My musical heroes, sadly, are leaving us, one by one, and it seems like in droves. Maybe, at my age, I think that , magically, somehow, we will escape the final buzzer. However, I have been proven wrong too many times to count.
We have been the victim of either “The Cruel Reality”, or perhaps, the natural order.
No one lives forever on God’s Green Earth, as much as we all wish they. and we could. We all succumb to the “Great Reward”. Now I know, what you choose to believe, depends on where your faith or lack of, lies.
Some say we go to heaven, some say we may go to hell….some say we exist “on another plane”. I don’t know for sure, but I know what I believe.
Thankfully I am still here spinning some “need to be heard” music, and writing things about people that should be revered for their contributions. Should you ever see a column attributed to me touting the fine musicianship and soul-inspired lyrics of Blake Shelton, JayZ, Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga, I encourage you to call me on it.
After a long and successful career in Country Music, George Jones called it quits at the age of 81, and headed off to Hillbilly Heaven. The following quote comes to us from www.georgejones.com:
Legendary folk-rocker James Taylor could only liken those pipes to another great country instrument, when he spoke about Jones in an issue of Rolling Stone devoted to the greatest singers of all time. “George Jones doesn’t sound like he was influenced by any other singer,” said Taylor (who wrote his late ‘70s hit “Bartender” in the style of Jones and later re-recorded it with him). “He sounds like a steel guitar. It’s the way he blends notes, the way he comes up to them and comes off them, the way he crescendos and decrescendos. The dynamic of it is very tight and really controlled — it’s like carving with the voice.”
Upon hearing the news of Ol’ Possum’s passing, I contacted longtime friend and former Nashville (now of Luckenbach) songstress Brigitte London and invited her in on “Big G’s Texas Roadshow” (weekday mornings on AM 1230 KERV )the next morning to reminisce about her time in Nashville and her memories of George Jones. We devoted the entire show that morning to George Jones’ songs, and some of the great duets he recorded with Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard. We additionally played some of his more obscure duets, with people like Mark Knopfler and Van Morrison, among others.
That is the beauty of non-corporate local radio. We have the ability to react quickly to the news of one of our musical heroes passing, or any other important news event, and develop programming around it.
Brigitte, of course, was absolutely wonderful. She has such a deep abiding love for the roots of the purest form of the genre formerly known as country music. Plus, she had some interesting stories and tidbits of information to share throughout the show. As we have mentioned here before, we now refer to our kind of music as AMERIPOLITAN. A term coined by Dale Watson and a name to be looking out for as the genre grows in stature.
More recently, upon arriving to work early one morning, as I always do, I read the news that Odis Dewy Whitman, Jr. had passed. Don’t recognize that name? Perhaps you may know him by his stage name, Slim Whitman.
Some of you may laugh him off as the guy that sold TV albums, and “was big in Europe”, and you are correct. He did, and he was, but he was not a joke.
Whitman’s first big break came when talent manager “Colonel” Thomas Parker heard him singing on the radio and offered to represent him. Remember Colonel Tom Parker? Yeah, the guy who “dicovered” Elvis. Signed with RCA Records, he was billed as “the cowboy singer Slim Whitman” and released his first single in 1948. He toured and sang at a variety of venues, including on the radio show Louisiana Hayride.
His 1955 hit single “Rose Marie” held the Guinness World Record for the longest time at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart for 36 years until Bryan Adams broke the record in 1991. In the US his “Indian Love Call” (1952) and “Secret Love” (1953) both reached number 2 on the Billboard country chart. Whitman had a string of hits from the mid-1960s and into the 1970s and became known to a new generation of fans through television direct marketing in the 1980s. Throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century, he continued to tour extensively around the world and release new material, and he was featured on the soundtrack of the 1996 film Mars Attacks!. His last album, Twilight on the Trail, was released in 2010.
For his contribution to the recording industry, Slim Whitman was given the accolade of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1709 Vine Street. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Walkway of Stars in 1968.
Michael Jackson cited Whitman as one of his ten favorite vocalists. George Harrison cited Whitman as an early influence: “The first person I ever saw playing a guitar was Slim Whitman, either a photo of him in a magazine or live on television. Guitars were definitely coming in.” Paul McCartney credited a poster of Whitman with giving him the idea of playing his guitar left-handed with his guitar strung the opposite way to a right-handed player’s. The 1996 film Mars Attacks! features Whitman’s rendition of “Indian Love Call” as a weapon against alien invaders. In 2003, Rob Zombie used Whitman’s song “I Remember You” in his movie directorial debut in House of 1000 Corpses.
And word just reached me that one of Country Music’s main champions through the torrid turbulence of Rock and Roll, Chet Flippo has passed. As a writer for Rolling Stone, he launched his music journalism career during Rolling Stone’s formative years, and helped bring country music to the rock-and-roll mainstream. Chet was a fierce advocate for country music long before country was cool, in the mainstream of American Music.
So with that, I bid farewell to three fellas whose work I have enjoyed, and have particular connection with.
Unfortunately, there will be more columns like this
~ Big G
Gordon Ames (Big G) is a prominent radio personality in the Texas Hill Country with a large online following. He is host of Big G’s Texas Roadshow on The Real Deal KOOK 93.5FM Junction,TX and AM1230 Kerrville, TX, and columnist for Hill Country Happenings Magazine as well as Outlaw Magazine.
Outlaw Magazine. Country, Rock and Roll, Blues, Folk, Americana, Punk. As long as it is real, it is OUTLAW. Overproduced mediocrity need not apply.