Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 28 September 2016

Martin David Robinson was born September 26, 1925, in a shack on the desert at the edge of Glendale, Arizona. When he died of a heart attack in 1982, he was a 57-year-old country music star known as Marty Robbins. Now, on what would have been his 91st birthday, his hometown finally acknowledged its native son by renaming a street in his honor. The Glendale City Council held a ceremony the afternoon of September 26 at Murphy Park to unveil the new street sign and rename a one-mile stretch of Glendale Avenue. The new Marty Robbins Boulevard extends from 51st to 59th Avenues, through the heart of Glendale’s historic downtown and near the former ice cream shop where Marty met his future wife, Marizona. KPHO/KTVK reports Ronny Robbins, Marty’s son, as saying, “His memory will be around for a long time. His motto was, ‘I’d like to be remembered as a good entertainer or as a good person, and I’d rather be a good person.’ He just hoped people would not forget him.”

Jean Shepard (1933-2016)
Country Music Hall of Fame member Jean Shepard, 82, died Sunday, September 25. The daughter of Oklahoma sharecroppers, Ollie Imogene Shepard and her nine siblings grew up singing in the church. Jean was 19 when Hank Thompson heard her sing, and he convinced producer Ken Nelson to sign her to Capitol Records. At age 22, she joined Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl as the only three women on the Grand Ole Opry. Her biggest hit, and only number one song, was “A Dear John Letter” with Ferlin Husky. After her husband, Hawkshaw Hawkins, was killed in a plane crash with Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas in 1963, Marty Robbins wrote her a song. He gave all royalties from “Two Little Boys” to the widow and her two baby sons. Jean married Benny Birchfield in 1968, and they had one son. On November 21, 2015, she celebrated her 60th anniversary as an Opry member, and she was the longest-running member of the Opry at the time of her death. She is survived by Benny, her three sons, and her grandchildren. Her funeral will be this Friday in the Hendersonville Funeral Home chapel, with interment in Hendersonville Memory Gardens. My favorite of her songs has always been “Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar.”

John D. Loudermilk (1934-2016)
The writer of such songs as “Tobacco Road,” “Indian Reservation,” “Abilene,” “Break My Mind,” “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry),” “Talk Back Trembling Lips,” and “Waterloo” has died. John D. Loudermilk, 82, died September 21. A native of Durham, North Carolina, he lived in recent years in Franklin, Tennessee. Earlier this year, due to his failing health, his friends honored him with a tribute show at the Franklin Theatre. Performers included Emmylou Harris, Bobby Braddock, and Rodney Crowell. John was a member of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame and was inducted in 1976 into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He told The Tennessean in a 1961 interview about his songwriting, “I’m looking for the most different thing I can find. Everybody’s writing ‘I love you truly.’ You’ve got to find something new. I talk to drunks at the bus station, browse through kiddie books at the public library and get phrases from college kids and our babysitter. You’ve got to be looking all the time.”

The Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame has named Gary Morris as its newest inductee. He will headline the induction concert at Dougie G’s Lounge & Showroom in Thornton, Colorado, on Sunday, October 16. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, he first experienced the pull of the stage when he and his sister won a talent show for singing “This Old House.” He was in the third grade. Gary’s most memorable hit song, before Bette Midler brought it to an even larger audience, was “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Charlie Daniels: Million Mile Reflections is an exhibit newly opened at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Charlie Daniels, 79, accompanied Rolling Stone Country on a tour. “I’m flabbergasted,” he said. “One thing I was looking forward to was seeing how somebody else would take the elements of my life, stuff that hangs on my wall and sits in my house, and seeing how they would arrange them.” He pronounced the exhibit to be “an excellent job.” Charlie will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on October 16th.

A project Merle Haggard began in 2015 is continuing after his death, thanks to his daughter and her husband. Merle partnered with the Colorado Weed Company to develop connoisseur-grade marijuana strains. Jenessa Haggard-Bennett and Brian Bennett are planning to introduce his recreational product in Colorado in a few months and later expand into medical—as well as expanding to California, Oregon, and Washington. Jenessa told Westword that her father started smoking marijuana about twenty years ago, after a doctor recommended he use it for medicinal purposes. She decided to call the new strain “Merle’s Girls,” after a California girls’ soccer team that changed its name to Merle’s Girls when Merle became its sponsor.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) gives out Diamond Awards when artists sell 10,000,000 records. Entertainment Weekly reports that Garth Brooks just became the first artist to earn seven career Diamond Awards. The Beatles have sold 178 million certified units, compared to Garth’s 138 million, but they only have six Diamond Awards.

The Journal Pioneer in Montreal, Canada, recently reported that Marty Haggard will be touring Canada and the United States, with a performance at the Summerside Harbourfront Theatre on September 27. He is showcasing a project he began in 2010, titled, “A Tribute to My Dad.” As Merle’s eldest son, Marty travelled with his dad from the 1960s until the mid-1980s, and he also toured with his own band. Marty had said in a phone interview, “I’m doing this music of his mainly because I love him. This is about my dad; this is not about Merle Haggard for me.” Imagine my surprise when I then read, “Marty is looking forward to the tour, which kicks off Sept. 16 in South Dakota.” I was at that show! It was a private party in Brandon, South Dakota, at the home of Larry Olson. Marty brought a friend with him to play electric guitar. He said he and Eugene Moles have been friends since they were seven years old, and Eugene plays guitar on all his shows. Throughout his two 45-minute performances, Marty chatted about the songs he sang. At one point, he said, “My dad smoked his entire life. He started out with Camel cigarettes and then he met Willie Nelson.” I gave him a copy of Twentieth Century Drifter and said, “I guess you know this guy.” He said, “I was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral.” He confirmed that he was named for Marty Robbins.

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Marty Haggard and Eugene Moles

Jean Earle lets us know, “WE have been sorry this week in England, to hear of the deaths of two people we have admired for many years. Two sad losses to Country Music. They will be very much missed. Our sympathies go to the families of John D. Loudermilk and Jean Shepard.”

Cowboy Joe Babcock writes from Nashville, “Thanks for keeping us all informed. I just got back from a tour in the Midwest where we played my home town of North Loup, Nebraska. Took a bus, the band and the Tennessee River Boys for two big shows. Then we went over to the Le Mars traditional country music show, did a couple of shows there and received an award from the Roots Music Association where my album Trail Jazz received the western swing album of the year. By the way, Hoot Hester along with Jim Buchanan did the fiddle work on most of that album. Sure gonna miss Hoot.”

David Corne writes from England, “How wonderful to read in your newsletter about the new CD Marty Robbins The Lost Recordings. What a thrill to hear him singing ‘Blue Christmas’ and to see he sings ‘Silent Night’ and other classic carols in the bonus track section along with a couple of ‘new’ songs like ‘You Call That Waitin’ and ‘The King And I.’ Can’t wait to get my hands on this excellent release. I also played some of the Country Music Hall Of Fame Opry shows featuring him and it’s another fabulous gift for dyed-in-the-wool Robbins fans like me. I must say I was a bit surprised to hear Marty praising Prince Albert tobacco products as I understood that he never smoked. Having said that, the jingle he sings about it finds him in great voice (as usual), but perhaps there should be a health warning about the praise of tobacco in this day and age. I would also add that there should be a health warning for most of the comedy sketches on the Opry back then! The word ‘chronic’ springs to mind.”

John Morris, an over-the-top-excited Possum fan in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, writes, “First of all you are doing your usual great job and keep it up because we all appreciate it so much. What a surprise in the last letter when the person from Holland wrote about Opry shows. Well I went on the site and it is user friendly for visually impaired people which is fantastic. I found lots of Faron Young shows that were fantastic but my reason for writing is I found 6 shows between September 1956 to May 1958 of my all-time favourite singer George Jones. I didn’t even think I’d hear George from that time period. To say I was excited was an understatement. I wonder are there any more from 1958 onward. They were fantastic quality as well.”

Maheen Wickramasinghe sends this tribute: “I was very, very sorry to hear of Jean Shepard’s passing, and I have a very important story I would like to share with you and your readers about Jean Shepard. I was boarded at a blind school from 1998-2001, called W. Ross McDonald, in Ontario, Canada. I was boarded at a residence, and listened to a lot of country music there. When I got the Internet in 2000, I was able to finally listen to the Grand Ole Opry and Midnite Jamboree. One night, Jean Shepard was hosting the Jamboree, so I emailed the Jamboree who I was, and how much I adore Jean’s beautiful singing. Carole Lee Cooper read my email on the air, and Jean was delighted that I listened to the old country music at the age of 16. I know Jean’s dislike for the newer country music. I had a breakdown at the blind school, and I was bullied by a student. I took a 3-month hiatus from the school and couldn’t complete my exams due to this meltdown. I emailed Jean Shepard about that overwhelming incident, and she sent me the most sweetest, nicest response to me you could ever imagine. She said she would keep me in her thoughts and prayers, and to set that young lady straight, she said to report it to the principal and to continue my education at that school, and to stay strong and keep my head held high. I was so moved by a country music legend taking the time out of her busy schedule, to respond to a fan’s letter about a bullying incident at school, I will never, ever forget that for as long as I live. I am 32 now, and will always enjoy the legends of country. Jean was so generous to a lot of folks and helped me immensely. God bless you, Diane, and keep up the great, great work!”

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “Thanks for your welcome newsletter and for the tribute to Bud Isaacs. Another great steel guitar player has gone … Many of our friends left us ‘slowly’ but as long as we will be able to take care of the legacy everything wanna be fine and bouncing. In the newest issue of American Music Magazine, edited in Sweden but printed in English, I had worked with my partner Ken Majors, a 30-page feature about Elvis’s days at the Louisiana Hayride. Of course, there’s a bit of KWKH radio history and plenty of things about other performers who staged that great show since the early days.”

George Owens, former frontman for Faron Young’s Country Deputies, writes from Nashville, “It has been many years since I’ve been in touch and I apologize for that, but I have just found out from my lovely wife, Pam, that today is your birthday and I wanted to try to be the last to wish you Happy Birthday. I know, while typing this note that I couldn’t be the first, but maybe I can be last. HAHAHAHA. I do hope all is going well for you and that you have had a great BIRTHDAY. Many times you have crossed my mind.”


George Owens singing a song for me in 1987

Kate Davis of Bear Creek Productions in Medford, Oregon, writes, “A great newsletter as always. Thank you for all your hard work.”

Tom Merrill in North Carolina says, “Still loving your newsletter for its many features–current news, historical content, and reader’s posts. Just a note about something we are really looking forward to. On Sept. 24 Gene Watson will be in Liberty, North Carolina, at The Liberty Showcase Theater.”

Mike Johnson of Roughshod Records reports, “On 2 September 2016, Grand Ole Opry star Claude Gray received the Living Legend Award at the 41st Annual Old Time Country Music Festival in LeMars, Iowa, in a ceremony officiated by Bob Everhart, president of the National Traditional Country Music Association. A staunch supporter of traditional country music, Claude Gray purchased his 1960 hit and signature song ‘The Family Bible’ from Willie Nelson. He has also made many performances sponsored by the National Traditional Country Music Association. I met Claude Gray at one of those festivals and am very honored to have been present for, and filmed, this truly deserved award presentation.”

Joe Arnold, manager of Roughshod Records, writes, “Very good read, as usual. I’m sending a photo of Claude Gray and Mike Johnson at the 2016 LeMars Festival last month. A major highlight for our own James Adelsberger was getting to share the stage with Mike Johnson’s longtime friends Terry Smith and Bill Lear. Thanks for mentioning Mike & James’ awards.”

Ross in Tennessee requests, “Ask Courtney Curran, of Severna Park, Maryland, if the station she alluded to in your newsletter was WDON, located in Wheaton, MD. When I worked at the JD Tower and QN Tower for the B&O Railroad, later Chessie Systems, I listened to it while at work. Powerful country music. Just not a powerful station at that time. Occasionally, I also listened to WARL in Arlington, Virginia.”

Larry Murray says, “Greetings from Alaska, Diane. Please sign me up for your country music newsletter.”

Melanie, known as Mama Peach, writes, “A friend of mine forwarded your Country Music Newsletter to me and I found it very interesting. How does one subscribe so they can receive the newsletter themselves? I would really love to get it each time it is sent out.”

Gary Blurton suggests, “It would be great if you could do a book about Carl Smith, the great ‘50s honky tonker. Also, how do I subscribe to your newsletter?”

Larry Bouchy says, “I love your newsletter. Please add me to your mailing list.”

Curt Boettcher requests, “Please put me on your newsletter mail list.”

Ryan Nelson of the Nearly Wild Band in Garretson, South Dakota, says, “I have read the Faron Young biography. It was a great read. I couldn’t put it down. Please put me on your newsletter list.”

Ron Funk writes, “A good friend of mine sent me a copy of your latest newsletter. Would you please add me to your distribution list? I would greatly appreciate receiving your great info.”

Angie Stone says, “I would like to sign up for your newsletter.”

Steve Schmidt, pedal steel guitar player with Clear Blue, in Ramsey, Minnesota, wonders, “Can I get on your mailing list? Great newsletter.”

Kevin Mincke says, “Please add me to your email list.”

Ron Reagan offers, “For anyone interested, I’ve uploaded various full length unedited episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies that aren’t available on DVD to my YouTube channel, ronreagan12. There are several episodes with Roy Clark and one with Pat Boone. I’ve also added some rare Don Bowman material as well as a full gospel LP of the regional bluegrass group, Don Brown and the Ozark Mountain Trio.”

John Allen writes from central Florida, “I received your country newsletter in an e-mail. I would love to sign up to your country music list. I lost my night vision when age 3, and my day vision started going when I was 8, and by age 10 it was mostly gone. I had to use braille full time, because I couldn’t read even the largest print books. Some get really confused with a blind person using the computer. I type on the same kind of keyboard as everyone else. No special braille keyboard. I do not talk to my computer; even though that would be so much easier. Actually I do yell at the computer when it isn’t doing or taking forever to do what I want it to do, but it doesn’t listen. And it doesn’t talk back when I yell at it. I do get talked to by the computer, but it is a special program called Jaws, which reads anything in text to me. My first love of music was country. I didn’t have an FM radio until I was about 12. The station I listened to was Sun Country WQAM in Miami, Florida. Anyhow, thanks for adding me to your list. I shared it with others, so they may contact you as well.”

Tiffany asks, “Can you please sign me up for your country newsletter, and what other ones do you have available? I am totally blind, I enjoy all genres of music, and I love to be inspired, and/or encouraged. I think someone forwarded your newsletter to a media group that I am in.”

Ernie Tumber requests, “Please subscribe me to your list.”

Christine Diller from Laurel, Maryland, asks, “In order that I don’t miss one of your amazing newsletters, can you please update my email address?”

Chuck Becker writes from Riverside, California, “This is the first time I’ve seen your wonderful newsletter….it was sent to me by Clem Schmitz in Minnesota, who got me started on the pedal steel guitar 40 some years ago. Please do put me on your list.”

Andrew Means writes from Phoenix, Arizona, “I don’t know whether you are aware of the upcoming events to honor Marty Robbins. I’m attaching Glendale’s press release and flyer. There’s also an unrelated birthday concert on Saturday at Ironworks restaurant. There are a few splinter groups of MR fans, so it’s hard to keep up. I have been diverted by family issues this year, and I’ve done a poor job of staying in touch with everyone.”
Diane: What great news the street naming is, Andrew. Thanks for sending me the press release.

Do you like your favorite entertainers to be politically active, or would you prefer they be apolitical?

“Tonight Carmen” has been my favorite Marty Robbins song since I first heard it on the radio in 1967. The idea of a man putting “brand new sheets on the bed” for a woman was incomprehensible to this teenaged farm girl. Men just didn’t do such things; I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to be so loved. In an interview with Ralph Emery, Marty said, “She was a girl I met one night in my dreams.” He said he was down somewhere along the border–he didn’t remember where–when he had a dream and he got the idea for the song. “I don’t know who the girl was,” he told Ralph, “I sure would like to know her. But I just got the idea from a dream and wrote the song.” Of course, no one could make words fit together the way Marty did, and this is one of his best examples. In addition to the words, I never get tired of the peppy melody and its Mexican flavor.

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