Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 28 February 2018

The 2018 inductees to the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame are songwriters Tom T. Hall and Dixie Hall. The award ceremony will take place during the 44th Annual Hall of Fame and Uncle Pen Bluegrass Festival at the Bill Monroe Music Park in Bean Blossom, Indiana, in September. Bluegrass Today explains that Tom T. once wrote songs for Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs and Miss Dixie wrote with Maybelle Carter. The pair married in 1968 and wrote together until Dixie’s death in 2015. After retiring from Nashville life, they dedicated their energy to bluegrass — forming a publishing company and record label and actively promoting bluegrass artists who recorded their songs. After Tom dies, all their song royalties will be donated to the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).

Steel guitarist Mike “Cookie” Jones, 65, died February 8 from colon cancer. He was born in Quincy, Illinois, in 1952. A well-liked member of the Nashville music community, and a life member of AFM Local 257, Cookie played steel guitar with Barbara Mandrell for over 20 years. He lived in Goodlettsville with his wife, Claudette.

Dolly Parton, 72, visited Washington, D.C., yesterday to present the 100 millionth book from her Imagination Library to the Library of Congress’s collection. She read to local students a book about her coat of many colors, with her reading turning into singing. The Imagination Library mails free books to children from birth until they start school. Dolly’s father’s illiteracy inspired her to start the program in 1995.

The Franklin Synergy Bank has launched a $100,000 fundraising campaign to help cover funeral costs for Daryle Singletary and other expenses for his wife and four children. The Tennessean reports donations can be made online through “youcaring.com/darylesingletarysfamily-1106490.” Checks can be mailed to:
The Daryle Singletary Foundation: Keepin’ It Country
c/o Franklin Synergy Bank
Attn: Ellen May
33 Music Square West, Unit 110B
Nashville TN 37203

Rolling Stone recently interviewed Brenda Lee for a magazine feature, while she was recovering from a broken left foot. In refence to her ankle brace, she said, “With this darn big old thing I’m wearing, you’d think I broke my whole leg.” She has sold more than 100 million records worldwide throughout her career. She is the only woman to be in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “When I saw her perform, I was just stunned,” says Elton John, who was a teenager when he first saw her in England. “I couldn’t believe that kind of voice could come out of someone so young.” Close friend Dolly Parton says, “Brenda is one of the greatest entertainers ever. But I think I like her mostly because she’s the only person I know that I’m taller than.” Brenda is 4-foot-9. As seven-year-old Brenda Lee Tarpley, she gave her first official performance in 1951, winning the talent show at her elementary school. Her professional recording career began in 1956, when she recorded a Hank Williams song, “Jambalaya.” In 1962, a group of teenagers from Liverpool performed as her opening act in Hamburg, Germany. After watching their set, she asked one of them, “Where do you get those songs?” John Lennon replied, “We write them.”

The 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards show will air live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 15, on CBS-TV. Reba McEntire will announce the nominees on CBS This Morning during the 8:00 AM EST hour this Thursday.

The Should’ve Been A Cowboy Tour XXV will launch April 6 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Toby Keith is celebrating his 25th anniversary of “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” with a 20-city tour. His second-to-last stop will be August 31 at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron. In all the years I haven’t liked that song, I never actually understood it. Until now, when I read this description in CMT News: “The title came to Keith on a night out with some hunting buddies when one of them asked a woman to dance. She declined, but then she accepted the next dance request from a cowboy. Later that evening, Keith holed up in his hotel bathroom while his roommate slept and wrote the song in about 20 minutes.”

Angie Gentry, the widow of Troy Gentry, filed a wrongful death lawsuit two weeks ago in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. She wants a jury trial and punitive damages of more than $50,000. She is charging Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, Sikorsky Global Helicopters, Inc. and the Keystone Helicopter Corporation with failure to make its civilian version of Model 269 helicopter crashworthy, despite the military version having been updated. CMT News explains the moments leading up to the crash that killed her husband and the pilot last September. The lawsuit details how the throttle cable jammed when the helicopter became airborne, the engine went to high speed, the engine failed to disengage from the transmission to slow the rotors, and the helicopter dropped like a stone. Here is the 18-page lawsuit:

Artists and freelancers in Tennessee cannot register complaints of verbal sexual harassment against their record labels. They are not employees, and verbal harassment is not a crime. Unless they’ve included specifics in their contracts, they can only report the crime of physical harassment. HB 1984/SB 2130 would offer full-time employee rights to artists and freelancers. “In some cases, female artists face a lot of predatory behavior just for trying to have their music heard,” sponsor Senator Jeff Yarbro told Rolling Stone Country. “From what we’ve learned, if you’re a female artist, harassment is something you learn to expect as you try to promote your work. The music industry isn’t a traditional workplace, so a lot of the ways we report harassment in traditional workplaces won’t work.” Lorrie Morgan told Rolling Stone Country, “It’s so important for artists who are out there knocking themselves out and sharing their gifts to be afforded the same protections as every other working man and woman.” Rodney Crowell says, “I support legislation that renders sexual harassment, or any form of harassment, a punishable offense.”

Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum gave birth to identical twins, Betsy Mack and Emory JoAnn Tyrell, on January 29. She and husband Chris Tyrrell already had one daughter. Country Music Nation reports that Reba McEntire sent “two stunning white quilts with the babies’ names perfectly embroidered in pink above their birth date and ‘Love, Reba.’ Reba sent the exact same quilts from Plaid Rabbit Gifts to another friend upon the arrival of his twins.”

Lisa Marie Presley is suing ex-manager Barry Siegel for more than $100 million. He ran the trust left by Elvis Presley for his daughter. The lawsuit says Seigel sold off 85% of Lisa Marie’s interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises for $100 million and invested in a company called Core Entertainment, the parent company of American Idol. That company went bankrupt in 2016. According to TMZ, Lisa Marie also blames Siegel for not warning her she was spending beyond her means. When she bought a $9 million English estate, he didn’t tell her the Trust already had two mortgages that were under water. Siegel told TMZ Lisa was $20 million in debt when he took over in 2003. She “refused to listen to the warnings of her most trusted advisers and her family,” he said. “She now has only herself to blame for her financial and personal misfortunes.”

The former home of Reba McEntire, her 83-acre Starstruck Farm in Lebanon, Tennessee, is now called The Estate at Cherokee Dock. Nash Country Daily describes it as including 13 acres of frontage on Old Hickory Lake, a 12,816-square-foot home with theater, wine room, eight-car garage, pool, guest house, barn, equestrian center and more. The seven bedrooms in the main house each pay tribute to a country music legend: Reba (master suite), Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline. The Estate’s website says: “The lakefront estate in Lebanon, Tennessee, is most widely recognized as the former home of award-winning artist, actor and author Reba McEntire, but today, The Estate at Cherokee Dock is a luxury event venue for elegant weddings, exquisite galas, corporate celebrations, private retreats, charitable fundraisers and any other ceremonial events you can creatively conceptualize.”

Saving Country Music reports David Allan Coe, 78, did not have a stroke. He was hospitalized last week with stroke-like symptoms, but doctors determined the vertigo and other problems were side effects from an inner ear infection he has been dealing with for several weeks. He expects to be at the Iron Horse Saloon in Daytona Beach for his March 9-17 gig. Last Saturday’s canceled show at the Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan, has been rescheduled for April 20.

The deejay who lost a lawsuit last year against Taylor Swift has a job again. The Guardian reports that David Mueller, who was fired after Taylor reported him for groping her at a 2013 meet-and-greet, has been hired by a Mississippi radio station. He will be a marketing consultant for Delta Radio’s country station WMYQ-FM and will cohost a breakfast show. Delta Radio president and CEO Larry Fuss told the New York Daily News he believes the angry comments on the station’s Facebook page are coming from Swift fans. He admitted hiring Mueller might have been “maybe a tiny bit” to bring publicity to the station. Taylor Swift was recently named one of Time magazine’s Persons of the Year “silence breakers” who inspired women to speak out against sexual harassment.

Becky “Beckaroo” Hobbs says, “Thanks for running my letter!!! I’m passing that on to Moe and Scot England.”

Steve Schmidt reports, “Mike ‘Cookie’ Jones also passed away. He was a long-term steel player with many folks including Barbara Mandrell.”
Diane: Thanks, Steve, I included him this time.

John Krebs writes, “Jessica Gonzales asked how many recordings Faron made and the rough number is 560 and that INCLUDES Faron’s private label Road Sales albums. From his very first on October 10th 1951, HOT ROD SHOTGUN BOOGIE NO. 2, (Gotham G-412), to his very last one for Mercury on June 23rd 1977, CITY LIGHTS, (Mercury 55019 ~ SRM-1-5005), the number is 427 cuts. The post-Mercury years from 1978-1991, which includes the MCA and Step One stuff, adds another 99 cuts. Somewhere in there he did a bunch of stuff for Gusto records and other small labels, which were most likely TV albums and 99% Re-Recordings of the hits, the 4 LEGENDS album with Webb, Mel, and Jerry Lee, the live Branson album in 1992, and finally the two Kenny Brent duets on Vonnie Records in 1994, SWEET DREAMS (Vonnie V 1294), and WINE ME UP (Vonnie V 1294). So Faron was making records for over 40 years and closing in on 600 cuts, not bad.”

Dean Mann in Sioux Falls says, “I was shocked and saddened to read of the death of Daryle Singletary. He was on last year’s Country Family Reunion Cruise that I went on with my granddaughter. He sang some great country songs, different from what he usually sings. At the nightly jam sessions, he and Rhonda Vincent sang some great duets together. They sounded just great. I guess they figured that out themselves because this year they recorded a wonderful CD of duets called American Grandstand. They do some great duets together of former duet stars—George and Tammy, George and Melba Montgomery. If you like classic country music, I would recommend that CD. I couldn’t find it in stores and had to order it on line. You can’t go wrong. It’s a classic. Daryle was popular on that cruise, and Rhonda always is.”

Gerald McCormick writes, “I truly enjoy reading your newsletter. My brothers, The McCormick Brothers, was the first artist signed to Hickory Records in 1953 or ‘54 by Fred Rose. They played bluegrass. I have always enjoyed History of country music.”
Diane: Here’s a quote from Marty Robbins. He said, “’Big Iron,’ I remember writing that song. I was coming into town one day and I heard a bluegrass group singing, and I thought they were singing big iron, and I said, ‘Oh, what a title for a song.’ But they were saying big eyes, and it was McCormick Brothers. So as soon as I got to the office, I sat down and wrote ‘Big Iron’ because I already had the idea in my mind what they were singing about, but as soon as they said big eyes–I thought they said big iron, and I got the idea for the song and wrote it right away.”
Gerald: Marty shared that story many times and he also used Haskel on the Twentieth Century Drifter album, playing the banjo. Haskel and I are the only two now living from the five of us brothers.
Diane: I did a phone interview with Haskel in 2008. Give him my best. I hope he’s doing well.
Gerald: Haskel is doing ok he lost his wife a year ago and has been staying in but is getting back out again.

Kathy Thomas says, “Another great newsletter!!! I saw the note Les Leverett sent and I was hoping he might have pictures of Tommy Overstreet on the Grand Ole Opry. I played bass for him in the early ‘70s. And never got a picture of that day. I was only about 19, and it was an extraordinary and fabulous experience that I will never forget!”

Kristy Bruce reports, “I wanted to let you know I started a fan group for Faron Young on Facebook, borrowing the name from one of Faron’s albums: Faron Young, A Man and His Music. I’m hoping to meet a variety of Faron Young fans this way—people who are new to his music, people who actually knew him, and anyone in between.”
Diane: Thanks for doing that, Kristy. I’ve joined your group.

Jay Jackson says, “I would like to receive your newsletter.”

James Randall writes, “Your Faron Young book is one of my favorites and so wish they would make it into a movie. I have the show you did with Bill Anderson on XM recorded and it was awesome as well. Thanks for the book!!!”

Rose Frisbee comments, “Nice newsletter Enjoyed it very much.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for posting that welcome newsletter. Always great to stroll from the head to the end. About Bill Anderson and ‘City Lights,’ I want to bring you this information about my friend Dave Rich who was the first to cover that classic song making some slight lyrics changes. In Nashville on April 21, 1958, Dave cut his own composition, ‘Burn On Love Fire,’ and to please Chet Atkins it was coupled with a Bill Anderson song titled ‘City Lights.’ which had just been released on the tiny TNT record label out of Texas. Devoting most of his time and soul to God, Dave thought some lines on that song did not fit with his religious conviction, so he changed a few lines. Chet was very patient even if thinking that Dave was wasting session time, and being crazy fooling with this Holy Ghost thing. (Does that remind you about Jerry Lee Lewis shouting at Sam Phillips about ‘Great balls of Fire’?) Both songs were issued on May 1958 on RCA 7247, and ‘City Lights’ hit the ears of Ernest Tubb. The Daddy of the honky-tonk sound suggested to Ray Price that he should cover Dave’s version. Ray Price recorded his own version in Nashville on May 29, 1958, and Ray’s recording was issued on Columbia 4-41191. Soon Ray’s recording was on the top of the charts, and Bill Anderson, from Commerce (Georgia), was on his way to fame. Buddy Killen helped Bill Anderson to have a deal with Decca after he had signed with Tree Publishing. Dave’s RCA 7247 was issued in England in November 1958 under the reference RCA 45-1092. It was Dave’s only single issued in UK. On these sides Dave has the Anita Kerr singers’ support, plus his brother Spider Rich, Chet Atkins and Hank Garland on guitars.”

Rosemary Poland wonders, “I thought I had read online that Ray Emmett passed away last year or the year before, but he is not marked as deceased on your list. Was it just one of those internet hoaxes? And, is Earl Stiltner still living? He was the most amazing bus driver ever.”
Diane: Ray died June 2, 2013. I don’t know about Earl; I haven’t heard from him in years. Thanks for bringing that page to my attention. It was long overdue for an update: https://dianediekman.com/faron-youngs-country-deputies

Dean Mann asks, “Have you heard any more about the death of Daryle Singletary?”
Diane: No, nothing, except for this note on the Steel Guitar Forum on Feb 26: The autopsy hasn’t come back yet. We suspect blood clot or heart attack.”

Jackie Allen Thomas says, “Thanks again for a wonderful newsletter, very informative. And now I can’t wait to see Part II of the Country Music Hall of Fame.”

In all, 19 men were added to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. The second six of twelve inductions begins with the Jordanaires. Although the gospel and background quartet had 13 different members over the years, only four were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Evangelist Bill Matthews and his brother Monty formed the group in Springfield, Missouri, in the late 1940s. Bass singer Culley Holt and baritone Bob Hubbard rounded out the original quartet, with Bob Money as pianist. It was the second group, though, not the five originals, that made it into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Tenor Gordon Stoker, second tenor Neal Matthews Jr. (no relation to Bill and Monty), baritone Hoyt Hawkins, and bass Ray Walker (who replaced Hugh Jarrett in 1958) performed together for two decades. Stoker had taken over the Jordanaires in the 1950s, after the original group moved to Nashville, and then the Matthews brothers returned to Missouri. The background harmony of the Jordanaires, in addition to their work with Elvis Presley, was a major part of the Nashville sound. Their Hall of Fame biography lists a few of their recordings: Ferlin Husky (“Gone”), Jim Reeves (“Four Walls”), Patsy Cline (“Crazy”), Don Gibson (“Oh Lonesome Me”), Johnny Horton (“The Battle of New Orleans”), Tammy Wynette (“Stand by Your Man”), Conway Twitty (“Hello, Darlin'”), Kenny Rogers (“Lucille”), and George Jones (“He Stopped Loving Her Today”). Hawkins died in 1982 at age 55 and was replaced by Duane West, who was replaced in 2000 by Louis Nunley. Curtis Young joined after Matthews died (age 70) in 2000. The Jordanaires stopped performing when Stoker died in 2013 at age 88. Ray Walker lives in Tennessee and will soon celebrate his 84th birthday.

I didn’t know who Don Law was when inducted in 2001. I learned a lot about him four years later after beginning my work on the biography of Marty Robbins. He produced most of Marty’s Columbia recordings in the 1950s-60s, after taking over that role from his mentor, Art Satherley (inducted into the CMHOF in 1971). Law also worked with Carl Smith, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Johnny Horton, and Johnny Cash, among others. Born in London, England, in 1902, he came to the United States in 1924. He took over as head of the country division at Columbia Records when Satherley retired in 1952. In 1967, after a mandatory retirement from Columbia Records, he started his own company, Don Law Productions. Fully retired by the end of the 1970s, he died in 1982, at age 80, in a suburb of Galveston, Texas.

Ira and Charlie Loudermilk (three years apart) grew up on a farm in northeastern Alabama during the Great Depression. With Ira on mandolin and Charlie on guitar, they worked in Chattanooga with the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1943. They changed their name to the Louvin Brothers in 1947, considering that name easier to pronounce and spell. After Charlie’s military service during the Korean War, they first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in 1955. “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” in 1956 was their only chart-topping hit. They mixed gospel and secular music and did not use drums. Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson tried unsuccessfully to update their sound. The brothers broke up 1963, and Ira died in a car wreck in Missouri in 1965, at age 41. Charlie’s biggest solo hits were “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “See the Big Man Cry.” He appeared regularly on the Grand Ole Opry. In 2003, Carl Jackson produced a Grammy-winning tribute album, Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers. (I highly recommend purchasing that CD.) Charlie died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, at age 84.

There might have been no Faron Young (CMHOF 2000), no Buck Owens (CMHOF 1996), and no Merle Haggard (CMHOF 1994) without Ken Nelson. He signed them all to the Capital Records label and produced their early hits. He also produced the 1951 Hank Thompson session that created “The Wild Side of Life.” Born in Minnesota in 1911, Ken originally moved to Hollywood to handle the Capitol Records transcription department. He traveled routinely between Los Angeles and Nashville in the ’50s and ’60s. One of the founders of the Country Music Association (CMA), he also served as its president. He retired from producing records in 1976, at age 65, and made his home in Somis, California. After I moved to Los Angeles, and began writing Faron Young’s biography, I went to interview him in 2000. He pointed to the yellow legal pads and file boxes on his dining room table and told me his goal was to finish his autobiography before he kicked the bucket. I later brought my newly adopted daughters for a visit, and he appointed himself their grandfather. For the rest of his life, he sent them Christmas and birthday gifts. When the 2001 Hall of Fame announcement came over the radio, I immediately called Ken to congratulate him. He didn’t know what I was talking about. I explained he was being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He said no one had notified him. He sent me an autographed copy of his finished autobiography, My First 90 Years Plus 3, in 2007. He died at home, in 2008, thirteen days before his 97th birthday.

A blues fan from Alabama, Sam Phillips began his career as a deejay in Memphis. In 1949, at age 26, he leased a building at 706 Union Avenue and opened the Memphis Recording Service. On his Sun Records label, he recorded acts such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, B. B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Charlie Rich. He sold Elvis Presley’s contract to RCA for $35,000, later made a fortune as an early Holiday Inn investor, and sold the Sun label in 1969. In 2003, at home in Memphis, he died of respiratory failure. He was 80 years old.

A native of West Monroe, Louisiana, Webb Pierce moved to Shreveport in 1944 at age 23 and worked for six years at Sears, Roebuck in the men’s department, while seeking a musical career. He joined the Louisiana Hayride when it began broadcasting on KWKH Radio. Some of his band members were pianist Floyd Cramer, steel guitarist Jimmy Day, Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, and Faron Young. In 1952, he hit with “Wondering,” which inspired his band name of the Wondering Boys. It brought him to Nashville, where he spent the rest of his life. His first 30 Billboard-charting songs in the 1950s reached the Top Ten, with 13 of them at number one. Webb and Grand Ole Opry manager Jim Denny launched the successful Cedarwood Music company in 1953. Webb became known in the 1960s for allowing tourist buses to stop at his home and see his guitar-shaped swimming pool. (I stood at the edge of that pool one evening in 1972. A friend and I were visiting Nashville and ran into Webb in Printers Alley. He invited a group to his house for a party. We didn’t get any photos or autographs of that momentous evening because we didn’t want to look like tourists.) Webb’s 96th and last charted record happened in 1982 when Willie Nelson asked him to duet on a remake of “In the Jailhouse Now.” Webb died of pancreatic cancer in 1991, at age 69.

Faron Young, Johnny & June Cash, and Tommy Cash attended Webb’s funeral in Nashville. Faron and his girlfriend sat in front of the Cash group and must have been his usual mouthy self. Tommy told me Johnny leaned forward at the end of the funeral and said, “Oh, Faron, you’re the best cusser in the world. Would you cuss for us just one time?” Faron responded, “X#%&@, what do you want me to say? X#%&@, I’m at a X#%&@ funeral.” Faron and Webb were longtime friends and rivals. Jan Howard told me about a show in North Carolina where Webb and Faron had gotten drunk together. Faron started badmouthing Webb about his singing, and asked, “Where would you have been without my band to back you up last night?” Webb replied, “I’d a just got up there and sang my thirteen number-one hits in a row.”

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