Dustin Lynch will never forget the first time he met Trace Adkins, and it’s a sure bet his most recent encounter will be permanently etched in his memory, too. During Lynch’s three-song set Tuesday night (Aug. 21) at the Grand Ole Opry, Adkins surprised Lynch by walking out on stage and inviting him to become the newest member of the famed country music institution.
“He doesn’t even know this story — I don’t think — but Trace is the first country artist I ever met in my life,” Lynch told Billboard backstage. “I was in high school and I’ll never forget it because I was so excited to meet him. I had my girlfriend with me at the time and I said, ‘Sir, can I take a picture with you and my girlfriend?’ He looked at me and he looked at her and said, ‘Darlin’ you’re dating this little shrimp?’ Fast forward however many years it’s been and he invites me to become a member of the Opry. Life is funny like that. What a full circle moment.”
The Tullahoma, TN native, whose parents attend every time he performs on the Opry, will be officially inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday, Sept. 18. “We’ve been playing the Opry for six years,” said Lynch, who made his debut March 2, 2012, singing his breakthrough hit “Cowboys and Angels.” “It’s hard to believe. It feels like we’ve been playing it for two months.
“I still haven’t collected myself. My nerves are completely shot right now and I’m kind of nauseous,” he laughed.
Sure enough, Lynch looked totally stunned as Adkins walked center stage to bestow the invitation. “He’s celebrating his 15th anniversary as an Opry member tonight. He had come out earlier and done a song [“Kiss You All Over”] with Exile. So when he came out, I didn’t know what he was going to do,” said Lynch, who looked up at Adkins on stage after the big reveal and said, “I wish you weren’t so big. I want to pick you up, but I couldn’t.”
With tears in his eyes, the Tullahoma, TN native moved around the stage embracing each member of his band before finishing his three-song set with his current single “Good Girl.” “I wrote this song because my mom is getting really impatient that I haven’t found the girl of my dreams yet,” Lynch told the crowd. “This is a song about one day finding the girl of my dreams. Maybe once this happens becoming a member of the Opry is what it’s going to take for me to find a girl.”
It was a big night at the Grand Ole Opry. Not only was Adkins celebrating his 15th anniversary, but Universal Music Group Nashville Chairman/CEO Mike Dungan surprised him with on stage with double Platinum certifications for his singles “You’re Gonna Miss This,” “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and Platinum certification of “Ladies Love Country Boys.”
Also during the evening, Eddie Montgomery introduced his nephew Dillon Carmichael, who was making his Opry debut. Plus, Opry Entertainment Group President Steve Buchanan celebrated his retirement with a backstage reception with Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Jeannie Seely among those in attendance.
As Lynch prepared to go back out and perform on the Opry’s second show of the night, he admits it would be hard to wipe the smile off his face. “[Ryman Hospitality Properties Chairman/CEO] Colin Reed told me when I came off stage, ‘No matter how many number ones you have, you’re always going to have this,'” Lynch said. “I’m ready to start the journey and start carrying the torch for the Opry.”