Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 7 August 2019


Billboard’s Country Airplay chart had a solo female artist at the top for the first time in more than a year. “Girl” by Maren Morris jumped from #4 to #1 and dropped this week to #13 . Kelsea Ballerini’s “Legends” hit #1 on February 24, 2018. Miranda Lambert shared a #1 with Jason Aldean for “Drowns the Whiskey” on August 25, 2018. This report led me to do some research. In the 240 weeks of 2015-2019, I found eight weeks where Billboard’s Country Airplay chart was topped by a woman and ten weeks where a woman was featured with a man. Let me repeat: That’s 8 of 240 weeks for women and an additional 10 appearances with men.

WKRN in Nashville reports a visit by Randy Travis and his wife, Mary, to the Metro Animal Care and Control shelter, where they learned about the meaningful work done at the shelter. During their visit, two puppies up for adoption were named “Randy” and “Travis.” The puppies have since been adopted.

For the 60th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival, on July 27, Brandi Carlile put together a one-hour show by an all-female lineup that included Sheryl Crow and Judy Collins. The surprise special guest was Dolly Parton. “I wanted Dolly because I feel like she has been the consummate and ultimate feminist, but beloved by all different kinds of people,” Brandi told CBS News. Dolly said, “I didn’t charge them any money for this one. I’m just doing this as a fun thing for me, and hopefully the audience, and for Brandi and the girls.” To keep her appearance a secret until she walked onstage, Dolly wore sunglasses and a scarf over her head as she was sneaked into a trailer with her code name, “The Eagle,” on its door.

The audio version of the new Randy Travis book, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life, is narrated by Rory Feek. Nash Country Daily reports the recording has been recognized by AudioFile with its monthly Earphones Award, given to “titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.”

Luke Combs is still holding the #1 spot on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. This One’s for You, in its 44th week at #1, just broke the record held since 1987 by Randy Travis with Always & Forever at 43 weeks. Since the list launched in 1964, only one album has surpassed that record: Shania Twain‘s Come on Over sat at #1 for 50 weeks beginning in November 1997.

A demolition crew has begun gutting the historic Atlanta recording studio where the first hit record in country music was recorded, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded “Little Log Cabin in the Lane” and “The Old Hen Cackled” for Okeh Records in 1923. A developer acquired a demolition permit from the city to tear down the brick building at 152 Nassau Street. It will be replaced by a 21-story Margaritaville-themed hotel and restaurant. As of July 29, a change.org petition to save the historic building had more than 8,000 signatures.

Lifetime has released the first trailer for the movie, Patsy & Loretta, the story of the friendship of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. The movie was filmed in Nashville and directed by Callie Khouri, who created Nashville. Megan Hilty portrays Patsy and Jessie Mueller is Loretta. Patsy & Loretta will be shown October 19 on Lifetime.

The Beverly Hillbillies mansion is for sale. Variety reports the Chartwell Estate in the Los Angeles suburb of Bel Air, California, is on the market for $195 million, a $50 million drop from last year’s asking price of $245 million. Featuring 11 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms, the 20,000-square-foot French Neoclassical limestone chateau was built by architect Sumner Spaulding in the early 1930s. The late billionaire Jerry Perenchio, a talent agent who became chairman and CEO of the Spanish TV conglomerate Univision, bought the estate in 1986 for $13.5 million and added several surrounding properties.

Racer.com reports an event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past weekend. The Sports Car Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) displayed over 300 racing machines from the past 100 years. This one caught my attention: “Among the historic cars was . . . one of the iconic and colorful NASCAR machines country music singer Marty Robbins once drove.”

Mayor David Briley designated August 5 as Dolly Parton Day in Nashville. “Today, I proudly signed a proclamation honoring one of Tennessee’s greatest education and literacy advocates — and a true legend of country music,” he wrote on Facebook.

Mrs. Pig Robbins died Friday, August 2. I haven’t been able to find an obituary. If anyone would like to send condolences, I’ll forward them to Pig or post them in my next newsletter.


Jeannie Seely writes from Nashville, “As always a great newsletter….and as always I appreciate your including me. It was a fun trip home to Pennsylvania and good to see my classmates …some I hadn’t seen since high school…and that was a long time ago. Enjoy the rest of your summer….it is going by too fast.”

Jack Blanchard says, “Thanks for the mention, Diane. I love your newsletter.”

Sue Zeune writes from Ohio, “I was watching a You Tube video today called Old Dogs with Jimmy Dean, Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings and Bobby Bare. I always watch the credits at the end and lo and behold there was Pig Robbins listed as playing piano! I thought WOW I know about him, Diane told me.”

Tom Barton writes, “As always, I love the newsletter. I particularly loved Charlie Louvin’s comments about Marty Robbins. I read the biography about the Louvin Brothers, as I had never understood their place in things. I used to hear Charlie on the Opry, and enjoyed him. I went back and listened to some of the Louvin Brothers recordings and was fascinated with their songs. But it was really nice to hear his comments about Marty, and understand better how Marty was perceived by fellow artists. I guess show business is pretty tough, and I enjoyed the comments about the promoter wanting Marty and Charlie to cut their fees, after promoting Jim Reeves and not getting much turnout. Sometimes, you just have to say it like it is… I would love to know how the promoter handled the situation. Keep up the great work.”

Bill Mack writes from Fort Worth, Texas, “It’s been awhile since I sent you a note, but that doesn’t imply I don’t enjoy your columns/newsletters more than ever. I know I’ve mentioned many times your contributions to our country music industry. Your obvious interest in those who have played such a big part in making our country music such an international success is so very important, especially to those not familiar with the legends who are no longer active because of age restrictions or death. Most of the country radio outlets today seldom program the works of such greats as Marty Robbins, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, the Louvin Brothers, Faron Young, Hank Thompson, Hank Snow, Hank Locklin … and even Hank Williams. Of course, there are so many others that fit in this list of gigantic performers. I was blessed to know all of those mentioned and more, since I began my job as a country disc jockey in the early 1950s. Most of them became close, personal friends. I never met my idol, Hank Williams, because I was too shy to approach him when he played the Tri-State Fair in Amarillo during my first year in radio. (Sometime, I’ll tell you how I finally spoke to him by phone, after waking him up in a hotel room at 4:00 a.m. It was one of the late Don Helms’s [Hank’s steel-guitar wizard] favorite stories.) You also credit the musicians such Pig Robbins, Lloyd Green, etc., who were/are responsible for making the hits possible with their awesome talent. I was the radio announcer for the late Bob Wills when he retired to Fort Worth in the 1960s. Bob once said, ‘When I hear the radio stations proclaim me as being such an important star, I often wish I could inform them that I wouldn’t be able to make a single record without my band. The musicians are the real stars.’ Then, there’s the great tribute you gave to my old friend Les Leverett, the super-talented photographer who was one of the first people to take the time to show me around Nashville when I visited the city as a new disc jockey many decades ago. I just wanted to thank you again for what you’re doing. You are so needed in our industry.”

Gene Burkhart says, “I so look forward to the newsletter it is so full of info regarding a lot of the older singers and players. I am 86 and still singing and playing some electric guitar. The old country is still and will always be the best, I guess, for folks around my age. Please keep up the good work.”

Dominique “Imperial” Anglares writes from France, “Thank you very much for that welcome newsletter. Another very interesting one. About Pig Robbins, I just want to let know to our friends about his numerous solo releases in Argo (1959 – also issued in UK on London records), Wildcat, Smash (1962), Vulcan (as Blind Hog), Chart (1968-1969) and Mr. Peacock to name a few. Very cool to know that great piano pounder is reading your newsletter. Save it!”

Jenny Jones from Texas writes, “Great newsletter…as always you cover so much interesting news…hope that Alabama will soon be doing better. The group has always had so many fans, one of them being my daughter…it has been years since I had a chance meeting in person. Happy to hear about Jeannie Seely receiving such an honor from her hometown. She and Billy Walker were very special friends. You mentioned The Oak Ridge Boys. I was lucky to work a bookstore Convention with them once in Nashville, though that was years ago. I also got to visit with BILLY at the Grand Opry backstage and had a great time with him. Thanks for letting me reminisce about the time. Am slowly recuperating from my fall, where I fractured my wrist. It has been over 11 weeks and am still in a splint and doing therapy. Thanks for listening to me. Looking forward to your next Newsletter.”

Alan Potter in the United Kingdom says, “Please tell your readers they can hear golden age of country music (‘50s – ‘90s) on my country radio show on tempo107.4 FM.”

Mike Wheeler of Wheelo Sound in Austin, Texas, writes, “My dear friend Daryl Skancke shared your newsletter with me and I would love to be added to your email list to receive it.”

Becky Buckner writes from Durham, North Carolina, “A friend just forwarded me your newsletter which featured Pig Robbins. I really enjoyed the article as well as the entire newsletter. What great information. I would love to receive your newsletter.”

Susan Barnes requests, “Please add me to your News Letter.”

Gary Trenholm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, says, “Your newsletter is wonderful. Would you be kind enough to add my email to your up and coming letters?”

Terry Beene reminds readers, “Thanks for another great newsletter. The 41st Terry Awards will be televised on the Farm and Ranch channel Roku and Amazon TV September 22 in Branson Missouri at the Baldknobbers Theatre. Show starts at 6:00 pm. Everyone welcome.”

David Markham in the United Kingdom says, “Thank you once again for a very interesting read on the PIG. I used to laugh when Bob Wills would always say when singing, first here comes the pig ha ha he was a funny dude, old Bob and Tommy Duncan were. Tommy was a fantastic country singer but he tried to sing in between laughing on a song. I thought Billy Sherill was a great country music promoter to our Tammy. She had the best vocals ever and could climb to any height. I’m sad she died so young.”

Larry Cohn writes, “I was Billy Sherrill’s ‘boss’ at CBS. Delighted to see him win the award, even after such a long time and his untimely death. At one of our Epic meetings at CBS in NYC, Glenn Sutton got bored. To liven up things, he took out his false teeth and put them on the conference table. The attendees were aghast ‘cept for me, as I had come to expect and accept…the unexpected from Glenn. Then there was the time he woke up in jail in Murfreesboro with not an iota of recollection as to how/why/when he got there. Never a dull moment with him, as I’ve said before.”

Sherwin Linton in Minneapolis says, “I continue to enjoy your newsletters. I learn a lot from them as well. I am wondering if you would like to come to the State Fair and be with us again. You could open our 2:00 pm Thursday show with about 10 minutes and accent your military experience and books. It’s always nice to see you and people do appreciate your stories and have an opportunity to see and purchase your books.”

Diane: Thanks for the invitation, Sherwin. I’ll see you at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron on August 29.


I don’t remember how I got hooked up with Ernie Ashworth for this telephone interview on February 21, 2003. I might have met him backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. Best known for his number one hit, “Talk Back Trembling Lips,” the Alabama native died in Nashville in 2009, at age 80.

I wasn’t around Faron all that much, but I was a real big fan of his. I did some shows with him. All I can say is, around Betty and me, he was one of the most polite people we’d ever met. I’ve heard around other people he cussed like a sailor, but around us he did not. He slipped up one night, and he apologized and said, “I’m so sorry.”

I had played somewhere, and he had appeared the week before. On his show he always did a thing called That Little Girl of Mine. He’d get some little girl out of the audience, and he’d hold her in his lap while he sang the song to her. He got the little girl up on stage, and she spit in his face, and he turned her across his lap and whipped her. I saw Faron after that, and I asked him [if he really did that] and he said, “Yes, I did. She spit in my face and I spanked her. It cost me $2500 but it was worth it.” I think I woulda got mad, too, and anybody else.

Basically what I remember about him is around us he was very, very nice. I’d go on the Opry with him, but we really never did socialize. Back in them days I did my part of it, too. We’d sit around Tootsies and drink a beer to two, with a bunch of other people. I wasn’t around him enough to know much about him. But I do remember how nice he was around us.

He did an early morning show on WSM. This lady who used to come to the club where I played, she would talk about how much she admired Faron Young’s singing. She might have listened to him early in the morning because he played on that 5:30 show. I came in ’51 then, I guess. I left in ’57. I remember when he had his early morning show. I was in Nashville then. No, I never got up that early [to listen to his show]. I was working in the daytime at Apco Manufacturing Company and playing music just about every night, until three o’clock in the morning. I’d run home and have to be at work at seven o’clock.

I came to the Opry March the seventh 1964. I remember seeing him at the Opry. For some reason we didn’t run in the same crowd. Although I’d see him at Tootsies. We’d have a brew or two between shows.

I heard a lot of stories about Faron Young, like the fights he got in, but I was never around him when this happened. I just remember he was courteous to us. I wish I could think of something else, but it’s been so, so many years. I wish I had more, but I know it’s going to be a good story when you get through with it. Good luck to you.


The new Randy Travis memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life, is coauthored by Ken Abraham, who has helped other celebrities tell their stories. He did a great job on Randy’s memoir, considering Randy doesn’t remember parts of his own story, due to his stroke, and had to rely on others. The book could be described as a two-part story, the Lib half and the Mary half. Lib Hatcher took Randy from a teenager headed for jail in 1975 to a country music sensation. They married in 1991, when he was 32 and she was 50; they divorced in 2010. She is mentioned as little as possible, and mostly negatively, in this memoir. Randy’s second and current wife is Mary Davis, who weathered his stroke with him and is helping him rebuild his life. Forever and Ever, Amen answers the questions I had about what happened in his life. Here’s my published review: http://internetreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/2019/07/forever-and-ever-amen.html

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