Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dates of Note in Country Music, March 1-15

Category: News

(Country Music Hall of Famers in bold)

March 1:

Janis Oliver of Sweethearts of the Rodeo born in Manhattan Beach, California, 1954 (now 56)
Sara Hickman born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, 1963 (now 47)
Clinton Gregory born in Martinsville, Virginia, 1966 (now 44)
Cliffie Stone born in Stockton, California, 1917 (died 1998)
Pearl Butler died (unknown cause), 198 (was 61)
Johnny Cash wed June Carter Smith Nix in Franklin, Kentucky, 1968
California governor Ronald Reagan issues a full pardon to Merle Haggard, 1972
RCA Victor debuts a new format -- the 45 RPM record, 1949

March 2:

Doc Watson born in Deep Gap, North Carolina, 1923 (now 87)
Larry Stewart born in Paducah, Kentucky, 1959 (now 51)
Lonnie Glosson died (natural causes), 2001 (was 93)

March 3:

John Carter Cash born in Madison, Tennessee, 1970 (now 40)
Jimmy Heap born in Taylor, Texas, 1922 (died 1977)
Kyle Bailes died (unknown cause), 1996 (was 80)
Harlan Howard died (heart attack), 2002 (was 74)
Ernie Ashworth died (heart attack), 2009 (was 80)
Benefit concert for DJ "Cactus" Jack Call held in Kansas City, Missouri, 1963. Among those performing: Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, George Jones, and Billy Walker.

March 4:

Betty Jack Davis born in Corbin, Kentucky, 1932 (died 1953)
John Duffey of the Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene born in Washington, DC, 1934 (died 1996)
Scotty Stoneman died (overdose of prescription medication), 1973 (was 40)
Minnie Pearl died (complications from stroke), 1996 (was 83)
Eddie Dean died (emphysema), 1999 (was 91)

March 5:

Raymond Fairchild born in Cherokee, North Carolina, 1939 (now 71)
Jimmy Bryant born in Moultrie, Georgia, 1925 (died 1980)
Patsy Cline died (plane crash), 1963 (was 30)
Cowboy Copas died (plane crash), 1963 (was 59)
Hawkshaw Hawkins died (plane crash), 1963 (was 41)
Randy Hughes died (plane crash), 1963 (was 34). Hughes was Patsy Cline's manager and Cowboy Copas' son-in-law as well as the pilot of the ill-fated plane.
Syd Nathan died (heart disease), 1968 (was 63). The Cincinnati record store owner founded King Records in 1943, making it the first all-country music record label in history.
Anna Carter Davis, original member of the Chuck Wagon Gang and widow of Jimmie Davis, died (complications following a fall), 2004 (was 87)
Elvis Presley honorably discharged from the Army, 1960

March 6:

Red Simpson born in Higley, Arizona, 1934 (now 76)
Ray Walker of the Jordanaires born in Centerville, Mississippi, 1934 (now 76)
Doug Dillard of the Dillards born in East St. Louis, Missouri, 1937 (now 73)
Skip Ewing born in Red Lands, California, 1964 (now 46)
Cliff Carlisle born in Mount Eden, Kentucky, 1904 (died 1983)
Bob Wills born in Turkey, Texas, 1905 (died 1975)
Jean Chapel of the Coon Creek Girls born in Neon, Kentucky, 1925 (died 1995)
George Jones critically injured in single-vehicle accident, 1999
The siege of the Alamo ended, 1836. Davy Crockett, subject of legendary song, was among those who died during the battle. Johnny Cash would memorialize the fight in his song "Remember the Alamo."

March 7:

Townes Van Zandt born in Fort Worth Texas, 1944 (died 1997)
Jack Anglin died (car wreck), 1963 (was 46). Anglin was on his way to Patsy Cline's memorial service at the time of his accident.
Pee Wee King died (heart attack), 2000 (was 86)

March 8:
Jimmy Dormire of Confederate Railroad born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1960 (now 50)
Randy Meisner of Poco and the Eagles born in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, 1946 (now 64)
Johnny Dollar born in Kilgore, Texas, 1933 (died 1986)
Jimmy Stoneman of the Stoneman Family born in Washington, DC, 1937 (died 2002)
Lew DeWitt of the Statler Brothers born in Roanoke, Virginia, 1939 (died 1990)
Stuart Hamblen died (brain tumor), 1989 (was 80)
Hank Locklin died (natural causes), 2009 (was 90)

March 9:

Mickey Gilley born in Natchez, Mississippi, 1936 (now 74)
Jimmy Fadden of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band born in Long Beach, California, 1948 (now 62)
Ralph Sloan of the Ralph Sloan Dancers born in Wilson County, Tennessee, 1925 (died 1980)
George Burns died (natural causes), 1996 (was 100). The legendary actor had a country hit with "I Wish I Was Eighteen Again."
Chris LeDoux died (bile duct cancer), 2005 (was 56)
Final Saturday night Opry at the Ryman before the opening of the new Opry House, 1974

March 10:

Ralph Emery born in McEwen, Tennessee, 1933 (now 77)
Norman Blake born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1938 (now 72)
Johnnie Allan born in Rayne, Louisiana, 1938 (now 72)
Daryl Singletary born in Wigham, Georgia, 1971 (now 39)
Kenneth "Jethro" Burns born in Conasauga, Tennessee, 1920 (died 1989)
Soul singer James Brown guests on the Grand Ole Opry at the request of Porter Wagoner, 1979

March 11:

Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers born in Williamsburg, Virginia, 1955 (now 55)
W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel of the Light Crust Doughboys born in Malta, Ohio, 1890 (died 1969)
Jim Boyd of the Cowboy Ramblers died (unknown cause), 1993 (was 78)

March 12:

Marshall Wilborn of the Johnson Mountain Boys and the Lynn Morris Band born in Austin, Texas, 1952 (now 58)
James Taylor born in Belmont, Massachusetts, 1948 (now 62). The legendary pop/folk superstar wrote "Bartender's Blues" and sang with George Jones on Jones' recording of the tune.
Ralph Sloan died (unknown illness), 1980 (was 55)

March 13:

Liz Anderson born in Roseau, Minnesota, 1930 (now 80)
Jan Howard born in West Plains, Missouri, 1930 (now 80)
Benny Martin died (nerve disorder/illness), 2001 (was 72)
Ezra Carter marries Maybelle Addington, 1926

March 14:

Michael Martin Murphy born in Oak Cliff, Texas, 1945 (now 65)
Doc Pomus died (lung cancer), 1991 (was 65)
Dale Potter died (cancer), 1996 (was 66)
Tommy Collins died (emphysema), 2000 (was 69)
Jimmy Martin died (cancer), 2005 (was 77)
Bill Bolick of the Blue Sky Boys died (natural causes), 2008 (was 90)

March 15:

D.J. Fontana born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1931 (now 79)
Gunilla Hutton of Hee Haw born in Goteborg, Sweden, 1946 (now 64)
Ry Cooder born in Los Angeles, California, 1947 (now 63)

Carl Smith born in Maynardville, Tennessee, 1927 (died 2010)
The final Friday night Opry at the Ryman, 1974. The final song was the Opry cast singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Congratulations Times Four

Category: News

The Country Music Hall of Fame class of 2010 has been announced. The Hall of Fame opens its doors to the following greats:

Jimmy Dean: Long before he was the "sausage king," Jimmy Dean hosted a ground-breaking television show. The regulars on that show included a young Roy Clark and a young Jim Henson, manning Dean's friend Rowlf the dog.

Ferlin Husky: One of the last 1950s superstars to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Ferlin gave the world classics like "Gone," "Wings of a Dove," and "A Dear John Letter." He also gave the world Simon Crum.

Billy Sherrill: Sherrill rose to fame in the late 60s as a producer for Epic Records artists David Houston and Tammy Wynette -- and writing a number of their hits, such as "Almost Persuaded," "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad," and "Stand By Your Man."

Don Williams: Country's "Gentle Giant" started in the early 70s with songs like "Amanda" and has continued to please audiences since.

Congratulations to the Hall of Fame's class of 2010!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dates of Note in Country Music, February 16-28

Category: News

(Hall of Famers in bold)

February 16:

Ronnie Milsap born in Robbinsville, North Carolina, 1944 (now 66)
Jo-Walker Meador born in Orlinda, Tennessee, 1924 (now 86)
Jimmy Wakely born in Mineola, Arkansas, 1914 (died 1982)
Smiley Burnette died (leukemia), 1967 (was 55)

February 17:

Johnny Bush born in Houston, Texas, 1935 (now 75)
Buck Trent born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1938 (now 72)
Jon Randall born in Dallas, Texas, 1969 (now 41)
Bryan White born in Shellman, Georgia, 1974 (now 36)
Billy Byrd born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1920 (died 2001)
Gene Pitney born in Hartford, Connecticut, 1940 (died 2006). The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer recorded two albums of duets with George Jones.
Uncle Jimmy Thompson died (natural causes), 1931 (was 82)
Eck Robertson died (natural causes), 1975 (was 87)
Gus Hardin died (car wreck), 1996 (was 50)

February 18:

Juice Newton born in Lakehurst Naval Station, New Jersey, 1952 (now 58)
Dudley Connell of the Johnson Mountain Boys born in Scheer, West Virginia, 1956 (now 54)
Pee Wee King born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1914 (died 2000)
Tootsie Bess, owner of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, died (cancer), 1978 (was 61)
Johnny Paycheck died (emphysema), 2003 (was 64)

February 19:

Lorianne Crook born in Wichita, Kansas, 1957 (now 53)
Cedric Rainwater (real name: Howard Watts) born in Monticello, Florida, 1913 (died 1970)
Grandpa Jones died (stroke), 1998 (was 84)
Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton officially break up their act, 1974

February 20:

Kathie Baillie of Baillie & the Boys born in Morristown, New Jersey, 1951 (now 59)
Claire Lynch born in Albany, New York, 1954 (now 56)

February 21:

Mary-Chapin Carpenter born in Princeton, New Jersey, 1958 (now 52)
Don Reno born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1926 (died 1984)
Carl T. Sprague died (unknown cause), 1979 (was 83)

February 22:

Del Wood born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1920 (died 1989)
During a concert in London, Ontario, Johnny Cash asked June Carter to marry him, 1968

February 23:

Rusty Young of Poco born in Long Beach, California, 1946 (now 64)
Buck Griffin born in Corsicana, Texas, 1923 (died 2009)
Minnie Pearl married Henry Cannon, 1947

February 24:

Little Roy Lewis of the Lewis Family born in Lincoln County, Georgia, 1942 (now 68)
Don Law born in London, England, 1902 (died 1982)
Webb Pierce died (cancer), 1991 (was 69)
Goldie Hill Smith died (cancer), 2005 (was 72)
Dinah Shore died (cancer), 1994 (was 77). The legendary pop singer and TV hostess was part of the family of live performers on WSM radio.

February 25:

Dr. Ralph Stanley born in Stratton, Virginia, 1927 (now 83)
Faron Young born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1932 (died 1996)

February 26:

Jan Crutchfield born in Paducah, Kentucky, 1936 (now 74)
Billy Jack Wills born in Hall County, Texas, 1926 (died 1991)
Johnny Cash born in Kingsland, Arkansas, 1932 (died 2003)

February 27:

Chuck Glaser of the Glaser Brothers born in Spalding, Nebraska, 1936 (now 74)
Joe Carson died (car wreck), 1964 (was 27)

Walter Bailes died (various health problems), 2000 (was 80)

February 28:

Joe South born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1940 (now 70)
Don Helms born in New Brockton, Alabama, 1927 (died 2008)
Jim Denny born in Silver Point, Tennessee, 1911 (died 1963)
Audrey Williams born in Banks, Alabama, 1923 (died 1975)
Bunny Biggs of Jamup & Honey died (unknown causes), 1948 (was 52)
Fiddlin' Arthur Smith died (unknown causes), 1971 (was 72)

And a leap baby:
February 29:

Dinah Shore born in Winchester, Tennessee, 1916 (died 1994)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Optimism and Love in the Face of Trouble

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: When My Rowboat Comes In
ARTIST: Steve Goodman
SONGWRITER: Steve Goodman
ALBUM: Affordable Art
YEAR/LABEL: 1983; Red Pajamas

There aren't a lot of members of the 'class of 1969' walking around today with this stuff.
(Steve Goodman, 1983)

For nearly fourteen years Steve Goodman lived, raised a family, wrote songs, recorded, and toured with a secret. Coiled up inside his body, ready to strike a lethal blow at any moment, was a viper named leukemia. Initially Goodman did not discuss his illness publicly because he feared record companies and concert promoters would not deal with a man who, at age 21, had already outlived the initial prognosis he had received at age 20. And while living several years with relatively good health in a state of remission, there was certainly no reason to bring the issue into the open. His friends knew, but they, too, kept quiet (something that would probably never happen in today's media frenzy times).

When Goodman suffered a relapse in 1982 there was no way to avoid the issue any longer. Bald from chemotherapy, an Ommaya reservoir visible on his scalp, and looking terribly gaunt, Goodman broke his silence with a series of interviews once his condition improved. His stated purpose was not to entice pity but to provide emotional support for the statistical one in four who would be hit by cancer at some point in their lives.

During this time he also wrote "When My Rowboat Comes In," a song that was his most blatant reference to his plight. In baseball terms, the lifelong Cubs fan both hit a grand slam and pitched a perfect game with the song. In the space of three minutes and thirty eight seconds Steve Goodman invited everyone into his house, sat them in a comfortable chair, offered them refreshments, and explained life as a leukemia patient. Most amazingly, he did so in a way that left the listener feeling joyous, not sad.

Musically, the song was a marked departure for Goodman. Although he enjoyed dabbling in nearly every genre of popular music from R&B ("Can't Go Back," which he said he wrote "in case I ever run into Wilson Pickett") to Western swing ("Between the Lines") -- on the same album -- he had never ventured into bluegrass (although coming close with "Death of a Salesman," also on the same album as the R&B and Western swing songs). The bluegrass accompaniment, however, served to augment the overall warm feel of the song. Goodman's focus was on calming the listeners' uneasiness as he poured out his soul to them. After all, while the announcement of his leukemia was a shock to his fans it was not news to him, for he had spent every day since December 1968 with the knowledge that he had a disease that would eventually take his life.

Goodman was a masterful songwriter who frequently put multiple layers of meaning into his songs (often slipping references to his disease into songs in ways that only became apparent after he went public with his condition). Those who did not know the author and singer of "When My Rowboat Comes In" was undergoing chemotherapy treatments could merely chalk up the song title to Goodman's sense of humor. Since the title is a play on the term "when my ship comes in" the phrase, especially in the context of the verse about his professional career, could be seen as nothing more than frustration from years of being a successful songwriter ("City of New Orleans," "Banana Republics," "You Never Even Call Me By My Name") while never having a hit as a performer (and, to date, his only well-known recording is "Go Cubs Go," the song played at Wrigley Field after Cubs victories). The rough seas could be the lack of a record deal as easily as a health crisis.

For people who were aware of Goodman's medical condition, however, the deeper message was obvious. In the opening verse he referenced the "lucky stars" that disappeared "on a stormy night" with his relapse. He credited his wife Nancy (who knew he was sick when she married him in 1970) with being "someone who can find the sun and chase away my sorrow with her laughter." After acknowledging "the seas are rough in the highest tide" Goodman, backed by harmonies by Sharon and Cheryl White, sang with his trademark audible smile about his optimism: "When the sun comes out on the other side, everything will be all right when we go rowing."

The second verse began by looking at Goodman's career, where he toured and played "every song I know from the mountains to the bottom of the canyon." He then acknowledged that he was realistic about his condition by stating he was "looking for some moments I can borrow." As he neared the end of this brief autobiography he had answered every question many people had wanted to ask him but refrained from doing so. He then concluded with the most important query: what about the future? "If my lucky stars won't shine tonight," Goodman replied in his song, "I'd rather take my chances on tomorrow."

Goodman's nearly sixteen-year battle with leukemia ended on September 20, 1984 at the age of 36. Steve Goodman's story, however, is not about a dying man but a man who lived his life to its fullest until he died. That is the message of this ode to love of family and career, his marvelous hymn of hope. After all, Goodman did not title this song "if My Rowboat Comes In," but WHEN.


The entire Affordable Art album
-- sterling examples of Goodman's eclectic musical styles and songwriting (including what many consider to be his funniest song ever, "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request") in one neat package, with a comical cover photo (showing the diminutive singer posed amid statues as if he were a lawn jockey) to boot.

"The Water is Wide" (from Artistic Hair) -- a traditional love ballad with lyrics ("I can't cross over," "not as deep as this hole I'm in, and I know not if I sink or swim") that take on a completely different meaning because of a bald Goodman showing off what he called his "chemo 'do" on the cover of the album. This song's imagery ("build me a boat that can carry two, and both shall row, my love and I") may have inspired "When My Rowboat Comes In."

"Blue Umbrella" (from Jessie's Jig and Other Favorites) -- another song with a completely different meaning ("just give me one extra season so I can figure out the other four") because of Goodman's medical problem is this tune penned and originally performed by his best friend, John Prine.

"Face on the Cutting Room Floor" (from Santa Ana Winds) -- an aspiring actress rejects the casting couch in this song with a marvelous kiss-off line ("sunrise on Sunset she won't be around, I guess that settles the score").

"(Now And Then, There's) A Fool Such as I" (from Unfinished Business) -- backed by dear friend Jethro Burns on mandolin, Goodman fulfilled a request from his wife to do this lost-love Hank Snow classic. His spoken introduction is positively heartbreaking for the implication that this was a farewell song to Nancy in light of his rapidly-failing health. Thankfully, he did not say that explicitly or this would be unlistenable.


When I Lift Up My Head
Rose of My Heart
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

Stealin' Time
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