Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 17 October 2018

All seats in the Sisseton Performing Arts Center were filled this past Sunday evening for the Lorrie Morgan concert. A row of folding chairs handled the overflow. The nine-member Just Between Friends band opened the show with its usual great performance.

My sister, Kayo Paver, and brother Keith Diekman were with me. While visiting backstage before the show, Keith told Lorrie he had heard her dad, George Morgan, introduce her as a special guest the first time she played the Grand Ole Opry. Now 59, she was 13 at the time. She reminisced about her dad being dressed in a white suit and leaning against the piano on the stage. He was ready to come to her rescue, if required.

When Kayo complimented Lorrie on her boots, she regaled us with the story she later told her audience during the show. She and her husband, Randy White, moved to Panama City Beach, Florida, only three months ago. When Hurricane Michael approached last week, they completed their preparations and planned to ride out the storm. But the upgrade to Category Four changed their minds. They left at 11:30 pm and drove to Jacksonville, taking their dogs, dog supplies, and a small bag of personal items.

Lorrie’s agent called the next morning to say the Panama City airport was closed and she’d have to fly from Jacksonville to her Wisconsin and South Dakota gigs. She didn’t have even a change of clothes. She bought makeup at Walgreens, several outfits at Target, and her gold boots at Kohls. Randy took her to the airport and then drove to the Florida Panhandle to clean up storm damage.

I asked about the condition of their house. Lorrie said it was untouched. Before leaving, she had sprinkled holy water over everything in the house, including Randy and the dogs. She explained that she’d been raised as a strict Catholic, and sprinkling holy water was something her mom routinely did. When Randy returned home, their house was the only undamaged one in the neighborhood.

We moved out front to watch the show. Once it began, Lorrie owned the stage. She looked as comfortable as if she’d grown up onstage. Which she pretty much had. She told us about being backstage at the Opry every weekend during her childhood and making friends with all the stars. After her dad died of a heart attack in 1975, Porter Wagoner took her under his wing and taught her showmanship.

I enjoyed listening to Lorrie’s stories as much as to the familiar songs she sang. One song I didn’t know was “On This Bed,” which her former husband Jon Randall wrote about a dying woman. She said it didn’t have much meaning to her until after her mother died this past June. Now she understands it.

Lorrie’s five-piece band included lead and acoustic guitars, keyboard, drums, and electric bass. After closing the show with “Something In Red,” the group came back for an encore. The band gathered around Lorrie, and with the band leader on a lone guitar, they sang Elvis Presley’s version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” Lorrie did the recitation while the others harmonized. She said they worked up the song in Wisconsin and were trying it for the first time. As with the whole show, it was a great success.

Lorrie Morgan with show organizers John Seiber and Wade Johnson

Mo Pitney will be presenting a concert at the Sisseton Performing Arts Center on Veterans Day, November 11, at 3 pm. I’ve been asked to talk about him, as many people don’t know who he is. For a refresher, here’s the interview from my August 22 newsletter . Bill Anderson introduces him here before he sings “Borrowed Angel.” Then listen to his version of “Farmer’s Daughter.” I hope that convinces you to go see him if he comes to your area.

On October 1, the country music industry paid its respects to the victims of the mass shooting a year earlier at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. “Please join my family and the entire country music community,” Tim McGraw tweeted, “for a moment of silence to remember those lost and all who were affected one year ago today by the Route 91 tragedy.” At 10:05 am (PT), PEOPLE reported, country music stations, record labels, and other organizations “observed a moment of silence for 58 seconds — one second for each person murdered — for the victims of the deadliest in modern America’s epidemic of mass shootings.”

Vote.org had its second-busiest day of the year after an October 7 Instagram post by Taylor Swift that described her voting plans and encouraged all citizens to vote. The surge in voter registration was exceeded only by National Voter Registration Day on September 25. USA Today notes that October 9 marked the voter registration deadline for 19 states, which may have contributed to the spike in registrations. The Washington Post reports that Taylor has been criticized for not using her celebrity platform to talk about current events. When she posted a selfie while waiting in the 2016 voting line, and encouraged others to vote, a top Google search was, “Who is Taylor Swift voting for?” This year, she told them. “In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions,” she wrote, “but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.” She asked voters to “educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. . .. We may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.” Good advice for all citizens.

Chuck Dauphin, a longtime subscriber to my newsletter, is currently a patient at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville. The radio voice of Hickman County football, he was getting ready to announce a Friday night game when he felt sick. Doctors told him something was wrong with his right foot. “It had to be taken or it would have killed me,” Chuck told The Tennessean, after the foot was amputated due to complications from diabetes and a MRSA infection. His toe had been amputated on the same foot years ago, also due to diabetes. Chuck, 44, is a native of Dickson, Tennessee. He writes for Billboard and is the recipient of the 2014 CMA Media Achievement Award. I met him in 2007 when he invited me to be on his WDKN radio show in Dickson. We talked about my recently published Faron Young biography and he played Faron’s music. Best wishes to you, Chuck, for a recovery that soon puts you back on the airwaves.

The Trivago guy is a country singer. Tim Williams, a Texan who lives in Berlin, Germany, has been spokesman for the German-based travel company Trivago since 2013. That’s when he received a phone call “to do a voiceover for a commercial that Trivago was going to air in the United States,” he told the Digital Journal. “I did that voiceover and a few weeks later they asked if I would be their actor for the next North American spot.” He continues to do Trivago ads. The ten songs on his new album, Magnolia City, chronicle chapters in his life and his experiences traveling the globe as an actor and spokesperson. “This single and album are about my longing for Houston, my family and the sixteen years I’ve spent living in Berlin,” he says. “I really got into country music after watching Urban Cowboy, and maybe at that point, I had the idea for acting as well.” About his album, he said he wanted to “launch the pre-sale and single this week to honor my hometown of Houston as this week will mark the 182nd anniversary of when Houston was founded.”

In observance of Mental Illness Awareness Week, Naomi Judd offered encouragement to those battling anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. In a letter published in PEOPLE, she wrote, “Every year, almost 45,000 people give up hope and commit suicide, . . . These numbers pale in comparison to those left bereft by suicide — often called ‘suicide loss survivors.’” Naomi, 72, previously told PEOPLE, “Nobody can understand it unless you’ve been there. Think of your very worst day of your whole life — someone passed away, you lost your job, you found out you were being betrayed, that your child had a rare disease — you can take all of those at once and put them together and that’s what depression feels like.”

When Hurricane Irma hit the Virgin Islands a year ago, Kenny Chesney wasn’t at his St. John home; he was in Nashville. But he invited friends to take refuge there, in his house that was built to withstand 200 mph winds. Seventeen people, with five dogs, locked themselves in his laundry room to wait out the Category 5 storm. They sent him a video, Kenny tells PEOPLE, “and that’s the last I heard from anyone. . .. There was no Internet, no cell towers, no power. I wanted to fly down the day after and take some supplies and get some people off, but we couldn’t. They had to clear the runways.” When he did finally get to the island, his friends were safe, but his house and many others were destroyed. “I literally wept in the helicopter,” Kenny, 50, tells PEOPLE. “My heart broke. I knew that a lot of people I loved and an island I loved was really bleeding, and we had to figure out a way to stop it.” Kenny is donating all proceeds from his new album to the Virgin Island relief fund.

A recent invitation-only event at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled its newest exhibition, Emmylou Harris: Songbird’s Flight. Emmylou was there with her family and friends, fellow musicians and songwriters. Museum CEO Kyle Young talked about her 1970 arrival in Nashville–when she worked at a Polynesian restaurant and survived on fortune cookies and food stamps. Now she is a community organizer and activist, to whom he gave credit for her role in protecting the mission of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and saving the Ryman Auditorium. The exhibition displays photos, guitars, custom-made stage outfits, and other memorabilia that includes the owner’s manual of her 1970 Ford Pinto. The medals awarded to her father, a Marine Corps officer who spent ten months as a prisoner of war in Korea, are also on display.

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge celebrated its 58th birthday on October 10. The event, located on Broadway between 4th and 5th Avenue, started at noon and wrapped up with a free evening show that featured Jake Owen, Randy Houser, and Kid Rock. “Tootsie’s Birthday Bash has become one of the most highly-anticipated annual events on lower Broadway,” said Tootsie’s owner Steve Smith. “Many artists started at Tootsie’s and having them come back year after year is a great honor to the legacy and memory of Tootsie Bess.” Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess, who purchased the lounge in 1960 and painted it purple, was well known for helping struggling musicians.

Ryman Hospitality has completed a $12 million expansion of the Grand Ole Opry. A new ticketing and retail area doubled the size of the previous space. A new parking area, built on undeveloped land just north of the Opry House, has 1,100 parking spaces at $10 apiece. A wooden walkway connects the parking lot to the Opry House. Jeannie Seely joined Nashville Mayor David Briley and Ryman Hospitality CEO Colin Reed for a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 11. The new phase was revealed just in time for the Opry to celebrate its 93rd birthday. Music Row magazine reports that Ryman Hospitality plans to add a new interactive tour and meet-and-greet lounge where the old retail shop stood. A state-of-the-art Opry House backstage tour theater and 100-seat VIP event space is scheduled to open in the spring. Opry-goers will have food and beverage options, pre-show entertainment, and the opportunity to meet that evening’s artists. Once those additions are complete, the total cost of the Opry House project will be $20 million.

Jeannie Seely writes from Nashville, “Great newsletter again Diane…hope you are doing well…happy Fall. I have changed PR Reps…I am now with Bev Moser. My Sirius XM Show and The Star in Walk of Fame are some exciting things for me. Thanks for all you do.”

Margie Singleton Walton also writes from Nashville, “I love your newsletters. Thanks again for including me.”

Kathy Baker in Kansas says, “Thanks so much for your article on Janet Robbins. I enjoyed hearing what she is doing and her plans/projects for the future. She is a very interesting person! Your newsletters are great, thanks for including me.”

Bill Mack writes from Texas, “Every time I read your column, I want to send you another note of thanks. As you know, I’ve sent several. Your dedication to country music is so very special. It is also needed. So many of our country music fans are seeking the information you provide in your columns. You have the interest and determination to spotlight artists who have almost been forgotten since most of them are no longer recording. I also want to thank you and some of those who have sent notes to you pertaining to The Browns — Jim Ed, Maxine and Bonnie. I was very close to all three of them. When we lost Jim Ed and Bonnie within one-year, it was a personal hurt for me and so many others. Thankfully, we still have Maxine with us. I refer to her as ‘Max.’ We stay in close touch. Everyone loves Max! Thanks again, Diane, for your columns. You deserve many awards for your awesome talent.”

Dallas Wayne of Willie’s Roadhouse on SiriusXM says, “Just a note to say thank you. For not only your sterling work in writing about the music we love, but your insightful, thoughtful posts on your personal Facebook page. Truth to power.”

Cal Sharp responds to John Krebs, who asked for a Faron ‘Tales from the Road’ book or video: “I did have a few comments re Faron back when I was blogging.”

Cathy Moser says, “What? Shania Twain receiving the Artist of a Lifetime award before Loretta? Shame, shame.”

Maggie Couch writes, “Great job! Thanks so much for keeping county music lovers up to date. Good to see Margie’s comment. I love her singing. I would love to see an update on Jerry Lee Lewis.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares in France says, “Thanks for that newsletter and to have given exposure to Felton Pruett. Felton was a very nice man and a talented musician. He was a regular member of the Louisiana Hayride and just missed only some shows when working with Hank Locklin and Hank Williams. He will be missed. Great to read Margie Singleton’s words and to know her song got action. Another lovely Lady.”

Stacy Harris, publisher/executive editor of Stacy’s Music Row Report, writes from Nashville, “Enjoyed your update on Marty Robbins’s daughter, Janet. I’ve always thought it odd that of all the songs Marty wrote and recorded, he chose ‘This Much a Man’ as the one to honor his daughter. The song peaked at #11 in Billboard. I guess it could be argued that Janet is a very common name. On a tenuously-related note, you and your readers may be interested to know that the GET TV is airing episodes of ABC’s The Johnny Cash Show on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Central Time and that the episode airing on October 21st will feature appearances by Marty Robbins and Glen Campbell. (GET is available on Dish channel 373. For those of us who don’t have the Dish, plugging an indoor antenna into the back of a TV set provides the channel over the air.)”

Eric Calhoun writes from Los Angeles, “Margie, God bless you for the ministry that you have. Unfortunately, ‘Heaven or Hell’ would not be an appropriate song for me to sing at Camp Yorktown Bay, a blind camp in Mountain Pine, Arkansas, where I go every summer. We want it more positive. Lorrie Morgan has been a huge favorite country artist from the 1990s, and on the Watch Me album was a song that’s my favorite: Someone To Call Me Darlin’. I have been seeking the story behind the story behind the song. I had my CD damaged, sadly. Lorrie does a very soulful version of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?,’ the Shyrells Carole King classic. One more note: on Gretchen Wilson: She says she’s a Christian; where’s her Christian songs?”

Priscilla McPheeters in Lawrence, Kansas, says, “LOVE the Paisley STORE!!! As always, a great letter.”

Jon Logan writes from Texas, “I greatly appreciate your newsletter.”

Terry Burford of KZHE Country in Magnolia, Arkansas, writes, “I use a lot of the stories from your newsletter on my show done daily called Inside Nashville. I do interviews each Wednesday at 12.30pm, heard on the internet at kzhe.com. I interview such stars as Bill Anderson- Mac Wiseman- Jeannie C Riley, etc. You can click on my name at the top of the page and hear a couple of the artists being interviewed– keep traditional country music alive.”

Carolyn Berry says, “I love this newsletter. I look forward to reading it each month. You do a wonderful job keeping us informed about our country music performers.”

Rudi Stiller writes from Germany, “Thank you for another informative newsletter and for your wonderful book about Marty. Cherish it very much. Wish I had an autographed copy of it 🙂 Anyway here is a question I would like to ask Ronny: Will there be any of your dad’s unreleased recordings available in the future? I know he recorded some more songs (among them a few tunes for a possible follow-up to What God Has Done) while at MCA, that weren’t on the marvelous 1994 release Lost And Found. I sincerely hope these tapes are not lost.”
Response from Ronny Robbins: “Your question is far too complicated to answer, but the simple explanation is CBS/SONY had the final say as to what was and wasn’t released.”

Ronny Robbins also responds to the Alan Del Balso question about adding Marty’s vocals to new updated music: “I really don’t think that updated arrangements on any of Dad’s hits would be an improvement, at least not enough to warrant the time and expense for such a project. They have stood the test of time for many years.”

Ron Reagan says, “In reference to the question asked by Alan Del Balso, there is a heavy metal remix on YouTube of ‘Big Iron.’ It’s not my cup of tea for everyday listening, but it is interesting to listen to. I know Jim Reeves’s music has been updated in recent years, so it would be nice to hear Marty’s done the same way.”

I’ve been publishing my newsletter for 13 years now. Does anyone remember reading this “Faron Young biography newsletter” on October 26, 2005?
To fans and friends and family of Faron Young:
This is the first edition of a periodic newsletter on the status of publication of “Tell It Like It Is: A Biography of Faron Young.” Please let me know if you prefer not to be on my mailing list.
I started researching Faron’s life six years ago and finally finished writing the book last month. The manuscript is currently under review by a publisher. My goal is to publish the book in 2007, the 75th anniversary of Faron’s birth. Articles I have written about Faron can be read on my web site.
FARON FIFTY YEARS AGO: During a show at the Municipal Auditorium in Albany, Georgia, on October 12, 1955, Faron collapsed on stage. First thought to be suffering from food poisoning, he was diagnosed with a severe case of hepatitis, which he’d contracted while filming the movie “Daniel Boone Trailblazer” in Mexico in September. Hilda left baby Damion with Virginia Terry, wife of Gordon Terry (fiddle player in Faron’s band), and flew down to stay in the hospital with Faron. After ten days, the doctors decided Faron had improved enough to be transferred to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. During his Vanderbilt stay, he received word from “Country & Western Jamboree” that the magazine’s fans had voted him Favorite Male Singer for 1955. Faron, still weak and pale, resumed touring on New Year’s Eve as part of the A.V. Bamford Grand Ole Opry package show in St. Paul/Minneapolis.
Please send me your questions and comments about Faron, for publication in future newsletters.

The youngest of the five children, Alan Jackson was born in Newnan, Georgia, in 1958. At age 12, he was working at a shoe store to help support his family. He grew up with gospel music, until a friend introduced him to the songs of John Anderson and Gene Watson. Pursuing a career in country music then became his passion. He moved to Nashville, where he obtained a job managing the mailroom at The Nashville Network. When Glen Campbell recommended Alan to the Arista Records label in 1989, his recording career began. He has since been named three times as CMA Entertainer of the Year. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. I can still picture him sitting on the stage of the 2001 CMA awards show when he sang, for the first time, “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning).” His thoughts about the 9/11 attacks resonated with me and many others. The following year, the song earned a Grammy award for “Best Country Song.” Alan still follows his motto, “Keep it country.” A 20-by-40-foot mural, “Small Town Southern Man,” is currently being painted on the Redneck Gourmet building in downtown Newnan to honor its hometown boy. Alan Jackson celebrates his sixtieth birthday today.

Born Jerry Reed Hubbard in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1937, Jerry Reed moved to Nashville in 1962 to pursue a career in music. He began as a session guitarist and songwriter. With encouragement from Chet Atkins, he developed his idiosyncratic guitar style. The pair won two Grammys for their instrumental performances. Jerry also won the “country male vocal performance” Grammy for his biggest hit, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” His other #1s were “Lord, Mr. Ford” and “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft).” He gained acting fame in the Smokey and the Bandit movies, and another hit song with “East Bound and Down.” Because of his colorful personality and numerous entertainment credits, Brad Paisley noted, “sometimes people didn’t even notice he was just about the best guitarist you’ll ever hear.” In 2008, at age 71, Jerry Reed died of complications from emphysema.

Elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012, Don Schlitz has been turning out hits ever since Kenny Rogers recorded “The Gambler” in 1978. Born Donald Alan Schlitz Jr. in Durham, North Carolina, in 1952, he moved to Nashville in 1973. He is credited with writing or cowriting 50 Top Ten singles; 24 of them reached #1. They include: “On the Other Hand,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “When You Say Nothing at All,” “Strong Enough to Bend,” “Old School,” “Deeper Than the Holler,” “I Take My Chances,” “I Feel Lucky,” “Learning to Live Again,” One Promise Too Late,” “Forty Hour Week (for a Livin’),” and “Houston Solution.” Don co-created the in-the-round format made famous at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. He still performs there regularly. Kenny Rogers, who inducted Don into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, said, “Don doesn’t just write songs, he writes careers.”

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