The Opry is one of the most exclusive clubs in Nashville, a members-only group that many artists work their entire careers to receive an invitation to join. But somehow the King of Country Music isn’t a member? In fact, not only is George not a member of the Opry, it appears he’s only stepped into the hallowed circle once during his nearly five-decade long career.
The King has in fact appeared on the Opry one time, way back on October 9, 1982 – right after his third album, Right or Wrong, was released, and just a few months after his first #1 single, “Marina Del Ray.”
Strait performed twice that night – and hasn’t been back since. So why isn’t George Strait a member of the Grand Ole Opry?
Well, honestly it’s hard to say, but the likely explanation can be found on the Opry’s website, which discuss the criteria for deciding who becomes a member:
Talent & Longevity Play A Role
“But the Opry doesn’t simply pass out invitations to the biggest stars with the most hits. Opry management looks for a musical and a generational balance.
Opry membership requires a passion for country music’s fans, a connection to the music’s history, and it requires commitment – even a willingness to make significant sacrifices to uphold that commitment.
Often, the Opry seeks out those who seek out the Opry, though decisions aren’t based on which artists appear most on the show, either.”
Obviously George Strait would seem to be the perfect candidate for membership into an institution dedicated to country music. I mean, he’s the “King of Country Music.” But there’s one word in there that may explain why Strait and the Opry just never worked out: Commitment.
The Opry requires a significant commitment from its members, including consistent performances at Opry shows here in Nashville. In fact, after E.W. “Bud” Wendell became the manager of the Grand Ole Opry in 1968, he instituted a “credit” system requiring a certain number of appearances per year – although weekend shows reportedly count as more “credits” than weekday performances, because weekends are often when an artist is out touring.
The number of shows members are expected to perform for year isn’t public, but it’s been reduced over time and is rumored to be somewhere around 12 “credits” per year. And although the rules reportedly require a certain number of credits to maintain Opry membership, no member in recent history has been stripped of their Opry membership: I mean, could you imagine the backlash if the Opry told somebody like Alan Jackson or Dolly Parton that they were being kicked out because they don’t make enough appearances?
But the credit system especially presents a problem for George Strait, who has famously chosen to reside in Texas for his entire career. Sure, he probably makes (or made) occasional trips to Nashville for business, but Strait identifies with the Lone Star State over Music City, and has never been known to spend much time in Nashville. And flying to Tennessee for a short performance at the Opry was likely something Strait had (and has) no interest in doing.
So while it’s not exactly known why George Strait never really had a relationship with the Grand Ole Opry, and never became a member, the likely explanation is simply: He wasn’t in town to perform and didn’t want to be in town to perform. Same goes for Willie Nelson who was a member back in the late ’60s, but gave it up when he moved back to Texas in the early ’70s.
The Opry insists there was never any bad blood between the institution and King George – the logistics were just simply not in their favor.
And while it may sound odd that the King of Country music isn’t a member of the “Show That Made Country Music Famous,” it seems like it’s worked out ok for everybody involved.