Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 17 April 2024


During her Saturday night Opry segment on April 6, Jeannie Seely introduced Cutter & Cash and The Kentucky Grass as her special guests. The young West Kentucky bluegrass ensemble performed their new Seely-produced single, a bluegrass version of “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Their second song was “I’m Working On A Building,” which brought their second standing ovation from the Opry crowd. Ernest Dale Tubb III allowed Cutter to play a guitar that belonged to his grandfather, Ernest Tubb. “Playing on the Grand Ole Opry was a moment I have dreamed of since I was five years old,” says Cutter Singleton. Jeannie first saw the young boys when they were in the front row of one of her Opry performances in 2018. “The more I got to know and work with Cutter and Cash and The Kentucky Grass in the studio, the more I wanted to share this amazingly talented group with the world,” she says in a press release. Bill Anderson, after watching their Opry debut, commented, “This may have been their first time, but it won’t be their last.”

Little Big Town and Sugarland will launch a joint tour in October in Greenville, South Carolina, and finish in December at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The tour marks Little Big Town’s 25th anniversary as a group and falls on the 20th anniversary of Sugarland’s “Baby Girl,” reports CMT News. They will be in Sioux Falls on November 15 at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. The two bands recently reunited on stage at the CMT Music Awards and sang the Phil Collins song “Take Me Home.” They last performed together at the CMT Music Awards in 2008.

Chief’s on Broadway, owned by Eric Church with AJ Capital Partners, is a six-story music venue, bar and restaurant that celebrated its grand opening on April 5. Two nights later, Morgan Wallen, 30, was arrested at 10:53 p.m. for throwing a chair off the rooftop. According to a security guard, he threw the chair over the edge because he thought it would be funny. PEOPLE reports witnesses seeing him pick up the stainless-steel chair, throw it over the edge, and then laugh. Two Metro Nashville police officers were standing in front of Chief’s when the chair fell. He paid a bond of $15,250, for three reckless endangerment charges at $5,000 each and $250 for disorderly conduct. He was booked into jail, released at 3:47 a.m., and is due in court on May 3. According to PEOPLE, multiple tourists have since stopped by Chief’s and asked to see the chair.

The recent CMT Music Awards show at Moody Center in Austin, Texas, included a tribute to Toby Keith, who died of stomach cancer at age 62 in February. PEOPLE reports that former MLB player Roger Clemens, 61, a longtime friend, introduced the tribute performance. Brooks & Dunn sang “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” Sammy Hagar, 76, told a story about his friendship with Toby, before a performance of “I Love This Bar.” Lukas Nelson, 35, said he remembered his dad, Willie Nelson, and Toby working on “Beer for My Horses.” Lainey Wilson, 31, concluded the tribute by singing “How Do You Like Me Now?!” Clemens then expressed his condolences to Toby’s wife, Tricia Lucus, and children Shelley, Krystal and Stelen, before inviting the crowd and viewers at home to hoist a red Solo cup in Toby’s honor. “Let Toby hear you,” he said. “Repeat after me, ‘Whiskey for my men,’ and ‘Beer for my horses.’ Let’s go.”

Anybody recognize the name John Hinckley Jr.? He shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 because he wanted to win the love of actress Jodie Foster. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and transferred to a psychiatric hospital. The court gradually lessened restrictions and allowed him to move in with his mother. His full unconditional release was granted in September 2021 and took effect in June 2022. Whiskey Riff reports he has now become a country music singer. He has been attempting to book shows, but the venues cancel when they learn he is the man who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Most recently was the one scheduled at the Hotel Huxley in Naugatuck, Connecticut, on March 30 — the 43rd anniversary of the day he shot Reagan. “I’m a victim of cancel culture,” Hinckley, 68, says. “It keeps happening over and over again. They book me and then the show gets announced and the venue starts getting backlash. The owners always cave, they cancel.”

Wide Open Country reports Colt Ford, 54, is in the ICU at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona. He experienced a heart attack following a concert at Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row in Gilbert, Arizona. He is in “stable, but critical condition” and is steadily improving. He previously battled eye cancer and was then diagnosed with an autoimmune disease–Myasthenia Gravis–that affects the eyes, muscles, and face. The country-rap singer’s two recent albums are Declaration of Independence and Must Be the Country.

I thought it had been only a few months since I talked about the grand opening of the Sinatra Bar & Lounge in Nashville. So I was shocked to get a press release that announced its first anniversary. Turns out the grand opening was Friday, April 14, 2023. The first anniversary was celebrated two weeks ago with a sold-out evening filled with entertainment by Tina Sinatra, Lorrie Morgan, T. Graham Brown, Tenille Townes, Joe Piscopo, and more.

Less than two weeks after Gov. Bill Lee signed the ELVIS (Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security) Act into law at Robert’s Western World, more than 200 artists signed an open letter from the Artist Rights Alliance, calling on tech companies to stop using AI that undermines human artistry. “Some of the biggest and most powerful companies are, without permission, using our work to train AI models,” the letter says. “For many working musicians, artists and songwriters who are just trying to make ends meet, this would be catastrophic.” Darius Rucker, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves. Sheryl Crow, Rosanne Cash, and Miranda Lambert are some of the artists who signed the letter, the Tennessean reports.

Thousands of Hatch Show Print posters advertised traveling vaudeville and minstrel shows, circuses and carnivals across the country after brothers Charles and Herbert Hatch founded the company in 1879. The prints advertised acts such as Bill Monroe, Minnie Pearl, Ernest Tubb, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley. According to MusicRow, the company celebrated its 145th anniversary on April 12 and continues to create prints today. Hatch Show Print became the property of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992. Museum visitors can tour the Hatch Show Print shop and hand print their very own poster.


Bill Anderson writes from Nashville, in answer to my comment about two of his former Po’ Folks Band members: “Thanks, Diane, but Anthony ‘Ziggy’ Johnson is not a ‘former’ member but a ‘current’ member of my band. Further proof that I do, indeed, read your newsletters!! I am told his surgery went well today and he has been moved from Recovery into a private room. Ironically, Dirk will be subbing for Ziggy with me on the Opry this week. I appreciate your mentioning Dirk’s need for financial assistance and giving the address. He and his wife, Gail, who played fiddle in my band for several years, are facing a long, hard financial road.”

Sherwin Linton writes from Minneapolis, “All of your newsletters are great, and this one is really special. The words from Roni Stoneman are a true treasure. I first heard the Stonemans in 1965 while I was playing at the famous Flame Cafe in Minneapolis. The Flame was a venue like no other in the country. At 16th and Nicollet the Flame was the next best thing to the Grand Ole Opry. The front lounge had a huge triangular bar with a stage in the center where two country bands alternated playing 30-minute sets from 8 PM to 1 AM nightly. These bands took turns on their breaks to be opening acts for the Nashville and west coast Stars that did three shows nightly on the concert stage in the main dining room. In addition to the Stars and their band was a 7-piece house band in the dining room. The Flame featured all of this entertainment 6 nights weekly with no cover charge or minimum. A different star was featured each week doing 3 shows nightly. Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Hank Snow, Waylon Jennings and all the others played the Flame. When the Stoneman Family was there, we had the honor to open for them. In my 68-year career I have seen concerts of virtually every major Pop, Country, Folk, and Classic Rock star but the best show ever was The Stonemans. Here was an 8/9-member band with great energy and Roni and Donna up front singing and playing Banjo and Mandolin while constantly clog dancing and they were smiling and as cute as could be. Mom Hattie played fiddle and Ernest ‘Pop’ played guitar and Auto Harp. He sang “I’m thinking tonight of my Blue Eyes” in such a sweet plaintive style and also “The Sinking Of The Titanic”, which was a million selling record for him in 1924. Every family band member was very talented. When introducing their Mom ‘Hattie,’ they said she had given birth to 23 children, 17 of which lived to adulthood. Pop said the reason all the children could play so well was that when he and Hattie would leave the house, he would tune all the instruments and tell the kids, ‘Now don’t touch those instruments while we are gone.’ Later when they came home the kids were all playing. I got to know the family quite well and they all signed their souvenir book including Pop. I have their biography, The Stonemans, published in 1993. It is really a great read. This past March Pam and I were in North Carolina where she recorded her new CD and we drove to Bristol TN where Ernest Stoneman brought New York publisher Ralph Peer who in 1927 produced the first records for The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers among others. The Main Street of Bristol is the border of Tennessee and Virginia so you can stand in the middle of the street with a foot in each state. Well, pardon me for such a long letter but I will be printing Roni’s letter as she truly was a great musician and entertainer from a very historic Country Music Family. We will see you at the State Fair.”

Diane: The Stonemans were truly great entertainers. I wish I could have experienced their show. Yes, see you in Huron.

Jon Philibert checks in from the United Kingdom: “Just to add to your answer to Alexander Shannon’s letter about Roger Miller’s country credentials, I would strongly recommend Alexander (and everyone else) check out Roger’s A Trip In The Country (1970 Mercury), in which he cuts versions of songs he wrote that were recorded by Alan Jackson, Jim Reeves, Claude Gray, Faron Young, Ricky Van Shelton, Ernest Tubb and Ray Price. It’s stone country – and it’s great. Thanks Diane, for the endlessly entertaining newsletter.”

Joseph Allen writes, “Layng Martine Jr. wrote and recorded ‘Rub It In’ back in 1971. That song was one of my favorite songs that year.” [Layng told the Tennessean:] “People were putting on suntan lotion and someone said ‘Hey, would you rub it in?’…I had my guitar, sort of strummed ‘rub it in, rub it in’…my wife Linda lifted her head and said, ‘Is that already a song? It sounds like a hit.’ I said, ‘Yeah, it kinda does.’ I wrote the song and sent it the next day.”

Bob Jennings says, “Thank you for posting the photo of Webb Pierce, the unknown and me from the 1950s. It sure brought back a lot of memories of my youth and also remembering my Musical Days after I got out of the Army–it was fun doing Music with my friend–I played the Barre Chord Rhythm and my friend the lead. We were a good team, we seemed to know just what the other was thinking on the songs we did. I followed my Career in Civil Service and left the Minneapolis area and gave up on doing Music Professionally. My Guitar Playing Friend also gave up doing music–he went into a construction business–I visited him and his Family years later and he told me when I left, he just gave up doing Music. It’s something when two people can just join in doing music like we did.”

Diane Jordan in Nashville says, “Regarding the Bob Jennings photo that you posted, I am sure the musician on the right is Johnny Western.”

Diane: I thought he looked familiar! I was hoping someone would identify him.

Michael Green says, “Great newsletter! Unless I’m mistaken, Bobby Sykes’s last job was as a rhythm guitarist for Hank Snow.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that welcome newsletter and all these infos. Nice to read Bobby Fischer’s question about Bobby Sykes and to have a mention about Don Winters. For sure we remember Bobby Sykes who recorded ‘Sun Up Sun Down’ issued on Happy Tiger HT-550. He also had releases on Decca, Epic, Columbia, Starday, J & B, and some other record labels. He passed away in November 1994. Alway great to read the news and the letters.”


My three memoirs (autographed) can now be ordered as a bundle from Gumroad, at a discount price of $28.80. All five of my books can be downloaded as e-books from Amazon. Navy Greenshirt and my Faron Young and Marty Robbins biographies are also downloadable as audiobooks.


Thanks to Dave Barton of Franklin, Kentucky, for sending this video. He says, “That’s Diane Jordan in the opening. What a great show!!! I was there.” It’s the 1985 Music City News Awards show, hosted by the Statler Brothers and held on June 11, 1985, at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee. The video is 91 minutes long: Music City News Awards 1985 Conway Twitty/Barbara Mandrell/The Judds and more… I watched the whole show. I loved so much reliving those days.


John Anderson is the newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in the Veteran Artist category. Born and raised in Apopka, Florida (born 1954), John began playing guitar and singing at age 7. He switched from playing in rock bands to country because his older sister, Donna, sang in a country band. After graduating from high school in 1972, he moved to Nashville, where his day jobs included being a roofer on the Grand Ole Opry House then being built. He and Lionel Delmore, son of Alton Delmore, eventually co-wrote many of his biggest hits. In 1983, “Swingin’” shot to #1. He co-wrote “Swingin’” “Chicken Truck,” “Goin’ Down Hill,” “I Wish I Could Write You A Song,” “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.” “Country ’Til I Die,” “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” and “Bend It Until It Breaks.” He also wrote “Seminole Wind.” In 1994, Randy Travis presented him with the Academy of Country Music’s Career Achievement Award. In 2009, he scored another hit when John Rich recorded “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.” John Anderson is 69 years old. I spotlighted him in my newsletter just over a year ago.

Paul Craft, born in 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up on his parents’ 2,000-acre cotton, bean and rice farm. He got a harmonica at age 10, an accordion at age 11, and started playing guitar and banjo. He served in the Coast Guard, graduated as an English major from the University of Virginia, and is a member of the Mensa Society. His first songwriting successes came when Skeeter Davis and Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs recorded his songs in 1968. He moved to Nashville in 1975 and had 35 of his songs recorded during his first year in town. I always remember him as the writer of the Ray Stevens hit, “It’s Me Again, Margaret.” His hits include “Blue Heartache” (Gail Davies), “Brother Jukebox” (Mark Chesnutt), “Come As You Were” (T. Graham Brown), “Dropkick Me, Jesus” (Bobby Bare), “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life” (Moe Bandy), “Midnight Flyer” (The Eagles), “Keep Me From Blowing Away” (Linda Ronstadt), and “Teardrops Will Kiss The Morning Dew” (Alison Krauss). Bluegrass artists recorded 200 of his songs. On Oct. 5, 2014, while at his Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction, he fell ill and was rushed to Saint Thomas Midtown. He died 13 days later. He was 76 years old.

Tom Douglas, born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1953, graduated with an MBA from Georgia State University in 1977 and sold advertising in Atlanta, until quitting his job at age 27 and moving to Nashville to be a songwriter. Unsuccessful there, Tom and his wife raised a family in Dallas, where he sold commercial real estate. In 1993, he played “Little Rock” at a songwriting seminar in Austin, and it became a hit for Collin Raye the next year. Three years later, he and his family returned to Nashville. His co-written songwriting hits include “The Gift” (Collin Raye), “I Run To You” and “Hello World” (Lady Antebellum), “The House That Built Me” (Miranda Lambert), “Love’s The Only House” (Martina McBride), and the Tim McGraw hits “Grown Men Don’t Cry,” “My Little Girl,” “Let It Go,” “Southern Voice,” and “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s.” He wrote and performed a one-man play that became the 2022 film Love, Tom. As narrator and subject, he responds to a struggling songwriter who has written to him for advice. Tom Douglas is 71 years old.

Gretchen Peters, born in New York City in 1957, grew up there and in Boulder, Colorado. She dropped out of the University of Colorado at age 19 to make music full time after her homemade recording received local radio airplay. She moved to Nashville in 1987. Her first major songwriting success was George Strait’s “The Chill of an Early Fall” in 1991. “Independence Day” became a hit for Martina McBride in 1994 and “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am” for Patty Loveless in 1995. Gretchen wrote the title track of Randy Travis’s 1991 album, High Lonesome. Canadian rock star Bryan Adams has been her collaborator on many songs. She continues performing and recording, and her website is gretchenpeters.com. She is 66 years old.

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