December 12, 2014 Hi Gang! I just noticed it’s been almost a month since I wrote anything new in this space, and I thought I’d better do something about that. I don’t have a lot of news….and I know you don’t have a lot of reading time what with Christmas bearing down on us all….but I do want to thank you for all the nice Christmas messages and beautiful Christmas cards that so many of you have been sending my way. I read and enjoy each and every one of them. I got my tree up yesterday, my secretary gave me a gorgeous red poinsettia to put on the table nearby, and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here in Whisperville. We’re dusting off our Christmas songs and singing them on the Opry. There’s just not a better time of the year! We’re also having a different kind of celebration this weekend when many of us will gather to celebrate Little Jimmy Dickens’ 94th birthday. His actual birthdate is December 19th, but we’ll be partying a few days early. I can’t wait to show you a picture of the present I had made for him. Be on the lookout. Meantime, enjoy the holidays wherever you are…but don’t forget The Reason ForThe Season. I actually heard an announcer say on the radio this week that, “Santa Claus is why we celebrate Christmas.” Sorry, pal, but you couldn’t have been more wrong. Love and blessings to each of you. See you back here next year.
I guess the sports fans among you know without my telling you that tonight is the night they will be playing the 93rd Major League All-Star baseball game out in Seattle. For those of you who do not keep tabs on these kinds of things, now you know.
Why do I bring it up? Because exactly 62 years ago today….Tuesday July 11, 1961….I was sitting in my living room watching a black and white telecast of the Major League All-Star baseball game from San Francisco when I received a telephone call that changed my life.
And I almost didn’t get up to answer the phone. Who would dare to call and interrupt me in the middle of such a momentous event anyhow?
After about the third ring, I got up, shuffled into the den, and picked up the receiver. I’m sure my greeting sounded a bit less than cheerful. “HELLO?” I probably growled.
“Bill, this is Ott Devine,” came the instantly recognizable voice on the other end of the line. I had heard those dulcet tones for years on WSM radio and in his role as general manager of the Grand Ole Opry. He didn’t waste any time on pleasantries. “I’m calling to ask if you’d like to become a member of the Opry.”
Suddenly, the ball game was not nearly so significant. I’m not sure I even watched another pitch. I was too busy calling friends and family to share the news. I was made the 48th member of the Opry cast four days later.
Fast forward to July 22nd of this year when I will celebrate becoming the longest-tenured member of the Opry in its nearly 100-year history. Sixty-two years that have literally flown by. Songs, music, friendships, mistakes, applause, joy and sadness…they’ve all been a part of this 62-year roller coaster ride. What an amazing time it’s been.
Thanks to each of you…whether you’ve been on the journey with me the entire time or only recently climbed aboard the train. It’s been an honor to share the miles, the music, and the memories with you. I’m looking forward to a whole bunch more.
And, oh yes, in case you’re wondering, the National League won the ball game 5-4. With eight Atlanta Braves on this year’s team, here’s hoping they do it again!
If you know me very well, or have known me for very long, you know that I have a deep love, appreciation, and respect for bluegrass music.
I have written and recorded several bluegrass-oriented songs throughout the space of my career, and have had many of my country songs given bluegrass/acoustical interpretations by some of the most talented bluegrass artists in the world. It would be easier to list the legendary artists from that genre who have NOT recorded my songs, in fact, than to list the ones who have. Even the Grammy nomination Dolly and I received last year was for our bluegrass version of “Someday It’ll All Make Sense.”
I have toured and performed alongside most of the bluegrass greats and become close friends with many of them in the process. That’s why it hurt so bad this week to learn we’re all having to say goodbye to two of the very best….Jesse McReynolds and Bobby Osborne.
Both Jesse and Bobby were my Opry Brothers, and I can’t count the times I’ve shared the stage alongside each of them. I’ve introduced them on hundreds of Opry broadcasts, stepped aside and marveled at Jesse’s incredible mandolin cross-pickin’, and sung ‘Rocky Top’ with Bobby, off-mike, off-key, and in the shadows, more times than I could possibly recall. I came to know Jesse when he and his brother, Jim, were one of the top duet acts in the world…and the same for Bobby and his brother, Sonny.
I could tell stories about how Jim & Jesse performed with me in front of the largest live audience I have ever sung for…and how Bobby, both with Sonny and on his own, wrapped his indelible voice around a whole bunch of Bill Anderson songs over the years and made them his own.
We’ve shared cars, busses, dressing rooms and laughs…happy times and sad…and I’m a better person for having known them all.
There surely must be some beautiful acoustical music up in Heaven tonight. Rest in peace, my friends, and thanks for using your incredible talents to make this ol’ world…and particularly my little corner of it…a much better place.
I hope while you are out today enjoying your grill, your boat, your ice cream freezer, your nearby lake or beach, that you don’t forget to pause and remember why we celebrate Memorial Day in the first place.
An awful lot of brave men and women have laid down their lives over the years so that we can enjoy the wonderful blessing we have in this country called “freedom.”
It’s not asking too much, is it, that we pause for a moment this afternoon to remember?To say thank you…even though we might not recognize a face in a picture or a name on a wall?
These heroes were somebody’s brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers. The least we can do on this day is remember….and whisper, “Thanks.”