Debut on the Grand Ole Opry
McHayes, the new duo comprised of Mark McClurg and Wade Hayes, debuted on the Grand Ole Opry on March 22, two days before their first single, "It Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Love You," went for radio adds.
I can’t recall a new act making an Opry appearance before its initial offering began scheduled radio airplay. But then, as Blair Garner declared earlier in the week on his syndicated radio show, After Midnite, "This is a pairing of two super-huge, mega big-time talents." Amen!
Standing in the Opry House spotlights, girded with their guitars, Hayes and McClurg laid out the opening acoustical notes that grabbed the audience. As Hayes’ stellar, tender baritone began the lyric, the white noise of the Opry crowd faded - to be replaced by murmurs of approval, along with whistles and yells as McClurg’s harmony enriched the chorus, pumping drive into the ballad. When the song ended on the softly spoken "Baby I love you," there was a sudden silence in the packed house, followed by more whistles, cheers and loud applause. The same "chicken-skin" or goose-bump moment happened again at the second show.
Porter Wagoner, who hosted their first appearance of the evening, introduced them as a new Universal-South act. Then added, "But you know these guys." He spoke of Hayes as a hit-making recording artist and McClurg as a long-time member of Alan Jackson’s band, the Strayhorns.
Friends since Hayes’ first toured with Jackson early in his solo career, the two-some began writing together over a year ago. Tim DuBois, a Senior Partner in Universal-South, recognized the strength of the material and the performers. DuBois, long known for ignoring the custom of taking talent and shaping it into the marketing mold of the moment, favors working with the grain of the wood to create a lasting product. There’s an abundance of raw material to work with here. McClurg and Hayes have enough talent to build 3 or 4 careers – instrumental, vocal, and writing.
McHayes was the next to closing act on the last segment. Since one of the scheduled acts wasn’t there, they were allowed an extra song. McClurg sang the lead and Hayes harmonized on "Wrong Kind of Right," another cut off the album to be released this summer. McClurg wrote this one, a quality song all the way, and the switch-hitting vocalists demonstrated what a powerful partnership this is.
Forming a duo with a couple of Okies does bring up other questions. Who wears the hat? Well … for the Opry both came out in white hats, making the photographers happy. What do you call the new act? McHayes was one of the names on the short-list. It scored the advantage when Hayes learned from his dad that the original family name when they left Scotland generations ago was … McHayes.
Bobby Pinson, Trent Willmon, and Jeremy Spillman wrote the initial single release. They should be thrilled by the terrific response from the Opry audience. Their great song is firmly in the hands of superb artists. As Garner affirmed – it’s "a kind of magic."
After each McHayes’ performance, the segment host declared, "We're going to be hearing a lot more from these guys."
And more quickly than they knew! The Opry management asked McHayes to return for the next show.