There was a lot going on during the unveiling of the Grand Ole Opry’s new stage set Saturday night (see “Grand Ole Opry Hosts New Barn Raising”). Here are some of the things heard and seen:
• Gaylord Entertainment CEO Terry London told country.com that its still-to-be-named record label, under the new leadership of former Arista Records’ president Tim DuBois, will “have records out by the end of the year.”
• London told reporters that Gaylord Entertainment — which sold its American cable networks TNN and CMT in 1997 — has no plans to start another network. “The cable platform is pretty full now,” he said. “The Internet is our next step.” He said “the Opry will begin broadcasting on the Internet this year.” (A Gaylord news release distributed Saturday night said the Opry will debut live on the Internet June 17 at www.opry.com.)
• Echoing remarks that Vince Gill made earlier, Steve Wariner said in his press conference that the Opry needs the appearance of such superstars as Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire to build and maintain its appeal.
• Before his portion of the show started, Wariner told the crowd about his first appearance at the Opry, back when he was just 17 and just starting as Dottie West’s bass player. On his opening night, he drove with his new boss to Ryman Auditorium, then the home of the Opry. “Just as we were pulling up to the back door of the Ryman,” he recalls, “we heard somebody on the radio say, ’From McMinnville, Tennessee, Miss Dottie West!’ I was scared to death . . . Back then, you didn’t know what to expect at the Opry, and it’s just the same today.”
• The Opry crowd went wild when Alan Jackson and his band came on stage during Roy Clark’s segment of the Opry. After singing a hit or two, Jackson ended his part of the show with a hymn. Quipped Clark in mock despair as the thunderous applause faded away: “That’s all I need — to follow Alan Jackson singing about Jesus.”
• Chely Wright is clearly an Opry favorite. The audience interrupted her songs repeatedly with applause (and roses), and the cameras flashed on her like strobe lights.
• “When I came to the Grand Ole Opry,” said Little Jimmy Dickens during the opening ceremonies, “she was 23 years old. Now she’s 75.” That’s 52 years of making short jokes.
• Just for the history books, those playing the Opry the night the new stage debuted were Steve Wariner (accompanied by his brother Terry on guitar), Jim Ed Brown, BR5-49, Chely Wright, Jimmy Dickens, the Whites, Bill Carlisle, Pam Tillis, Roy Clark, Ronnie Milsap, Alan Jackson, Jeannie Seely, Billy Walker, the Osborne Brothers, Holly Dunn, the Opry Square Dance Band with the Melvin Sloan Dancers, Charlie Walker, Wilma Lee Cooper, Del Reeves, Jan Howard, Johnny Russell, Jimmy C. Newman, Skeeter Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Rascal Flatts, Ray Pillow and — to everyone’s surprise — Brad Paisley, who dropped in and sang a duet with Chely Wright.