Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 6 October 2021


“I was ate up with it.” That’s how Tracy Lawrence, 53, describes his youthful quest to sing traditional county music while growing up in Arkansas. When he called me last week for our scheduled interview, he told me he learned how to sing and play guitar by listening to singers like Merle Haggard and Randy Travis. “I really worked hard at trying to hit all those notes,” he explained. “When I would sing those songs with a band, I would always make a point to do it in the key on the record, so I could get all those little inflections and everything in it. I really studied the way they sang, and the spots they breathed in, and where they did their vibratos. I was a big student of their phrasing. I would try to emulate every minor detail of the way they sang on those records.”

He succeeded. This past April, I attended his concert at the Sioux Falls Arena–the first full arena concert in this area since the pandemic began–and was surprised by the number of familiar songs. I didn’t realize he’d had so many hits. “If The World Had A Front Porch,” “Texas Tornado,” “If The Good Die Young,” and “Paint Me A Birmingham” were only a few of them.

Tracy’s Billboard-charting debut single, “Sticks and Stones,” went all the way to the top in 1991. Every song that charted on Billboard from then through 1997–his first 19 songs–made it into the Top Ten; seven of them hit number one. His biggest was “Time Marches On” in 1996. His most recent #1, “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” came in 2007.

“This year is my 30th anniversary since I cut Sticks and Stones back in ’91,” Tracy told me. “Our goal has been to release three albums of ten songs. I’m just in the studio finishing up my third album this year.” The first two are Tracy Lawrence – Hindsight 2020 Vol 1: Stairway To Heaven Highway To Hell and Tracy Lawrence – Hindsight 2020 Vol 2: Price Of Fame. “We’ve been dropping singles on streaming platforms all year long,” he says. “We were planning on having the third one out this year, but because of the COVID shutdown and where we’re at, I was scheduled to go in the studio the first of the month, and I had to postpone it.”

The reason for the postponement was that his family and his band came down with COVID. “The last show we did was the end of August,” Tracy says. “We’ve had to cancel every show in the month of September. Four band guys came down with it first, and then both my bus drivers got it, both my kids got it, and then I got it. My wife had it back in the spring.” His daughter got it at college. Tracy’s case was mild because he’d been vaccinated in the spring. “My bus driver’s been fighting it over a couple of weeks,” Tracy says. “I talked to him Friday, and he was just starting to turn the corner, but I could still hear it in his chest.”

They were leaving for North Dakota the day after we talked. “It will be the first shows we’ve done this month,” he says. “We’re glad to be back to work.”

And the release of the third album? “I was just able to finish vocals a few days ago,” he says. That delay has thrown the timeline off. “The album will not be out probably until the first part of January,” he explains, “because the distribution company, after we had to back things up a couple times, they didn’t have another spot to put us in.”

You can keep up with Tracy by visiting his website. “I’ve been very blessed,” he says. “It’s been an amazing journey.”


Billboard announced the death of Nashville “A Team” session musician Bob Moore, 88, on September 23. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum calls him “the most-recorded bass player in country music history.” Born in 1932, he grew up in East Nashville and began performing by age 10. He played guitar and bass for Jamup & Honey while in his teens. After years of touring with country music entertainers as a road musician, he started working with producer Owen Bradley and became one of the team of session players known as the “A Team.” In 2007, the Musicians Hall of Fame inducted Nashville’s A-Team: Moore, Harold Bradley, Floyd Cramer, Pete Drake, Ray Edenton, Hank Garland, Buddy Harmon, Tommy Jackson, Grady Martin, Charlie McCoy, Moore, Boots Randolph, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, and Jerry Kennedy.

Sue Thompson, 96, a western swing singer who became a “teen” pop star at age 36, died September 23 in Pahrump, Nevada. The New York Times reports she died at the home of her daughter and caregiver, Julie Jennings. Her son, Greg Penny, said she died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. According to a MusicRow obituary, she was born Eva Sue McKee in Missouri in 1925. She got a guitar at age seven and dreamed of becoming a singing cowboy like Gene Autry. Her family moved to California in 1937 to work as fruit pickers during the Great Depression. She married in 1944, gave birth to Julie in 1946, and divorced in 1947. She began singing with western-swing bandleader Dude Martin, who became her second husband. After Hank Penny joined the group, Sue divorced Martin, married Penny, and gave birth to son Greg in 1955. They moved to Nashville, where “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” became a huge pop hit for Sue in 1961. After she and Penny divorced in 1963, Sue later sought a return to country music, which included several duet albums with Don Gibson. In the 1990s, she worked the Nevada casino circuit and hosted a radio show broadcast from The Palomino Club in North Hollywood.

Steel guitarist Larry “Wimpy” Sasser, 74, died September 29 in Conyers, Georgia. He had been on life support, apparently after suffering a stroke. He and his wife of 29 years, Evelyn, lived in Conyers. From his first session in 1959 until illness forced him to retire in 1993, Larry played hundreds of record sessions, tour concerts and TV shows. He played his last show in 2012 with the Georgia Steel Guitar Association; he wanted his very last performance to be in Atlanta, for his hometown friends and family. He had been a member of the Nashville Now house band. Before that, he worked with Del Reeves and The Goodtime Charlies on Del’s Country Carnival TV show.

George Frayne, 77, best known as Commander Cody, died September 26 in Saratoga Springs, New York. No cause of death was revealed. Born in Idaho and raised in New York City, Frayne graduated from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, after which he formed a band in 1967. The group called themselves Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen; the title came from a 1950s science-fiction movie. Their 1970s hits included “Hot Rod Lincoln” and “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette).” According to MusicRow, “The Airmen became the opening act for everyone from Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard to Led Zeppelin and the Doors.” The original band broke up after a 1976 European tour, and Commander Cody then recorded as a solo act.

The recent Randy Travis Festival in Marshville, North Carolina, was the first time Randy Travis and wife Mary had a chance to see his new mural, Taste of Country reports. The image is the work of The Mural Shop, which honors the state’s most recognizable musicians with murals in their hometowns. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it was completed in August 2020. Kayo and I saw it this past July. Randy posted on Instagram, “Went home to Marshville for the Randy Travis Music Festival with family and friends. Rose and Ricky were there!”

The latest Tennessee Music Pathways marker honors Dolly Parton in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee. MusicRow reports a group of officials gathered at Dolly’s bronze statue on the Sevier County Courthouse lawn for the unveiling. The marker commemorates her musical heritage in Sevier County and across Tennessee. Dolly is the most honored female country performer of all time. She has nine Grammys, 10 CMA Awards, seven ACM Awards, and three AMA Awards. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999. Dolly says, “I am proud to be from Sevier County and Sevierville and this Music Pathways sign honors me, my family and my history there.”

The 2021 CRB Artist Career Achievement Award from the Country Radio Broadcasters organization goes to Keith Urban, for his decades-long contribution to the development and promotion of country music and country radio. Sounds Like Nashville reports he “has been singled out for a lengthy career that has produced 24 Number Ones, four Grammy’s more than a dozen CMA and ACM Awards (each) and a reputation for incredible performances.” He is also a tireless philanthropist, whose All For The Hall benefit concerts have raised over $4.2 million for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He is the first Ambassador of the CMA Foundation, which promotes school music programs, and an advisory board member at the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He will receive the award during the Country Radio Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Awards Ceremony on October 13 in Nashville. He joins previous recipients such as Randy Travis, Vince Gill, Brooks & Dunn, Dolly Parton, and Reba McEntire.

Sam Williams, 24, grandson of Hank Williams and son of Hank Williams Jr., has just released his first album, Glasshouse Children. Sisters Holly Williams and Hilary Williams are musicians; sister Katherine died last year in a car accident. “I think that if you come from a family of doctors, or a family of lawyers, you just want to be different and you don’t want to do that. I think that’s how I felt for a long time,” he says. “I felt resentful in a way, and I’ve just wanted to be different and stand out. And it took me a long time to realize that I could do both of those things and I could stand out and still carry on a legacy and do it in my own way.” According to Yahoo! Life, Sam moved to Nashville in 2015 to attend Belmont University. The album contains a duet with Dolly Parton, “Happy All the Time.” He wrote her a two-page personal letter to ask her to sing with him. She loved the song and loved his voice. “And now we have a song together,” he says.

Seven people were rescued from a 100-year-old building in Atoka, Oklahoma, when it partially collapsed. Reba McEntire and boyfriend Rex Linn were touring a historic site in the middle of a renovation. They were on the second floor when the staircase crumbled. Firefighters placed a ladder against a window to rescue them. People were also trapped on the third floor. One person was transported to a hospital with minor injuries. TMZ reports the dilapidated stairs were already scheduled to be replaced.

CMT.com reports school is back in session and Dierks Bentley is thankful he isn’t a teacher. On a recent Kelly Ford in the Morning show, Dierks praised teachers for their endless hard work and patience. “I have so much respect for teachers and what they do,” he said. “Sometimes I think we got it turned around backwards. I’m getting paid what I get paid to go play a show and teachers are getting paid what they do [and] they have the hardest job there is, which is dealing with a bunch of kids.” Describing last year’s homeschooling effort during the pandemic, he started by saying, “My wife and I were like, high-fiving each other. We were like, ‘this is so easy,’ the two of us managing three kids, we were just like getting it done.” Then he said, “The next day it was the complete opposite. I mean, screaming, crying — and that was just us! I was like, ‘this is brutal, this is awful.’ No one is more thankful for teachers than parents last year, and hopefully we haven’t forgotten that lesson.”

In a recent interview on The Today Show, Alan Jackson, 62, told Jenna Bush Hager he was diagnosed ten years ago with a degenerative nerve condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. “I have this neuropathy and neurological disease…it’s genetic…that I inherited from my daddy. There’s no cure for it, but it’s been affecting me for years. And it’s getting more and more obvious. And I know I’m stumbling around on stage. And now I’m having a little trouble balancing, even in front of the microphone, and so I just feel very uncomfortable.” The Country Daily reports he feels relieved to have the news out in the open, and he doesn’t want people feeling sad for him. He says, “It’s not going to kill me. It’s not deadly, but it’s related (to) muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease.” According to HuffPost, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center describes CMT as one of the most common types of inherited nerve diseases; it impacts the peripheral nervous system and causes weakness in the legs and feet. Alan joked about having a disease called CMT, since another CMT, Country Music Television, played such an important role in his career. He plans to continue performing as long as his health allows.

Country Music Nation reports Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock have been legally declared single, and Kelly’s maiden name has been reinstated. Their “marital or domestic partnership status” will end January 7. She filed for divorce in June 2020, after nearly seven years of marriage, due to “irreconcilable differences.” They have two children, 7-year-old daughter River and 5-year-old son Remington. Kelly has been given primary custody. I don’t know if the judge still requires her to pay $195,601 per month in spousal and child support. Her eight-bedroom, nine-bathroom home in Encino, California, recently sold for over $8 million.

A new TikTok trend, “Mama said that it was ok,” is based on a song called “Mama Said” by Lukas Graham, a pop star who grew up homeless. Participants tell who gave them permission to live their best lives. Taylor Swift thanked Shania Twain for paving the way; she shared photos and videos of Shania breaking barriers, and of the two of them performing together. Shania then posted on her own TikTok account: “Thank you @taylorswift. Paying this one forward to another trailblazer.” She posted photos and clips with Dolly Parton. Taylor called Dolly “queeeen!!!” in a subsequent TikTok duet that has 11 million views. Taylor has long had the support of both of her predecessors. In 2016, Shania told ET Canada, “I think everybody should just follow their heart and do their artistic best, and just enjoy their creativity. She’s a singer-songwriter-performer. She does it all … the world is her oyster.” Dolly told PEOPLE in 2015, “She knew exactly who she was, she had her dream and she stuck with it. That’s what you gotta do. I’m just so proud of her.”

No, Dolly Parton does not have a TikTok account. TODAY printed a retraction after announcing, “Dolly Parton is singing her way onto TikTok. The country queen, 75, is the latest celebrity to join the popular video-sharing app.” A representative for Dolly explained that an impersonator had lifted a previous video and “doctored it,” so that Dolly appeared to be saying, “Why hello, I guess I’m on TikTok!” Dolly’s fans were overjoyed at the idea of her presence. One wrote, “This cured my acne, paid off my debt, healed my psoriasis and fed my soul.” Another said, “MY LIFE IS COMPLETE.” A TikTok spokesperson confirmed that the impersonator account has been removed.

Ain’t Nothin’ Funny Anymore is the title of the new Ray Stevens album, a 14-song collection of topical tunes about everything from the border crisis to quarantine, according to PEOPLE magazine. “I’m not going to let a bunch of people who consider themselves judges and politically correct tell me what to do,” he says. “I’m way too old for that. I’m going to do what I want to do. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to put out songs dealing with current events. If you agree or don’t agree, that’s your prerogative.” Ray, 82, recently re-opened his Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom, the Nashville dinner theater he willingly closed in the spring of 2020 because he wanted to help end the pandemic. COVID-19 claimed the lives of some of the industry’s most respected names, including Charley Pride, Joe Diffie, and John Prine. Ray has had two vaccines and will receive the booster as soon as it is available. “Why would anyone politicize getting the vaccine?” he wonders. “There ain’t nothing political about vaccines. It’s not political to me. I got up this morning and ate breakfast. Is that political?” Ray can be found most Saturday nights at his CabaRay Showroom. He now performs his hits with a 20-piece orchestra. “I decided to blow it out,” he says. “Nashville has some of the best musicians in the world.”

On his live Facebook show, Inside Studio G, Garth Brooks, 59, told fans he is shifting his tour from stadiums to dive bars as the coronavirus pandemic continues. He canceled five stadium shows (Foxborough, Massachusetts, Charlotte, North Carolina, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Nashville) due to the Delta variant and COVID-19 surge across the country. He wants concert attendees to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, and that is more easily monitored in the smaller setting of a dive bar. “In July, I sincerely thought the pandemic was falling behind us. Now, watching this new wave, I realize we are still in the fight and I must do my part,” he says.

The C2C Festival will return in 2022. It will be held March 11-13 in London, Glasgow and Dublin. The three-day Country To Country lineup includes Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, Luke Combs, and more. C2C in Germany and the Netherlands will remain paused in 2022. 

Brittany Aldean, wife of Jason Aldean, posted multiple photos of their 3-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter wearing black T-shirts that read “HIDIN’ FROM BIDEN.” The Washington Post reports Jason wrote “My boy!” under a photo of their son and gave a thumbs-up sign. In other photos, Brittany, who has 1.9 million Instagram followers, wears a T-shirt that reads “Anti Biden Social Club.”

The 24th annual Steel Guitar Show of Ray “Chubby” Howard, 95, was held Sunday, October 3, at Richard Lynch’s Keepin’ It Country Farm in Waynesville, Ohio. “I worked with Connie Smith. I worked with Kenny Price,” Chubby tells WDTN-TV in Xenia, Ohio. “I worked with little Jimmy Dickens. I worked with people from the Lawrence Welk Show. Gosh, it’s unreal what I did.” He hosts a weekly Chubby Howard Show on WBZI Real Roots Radio in Xenia. “What makes it wonderful is the people that listen to us,” says Chubby. “It’s amazing. The telephone rings and it could be England, could be Ireland, Canada — we get them all over the place.” Chubby was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2015.

CMT has announced Randy Travis as its latest “Artist of a Lifetime.” The award will be presented at the 2021 “CMT Artists of the Year” event, which CMT will air live from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center on October 13. Previous “Lifetime” honorees are Reba McEntire (2019), Loretta Lynn (2018), Shania Twain (2016), Kenny Rogers (2015), and Merle Haggard (2014). Randy will join the 90-minute live show along with recently announced “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” Mickey Guyton.

The Tennessean reports that Sturgill Simpson revealed on Instagram the reason for canceling several concerts. He has ruptured his vocal cords. He posted, “I am currently getting the best treatment available and should fully recover but it’s gonna be a long hot minute before I can return to stage.” He canceled his Farm Aid appearance and an upcoming three-night sold-out run at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in November. He initially thought the problem was viral laryngitis or a by-product of campfire smoke, but it is an injury caused by “playing too many shows in a row after not singing much for over 18 months.”

Kenny Anderson, a singing cowboy who performed live on the radio, used to own Anderson’s Interstate Standard Service on First Avenue North in Billings, Montana. He invited the biggest names in country music to stop at his service station and add their autographs to the large board that hung on the wall. Kenny collected nearly 100 signatures from 1956 to 1979, including those of Ernest Tubb, Jimmie Dickens, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, Faron Young, Kittie Wells, Minnie Pearl, Jim Reeves, George Jones, and the Statler Brothers. KTVQ-TV in Billings reports the autographed board titled “Roundup of Stars” was recently presented to KGHL radio by Kenny’s children, Jim and Janet. The board had been stored in a garage. Now it will hang inside the KGHL radio station a few blocks from where the Anderson service station sat. The Sons of the Pioneers attended the dedication and performed a concert. Members of that group had signed the board when they visited Billings in 1965.

My last newsletter mentioned that Dangerous: The Double Album would be a candidate for Album of the Year at the upcoming CMA Awards in Nashville, but that Morgan Wallen‘s other nominations had been rescinded. Now the Los Angeles Times reports he won’t be allowed to attend the November 10 ceremony. Sarah Trahern, CEO of the Country Music Association, stated, “The decision, ultimately, was the man would not be allowed, but the music and the people who were part of it [songwriters and producers] could be eligible.” She added, “This is the first time in the history of the CMA, to my knowledge, anyone has ever been disqualified for conduct. Honoring him as an individual this year is not right, and he will not be allowed on the red carpet, on our stage, or be celebrated in any way.” The CMA action followed industry rejection of Wallen after a published video showed him using the N-word. His fans have continued to support him, keeping sales of his album in the top 10. He has sold more albums than any other country singer in 2021 and is on track to sell more albums than any artist in any genre.

“The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup.” Royalty Exchange, an online auction site, just sold the songwriter share of the famous jingle’s royalties for $90,500. The winner gets the split for standard copyright term–the life of the creator, plus 70 additional years. A check will be issued quarterly for a share of earnings based on all the times the jingle appears on TV, radio, film, online or anywhere else in public. Last year, the songwriters’ cut of the royalties came to $11,746.52. According to Sprudge, the jingle was created in 1984 by Bill Vernick, Susan Spiegel Solovay, and Leslie Pearl (a singer-songwriter who wrote songs for Johnny Mathis, Kenny Rogers, and Karen Carpenter). It has been covered and rearranged by Randy Travis (https://youtu.be/F-ubELpahn8), Kiss’s Paul Stanley, and Aretha Franklin, as well as many others. Folgers has a yearly competition to find the best new interpretation.

The second of two John Prine tribute albums, Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, Vol. 2, was released this week. Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows Vol. 1, released in 2010, featured artists like Justin Townes Earle, Avett Brothers, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Whiskey Riff reports Volume 2 is kicked off by Brandi Carlile singing “I Remember Everything,” the final song John wrote. Sturgill Simpson sings “Paradise,” and Tyler Childers does a cover of “Yes I Guess They Oughta Name A Drink After You,” which John wrote and recorded for his 1972 album, Diamonds In The Rough.”


Pamela Stevens writes, “Thanks for your wonderful newsletter. I’m sorry to hear of the passing of my friend and mentor, Lee Shannon. I spent many a happy hour listening to him in Indianapolis, Indiana, on WIRE Radio 1430 and on WQLK. Lowen and I reunited, thanks to your newsletter, and shared many emails over the past 5 years. He even listened to my shows on the Internet. I had been wondering about him, because I knew he wasn’t in good health, and was thinking of writing to Debbie–so, I was very sad to hear of his passing. I will cherish the friendship eternally. Rest in peace, Lee. Thanks for the memories!”

Linda Mellon says, “We surely enjoyed the Isaacs when they appeared at A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls a couple years ago, and now they are members of the Grand Ole Opry! So many great musicians who feel like friends.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Here comes the newsletter, a cool way to start that day. Thanks for the tribute to Don Maddox, the last member of that great colorful Western and Hillbilly band that was still with us. The Maddox Brothers and Rose were frequent visitors in Austin, Texas, in the early ‘50s. My friend Glenn Douglas Tubb remembered them this way: ‘These are some of my all-time favorite people. We used to work some with them when they came to Austin. They would always play Dessau Hall. Sometimes we would just sit in with them and fill the stage. I’m sure you know about each one having their own Cadillac to travel in. It was really a necessity because each one needed the clothes rack in the back to carry all of their stage clothes. Mama always traveled with Rose to make sure no men would take advantage of her. Mama was the manager and collected all the money (in cash) and put it in her huge purse. When it was time for new cars, Mama would go down to the Cadillac dealer and pick out the one she liked and then order one for her and Rose and one for each of the boys and open up her big purse and pay cash for the cars. All the cars were just alike, even the same color. It was quite a sight when they came rolling up to the night club. It was like when the circus came to town. They were a unique group and one of the most entertaining bands I ever saw. I always liked Fred because he looked a lot like Johnny Mack Brown, a cowboy movie star. They were all great and we’ll never see their likes again.’ Glenn Douglas, who recorded for Decca in the ‘50s, passed on May 22, 2021. Let’s remember them all and celebrate their musical journey. Great to read Hargus Pig Robbins’ words. Another musical legend.”

Rick Belsher of McCord, Saskatchewan, Canada, says, “Once again, after reading these letters, learn that all the country people are just people, with health, financial, personal problems. Live and  die like all of us. All the fame and money does not preclude life’s tribulations. Is very interesting to read about country, entertainers, stars and their families, as never really hear or know about all the other entertainers in different facets of music, except on those vacuous television entertainment shows, of which there are two Canadian versions.”

Ray Rokita writes, “I was  sorry to hear that Jennifer Herron resigned as the radio announcer of the Midnite Jamboree. After listening to last night’s program, I suspect the show will lose its respect and ratings with WSM. It’s sad when you rely on videos to do a radio show. No personal communication with the audience the way radio use to be. When Jennifer proudly made her announcements on the jamboree you could hear  the smile in her voice. Emily Jones, the new announcer, doesn’t have a smiling radio voice at all. Last night’s host doesn’t know his country music. He announced a song that He claimed was an Ernest Tubb song which it wasn’t. ‘A Dime At A Time’ was recorded by Del Reeves not Ernest Tubb. I wonder if the Ernest Tubb Record Shop will last 75 years. Not advertising records or CDs for sale on the Jamboree is losing sales for sure. Not one thing was mentioned about music offers. I appreciate your Newsletter very much. I’m enjoying the narration of the Audible book Live Fast Love Hard that recently has been recorded for Audible. Frank Gerard does a good job in the audio delivery of the book.”

Diane: Thanks for the compliments, Ray. I also think of Jennifer Herron as having a smile in her voice. I, too, remember “A Dime at a Time” as a Del Reeves song. However, I did a bit of research and learned ET recorded it for his Country Hit Time album.

Trish Kukor writes, “My longtime friend, Diane Jordan Fullam, sent a copy of your latest newsletter to me. Can I subscribe? I was a very small and short part of Nashville 1962-64 and that’s when I met her through her now-deceased sister Carol. While Diane is a ‘new’ country music singer, I am an ‘original’ country music fan and love the history of it all. I too saw the charisma from my front row seat in the Ryman, of Faron back then. Anyhow, would love to subscribe.”

Kate Davis in Oregon says, “Wow!  Lots of news this edition! Always look forward to reading the newsletters. Thank you for the hard work you do. One tiny correction in the Don Maddox article…the siblings were Cliff, Fred, Cal, Alta, Rose, and Henry (not Harry.) Marty and I have known the family since the mid-‘60s and are very sad to see Don go. Rose’s grandchildren live in southern Oregon still. Marty worked with Rose early in his career and her son, Donny, played bass for Marty for several years. Marty was a pallbearer for their mom, Lula, and for Rose, too. We’re still in contact with the grandkids. Don and his wife came to jam a couple of years ago, but we haven’t seen him since as he was just too frail to get out much. Knowing them all was an experience, to be sure.”

Tommie Ray writes from Talladega, Alabama, “I am sorry to hear about Don Maddox dying. Could you tell me if Del Wood and T. Texas Tyler are both dead? I remember Del Wood’s biggest hit was ‘Down Yonder’ and T. Texas Tyler had a hit called ‘Bummin’ Around.’ I enjoy your newsletter. I grew up in the fifties when country music was going strong.”

Diane: I, too, remember Del Wood playing “Down Yonder.” Her full name was Polly Adelaide Hendricks Hazelwood. She died in 1989 at age 69. T. Texas Tyler (born David Luke Myrick) died of stomach cancer in 1972 at age 56. His biggest hit was “Deck of Cards.”

Jenny Jones writes from Texas, “Enjoyed the newsletter. Hope this finds you doing well. I have not been feeling my best, some health problems. As my husband likes to remind me, we are both getting get older. We were married 59 years the 21st of August, and I turned 83 on August the 25th. I have been enjoying reading a lot of books about COUNTRY ARTISTS. Really have enjoyed them. You take care, and look forward to your next Newsletter.”

Janet Jeffries says, “Thank you so much for doing this newsletter!!”

John Krebs writes from Texas, “Oh man I sure hope Robyn gets up to full strength soon!! China Bio Attack,,, lol,,,, that may be the most accurate description I’ve ever heard BUT,,, we’ll never know.”

David Markham writes from England, “Thank you for your sad letter about the Maddox Brothers they were the funniest Country and western musicians and fantastic singers ever. Rose made me laugh when she used to laugh really loud. Going to be truly missed by all their fans, including me. Don will be sadly missed by all their huge country music Fans R.I.P. Don ✝️ I was just getting to know Faron Young when he killed himself. I was very upset as he was a great country music singer and his band, he was always mentioned in Country Music People London. Country music will never ever be the same again. It’s the only music that brings music to my ears, like Steele Mike Johnson, the Time Jumpers, the fine Voice of Vince Gill, best singer in the world.”

Martha Moore of so much MOORE media announces, “Our BIG news!! American Idol alum Alex Miller has signed an exclusive recording contract with Nashville-based Billy Jam Records. The True Country singer/songwriter’s first single for the imprint, ‘Don’t Let The Barn Door Hit Ya,’ was produced by Jerry Salley and will be released soon. Pictured L-R at the label’s office are Ed Leonard, President, Daywind Music Group/Billy Jam Records; Alex Miller (seated), Jerry Salley, A&R/Creative Director, Billy Jam Records, and Kyle Johnson, Marketing Director, Billy Jam Records.”

Gary Busselman in Sioux Falls says, “One night my friend and I drove to Sioux City, Iowa, to a Faron Young concert in the auditorium. Red Lane opened for Faron and when Faron came on, Red put on a red wig and started popping his head out of the stage curtains. Then he’d show his head from the side wing and the audience was laughing at him. Faron couldn’t figure out what we were laughing at. Finally Red reached under the curtain and pulled the stool out from under the drummer and the drummer went right on the floor. Drums flew every direction. Scared everybody on the stage and Faron stopped right in the middle of a song. Faron and the drummer were Mad! Stopped the show. Faron said a few things. They had to reset the drums. It was a double set, too.”

Diane: I think they had a right to be mad. There wasn’t any humor in that last action.

Jeff Chandler, former member of the Marty Robbins Band, writes, “Just read your latest newsletter, and it was awesome as usual. Just wanted to let you know, in case you don’t, that Dale Morris Sr is slated to be inducted into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame next month in Tulsa. Dale played fiddle for Marty Robbins in the mid-seventies. When ‘Among My Souvenirs’ was a hit, Marty needed a fiddle to recreate it on stage. Dale had been with the Sons of the Pioneers and other western groups, and was (and is) one of the finest in the business. This is an honor he definitely deserves, and is just another example of Marty’s keen eye for talent to surround himself with. Not sure how long he worked for Marty, but it was probably close to a year. I started in Jan ‘79, and I believe Dale would have been in ‘77 or ‘78.”

Andy Williford, boyhood friend of Faron Young, says, “The article about Faron’s divorce was very interesting, something Faron and I discussed a few times. One night in the back of his bus, he had just gone through the divorce and was deeply concerned that his kids had testified against him, as well they should have, and as usual, I let him talk because we never lectured each other nor offered advice, instead we offered help. He had tears in his eyes and eventually cried. I am writing you because I knew this man very well and that particular night I saw regret for the divorce, but what I really saw was deep remorse and depression. Deep in his heart he knew he had been very wrong in the treatment of his family and that he was weak as a person to allow alcohol to consume his life. Great heart, wonderful personality, generous, to a fault, but beneath that outgoing playful persona and joking, it was a cover-up for regrettable guilt. Hilda is a wonderful person and she and her children did not deserve what he put them through. Having said that, it doesn’t take away the fact of our love for our long, long friendship. I loved him as a man not as an entertainer, two different people. Sorry to have taken up your time. Your newsletters are great. As far as the alcohol is concerned, at our High School  Reunion, everybody was there, and in my hotel room we talked and he sang to our First Page Beauty Dorothy Cole, until 2:30 in the morning. He did not have one drop of alcohol because of all of us and only us, he did not want us to know about his heavy drinking. We were that important to him.”

Diane: It’s sad that Faron felt like a weak person for not being able to control his alcoholism and depression. That’s a lesson I hope people get from his story—these are diseases that require professional treatment. They aren’t fix-yourself problems.

Mary Mitchell says, “Received your letter and was disappointed in the story about Faron Young and their divorce. There is a great deal of dirty laundry in many Country Stars. Faron has been gone for some time. No need to gossip now. I was never a Fan of Faron. Let’s all live our lives with happy news. I enjoy your letter with good, good news. About the Virus, it is disappointing to not believe in science. My comment to those who don’t want the shot is ‘the needle is short and the casket is long–make a choice’. I do enjoy your letter. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express my feelings.”

Frank  Chilinski says, “Loved this edition of the newsletter. Also how wonderful that Pig Robbins listened to and had nice remarks about the audiobook. The Mac Robinson notes were really interesting to me. Thanks for all you do.”

David Corne writes from the U.K., “Just to say that I finished listening to Live Fast, Love Hard and would like to thank you for recommending and writing it. I really enjoyed the book (if it is possible to enjoy a story of a very talented man seemingly hellbent on his own destruction). I thought the information you gathered about Faron showed what a great deal of research you had obviously done and to add to your excellent prose, I thought the guy reading it really helped to bring it alive the way he told it. I was always going to get round to reading the book, but never did, so once again thanks for recommending and writing what is probably one of the best books about a country singer ever written.”


Traditional honky tonk music still gets recorded now and then. Such is the recently released debut single of Zachariah Malachi, “Local Bar Opry Star.” It puts a longing in me to be out on the dance floor. Zachariah grew up near Detroit, Michigan, and was obsessed with the Hank Williams sound. He wanted to be a hillbilly singer. He learned to play rhythm guitar, and he started singing in bars before being old enough to drink. After years of performing in local area bars, he wrote a song about how that feels. Then  he moved to Nashville and somehow caught the attention of Gus Arrendale (Springer Mountain Farm Chicken), who offered to finance his first album and bring on legendary guitarist Jimmy Capps as producer. Zachariah says, “I was from the local bar and Jimmy was the Opry Star.” Studio musicians consisted of Jimmy Capps on acoustic/electric guitar, Dave Pomeroy on bass, Greg Ritchie on drums, Andy Leftwich on fiddle, Tim Atwood on piano, Charlie McCoy on vibraphone, and Chris Scruggs on steel guitar. Is it any wonder “Local Bar Opry Star” sounds as good as it does? Listen at YouTube Music. You can learn more about Zachariah Malachi on his website.


Just a reminder that Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story can now be downloaded as an audiobook from Amazon.com or Audible.com at Faron Young audiobook.

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