HOT TALK: Fans Rock On and Mandolin Goes to Court

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

Bluegrass Legend Will Remain on Opry
Jesse McReynolds, surviving member of the famed bluegrass brother duo, Jim & Jesse, will continue to tour and play the Grand Ole Opry. Jim McReynolds died Dec. 31 following a long struggle with cancer. “Right now, I plan on doing what I have been,” McReynolds tells Hot Talk. “We’ve got some road dates coming up that we’ve got to do.” He says he will perform with his grandson, Luke McKnight, and Jim & Jesse’s longtime band, the Virginia Boys. A new Jim & Jesse album is due out early his year. “Ironically,” McReynolds notes, “it’s called ‘Tis Sweet to Be Remembered.” The brothers last Opry performance together was on Nov. 23.

Hot Talk Back Talk
Music Row is just beginning to shake off its holiday torpor, but you Hot Talk readers keep right on rockin’. Questions, suggestions and observations are pouring in — and I couldn’t be happier. So while we wait for the industry to kick back into gear, I’ll spotlight some of your letters.

First off, in spite of several requests to do so, I can’t tell you how to become a songwriter or recording star. I’m neither. However, I can say that there’s nothing like moving to Nashville to see for yourself how the game is played. As the old hymn goes, “Nobody else can walk it for you.” Now, the Counseling Office is closed.

Commenting on the Academy of Country Music’s decision to do its upcoming awards show in Las Vegas, Dave of Forked River, N.J., says, “Let’s all hope that Toby [Keith] doesn’t get overlooked and screwed like he did at the [Country Music Association awards show]. We love Alan [Jackson] very much, and he is great. But he is no entertainer of the year — not compared to Toby, anyway: commercials, great videos, sticking to his country roots when others have gone pop and [being] just an all-around great guy. And they stick it to him.”

Concerning the donation of Delmore Brothers artifacts to the Country Music Hall of Fame and John Anderson ’s performance of Delmore songs, Bryan of Oklahoma City, writes, “The worst John could do would be great! They should play more John Anderson on the radio.” Debby Delmore, Alton Delmore’s daughter and songwriter Lionel Delmore’s sister, advises us that she has started a Web site to honor the influential duo. You can check it out at

Legions of Kenny Chesney enthusiasts have congratulated me for finally waking up to their idol’s musical charm. Says Chris, “His music and image have come so far since “Whatever It Takes” [his first charted single] that I can’t help but be impressed.” Trina, who lives in Los Angeles but would rather be in Nashville, exclaims, “I adore Kenny Chesney and think he has one of the smoothest voices around. He has a presence that not a lot of people have.” Crystal, from Des Moines, agrees: “Everyone loves watching KC on videos and in concerts because there is something about his baby-blue eyes and slow sexy smile that makes us want more.”

Darline, from Newport News, Va., says of Chesney, “His music always makes me feel good. It picks me up when I’m down or calms me if I’m upset. No, I am not one of the many new, young fans that like Kenny because they think he’s ‘hot.’ I like his music as much as I like the person.” Janet asserts, “I have adored his music since 1995 and ‘Fall In Love.’ … His music and his voice possess an honesty not too often heard.” Linda, a Randy Travis fan wonders “if Kenny’s Everywhere We Go album didn’t somewhat take off because of the Randy/Kenny duet, ‘Baptism,’ on the disc.”

“Sweetthang,” who attended Chesney’s New Year Eve show, effuses, “Kenny is hot on TV and in pictures, but that guy is sooooooo gorgeous in person. It was one hell of a performance.”

Nancy, from Long Island, agrees that Chesney is “very talented.” But she is more inclined to beat the drums for Steve Holy. “When I bought his 2000 album, Blue Moon,” she says, “I was so impressed with his vocal talent that I immediately joined his fan club. I’m 49, and that’s the first fan club I’ve ever been in.” She says she’s heard live performances of several songs that will be on Holy’s forthcoming album and predicts it will be even better than his first.

A “bored fan” wants to know, “What happened to artists having personalities? … It feels like these new artists are afraid to exhibit who they really are. If they stray too far from a formula, then they’ll get the boot. That’s sad, because I feel we — the fans — are truly missing out.”

Several readers were distressed because I said that Loretta Lynn , Tammy Wynette and Dolly Parton tended to act “hicker than thou” when meeting the public. Don labels the
observation “unfair” and “asinine” and calls into question my credentials and those of “all other of today’s writers, who grew up in the city and think they can write about country music.” Well, I can’t speak for my fellow scribes, Don, but when I was growing up, I considered Butcher Hollow uptown.

While My Mandolin Gently Weeps
The spat continues over who owns the late Bill Monroe ’s legendary Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar mandolin. On Dec. 17, Monroe’s son, James, filed suit in Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville to regain title to the instrument from the Bill Monroe/Bluegrass Music Foundation of Kentucky. The suit says that the not-for-profit foundation — which seeks to make the mandolin the centerpiece of a yet-to-be-built museum in Bill Monroe’s native Rosine, Ky., — has failed to make the full agreed-upon payment for the F-5 and, thus, cannot assert a claim of ownership.

On April 25, 2001, the foundation made a down payment of $112,500 against the mandolin’s price of $1,125,000 and agreed to make the rest of the payment within a year. Until the payoff was made, the mandolin was to remain in a bank vault in Hendersonville, Tenn. So far, the foundation has paid a total of $162,000, the suit says. However, the foundation argues that it got legal title to the mandolin when it made the down payment and that Monroe cannot sell it to anyone else.

Stay tuned.

A List That Will Live in Infamy
It grieves me to report that not one of the Top 10 most-played songs in America last year — that’s 2002, folks — was a country record. A summary just issued by Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, which monitors more than 1,000 radio stations and all major video music channels, says that the top-played tune was Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me,” followed in descending order by Puddle of Mudd’s “Blurry”; Linkin Park’s “In the End”; Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle”; the Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go”; Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”; Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”; Ashanti’s “Foolish”; Nelly’s “Dilemma” (featuring Kelly Rowland); and Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” The total number of “spins” ranged from 312,411 for “Hot in Herre” to 4,265,07 for “How You Remind Me.” Maybe Toby and Alan should demand a recount.

My eyes, ears and lines are open. E-mail your news and views to

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