Twenty-two years ago today, on May 5, 2001, Blake Shelton made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry. He performed “Austin,” the first single from his self-titled freshman album.
At the time of his debut, Shelton was about three months away from the release of his first record. “Austin,” meanwhile, was only beginning its four-month climb to the No. 1 spot on the charts, where it stayed for five straight weeks.
“I sang “Austin” and … that’s all I remember,” Shelton recalls to CMT of the unforgettable night. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, this is my shot.’ The song might have been in the 50s [on the charts] at that point. It had been out for maybe two weeks. And I just remember thinking, ‘Here it is, here’s my song.’ There’s no telling what else I did — probably threw up.”
Shelton was asked to return to the hallowed stage numerous times before he was officially invited to become an Opry member in the fall of 2010. The Oklahoma native received his invitation via Twitter, right after he finished performing “Hillbilly Bone” with Trace Adkins on the Opry.
“I know a lot of guys who want this as bad as I do … but forget about them,” Shelton joked on the night he was invited to join the Opry. “This moment, hands down, is the highlight of my career.”
Shelton was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on Oct. 23, 2010.
“It’s the same feeling I get when I meet one of my heroes,” Shelton says. “To me, the Grand Ole Opry is an artist, and I’m proud to be one of its songs.”
Performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for the first time remains one of the highlights of Shelton’s illustrious career.
“I couldn’t wait to get out on that circle and stand in it,” he says. “I would have been just as happy to have taken the $20 tour of the building to stand in there. It made me feel like if this thing doesn’t work out, at least I got to sing on the Grand Ole Opry. How many people can say that?”
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