"I cannot believe what just happened," Dustin Lynch tearfully told the audience after his lifetime crush Reba McEntire inducted him into the Opry family

By Nancy Kruh
September 19, 2018 05:15 PM
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Dustin Lynch has never made it a secret that he’s had a lifelong crush on Reba McEntire. But somehow, the Grand Ole Opry managed to keep it a secret that McEntire would be the one to induct him into its hallowed membership on Tuesday night in Nashville.

Still, as Lynch stood on stage awaiting his mystery presenter, he was able to figure out the surprise sooner than the Opry House’s sold-out crowd did. All it took was for announcer Eddie Stubbs to begin his cryptic introduction with one hint, saying Lynch “has been a fan of hers for his entire life.” The 33-year-old singer gasped and beamed, knowing who was waiting in the wings. As the introduction continued, he doffed his signature cowboy hat to await the entrance of the country music queen.

Dustin Lynch and Reba McEntire
| Credit: Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

McEntire arrived with arms outstretched, and Lynch hugged his idol, clutched his heart, and then hugged her again. Tears were streaming down his cheeks as McEntire handed him his Opry trophy.

“You’ve got me crying, Dustin, dang it!” McEntire protested.

Dustin Lynch and Reba McEntire
| Credit: Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

The 63-year-old Opry member reminisced with Lynch about her Opry debut 41 years before and her first visit to the Opry at age 7. “I thought then it’s such an institution,” she said, “and what these folks have done for us! They have paved the way, and now it’s our job to pave the way … So congratulations and welcome to one of the best families in the world.”

Once she departed the stage, Lynch tried to collect himself. “I told everybody before I came out here, I am a cry baby, and I get it from my dad,” he said. “I cannot believe what just happened.”

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As Lynch began to offer his thanks to his team, family and friends, McEntire was soon back again – this time with a box of tissues for Lynch. He laughed, took one, dabbed his eyes, and stuck it in his pocket. “I’m keeping this,” the Reba fanboy said with a grin.

Even before McEntire’s appearance, Lynch had declared the night to be “unimaginable” during his five-song set. “This is one of those dreams that you dream of,” he said, “and you honestly don’t think will ever happen.”

Dustin Lynch
| Credit: Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

Among his song choices was his first hit, “Cowboys and Angels,” which he also performed at his Opry debut on March 2, 2012. The platinum-selling single, which he co-wrote, was inspired by his grandparents, Buddy and Helen Lynch, who were among a large contingent of family members in the audience.

Lynch received his invitation to join the permanent cast of the 93-year-old radio show on Aug. 21 when Opry member Trace Adkins surprised him on stage, so the “Good Girl” singer has had almost a month for the news to soak in. At a press conference before his induction, Lynch recalled listening to the Opry while growing up in the small south Tennessee town of Tullahoma. After he moved to Nashville, he finally got the opportunity to attend the Opry when he sneaked in on a backstage pass in someone else’s name.

That night, Lynch said, he sat at the back of the stage, looked out at the crowd and visualized himself as the performer: “I put it out to the universe: One of these days, I want to see this whenever I’m playing. Fast forward however many years it’s been, and tonight’s happening.”

By evening’s end, Lynch had completed his final official task as a newly inducted member: affixing his nameplate to the historic Opry roster on display near the backstage entrance.

As a clutch of family and friends watched, Lynch said he was still shaking from his stage experience – so much so it took him a full three minutes to get two screws into their pre-drilled holes. He finally called in reinforcement, his 5-year-old nephew Jack, to help him steady the small plaque.

Dustin Lynch
| Credit: Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

Afterward, Lynch took a moment to sit in awe that his name was now amid such legends as Johnny Cash, George Jones and Hank Williams.

His grandfather clapped him on the chest. “I told you you’d be there one day,” the elder Lynch said.

“That’s right,” the singer said, grinning. Now he could finally believe it.