Hot Mike Archives

July 2006

It’s a few minutes past 1:00 a.m., and I just returned from the Historic Northside in Fort Worth after emceeing portions of the annual Willie Nelson Fourth-of-July Picnic. As usual, it was a fun gig. What made it even more enjoyable was the weather! The temperature readings are normally in the 100-plus figures for this special holiday. However, they dozed in the mid-eighties during this big shindig. Adding to the enjoyable weather were the scattered thundershowers! Yes, it rained on the crowd, but they didn’t mind.  

A couple of years ago, the weather was so hot at Willie’s big function in Fort Worth that portable outdoor showers were set up in sections of the big field. Members of the audience could run under the shower-heads and cool off a bit, if they chose to do so. I have forgotten if a fee was charged for this service, but I do remember that people stood in long lines, waiting their turn to “wet-down”. I’m certain that those last-minute creations may have saved some of the good people from heat-strokes! 

As usual, the picnic was a great get-together. As I’ve mentioned, I sometimes believe Willie presents these gigs in order to pull a bunch of old friends together, and it works. The stars on stage never utilize the “star” approach. Instead, there is the feeling they are simply singing their songs for the neighbors who just happened to drop in. Also, there is never the element of surprise. Willie is liable to come from out of nowhere and join them in a song, if he has a notion to! It’s that kind of party. 

Ray Price, the grand elder of the performing stars at the picnic, never sounded better. At 80, his voice has taken on more depth. Kris Kristofferson was also in rare form. No band accompanied Kris. He strummed his guitar and blew into a harmonica as the crowd went wild, listening to the great songwriter/actor belt out his awesome compositions. 

Pauline Reese is the best of the new female singers from Texas. She drove the picnic crowd wild as she sang her songs, many of them her compositions. Heather Myles, another terrific talent, was also on the scene. Both of these beauties are top-of-the-line performers. 

Sorry to say, I missed some of Willie’s guests, but most of ‘em will be back in Fort Worth next year. Willie said he plans to keep the shindig in Fort Worth. “Everything just seems to work good out there on the north side of town,” he said. “We’ll keep th’ picnic there for awhile.”

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I’ve been emceeing Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnics ever since the beginning. What makes them interesting is the fact they never change! Oh, sure, the star lineup changes from time-to-time, but this seldom happens unless the star has died! That’s the reason Waylon Jennings won’t be on this year’s shindig. However, Waylon’s son will be on-stage, doing his thing.  

There’s that Nelson allegiance. Similar to a Texas bred elephant, Willie never forgets his friends when he’s constructing his yearly hotter’n-hell get-together. It’s back-to-back, let it all hang loose fun! Sometimes, there are too many friends set for the get-together, and this allows the show to run into overtime. Last year, Willie didn’t hit the stage until a bit after midnight because he had invited too many friends and relatives to share the spotlights on the two giant stages located on opposite ends of the huge, hot cow pasture located in Fort Worth’s Historic Northside area. Bob Dylan had it structured in his contract that he was to start at exactly 9:00 p.m., no dumb thumb exceptions! Up ‘til Dylan time, the show was running without a formula. Whoever got on stage could pick ‘n sing as long as he (or she) liked. Not only that, they could bring a cousin or neighbor on-stage and let him (or her) yodel a song or squeeze an accordion. Willie didn’t give a dam! He was most likely on his bus, parked near the stage, listening to some dude singing a new song he had just written. He knew everything would move along just fine until it was his time to jump to the microphone with his “family”, most times set for around 11:00 p.m. or Midnight.   

After Willie and family take to the stage, those in charge of watching the clocks might as well fold up their tents. Mr. Nelson doesn’t pay any attention to time-pieces such as clocks and watches. He listens to the crowd, and if the crowd wants more from him, they’ve got it! Roosters may be crowing in the background when Willie hits his closing song. Who cares? 

Incidentally, Bob Dylan won’t be with Willie for the July Fourth Bombs-Away in Fort Worth on Tuesday. Come to think of it, Johnny Cash won’t be there, either. Different reasons, of course.


 

Normally, I don’t get involved in either politics or religion. It’s my feeling that every individual is in his own personal boat when it comes to these issues. Let’s face it: you can’t win an argument with anyone who is deep into political waters or is headstrong toward a religious view that doesn’t necessarily include your personal relationship with God. Of course, if you don’t have a personal relationship with God, I seriously doubt you would have any headstrong points to submit toward religion. 

As for politics, I haven’t had a serious attitude in any direction for a long time. Certainly, I have my thoughts toward our involvement in Iraq and the Middle East, the Mexican border problem and the price of fuel, but have decided there would be nothing of interest to make public. 

I do believe in Kinky Friedman! Now that he is seriously entering the Texas gubernatorial race, I’m taking special notice of the man. Although he is an Independent candidate … a section that rarely wins the conquering votes … I honestly believe Kinky has a fighting chance. 

The only thing that might barricade some votes for Kinky is his honesty. Ask him a question and he’ll submit an answer. It might not be the answer you were seeking, but it’ll be honest. 

Can you imagine having a totally honest politician in charge of things? Awesome thought! 

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George Jones played to a “sold-out” crowd at beautiful Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, a few nights ago. Here is proof, again, that King George remains unbeatable. Many of his peers, and a tremendous amount of country music fans, consider George to be the greatest of them all … and I wouldn’t argue that thought. 

Bass Performance Hall is Fort Worth’s answer to New York’s Carnegie Hall. It always makes me proud when one of our country giants fills the house in this oh-so-proper spot. 

Speaking of George Jones --- word is out that a high-budget motion picture is in the planning stages on the life of George. With the tremendous success of Ray (Ray Charles) and Walk The Line (Johnny Cash), this would be a great film … with no dull moments! 

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Speaking of movies, I saw the new Disney film, “Cars”.  Normally, I don’t go to theaters to see animated features, but since my grandkids, Cody and Brit, are spending a few days with us, we thought it would be a good idea to take in a “picture-show”. Another reason for attending was because I was told this movie had captured some scenic memories from my hometown, Shamrock, Texas.  It seems some reps for the picture made a stop-over in Shamrock, talked with some of the friendly citizens, and shot some film footage of the historic U-Drop-Inn and various other spots on old Route 66  before putting the movie together. 

I was totally surprised when I noticed a digitally re-enhanced capture of the U-Drop Inn  was inserted throughout the motion picture! As a matter of fact, there were several noticeable spots on Route 66, in the old hometown, that had been reconstructed for the animation, including what looked like my dad’s old Bumper-to-Bumper  service station/truck-stop that was active during the 1940s. 

Without divulging too much of the story content of “Cars” ---  it pertains to Lightning McQueen, a cocky rookie race car, speeding toward a big race in California on Route 66. He crashes into a small town named Radiator Springs, destroying lots of the inhabitants’ belongings. In order to make up for what he did, the roadster is sentenced to community service in Radiator Springs. 

As I viewed the film, it dawned on me that, in reality, Radiator Springs  was Shamrock, Texas!!! 

If you decide to enjoy “Cars”,  look for the tan structure with a tall, matching tower attached. That’s the U-Drop-Inn!!  It was the official meeting place in Shamrock, Texas  when I was a kid.  

Voices in the movie include Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, Larry, The Cable Guy as Mater, and George Carlin as Filmore. 

Honestly, viewing “Cars”  made me a bit homesick. It also made me very proud, since Route 66, going through the north side of Shamrock, is now Bill Mack Street!!! 

 


June 1006

Just saw the new Disney film, “Cars”.  Normally, I don’t go to theaters to see animated features, but since my grandkids, Cody and Brit, are spending a few days with us, we thought it would be a good idea to take in a “picture-show”. Another reason for attending was because I was told this movie had captured some scenic memories from my hometown, Shamrock, Texas.  It seems some reps for the picture made a stop-over in Shamrock, talked with some of the friendly citizens, and shot some film footage of the historic U-Drop-Inn and various other spots on old Route 66  before putting the movie together. 

I was totally surprised when I noticed a digitally re-enhanced capture of the U-Drop Inn  was inserted throughout the motion picture! As a matter of fact, there were several noticeable spots on Route 66, in the old hometown, that had been reconstructed for the animation, including what looked like my dad’s old Bumper-to-Bumper  service station/truck-stop that was active during the 1940s. 

Without divulging too much of the story content of “Cars” ---  it pertains to Lightning McQueen, a cocky rookie race car, speeding toward a big race in California on Route 66. He crashes into a small town named Radiator Springs, destroying lots of the inhabitants’ belongings. In order to make up for what he did, the roadster is sentenced to community service in Radiator Springs. 

As I viewed the film, it dawned on me that, in reality, Radiator Springs  was Shamrock, Texas!!! 

If you decide to enjoy “Cars”,  look for the tan structure with a tall, matching tower attached. That’s the U-Drop-Inn!!  It was the official meeting place in Shamrock, Texas  when I was a kid.  

Voices in the movie include Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, Larry, The Cable Guy as Mater, and George Carlin as Filmore. 

Honestly, viewing “Cars”  made me a bit homesick. It also made me very proud, since Route 66, going through the north side of Shamrock, is now Bill Mack Street!!! 

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Want to mention again … I couldn’t make it to the Las Vegas Trucking Show, going on through Saturday, but my son, Billy, and my daughter, Sunny, are on-the-scene, doing a great job representing us. My daughter, Misty, and daughter-in-law, April, are also in Fun-City for the big blowout. Cindy and I haven’t made the Vegas show for the past couple of years. We had planned to head in that direction this year, but other obligations blocked it for us.

 

June 2006

Happy to say, The Trucking Bozo’s eye surgery was a success. He’s taking the rest of this week off because his doctor recommended a bit of added eye-rest. This, along with the fact his eyes aren’t set for driving, yet. This is common-practice. My pal should be back in the saddle, doing his radio gigs, next Monday, June 12. The Bozo thanks you for your prayers.

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Checking out those in nomination for the Country Music Association’s Hall-of-Fame in Nashville, I was more than ticked to notice Jimmy Dean is not on the list!  Give me a break! Jimmy was the first to present country music in prime-time on network television, and was responsible for the success of so many stars, including Patsy Cline, Roger Miller, Roy Clark and countless others. Believe me, this is a slap-in-the-face to the industry of country music. Really, it’s an insult. 

I want thank the CMA for honoring me with a lifetime membership in the establishment. However, this doesn’t change my attitude toward the organization for the turning of backs on Jimmy Dean. Some have told me it was an “oversight”. I don’t buy this statement.  

You’d be surprised at how many of his peers have stated: “I thought Jimmy Dean was already in the hall-of-fame!” 

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I won’t be making the Las Vegas Trucking Show June 15, 16 and 17,, but my son, Billy, and my daughter, Sunny, will be on-the-scene, representing us. My daughter, Misty, and daughter-in-law, April, will also be in Fun-City for the big show. Cindy and I haven’t made the Vegas show for the past couple of years. We had planned to head in that direction this year, but other obligations blocked it for us. 

Might mention: Billy, Sunny, April and Larry Shannon are receiving some very encouraging comments on the “live” Saturday show on XM Satellite Radio’s Channel 171. They are setting in during my time frame, from 12:00 Noon ‘til 4:00 PM, Eastern Time, taking phone calls, discussing issues and playing music. It’s so much better than the old “Best of Bill Mack” shows that have taken up that space for almost five years.  

 

May 22, 2006

ANOTHER COUNTRY LEGEND DIES

Grand Ole Opry star Billy Walker, 77, was killed in an Alabama car crash  Sunday, May 21, ‘06. Also killed in the tragedy were Billy’s wife, Bettie, 61, and two musicians … Charles Lilly, Jr., 44, and Daniel Patton, Sr., 40.  All were from the Nashville, Tennessee area. 

First reports from Nashville stated that Billy’s grandson, Joshua Brooks, 21,  had also died in the crash. Later news stated Joshua survived the accident, but is in critical condition in an Alabama hospital.  

Alabama officials said the group was on their way back to the Nashville area after performing at a show near Gulf Shores, Alabama, Saturday night. 

Latest reports indicate that the group was traveling in a van on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, Alabama when Billy lost control of the van, causing it to overturn, shortly after midnight.  

Billy was a personal friend. We worked together at KWFT Radio in Wichita Falls, Texas, during my beginning years in broadcasting, in the ‘50s. He and his band performed at the radio station before he moved to the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. He eventually joined the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, in 1960. Walker was still an active member of the Opry at the time of his death. 

Billy was born in Ralls, Texas, and built an early career as “The Masked Singer of Country Songs”, on Dallas’ Big D Jamboree, heard on KRLD Radio. 

Of personal interest: Billy Walker was the first artist to record my song, “Drinking Champagne”, released on Monument Records, in the mid-60s. His biggest hits included “Cross the Brazos at Waco” and “Charlie’s Shoes”. 

Funeral services for Billy and Bettie will be held Friday, May 26, at 2:30 PM in the Cornerstone Church, 726 Old Hickory Blvd. in Madison, Tennessee. Burial will be private. 

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested contributions be made to the Joshua Brooks Medical Fund, c/o Bank of America, 451 West Main Street, Hendersonville, Tennessee 37075. 

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Our old pal, Th’ Truckin’ Bozo, is going through some health problems with his eyes. He is doing his usual top job on XM Satellite Radio from behind the mike at his old radio home-base, WLW, in Cincinnati. Bozo is to have eye-surgery in Cincinnati. Say a few extra prayers for the ol’ pro. 

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 Cindy and I are on vacation through Memorial Day. Son, Billy … Daughter, Sunny … and old radio pro, Larry Shannon … are doing a great job handling things on our daily XM Satellite Radio programs.

 

May 2006

DOLLY PARTON APPEARED IN GRAND PRAIRIE, TEXAS … JUST OUTSIDE OF DALLAS, THE OTHER NIGHT. GRAND PRAIRIE IS LOCATED BETWEEN ARLINGTON AND DALLAS. IT’S THE AREA WITH THE “FOR-SALE” SIGNS HEAVILY DISPLAYED ON EVERY BLOCK. MATTER OF FACT, A BIG BILLBOARD ON I-30 READS: FOR SALE: GRAND PRAIRIE. BEST OFFER WILL BE ACCEPTED! 

THEY GAVE DOLLY THE KEYS TO THE CITY OF GRAND PRAIRIE, BUT NOTHING WAS WORTH UNLOCKING, ACCORDING TO DOLLY. 

SINCE DOLLY’S SHOW WAS SOLD OUT WEEKS IN ADVANCE, THE GRAND PRAIRIE CITY COUNCIL VOTED TO KEEP THE STOP LIGHTS RUNNING IN THE CITY UNTIL 10:30 PM. LAST TIME THIS HAPPENED WAS WHEN THE MAYOR’S DAUGHTER GOT MARRIED. MATTER OF FACT, THE GRAND PRAIRIE MOTEL SIX ALSO STAYED OPEN UNTIL 10:30 THAT SPECIAL NIGHT. THAT’S WHERE THE MAYOR’S DAUGHTER AND HER NEW HUBBY SPENT THEIR HONEYMOON. THE CITY OF GRAND PRAIRIE DIDN’T GIVE THE MAYOR’S DAUGHTER AND HER NEW HUBBY THE KEYS TO THE CITY, BUT THEY DID GIVE THEM THE KEYS TO THEIR ROOM AT THE MOTEL SIX, WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THEY WOULD CHECK OUT OF THE ROOM NO LATER THAN MIDNIGHT. THEY SPENT THE REST OF THE NIGHT IN THE BACKSEAT OF THE MAYOR’S LIMO. THE MAYOR, HER DADDY, DROVE THEM AROUND SOME BACKROADS. THE MAYOR’S WIFE WAS ALSO IN THE LIMO … IN THE BACKSEAT WITH THEIR DAUGHTER. SHE CHAPERONED DURING THE WEDDING NIGHT. 

DID YOU KNOW IT’S ILLEGAL TO DRINK ON SUNDAYS IN GRAND PRAIRIE? YOU’D HAVE THOUGHT THEY WOULD HAVE CHANGED THIS LAW YEARS AGO. YES, IT’S ILLEGAL TO DRINK ON SUNDAYS IN GRAND PRAIRIE. THIS INCLUDES WATER! 

I WENT OVER TO SEE DOLLY. SHE SAID SHE’D LIKE TO BUY MY SUPPER, BUT SHE WAS BUSTED! JUST BEFORE SHE RAN ON STAGE, SHE ASKED ME, “AM I WEARING MY RED SPIKED HEELS? I FORGOT WHICH PAIR I PUT ON! I CAN’T SEE THEM!” THAT’S AN OLD JOKE. DOLLY CAN SEE HER SHOES … IF SHE PULLS HER FEET UP TO HER FOREHEAD! 

DOLLY HAS A NEW TATOO. IT READS: “I CARE. I’M ADOPTING A PW.”  

I SAID, “THAT’S NICE. YOU’RE ADOPTING A PRISONER OF WAR?” 

SHE SAID, “NO … I’M ADOPTING PORTER WAGGONER!” 

PORTER SHOWED UP AND SURPRISED DOLLY. HE JUMPED UP ON STAGE TO SING A DUET WITH HER. AFTER THE SONG WAS FINISHED, THERE WAS A STANDING OVATION. THE AUDIENCE STOOD UP. DOLLY WAS IN THE AUDIENCE. 

OF COURSE, I’M JOKING ABOUT GRAND PRAIRIE, TEXAS. IT’S A GOOD TOWN TO BE FROM. WOULDN’T WANT TO STAY THERE!

 

 

April 2006

IN MEMORY OF BONNIE OWENS

It’s always tough when you lose a friend, and Bonnie Owens was just that: a very special friend. Bonnie passed away a few days ago after suffering the ravages of Alzheimer’s for the past several years.

Bonnie first entered my life in 1963, after I sent a note to Tally Records, in Bakersfield, California, stating that I was really sold on a song titled, “Sing A Sad Song”, by a new artist named Merle Haggard. Within a few days, I received a telephone call from Bonnie. She shouted, “Thank you, Bill Mack!”  

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

Bonnie Campbell was born to a sharecropping family in Blanchard, Oklahoma. When she was 12-years-old, her family followed the pattern set by hundreds of fellow depression stricken Okies by moving west … ending up in Arizona. Bonnie always claimed this page in her life was similar to the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s best selling novel, “The Grapes of Wrath”.  

Always fond of country music, Bonnie became known in her teens as one of the state’s best yodelers. 

In the late 40s, at a skating rink, Bonnie met another depression era transplant from Sherman, Texas named Alvis Edgar Owens. His nickname was “Buck”. Buck Owens was a funny lookin’ hillbilly singer with a group called Mac MaAfee and the Skillet Lickers. Soon after their meeting, Bonnie sang with Buck and the gang on their local radio show. They were both 18-years-old when they married in 1948. 

Buck and Bonnie had two sons, Buddy and Michael. In 1951, Buck, Bonnie and the boys moved to Bakersfield, California. By 1953, the marriage was over.   

“Buck and I had one good thing in common,” she said. “That was Buddy and Mike. We both wanted to make sure they had adjusted minds. It was a friendly parting.” 

Bonnie struck out on her own as a singer, appearing in Bakersfield clubs and on local TV. In 1961, she met Merle Haggard in a Bakersfield bar. The two recorded “Just Between The Two Of Us”  in 1964. The song remained a hit on the country music charts for more than six months. Bonnie and Merle were married in 1965. 

Bonnie was named “Best Female Vocalist” by the Academy of Country Music in 1967.  

Although Bonnie and Merle divorced in 1978, they continued touring together until 2000. 

“In some ways, Merle and I became better friends following the divorce,” said Bonnie. At his next wedding, she served as a bridesmaid. 

Merle said, “Bonnie sort of dropped the torch of her own career to stoke mine.” 

Bonnie’s death came four weeks after Buck’s passing. According to Jim Shaw, a close family friend, she may have been too deeply gripped by Alzheimer’s to realize he was gone. 

I will always treasure my friendship with this beautiful little lady.

 


 

RETIRE OR NOT RETIRE
THAT IS THE QUESTION
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“Retire” is a heavenly word to some people. How many times have you heard the proclamation, “Thank God, I’ll be retiring soon!”?         

If you are about to be blessed with retirement, give some serious thought to what may be inevitable: Boredom!  

I’ve witnessed several people stepping into the ranks of the retired, only to witness these same people looking for some kind of job within a few months, because they became bored while sitting at home with their spouse or attempting to raise tomatoes from sunrise to sunset. 

I suppose retirement works for some people; especially, if they are rich! Most of the rich don’t really retire. If they own the company, they just don’t show up at the office, anymore. Becoming bored, the boss simply goes to the country-club, the golf course or his yacht, instead of the office.          

It’s “forced-retirement” that grabs my attention. I have never been of the opinion that when a person reaches a certain age, company regulations suddenly indicate he, or she, is no longer needed. It’s of no concern if the individual is still producing on a high level, when the company calendar says it’s time to go!

Sometimes, company politics and jealousy force retirement of the brains of the outfit. 

This is exactly what happened when Louis B. Mayer, the highest paid individual in the nation throughout the 30s, was forced to retire from the Tiffany of the motion picture studios, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Mayer helped found M-G-M  in 1918, and it was a roaring success from the very beginning, becoming the most important money-making giant in Hollywood. No other movie studio could touch Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, thanks to the leadership of Mr. Mayer.  It was proudly proclaimed: “There are more stars at M-G-M than can be found in the heavens!” 

In 1951, after serving as the grand leader for 33 golden years, Louis B. Mayer was forced into retirement. Then came the unbelievable drop in revenue and, more important, the rapid demise of a motion picture company that literally ruled the entire industry. M-G-M was peddled from one owner to another, never recovering from Louis B. Mayer’s “forced retirement”.  In 2005, M-G-M  was purchased by Sony.  

Louis B. Mayer was an executive at the movie company. He was the boss! However, there is no forced retirement when the actor reaches a certain age. After all, the actor is the product. John Wayne was still beatin’ th’ hell out of villains on the big screen when he was almost 70.  I honestly believe “Th’ Duke” would still be punching his fists if lung cancer and stomach cancer hadn’t folded him up in June of 1979. Old John would never retire.

It was the same with Bob Hope. Bob pegged the mark at 100, before he finally bit the dust. When he hit 90, someone asked, “Bob, now that you’re ninety … when do you plan to retire?”         

Hope’s response: “Retire to what?”         

It’s the same in broadcasting. As long as they can utter words, the champions of radio and television continue to shine. As a matter of fact, the paychecks seem to get bigger as they add the years. For instance, no individual in radio news outshines Paul Harvey. This great man is still going, stronger than ever, at age 88. Mr. Harvey did his first broadcast in 1933 on KVOO, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  

In television, “Sixty-Minutes” continues to draw top ratings. This TV institution kicked-off September 24, 1968. In the beginning, some of the top television “experts” predicted the show wouldn’t last because Mike Wallace, the most famous of the news crew, was too old to hold court. “This man is hitting 50!” They screamed. Today, Myron Leon Wallace, age 88, shows no signs of weariness, although he is “stepping-down” as the lead-host on “Sixty-Minutes”.  While being interviewed by 72-year-old Larry King on CNN, Mike stressed the fact he is not retiring! “Just don’t want to hop as many planes,” he said. “I’ll still be going to my CBS office every day … and doing other things for the network.”       

Mike’s “Sixty-Minutes” side-kick, Andy Rooney, stays busier than ever. Why should he retire? Although he may not “look it”, Andy is one-year younger than Mike. Andy is only 87! 

When Dan Rather, a good ol’ boy from Wharton, Texas, presumably “fouled up” on CBS-TV, while anchoring the CBS Evening News, he was asked to “retire” from that position. Dan, 75-years-old, was repositioned as a reporter on “Sixty-Minutes”.  This grabs the attention: Dan was retired from CBS Evening News, and hired for “Sixty-Minutes”, on the same network! Perhaps the CBS brass wanted some younger blood for the old show. Don’t forget: Mike Wallace and Andy Rooney are close to 12-years-older than Dan! 

 In order to fill the gap on the CBS Evening News, the big brains at the network decided to place a younger dude in front of the camera on a temporary basis, until they could find a steady news-anchor. They placed Bob Schieffer, who’s been hanging around CBS for over thirty years, in Dan Rather’s chair. It was predicted Bob would hold down the fort for a couple of months-or-so, until the steady replacement could be selected.  

It makes me very proud to know Bob Schieffer, an old Fort Worth boy who used to do radio news at my old haunt, WBAP, in Fort Worth, is still hosting CBS Evening News … and the ratings are higher than ever!

By the way … Bob Schieffer is still a youngster. He’s 68.

Pat, my beautiful assistant, suggested I mention my plans for retirement. After all, I’ve been in the business of broadcasting since the Stone-age. Well, here are the facts: My XM Satellite Radio studio is in my home; I haven’t driven to work in over 5 years. I draw a nice salary, have a very good vacation plan, and the kitchen is just outside my studio. With Cindy behind the new cook-stove, the kitchen has become a built-in restaurant, serving very good food. 

Let’s face it: What I do isn’t considered a job; it’s simply walking into a room, taking some phone calls and playing music! It’s an enjoyable “happening” … every day! 

If I ever decide to bring my daily happenings to a halt, I’ll simply stay in bed, yell for my food from the kitchen, and watch old western movies! Of course, this would become a horrible bore in a matter of days, and I’d have to go find a job!  

Then, I would look forward to retiring!

 

March 25, 2006

Sad news during the past week:

Cindy Walker, the great songwriter from Mexia, Texas, and Buck Owens, the super star who was born in Sherman, Texas, passed away. Both were very good friends, both were inducted into the Country Music Hall-of-Fame.

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Thanks to my hometown, Shamrock, Texas, for the great honor presented to me March 17, St. Patrick’s Day:  Old Route 66, running through the north-side of town, is now known as Bill Mack Street.  Special thanks to David Rushing, Rev. Joe George Jernigan … and all of the fine folks in that dear ol’ Irish City!

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Good news!

My old pal, Willie Nelson, will be back with me every Wednesday, from 2:05 p.m. until 3:00 p.m., Eastern Time, on my XM Satellite Radio show, heard daily on Channel 171 (Open-Road).

Might mention --- Willie’s new CD is titled: WILLIE NELSON – “YOU DON’T KNOW ME” – The Songs of Cindy Walker.

As mentioned, we lost Cindy a few days ago.

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Beginning in April, my printed book … and the audio-book version … BILL MACK’S MEMORIES FROM THE TRENCHES OF BROADCASTING  will be found in all Flying J Truckstops throughout the country.

 

NO PAY?  NO PLAY!

”Payola” is a contraction of two words: “pay” and “Victrola” (the old LP record player). This scary word in broadcasting first made big headlines on May 9, 1960, when the hottest “rock” disk jockey in the nation, Alan Freed, who coined the phrase, Rock and Roll, was indicted in New York for accepting $2,500 for playing a recording on his radio program. Alan paid a small fine, $300, and was released. However, because of the negative headlines, his career in broadcasting crashed and, in 1965, Freed drank himself to death. Death records attribute his passing to cirrhosis-of-the-liver. Those closest to him swear he died of a broken heart. He was 41. 

After Alan Freed was caught and singled out by the feds (Federal Communications Commission; FCC) for taking money under the table for playing recordings, the radio industry laid out regulatory notes, threatening to take action against any and all employees who would stoop so low as to accept “hand-outs” from record labels or singing stars in order to have recordings aired. Taking a disk jockey to lunch or handing him a Christmas gift was considered “payola” by many radio stations --- for awhile. 

Now, close to a half-century later, $2,500 is considered “peanuts” when it comes to loot being laid in the hands of some high-profile disk jockeys, program directors and radio station big-wigs. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has charged “a corrupt record business” with skewing the Top-40  music charts by giving free trips and other goodies to radio programmers, and cold cash to radio stations in order for their super-stars to be heard by the masses. 

Sony BMG Music Entertainment agreed to pay a whopping $10-million to charity in order to settle Spitzer’s charges. Warner Music was also taken to the matt by Mr. Spitzer. The Attorney General has subpoenaed several other big record outfits after stating some record labels and radio stations are “breaking the law … in what could be the biggest payola scandal since the 1950s.” 

“Payola” never left the scene after the Alan Freed incident. It just went “under covers” for awhile. For the past decade, there has been very little hiding. This has been most obvious in the fact radio listeners are hearing the same songs, the same artists, over-and-over-and-over. That’s been the biggest radio audience complaint for years! Highly repetitive “air-play” should have sent questionable signals long ago.  

What presents heavy anger is the fact that while big money and gifts have been placed in some greedy, uncaring hands in broadcasting, hundreds of very talented singers, musicians and small record labels have been forced to sit back in embarrassment and watch their good works being ignored because they couldn’t afford to shell out the loot to the kilowatt crooks! 

Some of the hottest recordings on my XM Satellite Radio programs have been totally ignored by AM and FM outlets. And do you know who made these recordings so hot? Answer: the listeners!  

As examples, the Cherokee Indian version of “Amazing Grace”, by a group named Walela, has been one of the most requested recordings on my show for over two years. Truckstops and other locations selling the Walela CD have informed me it continues to sell so well that they “can’t keep it in stock.” Running neck-to-neck with Walela is songwriter/performer Hal Bynum. Hal’s, “The Promise”, has also been at the top of the request-list from my listeners for over two years. I receive daily inquiries asking where these recordings can be purchased. However, you won’t hear these hits on a lot of AM/FM radio stations. 

Granted, distribution may be a problem. Chances are, the radio stations don’t have these recordings. Question is … and this is important … would the stations play those recordings if they had them … and they were requested by the listeners? 

What we have here is a plague that has brought insult and injury to the reputation of radio for decades: greed and complete dishonesty. Although terrestrial radio is supposedly under the thumb of the federal government, the listeners are of no concern to most of the powerhouses of AM and FM. Sure, the radio stations want high ratings, determined by the amount of people listening, but money from the recording industry determines what those listeners will hear on a lot of major radio outlets. Many times, listeners will call a radio station, requesting a song, only to be informed, “That recording is not on our ‘play-list’.” This is another way of saying, “That recording has not been ‘purchased’ for play!” 

For the past several years, AM and FM have taken a tremendous overall drop in radio listeners. Many blame this on the fact that musical entertainment is much easier to self-construct via CDs, iTunes, iPods, MP3 formats and other bits of interesting gadgetry. I don’t agree with this. I believe the general public has grown tired of too many commercials and too limited musical entertainment. As I mentioned earlier, highly restricted play-lists and repetitive musical selections have placed terrestrial radio in a hell of a position. Many outlets are up-for-sale because the listening audience wised up to their shenanigans, grew tired of them, and bailed out … going to satellite radio and various other available sources for listening enjoyment. 

Before closing shop, let me insert a most important fact:  We do have lots of outstanding talent on both, AM and FM, and I sincerely believe most radio station owners and programmers are decent, honest people, dedicated to a tough, highly competitive industry. Trouble is, some of the big dogs messed up the yard!

 

TWO BEAUTIFUL LADIES

           The photo tells it all: I have been fortunate to have two very special ladies wait on me hand-and-foot down through the years. As I have mentioned many times, my mother was that very wonderful lady who was always there, all of my life. She may have spoiled me a bit, but I loved every minute!

          Mom would want me to mention another beautiful lady: my wife, Cindy. They were very close. Mom considered Cindy to be the daughter she never had, while Cindy placed my mother in a very special avenue of love. Honestly, I have never seen anyone more caring than Cin was with Mom. When I was a bit late in making telephone calls to my mother, Cindy issued sweet reminders. She also made it a point to suggest I get my work completed early, in order to make trips to Houston … to visit Mom.

          My mother and Cindy shared similar attitudes. Both were blessed with a tremendous amount of tolerance and understanding; both were totally unselfish and were constantly presenting an abundance of love to me.

          My mother was the perfect cook, but I must admit --- she didn’t outshine my little wife in that delicious department!

Cindy claims she learned her outstanding cooking skills from Mom.

          From the first day they met, Mom placed Cindy in a special spot in her heart, and Cin returned that love to my mother by frequently hugging her and uttering: “I love you, Mom.” And it was obvious that she meant every word in that short, valuable sentence; they were accompanied by that honest Cindy smile.

          Mom moved to Heaven a few weeks ago, but Cin continues to present that very beautiful blend of love, care and … when needed … concern.

          I’ll never forget how Mom would nudge me, point to Cindy and whisper: “God blessed you with a wonderful gift when he placed Cindy in your life.”

          As usual: Mom was right.

 

A CHRISTMAS WISH

I realize that most of you are super busy. ‘Tis the time! 

I sincerely wish all of you the best of health and happiness, as this beautiful season arrives. I wish all of you could be with your families, and that this Christmas would be the most joyful you have ever enjoyed.  

Of course, I realize these are impossible wishes. Some of you are having health difficulties, some of you are unhappy because of loneliness --- and many of you will not be with your families because of your jobs.  

Immediately, I think of those special people serving our country in the military. My wish is that they will return home soon. Say a special prayer for those men and women. Say an extra prayer for the families of those who have lost loved ones while attempting to serve our nation. 

There are also the truckers --- doing their best to deliver the goods. When you open your gifts and study that big turkey on the table, chances are good that they were made available because of various truckers. God bless ‘em! 

There are also the police, the firemen and those other special people on tough assignments. Say special prayers for them. 

Speaking on behalf of my wife, Cindy, and my entire family: 

Merry Christmas!


 

December 10, 2005

THE SPIRIT OF GIVING

In my last Hot-Mike feature, I brought up issues pertaining to changes being made at Christmas that are affecting those who believe in the reason for celebrating at this time of year. 

Now, let’s focus on something that can instill a lasting, enjoyable spirit: Giving.  

Sure, we give a lot at Christmas. Looking under our family Christmas tree is a true example of “giving”. After those dozens of items have been opened, it’ll be time to bag up the wrapping paper and boxes and attempt to put the living room back in an orderly fashion. 

Let’s give some thought to real giving. That is … giving where it really counts; where it’s really appreciated! Let’s give some serious thought to the various shelters and missions that are set up in most cities where you can drop off clothing, canned food, money and other needed items. To me, the most difficult thought that comes to mind on Christmas morning is the fact there are children with no toys. Even more difficult is the realization there are children with no food on Christmas morning! Thanks to the various shelters and missions, people of all ages will have plenty of food and warm clothing, and children will have toys.  

Let me say it again: The Salvation Army is the perfect example of helping those-in-need. 

And let’s don’t forget that wonderful organization known as Toys For Tots! 

My grandkids have toys stashed under their beds and packed in hidden places that they lost interest in months ago! The toys and gadgets are in perfect working condition. I’m putting batteries in those that require them, cleaning them … and some dandy little boys and girls are going to enjoy them Christmas morning. My grandkids want to join me as I unload those toys at the “Shelter”. We may stop at the Dollar Store and pick up a bunch of extra toys! 

I was going through my closet the other day, tossing out clothing that is no longer needed. There were several coats and jackets that no longer fit my size, simply hogging my closet space. Some of them had not been worn over two or three times. Most of them were given to me by various trucking companies. I’m packing those items, along with some trousers, shirts, sweaters, shoes and boots and taking them to a shelter. 

If there is no “shelter” or “mission” in your area, give donations to your church. 

Selfishly, I don’t give much thought to donating clothing when the weather is warm. However, when the temperature begins to dip, I begin cleaning out my closet. I should have made my donation months ago! 

An added note: 

My little friend, Helen Cornelius, the beautiful singer, had her annual physical the other day. Her doctors have informed her every year that she is a “study in perfect health”. Helen said she exercises daily, watches her diet, doesn’t smoke, and follows all instructions pertaining to protecting the health. 

A few days ago, Helen was informed she has breast cancer. 

As would be expected, there was the horror that crashed through Helen’s mind: Cancer! 

The word spread rapidly … prayers were requested, and prayers were given. Many of those prayers were given by countless truck drivers who listen to my daily programs, after I made the announcement pertaining to Helen’s health problem. 

Those prayers have been answered. I received a note from Helen asking me to thank you. After the surgery, her doctors informed her the cancer was isolated and that they are certain the little lady will be back in action, soon. 

Many of you gave Helen Cornelius the greatest gift available: Prayer. 

That’s the real Spirit of Christmas!

 

November 30, 2005

'TIS THE SEASON

I’m thankful Thanksgiving has passed. Now, I’m looking forward to my favorite time of year --- Christmas! However, I have this fear we are losing a lot of the importance of this very special holiday, and it brings a bit of sadness.

As you probably know, many organizations are attempting to take all references to Jesus out of Christmas! When I first heard this, I said, “Ain’t no way!” If references to Christ are omitted during the season, what are we celebrating? After all, the holiday is supposedly set aside to celebrate His birthday!

Did you know there was a sincere attempt by one of those weird groups to get Christmas re-named? Of course, it didn’t pan out for those jokers, but they did organize … with hopes of taking Christ out of Christmas. I never found out what new name they presented, and it’s of no importance, now. Perhaps they submitted Toymas or Giftmas or Snowmas or Santamas. Who knows? Who cares?

Come to think about it, perhaps we should care! Certainly, there is room for concern, here. After all, various groups are seriously attempting to get all Christmas carols wiped from radio play-lists, and there are those in high places who are listening to these suggestions, giving thought to what might need to be done in order to make Christmas non-offending to those who don’t believe in God.

Something to think about: if prayers are forbidden in schools and during high-school football games, don’t be surprised at what might take place in the not-too-distant future!

If Christmas was not such a money-making event, I’m sure there would be a lot of restrictions in matters pertaining to this holiday.. Let’s face it: when it comes to big loot, a “hands-off” policy goes into action.

Something else that grabs my attention is the fact that the Salvation Army has been ordered to stop the bell-ringing at most stores. I was told that some of our greedy establishments are of the opinion that the money being tossed into the Salvation Army kettles might be spent inside the store, if this very caring organization was asked to “move somewhere else” in order to help the needy.

To my way of thinking, the Salvation Army represents the spirit of Christmas like no other organization. To me, these good people are Christmas!

I’m afraid we’re going to see some depressing changes made for this time of year. Oh, there will be plenty of celebrating, and the exchanging of gifts will always be a part of the pattern because, as I’ve already mentioned, the spending of money will never change. To many, that’s what it’s all about! It appears that the Story of Christmas and the traditional beliefs pertaining to the holiday have become less important during the past few decades.

Did you ever think a gift certificate from a service station ($100 worth of Premium Unleaded!) would make a perfect Christmas gift?

See what I mean?

 

November 15, 2005 

I hate to read movie-ratings, especially when the writer puts down a motion picture I am anxious to see. This was the case when I was reading Christopher Kelly’s review of “Walk The Line”, the film focusing on Johnny Cash and June Carter, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. After viewing an advance release for the media, Kelly stamped a “C” on the tag of his write-up, finding it a yawning, predictable piece of stuff. 

A bit hesitant, Cindy and I visited the theater. After 136 minutes of pure enjoyment, I’m of the opinion Christopher Kelly was either in the restroom for a long stay, or was looking for his lost popcorn box while the film was being shown to the invited, special crowd of professional dignitaries from assorted newspapers and other sects representing the media.  

I’m almost willing to place immediate bets that “Walk The Line” will pick up some Oscars next year. James Mangold deserves an award for his directing what may be the Picture-of-the-Year, Joaquin Phoenix has to be in the running as Male Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Johnny Cash, and Reese Witherspoon could easily, and deservingly, give a teary-eyed acceptance speech while holding her Oscar as the Female Actor in a Leading Role

Of course, like Christopher Kelly, this is my humble opinion of the movie. And it could be my personal memories of my old friends Johnny Cash and June that made the picture so very special to me.  

When I heard Phoenix and Witherspoon were going to do the singing, instead of over-dubbing the voices of Johnny and June, I questioned that decision, believing it would most likely stand out like a sore thumb. I was wrong. Not one time, while closely absorbing every minute of the picture, did I detect the fact that the singing-voices on the big screen were, actually, the “pipes” of the actors!  Running side-by-side with that fact was that I felt I was witnessing Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash in action. Joaquin was Johnny; Reese was June! 

Place your bets now: “Walk The Line” and “Capote” will steal the thunder at the Oscar hand-outs next year. 

By the way, Christopher, I also enjoyed “Good Night and Good Luck”, another film you kicked in the rear!

  *****

The multi-talented Janie Fricke was on my program a few days ago. Janie has won many awards as a singer. Now, she is in the furniture business! Beautiful stuff, too. It’s tagged asThe Janie Fricke Collection. More about this, where to buy, etc., a little later down the line. 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


 

November 5, 2005

The movie, Walk The Line, based on the life of Johnny Cash, is set for release in a few days, and advance reviews indicate it will be a smash hit at the box-office. Directed by James Mangold, the film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, and Reese Witherspoon as his wife, June Carter Cash. Some very important people in Hollywood are already shouting “Oscars!” 

There were whispers that the motion picture, Ray, a study of the late Ray Charles, may have set a precedent. However, the news is out that Walk The Line outshines Ray, thanks to a more balanced sense of direction and acting. As much as I enjoyed the Ray Charles film and the Oscar-winning performance of Jamie Foxx, I find this difficult to believe. It just makes the highly anticipated viewing of Walk The Line more valuable. 

Rated PG-13 for language, thematic material and depiction of drug dependency, Walk The Line has a runtime of 136 minutes.  

One very important issue that may set the fans of Johnny and June in the theater balcony is the realization that Director Mangold decided to use the voices of Phoenix and Witherspoon, instead of dubbing in the singing of Johnny and June. Here, again, those who reviewed the picture say it works like a charm. Ray Charles’ unmatchable singing was used in Ray.  

One reason for utilizing the singing of the actors may have been because the voice of Ray Charles was consistently a bit more demanding than the styling and presentation of Johnny Cash, allowing Johnny’s voice an  easier project to mimic. The same is true of June Carter. Of all of the Carter Sisters singing team, her voice was less restricted. June specialized in comedy and upbeat songs. 

Also of interest in the Walk The Line cast is Waylon Payne, the son of the late, great singer, Sammi Smith and Willie Nelson’s guitar man, Jody Payne. Waylon, named after Waylon Jennings, plays Jerry Lee Lewis. Waylon Jennings’ son, Shooter Jennings, is cast as his dad in the film. 

A bit of added trivia: It took four years for the producers of Walk The Line to secure rights to the story from James Keach, a friend of Johnny Cash and his family. After Keach finally agreed to the terms, it took another four years to complete the film.


 

October 28

           Having Larry King (CNN) and his beautiful, talented wife, Shawn, on my program was a genuine pleasure. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve followed Larry’s career, dating back to his days in radio on the Mutual Network. Basically, some of that old radio sound still radiates in the man.

          It’s a natural happening to be a bit intimidated when interviewing someone in broadcasting, one of your peers … especially if that person happens to be the most popular “interviewer” on television! However, from the minute Larry came on the scene until our air-time ended, he was just another good ol’ radio boy, exchanging thoughts and quips “on the mike”. It was a fun gig, and my slight feeling of intimidation faded rapidly.

          When viewing King doing his nightly thing on CNN, he is strictly business, as it should be. Willie Nelson has been interviewed by Larry several times, and refers to him as “an enjoyable ol’ boy to be around. Nice guy.” The late Johnny Cash considered Larry King “the best there is at what he is doin’.”

          Larry caught my wife Cindy’s heart when he laid heavy emphasis on the importance of his young sons, Chance and Cannon, in his life.

          Before leaving, King accepted my invitation to return in the near future and occupy my Guest Seat for an hour. We’ll open up the telephone lines and let the listeners ask this Champion of Broadcasting some questions!

              As was expected, Shawn King, Larry’s beautiful wife, really stole the show! Her record label, Lofton Creek Records, told me she was an interviewer’s dream, and this she was. She and Cindy took turns in laying out the news that their husbands were, indeed, just a couple of old boys who were attempting to make a decent living, but had their obvious “shortcomings”. Shawn allowed the news to be known that “Larry can’t screw in a light bulb”, when it comes to being a handyman around the house. She also mentioned his “shortcomings” while attempting to park the family car.

          Sad to say, Cindy released some of my “shortcomings” that far outweighed Larry’s.

The listener response to Shawn’s new CD, “In My Own Backyard”,  was overwhelming.  Most of those who telephoned, raving about her talent, were women, which is an indication she is set to hit, “big time”. This lady sings with soul! And after visiting with her on-the-air, she became even more important to Cindy and me. Not a hint of ego, just a beautiful little mother and housewife who possesses a God-given gift when it comes to singing a song.

After hearing her for the first time, my old pal, Willie Nelson, said, “Shawn is a terrific talent! I believe she’s got a hit with her new single, In My Own Backyard!”

Willie added: “I’d be happy to record a duet with this lady anytime, if she’s willing!”

Good news, Willie: Shawn says she’s “willing”!

Shawn also accepted my invitation to return, occupy the special Guest Seat, and talk with the listeners.

Thanks, Larry and Shawn, for being with us on XM Satellite Radio.  

+++++

My singing-preaching friend from my hometown, Shamrock, Texas …, Reverend Joe George Jernigan … has a super requested release of his version of “An American Trilogy”. After giving it one play on my XM radio show, the phones and E-mail began to flash!

A CD of this very good recording can be found in most stores in Shamrock, including Joe George’s food hut, Red Rooster Barbeque, located next to the post-office in the Irish City.

Visit Brother Joe’s website: www.joegeorgemusic.com

 ++++++

Bozo’s back in action, after a week in Cincinnati, on vacation. Dial in the Boze, daily … following my show (4:05 PM, Eastern Time) on XM Satellite Radio’s Channel 171.

Rumor has it that Bozo and his darlin’ Lumpy went back to the original digs where they spent their honeymoon, several years ago. Lumpy said it was a very romantic week. “The hotel room looked the same as it did on that very special night. They hadn’t even changed the sheets!” She shouted.

Way to go, kids!  Welcome back!

+++++ 

 

October 24

          I’m looking forward to Thursday, October, 27 when Larry King and his beautiful wife, Shawn, visit my XM Satellite Radio show. Plans are set for them to be with me between 12:35 PM and 1:00 PM, Eastern Time. In case you miss it then, it’ll be repeated between 8:35 PM and 9:00 PM on XM.  

I’ve been a fan of the King of CNN since he was isolated to radio.

          When it comes to interviews, Larry has developed a very simple style, yet the more egotistical hosts-of-questioning would find it very difficult to follow: he jumps right to the questions with no unnecessary “heralding”. He doesn’t always preface a question with a beautiful compliment (“You are the greatest! What is your secret to success?”) Instead, he may utilize the element of surprise (“What made you kill your wife?”)

          Another most noticeable kink from the ordinary Talk-Question host is the obvious fact that King seldom uses “I” during his questioning (“I heard something about you today, and I thought I would ask you this question before I have to bid you goodnight. Do you suffer from a mild case of stage fright, or was I misinformed? If so, I apologize!”) Instead, he would most likely jump a hump with, “What made you fall off the stage at Universal City? Were you drunk?”

          Potential guests are standing in line to be with Larry. Even the most hardened personalities love the guy! Remember Marlon Brando kissing him, smack in the mouth? Billy Graham made it a point to tell King, “My wife, Ruth, and I look forward to you every night.” Martha Stewart nixed all interview offers after getting out of the slammer, but couldn’t resist the invitation to visit with Larry on CNN. It was easy to spot the fact that she loved being with him. The only time she went into a silly little school girl study-in-evasion was when King asked her about her “love-life”. She giggled, “Don’t ask me that question, Larry!” Finally, she snickered an answer-of-sorts. She didn’t want to completely ignore his question!

          Shawn King, Larry’s beautiful wife, is a very good singer! She has a new CD on the market, and it sounds very good! The title song, now a single, is “In My Own Backyard” (Lofton Creek Records).  There are 15 tracks in all. Her duet with Steve Tyrell, “Big Bad Love”, is super. Definitely, I’ll be spotlighting Shawn’s music on the Thursday program … and programs to follow. Her singing style appeals to the masses.

          Although Larry has been given almost every award available in radio and television, Shawn presented him with the greatest of gifts --- two fine boys, Chance and Cannon, and a happy home.

+++++

My singing-preaching friend from my hometown, Shamrock, Texas …, Reverend Joe George Jernigan … has a super requested release of his version of “An American Trilogy”. After giving it one play on my XM radio show, the phones and E-mail began to flash!

A CD of this very good recording can be found in most stores in Shamrock, including Joe George’s food hut, Red Rooster Barbeque, located next to the post-office in the Irish City.

Visit Brother Joe’s website: www.joegeorgemusic.com

 ++++++ 

My old XM radio podnuh, The Truckin’ Bozo, is on vacation this week. As the chill of late-fall, early-winter sets in, Bozo decided to get his beautiful little wife, Lumpie, out of Florida and whiz her to the balmy clime in Cincinnatti!

Way to go, Pal!           

 

October 15    

When I heard the news that the cost of heating was jumping 90%, it dawned on me that the average American can’t afford to travel ($3.00 per gallon) or stay home! I’m of the opinion this is the time to visit my kids!

          Enough of that!

+++++

A “must-read” book by Lyle E Style, from Canada, will soon be on the racks. It’s a great tribute to my old pal, the late Roger Miller, titled: AIN’T GOT NO  CIGARETTES … the title taken from the lyrics to one of Roger’s biggest hits, “King of the Road”. The book, published by Great Plains Publications, consists of dozens of artists and friends of Roger, quoting their memories of this very talented individual. Some of the quotes are informative, some are a bit sad … and, as expected, some are hilarious!

Here’s one of my favorite Roger Miller quotes, made to his guitarist, Lee Rollag, as they passed the arch in St. Louis: “There’s the tomb of the unknown hamburger!”

+++++

Want to hear an outstanding potpourri of gospel? Listen to the new CD by the world-famous Chuck Wagon Gang, titled, “Clinging To A Saving Hand”. Yes, the title song is one I wrote in 1970, I’m proud to say.

The “gang” has never sounded better.

Although the group was founded 70 years ago in Lubbock, Texas, the current Chuck Wagon Gang sounds exactly like the original bunch; powerful!

The Chuck Wagon Gang has sold over 40-million recordings down through the years.  Listening to them today is more enjoyable than ever. It’s a “simple” production … four voices and a guitar … but no quartet has managed to outshine them!

Check this website for their recordings: www.thechuckwagongang.net

Might mention: the beautiful Shaye Truax is a direct descendent of the original crew!

+++++

          Something that comes to mind: My friend Larry Shannon, the head-honcho with Radio Daily News, instigated the annual Texas Radio Hall-of-Fame several years ago, and many people associated with broadcasting have been highly complimented via that special honor, including yours-truly. Now, I think it’s high-time Mr. Shannon was inducted into that honorable spot, and I’m certain many of my peers are of the same opinion.

Of course, Larry is going to back away from pursuing this idea, but I’m making it public: Larry Shannon has been in radio for decades, has fought through the barricaded beaches of broadcasting, is still active in the business … and needs to be placed in the Texas Radio Hall-of-Fame!

Incidentally, the annual event takes place Saturday evening, November 5 in Dallas at the Marriott Quorum, near the Galleria (14901 Dallas Parkway at Beltline Road). This is Texas’ greatest annual radio get-together! Always lots of fun; a real gathering where everybody walks around practicing their “air-tones”: (“One, two three, testing!!!!)

For info and full details, go to www.texasradiohalloffame.com

Larry, if you pick up on this, get your tux cleaned and practice an acceptance speech --- just in case!

No kidding. This needs to be done. Any suggestions? Contact me: Billmack@billmackcountry.com.

+++++

Another Roger Miller statement of value:

Willie Nelson informed me that he and Roger were traveling in south Texas as the sun was setting. Willie said, “It was the most gorgeous sunset I had ever seen, and I wanted Roger to enjoy the moment with me. However, he appeared to be sleeping, while I drove. As I kept viewing the breath-taking colors, Roger growled, ‘Willie, just think of what God could have done if he’d had money.’”

+++++

 

October 3, 2005

Cindy and I are taking vacation this week. “Best Of” shows will be aired through October 10 during my daily spot on XM Satellite Radio … OPEN-ROAD … Channel 171.

       Nothing special has been planned, although we hope to make a drive down to my hometown, Shamrock, Texas, where the City Council informed me they are naming a part of historic old Route 66, running from city-limit to city-limit. BILL MACK BOULEVARD.

       What an honor! As a kid, I worked at my dad’s little truck-stop when it was located on that very special boulevard.

       My friend Willie Nelson suggested I charge a toll-fee for traveling on my boulevard! Come on, Will! Cut that out!

       Lots of plans are in the making for Shamrock. It’s always been an active town. Of course, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration has been a “look-forward-to” happening in Shamrock since 1938.

       Try the delicious Red Rooster Barbeque, next to the post office!

       By the way, don’t let the Route 66 location confuse you. Shamrock is located 93 miles east of Amarillo on I-40. Out of respect, they still allow old Route 66 to trail through the north edge of town.

       Another thing to be proud of is the fact Shamrock has the tallest water-tower in Texas!!! If it hasn’t been wiped away by various storms that have occurred during the past decades, my name is on the big tank, scribbled there, along with the names of some of my outlaw high-school chums, many years ago. Constable John Cox ordered us to climb up the giant structure and wipe the names. However, the old lawman suffered from acrophobia … a fear of height … and never checked to see if we had followed his orders!

--

      The beautiful singer, Pauline Reese, appeared at the State Fair of Texas October 2 with Ray Benson and Asleep-At-The-Wheel. In the promo ads, Pauline’s name wasn’t mentioned! What a mistake! This pretty gal is destined to become a top marquee super-star. On my radio shows, she’s already one of the most requested. The people love th’ lady!

--

       Something special to look forward to is a new gospel CD by the adorable, talented Linda Plowman (Fikes). It’s set for release this month (October).

 

STRANGE WORDS, MY COMPUTER, AND MY BOOK: A DEEP STUDY

By Bill Mack 

I have been asked by my editor, Megan, to write a bit about the construction of my book.

While I was writing my autobiography, BILL MACK’S MEMORIES FROM THE TRENCHES OF BROADCASTING, there was that constant feeling of inferiority. I developed some serious doubts while seated at the keyboard of my computer. When I took on the assignment of writing about myself, it was similar to staring in the mirror and noticing deformities. A tiny mole suddenly appeared larger than normal! It’s a mole that’s been near my chin since I was born, but, overnight, it became more noticeable. I knew it wasn’t cancerous. I’ve asked various physicians about it for years, and they all said it was a “benign mole, nothing to be concerned about.” A girl I used to date when I was in my mid-teens even went so far as to say it was a cute little mole! She loved it!

          Let’s be honest: I’m also a very dedicated hypochondriac. Cindy doesn’t allow me to digest Reader’s Digest. If she discovers a new one in the mail, she scissors out any and all pages pertaining to health, before it is handed to me.

          Then, there were the uneasy questions: who’s gonna buy the book; who cares about what I have or haven’t done through my years? After all, this wasn’t going to be a study of Paul Newman or David Letterman!

Doubt was causing me to feel geezy!         

Something was just brought to my attention, via my computer: there is no such word as geezy. A red flash lit up geezy after I had written it. My computer corrected me with its cute little red worm!

Does it tick you off when your computer corrects you? Do you hate for a piece of machinery that you plug into the wall for electrical energy takes it on itself to make you feel like an idiot? 

Out of curiosity, I just typed in old geezer, and noticed geezer is an acceptable word. According to my computer there is such a word as geezer, but there is no such thing as geezy! Check it out yourself!

Wouldn’t geezy be an appropriate word for someone who is too young to be a geezer?

Now do you see why I sometimes question my ability as a writer? As you read this, I’m certain you may feel the same.

I just checked on geezier and it, too, shoots a red flash! Give me a break! What do you say should you want to insert the thought that one old geezer is more geezy than another old geezer? Do you say, “This old geezer is more geezerer than that other old geezer?” Smart-box also says there’s no such thing as geezerer!

According to my whiz-kid computer, geezy doesn’t work (no such word), geezie (geezy spelled differently) doesn’t function, geezier and geezerer don’t exist in the king’s language … but geezer is a perfect word!

How dare this hunk of junk, consisting of hundreds of coils, trickets and wobbled wire, insult my intelligence and question my verbal creations?!! 

Now, I have been told by my snobby Sony creation that there is no such word as trickets! I’ve been using this word for years! My crappy (crappy works!) little computer says I should substitute tricots for trickets! My Webster’s New World Dictionary refers to tricot as a “knitted fabric”. Show me a computer consisting of coils, wires, assorted lights and knitted fabric and I’ll show you a Chinese manufacturer who’s about to set fire to your home or office, if you plug the damned thing into the electrical plug in the wall!

Insert: I always send a “rough” copy of my writings to my dear little sweet-singing friend, Linda Plowman Fikes (Professionally known as Linda Plowman). After reading this, Linda was kind enough to send me a message reading, “By the way, Bill, could you, perhaps, have meant trinkets when you were saying, trickets? Just wonderin’.

“Love, Linda”

Now, it’s dawned on me that I may have been using the wrong word for generations! I’m certain I’ve used it on my radio shows, but Rabbi, one of my most dependable listeners, never mentioned that there was no such word as trickets !

By the way: Rabbi suffered with Rickets, years ago. He’s healed up, now.

Let’s face it. Computers are not friendly. They look for ways to freeze up on us; they invite viruses to invade them in order to make us miserable, or to force us to purchase a new one … just imported from China!

          Most electrical items in our house are friendly. Our television sets, although complex, are friendly. Clocks are friendly, although you have to set them straight every once in awhile. Refrigerators, washers and dryers are like old pals, although they, like us, finally wear down. But computers resemble that oh-so-smart punk who used to show off his knowledge of history when we were in grade school. He made the rest of us look like blooming idiots while impressing the teacher! In later years, he became a Congressman.

          Stop and think about this, and feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong: Computers are outsmarting us! They don’t have the guts to speak up and tell us we’re idiots. Instead, they use little red and green streaks (worms) … as if they don’t have time to “talk it over” with us!

          We purchase these boogers (booger is a usable word, I just noticed) with our hard earned funds, take them home, plug them in … and then, we’re at their mercy.

I’m getting very confused. I know something will happen to spoil this article because I dared to strike back at the super intelligent potpourri of lights, coils, wiring and keyboard that are assembled to make my writing an easier task.

Could be, I’m taking all of this too seriously, that I’m becoming an old geezer!  And I’m getting geezerer as I write this!

I’m going to bed! 


HOWARD STERN AN’ OTHER STUFF

Let’s take a look at the Howard Stern situation. Sure, this is old news, now. Howard was dropped by a bunch of our radio powerhouses because of the so-called “filth” he had shoved into the tender ears of the American people.

      I have a problem with this. I’m not saying Stern should still be doing his “thing”; I’m simply asking the question, “What happened?” 

Stern can’t be blamed for all of the kilowatt krud that has presumably been insulting the American people for over a decade! Old Howard boasts some of the highest ratings in the history of broadcasting.  Ratings are based on listenership, which is completely voluntary on AM & FM radio. No one forced the majority to listen to the man! This is one reason dial-changers are attached to the Sony! Most listeners seemed to tolerate ol’ Howard and his blunt approach!

      It took Janet Jackson’s expose during the Super Bowl to bring the majority of Americans to their embarrassed knees. And, again, this intrigues me.

      A lot of us complain about the filth we see at the movie theaters and on television, and we “can’t believe what’s being aired on radio!”  Some of today’s recorded hits also contain questionable lyrics that, at one time, were prohibited on radio. 

“Won’t do any good to complain,” we growl. And, to a degree, this is true.

      Howard Stern may have been the first to set the pace for true- putridity on the airwaves, but he seemed to be on the right course, according to those in charge at many leading radio stations. He brought in the listeners --- and he brought in the loot! If the radio stations couldn’t get Howard, they hired air-personalities who could also shell out the dirt, similar to what Stern was belching. In the world of broadcasting, it’s simply business!

      Regardless of what you hear and read, most outlets would continue broadcasting the Stern type format if the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) hadn’t threatened to lay heavy fines on radio stations programming four-letter-words that are normally utilized by personnel on ships at sea.

      Next question: What took the FCC so long?

We’re told it all exploded when several of those on the “commission” saw Janet Jackson in action during the Super Bowl. It was announced that one of the Washington bigwigs was highly embarrassed when his children saw Janet unveil!

Makes you wonder where Mr. Clean has been for the past couple of decades, doesn’t it?

      The problem here is the fact that the great majority of people in these good old United States are not about to crawl back into the past. We keep leaning on the freedom-of-speech amendment … regardless of what the “speech” consists of. The open-air atmosphere has surrounded us too long to whack it now!

Hollywood says, “Take the four-letter-words out of the films and change the ratings from R to PG and you may as well close the movie theaters!”

Very few people are willing to stand in line for tickets to see films rated G, as most children’s films are rated, or PG for movie releases consisting of just a few little “cuss words”.

      Same thing when it comes to nudity. Hollywood says, “Keep the clothes on, and you keep the customers out!”

      Out of curiosity, I asked a friend of mine who works for one of our leading movie theater chains if this is true. His answer: “Yes. The leading ticket purchasers are those in their early to late twenties. Take away the ‘skin’ and dirty words and those young folks will stay home and watch television or go to the bars! R rated movies have been the main attractions ever since those youngsters were born!”

      He added, “Cutting the garbage would be like crawling back in time, to the younger generation. What worked in the 50s and 60s is considered ‘stale’ and ‘old-hat’ to the crowd in their twenties and early thirties. Motion pictures utilizing four-letter words and ‘sex shock’ sell tickets at the box-office. Sure, we have those cute little G rated gems that fill the movie houses, but occupying most of the seats are mothers, daddies and the little ones! Very few young adults patronize the ‘kiddy clean’ showings.”

A well known producer admitted that sex and extremely foul language will be inserted in a film in order to change the rating from a calm PG to R, even though the ‘scene’ and words are of absolutely no use to the subject content in the film.

“We’ll just add a few lines and scenes, even if they are unneeded, in order to change the rating, and to sell tickets,” he laughed.

 Motion pictures come under a completely different set of rules than those that supposedly control the content heard on radio and television. When you pay to see a movie or stage play, it is a voluntary act. If you are within the legal age for admission, all systems are “Go”!

Radio and television content is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission. Although the FCC has been very lenient for years, they can still lay heavy fines on radio outlets shoveling out the super grime.

What we have here is a system that has been allowed to exist without fear, even though it has gone beyond the boundaries of decency in many instances. However, our nation is very diversified in tastes and attitudes. Lay some extreme changes in the laps of the average American, and he’ll consider it “intruding”.

      Ever hear about the Prohibition Act? Here was a case where the government bowed to the complaints of the so-called majority, made radical changes in laws … and ticked most Americans off!

This brought on “bootlegging”.

Like it or not: Legal or illegal, it’s always gonna be here.

-O-

 

MACK FACTS 

 Did you know that Bill Mack’s voice was used in a sequence of MY ARCHITECT: A SON’S JOURNEY (New Yorker)? The film was one of five in nomination for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for the year 2003.

  The Tagline: The secret life of architectural genius Louis Kahn.

  Plot Outline: Director Nathaniel Kahn searches to understand his father, noted architect Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone in 1974.

  The Oscar was presented to FOG OF WAR (Sony Pictures Classics)

---

  Just released: The news that LeAnn Rimes’ “BLUE “, the Grammy-winning song, written by Bill Mack, was voted among the Top 100 Videos of All Time (CMT). Last year, “BLUE” was voted among the Top 100 Country Songs of All Time.

 

THE SMOKIN’ ISSUE

 

          One of the biggest complaints among truckers, male and female, is the “weight issue”. No, we’re not talking about the weight of the load here, we’re talking about the weight of those behind-the-wheel. Sometime back, I read an article stating trucking rates close to the top in the list of professions consisting of overweight individuals. The cause of this health hazard was marked as eating fatty foods and lack of exercise.

          The other big concern is smoking.

          During the many years I’ve been in close communication with truckers, the subject of weight has been brought up many times. While doing radio remote broadcasts from various truck stops and trucking shows, I’ve interviewed hundreds of drivers. During many of those one-on-one chit-chats they revealed two of their worst habits: Over-eating and smoking. There’s a good chance either one of these problems will send the unfortunate victim to an early retirement from the road because of failing health or even to an early grave.

          I was a smoker for many years, dating back to my high school days. Finally, after dozens of attempts, I kicked the nasty habit. Now, I’m one of those ex-smokers who can be such a pain in the rear-end by intruding with those nauseating words, “You ought to give those things up!”

Honestly, I used to despise those folks who had been smoking for years and then, after cleaning up their personal act for a few weeks, decided to become ambassadors of good health by bullying in with such statements as “You’re gonna die if you don’t quit smokin’!” or “Them thangs are sure to kill you!”

          Of course, my mother and dad had every right to jump me out when I was caught smoking in the garage one day. I was puffing on a Lucky and sitting on a big barrel filled with gasoline that my dad used in his tractors. I was informed that if he ever caught me smoking again he was taking the belt to me, even though I was sixteen years old. “Anybody who smokes while sittin’ on a barrel of gas deserves to have his tail warmed,” he said.

          Johnny Cash had a problem with drugs. Instead of cocaine, Johnny was hooked on “pills”. While talking with me one day, Cash said, “Kickin’ the habit with pills was tough. But th’ toughest habit for me to kick was cigarettes. They’re harder to quit than dope!”

          Johnny made this statement to me years ago after I had lit up a cigarette during the Country Music Disk Jockey Convention in Nashville. He had been clear of both, drugs and cigarettes for years. I thought he was poking his very talented nose into my personal business. Today, I now realize, after being off “smokes” for many years, that Johnny was concerned. He had every right to divulge his attitude toward cigarettes to me because we were friends.

          Nowadays, there are many new ways to help choke the smoking habit. There are patches, nicotine gum, hypnotism … all sorts of doodads that are guaranteed to make it easy for you to drop the habit and clear the lungs. First, though, you really need to want to stop smoking.

          I firmly believe it’s a matter of desire, wanting to quit, and finally saying, “This is it.”

          Trouble is, I said, “This is it”, dozens of times before giving up cigarettes. What helped me most is the fact I’m a hypochondriac. I can read an article on any type of illness in Reader’s Digest and immediately develop every symptom. Next, I call my doctor, who is a good friend, and ask him to meet me at the hospital emergency room because I’m certain I’ve developed North African Jungle Mungo!

Seriously, after reading scary columns almost daily in the newspaper about the dangers of developing lung cancer and emphysema, I finally flushed my last Camel down the drain.

          One thing I did notice after being off smokes for several weeks was the fact the food tasted better. I started putting on the pounds!

          Let’s face it: You can’t have your cake and eat it, too! Chances are you will put on a few pounds after kicking the nicotine habit but you’ll feel better and you’ll smell better after stomping out your last butt. You’ll also taste better! This is noticed by the one you are kissing if he (or she) is a non-smoker. Your sweetheart may not want to tell you that you taste like a Chesterfield when you lay on a big smooch, but this is because he (or she) loves you and doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. Later, if you marry, your sweetie may lay it on the line with such breach of love statements as “Your breath smells awful! No more kissin’ ‘til you give up your smokin’!” Normally, they’ll give in and keep on kissing but this may make you wonder how good the kissing would be without the hint of smoke in the smooch.

          The best way to give up cigarettes is to “keep on trying”. Keep up the faith!

          Now that I’ve told you how to give up the smokes, I know you’re anxiously awaiting my brilliant suggestions on kicking the fat and losing those dreaded pounds.

          I’ve got to be honest with you. My Cindy has constructed a perfect diet. However, the “makin’s” are miserable at the kitchen table when I sit down with the determination to drop the unwanted weight. I eat the diet fixings and then, while Cindy is clearing the table, I sneak to my favorite hiding spot and pull out the Snickers or Butterfingers and sink into exotic enjoyment!

          Sorry to let you down, here.

          Come to think of it, I’m the last person on the planet qualified for handing out advice on breaking bad habits. Follow me around and I’ll show you a few I still need to kick.

 

 

DON GIBSON … THE LEGEND

It’s almost Midnight and I really hate what I’m doing right now. I’m writing about one of my real heroes, Don Gibson, after hearing a rumor that he had passed away.

Of course, this won’t be sent to anyone until I receive verification … one way or the other.

Don Gibson is placed in a special spot in my thoughts toward music. Not just Country Music, of course. This man has written hits that have been accepted in all areas: "Country" … "Pop" … "Rock" … "Gospel", he isn’t a stranger to any division of music. His magic pen and God-given talent have blessed us since the 50s.

Don’s is a "soul" touch. When I first heard him singing "SWEET DREAMS" on M-G-M Records in 1956, he grabbed my attention fast. Later, of course, Patsy Cline would turn this Gibson gem into a super hit. It would also be the title of the movie based on Patsy’s life. Then, in 1958, Don really juggled my mind with his first RCA recording, "I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU", although it was the flip side, "OH LONESOME ME" that whizzed to Number One in the charts. I loved that song, too. However, "I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU" just hung on in my mind for years. Finally, in the early 60s, Mr. Ray Charles gave it that extra soul vocal, turning it into a monster of a hit.

When Waylon Jennings and I were disk jockeys on KDAV in Lubbock, Texas back in 1959, we both claimed Don Gibson as the greatest sound in country music at the time. Jimmy Dickens was a close second in our books. Waylon loved the real sound and if you listen to some of the strumming on his early RCA recordings, he utilized a bit of the Gibson guitar "rings". It was "tough-pickin’".

I just received a note from Eileen Sisk with The Nashville Tennessean verifying the sad news: "Don Gibson is dead at age 75."

I can’t find the words to add to this except: Don Gibson was not only a great singer, writer and guitar picker … he was a friend.

Don’s memorable works will do all of the speaking that is necessary pertaining to this good and gifted man.

 

"SO ... WHAT'S NEW?"

When I first saw Carl Smith stand up in the audience and cordially tip his hat to the television cameras after being inducted into the COUNTRY MUSIC HALL-OF-FAME, once regarded as the most important "happening" at the coveted awards show, I thought he might have taken it upon himself to not step on stage and make a short speech of gratitude.  After all, Carl has been his own man, away from the mechanical structure of Nashville, for years.
 
I interviewed Carl next day on my XM show.  He said it was decided by those in charge that he was to avoid the stage and simply "wave" his thanks.
 
My God! Then we wonder what has happened to the backbone of Nashville?
 
For years, the CMA has considered it of utmost unimportance to present the Musician-Of-The-Year (those who make recordings possible) and Country Music Disc Jockeys-Of-The-Year (those who make the 'hits' possible) on stage during the annual awards blow-out. Either shoot a picture of them and flash it on-screen for a split-second ... or let 'em sit with the rest of the "folks" in the audience and wave when their names are mentioned ("Be sure and wear a tux while standing in the audience.  And smile!")
 
Take away those "musicians", those "disc jockeys" and put them in the same avenue with those who used to joyfully attend "Fan-Fair" and watch country music make a strong comeback!  Sure!!! It'll have to be a "comeback" because, whether we want to admit it or not, our music and everything it has represented for years ... is being grossly insulted by an establishment that is lost in the wilderness of greed and stupidity.
 
Carl Smith doesn't give a damned. Oh, sure, he's been a bit ticked at the country music scene for years ... just like a bunch of us ... but he's not surprised at the international insult released by CBS for all the world to see!
 
And this is the network that pulled back the mini-series, "THE REAGANS", because it didn't "feel right"!
 
We can't blame CBS, though.  It's simply a New York based television network looking for interesting things to feed to the world's living rooms. To CBS, it's simply business.
 
Incidentally, anybody want to place any bets that CBS won't be presenting the CMA Awards from New York City, instead of Nashville, in 2005?
 
Again:  It's simply business.
 
Could be that it's time to take the spotlight of hate off of the Dixie Chicks and focus it elsewhere.  Sure, they "mouthed off" when they should have shut up.  In Nashville, there are those who should have "mouthed off" before the rapid demise in our country music industry began.

 

IT ALL STARTS WITH TH’ SONG

Frank Sinatra, the old pro, once said, "You can sing like an angel but it’ll sound like hell without the right song."

Most singers admit: "It all begins with the song."

I would like to pay special tribute here to some of those who are blessed with the "special pen", those who have composed the master works for the super stars to place on CDs.

Songwriters have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I was aware of the fact that a smooth dude from New York City, named Irving Berlin, had written "God Bless America". What added to my admiration of Mr. Berlin was when I heard he had written "White Christmas", "Easter Parade", "Always" and several more ditties that were popular when I was a wee kid.

Kate Smith, a heavy female super singer, was the first to perform "God Bless America" and became synonymous with the song. So synonymous, in fact, that Mr. Berlin once said, "No one else can do my song justice except Kate Smith. As far as I am concerned, she is the only person ‘qualified’ to record it."

Of course, "God Bless America" was to eventually become a standard. Many believe it should be our national anthem. Several attempts were made to push "The Star Spangled Banner" aside and make "God Bless America" our nation’s official "song". That will never happen, but "God Bless America" is heard more often than "The Star Spangled Banner", except at ballgames. It’s also easier to sing. Ask any artist who has been invited to sing the national anthem before some sporting event. LeAnn Rimes told me one time that the only time she is a bit nervous is before singing our nation’s pick song. "It’s a tough song to sing," she said. Coincidentally, it was the song that was to eventually bring her into the national spotlight. She was "discovered" while singing the grand old song at a Dallas Cowboys football game.

Tanya Tucker said, "When you see those thousands standing up, waiting for you to sing ‘The Banner’, it’s overwhelming. A couple of times I was so nervous I was tempted to run out of the arena. Trouble is, it’s most times required you sing it acapella or with some strange high school band tooting behind you."

Charley Pride laughed: "You can rehearse it a dozen times but when you step up to sing it before a filled stadium, you oft times forget the lyrics out of nervousness. I’ve been lucky, though. The words always jump back in my mind just as I’m about to belt ‘em out."

Back to the other super songwriters:

Among the greatest of tune-smiths was Roger Miller. His ideas for songs always came at the most unexpected times, he said. While traveling toward Amarillo, Texas many years ago, he passed a sign that read: "Trailers For Sale Or Rent". That night, he wrote the lyrics down on a sheet of motel stationary: "Trailers for sale or rent, rooms to let fifty cents …" After finishing the idea, he recorded it and was to receive many awards, including the Grammy, for "KING OF THE ROAD".

The late Leon Payne, my neighbor in San Antonio, claims he was riding on a bus, going to a singing engagement. As he was stepping off the bus, he heard a woman whisper to the man who was hugging her on her arrival at the bus station,"I love you most of all because you’re you."

Leon jotted down some lyrics that included: "I love you for a hundred thousand reasons, but most of all I love you ‘cause you’re you." The finished tune, titled, "I LOVE YOU BECAUSE", has been recorded by over 200 artists and is referred to as one of the greatest of all love songs.

Don Gibson had a hit in his recording of "OH LONESOME ME" back in the 50s. "I needed a song to put on the back side of that old 45 rpm record and I just pasted some love words together. It was the easiest song I ever wrote," he said. Several years later, Ray Charles decided he would record the song Don had composed for the flip side of "OH LONESOME ME". The title of that last-minute bit of pasting was, "I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU". It has been recorded by hundreds of artists in the pop, rock and country fields and is referred to as a "masterpiece". "OH LONESOME ME" has also been recorded a few times, but nothing like the rapidly composed "flip".

Real songwriters are hard to find. Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Bill Anderson, Hank Cochran and a few others within the great creative circle of country song writing all say, basically, the same thing. "The best songs come to the mind fast. And most of those songs are based on true experiences, both good and awful!"

Some say Hank Williams was the greatest country songwriter of all time. He had his share of bad experiences before dying at the age of 29 after mixing drugs with booze on his way to a New Year’s gig.

Harlan Howard was, in my opinion, The Irving Berlin of the Back Woods. His hundreds of composed hits were responsible for more artists making it to the bright marquees than any other country songwriter.

A disk jockey asked Harlan for the secret to his success at being the "writer of writers" when it comes to those award-winning creations.

He replied, "It takes a lot of hurtin’, a lot of drinkin’ and a lot of lousy livin’ to come up with a real song."

Ol’ Harlan laughed and added, "An’ I’ve done ‘em all."

 

ROCKIN’  CHICKS!

Well, now.  The Dixie Chicks have made the big announcement: “WE NOW CONSIDER OURSELVES PART OF THE BIG ROCK ‘N ROLL FAMILY.”

            Preceding this big decision … violinist Martie Maguire reportedly told a respected German news magazine, Der Spiegel, “We don’t feel part of the country music scene any longer, it can’t be our home any more.”

            Not leaving this bit of trivia alone, she reportedly mentioned that she was disappointed other country singers didn’t back the Dixie Chicks in their criticism of George W. Bush’s politics on Iraq .

            According to news releases, Martie added, “The support we got came from others, like Bruce Springsteen.”

            Not finished, Maguire admitted that going home without any trophies from the CMA and ACM country music awards ceremonies also made them decide to break with the country music scene.

            Give me a break!

            First of all, let’s jump to the statement made by Maguire that the “Chicks” are moving to another hen-house.  It’s a bit difficult to interpret them as a “rock” act. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when they were playing “bluegrass” festivals throughout Texas and Oklahoma .  The simple fact that Maguire’s main instrument is the fiddle could raise a few questions among the “rock” crowd.

Now, let me mention that Martie is a fine fiddler. Matter of fact, all three of the Dixie Chicks are top-of-the-line when we give an honest evaluation of their talent.

Let’s face it:  Any label would welcome the gals, regardless of what division they wanted to be a part of … “country”, “rock”, “pop”, “bluegrass”.  These are the Dixie Chicks! Their albums are still selling, big time!

            Trouble is, The Dixie Chicks just can’t seem to keep from cluckin’!

            To steal a line spoken by that great actor Strother Martin in the film, “Cool Hand Luke”: “What we have here is failure to communicate!”

            Sure, they made headlines when they stated they were ashamed that our President was from Texas . We’ve heard that, read that … and there’s no need in repeating a statement that was mistimed.  If it had been stated on the stage of the Lubbock Municipal Auditorium, it might have passed as an idle bit uttered by a member of the hottest country act in America .  (The “Chicks” recording of “Traveling Soldier” had just hit Number One in the Billboard magazine charts that week.) Instead, it was spoken in a foreign country, England , just as America was entering a state of war!

            Now, with this grand announcement that they feel they have been forsaken by the country music industry, the Dixie Chicks are just adding to their misery by admitting they are a bunch of spoiled entertainers who can’t seem to realize that the country music fans are among the most loyal Americans to be found!

            Something else:  Even after hearing about the put-down of our President, the fans kept filling the auditoriums and coliseums to see The Dixie Chicks. They continued to pack in the big loot from personal appearances, even though most radio stations had placed them on the no-play list. This should have been enough proof that, with time, things would ease up for the chirpers.  All they needed do was ask Jane Fonda! Jane’s actions during the Vietnam War were much more serious than the one uttered by Dixie Chick Natalie Maine and Fonda was welcomed back by everybody, except the Viet veterans, with open arms.  She even won an Academy Award, for heaven’s sake! Then, you stop and wonder how much farther Fonda might have gone if she’d just kept her mouth shut.

            No, the Chicks didn’t commit treason. It’s obvious they love their country! And until that piece of uncalled for action took place on the stage in England , they left the image of being some ol’ Texas gals who simply loved to sing … and did it better than the norm. Sad part is, they just seem to say the wrong thing at the wrong time!

            I’ve been a fan of the Dixie Chicks ever since I first heard them singing on the streets of Dallas … for peanuts! I had the pleasure of introducing them a few times at various functions, including some very small, smoky honky-tonks in the D/FW area.

            They’re not bad girls. The Dixie Chicks just need to cut down on the “clucking” and get back to “chirping”.

            Now, we’ll see how the “rock” fans respond to their talent.

 

AND AWAY WE GO!!!!!!!

Well, now. Here we go again!  This time, though, we’re not talkin’ about them “hicks from th’ sticks” that bombard Nashville every June. Or, I should say used to bombard Nashville before th’ CMA and various groups from Music City U.S.A. decided to do-away with Fan Fair and install somethin’ called Th’ CMA Music Festival, “somethin’ that would appeal to the masses.”

No sireee! This time, New York City USA is knockin’ on th’ door!  They want the dad-gummed CMA Awards held in th’ Big Apple! Even though you won’t find any hillbilly radio stations in NYC, it just sounds so dad-blamed good that they would invite th’ CMA to present their yearly shindig up there. And you wanna know somethin’? I’ll just bet you my last pair of clod-hoppers that th’ CMA is gonna take ‘em up on their kindly offer!

The CMA big shot, Ed Benson, says, “Shucks! We ain’t gonna pull th’ rug out from under Nashville!  Nashville has always been home to th’ CMA Awards.” ‘Course, Mr. Benson does say that th’ possibility of periodically movin’ th’ awards has been looked at before, with several different cities in discussion … but only on a one-time basis in order to increase th’ exposure and excitement!

Fan Fair weren’t excitin’ anymore!

Besides, they don’t have to make up their minds ‘til July of next year!

That’s a month after th’ big Music Festival takes place. And by makin’ up their minds in July … it won’t tick off them people that plan to be in Nashville in June for th’ Music Festival!

After all, th’ CMA waited ‘til Fan Fair shut down for th’ year before they locked th’ gates on it!

Way to do it!  And awayyyyy we go!  New York City, here we come!

 

LET'S GIVE TH' DEAN WHAT HE DESERVES

                                                                      
I just got off the phone with my old friend, Jimmy Dean. He sounded super happy as he told me he was heading to the Texas Panhandle this weekend for a visit ... then, he's going to Plainview, Texas, his old hometown, where he's receiving one of the greatest honors of his career: He's receiving his high school diploma.
 
"My mama always felt bad over the fact I had to drop out of school in order to help raise some family funds. Now, her big dream will come true," he said.
 
Jimmy added: "Mama won't be there in th' building when they hand me the diploma, of course, but she'll be there in spirit."
 
After talking with Jimmy and hearing his excitement about receiving his high-school diploma, it dawned on me:  Of all the people who deserve a spot in our Country Music Hall-of-Fame, it's Jimmy Dean. Jimmy was the first to present our country music,daily, on network television (CBS) back in the 50s. He was responsible for the career boosts of Patsy Cline, Roger Miller, Roy Clark and several others. Then, in the 60s, Jimmy was the first to present country music in prime time with his weekly ABC TV show.
 
Jimmy was among the first country artists to be billed on the main marquees in Las Vegas and was guest host for Johnny Carson and many others back when our music was struggling for national attention.
 
Jimmy Dean has always been a great ambassador for our music and our cause.
 
After speaking to several people in our industry about the fact Jimmy deserves the honor of being in our hall-of-fame, the reaction was: "Isn't he in there?" or "How was Jimmy Dean overlooked?"
 
Yes, it's been awhile since Jimmy Dean had a hit recording and during the past decades he's become better known for his sausage than his tremendous talent as an entertainer, songwriter, television host, etc., but we really need to give this man the honor he deserves.
 
By placing Jimmy in the Country Music Hall-of-Fame, we'll be allowing the world to know we don't forget those who gave us so very much ... back when it was needed.
 
-Bill Mack

 

HAG

I realize it’s the spotlighted performance of the super-star that grabs the attention of the crowd. This is as it should be. After all, hundreds of adoring fans have forked over big money at the box-office in order to watch the great performer warble, wiggle and sweat while doin’ what the good folks came to see. And if the star is really doing his job, you can expect the unexpected. It’s not unusual to see a beauty on the front row, near the stage, toss her bra or undies to the spotlighted hero as he shouts out the lyrics to his latest million-selling recording. And after the curtain has closed, the star must run for his life in order to escape the masses. It’s just part of the game. The late Marty Robbins once laughed, "Man, that’s show-business! When they’re attemptin’ to rip your clothes off of you and when they’ve managed to scratch some skin off your neck or cheek as you run toward the dressing room, you’re supposed to look up toward the heavens an’ shout, ‘I’ve made it! I’m a star!"

What makes life in entertainment most interesting is being in the company of these super-stars when they are not on-stage, when they are relaxing on their bus or in a motel room.

I had a long visit with Merle Haggard recently. During our get-together, I set my recorder for an interview. The question and answer game went well, but these sessions can sometimes become a little too "mechanical". The interviewees realize that the recorded chatter will be released to the public and, therefore, the answers to the questions and their voluntary comments may be "prettied up" a bit in order to fit the expectations of their many fans.

I must admit, though, that "Mighty" Merle doesn’t water-down many phrases during an interview. His words may be spicy from time-to-time.

It was after I had concluded my interview with Hag that I received the real stuff. I thought I would share some of Merle’s off-the-air contributions with you. I’m sure it’ll be o.k. with him … and it’ll serve a purpose. I want you to know the real Hag.

Contrary to some media constructed images of the man, Merle Haggard is a very gentle, caring person. Most of us are aware of the fact he spent some time in prison when he was a youngster. Years later, California Governor Ronald Reagan gave him a full pardon.

Merle says he might never have become a country entertainer had he not been sent to prison for theft. It was there that he heard Johnny Cash perform for the inmates, instilling the desire inside Hag to make music the destination for his professional future. "I was sitting there with the rest of the prisoners when Johnny Cash gave me the hope I needed, although he didn’t realize it at the time."

It was also Cash who suggested Merle "go public" with the fact he had spent time in prison. "I was set to appear on Johnny’s ABC-TV network show. Cash asked, ‘Why don’t you let th’ folks know you spent time in jail? They’ll find out eventually and they’ll appreciate you if you’re up front with them. After all, you’re one of the top stars in th’ business!’"

Cash was right. When Merle allowed his prison term to be known to the public, there was no damage done. His fans simply loved him more. He was being honest with them.

Not long ago, Johnny Cash was seriously ill in a Nashville hospital. As the family exited for the night, they left word with the nurses that absolutely no one was to be allowed in his room. Merle said, "I waited until everyone had left his room and he was all alone. Then, I went to the bottom floor of the hospital and slipped into a doctor’s white garb, got on the elevator and went to Johnny’s floor. Nobody tried to stop me. I don’t know if they thought I was a doctor or they may have recognized me and were fans of mine. Anyway, I slipped into Johnny’s room. He was in a bit of a coma. I leaned over and hugged him and he looked into my eyes and whispered, ‘Merle?’"

Johnny Cash later stated: "That visit by Merle was the most loving thing to ever come into my life from another man. He was like a brother."

When Merle was telling me the story, he choked up a bit and attempted to drop the subject. He didn’t have to finish. I had already been told of his sneaky visit with Cash.

When steel-guitar wizard Leon McAuliffe split with the legendary Bob Wills, there was a lot of anger. Almost 25 years passed without either exchanging words of any kind. Both, Leon and Bob, were close to Merle. One day when Bob was Merle’s guest at his home in California, Hag approached Wills with the news another old friend had made the trip to California. "I think it’s high time you two spent some time together," said Merle.

Before Bob could put up any argument, one of Merle’s band members led Leon into the room.

"Bob and Leon hugged each other and began crying," said Hag. But this was as far as Merle could go. Again, the mighty singer choked up and the tears were obvious. He attempted to hide his heart, but my Cindy captured Hag’s love and care in a perfect photo.

I simply had to relay this about "Mighty" Merle Haggard because it needs to be revealed, displaying the fact that one is never too important to shed tears of love. Hag, like our old pal, Willie Nelson, is such a giant in so many ways: Great singer, great songwriter … even greater as a caring, loving human being.

 

Still Truckin’
Bill Mack on XM radio,is still on the open road, way ahead of the curve
 BY GAIL BENNISON
Fort Worth Business Press
 
(click here to read the article)

Fan Fair Fizzles!

When I received the news that my song, "BLUE", had been chosen as one of the TOP 100 COUNTRY SONGS of all time, it was a tremendous honor. During the big event in Nashville, "BLUE" was marked at Number 85 by those-in-charge. The video taping of the CMT television special took place during Fan Fair 2003 in Nashville.

While my Cindy and I were rejoicing over the fact my song had been chosen as one of the top one-hundred country music compositions in history, there was also a bit of sadness attached to the grand proceedings. We were informed that this would be the final Fan Fair. I wasn’t surprised to hear the news. I’ve known for some time that the leaders of the country music parade in Nashville have wanted to shut the gates on the thousands of devoted fans who have made the annual pilgrimage to Nashville every June for over 30 years. For many of these fine people, it has been the event of the year for over a quarter of a century.

Seems there was another big drop in attendance.

Beginning next year, the event will be called "The CMA Music Festival". There will still be some country music, they say, but there will also be other genres … "rock", "pop", etc. So, what else is new? It’s been "pop" and "rock" for the past decade --- thus, the drop in attendance at Fan Fair. If the CMA (Country Music Association) is as wise and knowing as they claim to be, they would take the word "Country" out of the title. A suggestion: They can save on stationary and envelopes by retaining the CMA bit. Just change the guts to "Confused Music Association". Although I served two terms on the Board-Of-Directors many years ago and am currently a dues-paying member of CMA, I question some of the decisions made by the organization.

When the CMA was put together back in the 50s, it worked with a single purpose in mind. That was to promote country music. And they did a damned good job of it until the "new-group" arrived. This was the bunch that blazed into town without a smear of dedication to the cause of country. Most of these were ex-rock jocks (disk jockeys) and ex-rock music producers who took it on themselves to destroy the sound … and the following of our music. It took them awhile to change things to their liking, but they finally succeeded.

I believe Nashville has lost its grip on country music and in attempting to become another Hollywood will find it very tough sledding in order to retain any kind of musical strength. Many of the former hot-spot music production / management houses and recording studios have already bolted their doors, boarded their windows and placed "For Sale" signs on the lawns. I expect many of the country music stars will also be selling and moving.

As my dad used to say: "It’s pitiful!"

Even before the CMA announced the shutting down of Fan Fair, Cindy and I could feel the emptiness and sadness as we walked around the downtown area that night. God, it was sad. Even the fans looked confused. As we watched a pretty, young girl singing her heart out behind a microphone set in front of the entrance to a beer joint on Broadway, she brought tears to our eyes. Typical of many, she was presenting her hopes and dreams via various songs, almost begging for an audience. Dressed in nothing fancy, she sang so very pretty --- but the people didn’t stop to listen. They didn’t have time. They were hoping they might find Shania Twain or Tim McGraw somewhere around the next corner. After all, this was Fan Fair!

They didn’t locate Shania or Tim, of course.

After having dinner, Cindy and I passed by the spot about an hour later. The lonely microphone was still standing upright in front of the beer joint but the girl was no longer singing. More than likely, she was inside the joint having a drink with a strange man who was willing to buy.

When there is no audience, there is no hope. However, there is always a man willing to buy that needed drink to help ease the pain of Nashville.

Of course, change is inevitable. Now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the world famous Grand Ole Opry fizzle.

Oh, I’m sure they will still have a show, maybe on Radio Station WSM-AM, where it’s been airing for over three-quarters of a century. The importance will be severely damaged, though, because the city of Nashville has always been a bit ashamed of the "country" image the grand old program presented. Therefore, don’t expect to see many billboards reading, "Welcome to Nashville, Home of the Grand Ole Opry" as you enter the majestic old city.

Like Fan Fair, there has been a consistent drop in attendance at the Grand Ole Opry for the past few years. There have been many reasons for that drop in admission purchases, several of them posted in this column. Now, for certain, those thousands of country music fans are not going to be paying big bucks to make trips to the "Opry" in a town where they are no longer wanted!

Please … let’s not forget the most obvious fact: The fans were responsible for the success of country music and the Country Music Association! Without their dedicated support, neither would have made it. These very important people always felt Nashville was the place to be … until the giant governing organization and city leaders let it be known they were un-needed … unwanted … uninvited.

Now, with the CMA, the mayor and the tourist bureau’s grand assemblage jumping with joy over the fact the "hillbillies" won’t be paying admission to Fan Fair any longer, let’s sit back and see how the newly established "CMA Music Festival" pans out.

It will be most interesting to view … from a distance.

 

                                
                              

 


 I wasn’t going to get involved in all of this plucking about the "Chicks". However, I’ve been asked by several to put my "2-cents-worth" in.

 That’s exactly what this all amounts to: Putting "2-cents-worth" into an issue when it’s all so uncalled for.

 Now, I’ll simply get on my soapbox and yell from here to high-water that the Dixie Chicks have laid a giant egg because their leading chirper "clucked" when she should have been chirping while catching her breath on stage in England. She thought she would just peep out a little sentence saying she was ticked because our President is from Texas. Then, all hell broke loose! Fans began screaming sentences ranging from "How stupid can you get???" to "Treason!" Suddenly, the act with the Number One Recording in the Nation becomes a nonsense trio smelling a bit like Jane Fonda!

 Listen --- you can’t blame the American public. Nutty Natalie attempted to protect her stupid statement with something kin to "Freedom of Speech!"

 Equal rights: The good ol’ folks --- who were responsible for turning her and the two sisters who make up the trio into multi-millionairesses --- have a right to scream, "Git th’ hell out of Dodge!" These same good ol’ folks are now set to burn the chicken house!

 I’ve heard said that The Beatles were able to proclaim they were "more popular than Jesus" and managed to get away with it. Well, that was a different time with a different audience in a completely different atmosphere. The boys from Britain had made it a point to do some unorthodox things when they first tromped on American soil and people hearing such a stupid statement simply accredited the anti-religious slam on four wackys from Across-the-Atlantic attempting to cause a little more off-stage excitement in their own-weird-way. The Dixie Chicks, meanwhile, were three simple little country singers from the Austin area who just happened to be on British soil when the Lassie from Lubbock allowed the lid to blow. It was an unexpected, unneeded statement made about a man who was on the dreaded brink of the biggest, most dangerous step a national leader could attempt to make. It was a statement made just as America was doing some serious leaning on the guidance of this man … whether they voted for him or not … to lead our country in what was hoped and prayed to be the right direction.

 The timing was just damned wrong. Granted, assorted statements and an apology to the President were made … and I’m not going to say the apology should be ignored.

 I like the Dixie Chicks’ music. I’ve been a fan for years. They deserve the many awards they have received because, musically, they are super-talented. Obviously, the talent stops with the music.

I just wish this incident hadn’t taken place. And I’m not so sure the hen-house will ever be the same as it was before that quirky cluck was made.

 

                                  We Need the Duke
It seems so long ago when September 11
th
made its mark. It’s been a year … but seems much longer than twelve months when I was talking with my mother on the telephone and she asked, "Have you seen the television?"

"What happened?" I asked, yawning, as I slurped my first coffee of the day.

"I believe an airplane crashed into one of the tall buildings in New York," was Mom’s reply. "It just happened a few minutes ago. They just broke into one of my favorite programs with a bulletin. Now, they’re showing it on almost all of the channels!"

My television was still set on an "old movies" channel I had been watching before I had dozed off to sleep hours earlier. I switched over to CNN and there it was. One of the Twin Towers in Manhattan was smoking furiously near the top of the building. My first reaction was that some poor, clumsy pilot had allowed his plane to smash into the big structure. Then, I turned the volume up and before I could grasp full details of what had happened, the other "twin" exploded. Within a few more minutes … and to make matters worse … came the news that the Pentagon had been hit by another plane in Washington D.C.

It was then that I realized I was witnessing what would be the most disastrous "happening" in the history of the mainland of our country. Pearl Harbor was a terrible happening, but I was too young to realize the horror of that attack. Besides, it had taken place in Hawaii, a part of the world that seemed as far away as Egypt in my childish mind back in 1941. I remember the Pearl Harbor bombing by the Japanese had taken place on Sunday. We didn’t have television at the time, but I can still see my dad sitting in his easy-chair near the old Philco radio and telling my mother we were now at war. To me, it sounded exciting. Also, there was the good news: Shamrock, Texas was closing the schools next day in order for the students to hear President Franklin Roosevelt’s radio speech which consisted of his announcement of a declaration of war against the "Empire of Japan".

It wasn’t long after Pearl Harbor had been blown away that Hollywood began releasing those dandy old war films. It seemed like John Wayne was on the big screens at the Texas and Liberty theaters in my little hometown every week. One film would show old John tightening his jaws as he flew solo in the air, his flight goggles over his eyes, shooting down several Japanese planes, called "Zeros". Next week, John was utilizing the same angry expression as he blew German "Messerschmitt" out of the air. The enemy plane would be wobbling hopelessly in flames with black smoke following its doom. Sometimes, there would be a few seconds showing the "Jap" or German pilots screaming helplessly as they plummeted toward the ground or ocean. There were also those scenes when John Wayne would give a smiling "thumbs-up" to some other lucky American pilot flying next to him on his great mission. This gesture always brought a loud round of applause in the theater.

Next week, The Duke might be a Marine, doing a similar winning job on the ground. One time he was a Seabee ("The Fighting Seabees"). Remember the Seabees? They were construction workers during World War II. They built runways, bunks and performed all kinds of needed jobs for the military. In one scene, as a Seabee, old John ran over a dozen Japanese soldiers with his steam shovel! He killed all of ‘em. Not one of their bullets or shells hit my hero. He had outsmarted them.

Just grabbing a few John Wayne film titles during that golden era when he was saving our country almost single handedly gave us hope. In "Flying Tigers" and "Flying Leathernecks", you saw him blowing the enemy out of the skies. He was in the Army in "Sands of Iwo Jima" and "Back To Bataan". He used a PT Boat to do the job in "They Were Expendable". "Sea Chase" found Big John in the Navy and in "Blood Alley", he was a Merchant Marine captain who terrified those who dared to threaten our country.

What I’m leading to here is the fact that the present war doesn’t seem near as exciting. There are no heroes on the big screen fighting our enemy because, outside of a few, we don’t know what our enemy looks like. He doesn’t wear a uniform of identification and we don’t know where he is hiding.

No, there are no John Waynes confronting the enemy at the neighborhood theaters. John has been dead for years and movie scriptwriters are restricted to producing pages that place the actors in a wait-and-see-what-happens-next scenario. Although that is the way our war stands, in reality, it won’t work on the big screen. There is no action to speak of and films without action usually bomb at the box-office.

I wish John Wayne was still hanging around Hollywood. It’s at times like these, when we are living in a state of fear of the unknown, that Th’ Duke would come in handy. I can see him now, all alone, crashing into one of those dark caves in the Middle East with a big gun, maybe a couple of hand grenades and those big fists. Really, it would be those big fists that would do most of the damage to the jaws of the hiding beasts. Then, after John had beaten them to where they were on their knees, pleading for mercy, he would simply ignore their pleas, blow up the cave and run to the next one.

I’m a big fan of Tom Hanks and a few others who are known for their action on the big screen.

Right now, though, we need John Wayne.


 

                                               WHO THE HECK WAS JIM BECK???

There has always been this tremendous closeness in Texas and Tennessee. I’ve even heard said they are ‘Sister States’. I like this attitude because I’ve considered Tennessee, Nashville in particular, a sort of second home ever since I became a part of the country music scene. However, Nashville might never have become Music City USA had it not been for Texas. That is, Nashville might never have become the country music recording capitol had Jim Beck not passed away.

"Who the heck was Jim Beck?" You ask.

Back in the early 50s, Jim ran a recording studio located on Forrest Avenue in Dallas that was responsible for the so-called Lefty Frizzell sound.

It seems Columbia Records believed Jim Beck had that certain touch. And this was reflected in the fact that Lefty had four songs in the country music Top Ten chart in Billboard in one week! This took place in 1951 and was to set a record that was to go unchallenged until the arrival of the Beatles. Because of this, the big label decided to use the Beck recording house to capture the sounds of all of their hillbilly singers … including Marty Robbins, Carl Smith, Little Jimmy Dickens, Billy Walker and others.

From 1950 until 1956, Dallas was the country music recording capitol of the world. Columbia Records’ chief producer, Don Law, said, "I plan to do most all of our recordings in Dallas. They have a very good recording studio there, run by a guy named Jim Beck. It simply has the sound that sells."

Some of the other big labels were also taking notice of the Jim Beck sound. Decca shipped Webb Pierce, their hottest country warbler, to Dallas … and Jim Beck … in order to get that commercial "sound". Nashville, meanwhile, was recording in the studios of WSM Radio and one or two other spots in town, none of them creating on tape what was taking place in Big D.

Dallas was rapidly corralling the country music record producing market.

Then, in May of 1956, Jim Beck died. He had been cleaning his studio recording heads with carbon tetrachloride and had forgotten to open the windows for ventilation. Almost from that date on, Nashville was to become the recording center. Owen Bradley began work on the Quonset hut to create Nashville’s first real studio in 1956. The timing was right and, following Beck’s death, the recording action switched to Nashville and the Owen Bradley studios.

There were other reasons Texas seemed to be the hot bed. Western Swing definitely had its’ start in Fort Worth back in the late 20s and early 30s with the likes of Bob Wills and Milton Brown. The two had received their big breaks from the Burrus Mills in Fort Worth, the makers of Light-Crust Flour. Light-Crust was the sponsor of a daily radio show hosted by W. Lee O’Daniel that featured a swinging little group known as The Light-Crust Doughboys. Eventually, Bob and Milton would break away from the Doughboys and form their own competitive outfits: Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies.

Milton died in an auto accident in the mid-30s and Bob Wills was to continue with the greatest western swing band in the nation, giving him the title, "King Of Western Swing". Although Bob passed away on May 13, 1975, no other name has challenged that title.

Then, there were those big Texas nightclubs. Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas was a huge honky tonk with the reputation of being the most popular western swing house in the world. Before Dewey purchased the place, it was owned by Bob Wills and known as The Bob Wills Ranch House. Dewey purchased it from its’ second owner, a Dallas nightclub operator named Jack Ruby. Jack would later be known as the killer of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The biggest of the bunch, though, would be built in Fort Worth in the early 60s. Remember Panther Hall Ballroom? Over 2,000 bodies could cram into that piece of architecture that was originally built to house a professional bowling alley. Pasadena, Texas decided it would attempt to outshine Fort Worth by building a structure known as Gilley’s, named after singer Mickey Gilley, the co-owner. Gilley’s never did outshine Panther Hall, it simply allowed Texas to proudly boast the fact it had the biggest clubs in the world within its’ boundaries.

Finally, Gilley’s burned down, Panther Hall nailed up the doors and the Longhorn Ballroom fizzled after Dewey Groom sold it. However, even bigger things were in the making with a place in Cowtown called Billy Bob’s Texas, which would allow over 6,000 fans and belly-rubbers the opportunity to do their thing while listening to the top country bands on earth!

"Cowboy’s", another gigantic country music hall in Dallas, opened its’ doors in the 80s, finally spreading to different locales and pulling in thousands of folks whenever the right superstars lit up the marquees.

All-in-all, it’s a fact that Texas, especially the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex, has always been the big area, doing things in a big way. There was a club in Los Angeles for years known as The Palomino and it walked away with the Club-Of-The-Year trophy on various network awards shows practically every year. I could never understand this, since The Palomino was a small structure when compared to Panther Hall, The Longhorn Ballroom, Gilley’s and, finally, Billy Bob’s Texas. As a matter of fact, if The Palomino had been located in Fort Worth or Dallas, it would be referred to as "a little honky-tonk".

Yes, proudly, Texas has always been a grand leader in the country and western swing fields of music. On any given weekend, you will find more country music stars at various show places in the Fort Worth/Dallas area than in any other locale. It seems the "pickers" and "singers" love to play in Texas because they know they, like their fans, will have a Texas-sized good time.

PAYOLA

I don’t know about you, but the hot new issue making the rounds pertaining to record labels spewing about radio and pointing at "Payola" being back on the scene makes me sick. Question is: When did Payola leave the scene? Second question: When did the U. S. Government change it’s mind about money being funneled into the pockets of super radio people in order for labels to get air-play … and in order to get some very lousy sounding pieces of mediocrity in the charts?

Sure, there was the 1996 deregulation of radio, but did that change the old "Payola" laws that were enacted back in 1960, prohibiting radio stations from laying heavy on certain recordings in exchange for big bucks handed out to station managers, program directors and hot-rock disc jockeys? Back during the 40s and 50s, most radio d.j.s were working for very low wages. When one was spotted driving around town in a new Cadillac, his fellow air personalities smelled the obvious rat, but really couldn’t blame him. Then, Uncle Sam jumped in the middle of the payola playground and the game supposedly ended.

The so-called "Alan Freed Incident" was enough to make most disk jockeys give serious thought before accepting any under-the-table loot in exchange for laying heavy on certain recordings. In 1962, Freed, the very talented New York d. j. responsible for naming the rocking music "Rock and Roll", pleaded guilty to two counts of "commercial bribery" (payola) and was fined three hundred dollars. He became a branded man, dropped by radio. He took to the booze and died January 20, 1965, at the age of 44, of cirrhosis of the liver. However, those closest to him swear he died of a broken heart.

Now, payola is more noticeable than ever. And it’s most noticeable in what you hear on today’s radio. Certainly, there are some very talented singers in the "charts", the directive source for most of today’s country radio play lists, but there are also those very good singers who are being ignored because they or their independent record labels can’t afford the big bucks to the spin-heads of radio in order to get them played.

Some radio program directors have the gall to announce the fact they "are not interested in independent CD productions" or allow a limited, assigned time for the independent labels to drop off their wares at the radio station where most are tossed into a waste basket (unless, of course, there was a marginal "gift" attached to the "releases").

This makes one wonder how the descendents of Alan Freed feel about the unfair and, supposedly, illegal broadcast practices taking place today.

Those of us in the business of recordings, radio and songwriting have been whining for years about the obvious fact that some dishonest dudes in high places have allowed our country music business to falter.

Let’s face it. The big radio stations in big markets have been in charge of the nationwide direction of country music for years. These "experts" have force-fed the listeners to our music ever since they discovered they could receive money, trips or special gifts by completely ignoring the desires of those listening in and playing what they were paid to play by record labels.

Making the situation more humiliating is the fact there are some very good independent producers who are being ignored by most radio outlets today. These good souls are spending their own money in order to allow newcomers to be heard. And most of these are good singers, many of whom can out-sing the majority of those in the so-called "Top-Ten" charts. Some of these ignored (but needed) producers are also picking up some of the classic traditional artists who are singing better than ever but were "dropped" by the major labels because of their age.

Oh, yes. There is no-holds-barred age discrimination being publicly aired by most of today’s radio, too. Since when did this become legal? Some high paid, know-it-all program directors don’t hesitate to let it be known some very good artists are not played on the radio station "because he (or she) is too old"!

Radio stations or radio personnel making such discriminatory statements are, as I understand it, subject to lawsuits. And they should be sued! They should also be forced to apologize to the artists who have been publicly insulted … and to the listening audience for wasting their time with mediocre, low-level singers who are being blasted out on the radio receivers simply because the radio big dogs were highly "compensated" for those airings.

You can’t blame the artists, here. They want to be heard. And, in some cases, they certainly deserve the radio airplay.

I’ve always said, "It’s not what you play on radio that fuzzes the system. It’s what you don’t play." If the artist sounds good, he (or she) deserves to be heard. And if he (or she) is adding a few years, chances are they are singing better than ever. Listen to Tony Bennett! Listen to Ray Price!

Certainly, we still have honest, caring radio stations where the listeners are the main concern. It’s just a pity that those "other" outfits seem to be in control of things.

One reason I attached to XM Satellite Radio was the simple but valuable goal of the company: "Just air what the people want to hear!" This not only applies to "country" music. You can go to the great tunes of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s … and other very special spots (The "Sinatra Channel", "Hank’s Place", etc.) that please the ears and enhance the musical moments … by punching in one of the 100 channels. There is no static …there is coast-to-coast clear-as-a-bell coverage … few, if any, commercials … and it’s the best sound available to mankind!

I’m very proud of XM Satellite Radio. Those in-charge are thoughtful professionals.

And I’ll be saying this after I retire … sometime within the next 40 years.

Bill Mack


LADY DOVE AND ME

It just dawned on me. We need a National Trucker’s Month! Now, could be a month is already designated as such, but I haven’t heard or read anything about it. What we really need is a no-holds-barred national salute to the truckers. We could set things up with President Bush (he’ll go along with the idea) and let a bumper-to-bumper slew of truckers converge on Washington D.C.

Sincerely, I believe March should be officially proclaimed as National Trucking Month. One reason for this is that March is the month when the Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky takes place. This is the biggest trucking show of them all. We could invite the president and a few of his friends down from Washington and have one big blowout. Of course, we always have a big blowout in Louisville when the month of March rolls around. I’ve been attending the "March Motor Mammoth" for well over 20 years and haven’t found a boring moment, yet. Haven’t found much time for idle sleep whenever I hit the great old city every March, but I haven’t regretted a minute. Well, there was one regret that I recall. It took place many years ago. A beautiful trucker who went by the handle of "Lady Dove" invited me to be her guest in her truck for a month. She wanted me to travel with her … just the two of us … all over the country for a month and broadcast my radio shows from inside her Peterbilt. The manager of the radio station snubbed the idea and I’ve always thought that was the biggest mistake ever made during my tenure as an all night country disk jockey. There were several managerial mistakes made during the years when I was known as "The M------- Cowboy", but the severing of the "Lady Dove and Me … On The Road" broadcast proposal was the big daddy of all blunders.

Oh, well. No need to look back, yelping over yesterdays. Really, I doubt Lady Dove and I would have traveled many miles together, alone. I met her boy friend, Big Earl, about a year after she had approached me with the idea of us circling the globe together and he gave me a very sincere, not too friendly stare. The dude looked like an angry John Wayne. He even had the Duke’s growl in his voice when Lady Dove introduced us. And his grip was that utilized to crack walnuts. When Lady Dove informed him of the "silly idea" of the two of us spending a month together in the cab of her truck, she left the impression that it was my idea and Duke II didn’t seem to like the thought of it at all. As he glided his beauty away from our booth at the trucking show, he looked over his shoulder at me and gave me a threatening glare I will never forget.

It was the last time I would see Lady Dove. I heard she married Big Earl and that they have a dozen kids. Although Lady Dove now spends most of her time among the diaper brigade, I’ve seen Big Earl a few times at the Mid-Am truck show, but he never stops by the booth. He still has that menacing stare when our eyes connect.

Last time I saw Big Earl was in the men’s rest room at the truck show. As my luck would have it, we were the only two in the chamber of echoes. I didn’t take the time to dry my hands as I made a rapid exit while Big Earl occupied one of the stalls.

There have been many special moments for me while attending the Mid America Trucking Show. One year they proclaimed a day in my honor. Then, the mayor gave me the keys to the city of Louisville.

One of the greatest honors of my life took place back in 1993 when Governor Brereton C. Jones of the Commonwealth of Kentucky commissioned me a Kentucky Colonel. As I write this, I am holding the scroll in my lap. It reads: "To All to Whom These Presents Come, Greeting: Know Ye, That Honorable Bill Mack Is Commissioned A Kentucky Colonel." In smaller print are the proud words, "I hereby confer this honor with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereunto appertaining."

Although the key to the city hasn’t fit any door I have tried and I receive no discounts on my regular purchases of Col. Sander’s Fried Chicken, I am so very proud to be an authorized member of the great state of Kentucky. My maternal grandmother was a very nice Kentucky lady and was always happy to remind me of that fact.

Also making my thoughts toward the trucking show so very special are recollections of some of the people who went out of their ways in order to join me at the various get-togethers. Willie Nelson came in his bus from Austin, Texas to Louisville to be with me. After several hours of signing autographs for the truckers, he and his bus driver rushed back to Austin, where he was set to go on stage.

There were also those other special people: Loretta Lynn was with me two times. Tanya Tucker, Marty Stuart, LeAnn Rimes, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Bellamy Brothers, Robin Lee, Ray Price, Waylon Jennings and his wife, Jesse Colter and others were also by my side, always happy to greet the truckers.

I apologize here for some very important names I may have failed to mention because of a memory fizz.

Even though the entertainers were with me in Louisville, the real ‘stars’ have always been the truckers. I’ll always remember Tanya’s words: "These are the important folks, Bill. These truckers are th’ stars!" And she meant it!

Many of the country music stars have told me they always follow the trucks while traveling from gig to gig. They realize the truckers know where to stop for food and service. They also feel comfortable being among the rigs, in case there’s a need for help.

Yes, we need to proclaim March as National Trucking Month. If there is already a month designated as such, give them another one. The truckers deserve it!

Bill Mack


Ol’ Waylon

By the time you read this, it will be old news. Radio stations will have paid tributes to him all over the world. His songs, many of which had been ignored by many radio stations during the past few years, will have been aired as never before since his becoming a professional picker and singer in the country music field in the early 60s.

Although I was aware of Waylon’s illness and the fact he had lost a foot back in December because of diabetes, I wasn’t prepared when my wife, Cindy, informed me Nashville had called informing us "Waylon died."

Those are such cold words. Short, but to-the-point. "Waylon died."

My association with Waylon Jennings started in 1959. We were d.j.s together on KDAV in Lubbock, Texas, a broadcast outlet that signed on the air at sunrise and signed off the air at sunset. It wasn’t a powerful radio station, but it got the job done and had a gob of listeners throughout the Texas Caprock area, extending all the way into New Mexico. Buddy Holly got his start on KDAV by singing on Sunday afternoons during the "talent show" broadcasts back in the 50s. Waylon met Buddy in 1954. Holly eventually formed his band, the "Crickets", and became a success as one of the Texas bred "rockabilly" stars. His first recordings were made at the Petty studios in Clovis, New Mexico. This was the locale where a little lady named LeAnn Rimes also recorded her first album consisting of a song titled, "Blue", 40 years later.

Although Waylon and Buddy were friends, Jennings was never an ‘official’ Cricket. After Holly moved to New York in 1958, the Crickets stayed behind in Lubbock. Buddy put together a backup group in early 1959 for a special tour of the Midwest. This group consisted of Tommy Allsup, Charlie Brunch and Waylon Jennings. The short association would end on a cold night in February, 1959, when a private plane crashed, taking the lives of Buddy, Ritchie Valens and J.P. ("Big Bopper") Richardson. They were touring together. Waylon would have been on the plane had he not given his place to J. P., who was coming down with the flu and begged Waylon to let him fly with Buddy and Ritchie so he could get to the next town fast, get into a bed and rest up for the next gig.

I should mention here that in the movie, "La Bamba", released in 1987, depicting the life of Ritchie Valens, it was Ritchie who became ill and moved to the plane instead of remaining on the band bus. Rumor also has it that Tommy Allsup, not Waylon, gave up his seat on the plane.

Guess we’ll never know the real story, now.

One thing I do know, Waylon was a tremendous entertainer. He sang in a manner that resembled no other stylist, he composed songs, he was a top-of-the-line guitarist and an individualist. He and I wrote a song titled, "John’s Back In Town". Waylon recorded it in an album as did Gene Watson. Johnny Cash also recorded the ditty after retitling it, "The Singing Star’s Queen". None of them were hits.

Referred to as one of the "Outlaws", along with good pals Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and a couple of other nomads, he hated that reference. "Hell, I just don’t follow the unsteady Nashville system!" He said in an interview I did with him not long ago.

The Nashville scenario began to bug Waylon. Therefore, he and his wife, Jessi Colter, just picked up and moved to Arizona a little over a year ago.

Waylon had been a super star in country music for several decades and, like many, was finding radio a tough nut to crack when something new by him was released on CD. He split from RCA Records, his recording pad for all of those "big years", and only entered a recording studio when he felt like doing so. His last recordings were geared to youngsters. "Kids still have heart," he murmured.

Then came the illness. I will never forget sitting next to Waylon backstage at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth over a year ago. Because of the pain in his legs, he was being forced to perform while sitting on a stool. He said, "I hate to have to pick while I’m sittin’ down. Makes me look like a freak."

I informed him that a lot of stars, including Sinatra, utilized the comfort of a stool while on stage.

He presented one of his best shows that night … sitting on a stool, smiling, while receiving the shouts, screams and tremendous applause from the full house.

Though he was considered by some to be a bit tough to deal with, I always found my friend from Littlefield, Texas to be a good, simple dude. He was also very giving, if you were a friend. I will never forget when I needed a guest for my appearance at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville and we were down to a deadline. It seems every star was already obligated to another booking. I telephoned Waylon and he immediately agreed to join me, no questions asked. He didn’t even ask what reciprocation there would be for making the appearance with me.

Waylon brought Jessi with him … and it was one of the most enjoyable and successful of all of the Mid-Am shows. Everybody wanted to shake Waylon’s hand and he was happy to do so. He realized those good folks had helped make him a super-star, another bit of terminology he hated. He always considered himself to be a simple "picker".

The last time I saw Waylon, he was obviously feeling bad. His eyes reflected pain. However, he didn’t complain. We talked about the Nashville situation, chatted about some of the "stars" and managed to laugh over some memories from the distant pass that we had both been a part of.

I said, "You ought to come on my show and be a guest disk jockey, like you used to do when we were in Lubbock."

He laughed and said, "You let me know when you want it done. I’d love to d. j. again. It would be fun and I’ll damned sure be there." Then he smiled and added: "And I’ll do you a good job, Bill."

It makes me sad when I realize that never happened --- and never will.

Bill Mack



Willie Nelson's book, "The Facts of Life"

If you are a fan of country music, Willie’s "THE FACTS OF LIFE and Other Dirty Jokes" (Random House) is a must read.

Yes, it’s spoken in town-to-town musician-bus language and it’s simply what Willie Nelson intended for the book to be … a no-holds-barred bit of chit-chat placed into print by utilizing the talking style of the author.

Like his dozens of musical compositions that have been released on records, CDs and cassettes during the past half-century mark, this is a work of art by an artist who has lived the life and is, therefore, qualified to talk about it.

Willie sent me the beginning pages of this book as he was creating it on his bus while riding from city to city for various appearances and I knew it would be a hit. Reading the completed manuscript was a genuine delight.

Some of the jokes are not the type you would read to your mother (who may already have heard them if she knows Willie), but they are not offensive unless your head has been buried in the sand during the past couple of generations. Like a good movie, the funny, honest attachments only add to the atmosphere.

While you are reading this book, you get the feeling you’re sitting on Will’s smoky bus, listening to the genius as he laughs and relays numerous stories of the road, discusses some personal friends and speaks with a tongue in cheek manner about the somewhat complex music/entertainment scene. There are even some bits that can be taken as serious points of anchor from time-to-time.

Although he needs no introduction to his talents as a singer, actor, extraordinary guitar picker and songwriter, it’s the "common" connection that really makes this book an authentic piece of literary art. And Willie caps it all off by adding lyrics for songs in these pages, written by a man who is looked upon by his many peers and countless fans as being unsurpassable in the business of entertainment.

You might put Willie’s new CD, "The Great Divide", in the player unit while you simply lay back and enjoy this fantastic book, written by a very good pal of mine.

                                                Bill Mack



 

The Latest News out of Nashville


The news out of Nashville pertaining to WSM is, to say the least, upsetting. It leaves the impression that, again, our country music is being pushed into another avenue of hurt. But should we be surprised by this latest happening? Let’s, as a proud country music society, face the facts: This is simply another "happening".

Our country music scene, as a whole, has been badgered for several years now. Unless we have closed our eyes and plugged our ears or buried our proud heads in the sand, this latest news pertaining to WSM shouldn’t come as a terrific jolt to any of us.

The scent of danger grabbed the attention of most of us when the heads-of-state at the Opry decided the band was too old to perform for a younger audience and fired them for that reason. They publicly announced they were seeking a younger following at the Grand Ole Opry and performed one of the most front-line acts of age discrimination ever by slamming the doors on some of the best professional musicians in the world because they were passed the half-century mark in age. Sure, most of us were angry as Hell and made phone calls to each other about the axing of musicians who had given the Opry such a great sound for years. But what good did it do? Those musicians, great as they still are, no longer perform at the Grand Ole Show.

And what about the "temporary" move to the Ryman? Let’s face it: Most of us knew the move would eventually be permanent, didn’t we? Even though the official announcement said the Opry gang would soon be back in the newer Opry House after adjustments/improvements had been made, didn’t we again sniff the fact there were acts of dishonesty being performed? The way some of us saw it, the Opry was no longer good enough or important enough for the new Chiefs-of-Staff. So what did they do? They shoved the grand ol’ gang out of the newer quarters and back to the 70s … and the Ryman.

If we really want to pull a Sherlock Holmes study, let’s go back to TNN (The Nashville Network) and Opryland. There is no doubt that Ralph Emery, Crook and Chase and various other names that once graced the television tubes out of our great city of Nashville not only brought a proud focus to the greatest music city in the world, they brought countless country music fans and millions of tourists to Music City U.S.A. Opryland, The Opryland Hotel and The Grand Ole Opry were all within walking distance of the greatest entertainment avenue in the world.

TNN was sold to New York, Opryland became a huge shopping center and the Opry was moved back to the old quarters. Now, the only thing still standing in that once proud piece of valuable real-estate is the Opryland Hotel.

The sad part of all of this is the fact that the most prized musical entertainers on our planet are being placed in a position of doubt and fear. This is not only defamation to some of the greatest names in country music, it is a slap-in-the-face to an industry that has made Nashville, Tennessee the Hollywood of the South and allowed many radio stations and record labels to bank untold billions because they served the most allegiant people in the world … the country music fans.

None of us wants to hear that proud old radio station, WSM, become another overcrowded sports spot on the radio dial. And messing with the mother church of country music, The Grand Ole Opry? Well, is just shouldn’t be allowed. After all, that special show was the only quality entertainment many could afford during the Depression in the 30s and brought ease to millions during World War II. And let’s not forget: Would we have ever heard the likes of Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe, Marty Robbins and so many others had it not been for those special nights at the 650 spot on the dial? I doubt it.

Some of our so-called experts and consultants in the business of country music are saying, quietly, "Times have changed."

I dare those people to make that statement to the fans of such special giants as Loretta Lynn or George Jones. Fans of Brad Paisley, Trisha and Martina would also most likely search for rocks to throw if they heard such an idiotic statement.

Now, after thinking it all over, are you really surprised about the latest news out of Nashville?

Good part is, many of us have witnessed many indentions in our industry down through the years, but we also realize country music and the fans of our proud sound have always survived.


"GLAD TO KNOW BRAD"

Brad Paisley has hit the country music scene like a ton of bricks. Even his peers are saying he may be the hottest thing to come along since George Strait made his mark back in ’81. And, come to think of it, he has some similar Strait traits. Brad has the good looks, a somewhat ‘aw, shucks’ attitude while on stage and the cowboy hat.

When Brad was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in February, he received a letter from George Jones stating, “When Randy Travis came along he brought back enthusiasm for traditional country music. Then, more recently, Alan Jackson has reminded fans of how great traditional country music is. Now, I am counting on you to carry on the tradition and make folks sit up and listen to what good country music should sound like.”

Paisley seems to be following the command of ‘King George’. The West Virginian isn’t ashamed of the fact that he loves the old school of country music, he is crazy about his new home, the Grand Ole Opry, and he deeply respects the folks who he thinks have made his brand of music great.

Although he is approaching the age of 30, Brad leaves the impression of being younger. Perhaps it is because he is surrounded by so many up-in-years legends while appearing on-stage at the ‘Opry’. While watching him on television as he was seated in the audience during a recent awards show, he had that look of the typical fan on his face. His eyes were wide open with excitement, he was applauding wildly, and there was a big smile on his face as he sat in awe of the performer on stage. This image may also be partially responsible for his rapid rise in popularity. He resembles a new kid on the block who is anxious to make friends, something he has certainly accomplished in a short amount of time. It seems all of his peers love th’ boy. Some of the older ladies in country music appear to be protecting him like old mother hens.

Buck Owens, one of the real legends in country music, has taken Brad under his wealthy wings. Paisley said, “Buck Owens calls me about once a week. He seems to love me like a son. That feeling, that camaraderie, was one of the reasons I wanted to get into this business in the first place.”

Buck even presented Brad with one of his rare red, white and blue trademark guitars after the youngster had made an appearance at Owens’ big nightclub in Bakersfield around the first of the year.

Paisley added: “Then, here’s George Jones, probably the greatest living country singer of all time. He’s just one of those legends. He’s done it all. And to have George say he likes what I’m doing is awesome!”

Although Brad is regarded as a ‘traditional’ country singer, let’s make it clear that he respects other entertainers who are in the so-called ‘new brand of country’ arena. He says, “Just because I stand up for traditional music doesn’t mean the other folks are wrong in doing the ‘other stuff’. Maybe that was something they artistically needed to do. But for me, that style doesn’t fit.”

The fact that Brad was able to break open some doors in our country music industry is some sort of a miracle in itself. He’s not the greatest singer in town and his styling is against the grain in today’s highly fickle country music scene. He is simply that pick of the litter who happens to handle himself well in the Music City USA streamlined and sometimes snobby environment. His first single recording in 1999, “Who Needs Pictures” did well. “We Danced Anyway” and “Me Neither” did better. And, again, Brad was going against the norm with his first album by utilizing an unknown producer, Frank Rogers, and members of his own band.

The usual routine is to have a veteran high priced producer placed in charge and a studio filled with so-called “session musicians” squatted at various mike locations to supply the instrumentation.

Brad may have been doing everything wrong in the eyes of the old heads-of-state in Nashville, but everything was right when it came to record sales and on-stage appeal. Now, his recording advisors are saying, “If it works, don’t ‘fix’ it.”

Paisley’s country music roots go back to Glen Dale, West Virginia, with a population of less than 2,000 fine folks, located close to the Ohio border. His grandfather taught him how to pick the guitar.

Anytime there was a chance to be heard, Brad was there with his hat and his guitar.

“Didn’t matter where it was, if music was needed I would volunteer my services,” he said.

Brad Paisley is good for our country music industry. He just happens to have stumbled on to the scene at the right time, although he says he walked the streets of Nashville for the usual ‘long wait’ period before receiving that much appreciated “break”. He leaves a good impression via his talent and his appearance, but he also portrays that most-needed ingredient, ‘hope’.

Brad’s has an almost: “If I can make it … you can, too” attitude.

I’m glad to have Brad on the scene.


LEANN & THE CHICKS

I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’m getting sick and tired of hearing and reading about the various lawsuits between the recording stars and their record companies, the recording stars versus their daddies, the record companies versus the recording stars, the recording stars against their attorneys, the record stars versus their bodyguards, etc.

Now, if we were talking about physical abuse or emotional damage, I could understand all of this stuff. However, we’re talking about money! And no, nobody’s starving or being forced to sell their homes because somebody stole their last penny. We’re talking about millions of dollars, all sides claiming the other sides ripped them off or are attempting to rip them off by holding back on the loot.

I’m not going to take sides, here. I don’t know who’s guilty of what and if I knew, I could really care less because, basically, the real money winners will be the attorneys!

I’ve known of several cases in the recording industry where the artists have demanded a study of the bookkeeping system when it came to royalty checks sent to them by the record labels or music publishing companies. There have been dozens of events where the courts had to settle issues pertaining to copyright damages. I voluntarily spent a night in jail with my old pal, Jerry Lee Lewis, when he was served a subpoena by the D.A.’s office in Dallas just before he went on stage in Fort Worth. Seems old Jerry had failed to honor an earlier subpoena asking him to go before the judge after a Dallas club owner had filed a suit claiming Jerry Lee hadn’t fulfilled a contract to play at the club owner’s honky-tonk. Jerry Lee was found innocent because it was revealed the club owner had a habit of issuing “hot checks”. The last time Jerry played the joint the check bounced and he saw no rightly reason to return. Might also mention, the cell was never locked while Jerry Lee and I were there. We had a great time while the super star entertained several guards and those in the lock-up.

None of these bits of professional turmoil made headlines because everyone involved chose to handle the events without extreme shouts of anger to the media.

I honestly believe headliner lawsuits have caused tremendous damage to LeAnn Rimes’ career. First, suits were filed by the youngster (she was 17 at the time) against her dad and former attorney. Filing against your attorney would be in small print if, indeed, it even made the pages of the morning paper. But filing against Daddy? Well, that’s a completely different scenario. Daddy, Wilbur Rimes, counter-sued his daughter, as did the former attorney, Lyle Walker. It wouldn’t matter who won in court because the inevitable hurt would be almost unbearable. I know both sides are hurting over these lawsuits.

Next, LeAnn brought legal charges against Curb Records, the company that made her multi-millions. She claims she was too young to interpret the contracts she signed with the record company while she was still a pre-teener.

Most recently, LeAnn has filed against her former bodyguard, claiming he was attempting to blackmail her after lifting some tapes from her house.

Let me repeat: I don’t know who is guilty or who is innocent. In LeAnn’s cases, I know everyone involved. Therefore, the lawsuits are a bit personal to me. I love LeAnn, consider her daddy a good pal, her former attorney is a good friend, Mike Curb and the folks at Curb Records were kind enough to record LeAnn and a couple of my songs, one of them grabbing me a Grammy. I like th’ whole bunch.

I don’t know her former bodyguard and don’t care to meet him.

Now, what about the Dixie Chicks? They’re making claims they were heavily shortchanged by their record company, owned by Sony. Sony, meanwhile, says the Chicks have failed to honor their contract with the big outfit out of Japan and everybody involved is going through the embarrassing and degrading tales of woe being printed in the newspapers and magazines. The legal hot news is also being announced by most d.j.s after playing one of the Dixie Chicks’ million-selling recordings … put out by Sony.

I remember when the Dixie Chicks were playing the streets of Dallas and in tiny beer joints in order to make a few bucks. I also remember how thrilled they were when Sony signed ‘em up after other recording giants had turned them down. Almost overnight, they went from hen-house chirping to the biggest auditoriums and show places on the planet Earth. Within a few short years, they have become millionaires with the biggest awards available hanging in their mansions. And the thing is, they deserve every dime and every Grammy.

I just wish these bits of negative happenings had not made the papers. I realize attorneys are on call around the clock to handle matters such as those involving LeAnn, The Dixie Chicks, Wilbur Rimes, Lyle Walker, Curb Records, the ex-bodyguard and Sony. I also realize the media folks are standing in the wings waiting for items such as theirs to plaster on the front pages and announce on radio and television.

I’m already hearing words such as “spoiled brats” and “ungrateful snobs” when those speaking or writing are talking about LeAnn Rimes and The Dixie Chicks. The lawsuits have placed them into those ill-spoken corners, regardless of who is guilty or innocent. A good old farmer and his wife or a truck driver suffering the pains of the economic situation just can’t seem to figure out why millionaires are beefing because they can’t claim a few more millions.

I’m not hearing any negative complaints against Curb Records or Sony. They’ve been through jillions of bits such as those brought on by their most recent singing sensations. No single individual within the walls of Curb or Sony will be damaged. Companies don’t feel pain.

It’s the “kids” who will be hurt by all of these messes.

Now that our nation is at war, I have a gut feeling that all concerned would like to retract all of the lawsuits. Their accusations and claims now appear to be so unimportant.

Trouble is, their legal gripes are still making the pages, making all of them appear a bit greedy.  
 



DRINKING CHAMPAGNE

I was just going through my scrapbook, which Cindy has done such a wonderful job of keeping, and ran across Paul Bain’s column in “The Round Up” publication, dated September 24, 1995.

Under the heading, PAUL BAIN’S TOP TEN SONGS OF ALL TIME, the writer lists his Top Ten favorite songs of all time, mentioning they are not his “top ten favorite records”, but is a list of what he considers to be “the best written songs; words and music”, that he has ever heard.

In the list are “Stardust”, written by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish; “Always” by Irving Berlin; “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” by Tom T. Hall; “City Of New Orleans” by Steve Goodman and others.

In the midst is “Drinking Champagne”, written by Bill Mack!

Talk about an honor!

I’ve been asked many times down through the years how the song came to mind.

The words and lyrics came easy. Come to think of it, all of my more successful compositions have come fast, requiring very little backtracking or deep study.  That’s why I’ve always said songs are gifts!  Every songwriter I have known, all of them better than I am at my craft, have said, basically, the same thing:  “If you have to toil at the song to make it work, walk away from it. Try later.”

Well, anyway, “Drinking Champagne” came to me very fast.

The year was 1966 and I was traveling from the golf course on my way home. It was close to the Thanksgiving, Christmas season and I saw the billboard reading, “This Holiday Season, Serve Champagne!”

I hadn’t intended to write a song.  I just started humming the lyrics and the melody as they came to me and decided I would whiz over to a recording studio that was owned by a good friend.

By the time I had arrived at Johnny Patterson’s recording location in Fort Worth, the song was completed in my mind.  I had fought the late afternoon traffic but still retained the lyrics and melody in my head, something that is tough for me to do, most times.

I walked into the studio and asked Johnny to loan me a guitar and set a tape. I wanted to capture the song while it was still whirling in my brain.

I don’t recall ever writing the lyrics down on paper.  Patterson, who is still very active in music, doesn’t recall me asking for a pencil and paper, either. He does remember me asking for something to drink. I suppose the word, champagne, had been flopping around in my thoughts so long it made me thirsty.  I don’t remember drinking champagne, though.

I do remember Johnny walking into his control room and setting up a reel-to-reel tape recorder. After messing around with his control board, he yelled through the studio speaker, “Are you ready?”

Holding a beat up guitar and seated in a chair with a microphone directly in front of my mouth, I informed him I was “ready”.

Johnny shouted, “Tape’s rollin’!”

Picking the old acoustical Martin guitar, I warbled:

“I’m drinkin’ champagne, feelin’ no pain, ‘til early morning,

“Dining and dancing with every pretty girl I can find,

“Havin’ a fling, with a pretty young thing, ‘til early morning,

“Knowing tomorrow I’ll wake up with you on my mind.

“Guilty conscience, I guess,

“Though, I must confess,

“I never loved you much when you were mine.

“So I’ll keep drinking champagne, feelin’ no pain, ‘til early morning

“Knowing tomorrow I’ll wake up with you on my mind.”

(Words and Music published by Acuff-Rose Music-BMI)

Certainly, it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was to eventually win me the very honored distinction of becoming a member of the BMI MILLION-AIR CLUB, indicating my song has been played over one million times on radio and television!

Receiving that Special Citation of Achievement certified and signed by my dear friend, Frances Preston (BMI), is one of the greatest compliments ever handed to me.

I’m also most grateful to George Strait for recording the song, allowing me to receive both, a gold record and a platinum record, indicating his release as a single and in a couple of his albums has sold millions of copies.

Incidentally, I always thought “Drinking Champagne” was a natural for Dean Martin. And Dean finally recorded the song … fifteen years after I had written it.

Dino liked my little composition, telling my music publisher, “I should have done that song years ago! What happened?”

My music publisher, Acuff-Rose Music, replied: “You didn’t open your mail, Dean! We’ve mailed you at least 25 demo recordings of the song since 1966!”

“Drinking Champagne” would never have become a hit if Johnny Patterson had not been in his studio that late afternoon.

Something else I must mention here:

The day after writing the song, John asked me to drive by his office because he “had something to listen to”. He had a surprise for me.

After I had laid the words and music on tape, accompanied by the single guitar, Johnny took the time to lay several guitars and bass-fiddle to my vocal. Except for my simple strumming of the guitar, every single instrument heard on my original recording of “Drinking Champagne” was performed by one man, my dear friend, Johnny.

Kapp Records, a subsidiary of Decca, took my “audition” made by Johnny Patterson and released it as a single record.

Now, over thirty-five years later, close to one hundred artists in the country and pop field have recorded an old song that was inspired by a billboard and mastered by an old friend who believed in me.

Thank you, Johnny Patterson.

 

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