Sunday, July 31, 2016

August Opry Highlights

I can't believe that we are entering the final month of summer. Where did it go? I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and as I do each month, here are the important and historical events that have taken place in the month of August, regarding the Grand Ole Opry or Opry members, past and present. 

August 22, 1910: Country Music Hall of Fame member, and former Opry star, Rod Brasfield was born in Smithville, Mississippi. Rod joined the Opry in the late 1940's and was famous for his comedy routines with Minnie Pearl and June Carter, among others. Rod was a member of the Opry until he passed away in September 1958.

August 30, 1919: Muriel Ellen Deason, known professionally as Kitty Wells, was born in Nashville. Kitty and her husband, Johnny Wright, were Opry members from the early 1950's until they left the show in December 1964 over a dispute regarding booking fees. Although she left the Opry cast, Kitty would come back and make guest appearances on the show, and some reports say that in her later years she asked to rejoin the Opry, however that request was denied. Kitty passed away in July 2012.

August 8, 1921: Webb Pierce was born in West Monroe, Louisiana. Webb first appeared on the Opry in 1952, and joined the cast for a brief period of time. However, he said that he quickly figured out how much money he was losing by not being out on the road on Saturday nights and decided to leave. In 2001, Webb was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

August 28, 1925: Billy Grammer was born in Benton, Illinois. Billy joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1959 and would remain an Opry member until his death in August 2011.

August 12, 1927: The Wagonmaster himself, Porter Wagoner was born in West Plains, Missouri. Porter came to the Opry from the Ozark Jubilee in 1957 and would remain a very popular Opry member until his death in October 2007, just after celebrating 50 years as an Opry member. During his Hall of Fame career, Porter had over 80 singles on the country music charts and was instrumental in helping a number of country music stars with their careers including Dolly Parton, Norma Jean, Mel Tillis, Buck Trent and Patty Loveless, among others. 

August 29, 1927: Jimmy C Newman was born in High Point, Louisiana. Jimmy joined the Opry in August 1956 and Jimmy with his Cajun band were popular members of the cast. Jimmy remained an Opry member until passing away in June 2014. 

August 4, 1931: Former Grand Ole Opry manager Hal Durham was born in McMinnville, Tennessee. After the Opry moved to Opryland and the new Grand Ole Opry House, Hal was asked by newly promoted Opry general manager Bud Wendell to come and help him out and soon Hal was in charge of the Opry. In 1978, he received the official title as general manager of the Opry and held that position for the next 15 years. It was under Hal's direction that many of the appearance requirements were relaxed and as a result, he offered membership to a number of artists including Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, The Whites and Riders In The Sky. Hal passed away in March 2009. 

August 20, 1935: Justin Tubb was born in San Antonio, Texas. Justin would follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Ernest, and become a very successful country music singer and writer. He joined the Opry in 1955 at the age of 20, which at the time made his the Opry's youngest member. Justin remained with the Opry until his sudden death in January 1998.

August 14, 1941: Constance June Meador, known to all of us as Connie Smith, was born in Elkhart, Indiana. Connie joined the Opry in 1965, left for a few years, and then returned for good. Last year, she celebrated 50 years as a member of the Opry. And who besides me cannot believe that Connie will be turning 75? And she sounds as good as ever. 

August 11, 1946: John Conlee was born in Versallies, Kentucky. John has been a member of the Opry since 1981, and he remains a very active member of the cast. 

August 11, 1952: Hank Williams was fired as a member of the Grand Ole Opry by Opry manager Jim Denny. Hank had always hoped to return as a member of the Opry, however Hank's behavior was detrimental to the show and he was not allowed to return. Even though Hank has been dead for over 60 years, there are those who still feel he should be reinstated. 

August 16, 1952: Grandpa Jones rejoined the cast of the Opry. Grandpa first joined the Opry in the 1940's, however he left Nashville for a number of years. 

August 29, 1953: Cousin Jody officially joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry as a solo member. Jody first came to the Opry in 1938 as part of Roy Acuff's group, and he also performed with Pee Wee King and Eddy Arnold. While he appeared many times as a solo artist on the Opry, he also appeared many times with Lonzo & Oscar. While noted as a comedian, he was equally famous as a dobro player and it was actually Jody who first brought the dobro to the Opry stage and helped to create the famous Acuff sound. Cousin Jody stayed as a member of the Opry until the early 1970's, when health issues forced him to retire. He passed away in August 1975.

August 14, 1954: Ernest Tubb took a leave of absence from the Opry. He was gone for a couple of months, returning to the Opry in November. What was strange about the leave of absence from the Opry was the fact that he still hosted the Midnight Jamboree each week. It was at the time that health issues was the reason behind his leave. 

August 28, 1954: Stringbean, or "String Beans" as he was referred to during this period of time, left the cast of the Opry to join the Ramblin' Tommy Scott Show. After a short period of time, Stringbean returned to the cast and remained an Opry member until his death in November 1973.

August 4, 1956: Jimmy C Newman became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Except for a very brief period when he was absent from the show, Jimmy remained an Opry member until he passed away in 2014. On a side note, when he joined the cast, he was known as Jimmy Newman, with the "C" missing as he had not at that point dedicated himself to the Cajun sound that he would later become famous for. 

August 11, 1956: This is the date that George Jones first became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The dates have changed over the years as George left the cast several times. Among those other dates, as listed in the Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book, are August 4, 1956, January 4, 1969 (he did rejoin on that date after previously leaving the cast), and in the 1979 edition of the book, a 1973 date is listed. Not that it mattered, as George always received a great ovation when he appeared, which sorry to say was not that often. 

August 22, 1957: Former Grand Ole Opry member Holly Dunn was born in San Antonio, Texas. Holly was an Opry member for a number of years before retiring and leaving Nashville in 2003. After she moved and left the music business, the Opry dropped her as a member. 

August 4, 1959: Skeeter Davis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. With the exception of a short period of time in the mid 1970's when Skeeter was suspended from the Opry, she would remain an Opry member until her death in September 2004. Her last Opry appearance was in 2002, after which declining health forced her into retirement. 

August 26, 1961: Ray Pillow made his debut on the Opry. Ray made a great impression and was invited back, eventually joining the cast in April 1966. Earlier this year, Ray celebrated 50 years as a member of the Opry. 

August 10, 1963: The Browns, Jim Ed, Bonnie and Maxine, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. When Maxine and Bonnie retired in 1967 due to family obligations, Jim Ed continued as a solo member, with Bonnie and Maxine making occasional guest visits. Jim Ed was an Opry member for over 50 years before passing away last year, while Bonnie passed away last month. Last year, The Browns were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

August 23, 1963: Former Opry member Milton Estes died at the age of 49. Milton was originally part of Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys, serving as the group's announcer. 

August 27, 1963: Former Grand Ole Opry manager Jim Denny died from cancer at the age of 52. When he became the Opry's manager, he was the first WSM employee to specifically be given that role. During his time as the Opry's manager, he brought dozen of acts to the show including Webb Pierce, who he would later be his partner in Cedarwood Music Publishing. It was the success of this company that led to Denny leaving the Opry due to a conflict of interest. In 1966, Jim Denny was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

August 8, 1964: The Osborne Brothers, Bobby and Sonny, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. While both are still considered Opry members, Sonny retired in 2005 and Bobby continued with his own group, The Rocky Top X-Press. This is also the date that the late Dottie West became a member of the Opry. Dottie passed away in September 1991.

August 14, 1965: Bobby Bare became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Bobby stayed as an Opry member until March 1974, when he quit the cast as the show moved to the new Grand Ole Opry House. 

August 21, 1965: After changing the date several times, this is the date the Opry recognizes as when Connie Smith became a member of the Opry. It has changed a few times over the years, with June being listed for the longest time. What is interesting is that Connie did not appear on the Opry on this date, but actually a month later in September. Regardless, this will be Connie's 51st year as a member of the Opry. 

August 28, 1965: After suffering serious injuries in a car accident seven weeks earlier, Roy Acuff returned to the Opry stage. 

August 17, 1967: Charlie Walker became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He came to the Opry after having been a DJ in Texas, turning that gig into a successful recording career. Charlie remained an active Opry member until passing away in September 2008. He was a member of the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame. 

August 5, 1968: Grand Ole Opry member Terri Clark was born in Montreal, Canada. As a Canadian, she would join Hank Snow and Stu Phillips as Opry members from the country up north. 

August 12, 1972: David Houston became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. David came to Nashville via the Louisiana Hayride and thanks to his signature song, and huge #1 "Almost Persuaded," along with his other hit recordings in the late 1960's, the Opry offered David membership. He remained with the Opry until passing away in November 1993.  

August 21, 1975: Grand Ole Opry member Sam McGee died in a tractor accident on his farm in Tennessee. He was 81. Along with his brother Kirk, he first performed on the WSM Barn Dance in 1926. During his time on the Opry, he would appear with several different groups including the Dixieliners. Sam was the first Opry member to use an electric guitar on the show, after which George D. Hay told him to put it back in he case, take it home, and not bring it back. 

August 11, 1976: Roy Acuff returned to the Opry stage after suffering a heart attack in April. 

August 11, 1979: Guy Willis of the Willis Brothers made his final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Along with brothers Skeeter and Vic, the Willis Brothers joined the Opry in 1946. After leaving in 1949 to tour with Eddy Arnold, they returned in 1957. 

August 7, 1981: B.J. Thomas became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. However, he did not remain with the Opry very long, just a couple of years. Opry membership just didn't turn out the way he though it would be. 

August 22, 1981: Don Williams made his final appearance as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Don joined the cast in 1976 and much like B.J. Thomas, it just wasn't what Don expected. 

August 14, 1982: Opry legend Ernest Tubb made his final Grand Ole Opry appearance. Suffering from emphysema, Ernest had a difficult time breathing, which made singing very difficult. Not only was this his final Opry appearance, but it was also the final night of Ernest hosting his Midnight Jamboree. After his final Opry appearance, he made one more short final tour in November before retiring and spending his remaining years at home. 

August 28, 1982: Just two weeks after the final appearance by Ernest Tubb, Marty Robbins performed on the Opry for the final time. Marty had been a fixture as the host of the 11:30 segment of the show. Marty, who suffered from heart issues, would pass away the following December. 

August 24, 1984: Rock artist Neil Young made his debut on the Opry stage. While he is best known for his rock performances, Neil has actually written a number of country music songs. 

August 22, 1987: Roy Clark became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 29th year as an Opry member. While he is getting up there in age, Roy still sounds great whenever he appears on the Opry. 

August 29, 1987: Opry member Archie Campbell passed away in a Knoxville hospital. He had been in declining health, having been dealing with heart issues. Archie joined the Opry in 1958 and achieved some of his greatest success from being a part of the Hee Haw cast. Archie was known for his comedy and story telling, often using one of the Opry's announcers as his straight man. In his later years, Archie would make most of his Opry appearances in the winter months, spending the prime tourist season performing at his theater in Gatlinburg. 

August 10, 1991: Vince Gill joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 25th year as an Opry member and on August 13 he will be honored. The night he joined, he was introduced by Roy Acuff. Over the years, Vince has made known his love of the Opry and has encouraged many of his contemporaries to support the show. 

August 30, 1991: On her way to the Friday Night Opry, Dottie West was involved in a serious car accident at the entrance to Opryland that would ultimately lead to her passing. 

August 31, 1995: Former Grand Ole Opry and WSM announcer David Stone passed away at the age of 93. Along with his brother Harry, David help change the focus of the Opry from a regional show into a nationally recognized professional one. He helped to bring such artists as Pee Wee King, Roy Acuff and Eddy Arnold to the show.

August 9, 1996: Hank Snow returned to the Opry for the first time that year. He had been suffering from respiratory issues. He performed three songs that night including the hit, "I Don't Hurt Anymore." Hank would make just several more Opry appearances before retiring the following month. 

August 24, 1998: Grand Ole Opry member Jerry Clower died in a Jackson, Mississippi hospital after undergoing open heart surgery. He was 71. Jerry joined the Opry in November 1973 and was the last member to join the cast prior to the Opry's move to the new Grand Ole Opry House. 

August 26, 2000: Pam Tillis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be Pam's 16th year as an Opry member. 

August 18, 2001: The Grand Ole Opry moved their televised portion of the show from TNN to CMT. The first show on CMT was highlighted by Vince Gill, who celebrated 10 years as an Opry member. He was joined on the show that night by Steve Wariner, Sonya Isaacs, Jimmy C Newman, Brad Paisley, Elizabeth Cook and Loretta Lynn. 

August 10, 2002: During the televised portion of the Opry on CMT, the Dixie Chicks announced that Porter Wagoner and Bill Carlisle had been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Personally, I always have thought that the Hall of Fame did an injustice to Porter and Bill by having the Dixie Chicks do the announcement. Nothing against the Dixie Chicks, but I just thought the Hall of Fame should have made a bigger deal out of the announcement than having it done during an Opry show. In Porter's case, the induction was along overdue. 

August 23, 2002: Grand Ole Opry member Del Reeves made his final appearance on the Opry. Del entered a period of declining health that led to his retirement from the Opry. 

August 31, 2002: The Grand Ole Opry celebrated it's 4,000 Saturday night broadcast. The Opry did a tribute to Minnie Pearl that featured Clint Black, Barbara Mandrell, Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Steve Wariner. 

August 23, 2003: Trace Adkins became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. On the night of his induction, Ronnie Milsap and Lorrie Morgan did the honors. This will be his 13th year as an Opry member. 

August 25, 2010: In a special ceremony, Brad Paisley and Jimmy Dickens sang, "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" as the historic center piece of wood was returned to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry House after being damaged and repaired from the historic flood in May. 

August 6, 2011: The Oak Ridge Boys became the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry had wanted to Oaks as members for years, but they always turned down the offer due to the heavy touring schedule they always had. Finally, things changed 5 years ago and they accepted. On the night they joined, they performed "Bobbi Sue," "Amazing Grace" and of course, "Elvira. 

August 13, 2011: Vince Gill celebrated his 20th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, in a show dedicated to Opry member Billy Grammer, who had passed away earlier in the week. Joining Vince that night were Amy Grant, Martina McBride and Emmylou Harris, among others. 

August 7, 2014: Earl White, the last living member of the Crook Brothers square dance band passed away. After the passing of Herman Crook, and then Lewis Crook, Earl continued as the fiddle player for the square dancers. 

August 8, 2015: Connie Smith is honored for 50 years of Opry membership. Marty Stuart hosted a one-hour segment in her honor that also included Connie singing her signature hit, "One A Day." 


  1. Great as always. I'm going to offer a minor correction, or maybe it isn't. When Hubert Gregory retired or suffered from ill health, the Crooks and Earl White continued with Larry McNeely as guitarist. When Herman Crook died, Larry switched to harmonica and Charlie Collins played guitar. Then, when Mr. Acuff died and the Opry allowed Oswald and Charlie to continue, Larry left, and it was just Earl and Charlie. So, technically, Larry McNeely is the last living performer from the Crook Brothers, but I don't know that he was technically in the group!

  2. Sure do miss Earl White on the Opry. The square dance portions used to be my favorite but now with the heavy drums it now sounds like some kind of voodoo ritual. Sorry to say but many weekends I no longer tune in and that's a shame.