Eric Church Makes Grand Ole Opry Debut On This Day in 2006

by Jacklyn Krol

Eric Church made his Grand Ole Opry debut fifteen years ago to date (April 1, 2006).

The Chief was invited to perform almost three months prior to his debut album, Sinners Like Me, was released. Porter Wagoner and Jim Ed Brown introduced Church to the stage. His family was in attendance and watched in amazement.

His set list included future hits: “How ‘Bout You” and “Sinners Like Me.” Additionally, he played “Black Betty.” However, “Black Betty” was not planned and instead, the band had an impromptu jam session on the historic stage.

“It was funny — we thought, ‘Can we do Ram Jam at the Opry?’ It was a last-minute decision before the late show, right before we walked out on stage,” Church told GAC, via The Boot. “I told the guys, ‘I’ll give you a thumbs up or thumbs down.’ So I gave them a thumbs up, and we went for it. And the crowd loved it.”

Along with the Opry, he has performed at “The Mother Church” a.k.a. The Historic Ryman Auditorium. Most recently, he performed a special acoustic set for Country Radio Seminar.

Eric Church’s Special Guest

Eric Church was thrilled to be able to play on such a legendary radio show, but it was sharing the moment with someone special that took the cake. His grandmother was a life-long listener to the show and Church remembers growing up listening to the show with her. She was in the audience for his Opry debut.

“It was great for me — a dream come true,” he shared. “But I think it was more gratifying for me because my grandmother was there.”

“She [was] 84 years old [at the time], and for her, there is nothing bigger than the Opry,” he added. “Her quote is, ‘The Opry’s bigger than Oprah.’ I was really glad she got to be there. And Porter Wagoner is one of her favorites, so for Porter to introduce her grandson on the Opry was a really cool moment.”

Church remembers after listening to the show with his grandmother, attending it in person for the first time. “By the time I became a teenager, you could see the Opry on television and go to the Opry,” he recalled. “I was 14 years old when I went to the Opry for the first time. We visited Nashville and went to the Opry, so I knew the tradition of it.”

Watch one of his recent Opry performances, below.