HOT TALK: Trace Goes Hollywood, Bellamys Sue

And Some Voices From the Past Year

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

Trace Adkins Back on Hollywood Squares
Trace Adkins will tape a week’s worth of Hollywood Squares shows on Jan. 11. The episodes will air April 4-9. This is Adkins’ second time to do the game show series.

Bluegrass Legions Invade Nashville Feb. 5-8
Banjo alert! The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) will hold its mammoth annual get-together Feb. 5-8 at the Sheraton Music City in Nashville. As usual, the event, which attracts thousands of pickers and fans, will feature band contests, showcases and an awards show. Acts scheduled to perform include IIIrd Tyme Out, Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, Ronnie Bowman, the Lynn Morris Band, New Found Road, the Lewis Family, Special Consensus, Carolina Road, J. D. Crowe & the New South, the Larry Stephenson Band, Albert E. Brumley Jr., Jimmy Bowen & Santa Fe, Honey Deaton & Dream, the Jeanette Williams Band, Tim Graves & Cherokee, Ryan Holladay, Melvin Goins, the Goldwing Express, Ronnie Reno & the Reno Tradition, the Marksmen, the Churchmen, David Parmley & Continental Divide, the Kenny & Amanda Smith Band, Mark Newton, Emma Smith, Michelle Nixon & Drive, Bluegrass Brigade, Al Wood & the Smokey Ridge Boys, the Warrior River Boys, Paul Williams & the Victory Trio and Williams & Clark Expedition.

Star Chatter: What They Were Saying This Year
Hot Talk reported on a lot of famous and fascinating folk during 2003. Here’s what some of them said.

“She is so fat and cute, and, oh my gosh, we’re all just falling more in love with her every day.” — Sara Evans rhapsodizing over her new daughter, Olivia.

“This fall and Christmas, what if each of us would buy — go to the record store and purchase — 10 albums each [to give to] our family, friends and ourselves as presents?” — Songwriter Bonnie Baker challenging fellow Music Row workers to help alleviate country music’s slumping record sales.

“[We] were asking people if they did any bar gags, and [she] said, ’Yes, I put a bottle in my cleavage, and I drink from it. … She got the job.” — Producer Mark Kalbfeld telling the story behind the most memorable scene in Toby Keith’s music video, “I Love This Bar.”

“They just knocked my hat in the creek.” — Charlie Louvin’s reaction to watching James Taylor and Alison Krauss record “How’s the World Treating You,” the 1961 Louvin Brothers hit.

“I can’t imagine [recording] with anyone else. I don’t want to for that matter.” — Randy Travis speaking about his longtime producer, Kyle Lehning.

“He’s like a new kid to be around.” — Lehning talking about Travis, following the surprising No. 1 success of the singer’s “Two Wooden Crosses.”

“Our big secret was that we hoped we might sell 100,000 records.” — Guitarist Sean Watkins of the trio Nickel Creek, whose combined album sales now exceed a million.

“They’ve been together so long that they all drive white cars and park in formation.” — Pam Tillis describing the Jordanaires vocal group.

“The beauty of this video is that it has healing power.” — BMI’s Thomas Cain on Diamond Rio’s “I Believe,” in which he plays a guardian angel.

“You don’t show cleavage in bluegrass.” — Banjoist and columnist Murphy Henry responding to Rhonda Vincent’s revealing publicity photos.

“All of you are here to see my relics, all of the things I’ve collected over 60 years. There’s nothing great about it. It was just attached to me.” — Eddy Arnold at the opening of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibit in his honor.

“The three young ladies won a battle they did not start. … Perhaps they realized intuitively that the opposition was weak and not very bright.” — Professor Jimmie N. Rogers, of the University of Arkansas, assessing the Dixie Chicks “patriotism” controversy.

“I don’t want to be a member of the generation that battled technology and forgot the music.” — John Grady, president of Sony Records/Nashville.

In Court: Bellamys vs. Distributor; Songwriter vs. Universal
The Bellamy Brothers have sued DeltaDisc, their one-time distributor, and a certified public accountant the company used, alleging underpayment of royalties and the issuance of a check that keeps bouncing. In a separate action, songwriter Jennifer Ember Pierce and her publishing company claim that Universal Music Group has underpaid them for sales of Johnny Cash’s recording of Pierce’s “That Old Wheel.”

The Bellamy suit, which officially lists Bellamy Brothers Partners as the plaintiff, was filed Dec. 5 in Davidson County Circuit Court in Nashville. According to the complaint, the Bellamys signed their distribution deal with DeltaDisc on Dec. 21, 2000. It granted the company exclusive rights to distribute the duo’s records and videos in United States and Canada for a three-year period, while still allowing the Bellamys to sell their own records and videos at concerts and on their Web site. If DeltaDisc sold more than 100,000 units during this term, it could get a two-year extension of the original deal.

As a provision of the contract, DeltaDisc paid the Bellamy’s a $250,000 advance, which was to be recouped by record sales. The contract required DeltaDisc to give the Bellamys a monthly accounting of sales and payment for those sales. Around July 2002, the complaint continues, DeltaDisc quit issuing monthly accountings and payments. It adds that DeltaDisc has subsequently refused to provide an accounting. On Feb. 10, 2003, the complaint says, certified public accountant Dennis L. Castellari issued to the Bellamys — on behalf of DeltaDisc — a check for $75,473.65 for royalties but failed to accompany the check with an accounting of product sold. Furthermore, the suit alleges, the check has been returned “on several occasions as not payable due to the insufficiency of funds in the DeltaDisc account upon which said check is drawn.” The Bellamys ask the court to compel DeltaDisc to provide an accounting of product sold and pay for that amount, plus interest and attorneys’ fees. They also ask that a judgment for the full amount of the bounced check, plus interest, penalties and attorney’s fees be made against both Castellari and DeltaDisc.

Pierce’s suit was filed Dec. 9 in Davidson County Chancery Court. The complaint says that despite “numerous oral and written demands for payment of publishing royalties,” Universal, the Defendant has paid only a small portion of what has been earned” from the use of her song, “That Old Wheel.” (That song first appeared on Water From the Wells of Home, Cash’s 1988 album for Mercury Records, now a Universal label.) Pierce asks that the court find out how much she is owed and recover that amount from Universal for her.

The Kid Who Played With Hank
A couple of weeks back, in an item about the forthcoming PBS documentary on Hank Williams, I referred to Don Helms as “the last surviving member of Williams’ original Drifting Cowboys band.” In that, I was twice wrong. Although he was one of the most important members of the evolving band, Helms wasn’t an original member, nor is he the last living one. That distinction, I’m advised, goes to steel guitar player Jimmy Porter of Montgomery, Ala. Now 75, Porter was just 13 when he joined Hank Williams’ band. That was in the spring of 1941, well before Williams became famous. He stayed in the band until 1944 — and, yes, it was called the Drifting Cowboys even back then.

In his book, My Life as a Musician, Porter recalls, “Dad took me to Hank’s and we played and he sang. The only song I remember was his theme song, ’Happy Rovin’ Cowboy.’ I played ’Steel Guitar Rag’ and a couple of other songs and Hank offered me the job.” Williams did not become a national figure until 1947 when he hit the charts with “Move It On Over.” After leaving Williams’ band, Porter continued to perform with many groups, most notably Grand Ole Opry stars Curly Fox and Texas Ruby. Porter ultimately made a career in the Alabama Army National Guard, from which he retired in 1988. These days, he and his wife, Geraldine, do volunteer work at the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery.

Together we can be magnificent. Otherwise I am merely splendid alone. Reach out to me with your tips, quips, qualifications and queries at

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