It is the final weekend before Christmas and the Grand Ole Opry has one show scheduled for Friday and Saturday night, both with pretty solid line-ups. But before getting to the shows for this week, just a few thoughts regarding the Opry shows from last weekend, which I attended while in Nashville.
All three shows were very good, with the Friday Night Opry especially standing out. The show was sold out and it was a crowd that was ready to have a good time. In fact, it might have been the most enthusiastic and boisterous audience of any Opry show I have been to in recent memory. Hopefully it sounded that way on the radio.
While it was Luke Combs, Kelsea Ballerini and Old Crow Medicine Show that most in the audience came to see, I thought all of the artists did an outstanding job. No complaints at all. There were a couple of highlights which included the crowd singing Happy Birthday to Buck White upon his 89th birthday, which was Friday; Old Crow Medicine Show teaming up with Riders In The Sky to sing "Wagon Wheel" to close out the show, and Luke Combs. It was my first time to see Luke and I was impressed. He was on the opening segment as he was also performing a sold-out show at the Bridgestone Arena that night.
As most of you know, Bill Anderson cancelled out for the weekend. On Friday night he was replaced by Connie Smith, while on Saturday John Conlee hosted the entire first hour and Bill was not replaced. Finally, it was nice to see Jesse McReynolds doing better and looking good. At the age of 90, he just recovered from the flu.
As far as the two shows on Saturday night, the first show was sold-out while the second show was just over 50% full. I already mentioned Bill cancelling, but he is back on the schedule for this weekend. The crowd on Saturday was a much more typical Opry crowd and the show seemed to fit the audience. One of the personal highlights for me was getting the chance to go backstage prior to the show and meeting Kathy Mattea. Kathy is one of my personal favorites, and I continue to beat the drum that she would make a great Opry member. She loves the Opry and understands the history of country music. (For those of you who follow me on Facebook, I posted a picture of myself and Kathy, along with many other pictures from the Opry shows last weekend. For those who do not follow me on Facebook, please do. Just make sure to get the right Byron Fay!!).
Other highlights on Saturday night were Steve Wariner, Connie Smith, John Conlee and Mike Snider. The surprise from Saturday night was Williams & Ree. As with Luke Combs, this was my first time seeing this act and they were absolutely hilarious. The audience loved them. I couldn't believe it when they said they had been working together for 51 years now. While mostly associated with Las Vegas and working casinos, I thought they fit right in with the Opry. Comedy has always had a place on the show, and with Mike Snider and Williams & Ree, there was plenty of it last weekend.
Overall, a very good weekend in Nashville and a fun time at the Opry. I am looking forward to what is in the plans for 2020, the 95th anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry.
And now, let's get to this weekend's Grand Ole Opry shows.
Looking at the Grand Ole Opry line-up for the two shows this weekend at the Ryman Auditorium, Bill Anderson is scheduled for both nights. As I mentioned above, Bill cancelled this past weekend as he was recovering from some minor surgery that he had the week before. Joining Bill both nights will be Opry members Riders In The Sky and Mark Wills.
Looking back at this past year, I have been very impressed with Mark and his commitment to the Opry. He guested on the show hundreds of times before becoming a member, and he has continued those appearances since joining the cast. He is also a good host on his segments. The Opry needs to look at a few more country music veterans, who have guested on the Opry numerous times, and would make wonderful members and hosts.
Set to appear on the Friday Night Opry are Jesse McReynolds, Connie Smith and Steve Wariner, while on Saturday's Grand Ole Opry Jeannie Seely, Mike Snider, The Whites and Bobby Osborne are on the schedule. And I am sure all of you join me in congratulating Jeannie Seely as she was awarded an honorary doctorate last Saturday from Lincoln Memorial University.
Guesting on Friday night will be Matt Stell, The Isaacs, comedian Henry Cho and Steve Earle. Also listed is Jimmy Wayne, who a couple of years ago was on the Opry a lot, however the past couple of years he has just made a handful of appearances.
Saturday night has non-members JT Hodges, Tony Trischka, Radney Foster, and frequent guest Mandy Barnett.
Also of note, Opry member Jeannie Seely will be hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree after the Saturday Opry show.
Friday December 20
7:00: Bill Anderson (host); Matt Stell; Jesse McReynolds
7:30: Riders In The Sky (host); Jimmy Wayne; The Isaacs
8:15: Mark Wills (host); Connie Smith; Henry Cho
8:45: Steve Wariner (host); Steve Earle
Saturday December 21
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); JT Hodges; Mike Snider
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); The Whites; Mandy Barnett
8:15: Mark Wills (host); Tony Trischka; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Riders In The Sky (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Radney Foster
And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-ups from 10 years ago, the weekend of December 18 & 19, 2009. One show each night.
Friday December 18
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Jimmy C Newman; Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
7:30: Jean Shepard (host); Mandy Barnett; Ralph Stanley
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys; Jim Lauderdale
8:30: Emmylou Harris (host); The Whites; Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Saturday December 19
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Connie Smith; Emily West
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); Jan Howard; Ralph Stanley
8:00: Emmylou Harris (host); The Whites; Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
8:30: Ronnie Milsap (host); George Hamilton IV; Jean Shepard; Amber Digby
Now from 25 years ago, Saturday December 17, 1994:
6:30: Grandpa Jones (host); Wilma Lee Cooper; Brother Oswald
6:45: Bill Monroe (host); Emmylou Harris; Rodney Crowell
7:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Bill Carlisle; Osborne Brothers; Jean Shepard
7:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Travis Tritt; Joe Diffie; Vince Gill
8:00: Mike Snider (host); Ricky Van Shelton; Ray Pillow; Billy Dean
8:30: Hank Snow (host); The Four Guys; Jimmy C Newman; Jeannie Seely; The Whites
9:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeannie Seely; Vince Gill; Bill Monroe; Jean Shepard; Jan Howard; Ricky Van Shelton; Grandpa and Ramona Jones; Porter Wagoner; Emmylou Harris; Joe Diffie; Jeannie Seely
10:30: Mike Snider (host); Billy Walker
10:45: The Whites (host); Del Reeves
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Charlie Walker; The Four Guys; Doug Stone
11:30: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jimmy C Newman; Stonewall Jackson; Johnny Russell
And from 50 years ago, Saturday December 20, 1969:
7:30: Roy Drusky (host); Bill Carlisle; Charlie Louvin; Wilma Lee Cooper; Del Wood
8:00: Lester Flatt (host); Jim Ed Brown; Loretta Lynn; Charlie Walker; Crook Brothers
8:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Earl Scruggs Revue; Ernie Ashworth
9:00: Bill Monroe (host); Dottie West; Archie Campbell; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Stu Phillips; Stringbean
9:30: Hank Snow (host); Tex Ritter; Osborne Brothers; Skeeter Willis; The Four Guys
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Charlie Louvin; Bill Carlisle; Del Wood
10:15: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Earl Scruggs Revue; Charlie Walker; Wilma Lee Cooper
10:30: Lester Flatt (host); Loretta Lynn; Stu Phillips; Stringbean
10:45: Tex Ritter (host); Archie Campbell; Crook Brothers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Bill Monroe; Dottie West; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Willis Brothers; Kirk McGee
11:30: Marty Robbins (host); Osborne Brothers; The Four Guys
To finish it up for this week, it was 33 years ago, Saturday December 20, 1986 that Randy Travis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Long before he saved country music from drifting too far from the shore, country music had saved Randy from a troubled youth and potentially bleak future. Drugs, alcohol and fast cars led to a few scrapes with the law during his teen years, but the North Carolina native found his calling when he won a talent contest and earned a regular gig performing at the popular Charlotte night club, Country City USA.
Randy moved to Nashville with his manager Elizabeth Hatcher to pursue a career as a country singer and wound up paying dues cooking catfish, washing dishes, and performing at the Nashville Palace. Young Randy Traywick (as he was known then) changed his name and independently released his debut album, Randy Ray — Live at the Nashville Palace.
The early years were challenging and nearly every record label in Nashville turned down Randy before he finally signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1985. The label changed his name again, this time to Randy Travis, and his 1986 debut, Storms of Life, became one of the landmark albums in country music history, selling more than 4 million copies, winning the Academy of Country Music’s Album of the Year award, and spawning such classic hits as “On the Other Hand” and “1982.”
After a dozen years on Warner Bros., Randy signed with the now defunct Dreamworks label and served up hits including “Out of My Bones” and “Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man.” In addition to his successful singing career, Randy also branched out into acting, appearing on TV shows including Touched by an Angel and in several films. In recent years, he also has found success in the gospel music field, recording four highly acclaimed inspirational albums on Word Records. Randy has earned seven Dove Awards, including Country Recorded Song of the Year for “Three Wooden Crosses,” which also won the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year in 2003.
A Grand Ole Opry member since 1986, Randy has earned numerous accolades, among them six CMA awards — including two male-vocalist titles — 10 American Music Awards, nine ACMs, six Grammys and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2008, he reunited with Warner Bros. and has released several traditional country albums that reminded country fans yet again why his name is frequently mentioned alongside such country legends as George Jones, Keith Whitley, and Lefty Frizzell.
Here is the running order from Saturday December 20, 1986, the night Randy Travis became a member of the Grand Ole Opry:
Del Reeves (host): Two Dollars in the Jukebox/A Dime at a Time/Looking at the World Through a Windshield
Skeeter Davis: The Rose
Del Reeves: Anywhere U.S.A.
Porter Wagoner (host): Sugarfoot Rag
Riders In The Sky: Christmas at the Triple X Ranch
Porter Wagoner: Your Old Love Letters
Ricky Skaggs (host): Love's Gonna Get You Someday
Lorrie Morgan: One Love at a Time
Jim and Jesse: When I Dream About the Southland
Randy Travis: Diggin' Up Bones/White Christmas Makes Me Blue
Ricky Skaggs: Walking in Jerusalem Just Like John
7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: Kentucky
Roy Drusky: Silent Night
Crook Brothers and The Melvin Sloan Dancers: Chicken Reel
Carolee Singers: A Song the Holy Angels Cannot Sing
Dan Kelly: Sally Goodin
8:00: Martha White
Bill Monroe (host): Can't You Hear Me Calling
The Whites: It Should've Been Easy
Stonewall Jackson: Why I'm Walkin'
Archie Campbell: Make Friends
Connie Smith: How Great Thou Art
Bill Monroe: Christmas Time's A' Comin'
8:30: Music Valley Drive
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
Boxcar Willie: Fireball Mail/Train of Love/Hand Me Down My Walking Cane/Wreck of the Old 97/Orange Blossom Special/Wabash Cannonball/Night Train to Memphis
Osborne Brothers: Making Plans
Mel McDaniel: Tennessee Saturday Night/Stand Up
Hank Snow: Christmas Roses
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
The Four Guys: God Bless the USA
Del Reeves: The Race is On
Jan Howard: Why Lady Why
Billy Walker: Coffee Brown Eyes
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name
10:00: Little Debbie
Ricky Skaggs (host): Cajun Moon
The Whites: If It Ain't Love
Randy Travis: On the Other Hand
Ricky Skaggs: Country Boy
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting in the Air
George Hamilton IV: C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
Roy Acuff: That's the Man I'm Looking For
10:30: Pet Milk
Bill Monroe (host): Old Ebeneezer Scrooge
Charlie Louvin: Sunshine on My Shoulders
Bill Monroe: You're Drifting Away/Christmas Time's A' Comin'
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Crook Brothers and The Melvin Sloan Dancers: Sally Goodin
Hank Snow (host): Tangled Mind
Jean Shepard: The Old Rugged Cross
Justin Tubb: Lonesome 7-7203
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up on Your Way Down
Mel McDaniel: Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On/Stand Up
Hank Snow: Silent Night
Boxcar Willis (host): Fireball Mail/Train of Love/Hand Me Down My Walking Cane/Wreck of the Old 97/Orange Blossom Special/Wabash Cannonball/Night Train to Memphis
Osborne Brothers: Me & My Old Banjo
Connie Smith: The Deepening Snow/Sing, Sing, Sing
Boxcar Willis: Cold, Cold Heart/Take These Chains from My Heart/Half as Much/I Can't Help It/Your Cheatin' Heart/They'll Never Take Her Love From Me/Wedding Bells/Lovesick Blues/Move It On Over
Sadly, on July 7, 2013, Randy was admitted to a Dallas-area hospital for viral cardiomyopathy after a viral upper respiratory infection. Three days later, Randy suffered a massive stroke and had surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. Following his stroke, and despite therapy, Randy was unable to sing or speak and had to rely on a cane to walk for more than a year. By November 2014, he was slowly recovering, could walk short distances without assistance and was relearning how to write and play the guitar, according to his then-fiancée Mary Davis.
In 2016, it was reported he had recovered his voice after about three years of rehabilitation and therapy and could perform again. He attended his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame on October 16, 2016, where he performed a rendition of "Amazing Grace." In 2017, it was noted that Randy had suffered permanent damage, which disabled his right hand and has limited much of his speech and singing ability; he continues to make public appearances, including at the Grand Ole Opry, but no longer sings, mainly because of apprehension about his ability to do it as well as he used to.
There you have it for this week, the final weekend before Christmas. As always, thanks for reading and commenting.
As we approach Christmas week, Casey and I offer our holiday greetings to everyone. If you believe in Santa, as I do, I hope he fills your stocking with everything you have asked for. Most of all, I wish good health and happiness to each of you.
Peace and blessings to all: