Category Archives: News

2014 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees: Hank Cochran, Ronnie Milsap, and Mac Wiseman

Ronnie MilsapGood news for three legends of the genre, one of whom we lost to cancer only four years ago:

Ronnie Milsap, Mac Wiseman and the late Hank Cochran are the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Wiseman got his start in music after contracting polio as a child, which kept him out of the fields in his native Virginia. He was an original member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys, made his Grand Ole Opry debut with Bill Monroe, was an executive with the influential Nashville independent label Dot Records and a founding board member of the Country Music Association.Milsap, inducted in the modern era category, was an established talent by the time he arrived in Nashville in the 1970s. He’d played in J.J. Cale’s band in the early 1960s and moved to Memphis to work with Chips Moman at the hit-making American Studios, where he worked with Elvis Presley, among others, before accepting an invitation to go to Nashville to record for RCA Records.

It was something of an experiment for Milsap, known as an R&B and rock singer, but he made sure he had a regular gig before he hit town, playing nightly at Roger Miller’s King of the Road Hotel.

He found country fans were open to his style, and he went on to win several Grammy Awards, the CMA’s entertainer of the year award in 1977 and four album of the year awards between 1975 and 1986.

Cochran, who is being inducted posthumously in the songwriter category, probably secured his place in country music history when he got Willie Nelson a songwriting job at Pamper Music by forgoing his own raise.

He wrote the Ray Price standard “Make the World Go Away” and Patsy Cline’s second most-memorable song, “I Fall to Pieces” (following Nelson’s own “Crazy”), among many others.

He died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer shortly after a touching bedside singalong that included friends Jamey Johnson, Buddy Cannon and Billy Ray Cyrus.

Source: Associated Press via CBS News

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In Memoriam: Kevin Sharp, 1970-2014

Kevin SharpNineties country star Kevin Sharp has passed away at the age of 43 from complications relating to cancer.

Sharp had major success with his debut album, Measure of a Man, which spawned three big hits: “Nobody Knows”, a Tony Rich Project cover that spent four weeks at #1, and two additional top five follow-up singles, “If You Love Somebody” and “She’s Sure Taking it Well.”

Sharp’s inspirational biography made his early success especially impressive. He suffered from a rare form of bone cancer that was so dire that he received a Make-a-Wish grant that introduced him to record producer David Foster.  After Sharp’s cancer went into remission, they remained in contact and Foster helped Sharp secure a contract with Asylum Records.

Sharp’s success came during a transitional time in country music, before one-hit wonders became far more common but while one-album wonders were becoming prominent.  Like Lari White, Paul Brandt, Michael Peterson, Deana Carter, and Ricochet, Sharp seemed to have garnered a foothold at radio, scoring several hits off a breakthrough album.

But like those other artists, radio completely ignored the follow-up project, Love is, in 1998.   Despite his first set going gold, he parted ways with his label after the second collection wasn’t a success.  A few years earlier, and radio would’ve probably played more of his second album. A few years later, and the burgeoning independent label scene and digital distribution methods might have made it easier for his career to maintain momentum.

Still, he found great success on the road in the new century, this time as an inspirational speaker, and he released an independent album in 2005, appropriately titled, Make a Wish.   By this time, he was a spokesperson for the organization that once introduced him to Foster.  His 2004 memoir’s title, Tragedy is a Gift, speaks to the positivity that defined Sharp’s work and made him such a wonderful addition to the country music scene in the latter half of the nineties.

 

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Musgraves, Clark, Monroe dominate Annual Nashville Scene Critics’ Poll

kacey-musgravesMuch like they dominated the Country Universe lists, Nashville Scene’s 14th Annual Country Music Critics’ Poll finds Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, and Ashley Monroe on top.

This year, six of our seven Country Universe writers voted in the poll, with Sam Gazdziak featuring heavily in the comments section!

Congratulations to Sam, and to all of the artists who did so well this year!

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In Memoriam: Ray Price (1926-2013)

Ray PriceCountry Music Hall of Famer Ray Price has passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 87.

Price was instrumental in two of the most significant historical periods in country music, leading the way in both the twin fiddle-dominated honky-tonk of the 1950′s and the Nashville Sound pop crossover sound in the 1970′s.   While it was the former style that was dubbed the “Ray Price Shuffle”, it was the latter style that brought his greatest commercial success.

A touring artist well into his eighties, Price also recorded music right up until his illness, winning a Grammy in 2008 for his collaboration with fellow legend Willie Nelson.

This tremendous loss joins George Jones, Jack Clement, and Jack Greene in the ranks of country music legends who have passed away this year.  2013 also brought the tragic death of Mindy McCready, the near death scare for Randy Travis, and the heartbreaking news that Linda Ronstadt has lost her voice to Parkinson’s.  For country music fans, 2014 cannot come soon enough.

Enjoy two classic Ray Price hits below, one from each of his definitive eras:

“Crazy Arms”:

“For the Good Times”

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Linda Ronstadt elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Linda Ronstadt TimeCountry-rock pioneer and Country Universe favorite Linda Ronstadt will join the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year.

She will enter popular music’s most elite company alongside fellow inductees Nirvana, Cat Stevens, Hall and Oates, Peter Gabriel, and KISS.

Ronstadt was last nominated seven years ago.  During the seventies, Ronstadt was widely regarded as rock’s leading lady, while also commanding respect and success in the country market with her genre-bending Asylum records.

Congratulations to Linda Ronstadt and her fellow inductees.

Enjoy a clip of Ronstadt performing at the Rockpalast Festival in Germany in 1976:

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In Memoriam: Cowboy Jack Clement, 1931-2013

Cowboy Jack ClementThe long list of country music greats lost in 2013 continues with the passing of Cowboy Jack Clement, who succumbed to liver cancer yesterday morning at the age of 82.

Few have done so much to shape country music from behind the scenes as this legendary songwriter and producer.  In addition to writing some of the genre’s best-loved songs, he produced classic records such as “Ring of Fire” and “Dreaming My Dreams with You,” as well as Bobby Bare’s concept album A Bird Named Yesterday.  He also played an instrumental role in launching the careers of icons such a Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, while helping the now-legendary Charley Pride become one of the first major African-American country stars.  He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and is one of this year’s inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Be sure to check out this fine in-depth tribute by the always reliable Peter Cooper, as well as some personal remembrances by his good friends Kris Kristofferson and Marty Stuart.

Finally, enjoy the following performances of some of Clement’s most beloved compositions.  We at Country Universe are saddened to hear of Clement’s passing, and we extend our condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

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In Memoriam: George Jones (1931-2013)

Celeb Q&A George JonesRest in Peace, Possum.

An extensive tribute piece to follow.  In the meantime, enjoy the voice that will remain immortal and share your memories and favorite songs in the comments.

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Country Music Hall of Fame Welcomes Cowboy Jack Clement, Bobby Bare, and Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers

This year’s inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame have just been announced from Nashville by Bill Anderson.  The 2013 inductees are Cowboy Jack Clement (Non-Performer), Bobby Bare (Veterans Era), and Kenny Rogers (Modern Era).

Songwriter and producer Jack Clement, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame since 1973, claims writer’s credit for some of country music’s most beloved classics.  He supplied Johnny Cash with multiple hits, including the standard “Ballad of a Teenage Queen,” and has also had his songs recorded by the likes of Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Hank Snow, and Ray Charles, among many other legendary artists.

Bobby Bare enjoyed a run of country hits throughout the sixties and seventies, including genre classics such as “Detroit City,” “500 Miles Away from Home,” “Four Strong Winds,” and “Marie Lavaux.”  He hosted the program Bobby Bare and Friends on The Nashville Network from 1983 t0 1988, and in the late nineties, enjoyed a strong second act as a member of the country music supergroup Old Dogs with friends and fellow legends Jerry Reed, Mel Tillis, and Waylon Jennings.

Kenny Rogers is widely known for his beloved 1978 classic “The Gambler” – a Grammy and CMA-winning crossover smash that spawned a TV serial adaptation in which Rogers starred.  His multifaceted career has also included success with his band The First Edition, as well as crossover success lasting on through the 1980s and hit duets with stars such as Kim Carnes, Sheena Easton, Dottie West, and Dolly Parton.

Congratulations to the 2013 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees from the Country Universe community.  What’s your take on this year’s inductees, and who would you like to see follow them into the Hall in 2014?

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In Memoriam: Jack Greene, 1930-2013

Jack GreeneCountry music lost one of its legendary talents today with the passing of Jack Greene, who succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 83.

Affectionately nicknamed the “Jolly Green Giant” for his lofty stature, Jack Greene was one of country music’s biggest stars in the late sixties and early seventies, remembered for his classic hits such as “There Goes My Everything” and “Statue of a Fool.”  At the very first CMA Awards ceremony in 1967, Jack Greene was one of the biggest winners of the night, winning Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year for “There Goes My Everything,” and Album of the Year for his LP of the same name.  He had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1967, and was a regular presence on the show up until his retirement in 2011.

In many ways, Jack Greene’s death

feels like the end of an era – truly a huge loss for country music.  May the Jolly Green Giant rest in peace.

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Remembering March 5, 1963

patsy-clineToday is the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of Opry stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, pilot Randy Hughes, and most famously, the now-iconic Patsy Cline.

Several events have been held to commemorate the tragedy, including a recent Country Music Hall of Fame panel discussion as well as the “Gone, But Not Forgotten” music festival that was held March 2 in Camden, Tennessee (the town in which the crash site is located).  The anniversary has also been the subject of some fine articles that are well worth reading, such as this piece

by Peter Cooper for The Tennessean.

Today seems like a particularly appropriate time to revisit the music of the three stars who perished that night, all of whom left behind strong musical legacies whose value has not diminished with time.

Embedded below is a video that features Patsy Cline singing her classic “Leavin’ On Your Mind,” the final single she released before her death, after which she had a pair of posthumous classic hits with “Sweet Dreams” and “Faded Love.”

Be sure also to check out Kevin’s fine piece on Cline from Country Universe’s 100 Greatest Women countdown.

Cowboy Copas performs “Alabam,” his twelve-week number one smash from 1960.

Finally, here’s Hawkshaw Hawkins with “Lonesome 7-7203,” his final single release and only Billboard number one hit.

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