Only John Prine benefits more than Ray Wylie Hubbard when it comes to the current crop of stars' selfless attempts to introduce their audiences to living legends. In a few short years, Hubbard went from a longtime independent artist with a cult following to the beneficiary of a namedrop in Eric Church's 2015 single "Mr. Misunderstood."
Of course, reinvigorating career interest requires more than cool, younger friends. An artist in that situation needs talent and creativity: two things Hubbard had in spades when Nashville shunned him in the '70s, alt-country fans discovered his stacked catalog in the '90s and on Wednesday (June 17), when the 72-year-old made his Grand Ole Opry debut.
For Hubbard's long overdue time in the Opry spotlight, he revisited "The Messenger" from his 1996 album Loco Gringo's Lament with four talented guests. Hubbard harmonizes with Pam Tillis while sisters Rebecca and Megan of Larkin Poe and his son Lucas Hubbard strum along with the house band.
"I want to get this next guest intro right because it's so important to me," Pam Tillis said during her on-stage introduction. "This gentleman I'm about to introduce you to has fans as diverse as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Patty Griffin, Ringo Starr, Steve Earle, Lee Ann Womack ... so many people know about this man and look up to him as the very epitome of a true artist, a true writer. He has influenced a generation of Texas musicians and songwriters. Fifty-five years making music. Made his debut on David Letterman, and I said, 'You know, Ray Wylie Hubbard, it is time that you played the Grand Ole Opry."
Hubbard's Opry debut came a month before another honor. On July 1, Wide Open Country shared an exclusive excerpt from The Messenger: The Songwriting Legacy of Ray Wylie Hubbard. The book, which features forwards by Jerry Jeff Walker and Hayes Carll, was written by Texas music historian Brian T. Atkinson and will be released on August 16 via Texas A&M University Press.