Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 1-15

Category: News

August 2:
Hank Cochran born in Isola, Mississippi, 1935 (now 73)
Betty Jack Davis died (car wreck), 1953 (was 21)

August 3:
Randy Scruggs born in Nashville, 1953 (now 55)
Gordon Stoker born in Gleason, Tennessee, 1924 (now 84)
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 Jimmie Rodgers.
Carson Robison born in Oswego, Kansas, 1890 (died 1957)

August 5:
Bobby Braddock born in Lakeland, Florida, 1940 (now 68)
Tim Wilson born in Columbus, Georgia, 1961 (now 47)
Terri Clark born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1968 (now 40)
Vern "The Voice" Gosdin born in Woodland, Alabama, 1934 (now 74)
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 44)
Lisa Stewart born in Louisville, Mississippi, 1968 (now 40)

August 7:
Rodney Crowell born in Houston, Texas, 1950 (now 58)
Raul Malo of the Mavericks born in Miami, Florida, 1965 (now 43)
B.J. Thomas born in Hugo, Oklahoma, 1942 (now 66)
Homer Haynes died (heart attack), 1971 (was 51)

August 8:
Jamie O'Hara born in Toledo, Ohio, 1950 (now 58)
Mel Tillis born in Tampa, Florida, 1932 (now 76)
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 80)
Jimmy Martin born in Sneedville, Tennessee, 1927 (died 2005)

August 11:
John Conlee born in Versailles, Kentucky, 1946 (now 62)

August 12:
Mark Knopfler born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1949 (now 58). Knopfler, best known as guitarist and lead singer of Dire Straits, won a "Best Country Vocal Collaboration" Grammy with Chet Atkins in 1990 for the song "Poor Boy Blues."
Porter Wagoner born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, 1927 (died 2007)
Buck Owens born in Sherman, Texas, 1929 (died 2006)

August 14:
Connie Smith born in Elkhart, Indiana, 1941 (now 67)
Charles K. Wolfe born in Sedalia, Missouri, 1943 (died 2006)
Johnny Duncan died (heart attack), 2006 (was 67)

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)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sick Call: Hank Cochran

Category: News

Legendary songwriter Hank Cochran, known for composing such hit songs as "I Fall to Pieces," "The Chair," "A-11," "Don't Touch Me," "I'd Fight the World," and It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)," is currently in a Nashville hospital recovering from cancer surgery.

Cochran, who will turn 73 next month, underwent successful surgery to have tumors removed from his pancreas and lymph nodes.

"I feel so blessed," Cochran said in a press release through his agent. "The diagnosis was made very early, and the doctors expect me to make a full recovery."

Get-well wishes can be sent to Cochran via his MySpace site.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

See the Pyramids Along the Nile....

Category: Obituary

The Pee Wee King/Redd Stewart composition, "You Belong to Me," is a masterpiece of American music. Jim Reeves recorded the song on his album Jim Reeves, and a Patsy Cline rendition was on The Patsy Cline Story. It is best remembered, however, as the biggest hit in the career of Jo Stafford.

Jo Stafford died July 16 of congestive heart failure at the age of 90.

Although most of her career was in pop music, she did have one notable contribution to country. She was Cinderella G. Stump, the female vocalist on the Red Ingle & Natural Seven recording, "Tim-Tay-Shun." Additionally, a number of her pop hits were covers of country songs.

The other blog has more detailed information.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Never Too Early...

Category: Opinion

Now that Pop Stoneman has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, people who have heard me begging for that event to happen probably think I have nothing else to implore the voters to do.

Waylon Jennings said it best: WRONG.

The Hall of Fame is still missing a number of highly worthy performers AND "non-performers" (that's a rule that the CMA has imposed on inductions: every third year, a non-performer must be elected).

A dream induction class for 2009 would look like this:

AL DEXTER. Dexter belongs for a simple reason: his popularity in the 1940s resulted in Billboard magazine creating the "Hillbilly and Western chart" (what we now know as the "Country Singles" chart). The first two #1 songs on this chart were Al Dexter songs; actually, the same song ("Pistol Packin' Mama," first by Bing Crosby [yes, that Bing Crosby] then by Dexter himself). historian Joel Whitburn ranks artists, and in the 1944-1993 BillboardTop Country Singles book Dexter was ranked #117 -- even though his last hit was in 1948.

THE WILBURN BROTHERS. Teddy and Doyle sang with their family as children, and before they became household names they were featured on songs by Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb. Once they began recording on Decca, they took off. Their popularity resulted in a syndicated television show that featured Harold Morrison (sadly better known for his comedy and very loud jackets than his superb, underrated banjo playing) and a "girl singer" by the name of Loretta Lynn. Doyle died of cancer in 1982 and Teddy passed away in 2003 of congestive heart failure. They weren't the most loved fellows personally, but the Hall of Fame is about musical accomplishments, and the Wilburn Brothers certainly had the musical accomplishments to merit induction.

JEAN SHEPARD. From the west coast, where she began after being discovered by the late Hank Thompson, to the heart of Nashville, Jean Shepard's career has been long and sustained. Without question, she is one of the most overlooked female vocalists in the history of country music, and that is downright CRIMINAL. Her voice is still clear and strong. She is one of our true living legends, and she deserves to have her 50+-year career crowned while she's alive to see it happen.

THE MADDOX BROTHERS & ROSE. The Maddox Brothers were hailed as being "ten years ahead of their time" (or, as Fred Maddox use to correct, "Twenty!"). They were one of the top bands in the West Coast country scene in the 1940s and 50s, and their influence stretched from introducing colorful matching suits and onstage antics to homage from Merle Haggard in "The Old Man From the Mountain."

STONEWALL JACKSON. Stonewall's career began when he showed up in Nashville with a guitar and a song and took off. "Waterloo" was not only a major country hit, it was also a top 5 pop hit. He continued to have hits into the 1970s, and was a fan favorite on the Opry. Jackson currently is suing the Grand Ole Opry for age discrimination, and his induction into the Hall of Fame would tell the world that politics plays no part of the vote.

DR. CHARLES K. WOLFE. Biographies on Leadbelly, the Louvin Brothers, a detailed study on the beginning of the Grand Ole Opry, compilation of Alton Delmore's notes into the masterpiece Truth is Stranger Than Publicity, and exploration of the history of the fiddle in country music are but a few of the scholarly yet down-home works Charles Wolfe gave the world. With all the liner notes, articles, and books he wrote, one can only wonder how he found time to teach English at Middle Tennessee State as well. If a "non-performer" needs to be inducted, there can be no better choice than country's best historian. He is sorely missed.

I would include the Blue Sky Boys; however, since Bill Bolick passed away earlier this year, they are ineligible for three years (to prevent a "sympathy" vote). As soon as they are eligible, again, though, they need to be inducted as well.

If this dream comes true, then I can look for Connie Smith, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, and Jim Ed Brown to be inducted in 2010! (Well, as the Louvin Brothers said, "when I stop dreaming...")

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 16-31

Category: News

July 16:

Ronny Robbins born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1949 (now 59)

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 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 54)

July 19:

George Hamilton IV born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1937 (now 71)
Sue Thompson born in Nevada, Missouri, 1926 (now 82)
Lefty Frizzell died (stroke), 1975 (was 47)

July 20:

Radney Foster born in Del Rio, Texas, 1959 (now 49)
Sleepy LaBeef born in Smackover, Arkansas, 1935 (now 73)
T.G. Sheppard born in Humbolt, Tennessee, 1942 (now 66)

July 22:

Margaret Whiting born in Detroit, Michigan, 1924 (now 84). Although primarily a pop singer, Whiting had a series of duets with Jimmy Wakely in the 40s and 50s.
Don Henley of the Eagles born in Linden, Texas, 1947 (now 61). In addition to the Eagles, Henley was in a band, Shiloh, in the late 60s with Richard Bowden (later of Pinkard and Bowden) and Jim Ed Norman.
Bob Ferguson died (cancer), 2001 (was 73)

July 23:

Johnny Darrell born in Hopewell, Alabama, 1940 (now 68)
Alison Krauss born in Decatur, Illinois, 1971 (now 37)

July 25:

Roy Acuff Jr. born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1943 (now 65)
Steve Goodman born in Chicago, Illinois, 1948 (died 1984)
Charlie Rich died (blood clot in lung), 1995 (was 62)

July 27:

Bill Engvall born in Galveston, Texas, 1957 (now 51)
Bobbie Gentry born in Chickasaw, Mississippi, 1944 (now 64)
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)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gretchen Wilson Wins "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" Contest

Category: News

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the writing and publication of the 7th inning stretch song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," ESPN held a "battle of the bands," showcasing nine bands from various genres of music performing the song. The segment began with ESPN's baseball guru Peter Gammons (who released his own album of rock songs, Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old, in 2006) doing his own, Bo Diddley-inspired version.

The nine videos were put to a vote online, and the finalists were narrowed to three. ESPN announced that the winner was country singer Gretchen Wilson's rendition.

In a phone interview on Baseball Tonight, Wilson said she was thrilled to win. When asked about the concept, Wilson explained that she used Little League players in the Nashville area for the video. She also admitted to being a big St. Louis Cardinals fan, having grown up near St. Louis in Illinois.

The videos, including Gretchen Wilson's winning version