Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 3 June 2020


It had been a few years since I last talked to Jerry Kennedy, who produced Faron Young’s Mercury records. They both grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. When I got in touch with him last week, it was an enjoyable catch-up conversation. “I hope you know how much I enjoy the Tuesday letters from you,” he told me. “They’re of great interest.” He’s one of my original subscribers.

At age 79, Jerry says, “I’m comfortable not doing very much. I do a lot of reading, I hang out with grandkids, I stay in touch with people–those of us who are left. It’s a nice day when I can call Pig Robbins to see how he’s doing, or Billy Sanford, some of the musicians that I worked with.” He told me he recently talked with friends and former clients Don Reid of the Statler Brothers and Tom T. Hall. He’s in a weekly Bible study with Dickey Lee, who has been a friend for sixty years.

He had a good conversation with Harold Reid, two weeks before Harold’s death. “A short conversation, but a good conversation,” Jerry says. “We told each other goodbye. That was a tough call. We didn’t come out and say that, but we both knew that’s what it was.” Since then, he has spoken briefly with Don Reid and with one of Harold’s daughters. “I’ve known all those kids since they were knee-high,” he says. “It will be a month this coming Friday, and we’re just now being able to talk about it.” There will be no public memorial service, because “Harold didn’t want it. He was very adamant about that kind of thing; he did not want that.”

Jerry gave me an update on his three sons, two of whom work with Garth Brooks. Brian, the middle son, is Garth’s road manager and has been with Garth for years. The oldest, Gordon, “is an excellent guitar player,” Jerry explains. “Garth called him and wanted to know if he would do three years of these stadium dates with him.” Now they are all in waiting mode–wondering when Garth will go back to work.

Jerry’s youngest son, Shelby, is Vice President of Entertainment Relations at TuneCore, a worldwide company that helps artists get their music online and get paid for it. “He’s having a lot of fun,” Jerry comments. “He’s more business-oriented than the other two, I think.”

In the mid-1980s, Jerry left Mercury Records, where he’d been vice president of the Nashville division, and formed JK Productions. He is long since retired. “I’m busy enough,” he tells me. “I’m as busy as I’m able to be.”

What holds him back is Parkinson’s disease. “That’s something I’m in a heck of a fight with right now,” he says. The tremors are getting worse: “They started off kinda light, and they’ve sneaked up on me. We’re trying to deal with the tremors with medication now.”

The only time he doesn’t have tremors is when he’s boxing. Rock Steady Boxing is a class for people with Parkinson’s disease, using the training a boxer would do. “It holds it back,” Jerry explains. “It does not cure it, but it can help. You don’t spar with anybody, you do punch a bag, and footwork a boxer would do to train, different things–cognitive things, like two lefts and a right. All those things that probably help to keep it at bay, sort of, this horrible disease.” The class helps with balance issues. “Some people get a little wobbly, and I noticed that was happening with me, and boy, it really has been helped with the boxing thing,” Jerry says.

He told me about the website, https://rocksteadyboxing.org,  which introduces Rock Steady Boxing as a nonprofit organization that “gives people with Parkinson’s disease hope by improving their quality of life through a non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum.”

Jerry, I wish you many more good books to read, friends to talk with, and boxing sessions at the gym. And, of course, hanging out with the grandkids.


ClassicCountryMusic.com reports the unexpected death of legendary Nashville guitarist Jimmy Capps, 81, on June 1. The North Carolina native started playing guitar for the Louvin Brothers when he was 19. He became a Grand Ole Opry guitarist in the early 1960s and has played on that stage more times than anyone else in the Opry’s history. He was “The Sheriff” on RFD-TV’s Larry’s Country Diner and he played on the Country Family Reunion shows. He is a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Jimmy is survived by his wife Michele and three sons. To learn more about his life, here’s my review of The Man In Back: Jimmy Capps, The Autobiography from last year.

Metro Nashville Police said 30 businesses were vandalized Saturday night after protests turned violent in downtown Nashville. Lower Broadway venues such as Big Time Boots, AJ’s Good Time Bar, Wild Horse Saloon, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and Legends Corner sustained damage. Rioters spray painted graffiti, broke windows, and tossed burning objects inside the County Courthouse. The historic Ryman Auditorium had one window broken on the northwest corner of the building.

The Mural Shop in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is planning to paint 15 murals of famous musicians in the North Carolina towns where they were born. One is for Randy Travis in Marshville and another for Roberta Flack in Black Mountain, according to The Laurinburg Exchange. John Coltrane, a pioneering jazz musician born in Hamlet in 1926, will get a posthumous mural.

Rolling Stone Country reports the death of pedal steel guitarist William “Bucky” Baxter, 65, on May 25. He died in Sanibel Island, Florida, following a stroke and heart attack. The Florida native played pedal steel guitar on Steve Earle’s 1986 Guitar Town, as well as the Copperhead Road LP in 1988. He was a founding member of Earle’s backing band, the Dukes. Bob Dylan asked him for steel guitar lessons, leading Bucky to join Dylan’s band as steel player and multi-instrumentalist. He played more than 750 shows during Dylan’s Never Ending Tour in the 1990s. He later recorded with artists such as Kacey Musgraves, Old Crow Medicine Show, and his own son, Rayland Baxter.

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) is honoring Garth Brooks with its Songwriter Icon Award, which was established in 2006 to recognize outstanding songwriters for personal achievement. According to Nash Country Daily, the award is presented during NMPA’s annual event in New York City. This year, it will be a virtual meeting in June. Past recipients include Neil Sedaka, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, and Jon Bon Jovi.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which has been closed since March 13, is laying off or furloughing about 170 people, nearly half of its employees. The Nashville Scene reports the cuts will be effective June 18. CEO Kyle Young said in a statement, “Our economic setbacks, coupled with the uncertainties of the future related to the pandemic, make it necessary to take these measures now to protect the institution and ensure its future.”

Music industry organizations pledged to participate in “Black Out Tuesday” in Nashville, The Tennessean reports. Music Row labels, artists, and leading music industry brands said “the show must be paused” for a day of solidarity in response to the death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis. Participants showed support by using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused on social media. Warner Music Nashville, Big Machine Label Group, Big Loud, Universal Nashville, Sony Music Nashville, and Curb Records were some of the participants, as were Live Nation, ASCAP, and Amazon Music.

To give us hope during the coronavirus pandemic, Dolly Parton has written and released a new song, “When Life Is Good Again.” She vows to be a better person and encourages listeners to “Let’s try to make amends/ When life is good again.” She adds, “And it’s gonna be good again.” The Tennessean reminds readers that she has donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to fund coronavirus research, and she reads bedtime stories for children on her weekly web series, “Goodnight With Dolly,” using books from her Imagination Library.

Alan Jackson will be hosting two Small Town Drive-In concerts this weekend, in the Alabama towns of Cullman and Fairhope, reports The Tennessean. A total of 2,000 parked vehicles will be admitted, with three people per car for $99.99, and $39.99 for each additional passenger. VIP parking tickets start at $199.99. Attendees must stay with their vehicles. A portion of proceeds will go toward food relief efforts in the area.

Music promoter and businessman Stan Byrd, 77, died in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, on May 23, while suffering from the aftereffects of a stroke. MusicRow reports that Byrd worked in the promotion department of CBS Records in Nashville from 1970-76, then became national director of country promotion at Warner Bros. Records, then established his own firm, Chart Attack, in 1984. There he was an independent promoter for B.J. Thomas, Ricky Van Shelton, Joe Diffie, and Earl Thomas Conley. He also founded BDM Management and signed Mark Chesnutt as his first client. From 1997-2001, he was vice president of promotion at Asylum Records. As a real estate entrepreneur, he purchased houses on Music Row and converted them into music business offices.

Many financial details of the Glen Campbell estate will likely remain private, reports The Tennessean, following a Nashville judge’s decision to excuse the executor, widow Kim Campbell, from filing detailed annual reports. The two-page motion was submitted by the co-trustees of the Campbell Family Trust. The will specifically bars Kelli, Travis, and Wesley–three of Glen’s children–from any part of the estate. The three initially challenged the will but later withdrew their challenge.

One of the founding members of the Stoney Mountain Cloggers, Margaret Smathers Collins, died May 21. She and husband Ben, members of the Grand Ole Opry, brought in other dancers until their children were old enough to join them: Hal, Mickey, Candy, and Debbie. Their other daughter, Sally, didn’t perform with them. When Mickey eventually left the group, they added Tommy Crook. In addition to dancing on the Opry, they traveled with other performers. After Ben died in 1990, at age 61, Margaret retired the group from the Opry. Musicians called her “Mother Margaret.” She would have celebrated her 93rd birthday in July.

The Store, the nonprofit grocery store near Belmont University in Nashville, is now delivering an estimated 330 bags per week, according to The Tennessean. Brad Paisley says it’s five times what he and wife Kimberly expected to be distributing. Families pick up about 175 bags via curbside service, and volunteers deliver the others. They have served 15,000 meals in two months.

One of Johnny Cash’s granddaughters was yelled at inside a Green Hills grocery store for wearing a mask, PEOPLE reports. “My daughter lives in Nashville & wore her mask to buy groceries,” Rosanne Cash wrote on Twitter. “Guy yells at her: ‘Liberal pussy!’ . . . The ignorance & hatred is so painful. She’s trying to survive.” When a Twitter user accused her of making up the story, she responded, “It reveals a lot about you, that you think I would make up a story that used my daughter’s compromised health to make a point.” Rosanne, 65, has five children: three daughters with Rodney Crowell (Caitlin, 40, Chelsea, 38, and Carrie, 32), Rodney’s daughter Hannah from a previous marriage, and son Jakob, 21, with musician Johnny Leventhal, her current husband.

Bill Anderson reports in his fan club newsletter that the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is delaying his Hall of Fame exhibit by one year. “Instead of the display being up for ten months as originally planned,” he writes, “it will now be up for fifteen months–from late November 2021 until March 2023. . .. The building that houses the Hall and the Museum has been closed since March, and it will take time to get things back up and running again. I hope lots of you will plan to attend my exhibit, and as the details come forth, I promise you’ll be the first to know.”

Nicole Kidman, 52, is recovering from a broken ankle injury, her husband says. Keith Urban, 52, told The Project, “She broke her ankle so there’s not been a whole lot of dancing in the house. About five weeks ago, she was running around the neighborhood as she does and just didn’t see a pothole and rolled her ankle and got a small break in her ankle.” She is wearing a boot. Keith adds, “She’s been handling it way better than I would’ve.” He’s looking forward to getting home to Australia for a visit. “Because we want to be able to see our moms,” he says, “and Nic’s sister is there, all of her family, my brother and his family. Everybody’s there so we’re really anxious to get back.”

Douglas Corner Cafe, at 2106 Eighth Avenue South in Nashville, has been a premier live-music venue for 33 years. Rolling Stone reports that owner Mervin Louque posted on Facebook last week that he would not reopen the club. It has been closed since March 15th because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Garth Brooks hosted his first fan club party there, and Keith Whitley filmed his last music video when he sang “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” on the Douglas Corner stage. Within 24 hours of the Facebook announcement, the video had been shared hundreds of times with 120,000 views. Louque tells News Channel 5, “The response I got with Facebook and the stories, I’m just overwhelmed.” He has received numerous calls from people asking how they can help.

When Kimberly Williams-Paisley shared a video of husband Brad Paisley, 47, touching up her roots at home, he joked, “This is going to ruin everything I’ve worked towards in my image.” He later told PEOPLE he’s been cutting his own hair occasionally since college and also has experience in coloring hair: “I’m a jackass of all trades at this point!” He says, “I’m not any good at it but it doesn’t matter because I’m wearing a hat.” He and his band played a live concert on May 15 to benefit the American Red Cross.

Ryman Hospitality Properties has pulled out of a contract to purchase the mixed-use complex in downtown Austin, Texas, that covers an entire city block. The Moody Theater, home of Austin City Limits, is in the complex. Ryman Hospitality had agreed to pay $275 million. Saving Country Music reports the deal fell through because of the economic environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ryman Hospitality will have to pay the seller $15 million as a penalty for breaking the contract. Both the Moody Theater in Austin and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville have been closed since March.

In the Taste of Country video series, The Secret History of Country Music, Gretchen Wilson reveals that her song, “Redneck Woman,” was inspired by the unlikely image of Faith Hill. “The day that we wrote ‘Redneck Woman’ was a day that John Rich and I were sitting around watching country music videos and Faith Hill’s ‘Breathe’ was on,” Gretchen explains. “She’s gorgeous. She looks like a supermodel. She’s rolling around in satin sheets. I looked at John and said, ‘This is probably never gonna happen for me because I’ll never look like that, and I’ll never be that. That is just not the kind of woman I am.'” He asked, “Well, what kind of woman are you then?” Gretchen said, “I’m a redneck woman.” At that moment, the songwriting pair decided to write authentically about that kind of a woman. “I felt like it was a responsibility almost at that point to speak to those girls who felt like me,” Gretchen recalls. Her 2004 album Here for the Party, which contained “Redneck Woman,” sold 5 million copies.

When Billboard recently asked George Strait how he’s been spending his down time during the pandemic, he replied, “I’ve been spending a lot of time, like everyone, at home with family. I had a knee replaced right before the quarantine. I had been planning that for a while. It went very well but I had to rehab on my own due to the obvious conditions. I’m ready to go again now though. All good.”

Now fully recovered from COVID-19, Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson tells The Boot about his new song, “I Love You, Don’t Touch Me.” He sings it as a duet with Katie Shore, who portrays a mother and then lover by singing the chorus, “I love you, don’t touch me / That’s the way it’s gonna be / I love you, don’t touch me / Stay six feet away from me.” During a virtual fundraising concert that replaced Willie Nelson’s annual Luck Reunion, Ray had broadcast from Arlyn Studios in Austin, Texas. “Usually I would shake hands, hug and greet everyone, but … with the virus spreading, I realized that would not be advisable,” he tells The Boot. “As I entered the studio, I intoned, ‘I love you … Don’t touch me,’ and moved to my place in the studio, removed from others by many feet. The next week, I was diagnosed with the virus, so I’m glad I did that.”

Following the release of the House of Representatives’ draft of the HEROES Act, reports MusicRow, music advocates denounced it as a Big Radio Bailout. SoundExchange, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the Future of Music Coalition, and the Recording Academy jointly issued a statement that began, “The economic impact of COVID-19 is very real and causing dramatic upheaval in local communities throughout the country. . . earlier efforts by Congress to provide aid to truly local broadcasters who serve their communities with unique and locally relevant content has merit and received broad support.” The statement concludes, “There is a difference between supporting vital local news outlets and billion dollar broadcast conglomerates, especially given that these enormous radio conglomerates refuse to compensate recording artists for using their music, in contrast with satellite radio and streaming services that do pay. With so many people in need at this time, let’s keep the focus where it should be: small businesses and workers, not on big broadcasters.”


Bill Anderson has a request for my newsletter readers: “Does anyone out there happen to have a copy of the sheet music to Jan Howard’s legendary song, ‘My Son?’ If you do, would you please let me know as her son, Corky, wants to use the cover of that sheet music as part of a special marker being created for Jan’s final resting place at Spring Hill Cemetery here in Nashville. Reach out to me as soon as you can at whisperinbill@billanderson.com. Corky only wants to borrow it. He will return it to you as soon as he is finished with it.”

Paul Potter writes, “I just wanted to let you know that a biography about Dottie West, I’ve been working on for a number of years, will be coming in the next few months. There is a website for the book, http://www.dottiewestbook.com, and it will contain never before published photos. Feel free to subscribe for updates about the book. I would like to ask if you know any Dottie stories or info or contacts you could share, they would be much appreciated.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that very interesting newsletter and to have shared Brenda Lee’s memories about Little Richard. I was lucky enough to have seen twice Little Richard on stage, the last time being in 2005. He was a bright showman with a fabulous and strong voice. Another musical giant from the ‘50s has gone. Very interesting to learn about the George Jones tapes. Let’s hope for good quality sound and some never-heard stuff.”

Donna Weidlich requests, “I would like to subscribe to your country music newsletter. A friend sent it to me and I enjoyed it very much.”

Rhonda Stogner says, “I saw a copy of your newsletter for the first time today, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I would love to subscribe. I love country music, and that was a wonderful newsletter. Thank you for putting it out.”

Pam Harp Sell writes from Nashville, “Thanks for the mention of Benny Garcia in your last newsletter. He was such a super nice guy. Between him & Margaret Smathers Collins passing so close together, mine & George’s hearts are broken. Margaret has been like a second Mother to us since just before we got married. She was a beautiful person inside & out. I just hate losing so many special people & not being able to celebrate them after death. I sure hope I did let her know before hers. We spent many a special occasion with her, one being Christmas Eve for the past several years.”

Gene Burkhart says, “How nice to read Carl Smith’s name; he was my fav’ way back when I was on the old Landmark Jamboree in Cleveland. Dottie West was the headliner, Carl was the guest that evening. It is still a highlight for me to remember that evening. I have often wished I could remember what song I sang. Oh well the memory is what counts. So nice to receive your info about the great country stars.”

Donald Ewert writes, “I googled your name after reading you were at Bob Everhart’s Festival. I want you to know I read both the books on Marty & Faron. I knew Penny DeHaven. She came to do shows here in Milwaukee quite a lot. We kept in touch.
Penny had called me a few months before she passed away. I didn’t even know her cancer came back. I was sad to hear that. I feel she should have been a bigger star. Did you ever meet Dottie West? I was her #1 fan, Dottie called me that herself. The reason she called me her #1 fan. When I was 13 yrs old I loved Dottie’s singing and I would buy her records to give to other people and ask them to send her a letter to let her know I introduced them to her music. I also sent her a scrapbook I put together for her. When I would go to see her in concert, she would tell the audience I was there and that I am her #1 fan. Once here in Milwaukee, I saw Jeannie Seely at a casino and took along my Dottie scrapbook, a lady next to me seemed interested so I told her Dottie called me her #1 fan and Jeannie acknowledged yes, it was true. I am now 64, but I still love the memories. Did you know there is a book about Dottie? It’s called Born a Country Girl by Monty Wannamaker. I’m glad to say I am included in the book. I heard you have a newsletter. How do I get it?”

David Markham writes from England, “Thank you for this month’s Newsletter on the well missed Marty Robbins. I never got to know much about some of the country artists from the US here in England. We never heard about most you have written about.”

Ray Rokita sends this surprising news: “I was very happy to see the announcement of Marty Robbins book being available on our Bard website for the blind. Jack Fox is reading your biography, Twentieth Century Drifter. The book number is db97778. It’s been a long time coming. Looking forward to reading your second book on a country star. The narrator for this book is a well-known and very good choice for the audio format. Jack Fox has worked with the American Printing house for the blind many years.”

Diane: That is wonderful news! For those who might have access to the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Downloadable Books and Magazines, here is the link: https://www.loc.gov/nls/about/services/braille-audio-reading-download-bard. And BARD, to which Ray refers: Braille and Audio Reading Download https://nlsbard.loc.gov

Pete Cellini writes, “If you remember we spoke about your wonderful Marty Robbins work, Twentieth Century Drifter.  I have finished restoring one of his cars (1969 Dodge Daytona) and thought I would share a picture. Also, as I re-read the book I am fascinated by the amount of research and references you have in your Notes section. As I said, I have one of Marty’s cars and am looking to potentially purchase another. Any help or direction would be appreciated. There seems to be some mix up regarding the portion related to the ‘69 Daytona on page 142: ‘purple, yellow and green Dodge Charger Daytona.’ Marty’s Daytona never had green paint; that was later on his late model Charger that had those three colors.”

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My brother Kenny joined me during my research trip to Nashville in January of 2000. We went to the office of Merle Kilgore for an interview. He was managing the career of Hank Williams Jr. at the time. He died from heart failure in 2005, at age 70, while undergoing treatment for lung cancer.

I first heard about Faron Young in Shreveport, and it was about 1950. My mother was a substitute teacher at Fair Park High School in Shreveport, and Faron was a hell raiser. He’d walk around the halls smoking cigars, and you know there’s never been any smoking in school. So they had to get on him, and he was always a little short guy, feisty. He played football, but he couldn’t make the varsity because he wasn’t big enough. But he was a scrapper. He was always strong. He had to milk all those cows–his father had a dairy farm and his arms were strong. That section of the town was the industrial section, and they were just wild rough kids over there. I went to C.E. Byrd High School, which was a high school that had 5,000 kids. It was a better class of neighborhood. Fair Park was always the enemy of Byrd High School, it was the rival. It was the rich kids playing the blue collars. And we beat ’em all the time.

We appeared in a talent contest together, at a little school in Cedar Grove. He won first place, and I won second place. We got to know each other pretty good, through my mother. Then Faron got in with Webb Pierce, and there was a place called the Skyway Club in Bossier City. That was the place to play. They only had the stars play there. Webb Pierce would play there with his band–Floyd Cramer, Jimmy Day, let’s see, there’s several celebrities years later went on to be real professional musicians. Faron was the lead singer. Faron would hold down the club while Webb was on tour. Faron had got a recording, and it was on the Gotham label. Faron got me to sing out at the club when he had some bookings. He’d say, “You take over the band.” Then Faron signed with Capitol Records, and he started having some big airplay. I’m a year and a half younger than Faron, I was born in ’34. I was still going to high school.

I think Faron’s recorded about 14 of my songs over the years. We wrote a lot of songs together. First one is “Now That We’re Talkin’ It Over,” and “A Long Time Ago.” 1957-58, I believe. And then on and on in the ’60s and ’70s. “Rhinestones.” “You’ll Drive Me Back Into Her Arms Again.” “New Mexico,” from the Western album. On the Western album, a song called “A Dead Man Ago,” we wrote that together. He called me and said we gotta have a couple more songs. “Get me something–they want a New Mexico song. You know, Billy the Kid was from New Mexico. We ain’t writin’ about no Billy the Kid, though.” I said, “Man, this is gonna take a lot of research.” “No, it ain’t. Go to the damn library and look up Western songs. Most of them are PD anyway.” I went to the library downtown, and looked it up, and I got this song, author unknown, about New Mexico. I gave the girl five dollars, and she typed the lyrics for me. I rushed to the studio, and he said, “Great. I wonder how it goes.” I said, “Hey, I got my part. You do your part.” And he sat, and he sang, “Out in New Mexico.” He just made up the melody right in the session. And it came out good. This guy from Brisbane, Australia, said, “I’d love to have you tell about how you wrote ‘Out In New Mexico.'” I said, “Nah, not really. It would ruin everything.” We didn’t write it. We manufactured that baby. Some old cowpoke wrote it years and years ago, author unknown, and Faron put some PD melody to it.

Fast forward to the year ’74, when I moved in with Faron at Harbor Island, here in Tennessee, out there on Old Hickory Lake. Every winter it was icy and snowy–which is unusual in Tennessee–but it would stay icy and snowy on this island. This island had 14 homes on it. Once it snowed and icy, it wouldn’t go away. The wind kept it iced over all the time. Faron would be so upset that wreckers would charge a hundred dollars to pull you out of a ditch or something, on the main road. So Faron got him one of those Chevrolet Blazers, and he stayed out several days pulling people out, and no charge at all. He’d come in and he had icicles hanging off his nose. That was a side that people never really saw of Faron. Usually his mouth overloaded all the great things he’s ever done. Cuz when he’d have a drink or two, he could not help it. It was that Napoleonic complex. He had to tell somebody off.

It’s ironic that he killed himself. He pulled that on us one time. He was really depressed about something, and he was real quiet–but he’d drank all day. I was dating my wife, Judy, at the time. Judy had come over and she was cooking, and he was really quiet that day. His girlfriend Quinnie Acuff came over, and he went in the bedroom, and kaboom! “Sheriff, what’d you do, shoot your toe off?” He wouldn’t answer us, so we went over there and he was laying on the floor, and he had that gun pointed to his head. I said, “Oh, my god, he’s killed himself.” And he said, “Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha.”

This was like ’77. Cuz I left and went to Alabama–Hank Jr. had fell off a mountain in ’75, and I had to wait till he healed up to go back with him. When I left, Hilda came back. They got back together again.

Mack Vickery and I were working on a song, and Faron was passed out. He said, snore, “I like that song, yup, yup,” snore. We thought he was talking in his sleep. “Yeah, I’ll cut it,” snore, “I like it, yeah, yeah,” snore, “Yeah, it’s a hit,” and we laughed at him. The next day, he said, “Okay, “She Went a Little Bit Farther,” where can I get the demo on that?” I said, “Sammi Smith has already cut it. We were just singing it. It’s on the jukebox down here at the clubhouse.” He went down to the jukebox and played it, and covered it, and it was a hit by Faron. But Mack and I were just singing it–we couldn’t remember the lyrics–so he thought we were writing it. Mack would say, “I think we wrote it like this.” We wrote it real quick, and Sammi Smith cut it, and it just came out. So Faron, he’d be snoring, y’know, he’s out, and he heard it. He called the next day. “Okay, “She Went a Little Bit Farther,” I’m cuttin’ it now, where is it? I’m cuttin’ Friday.” This was a Wednesday. When he was drunk, he was unbelievable.

Faron introduced me to Mack. I was on tour with Faron at Michigan. He said, “Merle, this guy’s a great songwriter and great singer. You ought to sign him up to your new company. I was working for Al Gallico, a very famous song plugger for years in New York. I hired Mack and got him a record deal, and he eventually came to Nashville and wrote for us. He and I wrote a lot of hits together. He was a good friend of Faron’s, too.

Momma came to see us out at Harbor Island, and Faron was so excited that Momma was coming. I said, “Now Momma’s really picky.” He said, “Yeah, I remember she was picky.” Boy, we dusted and cleaned that house. We got the girls to clean up the house good. It was spotless. Momma was looking around, and she said, “This place is shining.” “Oh, yeah, we keep it like this all the time, Momma.” We did our own work, we did our own vacuuming and everything. He loved to clean up the house.

I’ve been here like five years, in this office here. Billy Deaton brought him up here. I said, “I can’t believe you’re coming to see me.” He said, “Well, hell, I can’t walk up stairs. I got my breathing thing. I’m definitely coming to see you.” So he came up. He said, “Just give me five minutes. Go ahead about your business.” He had to rest up, and then he was his old self, and he had us on the floor. He said, “I’m so damn mad at my attorney. I told him, if you were a prosecutor, and you were prosecutin’ Hitler, you’d lose.” I thought that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard–if you were prosecuting Hitler, you’d lose. That is funny.


My third memoir is now published.Mommy! Watch Me tells my story of becoming a mother at age 50, when I adopted my daughters in Los Angeles in 2000. Twenty years ago this month, I was taking classes to be certified as a foster/adoptive parent, before being matched with foster children. The book covers our first ten years together as a family, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to South Dakota. I sell it on my website . It can also be downloaded as a Kindle ebook.


Does any early fan of Randy Travis have a copy of the newscast where he announced the CMA nominees at Opryland Hotel in Nashville, approximately August 18, 1986? I’ve already checked with the CMA office and the Nashville TV stations, and they don’t have it. I’m also trying to find a recording of his first appearance on the Johnny Carson show and a copy of his 1993 movie, Wind in the Wire. If anyone recorded audio or video interviews Randy did throughout the years, I’d appreciate hearing from you about those, too.

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