Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 28 December 2022


Charlie Monk, music industry networker and radio personality, died at home December 19 at age 84. Over fifty years ago, he co-founded the Country Radio Seminar, which is now a weeklong convention that draws more than 2,000 people and has live performances all over Nashville. He and radio promotions man Tom McEntee started Country Radio Seminar as a way for the few all-country stations to battle the pop stations that dominated radio in 1969. The Tennessean says Charlie grew up in Geneva, Alabama, “with a chip on his shoulder. He spent the rest of his life fighting against the ghosts of those few who said he and his family weren’t worth a lick.” In high school, he cleaned at a radio station until hired for a weekend on-air shift. After serving in the U.S. Army, he worked at various radio stations until he and his wife, Royce, moved to Murfreesboro and then Nashville, where he became a song publisher; he helped Randy Travis and Kenny Chesney get writing and record deals. Charlie is in the Country Radio Hall of Fame, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame, the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame, and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame. His hometown renamed a street “Charlie Monk Lane.” He returned to radio in 2004, on satellite’s SiriusXM country channel; his show on Willie’s Roadhouse continued until recently.

Ray Stevens and Brenda Lee were surprised when they presented each other with The Cecil Scaife Visionary Award. They didn’t know they were both getting the annual award, given to someone whose life and work make it possible for future generations to work in the music industry. They have known each other since 1956, when Brenda was 12 and Ray 17. CMT News reports Mandy Barnett opened the evening at Ray’s CabaRay Showroom in Nashville, singing “I’m Sorry,” accompanied by a 20-piece orchestra. Other performers included Charlie McCoy, Jeannie Seely, Ricky Skaggs, and Lang Scott. The McCrary Sisters led the all-sing finale of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” The Cecil Scaife Visionary is named after the late Cecil Scaife, who had a vision in the 1970s to create a business program to teach the country music industry. Through the generosity of Mike Curb, this became the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business and Belmont University. Curb received the inaugural Cecil Scaife Visionary Award in 2008. Other recipients include Tony Brown, Wynonna Judd, Amy Grant, Jo Walker-Meador, and Harold Bradley.

“Denise and I are celebrating our 43rd wedding anniversary with our new grandson Jackson Alvie Bradshaw,” Alan Jackson wrote on Instagram last week. “So happy that this little guy has made us grandparents!” CMT News reports his daughter Alexandra “Ali” Jane Jackson Bradshaw gave birth to his first grandchild December 13.

Bluegrass gospel singer, musician and songwriter, Becky Isaacs Bowman, of The Isaacs, was involved in a head-on collision on December 16 near her home in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The other driver had a medical emergency and died. Broken bones in Becky’s knees/tibias required emergency surgery, and she will be unable to put weight her legs for at least five weeks. She also has broken ribs. Bluegrass Today reports the long recovery process will involve months of therapy. Her vehicle was damaged beyond repair. Cards can be sent to: Becky Isaacs Bowman, c/o The Isaacs, PO Box 370, Goodlettsville TN 37070.

Keith Urban donated $250,000 to four Nashville charities to show his appreciation for their “inspiring” work, reports CMT News. “I have a deep-seated respect and feeling of gratitude for the work all of these organizations do to make people’s lives more manageable,” he said in a press release. The first gift was $100,000 to the Music Health Alliance, a nonprofit that provides medical resources to music industry members. The Nashville Food Project, an organization that fights hunger, received $50,000 towards their mission to bring people together and alleviate hunger in the surrounding area. Keith gave $50,000 to Thistle Farms, which helps survivors overcome and heal from sex-trafficking, addiction, and prostitution. He also donated $50,000 to Vanderbilt Breast Cancer Research.

Tractor Supply Company is the exclusive retailer for the Miranda Lambert MuttNation pet line, according to MusicRow, and Miranda shopped at the Franklin, Tennessee, store shortly before Christmas. She and her husband, Brendan McLoughlin, filled their carts with pet toys and supplies and then made surprise stops at three Nashville animal shelters. “This is the perfect time of year to visit your local animal shelter and to thank them for the great work they do all year long, helping the pets and the communities where we live,” Miranda says. “These three shelters have been important local partners to MuttNation and to me, personally, and I just wanted to show my appreciation.” Tractor Supply Company then surprised her with $5,000 in gift cards to spread the love to five additional shelters and rescues that help pets with special needs as part of the MuttNation Love Harder initiative.

One of the founding pioneers of rockabilly, Charlie Gracie, died December 16 in Philadelphia at age 86. He is credited as only the second American rockabilly artist to tour in the UK, with his 1957-58 appearances at the Palladium and Hippodrome, attended by future members of The Beatles, George Harrison and Paul McCartney condisered him a major influence. Born Charles Anthony Graci, he had a #1 hit in 1957 with “Butterfly.” Saving Country Music reports he is cited in both the United States and United Kingdom as a major influence on the formation of rockabilly and rock ‘n roll; he later had a major influence in rhythm and blues. He toured with Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, and Eddie Cochran. But a lawsuit over royalties from Cameo records resulted in his being blacklisted from the music industry. He never stopped performing, with his last UK tour in 2019. His life story was the subject of a 2007 PBS documentary, Fabulous!

CMT News reports Blake Shelton achieved his ninth win on NBC’s The Voice when contestant Bryce Leatherwood won season 22 of the televised singing competition. Throughout the season, the 22-year-old from Woodstock, Georgia, covered songs by Keith Whitley, Zac Brown Band, Brooks & Dunn, Conway Twitty, Travis Tritt, George Strait, and Trace Adkins. Saved by a wildcard vote, he came back with a performance of George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning.” He said he chose the song because “I cut my teeth with this song” at his local bars. But he realized the pressure: “If you come at the King, you best not miss.” His win includes a record deal with Universal Music Group and a $100,000 grand prize. Blake, 46, announced earlier this year that Season 23 will be his last. He has never missed a season since he helped launch the show in 2011.

Still Playing Possum: Music and Memories of George Jones is the title of a concert scheduled for April 25 at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama, according to MusicRow. The taped TV special will include Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Jamey Johnson, Justin Moore, Lorrie Morgan, Mark Chesnutt, Michael Ray, Sam Moore, Tanya Tucker, Trace Adkins, Tracy Byrd, Tracy Lawrence, and more. It will commemorate the tenth anniversary of George’s death on April 26, 2013, in Nashville, Tennessee.

A farm in Virginia created a monument to Dolly Parton made entirely out of hay. According to River Country 101.7, they shared video of the process on TikTok.

A 2023 Golden Globe nomination goes to Jessica Chastain for bringing Tammy Wynette back to life on the small screen, reports CMT News. The nomination came only eight days after the premiere of the series GEORGE & TAMMY on the Showtime/Paramount Network. The 3.3 million viewers made it the most watched premiere in the history of Showtime. The 80th Golden Globe ceremony will be held January 10.

Saving Country Music announces the release of the first official album from Zachariah Malachi, Local Bar Opry Star. It is the final album produced by Jimmy Capps, who died in June 2020. I talked about Zachariah and the title track as my “Song of the Week” on October 6, 2021, shortly after he released the single: Zachariah grew up near Detroit, Michigan, and was obsessed with the Hank Williams sound. He wanted to be a hillbilly singer. He learned to play rhythm guitar, and he started singing in bars before being old enough to drink. After years of performing in local area bars, he wrote a song about how that feels. Then he moved to Nashville and somehow caught the attention of Gus Arrendale (Springer Mountain Farm Chicken), who offered to finance his first album and bring on legendary guitarist Jimmy Capps as producer. Zachariah says, “I was from the local bar and Jimmy was the Opry Star.” Studio musicians consisted of Jimmy Capps on acoustic/electric guitar, Dave Pomeroy on bass, Greg Ritchie on drums, Andy Leftwich on fiddle, Tim Atwood on piano, Charlie McCoy on vibraphone, and Chris Scruggs on steel guitar. Zachariah is currently appearing as fiddle player Charlie Justice of The Jones Boys in the Showtime series George & Tammy. We welcome him this week as a new subscriber to my newsletter.


Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “Just heard Charlie Monk passed on. He was loud and fun. Very knowledgeable about the biz. Was always involved in the radio seminars here. I wrote one song with him and Philip Douglas. He was Philip’s publisher. He’ll be missed at the music gatherings.  I remember I was pitching my cassettes on Music Row, he came out on his porch, said ‘Fischer get in here. Bring me some songs for this guy Warner Brothers Records signed.’ He played me some of the songs they had cut on Randy Travis. I pitched several there but never got a Randy cut. Darn. Martha Sharp was the WB Records exec that signed Randy. She was great to show songs to. She put one of mine on hold, ‘What did she mean when she told me she meant what she said,’ but didn’t get cut. Darn. Have a dandy Christmas and lookin’ forward to your on-the- spot updates in ‘23.”

David Corne writes from England, “Thanks for your latest newsletter and may you have a very Happy Christmas. Nice to see your great book on Marty is available on audio. I think the track by Country Johnny Mathis called ‘That’s Not the Way It Was Yesterday’ on YouTube should resonate with a lot of your readers if they give it a spin. I also read about the time Marty was visiting Hank Snow whose wife was not well and Marty sang to her for an hour. What finer medicine could anyone wish for? I also saw a comment where Tommy Overstreet put a one liner on a song of Marty’s which I had posted on you Tube thus …’Marty Robbins had a heart of gold.’ Thanks for keeping country fans like me informed of the latest news and I hope it’s not too late to say how sorry I was on the passing of Don Edwards as well as Jerry Lee Lewis. Hope 2023 is a happy one for you and all folks stateside.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that welcome newsletter. Nice to read about Hank Cochran who was an early Eddie Cochran’s musical partner. They recorded bright sides together as The Cochran Brothers before parting way ’cause Eddie wanted to go Rock and Roll. That’s what Eddie did brightly before he found a premature death on April 17, 1960, while touring in England with Gene Vincent. A day every decent rock and roll cat will always remember.”

John Dubay says, “Shazam! You rocked my boat mentioning Dick Curless. Hometown singer and Veteran. His third most popular tune was ‘Tater Raisin Man,’ which was all about growing potatoes in Northern Maine. I do miss the America I grew up in. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Alan Pagliere writes, “I enjoy your newsletter each time it arrives in my inbox. I thought I’d mention Buddy Emmons: Steel Guitar Icon by Steve Fishell, the Grammy award-winning producer, pedal steel guitar player, and member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band for 10 years, Buddy Emmons was acknowledged as the greatest pedal steel guitar player who ever lived. From the 1950s to his retirement in the early 2000s, Buddy played with just about anyone you can imagine, from Ernest Tubb to Ray Price to Judy Collins to John Sebastian to Ray Charles to the Everly Brothers to …. Besides being an innovative genius musically, Buddy Emmons was also the greatest innovator of the physical instrument. Besides covering his genius and the instrument proper, the book is a fascinating look at the history of country music; for non-steel players and even for non-musicians.”

Carolyn Berry says, “Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you Diane.  Good job with the newsletter.  I love reading it.”

Beth Petty, Director of the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, writes, “I receive your newsletters and thoroughly enjoy the read. I appreciate you adding a few words about the Hank Williams Discography, the enhanced version last week. Ed Guy is the master behind the research, and I am editor plus publisher. Thank you for all you do for country music.”

Bob Jennings writes, “I remember my Stepfather taking me to see a package show in I think about 1955 or ’56–maybe a year sooner. It was in St. Paul, Minnesota. Carl Smith & his Band, Marty Robbins and his Band, Hank Cochran and his Band, Jim Reeves and his Band–WOW!! What a show they all put on. That was in the Heyday of Traditional Country Music….saw one last package show in Bloomington, Indiana in 1992–Ferlin Husky, Dick Curless, Bobby Helms, Dick Van Dyke, Melba Montgomery, Sheb Wooley–I have the program book and all these Icons signed it. I got to talk with Sheb Wooley. Those were the Shows to remember and the Traditional Country Music…. Your Country Music Newsletter gets better with every Issue.”

Diane: That must have been the same package show we saw in Watertown, South Dakota, in—as you say—’55 or ‘56. It had Carl Smith, Marty Robbins, and Hank Snow.

Donna Puthoff in Sioux Falls says, “Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed the newsletter; and wish you a very merry Christmas.”

Jackie Allen Thomas writes from Sun City Arizona, “I don’t know if I mentioned it before but Norm Hamlet, Merle Haggard’s first steel player, and for 49 years, is still playing and touring out of Bakersfield. He plays with the Honky Tonk Rebel, Mario Carboni who is great on keyboard and they are so good! Norm is 86 or 87 and still doing great. It’s just the two of them, Mario and Norm. They are really good together, the old and the young. Mario is great on that keyboard, wow! He can play the keyboard with one hand and play the trumpet with the other. He’s a super nice guy, always looks up the old timers and talks to them, has pictures taken etc. Good guy. Love your newsletter!!”

Jean Earle writes from England, “Another year of all your lovely news and pictures. We very much appreciate all your hard work. We are having very cold weather here. plenty of SNOW and heavy nightly FROSTs. Wonder what is happening in our most FAVOURITE town?! WE LOVE and miss Nashville and all the lovely FOLK there. We send our love and best wishes for the New Year. 2023. I hope you have a most HAPPY CHRISTMAS. Alan pulled out our favourite album for Christmas, and I thought I could share it with you. On one of our trips to Nashville, Faron invited us to join him for the evening at his home by Hickory Lake. We very much enjoyed his company. Before we left, he gave us this beautiful album. He signed it for us. Something of GREAT VALUE. PRICELESS. We will be playing it all through this Christmas. Lucky us! Lovely gentleman, lovely memories, super singer, we loved him.”


I’m thrilled to announce that Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is now available to the public as an audiobook. It can be downloaded from Audible.com or Amazon.com. Thanks to Frank Gerard for narrating both Marty’s story and Faron’s story. I have a few complimentary copies I can give out for those two books, as well as for Navy Greenshirt. Email me if you would like one, or all three.


In October 1991, HBO network showed its second episode of a television series called Influences, on which entertainers paid homage to the people who had inspired them. That show was called Influences: George Jones and Randy Travis. I’d found a magazine article about the show and mentioned it in my Randy Travis biography. I couldn’t find anything about the show on YouTube. Then a friend sent me a link he’d found about Randy Travis, not knowing whether it would be of value. Lo and behold, it was the show I hadn’t been able to find. I so enjoyed watching Randy and George together, and seeing how much they admired each other, that I wanted to share it with you. It’s 48:25 minutes long.


The second member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame who is still with us is Bill Anderson. Like Willie Nelson, Bill is still recording, writing, and performing. He was born in South Carolina in 1937 and raised in Georgia. While studying for his journalism degree at the University of Georgia and working as a disc jockey, he wrote “City Lights,” which Ray Price made a hit in 1958. Bill moved to Nashville and had his own #1s with” “Mama Sang a Song” and “Still” in 1963. Other hits he wrote for himself include “Po’ Folks,” “I Love You Drops,” and “Wild Week-End.” My favorite is “Walk Out Backwards.” Some of the many hits he wrote for others include “Cold Hard Facts of Life,” “The Tip of My Fingers,” “Cincinnati, Ohio,” “Once a Day,” “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking,” and, of course, “Peel me a nanner, toss me a peanut, I’ll come swingin’ from a coconut tree.” By the late 1980s, Bill thought his glory days were over. Then along came Vince Gill. They co-wrote Vince’s 1995 hit “Which Bridge to Burn,” starting Bill on a resurgence that continues today. He’s co-written songs such as “Give it Away,” “I Never Once Stopped Loving You,” “Saginaw, Michigan,” and “Whiskey Lullaby.” Bill joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1961 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. He is a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (1985), the South Carolina Music Hall of Fame (1993), the Georgia Broadcasters Hall of Fame (1993), and the national Songwriters Hall of Fame (2018). He is the only songwriter to have #1 hits in seven consecutive decades. What song will it be this decade to make eight?

Danny Dill, with all his songwriting credits, is best known for two co-written country standards, “The Long Black Veil” (with Marijohn Wilkin) and “Detroit City” (with Mel Tillis). He was born Horace Eldred Dill in 1924 in Dollar Hill, Tennessee. He married Annie Lou Stockard in 1945, and they came to the Grand Ole Opry the next year as “Annie Lou and Danny, The Sweethearts of the Grand Ole Opry.” They patterned their act after Lulu Belle & Scotty of Chicago’s National Barn Dance. Their duet act ended in the early 1950s, and the two later divorced. In 1952, Danny became the first songwriter signed to the new Cedarwood Publishing firm. He was later known as one of the music industry’s most entertaining and humorous show emcees and commercial pitchmen. His songs included Faron Young’s “The Comeback” and Patsy Cline’s “So Wrong” (written with Carl Perkins and Mel Tillis). He died in Nashville at age 84, in 2008.

Eddie Miller was a co-founder of the Nashville Songwriters Association and co-writer of “Release Me.” He’d moved to Nashville in 1967, after years in Los Angeles, where he helped form the Academy of Country Music (ACM). Born (in 1919) and raised in Oklahoma, he led a Western swing band, Eddie Miller & His Oklahomans, in the early 1940s. He worked as a railroad engineer during World War II. After moving to California, he was signed by the Four Star recording and music publishing company as both a songwriter and a recording artist. While there, he wrote songs for Patsy Cline. His hits for other singers included “There She Goes” (Carl Smith), “After Loving You” (Eddy Arnold), “Thanks a Lot” (Ernest Tubb), “Somebody Told Somebody” (Rose Maddox), and posthumously “Burn Me Down” (Marty Stuart). He died at age 57, in Nashville, in 1977.

I could write a book about Marty Robbins. Oh, I did that. Martin David Robinson was born just outside Glendale, Arizona, in 1925, and grew up in extreme poverty that gave him a lifelong fear of lack of security. He handled his extreme shyness by becoming the class clown. Following U.S. Navy combat in the South Pacific during World War II, he changed his name to Marty Robbins and worked on developing a music career. He was appearing on KPHO radio and TV in Phoenix when Little Jimmy Dickens heard him and recommended him for a recording contract. Marty moved his family to Nashville in early 1953 and joined the Grand Ole Opry, where he was a regular for the rest of his life. He wrote his debut Columbia Records single, “I’ll Go on Alone,” which went to #1 on Billboard. His second #1 came in 1956 with Melvin Endsley’s “Singing the Blues” and his third the following year with his own “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation. In 1959, he recorded the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, which contained the song he used to close every concert for the rest of his life–“El Paso.” The year of 1960 began with “El Paso” at #1 on both the pop and country charts. Marty was named Artist of the Decade for the 1960s by the Academy of Country Music. He recorded his semi-autobiographical “Twentieth Century Drifter” in 1974. My all-time favorite is his 1967 #1 “Tonight Carmen.” Marty entered the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982, only a few weeks before he died at age 57 in Nashville, following his fourth heart attack. “El Paso” was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. The National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress added the Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album to its National Recording Registry in 2016. I wrote the supporting essay.

Wayne Walker, born in 1925 in Oklahoma, became friends with Webb Pierce and Tillman Franks while appearing on the Louisiana Hayride. He gave up selling cars and vacuum cleaners when they encouraged him to write and record. His first songwriting hit was “I’ve Got a New Heartache,” for Ray Price in 1956. He prided himself on writing a new song every few days, with hits for Ray Price, Webb Pierce, Carl Smith, and Kitty Wells. Carl Smith and Nat Stuckey both recorded “Cut Across Shorty.” “All the Time,” by Jack Greene in 1967, was his only #1 hit. “Why Why” (Carl Smith), “Fallen Angel” (Webb Pierce), “A Little Heartache” (Eddy Arnold), “Leaving on Your Mind” (Patsy Cline), and “Burning Memories” (Ray Price) are other classics. Wayne died at age 53, in Nashville, in 1979.

Marijohn Wilkin was a Texan born Marijohn Melson in 1920 and raised near Dallas. After graduating from high school, she chose college over a Hollywood movie contract. She sang with a Western band while studying education and then moved to Nashville in 1958 to pursue a musical career. Signed by Cedarwood Publishing, she co-wrote two of her biggest hits that year, “Waterloo” and “The Long Black Veil.” In 1964, she formed her own publishing company, Buckhorn Music. Its first hit was “GTO,” by her son’s group, Ronny & the Daytonas. In 1965, she signed Kris Kristofferson as a writer. She battled depression and alcoholism, becoming suicidal following the failure of her third marriage. After religion turned her life around in the early ’70s, she and Kristofferson wrote “One Day at a Time.” In 2006 in Nashville, she died of heart disease at age 86.

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