"The World's Favorite Hobo," 67-year-old Grand Ole Opry member Boxcar Willie lost his battle with leukemia when he died at his Branson, Missouri home April 12. Boxcar was born Lecil Travis Martin in 1931, the son of a fiddle-playing railroad man. The Martin family's Sterrett, Texas home was located near a railroad, where little Lecil began imitating what would become his legendary trademark - a train whistle.
While living in Forth Worth, Texas in 1976, Lecil donned a hobo costume consisting of overalls, a tattered cap and a worn suit jacket, plus beard stubble and a weathered guitar case - thus the birth of Boxcar Willie. Boxcar joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1981 and purchased his very own theater in Branson in 1987. He performed six shows a week for nine months of the year, until he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996 and his health began to deteriorate. Boxcar made his final appearances on the Opry January 8 and 9 with much fanfare.
Boxcar Willie is survived by his wife, four children and five grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family in these trying times.
The saga continues in the death of the "First Lady of Country Music," Tammy Wynette. Just prior to the first anniversary of the death of their famous mother last month, three of Tammy's daughters filed a $50 million malpractice and negligence suit against their mother's physician, Dr. Wallis Marsh, and her husband, George Richey. The girls suspect that her death was not caused from a blood clot in her lung as reported, but rather caused by an excessive amount of narcotics and not monitoring her medical condition closely enough. Although the daughters' recent request for an autopsy to be performed on their mother's body was recently declined by medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy, George Richey recently agreed to an autopsy, which was performed April 14. Results of the autopsy are not expected until the end of this month.
During a press conference the afternoon of the autopsy, George Richey stated, "It is my hope [that] today puts us one day closer to a peaceful rest for my wife. I'm saddened by the lawsuit by Tammy's daughters. I'm saddened they now question my love and devotion to their mother. They truly know better. I'm saddened they've questioned Dr. Marsh. I'm profoundly saddened that her children are now willing to drag their mother's closely guarded private life into the public, leaving me no choice but to respond. I'm saddened that, out of frustration over financial matters, the daughters have been willing to work so hard to discredit their mother. And that's what they have done. I'm very saddened that part of Tammy's legacy is this fiasco."
And while we're on the topic of Tammy Wynette, on a much more positive note, her signature tune "Stand By Your Man" was recently honored by being inducted into the NARAS Grammy Hall of Fame. In addition to Tammy's classic tune, Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" and Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" were also honored with this coveted induction.
The relatively newcomer country crooner Kenny Chesney is riding high these days - on the charts, that is. At press time, Kenny continued to remain at the top of the country charts for the sixth consecutive week with his smash hit "How Forever Feels." The last song to accomplish this feat was Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's mega-hit "It's Your Love."
Congratulations, Kenny and keep up the good work!
A rarity this late in the year, tickets for the annual International Country Music Fan Fair to be held in Nashville June 14-19 are still available. Just a few of the artists already scheduled to appear include Trace Adkins, David Ball, Clint Black, BlackHawk, Chad Brock, Brooks & Dunn, Deana Carter, Kenny Chesney, Mark Chesnutt, Terri Clark, Billy Ray Cyrus, Linda Davis, Joe Diffie, Wade Hayes, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, David Kersh, Sammy Kershaw, Patty Loveless, Jo Dee Messina, Neal McCoy, Tim McGraw, John Michael Montgomery, Collin Raye, Richochet, LeAnn Rimes, Sawyer Brown, Marty Stuart, Randy Travis, Steve Wariner, Gene Watson, Bryan White, Lee Ann Womack, Chely Wright, Wynonna, and Trisha Yearwood. Tickets can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at (615) 255-9600, or logging on to ticketmaster.com. Tickets include hours and hours of daily concerts, as well as the opportunity to meet some of your favorite country stars.
Ashland, Ky. native and half of the former country duo The Judds, Naomi Judd begins hosting her very own syndicated radio show this month. Naomi's "Heart To Heart" will be broadcast live from the singer/songwriter/author's barn on her Tennessee farm. The program will include music, talk, and celebrity guests, airing every Sun. night from 8pm to midnight EST. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on whether or not any local radio stations will air the show.
Good luck in this new adventure, Naomi!
Although Ky.'s own "Achy Breaky Heart" singer Billy Ray Cyrus and the cartoon canine Scooby-Doo seem like an unlikely pair, the two actually go hand-in-hand, well, at least they will be soon. Billy Ray, a longtime fan of the classic cartoon, recently recorded the cartoon's theme song for a brand new video. Fans will have to wait a while to hear Billy Ray's rendition though as Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost is not scheduled to hit store shelves until October 5. Billy Ray was reportedly just as excited, if not more so, than his children to be a part of this new project.
In other Cyrus news, Billy Ray will appear in Kentucky State Tourism Department's advertising campaign this spring. The campaign will include a contest in which the grand prizewinner will win a trip to the Kentucky State Fair to see Billy Ray perform and meet him after the show.
According to the Nashville newspaper The Tennesseean, the "King of Country Music," George Jones has been billed for the damage to the concrete bridge he crashed into during a near-fatal automobile accident March 6. The Tennessee Department of Transportation says that it is common practice for either the individual in the accident, or that individual's insurance company to be responsible for financing the repairs of damage sustained to state property. Fortunately for George, he survived this crash and only has to pay $2,492.44 to repair the bridge.
Although it has been speculated that George, a one-time alcoholic, had been drinking at the time of the accident, a district attorney has decided to allow a grand jury to determine if the singer was driving under the influence. Williamson County District Attorney Ron Davis recently said, "I have decided that there are enough open questions and maybe even contradictions in this case that it needs to be presented to the Williamson County grand jury . . . and let a grand jury of citizens of Williamson County make the decision." Speaking of the accident, George recently stated, "I don't know what happened. I think all this medicine and stuff they ran through my body has blanked me out so bad. I can't remember nothing. I thought I might have even been in a plane crash or something."
Riding high on the success of her smash debut album, which has sold over 5 million copies, Emily Erwin, one-third of the sizzling country trio the Dixie Chicks will soon be riding even higher as she is set to walk down the aisle on May 1. Emily and singer/songwriter Charlie Robinson will reportedly be married in Bandera, Texas, and yes, her fellow Chicks will be a part of the ceremony. "On A Good Night" singer Wade Hayes tied the knot last month with model Danni Boatwright, who appears in Wade's current video for "Tore Up From The Floor Up." Congratulations to Emily, Charlie, Wade, and Danni!
Country-rocker David Allen Coe has called it quits for the fifth time. 59-year-old David and his most recent bride, 31-year-old Yvonne Smith, have filed for divorce, citing the ever-so-popular irreconcilable differences.
If you've been living under a rock, then you haven't heard that tickets have already gone on sale for the May 30 mega-concert - the George Strait Country Music Festival. Appearing along with George will be the likes of Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks, Jo Dee Messina, Asleep at the Wheel, Kenny Chesney, and Mark Wills. Tickets for this all-day event to be held at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium cost $49.50, $39.50, and $29.50, and can be purchased at the Papa John's box office, or by calling TicketMaster.
Headliners has a couple of one-of-a-kind country concerts scheduled this month. Performing May 8 will be the award-winning "guit-steel"-playing Junior Brown, and appearing May 22 will be BR5-49. Country fans in Louisville can't say that they don't get a wide variety of concerts in their hometown. Be on the lookout for the likes of Ricky Skaggs, the Kentucky Headhunters, Joe Diffie, Brooks & Dunn, Deryl Dodd, Trace Adkins, the Oak Ridge Boys, Montgomery Gentry, Randy Travis, and Alabama in concert this summer and early fall.
Well, that's it for this month. Don't forget to tune into CBS Television May 5 to catch the Academy of Country Music Awards to be handed out in Los Angeles, CA. Leading the pack of nominees is Cover Girl Cosmetics' newest model, country's very own Faith Hill. Always remember: "Keep your boots shined up and your hat on straight, `cause country music is comin' your way."