Friday, July 31, 2015

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 1-15

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold on birth/death date, followed by hall[s] of fame in which they are enshrined and the year enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; NS=Nashville Songwriter; SG=Southern Gospel; StG=Steel Guitar; RR=country performer also inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

August 1:

Leon Chappelear born in Tyler, Texas, 1909 (died 1962)
Howard "Howdy" Forrester of the Smoky Mountain Boys died in Nashville, Tennessee (unknown cause), 1987 (was 65)
The AFM called a strike against record companies, 1942. The strike, combined with the shortage of shellac because of World War II, severely limited the record companies' output for two years.

August 2:

Ted Harris (NS 90) born in Lakeland, Florida, 1937 (now 78)
Hank Cochran (CM 14, NS 74) born in Isola, Mississippi, 1935 (died 2010).  Cochran is one of the members of the "class of 2014" Country Music Hall of Fame inductees.
Betty Jack Davis died in Cincinnati, Ohio (car wreck), 1953 (was 21)
Joe Allison (NS 78) died in Nashville, Tennessee (illness), 2002 (was 77)
Redd Stewart (NS 70) died in Louisville, Kentucky (complications from a head injury), 2003 (was 82)
The wreckage of Jim Reeves' plane discovered, 1964. The two-day search of wooded areas in and around Nashville for the plane included many country music performers. Eddy Arnold was among those in the party that found and identified Reeves' body.

August 3:

Randy Scruggs born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1953 (now 62)
Dean Sams of Lonestar born in Garland, Texas, 1966 (now 49
Dorothy Dillard of the Anita Kerr Singers born in Springfield, Missouri, 1923 (died 2015))
Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires (CM 01) born in Gleason, Tennessee, 1924 (died 2013)
Little Roy Wiggins (StG 85) died in Sevierville, Tennessee (heart disease and diabetes complications), 1999 (was 73)

August 4:

Vicki Hackerman of Dave & Sugar born in Louisville, Kentucky, 1950 (now 65)
Louis Armstrong born in New Orleans, 1901 (died 1971). The legendary jazz trumpet player and singer recorded with Jimmie Rodgers.
Carson J. Robison (NS 71) born in Oswego, Kansas, 1890 (died 1957)
James Blackwood of the Blackwood Brothers (SG 97) born in Ackerman, Mississippi, 1919 (died 2002)
Scotty Stoneman born in Galax, Virginia, 1932 (died 1973)
Fiddlin' Doc Roberts died in Richmond, Kentucky (unknown cause), 1978 (was 81)
Kenny Price died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 1987 (was 56)

August 5:

Bobby Braddock (CM 11, NS 81) born in Lakeland, Florida, 1940 (now 75)
Terri Clark born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1968 (now 47)
Hal Durham born in McMinnville, Tennessee, 1931 (died 2009)
Vern "The Voice" Gosdin born in Woodland, Alabama, 1934 (died 2009)
Sammi Smith born in Orange, California, 1943 (died 2005)
Tim Wilson born in Columbus, Georgia, 1961 (died 2014)
Luther Perkins died in Nashville, Tennessee (injuries from a house fire), 1968 (was 40)

August 6:

Billy Robinson (StG 96) born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1931 (now 84)
Patsy and Peggy Lynn born in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, 1964 (now 51)
Lisa Stewart born in Louisville, Mississippi, 1968 (now 47)
Old Joe Clark (Manuel Clark), longtime Renfro Valley performer, born in Erwin, Tennessee, 1922 (died 1998)
Billy Bowman (StG 89) died in Columbia, South Carolina (cancer), 1989 (was 60)
Colleen Carroll Brooks died in Yukon, Oklahoma (throat cancer), 1999 (was 70). The former Ozark Mountain Jubilee singer was the mother of Garth Brooks.
Marshall Grant died in Jonesboro, Arkansas (brain aneurysm), 2011 (was 83)

August 7:

B.J. Thomas born in Hugo, Oklahoma, 1942 (now 73)
Rodney Crowell (NS 03) born in Houston, Texas, 1950 (now 65)
Raul Malo of the Mavericks born in Miami, Florida, 1965 (now 50)
Felice Bryant (CM 91, NS 72) born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1925 (died 2003)
Henry "Homer" Haynes (CM 01) died in Hammond, Indiana (heart attack), 1971 (was 51)
Billy Byrd died in Nashville, Tennessee (natural causes), 2001 (was 81)

August 8:

Mel Tillis (CM 07, NS 76) born in Tampa, Florida, 1932 (now 83)
Phil Balsley of the Statler Brothers (CM 08) born in Staunton, Virginia, 1939 (now 76)
Jamie O'Hara born in Toledo, Ohio, 1950 (now 65)
Webb Pierce (CM 01) born in West Monroe, Louisiana, 1926 (died 1991)
Dale Warren of the Sons of the Pioneers died in Branson, Missouri (heart failure), 2008 (was 83)
Chuck Seitz died in Cincinnati, Ohio (natural causes), 2012 (was 93).  In addition to serving as recording engineer at King and RCA Seitz co-wrote the classic "Before I Met You."
Hank Williams Jr. critically inured in a fall while mountain climbing on Ajax Mountain in Montana, 1975. Williams' head was split open, his face was shattered, and he lost an eye in the 500-foot fall.

August 9:

Merle Kilgore (NS 98) born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, 1934 (died 2005)
Hal Rugg (StG 89) died in Tuscon, Arizona (cancer), 2005 (was 69)

August 10:

Jerry Kennedy born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1940 (now 75)
Jonie Mosby born in Van Nuys, California, 1940 (now 75)
Gene Johnson of Diamond Rio born in Jamestown, New York, 1949 (now 66)
Delia Upchurch born in Gainesboro, Tennessee, 1891 (died 1976). Upchurch was known as "the Den Mother of Nashville Stars" because she ran a boarding house where struggling musicians and songwriters could stay and pay what they could afford.
Jimmy Martin (BG 95) born in Sneedville, Tennessee, 1927 (died 2005)
Jimmy Dean (CM 10) born in Plainview, Texas, 1928 (died 2010)
Alvin "Junior" Samples born in Buena Park, California, 1926 (died 1983)
Billy Grammer died in Benton, Illinois (long-term illness), 2011 (was 85)

August 11:

John Conlee born in Versailles, Kentucky, 1946 (now 69)
Don Helms (StG 84) died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 2008 (was 81)
Hank Williams fired from the Grand Ole Opry, 1952

August 12:

Mark Knopfler born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1949 (now 66). Knopfler, best known as guitarist and lead singer of Dire Straits, won a "Best Country Vocal Collaboration" Grammy with Chet Atkins in 1990 for the song "Poor Boy Blues."  He also recorded an album of country songs under the pseudonym the Notting Hillbillies.
Rex Griffin (NS 70) born in Gadsden, Alabama, 1912 (died 1958)
Porter Wagoner (CM 02) born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, 1927 (died 2007)
Buck Owens (CM 96, NS 96) born in Sherman, Texas, 1929 (died 2006)
Linda Parker of the WLS National Barn Dance died in Mishawaka, Indiana (peritonitis), 1935 (was 23)

August 13:

Lee Roy Abernathy (SG 97) born in Atco, Georgia, 1913 (died 1993)
Dan Fogelberg born in Peoria, Illinois, 1951 (died 2007)
Les Paul died (pneumonia), 2009 (was 94). The legendary guitarist won a Grammy for his work with Chet Atkins on the album Chester and Lester.
Vernon Dalhart recorded "The Prisoner's Song," 1924. The song would sell an estimated seven million copies as country's first million-selling song.

August 14:

Connie Smith (CM 12) born in Elkhart, Indiana, 1941 (now 74)
Charles K. Wolfe (BG 09) born in Sedalia, Missouri, 1943 (died 2006)
Johnny Duncan died in Fort Worth, Texas (heart attack), 2006 (was 67)

August 15:

Ben Eldridge of the Seldom Scene (BG 14) born in Richmond, Virginia, 1938 (now 77)
Jimmy Webb (NS 90) born in Elk City, Oklahoma, 1946 (now 69)
Rose Maddox born in Boaz, Alabama, 1925 (died 1998)
Bobby Helms born in Bloomington, Indiana, 1933 (died 1997)
Don Rich born in Olympia, Washington, 1941 (died 1974)

Lew DeWitt (CM 08) died in Waynesboro, Virginia (complications from Chron's disease), 1990 (was 52)
Will Rogers died near Port Barrow, Alaska (plane crash with Wiley Post), 1935 (was 55)

Come Along And Share the Good Times While We Can

Category:  News/Obituary

For the second time this week, country music has suffered a significant loss of one who helped make it what it was.

Lynn Anderson, the woman who took Joe South's song "Rose Garden" to the top of the country and pop charts in 1970, has died.

Anderson died Thursday (7/30) in Nashville after suffering a heart attack.

Lynn Anderson, the daughter of songwriters Liz and Casey Anderson, was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1947.  Her career began to take off in the mid-60's when she signed to Chart Records.  Her early hits included "Ride, Ride, Ride" and "If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)," along with the duet, "Mother, May I" with Liz.  During this time she helped bring country music into millions of households on a weekly basis as a member of the cast of The Lawrence Welk Show.

Moving to Columbia in early 1970, Anderson's first hit for her new label was "Stay There Till I Get There."  It was dwarfed, as was everything else in 1970, by her version of Joe South's song "Rose Garden."  It stayed at #1 for five weeks, eventually winning Anderson a Grammy and a CMA award.  "Rose Garden" was the fifth biggest hit of the entire decade according to Joel Whitburn's Billboard book on country singles.

Anderson's last charted hit was in 1983, but she continued to release albums.  Her Bluegrass Sessions was nominated for a Grammy in 2004.  Earlier this year a gospel album, Bridges, was released to positive reviews.

In addition to her work in country music, Anderson was a dedicated horse breeder.  Her equestrian work centered around hippotherapy, the therapeutic use of horses for children with emotional and developmental disabilities such as autism.

Joe South's words in the song that made him and Lynn Anderson household names ring in memory today:

So smile for awhile and let's be jolly
Love shouldn't be so melancholy
Come along and share the good times while we can 

Lynn Anderson was 67.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Listen to What the Blues Are Saying

Category:  News/Obituary 

Country music has lost another legendary session man.  The phenomenal Buddy Emmons has died.

Emmons, a Steel Guitar Hall of Famer who began work with Little Jimmy Dickens and moved on through generations of country music greats, died today(7/29).

Born in Indiana in 1937, Emmons joined the Nashville chapter of the Musicians' Union when he was 18.  His work on the steel guitar permeated many of the legendary recordings of the 1950's, starting with Little Jimmy Dickens in early 1956.  The steel he played on Ray Price's recordings has thrilled fans and influenced musicians who followed.  The haunting fills Emmons played on Price's classic "Night Life," written by Willie Nelson, still stands as one of the most admired and loved songs featuring steel guitar in country music.

Ray Price's "Night Life" with Buddy Emmons on steel

Emmons' influence didn't end on the recordings or the stage, either.  He co-founded Sho-Bud with Shot Jackson in 1956.  The company was the first to manufacture the upstart pedal steel guitar, now considered "standard" in country music.

Emmons continued to work with the likes of George Strait and Ricky Skaggs until no longer able to play full-time due to repetitive motion injuries in the early 2000's.

His legacy is long and far-reaching.  His playing was unique and influential.  There will never be another like Buddy Emmons.

He was 78.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It's Not All Parties and Drinking Anymore

Category:  Album Review

At a concert in 2013 Dale Watson joked about the subject matter of the songs on his album El Rancho Azul by saying, "Let's see, there's drinking...and then (pause) there's drinking, and then...(another pause) drinking!"  People who are expecting more drinking and dancing along the lines of the favorites "I Lie When I Drink" and "Quick Quick, Slow Slow" won't find them on Watson's sterling new album Call Me Insane, but they won't be disappointed.  Watson has moved into a new level of songwriting while maintaining the hardcore traditional country music sound that makes him popular with the people who are sick of the pop, rock, and rap being presented as "country music" today.

Dale Watson's insightful new album, Call Me Insane
Cover Courtesy of Ameripolitan/Red House Records
Watson and his knockout band, the Lone Stars, keep the music country Ameripolitan (Watson is through with the word "country" after what Nashville has done to the term; and, based on comments hurled at his friend Amber Digby by fans thinking her straight-ahead country music is something other than country, who can blame him?), while the themes are adult and frequently gut-punching powerful.  Oh, sure, there's the obligatory "fun" songs ("Heaven's Gonna Have a Honky Tonk" and the play on the Waylon song title "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Mamas, Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Babies" ["let 'em drink that Lone Star Beer"]) because country music has always had an element of fun.  Watson will happily remind you of the motto of Luckenbach, Texas in the song "Everybody's Somebody in Luckenbach, Texas." 

One of the best songs on the album is the bouncy "Bug Ya for Love," co-written with bassist Chris Crepps.  The song, with its Western swing feel, is an upbeat, innocent number about a man who promises he's going to do his best to become a single girl's steady beau.  Watson recently said at a concert that one critic misinterpreted the song, declaring it to be about stalking someone.  It's hard to take this happy song that way, however, unless someone has their mind deeply in the gutter.  Another highlight is "I'm Through Hurtin'," about a man who's finally over a failed relationship and promises that, with his new outlook ("an old leaf I'm burning, a new leaf I'm turning"), "I'll paint the town tonight, what color do you like?"

The ballads, however, make Call Me Insane one of the best albums in Watson's discography.  The title track, with its reminiscence of Waylon, is about a man who keeps going back for love even though he knows he's going to be hurt time and time again ("there's still hope in my heart, but that part is never smart 'cause it still ends the same"), pondering, "Is my destiny this insanity?"  "Crocodile Tears" shows a man who tires of the repeated false emotions his love emits.

The best thing on this album, and easily one of the best songs of 2015 thus far, is "The Burden of the Cross."  The song is deeply autobiographical, about Watson taking a nocturnal visit to the site on a Texas highway where his fiancee died in a car wreck to replace the memorial cross that was removed when the highway was widened.  "They don't understand a man's need to see his loss," Watson sings, "and the symbol that it carries: the burden of the cross."  The song will bring a lump to your throat, and you'll never look at those crosses on the side of the highway the same way again.

Watson just finished a five-week tour in support of the album on the east coast and in the Midwest.  He's scheduled to hit the west coast in September.  Don't miss him live, and don't miss this album.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Always On Our Minds

Category:  News/Obituary 

Wayne Carson, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer behind the classic "Always On My Mind," has died.

Carson died Monday (7/20) in Franklin, Tennessee after suffering with various health issues.  He had become a hospice patient in June.  

Wayne Carson Thompson (ne Head) was born in Denver, the son of professional musicians.  His list of songs included two rock classics:  "The Letter" and "Soul Deep," both by the Box Tops.  On the country side, hits he wrote or co-wrote include "She's Acting Single (I'm Drinking Doubles)" by Gary Stewart, "Slide Off Your Satin Sheets" by Johnny Paycheck, "I See the Want To In Your Eyes" by Conway Twitty, and "Somebody Like Me" by Eddy Arnold.

It was "Always On My Mind," however, that made Carson a legend.  From the stunning, heartfelt rendition by Elvis following his divorce from Priscilla to the well-known chart-topping version by Willie Nelson, "Always On My Mind" is considered by many to be among the best songs of the 20th century in any genre of popular music.  Carson took home a "Song of the Year" Grammy for the tune in 1982.

His induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame took place in 1997.

Wayne Carson, who'll be always on our minds, was 72.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

I Should Have Known Better

Category:  News/Opinion

As the Beatles once sang, "I Should Have Known Better."

Last month I wrote about Don Henley's forthcoming album, Cass County, due out in September.  I had hopes that Henley, unlike the other 22 bazillion rockers who suddenly decide they have smelled enough manure to sing like a hillbilly (to paraphrase the great quote from Hank Williams), would actually stay true to his roots:  if not country roots, then the country-rock roots that the Eagles learned from people like Gram Parsons and Poco.

Henley's first single from the album, titled "Take a Picture of This," has been released.  It starts off almost identically to his 1989 hit "The Heart of the Matter," and musically carries that theme throughout the song.  

And, of course, it's not country.  It's soft rock.

Oh, it'll pass as "country," given everything else they laughingly call "country music" today.  However, if you're expecting country music from a man who claims the album is what he was raised on, you're going to be sadly disappointed (not to mention by what he does to "When I Stop Dreaming").  This sounds nothing like the country music of the 50's and 60's that Henley (who'll turn 68 on Wednesday) would have heard growing up.  His country music would've been Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, Faron Young, Buck Owens, and Webb Pierce.  Even the 60's "Nashville sound" era that orchestrated singers such as Jim Reeves, Dottie West, Glen Campbell, and Patsy Cline would've been more "country" than this is.

No, Henley is going for the typical 2010's definition of "country music," not the country music he grew up with nor even the "country-rock" he actually sang in the 70's in the Eagles with songs such as "Saturday Night" (from Desperado), "Best of My Love" (from On the Border), or "Hollywood Waltz" (from One of These Nights).  It has the feel of the ballads from his last two solo albums (as well as a riff or 20 borrowed from things such as "Busy Being Fabulous" off the Eagles' Long Road Out of Eden album).  

Bottom line:  Henley, like all the others, is looking to make a commercial killing, not a country statement.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 16-31

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold on birth/death date, followed by hall[s] of fame in which they are enshrined and the year enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; NS=Nashville Songwriter; SG=Southern Gospel; StG=Steel Guitar; RR=country performer also inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

July 16:

Ronny Robbins born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1949 (now 66)
Harry Chapin died in East Meadow, New York (heart attack resulting in car wreck), 1981 (was 38). Chapin, a folk music icon, wrote "Cat's in the Cradle," which gave Ricky Skaggs one of his last country hits.
Jo Stafford died in Century City, California (congestive heart failure), 2008 (was 90). The pop singer also did country, including appearing on Red Ingle & Natural Seven's hit "Tem-Tay-Shun."
Kitty Wells (CM 76) died in Nashville, Tennessee (stroke), 2012 (was 92)

July 17:

Elizabeth Cook born in Wildwood, Florida, 1972 (now 43)

Woodrow Wilson "Red" Sovine born in Charleston, West Virginia, 1918 (died 1980)
Harry Choates died in Austin, Texas (head injury, possibly self-inflicted), 1951 (was 29)
Dizzy Dean died in Reno, Nevada (heart attack), 1974 (was 63). Dizzy was credited with giving Roy Acuff the nickname "King of Country Music."
Don Rich died in Bakersfield, California (motorcycle accident), 1974 (was 32)
Wynn Stewart died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 1985 (was 51)
Ozark Jubilee debuted on KWTO radio, 1954

July 18:

Ricky Skaggs born in Cordell, Kentucky, 1954 (now 61)
Mark Jones of Exile born in Harlan, Kentucky, 1954 (now 61)

Barney Alvin Kalanikau Isaacs, Jr. (StG 99) born in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1926 (died 1996)

July 19:
Sue Thompson born in Nevada, Missouri, 1926 (now 89)
Bernie Leadon of the Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers, and Run C&W born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1947 (now 68)
George Hamilton IV born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1937 (died 2014)
William "Lefty" Frizzell (CM 82, NS 72) died in Nashville, Tennessee (stroke), 1975 (was 47)
George Riddle died in Indianapolis, Indiana (throat cancer), 2014 (was 78)

July 20:

Thomas "Sleepy" LaBeef born in Smackover, Arkansas, 1935 (now 80)
T.G. Sheppard born in Humbolt, Tennessee, 1942 (now 73)
Radney Foster born in Del Rio, Texas, 1959 (now 56)
Joseph Emmett "J.E." Mainer born in Weaverville, North Carolina, 1898 (died 1971)
Cindy Walker (CM 97, NS 70) born near Mart, Texas, 1918 (died 2006)

Velma Smith born in Eppley Station, Kentucky, 1927 (died 2014)
Ralph Rinzler (BG 12) born in Passaic, New Jersey, 1934 (died 1994)

July 21:

Sara Carter of the Carter Family
 (CM 70, BG 01) born in Wise County, Virginia, 1899 (died 1979)
Eddie Hill (DJ 75) born in Delano, Tennessee, 1921 (died 1994)
Hal Rugg (StG 89) born in New York, New York, 1936 (died 2005)

July 22:

Don Henley of the Eagles born in Gilmer, Texas, 1947 (now 68). In addition to the Eagles, Henley was in a band, Shiloh, in the late 60s with Richard Bowden (later of Pinkard and Bowden) and Jim Ed Norman.
Margaret Whiting born in Detroit, Michigan, 1924 (died 2011). Although primarily a pop singer, Whiting had a series of duets with Jimmy Wakely in the 40s and 50s.
Bob Ferguson died in Jackson, Mississippi (cancer), 2001 (was 73)
Jack Lynn, son of Loretta Lynn, died in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee (drowned), 1984 (was 34)
Ralph S. Peer arrived in Bristol to make recordings for RCA, 1927

July 23:

Alison Krauss born in Decatur, Illinois, 1971 (now 44)
Johnny Darrell born in Hopewell, Alabama, 1940 (died 1997)

July 24:

Donald "Red" Blanchard of the WLS National Barn Dance born in Pittsville, Wisconsin, 1914 (died 1980)
Lawton Williams born in Troy, Tennessee, 1922 (died 2007)
Max D. Barnes (NS 92) born in Hardscratch, Iowa, 1936 (died 2004)

Freddie Tavares (StG 95) died in Anaheim, California (unknown cause), 1990 (was 77)

July 25:

Roy Acuff Jr. born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1943 (now 72)
Marty Brown born in Maceo, Kentucky, 1965 (now 50)
Walter Brennan born in Swmapscott, Massachusetts, 1894 (died 1974). The actor had a major country hit with "Old Rivers" in 1962.
Steve Goodman born in Chicago, Illinois, 1948 (died 1984)
Tommy Duncan died in San Diego, California (heart attack), 1967 (was 56)
Charlie Rich died in Hammond, Louisiana (blood clot in lung), 1995 (was 62)

July 26:

Fred Foster born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, 1931 (now 84)

Jim Foglesong (CM 04) born in Lundale, West Virginia, 1922 (died 2013)

July 27:

Bobbie Gentry born in Chickasaw, Mississippi, 1944 (now 71)

Bill Engvall born in Galveston, Texas, 1957 (now 58)
Henry "Homer" Haynes (CM 01) born in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1920 (died 1971)

July 28:

Frank Loesser died in New York, New York (lung cancer), 1969 (was 59). The legendary pop composer was the "victim" of Homer and Jethro's first major hit, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," in 1949 (which featured a young June Carter singing the female part). Although RCA officials worried about Loesser's reaction, Loesser loved the parody and only asked that the songwriter credit read, "With apologies to Frank Loesser."  Loesser later wrote the liner notes for the Homer & Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser EP.

July 29:

Martina McBride born in Sharon, Kansas, 1966 (now 49)
Pete Drake (StG 87) died in Brentwood, Tennessee (lung disease), 1988 (was 55)
Anita Carter died in Goodlettesville, Tennessee (illness), 1999 (was 66)

July 30:

Dennis Morgan (NS 04) born in Tracy, Minnesota, 1952 (now 63)
Sam Phillips (CM 01) died in Memphis, Tennessee (respiratory failure), 2003 (was 80)

July 31:

Bonnie Brown
 of the Browns (CM 15) born in Sparkman, Arkansas, 1937 (now 78).  The Browns are one of the new inductees for the "class of 2015" in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Jim Reeves (CM 67) died in Nashville, Tennessee (plane crash), 1964 (was 40)
Dean Manuel died in Nashville, Tennessee (plane crash), 1964 (was 30)

Velma Smith died in Madison, Tennessee (illness), 2014 (was 87)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sick Call: Phil Leadbetter

Category:  News 

Reigning IBMA Dobro player of the year Phil Leadbetter announced on his Facebook page that his cancer has returned.

Leadbetter, 53, has been playing Dobro in bluegrass music since the 1980's when his band New Dawn performed at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville.  Since then he has recorded several solo albums, recorded and toured as a member of J.D. Crowe & the New South, and currently performs with Dale Ann Bradley.

In 2011 Leadbetter was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.  He has been aggressively treated with chemotherapy and stem cell transplants; however, as he wrote on his Facebook page yesterday (7/10), "we've been hitting it really hard for four years now, and it seems to be getting more stubborn."  He has detailed his fight on his web site.

Leadbetter is one of only three Dobro players to ever win the IBMA "Dobro player of the year" award since the award's inception in 1990.  The other two are Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes.  Leadbetter was also the award's recipient in 2005.

Please keep this bluegrass great in your thoughts and prayers as he continues his fight against cancer.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Please Walk On Out of My Mind

Category:  News/Obituary 

Red Lane has died.

The Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame member died this evening (7/1) of cancer at approximately 7 PM central time in Nashville, according to his Facebook page.

Born in Louisiana in 1939, Red Lane was one of the great prolific songwriters in Nashville in the 60's through the 80's.  The long string of hits he wrote include John Conlee's "Miss Emily's Picture" (inspired by Lane's grandmother, Emily), "Country Girl" (co-written with and a hit by Dottie West), Conway Twitty's "Darlin', You Know I Wouldn't Lie" (co-written with Wayne Kemp, who passed away earlier this year), Eddy Arnold's "They Just Don't Make Love Like They Used To," and "New Looks From an Old Lover" by B.J. Thomas.

Two of Lane's best-known compositions were the haunting "Black Jack County Chain," recorded by Willie Nelson, about a group of inmates who beat a sadistic jailer to death with their chains, and the classic Waylon Jennings song "Walk On Out of My Mind," with its terrific chorus of, "Since you walked out of my life, out of my world, please walk on out of my mind."

Lane was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993.  He has been honored with presentations on his career at the "songwriters session" at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Red Lane was 76.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 1-15

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold on birth/death date, followed by hall[s] of fame in which they are enshrined and the year enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; DJ=Disc Jockey; NS=Nashville Songwriter; SG=Southern Gospel; STG=Steel Guitar; RR=country act inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

July 1:

John Lair born in Livingston, Kentucky, 1894 (died 1985). Lair, a one-time announcer on the WLS National Barn Dance, founded the Renfro Valley Barn Dance in 1937.
Thomas A. Dorsey (NS 79) born in Villa Rica, Georgia, 1899 (died 1993)
Alvino Ray (STG 78) born in Oakland, California, 1908 (died 2004)
Charles "Everett" Lilly (BG 02) born in Clear Creek, West Virginia, 1924 (died 2012)
Keith Whitley born in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, 1955 (died 1989)
Charles Carr died in Montgomery, Alabama (brief illness), 2013 (was 79).  As a 19-year-old college student, Carr was Hank Williams' chauffeur on the fateful trip from Alabama to Akron, Ohio New Year's Eve 1952. 

July 2:

Ken Curtis (one-time member of Sons of the Pioneers as well as Gunsmoke actor) born in Lamar, Colorado, 1916 (died 1991)
Fred Maddox of the Maddox Brothers born in Boaz, Alabama, 1919 (died 1992)
Marvin Rainwater born in Wichita, Kansas, 1925 (died 2013)
DeFord Bailey (CM 05) died in Nashville, Tennessee (kidney and heart failure), 1982 (was 82)
Elwood Goins of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers (BG 09) died in Pikeville, Kentucky (long-term illness), 2007 (was 71)
Ralph Rinzler (BG 12) died in Washington, DC (long-term illness), 1994 (was 59)
Jim Reeves' final RCA recording session, 1964

July 3:

Johnny Lee born in Texas City, Texas, 1946 (now 69)
Aaron Tippin born in Pensacola, Florida, 1958 (now 57)
Johnny Russell (NS 01) died in Nashville, Tennessee (complications of diabetes), 2001 (was 61)
Homer L. "Boots" Randolph died in Nashville, Tennessee (subdural hematoma), 2007 (was 80)

July 4:

Stephen Collins Foster (NS 10) born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, 1826 (died 1864)
Ray Pillow born in Lynchburg, Virginia, 1937 (now 78)
Charlie Monroe born in Rosine, Kentucky, 1903 (died 1975)
Marion Worth born in Birmingham, Alabama, 1930 (died 1999)
Bill Vernon (BG 04) born in New York, New York, 1937 (died 1996)
Big Al Downing died in Leicester, Massachusetts (leukemia), 2005 (was 65)

July 5:

James "Guy" Willis of the Willis Brothers born in Alex, Arkansas, 1915 (died 1981)
Mitch Jayne (BG 09) born in Hammond, Indiana, 1928 (died 2010)
The Grand Ole Opry's first show at the War Memorial Auditorium, 1939

July 6:

Jeannie Seely born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, 1940 (now 75)
Nancy Griffith born in Austin, Texas, 1953 (now 62)
Justin Trevino born in Brownsville, Texas, 1973 (now 42)
Roy Rogers (CM 80; CM 88) died in Apple Valley, California (heart failure), 1998 (was 86)

July 7:

Randy Goodrum (NS 00) born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1947 (now 68)
John "Lonzo" Sullivan born in Edmonton, Kentucky, 1917 (died 1967)
Charlie Louvin (CM 01, NS 79) born in Section, Alabama, 1927 (died 2011)
Wallace Lewis of the Lewis Family (BG 06) born in Lincolnton, Georgia, 1928 (died 2007)
Doyle Wilburn born in Hardy, Arkansas, 1930 (died 1982)
George Morgan (CM 98) died in Nashville, Tennessee (complications of heart bypass surgery), 1975 (was 50)
Bill Porter died in St. Louis, Missouri (Alzheimer's disease), 2011 (was 79)
Lois Johnson died in Nashville, Tennessee (long illness), 2014 (was 72)

July 8:

Toby Keith born in Clinton, Oklahoma, 1961 (now 54)
Louis Jordan (a jazz artist who had two country #1 hits in 1944) born in Brinkley, Arkansas, 1908 (died 1975)
Ervin Rouse died (complications from diabetes), 1981 (was 64)
Kenny Baker (BG 99) died in Gallatin, Tennessee (stroke), 2011 (was 85)
Marty Stuart married Connie Smith, 1997

July 9:

Jesse McReynolds (BG 93) born in Coeburn, Virginia, 1929 (now 86)
David Ball born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, 1953 (now 62)
Eddie Dean born in Posey, Texas, 1907 (died 1999)
Molly O'Day born in Pike County, Kentucky, 1923 (died 1987)
Jim Fogelsong (CM 04) died in Nashville, Tennessee (natural causes), 2013 (was 90)
The Country Music Association announced the largest Country Music Hall of Fame induction class ever -- a total of 12 inductees (Bill Anderson, Delmore Brothers, Everly Brothers, Don Gibson, Homer & Jethro, Waylon Jennings, Jordanaires, Don Law, Louvin Brothers, Ken Nelson, Webb Pierce, and Sam Phillips) -- to coincide with the opening of the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 2001

July 10:

Randall E. "Hawk" Shaw Wilson of BR5-49 born in Topeka, Kansas, 1960 (now 55)

July 11:

Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band born in Detroit, Michigan, 1947 (now 68)
Eddie Cline of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers (BG 09) died in Gilbert Creek, West Virginia (unknown cause), 1984 (was 77)

July 12:

Steve Young born in Newman, Georgia, 1942 (now 73)
Jimmie Driftwood died in Fayetteville, Arkansas (heart attack), 1998 (was 91)

July 13:

Louise Mandrell of the Mandrell Sisters born in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1954 (now 61)
Rhonda Vincent born in Kirksville, Missouri, 1962 (now 53)
Bradley Kincaid (NS 71) born in Level, Kentucky, 1895 (died 1989)
Tim Spencer (CM 80, NS 71) born in Webb City, Missouri, 1908 (died 1974)
Riley Puckett died in East Point, Georgia (blood poisoning), 1946 (was 62)

July 14:

Rory Michael Brook (NS 89) born in Cleveland, Ohio, 1942 (now 73)
William J. "Billy" Hill (NS 82) born in Boston, Massachusetts, 1899 (died 1940)
Woody Guthrie (NS 77) born in Okemah, Oklahoma, 1912 (died 1967)
Marijohn Wilkin (NS 75) born in Kemp, Texas, 1920 (died 2006)
Del Reeves born in Sparta, North Carolina, 1933 (died 2007)

July 15:

Johnny Seay born in Gulfport, Mississippi, 1940 (now 75)
Linda Ronstadt born in Tucson, Arizona, 1946 (now 69)
Mac McAnally (NS 07) born in Red Bay, Alabama, 1957 (now 57)
Lloyd "Cowboy" Copas born in Adams County, Ohio, 1913 (died 1963)
Hank Cochran (CM 14, NS 74) died in Nashville, Tennessee (pancreatic cancer), 2010 (was 74)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Dates of Note in Country Music, June 16-30

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold on birth/death date, followed by hall[s] of fame in which they are enshrined and the year enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; DJ=Disc Jockey; NS=Nashville Songwriter; SG=Southern Gospel; StG=Steel Guitar; RR=country act inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

June 16:

Billy "Crash" Craddock born in Greensboro, North Carolina, 1946 (now 69)
Bob Nolan  (CM 80, NS 71) died in Newport Beach, California (heart attack), 1980 (was 72)
"Orange Blossom Special" recorded by the Rouse Brothers, 1939. Ervin Rouse co-wrote the legendary fiddle tune with Chubby Wise.

June 17:

Clyde "Red" Foley (CM 67) born in Blue Lick, Kentucky, 1910 (died 1968)
Dave Akeman (Stringbean) born in Annville, Kentucky, 1916 (died 1973)
Minnie Pearl suffered a stroke that ended her career, 1991
Ground breaking ceremonies held for the new Country Music Hall of Fame, 1999. Your blogger was a member of the "All-Guitar Marching Band," fronted by Chet Atkins, that led the Hall of Fame members to the site.

June 18:

Sir Paul McCartney born in Liverpool, England, 1942 (now 73). The legendary Beatle hit the country chart in 1974 with "Sally G." He was also introduced to a Friday Night Opry audience in 1974 by Roy Acuff, where McCartney proclaimed Nashville the "music capital of the universe."
Marty Haggard born in Bakersfield, California, 1958 (now 57)

Zeke Turner born in Lynchburg, Virginia, 1923 (died 2003)
A.P. Carter married Sara Dougherty, 1915

June 19:

Glen Allred of the Florida Boys (SG 01) born in Monroe, Tennessee, 1934 (now 81)

Doug Stone born in Marietta, Georgia, 1956 (now 59)
Howard Dixon of the Dixon Brothers born in Darlington, South Carolina, 1903 (died 1951)
Lester Flatt (CM 85, BG 91, NS 07) born in Sparta, Tennessee, 1914 (died 1979)
Pat Buttram born in Addison, Alabama, 1915 (died 1994)
Bobby Helms died in Martinsville, Indiana (emphysema), 1997 (was 63)

Slim Whitman died in Orange Park, Florida (heart failure), 2013 (was 90)
Chet Flippo died in Nashville, Tennessee (illness), 2013 (was 69)

June 20:

Anne Murray (Canadian Music 93) born in Springhill, Nova Scotia, 1945 (now 70)
Evelyn Mae Cox of the Cox Family born in Springhill, Louisiana, 1959 (now 55)
Jimmie Driftwood (ne James Corbitt Morris) born in Mountain View, Arkansas, 1907 (died 1998)
T. Texas Tyler born in Mena, Arkansas, 1916 (died 1972)

Pauline "Mom" Lewis of the Lewis Family (BG 06) born in Washington, Georgia, 1920 (died 2003)
Chet Atkins (CM 73, RR 02) born in Luttrell, Tennessee, 1924 (died 2001)
Ira Louvin (CM 01, NS 79) died near Williamsburg, Missouri (car wreck), 1965 (was 41)
Benjamin "Whitey" Ford, the "Duke of Paducah" (CM 86), died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 1986 (was 85)

June 21:

Eddie Adcock (BG 96) born in Scottsville, Virginia, 1938 (now 77)
Leon Everette born in Aiken, South Carolina, 1948 (now 67)
Kathy Mattea born in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, 1959 (now 56)
Porter Howell of Little Texas born in Longview, Texas, 1964 (now 51)

Charlie Lamb born in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1921 (died 2012)
Jimmy C. Newman died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 2014 (was 86)

June 22:

Kris Kristofferson (CM 04, NS 77) born in Brownsville, Texas, 1936 (now 79)
Peter Asher born in Williesden, Middlesex, England, 1944 (now 71). The former half of the pop duo Peter and Gordon was the producer of most of Linda Ronstadt's crossover hits.
Roy Drusky born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1930 (died 2004)
Elton Britt died in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania (heart attack), 1972 (was 58)

June 23:

Dallas Wayne born in Springfield, Missouri, 1956 (now 59)

Zeb Turner born in Lynchburg, Virginia, 1915 (died 1978)
June Carter Cash born in Maces Springs, Virginia, 1929 (died 2003)

June 24:

Johnnie Bailes of the Bailes Brothers born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, 1918 (died 1989)
Foy Willing of Riders of the Purple Sage died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 1978 (was 63)
Tim Krekel died in Louisville, Kentucky (stomach cancer), 2009 (was 57)

June 25:

Jenifer Strait, daughter of George Strait, died in San Marcos, Texas (car wreck), 1986 (was 13)
Boudleaux Bryant (CM 91, NS 72) died in Knoxville, Tennessee (cancer), 1987 (was 67)
Lew DeWitt retired from the Statler Brothers because of health issues, 1982
Billboard magazine renames the "Hillbilly" music chart the "Country and Western" chart, 1949

June 26:

Gretchen Wilson born in Granite City, Illinois, 1973 (now 42)

Colonel Tom Parker born in Breda, Netherlands, 1909 (died 1997). Before Elvis, Colonel Tom managed Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, and Minnie Pearl.
Doc Williams born in Cleveland, Ohio, 1914 (died 2011)
Kenny Baker (BG 99) born in Jenkins, Kentucky, 1926 (died 2011)
Charlie Cline of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers (BG 09) born in Gilbert Creek, Virginia, 1931 (died 2004)
Vernon Presley died in Memphis, Tennessee (heart failure), 1979 (was 63)
Elvis Presley's final concert, at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, 1977

June 27:
Lorrie Morgan born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1959 (now 56)
Elton Britt born in Marshall, Arkansas, 1913 (died 1972)
Rosalie Allen born in Old Forge, Pennsylavania, 1924 (died 2003)
Little Roy Wiggins (StG 85) born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1926 (died 1999)
Joe Maphis died near Los Angeles, California (lung cancer), 1986 (was 65)
Bob Keeshan born in Lynbrook, New York, 1927 (died 2004). The Statler Brothers referenced Keeshan's best-known character in their hit "Flowers on the Wall:" "Smokin' cigarettes and watchin' Captain Kangaroo."

Susanna Clark died in Nashville, Tennessee (illness), 2012 (was 73)

June 28:

George Morgan (CM 98) born in Waverly, Tennessee, 1924 (died 1975)
Bobby Caldwell (StG 10) born in St. Louis, Missouri, 1941 (died 2009)
The WWVA Wheeling Jamboree began, 1940

June 29:

T. Tommy Cutrer (DJ 80) born in Osyka, Mississippi, 1924 (died 1998)
Frank Loesser born in New York City, 1910 (died 1969). The legendary pop songwriter was the first "victim" of a Homer & Jethro parody in 1949, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." After Homer & Jethro recorded seven more parodies of Loesser compositions for an EP (Homer & Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser), Loesser, a fan of the pair, wrote the liner notes.
Rosemary Clooney died in Beverly Hills, California (lung cancer), 2002 (was 74).  The pop singer worked on WLW with many country singers and recorded a cover of the Carl Smith hit "If Teardrops Were Pennies."

June 30:

Dwayne O'Brien of Little Texas born in Ada, Oklahoma, 1963 (now 52)
Doyle Holly born in Perkins, Oklahoma, 1936 (died 2007)
R.W. Blackwood of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet (SG 02) died in Clanton, Alabama (plane crash), 1954 (was 33)
Bill Lyles of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet (SG 02) died in Clanton, Alabama (plane crash), 1954 (was 34)
Chet Atkins (CM 73, RR 02) died in Nashville, Tennessee (brain cancer), 2001 (was 77)

Excuse Me While I Gloat

Category:  News/Opinion

Back in February Sony Nashville's CEO Gary Overton made a bold proclamation about country musicians: "If you're not on country radio, you don't exist."  He lost his job ("mutual agreement" resignation, officially) a month later after the uproar over a remark that was ostensibly designed to make commercial country radio stations feel far more important than they are.  (I say that because 99% of music [not just country music] recorded in America is never played on the radio, and yet all those artists are selling albums and concert tickets.  Robbie Fulks wrote in his "Career Day" essay in the book A Guitar and a Pen that his wife commented that musicians can have a devoted following and make a living wage "without ever gaining an ounce of celebrity."  Those who are part of that 99% are out there making music will never play a concert in the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, but they're doing just fine, thank you, with plenty of happy and loyal fans.)

And now what has happened to further rub salt in Overton's wound?  The #1 album on the Billboard country charts this week is Django and Jimmie by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.  

Neither man has been played on commercial mainstream country radio in at least 25 years, maybe longer.  So they "don't exist," but they debuted at the top spot on the country album chart.

Excuse me while I gloat.

It's short-lived, of course.  They won't get radio airplay because you can't play two country legends after Florida-Georgia Line without a lot of people realizing that one of the two of them is not country music.  But oh, does it feel good today.

Congratulations, Willie & Merle.  And thanks.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rockers Gone Country, Part 3,402,746

Category: News/Opinion 

Back in the old days rock and roll was rock and roll, and those who played it wanted NOTHING to do with that "hillbilly music" that people like George Jones, Buck Owens, and Merle Haggard were doing. Now you can't swing a drumstick without hitting a rock singer who's announced that he/she is making a "country record."


Understand something:  this isn't the world of Brenda Lee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jerry Wallace, or Conway Twitty, all of whom switched genres with varying degrees of success (Lee and Twitty ended up in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and "Little Miss Dynamite" is also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).  This also isn't Gene Pitney's duet albums with George Jones, Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, or Elvis Costello's Almost Blue album.  This seems to be people looking at Harlan Howard's legendary quote that "country music is three chords and the truth" and thinking, "'Three chords? I can do that!" 

Bret Michaels, the former lead singer of the 80's hair band Poison, has announced that he'll do a country album.  Aerosmith lead vocalist Steven Tyler is also going to do a country album.  And let's not forget "the Boss," Bruce Springsteen, who's reportedly had a country album in the can for nearly three years now.

The quote they are forgetting, however, comes from Hank Williams, who proclaimed, "You've got to have smelled an awful lot of manure before you can sing like a hillbilly."  He wasn't talking about the kind that road managers and booking agents give artists on tour, either.  

Fear not:  unlike rockers like Richard Thompson (who wrote the IBMA award-winning song "1952 Vincent Black Lightning") or Sir Paul (who had a minor country hit with "Sally G." in 1974) you aren't going to see Bret Michaels' name pop up in the "Dates of Note in Country Music."  Not even at gunpoint.

However, there is one rocker with a country album on the radar that's an exception.  At least at this point, not having heard the album, I would say he has has more legitimacy when it comes to making a country album than any of the others.  That person is Don Henley, the drummer, vocalist, songwriter, and co-founder of the Eagles.

Henley's first solo album in 15 years, Cass County (named after the county in Texas he was born and raised in), will be released later this year.  He previewed it to a group of journalists earlier this week in Nashville.

Why will I give the man who sang "Dirty Laundry," "All She Wants to Do Is Dance," and dueted with Axl Rose on "I Will Not Go Quietly" a pass while the others are only agitating me with their "hey, I'll slap a cowboy hat on my head and call myself 'country'" schtick?

Simply put, history.  Henley has proved he can sing country music.  Songs such as "The Best of My Love," "Lyin' Eyes," "Hollywood Waltz," "Saturday Night," and "Midnight Flyer" showed the country side of the Eagles.  When their second album, the concept album Desperado, came out fellow Eagle Glenn Frey referred to it as "a[n] (explicit deleted) cowboy record."  While nothing was further from the truth (seriously, "Out of Control" is only country if you're referring to the George Jones song by that title, NOT the song on the Desperado album), there were times in the mid-70's when the Eagles were doing as well on the country singles charts as they did on the rock charts.  They didn't particularly care for the term at the time, but they were considered the most successful of the "country-rock" acts that began in the late 1960's with the Byrds' landmark Sweetheart of the Rodeo album.

Henley's solo career, easily the most successful solo Eagle in terms of both commercial and critical success (I believe he's the only solo Eagle with a Grammy), left the "country rock" in the dust.  I Can't Stand Still was a rock album, start to finish.  Even his cover of "The Uncloudy Day," which he was inspired to include thanks to Willie Nelson's rendition, was reggae, not country.  The next album, Building the Perfect Beast, rocked even harder...and began to reflect the popularity of synthesizers.  

But there was a definite, undeniable country flavor to several Eagles songs in Henley's "first career."  Additionally, Henley grew up in eastern Texas, two counties away from Country Hall of Famers Tex Ritter and Jim Reeves' birthplaces in Panola County, where he was exposed to country music as a child -- real country music, not whatever Bret Michaels must think passes as "country music."  The 1969 album Shiloh, which first introduced the world to Don Henley, contained country elements (especially the hilarious "Down on the Farm," by future Pinkard & Bowden member Richard Bowden).  The Eagles formed while the various members did a stint backing Linda Ronstadt in her country era (remember, she covered Wayne Raney's "We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus [And a Lot Less Rock and Roll]" on Hand Sown...Home Grown [let's see Mr. Michaels do a Wayne Raney song!]).  He may not have made every record a country record (if he had he certainly wouldn't be the subject of this blog!), but he does have far better credentials to present than anyone else in rock and roll currently making (or threatening to make) inroads into "country music."

The question now, which won't be answered until the album is released, is how country will this be?  One of the songs on the album is a cover of the Louvin Brothers' classic "When I Stop Dreaming" with Dolly Parton singing along, and other country singers including Vince Gill will be guesting on the album.  (He also has Mick Jagger guesting on one song, so the list of guest stars won't be an accurate indication.)  The problem is that there's a vast difference in what the Eagles were doing as "country music" in the 70's and what is comically presented as "country music" today.  There's not a country music station in America that would play "Lyin' Eyes" today.  It would be dismissed it as "too country."  Is that the country music we'll get from Henley, or will he be rehashing his ballads from The End of the Innocence (the title track to which could probably work well as a country song with different instrumentation backing it) and calling it "country" like the rest of the rock singers today?

Time will tell.  Cass County is tentatively slated for release in the fall of 2015.  Henley said at the preview that the album "is who I am."  Let's hope "who he is" is Texas country, not Nashville schlock. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just a Lonely Bell Was Ringing

Category:  News/Obituary

It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the death of Jim Ed Brown.

One of the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame died today (6/11), eight days after announcing that it had been discovered that cancer had returned in his body.  He had been treated for lung cancer last year and had announced he was declared cancer-free by his oncologists.  

Jim Edward Brown was the only male sibling in a family from Arkansas.  He and older sister Maxine began singing while younger sister Bonnie was still in school.  They signed with Fabor Records and immediately scored a hit with "Lookin' Back to See," a song inspired by baby sister Norma trying to explain something.  Another talent in Fabor Robinson's stable, Jim Reeves, played rhythm guitar on the recording.

Reeves played a significant role in helping the Browns achieve major success.  When he left Robinson's Abbott label for RCA the Browns soon followed suit.

Just as their career was taking off in earnest, thanks to an Ira & Charlie Louvin song called "I Take the Chance," Jim Ed was drafted.  He spent his leave time going to Nashville for recording sessions and making personal appearances with his sisters.  When he couldn't get away from the Army artists such as Bobby Lord, Red Foley, and Billy Walker filled in for Jim Ed.

Once Jim Ed was discharged the trio reformed but found things dramatically different in the music world, thanks in no small part to a truck driver from Tupelo, Mississippi who was just starting his Army service.  Thinking their days as a music group were numbered they recorded a song in June 1959.  After that, they never worried about a music career again.

The song they recorded was "The Three Bells."

Thanks to Chet Atkins' brilliant production the song was a perfect fit for country and pop.  It hit #1 on both charts and was nominated for a Grammy award.

Jim Ed and Maxine Brown signing autographs at the
Midnite Jamboree's celebration of the 50th anniversary of
the release of "The Three Bells" in 2009.
c. 2015 K.F. Raizor
In 1967 the two sisters retired and Jim Ed began his second career as a solo singer.  His hits included "Pop a Top," "Morning," "Bottle, Bottle," and "Angel's Sunday."  He also had several hit duets with Helen Cornelius, such as "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You" and "Fools."

Brown took to TV as well, hosting Nashville On the Road and the travel show Going Our Way (where he and wife Becky toured the country in an RV).

Jim Ed Brown had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since he joined the Opry with the Browns in 1959.  On March 25 Jim Ed, Maxine, and Bonnie Brown were announced as new inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  When it was discovered that Brown's cancer was too advanced for him to survive until the official induction ceremonies in October Bill Anderson presented him with his medallion in the hospital.

There simply are not words to describe what a loss this is.  If you ever had the privilege of meeting Jim Ed Brown you knew him to be a polite, gracious gentleman who always had time for you, even if it was 2 AM after the Midnite Jamboree (which was the last time I saw him).  He said once on a WSM interview that Jim Reeves once told him that, should anything ever happen to Reeves, RCA would make Jim Ed "the next Jim Reeves" thanks to that smooth baritone similar to Gentleman Jim's.  (Thankfully, RCA didn't tout Brown's solo career that way, because those were the days when each country singer had his/her own individual style and sound.)

That wonderful song that everyone knows painfully and sadly resounds today:

Just a lonely bell was ringing in the little valley town
'Twas farewell that it was singing to our good ol' Jimmy Brown
And the little congregation prayed for guidance from above
Lead us not into temptation, may his soul find the salvation
Of Thy great eternal love.

Jim Ed Brown was 81.