On the same weekend that our country will inaugurate a new President, the Grand Ole Opry will welcome a new member as on Saturday night, Crystal Gayle officially joins the cast of the Grand Ole Opry.
Brenda Gail Webb was born on January 9, 1951 in Paintsville, Kentucky. She is the younger sister of Grand Ole Opry member Loretta Lynn and a distant cousin of Opry member Patty Loveless. While Loretta grew up in Kentucky, Brenda spent most of her childhood in Wabash, Indiana. As she was growing up, she would sing for visitors at her home, and inspired by Loretta, she learned to play the guitar and sing backup in her brothers' folk band. While still in high school, she began to tour with Loretta for a few weeks each summer. After graduating from Wabash High School in 1970, she signed with Decca Records, Loretta's label. Since Brenda Lee was already a singer on Decca, she was asked to change her name and it was Loretta that suggested Crystal, after seeing a sign for the Krystal hamburger restaurant. Brenda Gayle Webb thus became Crystal Gayle.
Crystal's debut single, "I've Cried (The Blue Right Out of My Eyes)", was released in 1970 and peaked at number 23 on the Billboard charts. Written by Loretta, many say it sounded like a Loretta Lynn record, which pleased Decca. Loretta wrote more songs for Crystal, however nothing charted until 1974's "Restless" which reached number 39. She then left Decca and signed with United Artists, where she teamed with producer Allen Reynolds, who offered her the creative freedom to develop her own style. In 1974, her first album "Crystal Gayle" was released and the first single, "Wrong Road Again" reached number 6 on the charts. The hits kept coming and in 1976 she had her first No. 1 record, "I'll Get Over You." During the course of her career, she released 24 studio albums and 68 singles, along with projects with other artists. In addition to "I'll Get Over You." her other No. 1 singles have included "You Never Miss a Real Good Thing," "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," Ready for the Times to Get Better," "Talking in Your Sleep," Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For," "It's Like We Never Said Goodbye," "If You Ever Change Your Mind," "Too Many Lovers," "Til I Gain Control Again," "Our Love Is on the Faultline," "Baby, What About You," "The Sound of Goodbye," Turning Away," "Cry," and her final No. 1 in 1986, "Straight to the Heart." Her last chart appearance was in 1990 with "Never Ending Song of Love." She also scored No. 1 duets with Gary Morris and Eddie Rabbit.
During the course of her career, Crystal has won numerous awards including Academy of Country Music Top New Female Vocalist in 1975 and Top Female Vocalist in 1976, 1977, 1979, and the Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award in 2016. In 1977 and 1978 she was the Country Music Association's Female Vocalist of the Year, and won the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1978. In February 2008, she was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and in 2009 she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is just a matter of time before Crystal is elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, an honor that would be well deserved.
Crystal is currently working on a new album, her first in 13 years. She has been quoted as saying that album will contain covers of country music classics. On November 15, Carrie Underwood surprised Crystal during an appearance at the Opry, with an invitation to become the Opry's newest member.
Obviously, Crystal Gayle becoming the Opry's newest member will be the highlight this weekend, as it should be. But let's not forget, there are two pretty good Opry shows scheduled also. Joining Crystal and Loretta Lynn on Saturday's Grand Ole Opry will be Opry members Jeannie Seely, Mike Snider, John Conlee, Connie Smith, Riders In The Sky and Jesse McReynolds.
Conlee, Seely, Snider and The Riders are also scheduled for the Friday Night Opry where they will be joined by fellow Opry members Bobby Osborne, Josh Turner, Joe Diffie, Lorrie Morgan and Steve Wariner. That all adds up to 9 Opry members on Friday and 8 on Saturday.
As to guest artists this weekend, the list is fairly short. Friday night will have Maggie Rose, Jim Lauderdale and Jackie Lee, while Saturday's show has Ryan Kinder, Smithfield and Emily West scheduled.
Friday January 20
7:00: John Conlee (host); Maggie Rose; Mike Snider
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Josh Turner
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jim Lauderdale; Joe Diffie
8:45: Lorrie Morgan (host); Jackie Lee; Steve Wariner
Saturday January 21
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Ryan Kinder; Mike Snider
7:30: John Conlee (host); Smithfield; Connie Smith
8:15: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Emily West; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Loretta Lynn; Crystal Gayle
And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from 5 years ago, the weekend of January 20 & 21, 2012. During the Saturday night show, Emmylou Harris was honored upon her 20th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. (her actual induction date was January 25, 1992).
Friday January 20
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Jimmy C Newman; Connie Smith; Diamond Rio
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Kip Moore
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Terri Clark; Darryl Worley
8:45: John Conlee (host); Eric Paslay; Ricky Skaggs
Saturday January 21
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds; Mandy Barnett
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jean Shepard; Craig Morgan
8:15: Emmylou Harris (host); Shawn Colvin; Rodney Crowell; Vince Gill; Buddy Miller; Kimmie Rhodes; The Whites; Opry Square Dancers
Now from 10 years ago, the weekend of January 19 & 20, 2007:
Friday January 19
8:00: Mike Snider (host); The Whites; Blaine Larsen
8:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Keith Anderson
9:00: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Chris Young
9:30: Vince Gill (host); George Hamilton IV; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Terri Clark
Saturday January 20
6:30: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Ashley Monroe
7:00: Trace Adkins (host); Blake Shelton; Keith Anderson; Tracy Lawrence
8:00: Jimmy C Newman (host); Charlie Louvin; Suzy Bogguss; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Blaine Larsen
9:30: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Keith Anderson
10:00: George Hamilton IV (host); Suzy Bogguss; Trace Adkins
10:30: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Blake Shelton; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Ray Pillow (host); Blaine Larsen; Tracy Lawrence
It is worth noting that, while 22 years apart, Crystal Gayle will share the same Grand Ole Opry induction date as another Opry member, Brother Oswald.
When Bashful Brother Oswald stepped center stage wearing his bib overalls and trademark orange hat and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry on January 21, 1995, he had already been playing the Opry almost every weekend for more than 50 years. Oswald, who had been one of the most respected dobro players in country music, had also been a member of Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys for half a century. Now he was an official member in his own right. "I'm the happiest man alive. This is a wonderful honor for me," he said. Then, adding his howling trademark laugh, he joked, "You know, I've been auditioning for this part for 56 years!"
Born Beecher Ray Kirby, near Sevierville, Tennessee, in the Great Smoky Mountains, the son of an Appalachian musician, "Os"-as he's known to friends-learned guitar and banjo as a youngster. Later he played and passed the hat to supplement his sawmill income. As a young man he took a job in a car factory in Flint, Michigan, and began playing guitar and banjo in small clubs. Hawaiian music was popular at the time and Os bought his first steel guitar to fit in with the craze that was flooding the radio station where he played live music. He performed at the Chicago World's Fair and the following year moved to Knoxville and began playing dobro with local bands. He met Roy Acuff in Knoxville and joined the Smoky Mountain Boys at the Opry on January 8, 1939.
In addition to playing dobro, guitar and banjo, he also sang tenor with Roy, played jug in the jug band and did comedy. When Rachel Veach joined the group, Kirby became her "great big Bashful Brother Oswald," and they performed together, singing, playing, and doing comedy routines.
Roy once said, "I don't think anyone has the style, the touch and the control of a dobro instrument like Oswald. I don't think anyone has ever come close to him in his type of playing. He also plays the banjo in the old clawhammer or mountain style. Os is the best." Roy often showcased him as a featured artist and after Roy's death both Os and band member Charlie Collins performed regularly on the Opry.
Os played on most of Roy Acuff's recordings and sang on the classics "Precious Jewel" and "Wreck on the Highway." He also recorded his own albums including "Celebrating 25 years with Roy Acuff and Bashful Brother Oswald." In 1990 he was awarded the Heritage Award at Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and in 1994 he published his biography "That's The Truth If I've Ever Told It."
The night he joined the Opry all of the Opry members on stage sang "Wabash Cannonball" and Oswald played along just as he had done for 56 years. "I don't ever want to retire," he says. "I don't know what I'd retire on. Looks sure won't get it," he laughs. And how would Roy Acuff have felt about Oswald joining the Opry? "I guess he would appreciate it a whole lot," says Oswald. "I'm sure he would."
Oswald and Charlie Collins were popular entertainers at Opryland and after Roy Acuff passed away, they continued playing the Opry just about every weekend. At the time that he joined, Oswald was 83 years old, which made him the oldest person to have joined the Opry in the modern era of the show. And while not becoming a member himself, Charlie was with Oswald for each appearance. It has been said that several Opry members, particularly Porter Wagoner and Marty Stuart were instrumental in going to Opry management and asking that Oswald become a member, and when the rest of the Opry members were polled and asked, not one member disagreed.
Here is the running order of the Grand Ole Opry from Saturday January 21, 1995, the night that Brother Oswald became an official member of the Grand Ole Opry, and a night that I was at the Opry and witnessed this great honor.
6:30: GHS Strings
Grandpa Jones (host): Are You From Dixie
Mike Snider: Foggy Mountain Chimes
Grandpa Jones: My Little Old Home Down in New Orleans
6:45: Country Music Hall of Fame
Bill Monroe (host): A Feast Here Tonight
George Riddle & Bill Carlisle, Jr: White Lightening
Bill Monroe: A Voice From on High
Jimmy Dickens (host): I'm Little But I'm Loud
The Whites: He Took Your Place
Stonewall Jackson: Don't Be Angry
Jeanne Pruett: Back to Back
Jim Ed Brown: Will the Circle Be Unbroken/I Saw the Light/I'll Fly Away/Gone at Last
Jimmy Dickens: Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go)
7:30: Standard Candy
Marty Stuart (host): Don't Be Cruel
Porter Wagoner: Wabash Cannonball/The Precious Jewel/Fireball Mail/Night Train to Memphis/The Great Speckled Bird
Connie Smith: Sing, Sing, Sing
Brother Oswald: Hawaiian March/Mountain Dew/I'll Be All Smiles Tonight
Jimmy Dickens & Opry Cast: Wabash Cannonball
8:00: Martha White
Bill Anderson (host): Southern Fried
Jimmy C Newman: Allons A' Lafayette
Boxcar Willie: Fireball Mail/Train of Love/Hand Me Down My Walking Cane/Wreck of the Old 97/I'm Moving On/Wabash Cannonball/Night Train to Memphis
Charlie Louvin: Nearer My God to Thee
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Bill Cheatham
Bill Anderson: The Touch of the Master's Hand
Hank Snow (host): Silver Rails
4 Guys: Big River
Bill Walker: Adam's Side
Doug Stone: Love Grows Best in Little Houses
Osborne Brothers: Rocky Top
Hank Snow: The Prisoner's Song
9:30: Dollar General Stores
Porter Wagoner (host): Y'all Come
Wilma Lee Cooper: The Legend of the Dogwood Tree
Osborne Brothers: I'll Be All Right Tomorrow
Stu Phillips: That's A Chance I'll Have to Take
The Whites: Hangin' Around
Porter Wagoner: Dim Lights; Thick Smoke
Grandpa Jones (host): Banjo Sam
Roy Drusky: Always/One Day At A Time
Grandpa Jones: Dear Old Sunny South By the Sea
10:15: Tennessee Pride/Sunbeam
Bill Monroe (host): Stay Away From Me;You're Causing Me Trouble
Ray Pillow: too Many Memories
Bill Monroe: Tombstone Junction/Cryin' Holy Unto the Lord
10:30: Gruhn Guitar
Marty Stuart (host): Tempted
Boxcar Willie: Train Melody
Marty Stuart: Blue Train/Hillbilly Rock
10:45: Fairfield Communities
Jimmy Dickens (host): Take An Old Cold Tater
Del Reeves: The Race is On
Opry Square Dance Band/Melvin Sloan Dancers: Ragtime Annie
Jimmy Dickens: She Always Got What She Wanted
Hank Snow (host): Geisha Girl
Connie Smith: You & Your Sweet Love
Charlie Walker: Who Will Buy the Wine
Doug Stone: A Different Light/A Jukebox with a Country Song
Hank Snow: A Message From the Trade Winds
11:30: Cates Pickles
Bill Anderson (host): Wild Weekend
4 Guys: I Know; I Know
Jack Greene: Highway to the Sky
Johnny Russell: Baptism of Jesse Taylor
Bill Anderson: Deck of Cards
There you have it for this week. I hope everyone enjoys the Opry this weekend and once again, congratulations to Crystal Gayle on becoming the Opry's newest member!!!!