Cold weather traditionally forces the country music industry into hibernation for the winter.
Beginning in December, a steady stream of shiny Silver Eagle tour buses roll into Nashville’s massive storage garages to be refurbished for the start of the next tour season.
Clay Campbell understands dedicated fans cannot endure three months without a healthy dose of traditional country music, so he keeps the calendar at the Kentucky Opry in Draffenville loaded with entertainment even during the offseason.
Campbell, the longtime owner and director of all things musical at the Kentucky Opry, is breaking the ice on 2019 with a performance by Joe Diffie at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18. Tickets are $36 and can be purchased at kentuckyopry.com or by calling the venue box office at 270-527-3869.
Diffie reached No. 1 on the Billboard country charts with debut single “Home” in 1990, then pounded the charts for more than a decade with hits like “Pickup Man,” “Third Rock from the Sun,” “Bigger than the Beatles” and “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).”
The 60-year-old Oklahoma native became one of the most popular entertainers in the industry in the mid-1990s with consecutive releases of “Honky Tonk Attitude,” “Prop Me up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)” and signature tune “John Deere Green.”
Diffie’s influence on today’s crop of male singers was acknowledged and validated with 2013 single “1994.” The song was a hit for Jason Aldean. It was written by Thomas Rhett. The video included guest appearances by Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and others.
“The song was a really nice boost for my career,” Diffie says. “A lot of his (Aldean’s) fans are coming to our shows. They don’t just know one of the songs, they seem to know them all. It’s a thrill for me.”
Diffie is in the process of recording music for a new album, titled “I Got This,” expected to be released this spring. The first single from the project, “Quit You,” was released in October.
“Anyone who’s ever fallen for someone so hard they can’t think of anything else will understand why I love this song,” he says. “I only had to hear it once to know I wanted to record it.”
Diffie has reached the coveted Billboard Top 40 with 29 singles, and he helped write most of them. He says he strives to create stories that are soul-stirring, like “Tougher than Nails,” which he co-wrote with Thompsonville native Kendell Marvel.
“There’s really no magic formula. I’ve just always drawn on my own experience whether it’s falling in love or hanging out in a bar,” he says. “I feel like if I relate to it, other people will too.”
Raised in Tulsa, Diffie was a star high school athlete with his sights set on medical school, until he was bitten by the music bug. He played in gospel and bluegrass bands, before migrating to Nashville, where he got a job in the Gibson Guitar warehouse to put food on the table while pursuing his musical dream.
His first big break came when Holly Dunn recorded a song he had written, “There Goes My Heart Again,” and asked him to sing harmony vocals on the record, which peaked at No. 4 in 1989.
“I remember going to the mail box and getting my first royalty check. I was like, ‘holy crap!’ I need to write some more songs. I had never seen that much money in my whole life,” he chuckles.
Diffie has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1993.
Although the Kentucky Opry is closed for vacation this weekend, the nonstop action at the facility for the new year begins with hit-making machine Diffie on Jan. 18.
Every Saturday night until the end of May, the opry sponsors a talent contest that is open to all ages. The competition gives contestants an opportunity to perform with the establishment’s critically acclaimed staff band. Weekly winners advance to competition in bracketed divisions later in the year.
The first Friday of every month is bluegrass night and the third Friday of the month is Southern gospel night. Also, at 10:30 a.m. every Sunday, the opry hosts the Kentucky Lake Cowboy Church, with services led by pastor Chris Clarke.
Four big events are coming to the family-friendly club in the near future. Comedian Etta May, billed as “Minnie Pearl with a migraine,” will perform Feb. 2. Often called “rock stars of bluegrass,” the award-winning Dailey and Vincent duo will play the opry Feb. 22. The show is sold out.
Poignant songstress Allie Colleen — a recent graduate of Belmont University, a passionate fan of Ashley McBryde and daughter of Garth Brooks — will appear March 8. The Bellamy Brothers, coming fresh off a tour with Blake Shelton, will play March 29.