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Bill Anderson marked an amazing career milestone Saturday night (July 16) when he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Bill became a member of the Opry on July 15, 1961, and has regularly performed and hosted segments of the show since that time. The July 16 Opry show, held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, featured performances from some of Bill's closest friends, including Connie Smith and Ronnie Milsap. Bill also performed his classic hits "Po' Folks" and "Still."
An emotional Bill told the Opry audience, "This takes me back 50 years when Billy Grammar introduced me as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. I'm more nervous tonight than I was 50 years ago."
A video tribute to Bill from his friend and frequent co-writer Brad Paisley also aired during the show.
The surprise highlight of the evening came when an unbilled Alison Krauss joined Jon Randall on "Whiskey Lullaby," the award-winning song written by Bill and Jon that became a duet hit for Alison and Brad Paisley. "You fooled me, didn't you?" Bill told Jon and Alison after their performance. "I had no idea that this was going to happen."
Opry general manager Pete Fisher closed the proceedings as he presented Bill with a vintage Martin guitar. "Thanks to the Opry for letting me hang my hat here for 50 years," Bill said in appreciation.
Backstage, the Opry held a post-show party for Bill with food and a celebratory cake. Bill's fellow Opry cohorts Jeannie Seely, Riders in the Sky and others attended the party along with members of Bill's family.