Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 21 February 2024


The former Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Nashville’s Lower Broadway will become a bar and live music venue, reports Nashville Scene. To recap: David McCormick bought the record shop business and three-story building from ET’s family in 1992 for $128,000. He sold it for $4.75 million in 2020 to JesseLee Jones of the Brazilbilly band and Robert’s Western World. With the ownership changed to an LLC, it was sold in 2022 for $18.3 million to Nashville real estate investor Brad Bars, attorney Blake Bars (Brad’s brother), Dale Tubb (ET’s grandson) and Ilya Toshinskiy, a prominent Nashville musician. The record shop went out of business. The new owners have leased the building to Tusk Brothers Entertainment, owned by Bryan Kenney and Jamie Kenney–a music producer and songwriter who says, “Our hope is to have a honky-tonk that will pay tribute to the legacy of Ernest Tubb and the record shop. We love who Ernest Tubb was and what he meant to Nashville’s music history.” The Metro Planning Commission on March 14 will consider final approval for the proposed live music venue and four-level bar (three stories and the rooftop). There isn’t yet a name or opening date.

Johnny Western, 89, has suffered another stroke. His wife, Jo, wrote on Facebook, “JW had another stroke, this time on the left side. He was walking outside at rehab & doing so well & got lightheaded & dizzy, they called 9-1-1, so now he is in a rehabilitation hospital & doing it all over again! He is in good spirits & determined to recover!!!”

Cocaine & Rhinestones: A History of George Jones and Tammy Wynette is a new book written by Tyler Mahan Coe, son of David Allen Coe and the podcaster of Cocaine & Rhinestones. The book is an adaptation of Season Two of his podcast and is now available to pre-order through local bookstores. Those with library cards can also request their local library order a copy. Tyler says in a press release, “This is my first book and my hope is to reach a whole new audience with the story of George Jones and Tammy Wynette.” Published by Simon & Schuster, the book will be released in September.

Gene Watson (80) has joined the Bellamy Brothers, Howard (78) and David (73), to record a new version of “Forever Ain’t Long Enough,” which the Bellamy Brothers originally recorded for their 1990 album Reality Check. “Having Gene duet with us on the song was a dream come true,” David tells PEOPLE. “He’s one of the few real classic country singers that understands songs like this.” They filmed the music video at Homestead Hall in Columbia, Tennessee, the farm owned by Rory Feek (58). “We wanted it to look as classic as it sounds,” David says. “It was great spending the day with Gene and his friends, and Rory even gave us a tour of the whole farm.”

The Grand Ole Opry House will celebrate its 50th anniversary on March 16, the Tennessean reports. The Grand Ole Opry was almost 50 years old when it held its last performance at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, on March 15, 1974. George Morgan closed the show with “Candy Kisses.” The following day, the Opry moved to its first ever dedicated home, the 4,000-plus-seat theater at Opryland. Roy Acuff opened that night with “The Wabash Cannonball,” in front an audience that included President and Mrs. Richard Nixon, the first U.S. president to ever attend the Opry. Three of the artists who performed that first night will be onstage for the celebration: Bill Anderson, Jeannie Seely, and Connie Smith. The Grand Ole Opry House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

Following the February 5 death of Toby Keith, fans have been streaming his songs, such as “As Good As I Once Was,” “Don’t Let The Old Man In,” “How Do You Like Me Now,” “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” and “Courtesy Of The Red, White, And Blue (The Angry American). As a result, he has earned the No. 1 spot on the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart this week. The only songwriter chart of its kind, this weekly chart uses algorithms to measure airplay, digital download track sales, and streams.

Dolly Parton has forgiven Elle King, 34, for the drunken performance during the Grand Ole Opry celebration of Dolly’s 78th birthday. In an interview with Extra, Dolly said. “She’s been going through a lot of hard things lately, and she just had a little too much to drink, so let’s just forgive that and forget it and move on, ’cause she felt worse than anyone ever could.”

During the season premiere of American Idol on Sunday night, a young contestant told the judges, “My grandma’s a country singer.” Emmy Russell, whose parents are Patsy Lynn and Philip Russell, is a granddaughter of Loretta Lynn. Patsy and her twin sister Peggy are the youngest of Loretta and Dolittle Lynn’s six children. Emmy debuted on the Grand Ole Opry last year. Taste of Country reports that the CMT all-star tribute shortly after Loretta’s death in October 2022, Coal Miner’s Daughter, included a duet by Emmy Russell and Lukas Nelson, son of Willie Nelson. They sang “Lay Me Down,” a song earlier recorded as a duet by Loretta and Willie.

In three sold-out shows at the Ryman Auditorium, Clint Black celebrated the 35th anniversary of his debut album, Killin’ Time, with songs such as the title track, “A Better Man,” “Nobody’s Home,” and “Walkin’ Away” (my favorite). I still have the original cassette tape and can still sing along with all the songs. According to the Tennessean, Clint’s father didn’t want him to pursue music over construction work “because he believed his son would never pen songs comparable to the work of Harlan Howard.” However, Clint was the lead songwriter on all 22 of his #1 singles. Clint’s wife of 32 years, Lisa Hartman Black, appeared with him at the Ryman. When they sang their 1999 duet, “When I Said I Do,” they were dressed in billowing wedding gown and tuxedo jacket. Their daughter, Lily Pearl Black, 22, appeared multiple times during her father’s concert, resulting in three-part harmony.

Taste of Country reports a 2004 Toyota veered into the path of the tour bus of former American Idol contestant Alex Miller, 20, in Kentucky last week. The driver of the car, a man in his 50s, was killed when he hit the bus. Kentucky State Police are still investigating. Neither Alex nor anyone else on the bus was hurt.

The Tennessee House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee unanimously passed the ELVIS Act, reports the Tennessean. HB 2091, the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act, aims to protect the individual voice, image and likeness of Tennessee musicians from unethical uses of artificial intelligence. In the national push to crack down on artificial intelligence, Lainey Wilson and 300 other creatives co-signed an endorsement of a bill with federal protections called the No AI FRAUD Act. Lainey testified before Congress on February 2, saying, “I do not have to tell you how much of a gut punch it is to have your name, your likeness or your voice ripped from you and used in ways that you could never imagine or would never allow. It is wrong, plain and simple.”

Life’s Too Short: A Memoir by Darius Rucker will be published May 28 by Dey Street Books. MusicRow quotes Darius Rucker as saying, “This book is the story of my life as told through 23 songs that took me away, soaring, starting at ground level, living in a poor but happy home, never wanting for much more, enjoying what I had, even when times got tough, because I had my escape, my refuge, my music.” Raised in Charleston, South Carolina, by a single mother, Darius co-founded Hootie & the Blowfish with three classmates at the University of South Carolina in 1986. From a party band playing in dive bars, they became a global rock-pop phenomenon. While remaining with the group, Darius is now a solo country artist with hits such as “Wagon Wheel,” “Alright,” and “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.”

Garth Brooks announces on Instagram that “The wait is over,” and all locals and visitors are invited to the grand opening for Friends in Low Places Bar & Honky Tonk on March 7. He adds, “We can’t wait to open in the neon neighborhood!!!! Thank you MUSIC CITY!!!!”


Larry Jordan writes, “I was saddened to learn that Margo Smith passed away. She was such a sweet lady and so talented. I don’t think anybody could yodel better than her. I’m sure a lot of younger people today don’t even know what yodeling is. So I’ll explain: It is a form of singing that involves repeated and rapid changes of pitch between the low-pitch chest register (or chest voice) and the high-pitch head register or falsetto. It’s extremely difficult to do, I’m told, especially to sing it as well as Margo did. I’ve heard some of the most famous female opera singers perform live, and while their vocal abilities are most impressive, I doubt that even one of them could yodel. Margo was a good ballad singer as well. To see and hear her do the ‘Tennessee Yodel,’ click this link. She was truly one of a kind.”

Eric Calhoun says, “Mike McCloud is right, El should apologize for that awful treatment. Is there a way she could be expelled from the Grand Ole Opry? I am deeply saddened upon the death of Toby Keith. He was one of my favorite ‘90s country artists. And, finally, I want to let all of you know there is a country Gospel program on Good News 1110, WGNZ, wgnz.com. This is hosted, I believe, by Tim Livingston, Norm’s son. I have been a huge fan of WGNZ, who exchanged call letters with 107.7, Dayton-Springfield, Ohio, and 107.7 assumed the WMMX call letters, who are still in the Dayton-Springfield market.”

Ken Burke writes, “Still loving your smartly written and informative newsletter. Could you please update my e-mail address preference. Many thanks and keep up the good work.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that newsletter and for the info provided. Thanks to Alana Young to have broken the news about her mother’s passing. Sad news. Greetings for the long interview in that newsletter. It may be the time to remember together two friends who were contributors to your Country Music Newsletter, Ann Eviosic Blair (who passed on February 25, 2013) and Carolyn Babin (who passed on May 4, 2017). Both Ladies knew well Faron at different times. They always had great words about Mama Young and Hilda. Carolyn’s complete ID was Carolyn Van Norman Babin. She dated Faron for a while before his Army time but after they broke up she stayed close to Mama Young and Dorothy Young. I came in touch with Carolyn in July 2007 after reading one of her letters in your newsletter, if my memory don’t desert me. Thanks to their correspondences, I was able to save great information about Faron, his family, his work but also some candid unpublished pictures. Here’s one to enjoy. It is very important to preserve memories of the past and to keep the legacy alive. You help to make it, thanks to your newsletter, so you sure deserve great big Thanks. Take care and keep taking care of the business.”

Hilda and Faron Young in July 1959

Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “Just remembered this song, sooo lucky to have a song recorded by the great Tanya Tucker. Charlie Black, Austin Roberts, and me were producing Cee Cee Chapman. I was managing her. We were writing an album to pitch to labels, I thought of the title Rainbow Rider on the way to the writing. Rodeo themes are always good. We cut it on Cee Cee before she left for another label deal, so I pitched it to Jerry Crutchfield for Tanya Tucker. Tanya wanted a couple of the cities the rodeos were in so in a way she was a co-writer on ‘Rainbow Rider.’ Maybe rainbow writer???”

Diane: Here’s the YouTube link.

Langdon Reid writes from Staunton, Virginia, “I’m a bit late in reaching out but I wanted to say what a great interview and newsletter it was where we were featured. And the comments and feedback on the following newsletter proved that a home run was hit! Thank you again for the feature. Can’t wait to read the Randy book when it’s out.”

John Krebs checks in from Texas to say, “Good ol’ Margo Smith, I remember Mel Tillis introducing her on some TV show saying ‘ladies and gentlemen, here’s a lady that can hit notes only show dogs and Webb Pierce can hear,,, MARGO SMITH!!!’”

Jeannie Seely writes from Nashville, “My friend Kay Smith of Source would like to receive your newsletter.”

Kay Smith says, “Thanks for adding me to your newsletter.”

Cor Sanne in The Netherlands says, “I always read your newsletter with great interest. I am so thankful to you and my friend Diane Jordan for putting me in contact with you. I have had the honor of working with Marty Robbins in The Netherlands. I herewith send a picture of Marty and me after he did an incredible show in Rotterdam (12th April 1982). Marty was not only a great singer but he was a great entertainer. Funny but never slick. No ‘tricks’ at all. I always admired him for that. I use the opportunity to also send you a picture of myself singing with Emmylou Harris in Kerkrade, Netherlands, on September 28th, 1991. The only person in my homeland to ever sing with Emmy. Five years ago we did it again in Norway. I made a lot of close friends in my lifetime of music (60 years this year) such as: Bobby Bare, Freddy Fender, Diane Jordan, Don Everly, George Hamilton IV etc. What a great life I had. Keep the good work going Diane. Happy trails.”

Diane: I’m sorry I couldn’t copy the photo files into this newsletter.

Douglas Joe Guy, CPO USN (Ret), says, “I swore to myself I wasn’t going to get involved in chasing down the saddest song, but I gave in. It’s an old, old, Bill Monroe song that I haven’t heard in years, and a normal person will not want to hear it twice, it’s so sad: ‘The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake.’ The lyrics popped up on Google, and I don’t know if you can or would wish to use them in your newsletter. Bill is on YouTube singing it also.”

Carl Rollyson says, “Thanks for calling attention to the Patsy Cline biography,”

Sherry Gomes writes, “I was glad to hear that all charges were dropped against Chris Young. He’s my favorite of the more contemporary country artists because he often still sounds country and sings songs that touch my heart. Here’s a list of the saddest country songs to me. They are a mix of songs that make me think of loved ones who died, and songs that remind me of breakups or lost love, things like that. I have a playlist for sad songs from all genres in my collection, for those days when I’m feeling blue and need to cry it out. Enjoy my list:

A Million Old Goodbyes, Mel Tillis

It’s Getting Better All the Time, Brooks and Dunn

Daddy, Can You See Me, Anita Cochran

Dance with Me Just One More Time, Johnny Rodriguez

How do I Live, Trisha Yearwood version

I Miss You a Little, John Michael Montgomery

I Will Always Love You, the original Dolly Parton recording from the ‘70s

I’ve Never Loved Anyone More and All the King’s Horses, Lynn Anderson

Like Strangers and Grandma’s Song, Gail Davies

Sometimes Love is Not Enough, Jo Dee Messina

Love Remains, Collin Raye (because I heard it a lot when my dad was dying, and I couldn’t leave Collin out of this list)

One Takes the Blame, the Statler Brothers

The Dance, Garth Brooks

The Greatest Man I Never Knew, Reba McEntire

Things Aren’t Funny Anymore, Merle Haggard”

Christine Diller says, “As always, a fantastic newsletter. When it comes to sad songs, my vote is for the following: Flowers – Chris Young, and The Car in Front of Me – Luke Bryan. Keep up the awesome job of providing us with informative news!”

Robert MacMillan writes, “Thanks for your monthly news feed of all things country – much appreciated. Meant to submit this last month but ‘oops’, it slipped my mind. It may not be a contender for the saddest ever country song but one of the saddest that Marty ever recorded, in my humble opinion, is ‘The City’. Written by Marty and expertly delivered by Mr. Teardrop, it’s a slice of classic storytelling in a song and I contend it’s a song that didn’t get the attention it deserved when released as the flip side of the Top Ten country hit ‘Jolie Girl’ back in 1970. Dig out your vinyl or CD copy and listen to ‘The City’ again – I’m sure you’ll agree!!”


I ran across this video clip from a show I didn’t know existed. There was apparently an All-Star Concert to honor George Strait when the Academy of Country Music named him Arist of the Decade for the 2000s. He followed Garth Brooks in the 1990s, Alabama in the 1980s, Loretta Lynn in the 1970s, and Marty Robbins as the first ACM “Man of the Decade” in the 1960s. Marty received his award during the ACM banquet at the Hollywood Palladium on April 13, 1970. In his acceptance speech, he stated, “I thank God for allowing me to be here tonight.” He had undergone triple bypass heart surgery on January 27, 1970. During this all-star concert, Keith Urban sings a four-minute medley of Marty Robbins songs. He says he grew up listening to his parents’ Marty Robbins albums, thinking Marty was the coolest guy in the world.


In 2003, I called Margo Smith to talk about Faron Young, after I’d run across interviews where each one of them mentioned the other as being a friend. Faron was talking about a housewarming party for the Smiths when they built a new house after theirs burned down. He said, “Dottie West and them were saying, bring a gift, but don’t bring anything like a mixer or a toaster. And I’m thinking, well what do you take to somebody who just built a million-dollar house?” Margo said, “He could do things that would just embarrass the fire out of me. He did a few things to me–I know how ornery he was. But he was one of the most kind, generous, sweet, and honest people.” Margo died January 23, 2024, several days after suffering a stroke.


Born in 1947 in Queens, New York, and raised in smalltown Georgia, Pat Alger taught himself to play guitar and write songs at age 15. He moved to Woodstock, New York in 1973 and made three folk albums with the Woodstock Mountains Revue for Rounder Records. After moving to Nashville in 1981, he toured with the Everly Brothers for four years as their opening act. He has written Top 10 country hits for Kathy Mattea, Garth Brooks, Hal Ketchum, Don Williams, and Trisha Yearwood. His co-written hit songs include “Unanswered Prayers,” “What She’s Doing Now,” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Lone Star State of Mind,” “Goin’ Gone,” and “Like We Never Had a Broken Heart.” He was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association in 1991 and Country Songwriter of the Year by ASCAP in 1992. Pat Alger is 76 years old. You can learn a lot about him on his website.

Steve Cropper rose to prominence as a guitarist, producer, engineer, and songwriter at Stax Records and in the Mar-Keys band in Memphis. Born on a Missouri farm in 1941, his family moved to Memphis when he was nine years old. He contributed to hits by artists such as Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. His biggest co-written hits include “Knock on Wood,” “In the Midnight Hour,” and “Dock of the Bay” (written with Otis Redding), which has been broadcast more than six million times. He moved to Nashville in 1988 and eventually founded his own recording studio and record label. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. He is 82 years old, and his website is https://playitsteve.com/.

Paul Davis, born in 1948 in Meridian, Mississippi, began his career in local Mississippi rock bands. He had a string of pop hits as a singer-songwriter, including “I Go Crazy,” which remained on the charts for 40 consecutive weeks. He moved to Nashville in 1984 and became a successful country songwriter of the 1980s and 1990s. He co-wrote “Back in Your Arms Again,” “Bop,” “Love Me Like You Used To,” and “Meet Me in Montana.” He wrote the Tanya Tucker hit songs, “Just Another Love” and “Down to My Last Teardrop.” In 1986, he survived being shot during a robbery near Music Row. Shortly afterward, he signed another recording contract but never issued another album. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack the day after his 60th birthday, in his hometown in 2008.

Stephen Foster, pre-eminent American songwriter of the nineteenth century and now called “the father of American music,” was born in Pennsylvania in 1826. He was a 21-year-old bookkeeper with a steamship company in Cincinnati, Ohio, when “Oh! Susanna” became the unofficial anthem of the California Gold Rush. Sixteen musical publishers issued printed sheet music of his song. He returned to Pennsylvania to earn his living as a songwriter. With a contract to provide songs for minstrel shows, he wrote prolifically for white performers masquerading as black entertainers. In time, he became able to negotiate payment for each piece of sheet music instead of a one-time fee per song—thus beginning the system of paying music royalties. Foster wrote his best-known works in the early 1850s — “Camptown Races” (1850), “The Old Folks at Home” (also known as “Swanee River,” 1851), “My Old Kentucky Home” (1853), and “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” (1854). Others still sung and recorded today include “Beautiful Dreamer,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” and “Hard Times Come Again No More.” He moved to New York City in 1860 and died there in 1864 with 38 cents and a scrap of paper in his pocket that read, “Dear friends and gentle hearts.” He was 37 years old. In 1970, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York.

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