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Music City Beat – Sept. 2018

Jason Isbell shows streak of independence . . . Little Big Town theft . . . More Reba honors

NASHVILLE — Jason Isbell’s agents may be wringing their hands over the singer’s decision to support ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen’s 2018 senate bid (pitting him against popular Republican Marsha Blackburn) by headlining his Aug. 20 fundraiser here. Sharing the bill will be genre-bending artist Ben Folds, who surprises none with his backing of a Democrat, having been a solid supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential run. Isbell ignores conservative country critics who remind him Tennessee gave Trump a landslide victory in 2016; the state’s governor is Republican; and its congress controlled by that party. Alabama native Isbell, 39, raised two miles south of the Tennessee state line, was heavily influenced by his liberal-minded farmer-granddad. He even wrote “TVA,” recalling farmers’ appreciation of Democratic President Roosevelt coming into office, and literally saving starving families from the Great Depression, by enacting the Tennessee Valley Authority. That agency was charged with building dams to control flood waters and produce power into rural areas to improve impoverished people’s lives. According to Jason: “My granddaddy told me, when he was just seven or so/His daddy lost work, and they didn’t have a row to hoe/Not too much to eat for seven boys and three girls . . . (concluding with FDR’s action) . . . He helped build the dam, gave power to most of the South/So I thank god for the TVA . . .” Ironically, Bredesen’s suggested using the TVA to bring high-speed Internet to rural areas in the South. Jason’s also a big fan of the Atlanta Braves ball team, and one of his fans recently Twittered him: “Why do we have to inject politics in every aspect of our life. Can’t we just enjoy the music and the football games?” Jason thoughtfully typed back, “Until you are the one being treated unfairly, that’s easy to say.”
Legal Tips: Can you believe this p.r. nightmare that MGM Resorts International has created for itself? It seems their lawyers have filed suit against hundreds of victims of the dastardly Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting spree by Stephen Paddock from the 32nd floor of their Mandalay Bay Hotel, overlooking the Rt. 91 Harvest Festival, claiming the lives of 58 fans, injuring another 852, amongst some 22,000 frightened fans attending the country event! Paddock died, too, of a self-inflicted shot. It is now recorded as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The legal beagles’ subsequent lawsuit proclaims MGM has “no liability of any kind,” despite being owners of the casino-resort from which Paddock committed his carnage. MGM spokesperson Debra DeShong issued this statement, after insisting any litigation filed against them “must be dismissed” post haste: “The unforeseeable events of Oct. 1 affected thousands of people in Las Vegas and throughout North America. From the day of this tragedy, we have focused on the recovery of those impacted by the despicable act of one evil individual.” (Amazing!) As Carl Tobias, a Richmond School of Law professor in Virginia rightly retorted to their corporate cheekiness, “Even if MGM is successful (legally), that may not outweigh the adverse publicity.” . . . A three-page court ruling issued by Davidson County Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy has just granted three adult children of the late singer Glen Campbell legal standing to contest two wills that cut them off from inheritances by their father. Travis, Kelli and Wesley Campbell, children of his earlier marriages, had petitioned the court for legal rights to determine the singer’s health and mental capacity to create the wills, and whether he may have been subject to undue influence. Prior to his 2017 passing, Campbell had suffered from Alzheimer’s and dementia for several years. His widow Kimberly Campbell had been named as estate executor. The last will, filed in 2006, named Kimberly and five children as beneficiaries. A fourth child, daughter Debbie Cloyd, has also questioned the actions of Campbell’s former publicist Stan Schneider, who was appointed temporary administrator of the artist’s estate. She seeks to have Schneider submit a full accounting of financial transactions made from the estate and Campbell’s music royalties. (Stay tuned) . . . Award-winning band Little Big Town’s bus trailer was stolen by thieves, who no doubt expected they were getting a rich collection of instruments and costly musical items. An Aug. 2 band posting on Instagram revealed quite the opposite: “To the guys that stole our trailer – guess you thought you were getting vintage guitars and amps – instead, you got two old kid bikes, a scooter, a baby pool and a Unicorn float. Karma’s a funny thing.” (LBT members are Phillip Sweet, Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman and Jimi Westbrook.) An Aug. 5 news report brought us up-to-date, as the law caught up to the band of thieves, Aug. 5, also retrieving a $70,000 boat stolen in Ashland City. Cheatham County Sheriff’s investigators got a tip the ring’s suspected leader Denver Taylor liked lunching at McDonald’s, only this time was met by the law, but managed a fast getaway, along with suspected cohorts Ray Garrett IV and Brittany Hamlin in a truck, also stolen. Assisted by area police departments, the long arm of the law tracked the trio to Mount Juliet, miles down the Interstate – not in the “Boondocks” – to make arrests . . . In another Interstate drama elsewhere, singer Granger Smith’s tractor-trailer, hauling the troupe’s instruments and stage gear crashed, while trying to maneuver heavy fog in the winding, treacherous terrain of mountainous West Virginia. Smith posted a picture of the heavy-duty vehicle turned over on the Interstate. Thankful no other vehicle was involved, the artist stated: “We’ve had a hell of a morning. No one was hurt, and my driver Charlie climbed out without a scratch,” adding, “We lost gear, but all that can be replaced. Grateful for my road brothers, and thankful for another day.” Despite the mishap, the players gave an on-time smashing show for Baltimore fans, Aug. 11, appropriately including his hit “Backroad Song.” Granger even joked on line that the guitars rescued from the damaged truck were still in tune.
Scene Stealers: Ketch Secor (Old Crow Medicine Show) will no doubt be catching it from conservative fans over his recent guns comments. While in the company of Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor Aalayah Eastmond of Parkland, Fla., Secor stated, “We live in this country music town and country music is a place where there’s been a historic tendency to really hold tight to the idea of God, guns and glory . . . That’s become a country music truth and I don’t believe that’s a country music truth. I believe it’s a nostalgic view that must be changed.” Referencing last year’s Vegas tragedy, the fiddler continued, “I remember when the shooting in Las Vegas happened. It forced country music to take an in-depth look at itself and ask itself really hard questions, and sadly it seems like the status quo remains. I’m really glad that Aalayah is here in Tennesssee to add an exclamation point to the state, that enough is enough, Tennessee!” Old Crow’s recording “Wagon Wheel,” co-written by Secor (and Bob Dylan), sold Platinum in 2013, the year WSM invited the band to join the Grand Ole Opry. Secor is also the Grammy Award-winning act’s lead singer and frontman . . . Willie Nelson released his new album “My Way,” Sept. 14, as co-produced by Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings, the pair who helmed Willie’s Grammy Award-winning Gershwin – George and Ira – salute “Summertime” (2016). Music aficionados may have guessed that “My Way” is yet another tuneful tribute, this time to Hollywood troubadour Frank Sinatra. Among Frankie’s favorites on this album are “Night and Day,” “Young At Heart,” “Fly Me To The Moon” and Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day,” which pairs the vocals of Sinatra and Nelson. Norah Jones joins Willie for a duet on Cole Porter’s timeless “What Is This Thing Called Love.” . . . It may be that Nelson and Cannon are already planning another project, for during a recent stop by Mac Wiseman’s home, he confided Willie recently called to chat, and invited the bluegrass pioneer to do a duet with him on his next CD, adding that Buddy, 70, would be in on it, too. Seems there’s no holding these senior citizens back, as Willie’s now 85, and 93-year-old Mac’s bluegrass tribute CD “I Sang the Song (Life of the Voice With a Heart)” recently garnered a trio of nominations. May be something after all to that revised quote Nelson shared on stage: “My doctor tells me I should start slowing it down, but there are more old drunks than there are old doctors, so let’s all have another round.” (That’s Willie, right, with Mac and Mack Magaha.)
Awards: Reba McEntire is not only slated to receive the Kennedy Center Honors come December – along with such performing notables as Cher, Philip Glass, Wayne Shorter and Lin-Manuel Miranda and his fellow theatrical participants in the Broadway show “Hamilton” – but Reba will also be presented with the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame association’s very first non-writer Career Maker Award, Oct. 28. According to Pat Alger, chairman, Nashville Songwriters Foundation, “Reba has played a significant role in helping more than 40 songwriters achieve induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. That’s about 20 per cent of the hall’s entire membership.” Although mainly a singer, McEntire did write her haunting Top Five hit “Only In My Mind.”. . . Meantime, the next composer inductees into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame will be K. T. Oslin, Ronnie Dunn, Byron Hill, Wayne Kirkpatrick and Joe Melson, Oct. 28 at the Music City Center. Here are some of the honorees hits: Oslin, wrote seven of her major hits, notably “’80s Ladies,” “Do Ya” and “Come Next Monday”; Dunn’s include “Boot Scootin‘ Boogie,” “She Used To Be Mine” and “Little Miss Honky Tonk”; Hill’s hits boast “Fool Hearted Memory,” “Born Country” and “Lifestyles Of the Not So Rich and Famous”; Kirkpatrick’s consists of “Boondocks,” “Change the World” and “Wrapped Up In You”; and Melson’s “Only the Lonely,” “Blue Bayou” and “Running Scared,” popularized by partner Roy Orbison . . . Here in Nashville, four more entertainers have been selected for stars implanted with their names onto the downtown Music City Walk of Fame: Brenda Lee, Jeannie Seely, Ben Folds and Ray Stevens. Lee, who recently had a knee implant, was well enough to witness the celebration, Aug. 21. No stranger to honors, Lee’s already an inductee into the Rock, Country and Rockabilly Halls of Fame. She calls this newest honor, “truly humbling” despite the fact folks will be stepping all over her star . . . The 2018 IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame inductees are: Ricky Skaggs, Paul Williams, and primarily for their songwriting prowess, Tom T. and his late wife Dixie Hall. Strangely enough, when the daily Tennessean newspaper disclosed their selection, it depicted Tom T. and Dixie, above a caption concluding: “They have both passed away.” Country Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall is alive and well, and has written such #1’s as “Harper Valley PTA,” “The Pool Shark” and most of his own cuts, including “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died.” In 1990, he began co-writing with “Miss Dixie,” who had some 500 of her creations recorded before her death in 2015. This past February, the Halls were named as Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame inductees in Bean Blossom, Ind., as well. The Halls’ IBMA honor will occur in October, in Raleigh, N.C.
Bits and Pieces: Cheers to Taylor Swift, a former Hendersonville, Tenn. high schooler, whom many of her classmates shunned, on landing the coveted role of Grizabella in the upcoming movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats.” As Griz, the glamour cat, she gets to purr, oops, sing “Memory,” a showstopper. Reportedly, the film begins shooting in England come fall, with Tom Hooper directing from a screenplay by Lee Hall. As most fans of the Broadway smash are aware, Webber adapted his musical from a T. S. Eliot book of children’s poems. Although we call Swift an ex-country singer, she still keeps her hand in the genre, having penned Sugarland’s recent hit “Babe” (with Pat Monahan), and contributed vocals to the duo’s disc of that title . . . A slightly boozed Blake Shelton fell off stage, appropriately enough at the Pendleton Whiskey Festival in Oregon, July 15. Fortunately, the superstar quickly recovered, saying he had been served one too many, then Tweeted to see if someone had a video re his mishap? One viewer, Shana Tristan, didn’t find it humorous, texting back: “So, that’s the type of quality show that you put on . . . for people that spend their hard earned money to come see you . . . you, to show up drunk? That’s some Justin Bieber on Hennessy, throwing up on-stage nonsense, right there!” We’re not sure if management was merely doing damage control or not, but here’s their tale: “Blake’s Tweet was meant as a joke; he simply tripped over the riser and landed on the fiddle player’s pedal board. This was not a result of drinking.” Uh-huh . . . Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and wife Brittney have put their plush 70-acre property near Nashville on sale for $6.2 million. The sprawling estate boasts six buildings – including two separate houses, and their main house he labels “The Shack,” nuzzled into a mountain side – a treehouse, a 30-foot sky-bridge, a barn (complete with bar and games), all situated amidst wooded hiking and riding trails. Brian bought the hillside site in 2013, and it was there he and Brittney exchanged their marital vows. In an email, he reportedly stated, “Our inspiration was to be as natural as possible and camouflage into the woods. Our interior design inspiration has always been combining mine and Brittney’s love and travels. Our living space is inspired by everywhere we have gone and everyone we have met.” (Their listing is with the Bodden Sisters at Exit Realty Music City.) . . . Eric Paslay and his wife Natalie announced they’re expecting their first baby, but failed to say when in this social media post: “@nataliepaslay and I are so EXCITED to announce that we…!!! #NeedDiaperMoney #baby #pregnant #love .” The red-haired Texan, best known for “Friday Night,” actually wed Natalie on a Sunday (April 26, 2015) . . . Seems there’s something in the Nashville water, as Jason and Brittany Aldean inadvertently let fans, know, via a snapshot of their eight months old baby, she’s again in the family way. Mrs. Aldean captioned her photo, “Here we go again,” while Jason posted that same shot of son Memphis, noting, “Sup everybody guess who is gonna be a BIG brother! #thisdude #aldean-partyof6.” (As Jason fans know, he’s also daddy to daughters Kendyl and Keely from his prior marriage.) . . . Now Carrie Underwood, 35, has disclosed that she and hockey-hubby Mike Fisher are anticipating a newcomer into their family, declaring, “Mike and Isaiah and I are absolutely over the moon and excited to be adding another little fish to our pond!” Their son Isaiah is now 3, but mommy didn’t say when his sibling’s due, though she has plans to tour from May to September 2019, supporting her new CD “Cry Pretty,” released Sept. 14.
Ailing: K. T. Oslin emphasizes she’s suffering from Parkinson’s, initially learning she developed the disease in 2015. In August this year, she was cited for induction into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. While acknowledging the newest honor, Oslin, 77, confided, “I’ve been stricken with Parkinson’s disease. Half the universe seems like they’re getting it. So this (award) is special.” (Her colleague Linda Ronstadt had also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.) Singer K.T. came to Nashville in her 40s, and became the first female songwriter to earn the Country Music Association award for best song in 1988, thanks to “’80s Ladies,” and was also voted best female vocalist that year, at age 46. Then in 1995, K.T. had a coronary artery bypass surgery, but soon continued to perform, though her final Billboard charting came in 2001, with her poignantly-titled single “Live Close By, Visit Often” (which she co-wrote with Kostas and Raul Malo), from her similarly titled BNA album.
Final Curtain: Musician Peter Thweatt (Pete) Cummings, 63, died July 7, 2018 at Leiper’s Fork, Tenn. The colorful guitarist has supported such notable entertainers as the Oak Ridge Boys, Tanya Tucker and Elvis Presley. He was born Feb. 9, 1955 in Nashville to Sarah and Robert Cummings. Pete’s late father was a pro-football coach for the New Orleans Saints, while his youngest developed a passion for music. Pete played piano from age 5, and started on guitar at 12, and sang in a quartet The Voice, a favorite of Presley’s. After tiring of touring, Pete settled in Hendersonville, focusing on writing and teaching music, and recorded in a home studio. In the 1980s, he moved to New York City, where he learned to master video editing, working with David Byrne of Talking Heads, pioneering the then-new music video movement. In 2005, Pete came home to design, and build a home in Leiper’s Fork, which he called “Cummings Compound.” Meanwhile, his home away from home became nearby Puckett’s Store, a favorite place for fellow players gathering to jam and share road stories. No funeral information was available. Survivors include children Devon and Ian Cummings; and three grandchildren, Stella, River and Davis.
Singer-songwriter-comedian Walter Lee (Rusty) Adams, 85, died after suffering a stroke in Oliver Springs, Tenn. In addition to performing on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, he also toured as Koko The Clown with the Ringling Brothers Circus, and later guested as Koko on The Kitty Wells Family Show, a 1969 syndicated TV series. Adams’ rendition of “Little Rosa,” popularized by Red Sovine and Webb Pierce, which he wrote, always proved a crowd pleaser. Adams also appeared briefly as a bandsman with Ernest Tubb in the Oscar-winning Loretta Lynn 1980 bio film “Coal Miner’s Daughter” starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. Survivors include wife Bonnie (Branson) Adams and son Russell Adams. A veteran of the Korean War, he was buried with military honors in the Nashville National Cemetery.

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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.”

 

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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.

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Music City Beat – January 2018

Ray Stevens opens new Nashville nightclub . . .

Ray Stevens, here with assistant Shirley Welch, to open nitespot.

 

NASHVILLE — Pop-country star Ray Stevens, 79, is at it again, mixing music and mirth for fans here, much as he did a quarter century ago in Branson. The versatile entertainer opened CabaRay, his own nightspot Jan. 18, bringing back Ahab The Arab, Gitarzan, The Shriners Convention, Mississippi Squirrels Revival and his hysterical “Don’t look, Ethel,” it’s The Streak, to mark his return. Nashville Mayor Barry proclaimed Jan. 10 – the day media and VIPs enjoyed an advance peek at the 35,000 square-foot “state of the art” venue – Ray Stevens Day. Singer-songwriter Stevens stated, “I am deeply grateful to the Honorable Megan Barry and the people of Nashville for giving me my very own day. It’s especially meaningful that it’s on the day I’m sharing my CabaRay Showroom with family and friends in the music industry for the first time.” Ray will perform for guests weekly at the supper club (at 5724 River Road), which seats some 700 and offers free parking. Currently on public television, he hosts Ray Stevens’ CabaRay-Nashville, a half hour weekly music and talk show. Ray also co-starred on the big screen in the 2014 comedy “Campin’ Buddies” with Tom Lester. Currently, the CMA-Hall of Fame Museum’s “Sing Me Back Home” series is celebrating the multi-talented Georgia native’s 60-year career, encompassing a #1 mix of musical parodies such as “The Streak” with beautiful love songs like “Everything Is Beautiful,” both of which he wrote. The latter in 1970, and in 1975 his bluegrass-influenced arrangement on “Misty,” both earned him Grammy Awards. In 1980, Ray was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Hall of Fame in recognition of such successes. Among his platinum-selling albums are “He Thinks He’s Ray Stevens,” “I Have Returned” and “Ray Stevens’ Greatest Hits.” Besides switching easily from novelty to love songs, Stevens is a multi-instrumentalist, who has sold in excess of 40 million discs. Little wonder “Everything Is Beautiful” for this legendary star.
     Scene Stealers: Husband-wife team Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have been named in a plagiarism lawsuit by Australian songwriters Sean Carey and Beau Golden, along with Sony/ATV Music, its co-writers Ed Sheeran, Johnny McDaid, Amy Wadge and Steve Mac, pluas several associated publishers. Subject of the suit filed Jan. 10 in New York Federal Court by Carey and Golden is the Hill-McGraw hit “The Rest Of Our Life,” which the Aussies claim “blatantly copied” their 2014 composition “When I Found You,” a success Down Under by Jasmine Rae. According to the court filing, “The copying is, in many instances, verbatim, note-for-note copying of original elements of the Song (‘When I Found You’), and is obvious to the ordinary observer,” and the plaintiffs are seeking $5 million in damages, along with an injunction to block its further release. Their attorney, Richard Busch, is no stranger to Sheeran, who was named in an earlier $20 million suit Busch filed over the song “Photograph,” sounding too much like another, titled “Amazing,” which was settled, with the correct writers being added to the credits. Reportedly, in this latest dispute, Tom Holland, an Australian Sony staffer, is named and though he’s co-writer Jasmine’s boyfriend, she is not involved in the case. The suit says Holland presented Rae’s recording to Sony, allegedly trying to gain international exposure for her. Apparently unaware of the Australian single, Faith and Tim recorded the tune, featuring it on their first-ever collaborative album via Arista Records last fall. Beside damages, Carey and Golden seek a percentage of profits in addition to a running royalty rate, plus payment of court costs and legal fees. Stay tuned . . . Entrepreneur John Rich of the Big & Rich duo is on a roll, having just launched Redneck Riviera Whiskey in partnership with Eastside Distillery, officially Jan. 6, he and vocal partner “Big” Kenny Alphin announced Jan. 12, their brand new GIT Big $ Rich Casino game, created in collaboration with Proxima Brands, available in digital app stores and free downloads. Redneck Riviera is a copyright title of Rich, and consists of footwear, apparel and beach accessories, plus two honky-tonks: Redneck Riviera Vegas, on the strip near Bally’s Las Vegas, and the upcoming Redneck Riviera Nashville, slated for a spring opening on Lower Broad. Among their biggest charters are “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” and “Lost in This Moment.” Their new casino-style game offers loyalty points players can cash in for Big & Rich product and a brand prize of a VIP visit to one of their concerts. As Alphin says, “Let’s play. We are excited about the debut of our casino game and want everyone to GIT Big $ Rich coins that will have you playing our game for hours and hours. We look forward to meeting the player that winds the ‘Meet Big & Rich’ contest, too. Now, go get this sucker and let’s rock that spin button.” Eastside, a Tennessee LLC, will manage Redneck Riviera Whiskey, promote sales and any follow-up products. Initially they will focus on the Southeast, with a roll-out across the country in time to come. For further information, check out www.redneckriviera.com.
     Honors: Reba McEntire’s legendary life and career have earned the artist a 2018 award, honoring her by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. The Oklahoma native, who shot to fame initially on Mercury Records 40 years ago, with the Top 20 ballad “Three Sheets In the Wind” (with Jacky Ward), followed by 1980s solo successes “(You Lift Me) Up To Heaven,” “I’m Not That Lonely Yet” and back-to-back #1 singles “Can’t Even Get the Blues” and “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving.” McEntire’s label switch to MCA assured another 22 Billboard chart-toppers, including “Somebody Should Leave,” “Whoever’s In New England” and “Turn On the Radio.” The Grand Ole Opry star’s sitcom series Reba ran from 2001-2007; she starred in films like “The Gambler Returns”; won two Grammys; and in 2011 was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She just extended her engagement with Brooks & Dunn in Las Vegas, thanks to nightly SRO shows. She acknowledged this latest award: “I always say you need three things to succeed in life: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone. These qualities have served me well in every part of my life, and I have no doubt my fellow honorees would agree. I am honored to be inducted into the Horatio Alger Association, and can’t wait to meet our 2018 scholars and help them in any way I can to reach their own dreams.” . . . Chris Stapleton out-distanced fellow players in Nielsen’s year-end rankings, thanks to 1.8 million albums, streaming on-demand and other downloads data. During 2017, he had the two top albums: “From a Room: Volume I,” in first place, followed by his album “Traveller” (first issued in 2015). Luke Bryan’s 1.1+ million sales, downloads and streams, garnered second; Thomas Rhett (994,000), third; Blake Shelton (984,000), fourth; and Kenny Chesney (955,000) fifth . . . Newly-named recipient of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Emmylou Harris is also being honored by the Americana Music Association’s all-star fete, “A Salute To Emmylou Harris,” Jan. 27, at City Winery in New York City. Among those paying tribute to the veteran vocalist will be Rodney Crowell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Steve Earle, Jack Ingram, Brandi Carlile and the Secret Sisters. A winner of 13 Grammy awards, the Salute is being co-sponsored by contributors such as ASCAP, Middle Tennessee State University, Nashville Music City and Tennessee Tourism . . . A Mel Tillis Memorial has been scheduled at the Ryman Auditorium, Jan. 31, honoring the Country Music Hall of Famer who died Nov. 19 at age 85. Tillis, also a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. During the public celebration, he will be remembered in stories and song by associates such as Larry Gatlin, Ray Stevens, Ricky Skaggs, Lorrie Morgan, Jamey Johnson, Brenda Lee, Collin Raye, Alison Krauss, Ira Dean, Daryle Singletary and his children Carrie April Tillis, Sonny Tillis and Pam Tillis. Mel’s band The Statesiders survivors will play as well.
     Bits & Pieces: Russell Moore has announced IIIrd Tyme Out fiddler Justen Haynes has left the bluegrass band after a 12-year stint, playing his last show Jan. 6 at the Fairview Ruritan Club, Galax, Va. “Over the holidays, Justen and his family came to the conclusion that it was time for him to stay home more and concentrate on their new business (Haus Luc K9, a dog breeding and training site in Milford),” said bandleader Moore, who will name a new fiddler soon, in time to resume their touring come February . . . Nashville, currently produced by LionsGate Television Group, is in its final season on the CMT cable network. This marks its sixth season, since the nighttime drama’s 2012 debut on ABC-TV. Nashville was initially successful, but by 2016, the network canceled it due to declining viewership. Nonetheless, enough fans fought to save the prime-time drama and music program, prompting CMT to pick up the scuttled show. The final season kicked off Jan. 4, promising 16 episodes, reportedly with the final segment slated in summer 2018. Lionsgate executive Kevin Beggs, expressed the network’s belief “that creatively it is time for the series to come to its triumphant close at the end of the upcoming season.” . . . Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush reunited as award presenters for the Nov. 8 CMA awards gala, then resurfaced for the annual Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, special with Ryan Seacrest on ABC-TV. The duo has a new single, “Still the Same,” which sounds prophetic, since Sugarland (after a five-year split to pursue solo projects) has scheduled show-dates across the nation, hitting 48 cities, starting in May with gigs in Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, thru Sept. 4 in Newark, N.J., with a special homecoming show in Nashville, Aug. 2.
     Ailing: Veteran vocalist Mickey Gilley, 81, suffered injuries, Jan. 3, when his vehicle crashed and rolled off the Interstate, following a Texas gig, while enroute to Branson, Mo. Reportedly, Gilley sustained a fractured ankle, fractured right shoulder, along with various bumps and bruises. His son also suffered minor injuries in the accident. According to Gilley on Facebook: “We rolled a car about three times over . . . I am having a hard time walking, because I have a big boot on my left leg. But other than that, I’m doing pretty good . . . it’s kinda tough sometimes on the old man, but I don’t intend to retire. I will be out there on the road and I’ll see you real soon.” He hoped to resume touring by Jan. 20, appearing at the Orange Blossom Opry in Weirsdale, Fla. Gilley enjoyed his 16th and 17th #1 singles in 1983: “Fool For Your Love” and “Paradise Tonight” (duet with Charly McClain) . . . Loretta Lynn, 85, suffered a fall in her home shortly after the New Year arrived, that’s left her nursing a broken hip. Younger sister singer Crystal Gayle posted an Instagram citing the fall, asking “everyone send love and prayers” to the Country Hall of Famer. Gayle added, “ I was with Loretta yesterday. She is in good spirits and is doing as well as can be expected with this type of injury.” Last May, Loretta suffered a stroke and seemed well on her way to recovery before this latest mishap . . . Carrie Underwood, 34, sent a New Year’s Day message to her fan club that the November fall she suffered outside her home, which required wrist surgery, also prompted numerous facial stitches. In disclosing the extent of her injuries, she tweeted, “In addition to breaking my wrist, I somehow managed to injure my face as well. I’ll spare the the gruesome details, but when I came out of surgery the night of my fall, the doctor told Mike (her hubby) that he had put between 40 and 50 stitches in.” Although she said they’re healing, her mirror tells her she’s “not quite looking the same.” The star celebrated the release of her second concert DVD, Nov. 17, “The Storyteller Tour: Live From Madison Square Garden.”

Marge and Mac Wiseman.

     Final Curtain:  Marjory May (Brennan) Wiseman, 76, died Nov. 11 in Nashville. For 54 years she was Mrs. Mac Wiseman. Their initial meeting occurred while the singer was on tour in Canada. As Mac recalled, “I met her on a show up there. Actually, it was a package show headlining George Morgan as set up by Vic Lewis, a big promoter and very active, the sort who would be sure everything was in place for you. For some reason, George couldn’t make it, so Vic called me to see if I could put a band together and fill in. I remember I got Hillous Butrum (former Drifting Cowboy) and I can’t recall who else, except I’m sure a lot of them had recorded for me. “The first show was in Brantford, Ontario, where Marge lived. In fact, the concert was in a high school she had attended,” adds the member of both the Bluegrass and Country Music Halls of Fame. “Anyway, she caught my eye, this little gal who came from a family of 10, which included seven brothers. Come to find out, her family members were fans of mine. Brantford is a pleasant place on the Grand River, which had a few factories, and it’s known as Telephone City, because it’s where Alexander Graham Bell lived while inventing the telephone. We dated a while before we got married, so we got to know each other pretty well.” Thus Mac and Marge were wed April 29, 1962. Marjory cherished the life she had been blessed with, especially their children, daughter Maxine and son Scott Wiseman. Survivors also include brothers Jim, Floyd and George Brennan; and a sister, Dorothy Barton. Private arrangements were handled by Spring Hill Funeral Home & Cemetery, in Nashville.
Iconic music producer Rick Hall, 85, died from cancer at his home in Muscle Shoals, Ala., Jan. 2. Hall, as an itinerant musician played in the bands Country Pals and the rock and roll Fairlanes, but won lasting renown for work at his FAME Studios, founded in 1959, in Florence (with FAME meaning Florence, Alabama Music Enterprises), partnering with Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford. Two years later, Rick relocated it to Muscle Shoals, as sole owner, hosting legendary names of pop, soul, country, rock, including Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Brenda Lee, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Otis Redding, Duane Allman, The Osmonds, Mac Davis, Paul Anka, Keith Richards and country band Shenandoah. Back then, Rick was able to bring black and white musicians alike in to record in segregated Alabama, situated in the Deep South. As he once wrote of the 1960s, “It was a dangerous time, but the studio was a safe haven, where blacks and whites could work together in musical harmony.” Conway Twitty, anxious to discard his rock status, came aboard to record country style in his mid-1960s’ effort to convince Decca Records’ Owen Bradley he could score in that genre. Obviously he proved his point, going on to cut 40 #1 country discs, including duets with Loretta Lynn. Actually a native of neighboring Forest Grove, Miss., Hall made his mark so well, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame (1985) and was recipient of a 2014 Grammy Trustees Award. A multi-instrumentalist, he earned plaudits as producer, songwriter (with cuts by Roy Orbison, George Jones and Brenda Lee) and publisher. A 2013 music film documentary “Muscle Shoals” depicted his achievements, as did his memoirs “The Man From Muscle Shoals: My Journey From Shame to Fame,” published in 2015. In that book, Hall explained, “Black music helped broaden my musical horizons and open my eyes and ears to the widespread appeal of the so-called ‘race’ music that later became known as Rhythm & Blues.” Survivors include wife Linda Kay Hall, sons Rick, Jr., Mark and Rodney, and five grandchildren.
    Patricia Diane Frakes, 80, daughter of pioneer studio drummer Farris Coursey (“There Stands The Glass,” Webb Pierce; “Fraulein,” Bobby Helms) died Jan. 3. She had been a dental assistant to her brother-in-law Dr. Grady Bryant. A devoted member of the First Baptist Church, Goodlettsville. Survivors include daughter Karen Thompson, son Farris Scott Frakes, and two grandchildren Talon and Caitlin. Services were conducted Jan. 8 by Cole & Garrett Funeral Home, with graveside prayer at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
     Tennessee Radio Hall of Famer Hairl Hensley, 81, died Dec. 31 in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. Known as “Dean of the Grand Ole Opry announcers,” Hensley was an East Tennessee native, who moved to Nashville after working at WNOX-Knoxville, hosting the Tennessee Barn Dance, to DJ in Music City, first at WKDA and WMAK before being engaged as WLAC program director. In 1972, he was hired by WSM, where he served 35 years as Opry announcer, and hosting the station’s Orange Possum Special bluegrass program, and announcing The Porter Wagoner Show. In 1995, Hairl was inducted into the DJ Hall of Fame, and into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame in 2014. Additional honors include CMA DJ of the Year in 1975; and the 2000 Voice Award Personality of the Year. Preceded in death by wife Paula Jones Hensley, survivors include children Lisa Metzel, Hairl Scott Hensley, and Bronie Victory, plus stepchildren Susan Cowden and Robert Kennedy; and numerous grandchildren. Services were conducted Jan. 5 by Spring Hill Funeral Home & Cemetery.
     Bluegrass Hall of Famer Curly Seckler, 98, died in his sleep, Dec. 27. Seckler and wife Eloise Warren Seckler (formerly widowed by fiddler Paul Warren) celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary Dec. 26, the day after his 98th birthday. Seckler, like pal Mac Wiseman, was one of the original Flatt & Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys, working on and off for the duo from 1949 to 1962, appearing with them on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. Curly’s distinctive tenor’s best heard on Flatt & Scruggs’ “Salty Dog Blues,” “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “I’ll Go Steppin’, Too.” He had earlier performed with Charlie Monroe’s Kentucky Pardners, and later Mac Wiseman’s Country Boys, the Stanley Brothers’ Clinch Mountain Boys, Jim & Jesse’s Virginia Boys, and lastly Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass, assuming role of bandleader upon Flatt’s 1979 death.
Born John Ray Sechler on Christmas Day 1919, to Carrie and Calvin Sechler in China Grove, N.C., he later changed the spelling to Seckler, thinking it easier to pronounce. Curly became best known for his rhythm mandolin pickin’ and tenor harmony vocals in duets and such, heard to good effect on Flatt & Scruggs’ 1949 “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and Jim & Jesse’s 1952 ballad “Are You Missing Me?” His musical talents evolved from his father who played harmonica, autoharp and fiddle, while mom played guitar and organ. It was she who taught him and brothers George and Duard the basics of pickin’ and singin’. Curly purchased a tenor banjo from local musician Happy Trexler, who would engage the siblings for his band. As another brother grew old enough, they began a family band, The Yodeling Rangers. Before long, the boys were performing daily on a radio program in Salisbury, N.C., and a short time later, they became The Trail Riders. At 19, Curly joined nationally-known Charlie Monroe’s band (after his split from brother Bill Monroe), performing on WBIG-Greensboro, N.C. Curly was just 19. In 1941, he bought his first mandolin.
Although he dropped out of school after the sixth grade to work in a local cotton mill, Curly was a quick learner, and even got to writing songs, among these were “That Old Book of Mine,” “Purple Heart,” “No Mother Or Dad” and “I’ll Never Shed Another Tear,” the latter two recorded by Flatt & Scruggs. After leaving the duo in 1962, he took time off from touring until Lester called on him to join his new band Nashville Grass in 1973. Seckler stepped away from the band in 1994, when he opted for retirement, though he continued to record, four albums, including “60 Years of Bluegrass With My Friends,” “Bluegrass, Don’t You Know,” and performed at special events as the occasion rose.
The International Bluegrass Music Association presented him a Distinguished Achievement Award in 1996, and inducted him into their prestigious Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2010, he was honored by his home state with induction into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. In 2016, Penny Parsons authored his biography “Foggy Mountain Troubadour: The Life & Music of Curly Seckler.” Survivors include wife Eloise, sons Ray and Monnie Seckler, stepchildren Gary and Johnny Warren and Debra Frazier; six grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and two great-great grandchildren. Funeral services were held at Spring Hill Funeral Home with interment in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens, Jan. 1.

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Music City Beat – December 2017

‘The Gambler,’ Kenny Rogers, Holds a Winning Hand!

NASHVILLE — For the finale, Kenny Rogers took the spotlight as Nashville hitmakers paid tribute to the Country Music Hall of Famer during an “All In For The Gambler” tribute in the Bridgestone Arena here, Oct. 25. Among those coming to town to salute the veteran entertainer was ex-duet partner Dolly Parton, who declared, “I know I’m artificial but I like to think my heart is real, and I have a spot there for you that’s never ever going to be touched by anybody else,” then serenaded him with her self-penned classic “I Will Always Love You.” Rogers announced in 2015 he’ll retire upon completion of his world tour, which concludes in December. Opening the show was the Oak Ridge Boys recreating Rogers’ “Love Or Something Like It,” and also taking the stage in tribute throughout were luminaries like Kris Kristofferson, Lionel Richie, Lady Antebellum, Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town. The day before, Rogers was feted with induction into the Music City Walk of Fame by way of a cement star bearing his name implanted on the pathway, across the street from the downtown Country Hall of Fame. As most fans are aware, Rogers first scored career-wise with his First Edition group (mainly featuring former members of The New Christy Minstrels), hitting the charts with such late 1960s’ classics as “I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” and “Reuben James.” Solo he chalked up country-pop crossover cuts like “Lucille,” “She Believes In Me,” “Coward Of the County,” “Lady” (which Lionel Richie wrote), million sellers all, and the 1983 platinum single “Islands In the Stream” (with Parton). Other famed duet partners he recorded with include the late Dottie West, Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton and Ronnie Milsap. Rogers’ 1978 monster hit “The Gambler,” spawned a series of films, one featuring Reba McEntire, who paid her respects here singing “Reuben James.” Other Rogers’ films include “Six Pack,” “Coward Of the County” and “Rio Diablo.” Wynonna dedicated “You Turn the Light On” to Kenny, then beckoned mom Naomi join in for “Back To The Well,” marking a momentary reuniting of The Judds. The prize for traveling the longest distance goes to Richie, winging his way from Australia, to sing “Lady.” Producer Keith Wortman deserves a tip of the Stetson for conceiving and casting the farewell show, during most of which Kenny and wife Wanda viewed from the sidelines. Rogers, 79, seemed a bit shaky taking the stage to participate with Parton for their “mic drop” finale, and mainly sat on a stool beside her as she spoke of their long association, before reprising their greatest hit “Islands In the Stream” (penned by BeeGees’ siblings Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb). At its conclusion, Dolly suggested to Kenny, “How about me and you going out like rock stars?,” as they held out their microphones, then dropped them before sauntering off stage together. It was a memorable night for the artists and the audience.
      Scene Stealers: Kris Kristofferson came back to Nashville to help promote the release of a concert film “The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson,” comprised of footage from a March 2017 all-star tribute at the Bridgestone Arena. Following a telecast Oct. 27 on the CMT cable network, the video will be available in stores nationwide. Kris, 81, was not only born into a military family in Brownsville, Texas, but went on to serve as an Army helicopter pilot reaching the rank of captain before being honorably discharged, much to the chagrin of his dad, who retired from the Army Air Corps a two-star general (and Kris’ Swedish granddad had also been an officer in the Swedish army). A Pomona College graduate, in 1960, Kris obtained a Ph.D in English literature and earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in the UK. Anxious to jumpstart his music career, primarily as a songwriter, he relocated to Nashville, where to feed an empty stomach, he took a job as janitor sweeping floors at Columbia Records, until Dave Dudley gave him his first success singing his “Vietnam Blues” (#12, 1966), followed by Roy Drusky’s smooth vocal on “Jody & The Kid,” a 1968 Top 20, Roger Miller’s “Me & Bobby McGee” (#12, 1969), and Faron Young’s “Your Time’s Coming” (#3, 1969), though 1970 was the year that sealed his fate as writer, when Jerry Lee Lewis had a near chart-topper with Kris’ “Once More With Feeling,” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (Johnny Cash), “For the Good Times” (Ray Price) and “Help Me Make It Through The Night” (Sammi Smith) all hit #1, earning him beaucoup best writer awards. The rest is history, with him attaining his first #1 disc that he recorded, “Why Me” in 1973, and starring in a succession of movies, notably “Cisco Pike,” “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and “A Star Is Born.” Currently, he suffers from Lyme Disease, yet continues to make appearances on stage and in films, most recently playing himself in Stephen Dorff’s 2017 release “Wheeler,” directed by Ryan Ross. Kris was named to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the National Songwriters Hall of Fame and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
        Bits & Pieces: Looks like Lee Thomas Miller’s been taking his recent visits to lobby on behalf of songwriters in Washington, D.C., to heart, as rumor has it he’s filed the proper papers enabling him to seek the seat being vacated by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). She’s planning to run for the U.S. Senate seat Bob Corker’s retiring from in 2018. Miller, president of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), is a veteran tunesmith himself, having penned seven #1 songs including Joe Nichols’ “The Impossible,” Brad Paisley’s “I’m Still a Guy,” and Terri Clark’s “I Just Wanna Be Mad.”  . . . An Oct. 27 shooting suspect faced aggravated assault charges in Tupelo, Miss., for wounding a man in the chest, following a Jason Aldean concert. Steven Michael Hulbert, 22, allegedly pulled out his pistol during an argument, firing a half-dozen shots, wounding a victim and damaging vehicles in the arena parking lot. The victim, who was not identified, was subsequently treated and released from North Mississippi Medical Center. Reportedly, he alerted police that the suspect was attempting to flee in his car, and he was apprehended and taken to Lee County Jail. Patrons still inside the arena were held, pending a police all-clear signal. Hulbert was held in Lee County Jail, pending $100,000 bond, paid the next day, and awaits a scheduled court hearing. Ironically, during the gig, Aldean lamented the recent assault gun massacre in Las Vegas, Oct. 1, where Stephen Paddock killed 57, wounded close to 500 other fans, and took his own life, in country music’s worst shooting on record . . . Apparently due to gun control sympathies, following the Oct. 1 Vegas disaster, perpetrated by Stephen Paddock, armed with an assault weapon, killing 57 people, NRA Country has since erased Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett from its website. In 2010, they were among the first welcomed with open arms into the National Rifle Association’s then-new program NRA Country, and even earned star of the month status. Obviously, it seemed a perfect fit for the conservative association (which lobbies congress with a heavy hand, dissing any gun control proposals), and Nashville’s down-home country community boasting such gun-friendly folk as Hank Williams, Jr. (“Gonna Go Huntin’ Tonight”) and Toby Keith (“Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue, The Angry American”). Politically, it’s true country has long favored far-right Republicans, proving just that in 2003, when liberal ladies – The Dixie Chicks – criticized President George W. Bush abroad, only to return stateside to find a major industry-wide boycott of their music, for speaking out against Bush policies . . . Carrie Underwood’s hubby Mike Fisher has been invited to serve as Grand Marshal of Nashville’s 64th annual Christmas Parade, sponsored by Piedmont National Gas, slated Dec. 2 downtown. It’s likely the first time a hockey hero has been invited to do the honors, but Mike’s glad to take on the challenge, noting a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the   Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

     Honors: Yet another country music icon’s being celebrated on Lower Broad, this time it’s Bakersfield Sound specialist Merle Haggard. According to Bill & Shannon Miller, the Country Music Hall of Famer’s museum will also include Merle’s Meat & Three Saloon, with a Summer 2018 scheduled opening at 121 Third Avenue South, next to Miller’s Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash museums. Reportedly, the site will exhibit awards, instruments, costumes and other memorabilia of the man who was as famous for his songwriting as for his unique vocals, thanks to such songs as “Swinging Doors,” “Mama Tried,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me.” (The Hag died on his 79th birthday, April, 6, 2016.) . . . Incidentally, Merle Haggard was posthumously presented the Country Music Association’s Joe Talbot Award, Oct. 30, by CMA’s Sarah Trahern, chief executive officer, which was accepted by his widow Theresa. The award goes to those who foster “outstanding leadership and contributions to the preservation and advancement of country music’s values and traditions.” Joe Talbot, a steel guitarist, spent his later life working behind the scenes advancing the interests of the country music business community and served as Lifetime Director for the CMA, prior to his passing in 2003 . . .  Alan Jackson accepted his Fame medal, Oct. 22, officially acknowledging his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, home to many of his heroes, including newly inducted Jerry Reed, who died in 2008, and ace songwriter Don Schlitz, who stated, “It’s overwhelming . . . It means I’m a part of something that’s bigger than me, and that’s a great thing, to be a part of, something that’s bigger than yourself.” Undoubtedly, each has earned the honor of being enshrined as the Class of 2017, and all three could claim credit as songwriter, as Jackson, 59, wrote his first seven Billboard chartings, including “Here In the Real World,” “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow,” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “Someday.” Jerry Reed, like Jackson scored as a recording artist, but wrote his 1967 breakthrough song “Guitar Man,” reflecting his expertise on the instrument, and his first #1 “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” and co-wrote “East Bound and Down,” heard in the Burt Reynolds’ film “Smokey & The Bandit,” in which he played. Other film roles Reed contributed include “Gator,” “What Comes Around” and “The Waterboy.” Schlitz, 65, provided songs for a variety of artists, including “The Gambler” (Kenny Rogers), which Don himself first cut for Capitol in 1978, “Forever & Ever, Amen” (Randy Travis), “Old School” (John Conlee) and “Strong Enough To Bend” (Tanya Tucker) . . . The Nashville Songwriters Association International conducted its 47th annual Hall of Fame gala, inducting five composers into its prestigious hall of honor, Oct. 23: Walt Aldridge, Dewayne Blackwell, Jim McBride, Tim Nichols and the late Vern Gosdin. Accepting on behalf of Gosdin, who died in April 2009, was former co-writer-producer Buddy Cannon. Known mostly as “The Voice,” Gosdin co-wrote some of his greatest hits, among them “If You’re Gonna Do Me Wrong, Do It Right,” “Do You Believe Me Now,” “Set ‘Em Up, Joe” and “I’m Still Crazy” (co-authored by Cannon). Aldridge’s credits include “No Getting Over Me” (Ronnie Milsap), “Holding Her and Loving You” (Earl Thomas Conley) and “Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde” (Travis Tritt). Among Blackwell’s best are “Mr. Blue” (The Fleetwoods), “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino To Decorate Our Home” (David Frizzell) and “Friends In Low Places” (Garth Brooks). Jim McBride wrote such standards as “A Bridge That Just Won’t Burn” (Conway Twitty),  “Bet Your Heart On Me” (Johnny Lee), and “Chattahoochee” (Alan Jackson). Tim Nichols hit pay-dirt with such as “I’m Over You” (Keith Whitley), “Live Like You Were Dyin’” (Tim McGraw) and “I’ll Think Of a Reason Later” (Lee Ann Womack). At the same ceremony, NSAI awarded the Keith Urban single “Blue Ain’t Your Color” its Song of the Year trophy to writers Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey and Steven Lee Olsen. Ashley Gorley was voted Songwriter of the Year, his third, for supplying hits like “Today” to Brad Paisley, Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots,” and Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road.” Luke Bryan emerged with NSAI artist-songwriter of the year, having helped pen “Light It Up” and “What Makes You Country.”
     More Awards: CMA’s 51st annual awards celebration again was co-hosted (for the 10th time) by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, though this time they had to walk a fine line to balance humor with tragedy, notably the sad Las Vegas shooting incident that occurred only weeks earlier. Eric Church started the show with an amazing a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Kicking off the evening’s entertainment, Underwood and Paisley picked on politics by parodying Carrie’s hit “Before He Cheats,” changing the topic to “Before He Tweets,” taking aim at the President, with the altered lyric “And it’s fun to watch/Yeah, that’s for sure/’Til little Rocket Man, starts a nuclear war . . . And then maybe he’ll think before he Tweets!” In addition to paying homage to the lives lost in the chaotic country concert in Vegas, scene of America’s deadliest shooting spree,  the show recognized major names lost this past year, among them Glen Campbell, Greg Allman, Don Williams, Troy Gentry, CMA’s Jo Walker-Meador, Norro Wilson, Billy Mize, and in memoriam Carrie performed a touching version of “Softly and Tenderly.” Those in the 2017 winner’s circle were Garth Brooks taking home his sixth Entertainer of the Year award; Miranda Lambert was voted best female vocalist; Chris Stapleton, male vocalist; Little Big Town, vocal group; The Brothers Osborne, vocal duo; Jon Pardi, best new artist; and Mac McAnally, guitarist, top musician. Taylor Swift’s “Better Man” by Little Big Town, earned song of the year; Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” voted best single (co-produced by Keith and Dann Huff); “From a Room, Volume 1,” by Chris Stapleton, as produced by Chris and Dave Cobb, won best album; while the Glen Campbell-Willie Nelson collaboration “Funny How Time Slips Away” garnered best event; and Brothers Osborne’s video “It Ain’t My Fault,” directed by Wes Edwards & Ryan Silver, was voted tops. Days later, welcome news for the CMA and ABC-TV disclosed that the show scored a win in that night’s TV ratings, doubling its number from the year before. According to a press release, social listening impressions attained 4.56 billion, whatever, and ABC “delivered the highest rating for any network on any night this season with entertainment programming.” . . . As for the three royalty rights organizations during this Country Music Week in Nashville – SESAC, ASCAP and BMI – its members also celebrated in fine style. Justin Ebach got his premier #1 cut in January 2017 with “Sleep Without You,” which near year’s end earned him SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year honor. Brett Young took Ebach’s song to the top of the chart, and acknowledged it was co-written with Brett and Kelly Archer. Best Song of 2017 winner, however, was Billy Currington’s single “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To,” co-written with Cary Barlowe and Shy Carter. Lady Antebellum singer Hillary Scott received SESAC’s Humanitarian Award for philanthropic work with her group’s LadyAID Fund; and Kenny Rogers was presented SESAC’s Legacy Award for his music contributions. W.B.M. Music was named Publisher of the Year, all this on Nov. 5 . . . At ASCAP’s 55th annual awards night, Nov. 6, Ashley Gorley was named best songwriter, marking his fifth win in that category. This year’s Gorley output includes Brad Paisley’s “Today,” Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots,” and Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road.” Old Dominion’s Matthew Ramsey was voted Best Artist-Songwriter, thanks in part to “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” and “Written In the Sand.” Kelsea Ballerina earned ASCAP’s Vanguard award “for those who help shape the future of American music.” Receiving the organization’s Founder’s Award was veteran singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell, an honor reserved for those who not only have made contributions to the art form, but also inspire and influence fellow music creators. A touching tribute to the late Glen Campbell included writer Jimmy Webb performing his hit “By the Time I Get To Phoenix,” which Glen recorded, making it a classic . . . BMI’s main men at its 2017 awards presentation proved to be Bob DiPiero and Keith Urban, Nov. 7, at its headquarters on Music Row. DiPiero received the organization’s Icon Award in recognition for his lengthy list of contributions to the industry, including songs such as George Strait’s “Clear Blue Sky,” John Anderson’s “Money In the Bank” and Brooks & Dunn’s “Daddy’s Money,” all of which were performed during the reception by various artists. Urban was honored with BMI’s Champion Award for support to up-and-coming songwriters and musicians in the business. Among his philanthropic activities was helping to raise nearly $6 million for the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum via All For The Hall charity concerts, while also supporting music in the schools. According to Mike O’Neill, BMI president, “Your career is what dreams are made of . . . Through your philanthropy you are inspiring children across America with the same dreams.” In accepting the award, Urban insisted he was far from being a perfect person, but noted, “I’m a very flawed individual who has been given many chances over and over again to get my (life) together and I have people who have stood by me . . . I have been in this town 25 years now, and in that 25 years, I’ve been in three rehabs. I have people who have stood by me, because they believed in me and that gave me the chance to give back. I just love playing music. I love writing songs. I love making records.” And he’s also quite a guitarist. Ross Copperman won the best songwriter of 2017 trophy, his second, thanks to such songs as “I Know Somebody” (LoCash), “Noise” (Kenny Chesney) and “Wanna Be That Song” (Brett Eldredge). “H.O.L.Y.,” by Nate Cyphert, William Larsen and Mike Busbee was voted song of the year, as recorded by Florida Georgia Line. Another award went to Sony/ATV voted publisher of the year.
       Ailing: Bluegrass pioneer Bobby Osborne, 86, suffered a fall in his home and was rushed to a hospital, Nov. 27. The artist was still there when word came that he had been nominated for a Grammy award for his “Original” solo album in the bluegrass category. Earlier nods came for his contribution to a Rhonda Vincent collaboration and, of course, an effort with brother Sonny as The Osborne Brothers. After learning of his latest achievement, Bobby said, “It was such a surprise for me to hear, especially in here!” Days later he was released, and expected to return to the Opry with his Rocky Top X-Press band. Fifty-two years ago, The Osborne Brothers became Opry regulars, and their recordings “Rocky Top” and “Kentucky” each became official state songs. Bobby, noted for both his high tenor lead vocals and skilled mandolin playing, was wounded in the 1950s’ Korean War, during Marine Corps service, earning a Purple Heart . . . Singer Carrie Underwood, 34, also suffered a fall on the steps outside her home in mid-November, which required surgery on her wrist. She soon Tweeted, “I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m doing great. Had surgery on my wrist yesterday and all went well . . . even though I’ll be setting off airport metal detectors from now on.” The star celebrated the release of her second concert DVD, Nov. 17, “The Storyteller Tour: Live From Madison Square Garden.”
      Final Curtain: Ex-Texas Troubadour lead guitarist Leon Rhodes, 85, succumbed to a heart attack the morning of Dec. 9, 2017, at his Donelson neighborhood home here. The Texan had also been a WSM Grand Ole Opry staff band member (1966-1999), as well as a band regular on the syndicated Hee Haw TV series some 20years. Born March 10, 1932, son of Mary and James Rhodes, Leon first learned to play on his older brother’s guitar, and by age 16 was appearing on his hometown’s Big D Jamboree on KRLD-Dallas, playing guitar or drums, as needed. Leon had already recorded with such later legends as Lefty Frizzell and Ray Price, when “Texas Troubadour” Ernest Tubb engaged him for his renowned Troubadour band (1959-1966). Troubadour bandsmen Buddy Emmons and Jack Drake first heard Leon, and recommended E.T. hire him to succeed departing Billy Byrd. Besides Opry appearances and touring, Tubb utilized Rhodes on records, including “Waltz Across Texas,” and can be heard on vinyl calling out, “Take it away, Leon!” He worked the road with such players as Cal Smith and Jack Greene, and in sessions for such names as Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, George Strait, Reba McEntire and John Denver. Upon hearing of Rhodes’ passing, acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Chris Davies Scruggs wrote on Instagram: “In my opinion, Leon was one of the greatest country guitarists of all time, and one of the finest jazz men to ever take the stage in a cowboy suit.” He also worked behind-the-scenes as a musicians’ union official and board member. Survivors include Judi, his wife of 52 years; children Diane, Leon, Tonja, Todd, Tag, Tara, Tammy and Tandy; 25 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren. Services were conducted at Hermitage Funeral Home & Gardens, here, Dec. 12.
     Ventriloquist and country comic Walter Alexander Houston, 85, died Oct. 28 at his home in Nashville with wife Sherry by his side. “Alex” learned to throw his voice at age 3, much to the amazement of his parents John and Mary Jo Houston, as he had only begun to talk a bit earlier. Initially, Alex toured the U.S., Japan and Europe with his dad’s dance troupe The Echo Inn Cloggers, while winning national championships. This developed his desire to perform, and with his dummy “Elmer” entertained for many years, culminating in a regular role for the duo on CBS-TV’s The Jimmy Dean Show (1957-’58). Following a move to Nashville, he hosted his own local variety program The Alex & Elmer Show three years, which led to guest spots on Hee Haw, and invitations to tour as opening act for such country artists as Alabama, Ronnie Milsap, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, over a 30-year career, and even guesting on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. In later years, Alex performed with friends Jimmy & Emma Smith, as well as playing community venues in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. A celebration of life will be held March 17, 2018 at Life Changer’s Church, Pigeon Forge. Besides wife Sherry and “buddy” Elmer, survivors include daughters Laurie Canham, Bonnie Solomon, Cindy Hazen and Jennifer Sidham; sons Matthew and Sam Sidham; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
    Musician Terry Alan Elam, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., died Oct. 11, following a brief illness. At 19 years old, Terry began working as a musician, but later veered off into artist representation, including co-managing artists such as Vince Gill, during 28 years with Fitzgerald-Hartley Management in Nashville. “My dad was a great guy who touched a lot of lives in the Nashville music business,” recalled son Brett Elam. Survivors include Donna, his wife of 42 years; daughter Erica Elam; sons Brett, Matthew and Scott Elam; mother Helen Elam Horne and four grandchildren

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Music City Beat – November 2017

Assassin attacks 22,000 fans as singer Jason Aldean performs Oct. 1 in Las Vegas!

NASHVILLE — Country music suffered a blow, as did all America, when a lone gunman situated on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, opened fire on some 22,000 fans at an all-star concert headlined by Jason Aldean, Oct. 1. Besides assailant Stephen Paddock, who committed suicide following his shooting rampage, there were 58 known deaths and another 500 wounded. Artists and attendees alike scrambled, seeking safety at the outdoor Route 91 Country Harvest Festival, which offered scant space for cover. Paddock, 64, busted out two of the hotel’s secured windows with a hammer, enabling him to fire automatic assault weapons with telescopic sights down into the crowd, located some 400 yards below. Hotel reps said he had checked in Sept. 30. First responders were hampered somewhat by frightened fans trying to capture the melee with cell-phones, making it difficult for the police and rescue teams to determine where the shots came from. Assisting the county sheriff and local police were FBI agents, as victims were rushed to nearby hospitals for ER treatment. “Tonight has been beyond horrific,” tweeted Aldean, Oct. 1. “I still dont (sic) know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.” Reportedly Paddock was a regular visitor to the gambling capitol, and known as a high roller who bet many thousands of dollars. He met his girlfriend Marilu Danley, 62, a Filipino native, there where she had been a casino hostess. Police learned she had been in the Far East at the time of the shooting, traveling on an Australian passport, and allegedly had recently deposited $100,000 in a U.S. bank in The Philippines. She returned Stateside Oct. 4 as “a person of interest,” undergoing extensive questioning by officials, hoping to find out what may have set Paddock off, and perhaps why he had purchased more than 50 weapons in five states, including high-powered rifles and machine guns utilized in his Oct. 1 shooting spree, just prior to taking his own life. Younger brother Eric Paddock disclosed that through real estate sales and his gambling, Stephen was worth in excess of $2 million dollars and had been living with Danley in a Mesquite, Nev. retirement community some 60 miles from Vegas, but he also owned property in Reno, another gambling mecca. Although ISIS tried to take credit for the tragedy, authorities indicate it was a more likely a domestic terrorist act committed solely by Paddock. In 2012, he sued another Vegas casino after slipping on its floor, but a judge threw that suit out in 2014. As the shooting began, Aldean was the final act to perform, and was into his fifth song – “When She Says Baby” – as he heard the popping sounds, and scurried off-stage. On Instagram, Aldean, 40, father of two daughters and expecting a baby with new wife Brittany, sent the following message in part: “Over the last 24 hrs I have gone through lots of emotions. Scared, Anger, Heartache, Compassion and many others. I truely dont (sic) understand why a person would want to take the life of another . . . Something has changed in this country and in this world lately that is scary to see . . . At the end of the day we arent (sic) Democrats or Republicans, Whites or Blacks, Men or Women, we are all humans and we are all Americans and its (sic) time to start acting like it and stand together as ONE.”
Scene Stealers: Hurricane Irma did a number on Kenny Chesney’s estate on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, demolishing his home; however, the country singer says “That place and the people mean so much more to me than my house. And I’m going to do everything that I possibly can to try to relieve some stress from people that I’ve really grown to love over the years, who have meant so much to my life.” Regarding his house, he mused, “When you look through the window right now, as you can tell, it’s just devastation.” When the storm struck the island Sept. 7, he wasn’t at home, but says 20 people and pets sought shelter there and when the windows blew out, moved into a big closet. Meanwhile, the British Virgin Islands suffered significant damages and it was even worse for 3-1/2 million Americans residing in Puerto Rico, hit by Irma and 14 days later by Hurricane Maria. Aid for these residents has been much slower, and as of this writing many were without power and lacked necessities, particularly water and food . . . Luke Bryan has been invited to participate as a judge on the newly revived American Idol, which was canceled by Fox network in 2016. In a Twitter posting, Luke boasted, “I’ll be joined by the beautiful Ms. Katy Perry and my hero Lionel Richie. I can’t wait to be a part of the show and I’m so excited to see all the talent out there that America has. It’s going to be an exciting year. I’m so honored and we’re going to have some fun.” Reportedly Ryan Seacrest returns as host for the talent series being telecast by ABC as a Sunday night program, premiering in March 2018.
Bits & Pieces: Country singer Scotty McCreery just confided he’ll marry his former kindergarten classmate Gabi Dugal, currently a pediatric cardiac nurse at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C. Scotty popped the question near Grandfather Mountain in their native North Carolina, getting down on his knees to do so: “I’ve been planning this moment for so long that it feels surreal for it to have finally happened. Gabi is the perfect girl and my true love, and I cannot wait to begin building our life together as husband and wife.” . . . Country queen Carrie Underwood is upset by the claim of Canadian songwriters Georgia Lyons and Ron McNeill that her hit “Something In the Water” was cribbed from their creation of the same title.
Reportedly, the pair had submitted their song for consideration through a Nashville promoter, and are now suing Underwood, her co-writers of the song she recorded, Brett James and Chris DeStefano, along with producer Mark Bright, their publishers and the label Sony Music, seeking “unspecified damages.” Carrie’s 2014 release reached Billboard’s #1 hot country songs and #1 Christian charts, and earned her a Grammy for best country solo performance. The artist says she’s “saddened” being accused of stealing the song, adding it was actually a  deeply personal number . . . Meanwhile, Carrie’s mate Mike Fisher, himself a Canadian, recently retired as captain of the Nashville hockey team The Predators, and can take heart in the fact it took not one but two players to succeed him as skipper. Roman Josi was voted initially to serve as Captain, however, for the first time ever, the Preds have added the title Associate Captain, elevating teammate Ryan Ellis into that position. It was in September 2016 that Fisher succeeded Shea Weber as team captain, becoming the seventh since 1998. But recently he decided to hang up his skates and spend more time with Carrie and son Isaiah . . . The Academy of Country Music’s current Entertainer of the Year, Jason Aldean has announced a new book for sale, “Family, Friends & Fans,” which he’s written with Tom Carter. Reportedly, it presents the people who helped shape him, including anecdotes and stories. Meantime, “Jason Aldean: Asphalt Cowboy,” a special exhibit currently honoring the hit-maker at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, wraps Nov. 7.
Honors: Superstar Keith Urban and veteran songwriter Bob DiPiero are slated to receive specialty awards at the 65th annual BMI Country Awards, Nov. 7. Urban’s will be the Broadcast Music Inc.’s Champion Award, recognizing his efforts on behalf of promising writers and his generosity towards music education programs. He’s currently hitting with his CD “Ripcord.” According to BMI Nashville chief Jody Williams, “Not only is Keith Urban one of the most talented and prolific songwriters in the industry, but he’s also a true humanitarian.” DiPiero will be named a BMI Icon that evening, acknowledging his profound influence on the music industry. DiPiero’s credits include such standards as “American Made,” “Blue Clear Sky,” “Wink” and “Little Rock.” . . . The Association For Recorded Sounds Collections (ARSC) has announced its winner of the best country book of the year is Bill Anderson’s biography “Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life In Country Music,” co-written with Peter Cooper. Their award will be presented at a May 12, 2018 ceremony during ARSC’s annual conference. Congrats! . . . The  Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum now boasts Ray Stevens’ permanent exhibit “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music.” The display celebrates Stevens’ 60 years in music – “Ray Stevens: Everything Is Beautiful” – and includes his Grammy awards, Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Hall of Fame Induction Award (1980) and his Spinet keyboard. Incidentally, Stevens’ CabaRay Nashville telecast on Public TV is now in its third season.
More Awards: Previously announced inductees into the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame are pioneering artists Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, fiddler Bobby Hicks, and mandolinist Roland White, all honored at the 28th annual International Bluegrass Music Awards show, Sept. 28, in Duke Performing Arts Center, Raleigh, N.C. Winners cited include: Best Entertainer: The Earls of Leicester; Female Vocalist: Brooke Aldridge; Male Vocalist: Shawn Camp; Vocal Group: Flatt Lonesome; Instrumental Group: Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper; Emerging Act: Volume Five; Best Song: “I Am a Drifter,” Volume Five, co-writers Donna Ulisse and Marc Rossi; Best Album, “Mountain Voodoo,” Balsam Range; and as Best Songwriter: Tim Stafford. Winners in the following categories were: Best Bluegrass Event: “Pickin’ In Parsons,” Parsons, W. Va.; Best Gospel Performance (a tie): “I Found a Church Today,” The Gibson Brothers, with writers Eric & Leigh Gibson; and “Sacred Memories,” Joe Mullins & Radio Ramblers with artists Sharon White and Ricky Skaggs, and as writer Dolly Parton. Best Recorded Event: “I’ve Got a Message To You,” Bobby Osborne with guests Sierra Hull, Alison Brown, Rob Ickes, Stuart Duncan, Trey Hensley, Todd Phillips, Kenny Malone, Claire Lynch and Bryan McDowell, as produced by Alison Brown. Best Instrumental Recorded Event: “Fiddler’s Dream,” Michael Cleveland, artist, and writer Arthur Smith; and Molly Tuttle became the first female to win Best Guitarist. Other instrumental winners: Noam Pikelny, banjo; Alan Bartram, bass; Josh Swift, dobro; Patrick McAvinue, fiddle; and Sierra Hull, mandolin.
Ailing: Singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell has canceled his remaining gigs for 2017, to obtain treatment for a health problem. The artist, best known for such self-penned #1 singles as “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried,” and Grammy-winning “After All This Time,” noted on Facebook: “An impressive team of doctors have confirmed what for the past year I’ve instinctively known: dealing with the root cause of my health issues requires complete rest . . . For the foreseeable future, with expert medical guidance, my work will consist of quietly encouraging my body to return to its natural state. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.” . . . Veteran Grand Ole Opry trouper Jesse McReynolds, 88, has suffered an aneurysm that sidelines the master mandolinist, who won fame with his late brother Jim McReynolds as Jim & Jesse, known for hits such as “Diesel On My Tail.”
Farewell Curtain: This past month saw the passing of country family members. Billie Christene (Doan) Gatlin, 88, died Sept. 15. She was Mom to entertainers Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers (Steve and Rudy), and daughter LaDonna Johnson. Survivors include her husband of 70 years William (Curley) Gatlin, four children, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren (and one on the way).
Bobbye Jean Drusky, 87, widow of 1960s’ hitmaker Roy Drusky, Sept. 20, following a brief illness. Hubby, a longtime Grand Ole Opry star, was famed for such successes as “Another,” “Second Hand Rose” and “Yes, Mr. Peters.” Surviving are the couple’s three sons, Roy, Jr. (Twig), Tad and Tip; and four grandchildren. (Drusky died in 2004.)
Doris Shrode Loden, 86, widow of singer-songwriter Sonny James, died Sept. 23, in Nashville. The couple had no children, but she is survived by sisters Sally Ribble and Betty Harris. Sonny, born James Hugh Loden, enjoyed a string of #1 singles including “Young Love,” “Running Bear” and “When the Snow Is On the Roses.” (He died Feb. 22, 2016.)

(Editor’s note: Jason Aldean band photo by Patricia Presley.)

 

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Music City Beat – Oct. 2017

Don Williams
Montgomery-Gentry

 

Death claims Gentry, Williams . . . . Wanda Jackson bio . . . Chris Young honored

 

NASHVILLE — Reportedly billionaire President Trump and First Lady Melania are donating a million dollars, targeted for Hurricane Harvey relief, but NFL Houston Texan football star J. J. Watt, 28, started small, creating a fund drive for victims of the disaster, setting a goal of $200,000. To the rugged defensive end’s amazement, that goal was surpassed almost immediately and has since logged some $20 million in pledges. Music members have also taken up the cause, with Willie Nelson joining music buddy Paul Simon, who with wife Edie Brickell, a Texan, matched the Trumps with their million dollar donation initially, but additionally plan charity concerts with Nelson, kicking off a benefit Sept. 22 in Austin. Incidentally, the Simons designated their personal donation for towns outside Houston, hard hit, too, by the storm. Cinema names also pledged million-dollar donations toward the Texas tragedy, notably Sandra Bullock, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tyler Perry. Back in 2005, Simon started the Children’s Health Fund, following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. New Opry star Chris Young chose to pledge $100,000 for the Harvey relief effort, noting in his Twitter post, “I have friends and family there, and I’m fairly positive my house down there may have to be torn down, as it was in one of the hardest hit areas by wind and flooding. But that’s the least of my concern. I’m worried about the people, like I said, my friends, family, neighbors, and I want to help.” Additionally, Young set up a GoFundMe account with a goal of $500,000, ear-marked for the Red Cross. Then there’s a four-city national telecast Sept. 12 – Hand In Hand: A Benefit For Hurricane Harvey Relief – a major simultaneous fund raiser from Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio and Nashville. Performers participating in Music City take the stage at the Grand Ole Opry House. Name country players set for the one-hour special include Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Chris Stapleton, Robert Earl Keen, along with Hollywood elites like George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey, Barbra Streisand, Drake, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Oprah Winfrey. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated cost of rebuilding the damaged state likely reaching $180 billion. Kip Moore and skateboard champ Tony Hawk joined talents to headline Harley-Davidson’s premier Music City Skate Jam, Sept. 10, in Nashville’s Walk of Fame Park downtown. Proceeds will benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey, along with Kip’s Kids Fund and Tony Hawk’s Foundation for needy young skaters. Moore shared this observation with the daily newspaper: “I’ve seen the impact my skate parks have had on the inner cities. I’ve seen the direct impact they’ve had on these kids. They are telling me it’s the first thing they’ve ever loved, and their parents are telling me it’s keeping them out of gangs.” Highlights of the Skate Jam were Hawk’s skating exhibition, followed by Moore’s concert. As this is being typed, Hurricane Irma looks likely to equal the Harvey damage in Florida, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. So stay tuned for further fund-raisers.
Scene Stealers: Chris Young was stunned when Vince Gill issued an invitation to become a regular cast member of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, Aug. 28. The husky vocalist then lifted Vince up high in excitement, before hunkering down to kiss the show’s revered Circle of Fame wooden cut-out upon which past legends performed on an earlier Opry stage. In reply to Gill’s invitation, Chris gave a resounding “Yes!,” capping 11 years of guestings on the historic show. Vince had teamed with Chris to produce their #1 collaboration, “Sober Saturday Night,” which earned Gold sales status. That same night, Young also accepted his first Platinum plaque indicative of more than a million sales of his CD “Neon.” . . . The annual Americana Music Festival commenced Sept. 12-17 at the new Westin-Nashville Hotel, with showcases being held at various venues across town, including Basement East, Station Inn, Family Wash and 3rd & Lindsley. Some 300 performers were scheduled, including the likes of Drive-By Truckers, Del McCoury, while Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale co-hosted the Americana awards presentations at the Ryman. Among artists appearing on that program are Van Morrison, Graham Nash, John Prine, Jason Isbell, Margo Price and Rodney Crowell. For further information on this event check out americanamusic.org

Bits & Pieces: Country legend John Anderson came through recent “medical procedures” with flying colors and just released a series of upcoming concerts scheduled, including the Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival, Morehead, Ky., Sept. 16, followed by stops in Dade City, Fla., Sept. 21; Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, Hurricane Mills, Tenn., Sept. 28; Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Sept. 29; and the Burleson County Fair, Caldwell, Texas, Sept. 30. Anderson sent this message, “I am thankful for the outpouring of prayers from friends and fans. All medical procedures went great and we’ll plan on seeing you all real soon.” Nothing like hearing the original hit-maker singing “Wild and Blue” and “Swingin’.” . . . Wanda Jackson’s biography “Every Night Is Saturday Night,” co-authored by journalist Scott Bomar, is slated for a Nov. 14 release date. Jackson, mainly hailed as a rockabilly pioneer, first charted country with her Decca duet “You Can’t Have My Love” (with Billy Gray), a song co-written by Hank Thompson, but suffered a lengthy dry spell between hits until her 1961 comeback on Capitol with back-to-back, self-penned Top 10 country discs “Right Or Wrong,” “In the Middle Of a Heartache.” Thereafter, she scored with her band The Party Timers via rock-flavored tunes, and their LP “You’ll Always Have My Love” (#25, 1967). Come Dec. 2, Wanda will autograph her book for fans at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville . . . If you’re a country music fan and have $4.2 million, you can buy the house where Tammy Wynette and George Jones loved, which later became the home of Earl and Louise Scruggs. Once dubbed “First Lady Acres,” the historic eight acres is being sold by Scott Underwood (ex-drummer with rock band Train), whose current listing represents a drop from a previously-advertised $5.5 million. His near 10,000 square foot home boasts nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a theater room, gym, pool, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, storm shelter, three-car garage, cabana and helicopter pad.
Honors: The Country Music Association’s roster of potential award winners was especially surprising for the lack of recognition shown such hit-makers as Jason Aldean (ACM’s current Entertainer of the Year), Blake Shelton (whose ex garnered five this year, to his zero) and Dustin Lynch, who despite five successive #1 discs on the Country Airplay Chart, suffered the embarrassment of announcing CMA nominees on national TV, but didn’t rate a nod, unlike co-hosts Lauren Alaina and the Osborne Brothers. “We have six first-time nominees (such as Lauren Alaina, who turns 23 on the awards date),” says Sarah Trahern, CEO, citing diversity in nominees for the 51st annual awards gala, including non-country names Pink, Rhiannon Giddens and Taylor Swift. “Then you have people (like Reba and Willie) who have been nominated for tons of years. We want to honor and mold all of this into an amazing three-hour show, Nov. 8.” So here are the 2017 CMA nominations: Entertainer of the Year – Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban; Female Singer: Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Maren Morris and Carrie Underwood; Male: Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton and Keith Urban; Vocal Group: Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Old Dominion, Rascal Flatts and Zac Brown Band; Vocal Duo: Brothers Osborne, Dan+Shea, Florida Georgia Line, LoCASH and Maddie & Tae; New Artist: Lauren Alaina, Luke Combs, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Brett Young; Album: Jason Isbell’s “Nashville Sound”; Lady Antebellum’s “Heart Break”; Miranda Lambert’s “Weight of These Wings”; Little Big Town’s “The Breaker”; and Chris Stapleton’s “From a Room, Volume 1”; Single: Sam Hunt, “Body Like a Back Road”; Miranda Lambert, “Tin Man”; Little Big Town, “Better Man”; Jon Pardi, “Dirt On My Boots”; and Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color”; Song (writers): “Better Man,” Taylor Swift; “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey, Steven Lee Olsen; “Body Like a Bad Road,” Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne; “Dirt On My Boots,” Rhett Akins, Jesse Erasure, Ashley Gorley; “Tin Man,” Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall; Musician: Jerry Douglas, dobro; Paul Franklin, steel guitar; Dann Huff, guitar; Mac McAnally, guitar; and Derek Wells, guitar; Best Event: “Craving You,” Thomas Rhett, Maren Morris; “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson; “Kill a Word,” Eric Church, Rhiannon Giddens; “Setting the World On Fire,” Kenny Chesney, Pink; and “Speak To a Girl,” Faith Hill, Tim McGraw; Music Video (artists, directors): “Better Man,” Little Big Town, Becky Fluke, Reid Long; “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Keith Urban, Carter Smith; “Craving You,” Thomas Rhett, Maren Morris, T.K. McKamy; “It Ain’t My Fault,” Brothers Osborne, Wes Edwards, Ryan Silver; and “Vice,” Miranda Lambert and Trey Fanjoy . . .  Little Big Town was further honored Sept. 14, with a star on the Music City Walk of Fame along with posthumous stars for 19th century riverboat captain Tom Ryman and Lula Neff, who for four decades booked shows into Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium, named in honor of Capt. Tom . . . A triple threat talent, Lyman C. “Mac” McAnally, Jr., became the latest Nashville Cat in the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s Sept. 9 program series, performing and interviewing with series host Bill Lloyd. Mac’s earned his spurs as songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, mandolin, piano), and had his first Top 20 single “Back Where I Come From” in 1990, and shared vocals with Kenny Chesney on “Down The Road” (#1, 2008). Now 60, he’s won CMA’s best musician eight times and is nominated again this year; was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2007; and produced such acts as Sawyer Brown and Restless Heart. Other #1’s he crafted include Shenandoah’s “Two Dozen Roses” and Alabama’s “Old Flame.”
Ailing: Country vocalist Jo Dee Messina, 47, has been diagnosed with cancer, prompting this message on her website that she’s “working closely with a team to explore all options.” The feisty female CMA Horizon Award winner in 1999, is a native of Massachusetts, who began performing professionally in her mid-teens. She scored big in 1996 with a near-charttopper “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” followed by a Top 10 that year, “You’re Not in Kansas Anymore.” Among her six #1 titles are “I’m Alright,” “Bring On the Rain” and “My Give-A-Damn’s Busted.”
Final Curtain Call: Albert “Sonny” Burgess, leader of the 1950s’ Memphis rockabilly group The Pacers, died Aug. 18 at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark. He was age 88. Sonny started off in his native Arkansas, fronting the boogie band Rocky Road Ramblers. After an Army stint during the Korean Conflict, he returned home, a farmer. Nights and weekends he played guitar, for a time leading a dance band The Moonlighters. In 1955, he turned his full attention on to music, especially excited about the new sound emanating from Sun Records and a Bill Haley movie “Rock Around the Clock.” Inspired, Sonny’s new band The Pacers incorporated hip new sounds into their act, and while opening for newcomer Elvis Presley, was encouraged by the rockabilly pioneer to see Sam Phillips in Memphis. Sam signed them to Sun, releasing their 1956 debut disc “Red-Headed Woman,” with a flip-side featuring “We Wanna Boogie.” Additional Sun records by The Pacers included “Thunderbird,” “Ain’t Got a Thing” and “Sadie’s Back in Town.” In 1965, the band scored again via “The Short Squashed Texan” on Razorback Records. Fellow Pacers included Bobby Crafford, Jim Aldridge, Fred Douglas, Kern Kennedy and J. C. Caughron. Pacer LPs include “They Came From the South,” “Live In Sweden” and “Still Rockin’ and Rollin’.” In 2002, Sonny & The Pacers were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn., and also The Arkansas Entertainers’ Hall of Fame in Pine Bluff. Burgess is survived by a son John Burgess. A memorial service was being planned.

Musician Leon Douglas, 78, died Aug. 18. A member of the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree in West Va. for 30 years, he also performed with Cousin Jody on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry starting in the 1960s. As an entertainer, Leon shared the stage with such other notables as Marty Robbins, Mel Tillis, Merle Haggard and George Jones. Survivors include wife Bonnie Douglas; daughters Darla Douglas, Dana McDowell, Mickey Bryan, Bretina Douglas; sons Kevin and Darryl Douglas; 12 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. A Celebration of Life service was conducted by Heath Picard at Spring Hill Funeral Home, Aug. 22.

Bluegrass veteran Jim Rollins, 54, died in a car crash after being struck in the rear by another vehicle speeding on I-385 in Greenville County, S.C. The banjoist’s car spun off the road, and Rollins was thrown out of the vehicle, hitting his head. According to the Greenville County Coroner, death was caused by blunt force trauma. In his younger days, Rollins toured with Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys and more recently with the West End String Band, based in North Carolina. Apart from his music, Rollins was a General Electric Company engineer, who lived in Simpsonville, S.C. Reportedly, the driver of the speeding car has been charged with felony DUI in connection with the untimely death of Rollins. There was no further information on survivors or funeral services.

Nashville was in shock, Sept. 8, upon learning of the deaths of vocalists Troy Gentry (MontgomeryGentry) and veteran singer-songwriter Don Williams.
Gentry, 50, died in a helicopter crash early that afternoon, along with the pilot James Evan Robinson, in Medford, N.J. Gentry was to perform a concert that night with vocal partner Eddie Montgomery and their band. According to Medford Police Chief Richard Meder, crews removed passenger Gentry from the wreckage, and he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital; however, crews worked for hours to extricate the pilot from the mangled wreckage. A native of Meigs, Ga., Robinson was a pilot with Flying W Airport’s flight school. Montgomery and Gentry were slated to perform at the Flying A Resort there. Montgomery and bandsmen were at the airport when the crash occurred, allegedly due to a malfunction, prompting the pilot to radio a troubled warning. The helicopter crashed just short of the airport runway, in what was reportedly a woody and swampy site. Montgomery who allegedly has a fear of flying had been invited for a “joy ride,” but declined, while the more adventurous Gentry jumped at the opportunity. An investigation of the chopper crash is being conducted.
Gentry, who hails from Lexington, Ky., first became familiar with Eddie’s musical assets when both played in a band with the younger Montgomery brother: John Michael & Young Country. According to Eddie, he and John first played in their dad Harold’s band Kentucky River Express, and then the siblings started a group labeled Early Tymz, adapted from a whiskey name. Later, along came Gentry to join us, recalled Eddie: “We started right out of high school. I was playing drums, T-Roy (his nickname for Gentry) played acoustic guitar and John was up front.”
After John Boy graduated to the big time, Troy and Eddie partnered to play local Lexington bars and other gigs, their sound influenced by their Southern rock heroes Charlie Daniels, Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They became regulars at clubs such as Austin City Saloon and The Grapevine, the latter club once owned by Gentry. “We just came up thru the ranks that way and everybody supported us,” Eddie recalled, adding, Troy left the act to try first as a solo and got top spot in a Jim Beam Whiskey talent contest in ’94, but that sort of fizzled out and he drifted back to Eddie and their vocal duo Deuce. Together, after three years playing the Kentucky club circuit, they attracted attention of Sony/Columbia Records and their first charting proved a success: “Hillbilly Shoes” (#13, 1999). It was quickly followed by “Lonely and Gone” (#5, 1999) and the Top 20 “Daddy Won’t Sell the Farm,” all on their debut album “Tattoos & Scars,” which sold over a million (Platinum), marking a nice start. Early awards were the American Music Awards trophy for favorite new country act; Academy of Country Music’s top new duo statuette; and in 2000, CMA voted M/G a  best duo award. Subsequently, the team totaled 16 Top 10’s, including five #1 discs: “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” “Something To Be Proud Of,” “Lucky Man,” “Back When I Knew It All” and “Roll With Me.” Their testosterone-fueled tunes were welcomed by blue-collar fans nationally.
As Eddie told us in an interview way back when, “It’s wonderful to win these awards and to be recognized by your peers, but the main thing is the acceptance by the people (fans). We didn’t start out to try and win awards, we did it because we love it. We enjoy having people come out to see us, and that is definitely the biggest award of all.”
Both were bikers, who regularly rode their Harleys to the annual Bike Week near Sturgis, N.D., where Eddie pointed out, “We’ve made a lot of friends and seen some incredible custom motorcycles out there,” as Troy added, “Yeah, being there with real people is the best. I love talking to the extreme bikers, doctors, lawyers, school teachers and everybody else. It’s great fellowship.”
Gentry generated some unanticipated sour press with his so-called sport of hunting what turned out to be a captive black bear, roaming in a three-acre private site in November 2006. Subsequently he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of improperly tagging wildlife, and the following April, under a plea deal, was sentenced to three months probation, a $15,000 fine and forfeiture of the taxidermied bear, and bow used during the so-called hunt near Sandstone, Minn. Fortunately, most fans were forgiving of this, and Troy also agreed to stop hunting in Minnesota for five years.
Troy Gentry’s management group’s Shannon Houchins has issued the following: “I, along with everyone here at Average Joe’s, am devastated by the news of Troy’s passing. Personally, there are no words to express the sadness I feel for Troy’s family and for Eddie Montgomery.  Troy was an exceptional talent, an exceptional person and a good friend. We will all miss him greatly.” Montgomery Gentry re-signed with Average Joe’s Entertainment last year, and recently put the finishing touches on a new album for them.
Survivors include Troy’s wife, the former Angie McClure (whom he wed in a Hawaiian ceremony in 1999); their teen daughter Kaylee; and Taylor, child of his previous marriage. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams, 78, died Sept. 8 at his home near Nashville. Hailed for 45 Top 10 singles, 17 of which went #1, two he wrote: “Till The Rivers All Run Dry” (1976) and “Love Me Over Again” (1980).
Donald Ray Williams was born May 27, 1939 in Floydada, Texas, but raised mainly in the Texas coastal city of Portland. At age 3, he won an alarm clock finishing first in a local talent contest. As a teen at Gregory-Portland High, he began learning to play guitar, primarily pickin’ songs heard on the radio. Among those artists who helped inspire him were Johnny Horton, Fats Domino and Buddy Holly. At 14, Don wrote his first song, “Walk It Off,” and his first musical payday was $25, performing for the 1957 grand opening of a gas station in Taft, Texas.
Don worked a variety of jobs to support his musical efforts, including laboring in the oil fields, driving a bread truck, working in a smelting plant and also as a bill collector. He also served a stint in the Army, and later worked with his father-in-law in a furniture building business. Meeting fellow musician Lofton Kline, the two hooked up as as a country-folk duo Strangers Two.
After years of struggling, in 1964 Don formed the Pozo-Seco Singers with Kline and Susan Taylor. The folk-pop trio, with Don its lead singer, finally hit the charts with “I Can Make It With You” (#32, 1966) and “Look What You’ve Done” (#32, 1967). Later, Don would return to the pop chart via his MCA crossover hit “I Believe In You” (#24, 1980). In 1981, he charted his sole duet hit, “If I Needed You,” with Emmylou Harris (Billboard #3), and a few years down the road, produced another artist, Barbara Fairchild, in the studio.
In a later chat with Don, we inquired what had become of his former pop music partners: “I haven’t seen or spoken with them for some years now. I really don’t know what Lofton does in Texas. Seems I heard he was performing around some, and that he was also a coach at one of the high schools there, but really I don’t have any idea what they’re doing now.”
It was in 1967 that Williams made the move to Nashville. He did studio session work and signed as a staff writer with Cowboy Jack Clement for publishing. Don guested in pal Burt Reynold’s movies “W.W. & The Dixie Dancekings” (1975) as Leroy, and “Smokey & The Bandit II” (1980), as himself singing his #1 “Tulsa Time.” During filming at 20th Century Fox, he was “gifted” with a battered cavalry hat, which Don donned for years. In fact, he was wearing it when we did our first interview in Wiesbaden, Germany, during his maiden 1970s’ European tour.
Over the years, he’d played all the major concert venues from Carnegie Hall in New York to the Royal Albert Hall in London. Williams maintained a special appreciation for UK audiences, noting, “Those people over there, as far as how they’ve been to me, it’s really unbelievable!” Little wonder, he was named Country Music Star of the Decade in England (1980) by Country Music People magazine.
Among his best-selling LPs are: #1 “Harmony” (1976); “Expressions” (#2, 1978), which charted 61 weeks; and “The Best Of Don Williams, Vol. II” (#7, 1979), charting an astounding 115 weeks. A lot of times in the studio he would call on members from his touring group, called the Scratch Band.
When asked decades later if he still wore that cavalry cap, Don chuckled, replying, “Now the one that I’ve worn the last twenty-some years, Stetson fashioned for me as near as possible to the original, and you know the original when I got it, was really old.”
It was in 1976 that Don joined WSM’s Grand Ole Opry.  While he does write some of his songs, including his breakthrough song “The Shelter Of Your Eyes” (#14, 1972), “Atta Way To Go,” “Till The Rivers All Run Dry,” “I’ve Got a Winner In You,” “Lay Down Beside Me” and “Love Me Over Again,” he was always on the lookout for good songs from writers like Wayland Holyfield and Roger Cook. Bob McDill, however, proved a truly good luck charm, writing such classic Williams’ singles as “Come Early Morning,” “Amanda” (both in 1973), “Love Me Tonight,” “Say It Again,” “She Never Knew Me,” “Rake and Ramblin’ Man,” “It Must Be Love,” “Good Ol’ Boys Like Me,” “Falling Again,” “If Hollywood Don’t Need You,” “Another Time, Another Place,” “I’ve Been Loved By the Best” and his final Billboard Top 10 “Lord, Have Mercy On a Country Boy” (#7, 1991).
As Don told a No Depression reporter, “When Bob writes one that really hits me, it really hits me. He has a different way of saying things that appeal to me and the way he put shorts together was real different for country music at that time. I dare say I would not have had very much of a career without Bob McDill.”
The  rangy, six-footer’s smooth baritone and easy-going manner earned him the sobriquet Gentle Giant, and made him something of a songwriter’s singer.  In 1978, Don’s “Tulsa Time” was voted best single by the Academy of Country Music, while the Country Music Association named him best vocalist of that year, and in 1981 honored his Platinum-selling “I Believe In You” as best album (which charted 86 weeks). He’s received eight more ACM nominations and several more CMA nominations, as well. In 2010, Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He retired from the road several seasons back, sticking close to Ashland City, site of some 90 acres he calls home, to spend more time with wife Joy Bucher, whom he wed April 10, 1960. They have two sons: Gary and Tim.

(Editor’s note: Montgomery-Gentry photo above by Patricia Presley.)

 

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Music City Beat – Sept. 2017

Carrie’s captain comes home . . . Dolly, a National Treasure

NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators will bid adieu to its captain, Mike Fisher, who just announced he will retire and spend more time at home with singer-wife Carrie Underwood and their boy Isaiah. Mike, 37, scored 42 points last season, including one of the more spectacular power plays, scoring four points in the Stanley Cup Finals as the Preds battled Pittsburgh’s Penguins for the championship. Over 17 seasons, Fisher played 1,088 National Hockey League games with the Ottawa Senators and Predators. He skated with the latter team six-plus seasons, totaling 237 points in 413 games. The team’s center player in a page 1 write-up to Nashville’s daily newspaper The Tennessean, stated in part, “This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, but I know I’ve made the right one. I’ve decided to retire from the NHL. I kept praying for peace about the next step in my life. A peace that said this is God’s will for your future. A peace that said whether or not this was the right time to walk away.” Despite losing to the Penguins, Mike could look back on their winning the Western Conference and bringing many more fans to Nashville hockey in the playoffs. Fisher added, “I believe that this team, that this city, is going to win a championship, and I’m going to be the biggest fan. No one will be happier than I will be to see it happen, because these fans, they deserve it.” Meanwhile, Mrs. Fisher on her Instagram account, wrote (along with a photo of her guy on the ice), “I sure am going to miss watching you play and cheering you on with the rest of Smashville, but I so look forward to seeing what God has in store for you in this next chapter of your life . . . Isaiah and I love you so much and are so excited to be able to have you home a lot more.”
Scene Stealers: Dolly Parton’s cited by Parade magazine as a National Treasure in its July 16, 2017 edition, claiming, “Besides her Grammy wins (8), songs she’s written (more than 5,000), #1 hits (25) and acting gigs (“9 To 5”), Parton’s top claim to fame may be her good works. Her Imagination Library (established in 1995) has sent more than 85 million books to kids in the U.S., Canada and the UK. Last year, after wildfires ripped through the Great Smoky Mountains, her Dollywood Foundation gave $1,000 a month for six months to every family (more than 900) that lost their home.” In addition, Dolly’s NBC film “Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” just received a 2017 Emmy nod for Outstanding Television Movie. Winners will be announced Sept. 17 on CBS-TV. This is her third nomination . . . Rumors are flying regarding singers Miranda Lambert and Anderson East, indicating that Miranda popped that all-important question to Anderson: Will you marry me? And East said yes indeedy! Yet, for the record, neither has confirmed they are officially engaged. East, 29, is an R&B artist who hails from Athens, Ala., and is best known for his Top 20 single “Satisfy Me.” And as we write this, he’s performing at the Edmonton Folk Festival in Canada. Lambert, 33, split with hubby Blake Shelton two years ago when he co-starred with rocker Gwen Stefani on NBC’s The Voice. Miranda’s #1’s include “Over You” and “Somethin’ Bad” (with Carrie Underwood).
Bits & Pieces: As the 40th anniversary of the death of rock ‘n’ roll king Elvis Presley approached (he died Aug. 16, 1977), Presley Enterprises conducted a public auction of some 315 lots of Elvis items, including a grand piano, that netted some $1.5 million during the event at Graceland, Aug. 12, in Memphis . . . Former country star Taylor Swift testified in a Denver courtroom, Aug. 10, regarding an alleged groping incident by DJ David Mueller during a 2013 media appearance preceding her concert in the city’s Pepsi Center. When Swift’s camp reported to station KYGO-FM about Mueller’s action, management citing a morals clause in his contract, dismissed him. Two years later, Mueller filed a $3 million lawsuit against the singer claiming career damage, which prompted Swift to sue him over a “despicable, horrifying and shocking” encounter when the radio host reached under her skirt and grabbed the cheek of her derriere. On Aug. 11, District Court Judge tossed out Mueller’s lawsuit stating the singer could not be held liable since he failed to prove she set out to have him fired. In her counter-suit, she sought a symbolic $1 (one dollar) and the opportunity to stand up for other women experiencing similar humiliating acts. The jury has yet to rule on her claim . . . Reba McEntire’s former Wilson County 83-acre estate near Nashville was sold for $5 million to Paul Burch, who plans to build 15 new homes on a portion of the property. The proposed development’s called Cherokee Meadows, and is subject to approval by the county plans commission. The singer and her former husband, musician-manager Narvel Blackstock, separated in 2015, filing for divorce after 26 years of marriage. They have a son Shelby, 26 . . . A Jerry Lee Lewis tribute appearance at Skyville Live, Nashville, Aug. 24, featuring such stars as George Strait, Kris Kristofferson, Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack and Chris Stapleton, was taped for later viewing by fans of “The Killer,” whose hits range from rock classics like “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” to country clicks such as “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous” and “Middle Age Crazy.” He turns 82 Sept. 29.
Honors: A pair of Lynns are among the latest female country icons being saluted at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville: That “Rose Garden” gal Lynn Anderson’s exhibit, which begins Sept. 15 and runs to June 24, 2018, is titled: “Lynn Anderson: Keep Me In Mind” (named after her 1973 #1 song). She died in 2015 at age 67.  (That’s Lynn’s photo on right.) “Anderson’s TV background and her ability to bring show business dynamism to recording and concert performances helped her achieve crossover success,” noted Kyle Young, museum CEO. The other display honors Loretta Lynn via “Blue Kentucky Girl” running from Aug. 25 to Aug. 5, 2018. Loretta, 85, recently suffered a stroke, but reportedly proclaimed, “I am so happy the Country Music Hall of Fame has asked me to be one of their main exhibits in 2017 . . . gonna show off my 50 some odd years in country music. They best have a big space, I have a lot of stuff! I’m so proud to share my life, and music with the Hall of Fame. Y’all come see us!” . . . Five names were added to the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame this year: Walt Aldridge, Vern Gosdin, Jim McBride, Dewayne Blackwell and Tim Nichols. According to organization chairman Pat Alger, “The quality of the songs that emanate from the legendary songwriting community is most often the standard by which songwriters measure their success.” Aldridge hits include Earl Thomas Conley’s “Holding Her and Loving You,” while Gosdin’s known for classics like “Chiseled in Stone.” McBride collaborated with Alan Jackson on his “Chattahoochee” cut, and Nichols’ successes include Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” Blackwell’s responsible for such as “Make My Day” and “Friends In Low Places.” The five will officially be inducted at their annual songwriters gala, Oct. 23, at Music City Center . . . The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame will induct native talents of the Bluegrass State – (the late) David (Stringbean) Akeman, Dale Ann Bradley, Jason Crabb, Billy Ray Cyrus, Jackie DeShannon and Bobby Lewis – during its annual induction ceremony, May 11, 2018, in Somerset, Ky.
Final Curtain: Veteran guitarist Steve Chapman, 74, died July 29. He had been a regular with such bands as Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours and Bill Anderson’s Po’ Boys, as well as playing with such other artists, among them Roy Acuff, Charlie Louvin, Billy Walker and Mandy Barnett. While with the Po’ Boys, he performed on their instrumental LP “The Casual Country Feeling.” Chapman, a Virginia native, got his first taste of professional pickin’ on Reno & Smiley’s Top O’ The Mornin’ TV series on WDBJ-Roanoke. He earned his spurs as a Nashville studio musician, supporting such notables as Donna Fargo, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ronnie Milsap and George Strait, and was hailed as a great fingerpicker. Survivors include his wife Sue, and children Michele, Danny, Steven Jr., Tonia, Jennifer and Jason; and several grandchildren. A celebration of life service was conducted at Hermitage Funeral Home & Memorial Gardens, Aug. 4.
Steel Guitarist Kayton Roberts, 83, died July 13 in Nashville. For some 30 years, he played in Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys, and was a member of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Mo. His unique guitar stylings are heard on such Snow LPs as “Snow in Hawaii,” Ricky Skaggs’ “Sings the Songs of Bill Monroe,” Randy Travis’ “Trail of Memories,” Hank Williams III’s “Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’,” Aaron Tippin’s “You’ve Got To Stand For Something,” Billy Joe Shaver’s “The Earth Rolls On” and his own “Valley Of the Roses.” His wife Iva Lou preceded him in death, and survivors include children Louie, Jan and Martin Roberts; and five grandchildren. Services were held at the Church of Grace Park, White House, Tenn., July 23.