Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 6 April 2022


C.W. McCall (1928-2022)

William Dale Fries Jr. (pronounced “freeze”), 93, an advertising executive who became C.W. McCall, died April 1 at his home in Ouray, Colo. He had announced in February that he was in home hospice for cancer. The Washington Post reports he was born Billie Dale Fries on November 15, 1928, in Audubon, Iowa. His parents played musical instruments, and he wanted to be a classical musician. He played the clarinet while at the University of Iowa and later studied art and film production. He joined the Bozell & Jacobs advertising agency in 1961 and became creative director and vice president. When asked to devise an advertising campaign for Old Home bread, he created the characters of trucker C.W. McCall and a waitress named Mavis at the Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep On-a-Truckin’ Cafe. As recording artist C.W. McCall, he had hits with “Convoy,” “Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep On-a-Truckin’ Café,” and “Wolf Creek Pass.”  He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Rena Bonnema Fries, three children, and their children.

When I learned the Randy Travis show with his band and James Dupré was on the move again, after being sidelined by the pandemic, I checked to see where they’d be playing: Des Moines, Iowa, on August 27. Before tickets went on sale, the news got even better. They are coming to South Dakota!! The Corn Palace Events and Entertainment Board in Mitchell announced Randy Travis and James Dupré will close out the Corn Palace Festival on Sunday, August 28. Randy’s touring band consists of Steve Hinson, David Johnson, Lance Dary, Bill Cook, Joe Van Dyke, and Herb Shucher, plus longtime tour manager Jeff Davis. James Dupré and the band will perform Randy’s 16 number one hits. Randy and Mary will be there. So will I.

Singer/songwriter and police officer Jeff Carson, 58, died March 26 at a hospital in Franklin, Tennessee, following a heart attack, according to publicist Jeremy Westby. Born Jeffrey Lee Herndon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1963, he scored hits with “Not On Your Love” and “The Car.” After placing 14 singles on Billboard, he retired from music to become a police officer in Franklin. When he returned to music in 2019, he remained on the police force. He was recording an album to be released later this year, with duets with Michael Ray, Darryl Worley and others.

Bluegrass Today reports the death of Roland White, 83, multi-instrumentalist and singer, on April 1, a week after suffering a severe heart attack. Born in Maine in 1938, he grew up playing music with brothers Eric and Clarence. The family moved to southern California when he was a teenager. After his military service, the three brothers had a band called The Kentucky Colonels and recorded Appalachian Swing in 1964. Roland played guitar with Bill Monroe and then mandolin with Lester Flatt. In 1973, during The White Brothers reunion tour, Clarence was struck by a moving vehicle and killed while loading equipment into a car. Roland joined the Nashville Bluegrass Band in 1987 and later formed the Roland White Band, which was active until his death. He was also a mandolin teacher. When asked who was his favorite of all the luminaries he had performed with, he answered, “My brothers.” Eric died in 2012, on Clarence’s birthday. Marty Stuart says, “I owe my entire career to Roland White. He encouraged young musicians to look deep into their hearts and play what they hear inside.”

CMT News reports, “Apparently, the only thing that can come between Eric Church and his fans, whom he calls The Church Choir, is basketball.” He canceled his show at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, so he and his family could attend the NCAA Men’s Final Four matchup between Duke and North Carolina in New Orleans. He is a lifelong Carolina basketball fan who has watched the rivalry between Duke and UNC for years. The two teams are meeting in the Final Four for the first time in history. “This is the most selfish thing I’ve asked the Choir to do: give up your Saturday night plans with us so that I can have this moment with my family and sports community,” he says in a statement. He hopes his fans will understand the passion he feels for UNC is the same type of loyalty they show him when they fill seats at his concerts. Well, it’s a little more than “Saturday night plans,” as some fans pointed out on social media: “Thousands of people had bought tickets months ahead. Some took vacation days or traded days to attend his concert. If these fans are offered a refund, normally they lose handling fees.” Not to mention airline fares and hotel rooms, with the last-minute cancelation. One wrote, “He probably will lose some fans but unfortunately will still have plenty to get rich off of.” Another said, “I think it’s great!! After all it is a first time in the history of NCAA Tournament and these moments come but once.” Taste of Country reports he has announced a new show date in New Braunfels, Texas, in September, and those with tickets to the canceled performance can attend at no charge.

New York University is giving Taylor Swift an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, when she addresses graduates at the 189th Commencement Exercise on May 18 at Yankee Stadium. CMT News says she has earned it: “She’s collected 11 Grammy Awards over the course of her career and is the only female artist in history to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year three times. Her distinctions include being the most awarded artist in American Music Awards’ history. She was anointed Artist of the Decade, won the BRIT Awards International Female Solo Artist of the Year in 2015 and the Global Icon Award in 2021. She’s Billboard‘s only two-time winner of the Woman of the Decade Award and is the only solo artist this century to have three No. 1 albums in one year.”

Mary Jane Thomas, 58, wife of Hank Williams Jr., 72, died March 22 in Jupiter, Florida. TMZ reports she may have suffered a complication, possibly a blood clot, from a medical procedure, leading to her death. The Jupiter Police Department received a medical call from the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa; Mary Jane was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. A former model for Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion, Mary Jane met Hank in 1985 at one of his concerts in Washington state. They married in 1990, separated in 2007, and reconciled in 2011 when they celebrated their 21st anniversary. They had two children together, daughter Katie Williams-Dunning, who died in a 2020 car accident, and son Samuel Williams. Hank has three children from his two previous marriages.

Brad Paisley has announced his World Tour 2022. The Boot reports it includes a string of international dates and his first-ever headlining tour in Australia. It begins May 27 in Connecticut, followed by a run of domestic shows, and then he travels to Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland. and Canada. He will return to the U.S. for some late summer West Coast dates before going to Australia to conclude the tour in late September.

Richie Shelton, older brother of Blake Shelton, was killed in a car crash in 1990. He was 24 and Blake was 14. When six teenage girls recently died in a tiny Chevrolet near Blake’s farm in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, CMT News reports, he issued a statement that said, “In the wake of yesterday’s unthinkable crash in our small town of Tishomingo, we as a community have all been in shock and broken-hearted. I personally know the devastation of suddenly losing a loved one in a car accident. But our community is strong and has come together to support and wrap our arms around the families and friends that are hurting the most.” The driver was 16, with three 15-year-old and two 17-year-old passengers in a 2015 Chevrolet Spark. Only the driver and a front-seat passenger were wearing seat belts, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The girls wedged themselves in a car designed for four people and left their high school to eat lunch off-campus. The car collided with a tractor-trailer.

The Tucson Music Hall in downtown Tucson, Arizona, will be renamed for Linda Ronstadt on May 7, reports Saving Country Music. Linda was born and raised in Tucson and launched her career there. Built in 1971, the 2,289-capacity music hall is part of the Convention Center complex and is in the National Register of Historic Places. The christening will take during the International Mariachi Conference Espectacular. Linda was raised on Mariachi music, as well as country, and she recorded a Mariachi album and toured with a Mariachi band. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, a year after announcing she suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. She will be in Tucson for the christening and the unveiling of the new sign at the Tucson Music Hall.

When Carrie Underwood returned to the Resorts World Theatre to continue her Reflection: Las Vegas residency, she brought her mother with her. Carole Underwood came out on stage to join in singing “All-American Girl.” She did not miss a beat to her daughter’s up-tempo track, reports CMT News, and Carrie “casually inched away, allowing her fans to hear her mother’s pipes.” Carrie credits her mother with kick-starting her career in 2004 by encouraging her to audition for Season 4 of American Idol.

Here’s the Bill Anderson description (from his fan club newsletter) of the Opry show I talked about last time: “I hosted a laid-back songwriter segment with two of my most creative friends, Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson. I gave my band the night off, and Jamey, Buddy, and I played as though we were doing a songwriting round at the Bluebird. When our spot ended, I got to extend an invitation to Jamey to become an Opry member, and he was thrilled. The crowd gave him a couple of standing ovations, and he said to me, ‘If I had known all this was going to happen, I’d have ironed my shirt.’ Somehow, we managed to keep it a secret from him. Jamey loves the Opry. He loves country music, and he will make a great Opry member.”

Texas singer and musician Randy Corner, 67, died March 24. Born and raised in the Houston suburb of Deer Park, Texas, he began playing guitar professionally at age 13. He toured for years with Gene Watson, mastering the pedal steel, banjo, fiddle and harmonica. He later worked for Frenchie Burke and then as a session musician. On a recording contract with ABC/Dot, his debut single, “Sometimes I Talk in My Sleep,” reached Number 9 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart.

To Willie: A Birthday Celebration will take place May 1 on the Willie Nelson ranch in Luck, Texas, two days after Willie’s 89th birthday. Yahoo Entertainment reports the show’s host is Texas artist and songwriter Bruce Robison, whose songwriting credits include “Travelin’ Soldier” (Dixie Chicks), “Wrapped” (George Strait), and “Angry All the Time” (Tim McGraw). All artists will perform their interpretations of songs from Willie’s 60-year career, and he will also play a set. His touring schedule includes the Outlaw Music Festival Tour, featuring guests such as Chris Stapleton and ZZ Top, which begins June 24 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ryman Hospitality Properties operates as a real estate investment trust whose core business is running large hotels and convention centers. It owns the Opry Entertainment Group, which is an entertainment company consisting of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, WSM-AM, and 50% of the Circle TV channel. The parent company has sold 30% of its entertainment company to investment firm Atairos and NBCUniversal, who will invest $293 million in finding new entertainment opportunities, to include expanding the Circle network and searching for more star-driven partnerships such as Ole Red, a joint venture of Ryman Hospitality and Blake Shelton. Colin Reed, Ryman Hospitality chairman and CEO, told Variety, “We knew there were lots of organizations out there that can help bring the expertise to the table that we lack to help us grow.” The company was not interested in an outright sale. Executives are focused on “a segment of the consumer that is dramatically underserved. The brands we have are irreplaceable. They’re synonymous with country music and important part of music history.” The Group’s vault contains 11,000 hours of Grand Ole Opry content. The Grand Ole Opry debuted in 1925 on WSM.


Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “Really enjoyed the info on your trip to see Reba’s show. She is so great. A few tidbits I was lucky enough to have tucked into my musical journey. Quite a ways back Charlie Black, Austin Roberts and me were writing songs for an artist I was managing. We wrote ten and I got her on Curb Records. After two singles, Curb called me and said the rest of these songs are not strong enough. I took three of them to Reba. She recorded two, ‘You Lie’ and ‘Waitin’ For the Deal To Go Down.’ Vince Gill is singing high harmony on ‘You Lie.’ Helen and I got to visit with her in her dressing room at the Hilton in Vegas. Then a couple years ago I was on the porch and she called to chat. Then last year at the Green Hills Mall, there she was walking towards us. I went to her and started singing ‘You Li’ off tune. We had a laugh. I said all that to say she is really just a down to earth gal. Also really enjoyed all your music biz updates.”

Donald Ewert says, “It’s sad to hear about Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway closing. I have a memory of going there late one night in 1973. First I went to an Opry show while it was still in the Ryman, enjoying people like George & Tammy when Patsy Sledd was with their show, Hank Snow, Justin Tubb, Penny DeHaven, who later became a friend and others. After the Opry I walked down to E.T. Record Shop. Leona Williams was the guest that night on The Midnight Jamboree. I listened to the Midnight Jamboree on the radio growing up in rural Wisconsin. I’m glad my friend, singer/ yodeler Ethel Delaney, got to sing on the show along with other lesser known artists. Great memories!”

Lenore Koszalinski writes from Texas, “Love your magazine. I don’t know if you have ever interviewed Travis Tritt. If not, could you? I may have to talk about it on Facebook. I am on his Facebook page. You do such a great job.”

Diane: I sent a note to Travis Tritt’s publicist. She emailed me to say they don’t have a press block in which to schedule at this time. She said she’s added my request to the list and will be in touch if they can line something up. So, we’ll wait. Thanks for the suggestion, Lenore.

David Markham writes from Great Britain, “Once again good to hear from you with lots of happy news from others out there like the great Reba. Great film actress as well as a country music singer. I had a nasty fall at home and ended up in the hospital. My body hit the sink unit and knocked me out. So please forgive me if I can’t comment on what you have written for the fans. I hope and pray you are looking after yourself. Until the next Newsletter.”

Marty Mitchell has a request: “I have loved Marty Robbins for years. Your book is a good read. I have a copy of Marty’s Discography that I have had for years.  I am eighty-four and I don’t know what will happen to it when I join Marty. I would like to sell it rather than have someone destroy it. Do you know a way that I could contact or have them contact me?

Diane: For anyone who would like to contact Mary, her email address is treuthardt@aol.com.

Nobuhiko Ogino writes from Japan, “I enjoyed your newsletter very much! Please stay safe!!”

Don Holland asks, “Would you please add my mate, Russell Turner, the Nagambie Troubadour, to the distribution list for your newsletter? Thank you, and I still believe you belong in the Country Music Hall of Fame for the best country music newsletter ever!!!!”

Diane: That’s quite a compliment, Don. Thank you. I guess you could say this newsletter is a labor of love. Each issue takes about three full workdays, but I enjoy doing it, and as long as I keep hearing from those who enjoy reading it, I’ll probably keep sending it out.

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that newsletter and information. Sadly I learned today about the passing of my friend Glen Glenn (Troutman) on March 18th from complications from Alzheimer’s. Glen, real name Orin Glenn Troutman, was born in Joplin, Missouri, on October 24, 1934. In 1948, the family moved to San Dimas, not far from Los Angeles. Here Glen met Gary Lambert, another guitarist, and they joined forces. They will be frequent visitors to the Riverside Rancho where they meet Joe Maphis, one of the best pickers of that era. Joe had written the classic ‘Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)’ and set fire to the Honky-Tonk life. Glen and Gary, known as The Missouri Mountain Boys, recorded that song in January 1955. They found a steady job at the Country Barn Dance in El Monte. Early 1957, Glen was recording covers of ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ and ‘Be Bop a Lula.’ Elvis and Gene Vincent’s success led them to try that new sound. For 1956-57, Glen was on tour with the Maddox Brothers. He had already recorded several demos but his blended style was too different. It was not really country, not really rockabilly. That music was new and records labels don’t know how to handle and sell that hot stuff. Late 1957, Wynn Stewart, another country singer from Missouri, told Glen to go ahead on with Rockabilly music demos. On 7 October 1957, with Gary Lambert and Wynn Stewart on guitars, he cut ‘One Cup of Coffee and a Cigarette’ and ‘Kathleen.’ Those demos were rejected by Imperial Records but raised interest from Era Records, a local label. On 8 January 1958, Glen Troutman recorded his first professional session at the legendary Gold Star Recording studio in Hollywood. Still with Gary and Wynn on guitars, he used Guybo Smith, Eddie Cochran sideman, on bass. All those recordings are fabulous and ‘Everybody’s Movin’,’ coupled with ‘I’m Glad my Baby’s gone Away,’ will be his first record. ‘Everybody’s Movin’’ was covered by many artists including Bruce Springsteen. The rest belong to the ‘50s rockabilly music legacy.”


One of the famous singers from my youth who seems to be forgotten today is Hank Snow. I don’t hear his name mentioned or his songs played on classic country stations. He was Mom’s favorite singer. I can remember her singing “Let me go, let me go, let me go, lover” when she was teasing us kids. I didn’t know then that it was a Hank Snow song or that in 1954 it had been his fifth #1 Billboard hit. I purchased his 1994 autobiography while working on Faron’s biography. When I recently pulled it off the shelf, I was surprised to realize The Hank Snow Story, written by Hank Snow, the Singing Ranger, with Jack Ownbey and Bob Burris, had been published by the University of Illinois Press in its Music in American Life series. That’s where my Faron and Marty biographies are published! The two co-authors approached Hank after he headlined a benefit to raise money to fight child abuse; they offered to help write an autobiography that would publicize the story of the abuse Hank had suffered as a child in Canada. Ownbey writes, “One of our biggest challenges came from the fact that Hank’s memories could easily fill three books. He had so many inspirational and well-told stories. We’ve included as many of these as possible, in Hank’s own words, just as he remembered them.” This 500-page book does a great job of covering his life. I’ll just mention one incident here. When he got his first radio job at age 19, in 1933, and someone told him he had a lot of fan mail at the radio station, he asked a friend what fan mail was. He then walked to the radio station and picked up the 90 letters that were waiting for him.

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