May 31, 2021 Bob’s Bazooka

Bob Burns was from rural Arkansas, and in the early 1900s, he developed a new instrument, the bazooka, which one might think of as a poor man’s trombone. He found success in radio and film in the 1930s. By the mid thirties, he was quite popular. In 1938, he was the host of the Academy Awards. He had his own radio show from 1940-1947. His “Arkansas Traveler” persona was a proper nod to his background. Here’s an episode in 1943 with Spike Jones: YouTube link. Note the use of the song “Down In Arkansaw” at the beginning. I’ve written about this song in the blog before. It was first recorded in 1921, and covered by some of the top hillbilly artists in the 1920s, but the author of the song was originally from Wales. I did a quick cover on kalimba on my YouTube channel based on the 1913 sheet music.

Bob Burns has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, but despite the fact that he was from the rural south and made his fame with a hillbilly character and showing up in western movies, he rarely draws mention in country history discussions.

In WWII, a military weapon became known as the bazooka because of it’s resemblance to the musical instrument. Bazooka bubble gum began in 1947, and it is still made.

I mentioned Spike Jones earlier. Country Music Hall Of Fame member Cindy Walker also worked with Spike Jones, and “The Big Palooka Who Played Bazooka” is on my new Bazooka Playlist. Cindy Walker became so well known for her songwriting that her own career as an artist in the forties is often overlooked.

The other act of interest to country fans on the bazooka list is Bob Skyles and his Skyrockets. This Texas family band (actual name Kendrick) had a touring medicine show in the twenties, and recorded dozens of songs from 1937-41: (link to more information about this group). Also, here’s the Handbook of Texas profile.

Unfortunately, most of the Skyles records aren’t on YouTube, but several are. A few of the songs even have bazooka in the title. This group used many instruments.

Keep in mind where country music was in the mid thirties. There were several big regional scenes, plus plenty of smaller ones. You can see for yourself on this Wikipedia list of Opry members in chronological order that it wasn’t until 1937 that the Opry added a flurry of future legends. There were a few major names before, but also a lot of mostly local acts who are unknown by most today. The Opry’s biggest star, Uncle Dave Macon, was born in 1870, so he was getting up there in years. Texas and Chicago both had major scenes, too, but they were producing major new stars, and singing cowboys were all over the movies. Not only was Nashville not yet completely dominant, but one can make a case that Nashville was even trailing the other major scenes in the mid thirties in terms of creating new superstars.

One of the most popular acts in the Chicago scene was the Hoosier Hotshots, who used oddball instruments and combined hillbilly and jazz influences. You know who else combined hillbilly and jazz ? Western swing in Texas. Yet, Texas didn’t have an act quite like the Hotshots. Along came Skyles and the Skyrockets in 1937. They literally recorded a song called “We’re Not The Hoosier Hotshots.” I found a few of Skyles’ bazooka songs for my bazooka playlist, and there are more songs with bazooka that aren’t currently on YouTube.

I’ll also mention that Skyles and the Skyrockets recorded a couple of songs with “Honky Tonk” in the title in 1938. Although there were “Honky Tonk” titles in the 1910s, the generally accepted first “country honky tonk” title was Al Dexter in late 1936. More precisely, Al Dexter recorded Honky Tonk Blues in San Antonio on November 28, 1936, and other Honky Tonk-titled songs in Dallas in 1937. One of the other important early country honky tonk recordings was Jimmie Davis with the Brownies (Milton Brown’s group after Milton Brown passed away in 1936) on February 19, 1937 in Dallas.

Honky tonk became associated with a style of country music, rather than just songs with the words “honky tonk” in the title. Ernest Tubb’s “Walking The Floor Over You” is often cited as a prominent example. The Texas Troubadour first recorded this song in Fort Worth on April 26, 1941 (source: UCSB cylinder archive). Ernest Tubb joined the Grand Ole Opry on February 13, 1943. If you’re making a timeline of the shift of power to Nashville, then this move belongs on there.

May 30, 2021 Smilin’ Ed McConnell

Smilin’ Ed McConnell was best known for his Buster Brown-sponsored children’s show from 1944 until his death in 1954. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

He had an extensive radio career before that. Smilin’ Ed McConnell’s radio debut was 99 years ago today (May 30, 1922) on WSB in Atlanta and he played the banjo. Fiddlin’ John Carson also made his radio debut on WSB in 1922. WSB is famous for its chimes, the basis for NBC’s: NBC Chimes History.

In the late twenties, Ed McConnell often performed on the Grand Ole Opry as a character named “Uncle Wash” in Judge Hay’s comedy skits. Since McConnell wasn’t an Opry member or a regular country performer, this part of his career tends to get overlooked in many articles about his career. Charles Wolfe’s 1999 book “A Good-Natured Riot: The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry” mentions this, as do some other books.

As another fun bit of trivia, Smilin’ Ed created a character called “Froggy the Gremlin” for the children’s show in the forties. The character had a “frog voice” reminiscent of Smiley Burnette. Harry Stewart (best known for his Yogi Yorgesson character) voiced Froggy: (source link) Harry Stewart also recorded as other characters, like Harry Kiri, and this example from Claude Hopper in 1953: The Goose Pluckers’ Picnic.

Smilin’ Ed used the odd phrase “plunk your magic twanger, Froggy.” Andy Devine kept the character going in his follow-up show “Andy’s Gang,” which aired from 1955-60.

Fast forward to 1982, and Buckner and Garcia incorporated this phrase into their song dedication to the video game “Frogger” on their surprisingly successful “Pac Man Fever” album. In 1986, Anne Murray recorded “On and On,” which was written by Buckner.

Well, I somehow worked Pac Man, Buster Brown, NBC chimes, Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Anne Murray, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Yogi Yorgesson, Judge Hay and the Grand Ole Opry all into one article. Kermit the Frog paid tribute to Froggy the Gremlin in Kermit’s 2006 memoir: (source link).

May 29, 2021 Dallas-Ft. Worth History

Let’s kick things off with the history of western swing at the Crystal Springs Dance Pavilion in Fort Worth. Here’s more about Crystal Springs.

Before the WSM Grand Ole Opry, and even before the WLS National Barn Dance, there was WBAP, a station which began in Ft. Worth in 1922 and serves the Dallas-Ft Worth area today as a news-talk format: WBAP history. “On January 4, 1923, WBAP aired the first known broadcast of a barn dance program, featuring fiddler and Confederate veteran Capt. M.J. Bonner playing square-dance songs.”

Here’s more information about him: Captain MJ Bonner profile at Old Time Blues. Note that his backing band was called the “Hilo Five Hawaiian Orchestra.” That gives an idea just how popular Hawaiian music was in that era and foreshadows the popularity of the steel guitar in country and western music. M.J. Bonner was born in 1847 and his only record was in 1925, and he was backed by a harp-guitar.

WBAP made history again with the first television station in Texas in 1948: From Radio To TV: The History of WBAP.

WFAA began in Dallas. Dale Evans was on WFAA in 1936-38. The Shelton Brothers were on the station for a long time.

The Big D Jamboree started on WFAA, but moved to KRLD (a station that began in 1926) after just a few months, in 1948. Big D Jamboree article:  “The Jamboree managed to bring in an amazing array of country performers, including Johnny Cash, Ronnie DawsonLefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, Homer and Jethro, Wanda Jackson, Ray Price, Rose Maddox, Moon MullicanCharline Arthur, Carl Perkins, Webb Pierce, Elvis PresleyHank ThompsonFloyd Tillman, Hank Snow, and Hank Williams.”

Milton Brown was a very important figure in western swing, and often played KTAT Ft. Worth.

Vernon Dalhart lived in Dallas as a teenager and studied at the Dallas Conservatory of Music.

Jimmie Rodgers recorded at the Hotel Jefferson in Dallas on a few occasions. The hotel was demolished in 1975. As a fun fact, he recorded “Home Call” there in 1929 and again in 1932. The 1932 recording is what was released at the time. The 1929 version showed up on a 1992 Bear Family compilation. The 1929 version includes musical saw and the 1932 did not.

Cowboy throat singer Arthur Miles’ only recording was in 1929 in Dallas.

Early singing cowboys Marc Williams (“The Cowboy Crooner”) and Jules Verne Allen were from Ellis County, which is just south of Dallas-Ft. Worth. Ernest Tubb was also from Ellis County.

Carl T. Sprague was another well-known Texan singing cowboy, and he recorded in Dallas in 1929.

Gene Autry was from about sixty miles north of Dallas, and in the forties, he invested in several theaters in the area, including the Kessler, which is a music venue now.

Al Dexter moved to Dallas in the forties and opened his own club.

Roger Miller was born in Ft. Worth in 1936.

Dixie Harper was a local radio star in Fort Worth in the forties. She didn’t have an extensive recording career or hit nationally, but here’s a good write up: Hillbilly Hits profile, Dixie Harper.

Here’s a 2015 Dallas Morning News article about Jim Beck:

Did the tragic death of Jim Beck end  Dallas’ chance to be country music’s home ?

The article mentions a lot of Dallas-Ft. Worth country history and such names as Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, and Hank Thompson.

The article also mentions station WRR. WRR was the first licensed radio station west of the Mississippi and second in the country. Western swing groups like Roy Newman and Bill Boyd played on WRR.

DFW Radio Archives has a lot more radio history to check out.

Here’s a good read about the history of country music in Texas:

Handbook of Texas Country Music

May 28, 2021 New Music This Week

There are new albums from Rhonda Vincent , Ashley McBryde, Shannon McNally, Asleep At The Wheel (short EP, expect full length album in 2022), Chase Rice, Infamous Stringdusters, Blackberry Smoke, Southerland, Toler Gibson, and Clint Anglin.

Since timing didn’t work out for me to do a full new album list last Friday, I’ll especially mention Ray Stevens, since it appears most of the other country sites haven’t paid his albums much attention. The hall of fame member has released four albums this year.

Ryan Upchurch released a song a few days ago called “What I Claim,” and it already has hundreds of thousands of YouTube views. Say what you will, but he puts up big numbers, despite the lack of coverage by the overwhelmingly leftist media.

Colt Ford just released a new song. As a bit of trivia, Colt Ford’s major country award nomination was in 2011 by the ACM for a duet with Jamey Johnson.

It’s been awhile since I posted the link to all my playlists, so here it is: Robert’s Big List Of Playlists. There are hundreds of playlists and some of those lists have hundreds of songs.

The owner of Nashville’s Robert’s Western World is branching out yet again. You might recall that he acquired the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and Midnite Jamboree last year. Now, he’s reopening the 1935 Globe Theatre in Bertram, Texas June 4-6th: Globe Theatre.

Luke Combs is playing the Grand Ole Opry tomorrow night, and Carrie Underwood is playing the Opry in June 8th. For all the crap that the younger generations catch for not honoring tradition, let’s give some credit where it’s due for today’s Opry stars who do show up and play the Opry.
Where is Alan Jackson, who is outspoken about honoring country music tradition ? He has had a poor attendance record throughout his thirty years as an Opry member. The same goes for some other Opry members from his era. Some who yell the loudest that country tradition is dying are the ones who don’t bother to show up to the Opry. Perhaps, they have some good reasons that I don’t know about ?

“Who’s gonna play the Opry
and the Wabash Cannonball ?
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul
to get to me and you ?”

I’ll close today’s post on a very positive note: SiriusXM radio is running a free preview through June 8th. I’m listening to Willie’s Roadhouse as I type this.

May 26, 2021 From Alpine to American Yodeling

Yodeling has been widely associated with country music since Jimmie Rodgers in 1927. Riley Puckett was even earlier, yodeling in 1924. “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” was one of the first yodeling songs for both of those country artists, yet a few others had recorded this song earlier, most notably George P Watson in 1897. “Sauerkraut” is another song that Watson recorded that Puckett covered.

Watson and most of the other early guys were strongly influenced by Fritz Emmet (1841-1891, originally from St. Louis), and often incorporated German or other European themes. Let’s take a look at a few of the yodelers who came after the early folks like George P Watson, but before the country timeline.

I’ve already written at length about the “Strolling Yodeler” Matt Keefe from rural Missouri, who mentioned playing “oprey houses” in a newspaper interview in 1913, and whose “Mountain High” in 1914 is essentially the same tune as Elton Britt’s 1934 “Chime Bells.”

I can’t find any personal background information on the 1916 yodeling duet of Ward Barton and Frank Carroll. Barton had recorded solo since 1909. Barton’s style sounded more modern and like the other American music of the day than most of the earlier yodelers, who often sang with German accents and/or alpine themes. The use of guitar is also worth mentioning. The guitar actually has a long history in association with yodeling, but for whatever reasons, guitar wasn’t on earlier yodel recordings, as far as I can find. I did find a depiction of Fritz Emmet with a guitar. Even earlier, the Rainer Family is depicted with a guitar. The Tyrolese Rainer Family, which gained international fame in the 1820s, toured the US in 1839, and they made a considerable impact on American music styles to come: touring family bands, minstrels, and yodeling. Notice the guitar on the cover of this Rainer Family sheet music from 1841 from the Levy Sheet Music Collection.

Yodeling made its way into blues, also, and a good starting place is Bessie Smith’s “Yodelin’ Blues” in 1923. Charles Anderson made a number of recordings in 1923-1924. Some were songs that earlier yodelers had recorded like “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” and some were blues numbers.

Frank Kamplain began his recording career in 1919, and is mostly associated with Al Bernard. Frank Kamplain was from a rural area: Vincennes, Indiana. He known for his alpine style yodeling, and he covered some of the old Emmet yodels. Check out a bit of Kamplain’s yodeling on Vernon Dalhart’s 1924 Ukulele Lou. Here’s Kamplain-Bernard in 1922: O-Le-O-Lady. Kamplain kept recording through the twenties, and kept performing live until retiring in 1950. In 1928, he covered Jimmie Rodgers’ Blue Yodel Number 2, which Rodgers had recorded earlier in the year.

May 25, 2021 WLS Family Albums

Nashville has been synonymous with the country music industry for much longer than most of us have been alive, but I’d argue that Nashville didn’t achieve full dominance over the country music industry until the 1950s. They were certainly working towards that goal well before that (high profile artists joining the Opry from the late 30s forward, Opry going national in 1939, Opry movie in 1940, Camel Caravan military shows during WWII, Opry tent shows 1940-49, Opry’s move to the Ryman in 1943, the founding of Acuff-Rose Publishing in 1942, and much more), but you can see the evidence for yourself, as Billboard’s early publications bear this out: 1939-1942 Hillbilly Hits. Billboard country number ones, 1944-1949. Although Nashville had lots of stars, so did other regional scenes like Chicago. You can see the Nashville stars like Eddy Arnold start dominating the top of the chart in the late forties.

Chicago’s WLS National Barn Dance began in 1924, and was still a force in country music in the 1930s, later declining as the country music industry consolidated its power in Nashville. World Radio History has WLS Family Albums from 1930-1957 . These “family albums” are a treasure trove of country music history. If you don’t want to dig through all of that and just want a quick example, then check out Rich Samuels’ summation of the 1934 WLS Family Album. WLS stars Gene Autry, Red Foley, and Patsy Montana all went on to become members of the CMHOF. As I’ve mentioned previously, the Grand Ole Opry inducted its thirtieth member in 1935, but only three of those (Uncle Dave Macon, DeFord Bailey, and the Delmore Brothers) went on to become CMHOF members. Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry were certainly important and influential from the beginning, but were not yet completely dominant. There were other other scenes like WLS that also had major stars. Some of the comedy acts that started their careers in the WLS Barn Dance like Pat Buttram and George Gobel went on to become best known outside of country music.

May 23, 2021 Tennessee Music Before The Country Timeline

Let’s take a look at some of the earliest Tennessee recording artists, from before 1922, when the semi-official “country music timeline” began. I mentioned fiddler Joseph Samuels from Jackson, TN yesterday, whose recording career began in 1919. There are others…

The Fisk Jubilee Singers had been around since 1871, and their first recordings were in 1909.

Kitty Cheatham, who was born in Nashville in 1864, studied and performed in Europe, and her first recordings were in 1910.

Ryman Auditorium history

Homer Rodeheaver was born in Ohio, but grew up in Jellico, Tennessee. His first recordings were in 1913. He was the first to record a number of religious songs that were covered by many country artists.

The highly recommended History of Country Music Instagram site recently shared some recordings by the Vaughan Quartet from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Their first recordings were on their own label in 1921. They specialized in religious songs, and soon, there were numerous Vaughan Quartets touring the country.

“Father of the Blues” WC Handy from Alabama moved to Memphis in 1909. Some of his compositions were covered by country artists. Al Bernard from New Orleans began his recording career in the 1910s and he covered some of WC Handy’s best known blues songs. Al Bernard did a duet with Vernon Dalhart in 1921, and went on to make some records in the mid-late 1920s that could be considered at least country-adjacent, with titles like “Yodelin’ Cowboy Joe.”

The song “Come On To Nashville” by Walter Donaldson was published in 1916 and recorded by Collins and Harlan.

George Hay worked as a newspaper reporter in Memphis in 1919, and the columns he wrote formed the basis of his later “judge” skits.

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame opened in 1970, and one of the initial class of inductees was Bob Miller, a prolific songwriter mostly known for country material. Bob Miller was from Memphis, and one of his early compositions was recorded by Joseph Samuels in 1921. Miller was also a prolific hillbilly recording artist in the late 1920s-30s with his “Hinky Dinkers.” UCSB cylinder archive shows that Bob Miller made a test recording for Victor in 1920.

May 21, 2021 Early History: Joseph Samuels, Steve Porter, etc

Joseph Samuels was mostly known for jazz, but he also did some country fiddling. His recording career began in 1919, and in 1922, he recorded versions of Arkansas Traveler and Turkey In The Straw. One might recall that these were among the first songs recorded by Eck Robertson and Henry Gilliland in 1922 in a recording session lauded by many as the first “authentic country music.” Fiddler William Houchens also recorded this pair of songs in 1922.

For whatever inexplicable reason, Don Richardson rarely gets his proper due as an even earlier fiddle player. In May of 1916, Don Richardson recorded Arkansas Traveler and Old Zip Coon (same tune as Turkey In The Straw), and in February of 1917, Columbia issued record A2140 with those two songs. Of course, these songs go way back long before any of these guys. Banjo great Vess Ossman released a “Turkey In The Straw Medley” in 1908, and yes, “Arkansas Traveler” was part of that, too. Billy Golden, who was born in 1858, was the first to record “Turkey In The Straw” in the 1890s, but the tune goes back to at least the 1820s. Harry and Len Spencer were the first to record Arkansas Traveler just after the turn of the century, but the song was published way back in 1854. Billy Golden and Len Spencer often performed together in the 1890s and beyond. While I’m rambling, I’ll throw in the curious but of trivia that Billy Williams from Australia also worked with Spencer and Golden.

Anyway, let’s get back to Joseph Samuels. The easiest way to check out part of his discography is the UCSB cylinder archive. Joseph Samuels and pianist Larry Briers recorded a version of “Devil’s Dream” in 1919, so there’s an example of a song that was covered by lots of country fiddlers, but was first recorded in 1906, and the tune was already a century or more old by then. Samuels also recorded some other songs of this sort like Durang’s Hornpipe, Miss McLeod’s Reel, and Irish Washerwoman.

Let’s take a closer look at some of Joseph Samuels’ catalog, most of which isn’t on any streaming service. In 1919, his medley “A Fiddler’s Contest” included bits of Kelton’s Reel, Devil’s Dream, Arkansas Traveler, Old Zip Coon, Chicken Reel, and Fairy Dance. Those are the sorts of fiddle tunes that people count as “country” if they happened after the beginning of the “official timeline” in 1922. Still not convinced ? Look at this listing from 1920: Medley of Country Reels and Medley of Country Jigs. There’s a lot of overlap between the Country Reels on this record and the “Fiddler’s Contest” medley. Here’s more information about this record on 45 Worlds, which gives the date October of 1920 and a curious comment: “Joseph Samuels was born in Madison County, in West Tennessee, and came to New York in the early 1900’s. Even though he led light dance bands as a violinist, he definitely had a knowledge of rural fiddling techniques as can be heard on this disc. Maybe he picked it up in Tennessee.” That’s the Jackson, Tennessee area. Any way you slice it, this is a fiddle player playing “country reels” and “country jigs” in 1920.

In 1925, Joseph Samuels began recording as “Fiddler Joe,” a visible departure from his prolific jazz recording career. In 1926, he went full hillbilly, appearing on records with such country legends as Henry Whitter and Ernest Stoneman. One particularly interesting record from 1926 is by the Three Old Cronies (also released as Pop Hanks and His Boys), in which Samuels collaborated with the banjo player Harry Reser for hillbilly square dance versions of “Turkey In The Straw” and “Arkansas Traveler.” The caller was Steve Porter, who began recording in the 1890s !

Yes, this “old crony” Steve Porter who showed up on this very hillbilly-sounding 1926 record was near the end of his career, having already recorded for three decades. Before the “country music industry” started planting roots in the 1920s, country rube comedy skits were already popular. Steve Porter and Byron Harlan recorded titles like “The Country Constable” (1908), “The Country Doctor and the Rube Patient” (1911), “A Rural Argument” (1912), and “The Country Postmaster” (1912), and many more. Porter was from New York, and Harlan was from rural Kansas. Harlan was best known for his collaborations with Arthur Collins, and they did some country comedy bits, too, like “Closing Time At A Country Grocery” in 1903. As someone who grew up listening to Hee Haw and the Opry, I find it disappointing that “country history” usually disregards the comedy skits. They don’t fit the “timeline” of the “official narrative,” so let’s just pretend that people weren’t recording country comedy records for fully a generation before country’s supposed origins in the 1920s ?

According to Second Hand Songs, Steve Porter was the first to record the hymns “Just As I Am” and “Pass Me Not” in 1897 and the first to record “Little Brown Jug” in 1900, all of which have been covered by many country artists. Look at the Second Hand Songs list for There’ll Come A Time. It’s practically all country artists who covered this song that Steve Porter first recorded in 1897.

I realize I’m skipping over this week’s new music releases, but this history is more interesting to me than Blake Shelton singing about corn.

May 20, 2021 Live Music Is Back

Live music has been back for a while in Texas, but my brother was so busy with work at the end of the school year that we waited until now to get back out there and enjoy some live music.

Tonight, we went to a new entertainment venue in Dripping Springs, Texas called Dreamland to see the legendary western swing band Asleep At The Wheel. They have been making music since 1970 ! One bit that was a little different from usual is they performed as a quartet, rather than the full band. It was a really fun show regardless. This group has done as much as anyone anywhere to represent western swing for the last half century plus.

I liked the venue a lot, too. Everything felt friendly and informal. There weren’t masks or distancing. There were just people enjoying a concert like old times. When we were eating dinner an hour or two before the show, Ray Benson happened to walk by and talked briefly. That’s the sort of personal connection you don’t get at the huge arena and stadium shows.

The earlier duo was interesting, too. Pat Byrne and Rich Brotherton are both well known in the Austin scene. Rich has worked as a producer and as a member of Robert Earl Keen’s band. Pat Byrne won Ireland’s version of The Voice a few years ago. I saw him play a show during SXSW week a couple years ago, and he has been putting out new music recently. Tonight’s show was different from their usual material, though. There was some sort of pirate-themed party at the venue, so they pulled out some sea shanties.

This is usually the part of the week that I post about new music, but since I just got back from the show, I haven’t had the time to put together any sort of list. I’m looking forward to going to more shows in the near future, now that shows are back to normal and we have some free time.

May 19, 2021 News Bits

I’ve mostly written about history lately, so let’s switch gears for a minute and check in with current happenings.

After 26 years, Nashville’s Texas Troubadour Theatre is shutting down, and the weekly Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree will return to the place it began, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in downtown Nashville. According to the recent post on the Ernest Tubb Record Shop social media sites, the Texas Troubadour Theatre will move to Texas, though the location hasn’t been announced. Since I live in Texas, I’m very curious to know where this ends up. There are parts of Texas that are over 500 miles from me, so where in Texas makes a lot of difference.

I haven’t watched The Voice this year, but I saw a familiar face on a trending topic. Jordan Matthew Young is one of the five finalists. I saw him perform at a local BBQ restaurant with a couple of other songwriters a couple of years ago. Before Covid, this restaurant regularly hosted live music three nights a week, but they haven’t gotten back on track yet. Most other local music venues are back to full schedules.

Alex Miller was on this year’s American Idol, but was eliminated before the round of 24. However, his traditional country sound earned him a robust following, and he recently landed bookings opening for Hank Williams, Jr and Josh Turner and he’s writing songs with Jerry Salley.

A few days ago, Crystal Gayle released a duet with Swedish artist Sulo Karlsson. Crystal Gayle was one of the biggest stars when I was young. It’s odd to see her career reduced to just “Loretta’s sister” in the eyes of a lot of today’s fans who weren’t around during her hitmaking days. Crystal has eighteen country number ones and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and she is a member of the Grand Ole Opry. All of the other women with that many country number ones are in the CMHOF.

Jerry Lee Lewis plans to release a gospel album in late fall, but I haven’t seen any details. Jerry Lee Lewis is another name that frequently comes up in discussions of potential CMHOF candidates.

The CMT Music Awards will be June 9th. These awards are fan-voted, and they’re doing some weird crap where you vote up to twenty times a day, with votes counting double for one specific hour per day, depending on your time zone. Nominees include a lot of non-country like John Legend and Halsey and Noah Cyrus and Maren Morris. There hasn’t been any announcement of fan attendance, but I got an email the other day about a sign up sheet for taping something CMT-related next week, so I suppose that means there will be an audience for at least some of it.

Red Rocks will be back to 100% capacity on June 21. Nashville is already at 100%. Texas and Florida have already been back in business for awhile.