Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 10 May 2017

I recently received this email from the Library of Congress: “The National Recording Registry is an annual list from the Library of Congress. Twenty-five recordings are named to the Registry every year. The Registry now numbers over 400 recordings. Each recording has been chosen by the Librarian of Congress, with input from the National Recording Preservation Board. These recordings have been deemed so vital to the history of America—aesthetically, culturally or historically—that they demand permanent archiving in the nation’s library. Those of us who work on the Registry are attempting to build a variety of scholarly essays on each of the 400 titles on the Registry. I was wondering if you might be able write something for us/the Library on the topic of Marty Robbins and his Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album?” I said yes. My submission deadline is the end of this year.

Loretta Lynn, 85, is in a Nashville hospital after suffering a stroke at home in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on May 4. She is expected to make a full recovery. Her doctors have told her to stay off the road while she is recuperating. The 26 shows she had scheduled across the country between May and November will be postponed, including her July 8 appearance in Sioux Falls.

Kricket Reynolds, band leader at the famous Renfro Valley venue in Kentucky, says the owners fired the band on April 29 after the Saturday night show. WKYT-TV reports that eight members received a short letter from Old Barn Entertainment stating their services were no longer needed. “None of us knew anything about it at all,” Reynolds says. “The entire band, and let me make this clear, was fired. This was not a layoff.” They were told to take all their equipment and personal items with them. Some of the musicians have played for Renfro Valley for more than 50 years. One is 86 years old. “The saddest part of all,” she says, “is that they didn’t even thank us.”

Vince Gill and his daughters, Jenny and Corrina, sang the National Anthem before the Nashville Predators playoff game on May 2, reports Nash Country Daily. The team played the St. Louis Blues for Game 4 of their Round 2 playoff series in the National Hockey League.

The 25th anniversary of the release of “Achy Breaky Heart” is being celebrated with a new version. Billy Ray Cyrus recorded the new cut in Muscle Shoals, and he co-produced it with Don Von Tress, who wrote the song. Ronnie Milsap played keyboard. The new version is closer to the sound Von Tress intended when he wrote the song. “We went back to my original demo,” he says in a press release. “The song is so simple…it’s two chords and some nursery rhyme verses really, so we created something again we both really love, and it’s just fun to have the opportunity to put this song out for people to enjoy again. I hope they love it as much as the first time!”

In his latest fan club newsletter, Bill Anderson lists the current members of his Po’ Folks Band: “Les Singer, our guitar player from Cropsey, Illinois, has been with me the longest…since 1981, in fact. Lester doesn’t tour with us anymore due to health issues, but he’s there as our band leader every night we’re on the Grand Ole Opry. James Freeze, our bass player from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, has been with me since 1991. He sings background vocals and emcees our shows when the occasion calls for it.” Anthony “Ziggy” Johnson from Gate City, Virginia, has played keyboards and served as vocal arranger since 1992. Robert “Cotton” Payne from Poteet, Texas, has been the drummer since 1997. Kenzie Wetz from Oklahoma City plays fiddle and sings harmonies. Pat Severs is the steel guitar player. “He is from Camden, South Carolina, and became a Po’ Person in 2010,” Bill writes. “He can double on guitar, banjo, and dobro, and often does. I’m proud of my band and would hate to think I had to go onstage without them.”

Billy Ray Cyrus is dropping his first name. “After August 25th, I will be the artist formerly known as Billy Ray,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “I’m just going by my last name Cyrus. I always went by Cyrus, and I begged Mercury Records to call me Cyrus in the beginning because that’s what I was comfortable with. I’m going to the hospital where I was born in Bellefonte, Kentucky, and legally changing my name.”

Music In My Heart is the new Charley Pride album, set for release on July 7. His first new studio release in more than six years, the album features 13 new recordings and is produced by Billy Yates. “It was fun getting back into the studio,” Charley says in a press release.” My goal was to record the best traditional country album possible. I wanted someone else to handle the producer chores so I could focus more on my singing.” About Billy Yates, he says, “His self-produced albums show a strong respect for traditional country and he’s a good songwriter, too. Finding the right songs took a while and we both keep busy schedules, so this album took longer to finish than I’m used to. But we did find some wonderful songs and I’m very happy with how everything sounds. I hope everyone will enjoy listening to the album as much as I enjoyed making it.”

The Dollywood Foundation has administered its final distribution from the My People Fund. Beginning last December, the fund provided $1,000 each month to Sevier County families whose primary residences were destroyed by the Smoky Mountain wildfires. “The My People Fund has been a great success,” Dolly Parton said in a May 5 press release. “Over the last five months, we’ve given nearly 900 families $5,000 to help them recover. Yesterday, we had our last distribution and I went over to The LeConte Center to say thanks to all the volunteers and to help give out a few checks myself. We matched what they’ve received already with another $5,000 check. I know $10,000 can’t solve everything, but I do hope the money will help them to dream again.”

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously approved House Resolution 259 honoring Jeannie Seely on her 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. “Never have I been more proud of my heritage than I was today,” Jeannie said in a press release on April 26. “It is my hope that I will always represent Pennsylvania in a manner that would make them proud of their native daughter, and I thank them for this distinguished honor.” She was born in Titusville and raised on a farm outside Townville. On Sept. 16, 1967, she became the first Pennsylvania native to be an Opry member.

Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters with Dolly Parton is a new book edited by Randy L. Schmidt. It’s a collection of Dolly Parton interviews conducted over the past fifty years by publications such as Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, and Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. Some of the interviews have never been published. The book includes 23 print interviews and two transcribed audio interviews. According to the Daily Mail, “Back in the early 1980s, Dolly gained fifty pounds from binge eating. She was stricken with internal abdominal bleeding and received death threats that forced her to cancel a tour. Meanwhile, she was struggling to get over the nightmare of working with Burt Reynolds on the film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Add a broken heart from an unnamed lover outside of her open, long marriage to Carl Dean to the mix, and it nearly pushed Dolly over the edge.” She is quoted as saying, “I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom one afternoon when I noticed in the nightstand drawer my gun that I keep for burglars. I looked at it a long time… Then, just as I picked it up, just to hold it and look at it for a moment, our little dog, Popeye, came running up the stairs. The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality I suddenly froze. I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God. . .. I don’t think I’d have done it, killed myself, but I can’t say for sure. Now that I’ve gone through that terrible moment, I can certainly understand the possibilities even for someone solid like me if the pain gets bad enough.”

David Corne sends thanks from the UK: “Could I just relay my thanks to Joe Babcock for taking the time and trouble to answer my query on Marty and ‘I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water’? I was going through what songs Joe had recorded by him and what superb quality they were. My 2 most favourite were ‘Won’t You Forgive’ and ‘Southern Dixie Flyer.’ Both of them were tremendous performances by Marty and I’m somewhat surprised how both great songs never featured more on albums down through the years. I thought ‘Won’t You Forgive’ could have easily been the A side over ‘Ruby Ann’ it was so good in my opinion. ‘Ghost Train’ could so easily have been the same; what a record that was. Joe had two of his songs ‘A Little Sentimental’ and ‘Turn The Lights Down Low,’ which became album titles for Marty which were both top quality and there was ‘Prairie Fire’, ‘Doggone Cowboy’ and ‘But Only In My Dreams’ to name just 3 more which were superb. If I could ask one more question, Joe, is it you on Marty’s recording of ‘Yours’ from the Portrait Of Marty album along with Bobby Sykes?”

Robert MacMillan writes from Kinloid House Arisaig, Inverness-shire, Scotland, “With reference to David Carne’s comments in an earlier Newsletter, I would like to remind him of another Marty tribute album – the 1985 Bear Family vinyl release Marty Robbins Scrapbook (Memories of Marty) by Bev King and Joe Knight (originally issued on Revonah Records in 1984). The gate fold sleeve of the 12-track album features a dozen or so photographs of Marty in the ‘50s. The album notes commence with the following, ‘When Marty Robbins cut his first record for Columbia Records in Dallas 1952 Joe Knight was there playing Sock rhythm on his National flat top guitar. Now over 30 years later on this album Joe Knight is not only playing sock rhythm on the same guitar but also singing Marty’s songs….’ However, like David, I do find it surprising that there’s been no mainstream tribute album in memory of Marty. I seem to recall some years back that Charley Pride was considering recording one but I guess it never came to pass (although he did record a Jim Reeves tribute album). Many Irish artists have recorded Marty songs over the years particularly Paddy O’Brien who is a huge Marty Robbins fan.”

Barbie Corwin, widow of steel player Hank Corwin, writes from Diberville, Mississippi, “I enjoyed reading your latest Newsletter, as usual. The letter from Dominique Anglares from France mentioning Tibby Edwards brought back old memories. When I was in High School, I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We had an old tube-type radio that had excellent reception. On Saturday nights I used to listen to the Louisiana Hayride from KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. At that time Johnny Horton was touring & only occasionally appeared. Some of my favorite regulars were David Houston, Bob Luman, & Tibby Edwards. Tibby was young and, although I never saw him in person, I had a teenage crush on him. I don’t remember anything he sang, but found records by him on ‘D’ and Todd records. I was glad to hear news about him and am sorry he died young. Your Newsletter helps me keep up on happenings in country music. Thanks for your work. Please keep it up!”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that welcome newsletter and for the room given to my words about Lefty and Tibby Edwards. That weekend I was in Bruges, Belgium, to see my friend Bill Harlan perform at a place named The Cowboy Up. He has played on Saturday in UK before flying there. Billy Harlan was Dave Rich’s bass man before joining Jim Reeves from 1957 to 1959 as bass player and front man. He played then with Tommy Hill, Leo Jackson, Royce Morgan, Louie Dunn. A childhood friend of the Everly Brothers, he recorded a rock-a-billy single for Brunswick and few sides for RCA that were left unissued. Billy, now 80 years old, has delivered a fine performance paying tribute to Phil Everly with ‘Bye Bye Love.’ “

Andrew Means writes from Arizona, “Thanks for your coverage of Ronny Robbins. Ronny was guest of honor last September when the city of Glendale held a ceremony to name a street for Marty Robbins. From what I’ve seen and read of Marty, I’d say Ronny inherited his father’s gift of being able to relate to all comers. People left his presence feeling better for his smile and conversation.”

Mary Knapp says, “Always enjoy your news. Really nice to read about Ronny Robbins, such a nice fellow. Glad I got to meet him. Keep up the great work.”

Rose Frisbee writes, “Once again a great newsletter so happy you interviewed Ronny. I am a big fan of the whole family and love to see updates. So happy to see Marty’s​ memories being kept alive. He was a great entertainer, song writer, singer and good person.”

Johnny Western writes from Arizona, “Got a Facebook from Leon Douglas today and he has another chemo today, which will not be fun. Diane Jordan and I sure thank you for the help.”

Ernie Renn requests, “Please sign me up for your newsletter. It was forwarded to me by Clem Schmitz in Minneapolis.”

Kate Davis writes from Medford, Oregon, “I can’t think of any entertainer more deserving of honor than Leroy Van Dyke. He is always a kind and gracious person.”

Larry Jordan says, “I really have been enjoying your emailed newsletter. It’s very newsy and I learn a lot. I can only imagine how much time it takes to assemble all those bits and pieces of information. Congrats!”

Joe Bollard in the Republic of Ireland writes, “Really enjoy your newsy letters, I’m just wondering is there an audio book version of the Marty Robbins life story, would like to get my ears on it, keep up the good work, God bless, travel safely.”
Diane: The only audio version I’m aware of is in a special library for the blind. As much as I’d like to offer an audio book, I’ve never devoted the time and money that would be required to get the story recorded.

JR and Cheta Rutherford send this note from a spot in the road in Texas: “We’re an old / recently / married couple, who love old country music. Would also love to be a part of your news group. This one is very interesting. Thank you for allowing us to join.”

Jerry Jameson writes, “I am hoping you could describe what Marty Robbins was like as a person, husband, and father. His biographies are more than complete in documenting his childhood, musical career and racing history. However, nothing I have read includes a description of what he was like as a person. He was a father of two and a husband. His life is so unusual. He was clearly driven to succeed and challenge himself. And yet, I can’t find out anything about what he was like. I just discovered you in the course of looking up Marty Robbins. Where do I get your book? I’d love to read it.”

When Hubert Long was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979, I had never heard of him. It wasn’t until beginning my biography research 21 years later that I learned there might not have been a Faron Young without Hubert Long. When record producer Ken Nelson of Capitol Records heard Faron singing on KWKH Radio in Shreveport in 1951, he asked his friend to sign the young singer to a recording contract. Hubert agreed to do so, and he became Faron’s manager at the same time. From that beginning came the Hubert Long Agency for talent booking. Bill Anderson and Ferlin Husky were two of the many stars whose careers he guided. Hubert Long was instrumental in founding the Country Music Association. He died unexpectedly of a brain tumor in 1972, at age 48, and was inducted posthumously into the Country Music Hall of Fame he had helped establish. Hank Snow was the second person inducted in 1979. He was my mom’s favorite singer. Born in Nova Scotia in 1914, Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow survived an abusive childhood and started his musical career in the image of Jimmie Rodgers. In l948, he met fellow Rodgers fan Ernest Tubb, who got him on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1950, he hit with “I’m Moving On.” The single stayed at number one for 21 weeks and in the top ten for 44 weeks. It’s a Billboard record that has never been equaled. In l977, his 104th RCA Victor album was called Still Moving On. When inducted into the Hall of Fame, he was still recording songs that made it onto the charts. Respiratory problems forced him to retire from performing in 1996. He died at age 85, from heart failure, in 1999.

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