Another night at the Opry

29 06 2009

During our behind-the-scenes tour at the Grand Ole Opry, our guide Jamie introduced us to the security guard at the entrance where the artists enter the building. She mentioned that no one gets past him without identification. There was a blonde-haired woman standing at the guard’s desk who looked remarkably like Rhonda Vincent to me, except she had blonde hair (Rhonda Vincent’s hair is naturally a very dark brown). In response to Jamie stating that “no one gets past the guard,” she looked over at us and said something like, “tell me about it. I had to show him I’m in the program guide to convince him who I was.” We all laughed. Barbara’s husband, Bill, who is a big Rhonda Vincent fan, linked arms with her and said something like, “Darlin, come with us,” or something to that effect. Funny thing is, he didn’t recognize her even then until we were at the end of the tour and we told him who she was! Hal Ketchum and his daughter, Sarah Rosie, walked right past Debbie and me backstage and since his hair wasn’t its usual gray, we thought he was a band member!

SIDEBAR: Jamie took us to the historic Studio A, where Hee Haw was filmed. I grew up watching Hee Haw and just had to go stand in the exact spot where the background haystacks would have been. I could just picture Buck Owens and Roy Clark doing their “I’m a pickin’…and I’m a grinnin'” spiel. It always impressed me that Roy Clark could play the banjo, guitar and the mandolin. Such talent! Mike Snider (who was on the roster this night) stars in Pickin’ & Grinnin’ with Mike Snider: A Grand Ole Comedy Revue, which debuted just a few days ago in Studio A (the television portion of the Grand Ole Opry).

FYI: In the photo with Alison Krauss holding a hymn book (9th photo down), that’s her (handsome!) brother, Viktor, accompanying her on acoustic bass.

I shot these photos from the second to the last row of the Opry. Yes, in the waaaay back. (In fact, I just read that there are 4,400 seats in the building. I’m pretty sure I was in seat # 4,399.) I shot with my Nikon D300 set on 1600 and higher, depending on the light fluctuations, and used my Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR lens, handheld (except when shooting vertically—then I used my sister’s handy shoulder as a prop—thanks, Deboo). The images aren’t too shabby from that far back (at least you know who the artist is in each one), although it would have been such a treat to be up front for optimum photography! I used this same lens when I shot the images from our first visit to the Opry in 2008 here. The Opry show was back in the Ryman Auditorium at the time and we had better seats to that show—I was shooting at no more than 800 ISO during that performance, so the images are a bit better.

I included the last photo of John Conlee’s dialogue during real-time captioning, a first for the Grand Ole Opry! It was great to be there during its debut and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) hopes they will implement it as a regular service. At the time I shot this photo, Conlee was introducing Sammy Johns, who wrote and recorded the 70s classic, Chevy Van.

Click on the individual names for their biography / websites / music video:

Jimmy Dickens
Jimmy C. Newman
Rhonda Vincent (Heartbreaker’s Alibi with Dolly Parton)
Mike Snider
Hal Ketchum
Point of Grace (I Wish)
John Conlee
Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys
Jim Ed Brown
Sammy Johns
Opry Square Dancers
Vince Gill
Alison Krauss with The Whites

View Alison Krauss videos on AOL Music here. One of my favorite duets is this song, How’s the World Treating You, with Alison and my long-road-trip buddy, James Taylor.

THIS JUST IN: Thanks to Wes for the correct name of Hal Ketchum’s daughter, as well as some background info on Hal:

Hal Ketchum is one of the best, pure and natural singers of any genre of music. Had the pleasure to see him in concert about 50 times and have gotten to know him as well. Very down to earth guy. By the way Hal has one grown son and daughter by his first wife and three younger daughters Fanna Rose (Rosie), Ruby Joy and Sophia Grace by his current wife Gina. Ruby is the one that has been with him recently on stage at the Opry as well as other concerts. The daughter in your picture of Hal is Rosie. Just wanted to clear that up. By the way, great shots.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

OpryCollage2Flat





Captioning: a first for the Grand Ole Opry

26 06 2009

One of the events at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention 2009 was a night at the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show that began in 1925. Before the show, several of us were treated to a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, including the back entrance where the artists enter, the mailroom, the green room and historic Studio A—where the music variety show Hee Haw was filmed. At the end of the tour, we got to stand in the background on stage during the first performance by Little Jimmy Dickens and the Opry Square Dancers.

Although we weren’t allowed to shoot photographs during the tour, I saw a photo opportunity tailor-made for HLAA when the Grand Ole Opry’s vice president and general manager, Pete Fisher, was introduced to us by our tour guide, Jamie Hulet. For the first time in its 83-year history, the Grand Ole Opry would be real-time captioned. I saw an opportunity to get a shot with some of the people who got that ball rolling. We were granted permission to shoot, and Fisher called Jimmy Dickens over to join us. The Opry was treating that night’s show as “somewhat of an experiment” and may continue the use of captioning in the future.

Thanks to Karyn Menck of Tennessee Captioning and her team of CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) writers, the HLAA staff, and to the Grand Ole Opry management, we enjoyed the show with real-time captions. Associated Press picked up the story about the captioning and the news spread across the country. Read more about the use of captioning at the Grand Ole Opry and HLAA’s involvement in this article on www.tennessean.com.

On the entertainment roster that night were: Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, bluegrass vocalist Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Allison Krauss with The Whites, Point of Grace, Jim Ed Brown, bluegrass legends Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, John Conlee, singer/songwriter Sammy Johns (who wrote Chevy Van, a hit in 1975), comedian and banjo champ Mike Snider (of Hee Haw fame), and the Opry Square Dancers.

My sister Debbie and I couldn’t get John Conlee’s 1980 hit song, Friday Night Blues, out of our heads after that night! We realized just how old we were when we remembered the words to that song and his 1983 hit, Common Man, which was also written by Sammy Johns.

Here’s a fact I didn’t know—if you’re inducted into the Opry Hall of Fame, you’re paid just $600 for your performance. If you’re not a member, you earn just $300. Clearly these artists do it for the love of the Opry and its history and their love of performing!

Kudos to Nancy Macklin, director of events for HLAA, for putting on a fantastic convention. I could hardly believe it when I learned this was her first time planning a convention—she was organized, professional and less stressed than any convention planner I’ve ever encountered—wonder what her secret is?

I’ll have more stories and photos to share from our evening at the Grand Ole Opry. See photos from our first visit to the Opry in 2008 on my blog posting here.

______________________________________________________________________

Photo, from left: Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA; Pete Fisher, vice president and general manager of the Grand Ole Opry; longtime performer and oldest living Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy Dickens (then and now); and Barbara Kelley, deputy executive director of HLAA and editor of the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine (which I design and produce for the organization). Barbara wrote in a recent press release, “It was fun to be a part of history, satisfying to have communication access, and rewarding to know that the work of our organization and others is paying off. Thanks to the Grand Ole Opry for looking forward. We hope it continues.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

OpryBackstage