The Grand Ole Opry has a new member as of Wednesday night, and it's 81-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie McCoy.
Opry member and "All The Gold In California" singer Larry Gatlin inducted McCoy, who has played on several of Gatlin's albums.
"The musicians on this stage are some of the best to have ever made their way to Nashville," Gatlin said. "You have their love and their utmost respect."
The Opry Band and singers surprised McCoy with a medley of some of the country classics on which he played, including memorable melodies by Lynn Anderson, Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Barbara Mandrell, and Tanya Tucker.
Of "I Wanna Go Home" from Bare's "Detroit City," Gatlin told McCoy, "We are welcoming you into our home. I am humbled and honored to welcome into our family a friend of 50 years who I think is the greatest musician in the world and the Dean of the Nashville Cats, Charlie McCoy."
McCoy ended his set with his signature "Orange Blossom Special" and said: "I've been so blessed in my career, and this is icing on the cake. And by the way, I ain't through playin' yet!"
Vince Gill invited McCoy and Don Schlitz, both already in the Country Music Hall of Fame, to be the next members of the Grand Ole Opry in early June.
"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."
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.'"
Among artists scheduled for upcoming Opry and Opry Country Classics shows are Lauren Alaina, Breland, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jordan Davis, Sara Evans, The Isaacs, LOCASH, Del McCoury Band, Craig Morgan, Lorrie Morgan, Brad Paisley, Carly Pearce, Maggie Rose, Jeannie Seely, Elvie Shane, Ricky Skaggs, Carrie Underwood, Rhonda Vincent, and more.
Tickets for 2022 Opry performances are on sale now at (615) 871-OPRY and opry.com.