Disc Jockey Unites Pam Tillis and Ralph Stanley in Song

It isn’t often that a disc jockey gets to perform the A&R (artist and repertoire) function of finding a song for an artist to record. But Eddie Stubbs just has — and it all came together with record-setting speed.

Stubbs is the personable and scholarly air personality on Nashville’s fabled WSM-AM (650), the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Wednesday night
(March 21), he hosted a five-hour, live music-and-interview show with bluegrass music pioneer Ralph Stanley . One of the songs Stubbs picked to play and discuss on the show was “Will You Miss Me,” an A P. Carter standard which Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys recorded in 1971 with 16-year-old Keith Whitley singing bass.

That same night, Pam Tillis was on a radio promotion tour in Little Rock, Ark., for her Thunder & Roses album and listening to Stubbs’ program in her car. She was already scheduled to record a duet with Stanley on Friday (March 23) for his Clinch Mountain Sweethearts collection and had been mulling over several prospective tunes that Stanley’s producer, Bil VornDick, had provided her. None of them, however, hit her as hard as the mournful “Will You Miss Me.” She decided on the spot that it was the song she wanted to do.

Conferring with Stanley and his band in a Nashville studio Friday, Tillis quickly worked out an arrangement, and the duet was put on tape within three hours. On Friday night, Stanley and Tillis debuted their version of the newly recorded tune on the Grand Ole Opry.

With the recording of “Will You Miss Me,” Stanley has completed Clinch
Mountain Sweethearts. His other duet partners on the project include Joan Baez, Iris DeMent, Chely Wright, Jeannie Seely, Maria Muldaur, Gillian Welch, Dolly Parton, Gail Davies, Sara Evans, Valerie Smith, Lucinda Williams and Melba Montgomery. The album will be released in late spring or early summer.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.