Casey looked poised and wonderful, attired in a new wine-colored top with black pants and white Doc Marten boots with pink flowers, and she played as if she’d been born with a banjo in her hands. The group did two songs on the first Opry show, “Lone Cowboy” and “Carolina in the Pines,” and two on the second, “What Am I Doing Hanging Around?” and “Fiddlin’ Man,” and Casey was accorded long banjo breaks on each number. Breaks which she nailed to the wall with her fancy Kel Kroyden banjo.
After her first break I applauded and yelled frenetically as did the guy sitting next to me. When the song was over he turned to me and said proudly, “I take banjo lessons from her.” And I said, even more proudly, “I’m her mother!”
Perched next to me on the other side was my oldest friend in the whole wide world Sharon Ramsey. Casey’s father and brother, Red and Chris, were booked at a festival in Florida that day and couldn’t make Casey’s show so I called up Sharon and said casually, “Wanna go to the Grand Old Opry Saturday night to hear Casey play?” Her answer? A resounding (and extremely satisfying), “YES!” Sharon and I grew up in the same neighborhood in Clarkesville, Georgia, and went through high school together. We were a little like Mutt and Jeff. And still are. She is tall and blonde, I am short and dark haired. (It is still mostly dark!) She was almost as excited about Casey’s Opry appearance as I was. In fact, when we made the obligatory pass through the gift shop before the show she bought Casey a coffee mug with a picture of the Opry house on it and the name “Casey” emblazoned across the top.
We couldn’t stay for the second show as we had to hit the road back to Chattanooga, where Sharon lives on top of Lookout Mountain and where I was spending the night. By 12:15 a.m., after picking up my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot, we had just about reached Sharon’s house. We were both listening to the Opry on the radio and Michael Martin Murphey had just taken the stage. Sharon was leading the way and without any prompting from me she pulled over in the empty parking lot of a school. I came up alongside of her and rolled my glass down. Through her own open window she said, “I was afraid we’d lose the signal by the time we got to the house.” So we sat there, side-by-side in our cars, and listened to Casey play. And twice we heard these melifulous words coming over the airwaves. Coming from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Coming out of the mouth of Michael Martin Murphey. “Folks, that’s Casey Henry on the banjo!” And sitting there on top of Lookout Mountain were two old friends, grinning from ear to ear.