It’s very hard to argue against selecting Jon Pardi as the next pick for Grand Ole Opry membership. He fits perfectly in that nexus between being country, but also being young and current, satisfying the desires of a wide swath of country fans who care about such things. The only question was if it would ever happen for Pardi since his center of the universe in many respects is California, not Tennessee.
All the more perfect that Pardi’s invitation came on the stage at the Stagecoach Festival in California Friday evening (4-28), and even more perfect that it was Opry member Alan Jackson who delivered it via a video message. Pardi played right before headliner Luke Bryan, saying at one point, “I love California. It taught me everything about country music, from agriculture to the hard-working people that make this country.”
Then at the end of Pardi’s set, famous chef Guy Fieri came out on stage unexpectedly. “Our good friend Alan Jackson from Nashville, Tennessee has a message for you,” Guy said.
“Hey Jon, everybody at Stagecoach,” Jackson said on the large video board behind the stage. “The Grand Ole Opry has always meant a whole lot to me and everybody in country music. And I’ve been appreciating your music ever since you were touring with me a few years ago. And so I get the honor to invite you in front of all your Stagecoach friends out there to be the first native of California to become an official member of the Grand Ole Opry.”
A microphone stand with the iconic “Grand Ole Opry” signage was then brought out for Pardi. “Thank you, everybody,” he said, clearly teary-eyed. “This is an amazing night. I’ll never forget it. I guess if you want to come visit Tennessee, I’ll see you at the Grand Ole Opry now.”
Jon Pardi is about as close as mainstream country has to a staunch traditionalist these days. Born in the interior California agricultural town of Dixon (near Sacramento), you could tell early in his career that Pardi was one who wanted to keep it country, even if he had to wrestle with his label to do so. His debut album Write You A Song showed promise. But it was Pardi’s 2016 album California Sunrise that announced him as a traditionalist in the mainstream.
It was the commercial success of California Sunrise that ultimately helped open doors for more traditional-sounding artists and songs to come forth such as Midland and Lainey Wilson. It also allowed Pardi to continue to make traditional country in the mainstream with 2019’s Heartache Medication and 2022’s Mr. Saturday Night.
And throughout this journey, Jon Pardi has carried his California roots with him. Becoming the first California-born artist to become a Grand Ole Opry member makes the invitation historic, and speaks to how the Opry continues to try and expand its membership beyond the institution’s conventional borders to represent all of country music under the current leadership of Vice President and Executive Producer Dan Rogers.