George Strait Isn’t a Grand Ole Opry Member. Has He Even Played?

If you want to get a shocked reaction from a country music fan, tell them that George Strait is not a member of the Grand Ole Opry. As country music’s most storied institution, and with George Strait considered arguably the most revered artist of a generation—so much so that he’s often referred to as the modern day “King of Country”—how could it be that he’s not a Grand Ole Opry member?

There’s actually a pretty simple explanation for Strait’s absence from Opry membership. As a Texas resident who has remained living outside of San Antonio throughout his illustrious career, it just wasn’t feasible for George Strait to become a Grand Ole Opry member. After all, members are expected to make regular appearances on the show. In previous eras, deadbeat performers would lose membership if they didn’t make the required amount of performances. These days, performers shirking their Opry dues are pretty common, especially among today’s mainstream performers, with little recourse unfortunately.

Living in Texas is the reason Willie Nelson is not a Grand Ole Opry member either, even though Willie was a member for a while when he was living in Nashville. Making his debut on November 28th, 1964, and joining as a member in 1965, Willie eventually gave up his membership when he moved back to Texas in 1972. “In order to say you’re a member of the Grand Ole Opry, which is a great honor, you had to be there 26 weeks out of the year,” Willie said in 2018. “You can’t play in Texas on Friday and get back to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. It just don’t work out that way.”

But a question that arose around the recent airing of a special celebrating the Grand Ole Opry’s 95th Anniversary is if George Strait has even played the Grand Ole Opry before at all? After all, there doesn’t appear to be any photos or videos of him at the Opry if he has, and no public record of an Opry performance. On the Opry website where they list not just members, but performers at the Opry from the past and present, they include George Strait’s name, but there’s no information for him; not even a photo, let alone a date when he might have made his Opry debut like with many artists. During the Opry’s 95th Anniversary special, they had a segment about important debuts on the Opry stage, but George Strait wasn’t included in it.

So Saving Country Music reached out to Grand Ole Opry historian and archivist Byron Fay of the great Fafare’s Opry Blog to find out if George Strait has ever taken the hallowed Opry stage, and when. It turns out George Strait has made an appearance in the Opry circle, but only one.

“George Strait was on the Opry Saturday October 9, 1982. On the early show he was on the 8:30 segment and on the late show, he was on at 11:00. That appears to have been the only time he was on the Opry,” Byron Fay confirms. Fay also says that despite some rumors over the years you may have heard of perhaps bad blood between George Strait and the Opry, nothing was ever publicly acknowledged, and Strait’s lack of Opry appearances likely was just because Strait lived in Texas. His one appearance came when Hal Durham was the head of the Opry.

So there you go. Yes, George Strait did appear at the Grand Ole Opry in late 1982, when he was promoting his second record Straight from the Heart, and about a month after he released his single “Marina Del Ray.” But he only played it once—quite an anomaly for the guy many consider the modern “King of Country.”

© 2021 Saving Country Music
36+