Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 17 January 2018

January 17th, 2018

Johnny Bush is still going strong, as he approaches his 83rd birthday. He records for BGM Records, owns a tour bus, and travels with his 6-piece band, the Bandoleros. “I’m working as much as I ever did,” he told me when I called him the other day. “And making a lot more money than I ever did.”

His first hit, in 1969, was the Marty Robbins song, “You Gave Me a Mountain.” In 1972, under a new contract with RCA Victor, he released his own composition, “Whiskey River.” Then his life changed. “It was the pinnacle of my career, when I was really rockin’ and rollin’, when it happened,” he says. “My voice just slammed shut.” Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 3 January 2018

January 3rd, 2018

Fifty-eight years ago, as our nation moved into 1960, “El Paso” was riding at the top of Billboard’s country AND pop charts. In 2016, the Library of Congress chose the Marty Robbins album, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, as one of its 25 annual additions to the National Recording Registry. I was asked to write an essay about the album. You can find it here: https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/recording-registry/index-of-essays/ Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 20 December 2017

December 20th, 2017

Leon Rhodes (1932-2017)
The last early member of Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadour band has died. Leon Rhodes, 85, died December 9 at his Nashville area home. By age 16, the young Texan was already gaining acclaim for his precision guitar playing in the Big D Jamboree band. Lefty Frizzell and Ray Price hired him to play on their Texas sessions, before he joined Ernest Tubb in 1960, as lead guitarist with the Texas Troubadours. In 1966, he left the road to be an Opry staff musician. He stayed there until 2003, when management fired the legendary players in an attempt to update the Opry image and attract a younger audience. Leon also served as a session musician and spent 25 years in the Hee Haw house band. In 2014, he was profiled as one of the Nashville Cats by the Country Music Hall of Fame. His funeral was held December 12 in Old Hickory, Tennessee. Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 6 December 2017

December 6th, 2017

When I called Ernie Reed, it was the day after Mel Tillis’s funeral and burial in Clarksville, Tennessee. “I was glad when yesterday ended,” he told me. The funeral was a private event for family, friends, and Mel’s band, the Statesiders. Ernie had known Mel for 50 years, having first played in the band in 1967. I asked if he’d seen Mel recently. “I saw him in the hospital here in Nashville,” he said. “He weighed about 120 pounds.” Mel was sleeping, so Ernie sat in a chair and waited. When Mel awoke and saw Ernie, his first words were, “We need some bookings.” Ernie responded, “When you get out of that bed, we’ll get some bookings.” Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 22 November 2017

November 22nd, 2017

Mel Tillis (1932-2017)
Mel Tillis, 85, died of respiratory failure on November 19 at the Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. After colon surgery in Nashville in January 2016, he’d gone home to Ocala for medical care and physical therapy. He never recovered. Lonnie Melvin Tillis was one of the best, and best-loved, country entertainers ever. A Florida native, he began stuttering after a bout with malaria as a child. He served in the Air Force as a baker in the early 1950s. “People asked me if I served my country,” Mel once told Country Weekly. “I always tell them I sure did. I served cakes, pies and donuts.” His 1966 hit, “Stateside,” immortalized his Air Force time on Okinawa. After moving to Nashville in 1957, and finding success as a songwriter and singer, he named his band the Statesiders. Later awards included CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1976, induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. His family will soon release information about funeral services in Florida and Nashville. Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 8 November 2017

November 8th, 2017

Billy Mize (1929-2017)
One of the last remaining founders of the “Bakersfield Sound” has died. William Robert Mize, 88, died October 28 at a nursing home in Pleasanton, California. He was a singer, songwriter, steel guitarist, and television host. The Academy of Country Music chose him as TV Personality of the Year three years in a row, 1965-1967. His most famous song was Charlie Walker’s “Who Will Buy the Wine.” He played steel guitar on recording sessions for Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Merle Travis, and others. For a time, he was one of Merle Haggard’s Strangers. A stroke in 1988, at age 59, kept him from speaking clearly for many years. Billy Mize regained his ability to sing and performed at his 80th birthday party. Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 25 October 2017

October 25th, 2017

Jeannie Seely entertained for ninety minutes at the Performing Arts Center in Sisseton, South Dakota, on October 15. The audience in the almost-full theater chose to spend Sunday afternoon with this Grammy Award winner and 50-year Grand Ole Opry member. Jeannie was accompanied by Tim Atwood, Opry pianist and Nashville session musician. Tim played keyboard and sang a few songs of his own. They wrapped up with several duets. Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 11 October 2017

October 11th, 2017

In his Saturday Night Live debut, Jason Aldean gave a tribute to the victims of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. Cmt.com reports it was his first public appearance since the night 58 people were killed and 489 injured when a gunman opened fire on the crowd of 22,000 fans on Las Vegas Boulevard. Jason had been the headline act to close the sold-out three-day event. He canceled three shows in California following the shooting. Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 27 September 2017

September 27th, 2017

We remember Marty Robbins on September 26, the 92nd anniversary of his birth.

My first memory of Garth Brooks is 1990. When I moved to Jacksonville, Florida, from Guam, the radio airwaves and nightclubs were filled with the sounds of his wonderful music. I bought his first two CDs, Garth Brooks and No Fences. The songs on them are still as familiar as 27 years ago. Some of his music since then I haven’t cared for, but if you want to attract the size of crowds he attracts, you have to cover a wide variety. It seems he always has another “Beaches of Cheyenne” in the wings, to counteract the non-country stuff. I’ve consistently admired him for trying so hard to fight scalpers and keep his tickets affordable. He could easily increase his bottom line by charging more than $78. He impresses me as a humble person who truly appreciates his fans. Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 13 September 2017

September 13th, 2017

Don Williams (1939-2017)
“The Gentle Giant,” Don Williams, died September 8 after a short illness. He was 78. Born and raised in Texas, he won his first talent contest at age three. The prize was an alarm clock. His first chart-topping song was “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t Love Me. Other #1s included “Tulsa Time,” “She Never Knew Me,” “I Believe In You,” and “If Hollywood Don’t Need You.” He retired from touring in 2006–but not for long. He returned to the road in 2010, the same year he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He retired again in 2016. The press release announcing his death quotes him as saying then, “It’s time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home. I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting love and support.” Funeral arrangements are pending. Read the rest of this entry »