1) My question is about imitations of you. I’ve heard you tell about Ferlin Husky saying he wouldn’t have imitated you if you didn’t have something special about you, and if he didn’t like you, he wouldn’t give you the publicity. I recently saw a Wilburn Brothers show where Teddy Wilburn imitated you – and he was good! Do you have any stories about other performers imitating you that you found especially funny or interesting?
If the old saying about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery is true, then I’ve sure been flattered a whole bunch during my lifetime! You used to have to take a number and stand in line to imitate Bill Anderson! Many people don’t remember, but in Loretta Lynn’s early performing days she kicked off her shoes, put her right leg about two feet behind her left leg, rocked back and forth and in her best whispering voice sang, “We wasn’t nothin’ but Po’ Folks.” I would watch from the wings and laugh louder than anybody. Some artists wouldn’t imitate me if I was on the same show with them. Billy “Crash” Craddock was one of those until the day I snuck up behind him on stage holding a baseball bat over his head and threatening to lower the boom if he didn’t do the same thing to my face that he did to my back. It was all in fun…I loved it and I still do.
2) Country music has some of the best Christian music I’ve heard, but there are no Christian country music stations, not even on satellite. Why is this? Do you think there is a chance for one in the future?
You raise an interesting question here. I love Christian country music myself, and most of the artists from my era recorded gospel albums and performed sacred songs as a regular part of our repertoires. Artists like Alan Jackson, John Berry, Moe Bandy, and even Carrie Underwood have continued that tradition today. Christian country music is part of the programming on many classic country stations, but not their entire format. Maybe there aren’t enough sponsors who would want to invest in that type programming and, after all, the sponsors are the ones who keep the stations on the air. Perhaps some of our radio friends would like to chime in on this.
3) When you perform out of Nashville do you travel by bus, airlines, private jet, or train? And on a similar subject: Do you have any idea how many miles on the road you have traveled?
Over the years, I have traveled by every conceivable form of transportation, but most of my miles have been via private busses and on commercial airliners. If I figure conservatively that I traveled 100,000 miles per year for 60-years that would add up to a total of 6-million miles, and I probably did a good bit more than that. Whew….no wonder I’m so tired!
Question Of The Month: A new songwriter typically writes a lot of bad songs for each good one. After all these years of songwriting, do you still find yourself writing the occasional bad one or have you gotten all the bad songs out of your system? (Submitted by Kevin from Canada)
I guess that depends on your definition of “bad songs.” If you mean songs that don’t meter or songs that don’t rhyme, no, I don’t write “bad” like that anymore. If you mean songs like “Peel Me A ‘Nanner” or “Walk Out Backwards”, which some people consider “bad,” sure, there’s always room for one more of those in my catalog. I don’t always write songs that are commercial or songs that would be automatic hits on the radio, but I still enjoy writing fun songs like “Waffle House Christmas” and “Wherever She Is (I Hope She Stays There)” which are a little “off the wall.” I hope I never get those out of my system.
Seasonal: As the song goes, Christmas time’s a-coming, and I’m wondering if it’s harder to write a Christmas song than a regular country song? Which of your original Christmas songs are you the most proud of? Finally, not counting carols or pop holiday standards, what are your favorite original country Christmas songs?
I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily “harder” to write a Christmas song, but by its very definition, the field for writing a Christmas song…much like a gospel song…is much narrower. In other words, there’s less overall subject matter to choose from. Among my own songs, I’d have a hard time choosing between “Christmas In Your Arms” and “Still Believing In Christmas” as the one I’m most proud of. But there’s no doubt but what Amy Grant’s “Tender Tennessee Christmas” is my favorite original country Christmas song. The first time I heard that song I was away from home and Christmas was only a few days away. Talk about homesick! I’ve spent over sixty Tender Tennessee Christmases, and as the song says, it’s “the only Christmas for me.”
Quickies: Is there a song someone offered you that you turned down and now regret it? Yes. Willie Nelson played me “Funny How Time Slips Away” before anyone had cut it, and I passed on it because when he began with, “Well, hello there,” I thought it sounded too much like another song he wrote that started, “Hello Walls.” That wasn’t very brilliant on my part was it? In the sixties you had a guitar player in your band named Jimmy Lance and a steel player named Sonny Garrish. I was wondering if they are still living and, if so, are they still active in music? Sonny is still living and, in fact, came to the opening of my exhibit at the Hall of Fame last week. I think he continues to play on recording sessions from time to time. He’s one of the best steel players who ever lived. Jimmy passed away a couple of years ago. What was the inspiration for you and Don Wayne Choate to write the song, “Saginaw, Michigan?” Did either of you have a connection to Saginaw? The song was Don’s idea, and when I asked him how he chose Saginaw he said he simply thought it “sang good.” He had no connection to the town, but when I was a youngster in South Carolina, my family once shared a duplex apartment with a couple from Saginaw. It was during World War II and he was in the Army stationed at Fort Jackson near Columbia. I knew about Saginaw at a very early age.
I wish I had time and space to answer all the great questions I received this month. You sent me some dandies. Don’t stop now, and remember the person who submits our “Question Of The Month,” receives a gift of their choice from our online store free of charge. Send your question to me in care of firstname.lastname@example.org and join us back here again in January.