Nationally recognized independent Grand Ole Opry historian Byron Fay offers news and comments regarding country music's premier show.
You are so right about that. All of the people that were in their prime in the 70's and 80's who didn't appear on the Opry have finally had their turn. From all the southern rockers to the rock-country groups like Exile, they are all getting their turn or becoming regulars. I can't help but think they were off limits when Mr. Acuff had a say. Remember the Island of misfit toys on the animated Santa Clause is Coming to town? To me the Opry has become the Island of misfit singers, performers or whatever you can call some of them. Who knows, maybe the show would be dying and attendance way down but I bet it would be more member driven and more country were he still with us.I say this often but it is a reflection of our society and culture these days. No boundaries, no respect for history. The next thing you know they will be wanting to remove any trace of Acuff because he ran for political office, didn't want to preform with Elvis or something he did or said 60 years ago the is politically incorrect today.Sorry to rant but when I think about it, it bothers me that there is so little tribute to the man that catapulted the Opry to the national and international limelight and maintained his position for over 50 years. Like all of us, he was far from perfect but he was a major force in keeping the Opry a good family show that drew lifetime fans and not just "once for the experience" attendees.And I must say that Oswald deserves credit for being there trough almost all of it and playing a big part in the Acuff showmanship! May we true Opry fans long remember our King!Thanks Byron!JimKnightsville, IN
I'll second Jim and thank Byron. From all reports, Mr. Acuff was an absolute gentleman around the Opry but I don't recall him introducing any acts that might be considered "out there." That was probably planned.Byron has talked about this, but Mr. Acuff was, I think, the last act who had real "power." Minnie Pearl and Ernest Tubb did, and there might have been some others, but I tend to think they had "influence," which is different. But Mr. Acuff used to hang around with the bosses if he felt like it, and they welcomed it. I wonder how many of the Opry's members ever get within ten miles of the CEO today. It was a different time and culture, and not everything can stay the same--we have to accept that.But remember that Mr. Acuff asked Johnny Cash to come back to the Opry and kind of succeed him, and Cash thought about it but decided he couldn't give it the attention he thought it deserved. And that suggests to me that Mr. Acuff understood his own position and power, and that he realized that only Cash had the ability to follow him. He probably was right.
I know that there have been stories out there that Roy owned a large amount of National Life stock and then Gaylord stock. Not sure if those stories are true or just things that have been passed down over the years. What is true, and which you are right about, is that he did spend a lot of time at the Opry office, especially after he moved to Opryland. So that would lead me to believe that he also had some input on who was, or was not on the Opry. The story goes that back in the day, Roy kept the male singers in line and Minnie the females
I'll just paste what I put up over on my Facebook page today. Hope you don't mind. I've never felt the kind of electricity he generated at the Opry since he died. It really was something special...especially from the other side of the curtain."Roy Acuff was born on this date 112 years ago. Unless you were lucky enough to experience it, there is no way to describe the atmosphere at the Opry House when this man took the stage. Most Opry shows ran along like a well oiled machine on Saturday night. Almost as an afterthought, really. In general, stars came and went all evening without a whole lot of fanfare. Someone like Porter Wagoner or Loretta Lynn would cause the crowd to perk up just a little. Just a little. But when the curtain came down on the segment prior to Acuff's, a murmer of anticipation would start to ripple through the audience. You knew something big was about to happen and it would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Every light on the balcony would come on and light up that big red curtain. The spotlights would light up the curtain at center stage. The announcer would say, "Ladies and gentlemen...the KING of Country Music...ROY ACUFF and his SMOKY MOUNTAIN BOYS!" The curtain would go up and as soon as the spotlight picked him up a roar would go through that auditorium unlike anything you've ever heard. THIS was the man they had all come to see and it was like royalty had arrived on the stage...which, of course, it had. Flash bulbs would light up the house. If there were 4400 people in the audience it seemed like all 4400 of them were taking pictures. And when he balanced that fiddle and bow on his chin it was like a fireworks show with people snapping pictures. I had the good fortune to witness this from both sides of the curtain and that wall of sound coming toward the stage was like a freight train when that curtain went up. I saw it happen dozens of times over the years and it was unlike anything I've ever witnessed before or since. In 1987, he was 84 years old. Oswald and Charlie were the only "old time" band members left and his voice was starting to get a little weak. But he commanded that stage like no one else and you still knew that it was "The King" out there. He passed away 23 years and the Opry hasn't been the same."
As I said on your Facebook page Barry, well said.
Ain't nobody ever gonna fill THOSE shoes!!!
I should probably count Roy Acuff responsible for the life I live today. I won't bore you with explaining that! I really became a dedicated Opry listener, listening to as much of every show every weekend, starting in 1981. Roy Acuff had long been my favorite. During the school year, I would go to our basketball games but as soon as they were over I would go straight home knowing that although I might have missed Mr. Acuff's first show, I could catch his second show. Therefore I sacrificed socializing with friends just to get home and here the Opry. No regrets!In 1989, two years after my dad passed, I decided it was time to go to the Opry and try to meet Roy Acuff. In July, my mom, my brother and I made the trip to Nashville and through a letter I handed up to Grant Turner during the warm up show indicating that I had a drawing of Roy Acuff that I had done and would like to give to him, Mr. Turner agreed to take us backstage. So two kids from Indiana, I was 24, my brother 18, followed Mr, Turner Back to dressing room #1 where we met Mr, Acuff, Oswald and Eunita and Dan Kelly. Although we met many other Opry members and got back stage two more times, if this had been the only time, we would have been happy. Mr. Acuff was just as nice as we expected him to be and we left the Opry with a memory to last us a lifetime thanks to the kindness of Grant Turner.We were back at the Opry in November of 1989 and met Oswald and Eunita at the stage door giving Oswald a pencil portrait I had done of him. Although we did not have the best cameras in the world, my brother and I both had the same idea and were at the side of the stage as the curtain started to go up and shot photo's of Roy and Smoky Mountain Boys with the red curtain still hanging in front of them and their last minute expressions and antics taking place before the crowd could see them. Not the best quality photo's but the content is priceless.I'm relating this because I think it is important to note that even in the last years of his life, Roy Acuff was leaving an impression on young fans like us and many others. That is why I feel so frustrated that save for the occasional mention by Jean Shepard or maybe Connie Smith, Roy Acuff;s name and memory is largely void from the Opry today. I don't think they should mention him every week but at key times or anniversaries I do think it would be nice to remember his place in Opry history. It was almost impossible to avoid mentioning him on the anniversary of the move to the new house. Forgive me if I am mistaken but I think that prior to that, it was the postal stamp unveiling in 2003 the last time any major remembrance took place. Maybe in the 90th birthday celebration he will be mentioned at some length but I won't hold my breath.Thanks Barry for posting you facebook comments here. Always enjoy your behind the scenes memories!JimKnightsville, IN
My apologies to Bill Anderson who also often mentions Mr. Acuff and performs I Wonder If God Likes Country Music which I regret never seeing the two of them do in person. But oh how I remember that last time and I have it on tape somewhere. I shed tears that night because it sure felt like the last time!JimKnightsville, IN
Jim, I agree with your comments regarding Roy and especially his Opry legacy. I do know that in March 2014, on the night of the 40th anniversary of the Opry House, they did play the video of the Opry House opening from March 1974 and then on stage did "Wabash Cannonball" just like Roy and the Opry cast did on the opening night. I was there in March 2014 and it was well done and a great surprise with Roy prominently featured. I know we dwell on the Opry members that have passed away and we don't see and hear any longer, but the only thing that disappears are the songs that these artists would sing. Everyone sings their own songs, which they should. But when was the last time any one heard "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Eight More Miles to Louisville," "Night Train to Memphis," "I'm Moving On," "Waltz Across Texas" and so many of the others from the Opry stage. We lose not only the singers but also the songs.
Meant to say the one thing that disappears. Sorry.
That is one thing I appreciate about Jeannie Seely. Although it is the following generation from which we are currently speaking, she will do songs of the artist that came just before her like Billy Walker, Charlie Louvin and Skeeter Davis and talks often about them and others like Jimmy C Newman and Jimmy Dickens.Jean Shepard is the only one after Box that continued to do the Cannonball and remember Roy. And Connie Smith always remembers Roy Drusky, Charlie Walker, the Louvins, Martha Carson or whoever she is doing a cover of.It would be nice to hear at least part of the songs you mentioned at the 90th celebration. You can run into issues neglecting certain artist if you start that but I think the good would out weigh the bad in doing it.Has anyone seen the 90th anniversary book which I assume is an expanded History Picture Book? I need to get one!Although not the best version I have heard, Lorrie Morgan, Jeannie, Jan and I think one other performed Waltz Across Texas a couple months back. Just mentioning it Byron. I get your point! :)JimKnightsville, IN
In response to Jim's comment, I received the Opry 90th birthday book for my birthday, and it's has a lot of great pictures, along with an actually complete list of the Opry members of the past 90 years, even lesser known ones like the poe sisters. It has a lot of great pictures of the passed legends and of the new era, and has a section with biographies and a photo page of the living members (as well as the late Jim Ed Brown, who passed away shortly after this book was released). Also, it has a great tribute to Little Jimmy Dickens that Brad Paisley wrote for the book. I highly recommend buying this. It makes a great deal of mention of Mr. Roy throughout the book, even talking about his "Grand Ole Opry" movie, and shows his great deal of importance to the show's history. I looked ahead at some of the upcoming lineups, and they seem to have some pretty big shows coming up. Old Crow Medicine Show will be on the Friday birthday shows, while Carrie Underwood will be coming on saturday. It's nice to see that the show will have more Opry member star power to it, and shows potential to be a pretty good weekend of shows. Also, the following Tuesday, October 6, Alan Jackson will be making his long awaited return to the Opry, along with Marty Stuart, and guest Miranda Lambert. Ronnie Milsap is scheduled to do 2 shows (which I'm assuming are his Opry farewell as he's retiring) on Nov. 14.
Thanks Kyle for the info on the book. Sounds like something I need to get!I was just thinking of something Sonny Osborne related on one of the Country Family Reunion shows. This was during some of the unedited behind the scenes conversation and I think Jim Ed was one of the folks he was talking to. Roughly what he said was that he had gone shopping at a local store like Walmart or Krogers and when he came out there was this man standing in front of the store shaking hands a greeting people. He said it was Roy Acuff and he was telling everyone he was Roy Acuff from the Grand Ole Opry and was inviting them to come out to the show and to Opryland.They were discussing how dedicated Roy was to the Opry and how much it meant to him and to country music.JimKnightsville, IN