Seventeen years ago today, on Oct. 1, 2005, Dierks Bentley became an official member of the Grand Ole Opry. The singer was inducted by Marty Stuart after singing his then-current hit, "Come a Little Closer."

"As country music has changed and grown through the years, the one thing that has remained steady is the Grand Ole Opry," Stuart said during his induction of Bentley. "I am proud to introduce the newest member of the Opry ... Dierks Bentley."

"This here is the ultimate backstage pass," Bentley said, holding up his new award. "Maybe I could get this on a laminate? I share this honor with these guys behind me who ride the bus. Thanks!"

Before his induction -- even before his start as a country artist -- Bentley was actually somewhat banned from the Opry's backstage area. While working as a researcher for TNN (The Nashville Network), Bentley would sign up for backstage access to Opry shows in order to watch from backstage and visit with the artists -- a practice that got his access limited by then-Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher.

“The Opry and Dierks have such a great, unique connection,” Fisher says. “From those early days when a new kid in town was beginning to understand what the Opry meant to the music he loved, to the award-winning superstar we saw on the Opry stage tonight, it’s been a great decade of hits and memorable Opry performances. We’ve watched Dierks become a husband, a father and a respected artist who can move from one musical style to another seamlessly. We’re looking forward to the next 10 years.”

In the years since his induction, Bentley has made it a priority to return to the Opry as often as his busy schedule allows.

"I actually come to the Opry even when I'm not playing," Bentley says. “... We leave the door to our dressing room wide open so people can come in and say hi. And, if we’re not getting ready, then I want to be out on the stage watching the other bands — just remembering what it feels like to be part of the audience. I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of being a fan.”

The Arizona native made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2003, performing his debut single, and first No.1 hit, "What Was I Thinkin'," from his eponymous freshman album.

“I just want to add my name to the list of people that said this was the biggest night of their life,” Bentley said at the time, “because this really is a dream come true.”

On Sept. 29, 2015, Bentley celebrated his 10th anniversary as an Opry member with a 30-minute set at the Grand Ole Opry. He was also presented, by Bill Anderson, with a special print commemorating the occasion.

“The Opry is my home," Bentley said during the event. "This means the world to me tonight. We’ve been on the road so much of the past 10 years, it’s good to be home.”

During his set, Bentley was also joined onstage by his now-deceased dog Jake.

“He was here with me 10 years ago,” Bentley explained from stage. “I was driving away this afternoon, and I thought, ‘I've got to bring Jake back out.'"

Find out when Bentley is performing at the Opry by checking out the schedule on their website.

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