Bill Medley, the surviving member of the Righteous Brothers, is teaming up with the Devil goes down to Georgia recording artist Charlie Daniels to do a charity show on August 12th. This is to raise money to benefit "The Journey Home Project." Cutbacks to veterans services from the federal government combined with an increase in wartime active personnel has put a strain on health care, education, and job opportunities for vets. The Journey Home project sees as its mission connecting donors to vets organizations that do the most good. Another beneficiary is "The Predators Foundation." (a Nashville Hockey Team). It's Charlie Daniel's 40th volunteer jam performance. The jam is filled with celebrities of all kinds; Alabama, Lee Greenwood, the Grascals, Trace Adkins, Ted Nugent, Oak Ridge Boys, Travis Tritt, and a slew of other talented performers. It all takes place August 12th at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Terry Smith (The Far Side Banks of Jordan) will be giving a concert at CGS Music Store, 1244 High St., in Lincoln, Nebraska 6pm-8pm on April 10th. Bobby Miles will also be performing. Unless they've changed the operation of that venue, it's long steps down to the performance center, meaning there are long steps back up. Take note if you have difficulty walking. Terry Smith is without a doubt one of our very best 'true' country music songwriters and performers who comes to the upper Midwest frequently. His albums are extremely well done, as is his live performances, and are in constant demand. He will also be making appearances at the Oak Tree Opry in Anita, Iowa on July 31 and August 1; he will be at the LeMars Festival all week (Aug 31-Sept 6), and he will be at the Fremont Festival (Oct 2-3-4). More information at 712-762-4363
If you are reading this bulletin, and are a member of the National Traditional Country Music Association, we'll be back in the office by April 1, so please send your $25 annual dues in so we can stay in business with this weekly column. If you are not a member of the NTCMA, this is an encouragement for you to join so we can stay afloat. Make your checks out to NTCMA for a mere $25 and send to P O Box 492, Anita, Iowa 50020. We thank you, 'real' country music fans and players thanks you, and God thanks you for your generosity.
We stand with many others who believe the Oak Ridge Boys should be inducted into the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame. It seems so unfair in today's so-called country music world that the so-called country stars are on rampant self-congratulation ego trips, for dubious (to say the least) achievement in music, obviously but the really long-term gifted entertainers like the Oak Ridge Boys goes unacknowledged. They are members of the Grand Ole Opry and they consistently fill concert halls for their tireless work for the American Legion and other charities that more than qualify them for induction. There's going to be a new book out written by Joe Bonsall, called "On The Road With The Oak Ridge Boys," scheduled to be on the shelves by May 1. Bonsall said, "We love what we do. This is all any of us wanted to do since we were children, and we are still living our dream. And, God has blessed us with continuing to do it at a high level." Don't know exactly how to contact the Oak Ridge Boys but I place them in nomination to be inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame. All they have to do is show up in LeMars, and we'll do something with them at the American Legion to boot.
Remember last week when I told you about Gary Overton, the CEO of Sony Records in Hashville, who said "If you're not on country radio, you don't exist." Pretty harsh words for the thousands, no maybe make that millions, of everyday country artists, and every other person in the USA trying so hard to keep 'real' country music alive...'simply do not exist' according to Sony Music. Overton apparently got fired from his CEO nice paying job, my guess is that Sony didn't want YOU to stop supporting their artists by not buying their CD's. DON'T! DON'T BUY THEIR CD'S. They won't let your favorite local artist on the radio, and Sony doesn't believe you even exist. Don't buy their products, don't support their artists, JUST DON'T.
One of the displays that was well exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution will be traveling to Bristol, Tennessee's 'Birthplace of Country Music Museum.' Called the "New Harmonies Celebrating American Roots Music," it will be on display until September. It's broken down into different sections like sacred music, bluegrass music, country music, blues music, roots music, etc. and there's even a section on early country dancing. You can learn to play the fiddle, or the banjo, or you can just sit down and listen to whole LP's from the past, even those recorded for the Smithsonian by Bob Everhart. Grandparents may even want to teach their grandchildren what vinyl records are all about.
Bob Dylan continues to stay in the news. Now he's giving Christmas dinners to families on relief. How's he doing this? He has a brand new album coming out, actually it's the 3rd in a series of projects, called "Christmas In The Heart." It costs $9.99 of which every penny goes to charity to provide those Christmas dinners. So, 'how and why' do you ask, does a Jewish boy growing up in Hibbing, Minnesota, want to do this? It's an evocation of the past, his own past, mind you. The music is from the 40's and 50's and it's old Christmas songs. One of Dylan's favorites is "White Christmas." "That is Christmas imperialism," says Sean Wilente, a Dylan historian. "Now, Christians, Muslims, Jews; we all have to sing "White Christmas." The songs in total are the Christmas songs that Dylan was surrounded by as a boy in Hibbing. He's got the Ditty Bops singing with him, as well as the whitest bearded singers you ever heard backing on the vocals. It's an instant musical transformation back in time, even including Donnie Herron on steel. Yes, did I hear you right, Donnie Herron on steel! That alone keeps it very much old-time country Christmas style. Dylan even does a polka song "Must Be Santa," and of course back in the 40's and 50's Dylan heard a lot of polka music 'way up dere' in Minnesota, and he sings with great joy on this project. As many of you know, Bob Dylan, the Jew, is also a Christian, so it's not so difficult for him to stand against atheists and those who believe he can't sing. The cover is great, an old postcard like photo of a team of horses and sleigh.
Art Menius, the founding father of the International Bluegrass Music Association, and later the Folk Alliance, is going to be with us in LeMars this year. He recently wrote an article entitled "Why There Are Too Many Touring Bluegrass Bands," that has created some controversy. We've always had bluegrass bands at our festival in LeMars, always. Just last year we had David Davis & The Warrior River Boys from Alabama; Larry Gillis & Swampgrass from Georgia; Goldwing Express from Branson, Missouri; Dirty River Ramblers from Nebraska; and the very popular bluegrasser Larry Cordle (Murder On Music Row) who we teamed up with the Kenaston Family, another great bluegrass group from Nebraska. That line-up alone is a fantastic 3 or 4 day bluegrass festival, all on its own. We have several small bluegrass development groups in Iowa now. Did any of these so-called bluegrass supporters show up to actually 'support' bluegrass music in Iowa? No they did not, not a single one of them. In light of the recent shut-down of IBMA and the walk-out of its officers, Mr. Menius had this to say about developing bluegrass today. "Expecting bluegrass music to become pop music, even by changing the music is not realistic. Far too many bluegrass bands are performing bluegrass professionally, and touring more than the market can bear. This has been the case for at least the last 45 years. What this means is great musicians have to work day jobs to support their families, which restricts how much they can tour. He went on to suggest perhaps 15 to 25 full time touring bands to make it feasible to be a full-time touring group. The fee however would be quite high for these groups. He even goes on to talk a little about wanna-be bluegrass bands, of which we have a few in Iowa, and how their very availability to perform at a low cost has ultimately deprived the more talented groups from pursuing a career doing what they love." I guess I would have to put Mr. Menius in the position of festival producer, and then watch him wince when the bills come in to be paid, especially if its bad weather or low ticket sales! We will certainly be looking forward to having him with us at LeMars, and of course all those loud-mouthed so-called Iowa bluegrassers who claim they support bluegrass.....but don't.
A fire apparently broke out in the "Yakoff" theater in Branson (you know the Russian comic) on March 20th. The specialty act that was appearing then, the Acrobats of China, had not appeared on stage yet. Everyone is apparently OK more news as we get it.
Mickey Gilley was so well-received in LeMars last year, and doing so well on the road, after he left LeMars, he announced that 2015 will be his last year in Branson. He has continued his 'on the road' gigs since LeMars, and hes' to keep his show on the road again next year. He will personally appear at his theater in Branson in April, May, and June.
You might remember Norman Blake. He's the guy who played such a neat acoustic guitar on ",Man Of Constant Sorrow" and sang "You Are My Sunshine," in the "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" Coen Brothers movie. You might also remember that I had Norman Blake on my television show for PBS-TV, called "Old Time Country Music." On that show, I got to perform with Norman on acoustic guitar and his wife Nancy on upright acoustic bass. On the song I did with them (I did several but remember this one the most), "Summertime" with just my little Marine Band harmonica, Nancy bowed the bass. It was an incredible experience for me. Anyway, Norman, at the age of 77, is just releasing a new album, "Wood, Wire, & Words," which is an all Norman originals recording. Lots of old-time sounding railroad songs on it, Norman grew up next to a rail road track where 22 steam engine trains rolled by every day, and he also has a lot of 'story' songs on his new album as well as some super country 'rags.' T-Bone Burnett, who produced the sound track for "Oh Brother" described Norman Blake as "one of a handful of the best acoustic guitar players in the world. He learned hundreds of country songs, including rags instrumental tunes, and fiddle numbers, knowing the influences and nuances of every one of them. He should be an absolutely revered musician." Norman Blake is definitely a revered musician in my book. I was so incredibly fortunate to simply sit and play the harmonica while this guy backed me on acoustic guitar. I had goose bumps on my spine the entire time we were playing. "Wood, Wire, & Words" is a new release I am anxiously looking forward to hearing. On the side-bar, you might also remember that Norman recorded "Nashville Skyline" with Bob Dylan, and he worked as a backing musician for Johnny Cash off an on for some 40 years. After I got to know Norman, from our time together playing, and later, I repeatedly tried to get him to come to our festival so we could put him in America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, but he refuses to fly, so that sort of ended that honorarium.
Bob Everhart for Country Music News International