As the Labor Day weekend continues, here are a few Opry notes that I wanted to post:
The 91st birthday weekend is scheduled for October 7th and 8th, which makes it just five weeks away and as of this point, nothing has been announced for Saturday night. As many Opry fans know, the last few years have seen a decline in the quality of the birthday weekend shows. As far as Friday night, Joe Diffie and Lee Brice have been announced. The assumption is that the Opry will make an announcement soon which will hopefully include a few big names. But time is getting short.
Meanwhile, Crystal Gayle has been announced as the star of the annual birthday concert which takes place on Saturday afternoon. What is interesting is that Crystal is not an Opry member which makes me wonder if there was not an Opry member available to do the concert. If my memory is right, the only other non-Opry member to have done the birthday concert since it switched to the current format was T. Bubba Bechtol, but when he appeared it was on a show with Mike Snider. Crystal is actually a good choice for the show as she always does a fine job at the Opry. And Crystal is another of the artists that you wonder why she has not been made an Opry member. She would be a good one.
It has been almost two years since the Opry has had a new member, with Little Big Town joining the cast last in 2014. Since that time, several Opry members have passed away, currently leaving 62 members. The only rumor out there remains Chris Janson, who as stated many times that he would love to become a member of the Opry. Supposedly he did ask Pete Fisher if he could be a member and the response was something along the lines that while he performs on the Opry a lot now, once he really becomes big he will never be back. Interesting comment for sure. Meanwhile, most weeks at the Opry finds just 5 or 6 members performing, with the continued reliance on guest artists. Now there might be a financial advantage to Ryman Hospitalities to not have any additional members, as Opry members have a union contract that does give them health and pension benefits.
November 3, 2016 will mark 60 years from the date that Stonewall Jackson originally became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Stonewall joined the cast on November 3, 1956, then was fired on December 6, 1964 for failing to make the number of required Opry appearances. He rejoined the show on May 10, 1969. While he was gone from the Opry for five years, the Opry has always recognized Stonewall's original date. It will be interesting if the Opry does anything special for Stonewall as they did for Jean Shepard on her 60th anniversary this past November. Stonewall has not appeared on the Opry since 2014 and actually very seldom in the past few years. Of course it should be noted that Stonewall sued the Opry in a case that was eventually settled out of court. Personally, it would be a shame if the Opry did not recognize the anniversary but I think it is safe to say that Stonewall is pretty much done with the Opry. I did notice that Stonewall will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree on November 5. On the schedule there is nothing noting his Opry anniversary, but they do note that it will be Stonewall's 84th birthday.
Speaking of the Midnight Jamboree, from what I have been told, the crowds remain relatively small. Hopefully it improves. Oh, by the way, on the birthday weekend, Bobby Osborne will be hosting.
Reports on Facebook, and in a comment on the blog from our good friend Jim, Jean Shepard is hospitalized as she has been battling a variety of health issues. When Jean appeared on the Opry in November for her 60th anniversary, the impression given was that it was going to be Jean's final appearance on the Opry as she wanted to focus on her health. Before being hospitalized, she had been out and about and was at several tapings of Larry's Country Diner for RFD-TV. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jean.
Meanwhile, there is nothing new to report regarding former Opry member Holly Dunn and her battle with ovarian cancer. Out prayers go out to Holly also.
Bill Anderson's new biography is complete and for sale. He was offering autographed copies on his website and will also be doing a signing at the Opry House. I have not read the book as of yet, but I own Bill's previous books, and with his new book co-written with Peter Cooper, it promises to be another good one.
I hope everyone continues to enjoy the holiday weekend.