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Music City Beat November 2015

Mac Davis

Country Beat – November 2015

NASHVILLE – Music awards shows are becoming so common they’re losing their luster, despite artists’ innate desire for acclamation. Having just came off a period of honors here, including the CMA’s, BMI’s, ASCAP’s, SESAC’s, ROPE, we learn CMT’s citing Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt and Little Big Time as video artists of the year, and hey, something’s a-brewin’ down Texas way now, titled the Ameripolitan Awards, apparently to delight a broader array of genre artists, something the Americana honors already does. Even the Christian-based Dove Awards single out favorite country talents. Obviously, we’re all aware of the annual Grammys, IBMA (bluegrass), American Music Awards, Canada’s SOCAN and the Academy of Country Music statuettes, as well as those Billboard annual achievers, but do we need all these accolades? Here on Music Row, we already have weekly #1 parties to salute the highest-ranking song – fine. These celebrations occur when a disc sells well, sometimes even attaining Gold or Platinum status, which actually represents money in the pocket for artist, label and those who help make it happen. That makes sense, but on the tube fans and media alike are suffering award shows fatigue, not to mention the individual performers, who are expected to wear their best (read costliest) finery, parade onto the red carpet, then some put on a brave smile in losing to a fellow artist, and worst of all, participate gratis. Oh sure, we hear the cliché “being nominated is an honor in itself,” while knowing in their heart-of-hearts, it’s simply another opportunity for organizers to promote themselves and make money on the backs of freebie entertainers. It used to be CMA, ACM and Grammys were the most coveted awards, but even these are being devalued due to the glut of additional self-congratulatory specials. The labels love ’em, because it’s merely another marketing opportunity, but surely their artists aren’t that insecure that they crave so much adulation. Since the CMA awards, Nov. 4, is in competition with so many others, it chose to “ensure” greater visibility by teaming country acts with pop/rock performers including the likes of John (Cougar) Mellencamp, Justin Timberlake, Fall Out Boy, and actors such as Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Carmack and William Shatner. Apparently it worked, as CMA’s ABC special drew the night’s highest ratings, which not only accounts for viewership, but helps draw advertisers, as well. We hear, too, that some of the nominees even “campaign” for the big win, but as in a bad relationship, when do we get over ourselves and say enough is enough?

Honors: Nonetheless let’s congratulate the winners in the 49th annual Country Music Association awards, produced by Robert Deaton and directed by Paul Miller, and they include: Luke Bryan, top entertainer; Melinda Lambert, best female vocalist; Chris Stapleton, best male vocalist; Florida Georgia Line, best vocal duo; Little Big Town, best vocal group; and Chris Stapleton, best newcomer. Best single honors went to “Girl Crush,” recorded by Little Big Town, produced by Jay Joyce (Capitol); best album was “Traveller,” recorded by Stapleton, who co-produced with Dave Cobb (Mercury); best music event went to Keith Urban & Eric Church’s “Raise ’Em Up.” (Capitol); best music video to Maddie & Tye for “Girl In a Country Song,” directed by TK McKamy; best song to “Girl Crush,” co-written by Liz Rose, Lori McKenna & Hillary Lindsey (recorded by Little Big Town); and last but not least, best musician is Mac McAnally, guitarist . . . On Oct. 25, the official Medallion ceremony inducting the Oak Ridge Boys, The Browns (Bonnie, Maxine and late brother Jim Ed), and the late Grady Martin became the 2015 names inscribed into the Country Music Hall of Fame honor roll. The Oaks, celebrated for hits such as “Y’All Come Back Saloon” and “Elvira,” consist of Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban; while The Browns are best remembered for mega-hits “The Three Bells” and “Scarlet Ribbons,” though Jim Ed hit solo with songs such as “Pop-A-Top” and “Morning.” Martin, who died in 2001, was a renowned guitarist, session leader and boasted Top 10 singles with his Slew Foot Five combo on “Wild Side of Life” (with Burl Ives) and “Till The End of the World” (with Bing Crosby) . . . American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) gave its top trophies, Nov. 3, to Ashley Gorley, songwriter of the year, thanks to hits like “Play It Again” and “I See You,” both cut by Luke Bryan, marking 22 #1 career songs for her. At the 53rd annual awards, Sam Hunt was voted Artist-Songwriter of the Year, whose hits include the year’s best song “Leave the Night On,” co-written with Josh Osborne. Trisha Yearwood (“She’s In Love With The Boy”) received ASCAP’s prestigious Voice of Music Award, presented by former President Jimmy Carter, with whom she had participated 10 years earlier in building a Memphis house as part of his Habitat For Humanity program . . . Broadcast Music Inc., named Mac Davis as recipient of its ultimate accolade, the BMI Icon statuette, during its 49th annual awards program, Nov. 3. Mac, writer of such songs as Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto,” “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard” and “Don’t Cry, Daddy,” also had hits with his own creations, among them “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me,” “It’s Hard To Be Humble” and “Hooked On Music.” Acknowledging his latest honor, he humbly added, “It’s awesome. I’ve said so many times, I don’t feel like I deserve it. There’s a lot of people writing great songs every day; I guess it’s just that I’ve lasted a long time and I’m  still writing songs and having some sort of success . . . I’m very proud of it.” Rodney Clawson took home Songwriter of the Year trophy, due in no small part to these numbers: “American Kids” (Kenny Chesney), “Til It’s Gone” (Lady Antebellum), “Dirt” (Florida Georgia Line), and “Burnin’ It Down” (Jason Aldean). Lee Thomas Miller became the first to cop a new category, the Champion award, thanks to his unstinting efforts on behalf of writers for fairer pay, statewide and on the national scene in Washington, D.C. Best Song honors went to “Beat Of the Music,” co-written by Ross Cooperman, Heather Morgan and Brett Eldredge, who also cut it. Sony/ATV Music won top publisher . . . Veteran tunesmith Richard Leigh was honored with the SESAC Songwriter Legacy Award, Nov. 2, in recognition of such songs as “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” “I’ll Get Over You,” “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” and “In No Time At All.” At the event, he was feted musically with performances by Reba McEntire and Crystal Gayle. Voted best songwriter during the ceremony was Cary Barlowe, who suppled songs to Florida Georgia Line (“Sun Daze”) and Dustin Lynch (“Where It’s At”) this year; while “Homegrown” won as best song, co-written by Nico Moon, Wyatt Durrette and Zac Brown, the latter’s band recording their hit. Magic Mustang Music was named top SESAC publisher . . . The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum plans an exhibit titled “Keith Urban So Far” from Nov. 20 on to May 2016, in part for his efforts on behalf of the organization via its “We’re All For The Hall” fund-raiser. Of course, Urban’s chalked up 19 #1 songs and a total 34 Top 10 tunes thus far.

Scene Stealers: Singer-yodeler Jean Shepard, who’s missed some shows this year due to ill health, can boast a 60-year membership on the Grand Ole Opry, making her its senior cast performer. Sad to say, the show’s legendary star says she’ll retire to spend more time with her family and concentrate on getting well. Meantime, WSM salutes its diva on her 82nd birthday, Nov. 21, in the Opry’s winter home, the Ryman Auditorium, where she first sang on the show. The lady leaves an envious legacy for the ladies who follow, including 45 Billboard chartings with a Top 10 in three decades, since scoring her #1 debut “A ‘Dear John’ Letter” (with Ferlin Husky) in 1953, a million selling crossover single for Capitol Records. Her first husband and fellow Opry member Hawkshaw Hawkins died tragically in that infamous 1963 plane crash near Camden, Tenn., that also claimed the lives of Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and his son-in-law musician Randy Hughes. It occurred a month before the birth of Jean’s second son, leaving her with a baby and 2 year old to raise. Shepard later married musician Benny Birchfield, with whom she also has a son. Among her other hits are “A Satisfied Mind,” “Beautiful Lies,” “Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar)” and “Then He Touched Me.” In 2011, she was finally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame . . . The CMA, with an assist from stars Kix Brooks and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, presented a $3 million donation to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Oct. 20. The hospital, which focuses on critically ill or injured youngsters, will be able to expand and add another 80 beds to the treatment center. Brooks told The Tennessean, “I can’t imagine anyone with a heart not embracing what is going on” at the children’s hospital . . . Macy’s has called upon country stars Jennifer Nettles and Jake Owen to join Christian rock group MercyMe for appearances in the nationally-renowned Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC-TV, Nov. 26 . . . Songwriter Dixie Hall, the late wife of Tom T. Hall, is being honored with the ninth annual Louise Scruggs Memorial Award, presented Nov. 19 at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. The Ford Theater program there will feature chats between her friends and colleagues, accompanied by rare photos and video performances of her music by such artists as Sierra Hull and Chris Jones. Scruggs also was the wife of an artist, Earl Scruggs, and earned renown for her service as an agent and manager for him and other bluegrass greats . . . The Voice’s Blake Shelton was invited to host Nickelodeon network’s 2016 Kid’s Choice Awards program, live on March 16. The show recognizes the tops among the young crowd, including TV, films and music, but watch out Blake, judging from past performances, VIPs usually get doused with green slime! . . . British actor Tom Hiddleston visited Nashville Oct. 15, for the premiere of his new film “I Saw The Light,” in which he portrays country singer-songwriter Hank Williams. At the after-screening bash on Lower Broad, Tom took the stage at the Acme Feed & Seed nitery to sing some of the Hall of Famer’s hits including “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” and “Jambalaya.” So is it a stretch to imagine an Englishman playing the Alabama hillbilly? After all, Vivien Leigh played Scarlett O’Hara so well, she copped an Oscar for being so believable, and a dozen years later added a second Oscar to her collection, playing Blanche DuBois, another Southern Belle. The Hank Williams movie is slated to open in U.S. theaters, March 25. No word on its overseas bookings.

Bits & Pieces: A news item discloses country superstar Toby Keith has donated $2,700 to the (now troubled) Presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, not too surprising considering the conservative bent of many Nashville acts. But alas there are some Democrats on the scene, as well, such as Tim McGraw and Bobby Braddock . . . Meanwhile, Charlie Daniels, who is openly critical of President Obama and his administration, railed against Congress as well, Nov. 9, during attendance at the Mt. Juliet Rotary Club’s annual Veterans’ Breakfast (Nov. 11 is the U.S. veterans holiday): “What in hell has happened to our country?,” citing a lack of support for veterans and allowing “political correctness” to downplay American patriotism. The country rocker, now 79, delivered a tearful rendition of “The Pledge of Allegiance” before departing. Earlier in the week, Daniels helped dedicate a new $329,000 Veterans & Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn., with $50,000 of it paid via funds raised by Charlie’s Journey Home Foundation. The MTSU’s mission is to assist returning military and their families further their education and seek a degree. Speaking before the dignitaries and an SRO crowd in the campus theater, Daniels stated emphatically, “We’re here today to say that we, we the people, are here to help shoulder the load, to help take up the slack, to accept the mission to help those who have given so much, to transition back to civilian life. This Center is dedicated to the purpose of cutting through the reams of paperwork, the miles of red tape, the meaningless studies of bureaucratic crap, and supplying hands-on guidance through the maze of government assistance.” . . . Good news for music folk is an agreement struck in which the internet’s Pandora radio streaming service, a competitor to SiriusXM, will ante up $90 million in royalties to a trio of major music firms – Sony Music, UMG Recordings, Warner Music Group – and the indie ABKCO Music & Records, as a settlement regarding pre-1972 songs. A loophole in the federal copyright law resulted in non-payment for music released prior to that year, by Pandora and SiriusXM. Lawsuits were aimed at those Internet agencies, along with calls to Congress to correct copyright laws, by reversing the policy. The retroactive agreement was jointly announced in late October by Pandora and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade organization representing the music industry. SiriusXM had reached a settlement regarding pre-1972 royalties before. “That is a significant milestone and a big win for the music community,” said Cary Sherman, RIAA chairman. “We appreciate the collaborative and constructive approach of Pandora’s team in resolving this longstanding issue for artists and labels.” . . . Country singer Kellie Pickler is the latest artist to star in a reality TV series. “I Love Kellie Pickler,” debuted on CMT Nov. 12, featuring songwriter-hubby Kyle Jacobs (“More Than a Memory”) as co-producer, attracting more than 2.5 million viewers in its first night. Kellie’s successes include the Top 10 single “Best Days Of Your Life.” . . . Proud pop Tim McGraw’s pleased to have daughter Gracie singing with him on the track “Here Tonight” for Dad’s “Damn Country Music” CD. He insists the title doesn’t put down country, but is designed to get attention: “A lot depends on how you pronounce it, or where the punctuation should go,” he adds with an impish grin . . . That “Miles & Music For Kids” charity ride instigated by singer-motorcyclist Dierks Bentley, Oct. 30, reportedly was a rousing success. According to Dierks, “It’s the 10th year for Miles & Music and to say it’s still growing is an understatement. It’s a good place to be. I’ve always appreciated it, always enjoyed it and never taken any of it for granted. I feel very relaxed and blown away, too.” He and his friends and followers have helped raise $3 million to benefit Children’s Miracle Network hospitals in that decade.

Ailing: Singer-songwriter Rory Feek has announced that his wife Joey Martin-Feek’s cancer treatment has ended and she is now in Hospice care, following a week-long visit with her family in Indiana. Rory revealed that most of Joey’s immune system is gone now and she is “frail and thin . . . where she once jumped out of bed before the sun rose to rush out to her garden . . . she now quietly sleeps away most of the days.” Her husband lies beside her at night, holding her hand, “and I pray.” Readers, too, can do that for both Joey & Rory.

Final Curtain: Pianist Thomas Rowland McBryde, 66, died Oct. 13 in Nashville. The Oak Ridge, Tenn., native learned to play keyboards at age 13, formed his own band to perform in and around Clinton, Tenn. Before long, he was performing on TV in Knoxville. McBryde moved to Nashville in 1974, where he was a bandleader at the Opryland Theme Park in the 1970s, and did studio sessions and toured with such artists as Tennessee Ernie Ford, Brenda Lee, Dobie Gray and Garth Brooks. Tom later became music director for two decades at Dollywood Theme Park. In 1998, he recorded and released the instrumental album “Tom McBryde: PianoTime.” Survivors include his wife Anne, son Josh and father William McBryde of Clinton; plus a sister and three brothers. Services were held at Crievewood Methodist Church, Nashville, Oct. 25.

Accordionist Rita Munsey Doss, 71, died Oct. 15 in Nashville. A former Miss Tennessee, Rita Munsey began performing as a youngster, singing and playing accordion in the late 1950s. She was appearing on Knoxville TV with the Cas Walker Country Show by the early 1960s. A 1962 graduate of Claiborne County High School, the blonde beauty attended the University of Tennessee, where she was named Miss Scabbard & Blade by the Army ROTC, going on to win both Miss Knoxville and Miss Tennessee contests in ’64-’65, though less successful in the Miss America contest. Among artists she performed with were Country Hall of Famers Ray Price and The Statler Brothers. Survivors include her husband of 35 years, Dr. Leslie Doss, daughter Rebecca Greene, step-children Randle and Brandon Doss, and step-grandchildren. Services were conducted Oct. 19 at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home, Nashville, followed by a private interment at Woodlawn Memorial Park.

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Promoter Charlie Dick dies

Promoter Charlie Dick dies

Promoter Charlie Dick succumbs at age 81 . . .

NASHVILLE – Entrepreneur Charlie Dick, 81, died Nov. 8 at his home here, following a brief illness. Good buddy Mac Wiseman called Charlie “the keeper of the flame,” noting how he kept the career of his late wife Patsy Cline burning brightly more than half a century after her tragic 1963 death.

Today (Nov. 12) we honored him for this and his own country music contributions through the years, at a funeral service in First Baptist Church. Among mourners besides daughter Julie Fudge, sons Randy and Chip Dick, and their families, were friends like former Opry manager Jerry Strobel, singers Jeannie Seely, Jett Williams, Michelle & Jimmy Capps, his former secretary Marsha Basore, and even ex-wife Jamey Ryan.

Keith Bilbrey, announcer on RFD’s Larry’s Country Diner, spoke at the family’s request, saying, “Charlie was a prankster.” He remembered the time that he had to have surgery for a hernia, and Charlie related the tiniest detail about his corrective surgery for the same problem, to prepare Keith ad nauseam;  however, following Keith’s surgery, sent him an invitation to join Charlie and friends on a “trail ride.”

Although understandably emotional, Chip eulogized his father, managing to weave in some humorous anecdotes, agreeing Dad was indeed a jokester. On a more serious note, The Reverend David Royalty officiated, and a three-piece string band offered a mix of gospel and country songs between the talks.

Charles Allen Dick was born May 24, 1934 to Mary (Heflin) and Leland Dick near Whitehall in Frederick County, Va. In 1950, he dropped out of Handley High School – “I didn’t get along with teachers very well” – then worked as a linotype operator for the daily Winchester Star newspaper (which he’d once sold as a kid).

Country Music Hall of Famer Wiseman, 90, said in a telephone chat, “Charlie was special, and you could always rely on him . . . what you saw was what you got. He was the same fun fellow when I talked to him the other day, as he was when I met him close to 60 years ago.”

Charlie and Mac were Lifetime Members of the Reunion Of Professional Entertainers (ROPE), both still heading up the association’s executive board. Mac, five times president, offered to step down one summer while performing in Branson at Willie Nelson Theatre, sharing the bill with Willie and Merle Haggard.

“Well, Charlie and (fellow officer) George Riddle told me to forget about doing that, saying they could keep things running smoothly until my return.”

In an interview for Wiseman’s biography (“All My Memories Fit For Print,” Nova Books), Charlie recalled listening to country music on the radio as a youngster: “I never was a big bluegrass fan myself. When I first heard that type of music, we called it ‘string music.’ I lived in northern Virginia, up close to the West Virginia state line, out in the country. My mother kept the radio on as long as its battery would hold out. That was in the 1940s and actually I didn’t know one style from the next. She could pick up stations clearly like WSVA-Harrisonburg. Mac was on that station back then. I listened to some of it, the things I liked. Mom listened all the time, until the battery wore down.

“Mac was just country to us. The music we heard in Virginia then wasn’t called bluegrass, it was more raw hillbilly country without any amplifying or anything. As I got older, we started going to parks on weekends, where they had about any kind of acoustic music you could think of, some pretty smooth and some wild and crazy. I got so I liked all of it and maybe that’s why I ended up in the music business.”

After moving to Winchester, Charlie got to hanging around with local musicians and got more into it: “One weekend after I met Patsy, she was working a park down in Fredericksburg, and one of the other artists on the bill was Mac Wiseman. I had not yet met Mac. Well, Patsy brought along a box of fried chicken and me, I had a picnic-jug full of grapefruit juice and something else – it might’ve been gin (he chuckles). Now Mac was tickled to death to share Patsy’s chicken, but I think he even liked my beverage better, you know having something to wash it down with.

“Also on that day, they were advertising to ‘give away’ a Mac Wiseman Cadillac car by means of a raffle. I thought, ‘Wow! This is great!’ Back then I didn’t know too many people driving Caddies, especially one who was going to give it away. Then I heard it had a hundred thousand miles or more on it already, and figured Mac had driven it about all it was gonna go. But they did give it away. Meanwhile, backstage, the three of us ate, drank and visited, and we got on very well.”

Patsy, who had split with first husband Gerald Cline, liked Charlie’s take-charge manner and after receiving her divorce decree in March, married Charlie Dick on Sept. 15, 1957.

She was already making a name for herself, having signed with Four-Star Records, became a semi-regular on Jimmy Dean’s WMAL-TV Town & Country Time in Washington, D.C., and won CBS’s national Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts competition, thanks to her performance on her first hit “Walkin’ After Midnight.”

Charlie was summoned by Uncle Sam to serve in the Army (1957-1959). After Charlie wed Patsy, she went with him to Fort Bragg, N.C., temporarily putting her career on hold, while he worked as a motor pool dispatcher. Following discharge, they went back to Winchester with baby daughter Julie. In 1960, they moved to Nashville, where Patsy was signed to Decca Records, and Charlie went to work for Curly Printing.

The year 1961 was especially rewarding for Patsy, who scored her first #1 single “I Fall To Pieces,” and the classic “Crazy” (#2), which eventually became a Grammy Hall of Fame disc; she joined WSM’s Grand Ole Opry cast; and gave birth to son Allen Randolph (Randy).

Charlie frequently accompanied his wife on tour, and the associations he made led to later work within the music industry. One particular gig he missed was a benefit show to aid ailing Kansas City DJ Jack Call, and the returning flight with Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas in a plane piloted by Copas’ son-in-law Randy Hughes, struck a storm, crashing near Camden, Tenn., where all four occupants died on March 5, 1963.

The death of the three Opry stars reverberated around the world, and Randy’s wife Kathy, herself a former singer and mother of a son, lost both husband and dad. Cowboy’s wife had two teen-aged sons at home; Hawkins’  singer-wife Jean Shepard had a two-year-old and another son due a month later; while Charlie was left to raise Julie, 4, and Randy, 2.

Charlie Dick later worked as a music promoter for various independent labels, covering the Starday, King and Gusto catalogs. He was proud of his role in producing the smash Red Sovine single “Teddy Bear,” in coordination with Tommy Hill, in 1976. Dick explained: “Moe Lytle bought the Dickerson Road studio and Starday masters from Don Pierce. Tommy Hill, who was as good as they come, was part of that deal. One time when Tommy was on the road, Red called me and said, ‘I got something I want you to hear.’ He added, ‘Somebody gave it to me awhile back and I didn’t pay any attention to it, but I’ve just listened and like it. See what you think?’ So he played the tape over the phone, asking ‘What would you do if you had it?’ I told Red, ‘If it were me, I’d record it today.’

“Red already had a smash recitation ‘Giddyup Go,’ which he co-wrote with Tommy, so when Tommy got back, we all listened. But Moe was out of town and Tommy didn’t do too many things without his OK; but, as I recall, we went ahead and recorded it. Well, we put it out right away and ‘Teddy Bear’ sold over a million records and hit number one for us. Moe wasn’t upset about that.” (It also became a Top 40 pop success for Red.)

Harking back to July 4, 1965, Dick married newcomer Jamey Ryan, a talented Texan and younger cousin to Tommy Hill and sister Goldie Hill (Mrs. Carl Smith). In explaining their breakup in 1972, Charlie surmised Jamey didn’t dig standing forever in the shadow of Patsy Cline. Nonetheless, the couple produced a son Charles (Chip) Dick, Jr., in 1968, and he fit snugly into the surviving Dick family, while his parents remained friends.

In the meantime, Charlie devoted himself to promoting Patsy’s music in liaison with Decca/MCA, and her “star” shines even brighter, more than half a century after her untimely passing. In 1973, she was enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame, while Charlie’s company, Legacy, Inc., kept him busy overseeing her estate. This includes platinum-selling albums (one electronically with Jim Reeves, since they didn’t record together), technically advising two major motion pictures depicting Patsy – “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Sweet Dreams” (in which Ed Harris plays Charlie) – and stage shows licensed about her life and songs, notably “Always . . . Patsy Cline,” “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline,” and “Patsy Cline, The Musical” in the United Kingdom.

Later, in 1980s’ collaboration with Canadian filmmakers Greg and Mark Hall, Charlie helped produce documentaries like “The Real Patsy Cline,” “George Jones: The Same Ole Me,” “Loretta Lynn: Honky Tonk Girl,” “Waylon Jennings: Renegade, Outlaw, Legend,” and “Willie Nelson, My Life” for their Hallway Productions.

Survivors include daughter Julie Fudge, sons Allen (Randy) and Charles (Chip) Dick; five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and brother Melvin Dick. Interment will be next to wife Patsy in the Shenandoah Memorial Park, Winchester, Va., where on her stone it reads: “Death cannot kill what never dies: Love.

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Tommy Overstreet passes

Tommy Overstreet passes

Death of 1970s’ balladeer Tommy Overstreet . . . 

NASHVILLE – There was a time when Tommy Overstreet’s winning formula of name songs about gals doing him wrong, made him one of country music’s top stars, thanks to “Gwen (Congratulations),” “Ann (Don’t Go Runnin’)” and “(Jeannie Marie) You Were a Lady.” Sadly, on Nov. 2, time ran out for Tommy, 78, who died at his Hillsboro home, west of Portland, Ore.

First interviewed Tommy when he was in Wiesbaden, Germany, to entertain American forces, backed by his Nashville Express band. This was shortly after scoring introductory back-to-back 1971 Top Five singles “Gwen” and “I Don’t Know You (Anymore),” while celebrating a near #1, “Ann,” in ’72.

The decade would proclaim him a smooth ballad singer, no doubt heavily influenced by ancestral cousin Gene Austin, a 1920s’ pop singer whose 39 Top 10 discs included nine classic chart-toppers, among them “Bye, Bye Blackbird,” “My Blue Heaven” and a pair of “name” songs “Ramona” and “Jeannine (I Dream of Lilac Time).” Their younger cousin is folk singer Susan St. Marie (“All Or Nothing With Me”), who never attained the impressive chartings of her famed relatives.

Although born Sept. 10, 1937 in Oklahoma City, Tommy’s family moved to Abilene, Texas, when he was a youngster. He took up the guitar, and initially enjoyed playing pop tunes, confiding, “My mother said I started singing when I was born. Anyway, I always wanted to be a singer from as long ago as I can remember.”

At 17, Tommy landed a semi-regular gig on Abilene-TV’s The Slim Willet Show, Willet being the writer and first to hit #1 country with his song “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes” (also a 1952 #1 pop cover for Perry Como). After moving to Houston, a Lamar High School classmate was Tommy Sands, future singer-actor (“Sing Boy, Sing”), who would later be managed by Colonel Tom Parker, but helpful in bringing about an introduction to then Parker-client Elvis Presley, whom Overstreet greatly admired.

In retrospect, sandy-haired Tommy was as handsome and rugged as the Colonel’s two talents, and might well have made the trek to Hollywood himself, given the right backing. Meanwhile, however, Overstreet’s primary credit was performing on radio in Houston, and having formed his own band, The Shadows. He went on to study broadcasting at the University of Texas there, but was in a stage musical, “Hit The Road,” as well. While playing area clubs, he was announced as “Tommy Dean From Abilene,” sometimes appearing with Gene Austin, whom he called “Uncle,” a fixture at Houston’s elite Shamrock Hotel.

Following service with the Army, Tommy settled briefly in Los Angeles under his real name, honing his talents as a writer, recording and “pitching” his songs to no less than perennial pop favorite Pat Boone. Reportedly, Overstreet’s own first professional recording stint came at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico, with Jimmy Gilmore & The Fireballs. In 1960, Tommy recorded for Roulette Records in New York City, reportedly with The Ray Charles Singers supplying backing vocals.

In 1967, Dot Records’ Randy Wood engaged Tommy to manage the label’s Nashville branch. He was also signed to record, his first charting being “Rocking a Memory (That Won’t Go To Sleep),” lasting a scant two weeks in ’69. Three years later, Tommy hit paydirt with a strong ballad “Gwen,” co-written by his producer Ricci Mareno and Jerry Gillespie, writers who proved prolific in his career.

Tommy Overstreet casual“Gwen” was also the title of his debut album, charting 12 weeks and hitting Top 40, as the single crossed over into the pop Top 100 list on Billboard. A proud Overstreet pointed out, “The single hit #1 in the other trade weeklies, Cash Box and Record World, but Billboard kept it #3, as they regarded Randy Wood’s (Dot) an indie label.”

A year later, “Heaven Is My Woman’s Name” scored #3 country and also hit the pop Top 100 chart. That song, written by Bonnie Dobbins, was not one his producer sought as a single, so Tommy went to his Dot boss, pleading to release it post-haste – and it became his longest-charting single (18 weeks) and the title track for his most successful LP (#9, 1972). Tommy also enjoyed successes with producer Ron Chancey on ABC-Dot.

Overstreet’s Billboard chartings totaled 11 Top 10s, six of which went Top Five. Included are “Send Me No Roses,” “I’ll Never Break These Chains,” “I’m a Believer” and “Don’t Go ‘City Girl’ On Me.” His run at Dot ended in 1978, with two near-Top 10 singles: “Yes M’am” (#12) and the upbeat “Fadin’ In, Fadin’ Out” (#11). He would record with Elektra, his best showing being the Top 20 “What More Could a Man Need” (1979), and indies such as AMI, Gervas and Silver Dollar, where he had his 34th and final Billboard charting, “Next To You” (1986).

~During the 1980s, he performed several years in the tourist mecca Branson, Mo., before making his move to Oregon. Still, he continued to tour and record CDs, such as “Tommy Overstreet’s Country Gospel” (2006) and “Welcome To My World of Love” (2008). He was also seen guesting on such TV series as Hee Haw, The Midnight Special and In Concert.

Among Tommy’s great regrets were his failed first marriage and the loss of his only son, but he remained proud of his more than 30 overseas tours, and performing across the U.S. and Canada. In 2013, his auto-biography “A Road Less Traveled” was published, and on his Facebook page, this is Overstreet’s final posting, Aug. 26, 2015: “Howdy, howdy everyone! Hope you’re doing well today, and I’ve been worse, but I’m doing good today. Hangin’ in there, as the old saying goes. Working on a new CD that I hope my friends will enjoy. I have a new CD of a fairly old LP, we released quite a few years ago, but I felt it worthy of re-releasing as a CD. The title is ‘Nuggets,’ a 10-song collection my friends in country music had hits with, and they asked me to do an album of these great songs.”

One of his peers, buddy Rex Allen, Jr., wrote on Facebook, Nov. 3: “Tommy Overstreet has passed away at his home. Tommy was a great guy and headlined the first tour I ever worked. So sad.”

Survivors include his widow Diane Overstreet and daughters Amber, Aeriel and Lisa. A memorial service was scheduled on Nov. 22 at Evergreen Christian Center, in Hillsboro.

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Billy Joe Royal Dies

Billy Joe Royal

“Billy Joe Royal was well known for his blue-eyed soul sound in pop and country.”

NASHVILLE — Singer Billy Joe Royal, who died Oct. 6, lived his life to its full potential, attaining success in both pop and country music circles. Reportedly, the 73-year-old artist died in his sleep at his home in Morehead City, N.C.

A former resident of Nashville, his passing merited only five paragraphs on page 9 in The Tennessean newspaper, which even cited his home-town of Marietta (Ga.) as his N.C. residence.

Born in Valdosta, Royal grew up in Marietta, just north of Atlanta, learning to play piano and drums. By age 11, he was singing on his uncle’s radio show; after learning to play steel guitar, he performed at 14 on The Georgia Jubilee; and in high school performed with his own group, The Corvettes.

It was in Atlanta that he met music publisher Bill Lowery, working with such promising artists as Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed, Freddy Weller and Joe South. According to Royal, friend South wanted to get his “Down In the Boondocks” to Gene Pitney (known for the hits “Town Without Pity” and “Liberty Valance”) and didn’t know how, but boss-man Lowery had other ideas.

“Because my voice was similar, I was chosen to cut it for a demo,” said Billy Joe, who earlier had cut two obscure singles on Fairlane, a regional label in 1961: “Never In a Hundred Years” and “Dark Glasses.”

Lowery got South’s demo to Columbia Records, which gladly welcomed both song and its singer to the label, launching Royal’s first real shot at stardom. Released in 1965, “Down In the Boondocks” peaked at #9, followed by a trio of Billboard Top 40 chartings: “I Knew You When” (#14); “I’ve Got To Be Somebody” (#38); and “Cherry Hill Park” (#15). Incidentally, the latter 1969 single was deemed too controversial by some DJs to play, since Mary its main character “was such a thrill after dark . . . in Cherry Hill Park.” Otherwise, it might’ve ranked right up there with “Down In the Boondocks.”

Nonetheless, Billy Joe lived the life of every young singer’s dream, guesting on all the top radio and TV programs of the era, being featured on Dick Clark’s Cavalcade of Stars tour as a teen idol, and chalked up additional South successes such as “Yo-Yo,” “Hush” and “Don’t You Be Ashamed (To Call My Name).” He had the distinction of cutting the first recording on “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” in 1967, prior to its writer South’s version and that of its ultimate hit-maker, Lynn Anderson, in 1970. But Billy didn’t really like the song.

Royal departed Columbia in 1972. In ’73, he revisited The Drifters’ “This Magic Moment” for MGM, but when that didn’t take off, he drifted chartless among various indie labels, though he enjoyed a modest success on “Under the Boardwalk,” in 1978, on the Private Stock label.

During that decade, he said he worked regularly doing engagements in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, as well as making TV appearances: “It’s hell to be 25 years old, and you’re a has-been. Thank goodness I stuck by what I believed in.”

It was in a production-partnership with producer-songwriter Nelson Larkin that Royal found further song successes via Atlantic Records’ country imprint, notably thanks to Gary Burr’s poignant “Burned Like a Rocket” (#10, 1985). That, too, should’ve been a bigger record, but just when peaking, NASA’s space shuttle Challenger exploded on Jan. 28, 1986.

Though the song had nothing to do with the problem at hand, strangely enough, DJs quit programming Royal’s record just because of its title.

“I almost had a nervous breakdown over that,” recalled Royal. “Especially after my follow-up single – ‘Boardwalk Angel’ – bombed! . . . Thankfully, ‘I Miss You Already’ and ‘Old Bridges Burn Slow’ succeeded, proving it wasn’t a one-hit wonder sort of thing.”

Although both pop and country purists criticized Royal’s seeming switch in genres, Billy Joe maintained he didn’t really change styles at all, and a listen to his 1960s’ hits and subsequent successes of the 1980s, attest to the fact that he was still a champion of blue-eyed soul, not unlike T. Graham Brown (“I Tell It Like It Used To Be”), who also came of age in that time.

Actually, after too long a dry spell in the 1970s, Royal encountered Nelson Larkin in New Orleans. Later, on a trip to Music City, he dropped in on the producer. “I was about as low-down as you can get. I didn’t even have a car. When I came to Nashville, I was looking for some songs and Nelson played a tape for me. The first song was ‘Burned Like a Rocket.’ I knew instinctively it was a hit. I couldn’t understand why nobody else liked it or why they didn’t hear its potential.”

After recording the number in 1984, Larkin “pitched” it all over Nashville. One label wanted Billy Joe, but not the song. As Royal related, “I believed in that song. They were willing to do an album on me; but, after thinking on it, I knew we’d have to shop for another song anyway, and I knew I already had one. So I walked away from that deal.”

Again entered Bill Lowery, who agreed to put it out on his indie Southern Tracks, offering Billy Joe a second chance at the brass ring. The resulting regional airplay’s strength brought Atlantic to the table offering national distribution and the rest as they say is history.

Royal enjoyed working with Larkin, whom he called a no-nonsense producer: “He was so great and we had great musicians. He brought out the best in me. It helped, too, that Atlantic was really behind us, and radio was very receptive. We had a good run.”

Regarding the raised eyebrows over his change to country, the six-footer smiled, replying, “I’m just singing the way I always did. It’s just that the style I once performed as pop is now considered country. If ‘Down In the Boondocks’ was cut today, it would be classified country.”

Billy Joe’s youthful idols were Clyde McPhatter and Sam Cooke, and he was also a fan of 1950s’ “doo wop”  sounds of groups like The Spaniels, The Drifters and The Platters.

“There was something in that music that just got to me, deep inside,” and with his distinctive, almost falsetto tenor, it was as though Billy was born to sing in that style.

Another Royal friend was Steve Popovich, a producer and Mercury’s chief, who convinced Billy Joe to team up with Donna Fargo for a soulful rendering of Bobby Blue Bland’s “Members Only.”

“I think a lot of those old R&B songs can be revived now and would be hits all over again to a lot of people,” noted Royal, though traditionalists Johnnie & Jack had done so way back in the mid-1950s, with hit versions of “I Get So Lonely (Oh Baby Mine)” and “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight.”

While Larkin was producing Lynn Anderson’s track on “Under the Boardwalk,” which Royal had also sung earlier, label boss Popovich saw him quietly singing along, and urged Billy to join in: “Steve said, ‘Go in there and do that . . .’ Lynn was all for it, so I added a little harmony onto it.”

Had there been more harmony in Billy Joe’s personal life, surely his 10-year marriage to Georgia Moseley would not have hit the skids.

“I don’t ever expect to marry again. Something died in me when the divorce came through,” he lamented at the time. “I doubt I could make another commitment like that again, to let someone else get close enough to hurt me that bad.”

Nonetheless, Billy was divorced three times. He remained on good terms with ex-wife Michelle (Rivenbark), and had a daughter Savannah, today a student at North Carolina State University.

A former classmate of Billy Joe’s in high school was Priscilla Mitchell, who later became Mrs. Jerry Reed. As struggling artists, they had co-starred together on WTJH’s Georgia Jubilee broadcast out of East Point, Ga. (Her only #1 hit was a duet “Yes, Mr. Peters” with Roy Drusky.)

Royal remembered receiving $5 as opening act for Gladys Knight & The Pips in his early days.

“There was also a club I worked at where I had a chance to work with all the big stars of the day when I was just a kid,” noted Royal, two of whom were Johnny Tillotson (“It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’”) and Faron Young (“I Miss You Already”), never dreaming he would later enjoy hits in reviving their songs. Accepting that extended engagement at the Bamboo Ranch in Savannah, where he played to a 2,500 capacity crowd, gave him a boost, for it was there he met future friend Roy Orbison, who offered encouragement, giving Royal needed confidence.

On Billboard, Royal scored four #1 songs on its Sales Charts: “Old Bridges Burn Slow” (1987); “I’ll Pin A Note On Your Pillow” (1987); “Out Of Sight and On My Mind” (1988); and “It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’” (1988).

Another major tool in promoting discs then new to Billy Joe was the music video, and he relished making “I’ll Pin a Note On Your Pillow,” and see it top the CMT playlists months on end. Two of his singles hit the #2 spot: “Tell It Like It Is” (1989) and “Till I Can’t Take It Anymore” (1989). That was a milestone year, for sandwiched between those near chart-toppers was a Top Five single “Love Has No Right,” which Royal co-wrote with Larkin and Randy Scruggs.

His final chartings were less impressive: “If the Jukebox Took Tears” (#29, 1991) and “I’m Okay (And Getting’ Better)” (#51, 1992). Still, he could point with pride to his Gold Album “The Royal Treatment,” a Top Five that charted 101 weeks a few years earlier.

In 1988, Royal had been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, in which his mentor Bill Lowery was the very first inductee. Despite lack of chart success, he kept recording albums for fans, notably “Stay Close To Home” (1998), “Now And Then, Then And Now” (2001) and “Going By Daydreams” (2007). In 2009, he released his final collection, titled “His First Gospel Album.”

In 2013, Royal appeared in “Billy The Kid” playing Robert Ally, a movie that also co-starred Cody McCarvey, a fellow vocalist. Billy’s film credits include narrating Frank Willard’s 1968 documentary “Mondo Daytona” and appearing in actor-director Patrick McGoohan’s 1974 failed flick of the Shakespearean rock opera “Catch My Soul,” based on “Othello.” He was flattered, too, that his iconic “Down In the Boondocks” was featured in the films “Riding In Cars With Boys” (2001) starring Drew Barrymore, and “Glory Road” (2006) with Josh Lucas.

More recently he kept busy doing Golden Oldie shows, sharing the bill with legends like B. J. Thomas and Ronnie McDowell. Just weeks prior to his passing, Billy Joe joined Ronnie as headliners for Elvis Week in Memphis, at the Clarion-King’s Signature Hotel with Mary Beck’s Rockin’ Oldies Show. Reportedly, Billy Joe was still being booked by a Nashville promoter, Charlie Wayne Felts, and his last gig was back in his home state  Georgia for the Gwinnett County Fair, Sept. 24.

“There was never a nicer guy on the planet than Billy,” said childhood friend McDowell. “Now he belongs to the ages.” That other pal, B. J. Thomas (Raindrops & Boondocks Tour), upon learning of Royal’s passing, posted this Tweet: “My best friend, Billy Joe Royal, died this morning. He was a sweet and talented man. Never a bad word. One of a kind.”

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Music City Beat October 2015

Faith and Tim

NASHVILLE — The McGraw household has suddenly become even more creative. After Mrs. McGraw, a.k.a. actress-singer Faith Hill, agreed to take on the chore of co-producing a new reality TV series based in Nashville, it was disclosed daughter Gracie McGraw, 18, will be debuting as a vocalist on dad’s upcoming CD “Damn Country Music.” Gracie and Tim duet on the album’s opener, “Here Tonight,” recorded at producer Byron Gallimore’s home studio. Of course, fans can expect to find McGraw’s current Top 20 charter “Top Of the World” on the CD, being released Nov. 6. Meantime, Faith’s daytime program is being “shopped” to networks, featuring Kellie Pickler as a co-host, and seeking a fall 2016 season kick-off. According to The Hollywood Reporter publication, Hill will serve in a co-producer capacity with Lisa Erspamer, ex-producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Jason Owen, Hill’s manager. Reportedly, the production will occur within a farmhouse setting boasting Southern recipes, home decorations and, of course, entertainers chatting with Pickler and one or two co-hosts yet to be named. Erspamer told Hollywood Reporter, “Nashville is Music City, so there’s music, really everywhere . . . How we present that, we’ll want to do in a way that is a little unexpected.”

Scene Stealers: Las Vegas already boasts extended engagements by Marie & Donnie Osmond (“I’m Leaving It All Up To You”), Reba and Brooks & Dunn (“If You See Him, If You See Her”), and The Judds, Naomi & Wynonna (“Mama, He’s Crazy”), but now country king George Strait (“Give It All We Got Tonight”) plans to play further shows in the gambling mecca – April 22-23 and Sept. 9-10 – despite begging off from hitting the road in 2014! For his 2016 gigs at the new Las Vegas Arena, he’ll have newcomer Kacey Musgraves (“Follow Your Arrow”) as opening act . . . Kenny Rogers, who can boast 23 #1 chartings on Billboard’s country and pop singles list, plus 11 more #1 albums, announced that he’ll retire from the road, following a 2016 international tour. It was 48 years ago that Rogers formed The First Edition, with whom he had the Top 10s “Just Dropped In” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” and after a dry spell emerged a solo sensation in the mid-1970s, via a pair of Top 20’s, “Love Lifted Me” and “Laura,” then hit the Grammy jackpot with the stirring #1 ballad “Lucille” in 1977. Rogers, who wrote or co-wrote such hits as “Sweet Music Man,” “Love Or Something Like It” and “Crazy,” also proved a winning duet partner for the likes of Dottie West, Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton, Dolly Parton, Ronnie Milsap, Alison Krauss and Billy Dean. He’s been a major draw on TV and in films such as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “The Gambler” and “Six Pack.” What a career! . . . Keith Urban’s rightfully excited about scoring his 19th #1 single, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” and chose it to join Taylor Swift on stage in Toronto, Canada, Oct. 2, as one of her many surprise guests for her current 1989 World Tour. He sang that song, co-authored by Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Ross Cooperman, as well as his earlier self-penned #1 “Somebody Like You” with Swift. Incidentally, during her Sept. 26 set at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, she introduced be-knighted super showman Mick Jagger, joining voices on The Stones’ iconic “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” their first #1 (50 years ago), which Sir Mick co-wrote. No matter what one thinks of this country expatriate, she’s a helluva show-person. The night before at Bridgestone, she trotted out special guests Alison Krauss, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and Kelsea Ballerini. Get this, Taylor was quoted in US News musing, “I think I should take some time off. I think people need a break from me,” as she ponders pushing the pause button on the tour.

Legal Tips: Nashville producer Dave Brainard and friend Deborah DeLoach were injured Sept. 27, when a car driven by a Maury County couple bumped into DeLoach at a crosswalk on Demonbreau Street near Music Row, then continued to drive slowly into them, before stopping and stepping out of their Infinity model car, to harrass the victims further, including an assault on both Brainard and DeLoach, leaving the producer unconscious, as they fled the scene. There was a second woman in Brainard’s company not involved in either incident. Rushed to Vanderbilt Hospital, Brainard, 40, underwent extensive reconstructive facial surgery by Dr. Kevin Kelly. Dave’s credits include producing Jamey Johnson, Jerrod Niemann and a Grammy-nominated Brandy Clark CD “12 Stories.” Detective Anthony Chandler’s investigation and anonymous tips to Nashville Crime Stoppers, subsequently resulted in arrest warrants issued for Dustin Hargrove, charged with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor assault, and Nichole Hargrove, charged with misdemeanor assault. On Oct. 6, the Hargroves, both 30, residents of Columbia, Tenn., surrendered to the Metro Nashville Police. Bonds of $7,500 on him and $1,000 on her were paid to secure their freedom, as they await court appearances Nov. 3, prompting social media comments these were way too low, though the court contends the couple have no prior criminal records and with ties to their community, do not appear to be flight risks. Stay tuned.

               Bits & Pieces: Could Lady Antebellum be heading for a breakup? Invitation only listeners got a preview of Lady A’s Charlie Kelley’s solo songs, and it should be noted fellow A-players Hillary Scott and Dave Hayward attended the Skyville Live Club gig, Sept. 30. Hmmm, Kelley duly notes, “I wouldn’t have done this project without Hillary and Dave giving me their blessing. Lady A will always be my main focus, but it sure was fun to write music without any agenda.” Uh-huh, we’ve heard that before, by such upfront vocalists as Paulette Carlson (Highway 101) and Ronnie Dunn (Brooks & Dunn). One song, “Lonely Girl,” he co-wrote with solo singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton . . . Meanwhile, Lady A’s Hillary Scott started up a scholarship fund at her alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, designed to aid gals seeking studies regarding the music scene. Hillary, of course, is daughter to singer Linda Davis and songwriter Lang Scott, and wife to drummer Chris Tyrrell. Her manager, Daniel Miller, didn’t disclose the sum donated, but did indicate the singer wanted to give something back in gratitude for her own success: “Whether it be a songwriter, a producer, an engineer, whatever, hopefully this will allow several young women the opportunity to achieve their dreams indefinitely.” . . . Gifted singer-songwriter-musician Charlie Daniels is also a giving person, and as such co-founded the Journey Home Project, to assist a new Veterans & Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University, in the donated sum of $50,000. Daniels’ 40th Volunteer Jam raised that amount at Bridgestone Arena, Aug. 12. The idea is to aid discharged service members to transition into lives as civilians, and enable studies to improve themselves via financial aid and academic advising . . . Thanks to Carrie Underwood, more than $146,000 was raised during performances Sept. 26 at the Johnathon & Newman Arndt estate in Beverly Hills, Calif., to benefit the National Association of Recording Artists Society’s non-profit MusiCare Fund. The Arndts, prominent jewelers, not only volunteered their place for the fund-raiser but also paid all costs connected to it, enabling NARAS to reap all the profits. MusiCare, the charitable arm of the Grammy organization, offers musicians financial aid in addiction recovery, healthcare and disaster relief . . . Florida Georgia Line – Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard – have paid $3.18 million for two adjacent Hillsboro Village office buildings, reportedly to house their new business ventures, including a studio and music publishing firm Tree Vibez Music, which spouses, Brittany Kelley, who also sells designer clothing, and Hayley Hubbard, will oversee. The buildings, situated on 21st Avenue South, boast 9,400 square feet of space . . . Songwriter supreme Bobby Braddock (“He Stopped Loving Her Today”) is hawking his second book, this one sub-titled “A Life On Nashville’s Music Row” (Vanderbilt University/Country Music Foundation Press), released Oct. 6. Much of the material derives from his journals, in which are jotted happenings on the music scene, starting in his early 30s. Now 75, Braddock initially published his memoirs “Down in Orbundale: A Songwriter’s Youth in Old Florida,” published by Louisiana State University Press (2007). He’s a member of both the Nashville Songwriters . . . and Country Music Halls of Fame . . . Not  one to take a backseat to anybody, versatile vocalist-tunesmith Ray Wylie Hubbard  has written his own memoirs, “A Life . . . Well Lived” (co-authored with pro Thom Jurek), it’s not only biographical, but provides amusing road stories to delight readers. The release date is Nov. 2, eleven days before his 69th birthday. Probably his most notorious number is “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” which Jerry Jeff Walker recorded in a 1973 album “Viva Terlingua,” but Ray’s co-written with Nashville writer Ronnie Dunn (“Bad On Fords and Chevrolets”) and the likes of rocker Jonathan Tyler (“Hey Mama, My Time Ain’t Long”). The Oklahoma native, while living in Austin, became an original Texas outlaw way before Waylon & Willie.

               Honors: The four composers chosen to enter the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, Oct. 11, for 2015 were: Rosanne Cash (“Seven Year Ache”), Mark James (“Suspicious Minds”), Even Stevens (“The Best Year Of My Life”) and Craig Wiseman (“Where The Green Grass Grows”). Other trophies awarded that evening at Music City Center, went to Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” Best Song of the Year, co-written by a trio of ladies, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose; Rodney Clawson (“Dirt”), voted Songwriter of the Year; and in an alternate category, Taylor Swift (“Bad Blood”) took Songwriter/Artist of the Year honors, marking her seventh such NSAI award, but unable to accept, acknowledged her honor via video: “There’s really no community that I respect or admire more than the songwriting community.” . . . Mac Davis (“Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me,” “You’re My Bestest Friend”) has been named to receive BMI’s annual Icon Award, Nov. 3, during Broadcast Music Inc.’s 2015 awards show in Nashville. Among his honors has been induction into the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. He’s penned such other winners as Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto,” and Bobby Goldsboro’s “Watching Scotty Grow”. . . The Oak Ridge Boys’ rendition of “Sweet Jesus” earned the Gospel Music Association’s Dove statuette as best country-gospel song of the year, Oct. 13, during the 2015 Dove Awards gala. Sharing in the award are co-writers Kenny Vernon and Merle Haggard, who also joined the Oaks vocally on the track. Fellow Oak, Joe Bonsall exclaimed, “This whole project was magic from day one. We are thankful to Bill Gaither for the opportunity and thank (co-producers) Ben Isaacs and Duane Allen for their leadership and guidance. Thanks also to our hero, Merle Haggard, not only for the song, but for recording it with us.” Allen, of course, is lead vocalist for the Oak Ridge Boys, also including Richard Sterban and William Lee Golden. The winning song appears on their latest CD, “Rock of Ages: Hymns & Gospel Favorites,” a product of the Gaither Music Group . . . During the annual Americana Awards, Sept. 16, country group The Mavericks won best group of the year; newcomer Sturgill Simpson earned Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for his creation “Turtles All the Way Down”; and Ricky Skaggs received a Lifetime Achievement Instrumentalist Award at the Ryman Auditorium here. Rosanne Cash’s multi-instrumentalist husband John Leventhal took home Americana’s Instrumentalist of the Year award . . . Over in Raleigh, N.C., the 26th annual International Bluegrass Music Association awards, Oct. 1, proved a big night for the Earls of Leicester, winning best instrumental group, best gospel performance (“Who Will Sing For Me”), best album (“The Earls of Leicester,” produced by Jerry Douglas) and the big one, Entertainer of the Year. Veterans Bill Keith and Larry Sparks were inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Leicester bandsman Shawn Camp won best male vocalist, and Jerry Douglas was also named best dobro picker. The song “Three Bells” gained Douglas and fellow dobroists Rob Ickes and the late Mike Auldridge, a best instrumental performance honor, while fiddler Becky Buller won twin awards: best new artist and best recorded event statuette for her star-studded “Southern Flavor.” Rhonda Vincent took home an eighth best female vocalist trophy; Balsam Range was voted best vocal group and also best song of the year (“Moon Over Memphis”); Rob McCoury, nabbed best banjo; Tim Surrett, best bassist; Michael Cleveland, best fiddler; Bryan Sutton, best guitarist; and Jesse Brock, best mandolinist. Distinguished Achievement Awards went to Alison Brown, Murphy Henry, Pete Kirby (the late Bashful Brother Oswald), Steve Martin, and the IBMA Museum in Owensboro, Ky. . . Clint Black was honored with the International Entertainment Buyers Association’s Career Achievement Award, at IEB’s 45th annual conference, Oct. 13. Black was hailed for his musical contribution during a nearly three-decade career boasting sales of over 20 million albums and including 13 #1 singles, all of which he penned.

Ailing: When an entertainer gets under the weather, he or she prefers to keep it mum, but nonetheless declining health forces cancellations of shows booked by agents, who are pressured by these same artists and their managers to keep them on the road. This column contains a number of prominent players who have had to cancel or postpone shows due to unforeseen illness. Among these are Willie Nelson, 82, who delayed the start of his Django & Jimmy Tour with Merle Haggard, due to an undisclosed ailment, from Oct. 15 to Oct. 18, when the pair will appear at the American Roots Festival in Raleigh, N.C. . . . Then there’s Ralph Stanley, 88, who missed gigs in San Francisco and Manassas, Va., but expects to be able to appear in Austin, Texas, Oct. 18, though Webster Public Relations wouldn’t divulge the reasoning for their client’s postponements . . . Dolly Parton, too, had to stop production on her portion of filming “Coat of Many Colors” with NBC, due to unannounced surgery. Parton, however, did issue this statement in part, Oct. 14, primarily to dispel rumors of a stomach cancer diagnosis: “It is true that I had kidney stones. I had them removed three weeks ago and I am doing just fine . . . Last week, I was at Dollywood filming parts for my new movie, which premieres Dec.10th.” . . . Shania Twain, 50, missed two tour dates on her Rock This Country Tour, due to respiratory infections, but is now back for her final touring stint . . . New Country Music Hall of Famer Bonnie Brown disclosed Sept. 28 that she’s indeed battling lung cancer, a disease which also claimed her brother Jim Ed, 81, on June 11. Bonnie, age 78, joined Jim Ed and sister Maxine to perform their million-selling #1 pop crossover hit “The Three Bells” in 1959, after scoring hits “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” “I Take The Chance” and “I Heard the Bluebirds Singing.” Maxine, 83, has been battling a lengthy illness herself the past few years. The trio were notified last spring that they were finally being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and though she’s in the midst of treatment for Stage 4 cancer, Bonnie gamely promises to be at the Oct. 25 Medallion ceremony to accept the ultimate honor: “I’m going to make it . . . just pray for me.”

               Final Curtain: Sad to report the Eddie Montgomery (Montgomery/Gentry) family has suffered the loss of his son Hunter, 19, who reportedly died Sept. 27 from an overdose of drugs, leaving to mourn him an infant son, Bennett. Dad released the following statement: “My son Hunter went to heaven today … I appreciate all your prayers and love and thank you for giving us privacy as we grieve and say goodbye.” Days later, Eddie’s ex-wife Tracy Nunan took issue with speculation about their son’s death, stating the following on Facebook: “When a family asks for privacy, there is a reason. Grieving the loss of a child is the most heart-wrenching experience any parent can imagine. It defies description. Since the media refuses to respect our request for privacy, I’m taking another route in hope that we might get some peace for our grieving, and more important, in hope that Hunter’s story might help others. Our son died of an overdose. We believe it was accidental and will continue to believe that. We know that he needed help. Maybe Hunter’s – and our family’s – pain will help another family avoid this. Not a day will go by without our missing him. Now that your curiosity is satisfied, please have the respect to stop hounding us. Instead, take our story and use it to help others.”

Drummer Martin Parker, 63, a resident of Yeopim, N.C., died Sept. 10, at Vidant Medical Center in nearby Greenville. As a member of The Billy Hill Band, recording for Warner Bros./Reprise, their singles included “Too Much Month At the End Of the Money.” A disciple of the late Larrie Londin, Parker also worked with such luminaries as Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Earl Scruggs, Vestal Goodman, Crystal Gayle, Bonnie Raitt and The O’Kanes. Survivors include his wife Ira (Byrum), their children and grandchildren. A Celebration of Life service was conducted Sept. 13 at Happy Home Church in Tyner.

Vicky McAlpin Tubb, a member of two historic country music families, died  Oct. 6 at age 57. She was a photographer and licensed physical therapist, who is survived by her husband Dean Tubb. Her parents were Lillie Clare and songwriter Vic McAlpin, a Songwriters Hall of Fame charter member (1970), who penned such classic cuts as Eddy Arnold’s #1 “What Is Life Without Love,” George Morgan’s #2 “Almost,” Roy Drusky’s #2 “Another” and George Hamilton IV’s #4 “Before This Day Ends.” Hubby (Larry) Dean Tubb’s dad Ernest is a Country Music Hall of Famer (1965), and a charter member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970). Dean’s also a long-time road manager for Charlie Daniels. Vicky Tubb’s survivors include her daughter Lindsey Michelle Harris; sisters Tavara Peets and Linda Finley; and stepchildren. Services were held at Sellars Funeral Home in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., Oct. 11.

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Mac Wiseman Book

All My Memories Fit for Print

Mac Wiseman – All My Memories Fit for Print

By Dick Bowden |Bluegrass Today/August 31, 2015

“Mac Wiseman – All My Memories Fit for Print.” I just picked up this wonderful, densely packed bio of Mac Wiseman, from County Sales magazine. It’s just riveting if you’re into the history of bluegrass and country music, radio, recording, promoting, the music “biz,” and the sharp memories of Mac Wiseman’s career. There are 297 pages of text, then a discography, and finally a detailed index, bringing the page count to 337. Mac is just about my mother’s favorite singer, and she tore this book from me and burned through it in a couple of days.

Written by Walt Trott from Mac’s extensive musings, one is struck first by the power of Mac’s memory. It apparently has served him very well since his earliest days of promoting his and others’ music for radio play and live shows. Mac seems to have never forgotten a radio station owner, DJ, promoter or fellow performer. What a treasure trove of music history.

Although Mac goes out of his way to deny he is a “bluegrass” artist, feeling a bit cursed by the presence of 5-string banjo on his first solo recordings, there are plenty of tidbits about bluegrass music in this fine book, going as far back as Uncle Dave Macon, Molly O’Day and company.

The interweaving of the early bluegrass and “old country” sidemen is a nice surprise – e.g. Mac having hired away Charlie Monroe’s entire Kentucky Partners band in the late ’40s to work WCYB radio with him. If you wonder who are the sidemen on the frequent Mac Wiseman airplays on Sirius/XM Bluegrass Junction, you’ll learn their names here (including Tommy Jackson, Dale Potter, Ernie Newton, Stringbean!!, Hank Garland, Grady Martin, Oscar Sullivan and many more).

There are plenty of black and white photos; mostly Mac posing with various entertainers whom he’s known down through the years, but many pictures from his boyhood too. Several sidemen or colleagues give interesting testimony, notably banjoists Eddie Adcock and Donnie Bryant. There are plenty of terrific road stories, too.

Mac is candid and frank, rarely pulling his punches. There’s a sprinkling of salty language that just makes everything seem more “real.” Charlie Daniels provides a nice foreword, having once recorded a bluegrass Gospel album with Mac’s help.

This reviewer particularly enjoyed the early chapters about Mac’s boyhood, farming in Crimora VA. Older readers will really enjoy these memories. They emphasize that the founders of the music we love grew up in VERY different times and circumstances. Also enjoyable and surprising were many unpublicized personal tidbits about major artists in bluegrass and other genres.

The list of Mac’s accomplishments and honors is too long for this review, but they’re well documented. Highlights include:

  • Blue Grass Boy
  • Founding member of the Country Music Association (the last living charter member)
  • Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Bluegrass Hall of Fame
  • Virginia Music Hall of Fame
  • Dot Records A&R man and west coast manager
  • Manager of WWVA Jamboree
  • Owner of the Renfro Valley Bluegrass Festival
  • American Federation of Musicians union officer (however troubled)
  • Winner of the Presidential Medal of the Arts

These, and others, reflect on the massive contribution Mac has made to the world of entertainment. Apparently the book had no editor. Walt Trott’s chapters frequently re-plow the same ground, but from the slightly different angle of another stakeholder or colleague. Turning this into a positive — major points are certainly hammered home unforgettably!

This book is an important addition to your library on bluegrass and country music. It will not disappoint. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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Jeff Walker RIP

Jeff Walker RIP

         NASHVILLE — Top tier Music Row publicist and promoter Jeff Walker, 65, died Aug. 24, in a Nashville hospital, after suffering a heart attack at Nashville International Airport. The Australian-born music man had been in Florida on a business trip when he first felt ill and decided to return home.

         Born in Sydney, Jeff earned an economics degree from the University of Sydney, as an accounting major, while dad worked with RCA Records in country. For a breather, Jeff took a tour of Europe, then followed his father to Nashville, where the arranger-conductor worked since 1964, with artists like Eddy Arnold and was music director for the 1970s’ Johnny Cash ABC-TV series, the former Music City News awards, CMA and Dove awards shows, as well as TNN’s 1990’s Statler Brothers Show.

         “I came to Nashville late in December 1974, when it was just in its infancy as far as public relations companies were concerned,” the younger Walker told us. “Publicity was then generally treated in-house by the record labels. P.R. has since grown and the number of labels has also increased, adding more artists.”

         Initially, Jeff worked with Price-Waterhouse as a CPA, but in 1975, he and his father founded Con-Brio Records, an indie which handled such artists as Jan Howard, Don King and a blonde newcomer named Terri Hollowell, who in ’78 became Mrs. Jeff Walker. In 1977, however, Billboard magazine named Con-Brio “best new country label of the year.”

         “We had 43 nationally charted singles in three-and-a-half years. That was a real learning experience in my life, a real terrific education for me.” The second-generation Walker also became a songwriter, and saw three of his own creations charted on Billboard,notably King’s renditions on “She’s the Girl Of My Dreams,” and “The Feeling’s So Right Tonight.” Another newcomer, Jerry Green, charted Jeff’s novelty number, “Genuine Texas Good Guy,” all in 1977.

         Terri, a Hoosier, charted five Con-Brio discs, including “Happy Go Lucky Morning,” “May I” and a revival of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” According to her hubby, “She had a real good career going in England, too. She went over there as opening act for Don Williams, performed at the Wembley Country Music Festival and had co-hosted four BBC variety shows (with Ronnie Prophet).” Preferring motherhood to songbird status, Terri retired to raise their children Jonathan and Christy, added Jeff, “After the first child, she just wanted to quit.”

         In 1980, Walker launched his Aristo Music in the attic of his home, choosing the name from the word aristocrat, feeling it meant “the finest, or the best,” adding facetiously it put him up front in telephone listings: “With a name like Walker, I usually wound up at the bottom of most lists.”

         Helping to spread the word of his new agency, Jeff produced his own weekly syndicated broadcast, Country Music Jamboree, which was even carried by 56 stations “Down Under” in his homeland. Before long, he was also representing Christian acts, as well, and bought his own building on 16th Avenue, in the heart of Music Row. Yes, Aristo grew fast, thanks to Walker’s persistence and his belief in creative marketing, which prompted him early on to recognize the potential overseas for American country music.

         “In this business, you’ve got to be really tuned in to what the future holds,” warned Walker, who followed through expanding his firm’s title to the AristoMedia Group, which soon included his all-important MarcoMedia Group. Essentially his was a diversified entertainment company, not limited to publicity and p.r., but including radio, TV, music video promotion and distribution, along with dance club marketing, web production, and added consulting to the mix.

         Walker also became a mentor to many getting their start on the music scene, working for Aristo as “interns” (students of the industry), some of whom he engaged full-time when they completed training. Among these was Craig Campbell, while at Middle Tennessee State University, who Tweeted  Music Row, a trade publication: “I had the honor of being Jeff’s first intern – back when ‘Music Row’ was a one-page folded ‘magazine.’ He gave so many people a shot in the music industry and was happy for anyone who left for other opportunities. He loved country music and was one of the biggest champions for artists touring abroad. More than anything, Jeff loved his family, and that big smile grew even bigger when those two granddaughters arrived. He was a rock, and he will be greatly missed.”

         Jeff’s first clients in May 1980, were songwriter Roger Bowling, whose credits included mega-hits “Lucille” and “Blanket On the Ground,” and the Shorty Lavender Talent Agency.  In the wake of their successes, signing on to Aristo were stalwarts such as Nelson Larkin, Robin Lee, Charlie Daniels, Earl Thomas Conley, Tanya Tucker, Eddy Raven, Billy Joe Royal, and Jeff Stevens & The Bullets, major names in that era. Through the years the roster’s grown immensely, covering such legends as George Jones, Lorrie Morgan, Keith Whitley, Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, K. D. Lang, Dwight Yoakam, Keith Urban, Shania Twain, and Hank Williams, Jr. Today, Jeff’s son Jon and daughter Christy, along with her husband Matt Watkins, help keep Aristo a smooth-running p.r. empire.

         All the while, Jeff’s made his presence felt within the industry itself, serving as both a Country Music Association board member, heavily involved in the annual CMA Music Festival; and as a Country Radio Seminar board member and treasurer, while playing a major role in the annual CRS conventions in Nashville. Just in June, Walker accepted the 2015 CRS President’s Award from Charlie Morgan, board president, during the Country Radio Hall of Fame awards gala in Nashville.

         “Jeff was instrumental in so many CMA efforts over the years, but chief among them was our international outreach and initiatives,” Sarah Travhern, CMA director and CEO, noted. “He was incredibly passionate about supporting U.S. country artists going overseas, but he was just as dedicated to providing opportunities for international country artists to perform here . . . His tireless energy on behalf of our organization, our artists, and our fans will be sorely missed.”

         In honor of his devotion to duty, Walker received the CMA President’s Award, the CMA Jo Walker Meador International Award, Australia’s CMA Lifetime Achievement Award, Britain’s CMA International Services Award, Canadian CMA’s Leonard T. Rambeau International Support Award, and the Operation Troop Aid Certification of Appointment, among others.

         Nashville Mayor Karl Dean stated in part, “Jeff Walker played an important role in spreading country music overseas and bringing country music talent from other countries to perform in Nashville. His zeal for growing country music’s appeal around the globe made him an integral part of our Sister Cities’ program.”

         Survivors include wife Terri, daughter Christy Walker-Watkins, son Jonathan Walker, father Bill Walker, stepmother Jeanine, and two grand-daughters. Services were conducted Aug. 28, at First Baptist Church, Nashville, followed by a private interment. A public Celebration of Life was held Sept. 10 at the City Winery in Nashville.


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MUSIC CITY BEAT September 2015

Grand Ole Opry film

            NASHVILLE – SESAC, the smaller of the trio of American performance rights agencies, pulled off a major coup in purchasing the prestigious Harry Fox Agency, since 1927 America’s top mechanical licensing firm offering companies rights to distribute copyrighted music material through sale, download or streaming services. Some say the $20 million buy-out will give SESAC a leg up on the larger ASCAP and BMI agencies, all of which collect payment on public performances and re-distributes them as royalties on works of songwriters and their publishing companies. SESAC, unlike the competing firms, is a private company, meaning it’s not beholden to a federal consent decree by the Department of Justice. “This is the first step in a process that is evolutionary,” claims John Josephson, SESAC chief. “The idea of being able to aggregate mechanical and performance into a single license, which is what majors have done on an ad hoc basis, is a direction I think the industry will be going in the future.” Now officially SESAC, which initially was an acronym of the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers, the international organization’s now headquartered in Nashville, with branches in London, Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. Reportedly, this new alignment will offer members more transparency in a system that’s become more complicated due to publishing mergers and additional co-writers, each having different publishers, thus creating harder to track data, as well as worldwide “streaming” of songs via such as Spotify. According to Josephson, their ties to the Fox Agency represents stronger database power, royalty tracking ability and a far wider-reaching program, and incorporating these strengths with SESAC’s will improve research: “If you can create a simplified licensing regime, it makes it easier to report.” SESAC’s the only agency providing members monthly reports as opposed to quarterly. Among some 30,000 affiliated members are Bob Dylan, Zach Brown, Neil Diamond and Lady Antebellum.

            Scene Stealers: The Judds reunite for their “Girls Night Out” gig in Las Vegas at the Venetian Theatre, Oct. 7-24, in this the 25th anniversary year of their final studio album “Love Can Build a Bridge” (#5, 1990). That platinum-seller preceded their 1991 breakup as a duo, with daughter Wynonna embarking on a solo career. The mother-daughter team earned five Grammy awards, winning CMA awards every year from 1985-1991, while chalking up 20 Top 10 singles, 14 of which hit #1, scoring another four #1 albums, while selling over 20 millions records. Naomi, now 69, is credited with writing their #1 “Change of Heart,” while daughter Wynonna, 51, co-wrote their Top 10 “One Hundred And Two,” as well as her own Top Five solo disc “My Strongest Weakness.” Among the duo’s chart-toppers are “Mama He’s Crazy” and “Have Mercy.” Look for kid sister Ashley, the family’s movie star, to catch their act in Vegas . . . Caught Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker and Blake Shelton filming Aug. 31 for a new feature-length movie “American Saturday Night: Live From The Grand Ole Opry,” due for release later this year. Camera crews were not only capturing performances on stage at the Opry House, but were also shooting candid chats and action backstage to help folks see what makes the Opry tick. A mainstay of WSM-AM, which this year marks its 90th anniversary, the Opry has produced legends like Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Pee Wee King, Minnie Pearl, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Bill Anderson and Loretta Lynn. Incidentally, in 1940, there was a Republic Pictures’ flick titled simply “Grand Ole Opry,” featuring the Solemn Old Judge George D. Hay, Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff and The Weaver Brothers & Elviry . . . Often wondered why anyone would subject themselves to “reality TV,” and now we learn that singer-songwriter Kenny Alphin (of Big & Rich) and wife Christiev are doing just that for the TLC/Discovery channel. Actually it began Sept. 2 and the cameras roll continually on the couple, their sons Dakota, 2, and Lincoln, 9, as well as Christiev’s adult sons, Christopher and Cameron, in their area home. Attempting to explain this seeming invasion of privacy, Christiev says, “I don’t know what it is that people see in us, but I guess if I could try to pull back and view us not being us, it could either be scary or crazy, or I want a ticket to sit and watch.”  In a comment to local newspaper The Tennessean’s Cindy Watts, Mrs. Alphin mused, “We don’t do drama. We don’t do yelling and screaming. It’s always . . . is it really worth it? Isn’t that crazy awesome that someone would actually want to (watch us) do that?” Really.

            Bits & Pieces: American Idol alumna Kelly Clarkson might’ve found a more gracious way to announce she’s in the traditional “family way,” in between songs at her Sept. 6 concert in Bridgestone Arena here. Instead, the blonde belter chose to disclose her good news by telling fans, “We haven’t toured in a couple years because I got ‘knocked up,’ and I’m ‘knocked up’ again. Hey! We know how to do it, honey!” Stunned hubby Brandon Blackstock merely winced, while his barefoot wife sang her #1 “My Life Would Suck Without You.” No word on when their second baby’s due, but their first together, River Rose, turned 1 on June 12 . . . Streamsound Records may have dropped artist Kristian Bush (Sugarland survivor), but a just-released documentary “Walk Tall: The Journey of Sugarland’s Kristian Bush” is drawing new attention to the now solo singer. That may also account for a reported surge in sales of his latest single “Light Me Up,” which has a new music video out, too . . . The late Johnny Cash is the subject of a documentary, as well, that screened Sept. 12, which not so incidentally marked the 12th anniversary of The Man in Black’s death. Titled “Johnny Cash: American Rebel,” the film features chats with family members Rosanne Cash, John Carter Cash, Carlene Carter, Rodney Crowell and such colleagues as Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and producer Rick Rubin . . . Newcomer Jake Owen attracted the attention of a company called Salt Life, which is sponsoring a line of wear designed by the country singer. Salt Life offers product for beach bound vacationers, as well as surfers and fishermen. “Jake is a fantastic spokesperson and a great fit . . . He grew up in Florida. He fishes, he weight-boards, he paddle-boards, he loves the water. A lot of his songs tie back,” smiles Jeff Stillwell, Salt Life president. Indeed, Jake #1’s include “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Beachin’.” . . . Congratulations to Oak Ridge Boy William Lee Golden, 76, on his Aug. 29 marriage to longtime pal Simone Stanley, 36, in a private ceremony at The Rosewall in Nashville. Among family and friends present for the nuptials were his musical partners Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban. It was Golden’s fourth wedding, and the Grand Ole Opry member’s currently promoting yet another new album “Rock of Ages,” and also celebrates induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame this month . . . Yet another country crooner succumbing to the sound of wedding bells is Preston Brust (LoCash Cowboys), who married Kristen White in a private ceremony, Sept. 7, this one on the rooftop of the new George Jones Museum in downtown Nashville. As noted by his latest success “I Love This Life,” sure he’s happy, and had this to say regarding the new love of his life: “She’s my soul on fire, my song, my person.” . . . Must be something in the air: Newcomer Mo Pitney just posted on Instagram, he’s engaged to Emily Bankester, she of the performing bluegrass family Bankesters. This was his message in part: “I couldn’t be happier. The Lord is just dumping love on me . . . I love this beautiful Jesus-loving woman and I’m so excited for a lifetime of serving The Lord together. I’m overflowing with thankfulness for the future Emily Pitney.” Meantime, he sure sings great honkytonk songs.

            Honors: A portion of Highway 96 in Williamson County near the late George Jones’ old homestead in suburban Franklin, was renamed George Jones Memorial Highway, as dedicated by state congressmen Jack Johnson and Charles Sargent, Sept. 10, while the singer’s widow Nancy Jones proudly witnessed the official designation. Mayor Rogers Anderson offered a prayer, and noted that Jones would have been age 84 on Sept. 12 . . . Singer Rex Allen, Jr., 68, a member of the Western Music Assolciation Hall of Fame, was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the National Traditional Country Music Association, Aug. 31, in LeMars, Iowa. Allen, whose 32 country chartings include the hits “Two Less Lonely People,” “I’m Getting Good at Missing You” and “Lonely Street,” was in town for the annual Plymouth County Fair and surprised by the on-stage presentation by Robert Everhart. “My heart was full as I looked into the crowd and took it all in. I’m proud of my roots and I’m thankful there are still so many that appreciate wonderful, classic country and western music.” He’s the son of movie cowboy Rex Allen and has hit duets with Margo Smith, including “Cup Of Tea,” narrated some 80 Walt Disney films and early on was a bronco buster and bull-riding rodeo competitor . . . Miranda Lambert has been announced as the choice for this year’s Harmony Award, sponsored by the Nashville Symphony, which cited the singer’s contributions to Nashville’s music community, specifically noting the recent establishment of her female student scholarship program at Belmont University. She will be honored during the 31st annual Symphony Ball, Dec. 12, at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Past recipients include Amy Grant and Keith Urban . . . The 17th annual Teen Choice Awards, Aug. 16, saw Carrie Underwood copping best country artist and best single for her “Toy Guns,” while former country chirp Taylor Swift won Choice’s overall top pop female star, best female summer star and noting her popular website, earned something titled Choice Twit, while her song “Bad Blood,” with Kendrick Lamar, gained other bests, Choice’s Music Collaboration and Choice’s Break-Up Song. 

            Final Curtain: Singer-songwriter-guitarist Boomer (Clarke) Castleman, 70, died Sept. 1, losing a battle with cancer. His successes included the short-lived 1967 Lewis & Clarke Expedition (with Michael Martin Murphey), and a 1975 Top 40 solo single “Judy Mae.” He later played Nashville studio sessions with such notables as Murphey and Earl Scruggs.  Born Owens Castleman, July 18, 1945, in Los Angeles, Calif., “Boomer” hailed from Farmers Branch, Texas, where he initially teamed with Murphey and (pre-Monkees’) Michael Nesmith in Survivor, a regional band. Later, Nesmith encouraged his friends to record for Colgems as The Lewis & Clarke Expedition, famed for their 1967 signature song “I Feel Bad (I Feel Good)” and “The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian” (revived four years later, it became Paul Revere & The Raiders only #1).  

            Murphey, of course, went on to solo stardom via hits such as “Wildfire” and “What’s Forever For.” Meanwhile, Boomer Castleman recorded his suggestive Top 40 pop single “Judy Mae” (#33, 1975), followed by yet another steamy ballad, “Hot Day In the South.” In 1977, Clarke also produced Meri Wilson’s Top 20 pop sizzler, “Telephone Man.” 

            Although co-writers Murphey and Castleman’s partnership was brief, they produced their L&C album sub-titled “Earth, Air, Fire and Water,” boasting such collaborations as “This Town Ain’t the Same Anymore,” “Blue Revelation,” “Lies” and “My House of Sorrow.” They also furnished The Monkees’ their memorable country-rock success “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round?” Additionally, theirs served as theme music for Eli Wallach’s film “The Tiger Makes Out” (1967), and they performed their song “Destination Unknown” in the Mary Ann Mobley-Milton Berle movie “For Singles Only” (1968). Although few remember it today, Columbia Gems produced a TV pilot titled The Kowboys, in which they hoped to introduce Boomer and Travis performing a Monkees-type sitcom, Western-style; unfortunately, that 1970 venture wasn’t picked up by the powers-that-be.

            Castleman also invented the “palm pedal,” which lets guitarists execute pedal steel-style string bends in 1968. Although his original patent expired, the Bigsby/Castleman version stands as the original. Boomer also founded the independent country record label, BNA Records, since sold to Bertelsmann Music Group. Survivors include daughters Anne Marie Middleton and Breck Castleman; two granddaughters; four sisters and a brother; and loyal friend Lois Hess. Services were conducted Sept. 4 at the Grand Ole RV Resort, Goodlettsville, Tenn.

            Evelyn Graves, 86, widow of Bluegrass Hall of Honor member Burkett (Uncle Josh) Graves, died Sept. 6 in Nashville. Her obituary proclaimed, “She lived her life for her husband and children.” Unselfish to the end, she listed among her survivors: Children Burkett Howard (Sonny) Graves, Linda Graves Howell, Billy Troy Graves, Raymond Bryan Graves; 17 great-grandchildren; and several great-great grandchildren. Services were held at Hendersonville Funeral Home, Sept. 9.

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Billy Sherrill . . . Bye, Bye Blues

Producer Starmaker Bill Sherrill
Producer Starmaker Bill Sherrill with Janie Fricke

NASHVILLE — Hear the name Billy Sherrill and images of music legends like David Houston, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich and George Jones spring to mind, along with sounds of “Almost Persuaded,” “My Elusive Dreams,” “Stand By Your Man,” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Word,” “A Very Special Love Song” and “The Door.”

Sad to say, songwriter-producer-musician Sherrill, 78, died Aug. 4, at home here, leaving behind an enviable legacy as both songwriter and producer, including the afore-mentioned hits he wrote, as well as classics produced – George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” and Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job And Shove It” – cuts that propelled the artists’ careers to new heights.

This phenomenon was born Billy Norris Sherrill in Phil Campbell, Ala., Nov. 5, 1936, son of an itinerant Baptist preacher. Growing up, the boy learned to play piano, often backing his evangelical parent in tent show revivals. Influenced by the “race” records he heard, a bored Billy shocked dad and churchgoers a couple times by breaking briefly into “Bye, Bye Blues” at a funeral, and “That’s Where My Money Goes,” as pop passed the collection plate, which “Got my butt whipped!”

Soon he was playing saxophone, teaming with musician Rick Hall and pals in a jazzy R&B group The Fairlanes. The pair co-wrote “Sweet and Innocent,” which Roy Orbison recorded, and formed Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, a publishing and recording entity historically known best by its FAME acronym. Among others they turned out tunes for were Brenda Lee and Homer & Jethro, and a really generous royalty check enabled Sherrill to make his move on Nashville.

  Billy had made some “best-forgotten” records on indie labels, which gave him a keen insight into studio work, but did nothing for his artist status. Being a big fan of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” recording style, he fashioned a demo studio worthy of generating further royalty checks. Instead, Sun Records’ mogul Sam Phillips decided it could be a Nashville branch of his famed Memphis studio, with Billy at the helm. That’s how Billy met Charlie Rich, whose 1960 Top 20 “Lonely Weekends” he especially admired. 

Then Columbia’s Don Law gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse, producing label artists for their Epic subsidiary, established a decade earlier for less mainstream acts. His task was to produce a variety of acts, notably bluegrass duo Jim & Jesse, rockers Barry & The Remains, and The Staple Singers, who would find 1970s’ success on the Stax R&B label.

While producing struggling tenor David Houston, he envisioned one track, “Mountain of Love,” as an opportunity to bring a lusher sound to the country format, which indeed proved appealing to DJs. Its positive reception gave both newcomers their first national hit, a near chart-topper in late 1963. Billy busied himself making contacts and connections that would serve him well in the near future. He polished his skills by co-writing with writers such as Curly Putman, Glenn Sutton, Carmol Taylor, Norro Wilson and Steve Davis, while nurturing promising writers like Danny Walls and his cousin Mark Sherrill.

“I’ve worked with a whole bunch of great songwriters,” said Billy Sherrill, adding, “I’m a better co-writer than I am a writer. If I don’t hear a melody with it, it’s harder for me to put the words to it.”

The Houston-Sherrill production partnership proved not only lucrative for the artist and producer, but boosted Epic Records up on a scale equal to Columbia, its parent label. Seven of their amazing string of 24 Top 10 records hit #1, and Sherrill had a hand in writing six: “Almost Persuaded,” “With One Exception,” “My Elusive Dreams,” “You Mean the World To Me,” “Have a Little Faith” and “Already It’s Heaven.” 

Incidentally, Glenn Sutton was co-writer on five, and the exception was “My Elusive Dreams,” which Billy co-wrote with Curly Putman, a tune that earned a trio of Grammy Awards: best song, best single and best vocal performance of 1966.

While recording Houston, Sherrill was able to bring two promising female singers to the forefront, as well. “My Elusive Dreams” featured Tammy Wynette as David’s duet partner, and marked her first #1; while 1970’s Top 10 “After Closing Time” a duet with Barbara Mandrell, another Sherrill co-write, became her breakthrough record.

      Sherrill also wrote Barbara’s 1971 Top 10 “Tonight My Baby’s Coming Home,” and has produced and/or wrote songs for additional distaff artists such as Tanya Tucker, Lynn Anderson, Jody Miller, Janie Fricke, Emmylou Harris, Lacy J. Dalton and Shelby Lynne. But his greatest female success was Tammy Wynette, with whom he co-wrote her 1968 signature song “Stand By Your Man,” a three-week #1 million seller, heard to great effect in the 1970 Jack Nicholson cult film “Five Easy Pieces.” A Grammy winner, it has since been voted into the Grammy Records Hall of Fame. (A notable remake was by Lyle Lovett.)

The Sherrill-Wynette collaboration produced an awesome run on their #1 discs, including “I Don’t Wanna Play House,” “Take Me To Your World,” “Singing My Song,” “The Ways To Love a Man,” “He Loves Me All the Way,” “Good Lovin’,” “Bedtime Story,” “My Man,” “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” “Another Love Song,” “Till I Can Make It On My Own” and “You and Me.”

That doesn’t cover the fact he wrote and produced her first 1967 solo single “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” (with Sutton); her first Grammy Award winner (“I Don’t Wanna Play House”); her first hit with George Jones “Take Me” (#9, 1971); and an impressive string of Top 10 singles, as well.

Another match that proved Epic-making (pardon the pun) was Billy and Charlie Rich, whom he produced on the 1973 smash “Behind Closed Doors” (that one penned by Kenny O’Dell), which sold Platinum, earning two Grammy Awards, and eventually voted into the Grammy Records’ Hall of Fame.  That was followed  by another #1 “The Most Beautiful Girl,” a million-seller that also charted #1 pop, a first for both Rich and Sherrill, who co-wrote the ballad (with Rory Bourke and Norro Wilson).

In 1974, the combination of Rich and Sherrill attained back-to-back #1 singles: “A Very Special Love Song” and “I Love My Friend,” both bearing Billy’s name as co-writer. They, like “Behind Closed Doors,” also crossed over as Top 20 pop singles. That was true of Rich’s “Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High),” a #3 country cut he wrote with Sherrill. Some say Rich cut short his career when  announcing John Denver as CMA Entertainer of the Year on TV, he burned the card bearing the winner’s name, which most interpreted as a protest against Denver being called country. The CMA banned Charlie from future shows.

In retrospect, Rich’s stance seems odd, considering a lot of traditionalists criticized his hits, feeling Sherrill was making them too uptown with strings and choral backing, and as a result their songs enjoyed crossover status, much like Denver’s, only his were in reverse crossing from pop to country.

Joe Stampley was another benefitting from Sherrill’s production and writing skills, scoring a #1 with “Soul Song,” released in 1972. He also enjoyed Top 10s via Sherrill’s “Red Wine and Blue Memories” (1978) and “Put Your Clothes Back On” (1979). Veteran artist Marty Robbins co-wrote “Don’t Let Me Touch You” with Billy, scoring one of his last Top 10 discs (1977); Johnny Duncan hit Top Five with Sherrill’s “Hello Mexico, Adios Baby To You” (1978); while down and out Johnny Paycheck, whom Sherrill literally rescued from the streets, hit #7 with his and Billy’s co-write, “Friend, Lover, Wife” (1978).

Artists recording Sherrill songs are too numerous to mention, but they do include such luminaries as Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash, Bob Luman, Merle Haggard, Rusty Draper, Tommy Cash, David Allan Coe, Dottie West and Kenny Rogers. He worked independently with Elvis Costello on his “Almost Blue” set in 1981; and Ray Charles, producing his “Friends” duets album (1984). The 1976 Ronnie Milsap #1 “I’m a ‘Stand By My Woman’ Man,” gave both Tammy and Billy equal writer credits by default, as her signature song inspired writer Kent Robbins.

In 1967, Billy produced his own instrumental LP, “Classical Country,” crediting The Billy Sherrill Quintet, which initially suffered sales-wise, but is now considered a collectible. According to Nashville journalist Arnold Rogers’ research, at least four of Sherrill’s songs enjoy Million-Aire Performance broadcast status for airing a million times: “Almost Persuaded,” “My Elusive Dreams,” “The Most Beautiful Girl” and “Stand By Your Man.” He has also earned some 65 BMI trophies for his songs over the years, and between 1966 and 1976, Sherrill launched 25 #1 songs on the Billboard charts.

Sherrill awards include induction into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame; Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame; Academy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award; Country Music Hall of Fame; and the National Musicians Hall of Fame. In 1999, he was named BMI Country Songwriter of the 20th Century; and in 2010 became the recipient of the prestigious BMI Icon Award.

Bobby Braddock, who co-wrote “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” which Billy produced, told Daily Variety, “Genius is the most over-used word in the music business, but with Billy Sherrill, you can’t use it enough!”

Sherrill’s survivors include Charlene, his wife of 54 years; daughter Catherine Lale; grandchildren Samantha and Matthew; and cousins Dianne and Mark Sherrill. Services were held Aug. 7 at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home, Nashville, followed by a graveside service in The Garden of the Grand Tour at Woodlawn Memorial Park for family and friends.


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Lynn Anderson Tribute

Lynn Anderson Tribute
Lynn with parents Liz & Casey

Lynn Anderson tribute . . .

NASHVILLE — Lynn Anderson, 67, died July 30, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, of a heart attack after having suffered pneumonia while on tour in Italy. The second generation singer-songwriter’s signature song “Rose Garden,” written by Joe South, spent five weeks at #1, also peaking #3 pop, earning her a best vocalist Grammy in 1970. Her platinum-selling “Rose Garden” album went Top 20 pop, remaining #1 country 14 of its 77 weeks charting Billboard and became the biggest album seller for a female country star.

Born Lynn Rene Anderson, Sept. 26, 1947 in Grand Forks, N.D., to songwriters Liz and Casey Anderson, she was an only child. Lynn thought nothing of seeing celebrated singers such as Del Reeves, Bonnie Owens and Merle Haggard visiting the family home, while growing up in San Jose and Sacramento, Calif. Of course, their visitations were prompted by Liz’s songwriting skills, which provided them hits like “Be Quiet Mind,” “Just Between the Two Of Us,” “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” and “(Lonesome) Fugitive,” the latter #1 co-written by Casey.

“Music was always a part of my family life. Mother would play piano or organ, her sister would play guitar, while another would beat on the drums or play a harmonica,” Lynn recalled in an early interview with this writer.

Liz said that as a youngster Lynn would try to hide the fact she wrote country songs, as she and her girlfriends were more into rock and roll. Lynn chuckled, recalling Liz driving her to school, “Mom would have a real country song by someone like Hank Williams playing, with the windows down. Well, there was a lot of surreptitious dial-turning by me!”

While in high school, Lynn was also into horses and began competing in horse shows, eventually earning a hundred trophies, two regional championships and the reserve championship at the Junior Grand National at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. Years later, she was honored as the Horse Show Queen at the 1966 State Fair in Sacramento.

Nonetheless, her mother’s accomplishments encouraged a teen-aged Lynn to try her hand at playing guitar and singing, initially entering the televised series Country Corners’ talent contest. Smilingly, she shared with us that then her musical gods were Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers: “Now their stuff is what we call country, so I’ve really been an eclectic country music fan for a really long time.”

It was while in her freshman year at American River Junior College, agents from Lawrence Welk’s ABC-TV show invited her to join the cast in 1967. She proved a popular addition for two seasons, and her appearances in part led to a contract with Chart Records run by Slim Williamson, who had worked earlier with Casey.

Months earlier, her mother had signed a pact with Chet Atkins. Lynn pointed out, “When we came to Nashville, we came specifically for mother to get a record contract with RCA. But they started letting me sing (backup) on her sessions. In effect, they heard me and said, ‘Would you like a contract, too?’ I did feel guilty about it for awhile, because it was so easy for me, when in fact, it had taken mother years to get to that point.” (Chart’s product was then distributed by RCA.)

Actually, her mother wrote Lynn’s first Billboard entry “Ride, Ride, Ride,” which charted Oct. 29, 1966 and became a Top 40 single. It was followed by another Liz composition “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away),” which was an early 1967 Top Five breakthrough record for the Chart newcomer.

Lynn and daughter Lisa Lynn-1
Lynn with daughter Lisa Lynn

Lynn co-wrote her second Top Five single “Promises, Promises,” which charted in early December, and earned her best female vocalist honors from the Academy of Country Music. By then the blonde beauty was being romanced by songwriter-producer Glenn Sutton, celebrating a best-song Grammy for his “Almost Persuaded” (David Houston’s cut). On May 4, 1968, while enjoying a Top 20 duet single with mom, “Mother, May I” (which they co-wrote); and another Top 10 solo “No Another Time,” Lynn wed Glenn. Her next two ’68 chartings were both penned by Liz: “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Flattery Will Get You Everywhere.” (This mother-daughter duo was 15 years ahead of The Judds.)

Meanwhile, Liz Anderson’s RCA recordings closed down after several Top 20 discs, including two Top Five singles “Game of Triangles” and “Mama Spank,” with her final charting for that label being “When I’m Not Looking” (1970). (Liz died in 2011.)

Now a true country convert, Lynn began a practice of reviving hits of veterans such as Hank Snow, Kitty Wells and The Osborne Brothers at Chart, notably “I’ve Been Everywhere,” “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” and “Rocky Top,” a song she would sing in her shows for the next four decades.

Ben Peters wrote her biggest hit on Chart, “That’s a No No” (#2, 1969), followed not so spectacularly by the first Chart song Sutton penned for her (with Hugh X. Lewis): “He’d Still Love Me” (#15). But not surprisingly, Sutton prompted his bride to sign with his label, Columbia, and indeed fashioned her first Top 10 for them, “Stay There Till I Get There” (#7, 1970). Theirs would prove a successful partnership, including his skilled production on “Rose Garden,” helping to earn her both the Academy of Country Music’s and CMA’s best female vocalist honors in 1971, and Gold Records from 13 different countries worldwide.

Apart from producing chores, Sutton supplied three more #1 songs for Lynn:  “You’re My Man” (1971); “Keep Me In Mind” (1973); and “What a Man My Man Is” (1974). Her fifth #1 came courtesy of old friend Joe South in 1971: “How Can I Unlove You?” South also wrote her Top Five, “Fool Me” (1972). Other Sutton songs she recorded include “Sing About Love” (#3, 1973); “He Turns It Into Love Again” (#13, 1975); and “Rodeo Cowboy” (#44, 1976), prior to their divorce in 1977. (The couple had a daughter, Lisa Lynn, who today tends to the family publishing chores. Over cocktails, Lynn once confided she should have stayed married to Sutton.)

Other superb Lynn Anderson discs in the 1970s include “Cry,” “Listen To a Country Song,” “Top Of the World,” all Top Fives, and Warner Mack’s “Talkin’ To The Wall” (#7, 1974). Following her marital breakup, she charted Top 10 with “Isn’t It Always Love” (1979) and “Welcome To Tonight” (a 1983 duet with Gary Morris). In the late 1980s, Nelson Larkin took her under his wing at Mercury, producing two of her finer performances “Didn’t We Shine” and her last Top 20 “Under the Boardwalk” (in 1988, featuring a cameo by Billy Joe Royal), redoing the classic 1964 Drifters R&B song. Larkin by the way, co-wrote her final Billboard charting “How Many Hearts” (1989).

Tanya, Martina, Trisha and Lynn-B
Lynn Anderson with Tanya, Martina and Trisha

Apart from charting more than 60 singles on Billboard, Lynn listed more than 30 of her titles on the trade weekly’s album chart, including additional #1’s “Promises, Promises” (1968), and “You’re My Man” (1971), many of these crossing over into the pop lists. Anderson’s won People’s Choice and American Music mainstream awards, and was named Record World and Billboard’s Female Artist of the Decade (1970-1980).

Lynn Anderson enjoyed superstar status for two decades, appearing on most major TV programs, including those of Bob Hope, Dean Martin, and several times on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. She appeared on the popular crime drama Starsky & Hutch, and hosted her own 1977 TV special, sharing the stage with special guest Tina Turner. Lynn’s music can be heard in such movies as “Jaws” in a beach scene, and she appeared in the 1982 TV-film “Country Gold.” As singer Betsy Hall, she sang “Dream On” for the 1990 UK drama “The Wreck On the Highway,” which became a popular BBC song hit.

A second marriage to millionaire oilman Harold (Spook) Stream in 1978  was tumultuous at best, producing two children Melissa and Gray, but ended in a 1982 divorce, followed by rancorous court custody disputes. On the positive side, she overcame substance abuse problems and was once more enjoying family and making music. In 2004, she was proud that her “Bluegrass Sessions” CD garnered another Grammy nomination.

Anderson also expressed pride in her children, grandchildren, and that Lisa also had competed in horse shows. A life-time equestrian, Lynn became involved in horse-riding programs as therapy for disabled children.

Paul Williams, Oscar-winning songwriter (“Evergreen”) and national ASCAP president, said at Anderson’s Celebration of Life, Aug. 5, at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home, that he and she both “wrestled some of the same bears . . . I know how she struggled, and I know how she triumphed, and there is wisdom in the wound, and Lynn, you shared that wisdom. People will never know the times you walked into a corner with somebody, who was suffering, and didn’t know what they were going to do to get themselves back into the light and out of the darkness . . . (you’d) grab that person’s hand and say, ‘Baby, it’s gonna be all right’ . . . ”

Williams’ brother, songwriter Mentor Williams had been by her side over the past four decades as friend and lover, and Lynn recorded his hit “Drift Away” gospel-style, in tribute to him on her final CD “Bridges.” released in June 2015.

Another friend Brenda Lee in speaking to the assemblage, cited Lynn’s 1970 Grammy win, noting humorously, “Grammy was the hip name chosen by the grandchildren in honor of the grandmother that they loved . . . No rockin’ chairs or images of knitting in Lynn’s world.”

Survivors include her daughters Lisa Sutton, Melissa Hempel; son Gray Stream; four grandchildren; and father C. S. Anderson. A salute from singer Dolly Parton proclaimed Lynn was “blooming on God’s ‘Rose Garden’ now. We will miss her and remember her fondly.”                                                                    – Walt Trott




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Music City Beat August 2015

Miranda Lambert

NASHVILLE — Sad to say divorce seems to be catching in Music City this summer, but those country singers sure know how to sing the blues. Shortly after Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton disclosed their split in July, Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock announced in August their 26-year-marriage was ending, and four days later, Jake Owen and his wife Lacey Buchanan revealed they were divorcing after three years. The Owens’ have a daughter Pearl, age 2-1/2. According to the Blackstock joint press release, Narvel will continue to manage his estranged wife’s career for now, and they ask that we respect their privacy during this time. She and Narvel have a son Shelby, 25, a race car driver, and Narvel’s older son Brandon, from an earlier marriage, is married to singer Kelly Clarkson, whom Dad also manages.
Country Briefs: Lamenting lately she’d been living “on caffein and sad songs,” but Miranda Lambert’s determined to do good deeds, like establishing scholarships for female students seeking Belmont University’s music business college degrees. Labeling her project Lambert Women Creators Fund, she plans to provide more than $40,000 in scholarship funds for determined students in the next academic year. A late July acoustic concert at the 3rd & Lindsley Club became yet another fund-raiser. Doug Howard, dean of Belmont’s Mike Curb College of Music, duly noted, “With the creation of her scholarship fund, Miranda will directly impact the education and opportunities of young women creators as they prepare for a career in the music industry.” . . . In the current issue of the international magazine Marie Claire, singer Miley Cyrus takes issue with Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video, while pondering the furor over her “Wrecking Ball.” Cyrus states: “I don’t get the violence revenge thing. That’s supposed to be a good example? And I’m a bad role model, because I’m running around with my (boobs) out? I’m not sure how (boobs) are worse than guns?” . . . And don’t get on “The Fightin’ Side” of Merle Haggard, something the Ink-N-Iron Festival convention promoters learned quickly. The veteran vocalist performed a dandy first-nighter at the Bicentennial State Park here in good faith, Aug. 6, but the next day learned management hadn’t forked over the agreed fee,. Refusing to play that night, The Hag, 78, instead sat in his hotel room making a selfie no doubt, pickin’ and singin’ a perfect song from his repertoire: “I Think I’ll Just Sit Here and Drink!” Meanwhile, the festival – catering to tattoo and car culture enthusiasts – continued with Shooter Jennings as its headliner . . . Just about anybody can come up with reasons to write a book about a celebrated person dead or alive. Take Letitia Henley Kirk, a nurse who claims she looked after Rock and Roll King Elvis Presley right at Graceland and even out on tour. Kirk, 73, is plugging her effort, “Taking Care of Elvis: Memories With Elvis As His Private Nurse and Friend,” released Aug. 10. Supposedly she lived at Graceland from 1972 until his 1977 death, even staying on until 1983: “He was not only my patient, but a good friend.”
Honors: Larry Sparks and Bill Keith are the newest inductees named to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, and will be officially honored during the IBMA’s annual World of Bluegrass conference and awards show, Oct. 1, in Raleigh, N.C. In addition, five Distinguished Achievement honors will be bestowed upon banjoist-actor Steve Martin, Alison Brown, Murphy Henry, Bashful Brother Oswald (Pete Kirby) and the IBMA Museum in Owensboro, Ky., in recognition of valued contribution to the bluegrass genre . . . Garth Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood will be on hand for the unveiling of new stars in their name on the Music City Walk of Fame, Sept. 10. According to outgoing Mayor Karl Dean, “Trisha and Garth are two great artists who represent what makes Nashville special. They are musicians. They are entrepreneurs. And they are generous community advocates. The way they care about Nashville is as inspiring as their music.” It’s nice they’ll make it in from Oklahoma for the occasion . . . The Americana Music Association will present Ricky Skaggs, (The Eagles) Don Henley, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Los Lobos, and the writing team of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Lifetime Achievement plaques during Americana’s annual awards gala, Sept. 16, at the Ryman in Nashville.
Bits & Pieces: Add actress to former Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles’ resume, as she’ll be playing Dolly Parton’s mother in the NBC-TV movie “Coat of Many Colors,” dealing with the Hall of Famer’s youthful years. She’s being portrayed by eight-year-old Alyvia Lind, while Ricky Schroder’s cast as her dad, and Gerald McRaney plays uncle Bill Owens, who taught Dolly about songwriting (think “Put It Off Until Tomorrow”). Of course, Dolly as executive producer will be overseeing the filming . . . Big Machine Records’ honcho Scott Borchetta says he’ll return as a mentor for Fox’s final season of American Idol’s talent competition show . . . Singer-actress Jana Kramer and her hunky football hubby Michael Caussin are excited over news they will be parents early next year . . . And equally excited over their own similar news, Lady Antebellum singer-musician Charles Kelley and wife Cassie anticipate their blessed event next February. Cassie: “We are so happy, we can hardly stand it!”
Ailing: Steel-guitar great Lloyd Green 77, will undergo prostate surgery in the weeks ahead, which concerns him mainly because it interrupts his caring for beloved wife Dot, who’s quite ill herself. This turn of events has forced his retirement, but reportedly Lloyd has played pedal steel or Dobro on more than 8,500 tracks, including many of Faron Young, Don Williams and Charley Pride’s country hits, as well as with the likes of Bob Dylan, Ann-Margret, Frank Sinatra, Peter, Paul & Mary. Green was inducted in 1988 to the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in St. Louis.
Final Curtain: Singer-musician Patsy Stoneman-Murphy, 90, died of cancer July 21, while receiving hospice care in Manchester, Tenn., where she resided. When Pattie Inez Stoneman was born in May 1925, her father Ernest Stoneman’s song “The Titanic” had just charted nationally (it would peak at #3 on popular music charts) and become a million-seller. Patsy, the eldest surviving child of Pop Stoneman, is credited with helping him being belatedly inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. She had performed with the family troupe, singing and playing autoharp, banjo or guitar, but that was prior to Pop’s tremendous 1960s’ comeback, when he and his younger children earned the CMA’s first best group award in 1967. He died the following year. In the mid-1980s, Patsy hosted the WSVT-Smyrna radio program Down Home With The Stonemans. The family historian, Patsy worked closely with educator Ivan Tribe, who wrote the acclaimed 1993 book “The Stonemans,” and also recorded albums, sometimes with family and even solo, such as “For God and Country” (1990), “Patsy Sings Pop . . . Stoneman, That Is” (2001) and “The Stoneman Tradition” (2012). In recent years, she occasionally shared the stage with younger sisters Donna, now 81, and Roni, 77. The latter two are now the last of the 23 children born to Ernest and Hattie (Frost) Stoneman. Patsy was predeceased by her husband of 39 years, Jack Murphy, and survived by sisters Donna and Roni, and nieces, nephews and numerous family members. Services were conducted July 28 at Mt. Olivet Funeral Home and Cemetery, Nashville.
Songwriter John Thomas Slate, 77, died July 24, following a lengthy battle with cancer. A Clarksville, Tenn. native, he co-wrote a string of hits for Razzy Bailey, including three #1 songs, and the country-pop crossover successes “Better Love Next Time” for Dr. Hook (#12, 1979), and “A Blaze of Glory” for Kenny Rogers (#9, 1981). As Johnny Slate, he collaborated with such celebrated songwriters as Larry Henley, Hank Cochran, Red Lane, Glenn Martin, Steve Pippin, Larry Keith and Danny Morrison, his cousin. On the publishing scene, he worked with Tree International, Warner Music, and with Larry Henley started up their Windchime and Sandstorm companies. He also founded Affiliated Publishers, Inc. (API), with Danny and Tony Harley. Among their more lucrative copyrights were Joe Diffie’s “Pickup Man” and Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It.”
Slate’s Image Management firm managed such as Diffie, McGraw and Ty Herndon, and Johnny also produced the likes of Diffie, Sons Of the Desert and Ron Williams. Later, he found himself a defendant in a plagiarism lawsuit filed by a West Virginia writer Everett Ellis, who suggested Slate, while with API, allowed a song he wrote, “Lay Me Out By the Jukebox When I Die,” referencing his Aunt Belle, a former club owner, get in wrong hands. Ellis alleges writers Rick Blaylock, Howard Perdew and Kerry Kurt Phillips stole his idea, changed it to a man, in a similarly-titled song, “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” a Diffie hit (#3, 1993). A district court dismissed the case, and when appealed, the Sixth Circuit Court agreed in 1999 with the lower court’s decision, taking Slate and the others off the hook.
Slate’s #1 songs for Bailey were: “Lovin’ Up a Storm,” “I Keep Coming Back,” both released in 1980; and “Friends” in 1981; however, he also wrote Bailey Top 10s, notably “What Time Do You Have To Be Back in Heaven,” the singer’s first chart hit; “Tonight She’s Gonna Love Me,” “I Ain’t Got No Business Doin’ Business Today,” “I Can’t Get Enough Of You” and “Everytime You Cross My Mind (You Break My Heart).”
A prolific writer, Johnny supplied songs to a number of artists, notably Eddy Arnold, Kenny Price, Norma Jean, The Younger Brothers, Jeannie Seely and Jack Greene, Mark Gray, Jean Shepard, Roger Miller, Joe Sun, Charly McClain, and The Carter Family & Johnny Cash. He and Danny Morrison were co-authors of “Song Writing From the Inside Out” (Applewood Books, 1983).
Survivors include children Stacey, Stephanie, Jenny, Stephen and David; 11 grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. Services were held Aug. 3 at First United Methodist Church of Hendersonville. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to MusiCares (
Booking agent and talent manager Tandy Rice, 76, died Aug. 3, after suffering from respiratory failure at Centennial Hospital in Nashville. A native of nearby Franklin, Tenn., Rice founded Top Billing International, in a building he rented from Johnnie Wright. Among the colorful coordinator’s clients were Kitty Wells, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Tom T. Hall and Jim Ed Brown. Apart from his behind-the-scenes work, he also hosted WLAC’s Good Morning Nashville and a co-hosted a later TV series Channel 5’s Morning Line. He was also the founder and dean of the short-lived George Jones University here.
He was predeceased by son Clint Rice. Survivors include daughters Cynthia Rice-Simonet, Marjorie Mason, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild. A memorial service will be announced later.
Songwriter-musician Wayne Carson, 72, died July 20, while in hospice care here. Hailed for such classic songs as “Always On My Mind,” “No Love At All” and “The Letter,” he had also been an artist recording solo for Monument and Elektra, though releases such as “You’re Gonna Love Yourself In the Morning” and “Barstool Mountain” barely charted. Two years later the latter honky-tonk tune became a Top 10 for Moe Bandy.
Born Wayne Carson Thompson (Head), May 5, 1942 in Denver, Colo., his parents (Odie and Olivia Head) performed as Shorty Thompson & Sue throughout the Ozarks, and performed on such radio stations as KWTO-Springfield, Mo., home of the famed Ozark Jubilee, and farther afield in KMMJ-Grand Island, Nebr. Early in his teens, Wayne was so impressed by Merle Travis’ pickin’ style, he took up the guitar himself. Soon he was good enough to play on Springfield’s Junior Jubilee, finding himself briefly alongside rising star Brenda Lee.
In 1962, Wayne moved to Nashville and shortened his stage name to Wayne Carson. In the mid-1960s, however, he returned to Springfield to work with publisher Si Siman, whose associate Chet Atkins was at RCA, and got Wayne’s song “Somebody Like Me” to Eddy Arnold, who liked it. In late 1966, Arnold took it to up to #1, marking Carson’s very first chart-topper.
The following year Wayne scored with “The Letter,” as recorded by The Box Tops, charting it #1. Like Arnold’s topper, it spent four weeks in first place, though this one in the more lucrative pop market. Carson also wrote “Neon Rainbow” and “Soul Deep” for the pop-rock act, these charting in the Top 20 range, but still moneymakers. Meantime, Arnold also covered “Soul Deep” that year, hitting Top 20 country, and later cut Carson’s “She’s Got Everything I Need” (#24, 1973).
Other #1 Carson creations include “I See the Want-To In Your Eyes,” in 1974, and “The Clown” in 1982, both by Conway Twitty; and Gary Stewart’s “She’s Acting Single, And I’m Drinking Doubles” 1975. Other Stewart hits by Wayne: “Drinkin’ Thing” (#10, 1974) and “Whiskey Trip” (#16, 1978).
Additional Carson hits include Mel Tillis’ “Who’s Julie” (#10, 1968); Waylon Jennings’ “(Don’t Let the Sun Set On You) Tulsa” (#16, 1970); Lynn Anderson’s “No Love Have I” (#15, 1970); and Johnny Paycheck’s “Slide Off Those Satin Sheets” (#7, 1977). A wide range of artists have cut Carson songs, including old friend Brenda Lee, Elvis Presley, Bruce Channel, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Julio Iglesias, Tina Turner and B. J. Thomas. It’s estimated more than 75 million records have been sold by artists singing Wayne’s songs.
More recently, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys included Wayne’s “I Want Some More” on his 2009 solo CD. Carson’s received multiple Grammy nominations, finally carting home a pair for best song and best country song in 1983, thanks to Willie Nelson’s recording of “Always On My Mind.” That #1 song was also voted best song by the CMA membership both in 1982 and ’83. NSAI cited it as Song of the Year in 1982, and the Academy of Country Music voted it Single of the Year. Wayne was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s NSAI Hall of Fame in 1997.
Survivors include wife Wyndi Harp and son Christian Head. A Celebration of Life was conducted at The Pavilion in Harpeth Hills Funeral Home, Nashville, July 28.

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Mac Wiseman Book Signing

Mac Wiseman book signing

Mac Wiseman book signing

NOVA BOOKS . . . 3933 Stilton Drive, Nashville TN 37207 

Wiseman book signing . . . Rel. #205-15


NASHVILLE – Bluegrass and Country Music Hall of Famer Mac Wiseman celebrates his long-awaited biography with a 1-3 p.m. book-signing Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Great Escape Superstore, Richland Creek Shopping Center, 5400 Charlotte Avenue, West Nashville.

Whimsically-titled “Mac Wiseman: All My Memories Fit For Print” (Nova Books), the 337-page book written in collaboration with Nashville journalist Walt Trott, boasts a Foreword by friend Charlie Daniels, amidst equally rare road stories and photos.

Gary Walker, who hosts Mac’s afternoon book signing, says expect some surprises and maybe a song or two. “The Voice With a Heart’s” greatest hits, of course, include “Jimmy Brown The Newsboy” and “Tis Sweet To Be Remembered.”

Despite suffering Polio as an infant, Mac strengthened himself on the family farm in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. He’s been steely enough since to preside over seven decades of music making, including more recent CDs with John Prine and Merle Haggard. Mac was the last artist to record with Johnny Cash, days before his 2003 death.

Wiseman first recorded with Molly O’Day in December 1946, at a historic Chicago session produced by Uncle Art Satherley, and soon shared studio time with Flatt & Scruggs (as an original Foggy Mountain Boy) and Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys.

As a solo artist for Dot Records, Mac’s soaring tenor scored hits like “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and “Love Letters in the Sand,” and he also was Dot’s A&R country chief, producing fellow legends Cowboy Copas, Reno & Smiley and Jimmy C. Newman. Mac’s been a fixture on the music scene since, taking his flat-top guitar pickin’ style to a place of esteem.

Long a favorite of the campus crowd and folk festivals, he jump-started his career anew in the 1990s, with Scott Rouse’s BlueGrass Boyz, joining veterans Del McCoury and Doc Watson to record with R&B guitarist Bootsy Collins, cutting their “Country Macarena” and subsequent albums.

Now, Mac’s plugging not one, but two CD releases: “Songs From My Mother’s Hand,” a solo album; and “Timeless,” paired with pal Merle Haggard, just hitting stores. Mac covers all this and more in his bio, including squabbles with Sunshine Sue and Jimmy Martin, plus good times with Tex Ritter, Patsy Cline and Hank Snow’s “Tea Party,” way before the conservative group of that name began.

Now 90, Mac’s career achievements include induction into Virginia’s Music Hall of Fame, IBMA’s Bluegrass Hall of Honor, Country Music Hall of Fame, and recipient of the National Medal of the Arts. For details, on his Aug. 29 signing, call (615) 385- 2116.

– 30 –Nova Books Nashville