See full list of who debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in 2022 at the bottom.
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It feels like a new day in country music. Things are opening up, opportunities are presenting themselves, and the possibilities are endless, if you’re an artist that has the deserved talent and tenacity to seize upon them. Like chutes sprouting up through the scorched Earth, independent artists are rising to find sustainability and success like we have never seen before.
Country music’s oldest and most storied institution has not been on the sidelines during this season of renewal. In fact, in many respects it is helping to lead the charge. Finding renewed traction and purpose amidst the pandemic when the rest of the world was shut down and they were able to continue with performances that were streamed online and seen by millions thirsty for entertainment, the Grand Ole Opry has utilized that momentum to continue to lead in both preserving the past, and in presenting the future.
In 2022, something happened at the Grand Ole Opry that is only fair to label as historic. More so than any other year in its nearly 100-year existence, the coveted Grand Ole Opry debut was doled out to deserving artists from across the panorama, checking off bucket list items, populating glowing resume points, and making beaming parents proud all over the United States and beyond. A dizzying 104 artists were graced with this distinction, and it helped put the Grand Ole Opry stage smack dab in the middle of country music’s rebirth.
You had up-and-coming country performers such as Randall King, Morgan Wade, Joshua Ray Walker, Aaron Raitiere, 49 Winchester, Kolby Cooper, Hogslop String Band, Drake Milligan, Chapel Hart, Kaitlin Butts, and Mike and the Moonpies all make their debuts in 2022.
You also had long-timers like Corb Lund, Kimberly Kelly, Jon Wolfe, Adam Hood, Miko Marks, Josh Ward, and Jason Eady finally get their opportunities to step into the hallowed circle. And despite the frequency of those opportunities in 2022, each moment was a landmark, career-defining achievement due to the weight and validation an Opry debut holds.
“Our programming team strives to ensure the Opry consistently celebrates the past, present, and future of country music within every show,” Dan Rogers, the Vice President and Executive Producer of the Grand Ole Opry tells Saving Country Music. “We work diligently to make sure the ‘future’ portion of that equation is represented by meaningful artists poised to make great music well into the coming years.”
It has been during the Dan Rogers tenure that the Opry has been modernizing itself by offering more opportunities to more artists, while also honoring some long-deserving artists with not just debuts, but full-blown membership such as Charlie McCoy, Don Schlitz, Carly Pearce, Ashley McBryde, and Jamey Johnson, and generally making the Grand Ole Opry more relevant to a wider range of country fans and artists by recognizing worthy talent.
“We’re delighted more artists than ever made Opry debuts in 2022,” Rogers says. “We’ve worked hard to establish relationships with artists in the early days of their careers, and there are more ways than ever these days for artists to connect with fans and build a story we feel should include an Opry debut … It’s still one of the best parts of our job to watch as someone takes the Opry stage for the very first time.”
One important aspect that helped facilitate all the debuts in 2022 while still honoring the commitment to all the members and legends of the Opry cast was an increased number of Opry presentations. “It would have been impossible to welcome more than 100 debut artists last year without Opry shows on which those artists could be included,” Rogers explains. “Thanks to fan demand and artists’ desire to be a part of the Opry, we were able to stage shows on more nights than ever last year, sometimes as many as seven nights a week.”
And though we saw more representation of Texas and Red Dirt country artists than ever before, as well as artists from Appalachia, it really was a wide and diverse set of individuals and bands that made their debuts in 2022. You had rock legends like The Beach Boys and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils make their Opry debuts. You had Dan Auerbach and Leigh Nash of Sixpence None The Richer make debuts. You also had Gospel and Christian groups such as We The Kingdom and For King & Country, and up-and-comers from mainstream country as well.
You even had the grandson of Opry legend and Country Music Hall of Famer DeFord Bailey make his debut. The harmonica player was the very first artist to ever perform on the Opry. Carlos DeFord Bailey made his Grand Ole Opry debut on October 27th, 2022.
“Of course it’s also imperative that we continue to enlist debuts from a wide variety of artists representing the various genres and subgenres programmed on the Opry stage,” Dan Rogers states.
There were also a few performers who officially “debuted” on the Opry in 2022, despite having taken the stage previously to perform, like William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys, who debuted with his family band The Goldens. Or the members of the supergroup Texas Hill, as well as Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelly, who once comprised a duo you may have heard of that’s no longer active.
On Saturday, January 7th, the fourth season of the TV show My Opry Debut will launch on The Circle Network at 9 pm Central, which goes behind-the-scenes for in-depth looks at these weighty moments that an artist experiences when they take the Opry stage for the first time.
The Beach Boys, Amythyst Kiah, Morgan Wade, Coffey Anderson, Vince Neil, Erin Kinsey, Leigh Nash, Allison Russell, Randall King, For King & Country, Ben Rector, Shy Carter, Sierra Ferrell, Ian Munsick, Valerie June, Jackson Dean, We The Kingdom, Jordan Fletcher, MacKenzie Porter, Julia Cole, Neon Union and Aaron Raitiere are all scheduled to be featured on the program in the upcoming season.
And every indication is this record number of debuts is going to continue into 2023. Charles Wesley Godwin will be making his Grand Ole Opry debut on February 10th, The Shootouts from Ohio will be making their Grand Ole Opry debut on February 24th, and songwriter Channing Wilson will be making his Opry debut on February 25th, just to name a few of the debuts already announced.
Thanks to Grand Ole Opry historian Byron Fay of the great and indispensable Fafare’s Opry Blog, you can see the rather crazy list of names of all the artists and bands who made their Grand Ole Opry debuts in 2022.
2022 Grand Ole Opry Debut Class:
Mike and the Moonpies