Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 11 January 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.”

Roger is a Texan whose church organist mother loved big bands and western music, especially the Sons of the Pioneers. One of the first records he remembers hearing was Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers Sing and Tell the Legend of Pecos Bill. At age 12, he received a gift of a guitar and the 1973 publication of Jim Croce Life and Times Songbook, which contained stories, photos, and every song Croce had recorded. Chord charts accompanied the song lyrics. Roger knew the songs, such as “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues,” and “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.” He explains, “I would look at the chords, and knowing how the song sounded, I taught myself to play the guitar.”

Roger moved to Nashville in 1982 to be an artist for Monument Records. When Fred Foster asked what he would like to record, Roger said he wanted to do the Merle Haggard/George Strait thing. Fred pushed across his desk a typed letter and a Xeroxed copy with horrible streaks, and said, “Pick one.” Roger recalls, “I’m 21 and I’m stupid, and I said, ‘It’s the same letter, Fred.’ He said, “Yeah, but which would you pick?'” Roger chose the typed one. Then Fred gave Roger the best career advice he’s ever received: “The original is always the original, the copy is always the copy. Be the original, not the copy.”

Roger says, “I may have swung the pendulum a little too far, because I have always been committed to not doing exactly what everybody else is doing.” When his Monument record deal fell through, he spent the next 12-15 years writing songs he wanted to record. Other artists recorded some of them. Being an “outside-the-lines guy,” he says the usual reaction was, “Wow, I can’t hear radio ever playing that, but what a cool song.” And that was the attitude toward his Wind in the Wire songs. “In hindsight,’ Roger says, “if I had the do-over, I probably would put more emphasis on trying to write for other people.”

He did finally release a five-song EP record on Decca in 1996. It was a hybrid of western swing and big band music that did well in the dance circuit. They made a music video of “Swing City,” and someone developed a popular line dance called “Swing City Jive.” Roger calls that “my fifteen minutes as an artist.”

I asked him to tell me some songwriter stories. He recalls doing a songwriter’s night in the late ’80s, “back when they were a rarity,” he says, “at a little Humphrey Bogart-themed club in Nashville called Bogeys.” Located in a strip mall, it had a big glass front that allowed people to look in from the sidewalk. Harlan Howard and MCA artist Nanci Griffith from Texas were walking past after their dinner at the Italian restaurant next door when Harlan noticed Roger onstage. He offered to introduce the two Texans, and they went inside Bogeys to listen. One of the songs Roger sang was “I Knew Love.” Nanci recorded the song, released as a single in 1988. “It was a moderate hit, and it sort of put me on the map as a writer,” Roger says.

He told me about “We Must Be Loving Right,” a song he wrote with Clay Blaker and was on George Strait’s 1993 album, Easy Come, Easy Go. “It’s a slow romantic song,” Roger explains, “and Steve Dorff wrote a brilliant string arrangement. That’s exactly what I always wanted a song to sound like; George absolutely nailed it.” Actor James Brolin, a big country music fan, gave the CD to girlfriend Barbra Streisand and asked her to listen to “The Man in Love With You” (written by Steve Dorff), which he apparently said was how he felt about her. She listened to the entire album, heard Roger’s song, and recorded “We Must Be Loving Right” on her 1999 album, A Love Like Ours, a wedding gift to Brolin.

Roger’s final story began with receiving a phone call from friend Gene Pistilli, who had once co-produced Jim Croce and who wrote Randy Travis’s “Too Gone Too Long.” Pistelli said Croce’s widow, Ingrid, was in town to interview him for a book she was writing about her late husband. “I knew you learned to play from his songbook,” he told Roger, “and I thought you might like to meet her.” Roger joined them for dinner, telling Ingrid he learned to play guitar from her husband’s songbook. He said the pictures of her in the songbook made him feel like he already knew her. “I go back home and think, wow, what a great experience,” Roger tells me. “A few years later, I got a Facebook message from A.J. Croce, their son, who is a singer-songwriter-musician. He said I’m in Nashville doing some songwriting, and I was wondering if you’d like to get together and write.” Roger went to A.J.’s rented house, where a music room contained A.J.’s piano and a variety of guitars. When Roger started to pull his guitar out of its case, A.J. said, “Hang on a second.” He picked up a Martin guitar, handed it to Roger, and said, “I thought you’d like to maybe use this one. This was the guitar my dad wrote all his songs on.”

Holding that guitar, Roger was too emotional to focus on the writing. “That almost ruined the writing session,” he says. “It was a powerful moment for me. When I was 12-14 years old, I never dreamed I would ever meet anybody in this business, much less this–the guy who was the start of it all.”

Roger’s current project is producing his second album on Texas performer Matt Castillo, who is from McAllen and now lives in Austin. “Matt is sort of like Dwight Yoakam joins the Mavericks,” he says. “It’s sort of Bakersfieldish with a little bit of South Texas thrown in. That he’s kind of different, that’s a recurring theme in my entire career as a songwriter.” At next week’s recording session, Roger will tell the musicians to listen to the songs he plays and then move past the obvious to think about a completely different way to do it. “That’s the direction I want to go,” he says. “I don’t want to do the obvious.” When he listens to a song, and it’s recorded exactly the way he expects it to be–this in the first verse, the chorus does this, the second verse is this–he’s disappointed, because he doesn’t feel it was challenging enough.

We ended our conversation by talking about today’s music. Roger says a lot of fans and “civilian” friends ask him why the stuff coming out of Nashville is so bad. He tells them it’s about commerce: “If people quit going to concerts and stopped buying those records or streaming those songs, they’ll do something different. Listeners have culpability there. If you don’t like something, don’t support it.” He reminds us there’s a lot of wonderful music being made by independent artists. It’s hard to find on mainstream radio, because radio drives the bus. “If radio says that’s what we want, then that’s what the record labels are gonna give them,” he says. “There’s a lot of great music you won’t hear on the radio. Great traditional country music is still being made. You have to look for it, and it’s worth the journey. If you take the time, it’s worth finding some of these artists.”


I came across this excellent summary of country music deaths in 2022: That Nashville Sound: The Curtain Falls On Many Country Music Voices In 2022. Thanks to K.F. Raizor for all the research in providing us with this information. Many of those listed I’d mentioned in my newsletter during the year, but I missed a few. Jerry Whitehurst, who was Ralph Emery’s orchestra leader on Nashville Now, died at age 84. Joel Whitburn, whose Billboard Top Country Singles book is invaluable to me, died at age 82. I was shocked to read that Saundra Steele had died of ovarian cancer on May 30. I met Saundra at Bill Anderson’s Hall of Fame gala in December 2021, when I shared a table with her and Lloyd Green. Lloyd had told me how they’d reconnected several years ago at a songwriter event at the CMHOF. He’d played on her 1968 recording sessions when she was 18 years old. They seemed to me to be a perfect couple, enjoying both their independent lives and their time together. Lloyd tells me, “To say I’m profoundly saddened at losing Saundra to stage 4 ovarian cancer only further illuminates our love and adventures together.”

Canada’s greatest cowboy singer/songwriter, Ian Tyson, died December 29 at his ranch near Longview, Alberta. He was 89 years old. In 1959, he formed the folk duo, Ian & Sylvia, with Sylvia Fricker. They married in 1964 and divorced in 1975. His first effort at songwriting was “Four Strong Winds” in 1964. CBC Radio named it “the greatest Canadian song of all time” in 2005. He became a cowboy artist in 1983 with the album Old Corrals and Sagebrush, followed by Cowboyography in 1985. He was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1992, the Alberta Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018, and the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2019.

The two sons of the late producer and guitarist Jimmy Capps died two days apart. Jimmy and his first wife, Anne, adopted Jeffery Allen as a baby in early 1968. Mark Jason was born to them in late 1968. Anne died of a brain aneurysm in 2005, after being married 47 years. Jimmy married Michelle Voan in 2007. He died in 2020 at age 81. Mark Capps posted on Facebook on January 3: “No words. RIP Jeffery Allen Capps Dec 31, 1967 – Jan 03, 2023, Details will follow as I receive them. I wasn’t close to any of his friends, so please pass this along if you know any of them.”

On January 5, Mark Capps was shot and killed by a SWAT team after he brandished a gun in the doorway of his home, according to Variety. Nashville police had responded to an incident in which Mark, 54, had allegedly held his wife, 60, and stepdaughter, 23, captive at gunpoint the previous night. When he fell asleep around dawn, the two women escaped and went to the Hermitage precinct to file a report. Warrants were issued for aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping. The SWAT team confronted and killed him shortly after the warrants were issued at 1:55 p.m. His father, the late Jimmy Capps, wrote (with cowriter Scot England) in his 2018 autobiography, The Man in Back: “Mark is a Grammy award winning studio engineer . . . and he runs any projects I produce. Mark is also a great musician. My son Jeff is a fantastic musician as well. Mark is married to a beautiful sweet lady named Tara. She has a daughter, McKenzie, who is Roy Acuff’s great granddaughter. Mark’s daughter, Summer, my granddaughter, graduated high school this year.” A sad, sad time for the Capps family and their many friends.

Stan Hitchcock, one of the founders of Country Music Television (CMT), died January 4 at age 86. Born and raised in Missouri, he was eight when he appeared on a talent show and then, as a teenager, he performed on local radio stations. He formed his first band while deployed on a U.S. Navy warship, entertaining fellow sailors while steaming to various ports of call, reports Saving Country Music. He recorded for various labels in the 1960s, with his biggest hit, “Honey I’m Home,” reaching #17 on the country charts in 1969. He saw an opportunity in 1982 to give country music its own cable television network, along the line of the popular MTV. He and his partners formed the Country Music Television network, a profitable venture they sold in 1991 to Gaylord Entertainment. A major country music enterprise, it still exists. I didn’t see any mention of Stan’s death on CMT News.

At the Grand Ole Opry on New Year’s Eve, Jeannie Seely sang the Skeeter Davis classic, “The End of The World.” On piano and making his Opry debut was Jason Coleman, the grandson of Floyd Cramer–who had played on Skeeter’s record. It was the 25th anniversary of Floyd’s death. Charlie McCoy also performed on the New Year’s Eve tribute.

Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway appeared recently on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on ABC-TV. “Molly is the rare bluegrass artist who grew up playing music with her family’s band, only to detour as a young adult into an alternative pop style, and then return to bluegrass,” reports Bluegrass Today. She played both banjo and guitar as a teenager, and since finishing music school, is now focused on flatpicking and singing her original songs. She and Golden Highway toured all of 2022 in support of their Crooked Tree album. “Bluegrass has changed, she is an unbelievable picker,” writes Dave Barton, who sent me the article from Franklin, Kentucky.

I reported in my August 10 newsletter that country trio Lady A postponed an upcoming tour so lead singer Hillary Scott and guitarist Dave Haywood could support bandmate Charles Kelley on his sobriety journey. The Request Line Tour will be rescheduled to 2023. Kelley, 41, has now co-written a goodbye letter to alcohol, “As Far As You Could.” In a press release, he says, “I’m grateful. I finally see the light and am connecting with what life is all about. Some days are hard, but the good so outweighs those bad moments. There’s some beauty in all this and I’ve had time to reflect, time to get healthy, time to write. I’ve probably written 50 songs this fall, and I feel like all of it was leading to this one song.” He posted on Instagram, “My wife reminded me a couple days ago that I’d hit my six-month sobriety mark and woo hoo! Couldn’t have done it without her, above all, and my bandmates. So much support.”

Anita Pointer, 74, of The Pointer Sisters, died December 31 at her home in Beverly Hills, California. Sister June died in 2006 and Bonnie in 2009. Anita and Bonnie wrote the song, “Fairytale,” which the Pointer Sisters recorded in 1974 in Nashville. Released to country radio, it reached #37 on Billboard. Although the sisters were born and raised in Oakland, California, their parents came from Arkansas, and they grew up singing country songs. Saving Country Music reports they performed at the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville to such a positive reception that they were invited to appear on the Grand Ole Opry. They made their debut on October 25, 1974–the first black vocal group to perform there.

“Exciting news!! I am officially on the mend and have been given the all-clear to perform for you again,” LeAnn Rimes, 40, writes on Instagram. “To celebrate, I’ve added some brand new shows to ‘the story…so far tour.’ The new dates will be on sale later this month.” She explained in early December that she was under doctor’s orders to give her vocal cords a much-needed rest. While she was sick with the flu, her violent coughing caused a bleed on her vocal cord.

During a rescheduled performance in Estero, Florida, following a hurricane, Reba McEntire stopped the show and announced, “We’re going to interrupt our regularly scheduled program right now. As you all know, we were supposed to be here a month ago. Tonight, in Cleveland, Tennessee, they are having a graduation ceremony at Lee University. My drummer, Garth Justice, was supposed to be there, graduating with a degree in business management. Fortunately, he decided to join us in playing the show, so we brought the graduation to him.” According to MSN.com, Reba provided a cap and gown, conducted a short graduation ceremony, and handed him his diploma to “Pomp and Circumstance” while his family watched. Reba then said, “This next song is very appropriate. I’ve sung this song many times. I’ve had people stand up in the audience and show their college or high school diploma. Because after their kids were raised and grown out of the house and finished college themselves, they went back and got their degree and fulfilled their dream, so tonight we’re going to do this song for you, Garth. We applaud you.” She then sang “Is There Life Out There.”


Moragh Carter writes from the United Kingdom, “I was so sad to hear of the death of Peter Cooper. He was a good friend. I first met him in Liverpool in 2012, after hearing him and Eric Brace singing on the radio in 2010. I loved how their voices harmonised. I saw him four times in the UK, and several more times in the US, sometimes with Eric and other times on his own. The last time I saw him was in Southport, UK, in 2019, before the pandemic shut everything down. I will be forever grateful for him taking me to Tom T Hall’s home to meet him and his wife, Miss Dixie. He also opened many doors for me to contact other artists, including those who I wanted a blurb from for my biography of Jack & Misty, and he sometimes treated me to a meal, too. He was always so warm and friendly, as well as being a mine of information. He will be greatly missed by many. I send my condolences to his family and to his many close friends.”

David Corne writes from England, “I think there was a typo in the Bob Jennings letter in your last newsletter. Dick Van Dyke as a country singer? That sounds as ludicrous as when he played a cockney chimney sweep in Mary Poppins. Well, it gave me a laugh anyway! Regarding Leroy Van Dyke, I think he must be one of the last singers left from those far off days whose records I used to buy back in the ‘60s, apart from Bill Anderson and Willie Nelson who are still going strong. I’d be interested to know of any others.”

Diane: Oops. As many times as I proofread that newsletter, I missed seeing that Dick should be Leroy. Thanks for the correction.

Logan Hill says, “I would like to sign up for your newsletter. I read your book about Faron Young and loved it. I love his music, so it was nice to read about his life. I think it’s awesome that you keep in touch with his family. I hope they’re doing well. I’d love to reach out to them and let them know he’s still remembered, and people still listen to his music. I think that’s cool how you do all the research for your books. Thank you for providing an address for Becky from the Isaacs. I’m sending her a get-well-soon card. I’m a traditional country music fan so I pretty much listen to the ‘90s and back. I don’t listen to this new country. Thank you so much for everything you do. Your books and newsletters are perfect and very informative.”

Robert White Johnson of RadioQuest writes from Hendersonville, Tennessee, “Please add me to your Country Newsletter. My wife, Mary, is from Sioux City, and it’s where we met. Dottie West brought me here in ’78 to develop me as a pop artist. Soon afterward, she divorced her husband, Byron Metcalf, and hit the road with Kenny Rogers. I then ended up becoming Ronnie Milsap’s first signed songwriter. My buddy, Bobby Fischer, forwarded me your newsletter. Great job! Wonderful to see someone with heart & passion covering the happenings here. Nashville/Music Row’s lost much of its charm, but you’re helping keep people in the loop, and I thank you for it. God bless you and have a healthy, Happy New Year.”

Ron McBride says, “I enjoy reading your newsletter each week. Regarding the letter from Bob Jennings about a concert he attended in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 1950s, that show could be September 7, 1957. Can you imagine paying just 90 cents general admission for that lineup! I see the prices on these old ads, and it just amazes me how cheap the tickets were then, for the amount of talent you could see. I have spent more hours than I care to guesstimate (ha!) searching newspapers for Jim Reeves ads trying to get as complete a picture as possible of his touring schedule. I haven’t found any record of him appearing anywhere in Minnesota prior to 1956. In his 1956 appearance (April 29), the other entertainers on the package were Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Red Sovine, Charlene Arthur & The Farmer Boys. I certainly can’t claim to have a complete list and, having written bios on some of the old timers, you know better than most the gaps in the microfilm/digitized copies of old newspapers. I read a biography of Faron Young several years ago and I bet it was the one you wrote. It was a very interesting book. I was disappointed with Faron Young for some of the things he did but like many other people, he had his demons. He still made a lot of great music. I need to read your bio of Marty Robbins. Please keep up the great work you do.”

Larry Delaney of Cancountry writes from Canada, “Sad to report that IAN TYSON has passed away – December 29, 2022. More details to follow.”

Douglas Starr in Sioux Falls says, “It’s amazing how much interesting information you collect on so many important people.”

Diane: I’m often surprised by the amount of information the internet sites turn up.

Daniel Burritt says, “I look forward to meeting you someday. I would very much like to get on your mailing list. Jackie Allen Thomas has been a wonderful contact, jammer, and friend these past 8 years I have been doing jams.”

Tommie Ray writes from Alabama, “Hope you and your family had a very merry Christmas and have a happy new year. I liked the song ‘I will Return’ by Marijohn Wilkin. I think she recorded this song after accepting Christ as her Saviour and Lord. I am not sure, though, but this is one of my favorite songs.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that newsletter that should be the last one for 2022. Thanks for the mention about the late great Charlie Gracie. He was a gifted guitarist, a fine singer and, most of all, a lovely Man. He was a real rock and roll pioneer having started to record in the early ‘50s for Cadillac and next for 20th Century. All these sides were bright and rockin’. Success came only in 1957 but Charlie was then already a seasoned performer with a lot of experience. We will miss him.”

Frank Gerard, audiobook narrator, says, “I always love getting your newsletter. Hope the Randy Travis book is coming along well. First month sales on Marty are good….it is my number one selling audiobook for December.”

Judy Cowart in Vian, Oklahoma, says, “I always enjoy your newsletters and am writing to let you know I would like copies of the audiobooks you offered of Marty and Faron. Thank you so much for all the work you do to keep us informed of all the country news.”


This is a fun excerpt from the 1997 movie Rainmaker. Matt Damon’s office has been bugged by the defense’s trial counsel, and Matt and Danny DeVito set up a ruse to appear to talk to a jury member, played by Randy Travis. Randy shows up at the 5:50-minute mark in this jury-tampering scene.  


A new exhibit that opened at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville in October covers 5,000 square feet and will run for nearly three years. WESTERN EDGE: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock examines the close-knit communities of Los Angeles-based singers, songwriters and musicians in the 1960s-1980s and discusses the rise of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt, and others who merged rock ‘n’ roll with country and bluegrass. I recently reviewed the companion book, co-published by the Country Music Foundation and the University of Illinois Press, my publisher. Western Edge is the first book in a partnership to co-publish new or out-of-print books on country music and related music styles. Here is my complete review: http://internetreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/2023/01/nonfiction-what-is-country-music.html.


Carl Belew, born in Oklahoma in 1931 and raised as an Oklahoma and Texas farm boy, moved to the West Coast to pursue a music career. Marvin Rainwater brought him to Four Star Records in 1955, where Patsy Cline was the first artist to record his songs. (Bill McCall, owner of Four Star Records, used the pen name of W. S. Stevenson as co-writer on many Four Star songs.) In 1957, Carl joined the cast of the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and then began recording for Decca Records in Nashville. His first big success as a songwriter was “Stop the World (And Let Me Off),” recorded by Johnnie & Jack. He moved to Nashville in 1959. He recorded for RCA and MCA but is best remembered as a songwriter. His co-written hits include “Don’t Squeeze My Sharmon,” “Stamp Out Loneliness,” “Am I That Easy to Forget,” “Lonely Street,” and “What’s He Doing in My World.” Plagued with ill health, he returned to his hometown and died of cancer in Salina, Oklahoma, in 1990, at age 59. I tell the complicated story in Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story about how Faron bought “Wine Me Up” from Carl Belew and co-writer Van Givens. Faron said Carl was notorious for writing songs and selling them before they could be recorded, thus missing an opportunity to earn royalties: “They could have been multimillionaires. But they eat the chicken today and the feathers tomorrow, and they don’t worry about nuthin.”

Dallas Frazier grew up as part of the Dust Bowl migration. Born in Oklahoma in 1939, he was raised in the labor camps near Bakersfield, California. He won a talent contest hosted by Ferlin Husky in 1952. He joined Ferlin’s road show and was signed to Capitol Records at age 14. He wrote “Alley Oop” while working in a cotton gin, and the novelty tune became a # 1 pop hit for the Hollywood Argyles in 1960. He moved to Nashville in 1963 to write songs for Ferlin’s publishing company and then joined Blue Crest Music. His “There Goes My Everything, ” recorded by Jack Greene, was the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year for 1967. He wrote hits for George Jones and Connie Smith, who both released albums devoted to his compositions. The hits he wrote include “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me),” “If My Heart Had Windows,” “Beneath Still Waters,” “What’s Your Mama’s Name,” “Elvira,” “Mohair Sam,” “The Son of Hickory Hollow’s Tramp,” and “Fourteen Carat Mind.” He was 36 years old when elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, and that’s the year he began to withdraw from the music business. He became a non-denominational Christian minister and was the pastor of Grace Community Fellowship in White House, Tennessee, from 1999 to 2006. He died in Nashville in 2022 at age 82.

John D. Loudermilk became a songwriter when he set his poem called “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” to music, and George Hamilton IV turned it into a hit. Born in Durham, North Carolina, in 1934, Loudermilk moved to Nashville in 1958, where he was both a solo artist and a songwriter. “Ebony Eyes” was a hit for the Everly Brothers, and “Tobacco Road” has been recorded by over 200 artists. Through the ’60s and early ’70s, he was one of Nashville’s most widely covered songwriters. He wrote “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” “Break My Mind,” “Talk Back Trembling Lips,” and he cowrote “Abilene,” “Amigo’s Guitar,” and “Waterloo. ” His last major songwriting success, “Indian Reservation,” was a pop #1 for Paul Revere & the Raiders in 1971. He died in 2016, at age 82, in Christiana, Tennessee.

Moon Mullican, born Aubrey Wilson Mullican on a farm in east Texas in 1909, taught himself on the family’s pump organ to play the blues by ear. At 16, he left home and started playing in saloons and bordellos. His nickname could have had something to do with moonshine, his balding head, or his dusk-to-dawn hours. He developed his “three finger style,” hammering the treble keys with a flat right hand, while his left walked syncopated boogie-woogie bass lines. Around 1950, he recorded his self-penned million-selling “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone.” Hank Williams brought him to the Grand Ole Opry in 1951. He is credited with helping Hank write “Jambalaya.” Singing pianists such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard adapted his brand of ivory-pounding. After surviving a heart attack in 1962, Moon performed in and around his home in Beaumont, Texas, until his second heart attack killed him on January 1, 1967. He was 57 years old.

Curly Putman was theson of an Alabama sawmill worker. Born Claude Putman Jr. in 1930, he learned to play steel guitar while in high school. During his four-year U.S. Navy enlistment, he served on the USS Valley Forge aircraft carrier. He moved to Nashville in 1964, when Buddy Killen hired him to work for Tree International as a song plugger. He wrote Porter Wagoner’s 1965 hit, “Green, Green Grass of Home,” and Dolly Parton’s first chart hit, “Dumb Blonde,” in 1967. He wrote “The Older the Violin, the Sweeter the Music” for Hank Thompson and “Blood Red and Goin’ Down” for Tanya Tucker. He co-wrote “My Elusive Dreams” (with Billy Sherrill), “It’s a Cheating Situation” (with Sonny Throckmorton), “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (with Bobby Braddock). He died in 2016, at age 85, in Lebanon, Tennessee.
Mel Tillis
, in addition to his own recording and performing career, wrote songs such as Bobby Bare’s 1963 hit, “Detroit City” (with Danny Dill) and Kenny Rogers & the First Edition’s 1969 hit, “Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love to Town).” Born Lonnie Melvin Tillis in Tampa, Florida, in 1932, he was raised in Florida and suffered from a childhood bout of malaria that caused his stutter. He served in the Air Force as a baker in the early 1950s. “People asked me if I served my country,” Mel once said. “I always tell them I sure did. I served cakes, pies and donuts.” He went to a Ray Price concert, where he showed Ray a song called “I’m Tired.” Ray took it with him to Nashville, and it became a #1 country hit for Webb Pierce in 1957. Mel moved to Nashville that same year. His 1966 hit, “Stateside,” immortalized his Air Force time on Okinawa; he named his band the Statesiders. Mel was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He died of respiratory failure at age 85, in 2017, in a hospital in Ocala, Florida.

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