Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 2 August 2017

In 1997, Garth Brooks performed at the Sioux Falls Arena, after selling 41,183 tickets. Now, when ticket sales opened for one show at the new Denny Sanford Premier Center in September, he sold out six shows in half an hour. Ticket sales opened several days later for an additional show. Within 20 minutes, there was a total of nine sold-out shows with 91,650 tickets. I have mine!

Digital Journal reports that Lorrie Morgan is joining her brother, songwriter Marty Morgan, for a special show tonight at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. The children of George Morgan, the pair will tell family stories and sing Morgan family music. Several surprise musical guests will join them. Marty was a writer for the TV show Nashville Now. Artists who have recorded some of his 400 songs include Lorrie, Don Gibson, and Faron Young.

The 31 #1 songs written by legendary songwriter Bob McDill include “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “Amanda,” “Gone Country,” “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On,” “Song of the South,” and “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful.” McDill was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985. He retired in 2000. At age 73, he has now cleaned out his basement and donated his entire history to the Country Music Hall of Fame. “I’ve kept every scrap of paper for the last 35-40 years,” he told WSMV in Nashville. The donations include his Martin guitar, tapes, sheet music, awards, publicity pictures, and 217 legal pads containing his work. “This is where this stuff belongs,” he says.

Producer, guitarist, and songwriter Billy Joe Walker Jr., 64, died July 25 in Kerrville, Texas, after a long illness. Eddie Rabbitt, John Anderson, Trisha Yearwood, Tanya Tucker, and Billy Currington are some of those who recorded his songs. In addition to producing Travis Tritt’s Down the Road I Go, he produced albums for singers such as Pam Tillis, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tracy Byrd, and Mark Chesnutt. “A native of West Texas, Walker taught himself to play guitar and read music while still a youngster,” Ed Morris writes on CMT.com. “At 14, he left home to pursue a music career. He first played in bar bands around Oklahoma City and then moved to Los Angeles. There he did session work for such acts as Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard and the Beach Boys. Subsequently, producer Jimmy Bowen induced Walker to move to Nashville, both to do session work and record as a soloist. In Nashville, Walker served as sideman for the Dixie Chicks, Ray Charles, Randy Travis and Hank Williams Jr., among many others.”

Singer Michael Johnson, 72, died July 25 in Minneapolis after a long illness. He’d had quadruple bypass surgery in 2007. He was best known for his hit “Bluer Than Blue” and for his classical style guitar. His 1985 duet with Sylvia, “I Love You by Heart,” made it into the top ten.

All In for the Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration will be held at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on October 25. The show will include the last-ever performance of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. They most recently performed together 12 years ago. Rolling Stone Country reports, “This upcoming concert will mark only the third time they’ve sung together in 27 years — and both have agreed it will be the last.” The show will be taped for later broadcast. Tickets are on sale now.

Geoff Mack, best known for writing “I’ve Been Everywhere,” died July 21 in Australia at age 94. He was born Albert Geoffrey McElhinney in Melbourne, Australia, in 1922. While stationed in Borneo with the RAAF during World War II, he began entertaining the troops. After the war, he served as a radio announcer for the British occupation in Japan. He wrote “I’ve Been Everywhere” in 1959. With the Australian town names replaced by American ones, Hank Snow brought the song to No. 1 in 1962. According to Taste of Country, the song has been recorded more than 130 times since then, most famously by Johnny Cash and Lynn Anderson. Mack was inducted into the International Songwriters Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1963.

A post by Johnny Cox on the Steel Guitar Forum reports that Steve Chapman recently died. “Steve played for Reno and Smiley, Bill Anderson and took Leon Rhodes place with Ernest Tubb,” Johnny wrote. “He was also a highly in demand studio musician for many years. Like so many, Steve turned to driving buses and trucks later in life.” Keith Bilbrey calls him “one of the great Troubadour lead guitar players for Ernest Tubb.” Bill Anderson says, “I received some sad news while I was on the west coast. Steve Chapman, who played guitar in my Po’ Boys band back in the early 70’s, passed away.”

Crystal Gail stepped in to replace Brenda Lee for a recent performance at the Georgia Mountain Fair in Hiawassee, Georgia. The fair’s website said, “Brenda Lee regrets that she is unable to perform at the Georgia Mountain Fair on July 22 due to a broken foot.”

Jeannie Seely is keeping us posted on Facebook about the hospitalization of her husband, Gene Ward. He was admitted to St Thomas Hospital on July 26 to control an infection. Four days later, he was sent to rehab for a week so he could be closely monitored.

At the 2017 Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls, from Tuesday-Saturday, August 8-12, Sherwin Linton and The Cotton Kings will perform three shows daily. Sherwin is marking 61 years of regional and national attention in entertainment. He’s been recognized by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” for having never missed a show. His early career was highlighted by the release of “Cotton King,” a Top 10 hit 50 years ago in July of 1967. In the 1980s, he gained attention with an anti-drunk-driving Christmas novelty song, “Santa Got A DWI.” His career was documented in the 2014 film, Sherwin Linton — Forever On The Stage, produced by PBS affiliate Pioneer Public Television.

Lynn Anderson: Keep Me in Mind is a new exhibit that will open at the Country Music Hall of Fame on September 15. Lynn Anderson was 67 when she died of a heart attack in 2015. Of her many hits, the biggest was 1970’s “Rose Garden,” which topped the Billboard pop and country charts. The daughter of songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson, she was married for several years to songwriter/producer Glenn Sutton. Her exhibit closes on June 24, 2018.

The 6th Annual Aaron Lewis Invitational Charity Golf Tournament takes place August 5 in Bernardston, Massachusetts, with an Aaron Lewis concert the night before. Proceeds go to It Takes A Community (ITAC). Aaron Lewis explains in a news release, “It Takes a Community began when my family joined with neighbors in our small adopted home town to keep the doors of the elementary school open after state funding was eliminated due to district consolation. It started as something personal and close-to-home, but is morphing into something bigger.” Since 2012, the golf tournament and benefit concert have raised over $700,000. ITAC works with local leaders and organizations to support initiatives that improve the lives of children and families.

At a concert in Los Angeles last month, a pregnant couple gave Garth Brooks an envelope containing their baby’s ultrasound. They told Garth they would name the child Brooks regardless of gender, Nash Country Daily reports, and Garth opened the envelope. He announced they would be having a girl. “If I am still alive when Brooks goes to college,” he said, “we will pay for her college.”

Bill Mack writes from Fort Worth, Texas, “Just read your column, enjoyed it very much — as usual. All of it was interesting, but one subject really caught my attention. Ronnie Allen asked a very important question pertaining to the country music chart listings in Cashbox magazine in 1953. As you know, there were two separate categories — ‘Country and Western’ and ‘Folk.’ Since I was active as a country music disk jockey in 1953, I was also very confused by these listings because basically, every artist listed in both categories were similar! Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold both sang in a similar styling, yet they were placed in different categories. That’s just one example of the confusion in the category listings. Folk singers during that era were such names as Burl Ives, Harry Belafonte, The Weavers, The Kingston Trio and others. I believe the Cashbox country music editors were confused, but wanted to utilize the name ‘Folk,’ so they chose country and western names at random to put in that category.”

Rick Belsher in Edmonton, Canada, says, “I too had the same questions as Ronnie Allen as I was reading the lists. Hank Snow I can sort of see as Folk, but Kitty, Jean, Webb, the other Hank, Carl, Jim and Lefty? Must have been much different  criteria then, or just someone’s, or some group’s opinion(s) that no one questioned. Or not the same differentiation in musical categories as there is now. Just my observation.”

Dave Barton weighs in from Nashville:Cashbox was based in New York City and some dumb one up there didn’t know the difference between Country & Western and Folk, as a matter of fact Western music is Western Music–songs of the trail and the old west. I never could figure out why they call it Country & Western it’s either Country or it’s Western. Country Music goes back to Jimmy Rodgers & Hank Williams, Ray Price, and many more, Bluegrass Music are songs from the mountains that tell stories coal miners, Moonshiners and how hard it was at the turn of the century to provide for your family. AP Carter and The Carter Family & Bill Monroe. Western Music are songs from the Ole West that tell stories about Wagon Trains and Cattle Drives, Gun Fights, The Sons of the Pioneers, movies stars like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. My question is? what do you call the music they are playing on the radio today, it’s not Country, it’s not Bluegrass, it’s not Western, so what is it????? Country Rap!!! I don’t think so……but whatever you want to call it, it’s putting butts in seats and making a lot of money for the artist…..so Please Somebody Name it.”

Kristy Bruce writes from Rainier, Oregon, “I’m seventeen years old, and I love learning about the people involved in old Western films and Western and Cowboy music. I try to learn as much and talk to as many people as I can about it, because I don’t want all those songs, movies, and people forgotten by the time my generation is middle-aged. So I appreciate your work not only for the enjoyment, but also for the knowledge I’ll get from it. I’ve only been a serious fan of Faron Young for a couple months, but I just wanted to say thank you to you for documenting his life. I’ve never seen anyone like Faron on a stage. I love the connection he gets with an audience—heck, even through a screen!—and his life story touches my heart. I sometimes get choked up when I watch videos of him, as you probably understand. Not only over his death, but also over the depression that I think was inside him most of his life. Maybe he had a happy ending after all. I think God gave Faron the time he counted on, in those last 24 hours, and I believe in my heart that he is in Heaven now, really living for the first time.”

Stacy Harris in Nashville says, “Thanks so much for forwarding the ‘bounced’ copy of your newsletter. I always look forward to receiving your news and reviews and learning what’s on the minds of others on the list. Thanks for keeping me informed.”

Noel Clarke writes from Smithfield, New South Wales, “You may recall I sent you a photo of Australia’s Great Country Gentleman Geoff Mack, the man who wrote ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ for Johnny Cash & Hank Snow and for many, many others. Well, sad news arrived 10 minutes ago that Geoff passed away this evening, just after 6pm. For those who knew and loved Geoff this is a great sadness even though we have been expecting it, as Geoff was almost 95, born 20 December 1922. I just had to let you know as even though perhaps he wasn’t well known over there, he was a living treasure here.”

George Lohrman requests, “I would like to get on your email list. I am an ardent country music fan and unfortunately I live in California where we starve for any acts. If one comes to town, it is too expensive for a 90-year-old man on Social Security to afford.”

Mama Peach, also known as Melanie Spears, wonders, “For some reason I am no longer receiving your newsletter. I have been able to read it because other people forward it to lists that I am on, but I can’t understand why I never get it now. . . . Well, just as I emailed you, I received the latest newsletter. I guess, or at least hope, the issue has resolved itself. Thanks so much for all you do, and keep up the good work with the newsletter.”

Vicky Stacknick writes from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, “I have been a fan of Tanya Tucker since ‘Delta Dawn’ came out. I was two years older than her, and learned every song I could find. I have been to two live shows, both at the Havelock Jamboree. The shows were ten years apart and she sounded awesome at both. When I play her music, I like to turn it up and sing along.”

Mary Mitchell in Woodland Park, Colorado, tells Tom Blair, “You have a great selection of music. I was disappointed you have no CARL SMITH. In the ‘60s he sang many great songs. He was an unsung hero.  Another is Wynn Stewart. Did you ever sing any of their songs? Good Luck with your endeavor.”

Dominique Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that great summer’s country newsletter. One of my favorite on-line reading. Great to read about Floyd Tillman whose wife was Marge Tillman who recorded for Columbia as Marge Tillman. She later wed Biff Collie and recorded as Margie Collie, Little Marge Collie and Little Marge. She was a close friend of our late friend Carolyn Babin and both ladies deserve to be remembered. Warmest regards from your French friend.”

Robin Henry says, “About 12 months ago, I was enrolled on your mail-out list, for which I was ever so grateful. I looked forward to receiving and reading these emails. I since changed my email address, and although I did send a notification of this to you a couple of months ago, I can only assume my email went missing somewhere up there in the cloud. I live in a town of about 1500 people, called Foster, in the state of Victoria, Australia. I have to say there is not much chance to learn about Country Music in this country. Or, if there is, I am totally unaware of where to find any content. The only way, to my knowledge, is through Country Music Magazines, which are hard to obtain here. I look forward to again receiving your excellent Newsletters.”

The duo of Flatt and Scruggs was the sole entry into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. The two musicians met in 1945 when banjo player Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, where Lester Flatt was the guitarist and lead singer. They left that bluegrass band in 1948 and formed their own–the Foggy Mountain Boys. They recorded their best-known song, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” in 1949. It was later used in the movie Bonnie and Clyde. Their only #1 on the country charts was “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song for the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955, and their radio shows and concerts were sponsored by Martha White Flour. They split in 1969 and formed separate bands, the Earl Scruggs Revue and Flatt’s Nashville Grass. Lester died in 1979 at age 64, and Earl died in 2012 at age 88.

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