Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 20 July 2016

“One of the greatest things that ever happened to me” was time in the Marine Corps, Freddie Hart told me when I called him several weeks ago. He was 14 when his parents signed the papers for him to enlist in 1942. He’d already spent a year in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Times were tough for an Alabama sharecropper family with ten boys and five girls. Freddie’s formal education ended with the second grade in Phenix City, Alabama. As a member of the Third Marine Division during World War II, he participated in the battles for Guam and Iwo Jima. Except for combat, “I wish everybody could do one year and then go home,” he told me. “That was a wonderful thing.”

The other wonderful thing in Freddie’s life back then was music. “All my life I wanted to be in country music,” he said. “I dreamed of being on the Opry.” He told me about standing out in the field as a child, imitating Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb, and pretending he was on the Opry stage. After the war, he was living and singing in Phoenix, Arizona, when Lefty Frizzell came to town. Lefty invited Freddie to go on the road with him, and encouraged him to move to California, which Freddie did in 1952. Lefty got him a recording contract with Capitol Records the following year. Freddie has lived in Burbank ever since, and he spent three years in Lefty’s band, often fronting the show.

“I love country music,” he told me, “and my dream came true in 1971. With ‘Easy Lovin’. I’d recorded a lot before then.” But that was the big one. He still writes songs, and one of his greatest honors was becoming a member of the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. “People have been so good to me,” he commented. “Their hearts are so open.”

He’s been doing a lot of gospel music, and he’s thinking of recording another country album. He recently put out a video of a gospel song called “This Old Church.” He still tours occasionally, doing special shows. He just finished a series of shows in Missouri, and he does a lot of radio interviews and television appearances. He no longer has a bus or a band. The Heartbeats were with him for twelve years, and the musicians, mostly from New England, “have kind of scattered.”

Freddie loves to paint. “It’s just something I like to do,” he says. One of his paintings, “Daydreams of Tomorrow,” is displayed at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Most of his paintings are memories of childhood.

Another of Freddie’s skills is in the area of martial arts. When I asked about the years he spent teaching the Los Angeles Police Department, he said, “I taught mostly judo. It’s just something I love to do. I’ve never had to use it.” Now he does it for exercise: “Just trying to stay in shape. I walk a couple miles every day.” He was born in 1926 and will be ninety years old in December. “I feel great, really,” he says. He’s blessed with good health and has “never been sick much.”

“God has been so good to me,” Freddie states. When I asked what message he had for my readers, he said, “Tell everybody I love them. I’d like to put my arms around all of them. And I have long arms, too, by the way.”

Scotty Moore (1931-2016)
Scotty Moore, the guitarist who helped make Elvis Presley a star, died June 28 at his home in Nashville. He was 84 and had been in poor health for several months. Born in 1931 on a farm near Gadsden, Tennessee, Winfield Scott Moore III began playing guitar at the age of eight. In 1948, at age 16, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served in Korea and China. He moved to Memphis after his discharge in 1952. In 1954, the Commercial Appeal explains, Sam Phillips of Sun Records paired him with Elvis Presley and Bill Black. Their recording session, meant to be an audition, brought them to fame. Scotty was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, in the sideman category that honored “those musicians who have spent their careers out of the spotlight, performing as backup musicians for major artists on recording sessions and in concert.”

Bonnie Brown Ring (1938-2016)
A second sibling of the Country Music Hall of Fame trio “The Browns” has died. Bonnie Brown, 77, died July 16 at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, due to complications from lung cancer. Jim Ed Brown died from lung cancer last June, three months before Bonnie was diagnosed with the same disease. Their sister, Maxine Brown, survives them. The Browns grew up in a musical family in Arkansas, and they toured together as a trio for ten years. Jim Ed developed a successful solo career after his sisters returned to Arkansas to raise families. Bonnie’s husband of more than 56 years, Dr. Gene “Brownie” Ring, died in January.

An outdoor funeral service was held for Ralph Stanley a week after he died on June 23 at age 89. Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, and Patty Loveless sang during the service in the tiny Smith Ridge, Virginia, graveyard. This was where Ralph held an annual Hills of Home bluegrass festival for the past 47 years. He always concluded the festival by singing “The Hills of Home” and reciting a tribute to his older brother Carter, who had been lead vocalist and chief songwriter for the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys until his death in 1966. Edward Morris of CMT.com reports how the brothers were finally reunited: “The services ended with a recorded version of Stanley performing his ‘Hills of Home’ valedictory, after which his casket was borne up the mountain to be laid in a tomb beside Carter’s.”

After historic flooding overtook West Virginia and killed 23 people last month, Brad Paisley launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $1 million for disaster relief in his home state. He personally donated $100,000. He also participated with the Save the Children relief organization to tour the area, including the flood-ravaged Herbert Hoover High School in Clendenin, West Virginia.

WSMV in Nashville reported that Ronnie Milsap, 73, was taken by ambulance to a hospital before a concert Friday night in Georgia, due to a medical emergency concerning “nausea due to medication and dehydration.” WALB in South Georgia later reported he had been released from the hospital and would play a makeup show if feeling well enough to perform.

Jerry Greer, the 19-year-old son of Craig Morgan and wife Karen Greer, died after a boating accident on Kentucky Lake in Humphreys County, Tennessee, on July 10. The Tennessean reported he and a friend had been tubing when they fell into the water. Although reportedly wearing a life jacket, he never resurfaced. An extensive search involving multiple law enforcement agencies and more than 20 boats began late Sunday afternoon and continued until his body was recovered Monday evening. Jerry graduated this spring from Dickson County High School and was planning to play football for Marshall University. Craig Morgan called off his tour dates for the rest of July, canceling shows in South Dakota, Minnesota, Utah, Oregon, California, Nevada, Florida and Alabama.

A benefit concert, Stars Behind the Stars, will be held July 27 at Billy Bob’s Texas to help the families of the slain Dallas police officers. T.G. Sheppard is the host, and more than fourteen artists are expected to participate, all backed by the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Band. Singers include Tanya Tucker, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Bellamy Brothers, Janie Fricke, T. Graham Brown, Johnny Lee, Gene Watson, John Conlee, Ronnie McDowell, Mickey Gilley and Moe Bandy. Soundslikenashville.com reports that Randy Travis is scheduled to make an appearance. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the Dallas Police Association’s Assist the Officer Foundation, which provides immediate financial assistance to families in the event of an active officer’s death.

In mid-May, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) honored Trace Adkins with the 2016 Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for “long-standing and extraordinary support and advocacy for America’s servicemen and women.” The award has been given each year since 1979 to an individual who “best reflects President Eisenhower’s beliefs and support for a strong national security and industrial base.” It recognizes “leadership and strategic impact at the highest levels of National Security” and is the NDIA’s most prestigious award. Theboot.com reports that Trace traveled to Kuwait on a USO tour shortly after receiving the medal.

A report from Saving Country Music about Trace Adkins is not quite so good. Last week in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, at a benefit fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Rockin’ Country Thunder 106 sponsored an acoustic set called “Guys with Guitars Under the Stars.” Trace was too drunk to sing; he finished his set early and stumbled off the stage. Numerous attendees complained about his performance, especially with so many children in the crowd of 5,000 people. However, Trace’s fans are also understanding of his long struggle with alcoholism, and they are hoping he will try rehab again. He returned his performance fee to the charity.

Theboot.com reports the Mavericks have launched their own record label, Mono Mundo Recordings, after completing a two-album contract with Big Machine Label Group. Raul Malo, Paul Deakin, Jerry Dale McFadden, and Eddie Perez have three albums planned through the end of 2017. Their first project, All Night Live, Volume 1, is scheduled for release this October.

The “Spread the Love Tour” spread more than love when Kenny Chesney performed at a football field in North Shore, Pennsylvania, the last Saturday in June. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “The tailgate party started at 1 p.m. when the parking lots opened and quickly filled with folding tables to spread the snacks and hold the beer pong games.” When the concert ended at 10:30 p.m., the newspaper said, “cars began to clear from the parking lots, and a reeking, hulking mass of garbage left over from the day’s earlier festivities began to appear behind the exodus of country music fans. Pickup trucks crunched glass bottles underneath tires; fluid from portable toilets overflowed into the street; people covered their noses with their shirts to escape the stench. Several fights were also reported.” Pittsburgh public safety officials said 25 people were taken to hospitals, mainly for alcohol-related issues. Five people inside the stadium were arrested for “trespassing, ticket robbery, simple assault and public intoxication.”

Two weeks ago Facebook lit up with vitriol over a report that Dolly Parton had endorsed Hillary Clinton. In addition to badmouthing Dolly for such an action, many former fans said they were destroying her records and would never go to Dollywood. She responded with the following statement in a press release: “My comment about supporting a woman in the White House was taken out of context. I have not endorsed Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump. I try not to get political but if I am, I might as well just run myself ’cause I’ve got the hair for it, it’s huge, and they could always use more boobs in the race. But seriously, I have not decided who I’m voting for, but no matter what, we’re gonna be suffering from PMS, Presidential Mood Swings.”

An estate sale was held in Hermitage, Tennessee, last Saturday at the home of Buddy Emmons, legendary pedal steel guitar player. The contents of his home were sold, including two Wurlitzer pianos, his remaining music equipment, tools, furniture, and household and garage items.

The Number One spot on the annual FORBES Celebrity 100 list — the 100 highest-paid celebrity entertainers, authors, athletes and models in the world — goes to Taylor Swift, who earned $170 million last year. Most of that came from her “1989 World Tour,” Forbes reports: “Selling out stadiums to the tune of some $5 million per night in ticket sales, the pop superstar smashed the Rolling Stones’ North American touring record, grossing $200 million on the continent en route to a total of a quarter of a billion dollars for the tour. The singer also shills for brands including Diet Coke, Keds and Apple.”

The highest paid artist in country music on the Forbes annual Celebrity 100 list is Garth Brooks at number 15 with $70 million. Kenny Chesney is the next highest-paid country singer; his $56 million earned him the number 26 spot. There were only 15 women on the list of 100.

Time Life has released a new version of the 142 radio shows Hank Williams did for Mother’s Best Flour in 1951. Hank Williams, The Complete Mother’s Best…Plus! coincides with the release of the DVD from the recent Hank Williams movie, I Saw The Light. About the movie, Jett Williams told Saving Country Music, “I thought Tom Hiddleston did a superb job. He captured the physical resemblance, the mannerisms. But I would have liked to see a lot more focus on the music, and why did he write those songs? It focused a lot on his personal problems, which everybody has, but not everybody can write ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.’ I wanted to see more of what made him great.”

During last Saturday night’s Grand Ole Opry show, Bill Anderson celebrated his 55th anniversary as a member. He joined the Opry on July 15, 1961. Here’s a photo he posted on Facebook:

Bill Anderson 55

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “Thanks for that nice newsletter and to keep us informed about country music performers. The never ending list of passing hurts but that’s life. No other way than to celebrate births and to mourn losts. About Moragh’s question being not a specialist in matrimonial or gossip, I may add Dolly Parton whose marriage with Carl Dean reach 50 years and, most of all, Jimmy Lee and Nancy Fautheree wedding that lasted 52 years. Cancer took away Jimmy Lee on June 29, 2004. Nice to remember him and his brother Lynn. Before leaving, I just want to correct a little typo on Wayne Jackson’s part. That’s Stax label.”
death dates for Ralph Stanley.”

June Thompson says, “Please look at birth and death dates for Ralph Stanley.”
Diane: Oops. It’s kind of hard to die in 1916 when you weren’t born until 1927.

A reader named John writes, “Your Margo Smith update reminded me of watching some country show on TV many years ago and Mel Tillis introduced Margo with something like this, and now ladies and gentleman, a lady that can hit notes only show dogs and Webb Pierce can hear,,,,, MARGO SMITH!!!”

Cowboy Joe Babcock in Nashville writes, “In regard to the longevity of marriages in the country music field, Carol and I have been married for 56 years, married March 5, 1960.  By the way did I tell you my western swing album, Trail Jazz, was voted the album of the year by the Academy Of Western Artists?”

Bob Bien in West Chicago suggests, “I don’t know if Pat Boone would be considered, but he has been married 63 years.”

Ronnie Van Buskirk says, “1961 Gene and Mattie Watson were married. Not sure if there is anyone older.”

June Bourke in New Zealand writes, “I thoroughly enjoy the newsy e mails you send; it’s great to hear about all these entertainers that we only know, just through buying their CDs. I was wondering if you have heard of a South African fellow named Alan Ladd (not the movie star). I have found him on the internet, but here in NZ, we do not seem to have any of his music. I am trying to find out where I could get his music from. Hoping you can help me out here, if possible. Also a guy named Johnny Farrell…..Thank you for giving us such enjoyment reading about these Icons. Please keep it going as long as you can.”

Alan Potter writes from the UK, “Always great to read yours & your members’ comments. I’ve been a country music radio dj since the late ‘60s & have been friends with a lot of artists. I am in contact with Little David Wilkins at the moment & he has a brilliant new album out called HERO. It’s a mix of his hits & some great new songs. His voice is as good if not better than it ever was.”

Mary Knapp in Mesa, Arizona, says, “Thanks for sharing Jennie Simpson’s song. Happy for her and I enjoyed her song. ALWAYS love reading your Newsletter.”

Ross writes from Tennessee, “Jennie’s song is absolutely TERRIFIC! Wish I could hear it more (on local radio, and so forth — including television channels). Since today’s ‘politically-correct’ generation is like it is, however, I suspect we (and others) won’t get the pleasure of hearing it on the radio. etc. I could be wrong… so keep your fingers, toes and eyes crossed.”

Tony Byworth says, “Many thanks for the latest newsletter – always an interesting read but particularly sad with several deaths recorded. Please note that I have changed my email address from tony.b12@virgin.net to tbcm12@gmail.com. Perhaps you might mention this in the next newsletter so other folks are aware of it. Many thanks, best wishes and keep up the good work.”

Ben Pellom writes, “I read your profile of Faron Young and found it to be very interesting, and surprising information. Did you interview Faron’s ex-wife to get the story? I read in a manuscript Clyde Beavers had written about an incident concerning himself and Faron Young. Clyde wrote that he and Faron were to go on first at an event, and Faron told him to feel free to sing as much as he wanted. After Faron was asked who caused the run-over on time, Faron told them it was that little SOB Clyde Beavers (Beavers was short like Faron). Clyde later got on an elevator that had Faron in it. Faron told Clyde, ‘You don’t like me, do you? Ever since you rode that mule to the Opry you didn’t play my songs.’ Clyde told him he did play his songs, and then told Faron that being lied about as causing the overrun and being referred to as that little SOB were the reasons for his coldness toward Faron. Clyde said Faron actually apologized to him.”

Jean Earle writes from Great Britain, “I have just found out about a new Country organisation and I wondered if it might be of interest to you. It is B.C.M.F.C., which is British Country Music Fan Club. Their address is www.bcmfc.uk. We are delighted to recently have a new channel on T.V. that is showing us some great Country music videos. Many were filmed back in the ‘50s,’60s…the time when ‘Country’  was really ‘Country Music’. Our favourite time! These can be seen on FREEVIEW 87…..but sadly NOT in all areas.”

Kate Davis of Bear Creek Productions in Medford, Oregon, says, “Loved the newsletter as always! Hope you can get out to the Sioux Empire Fair while Marty Davis is there–we’d love to meet you in person. I’ll betcha he’ll even be doing some Marty Robbins tunes…and a Faron Young or two. We have to leave immediately after the Sunday 8/14 show as we have to be in Billings, MT for a show at noon on Monday.”

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “I just learnt about KWKH emcee Norman W. Bale passing on July 7, 2016, in Plain Dealing, Louisiana. Norman Bale was born October 28, 1926, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He entered the US Navy in 1945 where he completed radio school being discharged in August 1946. After graduating a radio school in Minneapolis in September 1947, he was hired by KTFS radio in Texarkana, Arkansas, that started to broadcast the previous year. Next in October 1950, he was hired as program Director for the newly opened KALT radio in Atlanta, Georgia. In June 1953, Norman joined KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. From here to his retirement in 1990, his career was well documented.”

I reviewed Scotty Moore’s story in my December 17, 2014, newsletter, and I’ll do it again now in his memory. He was intended to be a replacement for a sister who had died, but his mother gave birth to a fourth son instead of a girl. Born in 1931, Scotty grew up near Memphis and followed his brothers into the U.S. Navy in 1948. That’s Alright, Elvis: The Untold Story of Elvis’s First Guitarist and Manager, Scotty Moore was researched and written in third person by James Dickerson, based on Scotty’s stories. When Scotty and Bill Black began recording in 1954 with Elvis Presley, who had a contract with Sam Phillips, they verbally agreed on a 50-25-25 split. When “Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys” became a sensation, Elvis got the star treatment and his partners were demoted to salaried sidemen. “No matter how successful Elvis became, no matter how many hit records they recorded with him, they were nothing more than employees,” the author writes. Scotty and Bill left Elvis in 1957 because they couldn’t support their families on what they were being paid. The last third of the book covers Scotty’s life from 1958-1996 and includes the belated recognition he received for creating the guitar sound that became a prototype for rock guitar.

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