I’ve always loved it when rhythm and blues stars record country music albums because country and blues music are kissing cousins.
If you have never heard James Brown singing Tennessee Waltz or Tina Turner singing Stand By Your Man, you are really missing something. You can Google those easily.
One of my favorite such albums is Get On Down With Bobby Bland released in 1975 by R&B legend Bobby “Blue” Bland, who died Sunday, June 23, in Memphis, Tenn., at age 83.
The ABC Records album included incredibly great Bland covers of such classics as Charlie Rich’s I Take It On Home, Merle Haggard’s Today I Started Loving You Again, Conway Twitty’s You’ve Never Been This Far Before, Ronnie Milsap’s I Hate You and Johnny Paycheck’s Someone To Give My Love To.
Bland was a great singer who left behind some great recordings.
He once told interviewer Jacquie Maddix for the Web site mnblues.com: “I tell you what … blues and country and western tell the most serious stories. … I listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford. I listen to Roy Acuff. I listen to Eddy Arnold.
“A lot of people didn’t understand country and western because they thought it was white people music or whatever. But now, they have the best stories that you ever want to listen to. And that’s all I could get (on the radio) living out in the country was country and western and spirituals.”
SLIM WHITMAN’S SON: The death of Slim Whitman at the age of 90 on June 19 in Orange Park, Fla., brought back memories of seeing his son, Byron Whitman, at several Country Music International Fan Fairs in Nashville in the 1990s.
Byron Whitman, who also has a great singing voice and was part of his father’s touring show, produced his father’s last studio album, Twilight on the Trail, released in 2012.
Byron, unfortunately, never caught on with record-buying fans in a big way. That seems to be the curse of children or siblings of major stars, as evidenced by the lukewarm careers of other talented singers, such as Stella Parton (sister of Dolly Parton); Ronnie Robbins (son of Marty Robbins); James Monroe (son of Bill Monroe); Justin Tubb (son of Ernest Tubb); Jimmy Snow (son of Hank Snow); and Michael Twitty (son of Conway Twitty).
There have been exceptions, such as Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny Cash); Carlene Carter (daughter of June Carter and Carl Smith); Crystal Gayle (sister of Loretta Lynn); Lynn Anderson (daughter of Liz Anderson); and Pam Tillis (daughter of Mel Tillis).
Slim Whitman, a native of Tampa, Fla., had an amazing career, recording more than 500 songs and selling more than 70 million albums.
He was one of the first American country artists to become huge in Europe and directly influenced Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney. Michael Jackson listed Whitman as one of his 10 favorite artists.
Whitman served aboard the Navy troop transport ship USS Chilton in the South Pacific during World War II, and he was known for his clean shows and humble nature.
He and his wife, Alma, who died in 2009, were married for 67 years. Besides their son, Byron, they also had a daughter, Sharon Beagle.
Whitman’s recording Love Song of the Waterfall was used for the soundtrack of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and director Tim Burton’s 1996 space spoof Mars Attacks! used Whitman’s Indian Love Call yodel recording to save Earth by making the heads of invading aliens explode.
KEN BURNS AND COUNTRY MUSIC: The good news is that documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan are devoting their talents to a PBS multi-episode series chronicling the history of country music.
The bad news is that it apparently will not be ready for viewing until 2018.
Burns and Duncan have been the creative forces directing, producing and writing such award-winning PBS documentaries as The Civil War, Lewis & Clark, Baseball, Jazz, The War, The National Parks, The West, The Dust Bowl and others.
“We’ve done films about uniquely American ideas and things that help tell us who we are as Americans – baseball and national parks and jazz, and essential American icons like Mark Twain and Lewis & Clark,” Duncan told The Tennessean daily in Nashville.
“Country music really combines both of those things. It’s uniquely American,” he said. “It’s an American art form that helps you understand what America is.”
Among those already interviewed for the series have been Grand Ole Opry senior member Little Jimmy Dickens and producer/musician Harold Bradley.