Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 11 October 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.

On opening night (October 6) of the Rascal Flatts — A Night to Shine residency at the 1,800-seat Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas, Rascal Flatts addressed the audience before playing the first song. Taste of Country reports the trio thanked the audience for coming out in the wake of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. “There are no words that can adequately express the confusion, the frustration, the sadness, the pain and the anger that we all deal with when we’re faced with unspeakable evil such as the events that unfolded just a few nights ago in this city,” Jay DeMarcus stated. Joe Don Rooney said they’d struggled with whether they should perform. “But we quickly came to the conclusion that, no matter what, we’re not going to let evil win,” he said. “We’re here tonight, and the rest of this residency, to make a statement.”

Following his nine sellout shows in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Garth Brooks continued his world tour on October 5 in Indianapolis. Cmt.com reports the advice Garth gave fellow artists about going onstage so soon after the massacre in Las Vegas: “When things go bad, doctors go to work. When things go bad, policemen go to work. When things go bad, music and musicians go to work. They [the fans] need you.” In an earlier Facebook Live video, he said, “I can’t imagine what went on out West. I can’t imagine the artists that have gigs tonight. I know you’re probably wondering what to do. Here’s my advice: The. Show. Must. Go. On. It just does.”

Grammy Award winner and Grand Ole Opry member Jeanne Seely will present a concert at the Performing Arts Center in Sisseton, South Dakota, on Sunday, October 15. She will be accompanied by Tim Atwood, Opry pianist and Nashville session musician. Local band “Just Between Friends” will open the show at 4 pm.

Nashville songwriter Kenny “KB” Beard died of natural causes on October 1, reports MusicRow. A Louisiana native, he moved to Nashville in 1986 to further his career as a songwriter. His hits since then have included “The Rest Of Mine” and “Big Time” for Trace Adkins, “As Any Fool Can See” and “If The World Had A Front Porch” for Tracy Lawrence, and “Where The Stars and Stripes and Eagle Fly” for Aaron Tippin. Services were held Friday, October 6, in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.

On their 21st wedding anniversary, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill announced the release of their first album together. The Rest of Our Life, with eleven tracks, hits the shelves on November 17. Their Soul2Soul world tour stops the end of October and goes to the United Kingdom in March.

A former fiddle player in Faron Young’s Country Deputies band recently performed at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The Muskogee Phoenix announced a show starring Wil Maring and Robert Bowlin. Wil Maring, songwriter and singer who tours extensively in Europe and Japan, has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry with her original music. Robert Bowlin worked as a session guitarist and fiddler in Nashville, and he spent 1983 with Faron and the Deputies. He started playing the ukulele at age 1½ and graduated to his dad’s guitar at age 5. He also toured with Kathy Mattea, Tom T. Hall, Bill Monroe, Ray Price, Bobby Bare, and Ricky Van Shelton.

Charley Pride will be a guest on ABC’s The View on October 12. A major topic will be Music In My Heart, his first album release in six years. “Whoopi Goldberg and I spent some time together in New York at the Special Merit Awards where she was also accepting an award,” he said in a press release. Charley had received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Recording Academy® Special Merit Awards. “We had a nice conversation and I’m looking forward to seeing her again and performing on The View,” he said.

The George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation issued a press release to announce a hurricane relief concert at Texas A&M’s Reed Arena on October 21. The Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal concert will feature all five living former US Presidents: Obama, Bush 43, Clinton, Bush 41, and Carter. Lee Greenwood will perform and emcee the show. Other performers include Alabama, The Gatlin Brothers, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, and Sam Moore. The former Presidents originally came together after Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The effort has expanded to support fundraising for recovery efforts from all the recent hurricanes.

SiriusXM is hosting an invitation-only event at the Grand Ole Opry House on October 29. Taste of Country reports it will be the first time the Eagles have performed there. Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit will be joined by Deacon Frey (son of the late Glenn Frey) and Vince Gill. The concert will air on SiriusXM’s Eagles Channel over Thanksgiving weekend.

A new reality series titled Music City will premiere on CMT in early 2018. Rolling Stone Country reports, “The show follows a group of young people aiming for success in the music industry, while navigating their personal lives.” The series will debut with an eight-episode run. It will air alongside Nashville, which returns in January for a new season on CMT.

Part one of a five-part Garth Brooks autobiography is scheduled for release on November 14. The Anthology: Part 1–The First Five Years is a detailed look at the first five years of Garth’s career. Nash Country Daily reports, “The 240-page hardcover book includes more than 150 never-before-seen photos, as well as five CDs containing 52 total songs, including 19 new, unreleased or demo versions.”

When Roy Orbison died in 1988, at age 52, he left behind his second wife, Barbara, and three sons. His first wife had been killed in a motorcycle accident, and two of their sons had died in a house fire. Barbara died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. “I was very alone in life,” Roy Orbison Jr., 46, tells PEOPLE. Until he met Asa Hallgren, 28, a native of Sweden. They married on June 11 on the steps of the cabin owned by Johnny Cash in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Johnny was his father’s best friend and Johnny and June were his godparents. John Carter Cash got ordained specially to officiate at the wedding. The three Orbison brothers–Wesley, Alex, and Roy Jr.–will soon release a new album of their father’s music, A Love So Beautiful: Roy Orbison and the Royal Philharmonic, and a new biography, The Authorized Roy Orbison.

Saving Country Music reports an email from Jerry Jeff Walker, 75, that announces his recent shows were canceled due to treatment for throat cancer. He didn’t want publicity about the diagnosis until after he responded well to treatment. “Jerry Jeff was diagnosed this summer with throat cancer,” the note says. “In the middle of his 6th week of the 7-week treatment, he developed not only pneumonia but a blood infection as well. It is an understatement to call this a set-back, but he has fought it off and now is well into recovery. Because of this he will now be in rehab for a few weeks to get his strength back.”

Loretta Lynn, 85, appeared on stage on October 1, for the first time since her stroke in May. She performed at the Tennessee Motorcycle and Music Revival, which took place that weekend at her Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, ranch. Taste of Country reports Loretta sat on the stage with family members and sang portions of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).”

Bill Mack asks, “Can I promote your column on my Facebook page? Everyone who is interested in country music should read it. Sincerely, you are at the top-of-the-line when it comes to spreading the latest happenings in our industry.”

Cal Sharp, former Country Deputy steel player, writes, “Always enjoy the newsletters. My first memory of Garth Brooks was around 1990, too, when all the bands I worked with around Nashville started playing more ‘Friends In Low Places’ and ‘The Dance’ and less ‘“Hello Walls’ and ‘Swinging’ Doors.’ This shift in format from a traditional sound to a more rock’n’roll sound where ‘drums and rock ‘n roll guitars are mixed up in your face’ gradually worked its way into everyone’s repertoire, welcome or not, and was reflected across the board, from what was played on the radio – marketed as country music – to what gigs might, or might not, be available for fiddle players and steel guitar players. A new term was coined for the older, actual country, music – PG, for Pre Garth. Nowadays you might hear a musician opine, ‘Remember all the fun we had on Broadway, PG?’ ”

Priscilla McPheeters in Lawrence, Kansas, says, “WOW!! Diane, I LOVED your description of the Garth concert!! You’re such a good writer. Thank you!! It was not too long because it was so interesting.”

Sherry Gomes writes, “A friend sends me your email newsletter, but I’d love to receive it for myself. Can you add me to your mailing list? I discovered country music in 1976, when I was eighteen but so tired of disco on the pop channels. I fell in love with it then and haven’t ever fallen out. The country music of today makes me sad, because it all sounds like pop. I miss the real sound of country music. Reading your newsletters reminds me that there are still many of us out there who love the music. Thanks for that. About your books. I am totally blind. Have your books ever been recorded in audio format? Or maybe a digital format of some kind such as Kindle? I’d love to read both of them. I loved Marty Robbins music even before I discovered country music for myself. Thanks again for your informative newsletter. I’m always thrilled to receive it when my friend sends it along.
Diane: My Faron and Marty biographies are in audio format in the library for the blind. I’m not sure how to access them. My biographies and memoirs are available on Kindle.

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that nice and welcome Country Music Newsletter. Great to read all these messages about Don Williams. Warmest regards from your French friend.”

Jylinda White, a dear friend in Virginia, says, “Thanks for sending your newsletter and including me in the list.”

Jean Osborn requests, “Please put me on your mailing list.”

Gerald Walton in Oklahoma City says, “Enjoyed your write up on Hank Thompson. He was no. 1 in my view.”

Elroy Severson writes, “Thanks for another great newsletter. I especially enjoyed the Garth Brooks write-up.  I did not go this time in Sioux Falls but did in 1997. Many more sold out shows this time, I’m sure. What a great entertainer — really good at getting the audience involved. Like you, I enjoy some of his songs much more than others, but he attracts a broad range of followers. Keep up the great work. I’m sure you spend much time at it.”

Judy Cowart wonders, “For some reason I have stopped receiving your newsletter. I would appreciate it if you would add my name again to your list. I sure have missed getting the newsletter through the email.”

Margaret Blythe says, “Love the newsletters! They kind of remind me of the Music City News magazines that Audrey Winters used to do. You have led an interesting life. Thanks for your continued contributions to country music.”

River of No Return is not a book to be read by anyone who hopes Tennessee Ernie Ford lived a happy life as a likeable comedian and great singer. Jeffrey Buckner Ford is the elder of two sons of Ernest Jennings Ford and wife Betty Jean. He tells the story of parents who loved each other dearly and were married for 47 years, until Betty overdosed on pills because—Jeffrey believes—she didn’t want to watch her husband’s alcoholism and liver disease kill him. Ernie Ford spent his life in California, as a Hollywood television star who fell into the Nashville comedy role. Jeffrey tells the biographical story of his father, interspersed with the contentious relationship between father and son. Then, four months after Betty’s death and two years before his own, Ernie married a woman who cut the family out of his life and even tried to keep the sons from attending his funeral. The bitterness is what I remember most about reading this book when it was published in 2008. “In the four years following his death,” Jeffrey writes, “she spent just over a million dollars in funds from Dad’s estate trying in vain to erase the memory of Betty Jean Ford and the life she and Ernest Jennings had shared for nearly fifty years.”

Only one person was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, and that was Tennessee Ernie Ford. Ernest Jennings Ford started his career as a radio announcer in his hometown of Bristol, Tennessee, before joining the Air Force during World War II. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he became an announcer with KXLA and developed his “Tennessee Ernie” character. Cliffie Stone hired him for the Hometown Jamboree TV show. He began recording for Capitol Records in 1948. After his hit with “Sixteen Tons,” he hosted the NBC variety program, The Ford Show, and appeared on numerous TV shows in the 1950s and ‘60s. He also recorded in Nashville and was a regular on Hee Haw. He continued recording for Capitol until 1977. A fall at a White House dinner put him in the hospital in September 1991. He died there a month later, at age 72. Liver disease was the cause of death.

The year of 1991 also saw only one Country Music Hall of Fame entry, the husband and wife songwriting team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant performed as a classical violinist with the Atlanta Philharmonic in the late 1930s and then switched to hillbilly fiddler with Hank Penny’s Radio Cowboys. In 1945, he married Felice Scaduto, an elevator operator with a passion for writing poetry. Putting his melodies to her verses started them on a songwriting career. Fred Rose persuaded the couple to move to Nashville in 1950. Little Jimmy Dickens recorded their songs such as “Country Boy,” “I’m Little but I’m Loud,” “Take Me As I Am,” and “Out Behind the Barn.” Hits for Carl Smith included “Hey, Joe,” “Back Up, Buddy,” and “It’s a Lovely, Lovely World.” The Bryants wrote 29 songs for the Everly Brothers, including “Bye, Bye Love,” “Wake Up, Little Susie,” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Red Foley, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves (“Blue Boy”), and Bob Luman (“Let’s Think About Living”) were a few others who recorded Bryant songs. “Rocky Top” became an official Tennessee state song. More than 400 artists recorded 1,500 of their songs, amassing sales of over 250 million records. They both died of cancer, Boudleaux in 1987 at age 67 and Felice in 2003 at age 77.


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