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Is it RAY STEVENS' or my fellow Minneapolitan LARRY VERNE's whose music my fellow author JOE QUEENAN doesn't particularly enjoy?

In a chapter titled Tools of Satan, Liverpool Division, from PENELOPE ROWLANDS' new paperback, THE BEATLES Are Here!: 50 Years After the Band Arrived in America, Writers, Musicians, and Other Fans Remember, essayist Queenan refers to the Fab Four's music as being refreshing in stark contrast to Mr. Custer which Joe calls "stultifying."


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I don't know if he has or is seeking endorsements and/or participation from TIM McGRAW and DIERKS BENTLEY (whose names are used in his studio advertising) but DALE GUTHERIE is bringing Country Fan Jam to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds June 11-14, 2015.  For a $25 one-day ticket or $100 for a four-day pass, fans are told to anticipate a lineup of "over 200 artists."

Commitments have yet to be announced, but bands interested in being a part of this inaugural festival showcase can find more information here.


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Salon@615 events were free to the public as recently as June 13, 2014, but now, for the price of a $35.50 ticket (that includes the price of the book) and a trip to snooty Harpeth Hall's FRANCES BOND DAVIS Theatre October 13, 2014 at 6 p.m.,
MARTINA McBRIDE will sign a copy of Around the Table for you.  (Since copies of McBride's hardcover can be purchased for as little as $20 online- the kindle version is less than $15- the event markup is enough such that ticket-holders ought to stand up for themselves and to refuse to settle for anything less than personally-autographed copies.)

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RICK MOORE, HELEN WATTS, Helen's husband, PAUL and JAMES BROWN can attest that 3rd and Lindsley was the site of JAKE BROWN's October 1st book release party and songwriter showcase featuring some of the songwriters profiled in Jake's newest book, Nashville Songwriter.  (James explained that one of the reasons he and his wife named their son JACOB was so Jake would be spared JAMES BROWN jokes!).

Critics of critics might well point out that one of the interesting aspects of the book is missing from my
review and that is its opening chapter that focuses on FREDDY POWERS, Freddy's relationship with MERLE HAGGARD and commentary from WILLIE NELSON and JOHN RICH explaining why Powers is "country music's best-kept secret."

Sadly, Freddy is ailing now, but even Powers' being in what his wife CATHERINE told the crowd is the last stages of Parkinson's Disease wasn't enough to keep the couple from coming out to support Jake.   I  spoke with Catherine and her wheel chair-bound husband and, though Freddy is no longer able to speak, Catherine assures me that his hearing is crystal clear, his mind is active and he is otherwise on all cylinders even though the interaction may not be apparent to strangers/friends Freddy has just met.

Following the press meet-and-greet, the distribution of drink tickets and the assignment of reserved seating for the show, the general public was invited to sit in as the hit songwriters MARTHA MOORE introduced me to (or re-introduced me to, as the case may be), all of whom are featured in Jake's book, readied themselves for the performances that began after Jake took the stage as the evening's emcee.

SONNY CURTIS opened the show, giving those assembled the opportunity to hear the complete version of Love Is All Around (missing from the best-known, but edited version of Sonny's performance of the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore Show) and the lyrics, as Sonny wrote them, to I Fought the Law (deviating slightly from THE CRICKETS' version and THE BOBBY FULLER FOUR's cover.

Following Curtis' set, Jake welcomed Catherine to the stage, not to sing, but to detail Freddy Powers' contributions to those who were unaware and/or otherwise had yet to read Brown's book and to introduce Freddy's "duet partner" MARY SARAH and promote her new album, Bridges.  The 19-year-old singer soloed with All I Want to Do is Sing My Song

While BOB DIPIERO and CRAIG WISEMAN did not perform, as the audience suspected they might inasmuch as they too, are featured in Nashville Songwriter,  Bob and Craig were on hand to support Jake and to cheer on JEFF SILBAR, NEIL THRASHER, KELLY LOVELACE and SCOTTY EMERICK.



Other songwriters profiled in Nashville Songwriter who were unable to attend Jake's book release party, led by LEE THOMAS MILLER and ASHLEY GORLEY, are supporting the book project via videotape.

Those who missed out on this wonderful evening will have an opportunity to meet Jake Brown and to purchase an autographed copy of
Nashville Songwriter when Jake appears at the Southern Festival of Books October 12, 2014 at 2 p.m. in Room 34 of Legislative Plaza.

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While I've been on 24/7 call for acting opportunities with the debut of the third season of ABC-TV's Nashville (even managing to snag a role as a paid extra in a crowd scene that will be part of episode four airing October 15, 2014), I'm juggling the rest of my schedule around such opportunities which present themselves with little notice.

September has otherwise been a busy month, even when taking time to send regrets, as was the case when I received MARGAUX FLEURANGES' kind invitation to attend BIG (KENNY ALPHIN)  & (JOHN) RICH's Ride of Fame in celebration the duo's Gravity album.

The Ride of Fame is "a continuing series of mobile moments dedicated to public figures highlighting New York City with their lifetime and/or specific endeavors... by bestowing a bus in its fleet to each honoree."  John and Kenny cut the ribbon during September 26, 2014 ceremony at Pier 78 (455 12th Avenue at 38th Street) and were "honored with a seat on the top deck of the bus, featuring a personal message to their fans."



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Among the unexpected highlights of an invitation to attend the September 23, 2014 celebration of the construction of Abe's Garden at Park Manor (featuring Dr. DAVID SATCHER) were hearing personal stories from unannounced guests KATHY MATTEA (who hosts WNPT's  Aging Matters series) and RODNEY CROWELL (Rodney also performed for the invitation-only audience).


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GEORGE HAMILTON IV exemplified the best in country music, both personally and professionally.

He was one of the first country-music stars I ever interviewed at a time, during the early 1970s, when I was beginning to learn about the genre.

George was very patient with me, my fascination with the patrician suffix attached to his patrician name and the confusion that I suspected he sometimes encountered sharing the same name (if not a suffix) as a well-known actor.

Hamilton told me that he had middle-class roots; that George III, no upper-class patrician, was a Goodies headache powder company executive. The singer RALPH EMERY nicknamed “The Number” added modestly that, while he had encountered confusion among some who weren't sure if he and the Hollywood actor were or were not one and the same, "There's no comparison: He's much better-looking.”

The Grand Ole Opry star added that what confusion existed was exacerbated by the fact that Memphis-born actor GEORGE HAMILTON portrayed another Opry star as the lead actor in the 1964 HANK WILLIAMS biopic, Your Cheatin' Heart, though neither Hamilton sang Hank Williams' songs during the movie's performance segments. Dubbing duty went to HANK WILLIAMS JR. 

I didn't know the rich country-music history of my own state of Minnesota, but leave it to country-music historian George Hamilton IV to tell me about all the local and regional stars he worked with and his fond memories of having played the famous (to Minneapolis' die hard country-music fans anyway) Flame Café.


George's interest in party topics extended somewhat to the music industry. At time when ED MORRIS bravely wrote in Billboard about the Country Music Association's overreaching and inconsistency in its alliance with publicists who controlled access to Fan Fair press credentialing (by publishing names on a blacklist), George was not pleased with the heavy-handedness. George agreed to join WALT TROTT and I in a meeting we wanted to schedule with CMA's ED BENSON; a meeting Walt and I thought Benson would be more inclined to grant, viewing it as considerably less contentious and intimidating were George to join us, speaking out in his highly-effective, diplomatic thought decidedly low-key and gentlemanly manner.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, George bowed out and the meeting never happened. But- I'll speak only for myself- in much the same way George chose to express himself politically without, say, collaborating with the Music Row Democrats, he maintained cordial relations with the Country Music Association because he knew not only how to assert himself but, as importantly, when it would (and would not) be most effective to do so.

George's evangelical faith is one I neither share nor understand, thus my wish that we had discussed religion backstage at the Grand Ole Opry as I used to do with George's "brother in Christ," TEDDY WILBURN, with whom I did not agree, but who taught me a lot. With my respect for George's intellect and the faith that brought him so much comfort I'm sure that, while those discussions would have been as spirited (no pun intended) as the ones I had with Teddy, I would have come away a little smarter and perhaps intellectually challenged.

SANDY KELLY was apparently (and otherwise understandably) missing from the September 24, 2014 memorial service for George, though I was pleased to see my British buddy TONY BYWORTH made it across the pond to eulogize his good friend. This was in contrast to small number of Hamilton's fellow Opry arts who were present at the music and video celebration of George IV's life.  The weather was beautiful so there was no excuse that so few in number were there to pay their respects.

The family requested that mourners applaud during musical performances, some of which included the performers' requests that we sing along.  Where else could those assembled see JOHN D. LOUDERMILK perform the opening bars of "the first song I ever wrote": A Rose and a Baby Ruth (the song responsible for George's "teen idol" status, gaining momentum with Hamilton's recording- with PAUL ANKA and JOHNNY NASH- of The Teen Commandments).

I didn't realize that my fellow author, FRYE GAILLARD had a connection to George dating back to March, 1968!  Gaillard's story was yet another one of Hamilton's generosity, which was well-known to everyone who knew, as was his lack of pretension.  George's lesser-known, quiet philanthropy was also revealed.

As I joined DON CUSIC at the service I learned that, at the time George's death, Hamilton had begun recording what was to be a new album to be released on Plowboy Records in 2015.  For more information about the service feel free to email me.  Please include GEORGE IV in the subject line and your name, city and state (or country, if applicable) in the body of your request.
   

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It's unfortunate personal adversity overshadows LYNN ANDERSON's contributions to the (crossover) popularity of country music.  Lynn is also the author of a children's book aimed at disabled children.  Krystal and the Chief, inspired by Lynn's love of quarter horses, teaches its readers about "the joy and freedom of horsemanship through therapeutic riding."

Media reaction to Lynn's September 11, 2014 arrest is quite interesting. Country-music media has reacted with the same timidity it always does when weighing the wish for a post-accident exclusive interview with Anderson and the obligation to report.  Thus, musicrow.com has completely ignored the story while cmt.com attributes its limited reporting to "staff reports."

Nashville's police department is apparently under no media pressure to issue a news release as it usually does when celebrities are (pardon the expression) under the gun. 

We know that Lynn has a November 20, 2014 court date, but before which judge?  (Yes, unfortunately it matters.).

I can't imagine the blow to her self-esteem Anderson undoubtedly experienced when, jailed during her second divorce, she lost two of her children during the early 1980s in a custody fight (though Lynn did prevail in related matters at the appellate level).     

No doubt that traumatic episode of her life led to her subsequent brushes with the law, but what follows are examples of celebrity justice- the breaks celebs receive in situations where we would not. 

Lynn appears to have sought refuge at the BETTY FORD Center because it was fashionable and only after several progressively worse incidents, any one of which should have been a wake up call. First, in October, 1988, Lynn was charged with malicious mischief after allegedly breaking into a waitress’ car, taking some of the server’s belongings and threatening her.  LINDA GAIL BOWERS agreed to drop the charges after receiving Lynn's letter of apology.
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Then, on December 2, 2004, after Denton, Texas police found Lynn passed out in a car she had parked on the side of a highway (after another driver alerted police that Anderson was weaving in-and-out of traffic) and charged her with drunk driving, Lynn was released on a $1,000 bail, serving no jail time.

Fifty-three days later, in an apparent cry for help, Lynn was charged with stealing a Harry Potter DVD from a Taos, New Mexico convenience store and felony battery on a policy officer Anderson allegedly struck on the arm as Lynn was being led to a patrol car. After resisting arrest and striking the officer, Lynn struck an agreement with the Taos DA’s office. The shoplifting charge was dismissed in exchange for Anderson agreeing to refrain from committing further offenses unbefitting what Lynn’s attorney described as a “loved and respected member of the Taos community."




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If you read credits (no, I'm not the only one who does so, but it's enough to drive my less interested TV or movie theater companions batty) and remember The Nashville Network (TNN) in its glory days (as previously reported, its successor is effectively bankrupt), you'll remember DEBBIE MATHIS (now DEBBIE MATHIS WATTS).

Debbie, a former Opryland performer, was also a writer-producer for (ALLEN) REID- (MADY) LAND Productions, even managing to co-author (with Land) a Fandango trivia book.

By contrast, I tried to put my Radio-TV degree to good use, writing a script for ALAN NELSON and appearing on Country Notes' Insider's Viewpoint segment  (the back stories to which were at least as interesting as the opportunities) and almost became a writer and/or contestant on the network's Fandango game show (an equally "missed" opportunity due to my reaction to what I thought was a "suit"'s overreaction to an interview I did with the show's host, BILL ANDERSON shortly before the series debuted.

(Admittedly, Whispering Bill was an early mentor, but 25 years after the demise of the $64,000 Question even the lamest link to a perceived conflict-of-interest gave game show producers the jitters.)

With TNN's demise, my fellow published author and I went on to bigger and better things.  Debbie is an educator, a common core standards coach, a Socratic seminars specialist, a ghostwriter, an entrepreneur coach, a Nashville TV entertainment personality, a blogger,  an "edu-tainer,"  and a professional pianist, just to name a few of the projects that have kept her busy since our paths last crossed.

That's not all: the self-described "fan of Captain THOMAS RYMAN and what he did for Nashville, by building our Mother Church" is now the author of The Ryman Diaries: Reflections and Recipes.   With the help of Tennessee's State Library and Archives, Watts has been able to reconstruct "the love story of Captain Ryman and his wife, BETTIE, who has her own stories of having survived the Battle of Franklin, surviving typhoid fever, and, last but not least, survived having seven children and raising them on the Ryman riverboats."

Watts concludes that Mary Elizabeth Baugh (Bettie) Ryman "was a remarkable woman.  The best part is that my book is now being produced as a stage play right here in Nashville!... Not many people know about this yet... You could break the story in Nashville, if you are of a mind to do so."

Debbie graciously sent me an autographed a copy of her latest book and a publicity photo of the costumed lead characters in her stage play. 

Yes, Debbie Mathis Watts stars as Bettie.  ("Do you think we look like an antebellum couple?")

Indeed- and I love the "diary" format.  Can't wait to utilize some of the meal preparation hints and period recipes, too!

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From the emailbag: WAYNE SHUEY informs me of Report reader DICK SHUEY's passing in Holliday, Tennessee on August 16, 2014.

I have yet to meet Dick's son, Wayne and hadn't seen nor heard from Dick in years, but am  both saddened to learn of the outspoken "songwriter, musician, agent and DJ"'s death and upset by Wayne's characterization of the circumstances: "According to the coroner's report/death certificate" the "cause of death was pulmonary failure due to dehydration and malnutrition.

"The family would like to hear from anyone who could explain how this could have happened to Dick."


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I'll be on my annual search for IRLENE MANDRELL at the 31st annual Home Decorating & Remodeling Show September 5-7, 2014 at the Music City Center.

Irlene is, as always, the show's celebrity spokesperson.  When my schedule doesn't coordinate with Mandrell's booth time(s) it's catch as catch can.  This always makes for a (running) inside joke I'm always happy to explain to anyone who hasn't heard it.

In any event, this year's show promises to be another great opportunity to interact with exhibitors, compare prices and services, get some advice, learn some remodeling hints and to win prizes.

Further information may be found here.

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The September issue of the UK-based Country Music People contains a scathing letter to the editor from former CMP Editor CRAIG BAGULEY re: GARTH BROOKS' Ireland concert cancellations.

It reads, in part, "Well, Garth Brooks' ego has finally got the better of him.  With three three sell-out shows confirmed in Ireland, the promoter adds two more subject to license.  When that license is declined by the local council, Garth goes into a pre-pubescent sulk... Only a man with a  confused appreciation of his own worth could spout such preposterous drivel."

Baguley adds that while "No doubt there are some that blame the council," he holds Brooks responsible for Garth's inconveniencing fans traveling from afar who, though receiving ticket refunds, faced nonrefundable travel expense, thanks to "a superstar who believes himself too big to adhere to local regulations, and goes into a tizzy when he can't get his own way.

"Garth has previously declared great respect for this fans, but to me this action proves that vanity comes first."

While ultimately we are each responsible for our own decisions,  I have been close enough to him over the years to know that, as smart as Brooks is, he lives in a blissful bubble of unawareness that no one can penetrate, courtesy of Garth's chief advisor/handler, BOB DOYLE.

Doyle's defenders will point to aspects of Bob's character that suggest he should be immune from criticism.   I would agree were Doyle's behavior, as I have experienced it, consistent with the admirable aspects of his character.

To elaborate in this forum would be to repeat myself.  Suffice it to say that Brooks butters Doyle's bread and as long as that continues to be the case Garth will continue to be misunderstood.

 

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From the "What Would EDDY ARNOLD Think? Department: The subject line of a  Plowboy Records' email publicizing the release of THE GHOST WOLVES' new music video Shotgun Pistol Grip (AKA Grandma's a Rebel) reads "Latest in Ass-Kickin' Genre-Free Music."

Maybe I've just provided JOHNNY COUNTERFIT with a new impression and some new material for his act.  (I know, it's not an act...)



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If my review of P.F. SLOAN's memoir compels you to buy the book, while reading it you might be wondering if the references to BOBBY ROBERTS suggest that the veteran Nashville booking agent had an earlier career on the Left Coast as a former tap-dancer-turned-record label chief, musician and movie producer .  The answer is no, but, as the owner of the Nashville artists' agency (recently acquired by The Agency Group) explains, "STACY, you are correct.  That is a different Bobby Roberts but someone who has a good reputation in our industry.  I spoke to him a couple of times prior to his passing."

That was in 2004.  Meanwhile, as Sloan's travels have brought him to Music City, USA, Phil has written with Nashville's JON TIVEN, which has only added to the confusion among some. 




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The Hilton's downtown Nashville location was the place to be August 26, 2014 as it was the scene of a "press event," actually a "brief panel discussion, media Q & A, photo/video op" (coordinated by CLAIRE RATLIFF) with MERLE HAGGARD, SONNY CURTISHELEN CORNELIUS, JIMMY FORTUNE, T. GRAHAM BROWN and DAVID FRIZZELL.

All were on hand to announce their participation in a new project, spearheaded by Frizzell, culminating in  Nashville America Records' release of a 21-track collection titled The BUDDY HOLLY Country Tribute: Remember Me on September 7, 2014  (the day marking what would have been Holly's 78th birthday).

Album narrator David sent Merle eight songs from which to choose two.  I asked Haggard how he chose the title song and That'll Be the Day. "It's pretty simple," the Hag grinned.  "I did the only ones I knew."

When I asked Sonny if, were Buddy alive today, would Holly be as musically innovative now as he was before his death 55 years ago (and thus a viable recording artist even able to adapt to today's business model), or the subject of a tribute album as has been the fate of artists who are still with us but whose years of hits are well behind him, Curtis, the only person in the room who personally knew- indeed, worked with Holly, speculated that Buddy would still be a player.  Sonny explained that Buddy was into music publishing and using orchestral arrangements, for example, long before such expansion was even on the minds of his contemporary recording artists. 

Proceeds from the CD/DVD, which may be pre-ordered here, will go to the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, a music education charitable organization founded by Buddy's widow, MARIA ELENA and PETER BRADLEY.

Both were represented at the event by board member PETER BRADLEY JR.


 

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From the emailbag (and used with permission), EDD HURT writes "I recently wrote what I believe is the first extensive article on the obscure '70s duo the COUNTRY CAVALEERS."

Hurt explains that he first became aware of the artists while watching reruns of The WILBURN BROTHERS Show.

"Perhaps this will give you a laugh or two, and provide a glimpse into the vanished world of '70s Nashville."

I'm pleased to share a link to Edd's work, "in the Aug-Sept. issue of JASON GROSS' online music magazine, Perfect Sound Forever."

While thanking Edd for sharing "another wonderful example of your excellent work," I told him that "I vaguely remember the Country Cavaleers, and recently saw them on The Wilburn Brothers Show you referenced (on Famnet), but didn't realize they had such illustrious "producers."

Reading Hurt's two-parter, I also learned that ALAN COFER will soon be adding to his credits, Wilburn Brothers' biographer.  DOYLE and TEDDY still have a strong fan base behind an effort to secure the duo's induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Perhaps Cofer's book will give the Wilburns' fans the necessary momentum, in the form of a gentle reminder, to make that induction a reality.  Posthumous though it would be, such recognition is richly deserved and long overdue.





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TOMMY CASH needs a publicist!

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza has compiled "25 Things: August Musical Tributes to PRESIDENT [JOHN] KENNEDY."  Museum officials realize that "This list is only a small collection of the many folk songs, classical compositions and compilations created as an ode to President Kennedy" but, even so, Cash's hit recording, Six White Horses, is a glaring omission.

Planning to be in Dallas?  Tour the museum anyway and, while you're at it, ask to listen to the January 27, 2014 interview I granted Associate Curator STEPHEN FAGIN, assisting Fagin with the museum's oral history project.




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