Despite the often sad nature of cheatin’ songs and classic country tunes, the Grand Ole Opry is generally a pretty upbeat place: It’s a venue everyone’s always excited to play, and Opry inductions are always thrilling occasions. Sometimes, though, the venue is host to more solemn or emotional events.
A number of tear-jerking performances, from emotional debuts to stirring tributes, have taken place at the Grand Ole Opry, but these five are especially sure to inspire the waterworks. Grab the tissue box before you watch!
Paying tribute to to his tourmate, inspiration and the man who called him “Sweet Pea,” Gill performed a tear-jerking version of “Go Rest High on That Mountain” at Jones‘ Grand Ole Opry funeral alongside Loveless. Both artists had more than a little trouble making it through the song — started by Gill following Keith Whitley‘s death in 1989 and finished a few years later, after Gill’s brother’s death — and there definitely wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time they finished.
At an Opry performance in May of 2016, Keith held back tears as he played a medley of the late, great Merle Haggard‘s biggest hits, including “Mama Tried,” “Today I Started Loving You Again” and “Silver Wings.” Haggard had died about a month before, and the country music community — Haggard’s friend Keith included — was still grappling with the loss.
Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, no video of this performance is currently available.
Written in the weeks after the death of his grandfather, McCreery’s emotional, nostalgic dedication to his hero went on to be a major hit for the artist after its Opry debut. In fact, the crowd’s response to the song that night — a standing ovation — is part of the reason McCreery decided to officially record and release the song as a single.
Before the release of her album Girl Going Nowhere in early 2018, McBryde proved that she was anything but with her stunning, stirring Grand Ole Opry debut. Armed only with her guitar, McBryde is visibly overwhelmed by standing in the venue’s iconic circle, stopping a few times as she performs to collect herself; we won’t blame you if find yourself tearing up no matter how many times you watch this one.
Just days after performing at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nev., where a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more during Jason Aldean‘s festival-closing set on Oct. 1, Church took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. During his set, the country star admitted that he thought about canceling his performance — but then, he saw an interview with Heather Melton, the wife of Route 91 victim Sonny Melton, who was a Church fan and had tickets to his Opry performance.
“Something broke in me, on Sunday night, when [the tragedy] happened, and the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broke in me is with music,” Church said. “So I wrote a song.”
Melton’s story inspired Church to write “Why Not Me,” which he debuted that night. He was visibly struggling to keep it together during the performance — and so was the audience.