Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 1-15

Category: News

Country Music Hall of Famers in bold

August 1:
Leon Chappelear born in Tyler, Texas, 1909 (died 1962)
Howard "Howdy" Forrester of the Smoky Mountain Boys died (unknown cause), 1987 (was 65)
The AFM called a strike against record companies, 1942. The strike, combined with the shortage of shellac because of World War II, severely limited the record companies' output for two years.

August 2:
Hank Cochran born in Isola, Mississippi, 1935 (died 2010)
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)
The wreckage of Jim Reeves' plane discovered, 1964. The two-day search of wooded areas in and around Nashville for the plane included many country music performers. Eddy Arnold was among those in the party that found Reeves' body.

August 3:
Dorothy Dillard of the Anita Kerr Singers born in Springfield, Missouri, 1923 (now 87)
Gordon Stoker of the Jordanaires born in Gleason, Tennessee, 1924 (now 86)
Randy Scruggs born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1953 (now 57)
Dean Sams of Lonestar born in Garland, Texas, 1966 (now 44)
Little Roy Wiggins died (heart disease and diabetes complications), 1999 (was 73)

August 4:

Vicki Hackerman of Dave & Sugar born in Louisville, Kentucky, 1950 (now 60)
Louis Armstrong born in New Orleans, 1901 (died 1971). The legendary jazz trumpet player and singer recorded with Jimmie Rodgers.
Carson J. Robison born in Oswego, Kansas, 1890 (died 1957)
James Blackwood of the Blackwood Brothers born in Ackerman, Mississippi, 1919 (died 2002)
Scotty Stoneman born in Galax, Virginia, 1932 (died 1973)
Fiddlin' Doc Roberts died (unknown cause), 1978 (was 81)
Kenny Price died (heart attack), 1987 (was 56)

August 5:
Bobby Braddock born in Lakeland, Florida, 1940 (now 70)
Tim Wilson born in Columbus, Georgia, 1961 (now 49)
Terri Clark born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1968 (now 42)
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 46)
Lisa Stewart born in Louisville, Mississippi, 1968 (now 42)
Old Joe Clark (Manuel Clark), longtime Renfro Valley performer, born in Erwin, Tennessee, 1922 (died 1998)
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 60)
Raul Malo of the Mavericks born in Miami, Florida, 1965 (now 45)
B.J. Thomas born in Hugo, Oklahoma, 1942 (now 68)
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 60)
Mel Tillis born in Tampa, Florida, 1932 (now 78)
Phil Balsley of the Statler Brothers born in Staunton, Virginia, 1939 (now 71)
Webb Pierce born in West Monroe, Louisiana, 1926 (died 1991)
Hank Williams Jr. critically inured in a fall while mountain climbing on Ajax Mountain in Montana, 1975. Williams' head was split open, his face was shattered, and he lost an eye in the 500-foot fall.

August 9:
Merle Kilgore born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, 1934 (died 2005)

August 10:
Delia Upchurch born in Gainesboro, Tennessee, 1891 (died 1976). Upchurch was known as "the Den Mother of Nashville Stars" because she ran a boarding house where struggling musicians and songwriters could stay and pay what they could afford.
Jimmy Dean
born in Plainview, Texas, 1928 (died 2010). Dean was notified earlier this year that he was a member of the Hall of Fame "class of 2010."
Jerry Kennedy born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1940 (now 70)
Jonie Mosby born in Van Nuys, California, 1940 (now 70)
Gene Johnson of Diamond Rio born in Jamestown, New York, 1949 (now 61)
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 64)
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 61). 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)
Les Paul died (pneumonia), 2009 (was 94). The legendary guitarist won a Grammy for his work with Chet Atkins on the album Chester and Lester.
Vernon Dalhart recorded "The Prisoner's Song," 1924. The song would sell three million copies as country's first million-selling song.

August 14:
Connie Smith born in Elkhart, Indiana, 1941 (now 69)
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)
Don Rich born in Olympia, Washington, 1941 (died 1974)
Lew DeWitt died (complications from Chron's disease), 1990 (was 52)
Will Rogers died (plane crash with Wiley Post), 1935 (was 55)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Get Rhythm

Category: Birthday Tribute

Like all good parents, Henry Alfred Haynes wanted to give his children their hearts' desires. The problem was, the Haynes family was poor. Henry struggled to make ends meet as a baker in Knoxville. When his four-year-old son asked for a guitar in 1924, Henry managed to scrape together parts and build the child a guitar. No doubt he figured it would satisfy the youngster.

Boy, did it. Little Henry grew up to be universally regarded as the definition of a rhythm guitarist. Henry Doyle Haynes was born nine decades ago on July 27.

The love of music was in the family. At their church Henry Sr. directed the choir and his wife, Laura, played the piano. Junior, as he was called, took to his guitar without any concern as to how it looked or how it compared to a store-bought guitar. Before he became a teenager Junior was making good money (for the South in the throes of the Depression) -- $3 a week -- playing guitar at WNOX.

The job would forever change his life and would permanently alter music. While at WNOX Junior started playing in a band with another WNOX musician, Kenneth "Dude" Burns. The two boys, not five months apart in age, developed a personal and professional bond through the music they played together. They also developed an act -- a comedy routine that centered around singing pop songs the way a couple of hillbillies would as they sat around their moonshine still. The act drew more attention than the fact that the two boys, before they could even drive, were outplaying much older musicians. Eventually the comedy act became the act; and, thanks to WNOX's program director Lowell Blanchard, the two boys became known as Homer and Jethro.

Rhythm guitar is a dying art, thanks to the widespread use of drums. In the 30s, the only places you would see drums were in big bands, and occasionally a jazz act. The rhythm fell to various instruments in the band, and that's where Homer Haynes excelled. He could play lead -- he was originally billed on WNOX as "Junior Haynes and his guitar" during The Midday Merry-Go-Round in 1936. However, with Jethro Burns quickly emerging as a mandolin player's mandolin player, Homer became the rhythm guitarist's rhythm guitarist as he laid down the beat behind his partner. The sound they created was unmatched in country music, and remains to this day unparalleled.

Homer enjoys his Corn Flakes

One other thing was unmatched, and that was Homer's sense of humor. Archie Campbell, who watched Homer and Jethro's career from their earliest days on WNOX, had one adjective for Homer's humor: peculiar. When asked why he never played anything but rhythm Homer mischeviously replied, "I'm Catholic."
And as with his partner, Homer found anything and everything to be fair game when it came joke time, and that included himself and his family. He lamented that his middle name "makes me sound like a can of pineapple" (until Jethro tenderly reminded him, "That's Dole, dummy"). On the Live at Vanderbilt U. album he spoke of his inseparable ties to his wife: "I take her with me everywhere I go. She's so ugly I hate to kiss her goodbye." Once during a radio interview Haynes bragged about the fact that he had just "kicked" his older son out of the house while complaining that he couldn't do the same to his ten-year-old twins. A long-running joke was Homer introducing a song by claiming the title was "I miss my wife's cooking -- every chance I get."

There has never been anything in country music that has come close to matching the comedy of Homer and Jethro. Likewise, no genre of music has since seen the likes of the rhythm guitar work that Henry Haynes gave us.

Happy birthday, Homer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sick Call: Charlie Louvin

Category: News

Charlie Louvin, the Country Music Hall of Famer, celebrated his 83rd birthday on July 7 with some very unpleasant news: he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Louvin said in a press release on his web site that the cancer is stage 2, and an operation known as a Whipple procedure is scheduled for July 22. The cancerous part of Louvin's pancreas, bile duct, and small intestine will be removed, and his digestive system will be reconstructed. Louvin is expected to be in the hospital for two weeks following the surgery.

Keep this legend in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dates of Note in Country Music, July 16-31

Category: News

Country Music Hall of Famers in bold

July 16:
Ronny Robbins born in Phoenix, Arizona, 1949 (now 61)
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."
Harry Chapin died (heart attack resulting in car wreck), 1981 (was 38). Chapin, a folk music icon, wrote "Cat's in the Cradle," which scored Ricky Skaggs one of his last country hits.

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)
Ozark Jubilee debuts on KWTO radio, 1954

July 18:
Ricky Skaggs born in Cordell, Kentucky, 1954 (now 56)
Mark Jones of Exile born in Harlan, Kentucky, 1954 (now 56)

July 19:
George Hamilton IV born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1937 (now 73)
Sue Thompson born in Nevada, Missouri, 1926 (now 84)
Bernie Leadon of the Eagles and the Flying Burrito Brothers born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1947 (now 63)
William "Lefty" Frizzell died (stroke), 1975 (was 47)

July 20:
Thomas "Sleepy" LaBeef born in Smackover, Arkansas, 1935 (now 75)
T.G. Sheppard born in Humbolt, Tennessee, 1942 (now 68)
Radney Foster born in Del Rio, Texas, 1959 (now 51)
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 86). 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 Gilmer, Texas, 1947 (now 63). 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 39)
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 67)
Marty Brown born in Maceo, Kentucky, 1965 (now 45)
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 88)
Fred Foster born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, 1931 (now 79)

July 27:
Bill Engvall born in Galveston, Texas, 1957 (now 53)
Bobbie Gentry born in Chickasaw, Mississippi, 1944 (now 66)
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 44)
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 73)
Jim Reeves died (plane crash), 1964 (was 40)
Dean Manuel died (plane crash), 1964 (was 35)

You Walk By and I Fall to Pieces

Category: Obituary

When one thinks of Patsy Cline's immortal "I Fall to Pieces" the songwriter most often mentioned is the legendary Harlan Howard. Many fail to mention that the great Hank Cochran was the co-writer of that song.

Hank Cochran passed away this morning (7/15) in Nashville. He had suffered from pancreatic cancer, and in April had undergone what his agent called a "miraculous" and "life-saving" operation for an aneurysm.

Cochran was a songwriter's songwriter in many regards. Classic legends such as Eddy Arnold ("I Want to Go with You") and Jim Reeves ("I'd Fight the World") recorded his songs; however, newer superstars such as George Strait and Vern Gosdin also performed his tunes. He could take a phrase and turn it masterfully, such as "It's Not Love, But It's Not Bad," which Merle Haggard recorded. He even made the chart singing his own song, "Sally Was a Good Ol' Girl."

The list of Hank Cochran-penned hits could stretch around Nashville a number of times: "She's Got You," "Ocean Front Property," "A Way to Survive," "Set 'Em Up Joe," "Make the World Go Away," "You're Stronger Than Me," and "A-11" are but a few. Sadly, this deserving legend has now passed, as have many others, without seeing his career crowned with a Country Music Hall of Fame plaque. They will likely rectify that omission in three years (once Cochran is eligible again), but it'll be too late for him.

The great Hank Cochran was 74.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"He'll Never Be Another Casey Jones"

Category: Obituary

Most of the music that came out of the early era of "the Nashville Sound" in the late 50s and early 60s had one man in the engineer's booth: Bill Porter. Porter died July 7th after years of suffering with Alzheimer's disease.

Most of the obituaries focused on the big rock hits such as the Elvis recordings or Roy Orbison's hits. Porter, however, was behind the glass for nearly everything Chet Atkins produced at Studio B through the heyday of the "Nashville Sound," which included "The Three Bells" by the Browns, "He'll Have to Go" by Jim Reeves, and "Please Help Me I'm Falling" by Hank Locklin. When Owen Bradley asked Atkins what the secret was to the new sound, Atkins simply replied, "It's Bill Porter."

Porter's voice actually made it to one recording: the 1961 album Songs My Mother Never Sang by Homer and Jethro. Atkins instructed Porter to record everything, including between-take banter, so the tape was left running throughout the sessions. At one point Jethro commented on the silence following a joke, "Let's don't quit while we're ahead."

Porter turned on the microphone from the booth to the studio and said, "Did we say we were?"

"That was a joke," Jethro said.

Chet chimed in, "You know how these engineers are."

Jethro answered his brother-in-law in his typical dry tone, "Yeah, well, he'll never be another Casey Jones."

Bill Porter was 79.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Perfect Voice

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away
ARTIST: Jim Reeves
SONGWRITERS: W.S. Stevenson / Carl Belew / Jim Reeves
ALBUM: Blue Side of Lonesome

I don't have a hankerin' to change. I feel more at home in Nashville.
(Jim Reeves)

The great country music historian, author, and former Nashville newspaper columnist Robert K. Oermann is credited with dubbing the late Vern Gosdin as "the voice." With all due respect, Vern could not hold a candle to the voice of Jim Reeves. Nobody could. Reeves could sing the phone book and make it sound great. As proof, in 1962 he recorded an entire album in Afrikaans, the language of South Africa, yet it is beautiful -- all due to the warm, velvety voice of "Gentleman Jim."

When Reeves was killed in a plane crash in July 1964, three weeks before his 41st birthday, the voice that won worldwide fans was silenced. Reeves' widow, Mary, once said that Reeves did not believe in life insurance, proclaiming the unreleased tapes were her "insurance." His prophecy proved correct,
for thanks to a large collection of demo tapes left behind "new" material continued to please Reeves' fans for decades.

One of those "new" recordings, "Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away, was released in 1968. Reeves once claimed he enjoyed singing sad songs, even though he was not a sad person himself. This song, about a lost love left with a photograph, is on the aptly-named album A Touch of Sadness (which featured songs such as "I'm Crying Again," "Lonesome Waltz," and "Oh, How I Miss You Tonight"). The melody is not as mournful as one would expect, but is rather a mid-tempo waltz.

The lyrics, however, paint a portrait of a man standing with a former love's photo in his hands, looking at it, and trying to decide how to dispose of it. Unlike an earlier Reeves song, "I'm Gonna Change Everything," where the simple answer was to burn "everything I see" that "reminds me you were here," the song says that the "paper impression, a most prized possession" is more than on the glossy paper; it's also indelibly stamped on the singer's heart. "You said to forget all that reminds me of you," Reeves sang, "so I must throw your picture away." Easier said than done, for the next line asks, "How can I just cast aside a love that's in my heart to stay?"

In the decades since his death, most of the re-releases of Reeves' material has been relegated to "the hits," and especially "the big hits" ("Four Walls" and "He'll Have to Go"). Fortunately, Germany's Bear Family has put every Reeves studio recording out in the 16-CD box set Welcome to My World. "Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away" is one of the songs that will easily find itself stuck on "repeat" on the CD player.


The entire Distant Drums album -- a title song that was written by Cindy Walker but kept from release because RCA thought the implication of "going off to war" would be too controversial in light of the escalation of the Vietnam war suddenly took on new meaning in the light of Reeves' death. The rest of the album is magnificent as well.

The entire The Country Side of Jim Reeves album -- after "Four Walls" ushered in the Nashville Sound, most of Reeves' material reflected the heavy production. He still recorded strictly country-sounding music; however, it was relegated to RCA's budget label, Camden. This is a 1962 gem that should not be overlooked.

"If Heartache is the Fashion" (from He'll Have to Go and Other Favorites) -- Roger Miller sadly became pigeonholed as the writer of lighthearted or novelty songs, and this song, which he co-wrote with Reeves, proves that is such an unfair stereotype.

"That's When I See the Blues (In Your Pretty Brown Eyes)" (from The Best of Jim Reeves Vol. III) -- one of those "forgotten" Reeves hits, this is one of his absolute best.

"You're Free to Go" (from The Intimate Jim Reeves) -- Carl Smith had a huge hit with this, but Reeves applied his incredible voice and made this classic tune his own.

"In the Misty Moonlight" (from The Jim Reeves Way) -- another Cindy Walker song that was a pop hit for Jerry Wallace, Reeves recorded it shortly before his death. His version buries the Wallace hit rendition.

When My Rowboat Comes In
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

Swallowed By the Cracks
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