HOT TALK: Little Texas in Court, Gilman in Transition

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

Little Texans at War With Each Other

Four alumni of the defunct Little Texas are suing two other former members for the right to resume using the group’s name. The act was formed in 1989 and disbanded in 1997. In a suit filed March 17 in Nashville’s Chancery Court, Duane Propes, Porter Howell, Dwayne O’Brien and Del Gray assert that Tim Rushlow and Jeff Huskins have declined an offer to join a reunited Little Texas and have threatened to sue the others if they revive and use the name. (Rushlow, who had short-lived solo deals with Atlantic and Scream Records after Little Texas dissolved, has formed a new band -- Rushlow -- which is now signed to Lyric Street.)

Noting that they “intend to perform and record music again under the name ‘Little Texas,’” the plaintiffs ask the court to issue a declaratory judgment that they have a legal right to use the name, that using it will not infringe on any rights of the defendants and that the plaintiffs own the “Little Texas” trademark. Except for Huskins, who replaced Brady Seals in 1995, all the others involved in the suit are founding members of the group. Little Texas had one No. 1 single -- “My Love” in 1994 -- and six Top 10 hits, including “What Might Have Been,” “God Blessed Texas” and “Kick a Little.”

Billy Gilman Will Push New Album Without Touring

You’ll be seeing a lot of Billy Gilman around the April 15 release of his fourth album, Music Through Heartsongs: Songs Based on the Poems of Mattie J. T. Stepanek, but you won’t be hearing much of his live singing. That’s because 14-year-old Gilman’s voice is still changing. Even so, he’ll be popping up on such national venues as Good Morning America and the Larry King Show to promote the new project. Gilman will also be doing a music video this week for “I Am/Shades of Life.”

As mentioned before in Hot Talk, Gilman’s album consists of poems by the 12-year-old Stepanek that were turned into songs by some of Nashville’s top songwriters. Stepanek is afflicted with life-threatening mitochondrial myopathy, a form of muscular dystrophy, and is currently in intensive care. Books of his poems have become bestsellers.

Although Gilman has established himself as a country artist, the variety, range and themes of the music in the new album may make it a hard sell for conventional country radio. “The first thing that struck all of us,” says Mike Kraski, executive vice president and general manager of Sony Music Nashville, Gilman’s label, “was that this project defies categorization. … But defying categorization cuts both ways. It may limit you in the way you’re used to doing things. But it opens the door to doing things in fresh, innovative ways.”

“First of all, we’re looking for major television opportunities for Billy,” says his manager, Scott Siman. “He’s already done Good Morning America once, and he’ll be doing it again [on April 14]. He’s been on Oprah, and he’ll be doing the Larry King Show.” Siman explains that selections from the album will be sent to radio stations of various formats, including country, adult contemporary, Christian and pop.”

Kraski says the album will also be promoted via talk radio and syndicated radio shows. In some stores that carry both books and records, the album and Stepanek’s books will be spotlighted together. Gilman is scheduled to perform at Fan Fair in June and will, according to Siman, use the summer to explore movie and television possibilities. If his vocal change is complete by the end of the summer, he will resume touring then.

Alison Krauss Covers Blind Faith for Crossing Jordan Album

Alison Krauss has recorded a version of Blind Faith’s 1969 tune, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” for Music From the NBC-TV Series Crossing Jordan. The DMZ/Columbia Records album was co-produced by T Bone Burnett of O Brother, Where Art Thou? fame and will be in record stores this week. Others on this collection of cover songs (plus the series’ theme and a Rosemary Clooney original) are Lucinda Williams, Sam Philips, Marc Anthony Thompson, Cassandra Wilson, Richard Thompson, the Holmes Brothers, Vic Chesnutt, Joe Henry, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman and the series star, Jill Hennessy.

Art Garfunkel Will Perform at PBS Taping in Nashville

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Art Garfunkel and his recording and songwriting partners, Buddy Mondlock and Maia Sharp, will perform in Nashville Tuesday (April 1) at a taping of the weekly PBS television series Speaking Freely. Produced by the First Amendment Center in Nashville, the series focuses on free expression and the arts. The three performers will also answer questions about “basic First Amendment convictions and beliefs” from show host Ken Paulson, who also serves as the Center’s executive director. Tickets to the event are free and can be obtained from the Center. The taping will take place at the WNPT-TV studio at 161 Rains Ave. and commence at 7 p.m. Last year, Manhattan Records released Garfunkel, Mondlock and Sharp’s first album, Everything Waits to Be Noticed. The trio has been touring since then in the U. S. and Europe. A prominent figure in Nashville songwriting circles, Mondlock co-wrote with Garth Brooks “Every Now and Then” for Brooks’ 1992 album, The Chase.

Dr. Hook’s Managers Continue Legal Brawl

Producer Ron Haffkine has sued Bobby Heller, his former partner in managing and producing the musical group Dr. Hook, alleging that Heller defamed him in an article published last year in the Nashville daily, The Tennessean. Named as co-defendants in the action, filed Feb. 28 in Nashville’s Chancery Court, are Ken Renner, described in the complaint as “a Nashville press agent,” and an unidentified third party. Haffkine is asking the court to award him $200,000 in compensatory relief and an additional $500,000 in punitive damages. Heller, a one-time partner with music journalist Hazel Smith in the Hazel & Heller management firm, sued Haffkine in a New York court last August, charging financial and management misdeeds. Heller lives in Brooklyn.

Dr. Hook had 10 country chart records between 1976 and 1980, the highest of which, “If Not You,” peaked at No. 26. In pop, however, the band did considerably better, scoring the Top 10 hits “Sylvia’s Mother,” “The Cover of Rolling Stone,” “Only Sixteen,” “Sharing the Night Together,” “When You’re in Love With a Beautiful Woman” and “Sexy Eyes.” Dr. Hook disbanded in 1985.

A Few More Things Worth Knowing

Curb Records is reportedly putting together an album of patriotic music that will contain cuts by Tim McGraw, Hank Williams Jr. and others, as well as a newly recorded version of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” … Sawyer Brown is in the studio recording its first album for Lyric Street. … Vince Gill plans another Christmas tour this year, his first since 2001. … CD Floral Cards, a line of interactive CD-ROM greeting cards carried by FTD Florists, now features cards with music by singer-songwriter Paul Overstreet. Overstreet won Grammys in 1987 and 1991 for co-writing the hits “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “Love Can Build a Bridge."

Charge Against Anderson Brings Another Bill to Mind

Our hearts bleed and cheeks redden for Bill Anderson, who, according to a complaint lodged by his fiancee, attempted to assault her with a moving car. It is hard to believe that a man of Whisperin’ Bill’s rich imagination would resort to so commonplace a weapon. But it brings to mind the deliciously risible case of Bill Monroe, arrested and charged in 1989 with smiting a lady friend across the face with a Bible. What a peculiarly Southern instrument of destruction, we all mused. And how fitting for the God-like Monroe to wield it. Painful though it may have been for the Father of Bluegrass, it produced some truly priceless headlines and jokes that impaired one’s ability to walk. As it turned out, the woman was a less than stellar witness on her own behalf, and the charges were dismissed. But to those of us who wanted the story to be true (for the very vilest of reasons), the image of Monroe advancing on the cowering maiden with the Good Book held aloft, remains as vivid as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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