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Keith Urban was welcomed as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday (April 21). This triple threat guitarist, singer and songwriter and Australian is the first Opry member to be born outside of North America.
Keith vividly remembers his first time on the Opry stage. "It's such a long journey for me to get to this stage," Keith told reporters prior to the event. "The first time I played this stage, I was backing [legendary Australian country artist] Slim Dusty. He used [Keith's former trio] The Ranch. I remember standing back there and thinking it would be great if I could get up there and sing on that microphone. From that to this tonight is extraordinary."
Keith was surprised with an invitation to become a Grand Ole Opry member by fellow Opry member Vince Gill during Keith's We're All For the Hall benefit concert in Nashville on April 10. Vince, Rascal Flatts and members of Diamond Rio surprised Keith with a Grand Ole Opry microphone stand and asked him to become the Opry's next member. "I thought they were going to do it there," quipped Keith backstage prior to his induction.
Trace Adkins, Marty Stuart and guitarists Brad Paisley and John Mayer were among those who gave congratulations to Keith via video. "Nobody deserves this more than you," said John, "You are as good as the heroes you look up to." Brad Paisley sent his congrats in his typical humorous style. "I've watched you play this place and love it, and I wondered why you weren't a member. I found out why. There was a rule that you couldn't have hair past your collar," Brad said with a wry grin. "So I talked to some people and we amended the rule. You have brought equality to the male artists at the Opry." Growing serious, Brad added, "This is the greatest thing that has happened to this place in a long time," said Brad.
Trace and Josh Turner were on hand to help induct Keith, who thanked the Grand Ole Opry and Opry general manager Pete Fisher "for inviting me into the Mother Church," as well as his parents "for driving me to all the shows [as a kid]." He also thanked his fans. "I share this with all of you," said Keith. "This relationship is like a family. We've grown up together. We've gone through ups and downs together. The way you love the music like you do inspires me to keep going."
Backstage, the Grand Ole Opry staff gave Keith a cake shaped like a guitar to welcome him into the Opry family. Keith's wife Nicole Kidman was on hand for the honor, as well as his band, road crew and business team.
"I honor the history [of the Grand Ole Opry] and fully dedicate myself to the future of it," Keith said onstage before a crowd of fans. Prior to his induction, he further explained his love of the ever-evolving genre that is country music. "There's a song Waylon Jennings wrote called Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? That song to me has always been the perfect summation of what I love about playing country music," Keith told reporters. "It's about the diversity, the evolution, about keeping it going. For me, getting this tonight is my way of dedicating myself not only to the history but the future. The line in the song says, Where do we take it from here? That to me is the defining thing that keeps inspiring me to try new things."