Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 6 April 2016

The newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame is RANDY TRAVIS. The Country Music Association hosted a press conference March 29 to present the 2016 inductees for the Country Music Hall of Fame. Brenda Lee introduced the three inductees–Fred Foster in the non-performer division, Charlie Daniels in the veterans’ era artist category, and Randy Travis in the modern era artist category. All are natives of North Carolina. Fred Foster, the first one announced, concluded his remarks by saying he was honored to be inducted with Charlie Daniels and Randy Travis. “Well, since Fred has let the cat out of the bag,” Brenda said, “you can all go home.” Then she announced the remaining two. The Country Music Hall of Fame, created in 1961 by the Country Music Association, will now have 130 members.


Following the Country Music Hall of Fame announcement, the Tennessean talked to Mary Davis-Travis, the wife of Randy Travis. She said their triumphs come from “being able to walk an extra lap in physical rehabilitation or adding an extra sound or word to his vocabulary.” After Randy’s stroke in 2013, he spent six months in the hospital and is still recovering his ability to walk and talk.

“I want to thank my fans for their prayers and well wishes,” Merle Haggard said in a statement after canceling his April appearances. “I hope to be back on the road in May, but I’m taking it one day at a time.” According to Nash Country Weekly, Merle plans six shows in six days, starting May 10 in State University, Arkansas. Country Rebel reports that his family wants him to stop touring, but he says he can’t. In an interview with Garden & Gun, he called touring a “double-edged sword.” It keeps him alive but also may be the cause of his illness.

The Library of Congress has chosen “Mama Tried” as one of 25 sound recordings added to the National Recording Registry in 2016. A hit for Merle Haggard in 1968, it is the only country song on this year’s list. Recordings are chosen for “artistic, cultural and/or historical significance to American society.” This year’s selections include “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” from 1911, the “Marshall Plan” speech in 1947, the original soundtrack from A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951, and radio coverage of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962, concluding with a Metallica song from 1986.

When Dolly Parton appeared at Dollywood to open its 31st season, she announced the debut of the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster as the newest addition to the park. “I’m also considering running for President,” she joked. “We don’t have enough boobs running, right?”

In an interview with CMT’s Cody Alan, Dolly Parton, 70, admits to homesickness while on tour. “I cook stuff before I leave home,” she says. “We always have good caterers, too, but there’s just that stuff that if you’re away from home you don’t feel homesick if you can have the things you’re used to. . .. I don’t eat as much of it as I used to. I try to watch it when I’m traveling, for my stage clothes, if nothing else.” Her only form of exercise is “diddly squats.”

During a Q&A event at a mentoring session for young artists, held at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, Reba McEntire announced that her former husband, Narvel Blackstock, is no longer her manager. When they divorced last year after 26 years of marriage, they’d said they would continue their professional relationship. They co-founded Starstruck Entertainment and had worked together since 1988. Music Row reports that Reba is now president of Reba’s Business Incorporated (RBI), with management offices at 40 Music Square West, and she will direct her own career. Narvel will continue to lead Starstruck Entertainment.

“I’m very happy and I’m glad that Narvel is happy,” Reba McEntire told a Parade interviewer. “There’s been a lot between us and I believe that to forgive is easier than forget.” She is enjoying her residency at Caesars Palace with Brooks & Dunn, and she plans to continue recording. She describes herself as a “feminine woman, but also a tough one who realizes she’s working in a man’s world.” She gave this illustration: “When I was a young girl and we were working cattle, we all worked. And at lunch time me and momma had to cook dinner and the men would rest. So there we were cooking while they rested. And then we all went back to work cattle.”

Nash Country Weekly reports that Billy Ray Cyrus is starring in a new TV comedy series, Still the King. He plays a washed-up singer and Elvis impersonator, “Burnin'” Vernon Brownmule. While working at a church to fulfill a community service requirement, he pretends to be the new minister. He also learns he’s the father of a 15-year-old girl. The show begins June 12 on CMT.

Is there a Hank Williams IV? Saving Country Music has been trying to find out. Hank Williams was born Hiram King Williams, and his son, Randall Hank, is known as Hank Williams Jr. His other known biological child is Jett Williams, who fought in court for her rightful claim. Hank Jr. and Jett are the beneficiaries and executors of Hank Sr.’s estate. Hank Jr.’s son is Shelton Hank Williams, known as Hank III. He started his country music career after being served with paternal court papers that declared he had a son. Hank III’s son is not named Hank and doesn’t appear interested in the music business. So is there a Hank IV? “I know for a fact there’s no other unclaimed children [of mine] out there,” Hank III says. “Anybody that was a bastard son, you know they’d be coming after me for money.” Saving Country Music concludes, “If Hank3 happened to have another son and name him Hank, then, and only then, would we have an indisputable match for the name Hank Williams IV.”

CabaRay is a 27,000-square-foot music venue being built in West Nashville by Ray Stevens. He broke ground on March 7. “CabaRay is going to be a great venue for live music and good food,” Ray said in a press release. “You’ll be able to sit down for large, big-band concerts and enjoy a steak at the same time.” The Boot reports the Ray Stevens Music offices will move from Music Row to CabaRay, which is scheduled to open in early 2017. “I’ll be doing shows at the CabaRay, of course, but we’ll also be booking other name acts,” Ray stated. “I think this is going to be a great hot spot for tourists visiting Nashville.”

Becky “Beckaroo” Hobbs says, “THANKS for writing a great article! I appreciate the promo. The tribute to John D went great. He still has a twinkle in his eye, and was really excited telling me about his Cherokee ancestry. Keep on rockin’ and writin’ !!!”

Bill Mack writes from Fort Worth, Texas, “Just reading your book on Faron Young again, really enjoying it more than ever (this makes the third reading). I don’t know if I’ve approached you with my sincere belief your bio on our good pal would make a terrific movie. As you know, most of the films made based on country music stars are super-successful. No country music entertainer matched Faron when it came to ‘unpredictable happenings.’ Those who didn’t know Faron would probably find the movie both shocking and entertaining! Whoever was selected to play him in the picture would most likely receive an Oscar for being cast in that role–and the studio would receive the Best-Picture Oscar! No, I’m not exaggerating. Of course, it would require a very accomplished actor to portray the ‘real’ Faron. I can’t think of one who qualifies. All-in-all, I really believe the Faron Young story would make a very successful movie, your book would just require turning it into a screen play. I’m certain your story about this tremendous, often overlooked talent would be a successful motion picture. You are such a special writer. You have that rare touch in capturing the subject. Marty Robbins would also be a tremendous idea for a film. By the way, I’m ordering a copy of the Marty book since mine was borrowed, never returned. I want you to autograph it for me.”
Diane: I have always thought Faron’s story would make a good movie. It would sell as a human interest story, with its tragic-comedic aspects, and a depression/alcoholism story many could identify with. I own the movie rights, but I have no contacts to get a screenplay written and find a buyer.

Alice Mackenzie writes, “Many thanks for another very newsy newsletter. So sorry to hear of Ray Griff’s passing. I remember back in the ‘70s going to his recording of his show in Toronto. A great fella. Two of my favourite songs by him are……’Jimmy, Luke & Me’ and ‘A Cold Day in July.’ “

Mary Mitchell in Woodland Park, Colorado, says, “Becky Hobbs’s song ‘Jones on the Juke Box’ is my favorite.”

Ellie Mechels in Sioux Falls says, “I LOVED the article on Becky Hobbs. I saw her at the State Fair some years ago and she is a wonderful entertainer and singer. Keep up the good work, I always look forward to every newsletter you send out. I love reading your newsletters.”

Alan Potter in the U.K. writes, “Always a pleasure to receive your newsletter even though the news isn’t always cheerful. News of Robert Horton & Peter Brown never reached my daily paper in the UK. Love the tribute to Becky Hobbs. I reckon Becky & I have been friends for around 20 years. She is a lovely kind-hearted friend as well as being so talented. And she deservedly has a marriage made in Heaven.”

Marlene Nord writes from Camarillo, California, “As always, fantastic newsletter! It’s something I look forward to every other week. I Loved the article on Sylvia, as well as this week’s update on the ‘Beckaroo.’ A piano player myself, I can relate to her. You and I share favorite songs. I also enjoy ‘They always Look Better when They’re Leavin’,’ ‘Angels Among Us,’ and ‘Jones on the Jukebox.’”

Kate Davis says, “I found the story about Nudie’s Honky Tonk especially interesting. Marty Davis & I spent a lot of time at Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors and Marty has many Nudie costumes – some he still wears. Plus an incredible saddle Nudie made.”

Jean Earle writes from Great Britain, “Thank you for your very interesting newsletter. I was sorry to read that Kenny Rogers is unwell and is to cancel some of his dates. I looked into our newspaper and found ‘Final World Tour’ by Kenny Rogers and it gives his future dates…..Kenny is booked to appear at The London PALLADIUM on November 10, 2016. This world-famous theatre was one that Faron was most happy to appear in on February 6, 1977. We were delighted to have seats in the front row. We enjoyed every minute of his show. Connie Smith was his guest and the Deputies were backing him through all his great songs. Sadly, Red Hayes died soon afterwards very suddenly. I see Linda Davis is to be the guest on Kenny’s Palladium show. I hope you will soon have good news about Kenny’s health and of the other Country gentleman Don Williams. I was amazed when I looked up the cost of our theatre tickets in 1977……£ 4.00. How things have changed.”

Marge Hemsworth in Nova Scotia says, “Thank you so much for keeping us up to date on all our favourites.”

Floyd Tidd says, “Please add me to your email list. I really enjoy your country music newsletter.”

John Fox says, “Please add me to your mailing list. I really like your newsletter.”

Bob Pont requests, “Please add me to your country music newsletter.”

Judy Cowart says, “I want to receive your newsletter and since someone has shared it with me I can.”

Lee Shannon writes, “Thanks again for another informative country newsletter. And thanks to Johnny Western for the information on the passing of one of my favorite western actors, Robert Horton. I was not aware. I make sure to have my DVR set to record Laramie each afternoon on the Western Channel. The episode that aired yesterday was in color; the first one I’ve seen in color. The last I heard from Robert Horton, he was raising horses in Texas. I’m sure you know Johnny is a member of the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame. He is one of AT LEAST four DJs, plus an owner to come out of KFDI in Wichita, Kansas (the Radio Ranch). Johnny is a walking encyclopedia on Country and Western music. Add Sonny James to that growing list of Country Greats we’ve recently lost.”

Mike Johnson of Roughshod Records writes, “I don’t know if you knew Ed King, but he was a very solid supporter of independent country music. I received this message from his ex-wife Barbara Dunn-King on the 26th of March: ‘Just wanted to make you aware that Ed King passed away yesterday from his Cancer. He developed pneumonia and sepsis, and with his immune system so weak he just couldn’t fight it off.’ I met Ed and his then wife, Barbara Dunn-King, around 1995 and spent considerable time at their place in Santa Fe, Texas, performing at some of the local Oprys. Ed published the Entertainment News Country Western Corner and operated EHK Music while Barbara operated BJD Wishing Away, a compilation CD label that sent music to radio stations world-wide.”

Sheree Homer says, “We corresponded a few years back. I’m an author also. Since we have spoken, I’ve had two other books released (Rick Nelson: Rock and Roll Pioneer and Dig That Beat). I have a copy of your Faron Young bio and have the Marty one on my wish list. I am working on a classic country book for McFarland. I would like to feature artists such as Ferlin Husky, Ray Price, Waylon Jennings, Faron, Marty, Patsy Cline, and others. Do you know any musicians who worked with these artists, and how to get hold of them? I wish you continued success with your books and endeavors.”
Diane: Perhaps readers have some suggestions?

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “Thank you very much for that very nice newsletter. Always a welcome reading that makes me eager for the next one. Keep it country.”

Rex (?) requests, “Please mail your newsletter to this address. I received this from a friend and really enjoy reading all that’s going on. Here in the valley we have many gifted and retired country musicians. It has been a learning experience to get to play music.”

Maheen Wickramasinghe writes from Sri Lanka, “First, I just had to say I was deeply saddened by the loss of our beloved Southern Gentleman, Mr. Sonny James. He was 87 and I have always been a huge fan of the man. He will be missed. From what I understand, he fell and broke his hip and then the cause of death said natural causes. I have all his recordings. Now on to some delightful news. I have finally received an extremely rare and hard to find LP by Eddy Arnold called Sings Liedjies VanDie Veld. This is an LP that he recorded in Nashville in the Afrikaans Dialect. This is a beautiful album and now I have it in excellent condition. I found someone who was selling a copy of this on Discogs. Very beautiful album! This makes me delighted because Eddy is my hero. Keep up the excellent work.”

Bill Fairfield says, “I read Forgotten Hits and he mentioned your email list…please add me. I assume you do not give out emails to others, as that is my only worry.”
Diane: No worries there. I don’t release email addresses without permission. I forward messages when someone wants to get in touch with a person.

Cowboy Joe Babcock writes from Nashville, “Recently I was honored to receive the western swing Album Of The Year from the Academy of Western Artists. The name of the album is Trail Jazz and is available on CD Baby, Amazon and other sites. Thanks for keeping us up on all the news.”

I have always liked the Buck Owens song, “On the Cover of the Music City News.” Because Faron Young owned Music City News, I wanted to include the song when I wrote his biography. I called Jim Shaw, who told me the story of writing the song with Buck. They gave cowriter credit to Shel Silverstein because it was a parody of his “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” recorded by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. Both songs won BMI awards.

I am thrilled that Randy Travis is going into the Country Music Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t have chosen Charlie Daniels, and I know that without Fred Foster’s behind-the-scenes guidance, many country stars might not have made it to the top. Once again, no women. What is your opinion of the 2016 choices?

Bill Mack commemorated his fiftieth year in radio by writing his autobiography in 2004: Bill Mack’s Memories From the Trenches of Broadcasting. The book contains many entertaining stories and famous names and is a fun read, from the time of Bill’s first radio job in his hometown of Shamrock, Texas. Bill spent three decades as the Midnight Cowboy on WBAP Radio in Dallas before becoming the Satellite Cowboy on XM Radio. Probably the two most famous songs he wrote are “Drinking Champagne” (Cal Smith and George Strait) and “Blue” (LeAnn Rimes). When asked what he would change if he had his life to live over, he always answers, “I would spend more time with my kids.” Bill and his wife, Cindy, live in Fort Worth, Texas.

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