Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hello Darlin'

Rockin' some seriously bad bangs in front of Conway Twitty's
house dubbed "Twitty City" in Hendersonville, TN.
Take time to note the Tweety Bird on my shirt. Oh yeah,
I thought I was awesome.
"Hello darlin' nice to see ya
it's been a long time
you're just as lovely as you used to be."
-Conway Twitty
-"Hello Darlin" (1970)

It's no secret that I love Conway Twitty.  I love his voice: that deep groan, the crackle, the sincerity.  I love his songs: fifty-five #1 hits to his name and was named "the best friend a song ever had."  He comes in  second only to George Strait who passed him up in 2006 with fifty-six chart toppers.  I obviously love his duet partner and their award winning songs: best friend-soul mate Loretta Lynn.  And--of course, I love that sleeked back awesome head of hair.  I remember riding around in my grandpa's old Lincoln with my parents and listening to Conway on 8-tracks and I've never lost that admiration for him or his impeccable melodies.

Harold Lloyd Jenkins was born in Mississippi in 1933.  There are many accounts as to how he came about his stage name of Conway Twitty.  Probably the most well-known is that Jenkins, while looking over a map, saw the towns of Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas and joined the two together to form the name that is associated with both a career in rock and roll and more famously, country music.  In 1993 Twitty fell ill in Missouri and it was at a hospital there that he died of an aneurysm.

Never one to disappoint, I know you'd miss my list-writing obsession if I didn't do one this week.  So here are my top Conway songs...are you excited? Get ready.

1.) "Tight Fittin' Jeans"
2.) "Hello Darlin'"
3.) "The Grandest Lady of Them All"
4.) "I'd Love to Lay You Down"
5.) "Linda on My Mind"
Honorable mentions: "You've Never Been This Far Before" and "Georgia Keeps Pulling on my Ring."

A vest belonging to Conway on display
 at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop #2
in Nashville.
1.) "Lovin' What Your Lovin' Does to Me"
2.) "Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries"
3.) "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man"
4.) "After the Fire is Gone"
5.) "Can't Love You Enough"
Two more I love but couldn't fit into the 'top five' category: "As Soon as I Hang up the Phone" and "Don't Cry Joni" which was recorded with daughter Joni Lee.

Trivia: How many times does Conway say "Hello Darlin'" in the song by the same name?

I wanted to take time out to mention my new found love for The Band Berry.  Siblings Kimberly, Neil, and Reid Perry are pretty new to the Nashville scene as their self-titled record was just released in October of this year but are already climbing the charts.  Two singles "If I Die Young" and "Hip to My Heart" have came off of it so far.  I'm also currently crushin' on their song "Independence."  Great little band to check out if you love laid back music and country voices.

Also, a special Happy Thanksgiving shout out to Willie Nelson who was arrested this week on charges of marijuana possession after his bus was searched by police in Texas.  You little outlaw...

So, didja figure out the answer to my earlier trivia question? How many times does Conway say "Hello Darlin" in his song....answer?  Just once.  Good luck getting that one out of your head after you go Youtube searching to try to prove me wrong.  Or--did you already take a listen before you got to the end of this to see the answer? Cheaters.

<3 Kellie

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Listen to the Radio

Annoying everyone on the bus with the Spice Girls,
I am sure.

"I smell the Pontchartrain
I hear Silver Wings
then away Merle Haggard flies
That good ole boy will find a Band of Gold on the stereo
Hey, then my Mama's gonna call and say,"Where's she gone?"
He'll say ,"Down the road with the radio on."
-Nanci Griffith
"Listen to the Radio"

It's 12:36 a.m. and I'm up doing a blog that I really have no motivation to write.  I could make a list of all the things that's keeping me busy lately but there's no point of boring everyone with the luv-er-ly details.  I've noticed recently how easily it is to get caught up with the chaos of life that one forgets to slow down and actually live.  Let me rephrase: when is the last time you took a moment to take in a sunset, to sit outside on the porch and read a book, or enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon cruise? 

Lately I've done a little too much worrying and not enough trusting; too much singing and not enough listening.  Sometimes the only thing that gets me through my 9:30 a.m. - 7:15 p.m. school day is the knowledge that once I get to my car I can plug in my iPod and release my frustrations by singing my guts out during the thirty minute ride home. (Side note: you've never experience strange looks until you're sitting at a red light with the windows down as Johnny Cash or Conway Twitty blasts from your car.)  Maybe it's the fact that my brain is slowly succumbing to sleep as I sit and type this, but I'm going to be philosophical for a second.  Even with the wide array of tunes I have, I know the words so well that I don't even soak in the lyrics anymore, I just sing without thinking.  Isn't this kind of how life goes for us most of the time?  We learn our routine and we go through the motions without ever taking time to listen and enjoy the things around us.  Turn the radio up, turn your voices down, listen to the words and you just might pick up on things you never knew existed, even in the songs you know by heart.

I'd never get anything done if I lived in Nashville, I'd be
attending music-related things always.

Maybe none of this makes any sense.
Oh well.
So sue me.
It's two in the morning.

There were so many other things I wanted to write about tonight but I couldn't get inspired enough to even do any of them justice and I try to never just half do something where my writing is concerned.  Finals are rolling around and I'm getting busier and stressed.  However, when I feel that I am having a bad day or getting down on myself I try to make a list of three things (here we go again with my OCD list making) that could be worse than whatever is happening.  Here goes, three things that are worse than finals:
1.) Being forced to listen to Taylor Swift non-stop for an entire day.
2.) A continuous loop of Sugarland's "Stuck Like Glue".
3.) Death.

It's way past bedtime. I think I'll load up some radio on my computer and listen to the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree, the second longest running radio program in history.  It can still be heard every Saturday night on Nashville's very own WSM.  Oh, what a tradition. :)


Sunday, November 14, 2010


From the Courier Journal, Louisville paper:
HullabaLooking Back
(A Good first Year but the Heat Hurt)
"...Kentuckians loved jamming the stage to cheer Loretta Lynn on through the heat and hear some of the finest songs in country music history."
Crowd Estimate of 78,753.

Caroline, Tayla, & Jennifer
The other day I found the Twitter page of the spunky and talented Stealing Angels, a great little up-and-coming country band.  They've been around for a few years and just released their first single "He Better be Dead" in July. I got the opportunity to see them around this time at the Hullabalou festival in Louisville, Kentucky.  The band consists of Jennifer Wayne (granddaughter to John Wayne), Caroline Cutbirth (descendant of Daniel Boone), and Tayla Lynn (granddaughter of Loretta Lynn), quite the heritage. 
This was taken by one of the band members of Stealing Angels from the VIP seats.  When I saw this pic it wowed me because I hadn't realized there were so many people behind me around that stage.

Hottest. day. of. my. life.

 I'm in the front row (left hand corner) behind the camera people, can you find me? :) Click on the pic to make it bigger.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

CMAs Honor Coal Miner's Daughter

Photo Credit Getty Images

"Well, I was born a coal miner's daughter,
In a cabin, on a hill in Butcher Holler,
We were poor, but we had love,
That's the one thing my daddy made sure of,
He shoveled coal to make a poor man's dollar."
-Loretta Lynn
"Coal Miner's Daughter" (1970)

"In 1980 I had the honor of playing Loretta Lynn in "Coal Miner's Daughter," Sissy Spacek said in front of a thunderously applauding crowd at Wednesday night's 44th annual Country Music Awards, "But let's face it, Loretta didn't need any actress to turn her into a great character, she was born one."

Celebrating her fiftieth anniversary in the music industry this year, Lynn has been busy as ever.  She continues to tour across the country to sold-out arenas, was recently commended at an all-star Grammy Salute at Ryman Auditorium, and also held a special event at her ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.  Her 1976 autobiography "Coal Miner's Daughter" has been re released with a special forward in it by Lynn who reflects upon her many years in the business and an audio version of the book also became available this month with Academy Award winner Spacek serving as narrator.  On November 9th a tribute album was released in accolade to the seventy-six-year-old living legend with some of Loretta's songs being performed by artists such as Reba, The White Stripes, Gretchen Wilson and many more.  Lynn, Sheryl Crow, and Miranda Lambert teamed up to cut the title track "Coal Miner's Daughter" and later made a music video to go along with it.

The latest of this long string of festivities occurred at Wednesday night's CMAs.  Spacek was introduced and spoke kind words about the singer and touched upon some of her amazing achievements. "Loretta Lynn defines down home excellence and that's why in 1972 she was the first woman ever named Entertainer of the Year by the CMAs," she proudly expressed before introducing Lambert and Crow to do their rendition of Lynn's signature song.  With photos and video clips of Loretta playing behind her, Lambert began the first couple stanzas before being joined by Crow.  However, it was during the last chorus that undoubtedly one of the best moments of the evening took place.  Lynn emerged from the wing in a sparkling gold princess dress to sing and was greeted by an instant standing ovation.  Never leaving their feet from the time she stepped on stage, the audience at the sold-out Bridgestone Arena gave the Queen of Country Music a well-deserved cheer at the end of the song.

By this point it was time for Sissy and Loretta to announce the winner of the 2010 Female Vocalist of the Year which fittingly went to Miranda Lambert.  After hugging fiance Blake Shelton, Lambert ran up the stairs and straight into the arms of the lady she was just paying tribute to.  "The woman that paved the way for all females ever in country music is standing here beside me and handing me this award. And I'm proud that I can now call her a friend," Lambert stated, the emotion apparent in her voice. "Thank you so much.  Thank you for everything you've done," she said to Lynn whom Lambert hadn't let leave her side, "Thank you, Reba. I'm going to keep going for all the other women in this industry, I promise."

Minutes after Lynn's performance her Facebook page was already filling up with compliments and Twitter was bombarded with comments. Before long the name 'Loretta Lynn' was the fifth most tweeted about topic on the popular site.  With this wonderful lady's charm and talent it's no wonder than Lynn has held strong after fifty years as she's as relatable to today as she was back in 1960 when she first came onto the scene with her single "Honky Tonk Girl." No one is going to stop her from doing anything she sets her mind to.  As a song she wrote on her album "Blue Kentucky Girl" says:
"I've been up to the top of a heartbreak mountain
I've been down in the valley of the blues
 I've been down the road of loneliness and back again
I've been down in the dust of broken mem'ries
And I've been up on the clouds of happiness...
And I've got farther to go than I've been
Yes, I've got farther to go than I've been."

Farther to go than where she's been? We can't even imagine.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two Dollar Hat

Minnie Pearl's famous hat.  Smithsonian Museum,
Washington D.C.
"Year after year. Every week at the Ryman
She had 'em laughin' 'til she had 'em cryin',
Fate had a star; the world had a diamond
In a two dollar hat."
-"Two Dollar Hat"
Pam Tillis
My Mam's house was a treasure trove of all things old and amazing.  She never threw anything away, which I believe is the case for many in the older generation who grew up without much during the Great Depression.  From Avon perfume bottles, newspapers, and costume jewelry all the way to old Opry programs and ticket stubs, she had everything a kid could possibly want to rummage through.  One day, when I was about ten or so, I went digging through some of her books and came across a little thin one entitled "Minnie Pearl's Diary".  Upon opening it I immediately knew it was going to be one of those books I just had to read. Published in the early 1950's, the description of Miss Pearl says "She's in her early flirties--young enough to wink at the fellers; too old to have them wink back."  From the laughs escaping my lips during the first few pages, Mam could tell she wouldn't be getting her book back anytime soon. The dust that was collected between its two covers was decades older than me so she couldn't understand why I'd want to read it. But, as most things went with Mam when it came to me, she let me have the book, no questions asked.  However, she probably snuck in a story about the great Minnie Pearl in there somewhere. Yes, I'm sure of it.

Minnie and Roy Acuff 1980's at the Opry.
Photo by my dad.
Since then I've loved this little lady who brought so much joy and laughter into the homes of millions of radio listeners during her fifty year stint on the Opry.  Sarah Colley was born in the small town of Centerville, Tennessee in 1912.  In college she majored in theater, an interest that eventually led to a job with a production company that toured the United States where she aided in directing plays.  It was during a promotional appearance for this company that she created her character of Minnie Pearl.  She developed several aspects of her persona such as family, home life, and quirks like her accent and plain clothing to go along with it.  In 1940 executives from "The Air Castle of the South" 650 AM-WSM saw her perform and asked her to appear on the Grand Ole Opry.  Little did she know at the time of the long career that would flourish from their offer and the influence that she would have over all that knew or admired her.

Look what I found!

She served as comic relief and opener for the stars who played the stage of the Opry every week.  She'd come out and instantly get the crowd involved by shouting "Howdeee, I'm jes' so proud to be here" with the audiences usually yelling "howdy" back to her.  She told jokes and stories that were built around the town and people of Grinder's Switch, a little one horse place that actually existed right outside Sarah's own Centerville.  She's speak in thick country accent and recollect advice that kin folks would give to her.  "Uncle Nabob don't encourage folks to get married--he says marriage is like gettin' in a hot tub of water--after you get used to it, it ain't so hot."  But despite what "Uncle" said, Minnie was constantly on the chase of nabbing herself a feller and kept everyone in stitches along her journey to not become an old maid.  She became so popular, in fact, that the real Grinder's Switch began getting trampled by fans and tourists to the point that the highway department requested the road sign into the town be changed. 

It's a thousand wonders she didn't drive off
and leave me here.
 I went to Nashville this past summer to stay a few days with my parents god-daughter, LeAnne.  We went to the Loretta Lynn Ranch and on the way back we saw that traffic was back up for miles on the interstate.  We decided to get off at an exit and hit the detour button on her GPS.  That GPS took us down one country road after another and sometimes back again.  It had us going down pathways that weren't even paved and we even ran into a nice looking black snake that I'm positive had a better sense of direction than we did at that moment.  We ended up finally locating a good solid road that was named The Minnie Pearl Memorial Highway.  We joked of how it was in the middle of no where and about why in the world they would pick there of all places to dedicate to her.  By the time I saw a sign that read 'Centerville-5 Miles' I knew right where I was and that the ones who had named the road had known exactly what they were doing.  "We're getting close to Minnie's hometown!" I squealed so loud it probably made LeAnne want to hurl me from the car straight into the 100 degree heat.  Grinder's Switch isn't anything more than Minnie spoke of but I sure was thrilled to have gotten lost and ended up there.

Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon suffered a stroke in 1991 which put an end to her career in Nashville.  She died in 1996 at the age of eighty-three but continues to live on in the hearts of everyone who hears her stories, sweet voice, and familiar "Howdy!"  Before being honored at the Opry for her fiftieth anniversary there she told an interviewer, "Somewhere along the line I got hooked on laughter.  The sound of people laughing, is to me now, the very nicest thing of all."  She certainly knew how to keep folks rolling in laughter with a pure, clean jokes, a quality that comedy writers should step up and take notice of today. :)

<3 Kellie