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Dolly digs Netflix; Martina hit with million-dollar lawsuit; Gail celebrates 70th . . .

NASHVILLE — Former President Barack Obama’s not the only new signee to Netflix, for Dolly Parton has just contracted with the firm to release a series of youth-oriented films her Dixie Pixie Productions plans to produce in liaison with Warner Bros. TV. For the uninformed, Netflix is a subscription-based, streaming service a la video-on-demand, film and TV series, all of which it helps distribute. Netflix currently boasts more than 125 million members globally. Reportedly, Parton’s productions will be inspired by subjects from some of her song hits, and the star may also perform in some of these, commencing in 2019. She stated, “As a songwriter, I have always enjoyed telling stories through my music. I am thrilled to be bringing some of my favorite songs to life with Netflix. We hope our show will inspire and entertain families and folks of all generations.” Reportedly, Barack and wife Michelle created Higher Ground Productions to facilitate streaming of programs, be they documentaries, series and films, focusing mainly on themes they were dedicated to during their years serving in the White House.
Bits & Pieces: John and Martina McBride, who co-own Blackbird Recording Studios in Nashville, have been hit with a million dollar lawsuit filed by Richard Hanson, their former operations manager. of five years. He has alleged the couple misused unpaid student interns over a five-year period, utilizing them to run personal errands, pickup supplies, spoke in abusive tones to students, and even sent students to their home to determine if a suspected intruder was there, after arming one with a gun. That in itself is a violation of the Tennessee Protective Act, he asserts. The average age of interns studying the recording business at Blackbird is between 16-22. After his reminder concerning wrongful use of the interns went unheeded by the McBrides, Hanson filed an official complaint with the state labor board. An hour after learning of his report, he was dismissed from the 16-member staff. Martina has issued this reply, “Blackbird Studios cooperated with the Department of Labor and they found this claim was not supported by the facts. John and I have created a culture at Blackbird that is familial and supportive of everyone who walks through its doors.” Hanson maintains his firing was retribution for notifying the state, also unlawful, and his suit seeks back pay and benefits, separation pay plus damages. Blackbird clients include Alabama, Taylor Swift and White Stripes . . . Sad to say the Walker Hayes’ lost their baby daughter Oakleigh early June 6, prompting this media statement: “It is with great sadness that Laney and I share with you the news that our sweet Oakleigh Klover Hayes was born this morning at the hospital, and now is safely in Heaven. Thank you for honoring our privacy as we grieve.” It was their seventh child. Naturally, Walker, slated to appear that date at CMT Awards’ gala as a nominee for best Breakthrough Video for his song “You Broke Up With Me” (which Carly Pearce’s “Every Little Thing” won), bowed out . . . Sorry to miss Gail Davies’ 70th birthday bash at Station Inn, where she stepped back into the spotlight performing two sets, after a self-imposed retirement. The versatile singer-songwriter-producer shared the stage with friends like Suzy Bogguss, Rhonda Vincent, Mandy Barnett, son Chris Scruggs and hubby Rob Price. Davies had devoted much of her leisure time to grandson Ben, 4, who was hoping to make his musical debut in an early appearance that night. Gail cut her last recording “Beyond the Realm of Words” with Chris in 2016. Davies’ hits include self-penned pieces like “Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You,” “Grandma’s Song” and “Boys Like You,” plus Top 10 revivals of such as “Blue Heartache,” “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me By Your Side)” and “Round the Clock Lovin’.” Word has it she’s back in the studio producing, this time for Japanese artist, Yoshie Sakamoto, who digs Western Swing . . . Kid Rock a.k.a. Robert Ritchie has revealed he’s opening yet another Lower Broad restaurant, a steakhouse in partnership with Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge owners Al Ross and Steve Smith. This $20 million venture, located at 3rd & Broadway, will be a four-story venue, including a rooftop bar, boasting entertainment on every floor, leaning more to, what else?, rock. Ross-Smith also operate Rippy’s and Honky Tonk Central downtown, but Michigan native Ritchie’s long favored Tootsie’s, even marrying ex-wife actress Pamela Anderson at that bar. Kid now owns property here in White’s Creek, and is no greenhorn in the bar business: witness Kid Rock’s Made In Detroit restaurant-lounge in Motor City, a success specializing in Southern-style dishes. Look for the Nashville eatery to open this summer, as Ritchie roots for it to succeed as well as his Detroit site . . . Add country legend Travis Tritt to the forthcoming Real Country line-up, already boasting Shania Twain and Jake Owen, being produced for the USA Network. Set to premier this fall, the talent show’s stars will help showcase emerging artists, as they seek to become the genre’s next breakout act. According to Tritt, “I’ve been influenced by so many amazing country music artists in my career, and the key to longevity is using these influences as inspiration to become something unique. I’ve never been shy about how I feel about country music, so I can’t wait to join ‘Real Country’ to share my experiences and thoughts.”
Awards: Blake Shelton walked away a double winner at the annual CMT Music Awards program, June 6, earning both best male artist video, and the prestigious top Video of the year honor, thanks to his hit “I’ll Name the Dogs.” Hosting the event in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Little Big Town also scored Best Group Video for their song “When Someone Stops Loving You.” Carrie Underwood took top female award for her video “The Champion” (featuring Ludacris), marking her record-setting 18th win in this fan-voted competition. (Incidentally, that number served as Super Bowl Football LII’s theme anthem.) Dan+Shay’s “Tequila” won best Duo Video, and Carly Pearce stepped up accepting Best Breakthrough Video for “Every Little Thing.” After thanking the usual ones, she confided an obviously less-likely inspiration: “To the guy that broke my heart, Thank You!” Florida Georgia Line and The Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” appearance on CMT’s Crossroads, was hailed with a Performance of the Year honor, while Kane Brown and Lauren Alaina nabbed Best Collaborative Video for “What Ifs,” and Lauren disclosed a memory concerning her and Kane: “We were in Middle School chorus class together in seventh grade, so this is kinda crazy!” . . . Elsewhere, Randy Travis was awarded Cracker Barrel’s Country Legend trophy, as the sponsor also presented a $5,000 donation to the Country Music Association’s charitable arm in the artist’s name. This culminated a three-day Rock With Us fund-raiser, as Sirius XM’s Storme Warren made the presentation in Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater, June 9, of another $15,000 donation to the CMA. On Randy’s behalf, wife Mary Travis noted, Randy’s “so honored to receive the first-ever CB Country Legend Award. Music education is pivotal to a child’s development, so we thank Cracker Barrel for joining us in this passion by donating to Keep The Music Playing, in his name.”
Final Farewell: Singer Billy ThunderKloud, 70, died June 5, after suffering complications from a stroke and pneumonia at his home in Palm City, Fla. He and his Chieftones band, a Canadian Indian troupe hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, charted Billboard with five country cuts, the Top 20 “What Time of Day,” and covers of “Pledging My Love,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “It’s Alright” and “Indian Nation,” penned by John D. Loudermilk, as the Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian. Billy’s birth name was Vincent Clifford, born May 7, 1948 in the village of Kispiox, British Columbia. He was a hereditary Frog Clan chief of the Gitksan tribe, whose chieftainship name was Chief Dau-Hkansqu. While attending the Indian Residential School in Edmonton, he was selected from among 120 students, along with three others, to form a musical group. The idea was to publicly familiarize non-Indians with the young natives of the modern era. Thus he and Richard Grayowl, Barry Littlestar and Jack Wolf began touring Canada and the U.S. in 1964 as “Canada’s All-Indian Band.” A label sponsor released “Rang Dang Doo” and “Mona Lisa” in 1965, featuring Billy on lead vocals. Over a three-year period, they released five additional singles for independent labels, and were signed for representation by the William Morris Agency. As Billy ThunderKloud & The Chieftones, one of their successes “I Shouldn’t Have Did What I Done,” was heard more recently on the 2014 compilation disc “Native North America, Volume 1.” Billy credits Oak Ridge Boys’ member Duane Allen with giving them a helping hand in Nashville, signing a pact with Superior Records. That resulted in the 1973 album “All Through the Night” and “Where Do I Begin To Tell the Story” (1976). 20th Century Records, however, released their back-to-back LPs: “Off the Reservation” (1974) and “What Time of Day” (1975). Then there’s “Some of Nashville’s Finest” (1980). The Chieftones’ singles include “Oklahoma Wind” (1977) and “My Lady” (1978), which failed to chart. Billy is survived by wife Bev, daughters Chey Kuzma and Shawnee, plus three grandchildren. He requested no service, but anyone desiring to may make a donation in his name to the National Indian Child Welfare Association, or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, or the American Diabetes Association.
Anastasia “Anna” (Paridon) Morgan Trainor, mother of singer Lorrie Morgan, died June 1, at age 86. She was the widow of Country Music Hall of Famer George Morgan, famed for such hits as “Candy Kisses,” “Rainbow In My Heart” and “Almost.” Anna was a devout Catholic dedicated to both her faith and her family. She was a farmer’s daughter, one of nine children born to Coletta and Charles Paridon, and raised in the rural community of Doylestown, Ohio. She met George when his band entertained at her high school, while playing on a Wooster, Ohio, radio station. He soon became a regular on the WWVA-Wheeling Jamboree in West Virginia. After auditioning for WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, he became one of the first hired without a hit record in 1948. It was on the strength of his composition “Candy Kisses,” which he tried getting to Eddy Arnold to cut for RCA. A mix-up resulted in Uncle Art Satherley producing Morgan himself on it for Columbia Records. The result proved a smash two-sided hit disc for the newcomer, with “Candy Kisses” in #1 slot, three weeks, and the B side “Please Don’t Let Me Love You” peaking at #4. Meantime, he and Anna were wed in 1949. In that same year, Morgan scored two more two-sided singles, plus a fifth success, “Room Full of Roses,” which crossed over becoming a Top 20 pop single, too. This meant Morgan racked up seven hits, all in their first year in town! Quite an impressing introduction, especially gratifying to the Opry manager who took a gamble on a unknown singer. Among Morgan’s many successes are “Cry-Baby Heart,” “A Lover’s Quarrel” and “You’re the Only Good Thing (That’s Happened To Me).” Shortly before his death at 51, he was enjoying a Top 20 comeback ballad “Red Rose From the Blue Side of Town,” a co-write by Hank Snow. George died following heart surgery on July 7, 1975. One of his prouder moments was witnessing daughter Lorrie’s Opry debut at age 13 singing “Paper Roses” on his birthday, June 24. Posthumously in 1979, Lorrie did an electronic duet with dad, “I’m Completely Satisfied With You,” returning him once more to the chart. Anna was always supportive of Lorrie’s career, as well, which boasts a trio of #1 songs: “Five Minutes,” “What Part of No” and “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” George and Anna also had four other children. Later, Anna married her former priest, Father Trainor, who had retired. He died in the mid-1990s. She was a long-time parishioner of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Madison, Tenn., and also belonged to the Legion of Mary and the Emmaus Prayer Group. Survivors include daughters Candy, Beth, Liana, Lorrie; son Marty Morgan; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. Pallbearers were her grandsons Jeremy Palmer, Zachary Miller, Aaron Palmer, Nathan Morgan, Jesse Whitley, Ellis Baltz, Hunter Allen, Gus Palmer and Jared Allen. Arrangements handled by Spring Hill Funeral Home, included a Celebration of Life Mass, June 6, in St. Joseph’s Church.
Royce Porter, 79, Nashville songwriter par excellence, died May 31, while a resident of Hendersonville, Tenn. Among Porter’s hits are “Oceanfront Property,” “What Do I Do With Me” and “It Ain’t Cool To Be Crazy About You.” Born in Roscoe, Texas, April 1, 1939, his was a music-loving family, and like his dad James, Royce took to the guitar. His mother Rubye and sister Joyce played piano and a younger brother Ronnie also learned to play guitar from Royce, who was raised in Sweetwater. At age 10, Royce and a neighbor boy sang “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy,” the Red Foley hit, debuting on the local Saturday Night Jamboree broadcast. Seven years later, Porter cut his first single, “A Woman Can Make You Blue,” on the Houston-based Space Record label. It was written by an early rock and roller Ray Doggett, who Royce considered a mentor. “He was from Sweetwater, too, a couple years older, but he wrote those early songs for me.” It was in Houston that Royce hooked up with veteran music man Harold “Pappy” Daily, a founder of Starday Records. Initially they were more into rockabilly with acts such as Arlie (“Y’all Come”) Duff, George (Thumper) Jones and Jape (The Big Bopper) Richardson. Daily had Porter record the upbeat “Yes I Do,” paired with a ballad “Our Perfect Romance,” both penned by Doggett. To augment his income, Royce worked days at Gulf Oil. Eventually, Pappy was instrumental in getting Porter on Mercury, releasing his rockin’ single “Good Time,” backed by “Beach of Love,” both Doggett creations. While in a music store plugging “Yes I Do,” a fellow sidled up to Royce, introducing himself as Lelan Rogers, asking “Can you help my brother get started?” Taking a tape on the young singer to Doggett, he not only produced Kenny Rogers, but also wrote some songs for him since back then he was mainly doing covers. Then the Navy summoned Porter, who noted, “I really didn’t want to go, as I was just getting my career started. But I didn’t have a choice.” After being discharged, Royce attended Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas (1964-’68). There he met Bill Funderburk, as did Royce’s sister Joyce, all three eventually graduated from the school, but he and Bill performed as a duo The Brothers-In-Law what else. They even recorded a single – “Hush Broken Heart” with “Wanderlust” – for Huey Meaux’s Tear Drop Records. It was in October 1969, that Royce moved to Nashville, and began doubling down on his writing; however, it took him over a decade before finally getting some decent cuts. In 1975, collaborating with Bucky Jones and Don Wilson, they came up with “The Most Wanted Woman In Town,” which served as singer Roy Head’s first country hit. Newcomer Reba McEntire cut his and Bucky’s “Glad I Waited Just For You,” charting only three weeks in 1977. Then Razzy Bailey invited Royce to tour, so they could co-write on the bus. Their best effort was Bailey’s Top 20 “After The Great Depression” (1983). Although Royce didn’t draw any label deals, he continued to perform in local clubs, and that’s when he connected with legendary Hank Cochran. Hank gave some great pointers on how to get cuts. Hank and Dean Dillon invited Royce to sit in on a writer session in Florida, and most memorably they came up with “Miami, My Amy,” which became a 1985 hit by Keith Whitley. Dillon and Porter followed up with Whitley’s “Homecoming ’63” Top 10 the next year. The same team co-wrote George Strait’s smash #1 “It Ain’t Cool To Be Crazy About You.” When Cochran stepped back in, the trio concocted Strait’s 1987 “Ocean Front Property,” an instant classic: “We wrote it pretty quick . . . it kinda fell together, and debuted at #1.” In ’89, Strait released a new #1, “What’s Goin’ On In Your World,” which Royce wrote with David Chamberlain. Porter’s pal Tanya Tucker had long urged him to write a song for her, and finally he offered the co-write “(Without You) What Do I Do With Me,” which didn’t to too badly either, #2, 1991. Dillon and Porter re-teamed to supply Kenny Chesney a 1997 hit “A Chance.” Royce had more than a good run, and along the way was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame; presented West Texas Music Hall of Fame’s Pioneer Award in 2010; and honored via a Royce Porter Day in September 2013 in his hometown, Sweetwater. Survivors include wife Ann, son, Randy Porter; grandson, Tyler Porter; great-grandsons Tucker and Easton Porter. Services were conducted June 8 at the Hendersonville Church of Christ, with full military honors. Pallbearers were comprised of family and friends. Interment in Hendersonville Memory Gardens. Randy stated, “To express how much I love my Dad, is hard to do. He was my first gift from Heaven and my best friend for life. I was his ‘Little Buddy’ from birth and that never changed. He was my hero, I was his shadow and he always took me along. He gave me the greatest gift he had – himself. He loved me unconditionally and we shared a lifetime filled with fun and laughter. Today the laughter ended, when I lost my precious Dad, My Buddy. As my heart breaks and my world seems incomplete, I can only pray, that with his smile in my memory and his love in my heart, that the laughter will one day return. For now, I’m asking myself the words he put to music – ‘Without You, What Do I Do With Me?’ I Love You Daddy.”

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