Leonardo DiCaprio as Sam Phillips . . .
NASHVILLE — Old Crow Medicine Show lead singer Ketch Secor helped launch a new Episcopal School of Nashville, one of 12 in Tennessee, which was dedicated Oct. 14. Located adjacent to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in East Nashville, it will serve pre-kindergarteners and elementary grades. The Reverend Daniel Heischman praised Secor’s work on behalf of the project, “From the word ‘go,’ from our standpoint, it truly was a model how to go about starting a school.” Secor serves on the school board and has a child in the school. Secor says, “I think oftentimes that spiritual component is missing from early childhood education and this is really the time to get it. What you learn in the spiritual formation are ethics, tolerance, loving your neighbor as yourself, sharing, seeing humanity in a great order of all living things. What it doesn’t mean is exclusivity or indoctrination.” Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, also blessed the new school.
Bits & Pieces: Peter Guralnick’s bio “Sam Philllips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll” has been optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way for a film version. DiCaprio is slated to portray Phillips and will co-produce along with of all people Mick Jaggar. Sam Phillips is the power behind Sun Records, which helped produce such icons as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison . . . A new book “Country Music Hair,” by Erin Duvall, focuses on the hairstyles of country stars from the 1960s up to date. Among those she interviewed, apart from hair stylists to the stars, were artists Sara Evans, Travis Tritt and Sunny Sweeney. But Erin feels Dolly Parton has the best music hair (including wigs?) of all time! She was in town Nov. 7 to plug her book at Parnassus Books . . . An auction company called Skinner conducted a Nov. 5 sale of vintage guitars and memorabilia from the collections of the late Jimmy Dickens and former RFD-TV host Marty Stuart, following an Oct. 18 preview conducted in Studio A of the Grand Ole Opry House on Opryland Drive, from noon to 7 p.m. Apparently this was with the approval of the Country Music Hall of Famer’s widow Mona Dickens. Reportedly there were also auction items from additional VIPs including Waylon Jennings and The Ramones . . . A toxicology report has confirmed singer Craig Morgan’s son Jerry Greer, 19, died from drowning last summer. Further, the findings showed at the time of his death, Jerry tested positive for marijuana and a low level of alcohol in his system. Readers may recall he disappeared the afternoon of July 10 while tubing with friends on Kentucky Lake in Humphreys County. A case summary concluded he had been riding on an inner tube behind his boat when the tube flipped and Jerry went underwater, but did not surface. His body still in a life-jacket was discovered the next day during a widespread search. Greer often appeared with his dad on the Outdoor Channel’s Craig Morgan All Access Outdoors reality show . . . Late Country Music Hall of Famer Jean Shepard was remembered musically at the Nashville Palace, Nov. 20, a day before the Grand Ole Opry matriarch would’ve turned 83. Among veteran artists saluting their friend and hero were Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely, Bill Anderson, Connie Smith, Jody Miller, Leona Williams and Riders in the Sky. Emcee for the benefit concert was Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs. Tickets were $25 at the door . . . Documentarian Ken Burns was in town trying to hustle funding for his longtime promised country music series, soliciting the Mayor, Governor and Belmont University no less. Folks we’ve talked to say he’s been doing this for several years, and despite backing from PBS, doesn’t want to reimburse the pro’s for use of rare photos and film archival footage. Reportedly, he won’t even wrap this venture until 2019, with the aid of writer-producer Dayton Duncan . . . Former Sugarland member Kristian Bush has teamed with Radney Foster for an Atlanta-based musical-comedy “Troubadour,” penned by playwright Janece Shaffer (“The Geller Girls”). Bush penned 16 songs for the 1950s-era stage show, concerning associates whose behaviors threaten the course of country music. Foster, formerly of Foster & Lloyd, portrays Billy, an aging country artist, who fights to preserve his legacy and protect his son’s bid for a career. Other leads include Andrew Benator, Bethany Anne Lind and Zach Seabaugh, who competed on The Voice TV series. Directing is Susan Booth. The pre-Broadway run occurs at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Jan. 18-Feb. 12. According to a promo blurb for the feel-good romantic comedy, “In 1951 Nashville, country music legend Billy Mason is on the eve of retirement. Can his soft-spoken son, Joe, step into the spotlight and carry on? When Joe joins forces with an unlikely pair – Inez, a budding singer-songwriter, and Izzy, a rodeo tailor on a mission – a revolution is born and country music is changed forever.”
Honors: Nashville banjo master and session player Bela Fleck was selected to receive the Nashville Symphony’s annual Harmony Award reserved for those “who best exemplifies the harmonious spirit of Nashville’s musical community.” Bela accepted the honor Dec. 10 during the 32nd annual Symphony Ball at Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown, He’s no stranger to awards, having garnered 16 Grammys over the years. In 2011, the Symphony commissioned a Fleck concerto “The Imposter,” premiering it at Schermerhorn Center. “I’m so proud of our hometown Nashville Symphony and being acknowledged by the organization in this way makes me ever more certain that I am on the right track,” added Fleck . . . SESAC was the first performing rights organization to announce 2016 annual award winners, Oct. 30, presenting its highest honor to Nashville native Josh Hoge, Songwriter of the Year, whose credits included Chris Young’s hits “I’m Comin’ Over” and “Think Of You” (with Cassadee Pope). Jaron Boyer and Michael Tyler won Song of the Year for their title “Somewhere On a Beach” recorded by Dierks Bentley. Publisher of the Year recipients were Sony/ATV EMI/Foray Publishing and Write2BeFreeMusic, publishers of Hoge’s songs . . . ASCAP’s awards gala, Oct. 31, saw Ricky Skaggs receiving its Founder’s Award, while Chris Stapleton was presented the Vanguard Award, recognizing the tremendous impact of this artist’s work over the past year, which will help shape the genre’s future sound as well. Ashley Gorley, whose past year hits include “Nothin’ Like You,” earned ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year honor, while the Brothers Osborne’s “Stay A Little Longer” won best song; and Warner/Chappell Music was named top publisher. Gorley accepted his fourth annual best writer award, telling The Tennessean, “It’s a big blessing; it’s a goal I never set” . . . BMI gave Kenny Chesney (above) its President’s Award in recognition of his country music influence through the years, even as he celebrates another successful single “Settin’ The World On Fire” (with Pink). Prolific Ross Cooperman won Songwriter of the Year at BMI’s 64th annual awards show, thanks in part to “Confession,” “Don’t It,” “Drunk On Your Love,” “Lose My Mind,” “John Cougar, John Deer, John 3:16,” “Smoke” and “Strip It Down.” Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” earned Song of the Year (co-written with Sean Douglas and Joe London). Sony/ATV Music received the best publisher accolade.
Awards Fever: The Country Music Association’s 50th annual awards program, despite being telecast opposite the world series, attracted 12.6 million viewers Nov. 2. That’s down from the 2015 tally of 13.68 million viewers, but ABC-TV was pleased the show brought back 93 per cent of its prior year watchers sans series. Social media lit up regarding the electric performance of the Dixie Chicks with Beyonce, some conservatives criticizing their appearance. Despite this, the surprise appearance by Beyonce, sharing the stage with the country’s controversial Dixie Chicks, brought the audience to its feet. Their song selection included Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons,” which segued into the Chicks’ “Long Time Gone,” a statement in itself. The soulful singer called out “Happy 50th Anniversary CMA!,” exchanging hugs with Chicks’ Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison. “Why are you showing Beyonce & Dixie Chicks? One doesn’t believe in America and our police force, while the other didn’t support our President & veterans during war,” a dissenter wrote on Facebook, alluding to political stands by the acts. Another insisted, “Neither are country, and Beyonce could not be bothered to put some clothes on for the occasion,” alluding to her stylish nude-colored gown. “We stand by it,” Sara Trahern said of Beyonce’s performance, noting that the CMA had received not only spirited online comments but phone calls, both positive and negative, from viewers. “If a program moves people so much one way or another, I think we’ve had a successful show.”
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley were co-hosts, themselves taking a musical swipe at political campaigning, noting caustically at this stage they didn’t care who wins (Nov. 8). For an opening segment saluting the organization’s 50 years, a number of veteran acts appeared, including Charley Pride, Roy Clark, Alabama, Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson and Vince Gill. Ben Haggard was on hand in tribute to his recently departed dad, Merle, performing “Mama Tried” (with Gill), while Underwood sang Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” and she joined Paisley singing Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen,” as he acknowledged their tribute.
Awards went to Underwood as Best Female Singer; Chris Stapleton, Best Male Singer; Little Big Town, Best Vocal Group; Brothers Osborne, Best Duo; Dann Huff, Best Musician; Maren Morris, Best New Artist; and Lori McKenna’s “Humble and Kind,” voted Best Song. Best Album award went to Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood,” produced by Jay Joyce, Arturo Buenahora, Jr.; while Best Single trophy went to Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man,” produced by Dann Huff and Jesse Frasure; Dierks Bentley and Elle King’s “Different For Girls” scored Best Musical Event; as Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away,” directed by Tim Mattia, won for Best Music Video.
CMA’s biggest award, Entertainer of the Year, went to Garth Brooks, as presented by ex-country artist Taylor Swift, marking his fifth (record-setting) time to cop that honor, but his first since 1998. “I went into a vacuum. When we left, I never thought I would get to come back. And when you come back,” noted Garth, “You never think you’re going to get to hold one of these again.” The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dolly Parton in recognition of her trend-setting accomplishments as singer, songwriter and movie star. Dolly said in passing, “I would’ve cried, but I did’t want to mess up my eyelashes.” Superstar Kenny Chesney walked away with the Pinnacle Award, for great successes past, present and future.
Farewell Party: Nashville surgeon Robert W. Ikard, 78, died Nov. 8, after an illustrious career in medicine, as well as being a historian, who authored the biography of bandleader Francis Craig: “Near You: Francis Craig, Dean of Southern Maestros” (Hillsboro Press, 1999). Apart from Craig writing (with Kermit Goell) and recording the standard “Near You,” 1947’s biggest seller (17 weeks at #1), his recording of it in the Castle Studios marked the first national hit produced as an indie production (by Nashville-based Bullet Records), helping to launch Nashville as a major recording center, eventually dubbed Music City USA. Three decades later, his song became a country #1 for George & Tammy. Reportedly, Craig was a nephew of the founders of National Life Insurance, long-time sponsors of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. Dr. Ikard was a native of Columbia, Tenn., and a graduate of Vanderbilt University. He is survived by wife Catherine (Kitty) Hundley-Ikard, three sons and five grandchildren. A memorial service was conducted at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Nov. 11.
Prolific country composer Claude (Curly) Putman, Jr., 85, died of heart failure at his home in Lebanon, Tenn., Oct. 30. Among Curly’s greatest hits were “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “My Elusive Dreams,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “Do You Wanna Go To Heaven.” Born in Princeton, Ala., he was the son of sawmill worker Claude Putman and his wife Myrtle. Curly served in the Navy four years, notably aboard the USS Valley Forge battleship.
Curly first tried his hand as a singer-songwriter, charting Top 20 with his indie single “The Prison Song” in 1960 on Cherokee Records, and that same year nabbed his first Top 10 success when Marion Worth recorded his “I Think I Know.” Although he released his debut album, “Lonesome Country Songs of Curly Putman” (ABC Records) in 1967, it registered only scant success.
By then, Putman knew his true talent, and co-wrote with such formidable tunesmiths as Billy Sherrill, Sonny Throckmorton and Bobby Braddock. Pitman scored Top 10 successes in four decades, for artists ranging from the Statler Brothers (“You Can Have Your Kate And Edith, Too,” 1967), Ferlin Husky (“Just For You,” 1968), Hank Thompson (“The Older the Violin, The Sweeter the Music,” 1974), The Kendalls (“It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ To Me,” 1978), John Conlee (“Baby, You’re Something,” 1980), Ricky Van Shelton (“I Meant Every Word He Said,” 1990) and Doug Supernaw (“Made For Loving You,” 1993). A 15-year-old Tanya Tucker took “Blood Red and Going Down,” straight to the top of the 1973 Billboard country chart. Perhaps his most successful artist collaboration, however, came with T. G. Sheppard, who enjoyed three Putman #1’s, “Do You Wanna Go To Heaven,” “I’ll Be Coming Back For More,” “War Is Hell (On the Homefront, Too),” as well as hits like “When Can We Do This Again” (#5, 1978), and “Smooth Sailin’” (#6, 1980).
His “Green, Green Grass of Home” was initially a 1965 Top Five for Porter Wagoner, but in 1967 crossed over into pop for Tom Jones. It has been recorded by numerous artists, among them Elvis Presley, Bobby Bare, Burl Ives, Kenny Rogers, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, Del Reeves and The Grateful Dead. Another much-recorded Curly creation is “My Elusive Dreams,” a #1 duet for Tammy Wynette & David Houston in 1967, then a #3 Charlie Rich cut in 1975, and among others recording this classic are Bobby Gentry & Glen Campbell, Jack Greene, Bill Anderson and Johnny Paycheck. Numerous other stars have cut his songs, such as Ronnie McDowell, Tex Ritter, Dolly Parton, Billy Walker, Kitty Wells, Jim Ed Brown, Jody Miller, Joe Sun, Connie Smith, Eddy Raven, Jean Shepard, Roy Drusky, Shelly West and Mary Lou Turner. Some regard his co-write with Bobby Braddock, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” recorded by George Jones, as the consummate country ballad. Behind the scenes, it had been recorded less successfully earlier by Johnny Russell and Jones wasn’t too keen about covering it for producer Billy Sherrill in 1979, but their pairing proved magical, hitting #1 in 1980, and winning George a best vocal Grammy, while the song earned CMA and ACM’s best accolades for song and single.
Other successes for Curly in that time frame, included “It’s a Cheating Situation” (Moe Bandy, #2, 1979). “Let’s Keep It That Way” (Mac Davis, #10, 1980); and later another weeper, “I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again” (by T. Graham Brown, #3, 1986). Subsequently, Putman was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976; and in 1993 inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum via their Poets & Prophets program. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Bernice Soon, their son Troy Putman, grandsons Ian and Ryan, and granddaughter Gina Putman. Funeral arrangements Nov. 3 were handled by Partlow Funeral Chapel, Lebanon, with a eulogy by Troy Tomlinson, while Dr. Kevin Owen officiated. Interment followed at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Lebanon. Pallbearers were Bucky Jones, Sonny Throckmorton, Joe Trombley, Jack Lowery, Rafe Van Hoy, Bobby Braddock, Terry Ashe and Michael Kosser.