Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 20 October 2021


Legendary lap steel player Billy Robinson, 90, died October 15. According to Saving Country Music, he was the youngest ever Opry staff musician, when he was hired in 1949 at the age of 18. He backed Hank Williams on the Opry when Hank received multiple encores for “Lovesick Blues.” His session work included George Morgan’s “Candy Kisses,” Carl Smith’s “I Overlooked an Orchid,” and Red Foley’s “Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy.” The Nashville native was then drafted into the U.S. Army, where he played steel guitar for Special Services. After his discharge, he went to school and began a long career as a graphic designer and artist. When his friends Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons formed the Sho-Bud steel guitar company, Billy designed their logo. He was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1996.

Ronnie Tutt, longtime drummer in Elvis Presley‘s TCB Band, died October 16 at age 83. MusicRow reports he joined the “Taking Care of Business” band at the beginning of Elvis’s Las Vegas residency in 1969 and remained until Elvis’s death in 1977. He also toured with Neil Diamond and recorded with Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Stevie Nicks, Elvis Costello, Billy Joel, Glen Campbell, Jerry Garcia, Roy Orbison, The Carpenters, and many others.

“No Place Like Home” was a #2 Billboard hit for Randy Travis in 1987. Written by Paul Overstreet, it was the fourth and final single from Randy’s debut album, Storms of Life. An official music video was recorded back then but never released. Now it has been digitally enhanced and released in high definition, according to a press release. This is in conjunction with the release of the remastered version of the entire album, Storms of Life (35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition). Watch the “No Place Like Home” music video here.

The Country Daily reports Eric Church is living up to his Entertainer Of The Year title. When several members of his band contracted COVID-19 during his Gather Again tour, he posted a message on social media to say he would perform the upcoming shows in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as a special solo performance.

Bluegrass musician and businessman Phil Leadbetter, 59, died after contracting COVID-19, reports MusicRow. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, he began his bluegrass career at 14 with the founding of the Knoxville Newgrass Boys. The group performed at the White House during the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. Phil worked with Grandpa Jones in 1988, Vern Gosdin in 1989, and with J. D. Crowe and the New South. He was nominated for a Best Bluegrass Album Grammy in 1994 for his work with on the album Flashback. In 2011, he received his first of five Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnoses.

The Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy, North Carolina, announces the death of Betty Lynn, 95, on October 16, following a brief illness. She was best known as Thelma Lou, Barney Fife’s sweetheart on The Andy Griffith Show. Born Elizabeth Ann Theresa Lynn in Kansas City in 1926, she began performing for USO Camp Shows in the United States in 1944. She toured with the USO’s overseas Foxhole Circuit in 1945, moving from Casablanca to Iran to the China-Burma-India Theater. She is thought to be the only American woman to travel the dangerous Burma Road during World War II. She was recognized with a special commendation from the U.S. War Department and was named Honorary Colonel in the American Legion. She appeared in 26 Griffith episodes between 1961 and 1966. After attending the annual Mayberry Days festival in Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina, Betty moved there from Los Angeles in 2007.

MusicRow reports that the Country Radio Broadcasters held their 2021 Country Radio Hall of Fame dinner and awards ceremony in Nashville on October 13. Four off-air radio broadcasters and four on-air radio personalities were inducted as the 2021 Country Radio Hall of Fame Class. Garth Brooks presented Keith Urban with the 2021 CRB Artist Career Achievement Award. Garth sang Keith’s 2004 hit “You’ll Think of Me.” Trisha Yearwood joined Garth and Keith for a special performance of “Fishin’ in the Dark.”

Later that same evening, during the 2021 CMT Artists of the Year event, Garth Brooks presented Randy Travis with CMT’s 2021 Artist of a Lifetime award. Taste of Country reports Garth as saying, “I stand here tonight as one of the benefactors of this man’s contributions to country music. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Randy Travis singlehandedly saved country music. I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for Randy Travis. I don’t think any of us would be.” He added, “This is totally my opinion, and it doesn’t have to be yours, but I think every artist in country music over the next 100 years should bow to this man and thank him for his contributions.”

In preparation for the Artist Of A Lifetime presentation, Country Music Television (CMT) asked Jon Pardi to film a tribute to Randy Travis at the Nashville Palace. Music Mayhem magazine reports Jon paid homage to Randy in a nearly 10-minute clip while the club was closed. After singing “On the Other Hand,” the California native said, “When I was really young, my mom and dad worked, and I stayed a lot at my grandmother’s house, and she loved Randy Travis, and she loved Merle Haggard. She loved George Strait. . .. I thought I was those guys. I mean, I was going to pre-school obviously, just kind of soaking up the world, you know? I would tell my teacher I was Randy Travis a lot and I would also say I was Merle Haggard or George Strait.” He then sang “Forever and Ever, Amen.” When he finished the song, Outsider reports, Randy Travis burst through the doors. John hadn’t known Randy and Mary were on their way to meet him. He then started singing “He Walked on Water” but choked up and couldn’t finish the song.

For nearly 20 years, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill owned a 20-acre island called L’île d’Anges. Country Music Nation reports they recently sold their tropical paradise for $35 million. It had been a place of refuge and enjoyment for them and their three daughters. They spent nine years working with their architect to craft the getaway home. Taste of Country reports they also have their historic Southern manor in Franklin, Tennessee, on the market. They are asking $9,995,000 for the Samuel S. Morton house and 135 surrounding rural acres. Built in 1850, the log house has been completely modernized on the interior. Containing 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, and 3,300 square feet, it features hardwood floors, multiple fireplaces, two sweeping staircases and a fully updated kitchen. They initially owned 750 acres in the affluent Nashville suburb of Leiper’s Fork. They’ve already sold off most of the acres and several historic structures. They sold two mansions in 2009, one in Beverly Hills for $9.5 million and another in Nashville. Their primary residence is a 5-bedroom, 10-bathroom, 22,460-square-foot home in Nashville.

CDX Nashville, whose core business is music distribution to radio and influencers on behalf of all labels, has established a new boutique imprint called CDX Records. The flagship artist is Paulette Carlson, best known for her legendary band Highway 101. “Branded Soul” is her first release. She wrote the song, which she likes to call “Montana Americana” because she says it “will bring out the free spirit in all of us.” She refers to Montana as “a beautiful bastion of outlaw country, remnants of a culture idolized and sorely missed by America’s free spirits.” Paulette grew up in a farming family in Minnesota. According to a press release, her parents realized when she was five “that she was going to be something in the entertainment world.”

For the first time since 2003, reports Sounds Like Nashville, the CMA Awards will be hosted by one person alone. Luke Bryan has been revealed as the host of the 55th annual CMA Awards show on November 10, which will air live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena at 7:00 Central on ABC. The two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year is in his fifth year as a judge on American Idol. Reba McEntire emceed last year’s pandemic show with Darius Rucker. The previous year she shared the stage with Dolly Parton and Carrie Underwood. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood hosted the show for eleven consecutive years, 2008-2018.

Travis Tritt has canceled four concerts because the venues require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or negative tests. The shows were in Muncie, Indiana, Philadelphia, Mississippi, Peoria, Illinois, and Louisville Kentucky. “I’m putting my money where my mouth is and announcing that any venue or promoter mandating masks, requiring vaccinations, or pushing COVID testing protocols on my fans will not be tolerated,” he says in a statement on his website. “Many people are taking a firm stand against these mandates around the country, and I wholeheartedly support that cause. I have been extremely vocal against mandates since the beginning. This is a sacrifice I’m willing to make to stand up for the freedoms that generations of Americans have enjoyed for their entire lifetimes.” He adds that he will support the “promoters and venues around the country that appreciate fans and the freedom of choice in this great country.”

Randy Travis began posting on TikTok a year ago, to promote the release of “Fools Love Affair.” Since then, according to Music Mayhem magazine, he’s been showing his support for aspiring musicians and artists. One is Alexandra Kay, who caught his attention when she shared a coffee cover video of “Deeper Than the Holler.” Randy duetted with her in a re-posted clip and then invited her to his house to do a cover of “Forever And Ever, Amen.” He later invited her to join him for a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

For his first full concert in Nashville in four years, Alan Jackson headlined a show at the Bridgestone Arena on October 9. His daughter Ali joined him to sing “You’ll Always Be My Baby (Written for Daughters Weddings),” which is on his new album, Where Have You Gone. He was declared a “billionaire” and presented with a plaque commemorating more than 5 billion steams on Pandora. It was his first concert since revealing his Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease diagnosis. The Tennessean reports him as saying some of his heroes “never retire, and they just play as much as they can and want to, and I would like to do that if my health will let me do that.”

The third-highest grossing event ever held at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama, occurred October 12 with the All-Star Salute tribute concert where Lee Greenwood celebrated his 40-year career. MusicRow lists some of the performers as Jamey Johnson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gayle, The Gatlin Brothers, Janie Fricke, Debby Boone, and Sam Moore. The Center’s Director of Marketing stated, “We will continue seeing benefits from hosting this event in Huntsville because there are still three one-hour television specials from the Lee Greenwood tribute concert that will be aired nationally in 2022.”

Clint Black, 59, and wife Lisa Hartman Black, 65, are launching their first-ever tour, “Mostly Hits & the Mrs.” They announced the tour in June and have now added their daughter, Lily Pearl Black, age 20. In a recent PEOPLE magazine interview, Clint and Lisa explained how her inclusion came about. Lily decided to take a gap year during her music studies at Nashville’s Belmont University. At the family dining table in their Nashville mansion, Clint asked, “Well, if you’re not going to be in school, do you want to go on tour with us?” Lily is their only child, born in their tenth year of marriage. Both parents put their careers on hold for the three years after her birth. Their 24-date tour opens November 18 in Wichita Falls, Texas, and closes February 14 in New Orleans.

The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) will honor the late Charley Pride with the RIAA Lifetime Achievement Award. Garth Brooks will present the award to Dion Pride, Charley’s son, on October 25, MusicRow reports. “Sometimes the greatest honor you can receive is being part of honoring someone else–this is an honor,” Garth says. As part of the celebration, Vanderbilt University faculty member Alice Randall will interview Garth to discuss Charley’s influence on him and on country music. Garth and Dion will sing, “Where the Cross Don’t Burn,” written by Troy Jones and Phil Thomas, and held by Garth for ten years in hopes of a duet with Charley. It chronicles the friendship between a young white boy and an older black man during segregation. Garth traveled to Charley’s studio in Dallas to record their duet last September. “Where the Cross Don’t Burn” appeared on Garth’s Fun album in November. Charley died the following month.

Strait from Moody Center is the title of the event to celebrate the grand opening of the University of Texas’ new 15,000-seat arena, Moody Center in Austin, Texas. George Strait will headline the show on April 29, 2022, with guest performances by fellow Texans Willie Nelson (& Family) and the Randy Rogers Band. The day is also Willie’s 89th birthday. This will be only the second time George and Willie have shared a stage. The first was in January 2019, when they duetted at the all-star Willie: Life & Songs Of An American Outlaw show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Two months later, they recorded “Sing One With Willie,” the closing track of George’s Honky Tonk Time Machine album.

Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Joe Palmaccio died October 19 while recovering from a motorcycle accident on October 16. MusicRow reports the rural South Carolina native began his formal music training at age eight. He learned trumpet and then drums and recorded his first demo as a teenager. After earning a Telecommunications degree at Indiana University, he became a mastering engineer for Bonneville Broadcasting, PolyGram Records, Sterling Sound and Sony Music Studios. He won four Grammy awards for Best Historical Album: The Complete Hank Williams (1998), Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey (2003), Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970 (2004), and Bill Withers: The Complete Sussex and Columbia Albums (2014). He was an audio hardware design consultant, musician, public speaker, and musical instrument craftsman. He was also an adjunct instructor at Belmont University in Nashville. In April 2019, he joined Sony Music Nashville and assisted with managing recording costs and trafficking and archiving Sony Music Nashville’s audio and video masters.


Don Ewert writes, “I was just thinking about Dottie West, her birthday was this month, Oct. 11th. I’m wondering about the book being written about her. And by the way, I for one want to see Maddox Brothers & Rose in Country Hall of Fame! I have a few great CDs by Rose Maddox.”

Marie Nik wonders, “Why have you not mentioned the CD Here’s to You? Thank you keep writing.”

Diane: Here’s to You was Faron Young’s last album of new music, issued in 1988 by Step One Records. I have the cassette tape and the LP. “Here’s To You” and “Stop and Take the Time” were his last two Billboard-charting singles. “Twin Fiddles Turn Me On” received some airplay but didn’t chart.

Jean Earle writes from England, “Don’t believe all that is said about old Faron !!!!! We know he sometimes had too much to drink. He told us  that sometimes he felt the Family just needed him for his MONEY and he felt left out of things that happened in day-by-day events in the Young family. Understandable, as he was often away on tour…We knew he LOVED Hilda  and it is just SO SAD the way things worked out. He LOVED his daughter and sons and was proud of them. His fans LOVED his voice and his personality. WE LOVED him because he was THE FARON YOUNG. Don’t let the moaners SPOIL his memory, please.”

Dominique Anglares writes from France, “Thank you for that welcome newsletter and for the chapters dedicated to Bob Moore and Sue Thompson. Great to enjoy words from your readers about The Maddox Brothers and Rose. A nice way to remember them.”

David Markham in England says, “I’m sorry to hear the death of a fantastic Nashville Musician. He backed the great harmonica player Charlie McCoy who I knew very well. Sad about the most missed Jimmy Capps, he was always sitting next to the artist. I miss Marty, and Faron and Jim Reeves, Vern Gosdin the VOICE.”

Terry Beene reports, “The Branson Terry Music Awards were held September 26. It was a big success–the biggest crowd ever, just under 1000 music lovers. Hosted by Chuck Hancock & Barbara Fairchild. It will be aired on the ALG Gospel Network.”

Diane: I hope to be there next year.

Jenny Jones in Texas says, “Although we have lost a lot of great Artists, I am thankful for all the News we get, each letter. You do a great job keeping us up to date. I look forward to see all the news. I think back to the days Faron and BILLY WALKER were such good friends. This won’t be long, but want you to know how much I am thankful for all the news.”

Bobby Fischer says, “I look forward to your up-to-date happenings. So many things happen to our country music pals we wouldn’t know about without the inside scoop.”

Frank Gerard reports, “So nice to see the Faron audiobook doing so well. We have had new orders every week since it came out in late August, and sales of the audiobook for Live Fast Love Hard are a little better than the average right out of the gate. Hooray!”

Terry Munson in Sioux Falls says, “Always enjoy your newsletter. Very informative and enjoyable.”

Alan Delbalso wonders, “This may be a touchy subject, but do you know why Marty Robbins didn’t like Jim Reeves?”

Diane: I don’t recall ever hearing that Marty didn’t like Jim. Leo Jackson, lead guitarist for Jim’s Blue Boys, called them “friendly rivals.” Leo told me about a time they were playing a large football stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. Marty’s bus pulled up beside Jim’s bus, and Marty hollered at Jim, “I hope you know I’m the star of this show. I get to close it today.” Leo stated, “Of course, he didn’t; Jim closed the show. Marty was a big star, but Jim back then was considered bigger than Marty.” It sounds to me like basic Marty Robbins humor.


I enjoyed listening to John Prine sing “Yes, I Guess, They Oughta Name A Drink After You,” a lighthearted take on the stereotype of a brokenhearted guy sitting on a barstool: “You’ve left my heart a vacant lot” and “Someone just said that you left town; I’d better get a double round.” John wrote and recorded it–with fiddle and guitar–for his 1972 album, Diamonds In The Rough.” I suppose the reason I never heard of John Prine in all those decades is because he didn’t get played on country radio. Tyler Childers adds piano for his cover on the recent compilation, Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2. I prefer the Prine version, although a live Childers performance on YouTube comes close to the original.

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