Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 21 April 2021


When I called Dottsy at her home in Seguin, Texas, last week, she told me, “At age 68, I’m still singing and playing guitar and being able to be part of my community, and that’s really great.” Fans will remember her hits from the late 1970s, such as “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose” and “(After Sweet Memories) Play Born to Lose Again.” We met during the Heart of Texas Country Music Festival in Brady last month.

Dottsy and her husband, Robin Dwyer, are both fifth generation Seguinites. They started dating when they were fourteen, dated for fourteen years, and got married at age 28. She had a record deal with RCA and was on the road while he was in law school. They got married when he graduated from law school. They’ll celebrate their fortieth anniversary in June. “We’ve been together for a lifetime,” she says.

Their two sons, William and Spencer, are both married and living in Seguin. Dottsy gave them music lessons as children. “Not to push them,” she says, “but just to let them appreciate it.” Although they’re both musical, they do it for fun and not to make a living. William has two children, eight and five. “They call me Grammy,” Dottsy announces with pride. “That’s the only Grammy I’ll ever get.” She is teaching eight-year-old Kaylee to play the guitar, adding, “She’s been singing on stage with me since she was about two.” Whenever her grandkids come to visit, she says, “we play with all kinds of instruments here at Grammy’s house. Music is such a big part of my life. I want them to love it as much as I do.” There will be a third grandchild in November, when Spencer and his wife have a baby. “So there will be 61 people in the immediate family with the five girls,” Dottsy explains.

There were five girls in the Brodt family. “We range from 78 to 58,” Dottsy says. The oldest and youngest are still alive, and she is exactly in the middle. One older sister died unexpectedly last year of a massive heart attack the day after her 74th birthday. A younger sister had died while hospitalized with an illness. Dottsy sang at her parents’ funerals and at her sisters’ funerals.

After two albums in the 1970s, the RCA label dropped her, and she joined an independent label called Tanglewood. She worked on an album from 1981-3, and the day her album was supposed to be released, the whole label disappeared. “Off the face of the earth,” she recalls. “Nobody could tell me, still to this day, where all that music is or where these people went to.”

Shortly after that, she gave birth to a daughter, Corinne Diane, who only lived seven days. “I just kind of changed my priorities,” Dottsy says. “I was pretty depressed. I decided to dedicate the next couple of years to having children and staying home. I’d been on the road for 12-15 years.”

She and Robin were living in San Antonio where he was an attorney. They had an opportunity to live in his family’s home in Seguin; it had been in his family for five generations. They sold their house in San Antonio and used the money to renovate the old house, which is now 169 years old. They still have the phone number used by Robin’s great aunt, who had lived in the house for sixty years. “It brought me back to my family, my sisters, my mom and dad, all my nieces and nephews, and all those birthdays and things I missed for so many years,” she says about moving back home. “Then in the next four years, I had two boys. Our kids got to grow up with our parents, and we were here when they passed away. I’m very blessed.”

Dottsy started a group called San Antone Roses, with two of her former band members, and they did convention work in San Antonio. They took a demo to Nashville and visited several record labels. A woman at CBS/Sony told them she liked their sound but, she said, “girl trios are out.” Dottsy recalls, “She looked at us like we were too old. I was 40 and the other girls were 38 and 35. She signed the Dixie Chicks about three months later.” When the San Antone Roses eventually broke up, Dottsy started working the country Opry circuit around the state. That’s where she got acquainted with Tracy Pitcox, who introduced her one night as “the newest artist on the Heart of Texas label.” After that, she recorded two CDs, Meet Me in Texas in 2010 and Texas Sensation in 2016.

Morrello Records in England purchased Dottsy’s catalog from RCA and, in 2018, issued a compilation of all 26 songs she had recorded for RCA. That CD, The Sweetest Thing + Tryin’ To Satisfy You, contains six non-LP sides in addition to the two albums.

When Robin moved his practice from San Antonio to Seguin almost forty years ago, they bought a building downtown and renovated it. “We are fully invested in Seguin,” Dottsy says. “We’ve been members of the conservation society since we moved here. In fact, I’m the president, again, of the Seguin Conservation Society. We love historic buildings.” Their home is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Society owns a historic museum, a log cabin, and a wood-frame church, which were all built in 1849, as well as the historic Texas Theater, built in 1931. The conservation society raised $2.5M and renovated the theater within the past ten years. “It’s a constant upkeep of trying to keep places where you can teach kids the history of your town,” Dottsy says. “It’s run by volunteers.” Seguin, which was established in 1838, has doubled in size in recent years, up to its current population of about 30,000. There are 10,000 rooftops being built in the next two years to keep up with the growth in industry. “We have a beautiful river that goes through our town–the Guadalupe River,” she adds. “It runs from the hill country all the way to the coast.” In Seguin, it is dammed up into four different lakes.

“Come to Seguin and I’ll give you a tour,” Dottsy told me. I’d love to accept that invitation someday.


“I’ve lost my beloved Uncle Bill Owens,” Dolly Parton, 75, tweeted after the death of Billy Earl Owens, 85, on April 7. “I’ll start this eulogy by saying I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been there. He was there… there in my young years to encourage me to keep playing my guitar, to keep writing my songs, to keep practicing my singing. . . We wrote several songs together, the biggest one being ‘Put It Off Until Tomorrow.’ We won our first big award on that one back in 1966. It was the BMI Song of the Year. . . Uncle Bill worked at Dollywood from the time we opened in the family show for many years. . . I bet a lot of our own relatives don’t even know all of the great things that Uncle Bill did behind the scenes through his life. But the greatest thing he ever did for me was to help me see my dreams come true and for that I will be forever grateful.”

Rockabilly Hall of Fame member Dennis Payne died April 8 of complications following back surgery. Born in the 1940s in Bakersfield, California, he was the son of former Light Crust Doughboy Charles Payne and nephew of Leon Payne. He grew up as part of the Bakersfield music crowd, performed with Red Simpson, and signed with Capitol Records as an artist and Buck’s Blue Book Music as a songwriter. He later moved to Nashville where he played guitar for Little Jimmy Dickens and Cal Smith. Guitarist, songwriter, and Nashville recording engineer, he wrote the song “Highway Patrol.”

“Luck Summit: Planting the Seed” is the title of a three-day virtual cannabis convention sponsored by Willie Nelson and his Luck Reunion festival company, Luck Presents. It will run from April 26 until Willie’s 88th birthday on April 29. According to the Tennessean, Willie has his own recreational brand, Willie’s Reserve, and a wellness brand, Willie’s Remedy, which contains hemp cannabidiol (CBD) but not THC, the intoxicant compound in marijuana. A news release says the virtual event aims “to destigmatize, educate and promote cannabis culture in an informative and entertaining way.” It will look at the history and science aspects of the cannabis plant and will include panel discussions and keynote speakers alongside “musical collaborations, comedy sketches, cooking demonstrations, health-focused activities and more.” Singer/songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff will be the host. Willie states, “I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?” Registration for the summit requires a donation to the HeadCount Cannabis Voter Project, an organization that registers voters who are interested in cannabis policy.

House Bill 0938/SB 1416 in the Tennessee state legislature passed the House by a vote of 91-1. The bill states, “Adopts ‘Amazing Grace’ by John Newton, and as sung by Dolly Parton, as an official state song.” The Tennessee Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill after it was amended to remove the phrase, “as sung by Dolly Parton.” The 1779 hymn will be the 11th state song; others include “Tennessee Waltz,” “Rocky Top,” and “Smoky Mountain Rain.”

I’m not sure why it’s just now being reported that Ricky Skaggs received his high school diploma nearly 50 years after leaving school. WYMT-TV in Nashville describes the virtual high school graduation ceremony for the Lawrence County High School 2020 graduating class last June in Louisa, Kentucky. Ricky was participating in the ceremony, as was former classmate Larry Cordle, when the superintendent gave him an honorary high school diploma for his work in music. He would have graduated in 1971, but he dropped out to tour with Ralph Stanley. “It was an amazing surprise and answered prayer of my mom,” Ricky says. “She wanted me to graduate before I went full time with Ralph Stanley on the road. I was about as proud of that as anything I’ve been given.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is offering two new online exhibits that are free to the public. MusicRow reports these multimedia exhibits are the first ones designed exclusively for the museum’s website and are curated specifically for an online audience. “Suiting the Sound: The Rodeo Tailors Who Made Country Stars Shine Brighter” explores the artistry of Western-wear designers who helped create the “rhinestone cowboy” image for country music. The exhibit examines the emergence of this unique look in the 1940s and 1950s. Artifacts include a three-piece cowgirl costume designed by Nathan Turk for Rose Maddox; Hank Thompson’s boots, featuring a scene commemorating his 1948 hit “Humpty Dumpty Heart,” created by Nudie Cohn’s master embroiderer Viola Grae; a Manuel jacket designed for Roseanne Cash, and much more. “Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City” explores Bob Dylan’s Nashville recordings in the 1960s, his impact on the local music industry, the role of Johnny Cash’s groundbreaking TV show, and the importance of the “Nashville Cats,” a group of ace session musicians that included Lloyd Green, Charlie McCoy, Jerry Reed, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, and others.

The leader of bluegrass band Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver has announced his retirement at the end of next year. Doyle Lawson started on banjo with Jimmy Martin in 1963, played guitar and mandolin with J.D. Crowe & The Kentucky Mountain Boys, and spent eight years with Charlie Waller and The Country Gentlemen before forming Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in 1979. Bluegrass Today calls him “clearly the reigning senior statesman in our music.” Doyle says, “2022 will be coming up on 60 years in music, and I feel like this is the time to step away from my position as a bandleader. I think it’s been 43 years for me in this role. In a few days I’ll be 77 years old, and while my voice has held up well and my hands feel good, I want to leave while I can still feel proud of my performance on stage.” The band will soon be making its 42nd recording and will be touring throughout 2021-2. The 41st annual Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Bluegrass Festival takes place in Denton, North Carolina, over Mother’s Day weekend.

When the Houston Aphasia Recovery Center recently held a “Let’s Talk” luncheon as a fundraiser, Mary and Randy Travis appeared virtually as special guests. Mary explained how Randy’s 2013 stroke occurred while he was in a three-day coma with cardiomyopathy. She says most Americans have never heard of aphasia, even though it’s more common than Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy: “There’s 800,000 strokes a year, and up to a third to 40 percent of those people are left with the aphasia.” She adds, “No two strokes are alike, and no two forms of aphasia are alike. It’s a road trip you take with no road map and no signs. . .. It will be eight years in July. And there’s still every day a new word, or two words put together. Those are the exciting things.” Their frequent appearances at shows and other events serve as a form of therapy. “Environment and stimulation,” Mary explains, “as far as just going out and living your life, that’s when things start coming back to you. That’s when words start showing up. Because the best therapy is living. The best therapy is getting out there and doing what you used to enjoy.”

A new full-length feature film documentary, Chasing Whiskey — The Untold Story of Jack Daniel’s, explores why people worldwide identify with the distinctly American brand of Jack Daniels Whiskey. Shooter Jennings performs original music and appears in the film alongside Eric Church, John Grisham, Tim Matheson, Tina Sinatra, and many more. The journey covers 57,000 miles across five countries and 16 time zones. Filmmaker and director Greg Olliver tells MusicRow, “No matter where we went, from Tennessee to Japan to Cuba to the outback of Australia — and even Scotland — we always found someone who had a compelling, personal story to tell about Jack. With unprecedented access that was given to us by Jack Daniel’s, we uncovered surprising stories that began even before Jack started making his own whiskey. We’re proud to present this insightful, whiskey-infused adventure that tells the story of Jack that’s been more than a hundred-and-fifty years in the making.”

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams received so many online orders for its Strawberry Pretzel Pie ice cream that the website crashed, reports CMT.com. Fifty times the normal traffic occurred following the announcement that the ice cream flavor honoring Dolly Parton was available, with proceeds benefiting her Imagination Library. Jeni’s tweeted, “The flavor is NOT sold out. Our website issues have lasted longer than expected, but we are working on it and will let you know via email and social media when we’re back up and running.” TMZ reports that pints are available on eBay for as much as $1,000.

The last recording Conway Twitty made, according to MusicRow, was a duet with Sam Moore on “Rainy Night in Georgia.” The record went platinum and earned two CMA award nominations. Now, on April 20, Nashville Music Equality will host a special virtual “Night With A Legend,” a conversation with Sam Moore. There will be a discussion of his career and his story navigating the music industry. He is best known as part of soul duo Sam & Dave, who sold more than 10 million records worldwide. The duo served as the inspiration for The Blues Brothers parody by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Moore, 85, continues to tour as a solo artist and is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Carrie Underwood, 38, raised more than $112,000 during her virtual concert, My Savior: Live From The Ryman, on Easter Sunday. The money went to the nonprofit organization Save the Children. PEOPLE reports the livestream concert featured duet appearances with CeCe Winans and Bear Rinehart.

Always Like New is the title of the new Jennifer Nettles album, available June 25 via Concord Records. MusicRow reports she is “expanding her musical versatility with a new album that defies genres and includes a collection of American Songbook classics. . .. Nettles has reimagined, arranged, and produced beloved songs from the stage while also infusing her signature sound.” The lead single is “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from Guys and Dolls. Other songs include “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” from Oklahoma and “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady.

The Store in Nashville, a free food pantry modeled as a grocery store, has delivered nearly 1.3 million meals since it opened in March a year ago, reports Wide Open Country. Brad Paisley and his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, partnered with Belmont University to open and run The Store at 2005 12th Avenue South.

Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium now has a new permanent outdoor stage on its PNC Plaza. The 10×19-foot stage can accommodate a five-person band. It is part of a multi-year agreement with PNC Bank, which includes stage naming rights and makes PNC the official banking sponsor of the Ryman, MusicRow reports. The outdoor stage addition leaves the original 1892 auditorium untouched. The Fisk Jubilee Singers delivered the inaugural performance on the outdoor stage. They had been one of the first musical groups to perform inside the Ryman Auditorium. They returned generations late to commemorate Fisk University’s 150th Anniversary in 2016.

The newest resident of Franklin, Tennessee, is John McEuen, 75, co-founder and longtime member (until 2018) of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He has lived in Los Angeles, Colorado, Utah, Florida, New York City, but never Tennessee. John says in a press release, “The final quarter is usually the best part of the game… I came here to play it out! Been coming to Nashville for 50 years with the NGDB, and now in Nashville I don’t have to go to a hotel. I even have late check-out.” He is working with John Carter Cash on projects at the Cash Cabin studio.

Outsider recently published a summary of the eight children of Kris Kristofferson, 84, who announced his retirement in January. He and his first wife, Frances Mavia Beer, had two children. Daughter Tracy, born in 1962, graduated from Stanford and is an actor and producer. Kris Kristofferson Jr., born in 1968, leads a private life. Kris Sr. and his second wife, Rita Coolidge, took their baby daughter, Casey, on tour with them shortly after she was born in 1974. She is a musician and the leader of the Casey Kristofferson Band. Kris married Lisa Meyers in 1983; they currently live in Malibu, California, and on the island of Maui. They have five children together. Jesse was born in 1983; he is an actor. Jody, born in 1985, was a professional wrestler known as Garrett Dylan; he is now retired. Johnny, born in 1988, is an attorney. Kelly Marie, born in 1990, is an actor, singer, and writer. Blake, born in 1994, graduated from Pepperdine University and leads a private life.


Eileen Sisk writes from Texas about her Buck Owens biography, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond. Jim Shaw’s response is to be expected, as he is still employed by the Owenses. I have no ill will or hard feelings against Jim or even Buck for that matter. When I met and talked with Buck Owens, I found him to be warm and personable. I would have welcomed any positive input about him and did include what I had. As I pointed out in my book, I did reach out to many people, including Buck’s sons and nephew, but they ignored my requests for them to weigh in and say positive things about Buck or respond to things others had to say about him. It’s real easy to say I didn’t include them, but I tried and I have the certified letter receipts to prove it. The book does say positive things about Buck by many people, including Willie Cantu, LaWanda Lindsey, Jann Browne, George Ducas, Lulu Roman, among others. Some people just choose to overlook this fact. I will say that I am a professional journalist and do not practice agenda journalism. People can attack me and say what they want about me, but I know who I am and I know I did the best possible job under the circumstances, especially since Buck was advising people not to cooperate with me. I can back up what was printed in my biography about Buck Owens with letters, documents, recordings, etc. If some people went out of their way to tell me things that others think are wrong, I cannot help that. They were their words and feelings. I had no intention of writing an unauthorized biography, but Doyle Holly and Tom Brumley urged me to do so and I spent many days and weeks talking with them and spending time with them. Jim made it very clear in a voicemail to me that my book would be unauthorized and there would be no further cooperation on Buck’s part. In journalism there is a saying: ‘Go with what you’ve got.’ So I did. I even went out of my way to find people who would sing Buck’s praises. I will close in saying that prior to the book’s publication I was offered a name-your-price buyout not to publish my book via a publisher the Owenses had lined up. I turned it down.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Good morning Diane. Thank you for that welcome newsletter. As always another very interesting reading.”

Eric Calhoun says, “Great to hear about the Heart of Texas Country Music Festival.  Great performers! I now need to find out if there is any public transportation; I’d love to go. It’s fitting that Patsy Cline is still being recognized after all these years. She left us too soon. Suggestion on Blue Jays broadcasts: Try and go to mlb.com and get the MLB Baseball package, Mary. Thank you for the reminder of the COVID-19 vaccination public-service announcements. I got my first Moderna vaccine on March 17 and will be back April 14.”

John Krebs writes from Texas, “Excellent newsletter and thanks so much for doing them. I enjoyed reading Jim Shaw’s defense of Buck, I read and still have the Eileen Sisk Buck Owens book. Ironically that one was high and dry for hurricane Harvey unlike your Faron book. I knew pretty quickly into it that it was a one-sided view into the life of a talented, mercurial and moody, but decent guy.”

Mike McCloud says, “Thank you for a consistently great newsletter. I thoroughly enjoy them. How do I get ahold of Tayla Lynn? I was curious about how Loretta is doing and if she will be doing any meet and greets. I would love to meet her in person.”

Diane: You can contact Tayla through Heart of Texas Records at tracy@hillbillyhits.com.

Terry Beene writes from Branson, Missouri, “I can’t believe you were in Brady. So was I. I’m so sad I didn’t get to meet you.”

Diane: Well, we can say, “See you in September.”

Jay Dean writes from Aberdeen, South Dakota, “I am so JEALOUS of the concert you saw in Texas. Had I known about it, I would have been there with you. I’ve always wanted to see Johnny Rodriguez in concert. I’ve met him in person at the Country Radio Seminar a couple of times, but I’ve never seen him ‘live.’ You, my friend, are living the dream. Keep the great country news coming.”

Linda Mellon says, “Wow! Was this one ever chock full of great reading! I think I need to read it again to retain more of the wonderful stories. Thanks, and keep up the good work.”

Patricia Smith writes from Scotland, “I was given your contact details from my good friend Joe Kirk. Alan and I know Joe from his country club which he ran in Dumfries and the many festivals he organised along with his friend Jim. It was known as the Double K club/festival as it was Joe Kirk and Jim Kerr. I was lucky to meet and chat with Billy Walker many years ago when he appeared at the club. I understand you do an update every fortnight on country music/artists and that was what I was interested in. I do contribute to the Country Music and Dance Scotland magazine which, in normal circumstances, comes out every two months.”

Steve Munro requests, “Please add me to your list to receive your newsletter. I am a former US Navy Seabee and ran across your information while checking out Faron Young on the internet, talked to my friend Paul Millman and here we are.”

Katie Henning says, “I just wanted to tell you I was listening to Sirius XM Willie’s Roadhouse channel, like I often do, and Dallas Wayne talked about you and your Faron Young book. He said it was a book he wanted to read slowly because he didn’t want it to end. I’m just starting on your book – I have such a pile of books to get through and am a rather slow or infrequent reader.” 

Lee Shannon in Florida writes, “I’m wondering if the Don Powell you mentioned in your April 7 newsletter is the same Don Powell I worked with during the Sixties at KFDI in Wichita, KS. He also played steel guitar and MIGHT have been in Marty’s band at some point. We seem to have lost touch.”

Rick Belsher writes from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, “Thanks for the information about Heart of Texas Country Music Festival. I found this true, real, traditional county music a few years ago, and is all I listen to, and is not the crap on commercial radio now. They all have steel and fiddles, it is not traditional country without steel and fiddles. And of course, thanks for all the history. With Covid, and exchange rate, will never get down to hear, but have YouTube and CDs.”

Ron Hogan writes from Nashville, “Concerning Darrell McCall and the Texas dancehall Phenomenon. I worked and played steel guitar for Darrell in the 1980s based out of Nashville. We usually boarded the bus on Thursday nights and ALWAYS headed for Texas. It’s a different world there as you describe in your newsletter. The dance floor gets packed with real Country Music lovers I mean hundreds of dancers! In Nashville it’s different. Even nowadays, if you’re playing a club, you’re lucky to get 10 dancers on the floor. What a great atmosphere Texas creates. Darrell finally said, ‘If I’m leaving Nashville every week for Texas, I’m just going move back.’ He invited me to come, but I didn’t. I stayed in Nashville. BTW, working for Darrell is the perfect Steel Guitar gig. I miss it! Concerning my on and off time with Billy Walker for 25 years, when traveling the road with him, Eddie Stubbs would send us about 10 cassettes wrapped in a rubber band. They were his shows he did for public radio before he worked for WSM. Boy did they help to keep us awake during those 2:00 am driving shifts. They were packed with Eddie’s commentary as he spun the famous recordings, both known and obscure. Kept us awake and probably alive! He would also sit in and play fiddle if we had a show in his area. A great guy! Mr. Country Music Knowledge.”

Chris Belle says, “Howdy, one of your blind newsletter fans checking in. Glad to see other blind folks enjoying the newsletter, it’s excellent as always. I am huge fans of Confederate Railroad, and I hope they fight to keep their name, and I hope we can move toward a more tolerant world, the way we’re going now is not good.”

Stacy Harris, Publisher/Executive Editor of Stacy’s Music Row Report, writes from Nashville, “When I read your newsletter review of Eileen Sisk’s book  I wasn’t sure I could respond, publicly or privately, as I wanted to, but, when I saw Jim Shaw’s reaction to what both you and Eileen had written, I found that I am already on record, in some respects, so here goes:  I did not review Eileen’s book, but she interviewed me for it. She came across an August 1978 Country Song Roundup cover story I had written titled Buck Owens: Sometimes It Just Ain’t Easy. The article was largely a story of my trying to land an interview with Buck based on the interview I finally obtained with him on the Hee-Haw set. After I left a phone message at Buck’s Nashville hotel room requesting an interview, Owens returned the call that same Wednesday. He explained, Boy, you’re about the hundredth reporter requesting his time. Owens told me, ‘if you’re a straight arrow and interested in doing a good interview I’ll be glad to meet with you.’ A next-day interview was scheduled on the Hee-Haw set. With the Thursday taping running behind schedule, Buck met with me on set to request a postponement till the following Tuesday- at his hotel suite. He asked how long I would need. I cautiously requested a half hour. His response: How about an hour? At 8:45 the clerk rang Owens’ hotel room and relayed Buck’s message that the Monday taping ran late, the scheduled interview had slipped his mind and Buck wanted me to meet him on the Hee-Haw set at 2 p.m. Unfortunately, I had a prior commitment. The next morning (Wednesday) I am awakened by an apologetic voice. ‘You know who this is? I’ll give you three guesses. This is the guy that stood you up…. if you’ll come down about 10 o’clock, I guarantee you’ll get what you need.’ Sam Lovullo wouldn’t let Buck loose until the cast broke for lunch at noon, at which time Buck disappeared. By the time Owens returned, he was adamant the interview would happen Friday. True to his word, we accomplished the interview between taping sessions. Buck closed the interview by asking ‘Did you get everything you need? I told you I’d give you an hour!’ Eileen’s book referenced a bit of the substance of interview with Buck, as opposed to the logistics I’ve just described, but what I wanted to say about her book after reading your comments (and Jim’s) is summarized in my Amazon review of Buck ‘Em: ‘Kathryn Burke’s paperback titled The Dust Bowl, The Bakersfield Sound and Buck, touted as authorized biography, was published in 2008. Eileen Sisk notably had Owens’ confidence to a point, but that working relationship disintegrated to the point where Eileen’s massive research revealed such a gap between the facts and Owens’ narrative that, fearing retaliation, Sisk did not feel she could safely publish what became her warts-and-all titled Buck Owens: The Biography until Buck’s passing.”


When I called Gino King in 2000 to talk about his time with Faron Young’s Country Deputies in 1962, he was living in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He told me he had recently fallen off a 30-foot ladder while employed by Del Monte to can green beans. He’d shattered his left leg and was in a wheelchair. He said he could still pick a little, “as long as I got my fingers and my hands.” I heard some years later that he had died, but I don’t have any other information on him.

I knew Shelley Snyder, who was Faron’s manager. Shelley and I go way back….to the middle fifties, right after I got out of the service. He was managing George Morgan at the time, and he was setting up a tour then, and he come and listened to me in North Dakota. He liked how I could play and how I sang and stuff, and he said, “If you ever get to Nashville, look me up. If I can help you out, I will.” So I was sitting down at Tootsies one afternoon, and he happened to come in with Faron, and asked me what I was doing. I said I was working with Justin Tubb but I was looking for a better job. He said, “Would you like to go to work for Faron?” I said, “Well sure–doing what?” He said playing bass and fronting his band. I could play just a little bass, I was never a great bass player. I’d been playing lead for a while. Faron said, “Why don’t you come out to the house, and I’ll get the guys to come out, and we’ll just give you an audition.” I went out there and I sang tenor with him. I knew most of his material. He gave me a whole stack of albums and said go over the material so you know where to sing harmony and which songs. I knew most of them, but there was a few I didn’t know. Faron said we’ll take you out on a tour and try you out. I guess he liked the way I fronted. Darrell had already quit. I was used to fronting a band cuz I’d had my own before that. The first days I worked with Faron, our girl singer didn’t show up. Faron told me, you’re going to have to go up there and do about 45 minutes. I told him no problem. When I introduced Faron, he come and he looked at me, and he said, “By god, you did good, son. You got a job.” So that’s when I started to work with him. He found out in a hurry I could handle it. That made him happy. We had a good time.

When we went to Germany, we were working a military tour. They took us all the way over to the Russian border. We went up in one of those guard stations, and we could look across that no-mans-land. There was a strip of land about a hundred yards across, before you go over to the Russian border. You could see the Russians got their guns set up on great big stands. We got to go upstairs there and get binoculars and watch the Russians change guard. Of course, they had binoculars looking at us. That was kind of scary. That was way east of Frankfurt, way over there on the Czechoslovakian border. We stayed in the hotel in Frankfurt. Every day they would come and pick us up in a little Volkswagen bus, and put all of our equipment in there, and all of us guys in that thing, and then drive us to different bases every day. Like a spider web. It took us like six hours to get to that place. It was a training area way over there on the border. That’s the same place that Elvis was training with his tanks and stuff when he was in the Army.

On one of our last days before we left the tour, we were playing at a hospital auditorium, where they bring in all the patients, in wheelchairs and stuff, and we did a show for them. One of the guys that worked there in the medical labs come backstage and he was talking to me and Ben Keith. He said, “How you guys doing? You don’t need anything to keep yourself awake, do you?” I said we can always use something to keep ourselves awake. He took us outside and pointed to a building next door, and said, “Come over there when you get through, and bring something to carry, and I’ll get you whatever you want.” While the guys were tearing down, I told Cootie to take my stuff out because me and Ben had to make a run to a doctor’s office. Me and Ben walked inside, and there was this medicine jar, like four feet high, and it was on a stand, and it was full all the way to the top with amphetamines–every color of the rainbow. Everything you could think of. There must have been 50,000 of them in that jar. We asked where they came from. The guy said, “We hand them out now and then. There’s people that work all night and need them to stay awake.” Ben looked at him and said, “How many can we have?” He said, “How many can you carry?” Me and Ben took our T-shirts off, and we kind of tied the sleeves together so they wouldn’t fall through, and we filled our T-shirts full of them pills. The next day we had to leave the country. Well, if you get caught with that stuff going across the border, they’ll hang you. Ben and I took the legs off his steel guitar and unthreaded the threads to where they were hollow, and we poured all them pills in the legs of his guitar, and then put it back together again. I had a couple of bottles of them in my pockets. We come back through Customs like that. I said, “Ben, if we’d got caught, we’d be in goddamn jail for the next one hundred years.” We laughed about that.

We were on tour in Canada, and we were going down that Canadian highway–I can’t remember if we come out of Alberta and were heading east, I think so–we were all sitting there talking. I think Ben was driving. We got to talking about the instruments or something, and Ben said, “Well, you might as well look at them.” I said, “What are you talking about?” “Look out the window.” Our trailer had broke off, and was passing us down the road. It hit a bump, and it went up in the air about fifty feet and then down into the ravine and broke every damn instrument we had–just tore that trailer all up. We had to get new equipment.

All the time I was with Faron, we had an Oldsmobile station wagon and a customized trailer. We put the back down in the back end of it and we had a customized mattress made to fit. That’s what we slept in. What we would do, when we’d get ready to leave for a long drive, we’d take the backseat and just fold it forward, and then that mattress would just unfold, so the whole length of the station wagon in the back there was sleeping. We’d let two guys sleep, one guy’d ride shotgun, and the other guy’d drive. Faron always flew. The only time he ever rode with us in the station wagon was if we had little short jumps, like a hundred miles or 150 or 200 miles, but otherwise he took a plane.

Ben and I were partying one time–we were doing a tour in Texas. We had gotten to Amarillo, and we hooked up with a couple of chicks after the show, so we went out to party–drinking and raising hell. Finally, we ended up in their apartment. We forgot Faron wanted to get up and leave like 8:00 in the morning, cuz we had to go from Amarillo to Albuquerque. He wanted to get there to have a few hours sleep before showtime. I woke up about ten o’clock in the morning, and looked at the clock, and went, “Ohhhhh, we’re in deep trouble.” We didn’t leave word where we were going or who we were with, or anything. I knew Faron–if you’re not there when he’s ready to go, he goes, and you worry about getting to the next job on your own. If you don’t show up, you automatically lost your job. I went next door and beat on the door and told Ben, “Get out of bed, Ben.” He’s moanin’ and groanin’ from a hangover and he says, “What time is it?” I said, “It’s ten thirty, Ben. What are we gonna do, darlin’? How are we gonna get to Albuquerque?” We didn’t have any credit cards with us. Back then you could not rent a car without a credit card. We called the airport and wanted to know when the next plane was going to Albuquerque. There was one leaving at 3:00 but it wouldn’t get in there ’til 6:30. We had to be there at 6:30. We got back on the phone and Ben looked for a charter service. We found an ol’ boy that had a little 3-seater airplane, a little Piper. Ben said if you’ll fly us there, I’ll get you a nice colored 8×10 picture of Faron and have him sign it for you. The guy just fell apart–Would you do that? Ben said I’ll even get you a record album. We had just enough to pay the hundred bucks for gas. We got there–we did get there by three.

Faron never minded what we did, until showtime. He wanted you straight–he didn’t want you drunk–and looking good and cleaned up. Shaved and showered and with your own uniform on, looking good–a smile on your face and get out there and entertain them people. Other than that, you could do whatever you wanted to. He was that kind of a guy. He respected your feelings, and we respected his. He was something else.

If anything ever really happened that we needed help, he was there. A lot of times later, when I wasn’t working for him anymore, if I run short of money, I’d walk up to him and say, “Hey, Faron, how about loaning me a five or a ten?” And he always, always, would give me twenty or fifty bucks. Every time I’d get some money, I’d try to pay him back and he wouldn’t take it. That’s the kind of guy he was. I loved him, man, I had a lot of respect for Faron. He took care of his pickers. If you’d catch him when he was drinking, that’s a different story. Then, he’d embarrass the hell out of you. I always seemed to catch him when he was straight.

It was right in the middle of a tour that I got picked up for not paying child support. They left me in jail, and they went back to Nashville, and Leon took over my place. And I went to jail for two months. Leon was on the show with us. He was working with someone else at the time–it might have been Jean Shepard. He played with both bands until the tour was over. I don’t know how many more dates there was after that. I don’t remember. I was sitting in a 6×6 cell, very unhappy.

Diane, anything that I can do for Faron, I’ll do it. Cuz I loved him like a brother, I still do. The next time you to talk to Ben, give him my phone number and tell that big lug I said call me.


Just as I started to write about one of my favorite Toby Keith songs, “I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was,” it began playing on the radio. What a coincidence! I’m not sure why I like this middle-age anthem, I guess because of the cleverly written lyrics: “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” Toby wrote the song with Scott Emerick, about a man in a quandary: “My body says you can’t do this, boy, but my pride says oh, yes, you can.” Toby’s recording spent six weeks at number one on Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 2005.


This book isn’t about country music, but it is about Nashville. Hot, Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story tells of Rachel Louise Martin’s search to learn the history of hot chicken and the family who created it. As a third-generation white Nashville native, she wondered how she had never heard of a new international culinary delight called hot chicken. She learned it had been popular for decades in black neighborhoods. When Thornton Prince III came home one Sunday morning in the 1930s, after a night of carousing, he told his woman to make him fried chicken. She spiced it up enough to make it inedible, but he loved it. He opened a late-night restaurant for fellow partiers and served hot chicken. Grand Ole Opry star George Morgan discovered the Chicken Shack in the mid-1950s and started bringing his friends there. “In the Jim Crow South,” Martin writes, “Thornton Prince III couldn’t serve white and black customers in the same room, yet he didn’t want to turn away his new star-studded white clientele.” He built a separate room at the back for his white customers, who walked through the main dining room to reach it. Martin did an amazing amount of research to trace the Prince family history from 1860 slave records to the present and to recount the story of segregation and urban renewal in Nashville. She provides this eye-opening history with humor and intrigue, while reminding readers that serious racial imbalances still exist in cities across the nation. Here is my complete review.

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