Crystal Gayle will become the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. The long-haired, polished country-pop singer, best known for the crossover hit “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” was surprised onstage Tuesday night with an offer from Opry member Carrie Underwood to join the 92-year-old country institution.
Underwood, home in Nashville in between stops on her Storyteller Tour, appeared during Gayle’s own Opry appearance, walking out during “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” to stun the audience.
The 65-year-old Gayle – the youngest sibling of country legend Loretta Lynn – was born in Paintsville, Kentucky, in 1951, and launched her music career in 1970 with the single “I’ve Cried (The Blues Right Out of My Eyes).” She released a string of songs in 1976, including her first country Number One, “I’ll Get Over You.” But it was the 1977 ballad “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” that introduced her to a larger pop audience, with the song topping the country chart and rising to Number 2 on Billboard‘s Hot 100. On the strength of “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Gayle was named the CMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year in 1977 and ’78. She is also a three-time ACM Female Vocalist winner.
“I was so excited when Carrie wanted to sing ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue’ with me, because I’m such a big fan of Carrie,” Gayle tells Rolling Stone Country. “And when she asked me to be a part of the Opry family, I was speechless, beyond words. I’m so happy, so honored, and I’ve always felt a part of the Opry, but this makes it official.
“I’ve claimed them whether they’ve claimed me or not,” she continues, laughing. “They’ve been my family for a long time.”
Gayle will be officially inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on January 21st by her sister and fellow Opry member Lynn.
Gayle’s induction marks the first new Grand Ole Opry member since Little Big Town in 2014, and her membership helps bolster the veteran star power of an organization that has lost its share of legendary names. Little Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, George Hamilton IV and, most recently, Jean Shepard, all died within the last three years.