You can see from this first picture that Sara Evans became very emotional when I asked her if she would like to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Sara was headlining her own concert at the Ryman when some of us (me, Lady A, and Carly Pearce) broke in to present her with an award and pop this very special question. Sara will be officially inducted into the Opry family on October 7th. The second picture is that of a young Bev Porter as she appeared in her early days as the keyboard player and background vocalist in my Po’ Folks Band. Many of you met Bev and heard her play both at the Opry and on our tours over the years. As I indicated earlier in my letter, she was an important part of all that I did back in the eighties.The third picture was taken backstage at the Opry where I recently had the chance to catch up with Becky Isaacs Bowman of the singing group, The Isaacs. As you probably know, Becky was seriously injured in a head-on car crash back in December and has had to undergo several surgeries and intensive rehab. Her spirit, her faith, and her attitude have not wavered, though, and it was wonderful to share some moments with her. What a light of positivity and optimism she is.
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!