Bobby Bare Invited to Become Newest Member of the Grand Ole Opry, Again

The original Outlaw and Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Bare will be the next member of the Grand Ole Opry, again. This is the news coming out of Nashville Saturday night (4-7) after Bare was invited to join country music’s most historic institution. He was officially invited by Garth Brooks, who shocked the Opry crowd when he took the stage.

“I’ve got to tell you that this is quite a surprise. I was a member of the Opry for 10 years, but then I just drifted away,” Bare said, who was also celebrating his 83rd birthday. “Thank you to everybody on the Grand Ole Opry.”

Jeannie Seely was hosting the Opry segment when Bobby Bare was surprised with the invitation. Bare started his set by collaborating with Mary Gauthier on the song “I Drink,” written by Gauthier. Then Bobby Bare, Jr. joined his father on the stage to sing the 1970 hit “Come Sundown.” This is when Garth Brooks took the stage.

“You get it,” Brooks said to Bobby Bare (see video below). “…The Grand Ole Opry is family. Family is forever. So Mr. Bare, young man–as my dad would say– it is my honor, it is the Grand Ole Opry’s honor, to officially welcome you back, the great Bobby Bare, to the Grand Ole Opry.”

Obviously, Bare accepted, and finished his set by performing his No. 1 hit “Marie Laveau.”

Opry General Manager Sally Williams says of Bare, “Bobby Bare enjoys an incredible relationship with all of the Opry artists as well as the Opry staff. He has supported the Opry with visits often over the past few years, and he’s always a crowd favorite. We are so excited to officially welcome him back to Opry membership. Our members are the heart of the Grand Ole Opry. We rely on the commitment of these tremendous artists who play a wide variety of country music and are in different stages of their careers to ensure the Opry will be vibrant and entertaining for future generations of fans.”

There have been many true country music “Outlaws” over the years, and many more that claim to be. But there can be only one original Outlaw, and that is Bobby Bare. Without Bobby Bare, there may be no Waylon Jennings. When Bare discovered Waylon in Phoenix, AZ in 1964, Waylon was still very much a regional act. It was Bobby Bare that introduced Waylon to Chet Atkins at RCA in Nashville, and helped bring Waylon’s career to the national stage.

It was also Bobby Bare who first rebelled against Chet Atkins, RCA, and the Nashville system, which in the 60’s put all the creative power in the hands of producers, and didn’t allow artists to record with their own bands. Before Waylon, it was Bobby Bare who forbid session musicians from playing on his songs, and started picking out his own material from renegade songwriters such as Shel Silverstein, Kris Kristofferson, and Billy Joe Shaver. It was Bobby Bare who helped inspire Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson to extricate themselves from their restrictive RCA contracts, and stimulated the Outlaw movement of the early 70’s in earnest.

But that’s not what Bobby Bare is best known for. He’s known for his early country mod material, appearing in suits and singing Countrypolitan songs of the time such as “Detroit City” with its lush chorus lines. Later he would be known for the novelty songs by Shel Silverstein, and Paul Craft’s “Drop Kick Me Jesus.” Though no less an Outlaw than any of the other greats of the era, Bobby Bare didn’t have the rough persona preceding him like Waylon did. He didn’t have the crossover or acting success of Willie Nelson or Kris Kristofferson. His output was quality, and timeless, but perhaps not as defining of an era as others. Yet without Bare, the Outlaw era arguably may have never happened.