Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 16-31

Category: News

August 16:

Elvis Presley died (heart failure), 1977 (was 42)
Kathie Lee Gifford born in Paris, France, 1953 (now 54). The TV icon was once one of the "Hee Haw honeys."
Billy Joe Shaver born in Corsica, Texas, 1939 (now 68)
Vassar Clements died (lung cancer), 2005 (was 77)

August 17:

Wayne Raney born in Wolf Bayou, Arkansas, 1920 (died 1993)

August 18:

Johnny Preston born in Port Arthur, Texas, 1939 (now 68). The singer's biggest hit, "Running Bear," featured guitar work and backing vocals by George Jones.
Hank Penny born in Birmingham, Alabama, 1918 (died 1992)
The Louvin Brothers play their last official show as a duo (opening for Ray Price) in Watseka, Illinois, 1963. According to Charles Wolfe's biography, the duo that once commanded over $1100 per show as headliners received $250 for the performance.

August 19:

Eddy Raven born in Lafayette, Louisiana, 1944 (now 63)
Clay Walker born in Beaumont, Texas, 1969 (now 38)
Lee Ann Womack born in Jacksonville, Texas, 1966 (now 41)

August 20:

Rudy Gatlin born in Olney, Texas, 1952 (now 55)
Jim Reeves born in Galloway, Texas, 1923 (died 1964)
Justin Tubb born in San Antonio, Texas, 1935 (died 1998)

August 21:

Harold Reid born in Staunton, Virginia, 1939 (now 68)
Sam McGee died (tractor accident on his farm), 1975 (was 81)

August 22:

Holly Dunn born in San Antonio, Texas, 1957 (now 50)
Collin Raye born in DeQueen, Arkansas, 1959 (now 48)
Rod Brasfield born in Smithville, Arkansas, 1910 (died 1958)
Connie B. Gay born in Lizard Lick, North Carolina, 1914 (died 1989)
Floyd Tillman died (leukemia), 2003 (was 88)

August 23:

Rex Allen, Jr. born in Chicago, Illinois, 1947 (now 60)
Woody Paul born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1949 (now 58)
Tex Williams born in Anvil, Illinois, 1917 (died 1985)
Kitty Wells became the first woman to hit #1 on the Billboard singles chart with "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," 1952. The song was very controversial in its day, with many country stations refusing to play the song and the Grand Ole Opry management prohibiting Kitty from performing the tune.

August 24:

Fred Rose born in Evansville, Indiana, 1897 (died 1954)
Jerry Clower died (complications from heart surgery), 1998 (was 71)
Nat Stuckey died (lung cancer), 1988 (was 54)

August 25:

Jerry Rivers born in Miami, Florida, 1928 (died 1996)
Elvis Costello born in London, England, 1954 (now 53). The punk pioneer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member is a die-hard country music fan who recorded an album of old country songs, Almost Blue, and has performed with numerous country legends including George Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, and Charlie Louvin. Johnny Cash recorded Costello's song "The Big Light" on Johnny Cash is Coming to Town.
Billy Ray Cyrus born in Flatwoods, Kentucky, 1961 (now 46)
Jo Dee Messina born in Holliston, Massachusetts, 1970 (now 37)
Cliff Bruner died (cancer), 2000 (was 85)

August 26:

Don Bowman born in Lubbock, Texas, 1937 (now 70)
Wilma Burgess died (heart attack), 2003 (was 64)

August 27:

J.D. Crowe born in Lexington, Kentucky, 1937 (now 70)
Jimmy C. Newman born in Big Mamou, Louisiana, 1927 (now 80)
Carter Stanley born in Dickenson County, Virginia, 1925 (died 1966)
Jim Denny died (cancer), 1963 (was 52). The Country Music Hall of Famer is most infamous for telling a guest arist after an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck." The person on the receiving end of Denny's criticism was Elvis Presley.

August 28:

Billy Grammer born in Benton, Illinois, 1925 (now 82)
LeAnn Rimes born in Jackson, Mississippi, 1982 (now 25)

August 29:

Shawn Camp born in Perryville, Arkansas, 1966 (now 41)
Archie Campbell died (heart attack), 1987 (was 67)

August 30:

Kitty Wells born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1919 (now 88)
Jim and Jon Hagar born in Chicago, Illinois, 1946 (now 61)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Whitstein Brothers' Father Dies

Category: News

Roy C. (R.C.) Whitstine, the father of Rounder Records artists the Whitstein Brothers, died Saturday, August 11, at his home in Colfax, Louisiana. He was 83.
R.C. was a local musician in his youth and passed along his love of country music to his sons. His two oldest sons, Robert and Charles, became Grammy-nominated performers. They played on the Grand Ole Opry first as teenagers, then frequently in the 1980s and 90s as guest performers. Robert died in 2001.
R.C.'s popularity as a musician never went outside the central Louisiana land where he lived his entire life, but his sons took the music they learned at his knee to the world.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hall of Fame Inductees, 2007

Category: News/Opinion

The three inductees for the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 have been announced. They are:

MEL TILLIS. A prolific singer/songwriter who penned such hits as "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" and "Detroit City" as well as his own long string of hits is inducted for contributions to country music from World War II to 1975

VINCE GILL. The singer/songwriter who got his start as a member of Louisville's Bluegrass Alliance before moving to Pure Prairie League then a long and successful solo career is being honored for contributions to country music since 1975.

RALPH EMERY. From his longtime duties as disc jockey on WSM radio, where he hosted a Monday-Friday interview show with country music stars, to the host of Pop! Goes the Country (which can still be seen weekly on RFD-TV) and Nashville Now, to author of two best-selling autobiographies (Memories and More Memories), Emery is inducted in the non-performer category.

Now, here's the problem...

In music, timing is everything. The timing for the music inductions is way off. Tillis' induction is way overdue; Gill's comes too early. And Ralph Emery? Well...

Mel Tillis was probably kept from induction for so long because the people who put on the TV show were scared of his legendary stuttering lengthening a five-minute acceptance speech into a three-hour affair. (In actuality, Tillis' stuttering is now an act, as he successfully overcame it with speech therapy. And a bit of trivia: Tillis, in the liner notes to Jim Reeves' album Missing You, credits Reeves with offering to pay for speech therapy for Tillis when the latter was a young, struggling songwriter.) Tillis' songs are all over the place. Stonewall Jackson and Ray Price have recorded their fair share of Tillis compositions, and "(Sweet) Mental Revenge" has been recorded by acts as diverse as country's legendary outlaw Waylon Jennings to rock and roll's Long Ryders. "Heart Over Mind" was a hit for Ray Price and an early Tillis composition. Simon Crum (Ferlin Husky's alter ego) even recorded a Tillis song ("Stand Up, Sit Down, Shut Your Mouth") on his one album, The Unpredictable Simon Crum. "Lonely Street" is a gem in Tillis' songwriting repertoire. And this is saying nothing of his long performing career on his own. He had an early hit with "Sawmill" (which later became a top three smash for him in 1973) as a duet with Bill Phillips (who went on to some success with "Put It Off Until Tomorrow"). His band is called the Statesiders, after a minor 1966 hit ("Stateside"). He is so deserving, but this is so overdue.

In contrast, the only reason I can think of for Vince Gill's early induction is the political machine of the Country Music Association. (If you think "politics as usual" just happens in Washington DC, you are sadly mistaken, because I think it is safe to say that you haven't seen politics till you've seen Nashville music politics!) Vince Gill was host of the CMA Awards (as in, Country Music Association, the people who vote on induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame) for 13 years. Is it any coincidence that he's the third youngest living person (behind Cash at 48 and Atkins at 49) to be inducted?

Please do not misunderstand me. Vince Gill is one of the truly nice guys in the world, a gentleman's gentleman who loves his fans and has all the time in the world for them (I remember him being so patient with a Japanese couple who could not get their camera to work for a picture one night at the Opry). He is also a staunch supporter of traditional country music and the history of this wonderful genre. I would not argue his credentials; however, my question is the antithesis of the Tillis question: instead of "why so long," I'm wondering "why so soon?" And I cannot help but believe that the CMA is patting itself on the back with his induction because of his years of hosting their awards show instead of truly honoring Gill for his accomplishments.

And, as usual, the announcement of the inductions brings up a long list of HWAs (that's short for "Hey! What About....?"):

Ernest V. Stoneman. I told Harold Bradley (himself a Hall of Famer) this earlier this year, and I would walk into a room full of voters and say it to their collective faces: every year that passes without Pop Stoneman's induction makes the voters look more and more uninformed about the music they're supposed to know. This man was so vital to country music in the 1920s and 1930s. His recording of "The Great Titanic" is a masterpiece.

Al Dexter. If you open a Billboard magazine and see a "Country Singles Chart," you can thank Al Dexter. The popularity of Al Dexter and His Troopers in the early 40s caused Billboard to create the "Hillbilly and Western" singles chart in 1944, where the first two #1 songs were Al Dexter tunes ("Pistol Packin' Mama" -- first by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters, then Dexter's own recording). In 1997, Billboard charts guru Joel Whitburn listed Dexter as the #117 singles artist of all time -- a man who had not had a charted hit since 1948 ranked that high!

Hank Locklin. "Please Help Me I'm Falling" was the third biggest hit of the entire decade of the 1960s. Locklin (who will be at least 90 before he's inducted, assuming he is alive and inducted next year) began his career in 1948 and had his first #1 hit in 1953.

Jean Shepard. She scored top ten hits in three different decades and is still a popular figure on the Grand Ole Opry. Her contributions to country music, not to mention females in country music, are immense.

Ferlin Husky. The last of the superstars of the 50s who is not in, his megahit "Wings of a Dove" is entry number one on his resume for induction, followed closely by the #2 hit "Country Music is Here to Stay" by his good friend Simon Crum.

Stonewall Jackson. Here is a golden opportunity for the CMA to prove that there is NOT a game of politics going on: induct Stonewall Jackson. His career is worthy. The fact that he currently has a lawsuit against the Grand Ole Opry for age discrimination should not enter into the picture. How I would love to be proven wrong in the case of believing it's all politics, and the best way to prove that is to see Stonewall's plaque go up next year!

The Wilburn Brothers. One of the things that kept Webb Pierce out of the Hall of Fame for so long was the fact that he was loathed by more than a few people in Nashville. The same can be said of Teddy and Doyle Wilburn, who were so ruthless in their business dealings in their publishing company Sure-Fire Music that Loretta Lynn, under contract to Sure-Fire, reportedly refused to do songs she had written so as to not put any money in the Wilburns' pockets. (And, ironically, she was the "girl singer" on their TV show!) But now that Teddy has died (he died in 2003, just days short of his 72nd birthday), it's time to bury the bad feelings and recognize the music these two men made.

The Statler Brothers. When a country song is part of pop culture, it needs to be recognized. That is true of the Statler's first hit, "Flowers on the Wall" from 1965 (which was also a top five pop hit). The Statlers had a long career of hits and a very popular television series on the Nashville Network. They are legends and icons of country music, and their induction, like Tillis', is long overdue.

Bill C. Malone. Next year is the 40th anniversary of the publication of country's "bible," Country Music U.S.A. (which will be celebrated at next year's ICMC conference). No better way to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of this landmark, vital work on country music than to induct its author.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has a controversy brewing because the Dave Clark Five received more votes than Grandmaster Flash, but the powers that be decided to put Grandmaster Flash in anyway. I would hate to see the Country Music Hall of Fame suffer a shameful decline with such a beautiful building, but the fact is that the people who vote for induction need to either do their homework on the music and induct people who are long overdue for the honor (such as Mel Tillis or last year's inductee, Sonny James) or submit their resignation from voting and turn voting rights over to someone who will do their homework.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 1-15

Category: News

August 2:
Hank Cochran born in Isola, Mississippi, 1935 (now 72)
Betty Jack Davis died (car wreck), 1953 (was 21)

August 3:
Randy Scruggs born in Nashville, 1953 (now 54)
Gordon Stoker born in Gleason, Tennessee, 1924 (now 83)
Little Roy Wiggins died (heart disease and diabetes complications), 1999 (was 73)

August 4:
Louis Armstrong born in New Orleans, 1901 (died 1971). The legendary jazz trumpet player and singer recorded with the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers.
Carson Robison born in Oswego, Kansas, 1890 (died 1957)

August 5:
Bobby Braddock born in Lakeland, Florida, 1940 (now 67)
Terri Clark born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1968 (now 39)
Vern "The Voice" Gosdin born in Woodland, Alabama, 1934 (now 73)
Sammi Smith born in Orange, California, 1943 (died 2005)
Luther Perkins died (injuries from a house fire), 1968 (was 40)

August 6:
Patsy and Peggy Lynn born in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, 1964 (now 43)
Lisa Stewart born in Louisville, Mississippi, 1968 (now 39)

August 7:
Rodney Crowell born in Houston, Texas, 1950 (now 57)
Raul Malo (of the Mavericks) born in Miami, Florida, 1965 (now 42)
B.J. Thomas born in Hugo, Oklahoma, 1942 (now 65)
Homer Haynes died (heart attack), 1971 (was 51)

August 8:
Jamie O'Hara born in Toledo, Ohio, 1950 (now 57)
Mel Tillis born in Tampa, Florida, 1932 (now 75)
Webb Pierce born in West Monroe, Louisiana, 1926 (died 1991)

August 9:
Merle Kilgore born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, 1934 (died 2005)

August 10:
Jimmy Dean born in Plainview, Texas, 1928 (now 79)
Jimmy Martin born in Sneedville, Tennessee, 1927 (died 2005)

August 11:
John Conlee born in Versailles, Kentucky, 1946 (now 61)

August 12:
Mark Knopfler born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1949 (now 57). The lead singer of the rock band Dire Straits won a "Best Country Vocal Collaboration" Grammy with Chet Atkins in 1990 for the song "Poor Boy Blues."
Porter Wagoner born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, 1927 (now 80)
Buck Owens born in Sherman, Texas, 1929 (died 2006)

August 14:
Johnny Duncan died (heart attack), 2006 (was 67)
Connie Smith born in Elkhart, Indiana, 1941 (now 66)

August 15:
Bobby Helms born in Bloomington, Indiana, 1933 (died 1997)
Lew DeWitt died (complications from Chron's disease), 1990 (was 52)
Will Rogers died (plane crash with Wiley Post), 1935 (was 55)