As Jeannie Seely arrived at the Grand Ole Opry this weekend she made her way to her regular dressing room, number 16, the Minnie Pearl room. She changed from her street clothes and comfortable shoes to her sparkly stage clothes and not quite so comfortable high-heeled boots. She touched up her make-up and made sure her hair was just right. She warmed up with the musicians to decide which songs she would perform that night. Seasonal allergies and too much yard work meant that one of the songs she wanted to do was just out of range for her fatigued vocal chords. But she was relieved to know that she would be able to perform the song that was on her mind most of all. While Jeannie considers it a privilege and an honor to perform any night at the Grand Ole Opry, this night was even more special and she wanted to perform a song that is very special to her. “Don’t Touch Me” was her first number one song, and even won her a Grammy award in March 1967 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. More important than that, however, “Don’t Touch Me” brought Jeannie to the attention of the country music industry and was a catalyst toward her achieving her lifelong dream of becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. In September 1967 that dream became a reality. And this night, on the 48 year anniversary, Jeannie can hardly believe that dream has continued all this time.
“The Grand Ole Opry has been a part of my life since I first heard it at four years old,” said Jeannie. “For many years it seemed like an impossible dream to even attend it, let alone be on it. After I started seriously pursuing my career, I made it my goal to, someday, somehow, become a member of the Opry! Although I was of course thrilled with a hit record, once “Don’t Touch Me” topped the charts, I started lobbying to be invited as a guest with membership in the back of my mind. Nothing in my career means more than being a part of that wonderful ‘family’. To me, next to the Hall of Fame, your name on that membership wall signifies, more than anything else, your place in Country Music History. Celebrating my 48th Anniversary reminds me how fast time flies when you are having a wonderful time! I feel my role now is to carry on the tradition as best I can with a helpful eye on the new talent I’m privileged to introduce who will carry this marvelous American treasure into the future for many more generations to enjoy.”
Jeannie took the stage to the roar of an enthusiastic audience. Not only did she give her distinctive moving performance on her songs, but she was fervent in her duties as segment host and gave generous, welcoming introductions to the guest artists in her segment. With her usual infectious personality, she shared a couple of fun personal stories to the delight of the audience. As she was about to close out the segment and sing her career-changing song, “Don’t Touch Me,” she shared with the audience that she was celebrating her 48 year anniversary. She was nearly moved to tears as she told the audience how grateful she is for her long successful career and for the dreams that she has achieved in her life.
“Actually I am amazed that my career is still going after all this time,“ said Jeannie. “Every year I have thought it would probably be the last time I would be asked to do…whatever! I never take for granted how fortunate I’ve been to see my dreams come true, and to make a living doing what I love most of all. There’s simply no way I can express my gratitude for the acceptance I continue to receive from the industry, my peers, and country music fans.”
As much as Jeannie loves the Opry and being a member, the Opry folks love her just as much. “I can’t imagine a picture of the Grand Ole Opry family without Jeannie Seely in it,” said Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher. “She has shared her time and talents with the Opry through each stage of her career, and we’re thankful. I admire her work ethic and gift for entertaining, and I appreciate how important it is to her to welcome new artists to the Opry stage and to foster in them the same love for the Opry that she’s had all these years. On top of all that, she’s a heck of a lot of fun for all of us to hang with backstage. I have been made aware by anonymous sources that she is already planning her 50th Opry Anniversary party. I am not surprised.”
After Jeannie finished the last notes of her closing song and accepted the long enthusiastic applause from the adoring crowd, she stepped back and let the big red Opry curtain drape to the floor in front of her. She thanked the musicians and back-up singers for another great set. She made her way to the side of the stage to chat with artists and admirers who were waiting in the wings. Eventually she started working her way back toward her number 16 dressing room which is quite a long process considering how many friends she runs into along the way. After all the many hugs and well wishes are done she finally makes it to her dressing room and changes back into her street clothes and comfortable shoes. Her last stop before she heads out the back door is by the security desk where she wishes the familiar guards goodnight and they answer with, “have a good night Jeannie, see you next week.”
Jeannie Seely is in the sixth decade of her entertainment career that began when she was 11 years old singing on a WMGW morning radio show. She has had success as an actress, author, songwriter, and singer, but mostly she is known as being an amazing entertainer. She was first to wear a mini-skirt on the Grand Ole Opry stage and has always been known as an individualist. She’s been credited with changing the image of female country performers, and her infectious humor has always been one of her trademarks. When not out touring she can be found hosting and performing at the Opry on any given weekend that she is in town.