Monday, February 29, 2016

A Final Present

Category:  News

Rory Feek has been keeping the world abreast of the battle his wife Joey endures as she is dying of cervical cancer.  His most recent blog reports that Joey helped celebrate daughter Indiana's second birthday, which was the last thing she wanted to do.  

"Enough is enough," she said as she decided to stop fighting to stay alive.  Rory said that she's asleep most of the time now, and her body is shutting down.  The hospice nurse said that Joey's remaining time is limited to "a matter of days."

Joey has received one final present, though.  This one is from her fans:  the Joey + Rory album, Hymns, debuted at #1 on the Billboard country albums chart.  It also debuted at #4 on the pop charts, sitting there amid Adele, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber releases.  

Rory no doubt has a long, hard road ahead of him, while Joey's road is reportedly very close to the end.  I'm glad that she has lived to see the music she and her husband created together finally acknowledged by the public.

Remember them in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dates of Note in Country Music, March 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[s] enshrined.  CM=Country Music; BG=Bluegrass; NS=Nashville Songwriter SG=Southern Gospel; StG=Steel Guitar; RR=country act also in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

March 1:

Janis Oliver of Sweethearts of the Rodeo born in Manhattan Beach, California, 1954 (now 62)
Sara Hickman born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, 1963 (now 53)
Clinton Gregory born in Martinsville, Virginia, 1966 (now 50)
Cliffie Stone (CM 89) born in Stockton, California, 1917 (died 1998)
Pearl Butler died in Nashville, Tennessee (unknown cause), 1988 (was 61)
RCA Victor debuted a new record format -- the 45 RPM, 1949

Johnny Cash and June Carter Smith Nix married in Franklin, Kentucky, 1968
California governor Ronald Reagan issued a full pardon to Merle Haggard, 1972

March 2:

Larry Stewart born in Paducah, Kentucky, 1959 (now 57)

Doc Watson (BG 00) born in Deep Gap, North Carolina, 1923 (died 2012)
Dottie Rambo (NS 07, SG 97) born in Madisonville, Kentucky, 1934 (died 2008)
Lonnie Glosson died in Searcy, Arkansas (natural causes), 2001 (was 93)

March 3:

John Carter Cash born in Madison, Tennessee, 1970 (now 46)
Jimmy Heap born in Taylor, Texas, 1922 (died 1977)
Kyle Bailes died (unknown cause), 1996 (was 80)
Harlan Howard (CM 97, NS 73) died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 2002 (was 74)
Ernie Ashworth died in Hartsville, Tennessee (heart attack), 2009 (was 80)
Benefit concert for the family of DJ "Cactus" Jack Call held in Kansas City, Missouri, 1963. Among those performing: Roy Acuff, 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 (BG 96, BG 14) born in Washington, DC, 1934 (died 1996)
Scotty Stoneman died in Nashville, Tennessee (overdose of prescription medication), 1973 (was 40)
Minnie Pearl (CM 75) died in Nashville, Tennessee (complications from stroke), 1996 (was 83)
Eddie Dean died in Los Angeles, California (emphysema), 1999 (was 91)

March 5:

Raymond Fairchild born in Cherokee, North Carolina, 1939 (now 77)
Jimmy Bryant born in Moultrie, Georgia, 1925 (died 1980)
Patsy Cline (CM 73) died near Camden, Tennessee (plane crash), 1963 (was 30)
Cowboy Copas died 
near Camden, Tennessee (plane crash), 1963 (was 59)
Hawkshaw Hawkins died near Camden, Tennessee (plane crash), 1963 (was 41)
Randy Hughes died near Camden, Tennessee (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 (BG 06, RR 97) died in Miami, Florida (heart disease/pneumonia), 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 (SG 05), original member of the Chuck Wagon Gang and widow of Jimmie Davis, died in Fort Worth, Texas (complications following a fall), 2004 (was 87)
Elvis Presley honorably discharged from the Army, 1960

March 6:

Skip Ewing born in Red Lands, California, 1964 (now 52)
Cliff Carlisle born in Mount Eden, Kentucky, 1904 (died 1983)
Bob Wills (CM 68, NS 70, RR 99) born in Turkey, Texas, 1905 (died 1975)
Jean Chapel of the Coon Creek Girls born in Neon, Kentucky, 1925 (died 1995)

Don Stover (BG 02) born in Ameagle, West Virginia, 1928 (died 1996)
Red Simpson born in Higley, Arizona, 1934 (died 2016)
Doug Dillard (BG 09) of the Dillards born in East St. Louis, Missouri, 1937 (died 2012)
Elmer "Buddy" Charleton (StG 93) born in New Market, Virginia, 1938 (died 2011)
George Jones critically injured in single-vehicle accident, 1999
The siege of the Alamo ended, 1836. Davy Crockett, subject of the 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 in Nashville, Tennessee (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 (CM 74, NS 70) died in Louisville, Kentucky (heart attack), 2000 (was 86)

Charlie Lamb died in Nashville, Tennessee (pneumonia), 2012 (was 90)
Claude King died in Shreveport, Louisiana (natural causes), 2013 (was 90)

March 8:

Randy Meisner of Poco and the Eagles born in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, 1946 (now 70)

Jimmy Dormire of Confederate Railroad born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1960 (now 56)
Johnny Dollar born in Kilgore, Texas, 1933 (died 1986)
Jimmy Stoneman of the Stoneman Family born in Washington, DC, 1937 (died 2002)

Stuart Hamblen (NS 70) died in Santa Monica, California (brain tumor), 1989 (was 80)
Hank Locklin died in Brewton, Alabama (natural causes), 2009 (was 90)

March 9:

Mickey Gilley born in Natchez, Mississippi, 1936 (now 80)
Jimmy Fadden of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band born in Long Beach, California, 1948 (now 68)

Jerry Byrd (StG 78) born in Lima, Ohio, 1920 (died 2005)
Ralph Sloan of the Ralph Sloan Dancers born in Wilson County, Tennessee, 1925 (died 1980)

Glen Sherley born in Oklahoma, 1936 (died 1978)
George Burns died in Beverly Hills, California (cardiac arrest), 1996 (was 100). The legendary comedian and actor had a country hit with "I Wish I Was Eighteen Again."
Chris LeDoux died in Casper, Wyoming (bile duct cancer), 2005 (was 56)

Wayne Kemp (NS 99) died in Lafayette, Tennessee (various illnesses), 2015 (was 73)
Final Saturday night Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman before the opening of the new Opry House, 1974

March 10:

Ralph Emery (CM 07) born in McEwen, Tennessee, 1933 (now 83)
Norman Blake born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1938 (now 78)
Johnnie Allan born in Rayne, Louisiana, 1938 (now 78)
Daryl Singletary born in Wigham, Georgia, 1971 (now 45)
Kenneth "Jethro" Burns (CM 01) born in Conasauga, Tennessee, 1920 (died 1989)
Soul singer James Brown guested on the Grand Ole Opry at the request of Porter Wagoner, 1979

March 11:

Jimmy Fortune (CM 08) born in Williamsburg, Virginia, 1955 (now 61)
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 64)
James Taylor born in Belmont, Massachusetts, 1948 (now 68). The legendary pop/folk superstar wrote "Bartender's Blues" and sang with George Jones on Jones' recording of the tune.

Lew DeWitt (CM 08) born in Roanoke, Virginia, 1938 (died 1990)  
Ralph Sloan died in Nashville, Tennessee (unknown illness), 1980 (was 55)

March 13:

Jan Howard born in West Plains, Missouri, 1930 (now 86)

Liz Anderson born in Roseau, Minnesota, 1930 (died 2011) 
Benny Martin (BG 05) died in Nashville, Tennessee (nerve disorder/illness), 2001 (was 72)

Jack Greene died in Nashville, Tennessee (Alzheimer's disease), 2013 (was 83)
Ezra Carter married Maybelle Addington, 1926

March 14:

Michael Martin Murphy born in Oak Cliff, Texas, 1945 (now 71)
Doc Pomus died in New York, New York (lung cancer), 1991 (was 65)
Dale Potter died in Puxaco, Missouri (cancer), 1996 (was 66)
Tommy Collins (NS 99) died in Ashland City, Tennessee (emphysema), 2000 (was 69)

Bill Bolick of the Blue Sky Boys died in Hickory, North Carolina (natural causes), 2008 (was 90)

March 15:

D.J. Fontana born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1931 (now 85)

Wayland Holyfield (NS 92) born in Malletttown, Arkansas, 1942 (now 74)
Gunilla Hutton of Hee Haw born in Goteborg, Sweden, 1946 (now 70)
Ry Cooder born in Los Angeles, California, 1947 (now 69)
Carl Smith (CM 03) born in Maynardville, Tennessee, 1927 (died 2010)
The final performance of the Friday Night Opry at the Ryman, 1974. The final song was the Opry cast singing "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

The "E" Word

Category:  Album Review

Even though You're Dreaming, the "official" debut album by the Minneapolis brother duo the Cactus Blossoms, has only been out since January 22, brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum are probably already sick of the "E" word.

The "E" word is "Everly."  And it's an inevitable comparison with these two outstanding singers.  It's not their fault that they sound like the Everly Brothers, though: much like the Whitstein Brothers, the Louisiana-based bluegrass duo who always had to endure comparisons to the Louvin Brothers, the Cactus Blossoms really can't help that they sound like Phil and Don.  

If the curiosity of a throwback to rock's (and one of country's) greatest brother duets entices you to give You're Dreaming a listen, then whatever it takes.  This is the first terrific album of 2016, and one that shouldn't be missed.

Jack Torrey (L) and Page Bunkum performing an opening set in 2014.
c. 2016 K.F. Raizor

I first heard the Cactus Blossoms when they opened a couple of dates for Dale Watson in 2014.  Two notes out of their mouths and I was hooked.  I bought their two self-released CDs, 2011's The Cactus Blossoms and 2013's Live at the Turf Club (both of which are still being sold at their concert merchandise tables) and couldn't stop listening.  Now they have an "official" label, just finished an "album release" tour (concluding at Chicago's Hideout backed by the Modern Sounds, who played on You're Dreaming), and are getting ready to do some more dates headlining and opening.  The album is getting positive reviews and plenty of airplay on Americana, Ameripolitan, and traditional country outlets.

These accolades aren't even enough.  These guys are amazing.  The new album features ten originals, nine of which were written by Torrey (Burkum wrote the other original), and a cover of Alton & Jimmy's "No More Crying the Blues."  Four of the songs are splendid new versions of songs from their self-released recordings, including the heavily plugged (do we call things "singles" anymore?) "Stoplight Kisses."

J.D. McPherson did a superb job of producing the album, basically letting the brothers do what they do best:  harmonize.  Chicago's Modern Sounds, who have their own material as well as backing several artists (an absolute highlight is Joel Paterson's guitar duets with Deke Dickerson on Dickerson's Live At Duff's album), are the perfect augmentation.  The songs meander through traditional country, rockabilly, and ballads, feeling fresh while still echoing the the "E" word.

You're Dreaming is a superb album, and it'll hopefully catapult the Cactus Blossoms into stardom.  Make sure you give this album a listen, and see them live.  These two fine young men will take your breath away.

Monday, February 22, 2016

True Love's a Blessing

Category:  News/Obituary

In a year already marred by numerous music deaths, we must now mourn the death of Sonny James.

The legendary "Southern Gentleman" died today (2/22) of natural causes at Alive Hospice in Nashville, according to his official web site.  He had been in retirement for years following a long career that took him from his home in Alabama to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

James Loden was born May 1, 1928 in Hackleburg, Alabama, a small town not too far from the Mississippi border and Muscle Shoals.  He began playing mandolin as a child, and later took up the fiddle and the guitar.  

The fiddle became his key to music:  he won fiddle competitions and became a session musician after his tour of duty in the army in Korea.  He played sessions with country (Slim Whitman, Charline Arthur) and bluegrass (Jim & Jesse) acts before Capitol's A&R man, Ken Nelson, decided to record him as a singer.

Dubbing him "Sonny James," Nelson sat at the helm of his earliest recordings in 1952.  Nelson was also at the boards when James recorded one of the most classic songs in country music history:  "Young Love."

In his first autobiography Whisperin' Bill, Bill Anderson commented that his fellow country singers speculated on what caused James' rise to superstardom in the 60s, where he amassed an unbelievable streak of hits.  He said he felt James' songs bucked the trend of stereotypical "sad country songs," because his songs were mostly upbeat and positive.  Whatever the reason was, his music clicked with audiences.  Beginning in 1964, with "You're the Only World I Know," James had 25 consecutive singles that peaked in the top three on the Billboard charts, with all but four of them hitting #1.  The list includes some of the biggest hits of the 1960s:  "You're the Only World I Know," "True Love's a Blessing" (one of the "flops" that "only" made it to #3), "It's the Little Things," "Heaven Says Hello," and "That's Why I Love You Like I Do."

Several of James' biggest hits were covers of pop hits, including "Only the Lonely" (originally by Roy Orbison), "Empty Arms" (a Teresa Brewer hit), "Since I Met You Baby" (one of Ivory Joe Hunter's biggest hits), "Born to Be With You" (by the Chordettes originally), and two songs that were originally hits for the Seekers, "A World of Our Own" and "I'll Never Find Another You."  No one listening to the Sonny James versions would have ever guessed those songs originated in pop.

After his star faded (after his streak of #1 hits ended in 1972 he only had one other song, "Is It Wrong (For Loving You)," to top the charts) he continued to record and tour until he hung up his guitar to enjoy time with his family and his favorite pastime, fishing.

In 2006 the "Southern Gentleman" was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for his long and distinguished career that even saw him top the pop charts in 1956 with "Young Love."

James' survivors include his wife of 58 years and a legion of fans who remember him with loving respects.

Farewell to the Southern Gentleman, who was 87.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Country Songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame

Category:  News

In addition to the previously-published list of country performers who have been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Grammy award, here is a list of the country songs that have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  The Grammy Hall of Fame, established in 1973, "honors recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance."  These recordings can be a single song or an entire album.

Here are the country inductees in the Grammy Hall of Fame:

"Act Naturally" - Buck Owens (inducted 2013)
"All I Have to Do Is Dream" - Everly Brothers (inducted 2004)
"Allons A Lafayette" - Joseph Falcon (inducted 2013)
"Always On My Mind" - Willie Nelson (inducted 2008)
"Are You Lonesome Tonight?" - Elvis Presley (inducted 2007)

"Back in the Saddle Again" - Gene Autry (inducted 1997)
"The Battle of New Orleans" - Johnny Horton (inducted 2002)
"Behind Closed Doors" - Charlie Rich (inducted 1999)
"Black Mountain Rag" - Doc Watson (inducted 2006)
"Blue Moon of Kentucky" - Bill Monroe (inducted 1998)
"Blue Suede Shoes" - Carl Perkins (inducted 1996)
"Blue Yodel (T For Texas)" - Jimmie Rodgers (inducted 1985)
"Blue Yodel #9 (Standing on the Corner)" - Jimmie Rodgers (inducted 2007)
"Blues, Stay Away From Me" - Delmore Brothers (inducted 2007)
"By the Time I Get to Phoenix" - Glen Campbell (inducted 2004)
"Bye Bye Love" - Everly Brothers (inducted 1998)

"Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye)" - Carter Family (inducted 1998)
"Coal Miner's Daughter" - Loretta Lynn (inducted 1998)
"Cool Water" - Sons of the Pioneers (inducted 1986)
"Crazy" - Patsy Cline (inducted 1992)
"Crazy Arms" - Ray Price (inducted 1999)
"Crying" - Roy Orbison (inducted 2002)

"Dang Me" - Roger Miller (inducted 1998)
"Deep in the Heart of Texas" - Gene Autry (inducted 2012)
Desperado - Eagles (inducted 2000)
Doc Watson - Doc Watson (inducted 2014)
"Don't Be Cruel" - Elvis Presley (inducted 2012)
"Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" - Charlie Poole (inducted 2007)
Dust Bowl Ballads, Volumes 1 & 2 - Woody Guthrie (inducted 1998)

"El Paso" - Marty Robbins (inducted 1998)

"Foggy Mountain Breakdown" - Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (inducted 1999)
Foggy Mountain Banjo - Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (inducted 2013)
Foggy Mountain Jamboree - Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (inducted 2012)
"Folsom Prison Blues" (1956 Sun version) - Johnny Cash (inducted 2001

"Gentle On My Mind" - Glen Campbell (inducted 2008)
"Great Balls of Fire" - Jerry Lee Lewis (inducted 1998)
"Great Speckled Bird" - Roy Acuff (inducted 2009)

"Happy Trails" - Roy Rogers & Dale Evans (inducted 2009)
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" - George Jones (inducted 2007)
"Heartbreak Hotel" - Elvis Presley (inducted 1995)
"He'll Have to Go" - Jim Reeves (inducted 1999)
"Hello, Darlin'" - Conway Twitty (inducted 1999)
"Hello Walls" - Faron Young (inducted 2000)
"Help Me Make It Through the Night" - Sammi Smith (inducted 1998)
"Hey Good Lookin'" - Hank Williams (inducted 2001)
"Honky Tonkin'" - Hank Williams (inducted 2015)
"Hound Dog" - Elvis Presley (inducted 1988)

"I Can't Stop Loving You" - Ray Charles (inducted 2001)
"I Fall to Pieces" - Patsy Cline (inducted 2001)
"I Walk the Line" - Johnny Cash (inducted 1998)
"I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" - Patsy Montana (inducted 2007)
"I Will Always Love You" - Dolly Parton (inducted 2007)
"If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time" - Lefty Frizzell (inducted 1999)
"I'm Movin' On" - Hank Snow (inducted 2000)
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" - Hank Williams (inducted 1999)
"I'm Sorry" - Brenda Lee (inducted 1999)
"In the Jailhouse Now" - Jimmie Rodgers (inducted 2007)
"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" - Kitty Wells (inducted 1998)
"I've Got a Tiger By the Tail" - Buck Owens (inducted 1999)

"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" - Hank Williams (inducted 2002)
John Prine - John Prine (inducted 2015)
Johnny Cash At San Quentin - Johnny Cash (inducted 2004)
"Jolene" - Dolly Parton (inducted 2014)

"Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy" - Uncle Dave Macon (inducted 2007)
"Keep On the Sunny Side" - Carter Family (inducted 2006)
"King of the Road" - Roger Miller (inducted 1999)
Kristofferson - Kris Kristofferson (inducted 2014)

"Last Date" - Floyd Cramer (inducted 2004)
"Lovesick Blues" - Hank Williams (inducted 2011)

"Make the World Go Away" - Eddy Arnold (inducted 1999)
"Mama Tried" - Merle Haggard (inducted 1999)
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music - Ray Charles (inducted 1999)
"Mr. Bojangles" - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (inducted 2010)
"Mule Skinner Blues" -  Bill Monroe (inducted 2009)

"New San Antonio Rose" - Bob Wills (inducted 1998)

"Ode to Billy Joe" - Bobbie Gentry (inducted 1999)
"Oh, Pretty Woman" - Roy Orbison (inducted 1999)
"On the Road Again" - Willie Nelson (inducted 2011)
"Only the Lonely (Know How I Feel)" - Roy Orbison (inducted 1999)

"Pan American Blues" - DeFord Bailey (inducted 2007)
"Peggy Sue" - Buddy Holly (inducted 1999)
"Pistol Packin' Mama" - Al Dexter (inducted 2000)
"The Prisoner's Song" - Vernon Dalhart (inducted 1998)

"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - B.J. Thomas (inducted 2014)
Red Headed Stranger - Willie Nelson (inducted 2002)
"Ring of Fire" - Johnny Cash (inducted 1999)
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - Gene Autry (inducted 1985)

"San Antonio Rose" - Bob Wills (inducted 2015)
"She Thinks I Still Care" - George Jones (inducted 1999)
"Sixteen Tons" - Tennessee Ernie Ford (inducted 1998)
"Stand By Your Man" - Tammy Wynette (inducted 1999)
Stardust - Willie Nelson (inducted 2015)
"Steel Guitar Rag" - Bob Wills (inducted 2011)
"Suspicious Minds" - Elvis Presley (inducted 1999)
Sweetheart of the Rodeo - Byrds (inducted 2000)

"Take Me Home, Country Roads" - John Denver (inducted 1998)
"Tennessee Waltz" - Patti Page (inducted 1998)
"That'll Be the Day" - Buddy Holly & the Crickets (inducted 1998)
"That's All Right" - Elvis Presley (inducted 1998)
"That's My Desire" - Frankie Laine (inducted 1998)
"This Land Is Your Land" - Woody Guthrie (inducted 1989)
"The Titanic" - Ernest V. Stoneman (inducted 2013)
"Tumbling Tumbleweeds" - Sons of the Pioneers (inducted 2002)

"Wabash Cannonball" - Roy Acuff (inducted 1998)
"Walking the Floor Over You" - Ernest Tubb (inducted 1998)
Wanted! The Outlaws - Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, & Tompall Glaser (inducted 2007)
"Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" - Freddy Fender (inducted 2012)
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" - Jerry Lee Lewis (inducted 1999)
"Wichita Lineman" - Glen Campbell (inducted 2000)
"The Wild Side of Life" - Hank Thompson (inducted 1999)
"Wildwood Flower" - Carter Family (inducted 1999)
Will the Circle Be Unbroken - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (inducted 1998)

"You Are My Sunshine" - Jimmie Davis (inducted 1999)
"Your Cheatin' Heart' - Hank Williams (inducted 1983) (the first country song inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame)

Country's Lifetime Achievement Grammy Honorees


The reviews of this year's Grammy show haven't been kind, and that is being kind.  Among the biggest gripes were the too-short tribute to Glenn Frey (the surviving Eagles were joined by Jackson Browne to sing the song that started the Eagles' career, "Take It Easy" [Browne co-wrote the song with Frey]), the too-long tribute to David Bowie by Lady Gaga (which, according to some, was like having Ozzy Osbourne do a tribute to Hank Williams), sound problems, and, as I lamented earlier this week, the fact that only eight out of 83 awards were actually presented during the show.  

The Grammys aren't necessarily bad, however.  The show is for ratings, so that's why you don't see Jason Isbell or Rosanne Cash getting their awards on the televised portion.  CBS's problem with wanting ratings doesn't minimize the significance of the Grammy, which is still the most prestigious award in music.

One of the "special awards" in Grammy world is the Lifetime Achievement Grammy.  This wasn't televised, either (which is even more troublesome given two of this year's recipients -- R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire and legendary rock band the Jefferson Airplane -- had members die this year [Jefferson Airplane lost two members on the same day] and received no recognition similar to Bowie's or Frey's).  This award is given by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences for "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance."

Here are the country or country-related recipients through the years:

1971:  Elvis Presley
1984:  Chuck Berry 
1987:  Roy Acuff, Ray Charles, Hank Williams
1991:  Kitty Wells
1993:  Chet Atkins, Bill Monroe
1995:  Patsy Cline
1997:  Every Brothers, Buddy Holly
1998:  Roy Orbison
1999:  Johnny Cash
2000:  Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson
2004:  Doc Watson
2005:  Eddy Arnold, Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis
2006:  Merle Haggard
2007:  Bob Wills
2008:  Earl Scruggs
2009:  Gene Autry; Brenda Lee
2010:  Loretta Lynn
2011:  Dolly Parton
2012:  Glen Campbell, George Jones
2014:  Kris Kristofferson
2015:  Louvin Brothers
2016:  Linda Ronstadt

I'll be adding this achievement to their information in the "Dates of Note in Country Music" segments.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Grammys' Ugly Stepchild

Category:  Rant/Opinion

It's 7:30 p.m. eastern time, and the Grammys' annual television awards presentation is a half an hour from beginning.

So, one-half hour before the show starts, let us congratulate the country/ Americana/ bluegrass winners:  "Traveler" by Chris Stapleton winning "Best Country Solo Performance," Jason Isbell winning "Best American Roots Song" for "24 Frames" and "Best Americana Album" for Something More Than Free, Mavis Staples' "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" winning "Best American Roots Performance," and the Steeldrivers' The Muscle Shoals Recordings winning "Best Bluegrass Album."  Glen Campbell's I'll Be Me won the "Best Compilation Soundtrack" trophy.  Two other country awards went to Little Big Town.  

How do I know this?  Simple.  They've already been announced.  The one-time biggest selling genre of music in America has become the ugly stepchild of the Grammys.  

Now, to be fair, it's not just country, bluegrass, and Americana.  No jazz trophies have been presented on-air in I don't know how long.  Ditto the classical, blues, Latin, reggae, and gospel awards.  

This year there were 83 categories in which Grammys nominated recordings or videos.  According to, SEVENTY FIVE awards were presented in those infamous "ceremonies before the televised awards."  I'm pretty good at math, so that leaves EIGHT Grammys to be awarded ON AIR.

Eight Grammy awards.  In three hours.  You do the math on that part.

One country Grammy -- album of the year -- is going to be presented on air.

I've lamented for a long time that the Grammys -- the awards -- are becoming enslaved to the Grammys' -- the TV show -- quest for ratings.  Consider how Isbell wasn't even nominated for 2013's masterpiece Southeastern despite being in the top three on every year-end "best albums of the year" list (most having it at #1).  Why wasn't Isbell's album nominate?  Simple:  you're not going to get 27 million people tuning in to see him.

Apparently, with the sharp decline in popularity of country music (which is totally understandable:  eventually people are going to realize that the bro-country hick-hop is not country and stop listening) has reached the point where it cannot even be represented on the so-called "biggest night in music."  As with quality acts like Isbell (or Rosanne Cash, who received her three Grammys off-air last year, or Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, who suffered the same fate two years ago) aren't going to make people tune in.

The alternatives they're presenting on the TV show, as representatives of "the best in the year of music," is enough to make me tune out.

Dates of Note in Country Music, February 16-29

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; StG=Steel Guitar; RR=country performer also inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

February 16:

Jo-Walker Meador (CM 95) born in Orlinda, Tennessee, 1924 (now 92)
Ronnie Milsap (CM 14) born in Robbinsville, North Carolina, 1944 (now 72)
Jimmy Wakely born in Mineola, Arkansas, 1914 (died 1982)
Smiley Burnette (NS 71) died in Encino, California (leukemia), 1967 (was 55)

February 17:

Johnny Bush born in Houston, Texas, 1935 (now 81)
Buck Trent born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1938 (now 78)
Jon Randall born in Dallas, Texas, 1969 (now 47)
Bryan White born in Shellman, Georgia, 1974 (now 42)
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 in Laguardo, Tennessee (natural causes), 1931 (was 82)
Eck Robertson died in Borger, Texas (natural causes), 1975 (was 87)
Gus Hardin died near Claremore, Oklahoma (car wreck), 1996 (was 50)

February 18:

Juice Newton born in Lakehurst Naval Station, New Jersey, 1952 (now 64)
Dudley Connell born in Scheer, West Virginia, 1956 (now 60)
Julius Frank "Pee Wee" King (ne Kuczynski) (CM 74, NS 70) born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1914 (died 2000)
Tootsie Bess, owner of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 1978 (was 61)
Johnny Paycheck died in Nashville, Tennessee (emphysema), 2003 (was 64)

February 19:

Lorianne Crook born in Wichita, Kansas, 1957 (now 59)
Cedric Rainwater (real name: Howard Watts) (BG 07) born in Monticello, Florida, 1913 (died 1970)
Lowell Blanchard died in Knoxville, Tennessee (heart attack), 1968 (was 57)
Grandpa Jones (CM 78) died in Nashville, Tennessee (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 65)
Claire Lynch born in Albany, New York, 1954 (now 62)

February 21:

Mary-Chapin Carpenter born in Princeton, New Jersey, 1958 (now 58)
Don Reno (BG 92) born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1926 (died 1984)
Carl T. Sprague died in Bryan, Texas (unknown cause), 1979 (was 83)

Ray Whitley (NS 81) died in California (unknown cause), 1979 (was 77)

February 22:

Del Wood born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1920 (died 1989)
George Younce of the Cathedrals (SG 98) born in Patterson, North Carolina, 1930 (died 2005)
Johnny Cash asked June Carter to marry him onstage during a concert in London, Ontario, 1968

February 23:

Rusty Young of Poco born in Long Beach, California, 1946 (now 70)
Buck Griffin born in Corsicana, Texas, 1923 (died 2009)
Penny DeHaven died in Atlanta, Georgia (cancer), 2014 (was 65)
Minnie Pearl married Henry Cannon, 1947

February 24:

Little Roy Lewis of the Lewis Family (BG 06) born in Lincoln County, Georgia, 1942 (now 74)
Don Law (CM 01) born in London, England, 1902 (died 1982)
Webb Pierce (CM 01) died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 1991 (was 69)
Goldie Hill Smith died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 2005 (was 72)
Dinah Shore died in Beverly Hills, California (ovarian 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 (BG 92) born in Stratton, Virginia, 1927 (now 89)
Faron Young (CM 00) born in Shreveport, Louisiana, 1932 (died 1996)

February 26:

Billy Jack Wills born in Hall County, Texas, 1926 (died 1991)
Johnny Cash (CM 80, NS 77, RR 92) born in Kingsland, Arkansas, 1932 (died 2003)
Jan Crutchfield born in Paducah, Kentucky, 1936 (died 2012)
Tim Wilson died in Commerce, Georgia (heart failure), 2014 (was 52)

February 27:

Chuck Glaser of the Glaser Brothers born in Spalding, Nebraska, 1936 (now 80)
Joe Carson died in Wichita Falls, Texas (car wreck), 1964 (was 27)
Walter Bailes died in Sevierville, Tennessee (various health problems), 2000 (was 80)

February 28:

Jim Denny (CM 66) born in Silver Point, Tennessee, 1911 (died 1963)
Audrey Williams born in Banks, Alabama, 1923 (died 1975)
Don Helms born in New Brockton, Alabama, 1927 (died 2008)
Joe South (NS 79) born in Atlanta, Georgia, 1940 (died 2012)
Fiddlin' Arthur Smith died (unknown causes), 1971 (was 72)

February 29:

Dinah Shore born in Winchester, Tennessee, 1916 (died 1994)
Vaughn Horton (NS 71) died in New Port Ritchey, Florida (heart attack), 1988 (was 76)