Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 4 May 2022

Happy birthday to Randy Travis. He celebrates his 63rd birthday today.


Naomi Judd (1946-2022)

One day before being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Naomi Judd, 76, died on April 30. “Today we sisters experienced a tragedy,” daughters Wynonna and Ashley Judd said in a statement. “We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief.” Naomi died in the hospital at 2:20 p.m. on Saturday, surrounded by her family. Born Diana Ellen Judd in Ashland, Kentucky, in 1946, Naomi married young, gave birth to Wynonna and Ashley, divorced and was working as a nurse at a hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, when she and 19-year-old Wynonna got their record contract in 1983. A year later, The Judds had a number one hit with “Mama, He’s Crazy.” Wynonna became a solo recording artist after Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1991. They held an extensive farewell tour in 2010-11 and were planning another for this fall. Ashley Judd is an actor. Naomi’s husband is singer Larry Strickland. Bill Anderson writes on his website, “I am shocked and saddened along with the rest of our country music community over the passing of Naomi Judd. I’ll never forget meeting her for the first time when she was a contestant on a TV game show I was hosting. I asked her to identify herself for the audience and she said, ‘My name is Naomi Judd, and I am a nurse from Franklin, Tennessee. My daughter and I sing together, and someday we hope to make it in country music.’ I was looking so forward to recalling that moment with her on Sunday when she and Wynonna were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion ceremony was held Sunday, May 1. The Hollywood Reporter described the ceremony as “filled with tears, music and laughter, just a day after Naomi Judd died unexpectedly.” The crowd mourned Naomi while celebrating the induction of The Judds, Ray Charles, Eddie Bayers and Pete Drake. Performers included Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, and many others. Wynonna and Ashley Judd accepted the award for The Judds. “I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” Ashley Judd said while crying. Wynonna said, “I didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew Mom would probably talk the most. I’m gonna make this fast because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed. It’s a very strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed.” She said she will continue to sing.

The bold purple and yellow paint scheme and the “777” of the 1964 Plymouth Belvedere that Marty Robbins drove at the Nashville Fairgrounds is coming back temporarily. The paint scheme and number will be on Corey Lajoie’s Chevy Camaro during Throwback Weekend at the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 8. “The whole Marty Robbins story fascinates me because it’s a great crossover between country music and NASCAR,” LaJoie says. “And I don’t think his story gets told enough, so it’s cool to bring that story some light at the throwback race.” According to Sportscasting.com, the Cup Series uses numbers 00-99; triple numbers such as 777 are usually not allowed. LaJoie credits NASCAR officials for allowing the triple-digit tribute during its throwback weekend at Darlington: “NASCAR got a little flexible with us. They’re allowing me to run three numbers. The first seven is a bit bigger, but the other two sevens, like Marty Robbins’s paint scheme, are a little bit smaller.”

The Sioux Falls Sports Bowl had a surprise visit on a recent Saturday afternoon, reports Kickin’ Country Radio. Before his concert at The District, Jimmie Allen used his downtime to bowl. He is in the middle of his first headliner tour, with Sioux Falls the seventeenth stop on his Down Home Tour. He is the CMA’s current New Artist of the Year, and he was a contestant on the latest season of Dancing With The Stars.

Cree country singer and songwriter Shane Yellowbird, 42, died unexpectedly on April 25, family members confirmed to CBC News. He was living in Calgary. “Our brother was a talented artist who loved his children, music and sports,” the statement reads. Born in 1979 in Alberta, Canada, he had a history of health problems, including epilepsy. The seizures became so severe he cut back on his shows. According to a First Nations Drum newspaper profile, Shane wanted to follow in his parents’ footsteps and be a rodeo cowboy. But his career path changed when he began seeing a speech therapist for his severe stuttering problem as a child. The therapist suggested he sing his sentences to help him speak clearly. The technique proved successful, and it gave him a love of music. He won the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Rising Star Award in 2007. That same year he was nominated for five awards at the Native American Music Awards. His “Pickup Truck” was a top-five song on the Canadian Country singles chart in 2007: “Me and my old pickup truck these days we don’t pick up much. Maybe pink furry dice and a can of Old Spice are making us too hot to touch.” His lyrics show clever songwriting and a sense of humor. Another example is “Bare Feet on the Blacktop: “You’re asking me if you look okay well let me put it this way. It’s like bare feet on the blacktop in the middle of July hot.” The official cause of his death has not been released.

The Eagles brought their “Hotel California” tour to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena last week. During the three-hour show, they performed their 1976 nine-song album, Hotel California, in its entirety. The Tennessean reports, “Under a glowing blue sign that spelled the album’s title, Nashville artists took center stage during the ‘Hotel’ performance. The Eagles enlisted Fisk Jubilee Singers for a rousing rendition of album closer ‘The Last Resort,’ and alongside Country Music Hall of Fame band member Vince Gill, Music Row conductor Jim Ed Norman joined the band on stage to lead a live orchestra during album string arrangements.” Jim Ed Norman had been with the Eagles at their beginning. In the late 1960s, he left his native Florida to attend North Texas University, where he and future Eagles founder Don Henley became friends. In 1973, he was 24 when he went to London with The Eagles to record “Desperado.” He found himself on the conductor’s rostrum at London’s Olympic Studios. “It was the very first thing I’d ever done,” he tells The Tennessean. He later did arrangements for several more Eagles albums, including Hotel California. Then he moved to Nashville, where he became president of the Warner Bros. Nashville label and guided the careers of Randy Travis, Faith Hill, Dwight Yoakam, and others. He won his first Grammy in 2021 for his work on the Celebrating Fisk! album with the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

When Bill Anderson releases his new album, As Far As I Can See: The Best Of Bill Anderson, on June 10, it will contain two duets with Dolly Parton, a new one and an old one. They sing “Someday It’ll All Make Sense,” a song Bill recently wrote with Bobby Tomberlin and Ryan Larkins. “Dolly sang some demos for me (and with me) back in the early sixties when she was new in town,” Bill says in a press release. One was a 1964 duet called, “If It’s All The Same To You.” Bill recorded the song with Jan Howard as the title track of his chart-topping 1969 album. The demo itself went missing for decades and was discovered in time to add it to this album. The collection of sixteen songs gets its name from the current Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit, Bill Anderson: As Far As I Can See. The title comes from the opening line of “City Lights,” which was a hit for Ray Price in 1958.

The Donelson Hermitage Chamber of Commerce Women in Business has named Lorriane Crook, 65, as the 2022 recipient of the Jeannie Seely Standing Ovation Award during the Women in Business Influencing Women Awards Gala. The prestigious award was originally named for and presented in 2019 to Jeannie Seely. A press release says the award “recognizes a woman who has created influence and significance in the entertainment industry and has shown the advocacy of other women in her field by mentoring and supporting them in their professional success.” Lorriane was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame and received the Living Legend Award at the Grand Ole Opry in 2017 and presently holds the title of Vice President of Jim Owens Entertainment. She serves as Executive Producer and host of the nationally syndicated Crook & Chase productions. She also recently launched a new podcast, Crook & Chase: Nashville Chats on iHeart.com.

If the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame votes to induct Dolly Parton, 76, she will accept with a smile on her face. “I’ll just say, ‘Thanks,’ and I’ll accept it because the fans vote,” she told NPR’s Morning Edition. She had initially tried to be removed from the ballot because she thought the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was for people in rock music. She has since learned that’s not necessarily so. “I felt like I would be taking away from someone that maybe deserved it, certainly more than me, ’cause I never considered myself a rock artist,” she said. “But obviously there’s more to it than that.”

Artist manager and promotion veteran Federico “Doc” Gonzales, 59, died suddenly on April 15 at his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He spent more than 30 years in the music industry, working in promotion, marketing, management and artist branding. His clients included Lonestar, Trick Pony, Steve Holy, Billy Dean, Heartland, Little Texas, Dallas Remington, Donovan Chapman, and many more. He started Triple Crown Promotions with Jim Dorman in 2012, after serving as Director of Promotion, SE/SW at Nine North Records and spending 16 years at Graham Management Company.

On April 29, George Strait dedicated the new 15,000-seat Moody Center in Austin, Texas, with a concert dubbed “Strait from Moody Center.” He was joined by Willie Nelson, celebrating his 89th birthday, and Randy Rogers. The concert generated so much interest, a second night was added on April 30. Outsider reports it would be only the second time George and Willie shared a stage. “I’m so glad I’ll get to ‘sing one with Willie’ and I can’t think of a better place to do it than Austin, Texas,” George says. He and Willie previously performed together on January 12, 2019, during Willie’s tribute show, Willie: Life & Songs of an American Outlaw, at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. They sang “Sing One With Willie,” a song written by George, Willie, Bubba Strait, and Buddy Cannon.

Vince Gill says he feels something special every time he returns to the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music. This August, he will be there for a four-night residency, August 4-7. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via ryman.com. Wendy Moten will be the opener. The Tennessean reports the show announcement comes days before the Ryman celebrates 130 years since doors opened in 1892. Its first concert was May 4, 1892, with the Theodore Thomas Orchestra, also a four-night residency.

I reported earlier that singer/songwriter Jimbeau Hinson, 70, died March 4, due to complications from a stroke. MusicRow announces “A Celebration of a Beautiful Life” has been scheduled for May 9 at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville. Doors will open at noon, with a special video tribute starting at 12:30. Music performances by special guests will begin at 1:00. A livestream will be available at JimbeauHinson.com.

In an interview on the Southern Accents Radio podcast, Reba McEntire talked about her first recorded duet with Dolly Parton, a recent collaboration on “Does He Love You.” Dave Cobb asked her what it was like “making that call” to Parton. Reba said, “Well, you don’t call Dolly, you fax her…And you fax your people, and your people talk to her people.” She added, “That’s the only way I know to get hold of her.” She said she once asked Kenny Rogers if he had Dolly’s cell number, and he said no. “So you fax her.” Pure Wow reports that Dolly’s goddaughter, Miley Cyrus, has been contacted by fax. On The Graham Norton Show, Miley said Dolly tried to send her a fax and got upset when Miley didn’t respond. Miley said, “I’m sorry, I don’t even know. Half the people watching your show might not even know what a fax machine is.”


Jana Jae, Hee Haw’s “Girl with the Blue Fiddle,” writes from Oklahoma, “Wonderful and informative newsletter as always. I might add that your Spotlight artist T. Graham Brown will be on our upcoming show ‘Remembering Hee Haw with the Kornfield Friends,’ Lulu Roman, Irlene Mandrelland Jana Jae on May 22at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown, Maryland. We are all excited – it’s a super show and I’ll have my Hee Haw blue fiddle along with a fantastic band. Hope your readers in the east coast states will come join us. More info at KornfieldFriends.com or janajae.com. Thanks for your research and good work.”

David Corne sends regards from the UK, saying, “Regarding Marty’s live recording of ‘Back Home Again’, it is easy to find as I posted it on YouTube when I used the alias Tarquin 45. On the subject of John Denver songs, Marty definitely cut a version (which I used to have) of him singing ‘Take Me Home Country Roads.’ Marty was filmed singing the song on a motorcycle as it was driven by him around some country roads, but unfortunately it was on a VHS tape and I have been unable to find it. Another great song by Marty is from his last TV show, The Bobby Jones Gospel Show, which is ‘Father, It Was Worth It All’ and it was a shame that this isn’t better known as it typifies the soulful sincerity Marty would imbue his vocals with. On the same show, Marty also does a great version of ‘Who At My Door Is Standing’, with just his guitar accompanying himself. Hopefully one day they’ll see the light of day either on a record or YouTube. Regarding BBC recordings, Marty did several guest spots live in the studio and apart from his usual hits I remember him also singing ‘Wedding Bells’ and perhaps ‘Shackles and Chains.’”

John Krebs writes from Texas, “Thanks as always for the excellent newsletters. It’s awesome that Pete Drake is getting some well-deserved recognition. The Country Music Hall of Fame needs to induct Lloyd Green while he’s still here to enjoy it. BTW, Pete Drake did all of Webb Pierce’s session steel from mid-1960 thru 1962, and probably beyond, with the signature early Pete Drake tuning and style. There’s no detailed Webb Pierce session info after December 1962. I don’t know exactly when Pete abandoned that early style, but it was totally unique, and I loved it. Here are two examples of early Pete Drake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1rvmSUWgns, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJEWb7-vgrY.”

Larry Jordan says, “I continue to admire how hard you work to collate news about country music and share it with your readers. I know it takes a lot of time. I wanted to make you aware of something I think fans will enjoy. Some months ago — on a lark — I created a Facebook page called THE BEST OF COUNTRY MUSIC GROUP. I did so hoping people would post their favorite songs. However, I was not prepared for the overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction. The page now has over 3,400 followers and the amazing thing is that it does NOT consist of posts spotlighting the well-known performers. Instead, it has become a focal point for aspiring newcomers and amateur singers, musicians and groups that are posting video on the site. It really is a tour de force of country music around the world. Frankly, many of these talented people are IMHO better than the ones who have achieved such commercial success and have gotten rich. All ages and backgrounds are posting. Some are live streaming, others have created homemade videos, and then there are the more slick videos, too. But the vast majority are people you never heard of and yet they are so entertaining. It’s been really fun to see and hear how wonderful many of them are. We may be witnessing the birth of new stars! And it underscores again the universality of country music’s appeal and the various forms it takes.”

Don Holland writes from Kissimmee, Florida, “I am impressed with the country music talent emerging in Africa. I especially enjoy seeing the children moving with the music.”

Gene Burkhart in Sun City, Arizona, says, “Once again, you have done it with this issue of the Newsletter. AWESOME is the only word I can think of. I am 88 and still play and sing at the senior homes the people I work for send me to. The people I sing and play for are known as Audrey’s Angels.”

Taylor Hagood, Professor of American Literature at Florida Atlantic University, writes from Boca Raton, Florida, “I recently discovered your biographies of Faron Young and Marty Robbins and went to your website and felt inspired to write you. I am set to be a fellow author with the University of Illinois Press, as my book Stringbean: The Life and Murder of a Country Music Legend, on David ‘Stringbean’ Akeman, is to be published by the Press this time next year. I want to say thank you for the work you’ve done and the work you are currently doing.”

Diane: Congratulations to my fellow UOIP author, Taylor. Thanks for telling Stringbean’s story.

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for your Country Music Newsletter. Another nice one bringing interesting information about the Country music world past and present. Nice and welcome quotes about Larry Holley and Pete Drake.”

Dave Barton writes from Franklin, Kentucky, “On May 14th at 2:00 PM, please join us at the Cedar Creek Yacht Club Church by the Lake for a Celebration of Life to honor Marilou Barton – my loving wife of 56 years. Marilou and I both loved CCYC and spent most of our down time there. Having been members since 1980, we developed numerous friendships through the years and I’m sure Marilou would enjoy a final membership gathering in her honor.”

Diane: We send our condolences to you, Dave.

Sean Brady writes from Ireland, “I thought you might be interested in this article within Gene Watson's Ireland-based, and approved, Fan Site.”
Diane: Thank you, Sean. It was quite a surprise to see myself on your website. Gene Watson is coming to Sisseton, South Dakota, this weekend. I’m bringing a carload to the Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 7.


When Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery were American Idol contestants in 2011, they sang multiple duets. Here they are on March 31, 2011, singing the Randy Travis hit, “I Told You So,” to a live audience during the American Idol Top 11 results show. Scotty won the American Idol title. Both teenagers went on to have successful careers in country music. 

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