Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 12 July 2023


Congratulations to Bill Anderson for being a Grand Ole Opry member for 62 years, longer than any other performer in history. He broke the record of Herman Crook, who joined with his string band, The Crook Brothers, in 1926 and stayed on the Opry for 61 years, 11 months, and 17 days, until his death in 1988. Bill writes on Facebook: “Tuesday July 11, 1961….I was sitting in my living room watching a black and white telecast of the Major League All-Star baseball game from San Francisco, when I received a telephone call that changed my life. I almost didn’t get up to answer the phone. Who would dare to call and interrupt me in the middle of such a momentous event? After about the third ring, I got up, shuffled into the den, and picked up the receiver. I’m sure my greeting sounded a bit less than cheerful.” It was Ott Devine, calling to ask if Bill would like to become a member of the Opry. Bill says, “I’m not sure I even watched another pitch. I was too busy calling friends and family to share the news. I was made the 48th member of the Opry cast four days later.” His membership has never lapsed. The Opry will commemorate the anniversary on Saturday, July 22. Guests on the special performance will include fellow Opry members Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Jeannie Seely and Ricky Skaggs. Bill’s two-year exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Bill Anderson: As Far as I Can See, continues through September 25.

Thirteen nominees have been announced for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Those selected will be inducted at the 53rd Anniversary Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on October 11 at the Music City Center. NaSHOF lists the 2023 nominees in two categories. The Contemporary Songwriters category contains Shawn Camp, Jim Collins, Don Henry, David Lee Murphy, Leslie Satcher, Darrell Scott, and Victoria Shaw. The Contemporary Songwriter/Artists nominees are Steven Curtis Chapman, Martie Maguire, Keith Urban, and Gillian Welch & David Rawlings (team). Two songwriters and one songwriter/artist will be selected. All nominees experienced their first significant songs at least 20 years ago. In addition, a separate body of veteran voters will elect a Veteran Songwriter, a Veteran Songwriter/Artist and a Legacy Songwriter (deceased), all of whom experienced their first significant songs at least 30 years ago. Nominees in those three categories are not announced.

“The stage has gone dim with the passing of Thom Roberts,” writes Randy Travis on Facebook, about the July 9 death of his long-time lighting director. “Thom was my friend and I loved him dearly.” He adds, “As we go back out next week, for the More Life tour of Randy Travis, the music will not be nearly as sweet.” Newsbreak reports Thomas Roberts, 68, died Sunday evening from a single gunshot wound to his chest. Christine Ann Roberts, 72, told officers she shot her husband “because he had cheated on her.” She has been charged with criminal homicide, with bond set at $100,000. According to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, she shot him on the front porch of their East Nashville home. A pistol was recovered from the scene.

WSMV Nashville reports the “Let Freedom Sing!” celebration for July 4th was delayed nearly an hour by potentially dangerous weather. The schedule called for Brad Paisley to take the stage around 8 p.m., with the fireworks show, accompanied by the Nashville Symphony, kicking off around 9:30. When the fireworks did finally begin, shortly after 10 p.m., the sky above Nashville lit up for over 30 minutes, with two grand finales. More than 250,000 were reported in downtown Nashville.

A new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibit will soon honor incoming 2023 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Patty Loveless. The Tennessean reports Patty Loveless: No Trouble with the Truth will be on display from August 23 through October of next year. Items in the exhibit include two acoustic guitars, her 1968 Epiphone FT-30 Caballero and 1987 Gibson J-200, and the original handwritten manuscript by songwriter Kostas for “Timber, I’m Falling in Love.” Clothing includes her outfits from 1988 when Porter Wagoner inducted her into the Grand Ole Opry, from 1998 at the CMA Awards, and when she and Vince Gill sang “Go Rest High on That Mountain” for George Jones’s funeral in 2013. Her monogrammed jacket from the USO Tour with Randy Travis in 1988, when they visited military bases in Alaska, Japan, and South Korea, will also be displayed.

Award-winning TV and radio host Lorianne Crook will be honored by The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum at its 15th annual Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum on Aug. 15 in the museum’s Ford Theater. MusicRow reports the annual forum recognizes music industry leaders who continue the legacy of Louise Scruggs, a formidable businesswoman who helped set professional standards in artist management. Lorianne is one half of the hosting duo Crook & Chase, along with Charlie Chase. They co-hosted This Week in Country Music on The Nashville Network (TNN) in the 1980s, along with numerous specials and award shows. They currently co-host and executive produce a weekly radio show and a podcast. Lorianne, widow of Jim Owens, is the president of Jim Owens Entertainment, Inc., which owns Crook & Chase programming and archives, as well as the TNN brand and more than 10,000 hours of historic programming. She was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in 2013 and received the Grand Ole Opry’s Bob Kingsley Living Legend Award in 2017. In 2023, RadioInk magazine named her among the most influential women in radio–for the tenth time.

A Tennessee Music Pathways marker was dedicated to deceased songwriter Kim Williams at Crockett Spring Park and Arboretum in his hometown of Rogersville, on what would have been his 76th birthday. He died in 2016. His co-written hits include Randy Travis’s “Three Wooden Crosses” and Joe Diffie’s “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” along with “Papa Loved Mama” and “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til The Sun Comes Up)” for Garth Brooks. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame by Garth Brooks in 2012. WJHL-TV News Channel 11 in Johnson City, Tennessee, reported this story.

An All-Star Salute To Lee Greenwood will appear in theaters across the U.S. for a one-night-only event on November 12. According to MusicRow, the film includes performances by more than twenty artists, including The Oak Ridge Boys, Tracy Lawrence, Jamey Johnson, Crystal Gayle, T. Graham Brown, Larry Gatlin, and Janie Fricke. “On the night we filmed this special I was overwhelmed and overjoyed at the same time,” Lee recalls. “I couldn’t believe so many great artists came to honor my music.” He adds, “Now, to share that special night with veterans, first responders, and country music fans with this premiere presentation in theaters is a perfect way to celebrate my forty-year career, which has included honoring so many of them.”

The Johnny Cash Museum sends a message to refute false information being spread about the health of Johnny’s little brother, Tommy Cash. “We are happy to say Tommy is just fine,” the announcement states. “Due to Parkinson’s, he has retired from performing, but he asked us to reach out to you all to send his love, thank you for your concern, and assure you all he is doing just fine.” I hadn’t heard from Tommy in a while and didn’t know he had Parkinson’s disease. He’s been reading my newsletter for many years. Best wishes to you, Tommy!

To celebrate the milestone of having gifted 200 million books since 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is offering a special promotion during International Literacy Month. The program sends monthly books free of charge to children from birth to age five around the world. MusicRow reports seven enchanted Dolly Parton bookmarks will be randomly inserted into Imagination Library books in five countries in September. The seven special bookmark recipients will get to meet Dolly over Zoom, receive a signed letter and photo, along with tickets to Dollywood, and have $2,000 donated to their local Imagination Library program. Families who haven’t enrolled in the program can do so before July 31  to be eligible to receive an enchanted bookmark.

Duane Tabinski, 53, the founder of the Nashville-based production company DUANE, was electrocuted while working in front of the grandstands at the NASCAR Chicago Street Race on June 30, reports MusicRow. He had spent over 30 years producing live events specializing in audio, video, lighting, and staging. His clients included Toby Keith, Old Crow Live, ZZ Top, and Bob Dylan. He worked CMA Fest 2023 and planned to work on more NASCAR events. Originally from Elmwood, Winnipeg, he and his family have lived in Nashville since 2011.

Over Independence Day weekend, Toby Keith played his first shows since revealing last summer that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in the fall of 2021. The Oklahoman reports hundreds attended his pop-up concerts Friday and Saturday night at Hollywood Corners in Norman, where he lives. He purchased the 1920s roadhouse and service station and converted it into a deli, bar and music venue. He and his Easy Money Band played for about two and a half hours both nights. Toby wants to tour again by the end of the year if he has enough energy to play a whole show. He told The Oklahoman he’s still undergoing chemotherapy for his stomach cancer, that he feels better, his blood tests have been improving and that his tumor has shrunk by one-third. “I’m about another eight weeks from my last scan,” he said. “I expect next time I look for that tumor to be even less — and I’ve only got one that’s shown up.”

In the middle of a concert in Boise, Idaho, Kelsea Ballerini was hit in the eye by a small item thrown from the audience. ABC Audio reports she tried to continue singing but then left the stage momentarily before returning to finish the show. After telling her audience, “If you ever don’t feel safe, please let someone around you know,” she said, “Don’t throw things. You know? I want shows of mine — every show, for every artist — but I’m in control of this one, and I want it to be a safe place for everyone. We have little kids here and can you help me do that tonight, please?” She later posted on Instagram, “Hi. I’m fine. Someone threw a bracelet, it hit me in the eye, and it more so scared me than hurt me.”

Late Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith will be honored in September, on what would have been her 70th birthday, with the release of two new special collections, reports MusicRow. The first collection, Working in Corners, reissues her earliest albums: her 1978 debut, There’s a Light Beyond These Woods, 1982’s Poet in My Window, 1984’s Once in a Very Blue Moon, and 1986’s The Last of the True Believers. Available as four-CD and four-LP vinyl box sets, as well as on digital platforms, Working in Corners will include memories from her friends, peers, and collaborators. The second release is an all-star tribute album, More Than a Whisper: Celebrating the Music of Nanci Griffith, which features Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Kathy Mattea, John Prine, Steve Earle, and others who interpreted Griffith’s most-beloved songs over a period of several years. All proceeds from More Than a Whisper will benefit Nashville’s Cumberland Heights, a non-profit treatment facility offering hope and healing to those affected by drug and alcohol addiction.


Byron Fay writes from Canton, Ohio, “As always, I enjoy your newsletter and look forward to reading it each month. Thanks for remembering Jesse McReynolds and Bobby Osborne. However, if I may offer a correction: you wrote that Bobby Osborne, for several days, was the oldest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Actually, Buck White is a year older than Bobby. I have noticed in many of the articles, the authors have forgotten about Buck. And yes, Buck is still appearing on the Opry, along with the rest of The Whites. Thanks again for all that you do.”

Diane: Oops, I messed up on my fact checking. I did mention Buck White, but I didn’t check to see which one was older. I guess I used a quote from another article that, like you say, forgot about Buck and said Bobby was now the oldest. Thanks for the correction.

Art Rankin says, “I’ve enjoyed your newsletter for years and commented a few times, but it’s been a long time. When I read your latest ‘In their own words’ on Les Leverett,I just had to say this was one of the best I ever read and enjoyed it as much as Les did when he described how much he enjoyed his life and sounded so humble about his interfacing with people like Ken Burns. Thank you for sharing this and, as always, I continue to wait for the next great newsletter.”

Wendy Williams of WTSB Radio in North Carolina writes, “Thank you so much for the mention of my listener and your fan Robbin. He was so excited about it and the Charley Pride mention. Robbin is looking forward to your next newsletter as he always is.”

Martha Moore of so much MOORE media says, “So sad to read about Don Rhodes. I first started contacting him about my artists in the late ‘70s when I was at ABC Dot/MCA as Publicity Coordinator for the label. First call was regarding the Oak Ridge Boys or Barbara Mandrell. We always had lovely chats and his articles were fabulous — in-depth and rooted in his vast knowledge of music and the industry. He will be missed!”

Rick Russell writes, “I was sorry to hear of the death of ‘Ramblin’ Don Rhodes.’ I had just communicated with him a couple weeks before about Johnny Russell, and he was kind enough to send me several articles he had written, and via email told me some personal stories about Johnny. I didn’t know Don at all, but he sure seemed like a good man and was so willing to share his memories.”

Diane: I had a similar experience when I contacted him years ago after seeing a column he’d written about Lewis Grizzard and Faron Young.

Jackie Allen in Sun City, Arizona, says, “Thanks so much for these great country music newsletters, love to see them in my inbox!! Please don’t ever stop.”

Wayne Scott writes, “I always look forward to your newsletters. I am totally blind and have always listened to music. I listened to country in my preteen years and left when I was a teenager. When I was twenty, I came back to the pre-Garth Brooks country. Keep up the great work. I always enjoy the classics.”

Dave McAleer says, “Your emails have become an essential part of my life keeping me in touch with what’s happening in the country field.  Keep up the good work.”

Michael Green writes, “Thanks for including me, for another great newsletter, and the tribute to the wonderful Les Leverett. I must be a fan of old-time country because I still think of Pat Boone as Red Foley’s son-in-law.”

Don Holland, MCPO, USN (ret), says, “Hey Captain, my mate Russell Turner, from Australia, introduced me to the French Family Band. The father, Stuie French, is from Tasmania and the mother is from New Zealand. They dropped everything and moved to Nashville recently and have already debuted on the Opry. I believe they are going to be great, and Sonny will be a huge star.”

Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “A few weeks ago we got word Phil Vassar had a heart attack, then that he wouldn’t make it. One of the greatest talents ever. A little bit ago, I talked to him, and he’s doing good. Miracle of miracles. Lori talked to him this week. He’s performing and wrote a dandy with Jeffery Steel. So his skills are doing their job. His doctor said he’s amazed.”

Eric Calhoun says, “My thanks to Dave Barton for the link about Molly Tuttle. 103.7 KSON had a program on Sunday nights, about Bluegrass. Not a lot of country music stations on the West Coast have this. I just signed up for the Bluegrass Newsletter. Report on the new Y’all 106.7, WNFN: If you like classic country from the 1990s and early 2000s, click on this link, click on Listen Live. One final note: Nice to see Alabama still going strong. I knew Rascal Flats still like what they’re doing.”


Jerry Foster was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994 with Bill Rice, as the team of Foster & Rice. Born in 1935 as the son of a Missouri sharecropper, Jerry Foster began writing songs and playing in a band while in the U.S. Marine Corps. Later, while performing in a Missouri nightclub, he met fellow singer-songwriter Bill Rice. They played one another their songs. Foster reportedly thought Rice’s lyrics were weak, and Rice thought the same about Foster’s melodies. Foster and Rice moved to Nashville in 1967 as a songwriting team, finding their first success when Charley Pride recorded “The Day the World Stood Still” in 1968. Subsequent major songwriting hits included “The Easy Part’s Over,” “Would You Take Another Chance on Me,” “Thirty-Nine and Holding,” “I’ll Think of Something,” “She’s Pulling Me Back Again,” and “Here Comes the Hurt Again.” At the 1972 ASCAP Country Music Awards ceremony, the organization gave Foster and Rice a golden wheelbarrow to haul their ten trophies home. They won eleven in 1973. In their nineteen years as a songwriting team, they wrote two thousand songs. Foster went on to co-write songs for Randy Travis, Mark Chesnutt, and others. He acted in numerous music videos and in Hannah Montana: The Movie. His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/jerryfostermusic/. On September 10, Foster, age 87, will be the subject of the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum’s Quarterly Series “Poets And Prophets: Legendary Country Songwriters.” The event will be at 1:30 p.m. The 90-minute program will include recordings, photos and film clips, and Foster will be signing autographs.

Buddy Holly, born Charles Hardin Holley (he later dropped the “e”) in Lubbock, Texas, in 1936, became the first singer to double-track his voice, the first to use violins on a rock & roll record, and one of the first rock & rollers to write his own songs. He grew up singing and playing the violin, as well as guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Hank Williams was his idol. As a teenager, Buddy performed around Lubbock, perfecting his hopped-up mix of country and blues. He and his band, the Crickets, had their first #1 pop hit, “That’ll Be the Day,” in 1957. He co-wrote “Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “True Love Ways,” and “Maybe Baby.” While playing a grueling cross-country tour, the “Winter Dance Party,” he was killed in a snowstorm on February 3, 1959, when the plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson (“The Big Bopper”) also died. Buddy was 22 years old. In 1986, Buddy Holly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Richard Leigh, born in Washington, D.C., in 1951, was orphaned at age two when his parents were killed in an accident. After several years of foster care by multiple family members, he found a home with his older half-brother’s ex-wife, who adopted him. In 1974, he moved to Nashville to make it as a singer-songwriter. He realized he was better at writing songs than singing them. Within two years, he had his first country #1, “I’ll Get Over You,” by Crystal Gayle. She then recorded “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” which became one of the most-performed country songs of the twentieth century. Richard’s run of hits included eight #1s, with Reba McEntire’s “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” being one of his biggest hits and one of his most personal songs. He co-wrote it after finding a clipping of his dad’s obituary. He also co-wrote “Somewhere In My Broken Heart” with Billy Dean, and he co-wrote Steve Wariner’s “Life’s Highway.” In 2000, the Dixie Chicks took “Cold Day in July” into the country Top 10, giving Richard hits in four successive decades. Now 72, he teaches songwriting workshops and plays house concerts around the country. Richard and his wife live on a farm near Nashville.

Bill Rice was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994 with Jerry Foster, as the team of Foster & Rice. Born Wilburn Steven Rice in 1939 in Arkansas, he was signed by Scotty Moore, at age 18, to a recording contract. Elvis Presley recorded his “Girl Next Door Went A’walking” in 1960. After he joined with Jerry Foster as a songwriting team, they wrote hits for Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Paycheck, Mark Chesnutt, Mel Tillis, Bob Luman, Nat Stuckey, Mickey Gilley, and Hank Williams Jr. In 1972, Foster and Rice received ten ASCAP songwriting awards, following that with 11 ASCAP commendations. Bill Rice later formed a songwriting partnership with his wife, Sharon Vaughn Rice. They wrote Patty Loveless’s “Lonely Too Long,” Reba McEntire’s “I’m Not That Lonely Yet,” and “‘Til a Tear Becomes a Rose” for Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan. At age 84, Bill Rice lives in Florida.

Bobby Russell was the Grammy-winning writer of crossover smashes “Little Green Apples,” “Honey” and “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” Born in Nashville in 1941, Bobby grew up while his hometown was becoming Music City.  Roger Miller was the first to record “Little Green Apples,” and “Honey” became the signature hit for Bobby Goldsboro. Both were recorded numerous times and became hits for others. As a solo artist, Bobby recorded “1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero” and “Saturday Morning Confusion.” Then, his wife, Vicki Lawrence, recorded “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia,” a pop hit. Reba McEntire later recorded a country version. Bobby Russell died in 1992 of a heart attack in Nicholasville, Kentucky. He was 51 years old.

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