Author, Journalist and Syndicated Columnist
If you are one of the close to 1.5 million readers, be sure to read Randall's cover article
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January 2010 Georgia Magazine.
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of the Fiddle
Actor, Entertainer and Columnist
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Anybody got a fan?
The heat of the day this time of year sometimes brings me into the summer doldrums.
I know there is so much that needs to be done outside, but I step outside and after a few minutes in the oven, I begin to think “Oh, that will wait,” so I step back inside and let it wait.
What happened to that little boy who could not wait to get out into the summer sun to run and play? I know he is still buried deep inside of me somewhere.
I know that he wants to get out there a run and play, its just adult running an playing is often done largely with a lawnmower, weed eater, hedge trimmer or saw tightly grasp in hand.
In my defense, those activities did not thrill me as a youth either so at least I have not changed that much. However, I do miss that desire to get out, to use every drop of light that can be found and squeezed to steal just a few more minutes from the day before retiring into the house to rest.
I remember leaving home after breakfast, which was served when my father and mother were nearing departure for work in the early morning. I’d play all day and be in by lunchtime to have a bite to eat, and then out again, only to return to be sitting at the dinner table. Once I was old enough, my folks let me go back out to play some more after supper until the streetlights came on. The only deviation from that is if the neighborhood parents were all out enjoying the evening on the porch or in the yard, then the kids might get a game of ball going on the street beneath the lights as the parents cheered their little darling on.
Eventually though the remainder of the day outside would have to be returned to the night air as we stepped inside our homes, windows open, curtains and sheers blowing inward as fans sucked in the evening air to cool the house before sleep.
I remember days so hot you couldn’t sleep; you know those days when folks said you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. I would get up just to go to the kitchen, open the freezer just to breath a few cool breaths. It wasn’t long though; no matter the time before mother would be in the kitchen to remind me I was wasting electricity and letting the food spoil.
Eventually though my folks saved up enough to move into the age of air conditioning. I can’t recall what it cost but they had to run a new breaker and plug to put the big window unit in the dining room. It worked so well it felt like hog killin’ time in no time in about three rooms of the house. The rest was still hot except for us sitting fans around to move a bit of the cool air down the hallway.
Still though it made a difference, we often found we had guests dropping by to sit a spell.
The increase in power bills soon had us on rationing though, we could only use the air when we had guests or if it was a holiday. Which to me seemed fair, we wouldn’t want those visitors to sweat like we did on days they were not there. Holidays were days we were all home most of the day and folks generally showed up on those as well.
This plan worked pretty good until we saw an increase in visitors and mother realized I was stacking the deck a bit and then guest under a certain age were eliminated from the air conditioning formula.
As I think back on it, it just reinforces for me my original question. I did perfectly well for several years of my life in the heat. All I can figure is that years of air-conditioned living have spoiled me.
Given the choice though, would I rather have better heat stamina and no air conditioning or plenty of air and no desire to spend my day outside? I guess my answer would be neither, I would go back to what I had as a kid if I could enjoy a little of both. I am planning on starting tommorrow that is if I can get this metal rotary fan I pulled out of the attic to work. Now let’s see I think the last time I opened a window was 2003, Where is that hammer? I may need to some help to coax those.
Friends, as temperatures rise, be sure to check in on your elderly neighbors to make sure they are staying cool, if their home is warm, it might be to keep their bills affordable. You might politely invite them over to your house or to go shopping to get them somewhere cooler in the heat of the day. Be sure to enjoy every minute of sunshine you can, but don’t overdo, and drink plenty of water!
Enemies at the gate
Heavy hearts reflect the spirit of the emotions that surrounded me in the recent days. For those of you reading elsewhere, my home is near Chattanooga. That is the big town we head to for shopping, films, concerts and other activities. It isn’t unusual for my friends and I to drive down the streets, which became part of the national news of late.
It was there in two area military facilities that our country lost five men serving us in the Marines and the Navy when a young man who was raised up in one of our Chattanooga suburbs took a weapon and decided to mount an attack on the United States of America. His actions forever changed the lives of the families and friends of five unarmed servicemen.
During the same week, several folks in my hometown passed away. As we grieved their losses, we talked amongst ourselves as we were grappling with the changing face of a city nestled in the Appalachian Mountains that is now another site of American terrorism.
This is the city that my late mother came from the rural mountains to begin her working life at the age of 13 during World War II.
This is the city many of us go to for doctor and hospital visits. This is the city where many people from communities around the area drive to work or schools each and every day.
The talking heads and thousands on social media will continue to debate who is to blame; who did this; who didn’t do that; whose actions honored those American heroes and whose actions dishonored them.
Those servicemen are owed the greatest honors and esteem that we can give any man or woman who gives their life in service to our nation. They, as every fallen member of the military, are owed that by every man, woman and child who either through birth or naturalization say, “I am an American.” Every elected and appointed official of this nation owes them that. Their loved ones are owed our deepest and sincerest magnitude of comfort and support today and in all the days to come.
No matter what the ultimate investigations of the incident reveal about the man and his religious and/or terrorist organization connections, I know that had these men not been in the uniform of our country, they would have not been the targets.
It was the United States of America being shot at that day in a sleepy mountain city in the South.
It is not the first time that occurred but 150 years ago the United States was invading the Confederate States and soldiers and locals were defending their homes against the Northern aggression of an invading army.
Despite the recent media fervor about Southern symbols, our American forefathers gathered on the fields where they fought each other, shook hands, told stories, erected monuments to each other’s valor more than a century ago finishing one of Lincoln’s final goals - to bind up the wounds of the nation.
While millions were diverted in this current debate, we in our hills and hollers, were reminded that America cannot spin our wheels mired in topics settled by previous generations.
We need to keep our focus on dealing with the enemies at the gate. Those enemies take many forms – criminals that terrorize our cities; groups that prey upon our youth and siphon bright minds into ideologies of thought and action that destroy the family, our communities, and ultimately our country; and finally the evil of those leaders and followers who simply wish to destroy Americans, because we are who we are, and believe what we choose to believe.
Those are gifts among many given us by every person who ever wore a United States uniform.
You might have noticed, I have not mentioned any names within my comments. I do not wish to add to the infamy of the shooter or capitalize on the names of the fallen.
Please keep our extended community in your prayers and especially remember the families of our fallen Chattanooga heroes and the brave police, paramedics, and first responders of all types who came to the aid of the injured and helped protect others from harm.
Historical elements reflect their time, not ours
“Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Whether you attribute the origin of the thought to Irish statesman Edmund Burke, English politician Winston Churchill or Spanish philosopher George Santayana, the sentiment is one that has enveloped me as I have watched the movement in the media to purge our country of symbols, elements or even television shows that are part of our history.
Perhaps this movement in our country is spurred on by the actions in recent months seen in media when some of the world’s earliest pieces of art and architectural ruins of the ancient world were destroyed by man.
The concept is not that much different: those earlier people didn’t think like we do, so we should eliminate what they held dear and what they paid homage to because it does not align with what we think.
This movement is not new, historically we have seen it before in country after country as a dictator or political movement took over. They wish to erase the elements of the past, so no one will hold onto those earlier ideas and no future intellectuals could argue a different view of history than fits their design. In most cases the intellectuals who knew differently were killed and the supporting pieces of historical documentation destroyed.
The Nazi leadership in Germany wanted everything purged that did not reflect their prospective of the German people and its version of history; the communists did the same in several of the countries where that movement took hold through revolution.
The American experiment created by our founders is only 239 years old. We do not have ancient cities like those found in the old world, our cities have not seen thousands of years of history flowing through the same streets, or happening in the same buildings but that makes each moment of our history have even greater importance.
With every passing generation there are men and women who stand out and make a difference in their world. The contribution to those he or she lived amongst is sometimes so revered, their fellow citizens have chosen to honor he or she and their life lived. That life was unique in its time and special to those who knew them. In the case of America, these tributes were not forced upon the masses to create but came from their esteem and hard work to raise the funds for the honor.
Sometimes this came in the shape of statues in a town square, a monument on the capitol mall, or perhaps they were so unique in their time their contemporaries buried their remains in a place of honor now part of a government complex or park.
No matter what authority we have been awarded by our special place in time, our job, our elected position, our personal convictions, it is not our place to re-write American history. It is our place to protect our history so that every generation to come can learn about those who came before and the lives they led.
History is not something simply to be hidden away, moved, and destroyed with popular opinion or whoever seems to hold the power at the moment.
Every country has elements of its history that are not pleasant to learn about or remember. But if we do not keep all the players on the board that were part of the story in the framework in which their contemporaries placed them, then we are drastically changing the game, making it more difficult to learn the lessons we all should know in order to keep the American experiment continuing for another 240 years.
Unlike many preceding civilizations, our forefathers worked to correct what it saw as the mistakes of those that came before them. These strides were taken decade after decade as the steps forward became possible. Even the winners honored the losers, because they were now part of the winning team, they were Americans.
We do not bow before a monarch, cower before a dictator, or simply exist as a serf for another more powerful individual. This was what it was like before there was a United States. If we wish to erase our history from which we draw the strength we hold as Americans, we are giving those who wish to erase the United States from world history an even easier path.
The trip to town
I have had a lot of folks ask me of late to pull something funny out of my hat, I shook real hard and this is what fell out:
I do not know if I have ever told you about my great-uncle Elige Doolittle. Elige has two twin boys, Will Doolittle and Won’t Do-alot.
I really believe that Will was blessed with all of the smarts in that branch of the family tree.
When they were boys the county was so impressed by them, they had a special ceremony out by their house to honor them. They put up a big sign out by where they lived commemorating the event. It’s still there today. It reads “Slow Children at Play.”
One time Uncle Elige decided to take the boys on a trip. They had not been too far away from Tunnel Hill in their lives so Uncle Elige figured he better start small with a drive through the mountains towards Dahlonega.
Won’t just had a notion he wanted to pan for gold even though Will assured him that he couldn’t actually find any gold there.
The boys had a full day and sure enough Won’t did not find any gold. On the way back, though, he kept seeing some signs on the side of the road, which said “Take Ex-Lax and Feel Young.”
Uncle Elige pulled off in Dawsonville to get a Moon Pie and RC Cola. The boys joined him, getting a Grape Crush each and two pieces of Beef Jerky. Won’t saw one of them little boxes of Ex-Lax and added it to his order. After their meal, the boys decided they would see if the signs were true. They split the box between ’em and had those chocolate bars as dessert.
They rode a while. Will looked at Won’t and asked, “Do you feel any younger?”
Won’t said, “No.”
They rode a while longer. Won’t asked Will, “Do you feel any younger?”
Will said, “No.”
As Uncle Elige neared the apple country of Ellijay, he started wondering himself, turned and said, “Well, boys, do you feel any younger?”
Will said, “No.”
Won’t agreed and said, “I don’t feel any younger, but I sure did do a childish thing.”
The characters and antics of Elige Doolittle, Will Doolittle and Won’t Do-alot are the sole property of Peach Picked Publishing and are used by permission.
Living in the right path
Knowing one’s best direction in life can be an ever-changing debate within your own head.
As someone who has spent their life in entertainment, I often look at my situation to weigh my perception of what I do with the reality of the logistics of life.
I find myself fretting over some aspect of where my road has taken me and wonder whether I veered from the appointed path set out for me.
Was I meant to do something different in life? Did I choose what God intended?
Those are questions that I am sure many people debate in his or her head especially as the children are screaming at each other in the back seat of the car; the bills on the table appear to be much higher that any hope of payment; or the honey do list becomes a small paperback.
I learned many years ago from actor Carroll O’Connor in a deep conversation about the human condition and differences in people that in life we often spend our time listening to the problems of others as he or she seeks empathy. He told me in that shared experience there is a sense of uplifting that the sharer can gain if received and responded to properly while the listener can overt a draining of spirit while sharing comfort.
“Everyone has the same problems,” he told me. “Different folks just have a different number of zeros attached to them.”
So in some way that list of things people endure mentioned above along with a long list of others is not unique to us. We all have moments of doubt when we wonder if we are on the right path. Shouldn’t be easier if we were? Not necessarily.
We can be within the path set forth by God before we were a twinkle in our father’s eye in His purpose for us to fulfill His mission, and life could be very difficult.
If we have accepted Christ into our life then we are in His light. We may choose to put on a blindfold at times as we make a choice outside our appropriate path but He is always with us shining His light waiting for us to reflect what He is sharing.
When I begin to sink into the questions of my choices, my circumstances, my feelings, I then remember that ultimately, I am striving in His will and if He wishes me to be in a different situation, He will open the doors, and reveal the path.
I just need to remain ready, prepared and always be working to improve the opportunities within my life, career, and my relationships with family and friends.
Carroll’s “Archie” character might have told me to “Stifle” as I began whining about my life and after a few lines proceeded with “You Meathead, You….”
Sometimes we need to say that to ourselves, “You Meathead, You!” Life is a blessing, even in the worst situation you can experience; there are others who have greater need in the world. So as “Archie” could have shared: “Be like that real American John Wayne, and pick yourselves up by your boot straps there, and just get on with it. Do what is right and God will’s look after you.”
Assure the people we place our faith in are real
The airwaves are filled with those now beginning to say that they are the best choice to lead our country, our states, counties and cities.
I am honored to serve in my hometown as a council member, so I am speaking not only as someone who is on the outside but in some respects on the inside.
When a candidate says something, is it what they believe or is it what they want us to hear?
That is a question that each of us should ask when we finally find someone that we feel could fill a spot of authority as our representative and leader.
I have seen first hand how some candidates and or elected officials seek to simply say what it takes to get elected and then do what they want rather than reflect what they said.
If there is a previous record to review, take the time to see the types of things that the person has supported, said, or voted for in the past.
What have they done consistently?
This information should provide a good road map of their plans for the future to see if they align with what they are saying publicly now.
Now a person can change what he or she believes through garnering more or new information, so it is possible that in this respect a leopard can change its spots.
One can only hope that the impact on the candidates thinking is true and not just politically prudent to gain the support of voters or other powerful political allies.
Sadly, that does occur and those are the types of candidates that should be ferreted out and returned to their daily tasks at home rather than serving in any office.
Ultimately, any candidate who wets his finger and holds it up to see which way political winds are blowing will in the end be a person whose seeking office simply to hold office and weld the power, privilege or influence that affords.
These types of individuals who manage to smile past the voters into an office are great ammunition for those who argue for term limits.
At this time what we need greatest are voters who spend the time to learn about the candidates before going to cast a vote.
An educated registered voter is the greatest potential tool that our forefathers hoped would keep this unique experiment of the United States alive. Without each of us stepping up and fulfilling our part of that experiment, it is sure that one day in our future, we will be bowing to someone who is not elected and accepting laws and customs which none of us ever thought we would see in the American land of red, white and blue.
Pray for the candidates so they may be worthy of election; pray for the voters so they may be informed; pray for our country so that our freedom and our nation may endure.
A heart that beats at home
Have you ever wondered where the heart of a community lies?
Is it in its elected leadership? Is it within the works of the members of its local churches? Perhaps within the framework of the civic clubs and fraternal organizations?
The heart of a community beats within each of us, if we only take the time to share its rhythm with those around us. As we walk down the street do we carry with us a frown or do we smile from ear to ear spreading a joy for life?
When we see something that needs to be done in our community do we drive on by, thinking that’s not my responsibility or do we attempt to correct the problem?
Are you someone that makes a difference in the world? Are you changing the community that lives within and without?
We can easily be disheartened by what we see each day on television and in the newspapers, the bombings, the illness, the starvation. Most people who see it say ‘Isn’t that terrible,’ and then begin calling out letters as they watch “Wheel of Fortune.”
Now there absolutely nothing wrong with checking our spelling abilities, I do it myself. But while most of us do not have the ability to bring relief from the problems of far away lands, there are plenty right in our own back yards. There are homeless people, homeless children. There are those who when they get up in the morning don’t have anything to eat.
As I look around there is always something that can be done; what about all the trash that litters the sides of the roads; there aren’t enough prisoners who are cleaning to make the once pristine scenic roads look as they once did. Instead of throwing that cup, can or Big Mac box out the window, why not carry a trash bag in your car and throw it away when you reach a trash can? Spend a little time picking up a public area or along a roadside.
What about cleaning up over-grown cemeteries? I remember a time when families actually thought it was their responsibility to keep the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried clean, mowed, weeded and the stones all in repair. A couple of times a year everyone planned a day, one of them use to be Decoration Day, the families had dinner on the grounds and made those cemeteries look as well manicured as any federal military cemetery. Today instead of hearing about young people cleaning them up we hear the tragic news of them defacing these resting-places for those who built our communities.
Do you know of a needy person who is too sick to keep up their own home or can’t afford the repairs on their house, wonder what can be done about that?
I ask all these questions in full knowledge that there are a few devoted souls out there saying I do that or my club is doing that or our church is doing that. I applaud each of you for your efforts, but as you know until we each and every one get up, get out and do something, it is then and only then the heart of our community will beat on all its chambers, no matter where you call home if we all do not pitch in to resuscitate the vital elements of our community, heart failure could be imminent.
Now I know first hand that there are good deeds shared each week in every little town, many churches take on youth building projects or helping families in need; Habitat for Humanity builds homes, the Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, all have special areas of service that they share; and there are countless other programs started everyday to help fill a need.
Do you see a need that is not being filled in your community? Is there something you can do to meet that need?
Many would say well I am just one person what can I do? My friend every thing starts with just one person trying to make a difference.
If I learned anything from watching my parents it is that through our hands other people’s burdens can be lifted through prayer and especially through our deeds to help make a difference. It lightens our own hearts and makes those of the helped beat much easier, so each deed helps to set the rhythm of the heart of our community.
Does your community need the service of a defibrillator to bring it around; maybe you can give it the charge it needs. Give it a try.
A slice in time
The clods of red dirt busted easily below my bare feet as I set out across the field. I can still hear my Grandma Kitty calling saying “Boy get your shoes on before you step on something that you regret.”
As the sun just broke enough to make the dew glisten on the bright red tomatoes, it was easy to see that the there was hours of picking that was ahead of us that day.
Mother handed each of us a basket from the bed of the old Chevy pickup truck and we each started on a different row working to steal the ripened fruit from the vine before the bugs or birds could harm them.
Grandma Kitty, Mom, Dad, a couple of my aunts and cousins began hours of bending over, kneeling, and filling the bushel baskets.
As the sun rose over our heads the baskets filled the bed of the old truck, Grandma Kitty took the handkerchief from her pocket and wiped the perspiration from her brow and cheeks.
“Randy,” she called. “Bring that bucket of water.” Underneath a large towel in the bed of the truck was the bucket she had me draw from the well early that morning. It was so still so cold the outside of the bucket had water dripping from the side as I carried the bucket around to each of the pickers.
Each reached in, took out the dipper and soaked in the water as if it might be the last drink they would ever have.
My dad Floyd took off his straw hat and poured an entire ladle full over his head soaking his gray work shirt. Grandma Kitty took another dipper and soaked her handkerchief, and then she rolled it and placed it around her neck beneath the collar of her old blue dress.
As I looked up from the bucket, it seemed the rows of tomato plants stretched as far as the eye could imagine.
I walked back along the rows towards the truck trying not to spill the water before returning it to its stowage place.
As I reached up to scratch my face I noticed my hands carried the smell of the tomato vines and itched slightly, I picked up another empty bushel basket and back down the row I went.
As we worked mother began singing “Farther along we’ll know all about it.” Slowly each of us joined in as the voices rose up from across the field.
As the sun reached the top of the sky, we all made our way back to the truck where Grandma Kitty spread a red and white checked tablecloth over the hood of the truck. From a small wicker picnic basket, she pulled out a loaf of bread, a fresh jar of JFG mayonnaise, a sharp kitchen knife, and a salt and pepper shaker.
She walked to the back of the truck picked out the prettiest tomatoes from one of the baskets went back up and began slicing, spreading and handing out our lunch, tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches.
From a little cooler dad pulled out for each of us a bottle of pop, there was an assortment, grape, strawberry, orange, and an RC Cola.
We all pulled up a piece of ground, sat around, each telling little stories on one another, laughter seemed to overtake us as we looked at all the tomatoes on the truck. It sunk in for the ladies especially that the biggest part of the work was yet to come. Many of those tomatoes had to be canned but there was still work to do in the field before that task could begin.
As I sliced through a red-ripened garden-grown tomato to fill a plate to take to church last Sunday, my mind wondered back through those fields of my childhood, to that place where we once toiled, sang and laughed together. The work was hard and hot but because we worked together, it seemed so easy at the time. The shared experience made it something I wish I could reach back and do again, not for the sake of the work but for the fellowship that we shared while doing it, for the lessons learned, for the moments in time that will ever be within me.
Amazing how something such as slicing a tomato will bring one such joyous memories.
From Randall's book "A Mountain Pearl."
What is honor?
How does one acquire it? Is honor a cloak that you can put on and take off at will?
I would say that honor is something that you acquire over time, much like putting on layers of clothes in the winter to stay warm. Once the layers are in place, you find yourself warm and comfortable.
Webster defines honor with a list of terms, including: respectful regard, esteem, worship, reputation, exalted rank, fame, magnanimity, scorn of meanness, self-respect, chastity, an outward mark of high esteem and glory.
Through the Congressional Medal of Honor, our country pays tribute to our soldiers who show valor in action against an enemy force.
There is a proverb, which says, “Ease and honor are seldom bedfellows.”
I believe that there are many honorable people left in this world, although they are becoming harder to find.
Many people who cloak themselves in years of honor can at times find the weight of the layers a difficult load to bear. As the temperature rises, for some they begin to toss the layers aside to suit their personal needs and feelings.
It was poet Nicholas Boileau who said, “Honor is like an island, rugged and without a beach; once we have left it, we can never return.”
I tend to agree — once you begin to throw off the layers, you are on the road to no longer being an honorable person. Unfortunately in life we find these in every walk of life. It is difficult to tell at times when someone is fully cloaked in honor or casting off his garments. Of course, there are many who simply never bothered to get dressed at all.
To describe those who truly have honor, I lean towards the words of Scott O’ Grady: “It wasn't the reward that mattered or the recognition you might harvest. It was your depth of commitment, your quality of service, the product of your devotion — these were the things that counted in a life. When you gave purely, the honor came in the giving, and that was honor enough.”
Mark Twain said, “It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.”
It is sad in life when one does not receive the respect or recognition he or she has worked to receive, but one can find solace in the fact that if you remain layered in the fabric of honor, you are the better person for it.
Sharing memories with the Oak Ridge Boys
Country Music Hall of Fame members the Oak Ridge Boys have entertained fans around the world for more than 40 years including numerous U.S. Presidents. They have earned every award in the industry.
From their roots in southern gospel to their chart-topping career in country music, the Oaks have become one of America’s most beloved music groups.
“When the lights dim, the theme music begins to play, and our band members begin to take up their positions, it’s just as exciting today as it has always been throughout our long history,” said Joe Bonsall, tenor of the group and author of On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys. “We know that people have gathered to hear us sing our songs, and we never take one person in the audience for granted.”
The Oaks got their start back in the 1940s when a group from Knoxville, Tennessee began performing country and gospel music in the town of Oak Ridge, where the atomic bomb was being developed. Over the years, the group gained popularity and soon appeared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. From there, members came and went but in 1973, the current group of Bonsall, William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, and Richard Sterban began singing together, and the rest is history.
“Through all these many miles we’ve traveled and everything we’ve been through together for more than 40 years, we haven’t really changed much as we’ve gotten older,” Bonsall said. “Singing, doing things right, honoring God and families in our lives... these things are still what really matter the most to each of us.”
In On the Road with The Oak Ridge Boys, Bonsall takes readers on a backstage tour of life in the country music industry and the multi-faceted career of the Oaks. Through colorful stories and a touch of nostalgia, Bonsall shares about the history behind the group, introduces readers to each of the Oaks, and gives readers a front row seat to what it’s like to travel the country in a tour bus equipped with lounges, technology, and multiple television sets. He also shares numerous stories of legendary fans (like 100-year-old Addaline Huff) as well as celebrities the Oaks have sung for and rubbed shoulders with throughout the years, including country stars like Garth Brooks and Kenny Rogers and Presidents from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush.
“When we’re asked about our most memorable moments as Oak Ridge Boys, we often recall the honor of singing in the White House and our friendships with many of our nation’s presidents,” Bonsall said. “And why not? It’s simply the truth that these events have provided us with some of our greatest memories.”
Over the decades, the Oaks have recorded and sung hundreds of songs, with their runaway hit, “Elvira,” racing to the top of the charts in 1981. “Elvira” crossed over into the pop market and the song won every applicable music award. The Oaks even found themselves at one time singing it with the prestigious Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Today, contemporary groups are still singing “Elvira,” even on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
“Our little song has passed down through the generations,” Bonsall said. “Perhaps it’s a big reason The Oak Ridge Boys are still around. Our music, our shows, and our own American spirit have been passed down from grandparents to parents to young couples and even on to their children. We see them all at our shows—still singing ‘Elvira’ with the Boys!”
For more information or to order, visit www.oakridgeboys.com.
Karen Peck urges us to "Pray Now"
In her latest project Karen Peck & New River are speaking on the power of prayer and the many ways in which it has touched lives.
“Pray Now” is Karen’s first release since her Dove winner “Revival.”
Pray Now was produced by Wayne Haun and includes songs written by Karen Peck Gooch, Kenna West, Gerald Crabb, Jason Cox and many more. The first single and title track, ‘Pray Now,’ shipped to radio in March and already charted.
No doubt the most popular mixed trio in gospel music, Karen Peck and New River including also her sister Susan Jackson and Jeff Hawes are a music powerhouse in the music industry. Karen was also recipient of the Susan Unthank Memorial Award, an award given by Absolutely Gospel Music only to women who have excelled in their work in a man's world. Karen had a feature role in the hit movie "Joyful Noise”, starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. New River's hit song "Four Days Late” has become a classic in Gospel music.
Accompanying the CD, they also release a new music video “Pray Now” which will warm the hearts of any gospel music fan.
Karen sees the timing of her new song and video as an opportunity to make a difference as tensions are high in places around our nation. Whether at a flag pole, in a church, in an auditorium, or just together in our hearts the one thing we all need is prayer.
"We have drawn such strength by praying The Lord's Prayer every day. Let's bind together and pray for each other, our leaders, and our country. Will you share this video and help us to spread the word of encouragement and hope through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? He answers prayer!!”
With the trial of Karen's husband, Ricky, undergoing cancer treatment this song and video have touched Karen and her family in a very personal way and it is sure to touch you wherever you are in life.
This timely message resonates with a world searching for hope and encouragement that can only be found in the Lord.
“It amazes me how at times God provides the perfect message through song in such a way that we can’t deny it’s His doing,” said Scott Godsey, VP & Director of A&R at Daywind Records.
Pray Now is available at Christian retail stores across the country and digitally at iTunes and other outlets.
You can view the video by using the following link: https://youtu.be/rjKikMdbYaA .
To learn more about Karen Peck and New River go to http://www.karenpeckandnewriver.com or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Karen-Peck-and-New-River . You can Twitter her at https://twitter.com/karenpeckgooch.
An American composer
I was recently saddened to learn of the passing of one of America’s lesser known Christmas composers – Benjamin “Tex” Logan, 87.
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Mike Seeger, The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover, The Charles River Boys, Peter Rowan and the Green Grass Gringos and his Northeast Seaboard Blues Band.
It was that relationship that created the opportunity for one of his songs to become a Monroe standard – “Christmas Time’s A Comin’” released in 1951. It had been recorded prior by his band but it was Monroe’s version that would carry it around the world.
Christmas carols are an amazing part of the Christmas season but this particular one seemed to fit the country music genre perfectly eventually gaining cuts from most of the major stars, among them Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, and the Oak Ridge Boys and even the cast of TV’s “In the Heat of the Night.”
After the Heat cast recorded the song, the late Carroll O’Connor chose it as the title cut for the CD saying it was the perfect selection.
The beautiful picture of the mountain home with holly in the window, white candle burning, bells a ringin’ evoked an image in the mind of any with a rural background of their childhood memories of home and a desire to quickly return.
Tex Logan and Randall Franks on stage in Nashville.
I was blessed as a Blue Grass Boy myself to know of Tex’s talents through most of my life, I was greatly honored to be among those with him as he was honored with the IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award in 2010. I was even more honored when he joined me at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in Nashville to share some experiences about his career with the other fiddlers and the audience.
Of course this was not the only composition he created. Many artists also recorded his song “Diamond Joe.”
But like James Pierpoint’s “Jingle Bells,” despite the fact the days of us riding along in horse drawn sleighs are long behind us, we still sing the song. I think that as long as there is a memory of a little mountain home somewhere, there will be someone singing Tex’s song.
So this year when Christmas rolls around and you hear the song on country radio or perhaps play it at your own family gathering, remember Tex Logan and say a prayer for his family as they sing it for the first time without him.
A moment with Roe and Eden
Barbara Eden and Tommy Roe
The musical legend Tommy Roe and TV star Barbara Eden recently came together capturing a moment from the golden age of television and the golden age of pop-rock, when Roe presented Eden, television’s “Jeannie,” with the Timeless Beauty Award, bestowed by the Hollywood Beauty Awards. The 1st Hollywood Beauty Awards were held Feb. 15, at the historic Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.
Roe said he was honored to be a part of the 1st Hollywood Beauty Awards, but even more honored to be a part of presenting the Timeless Beauty Award to television icon Barbara Eden, an award he says she especially deserved.
“Barbara is well known as Jeannie on the hit TV series ‘I Dream of Jeannie,’ but her body of work spans decades and is well documented as one of the most illustrious careers in Hollywood. She has also won many prestigious awards and her generosity when it comes to her charity work is second to none,” said Roe. “My wife, Josette, and I have known Barbara and her husband Jon for years, and consider their friendship very special.”
Roe is the singer-songwriter behind genre-defining hits “Sheila” (1962) and “Dizzy” (1969), both of which are certified at more than 2 million airplays. In addition to “Sheila” and “Dizzy”, Roe helped define the 1960s music scene with a string of Billboard Top 10 hits, including “Everybody”, “Sweet Pea” and “Hurray for Hazel”. Eden was the star of the hit television series “I Dream of Jeannie” which aired for five seasons from 1965 to 1970, and in Flaming Star (1960) alongside Elvis Presley.
The 1st Hollywood Beauty Awards were presented by LATF, a daily news site and monthly online magazine covering entertainment and lifestyle content worldwide. Information about the HBAs is available on the LATF Web site, www.latfusa.com.
Tommy had a total of eleven records reach the Billboard top forty, and twenty three Billboard top 100 chart records. With similar chart success in England, and throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia, Tommy is considered one of the early pioneers of American pop culture. Born Thomas David Roe, on May 9, 1942, in Atlanta, Georgia, Roe, who is sometimes known as the "father of bubble-gum music," has sold more than 60 million records, including six Top 10 hits, and four Gold Records.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” were some words that the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt shared with the nation at a time when the people were in need of comfort.
Do you ever find yourself afraid?
It manifests itself differently sometimes depending on the circumstances.
In some folks their insides curl up and squirm; the heart beats faster; there is and increased sensitivity to everything in their environment, while others feel trapped within themselves sinking into crying or freezing from dread.
I have felt fear several times in my life. There is what we may consider good fears - those spurred from watching a scary film or TV show or going through a haunted house. I did that quite a bit as a youth but find myself steering away from that now.
There are also fears that tell us when we are steering from the path we should be on whether physically or spiritually.
I know that I have felt this in both cases, it is sort of a sixth sense that you need to be cautious and aware.
Do we always listen to the fear? No at times we don’t and sometimes that is to our detriment and other times it is to our benefit.
I am sure that many people who serve and protect us experience a sense of fear as they do their various jobs as police, fire fighters and military but they must overcome them to help others.
As individuals we can sometimes allow our fears to become so pervasive that they dominate our lives. From a fear of germs we are constantly using antibacterial lotion; from a fear of making a mistake, we check a job over again and again.
From childhood I have fought to overcome fears - fears of being bullied by others, fears of failure, fears of not being good enough. I have awakened in the night in a cold sweat, heart beating fast, stomach in knots, simply afraid. I fear the consequences of something I have said; some perceived error in judgment, failure in character, shortcoming that makes me feel inadequate in the goals I have set for myself or in the expectations of others.
These have not all brought on the extreme fear reaction mentioned above but they are all concerns that I think each of us face in our own way at some point in our lives.
Fear can be an all-consuming force that will destroy our lives if allowed but if recognized for the barometer it is meant to be, fear is there to help protect us.
For me, when I find myself with a spirit of fear invading my well being when it is especially unwarranted, I stop and pray for God to ease the fear and forgive me for whatever known or unknown action may have brought it about.
While this does not eliminate the ultimate possibility that whatever was feared may come to pass, it does help center my mind, body and spirit back to where it needs to be - on God.
Everyone makes mistakes that could throw our lives into unanticipated turmoil and bring on that sense of fear for the consequences, the measure of each of us, is how we face those fears.
James Best and Randall Franks
Sheriff Rosco – “Good googly oogly”
While Friday nights during youth are often filled with dates or an evening out with friends, for much of my generation, there was an hour set aside for an evening in with friends - “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
The show became a regular part of the lives of many viewers and the characters became an extension of family.
The squeaky clean family entertainment filled with car chases, pretty girls such as Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach) and funny situations enhanced by the talents of the amazing cast members such as James Besr (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane) , Sonny Shroyer (Enos Strate) Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg) and Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse) made it a favorite for young males and I am sure the Duke boys – Bo and Luke (John Schneider and Tom Wopat) were a favorite among the young female viewers.
I seldom missed an hour with this unusual collection of characters that kept Hazzard County humming with misadventures.
I never imagined as I watched, that one day I might come to know many of these talented actors as I pursued my own acting and performance career. Actors who have appeared on Southern shows often find themselves making the same rounds so to speak with personal appearances or guest star roles in films and television.
Since co-starring on “In the Heat of the Night,” I have been honored to come to know many cast members doing country music appearances with Tom, personal appearances with Ben Jones (Cooter), working with Peggy Rea (Lulu Hogg) on “Grace Under Fire” and co-starring with John in the film “Lukewarm.” My work on “In the Heat of the Night” brought me together with Sonny, James, and Byron Cherry (Coy Duke).
I was deeply saddened by the passing of James “Jimmie” (1926-2015) When we met on the set while he played “Nathan Bedford” in “Sweet, Sweet Blues,” I was blessed to be able to spend much of his off-camera time with Jimmie talking about many of his experiences working on shows such as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Twilight Zone,” and with legends such as Gene Autry and Jimmy Stewart.
As I was young in my acting work, Jimmie gave me a great deal of encouragement. I have called him the greatest actor of the 20th century, and after watching his roles in countless episodics and movies, with each one, his talents always stole the scene. To have someone of that level of talent to share a bit of wisdom and advice with you, it makes a difference. That is especially true when their most endearing role was a big part of your youth. Jimmie’s Rosco kept me in stitches as I laughed at his antics with Enos, created by my other dear friend Sonny and Boss Hogg.
It is safe to say my life would have been much different without the influence of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and the friendships offered me through the years by its stars.
Jimmie was a class act one of the greatest who ever appeared on film and television.
I encourage you to visit his website jamesbest.com and get his book “Best in Hollywood” or one of his original pieces of art at jamesbestart.com.
Digging out from beneath
Sometimes there are points in life when one reflects on topics that bring worry, sadness, concern or even depression.
They can pile up on our mind like leaves falling from the trees in autumn covering the roots that feed our soul.
Beneath the pile it gets hard to see a way out of the depths. Even the beauty of the arrival of spring or families gathering to celebrate the joy of days such as Easter, which normally should uplift our spirits, can also find a reason weigh down upon the pile.
I wish I could say, it’s a beautiful day, so go buy a rake and bag up the leaves, so the flowers that are emerging beneath the tree can shoot their blossoms up with greater ease.
But oftentimes, we find that beneath the leaves the potential has withered due to the heavy covering.
It is in times like these, spiritually that I must make effort to connect even more to the roots beneath those leaves - the people who care about me, and the Word of God which is the main food of my soul.
By engaging in the Word and in the lives of those around me, especially those who need a helping hand, I find that I can breath again and the layers of sadness and concern seem to weigh less heavily.
The problems that seemed so heavy are lightened when compared with the needs of others.
As I reach out to help, the worry that permeated each moment seeming to take my breath is replaced by the effort to make a difference for others.
Sometimes when we feel like we are trapped down in the mine, the only way to feel less trapped is to join those who are trying to dig us out of the hole.
We can make a difference in the world even when we don’t feel we can, in fact sometimes we will find ourselves in the reactions and response of others as we work to make things better around us.
So head to the hardware store, buy a rake, a shovel, and anything else you need to make the world around you better and get to it.
You may find those heavy feelings replaced by hope, kindness and enthusiasm.
The Browns to the Country Music Hall of Fame
The announcements came recently for this year’s additions to the Country Music Hall of Fame including Jim Ed Brown and the Browns, the Oak Ridge Boys and musician Grady Martin. I was glad to see all these performers receive this honor.
"This is all very overwhelming not just for me, but for the Brown family" said Jim Ed Brown. "Receiving this honor with my sisters, Maxine and Bonnie, is something I had dreamed about for years, but never knew if it would happen or not. Fame is fleeting, hit records change every week, award show winners and nominees change every year, but being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame will be forever!"
CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 to recognize noteworthy individuals for their outstanding contributions to the format with Country Music's highest honor.
Jim Ed Brown and his family trio The Browns helped define an era while also taking Country Music to wider, more cosmopolitan audiences.
Jim Ed (born April 1, 1934 in Sparkman, Ark.), Maxine (born April 27, 1931 in Campti, La.) and Bonnie (July 31, 1937 in Sparkman, Ark.) got their start performing at church and social functions as teenagers in Southwestern Arkansas.
Perhaps the most important vocal group of the Nashville Sound era, The Browns' harmonies were among the most influential of the time, immediately influencing groups like the Beatles and the Osborne Brothers. And the trio's take on what Country Music can aspire to be can still be felt decades later in the music of modern vocal groups like Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town.
Maxine signed up Jim Ed for a talent contest on Little Rock radio station KLRA's "Barnyard Frolic." Brown didn't win, but he was invited to join the cast. Maxine eventually joined him on a stage and the two found quick success as a duo, landing a spot on the popular and influential "Louisiana Hayride" in 1954 and recording "Looking Back to See," a surprise hit that rose to No. 8 on Billboard's Country chart.
Bonnie filled out the trio by joining formally in 1955 and The Browns quickly scored another hit with "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow." It was an exciting time for the siblings, as chronicled in Maxine's autobiography Looking Back to See and famed author Rick Bass' fictionalized account of their lives,Nashville Chrome. They found themselves on the road with good friend Elvis Presley early in their career and helped establish Nashville as Music City, USA, along with acts like Presley and the Everly Brothers. Together they all pushed the boundaries of popular music.
They signed with RCA Records in 1955, teaming with legendary producer Chet Atkins, and eventually recorded 250 sides with the label, including sizeable hits "I Take the Chance" and "I Heard the Bluebirds Sing." They toured the U.S. relentlessly during this period and also went to Europe with fellow RCA acts.
The Browns reached new levels of popularity with the recording of 1959's "The Three Bells," a song originally performed by Edith Piaf in France. The song displayed The Browns' willingness to explore folk and pop modes in their music and the public responded, making it No. 1 on the pop and Country charts. It even rose to No. 10 on the R&B charts, showing its universal appeal.
The song and subsequent hits like "The Old Lamplighter" also proved widely popular and led the group to huge television appearance opportunities including "The Ed Sullivan Show," "American Bandstand," and "The Perry Como Show."
The Browns: Bonnie, Jim Ed and Maxine
Rick Diamond/Getty Images
After initial friction because of their pop leanings, The Browns joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1963. The trio, which was occasionally augmented by younger sister Norma, formally disbanded in 1967 when Maxine and Bonnie chose to retire to raise their young families.
The Browns have made occasional appearances over the years, recording a reunion album in the mid-1980s and appearing on the Opry. Jim Ed, meanwhile, remains a beloved figure in Nashville. He continued his solo career after the trio separated, scoring Top 10 hits like signature songs "Pop a Top," "Morning," "Southern Living," "Sometime Sunshine," and "It's That Time of Night."
Jim Ed Brown managed to recapture the magic of boy-girl harmony again in 1976 when he began recording duets with Helen Cornelius. They were named the CMA Vocal Duo of the Year in 1977 and recorded memorable hits like "I Don't Want to Have to Marry You," which went to No. 1; "Saying Hello, Saying I Love You, Saying Goodbye"; "Lying In Love With You"; "Fools"; and "Morning Comes Too Early."
Brown hosted a number of television shows in the 1980s, including the contest show "You Can Be a Star," and has remained a notable figure in Nashville, occasionally appearing on the Opry and hosting "Country Music Greats Radio Show" for more than a decade.
I encourage you to seek out and learn more about the Browns…
60 Years of Lessons Learned with Ronnie Reno
I have had the honor of knowing and admiring the work of Bluegrass personality Ronnie Reno for much of my own career.
I was honored to appear on his popular TV Show “Reno’s Old Time Music Festival” many years ago. As an award-winning television producer, his show was the first nationally broadcast show featuring Bluegrass music, earning him a prestigious Cable Ace nomination and the nickname the Dick Clark of bluegrass.
His new show, “Reno’s Old Time Music,” airs in prime time on Saturday nights on RFD-TV with 1.2 million monthly viewers.
Ronnie is celebrating 60 years in entertainment with the release of his new album, LESSONS LEARNED. It is Reno’s first album in nearly a decade and his debut album on Rural Rhythm Records. Reno’s singer/songwriting talents really shine on this 11-song album containing 9 songs penned by Reno. Among the titles are Lower Than Lonesome, Lessons Learned, I Think Of You, Sweet Rosa Lee, Deep Part Of Your Heart, Reno’s Mando Magic, Reno & Smiley classic Trail Of Sorrow, All That’s Worth Remembering, Our Last Goodbye, Bad News At Home, and the Lefty Frizzell classic Always Late with David Frizzell. Each song tells a story about life, love and relationships that pull from his rich experiences as an artist, songwriter and TV host.
The CD features the Reno Tradition including Mike Scott - banjo; Heath Van Winkle - bass; John Maberry - mandolin; and Steve Day - fiddle, Ronnie’s current band and the house band on his TV show. Reno’s warm passionate vocals are combined with harmony vocals by Heath Van Winkle and award-winning vocalist Sonya Isaacs.
Over the past 60 years, Reno has had one of the most colorful, diverse and distinguished careers in the music industry — the lineage of which is a study of both traditional country and bluegrass music history. His musical talents have provided the foundation for a long list of seminal performers in both genres, including Reno & Smiley, the Osborne Brothers, Merle Haggard, the Reno Brothers, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and many others. As a songwriter, his music was cut by artists such as Vassar Clements, Sammi Smith and Merle Haggard, and his song “Boogie Grass Band” was a pivotal #1 smash hit for Conway Twitty.
I encourage you to learn more about Ronnie by ordering some of his music or watching his television show. Visit RonnieReno.com to learn more.
New music coming from country’s Conlee and Tucker
Two country music stars have some new musical adventures ahead.
Grand Ole Opry star John Conlee is releasing a new emotional single entitled ““Walkin’ Behind The Star,” released on his own RCR (Rose Colored Records).
The song was written by Nashville industry veterans Ronnie Scaife and Phil Thomas, who collaborated on the Johnny Paycheck hits “Colorado Cool Aid” and “Me and the IRS.”
The touching lyrics were inspired by Phil’s grandfather and great-grandfather, both of whom served in their local sheriff’s department.
“Recent deadly attacks against the people who keep us safe is unprecedented in America and I wanted to sing this song in honor of their sacrifice and willingness to serve,” Conlee said.
Conlee said he was touched by the song’s honesty.
“Walkin’ Behind The Star,“ can be found on his upcoming release Classics 2, which will feature some new material along with many of Conlee’s latter classics.
The set features Conlee hits such as “Harmony,” “Mama’s Rockin’ Chair” and “Hit The Ground Runnin.”
Conlee recently celebrated the 36th anniversary of his breakthrough hit “Rose Colored Glasses,” and can be found on the road throughout 2015 as well as the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, where he has been a member since 1981 and through which I was honored to come to know John.
Learn more about John and his latest at johnconlee.com.
One of the earlier stars who I heard coming out of my parents car radio was Tanya Tucker, with her first recording Alex Harvey’s classic Delta Dawn in 1972. I never imagined that teen star would be someone I would appear at country events with years later.
While she has taken time off these last few years to raise her children, but the legendary songstress is now prepping to hit the road once again.
"I’ve taken a few years off and it is time to get back on the road," Tucker said. "I am really excited to perform all the hits that the fans love so much, and sing a few new songs that I have been working on.”
A new tour and new music is slated for release later this year, Tucker has enjoyed an incredible career that garnered her four Platinum albums, eight Gold albums, and hits such as “The Jamestown Ferry,” “Down To My Last Teardrop,” and “Soon.” In 1991, after almost two decades in the business, the CMA rightfully recognized her unique talents with Female Vocalist of the Year.
You can find out more about Tanya, at www.tanyatucker.com.
Is the more to the future or the past?
My brother asked me recently, ‘Are you living in the past?’ I often do find myself lingering within my memories. As time passes, I think it is easy to place more emphasis on what has gone by in your life than what is ahead.
That is probably especially so for someone who spends a great deal of time writing. You depend on your memories of experiences, people, places to bring your writing to life, add color, excitement and depth.
The summer days running through a spraying sprinkler with friends with slippery green grass beneath you bare feet. A call from the porch brings us running and dripping as my folks cut up an ice cold watermelon on the back porch handing a piece to each of the kids. As we smiled while chewing it to the deep green rind the red juice ran down our faces and hands leaving us so sticky but oh so satisfied.
Standing outside the closed green apartment door, I wait for my first date to or someone to answer it. Fearing that I was going to do something that would embarrass her and I in some way as the evening progressed. And finally when the evening was over the success finding that I didn’t make a fool of myself and there was some hope she might actually like me.
Looking out from behind the deep burgundy curtains to see one of the first audiences for which I would perform at my elementary school, feeling my heart beat faster and faster; hearing the parents and students talk amongst themselves as the play came close to the curtain opening.
Standing outside the tour bus anxiously waiting to catch a glimpse or maybe even shake the hand of an icon as he entered the Cathedral Caverns to record an album. I had not yet met the man who would play such a huge role in my life - Bill Monroe.
Looking across the wooded area where we were filming to see the arrival of television icon Carroll O’Connor and never being able to imagine the impact these steps would have on the rest of my life.
Holding the hands of my father and mother as they stepped through to the other side leaving their shared memories, deepest cares, greatest concerns, highest hopes and wonderful dreams with me.
I have been in the midst of writing a book series that has kept me embedded in the past for a couple of years now. It has provided me with some wonderful times folding myself into the past. It can be a great inspiration to look back and it can also bring great sorrow if one dwells more on what is gone than what is to be.
With the conclusion of the writing stage of my Encourager book series coming to a close, I am hopeful and excited to be looking towards the future to create new opportunities, new adventures and new memories to write about someday.
Each day that dawns gives us the chance to write another chapter in our life or the life of another we may not even have met yet. Will you use the day to create a great adventure and make a difference?
Country talents on tour - Gilley and Fortune
A illuminating part of my early career was participating in the Country Music Association’s Country Music Fan Fair in Nashville, Tenn.
I will never forget the years that Mickey Gilley’s booth was next to Grand Ole Opry stars Jim and Jesse. Jim and Jesse's booth is where I started meeting fans before I earned one of my own.
It was just a few years after the height of the popularity of the film “Urban Cowboy” starring John Travolta and Debra Winger, and was filmed at and based on Gilley’s Nightclub in Pasadena, Texas which was known as the world’s biggest honky tonk. The film included a cameo by Mickey Gilley, plus a few of his recordings were featured on the star-studded soundtrack that included songs by Kenny Rogers, The Charlie Daniels Band, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffett, Eagles, Anne Murray and other acclaimed artists.
Mickey and all those who worked with him through his club Gilleys were riding high. It was such a thrill to spend the time next to Johnny Lee, Dallas star Charlene Tilton and the other who were visiting with fans from the both.
These thought came rushing back to me when I heard Mickey was launching his North American concert tour, dedicated to the 35th anniversary of his iconic “Urban Cowboy” single. He will appear across the country and each show will include Gilley’s greatest hits as well as a pre-show video presentation on his exceptional life and career.
“I’ve been in the music industry for more than 50 years now, and it never gets old,” he said. “I look forward to the areas we’ll be visiting during the tour, and celebrating the Urban Cowboy anniversary. I’m truly honored by the continued support of fans over the years.”
Grammy-winning Mickey Gilley has scored 17 No. One hits, 39 Top Ten singles and 8 ten Top Ten albums. Notable songs for the six-time ACM winner include “Room Full of Roses,” “I Overlooked an Orchid,” “City Lights,” “Window Up Above,” “Stand by Me,” and “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.”
Mickey Gilley has released more than 30 albums, and has a star along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is a member of the National Traditional Country Music Hall of Fame and Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. The legendary singer and his famous cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, are proud Delta Music Hall of Fame members.
Learn more to find out if his tour is coming near you by visiting mickeygilley.com.
Country Music Award Shows were always a great opportunity to meet other country stars that an artist might not get to appear with on the road. Standing back stage one day looking out at the rehearsals, now Country Music Hall of Famer Jimmy Fortune walked up beside me and we met for the first time.
Though many years have passed from that initial meeting in the days when he was a member of the Statler Brothers, we have kept in touch and I am excited to say he is also hard at work on the road. He’s known as one of the most distinctive tenor singers in the history of Country Music, with a resume that includes CMA and IBMA Awards, Gold and Platinum records.
Fortune first came to the attention of Country Music fans in 1982, when he was selected to replace Lew DeWitt as the tenor singer of the legendary Statler Brothers. The singer spent two decades with the group until their retirement in October 2002.
Fortune’s songwriting helped to give the quartet some of their biggest hits, such as “Elizabeth,” “My Only Love,” “Too Much On My Heart” and “More Than A Name On A Wall.” Since embarking on a solo career, Fortune has released the well-received albums When One Door Closes and I Believe.
He also continues to flourish as a songwriter, with collaborations with such tunesmiths as Bill Anderson, Kenny Beard, and Kevin Denney. It was with Denney and Tom Botkin that he wrote “On The Other Side,” which was recorded by Bluegrass superduo Dailey and Vincent, and netted the trio an award for Recorded Gospel Song of the Year from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).
I encourage you to learn more about his show dates and what’s new with Jimmy, visit, www.JimmyFortune.com.
Marking 60 years of music - the Gatlin Brothers
A sound synonymous with country radio when I was coming up is that of three brothers Larry, Steve and Rudy, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers have been dazzling audiences for 60 years and they are bringing that sound to audiences celebrating the milestone. It all began in 1955, when Larry was six, Steve was four, and Rudy was two. Their music has taken them around the world endearing millions of fans,
"We’re not calling it a farewell or a final tour. We’re calling it the 60th Anniversary Celebration,” Larry said. “By no means are we retiring, but after this tour, we are going to slow down a little bit. The promoters are going to have to want us about three times more than they want us right now.”
After performing as youths, Larry went to college to study law. He sought new musical opportunities auditioning for Elvis Presley’s backup singers – The Imperials. That door did not open but he found a champion in the talents of country singer Dottie West through the experience who encouraged him to begin writing songs.
After the gig in Vegas, Larry went home to Houston, wrote eight songs, sent them to Dottie, and she sent him a plane ticket to Nashville.
Through Dottie, Larry met Kris Kristofferson, who opened doors for Larry’s first record deal at Monument Records yielding - The Pilgrim.
Steve and Rudy moved to Nashville in 1975 and teamed up with brother Larry to form Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers. It wasn’t a year before the hits began rolling in beginning with the chart-topping success of the Grammy-winning "Broken Lady." The hits continued throughout the rest of the decade, with seven more number one songs: "I Don’t Wanna Cry," "I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love," "Statues Without Hearts," "Love Is Just A Game," "All The Gold in California," "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer To You)" and "Night Time Magic." In addition to being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, the trio was nominated for awards by the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music and the Music City News Awards, among others.
"We won some of 'em too," Larry said.
A new Gospel album on Curb Records, titled, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers 60th Anniversary Celebration is currently in the works.
"We were going to call the album, The Gospel According to Gatlin because some of the new songs are a little edgy, a little bit different. Then we realized it was our 60th anniversary, so we went with that as the title" Larry said. "Steve and Rudy and I didn't get where we are by playing it safe. We have always pushed the envelope, we have always crossed borders others were afraid to cross and we're not going to stop now... and that is the Gospel According to Gatlin."
I encourage you to check out their music or see a concert, it will be well worth your time.
"We're not cutting back because we can't draw a crowd or that we can't sing anymore. Today, we sound just like we did 40 years ago.... pretty dad-burn good,” Larry said. “We're not being run out of the business. We're not going broke. We're not down to bread and milk money. We just think it's time to do some other things, slow down a little bit, and do it with class and dignity – on our own terms.
"There are other priorities in life. I have two granddaughters. Brother Steve has seven grandchildren and Rudy has two kids,” he said. “We still love the fans and the road and we still love to sing but we want to spend more quality time with our families. We are grateful to God for our fabulous run and we can't wait to see what else He has in store."
For more information, visit www.gatlinbrothers.com.
Lee Greenwood Instills patriotism
I have had the honor to know the talented Lee Greenwood for much of my country music career.
He has earned multiple CMA and ACM Awards, a GRAMMY for Top Male Vocal Performance on "I.O.U," in 1985, and seven No. 1 hits, and thirty-eight singles including songs like “Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hands,” “Dixie Road,” and “Somebody’s Gonna Love You.”
His gift to our country is one of the most performed patriotic songs of the last century “God Bless the USA.” It has been in the top five on the country singles charts three times (1991, 2001 and 2003), giving it the distinction of being the only song in any genre of music to achieve that feat. It was also No. 1 on the pop charts after 9/11.
The song was penned from his heart in the back of his tour bus in 1983
He is now focusing on encouraging our youngest generation with pride in our country through his latest book - Proud To Be An American.
The book marks his third professional work as an author, and features poignant lyrics from "God Bless The USA" paired with colorful, thought-provoking illustrations by Amanda Sekulow. The book also includes a FREE song download, and its foreword tells the true story of his childhood upbringing that led him to become an American patriot:
"Growing up on my grandparents farm in California gave me an appreciation for folks who worked hard and got by on very little,” he wrote “My grandparents lost their farm after government regulations prevented them from farming the more profitable fields. But they didn't question why it happened; they just started a new business.
“They believed no matter what difficulties we experienced, we would be okay because we were free. ‘America is still the greatest country on earth,’ he said. As you sit reading the words of my song to your child or grandchild in my new book, it is my hope that young and old alike will feel tremendous pride in being citizens of the United States of America,” he wrote.
This project from Clovercroft Publishing in Franklin, Tenn.will be available Memorial Day Weekend. The son of a World War II veteran, his authentic life-long patriotism of the United States compelled him to write two former books, Does God Still Bless The USA: A Plea For A Better America (2012), and God Bless The USA: Biography of A Song (1993).
In conjunction with the release of Proud To Be An American, Greenwood will continue his long-standing position as the National Ambassador for Helping A Hero, a non-profit organization committed to providing specially-adapted housing and support to military personnel severely injured in the war on terror. Greenwood first appeared at a Helping A Hero event in January 2012 as part of ABC's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” where he sang the iconic anthem "God Bless The USA," for a Christmas tribute, while welcoming severe burn victim SSG (Ret) Shilo Harris to his new home. For the past three years, the music superstar has continued to be a part of numerous house-gifting and "Welcome Home" ceremonies, holiday concerts for veterans and their families, volunteer appreciation luncheons and more, bearing witness to the real-life struggles our servicemen and women face after returning from combat with life-altering injuries and emotional distress.
"I'm consistently blown away with the impact Helping A Hero makes on veterans and their families. To know that heroes like SPC (Ret) Jay Briseno, USAR in Manassas, VA, who was hit by a sniper and is semi-conscious as a result, now has a fully-accessible home that includes a lift system, a 300 sq. foot bathroom with a shower bed, heated towel warmers, and a therapy room for his daily physical therapy needs, really fuels my passion for helping those who have made such great sacrifices for our freedom. No one is more deserving of outreach and care than our nation's heroes, and I'm just grateful I can be a small part of giving back to them," he said.
For more information on Helping A Hero and to find out how you can contribute to the cause, please visit helpingahero.org. For more information on Lee Greenwood's “Proud To Be An American” children's book, please stay tuned for updates on his website at LeeGreenwood.com.
Ray Price – his music still creates good times
One of country music’s greatest singers was the late Ray Price. Even now, over a year after his passing in 2013, his music continues to receive accolades through his 2014 CD “Beauty Is…” Price fought pancreatic cancer to complete his final album project with legendary producer and longtime friend Fred Foster. Beauty Is ... the final sessions was released in April 2014.
It debuted at #22 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. The CD garnered a unique Honorable Mention on Billboard.com's The 10 Best Country Albums of 2014 list, and grabbed the #1 spot on TheNashvilleBridge.com's Top 10 Albums list.
His duet with Martina McBride, "An Affair To Remember," scored as #8 on the Hotdisc International Chart's Top 30 Most Popular Songs of 2014 list after three consecutive weeks at #1. His music is even finding new uses as ESPN-TV used "For The Good Times” in College Football Playoff ads.
Price was a Texan from Peach who had a mastery of the sounds that appealed to audiences whether he was performing the classic honky-tonk sounds of the 1950s or the smooth string infused ballads of the 1960s and 70s.
His iconic Kris Kristofferson smash was "For The Good Times." Known by the nickname of the Cherokee Cowboy, he charted over 100 times with 46 Top Ten hits, nine #1 singles and five #1 albums.
He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry who enjoyed Gold and Platinum album sales, won two Grammy® awards, took home a CMA trophy, earned two ACM awards and his place in the Country Music Hall of Fame and in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
The latter of those, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame is honoring him with a special exhibit entitled "For The Good Times” to be unveiled on Saturday, February 28 at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage, Texas. The new display will feature over 60 of the star's personal items, and represents Ray's many career accomplishments and his lifelong commitment to his craft. Following a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, fans can tour the exhibit for the day, free of charge.
The Texas Country Music Hall of Fame Band will provide entertainment, and numerous special guests are expected to appear throughout the day.
Ray's widow, Janie Price, will be on hand to discuss the exhibit's special items and to sign autographs.
"With the excitement of his new CD, ‘Beauty Is ... the final sessions,’ the museum wanted to enhance Ray's display, and that tied in nicely with a 3,000 square-foot expansion to their existing exhibit space,” she said. "Ray was so proud that he was able to accomplish his dream of becoming an international star, but he was most proud to be a Texan, and to be able to give back to his home state. To have this new exhibit so close to home, as we continue to write the last chapter in his life story, is a special honor."
If you do visit, you can also see the Tex Ritter Museum. Learn more at http://www.carthagetexas.com/HallofFame/index.html.
Recently, a new single, "I Wish I Was 18 Again," was released. The CD, on Amerimonte Records, can be purchased at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® locations, Hastings Stores, Wal-Mart, Amazon and other retailers.
NBC and Dolly’s family films
I was recently pleased to discover that my former television home NBC is to partner with my longtime friend and former movie co-star Dolly Parton.
The network signed a development deal with the American icon for a series of films.
"I am so excited to be involved with my friend Bob Greenblatt, who produced the Broadway version of '9 to 5: The Musical' with me, and my longtime friend and former agent Sam Haskell,” Dolly said. “We want to create projects for NBC that are both fun and inspirational with a family audience in mind."
In conjunction with production partner Sam Haskell of Magnolia Hill Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television, NBC will develop a slate of two-hour TV movies based on the songs, stories, and inspiring life of Dolly Parton.
The movies are aimed to appeal at the family audience, something greatly needed in the current television landscape and a perfect outlet for the moving storytelling created by Dolly.
"I don't know anyone in the world who doesn't love Dolly Parton, and the idea of developing television movies inspired by her incredible life and the stories she has sung about for decades is exciting to all of us at NBC," said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment." I hope we will create some uplifting movies that the entire family can enjoy together, a genre of programming that still seems largely untapped on television."
Over the past 40 years, Parton has 41 albums that have reached the top 10 in the country charts - the most for any artist - as well as 25 albums have either been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum. In addition, 110 singles have reached the country charts. She has won 10 Grammy Awards, 10 Country Music Assn. Awards and 7 Academy of Country Music Awards. In fact, Parton has been nominated for 46 Grammys as both she and Beyonce are the most Grammy-nominated women of all time.
"We all feel so lucky to be in business with Dolly,” said Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment: “We're so excited about working with her to infuse these movies with her incredible work ethic and that genuine hopefulness and positive outlook that has been her trademark for years. And you can bet there will be a lot of her music in them too."
Dolly was twice nominated for an Oscar for her original songs "9 to 5" and "Travelin' Thru," for the film "Transamerica." As an actress, Parton was nominated for three Golden Globes and won two People's Choice Awards.
I am anxious to see what this partnership brings for all of us to enjoy. I pray it is something that will raise the bar of television and give other producers a goal for which to strive.
A Constant Man of Music – Dr. Ralph Stanley
With each passing year, I look around and find fewer of my musical heroes still contributing to the great America music legacy.
I am honored to call Dr. Ralph Stanley a friend and to have produced and recorded with him.
When I heard he had brought together a new project for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® with Red River Entertainment and Bob Frank Distribution, I just couldn’t wait to share the news.
“Man of Constant Sorrow” combine the three-time GRAMMY Award winner on songs with other performers who I am sure lined up for the chance to support him in the effort: Dierks Bentley, Elvis Costello, Del McCoury, Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, Old Crow Medicine Show, Robert Plant, Ricky Skaggs, Nathan Stanley, Josh Turner, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings and Lee Ann Womack, while also performing two solo songs. Ronnie McCoury and Womack’s daughter, Aubrie Sellers, also appear on the album, along with Stanley’s band The Clinch Mountain Boys. The 87-year old International Bluegrass Hall of Honor inductee recorded the album in Nashville with Miller and Lauderdale as producers.
“I've always enjoyed singing with other artists," said Stanley. "Everyone who joined me on this record did a fine job. I think this will be a project that my fans will really enjoy.”
Among the titles are “We Shall Rise,” “I Only Exist,” “We’ll Be Sweethearts in Heaven,” “Rank Stranger,” “I Am the Man, Thomas,” “White Dove,” “Red Wicked Wine,” “Pig in a Pen,” “Two Coats,” “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” “Short Life of Trouble,” “Hills of Home,” and “Man of Constant Sorrow.”
“Cracker Barrel is delighted to bring Dr. Ralph Stanley and Friends’ CD, Man of Constant Sorrow, to our guests,” said Cracker Barrel Marketing Manager Julie Craig. “The performances are wonderful, the music is timeless and the project is a great addition to our exclusive music program. We know our guests will look forward to discovering this album.”
When I was a boy, the sounds of Carter and Ralph Stanley – The Stanley Brothers of Virginia still dominated the bluegrass scene despite the passing of Carter in 1966. Ralph continued the tradition as a solo artist.
Through the years, he helped mentor several future bluegrass and country music artists who performed in his band before embarking on solo careers, including Ricky Skaggs, Larry Sparks and Keith Whitley.
In 1976, Stanley received an honorary doctorate from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., and he has been known as “Dr. Ralph Stanley” ever since. Yale University gave him a second honorary Doctorate of Music degree in 2014.
President Ronald Reagan presented him with the National Heritage Award in 1984, elected into the International Bluegrass Hall of Honor in 1992 and inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2000. His performance of “O Death,” featured in the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” earned him his first GRAMMY Award in 2001 for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. The soundtrack album for that movie also earned Stanley both a GRAMMY Award and a CMA Award for Album of the Year.
He received the Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress and the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush and was elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014.
He released his autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow in 2009. His CD is now available exclusively at Cracker Barrel and online at crackerbarrel.com for $11.99. The digital album also will be available for purchase at select digital retailers. For more information, visit www.Dr.RalphStanleyMusic.com.
The sun swept across the dark wood floor forming a light spot in the shape of a heart that I noticed as my mother buzzed around the room with dishes in her hand setting the table.
On the kitchen stove, pans were gurgling as meatballs simmered in a sauce, angel hair pasta boiled with a hint of basil filling the air.
The evening was close at hand and she was expecting the neighbors over for a light spaghetti dinner and an evening of cards and conversation.
In the fall prior to election, the conversation often leaned more to political strategies of mustering the neighbors and friends to get out and campaign or vote for one of the candidates my mother was sold upon. After election, the dialogue kept to local gossip and plans for the holidays.
For me an evening such as this meant I would be relegated to the children’s table for supper and the other children and I would be occupying us in another room with a board game of some nature.
While I didn’t mind these evenings generally, unfortunately, often times my mother’s friends had an abundance of female children. While I guess that wasn’t unfortunate to them, for me, that meant in addition to being relegated to eating with them at the children’s table and minding my manners, I would have to mind my manners all evening as we played. With the girls, there was no running like wild Indians, no rough housing, we played civilized games such as Go Fish, Monopoly, Operation, Life or whichever board game suited my guest’s fancies.
Cheating was out of the question in these circumstances. I was the host; I had to make sure everyone was following the rules including me. This action sometimes got me into some very heated discussions with my guests. I realized that sometimes girls were not the frills and lace I was led to believe, as some of them would get right mean when they didn’t get their way.
If it had been a guy, we could have settled our differences with a short wrestling match or a few exchanged fists, with the victor getting their way in the disagreement and the game continued. You couldn’t do that with the girls. They might have won and then I would have never heard the end of it. Of course, I am kidding, I was taught not to fight with a girl, even though a few of them needed a whoopin’, I would have to leave that to their folks.
Now that is not to say a girl didn’t hit me a couple of times in these engagements. They did and then they would escape to the safety of the living room where the adults were engaged in civilized pursuits.
Did I ever do the same, well, let’s just say, I usually found a way to get even by pulling a return prank of some description.
After all it was my job to see all the kids had a good time. If one was acting out of line, the best way to accomplish a good time were to bring the askew kid back into plum with the rest of us. Sometimes that took some creative comeuppance.
Despite whether my guests were female or male, I did always enjoy these times when I was asked to entertain. It was an opportunity to learn some of the basic expectations for treating friends in your home,
So friends, have you taught your children and grandchildren how to be a host. Not just a friend but also a host in their home. Depending on your customs and traditions, such a skill can lay the groundwork for opportunities in which they will serve them both in their daily lives at home and work.