Grand Ole Opry - Nashville, TN on November 14, 1998

Marty and the Rock & Roll Cowboys and Connie Smith performed on the world-famous Grand Ole Opry on Saturday, November 14. Mary Runyan, Mario and I arrived early for a change. Neal McCoy was making his first appearance on the Opry and had Dressing Room #1 and there was a lot of activity around his dressing room door.

Mike Copelin and his wife walked through the Green Room and waved "hello." Also saw the Rock & Roll Cowboys arrive. Marty's bus was in the parking lot and we figured that was where he was staying. We watched Opry Live on the TV in the Green Room. Couldn't hear what was going on, but watched. When Marty and Connie were finished, we decided to trek out to the theatre so we could sit in front of the stage while Marty hosted the televised portion of the Opry.

Side-stage Brad and Steve were getting ready, Randy was working hard and Spike came through the door, so I asked him to pose for a picture for the "crew" page so you guys could see his gorgeous face!

There weren't a lot of people sitting on the floor in front of the stage (which is unusual). Marty and the Rock & Roll Cowboys came out and opened with "Oh, What A Silent Night." The great thing about the televised portion is the house lights are on so you can see the artists well and they can see who's sitting down front.

Marty then introduced Neal McCoy who wowed the crowd with "The Shake." It's easy to see how the fans voted Neal "Entertainer of the Year" at the TNN Music City News Country Awards in 1998. Marty had Neal introduce his band members and brought Opry Staff Band member Ralph Davis out to chat with Neal. The Opry is completely adlibbed--you couldn't get Marty to abide by a script anyway.

The Whites were also guests on Marty's segment. Marty always remains on stage while the other acts perform, leads the audience in applause, and tends to dance around a little. The TV audience doesn't always see these things, but we're able to watch and enjoy!

The highlight of the segment was the return of Connie Smith to the Opry. The last time Connie performed was shortly after she and Marty were married in 1997. Marty's and his band backed Connie for her two songs--the first was "How Long," the lead song on her new Warner Bros. album. She brought Sharon and Cheryl White out to join her for "Lonesome." They provided background vocals for some of the songs on Connie's album. It was so good to have Connie back on the Opry stage.

Marty and Brad closed out the segment with some heavy guitar and mandolin picking. Then it was rush back to the backstage area to see if we could catch Marty or Connie to say "hi." We stalled in the side-stage area when Marty's sister Jennifer walked through the door. Connie came through and I told her "welcome back" to the Opry. Mary and I had brought our Connie Smith CDs and I asked if she'd have time to autograph them and she said she had an interview to do but would be back.

She did the interview and could not get away from the crowd of people wanting her autograph or a picture taken with her. Mike was standing guard to make sure the crowd behaved and slowly led Connie through the crowd. She turned and gave us this "I'm sorry" look. We debated about following her out of the Opry House and stood around and talked with Gregg and Spike.

We finally decided to leave and I saw Connie get on the bus. It looked like Marty was still standing by the door, so we went over and said "hi." Mary and I both got hugs from Marty--Mario got only a handshake! He told us "thanks for coming." I told him how wonderful it was to see Connie back on the Opry and he nodded his head. He told me that they plan to come back to the Opry in December.

As always, there's somebody waiting to talk to Marty, so we moved on. Went up to Mike and hugged him and told him "thanks for everything." He said it had been a busy night but he'd seen us and knew we were there. We walked to the car and as we drove by the bus (the only way to get out), Marty was still there talking with Keith Bilbrey. We said "goodnight" as we drove by.

It was still early since they only performed on the first show. Got home and rewound the tape in the VCR and found I had taped drag racing of TNN. Only then did I realize I had not set the clock back on the VCR. Luckily, I was able to tape the rerun later. Mary had done the same thing and had to call her daughter to reset her VCR. We certainly didn't want to miss a night like that.

Review by Sherry Mattioli
Photos by Sherry and Mario Mattioli

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