Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 21 August 2019


Ever since I interviewed Lacy J. Dalton for my May 15 spotlight, I’ve been waiting for her to come to South Dakota. It happened last Thursday evening when she did a show at the Sisseton Performing Arts Center. She was as friendly in person as she’d been on the phone. We chatted for a while backstage in the afternoon. Each time a new person entered the room, she would say, “Hi, who are you? I haven’t met you yet.” She introduced herself to the nine members of Just Between Friends, one at a time. She said she’d heard great compliments about the band at her show the previous evening, and she was looking forward to their performance.

She told us she’d done a show with David Frizzell in Minneapolis the night before, and they’d talked about how Merle Haggard revered Lefty Frizzell. David can sound exactly like Merle, who sang like David’s big brother. Lacy thinks it’s sad there aren’t any young singers to carry that sound into the future. She mentioned Ben Haggard, and I suggested Mo Pitney.

When brother Keith, sister Kayo, and I went out to eat supper, a rainstorm dumped on us. I had to run through the pouring rain to get my car. As we would learn later, I wasn’t the only one who got wet. While we watched Just Between Friends sing their songs, I wondered if Lacy was backstage listening to them. When she and guitarist Dale Poune came onstage for their show, she said they had gotten drenched when they went out to eat. So instead of watching her opening act, she had spent that time drying her hair and trying to get presentable again.

Lacy’s voice is still as unique and recognizable as it was forty years ago when she came out with “Crazy Blue Eyes.” She told us that first song described the trouble she’s had with men. It begins, “Mama, I’ve always loved losers,” and goes on to ask, “Why do I fall for those crazy blue eyes, those mavericks who won’t settle down?” She said the country music outlaws accepted her into their group. She asked the crowd to guess which outlaw had recognized her as the singer of “Crazy Blue Eyes” and had offered her his beer, because he said she needed it at the end of a tough day. Willie Nelson was the first–and wrong–answer. Two people guessed Waylon Jennings, and they each received a CD.

Lacy and Dale both played acoustic guitars, except when he occasionally picked up the mandolin. He also sang harmony. Lacy chatted between songs, telling us the stories that went with them.

She said she spent her first three years as a recording artist on the road, 300 days each year. At the end of that period, she was burned out and was resting in her sister’s basement, unsure if she wanted to continue in the business, when she came up with “Hillbilly Girl with the Blues,” a top ten song for her in 1981: “Friends will know darn well that I’m headed straight for hell if I keep on living the crazy way I do.”

Another of her “man problem” songs was “Wild Turkey”: “He left me high and dry, but after I cried all my tears, I learned how to get by.” She names friends such as Jack Daniels, George Dickel, and Old Grandad, and then sings, “but I’ll be damned if I go home with a wild turkey like you.”

She told us about being in Germany during a tough time in her life and walking into a Kris Kristofferson performance. He was singing his “The Heart,” and that song changed her life. She sang it for us: “Shake it off and get your licks in when you can, because the heart is all that matters in the end.”

Her newest single is “Scarecrow,” which she wrote after the breakup of her 20-year marriage. It shows her pain: “While I was playing love for keeps, you were playing games . . . You were shallow, weak and cruel, I was just a crazy fool about you.” She sings, “I’m just hoping I’ll outlast this crazy wasting pain.”

And, of course, she sang about the boys who make the noise on Sixteenth Avenue.

Dale Poune and Lacy J. Dalton

Just Between Friends


Five new members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame were announced August 7: Larry Gatlin as Veteran Songwriter/Artist, Marcus Hummon, Kostas, and Rivers Rutherford as songwriters, Sharon Vaughn as Veteran Songwriter, and Dwight Yoakam as Songwriter/Artist. (Dwight won over fellow nominees Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, and Eddy Raven.) The 49th anniversary Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala will be held at Music City Center on October 14.

The Country Music Association has announced Carrie Underwood will once again host the CMA Awards this year. But instead of Brad Paisley, her cohosts will be Country Music Hall of Fame members Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton. Dolly was Entertainer of the Year in 1978 and Reba in 1986. The 53rd Annual CMA Awards will celebrate the legacy of women within Country Music. The show will broadcast live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Wednesday, November 13, on ABC TV.

Holly Williams, daughter of Hank Williams Jr., is expanding her chain of White’s Mercantile stores, reports The Tennessean. She now has seven stores in five states. They are named after her maternal grandparents, June and Warren White, who owned three mercantile stores in Louisiana. Her paternal grandparents, Hank and Audrey Williams, once owned a Western clothing store in downtown Nashville. “I’ve always been really inspired by the old general stores in the South,” she says, “how you could go in and it was a one-stop shop.” Her merchandise consists of old and new, pricey and inexpensive items–including Tennessee food, cookbooks, clothing, toys, skin care products, pet items, and art. The first White’s Mercantile opened in 2013 in an old gas station. Last year, she took out a business loan to open White’s Mercantile stores in Charleston, Louisville, New Orleans, and another in Nashville. Holly juggles her expanding retail business with raising three preschoolers, performing and songwriting, and renovating historic homes.

The Johnny Cash estate and Sony’s Legacy Recordings have developed a new website, JohnnyCash.com, to be a vast, searchable database of everything Johnny Cash. It contains his albums and singles, chart history, movie and television appearances, and a library of books published about him. Saving Country Music reports, “More than 2,300 Johnny Cash performances, and 4,300 total dates appear across the site, including detailed song lists to help Cash fans track down specific songs and the specific versions performed at each show and the original albums and singles they were released on, specific set lists for as many dates as possible, and some shows featuring photos and/or videos, with fans being encouraged to submit their own photos, videos and other memorabilia attributed to specific performances.” John Carter Cash, Johnny’s son, says, “I am thrilled that everyone who loves my father and his music will now have a comprehensive place to learn more about the man, his life, and his ongoing legacy.”

John Carter Cash, Tommy Cash, Joanne Cash, and Carlene Carter attended the recent opening of Johnny Cash’s Kitchen and Saloon at 121 Third Avenue South, near the Johnny Cash museum in Nashville. Bill Miller owns the 15,000-square-foot restaurant, and Swett’s will handle the cafeteria-style country cooking. John Carter Cash says, “Dad’s favorite foods in the world are exactly what you will find on the menu. I remember my father and mother bringing me to Swett’s when I was but a small boy. Southern cooking was my father’s very life blood and tradition.”

Along with being a new member of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, Jeannie C. Riley is excited about the release of “Me and Bobby McGee” from her current album, The Music City Sessions. “My biggest surprise about the new single release is the response radio is receiving about the music,” she says in a press release. “Personally, I feel really blessed that they are keeping my music alive. . .. Had it not been for the fans, I would never have gotten to fulfill my dreams of making it in the music industry.” She was recently inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame with Claude Gray and Rodney Crowell.

When Carrie Underwood was a teenager in Oklahoma in the 1990s, she was a member of the Bryan White fan club. Her fellow Okie had #1 country hits with “Someone Else’s Star,” “Rebecca Lynn,” “So Much for Pretending,” and “Sittin’ on Go.” Last week, reports CMT News, Carrie invited Bryan to join her onstage at the Grand Ole Opry. She later wrote on Instagram: “Growing up, I was a member of the @bryan_white Fan Club and even sang to him in a meet and greet. Tonight, I sang WITH him in the circle!”

Warner Music Nashville has released a second new Randy Travis song this summer. “Lead Me Home” is a bluegrass love ballad he recorded before his 2013 stroke. It had been an iTunes exclusive and not placed in an album. “One in a Row” was issued in May, along with his new book, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life.

Tony Conway Ontourage Management posted on Instagram: “The Group Alabama regrets they will not be appearing in Lewisburg, WV, this Friday. Randy Owen, the lead singer is being treated for cluster migraines and vertigo and is under Doctor’s orders not to perform. The group was to appear in Lewisburg at the State Fair of West Virginia on August 16, and PNC Bank Arena in Holmdel, NJ on Saturday, August 17. The band Alabama was looking forward to performing for the fans on the 50th Anniversary Tour and apologize for the inconvenience.”

Martina McBride has scheduled her ninth annual The Joy of Christmas Tour. The first of 14 shows will be in Biloxi, Mississippi, on November 29. “This show is so much fun to do,” Nash Country Daily quotes Martina as saying. “We have everything from classic hymns like ‘O Holy Night’ to fun, big band swing classics like ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.’ It’s all very visual, the songs are well-loved, and you leave with a warm feeling. I love to think of entire families–from grandparents to grandchildren–enjoying The Joy of Christmas. It’s really a show for the whole family.”

Another new museum is scheduled to open next year in Nashville. The Glen Campbell Museum & Rhinestone Stage will be on the corner of Broadway and 2nd Avenue. A 4,000-square-foot museum by day, it will be a live music venue at night, when The Rhinestone Stage hopes to attract national and local acts. Nash Country Daily announces the museum “will honor the life of the Rhinestone Cowboy by showcasing different stages of his career and displaying a collection of personal artifacts, including guitars, instruments, golf clubs, family photos, stage clothing and much more.” Glen died two years ago, at age 81, following years spent dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

Willie Nelson, 86, posted this note on Twitter on August 7: “To my fans, I’m sorry to cancel my tour, but I have a breathing problem that I need to have my doctor check out. I’ll be back. Love, Willie.” Saving Country Music reports Willie will resume touring on September 6, when he performs in Gilford, New Hampshire. There are nine tour dates in September for the Outlaw Music Festival, in addition to the Farm Aid benefit in Wisconsin on September 21.

“Delta Dawn” has lost its position as “my favorite song that I have ever recorded and the pinnacle of my 50-year career,” Tanya Tucker tells Rolling Stone Country. “I think ‘Delta Dawn’ has to move over for ‘Bring My Flowers Now.’ This song came from my heart; it’s about showing love for the ones we have now before they are gone.” Tanya wrote the song with Brandi Carlile and twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth. With its reminder to appreciate our loved ones while they are still alive, “Bring My Flowers Now” is the closing track of While I’m Livin’, Tanya’s first all-new album in 17 years. She sings, “Don’t spend time, tears and money on my ol’ breathless body. If your heart is in those flowers bring ’em on.” Tanya will appear on the Grand Ole Opry this Friday night, following the release of the album, which was co-produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings.

A Fulton County Superior Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order to suspend demolition work on the historic building in downtown Atlanta where Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded country music’s first hit in 1923. Saving Country Music reports a “Stop Work” notice was placed on the property, with a hearing scheduled for August 29. Wiring and fixtures have already been removed in preparation for demolition, so a 23-story Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville-themed hotel and restaurant can be built. The historic building’s current location would be used for dumpsters and grease traps next to the Margaritaville restaurant. In one attempt to save the building, preservationists have suggested incorporating it into the Margaritaville development’s design.

Stacy Harris tells us in Stacy’s Music Row Report that Sidney Singleton, 64, son of Shelby Singleton, and Donald Preston, 63, son of Frances Preston, appeared in Davidson County General Sessions Court for trial on August 12. They had been arrested in May for offering to sell an ounce of marijuana to an undercover detective for $300. They had arranged the sale on a website and met in a grocery store parking lot. The charge was amended to a lesser offense of “possession or casual exchange,” after which they pled guilty to a misdemeanor rather than a felony. They were each fined $500 and placed on probation, with a one-year suspended sentence.

John Berry announced on August 13 that he is cancer free. He had been undergoing cancer treatment since January, after noticing symptoms during his 2018 Christmas tour and seeking treatment. A specialist found tumors on his tonsils. He is currently touring and will kick off his 23rd Annual Songs and Stories with John Berry Christmas Tour on November 22.

Adrian Pasdar is back in court to try to get his ex-wife, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, to pay him the $451,783 he says she owes him in their ongoing divorce battle. The Blast obtained court documents that show Pasdar accuses her of refusing to pay the court-ordered $150,000 for attorney fees and $301,783 in retroactive child support. She has paid temporary support, but he says he is deeply in debt for “trying to maintain anywhere close to the marital standard of living.” He claims she received a $500,000 advance for a new album and still insists she has “negative income.”

When Taylor Swift revealed the track listing for Lover, her upcoming album, fans were thrilled to learn “Soon You’ll Get Better” features the Dixie Chicks. The Boot reports rumors of a collaboration have been swirling since late April when Taylor released her “Me!” music video, which featured a painting of the Dixie Chicks among paintings of baby chickens wearing sunglasses; the lyrics include, “There’s a lot of cool chicks out there.” Taylor has long been a Dixie Chicks fan. “If not for this woman and her band, I would not have known that you could be quirky, be fun, be yourself, be outspoken and brave and real,” she once said in introducing Natalie Maines at a concert. “I wouldn’t have, when I was, you know, 9 years old, gotten my first CD. I wouldn’t have dreamed the things that I dreamed, and I wouldn’t be standing on this stage today.”

In advance of the release of his new album, Okie, this weekend, Vince Gill is promoting “Forever Changed,” the song he first performed during 2018’s Country Radio Seminar. He states in a press release that he hopes the song offers support to survivors of sexual trauma. “I knew it was important for people to hear — it’s a real thing and you can’t sweep it under the rug,” he says. “It’s a story about sexual abuse and grew out of an incident that happened to me in junior high school — I was lucky and I escaped, but who knows how my life could have been different had I not gotten away.” He was in the seventh grade when his gym teacher molested him. “I didn’t know what the hell was going on,” he recalled. “I was just fortunate that I ran.” He feels inspired by other people who have shared their stories. “I wrote this song some years ago, and never really knew where it came from until now, when people are finally having the courage to speak out about abuse,” he says. “I think it’s beyond beautiful and beyond healthy, to see people who have been wronged finally having a voice.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame debuted its Kings of Neon exhibit on August 8, reports The Boot. The exhibit honors the career of Brooks & Dunn; it documents the lives of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn from their early years to their ongoing Las Vegas residency. In a private ceremony on August 8, the pair spoke to the crowd and previewed the new exhibit, which begins with their childhood photos and biographies, after which it details how Tim DuBois suggested they work together in the late 1980s. Their awards are all shelved together; Brooks & Dunn is the most-awarded country music duo of all time. Looking over the exhibit, Kix marveled, “It was really mind-boggling to see that in one place.” The Kings of Neon exhibit will be on display until next July. Brooks & Dunn will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in October, along with Ray Stevens and Jerry Bradley.


Les Leverett writes from Nashville, “Great edition. Good to get the note from treasured old friend Bill Mack.”

Jenny Jones from TEXAS says, “The newsletter was great as usual. It covered so much information, and really enjoyed your Review on Randy Travis book…You really covered the story graciously and am sure his fans agreed with the cover of your review….  I really was glad hearing from Bill Mack, and all the things he had to pass along. He has always been a favorite Disc Jockey of mine through the years… though I did not always get to be in an area where he was, most of the time. Please pass along my best to him, for all good memories I will carry of him and all the great work he has brought to  Country Music…..I am looking forward to seeing the Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn movie on LIFETIME, tonight…….KEEP up the great work.”

Jack Smith asks, “Can I get my name added to your newsletter list? I would really appreciate it.”

Dianne Harmon in Shreveport, Louisiana, writes, “Haven’t sent you a message in a long time but wanted to say hello and I read your letters from start to finish. They are always very interesting. Been doing some singing with The Flashback Band, a great 9-piece show band that does ’60s Rock ‘n Roll and Classic country. Kent Gill, who toured with David Houston for years, is in the band and has been great help to me with getting the right keys for my songs. He is awesome on guitar and fiddle. Keep up the good work. Appreciate you.”

Dean Mann in Sioux Falls says, “Another very informative and interesting newsletter. We went to Sisseton last week to listen to the Bellamy Brothers . . . . They sang for an hour and 40 minutes one song right after another. They had a five-piece band, and one could sure hear them. It drowned out the singing. I have listened to the Bellamy Brothers since they were young entertainers, and was anxiously waiting to hear them in person.”

Kate & Marty Davis write from Oregon, “Great newsletter, as usual, Diane. So pleased to read about Randy’s Travis’s audio book, as well as other news about him. Glad he’s doing better.”

Ronny Collins says, “My friend Terry Beene sent me your newsletter. I really enjoyed it. Please add me to your list.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares sends this note from France: “Thanks for the newsletter and for all the info. Like you I have tried unsuccessfully to find information about Hargus Melvin Robbins. If you ever get something, please would you be kind to let me know? I would like to pay a decent tribute to that musician/singer on my FB page.”

Robert MacMillan of Nevis Radio says, “Always look forward to receiving your Newsletter. Please note my new email address.”

Ron Reagan writes, “As usual, another excellent newsletter. I always know I’m in for a treat when I open your emails. Since 99%, if not 100%, of your readers are fans of traditional country music, let me plug a website I’ve been using. Archive.org has tons of country music 78s available for listening and download. I’m certain there’s more than just 78s, but I’ve been on a 78 kick lately. I have found quite a few covers of Hank Williams songs from the early ‘50s by artists I have never heard of. I noticed there’s a good bit of Bill Carlisle material. I’m currently listening to him.”

David Markham in the United Kingdom says, “Thank you for a nice read of your update on Randy Travis. And others.”

Jean Seither in Chicago requests: “You mentioned that Twentieth Century Drifter was recorded for the blind. I’m blind and would love to read the book. Please tell me how I can do this.”

Diane: The National Library Service (NLS) at the Library of Congress, according to its website at https://www.loc.gov/nls/, “is a free braille and talking book library service for people with temporary or permanent low vision, blindness, or a physical disability that prevents them from reading or holding the printed page. Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS circulates books and magazines in braille or audio formats, delivered by postage-free mail or instantly downloadable.” Live Fast, Love Hard can be downloaded. I’ve been told Twentieth Century Drifter is available through this service, but I didn’t see it in the catalog.


Songwriter Alex Zanetis wrote one of my all-time favorite Faron Young songs, “Backtrack.” I connected with him in March 2000 for a telephone interview about Faron. Alex was a founding member of the Nashville Songwriters Association. It was several years after his death that I learned he had died in Hendersonville, Tennessee, on September 13, 2005, at age 83.

I had never met Faron. He came through a town of 5000, that I was living in, Flora, Illinois. I was engineering in the oil fields. Everybody else knew him. He flew into town, to the small airport there, and everybody said, you gotta meet Alex. I had been around classical music. So they called me and said, “C’mon up to the motel. You gotta meet Faron Young.” I said, “Who’s Faron Young?” When I got up there, he was sitting on the bed, there in his BVDs. He said, “Well, I wanna hear something.” So I started singing “Old Man River.” And he went, oh, no, &*#%&. I said, “I don’t know who you are, but I didn’t invite myself over here, and I’m not gonna put up with this kind of talk.” I just walked out. Got to my car in the parking lot, and he chased me in his BVDs. He put his arms around my neck and said, “Oh, you SOB, come over here. I love you. I didn’t mean no harm.” Faron was known to have a pretty good lip. So I went back with him. The next day when he was leaving, he said, “Write me a song called Backtrack.” So he took off, and I went to the truck stop there at the airport, and put a dime in the jukebox, and listened to see what he sounded like. I wrote “Backtrack” and sent it down to him, and that was it.

One time I did a series of very, very short Readers Digest-type things on different artists and the experiences I had with them, like Jerry Lee Lewis and Jim Reeves and so on. I had a little caricature in front, and my caricature of Faron was him sitting on the bed in his BVDs with his hands over his ears. I don’t know what he expected me to do, but it certainly wasn’t opera.

The story behind writing “I Woke Up On the Wrong Side Of the World” is when I was in the Professional Club, when a drunk walked up to me, I was at the end of the bar. He slobbered, “Loan me twenty dollars.” I said get out of here. He said, “I could go lay down somewhere and die and wake up a hundred years from now.” I said, “Come back here. What’d you say?” He said, “I need twenty dollars.” I said, “No, what else did you say?” “I wish I could go lay down somewhere and wake up a hundred years from now.” I said, “Here’s your twenty dollars.” I walked out the back door, got in my car and drove home–about five miles out in the country. And it was over with.

When I demoed it in Nashville a short while later–Faron used to come to my demos because he liked my music. When he heard a demo that he liked, he would record it. Sometimes he’d just push me aside and say, “Here, let me take that.” That was bad because, if he didn’t record it for real, what am I gonna do with a demo by Faron Young? Go around and pitch it to Jim Reeves? But he liked my work.

Faron ended up recording two or three of my songs, especially the ones I pitched to him first, and he turned down and Jim Reeves recorded them. Although he criticized “Guilty” and “I’m Gonna Change Everything,” Jim Reeves didn’t. Later he did a Jim Reeves album, and went ahead and recorded those songs, and felt pretty bad that he had turned them down, too quick and too fast.

He had a very, very warm heart. Everybody knew him because of his lip, and I didn’t know how I would tolerate him one day when I was with my family, because I just could not tolerate his language in front of my wife and children, but in the forty-some years we became closest friends, he never once went out of line. He knew when to be polite and when to be nice. If he was in a crowd, and a woman said one word out of line, he would top that word, if you know what I mean. But as long as she was a lady, he was a gentleman.

Faron always picked fights with big guys. He would go up and try to start an argument with them, and they didn’t want to fight him, because he was a little fellow. One example–Buddy Lee, of Buddy Lee Attractions, used to be a wrestler. He’s a huge man, weighs at least 300 pounds, I guess. Six foot three of four, but as kind and as soft as a kitten. We were at this George Jones affair, and Faron decided to take him on. There was no way Buddy Lee was going to fight with Faron. Faron started picking on him, daring him, challenging him–get up, fight, I can whip your butt. It goes on and on and on and on. Like in every other case in the past, finally he got through to Buddy. Buddy said, all right, you little so and so, if you insist. Buddy got up and started ripping his jacket off, and before he could get his jacket off, Faron jumped up into his arms and threw his arms around his neck, and says, “I love you, you SOB, you know I love you.”

Hilda was just as sweet and nice as you can expect any mother to be. He had a thing against her getting heavy. When she put on weight, it just drove him up a tree. She would go through all kinds of diet things and lose the weight, but she couldn’t keep it down. He left her, and he ran this way, ran that way, but I don’t think there was more than a day or two ever go by that he didn’t call her. At the funeral she was there greeting the guests. He still had something for her even though he hadn’t been home with her for twenty years or more.

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