Music City Beat November 2015

Mac Davis

Country Beat – November 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music City Beat October 2015

Faith and Tim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MUSIC CITY BEAT September 2015

Grand Ole Opry film

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music City Beat August 2015

Miranda Lambert

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

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