We have to be careful to not hold the Grand Ole Opry and such high esteem that we lose touch with reality. In previous eras, entertainers were banned from the Opry stage forever for some of the most minor infractions and improprieties. But what Elle King pulled off on Friday, January 19th—and as part of a tribute to the great Dolly Parton on her birthday no less—deserves a very direct apology at the least.
Fans love Elle King for her “devil may care” attitude and over-the-top presentation. She’s a lot, and that’s fine. But the Grand Ole Opry stage is supposed to be a family friendly environment, and it’s not the time or place for certain behavior, if for no other reason than the feed broadcasts live on AM radio regulated by the FCC.
We know Elle King was drunk because she admitted as much on stage before overcussing, slurring her words, and screwing up her performance. This feels less badass than something like Johnny Cash kicking out the footlights, or Jerry Lee Lewis dropping an emmer effer bomb to purposely piss off the pearl clutchers. With Elle King, it just comes across as sad, and perhaps a cry for help.
Elle King officially migrated country music with her last album, 2023’s Come Get Your Wife. But if she wants to stay in country, cheesing off the Opry and disrespecting Dolly is probably not the best way to go.
King is not the only one who stirred controversy by dropping cuss words on the Opry stage recently. When Oliver Anthony made his Grand old Opry debut on December 16th, he didn’t censor the “bullshit” line from his mega hit “Rich Men North of Richmond.” Though in that case, the Opry had to know it was coming. Anthony was also up there citing Bible verses, so perhaps it all works out in the wash.
Even overcussing performers like Hank Williams III have censored themselves and shown respect to the Opry stage in the past, knowing it’s not the right place for certain behavior. Hopefully we’re not seeing a deepening trend where the board operator back at WSM has to go searching for the very rarely used bleep button.
But seriously Elle King, clean it up. Or if necessary, dry out and get some help. This ain’t Lollapalooza.
@traveler_bex #Elleking ruins #dollyparton birthday bash in #nashville ♬ original sound – Bex