Although most of the speakers maintained he would have been embarrassed by all the attention, a panel at the International Country Music Conference in Nashville on Friday (May 23) spoke in praise of the journalistic contributions of CMT’s late editorial director Chet Flippo.
Flippo, who came to CMT.com in 2001, died June 19, 2013. He was the author of the popular weekly music column, Nashville Skyline.
Called “Chet Flippo: An Assessment of a Life in Country Music Journalism,” the panel discussion featured remarks from Dr. Patrick Huber, Missouri University of Science and Technology; Dr. David Anderson, Louisiana Tech University; Beverly Keel, Middle Tennessee State University; Jimmie Rodgers biographer and Wall Street Journal contributor Barry Mazor and CMT.com reporter Edward Morris.
Keel and Mazor cited Flippo as a mentor and career supporter. Keel said that when Alan Jackson publicly accused her of taking one of his remarks “out of context,” she published the full quotation and got a short note from Flippo assuring her she was right in the first place.
She told the crowd of academics that she adopted Flippo’s dog, Trixie, after the journalist’s death and still found it a reminder of Flippo’s own gentle and companionable characteristics.
Mazor said he encountered Flippo in New York when they were both writing about the city’s newly burgeoning country music scene. He recalled that Flippo was always gracious and helpful to him.
Anderson discussed the research behind and the narrative methods used by Flippo in his 1985 biography of Your Cheatin’ Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams. He said Flippo tapped into far more sources about Williams’ troubled life than biographers before him had done.
But he noted that some critics decried Flippo for his novelistic approach to the narrative, such as including — and presumably inventing — scenes and dialog that could not be authenticated.
Morris said Flippo’s greatest contribution to country music was bringing it to the attention of young fans through the stories about it he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine during the 1970s.
Oermann, who sat in the audience, rose to credit Flippo and his reporter wife, the late Martha Hume, with helping him and his wife, Mary Bufwack, find a publisher for their massive study on women in country music, Finding Her Voice.
Dr. Don Cusic, a professor at Belmont University where the convention is being held, said Flippo long served as an invaluable member of the committee that confers the annual Belmont Award on what it deems to be the year’s best book on country music.
Music writer Holly George Warren pointed out that Flippo had also encouraged women photographers to try their hand at covering music.