Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 22 August 2018

Morgan Daniel “Mo” Pitney is 25 years old and a native of Rockford, Illinois. He released his first single, “Country,” in 2014. He co-wrote the song with Bill Anderson and Bobby Tomberlin. His first album, Behind This Guitar, was issued in 2016.

On the day he called me, he was doing a series of interviews before heading out for a late-night bus trip to Kentucky. His family travels with him to show dates. Mo and his wife, Emily, have been married two-and-a-half years. Their daughter, Evelyne Nadine, was born in January 2017.

His sister, Holly, plays acoustic guitar and sings in his band. Their brother Blake plays bass and sings harmony. Holly and Blake are twins. The band is rounded out with a drummer, steel player, and electric guitarist.

Mo is in the midst of recording his second album, which he expects will get to radio in January. Although 16 tracks have been laid down, most of them are experimental. Six will go on the album and he’s looking for six more good songs.

All his influences are coming together in his current recording effort. He grew up with bluegrass, old pop. and country. He’s seeking to produce “music in its purest form.” For the first time, he says, he has the confidence to stretch. He’s trying to find something new, as long as the quality is there. He assures my readers, “I never stray far from my roots.”

In addition to touring and spending time in the studio. Mo has been chopping down trees on his three-acre lot, where he plans to build a house for his family. He told me his goal is to sing and play guitar, along with having a song on the radio and living with his family in his little house in Ashland City, Tennessee. Super stardom is not one of his desires.

When I asked if he plans to come to Sioux Falls, he said he played a private party here several years ago. He’d like to come back, especially during pheasant season. He’ll bring his hunting dogs with him. So here’s my call to South Dakota venues: Book Mo Pitney for a gig. We’d like to see him in our state.

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame has announced its 2018 inductees. The induction ceremony will take place on October 28. The Tennessean reports all five honorees were on hand for the August 7 announcement at Columbia Studio A on Music Row. Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn wrote “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and “Neon Moon,” along with other hits. K.T. Oslin wrote her “’80s Ladies” hit and was the first female to win the CMA Song of the Year award. She said it was wonderful to be recognized by the songwriting community, “especially now,” since she’s been stricken with Parkinson’s disease. Byron Hill wrote George Strait’s “Fool Hearted Memory” and Gary Allan’s “Nothing on but the Radio.” Wayne Kirkpatrick has written for Amy Grant, Eric Clapton, and Garth Brooks, among others. He said he came to Nashville 36 years ago to attend Belmont University with “this dream to be a songwriter.” Joe Melson began writing sixty years ago with Roy Orbison. Their songs were “Only the Lonely,” “Crying,” and “Blue Bayou.”

A third-grade school teacher in Medford, New Jersey, who follows her resolution to once a week treat someone at the WAWA convenience store, had a surprise on August 3. Ruth Reed saw a man who didn’t have enough cash to pay for his food, and he asked a lady with him if she had money. Reed offered to pay his bill, and she later explained on social media: “He thanked me and asked my name. I asked him his, and he told me it was Keith. I said he did look like Keith Urban, he said he was. I didn’t believe him, I asked where Nicole was and who was the lady. He finally said I could ask his bodyguard. It was then that I realized what an idiot I was. He graciously allowed me to get my picture taken with them.” CMT News reports Keith Urban was on the way to his concert in Camden that evening.

Thieves stole a trailer from Little Big Town while the group was on its Bandwagon Tour in Orange Beach, Alabama. The band, which would like its trailer returned, posted on Instagram: “To the guys that stole our trailer- guess you thought you were getting vintage guitars and amps. Instead you got two old kid bikes, 1 scooter, a baby pool and a unicorn float. Karma’s a funny thing.”

The organization called Country Music Hall of Fame Leadership Tennessee has awarded Dolly Parton with the first-ever Dolly Parton Excellence in Leadership Awards. Taste of Country reports Dolly was given the award for her “selfless work to improve lives across Tennessee.” Her support for the Gatlinburg wildfire victims in 2016 and her Imagination Library are only two examples of all she has done over the years. “My dream was to make as many people happy as I could in this life,” she said in a news release. “Even more humbling is for decades to come the future leaders of Tennessee will receive an award with the Parton family name attached to it, and for that I am truly honored and thankful.”

A bomb threat prompted the evacuation of thousands of fans from a Rascal Flatts concert in Noblesville, Indiana. Law enforcement deemed the threat a “credible danger” and took “appropriate action,” The Indy Star reported. The sheriff’s office didn’t give details on how the threat was made. The evacuation occurred at 10:45, after the band left the stage but before coming back for an encore. While the crowd waited for Rascal Flatts to return and sing “God Bless the Broken Road” and “Life is a Highway,” an announcement came over the public address system: “The show is over; it’s time to go.” It would be four days before police revealed a bomb threat as the reason for the emergency evacuation.

“The young wish they were old, and the old wish they were young. Everybody wants to be 21.” So sing Bill Anderson and Jamey Johnson on “Everybody Wants to Be Twenty-One,” the first single from Bill’s forthcoming album. His 72nd career album, simply titled Anderson, is scheduled for release on September 14. Bill told The Boot they didn’t intend to record the song when they wrote it. But he realized it needed two singers, from different generations. “The more I got to fooling with it, listening to it, thinking about it,” he says, “I thought, Well, this needs to be an older guy and a younger guy … looking at it from each point of view.”

Jeannie Seely told a story on Willie’s Roadhouse about the first duet she did with Jack Greene. A group of friends gathered for dinner one night in 1969, with steaks on the grill. Her husband, Hank Cochran, started writing a song with Dave Kirby. Dinner got held up as they worked on the song and had Jeannie and Jack sing it. By the time the song was finished, the steaks were burned. So the group poured a fresh round of drinks and toasted a new duet team. “Wish I Didn’t Have to Miss You” became a number two Billboard hit for Jack and Jeannie.

Illness has forced Alan Jackson to cancel August tour dates at the Wolf Trap in Virginia and the BNH Pavilion in Gilford, New Hampshire. “Tonight’s performance by Alan Jackson at Wolf Trap has been cancelled due to illness,” organizers said. “The singer-songwriter had fully planned to perform tonight — his trucks, band and crew are already onsite at the venue.” Alan has four performances scheduled in September to wrap up his Honky Tonk Highway Tour. According to Saving Country Music, concertgoers at recent shows said Alan complained about feeling ill.

John Krebs writes from Houston, Texas, “That Lefty box set sounds amazing BUT,,, I’ve been on Bear Family Records about a follow-up to the Webb Pierce ‘51-‘58 box set for over 20 years. Well before the internet I was calling them annually but always got a polite non-answer. Here’s the email I just sent them and if any other Webb fans want to join in please do: bear@bear-family.de — ‘So ya’ll have managed to work up every 45, 78, and LP track from Lefty’s career, every unissued session recording in a 20-CD set but haven’t followed up Webb Pierce’s box set with a 1959–1969 Webb Pierce box set or something close to it. I’ve only been waiting 25 PLUS years since I bought the Webb Pierce ‘51–58 box set, which I AM very appreciative of,, don’t get me wrong.’ Diane, I LOVE that Connie story, nice save!”

Dean Mann says, “Another great Newsletter. It was great to see you and your sister at the Jimmy Fortune show in Sisseton. As you said, ‘What a great show.’ I thought his two sidemen were the best young musicians I have ever seen or heard. They should go places on their own.”

Tom Wilmeth writes from Grafton, Wisconsin, “Your newsletter’s piece on Willie Nelson’s new Things to Remember CD suggests that this is a complete collection of Nelson’s Pamper Music demos. Things to Remember is a fine and valuable set, as it contains some of these demos that were previously unavailable. But it does not claim to be complete. More Pamper demos are found on Rhino’s box set — Willie Nelson: A Classic & Unreleased Collection.”

Pete Turner says, “Thank you yet again for your informative newsletter. Sure brightens up the day & gives me an excuse to play the artists you talk about. (As if l needed one). Hargus Robbins is an amazing musician & so glad that he is still with us.”

Tom Barton writes, “Always love the newsletter! I have to add to your recommendations about Jimmy Fortune. I had the pleasure of seeing him in Amarillo, Texas, about three years ago on a bill with Jim Ed Brown (who was trying to recover from cancer treatments) and Leroy Van Dyke, and a couple of others. Jimmy’s portion was awesome, and I really loved the stories he recounted about his songs and the Statler Brothers. Excellent showman. My fellow Marty Robbins fan, David Corne in Great Britain, echoes a request I sent to Bill Mack a few years ago. I would love to hear Marty Party recordings. I have wished that Ralph Emery might do something similar, but it has just never happened. Marty was at his absolute best on-air with Mack and Emery, and I fear our younger generations simply do not understand what true entertainment is about. Keep up the excellent work.”

Clem Schmitz says, “Your newsletter is phenomenal and stirs the memory bank, all good. I knew Bill Johnson and Katz Kobayashi, two steel players with Marty. You may have seen the 17-minute Opry segment of Marty with Bill Johnson, 1971, on YouTube. Bill wrote ‘The Shoe Goes On The Other Foot Tonight’ that Marty recorded. Feel like I am definitely preaching to the choir in saying anything about Marty to you. Wife and I used to eat with Bill and his bride at a favorite place in Donelson, Tennessee. Also did steel work for him. Katz had a friend who was to open a shop of new and used country music LPs, CDs just coming on. In 1987 I sold 403 LPs to the friend and Katz saw they were sent to Japan. When the three of us were together I had a hard time understanding their English. I had to say ‘huh?’ a lot.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that newsletter and for the mention given to Lorrie Collins’s passing. It is a very sad news for all the rockabilly and ‘50s boppin’ music crazy. Even if The Collins Kids never did great as record sellers in the ‘50s their work is considered as premium rockin’ bread. Just like it happened for Janis Martin they were too much rockin’ for the Country crowd and partly too Country for the young rockin’ crazy. Columbia didn’t really know how to handle their recorded work and their teenage image. However they were a very popular act at The Town Hall Party and their stage presence was just stunning. Larry could play these strings boppin’ all around and having fun with Joe Maphis and other members of the cast. Lorrie always looked cute and lovely with a big great smile. I was lucky to see them on stage twice and they left everlasting memories in my bag of concerts … A heavy one that include many top names of the ‘50s. We will miss you Lorrie … We’re still in Love.”

Janice Gable says, “I would like to be added to the newsletter mailing list. I have loved country music all my life and enjoy all of the news and articles these newsletters have for us. Keep up the good works, I look forward to many more.”

Leslie Rhodes of the West Valley Country Music Association asks, “Is it o.k. to share some of your articles in a newsletter? Of course proper credit will be given.”

Audrey Harrison writes from Salina, Oklahoma, “Please add me to your list. We were recently at the Jimmy Fortune concert. The second one we have attended is Sisseton, S.D. We came from near Tulsa, Ok. It was even better than the first one. I am from Sisseton and have lots of family there. Have been to many concerts. Our daughter, Pam Sutton, goes to as many as she can. She is a big fan of Just Between Friends and enjoys meeting the guest performers. Wade Johnson is her cousin. So we went along with her to S.D. A long drive but she loves to go. So it is dual purpose when we go. We probably go through Sioux Falls several times a year. Looking forward to the newsletters.”

Johnny Western in Phoenix, Arizona, announces, “Today (August 9) is our 52nd anniversary and tonight, in Denver, I will be inducted into the Colorado Country Music Association. ‘Legend of Legends’ Hall of Fame. I played hundreds of shows in Colorado since the first one, on the 4th of July 1956, at the state fair and rodeo, with Gene Autry in Pueblo. Thanks to the folks in Colorado, this is my 16th Hall of Fame induction since the first one in 2000, at the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in Nashville. Hope all is well with you in South Dakota.”

Alan Potter sends this note from the United Kingdom: “Your articles just get better & better….on my radio shows I was called the man who knows everything about country music! What a laugh when I read your columns and learn something new or different every time.”

Sue Zeune (Kayo’s sister-in-law) in Ohio says, “As always a great newsletter. I look forward to it every time. Really good picture of you and Kayo, you both look terrific!”

A research request from Terri Hesser: “I found your name while I was researching some old Marty Robbins photos I have. I am wondering if you would be able to assist me with putting names to faces in some of these photos? I have several photos of Mr. Robbins including NASCAR and acting photos. I also have a photo when he was receiving his Man of the Decade award. He is easy to identify but it has been challenging to identify the others. I am attaching some photos I cannot identify. They are from the 1972 Ontario NASCAR race. The #7 race photo is Marty Robbins, Bobby Allison, note sure about the 3rd guy then Richard Petty. Still working on finding the 3rd guy in the photo. This has been a great project in the sense that I have learned things I never knew. Thank you again for your help.”
Diane: Readers? Who are these men?

Although I’d heard this song before, I didn’t pay much attention until Jimmy Fortune sang “Far Side Banks of Jordan” during his Sisseton concert. It’s a love song about a couple whose life together is drawing to an end: “Through this life we’ve labored hard to earn our meager fare. It’s brought us trembling hands and failing eyes.” The singer says, “Lures of this old world have ceased to make me want to stay. My one regret is leaving you behind. But I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan.” Terry Stephen Smith was a fulltime school teacher when he wrote it in 1975. Jimmy’s rendition adds to the beauty of the song, more so than any other singer I’ve heard: “When I see you coming I will rise up with a shout, And come running through the shallow waters reaching for your hand.”

I first heard of Gamble Rogers about a year ago, when the University of Florida Press asked me to review a manuscript for possible publication. Gamble Rogers: A Troubadour’s Life by Bruce Horovitz has now been published. Gamble came from a family of Florida architects. Although he had the talent to continue that tradition, his passion was music. Advised in 1957 by William Faulkner to stay true to himself, he dropped out of college and built a career based on his stories and guitar skills. During the early 1970s, he was briefly managed by Chuck Glaser in Nashville. He never hit commercially and his Florida audiences drew him back home. One fan explained, “I learned from Gamble that stories were an art form, not to be thrown away. People will want to hear the same stories night after night just as they like to hear the same songs.” Gamble once told an interviewer, “I ain’t nothing more than a whiskey salesman. I play in these dives and the more whiskey they drink, the more money I make.” He drowned in 1991, at age 54, while trying to rescue a Canadian tourist off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida. He was later inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

I first met Bobby Bare in 2000, backstage at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. When I introduced myself, he said he hadn’t eaten lunch. We looked out the door toward the midway as he chose what he wanted. He gave me a $20 bill and I bought the two items he requested and brought them back inside. If that’s what it took to get an interview about Faron Young, I was happy to do it. I’ve since seen him twice at casino concerts. He is a great showman, for all age groups, and I wish everyone could see him perform. Born Robert Joseph Bare in Ohio in 1935, Bobby moved to Los Angeles in 1953 to write songs and sing. Following service as a US Army draftee, he moved to Nashville, where Chet Atkins signed him to RCA in 1962. His first hit, “Detroit City” in 1963, brought him a Grammy for Best Country & Western record. In 1973, he produced his own album for RCA. Ride Me Down Easy set a precedent that encouraged other artists who wanted creative input and started producing their own albums. Bobby’s first #1 song came with “Marie Laveau,” from an album of Shel Silverstein songs, Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends and Lies. In the 1980s, Bobby hosted the TNN-TV show Bobby Bare and Friends. He chose a variety of poets, songwriters, musicians, and actors to be his guests. They chatted and sang. The show featured “guitar pulling,” which Bobby described as “where somebody plays and then someone can’t wait to pull the guitar away and sing his song.” Bobby, at 83, is still an active performer. His website is https://www.bobbybare.com.

Jack Henderson Clement, better known as Cowboy Jack Clement, was a songwriter, studio engineer, producer, recording studio owner, music publisher, filmmaker, and singer. A Tennessee native, born in 1931, he served four years in the Marine Corps. Moving then to Memphis in 1954, he was hired by Sam Phillips to be the producer-engineer for Sun Records. While there, he worked with Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charlie Rich, among others. He wrote the Johnny Cash hits “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” and “Guess Things Happen That Way.” George Jones recorded his “A Girl I Used to Know.” In 1965, he moved to Nashville, where he convinced Chet Atkins to sign Charley Pride to RCA. Cowboy Jack managed Charley’s career and helped produce his first thirteen albums. He established Jack Music, Inc., signing Don Williams as a songwriter and then recording artist for the JMI label. Cowboy Jack was a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. When notified of his 2013 selection for the Country Music Hall of Fame, he was ill with liver cancer. Two months before the October induction ceremony, he died at his Nashville home. He was 82.

Kenneth Donald Rogers, born in Houston, Texas, in 1938, grew up in the city’s public housing. His start in the music business came through playing bass and singing in a Houston jazz trio. Kenny Rogers joined the New Christy Minstrels folk group and then helped found the First Edition. (The first concert I attended at Augustana College in 1968 was a performance by the New Christy Minstrels. The second was Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.) Kenny went solo after the First Edition broke up in 1974. He hit with “Lucille” in 1977, followed by “The Gambler” and numerous other hits. I don’t know of any singer who has had number one hits with more duet partners than he did. Eight of his 21 Billboard #1s were duets: Dottie West (three), Sheena Easton, Dolly Parton (two), Ronnie Milsap, and “Buy Me a Rose” with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean in 1999. In addition to music, Kenny is a professional photographer, book author, business investor, and philanthropist. “The Gambler’s Last Deal” Final World Tour took place in 2016. An all-star cast honored him with a farewell concert in Nashville in 2017: “All In For The Gambler: Kenny Rogers’ Farewell Concert Celebration.” Kenny Rogers celebrates his 80th birthday this week.

If you can make it to the South Dakota State Fair on Thursday, August 30, I would love to see you. Sherwin Linton has invited me to join him on the Centennial Stage at 1:45 to talk about my books. I’ll also be selling and autographing my biographies and memoirs.

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