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 (grammy.org/musicares/donate).
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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