CMA Male Vocalist of the Year nominee Dierks Bentley celebrated his tenth anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member last night during a special week that will close with the Opry hosting a star-studded 90th Birthday Bash this weekend.
Throughout a 30-minute Opry segment, Bentley performed several of the hits that have entertained Opry fans over the past decade, including” “What Was I Thinkin’,” “Settle For A Slowdown,” “Free And Easy (Down The Road I Go),” “Home,” and “Riser.” He was also joined by friends Dailey and Vincent for the bluegrass tune “Rovin’ Gambler.”
During his set, the Opry member was also joined on stage by his beloved dog Jake, with whom he had celebrated his Opry induction.
“He was here with me 10 years ago,” Bentley began. “I was driving away this afternoon and I thought ‘Ive got to bring Jake back out.’”
Presented with a print marking ten years of Opry membership by 54-year Opry member Bill Anderson, Bentley said, “The Opry is my home. This means the world to me tonight. We’ve been on the road so much of the past ten years it’s good to be home.”
Bentley may be the only artist ever banned from the Opry’s backstage area before he ever got to sing there. During his early days in Nashville, he had a job as a researcher for The Nashville Network, and he reported for work just steps away from the Opry House. The would-be singer made it a habit to sign up at the office for backstage access to weekend Opry shows so that he could watch performances from backstage and visit with the musicians there. –Such a habit, in fact, that Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher finally limited his backstage access to less frequent visits.
Not too much later, however, Bentley landed a recording contract with Capitol Records Nashville and released his first single, “What Was I Thinkin’.” The song catapulted the young singer to the top of the charts and was followed by a string of other hits.
By October 1, 2005, Bentley was welcomed as an official Opry member by Fisher, the very man who had limited his backstage access just a few years earlier. After having been presented his Opry Member Award that night, Bentley held the statuette high, saying to Fisher and everyone in the Opry House, “This here is the ultimate backstage pass. Maybe I could get this on a laminate? I share this honor with these guys behind me who ride the bus. Thanks!”
Bentley says he’ll never forget wandering the Opry House halls as relative newcomer to town, and tries to make himself available to fans and friends when he plays the Opry today.
“We leave the door to our dressing room wide open, so people can come in and say ‘hi,’” he says. “And if we’re not getting ready, then I want to be out on the stage watching the other bands – just remembering what it feels like to be part of the audience. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of being a fan.”
“The Opry and Dierks have such a great, unique connection,” said Fisher. “From those early days when a new kid in town was beginning to understand what the Opry meant to the music he loved, to the award-winning superstar we saw on the Opry stage tonight, it’s been a great decade of hits and memorable Opry performances. We’ve watched Dierks become a husband, a father, and a respected artist who can move from one musical style to another seamlessly. We’re looking forward to the next ten years.”