Friday, October 3, 2014

Breaking News-Little Big Town Newest Opry Members

On the Friday Night Opry tonight, Reba McEntire surprised the audience and came out to ask Little Big Town if they would like to become the newest members of the Opry. Of course, they said yes and the induction will be in 2 weeks. For some of us, this isn't really a surprise as it was speculated several weeks ago when the Opry promoted the group for a number of appearances.

As far as Reba, glad that she found her way to the Opry house for the first time since 2009. Now if they could only get her back to sing!!!

Anyways, congratulations to Little Big Town. I hope that they will be loyal to the Opry and reliable members.


  1. No surprise here, Byron ~ I am very happy for them but then again, no matter who the Opry invites to become a member, I'm happy for, not every one will become a member of that exclusive club.


  2. Here's hoping, and congratulations to Little Big Town.

  3. I guess we will see what happens but I feel there were better choices out there (Rhonda Vincent, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers etc).

  4. No issues with little big town. I like there song pontoon. However, why reba? Is there some connection?


  5. Not a LBT fan here. The song "Pontoon" represents everything I hate about modern country music. However, they are popular and seem to be making regular appearances, so good for them. Nice to see Reba back on the Opry, as well. Before you throw her under the bus for not making regular appearances, has anyone thought that she may have not been asked to appear? Obviously she was asked to show up last night, and agreed to do so.

    What benefit is to someone of Reba's status to appear regularly on the Opry anymore? I pose the same question for her fellow icons Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Alan Jackson, and Garth Brooks. Yes, in the past, it was quite an honor to them to appear with the legends of country music like Roy, Porter, and Minnie. Now, most nights they would be appearing with lackluster talent, the C-list stars from "Nashville", and those random artists the Opry likes to book who have yet to even have a charting single.

  6. From Anonymous in PA: Agree with Ralph's comments.

  7. For those interested, counting last night, Little Big Town has appeared on the Opry 6 times this year. Last year it was less than 3, while in 2012 it was 3. Granted that they were not members during this time and their appearances were based totally on being asked.

    As far as Reba, as mentioned her last Opry appearance was in 2009 when the Opry added an extra segment with her as the only artist scheduled. If memory serves me right, without looking it up, she did 3 songs that evening. Since Reba joined the Opry in November 1985, she has made 13 appearances. That is easily the worst record of any Opry member. One of the reasons she does not come to the Opry, and she has stated this, is that the Opry barn backdrop no longer fits the image that she is trying to project.

    As far as Opry members not appearing on a regular basis, yes that is one of the realities with today's Opry. Doesn't mean some of us like it, but that is the way it is. Since Pete Fisher became the Opry's general manager in 1999, he has asked each new member to commit to 10 appearances each year. Of those he has brought on, on the average, Trace Adkins, Terri Clark, Charlie Daniels, Del McCoury, Craig Morgan, Oak Ridge Boys, Mel Tillis Josh Turner and Carrie Underwood have met that. Those who have not include Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood and Blake Shelton, just to name a few. Too early to tell on Old Crow Medicine Show. If you remember, after Hal Durhan became the Opry's general manager, and continuing through Bob Whittaker, members were brought on with no commitment to number of appearances. That would be the group that includes Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Reba McEntire among others. Probably the best in that group at appearing on the Opry are Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites.

    Yes, it is true that the Opry really does nothing for the career of the superstars. Those days are over. But it would be nice, as members, that they would show up a few times a year and support the show. Imagine if each active member did that, what a great show it would be each week. In my opinion, if you are not going to come back at all, then it is time to give up that membership. And no, unlike the 4 Guys or Holly Dunn, the Opry is not going to fire Reba. But, it would be nice if she would come back sometime soon and actually perform on the show.

  8. re: Reba - "One of the reasons she does not come to the Opry, and she has stated this, is that the Opry barn backdrop no longer fits the image that she is trying to project. "

    What is your source for this?

    1. As I re-read your comment, Byron, I have a 2nd question. Would it be possible to share the dates of her first 10 appearances as an Opry member? I know about the 2000, 2009 and most recent of course, but I'm a little stunned that her attendance as an actual member is that low.

  9. From my perspective, membership in the Opry is not simply an honorary membership. The Opry is a live performance show. By making you a member, there is SOME expectation to actually APPEAR and PERFORM on the show. If you want membership in a live performance show, you should actually participate and perform there.

    Just imagine if the Opry's members each performed FOUR times a year. How much better would the show be then? There is no reason each member could not contribute to four appearances a year. That's once every three months. If you can't manage that, then you should not accept membership or continue as part of the show.

    Reba has to be the worst Opry member in the last 30 years. By Byron's count, she has averaged LESS THAN ONE appearance a year in the nearly thirty years that she has been a member. By the way, Byron DID post Reba's attendance record some time back, and it is abysmal. I, myself, have been keeping track of the Opry's weekly performances since 2001, and Reba has performed on the show LESS THAN FIVE times since then. Literally, a handfull of appearances in 13 years!

    If Reba and other Opry members cannot find the time to appear at a minimum of 3-4 times in a calendar year, they should have respect for the institution and resign their membership. Obviously, health issues and other mitigating circumstances are valid reasons not to appear. But, if you are healthy, active, still touring, etc., you need to find your place of membership at least once a quarter!

  10. Kevin, you asked and I am happy to pass along the information. Reba actually has 2 Opry induction dates. She was actually asked to join, and inducted, during the taping of the Opry's 60th anniversary television special. That filming took place on November 21, 1985. However, the special did not air on network television until January 14, 1986, which is when it was publically announced. In the older editions of the Opry's Picture History book, the January date was listed, while in the most recent books, it has been the November date.

    As far as the actual dates that Reba has done the Opry since joining the cast, here they are:

    Friday January 17, 1986-1 show
    Friday September 19, 1986-2 shows that night
    Friday August 21, 1987-2 shows that night
    Saturday February 4, 1989-2 shows that night
    Saturday March 7, 1992-2 shows that night
    Saturday September 28, 1996-2nd show only that night
    Saturday January 15, 2000-2 shows that night
    Saturday May 9, 2000-1 show

    And that my friend adds up to the 13 shows since she joined. I don't have the shows that she was at before she became an Opry member, however, she did make her Opry debut on September 17, 1977.

    1. Thanks! As scarce as her appearances are/were, it's strange how she found time for a few during her "peak" in the 90's.

      Is there any chance you could share your source for the "Opry no longer fits her image" quote?

  11. The legends appeared regularly alongside others whose star might have shined a little dimmer, with no real benefit to their career. Roy Acuff even had a chance to move to Hollywood and have a career in film, but he didn't go because he felt the Opry needed him more. Some of these modern stars need to think more about giving back to and investing in the industry that made them who they are and not so much about what's in it for them. The future of country music and the Grand Ole Opry is totally in their hands at this point. I think this is what truly separates the legends from most of today's stars. The legends showed up and presented themselves in a manner that inspired and helped the younger up and comers, which allowed the torch to be passed when the time came. Just what kind of industry have these newer stars handed off to the young generation? I don't think a single one of them can say it has a stronger future now than when it was handed off to them. Investment in the future is very important, whether it be in business, agriculture, or simply changing oil in one's vehicle. Little investment leads to little or no future and you truly reap what you sow in life.

  12. Bear in mind that Mr. Acuff actually did leave the Opry for close to a year, that Eddy Arnold never came back after leaving (complete with the snarky comment that if he supposedly needed the Opry to have a career, what did it ever do for the Fruit Jar Drinkers?), that Jim Reeves had left, and that Faron Young had said that he was losing too much money playing the Opry by giving up half of his Saturday nights each year. But then I recall that Mr. Acuff came back, and that Faron might have had a happier later career if he had had the Opry to go to each week, and that Earl Scruggs and Kitty Wells apparently asked to come back and were turned down (and we can debate forever whether they should have been turned down).

    Del Reeves once said in an interview that the idea was that if you gave up some of your weekends as a younger performer when you could be out making more money, you'd have a place to go when that time passed. I am with him. The current regime doesn't think it's best to rely too heavily on the older members. That also makes sense, but they have taken it too far. To put it another way, Stonewall Jackson clearly isn't welcome at the Opry or doesn't feel welcome, and George Hamilton IV was nice enough to show up each week to give backstage tours but wasn't then out on stage? What?

  13. Fred, Bismarck:

    A mischievous thought popped into my head as I reviewed this thread. What if the Opry and the no-show performers have struck on the perfect deal -- one that gives each a trophy to hang on the wall at no cost to either? (Performers don't have to give up 10 Saturday nights, and the Opry doesn't have to pay them.)

  14. Fred, you've figured the 'Opry game plan perfectly.
    Big names become members, then ads featuring them are shown on TV, and the average person thinks if they go to the 'Opry they will probably see Garth, Reba, Carrie or Brad.
    My friends always ask "was Garth there?" He cried when Johnny Russell asked him to join, not sure he's been back since.
    Attenders might get to see Carrie (my 'Opry hero because she's a big star, sings about baptism ("‘Something in the Water") and routinely shows up to perform at the 'Opry!), but I think you've figured out the game.

  15. I agree with Nat, I think Fred has nailed it. Sounds like a great deal for both the current management and stock holders and the current stars. But, what about those who might follow. Reminds me of what Travis(Lawrence Harvey) said about Jim Bowie(Richard Widmark) in John Wayne's version of the Alamo, "Cut and Run" indicating Bowie was a glory fighter and not in it for posterity and the future of Texas!

    And as I have said before, it is advertising fraud, these Opry moments or photo op's that give the impression you will see Garth, Reba, and all the others biggies if you just come to see us. And, those who love the old or traditional acts think they are all withered away and real country is dead. Just like Nat said.

    Sadly, it is we die hard Opry fans who are paying the biggest price here and now. Anyone have statistics on how many of today's Opry audience return for a second visit? I'm guessing it is a small number unless the advance notice of folks like Carrie Underwood appearing draws repeat customers.

    One other thought that keeps running through my mind. I think most would agree that country has always been touted as the music of the common man. It reflected what middle America was going through, love, tough times, out of work, hard work, working the land, losing loved ones, struggling with temptation and so on. I hold that country is still the music of the common man. Look at much of the population today, party time baby. Hard work.....or hard playing? Stand up for what you believe in....or do many even know what they believe in other than what a few in the media or political office tell us we must believe in. My point is, I don't like the way our society has changed and maybe that is why I am having trouble liking today's country music. It's still the music of the common man and what goes on around us but the common man has changed. And maybe the Opry is following right along as it should. Maybe I'm the one with the problem. But.....I don't intend to change, more tolerant maybe, but not change!

    Okay, I'm ready for it on that last one. What are the opinions?


    Knightsviile, IN

  16. Jim, without taking a political position, I'm going to suggest a change that is an important part of why the Opry has changed and, yes, has had to change--just not to the degree that management has been systematically destroying it.

    When Garth Brooks did a network television special in the early 1990s, he began it by saying something like this: "This is a TV show featuring country music--NOW WAIT! That doesn't mean haystacks and overalls." Well, that's good and bad, but that's the change. If you think about the original Opry, even into the 1950s, no television. Today, with so much television, and add in the internet, society itself isn't necessarily better or worse but different. I tell my students that radio was as revolutionary to their grandparents and great-grandparents as the internet was to them when they discovered it.

    So it used to be that if you were a rural southerner, and thus part of the Opry's original audience, really, then you didn't SEE other ways of life--and even the most educated, urban and urbane city dweller didn't have access to the rest of the world in the way that we do today. The same kinds of entertainment that were the original foundation of the Opry can't be all that the Opry offers.

    Yes, I disagree with the Opry offering none of it. With Earl White's death, the last member of the string bands is gone from the Opry. Mike Snider is a throwback in a lot of ways, but he seems to have become the Opry's version of Jimmy Hoffa or Amelia Earhart. I don't mind change. I mind a lack of respect for what we're changing from.

    A thought related to that. Comedians used to wear the "rube garb," as it was called. Archie Campbell didn't like it, and he noticed how beautifully Ferlin Husky dressed, and decided to wear a sports jacket. It worked. After Johnny Sullivan died, Dave Hooton wore the "rube garb" with Oscar Sullivan but finally talked him into changing--yet when Oscar appeared on one of the Country's Family Reunion shows a few years back, he wore the old outfit. We can have some of that but I also can respect something that Bill Anderson said: that he feels he should be dressed better than the best-dressed person in his audience, because he should respect that they have paid money to see him. Now if only others would take that approach and get rid of the T-shirts and torn jeans ....

  17. Fayfare, Kevin has asked already but I too am curious -- what is the source of the quote attributed to Reba?

  18. Fred, Bismarck:

    I think Jim is right that the audience has changed in a very basic way. Values aside -- altho I see the same deterioration there as Jim does -- you can start with the basic shift from rural to urban that historian Bill Malone noted. Thomas Jefferson himself would have been happy to see some of the changes; for example, better roads and better medicine meant fewer children and birthing mothers dying, staples of the old country music.

    About folks who do remain in the country getting hooked up to satellite TV, TJ may have been less enthusiastic.

    Maybe some of us on this blog are dinosaurs. But what the hey -- you go home with the one that brung you, right?

    Michael, I think the "rube garb" was part of a schtick that was actually much more sophisticated than anything I see in today's country music, stage presence and overall showmanship. Everybody knew it was a put-on, and enjoyed it as such. Imagine Rod Brasfield in anything other than his oversized clothes. What if he had put on a sport coat with Archie Campbell? Would he have been as funny? Or would we have wanted Minnie Pearl in other than her puffy dress and crazy hat?

    To me, it beat the heck out of today's, "How y'all doin'?"

    Lonzo and Oscar after the death of Johnny Sullivan were pretty dismal, in my opinion.

  19. Fred, I don't disagree. Take Mike Snider, who looks like a "hick" but, as we know, is very shrewd in a lot of ways--and that was part of the shtick, too. But it also involves being a character--Archie didn't play a country "rube" in the way that Rod did.

    As for Lonzo and Oscar, we've often heard that nothing compares with brother harmony--the Louvins, the Wilburns, the Osbornes, the McReynolds, the Everlys, and to go back to the real beginnings, the Monroes and the Blue Sky Boys (and I've left out many). The same could be said of comedy timing. Rollin without Johnny couldn't be as funny. And it was a bit jarring in that the later version didn't and couldn't seem so silly wearing sports jackets. Again, portraying a character.

  20. As far as the Reba comment, if I remember right, she said this quite a few years back. It was not in an interview, just a comment that she made. If you remember when Reba first started out in the business, she did a lot of the "Rodeo" circuit and that was kind of what her image was. Then over the years, she transformed herself into more of a "glitzy" entertainer, going with a more formal and established look in her shows and her image. It was during that period that the she made that comment, and it was back when the Opry was promoting the red barn backdrop. And she did not say it in a negative way, just as a matter of opinion.

    Understand that I don't hold anything against Reba. She is an incredible talent. I just wished she did the Opry more often. Many times action speaks louder than words, and the fact that she has been at the Opry only 4 times since 2000 would seem to confirm what she said. I am sure that the Opry has reached out to her, as they do with all of its members, for appearances. But for whatever reason, they have failed to connect. The next real opportunity to spotlight Reba on the Opry, would be next year as it will be her 30th as an Opry member. Perhaps they can work something out so that she will be back.

  21. I did make a minor mistake on the Reba Opry dates. The final date should be 2009, not 2000. Sorry about that.

  22. Thanks, Fayfare, for the thorough answer. Much appreciated.