Who is the next generation of Nashville artists that deserve to be a member of country music's most respected establishment? Though there are countless talented members like Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, there are so many artists not inducted.
The Grand Ole Opry is one of the most legendary and respected entities in country music. Although hundreds of artists have played on the Opry stage, the invitation to become an official member of the Opry is reserved for a very select group of people. The decision of who gets an invite to be an Opry member is made at the discretion of the show's producers and does not follow a strict set of rules. In general, artists who are invited to become members have to have reached a high standard of recognition within the industry and have played the stage at the Opry multiple times in the past.
With an induction into the Grand Ole Opry, each artist is held to a set of guidelines that they are expected to uphold, including a certain number of performances a year at the Grand Ole Opry. Many country legends, including Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, have never been inducted as members of the institution. Still, in recent years the Opry has inducted artists after just a few years of mainstream success. So what makes an artist important enough to get the attention of the Opry? Read on and find out why these ten artists are poised to become the next members of country music's most prestigious club.
1. Toby Keith
Toby Keith has been a notable figure in country music for over 20 years but somehow has only played the Opry a handful of times. He didn't make his debut until 2002 and then did not play the Opry stage again until nine years later. With a few more visits under his belt, Keith would be in excellent standing for an induction offer. Keith will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame this June, so that may help.
2. Luke Bryan
Although his sound is a far cry from the original, uber-traditional members of the Opry, Luke Bryan's massive appeal and an endless list of hits put him on the fast track to being an Opry inductee. Not to mention he's won Entertainer of the Year two years in a row. Although he may have to earn a little more long-term respect and invest some time in more performances, his talents and obvious effects on the sound of mainstream country music would be a shame to ignore.
3. Kenny Chesney
A controversial choice to some because of his not-so-traditional brand of sandy-shoed country, Kenny Chesney has left a mark on the industry as few others have. Although he seems to be at a time in his career where regular appearances at the Opry just may not be possible between lengthy stadium tours, he's a figure that shouldn't be counted out as a worthy addition.
4. Lee Ann Womack
Since her mainstream debut in the mid-'90s, Lee Ann Womack has been constantly releasing music that has brought critical acclaim. Her most recent album, 2014's The Way I'm Livin', has brought her back into the spotlight and solidifies her as a worthy inductee.
5. Dwight Yoakam
Another artist who should have been invited into the exclusive Opry club years ago is Dwight Yoakam. Although he hasn't been as active in the industry in recent years, Yoakam is someone who has represented the best of country music since the early 1980s and deserves to be acknowledged.
6. Tim McGraw
After a career compromised of 25 number one singles, thirteen albums and a seemingly endless stream of accolades, the fact that Tim McGraw has not become a member of the Opry is shocking to many fans. Although it's not clear why the organization hasn't reached out to McGraw yet, it's safe to say that his offer for induction will come sooner than later.
7. Miranda Lambert
Another frequent figure on the Opry stage is an artist who carefully built a highly-respected career from her reality television show debut. Miranda Lambert has made all of the right moves in her career since her debut album was released in 2005, and is a strong female presence in a still mainly male-dominated genre.
8. Eric Church
Modern country outlaw Eric Church made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2006 and has made frequent trips to their stage in the past nine years. He's a no-frills and no-fuss performer, which is a perfect fit for the Opry stage. Church has also publicly spoken about his respect for the institution and would be a great representative for the new generation of country music.
9. Lady Antebellum
Since the band's beginning in 2006, Lady Antebellum has played the Grand Ole Opry House stage numerous times, including last year's 40th-anniversary celebration. The group has a modern yet consistent sound that never wavers too far from the traditional sound that the Opry loves, and their list of hits keeps expanding. It's only a matter of time before this group is asked to become a permanent fixture on the Opry stage.
10. George Strait
Very few artists deserve a membership into the Grand Ole Opry more than George Strait. His impact on country music is obvious to fans both young and old. Now that's he's officially retired from touring, it's the perfect time to honor one of the biggest living legends in the genre today.