HOT TALK: Kenny Chesney Hit Based on Fact

Music Rowers Paddle for John Kerry ... and What if the CMA Replaced Vince With Simon?

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

There Goes His Life: Songwriter Tells Real Story
A kid can change everything. That’s the point of Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life,” in which an unwanted pregnancy becomes a source of great love and pride. And it’s based on a real incident. Wendell Mobley and Neil Thrasher co-wrote the song, but it’s Mobley who’s been living it.

“Just like in the song,” Mobley tells Hot Talk, “I was approached by my girlfriend [with the news that she was pregnant]. I was 17, and I had just graduated from high school [in Celina, Ohio]. Obviously, for someone that young, I was just devastated.” But things soon changed, he continues. “When Lexi was born, I absolutely fell in love with her and was ready to do whatever to raise her. About a year later, though, there was an accident, and she died.”

But for Mobley, the memory of Lexi’s brief life remained sharp and painful. “When her 17th or 18th birthday came around,” he continues, “I really started thinking about what she’d be like now, what she’d be doing. This past March 17 would have been her 19th birthday. That’s around the time we wrote the song. I brought in the idea about a year before. We talked about the idea, but Neil never knew the story. It’s not something I talked about. I think my little brother, Michael, may have [revealed it]. There’s a picture in my studio of [Lexi], and I think Neil’s wife, Lana, was in there doing something and asked who it was. Michael innocently told her about the situation. And Lana told Neil. … This song and this whole situation have been good therapy. Truthfully, I can’t even believe I’m telling this or talking about it. It was a long time ago, and I’ve done a lot of grieving and healing.”

As to Lexi’s mom, Mobley says, “I talk to her every now and then. She’s happily married with children. I know her husband, and he knows about the whole deal. We stay in touch. With something like that in your past, you want to.”

Music Row Shells Out Big for John Kerry
John Kerry’s upset win in Iowa must have delighted a lot of folks on Music Row. Hot Talk scanned the lists of contributors filed with the Federal Election Commission and saw some familiar names in the Kerry camp. Nashville record label chiefs Joe Galante (RCA Label Group), Luke Lewis (Universal) and John Grady (Sony) chipped in $2,000, $2,000 and $500, respectively. Singers Nanci Griffith and Bette Midler (who listed a Nashville address) contributed $1,000 and $2,000. Lawyer, manager and TV producer Bill Carter anted up $2,000, as did talent manager Bob Titley (who handles Brooks & Dunn and Terri Clark, among others). Ronnie Dunn’s wife, Janine, also ponied up $2,000. Bob Doyle, a music publisher and Garth Brooks’ co-manager, gave $1,000. Others who endorsed Kerry with their dollars include songwriters Bobby Braddock ($2,000) and Bill LaBounty ($500); producer Paul Worley ($1,000); talent bookers Greg Oswald ($2,000) and Rick Shipp ($1,500); music publishers H. C. Turner ($2,000) and Walter Campbell ($500); and BMI executive Del Bryant ($500).

Howard Dean numbers among his fiscal fans Emmylou Harris ($500), producer Kyle Lehning ($250) and songwriter Dan Tyler ($1,250, who also tipped in another $1,000 for John Edwards). Bette Midler (see above) shelled out $2,000 for Richard Gephardt’s campaign. Former Curb Records exec Phil Gernhard gave Wesley Clark a $500 salute. Hot Talk found no Music Row angels hovering around Al Sharpton, Carol Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich or Joe Lieberman, although tons of Nashville lawyers wrote checks to fellow barrister Edwards.

None of this is meant to suggest that Music Row is more passionate about the various Dems than it is the singular Bush. According to the current FEC report, 171,364 individuals have donated to the Prez’s 2004 campaign — and wading through that list is going to take some time.

I Sought the Law: Ty Herndon, Roger Miller’s Daughter Sue
Singer Ty Herndon and his corporation, Ride the West, have sued Herndon’s managers, Cherry Miller Kane Entertainment. In an action filed Dec. 23, 2003, in Nashville’s Chancery Court, Herndon alleges that his managers (Joel Cherry, Dana Miller and Karen Kane) interfered with his business relationship with former managers, International Management and Guidance for Excellence, and failed to sever that relationship properly. That failure, the complaint continues, led IMGE to sue Herndon [in January 2003] for breach of contract.

The complaint further alleges that CMK failed to provide Herndon “effective management services” and to secure proper distribution for Herndon’s 2003 Christmas album, A Not So Silent Night. Specifically, the suit contends that CMK “failed to make payments to vendors, band members and/or third parties of moneys that were due them. …” On the matter of the Christmas album, the complaint says that CMK told Herndon that it had secured an agreement under which A Not So Silent Night would be “distributed in every Wal-Mart retail outlet in the United States.” There was no such deal and no such distribution, the suit asserts. Herndon asks the court to award him an unspecified amount for the alleged damages and that the trial to be heard by a jury.

Shannon Miller Turner, a daughter of the late singer-songwriter Roger Miller, sued Roger Miller Music in Chancery Court Jan. 5 for a greater share of the songwriting royalties paid to Miller’s estate. At issue are the royalties paid for songs written before Jan. 1, 1978, and therefore subject to the renewal provisions of the Copyright Act. Noting that the Act says that the renewal term shall vest in “the widow, widower or children, if the author is not living” and citing a U. S. District Court decision that the members of this class of survivors merit equal shares of the royalties, Turner says she should have been paid one-eighth of the income instead of the one-sixteenth share she has received. Miller is survived by a wife and six other children. Turner is asking the court to compel Roger Miller Music to give a complete accounting of royalties received and to pay her her full share, plus unspecified damages.

Lament From Another Ty
Ty England, Garth Brooks’ former lead guitarist and college roommate, told a Florida newspaper reporter that he had tried to get “Travelin’ Soldier” released as a single two years before the Dixie Chicks brought it out. England — then recording for Capitol as Tyler England — included the Bruce Robison song on his 2000 album, Highways & Dance Halls. “When I told the record company that they should release it as a single, not too long after the attack in New York,” England explained to Bradenton Herald reporter Wade Tatangelo, “they said, ‘Radio would never play a song like this.’”

Still touring, England admitted he might have come on a little too strong both for RCA, his first label, and Capitol. “I didn’t have as much tact as I should have had,” he said. “I made some demands from RCA that I shouldn’t have. [Brooks] called his own shots. I had never seen it done another way. I learned I’m not boss hog at the record label.” England said he is now recording an album — which he is also producing and writing — and is shopping for another label.

ConVince Me: Who’s Next After Gill?
Vince Gill’s declaration that he won’t host this year’s CMA Awards show is causing considerable speculation about who might — and who should — replace him. Like scads of others, I’d like to see Garth Brooks step in and generate some excitement again. It would be a splendid opportunity for Brooks to reconnect with the country audience in a modest and subdued way and MAYBE EVEN INTRODUCE AN EARTH-SHATTERING NEW SINGLE. Oh, well, we all can dream, can’t we? The majestic Eddy Arnold — CMA’s first entertainer of the year — would also be a good choice to host. He’s given country music much-needed polish for the past 60 years, and he’s still the coolest hillbilly cat on the fence. But since an award show is basically a blood sport, why not give the job to American Idol‘s viperish, country-loathing Simon Cowell? There’s entirely too much sweetness in the show these days. It would glow with a good brawl.

If you believe you should host the CMA Awards, please share that delusion with someone other than me. But if you have news, questions or opinions that are moored in the known world, then write me at HotTalk@CMT.com. I will be momentarily grateful.