A full range of country music, with influences from bluegrass to pop and gospel to hip-hop, will fill the Grand Ole Opry stage 29 June when a lineup of six top acts honor America’s active duty military serving overseas in two episodes. The Grand Ole Opry never shies from big-name shows and patriotic tributes. The Heat Wave 2021 show built exclusively for Armed Forces Entertainment is certainly no exception.
The event bursts with the bright sounds of Lady A, a trio that has wowed audiences since 2007. Fronted by Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, with Dave Haywood on backup vocals, guitar, piano and mandolin, the group has three platinum albums, nine #1 singles, and two Grammy Awards including Song of the Year. The group has a strong affection for military personnel, recognizing veterans who have returned from service and contributed to their communities. In 2013, they honored eight families by inviting them to concerts and recognizing them from the stage. In 2017 with the release of their single, “Army,” the group celebrated the essential role military husbands and wives play in keeping the home fires burning. The song’s video shows photos of troops reuniting and re-bonding with their families. And in 2021, Lady A was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, a crowning achievement for country music artists.
Luke Combs is a strong supporter of veterans. In 2018 he performed a pre-tourney show for The Players Championship Military Appreciation Day Ceremony and Concert, a tradition begun by Tim McGraw. The event raises funds to provide free admission tickets for military personnel and their families, offering discounted tickets to veterans. Combs also records an annual message of support and gratitude to the military on Veterans Day. In 2020 the singer donated $25,000 worth of guitars to Guitars 4 Vets who gave them to veterans in need. His song “Even Though I’m Leaving” has hit home for active duty military and veterans alike. Although it’s relatable to military folks, he and co-writers Wyatt Durrette and Ray Fulcher actually wrote it about being a new dad whose career takes him out on the road. Combs was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2019.
Since it was released in 1984, “God Bless the U.S.A.” has become a national anthem for many, and serves as a clear indication of Lee Greenwood’s patriotism. Since hitting the stage in 1962, Greenwood has racked up more than 35 charted Billboard singles and 20 major-label albums, and was named Male Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1984. Since then, he has regularly toured to entertain troops overseas and stateside, conveying his appreciation for military personnel in every note. In 1991 Greenwood debuted his single “The Great Defenders” during a concert broadcast dedicated to the troops of Operation Desert Storm. He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2015.
Straddling bluegrass and contemporary country-pop music, Carly Pearce made a major move to the charts in 2017 with “Every Little Thing.” The album of the same name achieved critical and fan acclaim, bringing her the Breakthrough Video of the Year award at the 2018 CMT Music Awards. In 2020/21, her duet with Lee Brice, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” won the Single of the Year from the Academy of Country Music, as well as Musical Event of the Year from the ACMA and the CMT. Pearce’s sister is an Army captain, giving the singer insights into military life. Pearce’s video of the single “Next Girl” is pending nomination in the upcoming CMT awards, and the busy singer recently released an EP, 29. She has already performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage more than 80 times during her career.
Georgia native Lauren Alaina earned the distinction of being runner up on Season 10 of American Idol in 2011, bested by Scotty McCreery (who is performing in the Rodney Atkins & Friends Heat Wave concert premiering 15 June). The entertainment industry quickly embraced the singer/songwriter, inviting her and McCreery to present at the CMT Music Awards the same year. She has since forged her own path paved with awards including American Country Awards’ New Artist of the Year in 2012. She and Devin Dawson are featured on Hardy’s “One Beer,” which reached #1 on the Billboard country chart in 2020. She frequently performs on the Grand Ole Opry stage.
Chris Young began his career as a house singer at the Cowboys Dance Hall in Arlington, Texas. After winning Nashville Star in 2006, he released two back-to-back singles, “Drinkin’ Me Lonely” and “You’re Gonna Love Me.” He won New Artist of the Year and Single of the Year for ”Voices” in 2011 from The American Country Awards and continues to be nominated for a wide range of industry awards, including Grammy Awards and CMT Music Awards. Young has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 2017, an ultimate career achievement.
Catch the two-epsidode premiere of The Grand Ole Opry Salutes Military Heroes on 29 June on the AFE YouTube channel. And don’t miss the wave of music on the other two shows in the Heat Wave Summer Music Festival: Rodney Atkins & Friends premieres 15 June, and R&B vocalist Brian McKnight presents a solo performance 25 June. It’s all streaming free, exclusively for you, from Armed Forces Entertainment.