Music City Beat – May 2017

Music City Beat – May 2017

NASHVILLE — During a recent press tour, Lily Tomlin, whom we first interviewed in 1978 (regarding her “Moment By Moment” film flop with John Travolta), was in good spirits, plugging her current acting venture, the Netflix series “Grace & Frankie.” Accompanied by co-star Jane Fonda, the pair reminisced on a much earlier shared classic, “9 To 5,” as well as their just renewed series. Asked when they first decided their secretarial satire would be a success, Tomlin smiled, thinking back on their collaboration which exposed sexism on the job, “Dolly (Parton) came in and said ‘I think I’ve got a song for our movie,’ and literally began making the melody with those long acrylic fingernails and then started singing the entire song to us. Then we were excited.” Of course, it was a stroke of genius for Dolly, doing her first film, as her song was nominated for a best song Oscar, earned her two Grammy awards (best performance and best song), charted #1 (both pop and country), spawned a #1 album (and later was adapted as a TV series and Broadway musical). Fonda, whose IPC company produced their screen comedy, became interested in Parton upon hearing her on the car radio, thinking “how great it would be to have her in this film.” Tomlin was her first casting choice, after seeing her solo in a Broadway show (“Appearing Nitely”). The ladies volunteered there was some thought about a “9 To 5” reunion flick, but added “Dolly’s just been so involved in that Smoky Mountain fire tragedy project . . . she has such a good heart.” Meantime, Parton’s good-natured concern is they’re all past retirement age now!
Bits & Pieces: Dolly Parton represents really big business these days. According to her Dollywood Company president, the result of a 2017 impact study shows their income is topping $1.5 billion. Craig Ross, who noted the study was accomplished by the University of Tennessee, continued, “As we looked at where we were a number of years ago, recognizing that strong position that we had on entertainment, we also felt like we had the opportunity to really own a strong position on attractions, and by that I mean rides and things other than the richness of the entertainment offerings. So in 2013, we said that we could invest $300 million over the course of the next 10 years to carry Dollywood to the next level and to evolve from a local theme park with strong entertainment to a more full-fledged family destination.” The firm now employs in excess of 19,000 East Tennesseans . . . Carrie Underwood, no longer on Sony Music’s roster, just signed with Capitol Records (in the Universal Music Group). According to UMG chief Lucian Grainge, “As a talented writer, recording artist, performer and actor, Carrie is that exceptionally rare artist who can do it all. I know I speak on behalf of our teams around the world, when I say that we look forward to executing her creative vision and bringing her musical career to the next level.” (Executing?) . . . Cast members are cheering being picked up for a sixth season of their Nashville series, marking its second with CMT, after being dumped by ABC last year due to low ratings. Of course, it helps that local governments are subsidizing the show, despite the departure of popular star Connie Britton, who’s moving on to try other things. Meantime, CMT’s eight-part former Million Dollar Quartet series was retitled Sun Records, and Billy Ray Cyrus’s Still The King series adds a new cast member, Ben Savage, this summer . . . There’s a new Madame Tussaud’s in Nashville, but unlike its original British museum operation, concentration will be on Music City’s historic figures, among them Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Little Jimmy Dickens, Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Waylon Jennings, Darius Rucker, and yes, Taylor Swift. Situated in Opry Mills, it officially opened April 14, and reportedly marks the wax attraction’s seventh U.S. site and 22nd globally . . . Publicist Martha Moore has shared with us that there’s now a Hank Cochran Pen Fund, co-founded by his daughter Booth and his widow Suzi, to aid cancer-stricken members of the Nashville songwriting community. Hank, who gave us such classic songs as “Make the World Go Away,” “A Little Bitty Tear” and “I Fall To Pieces,” also suffered from the dreaded disease which claimed his life in 2010. His Pen Fund planned an April 25 benefit boasting such star writers as Dean Dillon, Buddy Cannon and Roger’s son Dean Miller, at 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville. Suzi says, the fund is a much-needed aid, “We do everything from paying rent to assisting with household chores. We were fortunate enough to not need help when Hank became ill. That’s not true for many others.” . . . American artists are crossing their fingers that the newly introduced Fair Play, Fair Pay Act passes Congress, which would force broadcasters to pay artists and labels, when playing their songs. Part of a broader bill on copyrights being proposed by bipartisan congressmen Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., it would ensure royalties be paid to singers and companies as well. Current law dictates broadcasters ante up for songwriters and their music publishers. Radio honchos contend the artists and labels enjoy substantial promotional value when their tunes air, and announcers also plug records and upcoming concert tours on their behalf. Currently, internet radio and streaming sites such as Pandora, Apple and Spotify do pay labels if their songs are performed. Singers and musicians rightfully grouse that non-paying broadcasters profit from their talents without offering any compensation. Meantime, the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) has signaled its support of the Issa-Deutch proposal, and as CEO Cary Sherman stated, in part, “We look forward to working with the chairman, Rep. Deutch, and their colleagues on finally resolving the performance rights loophole.”
Scene Stealers: Hot balladeer Frankie Ballard, 34 (“Helluva Life,” “Young & Crazy”) said he wed Christina Murphy, at a ranch near Austin, Texas, March 12. Fans learned of their nuptials when Frankie posted: “Someday baby, you’ll accomp’ny me . . . and that day is today!” Of course, the Battle Creek, Mich. native was referring in part to his latest single, Bob Seger’s “You’ll Accomp’ny Me.” . . . Maybe Charlie Daniels got the writer’s bug after penning the Foreword for his boyhood heroe’s bio, “Mac Wiseman: All My Memories Fit For Print,” because now he’s heavily involved in his own memoir, “Never Look At The Empty Seats,” for W Publishing, an imprint of Nashville’s Thomas Nelson Group. It’s slated for an Oct. 24 release in hardback. No doubt Charlie’s got quite a story to tell, having a career that’s spanned some six decades, harking back to his musician days at studio sessions for such stalwarts as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. A rockin’ crossover artist, Daniels scored his own hit singles like “Uneasy Rider,” “Long-Haired Country Boy” and Grammy-winning signature song, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” (1979). More recently, he’s become a cast member of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry (2008) and an inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame (2016). Charlie’s suffered cancer, strokes and has a heart-pacemaker; however, he’s still a strong supporter of the troops, entertaining and raising funds for his Journey Home Project, assisting returning vets to find their way in civilian life. An outspoken right-wing Republican, he’s expressed his raw viewpoints in a 2003 book, “Ain’t No Rag: Freedom, Family & The Flag,” and regularly via an internet blog: CharlieDaniels.com . . . Dierks Bentley’s wife Cassidy ran in the April 17 Boston Marathon, in an effort to enrich favorite charity Safe Haven, which targets the homeless of Nashville. A mom to daughters Jordan, Evie and son Knox, she began running for fitness, 10 years ago, and has since participated in her first Boston Marathon and yet another run, in her home-state Arizona, held in Phoenix. For this second 26-plus mile race in Boston, she decided to call on family and friends to donate on her behalf to benefit the Safe Haven charity. (Those interested could donate on line via CassRunsBoston17.com) . . . Former Nashville resident Gregg Allman, 69, canceled the remainder of his 2017 tours, without offering media any explanation, but those close to him know that he’s recently suffered health issues. Last summer, he journeyed to the Mayo Clinic undergoing medical care, postponing shows, finally returning to perform in October. Like the late Martha Carson, Gregg said he’s went on to perform while suffering health-wise, but once that spotlight hits and you soak up the audience energy, you bounce back. Currently a bachelor, he’s been divorced five times (once from Cher), and is father to five. His successful singles include “Midnight Rider,” “I’m No Angel” and “Can’t Get Over You.” His recent CD’s “Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, Ga.”
Honors: The 52nd Academy of Country Music awards proved a ratings winner for CBS, televised live from Las Vegas, April 2, with Miranda Lambert, Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line emerging double winners. Although Keith Urban led in number of nominations (seven), his take-home tally was zip. Jason Aldean eclipsed him as well for the night’s top trophy Entertainer of the Year, repeating last year’s win of that prize. Seemingly surprised, Jason blurted, out “You guys don’t know how much I love getting up and doing what I do every day!” Then in a respectful salute to losing nominees Urban, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Carrie Underwood, he added, “I have nothing but respect for all you guys. Such an amazing group of artists, I’m just glad to get to be a part of it.” Here are the the other winners: Lambert, best female vocalist; Rhett, best male vocalist; The Brothers Osborne, best vocal duo; Little Big Town, best group; Lambert’s “Weight of These Wings,” best album; Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man,” best song (shared with co-writers Sean Douglas, Joe Spargur); Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.,” best single; Florida Georgia Line’s “May We All” with Tim McGraw, best vocal event; and “Forever Country,” Artists of Then, Now & Forever (project), won director Joseph Kahn, best video award. Oh, the best new singers are: Maren Morris, female; and Jon Pardi, male. Big closer for the telecast was the 1990s’ pop-rock group Backstreet Boys’ collaboration with Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. The latter pair amazed front-row onlookers like Tim McGraw, by accurately rendering Backstreet Boys’ intricate dance moves, following their “God, Your Mama and Me” and the boy band’s classic “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” as all seven executed BB’s dance steps making for an exciting super-finale . . . The Country Music Hall of Fame just added a trio of names to its illustrious roster of the genre’s finest talents: Alan Jackson, Don Schlitz and the late Jerry Reed, each in his particular category. Jackson and Reed are both Georgia natives, while songwriter Schlitz, 64, hails from North Carolina. He’s also a member of the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, thanks to such stellar songs as “The Gambler” (which he charted first for Capitol in ’78), a #1 for Kenny Rogers; “When You Say Nothing At All,” a #1 for Keith Whitley; and “Forever & Ever, Amen,” a #1 for Randy Travis. Either Jackson, modern era, or Reed, veteran era, could qualify in the songwriter category, as each has also written hits. Jackson, 58, co-wrote Travis’ #1 “Forever Together,” and for himself penned such as “Here In the Real World,” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Chattahoochie” and “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” citing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Reed, of course, was renowned for penning such successes as “Amos Moses,” “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” and “East Bound, And Down,” heard in his movie “Smokey & The Bandit” with Burt Reynolds. Reed, husband of singer Priscilla Mitchell (“Yes, Mr. Peters”), died in 2008 at age 71. The official Medallion Ceremony for the new inductees will occur in October 2017. (That’s Alan Jackson in the following photo.)

More Honors: Grand Ole Opry diva Jeannie Seely, 76, has been honored by the state of Tennessee, with a House of Representatives Resolution marking her countless contributions to music and her 50th year as an Opry cast member. Seely, of course, earned a 1966 Grammy Award for rendering ex-hubby Hank Cochran’s weeper “Don’t Touch Me,” and went on to score with Top 10s like “I’ll Love You More” and “Wish I Didn’t Have To Miss You” (with Jack Greene), earning her the sobriquet Miss Country Soul . . . Marty Robbins’ classic 1959 C&W concept album “Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs” was selected for addition to the National Recording Registry, March 29, as the National Library’s Carla Hayden (official Librarian) noted, “This year’s exciting list gives us a full range of sound experiences . . these sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation’s cultural history, and our history in general.” Other genre choices were country gospel group The Chuck Wagon Gang’s 1948 “I’ll Fly Away” LP; Big Mama Thornton’s 1953 #1 “Hound Dog”; and Judy Garland’s iconic “Over The Rainbow” from MGM’s movie soundtrack “The Wizard of Oz.”
Ailing: Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Cook, 67, has disclosed that his Parkinson’s Disease affliction (affecting the nervous system) is causing him to bow out of future Alabama gigs, starting April 29. “This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance and causes tremors,” explained Jeff, in a written statement released to media. “For me, this has made it extremely frustrating to try and play guitar, fiddle or sing. I’ve tried not to burden anyone with with the details of my condition because I do not want the music to stop or the party to end, and that won’t change, no matter what. Let me say, I’m not calling it quits, but sometimes our bodies dictate what we have to do, and mine is telling me it’s time to take a break and heal.” He cited two exceptions, hoping to be on hand for pre-arranged shows, the first in Florida in May, and the other, a fan-oriented stint here in June. Alabama members say his mic will still be on stage in acknowledgment, even if he doesn’t appear. The Country Music Hall of Fame group logged 33 #1 Billboard chart singles, which boast Cook, his cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry, and drummer Mark Herndon, plus another 19 additional Top 10 hits. Their last chart-topper was “Old Alabama” with Brad Paisley (2011). Among earlier singles were: “Feels So Right,” “Mountain Music” and “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.”
Final Curtain Call: Ben Speer, 86, a musical member of the famed Speer Family Singers, died April 7. He was also a music publisher, record executive and music director of the Bill Gaither Homecoming programs. Born June 26, 1930 in Double Springs, Ala., he was the youngest of Lena and George Speer’s children. Most of his career was spent singing with the renowned Speer Family, and as a member he was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame (1995), Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame (1998) and recognized by the Southern Gospel Piano Roll of Honor in 2002. Survivors include wife Rebekah (Long) Speer, children Stephen, Darin and Rosa Nell Speer-Powell, and several grandchildren. Services were held April 11 at First Church of the Nazarene, Nashville, with interment in Woodlawn Memorial Park.
Steel-guitarist Don Warden, 87, died March 12. He earned prominence performing with country greats Porter Wagoner (including as part of Porter’s trio) and Dolly Parton (whom he managed from 1974 onward). Fans remember him as an integral member of Wagoner’s long-running Porter Wagoner telecasts. Donald Charles Warden was born March 27, 1929, son of The Rev. Charles and Eva Jane Warden, in Mountain Grove, Mo. Following service with Army Intelligence, he started his career in music, succeeding in playing on The Ozark Jubilee and Shreveport’s Louisiana Hayride. Among artists he performed with earlier were Red Sovine, Norma Jean and The Wilburn Brothers. Don was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2008, the same year he last shared the stage with Parton, who said in a press release, “He was like a father, a brother, a partner and one of my best friends. I feel like a piece of my heart is missing today. Certainly a huge piece of my life is gone.” Survivors include wife Lois (Bybee) Warren, son Charles, and grandchildren Courtney Barlar and Chase Warden. Honorary Pallbearers are members of the Nashville Musicians Union (AFM Local 257). Funeral services were conducted in Christ Church, March 16, with interment at Christ Church Memorial Gardens.