Last Night at the Opry

March 24, 2023. The year of our Lord. I am backstage at the Opry, about to perform.

This cannot be real.

There are tour buses outside which cost more than tactical nuclear submarines. There are performers in clothes that look like disco balls. Rhinestones everywhere.

The security guard is a guy named Jim who shows me to a dressing room.

“Welcome to the Opry,” he says with a smile. “We’re so glad to have you.”

On my way through the hall, we pass display cases containing Loretta Lynn’s gown, antique Stetsons from the heads of famous troubadours like Ernest Tubb, and Luke Bryan’s pedicure kit.

There are framed portraits of Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Little Jimmy Dickens, George Strait, Garth Brooks, and several other stunningly attractive performers of country music who I’ve never heard of.

This can NOT be real.

I am not here. This is not reality. I am not Opry material. I have red hair, buck teeth, and my nose is so big I look like a guy sniffing a tomato. This is a dream.

Now I am in my dressing room. They tell me this room has been used by debuting artists since 19-hundred-and-forever. There’s no telling who has changed their skivvies in this room. Alan Jackson. Garth Brooks. Reba.

“Dolly might have changed her underwire in this very room,” someone remarks.

My cup runneth over.

So I change my clothes. I look at myself in the mirror, shirtless, surrounded by lightbulbs. I am frumpy, goofy looking, and when I grin I bear a striking resemblance to Mister Ed. This definitely can’t be happening.

There is a rap on my door. It’s time for soundcheck.

I meet the house band. We shake hands and run through tunes. These guys are virtuosos. My heart is pounding like a Sousa march.

Soundcheck is over. Back to the dressing room.

The Opry begins.

I sit on a sofa watching the Opry on a TV monitor. Meantime, backstage is a never ending commotion of bustle. Stagehands shoot through hallways, lugging various instruments and cables. Young male performers in ten-gallon lids and ripped jeans play on phones. Female performers walk by, wearing slingback heels tall enough to interfere with air-traffic.

After an hour, an employee knocks on my door jamb again.

“Mister Dietrich?” he says. “You’re on.”

I can’t breathe.

I drape my guitar over my shoulders. I swallow the lump of clay in my throat. And I follow him.

My wife is holding my hand. And I’m thinking about things.

About the times when my father and I played catch in the backyard. I don’t know why I’m thinking about this.

I’m also thinking about the day of my father’s funeral. And how mad I was. I was so angry that someone who loved me would shoot himself with a rifle.

I’m remembering dropping out of school as a kid, and the reaction on my teacher’s face when I told her I wasn’t coming back.

I remember hanging drywall, laying commercial tile, and scooping ice cream for a living because I was a consummate screw-up.

I remember evenings, getting off work late, driving across town to play music in beer joints with other screw-ups like me; other faceless musicians who existed in a world of secondhand smoke.

“He’s announcing you,” said one of the stage hands.

But I am in a daze. “Hmm?” I say.

“Get out there,” the stagehand says, giving me a nudge toward centerstage. “They’re announcing your name.”

This isn’t real. This can’t be real. And yet it’s happening.

I am now walking onto the Opry stage, zombie-like. I am numb all over. Emotions are hitting me like blasts from a missile silo. The audience is clapping. I can see my mother in the crowd, standing. I am weeping.

Because as I take the stage, I see something else.

I notice a father and son in the audience, trotting down a center aisle, holding hands, returning to their seats. The little boy has evidently just finished using the restroom because he is still fiddling with his belt buckle. The kid’s father is smiling. And they both look so happy.

And for a brief moment, time stops.

Because I know what that little boy is feeling right now. His father is holding his hand. The kid feels protected. Secure. Safe. Confident. Warm. And he feels loved. In other words, the boy feels like his father’s son.

And right now, so help me, as I stand before this microphone, I am feeling exactly the same way.


  1. Lori - March 26, 2023 7:47 pm

    We were having tornados in our area in the MS Delta and we could not listen but brother in Gulfport got in his car and drove to the Walmart so he could hear your Opry debut on the radio. He called me so I could hear it. We are so stinking proud of you Sean – we were nervous and excited for you, the Mrs, your momma and family and friends. I had to cut the call short as the weather worsened but just know both my brother and I had huge smiles on our faces and in our hearts for you youngin.

  2. Mac - March 26, 2023 7:55 pm

    A little preview of heaven!

  3. Dianne - March 27, 2023 1:06 am

    Would loved to have been there to hear you. I know you had a fine performance. God bless you.

  4. Michael Hawke - March 27, 2023 2:41 am

    Wow! And yes, you deserve to be on that stage. May God bless you even more.

  5. Linda Davidson - March 27, 2023 12:02 pm

    I had the pleasure to be in the audience with my 16 year old granddaughter Skylar. We had made a quick trip to Nashville from Dallas area and not only was the Opry our highlight but you were our favorite. What you did not write here is that you had not one, not two but THREE standing ovations. The announcer said that was the only time that he could remember that a first time performer had that happen. Watching you just made us all smile and feel blessed. Grateful.

    P.S. BTW, you should met my friend Andy Andrews. You guys are kindred spirits.

  6. KATY@10:15 A.M - March 27, 2023 2:26 pm

    Sean & Jamie, Just remember that you represent so many that have yet the courage to get up on stage and perform. Keep going! Our chests are bursting with pride !

  7. Richard Owen - March 27, 2023 9:42 pm

    Saw a youtube video of your first set. It was AWESOME to see a standing ovation as you were introduced.

  8. Rachel Porias - April 3, 2023 5:43 am

    How beautiful to let us read what thoughts are present in a new guitar player and singer first time at the Opry


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