Thursday, August 17, 2017

Country Hall of Fame Loses Its Mother

Category: Obituary

The Country Music Hall of Fame has lost a second Hall of Fame members this month.  More significantly, with the passing of Jo Walker-Meador, the Hall of Fame lost the woman who could rightfully be called its mother.

Walker-Meador died Wednesday (8/16) of a stroke in Nashville.  Her death comes nine days after the passing of Glen Campbell from Alzheimer's disease.

Her birth name was Edith Josephine Denning, when she came into the world in 1924.  In 1958 Harry Stone hired Walker-Meador as an office manager for a new organization called the Country Music Association.  By 1962 she was the executive director of the CMA.

In her tenure she oversaw the development of things that we take for granted today: the CMA awards, CMA Fan Fest, and most significantly, the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The 1950s may have been the "golden era" of the music, but Jo Walker-Meador helped make the country music industry a formidable and respectable business in the 60s and beyond.

Walker-Meador stepped down in 1991.  In 1995, the Hall of Fame that she helped make a reality inducted her as a significant industry individual for her vital contributions to country music.

Farewell to Jo Walker-Meador, who was 93.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dates of Note in Country Music, August 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, StG=Steel Guitar; GLA=Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; RR=also inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)


August 16:


Billy Joe Shaver (NS 04) born in Corsica, Texas, 1939 (now 78)

Kathie Lee Gifford born in Paris, France, 1953 (now 64). Gifford began her career as one of the "Hee Haw honeys."
Emory Martin born in Hickman County, Tennessee, 1889 (died 2006). Martin was the one-armed banjo player at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance.
Elvis Presley (CM 98, RR 86, GLA 71) died at Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee (heart failure), 1977 (was 42)
Vassar Clements died in Nashville, Tennessee (lung cancer), 2005 (was 77)
Patsy Montana recorded "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," 1935. The song would become country music's first million-seller by a female.


August 17:

E.W. "Bud" Wendell (CM 98) born in Akron, Ohio, 1927 (now 90)

Wayne Raney (DJ 93) born in Wolf Bayou, Arkansas, 1920 (died 1993)

 
August 18:


Bob Koefer (StG 04) born in Clay Center, Kansas, 1928 (now 89)

Allen Reynolds (NS 00) born in North Little Rock, Arkansas, 1938 (now 79)
Hank Penny born in Birmingham, Alabama, 1918 (died 1992)
Molly Bee born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1939 (died 2009)
Johnny Preston born in Port Arthur, Texas, 1939 (died 2011). Preston is best known for "Running Bear," the 1959 hit written by J.P. Richardson and featuring guitar work and backing vocals by George Jones.
Charlie Waller (BG 96) died in Gordonsville, Virginia (heart attack), 2004 (was 69)
The Louvin Brothers played their last official show as a duo (opening for Ray Price) in Watseka, Illinois, 1963. According to Charles Wolfe's biography, the duo that once commanded over $1,100 per show as headliners received $250 for the performance.

August 19:

Roger Cook (NS 97) born in Bristol, England, 1940 (now 77)

Eddy Raven born in Lafayette, Louisiana, 1944 (now 73)
Larry Sasser (StG 11) born in Gainesville, Georgia, 1947 (now 70)
Lee Ann Womack born in Jacksonville, Texas, 1966 (now 51)
Clay Walker born in Beaumont, Texas, 1969 (now 48)
Curly Ray Cline (BG 09) died in Rockhouse, Kentucky (illness), 1997 (was 74)


August 20:


Rudy Gatlin born in Olney, Texas, 1952 (now 65)

John Hiatt (NS 08) born in Indianapolis, Indiana, 1952 (now 65)
Ralph Stanley II born in Coeburn, Virginia, 1958 (now 58)
Jim Reeves born in Galloway, Texas, 1923 (died 1964)
"Sneaky Pete" Kleinow (StG 07) born in South Bend, Indiana, 1934 (died 2007)
Justin Tubb born in San Antonio, Texas, 1935 (died 1998)
Louis Innis died (heart attack), 1982 (was 63)
Leon McAuliffe (StG 78) died in Tulsa, Oklahoma (illness), 1988 (was 71)

Red Rhodes (StG 05) died in Los Angeles, California (lung disease), 1995 (was 64)

 August 21:

Kenny Rogers (CM 13) born in Houston, Texas, 1938 (now 79)

Harold Reid (CM 08) born in Staunton, Virginia, 1939 (now 78)
Nick Kane of the Mavericks born in Jerusalem, Georgia, 1954 (now 62)
Sam McGee died in Williamson County, Tennessee (tractor accident on his farm), 1975 (was 81)
Murray "Buddy" Harman died in Nashville, Tennessee (congestive heart failure), 2008 (was 79)

August 22:

Marian Leighton-Levy (BG 16) born in Harrington, Maine, 1948 (now 69)
Collin Raye born in DeQueen, Arkansas, 1959 (now 58)

Rod Brasfield (CM 87) born in Smithville, Arkansas, 1910 (died 1958)
Connie B. Gay (CM 80) born in Lizard Lick, North Carolina, 1914 (died 1989)
Holly Dunn born in San Antonio, Texas, 1957 (died 2016)
Horace "Aytchie" Burns died in Knoxville, Tennessee (heart attack), 1974 (was 56). Aytchie was a bass player at Knoxville's WNOX and on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. He was also the older brother of Jethro Burns.
Elizabeth Haynes born in Greenville, Kentucky, 1920 (died 1976)
Elizabeth Haynes died in Hammond, Indiana (kidney disease), 1976 (56th birthday). The one-time bass player and "red-headed yodeling gal" on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance was the wife of Homer Haynes.
Leon Chappelear died in Gladewater, Texas (suicide [gunshot]), 1962 (was 53)
Mooney Lynn, the husband of Loretta Lynn, died in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee (heart failure/diabetes), 1996 (was 69)

Floyd Tillman (CM 83, NS 70) died in Houston, Texas (leukemia), 2003 (was 88)

August 23:

Rex Allen, Jr. born in Chicago, Illinois, 1947 (now 70)

Woody Paul of Riders in the Sky born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1949 (now 68)
Tex Williams born in Anvil, Illinois, 1917 (died 1985)
Leslie York of the York Brothers born in Louisa, Kentucky, 1917 (died 1984)

"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" hit #1 on the Billboard charts, 1952. The song, the first #1 hit for a female singer, was very controversial in its day, with many country stations refusing to play the song and the Grand Ole Opry management prohibiting Kitty Wells from performing the tune on the Opry.

August 24:

Teea Goans born in Lowry City, Missouri, 1980 (now 37)

Fred Rose (CM 61, NS 70) born in Evansville, Indiana, 1897 (died 1954)
Jerry Clower died in Jackson, Mississippi (complications from heart surgery), 1998 (was 71)
Nat Stuckey died in Nashville, Tennessee (lung cancer), 1988 (was 54)

August 25:

Elvis Costello born in London, England, 1954 (now 63). The punk pioneer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member has performed with numerous country legends including George Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, and Charlie Louvin. Johnny Cash recorded Costello's song "The Big Light" on Johnny Cash is Coming to Town.

Jo Dee Messina born in Holliston, Massachusetts, 1970 (now 47)
Jerry Rivers born in Miami, Florida, 1928 (died 1996)
Cliff Bruner died in Texas City, Texas (cancer), 2000 (was 85)

August 26:

Jimmy Olander of Diamond Rio born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1961 (now 56)

Don Bowman born in Lubbock, Texas, 1937 (died 2013)
Bob Miller (NS 70) died in Nyack, New York (unknown cause), 1955 (was 59)
Wilma Burgess died in Nashville, Tennessee (heart attack), 2003 (was 64)
Harlow Wilcox died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (heart attack), 2003 (was 59)

August 27:
J.D. Crowe (BG 03) born in Lexington, Kentucky, 1937 (now 80)
Jeff Cook of Alabama (CM 05) born in Fort Payne, Alabama, 1949 (now 67)
Carter Stanley (BG 92) born in Dickenson County, Virginia, 1925 (died 1966)
Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, husband of Loretta Lynn, born in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, 1926 (died 1996)
Jimmy C. Newman born in Big Mamou, Louisiana, 1927 (died 2014)
Frances Preston (CM 92) born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1928 (died 2012)
David "Bunny" Biggs of Jamup & Honey died in Nashville, Tennessee (unknown causes), 1948 (was 52)
Jim Denny (CM 66) died in Nashville, Tennessee (cancer), 1963 (was 52). For his Hall of Fame career, Denny may be most infamous for telling a guest artist after an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck." The person on the receiving end of Denny's criticism was Elvis Presley.

August 28:

LeAnn Rimes born in Jackson, Mississippi, 1982 (now 35)

Billy Grammer born in Benton, Illinois, 1925 (died 2011)
Archie Campbell died in Knoxville, Tennessee (post-operative complications following June heart attack), 1987 (was 67)

August 29:

Don Schlitz (CM 17, NS 93) born in Durham, North Carolina, 1952 (now 65).  Schlitz is part of the Country Music Hall of Fame class of 2017.

Dan Truman of Diamond Rio born in St. George, Utah, 1956 (now 61)
Grady Cole born in Lafayette, Georgia, 1909 (died 1981)


August 30:

Kitty Wells (CM 76, GLA 91) born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1919 (died 2012)

Jon Hagar born in Chicago, Illinois, 1946 (died 2009)
Jim Hagar born in Chicago, Illinois, 1946 (died 2008)


August 31:


Noel Boggs (StG 81) died in Los Angeles, California (heart attack), 1974 (was 56)

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Ever Gentle on My Mind

Category: Obituary 

Glen Campbell's public, painful struggle with Alzheimer's disease has ended.

The Country Music Hall of Fame member died today (8/8), six years after announcing he had been diagnosed with the dreaded disease.

Born in Delight, Arkansas, Glen Travis Campbell began his legendary career as a session musician, playing the daylights out of the guitar in the L.A.-based "Wrecking Crew" group of studio aces.  In the mid-60s he became a Beach Boy, touring when Brian Wilson's stage fright caused him to pull out of a tour the day before it started.  

From there he took a gorgeous John Hartford song about friendship and love without the pressures of commitment, "Gentle on My Mind," and turned it into a Grammy-winning country and pop hit.  Both Campbell and Hartford received Grammy awards for the song.  The popularity of the song led CBS to give Campbell a "summer replacement" show for the popular, yet controversial, Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (which, if you didn't know, had banjo master Steve Martin as a writer).  His opening song was "Gentle on My Mind," occasionally with Hartford (or just Hartford singing by himself).

From there, Campbell couldn't be stopped for a time.  He had hit after hit in country and pop with a string of Jimmy Webb songs that had city titles: "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," and "Galveston."  

As country and pop music changed dramatically in the early 70s Campbell's career faded, but he came roaring back in 1975 with "Rhinestone Cowboy," a song about a down-and-out (and out-of-place) musician in New York City dreaming of hitting the big time.  The song became the first song since "Big Bad John" in 1961 to simultaneously top the country and pop charts the same week.  

Other hits followed on the comeback, including Campbell's cover of the Allen Toussaint song "Southern Nights" (which was also a #1 pop hit as well as a country and "easy listening" chart-topper), "Sunflower," and "Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)" before the hits became fewer again.  Still, Campbell managed to score top ten hits in the late 80s with "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" and "She's Gone, Gone, Gone."

As with many other country stars, Campbell tried his hand at acting.  His major screen credit is an excellent performance in the classic John Wayne Oscar-winner True Grit.  He also appeared in Any Which Way You Can, where he provided the title song.

Many celebrities, when they receive such a heartbreaking and terminal diagnosis such as Alzheimer's disease, retreat to privacy.  Campbell decided to give Alzheimer's a very famous face.  He did a "farewell" tour in 2014 and gave the world a touching look into the life of a person slowly succumbing to the clutches of the disease in the documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me. The documentary earned Campbell another Grammy award.

We've known for many years that this day was coming, but that certainly doesn't ease the heartache of knowing this giant is no longer with us.  As a friend of mine, who writes for Rolling Stone Country, said, however, we can find some solace in knowing he is no longer suffering.

Farewell to the Rhinestone Cowboy, who will be ever gentle on our minds.

Glen Campbell was 81.