Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Grand Ole Opry 2/28 & 2/29

The Grand Ole Opry finishes up the month of February, and leap year, with two solid shows that feature a lot of variety and a good group of Opry members.

Looking at Grand Ole Opry members scheduled this weekend, Bill Anderson, Jeannie Seely and Mike Snider are scheduled for both Friday and Saturday night. Joining that trio on Friday night will be Connie Smith, The Whites, Steve Wariner and Bobby Osborne, while on Saturday night John Conlee and Josh Turner are on the schedule.

It is very nice to see Rhonda Vincent listed for the Friday Night Opry. I know many of us feel that Rhonda should have been asked to have become an Opry member several decades ago. It still has not happened, even though Rhonda has said that she would like to be an Opry member. We should all be grateful that even though membership has not come to her, she still appears on the Opry when her busy schedule allows and she is asked.

Joining Rhonda on Friday night is another frequent guest, Charles Esten. Even though "Nashville" has been cancelled, Charles still is pushing on with this music career. Also scheduled is Smithfield, Kalie Shorr and Sister Hazel.

The guest list for Saturday night has The Isaacs, Carly Pearce, Caylee Hammack, Dom Flemons and songwriter and Hall of Fame member Don Schlitz.

Friday February 28
7:00: Connie Smith (host); Smithfield; Mike Snider
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); The Whites; Rhonda Vincent
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Kalie Shorr; Sister Hazel
8:45: Steve Wariner (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Charles Esten

Saturday February 29
7:00: John Conlee (host); Caylee Hammack; Mike Snider
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); Dom Flemons; Don Schlitz
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Carly Pearce; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Josh Turner (host); The Isaacs

Of the 12 acts on the Friday Night Opry, 7 are Opry members, while 5 of the 10 acts on Saturday are members of the Opry.

Looking back at past Grand Ole Opry moments, there are two this week that I wanted to highlight.

The first is from Saturday February 28, 1987 as it was on this night that Grand Ole Opry member Archie Campbell last appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. 

Country comedian Archie Campbell was born on November 7, 1914 in Bulls Gap, Tennessee. Best known for his work on the long-running television show Hee Haw, his early career success came at Knoxville radio station WNOX, where, beginning in 1936, he was featured on the Mid-Day Merry Go Round. It was here that he developed his “Grandpappy” character. In 1937 he moved to WDOD in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he stayed until joining the Navy in 1941. After the War, he returned to WNOX, and in addition to his radio work, Archie added a television show called Country Playhouse. That show ran for six years, from 1952 till 1958. 

In 1958, Archie moved to Nashville and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was featured on the Prince Albert segment of the show. In 1959, he signed a recording contract with RCA Victor. He reached the country Top 25 in 1960 with "Trouble in the Amen Corner," but later singles flopped. He moved to Starday in 1962, but found no success there either. Another stint with RCA beginning in 1966 brought the Top 20 entry "The Men in My Little Girl's Life." Two other singles -- "The Dark End of the Street" and "Tell It like It Is" -- hit the Top 30 in 1968, but his chart activity declined after he joined Hee Haw in 1968. He recorded several comedy/music albums, including Bull Session at Bull's Creek (with Junior Samples) and a self-titled album for Elektra in 1976. He also hosted the TNN interview show Yesteryear during 1984.

In his later years, Archie also owned and performed in a theater in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. As a result, his Opry appearances would generally take place in the winter months, when the theater was closed, or when he was in Nashville to tape Hee Haw appearances. 

In addition to being a great comedian, Archie was also a noted painter and painted the mural that is on the wall in the green/family room backstage at the Grand Ole Opry House. 

Archie was also the first Grand Ole Opry comedian who refused to wear the country rube comedian outfit that Opry comedians traditionally wore. Instead, Archie would perform in either a business suit, or casual business attire.  

Archie, who suffered from heart issues, passed away on August 29, 1987. 

Here is the running order from Saturday February 28, 1987, Archie Campbell's final night at the Grand Ole Opry: 

1st show
6:30: Bonanza
Stonewall Jackson (host): Muddy Water
The Four Guys: Love, Love, Love
Stonewall Jackson: Why, I'm Walkin'/Waterloo

6:45: Rudy's
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Skeeter Davis: My Last Date/Silver Threads & Golden Needles/The End of the World

7:00: Shoney's
Hank Snow (host): Right or Wrong
Charlie Walker: Roly Poly
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
Dottie West: Your Cheatin' Heart/Are You Happy Baby
Hank Snow: The Next Voice You Hear

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jim Ed Brown: Scarlet Ribbons/The 3 Bells
Connie Smith: Walk Me to the Door
George Hamilton IV: Break My Mind
Crook Brothers and The Melvin Sloan Dancers: Greenback Dollar
Roy Acuff: I'll Fly Away

8:00: Martha White
Porter Wagoner (host): Company's Comin'
Osborne Brothers: Beneath Still Waters
Jack Greene: Our Time
Jeanne Pruett: Temporarily Yours
The Whites: I Wonder Who's Holding My Baby Tonight
Porter Wagoner and Becky Hinson: Milwaukee, Here I Come

8:30: Music Valley
Grandpa Jones (host): My Happy Little Home in Arkansas
Billy Walker: She Goes Walking Thru My Mind/Sing Me a Love Song To Baby
Jean Shepard: Slippin' Away
Roy Drusky: Always
Del Reeves: While I Play Those Honky Tonk Songs, She Sings Amazing Grace
Grandpa Jones: Time

2nd show
9:30: Dollar General
Porter Wagoner (host): 'Ol Slewfoot
Lorrie Morgan: Lone Star State of Mind
The Four Guys: Bop
Dottie West: It's High Time/Faded Love
Porter Wagoner: I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name

10:00: Little Debbie
Archie Campbell (host): Make Friends
Jeannie Seely: Don't Touch Me

10:15: Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Meeting in the Air
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/Life's Railway to Heaven

10:30: Pet Milk
Grandpa Jones (host): Apple Jack
Jean Shepard: Are You Teaching Me
Charlie Louvin: Please Help Me
Grandpa Jones: Here Comes the Champion

10:45: Heil-Quaker
Jim Ed Brown (host): Everyday People
Roy Drusky: I'll Hold You in My Heart
Crook Brothers and The Melvin Sloan Dancers: Sally Goodin
Jim Ed Brown: Send Me the Pillow You Dream On

11:00: Coca Cola
Hank Snow (host): White Silver Sands
Connie Smith: Walkin' After Midnight
Osborne Brothers: Kentucky
The Whites: Makin' Believe/Pins & Needles
Hank Snow: Am I That Easy to Forget

11:30: Quincy's
Del Reeves (host): The Race is On
Jeanne Pruett: Temporarily Yours/Satin Sheets
Del Reeves: Don't You Every Get Tired of Hurting Me
Jack Greene: Midnight Tennessee Woman/There Goes My Everything/Statue of a Fool

Personally, I have always felt that Archie Campbell deserves a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Leap year only comes once every four years, and leap year in 1992 was pretty special for one Grand Ole Opry member as it was on February 29th of that year that Travis Tritt became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Here is the line-up from that night 28 years ago, when Porter Wagoner inducted Travis Tritt as the Opry's newest member:

1st show
6:30: Bill Anderson (host); Skeeter Davis; David Houston
6:45: Del Reeves (host); Charlie Louvin; Jimmy C Newman
7:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Jan Howard; Mike Snider; Jean Shepard; Ray Pillow
7:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Trisha Yearwood; Travis Tritt
8:00: Roy Acuff (host); Connie Smith; The Four Guys; Opry Square Dance Band; Stoney Mountain Cloggers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); The Whites; Stonewall Jackson; Boxcar Willie; Roy Drusky

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Jean Shepard; Charlie Louvin; Jeannie Seely; Travis Tritt
10:00: Jim Ed Brown (host); Trisha Yearwood
10:15: Roy Acuff (host); Mike Snider
10:30: Boxcar Willie (host); Wilma Lee Cooper
10:45: Bill Anderson (host); Jimmy C Newman; Opry Square Dance Band; Stoney Mountain Cloggers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Charlie Walker; Bill Carlisle; Justin Tubb; Del Reeves
11:30: The Four Guys (host); Roy Drusky; The Whites; Connie Smith

Here is what Travis Tritt wrote about the Grand Ole Opry and that night:

"The Grand Ole Opry stands still as one of the biggest traditional gods, if you will, that we pay homage to in the business. In country music, there's not a single person whose grandfather or father doesn't have a story about listening to the Grand Ole Opry around a little small AM radio or one of those big console AM radios when they were a kid. My dad told me about it when he was young. I listened to the Grand Ole Opry, watched it on television when I was young. Every person in country music, I think, has got a story like that."

"I always thought that I was too rowdy and too much of a rocker, or too heavily influenced by the other side, to be asked to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. When I was inducted, I was the youngest member that had ever been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. I guess the added excitement of never thinking that I would be there mixed with what tremendously high esteem that that particular institution is held in by my family, and by all the people that I know, to be a part of that institution is just absolutely one of the coolest things that I could ever be associated with."

After Porter Wagoner passed away in 2007, Travis Tritt stayed away from the Opry for 10 years. While nothing was said, there was the feeling that Travis was attached to Porter and did not care for how Porter was treated by Opry management toward the end of Porter's career. Take it for what it is worth, but Travis did not return to the Opry until a former Opry general manager left. To be fair, it could have been just a coincidence. Maybe or maybe not.

Another note from that night was the Opry debut of Trisha Yearwood. It would take Trisha a few years, but in 1999 she would join the cast of the show.

There you have it for this week. My thanks for reading and commenting, and as always, I hope everyone enjoys the Grand Ole Opry this weekend. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tuesday Night Opry 2/25

Here is the line-up for the this week's Tuesday Night Show:

7:00: Connie Smith; King Calaway
7:30: Chris Bandi; Restless Heart
8:15: Striking Matches; Dusty Slay
8:45: Jason Crabb; Ricky Skaggs

Just two Opry members out of the eight scheduled, with Chris Bandi making his Opry debut.

In witnessing the runaway success of his debut single, “Man Enough Now,” Chris Bandi is a firm believer in music’s power to unify others. He has a multifaceted voice that immediately resonates with any soul listening. And his music gives a natural sense of roots for those who need it most because he is among the few artists making music in Nashville today to have lived in three of America’s most musically sacred places.

Bandi is proud to follow in the lineage of legendary musicians from his native St. Louis. He was raised on his father’s taste in obscure rock with a heavy dose of his mother’s affinity for ’90s country music. He remembers CDs being on the grocery list as a child and browsing the aisles of the city’s many great record shops. He grew up loving Sister Hazel, the Sonya Dada song, “You Ain’t Thinkin’ ‘Bout Me,” Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”

The soundtrack riding with friends to high school football practice was a mix of Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and fellow St. Louisan, Nelly. However, performance became life after attending his first concert where he saw Garth Brooks fly over the audience in a harness at St. Louis’ Enterprise Center. In high school, he started his first band, a rock outfit that played throughout the city, including the iconic Duck Room at Chuck Berry’s Blueberry Hill.

He continued music in college at the University of Mississippi at Oxford by playing in a cover band with an alternative ambition to mostly get into bars and drink for free. It was his time in Mississippi that enriched a deeper dive into country music. The songs of early Luke Bryan and Eric Church spoke to the life he was living at the time. He honed his craft relentlessly playing the same small clubs that built Bryan and Church’s loyal followings in college towns within a reasonable driving distance of Oxford.

“I decided that I wanted to write songs when I heard that Nashville is where you could write songs for a living and make this crazy dream a reality,” Bandi says. “It was three hours from Oxford and four hours from St. Louis. It was the best of both worlds."

Six days after receiving his degree in marketing and communications in 2013, he moved to Nashville to become a professional musician. He arrived with 100 original songs, and his first place was a friend’s closet, where he slept on an air mattress. In his first few years in Music City, he got by on the money he made going back to play gigs in Oxford and St. Louis on the weekends. During the week, he treated Nashville writers’ rounds and open mic nights as if they were their own tour, and he played constantly. Within two years of his arrival in town, he reconnected with booking agent Brendan Rich, a college friend he knew through music at Ole Miss, and wrote a song with hit-makers Jason Massey and Jason Duke that would change everything for him, "Man Enough Now."

Keeping his relentless touring schedule, Bandi released “Man Enough Now” independently on Spotify in 2017 so that his crowds could have something original to enjoy between concerts. The song received an immediate reaction and accumulated just over 5,000 streams in its first day. By the end of the week, they had 25,000 organic streams.

Music Row caught on to the viral success of Bandi’s runaway hit when the song started receiving 1,000,000 weekly streams. He rereleased a radio edit of “Man Enough Now” in October via RECORDS, a joint venture label between Barry Weiss and Sony Music Entertainment. The song, which impacts country radio in early 2020, serves as a preview of the true to life storytelling Bandi has to offer.

Chris has joined American Idol Season 17 winner Laine Hardy on tour this fall before hitting the road with Matt Stell in January. A new EP is expected to be released.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

2019 Year In Review

Here you go. A little later than usual. My apologies.

2019 is officially in the books and with another year upon us, it is time once again for my annual "Year in Review" of the Grand Ole Opry.

In my 2018 review, I commented on the positive changes that Sally Williams was bringing to the Opry after her promotion to General Manager of the show. Little did any of us know that her time at the Opry would be very short as by summer she was gone and Dan Rogers was named the new Vice-President/Executive Producer of the Grand Ole Opry. This was a very popular move as Dan had been associated with the Opry since 1999 and is someone extremely well liked and respected. He also understands the history and the legacy of the Opry.

The other news from 2019 was the continued addition of new members to the cast as Mark Wills, Kelsea Ballerini and Luke Combs became Opry members, bringing the total to 68. That adds up to a total of nine new members in the past three years. 68 members is the highest number of Opry members in several decades. While several Opry members battled health issues the past year,
no Opry members passed away.

The big event for the Opry in 2019, in addition to the new members, was Dolly Parton's 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry went all out in the celebration with "Dolly Week" a huge success. 2018 saw the Opry promote the Roy Acuff exhibit and 2019 was Dolly's turn. What will 2020 bring?

Now let's look at the numbers:

The Opry ran a total of 231 shows in 2019, which was a few more then in 2018. The breakdown:

Friday Night Opry: 63 (+1)
Saturday Grand Ole Opry: 66 (-2)
Tuesday Night Opry: 51 (-2)
Wednesday Night Opry: 25 (+13)
Thursday Opry Country Classics: 23 (-)
Saturday Matinee: 1 (-)
Tuesday Matinee: 1 (-1)

Then there was the Thursday show at the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

Looking at the schedule for 2020, it looks like the emphasis on mid-week shows will continue as a full slate of Wednesday shows continues on the schedule. Additionally, the Opry will not be returning to the Ryman Auditorium in November and December, having made the decision to only return to the downtown location in January 2021. With the Opry staying at the Opry House for the holiday season, I would expect more mid-week and perhaps a few matinee shows to accommodate those coming to Nashville during that time.

While looking at the Opry's members, and who appeared most often, it is once again the veterans and legends who are carrying the heavy load and supporting the Opry week after week. Looking at the Top 10:

1) Jeannie Seely/Riders In The Sky: 100
3) Mike Snider: 88
4) John Conlee: 78
5) The Whites: 73
6) Connie Smith: 70
7) Bill Anderson: 67
8) Bobby Osborne: 53
9) Ricky Skaggs: 47
10) Dailey & Vincent: 45

The only change from 2019 was the addition of Dailey & Vincent to the list with The Gatlin Brothers dropping off. The big movers were Riders In The Sky, who increased their appearances by 25, while Mike Snider and Connie Smith both saw drop offs, with Connie missing a number of weeks with health issues.

The "unofficial" standard under Pete Fisher was 10 yearly appearances by each member, while lately the number seems to have dropped to 6. Going with 10, which I don't think is asking too much, here are those who made that cut:

Jesse McReynolds: 41
Gatlin Brothers: 39
Mark Wills: 38
Chris Janson, Old Crow Medicine Show: 20
Vince Gill: 18
Del McCoury Band: 15
Crystal Gayle, Craig Morgan: 12
Dustin Lynch, Oak Ridge Boys, Carrie Underwood: 11
Trace Adkins: 10

That adds up to 23 of the Opry's 68 members who made the list.

It is really nice to see some of the Opry newer members such as Dailey & Vincent, Mark Wills, Chris Janson, Crystal Gayle and Dustin Lynch fulfilling their commitments.

As to the rest of the Opry's members who made 2019 appearances:

Charlie Daniels: 9
Terri Clark, Kelsea Ballerini: 8
Eddie Montgomery, Steve Wariner: 7
Pam Tillis: 6
Diamond Rio, Joe Diffie, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, Josh Turner: 5
Charley Pride, Travis Tritt: 4
Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride, Lorrie Morgan, Marty Stuart, Keith Urban, Luke Combs: 3
Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood, Chris Young: 2
Clint Black, Alison Krauss, Brad Paisley: 1

Meanwhile, two of the Opry's members who no longer perform, Jan Howard and Randy Travis, did make several walk-on appearances.

There were five Opry members still active who made no 2019 Opry appearances: Alan Jackson, Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire, Ronnie Milsap and Blake Shelton.

The final 10 Opry members who are either retired or are ill and do not appear any longer include Bobby Bare, Tom T Hall, Stonewall Jackson, Hal Ketchum, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Stu Phillips, Ray Pillow, Jeannie Pruett and Ricky Van Shelton.

As to non-members, a total of 325 (give or take one or two) made their way to the Opry stage in 2019 up from 290 the year before. Of those, 66 made their Grand Ole Opry debuts. Here is a stat for you: with all the discussion on the male domination of country music and the radio air-plays, of the 325 non-members who performed on the Opry last year, only 87 were female artists. And as with the year before, about 50% of the performances on the Opry were made by non-Opry members.

The Top 10:

1) Gary Mule Deer, Charles Esten; Henry Cho: 19
2) Chonda Pierce: 15
3) Charlie Worsham: 14
4) Michael Ray: 13
5) Carly Pearce, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Don Schlitz: 12
6) Williams & Ree, Dusty Slay: 11
7) T. Graham Brown, William Michael Morgan: 10
8) Mandy Barnett, Maggie Rose, Sawyer Brown, Kalie Shorr, Gene Watson, Charlie McCoy: 9
9) The Isaacs, The Swon Brothers, Eric Paslay, Jimmie Allen, Levi Hummon: 8
10) Kathy Mattea, Elizabeth Cook, King Calaway, Exile, Tyler Rich, Jason Crabb, Abby Anderson, Tegan Marie: 7

For those who have not been to the Opry House in the past year, it looks great as the Opry continues to expand their brand. The expanded gift shop and better organized ticket office are nice surprises, as have been the general upgrades in the Opry House itself, in regards to lighting, video and sound quality. The backstage tours and the virtual theater have been big successes.

On the negative side, ticket prices continue to increase at a rapid rate, and we have started to see a two-tiered pricing structure, with higher prices on nights where a "big name" act performs. We have seen that specifically with Alan Jackson, Luke Combs and Carrie Underwood. That would appear to be the trend moving forward.

Looking toward 2020, I expect exciting things to be happening at the Opry as the show enters its 95th year. I have a great deal of confidence in Dan Rogers. In my couple of discussions with him, I feel the excitement he has for the show and while not saying anything, I think he has big plans as the Opry continues toward year 100. We have already seen Gene Watson become the Opry's newest member and I think there are more to follow. I also think we are going to see an effort made to get some of the Opry's long-lost missing members to come back. Alan Jackson has already returned in 2019 and there have already been more appearances by Vince Gill and Marty Stuart. Ricky Skaggs continues his long support of the Opry and new member Luke Combs is off to a promising start.

As I conclude, and I mention this every year, my thanks again to all who read and follow the blog, especially those who take the time to comment, or email and text questions and other personal thoughts and opinions to me. I always enjoy hearing from everyone. (As I have mentioned before, I am on Facebook, Twitter, and you can text or email). Special thanks go to those who I have met not only this past year, but in other years while attending Opry shows. I made made many special friends and it is always nice to put a face to a name. Those who I have never met, either due to distance or timing, don't despair. I could still happen someday.

My thanks to all of those who work or are associated with the Grand Ole Opry and the Grand Ole Opry House. I know some of you follow the blog and every time I head down to Nashville and the Opry, I have always felt welcomed and appreciated. Even though we sometimes disagree, I still think the Grand Ole Opry is the greatest show in the world, a real piece of Americana.

Finally, thanks and appreciation to Dan Rogers and the entire team who run the Opry. I know it is not an easy job booking the show each week, but I also realize that all of you are doing your best to put a good show on each night. You are dependent on Opry members and the non-members you reach out to, to fill the line-up each night. I know some weeks are better than others, but I will never question the commitment behind the scenes. We all thank you.

(As a disclaimer, the recorded number of appearances is based on the tracking that I do of each Opry show. If there is an error, such as a missed appearance, my apologies. Sometimes it happens, but not intentionally. Additionally, the thoughts and opinions written are those of myself and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Grand Ole Opry or its management).

Looking forward to a great 2020.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Grand Ole Opry 2/21 & 2/22

It's another Friday and Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry this weekend and once again, both nights have pretty solid line-ups.

Featured on both nights will be Grand Ole Opry member Crystal Gayle. Joining Crystal both nights will be Jeannie Seely, Mike Snider and The Whites. In addition to those artists, the Friday Night Opry will include Ricky Skaggs, Dailey & Vincent and Bobby Osborne, while on Saturday night, it will be Bill Anderson and Chris Young joining the group.

There are some interesting guest artists scheduled that will bring a lot of variety to the show. The Friday Night Opry has veteran John Berry, Christian artist Matthew West, newcomer Austin Jenckes and the always entertaining Phil Vassar on the schedule.

Saturday night will feature the legendary Junior Brown, along with Runaway June, Tucker Beathard, and making his Grand Ole Opry debut, Payton Smith.

Friday February 21
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Mike Snider; John Berry
7:30: Dailey & Vincent (host); Austin Jenckes; Crystal Gayle
8:15: The Whites (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Phil Vassar
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); Matthew West

Saturday February 22
7:00: Jeannie Seely (host); Mike Snider; Tucker Beathard
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); Junior Brown; Crystal Gayle
8:15: The Whites (host); Runaway June; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Chris Young (host); Payton Smith

When you add it all up, that comes out to 11 artists on Friday night of whom 7 are Opry members, while 6 of the 10 scheduled on Saturday are members.

As mentioned, this will be the Grand Ole Opry debut for Payton Smith.

Payton Smith, who is just 19,  is proof that working hard, taking risks and finding just a little luck really does pay off. When the singer, songwriter and self-taught guitarist landed a slot on one of the smaller stages at CMA Fest in 2018, he decided to play as if he were headlining an arena, tearing through original songs like “92” and “Like I Knew You Would” all while delivering supercharged guitar solos. Scott Borchetta, the head of Big Machine Label Group, happened to be walking by that afternoon and the performance stopped him in his tracks.

A few weeks later, after sharing some demos with Borchetta, Payton answered his phone to learn that the label was offering him a record deal. “I proceeded to pull over and freak out,” he says.

Payton had every reason to celebrate: since he first saw Keith Urban perform on the CMA Awards 14 years ago, the Houma, Louisiana, native has dreamt of playing his own brand of Country music, one influenced by 90’s Country and Guitar Rock. The 19-year-old is every bit as much a fan of Pearl Jam as he is Clint Black, whose face adorns the vintage T-shirts he’s often donning. He loves George Strait, but also John Mayer, and is certain that his peers in the Spotify generation have equally varied musical tastes.

“I would love to bring a new audience to Country music,” Payton says. “I want to bring Rock fans, Pop fans and John Mayer’s fans along. Genre doesn’t matter — music is about making a connection. People just want to relate to something and feel something just like I did when I first saw Keith on TV.”

Payton cites Urban, Eric Church and Luke Combs as his primary Country influences, and respects each for the way they honor the genre’s traditions while moving the music forward. Emulating that notion, Payton co-wrote all four songs on his new self-titled EP, available October 4 via Big Machine Records, which highlights his gifts as a vocalist, writer and nimble guitarist — he plays every guitar part on each track – just like his favorite slingers across the musical landscape.

With such a strong and diverse debut, Payton may want to aim higher than the lake — this is a collection that cries out to be performed for big crowds. “92” is a sultry slice of nostalgia for 90’s Country music. The Mayer-esque “What It Meant to Lose You” is an atmospheric heartbreaker that finds the narrator taking the blame for a breakup. And “Like I Knew You Would” is built around one giant hook.

“As a guitar player, I don’t always have to rock out and shred. I like coming up with melodic solos that you can sing along to,” he says. “‘Like I Knew You Would’ has one that is very much a sing-a-long. It’s like creating another melody inside the song.”

That gift for melody, coupled with his sharp but approachable lyricism and fluid guitar playing, sets up Payton to be the newest young voice to change Nashville. As he made clear on that CMA Fest stage not long ago, he’s not afraid to push the envelope or look at things from a different perspective.

And now, here is the posted Grand Ole Opry line-up from 25 years ago, Saturday February 25, 1995:

1st show
6:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jeanne Pruett
6:45: Grandpa Jones (host); Skeeter Davis
7:00: Mike Snider (host); Bill Carlisle; Jean Shepard; Daron Norwood
7:30: Joe Diffie (host); Charlie Louvin; Stonewall Jackson; Sweethearts of the Rodeo
8:00: Bill Anderson (host); Connie Smith; Brother Oswald; John Conlee; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); The Four Guys; Ricky Skaggs

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Jimmy C Newman; Jeanne Pruett; Billy Walker; Jeannie Seely
10:00: Jimmy Dickens (host); Jean Shepard
10:15: Grandpa Jones (host); Charlie Walker
10:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites
10:45: Bill Anderson (host); Del Reeves; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Stu Phillips; Daron Norwood; Joe Diffie
11:30: The Four Guys (host); Connie Smith; John Conlee; Mike Snider

Daron Norwood is a name some might not remember.

Born on September 30, 1965, Daron signed with Giant Records in 1993 and released two albums (1994's Daron Norwood and 1995's Ready, Willing and Able). He charted six singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Two singles off his debut album, "If It Wasn't For Her I Wouldn't Have You" and "Cowboys Don't Cry", both made the country Top 40. The title track of his second album was later a Top 20 hit in 1996 for Lari White. In late 1994, Norwood co-wrote and sang "Little Boy Lost" on the BNA Records album Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album, a tribute to Keith Whitley which featured a mix of original songs, covers of Whitley's material.

On November 5, 1995, Daron decided to retire because of his addiction to alcohol. He told the Lubbock-Avalanche Journal that during that time period, he was consuming 20 to 25 shots of Jack Daniel's a night. He also served as a motivational speaker. His program, called "Keep It Straight", was developed to warn children of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

Sadly, Daron was found dead in his Hereford, Texas, apartment by his landlord on the afternoon of July 22, 2015. There was no sign of any foul play.

From 50 years ago, Saturday February 21, 1970:

7:30: Bill Monroe (host); Charlie Louvin; Earl Scruggs Revue; Bill Carlisle; Del Wood
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Billy Grammer; Jim and Jesse; Crook Brothers
8:30: Roy Acuff (host): Archie Campbell; George Morgan; Jimmy C Newman; Stringbean
9:00: Glaser Brothers (host); Hank Locklin; Skeeter Davis; Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Ernie Ashworth; Fruit Jar Drinkers
9:30: Hank Snow (host); Willis Brothers; Leroy Van Dyke; Stu Phillips; Lonzo and Oscar
10:00: Charlie Louvin (host); Jim and Jesse; Del Wood; Bill Carlisle
10:15: Bill Monroe (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Archie Campbell; Stringbean
10:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Billy Grammer; Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper
10:45: Roy Acuff (host); Jimmy C Newman; George Morgan; Crook Brothers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Glaser Brothers; Skeeter Davis; Willis Brothers; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Ernie Ashworth; Sam McGee
11:30: Hank Locklin (host); Stu Phillips; Lonzo and Oscar; Leroy Van Dyke; Ronnie Robbins

Looking back at the history of the Grand Ole Opry,  it was 39 years ago, Saturday February 21, 1981 that Boxcar Willie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Boxcar Willie was perhaps the most successful invented character in the history of country music. With his kitschy persona and stage act -- highlighted by his amazingly accurate impersonation of a train whistle -- Willie played into the stereotype of the lovable, good-natured hobo who spent his life riding the rails and singing songs. Since his popularity had more to do with his image than his music, it makes sense that he was massively successful in England, where he personified Americana. Willie's English success carried him over to American success in the early '80s, where he ironically was perceived as carrying the torch for traditional country, because he kept the stereotypes alive.

Born Lecil Travis Martin, Boxcar Willie never worked on the railroads. However, Willie loved the railroads and kept running away to ride the trains when he was a child. He also loved country music, particularly the songs of Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, and Ernest Tubb. As a teenager, Boxcar Willie would perform under his given name, eventually becoming a regular on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, TX. In his early twenties, he served in the Air Force. After he left the service, he continued to sing in clubs and radio shows. In the late '50s, he began performing as Marty Martin, while working blue-collar jobs during the day. Marty Martin released an album, Marty Martin Sings Country Music and Stuff Like That, around 1958, but it was ignored.

In the mid-'60s, Martin wrote a song called "Boxcar Willie," based on a hobo he saw on a train. Martin continued to struggle in his musical career until the mid-'70s. By that time, he had become a DJ in Corpus Christi, TX. In 1975, he decided to risk everything he had on one final chance at stardom. He moved to Nashville and developed the Boxcar Willie character, using his song as the foundation.

Initially, Boxcar Willie wasn't very successful, but he had a lucky break in 1976 when he was called in to replace a sick George Jones at a Nashville club. During that performance, he was spotted by Drew Taylor, a Scottish booking agent. Taylor brought Boxcar Willie over to England for a tour, where he was enthusiastically received. Later that year, he released his first album, which was a moderate success in the U.K. Through the rest of the '70s, Willie toured Britain and every tour was more successful, culminating in a performance at the International Country Music Festival at Wembley in 1979. After his Wembley show was finished, he received a standing ovation -- the performance established Boxcar Willie as a star. His next album, King of the Road, became a huge success in England, reaching number five on the album charts; the record was helped immeasurably by its accompanying television advertisements, which sold the record through the mail.

By the end of 1980, Willie had become the most successful country artist in England, and his American success had just begun. King of the Road was available through an American television advertisement. "Train Medley" was a minor hit on the country charts, and he was becoming a popular attraction on U.S. concert circuits. In 1981, he received a spot on the Country Music Hall of Fame's Walkway of the Stars and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Boxcar Willie enjoyed his time in the spotlight, becoming a regular on the television show Hee Haw in 1982 and turning out albums as fast as he could make them. "Bad News" became his only American country Top 40 hit in 1982. In 1985, he played a hobo in Sweet Dreams, a film about Patsy Cline. By the mid-'80s, his star had faded, but he remained a popular concert attraction, particularly in England, into the '90s. Boxcar Willie died in Branson, MO, on April 12, 1999, after a three-year battle with leukemia.

Here is the running order from Saturday February 21, 1981, the night Boxcar Willie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry: 

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Roy Drusky (host): Strangers
Wilma Lee Cooper: I Couldn't Believe it Was True
Roy Drusky: The Last Farewell

6:45: Rudy's
Stonewall Jackson (host): Don't Be Angry
Jim and Jesse: Where Do We Go From Here
Connie Smith: Satisfied
Stonewall Jackson: 'Ol Chunk of Coal

7:00: Shoney's
Jim Ed Brown (host): Mariah
Billy Grammer: Somebody Loves You
Ernie Ashworth: Memphis Memory/Nine to Five
Tammy Wynette: Your Good Girl's Gonna Bad/Apartment #9/I Don't Wanna Play House/DIVORCE/Why I Keep Singing My Song/Cowboys Don't Always Shoot Straight/Stand By Your Man
Jim Ed Brown: The 3 Bells

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: You've Still Got a Place in My Heart
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
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Lafayette
Roy Acuff: Will the Circle Be Unbroken

8:00: Martha White
Grandpa Jones (host) and Ramona Jones: Piney Jane
Wilburn Brothers: Making Plans
Jeanne Pruett: Break My Mind
David Houston: My Lady
Grandpa and Ramona Jones: Dark As A Dungeon

8:30: Acme
Hank Snow (host): I'm Moving On
The Four Guys: Turn Your Radio On
Jimmy C Newman: Instrumental 
Jan Howard: Rolling In My Sweet Baby's Arms/Rocky Top
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Saturday Night Hop
Hank Snow and Kelly Foxton: Before the Next Teardrop Falls

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
The Four Guys: Loving Up a Storm
Connie Smith: When I Need Jesus, He's There
Roy Drusky: Don't It Make You Want to Go Home
Vic Willis Trio: Cimarron
Porter Wagoner: Tennessee Saturday Night/Cold Hard Facts of Life/Carroll County Accident/Green, Green Grass of Home/On A Highway Headed South

10:00: Little Debbie
Jim Ed Brown (host): Lyin' In Love With You
Bill Carlisle: No Help Wanted
Stu Phillips: Have I Told You Lately That I Love You/You Win Again/Please Release Me
Jim Ed Brown: I Believe

10:15: Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): Down in Union County
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
Roy Acuff: I'll Fly Away/I Saw the Light

10:30: Trailblazer
Grandpa Jones (host): Little Pink
Jean Shepard: Foggy River/If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time
Grandpa and Ramona Jones: I Wonder Where My Darling is Tonight

10:45: Beechnut
Stonewall Jackson (host): Why I'm Walkin'
Wilma Lee Cooper: Bury Me Beneath the Willow
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Sally Goodin
Stonewall Jackson: Muddy Water

11:00: Coca Cola
Hank Snow (host): I've Cried A Mile
Jeanne Pruett: Satin Sheets
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Billy Grammer: Blue Water
Kirk McGee: Railroad Blues
Hank Snow and Kelly Foxton: Check

11:30: Bama Jelly
Jimmy C Newman (host): Louisiana Cajun Band
Jan Howard: Evil on Your Mind/Memories for Sale
David Houston: My Lady
Wilburn Brothers: Troubles Back in Town
Wade B. Landry: Orange Blossom Special

George Jones was originally listed on the program for that night but cancelled, and this was the first Grand Ole Opry appearance for Tammy Wynette since October 1975. By this time, Tammy was no longer a member of the Opry. 

There you have it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting. And I hope everyone enjoys the Grand Ole Opry this weekend. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Tuesday Night Opry 2/18

The Grand Ole Opry has lined up a very nice show for the Tuesday Night Opry highlighted by an appearance from the Oak Ridge Boys.

7:00: Dailey & Vincent; Bill Anderson
7:30: Cam; Tracy Lawrence
8:15: Michael Ray; Lauren Alaina
8:45: Oak Ridge Boys

Certainly something that will appear to everyone

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Grand Ole Opry 2/14 & 2/15

For those who missed this:

The Grand Ole Opry makes a return to television on Circle, the recently launched country music and lifestyle network, with the weekly live-recorded series Opry. Bobby Bones has been tapped to host the show, which debuts Feb. 26, and will serve as executive producer. The 60-minute episode will included culled performances from the previous week’s shows.

Dan Rogers, VP/executive producer of the Grand Ole Opry, sees Bones as a good fit for the legendary institution. “He has a really great appreciation for the Opry’s traditions,” Rogers says, “but there’s no question that he is very much in tune with the country music of today and has certainly brought in new fans to the fold.”

Growing up in Mountain Pine, Ark., the Opry was an important part of Bones’ childhood. “My grandmother raised me for a long time [and] the Opry was really what we would bond over listening to it on the radio,” says the host of the nationally syndicated radio program The Bobby Bones Show. “My goal after moving to Nashville was to play the Opry.”

 Bones has fond memories of listening to the late comedian Jerry Clower with his grandmother and honored them both in his inaugural Opry performance. “My grandmother passed away when I was in college, so the first Opry appearance that I did, I told the story about my grandmother and how she was such a big part of my life,” says Bones, whose Opry appearances now number in the double digits. “We used to listen to Jerry Clower when he would play the Opry. That got us into his records and that’s what bonded us. So I told a Jerry Clower joke on the Opry stage in her honor and it was a full circle moment for me.”

Opry will feature performances, interviews and behind-the-scenes segments. “When I bring my friends to the Opry, what they really geek out about is [what’s] on the walls of the Opry, in the [dressing] rooms, and that’s the stuff you can’t see if you are watching from the seats or you can’t hear if you are watching through the app or listening on the radio,” Bones says. “So what I want to do is not just do a history lesson, but show them how much cool freakin’ stuff is backstage and talk to people about it.”

Opry marks the first time the legendary show has aired on TV in years. The Opry was televised live in its entirety for the first time on March 4, 1978, as part of a PBS pledge drive special. During The Nashville Network’s existence there were various shows including Bill Anderson’s Backstage at the Opry, but the most recent television exposure was Noteworthy at the Opry, which aired on the GAC Network in 2013.

“When the Opry began in 1925 radio was new, it was the thing everyone was excited about and talking about and through the years, we have added the internet. Now of course being back on television is important but equally important, to me, is that you’ll be able to also watch on your mobile device via Circle as well,” Rogers says. “It’s always been important to be entertaining thousands of people in the Opry House in Nashville, but it’s also equally important to us that the artists who come play our stage are seen and heard by folks around the world.”

Bones is excited about his part in the Opry’s future. “I’m hoping to be a part of the team that completely pays respect and loves the past history of country music and also opens up the eyes of 13-year-olds or eight-year-olds that are starting to love country music now. I just never want the Opry to go away.”

As far as the Grand Ole Opry in concerned,  it looks like another good week  as both the Friday Night Opry and Saturday's Grand Ole Opry have very solid line-ups this weekend.

There is a trio of Grand Ole Opry members scheduled for both nights. The list includes Mark Wills, Bill Anderson and John Conlee. Joining that group on Friday night will be Mike Snider, Dailey & Vincent and Terri Clark, while on Saturday night Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, Jeannie Seely, Bobby Osborne and Old Crow Medicine Show are on the list.

Comedian, and frequent Opry guest, Gary Mule Deer is scheduled for both nights. Joining Gary on the Friday Night Opry will be another frequent guest, Charles Esten. Also scheduled are The Grascals, Sawyer Brown, and making her Opry debut, Lainey Wilson. Saturday night has Charlie Worsham and Wendy Moten scheduled.

Friday February 14
7:00: Mark Wills (host); Mike Snider; Dailey & Vincent
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); The Grascals; Charles Esten
8:15: Terri Clark (host); Gary Mule Deer; Lainey Wilson
8:45: John Conlee (host); Sawyer Brown

Saturday February 15
7:00: Ricky Skaggs (host); The Whites; John Conlee
7:30: Jeannie Seely (host); Gary Mule Deer; Charlie Worsham
8:15: Bill Anderson (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Mark Wills; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: Old Crow Medicine Show (host); Wendy Moten

Of the 11 acts scheduled for Friday night, 6 are Opry members while 8 of the 11 scheduled for Saturday night are part of the Opry's cast.

As noted above, this will be the Opry debut for Lainey Wilson.

Hailing from the rural farming community of Baskin, Louisiana (pop. 300), where her family has tilled the land for five generations, Lainey Wilson cultivated her tenacious work ethic just as her family cultivated corn, wheat, soybeans, oats, and more. She learned that daily chores on the farm were a family affair, and every member had to do their part.

Music was also a family affair. Her father played guitar, her mother loved to dance, and her grandparents often took her to bluegrass festivals. She wrote her first song at age nine, and her dad taught her how to play guitar at age 11. Wilson’s love for writing and performing continued to grow as she booked herself gigs throughout high school, even working for a stint as a Hannah Montana impersonator performing at children’s birthday parties and events – with up-and-coming artist Lainey Wilson opening for Montana, of course.

It wasn’t long until Wilson moved to Nashville to pursue her dream of making music, with little more to her name than that dream and a Flagstaff bumper-pull camper trailer. She lived in that camper outside of a longtime family friend’s recording studio for three years. It was during this time that Wilson began to make inroads with Nashville’s tight-knit songwriting community, forging invaluable creative relationships with other up-and-coming songwriters in town and steadily developing her own voice as both a writer and an artist.

Lainey's determined openness and salt-of-the-earth upbringing have prepared her well for the road ahead. She recently released her first project for Broken Bow Records, the Jay Joyce-produced EP Redneck Hollywood, and is currently on her first radio tour in support of the new music, which includes “LA,” a funky, up-tempo nod to her Louisiana roots, as well as “Dirty Looks,” a sultry, slow-burning number and Wilson’s first radio single.

And now, here is the Grand Ole Opry line-up from 25 years ago, Saturday February 18, 1995:

1st show
6:30: Bill Monroe (host); Roy Drusky; George Lindsay
6:45: Mike Snider (host); Bill Carlisle
7:00: The Whites (host); Jim and Jesse; Jeannie Seely; Jimmy C Newman; Ray Pillow
7:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Stu Phillips; Hal Ketchum; Doug Stone; Charley Pride
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Charlie Louvin; Charlie Walker; Jean Shepard; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Osborne Brothers; Jack Greene; Connie Smith; The Four Guys

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Brother Oswald & Charlie Collins; Stu Phillips; Charlie Walker; The Isaacs
10:00: Bill Monroe (host); Ray Pillow
10:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Osborne Brothers
10:30: Jimmy Dickens (host); Mike Snider
10:45: Jean Shepard (host); Jim and Jesse; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Charlie Louvin; Jack Greene; Connie Smith; The Four Guys
11:30: Jimmy C Newman (host); Charley Pride; Hal Ketchum

Now from 50 years ago, Saturday February 14, 1970:

7:30: Billy Grammer (host); Charlie Walker; Grandpa Jones; Ernie Ashworth
8:00: Lester Flatt (host); Charlie Louvin; Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper; Crook Brothers
8:30: Roy Acuff (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Skeeter Davis; Bobby Bare; Calhoun Twins; Del Wood
9:00: Bill Monroe (host); Darrell McCall; Stringbean; Fruit Jar Drinkers
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Bobby Bare; Ray Pillow
10:00: Charlie Louvin (host); Grandpa Jones; Charlie Walker
10:15: Roy Acuff (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper
10:30: Lester Flatt (host); Skeeter Davis; Billy Grammer; Ernie Ashworth
10:45: Bill Monroe (host); Stringbean; Crook Brothers
11:00: Porter Wagoner (host); Dolly Parton; Del Wood; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam McGee
11:30: Bobby Bare (host); Ray Pillow; Ronnie Robbins

Here is a more detailed look at the show from 1970:

7:30: Standard Candy
Billy Grammer (host): Lonesome Road Blues
Charlie Walker: Pick Me Up on Your Way Down
Grandpa Jones: Stop That Ticklin' Me
Ernie Ashworth: My Love For You
Billy Grammer: Jesus Is A Soul Man
Charlie Walker: Honky Tonk Women
Grandpa Jones: Give My Love to Nell
Ernie Ashworth: Oh, Lonesome Me

8:00: Martha White
Lester Flatt (host): Salty Dog Blues
Charlie Louvin: A Toast to Mama
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper: Guide Me Home, My Georgia Moon
Crook Brothers: Lafayette
Lester Flatt: Before I Met You
Charlie Louvin: Even A Loser Likes to Dream
Wilma Lee Cooper: Thirty Pieces of Silver
Lester Flatt: Mocking Banjo

8:30: Stephens
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Earl Scruggs Revue: Rubin
Skeeter Davis and Bobby Bare: Your Husband, My Wife
Calhoun Twins: Cottonfields
Del Wood: Down Yonder
Earl Scruggs Revue: Nine Pound Hammer
Skeeter Davis: I'm A Love; Not A Fighter
Roy Acuff: I Saw the Light

9:00: Luzianne
Bill Monroe (host): Y'All Come
Darrell McCall: In the Arms of My Weakness
Stringbean: Gonna Make Myself a Name
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Cacklin' Hen
Bill Monroe: I Found a Way
Darrell McCall: Hurry Up
Stringbean: Battle of New Orleans
Bill Monroe: Mule Skinner Blues/Rawhide

9:30: Kellogg's
Porter Wagoner (host): You Gotta Have a License
Dolly Parton: Daddy, Come & Get Me
Bobby Bare: Miller's Cave
Ray Pillow: It Takes All Kinds of People
Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton: Just Someone I Used to Know/The Last Thing on My Mind
Bobby Bare: Margie's at the Lincoln Park Inn
Ray Pillow: I Wish I Could Fall in Love Today
Buck Trent: Stampede

10:00: Fender
Charlie Louvin (host): Little Reasons
Grandpa Jones: Eight More Miles to Louisville
Charlie Walker: Moffett, Oklahoma
Charlie Louvin: You Gave Me a Mountain

10:15: Pure
Roy Acuff (host): Pins & Needles
Earl Scruggs Revue: Girl from the North Country
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper: Poor Ellen Smith
Roy Acuff: The Great Speckled Bird

10:30: Trailblazer
Lester Flatt (host): Nine Pound Hammer
Skeeter Davis: I'm A Love; Not a Fighter
Billy Grammer: Gotta Travel On
Ernie Ashworth: A New Heart
Lester Flatt: Folsom Prison Blues

10:45: Beechnut
Bill Monroe (host): Tall Pines
Stringbean: Wanda
Crook Brothers: Soldier's Joy
Bill Monroe: Uncle Pen

11:00: Coca Cola
Porter Wagoner (host): Big Wind
Dolly Parton: Daddy, Come & Get Me
Del Wood: Ballin' the Jack
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Gray Eagle
Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton: Tomorrow is Forever/Milwaukee, Here I Come
Sam McGee: Dixie Rag
Porter Wagoner: The Carroll County Accident
Mac Magaha: Katy Hill

11:30: Lava
Bobby Bare (host): Blowing in the Wind/Worried Man Blues/Gotta Travel On
Ray Pillow: Working Man Blues
Ronnie Robbins: That's How It Feels to Walk in My Shoes
Bobby Bare: Shame on Me
Ray Pillow: I'll Break Out Again Tonight
Ronnie Robbins: Love of the Common People/Mama Tried
Bobby Bare: Detroit City

There you have it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I hope everyone enjoys the Opry this weekend.

And for the love birds out there: Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Tuesday Night Opry 2/11

I know some of us were wondering if Grand Ole Opry member Luke Combs would find time for the Opry with his heavy tour schedule. It is nice to see that after his December appearance on the Opry that he will be back on the Opry this Tuesday night for two shows. Hopefully the trend will continue.

He will be joined on both shows by fellow Opry member Darius Rucker, along with member Jeannie Seely.

1st show
7:00: Jeannie Seely; Maggie Rose
7:30: Jimmie Allen; Dale Watson
8:00: Darius Rucker
8:30: Luke Combs

2nd show
9:30: Jeannie Seely; Maggie Rose
10:00: Darius Rucker
10:30: Jimmie; Dale Watson
11:00: Luke Combs

Only six acts per show but a lot of quality.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Grand Ole Opry 2/7 & 2/8

It will be an exciting weekend at the Grand Ole Opry as on Friday night, Gene Watson will be formally inducted as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Gene Watson, has endured the ups and downs of the music business to become a country music legend himself. After releasing his very first single in 1962, Gene is still touring constantly in the USA and abroad and remains proud to be known as an icon for “real country”.

Reflecting back on his early life, singing with his seven siblings and parents in Paris, Texas, Watson noted, “I can remember singing as far back as I can remember talking. Singing was something that was not out of the ordinary for me. It wasn’t unique. My whole family sang.”

Even in a musical genre noted for its hard-luck stories, Gene Watson’s stands out. The family drifted from job to job as his itinerant father took logging and crop-picking jobs. “Home” eventually became a converted school bus which his father retrofitted himself and he made the stove that was strapped to the outside of the bus. Gene recalls his first real home was one they moved into when he was around 10 – one that his Dad purchased for $900 and spent many years paying off – but Gene also recalls they had to first remove the hay stored in the home before they moved in. As difficult as this may seem to some, Gene is quick to point out that while they didn’t have money for Christmas gifts and extravagant birthday presents, he never felt poor because no one around him had anything more. He said his childhood was extremely happy and for that he’s grateful to his loving parents and close-knit siblings.

Gene’s love for music began while he was still pretty young. While still in his early teen years, Gene and his brother were asked to perform for a local show. According to Gene, "We got paid some minimum amount but we got a standing ovation and I was hooked on the notion I could get paid for doing a little singing to help pay for a car.”

As a young adult, Gene settled in Houston, TX and began performing in the big Houston nightclubs. He developed a strong local following with his stage act and it was in Houston where he released his debut single on Sun Valley Records. That single, titled “If It Was That Easy” didn’t make any charts but as Gene states “it was just exciting to see my name on a record release and to believe that I was really in the business”. In 1964, the Grand Ole Opry duo, The Wilburn Brothers, took Gene on the road briefly. It was The Wilburn Brothers who brought Gene to Nashville for the very first time and allowed him to sing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Gene notes “I sang the Hank Williams song ‘I Can’t Help It if I’m Still in Love With You’ and got a standing ovation so not knowing what to follow with I just went out and did a gospel standard ‘It Is No Secret What God Can Do’. After that, they carried me down to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and I got on stage and broadcast on The Midnight Jamboree.”

Then it was back to the Texas honky-tonks and a string of local singles throughout the ‘60s.

In 1974, one of Gene Watson’s small-label singles caught the ear of Capitol Records. He was an auto-body repairman and the featured performer at Houston’s Dynasty nightclub when the label picked up the steamy, sexual waltz “Love in the Hot Afternoon” for national distribution. It became the first of Gene Watson’s two-dozen top-10 hits in early 1975.

Gene took no songwriting credit when he re-wrote the lyrics of 1979’s “Pick the Wildwood Flower” to make it an autobiographical song. Songwriter Lawton Williams was so grateful for Gene’s bravura performance of “Farewell Party” that he gave the singer his 1980 BMI Award for it.

Gene Watson quit drinking in 1980 and quit smoking not long after that. He underwent surgery and survived colon cancer in 2000-01. Through it all, he continued to record one critically applauded collection after another. He was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and into the inaugural class of the Houston, Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Asked why he is still in such high demand after all these years, Watson reflected “I think a lot of it is because there’s not too much of what I do around anymore. I think there is still a hunger out there for traditional country music. So I’d like to stay out there as long as I’m able to do the job and do it well.

“Every time I step out on that stage and see that audience, it’s a new beginning. Even though I’ve sung these songs millions of times, I look at each one like it’s brand new to me. Every night, I try to deliver that song the best that I can.

“Being called a ‘Singer’s Singer’ humbles me. It’s flattering, but what I do is just what I do. The good Lord just gave me the voice.”

During his long career, Gene has had 76 songs hit the singles charts. 23 of those were Top 10 hits and five reached No. 1.

55 years after his Grand Ole Opry debut, Gene is finally a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Steve Wariner will be hosting the segment in which Gene is inducted as the Opry's newest member. I am sure others will also be involved and perhaps a surprise or two during that segment.

Also scheduled on the Friday Night Opry are members Ricky Skaggs, Jeannie Seely, Riders In The Sky and John Conlee. John Conlee will be back on Saturday night along with members Terri Clark, Mike Snider, Dailey & Vincent, Bobby Osborne, Connie Smith and The Whites.

Non-members scheduled for Friday night include Maddie & Tae, High Valley, Louis York, who will be making their Opry debut, Zach Williams, Brad Upton and the legendary rock n' roll artist Johnny Rivers.

Brad Upton returns on Saturday night, joined by Darin & Brook Aldridge, Darryl Worley and making his Opry debut, Matt Maher.

Friday February 7
7:00: John Conlee (host); Riders In The Sky; Maddie & Tae; Johnny Rivers
7:30: Steve Wariner (host); Gene Watson
8:15: Jeannie Seely (host); Brad Upton; Louis York
8:45: Ricky Skaggs (host); High Valley; Zach Williams

Saturday February 8
7:00: Terri Clark (host); Mike Snider; Darin & Brooke Aldridge
7:30: Dailey & Vincent (host); Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press; Darryl Worley
8:15: Connie Smith (host); Brad Upton; Opry Square Dancers
8:45: John Conlee (host); The Whites; Matt Maher

Of the 12 acts scheduled on Friday night, 6 are Opry members while 7 of the 11 acts scheduled for Saturday night belong to the Opry. And it is safe to say that there will be a lot of variety both nights.

As mentioned, Louis York and Matt Maher each will be making their Opry debuts this weekend.

Louis York is the powerful duo and creation of multi-GRAMMY nominated songwriting and production team, Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony. Kelly, is a 4x Grammy Award nominee, and Harmony, a 3x Grammy Award nominee and 2011 NAACP Image Award winner.

Formed in 2015, the duo first appeared on the scene with their well-received debut EP trilogy Masterpiece Theater: Act I, Act II, Act III.  The projects earned praise from publications including Billboard and Los Angeles Times for their genre-bending sensibilities and creative aesthetic. In a relatively short amount of time, the pair has amassed more than one million cumulative streams on Spotify; given a talk as part of the esteemed TEDx Nashville program; and performed sold-out shows, most recently on their “Love Takeover” tour since the start of 2019.

Having been described as a cross between Outkast and Earth, Wind & Fire, the pair have unleashed their full-length debut, American Griots – The Album. An ambitious step forward for the group, the new project consists of 13 new songs, including “Don’t You Forget,” the group’s rich, sprightly new single replete with warm harmonies, head-bobbing grooves, and an instantly hook-filled chorus. This work of art expresses both Kelly and Harmony from the inside out as the album covers themes of love, wellness, and happiness.

Matt Maher is no stranger to songs that connect to the heart of the human condition, having penned numerous No. 1 hits and performed around the world, including at an intimate meeting with Pope Francis earlier this year. With “Echoes,” he digs a bit deeper, exposing the raw nerve of love and loss and piercing it with truth.

The title “Echoes” comes from the idea of passing on what we’ve heard. As children, we learn how to communicate from what we see and hear. If ‘faith comes by hearing,’ (Romans 10:17) as St. Paul says, “then what we choose to echo back into the world from what we hear is vital.” Spiritually, it’s about how you transmit your faith back into the world. In modern society, people can become satisfied amplifying someone else’s ideas. We read a post or see an image and think, ‘Yes, that’s how I feel.’ But without true contemplation, it can ring hollow. “I believe the people who should be most mindful and most thoughtful about what they say and how they respond,” shares Maher, “are Christians. That is the main message of this album – asking the question, ‘How do we echo our faith?’”

Matt found his echo in the paschal mystery, or the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus – describing the cross as two opposing axis, the vertical and the horizontal. “There’s a duality in the two dimensions of the cross: that of God reaching down to humanity in the vertical, and God reconciling us with each other in the horizontal. Most people tend to fall into different camps, focusing on either the vertical or the horizontal, but not both.” For Maher, it was imperative for “Echoes” to showcase both perspectives, the underlying spirit of being understood in the heart of God and the worship that overflows from that security.

Congratulations to both Louis York and Matt Maher on their Opry debuts.

And now, here is the Grand Ole Opry line-up from 25 years ago, Saturday February 11, 1995:

1st show
6:30: Grandpa Jones (host); Mike Snider
6:45: Jimmy Dickens (host); Brother Oswald
7:00: Bill Monroe (host); Bill Carlisle; Jack Greene; Skeeter Davis; John Conlee
7:30: Bill Anderson (host); Janie Fricke; Paul Overstreet; Don Gibson
8:00: Porter Wagoner (host); The Four Guys; Jean Shepard; Charlie Louvin; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
8:30: Hank Snow (host); Ricky Skaggs; The Whites; Jimmy C Newman; Vince Gill

2nd show
9:30: Porter Wagoner (host); George Hamilton IV: Wilma Lee Cooper; Jean Shepard; Riders In The Sky; Colleen Walters
10:00: Bill Monroe (host); Mike Snider
10:15: Jimmy Dickens (host); Janie Fricke
10:30: Grandpa Jones (host); Vince Gill
10:45: Bill Anderson (host); Stonewall Jackson; Opry Square Dance Band; The Melvin Sloan Dancers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); The Four Guys; Jack Greene; Jimmy C Newman; Charlie Walker
11:30: Ricky Skaggs (host); John Conlee; The Whites

Now from 50 years ago, Saturday February 7, 1970:

7:30: Del Reeves (host); Stonewall Jackson; Stu Phillips; Stringbean; Bill Carlisle; Del Wood
8:00: Hank Locklin (host); Jim Ed Brown; Lonzo and Oscar; Crook Brothers; Jim and Jesse
8:30: Roy Acuff (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Archie Campbell; Bobby Bare
9:00: Glaser Brothers (host); Jimmy C Newman; Skeeter Davis; Billy Grammer; Fruit Jar Drinkers
9:30: Hank Snow (host); Willis Brothers; Tex Ritter; George Morgan; Grandpa Jones; Ernie Ashworth
10:00: Del Reeves (host); Stu Phillips; Stringbean; Bill Carlisle
10:15: Hank Locklin (host); Jim and Jesse; Lonzo and Oscar; Del Wood
10:30: Roy Acuff (host); Earl Scruggs Revue; Archie Campbell; Junior Samples; Skeeter Davis; Bobby Bare
10:45: Jim Ed Brown (host); Billy Grammer; Skeeter Davis; Crook Brothers
11:00: Hank Snow (host); Willis Brothers; Jimmy C Newman; Fruit Jar Drinkers; Sam McGee
11:30: Tex Ritter (host); Glaser Brothers; George Morgan; Grandpa Jones; Ernie Ashworth

Looking back at Opry dates, it was Saturday February 7, 1981 that John Conlee became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

John Conlee’s hits have rarely been songs that see life through the hard-fact-hiding “Rose Colored Glasses” described in his first smash record of 1978. Through all the years since, his emphasis has been on songs of the lives of everyday people — middle class, hardworking people, and those who’ve been unable to attain even that level of economic ease. He made a fresh hit again of “Busted,” when country fans might have thought Ray Charles and Johnny Cash had enjoyed the last word on that one. He had us nodding in agreement to the tough realities of “Nothing Behind You, Nothing in Sight.”

“There are more of us ordinary folks than anybody else,” says the big-voiced baritone whose hits also include “Common Man,” “Working Man,” and “Friday Night Blues.”

When John Conlee looks at love, the view includes Harlan Howard and Bobby Braddock’s searing “I Don’t Remember Loving You” — and he has no trouble singing about being on the “Backside of Thirty.”

John grew up on a 250-acre Kentucky farm where he raised hogs, cultivated tobacco with mules, and mowed pastures. He also worked as a funeral home attendant and mortician, and as a pop music disc jockey in Nashville before settling into a career in country music during the mid-1970s. It’s typical of John that he used the returns from that long string of No. 1 hits (four in 1983 and 1984 alone) to get back to farm life himself.

“I spend all of my off-time, what I have of it, with my family on our farm,” John explains. “I enjoy it. There’s no glamour to it. Woodworking, gunsmithing or driving a tractor requires getting grease or varnish all over you. It’s dirty work, but I like it.”

All together, John has had 32 singles on the Billboard Country Singles Chart and has released 11 studio albums. 14 of his singles hit the Top 10 and 7 reached #1.

John joined the Grand Ole Opry cast in 1981. “Back when I joined the Opry, there was not a great big hoopla about a new member coming on board,” he says. “But now, we make a big deal out of it for the people that join. It really doesn’t matter to me. I mean officially becoming a member made it a great night.”

At one time, John raised more than $140,000 — one dollar at a time — for Feed the Children from the dollar bills tossed on the stage when he sang that 1983 hit version of “Busted.” He still collects donations from fans during that song’s performance, currently channeling the money to the benefit of Wounded Warriors. John was instrumental in the formation of the Family Farm Defense Fund. He helped Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organize and entertain at Farm Aid concerts that raised more than $13 million in grants.

At the age of 73, John maintains an active touring schedule, still records new music and is a strong supporter of the Grand Ole Opry, of which he has been a member for 39 years.

Here is the running order from Saturday February 7, 1981, the night John Conlee became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

1st show
6:30: Mrs. Grissoms
Stonewall Jackson (host): Me & You & A Dog Named Boo
Ernie Ashworth: Mind Your Own Business
Stonewall Jackson: 'Ol Chunk of Coal

6:45: Rudy's
Charlie Walker (host): Crazy Arms
Justin Tubb: What's Wrong With the Way That We're Doing It Now
Bill Carlisle: Knothole
Charlie Walker: Don't Play No Songs About Texas

7:00: Shoney's
Porter Wagoner (host): Ol' Slewfoot
Jimmy Dickens: Take An Old Cold Tater
John Conlee: She Can't Say That Anymore/What I Had With You/Rose Colored Glasses
Connie Smith: When God Dips His Love In My Heart
Porter Wagoner: What I've Always Wanted/On A Highway Headed South

7:30: Standard Candy
Roy Acuff (host): Wabash Cannonball
Jean Shepard: Slippin' Away
Jim and Jesse: Truck Stops & Pretty Girls
Vic Willis Trio: Last Cheater's Waltz
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Durang's Hornpipe
Roy Acuff: That's the Man I'm Looking For

8:00: Martha White
Bill Anderson (host): I Love You Drops
Skeeter Davis: The Rose
Wilburn Brothers: Making Plans
Ray Pillow: Countryfried
Lonzo and Oscar: Green, Green Grass of Home
Bill Anderson: Mr. Peepers

8:30: Acme
Hank Snow (host): Storms Never Last
The Four Guys: Fire
Charlie Louvin: Mama's Angels
Roy Drusky: Don't It Make You Want to Go Home
Stu Phillips: I Will
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Bill Bailey
Hank Snow and Kelly Foxton: Check

2nd show
9:30: Kellogg's
Porter Wagoner (host): Tennessee Saturday Night
The Four Guys: Swing Down Chariot
Jimmy Dickens: John Henry
Billy Grammer: When Your Hair Has Turned to Silver
David Houston: My Lady
Two's Company (Mary Darcy and Eamon McRory): How Can I Help You Forgive Me
Porter Wagoner: On A Highway Headed South

10:00: Little Debbie
Jack Greene (host): I Need Somebody Bad Tonight
John Conlee: The Backside of Thirty/Rose Colored Glasses
Jack Greene; There Goes My Everything

10:15: Sunbeam
Roy Acuff (host): I Couldn't Believe It Was True
Jan Howard: Good Hearted Woman
Bill Carlisle: Some Ol' Tale That the Crow Told Me
Carolee Singers: A Song the Holy Angels Cannot Sing
Howdy Forrester and Jimmy Riddle: Limerock

10:30: Martha White
Bill Anderson (host): One More Sexy Lady
Jean Shepard: You've Still Got a Place in My Heart
Jim and Jesse: The Rider in the Rain
Bill Anderson: Golden Guitar

10:45: Beech-Nut
Charlie Louvin (host): See the Big Man Cry
Connie Smith: Love Lifted Me
Crook Brothers and The Tennessee Travelers: Black Mountain Rag
Charlie Louvin: She Is

11:00: Coca Cola
Hank Snow (host): Old Shep
Skeeter Davis: Isn't It Always Love
Fruit Jar Drinkers: Nubbing Ridge
Stu Phillips: Born to Be a Man
Kirk McGee: Blue Night
Kelly Foxton: Make the World Go Away

11:30: Bama
Roy Drusky (host): Strangers
Lonzo and Oscar: Blue Kentucky Home/Boogie Grass Band
Ray Pillow: Bubbles in My Beer/Too Many Memories
Grand Ole Opry Staff Band: Buckaroo
Roy Drusky: The Last Farewell/One Day at a Time

In his early years as an Opry member, John wasn't around all that much as he was heavily touring to promote his hit records. However, over the past couple of decades, John has become one of the Opry's most loyal members and an excellent segment host.

There you have it for this week. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I hope everyone enjoys the Opry this weekend.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Tuesday Night Opry 2/4

With the return of the Grand Ole Opry to the Grand Ole Opry House, the Tuesday Night Opry also returns this week.

It is a pretty solid line-up with four of the seven artists being Opry members.

7:00: Connie Smith; Michael Ray
7:30: Mark Wills; Jake Hoot
8:15: Henry Cho; Dailey & Vincent
8:45: Chris Jason

This will be the Opry debut for Jake Hoot.

Don’t let his larger-than-life presence fool you. Jake Hoot may stand 6’6″, but the reigning Season 17 Champion of NBC’s “The Voice” is just as genuine and sweet natured as ever. His dynamic storytelling abilities and powerful vocals led to an unprecedented run on the Emmy-award winning talent series. Shattering records left and right, Jake’s chart-topping abilities landed him a record 6 songs in the Top 10 of the iTunes Country Singles Chart as well as a #1 song on the overall iTunes Singles Chart.

The Team Kelly Clarkson contestant amassed a fiercely loyal following during his time on the show thanks to his authentic delivery of straight-from-the-soul music. Much of this and his sincere humility could be attributed to his unique and adventurous life growing up as the 2nd of 9 siblings to Baptist Missionary parents. Born in Texas, he led quite the gypsy childhood having lived in Oklahoma, Haiti, and an 11-year stint in the Dominican Republic where he first learned to play guitar. Fluent in Spanish, he credits his diverse musical influence to his time on the island. The singer/songwriter relocated to Tennessee at 20-years-old where he began gigging and attended Tennessee Tech University as a walk-on football player.

Currently amassing over 1 million Apple Music streams and gearing up to make his Grand Ole Opry debut, the future proves promising for this mega-talent with a heart of gold who is known by his 4-year old daughter simply as “Daddy.”

Sunday, February 2, 2020

February Opry Highlights

Welcome to February, or as we say here in Ohio, the dead of winter!! But on the positive side, pitchers and catchers report to spring training in few weeks which means spring is right around the corner, so we have that to look forward to. Now, as usual, here are the important or historical events that have taken place at the Grand Ole Opry, or in regards to members of the Opry, during the month of February:

February 9, 1914: Grand Ole Opry legend Ernest Tubb was born in Crisp, Texas. Ernest came to the Opry in the early 1940s and immediately became of the Opry's most important and influential members. He was known fro helping new artists and that list includes Hank Snow, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Jack Greene and Cal Smith, among many others. In 1947 he opened the first Ernest Tubb Record Shop and shortly after started the Midnight Jamboree. Ernest was one of the first members to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and he was a proud supporter of country music and those who came from the state of Texas. Ernest remained an Opry member until his death in 1984, after a period of declining health.

February 18, 1914: Early Grand Ole Opry member Frank Kuczynski was born. Perhaps that name does not ring a bell but his stage name does: Pee Wee King. Pee Wee, along with his Golden West Cowboys, became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1937 and was one of the first professional entertainers to join the cast. Many people forget that Pee Wee came before Roy Acuff. He left the Opry after World War II and moved to Louisville, Kentucky to work in television and eventually his show was broadcast in Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland, in addition to Louisville. He always said he would have stayed in Nashville and at the Opry if WSM had branched into television, which they would do later. While leaving the Opry as a member, Pee Wee was a frequent guest. Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974, Pee Wee passed away in 2000 at the age of 86. Pee Wee also wrote an autobiography that is an excellent read and a book that I highly recommend.

February 1, 1917: Mary Jane Dezurik was born in Royalton, Minnesota. Along with her sister Carolyn, these former Opry members were known as the Cackle Sisters. They came to the Opry in the 1940s, staying for only a short period of time, eventually moving to Cincinnati. Mary Jane passed away in 1981.

February 7, 1921: Wilma Lee Leary, better known as Wilma Lee Cooper, was born in Valley Head, West Virginia. Along with her husband Stoney, Wilma Lee came to the Opry from the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree in 1957. After Stoney passed away, Wilma Lee continued as a member of the Opry until her death in 2011.

February 25, 1927: Ralph Stanley was born in the Clinch Mountains of Virginia. This bluegrass legend joined the Grand Ole Opry in January 2000. Ralph passed away in 2016. Some believe that Ralph should receive consideration in regards to the Country Music Hall of Fame, of which I would not disagree.

February 1, 1928: Harry Stone joined WSM radio as a staff announcer. Harry would eventually become the general manager of WSM and become responsible for the Opry. While in that position, he would often clash with Opry founder George D. Hay over the direction of the show. While Judge Hay wanted to keep the rural flavor of the show, Harry saw the value of the show to the National Life & Insurance Company, the owners of WSM, and felt that the show should move into a more professional direction. It was during Harry's time that the Opry moved away from local, amateur talent and began bringing in professional and paid entertainers. Harry remained with WSM until 1950, when he left to pursue new opportunities.

February 17, 1931: Uncle Jimmy Thompson, the first artist to perform on what is now called the Grand Ole Opry passed away. Uncle Jimmy was a part of the Barn Dance until 1927.

February 25, 1932: Faron Young was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1951 Faron joined the Louisiana Hayride, where he stayed until 1954. He then moved to Nashville, becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Faron remained an Opry member until he was fired in December 1964 for failing to meet the required number of annual appearances. While he never rejoined the show, Faron would come back and make occasional guest appearances.

February 2, 1935: The Missouri Mountaineers made their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Alcyone Bate described the Mountaineers, who were founded by Jack Shook, as a "sort of Sons of Pioneers group." They stayed with the Opry until 1939.

February 5, 1938: Roy Acuff and his Crazy Tennesseans made their second appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. His first appearance had taken place several months earlier and was not considered a success. This time around, Roy performed "The Great Speckled Bird" and WSM was overwhelmed with an avalanche of mail. As a result, Roy was asked to become an Opry regular, or member, and it became official on February 19. Along with Pee Wee King, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe and Eddy Arnold, Roy would help lead the shift of the Opry's focus to professional singers rather than the instrumental groups that had been the main focus of the show. Shortly after he joined, Harry Stone suggested to Roy that the name of his group be changed and since Roy was from the Knoxville area, he went with Smoky Mountain Boys, which was effective beginning February 26. Except for a brief year in the 1940s, Roy would remain with the Opry until his death in November 1992.

February 18, 1939: The Andrew Brothers became members of the Grand Ole Opry. They were brought to the Opry specifically to replace the Delmore Brothers, who had left the show. While I have never heard The Andrew Brothers, I have heard that they were fine harmony singers.

February 13, 1943: Ernest Tubb became an official member of the Grand Ole Opry.

February 21, 1948: Jimmy Dickens made his first guest appearance on the Opry. He performed "John Henry" and "I Dreamed of An Old Love Affair." Several months later, Jimmy would become a member of the Opry.

February 2, 1949: Future Grand Ole Opry member Hank Snow met current Opry member Ernest Tubb for the first time. The meeting led to the efforts by Ernest to get Hank on the Opry, which finally took place in January 1950.

February 26, 1949: Rose Maddox and her brothers made their debut on the Grand Ole Opry. Rose and the group would later become Opry members, however their stay at the Opry was very short. There are several different versions as to why they left.

February 18, 1950: One of the Opry's early competitors, the WSB Barn Dance, based in Atlanta, Georgia, took place for the final time. The show, which started on November 16, 1940, was a very popular regional show.

February 23, 1952: Del Wood made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry. She came to the Opry after "Down Yonder" her famous instrumental single, sold over a million copies the previous year. When Del accepted the invitation to perform on the Opry, she turned down a two week engagement to play with Bob Crosby and his orchestra. Del became an Opry member the following year and would remain an Opry member until her death in October 1989.

February 7, 1953: Marty Robbins made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry. He performed two numbers, "Ain't You Ashamed" and "Good Night Cincinnati, Good Mornin' Tennessee." Marty's debut was a success and he would shortly after become an Opry member.

February 26, 1955: The Louvin Brothers, Charlie and Ira, became members of the Grand Ole Opry. Some consider them the greatest brother duo in the history of country music. Ira passed away on June 20, 1965 from injuries in an automobile accident that also took the life of his wife and another couple. Charlie would remain a member of the Opry, and have a successful solo career, until his death in January 2011. (As a note, some publications list February 10 as the date the Louvin Brothers joined the Opry).

February 19, 1957: Webb Pierce resigned as a member of the Opry. Webb's time at the Opry was fairly short as he quickly realized the amount of money he was losing by having to be in Nashville every Saturday night.

February 23, 1957: Porter Wagoner became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. It is safe to say that Porter was one of the Opry's most popular and colorful members and in his later years, was considered the face of the Opry. Porter had made his first guest appearance in 1956 and would later say, "The first night I appeared on the Opry, I came off the stage and went back to the dressing room area, and I met Roy Acuff in the hallway there. And he came up to me and he said, 'Porter, I was awful glad that you're becoming a part of the Grand Ole Opry. We need more of your kind of people here,'" The night of his first appearance, he was introduced by Carl Smith, who would later became close friends with Porter. Porter remained an Opry member until his death in October 2007, shortly after celebrating 50 years as an Opry member.

February 27, 1959: Billy Grammer joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry. Famous for "Gotta Travel On" Billy was also a fine guitar player and maker. Billy was a member for 52 years, passing away in August 2011. Billy also gave the innovation at the opening of the new Grand Ole Opry House in March 1974.

February 6, 1960: George Hamilton IV became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. George, who passed away in September 2014, was an Opry member for 54 years. From my own personal experience, George was one of the nicest guys in country music and it was always a joy and pleasure to sit and talk to him.

February 4, 1962: Grand Ole Opry member Clint Black was born.

February 7, 1962: Grand Ole Opry member, and Country Music Hall of Fame member, Garth Brooks was born.

February 23, 1963: Patsy Cline made her final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Less than two weeks later, she would die in a plane crash that also took the lives of Opry members Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, along with Randy Hughes.

February 12, 1966: After taking a leave of absence from the Grand Ole Opry in December 1964, Minnie Pearl returned to the Opry.

February 19, 1966: Folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary made a special guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

February 11, 1967: The Four Guys made their first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. As the story has been told many times, they were brought back for several encores. Even the the group never had a hit record, they were such a success with their stage presence that they were asked to become Opry members, were they remained until fired in April 2000.

February 22, 1969: Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs made their final appearance together on the Opry. The duo had joined the Opry in 1955, however creative differences caused the two to go their separate ways. While they broke up several months later, each remained as individual members of the Opry.

February 6, 1971: The Grand Ole Opry began performing two Saturday night Opry shows on a regular basis. Prior to that date, the Saturday show ran 7:30 to midnight, although on special occasions the Opry would break it up into two shows, depending on artist and audience demand.

February 11, 1972: Grand Ole Gospel Time, hosted by the Reverend Jimmie Snow, made its debut after the Friday Night Opry. The show would continue for the next 23 years and feature many of the Opry's members, along with other guests including Johnny and June Carter Cash and Dennis Weaver. While the hour long show took place after the Friday Night Opry, it was not aired on WSM until Sunday morning.

February 23, 1974: Former Grand Ole Opry member DeFord Bailey returned to the show for the first time since he was fired by Opry founder George D. Hay in 1941. DeFord appeared at the personal invitation of Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl, who for years had been trying to convince DeFord to return to the Opry. Before passing away, DeFord would make several more appearances, most often on the Opry's annual reunion shows.

February 8, 1975: After an absence of 18 years, Jimmy Dickens rejoined the cast as a member of the Opry. He was introduced that night by Hank Snow, who noted how much Jimmy had been missed at the Opry and how good it was to have him back. As you might expect, Jimmy sang "Family Reunion." Unlike the first time he joined in 1948, this time Jimmy stayed, until passing away in January 2015.

February 6, 1976: Ronnie Milsap became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be Ronnie's 44th year as an Opry member. It has been over a year since Ronnie has been on the Opry and hopefully he is back soon.

February 7, 1981: John Conlee became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be John's 39th year as an Opry member. As an Opry member, John has been very popular and well received. After he first appeared on the Opry, he was quoted as saying, "I made sure to stand on the circle from the stage of the old Ryman. That circle has been so important to me because so many big stars had stood on that wooden flooring."

February 21, 1981: Just two weeks after John Conlee joined the cast, Boxcar Willie became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Boxcar became a country music star late in life, thanks to his hobo character and his late night television commercials promoting his train album. Boxcar had first appeared on the Opry in June 1980 after being discovered in England by Wesley Rose, who brought Boxcar to the attention of Roy Acuff. Lecil Travis Martin passed away in April 1999. Also that night, former Grand Ole Opry member Tammy Wynette made an Opry appearance, her first since October 1975.

February 28, 1987: Grand Ole Opry member Archie Campbell made his final appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Archie, who was also known as a star of Hee Haw, passed away in August 1987.

February 20, 1988: The Grand Ole Opry honored Roy Acuff for 50 years of Opry membership. TNN devoted an entire hour long segment to Roy that featured Loretta Lynn and Minnie Pearl. On an additional note, on the same night that Roy Acuff celebrated his 50th Opry anniversary, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton reunited at the Opry for the first time in 14 years.

February 24, 1991: Webb Pierce passed away in Nashville. Webb came to Nashville in 1952 from the Louisiana Hayride and quickly made his first Grand Ole Opry appearance on the Prince Albert portion of the show. When he joined the cast in 1953 he was considered the replacement for Hank Williams. In the 1950s, Webb was one of the biggest acts in country music and because of his heavy touring, he only stayed at the Opry for a couple of years. Webb was also a very successful business man and was involved with one of the first publishing companies in Nashville. In 2001, a decade after his death, Webb was finally elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

February 29, 1992: Travis Tritt became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be his 28th year as an Opry member. Sadly, over the past decade, Travis has not been to the Opry very often.

February 18, 1995: WSM and Grand Ole Opry announcer Charlie Douglas announced the Grand Ole Opry for the final time. Charlie retired from WSM after coming to the station in 1984.

February 21, 1998: The Grand Ole Opry honored long-time member Grandpa Jones, who passed away earlier in the week from complications of a stroke suffered after an Opry performance. At the show that night, Bill Carlisle, Vince Gill, Ramona Jones and Grandpa's children led the cast in singing "Fallen Leaves," one of the great songs that Grandpa wrote.

February 17, 2001: Brad Paisley became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. This will be Brad's 19th year as an Opry member. On the night that Brad joined the cast, he wore the bright yellow jacket that Buck Owens wore on the cover of the 1966 "Live at Carnegie Hall" album.

February 24, 2001: While performing on the first show that evening, Grand Ole Opry member Wilma Lee Cooper suffered a stroke which would end her performing career. Wilma Lee did return to the Opry several times after the stroke, once to be honored for 50 years as a member of the Opry, and then when the Grand Ole Opry House reopened after the flood in September 2010.

 February 16, 2002: Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Hank Williams, Jr. performed together on the Opry in tribute to Waylon Jennings, who had recently passed away. Porter Wagoner was the host of the segment and the four performers  spent an hour on stage singing various Waylon songs and telling Waylon stories.

February 18, 2003: Grand Ole Opry member Johnny Paycheck passed away following a long illness. Johnny joined the Opry in November 1997, at the urging of Johnny Russell. However, within a few years, declining health forced Johnny into retirement. At the time of his death. Johnny was in such poor financial shape that George Jones paid for a cemetery plot in which Johnny was buried.

February 4, 2005: Bluegrass group The Grascals made their debut on the Grand Ole Opry. While never becoming Opry members, they group continues to make guest appearances.

February 26, 2005: Opry member Charlie Louvin was honored for 50 years of Opry membership. He appeared on both Opry shows that night in addition to hosting the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree.

February 16, 2008: Former Grand Ole Opry member Bobby Lord passed away in Florida at the age of 74. Bobby was a popular Opry member who joined the cast in the mid 1960s, leaving in the mid-1970s. At the time, he left Nashville and moved to Florida and got involved in real estate.

February 27, 2009: Opry member Billy Grammer was honored for 50 years of Opry membership. On the same night that Billy was recognized, Jimmy Dickens returned to the Opry after an absence of six weeks following brain surgery.

February 14, 2015: Future Grand Ole Opry member Kelsea Ballerini made her debut on the Grand Ole Opry. Kelsea joined the Opry cast in 2019.

February 26, 2015: The Grand Ole Opry House was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

February 24, 2017: Grand Ole Opry member Roy Clark performed on the Grand Ole Opry for the final time. Roy joined the Opry's cast in August 1987. Roy passed away on November 15, 2018.

February 28, 2017: Travis Tritt returned to the Opry stage for the first time since 2007, upon the occasion of his 25th year as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

February 8, 2018: Steve Buchanan, President of the Grand Ole Opry, announced his retirement. Steve was instrumental in bringing in Pete Fisher as the Opry's general manager, and in expanding the Opry brand in Nashville and beyond. Steve was also the executive producer of "Nashville," which included the Opry and several of its members in many of their shows. An argument can be made that Steve would be a solid candidate for the Country Music Hall of Fame in the contributors category.

There you have it for the month of February.