Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 31 October 2018

Freddie Hart (1926-2018)
Freddie Hart, 91, died October 27 in Burbank, California. Frederick Segrest, born in 1926 in Alabama, learned to play the guitar at age five. He quit school when he was 12 and lied his way into the Marine Corps at 15, where he served during World War II. After the war, he pursued a music career and taught self-defense classes at the Los Angeles Police Academy. He wrote and recorded the smash hit, “Easy Lovin’,” which won Song of the Year in 1971 at both ACM and CMA awards shows. Other hits included “Bless Your Heart,” “Super Kind of Woman,” “Trip To Heaven,” and “My Hang-Up Is You.” He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2004. Taste of Country reports he recently finished a new record, God Bless You, produced by David Frizzell and scheduled for release later this year. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ginger, and four sons. Freddie was the featured artist in my newsletter on July 20, 2016.

Tony Joe White, 75, died late Wednesday afternoon, October 25, at his home in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. “He wasn’t ill at all,” his son told The Tennessean. “He just had a heart attack.” In the mid-1960s, White moved to Nashville from Texas. Since then, numerous stars have recorded his songs, including Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Brook Benton, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, and Tina Turner. His two most famous songs were “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia.” He was known for his swamp-rock sound–a mix of rock, country, and R&B.

Steel player Roy Lunn, 90, died October 20 in Ridgeland, Mississippi. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Eloise, and four children. Born in 1928 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Roy was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951. Assigned to Special Services, he was playing pedal steel guitar when the band became known as PFC Faron Young and the Circle ‘A’ Wranglers. I interviewed Roy in 2006 for my Faron Young biography, and he told me many stories about Faron and fellow band member Gordon Terry. After his discharge, Roy taught barbering at Jackson Barber College and then spent two decades as a Capitol Policeman for the Mississippi State Police Commission.

The Country Music Hall of Fame hosted a private medallion ceremony in the Hall’s CMA Theater to honor this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, Ricky Skaggs, the late Johnny Gimble, and the late Dottie West. David Ball joined the Time Jumpers fiddlers–Joe Spivey, Kenny Sears and Larry Franklin–to begin the evening with “Right or Wrong.” Johnny Gimble had played on the sessions of both Bob Wills and George Strait when they recorded the Western swing classic. Connie Smith sang “If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave It Alone)” and then presented Johnny’s medallion to his widow, Barbara, and three children. Brenda Lee presented the children of Dottie West with the Veterans Era medallion. Jeannie Seely honored her friend by singing “Here Comes My Baby.” Ricky Skaggs, the Modern Era inductee, performed “Highway 40 Blues” with the help of songwriter Larry Cordle, Garth Brooks, and Sierra Hull. Garth Brooks put the medallion around Ricky’s neck. Ricky later removed it to avoid scratching Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 mandolin when it was handed to him to play at the end of the ceremony. He entertained the audience with his rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Bill Monroe had allowed six-year-old Ricky to play that same mandolin during a show in Kentucky in 1960. It now resides behind glass in the museum. “On Sunday night,” The Tennessean reports, “that boy, who grew up to be bluegrass and country star Ricky Skaggs, played his hero and mentor’s mandolin once more.” I have to ask: Why is this annual event a private ceremony? How many fans would have gladly purchased tickets and driven to Nashville to see this show? Instead, those without invitations must read The Tennessean to get a report of what they weren’t allowed to experience for themselves.

Illness kept Loretta Lynn away from the recent CMT Artists of the Year awards ceremony, where she was to receive The Artist of a Lifetime award. Sissy Spacek accepted the honor on her behalf, instead of presenting the award to her. “I’ve watched the CMT show more than once now and am so proud of the amazing job all the girls did,” reads a post on Loretta’s official Facebook page. “I can’t thank everyone enough for the kind words and this amazing award from CMT. I was so disappointed to have missed it because I was sick. After a brief hospital visit, I’m feeling better now and enjoying a weekend of resting up at home.” CMT News reports that Miranda Lambert presented the award. “There are a lot of talented women in this room tonight, but I think we can all agree — including myself — that none of us would be here if not for Loretta Lynn,” she said. Sissy Spacek, in her acceptance speech, said, “I loved playing Loretta in Coal Miner’s Daughter. I just loved being her. I had the band, I had the bus, I had the clothes. But I think we can all agree, there’s only one Loretta Lynn.” She added, “She’s so sorry she couldn’t be here tonight. She’s a little under the weather.”

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame held its annual gala Sunday evening. Five new members, whose names had been announced in August, were officially inducted: Ronnie Dunn, K.T. Oslin, Byron Hill, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Joe Melson. Also during the ceremony, Reba McEntire was presented with the inaugural Career Maker Award, which The Tennessean describes as honoring “artists who have had a significant influence upon the songwriting careers of Hall of Fame members.” Pat Alger, chair of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation, said Reba has recorded songs by “45 members of the Hall of Fame, and there’s only really about 210 members, so that’s pretty astounding.”

Sara Evans is frustrated with today’s music industry. “The obvious and most maddening change to me has been the blatant stonewalling of female artists,” she tweeted recently. “One day I’m a country artist with hits on country radio and the next, I can’t even get one spin on ANY of my new music.” According to Rolling Stone, only two women have reached Number One in 2018–Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini. Only a few more have even charted. “It’s time for a change,” Sara states in her tweet. She also objects to the “lack of creativity and lyrical sophistication” on the radio. “Country music used to be known for its amazingly true to life, heartfelt lyrics.” The current youthful, party-oriented themes favor male performers.

A concert last Friday night in Bossier City, Louisiana, was canceled at the last minute for undisclosed reasons, according to Saving Country Music. Stoney LaRue planned to open for the Turnpike Troubadours at 7:30 pm, but he never took the stage. At 8:10, the Centurylink Center announced the concert had been called off. “Stoney LaRue had a great soundcheck and really wanted to play in Bossier LA last night,” his management explained the next day. “Right before his set the entire show was canceled for circumstances beyond his control.” On Saturday, the Turnpike Troubadours canceled their scheduled appearance for that night in Corpus Christi, Texas. “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Turnpike Troubadours will not be appearing at tonight’s concert,” the venue posted on social media. The other performers did the show. Saving Country Music reports no explanation has been given by the Turnpike Troubadours for canceling two nights in a row.

Garth Brooks has announced a three-year, 30-stop stadium tour beginning in the spring. “I wanted to call it the ‘Big-Ass Stadium Tour,’ but they voted me down on that,” Garth said at a news conference in Nashville on October 17. “So we’re just gonna call it the stadium tour for right now.” The announcement came three days before his Notre Dame show–which sold out with ticket buyers unaware there would be a television taping. CBS-TV will broadcast the concert on December 2. “Everything you know about Notre Dame took a really hard right about three weeks ago when we found out CBS was interested in filming,” Garth told PEOPLE. “We never film anything until the end, so Notre Dame will be the beginning and the end for us … We’ll go back to the drawing board, modify the stage. Notre Dame truly will be a one-off … because the last thing I like to see is something on TV and then go and see the exact same thing.” Saving Country Music reports on one unhappy fan who traveled from Denver for the concert. “The majority of the evening was dominated by CBS, prioritizing their footage over the genuine flow of a live performance,” she wrote. “As a fan, I am outraged that the flow of the concert was interrupted multiple times for ‘re-taping,’ killing the magical vibe of every other Garth concert I have attended.” It was her 18th Garth Brooks concert.

On his way to a concert in Toledo, Ohio, Keith Urban made a surprise stop at Mercy Health St. Vincent Hospital to visit Marissa English, 25, in hospice care. She has “a myriad of health conditions including water and an inoperable cyst on her brain, severe scoliosis and cerebral palsy,” Toledo’s WTOL-11 reported. Her nurses started a social media campaign to get Keith to visit, once they realized Marissa was too ill to use her ticket for the concert. “We knew how important it was to Marissa to be at that concert,” one nurse told PEOPLE. “Since she wasn’t able to we were hoping to try and find some way to have Keith make a connection with her.” He knelt beside her and held her hand as he sang “Blue Ain’t Your Color” to an iPhone karaoke track. “I’d be playing this song right now if I had my guitar with me,” he told her. During his sold-out show at the Huntington Center that evening, Keith talked about meeting Marissa, WTOL-11 reported. He said, “Her family is here and so are some of her pediatric ICU nurses. We’re going to dedicate this whole show tonight to her, to Marissa.”

Bill Anderson recently performed songs from his new album, Anderson, along with some of his classic hits, during an album release event at the SiriusXM Music City Theatre. Jeannie Seely hosted the special radio event for SiriusXM subscribers.

The Sons of the Pioneers have a new lead singer–the son of the group’s co-founder. Roy (Dusty) Rogers Jr. joined the band in January. “I had retired about four years ago and then the Sons of the Pioneers called and said their lead singer retired and they wanted to see if I’d be interested in replacing him,” Dusty told the Daily Press in Victorville, California. “How many sons get to join their father’s group that he started 84 years ago? It’s just unbelievable.” His father, then known by his birth name of Leonard Slye, formed a trio with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer in the early 1930s. After hits such as “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water,” he left to become Roy Rogers, “King of the Cowboys.” Dusty is looking forward to performing this weekend at Victor Valley College, doing a fundraiser for the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation, an organization that provides aid to victims of child abuse. The Sons of the Pioneers aren’t planning to ride off into the sunset anytime soon. “Seems like everybody these days wants to go the next best thing when they have the best thing right in their laps,” Dusty says. “Cowboy music is America’s music and it’s very special.”

John Allen writes, “Thanks for telling me about MARGIE SINGLETON – Heaven or Hell song. Loved it and am sharing it with others.”

Alan Delbalso says, “Thank you Ronny Robbins for the reply.”

Jenny Jones writes, “I just finished your newsletter, and as usual thoroughly enjoyed all the News, I was reading the letter from Bill Mack, which reminded me I had been meaning to tell you that my Stepfather was kin to Bill, as his Mother was married to Dave Sechrist. I met Bill several years ago and have always enjoyed hearing things from him. Once again, keep up the good work.”

Ralph Larson writes, “Since you did not mention Melba Montgomery in your October 16th newsletter, I can only assume you were not able to contact her. I do hope you continue trying to speak with her as she performed many great recordings.”
Diane: My requests to speak to her have gone unanswered. Perhaps a reader has contact with Melba?

Dean Mann in Sioux Falls says, “Another very informative newsletter. I hated to miss Lorrie Morgan. It sounds like I missed a very good show. Thanks for what you did to introduce Mo Pitney to the Sisseton folks. I believe I wrote you about him the first time I saw him on a Country Family Reunion Cruise in 2016. He is an excellent country singer and entertainer. Keep up the excellent writing Diane.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that newsletter and for the work done. It’s always a great pleasure to read your writing and to enjoy the readers’ notes. Keep it Country.”

Les Ellingson says, “Got your books on Faron and Marty great work! Also look forward to your newsletters as everyone else agrees. I appreciate all you do to keep this great history alive.”

Alan Lister of Surprise, Arizona, asks, “Could you please include me in your newsletter recipients?”

Ralph Grimes writes from Sun City West, Arizona, “Jackie Allen sent me a copy of your newsletter. I would like to be added to your email list. Faron Young was always a favorite of mine. I met Ken Nelson, as I was present once when he was a producer for Merle Haggard. I was a guest in Hollywood at Western Recorders when Merle recorded ‘Movin’ On’ for the Claude Akins TV series in 1974. I’m not sure the released version is the one I was present for. Wikipedia says it was recorded in Nashville. I had an original acetate of another song he did that night that was never released by Merle, called ‘Mirrors Don’t Lie.’ I sold that to a representative of Marty Stuart some years ago. Wish I hadn’t. Faron wrote one of my all-time favorite songs, ‘Is it so strange.’ It was recorded by Elvis I believe in the early sixties. Faron was a great performer but no one could beat him for writing great songs. As far as I know he remained very good friends with Elvis. I will be ordering your book on him. Thanks for piquing my interest in Faron. I’ll look forward to the newsletter.”

Robin Mierau says, “I enjoyed your latest newsletter, thank you! I’m not at all sure the Marty Robbins song Janet was a tribute to his daughter.”

Mike Johnson of Roughshod Records writes, “Wishing Chuck Dauphin a speedy recovery.”

t took me exactly two years for this newsletter to bring you every member of the Country Music Hall of Fame–from 1961 through 2018. The most recent induction ceremony was held October 21, 2018. The late Johnny Gimble was this year’s Recording and/or Touring Musician. Born in 1926, he was raised on a farm near Tyler, Texas. While stationed with the U.S. Army in Austria in the late 1940s, he acquired a taste for waltzes. He joined Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1949 as a fiddle player. He later moved to Nashville, where his fiddle appeared on some of country music’s greatest recordings. He received two Grammy awards and was named six time as CMA Instrumentalist of the Year. He was a member of the Million Dollar Band on Hee Haw. He continued to perform well into his 80s, touring from his home in Dripping Springs, Texas. Johnny and his wife, Barbara, first married in 1949. Along with raising three children, they divorced and remarried three times. “The divorce didn’t work out,” he liked to say. Johnny Gimble, 88, died in 2015 at a nursing home in Marble Falls, Texas. He had several strokes during his last few years.

This year’s Veterans Era inductee was Dottie West, who won the first Grammy Award for a female vocalist in country music: “Here Comes My Baby” in 1965. Born Dorothy Marsh near McMinnville, Tennessee, in 1932, she was the eldest of 10 children in a poor farm family. Following a traumatic childhood is which her father sexually abused her, she began writing songs in 1961, working with other struggling artists such as Willie Nelson and Roger Miller. She was probably best known for “Country Sunshine” and for her duets with Kenny Rogers. Financial difficulties forced her to file for bankruptcy in 1990 with more than $1 million in debts. The Internal Revenue Service auctioned off her belongings during Country Music Fan Fair in 1991. Several months later, following a car accident on the way to the Grand Ole Opry, Dottie West died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in September 1991. She was 58 years old.

Ricky Skaggs, 64, was inducted as the Modern Era performer in 2018. Born in 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, he received his first mandolin at age five. The following year, he was invited on stage by Bill Monroe, who placed his own mandolin around Ricky’s neck. By age seven, in 1961, Ricky was getting a paycheck for performing on the Flatt & Scruggs TV show. In 1971, he and friend Keith Whitley were invited to join Ralph Stanley’s bluegrass band. The decade of the 1980s saw Ricky with numerous #1 hits on the country charts. In 1982, he became the youngest member ever invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. He was named CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1985. He marked his 50th year in music with the release of the album, Country Hits Bluegrass Style, in 2011. He currently maintains a heavy touring schedule with his award-winning band, Kentucky Thunder.

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