While country music’s contemporary stars headlined Nashville’s Nissan Stadium Saturday night during CMA Fest, Vince Gill and the Grand Ole Opry honored two of the genre’s most significant contributors a few miles away at the Grand Ole Opry House.
“It is not an exaggeration at all to say Charlie McCoy has played on the soundtrack to almost every country music fan’s life and that Don Schlitz has written at least a portion of each of those soundtracks,” Opry Executive Producer Dan Rogers said. “Every time Charlie or Don plays the Opry, each showcase something incredibly special about the Opry and our hometown of Nashville.”
The invitation marks the first time the Opry has invited two entertainers to become Opry members in the same night since it became a tradition to make the surprise invitations in public.
McCoy is a Grammy-winning session musician known for playing harmonica and being a multi-instrumentalist. He played on recordings for Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Waylon Jennings and Loretta Lynn among others, and has recorded 37 studio albums.
McCoy can be heard on “The Boxer,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Orange Blossom Special,” and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” Schlitz has written or co-written some of the genre’s most impactful hits, including “The Gambler,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “When You Say Nothing At All,” and “On The Other Hand.”
Gill surprised McCoy with the invitation following the musician’s three-song set that included “Orange Blossom Special.”
“I’ve had so many amazing things happen, but I want to tell you what– this is the icing on the cake,” McCoy said. “I cannot thank everyone enough for this honor. I am blown away. Thank you.”
A while later, Gill joined Schlitz for his set and played acoustic guitar with him on “The Gambler” and “When You Say Nothing At All.” Then he acknowledged McCoy’s invitation and said the Opry wanted to invite Schlitz to become a member.
“I’m gonna be a member of the Grand Ole Opry! Can I bring my songs with me?” he asked. “Like Charlie said, ’This is the icing.'”
The Opry will officially induct the men later this summer.