Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 6 May 2020


A second member of my favorite singing group, the Statler Brothers, is gone. Harold Reid, 80, died at home in Staunton, Virginia, on April 24, following a long battle with kidney failure. In 1964, the Statler Brothers (Harold, brother Don Reid, Lew DeWitt, and Phil Balsley) drove to Roanoke to see Johnny Cash in concert. Without having heard them perform, Johnny asked them to open an upcoming show. He then pushed for their record deal with Columbia Records. The first Statler Brothers hit, “Flowers on the Wall,” earned two Grammy Awards. Jimmy Fortune replaced Lou DeWitt in the early 1980s; DeWitt died in 1990. The Statler Brothers Show aired for seven seasons on The Nashville Network (TNN) in the 1990s. The Statler Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. After retiring in 2002, Harold told the Staunton News Leader, “Some days, I sit on my beautiful front porch, here in Staunton, Virginia … some days I literally have to pinch myself. Did that really happen to me, or did I just dream that?”

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert recently featured Willie Nelson and sons Lukas and Micah in a virtual performance of “Hello Walls”. “I wrote it a long time ago,” Willie said, “and the guy who had the first hit on it was a guy named Faron Young, a great friend of mine and we had a lot of fun together. . .. So we’ll dedicate this song to Faron Young.” Taste of Country reports the video was filmed at Willie’s Luck Ranch, near Austin, Texas. Willie celebrated his 87th birthday on April 29 and is scheduled to release a new album, titled First Rose of Spring, on July 3.

When Jim Owen died in March, I couldn’t find an obituary. His widow, Susan Owen, recently sent it to me. “Jim passed away on March 6th from a heart attack,” she said. “He had a wonderful career in the country music field and absolutely loved everything about the music.” He died unexpectedly at the age of 78. He won Songwriter of the Year in 1974, after writing his greatest hit, “Louisiana Woman — Mississippi Man,” recorded by Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn. Jim won an Emmy for his portrayal of Hank Williams in a PBS special, An Evening With Hank Williams, Sr. While residing in Branson, he entertained audiences with a live stage show that was a mixture of music and comedy. His ashes were interred alongside his parents and brother in Saint Helens, Kentucky.

COVID-19 has taken the life of another musician. John (JD) Hoag died April 26 in Arizona. His widow, Diane Hoag, posted on Facebook: “Very early this morning, John (JD) Hoag passed away. I was able to be with him in his final moments, and he knew I was there with him. His passing was very peaceful. His body was just too damaged from battling the virus and lung infections to keep fighting. He was a bright light to everyone he came in contact with.” Thanks to John Edmonson for sending me the announcement. He adds, “There’s a special music tribute for J.D. on YouTube. It’s ‘Lorena,’ played on the steel guitar by Bob Glidden, another one of our special friends and a great musician.”

Sixty-three years after radio station WJJC went on the air in Commerce, Georgia, with 19-year-old Bill Anderson at the microphone, The Tennessean reports, the station has a new name: Whisperin’ 95.5. The future Whisperin’ Bill Anderson and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame was a journalism student at the University of Georgia. Bill wrote on Facebook on April 30: “I’m awfully excited about something that’s taking place tomorrow down in my adopted hometown of Commerce, Georgia. The radio station where I was working when I wrote ‘City Lights’ and jump-started my music business career, is being re-named in my honor. No longer will it be referred to as WJJC but will instead be known as Whisperin’ 95.1. I don’t know of anything in my life that’s ever been any more meaningful to me than this.”

Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, after recovering from COVID-19, told the Texas Standard, “During the illness, I was knocked out and in bed so much that I lost 20 pounds.” He experienced nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite, beginning on March 18, when, he says, “It hit me like a ton of bricks.” He was initially turned away from testing because he didn’t have a fever or respiratory symptoms. He announced his positive test on March 31 because, he says, “I went public because I couldn’t get a test, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone public. But the outpouring of love and concern was incredible.”

The 4,922nd consecutive live performance of the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry featured Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood on May 2. It was streamed on Facebook Live. Garth and Trisha have been Opry members since the 1990s. Pow Wow Entertainment reports Garth and Trisha caused Facebook Live to crash when they broadcast a concert from their home studio on March 23. Almost 3.5 million viewers watched the show.

Clint Black will release his 23rd album on June 19. “Out of Sane is made up of all original songs, except for one cover,” Clint, 58, tells Nash Country Daily. “I recorded it with a varied collection of musicians–some from my band and some with session players.” He says his fans have been asking for new music and he’s “thrilled to finally be able to deliver after five years since the last studio album.” The lead single, “America (Still in Love With You),” was released April 24. Clint says, “I wrote ‘America’ with my buddy, Steve Wariner, right before the shutdown and had intended it to be a song about unity for our country during a heated election season. It has taken on new meaning in light of the pandemic.”

Clay Walker, 50, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1996, tells PEOPLE he recently called his MS doctor, who “basically told me that having MS means my mortality rate, if I did contract COVID-19, would be twice that of a normal person.” According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS itself doesn’t increase the risk of getting COVID-19, but any type of infection could temporarily worsen MS symptoms. “I was once told I’d live my life in a wheelchair, so I have faced my share of bad news and quite frankly, mortality,” Clay says. Other than occasional debility in his right leg and right arm, “I’m okay.” He is currently self-isolating with his wife and children on his Texas ranch.

ABC affiliate KOCO-TV 5 in Oklahoma City teamed up with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to help feed Oklahomans hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Oklahoma native Blake Shelton donated $150,000. “A lot of Oklahomans are going to bed hungry tonight,” Blake says in a KOCO video. “That’s not something that I can live with. That’s why I’m going to be donating to the Regional Food Bank, the Oklahoma Food Bank. I hope you will join me and help from home. Send in that donation because a lot of people out there are counting on us.” Nash Country Daily reports The Give From Home Fundraiser raised $425,000.

Kim Campbell, widow of Glen Campbell, has written a book, Gentle On My Mind: In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell. It will be published by Thomas Nelson on June 23. “As I celebrate Glen’s birthday today, my mind is flooded with memories of our 35 years together,” Kim tells PEOPLE on April 22. “To the world, Glen was a star of TV and film, a legendary singer and guitarist who sold over 50 million records, earned six Grammys, and brought country music to the mainstream with hits like ‘Rhinestone Cowboy,’ ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix,’ and ‘Wichita Lineman.’ To me, Glen was my husband, my best friend, and the father of our three children.” Kim was a dancer at Radio City Music Hall and 22 years younger than Glen when the pair married in 1982. Glen had five children from three previous marriages. He died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2017 at the age of 81.

I just watched the new documentary, My Darling Vivian, produced and directed by Matt Riddlehoover and Dustin Tittle. It is currently streaming for free on Amazon Prime as part of the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection, films originally scheduled to debut at the canceled festival. It is the story of Vivian Liberto, the first wife of Johnny Cash, told by their four daughters: Rosanne Cash, Kathy Cash Tittle, Cindy Cash, and Tara Cash Schwoebel. As photos and videos flash on the screen, the daughters talk about their memories and their parents’ lives. I thought it was well done. As much as I enjoyed the 2005 Johnny/June movie, Walk the Line, the treatment of Vivian was so wrong, especially when it changed “I Walk the Line” to be a song written for June instead of Vivian.

Dolly Parton has been named the Tennessean of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, reports Fox 17 Nashville. The award recognizes an individual or organization for “significant contributions to society through sports or other methods, demonstrating strong character and high-profile leadership,” according to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. “I have always been a proud Tennessee girl and have supported all our athletics through the years,” Dolly says. “So, of course, I’m thrilled to be honored by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.” The Hall’s annual induction ceremony is scheduled for August 1 at the Omni Nashville Hotel.

CMT.com reports this recently released statement from Dwight Yoakam: “Dwight Yoakam and Emily Joyce were married in March just prior to the quarantine in a private ceremony at St Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California. At a time when there is so much uncertainty in the world, there are still happy moments.” The statement continued, “In the face of shutdowns and social-distancing requirements, love prevailed, and the less-than-ten attendees were seated at least six feet from one another. The happy couple have been engaged for several years and have been dating since 2010. This belated announcement was withheld out of respect to so many people affected by and on the front lines of this pandemic.”

In honor of his 61st birthday on May 4, here’s a video of Randy Travis in a 1978 TV appearance when he was still Randy Traywick.


Tom Barton writes, “I watched the entire book release party video on YouTube and was astounded — and particularly with the last six minutes or so of Ronny, Jim Glaser and Joe Babcock doing ‘El Paso.’ They nailed it, and I could close my eyes and hear Marty, as well. Great stories, and good musical memories. Thanks to all who helped you with it.”

Byron Fay writes, “A wonderful newsletter as always and thanks for the interview with Bill Anderson. Happy to read that he is doing well and writing with Brad Paisley. Can’t wait to hear his new songs on Moe Bandy’s album. Thanks again for keeping us all up to date on the news.”

Hennie Beltman says, “I loved the picture of Faron and Bill Anderson in your latest newsletter.”

Mike McCloud says, “For those that have not heard yet. Harold Reid of the Statler brothers died. He sang bass. He too will be missed. My heart breaks for all who have lost loved ones.”

Marshall Jordan writes from Richmond, Virginia, “I was sad to hear of the death of Harold Reid of the Statler Brothers. I grew up in Staunton, Virginia, and have always considered Staunton my home regardless of where I have lived. Whenever I think of Staunton, the Statlers automatically come to mind. I recall wonderful memories of attending many of their Happy Birthday USA concerts on the Fourth of July. Touring their headquarters and museum were quite memorable. I have always enjoyed their music, both secular and gospel. The death of Harold Reid is a great loss. He will surely be missed and definitely not be forgotten.”

Rex writes from Arizona, “It is with great sadness that I report we lost one of the finest guitar pickers this morning to the virus. He has played with the Ventures and with Marty Robbins, and many other groups over his life span. His last group was the Way Out West Band. His passion for his music could be felt as you listened to and watched him pick. There is a lot of good players here in the Valley of AZ, but to know one with so much love for what he did will be hard to find. I had the pleasure of knowing JOHN D HOAG.” 

Curtis Delzer writes from Rialto, California, “Staying in here too. Bill Anderson came to the El Rancho Hotel in West Sacramento where I worked, I played (either bass or drums behind him, don’t remember which) but he may remember me because he loved my big yellow Labrador guide dog up on the stage with us, who spent more time asleep than awake. Seems Bill kidded around with the audience saying something like ‘my dog has fleas,’ and I, being young and a bit nonplussed, said ‘my dog’s been fixed,’ which is even more silly for there was no logic at all just nonsense, and Bill cracked up. I was the blind kid who sings like Roy Orbison or, he might remember me doing ‘Cattle Call,’ which always got a reaction. Fun days, I guarantee. The gentleman who ran the place was Lloyd Hickey, and we had a weekly TV show starring a little girl named Christie Christophoson (not sure of spelling, but that is what she called herself at the time).”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thanks for that welcome and interesting newsletter. Always great to read your words and those from the readers. I wish you all to stay safe from Covid-19 and to enjoy again a whole lot of newsletters in the future. Take advantage of that quarantine time to enjoy lotsa music from the great names of Hillbilly and Country music.”

Mike Johnson of Roughshod Records says, “Very nice issue. Also enjoyed the last issue which featured my friend Terry Smith, among others. We first met in June 1995 at the Michigan Jamboree in Hillsdale Michigan and have been friends ever since. I’ve spent the night at his house on a number of occasions and we’ve been at some of the same festivals over the years. He’s a great songwriter and a considerate friend. It’s kind of distressing that we’re losing so many of our great singers and songwriters, especially those that were caused by this virus. I’ll be 74 in a couple of months and plan of sticking around for a long while. My music and video projects are keeping me busy, as usual. My regards to all your readers. Stay safe and eat protein rich foods to keep your immune system up. You take care.”

Jean Earle writes from England, “I have just realised that this week is an Anniversary of the date when we lost a very popular D.J. who was on BBC Radio London for many years. His radio studio was visited by many Country artists visiting our country, some for the first time. Bob Powel always made them very welcome. He was a mine of information and often surprised his studio guests with all that he knew of their songs, careers, etc. Bob was also involved with the popular Country Music People magazine  and, with his vast knowledge, we, the country FANS, were able to follow our favourite Country artists when they were on tour over here in England. He was popular and very much missed. Bob died in May 2014. I think the name BOB POWEL will be recognised by many of your readers.”

Demetriss Tapp requests, “Would you please add me to your mailing list to receive the newsletter? I appreciate it.”

Bill Blough writes from rural Illinois, “Still reading and enjoying your great newsletter. I’m 86, and 90 don’t sound near as old as it used to. Thanks, I appreciate all the work you must do to put out such a great newsletter.”

Eric Calhoun in Los Angeles says, “One thing I remember about LeAnn Rimes was the way she yodeled, and you’ve got to have practice to do that. I’ll remember the You Light Up My Life CD. Her advice of never losing that light in your eye is very well spot on. I remain a fan of LeAnn and wish her well. God bless you, LeAnn, and don’t ever lose that light in your eye. Stay safe; stay encouraged.”

Mary Mitchell writes, “We both are Carl Smith fans. I saw on Facebook where someone feels the same as we do. I mentioned that I have many of Carl’s albums. In fact I have approximately 250 albums from A-Z. I converted each one to CD. I can’t sell the CDs, however I am willing to sell the vinyls. You cannot find a Carl Smith album anywhere that I know of. What a Gentleman with a beautiful voice and band. I was about seven when I began to listen to his music. Great story on Bill Anderson.”

Carolyn Berry says, “Just some information about Ricky Van Shelton. When he was singing there was a sign on Route 29 in a little rural community in Virginia called Hurt, Va. The sign read the home of Ricky Van Shelton. I don’t know if he lives there or not. I wonder about him too. I loved hearing him sing.”

John Pokoski writes from Durham, New Hampshire, “Because I enjoy your newsletter so much, and respect your ability and background, I decided to buy your bios of Faron and Marty. I really enjoyed them and had a hard time putting them down. I loved reading the interplay between the country stars of the time (my time). It is nice the way you evenly describe the pros and cons of each main character. Everyone is human.”


The first time I met Dave Hall was in 1970 in Canby, Minnesota, when Faron Young and his Country Deputies did a show there. Dave played bass and served as Faron’s frontman from 1969-72. I saw him thirty years later when I held my first reunion of the Deputies at the Hall of Fame Quality Inn in Nashville. Dave was one of the eight band members who showed up that evening. He told me Faron had recorded his “It’s Not the Miles” and “Night Coach Out Of Dallas” on the 1971 It’s Four In the Morning album. Dave gave co-writer credit to bus driver Lewis Redding. “He and I rode down the road a lot at night, me with a guitar in my hand,” Dave said. “I wrote the songs while we were traveling, and happened to be up in the jump seat next to him, and chatting with him while the songs were written, so his name is on them.” After leaving the music business, Dave worked with the Royalty Department and Creative Team at HoriPro. Dave died January 19, 2018, at age 76. He was buried at Mt. Juliet Memorial Gardens. The quotes below are from the Country Deputies reunion on January 7, 2000.

Cootie, you got to tell the story about when you and I learned how to drive the bus. We was out on the road. He hired that bus driver? As I remember, we was going off one of those mountains out there, and he got the brakes hot, and couldn’t stop. Took an exit. Went right through that stop sign, across the road, and fortunately it was a straight shot up on the side of the hill over there, and the bus finally rolled to a stop. Red [Hayes] was standing up there in the well. He said, “Boys, this is where I get off.” And none of us could drive. Faron had done got onto this guy about two days earlier. He’s already flying; he wasn’t on the bus. And Red said, “Boys, I’ve rode an awful lot of miles up here. One of you young fellows are brave enough, I think I can tell you how to drive it.” Cootie and I drove for the rest of that tour.

Faron introduced me to golf. We were up in New England somewhere. He was always wanting to play, and wouldn’t none of the band members play with him. I was brand new in the band, I didn’t know what the hell I was getting into. Nobody else would go with him, so he forced me to go. I said, “I don’t have any clubs or anything.” He said, “Don’t worry about it. C’mon. We’ll rent some clubs.” We went out there and tried to rent clubs, and they didn’t have any, so he bought me a set. Talk about having me obligated. I didn’t have any shoes, so he bought him a new pair of shoes, and gave me his older shoes. I’ve still got the putter. That was 1969 when he gave it to me.

Do any of you remember when we worked Buck Lake Ranch? I was with Connie Smith at the time. We worked on a Saturday night, I believe, and the next day was somewhere over in Illinois. Everybody got in the station wagon, just Faron and the driver on the bus. Both bands were in the station wagon. The station wagon would quit about every fifty miles, it would die. We’d have to get out and raise the hood. Finally figured out if we got a coat hanger we could wire this sucker so it would run. So we opened up that band trailer and unloaded about half of it, there on the side of the road, got a coat hanger and went up there and got it started, jumped in and took off, and left all this stuff sitting on the side of the road. Here comes the state trooper, “I think y’all left something back there.” Faron and the driver on the bus. Jimmie Crawford was with us.

Diane and Dave, in either 1970 or 2000

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