Faron Young and Marty Robbins newsletter — 2 November 2011

This periodic newsletter commemorates the lives of Faron Young and Marty Robbins. The University of Illinois Press is publishing Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins in February 2012.  Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story was published in 2007 and will be issued in paperback in February 2012.

Publication Update: I have mailed the corrected page proofs of Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins back to the publisher. I’m now finishing the index and will send that off this week. My sister said reading the chapter about Marty’s death made her want to reread it, in the hope the ending would change and Marty would still be alive.

Marty Robbins recorded his “Twentieth Century Drifter” in a one-song session on Wednesday evening, October 31, 1973. He wanted a unique sound, one that included banjo, “He called my house,” Haskel McCormick says, “and told me to do that session with him, so I did. Buddy Spicher played fiddle.” Bill Johnson, for the only time ever on a recording session, used fuzztone on his steel guitar. He told me, “I made it sound like a car engine on the record.” The song was released as a single and reached the number ten spot on Billboard. It was then included on his next MCA album, Good ‘N Country. Marty wrote the song “especially for all of the drivers that really don’t have really much of a chance of winning. They make just enough from one track to get to the next track. It’s kind of like in the music business. There’s a lot of singers, y’know, if they just had the right break, they could be big. But they will never get that right break, and the same goes for drivers.”

Jean Earle writes from the U.K., “…thought I would tell you about next year’s Festival….the Wembley International Festival of Country Music.  Mervyn Conn has set the date as Sunday 26 Feb 2012 and announced the artists: Reba McEntire, Little Big Town, Lonestar, Ricky Skaggs, Narvel Felts, Jo-El Sonnier, George Ducas, George Hamilton IV, Will Banister, Raymond Froggatt and John McNicholl. ….Great news about the Marty book…love the colourful cover. Well done.”

Pete Finney sends this note from the Steel Guitar Forum: “I read and really enjoyed your Faron Young bio a few years back and look forward to the upcoming Marty Robbins one. It’s really good to see you on the Forum. Ben Keith was a long-time treasured acquaintance, although I don’t claim to have known him well. Your book has him leaving Faron’s band in 1963 which is what I’ve always assumed. However there is a new John Einarson biography of Ian and Sylvia that specifically puts Ben in the band for the 1964 campaign trip Faron (and I&S) did with Lady Bird Johnson; there’s even a quote from Ben about Faron pinching Lady Bird’s ass…! Any ideas? Could he have gone back to the band for a little while after quitting?”
Response: Ben Keith told me, “I left the band because Faron didn’t work that much, and we didn’t get paid unless we worked.  I had to find something else. I started doing demos in Nashville there, and got into a session clique for awhile, and kinda stayed at home, and started producing a little bit.” I can’t answer your question about the LBJ tour. Faron hired Dicky Overbey a few weeks after Ben left, and he stayed for several years. It’s entirely possible that Ben filled in for Dicky.

Terry Counts says, “I’M SO glad to hear about Terry Duncan..he’s a great guy and I am glad to know he’s still pickin’ and grinnin’…”

Colin Alderson in Australia writes, “Great to receive your e-mail once again and like lots of other Marty fans can hardly wait to buy my copy of Twentieth Century Drifter. Will it come out in Hardback or just soft cover? On the 26th of September if people wanted to find my place in a small town of Loveday South Australia you only had to listen and you just follow the sound of Marty singing just a few of the 500+ tracks he recorded that I proudly own. Collected over 50 years of my life I am now 77 years of age and enjoy Marty just as much as I did when I first heard him. He will forever live in my heart as The greatest country singer of all time bar none. Taken too soon. Well Diane I consider myself extremely proud to have made your acquaintance be it only by e-mail.”

David Corne writes from the U.K., “I must be honest and say it’s not the cover I would have chosen for the book. I think Marty looked at his best in the mid to early 70s before he had a moustache and during the time he wore smart suits for his appearances on stage. Just a personal opinion of mine. I have posted a lot by Marty as tarquin 45 on youtube, but I can honestly say that a recent clip of Marty singing ‘Begging To You’ that someone posted (not sure if it’s from Hee Haw or Pop Goes The Country) is absolutely sensational. Marty’s voice is at his very, very best and I think this ‘live’ version tops the recorded one. Marty looks great in the clip as well and his Johnny Cash TV appearances are simply brilliant. I look forward to the book, but must say it’s an absolute mystery why no book like this on Marty has been done before. Well done.”

Noel Clarke sends this notice from Australia: “Great to read the news in your latest newsletter that the Marty Robbins story has a release date of February 2012. As you know I have a Marty Robbins website, I have added a notice about the release (http://martyrobbins2003.250x.com) & I hope you don’t mind I’ve also added a link for people to add their name to your mailing list. All Marty fans should read it, I know I look forward to it each month. ”

Les Leverett says, “Beautiful cover, and I know the inside will be great.”

Alice Mackenzie agrees: “Oh Diane the cover is so beautiful. Can’t wait for the book……”

I’m enjoying the newest Jody NIx CD, Bright Lights and Country Music. The title song is a Bill Anderson classic. My favorite on the CD is “Shoes,” followed by “The Only Thing I Want.” All the songs sound great, as usual, with that beautiful twin fiddle and steel guitar music. If only I had a dance floor and someone to dance with.

Jeff Chandler was in a band in Colorado in 1978 when–as he told me–“I got to thinking, ‘We’re so good we ought to open for Marty Robbins. We could go on the road with him.’ So I called Information, got the number for Marty Robbins Enterprises, and happened to get Bobby Sykes on the phone. He gave me a little education.” But Bobby also said he was looking for a baritone replacement so he could get off the road, He invited Jeff to come to Nashville for an audition, where Marty sang two lines of a song with Jeff and told him he would do. “I was a kid from Little Rock, Arkansas, about 23 years old, here I was getting on a Silver Eagle bus and driving down the road doing the shows,” Jeff says. He played rhythm guitar and sang harmony with Marty for more than three years. He now lives in Little Rock.

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