1) I saw recently where Lorrie Morgan said she is the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. She was 24. And then they said on TV that Ricky Skaggs was the youngest at 27. If my math is right, you were 23 when you joined. Doesn’t that make you the youngest one ever?
I don’t know if I’m the youngest one ever, but I was definitely younger than Lorrie and Ricky when I joined! I became an Opry member in July, 1961, and I didn’t turn 24 until November of that year. I am not the oldest member there today, but I have been a member the longest amount of time…something for which I am extremely grateful and thankful.
2) Why do you think it’s harder for 2nd and 3rd generations of kids of country singers to break in and make a name for themselves in the business?
I don’t know that it’s any harder for second and third generation country music children to succeed than it is for second and third generation athletes, media personalities, attorneys, doctors, or used car salesmen to succeed. Not everybody possesses the same talents or the same attributes as their parents. Plus, you don’t have to look any farther than Hank Williams Jr., Lorrie Morgan, Justin Tubb and others to know that it can be done in country music. And I’m sure it will be done again…and probably again and again…in the years to come.
3) What do you do when some amateur asks you to critique a song he or she wrote? Before you answer that, will you critique my great song?
I don’t know if you have a future as a songwriter, but you definitely have one as a comedian! I wish I could critique every song that was sent to me and offer advice and encouragement to every aspiring writer, but I simply cannot. There was a time earlier in my career when I tried, but I finally realized it was either these people’s songs or my own. Since I like to eat every day and put gasoline in my car, I figured I’d be better off putting my time and effort into my own creations. The Nashville Songwriters Association, International, has people who work with up and coming writers. I suggest you and other hopeful writers contact them.
Our Question Of The Month comes from Dennis in Missouri: In the March newsletter, you mentioned that you did not write the song, “But You Know I Love You.” However, you did record it, as did Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. All three of you had hits with it even though the tempos and phrasing are different. I’m wondering who makes the decision about tempo and phrasing? I am fascinated by how a song could be interpreted in so many different ways and still come out sounding great every time.
What an insightful question! Let me say first that neither Kenny, Dolly, or I wrote the song. It was written by Mike Settle, who was a member of Kenny Roger’s First Edition band, the first artists to record the song back in the mid-60’s. I’m sure Kenny’s version reflected the way Mike intended for it to sound. In those days, Kenny’s records were not being played on country radio, though, and I told my producer, Owen Bradley, that I felt this was a country song. He agreed, changed the tempo, simplified the chord structure, and my version went to #2 on the charts in 1969. Dolly didn’t cut it until 1981, not doing either my version nor Kenny’s, although hers was closer to his than to mine. She did it her own way, and it topped out at #1. Each of us tried to do the song in the style that we felt suited us best. And, fortunately, each of us succeeded.
Quickies: Is Stringbean’s killer still alive today? Two men were convicted in String’s murder. One died in prison and the other was paroled. Last I heard he was employed by the Cornerstone Church in Madison, Tennessee. Is Mike Snider still an active part of the Grand Ole Opry family? Yes, most definitely. He did not appear on the show much during 2020 and ’21, but he has begun coming back to see us recently. And the Opry House is a brighter place when he’s in the building! One of my favorite songs of yours is “A Death In The Family.” Is it a true song? How did you come up with the idea? It is based on a true story, yes. I was going through a divorce when I wrote it. I only had to look inside my heart to come up with the idea to write it. When are you coming to Melbourne, Australia? To Las Vegas? To England? To Texas and Oklahoma? Obviously, these are the same question from different folks in different locations, and my answer is the same to them all: I do not know. I appreciate your wanting me to perform in your part of the world, but right now I’m staying close to home and not touring. When that changes, you’ll be the first to know.
Thanks for a good set of questions this month. We’re open for yours anytime you’d like to send us one. Just address it to firstname.lastname@example.org and be watching for an answer. And remember if yours is chosen our Question Of The Month you’ll receive any item of your choice from our online store absolutely free. Stay curious, and we’ll see you back here in July.