Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 17 November 2021


The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville opens the Bill Anderson: As Far as I Can See exhibit on December 3; it will run through March 19, 2023. Bill Anderson turned 84 on November 1. According to The Tennessean, the exhibit begins with his Georgia youth as a baseball player, radio DJ, and budding musician and follows his 60+ years in Nashville. The exhibit title comes from a line in the song “City Lights,” which Bill wrote at age 19 in Commerce, Georgia. Bill says in a press release, “I grew up dreaming of the day they’d put my ball glove into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, never dreaming that one day it would end up in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.” The exhibit includes the typewriter Bill used in the 1960s to write lyrics and answer fan mail, the 1958 Martin D-28 guitar he used to compose hit songs, rhinestone studded suits, custom boots, and much more. In July, Bill celebrated his 60th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and he performed on the show’s historic 5000th Saturday night broadcast. He has been in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame since 1975, the Country Music Hall of Fame since 2001, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame since 2018.

The Gene Watson concert scheduled at the Sisseton Performing Arts Center on November 13 has been postponed until May 7. Gene had been feeling poorly but still planned to fulfill his commitments in Iowa and South Dakota. However, with bronchitis and pneumonia, he didn’t get a release from his doctor. When he said he was going, the doctor said if you do, you’ll never sing again. Coteau Entertainment had been selling 8-20 tickets per day, and all tickets and seats will be honored in May. I changed the date on my calendar.

The 55th annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards show took place in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on November 10 and was hosted by Luke Bryan. Chris Stapleton won four of his five nominations: Song of the Year, Single of the Year, Album of the Year, and Male Artist of the Year. The only award he didn’t win was Entertainer of the Year, which Alan Jackson presented to first-time winner Luke Combs. Female Vocalist of the Year was first-time winner Carly Pearce. This is a report from MusicRow; I only watched for a minute. I turned on the TV at the beginning when Miranda Lambert was singing. I felt a sensation that the kids had taken over the show—all the grown-ups were gone.

When Lester Holt, 62, visited Nashville for NBC Nightly News, he brought a guitar with him. In the empty Ryman Auditorium, he sat onstage with Michael Ray, 33, and they played “Today I Started Loving You Again.” PEOPLE reports he also visited Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley at The Store, their free referral-based grocery store that helps people lift themselves out of food insecurity. The Store has served more than 1.5 million meals since it opened in early 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.

Belmont University has honored Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley with “The Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley Ballroom” in the new Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. MusicRow reports the dedication is attributed to the Paisleys’ work with The Store, to express Belmont’s gratitude for their endowed scholarship fund, and to thank Brad for the strong example he sets for students. “I look around now at what Belmont is doing, and it’s incredible,” Brad says. “When I was going here, I just wanted to find my place in the Nashville music business, but now you can almost do anything you want in the world once you get a degree here.” The ballroom will be used for both acoustic and amplified performances, as well as a rehearsal space for performances on the main stage of the Fisher Center.

Both performers and attendees at the Troubadour Festival in Celina, Texas, were surprised when Randy Travis showed up. According to Saving Country Music, the festival featured food from 41 separate barbecue joints, in addition to music by acts such as Kyle Nix and the 38s, Pat Green, Josh Abbott Band, and Stoney LaRue. After Randy and Mary arrived, they sat on the side of the stage. The Josh Abbott Band played “Forever and Ever, Amen” in tribute. “It looked to me like Josh got a little emotional when Randy came on stage and they sang ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ together,” says organizer Chase Colston. “Randy and Mary were incredibly kind. It meant the world to me to have Randy Travis attend my first-year festival.”

PEOPLE reports First Lady Dr. Jill Biden welcomed Trisha Yearwood to the White House to film A White House Thanksgiving, a special that will air November 20 on Food Network and discovery+. The pair swapped family recipes and made a thyme-roasted turkey with the White House executive chef. The White House executive pastry chef demonstrated how to make the White House apple crisp recipe topped with chocolate chip ice cream. Trisha shared her recipe for Thanksgiving turkey gravy. The First Lady commented, “I hope everyone watching comes away feeling that cooking a Thanksgiving meal is something anyone can do, but if you’re still nervous about making the gravy, like I am, you’re in good company!”

Exile, members of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, will reissue their Wrapped Up In Your Arms For Christmas album through a deal with Time Life, according to a press release. Exile formed in 1963 to play small clubs in Richmond, Kentucky. During their 58-year career, their most successful hit was “Kiss You All Over,” which spent four weeks at the top of Billboard’s pop chart in 1978. They then focused on country music, with ten No. 1 singles that included “I Don’t Want To Be A Memory” and “Give Me One More Chance.” The five original Exile members–J.P. Pennington, Les Taylor, Sonny LeMaire, Marlon Hargi, and Steve Goetzman–re-formed in 2008 and continue to tour today.

The Paramount Network is filming a new 10-episode TV series, a Yellowstone prequel called 1883, starring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. They portray the great-grandparents of Kevin Costner’s character, John Dutton, on Yellowstone. The prequel follows James and Margaret Dutton as they travel from Texas to Montana, Taste of Country explains, where they will establish their ranch. Sam Elliott stars as Pinkerton agent Shea Brennan. The cameras will follow thirty wagon trains on the trail. An entire 1880s town was built, with authentic guns, saddles, and all other details recreated for the filming. All actors wear authentic period clothing and spend long stretches on horseback. Tim comments, “To see my beautiful wife on horseback, firing guns, and having dirt all over her face, I just sit in awe.” He adds, “It’s like every kid’s fantasy to do something like this, to put your chaps on, your cowboy hat, and your gun holsters every day. Then you get on a horse and try to survive this journey.” Faith has to ride a horse western-style while wearing a corset. “I think I have a few ribs floating around in my body,” she says. “This is real work. I was raised by Edna Earl and Ted Perry, and they believed the best way to teach a child was to get your hands in the dirt. That’s basically this in a nutshell.”

Judy, Violet and Doralee will be together once again, Deadline reports, when Dolly Parton reunites with her 9 to 5 co-stars, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, in the series finale of their hit Netflix show, Grace and Frankie. Fonda and Tomlin star as Grace and Frankie, whose lives were turned upside down when their husbands left them for each other after revealing they were gay. Skydance Television produces Grace and Frankie, which will make history as the longest-running Netflix original series ever, with a total of 94 episodes.

Randy Travis will release An Old Time Christmas (Deluxe Edition) on November 19. The re-release of his 1989 Christmas album, which was certified Gold by the RIAA, features three never-before-issued songs. “There’s a New Kid In Town” (written by Keith Whitley, Curly Putman and Don Cook) has been released as a single. The other two are “Little Toy Trains” and “White Christmas.” Randy will celebrate his 35th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry with a special appearance on December 11. Randy officially joined the Opry on December 20, 1986, at age 27.

A sixth Ole Red location will open in 2023, reports MusicRowBlake Shelton and Ryman Hospitality Properties recently announced plans for a new venue on the Las Vegas Strip–the company’s first western location. Ole Red Las Vegas will cost $30 million and will include live music on its 4,500-square-foot rooftop with a view of the Las Vegas cityscape. The four-story 27,000-square-foot building will have 686 seats. “I know what it’s like to be a young musician playing bars and small venues, never knowing what to expect,” Blake says. “I’m proud that we’re building a network of places where artists can get the kind of exposure playing live that is so critical for growing their fan base.”

After more than 500 performances on the Grand Ole Opry, Mandy Barnett is now its newest member, reports The Tennessean. Marty Stuart and Connie Smith welcomed her into the “unbroken circle” of member artists. Marty told her, “This is your 520th performance at the Grand Ole Opry tonight. That’s a long audition. But I think you went through with flying colors.” Connie had issued the invitation on September 28, Mandy’s 46th birthday. The Crossville, Tennessee, native debuted on the Opry stage nearly three decades ago. She starred as Patsy Cline in the 1990s jukebox musical Always…Patsy Cline.

Country Rewind Records has released a new album, Jeannie Seely and Jack Greene Together Again, consisting of recordings made exclusively for radio broadcast and never before commercially available. The original master tapes have been brought up to twenty-first century audio quality. “I was thrilled that these recordings were still in existence and that they would be available to the public,” Jeannie says in a press release. “It will always be special to remember the years Jack and I worked together with an incredible group of musicians.”

MusicRow reports that artist manager, musician, and songwriter Doug Nichols, 65, died unexpectedly at his home in Austin, Texas, on October 31. Born Jon Douglas Nichols Jr. in 1956 in Marshall, Texas, he worked with Johnny Paycheck, Brooks & Dunn, Nicolette Larson, and others. He and Trey Turner founded Turner Nichols & Associates, where they managed Rascal Flatts from 2000 to 2011. In 2013, he launched management company Rough Hollow Entertainment, with offices in Nashville and Austin. He served on numerous boards of foundations and charitable affiliations.

Mark Haury sold his Corvette to ensure his son had enough money to pursue a career in music. The son, Styles Haury, 26, has repaid his dad with a tribute in the video for his song “A Man That Didn’t Know Nothin.'” Styles started his first band in the fourth grade, according to PEOPLE magazine. His family moved from Ohio to North Carolina when he was 13. The town’s bluegrass musicians taught him to play guitar during their jam sessions. As an adult, he was told he should go to Nashville and record. With his dad’s financial support, he moved to Nashville in 2018. He wrote “A Man That Didn’t Know Nothin'” with Jeremy Bussey and Bobby Hamrick. In the video, viewers see footage of Styles as a child, while Mark teaches him to hunt, fish, ride motorcycles, and drive heavy machinery.

The new Joe Nichols album, Good Day For Living, will be released February 11. The 13-song collection is his 10th studio album and his first for Quartz Hill Records. MusicRow reports, “The entire project is a nod to Nichols’ traditional roots, showcasing his baritone on dancehall stunner ‘Brokenhearted,’ the light and fun ‘I Got Friends That Do,’ featuring Blake Shelton, and the classic country tear-jerker ‘She Was.’”

Eugene W. Ward, husband of Jeannie Seely, has been inducted into the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association Hall of Fame. The member institutions of The Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA)chose 24 alumni for their contributions in a variety of disciplines. Gene, 89, was selected by his alma mater, Lincoln Memorial University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from LMU and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Tennessee. A press release says he was selected for “his accomplishments of being a distinguished attorney, leader of one of the nation’s largest utilities—Nashville Electric Service (NES)—as well as his continued devotion to being a dedicated Community servant.”


Thresa Allen sends this sad news from Seaford, Delaware: “This is a request from Norman Wade’s wife, Rita Stevenson, regarding Norman. He so enjoyed your work. He has been admitted to Saint Joseph Carpenter House in Waveland, Mississippi, a hospice facility. He is not doing well and at this point is unresponsive. I performed with Norman during the years. We have been friends for over thirty years when he first came to Delaware to perform at the Civic Center. Through the years we have visited back and forth, and they stayed with us when he did area performances. I also helped him with his publicity and wrote his hit, Cajun Fiddling Joe – Norman Wade – YouTube.”

Diane: I remember interviewing Norman for my Marty Robbins biography. Marty, in his early days on the Opry, hired the teenaged Norman Stevenson and made him a protégé. Norman’s website contains more info. I called Rita after receiving Thresa’s message. Rita said Norman has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and asbestos-caused COPD for more than a year. They are now waiting for the end. If anyone would like to get in touch with Rita, send me an email. I have her phone number and mailing address.

Mike McCloud writes, “I was so sad to hear that Rose Lee Maphis passed. I  knew her. I  met her at the Country Music Hall of Fame. I  had nice visits with her and she even signed a record for me. Dim lights thick smoke.”

Donald Ewert says, “I don’t know why Joe & Rose Lee Maphis aren’t in Country Music Hall of Fame, after all they were called Mr. & Mrs. Country Music. The song, ‘Dim Lights Thick Smoke’ is such a classic. They gave Barbara Mandrell her first big break into show biz.”

Rockin’ Lord Geoff writes from England, “Morning Diane as per usual great newsletter in continuation to the relationship between Jim Reeves and Marty Robbins ironic isn’t it that both songs were recorded in Studio B in Nashville and both artists used if not the same musicians then probably ninety per cent of the same people.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Jenny’s daughter-in-law, Katrina Jones, just let me know our friend Jenny Jones passed away the 4th of November. In Katrina’s own words, she adored our friendship built over the years after I came in touch with her Thanks to your newsletter. Your work is important but you already know that. Jenny was a longtime friend of Billy Walker but also to Dorothy and Jimmy Blakley. She had not been out of High School too long, before she moved in with Jimmy and Dorothy, and began to care for their 3 children, when they went on tour. Dorothy’s Mother lived with them, but they wanted someone younger to help care for the children. Another lovely pen pal friend has gone. Thank you very much for that welcome Country Music newsletter. Greetings for the Rose Lee Maphis and Sonny Osborne mention. Thanks also for the care given to my words about my late friend Nita Lynn. She was a doll.”

Diane: That is sad news. Jenny often sent me notes.

Bill Blough says, “Just finished listening to Live Fast, Love Hard. Very well done. Thanks again for the code. That’s one of the advantages of an audio book, you can do other things and still listen.”

Larry Sloven writes from Pleasant Hill, California, “I friended you on Facebook a while back because I saw you had written a bio about one of my favorite singers, Faron Young. I finally got around to ordering it from Amazon and read it this week. What an interesting and readable book! I am also a big Darrell McCall fan, so I was really interested to find a lot about him. I never saw Faron perform. I saw him from across the room at the Country DJ convention in 1989 or ’90, and was struck by how little he looked. When I started in the music biz at a Northern California distributor, my boss was a guy who had been the Mercury branch manager in Denver in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He told me stories of Faron coming to town, getting drunk and wanting to fight everybody in sight. Your book certainly confirmed this. What an incredible talent and flawed person. Anyway, just wanted to acknowledge your work.”

Terry Munson comments, “You never fail to put a great newsletter out. Thanks for the hard work. Always enjoy it.

Jim and Donna Puthoff write, “Thanks for putting this out we really enjoy it.”

David Markham in England says, “Faron Young, Gene Watson, Ferlin Husky, Merle, Buck Owens, you know the rest. Patsy Cline, Jean Shepard, Kitty Wells, Time Jumpers, Ray Price, Bob Luman, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, The Late Great Vern Gosdin known as The Voice, Slim Whitman. Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys. I know them all well. You’ll never hear a sound like them again, or Minnie Pearl, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson, Porter Wagoner, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Paycheck. Tex Ritter, Jim Reeves, that’s my kind of traditional country. Diane thanks for all what you’re doing in keeping Country going, You’re the one who deserves a WSM. I’ll be the first to vote you in. I won’t be around forever to see country end. I’ll be 80 on 22 November.”

Delma Fordham writes from Alabama, “Hello Diane and everyone who reads this wonderful newsletter. I am sorry to say my music hard drive went out and can’t get it fixed. So as a result, I lost all my great Country music. I had over 400 singers, mostly from the ‘50s through the ‘80s but a lot more as well. So now I am blind no TV and now no good old country music at all. I had over 100 albums of Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, a lot of Buck Owens albums, Conway, Daniel O’Donnell, most all of Bill Anderson, Kitty Wells, and my all-time favorite Loretta Lynn, and tons more, now all gone. I cried over it for I love my great old country music and there is no way I’ll ever get it all back. But I still love it, and your newsletters.”

Jean Seither says, “I really feel bad that Travis Tritt is canceling shows at venues that say you need to have proof of vaccination or a COVID test to attend his shows. As someone said in the letter, what good is your right if you’re dead or cause other people to die. I respect performers who are role models for getting vaccinated. So many performers have died because of this terrible virus.”

Douglas Perret Starr in Sioux Falls writes, “You sure do not only a lot of research on country music but also a lot of writing about your findings. That is a lot of work and you write it all interestingly. Thanks for keeping me on your list.”

Judy Bezjak writes from Lemont, Illinois says, “I remember meeting you several years ago in Willcox, Arizona, at Rex Allen Days in Windmill Park between the Rex Allen Museum and Theater. I have been a Rex Allen, Jr. fan for decades.”

Diane: Good to hear from you, Judy. My sister and I enjoyed that festival.

Marc Covington in Ellis County, Texas, says, “As a 77-year-old, I’ve really been enjoying reading your newsletters. I also read your book about Faron Young. Can you change my email address? Thanks for your help.”

Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “A couple weeks ago Jim Rushing’s wife, Elizabeth, called me for a surprise birthday party for her husband at the Station Inn down below Music Row. It was great it’s the best for bluegrass music. He was surprised as some of his pals were there: Jeff Silbar (Wind Beneath My Wings), Shawn Camp, Jerry Salley, Larry Cordle–all the best in good country/bluegrass music. I lined up to write with Larry Cordle soon. Can’t wait. You should go to the Station Inn sometime.”


One of my favorite Faron Young classics has always been “Unmitigated Gall.” I like the way the sassy lyrics match the peppy dance music: “Where did you get the backbone and grit, to come back now, expecting me to fit…” Faron explained on Ralph Emery’s radio show how Mel Tillis got the song idea. He’d taken an impromptu one-week club gig in Nevada and was rooming with Faron’s manager, Shelly Snyder. After several days of room service and no room payment, the hotel manager knocked on their door and asked to discuss their bill. Faron quoted Shelly as saying, “How dare you have the unmitigated gall to come up here and ask for money?” That’s where Mel wrote the song, Faron explained, and Mel sang it to his buddies upon his return to Nashville. Faron told Mel, “I want it.” It was the title track of his 1967 album—which I have played repeatedly over the years.


I have several free promo codes for anyone in the USA or UK who would like to download the Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story audiobook. If you don’t already have an Amazon.com or Audible.com account, you will need to use your credit card to open one. You can cancel the account after downloading the book. Email me if you’d like one of the codes.

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