Friday, August 22, 2008

A Golden Show

Category: Concert Review

The Country Gold tour rolled into the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday August 21. For two hours the very sizable crowd was entertained with country stars and legends.

Leroy Van Dyke was the emcee of the show and apparently the man responsible for putting the package together. "Every song you're gonna hear tonight, you'll know," Van Dyke promised the audience before launching into the biggest hit of his career, "Walk on By." His backing band, the Auctioneers, served as the back-up musicians for the rest of the stars on the bill. He concluded his set with "The Auctioneer," a song he said he wrote about his cousin's desire to become an auctioneer, although Van Dyke himself is a professional auctioneer.

Leroy Van Dyke at the autograph table
following the Country Gold performance

Next on the bill was T.G. Sheppard, who delighted the fans for 20 minutes (the biggest drawback of the package show -- no one was on stage long enough). He performed four of his biggest hits, including the masterful "Last Cheater's Waltz."

T.G. Sheppard signs autographs after the show

Helen Cornelius was the only female on the show, and honestly the biggest disappointment. Instead of doing her sole top 40 hit, "What Cha Doin' After Midnight, Baby," she chose instead to do Don Williams' "Lord, I Hope This Day is Good" and Jessi Colter's "I'm Not Lisa." In spite of ignoring her own solo songs, her voice is still very strong and enjoyable.

Next to take the stage was Jim Ed Brown, without question the highlight of the evening. The should-be Hall of Famer began with a quick rendition of "Lookin' Back to See," his first hit with his sisters from 55 years ago. He also performed "Pop a Top," a favorite with young and old alike (thanks to the recent cover by Alan Jackson).

The single greatest moment of Brown's performance, and of the entire show, was "The Three Bells." Instead of having Cornelius or members of the Auctioneers sing with him, he sang the song solo. The audience sang along on the chorus of the classic 1959 hit. It was positively magical.

Jim Ed Brown chatting and signing at the autograph table

Cornelius joined Brown for three of their duet hits, including "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You," but anything after "The Three Bells" was a letdown.

Following Jim Ed's performance, Van Dyke presented a guitar, autographed by everyone on the show, for auction. Van Dyke led the auction, which raised $3,600 for the Kentucky 4H and FFA organizations.

Steve and Rudy Gatlin took the stage after the auction to perform four songs. Their harmonies were obviously missing brother Larry to fill them out, but the two did very well on "Houston," "Broken Lady," and, with the audience's backing vocals, "All the Gold in California."

Steve Gatlin autographs a CD

The final act on stage was another Country Hall of Fame should-be, Bobby Bare. Again, limited by time, he only performed four songs, but the audience was thrilled with his rendition of "Me and Bobbie McGee" (which he recorded during his short stint on Mercury Records in the late 60s) and "Marie Laveau." "Detroit City" was another show-stopper.

Bobby Bare poses after signing an autograph

According to the Country Gold Tour 2008 web site, the line-up for the shows changes frequently. The people in Louisville were blessed to have such a "golden" line-up of performers, still singing the great country music that brought them to prominence and proving that country music is alive and well.

Monday, August 18, 2008

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 55). Gifford began her career as one of the "Hee Haw honeys."
Billy Joe Shaver born in Corsica, Texas, 1939 (now 69)
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 69). Preston is best known for "Running Bear," the 1959 hit which 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 64)
Clay Walker born in Beaumont, Texas, 1969 (now 39)
Lee Ann Womack born in Jacksonville, Texas, 1966 (now 42)

August 20:

Rudy Gatlin born in Olney, Texas, 1952 (now 56)
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 69)
Sam McGee died (tractor accident on his farm), 1975 (was 81)

August 22:

Holly Dunn born in San Antonio, Texas, 1957 (now 51)
Collin Raye born in DeQueen, Arkansas, 1959 (now 49)
Rod Brasfield born in Smithville, Arkansas, 1910 (died 1958)
Connie B. Gay born in Lizard Lick, North Carolina, 1914 (died 1989)
Horace "Aytchie" Burns died (heart attack), 1974 (was 56). Aytchie was a bass player at Knoxville's WNOX. He was also the older brother of Jethro Burns of Homer and Jethro.
Elizabeth Coleman Haynes died (kidney disease), 1976 (was 56). The one-time bass player for Angelina's Yodeling Cowgirls on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance was the wife of Homer Haynes of Homer & Jethro.
Floyd Tillman died (leukemia), 2003 (was 88)

August 23:

Rex Allen, Jr. born in Chicago, Illinois, 1947 (now 61)
Woody Paul born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1949 (now 59)
Tex Williams born in Anvil, Illinois, 1917 (died 1985)
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" hit #1 on the Billboard charts, 1952. The song, the first #1 hit for a female singer, was very controversial in its day, with many country stations refusing to play the song and the Grand Ole Opry management prohibiting Kitty Wells from performing the tune on the Opry.

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 54). 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 47)
Jo Dee Messina born in Holliston, Massachusetts, 1970 (now 38)
Cliff Bruner died (cancer), 2000 (was 85)

August 26:

Don Bowman born in Lubbock, Texas, 1937 (now 71)
Wilma Burgess died (heart attack), 2003 (was 64)

August 27:

J.D. Crowe born in Lexington, Kentucky, 1937 (now 71)
Jimmy C. Newman born in Big Mamou, Louisiana, 1927 (now 81)
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 83)
LeAnn Rimes born in Jackson, Mississippi, 1982 (now 26)

August 29:

Shawn Camp born in Perryville, Arkansas, 1966 (now 42)
Archie Campbell died (heart attack), 1987 (was 67)

August 30:

Kitty Wells born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1919 (now 89)
Jon Hagar born in Chicago, Illinois, 1946 (now 62)
Jim Hagar born in Chicago, Illinois, 1946 (died 2008)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Major Loss in Country Music

Category: Obituary

It is with tremendous sadness that I report the death of Don Helms.

Don died Monday (August 11) in Nashville of an apparent heart attack.

If you've heard any country music in the last 50 years, you've heard Don Helms. He was a steel guitar player who performed on countless sessions. His best-known riff could well be the opening music of "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams, Helms' primary employer for five years.

In 1981, Helms made an appearance on Hank Williams Jr.'s album The Pressure is On, on the song "The Ballad of Hank Williams." "Don," Williams began, "tell us how it really was when you were working with Daddy." Helms then launched into a funny, and true, account of life as a member of the Drifting Cowboys Band to the tune of "The Eighth of January" (the same melody featured in "The Battle of New Orleans"). Helms lamented (with tongue firmly in cheek) that, while "Hank played nothing but sold-out halls", he found himself "pumping gas in greasy overalls 'cause he fired my ass and he fired Jerry Rivers...and he fired some people that he didn't even know."

Don Helms was 81.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes' Link to Country Music

Category: Obituary

Probably the last person you would think of having a link to country music would be soul legend Isaac Hayes.

Hayes, who died Sunday (8/10), featured a cover of the Jimmy Webb tune "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" on his landmark album Hot Buttered Soul.

A full report is in the other blog.