Grand Ole Opry’s New Movie Features Artists Who Don’t Pay Their Dues, & Excludes the Ones Who Do
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.
January 11, 2016 @ 10:48 am
I understand the desire to add someone who will actually pay their dues but I also think Miranda Lambert is past due on becoming a member of the Opry!
January 11, 2016 @ 11:06 am
I’ve seen some chatter about Miranda potentially being the next member. If Carrie Underwood can put together 10 performances, especially in a year where she gave birth, I can’t see why Miranda couldn’t, especially now that she seems to be spending more time in Nashville, and less in Oklahoma. Really, it all comes down to heart. If you truly honor the institution of the Opry, 10 evenings a year is nothing. I can even understand if some of these stars have an off year when they’re on a heavy tour schedule promoting an album. But then make it back the next year. And if you can’t, then simply don’t accept the invitation.
January 11, 2016 @ 11:57 am
It’s ridiculous they can’t reach ten shows even while touring. If they do both shows on a single weekend day, it counts as two shows. If they did both Friday and Saturday, they could knock out four shows in one weekend.
My gut tells me that Miranda like Carrie would honor her ten shows. If she was still in living in OK I’d say no, but now that she’s Nashville based I think she would.
January 11, 2016 @ 11:08 am
just what the Opry needs, angry woman songs that don’t have a point.
What they need is somebody like Roo Arcus.
January 11, 2016 @ 1:33 pm
Does Roo live in Australia or did he move to Nashville? Solid Aussie.
January 11, 2016 @ 3:57 pm
Still lives/works on a cattle farm here down under 🙂
January 12, 2016 @ 10:11 am
Why do you hate women so much?
January 11, 2016 @ 10:51 am
If Blake Shelton played too many shows at the Opry, fans would notice that he’s a no-talent “Bloke-Shelton” whose only desire is to make money, not quality music.
and Darius Rucker is an interloper who doesn’t belong here, and at least he sort of admits that from time-to-time, with his “Country-Light” comments.
Brad Paisley’s a talented guy whose Kung-Pao Cowboys act alone should cement him as mindful and respectful of traditions. Plus he’s never insulted his detractors or insisted that Country evolve, he just makes his own music the way he wants it.
With all due respect to the Opry, they really can’t win. They can’t let the older acts go because it will drive away huge swaths of fans (see: the Stonewall Jackson scenario) they can’t bring on certain newer acts because it will drive away older fans, so they need acts like Bloke Shelton, the ugly couch of Country Music, because he’s such a popular attraction among older AND newer fans (including some of the ones he’s repeatedly insulted)
If they tried to kick out Brad or Bloke, they’d lose a lot of ticket revenue and a huge demographic. Not that that’s a bad thing from a “greater good of Country Music” perspective, but it’s sure a bad thing from a “making money” perspective. Fortunately they still rely on older stars like Connie Smith, who has more talent than all the females in current Country Music combined.
Jeannie Seely was a background artist in my mind during her heyday, she and Jeannie C. Riley (who I confused a lot when I was younger) have exhibited tremendous staying power despite not being even close to the kind of talent that the upper crust of Country females (Patsy, Dottie West Et. Al.) exhibited. I’m happy to see her still working, doing the Country cruises, and all in all just keeping it Country.
And on the devaluation thing: It’s not a big deal, because the less time they spend on that stage is better for the institution in my mind. The Opry should always be a place for real Country Music, and not pop stars, and the very thought of letting someone like Blake Shelton or Luke Bryan on that stage is intimidating at best and nauseating at worst.
I’m sure Marty Stuart has been actively working to preserve the institution, I can’t imagine he’d sit still while Luke Bryan shook his buttocks on that historic circle, he must be trying to do something about this.
January 11, 2016 @ 11:10 am
Agree with just about all of this. The Opry is in a tough position. I’ll answer the question of “Why aren”™t any of the Grand Ole Opry”™s top current performers starring in the new Grand Ole Opry movie?” with another question: “How many new fans would be drawn to the Opry by seeing Mike Snider or Jeannie Seely in the movie?”
January 11, 2016 @ 11:15 am
I think there needs to be a couple performances by newer artists, billed as if it’s all about them, but the movie itself is largely around the older stars. I can’t imagine younger fans will turn it off, they’d rather wait until somebody less talented comes on, especially if they worship that somebody.
But the Opry belongs to us older fans.
The radio belongs to all the listeners, and really most of us have renounced our claim to it by buying CD players, leaving behind the people to whom the bad music appeals, but the Opry belongs to only the fans of the Genre as a whole, and its history, just like the Hall of Fame belongs to us/
January 11, 2016 @ 3:12 pm
“Fortunately they still rely on older stars like Connie Smith, who has more talent than all the females in current Country Music combined.”
If you are talking about mainstream singers, then yes I agree 110%. But if you mean the independents and Texas singers, I completely disagree.
January 11, 2016 @ 11:15 am
A couple questions.. I’ve never been to the Opry and don’t know much about it, so forgive my ignorance.
Are there performances every night? Do multiple people perform in a single night? Just wondering because it seems like, when you total all of those up, that’s a lot of performances. Wonder if the artists that don’t fulfill their obligations performed more prior to being inducted?
January 11, 2016 @ 11:17 am
Yes, there are shows most nights featuring a lineup of various stars cobbled together. The big headliners usually do it as part of a tour, the lesser acts, especially the regulars, like Little Jimmy Dickens, are almost permanent fixtures of the live shows, which are also broadcast live via the radio.
January 11, 2016 @ 12:57 pm
Fuzzy, are you forgetting we lost Little Jimmy last year? But having been there to watch a couple shows, you’re obviously correct that there is usually a show every night. I went to the Nashville flood relief concert, and that was good. All those stars on thatbstage, old and new, and they all could sing…I was also at Tim’s Nashville Rising and was an hour late, so missed the best performers! I was so glad that was for charity, because I paid $1000 for the diamond ticket, and I didn’t really get to meet anyone, except Tim, and poor Faith was terrified of the crowd…
Tim must have been shocked that I didn’t beg for an autograph or a photo. Would have been nice if he’d offered, though!
But, as for the movie, the only people that would pay to see the older Opry members would be the older generation, and there aren’t enough of them left that would pay to see them on screen, as these are mostly people that would rather wait until it’s on TV, and many can’t afford the movie tickets, anyway. They would have to choose between the movie or their meds.
The other artists appeal to younger generations of fans, and these are the demographic that would pay whatever they had to, in order to get to see their favorite artists. That’s who it’s aimed at, and the PTB don’t give a damn one way or the other if they paid any duea! This is strictly about the bottom line!
January 11, 2016 @ 12:59 pm
Well said & there is one artist who plays the Opry a lot & that is Phil Vassar, yet somehow he is not a member. He has more than done his share.
January 11, 2016 @ 1:36 pm
Connie Smith 74 years old and Bill Anderson 78..goodness! They seem a lot younger.
Darius Rucker and Blake Shelton are jokes.
January 11, 2016 @ 1:37 pm
I can’t believe this…….just extremely sad to see. There’s some artists out there not only pushing over 10 shows, but as many as 80!!! I understand having a busy schedule and all, but as Trigger said, if you truly care then you’ll make it up at some point.
Disrespecting the traditions of the music is one thing, but to blow off the Opry, a sacred institution of country music? I question what your true motive$ were when you joined the Opry……
January 11, 2016 @ 1:41 pm
Having been to many Opry shows they are on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
January 11, 2016 @ 1:44 pm
It’s great just seeing some of those names. Of the “shirkers,” the one that surprises me is Brad Paisley. His humor and musicianship seem suited to Opry tradition.
January 11, 2016 @ 1:50 pm
Paisley did do a solid by paying tribute to “Little” Jimmy Dickens in 2015, so give him credit for that. And compared to many of his peers, he did perform more than most. But it still was only half. If Carrie Underwood can do it with a baby backstage, they all can do it.
January 11, 2016 @ 2:20 pm
Yes, that’s why I was surprised. I have heard good things from others about the respect Paisley has shown assorted legends.
January 11, 2016 @ 2:47 pm
I understand that it’s important to have ten opry appareances, but what really sets me off is to see those Band Perry sellouts among the performers. I can tolerate Brett Eldredge as a pop artist because he’s playful and original but he’s as country as George Strait is a rapper. Hell where’s Mo Pitney?? If there’s a new artist who deserves to be featured on the film that’s Mo!
as for the Opry members, Brad Paisley is a great choice but why the hell Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker?? I think they’re not the problem in country music, both are trying to record more country oriented material but both are still so generic!! it would’ve been better to have someone like Dierks Bentley or even Carrie Underwood. Even better to have someone like Travis Tritt or Alan Jackson (oh yeah they’re too country).
January 11, 2016 @ 3:16 pm
Well the Grand Ol Opry aint so grand anymore…..
January 11, 2016 @ 3:34 pm
Man, this is going so suck. I wouldn’t cross the street to see Blake Shelton, Brett Eldridge, or The Band Perry, at least in their current incarnation. Obviously, this is a PR deal aimed strictly at the pop-country crowd’s tourism dollars, and nothing more. And as with the cable TV show, it won’t be an authentic representation of the Grand Ole Opry experience. (Although, to be fair, I doubt many movie goers want to sit through a series of live commercials for Dollar General… ha ha.) I agree this would have been a good opportunity to reward the more faithful Opry members for their diligence. But with a PR event of this size, it may have been out of the hands of the day-to-day Opry management. I don’t know how these things work.
Anyway, occasionally I have defended the modern day Opry in these comments against some of its absolute harshest critics, partly because I believe in being even-handed, but also because I do enjoy tuning in from time to time. Having said that, I would not say the show as it is currently constituted is great. Frankly, it’s mediocre. It’s not “a disgrace” or “a sham” as some have suggested, but it obviously could stand to be improved, and I think it easily could be. I won’t go in all that at the moment. (Trigger and others have done a good job of articulating those problems elsewhere.) But suffice it to say that with all the great young talent in the independent country music world and its various subgenres, it ought to be possible to lower the average age of the top Opry performers to at least below what it takes to qualify for a senior discount down at the Golden Corral.
January 11, 2016 @ 3:41 pm
You know, the Opry Youtube channel has some pretty cool stuff sometimes.
And by the way, props to Carrie Underwood.
January 11, 2016 @ 6:46 pm
Please don’t take this totally as a knock on the Opry. Yes, they should have put together a more accurate cast for the movie, but they want these artists to pay their dues too. Maybe Opry management has aided in the lapse of the rules, but this is mostly on the performers who sign up as Opry members, and can’t fulfill the basic obligations.
And yes, they have been putting out some great videos recently.
January 12, 2016 @ 4:13 am
Hey Trigger, no offense taken here. I mention the YouTube channel simply as an alternative to this lame film. The latter’s contents are more balanced and better represent the Opry these days (for better or worse) which is why this pure pop-country movie is disappointing. I’m also not trying to let the Opry management off the hook with my speculation over how much control they had over this, it just bears such little relation to the actual Opry that it comes across as something some PR executive came up with. Regardless, they can do better than this. The old Opry television show wasn’t the “real” Opry either, but at least you got to see legendary artists and acts like Ricky Skaggs and Allison Krauss.
In my mind, the presence of Blake Shelton here is a dead give away as to who the movie is being aimed at, since he’s rarely on the actual Opry but is known to every mouth breather on the street due to his association with the Voice, which I suppose is where he can be found instead of showing up to fulfill his Opry obligations. And yet, he gets to be in this movie anyway.
January 11, 2016 @ 5:12 pm
Sorry I’m not losing any sleep over this, the opry is overrated to begin with. The opry was smart here, they put popular artists who could sell tickets. They aren’t trying to honor or showcase the opry. This is so the institution can make money. Period.
January 11, 2016 @ 10:32 pm
Completely agree, Chris. Even years back, guys like Waylon and Merle were telling the Opry to go fly a kite, as they wanted a chunk of their earnings in exchange for membership.
The Opry, while being the great symbol of country music, is a shrewdly run business, make no mistake. And as much as I love the older acts that perform there regularly, with their hearts in the right place, the Opry is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It begs the question: when the old guard are all gone, who will take up the Opry mantle? Will anyone? Or will it become something like a museum?
January 11, 2016 @ 6:38 pm
Marty Stuart didn’t meet his requirements? I am surprised. Doesn’t he occupy the first dressing room? It was to my understanding that being in the main dressing room meant that they were kinda like the top dog there.
January 11, 2016 @ 6:44 pm
Marty Stuart had 10 appearances on the nose, so he did meet his requirements. Perhaps he’s a home taking care of the dogs all those nights Connie’s out performing. 🙂
January 11, 2016 @ 9:09 pm
Carrie was the last solo female artist to become a member-that is crazy! Little Big Town has 2 female members so I guess that counts but it has been way too long- let the girls play Opry, seems the guys are too busy to play their mandatory shows.
January 11, 2016 @ 9:14 pm
Trigger, can someone look up how many times Blake has played the Opry since becoming a member in 2010? I have a feeling it is like 10 times in 5 years. I heard the story about Trace telling the Opry to invite Blake when he started getting popular but there was a stretch there that he didn’t play for like 1 1/2 yrs.
January 12, 2016 @ 3:37 am
Number of times Blake Shelton played at the Opry per year:
2010 – 0
2011 – 4
2012 – 0
2013 – 2
2014 – 2
2015 – 3
January 12, 2016 @ 4:23 am
Speaking of acts that are appropriate for the Grand Ole Opry, recently I’ve been watching some videos online of The Church Sisters. I don’t recall hearing them on, but they would be perfect Opry stars. Sign them up right now, I say.
January 12, 2016 @ 10:10 am
Since they’re now signed to Big Machine Records, I’m sure they will be making some Opry appearances after they’re through with their “image consulting.” Along with being country music’s home for the elderly (not that that’s a bad thing), the Opry has also been a proving ground for up-and-coming artists, especially more traditional-leaning ones. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Church Sisters on there sooner than later.
January 12, 2016 @ 9:47 am
Since this is an article about the Opry, I submit that “When Lulu’s Gone” was the original “bro-country” song. The genial and legendary Mr. Acuff was not well-known for such ribald material, but this one from the 1930s by Acuff and the Bang Boys was hilarious.
January 12, 2016 @ 12:21 pm
The 10 appearance requirement is the reason George Strait never accepted his invitation to join the Opry. He’s too much of a stand up guy to accept responsibilities and then shirk. What about Josh Turner? Seems he’d be one hold on to his end of the deal. Funny how soon these stars forget. I’d give a body part to play that stage 10 times a year.
January 12, 2016 @ 1:46 pm
Major respect to Carrie Underwood. She has met the requirements and often much more every year since being inducted into the Opry. Plus, I have seen her in many interviews talking up the Opry and saying it is her most meaningful performances. She should get more credit and these other frauds like Blake Shelton should be banished.
January 13, 2016 @ 7:38 pm
I recall both Connie Smith and Jimmy Dickens being let go for awhile for not making the 26 show commitment. They said so in interviews.
I spent my Sunday hangover listening to a 93 song YouTube playlist of Connie’s 60’s work. Amazing. Among which were 3 pop covers, including Downtown, that rival the originals. Her ability to handle non-country melodies gave me a greater appreciation for her vocal talent. I understand why so many of her peers said she’s the best.
January 15, 2016 @ 6:06 pm
I just noticed that Ashley Monroe will be on the Opry tomorrow night!
Also Aubrie Sellars, daughter of Lee Ann Womack. I believe it’s her debut.
January 16, 2016 @ 3:34 pm
Cool to see Craig Morgan on the “fulfilled responsibilities” list.
January 20, 2016 @ 10:36 am
What about Exile and the Oak Ridge Boys? They play there a lot don’t they?
April 24, 2016 @ 11:31 pm
I would Love LOve Love to see EmiSunshine become a Member of the Grand Ole Opry.She is one that I know for a fact that pays her Dues.I know her family personally.
December 2, 2017 @ 7:10 am
where is restless heart??????