Chris Janson’s Favorite Grand Ole Opry Memories: A Vince Gill Duet, a Mel Tillis Intro and a Little Jimmy Dickens Photo Op
In preparation for becoming a Grand Ole Opry member, Chris Janson did a lot of research. The night before his induction ceremony on March 20, the country singer says he stayed up until four in the morning scouring YouTube for videos of past Opry inductions and induction invitations.
It speaks to Janson's reverence for the Opry that he treats its legacy as a text to be studied, and his commitment to continue to carry the torch of the Grand Ole Opry and its members makes him uniquely suited for his position as the youngest member of the gilded country music institution. However, well before he received his surprise invitation to become an Opry member from Keith Urban during a February show at the Ryman, Janson was well-known as a guest performer; in fact, at the time of his induction, he was coming up on his 200th performance in the fabled hall.
Over the course of those nearly 200 performances, the singer garnered an impressive collection of memories and stand-out Opry moments. In advance of his induction, Janson sat down with the Boot and other media outlets to reflect on some of his most memorable Opry moments.
"There are three [that really stand out,]" Jason recalls. "The first one I remember, I was in the shower, getting ready to come here and play. I was like, 'You know what I'm going to do tonight? Vince Gill's on the Opry tonight, and who doesn't love Vince Gill, so I'm gonna ask him if he wants to sing with me.'
"My wife goes, 'No you're not. Don't do that,'" the country star deadpans.
Not one to be deterred, however, Janson didn't listen: "What's the worst he could have said? No? Who cares, right?" he adds with a laugh.
In this instance, his question paid off: Gill agreed to join Janson onstage, and the pair gave a performance of the Waylon Jennings song "I Ain't Living Long Like This."
Another of Janson's favorite Grand Ole Opry memories involves being introduced onstage by country legend Mel Tillis.
"What I'm about to imitate here is totally reverent and respectful, but everybody knows that Mel Tillis was famous for his stutter and for his comedic abilities," Janson warned media members before demonstrating some impressive comedic abilities of his own and offering a spot-on Tillis impression. "He comes up to me and he says, '... Hello, son.' He said, 'Is there anything you'd like me to say about you?' I said, 'Whatever you'd like to say would be fine.'
"He walked out onstage," Janson recalls, "and he says, 'It's so good to be with you at the Opry tonight and ... well, he's real good, here he is.' And that was it!"
Perhaps Janson's sweetest Grand Ole Opry memory, however, is the time that the late Little Jimmy Dickens met Janson's youngest son: "My wife and I had our little baby, Jesse, backstage," Janson recalls. "The first thing Little Jimmy Dickens did was walk over and say, 'Let me see that baby.' Just like your Pawpaw would.
"I didn't ever get to know him that well -- I wish I did -- but to me, that was so cool," he adds. "We got a picture of that moment, and it means a lot to me."
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