From the Grand Ole Opry: Top Trailblazing Women

These Opry members of past and present have been trailblazers for the women who have — and will — follow in their path.

Patsy Cline

The uncompromising and inimitable Patsy Cline went after what she wanted from her career — even turning the tables to ask if she could become a member of the Grand Ole Opry rather than waiting to be invited. Not only did Cline become the first female country artist to headline her own Las Vegas residency and perform at Carnegie Hall, but she also became the first woman inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Carrie Underwood

As one of the most successful female country artists of this century, Carrie Underwood has lifted other women up as she continues to climb. In 2018 with the release of her album Cry Pretty, she made history as the first woman to have four country albums reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart. In support of the album, Underwood handpicked Runaway June and Maddie & Tae as her openers. The all-female tour served as an important reminder of the talent women bring to the table.  

Kitty Wells

The first full-fledged female country star made a splash on the scene with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” a response song that was inspired by fellow artist Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life.” Challenging double standards and wifely duties, the song was searing and controversial for its time. While it wasn’t originally allowed to be played on the Grand Ole Opry, it struck such a strong chord with women that it eventually made its way to the stage.

Dolly Parton

When Dolly Parton joined The Porter Wagoner Show as Porter Wagoner’s “girl singer,” she proved herself to be no second fiddle. It didn’t take long for Parton to forge her own independent career and become a household name around the world. She is the only country artist who can say that she has had a Top 20 hit on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for six consecutive decades.

Jeannie Seely

Evident in her songs like “Who Needs You” and “Don’t Touch Me,” Jeannie Seely has long been an outspoken artist, forging the path for other women to follow in her footsteps. She became the first woman to regularly host 30-minute segments on the Grand Ole Opry after advocating for fairer representation. When she was challenged once for wearing a miniskirt on stage, Seely told Opry manager Ott Devine, “Okay, this is what America is wearing and I’ll make you a deal. I won’t wear a miniskirt in the back door if you don’t let anybody wear one in the front door,” as she recounted in Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary.

Crystal Gayle

A singular artist, Crystal Gayle forged her own unique musical identity to set herself apart from sister Loretta Lynn. In embracing a crossover sound, Gayle became the first female country artist whose album was certified platinum for selling a million copies. We Must Believe in Magic featured the smash single “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”

Reba McEntire

Throughout the course of her career, Reba McEntire has distinguished herself as a dynamic performer, not just as a singer but also as an actress and producer. McEntire once said, “To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone,” and she continues to practice what she preaches. In 2018, she became the first woman to play the part of chicken tycoon Colonel Sanders in a commercial.

Kelsea Ballerini

Kelsea Ballerini has emerged as one of country music’s most promising young lyricists, delivering real-life honesty through irresistible hooks in songs like “homecoming queen?” and “Miss Me More.” If the early years of her career are any indication — she is the only female artist in country music whose debut album had three No. 1 singles — Ballerini’s future is bright in the spotlight.

Loretta Lynn

Growing up in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, Loretta Lynn learned a thing or two about persistence. When she launched her career as a country star, she worked hard for her keep, sleeping in her car the night before she made her Opry debut. Even though she already had 25 Top 10 singles to her name, it wasn’t until she had released her 18th album that she won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards in 1972, becoming the first woman to do so.

Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss has seen success most artists could only dream of. Since getting her first record deal at age 14, Krauss has won an astounding 27 Grammy Awards, more than any other woman from any genre and only to be outdone by Quincy Jones and Georg Solti. But apart from all the accolades, Krauss has been an important stalwart in reminding the world that bluegrass is worth holding onto. She was inducted as a member of the Opry at 21 years old, the first bluegrass artist to join the cast in 29 years.   

Baby Boomers Entertainment History

Texans Jack & Dodie View All →

Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Music
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Actors
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Space Explorers
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
Notables
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.

As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.

He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.

5 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I was fortunate to attend the Opry when I was a young child. We lived in Springfield MO while my Dad played on the Red Foley Show along with Grady Martin, my Dad’s good friend. Red was on the Opry for a show and took some of his television show band with him. My Mother and I sat in the audience on those hard seats that The Ryman was famous for.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I also visited the Opryland Ryman when I was in Nashville in 2008 for our company retreat. I believe it was one of Porter Waggoners last performances before he passed. Check out Youtube and search for the Birmingham Bounce by Red Foley. It’s a cut from his national television show back in 55-56 and Grady Martin is wailing on guitar and my pop, the young dark haired fellow is sitting next to him on fiddle. He told me some crazy stories about Red and his son-in-law Pat Boone.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I believe you are a music follower? My friend Gene Fowler’s new book is out. It covers Texas music from about 1930 to around now. Many pictures, stories and true history about country, jazz, big band and rock. It’s called Metro Music and is available on Amazon and or Barnes and Noble.

        Liked by 1 person

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