Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 23 March 2022


The first time I saw Reba McEntire in concert was in her early cowgirl days, in Oklahoma in the late 1970s. A decade later, when she gave a concert in Virginia, she had gone uptown. Her fancy gowns and choreographed movements made it appear she’d practiced posing on a certain spot of the stage at a certain time. We’ve both traveled a lot of miles since then. I was happy that she came to the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls this January. She told the crowd she’d been waiting two years to do this show, which was the beginning of the tour. They’d worked it up in 2019, and it had been postponed three times due to the pandemic.

I bought a last-minute ticket and got a great seat along the front edge in the main concourse, at eye level with the stage. Fortunately, the people around me stayed in their seats all evening. I watched with an uninterrupted view. Not so the audience on the ground floor. They were forced by those standing in the front rows to themselves stand for the entire 90 minutes of Reba’s show.

Hannah Dasher was the opening act. She told us, “This is my big girl gig, opening for Reba McEntire.” She was a big-haired southern gal with an Alabama accent and a Dolly-style bright red pants outfit. Her four-piece band consisted of lead, bass, drums, and steel, and she played an electric guitar. After saying her daddy raised her on Charlie Daniels, she did a medley of Charlie’s music. Her 45-minute set also included Hank Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive,” changed to “country folks.” Most of the songs appeared to be her originals.

After the intermission, Reba came onstage at 9 pm, with no fanfare and no music intro. She looked gorgeous. Black tights showed off her slender legs, and she wore a flashy bright green long shirt and knee-high sparkly black boots. Her nine-piece band included two fiddles, two keyboards, drums, steel, bass, lead, and acoustic guitar.

As she walked around and sang her familiar songs, a camera followed her and projected her image on the huge screen at the back of the stage. At one point, she said, “Speaking of journeys, in March 2020, Mama took a journey up to heaven to be with Daddy.” When the crowd reacted with sympathy, she assured us, “Oh, that’s okay, she was ready.” She explained that her mother went up to altar call in church one Sunday and told the preacher, “I’m turning myself in. I’m tired of doing it alone.”

Brooks and Dunn appeared in a video on the screen to sing with her on “Oklahoma Swing.” I assumed that song was part of the show when they and Reba worked together in Las Vegas. I kept wishing for Vince Gill, the Okie who sang the original duet.

The song wrapped up with a great instrumental version of “Oklahoma Swing,” showcasing the two fiddles and two guitars. I enjoyed that so much I didn’t notice at first that Reba had disappeared, and I guessed she was changing clothes. Sure enough, the band had moved into a slow instrumental when she reappeared in a sparkly blue ballgown.

After singing a slow ballad, she said, “I love singing heartbreak songs.” Then she said, “Sometimes when your heart gets broke, you just have to take a moment and wallow in it. Here are some of my favorite wallowing songs.” She kicked off a 15-minute minute set with “And Still,” which I’ve always considered one of her best songs. As I was wondering when she’d speed up the music, she whipped off the long skirt and we saw a short shirt with jagged edges. She looked gorgeous in that, too.

Her next wardrobe change occurred while excerpts from her TV show played on the screen. She returned for a family segment, singing “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” while family photos flashed on the screen. She told us she grew up wanting to be a world champion barrel racer. Then her dad said, “Reba, why do you always want to do things you’re not good at? Stick with your singing.” While not mentioning Red Steagall’s invitation, she said she was glad for the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo.

I was happy to see Vince Gill appear on the screen. Their “duet” of “The Heart Won’t Lie” was cleverly done, with the camera on Reba and projecting her onto the screen the same size as Vince. They seemed to be facing each other as they sang–her live and him on video.

She walked off the stage and then reappeared shortly–rising from the back–in a bright red pants suit. Her last song was another of my favorites, “Why Haven’t I Heard From You,” sung with audience participation. Her multiple stops to wave as she made her exit, descending out of view, made it clear she wouldn’t be returning for an encore. The show was over at 10:30.

Everything about the evening was well done, and Reba at 66 is beautiful and vibrant.


Bobbie Nelson, 91, big sister of Willie Nelson, died March 10. Billboard reports she passed away peacefully and surrounded by family. As the first member of the Willie Nelson and Family Band, she toured and recorded with her brother for more than 50 years, playing the piano. Born in 1931, she and Willie were raised in Abbot, Texas. Their grandparents inspired them to pursue a career in music. After completing business college in Fort Worth, Bobbie worked for Hammond Organ Company, running the music library and demonstrating the instruments. When her children grew, she turned to the piano for her livelihood. She and Willie published their memoir, Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of The Family Band, in 2020. They also wrote a  children’s book, Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music, published in 2021.

William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell received a Tennessee Music Pathways marker on March 10 at Sanders Ferry Park in Hendersonville. WTVF-TV reports the marker commemorates his significance as “one of the greatest country singers ever to live.” Lefty was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982. Tennessee Music Pathways is an online planning guide launched in 2018 to honor seven music genres that originated in Tennessee.

Singer-songwriter Jimbeau Hinson, 70, died March 4. The Tennessean reports he wrote hits for The Oak Ridge Boys, Kathy Mattea, David Lee Murphy, Brenda Lee, John Conlee, Reba McEntire and Steve Earle, among others. Born James Leon Hinson Jr. in 1951, the self-taught pianist had his own radio show at age 11 in his hometown of Newton, Mississippi. Loretta Lynn discovered him, and he moved to Nashville at age 16 to be part of the Wilburn Brothers’ road show. In the 1970s, he managed the publishing company of The Oak Ridge Boys. In 1985, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. By 1996 he weighed 110 pounds, went into a coma, and nearly died. He became an HIV/AIDS activist and was the subject of an award-winning 2013 documentary film. At the time of his death, he was working on his autobiography, The All of Everything in the Life and Times of Jimbeau Hinson.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop will close this spring. The building and the business will be sold, reports MusicRow, according to a joint statement from Honky Tonk Circus, LLC; ETRS, LLC; and David McCormick Company, Inc. “Our goal has always been to protect, promote and preserve the great history of the record shop and building,” the statement says. “That desire remains as strong today as ever. However, due to changes in circumstances out of our control, it’s now clear the best way forward is to sell the business and the real estate.” Ernest Tubb  opened The Ernest Tubb Record Shop in 1947 and moved it to its current location on lower Broadway in 1951. Longtime employee David McCormick took over in 1984 after ET’s death. In 2020, he sold it to JesseLee Jones, owner of Robert’s Western World.

There’s more to the story, as reported by Nashville Business Journal. In July 2021, Phillip McCormick became the conservator for his brother, former longtime Ernest Tubb Record Shop owner David McCormick. A month later, he filed a lawsuit that alleged JesseLee Jones and Emily Ann Cousins “fraudulently induced” McCormick to sell them the shop, according to documents filed in the Seventh Circuit Court of Davidson County. Jones and Cousins, a  married couple, denied the claim in an October 2021 court filing. David McCormick had been in declining health and suffering from a bipolar disorder when he moved into the guesthouse of his longtime friends, Jones and Cousins, in 2020. He granted Jones power of attorney and drafted a will that named Jones and Cousins the primary beneficiaries of his estate. The lawsuit alleges they transferred funds from his personal checking account to their business entity, Honky Tonk Circus LLC. He sold them the Ernest Tubb Record Shop for $4.8 million in August 2020. Their response to the lawsuit states McCormick was “fully aware of and involved in” all transactions. McCormick’s legal counsel sent a notice of default to Jones and Cousins in May 2021 because they hadn’t made any payments. They said they hadn’t paid because of the pandemic, and they sent a check for $610,746 to settle the debt. David McCormick did not accept the money, according to court filings. Shortly after that, his brother took over his financial affairs. The two parties in the lawsuit reached a settlement that was approved by a judge two weeks before the record shop went on the market.

In response to her Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination, Dolly Parton posted on social media, “Even though I am extremely flattered and grateful to be nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I don’t feel that I have earned that right. I really do not want votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out.” She added, “This has however inspired me to put out a hopefully great rock ‘n’ roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do! My husband is a total rock ‘n’ roll freak and has always encouraged me to do one.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation refused the Dolly Parton request to withdraw her nomination. Disagreeing with her belief of not having earned the right, the Foundation issued a statement that said, “From its inception, Rock & Roll has had deep roots in Rhythm & Blues and Country music. It is not defined by any one genre, rather a sound that moves youth culture. Dolly Parton’s music impacted a generation of young fans and influenced countless artists that followed. Her nomination to be considered for induction into to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame followed the same process as all other artists who have been considered.” The ballot containing 17 nominations for the class of 2022 had already been mailed to 1,200 voters. The statement concluded, “We are in awe of Dolly’s brilliant talent and pioneering spirit and are proud to have nominated her for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”

Last Call: One More for the Round Tour is the title of the upcoming Alan Jackson tour, his first since announcing his diagnosis with Charcot-Marie-tooth disorder. CMT News reports the 16-city tour begins June 24 in Biloxi, Mississippi, and ends in Pittsburg on October 8. His degenerative nerve condition affects mobility but is not deadly.

“Once again, the world doesn’t stop for my broken heart.” When Reba McEntire posted that line on her Facebook page on March 16, along with a picture of her band, I knew it must be the anniversary of the plane crash. CMT News summarizes the night 31 years ago that her tour manager and seven band members, along with two pilots, died when their small plane crashed into a mountain near San Diego. Due to a tight schedule, Reba’s team had leased a pair of small jets to get from Michigan to San Diego and back to the Midwest. Reba wasn’t feeling well and decided to fly the next day. The planes took off three minutes apart, and the second plane lost radio contact with the first one. Although rain and wind played a role, the official National Transportation Safety Board report faulted the pilots for being unfamiliar with the area and an FAA specialist for providing faulty directions before takeoff. Reba recently said the tragedy made her reevaluate her life. She advises, “Focus on the day you have and enjoy it while you have it.”

God, Family, Country: Soldier, Singer, Husband, Dad–There’s a Whole Lot More to Me is the title of the upcoming memoir by Craig Morgan, to be published by Blackstone Publishing on September 27. After losing his 19-year-old son in a boating accident in 2016, he showed such resilience and faith that people started encouraging him to write his life story. He began to think it was a sign from God. His co-writer is Jim DeFelice, one of the co-writers of Chris Kyle’s autobiography American Sniper. “My objective is to inspire people,” Craig, 57, tells PEOPLE in a phone interview from his cabin in the Alaskan bush. “I hope when people see this, that they see I’m not just some celebrity… I really want to make a difference in life and in the world and in people’s lives.” He has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 2008. He is currently a contestant in the CBS reality series Beyond the Edge, in which celebrities compete for charity.

A Merle Haggard tribute will be held on the Grand Ole Opry stage on April 6, the anniversary of the Hag’s 1937 birth and 2016 death. Scheduled performers for the “Opry Salutes Merle Haggard” show include Cody Johnson, Lainey Wilson, Suzy Bogguss, Joe Nichols, and Marty Haggard.

Country songwriter Bruce Burch, 69, who fought a 30-year battle with leukemia, died March 12 at his home in Nashville, reports the Gainesville Times. The cause was complications from leukemia. His 1996 book about his music career, called Songs that Changed Our Lives, contained stories about his hit songs, recorded by T. Graham Brown, Billy Joe Royal, Aaron Tippin, Faith Hill, The Oak Ridge Boys, George Jones, Barbara Mandrell, John Anderson and Wayne Newton. When “Rumor Has It,” which he co-wrote for Reba McEntire, became a hit in 1991, he had a limousine pick up his kids from elementary school. He also co-wrote T. Graham Brown’s “Wine into Water.” Bruce helped establish a long series of benefit concerts in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida. He helped start music business programs at University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University, and he taught entertainment business classes at Brenau University.

Singer/songwriter Brad Martin, 48, died March 11, reports MusicRow. Raised in Greenfield, Ohio, he learned how to play guitar at a young age and started writing songs. He moved to Nashville in his early 20s and performed daily at a local nightclub. In 1997, he signed with Blake Mevis, George Strait’s producer. He debuted on Epic Records in 2002 with the album, Wings of a Honky-Tonk Angel. He and John Ramey formed country duo Martin Ramey and signed with Curb Records in 2008. The cause of death was apparently cirrhosis.

At the Saturday night Opry on March 19, Bill Anderson, Jamey Johnson, and Buddy Cannon sang several songs they had written together, such as George Strait’s “Give It Away.” Jamey said he’d first been on the Opry 17 years ago. Bill asked how many times he’d appeared since then, and Jamey didn’t know. “You have made a lot of guest appearances,” Bill said. “But the management and the staff and the people at the Opry tonight told me to tell you this is going to be your last guest appearance.” Jamey, taken aback, said, “I’ve been kicked out of a whole lot of places in my life.” Bill told him he could add this to the list because he wouldn’t be a guest anymore. Then Bill announced, “The next time Jamey Johnson’s on this stage, he’s going to be the newest member of our Grand Ole Opry cast and family.” Jamey just looked at Bill and then reached over and hugged him. Bill said he’d left out one little part: “That’s just the invitation. You have to accept the invitation. Do you want to be the newest member of the Opry?” Jamey said, “I accepted it twenty years ago.”


Robin Wellington, wife of Sam Wellington of the Four Guys, writes, “Super newsletter this week. I especially enjoyed the piece on Scotty. A truly great talent that, for some reason, flies under the radar. I REALLY enjoyed the message on Marty Stuart. Also, got a small ‘funny’ for you from my husband, Sam. His third book – COUNTRY CLUB – was recently released on amazon. hE SAID TO TELL YOU IT IS SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES, BUT HE WISHES IT WOULD START SELLING LIKE A HOT BOOK!”

Mike Johnson of Roughshod Records says, “Thanks for the plug in your February issue. Some very interesting stories in there and in the March issue. The only music news I have to share is that SoundExchange has changed its submission platform for copyright owners to register their songs. Yesterday I registered three CD singles from my You and Me Records label. And finally, it’s a lot simpler and easier to navigate. SoundExchange is authorized by Congress to collect royalties from streaming sites for copyright owners and featured artists on music releases. I’ve been a member since it first formed some decades ago. Keep those good stories coming.”

Don Ewert from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, says, “Your newsletters are always full of information. I want to wish Mike Johnson #1 black yodeler best wishes with his radiation treatments.”

Domnique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that newsletter. Sorry to learn about Warner Mack’s passing. He was a great artist who has laid on wax one of the greatest rockin’ tunes from the ‘50s, ‘Roc-A-Chika’ for Decca in 1957. That dancing tune was heavily popular in UK in the early ‘80s, being always played by DJs. Warner Mack records were issued in UK, Australia, Finland, Germany, to name few countries. The Bear Family CD is an essential one featuring some unissued sides like ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ and ‘Ubangi Stomp’.”

My sister, Kayo Paver, in Clear Lake, says, “I met these two very talented young musician brothers from Hendricks, Minnesota, last night at a jam session with Rollie at the Toronto Music Shop. Would you please add them to your newsletter? They are Jim and Brian Lawburgh.”

Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “Thanks again for all the great updates on the music biz. And for running a little of my fun past. Still hooking up some writings at my age. I’m a fan of all my co-writers. So far three hundred and forty-four of them. 714 cuts on my songs and looking for more. So excited to share my new website with you. Hope you’ll check it out.”

Bri Rueschaw posts this farewell on Facebook: “Yesterday, March 19, my Uncle Bob Bien went to start his next adventure. I have so many memories I get to cherish forever and because of that I’m so very thankful. So many great holidays celebrated, White Sox games attended, miles travelled as we road tripped to Colorado, laughs had and memories made. Thank you for being the best Uncle and best Godfather a girl could ask for.”

Diane: Bob Bien was a longtime subscriber to my newsletter. May he rest in peace.

Douglas Lippert says, “Always a pleasure and a privilege to receive your newsletter, Diane. During a recent road trip to West Virginia, my ‘liked songs’ on my Spotify playlist had me listening to ‘Ode to Billy Joe’ by Bobby Gentry and I thought to myself, ‘That’s the best ‘story song’ ever recorded.’ As luck would have it, the next song was ‘El Paso’ by Marty Robbins. I had to admit to myself, then, that ‘El Paso’ is probably my favorite ‘story song,’ which I define as a song that doesn’t follow the traditional verse/chorus format but which, instead, uses the entire song to tell the story. Stay safe and stay awesome.” 

David Markham writes from England, “Sad to hear Warner Mack has died. He was quite busy many years ago, once Country started to get new artists he went out of sight Sad. There’s nothing much I can Comment on the others as I don’t know them. I started listening to Country and Western Music during 1950s, then Rockabilly with a mixture of Country and Steel guitars. And it was mostly that sound and Cajun music. I knew most of the singers from Bobby Flores. I used to get him airplay on our Radio Stations in the UK. You keep me going by updates with your reports on Country.”

Jared Stearns, biographer of Marilyn Chambers, has a request: “I have a country music question for ya. Believe it or not, Marilyn Chambers fronted a country band called Haywire in the early ’80s. They played gigs mostly in Las Vegas and The Palomino Club in North Hollywood. They were written up in Variety and even recorded an unreleased album. But they were only active a couple of years. Tracking down the band members has been challenging, but I’d love to get their stories about working with Marilyn if they’re willing to share. Do any of these names sound familiar? 

Will Rose / Guitar, Vocals
Mike Gallues / Bass
Steve Harvey / Lead Guitar, Vocals
Mike Lyman / Steel Guitar, Vocals
Mark Dalzell / Drums

If you know them, would you be willing to connect me with them?

Diane: The names aren’t familiar to me, but they might be to some of my readers. If anyone knows these people or their family members, please let me know, as well as if they’re willing to talk to Jared.


One of my memoirs is now available as a downloadable audiobook. Navy Greenshirt: A Leader Made, Not Born covers eighteen years of my U.S. Navy career, from the time I became an aircraft maintenance officer until my promotion to captain. Robbin Sitten did a great job of narrating the audiobook. It is available on Amazon.com and Audible.com. If you are in the USA or UK and would like to download a complimentary copy, please email me for a promo code.

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