Country music fans are concerned about new rules that go in effect this first day of April, mandating changes with the Grand Ole Opry and U.S. country music concerts attended by more than 15 people.
The changes were demanded by the Fans of Old Line Songs organization (FOOLS), whose members picket outside the Ryman Auditorium each April in spite of the Nashville-Davidson County Metropolitan Police warning that old songs often are awful.
The Country Music Association caved in to the organization's demands and promised that changes would be made to bring the Grand Ole Opry into the 19th century and mandate strict requirements for country concerts in general.
Here are the basic changes taking place today:
- The only instruments allowed on the Opry's late second show on Saturday nights will be accordions and cellos. WSM-AM radio officials explained that much of the late-show audiences consist of elderly fans from Florida who need their rest. They're hoping the accordions and cellos will help put them to sleep in case some of the Opry artists fail to do that.
- Since black members of the Opry are virtually non-existent, the Opry plans to have the gospel choir from Nashville's historic Fisk University open and close every Opry show.
- Because so many older country music artists are being pushed aside by the large Nashville record companies and booking agents, beginning today, any performer younger than 30 must have at least three performers older than 30 open for them.
- Audiences will be required before each concert not only to sing the national anthem (and be fined if they don't know the words) but also to recite Buck Owens' famous 1965 Pledge to Country Music: "I shall sing no song that is not a country song. I shall make no record that is not a country record."
Some contend this mandate is not enforceable, as Owens himself, after announcing his pledge, released his cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water .
- Concert-goers who bring cell phones or other electronic devices with them must pass through a scanner that will change their ring tones to either Tennessee Waltz or Achy Breaky Heart .
- Patrons must gather in front of the Opry or any other venue for a country concert an hour before the show and put their tickets for reserved seats into large hoppers. Then, as patrons file into the building, they pull a ticket out of the hopper to find out where they will sit. This ensures that everyone gets a chance at close-down seats and not just people with VIP connections.
- Finally, if you weren't paying attention to the first two paragraphs of this column, I have two words for you: April Fool!