The Grand Ole Opry celebrates its 98th birthday this month, and people are always asking me how the show has changed over the years. It has evolved with the passage of time, of course, but one thing remains the same: That warm, special feeling of camaraderie and togetherness which exists in very few other places. I hope the spirit of the show and of its members never changes. Whether I’m on stage, as I am in the first picture here, or visiting backstage with fellow artists like Chris Janson (I told him I was NOT going to buy him a boat!) and T. Graham Brown, the Opry brotherhood/sisterhood is something unique and very special. And it includes not only the artists but their families as well. T. Graham’s wife, Sheila, sent me a fresh supply of her incredible homemade pimento cheese, a loaf of bread to make sandwiches, and some delicious homemade cookies last weekend, just because, as she wrote in a note, “we love you.” May the Opry continue to prosper and soar for at least another 98 years!
Seeing this picture of me relaxing in my dressing room at the Opry makes me want to go back “home” more than ever. Fortunately, I’m scheduled there three times this month…February 3rd, 17th, and 24th.
There’s no stage like the Opry stage, and I’ve been lucky enough to stand on it for over 62-years now. This must have been a summertime performance judging from the outfit I have on.
Memories are a big part of the Opry, and I have so many great ones. This was a fun night laughing with fellow members Johnny Russell and the incomparable Dottie West. Just guessing, but I’d say this was probably from somewhere in the 70’s. I love a good trip down Memory Lane.
Our first picture this month shows me the morning I visited Coffee, Country, & Cody on WSM Radio back in November when my recording of “The Country I Grew Up With” was first released. I wasn’t smiling when someone snapped this picture, but I was grinning ear to ear a few minutes later when Bill Cody announced my song as his show’s Pick Hit Of The Week! Bill has been a special friend for a lot of years, and I’ll always appreciate his many kindnesses to me! The second picture was taken on the Grand Ole Opry stage in early December when my friend and Atlanta Braves manager, Brian Snitker, and his wife, Ronnie, visited our show for the first time. I wasn’t able to perform that night, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to show Snit and Ronnie around. Buddy Cannon and his wife, Billie, joined us as well. And in keeping with the New Year spirit of “should old acquaintance be forgot”, someone sent me this old picture of me and Roy Acuff, taken back in the sixties. This was long before Mr. Roy and I really got to know each other by way of our recording of “I Wonder If God Likes Country Music.” The suit I’m wearing was the first rhinestone suit I ever owned, and was among those included in my recent exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Our first picture this month shows you what it can look like backstage when I arrive for a night at the Grand Ole Opry. It’s always fun to see the smiling faces, some of which I recognize and others which I don’t. I always try to make a few new friends with each appearance, though, and hopefully I succeed more often than I fail. In the second photo, I think I succeeded in making my granddaughter, Hallie, happy by taking her with me to the recent CMA Awards. She loves country music more than any of my other grandkids, and we had another great night of making some lasting memories together. In the last photo, I’m relaxing in my Opry dressing room…..the room called, “It All Begins With A Song.” This room is dedicated to the Opry members who are/were also songwriters, and as you can see, my picture hangs between Dolly and Hank. I’d say I’m in some pretty special company!