Brad Paisley seemed to be the only one genuinely surprised Saturday night (Dec. 16) when singer Bill Anderson invited him to join the Grand Ole Opry. In spite of a year of public speculation that he was marked for Opry membership — and the fact that he is included with cast members in the new Opry Christmas-story book — Paisley stood frozen and speechless on stage after Anderson issued the invitation. The entire Opry audience rose and applauded as the 28-year-old Arista Records artist slowly acclimated himself to the good news.
Noting that Paisley had appeared 36 times on the Opry within the past year, Anderson announced that the formal induction will take place Feb. 17 during the show’s now-annual return to its most famous venue, the Ryman Auditorium.
Paisley’s surprise came during the weekly televised portion of the 75-year-old radio show. Dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, Opry veterans Little Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely joined Anderson on stage to extend their best wishes. “You’ve been a good boy,” said Dickens, “Merry Christmas from Tater Claus!” (“Tater” is Dickens’ nickname, bestowed by Hank Williams Sr. and derived from his 1949 hit, “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait.”)
After a protracted round of lingering hugs, Anderson urged the still-stunned Paisley to perform “Born on Christmas Day,” a song he wrote when he was 12. “How can you ask me to sing?” Paisley gasped incredulously. But sing he did.
Earlier in the show, Anderson hinted at things to come by introducing a home video of the 12-year-old West Virginia native debuting his new Christmas composition on “Jamboree USA” (of which he soon became a member). The effect of the video was somewhat diminished by the failure of Opry technicians to get the sound to play.
Already a favorite of Opry audiences, Paisley sang only to the accompaniment of his own acoustic guitar. He began his two-song set with “We Danced,” his second and most recent No. 1 hit from his first album, Who Needs Pictures. Paisley’s first chart-topper was “He Didn’t Have to Be.” Who Needs Pictures has been certified gold (for sales of 500,000 units) and, according to his record label, is now close to platinum.
Paisley is nearly finished recording his second album, Part 2, which is tentatively set to be out in May. Guest artists on the project include George Jones, Bill Anderson, Sonya Isaacs and Buck Owens.