FLASHBACK: THE GODFATHER AND THE OPRY
Grand Ole Opry veteran Porter Wagoner was open-minded enough to occasionally inject the show with "a shot in the arm," beyond the usual fare. With that in mind, Porter invited R&B star James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, to shake things up on the Opry stage, March 10, 1979.
James would do just that, though he started out in a traditional mode by crooning a couple of country standards, "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Tennessee Waltz." But then James cut loose, screaming, slipping and sliding through his best-known soul hits like "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."
At one point, James shouted his trademark "I feel good!" to the audience. Many of the Opry stalwarts backstage, including the venerable Roy Acuff, failed to share the enthusiasm. "I wish I could go out there and speak my mind," Roy reportedly grumbled. "But I won't."
Though the crowd reaction to James' 17-minute set was best described as "polite," Porter went wild with praise. "I think he did something for the Grand Ole Opry that five of the biggest country artists couldn't have done," said Porter. "He focused attention on the Opry stage from all over the world!" And for that, James could righteously feel good.