Jan Howard, Lady From The Ozarks, Is Now Singing On The Biggest Stage


The Grand Oe Opry family lost another member today with the death of Jan Howard.

She was not only an independent voice in her own right, with many recordings, but also was one of the classic country ladies along with Jean Shepherd, Skeeter Davis, and others who would band together and make music from the world-famous stage in Nashville Tennessee.


bill and jan

When I was in the third grade my parents had tickets to see Bill Anderson, and his then singing partner Jan Howard, when they were to do a concert in Waupaca Wisconsin. I was going through a severe bout of the flu, and there were real concerns whether or not I could attend the show. But there was a miraculous recovery and I was there in the bleachers to watch, but it was Jan Howard who had come down with the flu and missed the concert!

I did not see her that night but many years later at the world-famous stage of the Grand Ole Opry, I saw Howard, along with the full array of performers.  Tonight she is with so many other legends on the largest stage ever.

Tennesee Radio Hall Of Fame (And Caffeinated Politics)

Many years ago a friend of mine, who worked in marketing for a New York firm, advised me how to make this blog more focused.  More niche-oriented.  She told me I was aiming for an audience that was too diverse, and in so doing missing a larger share of a certain type of reader looking for content of a specialized type.  I have no doubt that was sage advice.

But I like to write about the topics of the day which strike my fancy.  That means almost anything under the sun might be found, at some point, to have been posted on CP.  Which is how the voice from over the airwaves on Saturday nights, which I loved to hear as a boy, made it to this blog.  Grant Turner was an announcer from WSM, broadcasting live from the world-famous Grand Ole Opry stage.   In 2007 I paid tribute to Turner in a post, which attracted attention from his daughter.

Today it came to my attention that the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame website has my post as the one singled out when Turners’ picture is selected.  I can not express how I felt upon learning this news, given my deep admiration for Turner, and my decades-long love affair with the Grand Old Opry.  The world’s longest-running radio show.

Yes, this blog could have been more focused and laser-oriented in the content which appears in over 14,000 posts.  My friend was right.  But today I know I am right too, as there are just too many topics in the world that ignite my passion to limit what might be posted tomorrow.

Grant Turner made me smile as a boy on many Saturday nights.  These decades later he is doing the same on this winter-like Saturday night in Madison.

And so it goes.

Goodbye Dear Old Ryman

With this being the 94th Birthday weekend for the Grand Ole Opry, and the fantastic Ken Burns documentary on Country Music concluded on PBS, I want to post a long ago forgotten song.

In 1974 the Opry moved from downtown Nashville to a new home about six miles down the Cumberland River.  The Ryman Auditorium had such an acoustically perfect sound that it was restored in later decades, with the winter months of the famed radio show once again broadcast over WSM from that stage.

But at the time of the final show in 1974 it was mighty sad.  In the Hank Locklin song, Goodbye Dear Old Ryman, the background voices of  The Jordanaires can be heard.  They were also the voices that sang background on so many Elvis recordings.

Fiddles Play As Ken Burns Brings Country Music History To PBS

It has been years in the making, and like every other Ken Burns documentary, it has created a lot of buzz.  Or in this case, a lot of yearning to hear the fiddles play.


What will turn PBS (starting Sept 15th) into many nights of must-see-television is Country Music, Burns’ 16.5 hour series as he presents the origins and meaning of a major musical force in this land.  But such a task will be very hard as getting to the core of the music is almost impossible.  The legends in the field admit as much.

Veteran songwriter Harlan Howard famously asserted that “Country music is three chords and the truth.” In one of many revealing juxtapositions over the course of Burns’ series, critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell agrees, then points out: “It’s about the truth, even when it’s a big, fat lie.”

Other artists have taken stabs at crystallizing what they do. “Country songs are the dreams of the working man,” Merle Haggard said. Waylon Jennings offered a broadly inclusive outline: “Country music isn’t a guitar, it isn’t a banjo, it isn’t a melody, it isn’t a lyric. It’s a feeling.”

All my life I have had deep regard for, and interest in classic country music.  The contemporary country sound has lost its soul and aims more for mass marketing than hitting the chords of its golden years.  Burns will try to show the path that today’s singers have taken, and it will be interesting to see if a credible line can be drawn from  Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff to the likes of Lee Brice.

Madison, Wisconsin will have a special reason to pay heed to this series as country music historian Bill Malone is front and center as the musical story is revealed through film.  Last year a good friend gave me a copy of Malone’s masterpiece, Country Music U.S.A.  He writes with depth and passion about the music which his mother introduced him to as a child.

There will also be background added for this series with Ketch Secor who has provided a traditional sound with Old Crow Medicine Show.  His care for the music, and the early influences, is proven with each performance around the country.  I much respect what he does.


I will be watching the series from my home on the isthmus, but the first night my heart will be in Nashville as Opry Entertainment and Belmont University will celebrate by screening part one from the hallowed Grand Ole Opry stage.  That is most appropriate to have such a setting at the Mother Church Of Country Music.

Since the start of this blog in 2006 I have posted about country music, the Grand Ole Opry, WSM, and the many performers I have had the chance to meet and chat with after a show.  My guitar is one of my prized belongings which carries more than their autographs, as it contains priceless memories.   From George Jones to ‘Little’ Jimmy Dickens there is a story to be told with each one.

How they came to fame and what their music tells us about the nation and the industry is part of what Burns will allow us to better understand on PBS.



Nashville Sound Lands On Madison Isthmus With Travelin’ McCourys

Just incredible!

Wednesday night the isthmus of Madison was featured to a free concert at McPike Park by the fiddle playing, banjo picking, bass pumping, guitar strumming, mandolin magic of the Travelin’ McCourys.

Lord, have mercy.  If pictures could be heard, what sounds they would make.


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“The Travelin’ Mccourys”: Free Concert Tonight At McPike Park On Madison’s Isthmus

Tonight The Sessions at McPike Park–only a few blocks from your blogger’s desk–will feature at 7:30 P.M. the OH–SO-AWESOME “The Travelin’ Mccourys”.

In 2017 I was there for their show and wrote at the time the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, and Rob McCoury on banjo made for an evening that ranks up in the top tier for me.  With a blue grass band that was toned, tuned, and hitting every note and making every mark for perfect harmony, the Traveling McCourys simply wowed the largest crowd I have seen at Central Park. 

I noted on this blog during their stunning take on “Evangeline” the crowd at times did not know whether to sing along or hold their hands above their heads to hoot out high praise. 

Jason Carter on fiddle will take the crowd up to heights that will make them forget every care while he adds vocals alerting them this is Grand Ole Opry quality entertainment.


Hats Off To Bill Malone And Tracey Laird

You know it is a good day when someone brings you a book. But it is a great day when it is a book about the history of Country Music.

A friend of mine from the statehouse days gave me Bill Malone’s book–the author of this famed work which is part of the Ken Burns upcoming documentary–lives in Madison.

I love the early years–the classic country music sounding years–and the many talented singers and musicians who made the music. By the late 1970’s the music was changing and too many were trying to make it sound like so much other music that it lost its original feel. That is why I love my old vinyl recordings so much!



Ken Burns To Tackle Classic County Music In New Documentary

There is so much to admire and respect when it comes to the talents of Ken Burns.  Just a couple of weeks ago the nation was enjoying his project on the Dust Bowl.

Now comes word that a major project is underway where classic county music will be featured in his new documentary.  I need to underscore this will feature the all-important roots of country music, and not deal with the new stars that blur the lines, and miss the feel of classic country.

Filmmaker Ken Burns is hard at work on a documentary on country music according to his partner, Dayton R. Duncan, reports the Tennessean. According to Duncan, Little Jimmy Dickens and legendary musician/producer Harold Bradley have both been interviewed for the project.

“We’ve done films about uniquely American ideas and things that help tell us who we are as Americans — baseball and national parks and jazz, and essential American icons like Mark Twain and Lewis & Clark,” he said. “Country music really combines both of those things. It’s uniquely American. It’s an American art form that helps you understand what America is.”

According to Duncan, the country music documentary will likely take about five years to make. Don’t expect stars like Garth Brooks or Taylor Swift to be featured, though. “You’ve got to have an arm’s length of time for it to be history, and that’s usually about a generation,” he said. “It’s history we’re telling and not what’s happening today.”