HOT TALK: Another Tour, More Books, Thanksgiving and Lost Stars

(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)

More Mountain Music Coming Down?
Immortal Entertainment, creator of the successful Down From the Mountain tour series, is looking to launch a similar multiple-artist round of concerts next year. A source at the Santa Monica, Calif., company confirmed to Hot Talk that Immortal is “trying to” organize a follow-up event but declined to give additional details. Among those who have been broached about joining the tour if it does materialize are Ricky Skaggs and fellow bluegrass great Larry Sparks.

More Books From the Country Crowd
Songwriters-turned-authors Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers have another book coming out in March. It’s called Climb! The folks at Rutledge Hill Press describe it to Hot Talk as “inspirational and motivational” and “a book of optimism.” Sanders, himself, has a different take. “It’s Tia’s philosophy, edited through my pessimism,” he cracks. “I keep her from bubbling over too much.” Unlike Sanders and Sillers’ first book, I Hope You Dance, which came packaged with a CD of the Lee Ann Womack hit of that name, the 144-page Climb! contains no musical component. By the way, the I Hope You Dance package has been certified platinum, meaning a million copies have been shipped to record stores, bookstores and gift shops.

In January, Rutledge Hill will release Remembering Patsy, a book of Patsy Cline photos and a companion piece to the still-unscheduled MCA tribute album. The book, annotated by Brian Mansfield, has a CD of jazz vocalist Diana Krall singing the Cline classic “Crazy.” Also coming in March from the same publisher will be Jug Fishing for Greazy and Other Brad Paisley Fishing Stories, a book and enhanced CD by Paisley and writer M. B. Roberts. The CD will contain both Paisley’s hit single, “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” and its CMA award-winning music video.

In Case You’re in the Neighborhood
Thanksgiving is beckoning many country stars back home, thereby enabling them to revisit the annoyances that drove them to Nashville in the first place. Steve and Caryn Wariner and sons Ryan and Ross will spend the holiday with Caryn’s mother and other relatives in Columbia, S.C. Trace Adkins may or may not be performing on an aircraft carrier that day. He’ll be in Southeast Asia on a USO tour throughout this period, but security concerns have kept his exact itinerary secret. You can find Steve Holy chowing down at his mom’s house in Dallas. “During the meal,” he says, “we will take turns to share what we are thankful for about the person who happens to be sitting next to us at the table. We’re not a very ‘sappy’ family, so this tradition is usually more comical than complimentary.”

Brad Martin will visit his Greenfield, Ohio, home for his first time since last Christmas. “Grandpa Earl will tell us tall tales of his hunting and fishing trips,” Martin speculates, “and we’ll watch football and banter back and forth about how the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes will kick some butt in the National Championship game — if they make it. The next morning, I’ll be on the road bright and early back to Nashville to catch a bus by midnight for a show in Texas.” Newcomer Rodney Redman and wife, Karie, will be at his parents’ home in Phoenix. “Every Thanksgiving, my mom, Karie and my sister-in-law Tami put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house. My dad, my brother Scott and I watch football games and play guitars. This is also the day we watch Christmas Vacation for the first time.” Eric Heatherly will be celebrate the fact that it’s his daughter Christiana’s first Thanksgiving.

Hey, That’s My Kid!

Chalee Tennison is excited about the newest addition to her forthcoming DreamWorks album. Her 16-year-old daughter, Tiffany, sings background on the cut “Easy Loving You.” Although she had no hand in writing the song, Tennison thinks Amber Leigh White and Phillip White must have read her mind when they wrote it. “I always wanted to write a song to let my oldest little girl know how important she is,” Tennison says, “and how I know that it was a struggle growing up together. Sometimes that instance — a young mother with a baby — makes it hard for both.” Tennison was still in high school when Tiffany was born. DreamWorks Records chief James Stroud is producing the album. Titled Parading in the Rain, it is slotted for release next summer.

Thanks for Asking: Bonamy In Texas; Cyrus, Raye, Davidson in Transit

Exhibiting a level of tenacity the Department of Homeland Security might envy, Hot Talk tracked down several off-the-screen artists you readers have asked about.

We located the ever-amiable James Bonamy at his home in Cypress, Texas, where he works for a communications company. The former Epic Records artist no longer performs professionally but does sing regularly at his church. He moved to Texas three years ago. Bonamy and his wife, Amy Jane, have two children, Daniel, 5, and Paul, who’s almost 4. A third child is on the way, he reveals. He says he left Nashville after a series of frustrating publishing and management problems. At one point, he admits, he had to take a night job at Wal-Mart to make ends meet. “I still pick my guitar and write songs,” he reports. Would he ever return to the country music wars? “If that’s the way the Lord leads me.” Among Bonamy’s singles and music videos were “Dog on a Toolbox,” “I Don’t Think I Will,” “All I Do Is Love Her,” “The Swing” and “Naked to the Pain.”

A publicist for Sony’s Monument Records asserts that Billy Ray Cyrus is off the label, but Cyrus’ manager says that Monument will release the artist-actors’ album, Time Flies, in December. So is he on or off? “That remains to be seen,” says the manager. (Such a compromise would not be a first for Sony, which released an album on Danni Leigh after dropping her.) Collin Raye has another record deal “in the works,” according to his management office, and is still touring. Clay Davidson , who raised many hopes at Virgin Records before that label was shut down, is reportedly singing demos again.

I Sought the Law
Could any place be more hostile to human lungs than this, I asked myself, as I stepped out of the fresh night air and into that cube of congealed cigarette smoke known as the Hall of Fame Lounge. Maybe an asbestos mine in South Africa? Or perhaps the powder room at a Mary Kay convention? Naah! Couldn’t be. As my stinging eyes adjusted to the clouded contours of the old Music Row hangout, I saw cadaverous figures clinging to the bar like C-clamps, still hoping to palm off tabs they’d started during the Urban Cowboy craze. Gargantuan, half-exposed bosoms skittered in and out of the malignant fog on impossibly high heels, like pilot boats bobbing in a storm. A chap who fancied we knew each other wobbled up to tell me how glad he was to see me — at regular five-minute intervals. What the hell was I doing here?

Well, it all started a week earlier when a publicist invited me to a show being held at the Lounge to benefit the Mack Vickery Legal Fund. Hardcore country fans will recall Vickery as the co-writer of such durable ditties as “The Fireman,” “Jones on the Jukebox,” “The Jamestown Ferry” and “I’m the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised).” Always a sucker for a good cause (and a pushover for a bad one), I asked the publicist just what Vickery’s legal problem might be. That she didn’t know, she confessed. She did, however, provide me the honoree’s phone numbers in case I wanted to pose this impolite query to him directly. Although I spoke to various rusty voices at those numbers over a period of several days, I was never able to connect with Mr. Vickery. So his supposed legal offenses remain a mystery to me.

I might have sidestepped the Nov. 18 event altogether had not a friend called, just as the benefit was getting underway, to say that John Anderson was about to lend his radiant voice to the evening. Thus inspired, I rushed to the Lounge and forked over $20 to the ticket-seller, who, like everyone else involved, swore she knew nothing about Vickery’s alleged transgressions. Several other artists, including Joe Stampley and Michael Peterson, preceded Anderson, each vowing his devotion to the plagued composer. Between acts, supporters held up and auctioned off musical artifacts that were barely visible through the haze.

When Anderson finally went onstage for his two-song set, Vickery joined him, blasting away on the harmonica and singing along heartily. Anderson told the crowd that someone had asked him what the benefit was for and that he had replied, “I don’t know, but when a friend calls, you come.” The ad hoc duo opened with Anderson’s 1984 hit, “Let Somebody Else Drive” (a Vickery/Merle Kilgore co-write) and closed with “Swingin’.” Later on, Tanya Tucker came by to do her part. If this hard-living, all-for-one festival wasn’t country music’s finest hour, it was certainly its most authentic.

Nearly overcome with emotion by these stout displays of loyalty, I walked outside, gazed up at the eternal stars and realized with absolute clarity that I would never be able to wear these clothes again.

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