When Chris Young, 32, woke up at 7 a.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 29), he had his entire work day mapped out in his head.
He knew his day would include a party to celebrate his No. 1 hit “Sober Saturday Night” with Vince Gill, followed by a performance at the Grand Ole Opry.
And then he had a plan to get home fast and get some shuteye so he could wake up fresh for a production shoot the following day to promote his sixth album Losing Sleep.
But Gill and the Opry had other plans in store for Young’s performance.
By the time Young hit the Opry stage to perform his first song of the night, “Getting You Home,” his GoFundMe campaign online had raised more than $300,000 to support Hurricane Harvey victims through the American Red Cross.
Then after singing “Lonely Eyes,” Gill walked onstage to surprise Young with two RIAA plaques recognizing his platinum-certified album Neon and single “Think of You,” as well as their gold hit “Sober Saturday Night.”
After giving Young a hard time about not getting paid for his session work on their hit collaboration, Gill casually invited Young to join the Grand Ole Opry.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Gill said. “I’ll forgive the session fees if you’ll be the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry.”
As someone who is not easily surprised, Young was visually floored by the invitation. Young bent over, pointed and smiled at Gill, and then he hugged the Country Music Hall of Famer so tightly, he lifted him off his feet.
“Dang, you got me good,” Young said. “I love you guys. I love everybody here. I love this place.”
Young’s induction ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 17.
After his performance, Young met with media backstage and said becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry has always been his white whale. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native recalled being raised on the historic show as a child and added that he would often call WSM-AM/Nashville as a fan to speak with station personality Bill Cody.
He said it meant the world to him that his grandfather, Richard Yates, was there with his family to witness the invitation. Yates raised Young on classic country by Marty Robbins and Lefty Frizzell, and he wouldn’t be a country singer without his influence.
“That’s the only time I saw him cry tears, and he was trying to stop,” Young said of his grandfather. “Pretty incredible. This sounds really morbid, but when your grandfather looks at you and said, ‘I’m glad I was around to see it,’ that’s special.”
“I had no idea this was coming,” he told CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown. “It was a really incredible day. There is a lot of stuff going on — with the fundraising we’re doing for Harvey relief, the No. 1 with Vince, finding out that I have my first platinum record, getting that plaque, playing the Opry and then, yeah, Vince got me good today. Everybody got me good today.”
Young added that it is emotionally moving to see his followers contributing what they can to support Harvey victims.
“The thing is, people giving $1, that $1 may change somebody’s life,” Young said. “They might need that $1 for something that’s really going to help somebody that needs it. It’s all about genuine compassion and humanity from people worrying about other people. It’s pretty incredible to see.”
Young added he doesn’t know what has happened to his Texas home, which was in the direct path of the storm. But everything considered, he doesn’t care. He just wants to help those affected by the storm rebuild their lives in the quickest way possible. His goal is to raise $500,000 for the American Red Cross.
“I’m more worried about the people, about everybody else getting out, being safe, finding their loved ones and making sure they’re OK … A lot of the things that you see where people’s businesses are gone — not just their homes — their way to make money and their way of life may be completely changed in the short term and possibly the long term. There’s a lot about that that makes you want to do something to help.”
CMT’s pro-social initiative, CMT One Country, continues to support the American Red Cross in their efforts to provide disaster relief to those affected by Harvey. Donate $10 directly to the Red Cross by texting 90999. Volunteer opportunities nationwide are also available through the CMT One Country website.
Footage from Young’s Opry invitation will be featured on an all-new CMT Hot 20 Countdown, airing Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 2-3) at 9 a.m. ET/PT.