At Opry Induction, Lauren Alaina Gets One More Big Surprise: 'You Play It, Garth, and We'll Sing It!'

After shocking the "Getting Over Him" singer with an Opry invitation in December, Trisha Yearwood ushers Alaina into country's most hallowed institution with a little help from her superstar husband

After Lauren Alaina got the shock of her life last December when Trisha Yearwood invited her to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Alaina thought she was done with Opry surprises. In fact, that night she asked Yearwood to return to induct her — ensuring no surprise there.

But at the induction in Nashville on Saturday night, Yearwood still had one more trick up her sleeve once she welcomed Alaina into country music's most hallowed institution.

As the two women prepared to duet Yearwood's classic "Walkaway Joe," Yearwood broke the news to Alaina that there'd been a mixup that day, and the band had learned the song in the wrong key.

"And so I thought, if it was okay with you and the band — I love you guys, and I appreciate you — I brought my guitar player with me," Yearwood said before announcing: "Um, ladies and gentlemen, Garth Brooks."

Alaina's jaw dropped as the country superstar (and Mr. Trisha Yearwood) made his entrance to wild cheers. After offering his wife a kiss behind his cowboy hat, Brooks doffed the hat and deeply bowed to the Opry's newest member, who by then was dancing a little jig of joy.

"So actually what happened today was, we thought we would surprise you with this," Yearwood told Alaina as she was still trying to collect herself. "My guitar player plays it in a different key, and so I told him this afternoon he had to learn it in a different key."

Alaina finally found her words: "I'll play it in whatever key Garth plays it in! You play it, Garth, and we'll sing it!"

And indeed the two women did have their way with the torchy song, to the accompaniment of the world's most famous backup guitarist, on a night that Alaina later declared was "the most magical" of her life.

Trisha Yearwood officially welcomes Lauren Alaina as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry
Trisha Yearwood and Lauren Alaine. Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

Yearwood's surprise merely capped a ceremony that has been Alaina's impossible dream since she was a little girl, as she explained — often tearfully — during a virtual press conference before the show.

"My dad grew up playing the banjo," she said. "And it was his dream to play at the Grand Ole Opry. He never got to do that, but when I started singing as a child, my dad said, 'You've gotta play the Grand Ole Opry someday. You don't understand. This would be the biggest thing of all time.' So we'd listen to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, and we would dream about a day that I could be there."

Alaina's Opry debut arrived on June 10, 2011, less than a month after she came in second, at age 16, to Scotty McCreery on season 10 of American Idol. Now 27, Alaina said her most vivid memory of that performance was seeing her dad standing sidestage and weeping. Since then, she's played the Opry more than 50 times (and given her father several opportunities to play his banjo on the stage with the band), but she told reporters that she'd never allowed herself to even anticipate a coveted invitation.

"I dreamed for it," she said, "but it felt like something that was so out of reach."

No wonder Yearwood's invitation on the Opry stage on Dec. 18 evoked Alaina's now-famous epic meltdown. Sobbing and speechless for several long moments, she finally was able to blurt out an adamant "yes!" to Yearwood's question. But she was never able to fully regain her composure with the woman she has long considered "my hero" and now cherishes as a friend.

"Trisha Yearwood means the world to me," Alaina said at the press conference. "She's been so good to me over the last few years. We met at an award show, and we bonded over fast food, which is hysterical. And then I went on her cooking show, and she actually ended up writing the foreword for my book, and she calls me 'Trisha Junior.' I'm in her phone as 'Junior,' which, what better compliment could I ask for than that? So she is the perfect person to ask me if I wanted to be a member."

The morning after the invite, Alaina revealed, she woke up still in disbelief. "And I did the thing that my mom usually does," she said. "I watched the video [of the invitation] a hundred times and just cried on the couch. I was such a weirdo. I can never tease my mother for this ever again because I am now doing it — and it was me. ... It still hasn't really sunk in. ... It is more than a dream come true. It is like the dream come true. It is amazing. I don't know if it'll ever sink in."

Onstage, she reiterated these sentiments after Yearwood presented her with her membership trophy, a small replica of the iconic Opry microphone.

"For me, to finally be officially in [the Opry] is the biggest dream come true of all time," she told the sellout crowd at the Grand Ole Opry House. "Most little girls dream of their weddings. I dreamed of this. So," she added with a hearty chuckle, "hopefully now I can have a wedding, too, and we'll be set!"

(Only time will tell how much Alaina was revealing. After two very public breakups in recent years, the artist has chosen to keep her personal life far more private.)

Yearwood started the induction ceremony by almost immediately ceding it to a country deity: Dolly Parton, in a congratulatory video, told the young star, "You and I have a lot in common. We both started young, we love country music, and we love the Grand Ole Opry!"

"That's pretty cool!" Yearwood pronounced after Parton's 43-second video, another surprise for Alaina.

Alaina was still trying to absorb what had just happened: "She said my name!"

In her own remarks, Yearwood expressed her personal admiration for Alaina. "What I have gotten to observe in knowing you for the couple years that I've known you is just how genuine you are," she said. "And I said this when you were invited, how I really do feel like country music is in good hands."

Lauren Alaina Welcomed As Newest Member of the Grand Ole Opry
Lauren Alaina. Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry

Though she shared the stage with Yearwood, Brooks and a videoed Parton, Alaina was clearly the night's center of attention, and as such, she was rewarded with a five-song set, including the "Walkaway Joe" duet. She opened with her current single with Jon Pardi, "Getting Over Him," then followed with her two collaborative No. 1s, "What Ifs" (recorded with Kane Brown), and "One Beer" (recorded with Hardy and Devin Dawson).

She ended the evening with her first No. 1 single, "Road Less Traveled." Not until the press conference did it dawn on Alaina that she would be singing this autobiographical affirmation anthem, which she co-wrote with Meghan Trainor and Jesse Frasure, for the first time as an official member of the Grand Ole Opry — and that realization instantly brought her to tears.

"Oh ... that makes so proud," she stammered, before breaking into an impromptu gospel chorus of "help me, Jesus!"

When the time finally came to sing "Road," Alaina had confidently taken full ownership of the Opry stage, and the song became far more a celebration than a performance by an artist who clearly didn't want the night to end. After the song's second chorus, she paused to tell the crowd as much.

"Before I get out of here tonight, I'm gonna soak it up!" she announced, repeating each word for emphasis: "Soak ... it ... up!"

It didn't take much for Alaina to coax the audience into a lusty singalong of the song's infectious "take the road less traveled" refrain, and when she asked for cell-phone flashlights to come out, the Opry House turned into a twinkling galaxy.

"Oooooh, put your hands up," Alaina commanded, singing the words to the song's bridge. "Show me that you're one of a kind!"

And then she shouted out: "Who's one of a kind in Nashville tonight?"

No question there. Tonight, on this night of nights, you are, Lauren Alaina.

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