One of country music’s all-time most lauded musicians, Charlie McCoy, and one of the genre’s all-time most successful songwriters, Don Schlitz, were each invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry tonight. Both artists are members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and each will be officially inducted into the Opry later this summer. The invitations came from fellow Hall of Famer and 27-year Opry member Vince Gill. Tonight’s invitations are the first time the Opry has invited two entertainers to each become Opry members in a single evening since it has become customary to make the surprise invitations in public.
Among the legions of monumental recordings on which McCoy has played are “The Boxer,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Orange Blossom Special,” and “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” Schlitz, meanwhile, has written or co-written some of country’s biggest hits of the last half-century, including “The Gambler,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “When You Say Nothing At All,” and “On The Other Hand.”
After McCoy finished his three-song set with “Orange Blossom Special,” Gill took the stage and made his invitation. “I’ve had so many amazing things happen,” McCoy responded, “but I want to tell you what– this is the icing on the cake. I cannot thank everyone enough for this honor. I am blown away. Thank you.”
Later in the evening Gill sat in on Schlitz’ set, accompanying him on acoustic guitar on “The Gambler” and “When You Say Nothing At All” before acknowledging McCoy’s earlier invitation and saying the Opry was also asking Schlitz to become a member. Overcome, Schlitz exclaimed “I’m gonna be a member of the Grand Ole Opry! Can I bring my songs with me?” He later added “Like Charlie said, ‘This is the icing.’” Schlitz and Gill, friends for almost 40 years, rounded out Schlitz’ set with “Forever and Ever, Amen.”
“It is not an exaggeration at all to say Charlie McCoy has played on the soundtrack to almost every country music fan’s life and that Don Schlitz has written at least a portion of each of those soundtracks,” Opry Executive Producer Dan Rogers said. “Every time Charlie or Don plays the Opry, each showcase something incredibly special about the Opry and our hometown of Nashville.”