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Tradition Bulletin October 28. 2013

TRADITION BULLETIN

 

Things always slow down this time of year, a lot of our
music-makers are either making the trek to warmer climes, have already
left, or are planning on leaving ASAP.  We will make the trek around
November 4th, heading for Texas’s Rio Grande Valley to do a few gigs
with Francis Hahn, as well as get some dental work in Progresso, Mexico.
It’s so difficult for us, as self-employed musicians to get any kind of
insurance at all, much less anything that will help us with dental
work.  We took Bobbie Lhea to a dentist in Atlantic, who promptly
informed us that she needed a new crown, a possible root canal, and tons
of other work amounting to right at $3,000.  Wow, that’s pretty heavy
for us, of course if we got paid that much for each gig we do (similar
to the dentist) it wouldn’t be a problem, but since that is not the
case, it’s off to Progresso for the same dental work, equally as well
done, for $300.  A lot of winter Texans, or ‘snowbirds’ as they are
called in the upper Midwest, do the same thing, so we’ll be in good
company.  Francis Hahn is already at his RV park in Donna, Texas, after
some mishaps with the motor home involving electrical components, and
then a spark-plug blew out of the engine en route, stalling them in Fort
Worth, Texas, for a couple of days.  We normally try to take in any
kind of national park or educational attraction that would be of benefit
to Bobbie Lhea, but the weather is so peculiar this year, and so
unpredictable, we’ll probably just get on I-29 (now changed to I-49
Kansas City south) to I-35 and just keep heading south until we get to
LaFeria where we usually go. We’re sure looking forward to a nice change
of weather.  We should be thankful, the cool weather sweetened our
delicious apples (we have two trees in the back yard) of which there are
a plentiful amount.
 
I keep passing along information of this sort, never know
when it might be beneficial to someone.  I get this information from the
Music Ops Board, and that’s where you have to go to find more detailed
information. They are looking for a country/bluegrass/folk style song
they are willing to pay $1,700 for a popular television show looking for
an emotional Americana type of song.  They want harmonies on top of
delicate arrangements, and no songs with explicit lyrics will be
considered.
 
Over the years Sheila and I have made friends with many of
the ‘real’ country music super-stars (this does not include imitators
today who claim to be country) and some of them have been
long-standing.  One is who we consider to be the finest harmonica player
in the world today, Charlie McCoy.  Charlie told us he had a really
nice time performing at the Merle Travis Center in Nashville recently,
but he said he was late getting there because he went over to Henderson,
Tennessee, earlier to celebrate the 100th birthday of Grand Pa Jones
(another good friend of both Sheila and myself).  Grandpa is of course
no longer with us, but he and Charlie were long time friends, appearing
together for years on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and for 18 years
on the one-of-a-kind television show “Hee Haw.” Wow, was that show on
for that long of a time frame?  Charlie told a reporter at the Merle
Travis Music Center….”I came to Nashville at the age of 19 to become a
studio musician, and I’m still doing it.”  Wow, talk about ‘doing it.’
Charlie recorded with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Ringo
Starr, oh the list is endless.  Charlie was last with us in 2012 when he
took “Harmonica Instrumental CD of the Year” award from the Rural Roots
Music Commission.
 
Do you remember Ronnie Dean?  He came to LeMars in 2012
too, and he also took a Rural Roots Music Commission CD of the Year
award for “Bluegrass Gospel CD of the Year” for his release
“Everything.”  I was quite impressed with him at LeMars, as well as his
quite knowledgeable wife, who knows a great deal about the Ted Mack
Show, and old-time country music in general.  At any rate, Ronnie and
his wife have created a small television studio in Nashville, and are
now producing programs called “Nashville Side Streets.”  As he is aware,
and so are so many of us out here in the hinterlands, there is an
absolutely huge number of incredibly gifted musicians, songwriters,
recording artists, vocalists, the list is huge, that are incredibly good
and incredibly gifted, but don’t get a chance to share their talent at
all anymore.  Ronnie’s show is tacking into that problem, because
Nashville is as full of un working gifted talent as we are in the upper
Midwest.  He invited Sheila and I to Nashville to do the show, and we
will certainly attempt to do that, hopefully we can make the trip in the
spring when we’re not in such a hurry to go see a dentist in Mexico.  I
certainly applaud Ronnies huge investment in time, money, talent,
venue, and passion for doing all of this.  Country music today is just
so incredibly off the track, I just watched a television show with Billy
Ray Cyrus narrating, about hillbilly music.  He made a very strong
point about the ‘roots’ of today’s country music, and how very
successful it is.  And made some evasive remarks about how it is still
‘related’ to the hillbilly music of the Appalachian Mountains.  Wow, I’d
sure disagree with that.  If those hillbillies heard what is called
‘country’ today, they’d puke at the thought that it was something they
birthed.
 
George Strait is still intent on slowing down his career,
especially his traveling, but he just signed on to record five albums of
new material for MCA Records in Nashville.  Strait has recorded each of
his 40 studio albums with MCA, all of it starting in 1981 with the
first one “Strait Country.”  He pretty much stayed on the same course
all the way through his recording career.
 
Thinking of albums, I’m thinking Christmas.  It’s getting
harder and harder to buy Christmas gifts anymore, mostly everything we
buy is either from China, or some other far distant country we’ve never
heard of.  I found a neat idea however.  Michael Thoma came to LeMars
for the first time this year, to pick up an RRMC Award for “Old Time
Country Music CD of the Year” for his delightful project “Comin’ Home.” 
What this is all about is his incredibly beautiful and truly wonderful
country CD “Christmas in the Heartlands.”  I still don’t know Michael
very well yet, but I know what’s good when I hear it, and this guy’s
original writings and beautiful recordings are going to make some
progress for him.  I do know his ‘Christmas’ album is simply beautiful. 
I don’t even know how much he charges for his albums, but he lives at
54 Lane St in Waterloo, Iowa (50703) or maybe you could just call him at
319-232-8184
and find a ‘gift’ that will last far beyond the giving date of
Christmas this year.  I’m not steering you wrong on this one, give it a
try, you’ll see.
 
Dolly Parton is home resting after being treated and
released for minor injuries she suffered in a car crash she described as
‘a fender bender.’  Kirt Webster says Parton was already home by last
Monday afternoon following the accident that happened in Nashville. 
Parton says in a statement that she’s ‘all good, just a little tired and
sore.’  Police say the 67- year old (whaaaaat?) Country Music Hall of
Fame member was riding in an SUV that was hit by another vehicle. 
Parton and the two others were taken to hospitals for treatment.  None
of the injuries appeared to be serious
 
Bad news from Joltin’ Jim McCoy.  He’s another of our Hall
of Fame alumni.  He’s the guy that ‘discovered’ Patsy Cline, gave her
her first break, and continued to help her climb the ladder to fame and
fortune long after she was already a star.  Jim is himself a remarkable
‘real’ country singer songwriter, and picker, as well as a top recording
artist, and has just undergone a couple of colon operations as well as a
lung operation in the past two months.  That sure don’t sound good
Jim.  His lovely wife Bertha told me that he’s back home, in therapy
three times a week, and he especially wanted her to tell me how he’s
doing. She said he also wanted her to tell me thanks for all I’ve done
keeping real country music alive.  Well, that’s super Jim, it’s not just
me, it’s artists like yourself that make it possible for artists like
me to love the music you create.  Keep at it, and I’m going to ask our
Prayer Warriors to say a little prayer to Jesus for you.  Amen.
 
I found this information very interesting, a group from
Estonia (that would be one of those small countries that gained their
independence from Russia) called “Robirohi” is touring the USA, just
completing an appearance at the Carter Fold.  They managed to find their
way to America through the Methodist churches, of which they are
members, and that has brought them to America.  The leader of the group,
Robert Kreutzwald recalls without hesitation the first time he heard
Roy Acuff’s clear tenor voice on “Great Speckled Bird” and Mother
Maybelle’s “Carter scratch” style of guitar picking on “Will The Circle
Be Unbroken.”  This tells me, without a doubt, that this group from
Estonia is far more ‘country’ oriented that any of those that are
currently on America’s top-40 country music charts.  They’ve already
picked up some amazing experiences while they are in the USA, and since
crossing the mountains into Tennessee, the guys performed at churches in
Kingsport and Morristown.  The Carter Fold of course,  and at the Bush
Mill Day Festival in Nickelsville, and at a jam session at the Lazy Time
Pickin’ Parlor.  According to Robert, “Seeing a young girl picking
music alongside an 84-year old grandpapa at the Pickin’ Parlor, has been
one of my most favorite memories of the trip so far.”  These guys are
much like our own down-home pickers and players.  Despite their passion
for old-time American country music, performing it remains just a hobby
for the quartet, all of whom hold down full-time day jobs back home in
Estonia.  And that’s just the way Robirohi’s members like it.  I
especially like the quote from them….”In Estonia, with 1-million
people, that is no mass effect.  If you are not a real mainstream pop
musician, famous, then you can’t make a living with music in Estonia. 
Here, in the United States, somebody writes a couple of songs and, acts
that became famous like Johnny Cash, simply puts his song on a record
and he’s rich for a lifetime, and all his siblings too.  Like Terry
Smith who wrote “Far Side Banks of Jordan” and several more marginal
acts who recorded his song, but for just this one song, it’s guaranteed
to live on.  But that mass effect doesn’t work in our tiny country.  You
can be a genius or not.  Only if you’re a mainstream pop musician doing
extra works in the theater, in the movies, everywhere, making jobs in
the ferry ships, being like a slave there, picking guitar and singing
for I don’t know whom, drunken people maybe, then you only grab your
living as a musician.  We don’t want to be such.”  Whew, I haven’t heard
these guys, or how to get in touch with them, but if anyone out there
reading this can find them, please tell them they are more than welcome
to come be with us in LeMars, and hopefully we can also arrange for them
to back Terry Smith singing that very famous song he wrote, especially
with them.
 
Extra money in your pocket.  How would you like to own the
office of Colonel Tom Parker.  It’s up for sale. You might remember that
Parker promoter Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow, but his big client was
Elvis.  The Colonel Tom Parker management office in Madison, Tennessee,
stands as a testament to the old cliché…’if these walls could talk.’ 
As within a cluster of unassuming stone buildings, the walls would tell
of unconventional business dealings, old venues and colorful stories of
how an immigrant managed the career of America’s biggest pop and rock
artist, Elvis Presley.
 
Bob Everhart for Country Music News International

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