by Terri Schlichenmeyer
‘Behind the Grand Ole Opry Curtain’
Author: Robert K. Oermann
Publisher: Center Street, 2008
The Nashville Family
Tales from the Grand Ole Opry
You can’t help it. Your toes have to tap when the radio’s on. Pretty soon, you’re moving your fingers in time to the music and maybe nodding your head. If it’s not the steel guitar that has you in its grip, it’s the soft drum or the fiddle that’s got you.
And it all started with, as Loretta Lynn says, a “patting foot” because you love country music. Some of your best memories are of listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio or watching it on TV. Now, keep those feet moving and take a step back to re-live those moments with your favorite stars in the new book “Behind the Grand Old Opry Curtain” by Robert K. Oermann.
For going on 100 years, the Grand Ole Opry has been home to hundreds of talented performers. Becoming a member is by invitation only, and while it might seem as if they’re joining a double-secret club, the truth is, new inductees are being enfolded into a family.
Everybody in the Opry, it seems, is somehow connected to everybody else. When Hawkshaw Hawkins, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Randy Hughes were killed in a plane crash, Opry members flocked to the victims’ families to lend support. Hughes’ wife was Copas’ daughter. Patsy Cline, in particular, was a “big sister” to many up-and-coming performers including Loretta Lynn, who credits Cline with teaching her how to look good on stage and off.
Opry members have watched out for their brethren for as long as the Opry’s been around. Friends tried to save Faron Young from himself, though they couldn’t help in the end. Young stood up for Charlie Pride, once telling a radio station that if they threw out the African American singer’s records, they may as well throw out Young’s, too. Pride nurtured the careers of others, including Ronnie Milsap. Roger Miller was given a leg-up by several Opry stars, and he passed that forward once he was inducted.
But that doesn’t mean everything was smooth in Opryland. There were busted duos and busted hearts, divorcing and drinking, and too much living large. In this book, you’ll learn about the stories, scandals, smiles and songs.
“Behind the Grand Ole Opry Curtain” is one of those delicious tell-all books that will please you with goodness in the end. Each chapter spotlights an Opry star, but also includes the people who made that star’s life better. Oermann will surprise you (who knew there was such a preponderance of car crashes among Opry members?), tell you things you didn’t know (Charlie Pride was not the Opry’s first African American member), and reveal a few ongoing mysteries (when, exactly, did Hank Williams die?).
“Behind the Grand Ole Opry Curtain” is an easy-to-read, enjoyable presentation of stars then and now, and it’ll have you humming songs you haven’t thought about in years. If you love country music, this book needs to be on your bookshelf. Pat your feet on out and get it.