Shania Twain is releasing her first album in 15 years–and her first since being diagnosed with dysphonia. She spent years in voice therapy to overcome hoarseness and speech difficulties caused by the vocal-cord disorder. Her voice is still recognizable, but deeper than it used to be. “I’m a different singer now,” she told Rolling Stone Country. “There was a lot of coming to terms with that. It’s been one of the obstacles in my life I’ve just had to learn to live with.” She attributes her illness to stress, largely due to ex-husband Robert “Mutt” Lange and their 2010 divorce. The still untitled album will be released in May. Shania is writing all the songs herself. “It needed to be really pure and my own story and my own emotional journey,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be related to Mutt’s productions at all. I wanted a more organic approach.” The songs are darker and less pop than her hits of the 1990s.
Also recovering from dysphonia is Alison Krauss, who was diagnosed with the vocal cord disorder in 2013. “I’d go onstage and it would shut down. In the studio, my throat would close up,” she told The Tennessean. “That was a pain in the neck. Literally.” With the help of a voice teacher, she regained her singing ability and finished her latest album, Windy City. Released last week, her first solo record in 18 years has a melancholy tone. “I thought the record had loss, but it was still strong,” she says. “It was a sad record, but it wasn’t desperate.”
Rayna Jaymes is dead. The main character of TV’s Nashville was hospitalized after a car crash on last week’s episode; she didn’t survive. Variety reports that Connie Britton, who played Rayna, has been planning to leave the show this season. Her advance notice allowed the scriptwriters time to write a proper ending for Rayna. The next two episodes will include the funeral and a series of flashbacks. Thirteen of the 22 episodes in Nashville’s fifth season remain to be shown.
The new Songbirds Guitar Museum will open March 10 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The 7,500-square-feet museum, located in the legendary Chattanooga Choo-Choo terminal station, houses the premier private collection of rare guitars in the world. Valued at more than $200 million, the collection features approximately 1,700 guitars, as well as banjos and mandolins. Vince Gill, its ambassador, will curate a section of special guitars that includes Don Rich’s gold sparkle 1964Telecaster. Vince told USA Today, “I think if we have the opportunity to reach the young people and get them inspired to understand and fall in love with some of these great old instruments, it will perpetuate the history of all these instruments, and they will live for another 100 years — and be respected and be revered.”
Before his Edmonton, Alberta, concert last Friday, Garth Brooks honored the purchaser of the five millionth ticket on his world tour. He gave a married couple two cars, a Lexus SUV and a Nissan truck. TMZ reports, “They also got a $5k Amazon shopping spree, a $5k Edmonton mall spree, a trip for 2 to the Wynn in Vegas, and a bunch of Garth and Trisha Yearwood merch.”
The first anniversary of the death of Merle Haggard will be April 6th. It would have been his 80th birthday. Rolling Stone Country reports a tribute concert called Sing Me Back Home: The Music of Merle Haggard will be held that day at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The many performers will include Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Miranda, Dierks Bentley, Hank Williams Jr., Loretta Lynn, and more.
Johnny Western reports, “After 4 very painful months, I had a full right side hip replacement 2 weeks ago. Went for my first checkup, with my surgeon, Dr. Kip Sharpe, yesterday and got the bandages off. He says I’m doing great and with 4 more weeks of home rehab, I should be back in the saddle again. This has been a long, hard ride.”
Jean Earle writes from England, “Sunshine here today…lovely…..BUT NO newsletter from you!!?? Do hope you are keeping well? and that you are not having problems. Thinking of you.”
Diane: Thanks, Jean. Email problems delayed my last newsletter.
Tom Kimsey says, “Wow! Best article yet, great stuff!”
Rose Frisbee writes, “Thanks for great newsletter look forward to it every month. Thank you for writing the Book on Marty love his music, and everything about him. We were part of Marty’s Army and have so many wonderful memories and great friends. Looking forward to next newsletter.”
Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES sends this note from France: “Thanks for that welcome and much appreciated newsletter. Keep it movin’ on. Here’s a little sad news presented with my own words that make worth for your readers. Feel free to make it lighter. Carol Jean Williams, born on a farm near Plain Dealing, Louisiana, on August 26, 1936, took guitar lesson from Tillman Franks in 1951 at J & S Music. Among the other kids taking guitar lessons were David Houston, Jerry Kennedy and Nancy Fautheree. Carol moved to Shreveport doing night club work and performing at the Louisiana Hayride. In 1956, she recorded ‘You Never Mention My Name’/’Just For A While’ (Ram 100), two country songs written and produced by Mira Smith, which were recorded in Carol’s front room while Mira Smith was still completing her studio in Shreveport. ‘Just for A While’ is a very attractive fast hillbilly song with great guitar parts. The guitarist on that record was James Burton making his first ever released commercial session. On steel guitar, that’s veteran Louisiana Hayrider and session musician Sonny Trammel. Carol married Billy Sanford and moved to Nashville in 1964. Billy Sanford became a huge name having played with Roy Orbison, George Jones, Johnny Cash. and Lynn Anderson. Carol Williams passed away on January 10, 2017, living in Nashville.”
Aileen Arledge writes, “Just finished reading your recent newsletter and I would like to respond to Jim Martin from England. Sir, you are so right. It seems the younger TRUE Traditional country artists are being ignored and whoever’s in charge thinks most people want to hear this (Country) rock and roll music about who can sing (Yell) the loudest. The older ones are dying off and there’s no younger ones coming up to take their place and it’s not because they are not out there it’s because they’re not given the chance to be heard. We need to have the gap closed and bring in some new true country artists with the Traditional sound so they will be around for years to come. Also I am so happy to have Hee Haw brought back. It will be so wonderful to show off the new young traditional artists in with the old timers that we all loved so much. Like I said earlier, we need to close the GAP.”
Ashley D’Silva says, “I have just seen your newsletter on the Steel Guitar Forum and would like to add my email address to your list please. I live in Perth Australia and just LOOOOVE Country.”
Richard Keller writes, “I would like to get your email newsletter. The one you posted was very interesting.”
Terry Pendlay requests, “Please send me your newsletter. Thanks. Looks like a great project.”
Dale Lee requests, “Please send the newsletters.”
Michael Haselman says, “Very fine! I’ll bet you’ve got a lot of requests from here. Here’s mine.”
Olaf Wiese writes from Berlin, Germany, “Thank you very much for this very cool newsletter. Please add me to the list. I am happy about every information here on the other side of the great pond. Country Music here in Germany is very ‘exotic’.”
Jerry Overcast says, “I thank you for all you do for real country music.”
Glen Baker writes, “I still love classic country music. Today’s country music is more like rock. I do like some of it but I miss Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash and Ronnie Milsap. I’m blind so music means a lot to me. As I grow older I miss the music from my childhood. Your newsletter lets me keep up to date with the old timers. So thanks for that. I love your newsletter.”
Carolyn Berry requests, “I would like to receive the classic country news letter from you. Please add me to your e-mail list.”
Alan del Balso wonders, “Do you how many copies of Marty Robbins ‘El Paso’ has sold all time? I can’t find an answer. Any upcoming news on Marty Robbins? I was hoping something might come up.”
Charlie Hansen asks, “Could you please add me to your email list? I did a feature on Marty Robbins on my show, ‘A Touch Of Texas,’ last Saturday.”
SONG OF THE WEEK
Patsy Cline covered the Faron Young hit, “Sweet Dreams,” which had peaked at number 2 on Billboard in 1956. Her version was released a month after her death in 1963. Even though the song has been identified mainly with Patsy since then, including as the title of a movie, her posthumous recording only reached number 5. Faron in later years said people at concerts would tell him, “You did a hell of a job on that Patsy Cline song.” Don Gibson, who wrote “Sweet Dreams,” released it twice as a single, reaching number 9 in 1956 and number 6 in 1960. Emmylou Harris brought the song all the way to the top in 1976. It remains her biggest hit. This week we remember Faron on what would have been his 85th birthday.
BOOK REVIEW – PATSY: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PATSY CLINE by MARGARET JONES
Possibly the most thorough Patsy Cline biography (I have three of them) came from Margaret Jones in 1994. I own the 1999 softcover edition of Patsy: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline. Faron Young was one of the interview sources, and I corresponded briefly with the author while I was working on Faron’s biography. Many other country music personalities have their memories of Patsy recorded in this book, including Owen Bradley, Dottie West, Harlan Howard, and Barbara Mandrell. The foreword was written by Loretta Lynn. There is a complete discography, along with an index and chapter source notes. Next week will be the 54th anniversary of Patsy’s death in a plane crash on March 5, 1963.
COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME – 1973
Chet Atkins was named CMA Instrumentalist of the Year eleven times. As an RCA producer, he was a major force in developing the Nashville Sound. He helped Jim Reeves and Don Gibson cross over to the pop market, he signed Charley Pride to RCA, and he produced albums for Eddy Arnold, Skeeter Davis, and many more singers. He recorded numerous instrumental albums, alone and with other guitarists, and his biggest hit single was “Yakety Axe.” His initial training came from his parents, and he worked with a variety of acts and on radio stations before becoming lead guitarist for Maybelle and the Carter Sisters and moving with them to Nashville in 1950 to join the Opry. He was one of the first of Nashville’s A-Team session musicians. His thumb-and-two-finger picking style is admired and copied still today. Chet Atkins died of brain cancer in 2001, at age 77.
Patsy Cline died at age 30 in a plane crash on March 5, 1963. Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia, she acquired the stage name of Patsy Cline at age twenty, while married to her first husband, Gerald Cline. She was part of the Washington, D. C., country music scene, which led to her first—and disastrous–recording contract. Bill McCall tied her up for six years with Four Star Records in 1954. He allowed her to record only songs he owned, and he withheld her record earnings. After an initial burst of attention, she pretty much stopped recording and performing until the contract ran out. When she signed with Decca in 1960, Owen Bradley recorded her in the new Nashville Sound mode, beginning with “I Fall to Pieces.” After her death, in spite of being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, she received limited attention until Loretta Lynn’s 1980 movie, Coal Miner’s Daughter, brought her back into the limelight. She is still there.