“Pontoon” Goes Platinum; New Matraca Berg Album Due in October; American Songwriter Remembers Levon Helm

Juli Thanki | August 31st, 2012

  • Jewly Hight profiled what sounds like a fantastic Patsy Cline exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Anyone seen it yet?
  • Proper Records announced that Matraca Berg’s next album, Love’s Truck Stop, will be released October 22. No word yet on the US release date.
  • Swift’s new video premiered last night. You can watch it here.
  • Peter Cooper’s new Tennessean article is all about the Hall of Fame: Thus far, the hall has 115 members. And that’s not nearly enough… It’s not that [the] electors are misguided, or that they’ve stuck people in the hall who don’t deserve to be there. It’s that the committee is charged with electing three individuals (duos and groups count as individuals, in this case) each year, and at that rate there’s no way to catch up, no way to properly honor the people who sang, wrote, recorded, played and promoted the music that has helped define the city of Nashville and is an indelible part of American culture. 
  • Here’s “SEC Bound,” a country song about Mizzou football. It’s, um, interesting.
  • LeAnn Rimes is suing two women who allegedly taped one of her phone conversations and posted clips online.
  • Chris Parker of the Nashville Scene wrote a feature on the Blind Boys of Alabama.
  • Dailey & Vincent are working on their next album, which is slated for release on January 8. The SteelDrivers’ next record, Hammer Down, will be released February 5.
  • Little Big Town’s “Pontoon” has been certified platinum.
  • Writers from The A.V. Club debate “Truck Yeah,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” among other songs.
  • Jewly Hight profiled Old Crow Medicine Show for American Songwriter. 
  1. SamB
    August 31, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I follow Matraca Berg on Facebook, and a while back she mentioned that the UK were getting her new album in October, with the US release to follow ‘later in the year’, if that helps at all.

  2. Saving Country Music
    August 31, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I was at the Country Music Hall of Fame two days ago. I found the Patsy Cline exhibit cool, but a little thin on material compared to the Chet Atkins exhibit that was housed in the same place and a few others. But then again, Patsy died so early, there just isn’t the volume of memorabilia you would like for something like that. What they had to work with, it was really well done.

    The Baskersfield Sound exhibit was absolutely amazing, and I continue to be impressed with the Hall’s willingness to be honest about the history of country, and especially how difficult of environment it was for artists to work in Nashville in a very automated environment, compared to Bakersfield where Capitol ruled the roost and allowed for more creative freedom. That point came up numerous times in the exhibit.

    As for how many members The Hall has, I always say more is less. Should there be more members? Of course, but the opposite problem is why few take the Rock & Roll HOF seriously, and why Axl Rose because a folk hero last year when he told them to take their induction and stick it up their…

  3. Ben Foster
    August 31, 2012 at 10:30 am

    The new Patsy exhibit is a must-see. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the opening celebration. The handwritten letters written by Patsy are a major highlight, along with a display case containing artifacts retrieved from the site of the plane crash that took her life. Jewly Hight’s piece on the exhibit was an excellent read.

  4. Ken Morton, Jr.
    August 31, 2012 at 10:54 am

    As usual, Peter Cooper’s feature is very well done and captures the lion’s share of worthy CMHOF candidates. I’m in his camp. There are far too many worthy candidates to ever catch up when the maximum amount of performers to induct each year is two- and songwriters/industry get a nod every third year. I’d like to see another “catch-up year.”

    At the risk of moving from roots music for a bit… SCC, I’ll respectively disagree with you on Axl Rose’s reasoning and becoming a folk hero with his refusal to participate in G&R’s induction last year. I read through many news articles and hundreds of comments across many different features and I’d say well over 95% of what I read just thought he was an idiot- albeit a highly talented one.

  5. Adam Sheets
    August 31, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I loved Peter Cooper’s article, but he failed to mention two of the more notable individuals who are not Hall of Fame members. I’m speaking of Johnny Paycheck and David Allan Coe.

    After looking into that recently, I wonder if these men are disqualified from induction based on the criteria which includes the following:

    “Professional Conduct and Image – A candidate is expected to have practiced the highest caliber of professional conduct in order to enhance the public image of both himself/herself and Country Music.

    Personal Morals and Behavior – The selection process is not a judgment of personal morals and behavior, providing the latter does not negatively affect the professional conduct of the candidate and the public image of Country Music.”

    http://www.cmaworld.com/info/hall-of-fame/criteria

    If that is indeed the reason why they have not been inducted, I find the Hall’s stance somewhat questionable. Merle Haggard, to name one example, was a convicted felon. The difference was that, unlike Coe, he didn’t boast about it and, unlike Paycheck, his criminal career ended before his musical career began.

    And does George “No Show” Jones really qualify as a an example of “professional conduct” or “personal morals”? I’m not saying that Jones or Haggard should be removed from the Hall, but rather that the Hall needs to rethink the use of any criteria other than an artist’s music, his or her influence on later artists, and his or her importance in the history of country music. After all, O.J. Simpson remains in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

  6. Adam Sheets
    August 31, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Also, I could potentially see those same regulations keeping Randy Travis, one of the most important figures in the new traditionalist movement, out of the Hall as well.

  7. Barry Mazor
    August 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    The very fact that it’s easy to name people inducted into the Hall who did not, well, live lives of 100% rectitude and model citizenship should make it clear enough that those so-called “regulations” are applied sparingly and with considerable tolerance when it comes to e those who’ve made a musical difference. Already.

    Also, Mr. Cooper failed to mention the Maddox Bros and Rose, which is a mortal sin, of course, so I won’t pay any attention to him any more. Unless I misread something, in which case I forgive myself in advance and will have second thoughts about him.

  8. TX Music Jim
    August 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Adam is right. DAC and Paycheck should be in. Maddox Bros and Rose should have already been in many moons ago. A strong case can be made for Gary Stewart as well. This thought maybe a little offputing to some but I think Jerry Jeff Walker should be in People forget how signifigant viva terlingua was as an album and of course he wrote Mr. Bojangles and american standard.

  9. Adam Sheets
    August 31, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Barry, I admit that David Allan Coe would be a controversial choice for Hall of Fame induction, but I do think that as a mostly underground figure he applied the DIY ethic to country music more than almost anybody else and introduced the genre to audiences who wouldn’t normally listen to it. Albeit these are the types of audiences many would rather distance themselves from.

    The Paycheck omission can’t be explained away as easily. He co-founded Little Darlin’ records in the 1960s and it was, along with Starday, one of the few labels at the time not adhering to the Nashville sound. One could argue that this had a large influence on the later day outlaw country and alt. country subgenres. Following the label’s demise he had a string of country hits, including “Take this Job and Shove It,” which was made into a film and thus enhanced the public visibility of country music. As you know, he was also one of the most prominent of the outlaw country artists in the ’70s and eventually even became an Opry member. Other than his 1985 conviction for attempted murder, why is he missing?

  10. Adam Sheets
    August 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    TX Music Jim, if alt. country is to be considered at all, I think we can also credit Jerry Jeff Walker for giving the songwriting of Guy Clark and Ray Wylie Hubbard it’s first notable public exposure, on the “Viva Terlingua” album you mentioned.

  11. nm
    August 31, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    re: that Taylor Swift thing: I’d just like to point out that most deaf people are able to experience music as a series of vibrations — often they can experience it with a complexity that’s a little startling to those of us who think we just perceive music with our ears.

    • Juli Thanki
      August 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Which is why it’s such a lame prank — but I hope the school makes it into the Top 5 and gets one of those $10,000 grants.

  12. Barry Mazor
    August 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Adam, tons of people are missing, as Peter Cooper cogently points out, because they simply haven’t gotten to them yet. Priorities and timing.

    The near constant assumption in so many of these discussions. here and everywhere else, that anybody not yet in has been dissed, or avoided conspiratorially, or overlooked by those Nashville People in the Hall, is just off the mark. Not that I expect such talk to go away, because the truth is so much less interesting.

  13. TX Music Jim
    August 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Adam, I should have mentioned how JJW exposed
    RWH and Guy Clark and even Gary P. Nunn to a wider audience. JJW is a very underapreciated influence on American music.

  14. Adam Sheets
    August 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Barry, I understand that and I think Merle Haggard who I used as an example, as well as Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley and others are definitely examples of how there is no widespread pro-Nashville bias. However, I think as the article pointed out, the problem lies in the small number of inductees allowed each year resulting in many people missing, both from the Nashville establishment and from outside of it.

    I also think that there is an unfair emphasis on more modern acts. You mentioned the Maddox Brothers & Rose and Peter Cooper mentioned Cowboy Copas in his article. Both would have been eligible the year the Hall of Fame opened it’s doors. Do you really think that Garth Brooks (who I believe was worthy of induction) would have been forgotten within the next 10 years had the Hall put his induction off for a while and gotten those folks in first? That’s not a criticism of the institution itself but rather a question to it’s voters.

    As a side note, one of the more important names missing from the Hall of Fame inductees is Don Pierce, the President of Starday Records and country music ambassador extraordinaire.

  15. Rick
    August 31, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Opry Alert! Tonight’s Opry will feature the always feisty Sunny Sweeney and fellow Texas cutie Kristen Kelly! That alone is reason enough to tune in! (lol) Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out will appeal to Jon W. in particular. The also rans include Jimmy Wayne and all the Opry Legends and regulars.
    Schedule Link: http://www.opry.com/shows/ThisWeek.html

    Barry Mazor said (with tongue firmly in cheek): “Also, Mr. Cooper failed to mention the Maddox Bros and Rose, which is a mortal sin, of course, so I won’t pay any attention to him any more.” Well, I agree with the sentiment at least! (lol)

    If I were deaf, I think I’d probably be a big fan of Taylor Swift too!

    I’m glad Chet Flippo didn’t review each song on those CDs one by one…

  16. Barry Mazor
    August 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    It’s vital that relatively contemporary veteran stars, stars of recent memory, be part of the Hall mix–as they always have been–because people need To Show Up. There are categories for “career started 20 years back” and “career started before that” to keep adding at both ends..

    And it’s always interesting to see how long it had been since an Ernest Tubb or Johnny Cash or Kitty Wells or Eddy Arnold–or the late Hank Williams– had started having hits when they were admitted, Not nearly as long as people now tend to think! (Any more than some consider how long it’s been since Mr. Brooks changed the field. At this point–long enough.)

    If you’re aware of an imaginary Planet Twang in which Rose Maddox or Cowboy Copas would have been inducted in the Hall when it opened its doors before Jimmie Rodgers, Hanks Williams, etc, I hope you’re enjoying the science fiction. There are priorities.

    The creation of a new contemporary wing/room in the expanding Hal, ongoing now, is entirely in keeping with this tradititon and purpose of the Hall. If they come to see Taylor Swift’s flying balcony (which they can right now)or come to celebrate Garth, about to be inducted, and walk away also learning about Bob Wills or Rose Maddox and Lulu Belle & Scotty in the main Hall presentation–good! That’s one of the reason’s the place is there, and how it works. And moving more contemporary material into that new area will free up more space in the existing Hall for more historic material. That’s how THAT works too.

    It’s a real place with limits in time and space.

  17. Peter Cooper
    August 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Appreciate all the good commentary on that Hall of Fame piece, folks. Barry, you’re correct of course on Maddox Bros. and Rose. I also neglected to mention Jerry Reed. And a bunch of others. Point is, lots of folks could go into the Hall without dampening the honor. Have a great weekend, all.

  18. Adam Sheets
    August 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I understand the priorities and in no way was I implying that either of those artists deserved to be inducted in the inaugural class. I was simply pointing out that they WERE eligible the year before Garth Brooks was born and have been eligible each year since.

    I realize the importance of having more recent acts in the Hall to bring in tourists and, again, I don’t have an issue with anybody who HAS been inducted, but looking at the list of inductees in the past ten years, it appears that the time for the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Cowboy Copas, Moon Mullican and others of their generation is already past. Since 2002, there have only been three inductees who were prominent prior to the 1950s (Bill Carlisle, Deford Bailey, and Ernest Stoneman). Most of the artists inducted in those years come from the ’70s and ’80s. Therefore, it appears that not only do artists from the ’30s, ’40s, or ’50s have no realistic chance of getting in, but over the next decade as folks like Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Alan Jackson, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, etc. become eligible, artists such as Bobby Bare, Johnny Paycheck, DAC, and others from the ’60s and ’70s will also have no realistic chance. The main reason I support Cooper’s suggestion is that it would possibly correct the (possibly generational?) imbalance against pre-’50s artists and stop a similar imbalance against ’60s and ’70s artists before it has a chance to happen.

  19. Barry Mazor
    August 31, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    There is a way to avoid the potentially real problem you’re talking about Adam, and that Peter’s been–which would be to do what the Baseball Hall does, and have a standing committee of historians who pick “really veteran veterans” from further back than most voters may know or be comfortable discussing, and make that a separate track or event each year–for legacy artists who should be in simply for historical rightness. That would be in addition to what’s done now.

  20. Ken Morton, Jr.
    August 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    I personally like the idea of a “veterans committee.” I think for the Baseball HOF, it has served its purpose and not dilluted the quality of the inductees. Barry, I’d be interested in your opinion and perspective- do you think something like that is warranted to help with some of the older artists that, for numerous reasons, have not been inducted yet?

  21. Barry Mazor
    August 31, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Messages crossed, Ken? That’s exactly what I’m suggesting, too..

  22. Paul W Dennis
    August 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    The idea of a veterans committee strike’s me as a good idea. There are figures such as Bradley Kincaid, Darby & Tarleton, The York Brothers, Gid Tanner – Riley Puckett – The Skillet Lickers, Charlie Monroe, Al Dexter and Ted Daffen who hardly ever are mentioned today, but were a huge influence on the country and bluegrass stars of the 1950s and 1960s

  23. Adam Sheets
    August 31, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    That sounds like an excellent idea.

  24. Jon
    August 31, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I’m sorry, but if you put Charlie Monroe or Darby & Tarleton in the Country Music Hall of Fame, you might just as well put in just about anybody who ever made a record. There’s a considerable distance between a Maddox Brothers & Rose or Jerry Reed or the others Peter mentioned on the one hand, and the York Brothers on the other, and if the line isn’t drawn somewhere between them, there’s not much point in having a line at all. And then being in the Hall of Fame won’t mean a freakin’ thing. Sheesh.

  25. luckyoldsun
    September 1, 2012 at 12:10 am

    1. They don’t need to have a “catch-up” year and they don’t need to vastly increase the number of inductions per year. If they’d just increase the number of performer-inductees from three per year to five, you’d be amazed at how fast they’d cut through the backlog.

    2. Bona fide mainstream long-time major country stars deserve to be inducted. In addition to Kenny Rogers, who I’ve argued about before, I’d say Dottie West, Bobby Bare, Ronnie Milsap and Tanya Tucker should all get in in the next few years, based on their accomplishments.

    3. I think it should be considered a plus when artists transcend the genre. I’d say yes to Charlie Rich and Jerry Reed and Jerry Lee Lewis.

    4. I’d say yes to Horton because of his staying power. Paycheck is a tough call. His best recordings were not commercially successful. I might say yes to David Allen Coe because of his great songwriting talent in addition to his performing. But the virulently racist and incredibly vulgar recordings that he’s made will-and probably should–prevent him from being honored. I agree with Jon that you have to draw a line somewhere. Gary Stewart is just not a hall-of-famer.

    5. Anybody who would question the bona fides of George Jones and Merle Haggard for the H-o-F based on “morals” standard is just demonstrating an utter lack of sophistication and worldliness. Jones and Haggard are significant American music figures who’ve been invited to perform for presidents and kings and receive medals of honor and attend state dinners. Oh and by the way, for whatever it’s worth, I’m pretty sure Haggard does not have a criminal record. (He was prettty famously pardoned by a certain Governor Reagan.)

  26. Paul W Dennis
    September 1, 2012 at 12:12 am

    When Baseball opened its Hall of Fame in 1936, the sport already had over sixty years of history to deal with. Because of the changing conditions of the game and the lack of strong documentary evidence, coupled with the fact that many of the observers who had seen the players of the earliest years had already passed from the sceneeven then, many of the stars of baseball’s eariest years have never received proper recognition.

    I fear that the same will happen with the early stars of country music. Billboard didn’t start its county charts until January 1944, so much of what occurred before then has been lost – out of sight, out of mind – so to speak.

    What Jon seems to have forgotten is that the business wasn’t always just about hit records. Even up into the 1950s and 1960s one could be a huge star without having national chart hits, since records tended to be more regional. Bradley Kincaid and Doc Williams & Chickie Williams were of far greater importance than some of the CMHOF inductees such as George Morgan and Lew Childre, to name just a few.

    I notice that Jon, as always is the case, selects his targets carefully, mentioning two of the lesser names I put forward and ignoring the stronger names such as Gid Tanner, Al Dexter and Ted Daffen.

    Even within baseball’s Hall of Fame, there are Hall of Famers and there are HALL OF FAMERS. Eddie Murray, Reggie Jackson and Harmon Killebrew were indeed worthy of Cooperstown even though they are midgets in comparison to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. Similarly with the CMHOF. Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Webb Pierce, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard are NOT the standard for the CMHOF – if they were, it would be a very small HOF indeed. Fortunately, the CMHOF has taken a more panoramic view of the genre.

    I do think that the CMHOF should restrict itself to artists who primarily worked within the genre. I love Ray Charles, in fact just purchased a 4 CD set covering eight of his Atlantic albums; he doesn’t belong in the CMHOF any more than Dean Martin, Connie Francis or Patti Page, all of whom were exposing country songs to the more general market before Ray set his sights on the genre. I doubt Ray ever had a single that sold as many copies as Patti Page did with “Tennessee Waltz”

  27. Jon
    September 1, 2012 at 1:13 am

    “I notice that Jon, as always is the case, selects his targets carefully…”

    Well, d’oh. That was my whole point.

  28. Adam Sheets
    September 1, 2012 at 10:44 am

    luckyoldsun, as far as Paycheck goes you’re right that his best work wasn’t the most commercially successful. You can also make that argument about many already in the Hall.

    As for DAC, I agree that most Hall of Fame voters would be unable to overlook one unfortunate song on one album, but in doing so they would be creating a double standard (see songs by Uncle Dave Macon or the Skillet Lickers whom Paul has suggested for induction) and overlooking why that album in particular warrants Coe’s unique approach. The album in question was never intended for a mainstream audience and was, in fact, released on DAC’s own label and sold exclusively through a biker magazine. Much in the same way that Johnny Cash was the first to prominently explore a new audience within prisons, Coe was the first to deliberately shun country’s traditional “family values” audience and focus on outlaw bikers, convicts, fans of heavy metal and punk rock, and other groups who have clung to his music despite DAC’s outspoken stance against them. Again, these are groups who many traditional country fans would rather not be associated with, but they DO exist and DAC is quite possibly the only artist in the history of country music who owes his prolonged success almost exclusively to these groups.

    Out of curiosity, how would people feel about Dave Dudley or Stonewall Jackson being inducted?

  29. Barry Mazor
    September 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Being inducted requires a breadth of impact, not just a moment of fame or a couple of hit records. It matters how the act matters, and not every favorite is material for that particular honor.

    (And this, btw, is why I think the comparison of Ray Charles to Connie Francis or patty Page is quite specious. The “Modern Sounds in Country music” album changed country music–the line-ups in studios, production approaches– and their are whole careers afterwards impossible to see happening without Ray’s contribution. (Ronnie Milsap.. Charlie Rich…) and lit the path to the eventual migration of many R&B musicians and producers (even a Billy Sherrill) and writers (black and white) from Memphis and Muscle Shoals into Nashville studios. That would be a case for some really significant impact and contribution–not a passing fancy.)

  30. Adam Sheets
    September 1, 2012 at 11:42 am

    A few more points about DAC: he does have the couple of hit records (“You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” “The Ride,” “Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile”), he wrote two of his era’s biggest hits (“Would You Lay With Me In a Field of Stone” and “Take this Job and Shove It”) and there are many artists out there- albeit very few in the mainstream other than Doug Supernaw in the ’90s and Jamey Johnson today- who acknowledge his impact on their music.

    Finally, there is the issue of the term “rhinestone cowboy” which came to symbolize country music entertainers and that era of country music when Glen Campbell took a song of with the title to #1 on both the country and pop charts. However, David Allan Coe had popularized and possibly coined the term years earlier through his stage persona and had in 1974 released an album on a major label called “The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy.” He alludes to this in his song “Longhaired Redneck” saying “I’ve been the rhinestone cowboy for so long I can’t remember.”

    So for all of those reasons, plus his DIY approach and his ability to connect with audiences outside of country music’s traditional fan base, I think he more than warrants induction.

  31. TX Music Jim
    September 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    DAC is a no brainer in my book. Has had hits, has wrote hits is still a viable draw to an incredibly wide audience. I just think the way he is perceived by the mainstream may prevent that.

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