Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dates of Note in Country Music, February 1-15

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold on birth/death date, followed by hall[s] of fame in which they are enshrined and the year enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; NS=Nashville Songwriter; SG=Southern Gospel)

February 1:

Don Everly (CM 01, NS 01) born in Brownie, Kentucky, 1937 (now 76)
Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook born in Chicksaw, Alabama, 1937 (now 76)
Del McCoury (BG 11) born in Bakersville, North Carolina, 1939 (now 74)

Tom Gray of the Country Gentlemen (BG 96) born in Chicago, Illinois, 1941 (now 72)
Lisa Marie Presley born in Memphis, Tennessee, 1968 (now 45)
Scotty Wiseman (NS 71) died in Gainesville, Florida (heart attack), 1981 (was 71)

February 2:

Howard Bellamy of the Bellamy Brothers born in Darby, Florida, 1946 (now 67)
Emmett Miller born in Macon, Georgia, 1900 (died 1962)
Lester McFarland of Mac & Bob born in Gray, Kentucky, 1902 (died 1984)

Glenn Barber born in Hollis, Oklahoma, 1935 (died 2008)
Rusty Kershaw born in Tiel Ridge, Louisiana, 1938 (died 2001)
Louise Scruggs (BG 10) died in Nashville Tennessee, 2006 (was 78)

February 3:

Dave Rich born in Briar Creek, Kentucky, 1936 (now 77). Ernest Tubb heard a recording of Rich's and hounded friend Ray Price throughout a game of golf to record the song. The song? "City Lights."
Matraca Berg (NS 08) born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1964 (now 49)
Betty Foley, daughter and one-time duet partner of Red Foley, born in Chicago, Illinois, 1933 (died 1990)
Jiles Perry "J.P." Richardson died near Clear Lake, Iowa (plane crash), 1959 (was 28)
Buddy Holly (NS 94) died near Clear Lake, Iowa (plane crash), 1959 (was 22)
James Blackwood of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet (SG 97) died in Memphis, Tennessee (stroke), 2002 (was 83). He was the last original member of the legendary quartet.

February 4:

Clint Black born in Long Branch, New Jersey, 1962 (now 51)
Chris McDaniel of Confederate Railroad born in Rock Springs, Georgia, 1965 (now 48)
Vic McAlpin (NS 70) born in Defeated Creek, Tennessee, 1918 (died 1980)
Kenneth "Jethro" Burns (CM 01) died in Evanston, Illinois (prostate cancer), 1989 (was 68)
Tom Brumley of Buck Owens' Buckaroos died in San Antonio, Texas (heart ailment), 2009 (was 62)

February 5:

Claude King born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1933 (now 80)

Sara Evans born in Boonville, Missouri, 1971 (now 42)
Shelby David "Tex" Atchison born in Rosine, Kentucky, 1912 (died 1982)
Henson Cargill born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1941 (died 2007)
Eddy Noack died (cerebral hemorrhage), 1978 (was 47)

February 6:

Dale Reno of the Reno Brothers born in Roanoke, Virginia, 1961 (now 52)
Richie McDonald of Lonestar born in Lubbock, Texas, 1962 (now 51)
Anita Cochran born in Pontiac, Michigan, 1967 (now 46)
Violet Koehler of the original Coon Creek Girls born in Wilton, Wisconsin, 1916 (died 1973)

Merle Kilgore (NS 98) died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 2005 (was 70)
Frankie Laine died in San Diego, California (complications from hip replacement surgery), 2007 (was 93)

February 7:

Tony Booth born in Tampa, Florida, 1943 (now 70)
Garth Brooks (CM 12, NS 11) born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1962 (now 51)
Wilma Lee Cooper born in Valley Head, West Virginia, 1921 (died 2011)
Warren Smith born in Humphreys County, Mississippi, 1933 (died 1980)
Ambrose Allen of the Allen Brothers born in Sewanee, Tennessee, 1901 (died 1959)
Dale Evans died in Happy Valley, California (congestive heart failure), 2001 (was 88)
Molly Bee died in Oceanside, California (complications of a stroke), 2009 (was 68)
Patsy Cline's last recording session, Nashville, 1963. The last song she recorded was a cover of Moon Mullican's "I'll Sail My Ship Alone."
Jim Reeves recorded "Four Walls" in Nashville, 1957. This song is said by many to be the beginning of the "Nashville Sound."

February 8:

Don Wayne Reno of the Reno Brothers born in Roanoke, Virginia, 1963 (now 50)
Pappy Daily born in Yoakum, Texas, 1902 (died 1987)
Bob Dunn born in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, 1908 (died 1971). Dunn is credited as being the first country musician to use amplification for his instrument.

Dan Seals born in McCamey, Texas, 1948 (died 2009)
Merle Watson born in Deep Gap, North Carolina, 1949 (died 1985)
Lulu Belle Wiseman died (Alzheimer's disease), 1999 (was 84)

Pauline "Mom" Lewis of the Lewis Family (BG 06) died in Washington, Georgia (illness), 2003 (was 92)
Keith Knudsen of Southern Pacific died in California (chronic pneumonia), 2005 (was 56)

February 9:

Red Lane (NS 93) born in Zona, Louisiana, 1939 (now 74)
Joe Ely born in Amarillo, Texas, 1947 (now 66)
Travis Tritt born in Marietta, Georgia, 1963 (now 50)
Ernest Tubb (CM 65, NS 70) born in Crisp, Texas, 1914 (died 1984)

Charles K. Wolfe (BG 09) died in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (complications of diabetes), 2006 (was 62)

February 10:

George York of the York Brothers born in Louisa, Kentucky, 1910 (died 1974)

Arthur Satherley (CM 71) died in Fountain Valley, California (natural causes), 1986 (was 96)
Kendall Hayes died in Louisville, Kentucky (cancer), 1995 (was 59)
Jim Varney died in White House, Tennessee (lung cancer), 2000 (was 50)

February 11:

Wesley Rose (CM 86) born in Chicago, Illinois, 1918 (died 1980)

February 12:

Moe Bandy born in Meridian, Mississippi, 1944 (now 69)
Stephen Sholes (CM 67) born in Washington, DC, 1911 (died 1968)
Harley "Red" Allen (BG 05) born in Pigeon Roost, Kentucky, 1930 (died 1993)
Lorne Greene born in Ottawa, Ontario, 1915 (died 1987). The legendary actor hit the Billboard top 40 country charts in 1964 with "Ringo."
Sammi Smith died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (emphysema), 2005 (was 61)

February 13:

David McLaughlin of the Johnson Mountain Boys born in Washington, DC, 1958 (now 54)
Tennessee Ernie Ford (CM 90) born in Bristol, Tennessee, 1919 (died 1991)
Boudleaux Bryant born in Shellman, Georgia, 1920 (died 1987)
Jim McReynolds of Jim & Jesse (BG 93) born in Coeburn, Virginia, 1927 (died 2003)
Charlie Moore born in Piedmont, South Carolina, 1935 (died 1979)
Buddy Lee died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 1998 (was 65)
Waylon Jennings (CM 01, NS 95) died in Chandler, Arizona (complications of diabetes), 2002 (was 64)

February 14:

Razzy Bailey born in Five Points, Alabama, 1939 (now 74)
Bill Nowlin, co-founder of Rounder Records, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 1945 (now 68)
Harry Stone born in Jacksonville, Florida, 1898 (died 1968)
Lonnie Glosson born in Judsonia, Arkansas, 1908 (died 2001)
Buck Griffin died in Oklahoma (heart failure), 2009 (was 85)

February 15:

Hank Locklin born in McLellan, Florida, 1918 (died 2009)
Wally Fowler born in Adairsville, Georgia, 1917 (died 1994)
Louise Scruggs (BG 10) born in Lebanon, Tennessee, 1927 (died 2006)
Dorris Macon died (suicide), 1981 (was 71)
Nat "King" Cole died in Santa Montica, California (lung cancer), 1965 (was 45). The legendary pop crooner hit #1 on the Billboard country charts in 1944 (with the King Cole Trio) with the song "Straighten Up and Fly Right."

From the "Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated" Department....

Category:  News

Every now and then someone makes news by not dying.  In 1981 People magazine incorrectly reported the death of Barney Miller and Fish star Abe Vigoda, prompting the very much alive Vigoda to pose sitting in a coffin, reading his own obituary.  To this day there is a very comical web site that keeps people up-to-date on Vigoda's status.  In 2008 several national news outlets reported that Slim Whitman had passed away one day after his birthday.  Whitman quickly released a press statement assuring everyone he was alive and well and working on a new album.

We can now add songwriter Sandy Pinkard to the list.  On January 30 a syndicated radio show reported that the 66-year-old Pinkard, who wrote such songs as Vern Gosdin's "I Can Tell By the Way You Dance" and Shelly West & David Frizzell's "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma," had been found dead in a Nashville hotel from a drug overdose.  I e-mailed Pinkard's Pinkard & Bowden partner in crime, Richard Bowden, and he said that he had been contacted in regard to the news, so he called Pinkard's home...and Sandy answered.

Fear not, Mr. Pinkard is doing well and will be contributing to music and mayhem for years to come.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Music Buying Old Fart Replies

Category:  News

Reigning CMA male vocalist of the year Blake Shelton seems to be on a quest to see just how far the old adage, "There is no such thing as bad publicity," can go.  The 36-year-old singer has, over the past year, generated considerable controversy with tweets in which he implied he deliberately swerved into the emergency lane in Oklahoma to run over a turtle (finally "soothing" the issue by telling his detractors, "Get a life! Get a job!  Get laid!  For once!") and spoofing Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine" in such a way that it was interpreted as advocating violence against homosexuals ("Any man that tries touching my behind, he's gonna be a beaten, bleedin', heavin' kind of guy").  He's generated so much heat that his new year's resolution, according to Us magazine, was to be a "less controversial tweeter."

To one end he has kept that promise, for his latest controversy comes from an interview, not a tweet.  In an episode of the GAC network's series Backstory, Shelton took dead aim at the history of country music and the genre's fans, long recognized as the most loyal of all.  He said:

If I am "Male Vocalist of the Year," that must mean that I'm one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward, and if it moves on.  Country music has to evolve in order to survive.  Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa's music.  And I don't care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, "My god, that ain't country!"  Well, that's because you don't buy records anymore, jackass.  The kids do, and they don't want to buy the music you were buying.

Needless to say, there are a few unhappy campers.  Chief (by his own admission) among them, Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Price, who just turned 87.  He replied via the Sirius/XM Willie's Roadhouse Facebook page:

It's a shame that I have spent 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me.  Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll-type song, have a hit first time out with kids only.  That's why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God's answer to the world.  This guy sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him.  Stupidity reigns supreme!  Ray Price (CHIEF "OLD FART & JACKASS")  P.S.: You should be so lucky as us old-timers.  Check back in 63 years (the year 2075) and let us know how your name and music will be remembered.

Shelton was shocked that he had offended his "all-time favorite," and many of his fans have rushed to his defense, pointing out that Shelton prides himself as being a country music historian and claiming what he said was misinterpreted.

Oh, where to start on this one....

I must admit that I find it difficult, if not impossible, to misinterpret what Shelton said.  I also must admit that I am more offended by his arrogant implication that he is now lord and master of deciding what happens in country music universe because he won an award (it is funny how Mr. Country Music Historian cannot show anyone an instance of Eddy Arnold -- the only person to ever win the CMA Entertainer of the Year award after being inducted into the Hall of Fame -- making such a claim for himself, and please let it be noted that Eddy Arnold ranks #1 in Joel Whitburn's book of Billboard charted country songs) than his "old farts" remark.  I think Ray Price hit the nail on the (oversized) head with his comment about Shelton's ego.  It isn't just this comment, either:  in the brouhaha over the turtle Shelton tweeted, "I solely have raised over a million dollars in animal rescue/conservation much have you raised?  Oh, ok. Next."  

And ol' Blake's a "country music historian?"  Yeah, right.  NOBODY (in fact, I'll go a little further and say no three people COMBINED) knows more about country music history than Eddie Stubbs, and you don't EVER hear such nonsense spewing out of Eddie's mouth.

My friend at the Fayfare's Opry Blog has opined that Shelton needs to be fired from the Opry.  I could not agree more.  With all those old farts like Jimmy Dickens, Del McCoury, Stonewall Jackson, Mel Tillis, Bill Anderson, Jan Howard, et. al., hanging around, why would Shelton even want to be a member to begin with?

A 2012 article in Verve said that the average American spends only $17 a year on music.  That's about the price of two downloads.  "Old fart" "jackasses," on the other hand, gleefully spend hundreds of dollars on Bear Family box sets to obtain the entire recorded output of people like Hank Locklin, the Louvin Brothers, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and oh, yes, Ray Price.  Maybe Shelton should've done his homework on the money spent (and those "old farts" with all their disposable income to spend) before he trashed them.

In 2009 I drove to Nashville to see Ray Price headline a tribute to Don Helms, the last of the Drifting Cowboys.  In my review I mentioned my absolute amazement at the ability of an octogenarian to walk out onto a stage, sit down on a stool, and absolutely control the audience.  When Blake Shelton can do that, then he can decide the future of country music.  I won't be holding my breath.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dates of Note in Country Music, January 16-31

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold on birth/death date, followed by hall[s] of fame in which they are enshrined and the year enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; NS=Nashville Songwriter; SG=Southern Gospel)

January 16:

Ronnie Milsap born in Robbinsville, North Carolina, 1943 (now 70)
Jim Stafford born in Eloise, Florida, 1944 (now 69)
Sandy Pinkard of Pinkard & Bowden born in Abbeville, Louisiana, 1947 (now 66)

Roy Lanham born in Corbin, Kentucky, 1923 (died 1991)
Ruby Falls born in Jackson, Tennessee, 1946 (died 1986)

Dizzy Dean born in Lucas, Arkansas, 1910 (died 1974). The legendary baseball player is credited with dubbing Roy Acuff "King of Country Music."
Carl Smith (CM 03) died in Nashville, Tennessee (stroke), 2010 (was 82)
Bill Monroe seriously injured in a car wreck, 1953. Monroe was away from performing for six months while recovering.

Jimmy Buffett's private plane was shot at by Jamaican authorities, 1996.  The Jamaican police mistook Buffett's plane for one belonging to a drug kingpin.  No one on board Buffett's plane was injured.

January 17:

Steve Earle born in Fort Monroe, Virginia, 1955 (now 58)
Amanda Wilkinson of the Wilkinsons born in Belleville, Ontario, 1982 (now 31)
Walter Bailes of the Bailes Brothers born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, 1920 (died 2000)
Grady Martin born in Marshall County, Tennessee, 1929 (died 2001)
Cliffie Stone (CM 89) died in his home in Saugus, California (heart attack), 1998 (was 80)
Frank "Hylo" Brown died in Mechanicsburg, Ohio (natural causes), 2003 (was 81)
The street in front of Graceland renamed "Elvis Presley Boulevard," 1972

January 18:

Bobby Edwards born in Aniston, Alabama, 1926 (now 87)
Hargus "Pig" Robbins (CM 12) born in Spring City, Tennessee, 1938 (now 75)
Mark Collie born in Waynesboro, Tennessee, 1956 (now 57)

Linda Parker of the Cumberland Ridge Runners born in Covington, Kentucky, 1912 (died 1935)
Eddie Hill died (long-term illness), 1994 (was 74)

January 19:
Stu Phillips born in Montreal, Quebec, 1933 (now 80)
Phil Everly (CM 01, NS 01) born in Chicago, Illinois, 1939 (now 74)
Dolly Parton (CM 99, NS 86) born in Locast Ridge, Tennessee, 1946 (now 67)
Stephanie Davis born in Bridger, Montana, 1958 (now 55)
Dennie Crouch of the Nashville Bluegrass Band born in Strawberry, Arkansas, 1967 (now 45)
Leo Soileau born in Ville Platte, Louisiana, 1904 (died 1980)
Ken Nelson (CM 01) born in Caledonia, Minnesota, 1911 (died 2008)

Oscar Sullivan born in Edmonton, Kentucky, 1919 (died 2012)
Charlie Waller of the Country Gentlemen (BG 96) born in Joinerville, TX, 1935 (died 2004)
Ralph Peer (CM 84) died in Los Angeles, California (pneumonia), 1960 (was 67)
Vic McAlpin (NS 70) died in Nashville, Tennessee (unknown cause), 1980 (was 61)
Carl Perkins (NS 85) died in Jackson, Tennessee (complications of stroke/throat cancer), 1998 (was 65)

James O'Gwynn died in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (long-term illness), 2011 (was 82)
George Jones' first recording session (for Starday), 1954

January 20:

Slim Whitman born in Tampa, Florida, 1924 (now 89). In 2008 Whitman was incorrectly listed as deceased the day after his birthday.
John Michael Montgomery born in Danville, Kentucky, 1965 (now 48)

Huddie "Leadbelly" Leadbetter (NS 80) born in Mooringsport, Louisiana, 1889 (died 1949).  The year of Leadbelly's birth is open for debate, as is the actual day, with numerous sources citing January 20, January 21, or January 23, and years of 1888 or 1889.
George Burns born in New York, New York, 1896 (died 1996). The legendary comedian and actor had a top 20 country song in 1980 with "I Wish I Was Eighteen Again."
Larry Butler died in Pensacola, Florida (natural causes), 2012 (was 69)

January 21:

Mac Davis (NS 00) born in Lubbock, Texas, 1942 (now 71)
Jim Ibbottson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1947 (now 66)
Cedric Rainwater (BG 07) died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 1970 (was 56)
Jim Anglin died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 1987 (was 73)
Colonel Tom Parker died in Las Vegas, Nevada (stroke), 1997 (was 87). In addition to Elvis, Parker managed Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, and Minnie Pearl early in their careers.
Patsy Cline appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts and won the talent show,1957

January 22:

J.P. Pennington of Exile born in Berea, Kentucky, 1949 (now 64)

Teddy Gentry of Alabama (CN 05) born in Fort Payne, Alabama, 1952 (now 61)
Dickie McBride of Cliff Bruner's Texas Wanderers born in New Baden, Texas, 1914 (died 1971)
Jimmy Day died in Buda, Texas (cancer), 1999 (was 65)
Janette Carter, the last surviving member of the Carter Family, died in Kingsport, Tennessee (Parkinson's disease/illness), 2006 (was 82)

January 23:

Etta May born in Bald Knob, Arkansas, 1962 (now 51)
Johnny Russell (NS 01) born in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1940 (died 2001)
T. Texas Tyler died in Springfield, Missouri (stomach cancer), 1972 (was 55)

Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey (NS 79) died in Chicago, Illinois (Alzheimer's disease), 1993 (was 93)
Art Stamper died in Louisville, Kentucky (throat cancer), 2005 (was 71)
Johnny Carson died in Hollywood, California (emphysema), 2005 (was 79). Carson had a number of country artists on The Tonight Show, including over two dozen appearances by Homer and Jethro, who Carson considered among his favorite guests.
The Winter Dance Party begins in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1959. Three of the headliners, Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, and Richie Valens, would die 11 days later.

January 24:

Doug Kershaw born in Tiel Ridge, Louisiana, 1936 (now 77)
Jack Scott born in Windsor, Ontario, 1936 (now 77)
Ray Stevens (NS 80) born in Clarksdale, Georgia, 1939 (now 74)
Becky Hobbs born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 1950 (now 63)
Keech Rainwater of Lonestar born in Plano, Texas, 1963 (now 50)

Warren Zevon born in Chicago, Illinois, 1947 (died 2001).  The folk-rock singer wrote "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," which was a hit on the country charts by both Linda Ronstadt and Terri Clark.  Zevon also had Dwight Yoakam on two albums and appeared in South of Heaven, West of Hell, which Yoakam directed and starred in.
Shot Jackson died in Nashville, Tennessee (complications of stroke), 1991 (was 70)
Justin Tubb died in Nashville, Tennessee (aortic aneurysm), 1998 (was 62)

January 25:

Claude Gray born in Henderson, Texas, 1932 (now 81)
Farrell "Rusty" Draper born in Kirksville, Missouri, 1923 (died 2003)
Speedy West born in Springfield, Missouri, 1924 (died 2003)
Cactus Jack Call died in Kansas City, Missouri (car wreck), 1963 (was 39).  A benefit concert for the disc jockey five weeks later would be the final performances by Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas.

Buddy Charleton died in Austin, Texas (lung cancer), 2011 (was 72)

January 26:

Dave Rowland of Dave & Sugar born in Sanger, California, 1942 (now 71)
Lucinda Williams born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, 1953 (now 60)

James O'Gwynn born in Winchester, Mississippi, 1928 (died 2011)
Clayton McMichen born in Allatoona, Georgia, 1900 (died 1970)
Goebel Reeves died in Long Beach, California (heart attack), 1959 (was 59)

Charlie Louvin (CM 01, NS 79) died in Wartrace, Tennessee (pancreatic cancer), 2011 (was 83)
Hillary Clinton 
disparagingly invoked Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" during an interview, 1992

January 27:

Buddy Emmons born in Mishawaka, Indiana, 1937 (now 76)
Lee Carroll of Exile born in Glasgow, Kentucky, 1953 (now 60)
Cheryl White of the Whites born in Wichita Falls, Texas, 1955 (now 58)
Richard Young of the Kentucky Headhunters born in Glasgow, Kentucky, 1955 (now 58)
Tracy Lawrence born in Atlanta, Texas, 1968 (now 45)
Joe Callahan of the Callahan Brothers born in Madison County, North Carolina, 1910 (died 1971)
Claude Akins died in Altadena, California (cancer), 1994 (was 67). Among the actor's roles was Sonny on the TV series Movin' On, which featured the title song performed by Merle Haggard.

January 28:

Greg Cook of Ricochet born in Vian, Oklahoma, 1965 (now 48)
Bill Phillips born in Canton, North Carolina, 1936 (died 2010)

Skeeter Willis died in Nashville, Tennessee (lymph cancer), 1976 (was 58)
Al Dexter (NS 71) died in Denton, Texas (heart attack), 1984 (was 78)

Jimmy Fortune joins the Statler Brothers, 1982

January 29:

Patsy Sledd born in Falcon, Missouri, 1944 (now 69)
Irlene Mandrell of the Mandrell Sisters born in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1957 (now 56)

Lloyd Perryman of the Sons of the Pioneers born in Ruth, Arkansas, 1917 (died 1977)
Little Jimmy Sizemore born in Paintsville, Kentucky, 1928 (died 1985)

January 30:

Jeanne Pruett born in Pell City, Alabama, 1937 (now 76)
Norma Jean ("Pretty Miss Norma Jean") born in Wellston, Oklahoma, 1938 (now 75)
Harold Morrison born in High Lonesome, Missouri, 1931 (died 1993)
Melvin Endsley born in Drasco, Arkansas, 1934 (died 2004)
Ott Devine died in Nashville, Tennessee (unknown cause), 1994 (was 83)

January 31:

Lynwood Lunsford of Lost & Found born in Roxboro, North Carolina, 1962 (now 51)
Warren Smith died in Longview, Texas (heart attack), 1981 (was 47)

Doc Williams died in Wheeling, West Virginia (natural causes), 2011 (was 96)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Got a Common (Chevy) Van

Category:  Obituary

"Chevy Van" was one of the great one-hit wonders of the 1970s.  The lyrics, admittedly, were about as sexist as they come:  like the "gas, grass, or ass, nobody rides free" bumper stickers, the guy picks up a hitch-hiker, has sex with her, then drops her "in a town that was so small you could throw a rock from end to end."  But dang, it had such a catchy melody that even the bra-burning feminists couldn't help but sing along with the chorus (not unlike the rock hit "867-5309 [Jenny]," with its lyrics that indicate a guy is actually dumb enough to believe a "for a good time call" message he saw on a bathroom wall).  And Chevrolet no doubt loved the tune:  it probably sold more vehicles than the best salesman.

The man behind that song, Sammy Johns, has died.

Johns was a native of North Carolina.  His one hit was a top five pop hit in 1975, and a remake cracked the Billboard country charts in 1988.  That was far from his only success, however.  His first venture onto the country charts came in 1981 with a song called "Common Man," with its chorus that hinted that the he had a "common van" (the old Chevy van?) and "my dog ain't got a pedigree."  Two years later John Conlee covered the song and took it to #1.  Waylon Jennings had a top ten hit in 1984 with another Johns composition, "America," in addition to covering "Chevy Van" on his 1987 album Hangin' Tough.  Conway Twitty also scored a #1 hit with a Sammy Johns composition, "Desperado Love," in 1986.

In an interview with Classic Bands Online's Gary James, Johns freely admitted that the story in "Chevy Van" was totally fabricated.  "It never happened," he admitted.  "I thought it might be a neat idea to sing it."

Sammy Johns was 66.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

How Much? Priceless

Category:  News/Obituary

The legendary Patti Page has died.

Granted, by most standards she was more pop than country; however, her biggest hit was indisputably country.  "Tennessee Waltz" was written by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart and first recorded by numerous country acts (including Cowboy Copas, who reportedly couldn't buy the rights to the song from King and Stewart because he didn't have $50 to pay them when they offered it).  It is Page's version, not King's or Copas's, that most people identify with the song that has since become one of the state songs of Tennessee.

Clara Ann Fowler isn't what anyone would call a household name, but that was Patti's birth name on November 8, 1927 when she was born in Claremore, Oklahoma.  She first tasted fame on the radio in Tulsa, where she had a 15-minute program sponsored by Page Milk.  The milk company's name gave the 18-year-old her legendary professional name.  A band leader coming through town heard her broadcast and immediately set out to make her a star.

That proved no problem, given Page's superb voice.  She was signed to Mercury Records and put in the hands of legendary producer and sing-along king Mitch Miller, who made Page the first recording act in history to use overdubbing on her first hit, "Confess."  More hits followed in the late 40s, but they were all dwarfed by a chance recording of a song that had already been a country hit three times in 1948 (for Copas, King, and Roy Acuff).  Mercury wanted Page to have a Christmas record out in late 1950, so she cut "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus."  The problem was, she had nothing to put on the B-side of the record.  The label was all in favor of having a non-Christmas song as the B-side because they felt it would ensure that the DJs would plug the holiday song and wouldn't (as they were accustomed to doing in those days) "flip the record over" and play both sides.  Boy, were they ever wrong about that.

The conservative estimates are that Page's recording of "Tennessee Waltz" sold over ten million records.  Not bad for a B-side.

Other successes followed, including her hit "(How Much is That) Doggie in the Window" (which sold over three million copies and was so successful that its parody, "How Much is That Hound Dog in the Window" by Homer & Jethro, became country music's first million-selling comedy recording).  All told, she had twenty songs hit the country chart (including a duet with Tom T. Hall, "Hello, We're Lonely").  If that seems impressive, her pop chart tally (the "Hot 100," which didn't begin until the rock and roll era in 1955)  netted her 43 charted songs, including the 1956 million-selling "Allegheny Moon" (which had to fight for attention thanks to that Presley fellow turning the music world upside down).  Additionally, she was the first performer to host TV shows on all three networks.

Although she faded from the charts Page continued to be a draw in Las Vegas and in Branson, Missouri.  She was equally at home with, and appreciated by, pop and country fans.  

In December it was announced that Page will receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy next month at the Grammy Awards.  Sadly, it will now be presented posthumously.

How much was that doggie in the window?  Thanks to Patti Page's incomparable voice, it was priceless.  The Singing Rage, Miss Patti Page was 85.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Dates of Note in Country Music, January 1-15

Category: News

(Hall of Fame members in bold on birth/death date, followed by hall[s] of fame in which they are enshrined and the year enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; NS=Nashville Songwriter; SG=Southern Gospel)

January 1:

Frank Kettering of the Hoosier Hot Shots born in Monmouth, Illinois, 1909 (died 1973)
Hank Williams (CM 61, NS 70) died in the back seat of a car between Knoxville, Tennessee and Oak Hill, West Virginia (cardiac arrest), 1953 (was 29)
Aubrey "Moon" Mullican (NS 76) died in Beaumont, Texas (heart attack), 1967 (was 57)
Floyd "Salty" Holmes of the Prairie Ramblers died (unknown cause), 1970 (was 60)
Townes Van Zandt died in Mount Juliet, Tennessee (heart attack), 1997 (was 52)
Del Reeves died in Nashville, Tennessee (emphysema), 2007 (was 73)

Cousin Jody (ne James Summey) quit Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys (along with two other members), 1939.  Acuff replaced Cousin Jody with Beecher Ray Kirby, who was later nicknamed "Bashful Brother Oswald."
Johnny Cash played at San Quentin prison, 1959. Among the prisoners in attendance was Merle Haggard.

The first episode of The Porter Wagoner Show aired in syndication, 1961

January 2:

Harold Bradley (CM 06) born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1926 (now 87)
Dick Feller born in Bronaugh, Missouri, 1943 (now 70)
Roger Miller (CM 95, NS 73) born in Fort Worth, Texas, 1936 (died 1992)
Red Smiley (BG 92) died in Richmond, Virginia (complications from diabetes), 1972 (was 47)
Tex Ritter (CM 64, NS 71) died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 1974 (was 68)
Wayne Walker (NS 75) died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 1979 (was 53)

January 3:

Nikki Nelson of Highway 101 born in San Diego, California, 1969 (now 44)

Leon McAuliffe born in Houston, Texas, 1917 (died 1988)
Elwood Goins (BG 09) born in Bramwell, WV, 1936 (died 2007)
Felton Jarvis died in Nashville, Tennessee (stroke), 1981 (was 46)
Doye O'Dell died in Northridge, California (complications of a stroke), 2001 (was 88)

Quanah Talmadge Tubb (better known as Billy Talmadge Tubb) died in El Paso, Texas (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 76)
Mike Henderson born in Independence, Missouri, 1955 (now 58)
Kathy Forester of the Forester Sisters born in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, 1955 (now 58)
Patty Loveless born in Pikeville, Kentucky, 1957 (now 56)
Deana Carter born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1966 (now 47)
Clayton McMichen died in Battletown, Kentucky (unknown causes), 1970 (was 69)
Jake Hess (SG 97) died in Opelika, Alabama (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 63)
Iris DeMent born in Paragould, Arkansas, 1961 (now 52)

Big Bill Lister born in Kenedy, Texas, 1923 (died 2009)
Sam Phillips (Sun Records owner) (CM 01) born in Florence, Alabama, 1923 (died 2003)
Tug McGraw, former baseball pitcher and father of Tim McGraw, died in his son's home in Nashville, Tennessee (brain cancer), 2004 (was 59)

January 6:

Joey Miskulin ("Joey the Cow Polka King") of Riders in the Sky born in Chicago, Illinois, 1949 (now 64)
Jett Williams born in Montgomery, Alabama, 1953 (now 60)
Harry "Hap" Peebles born in Anthony, Kansas, 1913 (died 1993)

Earl Scruggs (CM 85, BG 91, NS 07) born in Flint Hill, North Carolina, 1924 (died 2012)
Autry Inman born in Florence, Alabama, 1929 (died 1988)
Bobby Lord born in Sanford, Florida, 1934 (died 2008)
Chubby Wise (BG 98) died in Bowie, Maryland (heart attack), 1996 (was 80)
Bobby Austin died in Camas, Washington (illness), 2002 (was 68)
Sneaky Pete Kleinkow died in Petaluma, California (complications of Alzheimer's disease), 2007 (was 72)
Ken Nelson (CM 01) died in Somis, California (natural causes), 2008 (was 96)

January 7:

Jack Greene born in Maryville, Tennessee, 1930 (now 83)
Leona Williams born in Vienna, Missouri, 1943 (now 70)
Marshall Chapman born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1949 (now 64)
David Lee Murphy born in Herrin, Illinois, 1959 (now 54)
John Rich born in Amarillo, Texas, 1974 (now 39)
Bunny Biggs (Jamup of Jamup and Honey) born, 1897 (died 1948)

Owen Bradley (CM 74) died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart ailment/complications of flu), 1998 (was 82)

January 8:

Christy Lane born in Peoria, Illinois, 1940 (now 73)

Holly Tashian born in New York, New York, 1946 (now 67)
Hoke Rice of the Rice Brothers born in Gainesville, Georgia, 1909 (died 1974)
Luther Perkins born in Memphis, Tennessee, 1928 (died 1968)
Elvis Presley (CM 98) born in Tupelo, Mississippi, 1935 (died 1977)
Randall Hylton born in Willis, Virginia, 1946 (died 2001)
Sara Carter (CM 70, BG 01) died in Lodi, California (lengthy illness), 1979 (was 79)
Maxwell Emmett "Pat" Buttram, died in Los Angeles, California (kidney failure), 1994 (was 78)

The U.S. Postal Service issues a 29c postage stamp featuring Elvis Presley, 1993. The stamp is the Postal Service's best-selling commemorative stamp of all-time, with sales of over 517,000,000.
Billboard magazine 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 70)
Crystal Gayle born in Paintsville, Kentucky, 1951 (now 62)
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 in Nashville, Tennessee (illness), 2009 (was 67)

January 10:

Curly Ray Cline (BG 09) 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 67)
Robert Earl Keen born in Houston, Texas, 1956 (now 57)
Tommy Duncan born in Hillsboro, Texas, 1911 (died 1967)
Goldie Hill Smith born in Kanes County, Texas, 1933 (died 2005)

Max D. Barnes (NS 92) died in Nashville, Tennesee (pneumonia), 2004 (was 67)
Jimmy Griffin of the Remingtons died in Franklin, Tennessee (cancer), 2005 (was 61)

Margaret Whiting died in Englewood, New Jersey (natural causes), 2011 (was 86)
Stonewall Jackson filed $10 million age discrimination lawsuit against the Grand Ole Opry, 2007

January 12:

Ray Price (CM 96) born in Perryville, Texas, 1926 (now 87)
William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys born in Brewton, Alabama, 1939 (now 74)
Ricky Van Shelton born in Danville, Virginia, 1952 (now 61)
LaWanda Lindsey born in Tampa, Florida, 1953 (now 60)
Claudia Church Crowell born in Lenoir, North Carolina, 1962 (now 51)

Jack Rhodes (NS 72) born in Gedden, Texas, 1907 (died 1968)
Tex Ritter (CM 64, NS 71) born in Panola County, Texas, 1905 (died 1974)
Paul Warren died in Nashville, Tennessee (illness), 1978 (was 59)

Charlie Collins died in Nashville, Tennessee (stroke), 2012 (was 78)
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 eight 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 51)

Ezra Cline (BG 09) born in Gilbert Creek, VA, 1907 (died 1984)
Jenny Lou Carson (NS 71) born in Decatur, Illinois, 1915 (died 1978)

Stephen Foster (NS 10) died in New York New York (complications of fever and blood loss from cut), 1864 (was 37)
Doyle Holly died in Nashville, Tennessee (prostate cancer), 2007 (was 70)

January 14:

Joseph Henry "T-Bone" Burnett born in St. Louis Missouri, 1948 (now 65).  An Americana music performer and producer (of albums by Los Lobos and the BoDeans), he was the producer of the award-winning soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou.

Billie Jo Spears born in Beaumont, Texas, 1937 (died 2011) 

January 15:

Peter Kuykendall (BG 96), co-founder of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, born in Wasington, DC, 1938 (now 75)

David Lynn Jones born in Bexar, Arkansas, 1950 (now 63)
Kurt Howell of Southern Pacific born in Winter Haven, Florida, 1958 (now 55)

Billy Walker born in Ralls, Texas, 1929 (died 2006)
Jack Guthrie died in Livermore, California (tuberculosis), 1948 (was 32)
Vic Willis died in Hohenwald, Tennessee (car wreck), 1995 (was 72)

Sixty Years On

Category:  Tribute

Sixty years ago a 29-year-old singer/songwriter died somewhere between Knoxville, Tennessee and Oak Hill, West Virginia.  A man died and a legend was born.

Hank Williams was arguably country music's first tabloid cover boy.  Randy Travis, George Jones, Johnny Pacheck or Tammy Wynette had nothing on Hank.  That's part of the legend.

It's also part of the reality:  when the promoter in Canton, Ohio came onstage at the New Year's Day show that Hank was en route to headline and announced that Williams had died, a number of the members of the audience initially laughed, thinking it was just another excuse Hank had concocted to miss a show.  Only when the other performers on the show -- Homer & Jethro (who were good friends with Williams), regional star Hawkshaw Hawkins, singer/songwriter Autry Inman (later best-known for writing the Louvin Brothers' sole #1 hit, "I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby"), his "Jack & Daniel" partner Floyd Robinson, and the Webb Sisters (June and Shirley) -- came onstage to sing "I Saw the Light" did the people who had scoffed realize it was no joke.

The former Andrew Johnson Hotel on Gay Street in
Knoxville, where Hank Williams spent his last evening
alive on December 31, 1952.
c. 2013 K.F. Raizor
Hank Williams got as far as Knoxville on December 31, 1952 when it became obvious he was not going to make it to Charleston, West Virginia in time for that evening's show.  He was over 300 miles away and, before the interstate system came into being, faced with several hours of snow-covered mountainous roads   He chartered a plane out of Knoxville but the plane was forced back due to weather conditions.  Williams and his 18-year-old driver checked into the Andrew Johnson Hotel, located near the river on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville, for some rest.

During the short hiatus (they were only there for three and a half hours) a doctor came to Williams' room and gave him an injection.  At about 10:30 p.m. the driver and Williams left the Andrew Johnson Hotel and drove into history.

We take these things for granted today.  The rock world has what is known as the "27 club," a sadly long list of musicians who died at the age of 27 from living far too hard.  Some seemed to gloat in it, too:  Jimmy McCullough, the lead guitarist for Paul McCartney's Wings, boasted in a the song "Wino Junko," "Ain't scared to die at such a high."  (McCullough died of a heroin overdose in 1979 at the age of 26, not living long enough to make it to the "27 club.")  It's now almost automatic to think that drugs were involved when someone famous dies young.  In 1953, however, such things were much rarer than they are today.  In addition to women problems Hank had drinking problems and, thanks to a chronically painful back, prescription addiction problems.  To this day people speculate what combination of the latter two caused Hank's death, and whether it was an accident, a body that had simply had all the substances pumped into it that it could stand, or a physician's negligence (as later speculated in the deaths of rock king Elvis and pop king Michael Jackson). 

Barry Mazor wrote an award-winning book titled Meeting Jimmie Rodgers, which dealt with the various singers across diverse genres who have covered songs written by the Singing Brakeman.  Maybe Williams needs one written about him as well.  Never mind the countless country and bluegrass singers who have done Hank Williams songs (and Williams may well be the most referenced country singer in other people's songs), when punk bands like The The are doing entire albums of Hank Williams songs people are going to sit up and take notice.  

Unlike many other people who died young, Hank Williams left behind an amazing treasure trove of songs.  More than the speculation about how he died, more than the colorful "short life of trouble" (to borrow a song title, written before Hank was even born, that seems to fit him so well) he led, those songs are the reason people whose parents weren't born when Hank died are remembering him today.