The Reunion of Professional Entertainers (ROPE) celebrated traditional country music Thursday evening (Nov. 7) with a series of awards and a bluegrass show by the award-winning Del McCoury Band . Approximately 400 performers, musicians, music executives, family and friends gathered at the Gibson Bluegrass Showcase at Opry Mills in Nashville for the annual event.
Carl Smith won ROPE’s entertainer of the year award. Carol Lee Cooper, leader of the Grand Ole Opry’s Carol Lee Singers and mistress of ceremonies for the Ernest Tubb Record Shops’ long-running Midnight Jamboree on WSM-AM, took the media trophy. Singer and former record executive Mac Wiseman received the business award. Guitarist Pete Wade copped the top musician prize. Felice Bryant and her late husband, Boudleaux Bryant , won the songwriter award. Only Cooper and Wiseman were on hand to accept their honors. Wade, a veteran studio guitarist on Music Row, was playing on a recording session while the banquet took place.
Golden Eagle awards for lifetime achievements in country music went to famed disc jockey and TV host Ralph Emery and to long-time radio station owner, music promoter and disc jockey Tom Perryman. The Johnson sisters — Loudilla, Loretta and Kay — were given the Ernest Tubb Humanitarian Award. Loretta, who is recovering from two serious illnesses, accompanied her sisters to the stage. The Johnsons founded Loretta Lynn’s fan club and soon went on to establish the International Fan Club Organization, which advises and certifies fan clubs. It also sponsors a popular concert each year during Fan Fair.
Wiseman conferred the newly instituted Nightingale Award on Euneta Kirby, widow of Beecher “Bashful Brother Oswald” Kirby. Wiseman explained that the new award is to recognize caregivers involved with the music industry. Mrs. Kirby took personal care of her husband until his death. “Without these ladies,” Wiseman said, “some of these old boys would be in a nursing home where they don’t always turn you every day.” Added WSM-AM disc jockey Eddie Stubbs, who hosted the ceremonies, “Here is a woman who truly honored every aspect of her marriage vows.” A member of Roy Acuff ’s Smoky Mountain Boys for over 50 years, Kirby died Oct. 17.
Unable to walk unassisted, Wiseman kept the crowd laughing by joking about his infirmities. “You saw my act — you saw me get out here,” he said, as he hobbled onto the stage. “I never saw so many old people in one place,” he continued. When he returned to the stage to accept his award, he quipped, “I’m glad I won. I didn’t know I had another trip in me.”
A champion of traditional country music and an expert on the subject, Stubbs lost no opportunity to snipe at the state of country music today. Noting that Wiseman’s bands had always looked sharp, Stubbs added, “You won’t see his band with flea-and-tick collars around their throats and smoke and light shows.” He said Wiseman is of the school that holds “you dress better than your audience because they came to see something special.”
After Carl Smith ’s children, Lorri and Dean, accepted his award, Stubbs observed, “It’s one of the great disgraces of our industry that Carl Smith isn’t in the Hall of Fame.” Later he noted, “There’s not nearly enough country in country music.”
Among those attending the ceremonies were Grand Ole Opry members Jack Greene and Stu Phillips; the Browns — Ed, Maxine and Bonnie — of “The Three Bells” fame; harmonica wizard Charlie McCoy ; David McCormick, owner of the Ernest Tubb Record Shops; Merle Kilgore, manager of Hank Williams Jr. ; Johnny Hobbs, owner of the Nashville Palace; Charlie Dick, husband of the late Patsy Cline ; and WSM disc jockeys Kyle Cantrell and Bill Cody.
Following the awards, Stubbs summoned Dan Hays, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association, to the stage to present him a certificate from the Nashville mayor’s office, welcoming the IBMA to the city. The organization will move from Owensboro, Ky., to Music City in February.
To continue the bluegrass theme, the IBMA’s reigning entertainer of the year, the Del McCoury Band, performed an 11-song set that included “Count Me Out,” “Nashville Cats,” “Silver Dew on the Bluegrass Tonight,” “Learnin’ the Blues” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”
The event was broadcast live on WSM-AM.