Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, January 1-15

Category: News

January 1:

Hank Williams died (cardiac arrest), 1953 (was 29)
Moon Mullican died (heart attack), 1967 (was 57)
Townes Van Zandt died (heart attack), 1997 (was 52)
Del Reeves died (emphysema), 2007 (was 73)

January 2:

Harold Bradley born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1926 (now 82)
Dick Feller born in Bronaugh, Missouri, 1943 (now 65)
Roger Miller born in Fort Worth, Texas, 1936 (died 1992)
Red Smiley died (complications from diabetes), 1972 (was 46)
Tex Ritter died (heart attack), 1974 (was 68)
Wayne Walker died (unknown causes), 1979 (was 53)

January 3:

Nikki Nelson of Highway 101 born in San Diego, California, 1969 (now 39)
Leon McAuliffe born in Houston, Texas, 1917 (died 1988)
Felton Jarvis died (stroke), 1981 (was 46)
Quanah Talmadge Tubb (better known as Billy Talmadge Tubb) died (unknown causes), 2007 (was 81)
Grandpa Jones suffered stroke after performing on the Grand Ole Opry, 1998

January 4:

Lorene Mann born in Huntland, Tennessee, 1937 (now 71)
Mike Henderson born in Independence, Missouri, 1955 (now 53)
Kathy Forester of the Forester Sisters born in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1955 (now 52)
Patty Loveless born in Pikeville, Kentucky, 1957 (now 51)
Deana Carter born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1966 (now 42)
Clayton McMichen died (unknown causes), 1970 (was 69)
Jake Hess died (complications of heart attack), 2004 (was 76)
First barn dance program in America airs on WBAP, Fort Worth, Texas, 1923

January 5:

Big Bill Lister born in Kenedy, Texas, 1923 (now 85)
Steve Ripley of the Tractors born in Boise, Idaho, 1950 (now 58)
Iris DeMent born in Paragould, Arkansas, 1961 (now 47)
Sam Phillips (Sun Records owner) born in Florence, Alabama, 1923 (died 2003)
Tug McGraw, former baseball pitcher and father of Tim McGraw, died (brain cancer), 2004 (was 59)

January 6:

Earl Scruggs born in Flint Hill, North Carolina, 1924 (now 84)
Bobby Lord born in Sanford, Florida, 1934 (now 74)
Joey Miskulin ("Joey the Cow Polka King") of Riders in the Sky born in Chicago, Illinois, 1949 (now 59)
Jett Williams born in Montgomery, Alabama, 1953 (now 55)
Autry Inman born in Florence, Alabama, 1929 (died 1988)
Chubby Wise died (heart attack), 1996 (was 80)
Bobby Austin died (illness), 2002 (was 68)
Sneaky Pete Kleinkow died (complications of Alzheimer's disease), 2007 (was 72)

January 7:

Jack Greene born in Maryville, Tennessee, 1930 (now 78)
Leona Williams born in Vienna, Missouri, 1943 (now 65)
Marshall Chapman born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1949 (now 59)
David Lee Murphy born in Herrin, Illinois, 1959 (now 49)
Bunny Biggs (Jamup of Jamup and Honey) born, 1897 (died 1948)
Owen Bradley died (heart ailment/complications of flu), 1998 (was 82)

January 8:

Christy Lane born in Peoria, Illinois, 1940 (now 68)
Holly Tashian born in New York, New York, 1946 (now 62)
Hoke Rice of the Rise Brothers born in Gainesville, Georgia, 1909 (died 1974)
Luther Perkins born in Memphis, Tennessee, 1928 (died 1968)
Elvis Presley born in Tupelo, Mississippi, 1935 (died 1977)
Sara Carter died (natural causes), 1979 (was 79)
Maxwell Emmett "Pat" Buttram, sidekick to Gene Autry, died (kidney failure), 1994 (was 78)
Elvis Presley postage stamp (29c) issued by the U.S. Postal Service, 1993. The stamp is the Postal Service's best-selling commemorative stamp of all-time, with sales of over 517,000,000.
Billboard publishes first "Hillbilly Records" chart, 1944. The first #1 song was "Pistol Packin' Mama" -- the Bing Crosby & Andrews Sisters version. Al Dexter's original would be the second #1 song in Billboard chart history.

January 9:

Little Jimmy Boyd born in McComb, Mississippi, 1940 (now 68)
Roy Head born in Three Rivers, Texas, 1943 (now 65)
Crystal Gayle born in Paintsville, Kentucky, 1951 (now 57)
Jimmy Day born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1934 (died 1999)
Big Al Downing born in Lenapah, Oklahoma, 1940 (died 2005)
Richard Nixon born in Yorba Linda, California, 1913 (died 1994). Nixon was the first sitting U.S. president to attend the Grand Ole Opry (1974).

January 10:

Curly Ray Cline born in Braisden, West Virginia, 1923 (now 85)
Zeb Turner died (cancer), 1978 (was 62)
Loretta Webb married Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, 1948

January 11:

Naomi Judd born in Ashland, Kentucky, 1946 (now 62)
Robert Earl Keen born in Houston, Texas, 1956 (now 52)
Tommy Duncan born in Hillsboro, Texas, 1911 (died 1967)
Goldie Hill Smith born in Kanes County, Texas, 1933 (died 2005)
Max D. Barnes died (pneumonia), 2004 (was 67)
Stonewall Jackson filed $10 million age discrimination lawsuit against the Grand Ole Opry, 2007

January 12:

Ray Price born in Perryville, Texas, 1926 (now 82)
William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys born in Brewton, Alabama, 1939 (now 69)
Ricky Van Shelton born in Danville, Virginia, 1952 (now 55)
LaWanda Lindsey born in Tampa, Florida, 1953 (now 55)
Claudia Church Crowell born in Lenoir, North Carolina, 1962 (now 46)
Tex Ritter born in Panola County, Texas, 1905 (died 1974)
Paul Warren died (illness), 1978 (was 59)
The film O Brother, Where Art Thou opened nationwide, 2001. The soundtrack won three Grammy awards: Album of the Year, Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (Dan Tyminski, "Man of Constant Sorrow"), and Best Male Country Vocal Performance (Dr. Ralph Stanley, "O Death"). It also sold over five million copies and sparked a resurgence in the popularity of bluegrass music.

January 13:

Trace Adkins born in Springhill, Louisiana, 1962 (now 46)
Jenny Lou Carson born in Decatur, Illinois, 1915 (died 1978)
Doyle Holly died (prostate cancer), 2007 (was 70)

January 14:

Billie Jo Spears born in Beaumont, Texas, 1937 (now 71)
J. Henry "T-Bone" Burnett born in St. Louis Missouri, 1948 (now 60)

January 15:

David Lynn Jones born in Bexar, Arkansas, 1950 (now 58)
Kurt Howell of Southern Pacific born in Winter Haven, Florida, 1958 (now 50)
Jack Guthrie died (tuberculosis), 1948 (was 32)
Vic Willis died (car wreck), 1995 (was 72)
Billy Walker born in Ralls, Texas, 1929 (died 2006)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Country Music's Final Stanzas of 2007

Category: News

Here is a list of the people in country music who performed their final song in 2007:

Del Reeves (January 1, emphysema, 73). Eddie Stubbs said of Del, "Give him a microphone, a 60-watt bulb for lighting, and an audience, and he would entertain." Reeves had a string of hits including "Good Time Charlie's," "Girl on the Billboard," and "The Belles of Southern Bell." He was also an underrated songwriter: one listen to "I'll Have Made It to the Bridge," on Charlie Louvin's 1964 solo debut album Less and Less and I Don't Love You Anymore, proves that.

Sneaky Pete Kleinkow (January 6, complications of Alzhemier's disease, 72). Kleinkow performed with the Flying Burrito Brothers and a number of other rock acts on pedal steel. Easily the best (one of the few) pedal steel guitarists in rock and roll, he was good enough to stand with the best in country as well.

Doyle Holly (January 13, prostate cancer, 70). Holly was bassist for Buck Owens' Buckaroos in the 60s. He had his own limited solo career in the 70s, including his recording of the Kristofferson/Silverstein song "Queen of the Silver Dollar," which was produced by and featured backing vocals by Waylon Jennings.

Jerry Hayes (January 21, unknown causes, 61). Country songwriter who penned Charlie Rich's "Rolling with the Flow" and "Charly McClain's (and later, Alan Jackson's) Who's Cheatin' Who."

Tom Morrell (January 29, emphysema, 68). A member of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys.

Frankie Laine (February 6, complications from hip replacement surgery, 93). Laine's career may be considered primarily pop, but he recorded songs such as "Rawhide," "Mule Train," "High Noon," and the theme to Blazing Saddles.

C's Record Store, Louisville, Kentucky (February 17, demise of interest in vinyl, 25). The last true record store in Louisville closed its doors for the last time. The owner, Clarence Lidster, is one of the great historians of country music -- or any music.

Henson Cargill (March 24, complications from surgery, 66). Cargill had ten top 40 country hits, but it is the 1967 crossover "Skip a Rope" for which he is best remembered.

Glenn Sutton (April 17, heart attack, 70). The former husband of Lynn Anderson, he produced many of her hits including "Rose Garden." He also wrote a number of hits including "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" and "Almost Persuaded."

Boots Randolph (July 3, subdural hematoma, 80). A member of country music's "A List" of session musicians and the performer of "Yakety Sax." Boots, according to Chet Atkins, also "knew just enough on guitar to be bad," so he did the guitar solos in Don Bowman's hit "Chit Akins, Make Me a Star."

Lawton Williams (July 26, respiratory illness, 85). "Fraulein" by Bobby Helms, "Blue Grass Skit" by Hank Locklin, George Jones' "Color of the Blues," and Gene Watson's "Farewell Party" are but a few of the songs this great songwriter penned in his career.

Larry Fuller (September 22, fire on tour bus, 55). Bluegrass performer, known as "Pike County's own living bluegrass legend."

Porter Wagoner (October 28, lung cancer, 80). Country Music Hall of Fame performer, showman, ambassador for the Grand Ole Opry, former official "Ambassador for Opryland Theme Park," songwriter, "king of southern gospel," and one of the most recognizable names by people outside of country music.

Hank Thompson (November 6, lung cancer, 82). Western swing/country performer who had a seven-decade career that eventually took him to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

John Hughy (November 18, heart attack, age unknown). A country steel guitarist who spent many years playing for Conway Twitty.

Jim Nesbitt (November 29, heart ailment, 75). Country novelty singer, best known for his song "Please Mr. Kennedy."

My Mother (December 9, complications from brain aneurysm, 75). The greatest mother in the world. She had no rhythm but a love of music from Elvis and the Platters to Jim Reeves and Marty Robbins. That eclectic taste contributed to my varied record collection.

Dan Fogelberg (December 16, prostate cancer, 56). Folk-rock singer with a string of pop hits and a critically-acclaimed bluegrass album (High Country Snows) in the mid-80s.

A list of all music memorials for 2007 (including those listed here) can be found at my music/entertainment blog.

Farewell, and thanks for the music.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Vital, Necessary, and Rewarding Work

Category: Book Review

Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City
Craig Havighurst
2007: University of Illinois Press
Available through

In May 2007, Craig Havighurst addressed the lunchtime crowd at the International Country Music Conference regarding his forthcoming book on radio station WSM. He told the audience he was surprised to discover that no comprehensive history of the legendary radio station had ever been published.

Havighurst has solved that problem, and remarkably. His "biography" on WSM, Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City is a vital and necessary look at the home of the Grand Ole Opry. The histories of WSM, the Grand Ole Opry, and indeed radio, television, and country music's rise to prominence as a major contributor to Nashville's economy are explained in thorough, loving detail.

The story of WSM isn't always rosy, as Havighurst points out by beginning his work with the account of protests in favor of WSM's country format in January, 2002, when new management at Gaylord (WSM's owner) decided to drop the music in favor of an ESPN affiliation. For fans of WSM and the Opry, the epilogue ("Signal Fade") is painful to read, as it chronicles the way impersonal corporate owners destroyed the Opryland theme park (a move that they now admit what people knew all along: it was a bad move) and in the process the livelihood of a number of musicians, and nearly destroyed WSM in the process. There were other internal battles throughout the station's history, most notably a dispute between management and Jim Denny that caused a major rift between the Opry and several members.
When any detail about the controversy is subject to debate, Havighurst merely tells all sides and notes which story has most credibility or corroboration.

This rewarding book is a must-read for fans of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry. It is also a history lesson in Nashville over the 80-plus years of the radio station's existence. It should also be read by people who have no interest in anything but the most modern of country music, because this book explains just how we arrived to today in country music -- and why so many die-hard traditionalists are the way they are.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dan Fogelberg Dies

Category: News

Dan Fogelberg died this morning (12/16) after a three-year battle with advanced prostate cancer. He was 56.

Besides his folk-rock hits such as "Part of the Plan," "Longer," and "Run for the Roses," Fogelberg released a bluegrass album, High Country Snows, which featured songs written by Flatt and Scruggs ("Down the Road") and Carter Stanley ("Think of What You've Done").

A full obituary can be viewed at my music/entertainment blog.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, December 16-31

Category: News

December 16:

Jim Glaser of the Glaser Brothers born in Spalding, Nebraska, 1937 (now 70)
Jeff Carson born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1964 (now 43)
Shelby Singleton born in Waskom, Texas, 1931 (now 76)
Jenny Lou Carson died (unknown causes), 1978 (was 63)
Martha Carson died (natural causes), 2004 (was 83)
Gary Stewart died (suicide), 2003 (was 58)

December 17:

Sharon White Skaggs born in Wichita Falls, Texas, 1953 (now 54)
Frankie Miller born in Victoria, Texas, 1930 (now 77)
Karl Davis born in Mount Vernon, Kentucky, 1905 (died 1979)
Spade Cooley born in Grand, Oklahoma, 1910 (died 1969)
Nat Stuckey born in Cass County, Texas, 1933 (died 1988)
Roy Huskey Jr. born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1956 (died 1997)
Tracy Byrd born in Vidor, Texas, 1966 (now 41)
Rex Allen Sr. died (accidentally run over by car), 1999 (was 77)
Commercial plane carrying Doug Stone crash-lands in Chicago, 1999. Stone was uninjured.

December 18:

Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) born in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, 1904 (died 1996)
Cledus T. Judd (real name: James Poole) born in Crowe Springs, Georgia, 1964 (now 43)
Louvin Brothers' first recording session (recorded "Alabama") at Castle Studios, Nashville, 1947

December 19:

Little Jimmy Dickens born in Bolt, West Virginia, 1920 (now 87)
Janie Fricke born in South Whitney, Indiana, 1947 (now 60)
Jumpin' Bill Carlisle born in Wakefield, Kentucky, 1908 (died 2003)
Hank Williams' last show at Skyline Club, Austin, Texas, 1952
Marion Worth died (emphysema), 1999 (was 69)
Johnny Paycheck shot a man outside a bar in Greenfield, Ohio, 1985

December 20:

Skeeter Willis of the Willis Brothers born in Colton, Oklahoma, 1917 (died 1976)
Jack Stapp died (unknown cause), 1980 (was 68)
Hank Snow died (various illnesses), 1999 (was 85)

December 21:

Freddie Hart born in Lockapoke, Alabama, 1926 (now 81)
Lee Roy Parnell born in Abilene, Texas, 1956 (now 51)
Christy Forrester of the Forester Sisters born in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1962 (now 45)
Harold Morrison died (illness), 1994 (was 62)
Vito Pellettieri born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1889 (died 1977)

December 22:

Harold "Hawkshaw" Hawkins born in Huntington, West Virginia, 1921 (died 1963)
Red Stegall born in Gainesville, Texas, 1937 (now 70)
Chuck Mead of BR5-49 born in Nevada, Missouri, 1960 (now 47)
Paul Martin of Exile born in Winchester, Kentucky, 1962 (now 45)
Dave Dudley died (heart attack), 2003 (was 75)

December 24:

Lulu Belle Wiseman born in Boone, North Carolina, 1913 (died 1999)
Jake Hess born in Limestone County, Alabama, 1927 (died 2004)
Stoney Edwards born in Seminole, Oklahoma, 1929 (died 1997)
Charlie Moore died (illness), 1979 (was 44)

December 25:

Alton Delmore born in Elkmont, Alabama, 1908 (died 1964)
Jimmy Buffett born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, 1946 (now 61)
Barbara Mandrell born in Houston, Texas, 1948 (now 59)
Steve Wariner born in Noblesville, Indiana, 1954 (now 53)
Billy Nelson, Willie Nelson's son, died (suicide), 1991 (was 33)

December 26:

Beecher Ray "Pete" "Bashful Brother Oswald" Kirby born in Sevier County, Tennessee, 1911 (died 2002)
Harry Choates born in Rayne, Louisiana, 1911 (died 1951)
Ronnie Prophet born in Calument, Quebec, 1938 (now 69)
Audrey Wiggins born in Asheville, North Carolina, 1967 (now 40)
Jimmie Osborne died (suicide), 1957 (was 34)

December 27:

Scotty Moore born in Gadsden, Tennessee, 1931 (now 76)
Bob Luman died (pneumonia), 1978 (was 41)
Vestal Goodman died (complications from the flu), 2003 (was 74)
Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland died (staph infection), 2004 (was 74)

December 28:

Dorsey Burnette born in Memphis, Tennessee, 1932 (died 1979)
Joe Diffie born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1958 (now 49)
Mike McGuire of Shenandoah born in Haleyville, Alabama, 1958 (now 49)
Marty Roe of Diamond Rio born in Lebanon, Ohio, 1960 (now 47)
Hank Williams Jr.'s first recording session at age 14, 1963

December 29:

Rose Lee Maphis born in Baltimore, Maryland, 1922 (now 85)
Ed Bruce born in Keiser, Arkansas, 1940 (now 67)

December 30:

Suzy Bogguss born in Aledo, Illinois, 1956 (now 51)
Bob Ferguson born in Willow Spring, Missouri, 1927 (died 2001)
Skeeter Davis born in Dry Ridge, Kentucky, 1931 (died 2004)
John Hartford born in New York, New York, 1937 (died 2001)
Melvin Goins born in Bramwell, West Virginia, 1933 (now 74)
Mike Auldridge born in Washington, DC, 1938 (now 69)

December 31:

Dale Noe born in New Boston, Ohio, 1927 (died 2005)
Rex Allen Sr. born in Wilcox, Arizona, 1920 (died 1999)
John Denver born in Roswell, New Mexico, 1943 (died 1997)
Rick Nelson died (plane crash), 1985 (was 45)
Floyd Cramer died (lung cancer), 1997 (was 64)
Jim McReynolds of Jim & Jesse died (cancer), 2002 (was 75)
Charlie Louvin injured in car accident, 2001

Monday, December 10, 2007

God Bless Her 'Cause She's My Mother

Category: Personal

Mom at Porter Wagoner's dressing room door, 1997

After 17 days of suffering, my mom has been rewarded with healing and life eternal. At about 1 PM Sunday afternoon, the life support machines were turned off. Thankfully, she survived for about ten hours off the respirator (which removes that psychological guilt when one signs the papers to authorize a patient's living will be carried out).

My family and I thank you for the prayers and well-wishes, and we would appreciate continued prayers in the days ahead as we adjust to life without her.

She was the first to ever love me
The first to hold me to her breast
God bless her 'cause she is my mother
And she'll be the last one I'll forget
--Ira & Charlie Louvin, "God Bless Her ('Cause She's My Mother)"

Friday, December 07, 2007

All News is Bad News

Category: Personal

The past fifteen days have felt more like fifteen years. We saw some progress in my mother last weekend. However, something happened between Sunday evening and Tuesday that started her on what we fear is the final downward spiral. Her brain is swollen, she's had a midline shift that is affecting the left side of her body (the side that wasn't bothered by the aneurysm), there's no reaction to something as violent as being suctioned down her throat, and tonight I learned she has pneumonia.

Mom and Billy Walker at the Opry, 1997

Monday morning at 8 AM we will meet with the doctor to discuss my mom's living will and seeing that her wishes are honored.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Trivia for December 3

Category: News/Trivia

On December 3, 1973, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys held a recording session at Sumet-Burnet Studio in Dallas, Texas. Wills, in weak health because of a 1969 stroke, conducted the Playboys band, a combination of old and new members, from a wheelchair. Because of his health he was unable to play or sing. He performed on only one song, a Cindy Walker composition that referred to Wills' trademark "ah-ha!" calls in songs, on which he did a recitation.

"What Makes Bob Holler" was the final song Bob Wills ever recorded. During the night he suffered a massive stroke and remained comatose until he died fifteen months later.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, December 1-15

Category: News

December 1:

Silm Willet born in Dublin, Texas, 1919 (died 1966)
Jim Nesbitt born in Bishopville, South Carolina, 1931 (died 2007)
Darryl Ellis born in Norfolk, Virginia, 1964 (now 43)
Fred Rose died (heart failure), 1954 (was 57)
Carter Stanley died (cirrhosis of the liver), 1966 (was 41)

December 2:

John Wesley Ryles born in Bastrop, Louisiana, 1950 (now 57)
Herman Crook born in Scottsboro, Tennessee, 1898 (died 1988)
Marvin Hughes died (unknown cause), 1986 (was 75)
"Tennessee Waltz" recorded by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart, 1947

December 3:

Ferlin Husky born in Flat River, Missouri, 1927 (now 80)
Paul Gregg of Restless Heart born in New York, New York, 1954 (now 53)
Rabon Delmore born in Dothan, Alabama, 1916 (died 1952)
Hubert Long born in Poteet, Texas, 1923 (died 1972)
Lew Childre died (various health issues), 1961 (was 60)
Grady Martin died (heart attack), 2001 (was 72)
Bob Wills recorded his last song, a Cindy Walker number, "What Makes Bob Holler," 1973

December 4:

Chris Hillman born in Los Angeles, California, 1944 (now 63)
Rabon Delmore died (lung cancer), 1952 (was 36)
Eddy Arnold's first record session as a solo artist, 1944
Sun Records' "Million Dollar Quartet" of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis record together, 1956
Connie B. Gay elected inaugural president of the Country Music Association, 1958
Connie B. Gay died (cancer), 1989 (was 75)

December 5:

Don Robertson born in Peking, China, 1922 (now 85)
Jim Messina of Poco born in Harlingen, Texas, 1947 (now 60)
Ty England born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1963 (now 44)
Molly O'Day died (cancer), 1987 (was 64)
Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) died (stomach tumor), 1996 (was 91)
The soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou released, 2000

December 6:

Helen Cornelius born in Hannibal, Missouri, 1941 (now 66)
Bill Lloyd of Foster & Lloyd born in Ft. Hood, Texas, 1955 (now 52)
Hugh Farr born in Llano, Texas, 1903 (died 1980)
Jim Eanes born in Mountain Valley, Virginia, 1923 (died 1995)
Roy Orbison died (heart attack), 1989 (was 52)

December 7:

Slim Bryant born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1908 (now 99)
Bobby Osborne born in Hyden, Kentucky, 1931 (now 76)
Gary Morris born in Fort Worth, Texas, 1948 (now 59)
Hugh X. Lewis born in Yeaddiss, Kentucky, 1932 (now 75)
Bill Boyd died (unknown cause), 1977 (was 67)

December 8:

Marty Raybon born in Stanford, Florida, 1959 (now 48)
Jack Stapp born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1912 (died 1980)
Floyd Tillman born in Ryan, Oklahoma, 1914 (died 2003)
Marty Robbins died (heart attack), 1982 (was 57)

December 9:

Billy Edd Wheeler born in Whitesville, Virginia, 1932 (now 75)
David Houston born in Bossier City, Louisiana, 1938 (died 1993)
Tommy Jackson died (unknown cause), 1979 (was 53)

December 10:

Eddie Miller born in Camargo, Oklahoma, 1919 (died 1977)
Johnny Rodriguez born in Sabinal, Texas, 1951 (now 56)
Kevin Sharp born in Weiser, Idaho, 1970 (now 37)
John Duffey of the Seldom Scene died (heart attack), 1996 (was 62)
Faron Young died (suicide), 1996 (was 64)
Jimmy Riddle died (cancer), 1982 (was 64)
Before the evening's WSM Barn Dance began, announcer George D. Hay commented, "For the past hour, you've been listening to selections taken from grand opera. Now we present Grand Ole Opry," 1927.

December 11:

Charles Whitstein born in Colfax, Louisiana, 1945 (now 62)
Brenda Lee born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1944 (now 63)
Arthur Q. Smith born in Griffin, Georgia, 1909 (died 1963)
Fiddlin' John Carson died (natural causes), 1949 (was 81)
Commercial plane with Tex Ritter aboard as a passenger hijacked to Cuba, 1968

December 12:

Hank Williams III born in Houston, Texas, 1972 (now 35)
LaCosta Tucker born in Seminole, Texas, 1951 (now 56)
Clifton Chenier died (kidney disease related to diabetes), 1987 (was 62)

December 13:

Wesley Tuttle born in Lamar, Colorado, 1917 (died 2003)
Buck White born in Oklahoma, 1930 (now 77)
Randy Owen born in Fort Payne, Alabama, 1949 (now 58)
John Anderson born in Orlando, Florida, 1954 (now 53)
Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman wed, 1934

December 14:

DeFord Bailey born in Smith County, Tennessee, 1899 (died 1982)
Charlie Rich born in Forest City, Arkansas, 1932 (died 1995)

December 15:

Ernie Ashworth born in Huntsville, Alabama, 1928 (now 79)
Jerry Wallace born in Guilford, Missouri, 1928 (now 79)
Doug Phelps of Kentucky Headhunters born in Leachville, Arkansas, 1960 (now 47)
Alvin Pleasant Carter born in Maces Spring, Virginia, 1891 (died 1960)
Nudie Cohn (ne Nuta Kotlyarenko) born in Kiev, Ukraine, 1902 (died 1984)
Hank Williams marries Audrey Guy, 1944

Update on My Mother

Category: Personal

Mom is resting comfortably in intensive care. The neurosurgeon said there's no reason she shouldn't be able to recover (as in, resume a normal life); however, he cautioned, it will take time.

My mom with Porter Wagoner, taken in July, 1997, at the Grand Ole Opry

I appreciate your prayers and well wishes. They mean so much to my family and me. I'll print everything out for my mom to read when she is able -- which, prayerfully, will be very soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sick Call: One of My Favorite Country Fans

Category: Personal

On Thanksgiving morning, a great fan of country music suffered a brain aneurysm. She has been hospitalized since, and has undergone two brain procedures (coiling the ruptured aneurysm as well as one that did not rupture, and removal of a blood clot). The neurosurgeon is "cautiously optimistic" that she stands a "decent chance for a reasonable recovery."

This country music fan happens to be my mother, Mabel Raizor. Please remember her in your prayers. And, please understand if I don't get the December dates of note up in time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Birthday and Get Well Wishes

Poco 2004: Rusty Young, Paul Cotton, George Grantham, Jack Sundrud

Category: News

November 20th is the 60th birthday of drummer George Grantham. It's also his third birthday as a stroke survivor.

Grantham has spent most of his career with Poco; however, during the 80s he toured as a member of Ricky Skaggs' band (the pre-Kentucky Thunder days, when Skaggs was touring in support of his album Don't Cheat in Our Hometown). His home, however, was always with the legendary country-rock band (a group that would never get country airplay today for being far TC - Too Country), and when they reunited in 1989 for the album Legacy he gladly rejoined the original line-up of Jim Messina, Richie Furay, Rusty Young, and Randy Meisner.

Poco has always maintained a loyal following that has stuck with them through the personnel changes, Eagles stealing their bass players, and temporary disbandings. This fan base continued to enjoy their live performances throughout the 90s into the new century.

On July 29, 2004, Poco played in Springfield, Massachusetts. As they began the second song of their set, "Call It Love" (their "comeback" hit from 1989), Grantham missed the beat. Rusty Young said he turned around and saw Grantham playing the hi-hat cymbal with his right hand, but his left arm was hanging limp at his side. Grantham assured his bandmate he was okay, but Young stopped and asked if there was a doctor in the house. Grantham was taken to a hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a stroke. His left side was paralyzed.

George Grantham has recovered sufficiently to have a quality life, but sadly he will never be able to return to the love of his life, playing drums for Poco. In addition, Grantham's disability has put a financial strain on his family, with (according to a 2006 entry at Poco's web site) $1,000 a month in expenses over and above what insurance covers resulting from the ongoing care that Grantham requires.

"There's just a little magic in the country music we're playing," Poco sang on their first album from 1968. With the band preparing to celebrate its 40th anniversary, that lyric is as true as ever. As George Grantham turns 60, here's hoping the "little bit of magic" of Poco's music, the magic that has brought smiles to countless fans for the past 39 years, will in turn bring a smile to his face as well.

Prayers are always welcome for George Grantham. Well wishes and financial donations to help with the cost of Grantham's medicial expenses can be sent to:

George Grantham
P.O. Box 128523
Nashville, TN 37212

Poco's Web Site

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Special Birthday Wishes

Ronnie Pugh at the release/book signing of his award-winning biography of Ernest Tubb, 1998

Category: Personal

Ronnie Pugh's birthday is November 16, and I wanted to take a moment to wish this great historian a very happy birthday.

Ronnie sponsored my college internship when he was head of reference at the Country Music Foundation. He was beyond gracious with his time and knowledge. I applied the "book learning" of library science in those very crowded book shelves, the filing cabinets crammed with historical clippings, and the seemingly endless album collection. In addition, the things that no book can teach anyone about (that's called life) popped up on numerous occasions. I was witness to it all as I joyously performed my internship, one week at a time, as a volunteer in the CMF library. All the time, I watched one of country music's greatest historians at work.

My friends think I know a lot about country music. Relatively speaking, I suppose I do; however, after a few days around Mr. Pugh I realized just how much I needed to learn about the music of my soul. The way he effortlessly rattled facts off amazed me (and continues to do so). He is a very learned man, not only in library science (he holds a Master's degree in the subject), but also the long, storied history of country music. And, thankfully, he is more than willing to share that knowledge, be it through his award-winning biography of Ernest Tubb or helping a college sophomore get through the Dewey Decimal Classification System and Sears List by allowing her the very important job of entering the books into the CMF's catalogue and shelving them.

Ten years have passed. Ronnie now runs the Tennessee Room at the main branch of the Nashville Public Library. I'm still trying to learn a tenth of what he knows about country music. And, I'm still grateful to him -- for the time he so unselfishly gave me, for his nonstop encouragement, and just for being the gracious, humble gentleman that he is.

Happy birthday to you, Ronnie Pugh, and many, many more. You are a treasure to country music.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, November 16-30

Category: News

November 16:

Earl Bolick born in Hickory, North Carolina, 1919 (died 1998)
Troy Seals born in Bill Hill, Kentucky, 1938 (now 69)
Larry Cordel born in Cordell, Kentucky, 1949 (now 58)
Will Goleman of the Cactus Brothers born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1963 (now 44)
J.D. Sumner died (heart attack), 1998 (was 73)

November 17:

Gordon Lightfoot born in Orilla, Ontario, Canada, 1938 (now 69)
Eva Foley (Red Foley's wife) died (suicide), 1951 (was 33)
Don Gibson died (natural causes), 2003 (was 75)

November 18:

Jessi Alexander born in Jackson, Tennessee, 1976 (now 31)
John McFee of Southern Pacific born in Santa Cruz, California, 1953 (now 54)
Doug Sahm died (heart attack), 1999 (was 58)

November 19:

Billy Currington born in Savannah, Georgia, 1973 (now 34)
Jerry Foster born in Tallapoosa, Missouri, 1935 (now 72)
Bobby Russell died (coronary artery disease), 1992 (was 51)

November 20:

Eck Robertson born in Madison County, Arkansas, 1897 (died 1975)
Curly Putman born in Princeton, Alabama, 1930 (now 77)
George Grantham of Poco born in Cordell, Oklahoma, 1947 (now 60)
Dierks Bentley born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1975 (now 32)
Josh Turner born in Hannah, South Carolina, 1977 (now 30)
Judy Canova born in Starke, Florida, 1913 (died 1983)
RCA buys Elvis Presley from Sun Records for $35,000, 1955

November 21:

Jean Shepard born in Paul Valley, Oklahoma, 1933 (now 74)
Jim Eanes died (congestive heart failure), 1995 (was 71)
Charlie Daniels pulls out of "Country Freedom Concert" after being told not to perform "This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag," 2001

November 22:

Wiley Post born in Grand Saline, Texas, 1899 (died 1935)
First Disc Jockey Convention held in Nashville, 1952
Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan married, 1986

November 23:
Jerry Sullivan born in Wagarville, Alabama, 1933 (now 74)
Charlie Sizemore born in Richmond, Kentucky, 1960 (now 47)
Spade Cooley died (heart attack), 1969 (was 58)
Grady Nutt died (plane crash), 1982 (was 48)
Roy Acuff died (congestive heart failure), 1992 (was 89)
Smokey Rogers died (unknown cause), 1993 (was 76)

November 24:

Stoney Edwards born in Seminole, Oklahoma, 1929 (died 1997)
Johnny Carver born in Jackson, Mississippi, 1940 (now 67)
Teddy Wilburn died (congestive heart failure), 2003 (was 71)

November 25:

Biff Collie born in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1926 (died 1992)
Amy Grant born in Augusta, Georgia, 1960 (now 47)
Eddie Stubbs born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, 1961 (now 46)
Ralph Emery's overnight radio show debuts on WSM, 1957

November 26:

Joe Nichols born in Rogers, Arkansas, 1976 (now 31)

November 27:

Eddie Rabbitt born in Brooklyn, New York, 1941 (died 1998)
Charlene Arthur died (illness), 1987 (was 58)

November 28:

WSM Barn Dance (later known as the Grand Ole Opry) born, 1925 (now 82)
Carrie (Mrs. Jimmie) Rodgers died (cancer), 1961

November 29:

Merle Travis born in Rosewood, Kentucky, 1917 (died 1983)
Jody Miller born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1941 (now 66)
Joel Whitburn born in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, 1938 (now 69)

November 30:

Bob Moore born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1932 (now 75)
Jeannie Kendall born in St. Louis, Missouri, 1954 (now 53)
Mindy McCready born in Ft. Myers, Florida, 1975 (now 32)
Teddy Wilburn born in Hardy, Arkansas, 1931 (died 2003)
David Houston died (brain aneurysm), 1993 (was 54)

Remembering Robert Whitstein

L-R: Charles Whitstein, Robert Whitstein, and host Porter Wagoner preparing for an interview on Opry Backstage, 1996

Category: News/Memorial

On November 14, 2001, the world of traditional country music lost one of its greatest performers in the death of Robert Whitstein at the age of 57. Sadly, the passing went unnoticed, partially because of the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, but mostly because his name was unknown in popular music circles. However, as part of the Whitstein Brothers, he carried the torch for brother duet harmony for over three decades.

Robert Whitstein was born March 16, 1944 in Colfax, Louisiana, the first of nine children to R.C. and Almarie Whitstein. The second son, Charles, was born 21 months later. Being the two oldest, they formed a bond. The bond was sealed in music, as both boys learned to play from their father, who was a local musician.

While still youngsters, Robert and Charles did a tribute album to the gospel songs of their idols, the Louvin Brothers (the album was eventually released on Rounder Records in 1994). The teenagers were in many ways an eerie clone of the Louvins, with Charles on mandolin and a tenor voice that even Charlie Louvin admitted later in life was “the closest to Ira I’ve ever heard.”

In the early 60s, the Whitstein Brothers, still teenagers, found themselves on the Grand Ole Opry, performing Harlan Howard’s song “The Everglades” (which they would later record on Trouble Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues). They performed as the Whitt Brothers during that time, touring through Louisiana with fellow native Faron Young. Things were looking bright for the duo.

Their career was put on hold when Robert received his draft notice. He joined the Marine Corps and spent two tours of duty in Vietnam. Charles likewise joined the Marines, but spent his time in the Marine Corps Reserve and never went overseas.

Family life also prevented the brothers from pursuing their musical dream. Charles and his wife, Ida, recorded a number of gospel albums for local church labels, and Robert and Charles continued to sing locally.

Finally their break came in 1982, when Jesse McReynolds of Jim & Jesse, who had become friends with Charles, passed a demo tape of the Whitstein Brothers to Rounder Records co-owner Ken Irwin while at a bluegrass festival. Irwin loved what he heard and signed the brothers to the label. Their first album, Rose of My Heart, was released in 1984. (The title track was covered by Whitstein Brothers fan Johnny Cash shortly before his death in 2003.) Trouble Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues followed in 1987. The Whitstein Brothers had nothing but glowing reviews (including the aforementioned comment by Charlie Louvin), yet they were in a musical no-man’s land: their music was certainly not “bluegrass” in the traditional sense of the term, it was more along the lines of 40s and early 50s country; however, there was no place for that in 1980s country music during the Urban Cowboy era.

In 1989, they released Old-Time Duets, an album of traditional (“We Met in the Saddle,” “Maple on the Hill”) and relatively contemporary (Hank Williams’ “Mansion on the Hill” or the Louvins’ “Pitfall”) numbers. The album was nominated for a Grammy award, and reviews solidified the Whitsteins’ standing as the great brother duet of the modern era. The Whitstein Brothers faithfully played the Grand Ole Opry through this time as guests and desperately wanted to become members; however, they were never invited.

After the release of Sweet Harmony in the mid-1990s, Robert grew tired of the road. He retired from performing to spend time with his family in Louisiana. Charles continued performing as a solo artist and with boyhood idol Charlie Louvin.

On November 14, 2001, Robert rose early, as was his custom. He spent the early morning in prayer and Bible study then went fishing. While fishing, he complained to his fishing partner that he felt bad. They cut the fishing trip short and returned to Robert’s home. Robert had begun to feel better, but said if he was still feeling ill after changing out of his fishing gear he would go to the doctor. He went into the bathroom and collapsed. At the age of 57, a heart attack claimed his life and broke up one of the greatest brother duets of bluegrass.

Charles was devastated. “There’s not a day that goes by,” Charles’ wife, Ida said, “when Charles doesn’t hear a beautiful song and say, ‘Wish I could share this with you, Bob.’”

“He’s always with me,” Charles confirmed. “We still sing together in my dreams.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

XM Picks Up Stubbs

Category: News

WSM's Eddie Stubbs Show program debuts tonight on XM Satellite Radio.

XM recently began carrying the Grand Ole Opry in October with the Opry's 82nd birthday show.

Stubbs' show airs on XM channel 10, the classic country channel.

Hank Thompson Book Due Out

Category: News

The WSM tribute to Hank Thompson carries some exciting news.

Bill Mack, XM Radio disc jockey and longtime friend of Hank Thompson, announced that Thompson's autobiography, which the legendary singer completed shortly before his death last week, will be released by the end of the year. Mack told Eddie Stubbs the book, tentatively titled The Wild Side of My Life (according to Thompson's web site), may be out as soon as three weeks.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dialogue and a Second Opinion

Category: Review/Personal

There is nothing like being wrong. I'm not being sarcastic, either: mistakes are the best teachers we have. And I'm thankful for people who will dialogue with you when they feel you're wrong, not just yell, "Well, you're wrong" and walk off.

While at the Americana Music Association conference, I went to the Doyle and Debbie Show (actually, a shortened version of their show). I trashed it here. I felt it was an insult to country music.

Enter a gentleman who read my review and disagreed with it. He expressed his disagreements with my review in an articulate, thoughtful manner. We had a very good (at least, in my opinion) conversation about the subjects at hand (satire, country music, etc.). Based on his enthusiasm for the show, I went to the Doyle and Debbie website and listened to their songs again.

The reason I'm writing this is to admit how absolutely wrong I was on that first review. I put the songs on and forgot about the negative reaction I had to them initially. As a result, I not only liked what I heard, I laughed heavily and frequently.

"I Ain't No Homo" would make a major hit if a record label would pick it up and release it now, with all the caught-in-the-men's-room-with-their-pants-down public figures claiming they most definitely are not gay. Although the song sounds very current and topical, this song is at least one year old! There is a video of Doyle's performance on their MySpace site. Let me warn you, though, it's not exactly G-rated (a number of their songs are not), and if you've recently suffered a broken rib you'd do well to NOT watch it.

While listening to this last night, I came across a thought that is much sadder than my original opinion of this show: the reason the Doyle and Debbie Show uses classic country music in their comedy act is because the only way to get classic country music heard is by lampooning it! (Consider the scene in The Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood walk into Bob's Country Bunker. Kitty Wells' version of "Your Cheatin' Heart" is playing in the background, and the immortal line Claire gives when Elwood asks what music they play: "Oh, we've got both kinds. We got country and western!") That's an awful fact, but it is sadly the truth. Had Doyle and Debbie done straight-laced country music they'd be cast onto the heap pile of acts dubbed "TC" (Too Country). However, as comedians, they can actually perform real country music without being slapped with the "TC" label.

So, thanks to the considerate discussion of the subject by a fan, I, too, have become a fan. My next mission is to get the owner of Louisville's Comedy Caravan to bring the Doyle and Debbie Show to town. If and when he does, I'll be on the front row.

Hank Thompson Tribute on WSM Monday Night

Category: News

WSM will have a tribute to the late Hank Thompson on Monday, November 12. It is scheduled to run from 9 PM - 1 AM eastern time (8 - midnight Nashville time), and will be hosted by WSM DJ and historian extraordinaire Eddie Stubbs.

Listen online

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Trivia for November 10

Category: News/Trivia

On this date in 1973, one of the most shocking events to strike the country music world occurred when Hee Haw and Grand Ole Opry star Dave "Stringbean" Akeman was murdered, along with his wife, when they returned to their home from an Opry performance. Their bodies were discovered by Grandpa Jones the next morning when he showed up at Stringbean's house for a fishing trip.

Stringbean was known for his outlandish dress (long shirt, pants with the belt buckle just above his knees) and comedy ("Have you hear'd from home lately, String?" "Yeah, I got a letter from home today. I got it right next to my heart. Heart, heart, heart, heart," he said as he felt his shirt pockets over his check, then reached into his hip pocket for the letter). However, many people may not realize what an extraordinary banjo player Stringbean was. He was the a banjo player in the Blue Grass Boys, Bill Monroe's band. When String left, Monroe found a new banjo player: one Earl Eugene Scruggs.

A Memorial to the Edmund Fitzgerald

Category: News/History

Over at my other blog, there is a tribute to the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the freightliner that sank 32 years ago today, killing 29 and becoming the subject of one of Gordon Lightfoot's most famous songs. The song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," reached #2 on the pop charts and #50 on Billboard's country charts in late 1976/early 1977.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Trivia for November 9

Category: News/Trivia

On November 9, 1895, George Dewey Hay was born in Attica, Indiana.

In 1927, Hay stepped before a microphone at WSM in Nashville to introduce the WSM Barn Dance, which aired following NBC radio network programming of classical music. He told the listeners, "For the past hour you've been listening to music taken largely from grand opera. From now on, we will present the Grand Ole Opry!"

Country music has never been the same since.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My Tears Won't Wash I Love You From the Blackboard of My Heart

Category: News

For the second time in less than two weeks, lung cancer has claimed a Country Music Hall of Famer. Hank Thompson died at his home in suburban Fort Worth, just days after being released from the hospital into hospice care, and not unlike fellow Hall of Famer Porter Wagoner.

The only thing sadder than Thompson's passing is the head scratching and shrugging going on at the mention of his name. "Who?" Many will dismiss this as just another old-timer that they've never heard of dying, or someone they thought was already dead, or someone their grandparents listened to.

Oh, friend, if that is your attitude toward Hank Thompson, you are depriving yourself of some of the greatest music created in the past seventy years. That's right, seventy. Thompson was active in seven count 'em seven decades, and he kept on performing almost until the day he died. (His last concert was at a "Hank Thompson Day" celebration in his hometown of Waco last month.)

Thompson got out of the Navy and went into music. One of his early hits was "Woah, Sailor," a rather humorous (and, for its era, risque) look at a sailor trying to strike up a conversation with a girl who doesn't want to hear any of his lines. "A sailor's full of that kind of bull, so don't hand it to me," she tell him in the lyrics -- then he pulls out his wallet, stuffed with the six months' pay he had drawn while on ship. "Oh, sailor," she says, changing her tune, "I think you've won my heart." The song concludes, "She's not all to blame 'cause it's a sailor's aim to have a girl in every port."

In many ways, that became Thompson's formula. He became known for his comical titles, such as "Humpty Dumpty Heart" and "Rub-a-Dub-Dub." He could write very serious songs with humorous titles, such as "Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart," and he could deliver downright funny songs, such as the "answer song" to "Goodnight Irene," "Wake Up, Irene." The latter was met with stiff opposition to release by his record label, Capitol, because it came out over a year after "Goodnight Irene" had been a hit by numerous artists. That, however, only added to its charm, as Thompson had time to look back at the "months and months and months around the country" that "everybody sang Irene goodnight." "Even Crosby too," he sang, "with his boo-boo-ba-boopty-doo, tried to get Irene to hit the hay." The song went to #1, confirming that everyone else had had their fill of people singing Irene "off to slumber." All throughout his music was a signature riff: one note played twice on a steel guitar, then the third time slid up one tone. It was as much "his" riff as the Ernest Tubb run (which is mimicked in the first verse of Alabama's "Jukebox in My Mind").

Thompson sold 60 million records in his career, which is phenomenal considering that, while Nashville was becoming the headquarters of country music in the 50s and 60s, Thompson divided time between his native Texas and the west coast (where most of Capitol's artists were based at the time). He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

And so another memorial flower collection goes up beneath a Hall of Fame plaque, and another time to mourn comes to the country music industry.

The song that came to mind when I heard of his death was his broken-heart-with-a-funny-title hit, "The Blackboard of My Heart:"

But my tears have washed "I love you" from the blackboard of my heart
It's too late to clean the slate and make another start
I'm satisfied the way things are, although we're far apart
My tears have washed "I love you" from the blackboard of my heart

"I love you" will never disappear from the blackboard of my heart regarding the great Hank Thompson.

Hank was 82.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Osmond Father Dies

Category: News

Over at the rock/entertainment blog, there's an obituary for George Osmond, father of Marie, Donny, and all the other singing Osmonds, who died today at the age of 90.

Trivia for November 6

Category: News/Trivia

Stonewall Jackson was born on this date in 1932. The performer of such country classics as "Waterloo," "Don't Be Angry," and "A Wound Time Can't Erase" turns 75.

Stonewall was the first artist in Grand Ole Opry history to become a member of the Opry without a recording contract. Sad to say, he is now embroiled in a lawsuit against the institution that once welcomed him because of his great country sound. Jackson's lawsuit alleges that the current Opry management told him he was "too old and too country."

Not in my book he isn't. Happy birthday, Stonewall!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sad to Say -- Here We Go Again with the Sick Call

Category: News

Country Music Hall of Fame member Hank Thompson has been diagnosed with lung cancer. One report (unconfirmed at this time) has reported that he, much like the late Porter Wagoner, has entered hospice care.

Thompson, 82, abruptly cancelled his tour and announced his retirement from performing on November 2, two days after being released from a hospital in the Dallas area. Although the nature of the illness has not officially been disclosed, a musician source has stated he has advanced lung cancer.

Message from Hank Thompson's web site

UPDATE: Here is the confirmation about Thompson's condition.

Trivia for November 5

Category: News/Personal

On November 5, 1930, a country music fan was born. He is not known outside of his family and friends, but he's the most important country music fan on earth to me.

While we've had our differences about many things over the years, I know that we can always talk about music. I get my bullheaded attitude about preserving traditional country music from him, but I say that with pride, not as though it's a bad thing. After all, you wouldn't try to convince a wine connoisseur that Boone's Farm is a vintage wine, would you?

So, I want to take this time to wish a happy 77th birthday to my father, Sam Raizor.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

WSM Book Released

Category: News

In May, Craig Havighurst gave a presentation at the International Country Music Conference (ICMC) on his forthcoming book. "I was surprised to see that no one had ever done a book on WSM," he said. Havighurst decided to make that his quest.

The result, Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City, was released October 30th by University of Illinois Press.

I'll review the book when I read it.

Emmylou's Musical Journey

Emmylou Harris at the Americana Music Association keynote session

Category: News

When asked about the new four-CD box set, Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems, Emmylou Harris joked, “It makes a good door stop.”

Peter Cooper, the brilliant writer from Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper, conducted a long, revealing, and thoroughly entertaining interview with the country legend as part of the Americana Music Association’s sixth annual conference. The interview, the afternoon keynote of the conference, was held before a packed crowd in the Listening Room at the AMA Conference.

Harris spent considerable time talking about her friend and mentor, the late Gram Parsons, including addressing his tragic death in 1973. “People ask me, ‘Was it really a surprise?’” she said. “And I say, ‘Yes!’ Because he went from someone who was fall-down drunk on his first album to someone who was bright, vibrant, and alive by the time he recorded Grievous Angel (the album released four months after Parsons died).”

Her work with Parsons on the album GP earned her an early accolade. “I was voted the ‘13th most popular female singer in Holland’ based on those recordings,” Harris said. “Don’t laugh,” she chided the chuckling audience. “That was a big deal to me then!”

“Then” was the early 1970s, when Emmylou Harris had abandoned her desire to be a “serious folk singer” in the Washington DC area to sing with Parsons. After Parson’s death from a drug overdose, Harris returned to DC, but not as a folk singer. “I was a woman with a mission,” she said. “I wanted to do what Gram would have done had he lived.”

That mission was twofold: first, to take country music to the rock and roll masses; and second, to dig out forgotten gems and introduce them to people who had never had the opportunity to hear them. One such example was Parsons and Harris performing “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning,” superb recording by Carl and Pearl Butler from 1969 that flopped as a hit. “I was like a religious convert,” Harris admitted when discussing her discovery of country music and subsequent desire to follow in Parsons’ footsteps.

Warner Brothers signed Harris to a contract on their subsidiary Reprise label in 1974. “They really didn’t know what they were getting,” Harris joked. “I was part of a package deal. They wanted Brian Ahern, and they got me in the deal.” As she worked on her first album, she noticed, “The record company ignored me, in a good way.”

Left to her own devices, she released Pieces of the Sky in early 1975. The first single, “Too Far Gone,” bombed. “It was 99 with a parachute,” Harris joked. Things went much better with the second single, a song Harris believed “was the most unlikely hit on the album,” a cover of the Louvin Brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love.”

Harris’ career was off and running with a string of albums that appealed to both rock and country fans. In 1980, she decided to make a bluegrass-flavored album, Roses in the Snow, and for the first time she encountered opposition from her record label. “The record label wanted what Brian and I call ‘son of Elite Hotel,’” Harris said. “I just felt I had to jump off the deep end.”

Another “deep end” jump was 1985’s The Ballad of Sally Rose, a concept album (“’concept,’” she said, “is a euphemism for ‘we don’t hear a hit single’”) based on her relationship with Parsons. “It’s very autobiographical,” Harris admitted, but added, “I took a lot of license with the story.” The album was a failure despite unanimous critical success.

Harris was able to recover from that setback, but the second “flop” of her career, 1995’s Wrecking Ball, essentially ended her run on country radio. Harris, however, has no regrets for the ambitious project, produced by Daniel Lanois, best-known for producing rock albums such as So by Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson’s debut solo album, and The Joshua Tree by U2. “Wrecking Ball wasn’t a scary notion," Harris admitted, "because I had nothing to lose.”

With a commercial career behind her, Harris continues to record on her own terms. “I’m the poster child for being able to survive hit radio,” she said proudly. “It’s a big mistake to just your career by your radio hits.” She still finds the music that interests her and shares it with her loyal fans.

“The thrill of discovery is still there,” she said.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Lyle Lovett Entertains Keynote Audience

Category: News

Americana Music Association Trailblazer award winner Lyle Lovett was the keynote interview at the AMA conference. Warren Zanes of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame conducted the hour-long interview in the Listening Room at the conference.

Zanes began by assessing a problem. “Twenty years,” he said of Lovett’s career, “and we’ve got an hour.” That problem is not unlike the dilemma that has plagued Lovett for his entire career. With a diverse variety that has ranged from big-band jazz to straight-ahead country to rock to western swing, distilling Lovett’s music down to a simple, safe label has been difficult at best. As a result, people who were at a loss for how to define him concentrated on his hair instead.

“It didn’t bother me,” Lovett said with his ubiquitous dry sense of humor. “In fact, my proudest moment came when the New York Times ran a cartoon that featured my hair shaking hands with Don King’s hair.”

Lovett was part of what he described as the “Class of ’86,” a group of country performers who burst onto the scene with critically-acclaimed, solidly country-sounding albums that revived country music commercially following years of lackluster sales in the post-Urban Cowboy era. “It was a time when artists were having radio hits,” Lovett said, “but that didn’t translate into sales.” Lovett’s self-titled MCA debut, along with breakout releases by k.d. lang, Steve Earle, and Randy Travis combined with established acts such as Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, and George Strait to create a short-lived but exciting period of “neo-traditionalism” in country music.

Lovett clearly stood apart from the other members of the “Class of ‘86” thanks to his frequently sardonic lyrics. While his first hit, “Farther Down the Line,” fit comfortably next to the latest hit by Strait on country radio, other songs raised eyebrows. “God Will,” a song about an unforgiving lover who has been cheated on (“I thought he was just right,” Lovett said of the bitterness of the song’s protagonist), was particularly controversial. Pontiac’s “She’s No Lady, She’s My Wife,” “L.A. County” (which Lovett would introduce in concert as, “The old story – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy shoots girl”), and “If I Had a Boat” did not improve Lovett’s standing with those looking for songs that were lyrically more influenced by Harlan Howard than Randy Newman. By the time he covered “Stand By Your Man” on Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, it was apparent that country fans were unaccustomed to “smart aleck” (Lovett’s own description) lyrics and unwilling to adjust. When asked if he thought he had crossed the line with the song “Fat Babies,” Lovett quickly said, “Yes. Absolutely.”

However, while his sales slacked off, his quality increased, and he won a Grammy for The Road to Ensenada.

“I’ve never been overly burdened with commercial success,” Lovett quipped. “You don’t want to try to appeal to everybody. I mean, who wants to be like that?”

Lovett’s influence can be found in his native Texas. “There is an entitled bravado for being born in Texas,” he said. “It’s true people are proud of being from Texas for no apparent reason.” However, the state, where everything from Mexican music from across the border to pure country music to the rock of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison could be heard, provided a fertile background for Lovett.

“The first album I owned myself,” Lovett said, “that was not a part of my parents’ record collection, was Santana’s Abraxis album. It was a confirmation gift given to me by my strict Baptist aunt and uncle, who didn’t look at the cover. And, if they did, they didn’t realize what was going on.

“But that album was great. I remember trying to work out Santana’s guitar parts.”

Lovett was in a band called the Individuals, so named, as Lovett said, “Because we were seldom playing the same song at the same time.” Lovett says the reason he joined the band was “I owned a guitar. I couldn’t play it, but I owned it.”

Lovett pointed out that people of the modern age do not have just music to credit as influences. “Our influences are more a product of the modern world,” he said. “We are not isolated anymore with all the technology.”

Songwriting comes natural to Lovett. He does not ponder over any preconceived “rules” “That takes a more conscious approach than I’m capable,” he said. “I remember seeing ‘rules of songwriting’ posted on the wall (of a recording studio). Rule number one said, ‘Write your best song.’ Rule number two said, ‘Write your worst song.’ I stopped reading there.

“Songwriting, for me, starts with an emotional response,” he said. He said he cannot write from someone else’s ideas, although, he admitted, “I think it would be great to take someone’s idea and write a really terrible song, then play it for them and let them see just how bad it is.”

Lovett feels he must be a songwriter. “You create it. You’re an artist. But, if someone tells you what to sing, you’re just a presenter.”

“We all pursue music because we’re fans.”

Trivia For November 1

Category: News/Trivia

November 1 is the 70th birthday of James W. Anderson III.

While attending the University of Georgia in 1957, the young journalism major sat on the roof of his apartment building and looked out at the lights of Commerce, Georgia. His mind took over and he wrote:

A bright array of city lights as far as I can see
The great white way shines through the night for lonely guys like me

Thus began the song "City Lights," starting the 50-year-long (and still going strong) songwriting career of "Whisperin' Bill."

Here's hoping Bill had a happy birthday this year. Last year, his birthday was marred by the death of his dear friend and sometimes songwriting partner, Buddy Killen (they wrote Jim Reeves' "Losing Your Love" together).

Country Hound Sniffing Out News

Category: News/Personal

I ran into my friend, Stephen Betts, at the AMA Conference. I discovered, and I'm pleased to announce, that he has a new website devoted to country music, Country

I first met Stephen while I was doing my college internship at the Country Music Foundation, where he worked at the time. We took a road trip together to City Stages in Birmingham, where I introduced him to the music of the Whistein Brothers and he paid me back by turning me on to Iris Dement. (That is what friends are for!)

Stephen is a gifted writer with a passion for country and bluegrass.

Visit Country Hound's web site

Doyle & Debbie Trash Country Music

Category: Review

What a difference 24 hours makes. The opening of the Americana Music Association conference on Wednesday featured a tribute to the late Porter Wagoner, where people unashamedly professed their love for the man and his music. On Thursday, the Doyle & Debbie Show, showcased in the Listening Room at the conference, threw dirt in the face of every country music fan.

It’s a terrible shame that Doyle & Debbie (Bruce Arntson and Jenny Littleton, respectively) have decided to make ridiculing country music in the name of comedy their forte, for they are very talented singers. Indeed, if they opted for a different path, they could well be the vehicles for a resurgence of traditional country music. Instead, they have chosen to take every horrid, baseless stereotype about country music, country music performers, country music fans, and country lifestyle in general and cram it into their routine. If Hee Haw set country music back 50 years as some claimed when the classic show first aired in 1969, Doyle & Debbie’s brand of humor mercilessly throws it back to the Stone Age.

Without question, both singers have fine voices and a gift for writing songs. And, they do have some funny numbers (especially “Fat Women in Trailers”). However, things such as "Whine Whine, Twang Twang," “ABC’s of Love” (which owes very much to Merle Travis’ “Divorce Me C.O.D.”) and “Just Keep Me Barefoot and Pregnant” take their act far beyond comedy, or even satire. It’s downright rude.

We can have country humor without the smear. Sarah Cannon was a sophisticated, educated woman, yet she could make audiences howl as Minnie Pearl by using subtle stereotypes that celebrated country life. Tim Wilson writes songs that make people laugh with typecasting (e.g., his NASCAR songs “Dale Darrell Waltrip Richard Petty Rusty Awesome Bill Irvin Gordon Earnhardt Smith Johnson Jr.” and “Jeff Gordon’s Gay”) but without the insult (if you have not heard the latter, the title "is what them ornery Earnhardt fans always say," not a personal accusation). However, there is a line between inspiration from country life and insult to the same, and both the late Hall of Fame comedian and the modern country singer/comic know where it lies. Doyle & Debbie could take a lesson from either.

Patty Griffin, Avett Brothers Multiple AMA Winners

Category: News

The sixth annual Americana Honors and Awards were presented Thursday (11/1) at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Two artists, Patty Griffin and the Avett Brothers, each won two awards.

The list of winners:

Artist of the Year
Patty Griffin

Album of the Year
Children Running Through - Patty Griffin

Song of the Year
"Hank Williams' Ghost" - Darrell Scott (written by Darrell Scott)

Duo/Group of the Year
Avett Brothers

New and Emerging Artist of the Year
Avett Brothers

Instrumentalist of the Year
Buddy Miller

In addition, the following pre-announced awards were presented:

Americana Trailblazer Award
Lyle Lovett

AMA "Spirit of Americana" Free Speech Award
Mavis Staples

Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for an Executive
Mary Martin

Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist
Ry Cooder

Lifetime Achievement for Performing
Joe Ely

Lifetime Achievement for Producer/Engineer
Jim Dickinson

Lifetime Achievement for Songwriting
Willie Nelson

President's Award (Presented in Memory of a Deceased Performer at the President's Discretion)
Townes Van Zandt

Inaugural "Wagonmaster" Award
Porter Wagoner

The awards were hosted by Jim Lauderdale. Presenters included Marty Stuart, Lovett (presenting the award to Ely), Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, and J.D. Souther.