Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 27 December 2023


One of the performers at A Heroes & Friends Tribute to Randy Travis – 1 Night, 1 Place, 1 Time in Huntsville, Alabama, was Tony Jackson. He agreed when I asked to spotlight him in my newsletter, and I called him several weeks ago for a conversation. His latest release is “Do You Remember Country Music,” written by Mo Pitney, Bobby Tomberlin, and Aaron Bowlin. The video features Randy Travis and was filmed at Johnny Cash’s farm, now called the Storyteller’s Museum, near Bon Aqua, Tennessee, forty miles west of Nashville along I-40.

Because I’d spent five months on deployment at Naval Station Rota, Spain, I wanted to hear Tony’s story about living there and meeting Randy Travis during a Christmas USO show. Tony’s dad was a U.S. Navy machinist’s mate who specialized in nuclear propulsion. Tony attended grades five through seven in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) system during their three-year Rota assignment.

For the first year, while waiting for a house on base to become available, Tony and his dad lived in an apartment building out in town. His stepmother and sister came a year later when they got base housing. “That year out in town was wonderful,” Tony recalls. He and his friends explored Rota and spent hours at the beach. They ate in the bodegas, played games at the numerous fairs, and hung out in the large cathedrals that were open around the clock. “We’d light candles,” he says. “We didn’t understand what that was about, but that’s what they were doing, and that’s what we did. Every day was a different adventure.”

He enjoyed on-base life just as much. A bus called the Rec Rabbit (recreation rabbit) ran between the housing area and the main base. “For a quarter, we could get on the Rec Rabbit,” he says, “and it would take us anywhere on the base. That was our fun activity, get on the Rec Rabbit and go somewhere. We’d pretty much do whatever we wanted.” That included the movie theater, swimming pool, bowling alley and arcade, the gym, and the pizza villa down by the front gate.

In early December 1989, when Tony was a seventh-grader, Armed Forces Radio advertised the upcoming USO show, as did the Armed Forces television channel. “It was all Randy Travis pretty much that they played,” Tony remembers. “The video for ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ was on all the time.” When the concert was being set up at the large aircraft hangar, Tony and his friends rode the Rec Rabbit there to watch the activity. The stage was being built, and people were milling about. One man struck up a conversation with the youths. “He was asking about us American kids living in Spain, and what that was like,” Tony remembers. “We were all happy to talk about all the fun things we got to do. I loved living there.”

That evening, when Randy Travis came onstage, Tony exclaimed, “Hey, that’s my friend!” They realized it was Randy they’d been talking to in the afternoon. “It never crossed my mind that was the person everybody was raving about,” Tony remembers. To them he was their friend.

Tony’s first experience with performing, other than singing in the church choir, had occurred two years earlier. The entire fifth grade class was practicing for the Christmas performance, and Tony was cutting up in music class. To punish him, the teacher said, “You’re going to sing a solo in our Christmas performance.” He responded, “No, no, please, I’ll be good, I promise.” But she made him sing a verse of “White Christmas” as a solo, in front of the entire class and all the parents. “I was terrified, but I did it,” he says. His friends’ parents complimented him on his singing, and his friends were impressed. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” he says. “That’s when I understood how cool it was, but I had no designs on singing or performing. That didn’t come until much, much later.”

I asked Tony if he’d gone to any bullfights, expecting him to say no. “We did, actually,” he answered. “It was a field trip.” I was amazed that children would be taken to such a gruesome event. Their school curriculum included a class on Spanish culture, in which a local Spanish woman taught the language and various traditions. She scheduled a field trip to Seville, which began with visiting a cathedral and then a park where the children enjoyed feeding pigeons. In the afternoon, they went to an arena for a bullfighting exhibition. I asked if they saw the bull get killed. Tony said, “No, because so many of us were in tears, that they took us out of there.” He described the banderillas, colorful sticks with barbed points, being stuck in the bull’s back: “They’d bounce, and this bull got all bloody, and we were not liking that.” The chaperones put the children back on the bus for the return trip to Rota. “The teacher was very upset,” Tony says. “She was upset that we were upset. I guess the day didn’t go like she expected.” Bullfighting was, after all, part of her culture.

When Tony’s dad retired as a senior chief petty officer (paygrade E-8), the family moved to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. Tony graduated from high school there in 1995, after attending four different high schools in four years. He wanted to enlist in the military but felt it would be a demotion to join the Navy. He had spent his life immersed in his dad’s career. They had the same name, and Tony saw himself as a senior chief. He did not want to start at the bottom. “For me, the idea of being an E-1 in the Navy, I just couldn’t stomach it,” he says.

One day, as a high school senior, he was talking to an Air Force recruiter during his lunch period, listening to the sales pitch even though he had no interest in the Air Force. The recruiter wrote him a pass to excuse him from English class, and they continued talking. “He almost had me,” Tony says—until the Marines walked by. A female master sergeant, who “was about five-foot-one, but because of her dress blues, she might as well have been seven foot tall. That uniform and Marine Corps bearing.” Two sergeants, also in dress blues, were carrying a long table. As the three Marines walked by, the Air Force recruiter stopped talking. His head swiveled, as did Tony’s, to watch them. He then acknowledged the cool uniforms but warned Tony, “You don’t want to go there. Their bases are terrible, boot camp’s horrible, it’s rough in the Marines.”

Tony still remembers her name: Master Sergeant Beth DeWitt. She was no nonsense when he went to talk to her. While the Air Force recruiter emphasized fun, world travel, great jobs, and numerous opportunities, she said, “We’re an elite force, and if you make it, you’re lucky. You’re one of the few.” Tony thought, Wow—challenge accepted.

What sealed the deal was the Marine Corps computer science school. “I was into computers as a kid, a huge nerd, and they had this new school,” Tony says. “She said if you score high enough on the ASVAB, we can get you into that school.” Two weeks after graduating from high school, Tony was on a bus to Parris Island, South Carolina.

Following his four-year enlistment, Tony returned to Richmond and spent the next years in an IT job at Bank of America. One day, his musician friends asked if he would be interested in singing with their band, because their singer had quit. “Which I wasn’t,” Tony explains. “I didn’t know anything about singing in a band, had no designs on it, had never pictured myself in that scenario.” The persistent guitar player gave him a recording of their songs. “I went down to the rehearsal space and sang every song they sent me,” Tony says. “By the end of the rehearsal, they said, ‘okay, you’re in, we got a show in three weeks.’ So I was in a band.”

Tony enjoyed performing and traveling with them for several years, until he dropped out of that band and was out of music for a while. He was working on a music project with some friends when they decided to do a tribute to the late George Jones. They recorded “The Grand Tour” and put it on YouTube. The video went viral.

Donna Meade Dean, widow of singer Jimmy Dean, saw the video. She lived in Richmond and was hosting a revival of the Old Dominion Barn Dance from the 1940s. She called Tony and told him she wanted him to sing that song on the Old Dominion Barn Dance. After his performance, she invited him to join the cast. A few shows later, she said, “I’ve still got connections in Nashville. We’ve got to record that voice.” They went to Nashville, made a record, and signed a booking deal. Tony then made the leap of leaving Bank of America and becoming a musician full time.

I asked him what is coming up next. He’s promoting his new album, I’ve Got Songs to Sing, and its lead single, “Do You Remember Country Music.” He has booked performing dates for 2024, along with studio dates to record new material. “Just move the music, make the music, and play it, y’know,” he says. You can learn more about Tony and his music at www.tonyjacksonmusic.com.

Tony Jackson with Diane Diekman and Kayo Paver in Huntsville, Alabama


A founding member of The Dixie Chicks, Laura Lynch, 65, was killed in a vehicle crash on December 22. TMZ reports it occurred just after sunset when she was driving east on Highway 62 from El Paso, Texas, to Dell City. The Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that a car heading west attempted to pass another vehicle. When it turned out to pass, it hit Laura’s vehicle head-on. The driver was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Laura died at the scene. In 1989, she co-founded the group now known as The Chicks, along with Robin Lynn Macy and sisters Martie Erwin and Emily Erwin. She served as upright bassist and lead vocalist. In 1995, she left the band and was replaced by Natalie Maines. She then lived a relatively private life.

Warner Music Nashville has promoted Mike Dupree to SVP, Creative Director, in charge of the label’s creative initiatives, including video production and graphic design. I recognized his name because he had responded to my request for recordings from Randy Travis’s More Life documentary. MusicRow reports he has been with Warner Music Nashville since 2010. His accomplishments include feature documentaries with Cody Johnson (Dear Rodeo, 2021), Randy Travis (More Life, 2022), and Ian Munsick (White Buffalo: Voices of the West, 2023).

The University of Illinois Press is holding its annual holiday sale through December 31. Take 50% off all books with code HOLIDAY50 at checkout. Browse all books on the website. This includes my Faron Young and Marty Robbins biographies and quite a few other books I have mentioned in this newsletter. Whereas books with mainstream publishers go out of print in a few years, these books remain available for sale.

In a recent interview with Cowboys & Indians, Nancy Jones and Ken Abraham talked about writing Playin’ Possum: My Memories of George Jones, Nancy’s memoir of her 30-year-marriage to George Jones. The pair met when Ken was working on Forever and Ever, Amen with Randy Travis. Nancy provided stories and was pleased that the published memoir quoted her accurately. When she decided to write a book about life with George, she contacted Ken. Her favorite Jones song is “Walk Through This World with Me,” and Ken says, “That’s kind of what Nancy wanted to do with the book. She wanted the fans to be able to walk through her world that she shared with George Jones.” Nancy adds, “People can see what I went through, and how I got this man and all of these demons out of him. Me and the Good Lord and George Jones. . . I did want them to know that, and that there’s a God. God can help you in any way. And He did help me with George.”

“Kissing Your Picture (Is So Cold)” from the album, Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Duo / Group Performance, reports CMT News. It is the 48th Grammy nomination for Vince Gill and the first for Paul Franklin. Vince, whose home displays his 22 Grammy trophies, says about their collaboration on the album, “What I am most proud of is being nominated with Paul.” And Paul says, “After decades of playing music with my friend Vince, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a Grammy nomination. This is too cool!” The 66th Grammy Awards will air live from Los Angeles on February 4.

Florida resident Nicol Harness was sued for $250,000 by the legal team of Luke Combs for selling merchandise on Amazon featuring his likeness. PEOPLE reports she’d sold 18 Combs-themed tumblers for $20 each before she was sued in an Illinois federal court with other defendants. Luke found out about the lawsuit when he saw it on the news. He immediately posted an apology via TikTok. He said, “We do have a company that goes after folks — supposedly large corporations operating internationally — that make millions and millions of dollars making counterfeit t-shirts, things of that nature, running illegal businesses, and apparently this woman, Nicol, has somehow gotten wrapped into that.” Harness, who suffers from congestive heart failure, missed the 21-day response window because she was in the hospital when notice of the lawsuit was emailed to her. The $5,500 in her Amazon account was locked as a result. “It’s very stressful. I don’t have money to pay my bills,” she told WFLA. “I didn’t mean any harm to Luke Combs. I quit selling the tumbler. I pulled it down.” Luke doubled that amount by sending her $11,000. He also plans to sell a similar tumbler on his website and donate the proceeds to “Nicol and her family to help with her medical bills.”

MusicRow has compiled an extensive list of country music industry deaths in 2023.

One of those I missed was Bill Rice, 84, who died October 28. I profiled him in June as a member of the 1994 class of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. I said he lived in Florida. He and Jerry Foster were inducted as the team of Foster & Rice. In 1972 alone, Foster and Rice received ten ASCAP songwriting awards, following that with 11 ASCAP commendations. In later years, Bill formed a songwriting partnership with his wife, Sharon Vaughn Rice. They wrote Patty Loveless’s “Lonely Too Long,” Reba McEntire’s “I’m Not That Lonely Yet,” and “‘Til a Tear Becomes a Rose” for Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan.

When Jamey Johnson gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Jacksonville State University, he was surprised to receive an honorary doctorate from the Alabama university. In addition, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared December 15th as “Jamey Johnson Day” henceforth. According to Saving Country Music, Jamey entered Jacksonville State in 1993 with a full scholarship to study music education. He left the university to enlist in the Marine Corps, where he served eight years in the infantry, even though the Marines wanted him in the Marine Corps band. Jamey was joined at the Randy Owen Center for the Performing Arts in a concert with Randy Owen, Riley Green, and Gordon Mote. He also helped announce the “Jamey Johnson Music Series” that will help students learn from successful recording artists and songwriters through performances, workshops, and lectures.

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute recognized songwriter J.T. Harding as an Angels in Adoption honoree in its 2023 Angels in Adoption program. MusicRow reports he was nominated by U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty for his work with adoption, including his “Write Like a Rockstar” contest that offered fellow adoptees a chance to co-write a song with him and have him record it. J.T. was adopted as a baby in the Detroit area; he later learned his biological father was actor Jay Thomas. His 2022 memoir/songwriting how-to book, Party Like a Rockstar: The Crazy, Coincidental, Hard-Luck and Harmonious Life of a Songwriter, tells his story. He has written multiple No. 1 hits, with his songs recorded by Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, and many others. The Angels in Adoption Program allows members of Congress and their staff to learn first-hand about adoption and foster care efforts taking place within their state and across the country. The Angel honorees travel to D.C. to meet with congressional offices and child welfare advocates. The program draws media attention to the positive difference adoption and fostering make in the life of a child.

Amy Grant and Vince Gill are the first artists ever to headline 100 shows at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. They celebrated their 100th performance on December 22 during their annual Christmas at the Ryman presentation of holiday classics and original songs. According to Taste of Country, a portion of the proceeds went to support Room in the Inn, which provides winter shelter and support services for unhoused people.

The former home of Bobby Allison in Hueytown, Alabama, is on the market for $697,700. According to Essentially Sports, the Allison family moved to the five-acre property in 1969 and made it a racer’s paradise. It had multiple workshops and a five-car garage. They prepped several racecars in their in-house garage. Almost 20 years ago, Bobby and his wife, Judy, moved to Charlotte and left the house with daughter Bonnie, who spent most of her childhood there. She was seven when the family moved from Miami to Alabama. She describes the unusual basement design as a family room where they held Christmas parties and the teenagers hung out with friends. When a reporter asked if any visiting NASCAR drivers had been to the basement. Bonnie emphasized it was a family area. “I don’t remember honestly back that far to know if there was any, in particular,” she said. “There is a chance that Marty Robbins may have been down here, so that’s pretty special.”

Touring musician Ritch Henderson experienced chest pains following a recent show at The Evening Muse in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was hospitalized for two nights. He told Queen City News he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. “It just needs some medicine to get it under control and terrifying if you’ve never experienced it,” he said. While he was in the hospital, someone broke into his Toyota 4Runner at the hotel and stole more than $15,000 worth of instruments and musical equipment. He had to cancel his next show in Greenville. The crooks took cymbals, a 1960s vintage Ludwig snare, a limited-edition Fender deluxe telecaster guitar, and an American Standard Precision Bass. “We’re holding out hope that the investigators assigned to the case will find our stuff,” Henderson says, “and a fan of ours has started a GoFundMe which is already at $2,000.”

At the end of his three-show run at the Park MGM in Las Vegas, Toby Keith, 62, was named a Pandora Billionaire and presented with a Triple Billionaires plaque. According to MusicRow, his music has been streamed three billion times on Pandora. To date, he has more than 10 billion streams across all platforms. The shows marked his first tour dates following his stomach cancer diagnosis and two years focused on his recovery. He told Katie Neal on Superstar Power Hour, “I’m doing really good. It’s been a tough two years, but I think I’m turning a corner.” He also talked about his latest hit single, “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” which went to No. 1 on the iTunes Country Chart. Toby wrote the song in 2018 to honor Clint Eastwood, then 88, after being partners at a golf tournament, when he asked Clint, “What keeps you going at your age?” Clint said, “I try to get up every day and be productive — not let that old man in.” About writing the song, Toby says, “I didn’t know I was going to have to live those words in a few years.”

Dave Barton sends this link, Country Current at the US Navy Band Christmas concert – Bluegrass Today, along with the comment, “Tell me another country that has this! Now this is a talented group that is serving our country every day, how much better does it get.” Bluegrass Today reports on the annual US Navy Band holiday concert in Washington, D.C. Performances included the Navy’s bluegrass band, Country Current, which was formed in 1973 when Bill Emerson of Country Gentlemen fame joined the Navy to start the band. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the band consists of guitarist Caleb Cox, formerly with Nothin’ Fancy, Sally Zeising, daughter of Rhonda Vincent and former member of The Rage, Haley Stiltner on banjo, Patrick McAvinue on fiddle, Joe Friedman on guitar, and Danny Stewart on bass.

MusicRow reports the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has opened a new exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of commissioning “The Sources of Country Music,” the six-foot by 10-foot Thomas Hart Benton painting in the Hall of Fame Rotunda. Benton agreed in December 1973 to paint the mural for the museum. Channeling his lifelong passion for country music, he finished the mural shortly before he died January 19, 1975, in his Kansas City studio. His sketches, preliminary paintings, and three-dimensional clay model are included in the exhibit, An American Masterwork: Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘Sources of Country Music’ at 50. It is open through January 2025.

Photo: Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum


Alana Young, daughter of Hilda and Faron Young, posts on Facebook: “My mother, Hilda, who has been under hospice care for 2 weeks now, after 24 days in the hospital, has been lucid enough to visit with family! The 27th anniversary of my dad’s death was 12/10 and people still remember him and reach out.”

Diane: I’m sorry to hear Hilda is nearing the end. She’s a lovely lady. Yes, we still remember and miss Faron.

Bobby Fischer writes, “Thanks for mentioning our song ‘You Lie’ on The Voice by great artist Ruby Leigh. Love to check all the items you give us in your newsletter. I saw you said Christmas song of the week. I’d like to submit one for next week. My most favorite Christmas lyric I wrote with the great Richard Leigh and what a coincidence–last name as Ruby’s. Richard wrote ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.’ My submission is ‘The Jingle Bell Factor’ with Richard singing it.” Another song story: “Alabama was over at their office going through Christmas songs to record. Their manager, Dale Morris, had part of our song publishing. ‘Down Home Christmas’ was perfect for them. Murray Kellum was to take the copy over to them. We were all waiting when they said Alabama was over recording. But Murray forgot to take ours over, so they didn’t hear it. One of them coulda wouda things in musical history,”

Bobby Fischer announces, “You are invited to Bobby Fischer’s Book Party. Wednesday, December 27 at 3422 Hopkins Street, Nashville, TN 37215. Music starts at 6:20 p.m.”

Marty and Kate Davis write from Oregon, “Thank you for all you do. And MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Carl Rollyson says, “I loved all the news about Brenda Lee. I grew up listening to her, and I’m happy she is still around to make a difference.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that welcome long newsletter. For some unknown reason I may have missed several of your newsletters. The last one I’ve got was making mention about Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for 1979. I don’t know what should happened. I am glad to be on the roll call again and to enjoy your work, the news and the letters. Keep the good work going on. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year packed with music, joy and love.”

Diane: That was February! I wonder what could have happened to stop delivery and then start again. Your note made me realize I hadn’t heard from you in a while. You can catch up on my newsletters by reading them on my website.

Dominque responds: “Great to have answer and to be able to stroll back early 2023 to enjoy the ‘old’ newsletters. Thanks for the link for your web site. I have plenty to read there and I am not sure it will be done before next year. Ah, ah! Just like you I wonder what happened. Maybe some virtual non-country worms or city gremlins fooled us? I am sure glad to be able to enjoy again your newsletters. Always great from the top to the bottom. Your work is mighty fine and the letters always interesting. Warmest regards from your French friend.”

Eric Calhoun says, “Thank you, Dean Mann for the update of Paul Overstreet. I’m glad he’s doing well. I want to take this time to wish all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. And also, I love some of Garth Brooks’s offerings on Tunein; if you haven’t been able to listen, you should.”

June Thompson writes, “I hope this finds you doing well, and your Randy Travis book going forward. Thanks again for such a fun and interesting newsletter. Be Blessed, have a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.”

Diane: Thank you, June. I’m happy to report I sent my manuscript to the publisher earlier this month, and it has gone out to two reviewers for their opinions. What a relief to have that finally finished, after four years of working on it.

Mike McCloud wonders, “I am curious if anyone knows what happened to the statue of Chet Atkins that was downtown Nashville? I know they’re doing work on the building. But what did they do with the statue? I hope and pray it is safe and that NOBODY vandalized it or damaged it in any way. Bill Anderson might be familiar with it and know what happened to it. Are they going to put it back on its pedestal at 5th and Union? Or have they moved it to a new permanent location? Thank you for any help.”

Diane: Readers? Does anyone know?


The first time I remember hearing of the Delmore Brothers was when the Country Music Hall of Fame inducted them during its catch-up year of 2001. More recently, I mentioned them in my newsletter as Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees in 1971. Alton and his youngest brother, Rabon, performed as a duo from 1926-1952, when Rabon died of lung cancer at age 36. They grew up as two of ten children in a highly musical family of tenant farmers in northern Alabama and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1933. They wrote and recorded such classics as “Brown’s Ferry Blues” and “Blues Stay Away from Me.” They left the Opry in 1938 and later formed a gospel quartet, the Brown’s Ferry Four, with Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis. Alton began writing his autobiography in the early 1960s. He outlined his chapters and gave it the title of Truth Is Stranger than Publicity. He’d only reached the year of 1945 when he died in 1964 at age 56. Years later, his son, Lionel Delmore, delivered the manuscript pages to historian Charles Wolfe, who edited them and added a chapter to cover the remaining years of the brothers’ lives. In 1977, the Country Music Foundation published Truth Is Stranger than Publicity: Alton Delmore’s Autobiography. The current version, The Delmore Brothers: Truth Is Stranger than Publicity, is the third out-of-print biography being republished in the cooperative effort between the CMF Press and the University of Illinois Press. Published word-for-word as Alton wrote it, the book spends much time on how impoverished and mistreated they were during their years on the Opry, and how difficult life was on the road. Alton was an expert on reading and writing music, and the brothers were perfectionists in their harmony and guitar work. Alton wasn’t a businessman, though, often cheated out of their rightful due by radio stations, record labels, and promoters. Because DeFord Bailey emphasized in his autobiography how much he admired and appreciated the Delmores, I was surprised Alton didn’t mention traveling with DeFord. All in all, both DeFord and Alton provide voices from the past, giving us insight into the early days of country music and the Grand Ole Opry.


Jimmy Buffett was born on Christmas Day 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and performed as a folk singer while in college. He entertained on Bourbon Street in New Orleans before moving to Nashville in 1969, where he worked as a writer for Billboard magazine and recorded two albums. In 1971, he moved to the Florida Keys, returning to Nashville for recording sessions. His biggest charting singles were “Come Monday” and “Margaritaville.” He amassed loyal concert followers who called themselves “Parrotheads” and flocked to his tropical-themed shows that were legendary for their party atmosphere, with songs such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Changes in Latitudes.” Few of his songs were recorded by country artists, the exception being when Lefty Frizzell recorded his co-written “Railroad Lady.” He gained attention on country radio in the 2000s in duets with Kenny Chesney, Clint Black, the Zac Brown Band, and especially the award-winning “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” with Alan Jackson. He died in 2023, at age 76, in Sag Harbor, New York, four years after his diagnosis of a rare and fast-growing form of skin cancer, Merkel cell cancer. He was listed as No. 13 in Forbes’ America’s Richest Celebrities in 2016 with a net worth of $550 million.

Hugh Prestwood, born in 1942 and raised there in El Paso, Texas, moved to New York City at age 30 to be a singer-songwriter. His #1 songs include “The Sound of Goodbye” (Crystal Gayle), “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder” (Michael Johnson), and “Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” (Randy Travis). His ballad “The Song Remembers When” bounced around Nashville for two years before Trisha Yearwood recorded it, leading to a Nashville Songwriters Association International Song of the Year Award. Two years ago, Hugh fell on hard times. He and his wife were evicted from their New York home, and Hugh suffered a crushed vertebrae that left him almost completely disabled. They turned to Go Fund Me to try to raise $25,000 to move back to Texas. The country music community came through, donating over $80,000 in one week. Hugh is 81 years old.

Jim Weatherly, born in Mississippi in 1943, began writing songs when he was 13 years old. After a college football career that included a national championship for the University of Mississippi in 1962, he moved to Los Angeles. There, his pop and R&B classics included hits by Gladys Knight & the Pips, “Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” His songs were often recorded by country artists, and he moved to Nashville in 1985. Ray Price recorded more than fifty, including the #1 “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” Jim penned country hits for Glen Campbell, Vince Gill, Charley Pride (“Where Do I Put Her Memory”), Bryan White, Bob Luman, Bill Anderson, Steve Wariner, Earl Thomas Conley, and others. In 2002, he filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), claiming he was underpaid royalties for “Midnight Train to Georgia” for years. It set a new legal precedent when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Weatherly vs. Universal Music Publishing Group, making way for other artists to cite this decision to support independent claims that they had been underpaid royalties. Weatherly was inducted into the national Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014. He died at his home in Brentwood, Tennessee, in 2021, at the age of 77.

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