Little Jimmy Dickens Tops List of Opry Appearances; One Year of Fake News; Notable Music Deaths; Cash v. Haggard

Brody Vercher | December 30th, 2009

  1. Razor X
    December 30, 2009 at 11:20 am

    … Just the opinion of this writer, but if you are not going to be a part of the show, then leave and make room for others. There is just no excuse for joining and to have the prestige of being an Opry member and then not showing up to support the show.

    I could not agree more. A lot of these acts don’t have particularly heavy touring schedules anymore; I don’t know why they can’t show up at the Opry more often. If they don’t want to be there, then they should resign.

  2. nm
    December 30, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Um, how would the folks named (or anyone, or everyone) resigning from the Opry “make room for others”? The Opry has no numerical limit on its membership. I agree with the idea that the Opry ought not to induct members who aren’t going to show up, and if you notice who has been made a member recently, they have come to realize this themselves.

    OTOH, why on earth hasn’t Tom T. Hall been there for ten years? That makes no sense whatsoever.

  3. highwayman3
    December 30, 2009 at 11:48 am

    That has always bothered me when the Opry members don’t perform often on it. All these singers who claim it is a huge honour and a life long dream to be a member but can’t find the time to get around to performing. I know artists get busy and have heavy tour schedules, I understand, but to those who arent touring often, are off, and live in Nashville its a slap in the face to the Opry and shows how they really feel about it.
    One of the reasons may be they have to round up their band, which can live around the country, to have them travel in for 2 songs isnt worth it. But I’m sure they bring their band to Nashville for tour practice ect. It’s hard to say, its not like Alan Jackson or Clint Black have been that busy lately that they cant find a free Tuesday, Friday or Saturday to drive over and play a couple songs, that’s what, 2 hours out of their day.

  4. Jon
    December 30, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Tom T. hasn’t appeared at the Opry because he hasn’t really appeared anywhere for the last 10 years. He retired as a performer. I know of only 1 show he’s done in that time (I was in the band), and that one took a lot of persuasion.

  5. nm
    December 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I know, but he did the Artist in Residence thing at the Hall of Fame, because. And he was still singing fine then, and of course he can tell stories now matter where he is. So I think he should do a bit at the Opry now and then, in the same spirit.

  6. Mike K
    December 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I think Tom T. might have been held up in some county jail for at least part of the last 10 years. ;)

    An album every two years from REK is just fine by me.

    Haggard, but Cash will never lose a popularity contest in a No Depression thread…

  7. idlewildsouth
    December 30, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    As an artist, and as a personality, I much prefer Cash. As a writer…I probably prefer Haggard

  8. M.C.
    December 30, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Tom T. actually would have been in a “country jail,” according to his song’s title. That’s a common mistake, though, and one I remember because I’ve typed it out wrong in the past, too.

  9. M.C.
    December 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Jon, you probably forgot about these, as you might have been there, but Tom T. also came out of retirement to do three shows in 2005 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as part of the annual Artist-in-Residence series.

  10. J.R. Journey
    December 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I agree the Opry members – with several glaringly obvious artists – are ignoring the institution these days. It will likely never be the star-making machine it was up until the 1960s, but it’s still a major milestone in a country artist’s career, signaling they have arrived. I think too many reach that plateau and never look back. And in my opinion, abandoning or ignoring your roots is one of the worst mistakes you can make.

    Also, has an Opry member ever resigned? I’ve heard the stories of a few being fired, and I know the performance quota used to be staggeringly high. Did any artists ever give up their membership because they couldn’t make the commitments?

  11. M.C.
    December 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Several major artists (Eddy Arnold, Carl Smith, Red Foley, etc) have resigned from the Opry over the years, especially back when management would demand artists keep up their annual quota of shows. They haven’t enforced that in a long, long time. Nowadays I think they’re as happy to say that Garth or Alan Jackson, even if they don’t show up much.

  12. Brady Vercher
    December 30, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    JR, I believe Willie Nelson and Eddy Arnold both left the Opry. I know there have been others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

  13. PaulaW
    December 30, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    This is a little difficult to read, even in the original article, which can be found here: (this excerpt is at the very end of the article)
    The following is an incomplete list of individuals who were Opry members at the time of their death.

    Roy Acuff Jack Anglin Boxcar Willie Rod Brasfield Archie Campbell Bill Carlisle Lew Childre Patsy Cline Jerry Clower Stoney Cooper Cowboy Copas The Crook Brothers Skeeter Davis Roy Drusky Lester Flatt The Fruit Jar Drinkers Don Gibson Hawkshaw Hawkins David Houston Grandpa Jones Bob Luman Uncle Dave Macon Sam and Kirk McGee Bill Monroe George Morgan Bashful Brother Oswald Johnny Paycheck Minnie Pearl Jim Reeves Tex Ritter Marty Robbins Johnny Russell Hank Snow Stringbean Ernest Tubb Justin Tubb Billy Walker Dottie West The Wilburn Brothers The Willis Brothers Del Wood
    Former Members The following is an incomplete list of living and deceased performers who left or resigned from the Opry membership.

    Eddy Arnold The Bailes Brothers Deford Bailey Bobby Bare Margie Bowes Carl and Pearl Butler Martha Carson June Carter Johnny Cash Zeke Clements Cousin Jody The Everly Brothers Red Foley The Four Guys Curley Fox Lefty Frizzell The Glaser Brothers Fiddlin’ Sid Harkreader Goldie Hill Sonny James The Jordanaires Rusty and Doug Kershaw Pee Wee King Bradley Kincaid Lonzo and Oscar Bobby Lord Ira Louvin Rose Maddox Willie Nelson Norma Jean Webb Pierce The Poe Sisters Ray Price Sarie and Sallie Earl Scruggs Carl Smith The Stoney Mountain Cloggers Texas Ruby B.J.

  14. Razor X
    December 30, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    JR, I believe Willie Nelson and Eddy Arnold both left the Opry. I know there have been others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

    That’s correct. Johnny Cash also left; I’m not sure exactly why but I think was some sort of dispute with management over something other than committing to a number of appearances. Connie Smith and Little Jimmy Dickens both resigned when they couldn’t make the required number of appearances, and rejoined when their touring schedules slowed down. I believe Tammy Wynette resigned and rejoined a few times, but I don’t know why.

  15. Razor X
    December 30, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    One more — Kitty Wells was an Opry member at one time.

  16. Drew
    December 30, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Haggard over Cash, easy. Johnny Cash is the most overrated country legend by far… he wouldn’t even make my top 10.

  17. M.C.
    December 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Cash originally was let go after the incident where he dragged the microphone stand along the front row of lights on the Opry stage. The story has usually been that he walked off stage and politely told Bud Wendell, or whoever was managing the Opry at the time, that he knew he’d not be asked back again. He did occasionally make guest appearances again later, after the first time he’d cleaned up.
    Like Cash, some of the stars listed as having left while still living were let go or fired, others resigned. I think Brady was trying to suss out who had left by choice.

  18. Leeann Ward
    December 30, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Johnny Cash is the most overrated country legend by far… he wouldn’t even make my top 10.

    Rick, is that you?

  19. Razor X
    December 30, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks, M.C.

  20. Kelly
    December 30, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    “overrated country legend”, huh? is that like being the worst baseball hall of famer or how about the poorest billionaire?

  21. Leeann Ward
    December 30, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Ha, Kelly.

    For the record, I love them both. I grew up with Cash though, so I’m more familiar and comfortable with his music. I’ve explored Haggard in my adult years and my relationship with his music has come very easily. Cash still has the edge for me, however, but probably because of his signature rythmic sound and his larger-than-life persona/mystique.

  22. Rick
    December 30, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Leeann asked: “Johnny Cash is the most overrated country legend by far… he wouldn’t even make my top 10.

    Rick, is that you?”

    Nope, I’ve never posted here under a different name except the time or two I posted both my first and last names by mistake! (lol) On the other hand I rate Merle Haggard as the greatest male country singer/songwriter of all time but would include Johnny Cash in the Top 5. I just think the variety of song and music styles Merle has delved in over the years makes him far more compelling than Cash. As great of songwriter as he is Willie Nelson would NOT make my Top 10, that pot smoking, long haired, Obamavoter hippie freak! (lol)

    Wow, Trailer and I only have about a miniscule 5% music taste overlap! That’s almost down in Kelly Dearmore territory! (lol)

    Wow, can’t say I have any interest in any of the albums listed by either DFW’s Preston Jones nor Joey Guerra. Being a Texan just does something to a person’s taste in music, and not necessarily in a good way…

    The “Death Tribute” article by Ed Morris was very well done. One of those rare times something posted at the CMT blog was actually worth reading!

    As for the Opry I just want LESS of the same moldy oldie “Opry Legends” singing the same songs show after show and MORE of a variety of all types of country artists!!! I just turn down the volume during the “Opry Legend” Branson style portions of the show and tune back in for the non-regulars (excluding Carrie Underwood, Montgomery Gentry, etc). I just wish that when Jimmie Dickens finally passes on they would replace him with Elizabeth Cook, The Wrights, or Rebecca Lynn Howard, or other artists I’d love to hear perform week after week…

  23. Leeann Ward
    December 30, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Rick, I knew it wasn’t really you. I was just referring to all of the legends/revered artists that you’ve recently admitted to not liking.

  24. Jon
    December 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    I wouldn’t say Cash is over-rated, exactly – it’s more a matter of him being at times rated highly by those who don’t really have much of a basis for evaluating country artists per se – but I respect him a good deal more than I like his music. I’m more of a Haggard fan; I like his songs better, I like the way he approached being a bandleader a whole lot, I like his singing better, I like the way he approaches his place in the country music tradition and history, and so on. For me, it’s no contest at all.

  25. Jon
    December 30, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Actually, Tom T. didn’t do all that much singing on those artist-in-residence shows, nor on the “evening with Tom T. & Miss Dixie” show at the IBMA’s Fan Fest a couple of years ago. The show he did in Marion, VA for the Song Of The Mountains last year was the only one that I’d really call a Tom T. show; he sang 90% of the songs on that one. But like I said, it took a lot of convincing to get him to agree to do it, and from what I know, at least as much to get him to agree to do the artist-in-residence stint – and that only because he could arrange it so most of the singing was done by others. When the Nightdrivers play at Kimbro’s in Franklin, he will occasionally get up and sing his part on “Man On The Side Of The Road,” but that hardly counts. The point is, to all intents and purposes he’s retired from performing and has been so for the better part of 10 years. So what should the Opry do, drop him from the cast? What purpose would that serve?

    More generally, the discussion on this subject – or, at least, on That Nashville Sound – just doesn’t seem very informed or thoughtful. The Opry is a weekly country music variety show that needs to sell tickets in order to survive. Who’s in the cast doesn’t really make much difference in that regard, and the Opry has little leverage with which to push members (or, for that matter, non-members) to appear. It only pays scale, which means that it is hard for an appearance there not to cost a popular artist money, even if only supplemental pay to bandmembers to make up the difference between scale and a typical day rate. If you play the Opry instead of a regular show date on the road, the difference potentially runs into 5 figures.

    Furthermore, as NM noted, there’s no fixed number of cast members, so the whole notion of “making room” for others has no validity. The Opry can induct as many members as it wants; it doesn’t need to fire someone, have someone resign or have someone die in order to do that.

    Yeah, it’s great that some members with a degree of current popularity make frequent appearances, and the Opry would certainly be in worse shape without them. But given the situation, I think Pete Fisher’s doing a fine job over there, and the complaints about this one or that one not appearing as often as they “ought to” don’t really have much merit.

  26. Leeann Ward
    December 30, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I do agree that Haggard certainly has the superior voice and better/stronger songwriting chops.

  27. Rick
    December 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    PS – I just wanted to post this for anyone who doesn’t listen to WSM Online:

    “Chuck Mead and Old Crow Medicine Show Featured In New Years Eve Live Concert on WSM From The Ryman!

    WSM and The Ryman Auditorium’s Hometown Party is ready to ring in 2010 with Chuck Mead and Old Crow Medicine Show on New Year’s Eve! The concert is SOLD
    OUT, but WSM will bring you all the excitement of New Year’s Eve in Music City with a commercial free, LIVE broadcast of the show beginning
    with a Plaza Party at 8pm! It’s the official kickoff to the 85th anniversary of the Legend 650 AM WSM…Happy New Year!”

    Listen Link:

    I’m really glad they are doing this! That way I can celebrate New Year’s on both Nashville Time and here on the Pacific coast two hours later. Hmm, guess that means I’ll have to buy two bottles of GT’s Green Kombucha Fermented Tea! YeeHaw!

  28. Rick
    December 30, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Rick’s Random Tidbits: How could The 9513 miss the most important news story of 2009! It just boggles the mind that something of such earth shaking significance in the “Young / Modern Country” universe could slip through the cracks at the 9513! Here are the basic details from the always entertaining NashPop Culture oriented “MusicCityTV” blog! (lol)

    Say It Ain’t So! Taylor Swift & Taylor Lautner Split Up!
    (by Brad on Dec.29, 2009)

    That’s according to US Weekly, which broke the story today that Taylor Swift and her latest celeb boyfriend, New Moon werewolf Taylor Lautner, are done! The magazine quoted “a source close to Swift” saying: “It wasn’t really developing into anything, and wasn’t going to, so they decided they were better as friends. There was just no chemistry.”

    They met shooting the upcoming romantic comedy Valentine’s Day, and both alluded to their romance during separate Saturday Night Live appearances.

    You might remember that Taylor L. the werewolf flew here just a couple of weeks ago for Taylor S.’s 20th birthday party, then made a trip the next day to Pancake Pantry. Yummy!

    But, says the US Weekly source: “He liked her more than she liked him. He went everywhere he could to see her, but she didn’t travel much to see him.”

    No comment from Swifty’s camp.”

    Rick’s question to ponder: Can a Taylor Swift werewolf themed love song be far behind? Hmm… It seems Taylor S. may be more adept at writing songs about romance than the real thing! Heaven Forbid! (lol)

  29. J.R. Journey
    December 30, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for the replies everybody. I’m a little surprised to hear that anybody ever resigned Opry membership. It’s great to learn new things like that about the Opry. I know at one point there was a 26 shows per year performance quota, or roughly every other weekend. And it just makes sense that some artists, like Eddy Arnold, would rather spend their weekends playing for $10,000 a night than for the Opry’s scale pay.

    I would also think that an artist resigning membership will never happen again, mostly because they quotas are gone. But also because at the time that artists like Arnold and Nelson left, the Opry still wasn’t the venerable institution it is today. Sure it was the major force in country music, but there were rival shows like The Louisiana Hayride that boasted similar ratings and popularity, but just didn’t make it for the long haul like the Opry, and therefore aren’t remembered as the powerful tool they once were. So it probably wasn’t nearly as heretic in those days to not play the Opry when you could earn a lot more without it. I would even think that sort of freedom is what artists strived for in those days.

    I’ve heard several times that those high mandatory performance numbers were a contributing factor to the Opry’s eventual decline as the mecca of star-making in country music, but I think there are several other factors as well; the fall of AM radio in the late 1970s being major IMO.

  30. Razor X
    December 30, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    the complaints about this one or that one not appearing as often as they “ought to” don’t really have much merit.

    I think there’s some merit to the argument with respect to artists who aren’t actively touring at the moment — Clint Black, for example. I’m not saying he needs to appear every week, but surely he could have managed to come a little more often than two appearances in 2007, which were his first since 2003? The point about there being no limit to the number of members is well taken. But it just doesn’t seem right for people to be considered regular cast members when they only show up once in a great while.

  31. sam (sam)
    December 30, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Re: “There is just no excuse for joining and to have the prestige of being an Opry member and then not showing up to support the show.”

    One might look at it the other way. A popular (or once popular artist) such as Clint Black is giving the Opry some prestige by enabling the Opry to claim him as a cast member even though the Opry doesn’t pay enough (“support” the artist enough) to make it worth his time to actually perform. Its not the artist who is gaining something (“prestige”) for nothing, its the Opry.

    Or perhaps its a mutually beneficial arrangement. Both sides get something (how valuable, I don’t know) for very little.

  32. waynoe
    December 30, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    The comment about the Opry appearances is dead-on correct.

  33. waynoe
    December 30, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    By the way, I mean the original comment about the Opry.

  34. luckyoldsun
    December 31, 2009 at 12:26 am

    The Opry is a commercial enterprise.

    This business about “membership” is all kayfabe.

    The Opry likes to claim stars as “members” to show that it’s still important and the stars like to claim membership to show that they’re really country and in tune with commercial country’s roots.

  35. Charles Murphy
    December 31, 2009 at 9:21 am

    The Grand Ole Opry has definately lost it’s luster. They don’t pay the artists ANYTHING to appear on it and only pay the band members scale..which for a radio spot is around $80. A TV appearance pays the band members much more…around $450-$500 BUT when was the last Opry Live shown LIVE on TV. The TV broadcast was SO much better when they had it every week on CMT. It was actually worth it for the artists then too as a great promotional tool.
    Over the last couple of years, the Opry has let these broadcasts slide to the point of non-exsistence.
    Talking about the artists’ band members and the Opry….The Opry has slowly forced the artists to use the house band. This has been especially pushed on the newer acts. The older acts are kinda “grandfathered in” to use their musicians. Nothing against the house band at the Opry as they are top notch Nashville musicians, BUT I have seen train wrecks on more than one occassion with this practice. This may be another reason for artists not wanting to play the Opry by the Gaylord rules.
    If there is any chance of bring the Opry back to actually mean something…there needs to be an overhaul of some kind. I am not sure what that would be…Any ideas?? I am sure you can address them to Pete Fisher at The Grand Ole Opry’s website.

  36. Noeller
    December 31, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Regarding Cash vs. Haggard, I think what needs to be looked at, is that Johnny, slightly moreso than Hag, is actually a Rock star more than a Country star, and I think that’s what a lot of Country purists always had a problem with. Johnny may have grown up on the gospel, but he was part of the Rockabilly emergence of the late 50s, with Elvis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee and that whole crew. The Sam Phillips Crew. For whatever reason, Johnny has been long considered part of the Country music family, but a lot of what he was – the attitude, the personality – were pure Rock and Roll, and I would venture to say that John inspired more Rock stars than he did Country.

  37. Brody Vercher
    December 31, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Rick, the Taylor/Taylor snippet didn’t fall through the cracks, it just felt like a non-story. Kind of like the deal on Kenny Chesney’s new puppies.

  38. stewman
    January 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Johnny Cash also greatly outdoes Merle in horrific “name checks” in faux 21st century nashvegas country songs.

  39. Noah Eaton
    January 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    “The Man in Black’s gonna whip Aldean’s ass again!”


  40. Noeller
    January 2, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Yep – Eric said it best, alright. “You sing about Johnny Cash, but the Man In Black woulda whooped yer ass”

    God bless you (figure of speech) Eric Church, for sayin’ what needed to be said, on the Carolina disc.

  41. Jon
    January 2, 2010 at 8:59 am

    Johnny Cash also greatly outdoes Merle in horrific “name checks” in faux 21st century nashvegas country songs.

    Not to mention alt-country, Americana and country-rock songs…

  42. Paul W Dennis
    January 2, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Haggard vs Cash – really unfair question – the Poet of the Common Man versus the Voice of God .

    I’d go with Haggard, who was much the better songwriter. Even today,country bands keep a trainload of Haggard songs in their repertiore whereas only a handful of Cash tunes are ever performed (usually Folsom Prison Blues, I Walk The Line, Big River, Ring of Fire and Sunday Morning Coming Down – with the latter two not written by Cash). No knock on Cash but Haggard was the better singer, and far the better musician.

    Both were performers who mattered and sang about things that mattered and will always comprise a large portion of my listening pleasure

  43. Mojo Bone
    January 3, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Hmmmm….fair question; JR has a height, weight and reach advantage, but Hag’s a tough ol’ bird, I reckon Johnny wears him down, eventually, long as theys both sober an a fair fight.

  44. Steve Harvey
    January 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Rick’s question to ponder: Can a Taylor Swift werewolf themed love song be far behind?
    I wouldn’t mind hearing a Taylor Swift cover of ‘Werewolf Bar Mitzvah’.

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