the Texas folks all the time because I know there are other factions of traditionalist out there and I don't want to just praise the Texas crowd. Thanks for bringing them up. I agree with everything you said about Amber Digby.. Is she deserving of time on the Opry stage? You bet and she is one of my favorites. But I agree that she surly got some help from Ronnie and maybe Vince. Good for her but all those other folks she works with should get the chance as well. Thank goodness David McCormick lets them come to town and be heard on WSM and the Midnite Jamboree. Another really good younger female is Dotty Jack who records for Jim Loessburg. And Jake Hooker is great. So many of those working with Loessburg and Pitcox are.

    But that sound of singers who can sing strong, on key and every word be understood is just not what the Opry management is looking for. Nor do they want steel guitars and fiddles. Further yet, some of them might even where outfits that resemble something ET, Porter or Hank Snow might have worn. Connecting this to the post about Steve Buchanan, it goes along with that statement he made about perceptions they are trying to shed about country music. What these young traditionalist represent is what they are trying so hard to distance themselves and the Opry from.

    Right now I think the only reason that any veteran act or acknowledgement of the past and how we got here is because it is needed for the transition. From a business standpoint I question if they could have just said if you are over 65 you are done here. We are removing all references to anything before 1990. This isn't your dad or grand dad's Opry anymore. We don't want any fans who think or wish it was. We are looking for a new crowd and if you want to come to see us that's great, we'll take your money, but don't expect us to cater to your taste. You either like what we are feeding you now or otherwise keep your mouth shut. I don't think they could have stood the lost revenue if they had been that abrupt.

    Even though they occasionally do some nice things like Jim Ed's 50th, I still wonder if there is really any heart to it or is it all part of necessary business.

    As I'm sure I have said here before, if they would just give traditional country a place in the future of the Opry I could tolerate some of the others things that I just don't like. But the only traditional country left is what the veterans are doing or maybe a Mandy Barnett here and there. Bluegrass and Americana are not a substitute for what I am calling traditional country. It can have it's place as well but not as a substitute!

    Jim
    Knightsville, IN

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  42. When I think about the idea of performers over sixty-five retiring, I cannot help but think what if Ray Price had quit performing at the age of 65. We would have missed out on over twenty years of good music. Last night I listened to some Opry performances from probably the early 60's. I heard such performers as Roy Acuff, Margie Bowes, Bill Monroe, and Jimmy C. Newman. There was a genuineness and realness to these performances. If anyone is interested, I can post the link to this website. It is not associated with the Opry or WSM radio.

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  43. I am an old man. I know the younger folks don't like Real Country Music by the way they sing and play now days. It is a shame. Someday they will be old also. Wonder what they will say about the music of that time? They will probably say the same thing I say--"That ain't Music".

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  44. When George sang, you knew it was George. When Ray sang you knew it was Ray. Merle, Willie, Lefty, Waylon, the list goes on and on. Today it sounds to me like they record one album and use a dozen different names to sell it. Sure the old guys got paid but they also had a respect for the music. That respect is gone, it's all about the money. I don't hear any of today's singer that will have a fifty year career like the old guys. SAD>

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  45. Another member that has been missing and not made one appearance all year is Mike Snider. Even late last year his appearances had dwindled and his hosting duties had shortened. Hopefully he is not another casualty.

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  46. Well just thinkin how much of a BIG mistake that was to fire Tim and Hoot.. Come on now... The Grand Ole Opry is the ROOT OF COUNTRY MUSIC!!!! So tell me why in the world would they do this. I hope not to make room for "younger" band members that know NOTHING about COUNTRY music... STUPID STUPID STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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