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George Jones. The Possum. Possibly the man whose life and story embody the themes of a country song better than anyone. From rags to riches, back to rags, and eventually onto rehabilitation and redemption, George Jones was a man that faced demons more fierce than any of us can imagine, and eventually came out on top. Was he a badass? You bet, and here’s 10 reasons why.
- 10 Badass Willie Nelson Moments
- 10 Badass Waylon Jennings Moments
- 10 Badass Johnny Cash Moments
- 10 Badass Hank3 Moments
- 10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments
- 10 Badass Marty Stuart Moments
1. Flipping the Dinner Table at Tammy Wynette’s House
Before George and Tammy were married, George went over to Tammy’s house one night to have dinner with her and her then husband, songwriter Don Chapel. George knew Tammy through their mutual booking agent. While fixing dinner, Tammy and Don Chapel got in a heated argument, resulting on Don calling Tammy a “son of a bitch” in front of George. George, secretly hiding his admiration with Tammy, lost it.
“I felt rage fly all over me,” Jones said in his autobiography. “I jumped from my chair, put my hands under the dinner table, and flipped it over. Dishes, utensils, and glasses flew in all directions. Don’s and Tammy’s eyes got about as big as the flying dinner plates.”
George professed his love for Tammy right then and there, and the country music couple were soon married.
2. Helping To Found ACE — The Association of Country Entertainers
George Jones was never considered an Outlaw, but he participated in one of the most significant precursors to country music’s Outlaw revolution in the mid 70′s. Some know the story of Charlie Rich burning the envelope announcing John Denver as Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s in 1975, but it was the year prior when the stink had begun about performers outside of the country genre walking away with the industry’s accolades. Olivia Newton-John’s win in 1974 for Female Vocalist of the Year caused such a stir that traditional and even pop-leaning country performers at the time organized behind the acronym “ACE” that stood for “Association of Country Entertainers”.
Spearheading ACE was George Jones and then wife Tammy Wynette, and the inaugural meeting of ACE was held at their Tennessee residence. Other participants in ACE included Dolly Parton, Bill Anderson, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Conway Twitty, Hank Snow, Mel Tillis, Barbara Mandrell and more than a dozen others. ACE demanded more representation of traditional artists on the CMA’s Board of Directors, and more balance on country radio playlists (does any of this sound familiar?).
Just how successful ACE was can be argued, but it was the precursor to future organizations looking to restore balance and better representation from the CMA, and helped usher in country music’s Outlaw movement and the return to a more traditional sound that the mid 70′s saw in country.
3. Riding a Lawnmower to the Liquor Store
The first and most well-documented lawnmower incident was the late 60′s. George Jones was living 8 miles outside of Beaumont, TX with his then wife Shirley Ann Corley. Jones had experienced a few #1 hits by that time, and his success fueled his wayward ways with alcohol. He was drinking so bad, his wife Shirley resorted to hiding all the keys to the vehicles before she would leave the house so George wouldn’t drive to the nearest liquor store in Beaumont.
But that didn’t stop him. After tearing the house apart looking for a set of keys one time, George looked out the window to see a riding lawnmower sitting on the property under the glow of a security light. “There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition,” George recalled in his autobiography. “I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did.”
The second, lesser-known incident of George Jones’s escapades on a riding lawnmower happened when he was married to Tammy Wynette. Taking a cue from George’s previous wife Shirley, Tammy hid all the keys from George, but George had been down that road before. Wynette woke up one night at 1 AM to find George missing. “I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away,” Tammy recounted in 1979. “When I pulled into the parking lot there sat our rider-mower right by the entrance. He’d driven that mower right down a main highway. He looked up and saw me and said, `Well, fellas, here she is now. My little wife, I told you she’d come after me.’”
The George Jones lawnmower incidents later went on to be memorialized in many country videos, including Hank Williams Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” Vince Gill’s 1993 hit “One More Last Chance” that includes the line, “She might have took my car keys, but she forgot about my old John Deere,” and John Rich’s “Country Done Come to Town,” and George’s own “Honky Tonk Song.”
4. Recording “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
Yes, it could be easy to highlight George’s signature song and say it was awesome for him to cut it, but the story behind “He Stopped Loving Her Today” goes much deeper. The song not only saved George’s career, it potentially saved his life, and all of this is from a song that at first he didn’t want to record because he thought it was too depressing, too long, and nobody would play it. It eventually became his first #1 in six years, salvaged his career, introduced him to a new generation of fans, and solidified his place as one of country music’s biggest ever superstars. Jones himself says about it, “A four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.”
Written by Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Braddock (who you can argue would not be a Hall of Famer if it weren’t for the song), along with Curly Putnam, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” went on to spend 18 weeks at #1, won the Grammy for Best Male Country Performance in 1980, both the ACM for Single and Song of the Year, and was the Song of the Year from the CMA’s for 1980 and 1981. After George’s death, the song re-entered the charts at #21. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” deserves to be in that elite class of songs that can be argued are the greatest country music songs of all time.
5. Being The Best Male Duet Partner in the History of Country Music
When you have the best voice in country music, your services as a duet partner are going to be called on early and often. And despite George’s body of solo work being worthy of a Hall of Fame career, his work as a duet partner is unparallelled itself. Country music stars young and old, male and female lined up to take advantage of his voice over many decades, and duets accounted for five of the fourteen #1 hits George had over his storied career. Here’s a rundown of just some of the people George performed duets with over the years:
•Tammy Wynette •Loretta Lynn •Buck Owens •Waylon Jennings •Willie Nelson •Johnny Cash •Dolly Parton •David Allan Coe •Jerry Lee Lewis •Hank Williams Jr. •Patty Loveless •Lynn Anderson •Emmylou Harris •Ricky Skaggs •Garth Brooks •Tracy Lawrence •Charlie Daniels •Marty Stuart •Merle Haggard •Ralph Stanley •Randy Travis •Vince Gill •Alan Jackson •Sammy Kershaw •Shelby Lynn •Mark Chesnutt •Travis Tritt •Barbara Mandrell •Brenda Lee •Shooter Jennings •The Staple Singers •Keith Richards •B.B. King
6. Walking out of the CMA Awards
Ahead of the 1999 CMA Awards, George Jones was enjoying yet another resurgence in his career. Jones was slated to perform the song “Choices” on the CMA’s, but when producers insisted he must sing an abbreviated version, he walked out of the ceremonies and boycotted the show.
In a super act of class and solidarity, Alan Jackson halfway through his performance of “Pop A Top,” stopped down and shifted gears to perform “Choices” in protest. The event has gone on to be considered one of the biggest moments of country protest in the history of the genre.
7. Recording “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”
Throughout his career, George Jones held fast to the ideals of traditional country music, and wasn’t afraid to fight for them, or speak out about what was happening in the genre. And as one of the few artists who registered hits in multiple decades (according to Billboard, Jones had more “hits” than any other country artist), when George Jones spoke, people listened.
George’s song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” comes from the 1985 album of the same name, and was written by Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes. It’s a poignant tribute to the history of country music and its previous greats, while calling attention to the abandonment of country’s roots. The song was so potent, the phrase “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” has become one of the most popular go-to colloquialisms concerning the state of country. The song was also a hit, rising to #3 on the Billboard country chart in 1985.
8. Overcoming His Personal Demons
Some people assume that becoming a rich celebrity solves many of your problems, when for many artists it exposes and fuels their problems. Such was the case for George Jones, who had major issues with alcohol, and later in his career, drugs. At one point in 1979, despite being one of the best-selling artists in the history of country music, he was bankrupt and destitute, living in his car, weighing around 100 pounds and living off of junk food. George spent time in mental institutions tied to his drinking multiple times and had to be straighjacketed on numerous occasions. He became known as “No Show Jones” because he missed so many engagements over his career.
But in many ways George Jone’s bad behavior only helped his reputation. His fans didn’t turn on him, they loved him more because they could relate to him and their own personal struggles, and because he was such a great artist and performer when he would show. Alan Jackson once said about Jones, “…what I like most about George is that when you meet him, he is like some ole guy that works down at the gas station…even though he’s a legend!”
Waylon Jennings and others first helped get George Jones sober in the early 80′s, and the result was a resurgence in his career. However later in life George Jones would fall back into his old habits. George gave up drinking and drugs for good in 1999 after wrecking his car and spending two weeks in the hospital. After the crash he pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges. Jones told Billboard later, “…when I had that wreck I made up my mind, it put the fear of God in me. No more smoking, no more drinking. I didn’t have to have no help, I made up my mind to quit. I don’t crave it.”
9. Wanting to Die Performing
Some artists perform because they want to, others perform because they have to. In March of 2012, George Jones was hospitalized with an upper respiratory infection. The 80-year-old performer was having trouble breathing, and it was thought that he didn’t have much more time before his lungs would fail him. Instead of heading home to recuperate and potentially prolong his life, George set to planning a 60-date farewell tour, culminating in a star-studded event set to transpire at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena in November of 2013 with over 50 special performers.
According to George’s wife, before he even left on the tour, he knew he would not make it to the finale. Doctors said he was in no condition to perform or tour, but he did anyway. On April 18th, 2013 George Jones was hospitalized in Nashville, missing tour dates in Alabama and Salem. He eventually passed away on April 26th, 2013 at the age of 81.
10. Having The Greatest Male Voice in the History of Country Music
- “When people ask me who my favorite country singer is, I say, ‘You mean besides George Jones?’” — Johnny Cash
- “The greatest voice to ever sing country music.” — Garth Brooks
- “The second best singer in America” — Frank Sinatra
- “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones,” — Waylon Jennings
- “Anyone who knows or cares anything about real country music will agree that George Jones is the voice of it.” — Dolly Parton
Okay, Red Sovine only pondered killing Waylon and Willie in hyperbole and sarcasm. In fact by all accounts this succulent little lost country classic was written and recorded as a tribute to the success of the two Outlaw country music greats. And as one of the very last recordings trucker song overlord Red Sovine ever made, and one that was released in a much more straight-laced time in country music when its genius may have been lost on most, it only seems fair to resurrect it now and shine a spotlight on it for our listening enjoyment.
The song is called “The Waylon & Willie Machine,” and its wise-ass take on the two Texan’s success speaks to just how big Waylon & Willie were back in the mid to late 70′s. The song was originally written and recorded by country and rockabilly artist Marvin Rainwater with co-writer Max D. Barnes (George Jones’ “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” and Waylon’s “Drinkin’ and Dreamin’” just to name a few). Marvin Rainwater recorded the song with Jesse Fletcher on the very small “Okie” imprint at some point in the late 70′s (listen below), but very few 7″ copies were made.
Then Red Sovine got a hold of it in 1979 and released it on a 45 himself through Gusto Records, with Colorado Cool Aid on the flip side. Sovine’s would become the definitive version … if there was one. The song never made it on an album (Sovine passed away on April 4th, 1980 of a heart attack), and it was never released properly as a single, probably because it would be misunderstood by DJ’s and listeners alike. But listening to it now some 35 years later, the entertainment value hasn’t waned, but grown better with age.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, you’re seeing this right. Do not rub your eyes or adjust your monitors. In a wild upset, coming out of left field, and counter to just about every other music outlet’s top rated albums, Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year for 2013 is none other than the masterpiece from The Mavericks, the infectious celebration of the joys of life and music known as In Time.
Go ahead, leave your comments below about how this album is not country.
The Mavericks’ In Time cuts against the grain, and is counterintuitive to all of the well-noted and often-ballyhooed music trends of 2013. 2013 was coined as the “Year of the Woman” in country music by many, and the “Year of the Songwriter” by Saving Country Music and others. In Time doesn’t appreciably reside in either of those distinctions, though I would argue that it’s a much more deft songwriting presentation than it may seem on the surface. And no, it’s not especially country in the traditional sense.
But you reach a point in music where it is so good that no data points, no trends, no narrow-minded ties to genre matter. Music isn’t meant to be over thought as we so often do as active music fans, it is meant to be felt. And the best music simply grips you and allows you to lose yourself in it. In Time reminded this jaded music critic who must toil through reams of albums every day to find something even worthy of writing a few paragraphs about of what it meant to be a music lover all over again.
A masterpiece? I believe so. Singer Raul Malo is the the George Jones and Frank Sinatra of our time all rolled up into one, it’s just our time is gripped by the narrow, short attention span that doesn’t paying proper attention to talent like Raul’s towering vocal gifts that are unparalleled in virtually every corner of music this side of operatic maestros, or the tastefulness of guitar player and harmony singer Eddie Perez, or all of the admirable contributions of The Mavericks’ core and subsidiary players.
The country influences are certainly here, and anyone who asserts otherwise simply isn’t listening through the music to its inner soul. But without question, there are heavy Latin, cajun, surf, rock, and jazz influences here too. In Time is not simply the best album in country music in 2013, it is arguably one of the best, if not the best album in all of American music, and for it not to win the day in it’s home genre of country music would be a silly oversight, and tough to justify as In Time only becomes fortified by the test of time, divested from trend or taste as it is, and embedded with such universal appeal.
In Time by The Mavericks is the one; the only album that left no room for improvement, was both slick and tight, yet alive and breathing from the live aspect of the recording. It looked both forward, and behind. It led, but also paid tribute. It was a gift of music that gave more than any other in 2013, that also promises to continue to give for years to come.
Fans of this album will be the first to cry foul, but I will say what many long-time fans that knew Sturgill before this album will all admit: Sturgill has even more in him than High Top Mountain captures. I say this in an appreciative way as someone who has known Sturgill’s music longer than most. Sturgill has a whole career of albums ahead of him, and may win half a dozen Albums of the Year from Saving Country Music and others before it’s all done. But if an artist could have even done more than a particular album displays, however excellent that album may be, it must be considered when making a choice for Album of the Year. Nonetheless, consider High Top Mountain a very close runner up.
Jason Isbell’s Southeastern should also be considered a very close runner up to In Time. It is an astounding collection of songs, but in the end didn’t carry the weight as a complete album concept the way In Time did in my opinion.
Also interesting to note, I did tally all of the clear and obvious votes from readers for all of the Album of the Year nominees. The Mavericks and In Time beat out Southeastern 20 votes to 19. High Top Mountain got the most with 24, but Saving Country Music is also much more familiar ground for Simpson and Isbell fans. It was interesting to see just how close these three albums came to each other, and it did help influence the outcome.
And lastly I would say, before people scream about how another album should have won, my request is only do so after you have given In Time a chance.
It is sometimes easy to get swept up in moments and convince yourself that it has never been as bad as it is now. But one thing is hard to argue: the amount of loss that occurred in country music in 2013 was to a degree the genre has rarely, or never experienced before. From the death of one of the most legendary country music performers of all time in George Jones, to the unexpected passing of Willie Nelson’s guitar player Jody Payne, 2013 seemed to be a year of suffering through one unfortunate news story after another. To illustrate this, just appreciate these three facts:
- Braxton Schuffert died the same day George Jones died, April 26th.
- Chet Flippo died the same day Slim Whitman died, June 19th.
- “Cowboy” Jack Clement, Jody Payne, and Tompall Glaser all died within a week of each other in early August.
Below find a collection of the unfortunate obituaries Saving Country Music was forced to write this year, and a commentary on the passing of Mindy McCready that many give credit as being one of the best-written articles on SCM in 2013.
Mindy McCready – February 17th, 2013
The dead American celebrity–whether occurring quickly and unexpectedly, or slowly over time in a downward spiral of self destructive behavior–is an eternal narrative of the American popular culture, and an everlasting disgrace on our legacy. From jazz greats overdosing on heroin, to Hank Williams dying on New Year’s Day 1953 in the back of his powder blue Cadillac, to Jimi, to Janis, to Jim, Kurt, Michael Jackson and now Mindy McCready, as long as the American culture has been united through media, we’ve been willing accomplices to murder by the act of our unhealthy obsessions with humans we both unfairly canonize and unnecessarily criticize in the idolatrous pop culture cycle.
Instilled in all of us at birth is the idea that becoming a celebrity is the apex of the human experience. We feed this philosophy to our children. We perpetuate it through media. We’ve made it a vital building block of our economy. It is enshrined and institutionalized in our educational system in the form of popularity contests. It has infiltrated our religious institutions. Yet nowhere is the philosophy of wealth and celebrity being broken promises given equal time. Nowhere are the eternal narratives held up as evidence that fame doesn’t resolve personal problems, it exacerbates them, and that wealth doesn’t resolve the downward spiral, it fuels it. We take individuals already predisposed to addiction, depression, suicide and other self-destructive behavior, and then we expect them to deal with these issues in the public eye for our entertainment.
I would be lying if I said I was a fan of Mindy McCready’s music, and I would feel remiss if I recommended it. It would also be disingenuous of me if I regurgitated certain facts here in some heartlessly-compiled obit and acted like I knew the ins and outs of Mindy McCready’s career over time. The truth is I shielded myself from Mindy McCready’s celebrity, as well as the drama that plagued her later life that played out in popular media. I did so from an inherent personal belief that this voyeuristic pursuit was unhealthy for both Mindy and myself.
Did we kill Mindy McCready? No, Mindy McCready killed Mindy McCready.
We simply sat back and watched.
Braxton Schuffert – April 26, 2013
Whether you want to go as far as to say Braxton Schuffert “discovered” Hank Williams depends on your perspective, but that Hormel delivery driver was certainly seminal to setting Hank Williams on the path to super stardom, shepherding the young man as a musician and songwriter, making critical contributions to the rise of Hank, and helping Hank as a close friend all the way up to his death in 1953. “I’d like to say I helped him out, but I didn’t give him that voice and I didn’t teach him to write those songs. That’s something you get from God.”
Braxton Schuffert was a local musician in Montgomery, AL that had his own band and a standing gig at local radio station WSFA where he would play and sing, just him and his guitar every morning from 6:00 – 6:30 AM before his Hormel deliveries. Since school was out at the time, Shuffert asked young Hank if he wanted to come with him the next day on his deliveries. “I told him we’d sing all day. That’s all he needed to hear. He was for anything to do with music.”
One of Hank Williams’ first songs “Rockin’ Chair Daddy” was co-written by Schuffert. As Hank began to get bigger, Braxton helped form Hank’s Drifting Cowboy band, and was a revolving member of the band and was part of Hank’s inner circle throughout the country star’s career. Braxton Schuffert was his own accomplished country music singer, and worked to help keep the legacy of Hank Williams alive, performing as lately as last year’s 33rd annual Hank Williams Festival in Georgiana at the age of 96. Schuffert has his own display case at the Hank Williams Museum.
George Jones – April 26th, 2013
While in the midst of his 60-date farewell tour, Jones was hospitalized for running a slight fever and for having irregular blood pressure, canceling shows in both Atlanta, and Salem, VA. A family member told TMZ, “”He has been on oxygen for a long while now and his lungs finally just couldn’t do it anymore and they collapsed and he passed away. He couldn’t breathe anymore on his own.”
George died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He was survived by four children and his wife of 30 years, Nancy. Jones was married a total of 4 times, including to fellow country music legend Tammy Wynette from 1969 to 1975.
George Jones was born in Saratoga, TX, and went on to record more than 150 country albums and have 14 #1 country hits. Dubbed “The Possum” by some for his marsupial look, and “No Show Jones” by others for a well-documented period of alcohol and drug abuse, George had one of the smoothest voices to ever grace country music. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992, had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1956, and was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor in 2008.
Chet Flippo – June 19th, 2013
In the mid 70′s when country music was in upheaval from a new crop of rough shot artists thinking they should be able to write their own songs, record with their own bands, and keep creative control of their music, Rolling Stone Associate Editor Chet Flippo hit the streets of Nashville to help chronicle what was happening. Not nearly as off-the-wall as his more famous Rolling Stone counterpart Hunter S. Thompson, but just as willing to take an offbeat approach and embed himself amongst his journalistic subjects to get the whole story, Chet Flippo became the eyes and ears for the rest of the world enraptured by country music’s Outlaw revolution.
Beyond writing features for Rolling Stone, Flippo lent his pen to the very music of the Outlaw movement, writing the preambles and liner notes to both Wanted: The Outlaws, the first platinum-selling album in the history of country music, and Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger, arguably country music’s most influential album of all time.
Flippo was born in Fort Worth, TX, and was a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving in the U.S. Navy. He went to college at the University of Texas in Austin, and after working as Contributing Editor for Rolling Stone magazine while in graduate school, he became Rolling Stone’s New York Bureau Chief in 1974, rising to senior editor after Rolling Stone moved its offices from San Francisco to New York in 1977.
Slim Whitman – June 19th, 2013
Yodeling became deprecated in popular country music by the late 1950′s, but not before Slim Whitman who passed away on June 19th mastered the craft and made the world a timeless catalog of it in the country music context. Slim may not be given as much credit of the formation and popularization of country music as Hank Williams or Jimmie Rodgers, but he sold a surprising 120 million records worldwide, primarily by appealing to Europeans just as much, if not more than the American audience.
Though Whitman never scored a domestic #1 (he did have a couple of #2′s), his song “Rose Marie” held the record for the longest UK #1 for 36 years, spending 11 weeks at the #1 spot. Whitman was right-handed, but was a left-handed guitarist, stringing the guitar upside down; a practice later adopted by Paul McCartney after seeing Whitman playing guitar on a poster. Whitman’s influence far outlasted his popular music popularity, and so do his songs that illustrate an astounding, enchanting control of the human vocal range.
Oh, and let’s not forget that moment in 1996 when Slim Whitman’s music single-handedly saved the world from invading Martians when a Kansas teenager discovered through his grandmother that Slim Whitman’s yodel would melt the brains of the invaders, eventually leading to the military broadcasting Slim around the globe, destroying the Martians.
“Cowboy” Jack Clement – August 8th, 2013
Country Music Hall of Famer, legendary producer, songwriter, musician, and cosmic music man “Cowboy” Jack Clement died at the age of 82, the same year he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Jack Clement got his start working at Sun Studios in Memphis under Sam Phillips while playing steel guitar in college. He would later use this important position to become a seminal figure in the formation of both country and rock and roll music in the mid 50′s. Sam Phillips hired Jack on as an engineer, and Jack would arrange such hits as Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” and write Cash’s “Ballad of a Teenage Queen.” Jack discovered Jerry Lee Lewis when Sam Phillips was away on vacation one time, and many of those early Sun Studios recordings have Jack Clement’s fingerprints on them.
Clement would later go on to operate a renowned studio out of his home called the “Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa.” His house became a symbol of country music’s Outlaw revolution, facilitating a relaxed environment where creativity and free expression were encouraged and cultivated with country music’s progressive artists—a sharp contrast to the authoritarian studios of Nashville’s Music Row. At Clement’s home studio, Waylon Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams was produced and recorded, as well as albums by Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Charley Pride, John Prine, Bobby Bare, Dolly Parton, and many more.
Jack Clement was also an inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, The Music City Walk of Fame, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was considered a close friend and spiritual confidant to many country music performers.
Jody Payne – August 10th, 2013
Payne was part of Willie Nelson’s legendary “Family Band” for over 3 decades until he decided to retire from the road and began teaching guitar. He was born in in Garrard County, Kentucky where he began singing at six years old. Jody first played professionally with Charlie Monroe in 1951, and then was drafted into the army in 1958. After two years of service, he settled in Detroit where he initially met Willie Nelson in 1962, but did not start playing with him until years later. Throughout the 60′s Payne played bass for Ray Price, and also played with Merle Haggard among others before eventually joining Willie in 1973.
Payne was married to country singer Sammi Smith. The couple eventually divorced. They had a son Waylon Payne who is also a musician, performer, and actor. He is also survived by another son Austin Payne, and his wife Vicki who he married in 1980.
Tompall Glaser – August 13th, 2013
Tompall Glaser was born Thomas Paul Glaser on September 3rd, 1933 in Spalding, Nebraska. He got his start in country music with his two brothers Chuck and Jim backing up Marty Robbins. They went on to form Tompall & The Glaser Brothers and eventually became members of the Grand Ole Opry. The family band released 10 albums and had 9 charting singles before breaking up in 1975.
But Tompall came to be better known for his work as one of country music’s original Outlaws. As one of Nashville’s first renegade studio owners, he was seminal to the trend of artists winning creative control of their music in the early and mid 1970′s. His “Hillbilly Central” studio became a hangout for artists like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and many others that eventually would lead country’s Outlaw movement to country music prominence.
Tompall most prominently appeared on the compilation Wanted: The Outlaws that became country music’s first platinum-selling album. His contribution “Put Another Long On The Fire” written by Shel Silverstein became his highest-charting hit. He released 15 solo albums over his long career, but had disappeared lately from the country music scene.
Wayne Mills – November 23rd, 2013
Wayne Mills was an Outlaw country music artists and songwriter who was shot fatally on November 23rd at the Pit & Barrel Bar in Nashville by the bar’s owner, Chris Ferrell. Originally from the very small town of Arab in Northern Alabama, he attended Wallace State Junior College as a baseball player, and eventually played football for the University of Alabama. Mills earned his degree in education and formed the Wayne Mills Band which became one of the hottest college bands on the honky tonk circuit.
Though Mills never rose to become a household name, his influence on country music cannot be overstated. He was close personal friends with Jamey Johnson, and was on tour with Jamey the week before he died. Jamey once opened for Wayne when he was making his way up in the ranks, so did future CMA Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton, and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks. Mills also shared the stage with Blackberry Smoke, and toured both Europe and Australia during his 15-plus years of touring experience. Mills received the Guardian Award by the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame just last month to recognize his “hard work and unwavering commitment to their music and their fans and best exemplify the tradition of those who came before.”
Ray Price – December 16th, 2013
Ray Price was born in Perryville, TX and served in the United States Marine Corps for 3 years before joining the “Big D Jamboree” show in Dallas in 1949. He then went on to manage Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboy band after the untimely death of Hank in 1952. In 1953, Ray Price formed his own band, the Cherokee Cowboys, which had many notable members over the years, including Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck , Johnny Bush, and steel guitar player Buddy Emmons amongst others.
Ray scored his first #1 hit in 1956 with the song “Crazy Arms” written by steel guitar player Ralph Mooney, and later became seminal to the 1960′s “Nashville Sound,” scoring a total of eight #1′s, including “My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You,” “City Lights,” “The Same Old Me,” “For The Good Times” in 1970 written by Kris Kristofferson, and “I Won’t Mention It Again” in 1971. One of his most well-known songs is “Heartaches By The Number” released in 1959.
He released over 50 albums over his career and became a legend of country music, being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. Ray won two Grammys, two ACM Awards, and a CMA Award for Album of the Year from 1971. Ray continued to perform all the way up to this year, and released his last album Last of the Breed with good friends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in 2007.
Other Notable Country Deaths:
- Cal Smith – best known for the song “Country Bumpkin”
- Jack Greene – Singer and performer, and first ever CMA Male Vocalist of the Year
- Patti Page – Singer of “Tennessee Waltz”
- Billy Joe Foster – Bluegrass Boy fiddle player for Bill Monroe & others
- Tony Douglas – Louisiana Hayride star that once turned down a contract for the Grand Ole Opry because he didn’t want to leave Texas.
- Johnny MacRae – Songwriter
- Patty Andrews – Of The Andrews Sisters
- Claude King- Singer, original member of the Louisiana Hayride
- Lorene Mann – Singer and songwriter
- Gordon Stoker – for The Jordanaires
- Sammy Johns – Songwriter of “Chevy Van” and other songs.
Country music star Alan Jackson has been known for being a staunch traditionalist, and a man who has stood on principle and for protecting the roots and legends of the music throughout his career. One of the most famous moments in country music lore involves Alan Jackson at the CMA awards show in 1999 when producers told George Jones he would have to perform an abridged version of his song “Choices.” George refused, and boycotted the awards altogether. Then in protest, during Alan Jackson’s performance of his song “Pop A Top,” he reversed course and started into George’s “Choices” in solidarity with the country legend.
But this wasn’t Alan Jackson’s only moment of protest during a prime time awards show apparently. Years earlier, at the 1994 ACM Awards, Alan Jackson pulled at stunt that has gone unfairly under-recognized in that annals of country’s finest moments of rebellion and protest.
The 1994 ACM Awards were in many ways Alan Jackson’s oyster. Held at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles on May 3rd, Alan walked away that night with the Top Male Vocalist award, and co-hosted the event with Reba McEntire. But when it came to performing what would be his upcoming #1 single and one of the signature songs of the era “Gone Country,” Alan Jackson couldn’t sit right with the charade most country award shows pull on their audience.
Alan Jackson walked out for his performance wearing a Hank Williams sleeveless shirt, which in itself was quite irreverent and newswrothy in 1994, when country award shows were still predominantly black tie affairs. Executive producer Dick Clark in a backstage interview during the show asked Alan, “I should ask you a significant question. Here you are on television in front of millions of people. Why do you have a Hank Williams T-shirt on?” Jackson’s response was, “Well, I love Hank, and a fan…I get a lot of gifts on the road playing, and a fan gave me this shirt, and I just saw it in the closet before I came out here this weekend and I grabbed it and said, ‘I’m gonna wear it for my song,’ you know, ‘Gone Country.’ Hank’s country.”
But it wasn’t just Alan’s Jackson’s shirt that caught people’s eye and no doubt drew the worst ire of the ACM producers. Before the show, producers had told Alan that he had to play to a pre-recorded track, which Jackson clearly felt was tantamount to lying to both his fans and the audience. So instead of playing along with the charade, Jackson tipped off the audience to the subterfuge by telling his drummer Bruce Rutherford to play without sticks. So as the performance transpires and everything sounds perfect, there is Alan Jackson’s drummer, swinging his arms like he’s playing the drums, but with no sticks in his hand.
The performance certainly must have raised a stink at the time, but information and news stories about the incident are virtually non-existent. Dick Clark and the other ACM producers may have hoped only a few people noticed, and decided rather to ignore it than to shine a spotlight on the practice of pre-recording performances.
Before there were reality show contests and overnight sensations in country music, artists were expected to pay dues in music before they could hit the big time. They had to prove their muster as performers, musicians, or songwriters before making it to the spotlight, and one of those proving grounds was behind an established musician, holding down a spot in their band. When it came to the band of the recently deceased Ray Price called the Cherokee Cowboys, that proving ground has a pretty remarkable list of alumni that made their way up the country music ranks with the help of Ray.
Much can be written about the influence and impact Ray Price had on country music. But there may be no better evidence then the list of performers who felt honored to play behind Ray during their rise. Here’s some of the most notable Cherokee Cowboys that went on to bigger fame.
In 1961, just as Willie Nelson was beginning to make it big as a songwriter with Faron Young cutting “Hello Walls” and Ray Price Recording “Night Life,” Willie heard that Ray’s bass player was leaving and applied for the gig. “Ray didn’t ask if I knew how to play bass, which I didn’t,” Willie recalls. Willie’s stint in the Cherokee Cowboys was not very long, but it was legendary. Willie would take his $25 wage and songwriting royalties and upgrade his hotel rooms to suites to throw big parties, and pay for commercial airfare instead of riding the band bus. Willie bought Ray Price’s 1959 Cadillac and gave it to his then wife Martha. But as Willie became a hot songwriting commodity, he moved on from Ray’s band. The man Willie replaced on bass was known as Donny Young, whose real name was Donald Lytle, later to be known as Johnny Paycheck.
Johnny Paycheck was known simply as Donny Young during his Cherokee Cowboy days, and he had a lasting impact on the band and Ray Price before being replaced by Willie Nelson. Just like Paycheck did when he played in George Jones’s band, he was not only a capable bass player that also could also sit in on steel guitar, Paycheck brought a tenor harmony to the table that made him an invaluable and influential resource to any band he played in. Paycheck’s tenor is given credit for heavily influencing George Jones’s singing style, and Paycheck’s harmonies can be heard on early 60′s recordings by Ray Price, Faron Young, and fellow Cherokee Cowboy Roger Miller.
Roger Miller’s career path was quirky to say the least, but just like Willie and Paycheck, it ran through Ray Price. After starting as a songwriter and collaborating early on with George Jones during his Starday Records era, Miller moved to Amarillo to become a firefighter. Of course Miller was a horrible firefighter, and made his way back into the music business and out to Nashville by becoming a Cherokee Cowboy in 1958. Miller wrote the Ray Price hit “Invitation to the Blues,” and sings harmony on the recording. Ray Price returned the favor in 1982, singing harmonies on Roger Miller’s final hit, “Old Friends,” which was the title track of a collaborative album between Roger and former Cherokee Cowboy Willie Nelson.
Picture of Ray Price and Roger Miller on the Grand Ole Opry. rogermiller.com
Talk to anybody familiar with the history of the pedal steel guitar in country music, and they’ll tell you Buddy Emmons is one of the gods of the instrument, if not the best to ever play. He was the founder of Sho-Bud, and the innovator of the “split-pedal” setup of the steel guitar in 1956 which revolutionized the instrument and is still in practice with most steel guitar players today. After doing stints in the bands of Little Jimmy Dickens and Ernest Tubb, Buddy joined the Cherokee Cowboys in 1962, recording and touring with Ray Price until about 1967. He plays the famous steel guitar break on “Night Life,” and became Price’s bandleader during his tenure in the Cherokee Cowboys, contributing many of the arrangements to Ray’s most famous songs from that era. Lloyd Green once said of Buddy Emmons, “He is probably the most intelligent and talented musician who’s ever played the instrument. He’s like Picasso or Michelangelo.” And when he joined Ray’s band, he replaced another steel guitar virtuoso, Jimmy Day. Emmons left the Cherokee Cowboys to move to California and work for fellow Cherokee Cowboy Roger Miller.
Honky tonk country singer and performer Darrell McCall grew up in Ohio with Donald Lytle, aka Donny Young, aka Johnny Paycheck, and the two moved to Nashville as a duo. When the duo thing didn’t work out, McCall, just like Paycheck, ended up in Price’s Cherokee Cowboys, both in the session recorder and touring band member capacity as a backup vocalist in 1958. A year later, McCall was contracted to be part of the band The Little Dippers, and a year after that, he was signed to Capitol Records as a solo artist, becoming a performer in the honky tonk style of country, and later in the Outlaw country realm.
The legendary Texas performer and songwriter whose most famous for penning Willie Nelson’s signature song “Whiskey River” joined Ray’s Cherokee Cowboys in 1963. Like so many artists before him, the opportunity Ray Price bestowed to Bush led to greater success, and made lifelong friends of fellow Cherokee Cowboy artists. Johnny Bush also spent some time in one of Willie Nelson’s first bands, The Record Men, and Willie was a financial backer for Bush’s first record in 1967, The Sound of a Heartache. Bush was signed to RCA in 1972, but vocal problems kept Bush from being the huge star his talent afforded. To this day, Johnny Bush is a big star in his native Texas.
Other Notable Members of the Cherokee Cowboys:
- Jimmy Day
- Pete Wade
- Steve Bess
- Jan Curtis
- Shorty Lavender
- Buddy Spicher
2013 was a year defined by massive stories in country music. From historic deaths like the passing of country music writer Chet Flippo, artist and producer Tompall Glaser, producer and songwriter “Cowboy” Jack Clement, Willie Nelson guitarist Jody Payne and others, to the feuds that erupted as country music continues to be in the midst of a culture war, 2013 was tumultuous to say the least.
Please note that these top 10 stories are not based off of what Saving Country Music sees as the most important, but the amount of traffic and interest each story received, sometimes accrued over multiple stories on the same subject. So it’s you who chose what the top stories were.
“You know, I would say no. I would say they’re pop artists making a living in the country genre. I also feel like we lost our genre. I don’t feel like I make music for a genre anymore, and I did, you know, 15 years ago. But I think since the Clear Channel’s and the Cumulus’s and the big companies bought up all the chains, now it’s about a demographic. You know, so they’ve kind of sliced everything up, feeding it to the public in demographics.”
Gary Allan later back peddled from his statements pretty hard after it caused a blowup.
Though there had been a few rumblings from other artists ahead of Tom Petty’s statements, it was his interview with Rolling Stone that got the 2013 Season of Discontent rolling in earnest.
“Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have. I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it?
“But I hope that kind of swings around back to where it should be. But I don’t really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up. I’m sure there must be somebody doing it, but most of that music reminds me of rock in the middle Eighties where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos.”
Luke Bryan’s pop country buddy Jason Aldean came to the rescue when Zac Brown called Luke Bryan’s song “That’s My Kind Of Night” the “worst song ever” (see below). The reaction also stimulated an explosive rant against Jason Aldean from Saving Country Music.
“I hear some other artist are bashing my boy @lukebryan new song, sayin its the worst song they have ever heard…….. To those people runnin their mouths, trust me when i tell u that nobody gives a shit what u think. Its a big ol hit so apparently the fans love it which is what matters. Keep doin ur thing LB!!!”
From all the usual pop frivolity, to the very unlikely win for Entertainer of the Year by George Strait, the 47th Annual CMA Awards became one of the biggest story lines in 2013, including the Saving Country Music LIVE Blog of the event, and our recap the next day:
“Was it a parting gift for Strait after announcing his final tour? Of course it was. But it doesn’t mean it wasn’t deserved, and it doesn’t mean it isn’t sweet, both for George, and for traditional country fans, even the ones who may not mark themselves as big George Strait supporters. Strait’s win marks the first time in a decade a true country artist has won the trophy.”
Willie’s long-time drummer and manager Paul English, his brother, and another crew member of Willie Nelson’s family band sustained minor injuries, but luckily the accident was not as bad as the picture appeared when it first surfaced. As the elder statesman of country music, the safety and health of Willie Nelson is always a concern for country fans.
“One of Willie Nelson’s band buses—not Willie’s famed Honeysuckle Rose—was involved in a bad accident late last night (11-22) in Texas on Interstate 30 in icy, Winter conditions. The accident occurred at roughly 3:30 AM Central time near Sulphur Springs. Multiple injuries have been reported, with multiple band members and/or crew injured, including Willie Nelson’s long-time drummer Paul English who reportedly broke his ankle.”
“I love Luke Bryan and he’s had some great songs, but this new song is the worst song I’ve ever heard. I know Luke, he’s a friend. ‘My Kind Of Night’ is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. I see it being commercially successful, in what is called country music these days, but I also feel like that the people deserve something better than that. Country fans and country listeners deserve to have something better than that, a song that really has something to say, something that makes you feel something. Good music makes you feel something. When songs make me wanna throw up, it makes me ashamed to even be in the same genre as those songs.”
When a country music legend is debilitated when he’s still in his mid 50′s, especially one with the voice and talent of Randy Travis, it is nothing short of a travesty. Continuing the pain and intrigue in the story has been the lack of information on just exactly how well Randy is doing, though his father says the situation looks bleak. Thoughts and prayers continue for Randy Travis, and maybe one of the big stories of 2014 will be his recovery and return.
“Country Music singer Randy Travis is in critical condition in a Texas hospital, according to his publicist, and has now suffered a stroke. Travis was admitted the the hospital on Sunday July 7th for complications with viral cardiomyopathy that he acquired recently.
Cardiomyopathy is a weakening of the heart muscle or another problem with the heart muscle. It often occurs when the heart cannot pump as well as it should, or with other heart function problems. Most patients with cardiomyopathy eventually suffer from heart failure. Though the term can apply to most diseases affecting the heart, it is usually only reserved for the most severe myocardial disease leading to heart failure.”
In a year of notable country deaths, this is one of the biggest in the history of the genre as arguably the best singer to ever grace country music passes away. From the the news of his death, to the the unveiling of the monument in Nashville, to the historic tribute show that transpired in place of what was supposed to be his last show, the passing of George Jones was one of the biggest stories in 2013, as it should be.
“George Jones, aka, The Possum, has died at age 81. While in the midst of his 60-date farewell tour, Jones was hospitalized for running a slight fever and for having irregular blood pressure, canceling shows in both Atlanta, and Salem, VA. His next show was to be tomorrow, April 27th, in Huntsville, AL. George had been suffering from breathing problems for the last few years. A family member told TMZ, ‘He has been on oxygen for a long while now and his lungs finally just couldn’t do it anymore and they collapsed and he passed away. He couldn’t breathe anymore on his own.’ The official cause of death has been named ‘Hypoxic Respiratory Failure.’”
Arguably one of the stories we’ll reflect back on as putting Saving Country music on the map, Blake Shelton in a documentary on GAC had some unkind things to say about country music’s classic and traditional country fans, causing Ray Price to respond, Willie Nelson to rename his tour the “Old Farts and Jackasses” tour, and making the term “Old Farts and Jackasses” a term of endearment amongst true country fans heretofore.
“If I am ‘Male Vocalist of the Year’ that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, ‘My God, that ain’t country!’ Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.”
Despite all the massive news stories of 2013, this is the one that caused the most intrigue and outrage. From the news of Wayne’s death, to the controversial airing of a Spike TV reality show featuring the bar where Wayne was shot, to the two week wait until the arrest of the shooter Chris Ferrell, to the memorial, it was the biggest story of 2013, that with a potential trial or plea deal looming in the future, may also end up being one of the biggest stories of 2014 as well.
“Outlaw country music singer-songwriter and performer Wayne Mills of the Wayne Mills Band has been pronounced dead at Vanderbilt University Medical Center after being shot in the head at 5 AM this morning outside of the Pit and Barrel bar at 515 2nd Ave in Nashville. “God be with us all in this tragedy……” was posted on Wayne’s Facebook page.
“44 year-year-old Jerald Wayne Mills was at the Pit and Barrel early this morning when apparently an altercation erupted with the owner, Chris Michael Ferrell, after Wayne was smoking in a non-smoking area. Everyone else in the bar went outside, and later witnesses heard gunshots fired and called police. Ferrell told police he acted in self-defense.The bar owner has a valid handgun carry permit. Chris Ferrell and Wayne Mills were reportedly good friends, and they were hanging out at the bar after attending the George Jones Tribute earlier in the evening.”
- Wayne Mills funeral will be held on Sunday, December 8th. A memorial service will be held in his hometown of Arab, Al at the Arab High School auditorium. Visitation will be held from 9AM until 1PM CST, with the memorial service beginning at 1:30PM, followed by a private burial.
- Investigation into the Mills death is ongoing. Investigators have met with District Attorneys.
- Autopsy conducted on Wayne’s body. Results could take weeks or months.
- Wayne Mills shot three times, once in the back of the head.
Fans and friends of fallen country music songwriter and performer Wayne Mills gathered on Saturday (11-30) at the Somewhere on the Lake Resort on the shores of Lake Guntersville in Alabama for a remembrance of the artist that was shot and killed November 23rd at the Pit & Barrel Bar in Nashville. The 44-year-old Wayne Mills was originally from nearby Arab, AL, and was once a walk-on for the University of Alabama football team. Fellow native Alabaman Jamey Johnson was one of the notable attendees of the gathering, and a silent auction was held with the proceeds going to the Mills family. Other benefits are set to transpire on December 4th at the Tin Roof in Nashville, and the Knotty Pine
in Cincinnati. The Wayne Mills funeral is set to occur on Sunday (12-8).
Weighing heavy on the minds of the Wayne Mills family, friends, and fans attending the remembrance was the still unresolved nature of his passing. Ten days after, and still no arrest has been made, and no resolution to the death that Chris Ferrell, the owner of the Pitt & Barrel Bar and the man that fatally shot Wayne Mills, says happened in self-defense after an altercation erupted when Wayne was smoking in a non-smoking area. It was 5 AM and The Pit & Barrel had been closed for hours. The two men were hanging out together after attending the George Jones Memorial Concert at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville earlier that night.
Chris Ferrell is the only direct witness to Wayne Mills’ death. There is no other story corroborating Chris Ferrell’s claims, and Wayne Mills is unable to defend himself either in the justice system or the court of public opinion. Information and details about the killing remain scarce, with more questions than answers so far for those searching for closure and resolution. Why has Chris Ferrell not been arrested or been charged with any crime, or at least been named as a suspect? Why for nearly 10 hours after the shooting and for many hours into the investigation were police working under the pretense that the victim was another Nashville songwriter Clayton Mills, and not Wayne Mills? Why did the witnesses that called the police misidentify Wayne, and why did it take so long for Nashville Police investigators to discover the mistake?
According the the Nashville Police Department, the death of Wayne Mills is considered a homicide investigation, and that investigation is still ongoing. On November 25th, investigators from Nashville’s Central Precinct Department met with the District Attorney’s office to discuss the evidence gathered, and determined that no charges would be brought at that time. Central Precinct detectives remain in close contact with District Attorneys to determine if charges need to be filed as the investigation continues. On November 26th, the autopsy of Wayne Mills was performed, but according to the Medical Examiner’s office, it could be as long as 8 to 14 weeks after the death before any final conclusions are made, and the Medical Examiners Office does not release preliminary conclusions.
Saving Country Music has also confirmed that the fatal shot to Wayne Mills was to the back of the head. Reports that he was shot additional times are unconfirmed. This is the piece of information that many Wayne Mills fans and friends feel clears Wayne from being implicated as being killed in self-defense. How could someone with their back to a shooter be a threat to their life?
Though this may make sense intuitively, forensics and crime scene investigation is a much more complex science, and a shot to the back of the head may not equate to the smoking gun investigators and prosecutors need to make an arrest. If the two men were engaged at close range in a physical altercation, if Wayne Mills was pinning Chris Ferrell around the abdomen, a shot to the back of the head may have been Ferrell’s only option. But Saving Country Music has also learned that the fatal shot to Wayne Mills was fired across the Pit & Barrel bar itself, meaning the two men were on opposite sides of a physical barrier, making an explanation of how a fatal shot to the back of the head was done in self-defense that much more difficult to resolve.
But Nashville Police investigators still need to have probable cause to make an arrest. If Chris Ferrell had made an effort to flee, if he had tampered with the evidence, or otherwise attempted to conceal exactly what had happened, if he had not been cooperative or forthright with the investigators, then the police would have some merit of culpability against Chris Ferrell—that Chris believed he was guilty and was trying to cover his tracks with a self-defense story. But none of that occurred, and there’s no reason for officers to not believe that Chris Ferrell, who was very emotionally distraught after the killing, felt he was in fear for his life.
There is also the fact that the shooting occurred at 5 AM, after both men had been up for hours, and likely drinking. Both men also have prior arrest records. Chris Ferrell has been arrested twice for driving on a suspended license, though both charges were later dismissed. He was also arrested in July for domestic violence involving a bartender he was dating, and a vandalism charge that is pending. Wayne Mills was charged with driving under the influence and for reckless endangerment when he grazed a police officer on the highway in 2010. Then there was the unfortunate airing of the Spike TV episode of Bar Rescue that ironically featured the very Pit & Barrel Bar where the killing occurred, airing on the same week of Wayne’s death and showcasing a belligerent and high-tempered Chris Ferrell. Then FOX 17 in Nashville surfaced a picture showing both Wayne Mills and Chris Ferrell in the same frame, with Ferrell proudly flashing his handgun.
But since most, if not all of the on-the-ground investigation has been concluded, and it could take weeks or months for the full autopsy to conclude, it is hard to see where the breakthrough in the Wayne Mills case could come from. It’s beginning to feel like this may be a case that could take weeks, months, or longer to resolve. Investigators are trying to piece together an evidence puzzle while relying on a potential suspect as their only witness. The fact that the other witnesses, the ones that heard the shots and made the 9-11 call, were also where the misidentification of Wayne Mills originated is also not an idle fact. The mistaken identity of Wayne Mills may be where this homicide investigation hinges, but police must find more evidence or information to make an arrest, or to fully excuse Chris Ferrell from investigation.
Other questions from the investigation still remain. Did Chris Ferrell show any physical evidence, any physical harm done to him—bruises, cuts, etc.—to corroborate that Wayne Mills was being physically threatening? If Wayne Mills was acting aggressively, why did he need to be shot in the back of the head? Wouldn’t another, less fatal part of the body be more appropriate? Was Chris Ferrell drunk at the time of the shooting? Was he on drugs? Was Wayne Mills drunk or on drugs? Why did Chris Farrell not call 9-11 when the situation seemed to be escalating out of control? Why was it the witnesses outside that called 9-11, and not Ferrell after he shot Wayne? Why was Chris Ferrell not able to help resolve the identity discrepancy earlier in the investigation? And why did Ferrell re-open the Pit & Barrel so quickly?
Website The Class Action Lawsuit has looked into the particulars of the Wayne Mills case as they are known at the moment, and has offered some clarifications on how a self-defense claim could be handled in a bar scenario. “Self-defense gives a person the justified right to counteract violence or force, to prevent an injury or harm and to protect oneself,” says the website. “Though a bar room brawl seems like a natural context for self-defense, there are a number of circumstances that must exist before self-defense can function as a valid justification for shooting someone in a place of business.”
The website gives requisites for Chris Ferrell to claim self-defense as:
- Ferrell was not the initial aggressor;
- Ferrell had a reasonable and honest belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury;
- Mills never retreated from the fight;
- Ferrell did not consent to Mills’ force; and
- Ferrell used a proportional amount of force.
The Class Action Lawsuit website also says, “It’s unclear whether the amount of force used by Ferrell was proportional to the type of force it was meant to prevent. He went for the jugular, so to speak, when he shot Mills in the head. Ferrell won’t be able to claim self-defense if the gunshot to Mills’ head was excessive. Killing someone with a gun in response to someone who was verbally insulting you, for example, would never suffice as self-defense. But if Mills was also wielding a gun, the ‘fighting fire with fire’ rationale may apply.”
If the case remains at a stalemate, that doesn’t mean that investigators, or the friends and family of Wayne Mills, don’t have options. A Grand Jury could be called to consider the evidence and potentially hand down an indictment. The Grand Jury system is sometimes employed in cases where the evidence and circumstances are complex, and District Attorney’s have difficulty assigning charges. Tennessee is a Grand Jury state, and the Grand Jury / indictment system was just used on another murder investigation in Nashville where a mother was indicted in the death of her 3-year-old son. However, as another indication that the Wayne Mills case may take a while to resolve, the indictment was brought 7 months after the incident.
The Wayne Mills family could address Wayne’s death as a civil matter and pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Sometimes wrongful death is easier to prove than criminal charges. There was no obvious premeditation in the Wayne Mills killing, at least from what we know, but maybe manslaughter charges are more appropriate in this case, seeing how lethal force was used on what we believe to be an unarmed man, when Chris Ferrell may have had other options to subdue Wayne Mills if Wayne was in fact acting aggressively.
The case could also be elevated to the state level.
Aside from the obligation of investigators to presume innocence and prove guilt, the climate surrounding claims of self-defense has never been more favorable, with stand your ground laws, concealed weapons permits (which Chris Ferrell had), and other laws governing how authorities must handle self-defense claims giving deference to the individuals claiming self-defense.
Most notably the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida resulted in an acquittal of all charges against neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, despite some evidence that deadly force was not necessary. On November 29th, a Georgia man fatally shot a 72-year-old Alzheimer’s patient 4 times after he knocked on his back door at 4 AM. He has yet to be charged with any crime.
Musician Carter Albrect who used to play in The New Bohemians and was a member of the Dallas-based band Sorta was shot and killed in 2007 after becoming disoriented after drinking and taking an anti-smoking drug, and mistakenly banging on the door of his girlfriend’s neighbor, resulting in a warning shot being fired through the door that struck Albrect. No charges were ever filed against the homeowner.
But none of these cases fall under Tennessee law or are being handled by Nashville District Attorneys, and they all fall under individuals protecting their homes and private property. In a place of business, and specifically a bar is where this case falls into a gray area that may make it hard for prosecutors to bring charges.
10 days after the death of Wayne Mills, and there’s still much anger, confusion, questions, and worry amongst friends, family, and fans of the fallen artist. They want answers and closure. But the story of the death of Wayne Mills, and the path towards its resolution, may have just begun.
Wayne Mills was like that warrior that refuses to come off of the mountain. With defeat eminent and inevitable, he would rather raise his fists in the air and rage against the dying of the light then let it overtake him sitting down or sulking. He was like that old honky tonk that refuses to sell as strip malls, condo complexes, and highrises get built up all around it; the one lone holdout swearing off the money that selling out would impart on the principle that everything real, everything worth cherishing is disappearing, and with it, the ties to who we are as people, and the culture that we come from.
In the culture war, Wayne was that painted up, passionate warrior that rallies the troops with his sword held high, stern faced and stubborn as the waves of change sweep over and ultimately destroy all of what once was; victims of progress and the cult of priority.I’ll be there when they burn the last honky tonk down In body, mind, and spirit, under the table, or under the ground The fading echos of a barroom band might be the only sound I’ll be there when they burn the last honky tonk down
These are the words that form the chorus of the title track, and the theme of Wayne’s 2010 album with The Wayne Mills Band called The Last Honky Tonk. Both thematically and sonically, the album and Wayne are like a big stick in the mud and a finger in the eye of the forces severing country’s roots, drawing heavy from the Waylon Jennings-inspired half beat and electric sound, then floating towards the Willie Nelson waltz and acoustic rhythms, and by the end of the album, touching on and paying homage to most of the country music textures that are seen today by Music Row’s money-driven perspective as outmoded.
The second song on the album,”One Of These Days,” is about losing friends too early, reminiscing back on their lives, and using it as a reflection on his own. “My friends lost their lives, but I remember their dreams,” is what Wayne says leading into the the first chorus that talks about the promises we rarely keep to ourselves.
The infectious hook and groove of “Same Old Blues” makes it one of the most fun tracks on the album, while “It’s Just Not My Style” speaks to the personality of Wayne to just do things his way, and lead by example. “Old Willie Nelson Song” and “Friendly Companion” pay homage to Wayne’s musical heroes, but not in the pandering, name-dropping manner of many modern day country songs, but in the context of a heartfelt story. Then “The Truce” duet with Presley Tucker draws inspiration from the famously tumultuous relationship between Tammy Wynette and George Jones.
“Don’t Bring It Around” speaks to the sobriety many Outlaws attempt to embrace later in life, that is regularly hindered by the insistence of the culture and people that surround them, while the epic “Homeward Bound” is about coming come, and coming to peace, putting a period on an album that when listening to in the midst of the recent news of Wayne’s passing feels hauntingly foreboding and poignant.
True country music artists always seem to hold on to life much more precariously than the rest of us, and that vulnerability, and the perspective afforded by walking that line between the dead and the living is what gives them the insight to speak about such things the rest of us struggle to put into words. Wayne Mills was not the most well-known, nor the most prolific of artists. But he was one of the most pure and honest of the breed, unwavering in his country music principles, evidenced by The Last Honky Tonk, and his music that will live on well beyond his passing.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the George Jones Playin’ Possum – The Final No Show LIVE Blog. Since tonight’s festivities will not be televised, we’re going to try to do our best to make folks that could not be in attendance for this historic event feel a part of it by providing a place to listen along, share thoughts, and hopefully post pictures as they come in from attendees. Over 100 performers are scheduled to make an appearance. So get your refresh fingers ready and please feel free to chime in below in the comments section.
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11/23 12:30 PM: Here’s some bootleg video from last night. Good, multi-camera quality for final Alan Jackson song, Martina McBride & George Strait right before the finale, and though there’s a few Gremlins in the audio, you can catch the vibe of the Jamey Johnson / Megadeth song. You can also see Big & Rich on their riding lawnmowers singing “Love Bug,” and Jamey Johnson singing “Tennessee Whiskey.”
11:32 - Thanks everyone for stopping by! Thanks to the George Jones Twitter Page, Country Weekly, and other random attendees for the pictures! Thanks to The Tennessean, and other folks on the scene for filling us in on all the songs and performers and other information. Make sure you also check out the Tennessean’s Live Blog for more coverage, and their photo gallery of the event (apparently, Big & Rich did their song on riding lawnmowers).
And remember, music always sounds better when it’s shared!
11:30 - From The Tennessean about the end of the concert:
A tribute concert to George Jones would not be complete without “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Alan Jackson does the honors.
Then he invites Nancy Jones on stage and invites the audience to sing along.
“This is the greatest country song by the greatest country singer, Mr. George Jones,” Jackson says, as he again launches into the chorus of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
“Thank you all so much,” he says, “George we love you.”
Leaving the stage, his arm around Nancy Jones’ waist, he stops to set the rocking chair on stage in motion. As the chair meant for Jones rocks slowly back and forth, the crowd claps and cheers begging for more.
But it is, indeed, the end.
George Jones’ tribute is complete.
The audience has made it clear that, like his chair, it truly rocked.
11:26 - Apparently the whole arena was singing along to “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” led by Alan Jackson.
11:24 - Well folks, that may be all she wrote. 4 hours! We’ll do one last scan for some cool pictures, quotes, or info we missed!
11:19 - Let’s see if we have people come on stage for a finale.
11:18 - And of course, as it should be, Alan Jackson comes out to close the show out by performing “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
11:15 - Apparently Reba lost her voice, and was unable to perform. As you can see from the lineup picture below, she was sceduled to play before George Strait. Here’s Reba’s post from Instagram.
11:12 - So about the joke Bill Anderson told earlier, and the performance afterwards, here’s the account from The Tennessean:
Tied up on Old Hickory Lake boats owned by Anderson, Jones, record producer Billy Sherrill and others. Jones’ was the only one that had a small dinghy boat tied to the back.
One day, Anderson said, he was trying to dock his boat and the wind blew his boat into Jones’.
From that day on he was known as “the man who put the dent in George Jones’ dinghy,” Anderson said with a laugh.
After groans and chuckles, Anderson is joined on stage for another historical group number with Bobby Bare, Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy C. Newman, John Conlee, Larry Gatlin, Ray Stevens, and Stonewall Jackson. Pioneers who paved the way for so many, the group sings “When the Last Curtain Falls,” and “Still Doin’ Time.”
The boys still clearly have a few good jokes in them. “I fell down but I’m good,” Jackson said from his seat on the stage, before their final number “Some Day My Day Will Come.”
11:09 – Martina McBride joins George Strait on stage to sing “Golden Ring.”
11:05 – Reigning Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year George Strait takes the stage to sing “The Grand Tour.”
11:01 - Suzy Bogguss and Miranda Lambert backstage. SEE PICTURE
11:00 - Vince Gill takes the stage to perform “Slipping Away.”
10:56 - Dierks Bentley apparently called tonight the Country Music Awards meets the Field of Dreams.
10:52 - Patty Loveless takes the stage to sing “Blue Must Be The Color of the Blues.” No picture of Jessi and Shooter yet, I’m not being bias . The biggest names of the tribute are coming up!
10:48 - Mike Huckabee has the coolest quote of the night so far: “You’re going to remember where you were Nov. 22, 1963.” Because you were at the George Jones tribute. Yep, 1963.”
10:45 - We’ll try to get the names of the others who joined Thompson Square. Meanwhile Shooter Jennings has taken the stage.
10:42 - Thompson Square & others play “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”
10:40 - Former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee introduces Thompson Square to the stage.
10:37 - Another interesting quote from Dave Mustaine of Megadeth: “Heavy metal is all about rebellion and George was definitely a rebel. Thank you for welcoming us into this beautiful family.”
10:33 - Stacy McCloud who is the entertainment reporter for Nashville’s Fox 17 is the new emcee. According to the Tennessean, she was the last reporter to interview Jones. “I will never forget he walked out and said, ‘Hey there, young lady. I think I’ve been dreaming about you.’”
10:32 - Montgomery Gentry takes the stage to do “The Race Is On.”
10:26 - Rodney Atkins has taken the stage.
10:22 - “Country music transcends barriers, it has come into my world and so many other worlds.” – Dave Mustaine
10: 19 - Jamey Johnson leaves Megadeth backstage to trash the dressing room, and performs a solo acoustic performance of “Tennessee Whiskey.”
10:14 - By the way, the Jamey Johnson / Megadeth collaboration was on “Wild Irish Rose.”
10:11 - Bill Anderson on stage right now telling a “funny story.” (Wish we could hear it!) SEE PICTURE
10:09 - Cool picture of Charlie Daniels warming up backstage during Act 1.
10:07 - Jim Lauderdale & The Roys playing “Why Baby Why” on stage right now. SEE PICTURE
10:03 - Jamey Johnson. Megadeth. George Jones. Rawk.
10:01 - Cool Picture of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert from earlier. Working on getting a Megadeth / Johnson photo.
9:59 - Social network channels exploding with disbelief as Megadeth takes the George Jones tribute stage with Jamey Johnson. But remember, for better or worse, Dave Mustaine recently put out a “bluegrass” song.
9:53 - Travis Tritt delivers an “incredible” performance of “Closing Of The Door” to open the 2nd act. Brad Paisley on stage now playing “Corvette Song.” SEE PICTURE.
9:48 - According to George’s wife Nancy, he knew he would not make this tribute that was originally scheduled to be the final show of his final tour. “I said, ‘Why are you agreeing to everything?’ ” Nancy Jones remembers. “He said, ‘’Cause I’m not going to be here. I’m going to agree to anything they ask. Promise me you’ll make a tribute show out of it, and I’ll see it from heaven.’ ”
9:44 - The emcee for Act 2 has changed from Ralph Emery to Keith Bilbrey, the weatherman on the Ralph Emery show for 21 years.
9:39 - As you can see from the list below, we missed bluegrass group Dailey & Vincent playing with Baillie & The Boys. But unlike the list, we remembered the additional ‘I’ in Baillie. Megadeth with Jamey Johnson should be quite entertaining.
9:35 - From The Tennessean: “Wow what a show,” Ralph Emery says. “Back stage we’ve got a movie star and we’ve got a former governor, and we have all kinds of entertainment here as we salute George Jones.”
9:28 - Well look what I found. Apparently Act 2 is about to commence. From Little Rebellion’s Music Photos on Facebook.
9:21 - Apparently there is a short intermission going on right now, and more music is coming up in mere moments. Here is Little Jimmy Dickens sitting in the George Jones rocking chair from Country Weekly’s Twitter feed.
9:17 - It’s not much to look at, but you can hear the tribute in the background, and see the scene on lower broadway from the Tootsies Orchid Lounge Live webcam.
9:14 - Apparently Little Jimmy Dickens has made an appearance on stage to sit in the empty George Jones rocker. He’s about the only one who could pull off such shenanigans.
9:10 - Also part of the Tracy Lawrence, Suzy Bogguss, Colin Ray, T Graham Brown, and TG Sheppard group from earlier was Jett Williams. THey performed the songs “The Love in Your Eyes” and “Wine Colored Roses.”
9:05 - Craig Morgan plays the deep George Jones cut “Finally Friday,” and then hops off the stage to hug Nancy Jones afterwards.
9:02 - Josh Turner now on stage singing “One Woman Man.” Picture of Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert.
8:59 - Power couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton now on stage singing “These Days I Barely Get By.”
8:55 - People watching the tribute show outside of the Bridgestone Arena. It is also being broadcast at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge down the street.
8:54 - Our second group of the night is now on the stage, made up of Tracy Lawrence, Suzy Bogguss, Colin Ray, T Graham Brown, and TG Sheppard.
8:52 - There are also emcees as part of the event that are working in shifts. The first was Larry Black. Right now it is Ralph Emery.
8:46 - Gatlin sang “Good Year For Roses.”
8:45 - Larry Gatlin on stage now!
8:41 - Dierks Bentley singing “Always Get Lucky With You.” Now the Oak Ridge Boys are on stage singing “Same Ole Me.”
8:38 - There is a lot of buzz about Eric Church’s cover of “Choices” as well. Dierks Bentley on stage now.
8:37 - More on the Sam Moore rendition of “The Blues Man” from The Tennessean: “The crowd clearly connected with this performance, throwing up cheers mid-performance. It is easily the most emotion-filled of the night so far.”
Sam Moore received a standing ovation.
8:35 - Well we know there will be video for this for the future, because they are broadcasting the event outside of the Bridgestone Arena on big screens, and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge right done the street is also broadcasting it.
8:32 - Tommy Shaw of Styx is now on stage performing “She Thinks I Still Care.”
8:28 - Eric Church on stage now playing “Choices.” Here is Kathy Mattea performing “I’m A Long Gone Daddy.”
8:25 - Kathy Mattea played “I’m A Long Gone Daddy.” Up on stage right now is Clay Walker playing “Things Have Gone To Pieces.” For those of you counting, that is the 13th performance tonight in under and hour!
8:21 - Kathy Mattea on stage now!
8:18 - Sam Moore is on stage right now singing “Blues Man,” and from the web chatter from the stadium, it is a stirring, heartfelt performance, one of the best of the night so far. SEE PICTURE
8:15 - The Kentucky Headhunters keeping it classy and playing “High Tech Redneck.”
8:12 - Baillie and the Boys on stage right now singing “I’m Ragged But I’m Right.”
8:10 - For those of you wondering who all was in the “Ladies of Country Music,” it was Leona Williams, Emmylou Harris, Jan Howard, Jeanne Pruett, Janie Fricke, and Jeannie Seely. They sang “I Am What I Am,” “Tender Years,” and “I’m Not Ready Yet.”
8:07 - With 112 performers and how quickly they are going to have to run through them, I hope there is time to make each performance count. It’s great to see so many legendary faces, but nothing beats that one special moment music can bring to a tribute. And someone better be recording.
8:03 - Charlie Daniels playing “Me & Jesus.”
8:02 - Lee Ann Womack just played “Once You Had The Best,” and Charlie Daniels is now on stage!
7:57 - Big & Rich opened with “Love Bug.” Garth and Trisha sang “Take Me,” and the Ladies of Country sang “If My Heart Had Windows.”
7:54 - On stage moments ago “The Ladies of Country Music” with Emmylou Harris singing.
7:51 – Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood on Stage. SEE PICTURE
7:48 - So it’s not looking good for even an audio feed of tonight’s event folks! We’ll do our best to try and make you feel a part of it nonetheless!
7:46 - Big & Rich were the opening act for the tribute, and now Kid Rock is singing “White Lightning.”
7:44 - George Jones’ rocking chair on stage:
7:40 - Nancy Jones in her seat, ready to take in in the tribute.
7:38 - Word is Megadeth. Yes, Megadeth is on site and will be performing tonight.
7:32 - Folks, on the WSM website, it says they are broadcasting the NO Show tribute, but right now I’m listening to the Friday night Opry. We’ll keep monitoring and see if we can at least find an audio feed.
7:30 - They have George Jones’ rocking chair set up on stage so he can be there in spirit for this historic concert. SEE PICTURE
7:29 - Here is what the inside of Bridgestone Arena looks like for the tribute. SEE PICTURE
7:28 – Folks filing into the Bridgestone Arena. Photo by Colby Peel on Twitter.
7:24 - The fact that tonight’s show is not being televised has been a source of much talk. It is not out of the question that it will be televised in the future, and certainly camera will be there. George’s widow Nancy Jones has said she wishes that every George Jones fan could participate. The event was sold out months ago, and was originally supposed to be a part of George’s final tour. They have set up screens outside of the Bridgestone Arena so fans can watch along. They also made an additional 500 tickets available at the box office last minute.
7:20 - The list of performers has swelled to 112 at last count, including some “surprises”. Here is the latest list we can tally:
Alabama, Alan Jackson, Baillie & the Boys, Big & Rich, Bill Anderson, Blake Shelton, Bobby Bare, Brad Paisley, Brenda Lee, Chad Warrix (Halfway to Hazzard), Charlie Daniels, Collin Raye, Craig Morgan, Dailey & Vincent, Daryle Singletary, Dierks Bentley, Eddy Raven, Emmylou Harris, Eric Church, Eric Lee Beddingfield, Gary Morris, George Strait, Greg Bates, Gretchen Wilson, Jamey Johnson, Janie Fricke, Jeanne Pruett, Jeannie Seely, Jessi Colter, Jett Williams, Jim Ed Brown, Jim Lauderdale, Jimmy C. Newman, Jimmy Wayne, John Conlee, John Michael Montgomery, Josh Turner, Kathy Mattea, Kentucky Headhunters, Kid Rock, Larry Gatlin, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Greenwood, Leona Williams, Lisa Matassa, Little Jimmy Dickens, Lorrie Morgan, Lynn Anderson, Mandy Barnett, Mark Collie, Martina McBride, Megadeth, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, The Oak Ridge Boys, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Ray Stevens, Reba McEntire, Rodney Atkins, Ronnie McDowell, The Roys, Sam Moore, Shooter Jennings, Stonewall Jackson, Suzy Bogguss, T. Graham Brown, Tanya Tucker, Teea Goans, TG Sheppard, Thompson Square, Tracy Lawrence, Travis Tritt, and Vince Gill.
A monument dedicated to country music legend George Jones was unveiled today (11-18-13) in Nashville at the Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Funeral Home and Memorial Park at 660 Thompson Lane in the Berry Hill portion of southern Nashville. The event was open to the public, and also included a special presentation by George Jones’ widow Nancy Jones announcing the establishment of a scholarship fund for Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) on behalf of George. George Jones died on April 26th, 2013.
The monument features a tall arch made in the likeness of a guitar fretboard that reads “Jones” at the very top, with a large mantle across the face of the monument that reads “He Stopped Loving Her Today” in tribute to one of Jones’ signature songs. On the left of the monument is an image and eulogy to George Jones, while the right of the monument is reserved for his wife Nancy. In the center is a guitar with a placard with George’s most-famous nickname, “The Possum.”
The monument was first announced in June to honor George Jones’ “life and contributions to country music.” Initially there was a plaque in the place where the new monument sits with an artistic rendering of the monument and the note, “Thank you for all your love and support shown to George and to me. God bless, Nancy.”
The unveiling comes days before a star-studded tribute to George Jones that is set to transpire on Nov. 22nd in Nashville at the Bridgestone Arena called “Playing Possum, The Final No Show” with over 70+ performers scheduled to appear.
Photo is from Chris Cannon of NBC 5 in Nashville.
It has been just over six months since we lost one of country music’s most singular and influential voices in George Jones, and though nothing will ever fill the void left in the heart of country music by the George Jones passing, our memories of his music just got a little easier to recall and share.
Reserve Records, an imprint of Secret Stash Records, has just reissued one of the most timeless and treasured pieces of country music history on vinyl: George Jones’ very first LP from Starday Records. The album has never been reissued in its entirety until now, making original copies of the album one of the most collectible records in history. 14 songs capturing George Jones in his most pure form come to life on this treasured new release that is also accompanied by a 45 of “Thumper Jones,” which was George Jones’ early rockabilly alter ego.
Starday Records was located in Beaumont, TX, and its name was taken from the two last names of its primary proprietors, Jack Starnes and Pappy Daily. Pappy was George’s first producer and mentor, and they originally cut records in Jack Sterns’ living room. George Jones had his first big hit with “Why Baby Why” in 1955, and wanting to capitalize off the interest, Starday issued George’s first LP in early 1957, which incidentally was Starday’s first record that wasn’t a single. “Thumper Jones” came about when Jones tried the rockabilly route in response to the popularity of Elvis Presley in 1956. Jones subsequently went on to become one of the biggest names in the history of country music, but it all started with Starday.
In conjunction with this vinyl reissue, and the historic tribute “Playing Possum, The Final No Show” set to transpire on Nov. 22nd at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena with 70+ performers, Saving Country music is giving away a set of the George Jones first album reissue and “Thumper Jones” single. All you have to do to enter is to leave your favorite George Jones song in a comment below. “But I can’t pick just ONE George Jones song!” That’s okay, list all your favorites! Just make sure to leave your real email address when prompted by the comment forum so we can contact you if you’re the winner. The winner will be announced on Nov. 22nd when the George Jones Tribute transpires.
And if you can’t wait to partake in all of this classic country goodness, you can order yourself up a copy right now!
Yes, it was still 2013, and it was still a modern country music awards show, and so traditional and independent-minded country music fans still had plenty to look sideways at if they were brave enough to watch. But that doesn’t mean that the 47th Annual Country Music Association Awards wasn’t a retrenching of the roots and substance in the genre’s most important institution, and a sign of hope for country fans who’ve simply been asking for years for balance to be reinstated into the mainstream country format.
Luke Bryan, who was the big winner at the ACM Awards in April, was completely shut out. So was Jason Aldean. Florida Georgia Line wasn’t, but this was understandable because of the historic success of their song “Cruise,” but they were bested by Kacey Musgraves in the New Artist of the Year category. And in the end, George Strait, King George, bested everyone by taking home the most coveted trophy in country music, the CMA for Entertainer of the Year.
Was it a parting gift for Strait after announcing his final tour? Of course it was. But it doesn’t mean it wasn’t deserved, and it doesn’t mean it isn’t sweet, both for George, and for traditional country fans, even the ones who may not mark themselves as big George Strait supporters. Strait’s win marks the first time in a decade a true country artist has won the trophy. Alan Jackson, George Strait’s duet partner for “He Stopped Loving Her Today” during a stirring George Jones tribute, was arguably the last traditional-leaning artist to win the award in 2003.
Which leads us to the performances of the 47th Annual CMA Awards. Along with the somewhat abridged, but heartfelt George Jones tribute, there was a tribute to Kenny Rogers, who was presented with this year’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award—an award that was founded last year. Lo and behold, a steel guitar made an appearance early in the presentation during Kacey Musgraves’ set, despite the disappointment of the lyric “roll up a joint” in her song “Follow Your Arrow” being censored out. Taylor Swift of all people, offered a stripped down acoustic set that featured Vince Gill, bluegrass maestro Sam Bush, Alison Krauss, and not just as backing musicians. Both Gill and Krauss took turns on verses, no doubt stimulating not a few younger fans to take to Google to figure out who these artists were, facilitating that important initial spark of discovery.
Even Luke Bryan, whose performance of “Country Girl (Shake It For Me) on the 2011 CMA Awards seemed like the pinnacle of indecency for a country awards show at the time, offered a somewhat stripped down, heartfelt performance that featured songwriter Chris Stapleton. In fact, there wasn’t really any performances that seemed gratuitously over-the-top. Apparently there was a moratorium on choreographed backup dancers for the 2013 CMA’s, and about the only pyrotechnics aside from Eric Church’s over-the-top performance of “The Outsiders” were some sparks streaming from beneath the wheels of a simulated boxcar during Jason Aldean’s song “Night Train.” Even the cross-genre moment was when the well-beloved Dave Grohl joined the Zac Brown Band on drums—a stark contrast from the rappers and Kid Rock’s of the world that have somehow become regular fixtures of country award shows recently.
What does this all mean? For one, it means there is a reason to be positive. Whether it is because of the collective crying out about the disenfranchising of country music’s traditional and independent fans through events like Blake Shelton labeling them “Old Farts and Jackasses,” or whether it is the tangible demographic data that shows that country fans as a whole want more traditional country in the country format, someone, somewhere is listening, and some of the change fans have been clamoring for in recent years is finally being enacted.
All that has been asked for is balance—a place at the table for alternatives to pop country—and though the ratio may still be somewhat out-of-whack, some balance was reinstated during the 2013 CMA Awards. If there was another winner during the event beyond the award winners, it might be CMA producer Robert Deaton. Deaton told the Tennessean on Nov. 1st, ““I think the biggest thing I want to strive for is balance. I’m talking about balance of who we are as a music and a genre because we are a lot of different things, you want to be current but you also want to pay tribute to the shoulders that we stand on.” And Robert Deaton backed up those words in the presentation. As much as the censoring of Kacey Musgraves may be a black eye of the 2013 CMA’s, it was done to make sure families and traditional viewers were not offended.
Furthermore, the proof that balance works is in the ratings pudding. The ratings for the CMA Awards was up by 21 percent over last year’s telecast in viewers and 24 percent in the key demographic. The growth was particularly big among young males, with ABC touting a nine-year high among men 18-34.
In September, Saving Country Music published 12 Reasons To Be Positive About Country Music in 2013, and the 47th CMA Awards was yet another one to add to the list. However slowly, however incrementally, and however offset by the continuing lows of some of country music’s mainstream males, things are changing. It had been years since true country fans felt a reason to stand up and cheer and had a reason to feel represented at the CMA Awards. But the 47th installment offered a few of them, and one very big one.
Oh the irony that the man whose name is on the tip of many people’s tongues as the one who brought country music to its knees and made it more about money than music, could also be the man in the best position to ultimately help save it.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about Garth Brooks.
Over the past few weeks and months, Garth has been dropping hints to fans that the future will hold some big announcements, and big events. Last week he released the cryptic message, “The sevens have aligned. It has begun… Thank you for believing… love, g.” He also announced recently that he will be ending his Las Vegas residence, and that his last show on November 29th will be televised on CBS. Rumors and conjecture are swirling, but so far there has been little information that is either concrete or confirmed about Garth’s future.
In truth there’s a lot less mystery here than some would like you to believe. What’s going to happen is that here very soon, either on his November 29th TV special or shortly before or after, Garth will announce a new album, and plans for a subsequent arena/stadium tour in support, and it will all transpire in 2014. As much as Garth may want to get everybody buzzing with speculation and anticipation, this is exactly what he said he was going to do when he quote “retired” from country music in 2000. He said then that he wanted to take more time to be with his family, and that once his kiddos were done with school, he’d ponder a return. And lo and behold, his youngest daughter Allie is now 17, and scheduled to graduate High School this year. So yes, 7′s are aligning, or whatever.
This is 2013, and everything surrounding the name “Garth Brooks” has changed. If you’re taking to some social network channel to beam, “Hey you know what? With the crap that’s out there today in country music, Garth Brooks doesn’t even sound half that bad,” then you are already a couple of years behind the relevant opinion curve. Whatever Waylon Jennings said or didn’t say about Garth, pantyhose, and a certain element of foreplay that Garth was the equivalent to, it’s all virtually irrelevant at this point. The simple fact is Garth Brooks, despite a nearly 15-year absence from the full-time music hustle, is as poised as any to make major waves in the country music world, and to do so his way.
In many ways the 7′s have aligned for Garth, and not just because of the particulars of his personal life. Last year George Strait announced he would end full-time touring, and he’s making his final rounds on the arena/stadium circuit as we speak. Both Alan Jackson and Vince Gill have recently accepted their fate that they’re no longer top tier concert draws, and have gone in a more rootsy direction and taken their places as country music legacy acts. Even Kenny Chesney said recently he’s going to take a break from touring. All of this leaves a massive void in the country music touring realm for a big-drawing, well-established artist.
But just what shape will Garth’s triumphant return take? That is really the only question left to answer. We really don’t have much intel or insight into this subject this early in his phase of returning, but what I do feel confident in going on the record as saying is that I don’t see Garth getting involved in either the country rap or laundry list lyric craze, or any other current pop country trend. As much as Garth’s detractors hate to admit it, one of the reasons he retired, and one of the reasons his regrettable Chris Gains era reared its ugly head is because Garth was bored, and didn’t want to chase trends. Garth wanted to make his own trends, and his own music. Whatever Garth does, it will be true to Garth.
And Garth also won’t do anything unless he knows it’s going to be successful, both with its reception and its financial reward. He’s already voiced concerns about how the digital age will effect his ability to release music. If/when he does release music and go on tour, he will have all bets hedged, and it will be huge.
And even if Garth gets out on stage and acts like a jukebox of his Greatest Hits with some new material mixed in, this will offer such a stark contrast to country music’s current flavors, it will immediately constitute a positive counter-balance, swinging the scales in whatever degree back to the true sound of country music. Look at what Garth has been doing at his Vegas shows. He’s been stripping them back, just him and his acoustic guitar, playing songs from Merle Haggard and George Jones. I don’t expect to see this specifically from his reboot, but I do expect it to be traditional and substantive in nature compared to the current country mainstream. Garth isn’t going to be able to fool anyone. He can’t fit in Luke Bryan’s skinny jeans. He’s going to get out there and be Garth, and by the sheer draw of a man who’s bested only by Elvis in album sales in music history will create a dramatic amount of interest, and assert a tremendous amount of influence.
Country music in the second half of 2013 is going through some of the most historic changes the format has ever seen, with hip-hop influenced songs, albums, and artists dominating the charts, female artists being excluded like never before, and a litany of songs with laundry list lyrics or that are purposely written to be stupid garnering the lion’s share of attention. The ever-present erosion of what the term “country” defines has never been greater, and the charge of preserving the roots of country music has never been more dire.
As a symptom of all the change and upheaval, big-time artists are speaking out about the direction of country music like never before. We’re not talking about the usual suspects of country criticism like Dale Watson and friends, we’re talking about artists at the very top of the mainstream country food chain. Over the last three months, an average of 3 artists per month have spoken out about the direction of country—an overwhelming number when you consider these bouts of outspokeness would usually happen only a few times a year. And there’s no reason to believe this trend won’t continue.
So below we have aggregated a timeline of some of the music world’s top artists speaking out against the direction of country. In all likelihood, this timeline will continue to grow.
Speaking to American Songwriter, Kacey Musgraves said:
“My voice is undeniably country, and I love country. Do I love what it’s turned into? No, not all the way. It’s a little embarrassing when people outside of the genre ask what I sing and I say country. You automatically get a negative response, a cheese factor. My favorite compliment ever is when someone says, ‘I hate country music but I love your music.’”
During an in interview with Rolling Stone, Tom Petty said:
“Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have. I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it?
But I hope that kind of swings around back to where it should be. But I don’t really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up. I’m sure there must be somebody doing it, but most of that music reminds me of rock in the middle Eighties where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos. I don’t want to rail on about country because I don’t really know much about it, but that’s what it seems like to me.”
When asked by GQ what music trend needed to die out immediately, Kacey Musgraves said:
“Anyone singing about trucks, in any form, in any song, anywhere. Literally just stop – nobody cares! It’s not fun to listen to. I thought dubstep was cool for two seconds - but that can go away now too. It sounds like a malfunction of some kind.”
Kacey also said when asked what the best-dressed men in Nashville are wearing these days, “Nothing by Affliction. Just burn the warehouse down. It’s just douchey and really gaudy.”
While speaking with Reuters, Sheryl Crow, who just made a move to the country format and released a country album called Feels Like Home, said about her country move:
“The country format is more pop than pop was when I came up two decades ago,”
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Alan Jackson said:
“Right now, it seems like it’s gone. It’s not that I’m against all that’s out there. There’s some good music, good songwriting and good artists out there, but there’s really no country stuff left. It’s always been that constant pop-country battle. I don’t think it’s ever going to change. What makes me sad today is that I think the real country, real roots-y traditional stuff, may be gone. I don’t know if it’ll ever be back on mainstream radio. You can’t get it played anymore.”
During an interview with Larry King, Gary Allan was asked if Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood were country, and he said:
“You know, I would say no. I would say they’re pop artists making a living in the country genre. I also feel like we lost our genre. I don’t feel like I make music for a genre anymore, and I did, you know, 15 years ago. But I think since the Clear Channel’s and the Cumulus’s and the big companies bought up all the chains, now it’s about a demographic. You know, so they’ve kind of sliced everything up, feeding it to the public in demographics.
“Like if you want to get to the young kids, you put it on the alternative station. We’ve sort of ended up in this…we’re nicknamed the soccer mom, like 35 to 45 year-old woman I think is what our demographic is. So it’s very different. You used to be able to turn on the radio and you knew instantly it was the country station just by listening to it, and now you’ve got to leave it there for a second to figure it out…. To me, country music is still Monday through Friday, and pop’s about what happens on the weekends.”
Gary Allan later clarified his statements, saying his words were taken out of context, and that he appreciated country radio and everything it had done for his career.
When speaking to Barbara Beam of 93.7 JR FM in Vancouver, Canada, Zac Brown said:
“I love Luke Bryan and he’s had some great songs, but this new song is the worst song I’ve ever heard. I know Luke, he’s a friend. ‘My Kind Of Night’ is one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. I see it being commercially successful, in what is called country music these days, but I also feel like that the people deserve something better than that. Country fans and country listeners deserve to have something better than that, a song that really has something to say, something that makes you feel something. Good music makes you feel something. When songs make me wanna throw up, it makes me ashamed to even be in the same genre as those songs.
“If I hear one more tailgate in the moonlight, daisy duke song, I’m gonna throw up. There’s songs out there on the radio right now that make me be ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists. You can look and see some of the same songwriters on every one of the songs. There’s been like 10 number one songs in the last two or three years that were written by the same people and it’s the exact same words, just arranged different ways.”
When speaking to “The Barnyard Show” on 92.5 in Connecticut about why there is so few women on the country music charts, Sheryl Crow said:
“I do think that in the last ten, fifteen years art has gone the way of commerce. Whenever there’s money involved, then you figure out what’s going to bring in sponsors, and what’s going to resonate with people and what’s going to sell records….I’d love to see that change.”
When talking to Rolling Stone about his new album, Jake Owen said:
“We need more songs than just songs about tailgates and fuckin’ cups and Bacardi and stuff like that. We need songs that get ourselves back to the format that made me love it . . . [like] when guys like Randy Travis released songs like ‘He Walked on Water’ – songs that meant something, man!”
When speaking to Country Weekly about country rap, Toby Keith said:
“You hear the hip-hop thing start kicking in, and you start going, ‘Is that what we gotta do now to have a hit?’ I don’t know how to do that. Is that what I need every one of my songs to sound like now?…You start playing [deep songs] to a twenty-something audience, and it’s like, ‘Naw, man, there ain’t no mud on that tire. That ain’t about a Budweiser can. That ain’t about a chicken dancing out by the river. That ain’t about smoking a joint by the haystack. That’s about somebody dying and sh-t.’”
Gone are the days of the legendary duet pairings in country music like George and Tammy, Loretta and Conway, right? Well they may not boast beehive doos or lamb chops, or grace the stage of the CMA Awards or come beaming into your home or buggy via the miracle of Clear Channel radio, but the Austin country scene’s power couple of Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay have revitalized the country duet concept album in a smart, brilliant, hilarious, and sweet offering called Before The World Was Made.
You’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re in the mood for sappy sonnets serenading the human love quotient. This is a love album for lovers who hate each other, and love each other all the same. It’s not that sentimentality doesn’t show its face here, but just like the real world, Before The World Was Made is not afraid to delve into the turbulence of love, to tickle the funny bone, and to tell it like it is.
This album is the perfect soundtrack to an “it’s complicated” relationship status, with ingenious songs like “Breaking Up Is Easy,” “Breaking Up and Making Up Again,” “Be My Ball and Chain,” and “Let’s Don’t Get Married.” Yes, it sounds like a gloomy outlook, but underlying every song of this “on again, off again” album is a sweet love story that you can’t help believing mirrors Brennen Leigh’s and Noel McKay’s real-life narrative.
You can relate to their silly little squabbles and how they plot to resolve them with a positive ending. The way these songs work is both classic and fresh. Even walking in to Before The World Was Made with a deep appreciation for the songwriting chops of both parties, you are still perplexed at how Brennen and Noel wrote this entire album themselves, simply from the strength and the “instant classic” caliber of these songs.
Even the more straightforward love songs like “The Only Person In The Room” and “Salty Kisses In The Sand” are so fresh and clever, they fit right in to the cunning style of this record. “Let’s Go To Lubbock on Vacation” is downright side-splitting (sorry Lubbock readers), while still at its core being a nectarous little love story.
Before The World Was Made doesn’t let up for one moment, and it’s not just all about the words. The album is bolstered by tasteful, classic country arrangements, edified by producer extraordinaire Gurf Morlix. This is a neo-traditional country album at its heart, and the music offers tasty accompaniment to these high-caliber compositions.
Can’t say enough about Brennen, Noel, and Before The World Was Made. They may not be willing to commit to each other, but the music they make together is definitely a keeper.
Two guns up.
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Listen to album below.
On August 15th, the plans for the upcoming Outlaw Country Music Hall of Fame and an accompanying Outlaw Music Association were made public. 5,000 sq. ft. of space has been allocated for the new Hall of Fame in Lynchburg, TN, and a Board of Directors has been formed that includes Jeremy Tepper of SiriusXM, Terry Jennings of Korban Music Group, author of Outlaws Still At Large Neil Hamilton, Joe Swank at Bloodshot Records, mayor of Lynchburg Sloane Stewart, Professor of Entertainment Law David Spangenburg, architect Thomas Bartoo, and CEO of Sol Records Brian DeBruler.
The announcement stimulated a lot of speculation about what direction the upcoming Hall of Fame would take, but not many serious answers. So Saving Country Music reached out to Gary “Sarge” Sargeant, the spearhead of the Outlaw Country Hall of Fame, to try and clear up many questions about what folks can expect from the upcoming institution.
Sarge is also putting on a charity event coming up October 25-27 for Troy Rector who suffered a debilitating medical accident. The event will be at Chopper Hill in Altamont, TN (More information). The inaugural class of inductees to the Outlaw Hall of Fame will be announced during the event.
You can listen to the entire interview below. For those who prefer a written form, the meat of the interview is transcribed below as well.
Gary Sargeant: I’m a lifelong fan, 55 years old, of Outlaw music, independent artists and labels, and just firmly believe in people who stay true to themselves and their music, and don’t compromise. It all started at a David Allan Coe benefit that I attended back in June. He was in an accident and wasn’t able to tour. I was kind of upset that David Allan Coe required a benefit. That at 73, he had to tour just to pay his bills because back in the day, things happened and he doesn’t own his catalog. And I was trying to think of a way we could support legends, and recognize people like David, or any number of people that have contributed so much to this music, and have never compromised. I wanted to make sure we had a place to recognize those folks who will never get recognized by anybody else, and then also be able to support today’s Outlaws—the Pete Berwick’s, the Gurf Morlix’s. Its time has come, and we’re going to do this.
When you announced the Outlaw Country Music Hall of Fame, you included a Board of Directors. Why have a Board of Directors?
Well, again it goes back to me being just a fan. I’m a fan with an idea. But I knew if we were going to do this and be taken seriously, and if it was going to be successful, I needed to put together a group of industry professionals.
The term “Outlaw” has already been taken by Music Row and used for marketing purposes. It’s safe to say that there’s music consumers out there that think Outlaw means Justin Moore, Eric Church, and others. How do you distinguish yourself from Music Row’s version of Outlaws when Music Row’s reach is so vast?
Nashville can tell somebody to dress in black jeans, grow a five day stubble, put on these boots, act all bad boy. That doesn’t make you Outlaw. Outlaw to me is not a genre of music. Outlaw is an attitude. Outlaw is a refusal to compromise your music or your beliefs in order to make a dollar. It is traveling up and down the roads, thousands of miles a year, traveling 500 miles to play a $150 show. True Outlaws are doing it for the love of the music only. I believe there’s going to be a lot of defections from Nashville music once the Outlaw Music Association and Hall of Fame are established and up and running. The definition of Outlaw should be made by those that are truly Outlaw, not some publicist sitting in an ivory tower in Nashville thinking that this will sell records.
Some may say the term Outlaw is outmoded because Nashville is taking it and using it with very prominent artists like Justin Moore—that the term doesn’t hold the same sway or meaning it once did. Are you saying that term needs to be fought for?
I’m saying it needs to be clearly defined. Of course Nashville is going to try and take anything successful and try to co-opt it. But them jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t make them independent artists. They’re playing to a formula. But the formula doesn’t work. Listen to the stuff coming out of Nashville.
How do you feel about Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan movement, and how does it fit in your plans for the Outlaw Music Association? Will there be overlap? Could there be potential conflict? Is it splitting the independent-minded or Outlaw populous of country music into two segments?
I wouldn’t think so. My hope would be that people going in that direction, because that’s very narrowly focused right now, I hope they would go, “Hold on a second, here’s something that has come along, that is exactly what we’re trying to do, but encompasses even more people, and hopefully is a very inviting and open Association.” Because I believe if we start putting restrictions on who is going to be in it, then we’re no better than the CMA or anybody else. Great music is great music, whether it be Texas Swing, or Southern rock country, or traditional country. If you’re an artist and you believe in what you’re doing, and you’re good at what you do, we’re going to give you all the support in the world, whether it be Dale Watson, or Shooter Jennings who can go off in different tangents and experiment with different music, or Hank3 who is so excellent. There’s so many artist out there that don’t have a place to call home, and that’s what the Outlaw Music Association is gonna be. It’s gonna be a place where independent labels and artists can receive support, promotion, and have a place they can call home and feel welcomed for who they are instead of something somebody else wants them to be.
We’ve seen in the past, for example with Shooter Jennings’ “XXX” movement and Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan movement, there’s been a lot of conflict and dissension with these attempts to unify the music behind a common purpose. I think that may be what is at the root of some fear and concern of what the Outlaw Music Association and Outlaw Country Music Hall of Fame will become. There’s a history of trying to find a uniting element apart from the CMA in the history of country music. Back in the 70′s there was “ACE” that was set up after Olivia Newton-John and John Denver had won CMA Awards. Traditional country artists met at the house of George Jones and Tammy Wynette and tried to form a new thing. The Academy of Country Music was set up because West Coast entertainers felt like the CMA was bias against California country artists. ACE never really took off, and the ACM just became a doppelganger of the CMA….
…and you forgot to mention the AMA, the Americana Music Association.
Sure, which I personally have said in the past is very narrow in focus, even though a lot of the artists they help promote are great artists.
I couldn’t agree with you more. To me, there is an extreme hunger and thirst out there to have an alternative to what’s being pushed down everybody’s throats by Nashville, the record labels, and the conglomerate of radio stations that are out there. Our focus is not narrow. I don’t care if it’s Dale Watson, or Hellbound Glory, or Jamey Johnson, it doesn’t matter. There’s a whole group of artists out there that deserve to be supported. We are not going to impose conditions. If you’re talented, and your music speaks for itself, and your music speaks to fans, our goal is to make sure that we support you. We’re not guaranteeing success for anybody. But we’re not going to say, “You’re not worthy.” Everybody’s worthy if they’re a musician, and they work hard, they write their own music and stay true to it, and they have some fans and are successful, we’re going to make sure they have an opportunity to be even more successful. We are a non-profit. Our proceeds go to supporting the legends, and also supporting the independent artists of today.
The narrowing of perspective seems to be a really big challenge of independent music right now, whether it is with the Americana Music Association, or just these little scenes that have popped up in independent music. How do you insulate yourself from that trend?
Technology is changing by leaps and bounds every month, let alone every year. The money to be made in today’s world is through touring…touring and merchandise. So we are going to support tours. As a non-profit—it’s kind of being dubbed the Outlaw iTunes—where independent artists can upload their music, and we will turn around and allow it to be downloaded for 99 cents a download, and we give all of it back to the artists while not taking 63 cents. We will be asking for a small donation that will go back to the legends. Technology is changing so quickly, and we have some very good people who are up to speed on today’s technology and the future of music distribution. Those are the areas we want to educate independent artists and labels on, and assist them in giving them an outlet to distribute their music, and use the Hall of Fame to support tours, and get [artists] out in front of the people. Are we going to be the savior? Hell no. But are we going to do everything that we can to help these folks who are working so hard and believe in what they’re doing? Yes, we’re going to do everything we can. Is it guaranteeing success? No. Is it guaranteeing effort? Yes.
There’s a lot of people out there touring and writing their own songs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their music is valuable enough to be heard by the masses. What’s to keep people who may not embody the Outlaw spirit from just becoming part of this if there’s no governor to keep anybody and everybody from applying?
The fans of Outlaw music are by far the most discerning fans in the world. Otherwise, these artists wouldn’t have any success. An artist will make it if his fans want him to make it. The fans are going to decide if you make it or not, not the Association.
The assertion about Music Row is that they choose who is going to be the stars, and then they push that to the fans. What you’re saying with the Outlaw Music Association is the fans would choose the stars, and the OMA just gives them the platform and the support so that the fans can make that choice.
Eloquently put. And shouldn’t that be the way it is? Shouldn’t the fans be able to say what they like and don’t like? They shouldn’t be told what’s good and not good. With the focus being so narrow and money dictating who is going to be the next star, we’re all robbed. The fans are robbed, the artists are robbed, everybody is robbed of the next potential star. It’s not my job to decide who is good and who’s not good.
Tompall Glaser recently passed away. Right after he died, I posted a quote that came from him back in the 70′s that goes, “Damn it, the fight isn’t in Austin and it isn’t in Los Angeles. It’s right here in Nashville, right here two blocks from Music Row, and if we win–and if our winning is ever going to amount to anything in the long run–we’ve got to beat them on their own turf.” And I’ve heard some similar criticisms about Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan genre where it seems like, “Okay, were going to give up on Nashville and country music, and we’re just going to call it what we want to call it.” What would be your rebuttal to that as far as setting up something that’s apart from Nashville and Music Row?
Lynchburg, TN is not but 55 miles south of Nashville. It’s close enough to pull resources from the Nashville area, but still far enough away and separated enough to say, “Hey, this is separate. This is an alternative.” The people, the demographics that are visiting Lynchburg on a daily basis are the same people that are going to visit our Hall of Fame. It’s all about inclusion. This country is based on freedom, and I believe artists ought to have the freedom to practice their music the way they want without the almighty dollar driving their product.
In closing, I would just like to say to all the fans of Outlaw country music, thank you, and if you really want to make a difference, you have an opportunity. But you have to express your voice. You can’t just sit in your truck or in your house and say, “This sucks,” and expect it to change. If you want change, this is your opportunity. This is a grass roots movement. This is your Hall of Fame. This is your Association. If you want to support artists that made the music what it is today, and those that are continuing in that same vein, support the Hall of Fame, support the Association. Let your artists know that you support us, that you support them by supporting us. This is only going to work if the average fan stands up and says, “I’ve had enough. I want a hand in what I listen to.”
These were the words spoken by reigning Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton as part of his broader, now notorious “old farts and jackasses” spiel first spoken on a GAC special, and then later published by Saving Country Music in late January of 2013, sparking off a public uproar.
Well George Jones may haves something to say about that, even though he’s been deceased for nearly 4 months.
George’s 16 Biggest Hits album was certified platinum yesterday, meaning it has now sold 1 million copies according to the RIAA. This comes 15 years after the album was initially released, and 11 years after the album was first certified gold for selling 500,000 copies.
Right after George Jones passed away, sales of his music skyrocketed, and have stayed curiously strong since. 16 Biggest Hits re-entered the Billboard 200 Albums chart at #42 the week after George’s death, and six other George Jones albums also re-emerged on Billboard’s “Hot Country Albums” list.
But as much as George Jone’s death was to blame for the spike in sales, so was George Jones’s older fans who are one of the last bastions of CD-buying consumers. Most younger music consumers, i.e. Blake Shelton fans, stream their music, or download individual songs—a practice that means much less revenue for both labels and artists.
As was asserted when first publishing Blake Shelton’s “old farts and jackasses” comments, Music Row is ignoring one of the last segments of the American market that actually buys physical music, and one that makes up one of the largest segments of consumers. Announced last month, music sales are at historic lows, while a recent analysis by country DJ Charlie Cook shows that country radio continues to ignore older consumers more and more as time goes on.
But George Jones’s postmortem sales success was not all due to older country music consumers.
As big as the success of George’s 16 Biggest Hits has been, one of his signature songs, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” enjoyed an even greater resurgence, re-entering Billboard’s Hot 100 Country Songs chart at #21 the week after George’s death—33 years after the song was initially released. But how would this be possible if a majority of George Jones fans are technologically-illiterate elders? Nobody is selling 45′s of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
It is because younger, technologically-savvy consumers were also participating in the George Jones revival, buying up 34,000 digital copies of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” the week after his death, and streaming it a whopping 783,000 times. So it wasn’t just old farts and jackasses, it was download-savvy Gen X’ers and Spotify-streaming millennials wanting to listen to George Jones.
Another album crafted by gray-haired guys and featuring old music—Vince Gill and Paul Franklin’s cover album Bakersfield—also had surprising success last week, coming in at #4 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. So bereavement isn’t solely to blame for consumers buying up classic country music. When given a reason, and when given an album worth listening to, classic and traditional country fans of all ages are turning out to purchase music.
As the music industry continues to contract and deal with the dwindling revenue foisted on them by the emerging age of streaming music, they can’t afford to ignore any segment of the music buying public. Of course the younger demographic is always going to be the biggest driver in the music marketplace, and country music must evolve to stay relevant. But country also must offer choice, and balance if it expects to survive the expanding adversity the music industry faces.
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George Jones is set to release a posthumous Gospel album called George Jones- Amazing Grace on September 10th through Bandit Records.
If one sets out to make a documentary about the recently passed “Cowboy” Jack Clement, it certainly can’t be straightforward. As long-time Jack Clement friend Walter Forbes observes, “Cowboy gets the most nervous I think when a parade is going all in a straight line. He just can’t stand it…There’s got to be something he can do to change the rhythm and mess that sucker up.”
It was with that spirit that Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan: Cowboy Jack Clement’s Home Movies was made in 2005 to document Jack’s life, and the wild environment swirling around his legendary home studio, the “Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa.”
Like any good documentary film does, even if you don’t care who Jack Clement is, you do by the end, and take away from it the important information about the accomplishments in Jack’s life. But since Jack Clement was there during so many important and historic events in the chronology of country music and early rock and roll, and because he claims to have spent over a million dollars making home movies, Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan delivers you so much more; particularly an astounding array of archived footage capturing candid and important moments with some of country music’s biggest stars and most important people.
Some examples are Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing together for the first time in 20 years, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Townes Van Zandt all hanging out in the same room, and Johnny Cash having a smoke with the Father of Country Music, A.P Carter. And this is all interwoven with other archived and never-seen-before footage like moments from 2 never-released and never-finished Jack Clement TV specials (one with special guests Waylon Jennings and Jessi Coulter), or Charley Pride playing the Astrodome in Houston. And for a little extra character, there are little snippets of Jack Clement talking to a sketch of William Shakespeare (who among other attributes, has the voice of Johnny Cash), that give even more insight into Jack Clement’s creative mettle.
The celebrities appearing in the film in various contexts include but are not limited to:
- Johnny Cash
- Waylon Jennings
- Charley Pride
- Porter Wagoner
- Dolly Parton
- John Prine
- Kris Kristofferson
- George Jones
- Del McCoury
- Jim Lauderdale
- Jerry Lee Lewis
- Sam Phillips
- Marty Stuart
- June Carter
- Townes Van Zandt
- Jessi Coulter
But there’s really not one complete, uninterrupted musical performance in the entire hour-long movie. That’s not what this is about. And it’s not even about conveying all the big details of of Jack Clement’s life—his work with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios helping to launch the careers of Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, or his launching of Charley Pride and John Prine, or his work with Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. It is about capturing the spirit of the man—the whimsy that he approached the creative process with, and how it was his spirit that coaxed out some of the most memorable recordings in country music history from some of its most memorable performers.
And though this film was released 8 years ago, it still does a poignant job at the end touching on the mortality that surrounded “Cowboy” Jack in later years, all the way up to his own passing. All his best friends—Sam Phillips, Waylon Jennings, and especially Johnny Cash—had all passed away, leaving Jack behind as the last of the breed.
Directed and produced by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan is one of the most entertaining, informing, and well-made documentaries on country music you can find, and rose to the challenge of chronicling a character who future generations will unfortunately only be able to know through music and film.
Two guns way up!
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If it seems like Saving Country Music is running a story every other day about an artist speaking out on the state of country music, it is because we are, and it’s because they are more and more frequently as modern pop country strives to set a lower standard for itself seemingly every day.
Tom Petty is the latest, fielding a slow lob right over the plate in an interview from Rolling Stone reporter Patrick Doyle posted today, and hitting it out of the park. Following up on an anti modern country rant Petty delivered from the stage of the Beacon Theater in New York City, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer said in a story whose subtitle is “Singer also discusses songwriting and criticizes modern country music…”
Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have. I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it?
But I hope that kind of swings around back to where it should be. But I don’t really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up. I’m sure there must be somebody doing it, but most of that music reminds me of rock in the middle Eighties where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos. I don’t want to rail on about country because I don’t really know much about it, but that’s what it seems like to me.
Petty, whose music has always carried country influences despite being labeled as rock, spent a portion of his set at New York’s Beacon theater explaining his country roots after polishing off a version of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.” Petty said the country music he listened to was “not like it is today, like bad rock with a fiddle.” Then Petty and The Heartbreakers played Conway Twitty’s “The Image of Me.” It is a song he plays somewhat regularly live, and is included on his Live Anthology Box Set.
Along with Florida Georgia Line blowing off Tom Petty’s comments on Twitter, country songwriter and performer Chris Stapleton has also chimed in, penning an open letter to Petty. Stapleton is the former lead singer for the SteelDrivers, and a #1 hit songwriter for artists like Kenny Chesney, George Strait, and Darius Rucker.
Dear Tom Petty,
I think it’s safe to say most modern country artists, including me, would list you as an influence. Your recent comments lead me to believe you see room for improvement in modern country music. I, for one, would like to see you put you money where your mouth is in a tangible way. So, in the interest of making Country music less “s–tty” (your words), I suggest a collaboration. I’m extending an open invitation to you to write songs with me, produce recordings on or with me, or otherwise participate in whatever way you see fit in my little corner of music. In the event that you actually read this and are interested, look me up.
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