Alabama’s Randy Owen receives special honor

When I started in country music one of the acts which was taking the
industry by storm was Alabama. Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry
left the cotton farms of Fort Payne, Alabama to spend the summer
playing music in a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina bar called The
Bowery. It’s a classic American tale of rags to riches. From humble
beginnings picking cotton in the fields, to international stars that
went on to sell 80 million albums, while changing the face and sound
of country music.

Culverhouse College of Business Dean Kay M. Palan formally inducts Randy Owen into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame / Photo credit: JAMM Entertainment

Recently Alabama frontman Randy Owen was formally inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. Owen’s induction comes as result of his business dealings in music, agriculture and humanitarianism.

“It’s a great honor to be one of this year’s inductees into the
Alabama Business Hall of Fame,” says Owen. “It’s very special that my
entire family got to share the night together. God bless all the
fellow inductees, their families and our home state!”

Founded in 1973 by the Board of Visitors of the Culverhouse College
of Commerce at The University of Alabama, the Alabama Business Hall
of Fame honors, preserves and perpetuates the names and outstanding
accomplishments of business personalities who have brought lasting
fame to the state of Alabama.

Owen has been the lead vocalist of ALABAMA, the most successful and
awarded band in country music history, for nearly 50 years. When he’s
not writing songs or performing on the road, Owen stays busy in Fort
Payne, Alabama, operating his 3,000-acre ranch, Tennessee River
Music, Inc., where he tends to 500 head of Hereford and Angus cattle.

Much of Owen’s time is spent helping others through his humanitarian
efforts, such as launching Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, an annual
radiothon fundraising event that has garnered more than $800 million
for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He received the Ellis
Island Award for his charity work with St. Jude.

Owen and ALABAMA have played a key role in several disaster relief
initiatives, including organizing and playing concerts to support
rebuilding efforts from tornadoes that struck Tuscaloosa in 2011 and
Jacksonville State University (his alma mater) in March of this year.

Lights, carols and sadness

Christmas for many is filled with favorites – food, music, decorations, and family.

But for many the month of December is filled with reminders of what can be overcome in other months of the year.

Loneliness is a feeling that many manage throughout the year. When Christmas comes around though up goes the beauty of the colored lights and crowds flock to shopping malls to fill their stockings and beneath their trees. Folks are hosting parties, calendars are filled with special events in towns, churches, and at schools and all we see reminds us of the blessings of the season.

You would think that all these activities would make those who are lonely feel better especially if they are able to participate. They are fun while they last and do bring spirits up. Often seeing others having fun together at malls or parties only brings on greater depths of missing loved ones or lost opportunities at love once the lights fade and sounds go silent.

Eventually, the individual must return to their home, to the four walls and empty halls. This is when the sadness of the season sinks in.

Does this mean we should not try to uplift others during this season of love? No, it means we should only try harder to make a difference in the lives of those God sends our way who are alone in life. God made all types of people, some are quite sufficient on their own. But there are those who need us to remind them each day, each week that they are not alone.

Are you helping in this effort? Is there a relative who may be widowed? A friend who is single? A child who is orphaned? Can you make this season better for them? Will you help them when the lights fade and the music goes silent?

We are here to encourage one another. This Christmas season, I urge you to remember that God sent His Son to save us from the loneliness of this world and remind us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.

If we do anything this season, let’s remember that for life to be better for those around us, it begins with us. If I feel lonely, I think of what I was taught by a now 102-year-old – the advice her father gave to her: “If you want a friend, you have to be a friend.” It’s amazing how uplifting it is to spend your time helping others. It has always made a difference in my life. Go out and be a friend – it’s a wonderful Christmas gift!

I’m a pickin’ and I’m a grinnin’

Throughout my childhood there were two consistent high points to weekends –

Saturday nights at 7 p.m. for “Hee Haw” and Sunday mornings for “The Gospel Singing Jubilee.”

In the course of one week, America said goodbye to key stars of both of those shows which made up a huge piece of the American fabric with the passing of Roy Clark, 85, and Les Beasley, 90.

After I myself became a music artist and TV personality, I was honored to come to know both of them but for a hopeful musically-inclined child, they were the doors through which my weekly energies, enthusiasm and hopes were fueled.

Randall Franks and Roy Clark back stage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1994.

With each passing week, I looked forward to the musical performances shared by Roy, Buck Owens and other cast members who made up Kornfield Kounty. The comedy kept my parents and I laughing but the music raised my hopes and dreams of doing what they did. “Hee Haw” became the longest running syndicated show in history.

The legendary ‘superpicker’, was a Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member. That is where I met him and he began encouraging me in person. He won Grammys, CMA and ACM awards. From performances on “The Odd Couple” to “The Beverly Hillbillies,” to a frequent guest host on “The Tonight Show” for Johnny Carson, Roy wowed audiences with is greased lightning fingers no matter what instrument was in his hands.

In 1969, Yesterday, When I Was Young charted Top 20 Pop and #9 Country (Billboard). Including Yesterday, Clark has had 23 Top 40 country hits, among them eight Top 10s: The Tips Of My Fingers (#10, 1963), I Never Picked Cotton (#5) and Thank God And Greyhound You’re Gone (#6, 1970), The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter Revolution Polka (#9, 1972), Come Live With Me (#1) and Somewhere Between Love And Tomorrow (#2, 1973), and If I Had It To Do All Over Again (#2, 1976). In addition, his 12-string guitar rendition of Malaguena is considered a classic and, in 1982, he won a Grammy (Best Country Instrumental Performance) for Alabama Jubilee.

Sunday mornings as the bacon cooked, biscuits baked and we dressed for church, the television was tuned into “The Gospel Singing Jubilee” starring The Florida Boys led by Les Beasley.

J.G. Whitfield hired him in 1953 to sing in his Gospel Melody Quartet, which was later renamed The Florida Boys. After the retirement of Mr. Whitfield, Les assumed part ownership with Glen Allred and Derrell Stewart and leadership of the quartet, and continued those roles until 2007.

During his time with The Florida Boys, he was a key decisive leader in the development, promotion, and expansion of many of the entities that have provided the foundation of the modern era of Gospel music: “The Gospel Singing Jubilee” TV program, the National Quartet Convention, The Gospel Music Association, and others.

Watching the Happy Goodmans, The Marksmen Quartet and so many others on that show helped to further fuel the musical fire and hopes and dreams to perform and share the Southern gospel music stylings.

I came to know Les as I became part of gospel music and he was also a great encouragement to me and I always was honored when stepping on the National Quartet Convention stage knowing it was watching Les and the Jubilee that helped get me there.

America lost two great contributors to the American songbook, though their contributions remain, their presence will always be missed.

Cooking, cleaning and compliments

Thanksgiving is a time in my memory that takes me back to the days of splendidly set tables, endless rows of holiday delights and friends and family gathered with their heads bowed thanking God for his blessings upon our homes.

I can still smell the turkey turning a golden brown, the sage that flavored the cornbread dressing baked from scratch, or the tempting urge to run my fingers through the icing of that double layered coconut cake. Read more

Upon the shoulders of greatness

I have spent some of my most recent months asking my distant relatives for help in honoring our ancestors through the restoration or placement of tombstones of generations past.
It is a small act that we can share to recognize decades of work, tears, blood, and hopes and dreams given by those who preceded our existence. In many cases, we can divide it up at $10 to $20 each to make the costs light upon us all. The price of a meal can sometimes set in stone the gift of life that we were shared by a previous generation. Stones do not have to be fancy, just a simple marker with names and dates.
While some of our family lines were well to do and had the means to mark their passing, in many cases, they scraped out a meager existence on a farm and often found themselves at times of death without the means to buy a store-bought stone. So, a rock or wooden cross was used to mark the grave.
Sometimes their remains were buried in church graveyard, community cemeteries, family cemeteries or simply in the soil where they poured their adult life and strength. I can think of one of my great, great grandparents buried on their farm, which I am told, now rest underneath a building. I never knew just where they were buried and sadly no one alive really would at this point.
No matter where their earthly remains are, their plots still need care, though often its been generations since their names crossed anyone’s lips. There are church, private and public cemetery committees struggling each year to pay thousands to mow and weed eat cemeteries. Have you donated to those? The cemetery for your parents, grandparents or even ancestors further back.
Right now, I am working on restoration or tombstone projects on my great, great grandparents both of my paternal grandmother and grandfather. I hoped to do these since I was a youth beginning to build my genealogy. I am closing in on raising the funds and hope to have these complete soon.
Sadly, in one case, the passage of time has lost the official cemetery plots, so the stone with the direction of the cemetery committee will be in the section of the cemetery where many of our family and their contemporaries were interred. Had it been done when I was little, there were still family members who could physically point to their plots, but they are lost to time.
Our family is blessed that some of our ancestors resting places are cared for by state or national park staff in some areas of the country where our folks were uniquely intertwined with America’s regional or national history.
The key thought I want to share is think of how you want to be remembered? You are working to make a difference oftentimes for your children and grandchildren. Your parents and grandparents did the same as theirs did before them. Each generation has hopes and dreams for those that follow. We stand on the shoulders of generations of men and women who through the centuries contributed to us being here. Learning their names, visiting their graves or places they were in life helps us connect with the lifeforce they passed to us. When we find their past presence is disappearing, we should join with other descendants and help to see it remains.

Take off the gloves and put on the mitts

The election season is finally over once again, barring any post-count legal maneuverings by either side.
It is now time for all candidates on every tier of government to take off the boxing gloves, shake hands and come out fighting for the American people rather than against each other.
I have often wondered what miracles could be accomplished if candidates took those millions they use to travel around the country via bus and plane, creating a presence on television, radio, newspaper and Internet while smiling, waving, shaking hands and kissing babies, to accomplish something needed in our country like improving some roads and bridges.
Of course, this is a dream that will never be realized. In the early days of our country, people were simply elected on the merit of what was written about them in newspapers and through word of mouth.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most Americans to even get to see a candidate let alone a president.
We had candidates such as Washington, Jefferson, Adams and countless others who traveled as far as the horse and buggy or ship or boat might carry them.
When trains came along, candidates would stump largely only where the rails could carry them. The classic speech from the rear of a caboose is a wonderful early political image.
Today, however, candidates are in our face almost every minute trying to get our attention to get behind their agenda.
It is safe to say that more money has probably been spent in some races than ever before. What could be done with that? What if it was put in Social Security? What if it was used to help our military families? Instead, it pads the coffers of every advertising concern on earth. At least that helps to pay the salaries of folks like me, who pound away on the computer to try to shed light on the news and encourage with uplifting words. I guess that is one benefit that I do appreciate.
Now that it is all over and the gloves are off, candidates could instead put on their mitts. Let’s have all the candidates — winners and losers — form baseball teams and gather in the largest stadium in the country and face off one final time for the enjoyment of the people. It could be shown on pay-per-view, and the money raised from the event could go toward helping pay down the national debt.
That would at least be more entertaining than the last many months have been.
This would be a tremendous way for candidates to help relieve the tension placed on families across the country.
If baseball isn’t the answer, they could don oven mitts and the competition could be a bake-off. With the popularity of the Food Network these days, I bet even that would work. Maybe they could all volunteer to serve us our as our cooks for Thanksgiving.
Then after the games are over, hopefully, they can all shakes hands, and the winners and losers can work together to make our country a better place to live.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful.

A little Goober each day is a must

As we watch television classics, there are many character actors that have made their marks and found niches that have allowed them to keep in front of the American public for years and years.

One of those actors was introduced to the American television family in the 1960s.

Initially, like so many actors – George Lindsey rode onto the screen playing a bad sort opposite the heroes of the little screen westerns on shows like “Gunsmoke” with James Arness, Ken Curtis and the rest of the gang. He returned to that series in six seasons playing various roles. I remember watching him as a colorful mountain trapper with a mean streak a mile long on that show.

He also appeared on “The Rifleman” with Chuck Connors.

He came to the big screen in the film “Ensign Pulver” as “Lindstrom” in the film starring Burl Ives, Walter Matthau and Robert Walker, Jr. My friend Larry Hagman was also part of that cast.

When reviewing the Alabamian’s career, it seems it took off about 1964. Of course, that is the year that he took on the role that would make him a household name – as “Goober Pyle” on “The Andy Griffith Show”

That role endeared him to tens of millions of Americans and fans around the world.

He portrayed it there through the end of “Mayberry R.F.D.” in 1971, and also made an appearance on “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” After the networks cut down and show with a tree in it in the early 1970s, George took “Goober” to the rows of Kornfield County as part of the cast “Hee Haw” where he remained for more than twenty years. He even did a show in the late 1970s called “Goober and the Trucker’s Paradise.”

Despite the fact that America knew him as “Goober,” George continued special appearances on numerous shows appearing in a variety of roles from “Love, American Style,” “Fantasy Island,” “ChiPS,” Claude Akins’ “Movin’ On’” and Alan Alda’s “M*A*S*H.”

His role as “Captain Roy Dupree” on “M*A*S*H” still stands out in my memory. His depiction was larger than life and he stood out among that mega cast of characters.

He added his voice to many animated characters beginning with his work in “Aristocats” in 1970 to “Starszinger” series most recently in 2011.

I had only one opportunity to see George in passing in my TV and country music career, but his talents have entertained me throughout my lifetime. I know that he has given tirelessly to help others with the notoriety his career garnered.

He has given us so much comfort and healing of our hearts by lifting our spirits, our hopes and even our desires to do more for our fellow man. I know he would want me to tell you “Goober says ‘hey’” and I am sure glad that he did.

The choices we make touch other lives

In life we are constantly faced with choices. We are blessed or cursed with the gift of free will, depending on your perspective.

From the smallest detail of “Do you want fries with that?” to “Do you take this woman to be your wife?” in America, we have endless choices.

People can choose to work hard and by doing so achieve great success and accumulate wealth. Some choose to dedicate their energies to benefiting humanity.

Each choice we make sets us upon a path. Even the simplest thing like having one extra cup of coffee in the morning could change your schedule enough to prevent you from being involved in an auto accident.

As I look back on my choices, there are some I would like to change in spite of the fact I do not know what path changing them would have brought. Nevertheless, I cannot change them; I only have the power over what lies ahead, not behind. I can only try to learn from those past choices.

Using my television exposure as a podium, I have spent much of my life speaking to youth about living a successful drug-free life. My work yielded the attention of the National Drug Abuse Resistance Education Officer’s Association. Consequently, they made me an honorary D.A.R.E. officer. I have encouraged thousands across the country to make the choice not to use drugs. I do not know if any made that choice. I can only hope that at least one did.

No matter how you try to influence others, the ultimate choice lies with them. With that choice also lies consequences. When you make a choice that effects you, your family or even others you do not know, it is up to you to take responsibility for what that choice brings.

Many times people try to shift the blame if things are not going as they planned. I think we pick up this behavior as a child. It is the old “He did it” approach to avoid punishment. I do not know about you but that never worked for me. It only made the punishment worse.

Last week I attended a teen/parent forum at the Colonnade that included a discussion from both parents and teens on the issue of parents making choices for their children that affect other children. Choices such as providing alcohol for teen parties or even adults turning a blind eye to drug use by not being vigilant supervisors, as they should.

Some parents may say “I’d rather have them doing it where I can keep an eye on them,” but when other children are involved I imagine their parents might like to have a say and an eye involved in the situation as well. At least that is what the parents at the forum said.

Each choice we make, in some way, affects someone else — sometimes people we do not even know, such as that driver who might be injured by a teenage drunk driver coming from a supervised party where alcohol was served.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not focusing on these parents exclusively. The teenagers admit that even if parents are not providing, some of them will find a way to get alcohol themselves from older siblings, buying it themselves at establishments which do not card them or by sneaking it from a parent when they are not watching.

Unfortunately, these teenage actions expand to various types of drugs, including prescription pills out of medicine cabinets as well.

No matter what choice you make, they are your choices. You ultimately have to live with what results from them. So if you are making a life-changing choice, become informed about what may happen depending on which path your choice leads you.

Even if it turns out to be the wrong choice, at least you did not go down that path with blinders on.

Living in a Coffee World and Beau Weevils

It’s always a pleasure to see old friends succeed in their efforts.

One of my favorite comedians is Tim Lovelace and I have had the honor to share the stage and make thousands laugh.

He is having an amazing run with his project Living in a Coffee World. It has consistently stayed in the top 10 on Billboard’s chart for comedy albums, is currently sitting at number seven and shows no sign of slowing down.

“Tim makes the extra effort to ensure his comedy is appropriate for all ages,” said Nate Goble, StowTown Records producer and co-owner. “To be consistently in the Top 10 Billboard Comedy Album chart among such comedic greats as Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan is fantastic. We are proud of Living in a Coffee World.”

Tim said he was excited about the success.

“I appreciate the team behind this Billboard Top 10 longevity; StowTown Records owners Wayne Haun, Ernie Haase, Landon Beene and Nate Goble, along with their incredible staff and the staff at Sony/Provident, have made this an incredible journey,” he said. “I have enjoyed taking the Coffee World Tour around the country this past year, and am hooking up my caffeine IV drip so that I can extend the tour into 2019.”

Living in a Coffee World is distributed exclusively by Sony/Provident and is available at retail and digital outlets worldwide. To learn more visit, www.TimLovelace.com.

I was privileged to attend the National Quartet Convention at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It was an amazing opportunity to visit with the top talents of Southern Gospel music while catching many of them perform on stage.

The Southern Gospel Music Association inducted its 2018 class of Hall of Fame members at the event. They included Ann Downing, the late Tracy Stuffle of the Perrys, Mark Trammell, and the late Norman Wilson of the Primitive Quartet.  To learn more, visit https://sgma.org.

Another old friend – Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels is aiming for his latest studio album, Beau Weevils – Songs in the Key of E, set for release on Friday, October 26.

The new ten-track album features lead vocals, guitar and fiddle by Daniels, James Stroud on drums and percussion, Billy Crain on guitar, and Charlie Hayward on bass.

Beau Weevils – Songs in the Key of E is the culmination of a long held desire of James Stroud and myself to do a project together,” says Daniels. “We had worked together, with James in the capacity of producer, which had resulted in some of our most successful albums for The Charlie Daniels Band, but James is one of the finest and most soulful drummers in the business and I figured we could get together, musician to musician, and come up with something special. We just needed a vehicle in the form of songs that would fit the bill.”

Pre-sale album orders are available now at Amazon.com.

Cousin Will and the telephone

One of my readers wrote in and asked for a bit of humor, so I decided to share these comedy routines below.

Remember all they asked for was a bit!

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