Mac Wiseman – a fond farewell to a Bluegrass and Country Hall of Famer

NASHVILLE — Iconic country and folk entertainer Mac Wiseman, 93, succumbed to pneumonia (complicated by bladder and kidney infections) during final hospitalization here at Summit Medical Center, Feb. 24, 2019. He was first hospitalized Christmas Eve, 2018.

A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, he was the final surviving first generation bluegrass star, whose credits include being the last surviving member of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs’ original Foggy Mountain Boys, and touring, too, with Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, before striking out as a national solo artist by popular demand. He notched up his first Top 10 Billboard single “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” (1955), a dozen years after launching his music career. Other hits include “’Tis Sweet To Be Remembered,” “Jimmy Brown the Newsboy,” “Your Best Friend and Me” and the novelty number “Johnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride,” while earning the nickname “The Voice With a Heart.”

In more recent years, Wiseman was one of the critically-acclaimed Groovegrass Boyz with Bootsy Collins, Del McCoury, Doc Watson, scoring their funky “Country Macarena” success, and he also recorded with Big Band leader Woody Herman, and such singers as Leona Williams, Johnny Cash, David Grisman, Charlie Daniels, Merle Haggard, Jett Williams, John Prine and Alison Krauss. Mac more than made his mark, crossing genres, and as a founding father of the Country Music Association; bringing the WWVA-Wheeling Jamboree back from the b rink of bankruptcy; and was a force in the Nashville Musicians Association, Local 257, as both board member and Secretary-Treasurer.

In 1951, Dot Records’ mogul Randy Wood engaged Mac as an artist and a producer of such yesteryear talents as Cowboy Copas, Leroy Van Dyke, Reno & Smiley, Bonnie Guitar and Jimmy C. Newman. Mac ran the gamut of industry jobs, ranging from radio newscaster to disc jockey, to promoter (working with the likes of Carter family patriarch A. P. Carter, the Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs), to A&R honcho, and hitting the stage as a regular on such popular radio shows as WCYB-Bristol’s Farm & Fun Time, WSM’s Grand Ole Opry (with Monroe), WSB-Atlanta’s Barn Dance (with Bill Carlisle), WRVA’s Old Dominion Barn Dance (with his Country Boys), WNOX-Knoxville’s Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round, and KWKH-Shreveport’s Louisiana Hayride.

In recognition of these endeavors, Wiseman was inducted into the Virginia Music Hall of Fame, The Bluegrass Hall of Honor (1993), earned a U.S. National Heritage Fellowship Medal of the Arts (2008), and finally was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (2014).

Born Malcolm Bell Wiseman, May 23, 1925, in Crimora, Va., to (Myra) Ruth and Howard Bell Wiseman, at six months their first-born suffered infantile paralysis. Fortunately, his mom defied doctor’s orders to encase his leg in a cast that prohibited movement; instead, Ruth regularly massaged his leg with olive oil, and scheduled surgeries to try and correct the malformed limb, though Dad was skeptical, fearful it might leave him paralyzed. While recovering from treatment, Mac learned to play guitar on a $3.99 Sears & Roebuck special model named after Mac’s idol Gene Autry, the cinema’s first singing cowboy. Later, Mac earned high praise for his flat-top pickin’ style and his rhythm guitar playing. Coupled with his natural, rangy tenor vocals, he became an artist many reviewers termed the best tenor in bluegrass.

Following high school graduation, Mac was awarded a scholarship by the President Franklin D. Roosevelt-inspired Infantile Paralysis Foundation, electing to study at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Dayton, Va., while working  at WSVA-Harrisonburg, only a short drive from the campus. A plus for the teen-ager was the station’s luminous entertainer, pioneer Buddy Starcher, who began inviting the youngster to sing on his All-Star Round-Up broadcast. Incidentally, Starcher’s best remembered for his later songs “I’ll Still Write Your Name In the Sand” (#8, 1949) and “History Repeats Itself” (#2, 1966), the latter citing coincidences in the lives of assassinated presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. Another of Mac’s heroes was Bradley Kincaid, whom he came to know well in later years.

Mac made his first recordings, playing bass and supplying background vocals, while sharing the mic with legendary Molly O’Day and her Cumberland Mountain Folk, as produced by noted British producer Uncle Art Satherley in December 1946 at WBBM-Chicago. Among the classics they cut for Columbia Records were “Tramp On the Street,” “The Tear-Stained Letter,” “Six More Miles To the Graveyard” and “The Singing Waterfall.”

Of his solo albums, Mac  was especially proud of his double CD album “Grassroots To Bluegrass” (CMH, 1990), which earned him a Grammy nomination as best album of the year. Another close to his heart was a 2007 teaming with John Prine on a duet LP, “Standard Songs For Average People.”

Personally speaking, back on May 4, 1944, Mac married first wife Alberta Forbus, two years his junior, and mother to his children: Randolph Carson Wiseman, born Jan. 25, 1946, and Linda Wiseman, born Jan. 16, 1949. Following their divorce, he wed Emma Cassell, and welcomed  their daughter Christine come October 1949. Her sister Sheila, who was born Jan. 31, 1951, died unexpectedly on Jan. 3, 2016. Following Mac’s divorce from Emma, he married Marjory May Brennan, a Canadian miss, who hailed from Brantford, Ontario, on April 29, 1962. As with his two previous wives, Mac became dad to two more children: (Marjorie) Maxine in August 1963, and (Malcolm) Scott, born in July 1965. Mac outlived all his wives, and at the time of his death was survived by his nurse and companion Gloria (Janie) Boyd.

At his funeral, conducted at Spring Hill Funeral Home & Gardens, Nashville, Feb. 27, former chief Opry photographer and friend Les Leverett led the congregation in opening and closing prayers, while artists Del McCoury, Laura Cash White, Ricky Skaggs & The Whites performed, and close friends Ronnie Reno, Peter Cooper and Kevin Rose offered their reflections on the artist. Entombment followed in the Spring Hill Cemetery. Survivors include children Randy Wiseman, Linda Parr, Christine Haynes, Maxine Wiseman, Scott Wiseman, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.

Among familiar faces spotted in the crowd were Jan Howard, Eddie Adcock, Jesse McReynolds, Kyle Young, Larry Stephenson, Jeannie Seely, Thomm Jutz, Doyle Lawson, Keith Bilbrey, Dan Hays and Donnie Bryant. Fellow legends who claim Wiseman as mentor and hero are Kris Kristofferson, Charlie Daniels and Ronnie Milsap. According to Kris, “Mac is one of the heroes. Having Mac cut ‘Me & Bobby McGee’ was one of the highlights of my life. When I was young, he had a hit song on ‘Love Letters In the Sand’ and I just loved that. Maybe someone tried to put him in that bluegrass box, but he is so much more than that. Mac’s was a great, great voice.”

Charlie Daniels, who wrote the Foreword for Mac’s award-winning biography “Mac Wiseman: All My Memories Fit For Print” (Nova Books, 2016), stated in part, “I discovered Mac Wiseman in the early 1950s, when as a fledgling bluegrass musician, I would buy his new records as soon as I could get my hands on them. To say I was a huge fan would be an understatement and in those days albums were rare, so there were no album covers to give you a look at the artist . . . If I could have, I would have probably imitated Mac’s voice, but the truth is that nobody can imitate Mac’s voice. He’s one of a kind and he only has to sing three notes before every bluegrass fan in the room knows who it is.”

Ronnie said he first became a fan back in his native North Carolina: “I grew up on his music where I was born (in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains) then heard him on the radio in Raleigh, when I went to the state school for the blind for 13 years . . . I think Mac is an American treasure. What’s so unique about the man is his ability to take any situation and basically realize the ups and downs of it, and make the correct decisions most all the time. Mac is such a talented individual, not only in his music, but in other areas as well. I admire his business sense as much as I do his musical ability. Mac’s the whole four quarters it takes to make a dollar!”                                 – Walt Trott

 

 

Country music pioneer Harold Bradley, an ‘A Team’ guitarist, dead at 93 . . .

     NASHVILLE — The Jan. 31, 2019 death of Country Music Hall of Famer Harold Bradley, 93, stunned many of us here in Music City, as we weren’t aware the legendary guitarist was suffering ill health. But then time flies, and it had been a few seasons since we last met, and the man looked terrific.

     Throughout Harold’s lengthy tenure as American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Nashville Local 257 president (1991-2008), we worked closely on The Nashville Musician newspaper, having been hired as his editor. Attesting to his high energy level, he also served some 10 years as AFM International’s vice president, headquartered in New York City.

Bradley boasts an impressive resume, for in that period during which he carried the banner on behalf of some 3,500 fellow players, Harold was also hailed as the most recorded guitarist globally. As Dean of Guitarists, Bradley was a Nashville trailblazer in every sense of the word, one whose impact spanned generations. He joined the musicians union at age 16.

Since his first session in Chicago for Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys (“Tennessee Central #9”) on Dec. 17, 1946, Harold played on a variety of artists’ classic hits, notably Red Foley’s “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy,” Ray Anthony’s “Do the Hokey Pokey,” Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John,” Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA,” Eddy Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away,” Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” The Everly Brothers’ “Ebony Eyes,” Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” John Anderson’s “Swingin’,” and Alan Jackson’s “Here In the Real World.”

Those twin guitars ringing out on Bobby Helm’s 1957 classic “Jingle Bell Rock” are played by Harold and Hank Garland. That’s Harold playing banjo in the kick-off of Johnny Horton’s #1 song of 1959 “Battle of New Orleans,” utilizing an “8th of January” folk run; as well as that pounding bass-guitar on Orbison’s pop #1 “Oh Pretty Woman” (1964).

Harold was a charter member of the versatile A Team of Nashville session superpickers – immortalized so-to-speak in the 1966 (Lovin’ Spoonful’s) John Sebastian song “Nashville Cats” – including Garland, Grady Martin, Floyd Cramer, Bob Moore, Ernie Newton, Buddy Harman, Ray Edenton, Pig Robbins, Boots Randolph, Charlie McCoy and Tommy Jackson. Of course, Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley were the Godfathers who kept them all busy.

“When I was 10 years old, the Bradleys welcomed me into their family,” recalls Brenda Lee, produced by Owen. “When I married my husband Ronnie (Shacklett), they welcomed him like a son. ‘Lost’ would be a good word to describe how I’m feeling right now, but I’m not lost because I’ll always have my memories. Harold Bradley is a big part of all of my memories. Harold is a big part of who I am today. He molded me from a little girl into one of his girls, along with Kitty, Tammy, Patsy and Loretta. I’ll miss him dearly.”

Harold Ray Bradley was born Jan. 2, 1926 in Nashville, son of Letha Maie (Owen) and Vernie Fustus Bradley, a tobacco salesman. “If Dad smoked or drank, I never saw him do it,” Harold said, adding, “My dad played a little guitar and wrote story-songs, but not professionally. He was  also a song leader at church.” Harold attended local schools, graduating from Isaac Litton High School, where he also played baseball and reportedly was good enough to attract attention of a Chicago Cubs talent scout. But an arm injury soon ended that prospect.

His idol was brother Owen, 10 years his senior, who began forging his own legacy on the Nashville scene by initially playing piano for WLAC-Nashville radio in 1937, moving to WSM in 1940, eventually rising to the position of music director. When Harold became enthused about playing banjo, Owen warned it was passé, concentrate instead on guitar, so the youngster set his sights on Charlie Christian’s jazz style, but was primarily self-taught.

The Owen Bradley Orchestra, specializing in society events, appeared on the network show Sunday Down South, while Owen was on call for occasional studio sessions for such as Ernest Tubb, who nicknamed him “Half-Moon” Bradley. Decca chief Paul Cohen engaged Owen as an assistant and his first production job was filling in on a session for unknown Kitty Wells in May 1952, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Subsequently that #1 song launched country’s first female superstar, later crowned Queen of Country Music.

Prior to all that, young graduate Harold Bradley heeded the siren call of World War II, and was inducted into the U.S. Navy, age 18. There he was assigned to a Top Secret task of cracking Japanese combat codes, but in off-duty hours started a band to entertain fellow sailors.

Discharged in ’46, he enrolled in George Peabody College on the Vanderbilt University campus, majoring in music under the GI Bill. Thanks to Opry stage manager Vito Pelletteiri, a family friend, Harold landed work at WSM pickin’ for programs spotlighting such stars as Bradley Kincaid and Eddy Arnold.

In 1947, following his Pee Wee King Chicago session, Harold was engaged to play on King Records’ Ivory Joe Hunter’s session at Castle, Nashville’s first non-broadcast studio. As he confided in our interview: “I was the only white musician. Fact is, I’ve got that recording at home. Of course, they misidentified me on the record, saying it was Owen Bradley on guitar. I took it to Owen and said, ‘This is why you’re rich and famous and I’m not. They keep getting us mixed up, you know.’ And later, they did that on my first solo album (‘Misty Guitar’), i.d.’ing Owen as my guitar player.”

Harold’s first #1 disc was Red Foley’s “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy,” playing rhythm guitar on one of the hottest 1950 releases, topping both country and pop charts. He remembered walking with his mother when a radio blared out the song featuring his pickin’: “I told her, ‘Mother, that’s me,’ and matter of factly she said, ‘That’s nice.’ If you started to get carried away with your success, my mother had a way of bringing you back down to Earth, fast.”

Unlike many musicians, Harold didn’t frequent honky tonks, explaining, “Drinking never interested me. A lot of guys drank to socialize. Socializing to me was playing softball or tennis. Even in the Navy, I didn’t drink. I was sort of shy really . . . I still don’t drink. When you work so much playing sessions, that’s enough time to be with your friends. So whatever time I had away from the studio, I wanted to spend with my family.”

In those younger days, Harold also played in Owen’s band, then using the alias Brad Brady’s Orchestra and appears on Owen Bradley Quintet’s 1949 Top 10 country hit “Blues Stay Away From Me” (also #11 pop) and Top 20 pop recording “The Third Man Theme” (1950). With Owen, he co-produced 39 Country Style USA 30-minute TV variety shows for syndication in the ’50s..

In 1950, Harold married blonde beauty Eleanor Allen, and they would have two daughters Beverly and Bari, daddy’s pride and joy. Meantime, jointly the brothers Bradley built the second non-broadcast recording studio downtown, and later relocated to the Hillsboro area with a combination film and recording studio. In 1954, they constructed the first such studio on what is now Music Row, with a refurbished Quonset Hut (bought up by Columbia Records in 1962) that averaged some 700 sessions annually.

In 1958, Owen became Decca-Nashville’s chief honcho, producing such superstars as Foley, Tubb, Wells, Webb Pierce, Brenda Lee, Bill Anderson, Patsy Cline, Jack Greene, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. Even after leaving Decca, Owen continued to produce independent artists of note like Marcia Thornton, k.d. lang and Mandy Barnett (but died four songs into her 1998 session, that was completed by Harold). By the mid-1960s the Bradleys had established their Mt. Juliet suburban studio, Bradley’s Barn.

Owen was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974, and is seen at the piano in a commemorative statue in Owen Bradley Park at the foot of Music Row.  Of course, Owen passed away Jan. 7, 1998 at age 82.

Harold worked overtime building up his credits, including backing a diverse roster of musical stars, among them Hank Williams, Burl Ives, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Sonny James, Jim Reeves, Hank Snow, Joan Baez, Perry Como, George Morgan, Connie Francis, Leon Russell, Charley Pride, Marty Robbins, Freddie Hart, Statler Brothers, Martha Carson, Roy Clark and Gene Watson.

“Surely am sad to hear of the passing today of Harold Bradley,” says Watson. “One of the best session players . . . I was fortunate to have Harold as session leader for the ‘Reflections’ LP back in 1978. That’s the album for the first recording we did of ‘Farewell Party’ and ‘Pick the Wildwood Flower.’”

Along with producers Owen, Chet, Ken Nelson, Don Law and Harold and the A Team, they not only built Music Row, but pioneered in developing the Nashville Sound, a sophisticated blending of instruments and arrangements that improved country’s flagging fortunes immensely.

“Who knew we were making history? I kept thinking we’d wake up one morning and all that would be gone. That’s the way I looked at it,” said Harold. It was also in the 1960s that Harold recorded a trio of solo albums, including “Bossa Nova Goes To Nashville” and “Guitars For Lovers.”

Among movie soundtracks boasting Harold’s fleet-fingered touch are Presley’s “Kissin’ Cousins,” “Clambake,” “Stay Away Joe,” Orbison’s “Fastest Gun Alive,” Goldie Hawn’s “Sugarland Express,” Burt Reynolds’ “Smokey & The Bandit II” and Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” in which he also appears in a cameo.

From 1974-1979, he was a recipient of the NARAS Superpicker Award. Another task he’d taken on was producing sessions, including such stellar talents as Slim Whitman, Eddy Arnold and Irish singer Sandy Kelly.

By his own count, Harold has recorded or worked with 83 Country Hall of Famers and 30 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. He was the first Nashville president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) in 1965, serving many years on its board; is recipient of the prestigious Grammy Trustee Award; AFM’s Lifetime Achievement Award; and is a proud member of the Musicians Hall of Fame.

In 2006, Harold was accorded country music’s highest honor, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which makes him and Owen the only two brothers inducted individually (apart from brother acts).

Harold’s widow Eleanor expressed her gratitude for all who came to bid her husband a fond farewell, “Harold would’ve appreciated the thoughtfulness.” Daughter Bari Brooks said her father didn’t suffer too much, “he died peacefully in his sleep.” Daughter Beverly Hill reminded folks that Harold was first and foremost a dedicated family man. Reportedly, however, he had been under dialysis and special treatment prior to his passing.

Preceding him in death were siblings Leon, Owen, Charles, Bobby Bradley, and Ruby Bradley Strange. Both Charles and nephew Bobby Bradley, Jr. were noted sound engineers on the Row,  niece Patsy Bradley was an executive with BMI; nephew Jerry Bradley was RCA’s head man; and his wife Connie an ASCAP executive; while Clay Bradley (Jerry’s son) has been at both BMI and the CMA.

Harold’s legacy will continue to create beautiful music out of Nashville, hopefully via a newly-established Harold Bradley Endowed Scholarship in Belmont University’s Music Business department, to be awarded to outstanding students in the program, with an emphasis on guitar.

Besides his wife and daughters, Harold is survived by grandson Jason Reid Brooks; granddaughter Bethany Ellen Hill; and numerous nieces and nephews. Pallbearers were: Bobby Bradley, Jr., Clay Bradley, John Bradley, Kyle Bradley, Reid Brooks and Hilliard “Trey” Hester. Honorary pallbearers: Mark Stephen Strange, Carl Bradley, Michael Bradley, Jerry Bradley, Steve Davis, Costo Davis, Jimmie Capps, Michelle Capps, Andy Reiss, Pete Wade, Billy Linneman, Tom Lee, Hargus (Pig) Robbins, Charley McCoy, Bob Moore, Lloyd Green, Sam Folio, Ray Edenton, Joe Settlemires and Barry Brooks.

Among others spotted at the Madison Church of Christ, Feb. 4, were Patsy Bradley, Bob Moore, John Minick, Bobby Wright, and Billy Linneman, Harold’s former AFM Secretary-Treasurer, who proclaimed “the program, the music, the videos were really good.” WSM drive-time DJ Bill Cody addressed the crowd, as did former AFM International President Tom Lee, who memorably told us, “You couldn’t have a better ambassador for the city of Nashville than Harold Bradley,” and longtime friend Mandy Barnett sang, as we wistfully recalled his band backing her on the national Tonight Show years ago.

“I was saddened to wake up to the news of the great guitarist Harold Bradley having passed away,” lamented Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. “Harold was Owen’s brother and the two of them left quite a mark on my early career. Owen produced my records and Harold played on most of them. He was a talented, kind, gentle soul, and we were blessed to have had him with us for 93 years. Rest in peace my friend, secure in knowing that you made the world a better place.”

Ruth White, Author-pianist-historian, advocate of Nova Books Nashville . . .

GALLATIN, TN — Author-musician-historian extraordinaire Ruth (Bland) White died Dec. 30, 2016, following a brief illness. Among her books are: “Every Highway Out Of Nashville (Volumes 1 & 2)” “Mecklinburg: The Life & Times Of a Proud People,” “The Original Goober,” “You Can Make It If You Try” (R&B legend Ted Jarrett’s tale), “Nashville Steeler” (bio of picker Don Davis) and “Knoxville’s ‘Merry-Go-Round,’ Ciderville & The East Tennessee Country Music Scene” (Nova Books).

Born in Nashville, daughter of Mary (Jackson) & Thomas Allen Bland, Ruth Carolyn began her association with the music scene at East High School, graduating in 1947. A teen-aged Ruth played piano in a seven-piece band under the baton of Bill Wiseman, touring middle Tennessee. A brief marriage to hi s drummer, Murrey (Buddy) Harman (later a noted member of Nashville’s A Team) was annulled by their parents. 

Ruth sought her music major at the Ward-Belmont College, and worked at the historic Strobel’s Music Store, playing sheet music songs for prospective customers. While married to Bob Kirkham (brother-in-law to noted session singer Millie Kirkham), she moved to Chicago, where she also worked in a major retail store managing their music department. The couple had two children Robert, Jr. and Kathleen, the latter later adopted by Ruth’s third husband, steel-guitarist Howard White, who was playing in Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys band, when they met.

Another assignment she reveled in was station librarian at WSM-650 Radio, where she managed the music files, assisting Grand Ole Opry manager Vito Pellettieri, and pianist Marvin Hughes with his popular WSM-TV Waking Crew programming. Following her 1965 marriage to White, she worked in liaison with him and partner-composer Henry Strzelecki (“Long Tall Texan”) in their Locomotive Music Publishing house and indie label October Records, sponsored by Pepsi-Cola. Ruth was also employed at one time or another with Country International Records, Reed Music, and Porter Wagoner Enterprises, managing the Opry star’s production, publishing and booking.

In 2010, Ruth was honored with the industry’s esteemed Source Award, citing her pioneering accomplishments on Music Row. A true daughter of the South, Ruth adhered to the following stanza: “The place where tea is sweet/And accents are sweeter/ Front porches are wide/And words are long/Y’all is a proper noun . . . And someone’s heart is always being blessed.”

According to Kathleen, “Per her wishes, no services will be held, but any remembrance to your local animal shelter would be a comfort to Mom.”

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.

Dennis Duff’s concept CD targets ‘Lyon County’

Dennis K. Duff & Guests
“Songs From Lyon County”
****
Wilson Holler/Hey Mr. TVA/Road To Dover/Night Riders/TC & Pearl/Castle On the Cumberland/Iron Hill/’37 Flood/When I Leave Kentucky
Producers: Dennis Duff & Cody Kilby
Gracey Holler Music – 26:13

Let me introduce you to Dennis Duff, who shoulders some risk in picking up the tab for his concept CD, “Songs From Lyon County (Ky.),” but it was purely personal. Since the singer-songwriter’s somewhat obscure himself, and despite their obvious skills, his guest artists are not exactly household names, meaning this doesn’t bode well sales-wise.
Yet from the opening track – “Wilson Holler” – of this nine-song selection, one senses the sheer passion driving Duff and company on their unique musical journey.
Duff, whom we first heard of, winning the 17th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest’s country division with his ballad “Man of Few Words,” conducted during MerleFest 2009. Then Dennis went on to pen compositions recorded by more recognizable Bluegrass names like Donna Ulisse and Mo Pitney. Duff’s emotional creation “God’s Front Porch” was a 2011 finalist for IBMA Gospel Song of the Year.
A Kentucky native, Duff’s crafted some truly touching tunes herein reflecting his homeland history, and even offers a fitting tribute to his parents “T.C. & Pearl” on the new album, released Sept. 7, 2018. Guest artists include Bradley Walker, Holly Pitney, Paul Brewster, Josh Shilling and Brooke & Darin Aldridge (Sweethearts of Bluegrass). It’s on the Gracey Holler Music indie label, and Duff co-produced the disc with multi-instrumentalist Cody Kilby, who also engineered. Assisting Kilby instrumentally are Alan Bartram, bass (and backing vocals); Jason Carter and Andy Leftwich, fiddles.
“Lyon County, Ky., has a rich history and some of that history is mine,” recalls Duff, emphasizing, “My roots go back to the mid-1800s, when my ancestors moved from Tennessee to an area located between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers called ‘Tween the Rivers.’ The Civil War, tobacco wars, floods, moonshine, TVA, the iron industry and a steady faith in God have all had a huge impact on Lyon County, its landscape and its people.”
Storyteller Duff points out his songs were inspired by reactions of the folk who populated that region to those events that occurred there: “Some may make you smile, some may make you cry, but I hope they all connect you to the past and take you on a musical journey that you enjoy.”
“Wilson Holler,” a medium tempo tune, concerns moonshiners supplying “Scarface” Al Capone’s Chicago crowd during the turbulent heyday of Prohibition (1920-’33). Paul Brewster not only sings lead on this track, but backs himself harmoniously as well, deftly aided by Cody’s dexterous deliveries on guitar, banjo, dobro and mandolin. Bartram’s acoustic bass pickin’ and Carter’s keening fiddle enhance the cut. Duff’s concise lyrics vividly set the scene: “Up in Wilson Holler/There’s a sweet stream of water flowing/From a rock in the side of a hill . . . Add sugar and the corn/Cook it up a storm/And the moon starts shining/Right outta the Still.”
“Hey, Mr. TVA” has Mr. Duff singing lead, revealing a pleasant enough voice that manages to convey the hurt and humiliation his lyrics express. The song dwells on government’s coarse damming up of the rivers, creating lakes to supply hydroelectric power throughout the Tennessee Valley. Duff laments the battle of wills between the newly-designated agency and generations-old landowners, most too poor to deter the bullying tactics, taking their land: “Sweat and blood of generations, fell to eminent domain/Now the rows of silent tombstones, are all that remain . . . Some say that it was worth it, more was gained than was lost/But only those whose lives were shattered, know how much it really cost.”
Duff also sings the slow-winding “Road To Dover,” and about cell warriors’ “Castle On the Cumberland,” the latter enhanced by Leftwich’s fiddle. (The “Castle,” in case you’re confused, is the Kentucky State Pen in Eddyville.) That’s Brewster rhapsodizing on the upbeat “Iron Hill,” also to fine effect. (He’s fresh from Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder.)
Now “Night Riders,” about a secret organization initially turned this reviewer off, assuming it was glorifying the KKK; however, Duff set us straight, noting it wasn’t the Klan, but impoverished tobacco farmers banding together to revolt against the mighty Duke Trust tobacco empire, trying to starve them out of business. (This was documented by Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham, in his non-fiction book “On Bended Knees,” about the Black Patch Wars.) Singer Josh Shilling takes lead here, beautifully backed by the string squad, Kilby, Bartram and Leftwich, that is, as he warns: “When you hear them hoof beat pounding/You know it’s time to change your ways . . . Brother better head for cover, from the Silent Brigade.”
“TC & Pearl,” Dennis’ parental paean proves a tender intro to a hard scrabble couple, who despite the odds stacked against them, stood their ground, “And the winds of fate began to twist and twirl, for TC and Pearl . . .” Brooke Aldridge’s sweet soprano gives credence to this song of praise, and attests to her 2017 IBMA best female vocalist win. No doubt her comfort zone improved immensely by background harmony hubby Darin Aldridge delivered.
The mid-tempo “’37 Flood,” focusing on the flood devastation of January 1937, finds Duff back on mic, adroitly detailing its impact on the Ohio River-area population. Besides bass, Bartram also renders harmony backing. Dennis does have a way with words, “From the Appalachian hills, through the streets of Louisville/To Paducah, they all paid the price . . . The muddy waters flowed from the Ohio, and swallowed everything in sight . . .”
The last track – “When I Leave Kentucky” – is the first single off “ . . . Lyon County,” kicked off by fiddle and mandolin. Duff’s simply portraying musically a love of one’s home turf, vowing never to depart, until it’s time to fly away: “When I leave Kentucky/They’ll lay me in the ground/When I leave Kentucky/You’ll know I’m Heaven bound . . .” Newcomer Holly Pitney’s soft and vibrant vocals match the warm baritone of former IBMA vocalist of the year Bradley Walker, which could make this a potential Bluegrass chart contender. Alabama native Walker, who suffers Muscular Dystrophy, and Moe Pitney’s sister Holly each provide close harmonies, as well, to this ballad, released June 20.
Some may say this sort of historically-oriented concept is eminently predictable and geared more to domestic fans; however, these events are rarely even covered in today’s classrooms. Moreover, these seasoned ears recognize something more challenging than mere history, marking it as aesthetically and culturally significant. Anyway, it’s obviously an album made not necessarily for sales, but simply for pure pleasure. So seek it and enjoy.

ROPE’s fan-oriented June jam . . .

Traditional country sound still being hailed in Music City USA!

                    Leona Williams

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

Dallas Frazier & L’il David Wilkins.

Mac Wiseman, Janie Boyd and H.G. Roberts.

 

New release ‘Botanical Gardens’

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

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

Classic Reissue CD . . .

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

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

 

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

‘Behind Closed Doors’ craftsman passes . . .

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

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

Bobby Bare’s birthday surprise . . .

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

Singletary’s sudden passing stuns music scene . . .

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

 

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

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

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