Willie Nelson and George Strait Aren’t Members of the Grand Ole Opry

Why aren’t two of country music’s most famous artists, Willie Nelson and George Strait, members of the Grand Ole Opry? Nelson has publicly answered the question before, and many fans assume Strait’s reason is the same.

Did standing members snub the two legends as they tried to do to Loretta Lynn in the early sixties? Or did Strait and Nelson decline memberships for personal reasons? Keep reading to find out.

Willie Nelson and George Strait perform onstage
(L-R) Willie Nelson and George Strait | Jason Kempin/Getty Images for A+E Networks

What are some of the requirements to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry?

Notably, receiving an invite to sing on the Opry is different than becoming a member of the illustrious group. Many new country artists perform and some are never inducted.

“The Opry doesn’t simply pass out invitations to the biggest stars with the most hits,” the website notes. “Opry management looks for a musical and a generational balance.”

Furthermore, “Opry membership requires a passion for country music’s fans, a connection to the music’s history, and it requires commitment — even a willingness to make significant sacrifices to uphold that commitment.”

So, becoming a member is no small feat. The process usually starts with a nomination from someone who is already inducted. Membership also requires consistent performances on the Opry, which is why many up-and-coming artists make the choice to move to Nashville.

Willie Nelson and George Strait chose Texas over the Grand Ole Opry

Nelson was inducted as a member of the Opry in 1965, but he gave up his membership after less than a decade. He eventually made his way back home to Texas after starting to pursue his music dreams. And when he left, he couldn’t be a member of the Opry anymore because that required him to be in Nashville 26 weeks out of the year.

“I left Nashville because you can’t play in Texas on Friday and get back to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night,” the “Crazy” songwriter said (per Texas Standard.) “It just don’t work out that way.”

Nelson had other stages in mind, closer to home. “Just leave the bus in Austin — we can go out and play in Waco, come back, and go play in San Antonio and come back” he explained. “And I’m leaning towards that — the further we go — because it’s something we could always do. We don’t have to go to Alaska every year.”

According to Taste of Country, Strait likely turned down an induction because he wanted to stay in Texas, though it’s hard to find any record of him saying that. But that’s where he was born and has lived throughout his career, so fans agree it makes the most sense.

George Strait and Willie Nelson shared a stage in Texas on Nelson’s 89th birthday

Considering both Nelson and Strait are still experiencing long careers, the Opry membership wasn’t required.

The country legends are both still rocking live shows and even shared a Texas stage on a special day. According to an advertisement for a show on April 29, 2022, also Nelson’s 89th birthday, the two stars shared a stage for the second time.

Strait brought the “Pretty Paper” singer and his family as guests for the Strait from Moody Center’ Grand Opening Celebration in Austin, and fans were stoked. “George Strait and Willie Nelson are both playing TOGETHER in Austin,” one took to Twitter to share. “This is next level crazy good.”

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