Saturday, February 7, 2015

John Conlee Opry Anniversary

It was 34 years ago today, February 7, 1981, that John Conlee became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. John came to the Opry from Kentucky, where after growing up on a farm, became a funeral home attendant and mortician. He was also employed as a local disc jockey. His recording career started in the mid 1970s as he was signed to ABC/Dot Records and in 1976 "Backside of Thirty" became his first single. In 1978, John had his career song as "Rose Colored Glasses" was released. From then on, the hits kept coming. While his last chart record was in the 1990s, John continues to record and make new music. He also tours and is heavily involved in charity work, including "Feed The Children" and "Farm Aid." A few years back, after his son joined the armed forces, he recorded the song "They Also Serve" and performed it on a regular basis on the Opry.

Here is the running order of the Grand Ole Opry 1st show, Saturday February 7, 1981, the night John Conlee became an Opry member:

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Stonewall Jackson (host): Me and You and A Dog Named Boo
Ernie Ashworth: Mind Your Own Business
Stonewall Jackson: Ol' Chunk of Coal

6:45: Rudy's
Charlie Walker (host): Crazy Arms
Justin Tubb: What's Wrong With the Way That We're Doing It Now
Bill Carlisle: Knothole
Charlie Walker: Don't Play Me No Songs About Texas

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
Jimmy Dickens: Take An Old Cold Tater
John Conlee: She Can't Say That Anymore/What I Had With You/Rose Colored Glasses
Connie Smith: When God Dips His Love In My Heart
Porter Wagoner: What I've Always Wanted/On A Highway Headed South

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: Slippin' Away
Jim & Jesse: Truck Stops and Pretty Girls
Vic Willis Trio: Last Cheater's Waltz
Crook Brothers/Tennessee Travelers: Durang's Hornpipe
Roy Acuff: That's the Man I'm Looking For

8:00: Martha White
Bill Anderson (host): I Love You Drops
Skeeter Davis: The Rose
Wilburn Brothers: Making Plans
Ray Pillow: Countryfried
Lonzo & Oscar: Green Grass of Home
Bill Anderson: Mr. Peepers

8:30: Acme
Hank Snow (host): Storms Never Last
4 Guys: Fire
Charlie Louvin: Mama's Angels
Roy Drusky: Don't It Make You Want to Go Home
Stu Phillips: I Will
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Bill Bailey
Hank Snow & Kelly Foxton: Check

Congratulations to John Conlee.


  1. What I find most amazing about these older lineups is that they were able to fit in so much more entertainment in a 15 minute portion than one of today's 30 minute portions. Not to mention that the overall show is now shorter. I hate to say it, but if I were introduced to today's Opry anew I'm not sure I would be a fan. But hopefully it is only due to the indisputable fact that I am just getting old and there are children out there that do like what they see that will insure the Opry carries on many years into the future.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I am among those introduced to the Opry "anew," and have become a big fan, mainly because of the legends on the show, and the variety it introduces you to. When I first saw it live back in 2013, I didn't know a single artist on the schedule. But by the time the show ended, I had become fans of the artists on it. In fact, the first person I saw on the Opry that night actually was John Conlee!

    I can't speak for everyone else of my generation, but there are actually a lot of us "children" who prefer REAL COUNTRY to the newer stuff. I think that group of us will help the Opry carry on many years to the future.

    I don't see the Opry ending during your lifetime, and even during my lifetime. There are almost 70 Opry members right now, and although many aren't on the Opry due to touring, I believe that, just like John Conlee, as they get older, they will decide to spend more time at the Opry and continue the legacy of having legends and newcomers on the Opry stage.

    Just as many have said before "the circle can't be broken."

  3. Byron,

    I think you should make mention that tonight on the Grammys, longtime Opry stars The Louvin Brothers will be honored with a lifetime achievement award (unfortunately given after their lifetimes, but it's better to honor them a few years late than to never honor them).

    The Grammy hall of fame's 2015 inductions include "Honky Tonkin'" by Opry legend Hank WIlliams, "San Antonio Rose" by frequent opry guest Bob Wills, and "Stardust" by former Opry star Willie Nelson.

  4. I'm looking at my list of country greats who got the Grammy Lifetime Award after their death & it's a pretty short list.Hank Williams Sr. [1987],Patsy Cline [1995],Carter Family [2005],Bob Wills [2007], Gene Autry [2009], Louvin Brothers [2015] Byron is right.It's better to honor them than not honoring them at all.

    1. I was writing it to Byron. I just forgot to sign my name at the end of it.

      It's terrible that it took them almost 35 years to honor Hank, and 32 years to honor Patsy. What other country stars could have possibly deserved the award before them?

  5. It is refreshing to hear that the Opry is making new fans, especially with traditional music and the legends. Kyle, please don't take me wrong when I used the term "children". I was only thinking back to when I was introduced to the Opry as a child, listening to the clear channel signal of 650 WSM in Nashville, Tennessee beaming over the airwaves when I should have been sleeping. Those are some fond memories that always put a smile on my face. My hope is there are children doing the same thing somewhere today, perhaps with more modern technology. But I'm also just as happy to hear that the Opry is still making adult fans such as yourself.

    1. I understand. I was only kidding about being mad at the term "children." I'm probably more in the range of children than adult. All I know is I'm too old to get in for free, and too young to drink.
      I had known about the Opry for several years, through shows like Hee Haw, and performers like Minnie Pearl, Hank WIlliams, and Grandpa Jones, but never experienced the Opry before a couple years ago.

      The Opry hasn't been publicized as well as it was about 20 years ago, but I think some younger country fans are listening to the Opry. If you listen to the Eddie Stubbs show on Fridays, you'd see that there are great deal of requests from people under 20 for some of the artists who are somewhat "forgotten" by today's times.

      Most of the music by the legends can hold up well today. It's just a matter of being introduced to it. Thankfully, I was introduced to it by my family, and I've been introducing it to other people my age, and they've been enjoying it as well.

      And incidentally, today would be Ernest Tubb's 101st birthday!

  6. Kyle,

    Great to see a youngster like yourself so interested in the traditional music and the older artist. My brother is in radio(and TV) and he finds that so many people say they like George Jones but all they know is Rocking Chair, He Stopped Loving Her Today, Choices and a few others from the 90's or 2000's. So, they think that is who George is. Then he plays Window Up Above, Achin' Breakin' Heart, Blue is the Color of the Blues and so on and they are in shock. They want to hear and know more, not just by George but by others of that era.

    My point is, there are so many people who love the older traditional country with as Eddie Stubbs says "Substance" once they have a chance to hear it. Problem is they have to really search to find it on radio and even satellite is not what it used to be since SIRIUS absorbed XM. And I find that older people. 40+, usually don't disclose that they like the older country until they find out what kind of crowd they're in. Once you get them to open up you find they love Ray Price, Carl Smith, Marty Robbins, ET and others.

    I never try to push the music on folks but if they are interested, I'm glad to share and expose them to as much traditional country as they can take and point them to resources to the music and literature. So many folks older than me (49) don't even know that Jim Ed, Bill, Jean, and others are still on the Opry and performing. Nor do they know that Ray Price has a project as new as 2014. I must say that RFD TV is what always comes up if folks do know of the current events with these older artist. Marty Stuart, Larry's Country Diner and Country's Family Reunion are often mentioned. I will say that Jim Ed's new project is getting a lot of attention in surprising places.

    If you are interested in hearing the veterans share stories and sing their classic songs I suggest you look into purchasing some of the Country's Family Reunion DVD's. They started in the late 90's so many of those folks are gone. They will make you laugh and cry and you will learn a lot along the way and you will feel like you know them better. If you can't buy them, search them out on you tube where you will find snippets like the one Byron posted of JT the other day.

    Keep the faith and spread the word.

    Knightsville, IN

    1. Dear Jim,

      When I think George Jones, I think primarily of his early stuff rather than what he did in the 90s. What I like about Eddie Stubbs' show is that he plays a lot of forgotten artists who don't often come to mind when you think of country, but are equally as talented as the rest.

      I used to watch CFR when it was on a station in my area called "Heartland," until it pulled out. I have actually looked into getting those, but all the sets are close to $100 each! Well, as Jimmy Dean said, You have to Pay For Quality!"

  7. It was such a huge loss for the Opry, traditional country music, and and Nashville in general when TNN sold out to Westinghouse/CBS. The shows they aired continuously promoted our kind of music on a daily basis to families all over the country. Many of these families came to Nashville to experience it all in person, which offered Opryland for the young ones and the Opry and other television tapings for the adults. I remember learning so much about the legends by watching them be interviewed by Ralph Emery on Nashville Now. What a synergy they had going while it lasted. I hope RFD can expand its musical offerings when it gets settled into its new headquarters on Music Row and somehow further recreate some of what TNN had going in its heyday. Wouldn't it be great if Eddie Stubbs could take up where Ralph left off with his own nightly live show on RFD? The only negative is that the pool of legends is much smaller than it was in the 80's. But with the right promotion, new legends of traditional country music could be developed. I sure don't think current country radio, with the rare exception of WSM and a few others, is filling this role. In the meantime, we can do what we do by introducing others to this special music and the masters who created it.

  8. Kyle, I always appreciate the comments. And you are right, I should have mentioned the Louvin Brothers and the Lifetime Grammy Award. But to be honest, I kinda quit paying attention to the Grammy Awards a few years back and the award to the Louvin's just flew past my radar. Sorry about that.

    As far as the Opry and the younger fans, just a couple of comments. For us veteran Opry fans, and those who follow the Opry closely, in the 1980s, into the 1990s, the Opry got the reputation of being almost a living museum of older country stars-those who's careers were past their prime and those who didn't really want to be out on the road doing the hard traveling. Then you had Opryland which attracted families, not necessarily the younger fans. And let's face it, as much as most of us loved going to the Opry and I admit I still miss those days, most weekends the Opry line-ups were about the same. You could always count on Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, Stonewall, Jimmy C.... and the list goes on. But there was really nothing new and really nothing to attract the younger fans.

    In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, management began adding the younger artists and as the older artists passed away, management went into overdrive, almost adding too many and not paying much attention to the commitments of those who were becoming members. They were adding names but not appearances. And the fans caught on pretty quick that most of these younger, bigger names were not going to be at the Opry when they came to the show. Attendance continued to go down and media attention to the Opry became almost non-existent.

    I know many of us have issues with Steve Buchanan and Pete Fisher. Some of the comments made by Pete have been well publicized. But in the end, I think he had a point. The Opry had to get younger and attract new fans to survive. He has more guest artists on the show and less members, mostly because the majority of the members don't appear. The older artists have had a tough time. There appearances have been cut back, and in the cases of a few of them, they needed to be. And let's not forget, these artists are not getting any younger anymore. I mentioned when I went down in December that the younger fans next to me had no idea who Ray Pillow was. Sad. Many of these artists have now passed away or no longer want to do the Opry as much as they used to. They had to be replaced with new artists.

    I know some will hate it when I say it, but one of the best things the Opry has done lately was to cross promote with the "Nashville" television show. The show has brought a whole new audience to the Opry. Yes, the line-ups some weeks have a few of the stars of the show on, but the line-ups are also balanced with Jim Ed Brown, Jeannie Seely, Mike Snider, The Whites and when still alive, Jimmy Dickens, George Hamilton IV and Jimmy C, along with Jesse McReynolds and Bobby Osborne. And the younger audience members have really responded to these older artists.

    Most weeks the shows have a real good mix to them and since the first of the year anyways, the line-ups have been very good. I miss the older artists and legends, but with a few exceptions, I do like what I am hearing most weeks. Kyle, glad you are aboard and appreciate the Opry, especially the legends and veterans who have led the way.

    And the Opry hasn't forgotten traditional country music, but

  9. I guess I should have finished my last sentence...And the Opry hasn't forgotten traditional country music, it still has it's place. And most weekends, you can still find it.

  10. Fred, Bismarck:

    I've said it before and will say it again: The fault of the new regime is not that they've cycled in all these new guest acts. That was a matter of pure necessity, as the old members died off and the new members were no-shows.

    The fault is in the quality of the guests and their music. Most of these people are both unknown and un-country. Unknown is forgivable; in the old days, the Opry frequently brought in unknowns and made stars of them. The crappy music is not -- and the reason I rarely tune in anymore. (I don't see any silk purses being made out of these cow's ears, either.)

    The good newer acts are out there, but for reasons of their own Fisher and Buchanan choose not to book them. Their choice ... but not mine, 95 percent of Friday and Saturday nights. That's because not even a Ricky Skaggs or Riders in the Sky can take the curse off a Chris Jansen or Mark Wills, whose acts are so obnoxious and jarring that they destroy the charm and enjoyment of the show for 15 minutes on either side of them.

    To the extent that the Opry enjoys success with its recent strategy, that's nails in the coffin of the show I cared about.

  11. Fred, Bismarck:

    I just hate it when I screw up a cliché. I intended "sow's ears" rather than "cow's ears." (My punishment for going with a cliché in the first place!)

  12. From Anonymous in PA: Fred,Bismarck - well said - agree 100%

  13. Fred; please explain to me how anybody can destroy a show fifteen minutes BEFORE they appear? I personally enjoy Chris Jansen and Mark Wills, but I do totally agree with your assessment regarding the talent level of many of the newer acts the 'Opry chooses to put on.

  14. Fred, Bismarck:

    That was a little creative exaggeration on my part, Nat -- although the dread I feel in anticipation of their coming on does detract from my enjoyment of the preceding acts.

  15. I know what you meant, had to dig just a little, because the two you mentioned don't bother me nearly as much as the girl singing right now (Ricky Skaggs segment Saturday night).

  16. Have to take even that negative comment back.
    Her second song was good, and I enjoyed her emotion regarding appearing on the 'Opry.
    Must be getting soft in my old age.