Sunday, August 23, 2015

Upcoming Grand Ole Opry 90th Birthday Bash

Over a year ago, the Grand Ole Opry announced the dates for the Opry's 90th Birthday Bash, which is to take place on Friday October 2nd and Saturday October 3rd. With the announcement of the dates well over a year ahead of time, and being the Opry's 90th year, we were led to believe that it would be a special weekend that would include an effort to have as many of the Opry's members present as possible. This was exciting news considering that the last several birthday weekends have had very poor line-ups and frankly, disappointing shows. In fact, last year might have been the worst of all, with only 4 Opry members performing on Friday night and 5 Opry members on Saturday night.

When the announcement was made, there was mention that the 90th celebration would last all year, but to be honest, it has been very low key. There have been a couple of special shows and dedications but that has been about it. Now we are just five weeks away from the big weekend, and so far the Opry has posted Little Big Town, Joe Diffie, Diamond Rio and Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers for Friday night, while Saturday has the Oak Ridge Boys, Trace Adkins, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers and Charles Esten for Saturday night. While a little better than a year ago, it is still nothing to write home about.

So what about the rest of the Opry's members? I did some quick checking and the following members have shows booked either on Friday or Saturday of the birthday weekend, or both nights. That list includes Bill Anderson, John Conlee, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Loretta Lynn, Martina McBride, Del McCoury, Ronnie Milsap, Old Crow Medicine Show, Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Rascal Flatts, Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, Marty Stuart, Pam Tillis, Travis Tritt, Josh Turner and Keith Urban. I have to say that while I did not expect all of those named to have been at the Opry that weekend, I am disappointed to see such names on the list as Bill Anderson, John Conlee, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart.

As far as Opry members that are still "free" the birthday weekend, or that I cannot confirm, that list includes Dierks Bentley, Clint Black, Garth Brooks, Roy Clark, Terri Clark, Jan Howard, Alan Jackson, Stonewall Jackson, Hal Ketchum, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire, Jesse McReynolds, Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan, Lorrie Morgan, Bobby Osborne, Dolly Parton, Stu Phillips, Ray Pillow, Riders In The Sky, Darius Rucker, Jeannie Seely, Blake Shelton, Jean Shepard, Mike Snider, Ralph Stanley, Mel Tillis, Carrie Underwood, Steve Wariner, The Whites and Trisha Yearwood. (I did not include the retired members or those too ill to appear). The hope is that it is still possible that a few of the "bigger" names on this list could still be scheduled, or even perhaps a few on the first list that have only one of the two nights booked.

But, it is getting very close to the weekend and time is getting short. And based on the last couple of years, it would appear that the Opry's Birthday Bash will be more like an ordinary Opry show than a special anniversary celebration. Maybe I will be proven wrong. I hope so.

Just for the sake of argument, I have the line-ups from the past 10 birthday weekends, and you can all judge for yourself what direction these birthday weekends have taken.

89th Birthday Bash, October 10 & 11, 2014:

Friday October 10
1st show
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Chris Janson; Josh Abbott Band
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Sara Haze; John & Jacob
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; The Willis Clan
8:30: Lady Antebellum

2nd show
9:30: Mike Snider (host); Chris Janson; Josh Abbott Band
10:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Sara Haze; John & Jacob
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; The Willis Clan
11:00: Lady Antebellum

Saturday October 11
1st show
7:00: Mike Snider (host); JT Hodges; Jimmy Dickens
7:30: Ray Pillow (host); Greg Bates; Clare Bowen
8:00: Stu Phillips; Keb' Mo'; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Trace Adkins

2nd show
9:30: Mike Snider (host); JT Hodges; Jimmy Dickens
10:00: Ray Pillow (host); Greg Bates; Clare Bowen
10:30: Stu Phillips; Keb' Mo'; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Trace Adkins

88th Birthday Bash, October 4 & 5, 2013

Friday October 4
7:00: John Conlee (host); Kristen Kelly; Connie Smith
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); The Steeldrivers; Kathy Mattea
8:15: The Whites (host); Jesse McReynolds; The Secret Sisters
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Mark Wills; Crystal Gayle

Saturday October 5
1st show
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Sarah Darling; Jean Shepard
7:30: Connie Smith (host); Tate Stevens; Jimmy Dickens
8:00: John Conlee (host); Jan Howard; Sam Palladio; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Steve Wariner (host); Mandy Barnett; Casey James

2nd show
9:30: Steve Wariner (host); Sarah Darling
10:00: Connie Smith (host); Jean Shepard; Tate Stevens
10:30: Jeannie Seely (host); George Hamilton IV; Sam Palladio; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: John Conlee (host); Mandy Barnett; Casey James

87th Birthday Bash, October 5 & 6, 2012:

Friday October 5
7:00: Ricky Skaggs; John Conlee (host); Tyler Farr; Jean Shepard
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Jaida Dreyer
8:15: Steve Wariner (host); George Hamilton IV; Connie Smith; Kelleigh Bannen
8:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jan Howard; Rodney Atkins

Saturday October 6
1st show
7:00: Ricky Skaggs; Opry Square Dancers; Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Mallary Hope; Ray Stevens
8:00: Jason Aldean; Casey James; Steve Wariner

2nd show
9:30: Ricky Skaggs; Opry Square Dancers; Jimmy Dickens (host); Mallary Hope
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jason Aldean
10:30: Steve Wariner (host); Ray Stevens; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Casey James

86th Birthday Bash, October 7 & 8, 2011:

Friday October 7
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jim Ed Brown; Jason Michael Carroll
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Crystal Bowersox
8:15: Charley Pride (host); Jack Greene; Mandy Barnett
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); Connie Smith; The Whites

Saturday October 8
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); The Whites; Charley Pride
8:00: Craig Morgan; Ronnie Dunn; Rascal Flatts

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); George Hamilton IV; Ronnie Dunn; Vince Gill
10:00: Charley Pride (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys
10:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jan Howard; Craig Morgan; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Rascal Flatts

85th Birthday Bash, October 8 & 9, 2010:

Friday October 8
7:00: Mike Snider (host); The Whites; Craig Campbell
7:30: George Hamilton IV (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Crystal Gayle
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Jimmy Wayne
8:45: Roy Clark (host); Stu Phillips; Joe Diffie

Saturday October 9
1st show
7:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Connie Smith; Jimmy C Newman; Del McCoury Band
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Sunny Sweeney; Jack Greene; Trace Adkins
8:00: Roy Clark (host); Taylor Swift; Opry Square Dancers;
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Dolly Parton

2nd show
9:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); The Whites; Ray Pillow; Del McCoury Band
10:00: George Hamilton IV (host); Jan Howard; T. Bubba Bechtol; Trace Adkins
10:30: Roy Clark (host); Taylor Swift; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Dolly Parton

84th Birthday Bash, October 9 & 10, 2009:

Friday October 9
7:00: John Conlee (host); Jeannie Seely; Riders In The Sky; Ricky Skaggs
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Patty Loveless
8:00: Mike Snider (host); BJ Thomas; Josh Turner
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jack Greene; Jean Shepard; Montgomery Gentry

Saturday October 10
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Kathy Mattea
7:30: Lorrie Morgan (host); Jan Howard; George Hamilton IV; Jean Shepard
8:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jim Ed Brown; Joe Diffie; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Mike Snider; Diamond Rio

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Lorrie Morgan; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
10:00: Mike Snider (host); Ray Pillow; Kathy Mattea
10:30: Diamond Rio (host); Stu Phillips; Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dancers
11:00; Bill Anderson (host); Jim Ed Brown; Joe Diffie

83rd Birthday Bash, October 10 & 11, 2008:

Friday October 10:
1st show
7:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); The Whites; Jamey Johnson
7:30: Jean Shepard (host); Ray Pillow; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mandy Barnett
8:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Jan Howard; Phil Stacey; Rhythm-N-Motion
8:30: George Hamilton IV (host); Jack Greene; The Time Jumpers

2nd show
9:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Connie Smith; Jamey Johnson; Marty Stuart
10:00: Jean Shepard (host); The Whites; Mandy Barnett
10:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Ernie Ashworth; Phil Stacey; Rhythm-N-Motion
11:00: George Hamilton IV (host); Jack Greene; The Time Jumpers

Saturday October 11
1st show
7:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); Jim Ed Brown; Helen Cornelius; Jean Shepard
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jimmy C Newman; Connie Smith; Opry Square Dancers
8:00: Darryl Worley; Lorrie Morgan; Hal Ketchum; Kenny Rogers

2nd show
9:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jeannie Seely
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Stu Phillips; Jean Shepard; Kenny Rogers
10:30: Hal Ketchum (host); Stonewall Jackson; Jack Greene; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Connie Smith; Darryl Worley

82nd Birthday Bash, October 19 & 20, 2007:

Friday October 19
1st show
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jeannie Seely Jimmy C Newman; Carolina Rain
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Dale Ann Bradley; Neal McCoy
8:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Charlie Louvin; Jack Greene; Rebecca Lynn Howard
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Riders In The Sky; Steve Wariner

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jim Ed Brown; Dale Ann Bradley
10:00: Mike Snider (host); George Hamilton IV; Rebecca Lynn Howard
10:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Carolina Rain
11:00: Steve Wariner (host); Jack Greene; Riders In The Sky

Saturday October 20
1st show
6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jim Ed Brown; Mike Snider
7:00: Carrie Underwood; Emerson Drive; Travis Tritt; Ronnie Milsap
8:00: Hal Ketchum (host); Jeannie Seely; Del McCoury Band; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jimmy C Newman; The Whites; Vince Gill

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Riders In The Sky; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Ronnie Milsap
10:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; The Whites; Travis Tritt
10:30: Hal Ketchum (host); George Hamilton IV; Carrie Underwood; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Vince Gill (host); Jack Greene; Del McCoury Band; Emerson Drive

81st Birthday Bash, October 20 & 21, 2006:

Friday October 20
1st show
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Charlie Walker; Heartland
7:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Connie Smith; The Whites; Earl Scruggs
8:00: Mike Snider (host); John Conlee; Jean Shepard; Chris Young
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Restless Heart; Charley Pride

2nd show
9:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Connie Smith; The Whites; Earl Scruggs
10:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Mike Snider; Heartland
10:30: John Conlee (host); Chris Young; Charley Pride
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jean Shepard; Restless Heart

Saturday October 21
1st show
6:30: Jean Shepard (host); Jimmy C Newman; The Whites
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Trisha Yearwood; Travis Tritt; LeAnn Rimes; Charley Pride
8:00: Mike Snider (host); Stu Phillips; Jim Ed Brown w/Helen Cornelius; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Hal Ketchum (host); Jack Greene; Del McCoury Band

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); The Whites; Trisha Yearwood
10:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; Travis Tritt
10:30: Jean Shepard (host); Jan Howard; LeAnn Rimes; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Hal Ketchum (host); Charlie Louvin; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
11:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); w/Helen Cornelius; Jack Greene; Del McCoury Band

80th Birthday Bash, October 14 & 15, 2005:

Friday October 14
1st show
6:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jimmy C Newman; Robbie Fulks
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Osborne Brothers; Carolyn Dawn Johnson
7:30: Mike Snider (host); Jan Howard; Charlie Walker; John Michael Montgomery
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); George Hamilton IV; Connie Smith; Lee Greenwood
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Alison Krauss

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Mike Snider; Carolyn Dawn Johnson
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Grammer; Jack Greene; Alison Krauss
10:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Osborne Brothers; John Michael Montgomery
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Lee Greenwood
11:30: George Hamilton IV (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Robbie Fulks

Saturday October 15
1st show
6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Jimmy C Newman
7:00: Steve Wariner; Travis Tritt; Garth Brooks; Diamond Rio
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Charlie Louvin; Jeannie Seely; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Bill Anderson (host); Josh Turner; Ralph Stanley

2nd show
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Steve Wariner
10:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Billy Grammer; Travis Tritt
10:30: Diamond Rio (host); Stu Phillips; Ralph Stanley; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Garth Brooks
11:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Jack Greene; Josh Turner

As always, I am interested in comments.


  1. I am going to come at this in a roundabout way, I guess. I used to work at a school where the administration viewed the faculty (of which I am one) as unimportant, and my immediate supervisor held his colleagues in contempt. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't (and still isn't) a very happy place to work. Now I am at a different school where the faculty are considered more important and my immediate supervisor is one of us and wants our workplace to be a happy place. Well, where I work now, there is a legitimate desire to have a good workplace culture.

    The culture at the Opry has changed significantly through the years. Whether it was really a happy family always has been debatable (I think I've told how the night Lonzo & Oscar retired, Oscar said he'd never heard a harsh word backstage. I said to my mother, "He must not have been around Lester and Earl." She replied, "There were no harsh words between them. They didn't speak!"). Nor am I entirely sure that the intent always had been, as some longtime members claimed, that if you were loyal in your younger and more successful period, you would be free to perform there whenever you wanted when you were older and off the road. But membership mattered, and, into the 1980s, if you were a member, you took it seriously.

    Yes, Hal Durham let the rules lapse and thus ended the requirement that members actually show up (and I condemn Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire as strongly as I condemn Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker in this regard). But Steve Buchanan and Pete Fisher have made clear that being a member doesn't mean you get to be there regularly, and there have been rumors that this applies even to some younger members. If the Opry sends the message and creates the culture that being a member is not that special, and that the management wants lots of guests, then if I'm Bill Anderson (to name a truly loyal member), I won't feel quite the degree of loyalty and the necessity of being there that I once felt. We have met the enemy, and it is us.

  2. Fred, Bismarck,

    This makes both historical and psychological sense. Good argument, Michael.

  3. I agree a lot with the comparisons to a workplace culture and if the people there get a sense of un-importance from management that it's only natural that it's going to negatively effect the workplace and arouse bitterness. The mandate of a certain number of appearances being relaxed also played a role...but something that hasn't been brought up is the lack of importance a lot of country music artists whose careers date back to the mid-late '70s have had regarding the Opry and it's just snowballed from there. The kids and teenagers that idolized the Outlaw country movement and other interpretations of country music, for example, didn't look up to artists that promoted the Opry or spoke of it with reverence.

    Some of those impressionable kids and teenagers and young adults of yesterday became the country music artists of the future and they, too, never had any desire to be an Opry member or anything (just as their idols didn't).

    The business side of the Opry more or less pulled the rug out from under the loyal members while retaining just a handful of semi-regulars to save face. The butchered time-slot of the Opry also played a factor in the amount of performers able to appear. If the time slots consisted of just the members of the Opry and no guests there'd be heavy repetition because a lot of the members post-1990 just aren't willing to give up a lucrative concert appearance on a Friday or Saturday night to appear at the Opry...and there are probably some contemporary Opry members from various induction time periods that are probably just too lazy to make an appearance even if they have nothing else to do and they're in the same geographical location. That plays into the lack of enthusiasm and lack of passion for the Opry.

    As far as the Opry members one would expect to appear but so far there's no confirmation (such as Bill Anderson or John Conlee) I put the blame on the Opry's booking agency or their promotions team and the organizations that handle the bookings of the Opry members while on the road. I think if Bill's booking agency and the Opry's organization had any kind of communication an appearance most certainly would've been confirmed. I couldn't imagine Bill picking a concert date over a 90th birthday celebration of the Opry. Although there are some birthday celebrations he's not attended in the last 10 years his appearances outnumber his non-appearances.

  4. FROM ANONYMOUS IN PA: I am hoping that Bill Anderson may be there for the Friday, Oct 2nd show; his tour schedule lists a show in Louisiana on Saturday night. With that, and few exceptions, we are very disappointed in this year's entertainment list as well. We have been to all of the anniversary weekends you listed and many years before. As I have mentioned previously, we have become increasingly disillusioned over recent years' anniversary events. This will be our last anniversary trip; if we go back to the Opry, it will be as our schedule allows during the year, it is not worth an extra/special trip in October. And, Fayfare, we will try to find you to say hello!!

  5. It is this kind of thing that makes me feel that the Opry, as we know it, is in trouble. In days gone by, such people as Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe, and Hank Snow felt a special devotion to the Opry. With most of the Opry members today, that level of devotion is unknown. It should be that the number of Opry members appearing on the birthday celebration would be much higher than it is on a normal weekend. In the back of my mind, I keep wondering if there are some people who are not Opry members who would be more devoted to the Opry than most of the members are today?

  6. Fred, Bismarck:

    It seems that the Opry is making it at the box office without the support of the old fan and artist bases. If I were Pete Fisher, I guess I'd feel like I was vindicated, winning the argument he laid out to Stonewall 10 years ago.

  7. A single chintzy 2 hour show each night is not enough to warrant very many 500 mile journeys from Michigan to see it.
    Those 5 hour Friday night shows back in the 70s and 80s were well worth making the effort for, and 2 shows on Saturday were always the icing on the cake, especially when Marty and Earnest were there . Dashmann , Flushing , Michigan

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  9. I hope that the great Larry Gatlin and his Brothers will sing some other songs than the Houston/Broken Lady/All the Gold.. autopilot segment like almost always!!! This guys have over 400 songs and just do 2% of them at the opry stage, I don't understand that strategy!

  10. Fred, Bismarck:

    Manuel, it's a case of the radio audience being sacrificed to the live audience, which would probably be disappointed if they didn't get to see the Gatlins do their biggest songs "live." The same strategy required Roy Acuff to do "Wabash Cannonball" and "Speckled Bird" every week -- and Bobby Osborne "Rocky Top" today.

    I agree it makes for tiresome listening out here in Radioland.

  11. The Opry seems to have made long term sacrifices for short term gains in the last few years. That's exactly what put many of the other barn dances out of business. Many of them tried to go with what was currently popular back when rock and roll first hit, and was eventually left high and dry once popular opinion moved on to something else. The Opry stayed true to itself back then and rode the storm out. Unfortunately, that's not true this time. The Nashville show won't last forever. Will there be anything or anyone to draw the crowds after that? Let's hope so.

  12. Just a few random thoughts on the comments:

    Yes, I hope Bill Anderson can at least make it on Friday night. It would be nice to have at least one legend and Hall of Fame member of the Opry there.

    Regarding Larry Gatlin and the Brothers and the radio audience may not know this, but when he is singing his opening song, usually "Houston", he goes out into the audience much like Porter used to do and hams it up with the fans. And the Opryland Hotel has signed them up to do their Christmas show this year. Over the past year it seems like the Opry can't get enough of Larry and in reality, that is good for the Opry.

    I am still concerned that there is too much reliance on "Nashville" and the actors associated with the show on ABC. At some point, that well is going to dry up. When the show is cancelled, how many times do any of us think Charles Esten is really going to be on the Opry?

    As far as the lack of Opry members on the 90th, I agree that loyalty goes a long way and how the members are treated through the entire year. I mean if they don't call Stonewall for 51 weeks, why should he answer his phone on the 52nd? It has been said before that Opry membership doesn't mean as much as it used to. I tend to agree, especially with the current booking policy at the Opry. That said, I do blame current management for not making a better commitment to get more members there for the 90th and really make it a special weekend.

  13. Montgomery Gentry has been added for Friday Night, while Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers were taken off. They are still set for Saturday night.

  14. why the hell Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers were taken off? Larry almost never was unable to be at the opry and thats the 90th birtday?!... Until now the lineup is really really nothing special:-(