Need for Speed

Craig Morgan opens up about his upcoming “marriage” to the Opry.

It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry more than Craig Morgan has wanted it. A native of the Nashville area, he grew up hearing it, loving it and wondering what it would be like to stand on that stage to perform. For the past several years, he’s performed on that stage a lot—but always as a guest. That changes with his Oct. 25 induction into the membership of the hallowed institution. Not long after he was surprised with an invitation to join, he sat down with CW at his hilltop home in the woods about 40 miles from Music City. Here’s some of what he had to say. Watch the Craig Morgan Motorcross Video!

CW
In 2004, we talked about what it would mean to you to be asked to join the Opry. Tell me about the night you were invited to join.
CM
I pride myself on no one being able to get me, to surprise me on anything. My manager knows that I just do not like to be surprised. They absolutely got me. Even when John [Conlee] came onstage and was talkin’ to me, askin’ me questions. And he said, “What are you doin’ Oct. 25?” And it didn’t register that I’m gonna be at the Opry on the 25th. And I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I think you’re playing at the Grand Ole Opry.” Even then . . . not a clue! And he said, “How would you like to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry?” And at the same time he said that, I saw [Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher] and everybody step out. It overwhelmed me. [My wife] Karen was on the side of the stage and about passed out. She didn’t know either. She was squaling. I was squaling, she was squaling. My bass player, who don’t cry for nothin’ . . . when his puppy dies, he don’t cry . . . this guy was squalin’! And he came over and hugged me, and my drummer. A couple of my Special Forces buddies were there, and I looked over and they’re squalin’! So it was quite an event.
It was one thing to be invited. That was HUGE. That’s the one thing I’ve always said that I wanted for me. I wanted that. So that was cool. But to do it at Ft. Bragg in front of all my buddies, while we were filming [GAC’s Craig Morgan: Back to Bragg] . . . that was cool.
CW
Have you invited thousands to be there on induction night?
CM
[He laughs] I’m from Nashville! My dad had 6 brothers. Every one of them had four kids! So, oh yeah. Back stage is always limited at the Opry, but my mom and dad and their spouses will be there back stage. I have very close friends comin’ in. Family from Texas. But we’re buyin’ tickets for all the extended family and puttin’ them out in the audience. Then maybe we’ll go out to eat afterwards. I’m gonna have to get the whole Palm, I can’t just have one room at the Palm. Or Shoneys . . . I’ve got family from Texas. I don’t know how they’d act at the Palm!
CW
Plus, you’ve got an image to think about . . . you’ll be an Opry member then
CM
[Big laugh] That’s right! That sounds odd, don’t it? I’ll be an Opry member.
CW
When we talked in 2004 you said, “The Opry and I are just datin’ now, but we’ll be getting’ married one of these days . . . you said it like you were confident it would happen at some point.
CM
Well, it’s the kind of thing that you hope for. It’s like sayin’ that the song’s gonna be a No. 1 or it’s gonna be a hit. You hope that’s the case and you feel like it could happen, or should, or might. So I think if you’re so negative and take the attitude, “It’ll never happen,” it probably won’t. So havin’ a positive attitude makes you feel better about it when it ain’t happening . . . it gives you somethin’ to shoot for! [He laughs].
CW
Were there times when younger people with fewer hits got invited to join. . . when you thought, “Well, gosh, maybe it’s not gonna happen for me?”
CM
Yeah! When Carrie Underwood got invited. But you know, I was proud. It wasn’t a negative thing. When Carrie got it, it’s one of those things when you come home and you go, “Man, I’ve been workin’ so hard, doin’ everything everybody tells me to do.” But I love Carrie Underwood. Carrie’s induction to the Opry was good for everyone, myself included. It doesn’t do anything but help me when someone like Carrie’s a member of the Opry as well. So I was extremely excited for her. The second that I think, “Maybe it’ll never happen,” I just immediately said, “You know what? When it’s God’s time. It’s not up to me. When He wants it.” And I promise you, it worked out perfect. It couldn’t have been more perfect. The fact that we were filming Back to Bragg for GAC, that was just awesome. Had it been any other time, it wouldn’t have been as impacting in my life I don’t think, and my friends’ lives. Those soldiers I worked with at Ft. Bragg, they all take a lot of pride in what I’m doing, so for them to be able to share in that moment . . . made it that much grander.
CW
And it wasn’t a totally unexpected thing to see John Conlee there…because he’s walked on stage with you in the past.
CM
That’s right. If Little Jimmy had walked on stage, I’d have been a little bit . . .”What’s goin’ on?” But because John’s a good friend and his son served in the military and was at Ft. Bragg, it made sense for him to be there.
CW
So you were dating before, you’re engaged now . . . how does that feel?
CM
We’re getting married on the 25th! I don’t know. I can hardly think about it. It’s just exciting.
Being in the Opry isn’t something you have to have. Being able to perform on the Opry, and for that Opry family to treat me the way they have for the past 7-8 years, I felt like I was a member anyway. This kind of solidifies it.
But this was really something that I wanted. It gives me confidence. It makes me feel like I am truly a part of this industry. ‘Cause I’m tellin’ you, there are days when you wake up and I wonder, “Man, is this really what I’m supposed to do?” And everybody thinks I’m nuts when I say that, because we’ve had hits and gold records and “the best is yet to come,” everybody’s saying. Still, I wonder if this is what was intended. So something like that just gives me a little more confidence and makes me feel like this is where God wants me. It validates you a little more every time something like that happens.
And the awards, I want those things. But I don’t want those awards for me, as much as for everybody who’s workin’ with me. There’s a lot of people out there workin’ on my behalf, and when we get an award, their credit goes up. So it’s good for everybody when those awards are awarded to an artist.

For more on Craig Morgan, check out the Nov. 3 issue of Country Weekly.

Watch the Craig Morgan Motorcross Video!

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