For almost 90y years, the Grand Ole Opry has come to symbolize the best of what is associated with country music. A brand new four-CD set shines the spotlight on some of that illustrious musical history with the release of Grand Ole Opry By The Decades – a collection that is available exclusively through the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store chain.
The set takes a look at some of the most historic performances on the show over the years, breaking them down by decade – the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.
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The first disc features seven members of the Country Music Hall of Fame who have had ties to the Opry over the years. Kicking off with Jim Ed Brown’s 1967 top ten classic “Pop A Top,” it’s a trip back in time to the Opry’s former home of the Ryman Auditorium. Other classics that fans will be able to hear include Bobby Bare’s “Four Strong Winds,” Jeannie Seely’s Grammy-winning “Don’t Touch Me,” and Marty Robbins’ chart-topping “Begging To You.” The discs are also notable for the introductions of these artists straight from the WSM Archives. For instance, you can hear Ernest Tubb introducing a pre-stardom Willie Nelson performing “Columbus Stockade Blues,” and Bill Anderson bringing Connie Smith to the stage to perform his composition “Cincinnati, Ohio,” a No. 4 hit in 1967.
The 1970s set contains the dominant female vocalist of the 1970s, Barbara Mandrell, performing her sultry take on Luther Ingram’s R&B classic “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right),” as well as a young Larry Gatlin introducing his latest number one single, “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love.” Also of note on the 70s set is a warm introduction of George Jones by Porter Wagoner, referring to Jones as “one of the finest country singers I have heard in my entire life.” The singer than proceeded to perform what was his biggest hit of the late 1970s, “Bartender’s Blues,” written by James Taylor.
Moving into the 1980s for disc three of the set, included is one of the most popular songs of the decade, Randy Travis’s “Forever And Ever, Amen,” one of only four singles to top the Billboard country charts for three weeks during the entire decade. Steve Wariner appears on the volume performing “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers,” a song he played while backing up late Opry member Bob Luman before he caught his break in 1980. Recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Milsap can be heard giving fans a taste of 1980’s “Why Don’t You Spend The Night.” The 80s volume also contains performances of the first top ten hits from Opry stalwarts Patty Loveless (“If My Heart Had Windows”) and Garth Brooks (“Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old”). One very historic performance comes from 1981 in which Joe Bonsall announces a new single from the Oak Ridge Boys, describing it as “different.” The song? Their million-selling “Elvira.”
The final disc documents the changing of the Opry guard that took place throughout the 1990s, with performances from Joe Diffie on 1994’s “Pickup Man” and Diamond Rio’s career breakthrough from 1991, “Meet In The Middle.” Longtime Opry member Del Reeves introduces Vince Gill to a packed house for a performance of his 1992 hit “I Still Believe In You.” Two of the format’s most respected female artists offer what were sneak previews of songs that would become classics – Trisha Yearwood’s “The Song Remembers When” from 1993, and Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing” from 1998.
The Grand Ole Opry – By The Decades are sold separately, and the collection is in Cracker Barrel locations now.