Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 26 October 2016

Bobby Vee (1943-2016)
Robert Velline, 73, known as Bobby Vee, died October 24 of advanced Alzheimer’s disease, the Associated Press reports. Born in Fargo, North Dakota, he was 15 when a plane crash in Iowa killed Buddy Holly, and a call went out for local acts to do the scheduled show at the Moorhead National Guard Armory. Bobby’s brand new band volunteered. The emcee asked their name, Bobby glanced at his bandmates, saw their shadows on the floor, and said, “The Shadows.” In the following years, his hits included, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Run to Him,” “Rubber Ball,” and “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.” He performed his retirement show in 2011, without announcing his recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Three North Carolina natives were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame at the 2016 Medallion Ceremony in Nashville. Brenda Lee inducted Charlie Daniels as the Veterans Era Artist, Vince Gill inducted Fred Foster as the Non-Performer, and Garth Brooks did the honors for Randy Travis as the Modern Era Artist. Alan Jackson sang “On the Other Hand,” Brad Paisley did “Forever and Ever, Amen,” and Garth Brooks sang “Three Wooden Crosses” before calling Randy up on stage. The Tennessean reports that Randy climbed the stairs with the assistance of his wife, Mary, and Brad Paisley. Then Mary asked the guests to stand and sing “Amazing Grace” with Randy. After hearing the stunning news that Randy had sung in public, I asked Alana Young (Faron’s daughter), who attended the ceremony, for her impressions. She told me, “His wife said they sing every day at home. He has come an amazingly long way. He seems to clearly understand everything that is being said, but his speech is somewhat slurred. He led the first verse of ‘Amazing Grace’ & it was emotional for the whole crowd. His articulation is still off but it was ‘Amazing’ regardless.”

The 50th annual CMA Awards show, to be broadcast live on ABC-TV on November 2, will include performances by seven former CMA Entertainers of the Year: Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Charley Pride, Reba McEntire, and George Strait. CMT.com reminds us that three are three-time winners: “Alabama (1982-1984), Jackson (1995, 2002, 2003) and Strait (1989, 1990, 2013).” Brooks & Dunn won in 1996, Vince Gill in 1993 and 1994, Reba McEntire in 1986, and Charley Pride in 1971.

Many who attended or performed at the famed International Festival of Country Music in Wembley, England, are in shock at the story reported last week by the Daily Mail. Mervyn Conn, promoter and organizer of the festivals in the 1970s-1980s, has been jailed for raping two teenaged girls between 1975 and 1985. Now 82, he must serve at least seven years of his 15-year sentence before being considered for release. Allegations were first made in March 2014, and two other women later came forward. Conn was arrested and then released on bail until he was charged in February 2016. A 15-year-old who worked for Conn at his 1976 festival said he would call her into his office to perform degrading sex acts on her. In 1985, he raped a 16-year-old girl at his London office when she came to pick up free concert tickets he’d promised her. The detective who led the investigation said, “I’d like to pay tribute to the victims who have had to recount very traumatic details of offences as part of this case and the strength they have shown during the investigation.”

Gwen Stefani, 47, provided the musical entertainment at President Obama’s final State Dinner, held on the South Lawn of the White House. According to People, it was the Italy state dinner and she is of Italian descent. She invited Blake Shelton, 40, to join her on stage to sing their duet, “Go Ahead and Break My Heart.”

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Garth Brooks will do his first-ever concerts in Hawaii when he and Trisha Yearwood play back-to-back shows on December 10th. The two concerts at Honolulu’s Neal S. Blaisdell Arena will not include Garth’s band.  Net proceeds, according to Rolling Stone Country, will be donated to help preserve the Pearl Harbor legacy at four sites: WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (USS Arizona Memorial), Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and Battleship Missouri Memorial. I didn’t think Garth could go to Hawaii and only do two shows. After I wrote this blurb, I came across a Taste of Country article that says he added a third date the evening of December 9. I’d expect there will be more.

The Nashville Scene reports that the manager of the George Jones Museum and business partner of Nancy Jones is headed to prison for two years. Kirk West, also known as Kirk Leipzig, has pled guilty to two counts of bank fraud, and he must pay nearly a million dollars in restitution to Reliant Bank. He borrowed the money in 2008 and 2010, using forged documents to inflate his income and net worth, to buy property in Brentwood and Belle Meade. He is also being sued by Mercedes-Benz for a $33,830 debt. According to Saving Country Music, he was instrumental in the rapid construction and opening of the 50,000-square-foot George Jones Museum.

Aaron Lewis, a new singer/songwriter with the platinum-selling hit “Country Boy,” opens all his performances with the Pledge of Allegiance. A press release announced the official kickoff of his headlining SINNER Tour. It was a sold-out performance at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, and it introduced his new album, SINNER. He showed his appreciation for the nation’s military when he made a stop in Hawaii over the weekend for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Rock the Troops event. He will be a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on November 2.

Loretta Lynn is back in action. She performed two shows in Branson, Missouri, on October 22-23.

The estate of Ray Price is locked up due to a legal battle between Ray’s widow, Janie Price, and his son, Cliff Price. Ray married Janie in 1970 after divorcing Cliff’s mother. Saving Country Music reports the dispute was being kept private until Janie Price started posting details on the official Ray Price Facebook page. The day after Ray died, Cliff filed an application to probate the will, and Janie filed to oppose his request. Thus began the legal battle. Ray’s estate was inventoried for potential liquidation, and a Texas judge appointed a receiver to take control of all assets. Janie appealed the decision last month. “Meanwhile the Ray Price estate, including his song masters and other important assets, remains in limbo,” says Saving Country Music. Janie complained on Facebook about the unfair Texas laws used “to rob the entire estates of Both The Deceased Person and The Surviving Widow and Family.” She also posted, “Although I am utterly exhausted, I will not waiver in my determination to continue the fight to preserve The Ray Price Legacy.” I have to wonder if she thinks Cliff’s goal is to destroy his father’s legacy?

Bill Anderson writes from Nashville, “Thanks so much for referencing a quote from my new book in your newsletter. I know lots of folks will see it, and hopefully a few might be inspired to pick up a copy and read the rest of what I had to say. Or they can order the audio book and I’ll whisper it to them! Both the print and audio versions are available through my web site at www.billanderson.com, and they come personally autographed. The success of my book — the publisher sold out of first edition copies two weeks after it first came out — just proves one more time that there are still lots of fans out there who continue to love and respect and support traditional country music. God bless ’em. I hope all is well in your world.”

Les Leverett reports from Nashville, We’re losing our great ones too often nowadays. I drove up to Hendersonville for the visitation for our dear old friend, Jean Shepard, and signed the book ‘Les (Alabama Flash) Leverett.’ That’s what she always called me, and the reason for it is a long, hilarious story, too long to tell here. She’ll always sit sweetly in my memory.”

Gerald Walton in Oklahoma City says, “I really enjoy your newsletter. Sorry to hear about Jean Shepard passing. She was a great Okie.”

Carol Smith writes, “Appreciate your newsletter — wanted you to know I have a different email address. Thanks for all you do.”

Jerry White in North Carolina says, “I just read the first article I have ever read of yours, and am totally in love! I was raised on the greats of country music, like Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, and George Jones by a dad who had listened to country music with his dad too. My tastes in music have broadened since adulthood, but, what I call True Country Music still holds a special place in my heart. I often return to the days when country music told a story, or made you really feel what the artist was trying to say. I am not knocking today’s country music, I love it too, and can sing along with many of the tunes coming on the radio today. I love the fact that much of it is very up-beat and easy to dance to, but when a song is stuck in my head, it’s more likely to be one from the earlier days of country music. You know an artist really touched you when, years later, you remember their words when a particularly strong emotion hits you. You leave someone you have been going with for a long time and think of ‘Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain.’ You run into someone you used to date years ago and hear ‘Hello Darlin’’ start up in your mind. Or even, when you catch a significant other somewhere they should not have been, hear ‘The Cold Hard Facts of Life’ begin to play, Or, when watching one of the debacles called presidential campaign debates on TV, and hear ‘Are the Good Times Really Over for Good’ play in the background. Please sign me up for your newsletter. Thank you, and keep those fantastic articles comin’!”

Larry Jordan writes from Guthrie Center, Iowa, “Hope you enjoy this CD, Marty Robbins: The Lost Recordings. This is all fresh material, never commercially available before. As you may know, my efforts for the past 15 years have been to release material fans have not heard (e.g., Streisand, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Jim Reeves—and a new one called Patsy Cline: The New Recordings, featuring overdubs by current members of the Opry band). Would appreciate a mention of the Marty CD in your newsletter.”
Diane: Thanks for sending me the CD. I enjoyed listening to the 33 live performances by a young Marty (1955-1960). And I appreciated the mention of Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins in the liner notes.

Chiela Rae Munkvold says, “I love country music, although I do not play any instrument, your newsletter lets me keep up with what is happening.”

Bill Hyatt writes, “I am an 83yr old man who has lived a good life filled with country music by all of the old-time greats. I am glad I won’t be around much longer as we soon won’t have any GREATS left. Merle and Jean were two of my favorites. I remember when Jean and Terry Preston (Ferlin Husky) first came to Nashville. Always loved both of them. Formerly a Missourian but an Arkie for the past 55 yrs.”

Jerry Field says, “I find your Journey very interesting. I grew up in a small town in South Dakota also not far from your home town. Oldham. I have interest in reading more of your Writings, So would you please add me to your list to receive your News Letters. Thank You and May God Bless your Journey.”

George Owens writes from Nashville, “Just think, I hadn’t contacted you in years and years, then I write you a little note and ‘voila,’ I am hot in your newsletters. I really need to let the world know that I am not ‘high,’ but I am still alive and lovin’ and missin’ all my music friends and buddies. We have lost so many of the classic country singers and musicians in the past few years that I’m getting a little worried about MYSELF. Just jokin’, I know I’m okay. Love your newsletters and as Terry Counts put it, you keep us up to date on the CLASSICS that we love. Thanks for your attention.”

Here’s the story of how Kenny Rogers learned to play stand-up bass in a jazz band in 1959. When offered the job, Kenny said, “I appreciate the offer, but I’m not a bass player. I play guitar, and I’m not even that great at guitar.” The other man responded, “There’s more demand for bad bass players than bad guitar players.” – Luck Or Something Like It, a memoir by Kenny Rogers

Times have changed drastically since musicians and singers all gathered in a studio to record a song. For years now, I suppose since the invention of multi-track devices, errors have been removed and additional voices and instruments added. “Duets” are recorded by people who have never met each other. Even dead people become duet partners. Johnny Cash was in such tough shape that his last recordings were pieced together a few words at a time to come up with a complete song. My question is, how much technology–and artificiality—is acceptable to you in a recording?

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville was initiated in 1961, with the posthumous induction of three men who shaped and popularized country music. The first inductee was Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, considered to be the Father of Country Music. A native of Meridian, Mississippi, he was a railroad brakeman and musician who gained fame after recording with Ralph Peer on the groundbreaking Bristol recording sessions in 1927. He recorded 110 songs and traveled the nation, influencing future generations of singers. He changed the music of the hills by adding a colorful personality and a variety of real-life topics. My favorite of his songs is “Waiting For a Train.” He suffered from tuberculosis for the last decade of his life, and died of a massive hemorrhage in 1933, two days after fulfilling his final recording contract with RCA Victor.
Fred Rose was the second person inducted, also in 1961. There might not have been a Hank Williams without him. He and Roy Acuff founded Acuff-Rose Publications in 1942, and Fred was a major force in the development of country music. He was a songwriter, music publisher, producer, and talent scout. His touches reshaped many Hank Williams lyrics into marketable songs, and he tried to keep Hank on the straight and narrow. Fred died of a heart attack in 1954.
Hank Williams lived only four months after his 29th birthday, but his short life and career brought us one of the most important figures ever in the history of country music. That is obvious by his early entry into the Country Music Hall of Fame—and the fact that movies are still being made about him. Everyone who knows country music knows of Hank Williams, even though he has been gone since New Year’s Day, 1953.

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