- Have you ever thought of recording with Gene Watson or doing some sort of collaboration? You two are two of the greats!
Thank you. I think every singer in the world would like to team up with Gene and why not? His is one of the best voices ever. I’ve never spoken with him about it, but if the right song were to come along at the right time, I’d bring it up. I’ll bet, though, that he’d much rather look across the microphone and see Rhonda Vincent!
- Who decides who is going to join the Grand Ole Opry? I would love to see Elizabeth Cook become a member.
Nobody knows 100% for sure who makes those decisions, but I suspect it’s a combination of people within the Opry hierarchy that would include Pete Fisher, Steve Buchanan, and Colin Reed. Maybe others are involved. I honestly don’t know. Elizabeth is a great country singer as well as being a lovely and talented lady. She makes guest appearances on the Opry quite frequently, so the folks in charge are obviously aware of her talents.
- It’s easy to see in the Country’s Family Reunion shows that country performers are a close group of people. Does sharing the stage and being friends with all the big stars over the years take away some of the celebrity magic among you that the rest of us get to feel? I assume you don’t ask one another for autographs or faint in each other’s presence.
If we fainted in each other’s presence, then who would do the shows? We’d all be laying out on the floor! Seriously, we are a close group, and we each admire and respect the others’ talent, but we can’t afford to become star-struck. I do know some artists who collect autographs and keep photo scrapbooks to remind them of the good friends and good days in this business. Sometimes I wish I had done that over the years. Can you imagine what a collection I would now have? I’ll have to remember to do that in my next life!
1) I was wondering if you ever anticipate writing another book since you just celebrated your 62nd Anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member. I have two of your books and would love to hear your stories of the last few years.
I’ve got a few new stories I could tell, believe me, but I can write at least a couple dozen new songs in the same amount of time and with less effort than I could write another book. Too, I’m at the point in my life where I want to spend my time with family and the people I love. Writing a book is a lonely thing to do, and while I may tackle it again someday, I don’t anticipate it being anytime soon.
2) I understand that when you become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame you get a medallion. How many people who already have medallions come to congratulate the new members? What all happens during a Medallion Ceremony evening?
For those of us who are members of the Hall of Fame, the Medallion Ceremony is one of the most special nights of the year. It’s always held on a Sunday afternoon in the fall inside the Hall itself. The members who are able to attend (there were 24 total this year) have an hour or so together in the Rotunda where we visit, laugh and tell lies, munch on some goodies, enjoy some liquid refreshment, and pose for a group photo. We are then taken downstairs to await the start of the ceremony itself. After the audience is seated, we are escorted into a special section of the theater as the fans stand and applaud their favorites. It never fails to be a chill-bump moment for me. We are then seated and treated to the music and the history and the unveiling of the plaques for our newest members. Each inductee speaks, we stand and sing, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” and afterward we all come together for a marvelous buffet dinner upstairs. There’s nothing quite like it, believe me.
3) Aren’t you at least a little bit sad to see the direction the Opry has taken? It used to be a star would host a segment of the show and introduce other acts on the show. Now each act comes on and sings three songs and goes off. I guess I’m from the old school….if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
I understand where you are coming from, and I’ve expressed similar feelings to those in charge at the Opry. I used to enjoy hosting the segments almost as much as I did singing the songs. It gave me a chance to meet many of the newer performers early in their careers and welcome them to the most special stage in country music. Too, during the commercial breaks, I loved visiting and cutting up with the audience. It changed because it had to change during Covid, and so far management has not seen fit to change it back. Will they ever? I have no idea. I’m not sure they even know. Stay tuned.
4) Our Question Of The Month comes from Tom in Pennsylvania: All those rhinestone and embroidered suits you guys and gals wore over the years…what happens to them?
I can’t speak for everybody else, but mine have just laid around the house and gotten smaller! I haven’t gotten any larger, but they have definitely shrunk! Seriously, I have loaned several of mine to various museums around the country, some of which have gone out of business never to be heard from again. Some were in my Hall of Fame exhibit and will be returned to me shortly. Some are in the Special Collections Library at the University of Georgia, I gave one to the Tennessee State Museum, and some are in a display outside the Bill Anderson Performing Arts Center in Commerce, Georgia. Some are downstairs in my basement, and a few I have simply lost track of. They will probably pop up on e-Bay when I am dead and gone. I wonder where Porter’s are?? Next time I see his daughter I’ll ask.
Quickies: How do they decide when and what nights people are to be on the Opry? I know Jeannie Seely is on quite often. The talent coordinators ask us for our availabilities several weeks in advance and then program the shows accordingly. Seely lives virtually in the Opry’s back yard, so she can get there on shorter notice than the rest of us! Have you and your friends ever performed in New York City like Carnegie Hall or the Lincoln Center? I can only speak for myself, but I have performed at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, and several other venues in and around the Big Apple. And I’ve always enjoyed it. Is there ever going to be a time when you will visit the UK? Again, I’ve toured there many times and always enjoyed the fans and the culture. Right now I am not touring at all, so there’s nothing on my immediate radar. Did you ever work with Jerry Clower on your tours? He seemed like he would have been a lot of fun to be around. He was, and I had the pleasure of touring and laughing with him on many occasions. In the sixties and early seventies I lived near Long Beach, CA., and listened to KFOX radio. One of the D.J.’s was named Bill Patterson who I remember saying that the two of you were cousins. Did I dream this or is it true? Either you dreamed it or my parents neglected to tell me about ol’ Cousin Bill. I don’t recall ever seeing him at any of our family reunions!
Thanks for your questions as always. I hope I’ve helped to satisfy your curiosity a bit. We’ll do it again in January, so load us up with whatever you’d like to know about. You can always reach me at email@example.com. If yours is chosen our Question Of The Month you’ll receive any item of your choosing free of charge from our online store. See you next year.
1) Do you think there will ever be any more Family Reunion shows?
This is by far our most asked question, and, to be honest, you are asking the wrong guy. Larry Black owns the rights to Country’s Family Reunion, so he’s really the only person who can give you a definitive answer. BUT…based on what he’s told me in the past, I don’t think he plans on producing any more of these shows. We had a great 23-year run, the DVD’s are alive and well, allowing you to keep watching what we did, and we all thank you.
2) My question is as a left-handed pitcher you play guitar right-handed. Why?
The only thing I do right-handed is play the guitar. Other than that, I am a total southpaw. When I was first learning to make a few chords, my natural inclination was to play left-handed, but I had no left-handed instruction books nor left-handed instructors. I simply forced myself to turn the guitar around and learn to play it the normal way. And this ties right in with our next question….
3. I am interested in what brand of guitar do you play? And do you collect guitars?
Over the years I have played several different brands of guitars including Martin, Fender, Grammer, Gibson, Framus, Ovation, Taylor, Aria, and in recent years a custom made Yasuda. I’m sure I’ve left out at least one or two others. I am not a guitar “collector” like a Steve Wariner or a Vince Gill, who must have hundreds each, but I probably have between twenty and twenty-five different models scattered about.
Our Question Of The Month comes from Susan in Arizona: “It has been my dream for many years to be in attendance when the Opry celebrates its 100th Birthday in 2025. Do you know when tickets for that night’s celebration might become available?”
No, and right now the Opry doesn’t know either. I reached out to Dan Rogers, the Opry’s General Manager, and he says, “A 2025 Opry show calendar will not be available for several months as we make plans for a variety of activities to mark 100 years of Opry. The staff suggests that we all buckle up because they are tentatively planning at least 240 Opry shows over the course of the year.” That sounds exciting, and as soon as more information becomes available I’ll pass it along.
Quickies: Who determines when and to whom an invitation to join the Opry is extended? The Opry management team. How about your Fandango shows you used to do on TNN? Is there any way we could see them again? When TNN was sold to CBS years ago, I’m told that the master tapes of those shows were shipped to New York and put in a vault somewhere. Someone would have to open that vault and remove them for us to ever be able to watch them again. I have no idea who has the key! Did you ever write with Ben Peters or Don Gibson? No, but I was a big fan of them both and of the work they produced. Whatever happened to Anne Murray? Did she ever appear on Family Reunion? No she didn’t. Last I heard she was retired and living back home in Nova Scotia. I know we can see you on the Opry and when you have an event, etc., but is there a special place where you hang out? We tend to think you don’t shop at WalMart. What are the chances of just casually running into you somewhere? Who says I don’t shop at WalMart??
And with that, I think I’ll ride off into the sunset. Thanks again for all your questions this month. You can always send yours to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to answer. Remember if yours is chosen our Question Of The Month you win any item of your choice absolutely free from our online store. We’ll see you back here in December. Stay curious.
1) When someone sets up a songwriting appointment, who determines who is going to be part of the session and where the writing session is going to be held? Now that you are not on the road, you can concentrate more on your writing.
Yes I can, and that’s exactly what I have been trying to do. I can’t speak for other writers, but in my case there is no one-size-fits-all answer to your questions. Sometimes I’ll run into a fellow songwriter at lunch or at an event somewhere and one of us will ultimately say, “Hey, let’s get together and write one,” and we’ll start searching our calendars to see when we might have a matching open date somewhere. Sometimes my publisher will reach out…or a co-writer’s publisher will call…and tell me a certain writer wants to co-write with me. In my case, I feel comfortable writing almost anywhere, so I usually let my co-writer choose the location. Many have their own in-home studios these days, and I have no problem going to their happy place…as long as they have a coffee maker! Part of the fun in co-writing is setting it up and watching it all come together. Then hoping that a good song manages to fall out.
2) You have been wearing the same ring on your left hand for years. What is the story behind it?
The ring on my left hand really doesn’t have a story. I bought it years ago at a jewelry store in the Caribbean when I was on one of my first country music cruises. The one on my right hand, however, which I have been wearing since 1975, is part of a much larger story. It is a gold ring with a solitaire diamond and the Grand Ole Opry logo on one side with the WSM Radio logo on the other. It was given to me…and one just like it to the other male members of the Opry…in 1975 to help commemorate the Opry’s 50th birthday. Our initials were engraved inside.The women were given beautiful gold bracelets, and we were told that the jeweler who designed both the rings and the bracelets had the molds destroyed so that no replicas could ever be made. I don’t have many material possessions that mean a lot to me, but my Opry ring definitely does.
3) I saw a portion of one of your TV shows from back in the sixties when Tammy Wynette, my all-time favorite, was a guest. During her performance, a young back-up vocalist came up to the microphone to share the spotlight with Tammy. It was obvious that Tammy was not pleased with that. Was that common in those days? Did stars like that idea?
I think you mis-read the look on Tammy’s face. She was not displeased at all. The young girl was Tammy’s step-daughter, and Tammy had invited her to appear on the show. It was early in Tammy’s career, but she was already trying to help someone else establish a career of their own. I interpreted it as a very generous gesture on Tammy’s part.
Thank you. I found the most challenging part of hosting a game show was trying to keep my mind in three places at once…the past, the present, and the future. I had to remember what had just happened while anticipating what might be about to happen. Depending on what the contestant said or did, I had to be ready to perform Task A or Task B or go in a completely different direction and perform Task C. It required a lot of intense concentration, and was daunting and terrifying to me at first. Once I settled into it, though, and began to feel comfortable in my role, I loved it. Thank you for saying I did a good job. I grew to really enjoy it, and wouldn’t take anything for having had the experience.
Quickies: I have noticed recently some of your older albums appearing on Facebook. Can these albums be bought straight from you? I don’t like downloads…I like to have the hard copies so I can read the credits. I understand where you are coming from, but welcome to today’s world of streaming. I’m afraid these new digital releases are for downloading purposes only. I don’t think “hard copies” will even be manufactured. We will not be offering any of these through our online store. Sorry. Wish we could. I was recently watching one of the CFR Old Time Gospel DVDs and was wondering if anyone had ever been saved during one of those shows you televised. No, not that I know of. Most of the artists who took part in those very special shows were already Christians and were simply sharing their faith through their music and testimony. I enjoy reading the questions and answers your newsletter. My question is: Did you know David Houston and ever work with him? I listened to him as a teen-ager and always enjoyed his singing. Thank you. I knew David fairly well, toured with him on occasion, and worked with him a lot on the Grand Ole Opry. Following his smash hit, “Almost Persuaded,” in 1966, for the next several years there was no hotter artist in country music than David. He had a style all his own and contributed greatly to our musical format. Do you know if the Opry has a dress code? If they do, I didn’t get the memo.
Thanks for your questions this month…just wish we had space to get to them all. We’ll do it again in November, so send me any questions you might have. You can e-mail me at email@example.com or send snail mail to me at P.O. Box 888, Hermitage, Tennessee, 37076. Provide us with our Question Of The Month and you’ll win any item of merchandise you’d like absolutely free from our online store. See you next month…