Opry Manager Defends Programming Moves

In a letter to Grand Ole Opry members, general manager Pete Fisher took issue with a recent news story that implied he is squeezing out older Opry acts. Fisher also said that Opry attendance has finally picked up after years of declining. In a front-page article in the Sept. 29 Tennessean, long-time members Charlie Louvin, Del Reeves and Stonewall Jackson blasted the way Fisher handles the position he assumed in 1999. Among their complaints was that he has cut back on their number of performances, forbidden them from using their own bands, spoken to them disrespectfully and generally favored the scheduling of younger performers. Jackson accused Fisher of saying he “would work as hard as possible until no gray hair was in the audience or on the stage” and of telling him, “Stonewall, you are too old and too country to fit in anymore.” Without referring to any of the dissidents by name, Fisher denied the quotes Jackson attributed to him. “I have never made such comments,” he said in his Sept. 30 letter, “nor do I agree with that philosophy. The only gray hairs I don’t like are the ones on my head.” Defending his programming decisions, Fisher noted, “We are very encouraged by the results which show an increase in attendance this year, the first such increase in nearly two decades! I believe we are on the right track.” 10/02/02