An Opry Exodus – Today In Country Music History [VIDEO]
December 5th, 1956
At the time, the Opry required it members to perform at the legendary venue 26 weeks every year. Failure to comply would (or could) result in the artist being removed from the Opry roster. Faron Young later said that money was what generated the hassle. "When they insisted on the twenty-six-week thing, I put a pen to it and figured it out. I was gonna lose $180,000 a year to work the Opry twenty-six weeks out of the year." Johnny Wright would say that he and Kitty Wells were not fired from the Opry, but quit over paying the percentage fees to the WSM Artists' Service Bureau, which was the WSM and Opry's booking agency for the members.
Several days later, the Nashville Tennessean ran an editorial with the headline: "Opry Has Duty of Protection." The editorial said: "The Opry has been and continues to be the nucleus of Nashville's $40 million music industry. There is hardly a successful music enterprise in the city that does not owe its orgin and its longevity to the Opry. Thus, it seems the Opry has a responsibility to compel observance of reasonable restrictions for its own protection and for the protection of the rest of the music industry in Nashville. Most of the thousands of people who line up at the Opry House every Friday and Saturday night have traveled long distances to see in person the stars they have come to love by radio. It must be a disappointment for these fans to arrive at the Opry on this one big night for them and find that their favorite stars have found a more profitable audience in some other state.
As far as the 11 who were fired, many came back to the Opry and fulfilled their membership requirements. Those were George Morgan, Don Gibson, Billy Grammer, Justin Tubb and Stonewall Jackson. Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, the Jordanaires, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky and Ray Price never rejoined, although all continued to make guest appearances on the show.
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