Brad Paisley has been a staple in country music since the release of his debut album, Who Needs Pictures, in 1999. With 12 studio albums and more than 20 radio hits, Paisley has seen an incredibly successful career and has helped influence the sound and direction of modern country music. Paisley has also represented country music on many occasions, including serving as co-host of the CMA Awards alongside Carrie Underwood for 11 years. With all he's accomplished, it's hard to remember Paisley as a brand new artist, but all superstars have to start somewhere, and for Paisley, that somewhere was the Grand Ole Opry stage. In May 1999, a young and somewhat unknown Paisley stepped onto that hallowed stage for the first time.
The Grand Ole Opry is a time-honored tradition in Nashville, Tennessee and in country music. The show, which has hosted legendary country stars for generations, began as a radio show on WSM and then moved to the famed Ryman Auditorium before making a final move to the Grand Ole Opry house in the 1970s. For any young artist, playing on the Opry is a career highlight.
On the night of Paisley's debut, he followed country singer Billy Walker, who sang Bob Luman's "Let's Think About Living." Walker then introduced Paisley, who, dressed in a blue button down shirt, sang his debut single, "Who Needs Pictures." The West Virginia native then sang his energetic and humorous song, "Me Neither," which would be released as his third single the next year.
Paisley's 1999 Opry debut began a long relationship between the singer and the institution, and he was inducted as an official member of the Grand Ole Opry less than two years later on February 17, 2001. The special night also kick started Paisley's long and meaningful friendship with late country singer, Little Jimmy Dickens. According to The Tennessean, Paisley approached the country legend after his first Opry set and asked him if he'd like to go fishing. Dickens agreed, and soon after, Dickens, Paisley and songwriter Kelley Lovelace took a fishing trip to Alabama. Paisley and Dickens stayed good friends until Dickens' death in January 2015.
When Paisley became an Opry member at age 28, he joined an exclusive list of artists which included names such as Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, George Jones, Bill Anderson, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Steve Wariner and many more at the time. Since Paisley became a member, the Opry has welcomed in many more artists, including Dierks Bentley, Old Crow Medicine Show, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton, Kelsea Ballerini, and Lady A. The Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 95th anniversary in 2021.