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.

– 30 –

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


Mindy McCready, an apparent suicide at 37

Mindy McCreadyNASHVILLE — Country singer Mindy McCready, 37, was found dead Sunday afternoon, Feb. 17, at her residence in Heber Springs, Ark., apparently from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Cleburne County Sheriff deputies were called to the home where she was staying and found her body on the porch about 4 p.m. Reportedly a judge had earlier ordered her to undergo treatment for alcohol addiction and mental health issues, while her sons Zander, 6, and Zayne, 10 months, were being placed temporarily in foster care.
The artist was allegedly despondent from the Jan. 13 death of her live-in songwriter-boyfriend David Wilson, 34, whom she called her soul mate, and who allegedly died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, as well. They were not married, but he was the father of Zayne. Zander is the son of an earlier boyfriend William McKnight, who at one time was charged with attempting to strangle the singer.
Cleburne County Coroner Waren Olstead said an autopsy is pending, and no information is yet available on where the boys are located. The Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines Twittered upon hearing of the death, “Too much tragedy to overcome. R.I.P. Mindy McCready.”
Mindy’s once-promising 1990s’ career had declined by the new Millennium, and she was reduced to recording on minor labels. The talented but troubled woman’s career was overtaken by increasing tabloid coverage, prompted by her erratic behavior and a penchant for drugs.
Born Nov. 30, 1975, in Fort Meyers, Fla., Malinda Gayle McCready was the first child of Gayle and Tim McCready, who later had two sons Josh and Tim.
Subsequently she was raised by her divorced mother, who ran an ambulance service. Always a music enthusiast, Mindy idolized gospel star Sandi Patty’s vocals. As a teen, one of her hobbies was karaoke singing. She graduated high school with honors at age 16.
Mindy’s mom remarried and gave birth to Mindy’s half-brother Kolton Skyler. Mindy was helping Mom’s company out as a dispatcher for the ambulance drivers at the tender age of 12.
“I think you go through things for a reason. That’s why my parents divorced, why I lived a hard life, why I grew up fast, because I had to be prepared for this career at age 21,” The Tennessean newspaper quoted her.
Mindy moved to Nashville in June 1994. A year after coming to Music City, McCready landed a major label pact with BNA Records and scored her first Billboard charting with “Ten Thousand Angels” (#6, 1996). Her debut album of that title peaked at #5 on Top Country Albums, spawning four hit singles, including her second charting “Guys Do It All the Time” a number one, followed by a Top Fiver “A Girl’s Gotta Do (What a Girl’s Cotta Do).” Her duet with Lonestar’s Richie McDonald “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now” was an easy Top 20, as her CD sold platinum, very impressive for a newcomer.
Initially her appeal seemed primarily to be her own peer group of females, who dug her in-your-face attitude. McCready nonetheless didn’t feel any constraint, noting, “I don’t worry about that because wherever there’s girls there is going to be boys. And I think the record appeals to women of all ages, not just young girls.”
Mindy’s Gold sophomore album “If I Don’t Stay the Night” contained three chart singles, though the best showing was the Top 20 “You’ll Never Know.” Listeners were somewhat confused over the direction taking, including vocal rap, as some reviewers likened her to a Shania Twain wannabe.
Meanwhile, the statuesque blonde beauty had a high-profile romance with handsome actor Dean Cain of TV’s New Adventures of Lois & Clark adventure series, and was opening shows for Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw and George Strait.
Seemingly she had it all going for her.
BNA promotions v.p. David Baldrica summed it up in the fall of 1997, “It has been a storybook career for this girl. It’s amazing if you look at the start she got off to and the success of the first four singles and the success of the first album – now the whole thing with Dean . . . It goes to show you when destiny’s light starts to shine on you, when all those stars light up, certain people have them all light up, and I think Mindy is one of those people.”
Sad to say, his forecast was off the mark. Mindy had five additional chartings (totaling 12), the best of which after switching to Capitol was “Scream” (#46, 2000) and no doubt that’s what she wanted to do. Additionally, the McCready-Dean engagement was called off.
In April 2008, she disclosed a brief affair with the married baseball icon Roger Clemens, that started when she was 15, supposedly after he heard her singing in a karaoke bar. Initially he denied it, already in hot water for allegedly using steroids while playing professional ball. Mindy said, “It’s a tragic end to someone who has had a beautiful career,” adding she felt “sorry for his family” (wife Debbie and two children). Later reports stated that Clemens (known in the sport world as The Rocket) sent hefty checks to McCready through a third party, some in the amount of $25,000.
McCready’s own career took a dramatic downturn, as she became dependent on drugs, to the extent she was arrested in 2004 for forging another’s name on a prescription for OxyContin at a Brentwood pharmacy. In the spring of 2005, Mindy hit the headlines when she was arrested and charged with DUI. Then in May, police found the star beaten and nearly strangled by estranged boyfriend William McKnight, who was arrested on the charges.
In July 2005, she was hospitalized for an apparent suicide attempt, discovered by McKnight, out on bail. Reportedly, she was despondent over a criminal case pending against her in Arizona, where she hindered prosecution and faced unlawful use of transportation charges.
Then in 2006, Mindy was re-arrested for violating probation, when in July in Fort Meyer, she had an altercation with her mother, Gayle. Returned to Tennessee, Mindy spent three months in Williamson County jail, before being released again on probation. She filed a lawsuit naming her mother and the National Enquirer magazine, charging libel for slanderous statements made against her. Nothing came of this.
In the summer of 2008, Mindy admitted herself into an extended care facility, after receiving emergency treatment at Vanderbilt Medical Center, following still another suicide attempt.
Following her release from the facility, again she allegedly attempted suicide in December 2008. Brother Timothy discovered her unconscious, noting she had cut her wrists and taken an overdose of pills, and called 9-11.
Mindy made public her troubles, airing them on such as the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab, Access Hollywood and via her own short-lived reality series.
On Dec. 9, 2011, McCready was seen on the prime-time ABC-TV news show 20/20 discussing alleged kidnapping charges filed against her by her mother, Gayle Inge, who had custody of son Zander. Mindy had visitation with him in Florida, reportedly with permission of his father, William McKnight, but then absconded with him to Arkansas. She claimed Zander was in danger from her mother.
Arkansas lawmen located the singer in the state, hiding under a staircase with Zander at a friend’s home. Arkansas Judge Lee Harrod ignored Florida officials’ requests to return Zander and Mindy to its jurisdiction, however, and tentatively allowed the boy to stay with his mother pending further investigation, and the birth of Zayne.
Some say she was in the process of writing a book about her predicament and brushes with the law, and in January 2012 posted this comment: “I haven’t had a hit in almost a decade. I’ve spent my fortune, tarnished my public view and made myself the brunt of punch line after punch line. I’ve been beaten, sued, robbed, arrested, jailed and evicted. But I’m still here. With a handful of people that I know and trust, a revived determination, and both middle fingers up in the air, I’m ready. I’ve been here before. I’m a fighter. I’m down, but I’ll never be out.” – by Walt Trott

Frances Preston Williams dies

Preston and McCartney
BMI’s Frances Preston with Paul McCartney

Frances Preston Williams dies

NASHVILLE — Country Music Hall of Famer Frances Williams Preston, 83, died in the early morning hours of June 13, from heart failure. She rose from a WSM-radio receptionist to head up a leading royalty rights organization, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), both in Nashville and the New York City headquarters.

A Nashville native, Frances Williams grew up to mingle with such worldly folk as Presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, and was presented to Elizabeth, the Queen of England.

Reportedly upon meeting the Queen, she was so flustered, she remembered, “I meant to say, ‘It’s an honor to meet you,’ instead I said, ‘It’s an honor you got to meet me’ . . . ”

Known as a songwriter’s angel, she reigned as BMI president and CEO from 1986, until she retired in 2004. According to singer-songwriter Vince Gill, “I couldn’t ask for anyone better to take my interest to heart and look after me . . . At the end of the day I knew she was going to represent me and my fellow songwriters by doing a first-class job. She seems to love the people and the songs more than the work she was doing.”

Talk about shattering glass ceilings, Frances had it tough being taken seriously by Southern good ol’ boys as an executive, and was banned from entering a meeting of executives at the staid Cumberland Club. Shortly after starting BMI’s Nashville branch (out of her home), she went to Acuff-Rose Publishing’s Wesley Rose to tell him they would be working together on music royalties.

In a seeming rebuff, Rose said, “I do all my business in New York (at BMI headquarters).”

Revenge is sweet. Frances confided to Tennessean reporter Beverly Keel, “When I became president, they gave me a party at the office here and Wesley was there. I said, ‘Wesley, by the way, now I am New York.’ He got a big kick out of that.”

Still, Frances insisted she was not a true feminist: “I never thought of myself as a woman or that I should be treated differently. I didn’t go through the ‘I won’t pour coffee’ stage. I pour coffee for everybody . . . I never expected special treatment. If I went to a board meeting and they said, ‘Gentlemen,’ I never said, ‘And lady,’ I just rode with the tide and worked hard.”

BMI, which was established as a non-profit in 1939, when reportedly the main royalty rights organization ASCAP refused to represent “race” (black artists) or “hillbilly” (country) writers. Further, it withheld permission for radio to broadcast songs, if they played music not represented by ASCAP.

A graduate of Isaac Litton High School, Frances attended Peabody College on the Vanderbilt University campus, expecting to be a teacher. Instead, she took a job sorting mail at WSM radio, but when their receptionist became pregnant, stepped up into that position.

“All these people came in for free air time,” she recalled. “So, in addition to meeting all the artists like Roy Acuff and Patsy Cline, I got to meet Congressional members including senior Sen. Al Gore, and became good friends with Tennessee’s Gov. Frank Clement, who was in my wedding!”

While assisting in promotions for telethons and the annual DJ Convention, Frances was spotted by BMI’s New York executives, most notably Robert J. Burton, then vice president: “BMI needed someone who knew all the artists and was politically connected, so I answered their needs in that area.”

Frances opened BMI’s first office below the Mason-Dixon line in her own home, and as its Director was soon representing 17 Southern states. A more officious title was bestowed on her during the early 1960s: Vice President, BMI-Nashville.

One of her closest female friends through all this was Jo Walker (Meador), who was accomplishing much the same thing over at a brand new trade organization called the Country Music Association. Both women, who watched Music Row grow from its inception, are now in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In 1962, Frances married businessman E. J. Preston, who had three sons whom she helped raise and who came to call her “Mom.” After 25 years, the couple divorced, but remained on friendly terms and she maintained her relationship with the children.

Indeed, Frances had a nurturing nature and looked after promising newcomers such as Norro Wilson (whose credits include “A Very Special Love Song”), whom she met in 1962: “We named her ‘the songwriters’ mama’ . . . she gave a lot of moral support to many of the early, older songwriters and it was kind of like when you leave Mom and Dad to go to college – you’re just a little lonelier than you want to be. You always felt safe in your conversations with her. We could tell her what we wanted to, without feeling weird about it. She certainly helped me, even before I had any hits. You needed those advances back then.”

Kris Kristofferson (“Me & Bobby McGee”) once called her the “Songwriters’ Guardian Angel.”

While serving as a judge for an early reality show, Williams-Preston asked 18-year-old finalist Billy Dean, “Son, how tall are you?” He told her 6’4”, and she advised, “Don’t ever sit down and sing again.” Dean adds, “And I never did.”

Oak Ridge Boy Duane Allen said earlier, “She took the Nashville writers’ music, went to New York and she’s made us internationally known. I would hate to think what the music industry would be without her. She has contributed so much.”

Publisher Tim Wipperman, CEO,Wipperman Music Group, recalled, “Frances was one of my earliest mentors. I met her immediately after I got to town. I was new, green and didn’t know anything, but she gave me the same respect when she first met me that she would give me 30 years later . . . During some tough times in my life, she’d call out of the blue just to check on me and say she loved me. While a very tough hardnosed businesswoman, the other side of her would pick up the phone and offer that kind of support.”

According to friend Jo Walker-Meador, “Frances was the first woman the CMA had as Chairman of the Board. Tex Ritter was President. They made a great team . . . Frances’ contributions to country music were the greatest. I don’t think we would have had the first Hall of Fame building when we did, had it not been for Frances’ vision. Her foresight, determination and will made it happen.” (She was inducted in 1992, and Jo in 1995.)

During her early days at BMI, Frances began signing songwriters who were previously paid by their publishers: “Some would get paid, and some wouldn’t. They didn’t know much about BMI, so it was my job to educate them and sign them directly.”

She said most writers didn’t understand performing rights in Nashville: “They didn’t really know what they were. Publishers would put the money on the songwriter’s statement but never explained that it came from performing rights or BMI . . . We signed writers by the hundreds. As we got more established in Nashville and had our awards (something writers and publishers seldom shared in previously) show, it became the hotspot of the community. Then I decided to go to Muscle Shoals, Ala., and do the same thing – claim my territory. Then I went to Macon, Ga.”

Earlier, country writers would sign with a publisher such as Tree or Acuff-Rose, without signing with BMI, which exists to protect copyrights of both songwriters and music publishers.

“Some publishers got paid the writer’s share and some publishers didn’t. The performing rights thing was a loose issue then,” noted Williams-Preston.

Country Music Hall of Famer Floyd Tillman, whose credits include classics like “They Took the Stars Out of Heaven,” “I Love You So Much It Hurts” and “Slippin’ Around,” told Frances, “I never knew there were performing rights. I never knew we got paid by anything other than record sales.”

On her watch, BMI membership grew from 84,000 to more than 300,000 writers and publishers, while revenues nearly quadrupled to more than $670 million annually. She worked behind the scenes with legislators in Washington, D.C., to bring about positive changes to copyright law, and coordinated agreements with foreign rights organizations, all to ensure that copyright holders (and their heirs) were paid properly.

When BMI made her the organization’s president and CEO in 1986, her responsibilities expanded to include other genres such as R&B, folk, jazz, classical and Americana, but she devoted the same positive energy to her efforts – both here and abroad – as when she established and represented the Nashville office.

In 1995, she moved most of BMI’s operation to Nashville. BMI and Frances adapted to new challenges that came along with advance technology: “I served on Vice President Gore’s National Information Infrastructure Committee, which was made up of 30 people who wrote the white paper on security and copyright issues on the Internet. Bill Gates, Apple Computers and AT&T were there. So I had an early preview of what the world would be like and how we had to change to address all the new technology that was coming along. So now – with our computer technology – we are the most advanced music company in the world. We have added each year as everything has come along. We’re ready for anything.”

She was pleased to participate in efforts that resulted in the Copyright Amendment Act extending royalties (from 50 years) to 70 years beyond the composer’s life: “Our concerns are that every performance is paid for and publishers are protected from all the new technologies that come along. Wherever music is played, people have to pay for it. And that’s been a constant fight.”

Her honors have been many, and despite having confided, “I couldn’t write two lines that went together (musically),” she was the first non-performing distaff member of the historic New York-based Friar’s Club, a prestigious theatrical organization. She next became its first female on the board of directors, and in 1993, was awarded the Friar’s Applause Award for Lifetime Achievement. As non-performer, she’s also been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame; accepted a National Trustees Award from NARAS, the Grammy people; and been inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.

Williams-Preston’s charitable work in fighting cancer, notably at Vanderbilt University, is well-documented and was duly recognized when a VU medical research center was named the Frances Williams Preston Building. She also served as President of the T. J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer & Aids Research, and was a recipient of the City of Hope’s annual Spirit of Life Award.

In the 1980s, Esquire magazine cited Frances as “the most influential and powerful person in the music business,” and during the 1990s, the Ladies’ Home Journal listed her as “one of the 50 most powerful women in America.” Not to be outdone, Fortune magazine named her “one of the true powerhouses of the pop music business.”

With her retirement, after 46 years of service to BMI, Frances was made President Emeritus. BMI further renamed its country song of the year statuette, the BMI Frances Williams Preston Award. Survivors include three stepsons Kirk, David and Donald Preston, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Services have not yet been announced.

Nova News – June 2011

Ruth White’s latest book special . . . on R&B pioneer – Limited time only!

“You Can Make It If You Try” by Nova Books’ author Ruth White – co-written with late R&B legend Ted Jarrett (Hillsboro Press, 256 pages, Nashville 2005) – relates the compelling and inspiring story of artist-composer-publisher-pianist-producer Ted Jarrett, who proved there was a lot more musically to Nashville than the Grand Ole Opry. His father was killed by his paramour’s boyfriend, and his mother abandoned him to a hard-scrabble existence with his mean-spirited step-grandfather-farmer, who discouraged his early songwriting talents, telling Ted only white men were composers. Yet Ted became a performer whose compositions not only hit high on the Rhythm & Blues charts by acts such as Louis Brooks & The Hi-Toppers, Gene Allison and Ruth Brown, but also became Top 40 pop crossover successes, and one – “Love, Love, Love” – even topped the country chart 13 weeks by Webb Pierce. Among others who recorded Jarrett’s songs, including “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)” and “You Can Make It If You Try,” were Earl Gaines, Johnny Ace, The Midnighters, and The Rolling Stones. As artist, writer and producer, Jarrett shared in the Grammy Award-winning 2004 release “Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970).” This searing bio offers insight into the interaction of the black and white musical cultures that existed in Nashville, at a time when it was earning its nickname Music City USA. Regular $19.98 version, now in stock at $15, which includes S&H. Order your copy while they last!

Price: $15.00 (Including S&H)

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Ruth White’s latest book special on R&B pioneer Limited time only!



“You Can Make It If You Try” by Nova Books’ author Ruth White – co-written with late R&B legend Ted Jarrett (Hillsboro Press, 256 pages, Nashville 2005) – relates the compelling and inspiring story of artist-composer-publisher-pianist-producer Ted Jarrett, who proved there was a lot more musically to Nashville than the Grand Ole Opry. His father was killed by his paramour’s boyfriend, and his mother abandoned him to a hard-scrabble existence with his mean-spirited step-grandfather-farmer, who discouraged his early songwriting talents, telling Ted only white men were composers. Yet Ted became a performer whose compositions not only hit high on the Rhythm & Blues charts by acts such as Louis Brooks & The Hi-Toppers, Gene Allison and Ruth Brown, but also became Top 40 pop crossover successes, and one – “Love, Love, Love” – even topped the country chart 13 weeks by Webb Pierce. Among others who recorded Jarrett’s songs, including “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)” and “You Can Make It If You Try,” were Earl Gaines, Johnny Ace, The Midnighters, and The Rolling Stones. As artist, writer and producer, Jarrett shared in the Grammy Award-winning 2004 release “Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970).” This searing bio offers insight into the interaction of the black and white musical cultures that existed in Nashville, at a time when it was earning its nickname Music City USA. Regular $19.98 version, now in stock at $15, which includes S&H. Order your copy while they last!