Diane’s Country Music Newsletter – 8 April 2015

I first saw The Quebe Sisters Band (kway-bee) at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., the summer of 2008. I’ve been a fan ever since. I called Hulda Quebe Stipp the other day and said I wanted my readers to know who they are. Hulda told me about three little girls in Texas who had been taking violin lessons but not seriously. She was only seven and practiced about fifteen minutes a day. Then their parents took her and big sisters Grace and Sophia to a fiddle contest in 1998, and their lives were changed.

“We were really blown away, and a whole new world opened up for us,” Hulda says. “We didn’t know you could play an instrument in that manner.” The Texas old-time fiddlers put them in touch with teachers Joey and Sherry McKenzie, and they started taking fiddle lessons. The girls were home-schooled and already spent a lot of time together. Although they began with individual lessons, they learned the fiddle at the same pace, and it was natural for them to play as a group. They soon came up with the idea they could be a band and make some money. “We never considered ourselves violin players,” Hulda told me. “We’re fiddle players from the ground up.”

In 2002, with Joey McKenzie on guitar and Sherry McKenzie as booking agent, The Quebe Sisters Band was born. Ricky Skaggs saw them perform and he invited them to Nashville. They played on the Grand Ole Opry in 2003, when Hulda was 13 and Sophia and Grace were 16 and 18. Ricky told them, “Y’all should sing,” and they answered, “We don’t sing.”

But they took his advice and started working on three-part harmony. In January 2005 they debuted their singing at the National Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering in Elko, Nevada. “An amazing response from the audience,” Hulda remembers. “We said we guess they want us to sing. We love it now.” They are grateful to Ricky Skaggs for telling them, “Just try it. Try it out.”

The band performs Western swing, vintage country and western, and traditional Texas style fiddle tunes. They are based in Fort Worth and tour nationally and internationally. “We are currently auditioning players for the band,” Hulda told me–“a lot of change, a lot of growth.” Joey and Sherry left at the end of 2013 to pursue new ventures. Joey wanted to get off the road and do more teaching. Since then, the band has included the Purple Hulls; Katy Lou and Penny Lea Clark are twin sisters who grew up farming purple hulls (a southern version of black-eyed peas). “It’s been a really fun year,” Hulda says. “We’re just wrapping up working with them.”

As for the musicians being auditioned, in addition to guitar and bass, “we keep our options open,” Hulda told me. “We’re not saying too much. We’ve been successful with the configuration that we had, but one of the fun things about music, you can shake it up and still stay true to your music.”

So far in 2015, the Quebe Sisters have been touring behind their latest album, Every Which-A-Way, with the title cut as their first single. Asleep at the Wheel recently released a third Bob Wills tribute album, Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. One of the 22 tracks is “Navajo Trail,” sung by Willie Nelson and the Quebe Sisters. They recorded it more than a year ago and are excited that it’s finally being heard. “It’s been a super busy beginning of the year,” Hulda says.

The Quebe Sisters Band can be reached through the website at
www.quebesistersband.com, through Facebook at www.facebook.com/quebesisters, and through Twitter.

Quebe sisters

At the Smithsonian Festival in Washington, D.C., in 2008

Brenda Lee announced the 2015 Country Music Hall of Fame selectees in a ceremony at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on March 25: (1) Modern Era – Oak Ridge Boys, (2) Veterans Era – Jim Ed Brown and The Browns (commemorating his solo career and the trio with sisters Maxine and Bonnie), and (3) Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 – Grady Martin, who died in 2001. His award was accepted by his son, Joshua Martin. Brenda had called everyone the night before to let them know of their selection and to ensure their presence at the ceremony.

According to James Joiner in the Daily Beast, “the marijuana world is about to get its first connoisseur brand, edging it farther from an illegal substance and closer to the realm of fine wines.” Willie Nelson is planning to launch Willie’s Reserve, his own brand of marijuana, in states where it is legal.

Merle Haggard posted this note on Facebook on 26 March: “Y’all be so kind and wish my beautiful wife Theresa a happy birthday!”


Tracy Pitcox reports on Facebook: “Curtis Potter was transferred from Brady, Texas, to Abilene early Saturday morning (3/28) with congestive heart failure and pneumonia. I am happy to report he is improving and is being treated for both, as well as a fall that left him battered and blue.”

The Department of Transportation has issued a rule regarding flying with musical instruments as carry-on baggage or checked baggage on commercial passenger flights. Musicians must now be allowed to carry on instruments that fit in overhead bins–if they board before the bins are full. For large instruments, they can purchase a second seat. Here’s a link that explains the new rules: http://www.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/Musical%20instruments%20tip%20sheet.pdf

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop website posted this Important Announcement on March 28: “The Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree is cancelled until further notice. (We hope to return in May or June 2015.)” The Important Announcement now says, “The Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree will resume on June 6.” David McCormick, owner of the ET record shops, suspended the free show due to financial difficulties. According to SavingCountryMusic.com, the owners of the Music Valley Drive property that houses the Texas Troubadour Theatre and Ernest Tubb Record Shop #2, have given the theatre free rent for the last year to help keep the radio show going. But radio station WSM-AM apparently will no longer broadcast the show until delinquent fees are paid. Ernest Tubb started The Midnite Jamboree in 1947, allowing Saturday night Grand Ole Opry patrons to walk across Lower Broadway to his record shop for more music from the Opry stars. Record sales then covered the costs of the show. Glenn Douglas Tubb, songwriter and nephew of Ernest Tubb, has started a Midnite Jamboree Association in the hope of paying the weekly costs for keeping the show on the air. Memberships are available for a donation of $75, with affiliate memberships costing $10. The official website is www.midnitejamboreeassociation.com.

Garth Brooks planned to play two shows in Omaha, Nebraska, on his World Tour, but the demand was so great he added four more during the period May 7-10. The 92,000 tickets broke Nebraska’s previous ticket sales record, which was 66,661 tickets at Garth’s 1997 concerts in Lincoln.

Kenny Rogers will be performing his Farewell South Africa Tour in Johannesburg and Cape Town on June 15-18, 2015.

Sara Evans, “feeling frustrated,” posted on Facebook about watching The Last Man On Earth on TV with her teenage children: “I was thoroughly DISGUSTED at how DISGUSTING it was/is.” She asked Fox TV how parents were expected to teach their children to be respectable adults when faced with such images on television. I completely agree with her statement here: “It takes more wit to write comedy without stupid and gross sexual references.”

Fortune Magazine has chosen, for the second year, what it considers to be the world’s greatest leaders. “These extraordinary men and women are transforming business, government, philanthropy, and so much more,” the magazine says. “We cast a wide net in assembling our list, which includes leaders without any formal designation. . . . We set out to find singular leaders with vision who moved others to act as well, and who brought their followers with them on a shared quest. We looked for effectiveness and commitment and for the courage to pioneer.” Taylor Swift is number six on the list. She “didn’t become the highest-paid woman in the music business by accident,” the magazine says. “She has proved shrewder at honing a brand in the social media age than virtually any other person or company. And she’s done it without resorting to dumbed-down salacious gimmickry.”

Here We Go Again! is the new comedy album of Ray Stevens, 76. The first release is “Taylor Swift is Stalkin’ Me,” which includes the titles of many of her songs, and the lament, “I see her everywhere.” The idea came from one of his co-writers. Ray told the Tennessean it seemed so ludicrous it could be funny–and, “sure enough, it turned out really well.” Another cut is “There Must Be a Pill for This,” inspired by Cialis commercials.

One of the performers at the Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle rally in August this year will be Tanya Tucker, on tour for the first time in four years. “I am so excited about the upcoming tour,” she tells Country Weekly. “Being in front of a live crowd is something I feed off of. I’ve missed the fans a lot.” Her current exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tanya Tucker: Strong Enough to Bend, runs for one more month.

Hailey Westrich, Press and Publicity Coordinator for the Branson Terry Music Awards, issues this notice:
Since 1983, the Terry Music Awards has been providing recognition to many wonderful entertainers within the music industry. Terry Beene, a former disc jockey in the Fort Worth Area, created the Terry Music Awards. The show was a success for more than 30 years in the Texas area. Last year marked the 31st annual Terry Music Awards and a big change came into view. The show would be moved to Branson, Missouri, to showcase entertainers within the beautiful city of Branson. The show would also change its name to The Branson Terry Music Awards. 2014 proved to be another success for the awards show and now the staff is getting ready for the 2015 Branson Terry Music Awards, which will take place on October 11 at the renowned Starlite Theatre. The show will begin at 7 pm with special 2014 award winner appearances before the show in the main lobby. There will be 26 awards given in categories such as: Entertainer of the Year, Show of the Year, Band of the Year, and many more. Two college scholarships will be given to students whose parents work within the Branson theatre industry. The Branson Terry Music Award’s goal is to not only recognize the talented entertainers in Branson, but to also give back to the community in any way that they can. For tickets, call the Starlite Theatre’s Box office at 417-337-9333 or All Access Branson at 866-810-3477. (hailey.bransonterryawards@gmail.com)

Michael McCall, of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, sends this correction: “This year’s rotating category is for musician, which will be clear tomorrow. Hank Cochran was inducted last year in the songwriter category. Enjoy your newsletter immensely. I know you’re a stickler for getting facts right so I thought I’d let you know. Come see us!”

Jean Earle sends this correction from England: “Thank you for your recent, most interesting newsletter. I pass it onto many friends who also enjoy reading all your news. One friend, Tom Baker, has mentioned that on Amazon at the moment there is a book about Roger Miller. You seemed to be unaware that there was one in print. I understand it is written by Don Cusic. Might be worth looking up?”
Diane: Thanks for reminding me of Don Cusic’s book, Roger Miller: Dang Him!: A Biography. It was published in November 2012.

Jean also says, “I remember Faron telling us some funny tales about being on the road with Roger Miller. Apparently Roger was composing a song while on their tour bus and kept waking Faron up to listen to the words. Not appreciated in the midnight hours! I seem to remember it was ‘England Swings.’ ”
Diane: The song was “In the Summertime,” recorded by Roger as “You Don’t Want My Love.” This was one of Faron’s favorite stories, and here’s a version he told on Ralph Emery’s radio show: “He woke me up, oh about three o’clock in the mornin’, I was about half snookered. And he was singin’ me this crazy song, and I said, ‘Roger, if you wake me up again, I’m gonna kick you off this bus.’ We were out in the middle of Kansas somewhere. And he come back and woke me up again, says, ‘Sheriff, listen to this,’ and sang me some more of it. The most horrible song I’d ever heard in my life, at three o’clock in the mornin’ with a hangover. And he brought it back in, and he gave it to Andy Williams. In the summertime, when all the leaves and trees are green, and the redbird sings, I’ll be blue, can you imagine how that sounded at three o’clock in the morning with a hangover?”

And a third note from Jean Earle: This week I went to our local library and found a book that I am finding very interesting– Mr. Music Man: The Life and Times of a Music Promoter by Mervyn Conn. When I reached pages 31 and 32, I came across something that rather amazed me: ‘Tommy Steele was a cockney lad called the first teen idol. People called him the English Elvis. it was recently accidentally revealed on the radio by the theatre impresario Bill Kenwright that Elvis once made a secret visit to England to meet up with Tommy, who showed him the sights of London. It was the only time Elvis ever set foot in the U.K. Tommy has kept the secret for 50 or more years, until Bill let it slip.’ So what do you think….did Elvis ever reach our shores? It is quite amazing that over here in G.B., it is still believed that Elvis NEVER came to England. I wonder why Tommy Steele wanted to keep it such a secret.”
Diane: In 2008 the British newspapers talked about an interview in which a friend of “England’s own rock and roll star Tommy Steele” revealed that Elvis, 23, had called Steele, 21, and said he wanted to meet. When asked to confirm the story, Steele—then 71—said, “It was an event shared by two young men sharing the same love of their music and the same thrill of achieving something unimaginable. I swore never to divulge publicly what took place and I regret that it has found some way of getting into the light.” There is apparently still controversy about whether the visit actually happened.

Bill White requests, “Please add me to your list. I enjoy it.”

My brother Keith tells me, “Jodi Weber wants to get your newsletter.”

Ross, PROUD father of an American Soldier, says, “Since the last time I contacted you, my computer blew. The withdrawal symptoms of not being able to read your weekly posts has been horrible to handle. Seeing all the greats who have since gone to the Land Beyond… I would say GOD needed a little entertainment, too, and He likes Country Music. I was hoping you hadn’t discontinued me after 3 weeks unable to read. I have a question which I’m sure you’ll not be able to recall firsthand, but perhaps you know a few folks older’n me who could supply the answer. Muriel Deaton (aka Kitty Wells) was one of a ‘sisters act’ — The Deaton Sisters. After she met Johnnie Wright (in early days he spelt thusly), does anyone in the music industry know what the ‘other Deaton Sister’ went on to do? Did she continue entertaining? Or… Retire and have a family? Thanks for any effort in trying, if you cannot locate the info.”
Diane: They were the Deason Sisters, there were four in the group, and I hope someone can help you.

Priscilla McPheeters says, “LOVE THIS ONE, Diane!! Especially the Brad and Kimberly piece. Can’t relate to the Taylor Swift piece. Never have seen my legs as my strengths. ;-)”

Larry Delaney requests, “Could you please add my address to your Newsletter service.”

A reader named Terry wonders, “Have you considered doing a book on Ferlin Husky?”
Diane: No, I want a subject with a large enough audience that book sales might cover my writing expenses. Although Ferlin’s story should be told, not enough people will buy the book.

Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES writes from France, “Thank you very much for that new issue of your Country Music Newsletter and for the print of Carolyn’s letter about Jewell House. We are giving full support to her sons to file more information and pictures about their Mother. It is hard to give her full credit for songwriting ’cause she has sold many of her songs like used to do Bill Nettles, Country Johnny Mathis or Tommy Blake to name a few. Texarkana, Arkansas, hosted many country stage show but never gave full support to music in the local newspapers. We had almost nothing about the locals like Jewell or Pat Cupp, no advert or report for shows featuring Red Sovine, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins or George Jones. Musical researcher work is endless but … you know that.”

Linda Elliott Clark says, “Thanks for the updates. I haven’t seen Mel Tillis in a long time. Remember going to his shows in the DC area in the late ‘60s. He was always so good and his band was great. Remember going to the old Ryman Auditorium in the ‘50s in the heat of the summer with no air conditioning. But as a kid you didn’t even think about the heat. It was all just fun.”

Jon Philibert sends this request from the United Kingdom: “Would it be possible to add my friend Dave McAleer to your newsletter subscriber’s list. He is a music industry veteran and though he is noted for his achievements in r&b and soul he is a huge country fan. I really enjoy the newsletter.”

Mike Johnson of Roughshod Records says, “Roger Miller was my songwriting idol. I was in high school when ‘King of the Road’ hit the airwaves and it struck a chord with me. I bought every Roger Miller album I could find and he was the foundation of my songwriting. I started recording in Nashville in 1981, first at Jim Maxwell’s Globe Recording Studio on Dickerson Road, and thereafter at Jim Stanton’s Champ Recording Studio [Nashville] from 1983 until Jim’s untimely death in 1989. Stanton was the founder of Rich-R-Tone Records and taught me how the Nashville clique worked. He also urged me to start my own label, and thus Roughshod Records was born in June 1987. Life is full of ups and downs and throughout my life [69 yrs] and always Miller seemed to have a song that addressed those occasions, good and bad.”

Maheen Wickramasinghe reports, “I have many Facebook groups now dedicated to country music. My Jimmie Davis Facebook group is called Governor Jimmie Davis fan club. I would love to have more new members who enjoy this great singer.”

Dave Barton in Nashville says, “Roger Miller was one of the most talented artists to ever come to Nashville. He, like a lot of other songwriters, hung out at Tootsie’s back in the ‘60s. One time Roger told me he took a button off his shirt and stayed up for three days, that’s how funny he really was.”

Carolyn Babin writes, “I did not know Richard Bass, but always sad to hear another ‘great’ has passed away. At 84 I try and be thankful for the days I have left to cherish and love my family, all my friends like you, Diane, and also my precious animals. I am blessed to still be healthy & swinging. Wanted Andy Williford to know I had a question for him, but my husband answered my question. I was wondering if it was Couch Henderson that was a witness as I was to Faron’s brother Oscar’s death. No, I learned it was the earlier Couch Wilson. Henderson more than likely was on the bus carrying the football players that night. The car I was in with other kids from Fair Park High School had just passed the old rumble-seated car Oscar was in driven by a boy named ‘Bitsy’ Leach. Oscar was in that rumble seat, but climbing on to the running Board to get a cigarette from someone in the car. I forget who the other kids were. We passed them then and the bus at the same time ’cause Bill McBride who was driving the car I was in said those crazy guys are gonna get us killed! We then traveled on until we were close to Fair Park School for one of the girls who dated a boy on that bus. After maybe 30 minutes, we all decided to go back and maybe see if something had happened ’cause they were late. There we all witnessed Couch Wilson sitting with Oscar’s head in his lap sort of in the middle of Highway 80. Oscar died at the scene as far as I know…it was awful. I did not even know Faron at that time. I think it must have been when I was a Senior at Byrd High there in Shreveport and that was ’46. I believe Dorothy Young told you that Oscar died later at hospital? I do not recall Faron talking about his brother at all…his Mom did, however. My husband went to school with Andy and Faron…. also Oscar Young. I did not meet Faron until ’51, I think. It was about my first week working at the C&W radio station KCIJ.”
Diane: Ah, Carolyn, I wish I’d found you while I was writing Faron’s biography. I could have told a more complete story about Oscar’s death.

PJ Steelman writes, “I truly appreciate your newsletter. While I have a lot of Nashville friends, you still give me information I get from nowhere else…on friends I care about. Again, thank you for all the great work you do. Also looking forward to your next book!”

Geoff Lambert in England suggests Roger Miller’s recording of Bobby Russell’s “Little Green Apples” as song of the week, and he offers this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDv5ScIuw48 . Geoff says, “I was told the only musicians on this recording, which was done around three in the morning, were Roger on guitar and Bob Moore on bass.” The song has been recorded by more than fifty artists. Faron Young recorded “Little Green Apples” on his 1969 Wine Me Up album, and he once introduced it on Ralph Emery’s radio show by saying, “This particular tune I’m fixin’ to sing is I think one of the great, great classics of song. This is where you tell your wife how much you love her and how much she means to you. Cuz when you wake up in the morning, she smiles and says good morning.”

Since there are so many worthy candidates for the Country Music Hall of Fame, should the number of annual inductees be increased to at least four, or would that delete the prestige of being selected?

With the selection of the Browns into the Country Music Hall of Fame, now is a good time to bring forth Maxine Brown’s 2005 memoir, Looking Back To See: A Country Music Memoir. I bought the book when it came out, because the index carried several mentions of Faron Young, and I was working on his biography. The title is appropriate; Maxine delivers quite a bit of country music history, along with her life story and that of brother J.E. and sister Bonnie. What struck me the most was the tough time they had while touring in the 1950s, often being penniless. There’s quite a bit about Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, and other touring partners. The index, glossary of names, and selection of photos all add to the historical value of this memoir.

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