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. 


  1. Tammy's appearance might explain George's cancellation ....

    More seriously, the only other person I've ever heard do the train whistle as well as Boxcar Willie was Onie Wheeler of the Smoky Mountain Boys.

    Cute Boxcar fact: when Porter Wagoner met his wife, he couldn't remember her first name, so he called her, "Ms. Box." It stuck.

  2. Onie's daughter Karen used to do a pretty good job on the whistle.

    Knightsville, IN

  3. I don't usually do this but I chime in late some times after we have moved on. Dashman and Nat were complimenting Wendy Moten from over the weekend a couple posts back and I responded with what follows. I thought the RIAA items were very telling as to where we are these days.

    I have to agree with you guys on Wendy Moten. Sad when folks outside of Country appreciate and get the history more than so called current Country acts. I blame much of this on the money and the business people. Have you seen the top five all time selling Country songs according to the Recording Industry Association of America? Like so many other things today, the quiet majority has set back and let the loud minority shape things. So we have the following that I would guess represents sales to a under 30 or 25 market.

    RIAA Best-Selling Country Songs

    “Cruise” – Florida Georgia Line, 11X Platinum
    “Old Town Road” – Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus, 11X Platinum
    “Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum, 9X Platinum
    “Love Story” – Taylor Swift, 8X Platinum
    “Wagon Wheel” – Darius Rucker, 8X Platinum

    Taylor Swift and Lil Nas X......really! Then Billy Ray and Florida Georgia Line......Country to the core!

    Sorry if I stepped on any toes, no harm intended.

    Knightsville, IN

  4. Who do you guys see going into the Hall of Fame this year?.

  5. Posted yesterday by the Grand Ole Opry:

    "Tuesday nights at the Opry are where it’s at! Dustin Lynch returns to the Opry for 12 Tuesday night shows in 2020."

    When Dustin became an Opry member, the expectation was 10 shows per year. He made it to the Opry 11 times in 2019 and has 12 booked for 2020. This is a great example for others as Dustin has mapped out his year and can work his tour dates around his Opry appearances. While I wish a few of those were weekend dates, I have no issue with Dustin appearing on Tuesday night.

    Reminds me of Ernest Tubb. When he was an Opry member, he would tell the Opry management at the beginning of the year which 26 Saturday nights he would be at the Opry and work his touring schedule around those dates.

    Nicely done Dustin.

    1. Mr. Lynch joins Ms. Underwood on my list of favorite recent members.

  6. They just added CIRCLE NETWORK on my cable, it comes from WAFF3 Huntsville, Al. It wouldn't hurt to advertise it more, and hopefully they will add more "country" shows in the future. I was under the impression that the GRAND OLE OPRY would be broadcast live every Saturday night for an hour.

    1. No, unfortunately, the Opry is not going to be televised live on the Circle Network. It is going to be a taped "highlight" show, with various artists and backstage news and interviews.

    2. Byron: That sure is bad news for the people that get the Circle Network. Bob

  7. Who do you guys see going into the Hall of Fame this year in 2020?.