Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 10 January 2024


Vintage Guitar Magazine reports that rockabilly guitar great Larry Collins, 79, died January 5 at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Santa Clarita, California. He was 10 and his sister Lorrie was 12 when they joined the cast of Los Angeles television’s Town Hall Party as the Collins Kids in 1954. The Collins family had moved from Tulsa to Southern California the previous year, on the advice of Leon McAuliffe of the Texas Playboys, after Lorrie won a talent contest. In 1956, the Collins Kids appeared as guests on the first televised broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry. Joe Maphis mentored Larry and gave him the double-neck Mosrite guitar Larry played throughout his life. Lorrie and Larry reunited at a British rockabilly festival in 1993 and continued to perform occasionally. Lorrie retired in 2012 and died in 2018. Larry co-wrote hit songs “Delta Dawn” (Tanya Tucker) and “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” (David Frizzell/Shelly West), as well as writing songs with Mac Davis.

Bobby Braddock fell on December 26 and fractured his hip and pelvis. He is now in a rehab facility in a wheelchair. He writes on Facebook, “The strong support of my amazing daughter and her family and the wonderful words of my friends has made a bad situation seem not nearly as bad. My prognosis is total healing and full recovery, but it may take a few months. For the time being I plan to be hell on wheels!!” Bobby is a longtime reader of this newsletter. We send you our best wishes for a speedy recovery, Bobby.

New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash, broadcast on CBS-TV, brought in over eight million viewers, reports the Tennessean, making it the highest-rated country music program of 2023. The live show at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park was performed in front of a record-breaking crowd estimated at 215,000. The TV show more than doubled its audience from last year and was CBS’s second-most-watched original entertainment special after the Grammy Awards in February. The other country music shows in the ratings were ACM Awards (7.7 million viewers), CMA Awards (6.84 million viewers), CMT Music Awards (5.64 million viewers), CMA Country Christmas (4.49 million viewers), Christmas at The Opry (4.44 million viewers), People’s Choice Country Awards (3.90 million viewers), CMA Fest (3.65 million viewers) and CMA Fest: 50 Years of Fan Fair (1.77 million viewers).

Jon Pardi, 38, told the hosts of Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast, “I’ve been 112 days sober. I’ve lost a bunch of weight.” He said, “I was really getting to the point where every picture, every video I was so unhappy with myself.” Now, he says, “I just did a photo shoot and I was like … ‘Damn, I look good,'” He advises, “For anybody thinking about it, if they want to lose weight and you do drink, let me tell you, it does help tremendously if you stop.” He isn’t sure if he’ll stay committed to not drinking: “I’m retired, OK? Doesn’t mean I can’t come out of retirement. But for right now, it’s been great.” He and his wife, Summer, have an eleven-month-old daughter, Presley, and are expecting their second child while they are in the midst of building a new house.

After years of studying while touring the country, Oklahoma native Zach Bryan, 27, has earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology. MusicRow reports he recently celebrated the achievement in his cap and gown during a private ceremony. He served in the U.S. Navy before launching his music career, and he promised his mother long ago that he would get a college degree. She died in 2016.

When the Oak Ridge Boys announced their American Made: Farewell Tour in September, Joe Bonsall, 75, said, “My legs aren’t what they used to be.” The slow onset of a neuromuscular disorder has made walking impossible, and he now tells PEOPLE, “So I have basically retired from the road.” His replacement is Ben James, 27, a lifelong fan who was introduced to the band during a 2022 show in West Virginia, where he sang Bonsall’s part. Since 1973, the Oak Ridge Boys lineup has consisted of Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.

On New Years Day, John Michael Montgomery announced on Facebook that he will wind down his touring in 2024 and retire by the end of 2025. He said, “It’s been a wonderful run for me from the beginning over 30 years ago in 1992 when my first song LIFE’s A DANCE was released to radio.” MusicRow quotes him as saying, “I still love that feeling of entertaining and the crowd cheering and singing along with my songs as much as that first show over thirty years ago, and it all started when my parents got me on stage when I was a kid. I’m sure there will be some situations where I just need to do a show here and there because I’ll miss that too much. But I feel the time has come to say goodbye to the road life.”

The Black Opry, the organization that seeks to create equity and opportunities for black artists in country, Americana, folk and roots music, has announced the first 2024 dates for The Black Opry Revue Tour, with shows in Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Michigan. MusicRow reports the Black Opry Revue Tour launched in January 2022 and has played over 100 venues and festivals across the U.S.A. They include Dollywood, CMA Fest, Newport Folk Fest, Americana Fest, Willie Nelson’s Luck Ranch and The Troubadour. Tickets can be purchased at BlackOpryRevue.com.

The truck driver involved in a fatal crash that killed Laura Lynch, 65, could face criminal charges. Texas Department of Public Safety tells TMZ that the other driver involved in the December 22 head-on collision is being investigated to determine whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the wreck. He had blood drawn for drug and alcohol testing when he was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The results will be released once a judge signs off on the investigators’ subpoena. Even with negative test results, the driver could be charged for reckless driving or making an unsafe lane change. Laura was eastbound in her F-150 on Highway 62 when a truck entered her lane while apparently trying to go around two cars in the two westbound lanes. Drivers who witnessed the crash stopped to assist Laura. They cut her seatbelt to get her out; she had no pulse. She was a founding member of the Dixie Chicks in 1989, along with sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, plus Robin Lynne Macy.

June, a documentary that focuses on the life and career of June Carter Cash, premieres January 16 on Paramount+. MusicRow reports it will feature never-before-seen archival material, alongside interviews with June and comments by family and friends, including Dolly Parton, Reese Witherspoon, and Willie Nelson. June is produced by Sandbox Productions, Sony Music Vision and Maxine Productions (a part of Sony Pictures Television).

Every January for many years, Earl Scruggs held a birthday party at his home on Franklin Road in Nashville. The biggest names in country music came to his nine-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot home for dinner and a “pickin’ session.” The Country Music Hall of Fame and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member died in 2012 at age 88. According to the Tennessean, a capacity crowd celebrated his 100th birthday last Saturday night at the Ryman Auditorium. Three dozen performers played almost three dozen songs over a period of four hours. Proceeds from the event benefited the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, North Carolina, near his birthplace. The $5.5 million bluegrass educational center celebrates his musical contributions. At the beginning of his career, Earl Scruggs replaced David “Stringbean” Akeman on banjo in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys band.

The Grammy Awards website announces six recipients of the 2024 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to “performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.” The six include Gladys Knight, Donna Summer (posthumously), and Tammy Wynette (posthumously). They will be honored during the Special Merit Awards show at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on February3, during GRAMMY Week 2024. Tammy, known as “The First Lady of Country Music,” worked with producer/songwriter Billy Sherrill on such hits as “Apartment # 9″ and “Stand By Your Man.” She was the first female country singer to sell over one million albums.

The Gospel Music Association has announced plans to open the Dove Center and Gospel Music Museum on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Commerce Street in Nashville in 2025. MusicRow reports the center will include the Dove Awards Theatre, exhibits on the history of the gospel music industry, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Since 1969, the Gospel Music Association has hosted the annual Dove Awards, honoring diverse musical stylings in Gospel, country, pop, hip-hop, and more. The association hosts events and programs throughout the year, including GMA Christmas and Sound Mind Initiative.

Taste of Country provides an update on the health of Kris Kristofferson, 87. Officially, he retired during the COVID-19 pandemic. He appears frequently at Country Music Hall of Fame medallion ceremonies, usually on someone’s arm, as he did with Rosanne Cash during Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday celebration last April. “He’s really healthy and in good shape,” his manager said in 2021. He began suffering from memory loss in 2009; it was diagnosed as either Alzheimer’s disease or dementia brought on by being hit in the head so much while boxing and playing football. In 2016, a new doctor tested him for Lyme disease, which can cause memory loss and neurological problems, and the test came back positive. Following treatment for the correct illness, he emerged a new man, his friends say: “It’s like Lazarus coming out of the grave and being born again.”


Tom Barton writes, “I guess I just have not been paying much attention… Based on your article about him, I listened to some of Tony Jackson’s songs on YouTube — and he is absolutely awesome! His singing is amazing! Thanks for the article.”

Diane Jordan writes from Nashville, “I was glad to see you mention the death of Laura Lynch, in your newsletter. I thought you may be interested to know more about Laura. I read an advance copy of her book, back around 1998. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with the Dixie Chicks. I found her story very interesting. In the book, Laura said that after three albums, she was ‘dismissed’ from the Dixie Chicks. Martie and Emily wanted a more contemporary sound, and Laura was Country/Bluegrass and favored western wear. They knew Lloyd Maines, a well-known Texas steel guitarist, producer, and songwriter. He introduced them to his daughter, Natalie, when she came home on Christmas break from college in 1995. They booked a secret demo session and liked Natalie’s sound. They then told Laura she was out and Natalie was in. Laura’s boyfriend, Mac Tull, won $28 million in a lottery and they were married not long after. They had a daughter named Asia. She wrote in her book that having to leave the group broke her heart. She mentioned a room in their large house that was full of Dixie Chicks mementoes. She loved to shop in Paris, and I couldn’t help being happy about her winning the lottery. I have searched the Internet but couldn’t find her book anywhere. I regret that I can’t remember the title. Her death touched my heart and I wanted to know more. In Laura’s obituary, there is no mention of her husband, so they obviously had divorced. Congratulations on finishing your book on Randy Travis! I look forward to reading it. Happy New Year!”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thank you for the newsletter, everything seems right to enjoy your publication all through 2024. I wish we should have better news about Hilda, but time take its toll on all of us. Even if we share wishes and hope, we know we will lose friends and musical heroes. That’s the game of life. Thanks for the mention about The Delmore Brothers. I’ve the first edition of the book, it is a great one. I encourage everybody to buy books and to support writers. Books are precious friends that could be read, read again, shared, loaned, given, sent miles away … A book, like a song, may be read through the centuries carrying the precious memories of the past. For 2024, may we all make a wish to read and support authors. Warmest Country regards from your French friend.”

Jeff Lisowski says, “Wow! Surprised to hear of Bill Rice’s passing and surprised it went under my radar. Definitely one of my favorite songwriters and when partnered with Jerry Foster, a great team.”

Eric Calhoun writes, “Alana Young, I am sorry your mom is near her end. I send my heartfelt condolences. Diane, I want to thank you for the piece on Tony Jackson. As the son of a military veteran, I’ve worn military clothes over the years. The military gets you to being a man, and I have a lot of computer skills, but need to go to classes, as I write here from Braille Institute. I am sorry for the death of Laura Lynch. She was a great person. I remember some of the Chicks’ albums. My favorite was Wide Open Spaces, which I have as a CD. I love Natalie, Emily, and Marty. They also covered the Supremes’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love.’ Before the Chicks got back together, I heard some of Natalie’s solo albums, which sound bluesy, and a cross between Texas country and Rock N Roll. From a very sunny, Southern California, this is Eric Calhoun, wishing all of you a Happy New Year, and if you celebrate it, a Happy Kwanzaa!”

Phil Davies says, “Thank you, Diane. Informative as always. Merry Christmas Nadolig Llawen from Wales. Delmore Brothers are popular here with Hillbilly boogie and rockabilly fans. First heard them via Everly n Burnette Brothers.”

Stacy Harris, publisher of Stacy’s Music Row Report, sends this response to my latest newsletter: “To answer Mike McCloud’s question: The Chet Atkins statue, gone since May, found a permanent home at the Musicians Hall of Fame courtyard this past August. Steve Wariner did the public unveiling, singing a couple of songs while seated on the ‘vacant’ stool Mike will remember accompanying the sculpture.

   As you indicate, Donna Meade was Jimmy Dean’s widow. She was also a singer with quite a following due to her being a featured entertainer at The Stockyard, a Nashville restaurant owned by Buddy Killen during the ’80s; one that attracted the Music Row crowd, as well as tourists, due to its being an industry showcase venue, promoted as a place to see and be seen. If memory serves, Donna and Jimmy met when Jimmy was in town and saw Donna headlining as a regular at the restaurant’s Bullpen Lounge. Though she remarried, since Jimmy’s death Donna has tried to preserve his legacy in a number of ways, including overseeing the repackaging of, and technological updates to, a series of episodes from The Jimmy Dean Show that hadn’t been seen since the original ABC run, giving them new life on RFD in 2020.

   Now, I have a question for you and/or your readers: I’m looking for an update on Colleen Clark. Colleen wrote for Billboard during the mid-’70s then seemed to disappear. Is she still among us?

   Re: Ken Abraham.  I’m sure Ken described his collaboration with Nancy Jones as she would, however, based on what Abraham told you, he doesn’t realize the idea for the book goes back to when George Jones was alive and represented by Kirt Webster. Obviously, it would have been a very different book if there had been a ‘taker’ when Kirt was shopping it. ICEBERG [all-inclusive pen name for credible news sources who wish to speak freely] weighed in with an industry insider’s harsh review. Any Music Row veteran she has approached has a Nancy Jones story, courtesy of Nancy’s commanding presence. Nancy indicates that, having taken stock, she has mellowed. To the extent that is true, it is the Nancy Jones Ken Abraham knows and is apparently central to Ken’s characterization of Nancy.”

Diane: I found a Colleen Clark on Facebook, but I don’t know if she’s the correct person: colleencarolynclark@gmail.com. Readers, does anyone have information on Colleen?

Becky Hobbs aka “Beckaroo” responds to my note: “How nice to hear from you! I enjoy reading your newsletters and appreciate your sending them to me. I don’t have any big news that I can share right now, except that we had a great production of Nanyehi-The Story of Nancy Ward at the Tulsa Hard Rock Live Oct 13 & 14, 2023. Both shows were sold out and got standing O’s! You can see pics, etc. at www.nanyehi.com and there are some links to TV interviews on the ‘About the Musical’ page. I’ll never forget how nice it was of you to come and see it in Greenville, Texas, in 2016. Next week, I will be playing a Benefit for Alive Hospice at the Bluebird Cafe (Jan 9th) with Benita Hill and Billy Yates. I have been participating in it for quite a few years now and it is an honor to get to close the show with ‘Angels Among Us’ that Don Goodman and I wrote back in ’93. Super group Alabama was the first to record it. Thanks again for keeping us all connected. www.beckyhobbs.com

Becky announces on Facebook: “News Flash! Our Bluebird Cafe show here in Nashville (A Benefit for Alive Hospice) has been cancelled due to some overnight flooding! Dang it! Benita Hill, BILLY YATES and I were so looking forward to it! Will let you know when/if it is rescheduled.”


When I was looking for news blurbs, this article popped up on my computer screen: The 30 Most Depressing Country Songs of All Time, Ranked (tasteofcountry.com). Of all time? Some are new songs I haven’t even heard of. To have credibility with me, the list needed to include Dolly Parton’s “Down From Dover.” And there it was, at number three! I expected to see “Whiskey Lullaby,” and it was number four. One on the list that definitely qualifies is Reba McEntire’s “She Thinks His Name Was John.” It would be hard to pick a top thirty from a hundred years of country music, but I think “Soldier’s Last Letter” (Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard) and “Arlington” (Trace Adkins) are contenders. Another is Glen Campbell’s “Manhattan, Kansas.” So here’s my question: What do you think is the most depressing (or saddest) song in country music?


Youngstown, Ohio, native Bob DiPiero, born in 1951, played in rock bands and wrote songs before graduating from Youngstown State University and moving to Nashville. He made a living as a guitar instructor for five years, until the Oak Ridge Boys took his “American Made” to #1 in 1983. He placed songs on the charts every year from1988-2010. In 1995, he earned a Triple Play award from the Country Music Association for co-writing three #1 hits in a year, “Wink” (Neal McCoy), “Take Me as I Am” (Faith Hill), and “Till You Love Me” (Reba McEntire). He did it again the next year with “Blue Clear Sky” (George Strait), “Daddy’s Money” (Ricochet), and “Worlds Apart” (Vince Gill). He also co-wrote “The Church on Cumberland Road” for Shenandoah and “Little Rock” for Reba McEntire. Now 72 years old, he founded Being Bob Music in 2015: https://www.beingbobmusic.com

Lester Flatt, inducted as the team of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, partnered with banjoist Earl Scruggs to lead the most popular band in bluegrass music for two decades, until the end of the 1960s. Lester Raymond Flatt was born into a musical Tennessee family in 1914. He quit school at age 12 and went to work with his father in a sawmill. He married Gladys Stacey when he was 17; the couple worked in textile mills and performed on radio stations. They joined Charlie Monroe’s Kentucky Pardners until Bill Monroe offered Flatt a position in his Blue Grass Boys band in 1945. That brought him to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. Flatt and Monroe wrote several bluegrass songs, with Monroe recording “Little Cabin Home on the Hill” and “Will You Be Loving Another Man.” After Earl Scruggs joined their band, they developed a hard-driving, acoustic style that became known as bluegrass music. In 1948, Flatt and Scruggs formed their own Foggy Mountain Boys band and eventually popularized bluegrass music on college campuses and network television shows. Flatt & Scruggs wrote many of their most popular songs, such as “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’,” “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky,” and “Crying My Heart Out Over You.” When they broke up in 1969, Flatt formed the Nashville Grass, continuing to tour and record in spite of his declining health. He had a heart attack in 1967 and open-heart surgery in 1975. He died in 1979, at age 64, in Nashville. Flatt & Scruggs were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985.

Mac McAnally, born Lyman Corbitt McAnally Jr. in Alabama in 1957, was a guitar and piano prodigy who turned professional at age 13. He played Saturday nights in honky-tonks and Sunday mornings in church. He quit school in the eleventh grade and became an in-demand session player in Muscle Shoals. In 1977, at the age of 20, he released his first album. He became known as a producer, session musician, and songwriter. As a session guitarist and pianist, he won the CMA Musician of the Year Award ten times during the eleven-year period 2008-2018. He toured with Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band from 1998 until Buffet’s death. His songs have been recorded by Reba McEntire, Ricky Van Shelton, Charley Pride, Randy Travis (“Written in Stone”), Kenny Chesney (“Back Where I Come From”), Sawyer Brown (“All These Years”), Shenandoah (“Two Dozen Roses”), Alabama (“Old Flame”), and many others. He is a member of the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame, is 65 years old, and has a website at https://www.macmcanally.com/.

Dottie Rambo wrote thousands of songs and is known as the queen of gospel music. Her hymns have been recorded by Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sandi Patty, Connie Smith, the Oak Ridge Boys, and many more. Church choirs, congregations, and soloists sing her words and melodies every week. Born Joyce Reba Luttrell in Madisonville, Kentucky, in 1934, she began writing songs at age eight. She left home at age 12, intent on singing and writing music. Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis signed her to his music publishing firm. At 16, she married Buck Rambo; they later formed the Singing Rambos with their daughter Reba and had great success in the 1970s. Although health problems often kept her from touring, she continued writing songs. Her “We Shall Behold Him” and “I Go to the Rock” both won Gospel Music Association Song of the Year awards. In 1994, she became the Christian Country Music Association’s Songwriter of the Century. She received the ASCAP Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is a member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, both as a soloist and as a member of the Rambos. She died in 2008 when her tour bus crashed in Mount Vernon, Missouri, while on the way to a Mother’s Day show in Texas. Dottie Rambo was 74 years old.

Earl Scruggs, inducted as the team of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, partnered with Lester Flatt to lead the most popular band in bluegrass music for two decades, until the end of the 1960s. His three-fingered approach to banjo playing transformed American roots music and helped create the style now called bluegrass. Born in Flint Hill, North Carolina, in 1924, Scruggs was four years old when his father died and he began playing banjo. He started developing his three-finger style at age 10. He was 21 when he auditioned with Bill Monroe and made his Opry debut with Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in December 1945. His presence in the band solidified the sound Monroe had been working to perfect, and bluegrass music was born. In early 1948, Scruggs and guitarist-singer Lester Flatt left Monroe and became Flatt & Scruggs. The pair began collaborating as songwriters, with songs such as “My Cabin in Caroline,” “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’,” “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky,” and “Crying My Heart Out Over You.” Scruggs wrote “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” an instrumental that won Grammy Awards in 1969 and 2002. In 1969, Flatt & Scruggs disbanded, and the Earl Scruggs Revue was born. Flatt & Scruggs entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1985. Earl Scruggs was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. He died in 2012, at age 88, in Nashville.

Randall Hank Williams, better known as Hank Williams, Jr., was born to Hank and Audrey Williams in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1949. For years, he floundered, attempting to follow or not follow in his father’s footsteps. His autobiographical songs included “Standing in the Shadows” and “Family Tradition.” After recovering from a near-fatal fall off a Montana mountain, he decided to forge a truly original path. In 1975, he released Hank Williams Jr. and Friends, an album that embraced Southern Rock. His million-selling 1979 album, Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound, led him into being a superstar in the 1980s, with self-penned hits such as, “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” “Texas Women,” “Dixie on My Mind,” “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down),” and “Born to Boogie.” He has received five Entertainer of the Year awards, three from the Academy of Country Music and two from the Country Music Association. He served as the voice of Monday Night Football for 22 years, until a political controversy ended the relationship in 2011. His wife of 30 years died in 2022, and he remarried in 2023, at age 74. His children continue the Williams family musical tradition.

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