Vince Gill and Little Jimmy Dickens welcome the band to the Opry family
Credit: Terry Wyatt/Getty

Even two weeks after Reba McEntire strolled out onto the Opry House stage during a performance of Little Big Town’s smash “Pontoon” and invited the band to join the Grand Ole Opry cast, LBT’s Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Schlapman were still pinching themselves. “We’ve replayed the video of Reba singing ‘motorboatin’ a thousand times on the bus!” confessed Fairchild.

Their induction ceremony on Friday, Oct. 17, was even more emotional. Led by Vince Gill, with an assist from oldest Opry member Little Jimmy Dickens, the welcome to the Opry family brought all four members to tears, especially Westbrook, who held up the member trophy to “my daddy in heaven. He loved the Opry and I know he’s looking down here, so proud.”

It also got the platinum-selling foursome reminiscing about their very first performance at the country music institution back in 1999. “Up until then, we had only performed in living rooms and conference rooms of record labels trying to get a deal,” Fairchild recalled. “The day we signed our first contract with a label, we got a call from our agent asking if we could fill in at the Opry that night for someone who had cancelled. It was a really big day for us!”

When the four “very nervous” singers stepped onto the stage of the Opry, “It was just us and a borrowed guitar,” Sweet remembered.

“We didn’t know acts were given an actual time slot,” added Schlapman. “All of our families were tuned in back home, so excited. Phillip’s sister had driven up to the highest hill in her town. My grandma and papa were listening in their car so they could pick up the signal. They sat there two hours waiting on us!”

The four, who will release their sixth studio album, Pain Killer, Oct. 21, celebrated their induction by recreating their first Opry moment, singing “Bring It On Home” accompanied by two guitars. They then dedicated their first big hit, “Boondocks,” to the Opry audience and closed by inviting Gill back on stage to join them on a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me.”

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