Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 4 June 2014

I’m the biographer of Faron Young and Marty Robbins, bringing you these newsletters to connect classic country music fans around the world. Feel free to forward this email to your friends, and tell them to send me an email if they want to be added to the list. I welcome your comments and ideas.



Rex Allen, Jr., has found a new way to be creative, thanks to computer technology. As well as recording in his home studio, he is packaging singing cowboy videos from old movies and posting them on his YouTube channel to bring them to a new audience:

I called Rex the other day to find out what’s going on in his life, and he sounds happy. He moved back from Las Vegas to Nashville a year ago, close to his family, and is living in the mountainside home (with one side on stilts) he bought from producer Norro Wilson.

He told me he converted to Macintosh computers in 2007 and discovered a “garage band” program that used the same sound board he had helped install in a Nashville studio in 1978. That board had cost its owner $700,000—and now he had it for free. “This has made it possible for me to be creative again,” he says. “It’s the most important change in my life.”

He has released four albums in the past four years and plans to continue at that pace for “as long as I can sing.” He cuts 80% of his material at home and does all the tracks himself: Vocals, harmony, all the guitars, keyboard, drums. “I’m having a lot of fun,” he says. “I’m doing a lot of interesting arrangements. I’m cutting songs I like.” He rerecords his own and his dad’s music “to leave a legacy for my kids.” His singles and albums are being marketed overseas, and his first interview request came from BBC Radio.

“If I had my career to do over again, I would spend my time developing my Internet access,” he told me. He’s always believed in focusing on the worldwide market rather than the U.S. market, and now he’s making the singing cowboys available around the world.

Rex is going on the road in August for his summer tour and will be “all over the map—from one coast to the other.” He wants everyone to know he will be at Rex Allen Days in Willcox, Arizona, and will continue to perform there every year, although he has stopped producing the stage show for the festival. His tour schedule is on his website:

Another project in the works is a musical for which Rex is executive producer, and he’s writing the score. “I’m not done yet,” he says.

Steel guitar player Weldon Myrick, who worked with Bill Anderson and Connie Smith and is credited with creating The Connie Smith Sound, suffered a massive stroke last week. He died June 2 at age 75.

When President Obama flew to Afghanistan to surprise the troops for Memorial Day weekend, he brought Brad Paisley with him. Brad had to rearrange his tour schedule and he told the booking agent, “Look, I can’t really tell you why, but there’s something that’s very, very important to me that would really do a lot of good and I’d really love to do it.” He later explained, in an interview with The Boot, “So I performed, got on a plane to D.C. and then got on a bigger plane and flew to Afghanistan.” The bigger plane was Air Force One. He tweeted “About to play a surprise concert for the troops in Afghanistan. God bless our military. Here we go.” That was followed by a selfie with soldiers behind him and the title, “A hillbilly with heroes.”

Jean Shepard has published her autobiography, Down Through the Years. You can order it through a link on her website: http://jeanshepardcountry.com.


Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound is a William J. Saunders film that will compete in the documentary category at the Los Angeles Film Festival next week. Billy Mize, age 85, is a Bakersfield, California, songwriter-singer who hosted TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s and helped popularize the Bakersfield Sound. One of the many guests on his shows was Merle Haggard, who refers to Billy as “my close friend.” Perhaps his best-known song is “Who Will Buy the Wine,” recorded by Charlie Walker and Merle Haggard.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have been fighting off rumors for more than a year that they are divorcing. They say they don’t know where the rumors came from, and there is no truth to them. Faith said in a recent ET interview, “I don’t know why happiness doesn’t sell. I don’t know why tragedy sells.” The latest rumor is that they are planning to adopt, now that their three daughters are teenagers. Tim and Faith said they originally planned to have five children, but they stopped at three, and that is enough. Faith was adopted as a baby.

The Nashville Palace hosted a Monday night gathering of the children of Opry legends in a show called “Sons & Daughters of the Legends.” They included Robyn Young, Faron’s son; Melissa Luman Phillips, daughter of Bob Luman; Jerry Reed’s daughter, Seidina Reed; George Hamilton IV’s son, George Hamilton V; Hank Williams’ daughter, Jett Williams; and Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Shepard’s son, Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. Also appearing on the show were Jean Shepard and George Hamilton IV. The emcee was Charlie Monk of “Willie’s Roadhouse” on Sirius XM.

Charley Pride’s son, Dion, is headlining the Llano Country Opry this Saturday evening in Llano, Texas. The show’s organizer, Tracy Pitcox, posted this photo of Dion and Charley Pride:

Charley and Dion Pride

Robert Hilburn’s biography, Johnny Cash: The Life, won the 2014 Belmont Country Music Book of the Year Award. Roseanne Cash calls the book “a definitive biography of my father that is excruciatingly honest, rigorously researched, and has the depth and integrity that his subject demands.” This is the award Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins won last year. The organization’s website is http://www.internationalcountrymusic.org/index.html.

Garrison Keillor’s live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion will feature guest Steve Wariner on June 14 in St. Louis, Missouri. Steve is touring in support of his latest CD, It Ain’t All Bad. His previous album, the Grammy-winning My Tribute to Chet Atkins, is available at Cracker Barrel stores.

Groundbreaking will be held later this month for the Jimmy Dean Museum addition to the Museum of the Llano Estacado at Wayland Baptist University in Jimmy Dean’s hometown of Plainview, Texas. The $5 million museum will cover his life and will include items from his personal collection. The Dean family’s $1 million donation in 2008 was the largest cash gift in school history.

In a recent Country Weekly interview, Tom T. Hall describes how his wife was head of the Humane Association when he retired from the music business. They put so many hours into working with animals that he told her she’d have to retire, too. Now, he says, “Me and my wife, Miss Dixie, write songs all the time.” They still have animals, and Tom T. also grows a vegetable garden and paints—but he doesn’t paint dogs. “I spent so much time with the Humane Association that I don’t want to sit around and paint them,” he explains.

Country: Portraits of an American Sound is a summer-long exhibit open to the public at The Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. The photos on display, from the end of World War II through today, demonstrate how images have shaped the public identity of country music and its performers. One of the ten photographers featured is Les Leverett , Grand Ole Opry staff photographer for 32 years—and reader of this newsletter. Congratulations, Les!

Dixie Grass writes from Florida, “So very sorry to hear of Dawn Sears’ cancer news. I’ve seen and heard her as backup for several country artists and so enjoy her voice. She has also been on a couple of the country music cruises we’ve been on and I love hearing her sing by herself. Bought one of her CDs a couple years ago and it’s wonderful. Prayers are with her, Kenny, and family. So glad to hear she can continue to sing. She certainly has a great attitude about not giving up on life. Thank you so very much, Diane, for keeping us informed of the lives of our wonderful country music singers thru your newsletter. I always look forward to the next one. Glad to hear Mickey Gilley is back and touring again. I have just recently returned home and am reading your book that was awaiting me – A Farm in the Hidewood: My South Dakota Home. Such a story to tell – it touches so many of us who had similar growing up years. Thanks so much for writing it!!! I hate to put it down!”

Richard Spooner in Great Britain says, “Great to get the email as usual. Very sad about Dawn Sears. I met her when I was in Nashville at The Station Inn. I went with my friend Ray Emmett and his wife during a stay. She has the best voice I have ever heard so sad but what a fighter. Please keep us up to date on her progress. Also the news about Bob Powel, he did so much for Country Music over here. I remember meeting him in the ‘70s.”

Virgie Warren writes, “Sending get well wishes and prayers to Dawn Sears, a great singer.”

Gary Presley offers this advice from Missouri, “You should think about posting an opening paragraph and a Read More link to some of the country music reviews you’ve done for the Internet Review of Books. You’ve done good work there.”
Diane: Well, since you ask . . . .
This is a brand new one, and a disappointing book:
The two Buck Owens books should be read as a set, for balance:
Karen Carpenter: http://internetreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/2011/05/little-girl-blue.html
Roseanne Cash: http://internetreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/2010/12/composed-memoir.html
Gram Parsons: http://internetreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/2013/04/calling-me-home.html?q=calling+me+home

Robert MacMillan writes, “Just checking if you mailed out a May newsletter as I did not receive one this month (yet)! Always look forward to your ‘newsy’ newsletter.”
Diane: I responded to this note and forwarded two previous newsletters and all messages got rejected. If anyone is in touch with Robert, please send him this newsletter.

Mike O’Neill says, “The readers’ letters are very interesting; please tell them to forward your newsletter to their friends. Dolly Parton starts the Blue Smoke Tour in Liverpool England June 6/14. I want to read what the British writers have to say about Dolly’s performances. Dolly had 2 new buses build for the European tour. She likes the privacy of the buses for a dressing room and to escape from the crowds of people. She had the interiors built the same as her U.S buses. Taylor Swift has really been generous with her check book. Country Music Hall of Fame. And many more Nashville charities. She’s well respected by the young and old in the music business. Keep up the Good Work.”
Diane: Thanks for all the news links you send me.

Jane Seymore of Cullman, Alabama, reminds us, “Jean Shepard’s autobiography, Down Through the Years, is available from Larry Black’s website www.cfrvideos.com. He also has the Best of Marty Robbins’ Spotlight Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. Check it out!”

Dave Rogers, retired U.S. Navy captain, says, “I used to always play Willie Nelson’s ’On The Road Again’ over the 1 MC when we got underway.”

Sam Atchley sends this note from his friends, Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, “Our daughter Susan is in the last stages of cancer in a nursing home in Salt Lake City. Hospice has taken over, and we’re monitoring her condition daily. Prayers and good thoughts are more than welcome.”

Pat Price asks, “Are any of the Johnson sisters (Loretta Lynn Fan Club) still living? I was with KPIK Radio in Colorado Springs back in the ‘70s along with Pappy Dave Stone, Bonnie Paris, George James and that crew. When country was country. Can’t remember the little town they were in in eastern Colorado. Thanks for the info. Keep in touch. And Thank God for you keeping the traditional country music alive.”
Diane: They lived in Wild Horse, Colorado, and Kay is the surviving sister.

Linda Elliott Clark writes from Virginia, “Thanks for the update. I liked Tommy Overstreet’s comment. That is the truth for sure! No matter what age you are, it is nice to be remembered for accomplishments in your life.”

Johnny Western in Arizona says, “So sad about Loudilla. Now that TRI SON NEWS will be gone, I think a great successor would be your newsletter. Best always.”

Marilynne Caswell writes from Canada, “A friend sent me a copy of your newsletter, which I found very interesting. I have been involved in Country music since the late 1950s. In 1972 I started my own booking agency, M.C. Talent Agency. Before that I became friends with many of the Nashville artists. For example, Hank Snow was a dear friend, and visited our home in London, Ontario (my husband Joe passed away in 1984), and we in turn visited Rainbow Ranch several times. Johnny Western became a good friend, when he opened for Johnny Cash. Also we visited the Johnson Ranch in Wild Horse in Colorado, probably in the 1960s. I was so sorry to learn that Loudilla passed away. She and her sisters did so much for Country Music. Would it be possible to be added to your list of members? I have read both of your books on Faron and Marty, which I enjoyed very much.”

And this from Ronny Robbins: “Enjoying the new format on the newsletter. Have had some inquiries about the possibility of releasing soundtracks of some of Dad’s TV shows as an audio CD. Unfortunately, his contract with CBS restricts my ability to do that unless the TV shows were done while he wasn’t under contract, which isn’t the case as he was with CBS most of his career. Wish I had better news.”

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