Bobby Bones Hosting the Grand Ole Opry Is Not Working

When we look back years from now at this unprecedented period in modern life, one of the big bullet points in country music will be how the tradition of the Grand Ole Opry endured through this historic disruption at the hands of the Coronavirus. Despite having no audience and no band, performers have still taken to the Grand Ole Opry stage to keep the 94-year-old tradition of the Opry alive on Saturday nights amid strict guidelines and a special exception from the Nashville mayor.

These Opry performances have held a unique gravity due to the circumstances, and you can feel that weight in each song and moment. But sticking out like a sore thumb through the process has been the presence of pop country radio personality Bobby Bones. Though the performances have proper emcees as they always have from the round robin of on-air personalities from radio station WSM making announcements from the podium, Bobby Bones is out in the audience area talking over the actual host for viewers on the television and online feed. It’s beyond weird, and distracting.

When the new Circle Network owned by the Grand Ole Opry’s parent company first launched at the beginning of 2020, they promised a weekly Opry show would be included in their lineup that would take portions from each week’s Opry performances and rebroadcast them. In February they announced that the host of this hour-long program would be Bobby Bones, and that he would executive produce the program as well. This was the first time gripes went up about his participation.

Now that we’ve had ample opportunity to digest Bobby’s role in these segments, and especially when it comes to these special COVID-19 performances, it’s safe to say this is not working, and his presence is the regular concern you see from viewers who otherwise are very happy to still have the Opry coming into their living rooms every Saturday evening.

This is nothing against Bobby Bones personally. He does happen to be a polarizing guy to many country music fans, and outright loathed by most of the traditional country fans that the Grand Ole Opry tends to cater to. But he’s not some evil person. He just doesn’t fit, and offers nothing to the presentation whatsoever. In fact, he gets in the way of it. He’s like a fish out of water, and billing him equally with the talent taking the stage each week as the Opry has done in these streaming shows is a bit of an insult to the artists leaving their quarantine to perform for the masses.

Very likely, there is some contractual obligation in place between Bobby Bones and the Opry that not only precludes the Opry from forgoing him as a host for these quarantine segments, but necessitates his mug be included right beside the talent itself on promotional copy. As an “executive producer,” it’s unlikely Bobby Bones is going to fire himself. But watching the shows, even he seems to feel awkward, not really knowing what he’s supposed to do, and struggling to fill the time.

We gave it a try, and Bobby Bones is just not working, at least for these weekly streaming shows, which we may have many weeks or even months more of before the social distancing guidelines lift for live events. Having current on-air Grand Ole Opry presenters such as Eddie Stubbs, Charlie Mattos, or Bill Cody host the segments makes significantly more sense. Or have someone like Marty Stuart or Kellie Pickler who have experience hosting television shows fill that role.

These are important and unique moments the Opry is capturing with these Saturday night performances during the Coronavirus shutdown. Let’s not continue to feel obligated to Bobby Bones just because the powers that be want to make him the new Opry personality. These segments already have hosts. Bobby Bones feels very optional at a time when the Opry has never felt more essential.

Ricky Skaggs, and Dailey & Vincent have been announced for the Saturday, April 18th Opry.

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