Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 26 June 2019


Thanks to Sharon Kenaston and Tracy Pitcox for a Thursday evening filled with high-quality traditional country music. Sharon hosted the 22nd annual Wahoo Country Music Show in Wahoo, Nebraska, this past weekend. Tracy Pitcox brought several Heart of Texas recording artists for a dance at the Starlite Ballroom.

The Kenaston family band opened the evening with an hour of classic country music and spectacular harmony. Roger Kenaston played lead guitar, with his wife Sharon on upright bass, his sister Vanessa on rhythm guitar, and his daughter Bobby Jo on drums. Sharon and Vanessa, who sang most of the lead, should both have recording contracts. The three women together produced wonderful harmony. Their hour went by much too fast. Although I can’t often pick out individual instruments, I enjoyed watching and hearing Sharon walk the bass. Vanessa’s version of “Pretty Words” by Marty Robbins caught my attention, too.

I’ve long been looking forward to seeing Tony Booth and Justin Trevino in concert, and I finally got to meet them both. Tony headlined the almost-four-hour Heart of Texas show. The Heart of Texas backup band consisted of steel, fiddle, drums, and Justin on electric bass.

When I introduced myself to Justin before the show, he asked what song I wanted to hear. “Step Aside,” I answered. He said he would sing it for me. Knowing I was Faron Young’s biographer, he told me “Leavin’ and Sayin’ Goodbye” was on the set list.

The first singer was the fiddle player, Dennis Stroughmatt. What an amazing voice! He sounded as if he should be the lead in a Broadway musical. Hearing his take on familiar country classics made for an exciting musical experience.

Justin followed Dennis. He sang “Leavin’ and Sayin’ Goodbye” and then went directly into “Step Aside.” Without a break, “Country Girl” came next. Justin concluded his four-song Faron Young section with “Wine Me Up.” He told the audience he loved singing Faron’s music, adding, “I’m not done yet.” He said he wanted to do his favorite Faron song from his childhood, which he didn’t often get to sing. He recalled it coming from the car’s eight-track tape player while he rode around town with his dad. After a brief instruction to the band about chord changes, he kicked off an intro I immediately recognized as “The Yellow Bandana.”

Justin finished out his set with a selection of familiar tunes heavy on the Johnny Bush sound. I have no words to describe the stunning Justin Trevino vocals. You have to hear him for yourself.

Next came Landon Dodd, a Texas singer who began his portion with “Face to the Wall,” another Faron Young hit. Wow, what an evening.

Headliner Tony Booth opened his set with “Cinderella,” followed by hits such as “The Key’s in the Mailbox” and “Lonesome 7-7203.” When we thought the evening was over, Tracy announced there would be a short break and then another hour of music. The show lasted until midnight.

Tony began the final song, “Night Life,” in its usual slow, bluesy style. Justin and Dennis finished the performance with their powerful vocals on alternating verses. “Night Life” never sounded so good. The crowd left the concert feeling invigorated.

Dennis Stroughmatt, Tony Booth, and Justin Trevino


John A. Hobbs, “the father of Music Valley,” died June 12 at age 91. The Nashville native joined the Merchant Marines at 15 and served through the end of World War II, after which he returned home to Nashville. In 1977, he and singer Jerry Reed opened the Nashville Palace. Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Van Shelton, Travis Tritt, and Joshua Headley are a few who got their start playing in the club. Over the years, Hobbs and his partners opened approximately 25 businesses in Music Valley, including hotels, restaurants, and a wax museum.

Steel guitarist Terry Bethel, 80, died June 17 in Nashville, following an extended illness from pancreatitis. He spent four decades as one of Mel Tillis’s Statesiders and was inducted in 2012 into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. He and Dick Miller manufactured the Bethel Pedal Steel Guitar. He was once married to Billie Jo Spears. He played on numerous sessions, including the majority of Mel Tillis’s hits.

The Donelson-Hermitage Chamber of Commerce Women in Business recently honored Jeannie Seely with The Standing Ovation Award, which was presented at its inaugural Influencing Women Awards Gala, It’s a Ball Y’all. Terri Williams Nutter, Executive Director, stated in a press release, “As the committee was determining the categories for our awards, it was unanimously agreed that this particular award should only be presented to one person, Jeannie Seely. She exemplifies all the traits, and embodies the spirit of the award, which will now be named after her.”

Radar Online, the internet magazine that advertises on its home page, “We pay for juicy info,” reported on June 13 that Loretta Lynn, 87, will spend her final days in an assisted living facility. “The music legend’s health problems have become so dire that her family is ready to relocate her to a 24/7 care facility,” the article says. “A source explained the decision to put Loretta into assisted care could come within weeks. . .. Despite her challenges, feisty Loretta refuses to give up on the notion of hitting the stage again, said the friend, and ‘her family allows her to dream.'” The friend also said, “She talks to them about booking some concert dates. But of course, with her health and how unsteady she is on her feet, it’s just an impossibility. It allows Loretta to still hope — even though it’s becoming clear the end is near.” The next day, Loretta posted this on her Facebook page: “Well, through the years they’ve said I’m broke, homeless, cheating, drinking, gone crazy, terminally ill, and even dead! Poor things can’t ever get it right. I guess if those old pesky tabloids are harassing me then they’re giving someone else a break……but I’m about an inch from taking ’em to Fist City!”

Tanya Tucker is getting ready to release her first record in 17 years. While I’m Livin’, a ten-song album co-produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings, will be issued August 23 by Concord Music’s Fantasy Records. Brandi Carlile, Tim Hanseroth, and Phil Hanseroth wrote six of the songs. “It’s a musical biography of sorts about Tanya’s real life and the places she’s seen,” Carlile says. The three writers joined Tanya to pen the last track, “Bring My Flowers Now.” Tanya told The Tennessean the idea came from a conversation about a funeral four decades ago. She commented, “Man, bring my flowers now while I’m living,” and Loretta Lynn told her she should write it into a song. Several months ago, Loretta asked her if she’d ever written that song. Tanya wrote the chorus for “Bring My Flowers Now” and the others helped her finish it on their last day in the recording studio. “It took me 40 years and 20 minutes to write the song,” Tanya says. Saving Country Music reports Carlile is also executive producer of a documentary to be called Delta Dawn Then and Now: The Return of Tanya Tucker. To get footage for the documentary, a camera crew filmed Tanya during the recording process.

A copyright infringement lawsuit has been filed against Carrie Underwood, NBC, and the NFL over the 2018 theme song for Sunday Night Football. Singer/songwriter Heidi Merrill and three co-writers of “Game On” have named Carrie, Mark Bright, NBC, the NFL, Sony Corp., Warner Music Group and more as co-defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in New York on June 19. According to Nash Country Daily, Merrill calls her song “substantially–even strikingly–similar, if not identical” to the one co-written by Carrie, Chris DeStefano and Brett James. Merrill wrote her song with three others in 2016 and posted her recording to YouTube in 2017. She claims she pitched “Game On” to Carrie’s producer, Mark Bright, at an event in Nashville.

Glenn Barber, 65, an administrative analyst for the Tennessee legislature, died June 10 after collapsing in the Cordell Hull legislative office building in Nashville. He had been hired in January 1993 and was nearing retirement. He once played music with Tanya Tucker. He was a music lover and an avid Tennessee sports fan. The Tennessean reports he and his wife were known for an annual extravagant Christmas light display outside their house. They spent about 150 hours each year putting up the lights.

The fifty dates of Alabama‘s year-long 50th Anniversary Tour will end with a Nashville appearance on November 20. Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry have just announced the final show, which will include Charlie Daniels. “It’s hard to believe we started this band 50 years ago in my parent’s house,” Cook tells Taste of Country. “The Nashville concert at Bridgestone Arena will be a fun celebration for the fans and for Randy, Teddy and me.” Parkinson’s disease limits his stage appearances, although his microphone stand is always set up for when he feels well enough to perform.

The 2019 Country Radio Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Awards ceremony was held June 19 at the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University, reports Billboard. Six men were inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame: Mac Daniels, Jeff Garrison, Gregg Lindahl, Bobby Denton (posthumous award), Charlie Monk, and Kyle Cantrell. They joined 167 previous inductees, all of whom must have worked in radio for at least 20 years, with 15 being in the country format. The President’s Award was presented to recently retired CRB executive director Bill Mayne for his support of country music.

Nash Country Daily reports that Shania Twain, 53, will return to Las Vegas for 23 dates at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Shania will serve as the creative director for the Shania’s Let’s Go! residency that opens in December. She performed more than 100 dates during her 2012—2014 Still the One residency at Caesars Palace.

Trisha Yearwood, 54, launches her 23 dates of Every Girl On Tour at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on October 3. She will perform three nights there with the Nashville Symphony, before heading out of town. “I can’t wait to take my tour solo for the first time in five years,” Trisha tells Nash Country Daily. “I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the positive response to ‘Every Girl in This Town’ and, as enthusiastic as folks are about my new music and the upcoming tour, I don’t think there is anyone more excited than me.”

Carrie Underwood, 36, received a surprise when she brought her Cry Pretty 360 tour to Wisconsin. She was presented with a work of edible art, a block of cheese that displayed her Cry Pretty album cover–tears on her face and a microphone in her hand. She posted on social media, “This is me… carved into a 40 lb. block of Wisconsin cheese in honor of our show here in Milwaukee! I’m speechless!!!”

An animated video of “Smoky Mountain Rain” features a duet by Ronnie Milsap and Dolly Parton, which they recorded for his The Duets album earlier this year. “In the opening verse,” as described by Rolling Stone Country, “Parton takes the lead, explaining that in spite of her traveling man’s ‘change of dreams’ that have led him back from the bright lights of L.A. to the greener pastures of East Tennessee, she tenderly tells him ‘not to bother, ’cause I’m gone.'” The video was created by Josh Clark, a guitarist and singer-songwriter who is also an illustrator and animator. “As a visual artist I’ve always felt making music informs my art and vice versa. It turns out ‘Smoky Mountain Rain’ is a song I’ve lived,” Clark tells Rolling Stone Country. “When you’re asked to do a video for a Ronnie Milsap and Dolly Parton duet you obviously say yes first then ask what song. When I first listened and the scene in the rainy phone booth came up, it resonated with me right away.” His video shows the male character thumbing down a diesel outside a café called “Jolene’s.” Dennis Morgan and Kye Fleming wrote “Smoky Mountain Rain,” which has been one of Tennessee’s official state songs for almost a decade. They also wrote Barbara Mandrell’s “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed” and Sylvia’s “Nobody.”

Three months after his stroke, Jerry Lee Lewis, 83, is recovering at his Tennessee home. “Jerry Lee Lewis is back home after a successful stay at a rehabilitation center following a stroke earlier this year,” his publicist tells PEOPLE. “He is right on track to be back on stage soon and will be heading into the studio in the next couple of months to record a Gospel record. The Killer wants to express his continued appreciation to his fans across the world for their continued thoughts and prayers.”

One of the 35 celebrities who will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020 is Tanya Tucker. Taste of Country reports the announcement came from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s Walk of Fame Selection Committee on June 21. The list includes entertainers and celebrities from movies, television, theater, music and radio.

A new bronze statue in black patina was unveiled June 12 at 999 S. Cooper Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The statue of Johnny Cash stands near the Galloway United Methodist Church, the site of his first professional performance. He and the Tennessee Two, guitarist Luther Perkins and bass player Marshall Grant, were hired to play a Christmas season fundraiser for a women’s Bible study group in 1954. Saving Country Music reports the life-sized statue, sculpted by Memphis artist Mike McCarthy, took five years and $65,000 to plan and make. Church bells tolled in the background as Johnny’s nephew, Roy Cash, 79, helped unveil the sculpture. Roy had attended the original performance at the church.

Captain Roy Cash, USN (ret), admires statue of uncle Johnny Cash


Tom Kaufman in Denton, Maryland, says, “I haven’t written you in a while, but wanted to say I am still enjoying your newsletters. This latest issue, you did a nice article on Lloyd Green; I want to thank you for helping us catch up on what Mr. Green is doing these days. I had heard of his wife’s illness and her passing; didn’t know for sure if he was still doing any picking or not. Reading the article also brings to mind that I’ve been looking for a particular album I hope is available on CD; it’s called Lloyd Green and His Steel Guitar. I believe the label is Prize records. It features songs such as Midnight Silence, Nashville Chimes, Sound Waves and Five String Steel Guitar. Perhaps either you or your readers may know if this album is, in fact, available on CD or not? As always, thanks for keeping us up to date with what’s going on especially with the traditional country folks; BTW-was good to hear Jean Shepard’s remembrances of Faron as well. Keep up the good work.”

Diane: Readers? Anyone know this album?

Erv Niehaus writes, “I really appreciate you writing about your interview with Lloyd Green. And another steel guitar player you mentioned was Bashful Brother Oswald. Lloyd set the bar high for pedal steel players, while Bashful Brother Oswald was noted for his dobro playing. I met Faron Young at the airport in Phoenix. We were both catching a flight from Phoenix to Tucson. He was going to be playing a show in Tucson. We had a very nice conversation. My first daughter was a baby and Faron said he also had a baby girl but she had heart problems. Keep up the good work. I really look forward to your newsletter.”

Doug Lippert writes from Carmel, Indiana (Greater Indianapolis), “Thank you for the very thoughtful update on Lloyd Green. Although he was one of the unsung heroes who made the stars sound great, his outlook on life, his respect for both the older and newer players and the way in which he cared for his dying wife is inspirational. May God grant me the grace to have this same attitude should I make it to Lloyd’s age. And so thrilled to see the release of some more Carl Smith music, as well.”

Alec Strachan writes from Australia, “Way back in the 1970s I was at The Wembley Country Music Festival and given the job of looking after Lloyd Green, Pig Robbins and Charlie McCoy to make sure they got to their rehearsals and interviews on time. During the 3 days of the festival I spent a fair bit of my time with these three guys and they were brilliant musicians and great gentlemen. A friend of mine took a photo of Lloyd sitting at his steel guitar on the 1st day of the festival and on the 3rd day he’d had them developed and gave me a copy and Lloyd was gracious enough to sign it for me. I still have that photo and it’s pinned up on my board where I keep my music information and keepsakes. Yes, 3 great musicians and 3 great guys.”

Diane Jordan in Nashville says, “Thanks to your newsletter, I learned that Lloyd will be on the Midnight Jamboree on June 22. Robin Killen and I are planning to see the show. Lloyd is one of the best steel guitarists, that’s for sure. It sounds like they have an exciting future planned. Not many 81-year-olds can say that.”

Carol Smith in Nashville says, “Thanks for the recent newsletter. What a nice article on Lloyd Green. So nice that you write on those who made country music what it was and we don’t ever want to forget them. A great article. I thank him for his music and wish him a happy life. Sad about Chuck Glaser — Guess there is harmony in heaven. Always enjoyed their voices. Thanks again for keeping good country music alive.”

Sherwin Linton writes, “I just learned Chuck Glaser has passed away. Very sad. His wife brought him to see me when Jim and I recorded a duet along with Joe Babcock at Hilltop Studios. Chuck could not speak but he understood when I thanked him for all he had done for me in the 1960s. Though Chuck was no longer having a good life I am still deeply saddened by this news, but the Lord is now hearing the best Brother Harmony ever in Heaven.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that welcome newsletter and greetings for the print of Jean Shepard’s memories about Faron Young. Very interesting and much appreciated. Warmest regards from your French friend.”

Ron Honrud requests, “Could it be possible to get on your newsletter list? Enjoy it very much.”

David Markham writes from the United Kingdom, “As I hope you know I was friends with the Faron Young Family for many years mainly with Hilda. I’ve been writing to country artists since 1964 when Jim Reeves was killed. I’d like very much to say how very kind you are in keeping fans like Myself up to date with our Artists. I know a little about Lloyd Green, my number one Steel at the time. I can’t ever see Traditional Country Coming Back in my time or anytime. My friend Joni Harms of eight years is doing her best to stay Traditional Country and Western Singer. She did her 13th album, with a true story about it being called LUCKY 13.”

Gerald Walton in Oklahoma City says, “Enjoyed your article on Marvin Rainwater. I got to know him in Springfield, Missouri, in 1957. We went to the same coffee shop.”

Jim Hannaford, former member of the Marty Robbins Band, says, “Enjoy still reading your Country Music newsletter. Enjoy, also, seeing the growth in readership you obviously have achieved. Good for you. You Rock…country style.”

Pam Harp Sell writes from Nashville, “As I read your newsletter & saw Tanya Tucker’s name, I thought this might be something you would want for your memory bank. Glenn played for Tanya years ago. Neither George or I can remember meeting him or his daddy who was Martin Glenn Barber, Sr. George said to say Hi. Thanks for all you do.”

Diane: I posted the article about Glenn Barber’s death in the News section.

Jackie Thomas in Arizona says, “Thanks again, always great, please keep these coming.”

Lenore Koszalinski has a request: “There is a song where someone puts an ad in the newspaper and cannot think of the name of the song. It is not ‘Wanted’ by Alan Jackson. Can you help please? Love your magazine.”

Diane: Readers?

Terry Beene writes from Missouri, “Thank you for your newsletter. Just some info about the Branson Terry Music Awards. It will be held Sunday, September 22, at the Baldknobbers Theatre in Branson. It’s going on 41 years and having record crowds. After all these years we finally got a TV Deal with the Farm & Ranch TV also will be on Roku TV. Going to be exciting year for the Terry Awards. We are now one of the Biggest nights of the Year in Branson. Everyone welcome to come see all the Branson Stars and Entertainers. Call All Access Branson for Tickets 332-2121. Again, thank you for all you do in Country Music.”


Another entertainer I met at the Florida State Fair in Tampa in early 2000 was Jimmy C. Newman. Although I’d heard the story of Faron’s gift bull, I was thrilled to learn “the rest of the story,” as told here. Jimmy Yves Newman joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 and last performed there at age 86, two weeks before his death on June 21, 2014.

Faron was a very, very talented man and I respected his talent very, very much. When I came to the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, Faron was a member of the Opry. We were a part of the show together. I did a lot of tours with Faron. I especially remember one we did in the Northwest. It started in El Paso, I think, and went on to the Northwest. At the time Roger Miller was on drums. There were a lot of acts, but I specifically remember that Roger was not even recorded yet. The promoter would book dates so he could be on the show to sing. He walked up to Roger and he said, “Roger, have you heard my last record?”  Roger was very witty. He said, “I certainly hope so.”

What really drew Faron and me together, I suppose–we owned a bull together–a partnership. It was his bull first, because of an old debt with Willie Nelson. For some reason Willie had bought a Simmental bull. Simmental is a breed of cattle of renown in Switzerland. They’re huge beef cattle, plus they’re great dairy cattle, too. They’re very, very docile, very easy to handle.

So anyhow, to make a long story short, Willie bought what Faron thought was a calf in payment for the debt. When he got the payment, it was a bull. That Saturday night prior to the arrival of the payment, Faron was backstage at the Opry, and he mentioned it. He said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with him; I don’t have any place for him.” I said, “Well, Faron, I’ve got plenty of land, and I have cattle. Why don’t you just bring him to the house?” So Billy Deaton, who was managing Faron, arranged it. I live 50 miles out of Nashville, and it was arranged for us to meet at a certain place. They couldn’t have found it. It’s hard to find where I live, not knowing the directions. I went and met them five miles from home. There in the trailer was the biggest bull I’d ever seen in my life. A big Simmental bull, and they grow to be a huge animal. It was three years old, a registered Simmental bull. Willie had paid over $18,000 for him at an auction. So the bull got there, and I had committed myself, and I saw this unbelievable thing–I’d never seen a cow or bull that big. I said, what in the world have I gotten into? I had promised Faron I would take care of him, which was no big deal, I still could do it. The bull weighed around 3000 pounds. So I brought him home, had them drive the trailer. Faron just wanted me to use him, cuz we didn’t know what we were gonna do with him. We sort of had a partnership deal. I knew, when you get involved in registered animals, you have to show their offspring for you to make anything out of them. That wouldn’t work for me, cuz the only cattle I had were crossbred. I still got three of his offspring. They’re huge. They were some of my best cows. They’re getting old; I’m gonna have to get rid of them. I guess they were born probably around ’85.

Faron wanted to use the bull possibly to breed, to sell offspring, or to do whatever, and we weren’t equipped for that. We didn’t have registered Simmental cattle. So finally we sold him. We sold him for what we call grade. I forgot what he brought, I would imagine around $1500. So that was the end of that. Which I was always concerned about, because I knew with registered cattle, you had to–campaign, is what I was trying to say, their offspring and all that. But I did get nice calves out of it. I did get a very nice bull out of him. He was a half-breed Simmental, but he was a nice animal, very nice. Then I loaned him to the next-door neighbor. So then he wouldn’t stay home. He’d go to the other neighbor’s cows–I had to sell him. Oh, he was nice.

So that’s the bull story. We got a tremendous amount of publicity. Billy Deaton was sending out a lot of press. At the time I was doing a lot of dates in England and Europe, and they carried it heavy over there. Big Willie. Willie Nelson gave him to us, so I called him Big Willie. It was carried in a lot of papers. But he was exceptional to breed, an unbelievable huge animal.

It had been awhile before Faron died that I last saw him. It really came as a shock when that happened. He was the type guy that I thought–but we never know what motivates someone. I guess he had enough of what was happening, and didn’t want to face it. He was a great singer. He had a pile of hits to prove it. He did a lot for country music. He should be in the Hall of Fame–and will be, I’m sure.


When Randy Travis and Buck Moore wrote “The Box” in 1994, they had no idea they were writing a true story. It was about a cold-hearted father who had died. “We opened up the top and stared into the memory Daddy kept inside the box,” the first verse says. The song ends, “We all thought his heart was made of solid rock. But that was long before we found the box.” Randy’s recording made it into Billboard’s Top Ten. In his memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen, he says that whenever he sang the song, “I couldn’t help thinking about my fractured relationship with my own dad.” After his father, Harold Traywick, died in 2016, the family made an amazing discovery. A dozen scrapbooks contained “every chart that contained my name, starting from the beginning of my career,” Randy writes. Harold had also pasted in numerous magazine articles and the birthday cards Randy sent him. Randy concludes, “I realized after he was dead that despite his gruff exterior, and his inability to express feelings other than anger, Daddy really did love me and was truly proud of me. How I wish he could have told me that years earlier.”

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