For the first time since the death of his wife, Joey, in March, Rory Feek returned to the Grand Ole Opry stage on Sept. 24 to introduce his friend Bradley Walker. But before Rory could address the crowd, the Opry faithful treated him to a standing ovation and a rousing round of applause.
“My wife loved performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, and we’ve always felt like a member of the Grand Ole Opry family,” said Rory after the applause dissipated. “And I’m honored to be back here tonight. Although I’m not here with my bride, I am here with someone both Joey and I loved as a person and as a performer for years and years.”
As a member of the crowd shouted out “We love Joey,” a smile came across Rory’s face as he continued his introduction. “My baby [Indiana] just went down to sleep so I’m out here by myself and so honored to be able to introduce you to a friend of ours that has a brand-new album [Call Me Old Fashioned] coming out and a television special that he filmed at our barn and I’m part of producing this record. Y’all make a big round of applause for Mr. Bradley Walker.”
Bradley, who has suffered from muscular dystrophy since birth, delighted the audience with a performance of the title track to his new album.
A few days after the Opry show, Rory wrote about the experience in his blog, This Life I Live, and we’ve included a few excerpts from the blog below.
On Saturday night, for the first time in a couple of years . . . I walked out on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. It was beautiful and surreal at the same time.
I’d stood on that hallowed stage dozens of times over the last eight years or so, but never alone. Never without Joey. She was the only reason I was ever there in the first place. I know that. I was a songwriter with a wife who had a dream that was so big, her husband was swept up in it . . . along with thousands and now millions of other people who loved her too.
But last night, she wasn’t with me. I had been asked to introduce our friend Bradley Walker as he debuted two new songs off his new album on the Opry stage. And so during the 8:30 segment, The Whites (a family group who are like family to us) said some kind things to the crowd about my wife and I, then called my name and I walked out into the spotlight for the first time without Joey. And then it happened . . .
It wasn’t just the applause. It was how long it lasted and how many people rose to their feet before I could even say a word. I was floored. Joey and I had experienced moments like this before . . . but it was for a show we played or a song we sang. This was different. It was all for her. For us. For the journey that we had been on and the courage my wife had shown through it all. And I was honored. So honored to be there. To hear and feel the overwhelming volume of what sounded like applause, but what it really was . . . was love. It was beyond humbling.
You can read Rory’s entire blog post here.
Check out the video of Rory addressing the crowd and Bradley performing below.
photo and video courtesy of The Grand Ole Opry