Monday, August 31, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, September 1-15

Category: News
(Hall of Fame members in bold)

September 1

Boxcar Willie born in Sterratt, Texas, 1931 (died 1999)
Johnny Mack Brown born in Dothan, Alabama, 1904 (died 1974). The western actor was the namesake of Lester "Roadhog" Moran and the Cadillac Cowboy's Live at the Johnny Mack Brown High School album.
Conway Twitty born in Friars Point, Mississippi, 1933 (died 1993)
Jerry Reed died (emphysema), 2008 (was 71)

September 2

Johnny Lee Wills born in Jewell, Texas, 1912 (died 1984)
Charline Authur born in Henrietta, Texas, 1929 (died 1987)
Grady Nutt born in Amarillo, Texas, 1934 (died 1982)
Fabor Robinson, founder of Fabor Records, died (unknown cause), 1986 (was 74)

September 3

Tompall Glaser born in Spalding, Nebraska, 1933 (now 76)
Jimmy Riddle born in Dyersburg, Tennessee, 1918 (died 1981)
Hank Thompson born in Waco, Texas, 1925 (died 2007)

September 4

Shot Jackson born in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1920 (died 1991)
Dottie West died (injuries from a car wreck), 1991 (was 58)
Carl Butler died (heart attack), 1992 (was 65)

September 5

The Country Music Association was founded, 1958
The Lewis Family's final concert, 2009. The bluegrass and gospel band began performing in 1951.

September 6

Mark Chesnutt born in Beaumont, Texas, 1963 (now 46)
David Allan Coe born in Akron, Ohio, 1939 (now 70)
Jeff Foxworthy born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1958 (now 51)
Mel McDaniel born in Checotah, Oklahoma, 1942 (now 67)
Zeke Clements born in Warrior, Alabama, 1911 (died 1994)
Ernest Tubb died (complications from emphysema), 1984 (was 70)
Autry Inman died (unknown cause), 1988 (was 59)
Roy Huskey Jr. died (cancer), 1997 (was 41)

September 7

Ronnie Dove born in Herndon, Virginia, 1940 (now 69)
Buddy Holly born in Lubbock, Texas, 1936 (died 1959). The rock and roll pioneer began in country music, and among his band members was Waylon Jennings.
Hubert Long died (brain tumor), 1972 (was 48)

September 8

Milton Brown born in Stephenville, Texas, 1903 (died 1936)
Patsy Cline born in Winchester, Virginia, 1932 (died 1963)
Harlan Howard born in Lexington, Kentucky, 1929 (died 2002)
Jimmie Rodgers born in Meridian, Mississippi, 1897 (died 1933)

September 9

Freddy Weller born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1947 (now 62)
Rodger Dale Tubb died (car wreck), 1938 (was 7 weeks old)
Bill Monroe died (stroke), 1996 (was 84)

September 10

Tommy Overstreet born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1937 (now 72)
Rosie Flores born in San Antonio, Texas, 1956 (now 53)
Luke Wills born in Memphis, Texas, 1920 (died 2000)
Joe (ne Walter) Callahan of the Callahan Brothers died (cancer), 1971 (was 61)

September 11

Jimmie Davis born in Beech Springs, Louisiana, 1899 (died 2000)
Randy Hughes born in Gum, Tennessee, 1928 (died 1963)
Lorne Greene died (pneumonia), 1987 (was 72). The actor's recitation "Ringo" was a top 25 country hit in 1964.
Leon Payne died (heart attack), 1969 (was 52)
Bill (ne Homer) Callahan of the Callahan Brothers died (congestive heart failure), 2002 (was 90)

September 12

George Jones born in Saratoga, Texas, 1931 (now 78)
Leona Johnson Atkins born in Jackson Township, Ohio, 1924 (now 85). One of WLW's "Johnson Twins," she married Chet Atkins in 1946.
Lois Johnson Burns born in Jackson Township, Ohio, 1924 (died 1989). One of WLW's "Johnson Twins," she married Jethro Burns of Homer & Jethro in 1946.
Helen Carter born in Maces Springs, Virginia, 1927 (died 1998)
Rod Brasfield died (heart failure), 1958 (was 48)
Johnny Cash died (Shy-Drager syndrome complications, diabetes, lung disease), 2003 (was 71)
John Ritter died (heart ailment), 2003 (was 54). The actor was the son of Western legend Tex Ritter.
Charlie Walker died (colon cancer), 2008 (was 81)

September 13

Bobbie Cryner born in Woodland, California, 1961 (now 48)
Bill Monroe born in Rosine, Kentucky, 1911 (died 1996)
U.S. Postal Service issues a Roy Acuff postage stamp, 2003

September 14

John Berry born in Aiken, South Carolina, 1959 (now 50)
Mae Boren Axton born in Bardwell, Texas, 1914 (died 1997)
Don Walser born in Brownfield, Texas, 1934 (died 2006)
Vernon Dalhart died (heart attack), 1948 (was 65)

September 15

Roy Acuff born in Maynardsville, Tennesssee, 1903 (died 1992)
Patsy Cline married Charlie Dick, 1957

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty

Category: Birthday/News

Happy 90th birthday to the Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells.

Her husband, Johnnie Wright (of Johnnie & Jack fame) is 95. They have been married for nearly seventy two years.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Brothers Being Brothers

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Not That I Care
ARTIST: Wilburn Brothers
SONGWRITER: Cindy Walker
ALBUM: Never Alone
YEAR/LABEL: 1964, Decca

One thing our daddy taught us was to never give up.
(Teddy Wilburn)

The Wilburn Brothers might not be the most deserving act to get into the Hall of Fame NOW, but they are certainly in the top five. Teddy and Doyle were comparable to the Louvin Brothers. The two brother acts even had dueling versions of "Knoxville Girl" on the charts in 1956 (the Wilburns won the chart position battle, but the Louvins won the length war: their version is nearly two minutes longer than the Wilburns, which caused Doyle to comment on their TV show that the song was so long "you could record it on one side of a long-playing record...and have 'Barbara Allen' on the other side!"). Their television show spotlighted a young girl singer named Loretta Lynn and shot her to national superstardom. They also owned their own publishing company, Sure-Fire. If there's one word that describes the Wilburns, it's "trailblazers."

While "behind the scenes" this may have hurt their chances for induction into the Hall of Fame during Teddy's lifetime (he died in 2003, twenty one years after his brother), the fans adored the Wilburns, and with good reason. While they were the "other" hot brother duet of the 50s (along with the Louvins), their harmonies lacked the punch of Ira's tenor, which admittedly is an acquired taste. Thanks to their TV show's success, in the 60s they left the disbanded Louvins in the dust in terms of popularity, although now the Louvins are the fondly remembered ones and the Wilburns are forgotten to the extent that only one CD, a meager twelve-song compilation of greatest hits, has been issued -- and that is out of print!

"Not That I Care" is a good example of just why these things are so wrong on so many levels. This Cindy Walker song is an excellent ballad that could have been at home as easily in the discography of Jim Reeves or Buck Owens
. The subject is a man running into a mutual friend of his old flame and asking questions. The probes are followed by the half-hearted claim, "I just wonder, not that I care." At the end the misty eyes of the protagonist is blamed on "too much smoke, what I need is some air." Cindy knew how to write 'em and the Wilburns knew how to deliver 'em.

Doyle Wilburn died of cancer in 1982; Teddy died from congestive heart failure in 2003 after years of poor health. The two brothers are not forgotten thanks to repeats of their popular show airing on RFD-TV. Hopefully one day soon their plaque will hang in the Hall of Fame.


The entire Never Alone album -- big hits ("Roll Muddy River") and interesting covers ("Sundown Mary") highlight a classic from the Wilburn Brothers' career.

"I've Got That Old Time Religion in My Heart" (from Take Up Thy Cross) -- there was always a Gospel song at the end of the Wilburns' TV show, and this was one of the best they ever recorded.

"Put It Off Until Tomorrow" (from Let's Go Country) -- a spectacular song by Bill Phillips given a good reading by Teddy and Doyle.

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

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Four Walls Too Near Me

Category: Birthday/Tribute

There is no voice like Jim Reeves, period. Gentleman Jim was born 86 years ago on August 20.

Gentleman Jim

One night Jim Reeves performed a Mitchell Torok song, "Mexican Joe," on the Louisiana Hayride. Encore after encore followed. Six times Reeves went back out. He would have gone out a seventh time, but a Hayride official stopped him and told him that nobody was going to beat Hank Williams' record of seven encores. The song went on to national success, and Jim Reeves was on his way.

Back in those days, Reeves did not sing in his natural baritone. Someone at his first successful record label (Abbott) didn't think people wanted to hear such a deep voice singing country music. (This was not unique to Reeves: another Abbott artist sang higher than his normal voice. That was Jim Ed Brown, the sole male member of the Browns.) Things changed on February 7, 1957, when Jim entered Studio B in Nashville and recorded the song "Four Walls." That song is regarded by many to be the start of what is now known as "the Nashville sound." Reeves never sang in an abnormally higher pitch again -- nor did he ever use fiddles on his songs.

Reeves was a major success, but in many ways he was also a victim of the times. With the advent of rock and roll the sales of country music dropped dramatically. Reeves' success with "Four Walls" caused many to drop straight country music for a hybrid, "crossover" sound. He continued to make country records, but they were released on RCA's subsidiary label RCA Camden. The RCA Victor label turned Reeves into an overproduced country-pop singer with orchestration occasionally so loud it nearly drowned out Reeves' rich, velvety voice.

Jim Reeves lost his life three weeks before his 41st birthday in a plane crash outside of Nashville. In the time that has passed since his death his popularity has not diminished. He left a large collection of demo tapes, many of which were overdubbed and released into the late 1980s as "new" songs. In the early 1990s Bear Family issued everything on a sixteen-CD box set, Welcome to My World.

A book on Reeves by Larry Jordan (Jim Reeves: His Untold Story) is due out shortly, evidence that the world has not forgotten the exceptional talent of Gentleman Jim Reeves.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 16-31

Category: News

Hall of Fame members in bold

August 16:

Kathie Lee Gifford born in Paris, France, 1953 (now 56). Gifford began her career as one of the "Hee Haw honeys."
Billy Joe Shaver born in Corsica, Texas, 1939 (now 70)
Elvis Presley died (heart failure), 1977 (was 42)
Vassar Clements died (lung cancer), 2005 (was 77)
Patsy Montana recorded "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," 1935. The song would become country music's first million-seller by a female.

August 17:

E.W. "Bud" Wendell born in Akron, Ohio, 1927 (now 82)
Wayne Raney born in Wolf Bayou, Arkansas, 1920 (died 1993)

August 18:

Johnny Preston born in Port Arthur, Texas, 1939 (now 70). Preston is best known for "Running Bear," the 1959 hit which featured guitar work and backing vocals by George Jones.
Hank Penny born in Birmingham, Alabama, 1918 (died 1992)
Molly Bee born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1939 (died 2009)
The Louvin Brothers play their last official show as a duo (opening for Ray Price) in Watseka, Illinois, 1963. According to Charles Wolfe's biography, the duo that once commanded over $1,100 per show as headliners received $250 for the performance.

August 19:

Eddy Raven born in Lafayette, Louisiana, 1944 (now 65)
Lee Ann Womack born in Jacksonville, Texas, 1966 (now 43)
Clay Walker born in Beaumont, Texas, 1969 (now 40)

August 20:

Rudy Gatlin born in Olney, Texas, 1952 (now 57)
Jim Reeves born in Galloway, Texas, 1923 (died 1964)
Justin Tubb born in San Antonio, Texas, 1935 (died 1998)

August 21:

Harold Reid born in Staunton, Virginia, 1939 (now 70)
Nick Kane of the Mavericks born in Jerusalem, Georgia, 1954 (now 55)
Sam McGee died (tractor accident on his farm), 1975 (was 81)

August 22:

Rounder Records co-owner Marian Leighton-Levy born in Harrington, Maine, 1948 (now 61)
Holly Dunn born in San Antonio, Texas, 1957 (now 52)

Collin Raye born in DeQueen, Arkansas, 1959 (now 50)
Rod Brasfield born in Smithville, Arkansas, 1910 (died 1958)
Connie B. Gay born in Lizard Lick, North Carolina, 1914 (died 1989)
Horace "Aytchie" Burns died (heart attack), 1974 (was 56). Aytchie was a bass player at Knoxville's WNOX. He was also the older brother of Jethro Burns.
Elizabeth Haynes born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, 1920 (died 1976)
Elizabeth Haynes died (kidney disease), 1976 (56th birthday). The one-time bass player and "red-headed yodeling gal" on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance was the wife of Homer Haynes.
Leon Chappelear died (suicide [gunshot]), 1962 (was 53)
Floyd Tillman died (leukemia), 2003 (was 88)

August 23:

Rex Allen, Jr. born in Chicago, Illinois, 1947 (now 62)
Woody Paul of Riders in the Sky born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1949 (now 60)
Tex Williams born in Anvil, Illinois, 1917 (died 1985)
Leslie York of the York Brothers born in Louisa, Kentucky, 1917 (died 1984)
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" hit #1 on the Billboard charts, 1952. The song, the first #1 hit for a female singer, was very controversial in its day, with many country stations refusing to play the song and the Grand Ole Opry management prohibiting Kitty Wells from performing the tune on the Opry.

August 24:

Fred Rose born in Evansville, Indiana, 1897 (died 1954)
Jerry Clower died (complications from heart surgery), 1998 (was 71)
Nat Stuckey died (lung cancer), 1988 (was 54)

August 25:

Elvis Costello born in London, England, 1954 (now 55). The punk pioneer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member is a die-hard country music fan who recorded an album of old country songs, Almost Blue, and has performed with numerous country legends including George Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, and Charlie Louvin. Johnny Cash recorded Costello's song "The Big Light" on Johnny Cash is Coming to Town.
Billy Ray Cyrus born in Flatwoods, Kentucky, 1961 (now 48)
Jo Dee Messina born in Holliston, Massachusetts, 1970 (now 39)
Jerry Rivers born in Miami, Florida, 1928 (died 1996)
Cliff Bruner died (cancer), 2000 (was 85)

August 26:

Don Bowman born in Lubbock, Texas, 1937 (now 72)
Jimmy Olander of Diamond Rio born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1961 (now 48)
Wilma Burgess died (heart attack), 2003 (was 64)

August 27:

Jimmy C. Newman born in Big Mamou, Louisiana, 1927 (now 82)
J.D. Crowe born in Lexington, Kentucky, 1937 (now 72)
Frances Preston born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1934 (now 75)
Jeff Cook of Alabama born in Fort Payne, Alabama, 1949 (now 60)
Carter Stanley born in Dickenson County, Virginia, 1925 (died 1966)
Jim Denny died (cancer), 1963 (was 52). For his Hall of Fame career, Denny may be most infamous for telling a guest artist after an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck." The person on the receiving end of Denny's criticism was Elvis Presley.

August 28:

Billy Grammer born in Benton, Illinois, 1925 (now 84)
LeAnn Rimes born in Jackson, Mississippi, 1982 (now 27)

August 29:

Shawn Camp born in Perryville, Arkansas, 1966 (now 42)
Dan Truman of Diamond Rio born in St. George, Utah, 1956 (now 53)
Grady Cole born in Lafayette, Georgia, 1909 (died 1981). He and wife Hazel wrote the country gospel classic "Tramp on the Street."
Archie Campbell died (heart attack), 1987 (was 67)

August 30:

Kitty Wells born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1919 (now 90)
Jon Hagar born in Chicago, Illinois, 1946 (died 2009)
Jim Hagar born in Chicago, Illinois, 1946 (died 2008)