Country Reunion Magazine, December 2023

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Country Reunion December 2023

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Amy Grant Brenda Lee Home Free Keith Whitley Barbara Mandrell Lynn Anderson Music R Wally Fowler Sissy Spacek Barn Dance

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Southern Cooking Recipes


Country Reunion Magazine

Who’s inside? Published monthly by

Tender Tennessee Christmas, p. 4-5 Rocking Around the Christmas Tree, p. 6-7

Country Road Management

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, p. 8-9

710 N. Main St., Suite B Columbia, TN 38401

The Christmas Letter, p. 10 WLS Barn Dance, p. 11-12

Larry Black, Publisher Paula Underwood Winters, Editor, Print Layout

Music Row’s Beginning, p. 13-14

Claudia Johnson, Writer, Online Layout/Design

Southern Cooking, p. 15 Spacek & Mandrell, p. 16-17

Final Issue, December 2023

Wally Fowler, p. 18 Lynn Anderson, p. 19 Letter from Larry Black, p. 20

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Christmas Music is the Soundtrack of Our Holiday Memories by Sasha Dunavant It’s that time of year again, the time of year that the decorations go up and the family comes out. It is the time of year that we look forward to all year long, no matter our age. It’s the time of year that gives us hope for the year to come. Music is our favorite part of Christmas, and it began touching our lives decades ago. While some Country Music Hall of Famers record single Christmas songs for the holiday season, some wish to make your season bright with chart-topping albums that are so unforgettable, we absolutely cannot have Christmas without them. Let’s take a look back at some of country’s most memorable Christmas albums. Elvis’ Christmas Album, the bestselling Christmas album of all time, first hit the racks in October 1957 and has been released four subsequent times. It topped the Billboard Charts for a solid four weeks. The latest stats show that 13 million copies have been shipped in the United States alone. Fans retain tremendous love for the “King,” to this day, and even recording artists of all genres say the album is one of their personal holiday “must haves.” We couldn’t agree more. Five years after Elvis Christmas Album had its debut, country music legendary artist Johnny Cash introduced The Christmas Spirit, which had taken Cash three years to complete. Cash performed vocals and wrote four songs himself, while eight others were already holiday favorites. June Carter Cash co-wrote the tune entitled, “Christmas as I Knew It” along with Grand Ole Opry Star, Jan Howard. The album included what has become a Christmas classic, “The Little Drummer Boy,” which topped both pop and country charts. Cash also recorded “Silent Night,” previously recorded by Presley, his former label mate at Sun Record. The Christmas Spirit album made it to No. 7 on Bi!board Holiday Album Chart for 1963. The success of The Christmas Spirit album inspired Cash to release three more holiday collections, with one released each decade from the ‘60s through the ‘90s. In a career spanning 1954-2003, Cash, his wife and other members of their musical family touched generations. It is inevitable that Cash’s The Christmas Spirit dwells in our hearts at Christmas time.

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Two beloved Country music stars, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Pardon, joined voices to create 1984’s Once Upon a Christmas, accompanied by a popular television special called, “A Christmas To Remember.” In 1989 Once Upon a Christmas was named a Double Platinum album by the Re c o r d i n g In d u s t r y Association of America. Pardon recorded a second Christmas album comprised mainly of traditional Christmas songs entitled Home for Christmas in 1990. It, too, was accompanied by a television special and gained a Gold accreditation. Rogers went on to record six Christmas albums. The most recent release is 2015’s Once Again It’s Christmas. The album entertains its audience through its alliance with up and coming music sensations, such as Home Free and Winfield’s Locket. Platinum songwriter and pianist Jim Brickman is featured along with treasured country music artists Allison Kraus and Jennifer Nettles. “I can’t tell you how much fun it was recording a Christmas record again,” Rogers said, expressing his love for the yuletide. “I’m excited for people to hear it. I feel like this is a special group of songs — both old and new — and I was particularly lucky to be joined by many talented guest artists and musicians who each have something unique to say.” Country Music powerhouse Leann Rimes released her third holiday record, Today is Christmas, on Oct. 15, 2015. Rimes co-wrote two original songs for the album, including the title track “Today is Christmas” and “I Still Believe in Santa Claus.” “I wait for Christmas all year long – it’s my absolute favorite holiday,” Rimes said. “I can’t wait to share some of my new original Christmas songs as well as my favorite classics. I am looking forward to making more holiday memories with my fans this year.” Rimes, who had her first hit at the tender age of 13, begins her “Today is Christmas” tour on Dec. 4. These artists make our holiday seasons memorable. They take us back and move us forward. Whether it is on a television special, at a live performance or listening on the radio, their execution of holiday song is mesmerizing, and once we experience it, we cannot get enough. May your holiday be bright and your heart be light. This is the time of Country Christmas Music. Enjoy.

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The Only Place for Christmas recorded by the Countr y mega- star group, Alabama, in 1985. Over the next three decades it was covered by artists such as Lee Greenwood, Grant and Forsyth, Lindy Gravelle, Mike Stone, Chad and Fallon Graham and many others. “Tennessee Christmas” became Amy Grant’s opening track on her 2016 Christmas album entitled, “Tennessee Christmas.” The song was released as a single from the album and charted at No . 5 0 o n t h e B i l l b o a r d Ho t C h r i s t i a n Songs chart in December 2016. In December 2019 Country group Home Free picked Country artist Rachel Wammack to join them in singing an upbeat, contemporary version of “Tennessee Christmas.” “Tennessee Christmas” opens with a plea to the weather man to send a forecast of snowy white. In comparison to Denver’s snow being a foot deep, the writer of the song still chooses to have another “tender Tennessee Christmas” and declares that a Tennessee Christmas“ is the only Christmas for me.”

By Sasha Dunavant The songs associated with a Merry Christmas are in tune with our recollections of yuletides past and our hopes for warm holidays in the future. They authenticate the spirit and true purpose of the season. One of those songs is “Tennessee Christmas,” which Amy Grant and former husband Gary Chapman wrote in the summer of 1983 when they were newlyweds. “We were driving south on Hillsboro Road out of Nashville toward Franklin,” Grant said in an interview with theboot.com. “And I knew I was about to make a Christmas record. It was a full moon, and the way the moon was shining on the hills, it looked like snow. We just started singing, without an instrument, the ideas for ‘Tennessee Christmas.’ We actually wrote the entire song in the car on that drive.” “Tennessee Christmas” was first released on Amy Grant’s 1983 album, “A Christmas Album.” The song continued its success when it was Page 4

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Tinsel town is referred to in the first chorus “Christmas audiences are special,” explained along with getting a tan and enjoying a big parade. Grant. “They tend to involve the whole family, and Nevertheless, the writer can’t shake the warmth their emotions are a wonderful mix of anticipation and tenderness of Christmas in Tennessee. The and reverence. It’s a thrilling experience for both second verse makes a comparison yet again, saying, of us.” “Well they say in L.A. it’s a warm holiday, it’s the Grant’s career spans over 30 years and stretches only place to be.” from her roots in gospel into Yet continues to choose a her experience as an iconic Tennessee Christmas, “Where pop star, songwriter, television the love circles around us like personality and philanthropist. the gifts around our tree.” Upon Grant has sold more than 30 closing the writer proclaims “I million albums boasting one know there’s more snow up in five-time Platinum album, Colorado than my roof will ever another triple platinum, see, but a tender Tennessee Grammys in multiple Christmas is the only Christmas categories and 25 Gospel for me.” Mu s i c A s s o c i a t i o n D o v e Tennessee Christmas has Awards. been rerecorded by Amy Grant She also has six No. 1 hits – and current husband Vince Gill including “Baby, Baby” and twice more throughout the “Every Heartbeat” – and is one continuing life of the song. of only two Christian artists to The pair have become a be awarded a star on the m u s t- s e e a c t d u r i n g t h e legendary Walk of Fame in Click to Listen Nashville holiday season lineup Hollywood. with their show, “Amy Grant & The annual concer t series Vince Gill: Christmas at the Ryman,” where for featuring Gill and Grant has not been scheduled for many years they’ve kicked off the holidays with an 2020. However, a video of the couple performing evening of cherished standards as well as newer the now-classic “Tennessee Christmas” may be seasonal fare. viewed on YouTube. The beautiful cover photo of this issue is courtesy of Amy Grant on Instagram.

“Country’s Family Reunion” to Air Exclusively on Country Road TV “Country’s Family Reunion” will stop airing on RFD-TV the end of December. However, you can still watch more than 20 years of shows by subscribing to Country Road TV for only $9.99 a month. With your subscription you can watch all of the Country’s Family Reunion shows as well as 18 seasons of Larry’s Country Diner, Sma! Town Big Deal, Gearz, BamaQ, Nashvi!e Insider, Ralph Emery (audio interviews), Joey + Rory, Marty Robbins Spotlight and much more. Country Road TV is available on computers, smart TVs or any internet streaming device. If you are unsure whether you can access it, call Customer Service at 800-820-5405. They will be happy to help you determine if you can and how. You can also sign up for a free trial period.And if you like sports, you are also able to watch CFR’s Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Oklahoma Football Legends series as well as Stock Car Legends series. Call today, for more information or subscribe here. Page 5

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December 2020


Still Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree By Sasha Dunavant The catchy Christmas tune, “Rockin’ Around to the Top 10 to reach No. 3 on Bi!board’s the Christmas Tree,” was first released for Christmas Singles chart. Christmas 1958 after Brenda Lee recorded it on a "It was magic, and I think we all knew it,” Lee blazing, summer day. observed in a 2019 interview with the Nashville The diminutive Lee was already known for her Tennessean. “It took a few years to take off, but mature and powerful voice, which led her to a once it did, it really did." lengthy and acclaimed career in the music industry, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was but when she recorded the song in the Quonset chosen as part of the soundtrack for the 1964 Hut, the first music recording studio in the animated special “Rudolph the Red- Nosed historic Music Row district of Nashville, she Reindeer” and its 1979 sequel, “Rudolph and was just a child. Frosty’s Christmas in July.” “I was only…13 years Since then “Rockin Around old so that was a biggie to the Christmas Tree” has been me,” Lee recalled in a featured in films like “Home 2018 Billboard ar ticle Alone,” “Pluto’s Christmas about the day the song Tree” and “Mickey’s Christmas was recorded. “Everybody Carol.” was dressed Christmassy, Lee’s 1958 version of the song and the lights were low. gets plenty of airplay even We had a Christmas tree. today. The song has returned It was wonderful.” a l m o s t e v e r y y e a r to t h e Though it became a Billboard 100, and it even radio favorite on multiple peaked at No. 2 in 2019. charts, its decidedly “ Ro c k i n’ Around the Countr y sound was Christmas Tree” climbed the c r e a t e d b y Na s h v i l l e Un i t e d K i n g d o m c h a r t s , musicians Hank Garland peaking at No. 6 after just Listen Here and Harold Bradley on being released to the U.K. in Listen Here guitar, Boots Randolph on 1963. It also did well in the U.K. saxophone, Buddy Harman on drums, Floyd in 2013 due to digital downloads, and in 2017 it Cramer on piano and Bob Moore on bass guitar. climbed to No. 9. The song also charted in Austria, Written by Johnny Marks, who also wrote France, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Holly Canada, Australia, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Jolly Christmas,” the now-classic Christmas song Lithuania, Netherlands and many more countries did not hit the big time until it reached No. 14 on across the decades. the 1960 Bi!board Hot 100. In fact, it only sold Hundreds of artists from all musical genres 5,000 copies the first Christmas it was on the have performed the song live, and dozens have market, 1958, and did not do much better in 1959. covered it on their own albums. Some show the In December 1965 the song finally broke through diversity of the song’s lasting appeal. Page 10

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Hundreds of artists from all musical genres Click the videos below to watch di erent have performed the song live, and dozens have artists’ recording of the classic song.

rendition charted in Canada, America and the U.K. •Grammy-winning Countr y artist Kacey Musgraves paired with Cuban-born American singer-songwriter Camillo Cabello to release a Country version of the song in November 2019. It charted at No. 13 on the U.S. Bubbling Under Hot 100 singles (Bi!board) chart and came in at No. 20 on Bi!board’s U.S. Hot Country Songs. Despite its genre-bending history, this festive Country-rooted melody makes Christmas come alive. And to think it all started with a teenager recording it in the middle of the summer only to make the Christmas spirit continue to ring for the holiday season 63 years after the fact.

covered it on their own albums. Some show the diversity of the song’s lasting appeal. •Kim Wilde and Mel Smith, a parody sister act called Mel & Kim, recorded a version that climbed to No. 3 on UK singles chart in December 1987. Sale of the duo’s recording benefitted the Comic Relief fund. •Pop sensation Justin Bieber expressed his love for “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by teaming with Amazon Music to release an adult contemporar y version of the song for a promotional single in November 2020. His

Watch Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree | Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July Page 11

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December 2021


By Claudia Johnson Some novelty songs are popular for a while before just fading away. Then there are some that last decades. And love it or hate it, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” has endured. The zany story tells how Grandma staggers outside during a snowstorm, drunk of spiked eggnog and off her meds, and is found dead Christmas day having been trampled by Santa’s reindeers. Songwriter Randy Brooks told Reuters Media in a 2007 interview that the song has been both “my blessing and my albatross.” “It’s paid the college tuition for my two kids,” he said. Brooks explained that he had car trouble in Lake Tahoe during December 1978, and while he and his band were stuck in the resort town, he was invited onto the sta ge by Elmo and Patsy Shropshire, a Country and Bluegrass duo, who were headlining at a local club. Brooks played the song, and Elmo, a veterinarian, and competitive runner who is now 84, asked to record it. The following year, Elmo minted stacks of the tune under his own label on 45-rpm records with a

song called “Christmas” on the back, selling them at shows long before DJs starting spinning it on air. While the record did not chart originally, it began to make it into the charts several times during the ‘80s and ‘90s, having been listed in Billboard’s US Hot 100, US Hot Country Singles & Tracks and Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles. It was released in the United Kingdom in 1980 but did not chart, perhaps indicating that some kinds of humor just do not translate. During live performances Elmo would dress in dra g as Grandma, a role he reprised for a mid-1980s’ release of a music video in which Elmo also played Grandpa and his then-wife and duet partner, Patsy, portrayed Cousin Mel. The video ran on MTV for some 20 years during the holiday season, also airing regularly on other cable channels like VH1, CMT, TNN, GAC and VH1 Classic. It’s enjoyed today by a quick search on YouTube. In contrast to the original recording, Grandma returns at the end of the video and was not dead after all. Continued, p. 27.

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recorded his own topical parody titled "Osama Got Run Over by a Reindeer" on the 2002 White Trash Christmas album. Not everyone has found Brooks’ original song lovable, though in 2007 Elmo insisted during a Washington Post interview that it is "a beloved holiday favorite.” ”My royalties are four or five times what they were 20 years ago,” Elmo, who performs the song with his bluegrass group year-round, told the post. "A lot of younger people say it's not really Christmas until they hear it.” Elmo, who performs now as Dr. Elmo, recorded it solo in 1992 after he and Patsy divorced. He also released a sequel that year, "Grandpa's Gonna Sue the Pants Off of Santa,” which he wrote for his album, “Dr. Elmo's Twisted Christmas.” Other versions of the original by Dr. Elmo were released in 2000, 2002 and 2007. Time Life Records released “Dr. Elmo's Bluegrass Christmas in 2010,” which featured a bluegrass instrumental of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Dr. Elmo shared his advice for creating a successful Christmas song with Marin Magazine in 2014. “The “Grandma” song has Grandpa watching football, the eggnog, the goose, blue and silver candles — it has all the trappings of Christmas but with this bizarre twist,” he said. “So I think if you’re going to do a Christmas song, you have to keep the traditional in it and then look for something that throws people for a little bit of a loop.”

Elmo & Patsy

Grandma also survives the ordeal in the 2000 animated television program “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer ,“ which was narrated and voiced by Elmo himself and is usually aired on Cartoon Network and The CW as part of their Christmas programming. The song has been covered by numerous performers from across the last 40 years. Ray Stevens recorded it in 2016. Country a cappella band Home Free covered it on their 2014 Christmas album, “Full of Cheer.” The Irish Rovers made it a seasonal Canadian hit in 1982, first on country stations, then on Top 40 stations. It remains a seasonal holiday favorite still played on Canadian radio. Danish comedy band Linie 3 released a cover version of the song in 1984, with a slight change to the original lyrics and in Danish. Already absurd, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” has been easy to parody, with at least five wellknown parody releases including C l e d u s T. Ju d d ’s 1 9 9 6 s e q u e l "Grandpa Got Run Over by a John Deere.” "Grandpa Got Run Over by a John Deere.” Radio personality Bob Rivers Page 26

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“Christmas Letter” Holds Timeless Message By Sasha Dunavant

Keith Whitley’s Christmas song, “The Christmas Letter,” is as timely this Christmas as when it was first released in 1985. “The Christmas Letter” is a subtle and gentle anthem for peace and hope. The first verse of the “The Christmas Letter” begins with an old man sitting at an antique desk. The lyrics inform that “it’s almost Christmas Eve and it’s almost time to go.” Before the old man makes way toward his venture, he reads back the letter he had written not long before. The most valuable message of the song is what the old man’s letter states throughout its chorus, which is, “I want peace on Earth for Christmas. In a world where there’s not one hungry child. A day when hope and faith conquers fear and hate. All that’s gonna take is a little more love.” The second verse reveals the identity of the old man when it states that “he walks outside and climbs up on his sleigh. Then, he calls out to his reindeer and off they fly away” to “make a million dreams appear,” concluding with “while he wishes all dreams could come true this year.” Written by John Greenebaum, Gene Nelson and Paul Nelson, Whitley’s recording was featured alongside popular Christmas songs by artists such as Dolly Parton, Charley Pride and Eddy Raven on the 1985 holiday album, “A Country Christmas Volume 4.” Since Whitley’s sudden death in 1989, the song has been named No. 40 on the list of the Top 50 Country Christmas Songs. It has been covered by Reba McEntire, Patty Weaver and others. Through the song’s steady, easy flow, Whitley demonstrated his talent by playing both piano and guitar. He delivered the meaningful lyrics with vocals that were at the same time both humble and strong. The singersongwriter seems to be offering a true reflection of his very own heart. Whitley closes out the song by repeating part of the chorus to remind listeners that the true meaning of Page December 2022love.” countryreunionmagazine.com Christmas is “a14day when hope and faith conquers fear and hate, all that’s gonna take is a little more 10


“Barn Dance” Show Took Country Nationwide by Sasha Dunavant

One of the first Country music radio programs, “National Barn Dance,” had its broadcast premiere on Saturday, April 19, 1924, and continued to entertain listeners of Chicago’s WLS across five decades. It is credited with launching national superstars such as Gene Autry, Patsy Montana, Bradley Kincaid, Andy Williams, The DeZurik Sisters, George Gobel, Pat Buttram and Lulu Belle & Scotty. The show was founded by Edgar L. Bill, who was at the time the manager of the powerful 50,000-watt WLS station owned by Sears Roebuck & Company, which had signed onto the air only days before. "We had so much highbrow music the first week that we thought it would be a good idea to get on some of the old time music,” Bill said. Bill was from a farm and was confident that he knew what kind of “down home tunes” rural people enjoyed. Bil l’s intuition wa s right, and an outpouring of support from listeners made the show with its country, western and folk music and humor an early success. Sears-Roebuck management was aghast by this "disgraceful low-brow music" that was being broadcast on their new station. According to WLS’s August 2020

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website, which tells the history of one of radio's longest running programs, when Bill and Agricultural Director Samuel Guard were confronted by the angry executives, they pointed to the audience’s overwhelming approval. The show targeted Midwest, Appalachians, Ozark, Great Plains and Southern families – those still living in rural areas as well as those who had relocated to the cities and were nostalgic about their rural roots.. In November 1925 WLS claimed to be the first station to build a studio/theater for lives audiences when it moved to larger quarters in the Sherman Hotel in downtown Chicago. The theatre was designed to hold 100 people as well as technical and control room facilities. Both the station and the show grew, and so did requests for tickets to the live tapings, meaning the Sherman Hotel was far too small to accommodate fans who were waiting as long as seven months to get tickets. When Prairie Farmer Magazine purchased WLS in 1928, the Barn Dance was moved to the company’s headquarters on Chicago’s Washington Street. WLS officials determined that a move to a much larger venue was necessary, understanding that they would have to charge admission to tapings to break even. In 1931 the show made its final move to the Eighth Street Theatre. Listeners showed up by the thousands to fill the 1,200 seat theatre twice every Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. WLS’s research data indicate that three million people attended the “Barn Dance” performances at the Eighth Street Theatre during its 26 year run there. In addition to airing locally on WLS's 50,000 watt signal, “Barn Dance” was picked up for regional airing on NBC's Blue Network in 1932. 10


popular WLS stars like Pat Buttram, the Hoosier Hotshots, The Dinning Sisters, Jo e Ke l l y, A r k i e t h e A r k a n s a s Woodchopper and Lulu Belle and Scotty. Paramount Pictures reportedly paid WLS $75,000 for the rights to use the “Barn Dance” as part of the plot. The screenplay was about a Chicago advertising promoter who wants to put together a radio program featuring "hillbilly performers." He discovers a “barn dance” gang merrily dancing in a barn on Saturday nights in rural southern Illinois. After some prodding, he gets the troupe to travel to Chicago to appear on a radio show sponsored by Garvey Soup. After several slip ups and mishaps the Haylofters, as the troupe is called, finally perform on WLS Radio. Following WWII the show switched to ABC Radio Network, airing from 6:30 p.m. until midnight each Saturday from 1946-52. ABC-TV began televising “National Barn Dance” in 1949, which by then featured nearly 100 performers per show. Hosted by Jack Stillwell and Hal O'Halloran, the 30-minute musical variety format presented a mix of folk music with country and Western tunes. Historians blame ABC for the demise of “National Barn Dance.” When ABC cancelled the network radio broadcast in 1952 the audiences began to wane, so live performances at the Eighth Street Theater were halted after 1957 The show continued airing on WLS radio until 1959 when the format changed to rock and roll and “Barn Dance” was eliminated altogether. The program moved to Chicago’s WGN and finally left the air in 1968. A documentary narrated by Garrison Keillor containing historic footage and recordings called “The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance” is a vailable to watch at no charge on vimeopro.com. o

By 1933 more than 30 stations across the United States were carrying the 10 p.m. show, which was sponsored by Miles Laboratories, makers of Alka Seltzer. NBC expanded the program's coverage in 1942, adding it to the schedules of international shortwave stations. During World War II “Barn Dance” took the show on the road to fairs around the Midwest. Thousands of listeners who had never been to Chicago would pour into the fairgrounds to catch a glimpse of the stars they had begun to see as friends. In some locations the price of admission was simply rubber or scrap metal to help the war effort. Paramount Pictures produced a 1944 movie about “Barn Dance” featuring several of the most

This article is part of the Radio & Records, A Star-Making Combination monthly CFR NEWS series. August 2020

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Memories of Music Row Welcome back to my Memories of Music Row as I share stories and day-to-day happenings through my personal interviews with the “architects of music row” – record producers, songwriters, artists, studio musicians and recording engineers. by Areeda Schneider Stampley

The Beginning of Music Row As I pondered this topic, I was awed by the which aired on the Mutual Broadcasting Network in creativity that flowed through the recording studios the 1940s. Brown Radio Productions studio was in this quaint neighborhood of 16th & 17th Avenue. located downtown Nashville and, interestingly, it was In the early 1950s, beautiful 2-story homes in this upstairs just over Andrew Jackson’s original law once-affluent neighborhood were falling into offices at the northeast corner of 4th & Union.” disrepair due to the encroachment of downtown He continued, “I started working for WSM radio Nashville. Record labels such as Columbia, RCA and around 1950, engineering their radio shows during Decca were scooping up and converting them to the day, and moonlighting at Castle Studios, where offices/recording studios. Record producers and so many of the early hit records were being recorded r e co r d i n g e n g i n e e r s we r e t h e – all of Red Foley’s stuff, Ernest Tubb, masters creating this movement Webb Pierce, Hank Williams, all of that would turn Nashville into a those old Countr y records. Castle world-renowned Music City USA. recorded nearly half of the hits that were WSM radio went on the air on Country radio and some on the pop October 5, 1925 and, two months charts between mid-1940s and 1955.” later, began airing what would be its I asked about Hank Williams, and he most famous show, the Grand Ole replied, “Now Hank, he was a very Opry. unusual man. I shied away from him. He To keep these country artists used to come in, and it was well known from heading to New York or other that he carried a little pearl-handled cities to record, three WSM sound pistol with him, so I stayed out of his engineers decided to build a way, just observing. Audrey came in a lot recording facility in WSM Studios. with him, and I used to be the recipient Due to space not being large enough of many great arguments between them, for the lathe to cut the vinyl, they usually regarding whether she would get Hank Williams soon set up their newly-named to sing or not.” Castle Studios in the old historic In Early 1947 Hank recorded “Honky Tulane Hotel. Tonkin’” at Castle, which got him a record deal with I had the honor of interviewing one of the MGM Records. On Dec. 22, 1948, he recorded original premiere recording engineers in Nashville’s “Lovesick Blues,” and it became a 16-week No.1 hit music industry – Glenn Snoddy. crossing over to the pop Top 25 and winning an Mr. Snoddy enjoyed recalling those early days as invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. he shared, “In the late 1940s, I engineered with Hank performed it for his Opry debut on June 11, Brown Radio Productions’ show “Sunday Down 1949, and created a sensation playing six encores to South” that aired on WSM Radio and used big bands thunderous applause. His career would skyrocket headed up by Francis Craig, Beasley Smith or Owen and turn him to superstardom. Bradley. We also produced the “Eddy Arnold Show,” August 2020 6 13


In late 1950s, Mr. Snoddy became chief I told studio manager Harold Hitt we’ll just engineer at Bradley’s Quonset Hut Studio, where have to make one,” he explains. “So I got together he created one of the first stereo recording some transistors, and put a little circuit together consoles in Nashville, and mixed Johnny Cash’s that would produce this sound. I got WSM “Ring of Fire” (1963). He hired a janitor/fledging engineer Revis Hobbs to help me with it. songwriter named Kris We put this thing together, Kristofferson. packaged it and I took it to I a s ke d h i m a b o u t t h e Chicago and presented it to famous Fuzz Tone., and here’s Gibson. Gibson bought it and his story. gave me a royalty on it for 7 “I’ll tell you about that.” Mr. years. I didn’t get rich off of Snoddy said. “It was on the that, but it was income. I think Marty Robbins “Don’t Worry it was two percent of the sales ‘Bout Me” session. The tube price. console I mentioned that we I just took a royalty. They shipped down from New York produced and marketed it, and had backup tubes and it was called the Fuzz Tone. I amplifiers. gave Harold Bradley the original One of these amplifiers went one. o u t a n d , t e c h n i c a l l y, t h e It hit top of the charts in transformer opened up. country and pop. The Fuzz Tone It so happened that Grady became a much-sought-after Ma r t i n’s g u i t a r w a s g o i n g sound by rock/pop artists as well Glenn Snoddy & Owen Bradley, through this particular channel as Country.” o Quonset Hut in the console, and when this malfunction occurred in the amplifier, it produced a buzzing sound. They recognized this as being something they hadn’t heard before and elected to keep it in, and so the record came out. It was a hit record! It had this sound on it that nobody knew what it was, and people were calling in. Disc jockeys were calling Owen to find out what that sound was. Some at radio stations were running contests on what produced this sound, and so it was recognized as a hit record. One day we attempted to replicate it, and it wouldn’t work. The amplifier just quit working. Somebody (I believe, Tommy Sands) came in to do a session, wanted that sound and we couldn’t give it to him. He accused us of keeping it for our own artists.”

Areeda Schneider Stampley is a writer, longtime employee of CBS Records and lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with husband country music legend Joe Stampley. Contact her at areedaschneider@bellsouth.net

Marty Robbins wrote and recorded “Don’t Worry” in 1961. A classic Marty Robbins performance!! 14

August 2020

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Areeda’s southern cooking by Areeda Schneider Stampley

Cranberry Orange Walnut Tea Bread Delicious for breakfast or day’s end with co!ee!

3 c. plain flour 1 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. baking soda 3 tsp. baking powder 1/2 c. butter, melted 1 1/2 c. sugar 2 large eggs 3/4 c. water 1/2 c. orange juice 1 tsp. grated orange rind 1 c. chopped nuts 1 1/2 c. cranberries, chopped Optional: Make small mixture of sugar, melted butter and crushed graham crackers to sprinkle on top. Sift together flour, salt, soda and baking powder. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Combine water, orange juice and rind and add alternately with sifted dry ingredients. Fold in nuts and cranberries. Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake 1 hour in a 350° oven. Turn out onto rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. To purchase Areeda’s Southern Cooking, a co"ection 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. Page 17

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January 2022


Spacek & Mandrell Born on Christmas 10 Years Ago this Month

Palma’s teen horror classic “Carrie” (1976) on which Fisk worked as art director on the film. Spacek played an emotionally disturbed, telekinetically gifted teenage girl with a fanatically religious mother played by Piper Laurie. As a real-life prom queen Spacek struck a heartwrenching, terrifying chord with critics and audiences alike, earning her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and instant cult status. After beginning to prove her versatility as an actress in such films as Robert Altman’s “Three Women” (1977), costarring Shelley Duvall and Janice Rule, and “Heart Beat” (1979), costarring Nick Nolte, Sissy showcased her con- siderable gifts in the 1980 biopic “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” about country singer Loretta Lynn. In addition to portraying Lynn from age 13 to her forties, Spacek insisted on singing al l of Lynn’s songs herself, instead of lipsynching. The performance earned her universal critical praise, including the Academy Award for Best Actress. On the heels of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Spacek turned away from high profile projects to star in her husband’s directorial debut, “Raggedy Man” (1981), playing a divorced mother who has a dangerous relationship with a sailor, played by Eric Roberts. Both Spacek and her husband then took a lengthy break from filmmaking, retreating to their Virginia farm, Beau Val, to spend time with their two daughters, Schuyler, now an actress who appeared in the 2002 comedy “Orange County,” and Madison. While there’s been no shortage of Spacek onscreen in recent years, the 62- year-old star has a more literary goal in mind these days. Co-written with friend Maryanne Vollers, “My Extraordinary Ordinary Life” traces Spacek’s Texas childhood to her experiences working with Terrence Malick, Brian DePalma and David Lynch to the challenges of finding juicy roles as an actress over 50.

Happy Christmas Birthday

Country Reunion News turned 10 in 2022. We’ve been running articles from 2012 all year and will continue to revisit some of our favorites from a decade ago each month going forward. This month we look back at two country favorites, both born on Christmas.

Sissy Spacek &

Barbara Mandrell

Born Mary Elizabeth Spacek, on Dec. 25, 1949 in Quitman, Texas. Nicknamed “Sissy” by her two older brothers, she was a vivacious little girl, making her first stage appearance at age six, singing and dancing in a local tal- ent show. After attending Quitman High School, where she was crowned homecoming queen, Spacek moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of a singing career in 1967, at the age of 17. In New York, she lived with her cousin, the actor Rip Torn (Spacek’s father was Torn’s uncle) and his wife, the actress Geraldine Page. In 1968, using the name “Rainbo,” she recorded a single, “John, You’ve Gone Too Far This Time,” t e a s i n g Jo h n L e n n o n f o r appearing nude on an album cover with his wife, Yoko Ono. Sales of her music sputtered, however, and “Rainbo” was dropped from her record label. Spacek subsequently decided to switch her focus to acting, enrolling at the famed Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. After appearing as an extra in “Trash” (1970), a film produced at Andy Warhol’s factory, she made her bona fide film debut as a teenager abducted by a white slavery ring in the Lee Marvin thriller, “Prime Cut” (1972). Spacek played another troubled adolescent character in 1973’s “Badlands,” attracting attention for her role as the girlfriend of a serial killer played by Martin Sheen. It was while working on the film that Spacek met her future husband, the production designer Jack Fisk. The couple married in 1974, and Fisk helped Spacek land her breakthrough role in Brian De Page 22

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December 2022


Barbara Mandrell was born Dec. 25, 1948, in Houston, Texas, into a very religious Christian family to parents Irby and Mar y Mandrell. Mandrell showed musical promise from a very early age. By the time she was nine years old, she was already proficient in the accordion and steel-pedal guitar. Right from the start, she had an affinity for the stage. “When I was a little girl in Texas, no more than four or five, I used to pretend I was Loretta Young,” Mandrell said. “Remember the way Loretta Young made her entrance on the television show, so graceful and glamorous and controlled? I would make poor Aunt Thelma sit and watch me do my big entrance. I’d find one of Momma’s dresses and I’d put on a show and sing. And Aunt Thelma would sit patiently through it.” Mandrell’s father, Irby, was her biggest fan and musical mentor. He later became her manager as well and helped her get her first jobs, but she recalled that he was never demanding, only encouraging and loving. “Some people call him a stage father ... He wasn’t a stage father. He was a father who raised his children to succeed. Our business just happened to be music.” In 1960 at age 11 Mandrell was discovered by Joe Maphis and became part of his show in Las Vegas. Mandrell was so good on the steel guitar that her gig in Vegas led to an invitation-at age 12-to tour with Johnny Cash, where she met Patsy Cline and other musical greats of the era, all of whom were incredibly impressed by her talent and her pluck at such a young age. “When we started to play instruments, Daddy said, ‘Don’t ever let anybody say ‘You pick good for a girl.’ As far as I knew, there was only one woman in country music who played steel guitar, Marion Hall, and the saxophone always had a reputation as a kind of man’s instrument, but those were the two instruments I played when I went to Las Vegas at the age of eleven,” Mandrell said. “Later I picked up the Dobro and the banjo, two other instruments very few women played.” Page 23

After the tour, Irby formed the Mandrell Family Band, which featured Mandrell on pedal steel and saxophone. Her two sisters, Irlene and Louise, sang backup, with Irby on guitar and lead vocals and mother Mary Ellen on bass. Mandrell soon fell hard for Ken Dudney, the drummer of the band, but he was 21 and she was fourteen, which created quite a scandal. Her parents separated the young couple and prohibited them from even seeing one another; Mandrell was not able to see Dudney again until many years later, when he returned from fighting in Vietnam. With the love of her life fighting overseas, Mandrell put all of her attention and effort into the band. As an 18-year-old, she released her first single, “Queen for a Day,” in 1966. A year later, she married Ken Dudney and briefly retired from music to become a housewife, but Mandrell missed performing and returned to music in 1969, signing with Columbia Records and charting for the first time with a cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” In 1970, Mandrell released “Playin’ Around With Love” and also gave birth to her first child, Kenneth Matthew. In 1976, she gave birth to a daughter, Jamie Nicole, and in 1978 she scored her first No. 1 hit, “Sleeping Single in A Double Bed.” In 1984 she was involved in a serious head-on car collision. She barely survived, suffering multiple fractures, lacerations, and memory loss. While taking time off to recuperate, she found out she was pregnant with her third child, Nathaniel Mandrell Dudney, born in 1985. Today Mandrell continues to spend her time with family and friends and has slowly recovered from her intense fear of driving to live a normal life. “I am much more aware and defensive than I used to be,” she said. “It’s true. Everybody is out to get you. They don’t know those are lethal weapons, those automobiles ... But I kept going. Now I come home in rush hour, and I’m fine. I’ve got my independence again. No telling what I’ll do next.”

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December 2022


Original Oak Ridge Boy was Accomplished Songwriter by Sasha Kay Dunavant

One of the original members of the group that would become the Oak Ridge Boys, John Wallace “Wally” Fowler, made the transition from florist to singer in 1936, when at age 19, he joined a harmony quartet and began writing music. While singing vocals for the John Daniel Quartet, the Adairsville, Georgia, native moved to Lubbock, Texas, when the group relocated. He continued writing songs, and in 1940 his composition, “I’m Sending You Red Roses,” became a hit for Jimmy Wakely. Fowler moved to Nashville, Tennessee, with The John Daniel Quartet and began performing on WSM radio station and the Grand Ole Opry. When Fowler decided to pursue a career apart from the John Daniel Quartet, he formed Wally Fowler and the Georgia Clodhoppers with Chet Atkins as the new band’s lead guitarist. The group played regularly on a show called “Midday Merry Go Round” on WNOX-AM in Knoxville, Tennessee. From 1946- 1950 Fowler appeared on the “Prince Albert Show” on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1948, he performed in and became involved with the production of all-night gospel singings. He developed a particular format for these shows that became popular in Southern Gospel music and was used throughout the South for two decades. Fo w l e r f o r m e d a h a r m o n y q u a r te t t h a t performed weekly concerts for children near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the town where the atomic bomb Page 20

was secretly developed during World War II. It was only natural that the quartet be named “The Oak Ridge Boys.” The members of the group were Fowler, Curly Kinsey, Johnny New and Lon “Deacon” Freeman. Fowler left the Oak Ridge Boys in 1952. The Oak Ridge Boys eventually became hugely successful in the Country music world as well as remaining active in Gospel music. In the 1950s, Fowler began hosting a syndicate television show called, “The Wally Fowler Show.” The show featured performers such as, The Statemen, The Speers, Wendy Bagwell and the Sunliters and other artists. Fowler continued to promote gospel music and variety shows in North Carolina. He had a semipopular gospel hit song in 1984 with the Tennessee Valley Boys called “Lo’ and Behold.” Fowler was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1988. Fowler wrote numerous songs, including five Country hits, such as “That’s How Much I Love You” and “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True,” with legend Eddy Arnold. His song entitled “Wasted Years” is a standard in the Gospel music arena having been recorded by more than 50 entertainers. Singer, songwriter, host and promoter, Fowler, who was born Feb. 15, 1917, drowned at age 77 at Tennessee’s Dale Hollow Lake, when he suffered a heart attack while fishing on June 3, 1994. He was survived by his widow, Judy Moss Fowler, and his daughters, Faith and Hope. Fowler was known throughout the Gospel music world as “The Man with a Million Friends” and “Mr. Gospel Music.” Watch “TheWatch Wallythe Fowler show Show” here! here.

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August 2021


Where the Stars are Buried by Renae Johnson, Renae the Waitress

Lynn Anderson, Woodlawn Mausoleum, 660 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN 37204 Lynn Anderson died of a heart attack Thursday night, July 30, 2015, at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She was 67 and had been hospitalized for pneumonia following a trip to Italy. Life and Career Lynn Rene Anderson was born Sept. 26, 1947, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and raised in California. Her parents were country music songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson, so it was no surprise that their daughter became interested in music at an early age. She also loved horses and won a total of 700 horse show trophies and awards including the “California Horse Show Queen” title in 1966. She captured 16 national championships and four world championships. In 1996 her musical career took off. She signed her first recording deal under Slim Whitman’s record label after a trip to Nashville. She had her first major hit single “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)” the following year with other songs hitting the charts. In 1967 Anderson became a regular performer on “The Lawrence Welk Show” and toured with the Welk Road Show. She landed a new record contract with Columbia Records in 1970. Anderson charted three #1 and 15 Top-20 albums, as well as 12 #1 and over 50 Top-40 singles throughout her career. She earned Bi!board ’s “Artist of the Decade” performer award and was the first female country artists to sell out Madison Square Ga r d e n i n 1 9 74 . He r s i g n a t u r e s i n g l e , “ Ro s e Garden” and other hits like “Ride, Ride, Ride,” “Rocky Top” and “Top of the World” spring boarded Anderson into a career with more than 30 million albums sold. She won such awards as Grammy, ACM, CMA, AMA and People’s Choice. She made frequent appearances on many television shows and hosted her own television special in 1977 with guest star Tina Turner. Her charitable work raised millions for a variety of organizations that support cancer, autism, militar y, animal rescues and handicapped citizens.

Page 14

In 2015, Anderson released a new country gospel album, “Bridges.” The album featured a gospel version of the Mentor Williams’ penned hit “Drift Away,” with new lyrics by the writer. The album was released on June 9, 2015. Celebration of Life Anderson’s funeral was Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 at Woodlawn Dignity Hall at 11a.m. in Nashville with standing room only. Brenda Lee addressed the friends, family and loved ones that attended. Her son, Gray Stream, spoke for the family and gave insight to the beautiful mother and grandmother she was. Even though she had won Grammy’s throughout her career, “Grammy” was the hip name chosen by the grandchildren in honor of their grandmother and meant the most. The brother of her longtime partner Mentor Williams, songwriting great Paul Williams considered himself Anderson’s “brother out-law.” He noted that he and Anderson "wrestled some of the same bears." “Amazing Grace” was performed by Gary Morris and “Drift Away” (Gospel Version) ended the service with everyone joining in which included country stars Duane Allen and Richard Sturban of the Oak Ridge Boys, Jan Howard, Connie Smith, Johnny Counterfit, and Rex Allen Jr. Click here for Anderson’s Find a Grave Listing.

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April 2021


Dear Subscribers of Country Reunion News and Country Reunion Magazine, I hope this letter

nds you well. Your support for Country Reunion News and Country

Reunion Magazine has meant the world to me, and I want to express my gratitude for being a part of our Country’s Family Reunion and Larry’s Country Diner community. For many years, we have been able to share a love for country music and its rich heritage through our newspaper and magazine, lled with original stories. I have been honored to have you by our side, as your enthusiasm and passion have fueled our dedication to preserving the legacy of country music. Now, as we stand at a crossroads, I must share some important news with you. It is with a sad heart that I must announce the ending of publication for both Country Reunion News and Country Reunion Magazine, e ective as of Jan. 1, 2024. I understand that some of you may have subscriptions extending beyond this date, and I want to ensure that you are not left without a token of our appreciation. In the rst few months of 2024, please be on the lookout for a special gift from me, which is a double-disc DVD set featuring some of my all-time favorite "Country's Family Reunion" DVD specials. I hope that this gift will bring you joy and serve as a small token of our appreciation for your loyal readership throughout the years. While we may no longer be producing new magazines or television shows, I want to encourage you to continue enjoying our legacy content. You can still relish the nostalgia of "Larry's Country Diner" and "Country's Family Reunion" shows on Country Road TV and other channels available online, on your smartphones, computers and tablets. The spirit of our videos, music and ma gazines lives on at countr yreunion.com and LarrysCountryDiner.com where you can explore many years' worth of original performances, stories and articles. And don’t forget, you can access hundreds of video performances from our shows for free on YouTube and Facebook. And, we are currently putting all of the great music recorded these past 25 years on all listening platforms available online. Just search for “Country’s Family Reunion” or “Larry’s Country Diner” to access more than 3,000 songs from our shows. Once again, I want to extend my thanks for being a part of our country music family. Your support has made this journey unforgettable, and I hope that the memories and music we've shared together will continue to bring a smile to your face. Though our magazines have come to an end, the love for country music endures, and I am grateful to have shared this passion with you. Warm regards and Merry Christmas,

Larry Black ff

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Founder and Owner, Country Reunion News and Country Reunion Magazine


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December 2022



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