Performing on the Grand Ole Opry is always special for Luke Bryan, but last night (Oct. 22) will always be a treasured memory for the four-time entertainer of the year. Bryan was on hand to flip the switch turning the Opry’s signature barn pink to create awareness for breast cancer during the 11th Annual Opry Goes Pink evening, and during his acoustic set got a big surprise when the Academy of Country Music’s RAC Clark naming him the first-ever recipient of the ACM Album of the Decade Award for Crash My Party.
Bryan called the album’s producer Jeff Stevens to the stage to share the moment, and also welcomed Jeff’s son, Jody Stevens, who also co-produces now. “Crash My Party was such a life changing album for us,” he told the Opry audience of the 2013 album that sold over four million copies and spawned six No. 1 singles—“That’s My Kind of Night,” “Drink A Beer,” “Play It Again,” “Roller Coaster” “I See You” and the title track.
“We didn’t know it at the time,” he says of the success the album would achieve. “We were just loving making music for you guys. It blew my mind the love and support we had from the fans. It’s so fun getting to do this.”
Backstage before the first of the evening’s two sold out shows, Bryan shared his feelings on being part of the Opry Goes Pink night that also included performances from Anita Cochran, Joe Diffie, Sara Evans, Craig Morgan, the Oak Ridge Boys and Travis Tritt. “It’s been way too long since I’ve been on the Opry stage,” he said. “I will get so busy… but getting to the Opry is always on my mind. When we had the opportunity to partner up with Opry Goes Pink [creating] breast cancer awareness, I was like, ‘Heck yes! Let’s do it.’”
Bryan said the evening also gave him an opportunity to do something he’d been wanting to do for a long time. “My first Opry show, Vince Gill stopped by unannounced. He just walked out and brought a guitar. I’ve wanted to do that for years, not have my band, just have a guitar or piano, so I’m just going to play guitar and piano tonight,” he said. “It just felt like a fun night to do that kind of show to me.”
Bryan took the stage to thunderous applause while his wife Caroline and mom LeClaire watched proudly from the wings. Armed with his guitar, he had the crowd singing along when he kicked off his set with “Most People Are Good” and “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Every Day.” He then delivered a stirring performance of his chart-topping 2014 hit “Play it Again.” There was a break in the music as Clark surprised him on stage with the Album of the Decade Award. After acknowledging his producers, family, record label and others, Bryan resumed his acoustic set by heading to the piano to deliver the 2009 hit “Do I,” which sounded just as urgent and compelling a decade after it’s run on the charts. He finished the night with “Drink a Beer,” a poignant ballad about loss. “Y’all drink a beer for someone you love tonight,” he told the crowd.
In addition to raising awareness for breast cancer, five dollars from every ticket to the sold out Opry shows will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to fight the disease. Being part of Opry Goes Pink meant a lot to Bryan. “Thankfully no one in my close proximity of my family has had breast cancer, but we’ve had friends down in Georgia and Nashville since I’ve been here that have dealt with it,” he said. “The big thing I’ve always noticed is the fans at my concerts that have signs saying, ‘Last chemo treatment today. Beating breast cancer!’ That visual is always something I leave the show with.”