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"They gave me an hour to have some of my friends come and be with me tonight," Emmylou explained to the full house at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. "There is nothing better than having these friends I've worked with for years come and help me celebrate. Please welcome The Whites!"
Buck, Cheryl and Sharon took to the stage for a rousing rendition of 'San Antonio Rose,' while Vince Gill sat just offstage, strumming his guitar along with the trio. Emmylou waited on the sidelines as well, enjoying the music. When the song was over, she invited The Whites to stay onstage while she brought out the Red Dirt Boys, who joined them on 'Blue Kentucky Girl.'
The radiant Emmylou was beaming throughout the night, obviously having a great time with friends like Shawn Colvin, whom she introduced by saying, "This is a great chance to bring some of my good friends to the Opry for my 20th anniversary. She has been singing this song in her show for a long time and she sings it as good as anyone I know."
Buddy Miller accompanied Shawn on the Merle Haggard classic, 'That's The Way Love Goes.' Following their performance, the Opry Square Dancers entertained before Emmylou called another friend who was playing the Opry for the first time, Kimmie Rhodes. "I've written with this Austin gal for years," Emmylou said. "A few years ago, we wrote a song about our children. You never stop worrying about your children, and now we worry about our grandkids. I know my mom still worries about me, and she's 90 years old. She's here tonight for this celebration."
When introducing Vince, Emmylou joked, "Here's a fellow coming out that I think is gonna do real well in this business," and they tore into 'Two More Bottles of Wine.'
Vince recently celebrated his 20 year anniversary with the Opry, and commented to Emmylou, "Between us we have 40 years with the Opry and we're still 23 years behind Little Jimmy Dickens!"
Emmylou and Vince also did a Townes Van Zandt song, 'If I Needed You,' and Buddy came back out for a duet of the Porter Wagoner tune, 'Burning the Midnight Oil.'
"It is so great to be at the Ryman," Emmylou reiterated several times throughout the evening as she joined her friends in song. She saved her former touring buddy, Rodney Crowell, for last. Rodney was in her Hot Band when she first started recording in Nashville some 40 years ago. Emmylou called for Vince to come back out to perform with Rodney.
"It's only fitting that I sing the song that Emmy recorded of mine that jump-started my career as a songwriter," Rodney told the audience before launching into 'Til I Gain Control Again.'
Before the evening ended, Grand Ole Opry general manager Pete Fisher came out to present Emmylou with a plaque commemorating her 20th anniversary. He commented that it was the singer's live recording at the Ryman in 1991 that rejuvenated interest in renovating the venue.
Emmylou called everyone back out for a grand finale, pausing a moment to thank all of them for coming out to help her celebrate her special evening. Everyone joined in to sing 'Leavin' Louisiana in the Broad Daylight' to close out the special night for one of Nashville's most beloved entertainers.