1) Eddie Stubbs retired recently. As you know, he was an Opry stage announcer as well as a DJ on WSM. Many years ago, he was the fiddle player for the Johnson Mountain Boys. Is Eddie the only Opry stage announcer who also performed on the Opry stage?
That’s an interesting question, and I called my buddy, Keith Bilbrey, also a former Opry announcer, and asked him. Neither of us could remember an announcer other than Eddie who played an instrument on the Opry, but we both recalled Ralph Emery and T. Tommy Cutrer performing on the show. Ralph had a brief recording career and a hit record called, “Hello Fool,” which I remember his doing onstage several times. T. Tommy, who had one of the warmest, most sincere voices of all time, made some records too, and would sometimes perform a gospel song live with the Jordanaires. I can’t think of anyone else.
2) I’d love to see you get a song on the charts so it would be eight decades in a row. What are the odds?
With the current country music landscape being so different from what it has been in the seven preceding decades, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. At the same time, I’m still writing songs, and I’ve got 60-plus years worth of back catalog that someone might just discover someday. As my high school baseball coach used to say, as long as you’ve got a bat in your hands and you’re up at the plate swinging, you’ve got a chance to get a hit. It would be nice for sure, and I appreciate your encouragement.
3) I am interested in the process of recording a new album. Who picks the songs? Who picks the musicians and backup singers? What does studio time cost? I notice older albums often contained songs by other artists. Who chose those? You may have to talk to us as if we were first-graders because most of us are not familiar with musician lingo.
No problem. I’ll try and explain as best as I can. The artist usually chooses a producer to work with in the recording process (or sometimes a record label might assign a certain producer to a certain artist), and the producer and the artist work as a team. They may listen to hundreds of songs trying to find ones that they both agree would work best. They also work in tandem most times in the selection of the musicians and background singers. Studio costs vary in that some are booked at an hourly rate and others negotiate a flat rate for an entire project. No two studios have the exact same rates. In the olden days, artists and their producers would often scan the popularity charts prior to recording an album and choose songs they liked that were hits by other artists, then try to give those songs their own interpretation.The thinking back then was that “titles sell albums,” and fans like to hear their favorite singers sing their favorite songs. Or as the great Owen Bradley put it, “A Webb Pierce fan doesn’t think a song has been sung until Webb sings it.”
Quickies: Have you ever sung or recorded with Vince Gill? Yes, I’ve done both. I sang our co-written song, “Which Bridge To Cross (Which Bridge To Burn)” with him on one of his Opry anniversaries, and he sang with me and Jan Howard on my recording of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands,” from my “Whisperin’ Bluegrass” CD. Who would be your favorite country singer of all time? I don’t normally like to list my favorite anythings, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Hank Williams is my all-time favorite country singer, with Merle Haggard running a close second. As a child, I remember hearing Lulu Belle and Scottie on the Grand Ole Opry. Do you remember them? Of course I remember them, but you probably heard them on the WLS Barn Dance out of Chicago rather than on the Opry. That’s where they headquartered. They were man and wife, and extremely popular in their time. Scotty Wiseman wrote the classic song, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” and after their performing days were over, Lulu Belle was elected to the North Carolina legislature where she served two terms. I’ve often thought they should be members of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Thanks for your questions as always. I’m running a bit low on them right now, so send me yours for next month’s newsletter. You can e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to me at P. O. Box 888, Hermitage, TN. 37076. I’ll look forward to hearing what you’re curious about, and I’ll see you back in this space in July.