Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 15 January 2020

IN THE SPOTLIGHT – MO PITNEY

When Mo Pitney returned my call last Monday night, he said, “I just left the studio. We put the final vocal on our record. So we’re a little closer to having it put out.” He remembered seeing me at his Sisseton, South Dakota, concert in November. And he appeared in an earlier newsletter: http://dianediekman.com/dianes-country-music-newsletter-22-august-2018

I asked when his new CD will be out, and he said the label is promising the last week of February. He described the new release method Curb Records will be using. “I don’t think everyone will be extremely happy about it, but I think it is the best way to release it in this day and age,” he said. One song will be released to streaming platforms every other week, until the entire 13-song album is out. Packaged copies of the full album will then be offered for sale.

“I don’t really love change, but I can see the value in it,” 26-year-old Mo said. Teasing the audience is expected to achieve a higher engagement level. “If you give them one song,” he explained, “they’ll go and listen to it. Then they hear in two weeks he’s releasing another one, they kind of put it on their calendar to listen to that song.” By the end of a few months, they’ve heard the whole album. If they had it from the beginning, they might not have taken the time to listen to every song.

Another upcoming CD that excites Mo is Moe Bandy’s A Love Like That. “I’m just a big fan of Moe Bandy,” he says. When I commented on him and Bill Anderson writing the title cut, he corrected me: “Yeah, and Bobby Tomberlin, as well.” He’s heard the recording once, when producer Jimmy Capp played it for him in the car.

Mo and Moe own sister buses, silver Senators Coaches made by Prevost. “They look identical,” Mo says. “We say we’re going to go on a Moe tour one day, and line the buses up, and we’ll look like we planned it.”

While on the subject of buses, I asked if his hunting dogs get to ride in the Senators Coach. “When they’re puppies, they do,” he replied. He told me he’d lost his youngest dog this year in an accident with the neighbor’s horses. “I just ordered a puppy from Utah,” he said.  “When I’m giving them formula, and they’re transitioning over to hard food, I let them ride on the bus and keep them close while they’re puppies.”

And on the subject of babies: “Yeah, second baby,” Mo says, “and we found out it’s a girl.” Three-year-old Evie is excited to have a sister. His wife, Emily, had a really good relationship with her sister growing up, Mo adds, so she “is eager and excited to potentially see a really good relationship form with the two girls.”

Mo expects to finish building his house by the end of March; he’s been working on it for a year. The flooring is done and the walls are painted. He still has to install kitchen cabinets, and he’s going to hire someone to build the showers. “I just put in a bathroom vanity last night and hooked up the water,” Mo told me. “I got in a fight with a pipe wrench and lost. I dropped a pipe wrench on my face and got a big gouge under my eye. Maybe that’s why people are supposed to hire professionals.”

While his dad and his brother “have helped me quite a bit,” he says, “it’s mostly been me working late nights.” Several songwriter friends come when needed. “One friend’s name is Henry Thompson and another friend is Jerrod Harkness,” Mo told me. “Another songwriter helped me, too. His name’s Ryan Paine. I’m grateful for their friendship and their help, and they’ll be a part of our family for a long time, when I look up at the work they did.”

To my comment that it’s a good thing he’s young and energetic, he responded, “Yeah, the last week or so I’ve felt a little less young, I’ll tell you that.”

We paused in our conversation while he placed an order at the Arby’s drive-through window. “Actually, I haven’t had dinner yet,” he said, “but we can talk while I’m waiting in line.”

I asked for his thoughts on Randy Travis. “He’s just really the best there is,” Mo answered. “Growing up, I’ve always been inspired to hear him sing. I was always drawn to baritone singers. Of all the baritone country singers, Randy had the most character of any. He probably has the best God-given instrument I’ve ever heard for country music. To this day, I’m blown away when I hear him sing. It’s something that can’t be replicated in any way.”

Mo told me about the one time he met Randy. I looked up the details of the evening and learned it was the night Jim Ed Norman received the Bob Kingsley Living Legend Award at the Grand Ole Opry House in 2016. Mo was one of the artists chosen to pay tribute; others on the long list included Mickey Gilley, Crystal Gayle, Jeff Hanna, and Kenny Rogers. “I sang a song of Randy’s in honor of Randy and Jim Ed,” Mo recalls, “and Randy was sitting at the side of the stage when I did that. I got to talk to him after; he just was as sweet as can be.”

As we wrapped up the phone call, Mo said, “Please tell everybody up there I so enjoy always being there, and really look forward to coming back.” I joked that it would have to be pheasant season, and he said, “Well, I’ll come there in the summer, too, but if I had the choice, I’d probably come around the time the birds are running.”

I told him I’d let him go so he could eat his supper. “All righty,” he said. “Bye bye.”

NEWS

When the Big Machine label asked Ronnie Dunn to record covers of several classic rock songs as an experiment for the streaming market, he agreed. After two days in the studio, The Tennessean reports, he called the label and said, “You know those three or four songs we were doing? I’m up to 12, and I kinda think I’m gonna keep going.” As a result, Big Machine has now released Re-Dunn, a 24-song CD of classics such as Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” and Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” Ronnie tells The Tennessean: “I love every song I did. With some of them, I stepped up to the plate and swung the bat, and probably could have done better on, because you’re not gonna beat all those classic performances. But I needed to challenge myself as a singer, too. . .. I’ve got to get some of this stuff out of my system, selfishly, before it’s too late.”

Almost 48 years after becoming a teen sensation, Tanya Tucker headlined a concert at the Ryman Auditorium for the first time in her career. Duet guests during her two-hour Sunday night show included Billy Ray Cyrus, Johnny Rodriguez, Billy Joe Shaver, Margo Price, Lee Ann Womack, and Dennis Quaid. The night closed with her friends helping sing her breakthrough hit, “Delta Dawn.” Tanya has four Grammy nominations this year, and she will be headlining the CMT Next Women of Country: Bring My Flowers Now tour, which will highlight upcoming female country music talent.

A new Reboot 2020 Tour that begins in May will be the first nationwide tour in a decade for Brooks & Dunn, who retired in 2009. Instead of traditional opening acts, reports Rolling Stone, artists who sang on the duo’s recent Reboot album will appear as special guests. The 18 tour dates are scheduled through September. The long-running Las Vegas residency with Reba McEntire continues. “We thought it was going to be for a year,” Ronnie Dunn says. “This is year five.”

The Charlie Daniels Band and the Marshall Tucker Band will be touring together on their Fire on the Mountain Tour, which opens April 23 in Enid, Oklahoma. Broadway World tells us the tour title refers to The Marshall Tucker Band’s 1978 hit song, as well as The Charlie Daniels Band’s 1974 platinum-selling album of the same name. The classic fiddle tune was mentioned in Charlie’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Robby Turner, longtime pedal steel guitar player behind The Highwaymen, was involved in a serious car collision on his way home from a show at Music City Bar & Grill on New Year’s Eve. He is in the hospital with multiple fractures to his ribs and nasal cavity; his right ring finger was partially amputated. Country Music Nation reports Robby has been suffering from health problems in recent years, including deep vein thrombosis that affects his mobility.

The Rascal Flatts Farewell: Life Is a Highway tour will run from June 11 in Indianapolis through October 17 in West Palm Beach, marking both the 20th anniversary and the final tour for Rascal Flatts, reports CMT.com. Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus, and Joe Don Rooney visited CBS This Morning on January 7 to make the announcement. The trio feels the time is right to say farewell and move to new ventures.

Jeanne Schiff, mother of Martina McBride, died January 10. Martina wrote on social media, “I’ve spent the past week with my family surrounding my mom with love 24/7 in a Kansas hospital following her emergency heart surgery.”

The Arizona Country Music Association has inducted into its Hall of Fame musicians David Grimes, J.R. Garner (recently deceased), Denny Sarver, and David Beaty, reports The Apache Junction & Gold Canyon News. J.R. Gartner was the leader of the 3 Wheel Drive Band, which performs as the Marty Robbins Tribute band. Denny Sarver and David Beaty are also in the band.

CMT.com reports Keith Urban donated $500,000 to a fund set up to help firefighters battling the fires in Australia. In New South Wales alone, more than 1,300 houses have been destroyed. Keith was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia. When he was 10 years old, a 1977 fire destroyed his family’s home. He once told CNN, “Our whole house went down. Everything we owned went with it. Fortunately, my mom, and my dad, and my brother and I were OK, but in that moment, organizations like the Salvation Army, Red Cross and Goodwill all came to our aid, as did the people in our community.”

Christopher “Critter” Fuqua, co-founder of Old Crow Medicine Show, has left the band. His final show was their New Year’s Eve concert at the Ryman Auditorium. He and Ketch Secor founded the country string band in 1998.

Secor told Rolling Stone Country, “I first started making music with Critter in the 7th grade. We bonded over roots music, taught ourselves to play traditional instruments, and began writing songs. Together, we have lived our musical dreams, traveling the world with fiddles and banjos as co-founders of Old Crow.” Fuqua left once before, in 2007, and returned five years later. The new lineup includes Secor, drummer Jerry Pentecost, Joe Andrews, Robert Price, Cory Younts, Morgan Jahnig, and Charlie Worsham.

Nearly 1.3 million people visited The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2019, reports The Tennessean, an increase from 1.2 million in 2018. The majority came from Tennessee, followed by Texas, California, Florida and New York. The 12% who were international guests came primarily from Canada, along with the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and France. The venue opened in 1967, moved to its current downtown location in 2001, and expanded in 2014 to double its space.

The Kentucky Department of Tourism is highlighting 2020 as the Year of Music. Its newly released Official Visitor’s Guide 2020 features Kentucky native and Nashville recording artist J.D. Shelburne on the cover. A press release states, “Talent runs deep in the Bluegrass state, producing some of the finest musicians to grace a stage — regardless of region or genre. Kentucky has it all – alternative, bluegrass, country, newgrass, pop, R&B and more. The new visitor’s guide offers ideas of musical attractions to visit and musical things to do across the state, plus gives readers an idea of the long history of music in Kentucky.”

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LETTERS

Gwen Stites says, “Thank you, thank you for your interview with Moe….! Fantastic man… Great guy…Looking forward to our cruise, which Moe treats us to every year… Maybe next year you can find time to go with us. (Wish you could go with us this year.) Enjoy your newsletters. Be blessed and have a marvelously happy New Year.”

Rosemary Frisbee, a member of Marty’s Army, writes, “The newsletter was awesome as usual. I really enjoyed the article on Wayne Jackson. The description he gives of Marty and his fans is so true that is the way we all felt. Marty’s band and office help and bus driver were all as nice as Marty to the fans. My favorites were Don Winters Jack Pruett and Katz Kobayashi and of course Okie Jones the bus driver and Carol Johnson Smith Marty’s secretary. We have kept our friendships with them and their families over the years and they all made us feel at home. Marty surrounded himself with people who presented themselves like he did. They made us all feel special. Thanks again for helping to keep Marty’s memory alive.”

Alice Mackenzie says, “Many thanks for the story on Wayne Jackson. Met him a number of times at Marty’s shows, a great fella.”

Pamela Rader writes, “Thank you so much for keeping us up to date on the happenings on country music. I was catching up on my reading and very sorry to hear the news concerning Bill Mack’s health. I have many fond memories of listening to Bill on WBAP and also on Sirius XM. In fact, I remember when I was 11, I got my first really good radio and my dad gave me permission to stay up late and listen to the radio. In those days, you could DX (and listen to stations from afar). That’s when I discovered Bill on WBAP. I know he probably won’t read this and won’t know me from Adam, and he’ll never hear my show, but I just wanted to say thanks for all the entertainment over the years and also for all the wonderful songs he wrote, like ‘Clinging To A Saving Hand.’ My prayers are with Bill and Miss Cindy and his family. Thanks for your informative newsletters and for putting me back in touch with my buddy, Lee Shannon.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that first newsletter for 2020. Thanks for the care given to my words and to have mentioned Sleepy LaBeef’s passing. Here we had lost a huge Man and an important original rockabilly artist much appreciated all over Europa. I wish you all the best for 2020.”

Terry Burford at KZHE in Magnolia, Arkansas, writes, “I worked 34 years at KFDI radio in Wichita, Kansas, with the Great Empire Broadcasting Company and Mike Oatman, co-owner with Mike Lynch. He was a great on-air personality and he raised 3 kids–Andy, Richard and Millisa–and they all followed him into radio or TV. We just happen to own the old Bob Wills hangout KVOO in Tulsa. Andy Oatman was with KFDI for several years then his dad ol’ Mike transferred Andy to KVOO where he worked for over a decade–well known and loved all over Oklahoma. Andy died this last Christmas from cancer he was 55 years old. There was a memorial for Andy in Tulsa on January 6. Country artists and musicians paid respect to Andy.”

Gary Trenholm in Canada says, “Excellent letter and thank you kindly Diane. Would you please forward your letter to my good friend, Paul Sawler? He lives half the year in Eastern Canada and the other half in Florida. He is also a country music enthusiast.

Happy New Year and thank you once again for these updates.”

Tom Kaufman writes from Denton, Maryland, “First, as always I enjoyed reading your latest newsletter of December 31st. In this newsletter, someone wrote concerning the cable channel In the Circle. First, I would like to express my hope that Dish Network will pick up this channel as it sounds like it’ll be a good channel for those of us who’d like to see good country music. I did attempt to go to the website that you put a link to in your newsletter; unfortunately, each time I tried to access it, I got ‘page cannot be displayed.’ If you can give us more information as to how to get to this website, as well as how we can get our cable and satellite providers to carry this channel, this would be much appreciated. It may be that even one of the ‘over the air’ channels in my area will pick it up, although I’m not putting a lot of stock in that one. Keep those newsletters coming; they’re much looked forward to.” He later adds, “I got into the Circle’s homepage from a link on WSM’s webpage. But they’ve made me mad already. For one thing, their website is not completely accessible for those of us who are blind or visually impaired. I’m seeing a ‘type zip code button’; it apparently requires you to click it with the mouse (which…of course, we cannot do). That Circle website just won’t allow me to do it without cracking that captcha thing. They don’t even offer an audio captcha (if they even had that, then that might be something I could have accessed) but since it’s visual, that just isn’t gonna work. I so wanted to contact them and let them know the button they have (the one that says zip code button) apparently isn’t designed in a way that a screen reading software program will deal with. I will continue to see what I can do on my end and will let you know my findings as I think then we can share this with your readers. Looking forward to your next newsletter as it’s the best resource I know of for those of us like me who enjoy REAL country music as you let us know what’s really going on in the world of country music.”

David Markham in Liverpool, United Kingdom, says, “Thank you for another interesting News Sheet as always. You started off quite young in the military, then country music. You must know everyone + lots of good times and not so good times. You never let your readers down. I have so much on country music I just couldn’t write everything down. Moe Bandy will live on and on he never changes, does he? Always the same, black hat and smile. He made a lot of trips over to England, the EU. With Nashville being named the Capital of The World in Country you’d think they should have thought this out before letting the younger generation put Traditional country artists on the scrap heap. I first started listening at age 7. The Big Bill Campbell Show. It’s a good job I have all my LPs CDs 45rpm tapes.”

Brian Skipper says, “Thank you for your wonderful work, I would like to wish you from England a very happy and prosperous New Year.”

Linda Mellon writes, “As a singer who loves country music, I so enjoy reading your newsletters. Vince Gill is so right on finishing Go Rest High on That Mountain. I’ve learned so much from you. Wish I could remember it all. Thanks and Happy New Year.”

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

When I called Dicky Overbey in early 2005 to talk about his time playing steel in the Country Deputies band, I asked about the Faron Young concert at the Hollywood Bowl for the 1966 movie, What Am I Bid? I never did get a chance to meet Dicky, who lived in Texas. He died in 2014 at age 72, after a long illness.

Yes, we did go to Hollywood. We did all the music live, we didn’t pantomime anything. They let us do it live, and the same thing in Road to Nashville. We did the music live on it, too. Yeah, we played the Hollywood Bowl when we went out there to do that movie. We did songs for the movie, and then we had a concert on the side. We played the Hollywood Bowl, a whole Faron Young concert. It wasn’t in conjunction with the movie. We were out there to do the movie, so we did that, too.

It had a water curtain, and when they introduced Faron, that stupid water curtain came up and got us all wet. They had a water curtain instead of a regular curtain. Right before they started to introduce us, they shot that water up to block the view of the stage, and then they let it down when they introduced Faron. By that time, we were wet. It didn’t get that much on the instruments. It didn’t really soak us, but it did get us wet.

I went to work for Faron by accident. I was in Nashville; I was taking a couple songs to George Jones to record. Darrell McCall helped me do the demos for the George Jones session, and I’d never played a 10-string steel guitar, so I was down at Sho-Bud playing a Sho-Bud. Of course, I was playing Faron’s songs, because he had more steel on his records than anybody at that time. I looked up and Faron was standing in front of me. Shot Jackson knew that Ben Keith had quit the week before, and he called Faron and said, “I don’t know if you found a steel player yet, but there’s one sitting down here playing all your songs.” I had no idea he was calling him. I just looked up and there he was.

I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I grew up in Tulsa. Faron said, you want to come to work with me playing steel? I hadn’t even thought about playing steel guitar; I was trying to be a songwriter at the time. I said, yeah, okay. So we went to pick up the band, and the bass player was Darrell McCall. I had no idea Darrell was his bass player.

I played in Tulsa, and I’d been in a house band. A sit-down job at Cain’s Ballroom was what I’d been doing, mostly. I’d actually planned to be a songwriter. Faron cut one of my songs about a year after I went to work with him. He did “You Had a Call.” And I played on it, which was my first Nashville session.

Them guys, Faron and Darrell, that band brought me in real good. They were my first experience as a Nashville band. Faron was a funny guy. I loved him; he was great. He did all kinds of stuff. One time he talked me and Darrell into staying over with him, and roaring one night, and flying to the next job. He rented this little plane, a little Piper Cub, and talked the pilot into letting him fly it after he got up in the air. That sucker–first thing he did was reach over and turn the engine off and make a big dive. It scared me and Darrell to death.

He was always doing something. He was a character. I loved him; he was great. He always didn’t want people to know what a nice guy he was. One time we went in the dressing room and asked him for $50 expense money. Of course, there was a whole bunch of people around, he got all over us for spending all this money. And as soon as the people left, he gave us $500. That’s just the way he was.

That’s all we had, just the four pieces [lead guitar – steel – bass – drums]. I never did get to play with him with all the fiddles and everything.

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