Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 3 May 2023

May 3rd, 2023


Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot, 84, died May 1 at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, Canada. He first gained fame in the early 1960s when Ian and Sylvia Tyson recorded two of his songs, “Early Morning Rain” and “For Lovin’ Me.” His reputation soared when Marty Robbins recorded “Ribbon of Darkness.” He had his own hits, such as “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” “Rainy Day People,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 19 April 2023

April 19th, 2023


Joe Vincent, the first steel player in the Nashville bands of both Marty Robbins and Faron Young, died at age 92 in Nashville on April 6. Joe Mack Vincent served in the US Army during the Korean War. Following his music career, he worked at and retired from Baptist Hospital. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Sylvia Webb Vincent, and his son, Joseph Michael Vincent. His funeral was held at Forest Lawn Funeral Home on April 11, followed by burial with military honors in the Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 5 April 2023

April 5th, 2023


Ray Pillow (1937-2023)

Herbert Raymond “Ray” Pillow, 85, died March 26 in Nashville. The Lynchburg, Virginia, native was born July 4, 1937, and served in the U.S. Navy. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1966 and performed regularly until formally retiring in 2018. I remember listening to him on the Opry for many years. And I always enjoyed him and Jean Shepard singing “I’ll Take the Dog.” Ray started Sycamore Records and later worked in the Arts and Repertoire department of Capitol Records. He was a presence at the Nashville Palace and helped Randy Travis get started. Ray is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joanne Pillow, and two of his three children, Selena and Daryl Ray. His eldest son, Ronnie “Dale” Pillow, died February 27. A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 22 March 2023

March 22nd, 2023


The owner of the 23,000-member Steel Guitar Forum, Bobby Lee, died March 7 at age 73. His daughter, Shoshanah Marohn, says he was at home in Petaluma, California. listening to the Beatles sing “All You Need Is Love.” He grew up in the hills of Western Pennsylvania, the eldest of six children in a musical family. In the fall of 1967, he hitchhiked to San Francisco. He started playing a lap steel somewhere around 1970. While working at the Mesa Boogie amp factory in Petaluma in the early 1980s, he started a quarterly newsletter for musicians, mailed by his wife and four daughters. He then got a job writing computer software, all the while playing regularly in bands. He had a vision of using the internet to connect everyone in the world who played steel guitar. The current iteration of the Steel Guitar Forum has been going since 1997.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 8 March 2023

March 8th, 2023


A month or so ago, I called David Ball to ask about his 1994 Warner Bros. showcase when he sang “Thinkin’ Problem.” During our conversation, he asked, “Do you know who Gordon Mote is? I think people would love to hear about him.” So I contacted Gordon, and the session piano player agreed to talk to me. “You are so sweet to want me to be a part of your newsletter,” he said. “Tell David I appreciate the shoutout. We haven’t worked together in quite a while, but he’s a great talent and a super-duper guy.”

Gordon was born and raised in Attalla, Alabama, a little town near Gadsden. He started playing the piano at age three. They were at his grandmother’s house in 1973 for Thanksgiving. The children all banged occasionally on her old upright piano, but this particular day Gordon sat down and played “Jesus Loves Me” with both hands. “It was a total miracle,” Gordon says. “There’s just no explaining it except that it was a God thing.” He’s been playing ever since.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 22 February 2023

February 22nd, 2023


Patience can be a virtue when trying to schedule an interview. It took more than 16 months before the stars aligned and I got a call from John Anderson to talk about my Randy Travis biography. It’s quite a thrill to hear such a recognizable voice on the other end of the phone line.

John and Randy first met in the late 1970s, when John was singing with house bands because he couldn’t afford his own band. Randy was in one of those house bands. Fifteen years later, when John was honored with the Academy of Country Music’s Career Achievement Award, he was thrilled to have it presented by superstar Randy Travis. “That was a big, big night for me,” he says. “I felt very flattered and honored. That particular award was for inspiring the younger people to move into country music.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 8 February 2023

February 8th, 2023


The last time I saw Wade Landry was in July at The Troubadour in Nashville, with Mel Tillis Jr. and his Memory Makers band. So imagine my surprise when I called him two weeks ago, and he’s now living in Louisiana. Kayo and I had first met Wade in 2021, at the Music City Bar and Grill in Nashville, where he was playing fiddle and singing Mel Tillis songs. Kayo caught him on a break and asked if he’d been with Mel Tillis at the casino in Flandreau, South Dakota, about 15 years earlier. She remembered Ernie Reed telling her before the show that it was the other twin fiddler’s first night with Mel. “Was it on New Year’s Eve?” Wade asked. Kayo said yes. “That was me,” he said. Kayo introduced me as the author of Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story, and Wade brought his copy several nights later for me to autograph.

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 25 January 2023

January 25th, 2023


“The very nature of our job is to be invisible,” says Nashville session multi-instrumentalist Mark Casstevens. Specializing in acoustic guitar, Mark accompanied over 250 artists in the recording studio from 1971 through 2010. “If you have an ego, you shouldn’t be in my line of work. You have to be happy to be part of the wallpaper, and I was. I got paid for my hobby.” He is one of Garth Brooks’s G-Men, the group who played on Garth’s first nine studio albums. “I have made it my life’s work not to be in a video,” he told me when I called him last week. “I’d rather be in the shadows. I want to be a supporting cast member; I don’t want the limelight.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 11 January 2023

January 11th, 2023


Randy Travis’s 1993 album, Wind in the Wire, contained four cuts by one songwriter, Roger Brown. I called Roger to discuss how that astounding number came about. He was in the right place at the right time. He and his friends had been writing cowboy songs, something no one else in Nashville was doing. Word quickly got around that “Brown got four Randy Travis cuts,” and that legitimized him as a songwriter. “Recording those songs was life-altering for me,” Roger tells me. “Because of that little album, which wasn’t a huge commercial success, I got to meet Randy Travis, I got to write with Randy Travis, and more important to me than any of it, I got to be friends with him. And remain so to this day.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 28 December 2022

December 28th, 2022


Charlie Monk, music industry networker and radio personality, died at home December 19 at age 84. Over fifty years ago, he co-founded the Country Radio Seminar, which is now a weeklong convention that draws more than 2,000 people and has live performances all over Nashville. He and radio promotions man Tom McEntee started Country Radio Seminar as a way for the few all-country stations to battle the pop stations that dominated radio in 1969. The Tennessean says Charlie grew up in Geneva, Alabama, “with a chip on his shoulder. He spent the rest of his life fighting against the ghosts of those few who said he and his family weren’t worth a lick.” In high school, he cleaned at a radio station until hired for a weekend on-air shift. After serving in the U.S. Army, he worked at various radio stations until he and his wife, Royce, moved to Murfreesboro and then Nashville, where he became a song publisher; he helped Randy Travis and Kenny Chesney get writing and record deals. Read the rest of this entry »