Grand Ole Opry’s Dan Rogers Discusses New Leadership Role [Interview]

Dan Rogers.

Newly-appointed Grand Ole Opry Vice President and Executive Producer Dan Rogers launched his career as an intern at the Grand Ole Opry in 1999, though according to one childhood photo, his acquaintance with the venerable 94-year-old institution runs at least as far back as Rogers’ kindergarten year.

“We took a tour of the Grand Ole Opry and I don’t know what I was thinking at that point, but I certainly wasn’t thinking about fast forwarding to today and this happening,” Rogers tells MusicRow.

A childhood photo of Dan Rogers at the Grand Ole Opry.

Since beginning his professional career at the Opry, Rogers has rotated though a myriad of roles in marketing, communications, artist relations and production. He has become a regular fixture backstage at the Opry, earning the affectionate nickname “Opry Dan.”

In his new role, Rogers will oversee the show’s more than 200 annual performances. The promotion came in the wake of the news that Sally Williams was exiting to take on a new role at Live Nation as President of Nashville Music and Business Strategy.

“I feel like this opportunity has come to me at the perfect time in my Opry career. I’ve been learning for 20 years and I’ve been learning from different leaderships. No one is every fully prepared to take on any role, but the past two decades, it’s been more about a long steady education and work.” he says.

Rogers discussed his new role and what is ahead for the Grand Ole Opry.

MusicRow: Going forward, how do you see the Opry changing—and how do you see it staying the same?

That is a great question and almost a quote of a past Opry advertising slogan that was pitched. We never went with it, but I’ve never forgotten it. It was “The Grand Ole Opry, it always changes. The Grand Ole Opry, it never changes.” That’s my philosophy as well. You have to hold tight to some of the things that have made the Opry what it is over the course of 94 years. Then you always have to have an eye out to the future to attracting new fans who will become the folks who are tuning in or doing whatever it is…handheld device…to connect to the Opry.

In the past few years, we have seen more newcomers be inducted into the Opry—artists such as Dustin Lynch, Luke Combs and Kelsea Ballerini. Do you see that trend continuing?

The Opry membership has always been about the relationship the Opry artists have with the Opry, its fans and country music in general. And that, in my vote, will never change. Whether it’s Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Combs, the Oak Ridge Boys who became members relatively recently or Charlie Daniels, who joined the Opry late in his career but is quick to say it is a career highlight. Relationships will always be at the core of Opry membership and speaking of teamwork, that is certainly not a decision made by one person. Our senior leadership will continue to be very active in those decisions. An even wider net of people will make those decisions, because that is part of what makes the Opry so special.

In 2025, the Opry will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Though that anniversary is still a few years away, what ideas and plans are already being looked at to celebrate?

Funny enough, I do have a 100th anniversary digital folder that I have asked folks to contribute to and have just been adding the occasional items.

From a license plate, to a really fun network TV project, to a way of honoring all of our Opry members, past and present. There will be no end to what we want to accomplish for that, because obviously that is a great opportunity. The Opry will likely be the only radio show that ever will be able to claim a 100th anniversary.

What does that anniversary mean you for personally?

It is an undeniable honor for me personally, but the most exciting part of that, and this job, is the great folks with whom I’ll work to make it happen. I can’t imagine what a monumental task and responsibility that will be. And so many folks that have been here with me for so long that will be on board. The Opry calls itself a family a lot and it feels that way when you walk into a meeting and sit across from [Director of Talent and Logistics] Gina Keltner, who has been here a long time with me. A lot of the tech services folks a lot of them have been here even longer than I have.

Looking over your two decades with the Opry, what have been some of your favorite memories?

Every time someone is surprised with an Opry member invitation. That never gets old. Songwriters say their favorite [song] is the one they just wrote, and my favorite Opry moments are the most recent. We just celebrated Jesse McReynolds’ 90th birthday with a chorus of mandolin that was unforgettable. It was amazing to see Carrie Underwood surprise the audience by not just welcoming Kelsea Ballerini into the Opry family, but then singing [Trisha Yearwood’s 1992 hit] “Walkaway Joe” with her.

I’ve timed my entrance into the Opry House just right a time or two just so I got to walk up the artist entrance alongside Loretta Lynn, who talked and laughed the entire way. All I could think of was, “If my mom back home could see me now,” because she’s such a Loretta Lynn fan. It’s also the Opry moments that will soon be. I can’t wait for Oct. 12th when Dolly Parton celebrates 50 years with us. All you have to say is “Dolly Parton, Grand Ole Opry” and you know it will be unforgettable.

We worked with Trisha Yearwood to celebrate her 20th Opry anniversary and we worked with her to craft moments onstage that would be unforgettable, like an appearance with Garth [Brooks] and a collaboration with Ricky Skaggs, who had invited her to join the Opry.

Then, we were able to surprise Trisha herself by having Emmylou Harris come out to introduce her. I think that rocked her world, for a split second, anyway. It was the perfect combination of working with an artist so they had their great onstage moment, but also working to surprise her with something that would only happen at the Opry as well.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at jnicholson@musicrow.com.

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