Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Missing You: Jim Reeves, 43 Years Later

Category: News
Forty three years ago, on Friday, July 31, 1964, Jim Reeves was returning to Nashville from a business trip to Arkansas. His piano player and manager, Dean Manuel, went with him, since Dean was a native of Arkansas. Before he left, Jim had asked friend Bonnie Brown of the Browns if she wanted to fly with him as well (the Browns also hail from Arkansas), but she turned him down because she had a sick child to tend to.
That illness was a blessing to Jim Ed's sister. As Reeves' plane approached Nashville a typical summer thunderstorm roared through the area. Reeves, not cleared to fly on instruments, flew on through the storm in an attempt to make it to the airport. He was in contact with the control tower as he flew toward the airport. The last word he uttered was half of the word "negative."
Nearby, Marty Robbins had gone outside to collect rain water to wash his hair in. He heard a loud noise and ran inside and told his wife, "Someone's just been killed out there!"
Reeves' plane was reported missing that evening. The next day, August 1st, many of Reeves' peers in the country music world were searching the woods in southern Nashville for the plane. Mary Reeves, according to Buddy Killen in By the Seat of My Pants: My Life in Country Music, said that at first she did not make the connection between Reeves being late in returning and the announcement that a plane had gone down. "Then," she said, acknowledging that reality set in, "I started thinking about funeral arrangements."
At approximately 1 PM on Sunday, August 2, the wreckage of the plane was discovered. Reeves had apparently had the plane upside down when he nosedived into the woods. The initial impact threw him out of the plane and into the propeller, creating a grisly sight. The word went out: Gentleman Jim Reeves, international country music superstar, was dead, three weeks short of his 41st birthday.
In one of those ironies of life, Reeves had been an honorary pallbearer at Patsy Cline's memorial service 16 months earlier. When the NTSB ruling on the Cline/Copas/Hawkins plane crash was released, it ruled that pilot Randy Hughes had tried to fly in a thunderstorm without proper instrument training. "I'd never make that mistake," Reeves commented. The NTSB's ruling on the Reeves crash was the same as the results of the 1963 tragedy: pilot error.
Reeves' popularity hardly faded after his death. In fact, of his eleven #1 songs on the Billboard Country Singles chart, six of them were posthumous. His demo tapes were overdubbed (sometimes too overdubbed) and released as "new" recordings well into the 1980s. In fact, the 1994 Bear Family release Welcome to My World had two CDs filled with previously unreleased demos. (A Reeves fan website also has CDs of demo and rehearsal tapes, showing the vast amount of music the man recorded.)
In 1998, Michael Streissguth released a controversial biography on Reeves, Like a Moth to a Flame. Fans blasted the book for focusing too much on Reeves' demons and not enough on his music. A more compassionate, balanced biography on the man (by Larry Jordan) has been promised for years, but has yet to surface. His only movie, Kimberly Jim, is out on DVD, as is a wonderful tribute DVD featuring television and concert performances.
Even after 43 years, Reeves' star still shines brightly. People whose parents weren't even born when he died have discovered his music. Good music is eternal, and that is obvious with the enduring legacy of Jim Reeves.
NTSB Report on Reeves' crash

Monday, July 30, 2007

Man Who Inspired "Best Little Whorehouse" Dies

Category: News
Marvin Zindler dies

The movie and play The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was inspired to some degree by an actual event. In 1973, KTRK "consumer advocate" reporter Marvin Zindler confronted a sheriff who knew that the Chicken Ranch in LaGrange was operating right under the police's nose with no action being taken. In the confrontation, Sheriff T.J. Flournoy ripped Zindler's toupee off and destroyed the film in the camera. Much like the confrontation between Burt Reynolds' Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd and Dom DeLuise's Melvin P. Thorpe in the film, Flournoy launched into a profanity-filled attack on reporter Zindler (although the sheriff destroyed the video footage of the confrontation, the audio remained intact).

Marvin Zindler died in Houston on Sunday (7/29), less than two weeks short of his 86th birthday. He had been diagnosed earlier in July as having advanced pancreatic cancer.

Zindler's expose of the Chicken Ranch made a national magazine and became the stuff of legends. Rockers ZZ Top sang about it in the song "LaGrange," and the story became the basis for the play The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, followed in 1982 by a film version that starred Burt Reynolds and country legend Dolly Parton.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Songwriter Lawton Williams Dies

Category: News

While Lawton Williams' name might not be a household word, the songs he penned are very well known to a generation of country and pop fans. He wrote such staples as "Fraulein," "Blue Grass Skirt," "Farewell Party," "Geisha Girl," "Color of the Blues," and "Shame on Me."

Lawton Williams died July 26th, two days after his 85th birthday, in Fort Worth of respiratory illness.

Williams had a modest recording career, signed at one time to Four Star Records in the late 40s. Hank Locklin was also a Four Star artist at that time (his hit "Let Me Be the One" was a Four Star #1 hit in the 1940s), which is where he discovered Williams' songwriting talents. Locklin recorded a number of Lawton Williams tunes (including the hits mentioned above).

Lawton Williams obituary from CMT

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 21-31

Category: News

July 22:

Margaret Whiting born in Detroit, Michigan, 1924 (now 83). Although primarily a pop singer, Whiting had a series of duets with Jimmy Wakely in the 40s and 50s.
Bob Ferguson died (cancer), 2001 (was 73)

July 23:

Johnny Darrell born in Hopewell, Alabama, 1940 (now 67)
Alison Krauss born in Decatur, Illinois, 1971 (now 36)

July 25:

Roy Acuff Jr. born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1943 (now 64)
Charlie Rich died (blood clot in lung), 1995 (was 62)

July 27:

Bill Engvall born in Galveston, Texas, 1957 (now 50)
Bobbie Gentry born in Chickasaw, Mississippi, 1944 (now 67)
Henry "Homer" Haynes born in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1920 (died 1971)

July 28:

Frank Loesser died (lung cancer), 1969 (was 59). The composer was the "victim" of one of Homer and Jethro's earliest hits, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," in 1949 (which featured a young June Carter singing the female part). It was reported that Loesser had no objection to the parody (from an EP titled Homer and Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser), and only asked that the songwriter credit read, "With apologies to Frank Loesser" (which is on every copy of the song I have ever seen).

July 29:

Pete Drake died (lung disease), 1988 (was 55)

July 30:

Sam Phillips died (respiratory failure), 2003 (was 80)

July 31:

Jim Reeves died (plane crash), 1964 (was 40)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 11-20

Category: News

July 12:

Jimmie Driftwood died (heart attack), 1998 (was 91)

July 13:

Rhonda Vincent born in Kirksville, Missouri, 1962 (now 45)
Bradley Kincaid born in Level, Kentucky, 1895 (died 1989)
Tim Spencer born in Webb City, Missouri, 1908 (died 1974)
Riley Puckett died (blood poisoning), 1946 (was 62)

July 14:

Woody Guthrie born in Okemah, Oklahoma, 1912 (died 1967)
Del Reeves born in Sparta, North Carolina, 1933 (died 2007)

July 15:

Johnny Sea born in Gulfport, Mississippi, 1940 (now 67)
Cowboy Copas born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, 1913 (died 1963)

July 16:

Ronny Robbins born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1949 (now 58)

July 17:

Red Sovine born in Charleston, West Virginia, 1918 (died 1980)
Harry Choates died (results of head injury), 1951 (was 29)
Dizzy Dean died (heart attack), 1974 (was 63). Dizzy is mentioned here because he was credited with giving Roy Acuff the nickname "King of Country Music."
Don Rich died (motorcycle accident), 1974 (was 32)
Wynn Stewart died (heart attack), 1985 (was 51)

July 18:

Ricky Skaggs born in Cordell, Kentucky, 1954 (now 53)

July 19:

George Hamilton IV born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1937 (now 70)
Sue Thompson born in Nevada, Missouri, 1926 (now 81)
Lefty Frizzell died (stroke), 1975 (was 47)

July 20:

Radney Foster born in Del Rio, Texas, 1959 (now 48)
Sleepy LaBeef born in Smackover, Arkansas, 1935 (now 72)
T.G. Sheppard born in Humbolt, Tennessee, 1942 (now 65)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Boots Randolph Dies


Boots Randolph died July 3 in Nashville of a sudural hematoma.


Homer Louis Randolph was born June 3, 1927 in Paducah, Kentucky. His rendition of "Yakety Sax" (a takeoff of the title of the Coasters' hit "Yakety Yak") became a pop hit and later the theme to Benny Hill's long-running British television show. He was part of Nashville's "A List" of studio musicians, a group that included Country Music Hall of Fame members Harold Bradley and Floyd Cramer. (If Randolph's name is on the Hall of Fame ballots, look for him to be inducted this year.)

A bit of trivia regarding Boots: Country comedian Don Bowman recorded a song titled "Chit Akins, Make Me a Star," a 1964 top 20 country novelty number about a plea from a very bad musician to one of the top producers in country music -- complete with a misspelling and mispronunciation of his name -- for a chance at stardom. Chet Atkins later recounted on a WSM talk show that they needed a really bad guitarist to play the woeful riffs contained in the song, but the problem was that professional musicians just could not play as poorly as the song required. Boots Randolph, however, according to Atkins, "knew just enough on the guitar to be bad," so the legendary saxophonist picked up the guitar and mangled his way through "Wildwood Flower" on the Bowman song.

Boots Randolph was 80.

Boots Randolph's Web Site

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 1-10


July 1:

Keith Whitley born in Sandy Hook, KY, 1955 (died 1989)

July 2:

Marvin Rainwater born in Wichita, Kansas, 1925 (now 82)
Ken Curtis (one-time member of Sons of the Pioneers as well as Gunsmoke actor) born in Lamar, Colorado, 1916 (died 1991)

July 3:

Johnny Lee born in Texas City, Texas, 1946 (now 61)
Aaron Tippin born in Pensacola, Florida, 1958 (now 49)
Johnny Russell died (complications of diabetes), 2001 (was 61)

July 4:

Ray Pillow born in Lynchburg, Virginia, 1937 (now 70)
Charlie Monroe born in Rosine, Kentucky, 1903 (died 1975)
Marion Worth born in Birmingham, Alabama, 1930 (died 1999)
Big Al Downing died (leukemia), 2005 (was 65)

July 6:

Jeannie Seely born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, 1940 (now 67)
Roy Rogers died (heart failure), 1998 (was 86)

July 7:

Charlie Louvin born in Rainsville, Alabama, 1927 (now 80)
Lonzo Sullivan born in Edmonton, Kentucky, 1917 (died 1967)
Doyle Wilburn born in Hardy, Arkansas, 1930 (died 1982)
George Morgan died (heart attack), 1975 (was 50)

July 8:

Toby Keith born in Clinton, Oklahoma, 1961 (now 46)
Louis Jordan (a jazz artist who had two country #1 hits in 1944) born in Brinkley, Arkansas, 1908 (died 1975)

July 9:

Jesse McReynolds born in Coeburn, Virginia, 1929 (now 77)
David Ball born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, 1953 (now 54)
Eddie Dean born in Posey, Texas, 1907 (died 1999)
Molly O'Day born in Pike County, Kentucky, 1923 (died 1987)

July 10:

"Hawk" Shaw Wilson of BR5-49 born in Topeka, Kansas, 1960 (now 47)