This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Grand Ole Opry's 40th anniversary weekend of the Grand Ole Opry House. I attended all 3 shows and I have to tell you, it was a very good weekend of Opry shows. With the line-up that was announced, along with some special guests, it was everything you would have wanted. I would have to say that Saturday's 1st show was probably the best Opry show I have attended since the Opry's 75th anniversary show back in 2000. It was that entertaining, and I will say that the 2nd show on Saturday was not far behind. Both Saturday shows were sold out and from what I could determine, the Friday night show was about 95% sold. All 3 shows offered a good mix of Opry veterans, new artists and variety.
Saturday's Grand Ole Opry had a dramatic beginning and to set the scene, I need to remind everyone how the Opry started their first show at the Opry House 40 years ago. On that night, before a packed house, the lights were dimmed, the curtain rose, and there was a huge white scrim. Projecting on it was the picture of George Hay from the 1940 movie Grand Ole Opry. "First, we're gonna hear from Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys," the movie voice of George Hay said. "Smoke it up, Roy!" And there was Roy Acuff. A young Acuff from thirty-four years earlier. Dark-haired and serious. Brother Oswald's dobro began and Roy began to sing "Wabash Cannonball" in a slower, serious tone. Then the scrim began to slowly rise and through it the audience could see Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys live on the stage, making a perfect musical segue from the film to the live performance on the new Opry stage. As the stage lights came on, standing behind Roy was the Opry cast.
On Saturday night, after the Carrie Underwood introductory video, the curtain stayed down as did the large video screen. After a few seconds pause, up on the screen was the replay of the 1974 Roy Acuff introduction and performance. Then, as the screeen faded from the black and white Acuff to the color Acuff, the big red curtain and video screen went up and up on the stage was the Opry cast, all who were scheduled to appear Saturday night, singing "Wabash Cannonball." Yes, all were there singing, including Blake Shelton, Clint Black, Miranda Lambert, and joined by surprise artists Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs and Jimmy Dickens. Jimmy was down in front and was just standing. Old Crow Medicine Show provided the back up music. Bobby Osborne and Ricky Skaggs played the musical breaks and Josh Turner, among others, sang the verse with everyone on the chorus. It was as dramatic of a start as I have seen and the audience responded with a long ovation.
The show then started with Diamond Rio hosting the 1st segment. I know I mentioned a few weeks ago when they were on that they sounded off key and "terrible." But Saturday, they sounded just fine. The Whites were next followed by Green River Ordinance. The Whites did one number, rather quickly. Green River Ordinance was making their Opry debut, and are from Fort Worth, Texas. They sounded fine, no complaints. The 2nd segment was hosted by Connie Smith. She brought out Marty Stuart as a surprise guest and he played "Orange Blossom Special" on the mandolin. Josh Turner followed and did 2 songs including "Long Black Train." Then another surprise as Old Crow Medicine Show came out. 1st song was "CC Rider" and then came "Wagon Wheel." Yes, the audience was singing along, as they do at all Old Crow appearances. In my mind, they add much to the Opry.
The 3rd segment was hosted by Bill Anderson and he brought out Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press, who did the classic "Rocky Top." Next out was Clint Black, who was without a band. He did a new number, joking about playing something "uptempo." After a short introduction and Cracker Barrel plug, he began to sing the duet song "When I Said I Do." When it came to her part, Clint's wife, Lisa Hartman Black walked out and the audience went wild. They did the song perfect. Square Dancers followed with Earl White, and then Bill did "I Wonder If God Likes Country Music."
The final segment was the one that most in the audience was waiting for. Riders In The Sky were the hosts and Miranda Lambert was out next. Now, I know many think she is not really country and that can be debated, but I will say she did a very nice job. After a commercial, Blake Shelton was next. He received a great reception, did one song, followed by a duet with his wife Miranda. After they were finished, the curtain was down and the show was over. When all was said and done, the show ran over by about 20 minutes.
What was also nice was the playing of several videos during the show. When Connie Smith, Bobby Osborne and Bill Anderson were introduced, the video screen played a portion of their performance from the opening night 40 years before. Also played were clips of President Richard Nixon playing "God Bless America", and the President and Roy doing the yo-yo. All in all, an outstanding show.
The 2nd show was almost a reply of the 1st. There was the same introduction, with the exception of no Jimmy Dickens. Instead of The Whites, Jean Shepard was on and Jeannie Seely hosted the 2nd segment instead of Connie Smith. Marty Stuart only appeared on the first show. Except for the start of the two shows, Ricky Skaggs did not perform. While Jimmy Dickens was there for the introduction of first show, he did not appear again on stage. Most of the artists did the same songs on the 2nd show, with the exception of Riders In The Sky and Blake Shelton. And they did the video clips of Jean Shepard and Jeannie Seely. The 2nd show lasted until just before midnight.
Looking back to the Friday Night Opry, it was another solid show. Crystal Gayle did her usual good job, Jimmy C Newman was fine as was Jesse McReynolds. Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan were on the final segment, along with Scotty McCreery, who the younger fans loved.
What did surprise me was that there was no Opry membership invitation given to Miranda Lambert. I really expected that, as did a few others. It seemed to be set up perfectly for an invitation.My wife, in fact, was at a show Saturday night at the Ryman and one of the ushers asked where I was. My wife said I was at the Opry and the usher responded by saying that she heard Miranda Lambert was going to become a member. Well, like we all know, it didn't happen.
After Saturday's show, the Midnight Jamboree followed with Barbara Fairchild hosting, with The Whites and Connie Smith stopping by.
It was a fine weekend for the Opry!!!!!!