When comparing and contrasting the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, you couldn’t find two more differing ideologies on how to run a hall of fame institution. For the Country Music Hall of Fame, it is a “quality, not quantity” approach. Inducting only three new members each year under the current system, a Country Hall of Fame induction is one of the industry’s most difficult distinctions to land, leaving no question about the air of prestige and the value artists feel when they’re bestowed with the honor. The idea is that you can always induct an artist in the future, but you never get a do over once an artist is inducted. Arguments can rage all day on who deserves to be in that isn’t, but rarely do you look at a Country Hall of Fame inductee as undeserving.
With the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s a “throw the barn door wide and take all comers” type of approach, inducting anywhere from seven to ten artists per year, including artists from the pop world like Madonna, and rap artists like Run DMC. The Rock Hall of Fame also allows fans to have a vote in the induction process, which is always a risky proposition. And despite their more open policy, the Rock Hall of Fame still fields the same criticisms the Country Hall of Fame does for the list of artists worthy of induction who for one reason or another are not in.
Because of these factors and many others, the Country Music Hall of Fame feels hallowed, and has held on to its credibility over the years as a distinguished institution in both country music and the Nashville community, while the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame feels hollow and haphazard in how it handles its induction process, from the curious to embarrassing members and glaring omissions. Artists refusing induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame like The Sex Pistols and Axl Rose also speak to the credibility problem of the institution, though it still has a very worthy museum space and archive of music history that can’t be diminished regardless of whose plaque makes it into the rotunda. But for the induction to carry great meaning, great care must be taken in selecting inductees like the cautious approach the Country Hall of Fame has characterized over the years.
But where the Country Music Hall of Fame is losing out to its rock and roll counterpart is in the buzz each year’s inductions create. And it’s not even close. Granted, some of the controversy over candidates and inductees is the impetus behind the Rock Hall buzz, but whether it is the announcement of nominees, the announcement of the eventual winners, or the induction concert, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame talk is a favorite of water coolers and work places, local and national talk shows, and bars and music venues all across the country. Even talk of the rules and regulations of the process is robust pop culture theater every year, and it all combines to become one big word of mouth advertising campaign that is invaluable to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s health. Who got in? Who got snubbed? What bands are mashing up with other famous artists for the induction concert? Everybody seems to have an opinion or insight and a propensity to want to discuss it.
Just this week NPR’s Chris Molanphy engaged in a long-winded editorial about the right and wrong way to complain about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions, expounding on what he calls his “Supremes Argument.”
“As a music geek, I often find myself in conversations, either online or over cocktails, about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” says Molanphy. “Indeed, I’ve been nerding out about the Hall since last Thursday, when the institution announced its shortlist for induction into the Hall Class of 2015. And when I find myself in polite but argumentative company debating the Rock Hall, I have an approach I use. It comes in handy when my fellow nerd has been griping about the definition of “rock and roll,” and why this mysterious institution — inductor of Donna Summer, Madonna, and Grandmaster Flash; persistent nominator of Chic and N.W.A —has got it all wrong.”
When you compare all of this with the Country Hall of Fame process, it couldn’t be more different. The Country Hall struggles to capture the American zeitgeist even on the day it announces its annual crop of inductees. By the afternoon, it’s an afterthought, except for the predictable vitriol about who didn’t get in, which fizzles out by dinnertime. The actual induction ceremony to the Country Hall of Fame, called the “Medallion Ceremony,” is described by the Hall as a “private occasion” where “families, friends, and business associates [gather] to welcome the new class of honorees into their midst.” Compare this to the Rock Hall’s raucous ceremony and concert that is simulcast online and then shown on HBO for weeks after, and you can see the difference between the approach of these two institutions.
Of course there is inherent differences between these two hall of fame institutions that parallel the music itself. “Rock” was the long-standing catch-all phrase for rebellious American music for the last half century, and so there’s simply a lot more music embodied by that term, meaning more interest, a more laid back attitude, and the need for more inductees. Meanwhile country, at least in the traditional sense, is not about a big show. “We don’t make a party out of loving,” as Merle Haggard once said in the song “Okie From Muskogee.” The fact that the Country Hall of Fame doesn’t make a spectacle of their induction process is one of the reasons the institution is held in a higher regard. But is there some happy medium here, and is country music missing out on an annual opportunity to promote itself and its inductees to the greater masses by keeping their process so dramatically understated?
Things are changing, and country music is now the most dominant genre of American music, not rock. And it’s hard to not sense that the Country Music Hall of Fame is missing out on a big promotional opportunity by keeping the process nothing more than a small press conference and a private ceremony. It doesn’t need to be some wild concert, and I’m not sure the public can be trusted in participating in the voting process. But how about announcing the final ballot nominees to stir up interest before the big inductee announcement, or including a concert around the induction that all the public can enjoy, even if you want to keep the Medallion Ceremony private?
The induction of new members in to the Country Music Hall of Fame each year should be a joyous occasion that all country music fans should be welcome to participate in at least in some capacity, and should stir and energize the public about country music through the process. Looking at the annual event as a bigger promotional opportunity should be a priority.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN has announced what will be their next major two-year exhibit to replace the current Bakersfield Sound exhibit in the museum’s largest revolving exhibit space. It will be called Dylan, Cash, & The Nashville Cats, and it will primarily focus on folk songwriting icon Bob Dylan, Country Music Hall of Famer and Legend Johnny Cash, and the “Nashville Cats,” which include many of Nashville’s unheralded studio musicians from the late 60′s, early 70′s era.
The exhibit will take on a The Johnny Cash Show vibe—the Cash-hosted prime time television show where Johnny Cash famously collaborated with Bob Dylan on stage. Cash later appeared on Dylan’s landmark Nashville Skyline album which opened up Music City to an entirely new generation of musicians and songwriters. The exhibit is scheduled to open up on March 27th, 2015 for a proposed two-year run.
“Nashville has always been a more nuanced music center than it commonly gets credit for,” says museum director Kyle Young. “And the same thing could be said for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We strive to tell the full story of country music’s evolving history using a mix of provocative learning experiences, and this exhibit is a great opportunity to talk about the early confluence of country and rock. Dylan recorded Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, and Nashville Skyline here. The Byrds made Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Neil Young recorded Harvest, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band created Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Albums like these had a profound influence on popular music as well as establishing Nashville as a music hub and cool southern city with a sense of place.”
Here is how the Country Music Hall of Fame breaks down what people can expect from this three-pronged exhibit:
While recording his album Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, Dylan was in New York working with producer Bob Johnston, a former Nashville resident who hired multi-instrumentalist Charlie McCoy to lead sessions in Nashville. McCoy attended one of Dylan’s New York sessions and was invited to play guitar on “Desolation Row.”
Taken with McCoy’s musicianship, Dylan was encouraged by Johnston to record in Nashville where there were other musicians as skilled as McCoy. Dylan took Johnston’s advice and arrived in Nashville in 1966 to make Blonde on Blonde, one of the great achievements of Dylan’s long career and a benchmark of American popular music. Dylan returned to Nashville to record John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and portions of Self Portrait.
Having met several years before, and having cemented their friendship at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, Dylan and Johnny Cash were reunited in Nashville, in February 1969. Dylan already had recorded most of Nashville Skyline when he and Cash went into the studio. They cut more than a dozen duets in two days. “Girl from the North Country” appeared on Nashville Skyline, and Cash wrote Grammy-winning liner notes for the album.
Later that same year, Cash began hosting a weekly show for ABC. The Johnny Cash Show was shot at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and became an outlet through which country artists and folk, pop and rock musicians could reach new audiences. Dylan and Joni Mitchell were guests on the first show, and Ronstadt, James Taylor, Young, Lightfoot and Eric Clapton’s Derek & the Dominos appeared on subsequent shows.
Many artists who followed Dylan’s lead and made the pilgrimage to Nashville to record or appear on Cash’s show were rewarded with the opportunity to work with world-class musicians. In several cases, the experiment yielded some of the artists’ most successful or influential albums, thanks to the accomplished players drawn from a core group of Nashville studio musicians including David Briggs, Kenny Buttrey, Fred Carter Jr., Charlie Daniels, Pete Drake, Mac Gayden, Lloyd Green, Ben Keith, Grady Martin, Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss, Weldon Myrick, Norbert Putnam, Jerry Reed, Pig Robbins, and Buddy Spicher, among others.
In the political climate of the era, Nashville’s mainstream country recordings were perceived as the music of the conservative South, overtly slick and commercial. In stark contrast were the folk-oriented, politically charged songs coming from Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie and other left-leaning artists who looked past their differences to work with Nashville’s accomplished musicians.
This is not primarily a story of cultural or political divisions, but rather of people coming together from very different backgrounds and moving past perceived divisions to find common ground through music.
Between 1966 and 1974, while contributing to countless country music classics, Nashville session musicians also played on landmark pop and rock songs such as Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and “Lay Lady Lay”; Young’s “Heart of Gold”; the Byrds’ “Hickory Wind”; Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time”; Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”; Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”; Cale’s “Crazy Mama”; Baez’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”; and McCartney’s “Sally G.”
Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats opens March 27, 2015, and runs through December 31, 2016. It will be accompanied by a series of educational programs, including live performances, panel discussions, films, instrument demonstrations and more. The exhibition will follow the nearly three-year run of The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country, which closes December 31.
Friday (8-29) evening, local internet traffic in Nashville buzzed with the news that the recent buyer of the city’s historic Studio ‘A’ building had concluded an assessment of the building and decided that bulldozing would be a more cost-effective fate for the building compared to renovations. Bravo Development pulled the West Wing tactic of releasing the information on a Friday afternoon in hopes the news would blend into the background by Monday morning, but Adam Gold writing for The Nashville Scene brought to light the press release from PR firm Seigenthaler Public Relations, as well as an open letter from Bravo Development’s Tim Reynolds.
In both the press release and Mr. Reynolds’ letter, we’re told what we’ve already known for months—that the building was in disrepair, not up to code, and the most cost-effective solution would be to demolish it and start over. This same assessment had already been made preliminarily earlier this month, and the condition of the building was at the heart of why Studio ‘A’ caretaker Ben Folds freaked out when news of the building being sold very first broke. The building that houses Studio ‘A’ and a wing full of offices has bad HVAC issues, has to be brought up to Disabilities Act code, and the cost of such repairs is not worth what any owner can recoup in rent of the building’s spaces.
But not all is alarmist about what was included in the Bravo Development’s statements, despite it being characterized as a virtual death knell for Studio ‘A’ by many. The 20,000-square-foot building at 30 Music Square West was never going to be renovated by a development company or commercial buyer. The only solution to save Studio ‘A’ has been, and continues to be to find and public or private institution that sees the cultural value in the building, not just the commercial value, and that can manage and preserve the space free of strict commercial concerns.
In the statement from Bravo Development’s PR Firm, they state,
Reynolds has approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under Bravo Development’s ownership. He hopes to have further information on that front in the coming days. He is also looking at ways to commemorate the Studio’s history as part of any development.
In the Tim Reynolds open letter, he states,
We have approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under our ownership. We hope to have positive news to report about those conversations in the coming days.
There is no question many legendary studio recordings came to life within the walls of Studio A and that those performances are worthy of commemoration; as such, our architects, advisors and designers are confident that there are many creative ways to memorialize these events. Again, we know there are many people who share our appreciation for Nashville’s music-rich history. We want to take the right “next step” with this property with careful consideration of its current condition and limitations.
Whether Tim Reynolds is just telling preservationists what they want to hear or is truly soliciting public institutions to find a new caretaker for the building, this was always the most logical next step in the fight to preserve Studio ‘A’.
As Saving Country Music pointed out in August 6th in an article entitled “What About A Public Or Private Institution Purchasing Studio ‘A’?
Any developer whose plans are simply concerned with the bottom line highest valuation for the asset would likely not be interested in renovation…So who might look to take on Studio ‘A’ simply for the spirit of preserving the landmark, while still getting some functionality out of the existing space? It would have to be a not-for-profit, or a public or private institution not concerned with bottom-line financial outcomes, beyond making a sound investment on a piece of property in a desirable location. And it would have to be someone with the financial resources to purchase it.
Luckily there is precedent for public institutions taking over Music Row properties, and being very successful in that pursuit. Music Row’s Studio ‘B’ on virtually the same piece of property as 30 Music Square West is owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame and is on the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places. It is co-operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame, who gives guided tours of the studio daily, and another private institution, Belmont University. This partnership has resulted in both the preservation of the site, and the continued use and profit from it as a Music Row institution.
There is another example of an institution purchasing a historic Music Row property that is much more recent, and much more relative to the situation with Studio ‘A’ since the studio will never be donated by its current owners like Studio ‘B’ was. In early July, Vanderbilt University purchased Sony’s century-old office on Music Row for $12.1 million. Vanderbilt was currently occupying 27,000 square feet of space in the building, and when it was put up for sale by Sony, who intends to move to Nashville’s “Gulch” area a couple of miles from its current location, the purchase made sense. Vanderbilt’s close proximity to Music Row made the logistics of the sale feasible, and just like Belmont University, who has numerous co-inhabited properties with Curb Records on Music Row, the university sees the Music Row campus as a natural extension of its borders and interest.
Though there is no good news in the Studio ‘A’ assessment by Bravo Development and Tim Reynolds, there is nothing here that is unexpected. And though some would like to think Tim Reynolds is going back on his word, from the very beginning Reynolds said, “We are now in the early stages of the engineer work and architectural work, but if that can be achieved, we will incorporate that studio and preserve it.”
The fight to save Studio ‘A’ is far from over, and the studio very well may still meet its demise. But now it is on the right track to the only possible solution that was ever out there in the first place: finding a new owner with a preservationist’s heart. Studio ‘A’ preservationists should join Bravo Development in the search for an altruistic owner, and make sure that Bravo is doing their due diligence in approaching Belmont, Venderbilt, Mike Curb, Scott Borchetta, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and other Music Row movers and shakers who might be in a position to do right by the Studio ‘A’ space’s historic significance.
Open Letter from Tim Reynolds of Bravo Development:
August 29, 2014
Over the past few months, there has been much public discussion surrounding cultural preservation concerns in Nashville, TN and more specifically, Music Row. As you are aware, last month Bravo Development LLC purchased 30 Music Square West – within which RCA Studio A is located. Our purchase has sparked a public debate on the potential preservation of the entire Music Row neighborhood.
We care a great deal about the history of Nashville and recognize the extent to which all corners of this city have served as songwriting inspiration, settings for landmark recordings, and performance venues over the long history of Country Music. The broader question at hand is how to best preserve that history while protecting the rights of property owners and recognizing Nashville’s evolving business climate.
We understand the property that we purchased was offered for sale for over a decade. The building was built in 1963 and is now in a visibly obvious, compromised state of repair. At the same time, Music Row, Downtown, The “Gulch”, Midtown and the like continue to attract the newest and most creative commercial and residential property offerings in our metropolitan area. Due to the age and condition of 30 Music Square West, management has and continues to face ongoing challenges leasing the property in this competitive marketplace. Based on these co-existing conditions, the building is no longer economically viable “as it is.”
We are in the business of identifying and studying the current use, adaptive re-use and the re-development of under-utilized or under-valued real estate. As such, we have and continue to work with most qualified professionals in exploring the architectural, structural, mechanical and aesthetic suitability of a building within the context of its local competitive market. We have been especially diligent with our analysis of 30 Music Square West and have engaged qualified professionals to thoroughly evaluate the building in its present condition. Now, with the results of those assessments in hand, we will consider all options regarding the best use of this property.
We have approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under our ownership. We hope to have positive news to report about those conversations in the coming days.
There is no question many legendary studio recordings came to life within the walls of Studio A and that those performances are worthy of commemoration; as such, our architects, advisors and designers are confident that there are many creative ways to memorialize these events. Again, we know there are many people who share our appreciation for Nashville’s music-rich history. We want to take the right “next step” with this property with careful consideration of its current condition and limitations.
Bravo Development, LLC
Sturgill Simpson Performing in Studio ‘A’:
Alan Jackson may not officially be a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame just yet, but that isn’t stopping the museum from giving Jackson a special exhibit, scheduled to be opened on August 29th and run until March of 2015. The exhibit is called Alan Jackson: 25 Years of Keepin’ It Country, and will coincide with Jackson’s 25-year commemorative tour, and a Hall of Fame Artist-in-Residence stint that will see Jackson give numerous performances at the Hall of Fame to intimate audiences.
“This exhibit will be a rare treat for museum visitors,” said Museum Director Kyle Young. “Fans will recognize artifacts from milestone moments in Alan’s career, as well as items from his life away from the stage that are as personal as many of the songs he has penned over the years. This exhibit and his Artist-in-Residence shows this fall are not to be missed.”
Over his 25-year career, 55-year-old Alan Jackson has accumulated 35 #1 hits, and has sold over 80 million records. He’s been awarded the CMA Entertainer of the Year three times, won 13 more CMA Awards, was awarded two Grammy Awards, and is a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
The Hall of Fame exhibit is set to include:
- The guitar he played on the CMA Awards when he debuted “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” just two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the nation’s response that inspired the song.
- The front of an old, red Ford pickup truck that served as Jackson’s first Fan Fair booth, before his sister and brother-in-law had it made into a desk.
- Items from Jackson’s collection of “Mayberry” memorabilia—a jacket, jersey and autographed picture from Don Knotts—from one of his favorite television shows, The Andy Griffith Show.
- Jackson’s first tricycle, childhood bike and scooter, evidence that his love of vehicles started early.
- Harley-Davidson motorcycle from the cover of the seminal album A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ’bout Love).
- The water ski Jackson rode, while wearing his trademark white cowboy hat, in the “Chattahoochee” music video.
- A collection of belt buckles from the Houston Rodeo—which Jackson has played more than 20 times.
- Handwritten manuscripts of classics like “Drive,” “First Love” (about his ’55 T-bird), “Livin’ on Love” and “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”
- Numerous music awards, a sailfish caught by Jackson and much more.
Alan Jackson has recently become eligible for Country Music Hall of Fame induction, and is thought to be a front-runner to eventually be bestowed with the distinction.
To say that Alan Jackson has had a busy 24 hours doesn’t begin to tell the half of it. The 55-year-old entertainer who recently came back to his roots by releasing a critically-acclaimed bluegrass album started his Wednesday night off at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville to witness Lee Ann Womack and Kacey Musgraves perform his song “Livin’ On Love”, and to receive the CMT’s first ever Impact Award. “That song never sounded better,” said Alan about the Womack / Musgraves performance.
Meanwhile secretly across the street at the lower Broadway venue The Stage, they were setting up for an Alan Jackson secret show that would transpire just after the CMT Awards concluded. Reports of someone big loading into the spot had been swirling around Nashville all day, which is in the midst of its annual CMA Fan Fest festivities. Alan turned out to be the surprise entertainer, and played an extended set to a packed house of lucky Fan Fest revelers and VIP’s.
Then lo and behold, Jackson was up bright and early this morning conducting a press conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame. When the presser was first announced last week, it had people speculating about what Jackson could be announcing, concerned that the last time a big country star called a press conference at the Hall of Fame, it was for George Strait’s announcement that he was retiring from touring. But Jackson’s announcement was to the contrary, telling the assembled press corps that he will be embarking on a 25-date, 25th Anniversary Tour marking a quarter century in the country music business. “A lot of people wanted to know if this was a retirement announcement,” Jackson told the curious crowd. “I don’t work that much now. I don’t know what I would retire from.”
And that’s just where the big news begins for Alan Jackson. Also announced, the Country Music Hall of Fame will be putting together an Alan Jackson exhibit commemorating his 25 year career that will open on August 29th at the newly-expanded Hall. He has also been named The Hall’s latest “Artist in Residence” and will be playing a series of shows at the museum between October 8th thru the 22nd.
“It’s hard for anybody to really understand where I came from, to have all this happen and to get where I am today is truly the American dream,” Jackson said. “People don’t realize how we had nothing and I didn’t know anything about music. Somebody said … ‘You sound as good as some of those guys on the radio, you should move to Nashville.’ I said, ‘OK.’ That’s basically what happened. And we came up here and this happened. It’s just a miracle. I still just can’t believe all this is going on.”
As the 25 year mark of his upcoming anniversary tour denotes, Alan Jackson is one of the artists poised to take advantage of the potential move by the country music industry to better highlight Jackson and other artists like him who have recently been forgotten by radio. The potential launching a new “classic” country format has the radio world buzzing, and might give artists like Jackson the ability to once again be heard prominently on the radio. He also has a song in the upcoming Seth McFarlane movie A Million Ways to Die in the West, and is rumored to be a target of Scott Borchetta for the upcoming NASH Icons venture. Alan Jackson is a hot commodity to say the least.
No dates or locations for the 25th Anniversary Tour have been announced yet, but with all the renewed interest in country music’s Class of ’89 and Alan Jackson specifically, it promises to be a big one.
Out to pasture? Not Alan.
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Hall of Fame Press Conference:
The first inductee announced by recent inductee Bobby Bare was Hank Cochran, inducted as a songwriter. Jo Walker Meador announced the inductee in the Veteran’s Era as Mac Wiseman. And Hunter Hayes announced Ronnie Milsap as the Modern Era inductee.
The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are selected through a committee process appointed by the Country Music Association, or CMA. Since 2010, the selection process has been split up into three categories. 1) Modern Era (eligible for induction 20 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 2) Veterans Era (eligible for induction 45 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 3) Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 (rotates every 3 years). In 2014, a songwriter was up for the distinction.
Hank Cochran – Songwriter
Hank Cochran was one of the most successful, prolific, and critically-acclaimed songwriters country music has ever seen. This Mississippi native that was born in 1935 and died in 2010 wrote successful and touching songs in virtually every era of country music’s history. Patsy Cline and Eddy Arnold recorded Hank Cochran songs. George Jones and Merle Haggard recorded Hank Cochran Songs. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings recorded Hank Cochran songs. Reba McEntire and George Strait recorded Hank Cochran songs. And so did Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Linda Ronstadt, Loretta Lynn, all the way up to artists of today like Brad Paisley, and Jamey Johnson, who recorded an entire album’s worth of Hank Cochran songs in 2012.
Cochran was a sickly child that spent time in orphanages growing up after his parents divorced. After working with his hands for years and living in California, Cochran found his way to Nashville where he wrote the iconic tune “I Fall To Pieces” with Harlan Howard, and made famous by Patsy Cline. It was all downhill for Hank from there. Patsy also recorded Cochran’s “She’s Got You”, Ray Price and Eddy Arnold cut “Make The World Go Away”, Mickey Gilley and Ronnie Milsap cut “That’s All That Matters”, and many years later, George Strait would sing “Ocean Front Property”.
Though Cochran is mostly revered as a songwriter, he did have his own successful performing career as well. Between 1962 and 1980, Cochran cut his own singles and had some moderate chart success. But his biggest song only reached #20 with “Sally Was A Good Old Girl”. Cochran was always more of a songwriter than a performer, but he defined that vital behind-the-scenes role for generations, and sets the standard for songwriters still in place today.
Inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame back in 1974, Hank Cochran’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame is very well-deserved.
Ronnie Milsap – Modern Era
A blind piano from Robbinsville, North Carolina, the 71-year-old Milsap became one of the most commercially-successful artists country music has ever seen in the 70′s and 80′s. Ronnie amassed an incredible forty #1 hits—a number that has only been outmatched by the greats George Strait and Conway Twitty. Fusing pop, rock, and blue-eyed soul elements into his country style, Milsap became incredibly successful as a crossover artist, and holds the distinction right beside artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, and Hall of Famer Hargus “Pig” Robbins as being considered one of the most successful piano players in this history of country music.
Rendered sightless when he was a small child, he was abandoned by his mother, and raised by his grandparents in the Smoky Mountains. At the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, NC, Milsap’s musical talents were quickly discovered and he began to be taught classical piano. He formed a rock band in high school, went to college on a music scholarship, and dropped out to pursue music full time, finding his first major gig playing piano for J.J. Cale. Charley Pride saw Milsap playing one night at the Whiskey A-Go-Go, and convinced Milsap to move to Nashville and pursue country music. But Milsap’s rock roots never completely left him. Opening for Pride and playing songs from some of country’s greatest songwriters like Kris Kristofferson and Don Gibson, Milsap went on to be awarded six Grammy Awards and eight Country Music Association Awards, including his 1977 wins for both Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.
Ronnie Milsap’s success from crossover appeal has been though to be the reason this distinction has eluded him for so long. But with such an impressive list of accolades, it is hard to argue with his induction. Ronnie Milsap remains an active performer today, releasing his latest album Summer Number Seventeen in March.
Known affectionately as “The Voice with a Heart”, the 88-year-old Wiseman was a cult bluegrass singer, songwriter, guitar and bass player, but is known best as a man behind-the-scenes as a seminal member of the CMA. Wiseman played with both Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, played in Bill Monroe’s legendary backing band, The Bluegrass Boys, and is an inductee to the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 1993.
Mac Wiseman was first made famous by recording “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”. The song’s success moved Wiseman’s carrer more into the direction of country music and away from bluegrass, and he signed with Dot Records in 1957, before moving to Capitol in 1962. In 1969 he moved to Nashville and signed with RCA Victor. Later in life he once again gravitated back to bluegrass and became a big mover and shaker in the CMA organization.
It’s that time of year again when we’re on the verge of hearing who the next class of inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame will be. Though the date seems to be getting later and later each year (last year it stretched all the way to April 10th—2012 was announced on March 6th), as soon as spring starts to break, you can be assured an announcement is coming soon.
It must be said whenever broaching the subject of the Country Music Hall of Fame that it has been The Hall’s desire over the years to have it be an exclusive institutions when it comes to inductees. Where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and certain sports seem to throw the barn doors wide and accept all comers, the Country Music Hall of Fame would rather take gruff for who is not in the The Hall as opposed to who shouldn’t be, but is. You can always induct someone in the future, but it’s nearly impossible to throw someone out.
The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are selected through a committee process appointed by the Country Music Association, or CMA. Since 2010, the selection process has been split up into three categories. 1) Modern Era (eligible for induction 20 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 2) Veterans Era (eligible for induction 45 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 3) Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 (rotates every 3 years). With a musician, Hargus “Pig” Robbins selected in 2012, and a non-performer in “Cowboy” Jack Clement selected last year (though he was a performer and songwriter, it was more for his producer role), it would a songwriter’s turn up to bat this year.
Since 2001, anywhere from 2 to 4 names have been added to the Hall of Fame each year. Usually one name from the above mentioned categories makes it per year, but if no name gets enough of a majority vote, a category may not be represented in a given year. Or, if two names get enough votes from a category, then both may come from that category.
Potential Modern Era Inductees
Last year’s inductee – Kenny Rogers
Ricky Skaggs – Ricky Skaggs is the artist that has felt like he’s been right on the bubble of being inducted over the last couple of years. Skaggs has bookened his career as a mandolin maestro, studied under Bill Monroe, and is now firmly ensconcing himself as a country music elder. In between then, he had tremendous commercial success in the 80′s when country was searching for its next superstar. Few could argue with this pick and Skaggs is very well liked across country music. He was also announced recently as the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “Artist in Residence.” Though there is no official correlation between being named an Artist in Residence and being inducted the next year, that coincidence has happened numerous times, including for last year’s modern era inductee, Kenny Rogers. Skaggs has to be considered a frontrunner.
Ronnie Milsap - Milsap is a name that has probably been on final ballots for the Hall of Fame for going on two decades, and in a couple of years will cycle over to a veteran’s era candidate, if he hasn’t already depending on where you want to start the clock on him. Though his commercial success is unquestionable, the fact that he started outside the genre and found a lot of his success as a crossover star might make him a hard name for voters to pull the trigger on. Having said that, seeing another name who started outside of country and had a lot of his success in the crossover world get inducted last year in Kenny Rogers, might move Milsap one step closer.
Alan Jackson – 2013 was Jackson’s first year of eligibility, and there was a sense he just missed out on being a first year Modern Era inductee like Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. A huge commercial success in his day who always payed homage to the roots of the genre and the artists who came before him, Jackson is a shoe-in for The Hall eventually, and should be a very strong candidate this year. He’s well-liked, with little to no baggage (there was that whole George Jones “Choices” thing back in 1999 at the CMA Awards, but hey, that was a long time ago). Alan Jackson is a strong contender.
Randy Travis – At this time last year, despite Randy’s fresh eligibility and unquestionable credentials for the Hall, he was facing a string of drunk driving charges, and spinning the unsavory story of trying to bum a cigarette at a gas station naked. In such a crowded field, it was easy to give Travis a pass. But this year the story is much different. After suffering from a heart condition and stroke while in the midst of a strong recovery from his personal issues, Randy Travis has to be considered the sympathy favorite for the distinction. Will it be enough? Maybe not, but Randy will be a frontrunner in the Modern Era until he’s inducted.
Brooks & Dunn – A commercial powerhouse whose career was somewhat overshadowed by the success of Garth and their strange place as a non-familial country duo, their first album Brand New Man sold 6 million copies, and they won the CMA for Vocal Duo of the Year every year but one between 1992 and 2006. Their success is not debatable, but did they have the type of influence it takes to be Hall of Famers this early in their eligibility window, and with this crowded of a field? And does the fact that they’re no longer a functioning act hurt them, or is Kix with his radio work and Dunn with his brewing country revolution still visible enough? A few more names may have to tick off the list before their turn, but they have to be considered contenders.
Other Possible Modern Era Inductees:
- The Oak Ridge Boys – Another Strong Contender
- The Judds
- Dwight Yoakam – You’d think with 25 million records sold, his name would be more associated with this distinction. Maybe in the coming years.
- Keith Whitley – Garth Brooks a couple of years ago said he deserved induction before him.
- Clint Black – If it wasn’t for his career’s disappearing act, his name would be right up there with Travis, Jackson, and Brooks & Dunn
- Toby Keith – Officially eligible because he had his first success in 1993, but probably on the outside-looking-in for the next few years
- Charlie Daniels
- Tayna Tucker
- Crystal Gayle
- Gene Watson
- Mickey Gilley
Potential Veterans Era Inductees
Last year’s inductee – Bobby Bare
Predicting the Veterans Era nominees is notoriously foolhardy because they pull from such a wide field of potential inductees. It’s made one measure harder by a general lack of chatter out there surrounding potential nominees compared to previous years. But here’s a few educated guesses.
Jerry Lee Lewis – He’s a definite possibility for induction, and with the lack of a clear front runner, this might be his year. He may be held back some since he came from rock & roll, and his antics on The Grand Ole Opry and other places over the years. But his contributions as one of country music’s preeminent piano players cannot be denied. If Elvis is in the Country Hall (and he is), his old Sun Studios buddy can’t be counted out.
Jerry Reed – Such a great ambassador over the years for country music from his work with Smokey & The Bandit to Scooby-Doo, but Jerry Reed should be inducted for his stellar and influential work as both a performer, songwriter, and a musician. There weren’t many better guitar pickers back in the day than Jerry Reed. And his work as a session musician with so many of country music’s big names made him a well-known and likable character throughout the genre.
Hank Williams Jr. – It’s somewhat hard to know if Hank Jr. should be considered a Veteran or Modern Era candidate because of the double-era aspect of his career, but he’s a contender either way. However despite his two CMA Entertainer of the Year awards and millions of albums sold, you don’t get the sense it’s his time just yet. Only playing around 18 shows a year these days, and generally being once removed from the moving and shaking of the country genre while he pursues a quasi political career, Hank Jr. could be passed over this year others pushing harder for the distinction.
Lynn Anderson & Dottie West – Lynn and Dottie are the two ladies that likely lead the field for female veteran inductees. Both of these ladies are right on the bubble, as they have probably been for many years. Since there wasn’t a woman inductee last year and there’s no strong female contenders in the Modern Era category, the pressure to include a woman from the veteran field in 2014 might be greater.
The Maddox Brothers & Rose – The Maddox Brothers & Rose was a name that probably wasn’t on many people’s radar until the last couple of years. With their prominent place at the very beginning of the Hall of Fame’s current Bakersfield Sound exhibit, it is hard not to see how important their influence was on country, especially West Coast country, and the flashy dress of country performers that still influences the genre today. It may be a long shot, but if groups like The Jordanaires and The Sons of the Pioneers are in The Hall, certainly The Maddox Brothers & Rose should be. And it would be great to see happen while the final member, the 91-year-old Don Maddox, is still around.
Gram Parsons – Gram’s inclusion here is always a topic of great discussion. In 2013 there was a greater push than ever to induct him, with influential Country Music writer Chet Flippo personally making the case for him, and other chatter that 2013 might be his year. But it wasn’t, and it may be years before it is, but his name is always in the field for this accolade, and looking at the influence Gram had showing millions of rock and roll fans the beauty of country music, it should be.
John Hartford – This is a long shot pick, but he deserves induction. As I said in my prognostications from a couple of year ago, “The Country Music Hall of Fame works like a timeline as you walk through the displays that weave around the massive archive in the center of the building. As you start from the beginning, each artist and their impact is displayed on a plaque that includes their Hall of Fame induction date. When I came to the John Hartford display on my last visit to The Hall this summer, he was the first to have a display, but no Hall of Fame induction date.”
Tompall Glaser & The Glaser Brothers – Probably another long shot, but one that has to be considered a more legitimate contender in 2014 with the passing of Tompall last year. It probably helps that his brothers-in-Outlaw-country-arms Bobby Bare and “Cowboy” Jack Clement were inducted last year, moving folks like Tompall and other Outlaw-esque country music personalities one step closer in the process.
Johnny Paycheck and David Allan Coe – These names come up every year from hard country fans, and are names regularly held up as evidence of the Hall of Fame’s illegitimacy. The simple truth is that with these two performer’s shady pasts, Hall of Fame induction is going to be difficult. Johnny Paycheck has a more distinct possibility than David Allan Coe, because Coe could create a public relations nightmare for the Hall of Fame from people (correct or not) who label Coe a racist, sexist, etc. etc. Patience mixed with persistence is what Coe and Paycheck fans need to see their heroes inducted, as time heals all wounds. One positive sign for them is the induction of Bobby Bare and “Cowboy” Jack Clement last year. This means the CMA committee is willing to pick Outlaw artists and personalities for the Hall, and those two inductions move Paycheck and Coe two steps closer.
Randomly, I also think there’s a strong chance that the next major rotating exhibit at The Hall could be a feature on the Outlaw era of country, which might also give people like Paycheck, Coe, Tompall, and others a chance to be featured at the Hall of Fame beyond induction.
Other Possible Veterans Era Inductees:
- Jimmy Martin
- Vern Gosdin
- Ralph Stanley
- Johnny Horton
- The Browns
- June Carter Cash
- Wynn Stewart
- Jim Ed Brown
Potential Songwriter Inductees
Last songwriter inducted – Bobby Braddock in 2011
The 3rd category rotates between a musician, a non-performer (executive, producer, journalist, etc.), or songwriter on different years. 2014 would be a songwriter year.
Though there may be some artists that would technically qualify for induction under this category like Keith Whitley, Townes Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver, or any number of other artists that have extensive songwriting credits, this category is meant for behind-the-scenes songwriters who would never be inducted if not for this category. Though the award might go to someone with a little more modern success as a songwriter to go along with their storied history, here’s two interesting names that deserve strong consideration.
Hank Cochran – Hank would be a worthy inductee, and it just might happen for him as a songwriter of both critical acclaim and commercial success. It can’t hurt that Jamey Johnson also recently release a tribute to Cochran, making him front-of-mind when voters are thinking of songwriters who deserve this distinction. Cochran should be considered a front runner.
John D. Loudermilk – A cousin to The Louvin Brothers that had great commercial success as a songwriter in the 60′s and 70′s, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, and certainly deserves consideration for this distinction. Nonetheless, it’s probably a long shot.
Shel Silverstein would be another interesting name.
Picks and Predictions
Who I Think Will Be Inducted
- Ricky Skaggs or Alan Jackson – Modern Era
- Jerry Lee Lewis, Vern Gosdin, or Jerry Reed – Veterans Era
- Hank Cochran – Songwriter
Who I Think Should Be Inducted
- Ricky Skaggs – Modern Era
- Maddox Brothers & Rose / Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – Veterans Era
- Hank Cochran – Songwriter
Slain Outlaw country music artist Wayne Mills will be remembered in a new exhibit at The Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Alabama called “Alabama Outlaws” to be unveiled in special ceremony on Sunday, February 9th, 2014. The ceremony is free and open to the public, and will transpire between 1 PM and 4 PM. It will be attended by Wayne’s widow, Carol Mills, and his young son Jack.
The exhibit will feature many personal items from Wayne Mills, including Wayne’s signature hat, his cowboy boots, and his Alabama football jersey. Mills was from the small town of Arab in northern Alabama, and aside from being a noted musician and performer, played football for the University of Alabama.
The artifacts to be put on display at the Hank Williams Museum were personally collected from the stage display at Wayne’s funeral on December 8th, 2013 by another Alabama country music artist, Jamey Johnson. The Montgomery native personally delivered the items to the Hank Williams museum, and the performer has also offered space in his display at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville to showcase Wayne’s legacy. Wayne Mills and Jamey Johnson were close friends, and had played shows together the week of Wayne’s killing.
Wayne Mills was gunned down on November 23rd, 2013 at the Pit & Barrel bar in Nashville while attending an after hours gathering. Chris Ferrell—the owner of the Pit & Barrel—faces 2nd Degree Murder charges in the case. The 44-year-old singer and songwriter was once a mentor to Jamey Johnson, as well as to CMA Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton, and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, and had over 15-plus years of touring experience. Mills received the Guardian Award from the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame a month before his death to recognize his “hard work and unwavering commitment to their music and their fans and best exemplify the tradition of those who came before.”
On March 2nd, The Outlaw Music Association will be holding a Wayne Mills Benefit at The Limelight in Nashville.
NBC’s hit reality singing competition The Voice is in hot water from country and gospel fans, people of faith, and general haters of censorship when on the Tuesday (Nov. 26th) installment of the show, they purposely censored the word ‘Lord’ out of the iconic country gospel song “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”
The final 8 contestants on the show performed “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” with Seattle’s Starbucks Chorus backing them up to raise money for charity. But in the version of the song the chorus and contestants performed, ‘oh’ was swapped for ‘Lord’ in the portion of the song that goes, “in the sky, Lord, in the sky.” They also skipped verses mentioning ‘Savior’ and ‘Heaven.’
“Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” is often referred to as one of the main foundations for country music, and ranked at #5 on Saving Country Music’s Greatest Country Songs of All Time. It is not just a staple of the American gospel songbook, it is also the inspiration behind the architecture of the Country Music Hall of Fame rotunda where the plaques for all of the inductees are found.
Country artist Blake Shelton who is a judge on The Voice was apparently not too happy with the decision either, telling Zap 2 it after the show:
I don’t know what, uh — how it happened, or — I’m learning about it just like you guys are. I was sitting in my chair singing that song how I grew up on it, with ‘in the sky, Lord, in the sky.’ I sang it as loud as I could. And that might be why I didn’t realize until after the fact that ‘Lord’ was either taken out, or it was just performed some other way…I know it was performed — and it’s meant for a good cause, and they’re trying to raise some money. And that’s a good thing. But I will say, that’s not the version I grew up on. And that’s not the version I was singing sitting in my chair, if that clears up anything [about] where I stand on this thing.
The Voice executive producer Mark Burnett initially seemed just as disappointed with the decision as Blake Shelton, saying, “Especially for those of us who know this song from church so well … I realized immediately what had happened. I thought I’d misheard on the sound. Then came the next chorus, and I’m like, ‘OK, it’s live TV, so I’ve got to wait until the next commercial break. I’m running over there and asking the question.”
But later Burnett back peddled, saying The Voice had to use an older version of the song so it could be given away for free on iTunes. “My mistake was I assumed that the public domain version has the word ‘Lord’ in it,” said Burnett. Some older versions of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” which is a traditional song residing in the public domain, do not include “Lord” in the lyrics, but most modern country and gospel versions do.
But this doesn’t explain why the verses with ‘Savior’ and ‘Heaven’ were also omitted from the performance, and why ‘oh’ was added, when the traditional version of the song doesn’t say ‘Lord’ at all, meaning it wouldn’t need to be replaced with anything. The censoring of the lyrics appears to be a conscious decision by someone at The Voice or NBC not wanting to offend anyone from the religious connotations, regardless of the rights issues surrounding the song.
“Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” has been recorded by dozens of country artists over the years, most notably the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as part of their album Will The Circle Be Unbroken released in 1972. The album and song is given credit for introducing the hymnal and many notable country music legends to a new generation.
Country music in 2013 feels like the best of times, and the worst of times. While a few top male performers perpetrate untold atrocities on the integrity of the genre, the rise of independent music and infrastructure in the marketplace is now almost to the point where it equals its corporate counterpart. Quality songs and worthy artists are beginning to see more and more support, while current events and new outlets create avenues for substantive music to find its way to hungry ears. It is so easy to focus on the negative because it still seems to pervade the popular consciousness. But here are twelve reasons it is looking up for country music in 2013.
Yes, Kacey Musgraves. Even if you see her as some Music Row machination meant to offer an alter ego to the Taylor Swift’s of the world (Taylor equals Kacey’s noms with 6 herself), at least mainstream country is now offering a choice to consumers. What Musgraves’ symbolizes is that you don’t have to prove overwhelming commercial success to get noticed. Her biggest hit “Merry Go ‘Round” didn’t even make the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 Country Songs. Musgraves is a songwriter in a traditional sense, even if some of her best, and most-heady material didn’t make her big debut album. The reason she was able to rake up so many nominations is because of her songwriting credits, accounting for half of her CMA considerations. Kacey Musgraves’ 6 CMA nominations proves that regardless of how stupid country music’s leading males are trying to make the genre, in 2013, songs matter.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is getting dirty out there, and the more artists that speak out, the more other artists gain the courage to join the chorus. And not to shy away from the fight, Kacey Musgraves could be characterized as leading the charge, coming out multiple times to complain about where country music is headed. Alan Jackson also had some choice words recently, as did Gary Allan, Tom Petty, and most recently Zac Brown. Country music may be crossing more unfortunate lines than ever, but at least it’s genuine artists are being vocal about their dissent.
Yes, it was bad that Blake Shelton had to disrespect large segments of country music listeners when he ostensibly called them “old farts and jackasses,” but the backlash that ensued became a unifying element for disenfranchised country fans. Ray Price wrote a blistering letter to Blake Shelton, resulting in Blake having to make a public apology. Dale Watson wrote a song about the whole incident which has since become one of the most popular numbers of his show. An “Old Farts & Jackasses” group on Facebook boasts over 93,000 “likes,” and the list goes on from there. Blake Shelton awakened a beast, and gave it a rallying cry. Who would have thought in 2012 that people would be proudly calling themselves “Old Farts & Jackasses” ?!?
The days of inducting traditionally-leaning artists and bands seemed to be over with the Grand Ole Opry’s recent membership invitations to Darius Rucker, Keith Urban, and Rascal Flatts. But lo and behold, the Grand Ole Opry can still get it right, inducting an act that has paid their dues many times over, and deserve to be recognized as one of the forefathers to the re-popularization of string bands that has seen the rise of bands like Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers. The news is not only good for Old Crow Medicine Show, but other artists who may not be top tier names in country music, but deserve the distinction.
It’s so easy to read the headlines and see the top of the Billboard country charts and say that all is lost in the genre. But as long as Sturgill Simpson is out there touring, you can’t say country music is dead. Out on tour with Dwight Yoakam, playing the Grand Ole Opry, inspiring critics from coast to coast and overseas to sing his praises, Sturgill Simpson is giving hope for the future to country fans that has a value beyond his music specifically.
Yeah, I’m not too much for the silly cliffhanger drama-laden plot lines either, but Nashville has become an invaluable teacher of how the music business works, specifically on the songwriting side of things. An educated consumer makes better choices, and if they see and understand how backroom politics stultify the creativity and freedom of artists, and how a song goes from inspiration to the big stage, they just may make better choices, and think about where the music they enjoy comes from. Furthermore, Nashville has become a music outlet to a nationwide audience that may otherwise not be exposed to the music of independent artists like Caitlin Rose, Lindi Ortega, Ashley Monroe, Shovels & Rope, and so many more.
There are many good, independent country bands that are enjoying a rise in interest in 2013, but there may not be a bigger rags to riches story (so to speak) than Hellbound Glory landing an opening spot on a Kid Rock arena tour. Going from playing half-empty bar rooms to sold-out arenas, Hellbound Glory is seeing the recognition their quality country music has been deserving for years. And the opportunity has been paralleled by bigger crowds and better support even after the arena tour ended.
Caitlin Rose, Valerie June, Lindi Ortega, Austin Lucas, Amanda Isbell, Cory Branan, Jonny “Corndawg” Fritz, and so many more that call east Nashville home (or at least to some extent) have seen career watermarks and burgeoning interest in 2013. Forget Music Row or the circus downtown, Nashville, not Austin, is the new vibrant epicenter for independent music, and the artists there pushing and supporting each other is fostering a creative environment that regardless for how long it lasts, will be looked back upon fondly in the future as a time and place that got it right, and set the bar for artistry and substance. Add on top of that already-established and influential artists like Jack White and Dan Auerbach, and Nashville is the place to be in 2013.
“Cowboy” Jack Clement and Bobby Bare Inducted Into the Country Music Hall of Fame
Yes, two very important players in the rise of country music’s “Outlaw” movement finally got their due this year, and it was especially timely for “Cowboy” Jack Clement who would pass away only a few months after the announcement. Though there is still a long list of worthy inductees that many fans worry will never get in, these two men prove that the Outlaws will not be forgotten, and move other important country music icons one step further to being inducted themselves.
If you feel like the Outlaws of country music have not been dealt a fair deal and they need need a new institution to give them the support and recognition they deserve, your wishes were granted in 2013 when it was announced there will be a new Outlaw Country Music Hall of Fame in Lynchburg, Tennessee coming soon. Nashville may have swept their legacy off the streets like common refuse, but at least somewhere the Outlaws will ride eternally.
If you desire more validation that 2013 is the “Year of the Song,” then behold the overwhelming breakout success of Jason Isbell in 2013. Bolstered by his manager Traci Thomas, a bulldog of the Thirty Tigers group, Jason Isbell is becoming the defining songwriter of our generation. If you ever wished you could go back and re-live the heyday of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt in their prime, watching Jason Isbell and his 2013 tear is the next best thing.
With radio becoming less and less accessible through every measure of consolidation by Clear Channel and Cumulus, new outlets must open up to support independent music. And they are in 2013, and sometimes in the most uncanny places. David Letterman not only has been giving his stage over to artists like Dale Watson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Pokey LaFarge, Shovels & Rope, and so many more, he’s been seeking out this talent to play his show as a fan of the music. Where big network TV debuts for independent artists seemed to be a thing of the past, now they seem to be a weekly occurrence.
To the passive country music fan, the name Garth Brooks may be nothing more than a famous name from the past that they recognize or remember from his heyday. But to many dedicated traditionalist country fans, Garth Brooks symbolized the mass commercialization of country music with his flashy shows in sold-out stadiums, and his multi-platinum albums. Somewhere in the shuffle though, Garth’s sonic legacy got lost. And as the integrity of mainstream country continues to erode day by day, Garth continues to look more and more like a traditionalist country artist himself.
Garth Brooks was voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2012. As is to be expected, Brooks was humble in his acceptance. But what went unreported at the time is that Garth actually attempted to turn his induction down, feeling that there were others that were more worthy than him.
Garth Brooks was interviewed by Leslie Armstrong of Nashville Country Club in the Hall of Fame rotunda right after the inductee announcements on March 6th, 2012. When asked what Garth did when he first got the news of his induction, he said:
I know this is going to sound bad, but you asked, okay? So my first thing was is I called the guys up and I say, “Look, I don’t think I deserve this at this time, you know. Is it possible to turn this thing down and wait?” And they said, “No, it’s not possible to turn it down.” I said, “Well I tried, okay, we’re in!” I’m trying to enjoy the day. And at the same time, all you can think about are the people that need to be in here that aren’t in here yet. So now it’s every Hall of Fame member’s job to make sure that we push and push to make sure all those people get in here, and eventually they will. And they should have been here before Garth Brooks.
Who else should have been inducted before Garth? In both Garth’s initial speech at the announcement and in subsequent interviews that day, Garth said that Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, and Randy Travis deserved to be inducted before him. As he told Inside Music Row:
I felt guilty and embarrassed and honored. Randy Travis cleared the whole way for the 80′s for guys like me and the class of ’89 to come through. He opened all those doors. My generation’s shot at Haggard and Jones was Keith Whitley. Keith needs to be in here. My God, Ricky Skaggs. None of us would be here if it wasn’t for Ricky Skaggs. He filled all the honky tonks and everything there. There’s a lot of catching up to do, and like everybody that goes in it, says it. And they’ll eventually get here. I just don’t think that I should have been here before them. But I feel very honored, and I’ll take it and feel very grateful for it.
Garth also explained that superstardom was not his original intention for coming to Nashville.
I wanted to be a songwriter when I came here. I came here with “Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old” for George Strait. That was it. I didn’t have any dreams or aspirations after that. Never touring, never cutting records. I wanted to be a songwriter. It’s weird because I didn’t know then that the greatest honor in this town is being called a songwriter.
Of course it is the job for inductees to act humble and thank others when they are bestowed the Hall of Fame honor. But with Garth Brooks, he seemed to take it to another level, knowing his legacy was likely cemented and his place in the Hall of Fame assured, but worried about taking that honor away from someone who came before him and helped usher in his success.
Garth officially retired from music in 2001, though he’s made random appearances over the years and signed up for a Las Vegas residency in 2009. His primary reason for retiring was to spend more time with his kids until they completed high school, which will happen next year. Nobody knows, maybe not even Garth, what he might do in country music in the coming years. But whatever he does, Garth’s time off may have taught him an important lesson that kept his music from country’s more traditionally-oriented fans during his heyday: how to be humble.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN has just announced their 2013 inductees. The new members to country music’s most prestigious institution are “Cowboy” Jack Clement, Bobby Bare, and Kenny Rogers.
Honorary host Bill Anderson made the announcement from the Hall of Fame rotunda Wednesday morning (4-10). The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are selected through a committee process appointed by the CMA. Since 2010, the selection process has been split up into three categories. 1) Modern Era (eligible for induction 20 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 2) Veterans Era (eligible for induction 45 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 3) Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 (rotates every 3 years).
“Cowboy” Jack Clement (non-performer) is one of country music’s most legendary songwriters, producers, and personalities. Clement got his start at Sun Studios, helping record and produce the original hits for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. Later he would start his own home studio, where greats such as Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, and Townes Van Zandt recorded with Clement in the producer’s role. He also wrote successful songs from Dolly Parton, Bobby Bare, and Jim Reeves. “I’ve been chosen for the Country Music Hall of Fame?” Clement said. “I thought I was already in the Hall of Fame, I could have gotten in there any time I wanted. Kyle [Young] (Hall of Fame President) gave me a key.”
Bobby Bare (Veteran’s Era) is the original country music Outlaw. Bare was one of the very first to fight for creative freedom in country music, and also pushed the limits for lyrical content in country when he released the song “Streets of Baltimore” written by Tompall Glaser. Glaser recognized Jerry Reed in his speech at the announcement. “Reed played on every hit I ever had. He was kicking it in the ass.” His son Bobby Bare Jr. is also a musician.
Kenny Rogers (Modern Era) aka “The Gambler” is one of country music’s greatest ambassadors. Kenny became a country hitmaker beginning in the late 70′s with the song “Lucille.” His work in movies like The Gambler and Six Pack, as well as collaborations with Dolly Parton and Dottie West helped sell country to new fans and a new generation.
2012 was a high profile year for Halls of Fame. From the kilted screecher Axl Rose pulling like a Sex Pistol and telling the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to kiss off, to the Baseball Hall of Fame not inducting a single member as the steroid era falls like a shadow on the eligibility timeline. Similarly to baseball’s Hall of Fame, and in polar opposite of its rock & roll counterpart, the Country Music Hall of Fame has kept its legitimacy and honor over the years by being an exclusive get.
The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are selected through a committee process appointed by the CMA. Since 2010, the selection process has been split up into three categories. 1) Modern Era (eligible for induction 20 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 2) Veterans Era (eligible for induction 45 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 3) Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 (rotates every 3 years). With a musician, Hargus “Pig” Robbins selected in 2012, and songwriter Bobby Braddock selected in 2011, it will be a non performer (ie producer, record executive, journalist, etc.) that will be eligible for induction in 2013.
Since 2001 when there was a whopping 12 inductees, anywhere from 2 to 4 names have been added to country music’s most prestigious list each year. Usually one name from the above mentioned categories makes it per year, but if no name gets enough of a majority vote, a category may not be represented in a given year. Or, if two names get enough votes for a single category, then both may come from that category.
Modern Era Possibilities
Modern era inductees are usually big, high-profile names in the first few years of their eligibility. In 2012 it was Garth Brooks. In 2011 it was Reba McEntire. These are performers who would have risen to prominence between 1968 and 1993.
Alan Jackson – This is the big name this year that could be inducted in his first year of eligibility like Reba and Garth. Jackson would be a solid pick as a pretty strict traditionalist who experienced lots of commercial success and still remains relevant in country today.
Ricky Skaggs – Along with Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs was one of the names that felt right on the bubble of being inducted last year. Skaggs has bookened his career as a mandolin maestro, studying under Bill Monroe and now firmly ensconcing himself as a country music elder. In between then, he had tremendous commercial success in the 80′s when country was searching for its next superstar. This would be another pick that few could argue with.
Kenny Rogers – He must have been only a few votes from induction last year, and it only seems like a matter of time before The Gambler gets in. The month after the 2012 inductees were named, Rogers was named the Hall of Fame’s “Artist in Residence,” possibly signaling that Kenny was close, but not quite there. Some purists may complain that Kenny started in rock and also helped usher in a more pop-influenced era in country, but you will find few who can argue that eventually Rogers doesn’t belong in The Hall.
Hank Williams Jr. – Could also be considered a veteran candidate depending on where you start your timeline, and another man who will be a hall of famer at some point (with 2 CMA Entertainer of the Year awards under his belt). The question is, is this the year? Last year Jr. seemed like a strong possibility, and then a political brushup that cost him his long-standing gig as the singer for Monday Night Football seemed to sour Hank Jr. sentiment with some. With so many eligible names and so few slots, if there’s any little reason to leave a name out until next year, it’s likely to be passed over. Hank Jr. has become a polarizing figure, and the selection committee may look for someone who can build more consensus.
Brooks & Dunn – Brooks & Dunn was a commercial powerhouse whose career is somewhat shadowed by the success of Garth and their strange place as a non-familial country duo. Their first album Brand New Man sold 6 million copies, and they won the CMA for Vocal Duo of the Year every year between 1992 and 2006, except 2000. They’ll be in eventually, but is the list of names in their field still too strong for this to be the year? Their success is not debatable, but did they have the type of influence it takes to be Hall of Famers this early in their eligibility window?
Toby Keith – Officially eligible because his “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” was released in 1993, but it wasn’t until the 2000′s when Keith really became a dominant force in country music, both commercially and influentially. He’s a long shot, but a possibility.
Other possibilities: Ronnie Milsap (saddled by his “crossover” status), The Judds, Randy Travis (bad news year for him), Clint Black (and his disappearing act for the last few years), Tanya Tucker, The Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gayle, and Mickey Gilley.
Veterans Era Possibilities
It is much harder to compile a field of candidates in this category because the time period is so wide, and the possibilities are so endless. So instead of trying to name off every possibility, here are some serious contenders, and some interesting names.
Gram Parsons – The push to put Gram into the Hall of Fame has been going on for years, but with a wet finger sticking up in the air, I think this year may be the one that if he’s not fully inducted, there will at least be enough votes for him through the induction process that he will really have to be looked at in coming years as a serious candidate. Influential country writer Chet Flippo featured Gram’s influence in August. What once looked like a ridiculous notion, now seems like a real possibility, and that is a victory for the Gram Parson camp in itself.
Jerry Lee Lewis – Jerry Lee has received a big push this year, and is a definite possibility for induction. He may be held back some since he came from rock & roll, and his antics on The Grand Ole Opry and other places over the years. But his contributions as one of country music’s preeminent piano players cannot be denied. If Elvis is in the Country Hall (and he is), his old Sun Studio’s buddy can’t be that far behind.
Jerry Reed – Such a great ambassador over the years for country music from his work with Smokey & The Bandit to Scooby-Doo, but Jerry Reed should be inducted for his stellar and influential work as both a performer and a musician. There weren’t many better guitar pickers back in the day than Jerry Reed.
Lynn Anderson & Dottie West – Lynn and Dottie are the two ladies that probably lead the field for female veteran inductees. The question with Dottie is if she’s known more as a duet performer. The question with Lynn Anderson is a few DUI arrests over the years. Still, both of these ladies are right on the bubble, and would not be surprising as the 2013 veteran pick.
John Hartford – I admit this is a long shot pick, but I believe he deserves induction. As I said in last year’s prognostications, “The Country Music Hall of Fame works like a timeline as you walk through the displays that weave around the massive archive in the center of the building. As you start from the beginning, each artist and their impact is displayed on a plaque that includes their Hall of Fame induction date. When I came to the John Hartford display on my last visit to The Hall this summer, he was the first to have a display, but no Hall of Fame induction date.”
The Maddox Brothers & Rose – The Maddox Brothers & Rose was a name I’m sure was not on anybody’s radar, until this year. With their prominent place at the very beginning of the Hall of Fame’s current Bakersfield Sound exhibit, it is hard not to see how important their influence was on country music, especially West Coast country, and the flashy dress of country performers that still influences the genre today. I agree it is a long shot, but if groups like The Jordanaires and The Sons of the Pioneers are in The Hall, certainly The Maddox Brothers & Rose should be.
Johnny Paycheck and David Allan Coe – These names come up every year from hard country fans, and are names regularly held up as evidence of the Hall of Fame’s illegitimacy. The simple truth is that with these two performer’s shady pasts, Hall of Fame induction is going to be difficult. Johnny Paycheck has a more distinct possibility than David Allan Coe, because Coe could create a public relations nightmare for the Hall of Fame from people (correct or not) who label Coe a racist, sexist, etc. etc. Patience mixed with persistence is what Coe and Paycheck fans need to see their heroes inducted, as time heals all wounds. Eventually I think both men should be in, but they may have to wait for a year with a weaker field. Seeing Hank Jr. go in may be the sign the Paycheck and Coe’s time is coming.
Other possibilities: Johnny Horton, Bobby Bare, Jimmy Martin, Ralph Stanley, June Carter Cash, Tompall & The Glaser Brothers, and an endless list of other possibilities.
Non Performer Possibilities
Possibly the hardest category to prognosticate, I would put Fred Foster as a producer candidate, music publisher Bob Beckham as another candidate, and Chet Flippo as a candidate for a music writer. Chet Flippo wrote the introduction to Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger and Wanted: The Outlaws, and was seminal in spreading the influence of country in the 70′s with his writing in The Rolling Stone.
Really, Mike Curb‘s name should be in the discussion. He is the namesake of the conservatory that greets you when you walk into the Hall of Fame. But with his shenanigans the last few years battling both artists and other labels in the courts, Mike Curb may be waiting a lot longer for Hall of Fame induction, if not forever.
Saving Country Music’s Picks
If I had a vote…
Modern Era: Ricky Skaggs
Veterans Era: Gram Parsons, Jerry Reed, John Hartford, Maddox Brothers & Rose, Johnny Paycheck. If I had only one? Give me Gram and we’ll worry about the others next year.
Non Performer: Chet Flippo
The annual Muddy Roots Festival held over Labor Day weekend announced their initial lineup last week (see below) and at the top of the list was the name of legendary Bakersfield Sound songwriter Red Simpson, chiefly known for his devotion to the story of the American truck driver. Living on the outskirts of Bakersfield in an old trailer park, Red was recruited for Muddy Roots during a chance meeting with Century Media recording artist Bob Wayne who was touring through town.
In a strange turn of events, Bob Wayne found himself sitting in Red Simpson’s trailer at 6 AM, swapping songs and stories with a man he considered a hero, and who country music has so unfortunately forgotten over time.
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Bob Wayne: When I first started touring with Hank3, mainly Andy Gibson (Hank3 steel guitar) turned me on to him. Basically when we’re on tour and rolling down the road, we’re listening to music that we love, and turning each other on to music. Andy was like “Man, you’ve got to hear Red Simpson,” and he has all his CD’s. As soon as I heard it, I immediately fell in love with it and we would constantly be listening to it. He’s always singing about truck driving, or being a highway patrolman. We just thought it was so funny that was his only two topics pretty much. We obsessed over him for years. I was a huge fan, but I never looked him up to see what he was doing. I knew he was still alive but I figured he was really old.
Trigger: He must have been a big influence on your music as well. Your 2nd album was 13 Truckin’ Songs and since then you’ve put out even more trucking songs.
Bob Wayne: Definitely. When we we’re recording (with Andy Gibson), he was one of the guys we would go to to get the sound we were looking for. We’d listen to Johnny Paycheck, Red Simpson…just pull up these records and listen to them, and we really listened to Red Simpson’s guitar players. In fact we gave him a little tribute in the song “Mack.” It’s kind of subliminal, it’s in the background, but there’s a little guitar lick in there about Mack the truck driver. Red’s sound is just amazing.
Trigger: So how did it come about that you were hanging out with Red Simpson in Bakersfield and all of a sudden you’re helping book him at the Muddy Roots Festival?
Bob Wayne: It goes back to my guitar player Ryan (Clackner). He’s got a really big beard. He was in downtown Nashville–this goes back to last summer I think–and he was just sitting there hanging out, and this woman came up to him that was probably in her 60′s, and came up to Ryan out of the blue and said, “I just love your beard, and your aura.” She told him, “I work at the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield.” It’s a famous museum and restaurant down there in Bakersfield, and she gave him her number and said if he was ever in Bakersfield he could have a free tour or whatever.
This was all before Ryan joined my band. So he joins the band now, and we’re in Bakersfield and he ends up calling this girl and she comes to our show. We get to talking and I mentioned Red Simpson, not knowing she knew him or anything like that. I said, “I love Bakersfield, this is where Red Simpson is from.” And she said, “Do you like Red Simpson?” and I said, “I love Red Simpson, you don’t even know.” About 15 minutes later she walks over with the phone and says, “Someone wants to talk to you.” I’m like “Okay?” And I get on the phone and it’s like, “Hey, this is Red. How’s it going man?”
We started talking. Ended up he knew Donnie Herron of BR549 who now plays with Bob Dylan and whose played on all of my albums. Donnie used to live in Bakersfield. So we had that connection. And then Red was like, “Why don’t you come over tomorrow morning and we’ll drink some coffee? We’ll trade songs.” Just listening to him talk, I’m such a fan of his–like the way he laughs, he gives a little “heh” like he does at the end of some of his songs I was like, “Oh my God this is really him.” I was a little star struck. This is one of my heroes. He says, “How about 6 AM?” and I’m like, “Oh my God.” He’s 78 I think, so he’s up there. So I got up early, none of the band wanted to go that early.
He lives in a trailer park in Bakersfield, right in between the cemetery and the dump in this old ass trailer park. He’s got two old Cadillacs sitting out in the front, just like my old Cadillac limo. We ended up sitting there talking for hours, drinking coffee. He showed me all his demos, he played me all the unreleased Red Simpson songs that he’s just written. He’s just sitting in his trailer writing all these songs. He said, “Man, I’d really like it if you’d cut this one.” He gave me a couple of songs he really wants me to record. I asked him, “Do you still play gigs?” And he said, “I play down at the nursing home every Monday night for a free meal.”
So anyway we ended up hanging out all day until I had to leave. We we’re driving up to the next gig and I thought, “Man, I wonder if he would want to play Muddy Roots?” So I called Jason (Muddy Roots promoter), and Jason said, “Oh hell yeah.” So I called up Red and he said, “Well, I don’t have any band up there. And so I said, “We’ll learn your songs and do a good job.” Andy (Gibson) was really excited too. He said, “One minute we’re driving down the road listening to Red Simpson, now we’re going to be playing with him!”
Red is also going to do a show at the Country Music Hall of Fame February 23rd, and I’m actually going to pick him up in my limo and give him a ride to it. We’re going to hang out, he’s gonna come by the house, and we may do some recording and stuff. So Red Simpson is gonna be going to the Country Music Hall of Fame in my limo, and I’m gonna blow the big bullhorn for him and open the door and everything!
Trigger: This is all so appropriate because the Country Music Hall of Fame, their big exhibit is highlighting the Bakersfield Sound, which of course Red Simpson was a part of as much as anybody. It’s all about finding these old guys that time has forgotten, and giving them the props that they deserve.
Bob Wayne: Yeah, and it was funny because after I called him, about 10 minutes after he called me again and said, “Hey man, thank you so much for doing that. And uh…if you can get me any more gigs…” (laughing). So I’ve been putting out some feelers for him. Now I’m friends with him, it’s weird. We call, I talk to his wife and stuff. It’s crazy. — Purchase Tickets to the Muddy Roots Festival
Marty Stuart is the man. More so than any other modern country music artist, Marty does everything right, from preserving the roots of country and helping to keep the traditions alive, to putting out fresh, fun, and relevant music, to taking up the cause of the oldtimers and the up-and-comers alike to keep the country music community both honorable and vibrant. You name it, Marty has done it, and done it many times away from the cameras and country writers, simply from a passion for country music, and from the kindness of his heart.
Marty Stuart breathes country music, and helps preserve it and pay it forward almost as if it was an involuntary action. He doesn’t know how to do anything different. The man is tireless, touring many months out of the year, and spending the majority of his time when home in Nashville on his Marty Stuart Show or playing the Grand Ole Opry, or other endeavors that many times seem to be about promotion someone other than himself. The amount of talent he has churning through the Marty Stuart Show set alone is boggling, and it is about the only place left in American popular media where you can see what real country entertainment once was.
You know, I’ve heard some folks say that Marty is “hokey,” probably partly in response to his RFD-TV Show. I’ve heard others remark that he’s just plain weird, maybe from his flamboyant hairdo or dress. What’s funny though is when it comes to Marty Stuart’s music, all of that stuff seems so superfluous. His recent output is responsible for some of the hardest-charging guitar music that exists in country right now, walking right up near the line of rock & roll, but cleverly knowing where not to cross it. The magic Marty is making with “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan and the double-barreled Telecaster twang-out sound is something that will go down in the annals of country music as one of its coolest eras.
Marty Stuart also has excellent ballads and beautiful instrumentals and traditionals that include some of the tightest musicianship and harmonies you will find, mostly the fault of his excellent band The Fabulous Superlatives. From gospel to Outlaw, Marty Stuart can work within all of country music’s colors, and practice the art of playing and living authentic country music that he preaches. As Marty says, “The most Outlaw thing you can do in Nashville right now is play country music.”
One thing that many folks don’t know about Marty Stuart is that he owns a vast archive of country music memorabilia, and not from a personal desire to horde expensive valuables, but a sincere desire to preserve these artifacts for future generations of country fandom.
I’ve heard many stories about Marty’s generosity from other artists over the years, but the one that sticks with me most was from 90-year-old Don Maddox, the last surviving member of the Maddox Brothers & Rose. When Don flew out from the West Coast to be a part of the opening of the Bakersfield Sound exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Marty acted as Don Maddox’s personal tour guide in Nashville, taking him to see the Maddox Brothers costumes Marty gobbled up years ago for safe keeping (some of which were given to the Hall of Fame for the Bakersfield exhibit), inviting Don to play with him on The Grand Ole Opry, and putting him on The Marty Stuart Show.
Marty’s generosity stretches out to all sectors of real country music, to up-and-coming acts like The Quebe Sisters and Justin Townes Earle that he’s invited on his TV show, to Hank Williams III who appears on a duet on Marty’s latest album Nashville Vol. 1 – Tear The Woodpile Down.
And in the end, Marty Stuart’s music is the reason he deserves this honor the most. The reason Marty is in a position to do all the great things that he does is because he is so revered by his peers, by country music’s historic institutions, and by the overall country music community.
Simply put, Marty Stuart is saving country music.
Don Maddox, the last surviving member of the wildly-influential Maddox Brothers & Rose, will be recognized in his hometown of Ashland, Oregon for his 90th birthday at the Don Maddox Birthday Celebration on Saturday, December 8th.
Don Maddox moved to Ashland, OR from California in the late 50′s after The Maddox Brothers & Rose disbanded, and bought a 300-acre cattle ranch where he’s been “hibernating” (in his words) from the music business for the last 54 years. Don still works and lives on the remaining 80-acre parcel, where one of Ashland’s landmarks, Don’s “Maddox Revolution Angus” barn sits prominently on a hillside on the east side of town.
The Maddox Brothers & Rose are one of the most influential bands in the history of American music. Don and his family migrated from Alabama in 1933 during the Depression to California, and became the first band to formulate what would later become known as the California country, West Coast, or Bakersfield Sound. They were called “The Most Colorful Hillbilly Band” and played shows with folks as far ranging as Ernest Tubb and Elvis Presley.
It is said that Elvis when playing a show with The Maddox Family in Beaumont, TX was inspired by The Maddox Brothers’ colorful uniforms and adopted the fashion style himself. The Maddox Brothers and Rose were there at the beginning of the formation of country, rockabilly, and rock and roll music, and are given credit for influencing them all equally.
Don Maddox has been enjoying a major resurgence in his musical career thanks to the re-popularization of the music of Maddox Brothers & Rose, and his own music he’s been releasing on his record label “Revolution Records”. Don and The Maddox Brothers and Rose are heavily featured in a brand new exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, TN showcasing the Bakersfield Sound from California that Don and the Maddox Brothers were seminal in creating.
When Merle Haggard was asked to be part of the opening ceremony for the Bakersfield Sound exhibit, he said, “If you don’t have Don Maddox out here for this, you may as well not have it at all.” During Don’s trip to Nashville for the opening of the exhibit, he was also invited on to the Grand Ole Opry where he received two standing ovations. He also has headlined the Muddy Roots Festival in Tennessee the last two years.
Don Maddox’s 90th Birthday Celebration will feature performances by the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers, Sage Meadows and her band High Country, Don Maddox himself, and the legendary Ashland bluegrass group Siskiyou Summit, who was the backing band Don’s sister Rose Maddox for many years. Rose, who passed away in 1998, is buried in Ashland, as are all the members of Maddox Brothers & Rose.
Don Maddox’s 90th Birthday Celebration will be from 2 to 6 PM, December 8th at the Ashland Community Center, located just across from Lithia Park at 59 Winburn Way, Ashland, OR 97520. Don’s actual birthday is Pearl Harbor day, December 7th.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.donmaddox.weebly.com.
Presentation to the Ashland, OR City Council at part of the Don Maddox 90th Birthday Celebration:
Don Maddox on the Marty Stuart Show:
ABC’s new drama Nashville just signed on for a full season of shows, and has been winning its time slot in the ratings virtually every week since its inception. As canned as the drama may be, as ugly of a construct of modern TV as it may be, and as dirty as it may make anyone feel for watching it (or even enjoying it), it’s safe to say the show will be around for a while. And with its continued popularity, it will likely have a keen impact on American culture.
So what positives could come from the show? If you take away all the drama between the characters that’s really the central focus of the series, what you have is the biggest inside look into the business of country music ever released to the public through popular media, and a vehicle for presenting new music to millions of folks. The ugly trappings of Nashville go with out saying. Here are some of the positives.
I have to hand it to the show’s music czar T Bone Burnett. I’ve always been on the other side of the silly love affair the Americana world has with this man, but he’s been showing tremendous breadth of music knowledge so far in the series. I thought we’d see a healthy dose of the usual suspects of Americana in Nashville; the same names who win all the AMA awards annually and feel very much like an exclusive crowd. Instead we’ve heard from such outliers as Shovels & Rope and Lindi Ortega.
Sure he could always dig deeper, and I’d love to see some of that independent love extend to the country, Texas, and Red Dirt worlds. But we have to understand this is the big time here. The bump even a 30-second snippet of music or a quick appearance from an artist can give to their name can be immense, not to mention the mailbox money ABC pays out to use a song.
And it hasn’t just been independent, rising-stars getting love from Nashville. Oldtimers like Del McCoury and behind-the-scenes musicians like Sam Bush have enjoyed cameos, while clips from country legends like Tammy Wynette have weaseled their way onto the soundtrack. Nashville is exposing all the alternatives to mainstream country: past, present, and future.
Important Nashville landmarks, from The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, to cool little independent night spots in east Nashville and on lower Broadway are getting favorable face time through the series, and it’s hard not to see how if the show remains popular people won’t make it a point to visit these spots when they visit the city. Sure, this can have a negative impact too, taking away the exclusivity or authenticity of some of these venues in the long term (see Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge). But the series works as one big infomercial/tourist brochure for Music City that will likely result in a positive economic impact.
UPDATE (11-29): Last night’s Episode 7 featured two very important Nashville landmarks, The Ryman Auditorium, aka “The Country Music Mother Church”, and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, a venue that was at the very heart of the formation of underground country. It also featured a cameo of Hank3′s bass player Zach Shedd.
Terms like “opener,” “co-headliner,” “Autotune,” and “demo” are commonly used on the show, and will become familiar vernacular to the mainstream fanbase that otherwise just waits for the superstar to take center stage and generally thinks that all the rest happens by magic. The whole process of how an album is put together or a big time tour is assembled is showcased as the backdrop to Nashville’s character drama. Songwriter characters play major roles in the show, articulating to viewers the evolution of how a song goes from the page to the stage.
Let’s face it, most mainstream music lovers have little idea where music actually comes from, and standard procedure in mainstream music is to keep all of that behind the curtain. Now through Nashville, the general public sees that it takes seasoned musicians in the studio and at the back of the stage to make an album or a show happen, and that sometimes these people are just as important to the process as the stars. They now know those hit songs are written by other people, many who struggle just to make ends meet, who have to work second jobs and who aspire to be stars themselves.
Nashville has met the issues concerning aging talent head on, and how that talent is mercilessly dealt with on the business side. Sure, the show may not offer any solutions to these problems in the short term, but when people watch Nashville and then see aging artists on the stage or hear about them losing record deals or see young stars come up that may not be talented than the older ones, they will understand on a more intimate level why that is happening. And traditionally, educated consumers make better choices. Nashville is music education through osmosis. It is the music equivalent of hiding your dog’s medicine in a piece of cheese.
Excitement About Music
We are now about a year or so removed from music’s lost decade that spanned the majority of the 2000′s. There are many things to blame for what happened to the music business: the slow move to digitization, the lack of talent, a slow economy, the ever increasing mergers and acquisitions that make the majority of the corporate music world controlled by fewer and fewer people.
But during this period I think overall the American culture was evaluating what the role of music was going to be in our lives moving forward. Sure, when music is harder to get, not as good, and you don’t have as much expendable cash to spend on it, there’s going to be a pullback. But we don’t talk enough about how the entire traditional music industry was teetering on collapse, and how in the last year or two it’s completely pulled out of the tailspin. And also, that one possible way the music industry righted the ship was by offering a slightly better product.
Aside from all the specific factors, I believe part of the reason for the music industry reversal is because people want music to play an integral part in their lives, whether their tastes and dispositions lie in the independent world, the mainstream, or somewhere in between. And that’s why the music of Nashville is such an integral part of the show, and why the show represents all aspects of it.
Music is back, and the success of Nashville proves that, and is in part because of the show’s independent focus, not in spite of it, proving that the independent music world can gain widespread mainstream acceptance if only given a chance.
On Thursday Oct. 4th, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced plans to permanently locate the Songwriters Hall of Fame to the new Music City Center, the behemoth convention center and hotel complex in downtown Nashville being built right beside the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was announced previously that the Country Hall Of Fame would be connected to Music City Center and have some shared space between the two buildings. Now the Songwriters Hall of Fame whose home has been virtual up to this point, will have a permanent place as part of the project.
But there is an important wrinkle to this story that is going unreported.
As important of an institution as the Songwriters Hall of Fame is, it may not be the most deserving of a spot in Music City Center. If all things were equal, that opportunity would go to the Musicians Hall of Fame: the institution that was imminent domained by the City of Nashville and given a week to remove its artifacts before being bulldozed to make way for the new building. And more importantly, the Musicians Hall of Fame was the one initially promised the space.
The Musicians Hall of Fame opened in June of 2006 just across 4th St. from the Country Hall of Fame in Nashville, with the charter of showcasing the unsung heroes of music: the musicians behind the big names, and the big names that are excellent musicians as well. Though located in Nashville, the Musicians Hall of Fame didn’t showcase just country music, but all genres, and hosted music lessons and workshops, as well as private events in their museum space.
When plans were launched for the new Music City Center complex, it was determined by the City of Nashville that the Musicians Hall of Fame had to go. Nashville initially reached out to the institution and offered them a space in the new building.
“We were told that they would provide us a place to go for free while the construction was goin’ on for the convention center for the next three years, and then we would move into the new convention center,” says Joe Chambers, the founder and CEO of the Musicians Hall Of Fame. “They brought plans over, they had the plans drawn out for us.”
Where things went south was when the city’s appraiser valued the Musicians Hall of Fame land for $4.8 million, half of what a private appraiser, and the same appraiser that evaluated the property when the Musicians Hall of Fame bought it in 2003 valued it at; $9.8 million. When Chambers refused the City of Nashville’s discounted offer, Nashville took the matter to the courts and had the property seized through governmental fiat. Then the Musicians Hall of Fame was only given 7 days to vacate the 30,000 sq. ft. of space filled with the museum’s priceless artifacts.
This is where the story gets worse.
Since the Musician’s Hall Of Fame was a museum with no home, they were forced to put all of their artifacts in storage. Then in the middle of May, 2010, when downtown Nashville experience historic flooding, the storage place housing the museum’s artifacts was flooded, destroying many of the priceless instruments, including the first drum ever played on the Grand Ole Opry, the upright bass played in Hank Williams’ last recording session, and guitars from people such as Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton, and Johnny Cash.
Eventually the Musicians Hall of Fame did find a new home a mile down the road at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The Hall of Fame will be housed in the building’s basement, and the name of the building is being changed to “Musicians Hall of Fame at the Municipal Auditorium” but this is no gift from the City of Nashville. The Hall of Fame is having to lease the space from the city instead of owning it like the previous location. They also must pay for all the expenses due to the name change of the auditorium.
The good news is the Musicians Hall Of Fame did eventually find a new home, and one that still exists in downtown Nashville. The Musicians Hall Of Fame is still not open at its new site. Its website says the hope to open sometime later in 2012. Calls and emails to them from Saving Country Music for comment were not immediately returned.
The question that citizens of the City of Nashville and citizens of the music community should be asking is how did the Songwriters Hall Of Fame and the Musicians Hall Of Fame get swapped in the Music City Center project? If there is enough room for a hall of fame on the premises, why would the preference not go to the one initially promised the space, and whose home got razed in the construction?
No offense to the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. It is great they finally have a physical home, and it appears that the Musicians Hall Of Fame is happy with their location at the municipal auditorium, and that the city is working with them to attempt to make it right. But with the announcement of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame being part of the Music City Center complex, if feels like an injustice has been done to the Musicians Hall Of Fame. Once again.
Because Dwight is just so damn cool, and because it’s been quite a while since his heyday, it’s easy to forget that at one point he was one of the biggest things going in mainstream country music; selling out arenas, and shaking up the sound with his neotraditional, Bakersfield-fueled tunes. Yoakam has sold over 25 million records and charted 30 singles, but you don’t think of him as a mainstream success, he’s the man you shake your fist at, but love all the same because he will always be cooler than you.
7 years is a long time to be absent from an original release, though Yoakam has plenty of excuses and been plenty busy with numerous movie appearances. He says the long lapse was not planned, but after coming off the joyride that was the mid 80′s through the early 2000′s for Dwight, crowds and sales were beginning to dwindle. Where he once played arenas, he was now headlining county fairs and releasing albums on smaller labels like Koch and New West.
Now he’s back on Warner where his career started in earnest after coming up playing mostly in rock and punk circles and being branded too “out there” by Nashville. You probably won’t see Yoakam’s name on your local arena’s marquee (he plays a lot of concert-catering casinos these days), but it feels like the Yoakam hiatus allowed his career to baste and simmer until now he’s re-emerged as a younger, but bona fide country music legend; a much more appetizing alternative to grasping to hold on to your youth and mainstream relevancy (see Hank Jr.). 3 Pears debuted at #3 on Billboard’s country chart, and was helped along by a top-notch media push by a big label.
It would have been impossible to screw up 3 Pears. With Dwight’s molasses voice, all you have to do is cut open a live mic in a studio and magic will happen. What’s the old saying about singing the phone book? When Johnny Cash has cited you as his favorite country singer, you know the talent is natural. All it needs is an outlet.
After giving 3 Pears an extended listen, I was curious of why even though I liked all of the songs, only a few of them seemed to grow on me to the point of where I craved them. I think this is a product of the production. Though none of the approaches to the songs are necessarily wrong, some feel like they are stretching, like they are trying to make sure the songs sound hip and fresh instead of letting them breathe and find their own path.
For example, the very first song, “Take Hold of My Hand” starts off with a very hip bass line. This is a song that Yoakam had been sitting on for 20 years and reached out to Kid Rock to help finish. No offense to bass guitar (or Kid Rock), but when I hear a Yoakam song, I don’t want to notice the bass. I want to be grabbed by the collar by Yoakam’s voice and have everything else compliment it. Similar bass action starts of the song “Trying”, an otherwise excellent song and one of the best on the album. But despite whatever production miscues, the strength of the material rallies.
Beck also helped out on 3 Pears, collaborating and recording two songs at his Malibu studio, “Missing Heart”, and in my opinion the gem of the project, “A Heart Like Mine”. This song is where everything comes together. Where some of the tracks on 3 Pears come across as a little too polished, here the guitar is dirty, the words a hard to make out, and that’s the way I want my Dwight. If I can’t understand the words because Yoakam’s voice is in that sweet spot for his drawl and inflections, that’s perfect, because that means I can feel them.
One of the hardest things for an excellent singer to do is to write to their vocal strengths. That’s one of the reasons Dwight has released 4 cover albums, and why some of his biggest hits were version of recognizable songs, (ex: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Streets of Bakersfield”). Yoakam finds that magical combination of originality and his singing sweet spot a few times on 3 Pears. He also let’s fly a great cover of the oft-covered “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” that has its roots in the original Bakersfield Sound that Dwight helps carry on and that is being showcased right now (and that song specifically) at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Bakersfield Sound exhibit.
Dwight Yoakam is an important figure in the quest to save country music. He’s authentic, real, and original. Yet he’s also successful, accepted, proven, palatable to the mainstream, and perfect for outreach with his acting career. He’s country’s king of cool (despite what he looks like without a hat), and 3 Pears is a solid contribution that will hopefully re-ignite interest in this iconic, one-of-a-kind country music talent that generations deserve to hear.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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Warning: Rank classless immaturity ahead.
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As some of you may already know, I’ve got a good friend named Pointer, and every year we get together for an annual trip to downtown Nashville around Labor Day. Pointer and I are great friends and we both love country music, but we couldn’t be on more opposite sides of the country music spectrum. You see, I like the old stuff and the cool independent stuff of today, while Pointer loves pop country. But that’s okay, we’re such good friends we get along with each other and enjoy our annual trip to Nashville together.
Last year Pointer and I visited downtown Nashville and had a great time. He loves to have his picture taken in front of things. So I thought I’d share some snapshots from Pointer’s and I’s 2012 downtown Nashville trip.
The first thing we saw as we were pulling into downtown Nashville on I-40 was a huge billboard advertising Rascal Flatts!
Pointer is a HUGE Rascal Flatts fan, and so he had to get his picture taken with it!
Then we headed into downtown Nashville proper. Nashville has such a beautiful skyline. I snapped this picture when Pointer and I were strolling along the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge across the Cumberland River.
Pointer loves the Nashville skyline too. He’s also a HUGE fan of CMT’s new reality programming like Redneck Vacation and Bayou Billionaires. I don’t like those shows because I think they perpetuate negative country stereotypes, but it’s all Pointer watches. So when we were strolling downtown, he insisted he get his picture taken in front of their building!
Then we walked across Broadway to the Country Music Hall of Fame!
I was really excited to go to the Hall of Fame to check out their new Bakersfield Sound Exhibit!
One of the things I love about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is that they house the largest archive of country music memorabilia that exists. The most important part of the collection is called “The Precious Jewel” which is 6 of some of the most-important instruments to ever be played in the genre: Bill Monroe’s Gibson F-5 mandolin, Hank Williams’ Martin D-28 guitar, Lester Flatt’s D-28, Jimmie Rodgers’ Martin 00-18 guitar, “Mother” Maybelle Carter’s Gibson L-5 guitar, and Chet Atkins’ D’Angelico Excel.
With such important and historic relics housed in one place, you can imagine my horror when Shooter Jennings and his XXX movement decided a good way to push their branding was to point a tank at a museum hosing these precious icons. Pointer was neither here nor there on Shooter until his recent duet with The Nickelback of Country Music, Bucky Covington. Pointer LOVES Bucky, and loves the duet “Drinking Side of Country” so he wanted to get his picture taken at the place where Shooter pointed his belligerent tank at the last remaining country music institution preserving its history and traditions.
For some reason, Pointer insisted on holding the lens cap when taking the picture. I wonder about that boy sometimes.
So then it was starting to get dark so we decided to hike down to Music Row, the place in downtown Nashville where all the major labels have their home offices. Last year our big stop on Music Row was Curb Records. This year Pointer wanted to find the elusive, unmarked offices of his favorite label, Taylor Swift’s Big Machine Records owned by the Country Music Anti-Christ Scott Borchetta. They purposely leave their building unmarked, but after some cyber-sleuthing and asking around, we found the proper place and Pointer couldn’t wait to get his picture taken in front of it!
Many Music Row offices are housed in older houses, and some tear down the old houses and build bigger buildings as the label grows. According to Pointer and I’s sources, the building being constructed right beside Big Machine’s current home office will be their new office soon, so Pointer wanted to be pictured in front of that as well!
Oh but I’m leaving out the best part! As we were trolling around, looking for Big Machine’s building, who did Pointer and I see than none other than Scott Borchetta himself! I can’t you how much Pointer would have LOVED to get his picture with him, but by the time we had pulled over and located the camera, Scott had slithered inside. So Pointer had to settle for getting a picture with Borchetta’s car.
Pointer and I really enjoyed our trip to Nashville once again, and looking forward to many fun Nashville adventures in the coming years.
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