What a difference a month makes!
This time last month I was telling you about the recent Nashville tornadoes and asking you to keep our city and our people in your thoughts and prayers. Then I told you that I was heading into the studio to record some new music, preparing for my annual trip to Florida for baseball Spring training, and looking forward to a busy month of April out on the road.
Obviously, those plans got turned upside down…just as so many of your plans did…by this terrible “invisible enemy” we’ve all had to face and are still facing. It’s hard to believe so much has happened in such a short time.
In addition to everything else, I’m sure you know by now that my longtime friend and singing partner, Jan Howard, passed away on March 28th, just fifteen days after her 91st birthday. A bunch of us had planned to go celebrate with her on the 12th, but the assisted living place where she lived had closed down by then due to the coronavirus. I didn’t get to say goodbye, but she knew I loved her because I told her every time we spoke. We made a lot of music together and made even more good memories. She will forever be a special part of my life, my career, and my heart.
And then losing our buddy, Joe Diffie, a few days later was tough as well. This coronavirus is serious stuff, folks, and I hope you’re all staying in and staying safe.
Many of you have written asking what I’ve been doing during this down time. For starters, I’ve been brushing up on my cooking skills and, like many of you, working from home. My manager, Lee, and I have been e-mailing back and forth attempting put together a new CD that we’ll be releasing soon, and I’m excited about it. It’s called “The Hits – Reimagined,” and it’s acoustical recordings of some of my best known songs. PLUS, not only do we have the vocal performances, but all ten songs have instrumental versions as well. You can sing along, hum along, or simply listen to some of the best Nashville pickers do their thing. Hopefully, the record will be available soon.
I’ve also been spending some time working on a new book, an updated collection of funny, crazy, wacky stories from inside my world of country music. Our “High On The Hog” book continues to sell after 25-plus years on the market, but this quiet time has given me the opportunity to begin organizing all the additional little silly notes and memos to myself that I’ve been gathering over the years and to start putting them into book form. Going through all the material again has given me lots of reasons to laugh, and I’ve needed that. Stay tuned.
Our booking agent has been busy rescheduling the concert dates that we had to cancel, and hopefully we won’t have to postpone any of them a second time. We’re giving you the updated list here, but asking you to remember that, in these uncertain times, everything is subject to change. The pilot for our proposed new television show has been moved from May into July.
My family is hunkered down just like everyone else, even though Jamey has had to fly a few trips for Delta. He told me the other day that on his last trip they carried only 14 passengers going out and 9 coming back. These are unprecedented times for sure.
My wish for you is that you stay safe, healthy, and connected to the ones you love. It’s a good time for all of us to realize the things that are important and the people who are important in our lives. Tell your friends and your family members that you love them…do for them what you can…wash your hands, say your prayers, and don’t take any unnecessary chances.
Someday it’ll all make sense.
1) How do you feel Ken Burns’ documentary did in telling the history of country music? Was there anything it didn’t focus on enough, something that received too much attention, any information that was inaccurate, or was it an accurate representation of country music history?
It’s a monumental task to try and condense 100-years of anything into 8-hours. My own opinion is that Ken Burns and his staff did a masterful job, but not everyone agrees with me. I’ve heard people complain that one artist got too much time while another didn’t get enough or didn’t get any. The old saying about not being able to please all the people all the time applies here, but I would challenge anyone to do it any better or more accurately.
2) How easy is it to get poems set to music? I’ve been published 5 times, and would love to see some of them set to music. Most are free versed, and I’ve been told they won’t go like that.
I assume by “free versed” you mean your poems don’t have a rhythmic cadence and a structured rhyme scheme. If that’s the case, then they would be very difficult to set to music if not impossible. If you’re looking for commercial musical success, I would suggest tailoring your lyrics to a pattern that could more easily conform to standard musical structure.
3) Do you plan to make any more Country’s Family Reunion TV shows?
Several of you wrote this month asking questions about CFR, and here’s what I know: RFD-TV is currently airing the old shows in a new format called “The Very Best Of Country’s Family Reunion,” which I personally think is very good. The shows have been re-edited, much content that was never before seen on TV is being utilized, trivia and backstage elements have been added, and the episodes that I have seen have really held my interest. Larry Black, who owns CFR, admits the shows are very costly to produce, and since the sales of DVD’s have given way to online streaming in recent years, his profit margins have continued to shrink. He has not said he will cease production of the shows, but truthfully I’ll be surprised if we film any more…at least in the current format…anytime soon.
4) How many children do you have?
I have three…one of each kind. No, seriously, I have two daughters and a son…plus eight grandchildren…five girls and three boys. They are the lights of my life.
Thanks, as always, for your questions. Keep ’em coming to email@example.com, and we’ll have more answers for you here next month. Stay curious.
Jan Howard and I first met in the spring of 1960 when I made my first trip to California. She and her husband, Harlan, invited me out to their home for dinner, and I ended up staying for two days. They moved to Nashville later that year, and in 1966, Jan came to work as the featured female singer on my syndicated television show. We made our first record together that year, and she began touring as a part of my road show. We scored a #1 record together in 1967 with “For Loving You,” and three more that reached the Top Five – “If It’s All The Same To You” (’69); Someday We’ll Be Together (’70); and “Dis-Satisfied” (’71). We released three country albums and a gospel album together and appeared countless times together on the Grand Ole Opry. She left to pursue a solo career in 1972, but our friendship never wavered. She was a big part of my life, my musical journey, and my heart. I’ll be forever grateful for all the good that she brought to my world.
(In answer to your questions, none of our duet albums, unfortunately, were ever released on CD, but our #1 cut of “For Loving You” is currently available on my “Nothin’ But Hits” CD).
Thank you for your many kind messages tonight regarding the passing of my good friend and longtime singing partner, Jan Howard. She was a true artist, a wonderful singer, a talented writer, and, above all, a gracious lady, We knew each other for over sixty years and rode a whole bunch of rivers together. Some were smooth, some were rocky, but with Jan I can assure you that none were ever dull. I’m told she died peacefully in her sleep and I’m glad she didn’t suffer. Rest peacefully, J.B., and know that like our song says, “I’ll never once stop loving you.” Star.