Country Reunion Magazine, February 2021

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Country Reunion m a g a z i n e

February 2021

K.T. Oslin’s Life & Career

Billy Joe Shaver’s Trial Merle Kilgore’s Gravesite Billy Gilmer: “One Voice”

David Frizzell Album Collection

Mary Sarah’s “Bridges” Duets

Ricky Skaggs: Surgery Update Interview with Jerry Reed Tim Rice Death African- American Artists November 2020 … and more


Country Reunion Magazine Who’s inside? Ed Bruce p. 3 K.T. Oslin, p. 4 Jamie O’Hara, p.5 Davis Frizzell, p. 6 Ricky Skaggs, p. 7 Billy Joe Shaver, p. 8 Nadine, p. 10 Mary Sarah, p. 11 Renae the Waitress, p. 13 Merle Kilgore, p. 15 Tim Rice, p. 16 Areeda’s Cooking, p. 17 Billy Gilmer, p. 18 Jerry Reed, p. 19 Bailey, Pride, Rucker p. 23 2000 Memorials, p. 24

Country Reunion Magazine is published monthly by Country Road Management, 710 N. Main St., Suite B Columbia, TN 38401 Larry Black, Publisher Paula Underwood Winters, Editor, Print Layout & Design Claudia Johnson, Writer, Online Layout & Design

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November 2020


Ed Bruce, Co-Writer of “Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” Dies at Age 81 Be Cowboys," a song co-written by his wife at the time, Patsy. The song later became a huge hit for Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. More hits followed with "Girls, Women and Ladies," "(When You Fall in Love) Everything's a Waltz," the No. 1 hit "You're the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had" and Nelson duet "The Last Cowboy Song." A mid-decade return to RCA brought fans the No. 3 hit "You Turn Me On Like A Radio." Bruce began an acting career in the '80s co-

Singer-songwriter Ed Bruce best known for "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," passed away Jan. 8, 2020, in Clarksville, Tennessee, from natural causes. He was 81 years old. Bruce was honored with the Arkansas Country Music Award for "Lifetime Achievement" on June 3, 2018, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Bruce was born on Dec. 29, 1939, in Keiser, Arkansas, and grew up in Memphis, catching his first break as the teenage singer-songwriter at Sun Records' with "Rock Boppin' Baby." In the '60s, he became a well-known songwriter writing Tommy Roe’s "Save Your Kisses" and Charlie Louvin’s "See the Big Man Cry.” He also wrote the The Monkees' hit "Last Train to Clarksville." On the country charts he wrote Tanya Tucker’s "The Man That Turned My Mama On," "Texas (When I Die)" and Crystal Gayle’s "Restless.” He had a #15 hit himself with his 1975 and early 1976 version of "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to

starring alongside James Garner in the short-lived TV series Bret Maverick (1981-'82) to an appearance in “Country Strong.”

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Country Reunion Magazine February 2021

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K.T. Oslin Proved Middle-Aged Women Could Find Success in Country Music By Claudia Johnson K.T. Oslin, who did not launch her musical career the word,” said Country artist Chely Wright. “Nashville until she was already in her mid-40s, passed away on was gobsmacked by her genius, and the gatekeepers Dec. 21, 2020, one week after testing positive for didn’t even have a chance to decide whether or not Covid-19. The 78-year-old triple Grammy-winning they’d let her in. K.T. Oslin didn’t ask anyone for singer-songwriter suffered from Parkinson’s disease and permission to enter. She waltzed in with her brilliant had been living in a Nashville-area assisted living facility songs, her unmatched intellect, her perfectly foul mouth since 2016. and she changed everything— forever.” Oslin was born Kay Toinette As a performer, Oslin’s albums, 1987's Oslin in Crossett, Arkansas, on “80ʹs Ladies” and 1988's “This Woman,” May 15, 1942, and grew up in each sold more than 1 million copies, Houston, Texas. Before her success earning Gold Record status in 1988 and as a Country star, she resided in Platinum status in 1989. The "This Manhattan, New York, and was a Woman" album produced five singles: musical theatre performer. In "Money" at No. 13, "Hold Me" at No. 1, addition to appearing in “Promises, "Hey Bobby" at No. 2, the title track at Promises” and “West Side Story,” No. 5 and "Didn't Expect It to Go she toured with Carol Channing in Down This Way" at No. 23. “Hello Dolly!” and starred with Oslin was nominated for six Grammy K.T. Oslin Betty Grable in Broadway’s “Hello awards, winning for "80's Ladies" as Dolly!," with Rudy Vallee in "How Best Country Female Vocal Performance to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and with in 1988 and in 1989 for “Hold Me” as Best Country Song Vincent Price in "Darling of the Day." During that time and Best Country Female Vocal Performance. she performed in television commercials for a variety of Her No. 7 single, “80ʹs Ladies,” was named Song of the products and began to write songs. Year at the 1988 Country Music Association Awards, Among those who recorded her songs were Gail making her the first female songwriter in history to win Davies, “Round the Clock Lovin,’” 1982; Sissy Spacek, that prize. The song became an anthem for middle-aged “Lonely But Only For You,” 1983; Dottie West, “Where women of that period. Is a Woman to Go,” 1984; Judy Rodman, “Come Next Monday, 1985; The Judds, “Old Pictures,” 1987; Dan Seals, “Fool Me Once,” 1988, Anne Murray; “Who But You,” 1989; Trudy Lynn, “Still On My Mind,” 1991; The Forester Sisters, “Wanda,” 1992; Dorothy Moore, “Do Ya,” 1992; Aimee Comeaux, “Moving Out,” 1994; and Dusty Springfield, “Where Is a Woman to Go,” 1995. Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan recorded a duo version of “Do Ya” in 2017. “K.T. Oslin was a pioneer in every sense of

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became an early mainstream Country star to embrace the emerging Americana music movement. Her CD, "My Roots Are Showing," showcased a variety of rootsmusic genres and was the first of her releases that she co-produced.” The entertainer performed a pops concert with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in 1999, issued a disco record in 2000 and recorded Latin-tinged tracks for her 2001 collection “Live Close By, Visit Often.” Oslin’s “80’s Ladies” was celebrated with a sold-out

Photo: Grand Ole Opry

“We've been educated, we got liberated,” she wrote in “80ʹs Ladies.” “And had complicated matters with men. Oh, we've said ‘I do,’ and we've signed ‘I don't,’ and we've sworn we'd never do that again…Now we're 80's ladies. There ain't been much these ladies ain't tried.” The “80ʹs Ladies” video was named Video of the year by the Academy of Country Music (ACM). The song also earned her the 1988 Country female vocalist awards from both the CMA and the ACM. The ACM named “This Woman” album of the year in 1988, having voted Oslin Top New Female Vocalist the year before. In 1991, “Love In a Small Town” topped 1 million in sales, adding another Gold record award to her collection. The "Come Next Monday" single from the album became Oslin's biggest hit, spending two weeks at No. 1. The shift in musical tastes in the 1990s prompted Oslin to make major changes in her career. She appeared in two movies, “Murder So Sweet” and “The Thing Called Love.” Guest starring television appearances included “Paradise,” “Carol (Burnett) and Company” and “Evening Shade” as well as numerous talk shows, making her a favorite of hosts like Johnny Carson, Arsenio Hall, Joan Rivers, Ralph Emery, Oprah Winfrey and others. In 1995 Oslin underwent quadruple bypass surgery. “When she returned to recording, Oslin became increasingly experimental,” wrote her friend, country music historian Robert K Oermann. “In 1996, she

25th anniversary show at the historic Franklin Theater in Franklin, Tennessee, in 2013. The following year she was inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame and was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. “What a unique talent,” Ray Stevens said at her passing. “She was a breath of fresh air to country music. We will miss you."

“Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” Writer Dies

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Country Songwriter Jamie O’Hara Dies Days After Announcing Cancer Diagnosis Jamie O’Hara, half of the country duo, the O’Kanes, died of cancer just days after the announcement of his diagnosis. On Jan. 4, 2020, Moraine Music Group shared a statement from Jamie’s wife, Lola White, in which she revealed he had “been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.” She said the cancer diagnosis was so severe, it had them “measuring his life in weeks.” He died just days later on Thursday, Jan. 7. Lola shared a statement on Jamie’s Facebook page announcing he had passed away at 11:11 a.m. at Alive Hospice at age 70. “Dear friends & fans, it is with a broken heart that I must tell you that my husband, friend and love of my life took his last breath this morning,” Lola wrote in her statement. O’Hara composed many memorable songs, including Gary Allan’s first #1 hit “Man tocountryreunionmagazine.com Man” and The Judds‘ Grammy-winning single “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the February 2021 Good Old Days).”


Eight David Frizzell Albums Remastered for Reissue Eight albums by country music favorite David Frizzell have been remastered and reissued by Time Life. Three of Frizzell’s solo records, four of his Frizzell & Friends collaborations and a live album recorded with Jett Williams are available on all major digital platforms. In addition to his work with Williams, songs from the eight albums include appearances by a number of country stars including Allen Frizzell, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, T. Graham Brown, Lacy J. Dalton, Jimmy Fortune and more. “Well, we sure didn’t get to hit the road in 2020 so it gave me a lot of time to find the masters to many of my old albums and focus on getting them released on all the digital platforms,” said Frizzell. “I am so happy to partner with Time Life. To know that they are going to help get my music out to the masses like they have been doing for all these years through their infomercials is just a true blessing.” Frizzell began his career touring with his brother, Lefty, when he was just 12 years old. Since then his work has been nominated for Grammy Awards, has won the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award and was named the ACM Vocal Duet of the Year for two years in a row as well as an ACM Award for Song of the Year. “David Frizzell has incredible talent that shines both as a solo artist and in his collaborations with so many of country music’s beloved artists,” said Mike Jason, Time Life Senior Vice President, Live Entertainment. “It’s an honor for us to work with him and share his great music.” Frizzell is also an author and has worked with a number of causes and nonprofits, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation and Music City Animal Rescue. He also runs his own record label, Nashville America Records.

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Skaggs Doing Great Physically and Spiritually After Quadruple Bypass "I have thanked the Lord hundreds of times that I wasn't out in the middle of Texas on a tour bus, miles away from a hospital," country legend Ricky Skaggs told PEOPLE Magazine. For more than six months Skaggs knew something was wrong. He found himself getting winded easily. He noticed a tightness in his chest that was never there before. And then, there was the shortness of breath that would hit him when he least expected it. He thought maybe it was stress, maybe it was acid reflux, or maybe, it was something far more serious. The Country Music Hall of Famer didn't have much time to dwell on these troubling symptoms as Skaggs and his wife, Sharon White, have been busy caring for her elderly father, Buck White, for the past three years. Before the end of 2020 their brand-new grandson was born. After his six-month checkup and a subsequent CT scan of his heart in June, Skaggs received word that his doctors wanted him to go in for an angiogram to better address his symptoms. "Scripture tells us God always knows the thoughts of man," Skaggs, 66, said in an interview. "That was proven to me at that moment, because while I did not speak it from my mouth, I thought about putting the angiogram off for a week. When I thought that thought, it was like I saw the Lord with a jeweler's eye glass on. He was peering at me but never said a word. But just by His look, I knew He was saying, 'Absolutely no.' It put the fear of God in me. He had given me so many grace

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The photo above is from Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman in 2019. The annual event headlined by Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, have been cancelled due to Covid 19 until further notice.

situations, but He was serious that I needed to take care of this now." Four days later Skaggs underwent a quadruple bypass on his heart at Centennial Medical Center in Nashville. "I have thanked the Lord hundreds of times that I wasn't out in the middle of Texas on a tour bus, miles away from a hospital," said Skaggs. "It was a major blessing I didn't have a heart attack. Nothing was hurt, and nothing was destroyed or irreparable. It was just by the mercy and grace of God that all of this happened in this way." These days, Skaggs, who spent four days in the hospital, surrounded by wife and daughters Molly and Mandy following the surgery, says he feels not just 100% but 150% better than he once did. He walks without getting winded. He is working to strengthen his heart muscle. In September, just days before his grandson Lyric finally arrived, Skaggs returned to play at the historic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. "Don't put off tomorrow what you can do today," Skaggs said, "That surgery gave me a brand-new heart. Not only a real heart, but a spiritual heart that has now been cleaned out, so I can hear Him better than ever before."

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Famous Friends Support Country Songwriter During Trial

By Claudia Johnson It’s probably not often that a revered singersongwriter and an Academy-award-winning actor show up for moral support during a criminal trial, but that’s exactly what happened when Billy Joe Shaver was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawfully carrying a handgun. As a singer, Shaver, who died Oct. 28. 2020, at age 81 of a massive stroke, released more than 20 albums and 20 singles, none of which were commercially successful. However, he wrote hit songs recorded by numerous stars, including Bobby Bare, Willie Nelson, Patty Loveless, David Allen Coe, Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, The Allman Brothers, Asleep At The Wheel, John Anderson and Johnny Cash. Shaver wrote nine out of the 10 songs on Jennings’ 1973 breakthrough album, “Honky Tonk Heroes,” which became one of the defining albums of Outlaw Country. Bob Dylan, who rarely covers other writers, has often played Shaver’s “Old Five And Dimers Like Me” in concert. Dylan, in “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” a song written with the Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, sang of listening to Shaver’s music in the lyrics “I’m hearing Billy Joe Shaver/And I’m reading James Joyce.”

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The Americana Music Convention awarded Sha ver its Lifetime Achie vement Award for Songwriting in 2002. In 2004 Shaver was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, followed by a 2006 induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. His gift was further recognized when in 2019 the Academy of Country Music presented him the Poet's Award for songwriting. In 2010 Nelson, who is himself a celebrated songwriter, called Shaver “the greatest living songwriter.” “I can't imagine how it would be to do other peoples' songs because it's such a wonderful thing to be able to do your own tunes,” Shaver told NPR’s Terry Gross in a 1994 interview. “You get to catch that little capsule of time that you invented there. And you get to step into it for that moment.” Through his friendship with actor Robert Duvall, h e w a s a b l e to “ s te p i n to ” a n o t h e r t y p e o f entertainment altogether. Duvall tapped him for a major role in the 1997 movie “The Apostle,” which was written and directed by Duvall. Shaver played Duvall’s best friend – a reformed drunk, which Shaver said in an interview wasn’t a big stretch for him because “Bobby told me not to act every chance I got.” Shaver later had a speaking role in Duvall’s 2003 film, “Secondhand Lions.”

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Both Duvall and Nelson would demonstrate the depth of their friendship to Shaver when the stars and their wives sat for almost 10 hours of testimony in the McLennan County Courthouse in Waco, Texas, in April 2010. They were there to lend support as Shaver faced aggravated assault charges that could place him in prison for many years. The alleged assault took place on March 31, 2007, at Papa Joe’s Texas Saloon, a Waco beer joint frequented by Shaver and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Wanda, who he married for a second time after Brenda’s death. Bar patrons reported that Shaver and another local man, Billy B. Coker, were talking somewhat amicably when Coker told Shaver that Wanda had been married to Coker’s cousin, who had committed suicide. Shaver testified in his own defense that he had become annoyed when Coker forcibly moved him to another table. He said that he was intimidated after Coker pulled out a pocket knife, used it to stir his drink and wiped it on Shaver’s sleeve. Trial witnesses testified they heard Coker tell Shaver to shut up several times and that it appeared their encounter was escalating. Both men stepped to the rear of the bar, and minutes later Coker staggered back inside, his face a wet smear of red, a bullet from Shaver’s .22 pistol having entered through his lip and lodged in his neck. A trial witness testified that Shaver had asked

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Coker “Where do you want it?” before shooting him as an irate Coker continued to approach. Wanda Shaver testified that Coker had a knife in his right hand, confirming Shaver’s assertion that he had acted in self-defense against a man he considered a “bully” and was afraid would kill him. “I wanted to scare him, wanted to beat him to the punch,” Shaver testified on his own behalf when questioned why he had pulled the gun he was carrying in his pocket. Prosecutor Beth Toben suggested to Shaver during her cross-examination that he could have left if he felt intimidated, but Shaver said that to do so would have been “chicken shit.” Toben asked Shaver if he was jealous of Coker talking to his wife. “I get more women than a passenger train can haul,” Shaver answered, insisting, “I’m not jealous.” Shaver testified that Coker came “stomping” at him, adding, “I was supposed to run, I guess.” The songwriter said that he had drunk only one beer, but Coker had been drinking from his own bottle of whiskey since the bar did not serve hard liquor. One bar patron, Daniel Silvas, testified that he witnessed the shooting from his truck, but did not know that Shaver was one of the men involved until later. Silvas recalled that he saw two men quarreling when one "went at" the other with a knife. “To me it looked like [Shaver] was just trying to get away [before firing],” Silvas said.

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February 2021


Shaver was found not guilty of aggravated assault, telling those gathered outside the courthouse that he hoped that eventually he and Coker would become friends. His good will did not last long, however. A few hours later at a gig in Houston Shaver told the crowd that he had been asked what he was going to do about Coker. “I’m getting the damn bullet back,” Shaver said. “That’s true. You all think I am joking. Walking around being famous with my bullet in him. Stealing all my press. I swear I am sorry that happened, but it did, and God was good enough and all were good enough to give me prayers and everything.” Shaver later wrote a song, “Wacko from Waco,” about the incident. Texas-based Country musician Dale Watson's song about the shooting is entitled "Where Do You Want It?” Shaver became a born-again Christian in 1981, but told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2012 that he had “slipped back since then many times.” His faith sustained him throughout the years, and he told NPR’s Terry Gross that he was sure of his salvation. “Well, you know, alcohol, drugs, running around just - I was the – I was, I guess, the king of sinners, far as I was concerned, but I got myself straightened

out,” he said. “And it was with the Lord Jesus Christ is how I got myself straightened out, and I don't know how other people do it. To each his own, but that's how I done it.”

Country Music Mayhem Click the video above to hear Shaver sing “Wacko from Waco,” the song he wrote about his aggravated assault arrest and trial.

Nadine’s Corner Well, here we are in February and I'm thinking I need to get my Christmas stuff down. Time just goes too fast for me anymore! Me and Homer was sitting in the den watching TV last night, and he asked me what I wanted for Valentine’s, which means, "please say nothing, I have you!" I told him that instead of going out and buying cards, just tell me how much you love me. He sat up in that recliner and looked me right in the eyes and said, “Overall I love you more than I want to strangle you.” Now, that's one of the sweetest things he ever said to me! I told him I was sorry that “I roll my eyes at you pretty often, you're the only one I want to annoy forever.” You know, we need to look around this crazy world and appreciate the ones the good Lord gave us to love! The Lord knew Homer was the one that would put up with me the longest! Sometimes I find myself looking at Homer all stretched out in that recliner, snoring like a freight train and think to myself, “I love you even though I sometimes think about suffocating you in your sleep!” I think he's a keeper, cause ......I ain't training another one! Love y'all!

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Country Legends Join Young “The Voice” Singer to Bridge Musical Generations Interview by Claudia Johnson Country music artist Mary Sarah’s 2014 “Bridges” album has been re-released, and the timing could not be more perfect. The 25-year-old veteran of “The Voice” is working on a new record, has a duet release planned for 2021 and is looking forward to returning to the performance stage when it’s safe for her, her team and her fans. She’s also enjoying being a new mother to her baby girl born in January, who will eventually be accompanying Mary on the road. In an exclusive interview with Country’s Family Reunion writer Claudia Johnson, the Oklahoma-born, Texas-raised Nashville resident talked about the three-and-one-half-year “Bridges” duet album project that she started recording in 2011 at age 15 with Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Tanya Tucker, Vince Gill, Lynn Anderson, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Neil Sedaka, Big & Rich and Freddy Powers. She also shared insight into being a contestant on “The Voice,” which she says “took me to another level that allowed me to pursue my music as a full-time job.” Mary, can you explain the title of the “Bridges” album? Ahh, yes. “Bridges.” I still love the title so much. It explains the record so well as to why we decided to do what we did. The vision for “Bridges” was to bridge the gap in generations. To introduce people more around my age to these artists/legends who paved the path for artists like myself. My mom always taught me that I should learn the history of things before jumping into something, and that’s just what we did. To be a part of something, you have to understand where it came from. What are some of the highlights and lessons from the “Bridges” recording experience? I remember Dolly Parton being the first artist to say yes to being on the record thanks to the record’s producer Kent Wells, and right then and there I thought, “WOAH...this is happening!” Working with Dolly was a true dream. I remember being so dang nervous about meeting her. I was right down the hall as she was recording, and I knew that at any moment I could be headed down to meet and sing with her. I don’t even know how to explain that feeling of excitement/nerves that I had. I mean it’s DOLLY PARTON. She was amazing, just as you would expect. She welcomed me with a hug, and we got to sit and chat. It was so surreal. I honestly can’t recall everything we talked about, but I do remember walking away feeling like I had known her for my entire life. There are so many stories from over 3½ years of recording, it’d be hard to name them all. But I’ll share another one that was very special, which was Ray Price. I was also 15 at the time he came in to record, and he was 85! He parked his tour bus right outside the studio and strolled right in like he’d done this a million times, which he had! But I precisely remember his soft cardigan and seriously starched jeans, which made him look so cool. He even was wearing a belt buckle that said, “Price” on it. I aspire to be that cool at 85 years old. We got to talk a little before and after he sang, which mind you, he went in and sang the song three times through, and then said “I think we got it.” I was in AWE at how easy it was for him. An experienced PRO. When talking he gave such great advice from keeping it classy to learning your audience before taking the stage. He cared so much for his fans. He even took time to chat one-on-one with my parents to tell them how crazy the industry is and how to handle it the best way he knew how. Every legend was a dream to work with, whether it was in the studio or on stage. I am just honored to be the lucky gal who got to sing with them all. I was 15 years old. CRAZY to even think that.

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How did you get these stars to sing with you in the first place? Honestly, it was all based on relationships. None of the artists were paid to be a part of the record, which I think speaks so much of the people who helped to bring them on the record as well as the legends wanting to help younger artists like myself in the Country music industry. I want to shout out to some of the main people who helped to put it all together, which includes Kent Wells, the producer of “Bridges,” Freddy Powers, the executive producer and Freddy’s wife, Catherine Powers. I haven’t had the chance of singing on stage with all of the legends on the record, but I did with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, The Oak Ridge Boys and Vince Gill. One that stands out a ton was getting to sing with Merle. He had a show in Texas that wasn’t too far from where I lived, maybe three or so hours away. It was for a fair/festival, and I was so excited. That day I was totally fine, I was feeling good, and then on the drive up, my nose started to get stuffy. I honestly got nervous right then and there because I have terrible allergies, and I was praying it didn’t get any worse, but we arrived at the stage, and I could hardly sing! It was like my throat swelled, and it ended up being so hoarse. I was so nervous and pretty much hyperventilating because I was scared that I was about to not be able to perform….. BUT, the show must go on. I kept thinking, “you don’t always get a chance to sing with Merle on stage!” I honestly never stopped praying, “Lord, just give me some kind of voice to get Visit marysarah.com to me through this,” and my prayer was answered. It was a MIRACLE. download the “Bridges” Somehow, I went out on stage and was able to sing. Not exactly to my best album. ability, but it was better than nothing. How did your experience on “The Voice” help you grow as an entertainer? Going on any kind of show like “The Voice” is a growing experience. It honestly felt like I was living a dream almost every day from working with Blake Shelton to being on the Universal Studios lot to getting hair, makeup and wardrobe done, not to mention performing for MILLIONS of people. A lot of people who are fans now had/have no clue of my prior experience in the music industry prior to “The Voice.” What was your prior experience, and how did you get into music professionally? Well, honestly most everything with music happened pretty naturally. My parents pastored a church for a while, and that was definitely an inspiration. But it wasn’t until my older sister, Emilee, decided to take piano lessons that led me to sing. I always copied her when I was younger so my mom put us both in lessons. I remember always singing to the songs we were learning on the piano, and one day my teacher, Mr. Thomas Corley, pointed it out. He said I had a natural vibrato and pretty great pitch and that both of those things aren’t very common. He recommended a vocal coach, and the rest was history. Sadly, I quit piano, but that’s because I chose vocal lessons instead. The early years of singing were filled with recitals, singing competitions, Texas Oprys and theater! At that age, I was probably taking a lesson a week with my vocal coach, Tom Mckinney. He recommended doing more of the acting, dancing, singing route...they call it the triple threat! That led to actually going out to Los Angeles around the age of 12 to meet with an agent. I signed with that agent and ended up landing a role on the “Kidz Bop World Tour.” That is when I knew I wanted to perform for the rest of my life. We toured 48 cities over six months on a bus. It included theaters and stadium shows. Honestly crazy to think I was 12/13 years old doing that. What is in your future musically? Well, I am hoping my future in music is honestly just beginning. I know I can look back and say I’ve done a lot but I also want to be singing and performing just like the legends one day. Page 12

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Some Love Stories are Forever Love stories are not just for Valentine’s Day. Seniors share their love stories both funny and tender every day. It’s the memories of their lives that keep many of them strong and safe until they are together again. Many seniors didn’t have that elaborate wedding that today’s young people have nor long engagements or living together. In that era you told your parents you were getting married, had a church wedding and a small reception after wards. You got married, had kids and stayed together. How do I know? I am one of those seniors. Phil and I got married 51 years ago. I was in high school, and he was in college and our little church wedding was in Phoenix, Arizona. For our honeymoon we took the mule ride down the Grand Canyon. After all we both had school to get back to…lol. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you. If the love of your life has passed before you, cherish the memories and know you will be together again. Country’s Family Reunion News 2020 Book You can pre-order the 2020 Country’s Family Reunion News book at renaethewaitress.com, by mail at P.O. Box 681178, Franklin, TN 37068 or call me at 615-579-5497. I will ship it as soon as it is printed. $29.95 + 6.95 s/h. Ed Bruce has Passed Sadly another great Country Music Singer-Songwriter has passed away. Ed Bruce died on Jan. 8, 2021, of natural causes at 81. He was one of the first guests appearing on Season 1 of “Larry’s Country Diner,” and he was on some of our “Country’s Family Reunion” shows. He wrote the hit song “ Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” among others. He was also a successful actor. He actually starred on screen with Larry Black in the movie “The Pardon,” released in 2013. Ed played an attorney and Larry played the part of a Judge. The stories I heard of those two working together was a hoot. Rest In Peace, Ed Bruce. Merchandise

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I hope all of you who ordered the portable DVD players are enjoying them. I am now out of stock. Remember I do have some DVDs for sale: Jimmy Capps Documentary, “Larry’s Country Diner” Episode #501, Nashville Memorial Tours Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3. I do not sell any “Country’s Family Reunion” DVDs. “Larry’s Country Diner” is taping new shows in February so look for new shows on RFD-TV in the coming weeks. Tune into Diner Chat every Thursday on the “Larry’s Country Diner” Facebook page for weekly information February and chats.2021 I will countryreunionmagazine.com answer as many questions as I can.


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February 2021


Where the Stars are Buried by Renae Johnson, Renae the Waitress Merle Kilgore, Memory Gardens, Hendersonville, Tennessee

Wyatt Merle Kilgore was born August 9, 1934, in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and grew up in Shreveport, La. He wrote his first hit song, Webb Pierce's "More and More," when he was 18. He also had successes with Johnny Horton's "Johnny Reb" and Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain." His biggest hit as a performer was "Love Has Made You Beautiful," which reached No. 10 on the country chart in 1960. “Ring of Fire’ which he co-wrote with June Carter Cash was a huge hit in 1963 for Johnny Cash. He gravitated to music and radio, landing a job carrying Hank Williams' guitar and eventually working for him on a regular basis. He was Hank William Jr.'s opening act in 1964 and for more than 20 years. He managed Williams’ publishing companies and officially became his manager in 1986. He was a very big influence behind the scenes in Nashville, privately advising Music Row music makers. In 1963 his first appearance was in, Country Music on Broadway Other films were Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar (1965), Sing a Song for Heaven’s Sake (1966), Nevada Smith (1966), Five Card Stud (1968), Educated Heart (1970), W.W. and Dixie Dance Kings (1974), Nashville (1975), Roadie (1979) and Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980). He appeared as himself in Living Proof, an NBC movie about the life of Hank Williams Jr. Kilgore was voted the Country Music Association’s first-ever Manager of the Year in 1990 and inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998. He was also a member of the Louisiana Hall of Fame and an honorary Tennessee state senator. He was multitalented becoming a singer but songwriter, radio host and actor. Kilgore died Sunday, Feb. 6, 2005, of congestive heart failure onset from medical complications related to his ongoing treatment for cancer over the last few months. Kilgore, 70, was in a hospital in Mexico undergoing experimental treatments at the time of his death. Celebration of Life His funeral was held Feb. 15, 2005, at the Ryman Auditorium and open to the public. Applause is usually not heard at funerals, but Stuart told the crowd “This is the Merle Kilgore show.” Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt hosted the 2-hour memorial service. There was great music, lots of laughs and a few tears. The stage was decorated with a multitude of flowers and recreated to look like Kilgore's office, something he had apparently requested. The casket was open for the entire service. Several spoke including Richard Roberts (Oral Roberts' son) Lorianne Crook, Ralph Emery, Kilgore’s grandson who spoke on behalf of the family and Hank Williams Jr, crying the entire time. Stuart started the musical performances with “Me and Jesus” slightly changed to “Merle and Jesus.” Connie Smith sang “Wayfaring Stranger.” Holly Williams sang “Say Goodbye. Kid Rock sang, “I Saw the Light.” Big and Rich sang “I Pray for You,” and Wynonna closed the service with “How Great Thou Art.” Others attending the service were Kenny Chesney, George Jones and Brooks & Dunn.

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Merle Kilgore

Burial To create an impressive funeral procession in Kilgore's style there was an announcement, “On the trip to the graveside (there will be no carpooling. Any one of you who do try and carpool will be removed, given a car and moved to the back of the line.” Merle is buried next to June and Johnny Cash. He has a cement bench with cowboy boot legs located beside the sidewalk. His large marker is crafted with bronze hands and a face. It is inscribed, “Are you kidding me….I’ve made the biggest deal of all,” with his signature. Hendersonville Memory Gardens 353 Johnny Cash Parkway Hendersonville, Tennessee, 37075

February 2021


Experience Music in Rural Virginia

Tony Rice: American Bluegrass Traditionalist

Tony Rice was American bluegrass traditionalist Along with reuniting with Ricky Skaggs in 1980 for who was a mentor and inspiration to many bluegrass “Skaggs & Rice,” Tony worked with Alison Krauss, legends. Alison Brown, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan and many “Sometime during Christmas morning while making others. his coffee, our dear friend and guitar hero In 1994 Tony Rice was diagnosed with Tony Rice passed from this life and made his muscle tension dysphonia and was swift journey to his heavenly home,” close forced to stop singing. friend Ricky Skaggs said in a statement on “He was also one of the most stylistic Dec. 26, 2020. “Tony Rice was the single lead vocalist in Bluegrass music history,” most influential acoustic guitar player in the said Skaggs. last 50 years. Many if not all of the Bluegrass A diagnosis of tennis elbow in 2014 guitar players of today would say that they took away some of Rice’s ability to play, cut their teeth on Tony Rice’s music.” which resulted in a soft retirement. Rice’s career as a guitar player started “I am not going to go back out into the when he moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in public eye until I can be the musician Listen Here 1970 ending up in J.D Crowe’s The New that I was, where I left off or better,” he South. said at the time. “I have been blessed Rice lobbied against electric instruments and drums with a very devout audience all these years, and I am Along with Ricky Skaggs, they successfully moved the certainly not going to let anybody down. I am not going group into a more traditionalist direction that resulted to risk going out there and performing in front of in the landmark 1974 album “J. D. Crowe & the New people again until I can entertain them in a way that South.” takes away from them the rigors and the dust, the Jerry Douglas was on dobro at the time. Keith bumps in the road of everyday life.” Whitley (who replaced Tony), Doyle Lawson and a The 69-year-old was a Grammy winner and was dozen others would later get their start in The New inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2013. South outfit. Rice is survived by wife Pam and their daughter, In 1979, Rice released a solo album, the jazz-inspired India, as well as his brothers, Wyatt and Ron, with bluegrass work, “Manzanita,” one of many he released whom Tony also recorded. throughout his career, but he loved collaboration.

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February 2021


Areeda’s southern cooking by Areeda Schneider Stampley

Classic Buttermilk Pie So creamy and delicious! ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted 3 eggs, beaten ¼ cup all-purpose flour 1 ¾ cups sugar ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup buttermilk ½ teaspoon vanilla 1 9-inch unbaked pie crust Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add butter to eggs. Add combined dry ingredients, then buttermilk and vanilla. Pour into pie crust; bake 45 minutes. After 15 minutes, cover crust with a round strip of foil. Let set about 50 minutes before slicing. To purchase Areeda’s Southern Cooking, a collection of old-fashioned recipes send $24.45 check (no credit cards) and mailing address to Areeda’s Southern Cooking, P. O. Box 202, Brentwood, TN 37024. Order online with PayPal or credit card at www.areedasoutherncooking.com.

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February 2021


“One Voice”: Timeless Message of Hope in Troubled Times

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by Claudia Johnson C“One Voice,” Top 20 song by Billy Gilman, is as relevant today as it was when it was released more than 20 years ago. “We need some help down here on earth,” Gilman, who was then 11 years old, sang. “A thousand prayers, a million words, but one voice was heard.” Songwriters Don Cook and David Malloy captured the internal struggle many parents have experienced in recent years in their insightful lyrics. “Some kids have, and some kids don't, and some of us are wondering why,” Cook and Malloy wrote. “Mom won't watch the news at night. There's too much stuff that's making her cry.” Gilman’s clear, pre-teen, innocent voice made the song’s wish for “a house, a yard, a neighborhood, where you can ride your new bike to school; kind of world where mom and dad still believe the golden rule ” all the more poignant Gilman starred in the video, which shows the small boy riding a school bus and observing the reality of a world for which he feels compelled to ask for help, concluding, “ Life’s not that simple down here on earth.” At the end of the song his prayer is answered when a youth is seen throwing a gun off a bridge into the river, and the child thanks God that “one voice was heard.” Page 18

“One voice, one simple word, hearts know what to say,” he sings. “One dream can change the world. Keep believing till you find your way.” The inspirational song shot onto the Billboard Top 40 charts, making Gilman the youngest artist to ever have a Top 40 single on the Country chart. It ultimately reached the Top 20 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. Gilman, who was born May 24, 1988, in Westerly, Rhode Island, was named Favorite Country New Artist at 2001’s American Music Awards. He took home the statue for the 2014 AMG Heritage Mainstream Artist of the Year. The youngster was also nominated at the 43rd Grammy Awards for Best Male Country Vocal Performance, while the song writers garnered a nomination for Best Country Song. In his early teens Gilman assumed active leadership roles in two charities. In 2003 he became the Muscular Dystrophy Association's National Youth Chairman, serving six terms from 2003 to 2008. In April 2012 Gilman collaborated with other country artists to release a charity single, "The Choice," for Soles4Souls with proceeds purchasing shoes for needy children worldwide. In addition to Gilman, who was spokesman and lead singer on the record, 18 top Country singers also took part, including Ronnie Milsap, Randy Travis, Kenny Rogers, Reba McEntire, Montgomery Gentry, Vince Gill, Diamond Rio, LeAnn Rimes and others. On March 16, 2017, Gilman was honored in two separate ceremonies in the Rhode Island Senate and the House of Representatives for his successes and for representing Rhode Island as an artist. Now 32 Gilman continues to record and perform. In late 2020 he performed a one-hour special livestream called “Coming Home to Country” in Nashville, Tennessee. Streaming is available at shop.mysongbird.com/collections/billy-gilman. “I had so much fun performing back in Nashville and catching up with old friends,” Gilman said. “I am really excited about this new music and to offer up this opportunity for fans to watch a concert during these crazy times we are living in.” February 2021


Jerry Reed Interview, November 2006 The following interview appears in the book My Kind of Country: Conversations with Cowboys, Gamblers, Outlaws and Songwriters by Michael Buffalo Smith www.kudzoomag.com Jerry Reed was a true star. From his string of hit s i n g l e s d u r i n g t h e ' 6 0 's a n d ' 7 0 's t o h i s groundbreaking role as The Snowman in the Smokey & The Bandit movies, and his reputation as one of Nashville’s hottest guitar slingers, Jerry Reed always maintained his ever present smile, and cool Southern style. Jerry passed away on September 1, 2008 from emphysema related illness. He was 71. My visit with Reed in 2005 was a true joy. Where were you born and raised? Well, I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised thereabouts. (Laughs) I lived in Fairburn, Palmetto, Atlanta, but I was born at Grady Memorial General Hospital, March 20, 1937. How do you like that? Te l l m e a l i t t l e b i t a b o u t yo u r f i rs t introduction to music and what got you on this path... Well, in the 1940’s, the first music I remember is church music and listening to the Grand Ol’ Opry in Palmetto. Even at 5 years old I believe that the good Lord had his hand in my life. I used to get on a stove wood pile at 5-6 years old and I would have a piece of stove wood and kindling bark as a pick, and I was a star. Then we would listen to the Grand

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Ol Opry, that solemn old judge would blow that horn and here we would go, oh yeah! Then when I was a teenager in the rockin fifties, I got into the rock and roll stuff. Playing gigs all around Atlanta, sock hops and stuff like that. By then I was a picker and could romp on that guitar all I wanted to. I got my first guitar at age of 7 and never laid it down. Momma taught me G,C, and D. I was off to the races son! Who were some of your earliest influences in music and guitar? Oh, Michael, it’s very simple boy, when I heard Merle Travis I almost fainted. I heard "Cannonball Rag" and I thought, no can’t nobody do that. It can’t be one man doing that. Who are you kidding? Then I needed to figure out how to do that. Then I heard Chet Atkins and really went over the top, son. I finally figured out how to do rhythm with my thumb and play the melody with my fingers. Then low and behold came Les Paul, Django Rhinehart, and then I got into jazz players like Johnny Smith. I really loved Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow. I always went back to Chet Atkins. Man, that was the greatest guitar player that ever lived as far as I am concerned and the rest of the world too, I think. He was the most copied guitar player that ever lived, I know that. Those were my inspirations, absolutely. What was your first big break in the music industry? Meeting Bill Lowery, who was a popular DJ that went into the publishing business in Atlanta. He got me on Capitol Records when I was a junior in high school. Can you believe that? I quit school and started doing shows, with Ernest Tubb, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, The Wilburn Brothers, are you kidding me, stand back I don’t need school anymore. What do I need school for because I know what I am going to do the rest of my life. I told my wife when I proposed to her that if anyone has a day job in this home, it would be you, and I asked her if she still wanted to get married. She said, yes, and that was 46 years ago.

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February 2021


She didn’t have to worry too much about a day job though, because you did well. At first she did. Right after we were married, a week later, I had to report to Fort Jackson in the United States Army. She worked at Lockheed, but then Brenda Lee cut a song of mine called, "It’s All You Have Got To Do." It went to #5 in the nation and was the back side of “I’m Sorry.” Then Porter Wagoner recorded "Misery Loves Company" and we lived off that money until I got out of the army and we moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1962. My wife is a singer and keyboard player, and was in a quartet when I met her. When we moved to Nashville, they needed soprano singers and she was a soprano and she could read music. She went to work with The Jordanaires and gave me time to politic around town and time to get my roots down She is a big part of my life. What was the first record you recorded for yourself? A song called “Here I Am," and "If The Good Lord Is Willing, And The Creek Don’t Rise.” It went to number 25 in the country charts and I never showed up again, until the late 60’s and that was 1955. Until I went to record with Chet Atkins on RCA. If it hadn’t been for Chet Atkins you wouldn’t be talking to me now. Chet was the man wasn’t he? He helped so many people. And on top of that he kept his recording career going. He must have never slept. He was amazing. You had so many hits and stuff, like “When You Are Hot You Are Hot,” I just can’t even remember all of them. What was your biggest chart hit that you ever had? I guess "Amos Moses," "When You Are Hot You're Hot," they crossed over on the charts and "Eastbound and Down," in Smokey and The Bandit. That was the biggest selling album I ever had, because I had RCA and MCA selling it at the same time. I was on an RCA contract. MCA had it on the soundtrack and it sold enough to get a gold album.

"Amos Moses," "A Thing Called Love," and "Eastbound and Down.” I knew you would say "A Thing Called Love." That song must have come from deep down inside. Yeah, that’s the most recorded song I ever wrote. Oh, man, Johnny Cash did a good version of that, didn’t he? Oh yeah, he recorded it and I recorded it. Elvis recorded it. Another thing I just love about you is your natural ability to act on the big screen. How did you get into acting? Well, I was on the “Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” Michael, and I was talking to this agent one day and I told him that if he ever gets an opportunity I would like to read for a movie. I told him I could get in there and play cowboys and Indians. (Laughs) So I got a call one day when I was in Nashville and said they were doing a movie called “WW and the Dixie Dance Kings” starring Burt Reynolds. So I went over there to the Holiday Inn casting and read for the part and got the part of the bandleader, Wayne. That’s where I met Burt and and we just hit it off. He is an old Georgia boy and was raised in Florida. He loves Nashville and country music. Then he called me after the movie was over and he wanted me to be the heavy. Be the Southern godfather that walked around with a sawed off shotgun. (Laughs) I can do that if you give me a sawed off shotgun, because I am only 155 lbs. soaking wet. With a shotgun I can be 155 lbs. of creeping hell. One thing led to another and I wound up doing 12-14 movies of the week for TV, and pilots and sitcoms... and then the last one I did was “Water Boy” with Adam Sandler.

Do you have any favorite songs that you have written or is it like asking you to pick your favorite child. You just hit the nail on the head. If I had only three songs that I could sing the rest of my life it would be Page 20

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February 2021


I was working as a projectionist at a drive in movie theatre when “Smokey and The Bandit” came out, it was a very fun movie. What was Burt Reynolds like as a guy? When you worked with him he had his own handpicked crew. It was not like working at all. Smokey and The Bandit was just a lark. All we did was run up and down those Georgia roads wrecking cars and having the time of our life. You have a sense but you don’t know how the public will react. But how are you going to miss with Jackie Gleason? You didn’t miss, and even today, after 26 years since the movie was made it is still being played. With Burt it was always a laid back, good time. We just tried to get the movie in on time and on schedule and on budget. Was Jackie fun to work with? Oh yeah, I would be on the set every time he was working so I could watch him. Got to play golf with him and his clubs were gold and had “The Great One” written on them. What you saw was what you got with him. I guess Fred (the dog) was my favorite part of the movie (Laughs). Oh yeah, I wish I could have been more like Fred. They put those hot lights on the hood of the tractor trailer and they would put Fred up there with his front paws on the dash and then he would turn around and put his butt up there. (laughs) Are you still doing acting? No, I have decided to do my first love, music, for the rest of my life. You can have music and it will stand alone by itself, but you can’t have a movie without it. There is a message in there son. Music is the most powerful thing on this earth, and it’s hard to be angry when you are listening to music. Your songs have been recorded by so many people. To be able to say that you have had music recorded by both Elvis and Johnny Cash is very cool, but do you have any records that were some of your favorites. Not your cuts but others doing your songs? There are two things I am proud of and I think that you understand that Oscars, CMA awards, all of that is an industry award. I won the People’s Choice Award and I am most proud of that because the fans voted it. I Page 21

am more proud of the 70 guitar compositions that I have written and Chet and I have recorded over the decades. I am as proud of that as any hit record I ever had because to write a guitar composition that Chet Atkins and some of these other guitarists will record, people do not understand what that entails. I have spent over 60 years bent over a guitar and to know that I wrote 70 compositions that masters have recorded, that makes me feel so good and full, and proud and thankful to the good Lord. I am as proud of that as anything that I have done because there will never be another Chet Atkins. How many albums have you done with Chet? Three. For those of us who admired his playing but Listen Now didn’t know him, could you tell us a little bit about him? Man, where do you start? The thing about him that amazes me the most is how he maintained his enthusiasm for the guitar amongst all the duties and artists that he was responsible for. To play a guitar finger style is an everyday business. The guitar must be a part of your body. Here he comes and records all these people and recorded Elvis and Don Gibson, and all these great artists. He is responsible for bringing Boots Randolph and Floyd Cramer to Nashville. People don’t know, well they do know, the people around town know and the world should know. Nashville would not be what it is if it wasn’t for people like Chet Atkins, him and Owen Bradley, those early pioneers that loved the business, and understood how to make records and who have paid their dues out on the road in front of live audiences and brought that knowledge into the town and set up Music City, USA. That’s what they did. He is a great humorist and people don’t know how funny he was. One of his lines that I still use today is "I am just a little bit below average." He is a consummate professional. My Lord I played rhythm with him in front of large audiences and I was sitting here wondering how he could do this. I would be a nervous wreck. Then go back to Nashville and get back into running RCA Victor Nashville Division. I don’t know how he did it. If it hadn’t been for Chet you wouldn’t be talking to me.

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February 2021


Another album that you did that I loved was the Old Dogs. I absolutely love to play that record. I want you to tell me a bit about those guys and Shel Silverstein, who I absolutely adored. Oh, I went into the studio one day to write this football song. Okay, so I sung it to him and before the session was over I went in there to the piano and he had already written down 8-9 titles, and started writing on 2-3 of them. One was the idea of this hog that would leave the pig pen and go down to the farmhouse every Sunday and put his front paws up in the window and watch the NFL. Then he would run away and said he wanted to be the football that they use in the Superbowl. What an artist, good Lord, and more fun. He is real showbiz and I am showbizzy. I loved to break him up. I am the odd man in the group that has done a bunch of pictures, TV and stuff and he wrote plays and things like that. I would jump into character and be off the wall and he was not expecting it and you can hear him cackling. When he passed away, he was just a year younger than me. He was only 67, good Lord. I loved his cartoons, and I always wanted to be a cartoonist after seeing his stuff. His children’s books and cartoons for Playboy - there is nobody else like him on this planet. What was it like working for Waylon and them guys? Oh, well I recorded for Waylon back in the 60’s with Bobby Bare. I am the one that played the intro on "Four Strong Winds." In that studio with me, Waylon, Bobby Bare, Mel Tillis, and Shel Silverstein you had over 200 years of experience. I have been in it since 16 and I am 68 now. The same is true with Bare, Tillis, Waylon, and Shel. We didn’t care anything about rip and snorting around that studio. Then we lost Waylon. Oh, my Lord.

as a single. I asked Chet to come on the road to record it for me because I needed to do it to a live audience. So he came out and recorded the whole show and when we listened to it we made an album out of it because the band was cooking and the audience was ripping and snorting and I had the time of my life. The reason we called it Jerry Reed Live Still is because a couple of years ago it had come over the AP wires that I had died. One of my buddies called me and I answered the phone and he said well you are still alive and I said well I was this morning when I woke up. Well, I heard this morning that you were dead. I am not studying leaving here yet. Tell us what you have on the front burner right now? I have a great record distributor. They won Distributor of the Year and they are distributing world wide. I am working on a movie part negotiation, and focusing mostly on studio. When I do get out it won’t be like the old days when I lived on the road. My bandleader is a South Carolina guy named Bobbie Lovett. He has been with me for 22 years. He is guitar playing and banjo playing fool. If there is anything I want done he does it. If he quit the band I would quit the road. I have told him that. (Laughs)

How did you decide to do a live record at this time? Believe it or not, it’s a surprise. Okay, I originally intended to record "Father Time and Gravity" Page 22

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February 2021


Songbirds Come in All Colors by Sasha Kay Dunavant Black Histor y Month presents a wonderful opportunity revisit our favorite African American Country Music Artists. Country Music may seem like a color-coded genre, but these three artists are a part of the history of Country Music itself. Deford Bailey The first African American Country Music star Deford Bailey, born in 1899, was the grandson of slaves. Learning to play the harmonica after contracting polio at age three gave Bailey an edge while playing what he called “black hillbilly music” with his family in Smith County, Tennessee. Bailey met Fred “Pop” Exum while getting bicycle parts at Exum’s store “Dad’s Parts.” Bailey began performing on Exum’s radio station WDAD. Bailey was soon invited to perform on WSM Barn Dance, later renamed “The Grand Ole Opry,” where on Dec. 10, 1927, he premiered his trademark number, "Pan American Blues." Billed as The Harmonica Wizard, Bailey began making regular radio appearances. An expansion of station wattage gave Bailey an advantage because more people were able to hear him play. In 1928 he recorded eight tracks in Nashville, which were released by RCA, Bluebird, Victor, RCA other record companies. His greatest recording is considered to be “John Henry,” released separately in both RCA's “race” and “hillbilly” series. Bailey became one of the greatest performers on the Grand Ole Opry to which he was an inducted member, playing there from 1927-1941. He toured with many famous country artists during his time on the Opry, often encountering problems caused by Jim Crowe laws that prevented Blacks from eating in restaurants and sleeping in motels frequented by whites. Bailey was fired by WSM in 1941 because of a licensing conflict with BMI-ASCAP, which prevented him from playing his best-known tunes on radio, ending his performance career. He spent the rest of his life shining shoes and renting out rooms in his home to make a living. He died in 1982 and was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Charly Pride Charles Frank Pride was born in 1938 in Sledge, Mississippi, and like others children of his time, was entertained by the music of radio. Being the son of sharecroppers, Pride wanted more for his family. Although he had a love for music, purchasing his first guitar at age 14, by age 16 he was a professional baseball player in the Negro American League as a pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox. He professionally played baseball

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until going to the Army. Upon his return, an injured arm affected his career in baseball as a pitcher. When he moved to Montana in 1960 for construction work, he was recruited to play semi- pro baseball for the East Helena Smelterites. The manager of the team aided Pride in getting a job at the local Asarco lead smelter, which offered 18 positions reserved for the players. He soon began singing at the opening of baseball games for an extra $10 and did area gigs with a band called the “Night Hawks.” Chet Atkins heard a demo tape of Pride’s, and in 1966 he released "The Snakes Crawl at Night,” which was not successful. However, despite having to overcome the lingering racism issues of the 1960s, his third single, "Just Between You and Me," reached No. 9 on the charts. Pride had eight hits – among them "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)," "(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again” and "I Can't Believe That You've Stopped Loving Me” – that concurrently reached No. 1 on the U.S. Country Hit Parade and Billboard Charts. Pride had 39 No. 1 hits and became RCA’s bestselling performer since Elvis. He was the second African American to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and later into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His career brought him an Academy of Country Music Pioneer award, three awards each from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music Awards and three Grammy Awards among others. Darius Rucker Hootie and The Blow Fish lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, Darius Rucker, a Charleston, S.C., native, made the successful switch from his Grammy-Award winning rock band to the Country Music world in 2008. He released his first country music album called,” Learn to Live.” He reached No. 1 on the Hot Country Song Charts with his single from the album, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” and No. 51 on the Billboard Country Music Charts. The artists had two more consecutive hit No. 1 Country singles, “It Won’t Be Long” and “Alright,” making him the first African American to reach the charts since Charley Pride in 1983. The artist made his first appearance on The Grand Ole Opry in July of 2008 and has since become the third Black Country Music artist inducted as a member in the Opry’s 90-year history. Rucker’s rendition of “Wagon Wheel” from his third album “True Believers” was No. 1 on the Country airplay charts in May 2013. In 2009 Rucker was the first African American to receive the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association. Only two black Americans have ever been recognized by the Association – Rucker and Pride.

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February 2021


In Memoriam Many of you have ask for this list to be printed. It was rather amazing and sad to look back on 2020 at each person. Many I knew personally and some I only knew by name. Our lives will forever be richer because these talented musicians. – Renae Johnson, Renae the Waitress David Olney, Jan 18 – age 71 A celebrated Nashville songwriter whose work was recorded by Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.

Helen Reddy, Sept. 29 – age 78 Singer, and songwriter who had a Pop-Country crossover hit with “Delta Dawn.”

Paul English, Feb 12 – age 87 Willie Nelson's longtime drummer.

Ray Pennington, Oct 7 – age 86 A country musician, songwriter and producer whose song "I'm A Ramblin' Man" became a chart topping hit for Waylon Jennings.

Kenny Rogers, March 20 – age 81 Known for his classics that included “The Gambler, “ Lucille” and “Islands in the Stream.” He sold more than 100 million albums Jan Howard, March 28 – age 91 Was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry. Besides her own solo career she charted songs with Bill Anderson including “For Loving You.” Joe Diffie, March 29 – age 61 Grammy-winner country singer with hits that included “Pickup Man” and John Deere Green.” Alex Harvey, April 4 – age 79 Tennessee songwriter who crafted signature Tanya Tucker song "Delta Dawn." John Prine, April 7 – age 73 Songwriter whose songs were timeless earning him a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Songwriter Hall of Fame. Harold Reid, April 24 age 80 Bass singer and comedic voice in country group the Statler Brothers. Cady Groves, May 2 – age 30 A former major label pop singer-songwriter who relocated to Nashville to write and release country songs. Little Richard, May 9th – age 87 Flamboyant Rock and Roll singer who was the first inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by influencing a whole generations with his music. Jimmy Capps, June 1st -age 81 A beloved Opry guitarist and Musicians Hall of Fame member. He was a cast member of the TV Show “Larry’s Country Diner.” Justin Townes Earle, Aug 20 – age 38 Award-wining American singer-songwriter and son to country-rocker Steve Earle. Mac Davis, Sept. 29 – age 78 Singer, songwriter and actor hosted a NBC variety show program in the 70’s, “The Mac Davis Show.”

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Jerry Jeff Walker, Oct 23 – age 78 Known for writing his huge hit “Mr. Bojangles” which has been recorded by multiple artists. J.T. Corenflos, Oct 24 – age 56 Session guitarist who recorded with Eric Church, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and more Charlie Daniels, Oct. 28 – age 81 Instrumentalist, singer and songwriter. He topped the charts with his smash hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and was a fixture of the touring circuit for 40 years in Southern Rock, Bluegrass and Country. Billy Joe Shaver, Oct 28 – age 81 A masterful songwriter with a legacy that includes songs recorded by Kristofferson, Bobby Bare, Tom T. Hall and more. Doug Supernaw, Nov 13 – age 60 Country singer known for 1993 single "I Don't Call Him Daddy." Hal Ketchum, Nov 23 – age 67 Grand Ole Opry member know best for his 1990s hit “Small Town Saturday Night.” Aaron Wilburn, Nov 27 – age 70 Christian singer/songwriter who first gained national attention as a member of the The Happy Goodman Family. He was a regular on the Gaither Homecoming series. Charley Pride, Dec 12 – age 86 The first Black superstar in country music. “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” showcased his beautiful rich baritone voice along with a list of other hit songs. K. T. Oslin, Dec. 21 age 78 She was a groundbreaking country artist who rose to fame with “80s Ladies” and receiving three Grammy Awards. She was also in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Tony Rice, Dec. 25, age 69 Bluegrass traditionalist, acoustic guitarist and vocalist who was a mentor and inspiration to many bluegrass legends.

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February 2021


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