HOT TALK: More on Urban’s Jacket

Jimmy Martin on DVD, Willie Nelson to Unveil New Song at Kucinich Fundraiser

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

Keith Urban Offers to Return Vintage Jacket
I may wear out Keith Urban’s vintage FFA jacket before he does. In the Dec. 15 edition of Hot Talk, I told of tracing down the jacket’s original owner — Daniel Nye of Deltaville, Va. — and asking him how his once-treasured garment (with high-school medals still attached) might have gotten into Urban’s gifted hands. Urban recalled only that he had picked it up in a thrift shop somewhere. Nye figured he had given the jacket to one of the second-hand stores operated on behalf of the King’s Daughters Children’s Hospital in Norfolk when he was moving into a new house. He further speculated that the singer-guitarist probably found it around Hampton Roads or possibly as far away as Richmond.

There the matter stood until I ran into Urban’s road manager, Stephen Navyac, at a Christmas party in Nashville. It turns out that Navyac was with Urban when he bought the jacket — not anywhere in Virginia, mind you, but all the way across the continent in Vancouver, Canada. How it got so far from home remains a mystery. Navyac isn’t sure how much Urban paid for the jacket but thinks it was in the $20 to $40 range.

Urban was still holidaying in Australia when Navyac and I had our conversation. However, he later sent word that he will be happy to return the jacket personally to Nye if the two can make contact on Urban’s upcoming tour with Kenny Chesney. I’m not certain whether this is an act of pure generosity on Urban’s part or his desperate effort to make me stop writing about the damn thing.

King of Bluegrass Comes to DVD, With Album to Follow
Jimmy Martin plays a bouncing-off-the-wall style of bluegrass music that’s as raw and pushy as the best rock ’n’ roll. And he has a prickly personality to match. In case you don’t already know Martin from his own records or his participation in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken series, you can stand back and let him wash over you in the new DVD, King of Bluegrass: The Life & Times of Jimmy Martin.

Originally released as a documentary and shown at the 2003 Nashville Film Festival, the project was conceived, produced and directed by George Goehl. Between March 2000 and March 2002, he shot nearly 80 hours of film to get the 66 minutes that ended up in the final documentary. The DVD version, Goehl says, contains much more than the documentary proper, including a “Roots of Bluegrass” section, a timeline of Martin’s life, a discography of his Decca albums, bios of other people in the film and an extensive interview. Among the 23 songs in the film, Goehl points to two special archival performances from the early 1970s. One is of Martin performing “Tennessee” on The Del Reeves Show and the other is the singer’s heart-rending rendition of “When Saviour Comes Down for Me” from The Wilburn Brothers Show. There are also live performances of Martin’s trademark “Free Born Man” and duets with Marty Stuart and Ralph Stanley, respectively, on “Brakeman’s Blues” and “Feast Here Tonight.”

Goehl plans to follow the DVD and video with the release of a soundtrack album. Targeted for March, the album will appear on Thrill Jockey label. “I don’t have the exact cut list yet,” Goehl tells “In an effort to make sure this does not resemble another Jimmy Martin greatest hits record, we’ve spent a lot of time poring over archival recordings (all of which have never been released) so we can put out a soundtrack that provides Jimmy Martin fans with a number of performances that they’ve never heard. I know for sure that we are using some recordings from the Louisiana Hayride that have not been released and are close to clearing the rights to other live recordings from the early 1960s. In addition, there will be moments that were recorded during the making of the film and, of course, a few classic Jimmy Martin cuts from his Decca days. But the priority is choosing stuff that people can’t get anywhere else.”

Willie Nelson Writes, Debuts Peace Song
I wasn’t there to hear it, but a friend told me just before I finished this column that Willie Nelson was going to debut a new and very political song he’d just written for the fundraising concert in Austin, Texas, Sunday night (Jan. 3) for presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich. Called “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth,” it says in part, “We believe everything that they tell us/They’re gonna kill us/So we gotta kill them first/But I remember a commandment/Thou shall not kill/How much is that soldier’s life worth/And whatever happened to peace on earth.” There’s no word yet on whether Nelson will record and release the song.

’Net Gains: Fascinating Sites and Sounds
Music Row has been a ghost town this past week. So in lieu of hotter news, let me alert you to a couple of music-related Web sites worth dawdling over.

Whether you’re a fan of early country music or just starting to delve into it, check out the delightful National Public Radio’s Web site for a story on Maryland record collector Joe Bussard. Bussard’s collection goes back to the dawn of recorded sound, but he concentrates on records from the 1920s and ’30s. In this particular feature, he plays a clip from the Blue Sky Boys’ “Turn Your Radio On.” This brother team — Bill and Earl Bolick — was a big influence on the vocal style of the Louvin Brothers, who, in turn, are reaching out to a new generation of performers via Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers, an album I’ve been rhapsodizing over for months. There’s a link from the NPR story to Bussard’s own Web site and the archives of his weekly radio show of old-time gems.

Another treasure — www. — is a colorful mishmash of drama, comedy and variety radio shows, primarily from the 1940s and ’50s. You can listen to them all for free. The ones of particular interest to country fans are two Eddy Arnold shows which also spotlight the Willis Brothers and steel guitar titan Little Roy Wiggins; an episode of Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch, in which the clean-living cowboy warbles “San Antonio Rose,” “Gone Away,” “Dry the Tears From Your Blue, Blue Eyes,” “My Buddy” and “Ridin’ the Range All Day”; and the 10th anniversary celebration of the Alka-Seltzer sponsored network portion of the National Barn Dance. Knowing that a number of country singers — most notably Patsy Cline — had performed on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, I listened to the two segments of that show available. I didn’t hear any country music, but I did catch a performance by a young comedian, brought there by his mother, who wowed the audience with his light-hearted and German-accented impressions of movie stars. His name was Lenny Bruce.

I don’t say this to just anybody, but you were fantastic. So once more, I’m at HotTalk

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