This past weekend, my new wife Amy and I decided to take a little “mini-honeymoon” down to music city, Nashville, TN. We had previously visited after Christmas in 2014, but only had one night to take in the sites. We each had places that we wanted to see, such as museums, record stores, the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and of course, a second visit to The Grand Ole Opry.
Our trip to Nashville just so happened to land on the weekend that John Berry would be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of his very first Opry appearance. Wouldn’t you know it, I received a text message not only inviting us to attend the show as John’s guests, but also to join him and his crew backstage! As you folks likely know, we are huge fans of John Berry and he of course, has been a major supporter of BORN Country since our very beginnings, so this was a no brainer!
We arrived promptly an hour before the show was to begin to enter through, where else, the “Artists Entrance” of the Grand Ole Opry House. Assuming that you follow many of the country music stars on social media, you’ve probably seen a lot of them post photos on this walkway. I of course had to have one myself!
Upon entering the building, we met up with John Berry’s manager, Brian. He gave us what he referred to as the “nickel tour” of the backstage area. John would be in the “Little” Jimmy Dickens dressing room for the evening. Two doors down was the room that Opry legend Roy Acuff used from 1974 until his passing in 1992. This would be the room that headliners will typically be placed in. On this particular evening, this would be the home for Old Crow Medicine Show. The quick tour included the Porter Wagoner room, which Dolly Parton and Marty Stuart both regularly use when they visit the Opry. There was also a room dedicated to Minnie Pearl, among others.
Sure, you can pay to tour the backstage area, but in my standing in these legendary dressing rooms, it hit me: I was a GUEST at the Grand Ole Opry. I was INVITED here due to the work I have put in to support my favorite era of country music, BY a favorite artist of said era! Amy poked a bit of fun at me as I was practically like a kid all night long!
Once 7PM rolled along, it was time for the show to begin. Riders In The Sky took to the stage for a song and to introduce the first segment of the Opry, which would feature newcomer Carly Pearce and Opry Member, Mike Snider. The second segment was hosted by another favorite country artist of the 90’s, the wonderful Pam Tillis! I had never had the opportunity to see her perform prior to this evening, and it was certainly a treat. In fact, she came backstage after her set to visit John and, yes, I met Pam and got a picture taken with her! (My very young self who had a major crush on her in the mid-90s would be so proud.)
John and his band practiced for his upcoming set. His two songs would include “Gotta Lotta Love” from his latest album, What I Love The Most, and his classic, “Your Love Amazes Me.” I sat in as they went over the songs with Darin & Brooke Aldridge, who would be joining in on stage. (These two folks were fantastic! Look them up!)
John was introduced to the stage by Lorrie Morgan, who had performed a song from her 2016 album, Letting Go…Slow. The crowd was absolutely thrilled to have him there and the first song was awesome as always. Here’s something that I was NOT prepared for. Before John went into “Your Love Amazes Me,” he plugged BORN Country AND congratulated Amy and I on our recent marriage. ON STAGE AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY!!! Instant goosebumps! What an honor!
We wrapped up the evening spending time in John’s dressing room with the band and other visitors throughout the evening. We even got a glimpse of Old Crow Medicine Show practicing down the hall for their set. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that just under 2 years ago, that starting a little country music blog would lead to my experiencing such an incredible night like this.
The next day, which would be impossible to follow up from the night before, led us to downtown Nashville, where I discovered that another 90’s country artist, Mark Collie would be performing a free set at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Obviously, we had to partake and luckily, I had my camera on hand! Though he was in the shop to promote his latest live album, Alive At Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, the set kicked off with his classic, “Even The Man In The Moon Is Crying.” I briefly was able to say hello to Mark and get a picture with him before he continued on with his show.
The rest of our trip included stops at the Johnny Cash Museum, Alan Jackson’s Good Time Bar, Tootsie’s and a handful of other honky-tonks along the Broadway strip. I absolutely love the city of Nashville and I urge you to take the time, make a plan and head down to visit. There is so much to see, live music at every turn and incredibly friendly people all over. We’ll most certainly be back!