Trace Adkins will be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry cast this weekend, the first new member in two years. Adkins, 41, was hardly the picture of cool the first time he performed on the Grand Ole Opry

Trace Adkins will be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry cast this weekend, the first new member in two years. Adkins, 41, was hardly the picture of cool the first time he performed on the Grand Ole Opry radio show seven years ago. A mix-up left him without his band 10 minutes before show time, sending him into "freak-out mode" and forcing the Opry's house musicians to scramble to learn the two songs he was about to perform.

Then, wanting to share the special moment of his Opry debut, Adkins planned a surprise for his girlfriend. He would ask her to marry him -- from the stage. His performance went off without a hitch and he got hitched -- she said "yes" -- and Adkins returned to the Opry often.

"I was hoping someday that I might become a member, but only in the last couple of years have I allowed myself to start thinking that it might actually happen," he said.

As a youngster in Sarepta, La., Adkins was much more familiar with the old "Louisiana Hayride" radio show than with the Grand Ole Opry. He discovered the Opry later, when it was broadcast on cable TV. Still, he says the show played a pivotal role in his career.

"At the time I had started singing bass in a quartet and I kind of thought that was all I was destined to be," Adkins said. "Then one night I was watching the Grand Ole Opry and Ed Bruce was on with that deep rich bass voice of his and that was a real turning point for me right there. I thought that maybe there was room for another bass singer in this business."

Established in 1925, the Opry is the longest continuously running radio show in the country. Legends such as Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline were once cast members, and contemporary stars including Trisha Yearwood and Vince Gill are part of today's show, which airs every Friday and Saturday night on Nashville's WSM-AM.

Opry general manager Pete Fisher said artists are invited to join the Opry based on their commitment to the show, as measured by the frequency of their guest appearances and overall contribution to country music. "When you look at Trace Adkins, you see numerous chart-topping hits, recognition from his peers in the industry and a uniqueness that he brings to the roster," Fisher said.

The last Opry inductee was Brad Paisley in 2001. The year before that, Pam Tillis and Ralph Stanley were inducted.

Adkins' latest single, "Then They Do," is one of two new songs on the recent "Greatest Hits Vol. 1" collection (Capitol). The cut is up 10-9 this week on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.


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