Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 12 June 2024


The Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls recently hosted concerts by Chris Stapleton and Tim McGraw, two weeks apart. Both singers filled the 12,000-seat event center. Chris Stapleton brought his All-American Road Show tour. His harmony singer, I found out later, was his wife, Morgane Stapleton. She stood near him in the traditional frontman spot and played the tambourine. Following every song, the stage went dark, stagehands ran out to swap out three or four guitars, Chris and Morgane met in the middle and she fiddled with his chest or beard or whatever, I couldn’t tell. About the time I started wondering when they’d start again, there was a blast of lights and music to kick off the next song. At the end of that song, the lights went off, and the process repeated. For EVERY song. Chris barely talked. I don’t know if the show changed after the first fifty minutes, because I wasn’t there for the ending.

The Tim McGraw Standing Room Only Tour ’24 refers to the title of Tim’s sixteenth studio album, Standing Room Only, which was released in August. In the title track, the singer wants to “live a life so when I die there’s standing room only, standing room only.” It’s a theme commonly found in his songs.

Following a 10-minute set by a duo called the Heartwreckers, Carly Pearce and her band performed for 45 minutes. The large screen behind her was a great improvement over the screens usually used above both sides of the stage, as had been at the Stapleton concert. She explained that she wouldn’t be bouncing around as much as she usually does, and that she would be checking her Apple watch, not to see the time, but because she had to keep her heartrate down. She has recently developed pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart. “I have been working with my cardiologist, and we have decided it is in my best interest as I’m healing to alter my shows a little bit,” she said. She looked gorgeous, dressed in blue jeans and a jean jacket, both covered with red hearts outlined with sparkles. She moved comfortably around the stage.

She opened with “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” which won a Grammy for her and Ashley McBryde. She covered Faith Hill’s song, “Let’s Go to Vegas,” in honor of Faith’s husband, Tim McGraw. My favorite of her songs, and a well-written one, was “What He Didn’t Do.”

Carly told us she moved to Nashville thirteen years ago, and while working as a cleaner at an Airbnb, she wrote a song she didn’t think anyone would ever hear. And “Every Little Thing” became her first number one. She excitedly announced that her new album, Hummingbird, was being released “at midnight tonight.” It had been three years since her last record, 29: Written in Stone. If not for the heartbreak of the past years, she said, “There would be no this moment tonight, in your town.”

The new record includes her hit single, “We Don’t Fight Anymore,” with Chris Stapleton. She told us her dream collaboration has always been with Chris Stapleton, and that dream has now come true. She closed her show with “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” a song she co-wrote about someone in her past. She and Lee Brice won both CMA and ACM awards with the duet.

After a 40-minute intermission, a light show commenced, along with about five minutes of music, until a silhouette on the screen showed the signature McGraw hat and perfect body, a precursor of things to come. Tim appeared in the smoke, and a 15-minute opening segment on four joined screens flashed four of him and a variety of scenes and faces, far too much and too fast to figure out what was happening. I can’t adequately describe the screen, so I borrowed a photo taken by Christine Manika of KXRB Radio.

Photo by Christine Manika of KXRB Radio

Tim told us he doesn’t talk much during his shows, which he attributed to having a wife and three daughters who don’t let him talk at home. He said, “Baby daughter Audrey is with me tonight” and pointed toward the front row. He told us, “Leave the rest of the world outside. We’re going to take you on a ride.” The four screens combined to show a scene of driving down the highway, with Tim projected on both sides, as he sang “Just To See You Smile” (one of my favorites).

He credited his band with being the best in the business, but we never saw them, other than a few musicians being spotlighted in a song. They stood on the dark stage, with lights flashing all around. Our seats offered an unobstructed view of the stage, if in the distance. Watching the crowd on the main floor, it seemed to me this must be a girls’ night out. In addition to the usual couples, there were numerous groups of two-to-five young women, dressed for a party. I don’t know whether they came to see Carly Pearce, age 34, or Tim McGraw, age 57. Perhaps both. There were almost no children.

View from my seat, showing two of the four screens, with Tim the tiny figure under the spotlights

At one point, when all four screens showed Tim, the image stretched out, so there appeared to be an entire formation of Tim McGraws, in form-fitting sleeveless shirt and well-worn, skin-tight blue jeans. The tour could have been called the “Look at My Body” Tour.

He introduced his “brand new single,” which I thought was a good song, “One Bad Habit.” He sang many familiar songs, such as, “Something Like That,” “Where the Green Grass Grows,” Red Rag Top,” and “I Like It, I Love It.” The finale was “Real Good Man,” after which Tim shook some hands and walked offstage in the dark.

When the music started again, the screen lit up with scenes from 1883, reminding me he hadn’t yet mentioned his TV show. Tim came back onstage to sing “The Cowboy In Me,” followed by “Humble and Kind.” He led the crowd in singing the chorus, and I thought that was a great way to end the show, with a good message. But lights continued to flash, and then he started singing “Live Like You Were Dying.” At the end of the song, the whole place was dark, except for Tim standing under a spotlight with smoke swirling around. I waited for him to be lifted up into heaven, but that didn’t happen. He left the stage, and the house lights came on. That ten-minute encore was possibly the most impressive I’ve ever seen. As was the entire show, with its four screens and spectacular light displays, not to mention Tim’s ninety minutes of singing.


Fans are getting one last chance to see Alan Jackson on stage, reports CMT News. While he lives with his Charcot-Marie-Tooth genetic neurological disorder, he has decided to continue his Last Call: One More For The Road tour, which he launched in 2022. The 2024-2025 version includes 10 arenas in Florida, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and more. Alan says, “My fans always show up to have a good time, and I’m going to give them the best show I can for this Last Call.”

Rain poured down on Carrie Underwood at the Carolina Country Music Fest in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while she finished her headlining concert. Totally drenched, she made her exit at the back of the stage and apparently slipped on the wet steps. According to TMZ, video footage showed she seemed to lose her footing while going down the stairs. Some fans screamed, “She fell!” She regained her balance and continued out of sight. She later posted a video of singing “Before He Cheats” during the sudden downpour. She wrote on Instagram, “We won’t let a little rain stop us! We won’t let a massive downpour stop us, either!”

The national Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA) has named Dollywood as America’s Favorite Amusement Park, reports WVLT-TV in Knoxville. Also, Dollywood’s Big Bear Mountain roller coaster was named the best new attraction of 2023. NAPHA voters are experienced theme park enthusiasts who visited an average of 14 parks in 2023 and rode hundreds of roller coasters. Disney World (Orlando) came in second and Disneyland (Los Angeles) finished third.

NewsChannel 5 Nashville reports on the 12th annual Next Generation Sons and Daughters of Country Legends show. The idea originated after RFD-TV filmed Larry Black’s Country’s Family Reunion, Second Generation in 2013. Robyn Young (Faron Young), Hawkshaw Hawkins (Jean Sheppard and Hawkshaw Hawkins), Julie Husky (Ferlin Husky), and Melissa Luman (Bob Luman) decided they should put together a show of them singing their parents’ hits. The fan base that developed from their 2014 show led them to make it an annual event, which usually kicks off CMA Fest. “We aren’t looking to ‘be our parents,'” says Melissa Luman. “We want to keep their music and their memories alive and well.” Past Next Generation shows have included Pam Tillis, Lorrie Morgan, Georgette Jones, Dean Miller, Ronny Robbins, John Carter Cash, Shelly West, Kathy Louvin, Waylon Payne, among many others. They share a kindred spirit, because their parents were usually out on the road entertaining fans. “Our parents were all friends and all worked together when many of us weren’t even born,” Melissa says. “The show will be around as long as the fans want us to be.”

Several newsletters ago, I mentioned that gospel singer Mandisa had been found dead in her home in April, with the manner of death listed as natural. PEOPLE reports that the official cause of death was Class III obesity, defined as a disease in which a person has a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher and is experiencing obesity-related health conditions. Following the success of her debut album, True Beauty, in 2007, she began dealing with mental health struggles, which led her to eat more, gain much weight, and become a recluse. “You’re battling shame, and you don’t want to leave the house,” she once explained. “Before I knew it, I was miserable and hopeless. I didn’t want to be around anybody. I stayed in my house for two years, essentially, just eating and getting worse and worse.”

After 21 years of teaching, automotive instructor Steven Conti has retired from Pepin Academies, reports the Osprey Observer in Valrico, Florida. To celebrate his retirement, he brought in the 1969 Dodge Daytona Challenger driven by Marty Robbins. “I wanted to bring the car in to show the students some of the past,” he said. Since its race over 50 years ago, the car has been restored by NASCAR legend Ray Evernham, keeping its original frame and Marty’s adaptations. Throughout his time as an instructor, Conti tried to bring in an older car each year, before his seniors graduated. “Henry Ford always wanted to preserve the past,” he explained. “I wanted to be like Henry Ford a little bit.”

The Randy Travis More Life tour came to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on June 5, reports MusicRow. Randy and Mary Travis sat in brown armchairs on the left side of the platform as James Dupré sang Randy’s hits, accompanied by Randy’s original touring band. While James usually sings all of the hits himself, he had help from several surprise guests. First came Jamey Johnson, who sang “Promises.” Pianist Jacob Tolliver performed “Honky Town Side Of Town.” Emily Ann Roberts, a recent contestant on The Voice, sang “I Told You So.” A new song has been added to the show, the AI-generated “Where That Came From,” which James originally recorded and now sings as one of Randy’s songs. Mary accurately commented, “When Randy started in the ’80s, he was one of the first to do music videos and now here we are, 40 years later, and he’s using AI.”

Billy Jam Records artist Alex Miller performed at WHAS-TV’s 71st CRUSADE FOR CHILDREN held at the Old Forester’s Paristown Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. His 20-minute set included his current radio single, “My Daddy’s Dad.” Terry Meiners of WHAS Radio celebrated his 25th Crusade as host. The annual event raised over $5,700,000 in donations. Nearly 60 percent of donations were collected by 200 fire departments in Kentucky and southern Indiana. Fire departments have been involved with the Crusade since 1956 when a fire chief brought $400 onto the Memorial Auditorium stage in Louisville and challenged all fire departments to get involved.

Terry Meiners and Alex Miller

Construction has begun on a 6,090 square foot addition to the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum in Brady, Texas. The new building is being built at the back of the existing building and connected by a hallway. It will be the main entrance and will hold the welcome center, gift shop, a small performance area, and additional displays, for which $21,000 worth of custom-built display cases have been ordered. Tracy Pitcox plans to hold a grand opening celebration during his 36th Heart of Texas Country Music Festival in March 2025.

Dolly Parton, 78, announces on X that she has been working for several years on writing her life story as a Broadway musical: “I’m proud to announce we are finally developing Hello, I’m Dolly – An Original Musical for the Broadway stage.” The musical will premiere in 2026. “I’ve written many original songs for the show and included all your favorites in it as well,” Dolly says in a press release.

On Friday, June 7, Lainey Wilson, 32, became the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry. PEOPLE reports surprise guests Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood escorted her into the famous wooden circle, and Trisha said, “On behalf of all the Opry members past and present, welcome, as the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Lainey Wilson.” Her family came onstage to stand in the circle with her because, she said, “This is theirs too. They have worked so hard for me to have opportunities.”

Trisha Yearwood, Jeannie Seely, Lainey Wilson, Terri Clark, Mandy Barnett (Photo: Chris Hollo/Grand Ole Opry)


Roger Ryan writes from Cork, Ireland, “Thanks for a super publication as usual. I’m heading to Nashville on June 3 for CMA Music Fest and Fan Fair.”

Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “Helen, Lori, and I had lunch this week with my niece Margo Price. I got to try out her new Gibson guitar. Margo is really happening. She just had a number one in England, titled ‘Radio’ she wrote with her husband, Jeremy. Last month they sent me pictures of them with Willie and Kris Kristofferson on Willie’s plane going to Hawaii. Music biz is amazing. Just remembered an old flashback from years ago. I’m amazed I can still get them at 88, I was in the Navy in California and went over to a racetrack in Mexico. Went to a teller window to bet on a horse. In the line next to me a man looked me square in the eyes and nodded, a faint grin, said nothing. It was Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Jay Silverheels. Loved that moment. You’re super-duper to print all the music news. We get to get heard out there.”

Perry Steilow in Sioux Falls says, “Great letter again.”

Eric Calhoun writes, “For the person asking about Steve Wariner, Christine, Steve is doing well, and does have the website Diane spoke of. There is one song that brings tears to my eyes, and I dedicated it to a pen pal. The song is ‘What If I Said.’ This song should have also cracked the Adult-Contemporary chart. Some soft country songs have been associated with Adult Contemporary. If someone programmed ‘Gentle Country’ today, as I mentioned, KGBS (now KTNQ-AM KNX-FM, 97.1) would have included ‘What If I Said,’ ‘It Matters To Me,’ and a few other classics. But people don’t have that ingenuity in country music radio anymore, because ‘Gentle Country’ has been replaced by today’s country. And classic country doesn’t seem to have that ‘gentle’ style. One more note: The longest, continuously owned country station in southern California, 95.1 KFRG, will celebrate 37 years on the air in December. The champion is 103.7, formerly 97.3, KSON, San Diego, which is the longest. But as for K-Frog? It is the little, giant, 50,000-watt station that doesn’t get a lot of awards, but does a lot of community service in LA, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties. K-Frog is one of the major sponsors of Stagecoach, in Indio, every year. Congratulations, K-Frog! Ribbit! I got a message from the Belfast Telegraph that Irish country singer Rose Marie passed away suddenly, at the age of 68. I do not know the songs she was best known for, but the article said she was well known in the UK. Can anyone please give me a list of songs she was known for?”

Diane: The Sun in London reports Rose-Marie died unexpectedly “in her beloved second home of Blackpool.” She was a local and national television personality in the United Kingdom and a former judge on the BBC talent show Go For It. She released 19 albums, was voted Most Popular Singer at the International Music Awards, and sold out the London Palladium on more than one occasion. Her top three recorded songs were “When I Leave The World Behind” (1983), “Let The Rest Of The World Go By” (1984), and “All The Love (In The World)” (1985).


Ronnie Dunn was born in Texas in 1953 to a family that moved many times during his childhood. He eventually settled on Tulsa, Oklahoma, as his hometown. In 1988, he won a Marlboro Talent Search songwriting contest, which brought him to Nashville, where Arista Records teamed him with Kix Brooks. The two recorded as Brooks & Dunn from 1991-2011 and were named CMA Vocal Duo 14 times. Ronnie wrote the Brooks & Dunn hits “Neon Moon,” “Hard Workin’ Man,” “She Used To Be Mine,” “She’s Not The Cheatin’ Kind,” “Little Miss Honky Tonk, ” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” Ronnie and Kix co-wrote “Brand New Man” and my two favorite Brooks & Dunn songs, “My Next Broken Heart” and “Whiskey Under The Bridge.” When they retired their duo in 2011, Ronnie resumed his solo career. His co-written hit, “Cost Of Livin’,” is a song that tears me up; it’s about an Army veteran trying to convince an employer to hire him so he can feed his family. Brooks & Dunn started touring again in 2015, and. I saw them for the first time last summer in Sioux Falls. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019. Ronnie was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2003. He celebrated his 71st birthday last week.

George Byron Hill was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1953 and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He moved to Nashville in 1978 and had his first hits with “Pickin’ Up Strangers” by Johnny Lee and “Fool Hearted Memory” (written with Blake Mevis) by George Strait. Some of the songs he co-wrote are: “Nothing On But The Radio” by Gary Allan, “Born Country” by Alabama, “Over You” by Anne Murray, “High-Tech Redneck” by George Jones, “If I Was A Drinkin’ Man” by Neal McCoy, “Size Matters” by Joe Nichols, “Nights” by Ed Bruce, “Lifestyles Of The Not So Rich And Famous” by Tracy Byrd, and “The Pages Of My Mind” by Ray Charles. His songs have been recorded by a long list of other artists, including Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, Don Williams, John Michael Montgomery, Juice Newton, Joe Nichols, Keith Whitley, Trace Adkins, Conway Twitty, Ricky Van Shelton, and many others. Randy Travis and Clint Eastwood recorded his co-written “Smokin’ the Hive.” Byron Hill is 70 years old.

Obed Wayne Kirkpatrick Jr. was born in 1961 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and taught himself to play guitar and write songs while being raised there. At 21, he went to Nashville to attend Belmont College, and his songs started getting recorded. His chart-topping Contemporary Christian, Pop and Country singles include “Every Heartbeat,” “Good For Me,” and “Takes A Little Time” by Amy Grant, “Place In This World” by Michael W. Smith, “Wrapped Up In You” by Garth Brooks, and his co-written “Change The World” by Eric Clapton. Since 2002, his collaboration with Little Big Town has produced “Boondocks,” “Bring It On Home,” and “Little White Church.” He and his brother, Karey, wrote the music and lyrics for Broadway musical Something Rotten! The show launched a U.S. tour in 2017. Wayne Kirkpatrick is 63 years old.

Joe Melson of Bonham, Texas, was born in 1935 and spent his young adult years working at Standard Oil by day and playing music with his Rockabilly band by night. In 1957, he met Roy Orbison, who became a star after recording their co-written songs, “Only The Lonely,” “Crying,” and “Blue Bayou.” Conway Twitty recorded their song, “I’m In A Blue, Blue Mood.” Joe also wrote “Blue Angel,” “Running Scared,” “Lana,” and “I’m Hurtin’” for Roy Orbison. “Only the Lonely” went to number one for Sonny James, “Blue Bayou” was a hit for Linda Ronstadt, and “Crying” for Don McLean. Over the years, Joe performed at rockabilly and nostalgia festivals; he was inducted into the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame in 2002. He has a website at https://joemelson.com and is 89 years old.

Kay Toinette Oslin, better known as K.T. Oslin, was born in Crossett, Arkansas in 1942. After her father’s death, she and her mother moved to Houston, where she later attended college as a drama major. In 1966, she toured with the road company of Hello Dolly! and remained in the cast when the musical returned to Broadway. she appeared as a chorus girl in other musicals and sang commercial jingles around New York. K.T. moved to Nashville in 1987, signed with RCA Nashville, and hit # 1 with “80s Ladies.” When it was named 1988 CMA Song of the Year, she became the first female writer to win the award. She wrote and recorded such singles as, “Do Ya,” “I’ll Always Come Back,” “Money,” “Hey Bobby,” “This Woman,” “Didn’t Expect It To Go Down This Way,” and “Hold Me.” She co-wrote “Come Next Monday.” She was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014 and diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease the following year. She moved into an assisted-living facility in Nashville in 2016 and died in 2020 at age 78.

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