Congratulations, Billy Gilman!

No one is happier than me that Billy Gilman did so well on The Voice, finishing second last night.

I was there, at Billboard, for Billy’s first album, One Voice, released in 2000 when he was 12, and got to know him, his mother, and his manager at the time—not to mention Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson, who had discovered him at age nine. The album’s titletrack hit the Top 40, and with it he also became the youngest artist to have a Top 40 country single.

Back then Ray was confident that Billy had what it took to stay successful after his voice changed, and last night proved him right. Meanwhile, Billy courageously came out as gay two years ago, hours after fellow country artist Ty Herndon came out.

But Billy always had a pop sensibility, as evidenced by his performance in 2000 of “Dream a Dream” with then 14-year-old Welsh soprano Charlotte Church, and most significantly, his 2003 album Music Through Heartsongs—Songs Based on the Poems of Mattie J.T. Stepanek.

Recorded when he was 14, Heartsongs already showed a deepened voice and a more mature album content due, remarkably, to the “heartsong” lyrics of Mattie Stepanek—the then 13-year-old best-selling poet whose books stemmed from the incurable form of muscular dystrophy that would take his life just before his 14th birthday—and the stylistically varied music by top Nashville songwriters including Richard Leigh, Tom Douglas, Bruce Roberts, Randle Chowning, James Slater, and the album’s (and One Voice‘s) producer David Malloy.

Billy and Mattie had met on Larry King Live.

“He started to read his poems, and I looked over at my father and mother choking up—and it wasn’t like my father,” Billy told me upon the 2009 publication of Messenger: The Legacy Of Mattie J.T. Stepanek And Heartsongs by his mother Jeni Stepanek.

“The kid was really touching someone who wasn’t touched a lot. But they didn’t sound like ordinary poems, but like lyrics. I wondered if there was any way I could do one on a record—as a bonus cut or something—and I called everybody in Nashville who were involved with my career at that point and pitched the idea, and it ended up being the whole record.”

Billy later learned that Mattie had rejected numerous other like offers.

“Other artists couldn’t get the message of his heartsongs,” he explained. “I’m so honored they chose me, because he was one of the greatest people anyone could ever meet.”

Heartsongs‘ standout track was “I Am/Shades of Life,” which combined two of Mattie’s heartsongs.

“David Malloy wrote the melody and I thought, ‘Man! That’s not a song but an anthem!’ I still get letters about it! But it was really long so they cut the words in half for radio. Mattie and I both felt they needed to keep the whole thing because otherwise the story was lost, so the song was re-cut. It was kind of like ‘One Voice,’ and the video was awesome.”

Billy was 21 when I last spoke with him in 2009, and had just begun writing his own songs.

“I had to go home and wait for my voice to change—which gives you an awesome out for anything!” he said. “You can say, ‘Thank you, I’m done,’ and then go on to the next thing. But at the end of the day I’m a country singer, and I never had the opportunity as a kid to do what I wanted to do with my sound—and now I can.”

I believe Billy remains a celebrity ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, having served as co-host of the Jerry Lewis Telethon. As for “I Am/Shades of Life,” it remains a favorite song of mine, with a melody and vocal I find very moving, along with, of course, Mattie Stepanek’s poetry and spoken words.

What I say about ‘Danny (Fields) Says’

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I’m very happy that Danny Says, a documentary on the life and times of Danny Fields that’s been in production for the last couple years, is finally coming out via Magnolia Pictures on Sept. 30. Based on attending an early screening, I can say it’s very good.

But it’s also missing my four hours of interviews-two of me, two of Seymour Stein that I did, though at least Seymour does get a few onscreen seconds. As the director has the tapes, I don’t know what I said verbatim. But I did say a few important things about Danny that no one else said-neither Seymour nor the stellar likes of Iggy Pop, Judy Collins, Jonathan Richman and Alice Cooper–so I’ll try to recapture them here the best I can.

I definitely recall my main point about Danny Fields, since it’s one I often use when I speak about him–which is often–and that is, there’s no telling what music of the last 50 years–from the mid-1960s on to this day–would be like without him. I mean, this guy had a hand in nearly every key music development post-Beatles–and even had a hand in The Beatles, too.

Indeed, Danny “is an expert arbiter of culture–music being his main focus,” Timothy Young, curator of modern books and manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, told me a couple years ago when I wrote about the library’s acquisition of truckloads of Danny’s papers–along with his vast collection of interviews and photographs, audio and video tapes, films and memorabilia.

“But we have to keep in mind that he has been writing all of his life. His articles for 16 Magazine deserve a close reading for how they promoted and shaped youth culture in the 1960s and 1970s. His several books detailing the lives of his friends–Linda McCartney, [Andy Warhol’s Bad star] Cyrinda Foxe–were the result of an amazing amount of research. His role in creating, promoting, and managing the public personas of The Ramones–one of the most influential rock groups of the 20th century–is a case study in how music culture operates.”

Yes, Danny discovered and managed The Ramones, for which he remains best-known to most people, probably. But long before that the Phi Beta Kappa Harvard law school dropout was deeply embedded in Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory scene in New York (he wrote the liner notes for the Velvet Underground’s Live At Max’s Kansas City and lived with Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick) prior to becoming publicity director at Elektra Records, where he worked with acts like The Doors, Nico and Judy Collins and managed The Stooges and MC5. He also worked with artists including Cream, Lou Reed and Rufus Wainwright, and if you ever get the chance to stroll through his West Village apartment hallway you’ll see a wall lined with his photos of a young Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Divine and many of the aforementioned.

And as Young noted, Danny played a not insignificant role in Beatles history—aside from being a close friend of Linda McCartney. He’s the one who published John Lennon’s infamous “We’re more popular than Jesus” quote (in the August, 1966 issue of Datebook).

Danny Says, of course, takes its name from the Ramones song on the band’s landmark Phil Spector-produced End of the Century album. But Danny is a true Renaissance man, with interests far beyond pop music.

“It’s odd to go from Shakespeare folios and 18th Century prayer books to posters of Dee Dee Ramone!” he told me, and now I’ll tell you what I’m sure I said in my interview: Danny can go from Shakespeare folios and 18th Century prayer books to posters of Dee Dee Ramone–and just about anything cultural, historical and intellectual you can think of. He and I actually go to the opera together, which is great for me on two counts: Not only do I get to spend quality time with him, but he actually knows opera and can explain to me what we’re seeing.

Of course, my close friendship with Danny Fields isn’t based on opera, but even though I wrote the first book on The Ramones (Ramones—An American Band) and thanked him in it and interviewed him at length, it isn’t based on The Ramones or punk rock, either—though I obviously knew his name from both.

No, when I first met Danny Fields—and I was so thrilled to meet him, knowing full well who he was—it was in, of all places, Nashville. To be precise, it was at a Warner Bros. Records party at some country club during what was then called CMA Week, in reference to the week of performing rights society banquets and other celebrations culminating with the Country Music Association Awards. Must have been 1984, because I was full-time at Cash Box magazine as retail editor, in New York only a year or two and hadn’t managed to break in as a freelancer anywhere—until that fateful night.

Two things stand out, over 30 years later. First, Conway Twitty was there! Second, so was Danny Fields! But what on earth was Danny doing at a country music event in Nashville?

What I didn’t know was that Danny, who was no longer managing The Ramones, was now editing a country music magazine called Country Rhythms—having famously edited 16 Magazine–and was starting up a magazine to capitalize on the new MTV craze, Rock Video. I was an avid MTV viewer at the time, but was ambivalent about the quality of rock videos–though extremely opinionated. So when Danny said he was starting up a magazine called Rock Video, I practically begged him to let me write for it, specifically, review rock videos.

He asked how I got to the party and I told him I drove there in a rental car. He said if I gave him a ride back to his hotel—and got him back safely—I could write for him and Rock Video.

Thank you, Avis.

I’m pretty sure I was the first writer to review rock videos. And Danny let me contribute to Country Rhythms, too, country music being, ironically, what brought us together in the first place.

So not only do I not know what popular music would be like without Danny Fields, I don’t know what my career writing about it would be like. And I’m absolutely sure I’m not the only writer who would say that, let alone musician, let alone Yale library curator.

“He teaches me something every time we meet,” said Young, “and I’m glad to have his papers here at Beinecke with those of Gertrude Stein, Thornton Wilder, Robert Giard, Richard Neville, Ezra Pound and other talents who reshaped the way we see, read, and hear the world.”

The Dixie Chicks, Muhammad Ali and Donald Trump

I’m happy to be in L.A. today, but I’d love to be in Nashville tonight when the Dixie Chicks return to the sold-out Bridgestone Arena 13 years after they were unceremoniously–or maybe in fact with great ceremony–blacklisted by country radio following Natalie Maines’ impromptu and instantly infamous comment of March 10,2002.

On that day–as recounted in today’s Tennessean–the DixChix, then one of the biggest acts in the country, period, watched news coverage of the buildup to war with Iraq while preparing to perform a concert in London. Their then current hit “Travelin’ Soldier,” about a young Vietnam soldier who didn’t make it back, was the top entry on the country radio airplay charts, and they didn’t want to have to play with a war on the horizon that they didn’t support.

Maines acknowledged this in introducing the song: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all,” she told the London crowd. “We do not want this war, this violence,” she said, then sealed the group’s fate: “And we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”

In short order “Travelin’ Soldier” was pulled from radio and disappeared from the charts. Stations quit playing the Chicks entirely, some inciting ex-fan gatherings where their records were destroyed. They never had another country radio hit.

“The real tragedy is all the great music we will never hear because their momentum was stopped,” Beverly Keel, chair of the recording industry department at Middle Tennessee State University, said in The Tennesean . “It was the perfect storm of the time and the place and what she said.”

Indeed, the only thing I can liken it to was Muhammad Ali’s historic refusal to be inducted into the Army in 1967, costing him the best three and a-half years of his life as an athlete, not to mention all the money he would have made during them–not to mention cementing his status then in much of the country as a hated, ungrateful traitor. The difference, of course, is that Ali knew going in what it would likely cost him, whereas Maines spoke spontaneously and probably didn’t know what hit her–though it didn’t affect her, either. She and bandmates Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire never once attempted to “walk back” her comments, to use the now popular way of denoting a politician’s softening of a comment that proves intolerably damaging.

Even now during their sold-out 55-city tour they’ve been performing before a large picture of Donald Trump as Satan.

“I get banned for not liking Bush and now Trump can practically put a hit out on Hillary and he’s still all over country radio!” Maines tweeted last week. “Hypocrites!”

Within days of the Chicks’ banishment I was approached by a radio station to discuss the situation, clearly with the understanding that I would follow what we now call “the narrative,” that being that the Chicks were finished. The war had begun, and in the early goings, seemed to be going great from the Texas president’s perspective.

But I refused to go with the script.

I had two points: One, that it was way too early to predict the Chicks’ future based on a war that only started. “Who knows what it will be like in a month or two?” I said, maybe not in those exact words, but that was the gist.

Two, I noted that whether or not they ever again received any country radio support, the Dixie Chicks had already amassed an immense fan base, who likely would not turn en masse against them, and could conceivably continue to buy their records–depending, of course, on quality. Sure enough, their last studio album, Taking the Long Way (2006), sold well over double-platinum and won Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, and for its unapologetic single “Not Ready to Make Nice,” Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

“Nashville loved these women, Nashville signed these women, and Nashville made these women stars,” author and country music historian Robert K. Oermann told The Tennessean. “It was a shameful chapter that we allowed to happen, and you couldn’t blame the Chicks if they did feel betrayed.”

But you can sure stand up and cheer them tonight at the Bridgestone for returning to Nashville in triumph, outspoken political stances intact.

Concert Highlights–The John Jorgenson Quintet at the Cutting Room, 7/26/2016

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(Photo: Terri Horak)

“Touring musicians lead super glamorous lives,” declared John Jorgenson at the start of his John Jorgenson Quintet gypsy jazz gig July 26 at the Cutting Room.

Except, that is, for this particular night: Flying from L.A. to Hartford, Jorgenson had to land in Abilene in order for his plane to refuel, since its Dallas destination was too busy. So he was forced to spend the night in the airport waiting for a new connection, and while he made it to the Cutting Room on time, his guitar—and luggage—didn’t.

“I borrowed a guitar from Jason [his violinist Jason Anick], a shirt from Simon [upright bassist Simon Planting],” Jorgenson told the Cutting Room crowd. “Everybody contributed—except the pants I’m wearing are mine, because none of the others’ fit!”

Glamor aside—and despite the challenge of playing such intricate acoustic music as his quintet’s on an unfamiliar guitar—Jorgenson, whose latest release Divertuoso is a three-disc box showing his many musical facets, dazzled in his gypsy jazz mode. “Black Swan,” from the new set’s Returning disc featuring the quintet, was particularly noteworthy in its adaptation by Jorgenson from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, specifically, the entrance of the “naughty” Black Swan.

“My grandparents gave me the Fantasia soundtrack as a child, and I loved Tchaikovsky ever since,” Jorgenson explained. He also gave background on the gypsy jazz genre, citing guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli as “the patron saints of this style of music.”

“They were inspired by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Benny Goodman, and played on acoustic instruments, which wasn’t being done in jazz at that time,” said Jorgenson, who demonstrated Reinhardt’s two-finger technique—he used only his index and middle fingers of his left hand after his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed after being burned in a fire—and closed with Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz standard “Nuages.”

He also lauded his band, besides Anick (also a mandolinist and one of the youngest instructors at Boston’s Berklee College of Music) and Planting (“one of the great bass players in gypsy jazz”), including drummer Rick Reed (“incredible stamina on brushes”) and rhythm guitarist Max O’Rourke, whom he singled out for having “the hardest job, because he’s always active and doesn’t get to rest.”

Jorgenson, incidentally, also played bouzouki—though he declares it a banjo for airport security. He said he would have played clarinet, but it was packed in a suitcase.

As for the other two Divertuoso discs, From the Crow’s Nest features J2B2—The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band featuring Jorgenson on mandolin and guitar and vocals, Herb Pedersen on banjo and guitar and vocals, guitarist/vocalist Jon Randall and upright bassist Mark Fain. Jorgenson, of course, was a central player in country music’s great Desert Rose Band, along with Pedersen and Chris Hillman.

The third disc, Gifts From the Flood, consists of instrumentals played on prized instruments damaged during Nashville’s historic 2010 flooding, that have been painstakingly restored.

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(Photo: Terri Horak)

Concert Highlights–Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, 8/9/15

Someone nudged me on the shoulder a couple Sundays ago in the middle of Lyle Lovett’s show at Lincoln Center Out of Doors to point out the obvious: With 14 pieces in His Large Band, it costs a lot of money to put them on the road.

And these weren’t ordinary pieces, not by a long shot. To identify the ones I know: the legendary Russ Kunkel on drums, Matt Rollings on piano, Keith Sewell on guitar and mandolin, John Hagen on cello, Viktor Krauss on bass, Luke Bulla on fiddle, vocalist extraordinaire Francine Reed. Players with credits like these cost money, and that’s not even counting their suits, dry cleaning bills, and three tour buses.

And the way Lyle treats his musicians speaks plenty about what kind of guy he is. Not only did he introduce everyone at Lincoln Center, he related where everyone was from, how long they’d been with him (some since 1978!), and what they do when they’re not with him.

“It’s nice to get together with your close friends and your family, no matter what the occasion is,” he said, then, leading into his wonderful “Since the Last Time” take on funerals, added, “Sometimes even a solemn occasion can be joyful.” So many of his musicians had made their own records or played on so many major recordings, he noted, that “the world wouldn’t be the same without them.”

So he let each band member mention his outside work and gave many of them solo spots, most notably Reed, who actually began the show singing her great version of the Ida Cox blues classic “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues” from the middle of the audience before joining Lovett on stage on “What Do You Do.” Bulla was beautiful on “The Temperance Reel,” and Sewell likewise shined brightly on one of his songs. Lovett also brought out Willie Nelson’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael to help out on a tune: “I travel around, so my friends cannot escape me,” Lovett said. “But when you see your old friends you realize that life just can’t get any better—which is a sobering thought when you realize they aren’t going to get any better!”

But the respect Lovett shows for his band extends into space and suffuses his entire fan base. Looking out into the August Lincoln Center evening crowd, he expressed delight that there was still plenty of sunlight for him to see how well-dressed everyone was—when it was clearly shorts and t-shirts.

He also expressed how he’s grateful every day that his folks gave him the opportunity to pursue music, and were so supportive of a pursuit that has since led him to the White House, where he has participated in the Country Music and The Gospel Tradition installments of the PBS series In Performance at the White House. He delved easily into both genres at Lincoln Center, centering on his own unique niche of country swing that’s more big band jazz than traditional Texas or Western swing.

But being Texan really underlies Lovett’s work: “I talk so much about my home state,” he said, “and I got to see so much of it on weekend road trips through the windshield, where you get an up close look at the world that you don’t get sitting in the back.”

He ended with one of my favorite songs of his, “That’s Right (You’re Not from Texas),” a sweet appraisal of obvious outsiders who are nevertheless welcomed warmly. He was even sweeter himself afterward, bringing out his own photographer to take his pictures with everyone at the meet-and-greet. Mine showed me in shorts and the same worn-out golf shirt I seem to wear whenever my picture’s taken, that and a fraying army web belt with the end looking like it’s dangling out of my open fly—which it wasn’t, I hastily add.

So much for how well-dressed we all were.

Here’s “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)”:

Tales of Bessman: Fan Fair, Country Music, and Loudilla Johnson

Less than a month away from the 2014 CMA Music Festival, and I’m prompted, by the passing of Loudilla Johnson, to think back to when it was called Fan Fair and held at the dirty, dusty, magical Tennessee State Fairgrounds, for those of us who love country music and cover it, the best days of our lives.

It was a lot smaller, then, but still big, and each of the main Fairgrounds buildings was packed with country stars of every rank, from A-List to F, in their custom-designed  booths signing autographs and selling trinkets. I still have, somewhere, a little makeup mirror with a plastic case emblazoned with “For a Fan of Tammy Wynette,” though as much as I love him, I think I got rid of my glow-in-the-dark Confederate Flag Hank Williams, Jr. gym shorts even before returning to New York.

“Wear those at the gym when you get home!” bellowed Merle Kilgore, Hank’’s manager (not to mention writer of such classic country songs as “Wolverton Mountain,” and with June Carter, “Ring of Fire”), who thrust a pair into my hands—and those of my pal Bob Merlis. We both loved Merle dearly, but neither of us had the chutzpah to bring them home.

Fan Fair left the Fairgrounds for Downtown Nashville in 2001 and gave up the name in 2004. Dear Merle’s long gone—even if I can still hear him laughing loudly at us–and now so is Loudilla Johnson, 75, who with her late sister Loretta and surviving sister Kay, co-founded the International Fan Club Organization, or IFCO.

If one thing symbolized Fan Fair, and maybe by extension country music iself, it would likely be IFCO. It was the Johnson’s offshoot of the Loretta Lynn Fan Club, which they started in 1963 after Loretta Johnson, living at the family ranch in Wild Horse, Colo., began corresponding with Loretta Lynn.

Much of this last sentence, by the way, was lifted near verbatim from Peter Cooper’s obituary in The Tennessean. He’s such a good writer I couldn’t improve on it and didn’t bother trying.

“Them girls was my first official fans, the ones who started my fan club and stuck with me for years,” Lynn wrote in her memoir—and Cooper quoted. “Shoot, we started the whole week’s long event called Fan Fair together, even though none of us got the credit for it.”

Also quoted in Cooper’s piece, author/historian (and host of Fan Fair’s star-studded IFCO shows) Robert K. Oermann said, “The other stars saw how successful they were with Loretta’s club. Buck Owens’ sister, Dorothy, came to the girls and said, ‘You ought to form a fan club organization, because the other clubs could learn from you.’”

This was in 1965, when the Johnson Sisters formed IFCO. It consisted of 75 fan clubs working together in uniting country stars and their fans.

Four years before the first Fan Fair in 1972, IFCO staged its first multi-artist concert, during Nashville’s annual DJ Convention (long since known as Country Radio Seminar).

“The Johnsons were supporting the fans long before there was a Fan Fair,” Oermann told Cooper. “And from the beginning of what became the CMA Music Festival, they were intimately involved. Loretta, the sister who died in 2009, was sort of the spark plug that started the whole thing, but it was Loudilla who was the most business-minded of the three sisters. All three of them were zany and fun. They were devoted to country music. They were nothing but love.”

Nothing but love.

IFCO eventually worked with over 375 fan club groups, and showcased everyone from legends like Johnny Cash and Charley Pride to such stars of today as Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Fan Fair, er, CMA Music Festival. I don’t know if that fabled bond between country music star and fan still exists, and if it does, to the degree it did that year, 1996, when Garth Brooks came unannounced to Fan Fair and stayed 23 hours and 10 minutes straight, signing autographs without taking a break. Or when fans from all over the world lined up at the booth of Australia’s LeGarde Twins—also know as Australia’s Yodeling Stockmen–as happy  to pose for pictures with them as with Trisha Yearwood in her fantastic recording studio booth, where her fans could actually sing along with her and come out with a tape recording of it.

But if the love affair between country stars and fans continues, give thanks to the Johnsons, who formalized it. Not for nothing were they presented with the Ernest Tubb Humanitarian Award at the 2002 R.O.P.E. (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) banquet, in that their IFCO Show concert proceeds always went to charities: The original E.T. would flip his guitar over at the end of his performances to show the word “thanks” in big block capitals on the back.

Unlike so many classic country songs, for Loudilla, Loretta and Kay Johnson, who were so devoted to country music, their love was indeed requited.

A performance by Lynn Anderson at a special 2009 CMA Music Festival show in memory of IFCO co-founder Loretta Johnson:

Concert Highlights–Del McCoury Band with David Grisman at City Winery, 4/17/14

Del McCoury said early on that he didn’t want to repeat any of the songs from the previous night’s first of two shows at City Winery. According to Del McCoury Band bassist Alan Bartram, he didn’t.

Alan, incidentally, also mentioned during the show how thrilled he was to see it spotlighted in New York magazine. Turns out he’s a longtime subscriber.

Speaking of magazines, the band had been to Relix earlier in the day, and had already done “a lot of picking,” said Ronnie McCoury. Del noted, too, that he’d spent a lot of time at the Winery “downstairs with the barrels.” He seemed happier about that visit than the one at Relix.

The first half of the show was all McCoury Band. They did their version of Dylan’s “Walk Out In the Rain,” actually from the 1995 album Ronnie & Rob McCoury. It’s as good a Dylan cover as there is, and Ronnie sounds a lot like Del singing it.

Del prefaced the performance of his 2008 album titletrack Moneyland by noting that John Herald’s manager had sent it to him shortly after Herald died (an apparent suicide in 2005).

Herald was one of the major players in New York City’s bluegrass scene, having formed the Greenbriar Boys in 1959. I was lucky to meet him when he was a key part of  Greg Garing’s Alphabet City Opry in the late ‘90s in the East Village.

 

Another highlight came with another McCoury album titletrack—last year’s “The Streets of Baltimore” cover of Bobby Bare’s classic 1966 country hit. As Del explained, he had lived in Maryland for a time, when he was playing with late bluegrass upright bass great Jack Cooke.

Determining after that no one in the audience was from Baltimore, Del opened it up to requests: “You paid to get in here, I didn’t,” he said. “We should do something you want to hear.” It was “High on a Mountain,” his 1972 album titletrack, and then he brought out David Grisman.

Grisman related how he met Del at Del’s first show with Bill Monroe (he played five-string banjo) in the spring of 1963 at NYU, where Grisman was a student. He and Del then sang the Monroe Brothers’ “Nine Pound Hammer,” Grisman on mandolin and Del on guitar. From their Del & Dawg album of ‘90s jams, they performed “Country Boy Rock & Roll.” Marty Stuart also does a great job of the Reno and Smiley country classic:

Also from Del & Dawg came “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Walkin’ the Dawg” and the Carter Family’s “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.”

Grisman scored by pointing out how late-night TV never mentions the Carter Family, and that “any financial advisor will tell you to put some of your money in CDs.” He was also the most visual guy on stage, a big, gentle bear of a man in gray shirt and slacks to match his long hair and beard, positioned in between Ronnie in a black suit and Del in a light one.

He would turn to his left to share vocals with Del, then turn to his right to trade mandolin licks with Ronnie, rocking physically while Ronnie stood and smiled—a striking balance in appearance and performing style.

Del and Dawg will now tour together, while Rob completes his first solo CD.