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ROPE’s fan-oriented June jam . . .

Traditional country sound still being hailed in Music City USA!

                    Leona Williams

NASHVILLE — Questions abound about what’s happened to the classic country sound today? Well, it’s alive and well as we rediscovered during the Reunion Of Professional Entertainers’ annual ROPE Fan Fare Luncheon, June 6, right inside the historic Nashville Palace.
In attendance were Country Music Hall of Famers’ Bill Anderson, Charlie McCoy, Charley Pride and Mac Wiseman, mixing it up with fellow traditionalists Razzy Bailey, Tommy Cash, Dallas Frazier, Dickey Lee, Bobby G. Rice, Casey Anderson, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Jr.,  Margie Singleton, Rex Allen, Jr., Tim Atwood, Roni Stoneman, Little David Wilkins, and Ron and Leona Williams, to the delight of a full house.
ROPE’s Leslie Elliott cracked the whip, making sure the on-stage stalwarts delivered all the stylistic beats rarely heard on today’s country radio, and right on schedule. Aiding and abetting all this were WSM’s Marcia Campbell and RFD-TV’s Keith Bilbrey, co-hosts for a bash that unofficially kicks off the CMA Music Fest, formerly Fan Fair.
First up came Dickey Lee, whose first gift to the genre was writing “She Thinks I Still Care,” a #1 first for George Jones, but later covered by everybody from Elvis to Faron Young, Conway Twitty, Anne Murray, Marty Robbins, Connie Francis, Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell. Nothing like hearing it by the guy who wrote it, who despite his 81 years, still exhibits strong chops.
The Memphis native’s opener, however, was his 1971 country Top 10 cover  “Never Ending Song of Love” by Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett, whose best showing was an Easy Listening Top 10 that same year. Lee introduced his reprise of Johnnie & Jack’s upbeat “Ashes of Love” as his second country success in 1972. Yet another Lee co-write was also performed – “The Door Is Always Open” – which became a #1 for Dave & Sugar (1976) and later covered by such singers as Waylon Jennings and Lois Johnson. And where was Dickey’s own chart-toppin’ “Rocky,” which seemingly should be a must in any Lee set?
Wrapping up his too-short segment, Lee dedicated his Top Five, “9,999,999 Tears (To Go),” to “somebody special” in the audience, pointing out it was penned by Razzy Bailey. This was Dickey’s only recording to chart both country and pop; however, in the early 1960s he became a pop teen idol, thanks to sad songs such as “Patches,” “I Saw Linda Yesterday” and “Laurie (Strange Things Happen).” Lee’s greatest accolade, however, was being inducted in 1995 into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Next up, laid-back, long-limbed second-generation singer Ron Williams strutted his stuff, indicative of a new traditionalist. He even added praise for the late George Jones, performing “Just Playing Possum.” Then slowing it down, came a hurtin’ song “You Don’t Have Very Far To Go,” oh yeah,“If you’re trying to break my heart/You don’t have very far to go.” Recalled the last time we covered a Ron gig, loving his energetic set, but decried a vocal similarity to former step-dad Merle Haggard. Happy to report, he’s now back to being an original.
As Leona Williams sauntered on stage, Ron quickly lowered the mic to accommodate his petite mom, who may be short on stature, but still a tall talent.  She and Ron delivered a duet “Somewhere Between (Your Heart and Mine),” a haunting ballad penned by Haggard.
The lady has paid her dues, including early on singing harmony and playing standup bass behind Loretta Lynn, along with then drummer-husband Ron Williams, Sr. After that, she joined Merle Haggard’s Strangers’ troupe, touring and eventually marrying the bossman, for whom she supplied sterling songs and delicious harmony, including #1’s “You Take Me For Granted,” “Someday When Things Are Good,” both of which she dusted off here, but today not their Top 10 duet co-write, “The Bull & The Beaver.”
Leona launched her set with a solo success, “Yes Ma’am, He Found Me In a Honky Tonk,” always a crowd pleaser. After reprising the #1 ballads, Leona delivered a lively take on the lesser known “Guitar Pickin’ Song,” enticing some excellent lead guitar riffs from bandsman Charlie Vaughan. Others comprising ROPE’s seasoned backing band were Ron Elliott, steel guitar; Larry Barnes, bass; Willie Rainsford, keyboards; and drummer Dina and David Johnson, fiddle.
Probably one of country’s more underrated singer-songwriters, Leona’s a favorite of hardcore country fans, whom she found especially fervent in Ireland and the UK. Notably, Leona and son garnered the only standing ovation from the Palace crowd, following their heartfelt “Somewhere Between.”
Some viewers may not be familiar with the name Dallas Frazier, but no doubt are quite aware of his tuneful contributions to music, among them #1’s “Alley Oop,” “There Goes My Everything,” “Beneath Still Waters” and “So Afraid of Losing You Again.”  For ROPE patrons, the casually-garbed gent opened with a song he wrote – Gene Watson’s only #1 “Fourteen Carat Mind” (1982) – revealing Dallas’s own strong vocals. Amazingly, Frazier’s also furnished first-time number ones for Gary Paxton & The Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”), Jack Greene (“There Goes My Everything”), Charley Pride (“All I Have To Offer You Is Me”) and Tanya Tucker (“What’s Your Mama’s Name”).
Frazier himself first recorded some of his greatest songs, including “Alley Oop,” 1957; “Elvira,” 1966; and “Big Mable Murphy,” 1971, which later became successes for Paxton, Oak Ridge Boys and Sue Thompson. He tallied eight Billboard chartings as a vocalist, the best being “Everybody Oughta Sing,” a 1967 Top 20.
More than one of his creations charted pop, including the Oaks’ #1 crossover smash “Elvira,” a pop Top Five, previously covered by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition; then there’s O. C. Smith’s version of “Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp,” a Top 40 U.S. entry that hit #2 in the UK, and prompted country covers by Johnny Darrell, #22, 1968, and Johnny Russell, #32, 1976.
Dallas told the audience “There Goes My Everything’s” his biggest copyright, and in addition to Jack Greene’s monster disc, it’s been covered by numerous artists, pop and country, including Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis Presley, Don Cherry and Ferlin Husky, for whom Frazier originally wrote the number.
“I moved to Nashville in late 1963, after having worked in Bakersfield for Ferlin as a kid. I got this inspiration from a divorce that Ferlin was going through. I wrote ‘There Goes My Everything’ when I was 24. It took about an hour to write,” recalled Frazier, whose publisher mistakenly gave it to unknown Greene, who was drumming and singing with Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours. Like wildfire it took off, and subsequently Greene made two more Frazier tunes hit, “Until My Dreams Come True” #1, and “Back In the Arms Of Love,” Top Five.
Not to be out-done, Charley Pride scored #1 with four Frazier songs: “All I Have To Offer You Is Me,” “So Afraid Of Losing You Again,” “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me” and “Then Who Am I?” Connie Smith was another artist who had high numbers with his songs, five at Top 10 or better, including “Ain’t Had No Lovin’,” #2; “Just For What I Am,” #5; and “If It Ain’t Love,” #7.
Now 78, Frazier finished his portion with a number inspired by a street sign in east Nashville, noting, “It’s not the most poetic song, but ‘Elvira’s’ one of my favorites,” rendering it in as stylish a manner as one can muster, with a “oom pa-pa, mow-mow” chorus. Ultimately, Dallas’ numerous chart entries earned him induction into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, class of 1976.
“Boy, I have to follow the likes of Dickey Lee, Leona Williams and Dallas Frazier,” bemoaned harmonica whiz Charlie McCoy, the afternoon’s fitting finale. First off he covered his favorite Kris Kristofferson song, “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” Many recall Charlie McCoy performing regularly on the popular Hee Haw TV show, also acting as the series music director. (That’s Charlie, left, posing with Dickey Lee.)
McCoy’s proud of being a member of Nashville’s fabled A Team of session players, performing his magic on records for a variety of artists, like Ann-Margret, Roy Orbison, Stonewall Jackson, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Perry Como and Ringo Starr. His own 1972 instrumental single, “Today I Started Loving You Again,” a spin-off from his Grammy-winning “Real McCoy” album, was a near million seller.  The following year, his “Good Time Charlie” LP hit #1, yet another enviable feat.
Charlie even sang at the ROPE show, warning “If the wife and I are fussin’, brother that’s our right/’Cause me and that sweet woman’s got a license to fight . . . If you mind your own business/Then you won’t be minding mine.”
Indeed the Grammy award-winning instrumentalist covered a pair of Hank Williams’ standards, “Mind Your Own Business” and “Cold Cold Heart,” noting his legendary singer-songwriter hero died near McCoy’s home town, Oak Hill, W. Va., in 1953.
Of course, Charlie never met Hank, Sr., as he was only 11 when he passed. But in 2011, produced a Hank Williams tribute album honoring him, “Lonesome Whistle,” even inviting Hank’s daughter Jett aboard to perform on “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
ROPE’s presentation proved a day of good beer-drinking music, though the strongest concoction available was unsweetened iced tea. But at least we learned there’s still some sounds around that truly fill the bill for traditional fans. Wish y’all could’ve been there!                 – Review & Photos by Walt Trott 

Dallas Frazier & L’il David Wilkins.
Mac Wiseman, Janie Boyd and H.G. Roberts.

 

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New release ‘Botanical Gardens’

Don McLean . . . folk rock, country or Americana? . . .

NASHVILLE — Don McLean is one of those transcendent music makers who made his mark with “American Pie,” and its memorable line “the day the music died.” He became a folk-rock favorite of 1970s’ fans; however, in 1981 chose country, hitting Top 10 with his first of five chartings, “Crying,” a Roy Orbison-Joe Melson creation, that ironically topped the British chart for him. Today, he’d fit smoothly into the Americana fold.
Now McLean’s newest album, “Botanical Gardens,” released March 23, 2018 by BMG, brought him back to Music City, where he’s confided to being more comfortable. This collection, boasting a baker’s dozen tunes, has him co-producing with Nashville pickers Pat and Mike Severs, and reportedly has been in the works in part since 2014. It is his first in eight years (and its release precedes a 14-date UK tour, starting April 29 at the Southend Cliffs Pavilion, and continuing into Ireland thru June).
Issued in February, the title track’s digital version is an ode to historic gardens (initially wrought for scientific study of plants), with McLean supplying a more romantic tone to the beauteous surroundings. It was inspired by one he visited in Sydney, Australia:“I take a walk in botanical gardens/And look for the faces of pretty young girls/Just like the flowers that bloom all around me/I fall in love in this colorful world . . .”
Of course that and 11 other cuts were composed by McLean, not known for simple  country themes dealing with death, divorce, drinking, dogs, trains or honky-tonks, his being more complex, poetically presented, sometimes as paradoxical prisms that only come into focus upon conclusion. “A Total Eclipse Of the Sun” is a story song of a July encounter with a woman who had rocked his world a decade earlier, and had left him lost and lonely: “She was the infliction/Of my own crucifixion . . . In the total eclipse of the sun.”
Don, a gifted vocalist, doesn’t take a backseat to others, though legends have covered his creations, notably Garth Brooks (“American Pie”), George Michael (“The Grave”), Fred Astaire (“Wonderful Baby”), Madonna (“American Pie”), and Perry Como, Bobby Goldsboro and Elvis Presley (all did “And I Love You So”).
The sole song he didn’t pen here is his last track “Last Night When We Were Young,” by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg – featured in the 1949 MGM film “In the Good Ole Summertime” as sung by Judy Garland – but was deleted from the final product. McLean gives it a poignant performance, as well.
Another standout is the mournful “Waving Man,” whose subject is a war hero, confined to a wheelchair, after waving goodbye to his buddies on the front, his wife in later life, and finally the children they raised: “He’s a waving man/He’s a waving man/And he doesn’t know anybody’s name . . .”
Probably the most country-sounding song is “Grief and Hope,” which boasts three chords and the truth, as its author warns, “Grief and hope, they walk together/They’re side by side, but they’re not friends . . . And when we see better days/They go separate ways.” Expressing everything but the twang, his “King Of Fools” May to December love affair, fades fast when mi’lady favors fickle fun with another. McLean performs with powerful, emotional immediacy in his interpretations. Similarly, there’s “I’ve Cried All the Tears That I Have,” trying to pick up the pieces of a broken heart.
More uptempo tunes are “Rock ’n’ Roll Your Baby” and “Ain’t She a Honey,” bookends to erotic feelings conveyed by the singer-songwriter. Then there are a few songs, similar to those he once described in concert as “sorta slow, hand-holders . . . smooching music,” the ballads “Lucky Guy,” “When July Comes,” “You’re All I Ever Had” and “You’ve Got Such Beautiful Eyes.”
Recorded at Jim Dineen’s Watershed Studio in Nashville, under the watchful eye of executive producer Paul Charles, McLean also contributes acoustic guitar licks, with exceptional backup from such as Mike Severs on electric guitar, ukulele and drums; Patrick Severs on electric, acoustic and slide guitars; Tony Migliore, keyboards; Jerry Kroon, percussion; David Smith, Brad Albin, Mark Prentice, basses;  and Vip Vipperman, electric and slide guitars.
Despite early success, Don McLean was well aware that stardom wasn’t something to take for granted. He’s been a man completely immersed in his music, and considerate of fans, including when time permits taking time to sign autographs. He knows success in any field is the result of talent, hard work, determination and dependent on the level of support received.
This type of attitude has served him well throughout a lengthy career, spanning nearly six decades, and now at 72, McLean can look back proudly on “American Pie,” a tribute to the late Buddy Holly, and seemingly a surrender of American rock ’n’ roll dominance to the British rock invasion led by The Beatles and Rolling Stones. “They were singing/Bye, bye Miss American Pie/Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry/Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye/Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die  . . .”
It’s now in the Grammy Hall of Fame and in March 2017, was designated an “aural treasure” by the U.S. Library of Congress, and thus preserved in the National Recording Registry.
No one-hit wonder, Don’s celebrated for additional creations, notably “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night),” “Dreidel,” “Wonderful Baby,” “Since I Don’t Have You,” “Castles In the Air.” In recognition of his writing prowess, McLean was inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004, with presenter Garth Brooks doing the honor.
“American Pie’s” original manuscript garnered Don a $1.2 million auction bid, but did you know there was a deleted verse by McLean, provocateur par excellence? Here it is: “And there I stood alone and afraid/I dropped to my knees and there I prayed/And I promised him everything I could give/If only he would make the music live/And he promised it would live once more/But this time one would equal four/And in five years four had come to mourn . . . and the music was reborn.”       – Walt Trott

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Classic Reissue CD . . .

Conway Twitty: “Timeless” marks 25th anniversary of his passing

NASHVILLE — My memories of legendary Conway Twitty aren’t always happy ones, as I felt family and the industry muddied up the Mississippi native’s true legacy. What brings him to mind now is “Timeless,” a 14-song Twitty retrospective released by the indie Country Rewind (CR) label that recently came across my desk. When you know the back story to this work, you’ll understand why I was hesitant about reviewing this previously-unreleased performance by Conway. Remember, upon his death 25 years ago, he held the modern record on #1 Billboard singles – 41 – more than Eddy Arnold, Merle Haggard, Aretha Franklin, and yes, The Beatles and Elvis.
According to the new album liner notes, these were produced in May 1972 by the late Scotty Moore at his Music City Recorders Studio here. Conway played guitar, backed by touring bandsmen Joe E. Lewis, bass; John Hughey, steel; Tommy (Pork Chop) Markham, drums, and Moore’s pianist-buddy Hargus (Pig) Robbins. Their original target audience consisted of some 2,000 radio stations across the nation, which back in the day chalked up the country champ’s record number of chart-toppers, before conglomerates bought ’em up, issued strict playlists and pre-taped DJs (exhibiting make-or-break broadcast power, capable of zapping political non-conformists, a la the Dixie Chicks!).
I’m amazed to think this was recorded only a month after my first interview with Twitty, during London’s then annual Wembley Country Music Festival in April ’72, for the daily military newspaper Stars & Stripes. Earlier, as a Marine Corps recruiter, I welcomed artists volunteering their talents for such transcriptions, aired with an objective of helping the military attract enlistees; however, those hastily-produced tapes were generally not studio-caliber. Aware of all this, I listened with trepidation to “Timeless.”
Much to my pleasure, the near-33 minutes of music heard proved Scotty (Elvis’ guitarist) also an incredible engineer and mixer, who thankfully kept this treasure, passing it on to CR’s Thomas Gramuglia. In liaison with CR, Conway’s daughter Joni (remember “Don’t Cry, Joni”) and musician-hubby John Wesley Ryles (“Kay”), served as co-producers, with adept engineering aid from Mark Capps.
According to Preshias Harris’s CD liner notes, John Jungklaus also flawlessly transferred the original tapes, while Joni and John added acoustic guitarist Kevin Williams, pianist Ron Oates to the mix, and for two tracks, “Fifteen Years Ago” and “Crazy Arms,” the playing of guitarist Tony Durante (hubby to Kathy, Joni’s sister).
Joni said that John himself “stepped up to the mic and just as I knew he could, he added the perfect harmony to each song. Lord, it put a lump in my throat to hear him, Dad and Big Joe (Lewis) singing together. It was like magic!” Hard to believe it was 50 years ago – at age 17 – that Ryles recorded his own unforgettable Top 10, Hank Mills’ ballad “Kay,” the first of 27 singles J.W.R. charted before devoting himself primarily to behind-the-scenes studio sessions.
In selecting songs for Scotty’s session, Conway chose six chart-toppers, notably “Our Last Date,” for which he created the lyrics to Floyd Cramer’s instrumental “Last Date,” and now it’s this CD’s lead track. There’s also his first country #1 “Next In Line,” which during our London chat, Twitty noted, “It’s been a long, hard climb, making my career in country music, and took 10 years, almost to the day, from my first (pop) #1 ‘It’s Only Make Believe,’ in November 1958, until my first #1 in country, ‘Next In Line’ (November 1968). There were those who said don’t change direction, but that was my decision to make and you know, it feels just right.”
Who from that era can forget Conway’s self-penned “It’s Only Make Believe,” delivered in full two-octave range, along with his sexy little growl, quickly turning it into a classic. Have always admired his artistry immensely, but when he decided his heart was in country, there was an element wanting to deny him that dream, deriding him as “countrypolitan.”
Conservatives felt he was merely slumming in country, because his hits dried up in the pop genre, but they failed to recognize this Southern boy’s heart was always in country, the music he performed in his youth and during his Army stint overseas. Then when his songs became more sensuous, old schoolers resented success of seductive titles like “Lead Me On,” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” “I See the Want To In Your Eyes” and “I’d Just Love To Lay You Down,” blinded to the fact music was maturing to keep abreast of the times, and Conway was ahead of the curve.
Oddly enough, despite 76 Top 10s and all those #1 songs – 12 of which he wrote or co-wrote – Twitty never won a solo CMA award, like best male vocal or entertainer of the year, though he shared best duo honors with Loretta Lynn four times (1972-’75). There were also nine #1 country albums, but none cited as best by CMA.
Make no mistake about it, “Timeless” is country all the way, with perhaps one exception: “Proud Mary.” That upbeat, hard-driving John Fogerty song, initially a #2 smash for his Creedence Clearwater Revival group in ’69, reminds us Conway could rock. Attesting to that, too, are his early MGM pop cuts “Mona Lisa,” “Lonely Blue Boy,” “C’est Si Bon” and some 116 million records sold, thanks too, to a trio of Twitty singles that charted R&B, prior to his conversion to country.
Even as a country crooner, Conway paid homage to such across-the-board faves as the Bee Gees, Bob Seger, The Eagles, Lionel Richie, Sam Moore and Pointer Sisters, via covers. On this collection, he’s singing “Crazy Arms,” Ray Price’s all-time top tune which charted an astounding 45 weeks for the Cherokee Cowboy. Better believe Twitty couldn’t forget Price, who gave him credibility back in ’63 by cutting Conway’s “Walk Me To The Door,” making it a strong Top 10 country disc, and a strong argument for a country-oriented Conway.
Yet another hardcore country cut Twitty tackles is the Rose and Joe Maphis co-write (with Max Fidler) “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music),” giving it all the grit and passion needed for that honky-tonk standard. It appeared first as a B side to Twitty’s Top Five breakthrough tune “Image Of Me,” from the pen of Wayne Kemp.
Third track is the stylistic “Hello Darlin’,” his signature song, which he actually wrote a decade before hitting #1 with it in 1970, while the LP of that title gave Twitty his first #1 album on Billboard. The single, which became the most played that year, was later voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Henry Compton’s slick weeper “How Much More Can She Stand” gets savvy treatment, reminding us it reached #1 status one year before this track. It served as another album title, as well. In real life, he had just reconciled with wife Mickey, mother of his three younger children, though they would divorce for good in 1984, after 28 years’ togetherness.
Conway’s superb, singing “Working Girl,” a Wes Buchanan composition he recorded first in 1967 for “Conway Twitty Country” (Decca LP). Hmm, initially wondered if it was about a procurer (a.k.a. pimp) and his mistress as he sings,“Working girl/You’ve got money all of the time/Working girl . . . Pay my debt and treat me fine/Ah, I don’t know if I could take it/If she should up and go . . . I love you so . . . working girl.” But gave up that notion when heard on his and Loretta’s duet album “We Only Make Believe” (1971).
Lyrically strong, as well, is the melodic “I Can’t See Me Without You,” which Twitty penned and recorded in 1971, an easy Top Fiver. Thanks to his powerful vocals, brought up-close in the new production, Conway’s awesome performance seemingly outshines the original studio rendition, tagged with a cumbersome choral accompaniment.
The romantic #1 ballad “I Love You More Today,” track seven, was written by a favorite writer of his, L.E. White, the first of several hit contributions he made to Conway’s discography. Another 1970 #1, Raymond Smith’s “Fifteen Years Ago,” a personal favorite of this writer, doesn’t disappoint either, nearly fifty years later.
Yet another “Timeless” cover is the 1956 Johnny Horton hit “Honky-Tonk Man,” a twangy, two-stepper Twitty tackles with equal fervor. Every bit as infectious as applauded covers by the likes of Buck, Dwight or Bob Luman.
Conway’s creation (though credited to wife Mickey Jaco) “If You Were Mine To Lose,” played second fiddle to its uptempo flipside “Look Into My Teardrops,” a fine Harlan Howard-Don Bowman collaboration, that nonetheless failed to launch Conway’s country career switch in ’66. A true heart-tugger, “If You Were Mine To Lose,” offered ample opportunity for soulful, heartfelt vocals radio surely could’ve picked up on way back when. Indeed a spellbinder.
Conway’s final marriage in 1987 to ex-secretary Dee Henry, closer in age to his son Michael, caused friction both in the family and among co-workers, including boyhood pal John Hughey, his veteran steel guitarist, who up and quit The Twitty Birds.
Following a Branson gig, Twitty suffered a stomach aneurysm aboard his tour bus, and was rushed to a hospital in Springfield, Mo., where following surgery, he died June 5, 1993, at age 59.
Subsequently, there ensued a lengthy series of court cases pitting widow Dee against his daughters Kathy and Joni, regarding a will that was either missing or unsigned, dependent on your source. Nor was there any trace of a prenuptial document some believe she signed. Dee opted to follow Tennessee law that decrees a third of the husband’s estate – in the absence of a will – is reserved for his widow. A public auction determined the value of remaining property and artifacts, after Dee rejected an appraised value.
Following years in probate, Twitty’s children – Michael, Joni, Kathy, Jimmy – were assigned rights to the artist’s music, name and image, though another lawsuit between the estate and Sony/ATV Music emerged over Twitty royalties and copyrights, which the company reportedly purchased earlier from Conway. No doubt this would not have been how the artist would want his name to be remembered.
Thanks to more than 50 music performance awards from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, however, Conway Twitty was posthumously enshrined in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993; and finally inducted posthumously into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999. Still no recognition from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, though he has been rightly honored posthumously by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn.
“Timeless” is a fitting title for this previously thought lost performance by a country king. Thanks to masterful crisp and clear re-recordings, it doesn’t sound dated, and deserves to be heard by new generations, and is an essential collector’s item for all the Twitty fans still out there.  – Walt Trott  

 

That’s Kathy and Joni, Twitty’s daughters, in this Patricia Presley photo.

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‘Behind Closed Doors’ craftsman passes . . .

Singer-songwriter Kenny O’Dell . . . a fond farewell

NASHVILLE — Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Famer Kenny O’Dell, 75, died at a healthcare center in Cool Springs near Nashville, March 27, of natural causes. Some who knew him believe he was anxious to reunite with his beloved singer-guitarist-wife Corki, who died last year, but whom he felt was very much alive in his heart.
O’Dell, best known for penning the #1 smashes “Behind Closed Doors,” “Trouble in Paradise,” “Lizzie And The Rainman” and “Mama, He’s Crazy,” also hit Top 10 country with his own 1978 recording, “Let’s Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin’.”
Actually, Kenny the artist scored successes in both country and pop, starting with his 1967 Top 40 “Beautiful People,” on the indie Vegas label, covered that same year by Bobby Vee, scoring yet another Top 40 pop hit. As Kenny pointed out, “All writers are frustrated artists anyway.” He had yet another modest pop single with “Springfield Plane.”
Born Kenneth Guy Gist, Jr., June 21, 1942, to Marian and Kenneth Gist in Antlers, Okla., he was raised in Santa Maria, Calif. Kenny began trying to play guitar as a youngster, and remembered at 13 writing his first song; however, he smilingly said that he didn’t really concentrate on writing until age 15.
A graduate of Santa Maria High School, Kenny decided early on to pursue a career in music, changing his surname to O’Dell, borrowed from his mom. He formed his first music firm under the title Mar-Key. Kenny’s initial band was called Guys And Dolls, with whom he toured five years throughout the northwest, and recorded his first solo disc, “Old Time Love,” pressing all of 600 copies.
While working with guitarist Duane Eddy, he first got to know Corki, then wed to fellow guitarist Al Casey. The former Vivian Ray (Corki) Casey O’Dell became one of the first female inductees into the Nashville-based Musicians Hall of Fame, along with Barbara Mandrell and Velma Williams Smith, in 2014. Musicians Hall founder Joe Chambers recalled she was known as “The First Rock & Roll Sidechick.”
Back then, Duane Eddy, was hot, thanks to his twangy instrumental hits “Rebel Rouser”  and “Because They’re Young,” produced by Lee Hazlewood. Both Al and Kenny played behind Duane, and Corki played rhythm guitar. They all toured together.
In 1969, Kenny moved to Nashville, where he hooked up with producer Bob Montgomery, and soon found himself running Bobby Goldsboro’s publishing, House of Gold.
Phil Walden, who in 1969 founded the Capricorn rockabilly label, home to such stalwarts as the Allman Brothers, Bonnie Bramlett, Wet Willie, Sam & Dave, Elvin Bishop and Marshall Tucker Band, recruited O’Dell to his Macon, Ga. label. He had Alex Taylor record the original version of Kenny’s “Lizzie And The Rainman,” and did an album, “Kenny O’Dell,” which produced Kenny’s Top 20 single “Soulful Woman.” As noted earlier, his biggest country hit was Capricorn’s “Let’s Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin’,” (#9,1978). Its follow-up, “As Long As I Can Wake Up In Your Arms” (which he co-wrote with Larry Henley), also did fairly well (#12, 1978) for them.
His biggest break as a writer, however, came when Charlie Rich recorded his “I Take It On Home,” which also marked Rich’s first Top 10 (actually #6, 1972). But a year later, came the frosting on their cake, with Rich’s version of O’Dell’s “Behind Closed Doors,” which was #1 two weeks, sold Platinum, winning Grammys for best song and best vocal. It also earned CMA and ACM awards, and is now in the Grammy Song Hall of Fame.
The following year, superstar Loretta Lynn added another #1 to his writing credits with her rendition of “Trouble In Paradise,” charting 17 weeks. In 1975, teen-aged Tanya Tucker took his “Lizzie And The Rainman” (also co-written with Larry Henley) into the #1 slot, as well. Then yet another lass, Billie Jo Spears, scored a resounding success with O’Dell’s sensuous “What I’ve Got In Mind” (#5, 1976).
Among other artists who’ve recorded O’Dell songs are Pat Daisy, Anthony Armstrong Jones, Dottie West, Kenny Rogers, Mac Davis, Kenny Dale, Tom Jones and Bobby Wright. Yet another major O’Dell cut came in 1984 for a new RCA act The Judds, cutting Kenny’s “Mama, He’s Crazy,” giving the mother-daughter duo their first #1 hit and a Grammy.
That same year, O’Dell earned the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Songwriter of the Year award. Meantime, “Behind Closed Doors” garnered a major slot on Broadcast Music Inc.’s prestigious 50 Most Played BMI Songs poll. In 1996, sandy-haired Kenny received the ultimate accolade of being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
His wife Corki died May 11, 2017, two days before her 81st birthday. Survivors include his stepson Alvin Casey, daughters Diana Rose, and Sandra Blevens; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Services were conducted March 31, at Woodbine Funeral Home, Nashville. – By Walt Trott

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Bobby Bare’s birthday surprise . . .

NASHVILLE – It was a night to remember for legendary Bobby Bare, who on his 83rd birthday, April 7, was sharing the Grand Ole Opry stage with Jeannie Seely, Garth Brooks, son Bobby Bare, Jr., Mary Gauthier, and Garth invited him to rejoin the historic show. Back in the 1970s, due to additional career demands, Bare let his original membership lapse, but you couldn’t find a happier singer-songwriter that night, as Brooks made WSM’s renewal offer.
As Garth announced, “The Grand Ole Opry is family. Family is forever. So Mr. Bare, young man – as my dad would say – it is my honor, it is the Grand Ole Opry’s honor, to officially welcome you back, the great Bobby Bare, to the Grand Ole Opry!”
He and Mary had performed “I Drink” from his new album “Things Change,” prior to him and Jr. reprising dad’s 1970s’ smash “Come Sundown.” So Seely, the show’s emcee, gave a warm birthday greeting – and Garth. Visibly touched by his invitation, Bobby confided, “I’ve gotta tell you that this is quite a surprise. I was a member of the Opry for 10 years, but then I just drifted away . . . ,” adding, “Thank you to everybody on the Grand Ole Opry!” That left time enough to sing his #1 tale, “Marie Laveau.”
According to Sally Williams, the Opry’s general manager, “Bobby Bare enjoys an incredible relationship with all of the Opry artists, as well as the Opry staff. He has supported the Opry with visits often over the past few years, and he’s always a crowd favorite. We are so excited to officially welcome him back to Opry membership.” (Photo of Bare and Brooks by Chris Hollo)

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Singletary’s sudden passing stuns music scene . . .

NASHVILLE — Country singer Daryle Singletary’s sudden death at age 46, Monday, Feb. 12, from an apparent blood clot, had the music scene in shock. Reportedly, he played his final show in Dadeville, Ala., on Friday at the Rodeo Club, three days earlier, showing no sign of fatigue or illness, says management.
A Georgia boy, Singletary prided himself on singing songs similar to traditional country sounds he thrived on in his youth, making his major breakthrough in 1995, via a self-titled album, spinning off two Top Five singles: “I Let Her Lie” (#2) and the upbeat “Too Much Fun” (#4).
That introductory collection was co-produced by Randy Travis, James Stroud and David Malloy, a trio sharing his love of country’s roots. “There are still people out there who want to hear traditional country music,” quotes Daryle, on his website, “I’ve been fortunate to be able to always keep it real and not have to compromise.”
According to Travis, “I love Daryle Singletary’s heart and soul — for life, for others, and for true country music. Co-producing his first LP was a highlight in my career. He is one of the best and made me a better artist . . . Thanks for the memories, brother.”
Yet another near chart-topper for Daryle, “Amen Kind of Love,” was released in the fall of ’96. It was the lead single off his sophomore album “All Because of You.” A third Giant album, “Ain’t It The Truth,” produced another Singletary success “The Note,” though stalling at Top 20 on country’s singles chart, succeeded in garnering pop play, making Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart. The Top 20 album soared to #7 on Billboard’s Heat seeker list in 1998. Nonetheless, the burly balladeer and Giant parted ways in ’99.
Daryle next signed onto Audium Records’ roster, where his first chartings proved less successful, “I Knew I Loved You” and his co-write “I’ve Thought Of Everything,” heard on his “Now And Again” (2000) album. Audium’s second Singletary set – “That’s Why I Sing This Way” –  produced two near-Top 40 tracks, its title tune (sort of in homage to George Jones), supplied by Max T. Barnes; and Fred MacRae’s “I’d Love To Lay You Down,” remembering Conway Twitty’s #1 version two decades earlier.
In the Barnes’ ballad, Daryle sings “Well, things I never did/When I was just a little kid/Made me what I am today . . . See Momma used to whoop me/With a George Jones album/That’s why I sing this way . . .”
Upon learning of Singletary’s passing, a wistful Barnes proclaimed, “Daryle was everybody’s favorite singer. It’s not OK with me for there to be a world without him! There’s a Daryle-sized hole in country music, now and forever.”
Yes to many of us, Daryle was the real deal, a roots-fond artist who thrived on twang. Born March 10, 1971 in Cairo, Ga., to postal worker Roger and his beautician-wife Anita, he grew up in a music-loving family. His grandmother played fiddle and his parents were part of a weekend gospel group. Daryle and his brother joined their cousins singing in a band, while he also took voice lessons in high school. Forming his own band in the ninth grade, proved beneficial in attracting attention of the girls in his classes, he grinned.
During our interview, Daryle also confided, “I cut my teeth trying to sing like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis. Even when I moved to Nashville (1990), I saw no reason not to try and sing like these heroes, because they’re so good. It’s inevitable that Keith and Randy stole licks from Jones and Haggard. I stole licks from Randy and Keith. When (Johnny) Paycheck was Donnie Young on Jones’ records, singing harmony and playing guitar, I’m sure ol’ George even borrowed  some of Paycheck’s style.”
Singletary felt by combining different licks learned from his heroes, he soon developed his own style: “It’s something that happens all the time. I don’t even think about it, but I’m very thankful for that.”
It’s interesting to learn how Randy Travis first became aware of the unknown Singletary, who was putting food on his table by singing in local clubs, doing what session work he could muster, and making the occasional demo. A chap named Johnny Morris, who co-wrote “An Old Pair of Shoes,” owned the short-lived indie Evergreen label. He invited Daryle to sing the “Shoes” demo that got into the hands of Travis, who liked it, but also wondered who was singing. As Randy cut it for Warner’s, he pretty much stuck with the original arrangement, scoring himself another Top 20 charting in 1993, while inadvertently paying homage to Daryle in doing so.
Indeed, Travis became a champion of the newcomer. His then manager-wife Lib Hatcher took deep-voiced, dark-haired Daryle under her wing, putting him on the road with Randy, giving him a chance to perform and help in merchandise sales. Earlier, Daryle had worked as a “roadie” for Tanya Tucker. Fellow musician Greg Cole, who was a Jolly Greene Giant bandsmen, also became an early pal. As Singletary pointed out, “Greg and I started working together when we were (practicing) in a basement in Antioch (a Nashville neighborhood). He was playing for Jack Greene and I was still singing in a club, an unknown and he played for me on weekends or weekdays, when he wasn’t out with Jack.”
Eventually Greg would co-produce Daryle’s CDs “That’s Why I Sing This Way” and “Straight From the Heart” (2007). Cole added, “The first day I met him, I played on a session with him and I thought, ‘This boy can sing.’ So I had invited him out to this club where I played, The Broken Spoke. I talked the manager into letting us play there on the off nights. We were playing 1970s’ and early 1980s’ stuff that we wanted to play, and we just had a big time. Then they added Tuesday nights (packing the place) . . . I  guess we did that for something like two years.”
In 2005, Cole co-produced Singletary’s “Rockin’ In the Country” for Shanachie Records. That effort remained unreleased, however, as Shanachie folded, but thankfully in 2009 finally became Singletary’s sixth album, when E-1 Music, a branch of Koch Entertainment, distributed it. Both Greg and Daryle were pleased by that CD, and in particular recalled a track titled “She Sure Looks Good In Black,” they thought should’ve been a hit. There’s also a rousing performance on the CD by guest artist Charlie Daniels.
“I’m passionate about what I do,” said Singletary. “I’m not just going out making a living or just to get a check. I’m doing what I like – and I’m having fun. Since 1995, I’ve consistently played an average 60-to-80 dates a year. If you ask me, that says a lot about the state of our industry. I’ve been very fortunate and I’m thankful. I’ve seen some of my friends come into this business, have a hit and now they’re not out there anymore. I’m still here and I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”
A no-nonsense sort, Daryle also joined sportsman Wayne Burns as co-host for Outdoor All-Stars, a 2008-’09 hunting show on cable beamed by DirecTV. More recently Daryle released the 2016 single “We’re Not Going To Hell (For Having a Hell Of a Time),” and joined good friend Rhonda Vincent on her 2017 Top 40 country CD “American Grandstand.” That duets album recreates covers of such successes as George Jones & Melba Montgomery’s “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds,” and Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty’s “After the Fire Is Gone.”
It wasn’t his first duet collaboration with Rhonda. The couple sang the George & Tammy classic “We’re Gonna Hold On” for his “Straight From the Heart” CD. As Daryle shared with us, “There’s not many girl singers that just blows my skirt up per se, but I’m a huge fan of Rhonda’s. She’s definitely one of those singers who’s so unique, a real stylist. Rhonda sang with me on my first records, like the old Keith Whitley song I remade on my first Giant record ‘Would These Arms Be In Your Way.’ She sang harmony and we’ve kinda kept in touch since. I think she and her brother Darrin have done harmony on all the projects Greg and I have done together.”
No doubt the feeling is mutual, a saddened Rhonda just stated, “Daryle Singletary, one of the single greatest singers who ever sang a song. I loved singing with him. We shared a kindred spirit on and off the stage. I will miss him dearly. Rest in Peace my friend.” (Daryle and pal Greg Cole chat with Walt Trott at Union, right.)
Another singer-songwriter admirer, Paul Bogart, added his condolences, “Daryle Singletary was THE quintessential country music singer – country music the way it should be. He will be sorely missed, but his music will live on forever.”
Survivors include Daryle’s wife Holly and their four children: Jonah, Mercer, Nora and Charlotte Singletary. Following his passing, Platinum Records released a “posthumous single,” titled “She’s Been Cheatin’ On Us,” noting the disc’s proceeds would benefit Daryle’s family, the singer’s representative proclaimed no such fund was put in place, plus the recording was merely a demo that the singer didn’t mean to release.  – By Walt Trott

 

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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.”

Royce Porter-A .jpeg

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Music City Beat, June 2018

Martina McBride faces lawsuit; Dolly digs Netflix; and Gail Davies 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 (depicted above, right), 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 (left) 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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Music City Beat – May 2018

Eddy Arnold’s 100th anniversary year . . . and he still holds Billboard’s #1 weeks record!

NASHVILLE — On May 15, the late and great Eddy Arnold entered the centenary of his birth, dating back to Henderson, Tenn. Upon his death, May 8, 2008, the Tennessee Plowboy was then 10 years and a week shy of his 100th birthday. Few have come close to his Billboard record of 145 weeks spent in the #1 slot, or his 92 Top 10 singles, 28 of which hit #1. Arnold began performing in earnest during the Great Depression, then spent three years honing his talents with Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys (1940-’43), before going solo. He was noted for tearful ballads like “Mommy, Please Stay Home With Me,” “Did You See My Daddy Over There,” “Rockin’ Alone (In That Old Rockin’ Chair),” “My Daddy Is Only a Picture,” “Mama and Daddy Broke My Heart” and “Little Angel With the Dirty Face.” But, of course, his third #1 in 1947 was his co-write “I’ll Hold You In My Heart,” which held the #1 spot 21 weeks, while his fifth #1 “Bouquet of Roses” became his longest charter: 54 weeks (19 of which were in top spot). Incidentally in 1948, only two singers scored #1 on the Billboard country charts all year: Eddy with five entries, “Anytime,” “Bouquet of Roses,” “Texarkana Baby,” “Just a Little Lovin’,” “A Heart Full of Love,” while Jimmy Wakely had only “One Has My Name,” 11 weeks. Arnold co-wrote 17 of his hits, eight of which were #1, among them “I’m Throwing Rice (At the Girl That I Love),” “Easy On the Eyes” and “That Do Make It Nice.” Oddly enough, Arnold has not been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, though enshrined in the 1966 Country Music Hall of Fame, and thanks to an amazing comeback, earned the CMA’s first Entertainer of the Year trophy (1967). The Academy of Country Music bestowed its Pioneer Award on Eddy in 1984. In 2000, he was presented the National Medal of the Arts & Humanities in Washington, D.C. by President Bill Clinton, and in 2005 also honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Eddy charted an impressive 23 singles that boasted two-sided hits, that is Top 10 or better, many of which crossed into the pop charts. His highest pop charting, at #6 was “Make The World Go Away” (1965), also #1 country three weeks, and now a Grammy Hall of Fame Record. In 1956, Eddy did a rare thing for him, a duet with pop vocalist Jaye P. Morgan, “Mutual Admiration Society,” stopping just shy of Top 40 pop status. It was another 40+ years before his Top 20 duet with youthful LeAnn Rimes, tackling his Golden Oldie “Cattle Call,” charted Billboard in late 1999, but carried over into 2000, giving Eddy yet another chart decade conquered. Following his 2008 death, Eddy’s longtime label RCA released a single that month, “To Life,” which peaked at #49. This gave Eddy another country record of sorts, the longest span between solo chartings, nearly 63 years since his first Billboard entry “Each Minutes Seems Like a Million Years,” a Top Five charting June 30, 1945, backed incidentally with “Cattle Call” (a later #1 in 1955). At press time, we received a reply to our query wondering why Arnold was never inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, from spokesperson Jennifer Bohler, stating: “Thanks very much for getting in touch. I agree that Eddy is a deserving candidate and is among several hundred eligible Nashville songwriters and songwriter-artists that NaSHOF considers each year. They will begin the nominating process soon, and I’m told Eddy will be discussed again this year. Thanks again for suggesting Eddy be considered.”
      Bits & Pieces: Shania Twain, Canada’s gift to country music, created a twitter storm with her recent remark in a Guardian (UK) interview that if she could cast a ballot in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, “I would have voted for him because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest . . .” After noting the resentment her quote stirred up among fans, sorta reminiscent of her hit “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” she quickly backtracked, claiming the reporter’s query caught her off-guard. The “Don’t Be Stupid” singer proclaimed: “As a Canadian, I regret answering this unexpected question without giving my response more context. I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it’s clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President.” Like American rapper Kanye West she sorta dug his “independent thought” though, but la West waded right through a riptide of criticism, especially among fellow blacks, via his recent twitter: “You don’t have to agree with Trump, but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.” For sure, Kanye . . . Meanwhile, Shania Twain and Jake Owen have teamed as talent scouts for a new USA Network talent series Real Country set to film in Nashville this summer, spotlighting new acts competing for stardom a la The Voice. According to Twain, “It’s been an incredible year for me, releasing my new album and coming back to country music. I feel it’s time for me to add my own support in finding our greatest undiscovered talent.” Look out Blake Shelton! . . . What gives? Despite earlier estimates of the late Glen Campbell estate being over $50 million, his former accountant appointed by a judge here refereeing a court battle between the singer-songwriter’s heirs, took a tally and came up with an estimate of assets at less than half a million dollars. Stanley Schneider, who had also served as Campbell’s later life manager, was appointed estate administrator by Probate Judge Randy Kennedy last February. According to Schneider’s estimate, released in April, that total doesn’t include future royalties, citing “Appraisal needed” in this regard. Campbell died last August after suffering Alzheimer’s disease, and his will named wife Kim as executor. In it, she and five of his children were listed as beneficiaries, prompting three of his children by earlier marriages to contest the will. Previous court documents cited part ownership in the Arizona Diamondbacks ball team. Expect more fireworks over this latest report . . . Music may soothe the savage beast, but its sales also puts a smile on the faces of those who create it. According to the world’s leading performance rights organization – American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) – the non-profit agency reportedly paid out $1 billion in royalties to its membership of writers and publishers in 2017. That figure translates into a 11 percent jump in U.S. licensing revenue for the year, while distribution was also up, 10 percent.
       Honors: Attention Nashville visitors, exhibits still showing at the Country Music Hall of Fame include the Faith Hill-Tim McGraw display Mississippi Woman, Louisiana Man, thru June 10; Lynn Anderson salute, until June 24; Shania Twain, thru July 22; Loretta Lynn, closing Aug. 5; and American Currents, The Music of 2017, spotlighting major music happenings last year, citing such artists as Brothers Osborne, Kane Brown, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Randy Travis and Chris Young, thru Feb. 9, 2019. Just opened: Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s which focuses on that decade’s musical contributions from acts like Willie & Waylon, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser, Bobby Bare, David Allan Coe, Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver. The tribute takes a three-year run to “explore this era of cultural and artistic exchange between Nashville and Austin, Texas.” . . . Songwriter Max T. Barnes, who started out primarily as a singer, is currently doing dates in Branson and Nashville, but recently wrapped a spring Steamboat Tour in the United Kingdom. One impressive stop made in Ireland, May 1, found Max accepting Hot Country TV’s annual International Artist of the Year statuette. The HCTV award is determined by public demand for the artist’s music over a period of time. “I am honored,” said Barnes. “I spent my whole life on Music Row, writing songs and now I am having a blast singing them all around the world! What a crazy life. I am blessed.” In his case, it’s like father, like son, as the late Max D. Barnes won favor writing such standards as “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” “Chiseled in Stone,” “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” and “Look At Us,” prior to his passing in 2004. Max T. tunes include “Love Me” (Collin Raye); “At the Sound Of the Tone” (John Schneider); and “Way Down Deep” (Vern Gosdin). More recently, Max produced a new CD on Bobby Bare, and made a single and video duet with another second generation artist Marty Haggard, “Way Back In The Mountains,” a ballad their dads Merle and Max D. wrote over 20 years ago. Come July, Max T. returns to Ireland for further gigs, no doubt plugging his new album: “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead.” . . . Johnny Cash was a three-year-old when his parents Carrie and Ray Cash moved into what would be his boyhood home in Dyess, Ark., in 1935. Now it’s being declared a national monument, just added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. A five-room farmhouse built in 1934, amidst the Great Depression, it looked great to the hard-put Cash couple and their five children, who moved into their new home, then estimated at a worth of $1,000. Younger brother Tommy Cash (“Six White Horses”) didn’t come onto the scene until 1940, but it’s where he and Johnny grew up, and inspired big brother’s songs “Pickin’ Time” and “Five Feet High and Rising,” the latter concerning the 1937 flood that threatened the area. Arkansas State University is listed as the current owner of the historic acreage.
      Scene Stealers: Although Taylor Swift left a blossoming country career to enjoy the greater revenue of a pop music diva, she still keeps her hand in the country genre; witness the recently reunited Sugarland duo’s new duet “Babe,” which the superstar co-wrote with Pat Monahan (of Train). Actually, Swift even lends her vocals to their track, included on Sugarland’s CD “Bigger,” for which Sugarland’ers Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush co-wrote all the other tracks. Its release date: June 8 . . . Bob Dylan, who made such milestone Music City albums as “Blonde On Blonde” and “Nashville Skyline,” in 1969 there met Johnny Cash recording next door, and on a whim did a dozen or so duets with the Man in Black. Others in the genre who have recorded Dylan tunes include Eddy Arnold, Bobby Bare, The Everly Brothers, Willie Nelson, Kitty Wells, Elvis Presley, Emmylou Harris, Flatt & Scruggs, Garth Brooks, Dierks Bentley and Old Crow Medicine Show. Now Dylan, who really digs Tennessee whiskey, is partnering in a new distillery here with Marc Bushala (known for his Angel’s Envy Bourbon), to produce craft whiskeys under the name Heaven’s Door. You may recall Dylan’s classic “Knocking On Heaven’s Door,” which he wrote and recorded for Kris Kristofferson’s 1973 Western film “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid,” hence the name. Reportedly, the partners plan to get their machines mashing by 2019, in an old church building bought on Elm Street, Nashville. In a news release, Dylan explained: “We both wanted to create a collection of American whiskeys that in their own way, tell a story. I’ve been traveling for decades and I’ve been able to try some of the best spirits the world of whiskey has to offer. This is great whiskey. I am happy to be partnering with Marc and our entire team as we bring Heaven’s Door to the public.” (Hopefully, it won’t turn into a Nightmare On Elm Street) . . . Bobby Bare celebrated his 83rd birthday April 7, but an unexpected “present” was an announcement he was being reinstated as a Grand Ole Opry member half a century after his cast membership “lapsed” (for not having kept up the then-required appearances quota). Following another guesting, Opry host Garth Brooks offered the surprised singer of such hits as “Detroit City,” “Four Strong Winds” and “Marie Laveau,” the opportunity to re-up. That prompted a quick affirmation by the legendary balladeer, who first found fame with a 1959 rockin’ pop ditty “All American Boy.” In turn, Bare proclaimed, “All of my friends are here and I’m glad to be back . . . I’m honored.” . . . Meantime another legend, Charley Pride, marked his 25th anniversary as an Opry member, with special shows, May 4-5. Congrats!
     Final Curtain: A-List musician-producer-songwriter Randy Scruggs, 64, died April 17, following an undisclosed, but brief illness. He was the son of legendary bluegrass banjoist Earl Scruggs, his personal hero, though he most resembled his mom Louise, the force behind her husband’s lengthy career dating from his days with partner Lester Flatt (Flatt & Scruggs). Randy, a multi-instrumentalist who excelled on both guitar and banjo, won the Country Music Association’s coveted Musician of the Year three times, two Academy of Country Music trophies, and decorated his mantle further with four Grammy Awards. Randy’s impressive songwriting credits include Earl Thomas Conley’s five #1’s “Your Love On the Line,” 1983; “Don’t Make It Easy For Me,” “Angel In Disguise,” Chance of Lovin’ You,” all 1984; and “Love Don’t Care (Whose Heart It Breaks),” 1985; Sawyer Brown’s near-Top 10 “Out Goin’ Cattin’,” in 1986; “Love Has No Right,” a Billy Jo Royal Top Five (1989); and Deana Carter’s 1997 #1 “We Danced Anyway.” Other artists recording his songs include Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs and Martina McBride.
“Just got the sad word that my long time friend Randy Scruggs has passed away. My most heartfelt condolences to Gary and all of Randy’s family. Music City has lost one of its finest pickers. Rest in peace my friend,” twittered Charlie Daniels. Sending a condolence, too, was another second generation artist Rosanne Cash: “So incredibly sad to hear of the death of my old friend Randy Scruggs. He was a brilliant musician and a sweet soul, and my first serious crush. My heart aches today.”
Born in Nashville Aug. 3, 1953, he was the second son of Louise and Earl, and subject of dad’s famed “Randy Lynn Rag,” while a toddler. Randy began his own public performances at nine on Flatt & Scruggs’ TV series. He and elder brother Gary and younger brother Steven also joined dad for a time in Earl Scruggs’ Revue, following pop’s breakup with Flatt. Later, Gary and Randy recorded two rockin’ 1970s’ Brother albums for Vanguard Records. [Gary’s romance with singer Gail Davies produced his son Chris, now a respected session musician and performer (BR5-49) in his own right. Sadly, Steve, 34, took his own life and that of his wife Elizabeth, in 1992, following marital troubles.]
Randy’s 1989 CMA Album of the Year award was for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume 2”; his 1995 CMA Single of the Year came for production on “When You Say Nothing At All” for Alison Krauss; and he performed similar magic for the 2005 Grammy-winning “Earl’s Breakdown” on another Nitty Gritty Dirt Band disc. Among others Randy’s produced are Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Iris DeMent and Toby Keith. Randy’s guitar stylings can be heard on albums for the Dixie Chicks, Vern Gosdin, Moe Bandy, Miranda Lambert and Rosanne Cash, most notably his acoustic licks on her #1 classic cut “Tennessee Flat Top Box” in 1987.
Artists gracing his solo debut CD in 1998, “Crown of Jewels,” included Rosanne, Roger McGuinn, John Prine, Travis Tritt and Trisha Yearwood. A spin-off single from that acclaimed album was a duet with Mary Chapin-Carpenter, which she and he co-wrote: “It’s Only Love.” Yet another gem on that CD is “Passin’ Thru,” which he co-wrote and performed with Johnny Cash.
As Scruggs had noted, “The whole album is a reflection of my musical experiences. It is something that stems from my roots, influences that have piqued my interests and sustained me through the years. I wanted to put across a statement that was personal in terms of really looking inside myself, and saying this is who I am as an artist.”
Scruggs’ survivors include wife Sandy, daughter Lindsey, brother Gary and nephew Chris. Reportedly, a memorial service for Randy will be announced at a later date.
Rayburn Anthony, 80, a multi-talented singer-songwriter-musician, died while hospitalized, April 21, in Jackson, Tenn., where he’s also enshrined in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Despite that acclaim, Anthony made a mark as a country musician, touring with such traditional acts as Bobby Bare, Billy Walker, Melba Montgomery and Johnnie & Jack. He did perform some with rockabilly notables Carl Perkins, Linda Gail Lewis, and shared the studio mic with two country queens: Reba McEntire (“Easy”) and Kitty Wells (“Wild Side of Life”).
Initially as a writer, he and Gene Dobbins scored by landing the B side to Sandy Posey’s million-selling 1966 pop smash “Born a Woman,” with their co-write “Caution To the Wind.” After that he moved to Nashville, feeling he’d have a better chance career-wise. Indeed, Rayburn co-wrote two ASCAP hits for Billy Walker, “I’m Gonna Keep On Lovin’ You” and “Sing Me a Love Song To Baby,” both peaking at #3 on Billboard’s country charts in 1971 and ’72, respectively. His solo creation “I’m Gonna Leave You,” a duet featuring Melba Montgomery and Charlie Louvin, also charted in 1972. Other artists recording his songs include Faron Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Vern Gosdin, John Conlee, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and The Jordanaires.
Issued humbly on May 23, 1937 in Humboldt, Tenn., Rayburn was one of five boys and three girls born to Rosie and James Anthony. Rayburn credits elder brother Bob with encouraging his guitar pickin’, eventually joining his band wherein Bob played lead guitar and Rayburn rhythm guitar and did occasional vocals.
After meeting drummer W. S. (Fluke) Holland, famed as drummer for Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, at the Pineridge Club in the Memphis area, he landed gigs there. Fluke also introduced Rayburn to Sam Phillips, who auditioned him on piano and vocals, then decided on giving the newcomer a chance on his already legendary label, Sun Records. In 1959, he first recorded on Sun as Ray B. Anthony, notably a cut on the dated ballad “Alice Blue Gown,” and 15 additional tracks, usually with Fluke on drums, Eddie Bush on guitar. Mainly, however, he recorded as Rayburn Anthony on tracks such as “Big Dream,” “How Well I Know,” “There’s No Tomorrow” and “St. Louis Blues,” all later reissued on Bear Family Records.
A review of recordings by Rayburn indicate major labels – Polydor and Mercury – attempted to promote him as a solo artist, with pal Bobby Bare producing his in-your-face 1976 single “If You Don’t Like Hank Williams,” written by Kris Kristofferson; yet another name producer Jim Vienneau cut Rayburn’s “Baby Take It From Me” and “Shadows Of Love” in ’78; Jerry Kennedy produced his ’80 single “Cheatin’ Fire.” Randy Wood (Dot Records’ founder) produced Rayburn on his Bill Justis-arranged cover of “Stand By Your Man,” for the indie Ranwood Records.
Despite being well-traveled, touring such countries as Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France and Croatia, Anthony found time to father seven children. Survivors include wife Keata Anthony; children Jeff, James, Sally, Austin, Kayli, Colin and Summer Anthony; stepson Jordan Wright; brothers Robert and Alton Anthony; sister Betty Flanagan; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Services were held April 25 at Arrington Funeral Home, with Dr. Philip Jett officiating. Burial was in Liberty Grove Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.

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Music City Beat – April 2018

Dottie West inducted into Hall of Fame, Class of 2018, along with Skaggs and Gimble

NASHVILLE — Top news this month is the Country Music Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductees, announced March 27:  The late Dottie West, Johnny Gimble and Ricky Skaggs. Of course, each was selected in one of three categories enacted by the secretive Fame panel, notably Gimble voted rightful recipient as a Recording/Touring Musician; while West fittingly fulfills the Veteran Era criteria; and Skaggs solidly represents the Modern Era. Indeed, all are super-qualified, having contributed much to country music, and even beyond that genre. Glamorous Dottie died Sept. 4, 1991, after a tragic car crash en route to play WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. The McMinnville, Tenn. native would have been 59 the next month. She attained initial vocal fame with successes like “Here Comes My Baby,” which in 1964, made her the first female to cop a country Grammy. She then went on to score pop crossover status on such as 1981’s “What Are We Doin’ In Love,” a torrid #1 duet with Kenny Rogers. Fiddler Gimble, who won accolades with his Texas Swing Band, most memorably in Clint Eastwood’s 1983 milestone flick “Honky Tonk Man,” performing “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle” and “San Antonio Rose” (with Ray Price). He had a long history of recording and touring beside legends like Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Asleep At the Wheel, and with Chet Atkins’ Superpickers. Among his honors are two Grammys, five Country Music Association statuettes, nine Academy of Country Music awards, and a National Heritage Fellowship, bestowed in ’94 by the National Endowment For the Arts in Washington, D.C. The Texan died at age 88 on May 9, 2015. Skaggs, 63, gained early notice in the band of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys, along with fellow hopeful, Keith Whitley. Ricky then served apprenticeships in the Country Gentlemen, J. D. Crowe’s New South, and finally with Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. Skaggs emerged a solo country star, scoring such #1 jukebox favorites as “Cryin’ My Heart Out Over You,” “Highway 40 Blues” and “Don’t Cheat In Our Hometown,” earning 1985’s CMA Entertainer of the Year. During the ’90s he came full circle, returning to bluegrass, fronting Kentucky Thunder, adding to his mantle of Grammys, and is already a member of the Musicians and Gospel Halls of Fame. Hailing from Cordell, Ky., Ricky’s a skilled mandolinist, who plays most string instruments, has his own studio and label, and once produced Dolly Parton. He and wife Sharon (White) copped CMA’s 1987 best vocal duo, thanks to “Love Can’t Ever Get Better Than This.” The official induction will occur this fall at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Congrats to the three newest members!
     Legal Tips: Not sure we’ve heard one like this before, but widow Kimberly Campbell is seeking reimbursement for funds spent on behalf of “Rhinestone Cowboy” Glen Campbell’s assisted living care, including a security fence installed for protection, and legal fees for filing this action in Davidson County Probate Court in Nashville. Her husband died Aug. 8, 2017, at age 81, following a fight with Alzheimer’s Disease, while also touring more than year in a Farewell performance she arranged with their three children. Campbell’s estate, once estimated at about $50 million, included an ownership stake in the Arizona Diamondbacks ball team. Glen’s will reportedly covered Kim, their three, and two other children from earlier marriages. Three more of Glen’s children by previous wives, contested the will filed by Kim that excludes them as heirs. Judge David Kennedy appointed Glen’s former manager-accountant Stanley Schneider as temporary administrator, scheduling a hearing within 90 days. Meantime, spouse Kim seeks an additional $506,380 from the estate, apart from that awarded as his widow. Further, she’d filed another claim for $14,246 to recover insurance premiums she asserts were erroneously paid the estate. Glen’s estate also covered property owned in Agoura Hills, Calif., on the market for nearly a million dollars; and a two-acre resident property on Battery Lane, Nashville, purchased for $1.8 million. The widow serves as trustee for those properties. In 2015, Glen was placed in a conservatorship, but court filings in his case have thus far been sealed . . . Noted songwriter Earl (Peanut) Montgomery, 77, has filed a lawsuit against George Jones’ widow Nancy Jones, claiming, in cahoots with Cracker Barrel and Concord Music Group, she released recordings he and Jones made together, without permission. Peanut, who penned more than 70 songs for George, specifically cited a collaborative album done with Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys. According to Montgomery’s suit, Jones intended that Peanut produce and own it, “as a retirement package for all his years of service and friendship to Mr. Jones.” Montgomery retained possession of the original mixed version, but the master tapes were kept in a vault at Doc’s Place, the studio where they recorded. In 1983, George married fourth wife Nancy Sepulvado, then 36, at his sister’s house in Woodville, Texas, following divorce from Tammy Wynette. Jones died at age 81 in 2013, from respiratory failure. Following his passing, Nancy allegedly entered into an agreement with Concord selling his assets and intellectual properties for a reported $30 million. Thus, in 2017, Concord closed a deal to release “George Jones & The Smoky Mountain Boys” CD through Cracker Barrel. Despite producing the original, Peanut was not credited nor paid for his participation in the product. His lawsuit contends: “The release further misrepresents the album as lost recordings which were discovered, when in fact recordings were converted by defendant Nancy Jones and ultimately the Concord defendants, with full knowledge of (true) ownership.” A brother to Melba Montgomery, Peanut wrote such Jones hits as: “Four-O-Thirty-Three,” “What My Woman Can’t Do” and “We’re Gonna Hold On.” Others recording Peanut’s tunes include Tanya Tucker, David Houston and Emmylou Harris.
     Awards: Shame on CBS for cutting out the presentation of certain country categories in its coverage of the April 15th Academy of Country Music Awards telecast; however, as a result, we do have advance word that Lauren Alaina, Midland and Brett Young have won their respective categories, that is best new female vocalist; best new duo or group; and best male vocalist. We’ll let you know the remaining winners in our next issue. So stay tuned . . . Kenny Rogers and songwriter Don Schlitz have been notified their smash single “The Gambler” has been selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Yet another country name, the late Merle Travis, is also being honored this year, thanks to the guitar legend’s 1947 album “Folk Songs Of the Hills,” produced by Lee Gillette for Capitol Records. Each year the institute’s Preservation Board chooses 25 recordings “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” for addition to the prestigious registry. After its 1978 United Artists’ release, “Gambler” won two Grammys, one to writer Schlitz, best song; while Rogers took home a performance statuette . . . Tom Perryman, veteran radio ace, who died in January at age 90, is being honored posthumously with the annual Uncle Dave Macon Days’ Heritage Award. Past winners have included Roy Acuff, Kitty Wells, Mac Wiseman and Rhonda Vincent. Rhonda will again be in the 2018 winner’s circle, receiving Macon Days’ Trail Blazer Award, during the July 13-14 festivities in nearby Murfreesboro.
     Odds & Ends: Country music plays a big hand in drawing Nashville visitors and new businesses, but we’re wondering if maybe the local scene’s being saturated with dining spots. Despite being home to some 5,000 restaurants already, the boys who make the noise on Music Row keep adding to the mix! First there was Margaritaville, Whiskey Row and A.J.’s, flying the banners of Jimmy Buffett, Dierks Bentley and Alan Jackson, respectively, down on Music Row. Now we hear the likes of John Rich (Redneck Riviera), Blake Shelton (Ole Red), Florida Georgia Line (FGL House) and Jason Aldean (Kitchen + Rooftop Bar) are lending their magical marquee names to new watering holes! Of course, they’re not the first to do so, as in decades past, country superstars Webb Pierce and George Jones tried it, too, before deciding full time music makin’ was more their thing . . . Country music’s Maren Morris managed a March marriage to boyfriend songwriter Ryan Hurd. Maren, 27, of Arlington, Texas, exchanged vows March 24 in Nashville with Ryan, 31, from Kalamazoo, Mich., then publicly posted photographic proof on Instagram. Ryan wrote the #1 Country Airplay tune “Lonely Tonight,” recorded by Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe, while Grammy-winning Maren’s CD “Hero” hit #1 and her single “My Church” Top Five. Good luck personally and professionally to the couple, who became engaged last summer . . . Yet another country artist Colton Swon (of the Swon Brothers) wed rock singer Caroline Glaser on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) at Houston Station, Nashville. The pair met during Season 4 of NBC-TV’s The Voice. BTW Colton’s brother Zach served as best man. The Muskogee, Okla. Swon siblings’ self-penned single “What Ever Happened” was released in February . . . Dolly Parton let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, revealing she’ll join co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in a sequel to their 1980 box-office blockbuster “9 To 5.” Parton, bubbling with excitement, disclosed the news on ABC’s Nightline program, adding, “They haven’t announced it. They’ll probably kick my butt for doing it. But I think that’s OK, because we’ve always talked about it.” Parton’s movie title tune earned her an Oscar nod back then, and a musical version she participated in on Broadway, 2009’s “9 to 5: The Musical,” garnered Dolly a Tony nomination. The initial plot had the trio giving pay-back to a sexist male boss, but there’s no word yet on what the trio of yesteryear stenographers will be up to 38 years later in the Internet era. Parton said perhaps their writers plan to “bring some new girls in” who supposedly would get their #MeToo guidance, in order to make it more relevant to modern moviegoers . . . Becky Brown, widow of Opry singer Jim Ed Brown, has a book about their tumultuous togetherness, just released: “Going Our Way: My Life With Jim Ed Brown” (Clovercroft Publishing). The former Becky Perry hails from Pine Bluff, Ark., and herself was a model and dance instructor. She was Mrs. Brown 54 years, when the singer died in 2015. In collaboration with writer Roxanne Atwood, Becky shares the good times, some bad times, lessons learned and sets straight some rumors. “History should reflect the truth,” notes Becky. Reportedly, she talks about her handsome hubby’s affair with blonde duet partner Helen Cornelius (their #1: “I Don’t Wanna Have To Marry You,” which he didn’t), before returning to Becky’s arms. Covered, too, are his early days in The Browns (“The Three Bells”), as well as his solo stardom (“Pop-A-Top”), and being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, while on his hospital death bed. He died of lung cancer at age 81, and singer-sister Bonnie died a year later from lung cancer at 77, while elder sister-vocalist Maxine is now in ill health . . . Remember country-pop balladeer Dickey Lee, who hit big with “Rocky,” “9,999,999 Tears,” and wrote the classic “She Thinks I Still Care”? Well, at 81, Lee’s still doing good deeds. He and daughter Mandy, along with fellow Forest Hills Baptist Church volunteers here, have departed on a mission trip to India. We wish them a safe and fruitful journey . . . Speaking of good guys. Let’s hear it for BlackHawk, the country band that’s linked with The Outlaws, Southern rockers, in raising funds for a pair of worthy causes: The Van Stephenson Memorial Cancer Research charity, a part of Nashville’s Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, and MusiCares, which aids uninsured musicians in need. Band members Henry Paul and Dave Robbins presented a $40,000 check to Vanderbilt Hospital, in memory of their late BlackHawk co-founder Stephenson; and $20,000 to MusiCares on behalf of The Outlaws’ Fallen Outlaws Fund, honoring bandsmen Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones and Frank O’Keefe. Since 2006, BlackHawk has generated $200,000 for the cancer center, while over the past three years their Outlaws’ donated nearly $50,000. (Paul and Robbins played in both bands.) As Nashvillians know, the City Winery club is the site where the boys conduct an annual fall Freeborn Jam, with corporate assists from Agrilogic Insurance and the Four Horsemen Society.
     Ailing: Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers has canceled the remainder of his Gambler’s Last Deal Tour, due to doctor’s orders. The veteran superstar’s deteriorating health prompted the needed rest and recuperation prescribed, forcing him to bow out of eight gigs in such sites as the Indio (Calif.) Stagecoach Festival, Reno, and the Big Apple. Rogers, who will be 80 in August, first gained attention in the music groups Kirby Stone Four and The New Christy Minstrels, before forming his own First Edition in 1967. Since going solo in 1975, he wowed country-pop audiences alike with such crossover hits as “Lucille,” and “The Gambler.” According to a press release: “His doctors fully expect the outcome to be great, but they have advised him to cancel all performances through the end of the year to focus on recuperation.”
     Final Curtain: Musician-composer-conductor-producer Ronn Huff died March 18, two days after his 80th birthday, while under Live Hospice care. Huff, father of noted Nashville guitarist-producer Dann Huff (Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts), suffered from Parkinson’s Disease in recent years. In addition to collaborating with Bill and Gloria Gaither on the acclaimed musical presentation “Alleluia, A Praise Gathering,” Ronn arranged and recorded with such Music City artists as Faith Hill, Amy Grant, Keith Urban, Alison Krauss, Clint Black, Lonestar, Martina McBride and George Strait. A native of Lansing, Mich., he became producer and principal conductor for the Nashville Symphony in 1994, serving until 2002. According to Bill Gaither, “A lot of people who would never have heard our music, heard it because of Ronn Huff’s involvement. His arrangements turned good songs into great ones and broadened the scope of our writing. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his influence on our music and our lives.” In 2005, Huff was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame. Besides Dann, survivors include Ronn’s wife Donna and two other sons, David and Ronald II, and grandchildren. A memorial service was held April 7 in Wightman Chapel, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville.
ashville journalist Hazel Smith, 83, died March 18, after suffering declining health and dementia. In recent years, she was associated with CMT, hosting their program Southern Fried Flicks, and contributed a weekly info show Hot Dish, which also included favorite recipes. That title derived from her popular cookbook “Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars,” featuring recipes shared with celebs such as Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton and Brooks & Dunn. She was initially wed to musician Patrick Smith, and following their divorce raised her sons Billy and Terry, both musicians now. Reportedly, Hazel and Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe were romantically involved for a time, and upon their breakup, she supposedly uttered, “Walk Softly On This Heart of Mine,” which inspired that song by Bill. She also tried her hand at writing, notably “Lord It Sure Rains Hard in Tennessee” and “Love Ain’t the Question, Love Ain’t the Answer,” the latter recorded by Dr. Hook. In her early days in Nashville, the North Carolina native became publicist for eccentric singer-songwriter-humorist Kinky Friedman, known as the Jewish Cowboy. She went on to represent acts like the Glaser Brothers, John Hartford, Waylon Jennings, Dr. Hook, Shel Silverstein, Guy Clark and Kris Kristofferson. As writer, she contributed columns to Country Weekly, while continuing to work with the likes of Ricky Skaggs and The Whites. In 1999, Hazel was honored with the CMA’s Media Achievement Award. Skaggs says, “Hazel Smith was one great lady . . . She loved musicians and songwriters. If she was in a room with people, she’d be holding court and giving her 10-cents worth . . . She will be missed, but she won’t be missing us.” A service was scheduled by her sons at Madison Funeral Home, with burial in Camp Springs, N.C.

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Music City Beat – March 2018

Vince Gill shares painful, personal memory . . .

NASHVILLE — Grand Ole Opry favorite Vince Gill addressed his concern about child sexual abuse from a personal level during a Country Radio Seminar appearance, Feb. 6, where he performed “Forever Changed.” Gill, 61 (on April 12), confided that he had been a victim himself in a Norman, Okla. school: “I was in seventh grade and a young, dumb kid. I had a gym teacher that acted inappropriately toward me, and was trying to do things that I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I was just fortunate that I got up and I ran; I just jumped up and I ran. I don’t know why, and I don’t think I ever told anybody my whole life, but even what’s been going on has given me a little bit of courage to speak out, too.” It’s believed Vince wrote the song awhile back, but from a girl’s point of view, though his heartfelt presentation seemed apropos considering his own experience, prompting a standing ovation: “Too afraid to tell someone/You might as well have used a gun/She cries to Jesus to ease the pain/ Because of you/She’s forever changed . . .” The veteran vocalist mused, “I never really know where this song came from, other than we’re living in a time right now when finally people are having the courage to kinda speak out about being abused. I think that is beyond helpful, and beyond beautiful, to see people finally have a voice for being wronged.” That’s Vince (above right) with wife Amy (in a Patricia Presley photo).
     Law-less: In a Republican-controlled state assembly, Tennessee Democrats drafted a bill to discourage sexual harassment in the music industry. In the wake of singer Austin Rick’s recent disclosure of alleged abuse by a prominent Nashville promoter, and singer-songwriter Katie Armiger’s claim of sexual harassment as a teenage contractee with Cold River Records, state Senators Brenda Gilmore and Jeff Yarbro, both of Nashville, filed legislation to thwart regulatory restrictions on contractees, keeping them from suing over sexual misconduct. That bill, slated for a mid-March hearing, would expand the current state law that permits only employees of a company to file such lawsuits. Artists work in the industry on a contract basis. After Armiger spoke out about being harassed since age 15, while on promotional visits to country radio stations by some DJs and program directors, Cold Play filed a breach of contract suit against their artist. Now encouraged by the #MeToo Movement that took wing last fall, she and others are lashing out against such good ol’ boy gestures. Armiger, now 26, recalled as a teen being informed by her label she should dress sexy and be nice to radio staffers, because that’s how it’s done to get your record played and charted. In 2013, Katie scored finally with a Top 10 album “Fall Into Me,” but failed to garner higher than Top 40 on singles warranting better airplay, notably “Best Song Ever,” “Scream” and “Better In a Black Dress.” She was told by label staffers the way things were out in la la land: “It was typical to do a show, go out to dinner, go out somewhere afterwards and be like, ‘Hey, this person drinks a lot, watch out!’ or if they do touch you or do proposition you, you’re just supposed to laugh it off” but, of course, pick up the check. Yarbro has high hopes their bill will pass, as it shouldn’t be viewed as a partisan problem, revealing Republican Sen. Mark Green has agreed to sign on as co-sponsor. Gilmore added, “It’s time for us to stop blaming the victim and start taking the issue seriously.
     Bits & Pieces: Books now hitting stores that deal with country music, include hit songwriter Steve Dorff’s “I Wrote That One, Too: A Life in Songwriting From Willie to Whitney” (Dorff tunes: “I Just Fall In Love Again,” “Every Which Way But Loose,” “Through the Years”); and Moe Bandy’s “Lucky Me,” boasting a foreword by former President George W. Bush, puts the spotlight on the “Rodeo Clown’s” 40 years in showbiz, celebrating hits such as “It’s a Cheatin’ Situation” and “Barstool Mountain,” as well as a series of duets with Joe Stampley (“Just Good Ol’ Boys,” “Where’s the Dress”) . . . On the film scene, we find country names now and again, notably singer-actress Ashla Taylor playing Canadian superstar Shania Twain (“You’re Still the One”) in a documentary drama titled “The Price of Fame,” which depicts the artist’s heartfelt journey to becoming a top-selling country singer and five-time Grammy winner. According to Ashla: “She had always been my biggest inspiration, my greatest influence. I am so honored to portray such an incredible artist . . . I do hope that Shania gets to see the docu-drama and when she does, I hope she will love the way I portray her.  I have never met her, but if that day ever comes, you can bet I will be gushing over her and thanking her for being my driving inspiration.” The film “Price of Fame,” produced by AMS Pictures, initially premiered on satellite network REELZ, Feb. 18. Ashla’s self-penned single (with Sherrie Austin and Will Rambeaux) “Nothin’ About Love” debuted on country radio, Feb. 19 . . . Veteran vocalist John Berry sings the title track for feature film of faith “Beautifully Broken,” a Big Film Factory release, covering three fictional families, worlds apart, whose paths seem unlikely to cross. Each family faces a crisis beyond their control, forcing difficult decisions, and eventually their lives unexpectedly become intertwined. In this movie, shot on location in Port Alfred, South Africa, and Baton Rouge, La., the stars are Eric Roberts, Benjamin Onyango and Thomasina Atkins. Eric Welch (“DC Talk: Welcome To the Freak Show”) directed from a screenplay by Brad Allen (“I’m Not Ashamed”). Berry shared his feeling on the project: “I received a text from my friend, producer Chuck Howard saying, ‘I have a song you need to sing’ followed by a rough edit of the film ‘Beautifully Broken.’ I watched the film and was moved to tears. I told Chuck, ‘I’m sure the song is great and I look forward to hearing it, but regardless of the song, I want to be a part of this film any way he could use me; people need to see this film!’ Of course, the song is an amazing work in and of itself, but this song in this film, Wow! It was such an honor to sing and be a small part of this story.” “Beautifully Broken” is slated for national release later this year.
     Scene Stealers: Kristian Bush (Sugarland) recorded a song “Walk Tall” for his 2012 solo album “Southern Gravity,” mainly as a reminder to son Tucker, then 11, to always try and do the right thing. A fan, teacher Tracy Roberts at Dodson Elementary School in suburban Hermitage, liked his song well enough to use it in trying to teach her third graders the importance of helping others and acting on positive thoughts. Calling her program “Walk Tall,” she even urged them to sing and play the tune on percussion instruments, bought with money donated by the CMA. She had them write essays about any “Walk Tall” moments they experienced. These she hung on the wall, and having an inspirational idea, invited Bush to visit the class, which he did. After reading their testaments, the impressed entertainer told The Tennessean newspaper, “Listening to small children sing your song and talk to you about the meaning of your song, immediately reminds you . . . that not only is what you’re doing important, but it’s being listened to by young ears all the time.” Having him attend class provided a more memorable, teachable moment for her students, said Roberts. . . . Former Arkansas Gov. and ex-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee resigned from the Country Music Association’s Foundation Board a day after being made a member, following wide criticism from industry members and fans. The conservative TV host’s known for negative views on LGBT issues, boasts strong support of the NRA, as well as extremist political stances. One dissenter was Jason Owen, an executive both with Monument Records and Sandbox Entertainment, calling Huckabee’s election a “grossly offensive decision,” in e-mails to both Sarah Traherne, CMA chief, and Tiffany Kerns, Country Music Foundation executive. Owen, whose artist clients include Faith Hill, Little Big Town and Midland, made it clear they would withdraw their support, if he remained. Upon learning of Huckabee’s addition to the board, hundreds of country fans also voiced their opposition in e-mails, and suggested they would boycott both the CMA and the annual CMA Music Festival in protest. Huckabee’s resignation letter stated, in part, “I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment, that they bullied the CMA and Foundation with economic threats, and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students, if I remained . . . I’m somewhat flattered to be of such consequence when all I thought I was doing was voluntarily serving on a non-profit board, without pay, in my advocacy for the arts.”

      Negative News Items: We were stunned to see, via his Feb. 26 Tweet, that rising star Kane Brown, 24, was experiencing alleged discrimination from some Nashville songwriters. Hard to believe, since Brown is currently enjoying overdue recognition, thanks to his RCA #1 self-titled album, a #1 duet “What Ifs” with Lauren Alaina, and his Top Five solo single “Heaven.” His Tweet groused, “Damn, some people in Nashville, who have pub(lishing) deals, won’t write with me because I’m black! Aight . . . I’m still gonna do my thing 100 (percent)!” [Editor’s note: The Tweet has since been removed.] Two years back, the biracial singer-songwriter signed with SonyMusic, and soon became a social media sensation, sporting millions of followers. Since that time, he co-wrote with such writers as Allen Shambling, Tom Douglas and Jordan Schmidt. We hope now it’s only a misunderstanding and that writers welcome an opportunity to work with such a talented artist . . . Band Perry family members are crushed no doubt, due to the divorce looming between Kimberly Perry, 34, and ballplayer hubby Jonathan Paul (J. P.) Arencibia, 32, which she confirmed March 4 on their website: “Yes, sadly it’s true, my marriage has come to an end. I know that beauty will come from these ashes and as always, I want to thank you all for your love and support. I’ll be in touch soon.” Kim filed for divorce March 2 in Greene County, Tenn. Meantime, J. P. posted his own message, “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be alright,” lyrics from Bob Marley’s tune “Three Little Birds.” No comment from sibling band members Neil, 27, or Reid Perry, 29, or whether they’ll take a bat to their departing brother-in-law, a former catcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, but who currently is an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee. The couple wed in June 2014. Band Perry hit singles include “You Lie,” “Better Dig Two” and “Done,” and they’re putting finishing touches to their next album, “My Bad Imagination.”
Touring Tips: Country fans will be pleased to hear two legendary bands are back and scheduling tours this year. Former front-man Marty Raybon and founding member Mike McGuire are hitting the road together with Shenandoah, marking their 30th anniversary and release of a new BMG album “Reloaded.” The CD promises their hits like “Church On Cumberland Road” and three new numbers, including new single “Noise,” produced by Jay DeMarcus. Coming out of retirement this year for a sort of command performance farewell tour is Country Music Hall of Fame band Alabama. Their Hits Tour 2018 commences March 23 in Grand Prairie, Texas, and continues through Sept. 8 in Brandon, Miss. “This year’s tour is for the lifelong fans, and also the younger generations just now discovering the music,” explains Randy Owen, who helped pen several of their 32 #1 hits, including “Tennessee River” and “Feels So Right.” Their last year’s holiday album, “American Christmas,” scored Top Five on that 2017 list . . . Aristo Media Group here is proud of its continuing connection with the Nashville Meets London Music Festival, coordinated with Peter Conway Management and Canary Wharf Events. The third annual NML Fest occurs with a weekend booking July 28-29 at Canary Wharf’s Canada Square Park, again hosted by Baylen Leonard, UK radio DJ. As long as such admired artists appear as 2017’s Russell Dickerson and Sam Outlaw, it will continue to be a welcome fan festival. The final all-star line-up will be announced soon . . . In this, the year of the woman, the Carolina Country Music Fest is boasting five female acts: Deana Carter, Runaway June, Stephanie Quayle, Kasey Tyndall and Kennedy Fitzsimmons, highlighting the 18-acre Myrtle, Beach, S.C. event, June 7-10. Fittingly announced on March 8, International Women’s Day, festival honcho Bob Durkin proclaimed, “On International Women’s Day and every day, CCMF strives to offer a platform for the many incredible female artists in the country genre.” But no doubt just to be sure and keep female fans attending, the promoter’s also booked Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Zac Brown Band and Cole Swindell for the extravaganza, which trade weekly Billboard cites as one of the Top Five country festivals (and largest on the east coast) . . . Super songwriter Max T. Barnes launched his International Steamboat Tour abroad, March 8, with a preview at the famed Nashville Palace, featuring his All-American Band. There to wish him well were veteran vocalists Bobby Bare and Collin Raye, sharing the mic with Barnes, whose act will encompass not just his numbers, but those created by his Songwriters Hall of Fame father Max D. Barnes (who died in 2004). Following his Ireland and England tour, March 13- May 1, Max T. will bring his show back to the states, for final stops in Branson and Nashville. “It’s a lifelong dream to have my own band, traveling around the world,” Barnes exclaims! “I’m so excited I’m blinkin’ like a toad in a hail-storm.” Among the younger Barnes #1 hit compositions are Collin Raye’s “Love Me,” and Diamond Rio’s “How Your Love Makes Me Feel,” while Max D’s classics include George Jones’ “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” Vern Gosdin’s “Chiseled In Stone” and John Anderson’s “Let Go Of the Stone,” which he co-wrote with Max T. The two Maxes also co-wrote “Steamboat,” junior’s tour title, and which appears on Max T.’s new CD, “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead.” Together their songs have accounted for sales in excess of 70 million discs.
Honors: America’s Storyteller Tom T. Hall and “Miss Dixie,” his late wife of 46 years, are this year’s inductees for the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame, come Sept. 22, in Bean Blossom, Ind. The formal ceremony to be conducted during the 44th annual Hall of Fame & Uncle Pen Days Festival there, Sept. 19-22. Candidates for the Hall, housed in the Bill Monroe Museum at Bean Blossom, are chosen by a committee of 100 industry leaders via a three-ballot, anonymous vote. Kentucky-born Hall, 81, a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, was initially lauded for country compositions such as “Harper Valley PTA,” “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died” and “Watermelon Wine.” He also wasn’t one to co-write, but following retirement from the road, his wife, the former Iris Lawrence, urged him to write with her, mainly bluegrass songs. She was certainly an unlikely candidate to write in that genre or even to be nicknamed “Dixie,” having been raised in England’s West Midlands, near Manchester. At age 10, however, she won a BBC poetry contest with a verse about Canada. As a young woman, a chance encounter aboard an English train with pioneer film hero Tex Ritter had a major impact on her life. He engaged her to write about his music in the UK, and that effort subsequently led her to Nashville in 1961, where she linked up to Starday Records, and Mother Maybelle Carter. They became fast friends and even co-wrote together. As Dixie Dean she freelanced for Faron Young’s monthly Music City News, and soon became its editor. She developed a keen interest in bluegrass and reportedly wrote 500 commercially-recorded bluegrass-oriented songs, the most of any woman in bluegrass, but mainstream country artists such as Dave Dudley, Johnny Cash and Miranda Lambert also recorded her songs. Dixie, an animal rights activist, as well, died Jan. 16, 2015, at age 80. She was a Distinguished Achievement Award-winner from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and with Tom T. won the Grand Masters Gold prize from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America, after notching 10 straight SPBMA Songwriters of the Year awards. Tom T., confiding that he’d been a life-long fan of Monroe, Father of Bluegrass, and is pleased to be recognized with this honor bearing his name. As he had explained in a New York Times’ piece, “Y’know I was born in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, and spent my whole life trying to get out of there, (and) maybe our bluegrass songwriting works so well (together), because we have such different views of Appalachia. She can see the trees, while all I can see is the forest.” . . . Chris Stapleton led the list of Academy of Country Music award nominees, announced March 1st, with eight nods, including entertainer, male vocalist, album, single, and song of the year. Hot on his heels are Thomas Rhett with six nominations, Keith Urban and Shane McAnally with five, followed by female artists Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris, each with four. So here’s the list: Entertainer – Stapleton, Urban, Jason Aldean, Garth Brooks and Luke Bryan; Female Vocalist – Lambert, Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood; Male Vocalist – Aldean, Rhett, Stapleton, Urban and Chris Young; Vocal Duo – Brothers Osborne, Dan+Shay, Florida Georgia Line, LoCASH, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw; Vocal Group – Lady Antebellum, LANCO, Little Big Town, Midland and Old Dominion. Best Album nominees – “Breaker,” Little Big Town; “California Sunrise,” Jon Pardi; “From A Room Vol. 1,” Stapleton; “Happy Endings,” Old Dominion; “Life Changes,” Rhett; Single – “Better Man,” Little Big Town; “Body Like A Back Road,” Sam Hunt; “Broken Halos,” Stapleton; “Drinkin’ Problem,” Midland; “I’ll Name The Dogs,” Blake Shelton; Best Song – “Body Like a Back Road,” by Sam Hunt, songwriters Hunt, Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne; “Female,” Urban, songwriters Ross Copperman, Nicolle Galon and Shane McAnally; “Tin Man,” Lambert, writers Lambert, Jack Ingram, Jon Randall; “Whiskey And You,” Stapleton, writers Stapleton and Lee Thomas Miller. Best Songwriter – Rhett Akins, Ashley Gorley, Hillary Lindsey, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. New Female Singer – Lauren Alaina, Danielle Bradbery, Carly Pearce, and Raelynn; New Male Singer – Kane Brown, Luke Combs, Devin Dawson, Russell Dickerson, Brett Young; New Duo or Group – High Valley, LANCO, LoCASH, Midland, and Runaway June. Vying for Best Video are “Black,” Dierks Bentley; “It Ain’t My Fault,” Brothers Osborne; “Legends,” Kelsea Ballerini; “Marry Me,” Thomas Rhett; “We Should Be Friends,” Miranda Lambert. Top Vocal Event – “Craving You,” Thomas Rhett and Maren Morris’ “Dear Hate,” Maren Morris and Vince Gill; “Funny (How Time Slips Away),” Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson; “The Fighter,” Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood; “What Ifs,” Kane Brown and Lauren Alaina. Hosting the ACM awards gala, April 15 in Las Vegas, will be Reba McEntire at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, telecast live on CBS . . . You gotta hand it to Dolly Parton, who has just partnered with the U.S. Library of Congress, as she presented her 100 millionth Imagination Library book – 2016’s “Coat Of Many Colors” – to that august institution, Feb. 27. According to Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, this government agency is teaming up with la Parton in a collaboration that will include an Imagination Library story time on the last Friday of each month, from March to August, which will be live-streamed into libraries across the country. “I can’t tell you how excited we are, because today we are celebrating literacy, learning and reading, and we couldn’t ask for a better person or organization to collaborate with today,” stressed Hayden. Parton’s Imagination Library, since its inception in 1995, mails free books to children from birth to age 5 in participating communities in the states, the UK, Australia and Canada. It has increased from sending books to 2,000 children a month to about 1.1 million a month. “I always like to say that 100 million books have led to 100 million stories,” Parton said proudly. “I am so honored that our little program is now grown to such a point that we can partner with the Library of Congress to bring even more stories to children across the country.”
      Ailing: Jesse McReynolds, 88, is still recuperating from a near-death abdominal aneurysm suffered last September, when doctors gave him a 50 per cent chance of survival, prior to emergency surgery. Nonetheless, the future’s looking brighter now as the severe pain has lessened steadily, and Jesse has confided he’s hoping to return soon to a slot on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, which he and brother Jim McReynolds joined 54 years ago as Jim & Jesse, a top bluegrass duo. Sadly, the brother duo ended with the death of Jim in 2002; however, Jesse and the Virginia Boys continued as an Opry act and today’s he’s the historic program’s senior songster. Rumor has it, he’s also seeking material, to go back into the studio.
      Final Curtain: Country Hall of Famer Maxine Brown, 85, has lost yet another beloved family member, son Tom Russell, an insurance agent in Payson, Ariz. Russell died March 2, after suffering from brain cancer. “My heart is broken and I am just numb to all of this,” said his mother, famed as a singer-songwriter with The Browns (“Lookin’ Back To See,” “The Three Bells”). “Our family has been put through so much in the recent few years with the passing of Jim Ed and Bonnie (who helped comprise the famed 1950s’ vocal trio). Now my son. I just thank everyone for always putting our family in their prayers and for showing us the love.” Cancer claimed both Bonnie and Jim Ed, who enjoyed a solo career, thanks to such successes as “Pop-A-Top” and “I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You.” Mr. Russell is survived by Mom and his wife Colleen, sister Alicia Short and brother James Brown Russell.

Nashville blues guitarist Nick Nixon, a friend of many country veterans, died Feb. 28 at age 76. Nick performed with such groups as King James & The Scepters, The New Imperials, and Past, Present & Future, and was involved with the young Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox. Nick, and his song “Rising Sun Blues” were featured in the acclaimed 2010 film “Redemption Road,” co-starring Michael Clarke Duncan, Luke Perry and Tom Skerritt. His singles also included “Me, Myself and The Lord” and “No End To The Blues.” He was interested in young music enthusiasts and devoted time to the local Blues In the Schools educational program. He said, “Some people I teach can play, I think, better than me. But there’s something I’ve got that they want, and that’s the feel, the blues feel. Everybody’s got something that you can use.”

 

Posted on

Music City Beat – February 2018

Cancer claims country singer-songwriter Lari White . . . 

Hubby Chuck Cannon embraces Lari White.
(Photo by Patricia Presley)

 

NASHVILLE — No one ever worked harder to promote their career than Marty Stuart has, and with such a talented better half as Connie Smith at home, the pressure mounts. She’s already a Country Music Hall of Famer. So now Stuart’s stepping up to open a combination museum and theater in his birthplace Philadelphia, Miss., that’ll house his vast collection of country music artifacts and promote live performances, when it opens in three years. Reportedly, the Magnolia State will ante up $2 million for the project, as Stuart seeks further private funding. Mississippi has produced some sterling stars on the music scene, including Jimmie Rodgers, Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette, B. B. King, Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters. Marty, now nearing 60, toured in his youth with the likes of Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, all the while developing a deep respect for roots music. This prompted a desire for “collecting” costumes, instruments, music and what-have-you, pieces now numbering some 20,000. His collection includes such mementos as Patsy Cline’s boots; Hank Williams’ handwritten lyrics; and a suit from Cash, The Man In Black. Stuart’s Sparkle & Twang collectibles have already been exhibited in museums like the Tennessee State Museum, Graceland in Memphis, and Cleveland, Ohio’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Initially, Cash’s Columbia label signed Marty in the mid-1980s, when mainly known as Johnny’s son-in-law (husband to Cindy Cash). After managing only a Top 20 tune “Arlene,” and five follow-ups that tanked, he found himself freshly divorced and out shopping another label. Thanks to MCA’s nibbling, Stuart scored high marks in the early ’90s, via singles “Hillbilly Rock,” “Little Things” and “Tempted,” enhanced by smash follow-up duets with Travis Tritt: “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” and “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (For a Long, Long Time).” There was another solo success, “Burn Me Down,” but come Christmas ’92, he found only coal in his stocking, as his year-end disc, “High On a Mountain Top,” couldn’t climb higher than #24. Thus, out of 33 charted Billboard entries, Stuart totaled six Top 10s. Nonetheless, he hung in there and over the next 25 years, kept his name in the news – not always favorably – while fronting an acclaimed band The Fabulous Superlatives, boasting “hillbilly” panache, balanced on a cutting edge. There were occasional albums, “The Marty Party Hit Pack,” “Honky Tonkin’s What I Do Best,” “Live At The Ryman,” tours, and besides being an archivist, he became a photographer of note, snapping shots of fellow craftsmen, images heightened by an insider’s insight. In recognition of multiple talents, Marty earned three Grammys, and in 1992 an invite to become a WSM Grand Ole Opry cast regular. In 2008, the RFD-TV network presented The Marty Stuart Show, a half-hour showcase spotlighting Smith, The Superlatives and Eddie Stubbs, emcee, for six seasons. Last summer, as Connie’s Top 10 best defines it, “Ain’t Love a Good Thing,” with her and Marty marking their 20th anniversary.
      Scene Stealers: Chris Janson took the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, Feb. 5, excited as all get out, for it was one of his two top goals, headlining in this historic venue, since his 2004 arrival, an unknown. He’d even slept in the alley that ran between the Ryman and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, shortly after driving into town at age 18. Like so many wannabes before him, his main wish was to be part of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, where he’s guested numerous times. For that he can thank two near chart-toppers chalked up on Billboard’s Country Airplay list, Platinum-selling “Buy Me a Boat” and “Fix a Drink,” while awaiting the fan verdict on his current Top 40 “Drunk Girl.” During his Ryman gig, little did Chris suspect after he and buddy Keith Urban finished a hard-charging rendition of John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold (The Grundy County Auction),” the superstar would amble back to center stage, but there he was issuing Chris an invitation to join the Opry! Surprised doesn’t cover it, and while imitating a jumping bean at Urban’s invite, he suddenly saw Sally Williams, Opry manager, also on stage, confirming “My dream came true!” An official induction will occur months later . . . Former Ryman Auditorium manager Steve Buchanan, the man responsible for its resurgence as a national venue, who also revitalized WSM’s Opry, and produced the popular TV series Nashville, is movin’ on. Steve turned in his retirement notice as Opryland Entertainment Group chief, after 33 years with the conglomerate, having started in 1985 as marketing manager for historic Grand Ole Opry, a radio program first broadcast in 1925. Buchanan’s pride and joy, Nashville, previously a major network program, is now in its sixth and final season, saying bye-bye on the CMT cable network here. So now Steve wants to try his hand in TV production. According to Colin Reed, CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, “Steve wants to wind down a bit and smell the roses. The things I’ve come to respect about the guy is that he would constantly come and have ideas that were outside of the box ideas. Those creative moments are what I remember with Steve and that’s going to be a void for a period of time.” Buchanan told The Tennessean daily newspaper, “The Opry and the Ryman have been central passions in my life for over 33 years . . . I look at it as my attachment will never diminish, but there are other things I want to do and accomplish. I have a mix of loss, fear and excitement. But it feels like the time to make that leap.” Hello Hollywood? . . . Hockey hero Mike Fisher’s back on the Nashville ice, with the blessing of singer-wife Carrie Underwood, after several months’ retirement. The Predators management seems eager to re-sign the Canadian, before their Feb. 26 deadline. So at 37, Mike could be skating in time to help the team possibly win the coveted Stanley Cup (come June), as play-offs commence in April.
      Bits & Pieces: Publicist Sanford (Sandy) Brokaw has been subpoenaed to testify in court here, Feb. 20, regarding former client Glen Campbell’s competence at the time the singer signed his will that’s now in dispute. Glen died Aug. 8, 2017 at age 81, while suffering from Alzheimer’s, which allegedly started in 2011. The lawsuit filed by Glen’s son William Campbell, one of three children cut off from the singer-songwriter’s estimated $50 million estate, challenged the widow’s 13-page will. William’s attorney Christopher Fowler is taking exception to that 2006 will, and has also subpoenaed two other Campbell children, Kelli and Wesley, excluded from their dad’s estate and a related trust, to testify. Brokaw allegedly will be required to bring pertinent communications related to Campbell’s family and estate, and “provide proof of the decedent’s capacity since 2002.” The widow, Kimberly (Woollen) Campbell, whom he wed in 1982, helped Glen launch a farewell “Goodbye” tour shortly after being diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s, with their final show-date being Nov. 30, 2012 in Napa, Calif. The entertainer was wed four times and fathered eight children, the final three – Cal, Shannon, Ashley – with Kimberly. They appeared with their dad, backing him on his farewell tour. Campbell became a born-again Chrisian in his final days, joining a Messianic Synagogue with Kim. Brokaw has declined to comment on the case . . . Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and hubby Chris Tyrrell are proud parents of twin girls, Betsy Mack and Emory JoAnn, born Jan. 30. Equally proud is daughter Eisele, 4, and musical maternal grandparents Linda (“Some Things Are Meant To Be”) Davis and Lang Scott. Hillary says she’ll be ready to join Lady A’s Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood for their Summer Plays Tour with co-headliner Darius Rucker, beginning July 19 in Canada. Meantime, Lady A’s “Heart Break” is steadily moving up the charts . . . Former teen country star Jessica Andrew (#1 “Who I Am”) and singer-director husband Marcel Chagnon welcomed son Rockwell, her first baby, Feb. 6. On Instagram, Feb. 9, she posted the following: “How do you even figure out words to describe feelings that you didn’t know you could have? I’ll just say welcome to this world my beautiful baby boy,” accompanied by a picture of their newborn . . . Kenny Chesney signed a new recording pact with Warner Music, much to the chagrin of Sony Music Nashville. His singles will actually be released henceforth under his own imprint Blue Chair, now a subsidiary of Warner Records . . . The Steel Drivers, former band for Chris Stapleton, have announced the signing of Kelvin Damrell, a newcomer from historic country town of Berea, Ky., home to Berea College and once stomping grounds for Country Music Hall of Famer Red Foley. Damrell, a guitarist, will be the band’s new lead vocalist. Last year, Stapleton’s replacement Gary Nichols flew the coop, prompting the band to try-out potential successors, with Damrell being the final choice. Next up, SteelDrivers are studio bound to record a follow-up to their 2015 Grammy-winning “Muscle Shoals Sessions,” and hopefully have it out before year’s end . . . Grand Ole Opry member Eddie Montgomery has confided he hopes to continue the MontgomeryGentry sound, despite having lost partner Troy Gentry in a helicopter crash last Sept. 8. Eddie said their last studio album “Here’s To You,” wrapped two days before his untimely passing, and was released Feb. 2, reportedly their first in three years. He launched the 2018 tour they’d planned together, simultaneously to the CD release, sharing the bill with Halfway To Hazard. Next to Eddie on stage will be Troy’s guitar and mic stand. (So much for our idea that he might team up with brother John Michael.) . . . Spotted at the Grammys was Reba McEntire, who recently made news linking up with KFC’s Col. Sanders, complete in grey-beard and costume, to plug a new barbecue fried chicken; however, it wasn’t a Kentucky colonel on her arm. The fiery redhead introduced him saucily as her new beau, Skeeter Lasuzzo, but that’s all we know about him right now, just a name. She was a winner herself that night . . . Craig Morgan’s new reality show premiers on UP-TV March 1, titled Morgan Family Strong, features the Opry star and his wife Karen, daughter Alexandra and sons Kyle and Wyatt. Reportedly viewers will see the Morgans “juggling life at home and on the road, including opening a family store – The Gallery.” They won’t forget son Jerry, who lost his life in a tragic boating accident, as they come together in sharing that heartache. Jerry was featured regularly on the artist’s All Access Outdoors program, going into its ninth season on the Outdoor Channel. Morgan hits include “Almost Home,” “Redneck Yahct Club” and “That’s What I Love About Sunday.”
      Radio Friendly: As the New Faces’ annual showcase signed off Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar, Feb. 9, we’re satisfied country’s still in good hands. The 2018 line-up came across loud and clear: Lauren Alaina, Luke Combs, Midland, Carly Pearce and Michael Ray. Regular readers of CMP know CRS is a three-day industry conference of sorts usually covered, consisting of discussions, speeches, panels, lunches, showcases and more importantly, networking. For a final $600 registration rate, CRS chief Bill Mayne promised attendees the event “will empower you with an incredible array of new, innovating ideas to improve your skill sets and perspective to create sustainable results for your business. You will also experience more stellar country music performances than ever before!” Not so sure about that last sentence, but it was nice seeing singer Dierks Bentley earned the CRS Artist Humanitarian Award, courtesy Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Assuredly, the labels trotted out their stars throughout the week, among them Jason Aldean, Ashley McBryde, Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, Drake White, Brett Young, Sugarland and Brad Paisley. Since the New Faces gala was launched in 1970, it has emerged as one of the most sought-after showcases for rising stars to strut their stuff before a media mix of key radio and record honchos. Kicking off the New Faces Show was Kentucky high school dropout Pearce, piercing the silence with four cuts from her fall 2017 CD. At 16, Carly lit out for Pigeon Forge, Tenn., to perform regularly at Dollywood. No doubt that endeavor inspired her move to Nashville, where initially she signed with Sony Music, but had little luck there. Next, Scott Borchetta signed her to the Big Machine label, and last year Carly scored with a #1 Billboard Country Airplay debut, “Every Little Thing,” selling gold (500,000 units). Pearce proved once again, thanks to “Every Little Thing” and “Hide the Wine,” she’s truly an artist to watch. Back in Luke Combs’ Asheville, N.C. high school days, he was a football hero on campus. And he made many a maidens’ heart beat a little faster here, thanks in part to performing back-to-back Country Airplay #1’s “Hurricane” and “When It Rains It Pours.” The husky, bearded balladeer’s latest “One Number Away” is equally pleasing to the ears. Incidentally, Luke’s Columbia album “This One’s For You” also chalked up #1 status in 2017. Another media favorite is Midland, a colorful Texas band that burst forth on Billboard last year with their near chart-topping Big Machine CD “On The Rocks.” Comprising this hot unit are Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy and Mark Wystrach, who as Midland, spent time touring in ’17 as an opening act for Faith Hill-Tim McGraw’s Soul2Soul World Tour. Mesmerized by Midland’s musically musing “Drinkin’ Problem,” it’s understandable why it became an easy #1 last fall. Another in the TV reality contest competitors’ alumnae, Alaina Lauren, 23, late of American Idol’s 10th season, at least boasts two chart-toppers: “Road Less Traveled” and “What Ifs” (the latter guesting on Kane Brown’s disc). Hey, she’s also been on a motion picture screen – “Road Less Traveled” – and a music video about that same hit song earned her a CMT best breakthrough video nod. Lauren’s studio CD’s “Wildflower” and, of course, “Road Less Traveled” both became Top Five albums. It was apparent she was a clear favorite of a huge segment in the New Faces’ audience, with winning performances on “Three” and her new single “Doin’ Fine.” Bad boy Michael Ray, who got pulled over for driving under the influence over Christmas, is a roguish, romantic, radio-friendly crooner, who hit the ground running with his initial Warner tracks, “Kiss You In the Morning” and “Think a Little Less.” He delivered his newest offering “Her World Or Mine” in relatively fine fashion here . . . but only time will tell whether it’ll have the listener appeal of the previous hits. Overall, CRS’s talented New Faces seem to possess the staying power so requisite to showbiz achievement, and judging by their rousing reception from hundreds of country radio pros, the clock’s ticking in their favor.
      Awards: The national Songwriters Hall of Fame committee has announced its newest inductees into its Hall of Fame, among them country composers Bill Anderson and Alan Jackson, already members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and all-genre writer Steve Dorff. A truly diverse writer, Dorff numbers include such songs as “Easy Love” for Dionne Warwick, “Miracle” for Celine Dion, and “Pirate” for Cher; however, he has supplied songs for country artists like Kenny Rogers, “Through the Years”; Eddie Rabbitt, “Every Which Way But Loose”; Anne Murray, “I Just Fall In Love Again”; Mel Tillis’ “Coca Cola Cowboy”; and George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart.” Anderson’s hits began in 1958, during his college years when he furnished Ray Price’s monster hit “City Lights,” and in the 1960s’ sang many of his own hits, including “Tips Of My Fingers,” “Mama Sang A Song,” “Still,” on into the 1970s with “Quits,” “Sometimes,” while also through the years supplying others a la Lefty Frizzell’s “Saginaw, Michigan,” Conway Twitty’s “I May Never Get To Heaven,” Kenny Chesney’s “A Lot of Things Different,” Brad Paisley-Alison Krauss’ “Whiskey Lullaby,” George Strait’s “Give It Away” and Sugarland’s “Joey.” Jackson, of course, penned his own, ranging from his 1990 breakthrough song “Here In the Real World,” onward to #1’s such as “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Chattahoochee,” “Where I Come From,” “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” “Drive” and “Remember When,” plus collaborating with others, notably Randy Travis’ #1 “Forever Together.” The inductees will be enshrined officially at the 49th annual Songwriters Hall of Fame banquet, in New York City’s Marriott Hotel, June 14 . . . The 60th annual Grammy Awards, Jan. 28, meant good news for country hitmaker Chris Stapleton, who won big: best country solo performance for “Either Way”; best song for “Broken Halos,” which he co-wrote with Mike Henderson; and best album, for “From a Room: Volume One,” co-produced by Chris and Dave Cobb. (Incidentally, Stapleton’s 2015 debut album “Traveller” also earned them a Grammy.) Little Big Town scored this year for best group performance, thanks to their single “Better Man,” penned by Taylor Swift and produced by Jay Joyce. Country diva Reba McEntire nabbed a Grammy for her album “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope” in the Gospel Roots category. Bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent added another win to her collection, for “All the Rage: In Concert, Vol. 1 (Live),” in a tie for best bluegrass album; the other winner being Infamous Stringdusters’ “Laws of Gravity.” Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit scored multiple wins in the Americana division: best Americana album for “The Nashville Sound,” produced by Dave Cobb, and best roots song for “If We Were Vampires,” both for the act and Jason as songwriter.
     Final Curtain: Steel guitarist Stu Basore, 80, died Feb. 5 in Madison, Tenn. A Life Member of the AFM Nashville Musicians Association, Local 257, Basore was equally adept on Dobro guitar. His keening steel is heard to good advantage on the Dolly Parton #1 singles “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You,” “Love Is Like a Butterfly,” Mary McGregor’s classic “Torn Between Two Lovers,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “When Two Worlds Collide” and Jean Shepard’s “Slippin’ Away.” Stuart was born May 3, 1937 to Floyd C. & Grace (Ulrich) Basore at Fort Monroe, Va., where his father served at the time. As son of an Army Air Corps’ officer, Stu good-naturedly regarded himself as a “military brat,” but enjoyed their travels in both the U.S.A. and France. Eventually his family settled in Aurora, Colo., which he long regarded as home. At age 11, he began learning the steel guitar, essentially self-taught, though he did study at the Honolulu Conservatory of Music in Denver, Colo. Taking a cue from dad, Stu served in the U.S. Air Force from 1956-1960. In 1963, Stu settled in Nashville, where he was soon hired as a Tennessee Mountain Boy, the touring band for singer-songwriter Johnnie Wright (“Hello Vietnam”) and wife Kitty Wells, Queen of Country Music. Their act included singer-daughter Ruby Wright (“Dern Ya”) and fellow artist Bill Phillips (“Put It Off Until Tomorrow”). Basore also performed with such notable entertainers as Tex Ritter, Connie Smith, George Hamilton IV and Marie Osmond. Others backed in the studio include Louis Armstrong, Joan Baez, Doug Kershaw, Mel McDaniel, Joe Simon, Kitty Wells, Charley Pride, John Prine, Mother Maybelle Carter and Iris DeMent. Basore can also be heard on the movie cast albums for “Nashville,” “W.W. & The Dixie Dance Kings” and “J.W. Coop.” Besides performing on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, his credits include The Waking Crew and The Porter Wagoner Show. He was in the show band backing Mandy Barnett in the stage musicals “Always, Patsy Cline” and “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.” Stu was an avid golfer, reportedly hitting not one but two hole-in-one shots, as well as enjoying fishing and jammin’ with his musical buddies. In 2005, Stu was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from ROPE (Reunion of Professional Entertainers). Survivors include his wife of 52 years Marsha (Gray) Basore, daughters Kelly Milam and Rebecca Michelle Martin; and granddaughter Maggie Milam. Services were conducted Feb. 10 at Spring Hill Memorial Funeral Home & Cemetery, by Pastor Mark Caulk (of Stafford, Va.) in Nashville. The family respectfully suggested in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Local 257 Musicians Relief Fund, Box 120399, Nashville, TN 37212, or Alive Hospice, Nashville.
Guitarist George McCormick, 84, died Feb. 5 at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, Cookeville, Tenn. Born June 19, 1933 in Death Creek, Tenn., he began playing guitar at an early age. Early on, he cut his performing teeth with Big Jeff Bess & The Radio Playboys on WLAC-Nashville. Country-gospel star Martha Carson (“Satisfied”) heard and hired him in 1951 for her touring band, which gave him his debut on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. In 1953, he briefly landed an MGM artist development deal, but none of his singles clicked, mainly because some said he was mimicking the label’s legendary Hank Williams. During the mid-1950s, he was half of the George & Earl rockabilly duo, partnered with Earl Aycock, whom he met in Carson’s band. They were good enough that Mercury Records signed the act, recording several titles, such as “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes,” “Cry Baby Cry,” but alas none of these caught on, and they split up. Aycock signed with MGM, while McCormick joined the Louvin Brothers. A celebrated picker, George also played bass fiddle and spent some 47 years with the Grand Ole Opry, backing a host of notables, like Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper and Jim Reeves instrumentally and on harmony vocals. In the studio, he supported such as Porter Wagoner, playing on his classic 1965 hit “Green, Green Grass of Home” and as part of his Wagonmasters band for years, both on Porter’s popular syndicated TV series, as well as out on the road. Survivors include wife Betty (Norrod) McCormick, daughters Teresa, Trilene, Mindi and Anita, and step-daughter Helen; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Services were conducted Feb. 9 in Cookeville.
    Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Lari White, 52, died in Hospice care Feb. 23, after suffering peritoneal cancer, diagnosed as advanced last September. She’s best remembered for her Top 10 hits “That’s My Baby,” “That’s How You Know (When You’re In Love),” both co-written with hubby Chuck Cannon, and “Now I Know” all recorded in 1994 for her “Wishes” CD. Her Top 20 credits are: “Ready, Willing and Able,” her co-write “Stepping Stone” and a duet “Helping Me Get Over You” with Travis Tritt, that they co-wrote. Among others recording her compositions were Patti Page, Danny Gokey, Sarah Buxton, Pat Green and Lonestar. Lari also recorded a duet with Toby Keith (“Only God Could Stop Me Loving You”), and produced his 2005 album “White Trash With Money.” A year earlier she co-produced Billy Dean’s album “Let Them Be Little” and, of course, her own debut album “Lead Me Not” (with Rodney Crowell and Steuart Smith) back in 1993. She was born Lari Michele White, May 13, 1965 in Dunedin, Fla., to Yvonne & Larry White. When little more than a toddler she joined her parents and siblings Natasha and Torne on stage as part of The White Family Singers gospel group. Despite a childhood loss of a little finger, she learned to play piano and guitar. As she advanced in years, Lari performed in White Sound, a rock band. Following graduation from the University of Miami, where she studied music engineering and voice, Lari relocated to Nashville. In 1988, she competed in TNN’s talent competition You Can Be a Star, winning first place. Top prize was a Capitol Records’ contract, resulting in a single release “Flying Above the Rain,” before being dropped. She signed for music publishing with Ronnie Milsap’s company, landing cuts with such notables as Shelby Lynne (“What About The Love We Made”) and Tammy Wynette (“Where’s the Fire”). Lari also took acting lessons, and answered a call in 1991 for a backup singer with Rodney Crowell. The following year she landed another development deal, this time RCA’s, and subsequently her “Lead Me Not” album. But it was “Wishes” which made her a star, selling more than a half-million albums, thereby certified Gold and crossed into the pop market. When her follow-up album, “Don’t Fence Me In,” failed to chart more than six weeks, she was again a free-lancer, though RCA did distribute a third collection “The Best Of Lari White,” reprising her earlier singles. In 1998, White was on the Lyric Street label with a promising single “Stepping Stone,” peaking at #16, over 20 weeks, and garnering some pop airplay (#73), before dropping off the chart. Lyric Street produced an album on her, also titled “Stepping Stone.” White finally put those acting lessons to good use, appearing on Broadway in a country music-oriented 2006 production “Ring Of Fire,” plus in films: “XXX’s & OOO’s” (1994), “Cast Away,” “Big Eden” (both in 2000), “No Regrets” (2004) and “Country Strong” (2010). In 2007, Lari performed a cabaret act at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, and commemorated it with a live soundtrack album “My First Affair,” which included two of her creations: “Minor Changes” and “Over And Over.” Her final effort, a double album, “Old Friends, New Loves” was released in 2017, on her indie label Skinny White Girl Records. It marked her 25th anniversary, featuring Lee Roy Parnell, Suzy Bogguss and Delbert McClinton as guest artists. White’s Grammy wins were all for gospel tracks: “Amazing Grace: A Country Salute To Gospel” 1996; “Amazing Grace . . . 2” 1998; and “The Apostle” soundtrack, 1999, on which she performed “There Is Power In the Blood.” Survivors include her husband of 23 years, Chuck Cannon; and their children M’Kenzy, Kyra Ciel and Jaxon.