Visiting the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville is memorable no matter how famous the singers are who stand in the circle. It was even more memorable for Debbie and I on our honeymoon in the fall of 2004 while visiting Nashville.
And it almost didn’t happen!
After enjoying three days in the Smokey Mountains, we made the trek to Nashville for an evening of country music – with a trip backstage to boot.
A few weeks before our wedding on Sept. 25, I looked up the list of singers scheduled for the evening of Oct. 1 at the Opry. The list included Ricky Skaggs, Jean Shepard, Porter Wagoner, Chely Wright, Little Jimmy Dickens and T. Bubba Bechtol, a country comedian.
I reached out to T. Bubba, who I must admit I had never heard of, to let him know that Debbie and I were getting married in Iowa and that we would be at the Opry on Oct. 1. To my surprise, he replied to my email with an invite for us to be his backstage guests.
Wow, not only where we going to the Opry, we were going to be able to mingle with the stars backstage.
Arriving at the Opry with little time to spare, we made our way to the backstage entrance. Our excitement quickly turned to disappointment after being met by the security guard at the entrance of the parking lot. Asking us our names, he scanned the guest list and announced that we were not on it.
What! I tried to explain that T. Bubba had invited us as his guests, even trying to show the guard our email communications. He was not interested. All that mattered to him was that our names were not on the list.
What happened next had to be an intervention from God, as one minute our evening was done and the next it was just getting started. And to think, we had tickets and had sold them before the show. The security guard made a call and we were given the go ahead to park and attend the show.
Excited, we made our way to the “Artist Entrance” canopy over the walkway to the building. I happened to be carrying my Canon camera with flash and the inside security guard looked at it, then made a comment about the size. I don’t recall what I said, just explaining that it was my everyday camera.
The guard told us that as soon as T. Bubba arrived, he was to let security know that it was okay for us to be at the show. It wasn’t long and T. Bubba entered the building. He found us, introduced himself and assured security that we were indeed his guests. T. Bubba kept making the comment about not having many guests, so when we told security we were his guests, security must have known it was okay.
T. Bubba lives in Pensacola, Fla. and on Sept. 16 that year, Hurricane Ivan hit the panhandle of Florida with winds of 130 miles per hour, destroying his home and blowing away the information we had mailed to him, which he had needed to submit to Opry security for our entrance to the show.
We are grateful that it all worked out. It was a wonderful experience as we walked the backstage hallways, met the performers, some who are no longer with us, and gathered autographs on our wedding program, which we still have. We happened to meet up with Porter Wagoner in the hallway after his performance on stage. He was in street clothes and was headed for the door. He gracefully gave us his autograph as I mentioned that I knew he was from West Plains, Mo. He agreed as I explained that my mom was from New Madrid, Mo., in the Bootheel.
We even had our photo taken with the lady who assisted the artists backstage, later mailing her a copy. We enjoyed sitting in the church pews located on the stage for the artist’s friends, family and guests while watching the performances in the packed Opry house and visiting the gift shop.
The opportunity to mingle in the halls of the Grand Ole Opry, look into the dressing rooms where many country greats slipped into their stage outfits, tuned up their guitars and slid their bows across the fiddle strings before going on stage to bring the music alive is something that we will never forget.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.