On (Oct. 8, Rascal Flatts celebrate a special anniversary: It was on that date in 2011 that they officially became Grand Ole Opry members. The trio was inducted by Little Jimmy Dickens, and they performed some of their biggest hits that night, including "Life Is a Highway" and "Why Wait."

To this day, the band cites the Opry stage as one of their favorite places to perform. As for any country act, it's an emotion-evoking venue that bandmates Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney dreamed about playing about ever since they were little kids.

While the group's induction night was unforgettable, perhaps an even more overwhelming memory for the band is of the night that Vince Gill asked them to join the Grand Ole Opry. The invitation came as a total surprise, happening, as Rooney explains, on a night that the band least expected it.

"[It was] one of those random Tuesday nights," he recalled during the 2020 Country Radio Seminar in February, during a panel featuring Rascal Flatts. "We just came off the road. You know, we were pretty tired, but you always muster the energy to get out there because you love the stage -- once you get there, you're like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm in Heaven.'"

The band started noticing that this was no ordinary night after Gill unexpectedly appeared sidestage. "I just remember Vince coming out with my guitar and thinking, 'Oh, you're a guitar tech now?'" Rooney continues with a laugh.

"He did tell a funny story about [how] he had come to collect my money because he had just beat us on a golf course," Rooney recounts. "And then he goes, 'Nah, I'm really here to ask you guys if you'd like to be the next members of the Grand Ole Opry.'"

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LeVox remembers that moment as a flood of emotions: "I mean, that was a big goal on our bucket list. We wanted to be members of the Opry some day," he explains. "... But just to be honest, [Gill] inviting us into the family, I'm not even sure if there's words that we can use to describe that feeling.

"It was a tearful event, that's for sure," LeVox admits. "And then I turn around and there's all my family that said they weren't coming. All of 'em. They all knew."

In fact, for DeMarcus, the thought of who was sitting in the audience -- and what the band's Opry invitation would mean to them -- is one of the most powerful parts of the memory.

"I remember going on our family vacations to the Opry and staying at Two Rivers Inn right across the road. And going every morning on our vacation to the Cracker Barrel and looking forward to going to the Grand Ole Opry," DeMarcus reflects. "The only seats we could afford were the ones way up in the top."

DeMarcus had already caught the music bug by then, and it didn't matter what seat he was in: He was transfixed by the magic taking place onstage. He was, as he describes, "a young man consumed with music, and wondering, 'What if ...?,' thinking about, 'One day ...,' and, 'Gosh, wouldn't it be nice ...'"

When that moment actually arrived, and the band was invited to join the Opry, DeMarcus found himself thinking about the person who made those early vacations possible.

"When it happened, I looked over and saw my mom, who worked three jobs to get us those tickets, to take us there. And I saw tears streaming down her face," he adds. "That was something I'll never forget."

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