Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Grand Ole Opry 4/11 & 4/12

The Grand Ole Opry has posted the line-ups for the two shows this weekend and before going through the schedule, it is time for a Byron rant!!!

First, the Friday Night Opry has only 5 members on the schedule while Saturday night we get treated to 6 Opry members. This is ridiculous!!! Out of 60+ members, they could only come up with 5 & 6? And while not downgrading the members who are scheduled, as I personally enjoy the veterans, those scheduled are the veterans. None are what you would call "hot" country acts.

Second, and this has happened before, there are only 3 segment hosts for Saturday night. You mean that out of 60+ Opry members, management could not come up with 4 who could host a segment? And one of the 3 is Ray Pillow, who is one of the Opry's senior members and rarely appears. Jimmy C Newman and Jean Shepard are scheduled, but it would appear that they no longer wish to host a segment, or more likely, that management no longer feels they are capable of hosting.

Looking at the actual artists scheduled for this weekend, Elizabeth Cook is scheduled for nights. She usually does a good job, but let's face it, she is not a "big" name. Joining Elizabeth on Friday night will be Carlene Carter. She is out promoting a new CD, "Carter Girl." I will say that I personally enjoy Carlene and looking forward to her new CD, but her hit making days ended a decade ago. Former Opry member BJ Thomas is scheduled and I guess he would be the "star" attraction for Friday. I have seen BJ at the Opry several times and he does a nice job. No complaints on him. Balsam Range and Sundy Best? Previously on.

Saturday's Grand Ole Opry has The Swon Brothers scheduled. They are from The Voice television show and are just starting to get their career going. This will be their debut Opry performance. I love The Secret Sisters. Darryl Worley is on more than a majority of the Opry's members. But again, only 3 segments.

Friday April 11
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jesse McReynolds
7:30: The Whites (host); Elizabeth Cook; Balsam Range
8:15: Jim Ed Brown (host); Carlene Carter; Sundy Best
8:45: Jeannie Seely (host); Mark Wills; BJ Thomas

Saturday April 12
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Elizabeth Cook; Jimmy C Newman; The Swon Brothers; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
8:15: Ray Pillow (host); Jean Shepard; Mallary Hope; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); The Secret Sisters; Darryl Worley

I almost feel sorry for anyone who has paid $69 for a seat to these shows. Let's just say they are not the strongest this year.

Also, despite appearing 4 weeks in a row, Jimmy Dickens is not on the schedule although he very well may appear. He has sounded good the last couple of weeks and has been singing. Maybe Jimmy waits until the last minute to give the word on appearing. Seeing Jimmy back on the Opry is a good thing and we should all enjoy his appearances as any given week could be his final one.

For this week's look back at past Grand Ole Opry highlights, the first one is from the weekend of April 13 & 14, 1979. There is really nothing special about this line-up but it is an interesting look back at the announced line-ups for both nights.

Friday April 13, 1979
7:30: Lonzon & Oscar (host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Ernie Ashworth
8:00: Billy Walker (host); Riders In The Sky; Carlisles
8:30: Roy Acuff (host); The Four Guys; Linda Naile
9:00: David Houston (host); Skeeter Davis; Justin Tubb; The Willis Brothers
9:30: Charlie Walker (host); Stu Phillips; Vern Gosdin
10:00: The Wilburn Brothers (host); Jeannie C Riley; Del Wood
10:30: Billy Grammer (host); Marion Worth; Duke of Paducah

Saturday April 14, 1979
1st show
6:30: Billy Walker (host); The Willis Brothers
6:45: The Wilburn Brothers (host); Ernie Ashworth; Del Wood
7:00: Charlie Walker (host); Lonzo & Oscar; David Houston; Roy Drusky
7:30: Roy Acuff (host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Billy Grammer; Marion Worth; The Crook Brothers; The Stoney Mt. Cloggers
8:00: Jimmy C Newman (host); Skeeter Davis; Stu Phillips; Justin Tubb; Carlisles
8:30: Hank Snow (host); The Four Guys; Charlie Louvin; Jeanne Pruett; The Fruit Jar Drinkers

2nd show
9:30: Roy Drusky (host); The Wilburn Brothers; Lonzo & Oscar; Wilma Lee Cooper; Charlie Walker
10:00: Billy Walker (host); Ernie Ashworth; The Willis Brothers
10:15: Roy Acuff (host); Marion Worth; Del Wood
10:30: David Houston (host); Skeeter Davis; Billy Grammer
10:45: Jimmy C Newman (host); Justin Tubb; The Crook Brothers; The Stoney Mt. Cloggers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Stu Phillips; Carlisles; The Fruit Jar Drinkers; Kirk McGee
11:30: Charlie Louvin (host); The Four Guys; Jeanne Pruett

One of the things that catches my eye when I look at these older line-ups is the variety of the hosts. Today the Opry will have the same hosts hosting the same segments each weekend. On the few times when there are two shows on a Friday or Saturday night, the shows will be identical. Back in the "older" days, just about every artist would be given an opportunity to host at some point. Even in this line-up that I posted, Lonzo & Oscar are hosting, which is rare. I even have a show where Bill Carlisle hosted. Yes, you had a few such as Roy Acuff who always hosted at 7:30 and 10:15, Hank Snow who did 8:30 and 11:00, and Porter Wagoner who would do 7:00 and 9:30, but even those artists were not on every week. Listening to the Opry on the  radio, I enjoyed not hearing two identical shows in a row.

The 2nd line-up that I have for this week is from Saturday April 13, 1991, which was the annual reunion show. This one was televised on TNN and it gave the fans at home a chance to see a couple of the "older stars." Of course by this point, a few such as DeFord Bailey and Alcoyne Beasley had passed away, but this particular night had Faron Young and Pee Wee King among the former members returning.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Grandpa Jones (host): Ball Headed End of A Broom
Bill Anderson: Still
Grandpa Jones: Dear Old Sunny South By the Sea

6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Bill Monroe (host): Molly & Tenbrooks/Blue Moon of Kentucky
Ricky Skaggs: Let It Be You/Honey, Open That Door
Bill Monroe: Southern Flavor

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Company's Comin'
Jim Ed Brown: The Three Bells
Jan Howard: Heartaches by the Number
Jim & Jesse: It's A Lonesome Feeling
The Whites: He Took Your Place
Porter Wagoner: Ol' Slewfoot

7:30: Standard Candy
Jimmy Dickens (host): Country Boy
Margie Bowes: When I Call Your Name
Zeke Clements: No More Smoke on the Water
Faron Young: Wine Me Up/Hello Walls
Jimmy Dickens: Another Bridge to Burn

8:00: Martha White
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Pee Wee King: Tennessee Waltz
Charlie Louvin: When You Can Only Dream That Far/When I Stop Dreaming
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted/Elvira
Opry Square Dancers/Stoney Mt. Cloggers: Bill Cheatham

8:30: Pops Right
Hank Snow (host): Send Me the Pillow You Dream On
Skeeter Davis: Who's Gonna Tell Marie
Ray Pillow: That Ain't No Way to Treat My Heart
Riders In The Sky: How the Yodel Was Born
John Conlee: Common Man
Hank Snow: My Little Old Home Down in New Orleans

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Country Music Has Gone to Town
Wilma Lee Cooper: The Picture on the Wall
Jack Greene: There Goes My Everything/He Is My Everything
George Hamilton IV: Forever Young
The Whites: Doing it By the Book
Porter Wagoner: I'll Go Down Swinging

10:00: Little Debbie
Grandpa Jones (host): Better Time's A Comin'
Stonewall Jackson: Muddy Water
Jeannie Seely: One Step Away from Coming Home
Grandpa Jones: The Sweet Sunny South

10:15: Tennssee Pride
Roy Acuff (host): I'll Fly Away
Faron Young: It's 4 In the Morning/After The Loving/Hello Walls

10:30: Pet Milk
Ricky Skaggs (host): He Was On To Something
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Ricky Skaggs: Lovin' Only Me

10:45: B.C. Powder
Bill Anderson (host): Son of the South
Jim & Jesse: Dream of Me
Opry Square Dance Band/Stoney Mt. Cloggers: Rachel
Bill Anderson: Thank You Darling for Loving Me

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host): Frankie & Johnny
Jimmy Dickens: Me and My Big Loud Mouth
Justin Tubb: Keep Me From Blowing Away
John Conlee: Common Man/Rose Colored Glasses
Hank Snow: Whispering Rain

11:30: Creamette
Bill Monroe (host): Old Dangerfield
Mike Snider: Shuckin the Corn
Charlie Louvin: In the Pines
Riders In The Sky: When the Bloom is on the Sage
Charlie Walker: Deep Water
Bill Monroe: Darks as the Night; Blue As the Day

Boy, you look at these old line-ups and sometimes you wonder what has happened in the last 20 years.

Enjoy the Opry this weekend!!!


  1. I'm mostly content these days to sit back and enjoy the conversation of others here but I used to have a dog in this hunt and I'll agree with you on the quality of the shows these days. If I shelled out 70 bucks for an Opry show I would feel like I was being robbed. True, the OPRY is the show and not the specific performers on it but you've got to offer the audience SOMETHING for their money. The last time I was in the area and had the Opry on the radio, I pretty much turned it off after a few minutes. It was, quite frankly, tedious and dull (exceptions were Connie Smith, Riders in the Sky and Bill Anderson( and embarrassing. I mean, audience trivia during the commercials? That's scraping the bottom of the audience participation barrel if you ask me.

    As for the membership....what's the point of adding new "members" to the cast anymore? The line between members and guests is completely blurred. The Opry can't (or won't) use the membership it has and most nights there are more guests than actual Opry stars. The majority of the membership they have rarely, if ever, shows up and "Opry Member" seems to be more of a marketing hook than anything else these days. I've come to the conclusion that sooner or later the Opry will go the way of the Wheeling Jamboree...with a handful of opening acts and a headliner concert. When that happens, the Opry will cease to be unique, the audience will stop coming, and the Grand Ole Opry will fade into the history books.

  2. Rant, Part 2:

    The Opry has suffered from a lot of mismanagement over the years but there were always a lot of people involved that helped the show overcome the dumb mistakes that were made. To my way of thinking, the whole decline of the Opry started back in the mid 90's. In 1995, I was involved in the party that Gaylord Entertainment threw for its far-flung family of entertainment holdings. At the time, the company owned two theme parks (Nashville and San Antonio), the Opryland Hotel, the gold course, the General Jackson, the Opry, the Wildhorse Saloon franchise, the Ryman Auditorium, numerous television and radio stations, The Nashville Network, and multiple record labels, websites and music publishing companies. That same year, the company nearly bankrupted itself by trying to compete with Branson with the summer concert series....from which the parks never really recovered. Two years later, the San Antonio theme park, the television and radio stations (except WSM), record labels and publishing houses had all been sold or shuttered. That's when I bailed out. A few months later, Opryland closed, TNN went the way of the dinosaur, the Wildhorse Saloon franchise folded to one location and Nashville's tourist trade came to a screeching halt. I saw the storm clouds coming in 1997 and left the company just before the announcement of Opryland's closure was made. It still reigns as one of the most pointless, idiotic decisions ever made by the management of any company in history. Terry London should have been tarred and feathered for his role in nearly killing Nashville's tourist industry. While I admire the current management's attempts to keep the show alive I can't help but think that you've got too many people involved who either don't understand the Opry and its history or don't really care. If you were just a casual observer you would get the impression that nothing of any significance happened at the Opry House before Taylor Swift set foot on the stage for the first time. Ernest Tubb? Bill Monroe? Pee Wee King? Who are they? Minnie Pearl? Isn't she the woman who makes pre-show announcements? There's no real sense of history anymore. The parent company isn't even an entertainment company anymore. It's now a real estate holding company that doesn't even manage their own hotels anymore, and I imagine the Opry's bottom line tends to make the bean counters who run the place turn a little green around the gills.

    There are certain things that I would rather remember the way they were. The Opry is one of those things. Time marches on but you can't take my memories away from me. I'm glad I was around at a time when the Opry was still an important part of country music. I got to see and meet Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, The Duke of Paducah, Curly Fox, Grandpa Jones, Marty Robbins, Kitty Wells, Grant Turner and so many of the others that are all but forgotten. I'm glad I can still hear Bill Anderson, Bobby Osborne, Connie Smith and Jimmy Dickens when I turn the show on. But the rest of the train has left the station and I'm perfectly content to stay behind.

    And that ends my rant. Let the slings and arrows fly! :P

    BTW, if I were voting for the Hall of Fame: The Browns, Ronnie Milsap and Dallas Frazier or Bob McDill would be my picks. It's always fun to see how it actually turns out. Last year, all three inductees were on my radar but none of them made the final cut which shows how in tune I am!

  3. Byron and Barry, I can't improve upon you, but I'll blather on anyway.

    We all know that the Opry can't be what it was. The world has changed. The performers who made it what it was are gone. It should not be a prisoner of tradition, but it needs to have respect for tradition. All of the talk of tradition is just that: talk. Management would be thrilled if every senior member--and that includes Jimmy Dickens--stayed home and they could just program two hours of whoever is big now on country radio.

    I've often said that we tend to forget that Dee Kilpatrick faced a lot of criticism in the late 1950s for bringing in the Kershaws and the Everlys, and cutting the string bands from four to two. But he kept the string bands and when he added those younger acts, he added other younger acts that were truly country, like Porter Wagoner and Carl Butler. There's a world of difference today.

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    Splendid comments, all.

    Barry, I appreciate the insider info on Gaylord. It makes the picture that much clearer. It was a dark day when the Opry star was hitched to that outfit.

    Like Barry, I usually can't take more than a few minutes of the Opry. Like country radio. A couple of weeks ago I identified another of the things -- besides the crappy acts and music, the drum machine on the square-dance numbers -- that accounts for my visceral unhappiness.

    Except for Mike Snider -- whose absence these days has been noted -- the show has gotten so damn STUFFY. Just listen to the solemn, self-conscious "patter" from hosts, guests and announcers. You'd think they were all in formal dress, holding forth at some awards show.

    Where is the fun, the cutting up of old? Even oldtimers who should know better -- Jim Ed, Jeannie Seely -- are infected. The rare attempt at humor sounds forced and is usually unfunny.

    I say put everybody back in rhinestones or overalls and tell them not to get above their raisin'!

  5. Barry, as always, thanks for the comments. You always bring much insite into the discussion.

  6. I would also like to thank Barry for his insight. As much as I liked Mr. Acuff it always bothered me that he seemed to favor Ed Gaylord so much. Maybe that was just conforming to the boss, I'd rather think so.

    Larry Gatlin doesn't make my top ten list of male country performers but I have enjoyed many things he has done or written over the years. For those Hank Snow fans, a song he wrote called "Every time I leave Her" was on one of Hank's early 70 LP's. Anyway, I have been catching some of the Opry Country Classic shows with Larry hosting and even though sometimes he is a little over the top he keeps it lively and funny and the crowd seems to laugh a lot. Not exactly the Opry of old we are all lamenting but a little looser than the Friday and Saturday shows.

    I don't know how the staff at the Opry is paid, Barry might have some insight on that. However, looking at these old lineups you can see and we all remember the shows running over. If the feeling was right and the crowd was into it they'd do another song or two to three. That only happens today if the house is packed with fans for Carrie, Blake or one of the other new rarely shows.(I know, Carrie is there regular by today's standards). Is that because of overtime or just some bean counters idea that if the show runs more than two hours our profit margin per ticket slips. Not having a second show eliminates the excuse of being polite to the second crowd. So, why can't the show be a little more loose and let the artists talk to each other and do some spontaneous things like they used to and if it runs 15/30 minutes over so what?

    I am having a hard time considering the time effort and money required to go to the Opry now days. On many nights I think I could go to the local club or bar and see a better or similar show for a lot less. As Bryon says, one thing that is a draw for a loyal fan is just the excitement of being in the house when the big red curtain goes up. But is it worth it these days?

    Fred, I hear you, I missed Tater the other night just because I couldn't stand to listen to what came before. I find myself listening through the archives on WSM Online so I can skip the noise!

    Knightsville, IN

  7. I think we have had some lineups posted about this time in '91 before because I think I have mentioned this. The Monday previous to this show Hank Snow had gone to Cincinnati and had eye laser surgery. If he had not had laser and had a traditional eye surgery he had expected to be in the hospital 8 to 10 days. After this, he wore those darker glasses on stage and often explained that he wasn't trying to be cool, that he had issues with his eyes. I know that when I was there in 1992 I felt funny taking photo's and using my flash knowing he had eye issues.

    Just an insignificant tidbit!

    Knightsville, IN

  8. I was just reviewing Barry's comments again and thought of something else. I agree that the audience participation with the trivia is a top notch time killer. Lets see how much of a fool Bubba can make of himself dancing to one of Brad Paisley's teenage party songs. Or if Bubett knows which decade Alan Jackson did a song, was it 1972, 1982 or 1992? And, why do I care that someone on Facebook likes a non country non Opry performer or their favorite TV show or star.

    Answer, we are becoming a society who looks inward to ourselves, what makes us feel good, all about ME. So, I like to see my face, or other things, on Facebook, I like to hear my name on the radio or TV or just about anywhere. I want everyone to know who I am, I'm here, I'm somebody. In other words, all the social media junk. Therefore, the Opry management and and consultants see this as the way to be hip and let the audience have their five minutes of fame. I even see now where they are using print space in the programs to announce fan birthday's and anniversaries and hard telling what else. How about using a little of that space on the history of the Opry. But, that might limit history picture book sales, on the other hand, it might sell a few.

    We are all fighting time here like that Ray Price song he did back in 2002 and performed on stage pretty regular after that. It's funny but I'm guessing that the values and character of most of those who read or post here are not too far apart. With that in mind, our world is changing and a lot of things we value, appreciate and respect are not by many of the people in charge or control of things today. Like someone posted a few weeks back, we must not be putting enough money where our mouth is.

    I think I've said enough for today.

    Knightsville, IN

  9. Fred, Bismarck:

    Couldn't agree more with Jim about our "me" orientation. And the content of such as Facebook and Twitter is so vacuous. There's no "there," there.

    However, I can't blame ourselves for "not putting enough money where our mouth is."

    I think the fans used to put up respectable, if not huge, money for minority musics such as country and jazz. In his bio of E.T., Ronnie Pugh said E.T. used to sell about 24,000 copies of each album. This was enough for Decca for a long time. They made a modest profit, E.T. made a buck or two, and everyone was happy. The big bucks obviously came from other acts, but the label could live with lesser returns from different acts that had helped put the label on the map back when.

    Then the big-bucks guys took over, and nothing less than a million seller was worth their time. Emmylou Harris was impolitic enough to say, of one of her country albums, "Who cares if it sells 2 million copies or only 250,000?"

    She found out, as she has been drifting from one minor label to another for 25 years.

    Well, we're a minority music -- now, more than ever -- and the little labels are the place for us. Our purchases, however, are unlikely to impress the Opry management, which is now in the same camp as the marketers who now control the radio stations. We can follow our hearts -- or the Opry.

    I know where I'm going. (Just yesterday, I took delivery on 3 pounds of Bob Wills music, the Bear Family "Faded Love" box set. What, me worry?)

  10. Every week, the Opry used to open up with old-time music, which was also played periodically through the program. At the same time, it accommodated progressive country performers like Johnny Cash and Bob Luman. It featured great bluegrass as well as Nashville Sound-driven acts. These days, I've noticed that each act seems to have the same generic sound, aside from the few bluegrass acts and Jimmy C. Newman, whose band still retains its 1970s and 1980s feel (As an asidethat he himself sings better on his Cajun songs rather than his country songs). Authentic old-time music is almost nonexistent. I really don't know what the Opry is trying to do with itself, but if I ever get down to Nashville from up here in the Northeast, I probably wouldn't go to the Opry unless they were to eliminate a good-sized portion of the modern country and make itself more diverse.

  11. It is easy to be sentimental about such things as music from a bygone era. But that is not the issue, in my opinion, about what has happened in recent years to the Opry. The philosophy of the "powers that be" of the Opry is much different than in past years. Their driving is seemingly to be "cutting edge," as they see it. Each week they ration out just enough of the Opry veterans, in hopes of making everyone happy. It seems that in years gone by that the philosophy was to present a well-rounded show of country and bluegrass music. Also, there was a regular dose of gospel music. Their aim was to provide entertainment. While the younger crowd may get excited today about the "big name" that is occasionally brought to the Opry, the rest of the fans are usually left to shake their heads at the current direction of the Opry. I find myself wondering how many of the veterans are available each week, and are seldom called. This is the tragedy. I tend to think there are some veteran performers who begin to think each Monday, that maybe this will be the week they will be called to perform on the Opry, but then there is not a call. How sad! Until things change, if they ever change at the Opry, we should be very thankful for the two hour block on Saturday night from 10:00 - midnight of "The Golden Era Of the Grand Ole Opry" and for Eddie Stubbs' program on Monday - Thursday nights.

  12. Enjoyed the reference to Deford Bailey and Alcyone Beasley. Back in 1974 I had the good fortune to attend Deford's 75th birthday party at the retirement home in Nashville where he lived. Deford performed, and so did Alcyone Beasley and Herman Crook and Charlie McCoy. Quite a thrill. Somewhere I have pictures of the party.

  13. Oldtimeopry here... been a while since I've posted but like others enjoy reading the blog since it's the only real link to the Opry most of us know and love and the updates on the veterans. For what it's worth, my two sense: I'm not a Pete Fisher fan, but I also wouldn't want to be in his shoes. This problem is much, much, much deeper than what we now see as today's Opry. There's absolutely no doubt this weekend's show is not worth $69 -- heck I'd be hard pressed to pay $25 for such a weak show. I give Fisher props for at least trying to keep the Opry relevant. The sad fact is, it's not and it probably won't ever be again unless they give up this vicious circle Fisher has created now...

    I once heard a pretty good line: "when you sleep with a hooker, you should expect to get the crabs." That's what the Opry has done. The record companies figured out 20 years ago they could start selling country music the way they sell dog food. It's all about "focus grouping" the artists and songs to appeal to the most lucrative demographic -- in this case, mostly tweens to 20s young women. What songs appeal to this audience: beer drinking, dirt roads, having a party, facebooking, etc. They have no experience/interest in traditional country song themes (honky tonks, divorce, cheating, family, faith, trains etc.) What else appeals to this demographic: young, good looking people, doesn't matter if they can write songs, play instruments, or even SING. Finally, think about the musical influences this young demographic has a result of their parents who grew up in the 70s and 80s, who weren't country music fans. The parents weren't listening to Haggard and Jones (let alone Tubb & Acuff)... they were listening to Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson etc. Want evidence? Watch CMT Crossroads.

    The Opry is caught in the crosshair. Be honest. The foundational artists of the show were/are people who had their success in the 1940s, 1950s & 1960s. They appeal to people in their 60s & 70s. People like me (in my early 40s) grew up with country artists in the 80s & 90s but I got a lot of my foundational country from my parents. So while I cut my teeth on people like Jones, Lynn, Pride, Skaggs & Travis, I also have a healthy appreciation (thanks to my parents) for people like Tubb, Snow, Haggard, Willie, Robbins, Jim Ed & Helen. The problem is, the artist of the 70s 80s & 90s basically abandoned the Opry.

    If the Opry wants to be relevant again, they need to quit focusing on the tween-20s demographic and start focusing on people like me -- 35 to 50. I have on good authority the Opry is scheduling a lot of these unheard of young artists because the record companies are trying to get them exposure. In return, the record company is buying up the Opry tickets which is good for the bottom line but it's terrible strategy for sustaining the show over the long haul.


    So what could the Opry do to appeal to people in my demographic and create a long-term strategy for moving the show forward?

    Give me a show that's actually worth $69. I don't have any problem if they want to have a new artist on every week but you don't build a show around someone who has no name recognition, just like you can't build a show around an artist in their 70s or 80s no matter how beloved they are. What you can do is give both the newcomers and the veterans equal time on the show and balance it out with some star power that appeals to someone in my demographic. What if, for example, the Opry went back to the format they used for years and years and years -- Saturday Night is the big show (remember, even Hank Snow refused to play the Friday Night Opry until the 80s because Saturday was THE Opry.) When did it historically run? 8 p.m. to midnight -- which is still prime listening time on Satellite radio for the Eastern & Central time zones and also helps with the West coast which now starts getting the show at 6 p.m. A four hour show gives the Opry the flexibility to create some variety. Focus on giving us good, quality music. Give us some of the great traditional Texas country artists, the Americana artists and the bluegrass groups that are making inroads on the circuit. Give us more veterans who sing two songs and yes, give us some of these new mainstream artists. Take one of the half hour segments and make it marquee like the Prince Albert portion was. Imagine if the Opry negotiated five of its most recognizable members to rotate hosting a half hour each week like Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley. Would I go to the Opry if I always knew no matter what one of these five people would be on the show? You bet. And would I pay $69? I paid $130 two years ago to see Dolly in concert. And work to book a recognized legend and an up and coming act each week on this portion.

    The Opry can't afford a four hour show with a marquee portion? How about they quit diluting their brand. If it's too expensive to operate one four hour show, try dropping the Tuesday Night Opry or Country Classics and make Saturday THE must see/listen to show. It's basic knowledge that if you want to create buzz, start selling out shows. Work on filling those 4,400 seats once a week and see what kind of buzz it generates.

    Armchair quarterback, right? Now back to reality: unless Opry management gets some new direction and starts thinking strategically, I've got no interest anymore in the shows they're putting on. I was in Nashville for the first time in five year in 2013. TWICE and I couldn't make myself pay to go to the Opry because of the weak show and the price they wanted either time. As an Opry fan, that hurts me to say but that's reality.


  15. Oldtimeopry I like it!

    I'm not sure which it is but I think that the current management doesn't understand the concept the Opry ran on for 60 years or they do but don't care and are trying to distance themselves from the past. I have said here many times that I can accept that the new music I may not like has to have a place on the Opry. But it shouldn't become the Opry when there are so many good performers old and new still making all varieties of music that made the Opry great. There should be room for all but that is not or soon will not be what we have.

    I agree and have stated before that I'm not a fan of Fisher or his teams management of the Opry but I also feel it is a tough spot to be in.

    I find your insider info on the record companies interesting and believable. Never thought of it. Maybe that is why they can take the less than full house nights in between the sellouts with the superstars maybe once a month.

    I have enjoyed some of the performances on the Tuesday and Thursday night shows but only because it takes all four nights to even come close to getting two hours of good Opry show you used to get 6-8 of each week. I too would rather see them promote the Saturday night show as THE Grand Ole Opry. Back on April 1 Jim Ed Brown actually did five songs. Not sure if he just took the liberty or was told he could. Bonnie and her husband were there but she did not sing.

    A little of topic here but as I was comparing notes and looking back to 1991 I saw where the Sally Mountain Show performed on the Opry. That was Rhonda Vincent and family. They may have been there before but that was 23 years ago. Rhonda has become a top female performer and award winner in bluegrass and played the Opry SO many times. HOW can she not be asked to be a member. She lets it be known that it is a dream and has had the support of so many at the Opry.. It just makes no sense. There must be some real politics involved.

    Knightsville, IN

  16. Fred, Bismarck:

    If oldtimeopry is correct, and the record companies are indeed subsidizing the Opry as it is, there is probably little to be done.

    On the other hand, the record companies themselves may be on their way out, given the inclination of their favorite demographic to get their music elsewhere. Could be their ability to keep sending the Opry wonderful acts like Mark Wills and so many others will be derailed.

    What could Pete Fisher do instead, if he really wants to keep the Opry (and himself) in business? I'm a broken record on this subject, and will not repeat (exactly) my old remedies.

    What if:

    Instead of trying (unsuccessfully) to keep up with cool, the Opry went the other way, committing full-time to the one that brought 'em ... hardcore. Do it Hee-Haw style, with Riders in the Sky, Tennessee Mafia, Old Crow, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Gillian Welch and a dozen other modern REAL COUNTRY ACTS I could name (and whose CDs I buy). This, I believe, would not only be a media attention grabber but a jolt of energy for the show as it aspires to its 100th year.

    You know who's still on the air, bringing in country acts that the Opry mostly spurns? Garrison Keillor! Real country is cool, if the Opry could only detach itself from the marketer prostitutes long enough to realize it!

  17. Fred, Bismarck:

    While I'm saving country music (and, needless to say, drinking beer):

    For as long as I've been a fan, from 1954, there's been this contingent trying to save country from being HICKEY. Even the sainted Ernest Tubb wanted to shed the "hillbilly" label. Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley and so many others tried to save us from ourselves by smoothing the music out until it was almost unrecognizable.

    But you know what? There was considerable sophistication in the lyrics of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams (ably assisted by Fred Rose), Floyd Tillman, Merle Travis, Cindy Walker, E.T. himself, and dozens of dozens of others. Just listen to some of the stuff from before Elvis!

    What's HICKEY is the brain-dead alleged love songs that have been standard country fare on the radio for decades. Dressed up with strings and choruses, to be sure ... but with the originality and IQ of an teenage pimple. This is "country music" that deserves to be made fun of. The old stuff in rhinestones, coveralls and blacked-out teeth -- but with real musicianship behind it -- was sophisticated in comparison!

  18. Also to follow up on the comments:

    Back in the day, the "Friday Night Opry" was actually called the "Friday Night Opry" and Saturday's show was the "Grand Ole Opry." It was advertised that way and even the announcers used those words. Now, while the announcers will still call it the "Friday Night Opry", the artists that are scheduled that night pretty much refer to it as the "Opry" and even in most of the marketing, there is no distinction between the shows. And it was not only Hank Snow who rarely did the Friday Night Opry until very late in his career, but also Porter Wagoner, Bill Anderson and a host of others. The Friday line-ups tended to be pretty generic in what was scheduled. About the only "name" performer who preferred the Friday show over Saturday was Minnie Pearl, as she did Ralph Emery's show on Friday night and would just go over and do the Opry show.

    One thing that I used to find a little funny with the Friday Night Opry was that the last segment was not live on WSM but was taped and used as the "turnaround" show on Saturday. For that last Friday segment, the Friday Night Opry designation was dropped and suddenly the announcers and everyone actually called it the Grand Ole Opry. But just for that half hour.

    As far as record companies paying for new artists to be on the Opry, as oldtimeopry said, yes that does take place. Not only that, but also in the payment to the artists. While everyone thinks of the Opry as paying the artists the union scale to be on the program, many make substantially more than that. That practice goes back to Roy Acuff. And let's not forget the role of GAC in this discussion. While they were televising their hour of the Opry each week, GAC decided what artists would appear, not the Opry. And they were also paid much more. I am sure that it has been noticed by all that many of the bigger name Opry members and guest artists have basically stopped coming to the Opry now that the television exposure has ended. Newer artists are easier to book for a radio program as are those from "Nashville" with the cross promotion that the Opry does. Now that the filming for the season has ended for the television show, I would expect the number of stars from that show to decrease and with the real possibility of the show being cancelled, we not see any of them much anymore.

    This whole issue would end if those who are members, and we are talking those who joined the show in the last 25 years, would actually show up. Those members would be welcomed each week at the Opry. But without those artists appearing and the refusal of management to schedule the veterans more than a minimum number, we are left with the non-members performing much more than Opry members. That will not change until management gets commitments from the Opry members and enforces those commitments.

  19. Even in TNN days it was so frustrating each week to see who was going to appear on TV and then more often than not find that the big current name star was just too busy to stay for the second show even when they may only be there that one time a year for the prime TV exposure. In the meantime, any loyal member or guest that might be there couldn't appear on TV but would do both shows. I'm pretty sure folks like Ray Price, Mel Tillis, and Gene Watson fell into that category on occasion. They would be there when Garth, Travis or Alan was there and never be on TV.

    I always enjoyed getting to see my favorites on TV since I could only go to the Opry about twice a year but I really didn't like it being on TV. I always thought it upset the flow, gave viewers a false impression and maybe caused people to stay home since they could see some of it on TV.

    I always found the taping of that last Friday segment a little discouraging because it was often edited for time and you missed some of the things folks like Johnny Russell did. I know many here are Hank Snow fans and he distinctly specified that you were at the Friday night Opry when welcoming fans or guests on his show. "And now back to the Friday night Opry, we have an old song we hope you folks will remember, Kayton if you will please"

    And Fred, I feel like I'm beating a dead horse a lot too but you are right about the hickey image thing. When Byron posted Steve Buchanan's article a few weeks back that was one the things that got my attention most when he was commenting about the Nashville TV show, that they were trying to change that image, at least that is what I read between the lines.

    Knightsville, IN

  20. All wonderful and enlightening. Thanks.

    I've said this before: times change, and we all change with them. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would spend most of my working day on the computer, I'd have laughed. Remember that the Solemn Old Judge made Dr. Humphrey Bate adopt a country name and wear overalls and the like. It was a different time, and that works today only for certain acts. Changes in society from technology to urbanization (sorry to sound like the silly history professor I am) mean that the rural folks on the farm no longer get their country music and other information only from the radio. So the Opry does have to change with the times, too. The problem is that the Opry is not changing wisely with the times, and the current management is destroying its own foundation.

    I love the Prince Albert-style suggestion. I've thought the Opry could really overcome a lot if it simply did this: go back to 2 1/2 hour shows at least on Friday and have a 30-minute concert at the end. Pay the performer more, yes, but vary it from guests to members. It might be worth a try.