Friday, July 31, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 1-15

Category: News

Hall of Fame members in bold

August 1:
oward "Howdy" Forrester of the Smoky Mountain Boys died (unknown cause), 1987 (was 65)

August 2:
Hank Cochran born in Isola, Mississippi, 1935 (now 74)
Betty Jack Davis died (car wreck), 1953 (was 21)
Joe Allison died (illness), 2002 (was 77)
Redd Stewart died (complications from a head injury), 2003 (was 82)

August 3:
Randy Scruggs born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1953 (now 56)
Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires born in Gleason, Tennessee, 1924 (now 85)
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)
James Blackwood of the Blackwood Brothers born in Ackerman, Mississippi, 1919 (died 2002)
Kenny Price died (heart attack), 1987 (was 56)

August 5:
Bobby Braddock born in Lakeland, Florida, 1940 (now 69)
Tim Wilson born in Columbus, Georgia, 1961 (now 48)
Terri Clark born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1968 (now 41)
Hal Durham born in McMinnville, Tennessee, 1931 (died 2009)
Vern "The Voice" Gosdin born in Woodland, Alabama, 1934 (died 2009)
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 45)
Lisa Stewart born in Louisville, Mississippi, 1968 (now 41)
Colleen Carroll Brooks died (throat cancer), 1999 (was 70). The former Ozark Mountain Jubilee singer was the mother of Garth Brooks.

August 7:
Rodney Crowell born in Houston, Texas, 1950 (now 59)
Raul Malo of the Mavericks born in Miami, Florida, 1965 (now 44)
B.J. Thomas born in Hugo, Oklahoma, 1942 (now 67)
Felice Bryant born in Milwaukee, Wisconcin, 1925 (died 2003)
Henry "Homer" Haynes died (heart attack), 1971 (was 51)
Billy Byrd died (natural causes), 2001 (was 81)

August 8:
Jamie O'Hara born in Toledo, Ohio, 1950 (now 59)
Mel Tillis born in Tampa, Florida, 1932 (now 77)
Phil Balsley of the Statler Brothers born in Staunton, Virginia, 1939 (now 70)
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 81)
Jerry Kennedy born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1940 (now 69)
Jonie Mosby born in Van Nuys, California, 1940 (now 69)
Jimmy Martin born in Sneedville, Tennessee, 1927 (died 2005)
Alvin "Junior" Samples born in Buena Park, California, 1926 (died 1983)

August 11:
John Conlee born in Versailles, Kentucky, 1946 (now 63)
Don Helms died (heart attack), 2008 (was 81)
Hank Williams fired from the Grand Ole Opry, 1952

August 12:
Mark Knopfler born in Glasgow, Scotland, 1949 (now 60). 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."
Rex Griffin born in Gadsden, Alabama, 1912 (died 1958)
Porter Wagoner born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, 1927 (died 2007)
Buck Owens born in Sherman, Texas, 1929 (died 2006)
Linda Parker of the WLS National Barn Dance died (peritonitis), 1935 (was 23)

August 13:
Dan Fogelberg born in Peoria, Illinois, 1951 (died 2007)

August 14:
Connie Smith born in Elkhart, Indiana, 1941 (now 68)
Charles K. Wolfe born in Sedalia, Missouri, 1943 (died 2006)
Johnny Duncan died (heart attack), 2006 (was 67)

August 15:
Rose Maddox born in Boaz, Alabama, 1925 (died 1998)
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 30, 2009

Oh, How I Miss You Tonight...

Category: Tribute

July 31, 1964 was a Friday, a typical hot, humid day in Nashville. Heat and humidity in the summertime brings with it thunderstorms, what they now refer to as "popcorn variety" storms.

Jim Reeves and his piano player/manager, Dean Manuel, were on their way back to Nashville from Arkansas in a plane Reeves piloted. Reeves had gone to conduct business; Manuel went along because he was from Arkansas. Bonnie Brown was asked to accompany the two on the trip, since she was also from Arkansas, but she had to stay home because of a sick child.

As they approached Nashville they encountered a thunderstorm. Reeves had a pilot's license but was not cleared to fly on instruments. He had to try to navigate his way through the storm by sight.

He didn't make it.

In the middle of a sentence during a conversation with the control tower at the Nashville airport Reeves' plane went down in a heavily wooded area.

Marty Robbins lived not too far from the crash site. He was outside, getting rain water in the storm to wash his hair in. He heard the noise and knew it was not thunder. Robbins ran back into his house and told his wife Marizona, "Somebody's just been killed out there!"

Mary Reeves later said at first she didn't even think anything of the report of an overdue plane being the one her husband was on. "Then," she said, "I started thinking about funeral arrangements."

It took until Sunday afternoon for the wreckage of the plane to be discovered. A photo of Eddy Arnold went around the world on the AP news wire with a caption stating he was identifying Reeves' body.

In the 45 years that have passed since the world lost the exceptional voice of Gentleman Jim there have been untold changes in the industry and in music tastes and style. One thing I feel absolutely confident in saying, however: Jim Reeves would still be making good, quality, valid music today if he had not met with death on that terrible Friday afternoon. Good music is timeless. No matter how many horrid "singers" the American Idol era throws at us the cream will always rise to the top and stand head and shoulders above everything else.

And that is exactly what Jim Reeves did -- then, now, and for all time.

James Travis Reeves: August 20, 1923 - July 31, 1964

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oh, Henry!

Category: Birthday/Tribute

To Chet Atkins, he was simply "the best rhythm guitarist ever, period."

To Kenneth Burns, he was (jokingly) a "pet peeve."

To the world, he was Homer.

You're ready now, huh?
(Jethro Burns)

No, I'm Homer.
(Homer Haynes)

"Underrated" and "genius" are two words that are about to be worn out, especially in the music industry. People who've sold 100 million records and won multiple awards are called "underrated" and singers with one mediocre hit are called "geniuses." If you want to see the true definition of "underrated genius," look no further than the man born 89 years ago on July 27: Henry Doyle Haynes.

Homer, his gum, and the man who called
himself "Homer's mandolin player" in the
Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar

Just how good was Homer Haynes? He met his lifelong music partner, Kenneth "Jethro" Burns, after being disqualified from entering an amateur contest at WNOX radio in 1932. That's right, the judge at the Knoxville radio station thought the twelve-year-old was a professional guitarist. (The judge had the same opinion of the mandolin-playing Jethro, who was a whopping four and a half months older than Homer.) Even at this young age "Junior" Haynes (so nicknamed because he and his father shared the same first name) was already a whiz on an instrument that, at the time, was almost as big as he was.

Did y'all get that? That was a j-o-c-k, joke.
(Homer Haynes)

Homer was a positive joy to watch play guitar. Country music historian Don Cusic accurately noted, "Homer had a chord for every word." Additionally, his rhythm playing was second to none. Many people, especially in modern times, may not understand the importance of a rhythm guitar player, or may misunderstand the concept of playing rhythm. When Homer and Jethro began their assault on music back in the 1930s, drums didn't exist in country music. Therefore, something had to provide the rhythm. (Bill Carlisle once said that early on the "drums" in his outfit amounted to putting a piece of paper between the strings and the fretboard of the guitar.) So, in essence, Homer was doing the work of two musicians: drummer AND guitarist. (In true Homer and Jethro fashion, I'll have to insert a joke here: hope he asked for double time from the union!) To say that Homer Haynes was the master of rhythm guitar is about as gross an understatement as one can make.

Here's how Jethro put it in the liner notes of the 1966 Homer & Jethro instrumental album It Ain't Necessarily Square:

I would like to say one thing in reference to my partner's guitar playing: he sure makes it easy for the solo man! Happiness is having a solo coming up and knowing the chords are gonna be right and the beat is gonna be steady, and for my money nobody does it better than my little bitty buddy!

In 1988 Fender Guitars showed what they thought of Homer's prowess. They issued a replica of the Stratocaster they custom built for him during the 1950s. They named it the Homer Haynes Limited Edition.

Why do you chew gum?
(Johnny Carson)

What else are you gonna do with it?
(Homer Haynes)

Ah, and there was his gum chewing. Why did he chew gum? I haven't found the real reason yet (if it was to keep his mouth moist while he sang or if it was just a prop), but let's face it -- it did provide comedy. He could walk and chew gum at the same time (actually, walk, play guitar, sing, and chew gum simultaneously), so that was one thing Jethro could never accuse him of lacking ability to do. Also, it looked funny. Sometimes Homer seemed more interested in his gum than in what Jethro was doing, and that was good for a laugh. One thing, however, is obvious: he missed a good advertising deal with Wrigley!

When we sing it sounds just like a cat and dog fight
But we don't sing for money, just for spite

(Homer & Jethro, "Jam-Bowl-Liar")

One more thing that has been sorely overlooked is something that might, at first glance, sound like a gag from the Homer and Jethro joke book. Henry Haynes had one of the absolute best tenor voices in country music. His overall vocal range was nothing short of remarkable. As the lead singer on most of Homer and Jethro's material the LAST thing Homer tried to do, in many cases, was show that he could sing well. Homer and Jethro's initial act, long before the parodies, was to perform pop songs in exaggerated, corny voices. However, Homer honed his voice at a very young age in the church choir, and he kept those vocal chops with him throughout his life. His performance on "I Love Your Pizza" (a parody of "Shenandoah") from Songs My Mother Never Sang is so good that it is worth whatever you have to pay to hear it. (Psst - e-mails are free!) His tenor work was superb on "Human Cannonball," the send-up of "Wabash Cannonball," and the opening verse of their rework of "My Darling, My Darling" from Homer & Jethro Fracture Frank Loesser or the classic "Cielito Lindo" from their days on King Records will put your chin on the floor when you hear just how well Homer sang and harmonized.

Homer in a 1960s Kellogg's commercial

Homer never ceased to amaze his audience -- and his partner. Jethro said that one of the classic Homer and Jethro live bits -- Homer interrupting Jethro's playing of "Fascination" during the instrumental break of "Let Me Go, Blubber" by singing, "She had nine buttons on her nightgown but she could only fasten eight" -- was something Homer improvised onstage one night, breaking everyone in the house up (including Jethro). His humor did not seem to have an "off" button as long as he had an audience for it (even if it was just the clerk doing the paperwork when Homer was checking in at his hotel, as Bill Anderson hilariously related in one of his books). Let no one misunderstand, however. Those jokes on stage were just that: JOKES. As with Jethro, offstage Homer was a devoted family man. His world revolved around his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children.

A heart attack claimed Homer's life just eleven days after his 51st birthday in 1971. The humor in modern acts isn't as funny or enduring as Homer and Jethro's material since he left us, and the rhythm guitar playing is nowhere near as good (as evidenced by an interview with a former mandolin student of Jethro's, who said Jethro had to completely re-learn songs because nobody could play rhythm the way Homer had).

As long as people need a good laugh, the remedy will continue to be Homer and Jethro. And, as long as people feel an urge to hear some great guitar work, the cure for that need will also be Homer and Jethro.

Happy birthday, Homer. Thanks for the laughs -- and that exceptional playing and singing.

A Tall Talent Named Chicago Shorty

Category: Birthday/Tribute

And now, a little love for one of the greatest songwriters we've ever had, a very short (5'2") man with a very tall legacy.

Steve Goodman showing off his smile
and his mandola on the back cover of
Affordable Art, the final album released
in his lifetime

It's hard to believe but Steve Goodman would have only been 61 years old on July 25th, a sad reminder of the brilliant talent we lost at such a young age a quarter of a century ago.

If there's a definition of "Americana music" in a dictionary somewhere, it should read, "See Steve Goodman." Goodman grew up sneaking into clubs to see blues artists where he would be the only Caucasian in the venue, playing in folk clubs, and listening to everything from Django Reinhardt to Hank Snow. He loved Smokey Robinson and Jimmie Rodgers and thought nothing of doing songs by both. Louis Armstrong was quoted as saying there are only two types of music: good and bad. That was Goodman's philosophy.

The reason Steve is not a household name is because the record labels didn't know what to do with him. Asylum could deal with the Eagles or Linda Ronstadt doing country, rock, pop, and reggae on the same album; however, let Goodman put country ("Roving Gambler"), Western swing ("Between the Lines"), Buffett-esque island music ("Banana Republics," a song that Buffett eventually covered), R&B ("Can't Go Back"), and old pop ("The Glory of Love," "Old Fashioned") on the same album (1975's Words We Can Dance To) and the same record label was at a loss on how to promote him. Goodman felt the pressure to "generate sales" and made his final two albums for Asylum uncharacteristically "commercial" rock, which didn't help sales a bit. He started his own label (Red Pajamas) and returned to making music on his terms. If that meant releasing an album that featured everything from "Winter Wonderland" to a smoking version of "Tico Tico," then so be it.

The more I listen to Steve Goodman the more one thought keeps popping into my mind: how did he do it? I'm grumpy with a head cold. This man, on the other hand, entertained the living daylights out of his audience; then, on more than one occasion, walked offstage and threw up because of the ill effects of chemotherapy and then went back out for an encore. Furthermore, he never asked for sympathy. In fact, until his 1982 relapse when he lost his hair after a round of chemo and had a very visible Ommaya reservoir implanted in his scalp, the public didn't even know he was a leukemia patient. And that's the way he wanted it.
Goodman walked onstage, even as he knew he was dying, and gave his audience their money's worth. He sang his great songs, beat the stuffing out of his guitar strings, told jokes, and cheered or booed the Cubs depending on whether they won that day. All the while, as he put it, he put out music "that doesn't tell you a thing about leukemia." Think of a man, knowing full well his life was nearing its conclusion, writing a song as hilarious as "Hot Tub Refugee" or as great as "Face on the Cutting Room Floor." Most of the perfectly healthy people calling themselves "songwriters" today could not match those songs.

Like the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers, Goodman never recorded a note without the knowledge that he had a fatal disease waging war on his body. But he kept that fact to himself, although he dropped hints in his songs such as the last verse of the title song of his second album, Somebody Else's Troubles:

Well I asked that undertaker what it took to make him laugh
When all he ever saw was people crying
First he hands me a bunch of flowers that he'd received on my behalf
And said, "Steve, business just gets better all the time"

Pretty heady stuff from a man who, at the time, wasn't sure he was going to live to see the album released -- or even completed.

What's even more amazing than the fact that Goodman could deliver a line like that is the fact that he delivered it with a SMILE on his face. It's not just his sense of humor, it's the fact that Goodman had an audible smile. You can listen to any song of his and tell when he was smiling, it is that obvious. Frequently he'd even laugh (such as in his recording of "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie," when he chuckled during the song -- and refused to re-record it to remove the laugh). He could care less if he got through Homer & Jethro's classic "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs" (which he performed frequently when Jethro Burns toured with him) without laughing. To him, it was a good song, it was a funny song, and he was going to enjoy it as much as the audience did -- maybe more.

Sometimes I think that Steve Goodman's greater legacy is not his music -- the famous ("You Never Even Call Me By My Name," "City of New Orleans" [which netted him a posthumous "sympathy" Grammy based on Willie Nelson's version of the song], the Chicago Cubs' victory song "Go Cubs Go," and "Banana Republics") and the obscure ("God Bless Our Mobile Home," "Between the Lines," and his cover of Hank Williams' "Mind Your Own Business") -- but rather his living. This is a man who easily could have accepted what the doctors told him in late 1968, gone home, plopped down in a coffin, crossed his arms over his chest, and waited for the leukemia to kill him. However, even though leukemia eventually did win the battle in 1984, Goodman won the war: he had fifteen years he wasn't supposed to have, and in that decade and a half he LIVED. He enriched the lives of all around him, from his wife and children to his best friend John Prine to his musical idols such as Carl Martin to his fans. He gave the world great songs that have stood and will continue to stand the test of time. It's sad that he's gone, true, but we should consider ourselves blessed that he was here and that he fought his illness for the sake of sharing his music with the world.

Happy birthday, Chicago Shorty.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Don't Say You Weren't Warned

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
ARTIST: John Hartford
SONGWRITER: John Hartford
ALBUM: Morning Bugle
YEAR/LABEL: 1972; Warner Brothers

I write and sing songs for myself. If other people like what I do, that's icing on the cake.
(John Hartford)

The Grand Ole Opry's "golden era" was at the Ryman Auditorium. For more than 30 years the Opry broadcast from the famed venue. It thrived, knocking all other barn dance radio shows out of the arena of competition. The Opry's popularity put Nashville on the map, and the city once known as the hub for banking, insurance and printing became a tourist destination for millions of country music fans. People lined up outside the Ryman beginning in the early afternoon on Saturday for a chance at the first-come, first-served tickets. The queue frequently stretched around the corner from 5th to Broadway, especially in the summer.

The 1970s brought the opening of the first music-themed amusement park, Opryland. the Grand Ole Opry relocated in 1974 to a 4,400 seat theater near the Opryland entrance. The departure of the Opry from its hallowed home was not universally good news, however, most notably for the businesses on "Lower Broad" that catered to the tourists.

Grammy-winning songwriter John Hartford looked into a crystal ball, took notice of the problems that the departure of the Opry would cause and sounded warning bells about the downtown Nashville situation (and, in the larger picture, the trouble country music faced) in the fabulous "Nobody Eats At Linebaugh's Anymore." This song was released nearly two years before the Opry moved, and it proved Hartford quite the musical prophet.

Linebaugh's and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge were well-known hangouts for country music performers. In the glory years of the Opry it was nothing for fans and stars to meet over a beer at Tootsie's (which was across the alley from the performers' entrance of the Ryman) or a late meal at Linbaugh's, located a block away at 4th and Broadway. This interaction vanished with the move to the Opry House; and Hartford's lament said the move was far from beneficial to all concerned. Hartford reported that in downtown Nashville "The Opry's gone and the streets are bare, Ernest Tubb's record shop is dark."

"Where can you go to see the country music stars sitting drinking coffee until four?" Harford asked in the song. Not at Linebaugh's, for "everybody's gone to the park." No more phone calls for fiddling great Benny Martin, just "a few who come around again to use the parking lot."

Meanwhile, "somewhere in the suburbs the Opry plays tonight, but the people come around to take the rides." Hartford saw that the people at the park were not necessarily Grand Ole Opry fans, and time has proven him correct. The Opryland theme park closed in 1997, a victim of corporate greed: the two million who passed through the turnstiles its final year of existence were not enough "success" to save the park from destruction. It was replaced with a shopping mall, hardly the same level of a tourist draw.

In the meantime, the Grand Ole Opry has fallen on such hard times that it has moved back to the Ryman in the winter because of non-existent ticket sales. A fan who attended int he mid-90s said that, even with superstars like Vince Gill on the bill, the Opry had to literally give away tickets to have any audience for the second show in the Opry House. This was a far cry from the days when people stood in the hot sun all afternoon in hopes of getting in.

On July 4, 2009 the Grand Ole Opry completely eliminated its second show because of the holiday, an unprecedented action. The show, for years a two and a half hour program, is now down to two hours in length. John Hartford was correct: nobody eats at Linebaugh's and nobody goes to the suburbs to see the Opry.

John Hartford battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for a decade and a half before the disease took his life on June 4, 2001. He left a treasure trove of warm, witty, insightful songs, including this gem. If there is no more Grand Ole Opry in five years, no one can say that John Hartford didn't try to warn that it would happen within the confines of this wonderful song.


The entire Live From Mountain Stage album -- John Hartford was an entertainer in the truest sense of the word. He would fiddle and clog on a board while singing. If you never got to see Hartford perform enjoy this recording for a glimpse of what you missed.

"Tear Down the Grand Ole Opry" (from Aereo Plain) -- a song that was released a year before "Linebaugh's" follows the same theme -- the move of the Opry from the Ryman was not in the best interest of the Opry, downtown Nashville, or country music.

"Gentle on My Mind" (from Earthwords & Music) -- if you've only heard Glen Campbell's cover, treat yourself to the original by the song's author.

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

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, July 14, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 16-31

Category: News

Hall of Fame members in bold

July 16:
Ronny Robbins born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1949 (now 60)
Jo Stafford died (congestive heart failure), 2008 (was 90). The pop singer also did country, including appearing on Red Ingle & Natural Seven's hit "Tem-Tay-Shun."

July 17:
Woodrow Wilson "Red" Sovine born in Charleston, West Virginia, 1918 (died 1980)
Harry Choates died (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 55)

July 19:
George Hamilton IV born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1937 (now 72)
Sue Thompson born in Nevada, Missouri, 1926 (now 83)
Bernie Leadon of the Eagles and the Flying Burrito Brothers born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1947 (now 62)
William "Lefty" Frizzell died (stroke), 1975 (was 47)

July 20:
Radney Foster born in Del Rio, Texas, 1959 (now 50)
Thomas "Sleepy" LaBeef born in Smackover, Arkansas, 1935 (now 74)
T.G. Sheppard born in Humbolt, Tennessee, 1942 (now 67)
Joseph Emmett "J.E." Mainer born in Weaverville, North Carolina, 1898 (died 1971)
Cindy Walker born near Mart, Texas, 1918 (died 2006)

July 21:
Sara Carter of the Carter Family born in Wise County, Virginia, 1899 (died 1979)
Eddie Hill born in Delano, Tennessee, 1921 (died 1994)

July 22:
Margaret Whiting born in Detroit, Michigan, 1924 (now 85). 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 62). 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)
Jack Lynn, son of Loretta Lynn, died (drowned), 1984 (was 34)
Ralph S. Peer arrived in Bristol to make recordings for RCA, 1927

July 23:
Alison Krauss born in Decatur, Illinois, 1971 (now 38)
Johnny Darrell born in Hopewell, Alabama, 1940 (died 1997)

July 24:
Donald "Red" Blanchard of the WLS National Barn Dance born in Pittsville, Wisconsin, 1914 (died 1980)
Lawton Williams born in Troy, Tennessee, 1922 (died 2007)
Max D. Barnes born in Hardscratch, Iowa, 1936 (died 2004)

July 25:
Roy Acuff Jr. born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1943 (now 66)
Marty Brown born in Maceo, Kentucky, 1965 (now 44)
Walter Brennan born in Swmapscott, Massachusetts, 1894 (died 1974). The actor scored a major country hit with "Old Rivers" in 1962.
Steve Goodman born in Chicago, Illinois, 1948 (died 1984)
Tommy Duncan died (heart attack), 1967 (was 56)
Charlie Rich died (blood clot in lung), 1995 (was 62)

July 26:
Jim Foglesong born in Lundale, West Virginia, 1922 (now 87)
Fred Foster born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, 1931 (now 78)

July 27:
Bill Engvall born in Galveston, Texas, 1957 (now 52)
Bobbie Gentry born in Chickasaw, Mississippi, 1944 (now 65)
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 Homer and Jethro's first major hit, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," in 1949 (which featured a young June Carter singing the female part). Although RCA officials worried about Loesser's reaction, Loesser loved the parody and only asked that the songwriter credit read, "With apologies to Frank Loesser."

July 29:
Martina McBride born in Sharon, Kansas, 1966 (now 43)
Pete Drake died (lung disease), 1988 (was 55)
Anita Carter died (unknown cause), 1999 (was 66)

July 30:
Sam Phillips died (respiratory failure), 2003 (was 80)

July 31:
Bonnie Brown of the Browns born in Sparkman, Arkansas, 1937 (now 72)
Jim Reeves died (plane crash), 1964 (was 40)
Dean Manuel died (plane crash), 1964 (was 35)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sick Call Times Two

Category: News

Two country stars are in the hospital, and the news is cautious and not good.

"Cautious" goes to the great Ferlin Husky, back in the hospital for the second time this year. He was hospitalized earlier this year with pneumonia and congestive heart failure but recovered and went on tour. He's back in the hospital, this time in Nashville, with an accelerated heart rate and suspected pneumonia again.

The "not good" news is on Grand Ole Opry star Mel McDaniel. McDaniel suffered a heart attack in June and is in a medically-induced coma in a hospital in Music City. His wife told Country Weekly magazine that his medical situation "is not good."

These two could certainly use your prayers.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

All the Chapel Bells Were Silent to Hear the Browns Sing

Category: Review

Some events transcend description. Some songs are that way as well. At midnight on July 4th the two met when the Browns reunited.

The Browns were the hosts of the Midnite Jamboree, the post-Opry show held at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop's Texas Troubadour Theater in Nashville. For an hour they held the audience spellbound with a set of timeless songs.

Jim Ed opened the show with one of his biggest solo hits, "Pop a Top." Two granddaughters joined him on the stage to perform "Lookin' Back to See," which wa the first hit in the Browns' career.

After the traditional Jimmie Rodgers song and commercial, Maxine and Bonnie joined their brother on the stage for eight absolutely superb songs.

Yes, they're older. Maxine walked with a cane, the result of suffering broken bones. "The best part about broken bones," she joked, "is I got a permanent screw." A totally unexpected and a slightly off-color joke drew a huge laugh from the audience -- and her siblings.

Age has not diminished those incredible harmonies, however. They began with "Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)" and followed with their version of the late Hank Locklin's hit "Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On" (their cover was a top 25 hit for them in 1960) and "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing."

Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed chat
between commercials on the
Midnite Jamboree in Nashville

Following the second commercial (the second commercial is always for an Ernest Tubb album) the Browns performed two gospel numbers, "He Will Set Your Fields on Fire" and "Family Bible." The first was from their early career, while the latter was more recently recorded.

Jim Ed explained that at one point the Browns' career was, in essence, over because of his Army service and the end of their Fabor Records contract when Jim Reeves (who played guitar on an early Browns session and remained friends with the trio for the rest of his life) offered to intervene on the siblings' behalf for an RCA record deal. The first song they recorded for RCA was the Ira and Charlie Louvin composition "I Take the Chance." That great song was the next on their itinerary. "The Old Lamplighter," their first hit of the 1960s, followed.

Ernest Tubb Record Shop owner David McCormick presented the Browns with plaques to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the recording of "The Three Bells." Prior to the show cakes in the shape of three bells, each with a likeness of one of the siblings, were served to the audience. After the presentation, the Browns performed the song with the same masterful harmonies that made the song a timeless classic half a decade ago.

Performing the classic "The Three Bells"

At one point in the show Maxine explained that the threesome rarely had the opportunity to rehearse, which, according to them, caused one to be flat and one to be sharp. "I don't know where I was," Jim Ed added.

Where they were was at the helm of a magical evening that everyone present or listening on the radio was thankful to be part of.