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- Willie Watson on NPR's Mountain Stage
- Fader Interviews Lucinda Williams
- Chuck Mead on NPR's Mountain Stage
- Apple Reportedly In Talks with Majors for Cheaper Music
- Backstage Pass: Enjoy a Bit of Bradford Lee Folk Lore
- If You Missed It: Lucinda Williams on Fallon 9-30
- SXSW Probably Isn't Going Anywhere But Big Changes Loom
- Revisiting Cowboy Jack Clement, Country Music's Jester and King
- Audiobook Review: Tom T. Hall "The Storyteller's Nashville"
- Mac Wiseman Featured in The Wall St Journal
- Live Nation Moving Off of Music Row
- After SiriusXM Success, The Turtles Take on Pandora
- American Songwriter reviews new Sons of Bill album
- Cool Music Photos from New "Still Moving" Picture Book
- The Telegraph "Sturgill Simpson: Space Cowboy"
- Jambands Reviews Cory Branan's "No Hit Wonder"
- Zoe Muth at WAMU's Bluegrass Country
- A night in the life of Austin City Limits ringleader Terry Lickona
- Review: Sturgill Simpson At Leaf Cafe, Liverpool, UK
- Can the people Nashville hopes to attract afford to move to Nashville?
Nashville will always be the home of country music, but Bristol, TN/VA was where the big bang of country music occurred. In 1927, recording pioneer Ralph Peer from the Victor Talking Machine Company set up his equipment in the Taylor-Christian Hat Company in downtown Bristol and started recording acts that would become the very foundation of what we know as country music today. The Bristol Sessions cataloged the music of The Carter Family, The Stoneman Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and many more, and country music as a recorded enterprise was born. Johnny Cash once said of the Bristol Sessions, “These recordings in Bristol in 1927 are the single most important event in the history of country music.â
Now the legacy of this historic moment will be put on display and preserved for future generations in The Birthplace of Country Music Museum set to open its doors this weekend in downtown Bristol. The 24,000 square foot facility is an affiliate of The Smithsonian, and will include 12,000 square feet of exhibit space, a rotating exhibit gallery, music mixing and listening stations, multiple theater experiences, and interactive, technology-infused media. They’ve even applied for a low-powered radio station to be based out of the museum. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum also plans to host year-round music events and educational programming to promote and preserve Ralph Peer’s work and the role of Bristol in the formation of country music.
This weekend the museum has many events scheduled to coincide with the grand opening. On Friday the museum is open for 1/2 price admission with a live concert commencing at 6 PM. Then on Saturday the Grand Opening Event Ceremony happens at 1:00 PM, and then Ralph Stanley, Carlene Carter, Jim Lauderdale, and The Whistles & The Bells are all set to perform. Then on Sunday NPR’s Mountain Stage will be happening at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol as part of the grand opening festivities. It all coincides with the same time of year that Ralph Peer and country’s founders did their work in late July and early August of 1927. Before The Birthplace of Country Music even opens its doors, they’ve already held an “Educator’s Day” to help integrate with the local education community, proving that education and preservation are the centerpiece of the museum’s mission.
The museum is being organized by the same people that organize the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Music Festival every third weekend in September that sees 50,000 attendees drawn to the area. The museum is also working on a new album called Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited that will see a reinterpretation of the Bristol Session classics by artists like Marty Stuart, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Ashley Monroe, Steve Martin, The Church Sisters, Doyle Lawson, and more. It is produced by Carl Jackson and will be released in October.
With strong community support and an excellent idea, The Birthplace of Country Music museum looks to become a cornerstone of country music history, and a must-see destination for any serious country music fan.
In August of last year, plans were unveiled for a new Outlaw Music Hall of Fame to be located in Lynchburg, TN. A letter of intent had been signed on a 5,000 sq. ft. property in downtown Lynchburg, and numerous personalities from the independent and Outlaw music community were named as board members, with the intention of opening the Hall in the spring of 2014. Later in October at an event in Altamont, TN, the inagural inductees to the Hall were announced, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, David Allan Coe, and a slew of other country music greats.
However as time has gone on, questions have arose about what is happening with the Hall of Fame. The spring of 2014 came and passed, and no progress or dates for an opening or inaugural induction ceremony were announced. Then an examiner.com article was published questioning the intent and legitimacy of the Hall, but as Saving Country Music pointed out, the article included gross inaccuracies and incorrect information, including the assertion that the Hall did not have a not-for-profit status.
As Saving Country Music explained at the time, the Outlaw Hall of Fame has been delayed because the location it planned to occupy was caught in a legal battle with the original owners and the bank that carried the deed on the property. This has caused caused a significant delay in the opening of the Hall, but according to the Hall of Fame’s point man Gary Sargeant, the Outlaw Hall of Fame is not dead.
“Last summer we signed a letter of intent to occupy the Lynchburg location, and gave them a deposit on their offer,” Gary explains. “I accepted their offer. Well the bank turned around because so much money was owed on it and two other pieces of property by the previous owners that the bank put a quash on the deal. We were supposed to take possession November 1st of 2013. Well in January 2014 the bank foreclosed on the property. The property is available for sale, but I am not able to personally buy the property. We had it on a lease option, which would have allowed us to move into the property. After a year we could have purchased it, and we had the first three months free. The bank is willing to let it go at 50% of the assessed value, let alone the appraised value. They want it off the books. But we do not have the money to purchase it outright. So that’s kind of where the Hall of Fame is sitting.”
One of the more controversial portions of the Hall of Fame was an Outlaw Music Association that was intended to help artists network with each other for touring, etc. Sargeant, who was injured in a motorcycle accident in October of 2013 right before a Hall of Fame-sponsored festival, say he has turned the reigns over to someone else in that portion of the venture.
“I have handed day-to-day operational control for the Outlaw Music Association over to Robin Randall because the last benefit I did for tornado victims in March, I lost another $3,000. Instead of paying bills, I took care of my commitments for that benefit. And I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m broke. This has bankrupted me. I’m losing everything I own. I’ve got to go back to work.’ The doctors had finally cleared me to go back to work (from the motorcycle accident). So I’m back to work now in construction, and we’re in the regrouping stage.”
According to Sargeant, the bank foreclosure on the proposed Outlaw Hall of Fame building has been the biggest hitch in the plan.
“The brick and mortar physical location for the Hall of Fame is the key to everything. The focus got lost when we were waiting to see what the bank was going to do, and they foreclosed and we started focusing on the Outlaw Music Association. The attention needs to go back on the Hall of Fame. I’m trying to get back up on my feet financially. It’s not like we’ve given up, it’s just very very hard for one individual to try to do something, and I think people’s expectations were a little bit higher than our abilities. It’s not like it’s gone south or died. It’s just regrouping and trying to put a package together that is going to make it be successful. This is a major undertaking and it’s not going to get done with one fan. It’s about pulling everyone together and letting them know what the real expectations are. The bank foreclosing on the building and the inability to purchase it outright really hurt the Hall of Fame opening this year. We’re looking at other venues right now, alternate sites. We still have a lot of support.”
In March the Hall of Fame published a video (see below) in hopes to attract investors, sponsors, or a buyer for the building that the Outlaw Hall of Fame could then lease the building from.
“We tried to attract some investors. We are willing to have somebody else buy it and turn around and lease it to us. They’re going to buy a commercial property and already has a tenant, and they’re going to buy it for less of what half the assessed value is. It’s a beautiful investment for someone, but that doesn’t happen overnight.”
Another issue according to Sargeant has been the passing of country artist Wayne Mills, who was on the Board of Directors for the Hall of Fame’s Outlaw Music Association.
“Wayne was a very big part of the Outlaw Music Association. People don’t realize that. He founded Alabama Line. Alabama Line is a group that promotes Alabama artists. All the Association is, is Alabama Line on a national basis, on a national scale. He was very integral. Wayne was so smart, and I miss that. Not just as a friend, I miss his council and everything he provided. We lost a lot when we lost him. And every time I wanted to say, ‘I can’t do this anymore. This is too much,’ then I would think, ‘It’s not about me, this is Wayne’s dream too, and it’s about the artists.’”
Because of the delays, people have had questions about if the Hall of Fame inaugural induction ceremony or a new round of inductees will happen this year.
“I have people tell me that we should do the induction ceremony anyway and use it as part of a fundraiser for the Hall itself, which might make sense. It’s an idea that’s being kicked around. We’re talking to sponsors. It would have to be that we do new inductees after this year’s induction. Everything is still pretty much as it’s supposed to be as far as a plan. Just without a physical building, it changes the execution.”
Gary Sargeant is willing to admit that mistakes have been made in the rollout of the Hall of Fame, and that in certain sectors of the Outlaw country and independent music world, he’s not highly regarded, and others are suspicious of the intentions of the Hall and the Outlaw Music Association.
“When you’re working on a volunteer effort, everyone’s time is limited. For something that should take two or three days, it sometimes takes two to three weeks. And it doesn’t take long for something to drag out three or four months. Then after three or four months, you have 10,000 people across the country that don’t know what is going on questioning what you’re doing. I’ve always been very quiet on Facebook and everything else. I hate Facebook. I don’t do that. I monitor it to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on. If people want to hate me or hate us, that’s fine, I don’t have a problem with that. But at least be educated, and know why we’re where we’re at.”
Setbacks aside, Gary insists the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame is not dead, just delayed.
“Quitting is something we’re not going to do. We might change some of our goals, but everyone can see that we’re still moving forward. I’m working hard. I’m trying to get the right people together. I will be the first to say that I’m inexperienced and I failed at certain things. There’s reasons I failed, from lack of experience to banks not honoring the letter of intent we signed. There’s different things that have happened, but if nothing else, we’ve raised the profile over the last year. The biggest thing is that we’re regrouping, and the focus is now on the Hall of Fame.”
An Outlaw Music Festival at the Wishbone Ranch in Bowling Green, KY October 9th thru 12th has been planned, and though Gary Sargeant says they are not associated with the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame, he still supports the event.
“I think it’s a great thing. I love it. I think it’s fantastic. This is not about the OMA or Gary Sargeant, this is about artists getting promoted, helping each other. It is being run by Moonshine Barbecue Sauce, which is one of the original vendors at our Altamont festival last year who enjoyed it, saw that it was a great thing. But he also saw—and rightly so—that he could do a better job than me. So I hope it’s wildly successful because it’s only benefiting the artists. And the Last Honky Tonk Music Series, same thing. It’s all about promoting and getting the music out there.”
Also a raffle for a motorcycle with the proceeds scheduled to go to the family of Wayne Mills that was being administrated through the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame is still happening, and all raffle tickets sold will still be honored. It has just changed hands to a different administrator. All the current raffle tickets are still accounted for, and a winner will be chosen once they hit the ticket threshold for the raffle.
The promotional video put together in March for the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame property:
Finally one of the most under-appreciated, but wildly-influential lyricists in country music, one of country music’s forgotten Outlaw artists, and one of America’s most creative personalities is going to get his due on the silver screen. Shel Silverstein is slated to receive the biopic treatment in a film called A Boy Named Shel—a play on words of the song “A Boy Named Sue” made famous by Johnny Cash, and written by Shel. The movie will be a screen adaptation of the book A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein written by Lisa Rogak reports Variety.
The beauty of Shel Silverstein was that he was so many different things to so many different people. To many children and adults who grew up with his books, he was a master poet and illustrator, entertaining generations with his releases such as A Light In The Attic and Where The Sidewalk Ends. To others he was a legendary cartoonist for Playboy Magazine. Still others know him as a lyricist of the rock and roll world, penning the iconic tunes “Cover of Rolling Stone” and “Sylvia’s Mother” for Dr. Hook. While others remember Shel for his country music contributions, including writing songs for other famous songwriters, not limited to Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Tompall Glaser, and Bobby Bare. Bobby Bare once released an entire album of Shel songs. Silverstein also was a noted performer himself and released numerous albums, and also worked in the theater realm.
A Boy Named Shel will explore the “personal and professional struggles” of Shel Silverstein’s life. Silverstein died in 1999 at the age of 68 at his home in Key West. The film is being developed by Wonderland Vision and Sound, known for such films as We Are Marshall and Terminator Salvation. Adapting the book for film will be writers Chris Shafer and Vicknair, and Wonderland Vision principals McG and Mary Viola are producing, along with Sean Sorensen and Mathew Cullen.
No word as of yet on whose bald head will reprise the famous cranium of one of America’s most beloved poets and entertainers, or any other casting news. But all signs point to A Boy Named Shel being a big production movie that will hopefully shine a greater light on the man and his work. Shel joins a growing list of country greats receiving the biopic treatment recently. In June it was announced a Hank Williams biopic was in the works, and Waylon Jennings is also supposed to be receiving a feature film soon. Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line went on to be an award-winning account of the Man in Black, and went a long way to revitalizing interest in the country music great.
George Riddle, a songwriter and musician whose music and influence can be heard throughout the classic country music world, passed away on Saturday night, July 19th after battling with throat Cancer.
Over his long career in country music, George Riddle wrote songs for artists such as George Jones, Ray Charles, Faron Young, Tammy Wynette, Mickey Gilley, Del Reeves, Melba Montgomery, and Margie Singleton among others, and wrote 13 songs for George Jones alone. George Riddle also sang and performed his own songs, recording at various times for United Artists, Musicor, MGM, Starday, Marathon, and Roma Records, releasing seven full albums and multiple singles throughout his career. For 40 years, George Riddle was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry, backing up many of the biggest Opry stars. But he might be best known as the very first and original Jones Boy, backing George Jones up in what would later become George’s legendary band. When George Jones first started out, it was just him and George Riddle. And as they say, the rest is history.
George Riddle was born in Marion, Indiana September 1st ,1935, and graduated from Van Buren High School in 1953. He served in the United States Army from 1958 till 1960, then went to Nashville to pursue his dream of becoming a country and western singer. This is where he met George Jones and became one of country music’s marquee sidemen.
Riddle also made appearances on The Johnny Cash Show, The Nashville Network, in the movie Country Music on Broadway, and many other notable stage and television appearances throughout his career. Most recently he hosted a classic country radio show on WCJC 99.3 FM in Indiana every Saturday morning from 6 am till 11 am near his home in Gas City, Indiana.
Despite his accomplishments throughout his career, George Riddle was known as a private person, not desiring the spotlight. In 2011 and 2012, Riddle received R.O.P.E. (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) Awards for his DJ work, as a songwriter, and a Lifetime Achievement Award.
George Riddle will be greatly missed as an important contributor to classic country music.
The below photos are from the George Riddle Facebook page. The first is with George Jones and Patsy Cline. It is believed to be one of the final pictures of Patsy, and was taken the day before her tragic plane crash.
Kris Kristofferson may have never shot anyone or spent time in prison, but when you look at his life and accomplishments, it is an absolute marvel of the American experience. From starting off as a Rhodes Scholar, to becoming a helicopter pilot in the Army, to being responsible for a Hall of Fame career in country, to becoming a Hollywood superstar and dating singers and actors to making daring moves to further his career, Kris Kristofferson is not just a country music badass, he’s one of the most badass Americans to ever be born.
More in this series:
- 10 Badass Waylon Jennings Moments
- 10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments
- 10 Badass Wanda Jackson Moments
- 10 Badass Marty Stuart Moments
- 10 Badass George Jones Moments
- 10 Badass Hank3 Moments
- 10 Badass Billy Joe Shaver Moments
1. Becoming a Rhodes Scholar
Kris Kristofferson is a smart one to say the least. The Rhodes Scholarship is an Oxford University postgraduate distinction that is considered the world’s most prestigious academic scholarship and scholastic accolade. Created in 1902, and the first international scholarship program of its kind, Rhodes Scholars are considered to have any job available to them throughout their lives, and many have gone on to be Presidents, Prime Ministers, and prominent business leaders. Only about 80 scholars are selected each year from around the world, and Kris Kristofferson was one of them to be bestowed with the Rhodes Scholar honor in 1958. While at Oxford, Kristofferson studied literature at Merton College—the same college J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor at during the period. Kristofferson also earned his “Blue” in boxing as a collegiate athlete.
It was at Oxford that Kristofferson first tried his hand in the music business. He recorded for a label called Top Rank Records under the name Kris Carson, and was dubbed the “Yank at Oxford”. But the pursuit didn’t go anywhere after a record company in the United States claimed they owned Kristofferson’s rights.
2. Flying Helicopters as a Captain in the Army
Possibly country musicâs most well-known veteran, Kris Kristofferson came from a strong military family. After college at Oxford, his parents pushed him to enlist and Kristofferson went into the United States Army as an officer, attending Ranger school and achieving the rank of Captain as a helicopter pilot. Kristofferson received his training at Fort Rucker, Alabama before being deployed to West Germany as part of the 8th Infantry Division. After serving out his tour of duty, Kristofferson was scheduled to become an English Literature professor at West Point, but decided to pursue a career in songwriting instead. The American Veterans Awards named Kris Kristofferson âVeteran of the Yearâ in 2003. His first successful songwriting hit was called âViet Nam Bluesâ originally recorded by Dave Dudley.
Kristofferson later flew helicopters commercially, especially in Louisiana, traveling back to Nashville to pitch songs. He wrote “Help Me Make It Through The Night” on an oil platform in the gulf, and “Me & Bobby McGee” also while in Louisiana.
3. Taking a Janitor Position to Help Become a Songwriter
Being from a proud military family, Kris Kristofferson was not only expected to do his duty to his country during his youth, but to follow a military career throughout his life. Flying helicopters and spending five years in the military apparently wasn’t enough, and when Kris relayed his plans to move to Nashville and become a songwriter, Kristofferson’s family officially disowned him. They never completely reconciled.
Cut off from his support network, Kris Kristofferson struggled. This Rhodes Scholar and Oxford graduate that could fly helicopters resorted to taking a janitorial position at the studios of Columbia Records simply to be one step closer to his dream of becoming a songwriter. Kristofferson was in the studio when Bob Dylan was cutting his album Blonde on Blonde, but was too bashful to approach him. He did get the courage to befriend Johnny Cash, who was warm to Kristofferson and considered some of his songs, but never took the young songwriter seriously until….
4. Landing a Helicopter on Johnny Cash’s Lawn to Deliver Demos
At the time, Kristofferson was working as a janitor at the offices of Columbia Records where Johnny Cash was signed. Kristofferson had met Cash a number of times, in the studio and backstage at The Grand Ole Opry, but Cash wouldnât show any attention to young Kristoffersonâs songwriting aspirations. Kris would slip Cash demos of his work, or give them to June Carter or Luther Perkins when he had a chance, but according to Cash, he would take them home to the Hendersonville house and toss them into Old Hickory Lake.
Kristofferson took part-time work with the National Guard to help pay bills, and desperate to get Johnny Cashâs attention, decided to deviate from his flight plan while on a training run and land his helicopter in the Hendersonville propertyâs front yard. What happened next depends on who you ask. According to Cash, Kristofferson came sauntering out of the helicopter with a beer in one hand, and his demo tapes in another, demanding to be heard. But Kristofferson paints a more subdued picture. âYâknow, John had a very creative imagination,â Kristofferson recalled. âIâve never flown with a beer in my life. Believe me, you need two hands to fly those things.â In fact Kristofferson doesnât even remember Cash being at the house at the time, though he does say, âI still think I was lucky he didnât shoot me that day!â
What was the result of Kris Kristoffersonâs aeronautical attention grab? It got Johnny Cash to invite him up on stage at the Newport Folk Festival later that year, which put Kris Kristofferson on the country music map.
5. Writing “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
There are songs that are hits, and then there are songs that change the whole course of music. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was one of those songs, and it cemented Kris Kristofferson’s place in history. Simply about the lonliness of a Sunday morning when you have no friends or family and the bars don’t open until 1 PM, the song touched a nerve and in a poetic way country music had never done before.
Ray Stevens was the first to cut the song in 1969, but it stalled at #55 on the charts. Kristoffersonâs own version didnât chart at all. It was Johnny Cashâs take on âSunday Morning Coming Downâ that took it all the way to #1 in 1970, and eventually to becoming the Song of the Year by the Country Music Association. Johnny Cash had the credibility and undying loyalty of the country music community to sing what was a controversial song at the time, and have people listen through the controversy to the heart of the story that Kristoffersoon had so eloquently captured.
6. Opening Up Country Music To More Risque Themes
Where Kris Kristofferson played a seminal role in the history of country music, and specifically in the Outlaw movement of the early 70′s was by opening up the music to new themes that previously had been considered risque in the family friendly environment of country. Though country had contained risque and adult themes previously, the Countrypolitan movement taking over Nashville at the time looked to appeal to the opposite crowd of the counterculture, and anything suggestive was regularly written out of country songs, if they even got cut at all when they including something thought to be objectionable.
It wasn’t just the “stoned” word in the song “Sunday Morning Coming Down” that Johnny Cash helped Kristofferson normalize in country music when Cash performed the song on his The Johnny Cash Show. Other suggestive lyrics like “Lay your warm and tender body close to mine” from the song “For The Good Times” stretched the boundaries of country music, and allowed other songwriters and performers to tackle subjects previously off limits.
Many of Kristofferson’s songs were banned from country radio early on. But as his performance career suffered, his peers continued to push to be able to cut Kristofferson songs until the rules keeping Kristofferson’s songs down had been completely broken.
7. Dating Janis Joplin and “Me & Bobby McGee”
We all know Janis was the one to make Kris Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee” into an American standard, but their relationship went much deeper than songwriter and performer. Before Kristofferson fell in love with Rita Coolidge, and right before Janis would eventually die of a heroin overdose, the two Texas natives engaged in a wild relationship with “Me & Bobby McGee” as the backdrop.
Kris and Janis were introduced by songwriter and performer Bobby Neuwirth. Kristofferson had just played in Greenwich Village, and Neuwirth suggested they fly out to Larkspur, California where Janis was currently staying. The three ended up residing there for weeks, and Kristofferson immediately became the apple of Joplin’s eye. “I’d a split there,” Kris recalls. “I dug her, but I had itchy feet. I’d get up intending to get out, and in she comes with the early morning drinks and pretty soon you’re wasted enough and you don’t care about leaving. She’d definitely let ya know when she was being abused, and she thought so a lot. She was always jangling around talking about how everybody was living off of her, but she had people she’d bring into the house and then she’d bitch because she was giving them bed and board.”
It was 1970, and Kristofferson was finally beginning to make it as a songwriter. He wanted Joplin to cut “Me & Bobby McGee” to help pay bills, but sources close to the steamy couple insist Kristofferson didn’t shack up with Janis simply to convince her to record the song. Joplin truly loved the song, and decided to release it on her next album, which ended up being her last. After Kristofferson left, Janis fell back into heroin use. Kristofferson tried to come to her aid, but Joplin’s demons ran much deeper than her short-term relationship with Kris. “You won’t be around,” Janis retorted to Kris. “None of ‘em will be.”
Joplin recorded “Me & Bobby McGee only a few days before her death in October of 1970. When her final album Pearl came out in January of 1971, and “Me & Bobby McGee” became Joplin’s only #1 hit.
8. Winning a Golden Globe for Best Actor
There are a lot of actors who have become musicians, and musicians who have become actors. But few have excelled at both disciplines to the point where they’re awarded some of the highest distinctions the respective industries can bestow. Already a decorated Captain in the Army, already a Rhodes Scholar, already a winner for the CMA’s Song of the Year, Kristofferson gets into acting, and eventually is given the Golden Globe of Best Actor to put on his mantle.
Kristofferson’s acting credits are too numerous to list, and depending on who you talk to, they rival if not exceed his musical contributions. But in 1976, Kristofferson delivered the performance of his lifetime across from Barbara Streisand in A Star Is Born. Though the film was a remake and had been released two times previous, it became a blockbuster and made $80 million, partly from the savvy casting right as Kristofferson was coming into his prime as a Hollywood heartthrob. The movie sent his hunk status into hyperdrive, and Kris became ‘A’ list material. The film also won four other Golden Globes, and an Academy Award.
Kristofferson loved receiving the distinction, but he hated making the movie. He later expressed it was “worse than boot camp.”
Overall Kris Kristofferson has acted in over 100 films.
9. Playing The Very Top Mob Boss in the Movie Payback
In the 1999 movie Payback starring Mel Gibson, Mel’s character Porter is looking to get the $70,000 owed to him after an underling of a criminal syndicate does him wrong in a deal. As the movie transpires, Mel keeps killing off underlings and bosses in the syndicate, working higher hand higher up the chain looking for his payback. “One man. You go high enough, you always come to one man,” Porter keeps saying throughout the movie. Eventually Porter does get to the very top, and who does he find? None other than Kris Kristofferson, playing the role of Bronson, the very top mob boss.
What makes the role work and the scene where the top boss is finally revealed so powerful is because of the weight that the simple sight of Kris Kristofferson holds.
10. Having Over 450 Artists Cover His Songs
Just think about that. When you talk about imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, it doesn’t get any more flattering than that. Some of the most notable artists that have covered Kris Kristofferson songs include:
Dave Dudley, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Faron Young, Roger Miller, Ray Stevens, Ray Price, Waylon Jennings, Sammi Smith, Bobby Bare, Joe Simon, Patty Page, O.C. Smith, and pretty much any other performing artist who has any taste in music.
“The great thing about being a songwriter is you can hear your baby interpreted by so many people that have creative talents vocally that I don’t have,” Kris once said.
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Look, any Dale Watson fan who is honest with themselves will tell you that Dale always makes good albums, but rarely makes great ones. Every album he puts out is slick enough, produced well, and is good at least for a few songs that you can pull out and find hard to get tired of. But Dale just isn’t a musician prone to thematic conceptualized expressions or sweeping linear narratives. He’s Dale Watson. His home and natural habitat is the honky tonk, and where the beer is flowing and the cigarette smoke is sticking to your clothes is where Dale Watson’s songs thrive. His albums make good home editions to the honky tonk experience, and hey, that ain’t bad.
Dale has also been pretty damn prolific over his career. It’s not unusual to see two or three releases from him in a given year, and he’s all over the place when it comes to the style, aside from everything being country, or as he would rather you put it these days, Ameripolitan. From proper studio albums, to offshoots like his Dalevis project, or his Cash-inspired The Sun Sessions, you never know what you’re going to get from Dale’s next release.
If you were anything like me, when you saw that Dale was offering up another Truckin’ Sessions album to complete the trifecta, you thought, “Hey, that’s cool.” The first one in the series went on to become one of Dale’s most popular records, and stimulated requests for a second one. But was there enough truckin’ songs in Dale Watson’s brain to justify the triumvirate?
Where the last installment in this series relied more on laid-back compositions, nuance, and storytelling, The Truckin’ Sessions Volume 3 is lively, hot, jumping, and as country (or Ameripolitan) as you can get. This isn’t an album of truckin’ songs that you sit back and listen to nostalgically, this thing takes a big arm cocked at a 90-degree angle like it’s about to give a hearty yank of the air horn, and instead grabs you by the gruff of your neck and pulls you right up into the cab of a serious diesel machine for one sensational ride. The Truckin’ Sessions Vol. 3 might not just be the best in the series, it might be one of the best Dale Watson albums to date.
The reason truckin’ songs awaken something in classic country music fans is because they are instilled with the feeling of vitality of being out on the open road, while also being attached to a by-gone era. And there in the distance is always the forlorn reflection on the loneliness of living a life on the road. The key to a good truckin’ song is to not take it too seriously, to have fun with it, but to not be all ham and eggs either. Dale Watson finds that ideal balance on this 3rd installment, and beyond just being really damn fun to listen to, the album has some great variety of moods that do the legacy of the truckin’ song justice.
As strange as a suggestion as this is might sound, I’d listen to this album backwards the first time. It ends with “10/100″ (the CB code for having to hit the head), which might be the fastest song Dale Watson has ever cut. The instrumental gets you in the mood for another smoking hot number, “Birmingham Breakdown”. He’s got the sentimental stuff here too like “I Live on Truckin’ Time”, the story songs like “Suicide Sam” and “Kitty Liang”, and a funny duet with the excellent Amber Digby called “Were Truckin’ Along”. The one song that’s not exactly about truckin’ is “Big T’s” about a roadhouse just outside of San Antonio that Dale went to one afternoon to see about buying a juke box and went off and bought the whole thing. Beyond being the beer joint’s new theme song, it’s not a bad little song in itself.
But for my money, the gem of The Truckin’ Sessions Vol. 3 is “Lugnutt Harry”, a country funky tune that sounds like something the Grateful Dead could have cut back in the day and evokes memories of Jerry Reed. Aside from the song “Phillip At The Station” with the transparency of the line, “When you fill up at the station, you’ll see Phillip at the station,” there isn’t a bald tire in the bunch, and Dale outdoes himself in carrying the legacy of the country tuckin’ songs into a new decade.
Should Dale Watson start to be considered for induction as a country truckin’ song overlord in the company of Dave Dudley, Dick Curless, and Red Sovine? They were the originators, but Dale is definitely making a strong case that he is the best modern day equivalent.
Whether you want to buy the whole trilogy or just this installment is your truckin’ business. But if you’ve never listened to any of them, The Truckin’ Sessions Vol. 3 is definitely the place to start.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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NOTE: The word is that The Truckin’ Sessions Vol. 3 WILL be on sale individually for those that already have the first two installments, though I have been unable to run down a location where that particular version of commerce can transpire, or information of where that might be happening in the future. My suggestion would be to purchase the MP3′s individually from Amazon, iTunes, etc., and look for them at live shows. If more information or a link becomes available, I will add them here.
The badass stories about Johnny Cash abound, and here over a decade after his death, his prominence as a man of cultural greatness still looms as large as it ever did. But arguably the first moment of greatness for Johnny Cash happened off the stage, well away from the spotlight, and before he was known to anyone as a musician.
In 1950, at the age of 18, Johnny Cash did what many young men of the time did, he enlisted in the United States military, specifically the Air Force, and was shipped off from his home in Arkansas to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. While there, he met what would be his future first wife Vivian Liberto at a roller rink, but the couple wouldn’t be married for another four years. After dating Vivian for only three weeks, Johnny received his deployment papers and was shipped off to a base in Landsberg, West Germany for a three-year tour. The base served as one of the forward outposts in the outbreak of the Cold War the world found itself in after World War II in the face of Soviet aggression.
Over Johnny’s enlistment period, he rose to the rank of Staff Sargent and became a crack Morse Code Operator in a Security Service unit. Because Cash showed such skill at deciphering Morse Code, he was put in a prominent seat at his Landsberg post to listen in on Soviet communications.
The Landsberg, Germany experience was an important marker in the life of the Man in Black. During his three years at the base, he exchanged hundreds of love letters with Vivian Liberto, and formed his first ever band, The Landsberg Barbarians. Though many people attribute Johnny Cash’s inspiration for writing one of his biggest hits “Folsom Prison Blues” to seeing the infamous prison first hand, he actually wrote the song while stationed in Landsberg, and seeing the film Inside The Walls of Folsom Prison. Johnny felt like he could relate to life in the clink because of his top secret military position. The sensitivity of his job necessitated that he couldn’t talk to anyone about what he did specifically, not even his love Vivian back in Texas, and Johnny’s off-base privileges were severely limited.
But all this secrecy also led to one of Johnny Cash’s biggest accomplishments. While manning his post on March 5th, 1953, Staff Sgt. Cash transcribed what would be a very important communique from the Russians. At the time, Soviet Premier Leader Joseph Stalin was in very poor condition. As the man at the head of the Soviet Empire, Stalin’s health status was of critical importance to the United States intelligence community and all Western Powers. While monitoring the Soviet Morse Code chatter on March 5th, Johnny Cash became the very first American to hear of the death of the Soviet supreme leader. Cash then relayed the important info to his superiors, and the rest is history.
Oh course, Johnny Cash couldn’t tell anyone of his accomplishment until years later because of the top secret nature of his job, and eventually the fact would just become a footnote of history to Johnny’s more famous musical efforts. Though Johnny Cash’s mastery of Morse Code and the Stalin death intercept may not seem to have much to do with his music on the surface, Cash’s ability to pick out important rhythms and tones in sometimes garbled, busy, and concealed communications lent later in life in his ability to find that unique sound that would speak to America, and eventually the world, in a language everyone could understand.
The desire for virtually all of America’s largest media companies to get into the business of music streaming in some capacity or another has potentially created the biggest strain on the music economy, and especially the independent music economy, that the industry has ever seen. Amazon, and now YouTube’s attempt to gain a market advantage against its competitors by paying out rates that are even less than the measly rates streamers like Spotify and Pandora pay out already has now created a fractured situation where some artists are not included on these formats, and YouTube has threatened to lock out all music from independent artists and labels who refuse to sign up for their anemic royalty rates.
There is no economic basis for these streaming services. They are getting into the business because of peer pressure, and because they feel they need to have a music streaming arm to partner with wireless providers such as AT&T and Verizon, and to be viable on mobile devices. Nobody is making any money however, not the artists, not the industry, and not the providers. It is all predicated off of a cheap or free model to entice consumers to the provider’s subscription rolls in order to monetize that presence in the future with cross-promotional opportunities.
On Wednesday, The United States House of Representatives’ House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet took up the issue in an open hearing, specifically taking up the matter of music licensing Under Title 17 â Part 2 of the current law. Multiple members of the independent music community came to testify, including Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, who listed her grievances to the hearing in a prepared statement.
Rosanne told the committee:
…To me as a singer/songwriter, a recording artist, and a participant in many other parts of the music business it seems painfully obvious that all creative people deserve fair compensation when their work is used by others For various reasons, that does not seem to be happening in the marketplace today, and we need a realignment
I have been publicly critical about the payment structures streaming services currently offer artists. For example, for an 18 month period, there were nearly 600,000 streams of my songs on a popular subscription site. I was paid $114.00 for those streams. I am not a lawyer or a politician or a policy wonk, and I couldnât begin to parse the incredibly complex, outdated, pre-ÂâInternet laws regarding licensing and copyrights but I CAN tell you that I see young musicians give up their dreams Every Single Day because they cannot make a living, they cannot survive doing the thing they most love, the thing they just might be on the planet to do.
There are three main points of contention Rosanne laid out to the committee about the current law:
- The lack of a public performance right for terrestrial radio play for sound recording artists.
- Issues concerning how rates are set for compulsory and collective licenses songwriters offer for their work.
- The lack of federal copyright protection for pre-Âââ72 sound recordings.
Also testifying today was Darius Van Arman, the co-owner of Secretly Group, an Indiana-based independent label group. Van Arman also serves on the boards of A2IM, SoundExchange and Merlin. A2IM and Merlin are organizations made up of independent labels and artists banded together to attempt to advocate and negotiate globally with bigger institutions over rights. In an editorial posted prior to his Congressional testimony, Van Arman spelled out how independents are currently getting the short end of the stick.
American independent labels want nothing more than a free market with a level playing field. But one thing is standing in our way: market concentration. Big companies are using their power and accumulated resources to take what is not fairly due to them, to the detriment of independent labels, artist creators and songwriting interests. So when Congress reviews the state of music licensing and considers any remedies or revisions to copyright law, it should take great care not to replace our current licensing system with one that is more privately controlled, that leads to more market concentration, or that diminishes the fair and equitable compensation of creators.
Twenty-five years ago, there were six major labels in the recorded music market in the United States. Today, just three companies exist, comprising 65.4% of the recorded music sales market in the United States, based on copyright ownership. These three major recording companies control an even higher percentage of the total market share of U.S. music distribution. Using their concentrated market clout, these large recording companies have become proficient at extracting more than their fair share of copyright-related revenue from the marketplace. They hold up digital services for big, lump-sum payments — whether they are in the form of advances or guarantees — that well exceed what they expect to earn via royalty rates…..
In the end, all the independent sector wants is a free market with a level playing field. We want to compete, to provide the economic growth and job creation that our American economy needs. Is that asking for too much?
Though the copyright-related revenue issues have been a big burden on the music industry for a long time, the Congressional hearing couldn’t be any more timely. YouTube is reportedly days, maybe hours away from launching their new streaming format that would stamp out a large percentage of independent music on the service, making an even more uneven playing field for independents. Music, especially independent music, is on the brink of losing any economic viability it has left, and revisions to Title 17 â Part 2 of the current law may be the only way to save it.
Willie Nelson, who just released his latest record Band of Brothers on June 17th though Sony’s Legacy Recordings, has crested at the very top spot on Billboard’s Country Music Album’s chart, landing at #1. It is Willie’s first #1 in 28 years, since his 1986 album The Promiseland. It is also his second-best showing ever on Billboard’s all genre Billboard 200 chart, coming in at #6. Band of Brothers is only the third time Willie has cracked the Billboard 200′s Top 10. He came in at #2 with Always On My Mind in 1982, and his last album, a duets project To All The Girls came in at #9. Willie sold roughly 37,000 copies of his new album to land the top spot.
Willie Nelson now has a total of ten #1 records to his name in an unprecedented country music career. He joins a resurgent crowd of country music greats who’ve had renewed chart success recently, including Dolly Parton’s May release Blue Smoke. It gave Dolly her first Top 10 on the Billboard 200 of her entire career when she came in at #6. She also charted at #2 on the Country Albums chart. Johnny Cash’s posthumous release of his lost album Out Among The Stars also saw surprising chart success, debuting at #1 in country, and #3 on the Billboard 200.
Band of Brothers is Willie’s fourth album with Legacy Recordings, all of which have been produced by Buddy Cannon. The album is the first from Willie in 17 years to feature mostly self-penned, new material, and also features a duet with Jamey Johnson on Billy Joe Shaver’s song “The Git Go”, and contributions from Vince Gill and Bill Anderson.
Why all the surprising chart success for older country music artists in 2014? It’s partly because the fans of older country music stars actually buy albums instead of streaming them online, or just downloading individual songs. This makes older artists more lucrative for labels, and allows the artists to outpace their much younger competition on the charts. Once again with Willie hitting #1, it proves that country music’s older artists can deliver when they’re given a chance, even without any radio play.
One of the largest and most important collections of country music memorabilia is finally going to get a permanent home, and it’s part of much bigger plans for a historic building in Marty Stuart’s hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. The singer’s large archive of country music stage costumes, instruments, music, and other important artifacts is planning to be put on display in Philadelphia in a proposed Marty Stuart Center to be made out of a historic Coca-Cola building on Center Avenue in the central Mississippi town.
The Marty Stuart Center won’t just be a museum however. Marty’s “Congress of Country Music Hall” will include a theater for musical performances, and classroom space. Public and private funding has already been allocated to renovate the building, and restoration and construction work has begun on the outside, including revitalizing the building’s large Coca-Cola sign—a landmark of the town.
The historic building was originally built in 1926, and housed the town’s Coca-Cola bottling facility, and the offices of the local newspaper, The Neshoba Democrat into the late 1950′s. The original Coca-Cola bottler for Neshoba County also was the publisher of the newspaper. The Coca-Cola plant was eventually shut down in 1985 and the building housed a furniture store for a short period before eventually ending up in the hands of the county in 2003. The building was set to be demolished in 2009 to make a parking lot, but those plans were put on hold. Then in 2013, ownership of the building was transferred to the Industrial Development Authority of Neshoba County.
Project Approved, Funding Secured
A $1 million grant for the project was secured from the State of Mississippi in 2013, and an additional $500,000 worth of funds was approved this year. Along with local and private funding, plans for the Marty Stuart Center are moving along as planned. A $320,000 bid by Tyler Construction Group in Philadelphia to begin construction and restoration was accepted by the County, and work was begun on the building.
On April 2nd, Marty Stuart met with the architect for the project, Skip Wyatt, as well as Philadelphia Mayor James Young and other local officials to talk about the future plans for the Marty Stuart Center. “Thereâs no doubt in my mind that the day will come when a ribbon will be cut and the doors of this center will be open to the world,” Marty Stuart said. “I will count it a joy when Philadelphia takes its rightful place along side of the other Mississippi towns on the museum trail, opening day will be a great day. thank the state of Mississippi, the city of Philadelphia and all the Neshoba County officials who have worked so hard to bring this to pass.”
According to Mississippi State Senator Giles Ward, the fact that the project was able to receive state funding with so many other projects vying for state dollars speaks to the diligence of Marty Stuart and the local leaders involved in the project, and the importance of the project “It is a testament to Marty Stuart and the residents of Neshoba County that the leadership of this state recognizes the remarkable contributions of our native son and what this magnificent center will mean to our area and, indeed, the entire State of Mississippi. I couldnât be more excited and feel honored to have played a part in helping get this project underway.”
Not Just Your Average Country Music Collection
Marty Stuart’s 20,000-piece archive of country music collectibles, clothing, instruments, and other memorabilia is not your average private collection. Aside from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, it might be one of the largest country music memorabilia archives that exists, and Marty regularly lends the Hall of Fame items from the collection for the museum’s displays. As Marty Stuart told Country Weekly in April of 2013,
When I was in Johnâs [Johhnny Cash's] band, the first time I went to London, I ran into a guy named Issac Tigrett who was the co-founder of Hard Rock, a Southern guy. And I went to the first Hard Rock and I saw The Beatles, The Stones, Otis Redding, The Who, all their stuff on the wall. And in my mind I went, âWell thatâs just as important if itâs Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams, George Jones, and who on.â And so when I came back to America, I made it a mission. I mean it became my whole focus at that time. Get a record deal, start a band, make them look cool, and get all of the country music artifacts you possibly can and preserve them, lock them down, because theyâre getting away fast.
Everything was changing in country music. The look of it, the sound of it, and this stuff was just a throwawayâŚThe ultimate mission is not just to preserve this stuff, protect it, promote it, save it, but to get the music into the hands and hearts of young people that are coming through and [saying), âWell I want to do that, but they tell me I have to be like so and so.â But weâve already got one of those. Be who you are, at any cost.
Marty Stuart’s collection is currently being kept in a warehouse facility and is not available for viewing for the public. Though most of the outside of the Coca-Cola building in Philadelphia, Mississippi will remain relatively the same as it is now, just upgraded, part of the facility will have the windows shaded to protect the vibrant colors of many of the artifacts, including the stage costumes.
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Construction and restoration on the outside of the building is expected to be completed by August 1st. Though no date has been given for when the Marty Stuart Center may open, the hope is that it will become a destination for country music fans from all around the country and world, and will make Philadelphia, Mississippi an important country music epicenter.
Tuesday night at Boston’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, country music legend Willie Nelson took the stage with his well-known Family Band behind him, sporting one extra member in tow playing incognito. Famous A-list actor Johnny Depp joined Willie for the Boston set, strapped down with a silver-fronted Danelectro guitar and wearing his signature spectacles. Depp manned stage right and traded licks on occasion with Willie’s son Lukas on lead guitar. The pairing came the same day Willie Nelson released his latest album, Band of Brothers.
The Johnny Depp addition to the band was not officially announced to the Boston crowd. Depp was simply introduced as “Johnny”, with the attendees left to deduce that it was indeed the silver screen actor on stage. This wasn’t the first time Depp has stepped into a spot in Willie’s Family Band. He also appeared with Willie Nelson at the Austin Rodeo on March 9th during the city’s South by Southwest festivities. On that occasion, Depp was just introduced as “John”, and the majority of the rodeo crowd went unbeknownst of who they were watching with Willie.
Despite being known mostly as an actor, Johnny Depp is an accomplished guitarist. He appears on numerous songs from the British band Oasis, played on the first solo record from The Pogues front man Shane MacGowan, and was a member of the band âPâ that featured members of The Butthole Surfers, The Sex Pistols, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Depp has also played with many other artists and bands, has been seen in many of his movies playing guitar, and previously owned The Viper Room music venue in L.A where Johnny Cash kicked off his American Recordings era.
When Johnny Depp appeared with Willie in Austin, it had all the earmarks of a one-off special occasion. After his Boston appearance, the Willie/Depp duo looks to mark a deeper friendship, and something Willie Nelson concertgoers should look out for next time they see the 81-year-old performer live.
Johnny Depp, laying down a blues lick during the show:
****UPDATE****UPDATE ***** UPDATE ***** UPDATE****
(6-18-2014 2:25 PM CDT): According to Luke Bryan, there is no Miley Cyrus duet coming. On Wednesday, Luke posted via Twitter, “Why is everyone asking if I’m doing a duet with miley. Not true.” As reported below, NASH’s America’s Morning Show co-host Chuck Wicks had reported Luke Bryan and Miley Cyrus were had a duet in the pipeline, and the rumor was later “confirmed” by radio personality Blair Garner (read confirmation tweet). Read more below.
****UPDATE****UPDATE ***** UPDATE ***** UPDATE****
Pop country cash cow Luke Bryan and pop star progeny Miley Cyrus could have a collaboration in the works according to various sources, including country music artist and co-host of NASH’s America’s Morning Show Chuck Wicks. On Monday morning’s program, Wicks conveyed to listeners that Luke Bryan and Miley Cyrus have a duet coming, though he gave no specifics on how the collaboration may take shape. Then another host of the show, radio personality Blair Garner confirmed the information through another source. America’s Morning Show is Cumulus Media’s syndicated NASH flagship based out of New York City.
Neither the Luke Bryan or Miley Cyrus camps have announced or confirmed anything.
Luke Bryan is arguably the biggest crossover star in country music right now, and a Miley Cyrus is not that far down in stature in the pop world. Still, a collaboration seems like somewhat of a stretch for both artists. Miley has said numerous times that despite the country music lineage from her father Billy Ray Cyrus, she would rather avoid the country music world. She told Parade Magazine in 2010 of why she never dabbled in country, “It scares me, thatâs why. It feels contrived on so many levels. Unless youâre wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots and singing and whining about your girlfriend or boyfriend leaving you itâs not going to sell. I think thatâs why my dad finally got out of it. You have to wear those cowboy boots and be sweet as pie. It makes me nervous, the politics of it all.”
Still, according to Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley was born and bred around Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and she does a pretty blistering version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” (Dolly is also Miley’s godmother). Of course it’s not likely this collaboration would be traditional country, and there’s also no promises it would be country at all. Certainly Luke Bryan and country music have moved so far towards pop where there may not be anything country about the duet at all.
Another interesting tidbit: At the ACM awards in April co-hosted by Luke Bryan, he made a playful dig at Miley in the opening monologue. “Jake [Owen] lost a finger in a go-cart accident,â Luke said. âYou know where they found it? On Miley Cyrusâ tour bus. It was takinâ a selfie and smokinâ a doobie.â
For what it’s worth, here’s Luke Bryan covering Miley a few years ago.
In the annals of country music, the amount of concept albums proffered to the public have been very very few. But these extra efforts have almost always gone on to loom larger than their more standard format counterparts, and become pillars of influence from which scores of other albums draw their inspiration. Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears: Ballad of the American Indian was arguably country music’s first concept album, and has gone on to become a cult favorite. Willie Nelson’s Phases & Stages helped stimulate his rise in country as a performer, and his Red Headed Stranger is arguably the greatest country music album of all time. Hank Williams III’s Straight to Hell helped create a country music underground and put the 3rd generation star on the map. And even today, whether you consider Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music a concept album or not, it has critics singing its praises and marks the starting point of a fast-rising artist.
Lost among country music’s great concept albums though, unless you count yourself amongst the die hard Marty Stuart fans, was the 1999 offering from Marty called The Pilgrim released 15 years ago today. A commercial flop that was poorly-promoted but well-received by all the critics who happened to receive a copy, The Pilgrim produced no singles and no awards, but it wasn’t meant to. This was Marty Stuart flexing his creative muscles, and doing what he wanted to do at the end of a century, and the end of an era.
In 1999, Marty Stuart was at a crossroads. He still had his signature black hair and some semblance of a mainstream career, but the gray was filling in and he was quickly being forgotten by radio. He still was using The Rock & Roll Cowboys as his backing band. It wouldn’t be until his next album that Stuart would saddle up with his long-standing and current outfit The Fabulous Superlatives. The album was his last with MCA Nashville and an opportunity for Marty to do what he wanted, free of the commercial worry of a major label breathing down his neck about delivering on their investment. This brew of circumstances resulted in arguably the Philadelphia, Mississippi native’s crowning opus.
What some don’t know about The Pilgrim, even some of its apostles, is that the linear narrative of the album is based on a true story from Marty Stuart’s hometown. It begins with a man named Norman, characterized as “cross-eyed” but still able to land the town’s most beautiful woman by the name of Rita. When Norman becomes jealous and protective of Rita, she takes to the arms of “The Pilgrim”, who doesn’t know that Rita is married. When Norman finds out about the relationship, he commits suicide, and filled with guilt, The Pilgrim takes to traveling, ending up on the West Coast before returning eventually to be with Rita once more.
Along this journey, Marty Stuart takes the role of Norman, and other characters as he narrates the theme. Helping Marty unfurl the story of The Pilgrim is one of the most impressive collection of legendary country music names this side of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” session. The indelible voice of Emmylou Harris greets listeners early in the album, assuring that The Pilgrim will be full of surprises, turns, and towering contributions. Pam Tillis, George Jones, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, and Marty’s former boss and father-in-law Johnny Cash also contribute, with Cash helping to conclude the album with a haunting performance.
The Pilgrim consists of twenty total tracks, including instrumental interludes and recurring “acts” that lend corresponding sonic shades to compliment the arc of the story. And it’s all written by Marty Stuart himself, aside from some contributions here and there from notables like Gary Nicholson, and Mike Campbell (Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers). Other notable musicians lend their talents to the music of The Pilgrim including fiddle player Stuart Duncan and organist Barry Beckett. The instrumentation on the album is nothing short of world class, pulling out all the stops to paint The Pilgrims‘ story in vibrant colors, and endow it with the timeless touch of some of country music’s most noble torch bearers.
In the twenty tracks, The Pilgrim exemplifies tremendous range, almost like an audio timeline of country music’s evolution. From blistering bluegrass-inspired mandolin numbers from Stuart’s nimble fingers, to the more honky-tonk style electric rockers that Marty is known for now and during his near past, to the poetic and smoky surprise of the album, a song called “The Observations of a Crow” that show a beatnik style from Stuart seldom seen, the music of The Pilgrim is in no way an afterthought to the story, and so many of the compositions can be taken out of context and thrive autonomously, and often do when Marty reprises many Pilgrim tracks during live performances; some of them staples of his Marty Stuart Show with The Fabulous Superlatives by his side.
Fifteen years after the release of this somewhat forgotten, but unquestionably iconic album, Marty Stuart looks like the genius for pulling it off, especially when some of the contributors would unfortunately pass on, and others lose the essence of their skills so soon after the release. Whatever financial flops The Pilgrim recorded on the books of MCA Nashville, it did what many other commercially successful albums of the period couldn’t—withstand the test of time, and grew richer with age.
Two guns up!
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Country music legend Hank Williams will be getting a brand new retrospective in an upcoming movie called I Saw The Light that will be based off of the Colin Escott biography of Hank’s life, and directed and written by Marc Abraham, an American film producer known for such movies as Spy Game and most recently The Man With The Iron Fists. English actor Tom Hiddleston, known best for his work in recent Marvel Comics movies such as Thor and The Avengers, has been cast in the leading role as Hank Williams.
Production of the film is set to start in Louisiana in October, and the film’s producers have reportedly struck a deal with Sony ATV, who owns the rights to all of Hank’s songs, to use his iconic compositions in the film. It is a co-production between Bron Studios, RatPac Entertainment, and Creative Wealth Media Finance according to deadline.com, with Marc Abraham, Brett Ratner, and G. Marq Rosell all being listed as producers, and James Packer as executive producer.
The biopic film on Hank Williams has been rumored for quite some time, with director Marc Abaraham being quoted previously that the film has been his top priority. Tom Hiddleston, who is currently in the midst of filming another movie, is said to be practicing to perform the songs âYour Cheatinâ Heartâ, âIâm So Lonesome I Could Cryâ and âHey Good Lookinâ” in the film.
Unlike other films about Hank Williams such as the small-budget The Last Ride released in 2012 about the final few days of Hank’s life, or the 1964 musical Your Cheatin’ Heart where Hank was played by George Hamilton and it took a more theatrical take on tHank, all indications are that I Saw The Light will be a more proper biopic in the vein of the award-winning Johnny Cash film Walk The Line from 2005 that revitalized interest in the singer’s career.
Stay tuned as more information about this important film becomes available.
Tom Hiddleston tweeted out the below photo simply saying “I Saw The Light” yesterday.
Kentucky’s 103.9 WRKA first created a stir over the Memorial Day weekend when they re-branded to the “All Garth, all the time” radio station GARTH-FM, playing Garth and Garth only on a 24 hour loop. Though it appeared to be what people in the radio business call “stunting”—where a radio station ahead of a format change plays the same song, or in this case, the same artist over and over to draw attention—the importance of WRKA’s move goes much deeper.
As hypothesized by many when GARTH-FM first hit the air, the radio station has arguably become the first in the country to adopt a new “classic” country format, first floated as an idea by radio trade publication writers, and first championed in public by the yet to be launched venture between the Big Machine Label Group and Cumulus Media called NASH Icons. The idea is to give a home to country artists that flourished in country music starting 25 years ago, when artists like Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, and Clint Black first got their start; artists that have been all but abandoned by country radio. It all has country music and the radio world buzzing about a potential format split in country music, where Top-40 country and “classic” country stations could exists side by side.
On May 29th, Garth’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to WRKA, telling them to quit using Garth’s name to promote their station. They were still able to play Garth’s music, but this development may have forced WRKA to expedite their more long-term plans of becoming the country’s first station to reside in the “classic” 25-year window. On Monday morning, 103.9 rolled out their new format called “The Hawk – Louisville’s True Country.”
âThe country listener that became a fan in the 1990âs when country really exploded canât find those songs on the radio in Louisville right now,” says Operations Manager Shane Collins. “Itâs a whole segment of the audience thatâs being underserved. With the new 103.9 The Hawk, they can hear those big monster hits and artists all the time.â
Of course not everyone is happy with the move. The format the The Hawk replaced was one that played artists beyond the 25-year “classic” window; artists like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. But like it or hate it, 103.9 The Hawk will become the bellwether for country music’s potential new format, and there’s no doubt the rest of the country will be watching and listening to see how the new station is received.
Do you like Garth Brooks? Do you really like Garth Brooks? To the point where you’re so smitten with Garth’s music you’d be inclined to listen to it 24/7 and nothing else? Well then your in luck neighbor, because a new radio station has just popped up called GARTH-FM in Louisville, KY at 103.9 on the dial, serving the surrounding area and the entire world via the internet with Garth, and Garth only. The station’s slogan is “Garth, The Whole Garth, and Nothing But The Garth.”
The format change for the Summit Media-owned radio station happened over the Memorial Day weekend. It was first thought to be what’s known in the radio station business as “stunting”—where a station will play the same song, or maybe the same artist over and over to draw attention ahead of a format change. But the commitment to GARTH-FM goes much deeper, or that’s what they’re saying at the moment. âThere has been attention both inside and outside the industry recently regarding the absence of Garth on country radio these days,â Summit Media Louisville Operations Manager Shane Collins says, citing a recent Inside Radio article on the subject. âWe really feel like there is a gap here that needs to be filled.â
Now that gap will be filled in a big way, and 103.9 GARTH-FM will be the first full service radio station to solely play one artist. Illustrating the station’s commitment to Garth, they’ve set up garthlouisville.com and 1039garthfm.com to stream the station online.
Summit Media, the parent company of GARTH-FM, owns about 24 radio stations throughout Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, and Hawaii, including 3 other Louisville-based radio stations, including the area’s “NEW Country Q 103.1″ Top 40 country counterpart to GARTH-FM.
The launching of GARTH-FM adds an interesting wrinkle to the discussion of a potential upcoming format split for country music, with Top 40 country, and “classic” country from the last 25 years going their separate ways. Rumors that this reality might be in the offing were stimulated when Big Machine Records struck a deal with radio giant Cumulus Media to start a new NASH Icons venture.
Another interesting note is that the radio station format that GARTH-FM is replacing was already playing classic country. The previous “Country Legends 103.9″ established on July 23rd, 2008 touted “playing hits from Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Randy Travis.” This creates the question if a potential paradigm shift of country radio into two formats will potentially cannibalize under-performing classic or traditional radio stations that play music beyond this all-of-a-sudden magic 25-year “classic” country window, when big artists like Garth Brooks started their commercial ascent. There is also the possibility that as time goes on, GARTH-FM, just like many stations, could morph into this new 25-year “classic” country format and cover multiple artists.
When we look back, the changeover to GARTH-FM could be a symbolic moment where the cleaving of country music into two formats began …. or a silly idea that was short lived.
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UPDATE: Director of Marketing for Summit Media in Louisville, Brian Eichenberger says, “May we add in other artists at some point? Thatâs highly possible. But right now we really want to make a statement about, âWhat happened to the 90â˛s? Letâs bring them back.â And hereâs Garth to do it.” READ FULL UPDATE
What’s better than a new album from Marty Stuart? Try two new albums from Marty Stuart released at the same damn time, and that’s just what will transpire when the scarved one doles out the double album Saturday Night & Sunday Morning on September 30th, backed byÂ “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan,” “Apostle” Paul Martin, and “Handsome” Harry Stinson, otherwise known as The Fabulous Superlatives.
As the name implies, the Saturday Night & Sunday Morning project will delve into the duality of country music as both fulfilling the fun of the working class when it’s time to cut loose on the weekends, and when one finds themselves looking for forgiveness and redemption the next day. The first album, subtitled Rough Around The Edges is pretty self-explanatory, while the second disc subtitled Cathedral is also being touted as a sequel to Stuart’s critically-acclaimed 2008 release, Soul’s Chapel. The second album is said to also include a collaboration with The Staple Singers on the song “Uncloudy Day”.
Marty Stuart, Saving Country Music’s 2012 Artist of the Year, has stayed very busy since releasing his last studio album Nashville Volume 1: Tear The Woodpile Down. Along with spitting out one super episode after another of his revered The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV and playing shows across the country, Marty recently compiled a collection of his still shot photography taken over the years to form a new exhibit at Nashville’s Frist Center in downtown. From one of the last living shots of Johnny Cash, to Bill Monroe and Unknown Hinson, the collection offers an intimate look at country music through Marty’s eyes.Â
Saturday Night & Sunday Morning Tracklist:
Saturday Night – Rough Around The Edges
2. I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome
4. Rough Around The Edges
5. When It Comes To Loving You
6. Sad House Big Party
7. Talkin’ To The Wall
8. Lifes Ups And Downs
9. Look At That Girl
10. Old, Old House
Sunday Morning – Cathedral
1. Uncloudy DayÂ (featuring The Staple Singers)
2. Boogie Woogie
3. Long Walk To Heaven
4. That Gospel Music
5. The Gospel Way
6. Mercy Number 1
7. Firing Line
8. God Will Make A Way
9. Good News
10. Angels Rock Me To Sleep
UPDATE (5-29): Sturgill remains on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart for a 2nd week at #22. Sturgill will also play Letterman on July 14th.
Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson has quickly become a critic’s favorite and a cult hero around the country with the release of his second solo album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, garnering praise from industry critics and rabid country fans alike. And now the emerging country star has another feather to place in his cap.
The May 13th release has landed him in distinct company at the top of the Billboard charts, with Metamodern Sounds coming in at #11 on the Top Country Albums chart, and #59 on the all-genre Billboard 200. Both placings are very significant for a virtually unknown artist with little to no radio support who released his album independently through Thirty Tigers distribution. Sturgill’s first album, High Top Mountain, came in at #47 on the Country Albums chart upon its release, and did not make the Billboard 200.
Sturgill’s distinction comes the same week Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke album turned in her highest-charting performance in her storied career, coming in at #6 on the Billboard 200, and #2 on the Country Albums chart, only outdone by superstar troika Rascal Flatts and the release of their new album Rewind. Johnny Cash also remains strong on the charts, still sitting at #13 a good eight weeks after the release of Out Among The Stars, and after debuting at #1 on the Country Albums chart.
As Sturgill Simpson said upon the release of the album, “I have said it many times and I will continue to say it, as it is the truth and I whole heartedly believe itâŚguys like me and the countless others others out there attempting to offer an alternative are not capable of change. We are not the catalyst of change. You guys are. We can only do our best to make the best records we are capable of but it is up to you the listener to have your voices heard. This is the only road to the true change that a lot of you I talk to at shows are seeking. If you connect with something that moves you itâs up to you to share it/burn it/ steal it/ give it away. As long as it finds and connects with as many people as possible that is all we wish for.”
Yet another sign that the appeal for traditional country and country music’s legacy artists is alive and well.
Dolly Parton released her 49th overall studio album Blue Smoke on May 13th, and the record has earned Dolly Parton a distinction she’s never experienced in her decorated, historic career. Blue Smoke marks Dolly’s highest charting solo album in her career’s history, debuting at #6 on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. Surprisingly, this is the first time ever that Dolly Parton has reached the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 with a solo release. The closest she’s ever come to a Top 10 album was 1981′s 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs that reached #11. Her collaborative album Trio with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt also reached #6 in 1987.
Blue Smoke came in at #2 on the Billboard Country chart as well, beating out albums from artists such as Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. 42 of Dolly’s 49 albums have reached the Top 10 on the dedicated country chart, including six #1 albums during her storied career.
âI am glad that people are enjoying the music from my new ‘Blue Smoke’ album. It feels great to be in the Top 10,â Dolly Parton says. âItâs always an honor to know the fans spend their hard earned money on my music. Thanks everybody!â
Dolly Parton joins Johnny Cash who also made chart history recently with his posthumous release Out Among The Stars. Cash came in at #3 on the Billboard 200, and #1 on the country chart in early April. And unlike some new releases that have glittering debuts only to fade quickly, Cash remained at #9 on the Country Albums chart last week—six weeks after the original release date. Older, traditional country artists can still factor heavily into the album charts despite a lack of radio play or mainstream promotion because of the loyalty of their fans, and the propensity of those fans to purchase full albums instead of cherry-picking singles or streaming the release, resulting in greater revenue for the artists and labels.
On Tuesday April 22rd, the lakefront property on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, TN just north of Nashville that was Johnny Cash’s home for 40 years, was sold to a real estate holdings company. The previous owner, Bee Gee’s frontman Barry Gibb bought the house on four lots in January of 2006 to make it a songwriter’s retreat, but his plans were foiled when a house fire burned the seven-bedroom “nature house” to the ground in April 2007 during the renovation process, leaving any hope for a future country music Graceland up in smoke.
Aside from supplying a roof over Johnny Cash and June Carter for so many years, the Johnny Cash lakehouse became famous for some of the most legendary guitar pulls and songwriting parties popular music has ever seen. As an example, in 1969, Johnny Cash hosted Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, and Shel Silverstein all in the same sitting. âThat night in my house [was] the first time these songs were heardâŚâ Johnny Cash recalled. âJoni Mitchell sang âBoth Sides Now,â Graham Nash sang âMarrakesh Express,â Shel Silverstein sang âA Boy Named Sue,â Bob Dylan sang âLay Lady Lay,â and Kristofferson sang âMe & Bobby McGee.â” The gathering has since been coined by Saving Country Music as the “Million Dollar Songwriter Circle.”
And that’s just where the stories about Cash’s Hendersonville home begin. Arguably the most legendary tale transpired earlier in 1969 when Kris Kristofferson, a former helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, landed a National Guard chopper on the lawn of of the Hendersonville house to hand-deliver demos to Cash in an act of desperation.
At the time, Kristofferson was working as a janitor at the offices of Columbia Records where Johnny Cash was signed. Kristofferson had met Cash a number of times, in the studio and backstage at The Grand Ole Opry, but Cash wouldn’t show any attention to young Kristofferson’s songwriting aspirations. Kris would slip Cash demos of his work, or give them to June Carter or Luther Perkins when he had a chance, but according to Cash, he would take them home to the Hendersonville house and toss them into Old Hickory Lake.
Kristofferson took part-time work with the National Guard to help pay bills, and desperate to get Johnny Cash’s attention, decided to deviate from his flight plan while on a training run and land his helicopter in the Hendersonville property’s front yard. What happened next depends on who you ask. According to Cash, Kristofferson came sauntering out of the helicopter with a beer in one hand, and his demo tapes in another, demanding to be heard. But Kristofferson paints a more subdued picture. “Y’know, John had a very creative imagination,” Kristofferson recalled to UnCut. “I’ve never flown with a beer in my life. Believe me, you need two hands to fly those things.” In fact Kristofferson doesn’t even remember Cash being at the house at the time, though he does say, “I still think I was lucky he didn’t shoot me that day!”
What was the result of Kris Kristofferson’s aeronautical attention grab? It got Johnny Cash to invite him up on stage at the Newport Folk Festival later that year, which put Kris Kristofferson on the country music map. Cash would finally go on to give some attention to those Kristofferson demos, and eventually cut Kris’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” The song went on to become a #1 hit. It also won the CMA’s Song of the Year in 1970, and is given credit as one of country music’s first “Outlaw” moments of stretching the lyrical boundaries in the genre.
No word of what the new owners have in store for the hallowed ground on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, but one hopes it respects the history of that place. And maybe they should consider installing a helipad.
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