Opry Notes

by Judy Mizell

June 5th & 6th Performances --


Two of country music’s notorious honky tonkers went back to their bluegrass roots and jammed with bluegrass royalty on Saturday night for another historic family reunion and magic Opry moment.

Opry stars Marty Stuart and his "brother" Travis Tritt teamed up with the king of the bluegrass banjo Earl Scruggs on TNN’s Grand Ole Opry Live and again on Saturday’s late show. Joining them were brothers Randy and Gary Scruggs, who during the 1970s played with their famous father in the Earl Scruggs Revue. This marked the first time in more than 10 years that father and sons had played together on stage. It also marked the first time that Scruggs had played the Opry since appearing on the special bluegrass show with Stuart, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss back in April 1994. Gill was on hand Saturday watching from the wings as Scruggs took the Opry stage once again. Joining them on Saturday was award-winning fiddler Glen Duncan. On Saturday’s early show, this motley crew showed off their musical skills on "Lonesome Reuben," one of the first songs patriarch Scruggs learned to play on the banjo, and on the classic tune "Sally Goodin." Not only did the Country Music Hall of Famer show off his trademark three-finger banjo style of playing which earned him accolades as one of the most influential banjo players ever, but his sons showed off their musical talents. Gary played bass and Randy guitar. Tritt turned in some fancy finger work on guitar, Stuart picked a mean mandolin and Duncan showed why he’s much in demand for his fiddling.

"I feel like I’ve been to church playing with him (Earl)," Stuart said to Tritt who readily agreed.

On Saturday’s late show, the group picked and sang "Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms" and featured Earl and Gary Scruggs and Glen Duncan on vocals. Tritt took the lead on "Old Home Place" and Stuart, Earl Scruggs and Duncan were featured on "In the Pines."

Stuart said to Earl Scruggs, "You don’t think you can get away without playing this song," and all joined in on the Flatt and Scruggs’ trademark song "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." The song, which Stuart called the "national anthem of banjo songs," earned Scruggs and his late partner Lester Flatt the 1968 Grammy for Best Country Instrumental for a duo or group.

"We’ve had a ball," Stuart said as the audience rose to its feet and the curtain went down.

* * *

Saturday night, Marty Stuart didn’t stop grinning the entire time he played on stage with former Opry star and bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs. Stuart, who planned last Saturday’s "Marty Party Bluegrass Style," got Earl, Gary and Randy Scruggs and Travis Tritt to join him on the Opry. The guys, it turns out, had picked together last year during the Chet Atkins Musician Days in Nashville and more recently at Earl and Louise Scruggs’ 50th wedding anniversary party sponsored by Gibson Guitars.

"He works one day a year," Stuart said to which the retired bluegrass and Opry star Scruggs replied, "I may cut back a little next year."


Opry members and "brothers" Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt weren’t content just to sing bluegrass last weekend. Stuart said he happened "to have my own brand of honky tonk up my sleeve" when he introduced his buddy Tritt to the surprised audience. Tritt, in town working on his next album project, wasn’t advertised to be on the show. He came out at Stuart’s request to play the Opry with him.

"It’s always a thrill to be on the Grand Ole Opry, and I can’t think of anybody in the world I’d rather be on the Opry with than this guy here," Tritt said.

The sometime duet and touring partners teamed up on both shows Saturday to do "The Whisky Ain’t Workin’" -- their Top 3 hit that won them the CMA Vocal Event of the Year Award in 1992 and a Grammy the next year. On Saturday’s late show they sang "Hard Time Blues," a Jimmie Rodgers song. The two said earlier on TNN’s Opry Backstage that the most asked question they get is when are they going to do a show or record or tour together again. The answer is "real soon." They’re doing a show together, and it’s "right around the corner," they added, laughing. Neither knew exactly when.[June 14 in Berea, Ohio]


Travis Tritt’s a busy man. He’s just finished a movie, "The Long Kill" with Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson for CBS Television that’s scheduled to air the Sunday after the CMA Awards in September, he said Saturday night on TNN’s Opry Backstage.

"It was just a thrill to be over there and hang out with those guys and play poker ’cept I’ve got to go into debt because Willie took all my money in poker," said Tritt who filmed the movie in Spain where all the old Clint Eastwood movies were shot. "Don’t ever play poker with Willie Nelson."

The Opry star’s currently busy working on his next album project (due out in October). He hopes to have the first single out by the third week in August. And he’s still involved with the National Hot rod Association and reported he still loves drag racing. And he’s keeping busy with his new daughter Tyler.

"It’s so neat watching the world through her eyes. She’s three months old now, and it’s amazing," the new daddy said and added, guys come up to him all the time and ask if he’s seen the latest episode of Seinfeld. "No, but I’ve seen the latest of Sesame Street," he replies.

"Brother" Marty Stuart drew a big laugh when he said, "I can tell you this about my niece Tyler Tritt. She’s gonna be the only little girl in kindergarten with a stretch limo and a 12 carat diamond."


The Whites and Marty Stuart remembered country music’s Helen Carter Jones who passed away Tuesday, June 2, and was buried on Friday.

On Saturday night, The Whites paid tribute to the daughter of Mother Maybelle and sister to June and Anita Carter who performed on the Opry first as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters and then as the Carter Family in the 1950s and 1960s.

"The Carter Family was a big part of why we’re able to do what we do," said The Whites’ sister Cheryl on the early show. She and her family, in keeping with the family singing tradition, did the old Carter Family theme song "Keep on the Sunny Side" in memory of Helen Carter Jones. They repeated the song on Saturday’s late show, and Opry superstar Vince Gill played guitar and sang it with them.

On Friday night Stuart mentioned that he had sung and played "Is This My Destiny" earlier that afternoon at the funeral for Helen Carter. On Saturday on TNN’s Grand Ole Opry Live, Stuart and Travis Tritt, Earl Scruggs and Glen Duncan sang a moving a cappella version of "Precious Memories" which they dedicated to the family of Helen Carter.


Ricochet, voted the Academy of Country Music’s Top Vocal Group last year, has been busy in the studio since January working on a new album but returned to the Opry stage Saturday night for another guest appearance and a chance to debut the group’s new single "Honky Tonk Baby."

"It’s gonna be a good one," predicted segment host Marty Stuart, who even said to the audience, "That’s a good little honky tonk song, don’t you think?"


Gary Hogue, steel player for Marty Stuart, got his night in the spotlight on Friday when his "boss" had him play "Last Date" on the steel. The song is one of Stuart’s favorite country songs.

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