Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 19 November 2014

Kenny Rogers has scheduled a “Farewell Down Under Tour” for January and February in Australia and New Zealand. He has toured there as a member of the First Edition, with Dolly Parton, with Reba McEntire, and on several solo tours. He says this will be his last. The tour begins in Sydney, followed by eight more stops in Australia and two in New Zealand.

The Tanya Tucker exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has opened and will be available through May. Artifacts in the Tanya Tucker: Strong Enough to Bend collection include Nudie’s Rodeo Tailor stage costumes, gowns from award shows, National Cutting Horse Association awards, and a pink 1992 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Visitors can see the 1974 Rolling Stone magazine with Tanya on the cover, as well as a script from her 1981 The Love Boat television appearance. The night before the exhibit opened, Tanya gave a preview to a packed house of friends, industry executives, and media. She acknowledged her parents for making her career possible.

“Chemo This Morning, Garth Tonight, Enjoying ‘The Dance'” was the sign Teresa Shaw held high at the Garth Brooks concert in Minneapolis on November 7th. That morning she had completed her 13th round of chemotherapy for breast cancer. Garth saw her holding the sign and he came down to sing to her. He took the sign and gave her his guitar. He held up the sign and shouted, “You have all my strength, you have everybody’s strength in here, and you go kick cancer’s ass!”

The BMI Icon Award was presented to Vince Gill at the 2014 BMI Country Awards on November 4th. The 62nd annual event celebrated songwriters and publishers of the most-performed country songs of the past year. Here is Vince’s ten-minute acceptance speech: http://youtu.be/alYgwm2G8NY

Mary Davis talked to WFAA-TV about her fiancé, Randy Travis, and his progress since his stroke and viral cardiomyopathy in July 2013. “He’s starting to write,” she said. “He signed some guitars with his left hand. So Randy Travis has a new autograph!” He recently walked 300 yards without his walking stick. About his music, she said, “He plays every single chord, and he knows all the words.”

Loretta Lynn has announced a multi-album record deal with Legacy Recordings. The albums will contain new recordings, not a collection of greatest hits. Her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell, and John Carter Cash are the producers. Loretta has been recording the songs since 2007, and they include gospel tunes, Appalachian folk songs, new originals, and updates of her classics.

Rolling Stone reports that Willie Nelson will soon be hosting a television show. Inside Arlyn will be filmed in Arlyn Studios, a recording studio in the former Austin Opera House in downtown Austin, Texas. Willie will invite “fellow music legends and new artists for intimate interviews and performances.” Merle Haggard and Gary Clark, Jr. will be the first guests, with Dan Rather doing a joint interview with Willie and Merle. The 13-episode series doesn’t yet have a distributor, but several cable outlets have shown interest.

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood are bringing Garth’s world tour to Boston, Massachusetts, with three shows scheduled for January 22-24. This show follows Garth’s return to his native Oklahoma. His three shows in Tulsa quickly expanded to seven (January 9-17) as soon as tickets went on sale. The 90,000 tickets sold so far in Tulsa have exceeded the 79,855 tickets from his five shows in 1997.

Emmylou Harris will be honored by a celebration of her life and music at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The Songs of Emmylou Harris: An All-Star Concert Celebration will be presented January 10, with performances by Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Martina McBride, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, and others–including Emmylou.

Stephanie Barnett connected with Taylor Swift several years ago on social media, and met her in person when Taylor showed up unannounced at her home in North Haven. “I open the door and she’s like, ‘Hey, Steph!’ and it’s just her right there, and I lost it,” Barnett told NBC Connecticut. The gifts Taylor handed over for two-year-old Leyton included a toddler-sized toy Mercedes. “She went to FAO Schwartz and got a bunch of stuff for Leyton,” Barnett explained. “The car was so big, she’s like, ‘I don’t know how to ship it, so I thought I’d bring it over.’ And I was like, who does that? It’s incredible.”

Leon and Charlotte Sutton send this note from Florida: “Glad to see the latest news, just to let you know we still like to read all about what is going on in the business. All is well here, just getting older, but thank God we can still walk and talk…love to all.”

Greg Pontillo writes, ”I bought the Faron Young book and had all kinds of emotion as I read cover to cover. I am 50 and grew up listening to Faron due to my dad loving his voice. My dad sang JUST like Faron so this made him a bigger star to me. I do not listen to any country other than Faron and know every song he has ever sung. What a voice he had even late in his career. My favorite songs are ‘You Had A Call’ and ‘Precious Memories,’ which were neither big hits. My dad died 2 years back and I wished I would have read the book before he passed so we could have talked about his life. I know you get a lot of emails but just wanted to let you know I really appreciated your facts and portrayal of a great country artist who had some issues. I just moved to Baton Rouge and I plan to drive to Shreveport this weekend just to see where Faron once lived. I sing his songs all day long. (My wife thinks I also sound just like Faron so tell the Deputies I am ready to tour!) Without his sound, country music would not have been the same. If he were still around he would have been happy with all his music and positive comments on You Tube.”

Denise Pederson says, “I would love to receive your newsletters via regular email if that is possible. Thank you and enjoyed your article about Redd. Had the privilege to visit with him a couple years ago, right in the town here in Alberta he started his career, Rocky Mountain House. Then he performed in my hometown of Bentley with dear friend Dick Damron; it was a wonderful reunion as Redd used to play bass for Dick during Dick’s Vegas gigs at the NFR for several years.”

Steve Walker says, “My friend Geoff Lambert suggested I drop you a line to ask if you would be kind enough to include me on your mailing list for newsletters about Marty and Faron. I run an internet rock’n’roll list, but, as you know, country and r&r often become entangled, and both these fine singers’ names crop up regularly in conversation.”

Amber Adams requests, “A friend told me of your newsletters. May I subscribe?”

Paul Bush says, “When you send a newsletter you are dead serious! Looks like you covered all bases. I was stunned.”

Mary Mitchell in Woodland Park, Colorado, writes, ”Am so pleased that you are a Carl Smith Fan. I fell in love with him when I was nine. He’s still, by far, one of the best. He loved his Goldie and family, then did what he loved best. Never any gossip. He was so devoted. I love his song–SING HER A LOVE SONG–Matter of fact I love everything he sang. I am now seventy-six and have probably all of his records. I converted them to CDs. Never go in the car without one. We do have a lot in common. Thanks for your letters.”

Jean Earle writes from the U.K., “Thank you for your recent newsletters. As always they were most interesting. I was sad to click onto the news of Glen Campbell. Such a lovely voice even though he is now suffering. Recently we went to see a Country Show…an evening performance of ‘The Johnny Cash Story.’ The singer who told the story of Johnny was Roger Dean. He sang the songs beautifully…sounding just like Johnny…and between the songs he told the life story of the ‘Man in Black.’ It was extremely well performed…I loved every minute. I suppose many books have already been written about J.C…but I wonder if you have thought of putting YOUR story of the great man into print?”
Diane: No, I think there are enough books about Johnny Cash. I’d rather find a life that hasn’t been researched yet.

June Ray Thompson says, “I always enjoy your newsletter, thanks so much.”

Bill R. Baker wonders, “Since you write and are interested in bios of country artists, I have a question for you. Before Roy Wiggins died I visited with him in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. At the time he was writing his bio. He showed me his notes – they were on the counter in his little music store. He told me it would eventually be published and of course I encouraged him. However, before he could finish or publish it he died. Do you have any idea what happened to all of his notes? I offered to assist him without any charge. I have a book published by the University Press in Mississippi. However, he did not accept my offer. Just wondering if you might know anything about this.”
Diane: I haven’t heard anything about his book. Perhaps a reader who knew this famous steel guitarist will be able to help.

Dave Barton writes from Nashville, “The story on John Brown is quite disturbing in fact he was to serve two life terms which was over 100 years, but it doesn’t surprise me that Cornerstone church gave him a job, the pastor is no angel, he spent time in prison too. String was a great friend of mine, I still have one of his old rod & reels. (It’s written on the rod ‘made for Stringbean by Hal Rugg.’)”

Les Leverett, retired photographer of the Grand Ole Opry for thirty two years, also writes from Nashville: “Very interesting issue. Thanks for all the news you provide. Let me just add a little information to a couple of your stories:

“Mac Wiseman invited me to be a guest of his at the medallion ceremony, held at the Country Music Foundation. It was a first for me, and I saw so many friends, some that I had not seen in years. In addition to the hall of fame members that you mentioned in attendance, there was Bud Wendell, manager of the Grand Ole Opry for years, and then eventually the president of Gaylord Entertainment. He has been a dear friend through all these years.

“Also in attendance at the parole board hearing for John Brown, the heartless murderer of Stringbean and Estelle Akeman, was David McCormick, owner and operator of the Ernest Tubb Record Shops. He carried thousands of signed petitions that he had had printed up and handed out to fans to sign. The parole board totally ignored those petitions. I spoke with Jan Howard and Judi Myrick, Weldon’s sweet widow, all at the ceremony. She was at the hearing also. They said the parole board had their minds made up before the meeting began. We had just gone through this last May, and my unanswered question has been, ‘how often does one get a hearing?’ I had written letters several times before those hearings and never once received a response. I wrote a long letter to the Opinions editor of our local newspaper, The Tennessean, but of course, it did not get to print. Maury Davis, pastor of the Cornerstone Church, here in Madison, served time when he was a young man for brutally murdering a young lady, stabbing her numerous times, and almost severing her head. His church is the one offering a maintenance job to John Brown. I realize God can forgive anything, and I am certain both those murderers have sought and found forgiveness, but for John Brown to be sentenced to two life sentences, I think he should serve his full sentence. I think each member of the parole board should be required to have the releasee live in their home for say, two weeks. I wonder if they think they could sleep in their own beds with the door unlocked! I knew ‘String’ and Estelle well, and loved them. I helped Estelle eat some of her popcorn backstage at the Opry the night they were so ruthlessly murdered. Forgive me for going on too long. I wish you continued success.”

“Stringbean finished hooking up his Overall galluses over his slender shoulders, and smoothing his denim shirt collar down. Picking up his beloved banjo case and his clothes bag of the long shirted-short legged stage outfit that he had used for so many years, entertaining folks the World over, he stepped out of the old dressing room at the Ryman Auditorium, walked over to his wife Estelle and said, “Let’s go to the house, woman.” The two lovers walked out to their car, loaded up String’s bag and case and Estelle got behind the wheel to drive them home. String did not drive and Estelle gladly took him wherever his music and comedy was needed.

“Estelle drove their brand new Cadillac through Goodlettsville and on out to the rural area North of town where she and String had lived for so many years. Turning up their long driveway, and stopping to let String out at the house so he could carry his things into their home, Estelle then headed on down to put the car away.

“String stepped into the darkened house, banjo case in one hand, clothes bag over the other shoulder, and was reaching for the light switch when John Brown put a pistol to String’s head and pulled the trigger, forever ending the life of this good and gentle man of music. Estelle, who was just getting out of the car, heard the shot and screamed, “String!!!!!!” and started running…John Brown turned and ran out the door of the cabin….caught this precious woman as she tried to get away…knocked her to the ground and shot her in the back of the head…as cold and dispassionate as the murdering Bastard that he is. John Brown and his cousin Doug Brown, then finished ransacking the cabin and searching String’s overalls for the money they believed was hidden there. The Browns were later captured and both sentenced to Life In Prison…198 years apiece. Doug Brown died in Prison a few years later. John Brown kept asking for Parole.

“Several days ago and now 40 years later…John Brown, this mad dog killer of two of the finest people that ever lived….”Stringbean” David Akeman and Estelle Akeman…walked out of the Tennessee Prison…paroled by the Tennessee Parole Board. John Brown cried at the Parole hearing and said he was “Sorry.” The hills around the old Akeman farm still echoes the scream, that was the last word that Estelle ever said…..”STRING!!!!!” And the family of Classic Country Music cries…and does not forget.” http://www.hitchcockcountry.com

When I saw Moe Bandy in concert last week in Watertown, South Dakota, he told the story of how “Bandy the Rodeo Clown” came about. Moe had been asking Whitey Shafer to write him a rodeo song while Moe’s brother, Mike Bandy, was a champion bull rider. His phone rang in the middle of one night in 1975, and the voice on the line said, “This is Lefty Frizzell.” Lefty Frizzell—that woke Moe up! Lefty said, “We’ve got your rodeo song for you.” And he sang, over the phone in the middle of the night, the song he’d co-written with Whitey Shafer, “Bandy the Rodeo Clown.” Moe said he could hardly wait to get to Nashville to record. It became Moe’s second top ten hit. Moe later wrote his own song about his brother, “Rodeo Romeo,” which was also a top ten hit.

Tanya Tucker, with the assistance of celebrity biographer Patsi Bale Cox, wrote her autobiography in 1997, at age 39. Nickel Dreams: My Life tells the story of this feisty gal with a powerful voice and a personality to match. She had her first hit at age 13, and the pressure of being the source of income for an entire entourage took its toll. When she decided as a child that she wanted to be a country singer, her dad took her seriously and pushed her toward that goal. Once she achieved stardom, she had to keep performing to support all the people who depended on the teenager’s income. The book tells–without excuses–of her alcoholism, drug use, and wild affairs, especially the highly public one with Glen Campbell. I’ve always liked Tanya, and I enjoyed reading her story.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.