Music City Beat – February 2018

Cancer claims country singer-songwriter Lari White . . . 

Hubby Chuck Cannon embraces Lari White.
(Photo by Patricia Presley)


NASHVILLE — No one ever worked harder to promote their career than Marty Stuart has, and with such a talented better half as Connie Smith at home, the pressure mounts. She’s already a Country Music Hall of Famer. So now Stuart’s stepping up to open a combination museum and theater in his birthplace Philadelphia, Miss., that’ll house his vast collection of country music artifacts and promote live performances, when it opens in three years. Reportedly, the Magnolia State will ante up $2 million for the project, as Stuart seeks further private funding. Mississippi has produced some sterling stars on the music scene, including Jimmie Rodgers, Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette, B. B. King, Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters. Marty, now nearing 60, toured in his youth with the likes of Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash, all the while developing a deep respect for roots music. This prompted a desire for “collecting” costumes, instruments, music and what-have-you, pieces now numbering some 20,000. His collection includes such mementos as Patsy Cline’s boots; Hank Williams’ handwritten lyrics; and a suit from Cash, The Man In Black. Stuart’s Sparkle & Twang collectibles have already been exhibited in museums like the Tennessee State Museum, Graceland in Memphis, and Cleveland, Ohio’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Initially, Cash’s Columbia label signed Marty in the mid-1980s, when mainly known as Johnny’s son-in-law (husband to Cindy Cash). After managing only a Top 20 tune “Arlene,” and five follow-ups that tanked, he found himself freshly divorced and out shopping another label. Thanks to MCA’s nibbling, Stuart scored high marks in the early ’90s, via singles “Hillbilly Rock,” “Little Things” and “Tempted,” enhanced by smash follow-up duets with Travis Tritt: “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’,” and “This One’s Gonna Hurt You (For a Long, Long Time).” There was another solo success, “Burn Me Down,” but come Christmas ’92, he found only coal in his stocking, as his year-end disc, “High On a Mountain Top,” couldn’t climb higher than #24. Thus, out of 33 charted Billboard entries, Stuart totaled six Top 10s. Nonetheless, he hung in there and over the next 25 years, kept his name in the news – not always favorably – while fronting an acclaimed band The Fabulous Superlatives, boasting “hillbilly” panache, balanced on a cutting edge. There were occasional albums, “The Marty Party Hit Pack,” “Honky Tonkin’s What I Do Best,” “Live At The Ryman,” tours, and besides being an archivist, he became a photographer of note, snapping shots of fellow craftsmen, images heightened by an insider’s insight. In recognition of multiple talents, Marty earned three Grammys, and in 1992 an invite to become a WSM Grand Ole Opry cast regular. In 2008, the RFD-TV network presented The Marty Stuart Show, a half-hour showcase spotlighting Smith, The Superlatives and Eddie Stubbs, emcee, for six seasons. Last summer, as Connie’s Top 10 best defines it, “Ain’t Love a Good Thing,” with her and Marty marking their 20th anniversary.
      Scene Stealers: Chris Janson took the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, Feb. 5, excited as all get out, for it was one of his two top goals, headlining in this historic venue, since his 2004 arrival, an unknown. He’d even slept in the alley that ran between the Ryman and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, shortly after driving into town at age 18. Like so many wannabes before him, his main wish was to be part of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, where he’s guested numerous times. For that he can thank two near chart-toppers chalked up on Billboard’s Country Airplay list, Platinum-selling “Buy Me a Boat” and “Fix a Drink,” while awaiting the fan verdict on his current Top 40 “Drunk Girl.” During his Ryman gig, little did Chris suspect after he and buddy Keith Urban finished a hard-charging rendition of John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold (The Grundy County Auction),” the superstar would amble back to center stage, but there he was issuing Chris an invitation to join the Opry! Surprised doesn’t cover it, and while imitating a jumping bean at Urban’s invite, he suddenly saw Sally Williams, Opry manager, also on stage, confirming “My dream came true!” An official induction will occur months later . . . Former Ryman Auditorium manager Steve Buchanan, the man responsible for its resurgence as a national venue, who also revitalized WSM’s Opry, and produced the popular TV series Nashville, is movin’ on. Steve turned in his retirement notice as Opryland Entertainment Group chief, after 33 years with the conglomerate, having started in 1985 as marketing manager for historic Grand Ole Opry, a radio program first broadcast in 1925. Buchanan’s pride and joy, Nashville, previously a major network program, is now in its sixth and final season, saying bye-bye on the CMT cable network here. So now Steve wants to try his hand in TV production. According to Colin Reed, CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, “Steve wants to wind down a bit and smell the roses. The things I’ve come to respect about the guy is that he would constantly come and have ideas that were outside of the box ideas. Those creative moments are what I remember with Steve and that’s going to be a void for a period of time.” Buchanan told The Tennessean daily newspaper, “The Opry and the Ryman have been central passions in my life for over 33 years . . . I look at it as my attachment will never diminish, but there are other things I want to do and accomplish. I have a mix of loss, fear and excitement. But it feels like the time to make that leap.” Hello Hollywood? . . . Hockey hero Mike Fisher’s back on the Nashville ice, with the blessing of singer-wife Carrie Underwood, after several months’ retirement. The Predators management seems eager to re-sign the Canadian, before their Feb. 26 deadline. So at 37, Mike could be skating in time to help the team possibly win the coveted Stanley Cup (come June), as play-offs commence in April.
      Bits & Pieces: Publicist Sanford (Sandy) Brokaw has been subpoenaed to testify in court here, Feb. 20, regarding former client Glen Campbell’s competence at the time the singer signed his will that’s now in dispute. Glen died Aug. 8, 2017 at age 81, while suffering from Alzheimer’s, which allegedly started in 2011. The lawsuit filed by Glen’s son William Campbell, one of three children cut off from the singer-songwriter’s estimated $50 million estate, challenged the widow’s 13-page will. William’s attorney Christopher Fowler is taking exception to that 2006 will, and has also subpoenaed two other Campbell children, Kelli and Wesley, excluded from their dad’s estate and a related trust, to testify. Brokaw allegedly will be required to bring pertinent communications related to Campbell’s family and estate, and “provide proof of the decedent’s capacity since 2002.” The widow, Kimberly (Woollen) Campbell, whom he wed in 1982, helped Glen launch a farewell “Goodbye” tour shortly after being diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s, with their final show-date being Nov. 30, 2012 in Napa, Calif. The entertainer was wed four times and fathered eight children, the final three – Cal, Shannon, Ashley – with Kimberly. They appeared with their dad, backing him on his farewell tour. Campbell became a born-again Chrisian in his final days, joining a Messianic Synagogue with Kim. Brokaw has declined to comment on the case . . . Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and hubby Chris Tyrrell are proud parents of twin girls, Betsy Mack and Emory JoAnn, born Jan. 30. Equally proud is daughter Eisele, 4, and musical maternal grandparents Linda (“Some Things Are Meant To Be”) Davis and Lang Scott. Hillary says she’ll be ready to join Lady A’s Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood for their Summer Plays Tour with co-headliner Darius Rucker, beginning July 19 in Canada. Meantime, Lady A’s “Heart Break” is steadily moving up the charts . . . Former teen country star Jessica Andrew (#1 “Who I Am”) and singer-director husband Marcel Chagnon welcomed son Rockwell, her first baby, Feb. 6. On Instagram, Feb. 9, she posted the following: “How do you even figure out words to describe feelings that you didn’t know you could have? I’ll just say welcome to this world my beautiful baby boy,” accompanied by a picture of their newborn . . . Kenny Chesney signed a new recording pact with Warner Music, much to the chagrin of Sony Music Nashville. His singles will actually be released henceforth under his own imprint Blue Chair, now a subsidiary of Warner Records . . . The Steel Drivers, former band for Chris Stapleton, have announced the signing of Kelvin Damrell, a newcomer from historic country town of Berea, Ky., home to Berea College and once stomping grounds for Country Music Hall of Famer Red Foley. Damrell, a guitarist, will be the band’s new lead vocalist. Last year, Stapleton’s replacement Gary Nichols flew the coop, prompting the band to try-out potential successors, with Damrell being the final choice. Next up, SteelDrivers are studio bound to record a follow-up to their 2015 Grammy-winning “Muscle Shoals Sessions,” and hopefully have it out before year’s end . . . Grand Ole Opry member Eddie Montgomery has confided he hopes to continue the MontgomeryGentry sound, despite having lost partner Troy Gentry in a helicopter crash last Sept. 8. Eddie said their last studio album “Here’s To You,” wrapped two days before his untimely passing, and was released Feb. 2, reportedly their first in three years. He launched the 2018 tour they’d planned together, simultaneously to the CD release, sharing the bill with Halfway To Hazard. Next to Eddie on stage will be Troy’s guitar and mic stand. (So much for our idea that he might team up with brother John Michael.) . . . Spotted at the Grammys was Reba McEntire, who recently made news linking up with KFC’s Col. Sanders, complete in grey-beard and costume, to plug a new barbecue fried chicken; however, it wasn’t a Kentucky colonel on her arm. The fiery redhead introduced him saucily as her new beau, Skeeter Lasuzzo, but that’s all we know about him right now, just a name. She was a winner herself that night . . . Craig Morgan’s new reality show premiers on UP-TV March 1, titled Morgan Family Strong, features the Opry star and his wife Karen, daughter Alexandra and sons Kyle and Wyatt. Reportedly viewers will see the Morgans “juggling life at home and on the road, including opening a family store – The Gallery.” They won’t forget son Jerry, who lost his life in a tragic boating accident, as they come together in sharing that heartache. Jerry was featured regularly on the artist’s All Access Outdoors program, going into its ninth season on the Outdoor Channel. Morgan hits include “Almost Home,” “Redneck Yahct Club” and “That’s What I Love About Sunday.”
      Radio Friendly: As the New Faces’ annual showcase signed off Nashville’s Country Radio Seminar, Feb. 9, we’re satisfied country’s still in good hands. The 2018 line-up came across loud and clear: Lauren Alaina, Luke Combs, Midland, Carly Pearce and Michael Ray. Regular readers of CMP know CRS is a three-day industry conference of sorts usually covered, consisting of discussions, speeches, panels, lunches, showcases and more importantly, networking. For a final $600 registration rate, CRS chief Bill Mayne promised attendees the event “will empower you with an incredible array of new, innovating ideas to improve your skill sets and perspective to create sustainable results for your business. You will also experience more stellar country music performances than ever before!” Not so sure about that last sentence, but it was nice seeing singer Dierks Bentley earned the CRS Artist Humanitarian Award, courtesy Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Assuredly, the labels trotted out their stars throughout the week, among them Jason Aldean, Ashley McBryde, Chris Stapleton, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Darius Rucker, Drake White, Brett Young, Sugarland and Brad Paisley. Since the New Faces gala was launched in 1970, it has emerged as one of the most sought-after showcases for rising stars to strut their stuff before a media mix of key radio and record honchos. Kicking off the New Faces Show was Kentucky high school dropout Pearce, piercing the silence with four cuts from her fall 2017 CD. At 16, Carly lit out for Pigeon Forge, Tenn., to perform regularly at Dollywood. No doubt that endeavor inspired her move to Nashville, where initially she signed with Sony Music, but had little luck there. Next, Scott Borchetta signed her to the Big Machine label, and last year Carly scored with a #1 Billboard Country Airplay debut, “Every Little Thing,” selling gold (500,000 units). Pearce proved once again, thanks to “Every Little Thing” and “Hide the Wine,” she’s truly an artist to watch. Back in Luke Combs’ Asheville, N.C. high school days, he was a football hero on campus. And he made many a maidens’ heart beat a little faster here, thanks in part to performing back-to-back Country Airplay #1’s “Hurricane” and “When It Rains It Pours.” The husky, bearded balladeer’s latest “One Number Away” is equally pleasing to the ears. Incidentally, Luke’s Columbia album “This One’s For You” also chalked up #1 status in 2017. Another media favorite is Midland, a colorful Texas band that burst forth on Billboard last year with their near chart-topping Big Machine CD “On The Rocks.” Comprising this hot unit are Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy and Mark Wystrach, who as Midland, spent time touring in ’17 as an opening act for Faith Hill-Tim McGraw’s Soul2Soul World Tour. Mesmerized by Midland’s musically musing “Drinkin’ Problem,” it’s understandable why it became an easy #1 last fall. Another in the TV reality contest competitors’ alumnae, Alaina Lauren, 23, late of American Idol’s 10th season, at least boasts two chart-toppers: “Road Less Traveled” and “What Ifs” (the latter guesting on Kane Brown’s disc). Hey, she’s also been on a motion picture screen – “Road Less Traveled” – and a music video about that same hit song earned her a CMT best breakthrough video nod. Lauren’s studio CD’s “Wildflower” and, of course, “Road Less Traveled” both became Top Five albums. It was apparent she was a clear favorite of a huge segment in the New Faces’ audience, with winning performances on “Three” and her new single “Doin’ Fine.” Bad boy Michael Ray, who got pulled over for driving under the influence over Christmas, is a roguish, romantic, radio-friendly crooner, who hit the ground running with his initial Warner tracks, “Kiss You In the Morning” and “Think a Little Less.” He delivered his newest offering “Her World Or Mine” in relatively fine fashion here . . . but only time will tell whether it’ll have the listener appeal of the previous hits. Overall, CRS’s talented New Faces seem to possess the staying power so requisite to showbiz achievement, and judging by their rousing reception from hundreds of country radio pros, the clock’s ticking in their favor.
      Awards: The national Songwriters Hall of Fame committee has announced its newest inductees into its Hall of Fame, among them country composers Bill Anderson and Alan Jackson, already members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and all-genre writer Steve Dorff. A truly diverse writer, Dorff numbers include such songs as “Easy Love” for Dionne Warwick, “Miracle” for Celine Dion, and “Pirate” for Cher; however, he has supplied songs for country artists like Kenny Rogers, “Through the Years”; Eddie Rabbitt, “Every Which Way But Loose”; Anne Murray, “I Just Fall In Love Again”; Mel Tillis’ “Coca Cola Cowboy”; and George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart.” Anderson’s hits began in 1958, during his college years when he furnished Ray Price’s monster hit “City Lights,” and in the 1960s’ sang many of his own hits, including “Tips Of My Fingers,” “Mama Sang A Song,” “Still,” on into the 1970s with “Quits,” “Sometimes,” while also through the years supplying others a la Lefty Frizzell’s “Saginaw, Michigan,” Conway Twitty’s “I May Never Get To Heaven,” Kenny Chesney’s “A Lot of Things Different,” Brad Paisley-Alison Krauss’ “Whiskey Lullaby,” George Strait’s “Give It Away” and Sugarland’s “Joey.” Jackson, of course, penned his own, ranging from his 1990 breakthrough song “Here In the Real World,” onward to #1’s such as “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Chattahoochee,” “Where I Come From,” “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” “Drive” and “Remember When,” plus collaborating with others, notably Randy Travis’ #1 “Forever Together.” The inductees will be enshrined officially at the 49th annual Songwriters Hall of Fame banquet, in New York City’s Marriott Hotel, June 14 . . . The 60th annual Grammy Awards, Jan. 28, meant good news for country hitmaker Chris Stapleton, who won big: best country solo performance for “Either Way”; best song for “Broken Halos,” which he co-wrote with Mike Henderson; and best album, for “From a Room: Volume One,” co-produced by Chris and Dave Cobb. (Incidentally, Stapleton’s 2015 debut album “Traveller” also earned them a Grammy.) Little Big Town scored this year for best group performance, thanks to their single “Better Man,” penned by Taylor Swift and produced by Jay Joyce. Country diva Reba McEntire nabbed a Grammy for her album “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope” in the Gospel Roots category. Bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent added another win to her collection, for “All the Rage: In Concert, Vol. 1 (Live),” in a tie for best bluegrass album; the other winner being Infamous Stringdusters’ “Laws of Gravity.” Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit scored multiple wins in the Americana division: best Americana album for “The Nashville Sound,” produced by Dave Cobb, and best roots song for “If We Were Vampires,” both for the act and Jason as songwriter.
     Final Curtain: Steel guitarist Stu Basore, 80, died Feb. 5 in Madison, Tenn. A Life Member of the AFM Nashville Musicians Association, Local 257, Basore was equally adept on Dobro guitar. His keening steel is heard to good advantage on the Dolly Parton #1 singles “Jolene,” “I Will Always Love You,” “Love Is Like a Butterfly,” Mary McGregor’s classic “Torn Between Two Lovers,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “When Two Worlds Collide” and Jean Shepard’s “Slippin’ Away.” Stuart was born May 3, 1937 to Floyd C. & Grace (Ulrich) Basore at Fort Monroe, Va., where his father served at the time. As son of an Army Air Corps’ officer, Stu good-naturedly regarded himself as a “military brat,” but enjoyed their travels in both the U.S.A. and France. Eventually his family settled in Aurora, Colo., which he long regarded as home. At age 11, he began learning the steel guitar, essentially self-taught, though he did study at the Honolulu Conservatory of Music in Denver, Colo. Taking a cue from dad, Stu served in the U.S. Air Force from 1956-1960. In 1963, Stu settled in Nashville, where he was soon hired as a Tennessee Mountain Boy, the touring band for singer-songwriter Johnnie Wright (“Hello Vietnam”) and wife Kitty Wells, Queen of Country Music. Their act included singer-daughter Ruby Wright (“Dern Ya”) and fellow artist Bill Phillips (“Put It Off Until Tomorrow”). Basore also performed with such notable entertainers as Tex Ritter, Connie Smith, George Hamilton IV and Marie Osmond. Others backed in the studio include Louis Armstrong, Joan Baez, Doug Kershaw, Mel McDaniel, Joe Simon, Kitty Wells, Charley Pride, John Prine, Mother Maybelle Carter and Iris DeMent. Basore can also be heard on the movie cast albums for “Nashville,” “W.W. & The Dixie Dance Kings” and “J.W. Coop.” Besides performing on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, his credits include The Waking Crew and The Porter Wagoner Show. He was in the show band backing Mandy Barnett in the stage musicals “Always, Patsy Cline” and “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline.” Stu was an avid golfer, reportedly hitting not one but two hole-in-one shots, as well as enjoying fishing and jammin’ with his musical buddies. In 2005, Stu was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from ROPE (Reunion of Professional Entertainers). Survivors include his wife of 52 years Marsha (Gray) Basore, daughters Kelly Milam and Rebecca Michelle Martin; and granddaughter Maggie Milam. Services were conducted Feb. 10 at Spring Hill Memorial Funeral Home & Cemetery, by Pastor Mark Caulk (of Stafford, Va.) in Nashville. The family respectfully suggested in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Local 257 Musicians Relief Fund, Box 120399, Nashville, TN 37212, or Alive Hospice, Nashville.
Guitarist George McCormick, 84, died Feb. 5 at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, Cookeville, Tenn. Born June 19, 1933 in Death Creek, Tenn., he began playing guitar at an early age. Early on, he cut his performing teeth with Big Jeff Bess & The Radio Playboys on WLAC-Nashville. Country-gospel star Martha Carson (“Satisfied”) heard and hired him in 1951 for her touring band, which gave him his debut on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. In 1953, he briefly landed an MGM artist development deal, but none of his singles clicked, mainly because some said he was mimicking the label’s legendary Hank Williams. During the mid-1950s, he was half of the George & Earl rockabilly duo, partnered with Earl Aycock, whom he met in Carson’s band. They were good enough that Mercury Records signed the act, recording several titles, such as “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes,” “Cry Baby Cry,” but alas none of these caught on, and they split up. Aycock signed with MGM, while McCormick joined the Louvin Brothers. A celebrated picker, George also played bass fiddle and spent some 47 years with the Grand Ole Opry, backing a host of notables, like Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper and Jim Reeves instrumentally and on harmony vocals. In the studio, he supported such as Porter Wagoner, playing on his classic 1965 hit “Green, Green Grass of Home” and as part of his Wagonmasters band for years, both on Porter’s popular syndicated TV series, as well as out on the road. Survivors include wife Betty (Norrod) McCormick, daughters Teresa, Trilene, Mindi and Anita, and step-daughter Helen; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Services were conducted Feb. 9 in Cookeville.
    Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Lari White, 52, died in Hospice care Feb. 23, after suffering peritoneal cancer, diagnosed as advanced last September. She’s best remembered for her Top 10 hits “That’s My Baby,” “That’s How You Know (When You’re In Love),” both co-written with hubby Chuck Cannon, and “Now I Know” all recorded in 1994 for her “Wishes” CD. Her Top 20 credits are: “Ready, Willing and Able,” her co-write “Stepping Stone” and a duet “Helping Me Get Over You” with Travis Tritt, that they co-wrote. Among others recording her compositions were Patti Page, Danny Gokey, Sarah Buxton, Pat Green and Lonestar. Lari also recorded a duet with Toby Keith (“Only God Could Stop Me Loving You”), and produced his 2005 album “White Trash With Money.” A year earlier she co-produced Billy Dean’s album “Let Them Be Little” and, of course, her own debut album “Lead Me Not” (with Rodney Crowell and Steuart Smith) back in 1993. She was born Lari Michele White, May 13, 1965 in Dunedin, Fla., to Yvonne & Larry White. When little more than a toddler she joined her parents and siblings Natasha and Torne on stage as part of The White Family Singers gospel group. Despite a childhood loss of a little finger, she learned to play piano and guitar. As she advanced in years, Lari performed in White Sound, a rock band. Following graduation from the University of Miami, where she studied music engineering and voice, Lari relocated to Nashville. In 1988, she competed in TNN’s talent competition You Can Be a Star, winning first place. Top prize was a Capitol Records’ contract, resulting in a single release “Flying Above the Rain,” before being dropped. She signed for music publishing with Ronnie Milsap’s company, landing cuts with such notables as Shelby Lynne (“What About The Love We Made”) and Tammy Wynette (“Where’s the Fire”). Lari also took acting lessons, and answered a call in 1991 for a backup singer with Rodney Crowell. The following year she landed another development deal, this time RCA’s, and subsequently her “Lead Me Not” album. But it was “Wishes” which made her a star, selling more than a half-million albums, thereby certified Gold and crossed into the pop market. When her follow-up album, “Don’t Fence Me In,” failed to chart more than six weeks, she was again a free-lancer, though RCA did distribute a third collection “The Best Of Lari White,” reprising her earlier singles. In 1998, White was on the Lyric Street label with a promising single “Stepping Stone,” peaking at #16, over 20 weeks, and garnering some pop airplay (#73), before dropping off the chart. Lyric Street produced an album on her, also titled “Stepping Stone.” White finally put those acting lessons to good use, appearing on Broadway in a country music-oriented 2006 production “Ring Of Fire,” plus in films: “XXX’s & OOO’s” (1994), “Cast Away,” “Big Eden” (both in 2000), “No Regrets” (2004) and “Country Strong” (2010). In 2007, Lari performed a cabaret act at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, and commemorated it with a live soundtrack album “My First Affair,” which included two of her creations: “Minor Changes” and “Over And Over.” Her final effort, a double album, “Old Friends, New Loves” was released in 2017, on her indie label Skinny White Girl Records. It marked her 25th anniversary, featuring Lee Roy Parnell, Suzy Bogguss and Delbert McClinton as guest artists. White’s Grammy wins were all for gospel tracks: “Amazing Grace: A Country Salute To Gospel” 1996; “Amazing Grace . . . 2” 1998; and “The Apostle” soundtrack, 1999, on which she performed “There Is Power In the Blood.” Survivors include her husband of 23 years, Chuck Cannon; and their children M’Kenzy, Kyra Ciel and Jaxon.