Grand Ole Opry, 1/31/14

I had two dreams as a young boy: pitching at Yankee Stadium and playing on the Grand Ole Opry.  One out of two ain’t bad.  We hadn’t played the Opry in several years, so we looked forward to Friday night with great anticipation.  As Opry guests, our dressing room was ‘The Bluegrass Room.’  The room was adorned with pictures of so many heroes like Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Jim and Jesse, the Osborne Brothers, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, and Alison Krauss.  No pressure, huh?  The whole band was light-hearted and grateful as we waited for our turn.  John Conlee, whose voice I have always loved on songs like ‘Rose-colored Glasses’ and ‘I Don’t Remember Loving You’, came by and shot the breeze in a very friendly manner.  Joe Bonsall, the Oak Ridge Boys’ tenor singer, stopped by and talked banjo with me.  As he picked my Deering, I couldn’t help but think, “An Oak Ridge Boy is picking my banjo!”  I told him that I looked forward to their set, and he said, “Oh, we’re feeling it tonight.”  I have always loved their wall-of-sound harmonies and couldn’t wait to hear them live.

We tuned up, made sure our ties were straight and the like, and headed for the backstage area.  Hall-of-Famer Connie Smith belted out one of her many hits onstage while we waited.  When she finished we were ushered to the stage and set up behind the microphones as John Conlee announced us.  Leigh noticed that I was situated in ‘The Circle,’ the piece of hallowed stage from the Ryman.  I looked at Leigh and grinned.  He stuck his foot inside like he was dipping his toe in the water in mock jealousy.  As the crowd applauded, we broke into the Everly’s “Bye, Bye Love.”  So many thoughts went through my mind that it is hard to explain.  It was almost like I was watching another band perform.  You try not to get too caught up in the moment, because bottom line, you have a job to do.  That being said, it’s the Opry!  If you can’t get up for that, you don’t have a pulse or any sense of Country history.  I doubt the awe will ever leave my system.  I don’t want it to.  The number went over well.  We followed it with ‘Ring the Bell’, the song that really made a difference in our career.  Chet O’Keefe’s song came along just when we needed it.  Not that it was a million-seller or anything, but the song grabbed the bluegrass world’s attention and kind of turned the tide for us.  I was thinking about this when I suggested we play it on the Opry.  

 I hung out with Jesse Brock in the wings as the Oak Ridge Boys took the stage.  He is so positive, a joy to be with on the road.  We just laughed and grinned as the Oak Ridge Boys proceeded to blow the roof off the Opry.  I didn’t realize that Leigh and Mike were standing behind us.  Afterwards, I asked Leigh, “Did you notice how they walked on that stage?”  He said, “Yes, with confidence, not cockiness.”  Think of all the shows those guys have played.  They took the stage like they belonged there, as if to say, “We’re glad we’re here and this is going to be FUN.”  Pros, man.   I can’t wait to play there again on March 8th.  Who needs Yankee Stadium?