Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 7 December 2016

It’s been 34 years since a heart attack took Marty Robbins on December 8, 1982. Twenty years ago we heard the shocking news that Faron Young had shot himself; he died December 10, 1996. We miss them both, remember them fondly, and never tire of listening to their music.

Mark Eugene Gray (1952-2016)
Songwriter and former member of the group Exile, Mark Gray, died December 2 in Lebanon, Tennessee, at age 64. No cause of death has been reported. He joined Exile in 1979, where he and J.P. Pennington co-wrote two Alabama hits, “Take Me Down” and “The Closer You Get.” He co-wrote “It Ain’t Easy Being Easy” for Janie Fricke and had 190 songs as a BMI songwriter. He and Tammy Wynette recorded the duet, “Sometimes When We Touch.”

Kirk West, former manager of the George Jones Museum and business partner of Nancy Jones, has been convicted of federal bank fraud and sentenced to two years in prison, plus $1 million in restitution, Country Rebel reports. Since then, the four-story museum, restaurant, and event space have been sold to Possum Holdings LLC, a group of Nashville investors dedicated to preserving the legacy of George Jones. According to the Tennessean, “the investor group also purchased a ‘Master License’ to the George Jones name, likeness, and image.”

The Dollywood Foundation will be giving $1,000 per month for six months to Sevier County families who lost everything in the wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains. Dolly Parton issued a statement to say she was starting the “My People Fund” for families affected by the fires. “I have always believed that charity begins at home,” she says. “On the night of Nov. 28, 2016, terrible wildfires affected the Great Smoky Mountains around Gatlinburg, TN where I grew up. The firefighters, first responders, the Red Cross and many other organizations have done an incredible job in their emergency response efforts. Now as we look to the future, there are a lot of families who will need our help rebuilding and restoring their lives and the beautiful land we all call home.”

River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope is a new memoir by Naomi Judd, 70. It discusses her battle with depression and panic attacks, resulting in heavy medication, multiple therapies, and two stays in psychiatric wards. Suicide seemed the only way out, she told PEOPLE in an interview. “Nobody can understand it unless you’ve been there.” The illness consumed her after The Judd’s Last Encore tour in 2012. “I read up on all the scientific literature, I go to courses. I try to stay up on everything that I possibly can to get rid of this horrible curse,” she says. “Those thoughts of suicide don’t come anymore. But I’m vulnerable.”

The Charlie Daniels 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam at Bridgestone Arena on November 30 was a sold-out event, with 15,784 in the audience. Taste of Country reports Randy Travis and Lieutenant General Keith Huber stunned Charlie by joining him on stage and presenting him with the Rare Country Humanitarian of the Year Award, which Charlie earned for his efforts with the Journey Home Project. Retired U.S. Army Lt. General Huber is MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives.

“I got glaucoma and they gave me one of these cigarettes,” Loretta Lynn told PEOPLE about her attempt to smoke pot six months ago. “I took one smoke off of it and it hit me right here in the chest. I like to have died! Glaucoma is just going to have to take over.” She continues touring in spite of the fall that hospitalized her three months ago. “They tell me to rest all the time,” she said. “But I’m not tired!”

The House of David recording studio, a 102-year-old house, is the fourth building on Nashville’s Music Row to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. More buildings may be protected from alteration or demolition, according to the Tennessean, because the National Park Service has approved research to study 200 Music Row business operations and 65 buildings with rich history and contribution to country music. The Boot adds, “The National Trust for Historic Preservation has already identified Music Row as a national treasure, which makes the addition of many buildings to the National Register all the more likely.”

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “Thanks for that welcome newsletter. Leon Russell’s passing really hurt. His ‘50s musical legacy is made of two incredible demos cut in 1959 under Russell Bridges ID at WKY radio station located in Oklahoma City. ‘All Right’ is a terrific pounding piano rocker that goes fast and wild while ‘Swanee River’ borrows some to Carl Mann’s sound. Here we had a great piano work and a sax support. That demo was sent to Chess but for some reason was not issued until 1978 when both sides found their way on the UK LP Chess Rockabillies. On that LP we also had two pounding piano rockers by Mel Robbins (aka Argus “Pig” Robbins), another great pianist. Believe me the 17 years old cat from Oklahoma could really challenge with the old blind session cat. ‘All Right’ was bootlegged years ago and issued on a fantasy Chess 4863 45 rpm. The original record issued in 1955 featured ‘Love Me’ and ‘Lips That Kiss So Sweetly’ by Jimmy Lee Fautheree & Wayne Walker. That fake featured Russell on one side and Jimmy Lee & Wayne Walker on the other. It left me just wondering why these guys have not issued Russell’s two sides on a neat 45 rpm rather creating that hybrid piece of wax. It ain’t All Right!”

Vicky Stacknick says, “Several years ago, on Father’s Day, I made a karaoke tape that included ‘Daddy’s Hands.’ I wanted to make sure my dad had the message of love while he is still alive.”

Jean Earle writes from England, “Last year I told you about a really enjoyable show we had been to see….we actually went twice it was so good. An English gentleman named ROGER DEAN, who performed his “Story of the life of Johnny Cash”……he sang many of Johnny’s songs while telling the audience of all of the successes and sad times that Johnny went through during his years as one of the TOP country Gentlemen. Recently Roger very kindly sent me a copy of a song he has written for this special time of the year. I think the words are really pleasant and we have enjoyed Roger’s “Christmas song.” I would like to share it with you. Roger has said I may send it on to friends: https://youtu.be/Y0THoVcvgOk .”

Jan Manning in Montana wonders, “What can be done to influence the induction of Riders in the Sky into the Country Music Hall of Fame? This group is now celebrating its fortieth year in country music. They have been Grand Ole Opry members for decades, and represent a unique genre of American music that is frankly dying out. They are adored by millions of fans internationally and still play to sellout crowds. Would it help to start a letter-writing campaign to the Country Music Association? Thanks…always enjoy your newsletter.”
Diane: I don’t know what works. I have heard of letter-writing campaigns, but I’m not sure how successful they are. I’m a member of the CMA, and I vote every year on the awards, but I receive no correspondence about the Hall of Fame.

Cowboy Joe Babcock writes from Nashville, “Got back from Albuquerque where my western swing album, Trail Jazz, received the Cowboy Swing album of the year from the Western Music Association. The album has been honored now with 3 album-of-the-year awards. By the way, the Western Music Association is a wonderful organization and has an upcoming youth chapter that features some wonderful young musicians who love and play western and traditional country music.”

Joyce Jackson posted on Facebook: “Please send up prayers for my brother-in-law Stu Basore. He is really having a hard time as is my sister Marsha as she is his care giver. A lot of you know Stu as being one of Nashville’s top steel guitarists and that he has Parkinson’s and Luie Body Dementia. It is hard now for him to walk and/or even talk.”
Diane: Stu played steel at the Country Deputies reunion I organized on the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree in 2007. He’d been with the band when Faron Young stopped touring in 1993. I’m so sorry to hear he’s in such poor health.

Maheen Wick writes from Sri Lanka, “Thanks so much indeed for bringing us all up to date in the world of classic country music. I was very sorry to hear of Holly Dunn’s passing, she has some beautiful songs. I have one request. I am collecting all of Canadian country legend, Wilf Carter’s albums, and there is one album I can’t find anywhere. It is entitled, What Ever Happened To All Those Years, from 1988.I know there are some Canadians in your newsletter, so can you please ask anyone who can please assist with this request? My e-mail is: maheenwick@sltnet.lk Thanks a bunch and keep up the awesome work.”

Lowell and June Lydic write, “Janet McBride suggested we email you and request that we be added to your newsletter. I know we would enjoy keeping up with the news.”

Terry Counts in White Bluff, Tennessee, says, “Another great issue…wanted to mention that HEE HAW is aired on RFD TV weekly. They’d have to check the listing in their area when it airs….also I’m proud to say That Good Ole Nashville Music has been changed to That Nashville Music and is airing on RFDTV also. I watched it last Saturday, Merle Haggard and Leona Williams were the guests…Hag emceed the show…it’s GREAT and I think a lot of your people would love to watch the old greats. I think this show is from the late ‘70s as I remember this particular show, I was there (lucky me).”

Marshall Jordan in Richmond, Virginia, writes, “A friend of mine passed along your latest newsletter. I read all of it with great interest. Beginning with my childhood in Staunton, Virginia, and continuing throughout my life to this very day, I have loved country music. I especially love the traditional country, and I think the country classics are the very best country. I would love for you to put me on the list for your country music newsletter. I am looking forward to getting your most informative and interesting newsletters. Yes, I am a fan of the Statler Brothers. I used to see them on the Fourth of July in Staunton when they would do their Happy Birthday USA celebration. Those were really big events with lots of entertainment. The Statlers gave the evening performance along with a famous guest performer. The whole event was free. The Statlers really love their home town, and they have given so very much to it.”

Kate Davis of Bear Creek Productions in Medford, Oregon, says, “We always look forward to your newsletters – thank you again. Marty Davis was so privileged to receive the Service Member of the Year Award at the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs convention a couple of weeks ago. Such an honor from his peers in that organization. We had the pleasure of seeing Sherwin and Pam Linton at The Dakotas Fairs convention in Minot last week. Always great to see (and hear) them.

Johnny Western writes from Phoenix, Arizona, “The doctor says the final x-rays showed I have to have a total hip replacement on the right side. All these pain problems were caused by the ball joint being worn out and surgery is scheduled for right after the holidays. Jo and I wish you a happy Thanksgiving today.”

Ed Guy of Hank Williams Collectibles in Palm Coast, Florida, says, “HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! I am happy for your wonderful on-line Newsletter.”

Adam Gosdin requests, “Please put me on the list to receive the news.”

Tom Kimsey says, “Thanks for sending this to me! I lost my address in a security thing (it’s a long story) I got this yesterday but wasn’t sure how, can you share how this was sent to this 3rd party and got to me? Please add my new address to your list. I’ve been a big fan of yours even before you were famous.”

“I’m convinced the two greatest inventions in the history of show business have been the electric bass and the blow dryer.” –Whisperin’ Bill Anderson in his new book, An Unprecedented Life In Country Music, after describing the big upright bass either tied to the roof of the car or riding inside with cramped and irritable musicians.

Bill Anderson ran into Jon Randall (husband of Lorrie Morgan) in a publishing company parking lot one day and asked how he was doing. “So far today,” Jon replied, “I’ve lost my wife, my publishing deal, and my recording contract. And it’s only two thirty.” They discussed their upcoming writing appointment, and Jon said, “I should have a whole lot of good new ideas by then. We’ll write the saddest song in history.” Bill told him, “With all that you’re going through, we’ll write one that’ll make ‘Knoxville Girl’ sound like ‘Walkin’ In the Sunshine.'” The song they wrote was “Whiskey Lullaby.” They didn’t think anyone would want to record what they called “a double-suicide drinking song.” But Brad Paisley did, and he wanted Allison Krause to record it with him. Their duet was a hit, and the song won the 2005 CMA Song of the Year Award for its writers.

Bill Anderson, 79, is the only songwriter in history who has written songs that charted in seven consecutive decades–from “City Lights” by Ray Price in 1958 to “Country” by Mo Pitney in 2015. Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life In Country Music, which he wrote with country music historian Peter Cooper, focuses on his life in the music business. He’d been in a slump in 1989 when he wrote in Whisperin’ Bill: An Autobiography: “. . . I don’t have the foggiest idea where it is that I’m headed or what in the world I’m going to do if and when I get there.” His life began to improve in the 1990s when Steve Warriner brought “The Tips of My Fingers” back to the top of the charts. “I still felt bruised and bloodied, depressed about my marriage and my finances and my lack of viable new material,” Bill writes. He felt “like a relic. Yesterday’s success does not obscure today’s failure. What had I proven, other than that I used to be a songwriter?” Then along came Vince Gill, who brought Bill into Nashville’s new generation of songwriters, who collaborate instead of writing solo. Bill believes empathy is what makes his songs successful. “To me,” he writes, “the greatest asset a songwriter can have is empathy, the ability to put himself in another person’s place, to think like another person thinks, to feel what that other person feels.” Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life In Country Music is a book you’ll want to read.

The one person inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1965 was Ernest Tubb, the Texas Troubadour. He’d opened the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in downtown Nashville in 1947 so country music fans could obtain records, and he’d started The Midnight Jamboree in 1948 to showcase singers and their new records. Both organizations still continue almost seventy years later. ET was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry for forty years, after becoming a member in 1942, and he brought the first Opry show to Carnegie Hall in New York City. Born to Texas cotton sharecroppers in 1914, he spent his youth working on farms, digging ditches for the WPA, and clerking in a store as he tried to become a singer like his hero, Jimmie Rodgers. The assistance he received from Carrie Rodgers, Jimmie’s widow, he repaid throughout the years by helping numerous young singers. Emphysema forced him to give up performing in 1982, and he died two years later, at age 70.

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