It would appear, unless the unexpected happens, that the Opry will end the year with 68 members. However, that really doesn't tell the story, as of those 68 members listed, 17 of those will end the year with zero appearances, and of those 17 it can safely be said that 12 of those members will never perform on the Opry again.
To put it into perspective, here are the 12, along with the last time performing on the Opry:
Bobby Bare: August 18, 2018
Ray Pillow: December 23, 2017
Hal Ketchum: August 18, 2017
Stu Phillips: June 4, 2017
Loretta Lynn: January 21, 2017
Stonewall Jackson: November 5, 2016
Jan Howard: October 24, 2015
Randy Travis: July 13, 2012
Ricky Van Shelton: July 2, 2004
Jeanne Pruett: June 9, 2001
Barbara Mandrell: June 14, 1997
Tom T Hall: June 6, 1992
The other five who will finish 2019 with no Opry appearances: Alan Jackson, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire, Ronnie Milsap and Blake Shelton.
Granted, a few of those such as Randy Travis, Jeanne Pruett and Jan Howard have appeared at the Opry, introduced on stage to be acknowledged by those attending the show.
Now, let's list those who are Grand Ole Opry members and don't appear more than 2 or 3 times a year:
Little Big Town
Two of the names I really am disappointed to see on this list are Brad Paisley and Marty Stuart. Both know better and as much as they both say they love the Opry and it's history, their support tells otherwise. With Brad, I specifically remember how he stepped forward after the 2010 flood and then the death of Jimmy Dickens, but after the media left, so did Brad. I know Marty has been busy, but so have others. He needs to return to his roots.
While Garth Brooks is on that list, I give him a pass. My understanding is that while Garth does not appear on the Opry often, he does a lot behind the scenes to support the Opry in other ways and has always answered their requests when asked.
And finally, Dolly Parton. I give her credit for her two shows this year, but prior to those, she was another one missing in action.
So not counting Luke Combs and Kelsea Ballerini, giving those two new members the opportunity to show us how they will support the Opry, that leaves us with 33 members who are actually appearing and supporting the show in some capacity.
So, of those 33, who are carrying the heavy loads and can be counted on to be at the Opry more weekends than not? The list of those who have appeared more than 20 times in 2019 is rather small:
Dailey & Vincent
Riders In The Sky
Basically, you have 12 members who are committed to the Opry. Any one what to guess what the average age of those artists is? And with those 12 doing the heavy lifting, we have seen what happens to the line-ups when many of those are missing.
Most of the other members who are not listed appear between 10 and 20 times each year and I am personally fine with those folks. I don't doubt the commitment of artists such as Vince Gill, Chris Janson, Crystal Gayle, Trace Adkins, Oak Ridge Boys and Carrie Underwood. And I really don't have an issue with those who are retired. God Bless them and we should be thankful for what they each brought to the Opry. My issue is that of the 68 Opry members there are only 33 that can be counted on to appear 10 times per year or more. In other words, only half of the Opry's cast are true participating members.
I am only pointing this out, as in the last several years we have lost a good number of veteran artists who supported the Opry: Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy Dickens, Jack Greene, George Hamilton IV, Charlie Louvin, Jimmy C Newman and Jean Shepard to name a few. And while we are lucky that most of the 12 who are making the most appearances are in good health, let's be honest. Any one of them could go at any time. And we wonder why some weeks, there are less than five or six members per show.
Hopefully under the new leadership of Dan Rogers, Opry membership is addressed and members added who will appear and support the show. If the Opry is going to continue with the host format, members need to be added that can actually host. The recently added Mark Wills is a great example. We need more members, such as Mark, who will step forward and support the show.
Just some thoughts.
Now, to the four Grand Ole Opry shows for this weekend and of course, one of those who I listed as appearing only several times per year, Darius Rucker, is scheduled to appear on both shows Friday night.
Joining Darius will be Opry members John Conlee, Mike Snider, Connie Smith, Ricky Skaggs and Riders In The Sky. Additionally, The Whites are scheduled for the first show and Bobby Osborne is listed on the second show. That all adds up to seven members on each show.
John Conlee, Ricky Skaggs, Mike Snider and Riders In The Sky are back for Saturday night, joined by Jeannie Seely, and on the first show, Jesse McReynolds. That gives us six members on the early show and five on the late show.
Guesting on Friday night will be Charlie Worsham, Jimmie Allen, High Valley and Cam. On Saturday night, Drew Baldridge, Restless Heart and Kalie Shorr are listed on the schedule, along with very frequent guest Charles Esten and The Milk Carton Kids, who I know one of our readers has a personal interest in.
Friday November 22
7:00: John Conlee (host); Charlie Worsham; Mike Snider
7:30: Connie Smith (host); The Whites; Jimmie Allen
8:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); High Valley; Cam
8:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Darius Rucker
9:30: John Conlee (host); Charlie Worsham; Mike Snider
10:00: Connie Smith (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Cam
10:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Jimmie Allen; High Valley
11:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Darius Rucker
Saturday November 23
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Drew Baldridge; Mike Snider
7:30: John Conlee (host); Kalie Shorr; The Milk Carton Kids
8:00: Riders In The Sky (host); Jesse McReynolds; Restless Heart; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); Charles Esten
9:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Drew Baldridge; Mike Snider
10:00: John Conlee (host); Kalie Shorr; The Milk Carton Kids
10:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Restless Heart; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); Charles Esten
And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from ten years ago, the weekend of November 20 & 21, 2009:
Friday November 20
7:00: George Hamilton IV (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jason Michael Carroll
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Shane Yellowbird
8:00: Mike Snider (host); Stonewall Jackson; The Whites; Connie Smith
8:30: Vince Gill (host); Ralph Stanley; Little Big Town
Saturday November 21
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Holly Williams
7:30: The Whites (host); Jack Greene; Ralph Stanley
8:00: George Hamilton IV (host); Jan Howard; The Lovell Sisters; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Charlie Daniels Band
9:30; Jimmy Dickens (host); Jimmy C Newman; Holly Williams
10:00: The Whites (host); Jack Greene; Ralph Stanley
10:30: Mike Snider (host); Ray Pillow; Charlie Daniels Band; Opry Square Dancers
11:00: Vince Gill (host); Connie Smith; The Lovell Sisters
I had to look up Shane Yellowbird as I honestly couldn't remember who he was. Shane is from Canada and had won several Canadian Country Music Awards prior to 2009, which was the year that his last album was released. While still apparently active, it seems that he really hasn't done much lately.
Now from 25 years ago, Saturday November 19, 1994:
6:30: Grandpa Jones (host); Jeanne Pruett; Alison Krauss
6:45: Bill Monroe (host); Riders In The Sky
7:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Brother Oswald; Dan Kelly; Jan Howard; Jack Greene; Bill Carlisle
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Loretta Lynn; Patty Loveless
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers; Charlie Louvin; Jimmy Sturr
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Jeannie Seely; Jim Ed Brown; Connie Smith; Jimmy C Newman
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Jeanne Pruett; Jim and Jesse; Patty Loveless
10:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Loretta Lynn; Johnny Russell
10:15: Bill Monroe (host); The Four Guys
10:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Riders In The Sky
10:45: Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Jeannie Seely; Charlie Walker; Nashville Bluegrass Band; Del Reeves
11:30: Mike Snider (host); Connie Smith; Billy Walker; John Conlee
Finally, from 50 years ago, Saturday November 22, 1969:
6:30: Willis Brothers (host); Lonzo and Oscar; Del Wood
6:45: Charlie Walker (host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Urel Albert
7:00: Archie Campbell (host); Lorene Mann; The Four Guys; David Peel
7:30: Roy Acuff (host); Stu Phillips; Bill Carlisle; Crook Brothers
8:00: Jimmy C Newman (host); Stan Hitchcock; Margie Bowes
8:30: Tex Ritter (host); Stonewall Jackson; Marion Worth; Fruit Jar Drinkers
9:30: Willis Brothers (host); Lonzo and Oscar; Wilma Lee Cooper; Del Wood
10:00: Archie Campbell (host); Lorene Mann; Charlie Walker
10:15: Stu Phillips (host); Jim and Jesse; The Four Guys
10:30: Roy Acuff (host); Urel Albert
10:45: Stonewall Jackson (host); Bill Carlisle; Crook Brothers
11:00: Tex Ritter (host); Margie Bowes; David Peel; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam McGee
11:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Marion Worth; Stan Hitchcock
One name that night who might not be familiar to everyone is David Peel.
While born and raised in Nashville, TN, David hitchhiked with his guitar in tow to Hollywood during a college Spring break in pursuit of a folk-singing career. With dreams of singing the songs he knew and loved driving him forward, he began playing venues throughout Southern California. However, upon discovery by actor Fess Parker of acclaimed Disney films such as 'Old Yeller' and 'Davy Crockett', and star of the hit television series 'Daniel Boone', David began an acting career instead, appearing in series such as 'The Virginian' as well as in 'Daniel Boone'. With the distinction of being the only true "Nashvillian" in the cast, his single film credit would be to play a major role in Robert Altman's Academy-Award-nominated movie, 'Nashville' with Lily Tomlin, Jeff Goldblum, and Henry Gibson.
Returning to his musical roots, David established his own solo recording career in Nashville. He quickly hit national country charts with a string of hit singles including 'I'm Walkin'' and 'Wax Museum' , later to add 5 additional albums; 'Move Two Mountains', 'Hit the Road Jack', 'Rise and Walk', 'I'll Sing On', and 'Glory Bound' to his decades-spanning career.
David is still active today, primarily doing smaller, private events.
Taking a look back, it was 17 years ago, Saturday November 23, 2002 that Jim McReynolds performed on the Grand Ole Opry for the final time.
James Monroe McReynolds was born on February 13, 1927 in the tiny community of Carfax, Virginia. Musical instruments were always abundant in the McReynolds family, and both Jim and his younger brother Jesse started playing music at a very young age. Both sides of their family played and sang the old-time traditional mountain music. In fact, their grandfather Charles McReynolds, a fiddle player of note, recorded at the historic RCA sessions held in Bristol, Va. in 1927.
When Jim & Jesse were learning to play and sing, the brother duet acts in country music were extremely popular. They listened to the radio shows and bought 78 rpm records of such pioneers as the Delmore Brothers, the Monroe Brothers, and the Blue Sky Boys, and sought to emulate their styles. With Jesse playing mandolin and singing lead and Jim providing the tenor harmony and guitar accompaniment, the two brothers came up with a vocal blend that was uniquely their own.
Following Jim's discharge from the United States Army, he and Jesse made their professional debut a few months later in the spring of 1947 on WNVA in Norton, Va. This tenure lasted only a few months and was the beginning of a long succession of radio jobs. They appeared on stations in Charleston, W.Va., Bristol, Va., Forest City, N.C., Augusta, Ga., Waterloo, Ia., Wichita, Kansas, eventually working their way to Versailles, Kentucky, where in 1952 they joined the Kentucky Barn Dance.
By 1956, Jim & Jesse were appearing on television in Tallahassee, Fla., and subsequent shows were added in Savannah, Ga., Dothan, Ala., Pensacola, Fla., and Valdosta, Ga., where they later moved. They signed with Starday Records in 1958 and recorded several tunes which became standards, including "Hard Hearted" and "Pardon Me," along with the instrumentals "Dixie Hoedown" and "Border Ride."
In 1960, Martha White Flour began sponsoring Jim & Jesse on television, and the following year they moved to Prattville, Ala., and also made their first guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. A recording contract with Columbia produced such classics as "Gosh I Miss You All The Time" and "Diesel Train" before they migrated over to Epic where they would enjoy their biggest commercial success. In the early 1960's, the Jim & Jesse sound really crystallized with Allen Shelton on banjo and Jimmy Buchanan on Fiddle, producing the classic albums "Bluegrass Special," "Bluegrass Classics," and "The Old Country Church."
After many guest appearances, on March 2, 1964, Jim & Jesse fulfilled their life's dream to become members of WSM's Grand Ole Opry. Their records continued to sell at a steady pace, but as the bluegrass and country music fields became separate industries, Jim & Jesse had to adapt to keep up with the times. They added electric instrumentation to their recordings and hired musicians who could double on both acoustic and electric instruments. They also had many BILLBOARD country chart hits including the well-known "Diesel on my Tail."
In 1993, the brothers received bluegrass music's highest honor when they were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Honor. They later went to the White House in 1997 to receive the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award from then First Lady Hillary Clinton.
In 2001, Jim started experiencing voice problems. After visiting numerous doctors and specialists, he was advised not to sing. In April of 2002, he underwent thyroid surgery and cancer was found, and it had spread to the lymph nodes. Jim was off the road until June, but resumed with Jesse and continued undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. His condition worsened and he developed brain tumors.
Through it all, Jim never lost his dignity. His last appearance was at the Ryman Auditorium on WSM's Grand Ole Opry on Saturday, November 23, 2002. He had to be helped to the stage, and even though he couldn't sing, sitting on a stool, he played rhythm guitar flawlessly. His appearance, as always, was neat, clean, and pressed to the highest degree as he smiled with pride helping to make the music he loved for the last time.
Sadly, on December 19, Jim's wife Arreta, died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Jim started hospice care the next day. His death came December 31, at 7:40 p.m. at the Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tenn. His daughter Janeen was by his side.
Funeral services were held at the Alexander Funeral Home in Gallatin, on January 4, with burial taking place the next day at the Robinette Cemetery, a small family cemetery on top of a mountain at the McReynolds' homeplace where Jim was born in Carfax, Va.
Here is the running order from Saturday November 23, 2002, the final night that brothers Jim and Jesse McReynolds performed on the Grand Ole Opry for the final time:
6:30: Tennessee Pride
Jimmy Dickens (host): Sleepin' at the Foot of the Bed
The Whites: Swing Down Chariot
Steve Forbert: My Carolina Sunshine Girl; My Rough and Rowdy Ways
Jimmy Dickens: Another Bridge to Burn; Mountain Dew
7:00: Gutter Guard/Standard Candy
Steve Azar: I Don't Have to Be Me 'Til Monday/Waiting on Joe
Jean Shepard: I'm Not that Good at Goodbye
Steve Wariner: Tips of My Fingers/This Christmas Prayer
Montgomery Gentry: This Is My Town/She Changed Her Mind/Hillbilly Shoes
Diamond Rio: What A Beautiful Mess I'm In/I Believe/Unbelievable
Jean Shepard and Steve Wariner: The Great Speckled Bird/Wabash Cannonball
8:00: Martha White
Mike Snider (host): Smith Reel; Miller's Reel
Bill Carlisle: Too Old to Cut the Mustard
Holly Dunn: Can't Stop Now/Daddy's Hands
Opry Square Dance Band: Blackberry Blossom
8:30: Physicians Mutual
Jim Ed Brown (host): Bar Room Pals and Good Time Gals
Jimmy C Newman: Big Mamou/Cajun Stripper
Connie Smith: I Never Once Stopped Loving You/Satisfied
Jim Ed Brown: Morning
Jimmy Dickens (host): Take an Old Cold Tater
Connie Smith: Ribbon of Darkness/You Got Me Right Where You Want Me
Montgomery Gentry: This Is My Town/Hillbilly Shoes
Jimmy Dickens: I'd Rather Sleep in Peace then Know You're Gone
10:00: Lincoln Mercury/Shoney's
Jean Shepard (host): Silver Threads & Golden Needles
Jan Howard: I Can't Help It
Jim and Jesse: I Wish You Knew
Diamond Rio: Love a Little Stronger/One More Day
Jean Shepard: Half A Mind/Let's All Go Down to the River/I Saw the Light/Will the Circle Be Unbroken/I'll Fly Away/Somebody Touched Me
10:30: WSM online.com/Wildhorse Saloon
Steve Wariner (host): On Life's Highway
Holly Dunn: You Really Had Me Going
Steve Forbert: My Carolina Sunshine Girl/My Rough and Rowdy Ways
Opry Square Dance Band: Rachel
Steve Wariner: This Christmas Prayer
11:00: Coca Cola
Jim Ed Brown (host): Morning Comes Too Early
Jimmy C Newman: Diggy Liggy Lo/Cajun Stripper
Steve Azar: My Heart Wants to Run/?/
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells
Mike Snider (host): Acorn Hill; Crazy Creek
Ray Pillow: I'm Still Not Over Losing You
The Whites: Pins & Needles/Keep on the Sunny Side
Mike Snider: Sourwood Mountain/Lost Indian
There you have it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I hope everyone enjoys the Opry this weekend!!