HOT TALK: Safeguarding Garth, Giggling With Gill

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

The Thunder Rolls — Moderately — Over Kimes-Brooks Single
Capitol Records and Garth Brooks ’ managers were none too pleased when Royal Wade Kimes’ label released a single of his duet with Brooks, “Night Birds,” just as Capitol was unveiling Brooks’ own single, “Why Ain’t I Running.” (See 2/21/03 Hot Talk). Asked about the clash, Capitol offered a terse, “No comment.” Kelly Brooks, Garth’s brother and co-manager, admits to a bit of annoyance over the matter. “It was not really anything big. We just weren’t made aware that the guy was going to put it out. … It was a surprise. We just kind of inquired what was going on. … Without anyone talking to us, we saw [news of the Kimes single] in the morning [music business] faxes. It was like, ‘Man, at least you could have called.’ But there’s no problem.” Anne Weaver, who’s been promoting the single to radio, says, “No one’s told me to back off. I’m still working it.”

Running Wild: Louvin Brothers Tribute Coming Up
Universal South Records has given the go-ahead for a tribute album to 2001 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees, the Louvin Brothers. Details are scarce, but ace songwriter Carl Jackson (“I’m Not Over You,” “No Future in the Past”) is producing it, and Vince Gill and Patty Loveless are among the acts tagged to appear on the record. No word yet on whether Emmylou Harris, a long-time champion of the Louvins, will also be involved. Charlie Louvin , the younger half of the duo, continues to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. Ira Louvin was killed in a car accident in 1965. Modeling their sound on the Blue Sky Boys and the Delmore Brothers , the Louvins became a major singing and songwriting force from the mid-1950s until the early ‘60s. Their hits included “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” “When I Stop Dreaming,” “You’re Running Wild,” “Cash on the Barrel Head” and “My Baby’s Gone.”

Giggling With Gill

Leave it to Vince Gill to add some life-giving lightheartedness to the solemnity of country music ceremonies. (It’s that very quality, of course, that makes him the ideal host of the occasionally tedious CMA Awards shows.) Last week, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum called on Gill to open “Six String Sculpture,” a display of six historically important guitars at SunTrust Bank’s office on Music Row. As bank officers and museum officials busied themselves with last minute details before the unveiling, Gill leaned against a pillar grinning like a kid waiting for recess. “I just came by to get some money out of the fast cash,” he said when Hall of Fame director Kyle Young introduced him. As the ceremony moved on, Gill peeked behind the black curtain still shrouding the exhibit and gasped, “One of them is missing!” After the priceless guitars were finally unveiled, Gill put his face to the glass enclosure, pointed and asked, “What do you want for that one?”

Gill wasn’t entirely whimsical. “I have an extensive guitar collection of my own,” he told the small crowd of music industry guests and media. “I’ve found that those rare instruments are pretty good investments, not only for your soul but for where the great music has been.” A frequent guest vocalist on other people’s records, Gill told Hot Talk he had recently sung on albums for Terri Clark , Leslie Satcher, Sara Evans and his long-time fiddle player, Andrea Zonn. Oh, yes, about the guitars. Stunning instruments all, they are: radio and recording artist Bill Boyd’s 1932 Martin 00-42; steel guitarist and dobroist Shot Jackson’s 1974 Sho-Bud “Sho Bro”; Juice Newton’s specially-designed Washburn Monterey Artist (circa 1984), with inlaid mother of pearl initials; movie star Jimmy Wakely’s 1941 Gibson SJ-200; Johnny Western’s 1953 Gibson J-200 (he wrote the theme for the Have Gun, Will Travel TV series; and Lulu Belle Wiseman’s 1945 Martin D-28 (she was the prettier half of the famous National Barn Dance radio duo, Lulu Bell & Scotty).

Wall-to-Wall Willie
Wake the town and tell the people! Columbia Records will hit the streets on April 1 with The Essential Willie Nelson, a two-disc, 41-song package that includes not only Nelson ’s highest-charting hits from Columbia but also his first ever single (“Night Life” on the Bellaire label) and gems from his early days with Atlantic and Monument. There are duets with Waylon Jennings , Ray Charles , Leon Russell, Ray Price , Julio Iglesias, Merle Haggard , Emmylou Harris and Lee Ann Womack and a previously unreleased team effort with Steven Tyler and Aerosmith.

Mel Street Tapped for Birthplace Hall of Fame
Mel Street will be inducted into the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance’s Hall of Fame May 15. The Alliance is located in the Tennessee and Virginia border town of Bristol, where, in 1927, country music pioneers Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family made their first recordings. A native of Grundy, Va., Street gained national recognition in 1972 when his self-penned “Borrowed Angel” became a Top 10 country hit. His strong and emotionally urgent vocals led some critics to rank him with such master stylists as George Jones and Lefty Frizzell . Over the next six years, Street charted 18 more singles, among them “Lovin’ on Back Streets” and “I Met a Friend of Yours Today.” He killed himself Oct. 21, 1978, on his 43rd birthday.

On April 12, Dennis Schuler Sr. and Larry J. Delp will sign copies of their biography, Mel Street: A Country Legend — Gone but Not Forgotten at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville from 1 to 4 p.m.

Books for the Intractably Country
Don Cusic, a music business prof at Nashville’s Belmont University, has two books of country interest due out this year: The Cowboy Way: The Amazing Adventures of Riders in the Sky (University of Kentucky Press) and Baseball and Country Music (University of Wisconsin). A prolific author, Cusic’s other music titles include Hank Williams: The Complete Lyrics and Eddy Arnold: I’ll Hold You in My Heart.

If you’re the marryin’ kind and want to do things the right way, which is, of course, the country way, then you’d better check out the new songbook from Warner Bros. Publications. It’s modestly titled Ultimate Wedding Showstoppers and brimming with country selections. Let’s see, there’s “Amazed,” “Amen Kind of Love,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “Could I Have This Dance,” “My Everything,” “Keeper of the Stars,” “Your Love Amazes Me” and on and on. Not included is “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” which, in my book, is really the ultimate showstopper.

My e-mail’s open all night, but my mind closes early. Catch me if you can at

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