Category Archives: News

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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In Memoriam: Mindy McCready, 1975-2013

Mindy McCready

The very sad news that Mindy McCready has taken her own life has been reported by several sources.  Our hearts go out to her family and those close to her, especially her two young children.

Rather than focus on her troubled life, it seems most fitting to acknowledge this tragedy by spotlighting the bright spots in her life, particularly her musical talents.  While her music career is sparse compared to others who’ve been in the business as long as she has, her out put is noteworthy all the same.

In 2010, she released an album that went largely unnoticed, but I’m Still Here was a strong set of songs that found McCready in fine voice.  Included on the well produced project was a cover of Garth Brooks’ “The Dance,” along with some gems such as the regretful “Wrong Again,” the wistful “By Her Side,” and the stormy “I Want a Man.”

Of course, the height of Mindy’s success was in the mid nineties with memorable songs such as “Ten Thousand Angels,” “Guys Do It All the Time,” and “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now.”

Perhaps the most fitting tribute that Country Universe can pay to Mindy is the fact that the origins of our Six Pack series began with her music.  Kevin said it best, in May of 2008, when he wrote, “Mindy McCready made some great music back in her day, and I look forward to hearing more from her.  Quite frankly, she deserves to be known by her work, not her personal life.  Check out these six solid moments from her career and you’ll see what I mean.”

So, may we all follow Kevin’s advice, and know Mindy McCready for her work, not her personal life.

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Call to Action: Supplies and donations needed in the Rockaways

One of our favorite people, Juli Thanki over at Engine 145, is rallying the troops to help those in need in the Rockaways, where our own Kevin Coyne lives and once taught at a school seriously impacted by the storm.  He is now the principal of another school where many students and staff were impacted by the hurricane as well. We’re so grateful to her for taking this initiative, though we’re not surprised by her act of kindness.

Her Facebook post is below, which outlines the various supplies that are needed and how you can drop them off. If you’re not in the D.C. / Northern Virginia area and would still like to help, you can e-mail Leeann at leeann@countryuniverse.net for the PayPal account information. We sincerely appreciate anything you can do to help Kevin’s community. Thank you, as always, for being a part of the Country Universe family.

***

One of the best country music blogs out there is Country Universe, helmed by Kevin Coyne. In non-Internet

life, Kevin’s a school principal who lives in the Rockaways. Many of his teachers and students were severely affected by Hurricane Sandy. These folks are going to need a lot of help. That’s where we come in. Here’s a list of things they currently need:

Winter Clothes
Cleaning Supplies
Diapers/Pull Ups
Canned Food/Dry Food
Blankets
Hygiene Products/Hand Sanitizer/Wipes
Phone Cards/Metrocards
Pens/Pencils/Notebooks/Crayons/Colored Pencils
Early Childhood Toys/Furniture/Games/Puzzles
Children’s Books
Construction Paper/Folders

If you’re in the DC/Northern Virginia area and have goods to donate, I’ll come pick them up; just send me a message. We’re working on dropoff locations in other parts of the country, as well as setting up a PayPal fund. Obviously, rebuilding efforts are going to take a lot of time and money. But let’s do what we can to pitch in and help some people regain even the tiniest bit of normalcy to their lives. Thanks, everyone.

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In Memoriam: Kitty Wells, 1919-2012

Just a few weeks shy of her 93rd birthday, the Queen of Country Music has passed away.

Kitty Wells was the first female ordering viagra to canada country superstar, and for many years, the only consistent female hit-maker.

She also started a long tradition of controversial female records being banned at country radio.  Her answer song to “The Wild Side of Life” spent six weeks at #1 in 1952, and her name would forever be associated with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”  Indeed, the record made such a big impact that many don’t even know it was an answer song in the first place.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKleTa94dC8

Her other big classic was “Making Believe”, which spent an astonishing 15 weeks at #2 in 1955.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7Wqb3-Tzx0

Wells’ trailblazing career landed her at #9 on Country Universe’s 100 Greatest Women feature back in 2007.  You can read her entry here.

Rest in Peace, Miss Kitty Wells.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEbeblykyzw

 

 

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Thank You, Chris Neal

The country music community has lost a true beacon this week with the passing of Chris Neal, a superlative journalist and ally to independent blogs like ours.

As a ten-year staff writer for Country Weekly and a contributor to the Village Voice, Nashville Scene, Performing SongwriterThe 9513, and other publications, Chris helped set the standard for modern country music commentary, combining clear-eyed observations with his trademark acerbic wit. In a decade of confounding change for the genre’s industry and sound, he was a fearless voice of reason, equally comfortable celebrating country’s evolution and – no other word will do – “facepalming” over its less endearing developments. His recent work as Senior Editor of M Music & Musicians has only broadened his impact, delivering on his passion for all varieties of good music.

Of course, for many of us, Chris will be just as remembered for his lively presence across the web – including, blessedly, this blog. Who can forget how he would casually out-snark an entire comment thread of overheated 9513-ers? Who can forget the pure joy of his first batches of “country haiku”? Who can forget his pets?

But he wasn’t just a fun “internet friend,” either. Perhaps most enduringly, he was a mentor, an accomplished professional who used his platform again, and again, and again to help shine a light on writers he deemed deserving. It’s because of Chris Neal that many of us have the confidence and the audience to write about country music in this small way we do; and it’s because of his remarkable example that many of us keep trying in the first place.

We’ll miss you so much, friend. Thank you.

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Donna Summer: The Country Connection

Donna Summer, disco legend, passed away today at the age of 63.

Much like my earlier post on Whitney Houston's untimely passing, writing about Summer's death isn't completely foreign to our topic of country music.

Whereas Dolly Parton wrote a #1 pop hit by Whitney Houston, Donna Summer wrote a #1 country hit for Dolly Parton.

“Starting Over Again” is anything but a disco number.  It's a tender tale of a middle-aged couple divorcing after their children are grown:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10AzoYztsiM

Reba McEntire also covered the song in 1995, taking it back to the top twenty:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fi6ZdH9dqU&ob=av2e

Summer co-wrote many of her classic hits, including “Love to Love You Baby”, “Dim All the Lights”, “I Feel Love”, “Bad Girls”, and “She Works Hard for the Money.” But my favorite of her compositions is “On the Radio”, which I actually heard first by Emmylou Harris as a straight-up heartbreaking ballad:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkvu_ukXO2k

Needless to say, I was taken aback by the disco beat when I finally heard Summer's original version.

I haven't been writing much lately, but I couldn't let the passing of this timeless talent go by without comment.  Like Houston before her, she was a great singer who went too soon, and country music's legacy was just a little bit richer for her passing through.

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Country Music Hall of Fame Welcomes Garth Brooks, Connie Smith, and Hargus “Pig” Robbins

Garth Brooks, Connie Smith, and keyboardist Hargus “Pig” Robbins will join the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

Brooks is the top-selling country music artist in history.  At fifty, he is one of the youngest living inductees ever.

Smith is the fifth female artist to be inducted since 2008, when Emmylou Harris ended a nine year drought for female inductees.

Since playing on the George Jones classic “White Lightning” in 1957, Robbins has recorded with countless legends of country and rock music, including Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Alan Jackson, and Bob Dylan.

What’s your take on the 2012 inductees?  More importantly, who deserves to join them in 2013?

We’ll run a list of our picks for the next round. Share your suggestions in the comments!

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Whitney Houston: 1963-2012

On the eve of the Grammy Awards, music lost one of its greatest voices, as Whitney Houston died at age 48.

Her only tangential connection to country was a big one.  Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”  is one of the most successful singles in history, spending 14 weeks at #1 and pushing its parent album, The Bodyguard soundtrack, to sales of 44 million worldwide.

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, it was the first time it felt like we lost an icon of our generation.  But Jackson hit the charts with his brothers in 1969.

Whitney Houston was all eighties.  Everyone my age can remember the first time they heard her sing, back when “Greatest Love of All” and “How Will I Know” dominated the airwaves.  There was no matching that voice.

In the years that followed, many superstars would surface who could hit the big notes like Whitney, but not one of them came even close to doing it with her soul and her style.   She’s best known for her eighties pop classics and soundtrack hits from the nineties, but her best work was her underrated studio albums from the latter decade.

For those of you ready to delve into her catalog, don’t overlook 1990’s I’m Your Baby Tonight, which featured the stunning “All The Man That I Need”, the funky title track, and the should’ve been smash “My Name is Not Susan.”   Her best studio album, 1998’s My Love is Your Love, includes the classic title track, the Grammy-winning “It’s Not Right but it’s Okay”, and the tabloid-countering “In My Business.”

Watching the Super Bowl Half Time Show this year, I was again struck by how the eighties icons are surviving the test of time.   Madonna’s still at the top of her game, as are U2 and Bon Jovi.   Prince and Bruce Springsteen aren’t getting a lot of love for their new music, but are still amazing live and are still making excellent music.

But Michael Jackson’s gone, and now Whitney Houston is, too.  There was something so unique about the eighties that produced these larger than life stars.  I don’t know that the various mediums will ever be aligned well enough to create stars that big again.   We’re always going to have ladies with big, booming voices, but there will never be another who makes our collective jaws drop like Whitney Houston did.

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