Country singer Dierks Bentley celebrated the Grand Ole Opry on its 95th anniversary on Oct. 3. The country singer opened up about his love for the organization and its history.
Despite the radio show’s popularity, Bentley said he never heard of the Grand Ole Opry until he moved to Nashville. The show didn’t broadcast on stations in Arizona, where Bentley grew up.
“I instantly became a huge fan of the radio station. And of course the Friday and Saturday broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry,” Bentley told Billboard. The country singer’s first visit to the Opry came when Terry Eldredge of the Osborne Brothers invited him.
“Being backstage with all the musicians and folks that make the magic happen. Peering into dressing rooms, seeing the crowd, feeling the energy and history of the building,” Bentley continued. “It was truly an overwhelming experience. And of course seeing the famous “circle” at center stage 00. The circle of wood that was cut out from the Opry’s most famous home, the Ryman Auditorium. And placed in the Opry’s new home, the Opry House, in 1974.”
Dierks Bentley played the Grand Ole Opry for the first time in 2003.
After that moment, Bentley said he tried to visit the Opry as much as he could. He got a job across the street working for The Nashville Network and CMT. On Friday nights, Bentley would sneak through the Opry’s back door and watch country music legends play. He saw Grandpa Jones, Porter Wagoner and Vince Gill play. He went so often, the then-head of the organization revoked his “free pass” because of overuse.
“I actually made playing the Opry my main goal in music,” Bentley said. “I figured that if I ever played the Opry, everything else, including a publishing deal, a record deal, etc. would have had to fallen into place.”
Bentley’s dream finally came true on April 13, 2003, playing his single “What Was I Thinking”. In an ironic twist of fate, Bentley opened for The Osborne Brothers at the venue. Two years later, singer Marty Stuart came on stage during Bentley’s performance and invited him to become a member of the Opry.
“I was beyond shocked,” Bentley said. “It really took a long time to sink in. Even the night of the induction in October of that year, I was still processing the invite. To go from being a fan, to a performer, to an actual member is more than I could have dreamed.”