Jamey Johnson, singer-songwriter of 'In Color,' inducted into Grand Ole Opry
At the event that also served as his induction ceremony, Jamey Johnson played six times during the hour-long episode of the Grand Ole Opry that was recorded and aired on May 14. With each song played, he highlighted the depth and scope of his lifelong appreciation of country music's songs and culture.
"When I started writing songs at the age of 16, I knew that, hopefully, Grand Ole Opry membership would be in the cards for me," Johnson exclusively told the Tennessean before he took the stage. He added that he "did everything he could do to play the Opry" before his 2005 debut on the storied platform with the vaunted center stage circle.
"I wanted to be on that stage so badly that I would leave notes on the windshields of Opry stars," Johnson joked.
His passion for the institution showed during his performances.
The occasion also marked the 40th anniversary of Ricky Skaggs' 1982 induction into the Grand Ole Opry at 27 years old, making him then the youngest musician to be granted membership.
The mandolin-playing icon deferred to Johnson on his special night for a duet. Johnson responded by choosing to play the timeless gospel standard "Near The Cross." He highlighted that it was the first song his father -- who was in attendance at the Opry, alongside numerous family members -- taught him to play on the guitar.
Johnson also cited his love of the banjo, plus the turn of the 1980s cultural touchstones as Jerry Reed's 1977 "Smokey and The Bandit" film soundtrack single "East Bound and Down," plus the TV program "Hee Haw" as stoking his early passions for the genre.
Seventeen years after his Opry debut, his playing of "School of the Fiddle and Steel" to open his hour-long appearance was noteworthy.
"It's the first song I wrote with Buddy Cannon and Larry Shell, and I played it as my opening song during my Opry debut," stated Johnson. He noted the mention of his Uncle Bobby in the song -- and carrying the lessons he taught him onto the Opry stage -- was important because he was a gifted guitar player who taught him how to finger-pick a guitar, plus was well versed in music history.
However, the most special crowd highlight was not just hearing him play his "Whisperin'" the Bill Anderson and Buddy Cannon co-written No. 1 single for George Strait, 2006's "Give It Away—which saw an assist from his inductor, Anderson. In addition, he received warm, standing ovations for stirring renditions of a pair of 2008 singles -- "Between Jennings and Jones" and the unlikely pop crossover country radio top-10 hit, "In Color."
Ultimately, summing up why the singer-songwriter was being inducted requires a brief statement, but one that is also profound, like his most iconic songs.
"When I met Jamey Johnson, I knew he was one of us," stated "Whisperin' Bill Anderson. "He (has) a country heart and a country soul."
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Jamey Johnson, singer-songwriter 'In Color,' inducted into Grand Ole Opry