Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 29 June 2016

Ralph Stanley (1927-2016)
On June 23, Ralph Stanley, 89, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Coebun, Virginia. He had been suffering from skin cancer. Born and raised in southwest Virginia, Ralph and his brother Carter formed a group called the Stanley Brothers and their Clinch Mountain Boys. Carter died of liver disease in 1966, and Ralph continued to perform. Edward Morris writes on CMT News, “Initially recognized as the high-tenor, banjo-picking half of the Stanley Brothers bluegrass act (1946-1966), Stanley went on to build a distinguished and honor-filled career as a vocal stylist and leader of the Clinch Mountain Boys band. His stature as an American musical treasure grew enormously following his appearance in the soundtrack album for the 2000 Coen Brothers movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The album earned him the first two of his three Grammy awards.” Thus, at age 73, he was introduced to a new generation of fans. His public memorial service was held yesterday at the Hills of Home Park–the site where he hosted his annual Memorial Day Weekend bluegrass festival.

Wayne Jackson (1941-2016)
Wayne Jackson, trumpet player with Marty Robbins for three years, has died of congestive heart failure at age 74. His wife, Amy, said he had been hospitalized several weeks ago and released. He was readmitted to Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, and she told The Commercial Appeal she was by his side when he died June 21. Wayne started his career in West Memphis clubs. “I was a pretty famous trumpet player and had been in some big time rock ‘n’ roll bands and big time blues bands,” he told me during a phone interview in 2006. “I was with the Mar-Keys on the Stax label. About 1977 I got tired of rock ‘n’ roll, and kinda burned out with the whole thing, and I moved to Nashville.” When Marty’s band members saw him working in a club, they “assumed I was a piano player who played a little trumpet,” he said. “Which was exactly wrong.” Marty hired him, and he was suddenly on the Opry stage: “I’m not a piano player, so I was having to watch Larry Hunt’s hands to see where he was going, and I would try to match him on the chords. After a while I learned to play the chords in all his songs.” Several months later, Marty told him, “Son, you really can’t play that, can you? I’ll get another guy and you just play the trumpet!” Wayne manned the phones in the office after Marty’s final heart attack, and he was a pallbearer at Marty’s funeral.

Freddy Dale Powers (1931-2016)
Freddie Powers, 84, died June 21 after a twelve-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease. The songwriter, musician, and producer was a long-time friend of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. He toured with both of them and played in their bands. His many song credits include “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room” and “Natural High” (Merle Haggard) and “I Always Get Lucky With You” (George Jones).

The Country Radio Broadcasters Inc.’s Artist Career Achievement Award was presented to Randy Travis last Wednesday night during the annual Country Radio Hall of Fame ceremony at the Omni Hotel in Nashville. CMT News reports that Josh Turner provided a musical tribute by singing three of Randy’s songs during the celebration. The award honors artists whose “creativity, vision, performance or leadership made a significant contribution to the development and promotion of country music and country radio.”

Margo Smith is in intensive care at the Ocala Regional Medical Center in Florida. “She has double pneumonia and some other issues,” husband Richard Cammeron told the Village-News near their Florida home. “Margo is a real fighter.” She was seriously injured in a car accident two years ago but has since returned to performing.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football will have a new theme song this year, debuting September 11 for the game between the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals. Carrie Underwood recorded “Oh, Sunday Night,” described in a press release as a “mix of country, rock, and pop.” It is set to the music of “Somethin’ Bad,” her 2014 hit duet with Miranda Lambert. “I love being part of the Sunday Night Football family and can’t wait for the fans to hear the new theme song,” Carrie told Taste of Country. This is her fourth year as the voice of the opener, a role previously filled by Faith Hill.

NASCAR driver Mike Wallace and his daughter were assaulted in Charlotte, North Carolina, after attending a Rascal Flatts concert on June 17. He later told WBTV he spoke to someone parked in front of him when they were leaving the concert: “A young man on the back of the truck, he just started going crazy screaming at everybody. That’s all I remember. The only part that I remember of it is saying ‘man, what’s your problem, what’s going on?'” His teeth were knocked out, his lip required stitches, and a black eye is impairing his vision. His daughter was placed on a stretcher and transported to a hospital. The Boot reports three men were arrested, two of them charged with one count of simple assault each and the other with assault on a female.

Tommy Cash writes from Hendersonville, Tennessee, “I wrote a tribute song about George Jones and I sing it on all my concerts.  I’d be happy to share the lyrics.”

John & Alice Zelahy in Bella Vista, Arkansas, send this request: “Please add us to your awesome Country Music Newsletter list.”

Les Leverett in Nashville asks, “Can you re-send your latest newsletter to me? I don’t want to miss a one of your informative messages.”

Diane Jordon writes from Nashville, “Thanks for using the Johnny Paycheck story in your newsletter. I have a funny David Allen Coe story you are welcome to use. I was booked at a club in Lebanon Junction, Kentucky, back around 1987. David Allen Coe had been there, two weeks earlier. One guy in the house band wanted to meet David, but the others didn’t. He went out to David’s bus, alone, and knocked on the door. The driver opened the door. He explained that he was a musician in the house band at the club and would like to meet David. The driver invited him on the bus and went to get David. David came walking out with a monkey sitting on his shoulder. The musician introduced himself and extended his hand to shake hands. David wouldn’t shake his hand, but the monkey did.”

Carl in Yakima asks, “Can you tell me the name of Marty Robbins’s steel guitar player (before Bill Johnson) who played stand-up steel on the black and white videos typically late ‘50s? The same group of members were seen on early ‘60s color Grand Old Opry videos.”
Diane: That would be Jimmy Farmer, from 1955-1960.

Moragh Carter from the UK wonders, “Am I right in believing Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan’s marriage is the longest lasting of any still-living award-winning country music artist? They were married October 7, 1963. Do you know of any other marriage in that category to beat their tally? I can’t find any database for that kind of information, but maybe you know of one.
Diane: I would have no idea. Perhaps some of our readers might know.

Jennie Simpson writes, “I just learned of your newsletter when it was sent to me in an email from a friend. I thought maybe you may be interested in a little story of a relative unknown. I am a natural born Australian and came to the United States in 1999. I became a long haul truck driver and was recording music at a studio in Arlington, Texas. In 2014 I competed in a Trucker Talent Search and reached one of the three finalists. From there I joined with another of the finalists to start writing music. We created a song that tells about the feelings of becoming a naturalized citizen, which I became in 2010. I thought this may interest you as the 4th of July is right around the corner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhCFI55q1XU
Diane: Your timing is perfect, Jennie, and I’m pleased to introduce a proud naturalized American citizen.

Joe Morrison, KXRB deejay in Sioux Falls, says, “I really enjoyed the link to the Johnny Western/Terry Buford visit on kzhe.com. Nothin’ like a couple legendary DJ’s, and in their case performers, reminiscing about some of their ‘war stories.’ Bill Anderson related a story to me years ago of him and Roger Miller riding in the back seat of a car to a date in Texas with Johnny Seay driving. It was on that trip they co-wrote ‘When Two Worlds Collide.’ Once again, a great newsletter!!”

My last newsletter introduced The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones by Rich Kienzle. Now I’ll talk about the two previous George Jones books, Bob Allen’s biography, George Jones: The Saga of an American Singer (1984), and George’s autobiography with Tom Carter, I Lived to Tell It All (1996). The Bob Allen book ended with George’s marriage to Nancy Sepulveda. An updated edition, George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend (1994), included an epilogue about Nancy’s influence and how George had settled down. What I remember most about that book, in addition to the author’s fascination with his subject, was the extreme overuse of the term “prodigal singer.” It did give a good overview of George’s life. The autobiography tells a similar story, this time from George’s perspective as a sober and happily married man. I was disappointed to read comments such as “I occasionally have a glass of wine before dinner and drink no more” and “I’ll have a beer on a hot day.” If he thought he could still drink, there might be problems in his future. That became clear with his car wreck three years later. Sometimes it takes people awhile to get the message. I’m glad George finally did, and the rest of his life was settled and content.

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