What’s happening to men and women?

Though I don’t consider myself a product of a different age, I look around and see how men and women, boys and girls, publicly act, dress, behave, treat each other, speak, and I ponder what happened.
My parents raised me with certain expectations of behavior especially in the presence of the opposite sex or anyone who is your senior. Respect was key. Now that does not mean you allow yourself to be maligned or used as a doormat, but you show respect in how you respond.
When you went to work, unless you were a tradesman or women, you dressed, as a man, suit and tie, unless the employer called for something more specific. For church, you wear your best as a form of respect in worship, whatever that was.
There were certain things you were expected to do, as a child or youth, you yielded to the discipline of the supervising adults, and you were on your very best behavior when in public or around strangers, or older family members or neighbors, always showing respect.
As a child, some of what I was taught that an adult male should do is:
not use a person’s first name unless given permission; not cuss; acknowledge people as you meet them at work or on the street allowing ladies to acknowledge you first, this can be done with a nod of the head since most folks do not wear hats for tipping anymore; remove your hat when entering a building and especially in the atmosphere of casual headwear, and never wear a hat at a table.
When it comes with interacting with ladies, a man should:
rise when a lady enters the room or stands in public or private social gatherings; open doors; offer an arm to a lady you know when entering or leaving a building or room or if the ground appears uneven; walk on the sidewalk with a lady away from traffic; give ladies your seat when none is available; assist with her chair at the table or help putting on a coat; and avoid impolite subjects.
Of course, the changes in the workplace and the social environment over the past few decades have changed what is being taught our youth and done by adults, and to conform in some situations, I have had to forego some of these teachings, so not to make other men uncomfortable in their lack of etiquette.
Still, I am blessed when in environs and among others in which these expected behaviors once again are shown and I readily fall back into these naturally.
With the outrage in the current status of the male-female relationships in the workplace and elsewhere, perhaps we need to return to the tried and true expectations of public interaction from several decades ago, so that opportunities for such behavior are eliminated.
Of course, many will scream that that is not the solution, that men and women should be treated the same way in all environments. Well, as the son of an early advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment, I can say from her teachings there is a balance that can be found. My mother taught me all that I shared while standing up for women’s rights.  From her prospective as a business owner starting in the 1950s, respect was the key, having equal opportunities and equal pay did not mean women had to give up being a lady in whatever environment they chose to place themselves, in the board room, elected office or in the home.

A voice that soared above the pines – Curly Seckler

Randall Franks and Curly Seckler in 1980s.

Curly Seckler

My New Year’s Eve show got me home about 3:30 a.m., and I quickly tried to get to sleep with a plan to rise early and head to Nashville. I awoke on time and aimed my burgundy Chevy Lumina towards the goal a little over two hours away. The trip had been made hundreds of times in my life, especially as my country music career was in full swing there.
I thought back to early trips which found me knocking on the door of a home off Dickerson Road when legendary bluegrass musician and singer Curly Seckler came to the door. I chose to emulate him as a child. He had done this many times and often told others especially as my star in music and TV rose of my initial youthful visit.
His door was always open to me, and he was always generous with his time, whether in person, on the phone or on the road. This trip was however not to knock on his door but to pay my respects to his family and join with his other friends and admirers as we said goodbye to the 98-year-old.
Seckler’s long career combined his talents with the majority of the genre’s first-generation legends from Charlie Monroe to “Doc” Tommy Scott, Jim and Jesse McReynolds to the Stanley Brothers.
He was most recognized by historians and fans though by his role as the tenor singer and mandolinist to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs as part of the Foggy Mountain Boys. One of the key artists which infused bluegrass into the fabric of American culture through television, recordings and radio. It was those recordings that also drew me as a young boy, and his tenor that I tried to match as I sang.
As I walked towards the door of the Spring Hill Funeral Home the bitter cold chilled my cheeks. I followed in some of the musicians that were to be singing who made their way to the coffin storage room to practice. I said hello to one of their wives who was waiting and soon found his biographer Penny Parsons, who wrote “Foggy Mountain Troubadour” opening up the viewing room. I was the first to arrive, so after a brief visit with Penny, I was able to spend some time with my long-time friend, just he and I as all the memories flooded back. I reminisced aloud looking upon the voice “who soared above the pines.” I talked about the visits to his home, the first time I looked up at him and his Nashville Grass on stage after the death of Lester Flatt, and was mesmerized by his poise and style on stage, to later in my life when my country music fan club was hosting a Country Music Fan Fair party and in he and his future wife Eloise Warren walked in to support me as just another two of my fans. Soon I found tears rolling down my cheeks and I sucked up the emotions drying my tears. I stepped back in the hall as family members began arriving slowly, the other notable musicians, industry elites, and Foggy Mountain Boy offspring filed in and visited with the family.
As I stood talking to his son Ray at the foot of his coffin, I looked to my left and in came the musicians who had be practicing, the Grammy winning Earls of Leicester (Jerry Douglas, Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman, Jeff White, and Johnny Warren), who continued the Flatt & Scruggs tradition. Each, all old friends, stopped and shook hands and moved closer to the coffin. In a few moments, I looked up to my left and there stood Vince Gill paying his respects to one of his heroes. We shared some Curly memories, until Sharon Skaggs came in and hugged my neck and Ricky reached over and shook my hand as he got in the viewing line.
Shortly, we all settled into the Chapel as the “Foggy Mountain Special” played and WSM Announcer Eddie Stubbs led the service sharing the pulpit with Brother Terry Clapp and Gerald McCormick.
Moving performances were shared by Ricky Skaggs and the Whites of “Gone Home,” Connie Smith with “Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet,” and the Earls of Leicester on “Who Will Sing for Me” and we watched and heard memorable TV performances by Curly with Flatt & Scruggs  “I Want to Be Loved” and “Precious Memories” and his mandolin player with the Nashville Grass – Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives with “Lord, I’m Coming Home.”
We laughed, we cried, we applauded and we paid tribute to someone we all loved as both a good man who gave his hope, his encouragement and his faith freely to all of us; and to the last link to the golden era of the Flatt and Scruggs musical legacy that will stand the test of time and outlast all of us. As we gathered in the single digit wind chill around his graveside, the Earls of Leicester delivered a song Curly loved singing – “Reunion in Heaven.” Though we were freezing, we all seemed to linger there after being dismissed holding on to the significance of the moment, shaking hands, slowly passing by his wooden coffin awaiting the day of that reunion.  Learn more at www.curlyseckler.net.




New Year’s Fixin’s

It was a blustery cold morning as Kitty and Pearl began their walk over to Maudie Pearson’s house. They carried tins full of green collards, black-eyed peasand hamhocks and some cornbread.
“This seems like an odd meal to take Miss Maudie,” Pearl said.
“It’s News Year’s Day fixin’s,” Kitty said.
“If she eats these she will have all the luck and money she needs in the next year,” Kitty said.
As they walked across the field to the tenant shack where eighty year-old Maudie lived, their steps barely marked the frozen ground which months before would have allowed them to sink a foot deep with each step.
Kitty’s walk was long and gated since she carried the extra weight of another family member inside her.
“Momma, when will the new baby come,” Pearl asked.
“When its ready,” she said. “I feel it should come any day now.”
Maudie welcomed them at the door and asked them to sit a spell.
“You folks sure surprised me coming on such a cold day,” Maudie said.
“I knew you wouldn’t feel up to cookin’ much, so we wanted to bring you blessings for the New Year,” Kitty said.
“And it looks like you will have a new blessing soon,” Maudie said as she placed her hand on Kitty’s belly.
The threesome sat near the warm fire and shared some hot cider as Maudie showed off a quilt top she was working diligently to finish.
Kitty said they best be getting back.
“The men folk will be home from hunting soon, and they might think we run off,” she said.
Kitty and Pearl took small steps on the way back. Kitty’s pace became slower and slower as she fell on her knees to the ground.
The pain doubled her over.
“Momma,” Pearl called to her, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s time,” Kitty exclaimed.
“What do I do?” Pearl asked.
“Help me and let’s get back to Maudie’s,” she said.
Pearl helped her up, and the duo made their way back to the tenant house.
Maudie said, “Land sakes I knew it would not be long.”
She helped her into the bed and told Pearl to fetch some water from the well and put it in the fire to boil.
Pearl did, and then she placed a damp cloth on Kitty’s head to ease the sweat rolling from her brow. Every few moments intense pain brought Kitty’s shrill scream of agony.
“What can we do?” Pearl said.
“We are doing all we can; the rest is up to God and the little one,” Maudie said.
After a while the screaming stopped, the pain subsided, and in Maudie’s arms was a brand new baby boy.
“Well it looks like the blessings of the New Year have arrived,” Maudie said.
Maudie reached over, picked up the new quilt she was making and wrapped the boy inside, laying him beside Kitty.
“He’ll get it a little early,” she said. “I was hoping to finish it before he came. I’ll do the rest a little later. He needs it more now.”
As the little baby looked up at Maudie and smiled, a shared grin was passed to Kitty and Pearl.
Kitty looked at Pearl and said, “Sharing blessings goes a long ways, little one. Just look what a few greens, peas and cornbread gave to us today.

From the book “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes”

The Christmas shine is for sharing

“Here’s the boxes of outside lights,” I said as I handed them down the attic stairs to my father Floyd.
Next came the interior boxes that were spread on the floor of the living room for my mother Pearl to sift through. A few hops up and down the attic ladder and all the Christmas decorations were strewn on the living room floor.
The holly climbed the wall by our front door, the bushes were full and green in front of the red-brick ranch-style house and the greenery made a perfect location to hold up numerous strings of Christmas lights.
As we moved beyond Thanksgiving, it fell on my father and I to bring my childhood home’s exterior into the Christmas spirit.
“Dad, have you seen the extra light bulbs, we got several out in this string,” I said as I raised my head seeing him standing on a ladder placing a power cord.
The lights were long strings some with full-sized colored bulbs, some with smaller ones. Of course, the first task was making sure all the bulbs worked before placing them. This was my job as my dad ran the electrical cords providing the power.
“There still in the boxes,” he said, so I was up and sticking my hands down through a spider web of wires searching for the box of bulbs.
After getting all the lights in place the final act of exterior decorations was the placement of a large lighted Santa Claus face was hung in the holly by our front door.
By the time this was done we moved inside to set up the faux fireplace, where our stockings were hung and assisted mother with the placement of various items around the house including lighted candles for all the windows and in then we would assemble our artificial tree and add the decorations and lights.
We always worked together to make the tree look just right. We didn’t always have an artificial tree, that came when my health was so weak that live trees caused breathing issues.
We built some wonderful memories preparing for the Christmas season as friends and family flowed in and out of our brightly decorated home.  It was the backdrop of so much joy and laughter, tears of sorrow, and lessons learned.
I watched as both my mother and father welcomed others into our home who had no one to share the holidays with. I participated as my father refurbished bicycles and peddle cars for needy children, and as my mother collected and boxed foods for needy families. Christmas is always brighter with the shiny decorations that we wrap our live within. Let’s not forget that the greatest gift of Christmas was the baby Jesus that charged each of us with loving our neighbor as ourselves. Share the shine that God gave you in your life by loving your neighbors.

A mouse in the house

In the valley below the Gravelly Spur sometimes life was lost in the living, but at times circumstances would change that for a while.
Billy Thurston lived in a sharecropper’s house with his mother Alma and father Fred. Although Billy was just eight-years-old, he already had performed almost every task it took to help run the farm and help his parents scrape a meager living on shares.
He plowed and planted, tended to animals, and walked a few paces behind his father as they hunted to add a bit of meat to the table.
Each fall when it came time to cut the corn and tie the stalks together, in the mist the stands of corn stalks looked as if an army had left the field and propped its rifles there.
At this time of year an army of mice which made the field a home would tend to run for the cover of whatever building they could find.
This year Billy’s father told him it would be his job to place the mouse traps around the house and keep them clean of whatever they might catch.
Being mindful of his father, he went about his chore and kept each trap ready and waiting for the next offensive.
One afternoon one of the traps did not hold a dead mouse but one whose leg was caught and broken.
Billy did not have the heart to end the little one’s life. So, he cut some small branches and took a few threads from the ragged area of his overalls and tied upon the mouse’s leg a splint.
Billy carefully carried the gray field mouse to the edge of the cornfield which lay between their house and my Grandma Kitty’s and released it.
After a couple of days, my Grandma Kitty was sweeping off the front porch. As she turned and opened the screen door, in scurried a little mouse which she promptly followed with broom in hand. After quite a chase around the old butcher block table, she finally had the little critter cornered.
As she was about to bring the broom down with all her might, she saw the splint upon its leg. The sight of that little splint reminded her that every life has value no matter in what form it is carried. She could not bring herself to end this one.
She reached down, picked the animal up and carried it to the edge of the corn field to release it.
Twice the little mouse got a reprieve. The yellow barn cat Grover was not so kind-hearted.

From Randall Franks’s book “A Mountain Pearl : Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes”

For truth, justice and the American way

Never rely upon what “other people” say when you develop an opinion.

I have spent my life walking in the light of truth. I was taught early to follow the rules and speak the truth. As a small child, I was a whiz at numbers but had some difficulty with spelling, at least that is the way I felt at the time. In an early experience that I shared with my first-grade teacher, I was caught using a small note placed under my leg with my spelling words upon it while taking a test – cheating plain and simple.

Being caught I was sent out to stand in the hallway and then received a dressing down by my teacher which then resulted in my mother being called in and later my dad being brought in the loop for the final punishment at home.

Needless to say, I didn’t have the opportunity to hide a crib note under my leg when taking a spelling test again, I couldn’t sit comfortably for a while to take a test. But the experience re-enforced some of the lessons I had been taught – don’t cheat and don’t lie. A simple lesson learned is it’s much easier to tell the truth, you don’t have to remember and keep up with the lies.

Later in my life, as my career moved to journalism, spending a life in truth, being dependable and making sure no stone was unturned, allowed me to tell the stories of many folks who would not talk to other journalists, because they knew I would be fair and honestly share their story. That approach helped me earn over 20 state and national awards for the work. I fondly remember a boy who use to call me “Superman” because he thought of me like Clark Kent, saving the world.

As a journalist developing a story, I focused on getting three different sources who could confirm facts about a situation that may need to be brought to light in an article.

In recent weeks, I have experienced a lesson in the current human condition. There are folks in the world today that do not care about integrity of the information that they believe. They take the words at face value, placing no question on the source and the ultimate motives for what is being said. They do not look deeper to see if what is being said is even valid.

Some then use those words to formulate decisions that impact the lives of numerous people, to slander others with no foundation by repeating what has been said. That is now an easy adventure in our world which rotates around various social media platforms.

There is no accountability for those that do it. There is no way to fix the damage done by these people that propagate falsehoods and what is the sad commentary is some of them that choose this path are successful in hurting others and benefit from their efforts whether the ultimate gain is financial or gains in power within some position.

I have always believed that good wins over evil and still do. I read the back of the Book and that is how the story ultimately ends, but these little battles along the way that seems to allow evil people with evil intentions to succeed does dishearten. The only way to overcome it is if we all don’t believe blindly… do a little research and find three reputable sources when making decisions and conclusions that impact all of us. I pray for our people that we all do a better job of reaching for truth, justice and the American way.

Country memories with Margie Singleton and Mel Tillis

I have been blessed to meet some amazing performers who have for some period occupied the spotlight in many music genres but especially those who made a home in country music.

Through the 1950s and 60s, one of the female vocalists who kept the airwaves filled with her talents from Starday, Mercury, United Artists, Monument, and Ashley Records, whether as a feature artist, duet partner, songwriter or background vocalist is Margie Singleton.

Singleton, now in her 80s continues entertaining audiences, sharing interviews, videos, and blessing hearts and ears with her latest Christian music CD “On the Other Side of Life.”

Among her early hits are titles such as “Eyes of Love,” and with duet partner George Jones “Did I Ever Tell You,” and “Waltz of the Angels” and with Faron Young “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” She did a full album of duets with Jones which is now a legendary part of both their legacies.

Numerous artists yielded songs from her pen with just a few being Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride, and Brook Benton. She even joined the Jordanaires adding the feminine touch to countless classic country recordings of the era beside the famed back-up harmony group.

Her most recent Christian music CD features “On the Other Side of Life,” “I Chose You,” “Peculiar People,” “Follow Me,” “I Heard Him Knockin’,” “Making Payments,” “On My Father’s Side,” “His Destiny,” “Meet Me at the Altar,” “Flying with My Lord,” “You Can’t Go Back,” and “Heaven Bound.”

Her voice and musical stylings reflect the amazing sounds that made her a radio favorite. Check out her CD and she recently did a video of the single “Jesus Is My Pusher” which is seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeJgy2rJnFI&t=13s.

Learn more about Margie at http://margiesingletonmusic.com/ and order her CD at https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/margiesingleton. Like her at https://www.facebook.com/margiesingleton35/

The “Coca-Cola Cowboy” Mel Tillis, 85, passed away Nov. 19. As I was coming up as a country artist, he was one of the kings of country songwriting, singing, performing comedy and acting in movies. He created a home for his classic country style by building a theater in Branson, a town where he and Roy Clark reigned for many years.

Throughout his 60+ year career, the Grand Ole Opry member recorded more than 60 albums, had 35 Top Ten singles, six #1 hits (“I Ain’t Never,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” “Southern Rains,” “Good Woman Blues,” “Heart Healer,” and “I Believe in You”), was named the Country Music Association’s coveted Entertainer of the Year, and was elected a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He wrote over 1,000 songs, 600 of which have been recorded by major artists including Kenny Rogers (“Ruby, Don’t You Take Your Love to Town”), George Strait (“Thoughts of A Fool”), and Ricky Skaggs (“Honey, Open That Door”). Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) named Tillis Songwriter of the Decade for two decades. In February of 2012 President Obama awarded Tillis the National Medal of Arts.

For years my office base of operations in Nashville was in Mel’s building on Music Row. It was where meetings occurred, quick changes as I rushed into town for an appearance. I often found Mel there and shared a brief visit for a few words of encouragement or wisdom. He was an amazing talent that made us think, laugh and remember that we artists were there to entertain the audience…a true class act… Prayers for his daughter Pam Tillis and all his children, grandchildren and family.

The bottom of the pile

It is hard to walk away when you are at the bottom of the pile.

I remember fondly the springs and summers. Hours of play after completing my chores around the house. Of course, as I got older, I took on odd jobs like mowing neighbor’s yards to earn a little money.

In my neighborhood, we had a great group of children. We all would gather to play and race our bikes down suicide hill.

I remember one accident that sent me flying through the handlebars and sliding down the pavement for 20 feet or more. That still hurts just thinking about it. I had sores all over me from that adventure.

There were no cell phones — so the kids were kept on what I call time leashes. When we left the house, we were expected to come back by a certain time, usually meal time.

Of course, if any of us got into mischief, the news traveled faster than us and the punishment was waiting for us when we got home. In my case, a few choice words from Mom followed by “You just wait ‘til your father gets home.”

Those waits coupled with the sound of my dad pulling his belt out of his pants were always worse than the whipping themselves.

One thing about it, my father never punished me undeservingly, and while I can’t remember a single whipping, I sure learned the life lessons that accompanied them.

My friends and I had about a two to three-mile radius in which we played that encompassed, fields, woods, several neighborhoods and some stores. We had a Colonial Grocery Store, a Krystal, a gas station, dry cleaners and a Gulf Service Station within our travel patterns.

We would get in our share of disagreements with each other. That would lead usually to some hurt feelings and some rolling around on the ground ‘til someone would say “Uncle.” We always seemed to come through it. There really were no children who caused trouble in my age bracket. A few older ones sometimes got into mischief, but we always managed to keep out of trouble.

Do not get me wrong, there were bullies. We were just blessed not to have them on our street, at least for very long. I remember when I was about seven there were two brothers who took great pleasure in picking fights with me. At least, it seemed that way at the time.

A boy my age named Chris Sands moved in. His parents had just divorced, and at that time, it was not as usual, as it is now. I’ll never forget one meeting with those brothers that had me at the bottom of a wrestling match that I just could not win. Chris was the new guy in the neighborhood and saw that I was being unfairly targeted for this fight and stepped in to pull the other boys off me. From that moment on, he was my friend — that is until he later moved away, and I lost track of him.

While time has erased many of the memories of the time we spent together hanging out as kids, that one action by the new boy on the block sticks in my mind. He saw something that was not right, and he did something about it. Not knowing the social lay of the land and the dynamics of the neighborhood hierarchy, he stuck his neck out for me. That is bravery.

Now I’m not advocating fighting as a way to resolve issues for children or adults. I was taught that it takes much more courage to walk away than to actually fight. But when they jump on you, there are just a few hurdles you have to get over before you can walk away.

I learned a valuable lesson from Chris that day. I have always tried to stick up for others, but sadly, especially since starting to serve in local politics, I have found there are few willing to stick up for you as the bullies come out to tear you down, especially during an election.

Folks often do not like to stick their neck out to help other people, but when someone does, it makes our community a better place. Even during an election, it is better to walk away and not engage in the lowering of the standards of decency often practiced by other candidates and their backers.

We are truly blessed with people who work every day to help those who face many kinds of battles.

His steel could really sing

Barney Miller on the set of Lawless in 2011. (Randall Franks Media)

Barney Miller performs on the stage of the Ringgold Depot in Georgia in 2007.

From my earliest memory of country music, the sound and mix of fiddle
and steel working together to augment the vocalist has electrified my
interest in what some call classic country.
From the 1940s until Nov. 2, a talented Alabama steel and resonator
guitar man named Barney Miller has shared his talents alongside some
of the greats in Country and Western music, TV and film. He
eventually became a Georgian, where many of his musical recognitions
were achieved.
It was the early cowboy sidekicks Dub Taylor and Al “Fuzzy” St. John that took him from walking rows of crops on the farm to standing in
the footlights of stages across America. They put him in the ornate western costumes and helped him learn the inner workings of Hollywood stardom and Country & Western music touring.
Though his life and career carried him to be field engineer, construction company operator, deep-sea fishing charter boat captain, music teacher, and heating and air technician, just to name a few, his music carried him to contribute to the legacies of Grand Ole Opry stars such as Billy Walker and Ramblin’ Tommy Scott, TV personalities such as Claude Casey, and to appear in numerous films and TV shows himself. A major auto accident sidelined his musical efforts for a
time in the height of his demand as a musician, but he overcame the injuries to regain his ability to play the instrument he loved.
I was honored to be one of those artists who benefitted from his experience, his talents and his amazing storytelling. I knew him since my youth when he supported my young Peachtree Pickers. He loved to share a story about my mom and dad and one of our early performances for Buckner’s Restaurant where we both performed.
Later as my career moved to TV and country music notoriety, he became part of my musical legacy. I can’t put a finger on when it happened exactly, but one day, there was Barney and after that, he was always there, ready to go perform – county fairs, music festivals, and concerts, or a film or TV appearance whatever the opportunity. You can catch him performing from the set of Lawless with my Cornhuskers String Band on Randall Franks TV on YouTube. When I started our Share
America Foundation (www.shareamericafoundation.org) encouraging youth in Appalachian music, he became one of our
strongest musical contributors, helping us send numerous youth to college.
Barney left his slide and steel behind Nov. 2 for a brighter stage alongside many of the artists he knew in life, he was 87, though to me, I never thought of him as anything but eternally young, because of his uplifting spirit and amazing outlook on life. I can still hear his voice, see his smile and feel his steel meshing with my fiddle as we gave what is now considered a classic country feel to one of my songs – I’d just look over from center stage and say “Here’s Barney
Miller on the steel guitar” and the audience would come alive as he wowed them and me.

Two farewells that will keep music coming

Country music experienced two farewells recently, one from Kenny Rogers and another from John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Rogers completed his farewell performance to Nashville Oct. 25, All In For The Gambler, which reflected the amazing impact his musical career has had upon many genres and several generations.

An all-star cast of Rogers’ contemporaries – and many of today’s hottest musical artists – turned up Oct. 25 at the Bridgestone Arena in Music City to pay tribute to the Country Music Hall of Fame member, who is in the midst of his farewell tour, “The Gambler’s Last Deal.”

Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night belonged to Dolly Parton, who teamed with Rogers one last time on their 1983 hit “Islands In The Stream” after surprising both Rogers – and the audience – with a heartfelt performance of “I Will Always Love You” to her friend and collaborator. The two also reminisced about their lengthy friendship – which dates back to a Rogers appearance on her syndicated TV show from the mid 1970’s – almost a decade before they first teamed up. The two also closed out their performing career together with the Grammy-nominated “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” a single from 2013.

Star after star performed Rogers hits as the evening progressed beginning with earliest songs from the First Edition throughout his solo career. There were spellbinding performances taking place from The Oak Ridge Boys (“Love Or Something Like It”), Chris Stapleton (“The Gambler”), and Lady Antebellum (“She Believes In Me”). Many of the 80’s and 90’s hits of the singer were featured during The Gambler’s Last Deal as well. Billy Currington delivered a sensual take on “Morning Desire,” with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and Idina Menzel teaming up for “We’ve Got Tonight,” a 1983 Rogers hit with Sheena Easton. Two of the singers’ most frequent collaborators figured prominently in this era with appearances with Lionel Richie giving a beautiful take on “’Lady,” a number one Pop and Country hit that he wrote for Kenny’s Greatest Hits album in 1980, and Alison Krauss saluted the singer with a pristine version of his romantic ballad “Love The World Away.” Another incredible performance came from Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott and mother Linda Davis – who has toured extensively with Rogers over the years – uniting on stage for the singer’s 1987 chart-topper “Twenty Years Ago.”

There were several other great musical moments during All In For The Gambler, with Naomi and Wynonna Judd reuniting for “Back To The Well,” and an all-star group of Rogers’ former opening acts paying tribute to the icon with a sing-along performance of his 1982 hit “Blaze Of Glory,” including Travis Tritt, The Gatlin Brothers, Kim Forester, T.G. Sheppard, Crystal Gayle, Lee Greenwood, T. Graham Brown, and Billy Dean.
John McEuen, one of the founding members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB), has announced his immediate departure from the iconic group stating “enough is enough,” McEuen exited upon the conclusion of the NGDB 2017 tour in October.

“In assessing the situation surrounding our performances, business disagreements and ongoing difference of opinions, the timing is appropriate for my departure. As a catalyst to my decision, in December 2015, I received confirmation from Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Inc. that I was an ‘employee’– no longer a member of the corporation that I helped to build,” McEuen said.

He however is not ending his career but expanding his own solo career.

McEuen was instrumental in the NGDB band formation in 1966 and has celebrated groundbreaking and historical success alongside his counterparts over the past 50 years for the group’s significant contributions to the expression and expansion of American music worldwide. McEuen is most-widely recognized for his signature talents as “an extraordinary, multi-instrumentalist;” he has recorded more than 30 NGDB albums and created a lasting legacy for his seminal work on the Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, which McEuen initiated in 1971. Circle has been noted as “the most important record to come out of Nashville” by Rolling Stone and “the most important record in country music” (ZAGAT Survey/2004).

“It has been a great privilege to work alongside the others; together, we made history. After 50 years, the time has come for me to bid adieu to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band stage,” said John McEuen. “I will move forward with great pride in my personal and musical contributions to NGDB and now can fully concentrate on my independent endeavors. I have much to do and many more creative ideas to pursue. Because of this relationship, I have more stories than you can shake a pick at. (…That will come later!)”

McEuen has enjoyed a successful solo career with six albums to his credit; his most recent MADE IN BROOKLYN. McEuen has assembled an exquisite band of talented musicians to join him: Les Thompson (original founding NGDB member), John Cable (NGDB alumnus) and Matt Cartsonis. The foursome has created a multi-media show catering to some of the country’s most breath-taking opera houses and performing arts centers. He was recently inducted in the American Banjo Museum Hall of Fame. Visit johnmceuen.com for more information.