Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 22 February 2023


Patience can be a virtue when trying to schedule an interview. It took more than 16 months before the stars aligned and I got a call from John Anderson to talk about my Randy Travis biography. It’s quite a thrill to hear such a recognizable voice on the other end of the phone line.

John and Randy first met in the late 1970s, when John was singing with house bands because he couldn’t afford his own band. Randy was in one of those house bands. Fifteen years later, when John was honored with the Academy of Country Music’s Career Achievement Award, he was thrilled to have it presented by superstar Randy Travis. “That was a big, big night for me,” he says. “I felt very flattered and honored. That particular award was for inspiring the younger people to move into country music.”

John grew up in Apopka, Florida, and moved to Nashville at age 17. In the summer of 1972, he worked as a roofer on the Grand Ole Opry House. While playing clubs during the evenings, he spent his days looking down through the hole to where the stage would someday be–the stage he wanted to be on. He signed with the Warner Bros. label in 1976 and started recording. His fourth album, Wild & Blue, produced his first two number one hits, “Wild & Blue” in 1982 and “Swingin'” in 1983.

I told him “Wild and Blue” has always been my favorite of his songs, and I often wear the t-shirt. He said, “Well, bless your heart.” He told me John Scott Sherrill, the writer, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2021. “I was fortunate to sing that at his induction ceremony,” he says. “That’s been a good one for me, sure has. That’s a good song.”

John has charted more than 40 singles on the Billboard country music charts, with five number ones. Seminole Wind, one of his 22 studio albums, has been certified two times platinum.

He has had his share of health issues, beginning with a heart attack some twenty years ago. Then, almost five years ago, he lost his hearing and couldn’t play or sing for the better part of a year. “That was a real lifechanging experience for me,” he says. “It’s come back enough where I can do it at a certain level. I am able to go out and work. I do acoustic shows now, and I get to present songs the way they were written, before we made the records. I’m really enjoying what we’re doing these days.”

I asked if he remembered an outdoor show at the Fort Randall casino when it was so tremendously windy. He did remember; that was the night his hat blew off. “I’ll tell you what,” he says, “that wind can really affect your sound and performance. It gets distracting. And when you’re playing music, it’s best not to be distracted.” He recently returned to that casino to play his acoustic show, indoors.

Here’s what I wrote after seeing him in Sioux City in 2017, before he lost his hearing: “John Anderson’s show focused on the music. Every song contained an extra-long instrumental break, with John’s rhythm guitar leading the seven-piece band. He showcased fiddle player Joe Spivey, who has been with the John Anderson Band since 1986. The live show illustrates the way John makes records. He says on his website, ‘I want that record to be about that song. I play it just how I want it, and then me and Joe would figure out who would take the solos and the fills.'”

In 2021, John recorded a music video with the Bellamy Brothers, “No Country Music for Old Men.” David Bellamy wrote the song the day Kenny Rogers died. While writing it, he kept hearing John Anderson’s voice singing the lines. So he asked John to collaborate on the track.

John and his family have lived in Smithville, Tennessee, for almost 45 years. Last November, he was honored with the dedication of John Anderson Alley. He and his wife, Jamie, once owned a downtown building attached to the alley.

Watch John’s website at https://johnanderson.com to see when he might be playing somewhere close to wherever you are. “We’re doing a lot of the little performing arts-type theaters and things of that nature,” John, now 68, says. “That’s a real good venue for this acoustic show.”

John Anderson, Diane Diekman, Perry Steilow in Sioux City in 2017
Coleman Murphy, John Anderson, Joe Spivey in Sioux City in 2017


Legendary composer Burt Bacharach, 94, died February 8 at his home in Los Angeles. His first No. 1 hit came from Marty Robbins in 1957: “The Story of My Life.” It was one of the first songs he co-wrote with Hal David. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Bacharach and David, who died later that year, the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize in honor of their contributions to pop music over the decades. NBC News reports Bacharach was born in Missouri in 1928 and grew up in Queens, New York. He was drafted into the Army and spent two years as a piano player on Governor’s Island and at Fort Dix during the Korean War. He also went to Germany, where he wrote orchestrations for the post recreation center. After his discharge, he played piano with Vic Damone, the Ames Brothers, and Imogene, before beginning his collaboration with lyricist Hal David. Their songs included “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “What’s New Pussycat?” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”

Country music songwriter Kyle Jacobs, 49, the husband of country singer Kellie Pickler, 36, died at his home in Nashville on February 17. The Nashville Police Department told PEOPLE they got a call to the home Friday afternoon for an apparent suicide after a male shot himself. Kellie told authorities she woke up and couldn’t find her husband. She and her personal assistant called the police when they couldn’t open the door to an upstairs bedroom/office. Kellie grew up in North Carolina and rose to fame as a contestant on American Idol, where she finished sixth place. Kyle moved to Nashville from Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2000. The pair married in 2011 and starred on I Love Kellie Pickler for three seasons. Kyle’s co-written songs include “Someone You Never Knew,” recorded by Randy Travis on his 25th Anniversary Celebration album, and “More Than a Memory,” which made history when the Garth Brooks recording became the first song to debut at the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call/text 988 or chat online at 988lifeline.org.

Jimmy Fortune, 67, had quintuple bypass surgery on Wednesday, February 15. His wife, Nina, writes on Facebook: “Jimmy was able to get out of ICU and into a regular room Saturday morning. Jimmy did NOT have a heart attack but was feeling tired and having a stinging sensation in his chest. A friend had a heart attack last week so we thought it would be a good idea to get it checked out. All the tests looked great until the catheterization. The doctors transported him directly to the hospital after seeing five blockages. He’s doing extremely well and should be going home soon. Thank you again for all the prayers.”

Virginia Ann Thompson, 88, widow of Hank Thompson, died February 7 after a brief illness. She was born Virginia Ann Williams in Dallas, Texas, in 1934. She was working as a scheduler for Trans Texas Airlines when she met Hank. They married in 1970, and Ann became a business partner in Hank Thompson Enterprises, handling marketing and merchandise sales. Hank and Ann, avid big game hunters and excellent marksmen, traveled the world in pursuit of their shared interests and his singing career. Hank died November 6, 2007, after 37 years of marriage. Ann’s Celebration of Life will be held Sunday afternoon, March 12, at Lil’ Red’s Longhorn Saloon in Fort Worth, Texas.

Barbara Jean Bogguss, the mother of Suzy Bogguss, died Monday night, February 13. Suzy posted on Facebook that her mom’s goal was to make it to 100, and she succeeded. “We had a lovely birthday party for her last August on the very day,” Suzy writes. “Mom was so proud of her family. She was soooo happy!”

The Chicks World Tour 2023 has been announced by the trio formerly known as The Dixie Chicks. Their sweeping worldwide tour begins in Norway in July and includes other stops in Europe before touring throughout the USA and then heading up to Canada to finish the tour in October. Before that, they will have a six-show residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. “Finally getting to play live in 2022 left us hungry to continue our tour,” Natalie Maines said in a statement. “After so many years without new music, last year felt like a long time coming. We hope our fans are ready for more in 2023 because we are not done!” They are the biggest-selling female band of all time. Although the poster is correct, CMT News reports the September 1 show at the Denny Sanford Premier Center will be in Sioux Falls, North Dakota.

“Over the last couple of years, Parkinson’s has been a pain in the…butt,” says Johnny Lee, 76, as quoted by Saving Country Music. “This is a big announcement and one I am not making easily. So come on out and join us for a night of music and memories as we kick off the Hey Bartender, Last Call: The Farewell Tour.” Most of the dates are in his home state of Texas, along with multiple shows at the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre in Branson. Johnny is best known for “Lookin’ For Love (In All the Wrong Places),” made famous by the movie Urban Cowboy.

Eight months before his death, Elvis Presley paid $840,000 for a 1962 Lockheed 1329 Jetstar. He used it and his other two private jets for transportation to concerts and appearances. PEOPLE reports the jet has been sold at auction for $260,000, after sitting for close to 40 years at the Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico. Priscilla Presley was present at the Mecum Kissimmee Collector Car auction in Florida on January 8, the 88th anniversary of Elvis’s birth. Bidding started at $100,000, with the final bid placed by an unnamed telephone bidder. The plane seats up to nine on the original red velvet-covered couch and passenger seats that swivel and recline. The previous owner was a Californian businessman who bought the jet at a 2017 auction for $430,000.

Fans who attended the recent Bruce Springsteen concert at the Moody Center in Austin, Texas, didn’t expect to see George Strait. The Boot reports he surprised concertgoers by coming onstage to help introduce Springsteen’s first performance in the city since 2012. Over 15,000 fans cheered as the two men hugged and shook hands before George walked to the microphone. “Austin, Texas!” he shouted. “It’s my honor tonight to introduce you to a band that really needs no introduction, right? Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!” The crowd screamed, Springsteen initiated another hug, George waved and left the stage, and the band kicked off the first song. George is planning a series of stadium shows later this year, including two nights at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium in July. He is also working on a new album. His retirement seems to have gone out the window.

A statement from The Carter Center on February 18 says, “After a series of short hospital stays, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter today decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention.” At age 98, he is the longest living and longest married President in the history of this country. Born in 1924, he married Rosalynn Smith in 1946. He first met Rosalynn when she was about ten minutes old. His mother, a midwife, delivered her while three-year-old Jimmy waited in the next room. He was then invited in to meet her.


Diane Jordan writes from Nashville, “I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your newsletter spotlight on Wade Landry. My late husband, Larry Fullam, worked with George Jones from September of 1980 and for most of 1981, as bass player, harmony singer, and feature singer. I remember Larry telling me about the new young, super-talented fiddle player who was hired, which of course, was Wade. I’m happy to hear Wade and Teresa are back in his hometown in Louisiana and making music together with his sister. Larry was in the band when George played the London Palladium. George let him do a solo and he encored. George told Larry, ‘Son, you’re a great singer; I wish I could help you.’ At that time, George was in no condition to help himself. Timing is everything.”

Michael Green says, “I always enjoy your posts. It was great to catch up on Wade Landry. My mother developed a crush on Jimmy C. Newman before he had the ‘C’ in his name in the 1950s, and eventually helped him get a gig in Laughlin, Nevada. She and Miss Mae used to exchange recipes. Wade had enormous shoes to fill when he took over for Rufus Thibodeaux, and he filled them beautifully. I’m glad he’s still performing and doing great. Thank you for the newsletter, and for your great books.”

Mark Casstevens writes from Nashville, “I just wrote this petition and hope you choose to publish it: Petition · Accountability for Mark Capps · Change.org. I heard about Mark from his father, Jimmy Capps, long before I met and worked with Mark. Jimmy and I sat side by side for forty years playing every CMA awards show, Music City News, etc., 7 years with the Statler Brothers Show and six in the Grand Ole Opry staff band. I hope your site can drive some folks to the petition. The backstory is all here: Friends of Mark Capps speak out over shooting (wsmv.com). On behalf of Mike Bradley, David Hungate and Don Cook, I am happy to report that as of Friday noon, there are 248 signatures after just a few days. For those who have chosen to speak up for Mark—many thanks—please spread the word. If you are hesitating for some reason, please reconsider and take about a minute to join us. You didn’t have to know him personally to want to recognize irresponsible police response to this kind of situation. We encourage you not to watch from the sidelines. If you are apprehensive about giving your address and email, then I suppose you can invent ones that seem convincing. What is important is to have as many names as possible. The Privacy Policy outlines that they do not sell your information and I encourage you to read that. If you have ever been on social media before, this is a non-issue.”

LindaMaria Luoma says, “I’d enjoy getting on the mailing list for your newsletter. Some years ago, I was a staff writer for Music City News in Nashville and still enjoy updates on the industry. Thanks for the work that you do.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for the January 25 newsletter and for the care given to my words about my late friend Charline Arthur. Nice to have that new one and to read Jane Kay Seymore’s note about Country Boy Eddie Burns. I had the luck to have shared words with that great artist and very nice man. He was a fine singer, songwriter, guitarist, fiddler and much more. I will miss him and his famous mule call. I wonder who will take care of his famous mule Fodder Fossil.”

Mike Johnson says, “Another interesting newsletter. I met Betty Peth sometime back when I visited the Hank Williams museum, and she gave me a tour. But of particular interest was the passing of Country Boy Eddie. I met him in September 1982 and appeared on his show twice, thanks to Warren Seller (Alabama champion Fiddler) and his son Travis, an up-and-coming country artist. I was on my way back to my company in Virginia with a military shipment I’d picked up in Meridian Mississippi. My engine seized in Anniston, Alabama, and my dispatcher had the truck towed to the Durham GMC dealer in Birmingham. I checked into the Ranch House Motel next to Birmingham hospital expecting to be there a couple of days. Well, when the dealer found out the engine was still under warranty, they did a work slow-down and ordered a part a day that would end up with me spending two weeks there. To pass the time I went fishing, ate at Burley Earl’s next door, which also had a lounge on the 2nd floor, where I met Travis Seller. He let me sit in on some of his gigs and invited me to perform with him and his dad that weekend. Impressed, Warren said he’d contact Country Boy Eddie and told me to be at the studio at 5am for the show. I was skeptical but went anyway, and sure enough Country Boy Eddie arrived in his big car, greeted me warmly, mentioned Warren’s call, and invited me into the TV set. He introduced me to his audience as a young man ‘…sounding like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Jimmie Rodgers all rolled into one…’ When I went to check on the work progress at the GMC dealer, some of the workers applauded me and congratulated me for being on the show. I was rather taken aback about anyone being awake at 5am to watch TV. It was one of those memorable eye-opening experiences of my early music career. I also recently found out that my dear friend Lois, wife of John Shepherd, had passed away. Very gracious, together and individually, I’ve known them since April 1982 when they invited me to share their stage at Millie & Al’s next door to the Ryman Auditorium, and thereafter wherever they performed in Nashville, most notably at Robert’s Western World. I sent John a condolence card but I’m sure it was only minor consolation in light of his devastating loss. Looking forward to your next edition.”

Larry Jordan writes, “Back in 1981, Mary Reeves approached Owen Bradley at a cocktail party in Nashville and proposed that they and their respective labels (RCA and Decca) collaborate on creating a couple of posthumous ‘duets’ featuring Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline. Mary knew the two artists had recorded a few of the same songs, albeit separately. The challenge was to put their voices together and get them to synchronize. Since this was still the analog age, this entailed engineer Bill Harris literally splicing tape so the two would match each other’s phrasing. Then new instrumental backing was added to two songs. ‘Have You Ever Been Lonely’ scored a #5 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart in early 1982, and ‘I Fall To Pieces’ charted at #54. Having produced a series of CDs on various artists including Jim and Patsy over the past 24 years for various indie labels around the world, I decided to revisit the duet idea. This time it was possible to take advantage of new audio technology in the digital age. I enlisted the help of my good friend, Arne Benoni of Norway, who besides being a Reeves-style singer himself, is a talented musician. I provided the voice isolation tracks on Jim and Patsy, and Arne did all the engineering. He was even able to make the two harmonize with each other — something that was not possible in the 1980s. (On the 1981 duets both singers sang the melody.) In real-life, Reeves and Cline never recorded together, but my dear friend Bill Larson, who was Jim’s charter pilot (and who recently passed away), recalled having flown the two performers to some shows in Texas at which they treated the audience to a couple of songs they sang together on stage. Our two new duets are ‘That’s My Desire’ and a new version of ‘Have You Ever Been Lonely,’ with new music played by Grammy Award-winning musicians. Both duets are featured on two new albums on the Good Music label in the EU — Jim Reeves Reimagined and Patsy Cline Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. (Jim’s new CD updates his sound and has totally new backings; Patsy’s presents the first mono-to-stereo versions of some of her best songs, her singing without accompaniment, and some new overdubs.) If fans would like to hear a sampling of the two new Jim/Patsy duets, here’s a link.


Thanks to Dave Barton of Franklin, Kentucky, for sending me this double segment of The Kate Smith Evening Hour: Kate Smith Show – Grand ol Opry 1952 – YouTube. Dave says, “This was a big deal to have country music on network television in 1952. I’d say we’ve come a long way.” At 3:30, Kate Smith introduces the Opry’s first network TV appearance. Here are other spots:

4:50 – Roy Acuff

7:10 – June Carter

12:10 – Hank Williams

14:30 – Duke of Paducah

19:55 – “I Saw the Light” to wrap up Roy’s Opry show


Thomas A. Dorsey was one of the twentieth century’s premier composers of gospel music, writing such songs as “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley.” Born in Georgia in 1899 to a Baptist revival minister and a mother who played the church organ, he launched a recording career as a bluesman in 1928, calling himself by pseudonyms such as Georgia Tom, Barrelhouse Tommy, Memphis Jim, Railroad Bill, Smokehouse Charley, and Texas Tommy. Throughout his blues career, he also composed religious songs. After becoming choral director at the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago in 1932, he concentrated exclusively on gospel music.  He was elected to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and given a Recording Academy Trustees Award in 1992. He died in Chicago in 1993 at the age of 93.

Charlie Louvin (inducted as the songwriting team of Charlie & Ira Louvin) was born Charlie Elzer Loudermilk in Henagar, Alabama, in 1927. He and brother Ira (cousins of fellow Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer John D. Loudermilk) grew up poor in the hill country of Alabama. With Charlie on guitar and Ira on mandolin, they landed a job on a local radio station. Following Charlie’s service in both World War II and the Korean War. they settled in Memphis, where they worked as postal clerks while singing and writing songs. They also shortened their last name. In 1952, they signed a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose Publications and then a record deal with Capitol. Their songs included “Are You Teasing Me,” “Cash on the Barrelhead,” “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” “Just as Long as I Love You,” and “When I Stop Dreaming.” After the brothers split in 1963, Charlie spent almost five decades recording and performing, plus being a Grand Ole Opry regular. He had more than 30 country chart hits on his own. The Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Charlie died in Nashville at age 83, in 2011.

Ira Louvin (inducted as the songwriting team of Charlie & Ira Louvin) was born Ira Lonnie Loudermilk in Henagar, Alabama, in 1924. He and brother Charlie (cousins of fellow Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer John D. Loudermilk) grew up poor in the hill country of Alabama. With Charlie on guitar and Ira on mandolin, they landed a job on a local radio station. Following their name change and their contracts with Acuff-Rose Publications and then Capitol Records, they joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955, and recorded their first self-penned country hit, “When I Stop Dreaming.” The arrival of rock & roll and the popularity of the Everly Brothers made the Louvin harmony sound dated. After producer Ken Nelson told Ira that his mandolin was hindering their sales, he sank into a depression. His drinking led to fights with Charlie, and the brothers split in 1963. Ira’s third wife shot and nearly killed him after an alcohol-fueled fight in 1963. Ira returned to performing, but he and his fourth wife were killed in a car crash near Williamsburg, Missouri, in 1965. Ira was 41 years old. The Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Elsie McWilliams was country music’s first female songwriting success. She was the sister-in-law of the first country superstar, Jimmie Rodgers. She wrote or co-wrote 39 of his 111 recorded songs but is officially credited with only 20 titles. The two co-wrote “Waiting for a Train,” but only his name appears on the song. She remembered writing “My Little Old Home Down in New Orleans,” “Hobo Bill’s Last Ride,” “Mississippi River Blues” and more than a dozen other songs without credit. Some songs she did not want her name listed, because she was embarrassed to be associated with writing the rowdier ones. The Mississippi native was born Elsie Williamson in 1896, one of nine children of a highly musical Methodist minister and his wife. She played the organ in church and the piano to accompany silent movies in a theater. She married Dick McWilliams, a policeman in Meridian, Mississippi, Jimmie Rodgers’ hometown. When her sister Carrie married Jimmie in 1920, Elsie joined him in forming a small Meridian dance band. After he secured a recording contract in 1927, she agreed to write songs for him. After Jimmie Rodgers died in 1933, she provided some memorial songs to a young Ernest Tubb. She became the unofficial hostess in Meridian to the thousands of Rodgers fans who traveled there each year. Her piano is on display in the Jimmie Rodgers Museum in Meridian, and the lyrics to the co-written “Home Call” are inscribed on the marble Jimmie Rodgers monument. Elsie died in Meridian at age 89, in 1985.

Joe South, born Joseph Alfred Souter in 1942 in Atlanta, Georgia, began playing music professionally while still a teenager, with Pete Drake’s band in 1957. His first songwriting hit was “I Might Have Known,” recorded by Gene Vincent. He also wrote “Don’t It Make You Want to Go Home” and “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” as well as Billy Joe Royal’s hit, “Down in the Boondocks.” As a solo artist, he recorded “Games People Play,” a #12 pop hit for the writer and a #2 country hit for Freddy Weller. It won Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Song and for overall Song of the Year. His biggest songwriting hit was “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” recorded by Lynn Anderson. She also recorded his “How Can I Unlove You.” He spent most of his final 35 years out of the public eye, until his death in Atlanta in 2012 at age 70.

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