Ever wonder how someone becomes a member of the Grand Ole Opry? I did too and am guessing you want to know as well since you’re reading this!
When I was growing up I always looked at the Opry as if it were a magical place. Most girls looked at Cinderella’s Castle for the magic, but I knew the real magic happened inside the Grand Ole Opry.
But let’s go back to the beginning. The Grand Ole Opry made “Country Music Famous” and it all started with a fiddle player named Uncle Jimmy Thompson as he performed on “The WSM Barn Dance” show back in 1925. Now the Opry has had its share of venues starting out at “National Life & Accident Insurance Company.” The Opry had to move or they would have to lose their live audience. Their first official home was at the Hillsboro Theatre, which is actually known as Belcourt Theatre today. Dixie Tabernacle was the next stop for the Opry’s home where tickets were first sold in advance to customers. It was decorated with wooden benches and a dirt floor. The live audience was still a big part of the Opry. They eventually moved to the War Memorial Auditorium, which was the first venue to institute a ticket fee. All of these venues were in the early years of the Opry between 1925-1943, but it was The Ryman that had its longest run with the Opry until The Grand Ole Opry was built specifically for the show.
Present day the Opry is known for its incredible members- old and new. It includes some of my own favorites from Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, and The Oak Ridge Boys to newer artists like Carrie Underwood, Little Big Town, and Blake Shelton.
My first time at the Opry was a time that I will never forget. I was in town visiting some of my friends and we decided to see a show. When you walk into the Opry theatre the seats are a dark wooden color and the lights almost blind you. Once you look onto the stage you see hardwood flooring and a microphone attached to a stand that reads “Grand Ole Opry.” On stage is also a barn looking frame with the “Grand Ole Opry” printed in big letters. Above that is a TV screen showing your favorite artists as they perform- my how far we have come!
Even with such a wonderful venue and an amazing member list, there is still drama surrounding the Opry. The newest members of the Opry aren’t paying their dues. If you were a member back in the 1960’s you would have to appear on the Opry stage 26 times to keep your membership active and now you only have to appear ten times. What a difference, but still some members aren’t even meeting that. The Opry has yet to throw out the newest members for not following through on their promises, but it used to. They even kicked Hank Williams off the member’s list for “alcoholism and ditching rehearsals” back in 1952!
Even without the commitment obligation, there is still controversy like when Darius Rucker was indeed invited to become a member of the Opry. Darius, who came from pop rock with Hootie & The Blowfish, is new to country considering the other members. Fans were in an uproar and decided that there were much better candidates for the invitation such as George Strait.
Yes, you heard me right- George Strait is not a member of the Opry. I am still baffled at the fact! Merle Haggard is also not a member and now will never have a chance to be. Ronnie Dunn is also not on the list! What is going on people?! How could some of the most amazing country music artists not be on the list? Well, apparently it’s not all about “success.” The Opry’s site says it has to do with fan relationships, a passion for country music and history. I believe all the artists I mentioned above deserve an invitation and to some that invitation will never come.
Who are some of your favorite artists on the Opry’s Member List? Who is an artist you think deserves a membership? Leave me a message below.
This is the most current list, updated July 13, 2016.
Author: Cassie Wells
I believe in the power of music and the magic of words. US Army Soldier. Ohio raised, but my heart’s in Nashville. Reba McEntire brought me to country music and it’s where I found my passion.