Bill Murray has already been the unofficial president of the John Prine fan club. He’s also been a buddy of the bluegrass-based SteelDrivers since they appeared together in a movie eight years ago. The chance to appear with both acts at once was enough to lure the actor into making his Grand Ole Opry debut Tuesday night, singing backup on “Paradise,” a song from Prine’s 1971 debut.
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The appearance by Prine was surprise enough, before Steeldrivers banjo player Richard Bailey further teased the crowd by saying, “We have another old friend of the band who we actually appeared in a movie with” — referring to the 2009 Murray/Robert Duvall “Get Low,” which had the group appearing on screen as well as on the Alison Krauss-curated soundtrack album.
Instagram searches revealed Murray had posed for photos with surprised and delighted locals and tourists when he passed through the Nashville International Airport earlier in the week. Posted Karen Swallow Prior of Virginia, “So this kind gentleman helped us with our car door at the Nashville airport and after we got in, I said, ‘He looks like Bill Murray.’ And my friend said, “That IS Bill Murray!’ So we got out of the car and asked if we could take a picture. Once again, he was a gentleman.”
The Opry appearance wasn’t the first example of Murray’s Steeldrivers boosterism: Last year, he’d given away tickets to one of the band’s shows in front of a Charleston theater.
More recently, he’d taken to stumping online for Prine. Last December, he posted a video on YouTube about how listening to Prine helped him get his sense of humor back, after a recommendation from Hunter S. Thompson.