Country Music News Of The Week


 
Lots of country, bluegrass, and folk music news today.  I hope I can get it all out to you without getting cramps in my little old fingers.  Notice the emphasis on 'old.'
 
Sheila and I talk about ourselves a lot in this correspondence, mostly because that's what we know the most about.  This isn't a platform to 'promote' ourselves, neither is it a media blitz all about the Everharts, BUT, it is about our lives, what we do and how we do it, so for those that might think this is just a braggarts forum, please go find someone else to denigrate.
 
OK, that's off my chest, many of you might remember Ramblin' Jack Elliott.  He came to be with us when we owned the opera house in Walnut.  He was totally impressed with that venue, and liked the sound there really well.  He corresponds occasionally, but like many entertainers and traveling artists, he tends to live one day at a time, and sitting around writing letters is usually not the 'task of the day' he does very frequently.  All of this is leading to an article that appeared in the Pacific Sun Newspaper.  Close to where we spend our winter hiatus.  Here goes....  "Not so long ago, many American boys dreamed of becoming cowboys - but of course few really did.  Teenager Elliott Charles Adnopoz of 1940's Brooklyn, however, made his dream come true, running away from home to live the cowboy life.  While that career choice didn't last too long, it influenced the rest of his life, as he evolved into Ramblin' Jack Elliott, a true American musical hero, often called an icon, a living legend, and a pioneer.  All of which he is.  Ramblin' Jack has lived in West Marin for well over two decades.  He was born on August 1st, his birthday is next week, (the same day we have Terry Smith in concert at the Oak Tree Opry.  Sheila and I will open for Terry on the second show, and we will definitely do a Ramblin' Jack Elliott song for you to celebrate his birthday) and he's now 80 years old.  He notes that he is aging backwards, hearing and seeing him play his guitar and sing, one tends to believe him.  He still tours consistently, but given that airports drive him 'crazy' his travels tend to be literally on the road, as he has been famed for since the 1950'as.  And all that traveling means that he's had memorable encounters and friendships with many renowned figures some of the most famed in modern American culture.  Yet, Jack himself remains about as down-to-earth a guy as one could ever meet, more prone to talk about transmissions and horses than anything else - although he'll talk about just about anything.  His musical career has been up and down, with fame first garnered in the 1960's, then a fallow period, then a resurgence with his first Grammy for his album South Coast in 1995, for best traditional folk album, and then another for best traditional blues album in 2009 for 'A Stranger Here'  But despite his collection of Grammy awards, he still sails a small boat on Tomales Bay.  A few interesting questions followed this article, the first one kind of interesting: So, how does a nice Jewish boy named Elliott Adnopoz from New York City become a folk legend named Ramblin' Jack Elliott?  His answer was interesting...  "Well, I've been nice, but I wasn't very Jewish.  My dad was a doctor and the phone was always ringin' all night long and he was running out on house calls to deliver babies and such.  When I was 9 I saw a rodeo in Madison Square Garden and when Gene Autry came splashing in on his horse through a disc of white paper with his hat, saddle and spurs and came galloping around the arena that was it for me, I was a cowboy in my heart from then on."  He ran away from home at the age of 14 to become a cowboy, worked on a ranch for awhile where an old 'cookie' told him he should get his high school diploma and be anything he wanted, including a cowboy, so he went back to NYC.  "And then something very important happened in your life, about 1951 - you met Woody Guthrie.  His daughter said you became his closest friend.  "I was hanging out in Greenwich Village - this is a very unromantic story.  I wish I could say I met Woody changing trains in a yard in Omaha, or something - but I'd heard from other singers he was not feeling very good already, and called him up.  We spent a lot of time together over the next few years, did some traveling and sang a lot of songs together.  He was a great influence and some of his songs are some of the greatest poetry describing man's inhumanity, and with some good ideas on how the world could maybe be a better place to live.  He was the Walt Whitman of the working man, and he thought the communists had some good ideas and that caused him some trouble, but they wouldn't really have him as he was a bit too sloppy of dress."  Sheila and I got to know Ramblin' Jack pretty well.  We're looking forward to 2015 for our festival, which will be our 40th.  Don't be surprised!
 
I found some interesting news this week rambling around the Internet, thought this was kind of interesting....."Hank Williams: Lost Highway" which just opened at the Greenhouse Theater Center is a rockin' piece of Chicago theater.  It is basically the life story of Hank, who is considered one of the greatest country musicians of all time.  But in addition to actors portraying characters on stage, the audience is treated to a great band and great voices.  The majority of the actors all play instruments, and most of them sing too--- quite well, indeed.  Hank wrote scores of songs, and his recordings were often hits.  Among them his most well-known tunes are "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" "Move It On Over" and "Hey Good Lookin"  He lived from 1923-1953."  This writer went on to say "When I caught the first preview performance of this show, it offered me a rare chance to hear first-rate country music played with style and high energy.  But....who was Hank Williams, and why should we care?  "He changed the world of country music," said James Learning, who is one of the founders of American Blues Theater - the company staging the show - and an actor in this production, portraying Williams' long-time manager, Fred Rose, known as 'Pap.'  In a brief chat outside the theater after the Friday night performance.  Learning remembered Willams as "This young guy who only lived to be 29 years old.  He brought blues into country music."  A decade before the untimely deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, Hank rose from singing church hymns in rural Alabama to the heights of stardom at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, only to die before his 30th birthday, a victim of drinking and drugs.  Suzanne Petri is another of the actors who plays Hank's mother, who was a powerful guiding force early in hers son's career.  Asked for her thoughts on Williams, Petri said, "He changed country music.  And everything that came after him was informed by him.  So much of his music was based on the heart and the soul, and that was his hillbilly roots.  He had so much talent.  He wrote hundreds an hundreds of songs, he was filled with inspiration."
 
Can't help it, another great article appeared on Cybergrass entitled "What Is The Future Of Broadcast Radio?  A timely dissertation to say the least.  The writer is a MP3 user, CD Changer, Pandora, and Apple user.  He just doesn't know what the future of radio is.  .... from his point of view... "It doesn't look to good for the future of radio.  From having been in broadcast radio in the 70's and watching it through the years, I seriously doubt that audience numbers are anywhere close to what they have been in the past.  Studies show radio is holding but I suspect that the listening isn't like what it used to be in the 80's.  I believe we are seeing FM-radio going the way of the dinosaur as digital music takes hold on a very small high-capacity portable device that consumers program with their own music.  In the 90's radio started to lose its luster and never really recovered.  Consolidation began and there was a lot of talk and commercials, less music and less variety.  Clear Channel all sounded the same.  Radio was becoming boring.  Religious, foreign language and Talk Radio had a firm foothold by now in the AM bands.  Recognition of PBS type stations began and these stations became popular.  Much of what people were listening to was talk, not music.  By the 2000's radio lost a lot of luster when all the stations started to sound alike.  Morning drive for some but basically, nobody listened to the radio anymore.  XM/Sirius satellite radio is both in deep financial trouble and future isn't bright.  They are just barely hanging on.  With the current economy causing many people to scale back on entertainment income many are not renewing  their satellite radio subscriptions.  HD Radio is here, but again, I don't know anybody who has a receiver for it beyond the alarm clock or the car.  Anyway, I think radio is feeling the same economic pain as the music labels.  Now my crystal ball isn't any clearer than yours but the future of broadcast radio doesn't look that healthy.  Other formats are definitely on the horizon ready to take the radio's place.  Streaming is rising very quickly and those listeners aren't listening to the radio when they're on an Internet streaming device. SOOOOO, here's your chance to hear a definite 'radio oriented' song, created for the very purpose of having it played on air, and it has....a lot.  But one of those new devices makes it very easy for you to listen to it.  All you have to do is click this address and turn up the volume:  http://youtu.be/3xDswcKKVhU 
 
This news just in from the Daily Gate.... Kirk Brandenberger (inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2006 when we were at Missouri Valley), was honored as an inaugural inductee to the Iowa Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Indianola.  Jim Johnson, producer of the Iowa Bluegrass Hall of Fame praised Brandenberger and the nine other inductees as founders of bluegrass music in Iowa.  "It has been a truly humbling experience to peruse the bios of the 2014 inductees," Johnson said. Kirk is one of our most famous ones.  As a fiddler and guitarist, Brandenberger has played on stage throughout the United States since age 8, winning contests including the Iowa and Kentucky championships.  He has played and recorded with nationally known touring bands, promoted bluegrass music with two long running radio shows.  As a co-owner of the Prime Cuts of Bluegrass radio marketing service, he was a member of the IBMA Board of Directors for a six-year term and was part of the 2008 Grammy Awarding winning recording "Art of field Recording."  Other inductees going into the Hall of Fame this year included Chuck Stearman founder of SPBGMA; Bob Black banjo player for Bill Monroe; Al Murphy a noted fiddler; Linzy Martin musician and founder of the Backbone Bluegrass Festival; Billy Dunbar media broadcasting personality (Wow, I have forgotten how long ago we inducted Billy, it was when we were first starting some 39 years ago), and Bob Nible, a bass player for various bluegrass bands.
 
A new documentary by Beth Harrington; "The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music" is just out.  Hadn't even heard this was happening.  It's a long story too, I'll try to shrink it a bit.  This lady who is involved with making PBS documentaries had just finished one, and was looking for a female voice, who turned out to be Roseanne Cash.  Roseanne led Beth to her father....."I was waiting for the right time for Rosanne to introduce me to John and June, which led me to Johnny who gave me lots of reminisces about the Carter Family.  Cash's second wife was June, one of the popular Carter Sisters, and the daughter of musical matriarch Mother Maybelle Carter.  But June had died before I could begin filming.  Ironically Johnny Cash died about three weeks after we did the interviews.  The film uses plenty of performance footage, along with photos and audio tapes of Carter Family members as well as appreciative and informational comments from contemporary musician fans.  The story stretches back to the days when founding member A P Carter used to travel around the country collecting old songs, many of which had been handed down through families for many generations."  The premier was just this past weekend, so hopefully it will be available for public view some time in the future.
 
I also picked up on several other great stories, one about Jimmie Rodgers, Alan Jackson, shape note singers, and how the word "Y'all" needs no translation.  I'll have it for you next week.  Tune in or tune out, this is where you'll find this kind of news and stories.  Join the National Traditional Country Music Association, that's who I work for, but don't get paid.  $25 a year isn't so bad to get the quarterly magazine in the mail called 'Tradition' and a Sunday night Bulletin that captures a whole big bunch of America's traditional music, country, roots, bluegrass, folk, old-time, you name it, I find it.  Send your $25 made out to NTCMA to P O Box 492, Anita, Iowa, 50020, with great and humbling thanks.
 
Bob Everhart for Country Music News International

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