In September, Jeannie Seely celebrated her 55th year as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Over more than a half-century as a member of the show that made country music famous, she’s performed more than 5,000 shows. That’s more than anyone. Now, she’s talking more about the experience with People.
She remembers listening to the Opry when she was very young. She grew up in Townville, Pa., and she recalls listening with family when she was just four years old. She’s now been on the show more than 5,200 times. Her first appearance was on May 28, 1966.
When she celebrated her 55th anniversary in September, she also introduced Chapel Hart for their Opry debut.
“The circle will not be broken,” she said as she introduced the up-and-coming Mississippi trio.
During the same show, host Byron Fay informed Seely that her 5,200 plus appearances was an indisputable mark that no one was near.
“I was blown away,” Jeannie Seely said. “It’s like, you’re kidding me.”
Jeannie Seely has recorded 20 albums, including her latest, 2020’s An American Classic. She won a GRAMMY for Best Country Performance (Female) in 1966 for her single “Don’t Touch Me.” She has several hits of her own in the 1960s and 70s. It all began when she arrived in Nashville in 1965.
“Actually, I knew at 8 years old what I wanted to be,” she said. “And I knew I wanted to be at the Opry.”
She was enamored with the stars that surrounded her. Folks like Little Jimmy Dickens, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff.
“I just waned to know them,” the 82-year-old said. “I wanted to be a part of that family that I heard every week.”
The circle will not be broken, indeed.
Jeannie Seely Celebrates a Milestone at the Grand Ole Opry
When “Don’t Touch Me” began to gain popularity, she finally got her invitation to the Grand Ole Opry. She was on the road in support of the song, and she hadn’t yet even been to the venue to see a show. Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl were part of the show when she made her debut.
“I was standing shoulder to shoulder in the wings with all my heroes,” she said. “I had never seen them in person anywhere. Even across the footlights.”
Jeannie Seely was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on September 16, 1967. 230 artists have been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Next week, the institution celebrates its 97-year anniversary. And Seely has been there for more than half of that.
Jeannie Seely challenged the dress code at the Grand Ole Opry in 1966. Women were asked to wear long, ruffled skirts, and Seely showed up in a miniskirt.
“I explained that I just moved here from California, and this is what everybody’s wearing,” she said. “I said, ‘You do know the trend is coming.’ And finally, just jokingly, I said, ‘Okay, I’ll make you a deal; I won’t wear any in the back door if you don’t let anybody come in the front door wearing them because it’s going to happen.’ And he was like, ‘Well, okay. But just try to hold it down.'”