Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 2 December 2015

It’s been 19 years since Faron Young left this life on December 10, 1996, and 33 years since a heart attack took Marty Robbins on December 8, 1982. We remember them both fondly and never tire of listening to their music.

Ramona Jones (1924-2015)
Ramona Jones Gober, 91, died November 17, 2015. She played the fiddle, guitar and mandolin on the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw along with her husband, “Grandpa” Jones. They met and married while both were working at WLW Cincinnati, and they moved to Nashville in 1947. He died in 1998, after 52 years of marriage. She was buried next to him in their church cemetery in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

The writer of “Crystal Chandeliers” has died. Ted Harris, 78, passed away November 22 at his home in Lewisburg, Tennessee. He was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1990. With 87 SESAC awards, he was the most awarded country songwriter in the history of that performing-rights organization. In one year (1972), he collected 17 SESAC awards as songwriter and publisher. A few of his many hit songs include Dottie West’s “Paper Mansions,” Ferlin Husky’s “Once,” the Glen Campbell/Steve Wariner duet, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” Charley Pride’s “The Happiness of Having You,” and Hank Snow’s “My Lucky Friend.”

House Bill 598 was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on June 1, 2015, to designate a segment of State Highway 21 in Nacogdoches County as the Bob Luman Memorial Highway. It is located 1.3 miles east of Texas City and will be dedicated April 15, 2016.

The 2015 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song was presented to Willie Nelson on November 18 at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The award honors an artist for a lifetime achievement in a career of using songs for musical expression and cultural understanding. The selection is made by the Librarian of Congress and a board of music experts. A 90-minute tribute to Willie included songs by Alison Krauss and Jamey Johnson, Rosanne Cash, Raul Malo, Neil Young, and Paul Simon. Willie and his sons, Lukas and Micah, sang “Living in the Promiseland.” The concert will air on PBS on January 15.

The reason Willie Nelson canceled several show dates in October was a stem-cell operation. Prior to the show at the DAR Constitution Hall, he told the Washington Post, “It’s supposed to help the lungs. Over the years I’ve smoked a lot of cigarettes, and I’ve had emphysema and pneumonia four or five times, so my lungs were really screwed up, and I had heard this stem-cell operation would be good for them. I’m still so sore I can’t say it was a success. I’ll have to wait until the soreness goes away. The only thing that worries me more than anything is carrying my guitar, because they did the operation right in my stomach. But I think I’ll be all right.”

Maxine Brown reports on Facebook that her sister, Bonnie Brown, was discharged from the hospital on November 25, after a two-week stay and two unsuccessful surgeries to repair a hole in her right lung. She is back on chemo for the cancer, and her doctors expect the hole to heal on its own.

It was November 21, 1955, during the annual Disc Jockey convention at Nashville’s Andrew Jackson Hotel, when Opry manager Jim Denny surprised 22-year old Jean Shepard by announcing, “We want to wish a happy birthday to our newest Grand Ole Opry member.” She has recently celebrated her 60th anniversary. Fellow Opry members at the Ryman Auditorium on Saturday, November 21, 2015, included Bill Anderson, Connie Smith, Marty Stuart, Mel Tillis, Jeannie Seely, Jesse McReynolds, and Vince Gill. It was also her 82nd birthday and 47th wedding anniversary. Born in Oklahoma, Jean was 14 when Hank Thompson saw her singing and playing bass in her all-girl band, the Melody Ranch Girls. He brought her to Capitol Records. “Jean has been in declining health recently, and was on a hiatus from the Opry,” Bill Anderson writes on his website. “It took all the strength she could muster to come to the Ryman this past weekend.” Bill reminds us, “There was a time when Kitty Wells and Jean Shepard were the only female stars in country music. All the Reba’s and Dolly’s and Martina’s and Miranda’s that have come along since have those two ladies to thank for blazing the trail that made their careers possible.”

There’s not much progress in naming a street for Marty Robbins in his hometown of Glendale, Arizona. At a November 17 city council meeting, city staff gave an updated recommendation and there was much discussion, but council members remained unsure about which streets should be named for Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Marty Robbins. They discussed naming Lamar Avenue in honor of Marty, since he grew up on that street.

PEOPLE has included Blake Shelton, 39, and Tim McGraw, 48, in this year’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. Garth Brooks appears in the “Sexy at Every Age” section as the hottest 53-year-old man.

The Grand Ole Opry is ninety years old. Originally called the WSM Barn Dance, the show began broadcasting November 28, 1925, on WSM-AM in Nashville. The first performer, fiddle player Uncle Jimmy Thompson, was introduced by announcer George D. “Judge” Hay. The name changed two years later, when the WSM Barn Dance was following a classical music program. “For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera,” Hay said on Dec. 10, 1927. “From now on, we will present the Grand Ole Opry.” He then introduced harmonica player DeFord Bailey.

The NBC-TV movie Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors premieres Thursday, December 10 at 8 pm Central Time. To promote the movie, Dolly Parton will be a guest on The Talk on December 3 at 1 pm on CBS. She will also appear on NBC’s Today on December 8 & 10 and on Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel, December 7 & 8.

Clint Black is on a 12-city Christmas tour that began last night in Florida and ends December 20 in Texas. He says it’s the only time of the year he can sing the songs from his two Christmas albums, Looking for Christmas and Christmas with You. He will also perform cuts off his new album, On Purpose, released in September. Although he continues to write and tour, this is his first new album in ten years.

Two of the artists scheduled to sing Frank Sinatra classics at the Sinatra 100 – An All-Star GRAMMY Concert are Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. The two-hour concert commemorating Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday will be taped December 2 and broadcast on CBS-TV on December 6.

Noel Clarke in Smithfield, Australia, says, “My goodness you are fantastic– the way you’re able to get this newsletter out every couple of weeks is a mammoth task. The information is always interesting. I’ve saved every one since the 16th March 2011 so I have quite a collection of information. Just wanted to let you know how you are appreciated here in Australia for the hours you put into the newsletter and how much I look forward to reading.”

Wally Massenburg, retired U.S. Navy vice admiral, writes from Boston, “I don’t know whether you know or not, but my brother George has several Grammys and a Lifetime Technical Achievement Grammy. He is a renowned recording engineer and producer who now teaches at McGill University in Montreal and is an adjunct professor at Berkelee School of Music here in Boston. Probably his most successful Country Music work was the Trio Album with Linda Ronstadt, Emmy Lou Harris, and Dolly Parton for which he won CMA Album of the Year. I get your e-mails and enjoy reading the history that you’ve retold. Fascinating!!”

Justin H. (Jud) McCarthy requests, “Please let Bill Hyatt from Jacksonville, Arkansas, know that I too listened to ‘Your Coffee Drinking Night Hawk, Lee Moore’ on WWVA Wheeling, West Virginia, in my younger days on my car radio after midnight. I also listened to WCKY Cincinnati 1 Ohio, as these were the only two country music stations I could get back then. However, I never did buy any of those baby chicks they were always pushing.” He adds, “I was just out last month to Branson, Missouri, to see my favorite country singer Don Williams. Although he seems to be having health issues, his voice is still as strong and great as ever. I am now an avid listener to Willie’s Road House on SiriusXM to hear the best in classic country.”

Bill Hyatt responds, “WWVA, WCKY, and WRVA are three of the late night stations I listened to back in the Fifties. All three were great country stations. The first time I ever heard Faron Young was on WRVA (Richmond, VA) and the DJ introduced him as the Young Sheriff.”

Linda Kyle, daughter of Ray Emmett, writes from Colorado, “Thanks so much again for the newsletter. It was so sad to hear of Tommy Overstreet’s passing. I wanted to let you know I did receive your box, and I appreciate your kind words about my dad in your book. I have been reading the book as I find time and you were right – some stories have brought tears and some have brought back happy memories, while other stories I am learning about just now…thank you so much for the detailed biography on Faron!!! I missed so much of my dad while he chased his dreams in music. Your book is filling in some spaces for me….thank you!”

Lee Shannon in Port Charlotte, Florida, says, “I always enjoy receiving your Country Music letter. I enjoyed the read, as usual. . . . As a former deejay at WIRE, Indianapolis (1968-80), my wife & I hosted many bus tours to Nashville that included a ‘walk-by’ of Johnny & June’s home. As our group was about to re-board the buses, Johnny, June and John Carter Cash arrived home. Before going inside their home, Johnny gave a BIG wave our way. It made their day for these 80 country music fans from Indiana. Another time, on one of our tour stops while downtown, Tommy Cash came aboard the two buses to welcome our group to Music City. As reunion planner for the USS Colahan, I’m looking forward to bringing some 80 or so folks to Nashville next September.”

Terry Counts writes, “I was so brought down by the news of Tommy Overstreet, he was a great gun to work with and always had a ball when we did a gig together…dern it, seems like every time I get online or go to Facebook I find I have lost another great friend. I don’t know how many of you knew Maggie Penn but she was a staunch supporter of traditional country music, a member of ROPE and an absolutely great gal…and she passed away from a stroke this past month. I finally learned of it on Facebook after sending several emails that weren’t responded to…almost all the greats are gone or going. I expect one of these days it’ll be my turn and nobody will know, as nobody I know is left…sad, sad, sad. You, Diane…MUST keep up the good works.”

Priscilla McPheeters in Lawrence, Kansas, says, “This was your best newsletter yet. Have a great Thanksgiving, my friend.”

A song I’ve always enjoyed is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Opening Act.” Until I looked it up on YouTube, I didn’t realize the song was 25 years old. She sang it on the 1990 Country Music Awards show, after being introduced by Randy Travis. The standing ovation given her by the country music stars in the audience makes it apparent many of them had been there, too, once upon a time.

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