1) I have heard you worked with Ferlin Husky in your early days, and I wonder what it was like working with him. He seemed like a real character.
He truly was that! Ferlin’s publicity referred to him as the “Star of Any Stage He Steps On,” and he was that as well. Whether he was singing one of his million-sellers like “Wings Of A Dove” or “Gone”….or tickling the audience’s funny-bone as his alter-ego, Simon Crum…there wasn’t anybody in country music who could follow him onstage back in his heyday. I learned so much just standing in the wings watching him entertain, and he helped me so much personally. When he saw that I was having trouble accepting him and other artists impersonating me, he pulled me aside and said, “If you weren’t different, there wouldn’t be anything to impersonate,” and “If I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t give you the publicity!” Ferlin was one of my true heroes. I’m so glad I got to be a small part of his life during his primo years.
2) What country song do you believe to be the best song to capture the essence of country music?
Almost everyone says that “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is the perfect country song, and it’s hard to disagree with that. But again, like so many things in life, the “best” is often in the eyes and ears of the beholder. Country music is certainly about love, but it’s also about trains and trucks and Mama and home and prison and beer and dogs and peeling bananas and Jesus and just about anything else you can think of. I’ll say the “best” one is the one that best reaches out and touches your heart.
3) This is purely hypothetical, but if I were watching a Malpass Brothers performance on a cruise ship and I requested “Tips Of My Fingers,” and they sang it, are they obligated to slip you some royalty cash the next time you have lunch with them? Do you ever extend to friends the offer to freely perform your songs?
Once a song is licensed and out on the market, anyone can perform it on stage at any time. The writer is compensated through whichever performing rights society he or she is affiliated with. In my case, that would be BMI. The Malpass boys wouldn’t be obligated to pay me anything, but I’d be glad to let them buy me lunch!
Our Question Of The Month comes from Deb in Missouri: I just finished reading a book about Roger Miller. When he was awarded all those Grammy’s back in ’64 and ’65, some categories sounded the same to me. For “King Of The Road” and “Dang Me”, he won for SINGLE of the year and then for RECORD of the year. What makes them separate categories.?
I had our folks do some serious searching on this question because I didn’t understand the difference myself. It turns out that Roger won country music Grammy’s in 1964 for Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Male Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and as Best New Artist. There was no such category as Record of the Year. Evidently, the book you were reading was in error.
Quickies: Have you ever recorded “Suppertime” on an album? I recorded it on an album that was only released on a cassette tape if you can believe that. The collection was called Yesteryear, and it was so obscure that up until recently I didn’t even have a copy myself. But, thankfully, I finally found one. Did you ever write any songs with Mel Tillis? No, because back in the day we were affiliated with different publishing companies and they wouldn’t split copyrights. I would love to have written with Mel. One of my favorite singers was James O’Gwynn. Did you know him and do many shows with him? I knew him and, in 1962, wrote one of his biggest hits, “My Name Is Mud.” I worked with him a couple of times on the Louisiana Hayride where he once let me borrow his guitar. It was one of the best sounding Martin’s that I’ve ever heard. You wrote a song, “You Lied To Me” that Tracy Byrd recorded. Did you ever record it. If not, why? Charlie Walker had the first record on that song, Tracy had the second, and Charley Pride recorded it in his final album. I never recorded it, but I’ve sung it on the Opry several times, once with Tracy. No real reason why I’ve never cut it…maybe I will someday. Do you know what happened to the inventory of LPs from Lawrence Brothers Record Shop that used to be on Broadway near the Ryman? I have no idea. Anybody?
So many good questions this month I couldn’t get to them all. If you have one, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer as soon and as best as I can. If yours is chosen Question Of The Month, you’ll receive any item of your choice from our online store absolutely free. Let me hear from you, and I’ll see you back here again in June.