56-Year Grand Ole Opry Member Jeannie Seely Left ‘Totally Speechless’ When Surprised With Special CMA Award

The musical icon is the 12th recipient of the Joe Talbot Award


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

October 31, 2023


4:28 pm

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Jeannie Seely; Photo by Chris Hollo Grand Ole Opry_

56-year Grand Ole Opry member Jeannie Seely was surprised with the prestigious Joe Talbot Award during her appearance on the Opry stage on Saturday (Oct. 28).

On this momentous night, after stepping into the same historic circle where she was inducted as a member of the Opry in 1967, the musical icon was presented the honor by Country Music Association Board of Directors President, Kella Farris. Seely was chosen as this year’s recipient as a result of her “unwavering commitment, outstanding leadership and the preservation and advancement contributions to Country music’s values and tradition.”

“How wonderful to be honored for doing what you love to do and love to share with others. My surprise was obvious since I am rarely at a loss for words, but this caught me totally speechless,” Seely said in excitement and gratitude. “While Country music will always, and must always evolve, we must always remember the Grand Ole Opry is the cornerstone our industry was built on with music that represented the people. I sincerely appreciate CMA and the folks who recognized how much I care, and I’m proud to be in such great company. Thank you.”

Surprise At The Grand Ole Opry

Jeannie Seely, Kella Farris; Photo byChris Hollo Grand Ole Opry_
Jeannie Seely, Kella Farris; Photo byChris Hollo Grand Ole Opry_

The on-air personality for Sirius XM’s Willies Roadhouse is the 12th person to be honored with the award, named after the lifetime member of the CMA Board of Directors, Joe Talbot. Upon its inception in 2001, the award was given to its namesake post posthumously.

Previous Recipients Include Alan Jackson and George Jones

Prior recipients include Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan, Charlie Monk, Janette Carter, Kitty Moon Emery, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Louise Scruggs, Marty Stuart and Joe Talbot.

Also in attendance on Saturday to celebrate the Pennsylvania native’s latest achievement was Vice President and Executive Producer of the Grand Ole Opry Dan Rogers, Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry Member, Bill Anderson and Country Music Hall of Fame member Eddie Bayers.

Dan Rogers, Jeannie Seely, Gina Keltner;Photo by Chris Hollo Grand Ole Opry
Dan Rogers, Jeannie Seely, Gina Keltner;Photo by Chris Hollo Grand Ole Opry

“All of us at the Opry are thankful for the opportunity to be the stage on which CMA made its surprise presentation to Jeannie Seely, and of course, we are thrilled with the latest accolade received by the artist who has played that stage more than anyone else in the show’s history,” said Rogers. 

Anderson also took a moment to honor Seely with a few words as he said, “I’m so glad I could be at the Opry this past Saturday night to see my buddy, Jeannie Seely, win the Joe Talbot Award. Joe, with whom I served on the CMA Board of Directors for many years, was a dear friend and all about ‘keeping it country.’ If anybody has done that over the years….and done it with style and grace and class, it’s been Jeannie. She is a great ambassador for Joe Talbot’s philosophy, and nobody could deserve his award any more than her.”

“The Precursor” To The Country Music Hall Of Fame

Bayers further commended the “Who Needs You” singer for being a role model who constantly advocates for her fellow members of an industry along with being a performer, vocalist and songwriter who “defines excellence.” 

“I feel this deserved award from the CMA might be the precursor to her finally going into the Country Music Hall of Fame,” Bayers added. 

DJ Farris, Kella Farris, Jeannie Seely, Catharine McNelly, Brenden Oliver; Photo by Chris Hollo Grand Ole Opry

The female songstress first appeared on the Billboard charts in 1966 and continued to score entries for 13 consecutive years on various Billboard charts. Additionally, Jeannie Seely has racked up countless accolades, including her achievement as the third female country artist to win a GRAMMY® and the oldest female Grammy-winning artist who is still living.

Most recently, she earned the coveted Song of the Year Award at the Arkansas Country Music Awards and was honored with the Mississippi Career Achievement Award at the Mississippi Music Awards. 

Seely’s longstanding relationship with the Grand Ole Opry’s 98-year history is a huge part of her career. She has performed over 5,000 shows inside the circle and continues to regularly bring the longstanding traditions to generations of fans who sit in the pews of the historic venue. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.