HOT TALK: Label Sticks and Anderson Salutes

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

Lucks Says VFR Records Still Open
It’s easier to get Shania Twain ’s home phone number than it is to reach a live voice at VFR Records these days. But I finally got through to Paul Lucks, the label’s managing director of operations. He says rumors that VFR is out of business — or going out — are premature. Lucks lists Mark McGuinn and Corbi as VFR’s current acts and says he hopes to have a new McGuinn album out either in the first or second quarter of 2003.

Tight Faces at New Faces
Few performances in an artist’s career are as nerve-wracking as playing the New Faces show at the annual Country Radio Seminar. After all, your audience is made up of the very people who decide if your record gets played. Before they announced to the media the performers selected for the upcoming New Faces event, Andy Griggs and Trick Pony ’s Heidi Newfield recalled how nail-biting their own appearances on the show had been. “As I’m walking up on stage,” Griggs said with a wince, “I break a guitar string.” Newfield remembered the jittery sendoff Trick Pony got from Warner Bros. Records president Jim Ed Norman just before the band went on. “As if we weren’t nervous enough already, he said, ‘This is the most important show you’re ever going to do.’” Obviously, Griggs and Trick Pony survived the ordeal. Steve Azar , Tammy Cochran , Kellie Coffey, Emerson Drive and Joe Nichols are the next New Faces.

Trafficking Barbara’s Trinkets
Having disposed of her cavernous log mansion, Barbara Mandrell continues to jettison her hard-won glitter. And if you hurry, you might avail yourself of a bauble or two. Today (Dec. 23) is the last day of an estate sale that includes Mandrell’s diamond-encrusted watch and two diamond rings. The watch carries a price tag of $8,000, while the rings are tagged at around $3,500 each. For details, contact Berenice Denton Estate Sales in Nashville.

Hal Ketchum Signs To Pathfinder
Hal Ketchum has signed as his new manager Jim Della Croce of Pathfinder Management. The Grand Ole Opry star will have a new self-produced album out on Curb Records in March. He continues to be booked by the Bobby Roberts Company.

Shaping Up With Cledus T.
Cledus T. Judd confides that he maintains his health and trim figure with a rigorous exercise program. “I’ve got where I’m actually running now,” he tells Hot Talk. “I’m running to the car, and then I drive to the mailbox.”

Oh, Now You Get It?
Forty years later, The New Yorker finally got the joke. A cartoon by William Hamilton in this week’s issue of the magazine shows a crowd of ritzy folks at a Christmas party. A lady whispers in her companion’s ear: “I’ve enjoyed about as much of this as I can stand.” That’s funny. But it was funnier in 1962 when Porter Wagoner hit the country charts with Bill Anderson ’s “I’ve Enjoyed As Much of This As I Can Stand.” Maybe a few years hence we’ll see another cartoon built around Wayne Kemp and Warren Robb’s pricelessly provocative title, “Your Wife Is Cheatin’ On Us Again.”

Anderson, Louvin Celebrate The Delmore Brothers
John Anderson ventured into the Country Music Hall of Fame last week to celebrate the museum’s acquistion of Delmore Brothers artifacts. Alton and Rabon Delmore, whose fluid vocal harmonies echoed in such subsequent sibling acts as the Louvin and Everly brothers, were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Alton Delmore’s four surviving daughters donated guitars, the typewriter on which their father typed his autobiography, publicity photos, sheet music and songbooks, a music stand and other items.

Anderson told the audience gathered for the presentation ceremony that an “old man named Roy” introduced him to the Delmore Brothers ’ music when he was a 17-year-old kid in Florida. The old man reminisced about seeing the Delmores, Anderson said, and taught him some of their songs. After Anderson moved to Nashville and met Alton’s son, Lionel, he said he discovered that “old Roy only knew parts of the Delmore Brothers’ songs — he made up the rest.”

Anderson and Lionel became frequent co-writers, penning such hits as “Bend It Till It Breaks,” “Girl at the End of the Bar” and the megahit “Swingin’.” Lionel died earlier this year. With three members of his band backing him, Anderson performed the Delmores’ “Blues Stay Away From Me,” “Big River Blues” and “The Trail of Time.”

Hall of Fame member Charlie Louvin said that he and his late brother and singing partner, Ira, met the Delmores at a show they were both playing in Arkansas. “Rabon needed a drink and my brother needed a drink,” Louvin recounted, “and Arkansas was dry. So they had to drive across the river to Memphis. Alton and I almost had to do the show by ourselves.” Lamenting the changes in country music since those simpler times, Louvin cracked, “Today, you need to be young and pretty and don’t mind getting naked to be on TV.”

The Delmore artifacts will go on display next spring.

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