Music City Beat, November 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio as Sam Phillips . . .

NASHVILLE — Old Crow Medicine Show lead singer Ketch Secor helped launch a new Episcopal School of Nashville, one of 12 in Tennessee, which was dedicated Oct. 14. Located adjacent to St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in East Nashville, it will serve pre-kindergarteners and elementary grades. The Reverend Daniel Heischman praised Secor’s work on behalf of the project, “From the word ‘go,’ from our standpoint, it truly was a model how to go about starting a school.” Secor serves on the school board and has a child in the school. Secor says, “I think oftentimes that spiritual component is missing from early childhood education and this is really the time to get it. What you learn in the spiritual formation are ethics, tolerance, loving your neighbor as yourself, sharing, seeing humanity in a great order of all living things. What it doesn’t mean is exclusivity or indoctrination.” Bishop John Bauerschmidt of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, also blessed the new school.
Bits & Pieces: Peter Guralnick’s bio “Sam Philllips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll” has been optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way for a film version. DiCaprio is slated to portray Phillips and will co-produce along with of all people Mick Jaggar. Sam Phillips is the power behind Sun Records, which helped produce such icons as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison . . . A new book “Country Music Hair,” by Erin Duvall, focuses on the hairstyles of country stars from the 1960s up to date. Among those she interviewed, apart from hair stylists to the stars, were artists Sara Evans, Travis Tritt and Sunny Sweeney. But Erin feels Dolly Parton has the best music hair (including wigs?) of all time! She was in town Nov. 7 to plug her book at Parnassus Books . . . An auction company called Skinner conducted a Nov. 5 sale of vintage guitars and memorabilia from the collections of the late Jimmy Dickens and former RFD-TV host Marty Stuart, following an Oct. 18 preview conducted in Studio A of the Grand Ole Opry House on Opryland Drive, from noon to 7 p.m. Apparently this was with the approval of the Country Music Hall of Famer’s widow Mona Dickens. Reportedly there were also auction items from additional VIPs including Waylon Jennings and The Ramones . . . A toxicology report has confirmed singer Craig Morgan’s son Jerry Greer, 19, died from drowning last summer. Further, the findings showed at the time of his death, Jerry tested positive for marijuana and a low level of alcohol in his system. Readers may recall he disappeared the afternoon of July 10 while tubing with friends on Kentucky Lake in Humphreys County. A case summary concluded he had been riding on an inner tube behind his boat when the tube flipped and Jerry went underwater, but did not surface. His body still in a life-jacket was discovered the next day during a widespread search. Greer often appeared with his dad on the Outdoor Channel’s Craig Morgan All Access Outdoors reality show . . . Late Country Music Hall of Famer Jean Shepard was remembered musically at the Nashville Palace, Nov. 20, a day before the Grand Ole Opry matriarch would’ve turned 83. Among veteran artists saluting their friend and hero were Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely, Bill Anderson, Connie Smith, Jody Miller, Leona Williams and Riders in the Sky. Emcee for the benefit concert was Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs. Tickets were $25 at the door . . . Documentarian Ken Burns was in town trying to hustle funding for his longtime promised country music series, soliciting the Mayor, Governor and Belmont University no less. Folks we’ve talked to say he’s been doing this for several years, and despite backing from PBS, doesn’t want to reimburse the pro’s for use of rare photos and film archival footage. Reportedly, he won’t even wrap this venture until 2019, with the aid of writer-producer Dayton Duncan . . . Former Sugarland member Kristian Bush has teamed with Radney Foster for an Atlanta-based musical-comedy “Troubadour,” penned by playwright Janece Shaffer (“The Geller Girls”). Bush penned 16 songs for the 1950s-era stage show, concerning associates whose behaviors threaten the course of country music. Foster, formerly of Foster & Lloyd, portrays Billy, an aging country artist, who fights to preserve his legacy and protect his son’s bid for a career. Other leads include Andrew Benator, Bethany Anne Lind and Zach Seabaugh, who competed on The Voice TV series. Directing is Susan Booth. The pre-Broadway run occurs at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Jan. 18-Feb. 12. According to a promo blurb for the feel-good romantic comedy, “In 1951 Nashville, country music legend Billy Mason is on the eve of retirement. Can his soft-spoken son, Joe, step into the spotlight and carry on? When Joe joins forces with an unlikely pair – Inez, a budding singer-songwriter, and Izzy, a rodeo tailor on a mission – a revolution is born and country music is changed forever.”
Honors: Nashville banjo master and session player Bela Fleck was selected to receive the Nashville Symphony’s annual Harmony Award reserved for those “who best exemplifies the harmonious spirit of Nashville’s musical community.” Bela accepted the honor Dec. 10 during the 32nd annual Symphony Ball at Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown, He’s no stranger to awards, having garnered 16 Grammys over the years. In 2011, the Symphony commissioned a Fleck concerto “The Imposter,” premiering it at Schermerhorn Center. “I’m so proud of our hometown Nashville Symphony and being acknowledged by the organization in this way makes me ever more certain that I am on the right track,” added Fleck . . . SESAC was the first performing rights organization to announce 2016 annual award winners, Oct. 30, presenting its highest honor to Nashville native Josh Hoge, Songwriter of the Year, whose credits included Chris Young’s hits “I’m Comin’ Over” and “Think Of You” (with Cassadee Pope). Jaron Boyer and Michael Tyler won Song of the Year for their title “Somewhere On a Beach” recorded by Dierks Bentley. Publisher of the Year recipients were Sony/ATV EMI/Foray Publishing and Write2BeFreeMusic, publishers of Hoge’s songs . . . ASCAP’s awards gala, Oct. 31, saw Ricky Skaggs receiving its Founder’s Award, while Chris Stapleton was presented the Vanguard Award, recognizing the tremendous impact of this artist’s work over the past year, which will help shape the genre’s future sound as well. Ashley Gorley, whose past year hits include “Nothin’ Like You,” earned ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year honor, while the Brothers Osborne’s “Stay A Little Longer” won best song; and Warner/Chappell Music was named top publisher. Gorley accepted his fourth annual best writer award, telling The Tennessean, “It’s a big blessing; it’s a goal I never set” . . . BMI gave Kenny Chesney (above) its President’s Award in recognition of his country music influence through the years, even as he celebrates another successful single “Settin’ The World On Fire” (with Pink). Prolific Ross Cooperman won Songwriter of the Year at BMI’s 64th annual awards show, thanks in part to “Confession,” “Don’t It,” “Drunk On Your Love,” “Lose My Mind,” “John Cougar, John Deer, John 3:16,” “Smoke” and “Strip It Down.” Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” earned Song of the Year (co-written with Sean Douglas and Joe London). Sony/ATV Music received the best publisher accolade.
Awards Fever: The Country Music Association’s 50th annual awards program, despite being telecast opposite the world series, attracted 12.6 million viewers Nov. 2. That’s down from the 2015 tally of 13.68 million viewers, but ABC-TV was pleased the show brought back 93 per cent of its prior year watchers sans series. Social media lit up regarding the electric performance of the Dixie Chicks with Beyonce, some conservatives criticizing their appearance. Despite this, the surprise appearance by Beyonce, sharing the stage with the country’s controversial Dixie Chicks, brought the audience to its feet. Their song selection included Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons,” which segued into the Chicks’ “Long Time Gone,” a statement in itself. The soulful singer called out “Happy 50th Anniversary CMA!,” exchanging hugs with Chicks’ Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison. “Why are you showing Beyonce & Dixie Chicks? One doesn’t believe in America and our police force, while the other didn’t support our President & veterans during war,” a dissenter wrote on Facebook, alluding to political stands by the acts. Another insisted, “Neither are country, and Beyonce could not be bothered to put some clothes on for the occasion,” alluding to her stylish nude-colored gown. “We stand by it,” Sara Trahern said of Beyonce’s performance, noting that the CMA had received not only spirited online comments but phone calls, both positive and negative, from viewers. “If a program moves people so much one way or another, I think we’ve had a successful show.”
Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley were co-hosts, themselves taking a musical swipe at political campaigning, noting caustically at this stage they didn’t care who wins (Nov. 8). For an opening segment saluting the organization’s 50 years, a number of veteran acts appeared, including Charley Pride, Roy Clark, Alabama, Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson and Vince Gill. Ben Haggard was on hand in tribute to his recently departed dad, Merle, performing “Mama Tried” (with Gill), while Underwood sang Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” and she joined Paisley singing Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever, Amen,” as he acknowledged their tribute.
Awards went to Underwood as Best Female Singer; Chris Stapleton, Best Male Singer; Little Big Town, Best Vocal Group; Brothers Osborne, Best Duo; Dann Huff, Best Musician; Maren Morris, Best New Artist; and Lori McKenna’s “Humble and Kind,” voted Best Song. Best Album award went to Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood,” produced by Jay Joyce, Arturo Buenahora, Jr.; while Best Single trophy went to Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man,” produced by Dann Huff and Jesse Frasure; Dierks Bentley and Elle King’s “Different For Girls” scored Best Musical Event; as Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away,” directed by Tim Mattia, won for Best Music Video.
CMA’s biggest award, Entertainer of the Year, went to Garth Brooks, as presented by ex-country artist Taylor Swift, marking his fifth (record-setting) time to cop that honor, but his first since 1998. “I went into a vacuum. When we left, I never thought I would get to come back. And when you come back,” noted Garth, “You never think you’re going to get to hold one of these again.” The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dolly Parton in recognition of her trend-setting accomplishments as singer, songwriter and movie star. Dolly said in passing, “I would’ve cried, but I did’t want to mess up my eyelashes.” Superstar Kenny Chesney walked away with the Pinnacle Award, for great successes past, present and future.

Farewell Party: Nashville surgeon Robert W. Ikard, 78, died Nov. 8, after an illustrious career in medicine, as well as being a historian, who authored the biography of bandleader Francis Craig: “Near You: Francis Craig, Dean of Southern Maestros” (Hillsboro Press, 1999). Apart from Craig writing (with Kermit Goell) and recording the standard “Near You,” 1947’s biggest seller (17 weeks at #1), his recording of it in the Castle Studios marked the first national hit produced as an indie production (by Nashville-based Bullet Records), helping to launch Nashville as a major recording center, eventually dubbed Music City USA. Three decades later, his song became a country #1 for George & Tammy. Reportedly, Craig was a nephew of the founders of National Life Insurance, long-time sponsors of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. Dr. Ikard was a native of Columbia, Tenn., and a graduate of Vanderbilt University. He is survived by wife Catherine (Kitty) Hundley-Ikard, three sons and five grandchildren. A memorial service was conducted at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Nov. 11.
Prolific country composer Claude (Curly) Putman, Jr., 85, died of heart failure at his home in Lebanon, Tenn., Oct. 30. Among Curly’s greatest hits were “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “My Elusive Dreams,” “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” and “Do You Wanna Go To Heaven.” Born in Princeton, Ala., he was the son of sawmill worker Claude Putman and his wife Myrtle. Curly served in the Navy four years, notably aboard the USS Valley Forge battleship.
Curly first tried his hand as a singer-songwriter, charting Top 20 with his indie single “The Prison Song” in 1960 on Cherokee Records, and that same year nabbed his first Top 10 success when Marion Worth recorded his “I Think I Know.” Although he released his debut album, “Lonesome Country Songs of Curly Putman” (ABC Records) in 1967, it registered only scant success.
By then, Putman knew his true talent, and co-wrote with such formidable tunesmiths as Billy Sherrill, Sonny Throckmorton and Bobby Braddock. Pitman scored Top 10 successes in four decades, for artists ranging from the Statler Brothers (“You Can Have Your Kate And Edith, Too,” 1967), Ferlin Husky (“Just For You,” 1968), Hank Thompson (“The Older the Violin, The Sweeter the Music,” 1974), The Kendalls (“It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ To Me,” 1978), John Conlee (“Baby, You’re Something,” 1980), Ricky Van Shelton (“I Meant Every Word He Said,” 1990) and Doug Supernaw (“Made For Loving You,” 1993). A 15-year-old Tanya Tucker took “Blood Red and Going Down,” straight to the top of the 1973 Billboard country chart. Perhaps his most successful artist collaboration, however, came with T. G. Sheppard, who enjoyed three Putman #1’s, “Do You Wanna Go To Heaven,” “I’ll Be Coming Back For More,” “War Is Hell (On the Homefront, Too),” as well as hits like “When Can We Do This Again” (#5, 1978), and “Smooth Sailin’” (#6, 1980).
His “Green, Green Grass of Home” was initially a 1965 Top Five for Porter Wagoner, but in 1967 crossed over into pop for Tom Jones. It has been recorded by numerous artists, among them Elvis Presley, Bobby Bare, Burl Ives, Kenny Rogers, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, Del Reeves and The Grateful Dead. Another much-recorded Curly creation is “My Elusive Dreams,” a #1 duet for Tammy Wynette & David Houston in 1967, then a #3 Charlie Rich cut in 1975, and among others recording this classic are Bobby Gentry & Glen Campbell, Jack Greene, Bill Anderson and Johnny Paycheck. Numerous other stars have cut his songs, such as Ronnie McDowell, Tex Ritter, Dolly Parton, Billy Walker, Kitty Wells, Jim Ed Brown, Jody Miller, Joe Sun, Connie Smith, Eddy Raven, Jean Shepard, Roy Drusky, Shelly West and Mary Lou Turner. Some regard his co-write with Bobby Braddock, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” recorded by George Jones, as the consummate country ballad. Behind the scenes, it had been recorded less successfully earlier by Johnny Russell and Jones wasn’t too keen about covering it for producer Billy Sherrill in 1979, but their pairing proved magical, hitting #1 in 1980, and winning George a best vocal Grammy, while the song earned CMA and ACM’s best accolades for song and single.
Other successes for Curly in that time frame, included “It’s a Cheating Situation” (Moe Bandy, #2, 1979). “Let’s Keep It That Way” (Mac Davis, #10, 1980); and later another weeper, “I Wish That I Could Hurt That Way Again” (by T. Graham Brown, #3, 1986). Subsequently, Putman was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976; and in 1993 inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum via their Poets & Prophets program. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Bernice Soon, their son Troy Putman, grandsons Ian and Ryan, and granddaughter Gina Putman. Funeral arrangements Nov. 3 were handled by Partlow Funeral Chapel, Lebanon, with a eulogy by Troy Tomlinson, while Dr. Kevin Owen officiated. Interment followed at Cedar Grove Cemetery, Lebanon. Pallbearers were Bucky Jones, Sonny Throckmorton, Joe Trombley, Jack Lowery, Rafe Van Hoy, Bobby Braddock, Terry Ashe and Michael Kosser.

Music City Beat – October 2016

Denny Strickland: From horses to music, but still in the country


NASHVILLE — Denny Strickland, an equestrian circuit champion turned country crooner, earned his spurs competing in American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) events. He was my luncheon buddy at the Sutler Saloon here recently, causing nearly every female there to turn and stare his way. No doubt due to his classic Stetson (despite my wearing a macho Gaucho hat), not his slender six-foot-plus stature or those tight jeans. For the uninitiated, Denny’s a promising newcomer, whose sexy singles “Swerve On” and “How Far You Wanna Go” attracted attention last year. We soon learn the Arkansas dude lassoed his AQHA world title, before aiming for a shot in country music. According to Denny, the honor came in a 2007 Western Pleasure competition, when he and his steed performed so well, riding the perimeter of the arena on a loose rein, as judges focused on how his horse walked, jogged, loped and reversed direction. Denny confides his musical inspirations were Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame singer Chris LeDoux, Garth Brooks and George Strait. The bearded balladeer began singing professionally after high school, playing both guitar and keyboards, while simultaneously showing quarter horses. Ironically, it was at a Tunica, Miss. AQHA show that he met Marshall Grant, also a quarter horse enthusiast, who managed the Statler Brothers and once played bass for Johnny Cash. Grant heard a Strickland demo, then agreed to manage the newbie (until his untimely death). “Thanks to Marshall, I even had an opportunity to participate in a big Ark. show honoring the late Johnny Cash, giving me a chance to meet Kris Kristofferson and George Jones, as well as the Cash family.” Denny has since opened gigs for such as Jamey Johnson and Kentucky HeadHunters. His van across the street covering several parking spots, wasn’t hauling a horse, but a motorcycle! In town to film a video for “Get a Grip,” Denny’s new single grabs listeners with its country-rock style, best suiting his sensuous baritone. Sure enough, Strickland’s a guy to watch.
COURT REPORT: The suspect in the murder of singer Tommy Cash’s granddaughter Courtney Cash and an assault on her live-in boyfriend William A. Johnson, has pleaded guilty. Wayne Masciarella of Cape May, N.J., entered his plea on a first-degree murder charge, during a Sept. 13 hearing in Putnam County Circuit Court, Tenn., on the 2014 stabbing death of Cash, then 23, her body stuffed into a cedar box. Masciarella, who allegedly held the couple captive in their home for days, fled after the fatal altercation, and was arrested in Cookeville, Tenn. Reportedly Johnson had fled from a window in a back room, carrying his and Courtney’s year-old baby (Cameron). According to sources, there are some discrepancies in Johnson’s recall of the tragedy, notably that when Masciarella forcibly injected them with meth, Johnson had not previously used the drug; however, reports indicate he tested positive to meth some 10 days earlier. No word yet on a trial date. (Tommy Cash, of course, is known for hits like “Six White Horses,” and as the younger brother of the late Johnny Cash.)
HERE & THERE: George Strait’s new box-set, “Strait Out Of the Box: Part 2,” boasts 56 tracks, including 26 #1 songs, that span his career from 1996-2016, and will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores, starting Nov. 18. Featured on the three discs will be former album cuts and his current radio single “Goin’ Goin’ Gone.” [Reportedly, will accept pre-orders ASAP] . . . Kelly Clarkson, fresh off the ABC morning show The View (co-hosted by Whoopi Goldberg), was in Nashville Oct. 10, reading from her new children’s book “River Rose & The Magical Lullaby” during a special Storytime at popular Parnassus Bookstore. The blonde vocalist also thrilled her audience with songs . . . Country chirp Emily West (see picture right)  was reminded of how nasty The Apprentice host Donald Trump treated her appearance for a 2010 “Beauty & Brains” episode on his reality series, while watching a 2005 video of him and Access Hollywood co-host Billy Bush (nephew to President George H. W. Bush) trash talk women on a bus ride to the network. On Apprentice, the Iowa native was competing against another country newcomer Luke Bryan, with each side represented by different teams, but her biggest detractor was Trump himself. According to the Huffington Post media site, the Presidential candidate seemed obsessed by West’s skin back then, noting, “Her skin sucks, OK? I mean her skin, she needs some serious (expletive) dermatology.” Turning his attention to Bryan, he observed, “Personally, I am, as you probably heard, not a gay man, but I think he’s better looking than (expletive) Emily, OK?” Superstar Trace Adkins was a guest judge in the segment and reportedly sided with West’s team, which pleased her: “Trace Adkins approved of me . . . I’m good.” The former Capitol Records’ artist had attained the Top 40 single “Rocks In Your Shoes,” and in 2014 in competing on another TV series America’s Got Talent, she finished second . . . Ex-child star Billy Gilman, who excited country fans in his pre-teens with the single “One Voice,” proved a hit competing Sept. 20 on NBC-TV’s reality series The Voice, bringing the show’s four judges to their feet to cheer his cover of Adele’s classic “When We Were Young.” The judges were Miley Cyrus, Adam Noah Levine, Alicia Keys and Blake Shelton (who didn’t recognize him at first, but had once shared a stage with Billy). Despite three Top 10 albums, Gilman, now 28, apparently got lost in the shuffle when his voice changed. Cyrus knew it was the same Gilman, who opened shows for her dad Billy Ray in his heyday, and offered to coach him now: “I’ve seen you. I’d love to help you now become the new Billy, because I had to make that decision and I know how I want people to see me.” Still, Billy opted for Levine to take him under his wing. Meantime viewer LeAnn Rimes, also a former child star, Tweeted: “So proud of you my friend! @Billy Gilman, you made me cry yet again. #TheVoicePremiere.”
HONORS: Beth Nielsen Chapman, Aaron Barker, Bob Morrison and the late Townes Van Zandt were officially inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Oct. 9, at the Music City Center here. After being enshrined in the veterans Songwriter category, Morrison stated, “It’s nice to have a hit song, but it’s a lot nicer when your peers say, ‘Hey, you did all right’!” Bob penned such successes as “Don’t Call Him a Cowboy,” “Lookin’ For Love” and “Are You On the Road To Lovin’ Me Again.” Barker, whose credits include (“Love Without End, Amen,” “What About Now”), added wryly, “I thought my induction was a typo. If they’ve got it wrong, they’re not getting their award back.” Chapman, hailed for hits like “This Kiss” and “Strong Enough To Bend,” acknowledged, “I’m thrilled and honored, but it’s also just an incredible sense of awe of being in front of this particular audience (of writers).” Van Zandt, whose classics include “Pancho & Lefty” and “If I Needed You,” died in 1997 at age 52. At the NSAI awards presentation, the late Bill Lowery, Atlanta publisher, was honored with the Frances Preston Mentor Award, while Cole Swindle won best Songwriter/Artist statuette; Ashley Gorley won Songwriter of the Year title (sans artist salutation); and Lori McKenna’s “Humble & Kind” was voted best song . . . Brad Paisley’s the latest to be honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum via a career exhibit (not yet titled), to run from Nov. 18-May 14, 2017. He’s earned a trio of Grammys, plus a total of 28 awards from the CMA and Academy of Country Music, all thanks to such hits as “He Didn’t Have To Be,” “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” “Waitin’ On a Woman” and “Remind Me.” The latter of course with Carrie Underwood, though he’s also scored duet hits with such as Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton and Alabama. This guy’s a triple threat, that is equally talented on guitar, songwriting and vocals . . . Faith Hill and hubby Tim McGraw (above) were honored with Stars in their name installed on downtown’s Music City Walk of Fame, Oct. 5. Nashville Mayor Megan Berry proclaimed, “Faith and Tim both came to Nashville in the 1980s with big dreams and huge talents. Driven by their determination and a lot of hard work, they eventually found great success, and each other . . . They deserve to join the many other incredible artists on the Music City Walk of Fame.” Hill’s hit singles include “This Kiss” and “Breathe,” while among McGraw’s #1’s are “Don’t Take The Girl” and “Live Like You Were Dying,” as well as duets with her, notably “It’s Your Love.” The couple performed that week at the Ryman, advertised as “Sam & Audrey” (their real first names), and despite their sneaky show title, informed fans packed the place. It was announced they would return to Nashville next Aug. 4, at the larger Bridgestone venue as part of their Soul2Soul World Tour . . . Kellie Pickler (“Best Days Of Your Life”) was pleased being recognized and honored by the Defense Department’s Spirit of Hope award, along with songwriter-musician hubby Kyle Jacobs (“More Than a Memory”), during a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C. Named after the indefatigable Bob Hope, who so tirelessly entertained America’s forces through several conflicts, the award is reserved for those who selflessly contribute time and talent to boosting morale of those serving around the world. Among Kellie’s accomplishments in this regard are nine USO tours, and as she shared the award with Kyle, acknowledged, “I am so humbled to be in such great company in receipt of this honor . . . We’ve been so blessed to have a great relationship with the USO, which has allowed us to be able to take a little piece of home to our servicemen and women both overseas and here at home.” . . . Country Music Television (CMT) disclosed its five picks for Artists of the Year, Sept. 13: Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton and Carrie Underwood. Singer Kelsea Ballerina (“Peter Pan”) was selected as Breakout Artist of the Year, all honorees slated as part of a 90-minute CMT Special beamed from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Oct. 20.
AILING: Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn, 84, suffered a fall, requiring minor surgery, which required postponement of her September shows. The Coal Miner’s Daughter recovered in time to keep her Oct. 8 gig at the Alabama Theatre in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Incidentally, a day earlier, the star released a new holiday CD, “White Christmas Blue” . . . Yet another country queen Tanya Tucker, spent her 58th birthday (Oct. 10) in a Nashville hospital, recovering after surgery to correct a respiratory ailment. The bombastic singer interrupted her North American tour after falling ill prior to a gig in South Dakota, where she was treated temporarily by local medics. This prompted postponements across the U.S. and Canada. Tanya, hailed for hits like “Delta Dawn” and “It Don’t Come Easy,” issued this statement: “I cannot apologize enough to all the fans who bought tickets and were looking forward to seeing us on the road. I just feel terrible, but I’ll get even worse, if I don’t take care of myself. I love you all.”
FINAL CURTAIN: Steel Guitar whiz Bud Isaacs, 88, died Sept. 4, at his home in Yuma, Ariz., after a lengthy illness. A member of the Steel Guitar Players Hall of Fame, Isaacs revolutionized the steel by adding foot and knee pedals to the instrument, heard to great fan-fare on Webb Pierce’s “Slowly” in 1954. A much in-demand session player, he also toured with Red Foley, and in liaison with pal Shot Jackson started the famed Sho-Bud Company, for which he designed a line of specialty instruments. Born Forrest Isaacs on March 26, 1928 in Bedford, Ind., “Bud” was influenced growing up by a number of guitarists, most influentially by Jerry Byrd, whom he heard playing Hawaiian style on WLW-Cincinnati. He soon learned six-string Hawaiian guitar, and by 16, was playing a four-pedal Gibson Electra-harp, and made his own radio bow on WIBC-Indianapolis. It was at WOAI-San Antonio, in 1944, where reportedly he got his first professional break as a sideman. Finally, in Lansing, Mich., Bud met Little Jimmy Dickens, who admired and hired the guitarist to back him, including on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. During this period, he also began accepting session bids, and reportedly in 1952 alone, Isaacs was heard on 11 #1 songs, usually playing his beloved (but altered) Bigsby Guitar. Red Foley, host of the Opry’s Prince Albert network portion, engaged Bud for his band, which included playing on The Ozark Jubilee telecasts. His pioneering technique on “Slowly,” which charted 36 weeks – 17 weeks in #1 spot – influenced numerous steel players, including Buddy Emmons, Sonny Burnette, Jimmy Day, Johnny Sibert and Walter Haynes. Isaacs also recorded in the 1950s under his own name several years for RCA, producing such instrumental gems as “Hot Mockingbird,” “The Waltz You Saved For Me” and “Bud’s Bounce.” In 1954, with Atkins, he recorded the album “Session With Chet.” In 1984, Isaacs was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in St. Louis. Bud and his wife, yodeler Geri Mapes, did shows, sometimes as part of the Golden West Singers, up until illness kept him home. There were no funeral plans announced, though it was said there would be a memorial celebration of life later.
Sympathies to steel guitarist Lloyd Green over the death of his wife, songwriter Dorothy (Edwards) Green, affectionately known as “Dot,” on Sept. 10, 2016, from natural causes. The Tennessee native, 79, first met Green in January 1957, while he was a player with the Faron Young band. Six months later, the couple were wed, and raised two children: Robin and Shari. Dot, a stunning blonde, did some modeling, and appeared on multiple covers of her husband’s instrumental albums, including Monument’s “Steel Rides” (1975). She also helped co-write songs, such as “I Wish I Was a Little Boy Again,” recorded by Patti Page (1971) and Lynn Anderson (1974). Survivors include her husband Lloyd, son Robin Douglas Green; daughter Dr. Shari Dawn Green-Wherry; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held Oct. 1 at Spring Hill Funeral Home, Nashville.

Music City Beat – September 2016

Music City Beat — September 2016

NASHVILLE — Don’t mind a bit of a rant and rave now and then, and even we get things off our chest on these pages occasionally, but Sturgill Simpson’s recent rap via Facebook against the Academy of Country Music seemed a bit off to these ears. Simpson (“In Bloom”) took issue with ACM’s newly-named Merle Haggard Spirit Award (destined for Miranda Lambert), insisting the trade organization hadn’t helped The Hag in his twilight years, so why attach his name now to a trophy? He wrote: “In the last chapter of his career and his life, Nashville wouldn’t call, play or touch (Haggard). He felt forgotten and tossed aside. I always got a sense that he wanted one last hit . . . one last proper victory lap of his own, and we all know (he) deserved it. Yet it never came. And now he’s gone. I’m writing this because I want to go on record and say I find it utterly disgusting the way everybody on Music Row is coming up with any reason they can to hitch their wagon to his name, while knowing full and damn well what he thought about them. If the ACM wants to actually celebrate the legacy and music of Merle Haggard, they should start dedicating their programs to more actual country music . . .” For starters, the ACM is not a Nashville-based organization (it’s home office is in Encino, Calif.) and doesn’t plug songs or artists, as radio, labels or media do. ACM has long singled out artists based on the West Coast, as was Haggard (a proponent of the Bakersfield Sound) many times. He has earned 20+ ACM honors, including their prestigious Pioneer Award (1995), Triple Crown (2005), Poet’s Award (2008) and Crystal Milestone (2013) awards, along with six best male singer and Entertainer of the Year trophies. With 38 #1 discs and two rather recent albums, “Django & Jimmie” (with Willie Nelson, #1, 2015) and a Cracker Barrel release “Timeless” with Mac Wiseman (2015), we’d say ol’ Merle done alright by most standards. After being enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1977), he received country’s top honor, induction into the Country Hall of Fame in 1994; and garnered a BMI Icon Award and Grammy Lifetime Achievement honor, both in ’06. The nation even praised him with the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in 2010. Watching him record with Mac at Reba’s Starstruck Studio, about a year before his passing, Merle seemed quite content with himself, and judging by VIP visitors like Alison Krauss and Vince Gill, he obviously wasn’t forgotten. Not bad at all for a 79-year-old legend, who along with his 83-year-old buddy Willie, scored another #1 album last year. A last proper victory indeed for The Hag.
SCENE STEALERS: Alan Jackson’s still “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” apparently, as he chose to ante up $5.75 million for a three-storied, 6,000-square foot building on Lower Broad, currently housing The Wheel honky tonk, with an announced plan to open his own AJ’s Good Time Bar by year’s end. First off, A.J. will have the site renovated to suit his taste, “I always wanted to own a honky-tonk that plays real country music on Broadway, that I could put my name on.” This one’s located at 421 Broadway, and will bear the name of his 2008 #1 “Good Time.” Incidentally, that’s reportedly a new record price for purchasing that size property in this touristy zone, which he paid to previous owners Libbi and Robert McCullough Lee. Among Jackson’s renovation plans are adding a rooftop patio and installing an elevator. Reportedly, it’s not his first venture on Lower Broad, as he’s listed as a partner in the Acme Feed & Seed, a combination restaurant-bar, complete with a stage on which we’ve watched Jackson perform . . . As part of her legal settlement with ex-hubby Narvel Blackstock, legendary Reba McEntire is selling her multi-million dollar mansion in Wilson County, boasting 83 acres of lake-front property, off Cherokee Dock Road near Lebanon, Tenn. She’s seeking $7.9 million for the site she dubbed Starstruck Farm. If interested, there’s an eight-car garage, seven bedrooms, five full bathrooms and two half-baths, a pool, guest house, tennis court, five-stall barn and equestrian site with 16 stalls, and so much more. Earlier, she sold her Beverly Hills, Calif. mansion for $22.25 million. Gee, I remember the song she was plugging during our 1985 interview, “Have I Got a Deal For You,” a follow-up to her #1, “Somebody Should Leave.” (And it came to pass.)

Tony Brown in 2008.-1
                            Tony in happier times.

BITS & PIECES: Embattled musician Tony Brown finally had some upbeat news, Aug. 15, when General Sessions Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton dismissed the latest charges against the producer-pianist. Having heard testimony of witnesses in reference to alleged violation (in June) of a protective order filed against Brown, the judge ruled there was not probable cause a crime was committed. Rather than forward the case to a grand jury, Judge Dalton determined Brown’s presence near the alleged victim of the violation was coincidental, dismissing the case. Brown, a co-founder of Universal South Records, and once president of MCA-Nashville, previously produced hit discs for such as George Strait and Reba McEntire. Tony (below) and Jamie (Antee) were divorced in 2009, but remarried, and shortly after exchanging vows in February 2016, she charged him with domestic abuse, obtaining a protective order through the court . . . Former country singer-turned-pop diva Taylor Swift showed up at the Courthouse here Aug. 29 to fulfill her civic duty, serving on a jury as many less-celebrated citizens do. Actually, Swift was originally summoned last December, but being in the midst of an Australian concert tour, her spokesperson informed the court and she was given the new date. Arriving with a security entourage, she was most cordial to officials and curiosity seekers alike, answering all their questions (and even posing for their selfies). Inside court, when asked her profession, the blonde answered “Songwriter.” The case under consideration involved alleged aggravated rape, expected to last two days at least, but Judge Randall Wyatt, Jr., had enough prospective jurors and at 1 p.m. the artist was dismissed . . . The Country Music Association Foundation will donate $30,000 to Music Rising, a program that will help continue music education in Louisiana schools recently devastated by floods, says CMA Board Member Kix Brooks, himself a native of Shreveport. The country singer was playing a benefit – Acadiana Strong – in Opelousas, La., Sept. 4, to aid flood victims. Brooks points out: “I’m very proud of the CMA Foundation and what we’ve done for music education around the country. We sometimes don’t realize, until a disaster of this magnitude happens, how important it is to be able to rebuild music programs that otherwise may take years to rebuild.”  . . . Incidentally, CMA just sold their first headquarters building for $3.5 million to Panettoni Development Company, which will make it an office site. In turn, CMA has leased 27,000 square feet of space for its new headquarters at 35 Music Square East, also housing the performing rights group SESAC, the anchor tenant. In 1991, CMA moved from its rental site next door to the Musicians Union, into its newly-constructed building at 1 Music Circle South, currently being renovated by Panettoni. Time flies . . . Rory Feek will be screening his labor of love soon, a documentary about his late singer-wife Joey, who died last March 4 at age 40, from cancer. The film “To Joey, With Love,” will be showing in selected cities starting Sept. 20, notably Nashville, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles, for one night, with a follow-up slated Oct. 6. On-line fans followed their Joey & Rory blog This Life I Live, which attracted millions of viewers throughout her battle with cervical cancer. His daughter Hope, 27, from his earlier marriage, sometimes took over the camera to capture their life together, including the birth of their Down Syndrome baby Indiana at home on their Pottsville, Tenn. farm. The singer-songwriter couple had some hit singles, notably the Top 20 “When I’m Gone,” Top 10 CDs “The Life Of a Song” and “Album #2,” plus a #1 gospel album “Hymns That Are Important To Us.”
HONORS: The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, will recognize country and bluegrass pioneer Ricky Skaggs, by presenting him its Founders trophy, during their 54th annual ASCAP awards, Oct. 31, in the Ryman Auditorium. The Opry stalwart initially toured as a teen with Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass band, then earned solo stardom in the 1990s, thanks to such country singles as “Don’t Cheat In Our Hometown” and “Country Boy.” Then with his band Kentucky Thunder returned to his bluegrass roots, winning several Grammy Awards in that category. Paul Williams, ASCAP president, said, “For more than four decades, Ricky Skaggs has been a musical force . . . his incredible gifts as a musician, combined with his boundless creativity and energy continue to fuel a passion for American roots music around the world. A national treasure, he has influenced generations of fellow music creators and we are honored to present him with the ASCAP Founders Award.”
FINAL CURTAIN: Famed folk singer Glenn Yarbrough, 86, died Aug. 11, in his Nashville residence, following a lengthy illness. As a founding member of The Limeliters (with Lou Gottlieb and Alex Hassilev, 1959-1963), the Milwaukee native recorded such classic cuts as “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight,” “The City of New Orleans,” “A Dollar Down,” before taking a solo route, scoring his biggest success via RCA’s “Baby, The Rain Must Fall” (#2, Easy Listening, 1965), the title tune for the film starring Steve McQueen. Yarbrough reportedly was one of the first to record another classic “The House of The Rising Sun,” and sang in the animated 1977 hit “The Hobbit.” Survivors include children Stephany and Sean Yarbrough and Holly Burnett.
Renowned fiddler Hoot Hester, 65, died from cancer on Aug. 30, shortly after having declined further chemo treatments. A multi-instrumentalist, Hester toured with such artists as Donna Fargo, Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed and Steve Wariner, became an in-demand session player, and was highly visible on TNN’s Nashville Now weekday telecasts, hosted by Ralph Emery.
Hubert Dwane Hester was born Aug. 13, 1951, into a music-loving farm family, living outside Louisville, Ky. He took up the fiddle in childhood, and by the early 1970s was playing professionally with The Bluegrass Alliance. After being engaged by The Whites, he relocated to Nashville (1973), and later became a member of the WSM staff band for over 12 years. Other TV programs he performed on include Nashville Alive! and Pop Goes The Country. Hoot is also remembered as a founding member of the popular Western Swing band The Time Jumpers. According to Chris Scruggs, another multi-instrumentalist, “I can’t think of a kinder, gentler soul on this earth than Hoot . . . He wasn’t a man of many words and that showed in his playing. They say musicians show their personality on their instruments, and he was a master of taste, touch and tone.” Survivors include Lola, his wife of 39 years, their children Becca McBride, Rachael Kingery, Jonathan Hester; and three grandchildren. Funeral services were conducted Sept. 3 at the First Baptist Church in Dickson, Tenn.
Fred Kellerman, 89, a co-founder of The Weavers country-folk group, died Sept. 3, 2016, at his home in Weston, Conn. Known for the standards “Goodnight Irene” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” The Weavers also consisted of Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes and female partner Ronnie Gilbert. Kellerman was the last surviving member. Fred was singled out for his mellow baritone, guitar stylings and songwriting talents. The group’s former producer David Bernz, explained, “He stood right in the middle of the two men, between Pete’s tenor and Lee’s bass. It wasn’t a standout voice like Ronnie Gilbert’s, but it made everything meld together.” Among Fred’s compositions were “Tapuach Hineni,” “The Honey Wind Blows,” “I’m Just a Country Boy” and “I Never Will Marry.” Later, Fred produced Arlo Guthrie’s debut LP “Alice’s Restaurant,” and Seeger’s “Circles And Seasons.” During a gig at the Village Vanguard in New York City, poet Carl Sandburg became a fan, stating, “The Weavers are out of the grass roots of America. I salute them. When I hear America singing, The Weavers are there.” Their “Goodnight Irene” became a two-sided hit with “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” rising to #2 on Billboard, while “ . . . Irene” was #1 for 13 weeks, the single selling more than two million copies. He is survived by his wife Susan (Lardner), sons Caleb and Simeon, and three grandchildren.

Music City Beat – August 2016

Music City Beat —August 2016

NASHVILLE — Love that old-time country. Stopped by the Texas Troubadour Theater, July 16, for a show headlined by veterans Tony Booth and Darrell McCall, sponsored by the Heart of Texas Country Music Association. It was part of a national bus tour their CMA in Brady, Texas, was hosting in Music City, a day after their stop at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis. Interesting viewing the band’s sound-check, honchoed by Diane Berry, herself a member of the musicians union here. Incidentally, she plays guitar, sings like an angel, and treated early arrivals to an impromptu performance of Ray Price’s classic “Heart Over Mind.” (She and hubby Russ Workman owned Rudi’s Cafe, a short walk from the theater.) Emcee-DJ Tracy Pitcox, who runs Heart of Texas Records, introduced each act, kicking off with Johnny Moore, 87, uncle to Jeannie C. Riley of “Harper Valley PTA” fame, accompanied by guitarist-son Johnny G., doing a take on “That’s the Way Love Goes.” Not billed was now-retired Margie Singleton, 80, who claims demoing the Tom T. Hall-penned “Harper Valley PTA” for then-hubby Shelby Singleton, who released it by unknown Riley on his Plantation label (’68), a major crossover success.

Johnny Moore with Jeannie Seely.
               Johnny Moore with Jeannie Seely.

Mostly Margie was in fine form vocally, though she should’ve passed on her lengthy cover of Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 smash “.Ode To Billie Joe,” which taxes the stamina of someone 50 years junior. More to her advantage was the inspirational “I Chose You,” done with Lonnie Spiker. Spunky Bobby Lewis stepped up to reprise his 1968 Top 10 “From Heaven to Heartache.” There were Texans galore to entertain the crowd, notably Tex-Mex Bobby Marquez (“Complicated Woman”), Landon Dodd (“Same Old Town”), Rance Norton (“Unwound”) and powerhouse Amber Digby – whose dad Dennis played bass for Loretta Lynn – singing her self-penned “Where Will You Go,” and slated later to guest on the Opry. Spotted in the audience was songwriter Casey Anderson (“The Fugitive”) and Curtis Potter’s widow Pat. Speaking of wives, Darrell’s singer Mrs., Mona McCall, did duets with him, including “Secret Memories” and with son Cody lit into “Country Girl.” Darrell, Tony and Curtis Potter scored on a recent Heart Of Texas album “Survivors II,” so McCall noted it was tough doing numbers like “Wasted Words,” without the original trio, especially in front of Curtis’s widow. Booth recalled their first session, “We needed one more song, and Darrell wrote it over the next few days, but he was troubled by the second verse . . . then found a completed number among his collection.” That was “Whiskey Man.” Tony, of course, couldn’t get away from the event without reprising his 1970s covers on “Lonesome 7-7203” and “Key’s In the Mailbox.” Making it all happen, of course, were Steve Hinson, guitar; Drew Covington, fiddle; Mike Jones, steel; and Dena Johnson, drums. A terrific afternoon for yours truly. – WT


SCENE STEALERS: John Rich is the latest country artist to invest in the Nashville boom currently taking place, and also driving property and rental costs up considerably. But he’s taking it a step further, as the Big & Rich singer-songwriter disclosed Aug. 2, that he’ll open not one, but two Redneck Riviera honky-tonks later this year. First off, he’s focusing on the Lower Broad area here, a tourist mecca, and the other at the Grand Bazaar Mall near Bally’s in Las Vegas, on the so-called “Sin City Strip.” Working in liaison with Bar Management Group, based in Charlotte, N.C., Rich points out within each location will be a cozy bar-within-a-bar, “Heroes Bar,” staffed by veterans, who’ll give veteran customers their first drink free. He noted, “I’m looking forward to a couple of World War II guys coming in there and sitting down and getting their first drink free and telling us their stories.” The venues will offer food and live music, and yes, John himself hopes to be a frequent visitor as time allows: “You never know who’s gonna show up. Music without boundaries. My buddies in country music and rock and roll, it’s just going to be incredible, having these spots where we can get up and jam!” . . . Fiddler Jason Fitz of The Band Perry has filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging AFM-Nashville Local 257 with withholding his payment for a recent studio session. He acknowledges the employer for the session – Interscope Records – forwarded his paycheck for the April 12-13 session at House of Blues Studio to Local 257. Tennessee being one of 26 right-to-work states, fosters the principle one has a right to engage in an occupation without being required to be a union member. (Republicans primarily pushed this practice to weaken unions that generally favored Democratic candidates.) Reportedly, Vince Santoro, secretary-treasurer of 257, sent Fitz an e-mail stating his check would be withheld pending a “service fee” for the union’s efforts to send payment. Bandleader Fitz, who also plays keyboards, sees this as blatantly illegal, citing Tennessee’s protective law in place since 1947, to ensure no worker can be required to join or pay dues or “fees” to a labor organization as a condition of employment. Fitz is entitled to free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. Meantime, AFM-Nashville’s Dave Pomeroy, president, called Fitz’s suit frivolous and without merit.

BITS & PIECES: Brad Paisley has landed another new sponsor, Nationwide Insurance. In a new TV ad timed for Olympic viewers, Brad plays guitar and sings his new lyrics to the company’s signature logo: “Nationwide Is On Your Side” . . . Several hundred fans and music lovers gathered in Gallatin, Tenn., to see what they could buy from a Bill Monroe Estate Sale, boasting more than a thousand items, July 28-30. Among the artifacts sold were instruments, cowboy hats, clothing, furniture, jewelry, antique barber chair, a Civil War musket, key chains, autographed celebrity photos (notably Marilyn Monroe’s), cow figurine collectibles and an Opryland VIP parking pass issued to the “Father of Bluegrass.” . . . Garth Brooks (not Chris Gaines) has parted ways with major label RCA, and says new product will be released under his own Pearl Records banner, including a holiday duets CD with wife Trisha Yearwood, this fall . . . John Prine’s latest album “For Better Or Worse” featuring country females such as Alison Krauss, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack, Kacey Musgraves, Iris DeMent, Miranda Lambert, Holly Williams and wife Fiona Whelan Prine, is set for release Sept. 30. The duets project, produced by Jim Rooney for Oh Boy Records, includes such memorable titles as “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out” (DeMent), “Mental Cruelty” (Musgraves), and “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud, Loud Music” (Amanda Shires) . . . An appeals court is currently considering the case of Chris Ferrell, whose lawyers seek a new trial on his behalf, citing in their opinion, a bungled investigation and erroneous jury instructions. The inmate was accused of killing country performer Wayne Mills in November 2013, during a drunken encounter at Ferrell’s bar The Pit And Barrel, following a tribute concert for George Jones. Court testimony disclosed an argument in the bar over Mills’ smoking inside, and subsequently the owner pulled a gun, firing three shots, killing the singer. In March 2015, Ferrell was pronounced guilty of second-degree murder, and received a 20-year sentence. “This is not second-degree murder, it is manslaughter. My client was threatened several times,” attorney David Raybin told the higher court’s trio of judges, during the 40-minute hearing, hoping to get the jurors thinking it was self-defense due to threats.

HONORS: Four new writers have been named for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s esteemed Songwriters’ Hall of Fame: Beth Nielsen Chapman, Aaron Barker, Bob Morrison, and Townes Van Zandt, who died in 1997 (at age 52). The latter penned such classics as “If I Needed You” and “Pancho & Lefty.” Chapman cuts include Tanya Tucker’s “Strong Enough To Bend” and Faith Hill’s “This Kiss,” while among Barker’s credits are George Strait’s “Love Without End, Amen” and “Baby Blue.” Senior member of the inductees, Morrison, created such gems as Kenny Rogers’ “You Decorated My Life” and Highway 101’s “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman.” This foursome will be officially recognized during NSAI’s annual awards gala here, Oct. 9 . . . Songwriter Shane McAnally was lauded in the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s Poets & Prophets series, Aug. 13, recognizing his varied contributions to music. In 1999, as a newly signed singer to Curb Records, he charted two Top 40 self-penned songs “Say Anything” and “Are Your Eyes Still Blue.” He has scored also as a producer for such artists as Kacey Musgraves (“Same Trailer, Different Park”), and his songs have hit #1 for the likes of Keith Urban (“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”) and Jake Owen (“Alone With You”) . . . A new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum is “Alabama: Song Of The South,” saluting the 2005 Hall of Fame group of that name, opened Aug. 25 and expected to continue through July 16, 2017. Included in the display are various artifacts, instruments, costumes and music memorabilia representing their career, which boasts such hits as “Tennessee River,” “Mountain Music” and “Dixieland Delight” . . . George Strait will present the Porter Wagoner-inspired Wagonmaster’s Lifetime Achievement Award statuette to singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale at the annual Americana Awards gala in Nashville, Sept. 21. Possibly that’s the result of Strait cutting so many of Lauderdale’s songs, notably “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This” and “What Do You Say To That,” both Top Five tunes.

AILING: Hoot Hester, who marked his 65th birthday Aug. 13, is battling cancer for the second time, and reportedly has stopped further chemical treatment. The renowned Kentucky fiddler, who actually plays almost any stringed instrument, is best known for his band work on TNN’s Nashville Now. However, Hoot’s backed such stars as Donna Fargo, Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed, The Whites and helped launch The Time Jumpers . . . Margie Bowes, 75, is also on Nashville’s sick list. A native of Foxboro, N.C., she became the Grand Ole Opry’s “Cinderella Girl” when she won a 1958 National Pet Milk talent contest, then recorded Helen Carter’s “Poor Old Heartsick Me” (#10, 1959). She was wed to the late Opry artist Doyle Wilburn. In 1995, she was seriously injured in a car crash, and lost part of her limb. Bowes’ final charting was an answer song “Understand Your Gal” to Johnny Cash’s 1964 #1 “Understand Your Man.”

FINAL CURTAIN: This one slipped by us earlier: Guitarist Robert (Bob) Saxton, 83, died April 11, 2016 at South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel, Miss. The legendary thumb-picker, once lead guitarist for Gene Vincent (“Be Bop-A-Lula”), also played with country greats Martha Carson, Chet Atkins and Patsy Cline. On the pop music scene, Bob shared the spotlight with pop icons Bobbie Gentry, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. A highlight of his life, however, was pickin’ some four-and-half hours with his idol Merle Travis in June 1983. Bob would go on to win the annual Merle Travis Thumbpicking Championship trophy in 1995 and 1998. Bob, who played WSM’s Grand Ole Opry with Carson, later became a fixture at the annual Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention in Nashville. A native of Newton, Miss., Saxton was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Survivors include step-daughter Karen Pontius of Alaska, and a granddaughter, Gracie. Services were held at First Baptist Church of Laurel, April 18, with burial in Newton Cemetery, Newton, Miss.

Former Texas Troubadours Dickie Harris and Pete Mitchell succumb . . .

Pedal steel guitarist Richard Bertram (Dickie) Harris, 86, died July 25. At 19, Dickie played in ex-Texas Troubadour Tommy (Butterball) Paige’s band Red River Boys, appearing regularly on Butterball’s pioneer telecast on WTVJ-Miami, Fla. He was also in Bob Eaton’s Lone Star Boys (“Somebody’s Stealin’ My Baby’s Sugar”), before becoming a mid-1950s’ Texas Troubadour sideman for Grand Ole Opry superstar Ernest Tubb, when the band boasted Jack Drake, Rusty Gabbard and Billy Byrd. In addition, Dickie also played for luminaries like Cowboy Copas and Marty Robbins. Survivors include wife of 52 years Joyce (Pinion) Harris of Watertown, Tenn. Graveside services were held July 28, at Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville.

Guitarist Pete Mitchell, 74, died July 24 in Buda, Texas. Reportedly Mitchell was Ernest Tubb’s last guitar-playing Texas Troubadour. At the time, he had been living in Fort Worth when Country Music Hall of Famer Tubb heard his playing and liked his style. As a result, Mitchell spent more than 10 years with the Troubadours, performing regularly on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. According to Pete, “E.T. was a living legend. We played all the big dance halls around here and packed them all, so I was familiar with Austin and most of Texas. We’d work 20 or so dates in Texas alone, before ever leaving the state.” After marrying Paula, a Texan whose sister was the widow of famed steel guitarist Jimmy Day, Pete opted to make his home base in Buda, rather than Nashville, starting in 1999. He continued to play, mainly with local bands such as those of James Hand, James White, The Troubadillos and Alvin Crow’s Hardcore Country. Upon learning of Mitchell’s death, Leon Rhodes posted this message: “Judi and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Pete Mitchell. He was a friend, a fine guitar player and a former Texas Troubadour. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family.” Besides his wife, survivors include sons Greg and Jesse. Services were arranged by Pennington Funeral Home, and conducted by The Reverend Buddy Johnson at First Baptist Church of Buda, July 29, with interment in Barton Cemetery, Buda.

The Browns’ third vocalist, sister Bonnie passes . . .

Country Music Hall of Famer Bonnie Brown, 77, died of lung cancer July 16. She was the younger sibling in the famed trio The Browns, celebrated for such country-pop classics as “The Three Bells,” “Scarlet Ribbons” and “The Old Lamplighter.” Brother Jim Ed Brown died last year, knowing they had been named to the Hall of Fame, while elder sister Maxine suffers declining health at home in Arkansas. Prior to her high school graduation, Bonnie was proud of the initial chart success of Maxine and Jim Ed with their self-penned 1954 Top 10 chart debut “Lookin’ Back To See” on the independent Fabor label. This led to regular appearances on KWKH-Shreveport’s Louisiana Hayride. Seeking a fuller family harmony, Bonnie was recruited to sing on their 1955 follow-up Top 10, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” also co-written by Maxine and Jim Ed. In 1956, Ira and Charlie Louvin supplied their near chart-topping “I Take The Chance,” after The Browns were signed to RCA by producer Chet Atkins. Additional successes included “I Heard The Bluebirds Sing,” “Then I’ll Stop Loving You” and “I’d Just Be Fool Enough (To Fall).” When Jim Ed was inducted into the military, the trio was stalled for a time, and upon his return they were later invited to join WSM’s Opry (1963). Because their songs were crossing over into the pop realm and their signature song “The Three Bells” spent 10 weeks at #1 country; four weeks atop the pop list; and even scored Top 10 on the R&B chart, some fellow country artists criticized them as too pop, including Little Jimmy Dickens. A baker’s dozen years after their debut, Jim Ed and Maxine began recording solo tracks, while Bonnie opted for remaining in Arkansas as wife of Dr. Gene Ring and be mother to their two daughters.

Occasionally, the siblings would reunite briefly for performances, but Jim Ed continued his Opry status, enjoying solo success on such as “Pop-A-Top” and “Morning,” as well as a series of duet hits with Helen Cornelius, including “I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” Bonnie confided she never regretted her decision to leave it all behind. Following Jim Ed’s death from lung cancer in June 2015, Bonnie found herself diagnosed with that disease, just prior to accepting the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion in October. Sadly, she lost her husband in January 2016, but is survived by their daughters Kelly and Robin and several grandchildren, plus sister Maxine

Richard Fagan, songwriter . . .

Songwriter-humorist Richard Fagan, 69, writer of John Michael Montgomery’s #1 hits “Be My Baby Tonight” and “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident),” died Aug. 5 in Hospice Care, after a lengthy fight with liver cancer. The talented, but controversial tunesmith became embroiled in the 2008 death of his manager-publisher Tom Oteri, which effectively ended his hit-making career. Other successes Fagan wrote or co-wrote included Moe Bandy’s #6 “Americana”; Mel McDaniel’s #9 “Real Good, Feel Good Song”; Clay Walker’s #5 “Only On Days That End In Y”; John Michael Montgomery’s #6 “I Miss You A Little”; and the Neil Diamond Top 20 single “The Good Lord Loves You.”

Richard William Fagan was born April 24, 1947 in Philadelphia, and primarily raised on Philadelphia’s South Side. As a youngster, he began trying to chord guitar, and started learning about music from students, who were also into drugs. These became an influence on his lifestyle as well. Drafted into the Army, Fagan went to Vietnam in 1967, and returned to a life of alcohol and drugs, trying to forget about his overseas stint. Before long he got married, fathered a son and then was divorced. While homeless, he met music veteran Oteri, who saw a spark of talent in the younger man, taking him under his wing. He helped Richard hone his writing skill and tap into an innate humor that would serve him well down the road. Oteri edited and produced demos of songs Fagan crafted, one of which interested Bob Gaudio, who produced pop star Neil Diamond. That song “The Good Lord Loves You” was put on hold for Neil in 1978; however, it wasn’t until a year later that it made Diamond’s “September Morn” album, and was subsequently a single. Thanks to Oteri-Gaudio’s connection, Mercury Records released a critically acclaimed album of songs, his “Richard Fagan” debut disc, in late 1979. With scant radio acceptance, however, it resulted in slow sales, and a second disc (“Jiver”) was shelved.

Oteri convinced him to try Nashville, arriving in Music City in January 1986. A short time later, singer Con Hunley recorded Fagan’s “Blue Suede Blues,” which stalled at #49, but showed the town he had promise, thanks in part to Diamond’s single “The Good Lord Loves You” which went Top 20 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.

He hooked up with some fine co-writers, as well, including Ed Hill, Robb Royer, Mike Anthony, Larry Alderman, Patti Ryan, Ralph James, Kim Williams and Michael Smotherman. He had a knack for wordplay and novelty numbers, supplying such to Kacey Jones’ “Put the Seat Back Down” and “I Miss My Man (But My Aim’s Gettin’ Better),” George Strait’s “Overnight Male,” Shenandoah’s “All Over But the Shoutin’,” and Hank Williams Jr.’s “Why Can’t We All Just Get A-Long Neck?” Others recording his creations were George Jones (“Around Here”), Chris LeDoux (“She’s Tough”) and Shania Twain (“Crime Of the Century”). There were also comedy cuts written for B.B. Watson, Pinkard & Bowden and Cledus T. Judd.

During their 32 years’ business partnership, Fagan and Oteri were roommates, and both liked their good times. One night in April 2008, it got a little out-of-hand, when during a drunken brawl at their home, Fagan cut Oteri’s wrist with a pocket knife. As the blood spouted out of his wound, Oteri reportedly ordered Fagan out of the house, telling him he would get the cut attended to; that however was not to be. Meantime, Fagan drove about in an inebriated state of mind, and was charged with DUI.

While jailed, Fagan became concerned about Oteri and called a friend to check on him. Oteri was discovered deceased. Just after a bail bondsman obtained Fagan’s release, a new charge was issued citing reckless homicide. An autopsy proved Oteri did not die from the wound, but a subsequent heart attack. Although a judge looked unfavorably on the incident between the roommates, testimony by Tom’s children, actress Cheri Oteri (known for Saturday Night Live appearances) and Tom Jr. (both of whom knew Richard through the years), asking the court to order Richard for treatment, in lieu of imprisonment. As a result, Fagan was sentenced to Discovery Place in Burns, Tenn., for rehabilitation and later was discharged.

More recently, Richard completed an album of biographical songs, “Redemption,” in which he wrote about his journey through sin and success, one number focusing on the fatal night in 2008 with his friend and mentor. Its lyrics sear the senses: “You know, I used to be a sinner/Until I went too far astray/And it’s only by God’s grace/That I’m standing here today . . . Cause one night, high on Jose Cuervo/I killed my best friend with my knife/Now I’m in Tennessee State Prison/Servin’ 99 to Life . . .”

Melvin Goins, bluegrass legend . . .

Bluegrass pioneer Melvin Goins, 82, who spent over three decades performing with younger brother Ray, and continued on with his own Windy Mountain band, died July 29, on tour in Canada. A member of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Bluegrass Hall of Fame (2009) with The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Goins’ most recent CD release “Dancin’ In The Dirt” boasts a title track by Tom T. Hall.

Born Dec. 30, 1933, in Bramwell, W. Va., during the Great Depression, his father made fifty-cents a day and the family lived in a converted garage. Growing up, Mel taught himself to play banjo, but switched to guitar when Ray took a liking to the instrument: “Ray went to this music store and bought a Gibson RB-100 banjo. I bought a Southern Jumbo Gibson guitar, and we paid five dollars a month on them, until we got them paid off.” For a time, the siblings performed on the local scene as The Shenandoah Playboys. They made their radio debut on WKOY-Bluefield, W. Va., in the winter of 1951.

In November 1953, Ezra Kline recruited the Goins into his Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, and following that, Melvin worked with the Stanley Brothers for a spell, but later upon Carter Stanley’s death (1966), returned to fill in performing with brother Ralph Stanley until 1969.

Together again, Melvin and Ray Goins became a much in-demand act, thanks to working TV shows, initially at WHIS-Bluefield, W. Va., aligned with Cecil Surratt weekdays and The RFD Jamboree, Saturday nights. Ray and Mel also hooked up to WOAY-TV in Oak Hill, doing that station’s Friday Night Barn Dance, besides a Saturday early morning radio show. The boys liked that small screen exposure, which helped hawk their more than 30 albums, boasting such titles as “On The Way Home,” “Head Of the Holler” and “Wandering Soul.”

Ray Goins suffered a heart attack in 1994, and declining health prompted his retirement in 1997, until cancer claimed his life in 2007. Melvin also suffered heart trouble, and in 2010 had a pacemaker installed, which kept him going. In 2011, the Goins Brothers were also inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame (due to their residence in the state) and in 2013, their state of birth named them to the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Brother Kelly Goins pointed out that Melvin passed away at age 82, while in North Bay, Ontario, Canada: “He had a two-day concert up there. He performed one day, and was in his motel room, sat in a chair, and just went to sleep . . . I asked him once when he would stop and take it easy? He said, ‘When I pass away, I’m going to be on the road performing,’ and he got his wish.”







Nova News . . . July 2016

Music City Beat – July 2016 – Craig Morgan’s tragic loss . . .

Jerry Greer, son of Craig Morgan
Jerry Greer, age 19.
Craig Morgan hitmaker2
Craig Morgan, hit-maker.

NASHVILLE — Country hit-maker Craig Morgan lost son Jerry Greer, in an apparent boating incident on the Tennessee River, Sunday, July 10. Reportedly, the 19-year-old was “tubing” in the company of another teen near Kentucky Lake, when his tube capsized in the whirling waters. Witnesses reported Greer wearing a life preserver, but failed to resurface. (Towed tubing has become a popular recreation, as riders enjoy the thrill of passing over strong waves created by the motor boat, sometimes even going airborne.) Humphrey County Sheriff  Chris Davis had crews searching throughout Sunday night trying to retrieve Greer’s body, and additional rescue workers were called in Monday morning to assist, with about 30 boats focusing on an area where Greer was finally located. An investigation continues, says Davis, adding “There’s alway hazards in the area that could’ve contributed to this accident.” Greer was proud of his dad’s successful recording career, which ironically includes hits like “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Redneck Yacht Club” and “Love Remembers.” Incidentally, the 51-year-old artist’s currently into the seventh season hosting his popular Craig Morgan: All Access Outdoors program on the Outdoor Channel TV network, a show son Jerry occasionally did with dad. Meanwhile, Morgan’s publicist issued the following statement, Monday: “The family is grateful for everyone’s support and prayers and requests privacy during this difficult time.” Craig, a Kingston Springs, Tenn. native, had been an Emergency Medical Technician in his teens, and served more than nine years in the Army Airborne, before devoting his full attention to a country music career.
Legal Tip: Producer Tony Brown, 69, was arrested June 28, allegedly for violation of an Order of Protection. According to an arrest warrant, the beleaguered music veteran followed a woman he knows and others into a Green Hills parking lot, June 27, which he denies. In his statement after the arrest, he labeled the charges “absurd and false.” This follows his Feb. 23 arrest for an incident involving the same woman, who filed for the order of protection against Brown. Allegedly, he was cited for domestic bodily injury, following an argument over a photo shoot. That case, still pending before a Davidson County grand jury, will determine any charges brought against the producer-pianist. Brown’s spokeswoman Melissa Core insists Brown was in the strip mall to meet gospel industry associate Dony McGuire, and only happened to cross paths with the woman and her companions. Before turning to production, Tony had played piano for Elvis Presley and in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. As producer, he helmed such stars as George Strait, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, The Mavericks, and himself was keyboardist for The Cherry Bombs, Rodney Crowell’s backing band. After heading up MCA,Tony co-founded Universal South Records, home to such Americana acts as Cross Canadian Ragweed, Alison Moorer, Joe Nichols, Holly Williams and Shooter Jennings.  Tony Brown in 2008.-1That’s Tony Brown in 2008, happier days, with honors.
Scene Stealers: Famed British actor Patrick Stewart, uh Sir Patrick, that is, has gone country. The man best known for playing “Macbeth” and the captain of Starship Enterprise, just recorded a five-song sampler of Western tunes, like “I’m An Old Cowhand,” all in the name of charity. The Shakespearean star was in Nashville, accompanied by singer-wife Sunny Ozell, as part of a project to benefit the International Rescue Committee, a non-profit aiding those affected by conflict, crisis and disaster (think Syrian refugees). The sampler, produced by Ethan Eubanks, is advertised via a spoofy music video, in which the Queen’s knight appears garbed in cowboy attire, while singing such ditties as “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Rawhide” and “El Paso.” Check it out via or; and upon departing for home, as the U.S. Independence Day neared, Stewart Tweeted, “Happy 4th ‘merica, yer a mighty fine country. Luv, Cowboy Pat” . . . . On June 17, Brad Paisley celebrated the release of his music video featuring pop favorite Demi Lovato, plugging their sexy single “Without a Fight,” as the duo strut forth their melodic duet, which earlier debuted on late night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, literally stopping the show. Actually, Brad co-produced the number with Luke Wooten, after co-writing it with Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller. It’s currently at Top 20 on Billboard’s country chart . . . Brad Paisley turned to his home state West Virginia, in its time of need, due to recent flooding that devastated homes and businesses, while killing more than 20 persons. In response, Brad has launched a GoFundMe drive on Facebook to assist those affected by the tragedy, setting a goal of a million dollars in aid. He made the website’s first donation – $100,000 – on the first day . . . The late Guy Clark won’t be forgotten in a hurry, as a number of pals plan to honor the Texas singer-songwriter via an Aug. 16 tribute concert in the Ryman Auditorium. Among these are Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Jack Ingram, Jerry Jeff Walker and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. Oh and then there’s Tamara Saviano’s biography, set for release Oct. 18, titled “Without Getting Killed Or Caught: The Life & Music Of Guy Clark,” published by the Texas A&M University Press. Reportedly, advance orders may be made from and there’s also a documentary film in the works that Saviano’s overseeing, concerning Guy’s relationships with wife Susanna and best friend Townes Van Zandt . . . Garth Brooks launches his own channel on Satellite radio’s SiriusXM network, Sept. 8. Known as, what else, The Garth Channel, it’ll be a 24/7 site for Brooks’ catalog of songs, though there will also be music from artists he was influenced by, along with newer voices he feels bring the best of country forward. Should be enlightening to see who the artists are, capturing the Strait guy’s fancy . . . Come Oct. 18, legendary songwriter-singer Kris Kristofferson, 80, will be honored as only the third recipient of the Woody Guthrie Prize in music, according to its publicist, reserved for those who exemplify the life and spirit of Guthrie, by advocating for the less fortunate and proving a positive force for social change. Guthrie Center director Deana McCloud added, “With over 50 years of social activism as a voice for disenfranchised, Kris was an obvious choice to receive the 2016 Woody Guthrie Prize.” Previous recipients of the folk legend’s honor: Pete Seeger and Mavis Staples. Kris’s statuette will be presented during a ceremony at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Okla., with Rodney Crowell slated to perform Kristofferson songs.
Bits & Pieces: Now we wish adieu to Garrison Keillor, 73, who performed his last A Prairie Home Companion program for PBS, July 1, at the Hollywood Bowl, before a crowd of 18,000. In a farewell chat, he told USA Today, “I don’t intend to sit around and brood about this. It’s a very happy decision. People my age, they give congrats, young people look at it as unemployment, but it’s far from that.” He began the iconic broadcast 42 years ago . . . Singer-songwriter-humorist Ray Stevens plans a new music venue in Nashville, to be called Caba-Ray, with a 700 capacity. The show-place, modeled after the Desert Inn’s Celebrity Room in Las Vegas – a favorite performing site for Stevens – will include theater seating in the balcony and on ground floor level, tables so patrons can enjoy a meal with their entertainment. Anticipate a May 1, 2017 opening . . . Meanwhile, Florida Georgia Line scuttled plans for a Hillsboro Village coffee shop here. According to FGL’s Tyler Hubbard, “We love coffee, but we’ve decided we’re not as passionate about slinging coffee, as we were about slinging a lot of other stuff.” He and partner Brian Kelley will forge ahead, establishing a home for their publishing, Tree Vibrez Music, and Tribe Kelley Trading Post (boasting Brian and Brittany’s Mr.& Mrs. clothing designs) and a retail store, in the buildings the duo purchased . . . Miranda Lambert also ended her Ladysmith Bed & Breakfast guest home, as well as her Pink Pistol clothing boutique in Tishomingo, Okla., the town where she resided with ex-hubby Blake Shelton. Although she did purchase the Pink Pistol property, and acknowledges some plans for that space, she declined to comment further . . . Taylor Swift has topped Forbes’ annual list of the highest earning celebrities, thanks to a whopping $170 million income, surpassing rival Katy Perry, whose pittance of $41 million lander her down in 63rd place. Boy band One Direction is her nearest competitor at #2 due to a $110 million take at the box office. Britain’s Adele scored just inside the Top 10, with $80.5 million, putting her in ninth spot. By the way, Swift surpassed former heartthrob, Calvin Harris, who tallied $63 million (#21), though we’re not sure where that leaves current beau Tom Hiddleston (the brave Brit who dared sing Hank Williams’ songs)? . . . Spending during the June 2016 CMA MusicFest dipped slightly from the previous year’s $60.4 million to $59.5 million, according to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, but reportedly the annual festival reached a record daily high of 88,500 in attendance. Guess they were more penny-wise (and pound-foolish) this year, but CMA assures us there will be a 2017 festival anyway . . . VIP real estate transactions near Nashville has Kenny Alphin (of Big & Rich) listing his Chateau Di Amore in Green Hills (which he and designer-wife Christiev built eight years ago) at a sale price of $10 million. Their eight-bedroom home sits on 1.13 acres, covering a 20,000 square-foot estate, that boasts a 1000-bottle wine cellar, recording studio, salt water pool, fountains and jacuzzi, plus four heated garages. Reportedly, the couple pay an annual property tax rate of near $48,000 . . . Way out in rural Franklin, Tenn., Sawyer Brown singer Mark Miller offered a bargain rate of $3.5 million for his property located, coincidentally, on Sawyer Bend Road. But songwriter Ashley Glenn Gorley jumped at the chance to buy Mark’s 8,275-foot home, situated on 10 acres in northern Williamson County, getting two barns boasting 21 horse stalls, a riding ring, in-ground pool, recording studio and gym. Ashley saved over $4 million as Miller initially priced it at near $8 million, but then the writer has provided #1 compositions to such singers as Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan. Had he penned some for Sawyer Brown, Miller might not have sold so fast . . . Veteran vocalist Tanya Tucker hosted as estate sale June 15, with a percentage of proceeds being donated to charity, in partnership with Everything But The House (EBTH). The singer of such songs as “Delta Dawn,” “San Antonio Stroll” and “Strong Enough To Bend,” auctioned off a variety of things, notably a 1992 (pink!) Harley Davidson Screamin’ Eagle motorcycle, and some 500 curated artifacts, among them designer stage outfits. Tanya’s charity of choice – the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which aids industry folk, struggling to just get by, due to health setbacks or such . . . Among showbiz names bandied about in this year’s Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, come Oct. 14-16, are Bill Anderson, promoting “Whisperin’ Bill: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music,” hitting bookstores Sept. 1; Kimberly Williams-Paisley’s “Where The Light Gets In,” released earlier this year; and Kix Brooks’ “Cookin’ It Up With Kix: The Art Of Celebrating & The Fun Of Outdoor Cooking,” being published Aug. 30.
Honors: The national Travel & Leisure magazine, published in New York City, named Nashville the fifth best city to visit in America, in its July issue. “It’s always great to see Nashville being recognized as one of the greatest places to live, work and play in the U.S. and around the world,” acknowledges Mayor Megan Barry. More than 200,000 readers responded to the publication’s survey, with Music City receiving an approval rating of 85 out of 100 points, but placing behind #1 Charleston, S.C., New Orleans, Savannah, Ga., and Santa Fe, N.M. T&L’s news director Sara Clemence, in turn, notes, “Our audience of sophisticated travelers has recognized the excellence of these destinations, from food to friendliness to culture.” . . . Veteran bluegrasser Doyle Lawson was named this year’s Heritage Award recipient, July 9, during the annual Uncle Dave Macon Days Festival in Murfreesboro, Tenn., at which he also served as parade Grand Marshal. No stranger to awards, Lawson & his Quicksilver have earned IBMA awards, including best song trophy for  “Little Mountain Church House”; a Presidential Heritage Fellowship Award, from the National Endowment For The Arts ( 2007); and 2012 induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame.
Taps: Noted session bassist Mike Chapman, 63, died in Franklin, Tenn., June 13. Reportedly he played on some 30 #1 songs, selling millions of discs. In addition to bass, he was a skilled guitarist and pianist. He could boast having played on every Garth Brooks studio album, and among Brooks’ hits he’s heard on are “Friends in Low Places,” “The Dance,” “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” “Not Counting You,” “Unanswered Prayers” and “Two Pina Coladas.” Other successes include Joe Diffie’s “If the Devil Danced in Empty Pockets,” Kathy Mattea’s “Burnin’ Old Memories,” Blackhawk’s “Every Once In a While,” LeAnn Rimes’ “One Way Ticket” and Sammy Kershaw’s “Working Woman’s Holiday.”  Artists he has supported in the studio represent a who’s who of talents, such as Slim Whitman, George Hamilton IV, Porter Wagoner, Ray Price, Deborah Allen, Huey Lewis, Chris LeDoux, Tracy Lawrence, Crystal Gayle, Vern Gosdin, Hank Williams, Jr., George Jones, Kenny Chesney, Craig Morgan and Brooks & Dunn. A native of Athens, Ala., Mike earned a B.S. in Business from Athens State University, and was a veteran of famed Muscle Shoals Studios, where he began session playing. Chapman was awarded the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame 2003 Musician’s Award, and the Music Row magazine’s Bass Player of The Year honor in 1993. Survivors include wife Connie, sons Lee and Clinton Chapman; daughter Alison Chapman; and grandson Wyatt Sartin. A Celebration of Life was held June 17 at Church Of The City, Franklin, with Pastor Jay Strother officiating. Interment is in Williamson Memorial Gardens.
Billy Mack Ham, 79, a music talent manager, died June 20 in Austin, Texas. He was best known for managing and producing ZZ Top, since their start in Houston in 1969, under his Lone Wolf Management company. Ham also helped launch country star Clint Black, whom he found singing in Houston pizza parlors, landing him an RCA contract in 1989, the year he scored his first #1 hits “A Better Man” and “Killin’ Time.” Born in Waxahachi, Texas, Ham studied at North Texas State University.
In time, Billy’s Hamstein Music boasted such writers as Black, Hayden Nicholas, Frankie Miller, Chris Waters, Tom Shapiro, Rick Giles and Tony Martin, providing hits for artists like the Doobie Brothers, Tim McGraw, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Little Texas, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, Johnny Lang, Cher and Rod Stewart. Reportedly since 1987, his firm accrued over 110 Top 10 country singles. In 1993, he was voted Manager of the Year in R&R magazine. It was in 2002 that Ham sold his publishing copyrights to Mosaic Media Group, a multi-million dollar transaction. He was also associate producer for the touring tribute stage show “A Night With Janis Joplin.” His latest venture, Wolftracks Music Publishing, recently signed Presley Tucker and Spencer Bartoletti, known as Reverie Lane. Upon learning of his death, ZZ Top issued this statement: “We Were saddened to hear of Bill Ham’s passing. His early vision and continuing encouragement were invaluable; his efforts and energy will always remain deeply appreciated.”
Nashville music executive Bob Goldstone, 67, Thirty Tigers v.p., died July 3, after falling from a bicycle, while riding in Pegram in Cheatham County, Tenn. Sheriff Mike Breedlove said emergency crews responded to a call reporting a man lying in the road, after a passerby in a car spotted him. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fatality. Reportedly, the bike wasn’t damaged and there was no evidence the rider struck something before falling off. There was about 40 feet of skid-mark near the bicycle. According to the Sheriff, “It could have been an animal that ran in front of him that caused him to lock up his brakes . . . He was coming down a hill at a good rate of speed.” The deceased was not wearing a helmet. Thirty Tigers is a combination marketing, promotion, distributing firm that also serves as a management company for artists. Its roster includes the likes of Jason Isbell, Lucinda Williams, Sturgill Simpson, Elizabeth Cook, Aaron Watson, Patty Griffin and The Avett Brothers. Earlier he had been employed by such music firms as Capricorn Records, IRS Records, Mercury’s Lost Highway label, Tower and Eminent Records. A native of Los Angeles, Calif., he is survived by wife Tami McDowell-Goldstone, daughter Emma Bright-McDowell. A “Soundtrack Of Bob’s Life” was conducted July 9 at The Farm in Pegram.

Nova News – June 2016 . . .

Billy Ray Cyrus
Billy Ray Cyrus


NASHVILLE — Billy Ray Cyrus’ new series Still The King premiered June 12 on CMT cable network, and despite a pan in Variety, the sitcom scored somewhat better with New York Times and Entertainment Weekly reviewers. In a seeming self-parody, he’s Vernon Brown, a one-hit wonder, who to make ends meet becomes an Elvis impersonator (complete with dyed black hair, beard, but no mullet). Unlike “Burnin’ Vernon,” Cyrus had several hit singles following his triple Platinum-selling smash “Achy Breaky Heart” (#1, 1992), including “Could’ve Been Me” (#2, 1992), “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” (#6, 1992), “In The Heart Of a Woman” (#3, 1993) and later a duet with Miley, “Ready, Set, Go” (#4, 2007). Despite such success, Cyrus’s career has slowed in recent years. In the premiere episode, finding himself in a pickle, Vernon pretends he’s pastor of a church he’s crashed, in part to satisfy a court-ordered community service sentence. Cyrus and co-creators-producers Travis Nicholson and Potsy Ponciroli also co-star, and as scriptwriters have concocted a dream sequence, bringing in the rock and roll king himself and a black Jesus in the earthly form of Darius Rucker. There’s even a daughter to reckon with (sound familiar?). A nice surprise has Randy Travis appearing as a sheriff in a cameo (prior to his real-life stroke). It’s all rather lightweight. We first met Billy Ray as an ex-exotic dancer from L.A., when he wandered into our Music Row office, seeking publicity via our monthly magazine Entertainment Express. We invited Kari Reeves to interview him, and unaware he was married, fell hook, line and sinker, even urging dad, Opry star Del Reeves, to produce demo discs on the unknown, resulting in his 1990 Mercury Records pact. Subsequently, an enlightened Kari wrote her tell-all book “Some Gave Too Much” (Eggman Publishing, 1994), then returned to Vanderbilt University, completed studies, and today practices in a psychiatric clinic in Columbia, Tenn. Cyrus, grandson of a preacher, recently condemned North Carolina’s HB2, requiring transgenders to use the bathroom of the sex on their birth certificates, a stance that could turn-off churchgoers and conservatives alike, a segment of CMT viewers. Why? “Here’s the bottom line: My God – the God that I know and love and serve – is an inclusive God, not an exclusive God. That may not be for everybody, but that’s my God.” Cyrus, of course, appeared in daughter Miley’s Disney series Hannah Montana, and starred as Dr. Clint Cassidy in the PAX-TV series Doc (2001-2004). The jury’s still out on whether this series will prove as successful.
Bits & Pieces: Dolly Parton confides the cast of her hit TV movie “Coat Of Many Colors” will reunite for a sequel, thanks to superlative reviews on the original. That of course brings back Jennifer Nettles, Rick Schroeder, Gerald McRaney and moppet Alyvia Alyn Lind as Dolly for the new version: “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love,” obviously for a holiday viewing. Delighted Dolly stated, “I was so overwhelmed and touched by how many people watched ‘Coat Of Many Colors’ and their reaction to it.” . . . Dustin Lynch (“Mind Reader”) launched his own Lynch line of clothing, June 2, ranging from hats to shirts and other accessories for both sexes, calling the brand, Stay Country. The rugged vocalist claims, “Stay Country isn’t just a brand, it’s a lifestyle. It’s where I grew up. It’s home to the rivers I’ve fished, the deer stands I’ve perched, and the dirt roads I’ve roamed. It inspired Stay Country.” . . . During a recent TV chat, pop princess Gwen Stefani responded to rumors she’s engaged to country charmer Blake Shelton, with whom she shares space on NBC’s The Voice, thusly:  “Let’s just look at the last year. Let’s just take it one day at a time. everything’s crazy right now, so no, absolutely not, are you crazy?” . . . Internet server AOL inadvertently proclaimed country singer John Berry (“Your Love Amazes Me”) deceased, posting his picture in reference to the passing of rock musician John Berry, who founded the rap band The Beastie Boys, even adding footage from his country video “She’s Taken a Shine.” ASAP the veteran Nashville vocalist, 56, Tweeted, “I wanted to let you all know, I’m alive and well, despite rumors that are going around,” but also offered condolences to the family of the other John Berry. The country singer’s latest album “What I Love The Most” hit the market June 3 . . . Billboard has added yet another new music chart, Americana & Folk Albums, starting June 4. Previously there was only a Folk Albums chart in the trade weekly, leaving Americana acts out in the cold chart-wise . . . Longtime Academy of Country Music chief Bob Romeo resigned in May, effective immediately. No reason for the sudden departure was forthcoming; however, Romeo issued this official message summing up his 12-year term: “Working at the Academy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career in the music business. We’ve accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed — between our success celebrating the 50th anniversary in Texas and returning to our longtime (awards show) home in Las Vegas, to the monies donated through ACM Lifting Lives — the organization is recognized as a leader in the business and that was my main goal when I joined the company. There is so much pride in how far we have moved the puck. That said, I’m looking forward to planning my next endeavor.” Meanwhile, Tiffany Moon, the organization’s v.p., will fill in as interim CEO . . .  No sooner than ABC announced its night time soap Nashville was being canceled after dismal ratings for its fourth season, negotiations were underway between its production firm, Lionsgate TV, with Country Music Television, to beam its fifth season on that cable network (22 episodes). That hasty salvage comes at a huge cost to Tennessee taxpayers and local organizations, considering the state’s pledge to ante up $8 million, Nashville’s new mayor promising another $1.375 million, plus further funds from Ryman Hospitality and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau. As news spread, Mayor Megan Barry Tweeted, “We are happy that @LionsgateTV is working hard to #BringBackNashville!” . . . Conway Twitty passed in June 1993 at age 59, but it appears we haven’t heard the last from him musically. A chap named Mike Patton claims he purchased papers at a 1994 auction in Hendersonville, carrying his souvenir back home to Galesburg, Ill., and just recently perused them to find, much to his surprise, some sheets of music for eight songs the singer had written. When a pal, Ramsey Dean of Chicago, researched the Twitty lyrics on Mike’s behalf, he found that four songs had been recorded, but another four had not. One, in particular, titled “I Kinda, Sorta Think You’re Wonderful” had been copyrighted, but never registered with a performing rights agency like BMI, ASCAP or SESAC, while another “I Want Everyone To Know” cannot be located in the U.S. Copyright database. As the pair continue to investigate the find, it should be noted Twitty was a prolific writer, responsible for penning 13 of his then-record 41 #1 songs, among them “It’s Only Make Believe,” “Hello Darlin’,” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” and “Linda On My Mind.”
Leave It To The Law: Americana artist Parker Millsap ran into some hard luck during a gig in St. Paul, Minn., May 17, when thieves stole his 2007 Chevrolet Express 12-passenger van, while he and the band members were catching zzz’s in their hotel room. Fortunately, most of their instruments were in their rooms; however, a drum kit, two amplifiers and CDs and T-shirt sale items, among other personal belongings, were in the stolen vehicle. Millsap’s on tour plugging his latest album “The Very Last Day,” a nominee for Americana Music Association’s album of the year honor. After filing the police report, Millsap and company departed in a rented van, headed for the next gig in Cedar Rapids, Iowa . . . Nichole and Dustin Hargrove were indicted May 13 by a Nashville Grand Jury: she on charges of aggravated assault and aggravated assault-strangulation; and he on aggravated assault, aggravated assault-strangulation, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (his car). The charges stem from their alleged attack on Grammy-nominated producer Dave Brainard and his friend Deborah DeLoach, last Sept. 27 near Music Row. Reportedly Brainard, DeLoach and another friend Meredith Nichols were in a crosswalk on Demonbreun Street, just after midnight, when the Hargroves rode up in their car, slowed, then supposedly “bumped” DeLoach, leading to arguments and confrontation between the two parties. Provoked, Dustin and Nichole, both 31, exited their vehicle, reportedly attacking Deborah, knocking her to the ground and placing hands about her throat. Dave testified he tried to intercede, but was sucker-punched by Dustin, who broke his jaw, then locked Dave in a choke-hold, causing him to black out on the sidewalk. The case went before the jurists in January, hearing both sides argue differing versions of the incident, though now the Hargroves face arraignment June 29, before Judge Mark Fishburn. Brainard, 41, earned studio acclaim for producing newcomers Jamey Johnson, Jerrod Niemann and Brandy Clark, even receiving a Grammy nod for her “12 Stories” CD.
Honors: Country Music Hall of Famer Harold Bradley, 90, hailed as Nashville’s most-recorded guitarist, was lauded for his role in creating the Nashville Sound and Music Row itself, while receiving the Cecil Scaife Visionary Award, May 17. Presented at the Musicians Hall of Fame, of which he’s also a member, Harold was feted by such associates as Brenda Lee, Mike Curb, Ray Stevens, Charlie McCoy, David Briggs and Ray (Jordanaire) Walker. Ironically this year also marks Harold’s 70th anniversary as a session player, having accompanied Pee Wee King & his Golden West

Harold Bradley and Bootsie Collins
Harold Bradley with Bootsie Collins.

Cowboys to Chicago in 1946. “As a young artist in the studio with Harold Bradley,” recalled Brenda Lee, “I knew I was in the presence of greatness.” Singer-musician Stevens added, “Harold, you are one of those who helped make Nashville ‘Music City USA.’ You were there at the beginning and you are still here today.” As if to prove Ray right, Harold played pieces of several songs on his trusty 12-string guitar. Acknowledging the accolades, Bradley noted, “It’s been an unbelievable journey for me in Nashville, from my first recording session in 1946 to now. This award means a lot to me, as Cecil Scaife was a wonderful guy and it was his vision to merge all this talent with the Belmont College. I accept this award on behalf of my family and my brother Owen, who was a true visionary.” Harold first toured with Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours in 1943, and assisted big brother Owen in opening five independent Nashville recording studios, particularly memorable being their Quonset Hut film and recording studio at 804 16th Avenue South, in the heart of what is now Music Row. In its heyday, they hosted 700 sessions annually, including classic #1’s Owen produced (and Harold played on) such as Brenda Lee’s “Who’s Sorry Now” and Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces.” Harold, also known as the Dean of Nashville session pickers, later produced such artists as Slim Whitman, Eddy Arnold and Mandy Barnett. A leader of the fabled A Team of studio musicians, Harold championed fellow players as president of the Nashville Musicians Association for nearly two decades, and was also elected national AFM’s v.p. until 2010. In recognition of his accomplishments, he was inducted into the Country Hall of Fame in 2006 (proudly following Owen, who became a Hall of Famer in 1974). Harold was first president of the Nashville branch of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, receiving their Trustees Award during the 52nd annual Grammys (2010). A scholarship in Harold’s name will be presented a promising Belmont senior in the Mike Curb College of Entertainment & Music Business.
Scene Stealers: A number of country artists were stunned by shocking news out of Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, citing the shooting deaths of 49 persons in a gay nightclub, plus another 53 hospitalized, while under attack by armed assassin Omar Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Fla.  Just before being shot by police, Mateen called 911 to pledge allegiance to the ISIS terrorists. Upon learning of the tragedy, Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland) Tweeted, “I’m so sorry Orlando. I’m so sorry LGBT community. I’m so sorry families and friends. Broken hearted.” Kacey Musgraves typed a series of Tweets, notably “Look. Emotions are high today. Mine included. Just hating hate. Lots of opinions in the mix. LOVE is the only true answer . . .” Luke Bryan stated, “Saddened by the news this morning. Such a shame. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected in Orlando.” Tim McGraw: “#PrayforOrlando.” Blake Shelton Tweeted: “Just now catching up on the tragedy in Orlando . . . Sickening. Praying.” Little Big Town sent this message just prior to their performance on the closing night of the CMA Music Fest, citing “Miracle,” their song from their new “Wanderlust” CD: “We’ll sing this for Orlando tonight. #prayfororlando.” Touching, too, was Jake Owen’s Tweet: “I’m saddened by the news of the shooting in my home state of FL . . . I’m praying for the families and praying we can find peace in this world.” New artist Maren Morris wrote: “A great fear is that these things will be able to continue to happen so much that we become desensitized to it. Orlando, I am so sorry.” . . .  Alan Jackson recorded “You Can Always Come Home,” which serves as Habitat For Humanity’s Home For Good anthem, and the country superstar had the pleasure of presenting Kenosha Hendricks keys to her new home in LaVergne, Tenn., June 10. Habitat For Humanity’s program of building affordable homes for families who couldn’t otherwise manage to own one, spurred a national Home Builders Blitz, co-sponsored by Ply-Gem building suppliers for which Alan serves as spokesman. According to Habitat’s state director Colleen Dudley, Mrs. Hendricks’ house was just one of the homes built that week for nearly 250 families in 31 states, all part of the . . . Blitz project. Jackson, in turn, told of his youth living in a 12×12 tool shed that his father Gene helped transform into their family home, where his beloved 86-year-old “Mama Ruth” Jackson still resides in Newnan, Ga. He had written his song “Home” (#3, 1996) about that feat, including the lyrics, “And they made their house from a tool shed/Granddaddy rolled down on two logs/And they built walls all around it/And they made that house a home . . . ” 
Final Curtain: Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn’s eldest grandson Jeffrey Allen Lynn, 47, died June 6 at Three Rivers Hospital in Waverly, Tenn. Jeffrey, who lived and worked on his grandmother’s ranch, was the son of Loretta’s late son Jack Benny Lynn, who drowned on Duck River, near his home in Waverly, in 1984. “Jack was different from my other kids in one way. The others all wanted to follow me in their own singing careers. But Jack’s main interest was farming. He had the same love I do for planting and doing with my hands,” said Loretta, who also lost her eldest daughter Betty Sue in 2013 from emphysema. Jeffrey is survived by three children, Codi, Jory and Kayti; sisters Lori Kay Smith and Jenny Whitworth; brothers Jeremy, Robert and Richard; and grandmothers Kathryn Sanders and Loretta Lynn. When word of Jeff’s death came to her, Loretta postponed two shows in Oklahoma. Services were conducted June 10, by the Humphreys County Funeral Home, followed by internment in the Lynn Family Cemetery.
Songwriter-producer Bob Tubert, 90, died April 10. He wrote hits for such country artists as Eddy Arnold, Sonny James and Marty Robbins, and produced or managed such talents as Lana Chapel and Shelby Lynne. Bob was into a healthy lifestyle, and on his morning jogs about Music Row, sometimes stopped in at the Nashville Association of Musicians union, while I was their newspaper editor. I enjoyed his reminiscences about the music circles he moved in over the years, though he always seemed to have some new project in which he was involved. A native of Worcester, Mass., he initially attended Arizona State University at Flagstaff on a basketball scholarship, before switching to a college in Missouri, where upon graduation was hired by KWTO-Springfield, responsible for producing The Ozark Jubilee. Bob was engaged as a script-writer and sometime director by producer Si Siman for that pioneering ABC-TV network program, hosted by Red Foley. Later, he was a journalist for UPI, and co-wrote songs for such pop acts as Brenda Lee, “When You Loved Me” (#8, 1964); Sam The Sham & The Pharoah’s “Ring Dang Doo” (#33, 1965); and Bobby Vinton’s “Satin Pillows” (#23, 1966). After relocating to Nashville, he wrote such songs as Sonny James’ #1 “You’re The Only World I Know” (1964), James’ “I’ll Keep Holding On” (#2, 1965), Eddy Arnold’s “Here Comes Heaven” (#2, 1967) and Marty Robbins’ “Gardenias In Her Hair” (#9, 1967). Others who recorded Tubert’s tunes include Maxine Brown & Chuck Jackson (“Please Don’t Hurt Me”), Lou Rawls (“My Ancestors”) and Stonewall Jackson (“That’s All This Old World Needs,” co-written with Bob’s singer-wife Demetriss Tapp). As a Music Row publishing executive, Bob oversaw Earl Barton Music, Regent Music and Vintage Music in the 1960s. A founding member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, Tubert also was honored with CMA’s 1978 Founding President’s Award for service to that organization, and later helped establish Belmont University’s music business program. In 2012, Tubert published his autobiography “Echoes & Reflections: My Life With The Stars,” a candid remembrance of his experiences, good and bad, on the music scene. Survivors include wife Demetriss, children Devin and Shara, and three grandchildren. A Celebration of Life service was held April 23 at Hendersonville Funeral Home.
Floyd Robinson, 83, succumbed May 28, following a massive heart attack. A noted guitarist, he scored vocally with a catchy Top 20 pop single “Makin’ Love” in 1959, produced by Chet Atkins. Born Aug. 10, 1932, in Nashville, Floyd Eugene Robinson was the son of Arizona (Box) and William Douglas Robinson. At 17, he was then the youngest musician to perform in the WSM Grand Ole Opry band, after having his own high school group The Eagle Rangers, and a radio show on WLAC-Nashville (also featuring brother steel-guitarist Billy Robinson). Floyd performed in touring bands with such stars as Little Jimmy Dickens, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold and George Jones. In 1958, Floyd co-wrote the novelty number “Little Space Girl,” recorded by cousin Jesse Lee Turner, who scored Top 20 pop with the oddity about a gal with four arms, three lips, three eyes, proclaiming, “I can really rock and swing, ’cause I’ve got more of everything! Oh, Mr. Earth Man, will you marry me?” Turner claimed full writer credit, however, but Floyd got his revenge in ’59, writing and recording his own teen-angst tune “Makin’ Love,” which also became an international success (#9, UK singles chart), and prompting RCA’s 1960 self-titled LP. A final postscript to the Turner-Robinson crunch, Floyd penned another tune for Jesse in 1975, “Just a Little Girl,” that failed to return Turner to the charts. After that, Jesse joined the ministry. Floyd also released records on Dot, United Artists and indie labels Jamie and Groove. In the 1970s, he wrote and recorded songs for children, notably “Charlie The Hamster Teaches Bible Stories” (1974) and “Ricky The Cricket – Bible Songs” (1976). Floyd also self-published two books, “Guitar Playing Made Easy” (1992), and a novel “The Guitar” (1994). In 1994, Golden Sandy Records released a compilation album of Robinson’s recorded out-put in CD form. He was preceded in death by son, Floyd Robinson, Jr., and is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joyce (Roberts), children Sherry Peacock, Donna Decker; four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren; and survived by his brother, William (Billy) Robinson. Services were private in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.
Guitarist Kevin Anderson, 56, died May 16 in Nashville, following a heart attack. A native of Stoughton, Wisc., Anderson attended school at Belmont University, then joined singer-fiddler Jana Jae’s band on the road. He also backed veteran vocalist Sonny James, singing harmony and playing guitar. Tiring of the road, Kevin accepted an offer from WSM-Nashville, producing the Bill Cody morning show, and as part-time announcer on the Grand Ole Opry. More recently he served as WSM-FM’s music director. According to station general manager Chris Klick, “We are saddened by the loss of one of our great WSM voices, Kevin Anderson.” Survivors include his mother, Eunice; siblings, Bonnee Nelson, Beth Suddeth, Robin Khalaf, Keith and Ken Anderson; and numerous nieces and nephews. Services were held May 23 at  West Koshkonong Lutheran Church, Stoughton.
Richard Edward Arnold, Jr., 67, died May 17 at Douglasville Hospital in Douglasville, Ga., following an extended illness related to injuries suffered in a 1971 car crash. He was the son of Country Music Hall of Famer Eddy Arnold, the legendary Tennessee Plowboy. Known as “Dickie” to family and friends, he was born in Nashville to Sally and Eddy on Jan. 2, 1949, but grew up in Brentwood. He graduated a journalism major from the University of Alabama, but shortly afterwards was involved in that life-changing accident. Despite his handicap, he served as a deputy clerk in the Metro Court System, and was proud of his parent’s awesome music accomplishments, including charting discs in nearly eight decades. Following Dickie’s retirement, he and wife, the former Jeanne Burns, moved to Newnan, Ga., six years ago to be near his daughters. Survivors include his wife of 20 years Jeanne, daughters Diane and Anne Marie, son Ray, five grandchildren, and sister Joan Arnold Pollard. A funeral mass was celebrated May 21 at Christ The King Catholic Church, Nashville, with the Most Reverend David Choby conducting. Interment was at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Songwriter Joyce Ann Allsup, 77, died May 15. Known for writing such songs as “The DJ Cried” (Ernest Ashworth, #8, 1965), “You Don’t Have To Be Present To Win” (Lefty Frizzell, “Puttin’ On” LP, 1968) and “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes In the Morning” (Carl & Pearl Butler, #63, 1969). Others recording her songs included Stonewall Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb, Porter Wagoner, Emmylou Harris and Patty Loveless. A former secretary in Richmond, Va., Joyce came to Nashville to try her hand at writing, and also sang, as witnessed by her 2006 “Country First” CD. Survivors include her husband of 55 years, William Joe Allsup; children Melody Ann, Rack Joe and Blake Shannon Allsup; and nine grandchildren. A Celebration of Life was held May 19 at Hendersonville Funeral Home.

News of Nashville . . .

Music City Beat – May 2016 . . . Pop stars go country!

     Steven TylerNASHVILLE, Tenn. – Country’s selling better these days, otherwise such pop icons as Cyndi Lauper or Steven Tyler wouldn’t be jumping on the bandwagon with such fervor. Tyler, 68, best known as Aerosmith frontman, currently has a country album ready, and its first single “Love Is Your Name” released last June, soared high, hitting #1 on Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs chart; however, its overall reception on the trade weekly’s Hot Country Songs (HCS) stalled at #19. The follow-up, “Red White & You,” also co-produced with Dann Huff (who guided the likes of Keith Urban), peaked at #29 on HCS in February. Tyler’s long-awaited CD (co-produced by T-Bone Burnett) is due out this summer on Big Machine’s subsidiary label, Dot Records. Not one to miss an opportunity, Tyler graced ABC’s (now canceled) night-time soap Nashville, doing a duet with show star Hayden Panettiere, singing the Patsy Cline classic “Crazy.” Its lyrics (by Willie Nelson) are more attuned to country than Tyler’s “Red, White & You” throwaway pickup-trucker line “free fallin’ into your yum-yum,” as it apparently strives to be another “Summertime Blues” anthem a la Eddie Cochran’s original 1958 single (which is also name-dropped in the number). “Bang bang baby/ Like the fourth of July/A lightning strike in the midnight sky/Don’t give a damn about the summertime blues/All I need is red, white and you!” He also name checks Tom Petty, and (his new label) Big Machine, yet singing about “your yum-yum” sounds sorta strange coming from a man nearing his seventh decade. Nonetheless, he’s off on tour for the summer, including headlining the New Hampshire cycle crowd LaconiaFest’s main stage June 15, backed by his Nashville band Loving Mary. Others slated to share the stage on tour with the new country crooner are mostly hard rock acts Buckcherry, Saving Abel & Fuel, Bret Michaels, Ted Nugent and Sevendust.

cyndi-lauper-detour-coverCyndi Lauper’s 35-city “Detour” tour, co-sponsored by her new label Sire Records, is scheduled to wrap at The Joint in Las Vegas, Oct. 8. Meanwhile, she’s been plugging it and her country CD media-wise on CBS This Morning, NBC Late Night With Seth Meyers, America’s Morning Show, Nash Nights Live, Big D & Bubba, Kickin’ It With Kix (Brooks), CMT, GAC, as well as in print via USA Today, Associated Press, Rolling Stone, Maverick, Billboard and Nash Country Weekly. Can you believe she’s invited Boy George to open six of her supposedly country-oriented stops (shades of Moe & Joe “Where’s the Dress,” a Top 10 Bandy-Stampley sendup on Boy George)? The seemingly-indefatigable Cyndi, now 62, is one of the few singers to earn Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards. She says Sire’s founder Seymour Stein served as executive producer of her new album, which boasts guest vocals by such luminaries as Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson (on her revival of his classic “Night Life”). The pop princess even tackles Patsy Montana’s 1936 million seller “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” sharing the mic with Jewel, exhibiting yodeling skills. Lauper launched her tour at the Ryman in Nashville, May 9, noting, “In the end of the whole world there will be Cockroaches and Cher and me. This is our first show of the tour. I’m really nervous because I just get nervous, but this is a church (initially built as a tabernacle in the 19th century), so how bad can it be? . . . except the F-bomb has got to stop!” Yes, she did include some of her past hits, among them “She Bop,” “I Drove All Night” and “Money Changes Everything.” Incidentally, in recognizing the recent passing of Prince, she briefly went off message, singing “When You Were Mine,” and commented in part, “He was funny, and he was a great artist, and, bottom line, he really gave everything onstage. Everything.” As did Cyndi, earning several standing ovations for her premiere performance, as the pink-haired lady signed off with “True Colors.”

Kiefer SutherlandScene Stealers: Even actors sometimes get the urge to sing folksy for fans, as did last century superstars Bing Crosby (“Pistol Packin’ Mama”), Dean Martin (“Lay Some Happiness On Me”), Robert Mitchum (“Little Ol’ Wine Drinker Me”), and current screen favorites Kevin Bacon (“36 Cents”), Steve Martin (“Love Has Come For You”) and Kevin Costner (“Untold Truths”). So why should we be surprised 24-TV star Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) did a Nashville recording session? Kiefer, 49, was born a twin (with sister Rachel) in London, to actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas. One of his pastimes was playing guitar, which led to singing and songwriting. Sure enough, this good ol’ boy had the fever as well, cutting an album here of country songs, “Down In A Hole.” Spinning off its first single, the self-penned “Not Enough Whiskey” (also filmed as a music video) fits Kiefer’s gravelly vocals to a T. As the veteran player confides, he’s had his own bouts with the bottle: “I’ve certainly been there, where something will happen in life, and one, two, three bottles of whiskey are not going to fix it . . . so you have to find another way to deal with it. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way.” Currently, Kiefer’s in the midst of a 26-city tour to promote his music . . . Lady Antebellum was in Louisville, May 7, for the annual Kentucky Derby race, and despite a downpour, the group hit the stage singing the National Anthem before more than 167,000 fans and umpteen nags. On hand to watch Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley’s opening song were their respective mates Chris Terrell, Kelli Haywood and Cassie Kelley. As Cassie’s hubby quipped, “I watched some You-Tube videos of other artists that have done it in the past and it’s pretty nerve wracking! We’re gonna make sure we don’t have too much to drink before we sing.” . . . Grammy winner Linda Davis is understandably excited about being invited to join Kenny Rogers’ farewell tour, The Gambler’s Last Deal, starting across the nation, May 13 in Minnesota, and then its off to Asia in August. Rising star Charlie Worsham (“Could It Be”) will join them for their European gigs in late October. The Country Music Hall of Famer has also made his mark in movies, most notably “The Gambler,” “Six Pack” and “Rio Diablo.” Rogers stated, “I’m excited about making one more sweep around the world. For more than five decades, I’ve been fortunate enough to have such wonderful, loyal audiences and their support has meant so much. This final tour is going to be a celebration of all of my music, and I know each night will be truly special.” . . . Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride chatted candidly with iconic newscaster Dan Rather, May 7, sharing some of his childhood memories during an in-depth session for the AXS TV series The Big Interview. Pride told of how he became influenced in country music growing up in the Mississippi Delta, listening on radio to Hank Williams singing songs like “Mansion On the Hill,” “Lovesick Blues,” but his very favorite was a gospel number Hank sang, “I’ll Have a New Body (I’ll Have a New Life).” One of 11 children, Charley and his brothers had to pick cotton, not one of his favorite memories, and “We’d sleep three and four to a bed; I remember sometimes I’d wake up and my brother’s toes were right in my nose.” His family was into gospel music mostly, though his father liked bluegrass by Bill Monroe. Humorously, Pride recalled getting his first guitar, a Silvertone, ordered from a Sears & Roebuck catalogue, costing $14: “I left it in the wagon and it rained. It was just glued together, you know, and I kept trying to tune it, and it just kept bowing and bowing with strings, the glue around it (loose) . . . and my mother was walking up on the porch, it was probably about 105 degrees and she heard something go ‘Boooiiinnng!’ She said, ‘Boy, you better go up there and look at your box! The rats are running over it.’”
Honors: The CMT video award nominees have been announced. Not surprisingly vying for best female video are Cam, “Burning House”; Kelsey Ballerini, “Dibs”; Jana Kramer, “I Got the Boy”; Maren Morris, “My Church”; Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits”; Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break.” Best male video: Luke Bryan, “Kick the Dust Up”; Eric Church, “Like a Wrecking Ball”; Sam Hunt, “Breakup In a Small Town”; Thomas Rhett, “Die a Happy Man”; Blake Shelton, “Sangria”; Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Best group or duo: Brothers Osborne, “Stay a Little Longer”; Dan + Shay, “Nothin’ Like You”; Florida Georgia Line, “Sippin’ On Fire”; Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”; Old Dominion, “Break Up With Him”; Zac Brown Band, “Loving You Easy.” Breakthrough video: Brothers Osborne, “Stay a Little Longer”; Cam, “Burning House”; Chris Janson, “Buy Me a Boat”; Maren Morris, “My Church”; Old Dominion, “Break Up With Him”; Chris Stapleton, “Fire Away.” Performance of the Year: Cheap Trick & Jennifer Nettles, “I Want You To Want Me”; Brantley Gilbert & Lynyrd Skynyrd, “What’s Your Name”; Adam Lambert & Leona Lewis, “Girl Crush”; Darius Rucker, “Alright”; Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break.”  Finally, nominees for Video of the Year: Jason Aldean, “Tonight Looks Good On You”; Luke Bryan, “Strip It Down”; Cam, “Burning House”; Florida Georgia Line, “Sippin’ On Fire”; Sam Hunt, “Breakup In a Small Town”; Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”; Tim McGraw, “Humble & Kind”; Thomas Rhett, “Die a Happy Man”; Blake Shelton, “Sangria”; Chris Stapleton, “Fire Away”; Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break”; Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Winners will be announced live at the CMT Music Awards show, June 8, from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Speaking of award shows, the 15th annual Americana Music Festival nominations were revealed during a May 11 special show in Washington, D.C. Among those included in the 2016 line-up are as follows. Album of the Year: “Something More Than Free,” Jason Isbell, producer Dave Cobb; “The Ghosts of Highway 20,” Lucinda Williams, producers Lucinda, Greg Leisz, Tom Overby; “The Very Last Day,” Parker Millsap, co-produced by Millsap & Gary Paczosa; “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton, produced by Dave Cobb & Stapleton. Artist of the Year: Jason Isbell, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Stapleton, Lucinda Williams. Duo/Group of the Year: Alabama Shakes; Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell; Lake Street Dive; The Milk Carton Kids; Tedeschi Trucks Band. Emerging Artist of the Year: Leon Bridges, John Moreland, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Song of the Year: “24 Frames,” Jason Isbell; “Dime Store Cowgirl,” Kacey Musgraves; “Hands Of Time,” Margo Price; “S.O.B.,” Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats. Instrumentalist of the Year: Cindy Cashdollar, Stuart Duncan, Jedd Hughes, Sara Watkins. Results of the voting will be disclosed during Americana Honors and Awards night, Sept. 21, in the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville.
Bits & Pieces: Del McCoury’s bluegrass tribute to folk legend Woody Guthrie, “Del & Woody,” just marked its second week atop Billboard’s Bluegrass Album chart. The story goes that Woody’s daughter Nora invited Del to put melodies to Depression Era song lyrics her father wrote, among them such titles as “The New York Trains,” “Ain’t A Gonna Do,” “Left In This World Alone,” “The Government Road,” “Hoecake Fritters” and “Family Reunion.” Woody, who died in 1967 at age 55, was known primarily for protest tunes, including “This Land Is Your Land,” “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You.” . . . Blake Shelton and his latest love Gwen Stefani announced a new duet single on social media, May 9, titled “Go Ahead and Break My Heart.” They were to sing it on the karaoke talent show they judge, The Voice, that evening, and it’s on Blake’s next CD “If I’m Honest,” hitting stores May 20 . . . Nice to know 1980s’ hitmaker Sylvia’s still in there recording. Word is that her new album “All In the Family” will be released in June on the indie Red Pony label, her first in a baker’s dozen years. She scored with single word hits such as “Tumbleweed,” “Drifter,” “Matador” and “Nobody” on RCA, before choosing semi-retirement to concentrate on her writing . . . Sad to say Kid Rock (Robert Ritchey) discovered the body of his assistant Michael Sacha, 30, April 25, after an apparent accident involving his ATV on the singer’s property. Reportedly following a party on site, Sacha drove guests to a waiting Uber down the lengthy driveway, around midnight. Allegedly Sacha lost control of the vehicle and crashed, while attempting to drive back to the residence. Ritchie in a statement, said he is “beyond devastated . . . He was a member of our family and one of the greatest young men I have ever had the pleasure to not only work with, but also to become friends with. I know I speak for us all in sharing my deepest condolences to his family. I cannot imagine how they must feel.”
More Honors: Blake Shelton will be present to officially kick off the exhibit “Blake Shelton: Based On a True Story,” scheduled May 27 to Nov. 6, at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum here. Museum editor Michael McCall will interview Blake, June 6, discussing his career, after which the star will do a short acoustic set . . . Middle Tennessee State University’s new veterans and family center on campus will be named the Hazel & Charlie Daniels Center, in recognition of the couple’s efforts on behalf of veterans attending school there, following service to America. Daniels has been responsible for raising about $125,000 in contributions as part of a Journey Home Project. Charlie acknowledged, “I’ve been blessed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and now, having a veterans center named after me . . . We are deeply touched and deeply honored.” . . . Alabama, the country band, and soulful Sam Moore are the latest VIPs receiving stars on the Music City Walk of Fame, in a ceremony conducted May 26, according to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. Located adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the latest Walk of Fame celebrates the 71st and 72nd stars installed. Reminds us of the original Walk of Fame laid down in the previous Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum on Music Row, in which artists’ names were included for a fee, sometimes paid by the artists themselves or their fan clubs. Sad that these were not replaced in connection with the newer museum built downtown, which probably means no further recognition for those legendary names of the past, such as Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, Johnnie & Jack, Minnie Pearl, Carl Smith and Webb Pierce, all recognized in the original walk-way . . . Country superstar Brad Paisley joined forces with pop singer Jewel and screen star Sean Penn in a Nashville fund-raiser – Nashville Shines For Haiti – to benefit the J/P Haitian Relief Organization’s Day 2, hosted by Johnathon and Newman Arndt, April 27, on their property. Penn, of course, has long been a benefactor for Haiti, one of the hemisphere’s poorest nations. Cheering on the acts, which also included comedian-host Kevin Nealon and Haitian artist Paul Beaubrun, were Nashville’s elite, who paid handsomely to just be in the audience. In closing his set, Paisley invited Beaubrun and Penn to join him on the number “Alcohol.” (J/P HRO supports programs such as medical aid, community development, reconstruction and reforestation in Haiti.)
Box Office Bonanzas: Country stars scoring in Billboard’s annual Top 10 moneymakers of 2015, are #2 Kenny Chesney (totaling $39.8 million) and #7 Luke Bryan ($23.1 million), who incidentally is also country’s top streaming artist (and 13th overall) with 667 million streams over the past year. Finishing just out of that lucrative box office list is country rocker Jason Aldean (#11, with $18.9 million) and Shania Twain (#12, $14.4 million). Topping the list is former country chirp Taylor Swift with an astounding take of $73.5 million, and just behind Chesney at #3 is British rock legends the Rolling Stones ($39.6 million). Country runners up in the Top 40 box office list are: #19 Florida Georgia Line ($11.5 million), #23 Eric Church ($10.1 million), #35 Brad Paisley ($6.8 million), and #38 Toby Keith ($6.5 million). Sources include Nielson Music and Billboard Boxscore chartings . . .  If Keith Urban’s free outdoor concert here, May 9, is any indication, look for him to make next year’s Top 10 moneymakers list. More than 7,000 spectators crowded Lower Broad Street to witness his mid-day Monday appreciation concert to mark the release of “Ripcord,” his latest CD. Urban and backup players had a portable bandstand situated outside the Bridgestone Arena. Keith kicked off his spectacular set with “Gone Tomorrow,” exclaiming, “Good Lord, Nashville! . . . I so appreciate this morning.” In addition to tracks from the album, he included such successes as “Sweet Thing” and “Long, Hot Summer.” He launches his “RipCORD World Tour,” June 2 . . . ASCAP’s Elizabeth Matthews, who heads up the performing rights organization in Nashville, reports more than $1 billion in revenue collections in 2015, marking a $61 million increase over the previous year’s revenues. Despite the upsurge, she cautions that there’s still a crying need to update the music’s copyright laws . . . Come the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, June 6, fans can enjoy international artists during the now annual CMA World GlobaLive! showcase on the outdoor stage at Hard Rock Cafe downtown. And it’s free, reports Sarah Traherne, CMA’s CEO, “This event continues to grow, along with CMA’s strategic focus on developing markets outside the U.S. for country music. We are pleased to provide an annual platform for these international performers to reach and cultivate domestic fans, as well as garnering attention from the music industry.” Among the foreign talents scheduled are: Troy Cassar-Daley, Karin Page, Caitlyn Shadbolt (Australia); Raquel Cole, Chad Brownlee, Brett Kissell (Canada); Kayla Mahon (New Zealand); and Frankie Davies, plus The Pauper Kings (United Kingdom) . . . Nice to see smooth-voiced Marty Raybon again touring in Shenandoah, 17 years after saying “Sayonara” to the Muscle Shoals band he helped form in 1985. Of course, they charted such #1’s as “The Church On Cumberland Row” and “If Bubba Can Dance,” until Marty moved on to recording bluegrass. Shenandoah’s current tour wraps Nov. 18 in Newberry, S.C.
Final Curtain: Tim White, host of the PBS bluegrass series Song Of The Mountains, is mourning the sudden death of daughter Jackie, 28, in Louden, Tenn. Only four months ago, she gave birth to his granddaughter Riley Quinn Dawson, whose dad is Derrick Dawson. Besides her dad and daughter, survivors include Derrick, her mother Penny White, and sister Meaghan. Services were held May 5 at Bethel View Baptist Church in Bristol, Tenn.
Singer-guitarist Lonnie Mack, 74, died April 21 in Nashville’s Centennial Medical Center, reportedly from natural causes. He’s best remembered as a guitar influence on such players as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan, with whom he co-produced his classic 1985 album “Strike Like Lightning.” A fan of such musical giants as Merle Travis, Robert Ward (of The Ohio Untouchables), Bobby Bland and George Jones, he developed his own unique style, both as guitarist and vocalist. A native of West Harrison, Indiana, he moved 20 miles east to Cincinnati doing sessions with R&B icons James Brown, Hank Ballard and Freddie King, and himself signed with Fraternity Records. Standouts include his 1963 Top Five instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and its follow-up “Wham,” which produced the groundbreaking Bigsby tremolo bar he played on his 1958 Gibson Flying V guitar, serial #7, and nicknamed “the Whammy bar.” Memorable, too, was Lonnie’s bass guitar riffs on The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel” 1969 tracks: “Roadhouse Blues” and “Maggie M’Gill.” He was an inductee into both the International Guitar Hall of Fame (2001) and Rockabilly Hall of Fame (2005). R&B’s Bootsy Collins probably best summed it up, in citing Mack as his musical idol: “The songs that he did were just so incredible to me. I would try to mimic all the notes he would play on his guitar.” In an earlier review of a concert in the Big Apple, a New York Times music critic wrote, “Although Mr. Mack can play every finger-twisting blues guitar lick, he doesn’t show off; he comes up with sustained melodies and uses fast licks only at an emotional peak. Mr. Mack is also a thoroughly convincing singer.” Enough said.
Musician-songwriter Jody Johnson, 66, died at his home in Port Charlotte, Fla., April 29. A native of North Wilkesboro, N.C., he grew up loving music and learned how to play the guitar. For more than 20 years, he toured with name country artists, including as bandleader-guitarist for Little David Wilkins, and later spent 12 years backing Justin Tubb as guitarist-bandleader on the road and his portion of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry show. He became a mainstay on Ernest Tubb’s famed Midnight Jamboree, also on WSM, while in Justin’s band. Little David Wilkins recorded “He’ll Play the Music (But You Can’t Make Him Dance)” which he co-wrote with Johnson in 1977, and a Billboard Top 20 single. Among other artists recording Jody’s songs were Tubb, Jack Greene, Brenda Lee, Charlie Louvin, Charley Pride and Faron Young. He was preceded in death by his elder daughter Tammy Johnson. Survivors include Ginger Johnson, his wife of 40 years; sons Craig and Joe Johnson; daughters Keela Shoesmith and Amy Johnson-Grant; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Services were conducted at Kays Ponger & Uselton Funeral Home, Punta Gorda, Fla., May 7, with The Reverend Wayne Earnest officiating.

Music City Beat – April 2016

Music City Beat – April 2016 . . . New Patsy Cline museum


     NASHVILLE — After nearly 40 years’ keeping his idol Elvis Presley’s memory burnishing brightly, Ronnie McDowell felt it was time to tell his own story. “Bringing It To You Personally,” written in collaboration with journalist Scot England, covers Ronnie’s compelling career and personal life, illustrated by more than 100 photos. Shortly after Elvis’ death in August 1977, McDowell co-wrote “The King Is Gone” (with Lee Morgan) and recorded that tribute, which became a multi-million selling country-pop crossover single.

Closeup of natural background - blue suede.

True fans may recall, Ronnie also supplied Kurt Russell’s vocals in the bio-pic “Elvis” (1979), featuring Shelley Winters; ditto 1988’s “Elvis & Me,” singing for Dale Midkiff as Presley, which depicted the romance between Elvis and wife Priscilla Presley; and in 1997, he furnished vocals for Rick Peters as the king in a Showtime Special, “Elvis Meets Nixon,” a so-called “mockumentary” about Elvis’ real-life visit to the White House. Although McDowell continued to headline a series of Elvis tribute shows, often with The Jordanaires, throughout his career, he scored 14 Top 10 non-Elvis country singles, including #1’s “Older Women (Are Beautiful Lovers)” and “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation.” A talented songwriter, the Tennessee native came up with the smash “I Love You, I Love You, I Love You,” and had a hand in penning his hits “Watchin’ Girls Go By” and “All Tied Up.” His last Top 10 to date was a 1988 revival of Conway Twitty’s chart-topper “It’s Only Make Believe,” boasting a cameo vocal from Twitty himself. Incidentally, Ronnie’s self-produced new book features a Foreword by former touring buddy Ray Walker of The Jordanaires, reportedly Elvis’ favorite backup vocal group.

   Scene Stealers: Rory Feek has added filmmaker to his list of credits, and his first film “Josephine” premiered at the 2016 Nashville Film Festival, April 14-23. The singer-songwriter got the idea for the song of that title after learning a Civil War soldier John Robison, a former farmer, wrote letters home to wife Josephine while away fighting. That number first appeared in Feek’s 2012 album “His & Hers,” showcasing the talents of husband-wife duo Joey+Rory. (Sadly cancer claimed Joey’s life,  March 4.) Rory used Robison’s messages to fashion a screenplay that details how Josephine posed as a man to enlist, when her man went missing. According to a teaser for the flick, she “battles the enemy, the men of her unit and her own identity, in a quest to find her missing husband.” In addition to co-writing the script, Feek directed and edited the movie, made possible financially via a “Kickstarter” campaign Rory started to obtain backers for his project. With only about $122,000 raised, it evolved on a shoestring budget, but co-stars Alice Coulthard, Boris McGiver, Jessejames Locorriere and Linds Edwards stuck with it. Rory wrote on the Kickstarter’s movie page, in part: “Magic doesn’t happen because you plan it. It happens because you believe in it. And I believe in the magic of telling a great story . . . like Josephine’s. One that’s hard at times, and rough and scary, and you don’t know what’s going to happen.” Incidentally, other music-oriented films scheduled at the festival were “Honky Tonk Heaven: The Legend of The Broken Spoke,” “Sidemen: Long Road to Glory,” and “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story.” . . . Former duet partner Kenny Rogers quipped that he regarded Dolly Parton as country’s Donald Trump, noting she was flashy and candid in comments, and neither hesitate to defend the size of their respective assets, but quickly added he meant it as a compliment. When a Rolling Stone reporter asked her opinion of his remarks, she steered clear of dissing the singer, saying he probably meant because of her tresses: “Me and Donald kinda have the same hair . . . he could’ve meant that, too, and he does talk about the fact that I’ll just say whatever’s on my mind.” So she’s making excuses for him; now that’s what I call “Real Love” (their 1985 #1) . . . Divorcee Miranda Lambert raised eyebrows in her low-cut yellow gown on the Red Carpet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, arriving on the arm of her new “boyfriend”  Anderson East for the Academy of Country Music awards gala, April 3. Five years her junior, he’s an R&B vocalist (“Satisfy Me”) who she says is the complete opposite of her ex, Blake Shelton . . . Joining Blake Shelton and Adam Levine as a judge on NBC’s reality series The Voice, is Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter, pop vocalist Mylie Cyrus, come September. Alicia Keys, who earlier served as a mentor, rounds out the new judgmental foursome. Cyrus has been a mentor this season . . . Yet another kin to a popular name in music, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough, stars in the steamy Starz series, The Girlfriend Experience, adapted from Steven Soderbergh’s sexy 2009 film of that title starring Sasha Grey. It revolves around a $2,000 a night law student-turned-Manhattan call girl’s challenge of meeting the desire and needs of male clients, during the 2008 presidential election. Wonder how mama Lisa Marie and grandma Priscilla Presley feel about this turn of event in Riley’s career climb? There are 13 episodes being filmed for the small screen series, on location in Toronto, Canada . . . Bill Miller, who owns the relatively new Johnny Cash Museum, situated among Nashville’s Lower Broad strip of clubs downtown, has announced plans to open a Patsy Cline Museum on the upper floor of his building. He anticipates construction on the 4,000-foot site to commence in June. Thanks to cooperation of Cline’s children, Julie and Randy, many of the Country Hall of Famer’s costumes, awards, rare photos and other artifacts will be on display. “Since the passing of our father last fall, this is our first step together in continuing to share Mom’s music, life and story, as we feel Dad would have,” said Julie, referring to her father, Patsy’s widower Charlie Dick’s November passing. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with and experience what Bill will present to old and new fans alike.” Cline, of course, enjoyed such classic cuts as “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Crazy” and “I Fall To Pieces,” prior to her 1963 death in a plane crash that also took the lives of Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and musician-pilot Randy Hughes.

    Bits & Pieces: Despite half a dozen Grammy wins April 3 at the annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards show in Las Vegas, Chris Stapleton still has his feet firmly on the ground, and visited his hometown of Paintsville, Ky., where he and sponsors Ram Trucks and ACM’s Lifting Lives program presented some $57,000 worth of instruments to Johnson Central High School to benefit students. Chris also performed a free concert for them, and the community, on a new stage constructed there by the school’s carpentry class and Ram Nation volunteers . . . Ryman Hospitality (RH) has disclosed plans to produce a country music-themed club right in the heart of Times Square in New York City, feeling that the spread of the genre’s popularity warrants such a venture. The joint restaurant-bar complex – not yet named – will focus on southern food and hospitality, along with live country music and various video screens throughout displaying country sounds. RH’s primary showcase, Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, has undergone extensive renovation, including a new Cafe Lula in the long-time Opry home. According to CEO Colin Reed, “There’s no doubt that Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry are the homes of country music, but the genre’s incredible growth and mainstream appeal means that there are now lovers of country music all over the world . . . This venue will bring to Times Square and its nearly 40 million annual global visitors a rich country music heritage and an opportunity to experience the unique country music lifestyle.” . . . Charlie Daniels causing an uproar on line after Tweeting this comment, “There are some kids in college who should spend a year picking cotton!” Understandably as a Southerner, he’s referring to doing a little hard work, which should make the college crowd appreciate what so many of them take for granted. Predictably there are those who read into it a racist remark, but Daniels, who admittedly leans to the right, accomplishes a lot of positive things in behalf of those in need, and stresses equality for all. (Of course, we may be a bit bias towards ol’ Charlie, as he agreed to write the Foreword for this writer’s recent Nova book release, “Mac Wiseman: All My Memories Fit For Print.”) . . . Kenny Chesney’s following in Willie Nelson’s footstep, by launching his own show No Shoes Radio on SiriusXM Satellite, which began April 12, borrowing its handle from his 2003 near-charttopper “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem.” Aside from his own songs, the program will feature Chesney’s favorites by other artists a la Willie’s Roadhouse (which first began in 2006 as Willie’s Place, adopting its new name in 2011).

                 Honors: It’s great hearing Charlie Daniels, Randy Travis and Fred Foster are the latest recipients for induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Class of 2016, as all are well-qualified for the genre’s highest honor. In addition to having carved out an enviable career as a country rocker (“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”), Daniels gives back via the charitable causes he’s headed up, including his annual Volunteer Jam, Christmas4Kids, and the more recent Journey Home project to aid veterans blending back into civilian life. Travis, we’ve known since before he struck it big with “On the Other Hand,” and thanks to Lib Hatcher, he avoided jail to pursue a life of music. Still, troubled times erupted on occasion, but he gave us great sounds along the way, including “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “Three Wooden Crosses.” Barely able to say “Thank you,” when news of his honor was officially announced, Travis, suffering a 2013 debilitating stroke from which he’s trying to recover, was supported by Mary, his new wife. Producer-writer Foster, who like his fellow recipients, hails from North Carolina, earned his spurs behind the scenes, promoting then-newcomers like Jimmy Dean to 4-Star, where he scored his first hit, “Bumming Around,” then in 1958 Foster launched his own label, Monument, luring Dean’s TV show guitar picker Billy Grammar to be his first signee. Their collaboration resulted in a million-selling Grammer disc “Gotta Travel On” (1959). Subsequently, Fred also signed Jeannie Seely (“Don’t Touch Me”), Billy Walker (“A Million and One”), Kris Kristofferson (“Why Me, Lord”), Dolly Parton (“Dumb  Blonde”) and Boots Randolph (“Yakety Sax”). He has produced such stars as Roy Orbison (“Oh, Pretty Woman”), and Robert Mitchum (“Little Old Wine Drinker, Me”). Congrats to the anointed trio; however, it sure seems the powers-that-be behind the Country Music Hall of Fame need to do some serious catching up. Still missing from the 55-year roster are such deserving names as John Lair, Bradley Kincaid, Lulu Belle & Scotty, Wilf Carter (Montana Slim), Stuart Hamblen, Al Dexter, Jimmy Wakely, Slim Whitman, Colonel Tom Parker, Johnnie & Jack, Skeeter Davis, Hank Locklin, Johnny Horton and Dottie West. While it’s true not every artist should be voted into the Hall, these influential people more than made their mark in music, and proved an inspiration to those that followed . . . Ratings for the 50th Academy of Country Music’s annual awards presentation, a CBS telecast from Las Vegas, was down a steep 36 percent from last year, but stood as the night’s top-rated broadcast in most categories, April 3. Part of the problem was being in competition with top-ranked drama The Walking Dead. Co-hosted by Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, among the highlights was a pairing of Katy Perry and Dolly Parton in a medley of the latter’s songs. Katy also presented Dolly Hollywood’s Tex Ritter Award for her movie “Coat of Many Colors.” Additional winners included Jason Aldean, Entertainer of the Year; Chris Stapleton, Male Vocalist; Miranda Lambert, Female Vocalist; Florida Georgia Line, Best Vocal Duo; Little Big Town, Vocal Group; Stapleton, New Male Vocalist; Kelsey Ballerina, New Female Vocalist; Old Dominion, New Group; Stapleton’s “Traveller,” co-produced with Dave Cobb, best album; Thomas Rhett with “Die a Happy Man,” produced by Dann Huff & Jesse Frasure; best video, Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood,” produced by Megan Smith with directors Reid Long & John Peets; while Stapleton’s “Nobody To Blame” earned best song honors, Chris sharing this award with co-writers Barry Bales & Ronnie Bowman.

     More Awards: The Tennessee General Assembly honored country singer Collin Raye, 56, with a resolution citing contributions to the music scene and his humanitarian work. The legislative happening occurred in front of the full House of Representatives at the State Capitol here. In presenting Raye’s resolution, Rep. Susan Lynn also recognized the artist’s 25th anniversary in the business. The proclamation was co-signed by Raye, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Gov. Bill Haslam. Ray’s #1 “Love, Me,” of course, was his biggest hit . . . Vince Gill was honored with the Nashville Convention Center’s third annual Bud Wendell Award, recognizing “contributions to the success of the tourism and convention business” in Music City. Cited were his participation in expanding the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum through the ongoing All For The Hall fund-raisers; helping design the Bridgestone Arena; supporting the NHL’s Nashville Predators hockey team events; and advocating the city host the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four basketball tournament . . . Eric Paslay, a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, was the recipient of his alma mater’s Young Alumni Achievement Award (2015-’16), presented on the Grand Ole Opry by school president Sidney McPhee, March 15. Paslay was a Grammy nominee this year, thanks to his hit “The Driver” . . . The late Merle Haggard’s signature song “Mama Tried,” a 1968 #1, has made the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. Yet another country-style instrumental, “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” recorded in 1937 by W. H. Stepp, was also among the 25 sound recordings added, as of March 23. (It took Pee Wee King to add lyrics to this uptempo melody, giving him a Top 10 RCA single in 1950.)

     Ailing: Steve Gatlin, recovering from surgery, missed his siblings very special appearance with Brad Paisley, March 19, at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, where they joined Brad to sing their #1 “Houston,” much to the delight of the nearly 75,000 people attending. According to Larry, “While brother Rudy and I were having a great time with Brad in Houston, brother Steve was home in Nashville nursing a brand new hip. That’s why he wasn’t with us in Houston in case anyone was wondering!” Other Gatlin hits include “All the Gold In California” and “The Lady Takes The Cowboy Every Time.” In addition to being part of the Gatlin Brothers trio, Steve was once part of Tammy Wynette’s Young Country backup harmony group. On April 4th, he marked his 65th birthday! . . . Glen Campbell, 80, who’s receiving care at an Alzheimer’s treatment facility in the Nashville area, has reportedly lost most of his language skills. The artist was initially diagnosed with the disease in mid-2011, but soon departed on a lengthy farewell tour, which included three of his children playing in his backup band, wrapping on Nov. 30, 2012 at Napa, Calif. Famed for such songs as “Gentle On My Mind,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Glen’s received the Academy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In March, news stories signaled that adult children Debby and Travis had filed legal action against stepmother Kim, charging she had cut them off from their father, preventing their participation in his care. Kim says, “Glen’s getting great care; he’s happy, he’s cheerful,” but added he no longer plays guitar and doesn’t seem to understand what visitors say anymore. Meanwhile, he was slated to receive the Academy of Country Music’s Career Achievement Award, April 3, in Las Vegas (which, of course, he couldn’t attend).

     Final Curtain: Musician-singer-educator Johnny Reynolds died Feb. 16, at Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., from injuries suffered in a truck accident. The talented backup player, adept on electric bass, guitar or keyboards, performed with such country notables as Jerry Reed, Leroy Van Dyke, Connie Smith and Chet Atkins. When he came in off the road, he served as teacher and then principal at Liberty Tech Magnet School (2003-2008) in Memphis. With a master’s degree in counseling, Reynolds was a volunteer counselor with Alcoholics Anonymous and the Aspell Recovery Center, helping those suffering addiction. On March 29, Reynolds would have been 69. Survivors include wife Ruth, children Jennifer Cavitt and Marcy Moon, as well as step-children Ruth Ann Baty, Lora Goad and Eddie Herndon. He also had 15 grandchildren.

     Songwriter Steve Young, 73, died March 17, following a fall that left him suffering a brain injury. Among his more popular compositions are “Seven Bridges Road” (The Eagles), “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” (Waylon Jennings) and “Always Loving You” (Hank Williams, Jr.). A native of Newnan, Ga., Young worked in bands on the West Coast, including Stone Country and Van Dyke Parks.  A 1969 country-rock LP “Rock Salt & Nails,” also featuring Gram Parsons and Gene Clark, included his first performance of “Seven Bridges Road.” In 1976, he appeared in the movie documentary “Heartworn Highways,” playing his own song “Alabama Highway.” A development deal with RCA led to his 1976 album “Renegade Picker,” followed by a sole single charting “It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way,” five weeks in ’77.  Others who have recorded his songs include Eddy Arnold, Joan Baez, Ricochet and Dolly Parton. In 2013, Shooter Jennings sang Young’s “White Trash Song” in his CD “The Other Life.” Survivors include his son Jubal Lee Young and granddaughter Sophie Young. A Celebration of Life service is planned later in Nashville.

     Musician-promoter Robert Lee Younts, 66, died March 21 in Nashville. Starting at age fifteen, he worked as a musician, disc-jockey, and vocalist, including a stint with an Arkansas rock band, the Merging Traffic, which recorded for Decca Records. After moving to Nashville in 1973, the Little Rock, Ark. drummer began playing for Nat Stuckey, then hot with the Top 10 “Take Time To Love Her.” Soon after, he began drumming behind Mel Tillis, with whom he continued to play until 1985. It was then he helped start Bobby Roberts Booking Agency, and proved so successful the CMA nominated him Agent of the Year in 1994. Among artists he represented were John Anderson, Bobby Bare, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. Survivors include son Cory Manning Younts of Nashville. Services were held March 23, in First Presbyterian Church, Nashville.

Music City Beat – March 2016

Music City Beat . . . March 2016 – Carrie cheers hockey hubby on

      NASHVILLE — As blonde country queen Carrie Underwood celebrated her 22nd #1 single “Smoke Break,” which she co-wrote, hubby Mike Fisher was about to mark his 1,000th National Hockey League game. Since Feb. 12, 2011, the Canadian-born skater’s been playing center for the Nashville Predators, racking up 86 goals to add to the earlier 167 goals made while with the Ottawa Senators. On March 1, Carrie hailed her song’s chart-topping feat at the Sutler Saloon here, also noting it was her 12th self-penned song to go #1, another enviable credit. Sharing honors with Mrs. Fisher were co-writers Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey. Two days later, Mike’s

Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood

1,000th game paired Preds and the New Jersey Devils, as the Preds maintained a lead, until a penalty allowed the Devils to overcome it in overtime, winning 5-4. Fisher’s official ceremony occurred March 21 at Bridgestone Arena, as his team played the Los Angeles Kings, amid observances. At 35, Mike’s a valued veteran for the team, one who has a year left on his current contract, but hasn’t shown any sign yet of quitting. He’s appreciative of being based here, giving him more time with Carrie and their year-old son, Isaiah Michael. “I love the city and all that it has to offer. The people are unbelievable. The fans are so good,” confides Fisher. “I’m thankful for the team . . . and hopefully I can give back a little bit when I’m done playing . . . I try not to look too far ahead, but at the same time, you know you’re not going to play forever.”
        Bits & Pieces: Following recent hip replacement surgery, Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams, 76, announced that he’s hanging it up (not his hip), opting for retirement: “It’s time to enjoy some quiet time at home (nearby Ashland City) . . . I’m so thankful for my fans, friends and family, for their love and support.” Of his 17 #1 discs, Don had a hand in writing “Till the Rivers All Run Dry” and “Love Me Over Again” . . . The Band Perry’s also calling it quits, with their label, Big Machine, that is. Siblings Kimberly, Neil and Reid Perry first hit with the Platinum-selling single, “If I Die Young” (#1, 2010). Kimberly wrote the song, which won both CMA song and single of the year. Subsequent #1’s were “All Your Life” and “Better Dig Two,” though their last few were disappointing, notably “Live Forever” (#29, 2015). The announcement read in part: “We are grateful for six years of the big moments,  and great strides we made . . . and will carry that foundation forward with us.” Reportedly, Big Machine still has an album in the can that may yet be released . . . Mike Curb, owner and top dog at Curb Records, has acquired Word Entertainment, the gospel label, from Warner Music Group (WMG). Word, founded 65 years ago in Texas by Jarrell McCracken, currently is home to such acts as Switchfoot and Point of Grace. WMG will continue to distribute their product, notes Curb, whose own secular star line-up includes Mo Pitney, Rodney Atkins and Lee Brice on Curb Records . . . Gibson Guitar’s steadily slumping sales has prompted Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade the Nashville firm’s credit rating. Their negative report occurred as Gibson appears short of meeting its $100 million financial obligation, due over the next 22 months. Apparently Gibson hopes to focus less on instruments and more on audio manufacturing, and why the company acquired Onkyo, an electronics company, in efforts to broaden its scope  of becoming a music lifestyles company . . . The CMA says the first phase of performers for its annual Music Festival (formerly Fan Fair), scheduled June 9-12 in Nashville, were signed. Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert and Rascal Flatts kick off the nightly gigs at Nissan Stadium, Thursday, June 9. Others TBA will be posted on CMA’s app . . . On March 8 Blake Shelton Tweeted appreciation for an honor to his late father, “So proud and thankful to Dr. Haddad and St. Anthony Hospital in Shawnee, Okla., for dedicating the new wing (fountain) to my dad Richard Lee Shelton.” (Richard was a patient, prior to his passing in 2012.)
      Scene Stealers: Mike Dungan, head of Universal Music Group, marked his 15th year as a Country Radio Seminar board member, insisting at this year’s February seminar, “It’s the singularly most important thing” to keep country music relevant. He maintains country radio still plays a major part in promoting artists and their music telling The Tennessean, “People have been predicting the decline of regular broadcast radio in the face of all these new technologies for several years now, and it’s stronger than it’s ever been.” He adds that’s proven by research conducted, indicating the major way fans find music is via radio. Nonetheless, there’s little denying the younger crowd seeks sounds from digital sites and other on-line sources. Indeed, Dungan welcomes this rising phenomenon, noting the newer methods can interact with broadcast radio, as UMG recently learned with new artist Chris Stapleton: “What’s happened with Chris is really a best-case scenario example of the intersection of all the technologies we have, and all the ways people intersect with music.” Dungan and company expanded their focus to include the newer technologies for artists like Chris, whose CMA awards pairing with pop idol Justin Timberlake last fall blew every one away, as they musically combined a George Jones classic “Tennessee Whiskey” (co-written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove) and Justin’s “Drink You Away,” for a show-stopping performance. To be fair, they were supported by Justin’s wife Morgane on harmony vocals, and a dynamic brass band. According to Mike, the social network exploded, fueling an amazing streaming of their duet globally: “This is a huge success. This guy’s selling tickets, albums, tracks, and he’s selling streams. He’s just exploded!” During awards night, Chris’s CD “Traveller” won best album as he was named best new artist; then, come Feb. 15, the newcomer nabbed two country Grammys for “Traveller,” as best album and his as best performance. Dungan pointed out, “But radio is smart. We had a lot of guys on board prior to that (CMA) performance, and a lot of the guys, the really smart ones, jumped on board when they saw the big cultural importance it was having” . . . Grammy Award-winning producer Tony Brown, 69, was booked Feb. 23 on a domestic assault charge involving wife Jamie Nicole Brown. It was the second such dispute between the couple, just remarried Feb, 4, 2016, having ended their first marriage in June 2014, after little more than a year as man and wife. Nicole told the police they got into an argument when she showed proofs for a photo shoot, seeking his ideas for additional poses. Reportedly, Brown slapped her face, calling them “slutty poses,” then allegedly knocked her down, pulling her by the hair, while dragging her down a hallway. After breaking free, she called her parents, who advised notify the law. Jamie was taken to St. Thomas Hospital for treatment, revealing marks on her body and visible signs of pulled hair, and damage to hair extensions. Brown was arrested and placed on a 12-hour domestic violence hold. The following day, he was released on a $10,000 bail bond. An earlier assault case occurred in October 2013, after she claimed Brown kicked in a bedroom door, and allegedly pushed and choked her, as she attempted to flee. At the time, Belle Meade police referenced multiple scratches to her body. Brown, formerly a highly successful president of MCA-Nashville and co-founder of Universal South Records, produced the likes of Reba McEntire, Vince Gill and George Strait. Earlier in his career, he played keyboards in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band. More recently, Tony produced a country album on pop artist Cyndi Lauper, “Detrour,” for Sire Records. He’s slated to re-appear in Davidson County court to answer the latest domestic dispute charges. Stay tuned . . . A $20 million Grammy Museum, the second such institution, opened March 5 in Cleveland, Miss., recognizing the Mississippi Delta country as “cradle of the blues.” A smaller version of its headquarters museum in Los Angeles, Grammy Museum Mississippi, chronicles the music scene, specifically the blues, since the organization started in 1957. A news release cited such Mississippi blues artists as B. B. King and Robert Johnson, with a nod to Tupelo-born rock king Elvis Presley. It would be nice, too, to also salute such Mississippi music makers as Jimmie Rodgers, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride and Tammy Wynette . . . Tennessee native Dolly Parton and hubby Carl Dean will celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary in May, and plan to renew their vows. The couple met in a laundromat two days after she moved permanently to Nashville, and married two years later in Ringgold, Ga., in 1966. Carl, 73, has made it a point to stay behind the scenes, declining interviews and avoiding media. Speaking of him earlier, Dolly chuckled: “He is not musical, but he’s kind, funny and romantic. His poems are lovely and heartfelt. And that kind of stuff keeps us happy over the years – two old goats together.” Her next TV-movie, “Jolene,” about one of her songs, which she confided was inspired by a flirtatious red-haired bank-teller who had a yen for Dean. In an imagined confrontation with the gal, his wife pleads “Please don’t take him/Just because you can . . .” Dolly plans immediately after their 50th gala to launch her largest tour in 25 years – Dolly Pure & Simple – covering the map with 60 concerts, designed to plug her new CD “Pure & Simple With Dolly’s Biggest Hits.” The energetic Parton, now 70, quips, “I don’t know how pure I am, but I am pretty simple,” during a press pour announcing her ambitious schedule that runs through December. She also pointed out last year’s TV movie “Coat of Many Colors” will be released on DVD in time for Mother’s Day in May, and a Broadway musical based on her life is still in the early stages.
     Honors: Veteran producer and label chief Jim Ed Norman, 67, received the Bob Kingsley Living Legend Award on the Grand Ole Opry House stage, Feb. 24, as artists he’s worked with performed in tribute to the silver-haired executive. In his 22 years at Warner Bros. Records-Nashville, serving as A&R chief and later president, he helped launch such artists as Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, Faith Hill, Travis Tritt, Big & Rich and Blake Shelton. Following his brief retirement in Hawaii, Mike Curb engaged Norman as chief creative advisor to Curb Records in 2013, but by 2015, he was CEO of Curb Music Group. In reflection, Jim Ed recalled joining the Texas-based band Felicity in 1969, playing keyboards and guitar, along with Don Henley. He continued playing in groups such as Shiloh and Uncle Jim’s Music, but between 1973-1980, he played keyboards and contributed arrangements for a series of hit albums by the legendary likes of the Eagles (“Desperado” and “Hotel California”), Linda Ronstadt (“Don’t Cry Now”) and America (“Hat Trick”). Others he worked with in the studio include Jackie DeShannon, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams, Jr., Anne Murray, Garth Brooks and Crystal Gayle. This latest award is reserved for individuals who make a lasting contribution to the country music scene, with last year’s winner being Joe Galante, ex-CEO at RCA. Appearing to honor him were such cohorts as Don Henley, Mickey Gilley, Mo Pitney, T.G. Sheppard, Gary Morris, Crystal Gayle, Michael Martin Murphy and Rogers, while proceeds benefitted the Opry Trust Fund . . . Early awards nominees for the annual Academy of Country Music awards (prior to ACM’s actual telecast, April 13) were announced, including best bass players of the year: Mark Hill, Tully Kennedy, Tony Lucido, Michael Rhodes and Jimmie Lee Sloan; vying for best drummer: Chad Cromwell, Fred Eltringham, Shannon Forrest, Chris McHugh and Nir Zidkyahu; for best guitarist: J. T. Corenflos, Kenny Greenberg, Jerry McPherson, Danny Rader and Derek Wells; for keyboards: Jim (Moose) Brown, Charlie Judge, Gordon Mote, Steve Nathan and Matt Rollings; for best steel guitarist: Steve Fishell, Paul Franklin, Steve Hinson, Mike Johnson and Russ Pahl. Specialty instrumental player nominees are: Dan Dugmore, Glen Duncan, Larry Franklin, Aubrey Haney and Danny Rader; plus audio engineer nominees: Derek Bason, Steve Marcantonio, Justin Niebank, Vance Powell and Reid Shippen. The all-important producer nominees are: Nathan Chapman, Dave Cobb, Ross Copperman, Dann Huff and Michael Knox. Allegedly due to “time constraints,” winners in these categories will not be part of the televised gala in Las Vegas, co-hosted by Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley.
     Ailing: Merle Haggard, 78, has again been hospitalized with pneumonia, prompting postponement of show-dates. Publicist Tresa Redburn made this March 1 announcement: “Due to a persistent reoccurring bout with double pneumonia, Merle Haggard is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in California, and has had to postpone his concert dates in March.” The Hag was hospitalized last December, but thought he was well enough to tour again in February.
    Final Curtain: Singer-songwriter Joey Martin Feek, of the Grammy-nominated Joey + Rory duo, died March 4 in an Indiana hospice, concluding a contentious cancer struggle. The artist, age 40, chose to spend her final days at her family home in Indiana, with husband Rory and their daughter Indiana, 2, by her side. Writing on his Internet blog, Rory mused, “After four-and-a-half months in Indiana, we will soon be back home in Tennessee . . . me and our little one, with our older daughters (Heidi and Hope). It’s hard for me to imagine being there without Joey, but at the same time, it is where she wants us to be.” The couple first met at a songwriters night in Nashville, and two months later were married – June 15, 2002. Ex-Marine Feek proved a successful songwriter, with such cuts as Clay Walker’s “Chain of Love,” Blake Shelton’s “Some Beach,” and Easton Corbin’s “A Little More Country Than That.” Rory had two daughters from a previous marriage, Heidi and Hope. Joey+Rory competed as an act on CMT’s reality series Can You Duet in 2008, placing third, though he had no previous inclination to do vocals. Sugar Hill Records signed the duo, and their first Top 40 success was their co-write “Cheater, Cheater,” recorded earlier by Bomshel, but did not chart. They scored better on the album charts: “The Life Of a Song” (#10, 2008); and “Album Number Two” (#9, 2010). Their first #1 album was inspirational (released by Gaither Music Group), “Hymns That Are Important To Us,” topping both Billboard’s Country and Christian lists, while scoring Top Five on the trade magazine’s Top 200 pop chart. Among their numerous CMA, Academy of Country Music (ACM) and Inspirational Country Music (ICM) award nominations, the couple won as ACM’s top new duo in 2010; and ICM’s best in 2011. This year, Joey+Rory were nominated for a best country duo Grammy (which they lost) and ACM’s best vocal duo (yet to be determined). In February 2013, Joey chose natural childbirth when their daughter Indiana Boon was born, though two months later, the new mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The couple soon learned their daughter was a Down syndrome baby. Despite aggressive treatments, Joey’s cancer spread, eventually to her colon, and she was told her condition was terminal. A deep faith sustained her through the months that followed, and Rory chose to keep friends and fans updated on her final days via the Internet. On the day of her death, he posted on their blog, in part: “My wife’s greatest dream came true today. She is in Heaven. The cancer is gone, the pain has ceased and all her tears are dry. Joey is in the arms of her brother Justin and using her pretty voice to sing for her savior.” Survivors include Rory, Indiana, Heidi, Hope, parents June and Jack Martin, sisters Jody Martin, Julie Snyder and Jessie May. A private funeral service was planned.
Guitarist Rick Wright, 57, died after being involved in a two-car crash Feb. 7, near his home in White House, Tenn. He had long been a picker in Country Music Hall of Famer Connie Smith’s band The Sundowners. Wright, an Oklahoma native, performed with Smith on the Opry, on tour, and on such discs as “Long Line of Heartaches” (2011) for 17 years. “He played from the heart. It’s going to be hard to look to my right (on stage) and not see him there grinning at me,” said Smith. Previously he played in Jody Miller’s band, and the Music City Playboys, plus occasionally in Nashville’s Lower Broad honky-tonks. Survivors include wife Sherrie, son Joshua, two granddaughters, and mother Linda Piro. Arrangements were handled by Phillips-Robinson Funeral Home, Nashville.
Richard (Buck) Rambo, 84, died Feb. 21. He was a member and founding father of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and earned numerous Dove and Grammy awards in a career that spanned more than 60 years. Among the acts he toured with were the Oak Ridge Boys and the Stamps Quartet. From 1954, Buck devoted himself to the ministry, and in 1960, he and former wife Dottie founded a group they called The Gospel Echoes. Once daughter Reba joined, they performed as The Singing Rambos. The Rambos recorded multiple albums until the group was disbanded in the mid-1990s. Afterwards, he toured with his vocalist wife Mae, while conducting missionary work. In 2012, Rambo was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., 11 years after being named to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Survivors include Mae, his wife of 21 years, daughter Reba McGuire, three grandchildren, and a great-grandson. Services were held Feb. 29 at the Church of the City, Franklin, Tenn., with internment in Williamson Memorial Gardens.
Singer Joyce Marie (Paul) Potter, 78, died Feb. 15 at the Sunrise Senior Center in Roseville, Minn. As vivacious blonde recording artist Joyce Paul, she scored a 1968 country Top 40 single, “Phone Call To Mama” (co-written by Jerry Chesnutt & Norro Wilson), on United Artists. Born in Shelbyville, Tenn., she was voted Miss Cohn High School in 1955, and attended Peabody College, Nashville. After residing in Tulsa, Okla., she returned to Nashville and cut 15 singles, and a 1969 LP, “Heartache, Laughter & Tears,” before departing the music scene. Predeceased by husband Billy Potter and daughter Heather, survivors include son Lincoln Potter, and two grandchildren. Funeral services were conducted Feb. 27 at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home, Nashville.
Singer-songwriter Tommy Turner, 77, died Feb. 9. A native of Jacksonville, Fla., he was born into a musical family, as singer-mom Janet and guitarist-dad Cloyer (C.A.) Turner played professionally. During the 1940s, they performed on WCKY-Cincinnati, Ohio, and later operated American Music Store in Florida, which later Tommy himself ran for 25 years as Turner’s Discount Music Center. Turner served four years in the Navy. In the early 1960s, Tommy came to know country artist Mel Tillis, who encouraged him to try Nashville. He did and with his Minstrels 3 even recorded an album for United Artists Records. Other Turner groups include Thom’s Travelers, a road band; The Hearts, playing Printer’s Alley; and at the Black Poodle and Voodoo Room there he worked as a single. A BMI songwriter, Tommy has co-written with notables like Kent Westberry, and his catalog includes such songs as “I Never Thought a Lot About Texas” and “I Would.” He was a Presbyterian Lay Pastor, and wrote a regular music column for Songwriter magazine. Predeceased by Peggy, his wife of 46 years, he is survived by son Fred of New Jersey. A Celebration of Life was conducted Feb. 18 in Glencliff Presbyterian Church, Nashville.

Music City Beat – February 2016

             NASHVILLE – Great news for the summer tourists. Ringo Starr brings his All- Starr Band tour to Nashville, specifically a show at the historic Ryman Auditorium, on June 19. It’ll mark his first stop here since 2012, when he appeared at the same venue on his 72nd birthday, July 7. Initially inspired as a youngster hearing Gene Autry’s “South of the Border,” Starr began a life-long enjoyment of country sounds. He was especially enamored of Kitty Wells’ hardcore country laments, and encouraged The Beatles to cover Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally” (penned by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison). In 1970, at the invitation of Pete Drake, Ringo journeyed to Nashville to cut an album, “Beaucoups of Blues,” which Pete co-produced, engaging Scotty Moore as engineer, accompanied by such session players as Charlie Daniels, Chuck Howard, Buddy Harman, Charlie McCoy, Junior Huskey, Jerry Reed, Dave Kirby, Jerry Kennedy and D. J. Fontana. Added attractions were The Jordanaires, harmony backup, and Jeannie Kendall warbling on the “I Wouldn’t Have You Any Other Way” track. Ringo’s own creation “Coochy, Coochy” became a bonus number. (Reportedly, he penned another – “Band of Steel” – that failed his final cut.) Much later, Buck Owens invited Ringo to join him on a revised version of “Act Naturally,” which gave Starr a lone Billboard country singles charting (#27, 1989). No doubt, Ringo’s upcoming gig will be the hottest ticket in town. (Many Yanks still wonder why Ringo, a.k.a. Richard Starkey, was never knighted?)

Beatles, Act Naturally 1965
Beatles, Act Naturally 1965

            Scene Stealers: In case you were curious as to whatever happened to LeAnn Rimes’ ex-dancer-hubby, following their messy split, wonder no longer. Dean Sheremet not only went to a French chef school, then worked in an exclusive Big Apple restaurant, but also remarried (dishy photographer Sarah Silver in 2011), and now has a new book out; OK, a cookbook titled “Eat Your Heart Out,” sub-titled The Look Good, Feel Good, Silver Lining Cookbook. Dean had a few movie credits (“Not Another Teen Movie”) prior to meeting Rimes, who eventually ditched him to romance another actor, the also- married Eddie Cibrian, her co-star in the film “Northern Lights.” Now 35, Sheremet deadpans: “How cauliflower helped me get over LeAnn Rimes.” The celebrity chef’s due in Nashville, Feb. 16, to sign copies of his book and offer a cooking demonstration at the Farmer’s Market on Rosa Parks Blvd. Having once shared a Nashville mansion on Hillsboro Pike with his wife of seven years, which sold for $2 million-plus prior to their 2010 divorce, he’s not hurting financially. A book blurb notes, “When Dean Sheremet’s marriage to LeAnn Rimes went up in smoke, he decided to put his life back together, recipe-by-recipe. And it worked.” . . . Lady Antebellum co-lead singer Charles Kelley’s solo album “The Driver” is garnering lots of favorable commentary, begging the question could Chuckie consider going it alone? Meantime, Lady A vocalist Hillary Scott is recording a gospel CD with her family (including singer-mom Linda Davis), while band- mate Dave Haywood simply enjoys some time off, in the wake of the trio’s exhaustive 2015 Wheels Up tour wrap. Pop superstar Stevie Nicks and Kelley covered Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” on “The Driver,” while other guests for the venture included Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay. The latter two joined Kelley on his Grammy-nominated title track. On the home front, Kelley and Cassie, his Mrs., anticipate birth of their baby boy any day (after a lengthy infertility struggle). Come March 16, however, Lady A’s back intact to help honor Kris Kristofferson for a TV tribute taping here at Bridgestone Arena . . . LoCash’s Preston Brust and wife Kristen saw the New Year in with arrival of their first child, Love Lily Brust. Daddy continues touring with bandsman Chris Lucas on their highly successful I Love This Life Tour, named after their near chart-topping country airplay single . . . Legendary Loretta Lynn’s delighted to see The Donald (Trump) finally emerged a winner, Feb. 9, in New Hampshire, after bombing in Iowa, right after she endorsed his presidential candidacy! A coal miner’s daughter and a billionaire blowhard, who’s never before held elective office, make quite a combination. But hey, she’s not alone, for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin also announced her support for the Republican’s celebrity candidate, who’s now off to South Carolina to test his political pull down in Dixie . . . Like daddy Billy Ray, singer Miley Cyrus has signed onto a new project, Woody Allen’s as yet untitled Amazon-TV series. Writer-director Allen also stars, along with veteran comedienne Elaine May, she of the popular 1950s nightclub duo with Mike Nichols (who became an award-winning film director). Reportedly, Allen’s first excursion into a series, will be set in the 1960s, with shooting to commence in March . . . Rocker Cyndi Lauper tried something different this time around. The New Wave artist recorded a traditional-style country album, titled “Detour.” Among Nashville notables sharing the mic with mi’lady is Willie Nelson no less, on his composition “Night Life.” Other Music City names invited include Emmylou Harris on the title track, Alison Krauss on “Hard Candy Christmas” and Vince Gill, “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.” Additionally, Jewel joined Cyndi on the Patsy Montana classic, “I Want To Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Other tunes include “Misty Blue,” “Begging To You,” “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “The End Of the World” . . . Gary Morris put his booming vocals to good use, Jan. 23, for the Nashville Opera Guild’s annual fund raiser, La Bella Notte. This year’s theme fit the artist to a T, Opry To Opera – Where Opera and Country Meet, with black-tie event tickets tabbed at $300 each. Gary told The Tennessean his reply, when invited, “I said ‘I’m really not an opera singer. There are great opera singers.’ And they said the theme was From Opry To Opera, (and) I thought that’s pretty clever, and to me, it said, ‘OK, it’s a validation of music in general,’ and I thought I really would like to do that.” Of course, Morris was the first yank to play ValJean in “Les Miserables” on Broadway, and earlier had appeared on the Great White Way in “La Boheme” with Linda Ronstadt. Among his five #1 country songs are his self-penned “Baby, Bye Bye,” “Makin’ Up For Lost Time” (with Crystal Gayle) and “Leave Me Lonely.”

            Honors: Congrats to Ronnie Reno, 68, named a 2016 inductee into the Society For the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association (SPBGMA) Hall of Greats. The singer-songwriter-musician comes honestly by it, being the son of the late Bluegrass Hall of Honor recipient Don Reno (of Reno & Smiley fame). Ronnie, who performed with dad, also toured with the bands of the Osborne Brothers, Merle Haggard and his own family band The Reno Brothers (“Yonder Comes a Freight Train”). Conway Twitty recorded his hit “Boogie Grass Band” (1978). Ronnie has produced albums for the likes of Merle Haggard and Mac Wiseman. Reno currently hosts RFD’s rural network program, Reno’s Old Time Music Show, and recently released “Lessons Learned,” his own album. Regarding his induction, Reno says, “I am so incredibly humbled to be listed among artists who have inspired me throughout my entire career. While I’ve known a lot of them personally, I have also studied their licks, admired their music and respected their craftsmanship to the point that I’ve dedicated a great deal of my career getting their performances archived on film and in audio files so that others can benefit from their work. To find myself listed among them is just mind-blowing! I just don’t even know what to say.”. . . Dierks Bentley will be honored with a contemporary country exhibit in the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, March 4-Sept. 6. Titled “Dierks Bentley: Every Mile a Memory, Presented By Citi” (Bank), his exhibit will feature costumes, instruments, song manuscripts and assorted photos. At 40, the Phoenix, Ariz. native, can look back on a highly successful chart success that includes 15 Top 10 singles, including #1 songs like “What Was I Thinkin’,” “Free and Easy” and “Feel The Fire.” Bentley, who started in Nashville pickin’ and singin’ in Lower Broad street bars, will perform an acoustic set and offer a career retrospective in a short ceremony for the exhibit, March 12 . . . The Missouri legislature conducted dual ceremonies in the state house, Jan. 19, paying homage to singer Leroy Van Dyke, 86. State Representatives Steve Cookson and Nathan Beard first presented the veteran star with an official House Resolution honoring his 60 years in music, followed by a similar presentation in the Senate for a favorite son of the Show Me State. Van Dyke, celebrated for Gold Records “Walk On By,” “If a Woman Answers” and his self-penned “The Auctioneer,” was born in Mora, Mo. He currently resides in Sedalia.

            Bits & Pieces: Singer Kelly Clarkson has authored a children’s book – “River Rose & The Magical Lullaby” – covering a little girl’s visit to the zoo. Release date: Oct. 4 . . . During Nashville’s first snowstorm in late January, singer Dierks Bentley Tweeted, “There must have been magic in tin cup he found/Placed it to his lips, began to dance around. #blizzard2016@OleSmoky.” . . . Hollywood actor Josh Brolin disclosed on talk show host Conan’s late night telecast, he’s been cast as George Jones in a forthcoming flick, focusing on the pairing of Jones and then-wife Tammy Wynette. Country’s First Lady will be portrayed by Jessica Chastain (“The Martian”). Currently, Josh co-stars in “Hail, Caesar!” with A-liner George Clooney. Reportedly, the proposed music project is based on a book written by the couple’s daughter Georgette Jones, though thus far a title and start date have not been confirmed. Well surely they can’t call it “Stand By Your Man,” as their marriage lasted but six years (1969-1975), when Tammy must’ve sang back-to-back “I Don’t Wanna Play House” (anymore) and the ultimate signal, “D-I-V-O- R-C-E,” to The Possum! . . . Would you believe George’s widow, Nancy Jones, disclosed earlier there’s still another George movie in the works, as reportedly she huddled with writer Alan Wenkus about the screenplay. (He’s the dude who scripted the acclaimed “Straight Outta Compton.”) . . . The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences has decided, in the best interests of membership, to create a Super PAC, a Grammy fund, that is, to assist in lobbying elected officials to support music creators and their copyrights. This is a first for a music organization, but reflective of the slow results regarding such legislation as the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act, which calls for broadcasters and others to pay appropriately for music played, as well as more aggressively push bills filed to improve digital payments to songwriters. Another industry concern is much-needed copyright reform action to deal with advanced technology that has affected how music is being consumed via the Internet. Much of the music scene’s proposed legislation has been stymied by powerful broadcast monopolies, and Silicon Valley monoliths a la Pandora, You-Tube and Google, boasting very active lobbyists.

            Ailing: Country legend Don Williams, 76, had to postpone an extensive concert tour, due to unexpected hip replacement surgery. Jacksonville, Fla., Feb 17, was the first city on the 21-show schedule, slated to wrap April 16. No word on the Country Music Hall of Famer’s anticipated recuperative time. Meanwhile, producer-buddy Garth Fundis helms an all-star tribute album on Williams (whom he co-produced on the exceptional “Especially For You”). Fundis, you may recall, produced the earlier CD “Pride: A Tribute to Charley Pride, Deluxe Edition.” . . . Another Country Hall of Famer, Mel Tillis, 83, underwent successful colon surgery, Jan. 8 at Centennial Medical Center, Nashville. Daughter Pam kept media updated on his condition, and we’re relieved he’s expected to make a full recovery.

            Final Curtain: Charlie E. (Sonny) Louvin, Jr., 61, died Jan. 27, after suffering a troubled time following the passing of his father, Opry star Charlie Louvin, having played guitar in the Country Music  Hall of Famer’s band.

Ralph Emery (from left), label executive B. J. Wayne, Sonny Louvin and Charlie Louvin accept gold disc on their single 'He Keeps Crying' on Hal-Kat Kountry Records.
Ralph Emery (from left), label executive B. J. Wayne, Sonny Louvin and Charlie Louvin accept gold disc on their single ‘He Keeps Crying’ on Hal-Kat Kountry Records.

Reportedly, the death was a suicide, allegedly prompted by alcohol and drug abuse problems. Last summer, Louvin was arrested on I-24, after officers were alerted by witnesses in suburban Murfreesboro, about his suspected impairment, and was charged with his second DUI. In February, he and cousin Kathy acknowledged Lifetime Achievement Awards for their fathers, Charlie & Ira Louvin, famed brother duo, during Grammy’s annual Special Merit Awards gala. Survivors include his children Alex and Wendy; his mom Betty Louvin; and brothers Ken and Glenn Louvin. A private ceremony was conducted at Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens. Family members suggest donations in Sonny’s name made to MusiCares, Nashville, which assists those suffering drug abuse.

Guitarist Peter J. (Pete) Huttlinger, 54, died from a massive stroke at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Jan. 15. In addition to some 15 albums recorded as an artist (including “Catch & Release,” “Naked Pop” and “McGuire’s Landing”), he also played lead guitar for John Denver, as well as artists such as John Oates and LeAnn Rimes. With wife Erin Morris, he chronicled his musical achievements and life-long heart disease battle in their biography “Joined At the Heart: A Story of Love, Guitars, Resilience and Marigolds” (2015). In his youth, while studying at the Berklee School of Music, he played bluegrass in Boston subways. Upon graduation in 1984, Pete moved to Nashville and played at the Opryland USA theme park. He joined John Denver in a 1994 world tour, as well as recording with the superstar. Huttlinger was proud of having made three appearances in Carnegie Hall, and performing at three of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival. In 2015, Pete collaborated with singer Mollie Weaver, for his final CD “Parnassus.” Besides Erin, survivors include her children, Sean Della Croce and James Della Croce. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.

Drummer Curtis (Curt) Werner, 68, a resident of Cottontown, Tenn., died Jan. 8. Playing on the WSM Grand Ole Opry, he performed with such stars as Jean Shepard, Tom T. Hall, Connie Smith, Johnny Russell and Ricky Van Shelton. He was preceded in death by wife of 47 years Lisa Werner. Survivors include daughters Jessie Beckett and Faith Gaskin; two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and mother Mary Werner. Services were held Jan. 16 at Jesus Reigns Fellowship in Cottontown.

Singer-pianist-arranger Joe Moscheo, 78, died Jan. 11, following a downhill fight with degenerative neurological disease, while hospitalized. As a key member of the inspirational group The Imperials, he first worked with Elvis Presley on mid-1960s sessions. Presley invited The Imperials in 1969, to accompany him in Las Vegas. Off stage, he also served as vice president of BMI’s special projects, during a 16-year association with the music rights organization. He is also a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame (2007) and Moscheo’s group earned Grammys for their 1975 album “No Shortage,” 1977’s “Sail On,” 1979’s “Heed The Call” and in 1981, “Priority.” Recalling his association with the King of Rock & Roll, he authored “The Gospel Side of Elvis.” No funeral arrangements were announced.

Glenn Frey, 67, a founding member of The Eagles, died from pneumonia, Jan. 18, after being hospitalized for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and colitis. His gritty vocals could be heard prominently on the group’s soulful hits like “Take It Easy, “New Kid in Town” and “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.” Country star Clint Black mourned his passing, noting, “Way too soon, we’ve lost one of America’s best singer-songwriters. I’ve always said he and Don Henley were America’s answer to Lennon and McCartney. Though he’s gone, his influence will always be with us.” Fellow country artist Travis Tritt added, “Glenn Frey and the music he created alone and with The Eagles, have been such an inspiration to me. We first met at the video shoot for my version of ‘Take It Easy’ in 1993. He always went out of his way to acknowledge and encourage me ever since. I’m a better person, better musician and a better songwriter having met him. I still can’t believe he is gone!”

Timothy P. Cotton, 64, died Jan. 26 from complications of kidney cancer. Tim worked 45 years in the music business, serving as road manager and even driver for such artists as brother Gene Cotton, The Eagles, Brenda Lee, Andre Crouch, Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Oak Ridge Boys, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, and Dan Seals. As a licensed EMT, he was an HIV/AIDS volunteer, earning honors such as Nashville CARES’ Volunteer of the Year, and cited as a 1991 recipient of the Catherine Strobel Award (named after the ill-fated care-giver, struck down by a hostile homeless man she tried to aid). Survivors include sisters Linda, Cathy and Sandra; and brothers Gene, Thomas and James Cotton. In lieu of flowers, the family suggested donations in Tim’s name to a charity dear to his heart, including the Cumberland Heights Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center, Nashville; Nashville Cares; or MusiCares.

Music City Beat – January 2016

NASHVILLE — The Nashville Sound is scoring in Nairobi, thanks to select song stylists championing its simplicity. Chief among these is Elvis Otieno, an East African whose parents so admired the King of Rock’s music, they named their son in his honor. He now performs as Sir Elvis, but also cites among influences Don Williams, Charley Pride, Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash. Born in 1977, the year Presley died, Otieno performs more traditional country, and offers a helping hand to newcomers like Esther Konkara, who sings Dolly Parton-style.

Known as the “Green City in the Sun,” popular music is important to Nairobi’s cultural life, and it’s already a “sister city” to U.S. capitol cities Denver, Colo., and Raleigh, N.C.

Like fellow country singer Darryl Worley, Otieno was the son of a preacher. Born in rural west Kenya in 1977, he makes his living pickin’ and singin’ in the bustling capital city Nairobi, with its 3.5 million-plus population. He insists there’s a growing audience there for country music, witness the telecast Strings of Country which airs thrice weekly on the independent 3 Stones network. According to its director, David Kimotho, Otieno is not an Elvis impersonator, but “an original,” who boasts a huge following among the populace. At least two major night spots – Reminisce Restaurant and Galileo Lounge – feature Nashville songs regularly.

A former British colony, Kenya attained its independence in 1963, and retains its reputation as a hub for safaris, due to the proximity of exotic animals. When Elvis was 7, the Otieno family moved to Norway for employment. That’s also where he became serious about performing, and played in a country-style band. A subsequent student trip to the U.S. found him attending his first country concert, headlining Shania Twain.

After concluding studies, Elvis returned to Kenya, determined to promote the country genre, but as he told a journalist, “I had to start from really, really nearly nothing . . . People love to listen to it, but there had never been a serious country star.”

Now, in addition to the Strings of Country show, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation produces Sundowner, a weekly broadcast co-hosted by Catherine Ndonye, boasting a huge following. She points out that much of Kenya is farming country, which probably accounts for listeners who identify with country compositions that deal in down-home themes of working class folk. Esther Konkara notes, “When I listen to Dolly Parton, I’ve never been to Tennessee, but I hear her talking about the Smoky Mountain hills, and I’m like, ‘Well girl, that is like my place . . .’ it’s like ‘Country road, take me home . . .’ exactly what maybe John Denver was singing about.”

David Kimotho pointed out that it’s not unusual to receive 180 text messages per show, requesting songs by such American artists as Kenny Rogers or the late Skeeter Davis: “Kenyans can identify with the stories in the songs.” He adds there’s an indigenous music called Mugithi, popular in central Kenya, that’s traditionally sung with guitar accompaniment in the Kikuyu language that conveys a country feel, giving its listeners an affinity for Nashville sounds.

Additionally, Nairobi experienced its first festival last spring, titled the Boots & Hats Country Festival, though Sir Elvis caused a stir when a no-show for a performance (could be borrowing a page from the late George Jones). Spearheaded by blonde country singer CC Lamondt from South Africa – who currently lives in Kenya – the festival was emceed by Kimotho.

Meanwhile, Esther like Elvis, has recorded her own songs, which receive airplay on local radio stations. Both share a dream of one day making it to Nashville, home to their musical heroes. Sir Elvis sighed, “If I could share a stage with Charley Pride or Don Williams or Garth Brooks, it would be a dream come true.” (Stranger things have happened.)

Scene Stealers: The Voice’s Blake Shelton took time out to do the voiceover for a pig named Earl in the forthcoming film “The Angry Birds Movie,” and even wrote a song for the animated feature. Its based on a popular video game, which Blake confided he hadn’t yet conquered off camera: “I wish I had a dollar for every minute I lost playing that freakin’ game, you know?” Reportedly, the movie will be in U.S. theaters May 20 . . . Billy Ray Cyrus tackles a new CMT series, “Still The King,” in which he portrays an Elvis impersonator, an idea he conceived. The character he plays is a somewhat dysfunctional entertainer, “who has gone bad and lies his way into a church as a preacher.” During this association, he suddenly finds he’s dad to a teen-aged girl. Reportedly, the satire will bow next summer . . . Bass player (Robert) Todd Harrell, 43, formerly with Three Doors Down, was arrested again, this time for parole violation. The musician was on parole awaiting sentencing in Nashville on a delayed April 2013 DUI case in which he allegedly caused the crash of a pickup, driven by Paul Shoulders, who died at the scene. Testimony disclosed the bandsman was hooked on painkillers at the time, due to leg injuries. A second DUI charge occurred in 2014 in Harrell’s home-state of Mississippi, where he was sentenced to time served. Harrell took a recent trip to South Carolina with Nashville court employee Altavease McCluskey, 32, who was assigned to monitor him, but instead removed the required bracelet, so he could spend a weekend with her in a rented apartment there. McCluskey was subsequently fired and indicted for official misconduct – having sexual relations with a defendant, thus the parole violation. In a court statement, Harrell alleged, “She brought a female friend of hers over and the two of them had sex in front of me.” On Dec. 18, Nashville criminal court Judge Mark Fishburn sentenced Harrell to two years in prison to begin Dec. 28, 2015, and also a six-year probation term for his convictions, including visiting six schools annually to discuss the dangers of addiction. Harrell said, “I think kids will listen to me because of the things that I’ve done, and I think that if I can change just one life, it could be worth it.” . . . In a recent chat with the media, when asked to name his favorite duet partner, which includes such stars as Dottie West, Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton, Dolly Parton, Anne Murray and Alison Krauss, Kenny Rogers declined, saying how could you single out just one? Perceptibly, he added, “I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed working with Dottie West, and I think that’s one of the real tragedies, that she hasn’t been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. We worked together for about two years, and she was a very special lady.” (Amen.) Grammy Award-winning West, who died in 1991, charted 63 country singles – five at #1 – and had earlier done duets with Jim Reeves and Don Gibson.

Bits & Pieces: The 51st annual Academy of Country Music awards gala will air live on CBS, April 3, with Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan as co-hosts at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas . . . Brenda Lee, 71, was all smiles during December when her “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was revived, hitting #1 on Billboard’s Country Streaming holiday airplay chart, and scoring again on the trade weekly’s Top 40 chart after nearly 55 years. Actually, the artist’s last Top 40 pop charting was “Ride, Ride, Ride” in 1967; however, she and George Jones peaked at #15 with their country duet, “Hallelujah, I Love You So” back in 1985 . . . After years of testy court hearings, Internet streaming site Pandora has reached an agreement with music licensing agencies ASCAP and BMI, that will hike payments to publishers and writers, though the exact terms were not publicly disclosed. BMI’s CEO Mike O’Neill acknowledged that the newly-negotiated package is comparable to other direct deals in the marketplace, while NSAI’s Bart Herbison praised the pact, as well, calling it positively good news for writers . . . Meantime, Atlanta music representative David Lowery was in Georgia federal court Dec. 29, filing a lawsuit against Spotify, a major Internet streaming service. Lowery’s suit, seeking class action status (meaning other copyright holders can join in), claims artists and labels whose music was used sans permission should be able to recover revenue estimated at $150 million. As reported earlier, artists Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift don’t allow Spotify to air their sounds, berating paltry royalty rates. Spotify’s supporters point out such streaming benefits the music scene, putting more than 75 million songs within reach of fans, noting since its launch seven years ago, Spotify has paid out more than $3 billion in U.S. royalties. Stay tuned . . . Kacey Musgraves stopped in at The 3rd & Lindsley Club, Jan. 4, where The Time Jumpers were performing on Third Avenue, only to learn upon leaving that someone busted her car window and made off with two pair of boots she’d bought for $900. Kacey, who last year launched her Kacey boot line for Lucchese,  mused, “Someone has expensive taste and cheap standards!” Metro police nabbed suspect Darnell Cunningham, 30, after he attempted to return them for cash, using her sales slip; however, the clerk recalled Musgraves making the purchase and the law was summoned. When notified, the “Biscuits” singer Tweeted: “Stupidity leads to victory.”

Honors: Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers (Rudy and Steve) inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, Texas, as of Jan. 14. In addition, the siblings received the Rick Smith Spirit of Texas Award, reserved for those who advance the Western culture. Not quite sure how the Gatlins qualify for this cowboy honor, other than they were Texas-born and did record a #1 “Houston” and a Top Five “The Lady Takes the Cowboy Every Time.” But, after all, they scored equally well with their melodic “All the Gold In California” and “Denver,” without Western attire . . . The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame is hosting a new exhibit titled “The Evolution of a Great Song,” on display at Nashville’s Music City Center, which will give visitors an opportunity to see the “story” behind the creation of classic country hits (in its Gallery). Among those contributing memorabilia for the exhibit are Bill Anderson, Bobby Braddock, Dallas Frazier, Dickey Lee, Richard Leigh, Curly Putman and past tunesmiths such as Paul Craft, Johnny Russell and Hank Williams. “Like anyone else who drops by to view our new exhibit (on the first floor), I was fascinated to see the creative process as it developed in manuscript form of some of my favorite songs,” said Pat Alger, board chairman of the Nashville Songwriters Foundation, and member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. “Lyrics that seem so perfect when we heard the finished product often took a long and winding journey to get there. Every fan of songwriting will be interested in this display.”

Ailing: David McCormick, manager/owner of the Ernest Tubb Record Shops and producer-host of WSM’s Midnite Jamboree broadcasts, was hospitalized in Nashville in late December, suffering from pneumonia and reported congested heart failure. There will be no new Midnite Jamboree shows before April 2016 . . . Country singer-producer Joe Stampley, 72, underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery in Nashville, Dec. 28. According to his daughter Terri Jo, the medics say all went well: “Dad is still in a lot of pain, (but) off the ventilator, sitting in a chair and has already walked around some this morning. Continue prayers for complete healing and for him to be a good patient . . . He told the staff yesterday, he had only been in the hospital two times ’til this, (at birth) in ’43 and tonsils out in ’49. He has been so healthy and we know he’s gonna be stronger than ever!” Stampley, of course, scored #1 singles such as “Soul Song” and “Roll On Big Mama.” . . . Songwriter Dallas Frazier, 76, is also reportedly under the weather, but wife Sharon’s looking out for her man, who wrote such classic country cuts as “There Goes My Everything,” “Big Mable Murphy” and “All I Have to Offer You is Me.”

Final Curtain: Country songwriter Don Chapel, 84, younger brother to singer-songwriters Martha Carson and Jean Chapel, died Dec. 6, from complications with heart and lung disease. Best known for his hits “When the Grass Grows Over Me” (recorded by George Jones, #2, 1968) and “Misty Morning Rain” (Ray Price, #43, 1979), he boasted a pleasant singing voice himself.

Don was born Lloyd Franklin, son of Gertrude and Robert Amburgey on Aug. 2, 1931, in Neon, Ky. He hailed from a music family, noting both his parents and grandparents performed in gospel groups (The Quillen Quartet) in and around Kentucky, and three elder sisters embarked on a performing career, billed as The Sunshine Sisters (WHIS-West Virginia) and The Hoot Owl Holler Girls (WSB-Atlanta).

Don was a high school athlete, who also played in the high school band. Funded by sisters Martha and Jean, he attended Oxford University in Ohio, joining the ROTC. When the Korean War began, he served in the Air Force. In 1950, he also wed Kathleen: “I was in sales . . . we built and sold homes for people. After nine years, when our marriage fell apart, I was devastated, so I left Ohio.”

Inspired by former Cincinnati neighbor Smilin’ Jack Smith (who had Top 10 pop hits “Civilization” and “Crusin’ Down the River”), Chapel nurtured his own love of music. Sister Bertha (Minnie) is heard vocally on Bill Carlisle’s hit “Too Old To Cut the Mustard,” while Martha was a pioneer gospel artist, and Jean teamed for a time with first husband Salty Holmes as a duo, but both Martha and Jean were superb songwriters. Among Jean’s song successes were “Going Through the Motions of Living” (Sonny James), “Lonely Again” (Eddy Arnold) and “Lay Some Happiness On Me” (Dean Martin). Sister Martha scored with her million-selling single “Satisfied,” as well as compositions “I Can’t Wait For the Sun To Go Down” (Faron Young), “I’m Gonna Walk and Talk With My Lord” (Johnnie Ray), and “I Can’t Stand Up Alone” (Clyde McPhatter).

Don, who “borrowed” Jean’s stage name, was briefly wed to newcomer Tammy Wynette, his second wife (who later wed George Jones), helping her obtain a pact with Epic Records. He also promoted daughter Donna’s early music career. Predeceased by his sisters, and brother Conley Amburgey, survivors include wife Virginia Amburgey, sons Lloyd, Jr., Gary, James, Robbie Amburgey, daughters Donna Cuno and Alison Garland, four stepchildren, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren and brother Glenn of Cincinnati. Services were held Dec. 11 at Madison Funeral Home.

Songwriter Don Pfrimmer, 78, died Dec. 7 at his Nashville home from leukemia. Don wrote or co-wrote some 450 songs, including his first hit “The Power of Positive Drinking” (Mickey Gilley, #8, 1978), as well as #1 titles for Ronnie Milsap “My Heart” (1980) and “She Keeps the Home Fires Burning” (1985).

Born Sept. 9, 1937, Donald Ross Pfrimmer, son of Lillian (Green) and Robert Bell Pfrimmer, was a native of Great Falls, Mont. Don served in the U.S. Army and attended the University of Montana, graduating an English major in 1965. Initially earning a living as a fisherman in Kodiak, Alaska, he also taught school to native Inuit youngsters in Alaska, prior to relocating to Nashville in 1973.

Don’s first important “cut” for him was Opry duo Lonzo & Oscar’s 1974 non-comedic attempt, “Any Old Wind That Blows.” Additional #1 songs include Sylvia’s “The Drifter” (1981), Diamond Rio’s “Meet In the Middle” (1991) and Lonestar’s “My Front Porch Lookin’ In” (2003) and “Mr. Mom” (2004). Among other major recordings were “By Now” (Steve Wariner, #6, 1981), “The Matador” (Sylvia, #7, 1981), “You Put the Beat in My Heart” (Eddie Rabbitt, #10, 1983), “You Should’ve Been Gone By Now” (Eddy Raven, #3, 1985), “Come In Out Of the Pain” (Doug Stone, #3, 1992), “Love Without Mercy” (Lee Roy Parnell, #8, 1993), and “All I Want Is a Life” (Tim McGraw, #5, 1996).

In 1975, in collaboration with cowboy legend Gene Autry, he and Dave Burgess co-authored a holiday novelty number, “Nestor, The Long-Eared Donkey,” which sparked an animated 1977 TV special of that title, featuring voice-over by Roger Miller.     Among those recording the song: Marty Robbins and Hank Snow.

Pfrimmer helped child of divorce Georgette Jones write “You and Me and Time,” which she recorded with dad George Jones (1989), and Don also penned the plaintive “Let’s Call It a Day Today” for her mom Tammy Wynette. Attesting to his versatility, Pfrimmer supplied songs for bluegrass artists Jim & Jesse, “North Wind,” which they cut with Charlie Louvin; and “Our Wedding Band” for Las Vegas showman Wayne Newton.

In 2015, Don was nominated to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Survivors include Gail, his wife of 39 years; children Michael Blade and Tinsley (Dan) Morrison; four grandchildren; and brother Charles Pfrimmer. A memorial celebration will be announced at a later date.

Country vocalist Bonnie Lou, 91, died Dec. 8 in Cheviot, Ohio, while in Hospice care near Cincinnati, said husband Milt Okum. Her 1950s’ Billboard hits “Seven Lonely Days,” “Tennessee Wig Walk” and “Daddy-O” helped earn her induction into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn.

A 1940s favorite on WLW’s Midwestern Hayride, she also transitioned to the program’s TV version on Feb. 13, 1948, watching it become an NBC summer replacement show nationally by the early 1950s.

Born Mary Joan Kath, Oct. 27, 1924 in Towanda, Ill., daughter of farmers Eva and Arthur Kath, she learned to sing and yodel from her Swiss-born grandmother, practicing while herding their cows into the barn. Age 5 she started violin lessons and at 11 received a pawn-shop guitar her daddy bought for $2.50, which she mastered, and later learned to play banjo.

By age 13, inspired by Patsy Montana on WLS-Chicago, she was herself being heard on radio, notably WMBD-Peoria and then WJBC-Bloomington, all the while performing at various festivals and shows, as Mary Jo, Yodeling Sweetheart, “sometimes taking home $5 or $10.”

At 17, she signed a five-year contract to sing and yodel with the Rhythm Rangers as Sally Carson on The Brush Creek Follies, a KMBC-Kansas City barn dance show. WLW-Cincinnati station honcho Bill McCluskey, who first heard her under the nom de plume Sally Carson singing “Train Whistle Blues,” had her switch to WLW’s Boone Country Jamboree, where he renamed her Bonnie Lou, to avoid KMBC contractual problems. In 1945, the seven-year old Jamboree morphed into Midwestern Hayride, heard every Saturday at 6:30 p.m., and Bonnie remained with that series until its 1972 demise.

Early on, she occasionally toured with another act she admired as a youth, The Girls Of the Golden West, consisting of Dolly and Millie Good, the latter wife of Bill McCluskey. Dolly, incidentally, was wed to Tex Atchison of the Prairie Ramblers, Patsy Montana’s backing group on their million-seller “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Others on the show destined to become legendary, who shared the stage with Bonnie included Chet Atkins, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Homer & Jethro.

In 1952, Bonnie signed to King Records, which produced her back-to-back 1953 Top 10 country singles “Seven Lonely Days” (#7) and a Johnny Gimble co-write “Tennessee Wig-Walk” (#6), each of which sold over 700,000 copies. She guested on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry numerous times through the years, as well as national TV shows interested in her rockabilly talents.

Despite offers from major labels impressed by her success, she declined, preferring to record for the indie King, while starring on the local Midwestern Hayride telecast, encouraged by its new network-feed. Bonnie Lou also performed on other Cincinnati programs, including 20 years on The Paul Dixon Show, as well as Ruth Lyons’ The 50-50 Club and its successor The Bob Braun Show. In 1958, King issued a pair of LPs on the lady, titled “Bonnie Lou Sings!” and “Daddy-O.”

Preceding the rock and roll craze, Bonnie recorded the sprightly 1954 single “Two-Step, Side-Step,” penned by Murray Wilson, dad to Brian, Carl and Dennis, later known as The Beach Boys. Her rockin’ 1955 entry “Daddy-O” peaked at #14 on Billboard’s Top 40 pop list. Although not chart hits, she garnered ample jukebox and radio airplay via such singles as “Papaya Mama,” “Tennessee Mambo,” “Teen-Age Wedding,” “Runnin’ Away,” “Dancing In My Socks,” “Miss the Love” and “Waiting In Vain.” A 1958 duet partner was Rusty York, with whom she recorded a cover rendition of (Billy & Lillie’s) “La Dee Dah” and “I Let the School Bell Ding-a-Ling,” aimed at the teen market. She also recorded on the indie Fraternity and Todd labels, the latter run by Paul Cohen, who brought Kitty Wells to fame. By the 1980s, Bonnie was doing DJ work and hosted Six-Star Ranch, beamed nationwide.

On Aug. 26, 1945 she’d married banker Glenn Ewins, father of her daughter Constance. Sadly on Jan. 24, 1964, Glenn died in a car crash. Two years later, she and Milton J. Okum, furniture store owner and sometimes-magician, were wed in Las Vegas, Jan. 2, 1966. He invited Bonnie to appear in his TV business commercials, no doubt noting her popularity on the Cincinnati scene.

It’s interesting, too, that her records were released in the UK on the Parlophone label, which boasted The Beatles’ product. In 2000, the British-based Westside Records issued Bonnie Lou’s retrospective in CD form, “Doin’ the Tennessee Wig-Walk: The Best of the King Years”; and likewise BACM released her “Danger! Heartbreak Ahead” in 2005. She attained her highest chart entry in 1953, on the Parlophone release “Tennessee Wig-Walk,” peaking at #4 in the UK.

According to her hubby, Bonnie died in her sleep at Hillebrand Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, after having suffered from ALS. Survivors include husband Milton Okum, daughter Connie Ewins Wernet, sister Eleanor McConkey, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Renowned DJ and singer-songwriter Hoss Burns, 56, was found dead in his Old Hickory Village apartment, Dec. 16, where he had been recuperating from recent heart surgery. Since age 16, the Port Arthur, Texas native had been following the sound of music, as both performer and broadcaster. Robert Charles Burns studied voice, saxophone, piano and music theory/composition for two years at the University of Texas-Austin.  In his home state, he worked at such stations as KLVI, KYKR in Beaumont, and area TV stations. His nickname “Hoss” was part of his familiar sign-on signature, most notably during nine years at WSIX-Nashville, while also “pitching” his Sony/Tree songs to artists such as Alan Jackson, who cut his “Just Put a Ribbon In Your Hair,” for his 2004 Christmas CD. Others recording Burns’ songs include Eddy Arnold, Dionne Warwick, Doug Stone and Kenny Chesney. He also produced some artists in the studio. In 1991, President George H. W. Bush honored Hoss for having donated $150,000 from the royalties of his song “Let’s Open Up Our Hearts” to the Cities In Schools charity in Washington, D.C. He was also host of the nationally-syndicated Country Hitmakers series. Twice Hoss was nominated CMA Broadcaster of the Year, and also inspired others by going public after being diagnosed with AIDS, making the announcement on his last radio program, a 12-and-a-half hour fundraiser for St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. As he confided to one journalist, “I’m not dying with AIDS, I’m living with it.” He also led fundraisers for such as Special Olympics, DreamMakers and Nashville Cares. Survivors include his father Robert Lee of Vidor, Texas and five siblings. A Celebration of Life memorial was being planned.

Pianist-producer Jim Pierce, 83, died Dec. 29 in Nashville, where he had been a record producer and Life Member of the Nashville Association of Musicians. Among artists he had produced were Roy Drusky, Kitty Wells, Charlie Louvin, Jeannie C. Riley, Jim & Jesse, Melba Montgomery, Frankie Laine and Bonnie Guitar. In 1991, he and Jack Gale at Playback Records, were named Independent Producers of the Year. Initially, Pierce began his music career in California, working with the likes of Wynn Stewart, Billy Mize and Merle Travis, playing on their sessions and other notables like Buck Owens, Rose Maddox, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson. After touring with Owens a year, Jim began working with Drusky, a gig that lasted 25 years. For a like number of years, he had served as stateside manager for Norwegian singer Arne Benoni, who also recorded duets with Lynn Anderson. Reportedly, Jim had played keyboards for WSM’s Grand Ole Opry show. Pierce had his own publishing firm, Strawboss/BMI, and labels, Poppy and Round Robin Records, which recorded Del Reeves and Chester Smith. In 2004, he was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Jackson, Tenn. A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at a later date.

Country singer-guitarist Craig Strickland, 29, died on a duck hunting trip that turned tragic in Kay County, Okla., also claiming the life of Chase Morland, 22. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol discovered Craig’s body Jan. 4, seven days after retrieving Chase’s body in Bear Creek Cove. Following Morland’s Dec. 26 Tweet about a severe weather forecast, the pair were reported missing. Two days later, Dec. 28, Morland’s body was discovered alongside Strickland’s dog Sam, still alive. Apparently a storm-tossed river capsized their boat, following Chase’s message: “In case we don’t come back, @BackroadCRAIG and I are going right through Winter Storm Goliath to kill ducks in Oklahoma. #IntoTheStorm.” Strickland was lead vocalist for Backroad Anthem, an Arkansas-based band that opened for such stars as Dierks Bentley and Justin Moore, and boasted a debut CD, “Torn.” On Jan. 2, her husband’s fate not yet been determined, Helen Strickland praised searchers continuing to track Craig’s whereabouts: “Thank you for refusing to give up.” Meanwhile, the entire Strickland family, encouraged by the Labrador Retriever’s survival, prayed Craig might also be found alive. Randy Strickland, Craig’s dad, admitted they were all “hoping against the odds,” but added, “We can’t even stand to think about it. We are devastated. Only God and time can put us back together.” Finally Jan. 4, Helen, a former Miss Arkansas, Tweeted fans and friends, “#CraigStrickland was found today. He is safe with his Father in Heaven. Thank you Lord, for leading us to him today. I will praise you, Amen.” On the loss, band manager Peter Hartung stated on Facebook: “I don’t (normally) comment on FB or share my views ever, I think it’s too personal, but I just need to weigh in on the amazing person Craig was. We have been managing his band for the last year and I have had the privilege to work with all six of them . . . and get to know them on a personal level. Craig was the epitome of the kind of person you love to be around: positive, funny, charismatic, enthusiastic and ridiculously inspired by what was in the future of his band. My heart is heavy with his loss for his wife Helen, his parents and family, his brothers of Backroad Anthem . . . and for all who had a chance to have Craig in their lives in any large or small way. Rest In Peace my friend; so glad you came into my life and so sad it was for so short of a time. Your voice will sing in my heart forever.”

Singer-songwriter Troy Shondell, 76, died Jan. 7 in Picayune, Miss., after suffering ALS and Parkinson’s Disease. A member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, he’s best remembered for his multi-million selling pop hit “This Time” (#6, 1961), but also wrote Bob Luman’s Top 10 country cut “Still Loving You,” and himself charted country singles, notably “Lovin’ You” (1980) and “Blue Jeans” (1988). Born Gary Wayne Schelton, May 14, 1939 in Fort Wayne, Ind., he was 14 when he wrote his first song, recorded by R&B group Little Anthony & The Imperials (“A Prayer and A Jukebox”) in 1959. Shondell studied at Valparaiso and Indiana University, and also played five different instruments, including his ever-present guitar. His first single release was “My Hero” at 19, followed by “Kissin’ At the Drive-In,” both under the name Gary Shelton, for Mercury. After switching to the smaller Gaye label, he recorded a cover version of a Thomas Wayne song, changing his own stage name to Troy Shondell. That track, “This Time” written by Chips Moman, was picked up by Goldcrest and then Liberty Records, making it Shondell’s first success (scoring on UK charts, as well). Although he never equaled that popularity again, despite being produced by the likes of Phil Spector (“Na-Ne-No”). With singles such as “Tears From An Angel,” he nonetheless attracted a huge fan following, one of whom, Tommy James, even named his group The Shondells to honor his hero. Troy continued to perform, and kept up his writing for such publishers as Nashville’s Acuff-Rose, which even engaged him to record on their TRX subsidiary label (to Hickory Records). In 1969, Troy entered the music publishing field himself and also served awhile as an executive at ASCAP, the music licensing giant. Other labels he recorded for include Alpine, Brite Star, Ric and Decca. After the Millennium, Shondell toured as a member of the Masters of Rock & Roll, along with such one-time teen idols as Jimmy Clanton, Ronnie Dove and Ray Peterson.

Truck drivers’ vocal hero (Joseph) Red Simpson, 81, died Jan. 8 in a Bakersfield, Calif., hospital, following a heart attack. Like another singer associated with road songs, Dick Curless (“A Tombstone Every Mile”), Red scored only one Top Five single: “(Hello) I’m a Truck” (#4), released in 1971. He was also an exponent of the Bakersfield Sound, scoring his first Top 40 chart entry “Roll Truck, Roll,” penned by fellow Bakersfield find Tommy Collins in 1966, followed by his own co-write that year “The Highway Patrol.” Merle Haggard, who recalled Arizona native Red played guitar on his hit “Okie From Muskogee,” said Simpson “Played a huge part in the Bakersfield Sound and was a dear friend of mine for over 50 years.” He co-wrote Buck Owens’ “Gonna Have Love” (#10, 1965), “Sam’s Place” (#1, 1967), “Kansas City Song” (#2, 1970). Simpson also wrote and recorded “Country Western Truck Drivin’ Singer,” “Truck Driver’s Heaven” and his last charting “Flying Saucer Man and the Truck Driver” in 1979. Others recording Simpson songs included Wynn Stewart (“Yours Forever,” 1969), and Merle Haggard (“Lucky Old Colorado”). In 1995, Red recorded duets with Junior Brown: “Nitro Express” and “Semi Crazy,” and later solo cut the novelty number “Hey, Bin Laden,” probably 2006.

Music City Beat December 2015

Acuff family

NASHVILLEAs we bid adieu to 2015, can’t help but lament the loss of so many talented players this past year with a connection to Music City. Among these who graced our ranks were singer-comedian Little Jimmy Dickens, who died Jan. 2 at age 94; songwriter A. J. Masters, 64, Jan. 12; songwriter-publisher Dixie Hall, 80, Jan. 16; songwriter-guitarist Wayne Kemp, 74, March 9; steel guitarist-producer Don Davis, 86, March 9; songwriter Don Robertson, 92, March 16; fiddler Johnny Gimble, 88, May 9; singer Jim Ed Brown, June 11; songwriter Red Lane, 76, July 1; songwriter-artist Wayne Carson, 72, July 20; musician Patsy Stoneman, 90, July 21; singer Daron Norwood, 49, July 22; songwriter-guitarist Johnny Slate, 77, July 24; steel guitarist Buddy Emmons, 78, July 29; singer Lynn Anderson, 67, July 30; producer-songwriter Billy Sherrill, 78, Aug. 4; promoter Jeff Walker, 65, Aug. 24; singer Billy Joe Royal, 73, Oct. 6; singer Tommy Overstreet, 78, Nov. 2; promoter Charlie Dick, 81, Nov. 8; and fiddler Ramona Jones, 91, Nov. 17 (see her obituary elsewhere in this edition). We salute them for their great contributions to the music world . . . and now R.I.P. y’all.

Honors: Nominations for the 58th Grammy Awards were announced Monday, Dec. 7 on the CBS Morning Show by Alicia Keys. Not surprisingly, Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” helped garner four nods, while somewhat surprising, but welcome was Joey+Rory’s bid as best duo (thanks to Internet fans’ devotion to Hospice-bound Joey). Multiple nominations came for such as Little Big Town, Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Ashley Monroe, and The Mavericks. Veteran players were remembered, too, notably Merle Haggard, Ralph Stanley and Glen Campbell. Here’s the list, in part: Best Country Solo Performance • Cam, “Burning House”; Chris Stapleton, “Traveler”; Carrie Underwood, “Little Toy Guns”; Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”; and Lee Ann Womack, “Chances Are.” Best Country Duo/Group Performance • Brothers Osborne, “Stay A Little Longer”; Joey+Rory, “If I needed You”; Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay, “The Driver”; Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”; Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe, “Lonely Tonight.” Best Country Song • “Chances Are,” Hayes Carll, songwriter (Lee Ann Womack); “Diamond Rings And Old Barstools,” Barry Dean, Luke Laird & Jonathan Singleton, writers (Tim McGraw); “Girl Crush,” Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, writers (Little Big Town); “Hold My Hand,” Brandy Clark & Mark Stephen Jones, writers (Brandy Clark); and “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton, writer-artist. Best Country Album • “Montevallo,” Sam Hunt; “Pain Killer,” Little Big Town; “The Blade,” Ashley Monroe; “Pageant Material,” Kacey Musgraves; and “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton. Best American Roots Song • “All Night Long,” The Mavericks, Raul Malo, writer;  “The Cost Of Living,” Merle Haggard & Don Henley, Henley & Stan Lynch, writers; “Julep,” Punch Brothers, Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Noam Pikelny, Chris Thile & Gabe Witcher, co-writers; “The Traveling Kind,” Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Cory Chisel, Harris & Crowell, writers; and “24 Frames,” Jason Isbell, artist-writer. Best Americana Album • “The Firewatcher’s Daughter,” Brandi Carlile; “The Traveling Kind,” Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell; “Something More Than Free,” Jason Isbell; “Mono,” The Mavericks; and “The Phosphorescent Blues,” Punch Brothers. Best Bluegrass Album • “Pocket Full Of Keys,” Dale Ann Bradley; “Before The Sun Goes Down,” Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley; “In Session,” Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; “Man Of Constant Sorrow,” Ralph Stanley & Friends; and “The Muscle Shoals Recordings,” The SteelDrivers (Chris Stapleton’s former group). Singer-songwriter Patty Griffin received a nomination for her “Servant of Love” in the Best Folk Album category; country newcomer Sam Hunt vies in the mainstream Best New Artist line-up; Kelly Clarkson got two nods in the pop genre (album and performance); while Glen Campbell’s honored via Big Machine’s album, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” in the best soundtrack for visual media competition. Dave Cobb received the nod as producer of the year, thanks to his co-production on “Traveller” with Chris Stapleton; and “Something More Than Free” with Jason Isbell. Two other nominees working with country artists are competing for the prestigious Producer of the Year award: Nashville-based Dave Cobb, who produced Stapleton’s “Traveller” and Isbell’s “Something More Than Free,” up against multi-instrumentalist Jeff Bhasker, who produced Cam’s “Burning House” and “Runaway Train.” Country expatriate Taylor Swift landed seven nominations in the pop categories, and Jack White, whose credits include producing country queens Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson, was cited for his boxed set, as well as a video. Shortly after the announcement, Womack Tweeted: “Woke up to great news! Thanks Hayes Carll for the amazing song. Congrats on your Grammy nominations, too!” In reply, Hayes texted, “Thank you Lee Ann for treating it so well . . . ”

More Honors: How many artists have a theater named after them? Well, Crystal Gayle can make that claim, as Indiana’s Wabash County Historical Museum did just that. Located in the town of Wabash, The Crystal Gayle Theater will boast memorabilia saluting her legendary career, such as the star’s 1986 American Music Award for favorite female vocalist; her “When I Dream” Gold Album; a favorite tour gown; a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star replica; and her 2005 Indiana Living Legend Award. Although born in Kentucky, she was raised in Wabash, as her family moved north seeking work. Acknowledging her latest honor, Crystal says, “It’s so humbling to return to Wabash, and feel the love from the community . . . I’m so proud to be here  and be part of this incredible museum.” . . . Dixie Hall was honored posthumously during the 9th annual Louise Scruggs Forum, Nov. 18, at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, in recognition of her contributions to bluegrass and country music. Hall, who died last January, was wed to Country Music Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall, and she wrote hundreds of songs, including “Truck Drivin’ Son-Of-A-Gun,” a hit for Dave Dudley. Some of her creations were performed in her memory at the event, by such talents as Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Sierra Hull & Justin Moses, Carl Jackson, Val Storey and Jerry Salley. Rita Forrester, granddaughter of Sara & A.P. Carter, also attended the Forum, funded by the Gibson Guitar Foundation. Incidentally, there’s a May 7, 2016 tribute concert – Remembering Miss Dixie – slated in the Song of the Mountains concert series at the historic Lincoln Theatre, Marion, Va., with a star-studded cast. Tim White hosts the show, which will be filmed for presentation on PBS . . . Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line shared CMT’s highest accolade as 2015’s Artists Of The Year, during a Dec. 2 celebration in the Nashville Symphony Center. Further, the cast of ABC’s night time series Nashville received CMT’s Impact Award; Kenny Rogers was named Artist of a Lifetime; and Chris Stapleton, cited as the Breakout Artist of ’15 . . . Scotty McCreery’s slightly embarrassed being Country Weekly magazines “Sexiest Man,” a fan-voted poll he topped, saying none-the-less, “I did not campaign to be the sexiest man in country. But fans, they love those polls, so, yeah, very flattering.”

Bits & Pieces: Although not a country singer-songwriter, Allen Toussaint did supply Country Music Hall of Famer Glen Campbell “Southern Nights,”giving him a 1977 chart-topper, and worked with the late Cowboy Jack Clement. Allen, 77, died Nov. 10 in Madrid, Spain, but he’s the subject of a Nashville tribute, Dec. 13, at the City Winery club, hosted by A. J. Croce. The New Orleans R&B legend produced singer-songwriter Croce . . . Seems former country chirp Taylor Swift was summoned for Davidson County jury duty, something expected of most law-abiding citizens, but with a little assist, the 26-year-old pop superstar obtained a deferment. Of course, she’s currently in the midst of her 1989 World Tour . . . Been noting how yesteryear stars have been jumping on the media bandwagon (meaning less work for regular broadcasters), since they have so much time on their hands; among these are Larry Gatlin and Tracy Lawrence, with individual DJ berths on WSM-AM, and Ray Stevens’ hosting a new RFD-TV talk show Saturdays. Acclaimed for vocals, songwriting and comedic skills, an excited Ray exclaimed: “It’s music from some of Nashville’s best writers, artists and musicians, and it’s full of comedy . . . and I’m having a ball doing it!” Obviously, Ray Stevens’ Nashville offers ample opportunity to hawk his own wares . . . Then there’s T. G. Sheppard, who just hosted four Country Classics shows for Heartland TV, filmed at Willie Nelson & Friends Museum here in Nashville. Notes T.G., “I had so much fun taping these episodes.” . . . Cheers to Travis Tritt for reportedly topping Nielsen SoundScan via his compilation album “The Very Best of Travis Tritt,” #1 for 15 weeks. Supposedly the resurgence began in November 2014, putting T.T. on their Top 200 Catalog Country Albums chart, apparently thanks to Internet action. In his heyday, Tritt enjoyed such single successes as “Help Me Hold On,” “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)” and his last Top 10, “Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde” (2002) . . . Newly-reunited Dixie Chicks – Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, Emily Robison – will play Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Aug. 17, 2016. The lilting trio, famed for such fare as “Wide Open Spaces,” “Ready To Run” and “Goodbye Earl,” commence their DCXMMXVI World Tour, in Antwerp, Belgium come April. A gig in London on March 10, 2003, during which Natalie publicly chastised President Bush for taking us to war in Iraq, resulted in a politically conservative backlash Stateside that seriously stalled their career for a time. A current video on their Facebook site, states: “There’s no telling what will happen this time!” (Nice to know they’re back though.) . . . Loretta Lynn, a former Bush backer, believes Donald Trump will be the next occupant of the White House, proclaiming: “I think Donald is going to be our next president!” The Country Music Hall of Famer met and likes The Donald. No stranger to the White House, she campaigned for its one-time occupant George H. W. Bush, and has performed there for the likes of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as well. Incidentally, the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” has been awarded Billboard magazine’s first Women In Music Legend Award, presented Dec. 11 in New York City, during its Women In Music event. Lady Gaga received their 2015 Woman in Music Award at the event.  Lynn, 83, has yet another album – “Full Circle”-  slated for release next March.

Ailing: Singer Carrie Underwood hesitated to leave her hockey-playing husband, Predators’ forward Mike Fisher, Dec. 2, after he suffered a lower body injury in battle against the Arizona Coyotes, but he insisted she carry on. (She was due to participate in a tribute, “Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert,” singing Frank’s hit “Someone To Watch Over Me,” Dec. 6 at Wynn-Las Vegas Hotel.) Fisher, placed on the injured reserve list, missed the next four matches. Of course, he had baby Isaiah to keep him company until mama flew back to the nest. (BTW the Predators whipped the Coyotes that night, 5-2.) . . . Merle Haggard on tour in California, checked himself into a local hospital upon feeling ill, and reportedly suffers from pneumonia. The singer-songwriter, 78, also called a halt to his remaining December tour dates. Musician-son Ben posted on Facebook: “He’s getting some great treatment at the moment, keep the prayers coming!” before sharing the hashtag,  “#prayers4merle.”

Final Curtain: Roy Neill Acuff, former artist and son of “King of Country Music” Roy Acuff, died Nov. 5, at age 72, while in Alive Hospice care. Born July 25, 1943, in Nashville to Mildred (Douglas) and Roy Claxton Acuff, he grew up in a music-oriented family, traveling with Dad summer months on the road. As a teen-ager, he worked in his father’s museum near Gatlinburg in East Tennessee. An acquaintance there, a transient troubadour, taught Roy a few guitar chords, and they passed time singing together. In 1963, Roy Neill began assisting Wesley Rose in the Acuff-Rose Music publishing firm, initially a 1940s’ partnership between their dads, Roy and Fred, a noted songwriter-producer. (Fred Rose died in 1954.) Acuff-Rose, of course, held title to such lucrative classics as “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain,” “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Kaw-Liga,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Blue Bayou” and “Oh, Pretty Woman.” Wes attempted to help young Roy, introducing him to Columbia A&R chief Don Law, who recorded some songs on the struggling young singer, but little came of these. Acuff-Rose also had a recording entity – Hickory Records – then being run by Wes, who had Don Gant, produce him as Roy Acuff, Jr. There were a string of singles, among them “Baby Just Said Goodbye” (1965),  “Stand Tall,” “Looks Like the Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine” (1966), “Luckiest Guy In the World,” “As Long As I Live” (1967), “Blue Train” (1968), “Thoughts” (with Sue Thompson, 1969), and “Back Down To Atlanta” (1970). Gant also produced an album – “Roy Acuff, Jr.” – now a collectible. Dad introduced him on the Opry, and he opened shows for the “King” on the road. Buddy Lee Attractions promoted a solo tour for Roy Jr., entertaining troops at bases in England and Germany. Although he enjoyed entertaining the younger crowd, Roy was never really comfortable before audiences, so when a hit didn’t materialize, he was content to work as an executive at Acuff-Rose. When Roy, Sr. died in 1992 at 89, his final will disclosed Roy had an illegitimate sister, Thelma Ellen Gossett;  however, both received only property and interest from trust funds. Any cash from the principle of dad’s investments would eventually go to grandchildren (when they turn 35), with exception of Roy Neill’s son, Roy Neill, Jr. (who had a drug conviction, resulting in a five-year prison term). Survivors include Susan (Haynes), his wife of 38 years; sons Roy Neill, Jr. and Alex Wolfgang Acuff; and granddaughters Mollie and Abigail Acuff. Arrangements were handled by Spring Hill Funeral Home, Nashville, and per his choice, services were private.

Leukemia claimed the life of Madeleine Danger Scruggs, five-year-old great-grand-daughter of Country Music Hall of Famer Earl Scruggs, Nov. 15 in Nashville. Survivors include her parents Heather Lynn (Cagle) and Jesse Earl Scruggs; brother Alex; sister Lily; grandparents Mary (Evans) and Gary Scruggs; Sandi and Jim Cagle; great-grandmothers Francis Cagle and Dayla McMullin; grand-uncle Chris Scruggs; uncle and aunt Jaime and Erika Scruggs; and numerous great aunts, uncles and cousins. Services were conducted Nov. 19 at Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville.

Robert Urban, father of singer-songwriter Keith Urban, died Dec. 5 in Australia, following a lengthy battle with cancer. Robert, 73, had been a big supporter of his son’s career harking back to solo stints and with his band The Ranch, during gigs Down Under. He was hoping to see his son’s new exhibit “Keith Urban So Far” at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Nashville, but his health declined fast. According to Keith, his Dad knew sartorial splendor, noting in an earlier interview: “My dad particularly always thought it was important that I dressed like a performer. A lot of these country music talent quests I did in Australia, they often had categories for best-dressed male or female, and I often won. Sometimes it was the only thing I won.” In tribute to his pop, Keith wrote “Song For Dad,” which appeared on his “Golden Road” CD (2002). Two days after dad’s death, Keith earned another best performance Grammy nomination for his disc “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Meantime, he’d issued this statement on his father’s passing: “I’ve been deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support that Nic and I, and our family, have received . . . His long battle with cancer is now over, and he is finally at peace. My dad’s love of country music and America set me on my life’s journey and shaped so much of who I am today.” Robert Urban is also survived by his wife Marienne and a second son Shane, and grandchildren.