Sunday, August 5, 2018

August Opry Highlights

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!! And where has summer gone? I can't believe that August has begun and many children are returning to school. It has gone fast. I hope everyone is enjoying some great weather and warm temperatures, where ever you are. As usual, here are the important and historical events that have taken place in the history of the Grand Ole Opry, or regarding Opry members, during the month of August:

August 22, 1910: Country Music Hall of Fame member, and former Grand Ole Opry comedian, Rod Brasfield was born in Smithville, Mississippi. Rod joined the Opry in the late 1940s 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, along with her husband Johnny Wright, were members of the Grand Ole Opry from the early 1950s until they left the show in December 1964 over a dispute regarding booking fees. Although they left the Opry cast, Kitty would come back to make a few guest appearances on the show. There are also some reports that she asked to rejoin the Opry cast in her later years, but the request was declined. 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 shortly after. He was an Opry member for a very short period of time as he figured out he was losing out on a lot of money by not appearing on the road on Saturday nights. Webb would come back and make an occasional appearance in his later years. In 2001, after his death, Webb was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

August 28, 1925: The great guitarist Billy Grammer was born in Benton, Illinois. Billy joined the Opry in 1959 and was as well known for his guitar playing as he was for his singing. His career song was "Gotta Travel On." Billy remained a member of the Opry until his death in August 2011, after spending more than 50 years as an Opry member.

August 12, 1927: The man known as "The Wagonmaster," Porter Wagoner was born in West Plains, Missouri. Porter came to the Opry in 1957 from the Ozark Jubilee, and he would remain a very popular Opry member until his death in October 2007, shortly after celebrating 50 years as a member of the Opry. During his long career, this Hall of Fame member had over 80 singles on the country charts and was instrumental in the career of a number of country music artists, including Norma Jean, Dolly Parton, Mel Tillis, Buck Trent and Patty Loveless, among others. Even to this day, Porter is missed at the Opry.

August 29, 1927: Jimmy C Newman was born in High Point, Louisiana. Jimmy joined the Opry in August 1956 and along with his Cajun Band, was a very popular member of the Opry. You could always count on a bouncy, cajun sound whenever Jimmy appeared on the Opry. Jimmy passed away in June 2014 after a short illness.

August 4, 1931: Former Grand Ole Opry manager Hal Durham was born in McMinnville, Tennessee. After the Grand Ole Opry moved to Opryland and the new Grand Ole Opry House, Hal was asked by newly promoted Opry general manager Bud Wendall to come and help him out. It worked out pretty well and soon Hal was running the Opry. He received the official title of general manager in 1978 and would hold that position for the next 15 years. It should be noted that it was under Hal's direction attendance requirements were relaxed, and a number of members were added to the cast with no commitment to the show. After a long retirement, Hal passed away in March 2009.

March 20, 1935: Justin Tubb was born in San Antonio, Texas. Justin would follow in the footsteps of his famous father Ernest and became a successful country music singer, along with being a fine songwriter. Justin became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1955, at the age of 20. At the time he was the Opry's youngest member. Justin remained with the Opry until his sudden death in January 1998.

August 14, 1941: Constance June Meador was born in Elkhart, Indiana. Better known as Connie Smith, she joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, left for a few years, then returned for good. In 2015 she celebrated 50 years as a member of the Opry, and sounds as great as ever.

August 11, 1946: Grand Ole Opry member John Conlee was born in Versallies, Kentucky. John, who has one of the unique voices in country music, joined the Opry in 1981 and 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 was fired because it was determined that his behavior and personal habits were detrimental to the Opry, and country music in general. Hank was very upset and disappointed at being fired and had hoped that one day he could return as an Opry member. However, Hank passed away and his Opry return never took place.

August 16, 1952: Grandpa Jones, who had left Nashville for a short period of time, rejoined the cast of the Opry. Grandpa had first joined the show in the 1940s.

August 29, 1953: James Clell Summey, known professionally as Cousin Jody officially became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Jody first came to the Opry in 1938 as a part of Roy Acuff's group. He also performed with Pee Wee King and Eddy Arnold. While he appeared on the Opry many times as a solo artist, he also appeared with Lonzo & Oscar. While he was noted for his comedy skills, Jody was also a fabulous dobro player, and in fact it was Jody who first played the dobro on the Opry and helped to define the Acuff sound. Cousin Jody stayed as a member of the Opry until the early 1970s, 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 Grand Ole Opry. He was gone for a couple of months, returning in November of that year. What is strange about this is that while he was gone from the Opry, Ernest still hosted the Midnight Jamboree each week. Several reasons and rumors were given as to the reason for not appearing on the Opry, with health related issues being the most common.

August 28, 1954: Stringbean, or "String Beans" as he was referred to during this period of time, left the cast of the Grand Ole Opry to join the Ramblin' Tommy Scott Show. He was gone for just a short period of time and returned to the Opry, where he would remain until his death in November 1973.

August 4, 1956: As best as can be determined, Jimmy C Newman became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Except for a very brief period of time when Jimmy was absent from the show, Jimmy would remain with the Opry until his death in 2014. On a side note, when Jimmy first joined the Opry, the "C" was missing as at that point he had not 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 numerous times over the years as George would come and go from the Opry. Among other dates listed in various editions of the Grand Ole Opry History Picture Book are August 4, 1956; January 4, 1969 (he did rejoin the cast on that date after previously leaving), and in the 1979 edition of the book, a 1973 date is listed. Not that it all mattered as George wasn't on the Opry all that often, but whenever he did George received a great ovation.

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 left town, the Opry dropped her as a member. Holly passed away in November 2016 after a battle with cancer.

August 4, 1959: Skeeter Davis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. With the exception for a period on time in the 1970s when she was suspended from the Opry's cast, Skeeter was an Opry member until her death in 2004. Skeeter, who's biggest hit was "The End of the World" make her final Opry appearance in 2002, after which declining health forced her into retirement. Skeeter was always bouncy when on the Opry and brought a smile to a lot of faces.

August 8, 1959: Jim Reeves rejoined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. Jim first joined the Opry in 1955. He had left the show a year earlier because of the demands on his career.

August 26, 1961: Future Grand Ole Opry member Ray Pillow made his debut on the Opry. Ray made a great impression and was invited back for more appearances, which eventually led to Ray becoming an Opry member in April 1966.

August 10, 1963: Jim Ed, Maxine and Bonnie, known collectively as The Browns, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. While Maxine and Bonnie left the act in 1967 due to family considerations, Jim Ed continued on as a solo member. Over the years, Maxine and Bonnie would return for guest appearances and it was always a special treat when they did. Jim Ed was an Opry member for over 50 years, before passing away in 2015. Bonnie passed away in 2016, while Maxine continues to go strong. In 2015, The Browns were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

August 23, 1963: Former Grand Ole Opry member Milton Estes died at the age of 49. Milton was originally a member of Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys and served as the groups announcer.

August 27, 1963: Former Grand Ole Opry manager Jim Denny passed away from cancer at the age of 52. When he became the Opry's manager, Jim was the first WSM employee to specifically be given that role. During his time with the Opry, he brought dozens of new members to the show including Webb Pierce, who would later be his partner in Cedarwood Publishing, one of the first music publishing companies to locate in Nashville. It was the success of Cedarwood that led to Jim leaving the Opry as WSM management viewed it as 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 members of the Grand Ole Opry, Sonny retired from performing in 2005, at which time Bobby continued with his own group, The Rocky Top X-Press. On this same date, Dottie West became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Dottie, who was finally elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame this past year, 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. 43 years later, on April 7, 2018, Bobby had his Opry membership reinstated, a move that was well received by everyone at the Opry.

August 21, 1965: After changing the date several different times, this seems to be the date that the Opry recognizes as to when Connie Smith became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Originally the Opry listed the date as in June, then switched to the August date. What is interesting in either case is that Connie did not appear on the Opry on this date, but actually first appeared as on Opry member a month later, in September. Regardless, this will be Connie's 53rd year as an Opry member.

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

August 17, 1967: Charlie Walker became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Charlie, who is a member of the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame, came to the Opry from Texas, where he launched his very successful recording career. Charlie was always a very active member of the Opry, and continued to perform on the show until his death in September 2008.

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 the only Opry members from the land up north.

August 12, 1972: David Houston became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. David was another of the artists who came to Nashville, and the Opry, via the Louisiana Hayride. His signature song was the great classic, "Almost Persuaded" which spent weeks at No. 1 on the country charts. David remained an Opry member until he passed away in November 1993.

August 21, 1975: Grand Ole Opry member, and on of the original members, 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 at the Opry, Sam would appear with various individuals and 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 the case, take it home, and not bring it back.

August 11, 1976: Roy Acuff returned to the Grand Ole Opry stage after suffering a heart attack earlier in the year.

August 11, 1979: Guy Willis, a member of The Willis Brothers, made his final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Along with his brothers Skeeter and Guy, The Willis Brothers joined the Opry in 1946, left to tour with Eddy Arnold, and 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 for very long, leaving just several years later. For B.J., Opry membership just did not turn out the way he thought it would.

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 a little later, found out that Opry membership just wasn't what he expected.

August 14, 1982: Grand Ole Opry legend Ernest Tubb made his final appearance on the Opry. 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 that Ernest hosted the Midnight Jamboree. After his final appearances in Nashville, he made one more short, final tour in November before retiring and spending his remaining years at his home in Nashville.

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

August 6, 1983: After previously giving up her Opry membership, Norma Jean returned for a guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

August 24, 1984: Rock artist Neil Young made his debut on the Opry stage. While he is best known for his rock appearances, and being a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Neil has written a number of country music songs.

August 22, 1987: Roy Clark became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be Roy's 31st year as an Opry member. While he is getting up there in age, Roy still comes out to the Opry once in a while, and sounds great.

August 29, 1987: Grand Ole Opry member Archie Campbell passed away in a Knoxville, Tennessee hospital at the age of 73. He had been in declining health, dealing with heart issues. Archie joined the Opry in 1958 and achieved some of his greatest success as a member of the cast of Hee Haw. Archie was known for his comedy and story telling and often used 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 6, 1988: Former Grand Ole Opry member Webb Pierce performed on the Opry for the final time. Webb was a member of the Opry for a short amount of time in the 1950s, when he was the hottest act in country music. Webb, however, found that he was missing out on too much money if he was in Nashville every Saturday night instead of out on the road. After giving up his Opry membership, Webb would still occasionally guest on the show.

August 10, 1991: Vince Gill became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 27th year as an Opry member. On the night he joined, he was introduced by Roy Acuff. Over the years, Vince has made known his love of the Opry and has challenged others of his generation 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, which would ultimately prove to be fatal. While Dottie put up a struggle and went through several surgeries, she would pass away a week later.

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 helped to change to focus of the Opry from a regional show into a nationally recognized professional one. He helped to bring such artists, and professionals, as Pee Wee King, Roy Acuff, and Eddy Arnold to the Opry.

August 9, 1996: Hank Snow returned to the Grand Ole 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 a few 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, the last member to join the cast before the show moved to the new Grand Ole Opry House. A great comedian and storyteller, Jerry was loved by many.

August 26, 2000: Pam Tillis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. For Pam, this will be her 18th year as an Opry member.

August 18, 2001: The Grand Ole Opry moved the televised portion of the Opry from TNN to CMT, as TNN changed into Spike TV and changed their focus away from country music. The first show on CMT featured Vince Gill, who celebrated 10 years as an Opry member. Also appearing that night were Steve Wariner, Sonya Isaacs, Jimmy C. Newman, Brad Paisley, Elizabeth Cook and Loretta Lynn. Quite an impressive line-up for the televised portion.

August 10, 2002: During the televised portion of the Grand Ole Opry on CMT, the Dixie Chicks announced that Porter Wagoner and Bill Carlisle had been elected as the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Personally, I have always felt that the Hall of Fame did an injustice to both Porter and Bill by having the Dixie Chicks make the announcement as part of an Opry show. Nothing again the Dixie Chicks, I just thought the Hall of Fame should have made a bigger deal out of the announcement. In Porter's case, it was long overdue. It is still fun going back an looking at the tape of that night as Porter looked like he was biting his tongue and holding back what I think he really wanted to say.

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. As with so many others of that generation, Del suffered from respiratory issues and emphysema, which would lead to his death several years later.

August 31, 2002: The Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 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. This will be his 15th year as an Opry member. On the night of his induction, his idol Ronnie Milsap did the honors, assisted by Lorrie Morgan.

August 12, 2006: Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy C Newman was recognized upon his 50th year as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

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 in the historic flood of May 2010. Thanks to extensive repair and renovation, the center circle was restored to its former condition.

August 6, 2011: The Oak Ridge Boys became members of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry had wanted the quartet as members for years, however they had always declined due to their heavy touring schedule. However, 7 years ago the Oak Ridge Boys felt the time was right and they accepted the offer by Jimmy Dickens to join the cast. On the night they joined, the group sang, "Bobby Sue," "Amazing Grace," and of course, "Elvira." Every time they are on the Opry, they never fail to receive a standing ovation.

August 13, 2011: Vince Gill celebrated 20 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, in a show dedicated to Grand Ole Opry member Billy Grammer, who had passed away earlier in the week. Joining Vince that night, who opened the show performing Billy's great hit, "Gotta Travel On" were Amy Grant, Martina McBride, and Emmylou Harris, among others.

August 16, 2013: During a concert appearance in Cleveland, Ohio, Old Crow Medicine Show was surprised by Grand Ole Opry member Marty Stuart, who invited Old Crow to become the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. Of course, they accepted and a month later became official Opry members. Personally, this was one of the best moves the Opry had made in many years.

August 7, 2014: Earl White, the last remaining member of the Crook Brothers square dance band, passed away after a short illness. After the passing of Herman Crook, and then Lewis Crook, Earl continued as the fiddle player for the square dancers, joined by Charlie Collins before he passed away.

August 8, 2015: Connie Smith was honored for 50 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Marty Stuart hosted a one hour segment of the show, which included Connie singing her monster hit, "Once A Day."

August 13, 2016: Vince Gill was honored upon his 25th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Vince hosted two shows that night, both of which lasted over 3 hours. Vince as on stage the entire night, with both shows featuring Bill Anderson, Ashley Monroe, Rodney Crowell, Charlie Worsham, and of course, his wife, Amy Grant. As someone who was there, it was a spectacular night.

August 29, 2017: Chris Young was invited by Vince Gill to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Chris was formally inducted in October.


  1. Something I keep forgetting to mention here is that GETTV, channel 373 on Dish, is showing the Johnny Cash show on Sunday night at 10pm Eastern. Seeing the remarks above about Marty Robbins made me think of it. Marty is one of the guests tonight.

    Knightsville, IN

  2. Thanks Jim!
    I "get" GETTV over the air with my antenna for free!
    Subchannel of channel 8, WISH-TV, in Indianapolis.
    10:00 is getting a little later every day for me, but I can record if, if I remember to!

    1. I don't have cable. I get GETTV also. Johnny Cash is on at 9:00PM Central Time. Bob

  3. I'm sure you know that Dottie West was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year.

    Rich in Seattle

  4. Thanks Rich for spotting my error. Much appreciated.

  5. Such a great August review, Byron. So much history in this month. Thanks for giving me so many great memories.

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