The feature film American Saturday Night: Live From The Grand Ole Opry has just announced that after a limited run of shows at select theaters in December, it is expanding to various Carmike Cinemas and North American theaters across the United States on February 12th. Originally shot at the Grand Ole Opry House on August 31st, 2015, and starring Opry members Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker, and non Opry members The Band Perry and Brett Eldredge, the concert film looks to introduce new fans to the Grand Ole Opry experience through the silver screen experience.
“I’m so proud to be a part of it,” says Darius Rucker. “I’m one of the artists in it, talking about being a member of the Opry. I go there when I don’t play, just to talk to people and hang out. I love being a member.”
That’s funny, because Darius Rucker, along with Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley, were three of the names on the very long list of Grand Ole Opry members who did not pay their proper dues to country music’s most storied institution in 2015.
Each of the Opry’s inducted members is expected to make 10 appearances each year on one of the Grand Ole Opry shows. Historically, this is a minuscule amount of performances compared to what Opry members were expected to turn in during past eras. For example in 1963, Opry members were expected to make at least 26 appearances on the stage, and this was in an era when appearances rules were more strictly enforced. Today, more Opry members break the performance requirements than meet them. Out of the Opry’s 63 current members, only 22 of them played the required 10 shows in 2015.
Annually, independent Grand Ole Opry historian Byron Fay releases a breakdown of how many times each Opry member and non Opry member performs. And where do the stars of the Grand Ole Opry’s new film rank? Near the bottom. In 2015, Brad Paisley only made half his required 10 performances. Darius Rucker (despite his rhetoric) could only manage four performances all year. And Blake Shelton could only manage three. In fact out of all the current major country music stars, members or non members, Carrie Underwood once again was the only one to meet her 10 performance requirement. And this was in a year when Underwood had a baby in February, and took significant time off.
The Grand Ole Opry relies on current stars to help keep ticket sales strong, and the Opry institution alive. But over the last few years as newer Opry members continue to shirk their responsibilities, older members are the ones keeping the Opry alive.
Here were the Top 10 Grand Ole Opry performers in 2015:
- Connie Smith- Appearances: 88 / Age: 74
- Mike Snider- Appearances: 88 / Age: 54
- Jeannie Seely- Appearances: 84 / Age: 75
- Larry Gatlin- Appearances: 76 / Age: 67
- Bill Anderson- Appearances: 72 / Age: 78
- Riders In The Sky- Appearances: 70 / Age: (Leader Doug Green) 69
- The Whites- Appearances: 63 / Age: (Leader Buck White) 85
- John Conlee- Appearances: 55 / Age: 69
- Bobby Osborne- Appearances: 54 / Age: 84
- Jesse McReynolds- Appearances: 41 / Age: 85
Aside from Mike Snider, the top 10 performers are all over 69-years-old. The average age of the top 10 performers is 74-years-old. Also, this is the same top 10 performers from 2014, with the exception of Jim Ed Brown who passed away in 2015, and Jean Sheppard who has been suffering from health issues. They were replaced on the list by Mike Snider and Larry Gatlin.
The other Grand Ole Opry Members Who Paid Their Dues in 2015 were:
- Ricky Skaggs – 35 Appearances
- Vince Gill – 32 Appearances
- Del McCoury – 29 Appearances
- Mel Tillis – 17 Appearances
- Lorrie Morgan – 16 Appearances
- Diamond Rio – 13 Appearances
- Jan Howard, Craig Morgan – 11 Appearances
- Terri Clark, Old Crow Medicine Show, Marty Stuart, Carrie Underwood – 10 Appearances
Once again it shows that the Grand Ole Opry continues to be devalued by today’s country stars, including many of its newest members. Little Big Town, who are the Opry’s most recent inductees, only managed five performances total in 2015. However the more traditionally-leaning Old Crow Medicine Show, who were the 2013 inductees, met their 10 performance requirement.
The next question is why aren’t any of the Grand Ole Opry’s top current performers starring in the new Grand Ole Opry movie? Some members were quick to sign up for face time for the new movie, but regularly take a pass when it comes to making actual Opry appearances. This also brings up the question if the new Opry movie accurately portrays the true Opry experience?
Chris Janson was the most-performing non-Opry member in 2015 with 26 appearances total. Other newer stars making a high number of appearances include Love & Theft, Mo Pitney, EmiSunshine, and Holly Williams, all with over 10 performances.
The Grand Ole Opry is due to select a new member very soon. Hopefully instead of choosing a big mainstream name the will only shirk their responsibilities, they will begin selecting new members who can fulfill their requirements, and buck the trend of newer artists not paying their Opry dues.