Finally a Grand Ole Opry Member, Carly Pearce Celebrates with Happy Tears: 'Best Night of My Life'

Childhood hero Trisha Yearwood inducts the "I Hope You're Happy Now" singer into country's celebrated institution that she's set her sights on her entire life

Carly Pearce was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by childhood hero Trisha Yearwood on Tuesday night, and then she did something totally unexpected for someone born to sing on this hallowed stage: She turned her back on the cheering Opry crowd.

But then maybe she didn't want an audience for the tears that she couldn't stop.

Sensing the emotion, the crowd only grew louder as Pearce covered her face with her hand and wept for a few brief moments. Finally collecting herself, she turned back toward the adulation, wiped her cheeks, and let out a "Woo-hoo!" that said it all: Her lifetime dream had really come true.

Carly Pearce - Grand Ole Opry
Carly Pearce. Chris Hollo

Pearce's induction date had been set back in June, when country deity Dolly Parton invited the 31-year-old artist to join the Opry — a surprise that brought an even greater flood of happy tears. But the ACM and CMA award winner has actually been anticipating this day since early childhood, when she fell in love with singing country music, and her grandparents instilled in her a reverence for the Opry and its decades of stars.

"My Mamaw and Papaw Pearce, I always told them that if I ever made it here, they would be front row," Pearce said in the acceptance speech she was finally able to muster. "And they didn't get to see that happen, but I really do genuinely feel like they're here with me tonight, and I know that this was as much my dream as it was theirs."

Surely every moment of the special occasion came together to become, as Pearce put it, "the best night of my life."

Carly Pearce - Grand Ole Opry
Scott Borchetta, Carly Pearce and Jackie Jones. Chris Hollo

She opened her Opry set with her blockbuster No. 1, "I Hope You're Happy Now," which had just earned her a pre-show presentation of a plaque signifying the song's rare double-platinum status.

Then Pearce got to join Yearwood, an Opry member since 1999, in the center-stage circle to sing Yearwood's soaring hit, "How Do I Live Without You." In a rare bobble, Yearwood muffed a high note — which Pearce nailed — and the Opry trophy that Yearwood later handed Pearce turned out to be not the only thing Yearwood presented to her on this evening.

"You may have the high note, Carly," Yearwood jokingly announced at song's end. "It's yours!"

At a press conference before the show, Pearce told why it was so special that Yearwood was inducting her. "Everybody knows that I love '90s country music," Pearce said, "and I spent many nights singing Trisha Yearwood to my stuffed animals."

After Pearce's arrival in Nashville, Yearwood became a mentor. "She's always been so kind to me," Pearce said, "and been one of those people that I feel like has exceeded my expectations, from being a fan of hers to now being a friend to her."

During the induction, Yearwood underscored the significance of becoming a member of the 96-year-old institution.

"This is not a club that you can just join," she told Pearce. "This is a very special family that you have to be invited into, and when they ask you to become a member, it means they know that you 'get it.' You're doing something great, but you also get what came before."

Carly Pearce - Grand Ole Opry
Trisha Yearwood and Carly Pearce. Chris Hollo

Pearce has performed at the Opry more than 85 times since her debut on its stage in 2015, and during her acceptance remarks, she explained why membership is such a coveted honor to her.

"You can have hit records, you can sell out shows, you can be on award shows," she said, "but all of that can fade, and this is something that I will have forever — and a place that I can come to, and a stage that I can sing on, and a circle that I can stand in, and a family that I can be a part of, and that can never be taken away from me."

Pearce performed two more songs after her induction, and her love for the history of the Opry — and the legends that have graced the circle — was obvious in her selections.

The first song, "Dear Miss Loretta" — Pearce's just-released single — is an homage to the kinship she feels for fellow Kentuckian Loretta Lynn that she called "the most country song that I've ever released." (It's set to appear as a duet with Patty Loveless on Pearce's album, 29: Written in Stone, to be released Sept. 17.)

Carly Pearce - Grand Ole Opry
Trisha Yearwood, Jeannie Seely and Carly Pearce. Chris Hollo

The second song turned into a special Opry moment as three generations — Pearce, Yearwood and 54-year Opry member Jeannie Seely — performed as a trio. The 81-year-old Seely is just one more Pearce hero-turned-mentor who, Pearce recalled in the song's introduction, "used to get me in on her backstage [Opry] list to see Carrie Underwood before I ever had a record deal."

The three women stirringly blended their voices on "Making Believe," Kitty Wells' 1955 classic — Seely's choice to highlight yet a fourth generation of Opry magic.

Seely also asserted her elder stature before the song's start. "Let me be the first to say welcome home to the Grand Ole Opry," she said, adding what Pearce had waited all her life to hear, "'cause it's home now."

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