It seems like the past couple of weekends, the Grand Ole Opry has been fiddling with the format of the shows, obviously based on the number of Opry members who commit. This weekend, thanks to the core group of Opry veterans back on the schedule, the Opry is back to the usual weekend format for both nights.
There are four Grand Ole Opry members who will be hosting segments both nights: Jeannie Seely, Riders In The Sky, Connie Smith and Mark Wills. While not hosting, Mike Snider will be joining that group on Friday and Saturday. Following the pattern of splitting up the two veteran bluegrass members, Jesse McReynolds is scheduled for Friday night and Bobby Osborne is set for Saturday. That takes care of the Opry members on the schedule this weekend.
T. Graham Brown and Gary Mule Deer will be guesting both nights. Joining that duo on Friday night will be Lauren Jenkins, Levon, Rhett Walker and Mandy Barnett. Saturday night has Cale Dodds, Anna Vaus and Chely Wright on the schedule.
Chely Wright is the interesting name on Saturday night. There was a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s that she was considered the female version of Brad Paisley and was making quite a few guest appearances on the Opry. In fact, she was featured on the Opry's 75th anniversary album, doing a duet with Brad. Many thought for sure that at some point she would become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and she openly spoke of that desire. But after her hit single "Single White Female," her career fell off as her personal situation seemed to be receiving more publicity than her musical career. I will not go into all of the reasons here, but there are plenty of resources that are available to anyone who wishes to investigate. Personally, I am happy to see Chely doing well and coming back to the Opry.
Friday August 9
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Lauren Jenkins; Mike Snider
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Levon; T. Graham Brown
8:15: Connie Smith (host); Jesse McReynolds; Rhett Walker
8:45: Mark Wills (host); Gary Mule Deer; Mandy Barnett
Saturday August 10
7:00: Connie Smith (host); Cale Dodds; Mike Snider
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Anna Vaus; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Chely Wright; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Mark Wills (host); Gary Mule Deer; T. Graham Brown
And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from ten years ago, the weekend of August 7 & 8, 2009:
Friday August 7
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jimmy C Newman; Darryl Worley
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Sunny Sweeney
8:00: Jim Ed Brown (host) w/Helen Cornelius; Stonewall Jackson; George Hamilton IV; Mark Wills
8:30: Charley Pride (host); Connie Smith; Jim Lauderdale
Saturday August 8
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; David Nail
7:30: Hal Ketchum (host); Stonewall Jackson; Jack Greene; Jean Shepard
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Sunny Sweeney; Opry Square Dancers
8:30: Charley Pride (host); Jim Ed Brown; The Whites
Now from 25 years ago, Saturday August 6, 1994:
6:30: Jean Shepard (host); Bill Carlisle
6:45: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeanne Pruett
7:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Jan Howard; Brother Oswald; Stonewall Jackson; Mike Snider
7:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Skeeter Davis; Jimmy C Newman; The Sullivan Family
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Jack Greene; Connie Smith; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers; Colleen Walters
8:30: Hank Snow (host); The Four Guys; Jeannie Seely; Doug Stone
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Ray Pillow; Jan Howard; Doug Stone
10:00: Grandpa Jones (host); Roy Drusky; Skeeter Davis
10:15: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jean Shepard
10:30: Jeanne Pruett (host); Stonewall Jackson
10:45: Mike Snider (host); Charlie Walker; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Jimmy C Newman; Connie Smith; Del Reeves; Charlie Louvin
11:30: Jack Greene (host); The Four Guys; Jeannie Seely
Looking back 50 years ago to Saturday August 9, 1969, this was the final night that Norma Jean performed as a member on the Grand Ole Opry.
Norma Jean Beasler was born January 30, 1938 in Wellston, Oklahoma, and grew up admiring country singer Kitty Wells, whom she considers her biggest influence. She got her start performing on radio stations in the Oklahoma City area; and by age 12, she had her own radio show on KLPR-AM. She toured Oklahoma with various bands, starting with Merl Lindsay and His Oklahoma Night Riders at age 16, followed by the Bill Gray Band at 18. Norma was the Bill Gray Band's full-time vocalist, and made guest appearances with major country stars. Early on, she befriended soon-to-be country star Wanda Jackson.
In 1955, she got a regular spot on the ABC-TV show Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri, where she stayed for two years and first received national exposure. Host Red Foley suggested calling her simply Norma Jean, and she made it official in 1958; she also became known on the program as Pretty Miss Norma Jean. She met Porter Wagoner on the show, and in 1959, signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. A string of unsuccessful singles followed, and she moved to Nashville, Tennessee where Wagoner invited her to audition for his syndicated weekly TV program, The Porter Wagoner Show. She became a regular on the show in 1961 and stayed for six years. Norma Jean toured and performed across the country with Wagoner, and RCA Victor producer Chet Atkins signed her to a recording contract with RCA Victor.
In 1963, Norma Jean released her first single with RCA Victor, "Let's Go All the Way". The song peaked at number 11 on the Billboard country charts. She released an album of the same name which spawned two more Top 40 hits, "I'm a Walking Advertisement (For the Blues)" followed by "Put Your Arm Around Her." Because of the singles' success, she was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry.
In late 1965, she released an album titled, Pretty Miss Norma Jean (titled after how Wagoner frequently introduced her on his television show). It was the most successful of her career, hitting number three on the Top Country Albums list. The first single from the album, "Go Cat Go", became a Top 10 hit, peaking at number eight. Two more singles were released, starting with "I Cried All the Way to the Bank," which also proved successful. After that, "I Wouldn't Buy a Used Car From Him", written by Harlan Howard, was another Top 10 hit, making her one of the most popular female country singers of the era. Fans appreciated the humor implicit in some of her recordings.
From 1965 to 1967, Norma Jean produced a series of solid country singles and albums and continued to appear on Wagoner's show. On television she projected a wholesome image, singing hurting and cheating songs relevant to her personal life.
Norma's biggest hit came in 1966. It was an unusual recording with Bobby Bare and Liz Anderson, "The Game of Triangles", a wife-husband-other woman drama that hit number five on the Billboard chart and earned the trio a Grammy nomination.
Norma Jean left Wagoner's show in 1967 after marrying Jody Taylor (whom she later divorced) and was replaced by newcomer Dolly Parton, who went on to become one of country music's leading female stars. Parton said later she had a hard time replacing Norma because she was so loved by country fans.
That year, her single, "Heaven Help the Working Girl" (an early feminist song) was a Top 20 hit, the last one of her career. Despite a lack of major country hits, her albums continued to sell, like 1967's Jackson Ain't a Very Big Town, which peaked at number 11 on the Top Country Albums list.
Norma Jean, at the age of 81, is still alive and active and continues to make appearances, particuarly in the Oklahoma and Texas regions of the country. She also continues to make new music and has a website that you can check her out on.
Here is the running order from 50 years ago, Saturday August 9, 1969, the night Norma Jean appeared on the Opry for the final time as a member:
Willis Brothers (host): (?)
Del Wood: (?)
Wilburn Brothers (host): (?)
Bob Luman: (?)
Hank Locklin (host): Country Hall of Fame
Stringbean: Mountain Dew
Carol Northcutt: (?)
Jimmy Newman: Jambalaya
Hank Locklin: Cuban Girl
Stringbean: Hot Corn; Cold Corn
Jimmy Newman: Cry, Cry Darling
7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Sunshine Special
Stonewall Jackson: Angry Words
The Four Guys: Games People Play
Crook Brothers: Cacklin' Hen
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird
Stonewall Jackson: Never More Quote the Raven
The Four Guys: Over on the Other Side
8:00: Martha White
George Hamilton IV (host): Early Morning Rain
Norma Jean: Lonesome Number One
Bill Carlisle: Is Zat You Myrtle
Homesteaders: Love of the Common People
George Hamilton IV: Break My Mind
Norma Jean: Jackson Ain't A Very Big Town
Bill Carlisle: Rusty Old Halo
Homesteaders: Johnny B Goode
Billy Walker (host): Smokey Places
Skeeter Davis: Both Sides Now
Ernie Ashworth: Love; I Finally Found It
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Soldier's Joy
Billy Walker: Better Homes & Gardens
Skeeter Davis: Lonesome Road Blues
Ernie Ashworth: Heartbreak Avenue
Billy Walker: Cattle Call
Wilburn Brothers (host): We Need A Lot More Happiness
Willis Brothers: Buying Popcorn
Del Wood: (?)
Lorene Mann: Tell It All
Wilburn Brothers: Hurt Her Once for Me
Del Wood: Are You From Dixie
Willis Brothers: Give Me 40 Acres
Wilburn Brothers: Orange Blossom Special/Medals for Mothers
Bob Luman (host): Johnny B Goode
The Four Guys: My Special Angel
Carol Northcutt: San Antonio Rose
Bob Luman: Guitar Man
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Bill Carlisle: Too Old to Cut the Mustard
Roy Acuff: You Win Again
Brother Oswald: Tennessee Waltz
Billy Walker (host): From the Bottle to the Bottom
Norma Jean: Dusty Road
Billy Walker: Better Homes & Gardens
Hank Locklin (host): Send Me the Pillow You Dream On
Merle Kilgore: Honky Tonk Man
Crook Brothers: Sally Goodin
Hank Locklin: Release Me/You've Still Got a Place in My Heart
11:00: Coca Cola
George Hamilton IV (host): Canadian Pacific
Skeeter Davis: Silver Threads & Golden Needles
Jimmy Newman: Boo Dan
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Walking in My Sleep
George Hamilton IV: Truck Driving Man
Skeeter Davis: Teach Me to Love You
Jimmy Newman: Louisiana Saturday Night
Sam McGee: Under the Double Eagle
George Hamilton IV: Early Morning Rain
Ernie Ashworth (host): Love; I've Finally Found It
Homesteaders: The Race is On
Charlie Louvin: Little Reasons
Ernie Ashworth: Where Do You Go
Homesteaders: Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line
Charlie Louvin: The Kind of Man I Am
Ernie Ashworth: Talk Back Trembling Lips
Norma Jean would come back to the Opry a time or two in her later years, but never on Porter's segment of the Opry.
As always, thank for reading and checking out the blog, and I hope everyone enjoys the Opry this weekend.