Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 11 March 2015

“We’re still iced in down here,” Bill Anderson told me on the phone last week. He said Nashville had received snow on top of the layer of ice already on the ground, and it was “supposed to go down to single digits tonight.” I told him the temperature here had climbed from below zero to six degrees. “Oh, you’re having a heat wave,” he replied.

I said I’d enjoyed reading his latest journal entry, where he described coming home from Minnesota and finding a burst pipe in his yard: http://billanderson.com/wired/february-24-2015/#more-4378. He laughed and said he received many comments, mostly advice on what he should have done. He summarized the advice with “should have chased the horse down before he got out of the barn, too.”

It seemed a good time to discuss the recent Larry’s Country Diner cruise to the Caribbean. Bill said, “I was surprised how many people came up to me on the Caribbean cruise and said they’d been on the Alaska cruise last summer.” He mentioned seeing a couple from Oregon, and commented, “I can understand folks from Oregon being on the Alaska cruise, but there they were in Miami for the Caribbean cruise.” He said he’s been fortunate to work on a lot of cruise ships and see a lot of the world. The entertainers play to packed houses and hold autograph sessions, as well as interacting with the crowd during meals and excursions. He added, “You’re surrounded by your fans and friends the whole time.”

Bill is working on his second autobiography. When he finished his first one, in 1989, he says, “I thought at that point I had done everything I was going to do, and–shoot–I’ve had a whole other career since then.” He wrote Whisperin’ Bill by himself, but he has asked Peter Cooper to help on the updated version. “I was having a hard time getting it all organized,” he explains. “I’ve got to put in some stuff from the first one. I can’t deny that I lived those years.” The new book will include background and then pick up where the other one left off. It will focus mostly on his career and will include “how I started writing songs again after I thought I’d run out of things to say.”

One of Bill’s songs currently on the charts is Mo Pitney’s “Country.” Bill and Mo and Bobby Tomberlin wrote the song. Bill says Mo Pitney is “a great example of a young kid that I think has got a great future in country music.”

Bill told me he enjoys reading my newsletters, especially the Letters section. “I love reading the comments the fans write in,” he says. “That’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about country fans. They tell you what they think. And most of the time you want to hear it.”

He ended our conversation with, “Stay warm. And I’ll see you somewhere down the road, I hope.”
bill grandkids

Bill Anderson and his eight grandkids

Richard Bass Barish died February 27 in Tanauan, Batangas, Philippines, where he had lived since 2008. Richard played lead guitar in Faron Young’s Country Deputies band for twenty years, until Faron stopped performing. I last saw him when the Country Deputies reunited to perform at my book release party for Faron’s biography in 2007. The first time I talked to him, in 2000, he told me, “I started just before Christmas, either ‘72 or ‘73. I never have figured that one out. I can’t remember. It’s kind of foggy. I think I replaced Odell Martin.” From my research, I could tell him it was 1972, and he did replace Odell. We stayed in touch via email over the years.

The great songwriter, Wayne Kemp, died March 9 at age 73. He suffered from multiple illnesses, including kidney disease. He started in music at age 16, playing guitar in Tulsa, Oklahoma. George Jones hired him as lead guitarist in 1965. His own recording career included “Won’t You Come Home (And Talk To a Stranger)” (later recorded by George Strait) and “Who’ll Turn Out the Lights” (later recorded by Mel Street). In 1968, Conway Twitty recorded his “The Image Of Me,” and he signed with Tree Publishing in Nashville. Then came Conway’s “That’s When She Started To Stop Loving You,” Johnny Cash’s “One Piece At A Time,” Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m The Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised),” George Strait’s “The Fireman,” Ricky Van Shelton’s “I’ll Leave This World Loving You,” and many others. “Love Bug” was a hit twice, first for George Jones and then for George Strait. Wayne Kemp was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999.

Bobby Emmons, 72, died February 23 in Nashville, of an undisclosed illness. He played piano, organ and electric keyboards on recording sessions for Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, the Highwaymen, and many others. His songwriting credits include “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Wurlitzer Prize.” He was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame as a member of The Memphis Boys.

Nashville native Jimmy “Spider” Wilson died Thursday, February 26, of cancer. He was 79 years old. As a young man, he taught himself to play guitar by slowing down 78 rpm records. He was a sideman for Jimmy Dickens and Ray Price, and he played on Faron Young’s recording of “Sweet Dreams.” He was a guitarist in the Grand Ole Opry staff band for 53 years, until resigning in 2006 because he was being excluded from the televised Opry segments.

Deejay and Nashville music businessman Wade Jessen, 53, died unexpectedly March 5 after a heart attack. He began his radio career at age 16 in his hometown of Roosevelt, Utah, and later moved to WSM-AM in Nashville. One of the sources I used in my Faron Young biography was a interview between Faron and Wade on a 1992 show called Sunday Morning Country Classics. Wade became Billboard’s country chart manager in 1994 and was the senior chart manager at the time of his death. I’ve recently been listening to him on Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM. I especially enjoyed his historical “Rear View” show.

The Tennessee Arts Commission presents the annual Distinguished Artist Award to Tennessee artists “of exceptional talent and creativity” who have influenced the arts on a state and national level. The 2015 recipients are Loretta Lynn, B.B. King, and novelist Cormac McCarthy. All winners of the 2015 Governor’s Arts Awards will be honored at a ceremony at the governor’s mansion on March 17.

The National Register of Historic Places has recognized the current Grand Ole Opry House as a cultural resource worthy of preservation. Since it opened in 1974, its performance hall and large broadcast studio have affected popular culture, entertainment and the communications industry. The Opry’s sixth home, it represents a new era in country music and has hosted numerous dignitaries, award shows, and special events. The previous Opry House, Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 2001.

A bright red 1954 Chevrolet pickup truck with its custom POSSUM license plate now sits in the George Jones Museum, which is scheduled to open in late April. The pickup, owned by the late singer, was hoisted by a crane and guided into a window of the museum at 128 Second Avenue North in Nashville.

Country Weekly reports that Willie Nelson will costar in a movie being filmed on his private ranch in Luck, Texas. He portrays a retired vaudeville performer who befriends a young woman “whose quest for gold leads her to some fascinating characters.” Willie will sing a song he and his friend, Bono of U2, wrote for the movie. No official release date has been given for Waiting for the Miracle to Come.

During his 90,000-ticket shows in Detroit last month, Garth Brooks performed a secret 12-song concert at Marathon Music Works in Nashville. The several hundred fans who won tickets from local radio station WSIX were treated to a glimpse of his world tour. The Tennessean reported the crowd, ranging from grandparents to college students, sang along with his songs–“and every time Brooks looked surprised and a wide smile spread across his face.” He told them, “The best advice I can give anybody is to find what you love and then you’ll never work for a living for the rest of your life.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Garth Brooks received a $1,050,000 rebate for the 11 kickoff shows of his World Tour last September. That was $100,000 per sold-out show and a prorated amount for the one show that didn’t sell out. The village of Rosemont, where the All-State Arena is located, also discounted the arena’s rental fee. A town spokesman said Rosemont still made more than $2 million from the concerts after the rebate. For the story of the court case that allowed the newspaper to get this information, go to http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-garth-brooks-rosemont-contract-met-20150223-story.html.

Carrie Underwood posted on Facebook: “Tiny hands and tiny feet…God has blessed us with an amazing gift! Isaiah Michael Fisher – born February 27.” Isaiah is her first child, and her husband is Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators National Hockey League team.

Stacy Harris reports on her website that the DUI charge against Lynn Anderson from September 12, 2014, has been settled. The Davidson County General Sessions Court dismissed an implied-consent misdemeanor charge, and Lynn pleaded guilty to an amended misdemeanor offense. She received a suspended sentence of 11 months and 29 days, her driver’s license was revoked for a year, and she has to perform community service and complete a defensive driving course. She paid a $350 fine, plus $846 in court costs.

According to the Tennessean, the two oldest children of Glen Campbell have filed a court petition to request conservators and a guardian be appointed for their father. They claim their step-mother, Kim Campbell, keeps Glen secluded and doesn’t allow his family to participate in his care. They say she doesn’t visit regularly or provide needed toiletries and clothing, is possibly mishandling his finances, and doesn’t allow all eight of his children to visit. The couple has been married 32 years, and Kim is the mother of Glen’s three youngest children. Glen, 78, has Alzheimer’s disease and lives at a Nashville long-term care facility.

The Boot reports that Garth Brooks has sold more than 84,000 tickets for six shows in Sacramento, California. That beats his previous record of 78,620 tickets in 1997. He was originally scheduled to perform two nights–March 27-28. Due to demand, he added four more shows to this stop on his World Tour.

in a recent interview with The Telegraph in London, Taylor Swift talked about her enjoyment in sending presents to her fans, known as Swifties: “When I pick people to send packages to, I go on their social-media sites for the last six months and figure out what they like or what they are going through. Do they like photography? I’ll get them a 1980s Polaroid camera. Do they like vintage stuff? I’ll go to an antiques place and get them 1920s earrings. Do they work out a lot? I’ll get them workout stuff.” She has been known to make post-break-up playlists, pay off student loans, and send gifts with handwritten notes. “I don’t take it to FedEx,” she says, “but I pack the box and tape it.” To read the entire interview, go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/11430433/Taylor-Swift-interview-A-relationship-No-ones-going-to-sign-up-for-this.html.

Dressed in black tuxedo and cowboy hat, Tim McGraw sang Glen Campbell’s final song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” during the 2015 Academy Awards. He sat on a bar stool, alone on the stage, for the entire song. He began acappella, and a band and chorus joined him in a rendition that stayed close to the original version. Glen’s wife and daughter, Kim and Ashley, posed with Tim and Faith Hill on the red carpet. Although “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” was nominated for an Oscar, the winning song was “Glory” from Selma.

John Krebs writes from Houston, Texas, “Oh man, we need those Jerry Kennedy Faron stories before it’s too late. All those hours in the studio with all those greats. We need those stories documented…. Hint hint. He’s so right about passion, so much of today’s country music is so flawlessly produced and engineered that it actually sounds soulless. Martina McBride’s Timeless album is one. It’s perfect but kind of lifeless to my ears, yet it’s highly regarded. I wanted to love it. I think more than anything it’s that so little recording is done LIVE anymore and you can tell.”

Tommy Nichols in Dixon, Missouri, says, “It was good to read a little bit about Jerry Kennedy. I’ll take the liberty of adding just a little of my own personal opinion when it comes to today’s country music. I really haven’t heard anything on country radio today that I truly can point to and say ‘Yes!’ when it comes on the air. And that has caused me to listen more and more to stations like Willie’s Roadhouse that Jerry also mentioned. Now before I’m condemned as being too old fashioned, I have nothing really against what country radio is playing except I believe it needs to be called something else. We need to come up with another genre for it. It’s not country. It’s not pop. And it’s not rock. Thanks for letting me ramble along. Love what you’re doing!! Keep up the good work.”

Randy Jackson writes, “So good to hear from and about Jerry Kennedy. When I first moved to Nashville from Texas (about ‘73 or so) I worked for the legendary Dick Blake.. who at that time had just taken over the more legendary Hubert Long Agency. Dick was an old time bar owner from Indianapolis who stumbled into the country music business as an early promoter and owner of Blake’s Tavern. Lucky for me, Mercury Records was located in a small building directly across the street. Jerry Kennedy was running the label and was producing some really hot acts like Tom T Hall, Johnny Rodriguez and the Statler Brothers. He had a receptionist from Texas and an assistant named Glenn Keener, also from Texas. I spent a lot of time across the street. Jerry was always such a class act. Had plenty of time to say hello to the new kid and even let me sit in on some of his sessions. What I remember most is that Jerry had just cut a mostly instrumental album of his favorites. One of the cuts was the Micky Newbury classic ’She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye.’ The entire track was instrumental except for the line ‘Baby’s packed her soft things and she’s left me.’ That line was done by a very young Johnny Rodriguez. I remember thinking how significant that line was to me and how amazed I was that Jerry had highlighted it. I knew then there was something very special about Jerry Kennedy.. and I was right…It wouldn’t be right not to also pay tribute to Mickey Newbury… truly one of the greatest poets of our time. Thanks for the memories.”

James Akenson says, “Enjoyed learning about Jerry Kennedy. Thanks!! Have a grand day.”

Alan Potter checks in from the UK: “Hey Jerry so true…where’s the passion of the Jones, Hag, Reeves, McEntire, Robbins, Young, etc. in today’s music?”

Andrew Means writes from Arizona: Thanks to your reader Gary Presley for including the link about Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger. However did we get along before the Internet? Several times I’ve stared at the hole in that battered guitar and wondered how it got that way. Now I know.”

Priscilla McPheeters in Lawrence, Kansas, says, “Good newsletter, Diane. I especially found interesting Tanya Tucker’s experience with her skin treatment. I think I’ll stick with Mary Kay Micro derm!”
Diane: I agree. That’s the microdermabrasion set I’ll use forever.

Nancy Lynn says, “I’d like to be back on your newsletter mailing list. I haven’t seen one of these in a while, but one was just sent to me. Thanks.”

Carolyn Babin writes, “Have not read all of this newsletter yet… it is late and I am so tired tonight. However, in glancing at it I spotted words about Shelby Singleton. Did I ever tell you I went to school with him???…through high school. Then in years later saw him a bunch in Shreveport when he came in to one or more of the stations I worked for. I visited Nashville a couple times but did not ever see him again.”

Stacy Harris in Nashville offers this computer advice: “I access my email through Firefox and for the last couple of months when your newsletter arrives all I see in the body of the email is: Diane’s Country Music Newsletter. In other words, no content. I thought the problem was on your end, but I found I had no problem reading the full content when switching to Opera. Firefox is my preferred browser but this is not the first time its glitches (although this one is new) has forced me to switch browsers. Firefox automatically updates itself and the updates usually coincide with the quirkiness. Contacting Firefox is useless. I’ve tried. I just wanted to let you know in case you made any stylistic/formatting changes in the last month or so (this is the third consecutive newsletter of yours that I can only access by using Opera/IE) because others who use Firefox may have to make the same accommodation.”
Diane: Thanks for the information, Stacy. Two people wrote to say they only received the title of my last newsletter, and when I resent it, they got it. No one has ever said this before, and I haven’t changed anything. If it happens again, I’ll ask if they have Firefox.

Ralph Larson writes from San Antonio, Texas, “Thank you as always for your newsletter that I always find interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving in the evening east of Dallas, and I came upon WSM Radio, 650 AM, out of Nashville, TN. It had been a number of years since I had caught an evening broadcast and Eddie Stubbs was playing classic country music. Soon George Jones and Melba Montgomery sang ‘What’s In Our Hearts’ and I was taken back as to the beautiful voice Melba has, and how she complemented George’s singing. I got thinking it has been too many years since I have heard of Melba, and I was wondering if you have any updates? Two books on country music have brief biographies of her and a search of the internet was also scarce on Melba’s career and life. Would you consider doing her in your Featured Artist segment? Thank you again and I wish you continued good luck.”
Diane: Melba is 76 and still going strong. She co-wrote five songs with Billy Yates for his new album, and she has a website at http://www.melbamontgomery.com/. I sent her a note through her website but no response yet. Perhaps one of my readers knows how to get in touch with her?

“Walk Out Backwards” has been one of my favorite Bill Anderson songs since I first heard it–many years after it was his second top ten hit. Some years ago I sent Bill an email to say I had walked home backwards in the cold South Dakota wind. I’d gone for a run while home on leave one Christmas, and the east wind was so cold that I turned and walked backwards into it, with the song playing in my head. I was pleased when Teea Goans, a great new country singer, gave fresh life to “Walk Out Backwards” with her hit record. While talking to Bill the other day, I asked for the story behind the song. He said he and his bride, Bette, were living in a tiny Nashville apartment in 1959, and they had to carry their trash outside and down a fire-escape-style set of metal steps. He was sitting at the kitchen table and looked up to see Bette standing with a garbage bag in each hand and bumping the door open with her backside. He asked the question that flashed through his mind, why was she bringing the garbage inside? She told him, “I’m not coming in. I’m just walking out backwards.” And a song was born. “The guy wanted to pretend she wasn’t leaving,” Bill says. “So walk out backwards and I’ll think you’re walking in.”

“Every twenty-four hours the world turns over on somebody who’s sitting on top of it.” That’s how Bill Anderson began his 1989 book, Whisperin’ Bill: An Autobiography. The subtitle is “A Life of Music, Love, Tragedy & Triumph.” While it included his youth and his career, the main focus was on the struggle after the serious injury of his second wife, Becky, in a 1984 auto accident. She had been hit head-on by a drunk driver in a pickup truck carrying long steel pipes. Bill describes telling their six-year-old son, Jamey, about the accident: “I was careful from the very first word to never say Mom was or wasn’t going to be well. Or come home. That she was or wasn’t going to die. I didn’t want him to ever come back at me and say his dad told him a lie.” Bill sat with his arm tightly around Jamey’s shoulder. He writes, “I wanted him to feel secure even though I was not. I wanted him to feel safe although I was fearful. And most of all, I wanted him to feel loved.” At the end of the book, after Becky’s recovery, Bill says, “Once or twice I came dangerously close to giving up and walking away, but I found the strength somehow to tie a knot in the end of my rope and hang on.” It is definitely a story of triumph.

Comments are closed.