Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood paid a surprise visit to the Grand Ole Opry recently, punctuating a two-week period of free time between concerts in Birmingham, Alabama, and Houston with a performance on country music’s longest-running radio show.
“I love this girl with all my heart,” announced Vince Gill, who served as the Opry’s host for a portion of the June 19th performance, “and I sang on her first record a whole bunch of years ago. There’s not a better singer on the face of the earth. She just stopped by to say hey. Make welcome Trisha Yearwood, everybody.”
Taking the stage alone, Yearwood explained that the last-minute nature of the performance didn’t give her enough time to round up her usual band. “Luckily,” she added, “I live with a Grand Ole Opry member, so if you all would make welcome my guitar player tonight: my husband, Mr. Garth Brooks!” With that, Brooks walked onto the stage, and the two launched into a stripped-down, acoustic set that featured Yearwood’s own “She’s in Love With the Boy” along with a handful of classic country duets. Tossed into the mix was a cover of George Jones and Tammy Wynette‘s “Golden Ring,” the title track from the country legends’ 1976 album. (Watch Brooks and Yearwood perform their abridged version of “Golden Ring” here.)
Cutting out of the second verse for time’s sake, Brooks and Yearwood put a decidedly cheerier spin on “Golden Ring,” a song that was originally released one year after Jones and Wynette’s divorce. During the late Seventies, the song — which traces a wedding’s ring journey from pawn shop to pawn shop — was promoted with live performances by the estranged couple, with Jones even changing the lyrics to reflect their recent split. “Tammy said, ‘One thing’s for certain: I don’t love you anymore,'” he sang during an episode of the TV show Pop! Goes the Country in November 1977, subbing out a pronoun for his ex-wife’s name.
Conversely, Brooks and Yearwood have been happily married since December 2005. The two performed other heartbroken songs during their impromptu Opry performance, too, including Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s “After the Fire Is Gone,” but it felt more like a tip of the cowboy hat to the duos that had come before them, rather than a sign of trouble in paradise. In a sly wink to the late Possum, though, Brooks still followed Jones’ lead by tossing Yearwood’s name into the “One thing’s for certain” line. Tradition is tradition.