Sara Evans was asked to join the Grand Ole Opry on Thursday night (Aug. 17). Bill Anderson — the Opry's longest-serving member ever — did the honors of inviting her, but he wasn't ready for her response.

"No," Evans says a full 30 seconds after Anderson asks. She had spent that time burying her head in her hands, dabbing away tears and smiling at the audience. Of course, she was joking.

  • Evans' first hit radio single was "No Place That Far," released in 1998.
  • Since then she's notched five No. 1 hits on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
  • The invitation came amid a short set that included a version of "Suds in the Bucket" with Carly Pearce.

"There is no way that I would say 'no,'" Evans added. "I've been waiting to be asked to join the Opry for a long time, and it's always been a dream of mine. I'm so honored that you're (Anderson) here to ask me that question. It means everything to me."

Related: 26 Country Stars You Won't Believe Aren't Grand Ole Opry Members

Anderson was a fitting choice to make the formal Grand Ole Opry invite. He was introduced by Lady A, who were brought on stage to present Evans with a Platinum plaque for "Suds in the Bucket."

After recalling how Evans recorded his song "Walk Out Backwards" on her debut album, Anderson made a request of her to sing it.

An a capella version followed. Then, Whisperin' Bill got down to business.

Evans' formal induction will come on Oct. 7, 2023, during the Grand Ole Opry's 98th birthday celebration weekend. A couple weeks later — on Oct. 24 — Jon Pardi will be inducted. He was invited to join during a performance at Stagecoach in April.

The pair will push the total number of members to 75. Per the show's website, decisions about who is asked to join the venerable institution are made by Opry management.

26 Country Stars You Won't Believe Aren't Grand Ole Opry Members

Fifteen living CMA or ACM Entertainers of the Year are not members of the Grand Ole Opry, and a few of them barely recognize the vaunted stage. George Strait, Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson are three legends who rarely play the Grand Ole Opry. Why?

That answer is often difficult to determine, but this list suggests reasons where appropriate. Membership into the Grand Ole Opry comes with an obligation to play the show frequently, but that's often set aside (Barbara Mandrell is an inactive member, for example). Only living artists are considered, and once a member dies, they are no longer a member.

As of 2023, there are more than 70 members of the Grand Ole Opry. Historically, nearly 250 men, women and groups were members β€” so, it's a select group that excludes several Country Music Hall of Famers.

64 Artists Not in the Country Music Hall of Fame

Which county singer is most deserving of a Country Music Hall of Fame induction? Here are 64 artists that don't have a medallion yet, with some thoughts on when each is eligible and if their fans can expect that nod soon.

More From 95.7 KEZJ