Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 30 August 2017

The Performing Arts Center in Sisseton, South Dakota, hosted the Bill Anderson concert Saturday night. Bill invited me to come up from Sioux Falls for the evening, and I took sister Kayo and friend Perry with me. The folks at Coteau Entertainment Company treated us well, complete with a delicious dinner of prime rib and sweet corn. Whisperin’ Bill is a popular person up there, with people getting in line at 4:30 for the 7 pm show.

Local band “Just Between Friends” played the opening set for the full-house crowd. The eight-piece group packed a lot of vocal talent. It’s too bad they didn’t have more time. My favorite song was Wade Johnson’s rendition of Faron Young’s “Step Aside.”

Bill Anderson’s four-piece Po’ Folks band included his bass player of 26 years, keyboardist of 25 years, drummer of 24 years, and a fiddle player with a wonderful voice. Bill talked and sang for ninety minutes, and the show ended way too soon. He never runs out of entertaining stories, whether on stage or in private conversation.

He talked about being newly married in Nashville in 1960. He’d promised his bride they would leave at 10am to drive to Georgia to visit her parents. At 9:59 he came up with a song idea. He asked if she’d mind if he went into the living room for a few minutes to write it down before he forgot. He came out of the room at 4pm. He said that gave her a clue as to what life with him would be like. The song he wrote that day was “Tips of My Fingers.” It hit the Billboard Top Ten four times in four decades–sung by Bill, Roy Clark, Eddy Arnold, and Steve Wariner. Jean Shepard’s version also charted.

Bill now cowrites with younger Nashville songwriters. He told us about the day he had a songwriting appointment with Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson. None of them had any ideas, until Jamey mentioned he was going through a divorce. The resulting song, “Give it Away,” added to George Strait’s collection of #1 hits. It won the Academy of Country Music Song of the Year for 2006. When the three writers accepted their award, Jamey thanked his ex-wife for divorcing him. “Give It Away” also won Country Music Association Song of the Year for 2007. Bill sang the song for us, after adding his thanks to Jamey’s ex-wife.

Jokes were mixed throughout Bill’s songs and stories. Such as the title of a song for an ex-wife: “The only good years we had were the tires on our car.”

At one point in the show, Bill asked all military veterans to raise their hands. He said, “All of you who don’t have your hands in the air, put your hands together to thank them.” Then he sang “Old Army Hat.” Hearing the words, “They’ve opened up a monument to World War II in Washington DC. I ain’t getting any younger and I wish someone would take me to see that,” I thought of my mother’s visit there on the Honor Flight. Following her group from one event to another is a special memory of mine.

Thanks, Bill, for the invite. It was a wonderful evening.


Jo Walker-Meador, 93, died August 16 in Nashville after suffering a stroke. The Tennessean reports she “rose from the Country Music Association’s ‘girl Friday’ to become a chief architect of today’s country music industry.” In 1958, when the Country Music Association was created, she was its first full-time employee. After a short time as administrative assistant, she filled the gap when executive director Harry Stone resigned. As the board was searching for a new executive director, Minnie Pearl suggested, “Jo’s doing all the work. Why don’t we just hire her?” Jo oversaw the creation of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the CMA Awards, and Fan Fair (now CMA Fest). She retired in 1991 after 29 years as the CMA’s executive director. “When you thought of the CMA, you thought of Jo Walker,” Bill Anderson told The Tennessean. “We had to scratch and claw for everything back in those days. Jo could scratch and claw without people knowing they had been scratched and clawed.”

Rockabilly singer Sonny Burgess, age 88, died August 21, a month after he fell at his Arkansas home. He was born on a farm in Arkansas in 1929, spent time in the U.S. Army, and formed a boogie-woogie band, the Rocky Road Ramblers. Sam Phillips of Sun Records produced the band’s record, “We Wanna Boogie,” in 1956. Burgess released a solo album for Rounder Records in 1996. His later band, The Legendary Pacers, was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2002.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum launched its newest year-long exhibit, Loretta Lynn: Blue Kentucky Girl, on August 22. Taste of Country reports that Loretta Lynn received a standing ovation without even showing up. She was absent due to health reasons. Young female artists who paid tribute to her during the ceremony included Margo Price, Brandy Clark, and Kacey Musgraves. The displays include Loretta’s original handwritten manuscript for Coal Miner’s Daughter, the sewing machine she used to sew her stage clothes early in her career, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President Obama at the White House in 2013.

“A message from the children of Johnny Cash” was posted by Rosanne Cash on Facebook on August 16. She said, “We were alerted to a video of a young man in Charlottesville, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, spewing hatred and bile. He was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of Johnny Cash, our father. We were sickened by the association.” She concluded, “To any who claim supremacy over other human beings, to any who believe in racial or religious hierarchy: we are not you. Our father, as a person, icon, or symbol, is not you. We ask that the Cash name be kept far away from destructive and hateful ideology. We Choose Love.” The names of Johnny’s four daughters and one son followed.

Shania Twain makes her major film debut as the character of “Becca”‘ in an upcoming racing movie, Trading Paint. John Travolta is a washed-up dirt track racing legend who starts racing again when his son joins a competitor’s team. An intense and dangerous competition ensues between father and son. Filming starts this month; no release date has been announced.

At an August 15 press conference, Dolly Parton announced she is releasing her first-ever children’s album, I Believe In You. She wrote the 14 songs for children and those young at heart. “My first album was released 50 years ago and it’s been an amazing 50 years since then,” she said. “I am very excited that now I’m coming out with my first children’s album in all those 50 years. I’m proudest of all that all the proceeds from this CD will go to the Imagination Library. It’s been 20 years since the Imagination Library was launched. We’ve seen 100 million books get into the hands of children and hopefully there will be many more.”

A press release announced that Lee Greenwood has been honored with the Point of Light Award created by President George H. W. Bush’s administration. The Daily Point of Light Award honors those who create meaningful change in communities across America. Lee has done over 30 tours with the USO and is an ambassador for the non-profit Help A Hero. About the award, he said, “I count it a privilege to be in a position to brighten a veteran’s day or help unite the country after a tragedy like 9-11 and I am honored to be named as a Daily Point of Light by our beloved president, George H.W. Bush.” I remember when this award was created, but I didn’t know it was still being issued. Randy Travis publicized it through his 1991 song, “Point of Light,” which reached #3 on Billboard. The song won a BMI award for writers Don Schlitz and Thomas James Schyler.

“OK, so you’re Brad Pitt? That don’t impress me much.” During a recent interview at Spotify HQ in New York City, Shania Twain explained where that line came from in her 1997 hit, “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” Billboard reports there had been a scandal about Pitt suing a magazine for publishing naked paparazzi photos of him, and Shania recalled, “This was like all the rage. I just thought ‘I don’t know what all the fuss is about.’ I’m like, well that don’t impress me much. We see people naked every day.”

To help preserve our national parks for future generations, Dierks Bentley, 41, has partnered with the National Park Foundation to help celebrate the 101st birthday of the national parks on August 25. “I actually carry a flip phone as much as possible to remind myself there’s more to look at than just my phone,” he told People. “There were so many moments where we used to do nothing but sit on the bus, and there was no life being lived. The last couple of years, we started exploring more of our surroundings and seeing that there’s so many parks near where we’re playing. . .. One of our favorite ways of recharging on the road is getting out there and seeing some new treasures waiting to be explored.” He challenges everyone, “Get involved, and go find your park.”

A celebration of the life of Glen Campbell was held in the CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on August 24. Three hundred invitations were issued for the private memorial service. Brad Paisley, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jimmy Webb, Steve Wariner, Mac McAnally, and Carl Jackson were some of the performers. Glen’s widow, Kim Campbell, closed the service with a eulogy. Glen died August 8, after six years of living with Alzheimer’s disease, and was buried in Arkansas the following day.

Jeannie Seely writes from Nashville, “Just read your newsletter…great as usual, and saw where Bill Anderson is working Sisseton, SD….Tim Atwood and I will be there on October 15th….if you can make the trip there….try to make it again to see us. We are busy trying to plan everything for my 50th Anniversary at the Opry on September 16th…50 years exactly from the date I joined. We’ll be giving you more details later.”
Diane: Congratulations on those fifty years, Jeannie. The folks in Sisseton were selling tickets and advertising your show when we were there. I hope things work out for me to go see you, too.

Sherwin Linton writes from Minneapolis, Minnesota, “I always enjoy your newsletters and the very interesting replies and comments from your readers. ‘Hello’ to Bill Anderson whom I have not seen for a long time. I am sure he will have a good time entertaining in Sisseton, where I first played at a ballroom, The Ranch, in 1956. Sisseton was also the home area of my longtime friends, evangelists Lowell and Connie Lundstrom. I wish I could be there for Bill’s show as he is a favorite of mine. I enjoyed reading your 1986 Hall Of Fame review on inductees Wesley Rose and The Duke of Paducah, especially since I knew them. The Duke emceed a couple of shows in Nashville where I appeared and I was honored by the glowing introduction he gave me. Wesley Rose signed me to a personal management contract in 1969, which also included a songwriter’s contract with Acuff- Rose and recording contract with Hickory Records. He worked closely with me in those years and produced my recording sessions with Hickory. One bit of advice he gave to me was to always take many pictures of myself in various locations as I traveled. He said, ‘You never know when you may be able to use them.’ I followed that advice and my collection of photos really came in handy when Pioneer Public TV produced a two-hour documentary on my life and career titled Sherwin Linton Forever On The Stage. I look forward to seeing you and having you as a guest on our shows at the South Dakota State Fair. You always have so many interesting stories to share that the audience very much appreciates. Thank you for all you do for country music artists, friends and fans.”
Diane: See you tomorrow in Huron, Sherwin. Thanks for inviting me to be on your 2pm show.

Joe Bollard writes from the Republic of Ireland, “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Glen Campbell, a true icon in the music world. My favourite track of his was a rarely heard song called ’Marie.’ He sang it with emotion and feeling., I’d say he has retuned his harp up in heaven to a guitar setting. I’ve been a big fan of country music since the days as a young boy I listened to scratchy 78s of Hank Williams. The music they call country music today is total noise and rubbish. I really enjoy your newsletter each month. I’ve just finished listening to the audio book on the life of John Denver, now there was another great performer, although I didn’t enjoy the book. Many thanks, keep them coming.”

John Krebs in Houston, Texas, says, in reference to Vern Gosdin’s induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Chiseled in Stone should have its own separate Hall of Fame. THAT is one hell of a song,,,, it’s among the top 2 or 3 cry-in-your-beer country songs ever and one of the best country recordings ever. Vern makes you FEEL it. I didn’t know Steve Chapman died, I was just talking about him last Sunday. When I was asked about the ET ‘Great Band’ era…The guy was great. Now, in the Texas Troubadours he wasn’t Leon, but even Leon wasn’t Leon………. (That means Leon was UNREAL,,,,, or something like that.) Dave Barton’s eulogy segment was terrific. Love the newsletters and thanks Diane for keeping it going, I look forward to them.”

Reeva Parry says, “I have loved reading your newsletter regarding classic country music on a few E-Mail lists to which I subscribe. I would now like to ask you if I might receive my own copies to save?”

Art Covey in Richmond, Missouri, says, “Just read your story on Faron Young, and really enjoyed it. I appreciate all the effort you put out to send your newsletters.”

Johnny Western writes from Arizona on August 21, “Leon Douglas, the entertainer you helped Diane Jordan and me raise Go-Fund-Me money for, died today in Nashville. He had been on chemo and radiation for a long time with his throat cancer. I did talk to him after you wrote the story in your newsletter, and he really was grateful to you for the help. He was a great entertainer and a really good guy and those of us who knew him will really miss him. Thanks again for helping.”

One of my subscribers writes in his newsletter, “I get Diane Diekman’s Country Music Newsletter from South Dakota, and she always has a lot of information I’m not able to get, so the following is all ‘news’ from her letter. . . . There was also a big story about the Taylor Swift and David Mueller trial. That is so un-newsworthy I’ll not go into it. Thank you Diane for the news you gather together, and allowing me to share it.”
Diane: I posted such a long article about Taylor Swift to bring awareness to this important issue. It took a lot of guts to “stand up to a courtroom of men trying to prove her wrong,” as one reporter wrote. I’m proud of her. When the defense lawyer suggested her bodyguard should have stopped the assault, doesn’t it make you wonder why she should have to worry about being assaulted in the first place? She has now become a role model for encouraging women to speak up. This case should open the eyes of those who wonder why women don’t come forward. If someone as rich and famous as Taylor Swift gets treated this way, think about the ones who have no power. How would you react if someone stuck his hand under your wife’s—or your daughter’s—skirt?

David Markham, country music promoter in England, says, “I’m friends with the late great Faron Young’s family. How can I get in touch with Kenny Sears and Tess? I want to ask him a question on getting hold of any CD on the late Dawn Sears. R.I.P. Dawn. Can you help please Diane. It’s been so long since I last heard from you. I’ve had two strokes since then. Is Faron’s wife still alive and at Anchorage drive Nashville? I have still Faron’s photographs he sent years ago to me.”
Diane: Hilda now lives with her daughter. You can probably contact Kenny through the Grand Ole Opry. Any readers know how someone in the UK can find a Dawn Sears CD?

Jo Wenger writes from Oregon, “I just wanted to say the craft lid on the Marty house does not shut because of the guitar inside. I also want to thank the City of Glendale for finally recognizing and honoring Marty. I realize you are the person keeping memories alive of all of the classic country folks and thank you so much for your efforts and newsletter.“

Ralph Larson in San Antonio, Texas, says, “Thanks for keeping me informed of real Country Music as I do not care for the current offerings. Reference your response to Jean Earle of England, if the writing passion returns to you, please consider a biography of Patsy Cline. Last May, we visited her home in Winchester, Virginia, which is now a small tribute museum to her. Last week, I visited The Patsy Cline Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, and found both lacking in telling her life story adequately. Patsy deserves a well-researched biography so more will know of her influence on country music.”

I fell in love with a song that came to my attention recently. “You Lied To Me” was a cut on Tracy Byrd’s 1995 album, Love Lessons. It’s great listening and dancing music, and I wish someone would put it out as a single . When I looked up the lyrics, it was no surprise to learn the writer was Bill Anderson. “Monday I said Tuesday you’d be off my mind, Then I gave myself ’til Wednesday then on down the line, Funny how September turns to June so fast , , ,”

The sole entrant into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1987 was comedian Rod Brasfield. George D. Hay recruited him for the Grand Ole Opry in 1944. He replaced the Duke of Paducah on the Opry’s NBC network segment in 1947 and stayed there until his death in 1958, at age 48. He played a country bumpkin dressed in a baggy suit, button shoes, and worn-out hat, with clacking false teeth in his rubbery face. He and Minnie Pearl often traded comic dialogue. Born in Mississippi in 1910, Brasfield served one year in the Army Air Corps during World War II; he was discharged for recurring back trouble. He died of heart failure and alcoholism-related issues.

Comments are closed.