Opry Milestones: Chapel Hart debuts, Jeannie Seely celebrates 55 years of membership

In a matter of weeks, familiar Country musical trio Chapel Hart has gone from serving the Golden Buzzer group from the judges in America’s Got Talent and make it all the way to the show’s finale to make a triumphant, tear-filled Grand Ole Opry debut performance on Saturday night (September 17).

The Mississippi-born trio — sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and their cousin Trea Swindle — previously released the albums Out of the Mud (2019) and The girls are back in town (2021). Their three-song Opry debut earned the trio three standing ovations and heartfelt cheers from the Opry audience.

On Tuesday night (Sept. 13), the three-piece performed the patriotic number “American Pride” during the 6 p.m. AGAIN finale, but was overcome with emotion during the show and struggled with vocal issues throughout the performance.

“We didn’t get halfway through the song. The first notes started and we started bowing out America’s Got Talent before the song even started, so tonight we want to dedicate this to the men and women who put it all on the line day in and day out,” Danica Hart told the Opry crowd before the group offered heartfelt thanks to each and every one . military members in the Opry House audience, and gave the song another go on the Opry stage, receiving huge applause, a standing ovation and one of the evening’s most inspiring moments.

They closed with “You Can Have Him Jolene,” theirs AGAIN audition song that gave the trio the Golden Buzzer group the win, along with praise from artists including Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Darius Rucker.

Below AGAIN finale, Chapel Hart performed “Something to Talk About” with Rucker, who had previously revealed that Chapel Hart will be featured on his upcoming album. Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, Chapel Hart told Billboard how the Rucker collaboration for his album came about.

“First of all, you get a message from Darius Rucker on social media and you’re like, ‘These damn spammers,’ but then you see there’s a blue tick!” said fraud. “He said, ‘I’ve got this song and I think I hear you guys doing the harmonies. Just take it and do Chapel Hart. I’d love to work with you.’ So we took it and Chapel Harted it right up, put the vocals down and sent it to the producer. We waited for the answer and the producer just goes, ‘Good, thanks.’

“We were like, ‘Oh, maybe he didn’t like it as much as we thought,’ but two weeks later we get a message from Darius and he’s like, ‘OMG, what the hell?! I just heard this .’ He didn’t change anything and said, ‘I want this to be a feature, a collaboration.’ Just to see him be so excited about it when for so long we’ve just wanted to show people who we are — he definitely gave us an opportunity and championed us as artists.”

The trio have a strong bucket list of artists they would still love to collaborate with, including Small big city, The chickens, Zac Brown Band and Pistol Annie’s.

“And we would love to do something with Dolly [Parton]even if we just stand and cry in the background,” says Danica Hart.

“We’re going to be the background crier,” Swindle said, adding, “I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but I’m going to convince Gretchen Wilson to come back and start doing some more stuff.”

Saturday night may have marked Chapel Hart’s first Opry performance, but certainly not their last — near the end of their set, they surprised the Opry crowd with the news that they’ll be returning for their next Opry appearance that October. 8.

When Chapel Hart made their very first Grand Ole Opry performance, they were introduced by “Miss Country Soul” Jeannie Seelywho that same evening celebrated 55 years as a member of the infamous Grand Ole Opry establishment.

“How special tonight for a 55-year member to welcome a group on their debut, which just proves our Grand Ole Opry tradition – the circle will not be broken,” Seely told the crowd. Before her introduction, Seely noted that she welcomed the trio with a bottle of champagne and handwritten notes congratulating them on their Opry debut.

Seely, known for Billboard hits including “Wish I Didn’t Have to Miss You” (with Jack Greene) and “Can I Sleep in Your Arms,” ​​were recorded at the Grand Ole Opry in September. 16, 1967. On Saturday night, she was honored not only for her 55-year commitment to the Opry, but also for having the distinction of having appeared on the Opry stage more than any other artist in Opry history, having entered the Riot. stage over 5,000 times in his career.

Dan Rogers, Grand Ole Opry VP/Director Producerand Gina Keltner, director of Opry talent planning and logistics, presented Seely with a plaque to celebrate both milestones.

“How blessed I am,” Seely said. Earlier in the evening, she told the audience: “I’m just enjoying every second of it and never taking it for granted.” Seely offered a rendition of her No. 2 Billboard 1966 country hit, “Don’t Touch Me,” which earned her a Grammy win for Best Female Country & Western Vocal.

Of course, Pennsylvania native Seely was never content to be just a performer on the Opry—she fought for advancement within the organization, becoming the first woman to regularly host segments of the weekly Grand Ole Opry shows, and she is credited with being the first to wear a miniskirt on the Opry stage.

“It wasn’t just pushing for women’s rights, although that was part of it,” Seely told reporters backstage of her push to allow women to host Opry segments. “My vision was for the overall show, and the talent that is being heard, and what people want to hear.”

Right now, Seely says she’s focused on three things: the Opry, her role as host of a weekly Sunday show on SiriusXM’s Willie’s Roadhouse channel and getting back to songwriting. Last year, Rhonda Vincent released the bluegrass hit “Like I Could,” which Seely co-wrote with Erin Enderlin and Bobby Tomberlin. In 2020, Seely also released the album An American classica mix of new songs and remakes of timeless tunes.

Seely noted that she went into the studio nearly three weeks ago to record several songs she had written.

“I was talking to Bill Anderson one day about an idea I had and he said, ‘I really like this.’ We’ve been friends for 60 years and we tell each other about our songs,” she told reporters backstage . “[Seely said] “Are we ever going to write a song?” So he and I and Bobby Tomberlin got together and wrote one. I served them lunch and as I walked them to the door I remembered another idea I wrote on my phone in Target one day. I told them the idea and Bill said, ‘Jeannie, that’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a while,’ so we put another [writing] appointment for the next day.”

She has also co-written with Buddy Cannon, Victoria Shaw and Gary Burr. Seely said that even after more than five decades as an Opry member and country music mainstay, the creative possibilities of songwriting excite her. “These people are calling me to write with them and I’m completely overwhelmed,” she noted.


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