Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, January 1-15

Category: News

(Hall of Famers in bold)

January 1:

Frank Kettering of the Hoosier Hot Shots born in Monmouth, Illinois, 1909 (died 1973)
Hank Williams died (cardiac arrest), 1953 (was 29)
Aubrey "Moon" Mullican died (heart attack), 1967 (was 57)
Floyd "Salty" Holmes of the Prairie Ramblers died (unknown cause), 1970 (was 60)
Townes Van Zandt died (heart attack), 1997 (was 52)
Del Reeves died (emphysema), 2007 (was 73)
Johnny Cash played at San Quentin prison, 1959. Among the prisoners in attendance was Merle Haggard.

January 2:

Harold Bradley born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1926 (now 84)
Dick Feller born in Bronaugh, Missouri, 1943 (now 67)
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)
Louise Scruggs, wife and manager of Earl Scruggs, died (respiratory disease), 2006 (was 78)

January 3:

Nikki Nelson of Highway 101 born in San Diego, California, 1969 (now 41)
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
Sam Phillips opened Sun Recording Studio, 1950

January 4:

Lorene Mann born in Huntland, Tennessee, 1937 (now 73)
Mike Henderson born in Independence, Missouri, 1955 (now 55)
Kathy Forester of the Forester Sisters born in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1955 (now 55)
Patty Loveless born in Pikeville, Kentucky, 1957 (now 53)
Deana Carter born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1966 (now 44)
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:

Steve Ripley of the Tractors born in Boise, Idaho, 1950 (now 60)
Iris DeMent born in Paragould, Arkansas, 1961 (now 49)
Big Bill Lister born in Kenedy, Texas, 1923 (died 2009)
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 86)
Joey Miskulin ("Joey the Cow Polka King") of Riders in the Sky born in Chicago, Illinois, 1949 (now 61)
Jett Williams born in Montgomery, Alabama, 1953 (now 57)
Harry "Hap" Peebles born in Anthony, Kansas, 1913 (died 1993)
Autry Inman born in Florence, Alabama, 1929 (died 1988)
Bobby Lord born in Sanford, Florida, 1934 (died 2008)
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)
Ken Nelson died (natural causes), 2008 (was 96)

January 7:

Jack Greene born in Maryville, Tennessee, 1930 (now 80)
Leona Williams born in Vienna, Missouri, 1943 (now 67)
Marshall Chapman born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1949 (now 61)
David Lee Murphy born in Herrin, Illinois, 1959 (now 51)
John Rich born in Amarillo, Texas, 1974 (now 36)
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 70)
Holly Tashian born in New York, New York, 1946 (now 64)
Hoke Rice of the Rice 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)
Randall Hylton born in Willis, Virginia, 1946 (died 2001)
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:

Roy Head born in Three Rivers, Texas, 1943 (now 67)
Crystal Gayle born in Paintsville, Kentucky, 1951 (now 59)
Jimmy Day born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1934 (died 1999)
Big Al Downing born in Lenapah, Oklahoma, 1940 (died 2005)
Jimmy Boyd ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus") born in McComb, Mississippi, 1940 (died 2009)
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).
Jon Hager of the Hager Twins died (illness), 2009 (was 67)

January 10:

Curly Ray Cline born in Braisden, West Virginia, 1923 (died 1997)
Zeb Turner died (cancer), 1978 (was 62)
Loretta Webb married Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, 1948

January 11:

Naomi Judd born in Ashland, Kentucky, 1946 (now 64)
Robert Earl Keen born in Houston, Texas, 1956 (now 54)
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)
Jimmy Griffin of the Remingtons died (cancer), 2005 (was 61)
Stonewall Jackson filed $10 million age discrimination lawsuit against the Grand Ole Opry, 2007

January 12:

Ray Price born in Perryville, Texas, 1926 (now 84)
William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys born in Brewton, Alabama, 1939 (now 71)
Ricky Van Shelton born in Danville, Virginia, 1952 (now 58)
LaWanda Lindsey born in Tampa, Florida, 1953 (now 57)
Claudia Church Crowell born in Lenoir, North Carolina, 1962 (now 48)
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 brief resurgence in the popularity of bluegrass and traditional country music.

January 13:

Trace Adkins born in Springhill, Louisiana, 1962 (now 48)
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 73)
J. Henry "T-Bone" Burnett born in St. Louis Missouri, 1948 (now 62)

January 15:

David Lynn Jones born in Bexar, Arkansas, 1950 (now 60)
Kurt Howell of Southern Pacific born in Winter Haven, Florida, 1958 (now 52)
Billy Walker born in Ralls, Texas, 1929 (died 2006)
Jack Guthrie died (tuberculosis), 1948 (was 32)
Vic Willis died (car wreck), 1995 (was 72)

Country Music's Final Notes of 2009

Category: Tribute

Here are the country performers we lost in 2009.

Ernie Ashworth (March 3, heart attack, age 80): long-time member of the Grand Ole Opry who is best known for the 1961 hit "Talk Back Tremblin' Lips."
Leona Johnson Atkins
(October 21, long-term illness, age 85): member of the Johnson Twins on WLW in the 1940s who gave up her career to be Mrs. Chet Atkins.

Barry Beckett (June 10, illness, age 65): producer of albums by Kenny Chesney.
Molly Bee
(February 7, stroke, age 68): singer based on the west coast who played with Tennessee Ernie Ford and Jimmy Dean.
Jimmy Boyd
(March 8, cancer, age 70): he sang "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" as a child.
Tom Brumley
(February 4, illness, age 73): son of gospel songwriter Albert Brumley, Tom was the original steel guitarist for Buck Owens' Buckaroos.

Whaley T. "Ric" Cartey
(August 5, unknown cause, age 72): songwriter responsible for Sonny James' breakthrough hit "Young Love."
Jack Cooke
(December 1, heart attack, age 72): one-time member of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys.

John Dawson
(July 21, stomach cancer, age 64): co-founder of the 70s country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage.
Hal Durham
(March 29, unknown cause, age 77): long-time Grand Ole Opry announcer and WSM DJ.

Steve Ferguson
(October 7, cancer, age 60): founder of the band NRBQ, the band that included Skeeter Davis' husband Joey Spampinato.

Vern Gosdin
(April 29, stroke, age 74): when you said "the voice," you said it all about Vern.
Buck Griffin
(February 14, heart failure, age 85): underrated country and rockabilly singer.

Jon Hager
(January 9, illness, age 67): surviving member of Hee Haw's Hager Twins died less than a year after identical twin brother Jim's death.

Duane Jarvis
(April 1, colon cancer, age 51): session guitarist who played with the likes of Dwight Yoakam and Lucinda Williams.

Arthur Kent (January 26, natural causes, age 88): songwriter best remembered for penning Skeeter Davis' hit "The End of the World."
Tim Krekel
(June 24, stomach cancer, age 57): in addition to writing songs for Jimmy Buffett and playing in Buffett's band, the singer/songwriter won two BMI awards for Martraca Berg's "You Can Feel Bad" and Crystal Gayle's "Turning Away."

Big Bill Lister
(December 1, illness, age 86): a member of the "replacement" Drifting Cowboys Band who first commercially recorded "There's a Tear in My Beer."
Hank Locklin
(March 8, natural causes, age 91): the should-be Hall of Famer who gave us "Please Help Me, I'm Falling," "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On," and many others.

Irby Mandrell
(March 5, unknown causes, age 84): the father and manager of Barbara Mandrell died shortly after his daughter was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Les Paul (August 13, pneumonia, age 94): the inventor of multi-track recording and the electric guitar, he also won a Grammy for Chester and Lester with Chet Atkins.

Aaron Schroeder (December 2, Alzheimer's, age 83): a songwriter who saw Elvis Presley turn his songs into hits ("Stuck on You," "Good Luck Charm").
Dan Seals
(March 25, mantle cell lymphoma, 61): beginning as a pop singer (as part of England Dan and John Ford Coley) and the brother of pop singer Jim Seals of Seals & Crofts, he "Bop"ped to country in the 1980s.
Shelby Singleton (October 7, brain cancer, age 77): influential Nashville producer who signed Roger Miller to Smash Records and launched the career of Jeannie C. Riley. He also owned Sun Records starting in 1969.

Kyle Woodring (September 8, suicide [hanged self], age 42): session drummer who worked with Deana Carter.
Ruby Wright
(September 29, heart disease, age 69): daughter of Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright who had an "answer song" to "Dang Me" ("Dern Ya") become a hit.

Farewell, and thank you for the music.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

True Love's a Blessing

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Rose of My Heart
ARTIST: Whitstein Brothers
SONGWRITER: Hugh Moffatt
ALBUM: Rose of My Heart
YEAR/LABEL: 1984; Rounder

That's a great love song, and it's exactly how I feel.
(Charles Whitstein)

In baseball, there's "Ruthian," a term used to describe a home run that's along the lines of what Babe Ruth might have hit. In country music, it's "Louvinesque" to describe harmonies. Granted, it is not used much,
for a good reason: there simply are not many harmonies that come close to the Louvin Brothers.

Enter Robert and Charles Whitstein, two boys from central Louisiana. They grew up idolizing the Louvins, and as fate would have it the younger brother, Charles, developed a tenor voice not unlike Ira's, so much so that he would eventually stand next to Charlie Louvin onstage re-creating the songs of the Louvins for much of the early 1990s.

The Whitstein Brothers were pretty much at the wrong place at the wrong time early in their career. Just as they had made successful guest appearances on the Grand Ole Opry as teenagers and toured with fellow Louisiana native Faron Young, the draft called and both boys sang for Uncle Sam in the Marines (Robert in Vietnam, Charles in the Marine Corps Reserves stateside). Things were put on hold as both men married and raised families, although they sang in churches and local festivals.

Jesse McReynolds brought them to the attention of Rounder Records and they were signed in 1983. Their debut album, 1984's Rose of My Heart, made many people sit up and take notice courtesy of their superb harmonies on a collection of songs, mostly old with a few surprises (such as a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water"). The album opened with the title song, a Hugh Moffatt composition that easily was one of the greatest love songs of the 1980s. The Whitsteins' vocal performance turned it into one of the great recordings of the decade as well.

The tune is the perfect song for the perfect marriage. "We're the best partners this world's ever seen," the song begins. The lyrics describe what God intended marriage to be. "You are the love of my life," the chorus says, adding at the conclusion, "You're my harbor in life's restless storm."

The Whitstein Brothers continued their recording career, tours and frequent appearances on the Grand Ole Opry until Robert suffered a fatal heart attack in November 2001. Charles toured briefly with friend Jesse McReynolds before retiring from the music business.

With all the headlines about messy divorces and cheating spouses it is most comforting to hear a song about enduring love. It is also most enjoyable to hear a song about enduring love with great harmonies as provided by the Whitstein Brothers.


The entire Old Time Duets album
-- nominated for a "best folk album" recording in 1989, this album contains the very old (traditional songs such as "Beautiful Lost River Valley") and the more recent (Hank Williams' "Mansion on the Hill"), recorded with just two voices, a mandolin (or tenor guitar on the Delmore Brothers' "Weary Lonesome Blues") and guitar. The more sparse the sound is the better it is, and this is about as good as it gets.

"What a Change One Day Can Make" (from Sweet Harmony) -- the cover of a latter Louvins song shows exactly why Charlie Louvin once said that, as a tenor singer, "Charles Whitstein is as close to Ira as I've ever heard."

"The High Cost of Living" (from Trouble Ain't Nothin' But the Blues) -- an old song with a very modern theme.

"Smoky Mountain Memories" (from Rose of My Heart) -- a minor hit for Mel Street gets a gorgeous harmony treatment.


Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger
A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Starting Tomorrow
Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train
Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, December 16-31

Category: News

(Hall of Famers in bold)

December 16:

Jim Glaser of the Glaser Brothers born in Spalding, Nebraska, 1937 (now 72)
Jeff Carson born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1964 (now 45)
Shelby Singleton born in Waskom, Texas, 1931 (died 2009)
Jenny Lou Carson died (unknown causes), 1978 (was 63)
Martha Carson died (natural causes), 2004 (was 83)
Gary Stewart died (suicide), 2003 (was 58)
Dan Fogelberg died (cancer), 2007 (was 56)

December 17:

Sharon White Skaggs born in Wichita Falls, Texas, 1953 (now 56)
Frankie Miller born in Victoria, Texas, 1930 (now 79)
Tracy Byrd born in Vidor, Texas, 1966 (now 43)
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)
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:

Cledus T. Judd (real name: James Poole) born in Crowe Springs, Georgia, 1964 (now 45)
Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) born in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, 1904 (died 1996)
The first recording session for the Louvin Brothers (they recorded "Alabama") at Castle Studios, Nashville, 1947

December 19:

Little Jimmy Dickens born in Bolt, West Virginia, 1920 (now 89)
Janie Fricke born in South Whitney, Indiana, 1947 (now 62)
John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Bang born in Long Beach, California, 1945 (now 64)
Jumpin' Bill Carlisle born in Wakefield, Kentucky, 1908 (died 2003)
Marion Worth died (emphysema), 1999 (was 69)
Hank Williams' last show, given at the Skyline Club, Austin, Texas, 1952
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)
Don Law died (unknown cause), 1982 (was 80)
Hank Snow died (various illnesses), 1999 (was 85)

December 21:

Freddie Hart born in Lockapoke, Alabama, 1926 (now 83)
Lee Roy Parnell born in Abilene, Texas, 1956 (now 53)
Christy Forrester of the Forester Sisters born in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1962 (now 47)
Vito Pellettieri born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1889 (died 1977)
Floyd "Lightnin'" Chance born in Como, Mississippi, 1925 (died 2005)
John Bailes of the Bailes brothers died (unknown cause), 1989 (was 71)
Harold Morrison died (illness), 1994 (was 62)

December 22:

Red Stegall born in Gainesville, Texas, 1937 (now 72)
Chuck Mead of BR5-49 born in Nevada, Missouri, 1960 (now 49)
Paul Martin of Exile born in Winchester, Kentucky, 1962 (now 47)
Harold "Hawkshaw" Hawkins born in Huntington, West Virginia, 1921 (died 1963)
Dave Dudley died (heart attack), 2003 (was 75)

December 23:

Murray "Buddy" Harman born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1928 (died 2008)

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:

J.R. "Curly" Sechler born in China Grove, North Carolina, 1919 (now 90)
Jimmy Buffett born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, 1946 (now 63)

Barbara Mandrell born in Houston, Texas, 1948 (now 61)
Steve Wariner born in Noblesville, Indiana, 1954 (now 55)
Alton Delmore born in Elkmont, Alabama, 1908 (died 1964)
Billy Nelson, Willie Nelson's son, died (suicide), 1991 (was 33)
Johnny Cash and family robbed and held at gunpoint in their Jamaica home, 1982

December 26:

Ronnie Prophet born in Calument, Quebec, 1938 (now 71)
Bob Carpenter of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1946 (now 63)
Audrey Wiggins born in Asheville, North Carolina, 1967 (now 42)
Beecher Ray "Pete" "Bashful Brother Oswald" Kirby born in Sevier County, Tennessee, 1911 (died 2002)
Harry Choates born in Rayne, Louisiana, 1911 (died 1951)
Jimmie Osborne died (suicide), 1957 (was 34)

December 27:

Scotty Moore born in Gadsden, Tennessee, 1931 (now 78)
Les Taylor of Exile born in Oneida, Kentucky, 1948 (now 61)
Darrin Vincent of Dailey & Vincent born in Kirkville, Missouri, 1969 (now 40)
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:

Joe Diffie born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1958 (now 51)
Mike McGuire of Shenandoah born in Haleyville, Alabama, 1958 (now 51)
Marty Roe of Diamond Rio born in Lebanon, Ohio, 1960 (now 49)
Dorsey Burnette born in Memphis, Tennessee, 1932 (died 1979)
Hank Williams Jr.'s first recording session at age 14, 1963

December 29:

Rose Lee Maphis born in Baltimore, Maryland, 1922 (now 87)
Ed Bruce born in Keiser, Arkansas, 1940 (now 69)

December 30:

Suzy Bogguss born in Aledo, Illinois, 1956 (now 53)
Melvin Goins born in Bramwell, West Virginia, 1933 (now 76)
Mike Auldridge born in Washington, DC, 1938 (now 71)
Bob Ferguson born in Willow Spring, Missouri, 1927 (died 2001)
Skeeter Davis (nee Mary Frances Penick) born in Dry Ridge, Kentucky, 1931 (died 2004)
John Hartford born in New York, New York, 1937 (died 2001)

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
The old Country Music Hall of Fame closed, 2000

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Tear in Your Beer

Category: Obituary

In 1952 Hank Williams gave one of his band members an acetate because the man said he wanted a "beer-drinkin' song" to record. The man recorded the song after Hank's death and had a hit with it.

Decades later, the man found that acetate and gave a copy to Hank Williams Jr., who cleaned up the vocals and added his own for a "duet" with his father.

The song: "There's a Tear in My Beer."

The man who first commercially recorded that song, Big Bill Lister, died December 1 in Texas.

Lister was called "Big Bill" for a good reason: he was 6'7". He had a record deal with Capitol and recorded a number of regional hits (including "RC Cola and a Moon Pie").

As recently as October 2009 Lister was still performing.

Big Bill Lister was 86.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, December 1-15

Category: News

(Hall of Famers in bold)

December 1:

Darryl Ellis born in Norfolk, Virginia, 1964 (now 45)
Silm Willet born in Dublin, Texas, 1919 (died 1966)
Jim Nesbitt born in Bishopville, South Carolina, 1931 (died 2007)
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 59)
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 82)
Paul Gregg of Restless Heart born in New York, New York, 1954 (now 55)
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 64)
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 87)
Jim Messina of Poco born in Harlingen, Texas, 1947 (now 62)
Ty England born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1963 (now 46)
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 68)
Bill Lloyd of Foster & Lloyd born in Ft. Hood, Texas, 1955 (now 54)
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 101)
Bobby Osborne born in Hyden, Kentucky, 1931 (now 78)
Gary Morris born in Fort Worth, Texas, 1948 (now 61)
Ronnie Sessions born in Henrietta, Oklahoma, 1948 (now 61)
Hugh X. Lewis born in Yeaddiss, Kentucky, 1932 (now 77)
Darrell Glenn born in Waco, Texas, 1935 (died 1990)
Bill Boyd died (unknown cause), 1977 (was 67)

December 8:

Marty Raybon born in Stanford, Florida, 1959 (now 50)
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 77)
David Kersh born in Humble, Texas, 1970 (now 39)
David Houston born in Bossier City, Louisiana, 1938 (died 1993)
Tommy Jackson died (unknown cause), 1979 (was 53)

December 10:

Johnny Rodriguez born in Sabinal, Texas, 1951 (now 58)
Kevin Sharp born in Weiser, Idaho, 1970 (now 39)
Eddie Miller born in Camargo, Oklahoma, 1919 (died 1977)
John Duffey of the Seldom Scene died (heart attack), 1996 (was 62)
Faron Young died (suicide [gunshot]), 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 64)
Brenda Lee born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1944 (now 65)
Arthur Q. Smith born in Griffin, Georgia, 1909 (died 1963)
Cousin Jody (ne James Summey) born in Sevierville, Tennessee, 1914 (died 1975)
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 37)
LaCosta Tucker born in Seminole, Texas, 1951 (now 58)
Clifton Chenier died (kidney disease related to diabetes), 1987 (was 62)

December 13:

Buck White born in Oklahoma, 1930 (now 79)
Randy Owen of Alabama born in Fort Payne, Alabama, 1949 (now 60)
John Anderson born in Orlando, Florida, 1954 (now 55)
Wesley Tuttle born in Lamar, Colorado, 1917 (died 2003)
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:

Doug Phelps of Kentucky Headhunters born in Leachville, Arkansas, 1960 (now 49)

Alvin Pleasant Carter born in Maces Spring, Virginia, 1891 (died 1960)
Jerry Wallace born in Guilford, Missouri, 1928 (died 2008)
Ernie Ashworth born in Huntsville, Alabama, 1928 (died 2009)
Nudie Cohn (ne Nuta Kotlyarenko) born in Kiev, Ukraine, 1902 (died 1984)
William Eugene "Red" Rector born in Marshall, North Carolina, 1929 (died 1990)
Hank Williams marries Audrey Guy, 1944

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Old Time Religion

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
ARTIST: Browns Ferry Four
ALBUM: None, released on 78
YEAR/LABEL: 1946; King

The "Hee Haw Quartet" was just an attempt to try to imitate the Browns Ferry Four.
(Grandpa Jones)

King Recor
ds was the place to be for hillbilly recordings in the immediate aftermath of World War II. The roster reads like a "who's who" of Hall of Fame members or people who should be there. The Browns Ferry Four was a group that literally was a who's who of Hall of Famers: Alton and Rabon Delmore (2001 inductees), Grandpa Jones (1978), and rotating bass singers, usually Red Foley (1967) or Merle Travis (1977). These secular artists joined forces occasionally to record gospel sides for release. The results were usually good, but the standout was "Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me."

There was nothing complicated about the Browns Ferry Four.
All they did was sing, and oh how they sang. The diverse vocal styles of the acts blended together perfectly to create a lovely sound reminiscent of a southern church house on Sunday morning. Red Foley was the bass singer on the session that produced this song. One guitar provided the musical accompaniment. On the chorus the quartet changed from singing together to a call-and-response style with Alton and Rabon taking turns while Foley provided the superb bass singing.

The Browns Ferry Four left too few (44) gospel recordings and no secular work. Their last recording session was in August 1952, less than four months before junior Delmore Brother Rabon lost his battle with lung cancer. The beautiful harmonies they left on this and the other tracks they did record show that they could have been the first "supergroup" in country music.


Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger
A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train
Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

Where the Legends Sang

Category: News

"We did it, Cincinnati!" R&B and funk superstar Bootsy Collins proclaimed. "We did it! We did it!!"

What was the bass player of P-Funk so excited about? The erection of a plaque about a hillbilly.

A crowd stood outside 811 Race Street in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday (11/22) afternoon as a plaque commemorating the location of Herzog Studios, the legendary studios that saw recordings by Flatt & Scruggs, the Delmore Brothers, Homer & Jethro, Cowboy Copas, Patti Page, Rex Allen, and many others, was unveiled.

The Herzog Studios marker

The other side of the marker salutes one recording star in particular: Hank Williams. Hank's "Lovesick Blues" was recorded at Herzog Studios in December 1948, and eight other sides were recorded in August 1949. With the tunes recorded at Herzog, Williams became an established superstar in country music.

The marker discussing Hank
Williams' recordings at Herzog

Among the distinguished guest were Zella Nathan, widow of King Records founder Syd Nathan, Debby Delmore, daughter of Alton Delmore of the Delmore Brothers, Cincinnati music ambassador and native Bootsy Collins, and Bucky Herzog's son Buck, who read the side of the plaque about his father's studio to the crowd.

Following the unveiling a reception was held on the second floor, which housed the Herzog Studios for a decade. Photos and stories of the acts who recorded at Herzog adorned the walls and a band played several songs that were cut there. Cincinnati Public Library music librarian and King Records historian Brian Powers put tape on the floors, working from a diagram provided by a studio musician who had worked there, to indicate where the control booth, storage room, and other elements of the original studio had been.

Congratulations to Brian Powers, who lobbied long and hard to have the Herzog Studios officially recognized as an historical site by the city of Cincinnati. Congratulations, too, to the "Queen City" for celebrating its rich musical heritage.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, November 16-30

Category: News

(Hall of Famers in bold)

November 16:

Troy Seals born in Bill Hill, Kentucky, 1938 (now 71)
Larry Cordel born in Cordell, Kentucky, 1949 (now 60)
Will Goleman of the Cactus Brothers born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1963 (now 46)
Ernest Tubb biographer Ronnie Pugh born in Texas, year unknown
Earl Bolick born in Hickory, North Carolina, 1919 (died 1998)
J.D. Sumner died (heart attack), 1998 (was 73)

November 17:

Gordon Lightfoot born in Orilla, Ontario, Canada, 1938 (now 71). The legendary folk singer has written such hits as Marty Robbins' "Ribbon of Darkness" and Bill Anderson's "Did She Mention My Name."
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 33)
John McFee of Southern Pacific born in Santa Cruz, California, 1953 (now 56)
Doug Sahm died (heart attack), 1999 (was 58)

November 19:

Billy Currington born in Savannah, Georgia, 1973 (now 36)
Jerry Foster born in Tallapoosa, Missouri, 1935 (now 74)
Joe Falcon died (unknown cause), 1965 (was 65). Falcon is credited with making the first recording of a Cajun song in 1928 with "Allons a Lafayette."
Bobby Russell died (coronary artery disease), 1992 (was 51)

November 20:

Curly Putman born in Princeton, Alabama, 1930 (now 79)
George Grantham of Poco and Ricky Skaggs' band born in Cordell, Oklahoma, 1947 (now 62)
Dierks Bentley born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1975 (now 34)
Josh Turner born in Hannah, South Carolina, 1977 (now 32)
Judy Canova born in Starke, Florida, 1913 (died 1983)
Eck Robertson born in Madison County, Arkansas, 1897 (died 1975)
RCA buys the contract of Elvis Presley from Sun Records for $35,000, 1955

November 21:

Jean Shepard born in Paul Valley, Oklahoma, 1933 (now 76)
Joe Carson born in Holliday, Texas, 1936 (died 1964)
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 76)
Charlie Sizemore born in Richmond, Kentucky, 1960 (now 49)
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:

Johnny Carver born in Jackson, Mississippi, 1940 (now 69)
Stoney Edwards born in Seminole, Oklahoma, 1929 (died 1997)
Teddy Wilburn died (congestive heart failure), 2003 (was 71)
Wanted! The Outlaws by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Jessi Colter certified platinum, making it the first certified platinum album in country music

November 25:

Amy Grant born in Augusta, Georgia, 1960 (now 49)
Eddie Stubbs born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, 1961 (now 48)
Biff Collie born in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1926 (died 1992)
Ralph Emery debuts on WSM in overnight slot, 1957

November 26:

Joe Nichols born in Rogers, Arkansas, 1976 (now 33)

November 27:

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

November 28:

WSM Barn Dance (later known as the Grand Ole Opry) born, 1925 (now 84)
Carrie Rodgers, widow of Jimmie Rodgers, died (cancer), 1961

November 29:

Merle Travis born in Rosewood, Kentucky, 1917 (died 1983)
Jody Miller born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1941 (now 68)
Joel Whitburn born in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, 1938 (now 71)
Jim Nesbitt died (heart ailment), 2007 (was 75)

November 30:

Bob Moore born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1932 (now 77)
Jeannie Kendall born in St. Louis, Missouri, 1954 (now 55)
Mindy McCready born in Ft. Myers, Florida, 1975 (now 34)
Teddy Wilburn born in Hardy, Arkansas, 1931 (died 2003)
Jack Reno born in Bloomfield, Iowa, 1935 (died 2008)
David Houston died (brain aneurysm), 1993 (was 54)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Knee Slapper

Category: Tribute

Robert Whitstein was a knee-slapper.

Not in a painful or vicious way, but that was his way of letting his friends know he was joking.

Robert could be as straight-faced as the best dramatic actor while pulling their leg. Then he'd slap the poor victim's knee and everyone was in on the joke.

One of my favorite times was at the 1994 IBMA convention. Robert and Charles had just reunited after Robert took some time off because he didn't like the road. (That's understandable when you're in St. Louis tonight, Boise the next night, and Minneapolis the night after!) After their showcase performance we were heading up to the Rounder Records suite in the elevator. A young boy, maybe 10 years old, was in the elevator with us. He gazed up at Robert for a long time and finally said, "You guys were good."

"Thanks," Robert replied politely.

When we got to the suite things changed.

"You know what I should've told that boy?" Robert asked me with a solemn face. "When he said, 'You guys were good?' I should've said, 'Hell, I know it!'"

Then came the knee slap.

Robert Whitstein at City Stages in
Birmingham, Alabama, 1998

There are probably a lot of people in Heaven who've had their knees slapped in the eight years since Robert left us on November 14, 2001.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Thanks to Country Music's Veterans

Category: Tribute

We pause on Veterans Day to pay tribute to the men and women who have served our nation by service in the Armed Forces.

Here is a list of some of the country music singers and songwriters who have blessed us with their music and their military service.

ARMY: Jules Verne Allen (World War I), Bobby Bare, Jim Ed Brown, Aytchie Burns (World War II), Jethro Burns (World War II), Tommy Cash, Homer Haynes (World War II), Harlan Howard, Kris Kristofferson, Charlie Louvin (World War II and Korea), Ira Louvin, Darrell McCall, Skeets McDonald, Jesse McReynolds (Korea), Jim McReynolds (Korea), Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Elvis Presley, John Prine, Boots Randolph, Jerry Reed, Don Reno (World War II), Ralph Stanley (World War II), George Strait, Nat Stuckey (Korea), Conway Twitty, Charlie Walker, Doyle Wilburn (Korea), Teddy Wilburn (Korea), Faron Young.

NAVY: Archie Campbell (World War II), Cy Coben (World War II), Larry Cordle, Stonewall Jackson, Johnny Lee (Vietnam), Bill Nettles (World War I), Johnny Paycheck, Ray Pillow, Marty Robbins (World War II), Carl Smith, Hank Thompson (World War II).

AIR FORCE/ARMY AIR CORPS: Gene Autry (World War II), Johnny Cash, Jimmy Dean, Tennessee Ernie Ford (World War II), Willie Nelson, Mike Nesmith, Del Reeves, Charlie Rich, Carter Stanley (World War II), Mel Tillis.

MARINES: Wendy Bagwell (World War II), Tommy Collins, Don Everly, Phil Everly, Freddy Fender, Josh Garcin, Freddie Hart (World War II), George Jones, Ray Price (World War II), Charles Whitstein, Robert Whitstein (Vietnam).

MERCHANT MARINES: Ferlin Husky (World War II).

TWO BRANCHES: Bob Ferguson (first Army, then Marines; in the Korean War as a Marine).

Thank you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, November 1-15

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold)

November 1:

Bill Anderson born in Columbia, South Carolina, 1937 (now 72)
Lyle Lovett born in Klein, Texas, 1957 (now 52)
Keith Stegall born in Wichita Falls, Texas, 1954 (now 55)
Lew Childre born in Opp, Alabama, 1901 (died 1961)
Buddy Killen died (cancer), 2006 (was 73)
Jack Reno died (brain cancer), 2008 (was 72)

November 2:

k.d. lang born in Consort, Alberta, 1961 (now 48)
John David Souther born in Detroit, Michigan, 1945 (now 64)
Charlie Walker born in Copeville, Texas, 1926 (died 2008)
Elaine Tubb, wife of Ernest Tubb and subject of the song "Blue-Eyed Elaine," died, 2001 (was 85)

November 3:

Fabor Robison born in Beebe, Arkansas, 1911 (died 1986)
Leon Huff born in Whitesboro, Texas, 1912 (died 1952)
John Maddox (Maddox Brothers & Rose) born in Boaz, Alabama, 1915 (died 1968)
Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams become the first inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, 1961
Merle Haggard granted parole from San Quentin, 1960

November 4:

Kim Forrester born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1960 (now 49)
Will Rogers born near Oologah, Oklahoma, 1879 (died 1935)
Audrey Williams died (illness), 1975 (was 52)
Dale Noe died (unknown cause), 2004 (was 76)

November 5:

Billy Sherrill born in Phil Campbell, Alabama, 1936 (now 73)
Gram Parsons born in Winter Haven, Florida, 1946 (died 1973)
Roy Rogers (Leonard Slye) born in Cincinnati, Ohio, 1911 (died 1998)
Roy Horton born in Broad Top, Pennsylvania, 1914 (died 2003)
Johnny Horton died (car wreck), 1960 (was 35)
Jimmie Davis died (natural causes), 2000 (was 101)
Dorothy Southworth Ritter died (natural causes), 2003 (was 88)

November 6:

Stonewall Jackson born in Emerson, North Carolina, 1932 (now 77)
Guy Clark born in Monahan, Texas, 1941 (now 68)
Glenn Frey of the Eagles born in Detroit, Michigan, 1948 (now 61)
Hank Thompson died (lung cancer), 2007 (was 82)
Elvis Presley became a member of Louisiana Hayride, 1954

November 7:

Robin Lee born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1953 (now 56)
Red Ingle born in Toledo, Ohio, 1906 (died 1965)
Archie Campbell born in Bull's Gap, Tennessee, 1914 (died 1987)
A.P. Carter died (illness), 1960 (was 68)
Red Foley's daughter, Shirley, married Pat Boone, 1953
Gene Wooten died (cancer), 2001 (was 49)
Marty Robbins participated in his final NASCAR race, 1982

November 8:

Patti Page (Clara Fowler) born in Claremore, Oklahoma, 1927 (now 82)
Scotty Wiseman born in Ingalls, North Carolina, 1909 (died 1981)
Ivory Joe Hunter died (lung cancer), 1974 (was 60). A number of the R&B singer/songwriter's songs were turned into country hits by Sonny James, including "Since I Met You, Baby" and "Empty Arms."

November 9:

George D. Hay born in Attica, Indiana, 1895 (died 1968)
Curly Fox born in Graysville, Tennessee, 1910 (died 1995)
James "Spider" Rich, co-writer of "Yakety Sax," died (unknown cause), 2003 (was 80)

November 10:

Donna Fargo (Yvonne Vaughn) born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, 1940 (now 69)
Pat Severs of Pirates of the Mississippi born in Elmira, New York, 1952 (now 57)
Paul Cohen born in Chicago, Illinois, 1908 (died 1970)
Onie Wheeler born in Senath, Missouri, 1921 (died 1984)
Dave "Stringbean" Akeman died (murdered), 1973 (was 58)
Curly Fox died (natural causes), 1995 (was 85)
The Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior, killing all 29 aboard, 1975. The accident inspired Gordon Lightfoot's 1976 pop/country/folk hit "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

November 11:

Narvel Felts born near Keiser, Arkansas, 1938 (now 71)
Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland born in Cow Pens, South Carolina, 1930 (died 2004)
Wade Ray died (illness), 1998 (was 85)

November 12:

Barbara Fairchild born in Lafe, Arkansas, 1950 (now 59)
Jo Stafford born in Coalinga, California, 1917 (died 2008). The pop singer was the girl singer on Red Ingle & Natural Seven hit "Tem-Tay-Shun."
John Lair, Renfro Valley Barn Dance founder, died (natural causes), 1985 (was 91)
Homer and Jethro's legendary live album At the Country Club recorded in Nashville, 1959
Groundbreaking ceremonies held for construction of the Grand Ole Opry House (current home of the Opry), 1971
The IRS confiscated Willie Nelson's belongings as payment for his tax bill, 1990

November 13:

Ray Wylie Hubbard born in Soper, Oklahoma, 1946 (now 63)
Jack Guthrie born in Olive, Oklahoma, 1915 (died 1948)
Buddy Killen born in Florence, South Carolina, 1932 (died 2006)
Jerry Lee Lewis Jr. died (car wreck), 1973 (was 20)
Junior Samples died (heart attack), 1983 (was 57)

November 14:

Ken Carson born in Coalgate, Oklahoma, 1914 (died 1994)
Robert Whitstein died (heart attack), 2001 (was 57)

November 15:

William Fries (C.W. McCall) born in Audubon, Iowa, 1928 (now 81)
Jack Ingram born in Houston, Texas, 1970 (now 39)
Lowell Blanchard born in Palmer, Illinois, 1910 (died 1968). Blanchard was the program director at WNOX in the 1930s and began the Midday Merry-Go-Round.
Albert E. Brumley died (unknown cause), 1977 (was 72)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chet Aktins' Widow Dies

CATEGORY: News/Obituary

When Leona Johnson met a shy guitarist named Chester Atkins in Cincinnati she was a star. Leona and her identical twin Lois were on the air on WLW as "Fern and LaVern," the Johnson Twins.

Chet had been sharing a room at the YMCA with Jethro Burns of Homer and Jethro when Jethro began dating Lois. In May 1946 Jethro and "Gussie" married. Two months later Leona wed Chet. The twins gave up their careers to become Mrs. Jethro and Mrs. Guitar. They also quietly participated in two of the great love stories in country music.

Leona Johnson Atkins died October 21 in Nashville after a long illness.

After the marriage in 1946 Leona was the number one love of Chet Atkins' life (with number two being their daughter, Merle). Their marriage lasted through Chet's rise from backing musician to the A&R man at RCA (which some joked stood for "Record for Chet Atkins") and his Hall of Fame career as the most identifiable guitarist in country music since Merle Travis (Atkins' idol). Their storybook life together continued until Chet's passing in 2001, three days before what would have been their 55th wedding anniversary.

Leona's twin sister Lois Johnson Burns died in April 1989, two months after her husband of nearly 43 years lost his battle with cancer.

Leona Johnson Atkins was 85.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hardcore Country

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Playboy
ARTIST: Wynn Stewart
SONGWRITER: W.S. Stevenson / W. Chandler
ALBUM: None, issued as a single
YEAR/LABEL: 1959; Challenge

Wynn's sound is what influenced Buck and me both.
(Merle Haggard)

If any one artist will make someone shake their head and think, "How on earth did this person NOT become a superstar?
" it's Wynn Stewart. Stewart was a singer's singer with a good tenor voice and a driving hard country sound that kowtowed to nothing -- not rock and roll, not the Nashville sound. That may have been part of the problem, along with the fact that he was based in Bakersfield, California instead of Nashville.

Some of Stewart's best work was during his tenure of Challenge Records. Most of it was not commercially successful, but most of it was exceptional. Case in point: "Playboy."

The opening fiddle and driving shuffle beat warn everyone before Stewart uttered a note issued a warning to the listener that this song, to steal a Vern Gosdin album title, contains country music. There was absolutely nothing "Nashville sound" about this tune. The steel guitar played as Stewart sang of the misery of a lost love and how life as a nightclub-hopper was nothing more than "this false front I'm wearing" that "is just to cover my blues." This is country music at its pure honky tonking best.

Buck Owens and Merle Haggard may have been influenced by Stewart but they didn't match him, even though both went on to Hall of Fame careers while Stewart languished in "cult" status. His best-known song is "It's Such a Pretty World Today," ironically a compromise into the world of "Nashville sound."

Wynn Stewart died of a heart attack on July 17, 1985 at the young age of 51, leaving a legacy of superb music, most of which lies undiscovered by the masses in an exhaustive Bear Family box set. Songs like "Playboy" indicate why that is one of the saddest things to say about country music.


The entire California Country: The Best of the Challenge Masters album
-- it is unfortunately out of print, but if you find it you will have in your possession some of the greatest music to come out of the Bakersfield scene -- or anywhere else in country music -- in the 1950s and early 60s.

"The Waltz of the Angels" (available on Capitol Country Classics - 1950s) -- the first hit version of a song later covered by nearly everyone from George Jones to Johnny Paycheck displays the true beauty of the tune and Stewart's voice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, October 16-31

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold)

October 16:

Jim Ed Norman born in Ft. Myers, Florida, 1948 (now 61)
Stoney Cooper born in Harman, West Virginia, 1918 (died 1977)
Doyle Wilburn died (cancer), 1982 (was 52)
Don Reno died (post-operative complications), 1984 (was 58)
Danny Dill died (unknown cause), 2008 (was 84)
Naomi Judd retired from touring because of health issues, 1990
Ralph Stanley Museum opened, 2004

October 17:

Earl Thomas Conley born in Portsmouth, Ohio, 1941 (now 68)
Alan Jackson born in Newman, Georgia, 1958 (now 51)
Tennessee Ernie Ford died (liver disease), 1991 (was 72)
Jay Livingston died (pneumonia), 2001 (was 86). Among the songwriter's many credits were "Bonanza!," which Johnny Cash recorded, and "The Hanging Tree," which Marty Robbins recorded.
Bashful Brother Oswald (Beecher Ray Kirby) died (cancer), 2002 (was 90)

October 18:

Chuck Berry born in San Jose, California, 1926 (now 83). Among the rock and roll legend's hits that have made it to the country chart are "Memphis" (#10 hit for Fred Knoblock, 1981), "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" (#3 hit for Waylon Jennings, 1970), "The Promised Land" (#3 hit for Freddy Weller, 1970), and "Johnny B. Goode" (#1 hit for Buck Owens, 1969).
Keith Knudsen of Southern Pacific born in Ames, Iowa, 1952 (now 57)
Harty Taylor of Karl & Harty died (stroke), 1963 (was 58)
Hank Williams married Billie Jean Jones, 1952. After Williams' death, she would marry Johnny Horton.
Don Hecht died (heart attack), 2002 (was 72)

October 19:

Charlie Chase born in Rogersville, Tennessee, 1952 (now 57)
Don Parmley of the Bluegrass Cardinals born in Oliver Springs, Tennessee, 1933 (now 76)
Ebo Walker (ne Harry Shelor) of Bluegrass Alliance and New Grass Revival born in Louisville, Kentucky, 1941 (now 68)
Jeannie C. Riley born in Anson, Texas, 1945 (now 64)
Arthur E. "Uncle Art" Satherley born in Bristol, England, 1889 (died 1986)
Grant Turner died (heart failure), 1991 (was 79)
The CMA Awards were held, 1967. The awards show was not televised.

October 20:

Wanda Jackson born in Maud, Oklahoma, 1937 (now 72)
Stuart Hamblin born in Kellyville, Texas, 1908 (died 1989)
Grandpa Jones born in Niagara, Kentucky, 1913 (died 1998)
Merle Travis died (heart attack), 1983 (was 65)
Rounder Records founded by Ken Irwin, Bill Nowlin, and Marian Leighton, 1970. Mr. Nowlin says this "birth" of Rounder is based on the date of their first invoice.

October 21:

Owen Bradley born in Westmoreland, Tennessee, 1915 (died 1998)
Bill Black died (brain tumor), 1965 (was 39)
Mel Street born in Grundy, Virginia, 1933 (died 1978)
Mel Street died (suicide), 1978 (45th birthday)

October 22:

Shelby Lynn born in Quantico, Virginia, 1968 (now 40)
Leon Chappelear died (suicide), 1962 (was 53)
Dorothy Shay, the "Park Avenue Hillbillie," died (heart attack), 1978 (was 57)

October 23:

Dwight Yoakam born in Pikeville, Kentucky, 1956 (now 53)
Junior Bryant of Ricochet born in Pecos, Texas, 1968 (now 41)
Mother Maybelle Carter died (respiratory arrest), 1978 (was 68)
Merle Watson died (tractor accident), 1985 (was 36). His father Doc's long-lasting tribute to his late son is the annual bluegrass event known as "MerleFest."
Rusty Kershaw died (heart attack), 2001 (was 63)

October 24:

Mark Gray (former member of Exile) born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1952 (now 57)
Jiles Perry "The Big Bopper" Richardson born in Sabine Pass, Texas, 1930 (died 1959). Among his songwriter credits is "White Lightnin'" by friend George Jones and Hank Snow's "Beggar to a King."
Kirk McGee died (natural causes), 1983 (was 83)
Rosey Nix Adams, daughter of June Carter Cash, died (carbon monoxide poisoning), 2003 (was 45)

October 25:

Mark Miller (Sawyer Brown) born in Dayton, Ohio, 1958 (now 51)
Jeanne Black born in Pomona, California, 1937 (now 72)
Chely Wright born in Kansas City, Missouri, 1970 (now 39)
Cousin Minnie Pearl (Sarah Ophelia Colley Canon) born in Grinders Switch (actually, Centerville), Tennessee, 1912 (died 1996)
Roger Miller died (throat cancer), 1992 (was 56)
Johnnie Lee Willis died (heart ailment), 1984 (was 72)
Johnny Cash's last concert performance, Flint Michigan, 1997

October 26:

Keith Urban born in Whangarei, New Zeland, 1967 (now 42)
Hoyt Axton died (heart attack), 1999 (was 62)
Statler Brothers' final concert in their hometown of Salem, Virginia, 2002

October 27:

Dallas Frazier born in Spiro, Oklahoma, 1939 (now 70)
Lee Greenwood born in Southgate, California, 1942 (now 67)
Snuffy Jenkins born in Harris, North Carolina, 1908 (died 1990)
Floyd Cramer born in Campti, Louisiana, 1933 (died 1997)
Ruby Wright born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1939 (died 2009)
Allan "Rocky" Lane died (cancer), 1973 (was 72). He is mentioned in the Statler Brothers' "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott."
Grand Ole Opry moves to the Hillsboro Theater, 1934

October 28:

Mitchell Torok born in Houston, Texas, 1929 (now 80)
Charlie Daniels born in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1936 (now 73)

Brad Paisley born in Glen Dale, West Virginia, 1972 (now 37)
Bill Bolick of the Blue Sky Boys born in Hickory, North Carolina, 1917 (died 2008)
Jimmy Skinner died (heart attack), 1979 (was 70)
Mel Foree died (cancer), 1990 (age unknown)
Porter Wagoner died (lung cancer), 2007 (was 80)

October 29:

Sonny Osborne born in Hyden, Kentucky, 1937 (now 72)
Charlie Monk born in Noma, Florida, 1938 (now 71)
Albert E. Brumley born in Spiro, Oklahoma, 1905 (died 1977)
Ramblin' Jimmie Dolan born in Gardena, California, 1916 (died 1994)
Fred Maddox died (heart disease), 1992 (was 73)

October 30:

Timothy B. Schmit of Poco and the Eagles born in Sacramento, California, 1947 (now 62)
T. Graham Brown born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1954 (now 55)
Patsy Montana (nee Ruby Rose Blevins) born in Hope, Arkansas, 1908 (died 1996)
Clifton Clowers born in Wolverton Mountain, Conway County, Arkansas, 1891 (died 1994)
Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright wed, 1937 (72 years!!)

October 31:

Anita Kerr born in Memphis, Tennessee, 1927 (now 82)
Richard "Kinky" Friedman born in Chicago, Illinois, 1944 (now 65)

Dale Evans born in Uvalde, Texas, 1912 (died 2001)
Carl Belew died (cancer), 1990 (was 59)
Bob Atcher died (unknown causes), 1993 (was 79)