The second big news story yesterday, other than President Obama coming to Madison, Wisconsin was the Grand Ole Opry re-opened with a very emotional homecoming.
At a press conference prior to the show, 89-year old Little Jimmy Dickens, who is the oldest living member of the Opry, said he never dreamed that the Opry House could be restored to the extent that the building’s owners have accomplished. “It is very touching for me to see what all they have done out here,” Jimmy said. “I really look forward to coming to the Opry each week, not just to perform but to see and visit with my friends.”
Bill hosted the first portion of the Opry show, noting that he was the last person to sing on the stage before the flood waters covered it. “I guess it is only fitting that I am the first person to sing tonight,” he said as he took the stage. There was an air of warmth and love as the various members of the Opry took their places to perform. Jeannie recalled to the audience that she not only lost the Opry House, but her personal home was completely devastated by the flood. “I remember talking with some girlfriends and saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just throw out everything and start over from scratch?’ Let me tell you you, when you have to do it it’s not near as fun as just talking about it.”
Mel Tillis drew a great response from the crowd with his medley of ‘Good Woman Blues’ and ‘I Got the Hoss.’ Riders in the Sky declined to yodel when they followed Jean Shepherd singing ‘Second Fiddle (Tt an Old Guitar).’ Instead, Ranger Doug and his pals chose to do ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds,’ complete with the appropriate sounds of coyotes and other critters from Too Slim.
“It’s an honor for me and the boys to be here for this auspicious occasion,” Keith said when he took the stage. He went on to tell the audience, “I was all set for a recording session on the Monday after the flood, but all my guitars were destroyed. I borrowed some guitars and in the spirit of ‘the show must go on,’ we went into the studio and we did record as planned!”
Martina welcomed Connie Smith to the stage to sing with her. “I am very honored to get to sing with her on the Grand Ole Opry stage,” Martina said. The two performed Connie’s smash hit, ‘Once a Day.’
Trace brought a little humor to the occasion when he came out to sing his latest single, ‘This Ain’t No Love Song.’ “You know when the flood waters were four feet high, Little Jimmy Dickens would have had to be swimming if he was standing here,” he said, pointing to the stage and the circle of wood from the Ryman. He paused a few seconds, then added with a grin, “I’d have been all right though!”
Brad chose to do his song, ‘Anything Like Me,’ while sitting on a stool, with just his guitar. “I had to fight back the tears on that first song tonight,” he admitted. “I believe the Opry House is the greatest place in the world to sing country music.”
Josh Turner recalled playing the Opry on the night before the flood hit. “We left the stage and took off for a concert date. When we got back all of the band members’ cars that were parked in the parking lot were under water, so now they have all new vehicles.” In introducing his song, “All Over Me,” Josh said, “I feel kinda awkward singing this song tonight, because it’s all about water, but I’m gonna do it anyway.”
Josh invited Lorrie Morgan to join him onstage, and the two performed the George Jones/Tammy Wynette hit ‘Golden Ring.’ “I can’t wait to sing this with Josh Turner,” Lorrie said as she took the stage. The crowd applauded the two as Josh finished the song, delivered in his very best George Jones singing voice.
Dierks Bentley chose to honor the bluegrass tradition of the Opry, singing ‘Draw Me a Map,’ from his most recent album, ‘Up on the Ridge.’ Then he invited bluegrass great Del McCoury and his band to join him. “In 1963, Del was playing with Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, and he recorded this song with Bill. I wanted my chance to sing it with Del, so we’re gonna do it tonight.” They then launched into a rousing version of ‘Roll on Buddy, Roll On.’
Charlie Daniels and Montgomery Gentry brought the house down with their rendition of ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia.’ “It is always an honor to stand on this circle,” Charlie said before inviting the duo to join him onstage. “These are two of my best friends from the music business,” he said by way of introduction. The crowd gave them a standing ovation as they finished the tune.
Blake and Trace sang their hit duet, ‘Hillbilly Bone,’ prior to Blake being invited to become the newest member of the Opry on October 23. A guitar jam with Brad, Keith, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart closed the evening. As the musicians played the last notes of Merle Haggard‘s ‘Working Man Blues,’ the audience once again came to its feet to honor all the Opry members and guests who had graced the stage and the Grand Ole Opry itself.
The other account linked above….
Before the big event, Brad, Martina, Keith Urban and Opry mainstay Little Jimmy Dickens met with reporters to talk about the newly renovated Opry House. The backstage area has been completely refurbished with new furniture and the stage has been restored with darker wood, giving it a more luminous appeal. “What they’ve done is nothing short of miraculous,” said Brad. “I can say that I am amazed,” added Martina. “I am proud to be part of this historic night.”
The guest lineup could truly be termed “historic,” as it arguably featured the most impressive single-night lineup in the nearly 85-year history of the Grand Ole Opry. The show opened with the stage going dark, followed by a single spotlight shining on Brad and Little Jimmy, who kicked off the opening notes of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” At that point, stars such as Charlie Daniels, Connie Smith and Marty Stuart joined others in filling the stage, picking up the thread of the song. The crowd rose in approval, sharing the emotional moment with the artists.
The night continued with one superstar performance after another. Blake Shelton took the stage with his latest hit, “All About Tonight,” followed by Jason Aldean, playing an appropriate number, “My Kind of Party.” The crowd roared approval for a couple of duets, Josh Turner and Lorrie Morgan on “Golden Ring” and Martina and Connie Smith on Connie’s breakthrough hit, “Once a Day.” Toward the end of the show, the Charlie Daniels Band and Montgomery Gentry ripped through a rousing version of Charlie’s classic “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” drawing the loudest ovation of the night. The show concluded with a guitar jam featuring Keith, Brad, Steve Wariner, Marty and Ricky Skaggs on Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues.”
The final two hours of the show were televised by GAC. During the opening non-televised hour, fans were treated to a variety of performances by legends like Bill Anderson, Jeannie Seely, Mel Tillis and John Conlee. Diamond Rio also took the stage for their hit, “One More Day.”