Twenty-three years ago today (April 28, 2000) is a day that Rascal Flatts will likely never forget. It was on that date that the trio, made up of Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney and Jay DeMarcus, made their debut on the Grand Ole Opry.

At the time of their Opry debut, Rascal Flatts' debut single, "Prayin' for Daylight," from their eponymous freshman album, was climbing the charts, and the record itself was still two months away from its release date. The three guys made sure to soak in their first performance on the revered stage.

“What was weird about it was the kids were lining the aisles and standing up front, which I had never seen before,” DeMarcus recalls. “I think that was a time for me that I stopped and went, ‘Wow! We’re doing something special here.’"

Rascal Flatts remained regular performers at the Opry for the next 11 years, then finally received an invitation to officially join the revered organization in 2011.

“All I could think about was being a little kid, sitting in the nosebleed section of the Grand Ole Opry,” DeMarcus says. “The first thought that came into my head was, ‘I cannot believe I used to come here on family vacations and watch the Opry with my mom at the very top.’ Then to be on the stage, and then asked to be a member of the Opry — it had all come full circle. It all hit me, a flood of emotions all at once, and it was tough to keep it together.”

LeVox, Rooney and DeMarcus were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on Oct. 8, 2011, earning high praise from former president George W. Bush.

“We are big fans of Gary, Jay and Joe Don,” Bush said in a video tribute that was shown during the trio's Opry induction. “We love their music, and we also love their compassion and generosity. Throughout their success, Rascal Flatts have given back to their community and to our country by supporting the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and the American Red Cross. I am especially proud of their efforts to honor the men and women of our armed forces and the heroes who are wounded on the front lines.

“So thanks for your example of excellence and patriotism,” he added. “And congratulations, as well as a hardy welcome to the Opry.”

“Blessed, honored, humbled, grateful," Rooney says. "Those are words that come to mind when I stand right here with my two compadres in this famous circle.”

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