Oklahoma native Vince Gill performs Tuesday night in Nashville at an all-star guitar jam kicking off the Grand Ole Opry’s monthslong 85th birthday celebration. (Associated Press photos)
Oklahoma native Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Steve Wariner and Ricky Skaggs kicked off the Grand Ole Opry’s monthslong 85th birthday celebration Tuesday night in Nashville with an all-star guitar jam that took on new meaning following historic floods that ravaged Tennessee earlier this month.
The show was already a special occasion with four of country music’s greatest pickers joining together. But event took on added significance when Opry officials turned it into a benefit for flood relief.
“Gosh, they’re so good, so well known for what they’ve done,” Skaggs said of his fellow players in an interview with the Associated Press before the show. “It’s great they called on us to come out and do something like this.”
The show was at Ryman Auditorium, a former Opry home, after flood waters damaged the Opry House, covering the stage under nearly 4 feet of water and damaging priceless country music artifacts and archives.
But the birthday kickoff turned out just as planned. Each guitarist, all members of the Opry, played in an individual set before coming together at the end.
“We’re going to have a great time!” Wariner said as he kicked off the guitar jam portion of the show with a scorching set.
Opry host Eddie Stubbs said Gill, who grew up in Oklahoma City, lost in the flood at least 60 guitars and other gearvalued at more than $1 million. Paisley, who lost much of his traveling gear just weeks before launching a summer tour, also housed his equipment at Soundcheck, a popular storage and rehearsal space that was submerged.
Gill hasn’t talked much about the loss, but has led the flood relief effort, hosting the first telethon and donating $100,000.
“When I found out I was going to lose a large amount of instruments,” he told a near-sellout crowd, “my wife (Amy Grant) came up to me and said, ‘You know what’s good about you? You only need one to make a living.’”
Paisley traveled in from the road for his performance, kicking off with his hit “Water” — the centerpiece of his ironically titled H2O Tour. The country superstar paid tribute to Gill, Skaggs and Wariner.
“I feel like the little kid who’s out on the playground right now,” Paisley told the crowd. “His mother just showed up and the big kids are out there playing basketball, and she walks out and says, ‘Let your little brother play. I know he’s not as good as you, but let him play.’”
The group came together and traded solos on a spirited version of Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man’s Blues” that earned a standing ovation. They then played the Opry standard “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”
From left, Ricky Skaggs, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill and Steve Wariner play together.
Paisley took a break from his H2O tour to play the Opry show.
Skaggs said he was excited to play the show at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. “Bluegrass music was really birthed right here on this stage. A lot of people don’t know that,” he told the AP.
Wariner is one of just four men dubbed a “certified guitar player” by his mentor, Chet Atkins. The 2010 Grammy winner played a few cuts from his tribute to Atkins.