Grand Ole Opry Legend Little Jimmy Dickens Getting Radiation Treatment


One of the last true legends of the Grand Ole Opry is undergoing radiation treatments this summer.

Little Jimmy Dickens, the 92-year-old Grand Ole Opry star, will miss shows for at least several weeks.  Listeners to the longest-running radio show in America will know much of 2013 found the star missing from standing center stage each weekend when the big curtain lifted. Dickens has been a fixture on the Opry since he became a member in 1948.

Dickens is undergoing radiation treatments for three weeks for a pre-cancerous condition on his vocal chords. But with true pluck and energy the legend was looking forward to again performing.  “I can’t wait to return home to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in one of my favorite rhinestone suits someday soon.”

And there will be many applauding that return.

Fans wishing to express their well wishes to Dickens can send cards and letters to the following address.

Jimmy Dickens c/o Grand Ole Opry House 2804 Opryland Drive Nashville, TN 37214

CP wishes the very best for this amazing personality, and one of the best friends country music has ever had.

Saturday Song: From The Ryman Auditorium Emmy Lou Harris, Elvis Costello, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Friends “Wheels”

The news about the outlandish incident that took place this past week when Tracy Morgan took the stage at the famed Ryman Auditorium has me really blistered.  So this week’s Saturday Song is to showcase what the Ryman is really all about.  You want taste, beauty, and talent…..this is the Ryman Auditorium!

As the “The Solemn Old Judge” would say….”Let err go boys!”

Lets ramp it up from the Ryman and kick it into high gear with Charlie Daniels.

Next a classic look at the Ryman as DeFord Bailey, who was the first star of the Grand Ole Opry, makes a harmonica talk. 

Jeannie C. Riley sings with some great video of what the Opry felt like as fans packed the Ryman as Bill Anderson emcees.

Ryman Auditorium Site Of Anti-Gay Rant By Tracy Morgan

This story pains me in various ways.

First, and foremost the Ryman Auditorium is a most special place in the history of radio and country music.  It was from this building constructed in the early 1890s by riverboat captain Thomas Ryman that first housed the Union Gospel Tabernacle, and later the world-famous Grand Ole Opry.    So it is easy to see why I feel upset when rancid ‘comedy’ that spews from the likes of Tracy Morgan are able to stand on the stage that many rightly consider a most special place.

In 1952 a photo of real talent was taken from the Opry stage.  I use this photo for a reason, in spite of it being almost impossible to make out the faces.  That there were so many notables that could gather at the Opry nearly sixty years ago, and still be known today by their musical successes underscores the reverence people have for this stage.

By the time you get to the end of this post it will be clear that Tracy Morgan is not worthy to even sneak a glance into the Ryman Auditorium, let alone take the stage!

Now the Ryman Auditorium is in the news again.  This time however not because of memories about Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl, or the music shows that fill the famed pews.  No, this time the Ryman Auditorium is in the news for trash talk thanks to bigoted comic Tracy Morgan who ‘performed’ there on June 3, 2011.

During the show Tracy Morgan said if his son was gay he better come home and talk to him like a man and not (he mimicked a gay, high pitched voice) or he would pull out a knife and stab that little (and then used the N word.)

That is only part of the anti-gay and racist rant. People who were at the show have reported that the demeanor of being a ‘comic’ left Tracy Morgan’s face, and he took on a hateful look.  Hard to smile when you are talking about carving up your child. 

There is more….FAR MORE…concerning the sewage that pumped out of Tracy Morgans mouth, but what I posted above is enough for CP.   I am certain most of America finds this totally out-of-bounds, as I do.

The hate and rage exhibited by angry people such as Tracy Morgan astounds me.  We all shake our head at the pathetic sight of Fred Phelps and think his bigotry is because he is a backwoods hick.  Then we see a supposedly ‘hip’ black man like Morgan Tracy acting as bat-shit crazy as the Kansas pastor and wonder what is wrong with these people.

Morgan was never funny on Saturday Night Live, but at least he was kept in check by (thankfully) the limits of television.  Morgan seems to have no real talent at true comedy so makes for the most outlandish statements and that is supposed to make ticket sales increase at future venues.  A most absurd business plan!

I suggest the rancid Morgan consider how the stars who stood on the Opry stage made a welcoming name for themselves.  Though not in the picture above, Porter Wagoner is one example Tracy Morgan might consider.

While working in a meat shop in West Plains, Missouri Wagoner delivered his hopes via music over KWPM. His small band played over the airwaves from the store!

Unlike the slick promotions or well-heeled promoters that Morgan has, stars of the early Opry had to make it on real talent!  A concept more might think about.  With talent and ambition along with a dose of luck many made music history.  With limited money, but boundless desire, Porter moved to a radio station in Springfield, Missouri where an RCA recording contract soon followed. Even then sales were sparse, and it was not until 1957 that he first stepped on the stage at the Ryman Auditorium.

Sadly when Tracy Morgan made his first appearance on the Opry stage the only thing he left behind was a national mess.

Lets hope someone opened the glass windows in the building and let the stench out!

And let us never allow it to happen at the Ryman Auditorium again!

Saturday Song: Yodeling Jean Shepard “Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar”

Jean Shepard will  be inducted into the country Music Hall Of Fame this weekend, an honor that is long overdue.   Today I feature one of the top-charting hits for Shepard along with her signature yodeling.

Grand Ole Opry Star Jean Shepard Finally To Be Inducted In Country Music Hall of Fame

One of the true legends of the Grand Ole Opry is about to make news this weekend.

On Sunday night, at the age of 77, Jean Shepard, the “Grand Lady of the Grand Ole Opry,” will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  This has taken more time than it should have, and there are all sorts of reasons why.  But all that can be put aside as a true milestone has been reached; one that Jean Shepard truly deserves.

Jean Shepard and your blogger at the Grand Ole Opry

Jean Shepard was the first woman in country music to have a million seller, and made a hit with “A Dear John Letter,”  which was a 1953 duet with Ferlin Husky.  Shepard tells a funny story of how she became aware of her success.

There was a famous moment when that poor girl from Oklahoma first learned she had a hit with”A Dear John Letter,” an event that would change her life. As Ms. Shepherd tells the story, she and her band were heading to Los Angeles for another recording session. “Buck and all of them were saying, ‘Let’s stop and get a Billboard.’ And I thought, ‘What do you want a billboard for?’ This is how dumb I was. I didn’t know it was a magazine. They said they wanted to check after my record. Well, how would you get that off of a billboard, and how are you gonna get it in the car? They stopped and brought in the magazine; Buck threw it in my lap and asked me, ‘So how does it feel to have a No. 1 record?’ And that’s how they told me I had one.”

In the world of country music that strays far from its roots Shepard never leaves the fiddle, steel guitar, or yodeling far behind.  She is one of those musical figures who understands what brought her to the dance, and she has remained faithful all these decades.  Needless to say the fans over the years have remained alongside her, and never stopped applauding.

It was, however, her honesty about country music that might have cost her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame all these many years.  Her words are ones that I strongly echo, and have stated over and over through the years.

If that makes me a pompus ass, as some have alluded to recently over my promotion of the Opry and classic country, so be it.  I stand in good company!

“You know, when the music just started to change, I knew it was changing—and not for the good of country music. When people couldn’t hear Ernest Tubb or Lefty Frizzell on the radio any more, it broke my heart. I may have made some mistakes when I got up and expressed my opinions on stage, and on the air, and if I hurt anybody’s feelings, I’m sorry, but, you know, if the shoe fits—wear it! To me, you don’t have a country band without a steel guitar and a fiddle; if you don’t want them, you ain’t country. I thank God that I came up in the ’50s and ’60s, because I got to work with the greatest people in the world.”

Saturday Song: Charlie Louvin Gospel “In The Sweet Bye And Bye” “I Feel Like Traveling On” “Grave On The Green Hillside” “Where The Roses Never Fade”

This past Monday night James and I had dinner with two retired couples.  One of the couples is planning a trip to Nashville and asked if they should stop at the Grand Ole Opry.

“Should you stop?” I asked with every consonant gaining steam and tempo.

One of the reasons I told them to attend the Opry on this trip is that the older singers that are the touchstones to the formative days of the oldest radio show are slowly passing away.

A few days after that dinner conversation one of the Opry legends, Charlie Louvin, died from pancreatic cancer.

Much has been written and said about Charlie Louvin and his music, the magic that he and his brother Ira made when they wowed audiences with perfect harmony, and the impact Louvin had on contemporary singers of all genres.

However, one of the missing parts of the Louvin story in much of the news coverage this week was the gospel music he recorded. Some of the best recording sessions late in life that Louvin put on tape were the ones when he added a bluegrass touch to songs such as “Where The Roses Never Fade” and in “The Sweet Bye And Bye.”

Since You Tube did not have what I wanted for today’s Saturday Song I made some of my own.  (Four gospel videos, to be precise.) Readers will note that while the music is different for each video here today the images are the same.   That it takes time to produce these videos should be enough reason as to justify why they look the same.  That each song is of a different length but the same number of photos were used meant I needed to adjust duration of spacing between photos.   While it took time, I wanted to honor Charlie Louvin, a singer I really respect.

In the big world of You Tube the sameness of the photos in the videos will be less apparent than for the readers to this blog post.

With that I trust my readers will understand, and just turn up the computer speakers.

Charles Elzer Loudermilk was born in Henagar, Alabama, on July 7 1927. He grew up in poverty and worked with Ira – three years his senior – as a field hand in the Sand Mountain region of Alabama. Avid churchgoers, the boys tried to copy the “shape note” gospel harmony singing they heard in their local Baptist church and were still in their teens when, with Ira learning mandolin and Charlie the guitar, they won a local talent show and started performing together at a small radio station in Chattanooga.

Nothing was ever the same.

The family of Charlie Louvin has opened the country music pioneer’s funeral to the public.

There will be visitation from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home in Nashville. The funeral will immediately follow Sunday’s visitation.

Letter From Home 1/26/11

As the day started to slow down I put an album on the stereo.  I lounged on the sofa and listened.  It was more a tribute to a singer than the need to relax and kick back in the early evening. 

The warmth of the LP that oozed from the speakers was more pronounced than just because it was vinyl.  Compact discs never can compare to the musical experience of an album.  But there was more to the music that floated around the room than just another album on the turntable.

Decades ago I placed this album on a record player of my youth and watched it spin countless times.  Tonight the words of the songs flooded back, and certain notes struck deep and hard.

That is what music should do.  Transport the listener somewhere else, outside of themself.

The album “Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes” by Charlie Louvin and Melba Montgomery was played because Louvin died early this morning.  He was one of the old standard bearers of a time when singers were really interested in their fans and made it to the top of the charts based on ability as opposed to slick promotional managing.  I deeply respect that.

The album was one that my mom had in her collection, having bought it about 35 years ago.   A couple of years ago I gathered up all her albums and records and brought them home.  They were after all more a connection between mom and myself than anyone else in the family.

The old record player is one I can see in my mind.  It was one of those where the speakers folded onto the top of the player and it all could be carried like a small suitcase.  The player was never just left out but alway cared for.  Mom folded the wires for the speakers in place and tucked it behind the sofa after each use.

This evening as “Don’t Believe Me” played I thought what mom might say to hear it played in surround sound.  The deep sounds, piano chords and guitar licks make the song a country classic.  She would have loved it. 

As the songs spun the LP needed to be flipped and I thought about the memories music allows for. 

One singer out of Alabama with a desire to do more than pick cotton his whole life.  A woman in Hancock, Wisconsin who liked music and picked up the singer’s album at Tempo or Woolworth’s on a Saturday shopping trip.  A record player that was kept in pristine condition as it brought so much entertainment to the home.  A kid who fell in love with the genre of music that speaks to the central components of life.

They say that singers never die as the music lives on forever.

That is certainly true.  In the case of Charlie Louvin and this album the music was very much alive tonight.

Thank you Charlie.

Memories From Wisconsin Dells Of Charlie Louvin, Grand Ole Opry Star And Country Legend, Dead At 83

It is with sadness that I write about the death of Charlie Elzer Loudermilk.

The world knew him as Charlie Louvin.  It was decided early on that Louvin was a better show business name.

When I read  today about Charlie Louvin’s death I wondered where to begin to write a post about this news.  It took me about three seconds to consider how to start this blog entry.

Some memories never fade.

The night Charlie Louvin and I chatted behind a Wisconsin Dells music theatre stands out as if it happened yesterday.  That it took place in 2006 makes the point about the kind of man Louvin was.   

Charlie Louvin took time to talk with me.  He did not need to.  The fact he did take the time made an impression that lingers.

Using my pen that I had brought along for him to sign my guitar and put “06”, he continued using it to provide autographs for others as they ambled along.  As Louvin did so he continued our line of discussion.  I had asked him about the formative days when he and his brother, Ira, traveled the country.

He was 79-years-old at the time and had just released a new CD featuring one song with Elvis Costello. Charlie also did a number of shows with Elvis Presley in the 1950′s.  While standing and chatting he smoked a few cigarettes and seemed to me to be caught up in recollections.  The longer he spoke the more nostalgic he seemed to become.  I do not think he ever got over the death of his brother.

The famed brothers are noted for the harmony and style which featured Charlie on guitar and lead vocals with his brother on mandolin and high tenor harmonies.  Pure magic.

Charlie Louvin told me how many a week would end for the famous brothers as they made a mad dash from far-flung places to get back to “The Mother Church of Country Music”, the Ryman Auditorium and their set for the Opry stage.  To be a member of the Opry one had to perform 26 times a year, and was paid $15.00, a far cry from what could be made on the road.  Charlie estimated that an act lost on average over $50,000 per year, but he was proud to be a part of the Opry and never complained. 

Charlie Louvin was one of those stars with true talent at showmanship, which is far different from just being a solid singer or musician with a great manager.  He and his brother were two of the voices that started during the formative days of the Opry, creating music that still resonates. 

Almost to the end of his life Charlie Louvin was standing tall and proud  on that round circle at center stage at the Opry.

Early this morning Charlie Louvin passed away.  Betty his wife of  61 years, along with their children were at his side.

At the Grand Ole Opry, and in the hearts of classic country music fans world-wide there is sadness at this news today.  But somewhere  above one thing is clear.  Two brothers are again together to make remarkable music.