Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 1-15

Hall of Fame members in bold

July 1:
John Lair born in Livingston, Kentucky, 1894 (died 1985). Lair, a one-time announcer on the WLS National Barn Dance, founded the Renfro Valley Barn Dance in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky in 1939.
Keith Whitley born in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, 1955 (died 1989)

July 2:
Marvin Rainwater born in Wichita, Kansas, 1925 (now 84)
Fred Maddox of the Maddox Brothers born in Boaz, Alabama, 1919 (died 1992)
Ken Curtis (one-time member of Sons of the Pioneers as well as Gunsmoke actor) born in Lamar, Colorado, 1916 (died 1991)
DeFord Bailey died (natural causes), 1982 (was 82)
Jim Reeves' final RCA recording session, 1964

July 3:
Johnny Lee born in Texas City, Texas, 1946 (now 63)
Aaron Tippin born in Pensacola, Florida, 1958 (now 51)
Johnny Russell died (complications of diabetes), 2001 (was 61)
Homer L. "Boots" Randolph died (subdural hematoma), 2007 (was 80)

July 4:
Ray Pillow born in Lynchburg, Virginia, 1937 (now 72)
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 5:
James "Guy" Willis of the Willis Brothers born in Alex, Arkansas, 1915 (died 1981)
The Grand Ole Opry's first show at the War Memorial Auditorium, 1939

July 6:
Jeannie Seely born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, 1940 (now 69)
Nancy Griffith born in Austin, Texas, 1953 (now 56)
Roy Rogers died (heart failure), 1998 (was 86)

July 7:
Charlie Louvin born in Rainsville, Alabama, 1927 (now 82)
John "Lonzo" Sullivan born in Edmonton, Kentucky, 1917 (died 1967)
Doyle Wilburn born in Hardy, Arkansas, 1930 (died 1982)
George Morgan died (complications of heart bypass surgery), 1975 (was 50)

July 8:
Toby Keith born in Clinton, Oklahoma, 1961 (now 48)
Louis Jordan (a jazz artist who had two country #1 hits in 1944) born in Brinkley, Arkansas, 1908 (died 1975)
Ervin Rouse died (complications from diabetes), 1981 (was 64)
Marty Stuart and Connie Smith married, 1997

July 9:
Jesse McReynolds born in Coeburn, Virginia, 1929 (now 81)
David Ball born in Rock Hill, South Carolina, 1953 (now 56)
Eddie Dean born in Posey, Texas, 1907 (died 1999)
Molly O'Day born in Pike County, Kentucky, 1923 (died 1987)
The Country Music Association announced the largest Country Music Hall of Fame induction class ever -- a total of 12 inductees (Bill Anderson, Delmore Brothers, Everly Brothers, Don Gibson, Homer & Jethro, Waylon Jennings, Jordanaires, Don Law, Louvin Brothers, Ken Nelson, Webb Pierce, and Sam Phillips) -- to coincide with the opening of the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 2001

July 10:
Randall E. "Hawk" Shaw Wilson of BR5-49 born in Topeka, Kansas, 1960 (now 49)

July 11:
Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band born in Detroit, Michigan, 1947 (now 62)

July 12:
Steve Young born in Newman, Georgia, 1942 (now 67)
Jimmie Driftwood died (heart attack), 1998 (was 91)

July 13:
Louise Mandrell of the Mandrell Sisters born in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1954 (now 55)
Rhonda Vincent born in Kirksville, Missouri, 1962 (now 47)
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)
Marijohn Wilkin born in Kemp, Texas, 1920 (died 2006)
Del Reeves born in Sparta, North Carolina, 1933 (died 2007)

July 15:
Johnny Sea born in Gulfport, Mississippi, 1940 (now 68)
Linda Ronstadt born in Tucson, Arizona, 1946 (now 63)
Lloyd "Cowboy" Copas born in Adams County, Ohio, 1913 (died 1963)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Solo Harmony

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: My Book of Memories
ARTIST: Charlie Louvin
SONGWRITER: Bobby Austin
ALBUM: None, B-side of "I Don't Love You Anymore"
YEAR/LABEL: 1964, Capitol

Any song worth singing is worth singing with harmony.
(Charlie Louvin)

By 1963 Charlie Louvin had taken all he could from his 90-proof brother Ira. After a show where they shared the bill with Ray Price Ira said he was quitting, and Charlie called his bluff. Two weeks later, Charlie appeared on the Grand Ole Opry as a solo act for the first time, launching a career that was more commercially successful than the Louvin Brothers' had been -- although, in retrospect, not nearly as well remembered. That is a shame because Charlie recorded some great work in his solo career.

His new life began on a very high note with the Bill Anderson composition, "I Don't Love You Anymore," complete with its punch line ("trouble is, I don't love you any less"). As fine a tune as that was, the B-side of the 45 held a great treasure in the Bobby Austin song "My Book of Memories."

As it became more and more evident that the Louvin Brothers as an act were falling to pieces faster than a Patsy Cline song Charlie began looking for a replacement. That proved difficult because of the singularly unique quality of Ira's tenor. Amazingly, he found a quality vocalist/mandolin player by the name of Tommy Hagen (who was also a songwriter: he wrote "Oh Lord, My God" on Thank God for My Christian Home, the final album of the Louvin Brothers' career). Hagen accompanied Louvin on tour for a couple of years as well as on "What Can Any Man Do" from Louvin's first solo album (Less and Less and I Don't Love You Anymore) as well as "My Book of Memories."

The results were amazing. Austin's excellent composition (later recorded by George Jones) was elevated by the harmonies Louvin and Hagen delivered. Louvin delivered the lines recalling a broken relationship with marvelous emotion while Hagen joined him in the chorus, providing harmonies that can only be described (at the risk of sounding sarcastic) as Louvinesque.

By the time of Ira's death in 1965 Hagen had left Charlie to go into the ministry. For most of his successful solo era Louvin resorted to using female vocalists because he could not find another tenor singer to match his late brother's work or the gem he had found in Hagen. It was not until he teamed up with Charles Whitstein, the tenor half of the Whitstein Brothers, that he would rediscover the Louvin magic.

Charlie's first solo album has been released on CD (in a double package with Lonesome is Me), but this B-side was omitted. Hopefully one day it will make its way to CD release because it is far too good a song to be left in the "book of memories" of 1964.


The entire Less and Less and I Don't Love You Anymore album -- songs like the Del Reeves composition "I'll Have Made It to the Bridge" are why country music has the reputation for sad songs that it does -- and I mean that as a compliment. This is an outstanding album, not just as a solo debut, but for all times. Louvin was nominated for a "Best New Country Artist" because of this masterpiece.
"Ira" (from Charlie Louvin [2007 CD]) -- Charlie looking back at his life without his brother and partner, realizing that "one day soon I'll join you with the angels" but having to get his feelings out before that happens. This song should've won a Grammy, a CMA award, an ACM award, and every other music award in existence, it's that good.

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tim Krekel Dies

Category: News

The name Tim Krekel most likely doesn't ring a bell with anyone outside of Louisville or die-hard Jimmy Buffett fans. Krekel spent his life happily at home in his hometown, where he was a singer/songwriter legend.

Tim Krekel died today (June 24) of stomach cancer.

Krekel's songs have been recorded by the likes of rockers Jason & the Scorchers (the searing commentary on the music industry, "Greetings From Nashville," with the classic line, "Somewhere Hank and Lefty are rolling in their graves while kudzu vines grow over the signs that read 'Jesus saves'") and Jimmy Buffett ("Morris' Nightmare," which appeared on Buffett's 1978 live album You Had to Be There with Krekel in the band).

Several country artists found his songwriting appealing and covered his tunes. Jerry Reed, Vern Gosdin, and Martina McBride are among the many who recorded Krekel songs. Two of his songs, "You Can Feel Bad" (co-written with and recorded by Matraca Berg) and "Turning Away" (recorded by Crystal Gayle), won BMI songwriter's awards for Krekel.

Tim Krekel was 58.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, June 16-30

Category: News

Hall of Fame members in bold

June 16:

Billy "Crash" Craddock born in Greensboro, North Carolina, 1946 (now 63)
Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers died (heart attack), 1980 (was 72)

June 17:

Clyde "Red" Foley born in Blue Lick, Kentucky, 1910 (died 1968)
Dave Akeman (Stringbean) born in Annville, Kentucky, 1916 (died 1973)
Minnie Pearl suffered a stroke that ended her career, 1991
Ground breaking ceremonies held for the new Country Music Hall of Fame, 1999. Your blogger was a member of the "All-Guitar Marching Band," fronted by Chet Atkins, that led the Hall of Fame members to the grounds.

June 18:

Sir Paul McCartney born in Liverpool, England, 1942 (now 67). The legendary Beatle hit the country chart in 1974 with "Sally G." He was also introduced to a Friday Night Opry audience in 1974 by Roy Acuff, where McCartney proclaimed Nashville the "music capital of the universe."
Marty Haggard born in Bakersfield, California, 1958 (now 51)
Blake Shelton born in Ada, Oklahoma, 1976 (now 33)
Zeke Turner born in Lynchburg, Virginia, 1923 (died 2003)
Henry Maddox of the Maddox Brothers & Rose died (heart disease), 1974 (was 46)
A.P. Carter married Sara Dougherty, 1915

June 19:

Doug Stone born in Marietta, Georgia, 1956 (now 53)
Howard Dixon of the Dixon Brothers born in Darlington, South Carolina, 1903 (died 1951)
Lester Flatt born in Sparta, Tennessee, 1914 (died 1979)
Pat Buttram born in Addison, Alabama, 1915 (died 1994)
Bobby Helms died (emphysema), 1997 (was 63)

June 20:

Anne Murray born in Springhill, Nova Scotia, 1945 (now 64)
Evelyn Mae Cox of the Cox Family born in Springhill, Louisiana, 1959 (now 50)
Jimmie Driftwood born in Mountain View, Arkansas, 1907 (died 1998)
T. Texas Tyler born in Mena, Arkansas, 1916 (died 1972)
Chet Atkins born in Luttrell, Tennessee, 1924 (died 2001)
Ira Louvin died (car wreck), 1965 (was 41)
Whitey Ford, the "Duke of Paducah," died (cancer), 1986 (was 85)

June 21:

Charlie Lamb born in Knoxville, Tennessee, 1921 (now 88)
Eddie Adcock born in Scottsville, Virginia, 1938 (now 71)
Leon Everette born in Aiken, South Carolina, 1948 (now 61)
Kathy Mattea born in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, 1959 (now 50)
Porter Howell of Little Texas born in Longview, Texas, 1964 (now 45)

June 22:

Peter Asher born in Williesden, Middlesex, England, 1944 (now 65). The former half of the pop duo Peter and Gordon was the producer of most of Linda Ronstadt's crossover hits.
Kris Kristofferson born in Brownsville, Texas, 1936 (now 72)
Ralph S. Peer born in Independence, Missouri, 1892 (died 1960)
Roy Drusky born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1930 (died 2004)
Elton Britt died (heart attack), 1972 (was 58)

June 23:

Zeb Turner born in Lynchburg, Virginia, 1915 (died 1978)
June Carter Cash born in Maces Springs, Virginia, 1929 (died 2003)

June 24:

Johnnie Bailes of the Bailes Brothers born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, 1918 (died 1989)
Foy Willing of Riders of the Purple Sage died (heart attack), 1978 (was 63)

June 25:

Jenifer Strait, daughter of George Strait, died (car wreck), 1986 (was 13)
Boudleaux Bryant died (cancer), 1987 (was 67)
Lew DeWitt retires from the Statler Brothers because of health issues, 1982
Billboard magazine renames the "Hillbilly" music chart the "Country and Western" chart, 1949

June 26:

Doc Williams born in Cleveland, Ohio, 1914 (now 95)
Kenny Baker born in Jenkins, Kentucky, 1926 (now 83)
Gretchen Wilson born in Granite City, Illinois, 1973 (now 36)
Colonel Tom Parker born in Breda, Netherlands, 1909 (died 1997). Before Elvis, Colonel Tom managed Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, and Minnie Pearl.
Vernon Presley died (heart failure), 1979 (was 63)
Elvis Presley's final concert, at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, 1977

June 27:

Lorrie Morgan born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1959 (now 50)
Elton Britt born in Marshall, Arkansas, 1913 (died 1972)
Rosalie Allen born in Old Forge, Pennsylavania, 1924 (died 2003)
Little Roy Wiggins born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1926 (died 1999)
Joe Maphis died (lung cancer), 1986 (was 65)
Bob Keeshan born in Lynbrook, New York, 1927 (died 2004). The Statler Brothers referenced Keeshan's best-known character in their hit "Flowers on the Wall:" "Smokin' cigarettes and watchin' Captain Kangaroo."

June 28:

George Morgan born in Waverly, Tennessee, 1924 (died 1975)
The WWVA Wheeling Jamboree began, 1940

June 29:

T. Tommy Cutrer born in Osyka, Mississippi, 1924 (died 1998)

Frank Loesser born in New York City, 1910 (died 1969). The legendary pop songwriter was the first "victim" of a Homer & Jethro parody in 1949, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." After Homer & Jethro recorded seven more parodies of Loesser compositions for an EP (Homer & Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser), Loesser, a fan of the pair, wrote the liner notes.
Rosemary Clooney died (lung cancer), 2002 (was 74)

June 30:

Dwayne O'Brien of Little Texas born in Ada, Oklahoma, 1963 (now 46)
Doyle Holly born in Perkins, Oklahoma, 1936 (died 2007)
R.W. Blackwood of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet died (plane crash), 1954 (was 33)
Bill Lyles of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet died (plane crash), 1954 (age unknown)
Chet Atkins died (brain cancer), 2001 (was 77)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Heartbreak on the Country Music Highway

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Lost to a Stranger
ARTIST: Hylo Brown
SONGWRITER: Frank Brown Jr.
ALBUM: Hylo Brown
YEAR/LABEL: 1954, Capitol

We wanted to try new things and yet keep it with a bluegrass flavor.
(Hylo Brown)

In eastern Kentucky Route 23 is named the "Country Music Highway." The federal road runs through or near the hometowns of many giants in country music: Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, the Judds, Keith Whitley, and Patty Loveless are among those honored with signs as the road meanders into the county in which they were born.

Probably the least-known name on the Country Music Highway is Frank "Hylo" Brown. Unlike the other stars, Brown had only minor national success in country before his recordings took a decided bluegrass turn in the early 1960s. Brown is still revered in bluegrass circles today with the likes of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver performing his songs.

One of Brown's most enduring songs is a song he originally wrote and submitted for Kitty Wells to record. Instead, he ended up with a record deal and recorded the song himself. The song is "Lost to a Stranger."

Ricky Skaggs had a major hit with his rendition of the song, and numerous other acts have recorded it. Nothing, however, compares to the original.

The legend is that Brown got his nickname, "Hylo," because of his vocal range. Without question, he had a great voice, and that clear mountain tenor helped enhance the beauty of "Lost to a Stranger." The song begins with a mournful fiddle played by Red Taylor, setting the tone for a sorrowful tale of a girl ditching her beau at a bar. They start innocently enough, entering the tavern, when the girl is asked by a stranger to dance to the waltz the house band plays. The meeting was chance, but Brown laments his girl is "lost to a stranger I never had seen, the waltz they were playing had ended my dreams."

Hylo Brown died in 2003 after a long career, mostly in bluegrass music. He has mostly been forgotten in country circles, although the bluegrass world remembers him fondly. Kentucky remembers him, too, on the Country Music Highway, and everyone should remember him for this great song.