Diane’s Country Music Newsletter


When Langdon Reid called me a week ago for our scheduled interview, his first question was, did we have any snow. I said we had a foot of snow, and the temperature was below zero. He told me they’d had an unexpected snowstorm in Staunton, Virginia, the previous night, and he’d spent that morning shoveling his driveway. Cousin Wil was not on the call with us because he was snowed in and still shoveling.

Langdon Reid and Wil Reid, sons of Don Reid and Harold Reid of the Statler Brothers, make up the musical duo Wilson Fairchild. The name comes from their middle names–Harold Wilson Reid II and Langdon Fairchild Reid.<!–more–>

The cousins, two years apart, grew up as brothers. “We played ball together, went to school together, went to church together, chased girls together,” Langdon says. Wil has four older sisters, and Langdon has an older brother.

“I remember seeing Dad sitting in the office, scratching out lyrics and lines, and I’d be in the other room doing my homework,” Langdon says. “I’d go out and ride my skateboard, come back in and eat dinner, and he was finishing up a song. And then a year later, that song’s number one on the radio. That was just normal.”

Langdon was fifteen and Wil seventeen when they played their first gig. A local man hired them to play for his daughter’s birthday party in his garage. “We played talent shows and anyplace that would have us.” Langdon recalls. As they matured, they were hired by the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minnesota, for the month of January 1996. “That was the coldest I’ve ever been and the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life,” Langdon says. “I was a month shy of being old enough to be in a casino. I was scared the whole time they were going to find out how old I was and kick me out.” In spite of his age, Langdon learned to play blackjack that month.

The name of their group was Grandstaff, which included bass and drums and piano. Wil and Langdon played guitar. Wanting to establish themselves in their own right as artists, they steered away from Statler Brothers music. They didn’t want to be accused of riding on their fathers’ coattails. “It took us a little bit of time to understand that who we were was not necessarily to stiff-arm their music or our legacy, but to embrace who we were and where we came from,” Langdon explains. “Now we embrace our legacy, our family heritage with the Statlers.” They changed their band name because Grandstaff never caught on; people called them names like “grandstand.” So they became Wilson Fairchild.

“Our show is loose and casual,” Langdon says. “We get ready to go into a song, and I think of a story, maybe the inspiration for the song, or a funny story about me and Wil being on the road with our dads. People appreciate that inside look of what we saw growing up. We realize no one can tell our story except ourselves.”

Wil and Langdon often traveled with their dads for fair weekends during the summer. Langdon told me one story about an opening act who had driven to the fair in an old bread truck. As soon as I heard “bread truck,” I knew what was coming. Following sound check, they were sitting on the Statlers’ bus when the opening act knocked on the bus door and was invited inside. “It was the four Statlers and me and Wil, sitting there in the bus lounge,” Langdon says. “This guy was real nervous being there in the middle of the bus with everybody. He thanked them for letting him be on the show, and he said he had a new cassette tape he would like to give them. We had no idea we were looking at Randy Travis and everything that was going to come from him. Storms of Life was arguably one of the best country albums ever.”

Wilson Fairchild, in conjunction with Gaither Music Group, has just released their own new album, a 12-track CD called Statler Made. “This is the album we wanted to make for a long time,” Langdon explains. “It really represents who we are musically. From the Statler Brothers music we grew up on, the gospel music we grew up on, and of course classic country.” The CD showcases six Statler hits, three famous hymns, and three popular classic country songs. An accompanying DVD contains an interview with Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM host Bill Cody. On the 120-minute video, Wil and Langdon do all twelve songs in live performance in the studio, visiting with Bill after each song to discuss the project, tell stories, and talk about why they chose each song. It will soon premier as a TV special on multiple networks throughout the USA and Canada. I highly recommend the DVD. I enjoyed watching the two cousins sing those familiar songs and hearing the stories they told about growing up Statler and making the album.

Another major project is the reinvigoration of Staunton’s Independence Day celebration. From 1970 to 1994, the Statler Brothers produced a free Happy Birthday U.S.A concert in their hometown as a give-back to the community. During the two-day event, the town of 25,000 grew to 100,000. When the Statlers stopped doing that after 25 years, the celebration continued but in a much weaker form. In 2017, Wil and Langdon met with the committee and offered to help put new life into the celebration, which they now call Happy Birthday America. They created a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and the event has been growing every year since 2018, with a bluegrass gospel music vesper service on the 3rd and Wilson Fairchild headlining the concert on the 4th. The Malpass Brothers, Rhonda Vincent, and Gene Watson have been special guests. The family-friendly event includes a parade with 150 entries. “It’s a big-time small-time celebration, and everything is free,” Langdon says. “Our biggest adversary every year is, of course, the rain. Welcome to July in Virginia.”

I asked if Don sings during the show. Langdon replied, “He doesn’t sing anymore at all.” When the Statler Brothers retired in 2002, Jimmy Fortune went on with a solo career, while Don, Harold, and Phil said they were done singing. Don spends his time writing books, along with occasional speaking engagements.

Statler Made is the focus right now for Wilson Fairchild. Langdon and Wil are booking a full schedule for 2024. “We feel comfortable with all the different arms and legs of the entertainment field,” Langdon says. “Of course, the music is first and foremost. But whether it’s writing or performing, entertaining, acting, video or radio or whatever, we look forward to conversations with Gaither and seeing what opportunities and possibilities may be out there for us.”

Theirs is definitely a show I want to see. If ever Wilson Fairchild gets within driving distance, I’ll be in the audience. You can learn more about the duo at https://www.wilsonfairchild.com.

Langdon Reid and Wil Reid


Cajun and country artist Jo-EL Sonnier, 77, died January 13 following a major heart attack after a performance in Llano, Texas. He was air flighted to Austin. According to concert promoter Tracy Pitcox, “He did a wonderful show at the LLANO Country Opry and received a standing ovation after performing for over an hour. He said he wasn’t feeling well after the performance and unfortunately went into cardiac arrest shortly thereafter. . .. We talked this weekend about some future projects, and he was excited about his 65th anniversary year.” A Louisiana native born in 1946, Jo-EL played his brother’s accordion at three, was on the radio by six, and recorded his first songs at eleven. During his 65-year career, he recorded 33 studio albums, appeared in six movies and seven TV shows, and performed in all 50 states and 32 countries. His hits included “No More One More Time” and “Tear Stained Letter.”

In a recent Instagram post, LeAnn Rimes, 41, shares a health update. “I think it’s an important reminder to get our annual screenings in order to catch changes taking place within the body,” she says, explaining that she had surgery to remove “high grade, abnormal, pre-cancerous cells” discovered during her annual pap smear. “I’ve always been open about my health challenges and this time around is no different,” she says, taking responsibility for being “someone who has a platform to be able to raise awareness for issues such as psoriasis, mental health and now, women’s wellness and the importance of annual screenings and early detection . . .. Early stages of cervical cancer don’t usually involve symptoms, so annual screenings and early detection can be lifesaving.”

When the list of nominees for the 2024 People’s Choice Awards was unveiled, it contained both Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce as nominees. Taylor, 34, is nominated in five categories: concert tour of the year for The Eras Tour, movie of the year for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, social celebrity of the year, female artist of the year, and pop artist of the year. Travis, a Kansas City Chiefs football player, also 34, is nominated for athlete of the year. PEOPLE reports the awards show now has 45 categories, with new ones this year for male country artist, female country artist, and male Latin artist and concert tour.

The former home of Conway Twitty, the site of his Twitty City tourist attraction in Hendersonville, Tennessee, is being scheduled for demolition. According to Taste of Country, Trinity Broadcasting Network purchased the property after his 1993 death and converted it into an entertainment complex. A tornado struck the mansion last month, further damaging the property already under threat of demolition due to age and unsuitability. TBN introduced a plan to the Hendersonville Planning Commission to knock the building down and build a new studio, as well as independent living and assisted living facilities for seniors. “It breaks our hearts, but they own the property now. There’s not much we can do to stop it,” Conway’s daughter, Joni Ryles, told Nashville’s NewsChannel 5. “We would much rather drive by and see it standing, because Dad worked so hard to build this place and make it a special place for fans to come and enjoy and for our family to live.” TBN intends to save the “Hello Darlin'” sign and wants to pay tribute to Conway’s legacy by displaying memorabilia from his career in the new studio.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee plans to propose a bill “aimed at protecting musicians and songwriters from misused artificial intelligence, with an eye at becoming the first state in the nation to adopt such protections,” according to the Tennessean. Lee made the announcement at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, before a crowd of musicians, songwriters, and music industry leaders. Artificial intelligence technologies can create “deepfakes” that digest the works of musical artists and then create similar ones, imitating their voices and composing original lyrics and melodies. The planned legislation–Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act–would add artist’s voices to the state’s Protection of Personal Rights law. Violations would be a Class A misdemeanor, and anyone with exclusive licenses could sue civilly for damages.

MusicRow reports that Carlene Carter will headline the 2024 Transatlantic Sessions Tour in eight United Kingdom cities, running February 2-11. The tour begins in Glasgow and travels through Edinburgh, Gateshead, Buxton, Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham, before wrapping up in London. Carlene, daughter of June Carter Cash and Carl Smith, began her career with The Carter Family at age 17.

Becky Hobbs reports on Facebook: “Our ‘Benefit for Alive Hospice’ songwriters in-the-round show at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, has been rescheduled to Wed. Jan 31st at 9:00PM. (Doors 8:30PM). Come out and join Benita Hill and BILLY YATES and me for a fun evening for a great cause!”

Kenny Sears has retired from the Time Jumpers. He announces on Facebook: “This next chapter of my life is one of semiretirement. I’m still doing the Opry with Jeannie Seely. Our friendship goes back some 50 years. Most of my time these days is spent with my hobby, making violins. I’ve always hoped I would have more time to spend on it before I get too old to do it. I call it sawdust therapy. I felt compelled to write you all a note just to let you know that all is well & thank you for caring. I’m entering a new chapter in my life. Now I can be a fan & cheerleader for the TJs just like you are. I’ll see you from time to time at 3rd & L. I’ll be sitting in the audience cheering on the new incarnation of the TJ.”

“Me and Kimberly are sitting here watching the barn go up in flames,” Darryl Worley posted on Instagram on January 16. “We had a lot of stuff in there. A lot of memories, and it’s all falling in now.” According to Country Rebel, the Worleys sat in their car, parked a good distance away, as it burned. His management team reported, “Their barn caught on fire this morning. They are dealing with the loss of property and more importantly the loss of lifelong memories.” All the animals escaped the fire, and Daryll says, “We will rebuild our barn and move on with God’s help.”

CBS Sports announces Reba McEntire will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The game will be broadcast on CBS (Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff). Post Malone will sing “America the Beautiful.” Andra Day will sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Cutter & Cash and The Kentucky Grass is a young bluegrass ensemble deeply rooted in West Kentucky origins. Jeannie Seely is the producer on their new music project, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” When Jeannie suggested doing a bluegrass version of the Waylon & Willie song, the band was at first hesitant. “But after we sat down and hit those first few notes, everything clicked,” one of them said. “As the country song soon became bluegrass, and our own little twist fell together, we couldn’t help but love it. What a fun song to record and play in our live shows; it has become a crowd favorite and hopefully to be a favorite of yours!”

Noah Goebel, Cash Singleton, Lily Goebel, Cutter Singleton, and Brennan Cruce

Mark Chesnutt, 60, is getting back to touring after recovering from back surgery. WBKO in Bowling Green announces he will be at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center on September 6. Until the surgery, he’d maintained an active touring schedule since 1990. His hits include “Too Cold at Home,” “Bubba Shot the Jukebox,” “Old Flames Have New Names,” and “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing.” He was one of Billboard‘s “10 Most Played Radio Artists of the 90s.”

Barbara Mandrell is re-releasing her album Precious Memories: 20 Hymns & Gospel Classics in celebration of the album’s 35th anniversary. MusicRow reports the first digital track, “Where Could I Go (But to the Lord),” has already been released, and the entire digital album will follow on March 15. “When I recorded this album in 1989, I chose a group of songs that I grew up listening to and singing,” Barbara, now 75, says. “They are songs I still cherish to this day. It’s an honor and thrill to think that 35 years later, this music will have the opportunity to touch a new generation of fans. I’m so thankful the folks at Gaither believe in this record as much today as I did back then.” It will be featured on the Gaither Music TV YouTube channel and highlighted on the Gaither Facebook page.

“There have been so many rumors and opinions thrown around about me — but I’m finally healthy and ready for the world,” former Rascal Flatts guitarist Joe Don Rooney wrote on X on New Years Day. He said his life changed that day in 2021 when he ran into a tree and almost killed himself: “I was drunk and I was so far gone with my life — I was completely out of control and finished with trying to fight the fears, depression and anxieties that had spun me out. My drinking had been an issue for many years. I am living proof that the progressive nature of drinking can ratchet up. As I grew older as an adult my drinking grew worse.” He added, “I could be in a Federal Prison for life right now. That is the reality of what my life had become.”

When Dolly Parton turned 78 years old on January 19, the Grand Ole Opry (held at the Ryman Auditorium during the month of January) honored her with a “Go Dolly” tribute during the Friday night Opry. Those scheduled to perform included Chapel Hart, The Fairfield Four, Marty Stuart, and Chris Young. From every ticket sold, $5 was donated to the Opry Trust Fund in her honor. The Opry later issued an apology for the behavior of one of the artists during the celebration: “We deeply regret and apologize for the language that was used during last night’s second Opry performance.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Elle King, 34, attempted to sing Dolly’s 2001 song, “Marry Me.” She improvised, “I don’t know the lyrics to these things in this (expletive) town/Don’t tell Dolly ’cause it’s her birthday.” She then said, “I’m not even gonna f— lie, y’all bought tickets for this s—? You ain’t getting your money back.” She added, “Hi, my name is Elle King. I’m f— hammered.” She then grabbed another instrument and said, “I can barely play another person’s song. Let me see if I can play one of mine.” Dolly was not present and has not commented.

WSMV Channel 4 in Nashville reports singer Chris Young, 38, was arrested Monday evening during a compliance check in Nashville. Agents with the Alcoholic Beverage Commission walked into Tin Roof on Demonbreun Street and saw him sitting at the bar with his ID held above his head. They checked its validity and walked away. He and his friends followed the agents next door to Dawg House, asking questions and filming them. According to the arrest affidavit acquired by the Tennessean, the agents were walking out the door when, one said, “Mr. Young put his hands out to stop me from leaving the bar and struck me on the shoulder. I pushed him to create distance since I had no idea of who Mr. Young was or what he had.” Bar patrons got between them and began yelling. As the scene turned hostile, two agents handcuffed Young, whose eyes were bloodshot and his speech slurred. He was charged with disorderly conduct, assaulting an officer, and resisting arrest. He was released in the morning on $2,500 bond. The chart-topping Murfreesboro native has been recording for 18 years and is scheduled to release an 18-track Young Love & Saturday Nights album in March.

All The Good Times: The Farewell Tour, with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, kicks off March 21 and runs through July 28, reports PennLive.com. Although the group may still do occasional shows, this will be the last of multi-city runs and long bus rides. The band formed in 1966, with original members Jeff Hanna and Jimmie Fadden still part of the group. The other members are Bob Carpenter, Jaime Hanna, Ross Holmes, and Jim Photoglo. Their big break came in 1970 with “Mr. Bojangles,” followed in 1972 with the album Will The Circle Be Unbroken · Nitty Gritty Dirt Band · Mother Maybelle Carter. I’ve already purchased tickets for their Sioux Falls show on June 27. I have never seen them live and am glad to have this opportunity to do so.

Since opening his West Nashville CabaRay Showroom in 2018, Ray Stevens has performed hundreds of weekly concerts in his 35,000-square-foot music venue and dinner theater. Now 84, Ray has announced 2024 will be his last year of regular performances, after which he will focus on recording, writing songs, and producing records in CabaRay’s recording studio. “I’ve always been in the music business, since I was 15 years old, and I’ve traveled all over the world, played shows, written, and recorded a lot of successful records,” Ray tells the Tennessean. “The reason I built the CabaRay was I was just tired of the road.” He still plans to perform occasionally after December.

According to Country Music Family, it comes as no surprise that Kane Brown found ways to help the Nashville community during the recent winter storm. His wife, Katelyn, posted on Instagram: “Kane went to the gas station this morning and he has seen people working and he is giving them rides home from work. He gave them his number and told them to call whenever they get off work and he will give them rides home. So Kane is like the Uber driver of Nashville right now.” In 2021, Kane donated $100,000 of the proceeds of his single “Worldwide Beautiful” to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He is also involved with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, Crown Royal’s Purple Bag Project, and other charitable ventures.

The newest country songwriter in the Songwriters Hall of Fame is Hillary Lindsey. The Tennessean reports she will be inducted June 13 in New York City alongside the rest of the 2024 class: Timothy Mosley (Timbaland), Dean Pitchford, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), and Donald Fagen and Walter Becker (Steely Dan). A Georgia native, Hillary attended Belmont University, and her songs have been recorded by Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Kacey Musgraves, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Tim McGraw, Gary Allan, Lady A, and many others. She co-wrote “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town, “Blue Ain’t Your Color” by Keith Urban, and “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood. She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2022.

Belmont University will take over The Grand Ole Opry on April 9 to celebrate the 50th year of its pioneering music business program. “Belmont at the Opry” will feature alumni such as Trisha Yearwood, Tyler Hubbard, and Hailey Whitters. There will be a songwriter’s round with Ashley Gorley, Hillary Lindsey, and Nicolle Galyon. Since 1973, Belmont’s music business program has graduated more than 6,000 students. MusicRow reports that audio engineering technology, songwriting, creative & entertainment industries, and film are some of the 11 undergraduate and two graduate programs.

Breaking news: I was just notified via Facebook that Leon “Wahoo” Sutton, 90, died unexpectedly on January 16 in Winter Haven, Florida. Janice Casselman Chancey says, “He was a sweet, sweet friend. He knew all the old country greats and would tell stories of traveling around the US playing his guitar with Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, The Judd’s etc.” She posted a photo of Leon and me at the book release party for Faron’s biography in 2007. I was so thrilled that Leon and his family came from Florida for the event. Leon replaced Odell Martin as lead guitarist for the Country Deputies in 1964. He was predeceased by his wife, Charlotte, and survived by two daughters and their families.


Jackie Allen Thomas writes from Sun City, Arizona, “Will be interesting to see the choices for saddest song. I always thought ‘I Still Miss Someone,’ done slow and bluesy is really sad and of course ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ There’s so many sad songs in country music. Can’t wait to see what comes up! Love your newsletter, keep them coming.”

Ed Guy in Palm Coast, Florida, says, “The most depressing or saddest song in Country Music to me has always been ‘Alone and Forsaken’ by Hank Williams. THANKS for your great reporting.”

Joseph Allen writes, “My saddest song in country music is ‘When the Yankees Came Home,’ written by Harold and Don Reid, on the Statlers album The Originals. Caused a lot of tears to emerge from my eyes, Still gets me choked up. Back around 2008, Neil Diamond recorded a duet with Natalie Maines on his Home Before Dark CD. The song is ‘Another Day That Time Forgot.’ Awesome vocals on her part, and the song lyrics are quite good. I did not know she was Lloyd’s daughter. I recommend this recording to everyone here.”

Doug Lippert in Carmel, Indiania (Greater Indianapolis), says, “Always nice to get your newsletter. Saddest Country Song, huh? I’m looking forward to seeing the other nominees, but I’ll put forth George Jones’s ‘He Stopped Loving her Today’ as my choice.”

Alice Tatathenoo says, “Just read your brilliant newsletter and I checked out the 30 most depressing country songs most of them aren’t even country songs and to put Dolly & Merle Haggard in there shows that whoever wrote the list are not even country people. So nothing too much to worry about.”  

Michael Green writes, “Thanks for a great newsletter, as always. Sorry to see the bad health news, but I’m also glad to see good news about people feeling better. A minor correction: Don’t forget that for a few years, Wiliam Lee Golden was out of the Oak Ridge Boys and Steve Sanders was in his stead. As for depressing songs, some point to his biggest one, ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ but George Jones did one called ‘Lonely Christmas Call,’ and as I recall Don Imus would play it and joke about how depressing it was. I don’t think the songs are depressing so much as that they move me (to tears), but in that category I’d put ‘Country Bumpkin,’ recorded by Cal Smith and written by Don Wayne, and ‘Silver Medals and Sweet Memories’ by the Statler Brothers, written by Don Reid. The Earl Scruggs birthday event reminds me that when the Schermerhorn Center in Nashville opened, some country stars appeared with the symphony, and Vince Gill cracked that the only thing in Nashville bigger than that hall was Earl’s living room.”

Daryl Darnell says, “There are certainly a plethora of songs that would qualify in this category, especially if you consider all the Country songs based on traditional English ballads. I submit Eddy Arnold’s 1944 record of ‘Mommy Please Stay Home With Me.’ I look forward to receiving your newsletter via the internet on Tuesdays. You are a great ambassador for Country music.”

Jim Fogle writes, “Thank you for sharing your newsletter with me. I enjoy reading about people I know or have heard of as well as learning about new people. The very first song title I thought of when I read about your reader survey of the saddest country song is ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ by Hank Williams Sr. The song is so well known it even has a +++ Wikipedia +++ page devoted to it.”

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares writes from France, “Thanks to have broken the sad news of Larry Collins’ passing. Larry has gone to meet his sweet and pretty sister Lorrie; The Collins Kids are reunited again. When the first videos in VHS/Betamax came in the late ‘70s, their stage act on the Town Hall Party blew our rockin’ socks away. Every rockin’ cat of the time was in love with Lorrie and wanted to bop like Larry. We were lucky years later to have them back on stage and to be able to meet. Lovely and talented folks that helped to make that world a better place. I will miss them until we will meet again.”

Philip Wyn Davies writes from Wales, “Sad news about Larry Collins. I met them both when they played Rockabilly festival in UK. I was invited to attend their rehearsal before the show. They were delightful n Larry had sharp dry wit. He played some amazing stuff whilst the Dutch band set up their equipment in the hotel basement. We talked about Dave Edmunds my fellow Welsh man and guitar wizard. Larry played bit of ‘Sabre Dance,’ the classical piece that Dave rocked up for his first ‘60s hit.”

Diane Jordan in Nashville says, “I’m so glad that Laura Lynch’s story interested you, too. Maybe one of your newsletter readers will have more information about her and may know the title of her book. One interview I read quoted Laura as saying they weren’t allowed to talk about why she left the group. If she’d really just quit to spend more time with her daughter, why would that necessitate a ‘gag order’?  It doesn’t make sense. Thanks for getting the word out.”

Eric Calhoun says, “Thank you, Diane Jordan, for bringing us into the insight of Laura Lynch. Now I know why the Dixie Chicks were all made famous. So sorry to hear of Kris Kristofferson. He was in a movie with Vanessa Williams, whom I also met, the same lady who was Miss America. I’m glad the Black Opry is getting some more recognition. You may be interested to know that R&B artists have long been associated, at some point, with country music. Some examples include Gerald Levert’s song, ‘I Give Anything,’ and the song by Boy Howdy, ‘She Give Anything.’ You may also remember that ‘I Swear’ and ‘I Can Love You Like That’ were both remade by the southern California group, All 4 One. And who can ever forget ‘If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right’ by Barbara Mandrell?”

My cousin Randy Gantvoort checks in to say, “Always enjoy your Newsletter, you do a very nice review…..Hope you are doing well.”

Mary Mitchell says, “There will never be another Hank Williams. As far as JR is concerned, he is nothing but a big mouth. His Dad would not be proud of him. Sorry for my opinion. Newsletter was great, always.”

David Engelhardt writes, “I got on this list many years ago after contacting you about a recording Marty Robbins did and a mic he might have been using – an obscure research project. You were kind enough to respond. My wife and I are planning a trip to Nashville in February, and I thought you might know of some off-the-beaten-path dive bars with great guitar players down there? I’ve been studying jazz guitar for the past few years and hear in Nashville everyone plays guitar so while I’m headed to Carters to buy a Tele and hoping to catch some authentic scene when I am down there – so might you have any suggestions or know someone who might?”

Diane: Music Valley is the place to go for good music. Nashville Palace and especially the Music City Bar & Grill. Not uncommon to find current or former road musicians of major country stars on the stage there. William Bagby is a regular lead player. And they’re a friendly bunch.

David responds, “I will TOTALLY LOVE seeing this guy play. Looks like Music City Bar and Grill it is – perfect! I’ll try and make sure we go when he is playing.”

Bobby Fischer writes from Nashville, “Here’s an old memory of mine you might enjoy. Years ago I’m in my office I’m fresh from the Midwest. Learned all the songs of my heroes. My secretary, Sylvia (who had a bunch of hits later), she said Eddy Arnold is on the phone for you. I thought, who’s pulling my leg? I said hi Eddy. With that melodic voice he said, I got a copy of your song but it’s a bad tape. Wow, it was him. I said I’ll hand deliver it. Got there, he said hang around it’s my birthday. I stayed all day; a highlight in my 88 years. He cut it; we went in the top of the charts. ‘What in Her World Did I Do.’  Wrote it with Don Wayne.”

June Thompson says, “Congrats on your latest book. I know it’s been a challenge to write the Randy Travis biography. I pray that sales will be outstanding. I always enjoy your book reviews. Just lately, I read Don Reid’s Piano Days that you reviewed some time ago. It was well-written and a fun, but thought provoking, read. Thanks again for your newsletter, and I hope this winter weather isn’t getting you down. Here in Alabama, it’s much colder than I like it, but hopefully summer will be here before I know it, smile.”

Michael Smith writes from Royal Oak, Michigan, “I am the 72-year-old country boy who has a 45’s alive country show every Tuesday on MC BVI Radio at 4 Eastern time. You can hear me at WWW.MCBVI-RADIO.COM. In your last newsletter when you were writing about the 2024 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, there was the reference of Tammy Wynette known as being ‘The First Lady of Country Music’ simply because she was the first female country singer to sell over one million albums. Well for what it’s worth in my humble opinion, I take issue with this because there were two other country ladies, none other than Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline, who didn’t do too bad either. I would like your opinion on this conflict that I have. I play both ladies a lot on my country show every week. I also loved the Faron Young andMarty Robbins books. Because I can’t see to read the book, will the Randy Travis book be available in audio form as well?”

Diane: Tammy didn’t get that title because of the number of records sold. It had something to do with George Jones. I think George and Tammy were called “President and First Lady of Country Music.” There was already a “King of Country Music” (Roy Acuff) and “Queen of Country Music” (Kitty Wells). Patsy Cline didn’t live long enough to get a title like that. I’m glad you enjoyed my Faron and Marty books. Yes, I’m sure my publisher will put out an audio book about the same time as the Randy Travis hardcover.

Sherwin Linton writes from Minnesota, “A great Newsletter as always. It is especially interesting to read about so many musicians and entertainers that I have had the pleasure and Honor of knowing and performing with over the years, mostly many years gone by. Thank you for continuing to share all this important country music History. Happy New Year.”

Diane: Happy New Year to you, Sherwin. Always great to hear from you.


Jason Estopinal in Hawaii contacted me last summer through the University of Illinois Press to ask if he and his partner, Benjamin Magness in California, could interview me about Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins for their podcast TheGoodNeighborGetTogether. His first note to me said, “Aloha Diane!!! I love love love your book on Marty!!!!!! Wondering if perhaps you would be willing to join us for an interview on Marty’s life?” The three of us had a great conversation, and here’s the finished product. I especially like the snippets of songs that appear as we discuss them: I hope you enjoy listening to this hour-plus of Marty stories.


Matraca Berg, born in Nashville in 1964, grew up around the music industry. She is the daughter of songwriter/session singer Icie Calloway Berg and stepdaughter of songwriter Dave Kirby. She was 18 when she had her first #1 songwriting hit “Faking Love” (T. G. Sheppard and Karen Brooks), co-written with Bobby Braddock. Her co-written “Strawberry Wine” was a #1 hit for Deana Carter. Other songs include “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today,” “Wrong Side of Memphis,” “XXX’s and OOO’s,” “You Can Feel Bad,” “Hey Cinderella,” “I’m That Kind of Girl,” and “The Last One to Know.” She also serves as session backup vocalist, producer, and recording artist. Her albums include Lying to the Moon (1990), The Speed of Grace (1993) Sunday Morning to Saturday Night (1997) and The Dreaming Fields (2011). She and Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band have been married since 1993. The youngest-ever Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member when selected in 2008, she will celebrate her sixtieth birthday next week.

John Hiatt of Indianapolis, Indiana, born in 1952, experienced a childhood of tragedy and death. Calling himself “a screwed-up Catholic fat kid,” he found escape in music (as well as alcohol and drugs), playing guitar at school dances and writing songs. He quit school at age 19 and moved to Nashville and then Los Angeles to be a songwriter. Addicted to alcohol and cocaine, he went through rehab in 1984 and got clean. He recorded R&B-tinged rock albums like Slow Turning and Perfectly Good Guitar; his songs were covered by Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, and Ronnie Milsap, among others. In 2012, he released his twenty-first solo album, Mystic Pinball. He is 71 years old and lives on a 100-acre farm outside of Nashville.

NSAI’s Songwriter of the Decade for the 1990s, Tom Shapiro began his career as a pop songwriter. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1950, he took piano lessons at age ten and started writing songs while attending college in France. He moved to Los Angeles to write pop hits and became enamored of country songwriting. He moved to Nashville in 1982, where he co-wrote songs for George Strait, Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood, Marie Osmond, and many others. Janie Fricke gave him his first #1 hit when she recorded “Your Heart’s Not in It.” His 1990s co-writing successes included Kathy Mattea’s “Walking Away a Winner,” Trisha Yearwood’s “Thinkin’ About You,” Tim McGraw’s “She Never Lets It Go to Her Heart,” and Sara Evans’ “No Place That Far.” Then came Brooks & Dunn’s “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You,” Darryl Worley’s “I Miss My Friend,” Montgomery Gentry’s “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” Keith Urban’s “You Look Good in My Shirt,” and Rascal Flatts’ “Why Wait.” He is 73 years old.

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