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Saturday Song: For Keith Bilbrey And The Grand Ole Opry, George Jones Sings “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”

March 14, 2009

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This week has been a nostalgic trip with the passing of  Opry Star Hank Locklin, and then the news of the firing of Keith Bilbrey from the famed radio studios of WSM Radio in Nashville after 34 years of professional broadcasting.  Bilbrey also served as one of the famed announcers of the Grand Ole Opry.   Bilbrey will make one last appearance on the Opry, at 7 p.m. Saturday night.  Sign the petition to keep him on the air by clicking here….do it now and then listen to the song on this post later.

Over time I have come to understand that either one understands the slice of Americana that rides on the radio signal that originates from the Opry stage, or one does not grasp the significance of it.  One either feels the electricity when Bilbrey would announce “As the big red curtain rises give a nice round of applause to the star of this half-hour of the Grand Ole Opry……”    Either one feels the moment, or they do not.

There is just no in between.

As a boy who sat in the dining room in Hancock, Wisconsin moving our small radio around to get the best reception from WSM on Saturday nights, to the days when I worked in radio and from time to time played the country classics, to the day when my parents and I sat for a Saturday night performance in Nashville, I  can say with pride that  I not only feel  the warmth and the magic of both the radio  show and music, but I understand both.

And in whatever small way I can lend a hand to make this American institution remain a part of our world, that is where I will be.

For those who feel the loss this week of something bigger than just one singer or one announcer….well….this song is for us.  I am proud to say that George Jones, liked in the video below, also signed my guitar (while on his tour bus).

NOTE–You Tube no longer has a video of this song that allows to be viewed other than on their site.  I am sorry about this turn of events for my readers.

9 Comments
  1. DALE HARRISON permalink
    March 13, 2010 10:37 PM

    HELLO KEITH, I JUST WANT TO LET YOU KNOW THAT YOU GOT A ROTTEN DEAL FROM GAYLORD. I HOPE THAT YOU REMEMBER US FROM THE SHERIFF DEPT., IN ROME, GA. YOU WERE ABSOLUTELY THE BEST. WE DON’T GO TO THE OPRY ANYMORE BECAUSE OF GAYLORD AND WHAT THEY DID TO YOU AND KYLE CANTRELL. WE WISH YOU THE VERY BEST IN THE FUTURE. THANKS FOR ALL OF THE FINE WORK YOU HAVE DONE.

  2. Doris Kaczor permalink
    June 16, 2009 9:27 PM

    Keith, Just want you to know what a rotten deal I think you were handed by WSM and Gaylord. I was in town this past week and saw you emcee the George Jones show was was so happy to see you keeping you hand in the industry. Please don’t let them get you down.

    Doris

  3. Keith Bilbrey permalink
    March 28, 2009 12:12 AM

    I just want to thank you all for your kind comments. It really makes me and my family feel great to know there is so much support for what I’ve done for the past 34 years. God Bless

  4. Kenneth Wright permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:40 AM

    Keith, It saddens me to no end to type this e-mail. You are the example of a professional and gentleman in an industry that lacks and needs both. I moved here 13 years ago as a singer/songwriter and met you along the way through my friend Julia. You were polite and encouraging even though I am sure you have met millions of fellows just like myself. You are the reason folks like me preservere in this business. You are a class act and I’m sure God will , if he hasn’t already, make a place to use you in the music world. A fan-Kenneth Wright

  5. Richard permalink
    March 15, 2009 8:26 AM

    I did hear the last hour with Keith Bilbrey – and it was one of the saddest times I can remember. What a great thing for Marty Stuart to do – to have the attending audience stand and give Keith a standing ovation. I notice that Pete Fisher came out to eulogize Hank Locklin, but never bothered to come out and say a few words about Keith Bilbrey. If it wasn’t a personal issue, then why didn’t he help to say goodbye to him (especially after Keith’s thirty four years of service)? Actions speak louder than words – especially in this case.

    I went to the Opry for over twenty years – but I will nolonger go. I don’t support what maanagement and the owners are doing to slowly kill it – piece by piece and week by week, somehting has got to change for the betterment of the programming (in their eyes).

    We all know iff it was a money issue, you don’t kill what’s working for you and bringing the people in – you let the people with the least seniority go first then make those kinds of decisions. Doing it any other way shows how pesonal it had become. Actions speak louder than words.

  6. ruth hiners permalink
    March 15, 2009 7:47 AM

    I cant imagine, why? if the spot that Keith was filling, in midafternoon,was not getting enough listnsers, why they couldnt have switched his scedule around and put him somowhere else.It wasnt Keiths fault, it was just that time period. Last night we had friends in, and ususally have a great time.but I expained to them about Keith, and how he had lost his job, and how that his voice was so much a part of the opry, and also WSM, so instead of having a good time, we sat here listing to Kieths last show on the Opry, and having so much compassion for this man. How in the world could this have happened?I guess Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes is an appropiate song, but You Done Me Wrong would be more addept, I Think. Sorry Keith, sure will miss you.

  7. Lucy Gray permalink
    March 15, 2009 5:08 AM

    Keith, hold that head up high! You did a fabulous job there and someplace, there is another waiting for someone just like you. Where ever you go to work, just let this group of followers know. We will be on the air with you and help in every way. Hey Keith, you can show WSM they let you down, but, you will get back up and show them. Keep your spirit up, who knows, it could be a best thing.

    Keith, your listeners will go where ever you go. And you will get an offer for something. Anyone, who knows the business will know they need a personality like yours. Keep the faith. Lucy

  8. Steve Newvine permalink
    March 14, 2009 7:46 PM

    Keith is a true broadcaster; professional and class all the way through what has to be a very rough couple of days. All his comments regarding what’s happened have been humble and inspiring. Good luck on your next professional step.

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