Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jamey Johnson reflects on his relationship with God, family, and fans

Jamey Johnson performing one of his many hit songs. Photo by Jessica Bray of Kentucky Country Music.
When it comes to curating a sound of traditional country music, Jamey Johnson has made a name for himself in the music community.  It has been over 17 years that he landed in Nashville after living his life running the music circuit throughout Alabama and Georgia.  The journey has taken him on major stages, but also smaller intimate settings that are perfect for the listener to take in all that is being sung through the soul of Jamey Johnson.

This past weekend, Jamey Johnson performed for a double night stay at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center.  Having performed at the venue for many years now, it and the fans have formed a special bond thanks to the power of music.

Prior to his show, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Jamey Johnson over his journey, as well as personal encounters, stories behind songs, and more.  Below is that conversation and I hope that you enjoy reading it.  Be sure to check out Jamey Johnson’s website for future concert dates and music at

Friday, June 9, 2017

Kentucky native and distinguished member of Music Row, Norro Wilson, passes away

Legendary songwriter, producer, and singer, Norro Wilson, passed away Thursday at the age of 79.
Photo by Jessica Bray, Kentucky Country Music.
Kentucky native, Norro Wilson, made a major impact on Music Row and in the Nashville community.  Sadly, he passed away at the age of 79 years old on Thursday, June 8, 2017.  His accomplishments and versatile abilities led him to be a distinguished member of the music community.

Coming from Scottsville, Kentucky, Norris "Norro" Wilson, would attend Wester Kentucky State College (now Western Kentucky University).  He earned a vocal scholarship and later moved just outside of Nashville when he joined the Southlanders gospel quartet.  In the late 1950s, he sang harmony for Ferlin Husky and Faron Young From songwriting to song plugging, he always had a pulse on the sound created in Music City.

Some of the songwriting co-writes of Norro Wilson include hit songs for George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Charlie Rich, Lorrie Morgan, and many more.  Some of those hits include the following:
Delta Dawn
Baby, Baby (I Know You're a Lady)
A Very Special Love Song
The Grand Tour
The Most Beautiful Girl
A Picture of Me (Without You)
The Door
The Battle
He Loves Me All the Way
Another Lonely Song

For a few years near 1970, Norro Wilson pursued a solo recording artist career.  He was chosen for the Country Radio Seminar’s inaugural “New Faces of Country Music.” In 1970, his recording of "Do It to Someone You Love" peaked at No. 20.  It was written by fellow Kentuckian, Tom T. Hall.  Wilson won a best country song Grammy for "A Very Special Love Song," and in three consecutive years he won BMI's Country Songwriter of the Year award.

Norro Wilson co-produced many albums along the way with Buddy Cannon, paving the path for relatively newcomers into the universe of stardom and fame.  Among those include Shania Twain's debut album, Keith Whitley, John Anderson, John Michael Montgomery, Kenny Chesney, Chely Wright, Charley Pride, Sammy Kershaw, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Sara Evans, Reba McEntire, and many more.

In 1984, while working at RCA Records, he signed fellow Kentucky native, Keith Whitley, and produced his ep "A Hard Act to Follow."

In 1996, Norro Wilson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Wilson has won 39 awards from BMI, including five One Million Performance awards.  He also became a member of Western Kentucky University's Hall of Distinguished Alumni.  In 2008, he was inducted into the prestigious Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.  Inside their museum, there is a large exhibit featuring the works of Norro Wilson inside.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe honored with bronze statues

Bill Monroe Statue at the Ryman Auditorium
Two of the most profound musical innovators in country and bluegrass music will forever remain part of the Soul of Nashville with the installation today of life-size statues of Little Jimmy Dickens and Bill Monroe at the historic Ryman Auditorium.

The Ryman, which is recognized as the Soul of Nashville, was founded as a beacon of hope for the faithful; it has become an international symbol of cultural significance drawing millions of people to Nashville to find their own inspiration in the wood pews under the famed stained-glass windowpanes.

The bronze likenesses were commissioned by the Ryman Auditorium in recognition of the 125th Anniversary. Sculpted by artist Ben Watts, the life-size statues took one year to create. Little Jimmy Dickens’ statue is adjacent to the landmark statue of riverboat captain Thomas G. Ryman on Fourth Avenue. The replica of the Father of Bluegrass Music Bill Monroe is located near the Fifth Avenue driveway.

The iconic brick building, which is on the national registry of historic places, rose to prominence first as Nashville’s largest venue for civic gatherings and later for attracting national touring shows including the biggest names in music, theater, and entertainment including Katharine Hepburn, Harry Houdini, Bob Hope, the Ziegfeld Follies, and countless others including President Theodore Roosevelt.

The Ryman became the home of the Grand Ole Opry in 1943, and the world of broadcast entertainment changed forever as the live radio and TV show brought the likes of Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl, Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins, and Hank Williams to the stage and into living rooms around the country. The program’s 31-year Ryman ignited the growth of country music.

Dickens and Monroe were instrumental to that burgeoning popularity.

Little Jimmy Dickens Statue
Dickens was born James Cecil Dickins, but was world famous as “Little Jimmy.” He was known for his humorous novelty songs, his small size (4'11"), and flashy wardrobe, but his contributions to country music were far greater than his diminutive stature. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.

Little Jimmy Dickens was a beloved fixture at the Opry, on stage and backstage. He passed away on Jan. 2, 2015. Before his death, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Dickens recorded many novelty songs including "Country Boy," "A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed,” "I'm Little but I'm Loud,” and his biggest hit, the No. 1 “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”  His song "Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)" inspired Hank Williams to nickname him Tater. 

Over the years, Dickens made appearances in music videos by close friend and fishing buddy, fellow West Virginia native Brad Paisley. Along with joining on bonus comedy tracks on several of Paisley’s albums, Dickens also joined Paisley and his CMA Awards co-host Carrie Underwood in several show monologues. Upon Dickens’ death in 2015, Paisley lamented the loss of his hero and “the best friend a human being could ask for” and has performed numerous tributes to Dickens’ life and career.

"This was a man who was honing his craft before Hank Williams, who we sort of credit as the father of modern country music in many ways," said Paisley during the unveiling today. “He saw everything in those decades that he stood on that stage, like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and Garth Brooks. By the time Jimmy left us, he had become the Grand Ole Opry. On a night that he wasn't there, you were cheated out of something and he knew that. He realized when he was well enough to do it, he went. He knew that he owed it to the younger generation that wanted to see him, it was another lesson in how you entertain people. He gave them everything that he had on that stage and in this building for many many years. So I think it's really appropriate that he's going to be one of the statues that's a permanent reminder of what we should be in this building."

Speaking on behalf of Monroe was Ricky Skaggs, whose own career was heavily influenced by the mandolin player. Skaggs was only six years old in 1960, when he first got to perform on stage with Monroe and his band at the high school in Martha, Kentucky.

"I don't know if you ever get another Bill Monroe in a century," said Skaggs. "There's not a lot of people that I know of who could be cited as creating a whole new genre of music, but he did. He had the ear to hear it, the talent to play it and the heart to keep it alive because he was strong, he was powerful. I don't know any person who could have withstood, pushed through and made it like him. He had music in his veins. It was the thing that pushed him so much. It wasn't just to make a living. It was to get something out of him and take to people that he loved, and that was the fans that loved this music. I have traveled all over the world into places you would think that bluegrass music would never make it to ... and you meet someone there that actually plays the music. So this music has totally gone around the world."

The Father of Bluegrass was a gifted player, singer, and songwriter. The genre takes its name from his band, the Blue Grass Boys, named for Monroe's home state of Kentucky. Monroe's performing career spanned 69 years before he died on Sept. 9, 1996 – just shy of his 85th birthday.

Monroe formed the first edition of the Blue Grass Boys in Atlanta, Ga. The band eventually featured more than 150 performers including Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. In October 1939, Monroe successfully auditioned for a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry impressing Opry founder George D. Hay with his energetic stage performance – he soon started recording and developing what would eventually become his signature style with fast tempos, instrumental virtuosity, and musical innovation. His recordings have become classics including “Blue Grass Breakdown," "My Rose of Old Kentucky,” and Monroe's most famous composition, “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

Monroe, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, remained a mainstay at the Opry. There he settled into a role as a musical patriarch influencing generations of young musicians including Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, and the Oak Ridge Boys.

With a $14 million renovation in 2015, the Ryman is widely considered one of the finest performance venues in the world hosting performers from all genres of music. Today, the Ryman draws artists from all corners of the globe eager to experience the thrill of walking to the front of the stage to perform.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Judds are set to release greatest hits package on June 30th

Kentucky music natives, Wynonna and Naomi Judd made musical history throughout their career receiving eight Gold and eight Platinum records, selling over 20 million albums and scoring twenty Top 10 hits between 1984-1990. Now, Curb Records is excited to bring fans the ultimate collection of those years together. The Judds – All-Time Greatest Hits will be released on Friday, June 30 – and will feature each of the classic hits that helped to make them a household name on Country Radio in the 1980s and 1990s.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bill Monroe Estate offers rare ownership of prized possessions

Bill Monroe - Photo Courtesy of  Monroe Enterprises
Fans of the “Father of Bluegrass Music” have a unique opportunity to own the rights to the name and likeness to Bill Monroe. Regarded as the man who started the format, Monroe joined the WSM Grand Ole Opry in 1939, and was a member for almost six decades – until his passing in September 1996. One of the few members of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Monroe’s musical legacy included legendary stints on Columbia Records and MCA / Decca, with whom he was associated for forty years. Monroe cast a shadow over music by influencing a wide variety of musical artists.

Friday, May 26, 2017

When a loved one dies

Papaw Jerry & Jessica back in time
During the month of April, I took a break from some things and focused on family.  In between my full time job and doing my music stuff, I sat in the hospital room and then nursing home room as my grandpa was sick.  The sound of the machines beeping, nurses and doctors shuffling in and out to check this and that became a new routine.  Relatives would come to visit and spend time sharing stories of our youth growing up in southeast Kentucky, with some moving on to Ohio and Tennessee.  Then on the morning of April 26th, time stood still as my grandpa passed away.

In the coming days, we sat together as a family at the funeral home making arrangements, going to the flower shop to pick out the perfect arrangement, shop for the outfit to wear, and preparing for the visitors.  My grandma asked me to speak at his funeral and for several days, I wrote, rewrote, and wrote some more trying to figure out the perfect words to say.  Needless to say it was the hardest and easiest thing I have ever written in my life.  It was an honor to be asked to tell others about my grandpa.

During all of the hustle and bustle, east Kentucky native, Angaleena Presley's new album "Wrangled" was released.  I have been meaning to write a full on review of the masterpiece of an album.  It has been hard to find the time to dedicate my full attention to it.  However, there was one song that has stuck in my head throughout April and now May.  "Cheer Up Little Darling" was written by Angaleena Presley and Guy Clark.  It would be his last song he wrote before passing away.  Musician Shawn Camp plays Guy Clark's No. 10 guitar, which was used to write the song, and Clark's mandola.  I personally want to thank them for this song that kept me rolling these last few weeks.  If you would like to listen to it, be sure to download it from I-tunes here.

"Cheer Up Little Darling" by Angaleena Presley & Guy Clark
Yeah, it's gonna be real pretty, man
Cheer up little darlin', don't be so sad
There's a time and place for the blues that you've had
Just hold what you've got, babe, and never give in
Seems like a tight spot, but it's just a loose end

Cheer up little darlin', don't be so sad
There's a time and place for the blues you have had
Hold what you've got, babe, never give in
It feels like a tight spot, but it's just a loose end

You can't fix the world, girl, it's so badly bent
But you can help it along if you save your own skin
The first thing you do, honey, is make you a list
Of the things that you've done and the things that you've missed

Do the best that you can, doll, there's no one to blame
It's just the turn that it took in this crazy old game
Hold what you've got, babe, never give in
It feels like a tight spot, but it's just a loose end

I will miss walking up to Mammy and Papaw's house and seeing him sitting in the rocking chair on the front porch. I will miss him saying "how are you doing?" as he sat there smoking a cigarette, drinking his coffee. I will miss his creamed style corn made in the cast iron skillet, complete with chocolate gravy and biscuits. Don't tell Mammy, but Papaw is the only one that could make the best gravy!  And most of all, I will miss hearing those words, "Now don't you run off – what’s your hurry?” and "I love you" as I had to leave to head home.

In the Bible, we learned that the Lord created the universe and all its beauty in 7 days. I always said that on the 8th day, God made a farmer. On the 9th day, he made a truck driver to haul the farm goods. While he may have parked his truck here on earth, I know that the engine is a roaring as Papaw Jerry drives the streets of Heaven. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Kentucky music women to be featured in new book

Woman Walk the Line - How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives
At a time when women’s lives have never been more public, more debated, more celebrated and in many ways, more scrutinized, Woman Walk The Line: How the Women of Country Changed Our Lives arrives. A collection of 27 women writers of varying age, race, sexual orientation and occupation, these deeply personal essays reflect how one country artist served as the life pivot that shifted everything in each writer’s life.