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.