Gary Mule Deer, Henry Cho invited to join Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry members Connie Smith and Marty Stuart invited Gary Mule Deer and Henry Cho -- a pair of comedians with more than 100 combined appearances on the show -- to become the 229th and 230th members of the cast of the near century-old program on Friday evening at the kickoff of a special "Opry at the Ryman" series of Opry presentations at the Ryman Auditorium.
"They wanted to start the year off with a smile … So on behalf of the Grand Ole Opry, the staff, and the cast, we just don't think we could do without you any more. You've been family for a long time, and we'd like to invite you to be members of the Grand Ole Opry," stated Stuart via a Facebook Live chat before the proceedings.
"Marty, Henry, and Gary said it best themselves when they were talking before tonight's invitation," said Opry Executive Producer Dan Rogers. "Comedy has been an integral -- and more importantly, FUN -- part of the Opry for decades. It's going to be fabulous to have both Henry and Gary as Opry members and for many of their fellow comedians on Opry shows to keep ratcheting up the fun factor every night."
Given that they have accepted their invitations, Cho and Mule Deer will represent the first comedians inducted into the Opry in nearly a half-century since Jerry Clower's 1973 induction.
The comedians' induction dates will be announced soon.
Mule Deer is an 83-year-old native of Deadwood, South Dakota, whose trademark upswept coiffure and dry wit have allowed him a six-decade-long comedic and musical career that has impacted the likes of Woody Allen, David Letterman and Steve Martin. He's a live crowd favorite as a regular addition to the Opry's hour-long programming.
Cho -- the Opry's first-ever Asian-American cast member -- has four decades of comedic experience. In a 2021 interview, the native of Knoxville, Tennessee, noted that former Opry General Manager Pete Fisher initially approached him about playing special occasions like the 2012 commemoration of Opry legend Minnie Pearl's 100th birthday. He added that Amy Grant noted that "humor had always been a part of the Opry and that it had been missing [for awhile]."
Cho counts friendships with the likes of Opry members Rascal Flatts and Vince Gill, plus history as a tour opener for Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire, as highlights of his career history.
Though not delivered under Minnie Pearl's iconic $1.98 straw hat, comedy as told by the likes of Cho and Mule Deer is still vital to country music’s legacy.
These invitations continue a recent cycle of Opry membership additions (Ashley McBryde's induction closed 2022 in December) since Darius Rucker's in January 2021 that rivals a 1964-65 swing of seven inductions that included membership being granted to performers, including Willie Nelson and the previously mentioned Smith.
January 2023 finds The Opry returning to the Ryman Auditorium for a special one-month run. Artists scheduled to appear include Opry members Lauren Alaina, Bill Anderson, Terri Clark, John Conlee, Dailey & Vincent, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Carly Pearce, Jeannie Seely, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Rhonda Vincent, Mark Wills and Chris Young. Additionally, Chapel Hart, The Fairfield Four, Maggie Rose, Restless Road, Sawyer Brown, Caitlyn Smith, Charlie Worsham, and more are scheduled. Tickets are available via opry.com.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Gary Mule Deer, Henry Cho invited to join Grand Ole Opry