Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 17 January 2018

Johnny Bush is still going strong, as he approaches his 83rd birthday. He records for BGM Records, owns a tour bus, and travels with his 6-piece band, the Bandoleros. “I’m working as much as I ever did,” he told me when I called him the other day. “And making a lot more money than I ever did.”

His first hit, in 1969, was the Marty Robbins song, “You Gave Me a Mountain.” In 1972, under a new contract with RCA Victor, he released his own composition, “Whiskey River.” Then his life changed. “It was the pinnacle of my career, when I was really rockin’ and rollin’, when it happened,” he says. “My voice just slammed shut.”

No longer able to sing, he lost his recording contract. It took years to identify the problem and more years to find a solution.

Spasmodic dysphonia, a rare disorder that occurs once in 350,000 people, affects a part of the brain responsible for finely coordinated movements. I found this explanation on the Internet: “The main muscle causing adductor spasmodic dysphonia is on the back of the voice box. It is the muscle that widely opens the vocal folds for breathing. It should be basically at rest during speaking. If it contracts during the making of a sound, then the vocal cords open and a breath of air comes out. That is an Adductor spasm.”

The solution is injecting Botox into the vocal cords. “Botox is a lethal poison,” Johnny explains. “Enough of it will shut down your respiratory system like cobra venom. It renders you unable to breathe. It’s a paralyzing agent.” The conventional treatment is to inject Botox into the side of the neck. “The conventional treatment doesn’t work,” states Johnny.

He sings the praises of a young doctor who developed a better method. Dr. Blake Simpson at the UT Voice Center of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio goes down the throat to inject the Botox. “I’ve got underwear older than he is,” Johnny jokes.

“They give me just enough to paralyze the muscles so they don’t spasm,” Johnny explains. “We experimented to find the proper dosage. It took a while. Three and a half units on each side works for me. As long as I do it every 3-4 weeks. We’ve been doing that now since the early 2000s.” Without the injections, he wouldn’t be able to speak or sing. He could only whisper. With the injections, he speaks and sings normally.

“That’s my calling now,” he told me, “to help people with this. They feel so isolated. When you can’t communicate, you become a recluse. You don’t go out anymore.”

As for music, Johnny plans to continue performing as long as his health stays good. He told me people retire from jobs they hate: “If you’ve got a job you love, why retire from something you like doing?” His brother, a retired Baptist minister, asked when Johnny plans to retire. He replied, “All I do is play music and play golf. Which do you want me to quit first?”

Whiskey River (Take My Mind) is the title of Johnny’s 2007 autobiography. Willie Nelson, who opens and closes his shows with “Whiskey River,” wrote the foreword: “Johnny Bush and I go way back, at least fifty years . . . I played in his band, and at one time I was also his personal manager. . . . Later on, Johnny played drums in my band. . . . And then Johnny wrote ‘Whiskey River.’ He has been exceedingly wealthy ever since.”

Johnny reminds my newsletter readers, “If they want to hear my records, they can listen to Willie’s Place on XM Sirius Radio.” Mainstream radio hasn’t played his music in years. Here’s his tour schedule: http://johnnybush.com/tour-dates.html

“The main thing, if they’re having a voice problem–I’ve been through thirty years of it–I know the lost feeling they have,” Johnny says. “If they will contact me, if it is spasmodic dysphonia, I’ll let them know help is on the way. I want them to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.” Johnny and his wife, Lynda, invite people to write them at lyndabush210@gmail.com with concerns about spasmodic dysphonia.

Radio trailblazer Tom Perryman, age 90, died on January 11. Tracy Pitcox calls him “one of my radio heroes.” He says, “Tom Perryman was a great institution in Country Music. He promoted shows all over the country with virtually every Country Music entertainer in the business. He is in the Nashville Disc Jockey Hall of Fame. He owned radio stations with Jim Reeves and booked Elvis on some of his first shows.” Bill Mack says, “Tom was, without a single doubt, one of the most knowledgeable, dedicated radio personalities who ever entered the broadcasting arena. Tom was a personal friend to almost every country music personality. He helped boost the careers of Jim Reeves, The Browns, Ray Price, Johnny Horton, Elvis … just to name a few. He made his home in the Tyler, Texas area — and was active in broadcasting for over 70 years.”

Mickey Gilley and son Michael were involved in a vehicle accident on January 3, while driving from Pasadena, Texas, to Mickey’s theater in Branson, Missouri. When someone ran a stop sign in Lufkin, Texas, Michael swerved to avoid an accident but clipped the other car. His 2013 Toyota SUV rolled and landed upside-down in a median. Mickey and Michael were rushed to a hospital. Michael escaped serious injury. Mickey wrote on Facebook the next day, “I had an accident yesterday. We rolled a car about three times over. I have a fractured left ankle and a fractured right shoulder. I am having a hard time walking because I have a big boot on my left leg. But other than that, I’m doing pretty good. To be 81 years old and put myself through what I’ve been through, it’s kinda tough sometimes on the old man, but I don’t intend to retire. I will be out there on the road and I’ll see you real soon.”

The Tennessean announces a memorial service for the late Mel Tillis, who died November 19 at age 85. It will be held in Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on January 31 at 10 am. Artists scheduled to perform include Brenda Lee, Alison Krauss, Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Skaggs, Collin Raye, Daryle Singletary, Ira Dean, Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, and Jamey Johnson, along with Mel’s children, Pam, Sonny, and Carrie. His band, The Statesiders, will back some of the singers. The service is free and open to the public.

A fiddle believed to be once owned by Roy Acuff was accidentally donated to a Goodwill store in Missouri. The anonymous donation was put up for auction December 27, according to The Kansas City Star. Roy’s fiddles were made by his uncle, Evart Acuff, who numbered each one. A sticker inside said the fiddle, No. 19, was handmade in August 1945 in Maryville, Tennessee. Another paper said it was made of applewood from a tree on a family farm. “We have no information on the owner,” a spokesman said. “They just donated it and moved on. … The certificate of authenticity and other paperwork are copies but we are confident it’s the real thing.” After bidding began, and the bid reached $5,002, a member of the family that mistakenly donated the fiddle asked to have it returned. Goodwill granted the wish.

Loretta Lynn is recovering from a broken hip. She fell at home on January 8. Patsy Lynn, Loretta’s daughter, told People the fall might have been caused by her mother’s new puppy: “We don’t really know if she was chasing after the puppy or what, but she slid and fractured her hip.”

El Paso Inc. reports that one of its most-read stories of 2017 was titled “Legendary bar takes on TxDOT.” The summary said: “Rosa’s Cantina, a bar made famous by the classic Marty Robbins song ‘El Paso,’ took on the Texas Department of Transportation, which wanted a dirt lot the cantina uses for overflow parking. In the end, TxDOT acquired the property by eminent domain for the Border West Expressway project.” In actuality, Marty made up the name when he wrote the song. If Rosa’s Cantina existed at the time, he hadn’t heard of it.

The McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California, announced that Willie Nelson cut short his performance last weekend, due to illness. Bill Mack explained on Facebook: “There have been many inquiries and statements of concern about my old pal Willie Nelson and his cancellation of some show dates due to illness. Willie couldn’t complete a performance Saturday night because of a health condition. In the midst of his first song, ‘Whiskey River,’ he began coughing, couldn’t complete the show. Now, all of Willie’s dates throughout the month of January have been cancelled because of what is considered a bad cold or the flu.”

CabaRay Showroom is a new supper club in Nashville. It is owned by Ray Stevens, who will perform there regularly. The 35,000-square foot state-of-the-art music venue features dinner service for 500 people on the main floor, with 200 additional people in theatre-style seating on the second floor.  “This is a different venue for Nashville as well as just about any community in the United States,” Ray told The Tennessean. “I built it mainly because this is what I’ve done all my life and I enjoy it. I built it first of all to have fun. Secondly, I’d like people to come here to have fun, and I’m hoping we can make that happen.” Located at 5724 River Road, it will open this weekend. “People are coming to Nashville because Nashville is the place to come and this will give them another place to come besides the Grand Ole Opry and Lower Broadway,” he explained. “And, they can sure park a lot cheaper here.” Ray celebrated a private opening with his closest friends and colleagues last week. Jeannie Seely posted this review on Facebook: Beautiful venue, great food and superb entertainment…. Ray just gets better with time… and his backup singers are so good and entertaining as well.”

World Choice Investments and Dolly Parton announced last week that they are changing the name of the Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede to Dolly Parton’s Stampede. The company operates Dolly’s dinner shows in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Branson, Missouri, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mayor Tim Burchett of Knox County expressed to KnoxNews.com his disappointment about the name change: “I love Dolly, and I love all she’s done for our community, which is her community, and I’m disappointed they’re yielding to political correctness. . .. What’s next? Are we going to change the name of Dixie cups and the Dixie sugar company?”

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville will open a new exhibit, Outlaws & Armadillos: Country and the Roaring ’70s, on May 25. According to Nash Country Daily, the exhibition will focus on the artistic exchange between Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin, Texas, and the musical revolution created by artists such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser, Billy Joe Shaver, and others. The name refers to the Armadillo World Headquarters, an Austin venue where the artists performed. Rolling Stone Country reports there will be a companion book, CD and LP, and educational courses. The exhibit, scheduled to run until February 2021, will include interviews and concert footage.

An upcoming Johnny Cash documentary was announced on the 50th anniversary of Johnny’s live-album appearance at Folsom Prison. The Hollywood Reporter says the still-untitled documentary will have the full support of the Cash estate and will explore his music and biography through the prison concert. Thom Zimny, award-winning filmmaker of Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Presley documentaries, will direct the movie. “While the linear narrative of the Folsom Prison performances will anchor our film, each song in the set list will open a door into a nonlinear presentation of Cash’s emotional, musical and personal development,” he said in a statement. My copy of the 50-year-old concert album, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, is held together by tape. Can it possibly be that many years?

An old strip mall that formerly housed a dive bar called the Fun Zone, where Merle Haggard performed professionally for the first time, was damaged in a fire on December 28. The Bakersfield Californian reports the fire started at a nearby muffler shop and damaged Lupita’s Floral and Amelia’s Fashion, the current occupants of the Fun Zone space. Jeff Benziger of the Ceres Courier described The Hag’s first performance: “The bartender saw a guitar slung on Haggard’s back and asked if he could sing. Merle strummed and sang, what else, ‘Always Late.’ He offered Haggard $5 and all the beer he could drink to keep singing.”

The Randy Owen Angels Among Us award was presented to Brad Paisley at the 2018 St. Jude Country Cares seminar in Memphis, Tennessee. The honor recognizes individuals who have “made exceptional and lasting contributions” to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Darius Rucker was the honoree in 2017. Country Cares is a fundraising arm of St. Jude started by Randy Owen of Alabama in 1989. “Angels Among Us” is the Alabama hit written by Becky Hobbs. According to Taste of Country, Brad has been a dedicated supporter of St. Jude throughout his career, “including headlining a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Country Cares at the Grand Ole Opry in September 2014, several celebrity fishing tournaments, countless hospital visits and designing a room at the Target House for patients to be able to relax together.” Nearly $800 million has been raised in 28 years. Over 260 radio stations are set to participate in this year’s fundraiser. They will share stories of St. Jude patients and ask listeners to become partners in hope.

The Bluebird Café has announced the entertainers for its 25th Annual Alive at the Bluebird concert series, which benefits Alive Hospice. There will be at least 27 Bluebird shows, with performances by 130 artists and songwriters, including John Oates, Clint Black, and Kathy Mattea. The final performer will be Garth Brooks. Tickets are $250. An Epiphone FT-100 acoustic guitar, after being autographed by all performers during the Alive at the Bluebird series, will be auctioned on February 1, the final night of the series. It is available for bidding online at bluebirdcafe.com.

Eric Calhoun writes from Los Angeles, “Comments to Glenn Baker, I’m 43, (about ready to turn 44) and love classic country. I’d love to hear your show; where can I find it please? Thanks for the info on George Morgan, Diane. I asked my mom to help me go down to the Los Angeles Air Force Base, because I fell in love with Lorrie Morgan’s voice. I’ve heard Roger Miller’s music, including ‘Old Toy Trains’ and ‘King of the Road.’ Finally, for anyone who works down at the Grand Ole Opry, are there Braille materials for blind and visually impaired folks? Another source for classic country is Rick Jackson’s Country Classics, heard on 103.7 KSON, San Diego, and 98.5 KYGO, Denver, and many other stations.”

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, First of all get my best country wishes for that new year that start. May that year be filled with love, joys, music and success. As far as I know, Leon Rhodes played his first session for Ernest Tubb on September 21, 1960. Of course, he was not an original Troubadour, but he did play on a version of ‘I’m Walking the Floor over You’ recorded on January 29, 1963, and issued on Decca 31476. Nice to read about the Nashville’s yearly ‘Sunday Mornin’ Country’ Gospel Show. Among the cast is also Shelton Bissell who played sax for Dale Hawkins and Mickey Gilley in his young days. He’s my friend and my messenger for Brenda Lee. The last but not the least, Thank you very much to have taking care of my words and to have put in display that cool cartoon about Brenda Lee. She’s a lovely Lady like are Wanda Jackson, Margaret Lewis, and Laura Lee Perkins. Once all rockin’ teenage females who can challenge with the rock-a-billy cats of the ‘50s. Warmest regards from your French friend.”

Shelton Bissell of the “Gospel Sax Sing-Along” writes from White House, Tennessee, “Dominique Anglares sent your newsletter to me and I LOVE IT. Please add me to your email list. If you visit my website www.sheltonbissell.com I think you might like some of my stuff. All my videos are on YouTube.com.”

Robert MacMillan in Arisaig, Scotland, requests, “Would be obliged if you could get Joe Babcock’s tribute to Okie Jones to me. Thank you! I enjoy your newsletter very much – keep up the good work!”

Jackie Allen Thomas says, “Thank you so much for this great newsletter, I absolutely love reading it and hearing about many people who I’ve never heard of before but were so instrumental in the country music field.  When the blizzards are blowing in South Dakota remember Arizona and the many classic country music fans down here. We have a group called the West Valley Country Music Association and it’s to keep alive the classic country. If you should venture down this way, especially in the winter, we have a guest bedroom and you would be welcome to stay with us. We have musician friends here originally from South Dakota and I and my husband are originally from Minnesota so we know how bad the winters can get!”

Gerald Walton writes from Oklahoma City, “Hope you have a great new year. I enjoyed Wanda Jackson’s new book; it is a great read.”

Richard L. White, of WHIN Sunday Morning Gospel and Country 101, says, “I have read your newsletter and it is superb as always. May I please get you to send me a copy of the write-up about Okie Jones? I have always been interested in his career since seeing him perform from circa 1955 on the Al Gannaway Country Show Films thirty years ago (I have them on DVD now of course).”

Terry Beene says, “The 2018 Branson Terry Music Awards will be back at the Jim Stafford Theatre on Hwy 76 in Branson, Missouri, Oct 7 2018…..After being in Ft Worth Texas for 35 years in 2014 moved to Branson……. This year marks a milestone it will be our 40th anniversary……. It has become one of the Biggest nights of the Year in Branson for the Shows and Entertainers and Musicians. The public is welcome. Contact All Access Branson for info 417-332-2121 thank you and Happy New Year to you all.”

Martin Nemecek sends an update on the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped: “First thank you for the wonderful newsletter. The library has the Faron Young story but no Marty Robbins. I will call them and ask that they correct this oversight. Once again thanks, keep up the good work.”

John & Wanda Edmonson in Sun City, Arizona, report; “We’ve made it to 2018 and it’s already looking like this will be another banner year. We’ll kick off 2018 on January 18 at Ironworks. Remar Productions had a great 2017; introducing more folks to Marty’s legacy and exposing them to traditional country music via our monthly Ironworks/Marty Robbins jam and various other venues in the Salt River Valley. Remar Productions will be hosting the Ironworks/Marty Robbins Jam every month, January thru December; third Thursday of every month.”

The writer and performer of songs such as “Cimarron,” “Ten Little Bottles,” and “Hot Rod Lincoln,” Johnny Bond was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame 21 years after his death. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Cyrus Whitfield Bond moved to Hollywood in 1939, at age 24, as part of a trio called the Bell Boys. Known as Johnny Bond, he and his partners, Jimmy Wakely and Scotty Harrell, joined Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch radio show. For a while, the trio recorded for Decca as the Jimmy Wakely Trio and for Columbia as Johnny Bond & the Cimarron Boys. Johnny played distinctive acoustic guitar runs while backing Gene Autry. He stayed with the Melody Ranch show until it ended in 1956. He and Tex Ritter started a music publishing business together. From 1953-60, the pair hosted a syndicated country music TV show, Town Hall Party, in Los Angeles. Johnny Bond died of a stroke in 1978, at age 63.

“Just because I’m blonde, don’t think I’m dumb,” sang Dolly Parton in 1967, on her first Billboard-charted recording, “Dumb Blonde.” She is now one of the most famous women in the world. And possibly one of the richest. Born in 1946 in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, she always knew she would be a star someday. Her recent TV movies, based on her songs “Coat of Many Colors” and “Jolene,” show life as a child in the Appalachian Mountains. Her uncle, Bill Owens, bought her a guitar and landed her a spot on a television variety show in Knoxville when she was ten. In 1959, she made her first guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry at age thirteen. In 1964, she moved to Nashville immediately after high school graduation. Her first day in town, she met contractor Carl Dean, whom she soon married. In 1967, she joined the Porter Wagoner Show as a replacement for Porter’s duet partner, Norma Jean. RCA Records signed her as a solo artist and as Porter’s duet partner. As Dolly’s career expanded into the pop world and super stardom, she appeared on numerous TV shows and in movies. In 1985, she and other investors opened the Dollywood theme park near Sevierville, Tennessee. The park and its spinoffs are major tourist attractions. Dolly has used her non-profit Dollywood Foundation in innumerable ways to help the local economy. Her Imagination Library has given more than 70 million books to children: https://dollyparton.com/imagination-library. Dolly Parton celebrates her 71st birthday this weekend.

Harold Wayne Jenkins, born in 1933, was the son of a Mississippi ferryboat captain. He was playing and singing on the radio at age twelve.  Before being drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies as a talented baseball player. After his military discharge, he tried recording for Sun Records in Memphis as an Elvis Presley imitation. He then signed with Mercury Records as a rockabilly performer and became Conway Twitty, after combining the names of Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas. With a hit on “It’s Only Make Believe,” he became a teen idol. But he was a country singer at heart, and he wrote country songs. After Ray Price recorded Conway’s “Walk Me To The Door,” thanks to help from Harlan Howard, Decca’s Owen Bradley signed him to a recording contract in 1965. Forty #1 Billboard country hits followed, including the duets with Loretta Lynn. He opened a $3 million Twitty City tourism complex in Nashville in 1981. Conway Twitty died of a stomach aneurysm at age 59, on June 6, 1993, while returning to Nashville from a show in Branson, Missouri. He was scheduled to perform during the Fan Fair celebration.

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