Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grand Ole Opry 10/3 & 10/4

Before getting into the Grand Ole Opry line-ups for this weekend, I just wanted pass along my thoughts on a couple of things. So far this year, the Opry has lost 2 of it's veteran, and more reliable members, Jimmy C Newman and George Hamilton IV. Now comes news from another of the Opry's veterans, as Jim Ed Brown announced this week that he has lung cancer. He will be not be performing for at least the next 4 months and who really knows after that. My thoughts and prayers go to Jim Ed and his family.

Add to that list Jimmy Dickens, who is basically week-to-week; Stu Phillips, who has battled some health issues; Jean Shepard who has missed a few shows this year; and Jesse McReynolds, who recently had some minor heart surgery, and you start to come to the realization that there are not many veteran Opry members left. If you were to be honest, the only ones who seem to be at the Opry on a regular basis are Bill Anderson, Bobby Osborne, Jeannie Seely and Connie Smith. I know Jan Howard and Stonewall Jackson would do more shows if asked, but that is not going to happen.

Where does that leave the Opry? Exactly where it is today, and that is shows with only a limited number of members scheduled. I know this is an old story, but of the Opry's 60+ members, you can really count on only 25 or so to actually fulfill the commitment of 10+ shows per year. That is less than half of the Opry's membership. Outside of Carrie Underwood, there is not a younger member that has joined in the past 10 years that has consistently met the goal.

In fact, of the members who have joined in the past 10 years or so, most of those who have fulfilled the membership commitments are those who are on the "backside" of their careers. Those would include Charlie Daniels, Del McCoury, Oak Ridge Boys and Mel Tillis. When you look at the younger names, it is obvious that Pete Fisher missed on Darius Rucker, Rascal Flatts and Blake Shelton, just to name a few. 

There seems to be this magical thought that Opry membership needs to stay around 60 or 65 members. Perhaps that is what needs to change. My idea would be to increase the number of Opry members by 10 or 15 and bring on those who would really support the show. I would break this number into 2 categories. The first would be performers who are on the "backside" of their careers, who don't travel so much, but still are big names that love to perform and have been regular guests on the Opry. I would suggest people such as Crystal Gayle, Gene Watson, Kathy Mattea, Restless Heart, Exile, Mark Wills, Lee Greenwood, T.G. Sheppard, Darryl Worley just to name a few. My other half would be young artists that while not having a hit, have been regular guests on the Opry. Names such as Elizabeth Cook, Mandy Barnett, Sarah Darling, Striking Matches, Chris Janson, and you get the idea. Then there are bluegrass acts such as Rhonda Vincent, Dailey & Vincent and The Grascals. If my math is right, that is 17 names right there. And I know there are others.

Now of course, this is assuming that the current management even wants to have Opry members. In the last 18 months, only Old Crow Medicine Show has joined the cast and that was a year ago. Perhaps they are happy with things the way they are. Is what we see on a Tuesday night and occasionally on Friday night, they way the show is headed? If it is, it would make me sad.

Yes, the Opry is no longer what it once was. When the last of the veterans is gone, who knows what will happen. With members not coming around all that often, it is no wonder there is no one to host segments. And to me, the segment hosts are one of the great traditions of the Opry.

As the Opry moves into it's 90th year, all we can do is hope.

As far as the Opry this weekend, on the surface it looks better than what we might see for the 89th birthday celebration next weekend. The Friday Night line-up is back to the traditional format, and it is a very solid line-up. Opry members Ricky Skaggs and Joe Diffie are scheduled, as is Mel Tillis and Riders In The Sky, who will perform both nights. Also scheduled on Friday are guest artists Little Big Town and Aaron Tippin. And it is nice to see Jesse McReynolds scheduled to return after his recent heart surgery.

Saturday's Grand Ole Opry, in addition to Riders In The Sky and Mel Tillis, will feature guest artists Kellie Pickler, Gary Mule Deer, Gretchen Peters and a return visit by Wade Hayes. And it is nice to see Ray Pillow scheduled again to host.

Friday October 3
7:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Aaron Tippin; Jeannie Seely; Jesse McReynolds
7:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; Mel Tillis
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Sara Haze; Joe Diffie
8:45: John Conlee (host); Little Big Town

Saturday October 4
7:00: Connie Smith (host); The Henningsens; (Jimmy Dickens?)
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Wade Hayes; Kellie Pickler
8:15: Ray Pillow (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Gary Mule Deer; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Jeannie Seely (host); Gretchen Peters; Mel Tillis

Just my opinion, but Friday looks like the better night of the 2, with 9 Opry members actually scheduled.
And now the Grand Ole Opry posted line-up from 5 years ago this weekend, October 2 & 3, 2009:

Friday October 2
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jo Dee Messina
7:30: Lorrie Morgan (host); Jean Shepard; Jim Ed Brown; Caitlin Lynn; Mike Snider
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Terri Clark
8:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Mindy Smith; Carrie Underwood

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jo Dee Messina
10:00: Lorrie Morgan (host); Jean Shepard; The Whites; Caitlin Lynn; Mike Snider
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Terri Clark
11:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Mindy Smith; Carrie Underwood

Saturday October 3
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Cherryholmes
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jack Greene; Grand Master Fiddle Champion; Gene Watson
8:00: Jean Shepard (host); Jesse McReynolds; Restless Heart; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Hal Ketchum (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; The Whites

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Cherryholmes
10:00: MIke Snider (host); Jack Greene; Grand Master Fiddle Champion; Gene Watson
10:30: Jean Shepard (host); Stonewall Jackson; Restless Heart; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Hal Ketchum (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; The Whites

From 10 years ago, the weekend of October 1 & 2, 2004:

Friday October 1
7:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jimmy C Newman; George Canyon
7:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; T.G. Sheppard
8:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jan Howard; Jack Greene; Alecia Nugent
9:00: Jean Shepard (host); Osborne Brothers; T. Bubba Bechtol
9:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Stonewall Jackson; Stevens Sisters; Chely Wright

Saturday October 2
1st show
6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Jim Ed Brown
7:00: LeAnn Rimes; George Canyon; Katrina Elam; The Mavericks; Riders In The Sky
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Walker; Jean Shepard; Osborne Brothers; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Jeannie Seely (host); T. Bubba Bechtol; Connie Smith

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Katrina Elam
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jimmy C Newman; Connie Smith; The Mavericks
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Charlie Louvin; LeAnn Rimes; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Billy Walker; Jean Shepard; George Canyon
11:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Ray Pillow; T. Bubba Bechtol

Finally, for this week's feature line-up, let's go to Saturday October 5, 1991. October is the month when the Opry celebrates with the birthday bash and this particular Saturday night was the Opry's 66th. The birthday celebration took place during the 7:30 segment hosted by Roy Acuff, and featured Connie Smith, Jim Ed Brown and Vince Gill. At the time, Vince was the Opry's newest member, joining in August of that year. The 7:30 segment was televised by TNN and I still have a tape of that segment. Many of you will remember it as when Vince Gill performed, "When I Call Your Name," Roy was sitting on a stool behind Vince and was quietly singing along to the song. A very memorable moment.

Here is the running order of the Opry from that night, Saturday October 5, 1991:

1st show
6:30: Bonanza
Bill Monroe (host); I'm Going Back to Old Kentucky
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Bill Monroe: Dark As the Night; Blue As the Day

6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Charlie Walker (host); Right or Wrong
George Hamilton IV; "Til I Can Gain Control Again
Hank Locklin: Send Me the Pillow You Dream On
Charlie Walker: Drinking Champagne

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host); Funky Grass Band
Wilma Lee Cooper: Ghost Train
Bill Carlisle: Leave That Liar Alone
Roy Drusky: The Last Farewell
Osborne Brothers: Kentucky

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host); Wabash Cannonball
Connie Smith: You've Got Me Right Where You Want Me
Jim Ed Brown: Just For Old Time Sake
Vince Gill: Little Liza Jane/When I Call Your Name
Roy Acuff & Cast: Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry
Roy Acuff: I Saw the Light

8:00: Martha White
Grandpa Jones (host); Applejack
Jim & Jesse: When I Dream About the Southland
The Whites: Doing It By the Book
Bill Anderson: Still/Southern Fried
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Sugar on the Goard
Grandpa Jones: Gooseberry Pie

8:30: Opryland
Hank Snow (host); Address Unknown
4 Guys: Way Down Deep
Del Reeves: A Dozen Pair of Boots
Mike Snider: Old Joe Clark/Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Jeannie Seely: When He Leaves You
Hank Snow: I'm So Glad I Got To See You Once Again

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host); You Gotta Have A License
Osborne Brothers: Tennessee Hound Dog
Ray Pillow: The Days When You Were Still In Love With Me
Vince Gill: Look At Us/Crying Holy Unto the Lord/When I Call Your Name
Porter Wagoner: Big Wind

10:00: Little Debbie
Grandpa Jones (host); Kitty Clyde
Skeeter Davis: The End of the World
Roy Drusky: Mississippi
Grandpa Jones: Tritzem Yodel

10:15: Tennessee Pride/Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host); Low and Lonely
Connie Smith: The Key's In the Mailbox/Satisfied
Roy Acuff & Cast: Happy Birthday Grand Ole Opry

10:30: Pet Milk
Del Reeves (host); Two Dollars in the Jukebox/A Dime at A Time/Looking at the World Through A Windshield
David Houston: I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
Del Reeves: Lay A Little Lovin' On Me

10:45: B. C. Powder
Bill Monroe (host); Mary Jane, Won't You Be Mine
Charlie Walker: Drinking Champagne
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Bill Cheatham
Bill Monroe: Wicked Path of Sin

11:00: Coca-Cola
Hank Snow (host); White Silver Sands
Bill Carlisle: Knothole
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells
4 Guys: We're Only Here For A Little While
Jim & Jesse: The Flower in the Desert
Hank Snow: That Lucky Old Sun

11:30: Creamette
Bill Anderson (host); Don't She Look Good
The Whites: Love Is A Rose
Jeannie Seely: I'll Be Around When It's Over
Mike Snider: Foggy Mountain Breakdown/Putting on the Dog
Bill Anderson: Deck of Cards

Enjoy the Opry this weekend!!!


  1. Even in 1991, the Opry seemed to be worth seeing. On a regular basis, old-time and classic country were juxtaposed with some of the most progressive acts. These days, you probably couldn't pay me to see an Opry show.

  2. From Anonymous in PA: Once again, agree with you 100 PERCENT !!!! Sad news about Jim Ed Brown. Again, holding my breath for the anniversary weekend; wish we were there THIS weekend - pretty good line-ups; at least more impressive that the last few weeks.

  3. Fred, Bismarck:

    Perhaps it's as simple as Fisher and Buchanan turning the Opry from a country show into more of an "Americana" venue? After all, the Opry was born with radio, and from at least the 1940s recruited the folks who were getting played on the radio.

    As we all know, to our sorrow, real country music doesn't get much airplay anymore -- or sell CDs in those carload lots that studio executives demand. I wouldn't know if and where Americana gets played -- or be interested in learning -- but I know some modernists prefer that term for the Carrie Underwood/Blake Shelton kind of bubblegum music that IS favored by "country" radio today.

    Put this with neither Fisher nor Buchanan being strongly grounded in country music -- as revealed by their own words -- and what's happening at the Opry becomes more explicable.

  4. Fred, Bismarck:

    An enduring mystery is why the Gaylord family, whose interest in the real article goes back to HEE HAW, should have let this happen. Perhaps, as happens with so many corporations, the original folks have passed from the scene, and the corporate inheritors are simply maximizing the business, as they see it.

  5. Amidst all this wailing and gnashing of teeth, I would submit that this weekend's shows feature the best lineups we've seen in a LONG time.
    I wish I could get away.
    I would gladly pay for either show, and Friday's the best lineup I've seen in months if not years.

  6. Friday's lineup looks great!

    If I were Pete Fisher, I would have Sturgill Simpson join. More people are starting to notice him and he isn't playing Nashville's game. I also would have Charlie Worsham join. He started playing banjo because of Mike Snider, he has a tattoo of a quote in Marty Stuart's handwriting on his wrist, and he isn't singing about trucks.


  7. Why on earth are they having Connie Smith & Ray Pillow host a segment on a night that Mel Tillis is scheduled? Connie is quite possibly the worst host ever. She has the personality of a bullfrog.

    1. Sometimes the truth isn't pleasant, Linda! You've been on my mind all day, Linda! Ha ha. Nothing like a fine Conway Twitty pun.

  8. Ray Pillow does a fine job hosting and singing, but 75% (and that may be a low estimate) of the audience will have absolutely no clue who he is.

  9. Byron mentioned Jim Ed's illness and the fact he has been told to back off of performing for a few months. For those who have not heard, he has officially released "In Style Again" as a single and will release a 13 track CD in January of new recordings. This includes one with Maxine and Bonnie and several others with quest artist. Hopefully he recovers and is able to go out and promote and enjoy the attention from a new project. He has been working on this for a while and it must be why he had backed off on performing "In Style Again". When I ask about it in May he just said "Yes, it has been a while since I did that one".

    I agree that the Friday night show in particular is looking good. Wish I could be there too!

    Knightsville, IN

  10. I'm 100% on board with Sturgill Simpson as an 'Opry member.
    I met him here in Bloomington Indiana after a show that had about fifty people, and he was really discouraged. He said he hadn't given in to the $%^&*s in Nashville, but his main accomplishment was the fact that his grandfather had seen him appear on the 'Opry.
    Then came Letterman, most promising Americana artist, Marty Stuart appearance, and he's flat getting with it now.
    I'm a fan.

  11. Stonewall Jackson is listed as performing on the Midnite Jamboree tomorrow night.........but not the Opry!

    Knightsville, IN

  12. I know as of a few days ago the Midnight Jamboree had no host listed. That must have been a last minute addition. I agree as to why is he not on the Opry.

    As far as segment hosts, I really don't have an issue personally with Connie Smith or Ray Pillow. Over the past few years, Ray has cut down to about 10 shows per year and usually will host the segment when he is on. I think he is the type of performer who doesn't mind if someone on his segment does an extra song and takes away from his time. Mel Tillis has hosted in the past and has always done a fine job.

  13. I knew it! Reba ????? is on the Opry stage, she just invited Little Big Town to be Opry members ~ how wonderful & magical for them. And October 17th will be their induction date. Sure, I'll be in Nashville next week for the Birthday Bash & they will be inducted the following week. I am very happy for them & even thought that they might be the next members. When I saw the Opry newsletter with three consecutive monthly dates for them, I thought, I'm wondering if one of those dates they will be invited to become members. Just the way the "RX" read on the newsletter. And I do believe this is the closest Reba's been to the Opry stage in a decade or close to it. And she did sing a bit with them. So will you consider this an Opry appearance for her, Byron? :-) No, I wouldn't either. She is a terrible Opry member along with so many others or is it because Pete Fisher willingly brings in non-country acts?

    I totally agree with everything you wrote, Byron ~ with all the veterans getting to up in age with health issues & others passing, the Grand Ole Opry as we knew it even 10 years ago, isn't what it is now. I just think Pete brings in a variety of musical acts, doesn't matter if they are country artists or not. Very sad ~

    Wow, I don't exactly think of Connie Smith as having the personality of a bullfrog, she is always very interested in the singers as she is introducing them to the stage & talks to them as they are walking off. Personally, I think she more than holds her own for just starting to be a host in the last year or two. And I have enjoyed Mel Tillis hosting as well as Ray Pillow. He still has a great voice too.

    And I certainly was saddened to learn of Jim Ed Brown's lung cancer. I have always liked him and in my opinion, one of THE BEST male voices in country music. I rate him right up there with Ray Price, Johnny Bush, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Larry Gatlin, Ricky Van Shelton & Josh Turner among many others. My thoughts are with him & his family, that he fully recovers from this & that he will be able to return to the Opry stage as soon as he is able to.


  14. Re Saturday show: Gary Mule Deer was great (wouldn't it be wonderful for the Opry to have a good comedian again); Mel Tillis only "sang" one song of his 2, what's with that; Jimmy Dickens had a "senior moment" in the middle of his song; didn't care for Gretchen Peters; Jeannie Seely is a hard listen lately; Connie was great (as always); enjoyed Henningsens, Riders, Wade Hayes, Kellie Pickler, Ray Pillow; Bobby O was OK.

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  16. I guess Reba was really there. I saw a picture on the Opry's website!!!! With an asterisk, I would count that as an appearance. I do wonder how much Pete had to bargin with Reba to get her there. I am not a fan of Little Big Town (nothing against them, just not my style of music), so I do not know if there is a connection between Reba and the group. Perhaps there is and that is why she was asked to come. If you remember, Randy Travis was the Opry member who walked on and asked Carrie Underwood to join and at the time, Randy was really not coming to the Opry much. I did notice on the Opry's website of upcoming appearances that Vince Gill is scheduled for Friday October 17, so perhaps he is going to handle the induction.

    As far as Jimmy Dickens, that makes 2 weeks in a row that he has forgotten the lyrics to the song. But, I don't mind and I am still glad he is there.

  17. The Potato has 45 years on me, and there I was singing this morning and forgetting the lyrics to a song. Oh, well. I remember Johnny Russell doing that on the live telecast, and I know Jim Ed and Connie have done it. The funny thing is that Mr. Acuff was famous for mangling names, but his nickname in the studio was "One Take Ake," and I don't think he ever forgot the words to a song on stage.

  18. Please don't misinterpret my comment from last night - I am thrilled that Little Jimmy Dickens is at the Opry - last year's anniversary, all he did was come out and talk for a few minutes, he is back performing - incredible feat - we should all be doing so well at 93 !! I am looking forward to seeing him perform once again next weekend!

  19. Not at all! Just making the point that forgetting names and lyrics is part of the Opry's charm. Even Tom P. Hay, as Mr. Acuff called him when he introduced him for the first time, might agree if he cared about the Opry.