Walter Forbes

When I first performed on the Grand Ol Opry in January of 1961 I was 23 years old and by far the youngest of the Opry cast. There was the great thrill of performing on the program I had listened to since I was a small boy, but what I remember most is how kind the members of the Opry were to me. Jim Reeves, Maybell Carter, Grandpa and Winona Jones, String Bean, Roy Huskey Jr, and many others went out of their way to encourage and make me feel a part of the show. I had been to the Opry once in 1954. Now to play and sing on the Opry along side people I had listened to for years was special indeed! Beasley Smith, with an endorsement from Chet Atkins, had gotten me that first slot. Bob Johnson and Norman Blake and I played Whoa Mule Whoa. We must have done pretty well. I was invited back to play whenever I could be there. At that time I was enrolled at the University of Georgia, from Athens to Nashville was a six hour drive, but most weekends I made the trip. I’d meet up with Bob and Norman before the show and drive back to Chattanooga Saturday night when we finished. (I got a number of speeding tickets). About 1964 we decided to do the Cumberland Mountain Deer Race from my album Ballads and Bluegrass. When we recorded it one of the sessions musicians, Ray Eddington, spontaneously blew through a microphone stand like a bugle and it sounded like a hunting horn, so we found a hunting horn in the key of D for me to blow during the song on stage. Bob and Norman played it way up tempo and I would dance around and holler and blow the horn during the banjo breaks. We got a double encore! Over the next several years We played the Deer Race twenty one times on the Opry and got encores on nineteen of those performances. In those years to be a member of the Opry you had to commit to play twenty-six shows a year. By 1973 Kitty and I had three children, and I had a “Day Job” in our family textile business. My plate was just too full to make it to Nashville twenty-six times a year! In fact with the Opry I had more than I could handle so regretfully I quit playing the Opry in 1973. In spite of the demands of our business in that year I made the Walt Disney for TV movie “The Nashville Coyote”. After I quite the Opry Jack Clement and Don Light kept me on the Nashville scene whenever I could break away from business and home. Jack’s encouragement and friend ship over fifty years kept my professional music alive.