HOT TALK: Saluting Reba, Persuading Rascal Flatts

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

Rah! Rah! for Reba
Reba McEntire will be presented a career achievement award June 26 at the Country Disc Jockey Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The event will be held at the Hilton Suites in downtown Nashville. Last year’s honoree was Sonny James. Disc jockeys scheduled to be inducted this year are Bob Cole, Duke Hamilton, W. Steven Martin, Dan McKinnon and the late Dick Haynes.

“These Days” a Last-Minute Choice for Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts lead singer Gary LeVox says “These Days,” the group’s first No. 1 single from their sophomore album, Melt, almost didn’t happen. “You talk about the 11th hour, this one came in at about the 15th hour,” he explained to the crowd at a recent BMI party for the song’s writers, Jeffrey Steele, Danny Wells and Steve Robson. LeVox said Rascal Flatts had completed recording Melt when their co-producers, Mark Bright and Marty Williams “called us and said, ‘You’ve got to listen to this song.’ We actually dropped a song we wrote [to make room for ‘These Days.’] So thanks Jeffrey, Danny and Steve for that.”

Beating the Drum for Blake Shelton
Sandra Lee, music director of radio station WWFG in Salisbury/Ocean City, Md., wants it made clear that not all those attending the Country Radio Seminar in 2001 were rude to Blake Shelton when he showcased for them at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. In last week’s column, I pointed out the noticeable switch in radio’s attitude toward Shelton after he became famous. “I watched and listened in awe as Blake sang ‘Austin,’” Sandra recalls. “As I sat there listening to this man pour his soul into the song, tears sprang to my eyes and began running down my cheeks. … I knew then and there Blake Shelton would make an impact on country music. … He is truly a remarkable artist and an all-around great guy. Country music needs more like him.” And like you, Sandra.

Top Country Songwriter Says “No” to War
When it comes to matters military, country music inclines to be hawkish. The latest example of this tendency is Darryl Worley ’s fast-rising war chant, ‘Have You Forgotten?,” which chides those who oppose America invading Iraq. One Music Row figure who does stand in opposition to the impending war is singer-songwriter Marcus Hummon . He’s best-known for co-writing such chart monsters as “Cowboy Take Me Away” and “Ready to Run” for the Dixie Chicks , “Born to Fly” for Sara Evans and “One of These Days” for Tim McGraw . Hummon recently performed at a rain-drenched anti-war rally held in front of Nashville’s War Memorial Building. “It’s a good night to speak out,” he said, as he launched into Bob Dylan’s Vietnam-era anthem, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and invited the crowd of 500 or so to sing along. “You want to know how to stop Saddam Hussein?” he asked. “Send food to the children of Palestine.” He followed this assertion with his own rousing proclamation, “Stand Up (Song For Jesus).” Russ Taff of the Gaither Vocal Band joined Hummon for the finale, “Back Into the Grace.”

Statlers’ Jimmy Fortune Signs to Koch Audium
Jimmy Fortune, the former tenor for the Statler Brothers , has signed to Koch Audium Records as a solo act. Fortune had already recorded an album before he joined the label, with his manager, Marshall Grant, doubling as producer. Grant tells Hot Talk that the first single from the still-to-be-titled album will be out in June, while the album is slated to be in stores in July. Fortune, who is touring both by himself and with the Oak Ridge Boys , wrote some of the Statlers’ biggest hits, including “Elizabeth,” “My Only Love” and “Too Much on My Heart.”

In related news: the Kentucky HeadHunters have just finished recording their second album for Koch Audium with title and release date still pending. Also coming from the label are re-issues from the Tractors (Farmers in a Changing World), Orville Couch (Honky-Tonk Man), Ray Price (double album), Mickey Gilley (double album), Joe Stampley and two albums, including a greatest hits collection, from Moe Bandy .

Since You Asked: Sweethearts Flirting With a Comeback
“They’re talking about doing another record together,” Monty Hitchcock tells Hot Talk when I called to pass on a reader’s question about what’s happened to Sweethearts of the Rodeo . “Those last two records they did — the acoustic records [for Sugar Hill] which were getting more back to their roots — were beautiful records, extraordinary records. Now they’re talking about doing a little bit more of a blend, using a lot of acoustic instruments and blending it in with some of the other music they did [for Columbia Records] in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with the electric stuff.” Hitchcock was the Sweethearts’ manager while they were still active and appears to be fulfilling that function again. “They’ve actually gathered up a group of songs that they’re excited about and have begun talking [about reuniting],” he beams. Sisters Kristine Arnold and Janis Gill debuted on the country charts in 1986 with “Hey Doll Baby.” Over the next five years, they earned a string of Top 5 and Top 10 credits that included “Since I Found You,” “Midnight Girl/Sunset Town,” “Chains of Gold” and “Satisfy You.” Their last album was Beautiful Lies in 1996.

Browns Reunite for Casino Dates
The Browns — whose ballad “The Three Bells” crowned the country and pop charts in 1959 and then became a keystone in numerous “greatest hits” compilations — will reunite for a series of casino dates this spring. The first two will be April 4-5 at the Spirit Lake Casino and Resort in St. Michael, N.D. Made up of sisters Maxine and Bonnie and brother Jim Ed, the Browns was a major country act from 1955 until 1967, scoring with such memorables as “Here Today and Gone Tomorrow,” “I Take the Chance” and “Scarlet Ribbons.” Maxine Brown’s memoir of the group’s career, Looking Back to See, will be published Aug. 4.

Hanging Loose With the Well Hungarians
A reader from St. Louis writes to say that the grandly named Well Hungarians I joked about in last week’s Hot Talk are no laughing matter. “They are the top band here,” Steve Howard reports. Nashvillians can put that judgment to the test March 18 when the six-man band guests on Billy Block’s Western Beat at the Exit/In.

Tell me what I’ve done to deserve you. I’m reachable, teachable but unimpeachable at

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