By: Craig Shelburne on cmt.com
For Luke Combs, it was a full-circle moment to step into the Opry Circle, as early inspirations Vince Gill and Joe Diffie turned their attention and admiration to the fast-rising superstar for Combs’ induction ceremony on Tuesday night (July 16).
Emcee Bill Cody informed the audience that Combs was listening to Diffie’s hits like “Pickup Man” and “John Deere Green” while still a toddler, and that Combs’ mother sneaked her son into his first country concert – which happened to be a Vince Gill show. Diffie and Gill stood with fellow members The Gatlin Brothers, Chris Janson, Dustin Lynch, Craig Morgan, and Mark Wills during the presentation. Darius Rucker submitted a congratulatory video.
“It’s pretty hard to find anything to say that makes me feel like I wouldn’t sound like an idiot right now,” he joked. “Here I am on stage with people I grew up listening to and people who have shaped me as an artist. I just want to say thank you to you guys, thank you to the Grand Ole Opry, and thank you to the fans—without you all, there is no country music, there is no Grand Ole Opry. Thank you so much for everything you guys do for making this possible for guys like us on this stage.”
He added, “I will never forget tonight. Thank you everyone for being a part of it. Everyone who has meant something in my life is here tonight. I want them all to know that I love ‘em and I can’t wait to sing one more song for you guys tonight – my first song as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.” He concluded his set with a solo performance of “This One’s for You.”
“This is what dreams are made of right here,” Gill began. “I am thrilled to death that Luke is going to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry. What I love about this guy, he opens his mouth, his singing is undeniable. He’s such a great singer. He didn’t miss a note in two songs!”
“He sings right in the middle of the pitch and that’s beautiful,” Gill continued, after some laughter. “I found out not too long ago that the first concert he ever went to was one of mine — so, obviously I didn’t ruin him, so that’s encouraging. But [finding out about] that meant a lot to me.”
Looking to Combs, he added, “What I want to tell you about this place is, look around and you’ll see all the people up here. If you’ll come here and you’ll invest in the people and this stage, you’ll get back a hundred-fold what you ever give to this place. It’s been going on for 93 years. It goes on because this stage represents the entire history of this music. Not just what’s current.”
Continuing, Gill said, “You are killing it, and it is so much fun to watch, because you’re so real and so honest. More than anything, you are at the top of your game. You are killing it! This place will benefit because you’ll come here. That’s my only thing I want to tell you: Please come because we’d love to have you any and every time you can make it in this circle.”
Presenting Combs with his Opry Member Award, Diffie added, “I will echo all those sentiments. I remember being asked to be a member of the Opry, and it was like a dream. And it still feels like a dream, even to this day. On behalf of myself and all the Opry members past, present, and future, Luke Combs, you are now officially the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry!”
Backstage, Opry General Manager Sally Williams shared, “Luke Combs’ love for the Grand Ole Opry is rivaled only by country music fans’ love of his music and his fellow Opry members’ appreciation both of his artistry and his friendship. Luke and all of us at the Opry have developed an incredible relationship since he made his Opry debut less than three years ago, and we are thrilled that as of tonight he has a musical home for the rest of his career. Welcome, Luke!”