Seniormost Grand Ole Opry member Bill Anderson inducted Jamey Johnson on Saturday night (March 19) as the newest member of one of country music's most exclusive clubs.
"Buddy Cannon introduced me to Jamey Johnson, it's been a good 20 years ago, I guess, and I knew from the very first time I met him, he was one of us," Anderson said from the Opry stage. "And by that I mean, I knew he had a country heart and a country soul and I knew he wanted more than anything in the world to be a part of the Grand Ole Opry. I introduced him the first time he ever came on this stage [in 2005].
"The last time he was here on this stage as a guest, I said 'Jamey, I hate to tell you this but you'll never be a guest here again'," Anderson continued. "He looked at me and said, 'Well I've been kicked out of a lot of places.' I said 'No, we're not kicking you out buddy, we're welcoming you in. The next time you're on this stage, you're going to be inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.'"
Johnson framed his induction as the fulfillment of a childhood dream.
"I don't have to tell y'all what this means to me," Johnson said. "If y'all know me you'll know that I've been talking about this moment since I was a kid, and I ain't a kid anymore, you can tell that by the gray in the beard."
It was also a big night for Ricky Skaggs, who was celebrating 40 years as a Grand Ole Opry member. Johnson performed six songs during the one-hour broadcast, including a version of gospel standard "Near the Cross" with Skaggs on mandolin.
Anderson stunned Johnson with an Opry invite on March 19 during a song-swapping and storytelling segment that teamed the longtime friends with Cannon, their co-writer of George Strait's "Give It Away" and a longtime Willie Nelson collaborator.
Singer-songwriter Waylon Payne joined The Oak Ridge Boys, Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild and others in applauding the Opry brass' March decision to extend a surprise invitation to Johnson.
An Alabama native and former Marine, Johnson earned his reputation as a solo performer with Top 15 country hits "The Dollar" (2005) and "In Color" (2008). The latter won Song of the Year in 2009 from both the ACM and CMA. He's co-written songs cut by Joe Nichols ("Another Side of You") and Trace Adkins ("Honky Tonk Badonkadonk").
Johnson became the first Opry invitee of 2022. Opry membership got extended in 2021 to five acts: bluegrass lifer Rhonda Vincent, award-winning country trio Lady A, Johnson's fellow country traditionalist Carly Pearce, gospel family band The Isaacs and throwback vocalist Mandy Barnett.
WSM AM in Nashville has broadcast the Grand Ole Opry since 1925.
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