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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.