Here are the important and historical events that have taken place in the month of February regarding the Grand Ole Opry, or Opry members:
February 9, 1914: Grand Ole Opry legend Ernest Tubb was born in Crisp, Texas. Ernest came to the Opry in the early 1940s and immediately became one of the Opry's most popular and influential members. He was known for helping many new artists including Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Jack Greene and Cal Smith, just to name a few. In 1947 he opened the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and along the way started the Midnight Jamboree. He was one of the first members elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ernest remained an Opry member until his death in 1984 after a period of declining health.
February 1, 1917: Mary Jane Dezurik was born in Royalton, Minnesota. Along with her sister Carolyn, they were known as the "Cackle Sisters." They came to the Opry in the 1940s, and only stayed for a short amount of time, eventually moving to Cincinnati. Mary Jane passed away in 1981.
February 25, 1927: Opry member Ralph Stanley was born. Ralph, who has been a member of the Opry since 2000 has spent the last year touring in what has been called a farewell tour. At the age of 88, I do believe that would make Ralph the oldest current Opry member.
February 1, 1928: Harry Stone joined WSM radio, and the Grand Ole Opry, as a staff announcer. Harry would eventually become WSM's general manager. In that position, he would often clash with Opry founder George D. Hay over the direction of the Opry. Judge Hay wanted the show to keep it's rural flavor, featuring non-professional acts, or in his words "keeping it close to the ground." Harry Stone saw the value of the Opry to National Life and WSM, and wanted to bring in professional and paid entertainers to WSM and the Opry. We know who won that argument and once the Opry started down that road, it never looked back. Harry remained with WSM until 1950.
February 25, 1932: Faron Young was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1951 he joined the Louisiana Hayride, staying until 1954 when he came to Nashville and became a member of the Opry. Faron remained an Opry member until December 1964 when he was fired for note making the required number of Opry appearances. While he would never rejoin the cast of the Opry, he would make guest appearances on the show. Faron passed away in 1996 and after his death he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
February 2, 1935: The Missouri Mountaineers make their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Alcyone Bate Beasley described the Mountaineers, who were founded by Jack Shook as a "sort of Sons of the Pioneers group." They stayed at the Opry until 1939 and appeared almost every week during that time.
February 5, 1938: Roy Acuff made his second Grand Ole Opry appearance, along with his band the Crazy Tennesseans. His first appearance had taken place several months prior and was not considered very good. He worked hard to get another chance and on the return date he sang "The Great Speckled Bird." The listeners responded with an avalanche of mail. Two weeks later, on February 19, 1938, he became an official member of the Opry. Along with the prior addition of Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys, Roy would help lead the shift of the Opry to an emphasis on professional singers rather than the local instrumental groups. In fact, when Roy auditioned for the Opry, it was based on his instrumental work and not his vocal skills. On a final note, Harry Stone did not like the name Crazy Tennesseans. He felt that it was a slur on the state so he recommended to Roy that since he was from Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains area of Tennessee, that he adopt that name. So beginning on February 26, 1938 it was Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys and it would remain that way until his death in November 1992.
February 18, 1939: The Andrew Brothers became regular members of the Grand Ole Opry. They were brought to the show to replace the Delmore Brothers. The two brothers, who were from Mobile, Alabama, were known for their harmony work.
February 21, 1948: Jimmy Dickens made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He performed "John Henry" and "I Dreamed Of An Old Love Affair." Jimmy joined the Opry later that year.
February 2, 1949: Opry member Ernest Tubb, and future Opry member Hank Snow, met for the first time. The meeting led to efforts by Ernest to get Hank on the Opry, which finally took place in January 1950.
February 26, 1949: Rose Maddox and her brothers made their Grand Ole Opry debut. Rose would later join the Opry, but her stay would be very short.
February 18, 1950: One of the Opry's competitors, the WSB Barn Dance, which was based in Atlanta, Georgia, took place for the final time. The show had started on November 16, 1940 and was a very popular regional show.
February 23, 1952: Del Wood makes her debut on the Grand Ole Opry. The previous year, she had a million selling instrumental record with "Down Yonder." The song featured her famous ragime piano playing. When Del accepted the invitation to play the Opry, she turned down a two week engagement to play with Bob Crosby and his orchestra. Del joined the Opry the following year and remained an Opry member until her death on October 3, 1989. I always found it interesting that in the Grand Ole Opry Picture History Books that they would always right in her biography that she was famous for her canning and jams!
February 7, 1953: Marty Robbins made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry. He performed "Ain't You Ashamed" and "Good Night Cincinnati, Good Mornin' Tennessee." His debut was a success and he would soon become a member.
February 26, 1955: The Louvin Brothers, Charlie and Ira, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. Some consider the Louvin Brothers the greatest brother duo in the history of country music. Ira passed away on June 20, 1965 in a car accident that also killed his wife. Charlie would remain an Opry member until his death in January 2011. In his later years, Charlie would become bitter toward the Opry management and how he felt he was treated. (On a side note, some publications list the Louvin's induction date as February 10, however this was not a Saturday night and as many of us know, the Opry is famous for not keeping accurate records).
February 23, 1957: Porter Wagoner became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Over time, Porter would become one of the Opry's most famous and colorful members. Porter had made his first Opry appearance in 1956 and he would late say about that night, "The first night I appeared on the Opry, I came off the stage and went back to the little dressing room area, and I met Roy Acuff in the hallway there. And he came up to me and he said, 'Porter, I was awful glad that you're becoming a part of the Grand Ole Opry. We need more of your kind of people here.'" It was ironic that when Roy died in 1992 Porter would replace him as the face of the Opry. That first night at the Opry he was introduced by Carl Smith, who would later become one of Porter's good friends. During his time at the Opry, he helped to bring along Norma Jean and Dolly Parton as members, and he first brought Mel Tillis to the Opry. And let's not forget James Brown. Porter died in October 2007, shortly after celebrating his 50th anniversary as an Opry member.
February 27, 1959: Billy Grammer joined the Grand Ole Opry. Billy would remain an Opry member for 52 years, before passing away in April 2011. Billy was famous for his Grammer Guitars, and for "Gotta Travel On."
February 6, 1960: George Hamilton IV became a member of the Opry. George was an Opry member for 55 years before passing away in September 2014. George traveled all over the world promoting country music. I can also say from personal experience that George was one of the nicest men that I had ever met. He was always willing to talk and share stories. Even when he was not scheduled to perform on the show, he would be backstage greeting visitors.
February 23, 1963: Patsy Cline made her final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Less than two weeks later, she would die in a plane crash that also took the lives of Opry members Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, along with Randy Hughes. Patsy was in inspiration to a generation of female country singers including Loretta Lynn, Dottie West and Jeannie Seely.
February 11, 1967: The Four Guys made their Grand Ole Opry debut. As they have told the story many times, they were brought back for an encore and even though they never had a hit record, they would eventually become members of the Opry.
February 22, 1969: Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs made their final appearance as a duo on the Grand Ole Opry. They had joined the Opry in 1955. While their act broke up, Lester and Earl would remain as individual Opry members.
February 11, 1972: Grand Ole Gospel Time, hosted by Jimmie Snow, the son of Opry member Hank Snow, debuts after the Friday Night Opry. Johnny Cash and June Carter were among the guests on the first show. This Friday night show would follow the Friday Night Opry for the next 23 years.
February 23, 1974: Former Opry member DeFord Bailey returns to the Opry for the first time since being fired by George D. Hay in 1941. This was also the first of what became an annual Old-Timer's night at the Opry. DeFord appears at the personal invitation of Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl, who had been trying to convince DeFord to return to the Opry for the past several years. Before he passed away in 1982, DeFord would return to the Opry several more times.
February 8, 1975: After an absence of 18 years, Jimmy Dickens rejoined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. He was introduced that night by Hank Snow, who noted how much Jimmy had been missed and how good it was that he was back. Unlike the first time Jimmy joined the Opry in 1948, this time he stayed around until he passed away in January 2015.
February 6, 1976: Ronnie Milsap joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 39th year as an Opry member. Ronnie is currently on a farewell tour so it will be interesting to see if he will be making many Opry appearances. In 2014, Ronnie was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
February 7, 1981: John Conlee joined the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 34th year as an Opry member. John has one of the most distinctive voices in country music and he remains very popular at the Opry. After first appearing on the Opry, John was quoted as saying, "I made sure to stand on the circle from the stage of the old Ryman. That circle has been so important to me because so many big stars had stood on that wooden flooring." When John first joined the Opry, like many others of his generation, he made very few Opry appearances. However, over the past several years as his touring has slowed down, John has become one of the Opry's more dependable members and he always does a fine job hosting segments. My favorite John Conlee story comes from a couple of years ago when I was walking from my car to the Opry's stage door and not paying much attention, I almost got hit by a tour bus. I looked up and it was John Conlee driving. I got a honk and a wave.
February 21, 1981: Boxcar Willie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Boxcar became a star late in life, thanks to his hobo character and late night television commercials promoting his album of train songs. Boxcar had made his first Opry appearance in June 1980 after being discovered in England by Wesley Rose. Lecil Travis Martin passed away in April 1999.
February 20, 1988: The Grand Ole Opry honored Roy Acuff for 50 years of Opry membership. TNN devoted an entire hour long segment to Roy that featured Minnie Pearl and Loretta Lynn. The previous evening, Johnny Cash and June Carter were also scheduled to appear in tribute to Roy but had to cancel due to illness. They would make it up to Roy by appearing several weeks later. On an additional note, during the Opry segment that followed Roy's that evening, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton reunited on the Opry stage for the first time in 14 years.
February 24, 1991: Webb Pierce passed away in Nashville. Webb came to Nashville in 1952 from the Louisiana Hayride and made his first Opry guest appearance on the Prince Albert portion of the show. When he joined the Opry in 1953, he was considered the replacement for Hank Williams. Webb was considered one of the biggest country music acts of the 1950s, but he did not stay as an Opry member for very long. He later said, "You had to be there every Saturday night and that was too much, because, you see, most of our money, we made it on Saturday night. Of course, we'd be on tour and then we'd have to turn around at the end of the week and be back at the Opry. I don't care if you was in Podunk, Canada." Webb was also a very successful businessman who started one of the first publishing houses in Nashville. In 2001, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. And let's not forget that guitar shaped swimming pool.
February 29, 1992: Travis Tritt joined the Opry. This will be his 23rd year as an Opry member, which about equals the number of appearances he has made since joining the cast. In fact, Travis has not been at the Opry since 2007. This was also the night that Trisha Yearwood made he debut Opry performance.
February 21, 1988: The Opry honored long-time Opry member Grandpa Jones, who had passed away earlier in the week from complications after suffering a stroke at the Opry in January. Grandpa's close friend and neighbor Bill Carlisle, along with Vince Gill, Ramona Jones and their children led the cast in the singing of "Fallen Leaves" the great Grandpa song.
February 17, 2001: Brad Paisley became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 14th year as a member. On the night that Brad was inducted, he wore the bright yellow jacket that Buck Owens, one of his idols, wore on the cover of the 1966 "Live at Carneige Hall" album.
February 16, 2002: Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Hank Williams, Jr., performed on the Opry in tribute to Waylon Jennings, who had passed away earlier in the week. Porter Wagoner, who hosted the segment, would call it "the most exciting night I can ever remember on the Opry." I wouldn't go that far, but all four entertainers spent an hour on stage singing Waylon's hits.
February 18, 2003: Opry member Johnny Paycheck passed away following a long illness. After a career as an "outlaw" Johnny joined the Opry in November 1997. However, within a few years, his health prevented him from appearing on the Opry. At the time of his death, Johnny was near poverty and George Jones paid for this cemetary plot. Johnny had such great hits in the 1970s, but he hit hard times a decade later that included time in prison. It was nice to see Johnny get his life turned around and making music again.
February 26, 2005: Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Louvin was honored for 50 years of Opry membership. He appeared on both shows that night and later hosted the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree.