Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 22 April 2015

Randy Travis is married! He wed Mary Davis in Denton, Texas, on March 21, 2015, with the Rev. Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church officiating. The Cooke County Marriage Licenses Office issued the license last month to Randy B. Travis, 55, Tioga, and Mary D. Beougher, 55, Tioga.

A surprise attendee at the 50th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards show in Dallas was Randy Travis. According to Taste of Country, “Travis was wearing a black jacket with white collar. He nodded and took in the thunderous applause when Lee Brice pointed him out after singing a verse and chorus of his 1987 hit, ‘Forever and Ever, Amen.’ “

The Glendale City Council is considering honorary street names to recognize the legacies of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez and country music legend Marty Robbins. They have not agreed which streets to name. According to the Arizona Republic, the council is discussing whether downtown, the Westgate Entertainment District, or streets in a section not yet built would best honor the three men.

Tim McGraw‘s plans to headline a show this summer in Hartford, Connecticut, have come under fire from gun-rights advocates. Proceeds from the Concert for Sandy Hook Promise will benefit the non-profit organization, Sandy Hook Promise, whose mission is to protect children from gun violence. Tim’s fiddle player is a close friend of someone who lost a son in the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Tim told the Washington Post, “As a gun owner, I support gun ownership. I also believe that with gun ownership comes the responsibility of education and safety.” Billy Currington, who is touring with Tim, has pulled out of the concert. He said, “I’ve never been one to take on controversial issues–I’m a singer. I do feel strongly about honoring and supporting the Sandy Hook community and will be making a donation to a local organization.”

Lady Antebellum’s tour bus caught fire on Interstate 30 east of Dallas last week. The driver stopped the bus after a tire blew and the vehicle caught fire. The back of the bus was badly burned, but no one was injured. Passengers were singer Hillary Scott, her husband Chris Tyrell, and their tour manager. They were 45 minutes from AT&T Stadium, the site of the 50th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards show. Taste of Country reports that bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood got the news when the tour manager called them. Hillary’s personal belongings were all burned except for her Bible.

The CMA Songwriters Series returned to the Library of Congress for a special performance on April 21, and it featured Bill Anderson, Mac Davis, Mo Pitney, and Pam Tillis. CMA Songwriters Series shows are intimate presentations where songwriters exhibit their craft and share stories behind their songs. The Library of Congress, founded in 1800, is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. Its website is www.loc.gov.

Ira Doyle Nelson Jr, younger brother of Willie Nelson and Bobbie Nelson, died Wednesday, April 15th, of natural causes at the age of 77. Doyle was a bus driver for rock acts, and he sometimes drove Willie’s bus.

George Strait has released a new single. “Let It Go.” It’s about not sweating the small stuff, and George wrote it with his son, Bubba, and Keith Gattis. He premiered the song during Sunday night’s ACM Awards show at AT&T Stadium.

The fake news website MSMBC (so titled to cause confusion with MSNBC.com) reported that Willie Nelson, 81, was found dead in his Maui home. The article said, “Rumors of Nelson’s death first circulated early April 11, 2015, on social media outlets but was later confirmed by police. A groundskeeper scheduled to perform yard maintenance on Nelson’s property reportedly found the singer/songwriter unresponsive on the front lawn and immediately called 911.” Snopes.com investigated the story and concluded, “No legitimate news outlet has reported on Nelson’s death, which is not surprising since Nelson himself is actually alive and well and planning to invest in a chain of recreational pot stores in states where marijuana is now legal.”

Country Weekly reports that Doug Stone married Jade Jack on March 29 in Oklahoma; it is his fourth marriage. Jade plays fiddle for local Texas bands and fronts her own band. Doug recently launched his own signature brand of whiskey through Broadslab Distillery.

Willie Nelson‘s Fourth of July picnic, which began in 1973 outside Austin in Dripping Springs, Texas, is returning to its original home. This year’s all-day event on two stages will include performances by Merle Haggard, Sturgill Simpson, Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves, Billy Joe Shaver, and Asleep at the Wheel. Country Weekly quotes Willie as saying, “I thought it would be a nice idea to, this year, have it back in Austin, but at a more comfortable venue for the fans and the pickers. Some of the original artists [from the first event] will be returning.”

During rehearsals for the 2015 ACM Awards, The Academy of Country Music surprised Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert with Guinness World Records. Taste of Country reports that Bob Romeo, CEO of the Academy of Country Music, and Michael Empric, Guinness World Records adjudicator, acknowledged Brad for most consecutive wins as ACM Male Vocalist of the Year (2006-2010). Miranda was honored for most consecutive wins as ACM Female Vocalist of the Year (2010-2014). Both were nominated in those categories again this year, and Miranda Lambert now has six consecutive wins.

Tommy Cash writes from Nashville, “Thanks for the very nice article you wrote about me. I will be writing my book with Stacy Harris. Hope to have the book done by this time next year.”

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “Thanks for that great Music Newsletter and to have printed my and Carolyn’s letters. Very kind. Carolyn has great memories about the early ‘50s when Webb Pierce and Faron Young started their long run into fame and fortune. If their stories has been brightly written by various musical researchers including yourself, there’s still a lot of singers, musicians and song writers who are still waiting in the shade. Among them Jewell House but also Tommy Trent, Gene Wyatt, Betty Amos, Carolyn Bradshaw, Jack Ford, Buddy Attaway, to name a few. Artists who entertained folks around Shreveport but never had a run on fame. Keep turning the light on all these foot soldiers of the country music army who brought us music, joys and a way to live. Warmest regards from your French friend.”

Jean Earle writes from the U.K., “Thank you for the latest newsletter. Enjoyed all your news. I was pleased you were able to make use of my bits and pieces. I wonder if there will be any feedback?”

David Corne also writes from the U.K, “Couldn’t help chuckling at those nonsensical claims propagated about Elvis having visited London at the behest of Tommy Steele while the King was ‘In the forces.’ This laughable and farcical attempt by Steele and impresario Bill Kenwright to gain some sort of street cred is totally denied by both Lamar Fike and Marty Lacker, who were both close friends of Elvis and members of the so called ‘Memphis Mafia.’ Anyone interested can just google Steele, Elvis and Marty Lacker to see what a load of poppycock and balderdash the story was. Perhaps Steele saw it as an opportunity to do a remake of The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty or the English equivalent Billy Liar. Another assertion by Steele was that he saw Buddy Holly ‘live’ in the States was also regarded as fantasy and I wonder with all the covers that Steele used to do of American hits he never covered Johnny Crawford’s ‘Your Nose Is Gonna Grow!’”

And this from Alan Potter in the U.K.: “Maheen, I’m a Jimmie Davis fan & play him on my radio shows especially Christmas where I’ve played ‘Forgive Me Santa’ every year since 1969. Diane, your newsletter is superb & we all learn so much from it. Nice to read about Terry Beene, too, a real great in the DJ world.”

Tom Barton says, “Loving the newsletter, Diane! With regard to Maxine Brown’s book, I purchased it several years ago and received the nicest note from Maxine. We also exchanged emails a couple of times. The book truly is an interesting read. I don’t think The Browns were the only ones who scrambled in the business, but it sure gives some great insights into the earlier days of performing and touring. On March 20, I attended a Country Gold performance here in Amarillo — and Jim Ed Brown was on the bill. He appeared on stage wearing a baseball cap, and after all the chemo and other treatments he had to endure, he obviously was not 100%. But he was absolutely great, and he openly wept when he received a standing ovation. I am so glad he and his sisters are going into the Hall of Fame.”

Dave Barton writes from Nashville, “I just back from two months in the Florida Keys, and I brought some fish back so we went over to Jim Ed’s house last night for dinner, he’s doing good, still coughing a lot, he’s going in for another test Friday to see if there is any cancer left…..we all are hoping he’s going to clean.”

Jodi Weber in South Dakota says, “Thanks so much for the ‘newsy’ newsletter, very enjoyable and for those of us in country music, so interesting to read about the legends and ‘legends in the making.’ I enjoyed visiting with your brother Keith when I played in Toronto a few weeks back.”

Lloyd Pierson writes, “Thanks very much for your newsletter as I always enjoy reading it and learning a lot. Glad to hear about the Kenny Rogers tour of South Africa. My youngest son was born in Pretoria and we return often to South Africa. We work closely with the baseball academy in Cape Town, where Mark Moore works hard to promote American style baseball. Also, will contribute to keep the midnight Ernest Tubb record shop show going. In the ‘60s, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Roy Acuff, rode in with him to the Grand Ole Opry, then walked out the back to the Ernest Tubb record shop, where he was doing the midnight show. As we walked out the back steps of the Ryman, he showed me the spot where he last saw Hank Williams, who was sitting in his Cadillac just a few feet from the steps. Sure miss all of the greats but their music lives on.”

Terry Counts says, “Another great read, thanks Diane. Have you thought of doing a sort of ‘chapter’ each month on an artist like Ferlin or Don Gibson or one of those guys? Not a book, but gosh…be great!”

John Krebs in Houston, Texas, suggests, “How about gathering the best crazy ass stories from back in the day before it’s too late and call it something like Classic Nashville Road and Roarin’ Stories or the like. It covers everybody. You could do it by artist, do it by era, whatever…….Mel, Webb, E.T., Faron, Conway, Willie, Merle, Buck, Dolly, on and on and on…..up to today’s artists. It’d be a great read and have the broadest appeal possible. Drunk stories, crazy people they met stories, fights……………Needs to happen soon before everybody is dead……Buck Trent has some great stories about Porter and Bill Carlisle……..Mel Tillis has a bunch. Cal Sharp has some good later-day Faron stories.”

Carolyn Babin writes, “Thanks for your sweet words. I too wish we had been in touch when you were writing about Faron… not for me getting noticed, remembered, or the notoriety… never cared for that and stuck behind the scenes in those days.. .was kinda used to knowing the artists from my years in radio. Mainly would be backstage ‘cause I did not care to sit through the whole shows, etc. Even movie stars I met that came to Shreveport, like John Wayne and co-star (forget his name but he was beautiful) making Horse Soldiers. I met them at a luncheon and never saw the movie. Staff from stations were always invited to special things. Most of which I avoided through the years, but meeting some guys that asked me out on dates I usually did if they were cute and sweet. Met one guy back in early 50’s when at the Stork Club in Bossier City. Mel Torme came to the table where I was sitting with my Boss and his wife, asked himself to sit down, pulled up a chair from another table and proceeded to help himself to a hunk of my steak and a big bite of my baked potato. I stood up with my hands on hip and almost screamed out–buy your own damn steak! He did not bat an eye just laughed as all at the table did. He was a short, sorta homely guy. I never saw him again. He sure had a beautiful voice, though.”

Andy Williford says, “Carolyn Babin is right on and the school bus was returning from a Gladewater, Texas, football game. Coach ‘Bull’ Wilson was head coach of the varsity. I grew up, of course, with Faron and I can tell you Oscar, rest in peace, was a little mean ‘cause he used to bully students on the school bus on the way to school. I was sitting in the school cafeteria about to have lunch and Oscar sat next to me and took my chocolate milk and poured it in my lap. Coach Wilson was monitoring the lunch break and took Oscar to the office. Also, did I tell the true story that our Physics Teacher took me, Bobby Foster, and Faron to see Mr. Heron, assistant principal, for misbehaving. He said, ‘Bobby, you are head cheerleader and you should set an example, Andy, you could be making A’s if you would just apply yourself, and Faron, I don’t see you amounting to anything.’ Faron came back later in his Blue and White Caddy and went in to Mr. Heron’s office and according to what Faron told me, they had a great meeting. I was away overseas in the USAF.”

Linda Elliott Clark says, “Congratulations to The Browns. Well deserved! Haven’t seen Brenda Lee in years. Her song ‘I’m Sorry’ was one of my favorites back in my high school days, and it was so appropriate for me at the time, since I had just broken up with a fellow. I remember crying to that song. Good grief – am I this old? You do such good work.”

Marilynne Caswell writes from Ontario, Canada, “Thank you again for your informative email. I do enjoy reading it. I just have to add a little something to your comments on Kitty Wells. In 1963 (long before I became a booking Agent) I did a series of taped interviews for a British tape magazine called Folk Voice, which was sent to Country Music Fans worldwide. I would take my little reel-to-reel recorder to shows, and do interviews. My copies are long gone, but thanks to the internet I reconnected with Jim Marshall, one of the editors. He was able to send me a few of my interviews on CD. What a thrill it was to hear these tapes. One was with the great Kitty Wells. I asked her if she had ever appeared publicly before she married Johnny. She told me she and a cousin did some prayer meetings, etc., and then appeared on radio station WSIX Nashville on an amateur show. This was when she was still known as Muriel Deason. Her husband, Johnny Wright, picked the stage name Kitty Wells from an old folk song called ‘Sweet Kitty Wells.’ as it was easier to pronounce. Another huge thrill was in 2013 I was able to play this interview for her son, Bobby Wright……50 years later. I have only received four of these CDs so far; they are ones with Kitty of course, my dear friend the late Charlie Louvin, Carl Smith and a Canadian legend, Wilf Carter (Montana Slim in the US). Incidentally the one with Wilf came from a fan in Australia. Thank you again for your efforts to promote Country Music.”

Elroy Severson says, “Thanks much for sending me the Newsletters. I have been very lax in responding recently (for a few reasons) however, I enjoy them just the same. I especially enjoy learning more about the interesting happenings of the singers and entertainers I am familiar with and have enjoyed over the years. I watched most of the Country Music Awards last evening. All in all quite good — I enjoyed George Strait the most I believe, then perhaps Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks. I suppose whom I enjoy the most has quite a lot to do with whom I’m most familiar with and enjoyed over the years. I believe adding 4 each year to the Country Music Hall of Fame would be excessive and reduce the prestige of it all. That would be 40 in 10 years.”

Ernie Reed writes, “A quick note to tell you how much I enjoy your newsletter each month. So sad about Richard Bass’s passing. We used to room together on the road with Faron and spent a lot of time with each other at home. Hanging out and playing music. As far as the Hall of Fame I think they are skipping a lot of the older artists that contributed so much to the industry. Hank Locklin, Slim Whitman, Jack Scott, Johnny Bush, Skeets McDonald, to name just a few. Too many to list here. Keep up the good work, and many thanks for your hard work.”

“The radar has detected a heartache west of town.” Who could resist a song with a line like that? Or “She hit me like a hurricane and blew my heart away”? And who could write such a song but Bill Anderson? Those lines are from “Cold Coffee Morning,” written by Jon Randall and Bill Anderson. Jon recorded it in 1999 and it unfortunately only reached #71 on Billboard. The song that proclaims “I’m directly in the path of a love that died too soon” also died too soon.

Country Sunshine: The Dottie West Story was written in 1995 by Dottie’s aunt, Judy Berryhill, and Frances Meeker. Proclaimed by the authors as an unauthorized biography, the 127-page book gives a good overview of Dottie’s earlier years. It describes the sexual abuse perpetuated by her father and includes a newspaper clipping that announced his 40-year prison sentence. The book touches briefly on her later career, her marriages, financial problems, and death. It’s a good start on the Dottie West story, but her definitive biography remains to be researched and written.

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