Membership to the Grand Ole Opry is always a hot button issue among country fans, just as much as induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame is. As country music’s oldest and most hallowed institution, an invitation to join the Opry is one of the most honored opportunities a country artist can receive, and something many performers dream of throughout their careers.
When lists of prospective Opry members get passed around, traditionalist and songwriter Jamey Johnson’s name often comes up as a primary candidate. A regular on the Opry already, he has the kind of pedigree the institution should be looking for—strong traditional roots, but with name recognition and mainstream appeal and success.
Many Opry fans and traditional country fans were shocked and disappointed recently when Dustin Lynch was announced as the latest member, being invited officially by Trace Adkins on August 21st. When Lynch was announced, Jamey Johnson was one of the leading names bandied about as a better alternative. It happens to be that 10 days later on August 31st, Jamey Johnson was scheduled to appear on the Opry as part of the evening’s tribute to Roger Miller.
Jamey first came out to perform with Bill Anderson on a song they co-wrote called “Everybody Wants to be Twenty-One” that appears on Bill Anderson’s new album. Then Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys introduced Jamey Johnson for his own segment, and when Jamey took the stage he said,
“I was just talking to Bill Anderson over there on the side and I said, ‘I’m gonna come out here and make this announcement tonight.’ I’d like to announce that I’m the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.”
This pronouncement from Jamey was met with a roar of applause from the Opry audience. But then Johnson cut in.
“I would like to announce that, but it’s not true. I’ve signed my part of the contract. If we can get them to sign their part it’ll be a done deal,” he said. “We’re working on it. We’re getting there. 13 years now I’ve been playing this ol’ Opry.”
It’s a little hard to tell if Jamey Johnson was trying to be funny, was completely serious, was trying to make a statement, or something in between. But it certainly has stirred the pot for people who think Jamey should be an Opry member, especially if artists such as Dustin Lynch are being invited. Jamey Johnson is a Nashville resident, holds an office on Music Row, and would easily meet the Opry’s performance requirements, unlike many contemporary artists who take the invitation from the Opry, but then rarely appear on the stage.
Jamey concluded by saying, “I love it here. I love all of y’all. Thank you for coming out and supporting this fine institution,” so he clearly wasn’t too torqued on the matter. But it’s also clear Jamey Johnson would love to be a member, and it’s clear to just about everyone who pays close attention to country music that he should be.
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The moment can be heard at roughly 1:59:45 below.