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Belmont grad Brad Paisley receives Christmas gift from Grand Ole Opry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Country music artist and Belmont University graduate Brad Paisley received an early Christmas present from the Grand Ole Opry Dec. 23 — an invitation to join Country music’s most beloved institution.

In a moment both emotional and surreal, three of Paisley’s heroes invited him to become the Opry’s newest member.

The surreal part of the equation came courtesy of Jimmy Dickens and Jeannie Seely, who strode to center stage dressed as a rather unlikely Santa and Mrs. Claus.

After the costumed pair approached, Opry legend Bill Anderson took the microphone and said, “Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and me want to know if you would like to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.”

Anderson never received a spoken answer, as Paisley, 28, immediately bowed his head and wept.

Paisley, a native of Glen Dale, W. Va., nodded, and Anderson took that as a “yes.” The singer-songwriter will be inducted into the fold Feb. 17 at the Ryman Auditorium.

“You’ve been a good boy,” Dickens said. “Merry Christmas from Tater Claus.”

More than 50 years ago, Hank Williams nicknamed Dickens “Tater,” after the diminutive singer’s hit song Take An Old, Cold Tater and Wait.

That’s the sort of historical trivia of which Paisley is well aware. Despite his youth, Paisley has become a popular presence both onstage and backstage at the Opry, displaying a knowledge of tradition and a reverence for the Opry’s senior members and around those who have played a part in country music history.

He’s also won industry awards and racked up hits with songs including He Didn’t Have To Be, Me Neither and We Danced.

“I don’t know what the Sam Hill they waited so long for,” veteran journalist Hazel Smith told The Tennessean as she commandeered a television set during a friend’s Christmas party to view the Opry’s televised segment. “He’s solid country and keeping it in the road for the tradition. Thank God we’ve got him.”

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