Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 13 December 2023

This month, we especially honor the memories of Faron Young and Marty Robbins. Marty died December 8, 1982, at age 57. Faron died December 10, 1996, at age 64.


When Johnny Cash recorded “Hey Porter” in 1955 with Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on upright bass, they called themselves “Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two.” In 1960, drummer W.S. Holland joined the group, and the band became The Tennessee Three. Now, twenty years after Cash’s death, his legacy continues with THE TENNESSEE FOUR.

I happened to be listening on September 12 when the Tuesday night Grand Ole Opry commemorated that 20th anniversary with an evening called “Opry Honors Johnny Cash.” THE TENNESSEE FOUR made its Opry debut to a standing ovation: Johnny’s grandson Thomas Gabriel on vocals, Paul Leim on drums, Kerry Marx on guitar, and Dave Roe on bass. Three days later, Dave Roe died of a massive heart attack at his home in Goodlettsville.

Paul Leim and I had talked earlier this year when I interviewed him for my Randy Travis biography. He toured several years with Randy and played drums on many of Randy’s sessions. Paul is one of the most recorded drummers in history, having played on over five hundred million records sold. Beginning with Tom Jones, he has recorded with Shania Twain, Lionel Ritchie, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Barbara Mandrell, George Jones, Roseanne Cash, Neil Diamond, and numerous others, including Johnny Cash

I called Paul last week to learn how THE TENNESSEE FOUR came about. The story begins with Henrik Knudsen, a promoter in Randers, Denmark. A huge Elvis Presley fan, he built a replica of Graceland 15 years ago and called it the Memphis Mansion. For twenty years he has been promoting the Elvis TCB band on an Elvis January birthday tour in Europe. Paul is part of the TCB band, which was reconstructed after Elvis’s death, with musicians who had played with Elvis. Ron Tutt, Jerry Scheff, James Burton, and Glen D. Hardin asked Paul to join the TCB Band in 2005 for Graceland’s production of Elvis The Concert. TCB stands for Elvis’s personal motto, “Taking Care of Business.”

Knudsen is also a huge Johnny Cash fan. Two years ago, he asked if Paul had played with Johnny Cash. Paul played on a Dukes of Hazzard cast album and the Barbara Mandrell TV series, with Cash as special guest on both. Knudsen wanted Paul to put together a group of Cash musicians, just as the TCB Band contained original Elvis players. The goal was a Johnny Cash 90th birthday party on February 26, 2022, in Randers.

Paul called Kerry Marx, who was with Cash’s touring band for five years, and Dave Roe, who worked with Cash for the final twelve years. Both agreed. With drums, guitar, and bass lined up, Paul went looking for a singer.

Studio great, session guitarist Dave Cleveland recommended Thomas Gabriel, the eldest Cash grandchild, son of second daughter, Kathy. Thomas grew up on the road touring with Johnny, developing his vocal style in the likeness of his famous grandpa. Paul listened to a song demo Dave had recorded on Thomas. “My jaw dropped. I swear it sounded just like Cash,” he says. “I got chills.” That exact instant, Henrik called from Denmark to ask if Paul had found a singer. He shouted into the phone, “Listen to this, it is his grandson!” Paul played the demo, and Henrik shouted back, “We have to have him!” Paul said, “WE WILL!” Thomas was thrilled to join the group.

Paul suggested calling themselves THE TENNESSEE FOUR, in honor of the Tennessee Three. “I put together this original-cast Johnny Cash show,” he says. “We don’t consider ourselves a tribute band. Since we all worked with Johnny, and have his grandson on vocals, we’re continuing the legend, full speed. We love that concept.”

Dave’s loss was devastating to the newly organized band. Paul says, “As the entire concept is based on the integrity of having Cash musicians, our first thoughts were for Dave’s wife and family, of course. Our second was, Are we done already?” They shut down for six weeks to decide what to do.

They agreed to continue if they could find someone with Cash credentials. Dennis Crouch, who played bass on the last two Cash albums and is one of the most respected upright bass players in Nashville, fit the bill. “Dennis Crouch is just wonderful,” Paul says. Their main issue is finding time. Kerry Marx, one of the most sought after studio guitar players in Nashville, tours with Johnny Mathis and is the musical director of The Grand Ole Opry. Dennis stays busy in the studio with the likes of Henry Connick Jr. and tours with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Paul has his studio playing/production work and TCB touring schedule in Europe. “We have to book around our schedules until this catches on,” Paul says. “If the standing ovation we received on the Opry is an indication, we are on to something.”

They are booked at the Mulehouse in Columbia, Tennessee, on January 6, and a promoter in Norway is putting together a tour for mid-February through early March. They are honoring Johnny Cash’s 92nd birthday in Randers, Denmark, on February 23. They plan to do Johnny Cash birthday tours in February and other shows throughout the year.

Paul is currently looking for an experienced manager/agent. He has been handling TT4 scheduling, promotion, and media himself. I commented, “All those unreturned phone calls,” and he responded, “Oh, it’s unbelievable the amount of time this takes. You could spend every hour of every day doing this.”

While the 72-year-old drummer has no need to be on the road, he says, “I spent 40 years in the studio playing on hits for everyone else. I’m doing this because I love the music and love performing live again and seeing people happy when we play. I still love playing after all these years. I can’t just quit; I love it too much.”

He concludes, “I’m really happy to be able to put this legendary group of musicians together and have people understand this Cash cast, blood onstage concept. Everyone who hears us or about us loves THE TENNESSEE FOUR.”


TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year is TAYLOR SWIFT. “Politicians from Thailand, Hungary, and Chile implored her to play their countries,” the TIME story says. “Cities, stadiums, and streets were renamed for her. Every time she came to a new place, a mini economic boom took place as hotels and restaurants saw a surge of visitors.” She generated more revenue for Glendale, Arizona, than did the 2023 Super Bowl when her “Eras” tour kicked off in the same stadium. There are at least 10 college classes devoted to her, including one at Harvard. This year’s tour, number one both worldwide and in North America, is the first tour to cross the billion-dollar mark, according to Pollstar’s 2023 year-end charts. It brought in $1.04 billion with 4.35 million tickets sold across 60 tour dates, along with approximately $200 million in merch sales. The blockbuster tour film, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, is the highest-grossing concert film of all time, reportedly earning approximately $250 million in sales. To release the movie, Taylor forged a pact with AMC, giving the theater chain its highest single-day ticket sales in history. In 2017, Taylor was recognized as one of the Person of the Year Silence Breakers for inspiring women to speak out about sexual misconduct. This makes her the first woman to appear twice on a Person of the Year cover.

Three female legends in their late 70s dominated the Billboard charts earlier this month: Brenda Lee (78) was #1 on the #Hot100, Cher (77) was #1 on the Adult Contemporary, and Dolly Parton (77) was #1 on the Top Rock Albums.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on December 4. That’s 65 years after Brenda Lee recorded the 1958 Christmas classic. She celebrated her 79th birthday on December 11 and is the oldest artist ever to reach the top of the Hot 100. She also holds the record for the longest gap between an artist’s first and most recent week at No.1 on the Hot 100. Her first two No. 1 songs were “I’m Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted” in 1960. Country Living Nation reports Johnny Marks wrote the song and encouraged 13-year-old Brenda to sing it. She recorded it with Nashville’s A-team of studio musicians. “Mr. Marks would be proud,” she says. This year, Brenda recorded a music video for the song. I’d thought she re-recorded the song, but apparently not.

Mariah Carey, 54, sent Brenda Lee flowers and a card that read, “Dearest Ms. Brenda, congratulations on your historic No. 1. Have a Merry Christmas. Love, Mariah.” When “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” hit No. 1 and made Brenda the oldest woman to top the Hot 100 list, according to PEOPLE, she broke the record held by Carey for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at 53. The previous record holder had been Cher for “Believe” when she was 52.

The Ohio Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Connie Smith and Sam Wellington of The Four Guys into its hall of fame during a December 1 presentation on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Sam accepted the induction as the lone survivor of the original group, which included Berl Lyons, Richard Garrett, and Brent Burkett. “The Four Guys were formed as a singing unit in our respective hometowns of Steubenville and Toronto, Ohio,” Sam stated. Connie accepted her belt buckle and plaque with a “Thank you very much.”

The Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville was filled on November 28 with musicians and fans to pay tribute to Keith Gattis, who died in April. Taste of Country reports the performers at the tribute concert included George Strait, who opened with “Goin’, Goin’, Gone,” written by his friend. He told stories of working together, beginning in 2013 when Keith wrote “I Got a Car” for George’s Love Is Everything album. Keith also wrote “Let It Go.” Sheryl Crow, Randy Houser, Jon Pardi, and many other artists played songs and shared their memories. They all joined George to end the evening with a large collaboration on Keith’s hits.

During the Grand Ole Opry’s annual “Country Christmas” show, Scotty McCreery, 30, was surprised when Garth Brooks walked onstage and handed him a wrapped gift with a giant red bow. “This is a Christmas present to the Grand Ole Opry,” Garth said. “We would love to invite you to be the newest member of the Opry.” Scotty answered, “Holy cow. Yes, I would love to.” The Tennessean reports Scotty saying, “When I got started doing this, people asked, ‘what are your goals?’ I’d say, ‘one day I’d like to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry.'” He wrote on Instagram the next day, “Last night was one of the greatest nights of my life. I wish I could tell that 10-year-old boy singing The Dance on the edge of his bed at 2 in the morning, that one day [Garth Brooks] would invite him to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry! Still doesn’t feel real.”

Nashville Business Journal reports the sale of a downtown Nashville office and retail building for $75 million. The new owners of the 11-story building at 211 Commerce are The Dollywood Company and Herschend Enterprises in a joint venture. Dolly Parton is reportedly planning to convert the building into a hotel.

CMT News reports the Grand Ole Opry debut of Walker Montgomery, 24, son of John Michael Montgomery and nephew of Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Montgomery. He grew up watching his dad and uncle sing on the Opry, and they introduced him for his opportunity to sing in the Opry’s circle. His parents, sister and grandparents watched from the side of the stage as he sang “Work To Do,” the title track of his new EP. He chose it because he wanted to sing something he wrote. He also sang “Tired of You,” which he calls “a song that needs to be heard. It’s my favorite of the songs I’ve cut, and it’s a beautifully written song.”

When Ruby Leigh, 16, a contestant on The Voice, took the stage to sing her coach’s hit song, “You Lie,” she brought Reba McEntire to tears. “At least I did a good job,” she told PEOPLE after the show. “I made Reba happy — I’m complete.” Reba, 68, hugged her after the performance. “She said she finally knew what it was like for her mom to be so proud of her,” Leigh said. “She treats me so well. I don’t think I could’ve picked another coach.”

The annual All for the Hall fundraiser at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on December 5 raised more than $900,000 for the Country Music Hall of Fame’s education programs, the largest total in the event’s history. The Boot reports Keith Urban hosted the event for an eighth year. He and Vince Gill sang harmonies and acted as a backing band for all performances. Artists were asked to sing a song of their own, plus a cover that fit the theme of “The Song Remembers When.” Trisha Yearwood sang a Linda Ronstadt song. Brooks & Dunn, Kelsea Ballerini, and Old Dominion were some of the 14 performers. The surprise guest was Brenda Lee, who sang “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Over the years, more than $5 million has been raised during the All for the Hall concerts.

PEOPLE reports on the final divorce decree issued in late September after a contentious two-year court battle between Joe Don Rooney, 48, of Rascal Flatts and Tiffany Fallon Rooney, 49. “The Court finds that each of the parties bears a share of the responsibility for the demise of this marriage,” the documents state. “Neither party is perfect, and . . . the Court will not condemn them further for giving into their human frailties when lonely, emotionally lost or in despair.” Fallon was designated primary residential parent for their three children, with Rooney named alternate residential parent. They each get 182.5 days of parenting time per year and are barred from making derogatory comments about one another to the children. Fallon will receive $791 per week in child support; her request for spousal support was denied.

Renowned steel guitarist Russ Hicks, 82, died December 11, 2023. He had been declining in health for the past year. According to medicotopics.com, he “experienced a significant incident, leading to a fall and subsequent admission to the ICU. . .. where he succumbed to the challenges he confronted in the ICU.” He was one of the “A Team” musicians who played on hundreds of albums in the 1970s and 1980s. He played on the Hee Haw TV show for 14 years and was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2011. Born in 1942 in Crab Orchard, West Virginia, Russ began playing rock ‘n roll guitar at the age of thirteen. Some years later, he attended a telethon at a local TV station and was inspired by the pedal steel guitar performance of Buddy Emmons in the Little Jimmy Dickens band. Russ resigned from his rock ‘n roll band and embraced the pedal steel guitar. He joined Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys and then worked three years with Kitty Wells. I got his autograph when Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright came to Sioux Falls with the Grand Ole Opry tour around 1970. I don’t know why his name stuck with me all these years.

Following the devastating tornados that swept through Tennessee on Saturday night, Taylor Swift made a $1 million donation to the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, reports the Tennessean. The organization operates a fund that supports nonprofits providing vital services in all phases of a disaster. Those interested in donating can visit www.cfmt.org. The tornado traversed an 11-mile path with peak winds of 150 mph, causing six deaths and destroying homes and buildings in Davidson, Montgomery, Sumner, and Robertson Counties. Taylor, who still lives in Nashville and has her office there, attended Hendersonville High School in Sumner County. “The newly minted billionaire” routinely and quietly engages in philanthropy. During this year’s Eras Tour, she made sizeable contributions to food banks in every U.S. city she played. Her donation to the Arizona Food Bank resulted in 40,000 pounds of fresh produce being delivered to member food banks. Second Harvest of Silicon Valley Food Bank says her donation in Santa Clara, California, was enough “to nourish about 500,000 people every month.”


Bill Anderson writes from Nashville, Thanks a million for your long article about ‘The Country I Grew Up With’ in your most recent newsletter. Hopefully, a lot of folks will read what you wrote and want to listen to the song for themselves. Needless to say, I’m awfully proud of the record and the willingness of Willie, Vince, Bobby, and Jimmy to lend their talents to the project. And then to see where each of them spoke so highly of the finished product. They are Hall of Famers in every sense of the word. And, yes, I was happy to see my Georgia Bulldogs win their football game against the University of Tennessee, even if Dolly was there to sing ‘Rocky Top.’ Someday I’ll have to tell you the story of my performing at a Georgia-Tennessee game back in the ‘70s and being asked to close my part of the show by singing ‘Rocky Top’….at the University of Georgia stadium!! You can imagine how that went over!! All my best to you and the gang for Christmas, New Year’s, and beyond. Keep up the great work, and thanks again.”

Jackie Allen in Sun City, Arizona, says, “Norm Hamlet who played steel with Merle Haggard and the Strangers for 49 years, is, I believe, still touring with Mario Carboni out of Bakersfield, as The Honky Tonk Rebel. Mario on keyboard and Norm on steel make a great duet. Have seen them three times here in Arizona, so good.”

We say farewell to newsletter reader Glenn Flesher. His wife writes, “My Glenn passed away Nov. 21st.”

Ed Guy in Palm Coast, Florida, says, “THANK YOU for your superb Country Music Newsletter for November 29th. All your usual interesting news about our Country Stars was included. And, as a special bonus, many thanks for including the YouTube videos of DOLLY PARTON. Dolly is a treasure for us all.”

Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “A talented 16-year-old Ruby Leigh performs ‘You Lie’ by Reba McEntire, a great performance on our song on The Voice. Reba was right there cheering her on. What a big thrill for me. We wrote ‘You Lie’ on my mom’s birthday years ago. I said let’s write one with a high note in it. Reba used the high note super good.”

Diane: Reba was perfect for that song, and Ruby gives a good rendition of it. Great job to you, too, Bobby.

Dean Mann in Sioux Falls says, “One of your writers mentioned Paul Overstreet and was wondering what he is doing now. He must still be writing songs. He is the host of Muletown in the Round on RFD-TV on Sunday nights. Two writers plus are on the program each Sunday singing songs they have written. You may already know that Paul wrote ‘On the Other Hand.’ He sang it last night. I still really enjoy your Newsletter. Keep up the good work.”

Diane: Thank you, Dean. Paul appeared at Randy Travis’s Texas tribute before Thanksgiving. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to meet him and that I never had a chance to interview him for my book.

Eric Calhoun writes, “Another awesome newsletter. I am hoping for bigger, better things for 2024. I got a chance to meet Juice Newton some years back. She has delved into country and has put her stints on country music. Has she been invited to the Grand Ole Opry? I missed the performance down in Arlington, Texas, for the Thanksgiving Day game, but I heard it was a big hit.”

Diane: I don’t know if Juice Newton has been invited to join the Opry.

Ron Oates, “The Lone Arranger” at Jes Fine Productions in Nashville, writes, “I have a project entitled Duets, just Mickey Newbury and me. Mickey called me not long before he passed away. ‘Hey… I have three new songs I need to get down before I can’t, and you are the only one who can make them feel like I need them to feel. If I were to fly into Nashville, would you go in the studio with me and help me get them down?’ He flew in soon after that and we met at the studio one morning and sat down in the piano room, Mickey with his guitar, and me at the piano. Mickey would play and sing each song while I wrote arrangement sketches for myself. Then, we would run each song down with maybe a stop or two, and then record it… typically one-take piano and one-take vocal each time. No vocal punches and that was amazing because Mickey only had 37% lung capacity by that time. We pretty much finished tracking all the songs in that one session. We were walking out of the studio when Mick whirled around and shouted, ‘RON… WAIT…!!! There is a song I desperately want to get down so I can leave it for Susan. Do you know “Pledging My Love?” I really want to get this song recorded so I can leave it for Susan.’ I replied, ‘What key?’ The song was a big record by R&B singer Johnny Ace back in 1955 and I had loved it then… I was fifteen years old and was, of course, in love. So, we went back in, sat down, and talked about the song. I came up with an intro, and Mickey and I ran the song down and then recorded it. Knowing it was for Susan, I had a difficult time holding in the tears. I think you would get it and love it for what it is… Mickey’s departing love song for Susan.”

Diane: I am honored that you would send me these songs, Ron. They are a piece of history: “Weary Traveler,” “Shades of ’63,” “Dear Hearts and Special People,” and “Pledging My Love.”


My vote for best new Christmas song goes to Drake Milligan with Cowgirl for Christmas.” Drake, 25, wrote the song with producer Brandon Hood. “There’s only one thing on my Christmas list,” he sings. “I want a cowgirl for Christmas this year. A cowboy sure gets lonely way out here. Wrap her up in jeans and boots send her down to me from you.” It reminds me of all the years I spent wishing for a cowboy. I only wish they had added a second verse to the catchy dance tune to avoid repetitive lyrics. I like the cute, cheery video with its intriguing opening, three-piece band, and cowboy Drake. The Fort Worth native gained national attention last year when he came in third on America’s Got Talent. His music has been described as containing “Milligan’s deep baritone voice, catchy hooks, and plenty of tasty fiddle and steel licks.” He holds his guitar the way Marty Robbins did. He’s what I would prefer the future of country music to look like.


Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, died in 1933 at age 35, following years of suffering from tuberculosis. In 1935, his wife, Carrie, kept her promise to write his biography. She privately published My Husband, Jimmie Rodgers, which was republished by Ernest Tubb in 1953 and the Country Music Foundation Press in 1975 and 1995. It is one of four out-of-books recently republished in a cooperative effort by the CMF Press and the University of Illinois Press. This is mostly a story of how Carrie felt—her pride in Jimmie, her fears for his health, her fears of having no money to live on, worrying about how hard he was working and how long he might have left in life. She repeats these thoughts throughout the book, in a basic timeline of his life, with no attention paid to the facts one would look for in a biography. The new edition contains an introduction by Noah Porterfield, who wrote a Rodgers biography in 1979. He says for many years there was a void in documenting Jimmy’s life, during which Carrie’s book “stands as a supremely important, if somewhat curious document.” He calls her story “at once informative and evasive, honest and fanciful, profound and trivial, a subjective personal memoir and an effort toward straight biography.” The reader waits with Carrie as she experiences joys, fears, and misgivings. In the summer of 1927, when they traveled to Bristol to be recorded by Ralph Peer, they were destitute. A year later, Jimmie’s royalty payments increased from $27 to $2,000 a month. They adjusted to fame and wealth, with both of them worrying whether Jimmy would be alive the following year. Known as “The Father of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers was inducted with the first group in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 and the first group in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.


Gary Burr, a native of central Connecticut, born in 1952, decided he wanted to be a musician after attending the Woodstock Festival at age 17. In 1972, he moved to California to pursue a recording contract. He replaced Vince Gill as Pure Prairie League’s lead singer in 1982. He achieved his songwriting breakthrough with “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me” by Juice Newton that same year. The Oak Ridge Boys went to #1 with his “Make My Life with You” in 1985. He moved to Nashville in 1989 and wrote hits for singers such as Patty Loveless, Tanya Tucker, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, and more. He co-wrote two Randy Travis hits, “Out of My Bones” and “A Man Ain’t Made of Stone.” His solo CDs include Lime Creek (1996), Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One (1997), and Marianne’s (2004). He is 71 years old. He records and performs in the group Blue Sky Riders with Kenny Loggins and Georgia Middleman.

What to say about Vince Gill? There is so much, and much more to come, I hope, since he’s a youngster at age 66. He is the only songwriter in history to win three consecutive CMA Awards for Song of the Year, 1991’s “When I Call Your Name,” 1992’s “Look at Us,” and 1993’s “I Still Believe in You,” followed by a fourth CMA Song of the Year in 1996 with “Go Rest High on That Mountain.” He is a five-time Male Vocalist winner (1991-1995) and a two-time Entertainer of the Year (1993-1994). He has 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other male country music artist. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Born in Oklahoma in 1957, he made his mark in several California bands before moving to Nashville in 1983. His first hit was his co-written “When I Call Your Name,” which reached #2 in 1990. Most everyone reading this knows about Vince singing with the Time Jumpers, recording CDs with Paul Franklin, touring with the Eagles, and writing and recording songs. Vince and his wife, Amy Grant, begin their annual 12-concert “Christmas at the Ryman” residency tonight.

Roger Murrah, born in 1946, was growing up on the family farm in Alabama when his dad traded their pickup truck for an old piano. He learned how to play by ear and wrote his first songs at age 13. Enlisting in the U.S. Army after high school and being stationed close to home, he moonlighted as a songwriter for FAME studios in Muscle Shoals. By the 1980s, he was living in Nashville and writing songs such as “Southern Rains” by Mel Tillis, “Life’s Highway” by Steve Wariner, and “We’re in This Love Together” by Al Jarreau. Others who cut his co-written songs included Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers, Patty Loveless, Wynonna, Alan Jackson (“Don’t Rock the Jukebox”), Tanya Tucker (“It’s a Little Too Late”), Travis Tritt (“Where Corn Don’t Grow”), and my favorite Alabama song, “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why).” Over the years, he has run his own studio and his own publishing house, served as president of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, chairman of Nashville Songwriters Foundation, and senior vice president of Bug Music, and has a star in the Walk of Fame at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He is 77 years old.

Jerry Reed, born Jerry Reed Hubbard in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1937, began playing guitar at age nine and appeared onstage with Ernest Tubb and Faron Young when in his early teens. Brenda Lee recorded his “That’s All You Gotta Do” in 1960, and Porter Wagoner reached # 1 in 1962 with Jerry’s “Misery Loves Company.” Chet Atkins then started developing him as a recording artist and released his instrumental masterwork, “The Claw.” Jerry wrote and recorded songs like “Guitar Man,” “U.S. Male,” “Amos Moses,” and “Tupelo, Mississippi Flash.” He had a #1 hit with “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” and a #2 hit with “East Bound and Down,” the theme song from the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit. He won a country instrumental Grammy for his work with Chet Atkins, as well as two CMA Musician of the Year awards. He recorded with Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis and Bobby Bare in the group Old Dogs in 1998. He died in 2008 of complications from emphysema, at age 71, in Nashville. Jerry Reed was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

Mike Reid, a Pennsylvania native born in 1947, gained fame as an NCAA All-American at Penn State University and All-Pro NFL defensive lineman with the Cincinnati Bengals before making a name in country music. Serious about piano during his time playing football, he turned completely to music after retiring from sports. He moved to Nashville in 1980 and signed with Ronnie Milsap’s publishing firm. Milsap began recording his songs, such as “Inside,” “Stranger in My House,” “She Keeps the Home Fires Burning,” and his co-written “Lost in the Fifties Tonight.” He hit #1 as a solo artist with “Walk on Faith”, and he provided hit songs for Bonnie Raitt (“I Can’t Make You Love Me”), Conway Twitty (“Fallin’ for You for Years”), Don Williams (“I Wouldn’t Be a Man”), and more. Mike also composed theatrical and operatic works, winning a Richard Rodgers Development Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters for 1997’s The Ballad of Little Jo. In 2019, he co-wrote the musical theater production, The Last Day, for his alma mater, Penn State. Mike Reid is 76 years old.

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