Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 27 January 2016

Mel Tillis, 83, underwent emergency colon surgery at Nashville’s Centennial Medical Center on January 8. The Tennessean reported on January 15 that reports indicating Mel was in frail health were overstated. After several weeks of recovery, he plans to be back in action. The surgery prevented him from joining the scheduled Country Music Cruise 2016.

Former Brazos Valley Band member Curtis Potter, 75, died at a hospital in Abilene, Texas, on January 23. He had been struggling with congestive heart failure and pneumonia for two weeks. He fronted Hank Thompson’s band and played bass guitar for him from 1959-1972. He has recorded with Heart of Texas Records since 2005. He and Tony Booth and Darrell McCall recorded two projects as “The Survivors.”

Dr. Gene Ring, husband of Bonnie Brown, died January 16. He fell asleep watching a football game and never woke up. “Brownie” had been by Bonnie’s side since her cancer diagnosis. They have two children, Kelly and Robin.

The 25th annual tribute to honor Marty Robbins will be Saturday, March 5, in Willcox, Arizona. It consists of a steak dinner and a show by Kelly Rowden & The Cadillac Cowboys. The event is sponsored by The Friends of Marty Robbins in Willcox. For more information, call 520-766-1404.

The Bridgestone Arena in Nashville will present “The Life and Songs of Kris Kristofferson” on March 16. Kris Kristofferson, 79, a Rhodes scholar and Country Music Hall of Fame member, will be honored with performances by Willie Nelson, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Rosanne Cash, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, and others. Kris will also perform.

The Missouri House of Representatives honored Missouri native Leroy Van Dyke with a brief ceremony on the House floor on January 20. He was presented with an official House Resolution honoring him for his 60 years in the music business. He was later honored on the floor of the Senate. Born in Mora in 1929, Leroy currently lives on a ranch near Sedalia. In addition to his success as a country music entertainer, he is a member of the National Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame and the author of Auctioneering, Motivation, Success.

When Garth Brooks announced a single April 2 concert date in Ottawa, Ontario, ticket demand was so high that shows on April 1 and April 3 were added. All three shows, with 50,000 tickets, quickly sold out. This shattered Garth’s previous Ottawa ticket sales record–36,952 tickets sold in 1996.

The sixth annual “We’re All for the Hall” benefit concert will take place April 12 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Keith Urban and Vince Gill are hosts of the fundraising event for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “Nashville has become a dynamic and diverse musical melting pot,” Keith told Nash Country Weekly. “While it remains the home of country music, an unbelievably talented community of songwriters, producers, instrumentalists, singers, bands and solo artists are rapidly changing the entire musical landscape in Music City U.S.A. Our sixth ‘All for the Hall’ event will celebrate that.” This year’s theme is “Mashville: The Music City in 2016.”

Johnny Western writes from Arizona, “Great stories on both Reds. Glad it worked out with Steagall.”

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “Thanks for that first newsletter for 2016. Another very entertaining one except on Red Simpson’s passing. Keep it country.”

Tom Wilmeth, an Iowa boy in Grafton, Wisconsin, wonders, “Did Mr. Steagall give a name for that town in northwest Iowa?”
Diane: It was Havelock in Pocahontas County.

Kate Davis of Bear Creek Productions in Medford, Oregon, writes, “Enjoyed your January newsletter–so glad Sherwin Linton told us about these. Thank you for your hard work. Marty Davis does shows all over the West–fairs, theaters, RV resorts, guest ranches. The most popular portions of his shows are the Sons of the Pioneers/Silver Screen Cowboy tunes and his section on Marty Robbins songs. Folks still love Marty Robbins and always sing along.”

Daryl Skancke sends this report: “Sturgill Simpson will be performing the theme song for HBO’s new series, Vinyl, set to premiere for its first season on February 14. With producers like Mick Jagger, Martin Scorcese, and Terence Winter, the series centers around a record executive trying to save his music label. It has a six-figure budget just for music–for each episode. Set in the ’70s in New York, Vinyl is reportedly going to feature nearly 30 songs per episode. Simpson may technically be a country singer, but his music has obvious groovy, progressive undertones. He spearheads the soundtrack with the theme song, ‘Sugar Daddy.’”

Larry Hill in Sioux Falls says, “Awesome! Enjoyed reading these.”

Dean Mann replies to Alan Potter, “Yes, Alan, I remember all those singing cowboys. At one time or another I saw all of their movies. I can’t remember Dick Foran being a singer, but that has been a long time ago that I have been to all those old movies. Thanks for reminding me.”

Mary Mitchell writes from Woodland Park, Colorado, “Always enjoy your letters. I wonder how many people will remember the Late and Great Carl Smith’s passing on January 16th. Six years. The best in his time and still the best in my heart and mind.”

Maheen Wickramasinghe says, “I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Red Simpson. He has always been one of my favorites. I recently picked up the new Marty Robbins 2 CD MCA set and it is just terrific. Always loved Marty and I sincerely hope your biography on Marty will be out in audio because I’m blind in both eyes. Keep up the excellent work bringing classic country music alive with your newsletters. I received a copy of the Eddy Arnold single I asked about a few months ago. I received the 45 7 single, ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and ‘I’m The South’ on the flip side. This is a rare single and I received this from a fantastic seller.”

Kathy Peacock Thomas has a request: “I have been looking for an old friend of mine, Gerry Gillespie. He wrote songs with Charlie Black and Richie Marino. Had a few awesome hits. Do you think any of your fans might know where he is? And as always thanks for sharing. I look forward to your letter each and every time.”

“Stateside” has always been one of my favorite Mel Tillis songs, since back when I never expected to live in Japan or visit Okinawa. I liked the C&W sound of the song, and perhaps I felt the military tug before I was military: “I’ve heard say a man don’t cry but I can’t keep my blue eyes dry. I’ve been away about two years I know I’ve cried a million tears.” In 1966, it became his number seven charted song on Billboard, and he named his band the Statesiders. Mel was stationed with the Air Force on Okinawa in 1952.

When Mel Tillis published his autobiography in 1984, he had just purchased Cedarwood Publishing Company. He wrote, “The Stutterin’ Boy from Florida who’d come to Nashville 27 years ago with a pregnant wife and a ’49 Mercury with a hole in the windshield bought the company. In 1956 I’d had a $50-a-week draw at Cedarwood. In 1983 I owned it—with the help of my good friends at Commerce Union Bank, and good credit.” His life story is told in Stutterin’ Boy: The Autobiography of Mel Tillis, which he wrote with the help of Walter Wager. The book closes with a “well-deserved lesson in humility,” where he describes attending a football game in Tampa, waiting for the game to start, when the announcer listed some of the celebrities present. The announcer said, “And Mel Tillis is here!” Mel tells us, “There was a great roar, so I stood up and took a bow, smiled and waved at 70,000 people. The shout was for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers charging out onto the field. As soon as I realized that, I sat down—feeling really stupid.” As you might expect from master storyteller Mel Tillis, this book is filled with well-told stories. It ends, “To be continued . . .” Well, Mel, three decades have passed. It’s time for volume two.

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