Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 21 March 2018

Ronnie Prophet (1937-2018)
Ronald Lawrence Victor Prophet, a native of Calumet, Quebec, died March 2 at age 80, following cardiac and kidney failure. Ronnie Prophet charted 23 singles during his 60-year career. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1966, playing in Memphis and Nashville. There is a Ronnie Prophet Waiting Room at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, in honor of his charity work. The Boots Randolph’s Carousel Club, where he got his Nashville start, later became Ronnie Prophet’s Carousel Club. He appeared on The Tommy Hunter TV show prior to hosting his own TV shows. He and his wife, Glory Anne, performed in Branson, Missouri, from 1997 until they retired in 2015 and moved to Florida. Ronnie was buried near his farm home in Quebec.

Hazel Smith (1934-2018)
Hazel Smith, 83, died March 18 after a period of declining health and dementia. The Tennessean described her as “a journalist, songwriter, publicist, radio and television personality and cookbook author.” She was born Hazel Boone in North Carolina and married at 19. After her divorce, she and Bill Monroe started a romance. During one of their arguments, her words inspired him to write “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine.” Because of him, she wrote “Love Ain’t the Question, Love Ain’t the Answer,” which was later recorded by Dr. Hook. After Hazel and her two young sons moved to Nashville, she worked as a publicist at the Glaser Brothers’ “Hillbilly Central” on 19th Avenue South in the early 1970s. She began using the term “outlaw music” to describe the songs of Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. She was a columnist for Country Music magazine and personal assistant to Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White. She will be buried in North Carolina.

Tim McGraw collapsed Sunday night, March 11, during a Country to Country concert in Dublin. Ireland. The annual C2C festival is a series of concerts performed by Nashville’s country stars in England and Ireland. Tim’s publicist said he was suffering from dehydration. He was spotted in Dublin the next morning, Country Music Nation reports, when he and Faith Hill walked out of a building wrapped up in warm clothes. He gave photographers a thumbs up.

The Grand Ole Opry’s oldest living member is back in action. Jesse McReynolds, 88, returned to the Grand Ole Opry stage on March 2, following emergency surgery in September as a result of an aneurysm. Jesse posted on Facebook the next day: “I did the Grand Ole Opry last night for the first time in six months. It sure was good to be back. Thank you everyone for the great reception. After 54 years of being a member of the Opry, it’s great to know that one is still loved by the Opry audience. I feel pretty good today. With the good Lord’s help and support from the Opry management, I look forward to doing many more shows this year.” He and brother Jim joined the Opry in March 1964. Jesse continued as a solo performer after Jim’s death in 2002.

A judge has appointed Stanley Schneider as temporary administrator of the estate of Glen Campbell. He was Glen’s accountant and manager. The Tennessean reports the appointment comes as three of Glen’s children–William, Wesley, and Kelli–are contesting the will that bars them from receiving anything from the estate. Before the judge rules on their petition, he will first hold a hearing to determine if they have legal standing to challenge the will. The other five children–Debra Cloy, Dillon, Nicklaus, Shannon and Ashley–are beneficiaries, along with Glen’s widow, Kimberly. The $50 million estate includes a stake in the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball club; the court order prohibits Schneider from disposing of that stake or using any of it to cover expenses.

Kimberly Campbell, widow of Glen Campbell, filed a claim against his estate for $506,380, as reimbursement for money spent while caring for him in his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The Tennessean reports the money was spent for assisted living care, legal fees, and other costs such as building a security fence. She is the trustee of two family trusts. One trust owns a residential property in Agoura Hills, California. It includes a recording studio and is on the market for almost $1 million. The other owns the 8,586-square-foot house in Nashville where the family lived. That two-acre Battery Lane property cost $1.8 million.

Nancy Jones, widow of George Jones, is being sued by George’s long-time friend and collaborator, Earl “Peanut” Montgomery, who co-wrote 73 songs, played in George’s band, and produced his music. Peanut filed suit in federal court in Nashville against Nancy, Concord Music Group, and Cracker Barrel for releasing a long-shelved album without permission. The Tennessean reports, “Montgomery claims in his lawsuit that, in the late 1970s, Jones contacted him about an ambitious album idea to collaborate with Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys on an album. Jones wanted Montgomery ‘to produce and own (the album) as his retirement package for all his years of service and friendship to Mr. Jones,’ according to the lawsuit. The album was recorded at Doc’s Place Recording Studio, but subsequently shelved as Jones entered into several different recording contracts in the ensuing decades. As producer, Montgomery maintained possession of the original mixed version of the album, but the master tapes were kept in the vault at Doc’s Place, according to the lawsuit. And despite several attempts to work out a deal with CBS and then Sony Records, the long-lost album George Jones & the Smoky Mountain Boys was not released.” Nancy sold George’s intellectual property to Concord for $30 million, after which Concord made a deal with Cracker Barrel to release George Jones & the Smoky Mountain Boys. “Montgomery produced the original recordings but was not paid for his work or listed in the album’s liner notes,” The Tennessean adds. “Instead two other executives, who added other musical elements to the version that was ultimately released were credited as executive producer and project supervisor.”

House Bill 2187 in Missouri designates a portion of US Highway 63 as Bluegrass Queen Rhonda Vincent Highway. Bluegrass Today reports, “This section of road crosses through Adair and Schuyler counties in northeastern Missouri near where Rhonda grew up in Kirksville.” Rhonda Vincent was present in the Missouri House of Representatives on March 13 during the vote. The House passed the bill and forwarded it to the State Senate, where it is also expected to pass.

A moment in time from Jim Eftink at Billboard, on Monday, March 19: Fifty-seven years ago, this week in 1961, Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 chart had The Shirelles at number five with ‘Dedicated to the One I Love.’ Connie Francis was at number four with ‘Where The Boys Are.’ The song was written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. It was recorded as the theme song to the movie Where The Boys Are. In that movie Francis made her acting debut as one of four coeds on spring break in Fort Lauder dale. Country music legend Marty Robbins was at number three with ‘Don’t Worry.’ While the song peaked at number three on the pop charts, it was a number one country hit spending 10 weeks in the top spot. ‘Don’t Worry’ is also an early example of guitar distortion. A session guitarist created a distorted sound by using a faulty channel while mixing his six-string bass. Robbins didn’t care for the sound, but his producer liked it and left it in the final mix. At number two was Chubby Checker and ‘Pony Time.’ It was Checker’s second number one single following ‘The Twist.’ ‘Pony Time’ introduced the country to a new dance style called The Pony, in which you try to look like you’re riding a horse. And in the top spot was Elvis Presley with ‘Surrender.’ The music from the song dates back to an Italian ballad written in 1902. ‘Surrender’ also topped the music charts in Great Britain.”

Becky Perry Brown, widow of Jim Ed Brown, has published an autobiography, Going Our Way. “I wrote it simply to tell my story and set the record straight,” she said in a statement. “History should reflect the truth.” Her memories of a 54-year marriage include Jim Ed’s struggles as a young artist, his affair, and his hospital room induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. You can order an autographed hardback at www.goingourway.net.

Singers who have headlined Houston’s annual rodeo and livestock show, RodeoHouston, include George Strait, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Garth Brooks, Chris Stapleton, and many more. But all of them had recording contracts. For the first time in history, according to Country Music Nation, an unsigned artist sold out the arena. Last year, Cody Johnson was a last-minute fill-in at RodeoHouston when the band Old Dominion had to drop out. The former bull rider did so well he was hired to come back this year. His headlining concert on March 10 sold 74,177 tickets, more than any performer this season except Garth Brooks.

As reported by Nash Country Daily, Dustin Lynch posted on Instagram a video of himself watching the announcement of the ACM Awards nomination for Single of the Year. His “Small Town Boy” didn’t get nominated. “Well, we successfully didn’t get nominated again,” he says in the video. “Career-changing song. I don’t get it. What am I missing, you know? Man, it just sucks. Like we always say, it’s like we’re playing with one, maybe two hands tied behind our back. I don’t get it . . . bummer man, worked freaking hard for this. Sucks.” Well, I can tell him what he’s missing–an award-winning song. When I heard him singing on an awards show, the lyrics sounded so stupid I looked them up to see if I’d heard correctly. Yup. The song begins, “I’m a dirt road in the headlights I’m a mama’s boy, I’m a fist fight Kinda county line, kinda cold beer Little hat down, little John Deere.” Here’s one more example of many: “Yeah, I can smooth it out I can stick it up I guess that’s why she can’t get enough.” Now isn’t that some real songwriting? Plus, does he think he worked harder than the five singers who did get nominated?

In honor of International Women’s Day 2018, Nash Country Daily researched the numbers from the Recording Industry Association of America to find the Top 5 best-selling solo female country artists of all time. They are:
1. Shania Twain – 48 million U.S. units sold — Shania is the first and only female artist in history to have three consecutive albums certified diamond by the RIAA (sales of more than 10 million units each).
2. Taylor Swift – 41.5 million U.S. units sold – At age 28, Taylor already has 10 Grammys, 12 CMAs and eight ACMs.
3. Reba McEntire – 41 million U.S. units sold – Reba is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and has 35 No. 1 singles, 14 ACMs, seven CMAs and three Grammys.
4. Linda Ronstadt – 30 million U.S. units sold — Four of her 14 platinum albums topped Billboard’s Country chart; she has 13 Grammys and two ACMs.
5. Carrie Underwood – 19 million U.S. units sold- Carrie was the 2005 American Idol champion; she has more than 100 major honors and 26 No. 1 singles. Her six career albums all earned platinum status.
As special mention, The Dixie Chicks sold 30.5 million U.S. units and have two diamond albums. They are the best-selling female band of all time–of any genre. The trio has 13 Grammys, 11 CMAs, and nine ACMs.

Jean Earle writes from England, “I have been looking forward to your latest newsletter but so far this week it has not arrived…?? I do hope this does not mean you are unwell. Or that Nashville has run out of news. Or that my name is no longer on your list ???? I always send on your letters to four good friends …and they are also wondering why I have not forwarded the country news to them ??? Hope you are keeping well, will look forward to hearing from you.”
Diane: I had to delay my newsletter a week, until the Microsoft techs got my computer up and running again. I’m glad you missed me.

Judy Cowart wonders, “I haven’t gotten your newsletter in a couple of weeks. If I have been dropped off the list again, I would appreciate you adding my name. Hope you are doing well and I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

June Bourke writes from New Zealand, “I am just checking in to make sure you are o.k. Have not had a newsy report from you for a while, and I hope you are well. I look forward to hearing all the news from over there, it’s great to keep up with what you are able to print for us, and I pass it on to the music buffs here. We are still going strong pushing our music when and where ever we can, lucky for us they seem to like what we do. I do enjoy your news from around the music scene.”

John Krebs (Inquiring Mind) in Texas wonders, “I want to hear more about that get together at Webb’s house. What year was it? Was Webb just inviting strangers to the house to party? What did ya’ll do ? ,, etc etc and etc……”
Diane: It was 1972. Webb invited a group that had gathered at some club in Printer’s Alley; he seemed to know most of them. I don’t remember how many people were there, or whose car we rode in to get to his house. My friend and I mostly just hung around and tried not to act like tourists. We were in awe.

Glenn Spain in Decatur, Illinois, says, “I am finishing my autographed Moe Bandy book written by my friend, Scot England. Scot is one wonderful person with a great family. He is doing something that lot of folks don’t get to do, live his dream in Nashville. He is a very dedicated hardworking man. I wish him nothing but the best in the future. With Moe’s book being # 3, he is doing well. Keep the books coming, Scot.”

Rosemary Eng writes, “Great informative newsletter, as usual. Reading about Faron cussing at Webb Pierce’s funeral reminded me of a quote by Roger Miller, ‘The only thing bigger than Faron Young’s mouth is his heart!’ Faron was our own lovable enigma.”
Terry McClelland of Palm Coast, Florida, says, “What a GREAT Newsletter–very informative and enjoyable. Upon the recommendation of my good friend, Ed Guy, who sent this to me, I would love to be included on your mailing list. I’m a lifelong [76] fan of real Country music, and especially favor Bluegrass. Your Newsletter fills in all the gaps, and I can’t ‘put it down’ until the end.”

Maheen Wick writes, “I am in the process of collecting every single and album by Jim Ed Brown. I have had successes with a few of these except one song. I can’t seem to find ‘I Love You All Over Again,’ which was the flip side of ‘Let Me Love You Where It Hurts.’ I already have the A side but not the B side. If anyone out there has this song, an mp3 of this would be gratefully appreciated. My email address is thejohnnymathisfanatic@gmail.com. Thanks much Diane and to everyone. Love your newsletters Diane, keep up the excellent work.”

Lloyd Clarke says, “Thanks for all the information you are supplying. It`s good to know you are there for us. For that expansion on our knowledge we already have. Those old Country and Western Singers and Musicians, as well as many of the recent will never be replaced. Many of them as we hear the first few notes of their band we know who is coming on. Roy Acuff with Bro. Oswald on the Dobro, Hank Williams` Steel guitar Player or Fiddle (old Burr Head), Hank Snow`s guitar pickin` (up neck), his accent. Ernest Tubb`s Billy Bird semi-sold guitar runs, etc. God bless all those musicians, singers and fans. Trusting we`ll meet them all again someday.”

Roy and Reva Bodden send Greetings from the Cayman Islands, “where Country Music is still supreme, even though other forms of music are making inroads at too fast a pace. These islands are the only islands in the Caribbean to have a 24/7 Country Music station. We even have a local entertainer called ‘The Cayman Cowboy’ (Andy Martin). But as you mentioned Webb Pierce, back in the year 1968 I had the privilege of opening two shows for Webb in New Jersey. He was the most genial of persons. My favorite Webb Pierce song is one of his early recording, even though today it’s hardly known, named ‘The Last Waltz’ (not to be confused with the Engelbert Humperdinck song with the same name). In between shows, I asked Webb if per chance he could sing it that night. To my surprise, he said he couldn’t remember even recording the song. He said, ‘If you know it, why don’t you sing it?’ So on the second show I sang it. He said he had completely forgotten the song and thanked me for singing it. I still have pictures with him from that show. I’ve heard and read negative comments about Webb and his drinking, but that night he was completely sober. I’m now 81 years old, but I’ve never forgotten that night. I still have his recording of ‘The Last Waltz’ and played it up to one day last week. I’m not much of a fan of contemporary country music. I’m still very much a fan of pre-1960 country music, and I still differentiate between ‘Country’ and ‘Western’ music, they are two very different styles. There are a handful of singers post-1960 that we love, namely Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, George Jones, even though George dates back to the mid-‘50s, but he came into his own during the ‘60s. I should add that Hank Snow and Marty Robbins are my wife’s very favorite singers. Some nights I may sit up to read while she goes to bed. Usually she will put on a Hank or Marty CD. I always kid her by asking ‘who are you going to bed with tonight, Marty or Hank?’ Please allow me to add one more comment, our favorite female singers are still Anita Carter and Rosalie Allen. Keep up the good work. Sorry, this letter is so long, but I’ve been called long winded.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that new feature and for the care given to my words about ‘City Lights’. Dave Rich, as well as his ‘50s sidemen Billy Harlan (bs) and Royce Morgan (gtr), is a precious friend. Here are some informations about John Bonvillain who passed away on November 11, 2017, while living in Gretna, Louisiana. John Peter Bonvillain was born November 26, 1931, in Ashland, Louisiana, raised in Houma and New Orleans. He’s been playing steel guitar for 61 years. His first job was with Irvin Tuttle (who played bass on Red Smith’s ‘Whoa Boy’) and he played with many bands around New Orleans, Houma, and in Mississippi. He played on WWL radio with Bill Cason from 1948 till 1955 and backed Werly Fairburn on recording sessions. He played on club/concerts with Vin Bruce, Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Tex Williams, Sam Butera, Joe Jones, Barbara Lynn, Johnny Horton, Jeannie Pruitt, Little Jimmy Dickens, Russ ‘C.J. Cheramie’ Wayne (Joe Clay), and Leroy Martin to name a few. He played and campaigned for Earl K. Long, Governor of Louisiana. From 1963 till he retired, Mr. Bonvillain taught music and operated his music store on Lafayette Street in Gretna, Louisiana.”

I became a fan of John Fogerty while listening to him reading his autobiography on audio CD in my car. Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music was written in 2015 with the assistance of Jimmy McDonough. Although of course I’m familiar with many Credence Clearwater Revival songs, and I’d heard John lost his songwriting rights, that was most of what I knew about him. The book focuses on the songs he wrote and the numerous lawsuits that resulted in large part from a bad contract between unsuspecting young musicians and an unscrupulous record company. At one point during the lawsuits, John’s former Credence bandmates asked to join his suit because theirs had been dropped; he agreed. This is at the same time they were suing him for a share of his BMI songwriting royalties. I called up many songs on YouTube as I read about them. I came to like the person in the story. John seems to be a person of integrity, commitment, and decency. I’d like a biographer to confirm those traits. In fact, this is a biography I could write. It helps that he likes and respects country music. He’s also a runner. We had the exact same beginning. He writes, “You can’t even run one block? I was only twenty-nine! It was at that exact moment when I became a runner.” As for me, I was 32 the day I realized I couldn’t run even one block; that’s when I became a runner. This is a life that cries for an objective biography. Now that John has told his story, someone needs to research and add the perspectives of the other players. When I checked to see if there was already a biography, I found reference to John Fogerty: An American Son by Thomas M. Kitts in 2015. But there were no reviews. If anyone knows John Fogerty, or if you’ve read the Kitts book, I’d like to hear from you.

William Toliver Carlisle, born in Kentucky in 1908, became known as Grand Ole Opry entertainer Bill Carlisle of “Too Old to Cut the Mustard” and “No Help Wanted” fame. He and brother Cliff billed themselves as the Carlisle Brothers and built their career in the mid-1930s at radio stations such as WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee. On Decca Records, they had a #5 hit with “Rainbow at Midnight” in 1946. When Cliff retired from performing, Bill organized his own group, the Carlisles. They appeared on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, before joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1953. Bill entertained Opry fans for fifty years. He died in 2003 at age 94, seven months after his Country Music Hall of Fame induction.

A farm boy from West Plains, Missouri, Porter Wagoner once believed his singing career would be limited to playing schoolhouses for proceeds at the door. Then he joined the Ozark Jubilee ABC-TV show in Springfield, Missouri, in 1955. That led to his move to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. His syndicated Porter Wagoner TV show, which he hosted for 20 years, included comedian Speck Rhodes, Buck Trent on banjo, and singer Norma Jean, who was replaced in 1967 by Dolly Parton. Known for his rhinestone-studded suits, he was also innovative enough to bring James Brown to the Grand Ole Opry. When Roy Acuff died in 1992, Porter became the unofficial Opry spokesman and country music’s elder statesman. Five months before his death in 2007, he was honored for fifty years as an Opry member. He died of lung cancer at age 80.

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