Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 12 February 2020


The last original member of the Kingston Trio has died. Bob Shane of Phoenix, Arizona, died of complications from pneumonia on January 26, a few days before his 86th birthday. He, Dave Guard, and Nick Reynolds formed the Kingston Trio in the 1950s and won a Grammy for Country & Western Performance for “Tom Dooley” during the first Grammy awards ceremony. USA Today reports that Shane accepted the Grammy lifetime achievement award for the Kingston Trio in 2011; Guard had died in 1991 and Reynolds in 2008. Shane retired in 2004 but performed occasionally until 2016.

Sharon Wilburn-Cline, 57, daughter of Margie Bowes and the late Doyle Wilburn, died January 29, 2020. She is survived by her husband, Charles Terry Cline, and her daughter and grandchildren. A Celebration of Life Service was held Saturday, February 8, at Williamson Memorial Funeral Home.

During a recent interview on podcast Vocal Point with Martina McBride, Loretta Lynn, 87, told Martina McBride, 53, that country music is dead, reports People magazine “I think it’s dead,” she said. “I think it’s a shame to let a type of music die. I don’t care what kind of music it is. Rock, country, whatever. I think it’s a shame to let it die, and I’m here to start feeding it.” When Martina said she sounded mad, Loretta responded, “Yeah. I’m getting mad about it. I am.” She added, “I think that’s a sad situation because we should never let country music die. I think that every type of music should be saved, and country is one of the greatest. It’s been around, as far as I’m concerned, longer than any of it.”

Loretta Lynn is celebrating the 60th anniversary of her recording career. On February 1, she wrote on Instagram, “Some of the fans and my team pointed out to me that today’s the day 60 years ago that I signed my first recording contract with Zero records. I started out with my own song ‘Honky Tonk Girl.'”

Randy Travis: Precious Memories of Worship and Faith is the title of a new Randy Travis album to be released next week by the Gaither Music Group. The 12 classic Christian hymns include “Sweet By and By” and “Blessed Assurance,” along with “Three Wooden Crosses.” The Boot reports the album will include the DVD of a live 2003 performance at the Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida. 

The Caudill Drive property formerly owned by Johnny and June Carter Cash and located on the shores of Old Hickory Lake near Hendersonville, Tennessee, has been sold again. According to the Hendersonville Standard, Cristan and Tina Blackman paid $3.2 million for the 4.5-acre lakefront property that is zoned to have one single-family home built on each of four lots. They purchased the property from Lakehouse Holdings, owned by Texas businessman James Gresham. He bought the land in 2014 for $2 million and put the property back on the market in 2016, after his development plans didn’t work out. He had purchased it from Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, who’d paid $2.3 million in late 2005 for the Cash home and was renovating it when the house burned down in 2007. Johnny had purchased it in 1968, and he and June lived there until their deaths in 2003. Blackman, a Hendersonville native, and his wife plan to build themselves a home on the property. He remembers riding in his grandfather’s boat as a small child and gazing in awe at the Cash home. “A lot of people around here have memories of that home growing up,” he tells the Hendersonville Standard. “It’s historically significant and we’re proud and happy to have it.”

MusicRow magazine reports the death of Eddie Setser, 77, one of Nashville’s top songwriters of the 1980s. A native of Corbin, Kentucky, he returned home after retiring in 1996 and died there on January 27. A graveside funeral service was held in Lily, Kentucky. His best-known song is the co-written “Seven Spanish Angels,” a 1985 hit for Willie Nelson and Ray Charles. He was a teenager playing guitar in Ohio nightclubs when James Brown discovered him and arranged for his band, The Dapps, to record for King Records in Cincinnati. Troy Seals urged him to move to Nashville in 1974 and tutored him as a songwriter. His songs have been recorded by numerous Country Music Hall of Fame members.

The Glen Campbell Museum & Rhinestone Stage opened February 1 in downtown Nashville, reports Nash Country Daily.The 4,000-square-foot museum at the corner of Broadway and 2nd Avenue honors the life of Glen Campbell and displays a collection of personal artifacts. In the evenings, the museum transforms into a live music venue called The Rhinestone Stage. “I am thrilled that Glen’s musical legacy will be preserved and celebrated in such a beautiful and enduring way,” says Glen’s widow, Kim Campbell.

Figure skating legend Scott Hamilton, 61, joined with Brad Paisley to create a children’s book that shows parents how to talk to their kids about cancer. Fritzy Finds a Hat, released February 4 on World Cancer Day, is the story of a young boy who loves to skate and who looks for the perfect hat for his mom when her hair falls out because of cancer treatments. Hamilton tells The Tennessean he lost his mother to cancer when he was 18, and he is a cancer survivor himself. He likes Brad Paisley’s painting and drawings and so asked him to create the illustrations. Brad’s sons, Huck, 12, and Jasper, 10, each drew a hat for the book.

On February 2, “Heartache Medication” became the third number one song for Jon Pardi on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart. The climb to the top took a long time. The title track of his most recent CD was released last May. Saving Country Music notes this is “the first country song featuring prominent fiddle to top the country radio charts in nearly eight years. Darius Rucker’s version of the Old Crow Medicine Show standard ‘Wagon Wheel’ was the last to accomplish this feat in 2013.” A few other singles featured the fiddle, but not to that extent. Also noteworthy for “Heartache Medication,” the fiddle is played by Jenee Fleenor, the CMA Musician of the Year for 2019. She is the first woman ever to win the award and the first fiddler in over 20 years.

Alabama is heading back out on its 50th Anniversary Tour, with more than a dozen rescheduled dates. The tour was cut short in 2019 when 26 shows were canceled as frontman Randy Owen dealt with vertigo and migraines. Nash Country Daily reports the band will perform this summer and fall in cities that include Nashville, Indianapolis, and Detroit. Special guests on various dates will be The Charlie Daniels Band, The Beach Boys, John Michael Montgomery, Don McLean, and Restless Heart.

The first Nashville home of Doolittle and Loretta Lynn is on the market. In 1961, newly arrived from Washington state, they bought the house with assistance from the Wilburn Brothers and Decca Records. Taste of Country reports the house on Barbara Drive in Madison, a Nashville suburb, is listed at $349,900. The 1,820-square-foot ranch-style home has three bedrooms and two baths. The Lynn family lived there until 1963, when they purchased a farmhouse in Goodlettsville. Loretta eventually bought her ranch in Hurricane Mills, about an hour west of Nashville. She now lives in Nashville to be closer to her doctors and her family.

Bluegrass powerhouse the SteelDrivers recently released their first new record in nearly five years, Bad for You, on Rounder Records. In 2017, The Tennessean reports, for the third time in a decade, the group needed a lead singer. Gary Nichols had just left, following Chris Stapleton who had earlier fronted the band. They turned to YouTube and spent hours searching online for a replacement. The teenaged daughter of fiddle player Tammy Rogers found Kelvin Damrell, 25, from Berea, Kentucky, covering Stapleton on YouTube. Mandolin player Brent Truitt contacted him on Facebook and asked if he’d want to come to a practice in Nashville. He showed up knowing all the songs on the four SteelDrivers releases. They hired him.

Bluegrass today reports Larry Cordle has a seafaring song as his latest single. “Sailor’s Regret” tells the story of a mariner who fears he’ll never see his home again. “My friend Johnny Williams wrote this great song,” Larry says. “Being a former Navy guy myself, I just loved the tale. The longing for home when I was overseas, sometimes nearly unbearable, coupled with the great drive Johnny put into this piece made it a no brainer for me to cut.” When I interviewed Larry for my newsletter in 2017 and asked him what he’d done in the Navy, he said, “I was an aviation electrician in a squadron called VP-16.” I exclaimed. “I was in VP-16!” He’d been a P-3C flight engineer, and I was a maintenance officer. He left Patrol Squadron Sixteen in 1972, ten years before my arrival.

The tour bus, “Old Glory,” that carried Neal McCoy and his band over a million miles in 12 years, burned to the ground early Saturday morning, February 8. WTRF-TV reports the bus suddenly caught fire as the band was traveling to Alexandria, Louisiana, for a show that evening at the Rapides Parish Coliseum. Neal posted the fire on Facebook Live and provided running commentary as the bus burned. He assured listeners that everyone made it safely off the bus and there were no injuries. “This is how you travel,” he said. “One of the trials and tribulations of being on the road.”


Ray Harrison, USN (Ret), says, “Great newsletter as always. I was Proud to be friends with Mark Yeary and work with him numerous times. Mark was not only a Great musician but had such a gracious attitude with people. Very caring. I attended a Memorial Jam for Mark, Sunday 26 January and had a wonderful time, sharing memories with Leticia and so many of his Arizona friends.”

Lee Shannon in Port Charlotte, Florida, writes, “I enjoyed your latest Newsletter of 29 January. When I came to the Johnson sisters, I had to call to my wife, Lee Ann, to come read it. She & her friend Linda Scoggins went to the Wembley Festival in London with an IFCO group the Johnson sisters had organized. We can’t recall exactly what year that was. We were married in 1973, so it was probably in about 1975. Sometime during my almost 13 years at WIRE Radio in Indianapolis, the sisters asked me to come to Nashville during Fan Fair to MC Loretta Lynn’s Fan Club Breakfast. It was during her show, on stage, I presented Loretta with a copy of ‘Honkytonk Girl,’ her very first record. I had previously heard her say she had given all her copies to radio stations when she and Mooney were driving around the country trying to get airplay. I still had a copy in pristine condition. You will find a picture of that presentation in my book on page 102, and me with the Johnson sisters on page 131, taken the same day.”

Moe Bandy responds to my question about a release date for his new CD, A Love Like That: “Not yet, we’re trying to link it to some other projects I’ve got going. Hopefully it won’t be much longer. Thank you for asking.”

Stacy Harris writes from Nashville, “Thanks for the mention. Yes, I always enjoy your column.  I, too, receive most of the news releases but your reader interaction is unique. Sad that Kay is the only remaining Johnson. She and her sisters were so instrumental in keeping fan clubs and Fan Fair afloat. I’ll never forget the time I was chatting with a bank teller and she was telling me about Alan Jackson and receiving an autographed photo. ‘Receiving’ is putting it mildly. She wasn’t complaining- but after, I was: She bought it. For $5. What with eBay (which wasn’t around then) I guess that’s NOW par for the course but at the time I had never heard of a country star who sold autographed photos. Tee-shirts, yes. Concert programs, yes. But this seemed to me to be a new low. That was before meet-and-greets became more about commerce, when fans who stood in line for an autograph were assured of getting one, etc.”

Marshall Jordan writes, “I continue to enjoy your interesting and informative newsletter. Your reports remind me of good memories of growing up in Staunton, Virginia, where I really enjoyed listening to that traditional country music of the fifties and sixties. I have posted a message to all my friends on the email list of the Virginia Alumni Association of the Blind of the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. I think some on the list may wish to contact you and sign up for your newsletter. Keep up the good work.”

Ralph Larson says, “I want to thank you for your very informative email about country music, and let you know that Marty Robbins’ 1969 Dodge Daytona has been restored. I learned of this in the April 2020 Mopar Action magazine six-page story of the car along with photographs of it.”

Marty Rimpau writes, “Eric Calhoun requested I forward some questions to you, so could you please reply on your newsletter that I get, as a subscriber to a list for the blind called the Our Place list. A subscriber named Nancy Lynn sends your list to that list. It’s about time Tanya Tucker got a Grammy. She is so blessed. May she get a few more! Does anyone know what happened to the Mandrell Sisters or the Forester Sisters? What are they doing now?”

Diane: Barbara Mandrell, as far as I know, lives a private life focused on her family, along with garden and pets. Louise and Irlene both have Facebook pages you can “like” to keep up with them. The four Forester Sisters have a Facebook fan page called The Forester Sisters.

Carol Smith says, “As always I enjoy reading the latest on what’s going on within the country music world – We lost some really good people lately – They gave a lot to the world of country music. So sad to read about Taylor’s mother. Hal Ketchum, what a great guy and a great voice. To this day I still listen to his CDs. He always had time for the fans. Thoughts and prayers to the Swift and Ketchum families. On a bright side — ABOUT TIME — for Gene Watson. That is a pure country voice. So happy for him going into the Opry. Keep up the good work — It is hard to hear news about what is going on in Country world and I appreciate all you do.”

David Markham writes from the United Kingdom, “Thank you once again for a most interesting country newsletter. Well, after all fans like myself who voted for Gene Watson, to be inducted by Vince Gill was a lovely surprise for him and all of us at last. He is a fine traditional country and western artist. Once he’s gone who’ll take his place! He had that special thing about his style, what a singer the way he gets the high notes, when you think what he went through with his illness he’s lucky to be here. I’ve always liked his style of singing country, like the great Vern Gosdin, THE VOICE. I love Rhonda Vincent with Gene she’s a hardworking lady on stage we need more like her. As a Traditional country & western promoter with 50 years in and heard from big artists from IFCO they were always handy to ask questions on many artists. It’s like you Diane you get to know them all as a family. Thank you once again for a good interesting country read.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that Country newsletter. It is good to not have much passing in the news. Greetings for your work.”

Jean Earle writes from England, “Thank you for your latest news…most enjoyable reading. I am today looking at a copy of a great British Country Magazine, Country Music People. It is of special interest as it had 65 pages of news, writeups and 

lovely coloured pictures of the ‘American Country stars’. C.M.P is celebrating its 50th year and must surely be one of the oldest magazines for the Country Fans. My husband and I have been followers of their pages for years, since it started printing in the 1970s and is now on the 600th issue. This Anniversary Special issue has lovely writeups of Tammy, Merle and 4 pages of my very favourite country Gentleman Faron! plus pages of news about other artists Hank Williams, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Tom T. Hall, Dolly…etc. I believe you already know about C.M.P and the latest editor Duncan Warwick. If you should want to find out more about this lovely Anniversary Special, here is their email address Countrymusicpeople@gmail.com. The magazine is printed in London England. Bye for now……I have more to read!!!”

Lenore from Texas says, “In last month’s magazine you talked about a country channel? I deleted it before I could write down what is was. Can you tell me please. Love your magazine. Is Margo Smith still performing? Terry Clark does a podcast do you know what is? Love the magazine. Keep up the good work.”

Diane: The new channel is called In the Circle: https://www.circleallaccess.com. Margo Smith’s website hasn’t been updated in over two years, so I’m not sure what she’s doing. Terri Clark’s podcast is Country Gold Backstage: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/country-gold-backstage/id1229244212.


Jack Pruett played lead guitar for Marty Robbins from 1956 until Marty’s death in 1982. When setting up our phone interview on November 5, 2006, he wanted me to send him a list of questions. I later met him in person when he came to my Marty Robbins Band reunion in 2009. Jack died in 2011 at age 78.

I’ve got some questions written out here, and I’ll answer them as quickly as I can. A lot of them I’m not sure about. I’ll just read the questions you gave me, and I’ve got the answers, too. The first one was when did I start working for Marty? It was in the spring of 1956. I was hired through Hillous Butram. Marty always had a little bit of a band together, and I took over one of the guitar player’s place. I’m not sure, but I think they were called the Tear Drops at that time. Somebody’d hung that handle on him, and he was never happy about that. He never liked the idea of Tear Drops.

When did I quit? I didn’t. When Marty had his first heart attack, nobody could find out much of anything. I was down to my last $600, so I had to have a job of some sort, and I never could get any word from Marty–of course, him sick. The secretaries didn’t know nothin’. I was told, well, you just have to do the best you can. I got an offer from David Houston, so I went with him until we regrouped again in ’73 or ’74. So I was with David a couple of years.

The attack in Ohio–nobody knew what it was. When we stopped at the clinic, some little town that started with A, I believe–anyway they gave him some pain pills, and that settled him down enough that he did the two shows in Warren. Then we dropped him off at Cleveland on the way back. It was just a state of wondering. On the way home, nobody knew anything. I guess we all slept most of the way. We usually always did when we had a long trip.

Carnegie Hall was a good show. Prestigious, first time ever for the Opry. Had a big show, and it went really well. I remember we backed the Jordanaires on their part of the show. I remember the hotel restaurant was quite expensive, for what we were used to. I remember the waiter wasn’t happy with our tips, and he let us know that. Was Marty afraid to fly? No, we flew to quite a lot of our dates. There for a year or more, we flew everywhere we went. I faintly remember something about him not wanting to be among the group all on one flight [to Carnegie Hall]. That could have been a little bit of superstition to that, but it had nothing to do with him being afraid to fly. He just probably didn’t want to horse around with some of the people that was on the flight. He thought, “If we all go together, it’ll go down. If I don’t go, it won’t.” I don’t know what he thought.

His song knowledge? Marty had a good ear and knew a lot of songs. I guess he spent quite a lot of his young years listening, singing. He was pretty knowledgeable of different style of songs. He knew quite a lot of everyone’s songs. He knew a lot of different songs. Old pop standards. I guess whatever we heard on the radio back at that time.

My nickname–I guess this is about as right as I can come up with. Between Louie Dunn and Marty–they were big buddies, always, and clowned around together–but I think my little bandy-legged, bony legs reminded them of a chicken. And then I kind of have the Oriental eyes and cheeks, so anyway, they hung the bandy-legged chicken and the Oriental wong, so that’s where it come out with Bandy Wong. Most all of the band members always called me Bandy. Some people still do. I answer to Bandy as quick or quicker than I would Jack.

[Did Marty talk about his combat experiences?] He did, some, He had something to do with some little old LST or some kind of smaller boat. What he’d do when they started strafing the island, they’d run up in the boat and get out in the bay, away from where they was shootin’ up the island. The safest place for him was out on the water. I can remember he used to say they used to take potshots at them as they flew over, with a rifle. That kinda made a fun thing out of it. He said it didn’t scare him–because he was 17, I believe. Everything was sort of, I guess you’d say, a big joke and funny to them at the time. He was in charge of a landing craft, but I never heard him say anything about taking any Marines in or anything, but I’m sure that’s what he would have done.

When was the last time I saw Marty? In Cincinnati, Ohio, we did a show–it was kind of a captive audience. They weren’t his fans, so he wasn’t happy with the show. And that day, the worst show we ever did was the last one. Cuz he was upset because they weren’t Marty Robbins fans; they don’t care who’s who. ‘We’re here for a convention. We ain’t here to eat up no hillbillies,’ sort of. That’s the way he felt about it. I couldn’t get in tune, and everybody else–when one’s out, everybody’s out. I don’t know, it just wasn’t–knowing he was all uptight kinda tightened up everything else. I don’t remember the details; all I remember about that show was hoping we could get ourselves in tune. There ain’t nothin’ worse than an out-of-tune band. I never saw him again after that show.

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