Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 2 July 2014

“I have a lot of goals in front of me,” Gene Watson says. “I’ve got a whole lot more scheduled in my mind than I can see over the top of.” At age 70, this Texan is not slowing down. “I’m working more now than I was twenty years ago,” he told me yesterday on the phone. He attributes the increased performance demand to the Internet, mostly Facebook posts and websites that advertise his music and his shows. In addition, “Sirius XM helps us so much; it’s heaven sent. Another one I am thrilled to be involved with is Larry Black’s Country Family Reunion. It’s just tremendous.” He and his band are on the road full time, and “we have no intentions of retiring.”

Gene’s newly released album, My Heroes Have Always Been Country, consists of cover songs that pay tribute to the singers who influenced him. “I got to thinking there are a lot of people in tune with Gene Watson who don’t know where he came from,” he told me. “I’ve got some of my heroes on this album. I’m really proud of it.”

He wants to do a second duet album with Rhonda Vincent. He said the response was tremendous on the first one, and he and Rhonda do shows together whenever their tours intersect. He’s also planning a gospel album, and he’d like to do another of original songs.

I told him I’d attended his show at the VFW in Sioux Falls last summer, and the song that stuck with me the most was “The Old Man and His Horn,” with his steel player. Gene said, “I hired him strictly as a steel guitar player. Little did I know he played horn.” When the lead guitarist (who played trumpet) left the band, Danny Naccarato told Gene he could do the horn parts. He brought out his saxophone “and lo and behold,” Gene says, “he never missed a lick.” I told him I could visualize the horn player in the New Orleans hotel, and Gene said, “I thrive on that so much. I love to record songs that you can close your eyes and you’re there.” I said I was there, and he responded, “Well, I got you then.”

Gene is one of the few performers left who will routinely sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans. He also does meet-n-greets before his shows. “The people love us, and we return that love,” he told me. “We try to show how much we appreciate them.” The autographs and photos are “a small way of saying thanks.”

His secondary passion is working on cars, which was his profession before he got in the music business. Now he restores cars and trucks in his spare time. “I’ll be dabbling with cars as long as I can breathe,” he says.

To learn about upcoming Gene Watson events, go to http://genewatsonmusic.com/. If he’s ever in your area, don’t miss his show. He’s a storyteller as much as a singer, and he focuses on his audience. “I’ve always got room to do an extra song or add a request,” he says. After all, “I feel blessed to be able to make a living out of something I love as much as I love music.”


Jimmy C. Newman died Saturday night, June 22, in Nashville after a brief illness. A public service was held last Wednesday at the Ryman Auditorium, followed by a private visitation and memorial service. Jimmy C. joined the Opry in 1956 and was 86 years old. He last performed there Friday, June 6, with his band, Cajun Country.

A new Hank Williams movie begins production in Louisiana in October. I Saw the Light stars Tom Hiddleston and is being directed by Marc Abraham, who wrote the screenplay. The rights to Hank’s music catalogue have been secured for the movie, and Hiddleston will do his own singing. The story is based on Colin Escott’s book, Hank Williams: The Biography. I thought it was an excellent biography when I read it almost 15 years ago. Then Escott published a second edition, in which the only change seemed to be inserting an argument that Hank—not Faron Young—wrote “Goin’ Steady.” I rebutted that theory in my biography of Faron.

Online magazine TMZ posted, “Hank Williams III tells TMZ … producers cookin’ up a Hank biopic blew it when they cast British actor Tom Hiddleston to play the legendary country crooner. The grandson of honky tonk legend Hank Williams says his family’s blood runs red, white and blue … and that’s why only a true American should ever play Hank in a movie.” When Hank tried to clarify his comments, TMZ refused to post anything further, according to Country Music Nation, which then published the entire statement. “The real name on My Birth certificate is Shelton Hank Williams III,” it begins. “I was asked a question on who I thought would do the role justice and here is how it goes. . . . The main Reason I said Matthew McConaughey would be a good person for this role is because of he has played many roles as a Southern man. And he is from the South. . . . I want someone to play Sr. who is actually born as real Southern American that has some heritage in the blood and could possibly identify with the role on a more personal note. I’m not part of the Hank Williams Estate so I have nothing to gain or lose. All that money is for Hank Jr. and Jett Williams. It would be nice to see a well-made movie on him since the last one was hacked apart by Audrey pretty much.” He signed his letter as “Shelton Hank Williams III aka HANK3.”

Debby Campbell, daughter of Glen Campbell, told Country Weekly she’d learned on the news that her dad had been moved to a Nashville assisted living facility for Alzheimer’s disease. She wants him to live with her in Arizona. “I know he is getting along great with the people who are at the facility, but that’s not how I feel — as his daughter — he should spend the rest of his life,” she said. “I want to take my dad home and take care of him.” She said he’s in fine physical health, and he tells her he wants to go home. (My dad also had Alzheimer’s disease, and I think Debby has a lot to learn about what caring for him would entail. It’s unrealistic to say, as she was quoted, “If I lived there, I would want to spend from the time he wakes in the morning until the evening with him. … But why can’t I do that in the comfort of my own home with him instead of flying to Nashville and going to a care facility?”) Of Glen’s eight children, three are with his current wife, Kim, to whom he has been married for 32 years. “It is crushingly sad to see him afflicted with Alzheimer’s, but indulging those feelings does not help him,” Kim said in response to her stepdaughter’s comments. “I am his wife, and no one wants him home more than me, but I must do what is in his best interest.”

“Our beautiful Luck wasn’t so Lucky recently,” Willie Nelson posted on his Facebook page June 16. “Last week’s tornado-force winds ripped several buildings apart, including the bank, the post office, and left World Headquarters holding on by a splinter. We are happy to report no one was hurt and the church only had a few windows blown out. Some towns got it a lot worse, so we aren’t complaining. Luck is a tough town. It can be rebuilt.” Located on Willie Nelson’s Texas ranch, Luck isn’t a real town. It was built in 1986 as a set for the movie Red-Headed Stranger. Willie kept it operational, and he occasionally opens it to the public for special events.

Gilley’s Place is a new show hosted by Mickey Gilley and airing on RFD-TV on Fridays and Saturdays. It is filmed at Gilley’s Texas Café in Branson, Missouri, in front of a live studio audience. Mel Tillis is the special guest this Friday.

Before her Glasgow, Scotland, concert on June 17, Dolly Parton spoke with a reporter for ScotlandNow. She said: “I’ve always loved the fans in Scotland and have a little Scottish blood of my own. I think it’s on my grandfather’s side. I’m pretty much a mongrel. I have a mix of several things in there.” She was asked about Dolly The Sheep being named after her, and Dolly said, “I was told she was called after me because she had big mammary glands. . . . I never met her but I always said there’s no such thing as baaad publicity.” (Dolly was the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult cell, and it was a cell from the mammary gland of a 6-year-old ewe. She was cloned in 1996 in Midlothian, Scotland, and lived there until her death in 2003.)

On June 29, Dolly Parton played for a crowd of over 100,000 fans at the historic Glastonbury Music Festival. Prior to her concert on the Pyramid stage, she was presented with a Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) plaque that commemorated her platinum and multi-platinum career sales of more than 100 million albums worldwide.

On the cover of the latest issue of Men’s Health is 47-year-old Tim McGraw. In the feature article, he tells how he changed his habits and transformed his life. “I drank too much. … I partied too much. And did other things too much. Chemically. No needles or that kind of stuff, but … use your imagination,” McGraw said.

FM radio station 103.9 in Louisville, Kentucky, changed its call letters from WKRA to GARTH-FM and its classic country format to “Garth, The Whole Garth, and Nothing But The Garth.” Over the Memorial Day weekend, the station began playing Garth Brooks music on 24-hour rotation. When Garth’s legal team served the station with orders to stop using his name and likeness, the call letters were changed to XXXXX-FM and the logo of Garth’s stylized face was removed. The station continued to play Garth’s songs exclusively, while bleeping out his name in the on-the-air radio promotions.

A $14 million expansion is scheduled for the Fourth Avenue side of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The main entrance was changed from Fifth Avenue to the back side after the 1994 renovation. Now, a brick-and-glass structure with a cafe and new event space will extend the building all the way to the street on Fourth Avenue. The actual Ryman interior, with its wooden church pews, is not being changed.

Sherwin Linton writes from Minneapolis, Minnesota, “Thanks for sending your newsletters. They are great. Would you like to be a guest at the Centennial Stage at the Fair like you were last year? I would be honored to have you there as I know people really enjoyed the opportunity to listen to you tell about your books and also visit with you.”
Diane: Yes! Huron, South Dakota, here we come.

Sandra Nicholson says, “Thank you for posting the picture of Marty in his office and giving me the contact person at Sony. I do look forward to seeing more pictures you have of him. I had a great time in Nashville and Franklin. A young man that is an employee of the company that is now housed in Marty’s former building was so gracious and offered a tour. I went to the cemetery but couldn’t climb the hill to his grave. What a disappointment, that such a monumental talent as he was, there is so little visible evidence of one of the best voices and entertainers that ever came out of Nashville.”

Linda Elliott Clark writes from Virginia, “As always, a great newsletter. Randy Travis looks good. Glad to see that he is better. Also, good to see the updates on Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson and Vince Gill. Hope they ALL continue to sing and perform for as long as possible – to keep the “real” country music going. Glad that Kenny Rogers is ok. Thanks for your great work Diane. As an add-on, I saw Dolly recently on the home shopping channel QVC. It was a real treat to see her on the show and perform some of her famous songs.”

Pat Daisy says, “A friend of mine sent me your newsletter and I would like to be added to your list of recipients.”

Alan Potter checks in from the U.K.: “Another jam packed info sheet! Great to hear that Randy Travis & Kenny Rogers are recovering well Also that George Strait & Alan Jackson’s careers are still so hugely popular. I’d love to have been at the R.O.P.E reunion what a line up! I have 37 different copies of ‘Pick Me Up’ by 25 different artists including 8 by Patsy Cline and they ALL show Harlan Howard as the writer (Even Patsy’s). Can you let us in in why Jody Nix should take special note? I didn’t know Rex Allen Jr. made ‘Aint No Way,’ but I remember John Conlee doing it (written by Sonny Throckmorton). I hope the info is useful to Tom Burton. O Lovely to see a pic of Janie Fricke & always a pleasure to see Dolly.”
Diane: I knew it was Jody’s favorite song. You can hear some of his Texas music at http://jodynix.com/. Listen to this by Patsy Cline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbMOIvVsu6A

Jody Nix writes from Big Spring, Texas, “Yes, I am reading it and enjoyed it very much…glad you mentioned Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.”

Ronald Reagan says, “Great newsletter as always, Diane! I thought I would pass along some info that was lighting up Facebook the other evening. A new Hank Williams movie is in the works and it’s apparently not a small deal. It has to beat the better heard than seen George Hamilton interpretation.”

Ross, PROUD father of a (newlywed) American Soldier, writes, “When I know it is time for your email to come in, I ALWAYS switch to this screen name! It’s like a full moon. Keep up the outstanding work you’ve been doing. God Bless!”

Priscilla McPheeters writes from Kansas, “Great newsletter, Diane! I especially loved the part about Dolly Parton. Well done!”

June Bourke in New Zealand says, “Thank you once again for the newsy info you send, I was thrilled to see a photo of Jean Shepard, as I sing a lot of her songs over here. In New Zealand, we have areas of the country that adhere to what we call old time country, and that’s where I come in. My folks were pioneers in this country with country music, and I just followed behind them. Love the old songs, but we ( my husband and I ) do sing more modern ones as well when required. Keep the letters coming, love hearing what goes on in your part of the world.”

Johnny Western writes from Arizona, “Love the newsletter. With Tri Son News and Loudilla gone, it’s our only connection to what’s going on with our picker friends out there. Well done, kid!”

Jay Amero writes on Facebook, “This is a great newsletter. I haven’t read anything this good about country music in a long time. With maybe the exception of Chet Flippo. RIP.”

David Carrell says, “I have read your books and enjoyed them immensely. I loved the bio on Marty Robbins, especially, since I grew up listening to his songs on my grandparents’ stereo player.”

William A. Oliver in Nashville writes, “My wife and I bought the Harbor Island home of Faron Young and recently refurbished it. When we took the sheetrock off the kitchen ceiling, a bullet fell to the floor.”

Jean Earle writes from England, “Dolly Parton was a great HIT on the Glastonbury stage today. She was loved by a HUGE audience of fans who thrilled to see her and to sing along with so many of her popular, well-known songs. Dolly was dressed in an all-white, glamourous, tight-fitting outfit…Such energy !! the crowd loved every minute. I watched her show live on the T.V. The famous MUD of GLASTONBURY was not there this year. The SUN shone for Dolly!!! Hot news…she has just left the stage 7.00 pm Sunday. 29/06/14.” She adds the next day, “Glastonbury has always been for the YOUNG folk as far as I have been concerned. It has nearly always been troubled by the weather as it is held in a huge open field in the middle of a farm where there is lots and lots of MUD. The joke is .. always take your ‘wellie boots’ to the festival. Pictures usually show happy YOUNG folk wet and muddy but very happy. That does not appeal to me so I settle for watching it on my T.V. screen. Dolly made several remarks about the expected Mud and she even had written a song about it, which she sang on stage and invited the happy crowd to join in with the chorus of ‘mud, mud, mud’…which they happily did. Dolly was the only COUNTRY act…mostly it is noisy over-rated young pop groups. I tuned in to watch Dolly Parton and I am so glad I did…what a GREAT show. She really won the hearts of the huge crowd…and mine too. I have admired her from afar in the past…not really being a fan of lady singers…but WOW am I now a FAN of Dolly. Real COUNTRY music was on our screens at last! I think her performance must have been the BEST of the whole weekend judging by the reaction of the vast, young, enthusiastic crowd.”

How much repetition is too much repetition in a song? The worst offender that comes to my mind is Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love A Rainy Night.” That is not only the title but also 29 of 57 lines in the song. The one hidden line, “And I love you too,” isn’t enough to overcome the boredom. Yes, I know it was a hit, so maybe I’m the only one who didn’t like it. The newest exercise in repetition is “My Eyes” by Blake Shelton, with the same chorus sung seven times among four short verses. “My eyes are the only thing I don’t wanna take off of you” is a clever line, but I got it the first time. I didn’t need to hear it seven times. And “Come a little closer” is repeated three times in the chorus; we get to hear that command 21 times. That’s just lazy song writing. So how much repetition is too much?

Blues singer Huddie ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter was incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1933 when musicologists John and Alan Lomax started recording his performances. The most famous was “Goodnight, Irene.” Although the song was actually published in 1886, BMI lists Huddie Ledbetter and John Lomax as writers, with more than forty performers who have recorded it–including Nat King Cole in 1946. I was amazed at the popularity of this song with its words that don’t make all that much sense; it must be the catchy waltz tune. The Weavers, an American folk band with Pete Seeger as a member, had the first hit, reaching number one on the Billboard pop chart in 1950. It was a busy summer for Irene. Frank Sinatra’s cover peaked at #5 on the same chart. The country version by Ernest Tubb and Red Foley spent three weeks at number one on Billboard’s country chart. Moon Mullican’s recording at the same time reached number 5. He rewrote some of the lyrics and registered the song with BMI as his composition. Sixty-four years later, the song still lives. Jack White performed it two weeks ago in Los Angeles, with Conan O’Brien guesting on guitar. It was Leadbelly’s theme song, and it was the theme song of my younger brother. Kenny taught himself to play organ and accordion and he had plenty of time to practice during his years with non-A, non-B hepatitis. Whenever we heard the strains of “Goodnight, Irene,” we knew it was the end of his playing for the day. Kenny lived fourteen years after his liver transplant. He would be celebrating his 59th birthday today.

George Edwards played steel guitar with Faron Young’s Country Deputies from late 1967 until early 1968. He flew to Nashville from Pennsylvania to take the job and didn’t have his car or family with him. “I was green as a gourd,” he told me. Faron made him play “Sweet Dreams” ten times one night on stage until he got it right. He eventually quit because there wasn’t enough work and he missed his family, so he went back to Pennsylvania—after declining Faron’s offer to let the Edwards family stay in the Young house. George celebrated his birthday last week on June 27. His daughter, Sherie Edwards, says, “Many of you who know him know of his health struggles over the past several years, and . . . he just doesn’t get out much anymore. I would really like to do something special to brighten his birthday. If you would like to help, please send a birthday card to Dad in care of 5612 Seesaw Road, Nashville TN 37211. A personal note with a funny story would just make his day! I am going to gather them all in a box to give to him.”

One Response to “Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 2 July 2014”

  1. Michael Green Says:

    Great newsletter, as always! I know that Jimmy C. Newman and Faron Young were old friends, and the story of the bull from Willie Nelson is a classic.

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