The recent streak of tragedy in country music continued on April 6 when we lost the "First Lady of Country Music," the legendary Tammy Wynette. Tammy passed away in her sleep at her Nashville home which once belonged to Hank Williams, Sr. It is suspected that she died from a blood clot in her lung.
Tammy was born Virginia Wynette Pugh on May 5, 1942 in Itawamba County, Miss. Tammy's often tragic life began on a low note when her father passed away from a brain tumor when she was a mere 8-months-old. Her mother worked during W.W.II, during which time she lived on her grandparents' farm and picked cotton. When she was 17, Tammy married construction worker Euple Byrd and went to beauty school and became a licensed beautician (a license she held until her death). Within three years, she had a failed marriage and three children to raise all alone, a recurring scene in her life. In 1966, Tammy packed up her babies and headed to Nashville to be a "country star," a title she aptly lived.
Tammy's life was one of many highs and lows. Often scraping to get by, she was divorced four times, including the legendary George Jones, whom she was married to from 1969 until 1975. In Sept. 1978, Tammy was kidnapped from a shopping plaza, driven outside of Nashville, beaten, and left behind. In recent years, she was plagued with several illnesses which required numerous surgeries. Although her personal life was often tragic, her country music career was quite the opposite. She earned more than 20 #1 hits and was honored extensively by the Country Music Association, Academy of Country Music, and the Grammys. And to top off her life, Tammy finally met true love when she met her most recent manager George Richey, whom she was happily married to since 1978.
Some of the biggest names in country music gathered in the Ryman Auditorium on April 9 for a touching memorial service that I was honored to have the opportunity to attend. The service began with J.D. Sumner & The Stamps, followed by Randy Travis' a capella rendition of "Precious Moments," and a deeply moving and emotional speech by Tammy's pal Naomi Judd. Naomi then introduced Wynonna who delivered possibly the most powerful performance of "How Great Thou Art" ever sung. Record producer and songwriter Norro Wilson offered his memories of a legend, followed by more musical tributes including The Oak Ridge Boys and Rudy Gatlin, who performed a medley of "I'll Fly Away" and "I Saw The Light" along with Tammy's band. Upon request, one of Tammy's best girlfriends, Dolly Parton, lightened the mood a little with humorous memories of her dear friend and broke into song singing "I Didn't Hear The Thunder," a song she and Tammy began writing together. She continued with a brand new song, titled "Shine On," and tearfully dedicated a chorus of her signature song "I Will Always Love You" to Tammy. Merle Haggard sent his condolences via video, while Lorrie Morgan closed the service with a hair-raising performance of "Amazing Grace" and, upon request from the family, Tammy's signature tune, "Stand By Your Man." Offering accompaniment to Lorrie, Tammy's band and backup singers closed this chapter in country music history with their last ever performance of this classic tune.
When the 33rd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards were handed out Apr. 22 in California, country music's favorite couple, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, may as well have just sat on the stage as their smash duet swept the program, snagging a whopping four trophies. This tune, which broke records when it topped the country charts for an amazing six weeks, was named Single Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Video of the Year, and Vocal Event of the Year. Trailing behind Mr. and Mrs. McGraw (who happen to be expecting their second child this summer) was the ever-so-popular George Strait with two awards: Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year for Carrying Your Love With Me. Trisha Yearwood continued her streak of success when she accepted the trophy for Female Vocalist of the Year.
In addition to taking top honors as Entertainer of the Year, Garth Brooks was honored with the Special Achievement Award. And Charlie Daniels was totally surprised when Garth read his name off as the 1998 recipient of the Pioneer Award.
And the winners are: Entertainer of the Year: Garth Brooks; Female Vocalist of the Year: Trisha Yearwood; Male Vocalist of the Year: George Strait; Vocal Duo or Group: Brooks & Dunn; New Female Vocalist: Lee Ann Womack; New Male Vocalist: Kenny Chesney; New Group or Duo: The Kinleys.
Album of the Year: George Strait's Carrying Your Love With Me; Vocal Event of the Year: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill's "It's Your Love"; Song of the Year: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill's "It's Your Love" written by Stephony Smith; Single Record of the Year: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill's "It's Your Love"; Video of the Year: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill's "It's Your Love"; Pioneer Award: Charlie Daniels; Special Achievement Award: Garth Brooks.
The following musicians were honored in the instrumental categories: Glenn Worf--bass, Eddie Bayers--drums, Larry Franklin--fiddle, Brent Mason--guitar, Matt Rollings--keyboard, Jerry Douglas--specialty instrument (dobro), and Paul Franklin and Jay Dee Maness tied for best steel guitarist.
Nightclub of the Year: Bakersfield, Calif.'s The Crystal Palace; Radio Station of the Year: Chicago, Ill.'s US99; Disc Jockey of the Year: WQYK's Tom Rivers in Tampa, Fla.; Talent Buyer/Promoter: Gil Cunningham of Omaha, Neb.'s Don Romeo Agency.
Congratulations to all the winners!
The hottest concert news around town is that megastar Garth Brooks is coming to Freedom Hall Friday, May 22. Although tickets had not gone on sale as of press time, I'm sure tickets will be a hot commodity and that they will go quite fast. Good luck at getting your tickets. If Garth continues tradition, if the show sells out, he will add as many shows as necessary to please the fans. Garth Brooks fan or no, if you've never seen the "G-Man" live in concert, this is a show you won't want to miss. Never before will you have felt such energy and excitement in one place at one time.
To many folks, the number 13 is a very superstitious and unlucky number. Although not superstitious, international superstar Dolly Parton wondered if small problems with sound systems, video equipment, burning trams, and thunderstorms during the opening weekend of Dollywood's 13th season last month were caused by this little "devil." Well, for me personally, 13 is a very lucky number, and it didn't let me down as I was on hand for Dollywood's opening festivities. I was finally fortunate enough to meet Dolly in person, a goal of mine for several years now. I guess the old saying "good things come to those who wait" is true.
Since the closing of Opryland, Dollywood, which is located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is the only theme park remaining in the entire state of Tenn. Dolly fans will be happy to know that the park is finally offering a signature production all about Dolly this operating season titled "Paradise Road: The Life and Songs of Dolly Parton." This 90-minute Broadway-style production is a must see for any country music fan as it takes the audience from Dolly's childhood to Nashville to Hollywood to the tabloids and back again. Although Dolly claims she didn't want to lose her wig and mess up her makeup on the park's newest ride addition, daredevils will love Daredevil Falls, touted as America's highest and fastest waterfall ride, descending 64-feet at more than 50 miles per hour.
Trace Adkins, Deana Carter, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Tracy Lawrence, Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Lee Roy Parnell, and Bryan White are among 24 country artists suing Calif. businessman Jim E. Salmon. Salmon has reserved Internet addresses which are comprised of country artists names, which is totally legal, but he proceeded to place pornography on these web sites back in Feb. For example, when a fan went to the Internet address www.traceadkins.com, there was nothing related to Trace Adkins on the site. In contrary, the site featured Hillary Rodham Clinton as a dominatrix tugging the President's leash and photos of nude models described as "Interns of the Month."
Salmon says that the inclusion of this pornography was not to embarrass or hurt these country artists, but rather to create public outrage over the pornography site. These artists are highly outraged over this bad publicity that is out of their control. Lee Roy Parnell says, "It's incredibly important to me that when you get on the Internet and bring up my name, it's what I stand for."
Country songstress Martina McBride is a mommy for the second time. She and husband John welcomed their second daughter, Emma Justine McBride, into the world at a Nashville hospital on March 29. Needless to say, 3-year-old Delaney is very excited about her little sister.
Congratulations Martina and John!
Hot newcomer Kevin Sharp can now officially call the award-winning energetic country entertainer Neal McCoy "Brother-In-Law." Kevin and Traci Williams, who just so happens to be Neal McCoy's wife's sister, tied the knot just last month. When the happy couple arrived at the Nashville airport following their honeymoon, the lovebirds were pelted with bird seed once again by Kevin's band. You may be wondering if they were immediately swept away to their home where Kevin proceeded to carry his new bride across the threshold. Well, sort of, but not exactly. Waiting at the airport was a brand new white touring bus complete with bow and ribbon. Once Kevin cut the ribbon, the romantic lifted his bride and carried her through the door of their new traveling home. Despite the fact that the center of the bus is full of bunks for the band, Kevin and Traci will enjoy their privacy in their very own bedroom suite in the rear of the bus.
Congratulations Kevin and Traci!
For all of you local country bands out there, we want to hear from you. Drop us a note and a press kit if possible so we can spread the word about you around the Louisville area. We want to know what you are up to these days, where to see you, and if you have a new CD or tape out. We would like to spotlight a local country band each month right here in Cowboy Corner.
You can send us all the details at: Louisville Music News, Country Bands, P.O. Box 148, Pewee Valley, KY 40056. We're anxious to hear from you.
Fans of The Everly Brothers will definitely want to make plans to head down to Nashville to see a brand new stage production of their life. "Bye Bye Love--The Everly Brothers Musical" will open May 14 at downtown Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium, 41 years and 3 days after the duo debuted on the very same stage. The musical, which is scheduled to run Thurs., Fri., and Sat. nights through Oct. 24, will focus on Phil and Don's family, including their parents, and their early days as one of popular music's biggest duos.
Shania Twain fans will be glad to know that the Canadian country diva will be stopping off here in Louisville on her upcoming, long-awaited concert tour. Shania will perform at Freedom Hall on July 8. I'll pass along more details as I hear them.
Well, that's it for now. Always remember: Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, 'cause country music is comin' your way.