FILE – In this April 4, 2011 file photo, from left, Joe Don Rooney, Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus, of the musical group Rascal Flatts, present an award to honoree Reba McEntire at the Girls’ Night Out: Superstar Women of Country in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, file)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music super group Rascal Flatts is the latest member of the Grand Ole Opry.
The trio was surprised with the news Tuesday night during their performance on the Opry. Twenty-year Opry member Vince Gill made an unscheduled appearance, interrupting singer Gary LeVox, bassist Jay DeMarcus and guitarist Joe Don Rooney mid-performance.
After starting with a joke about an unpaid golf debt, Gill extended an invitation to join the Opry. The men had tears in their eyes and the crowd gave them a standing ovation. They will be formally inducted Oct. 8.
Rascal Flatts is the top-selling country group of the last decade. The trio joins a recent slate of longtime stars invited to join, including Blake Shelton and The Oak Ridge Boys.
Opry membership is among the highest honors for a country musician. It comes with an ambassador-like commitment to the history of the genre and a requirement to perform at least 10 times a year.
Rascal Flatts has sold tens of millions of albums and is one of country music’s largest touring acts, but DeMarcus said Opry membership probably surpasses it all.
“I used to vacation here with my family and I can remember being a little kid sitting in the very back at the very top of the Opry house and looking down at that stage and that circle and wanting so bad to hopefully someday be on that stage, so for it to come full circle like it has tonight is very emotionally overwhelming,” he said.