View from Nashville: On the Record with Country Music's Greatest Stars

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Ralph Emery has always had the best seat in the house for watching country music grow from its rural American roots into a multinational billion -- dollar business. As country music's foremost radio and television host, Ralph has the inside track on a world many have written about but few actually understand. Included in The View from Nashville: The fight over Conway Twitty's estate: the real story. The night Loretta Lynn threatened to "whup" a British music critic all across England for calling Conway Twitty ...
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Overview

Ralph Emery has always had the best seat in the house for watching country music grow from its rural American roots into a multinational billion -- dollar business. As country music's foremost radio and television host, Ralph has the inside track on a world many have written about but few actually understand. Included in The View from Nashville: The fight over Conway Twitty's estate: the real story. The night Loretta Lynn threatened to "whup" a British music critic all across England for calling Conway Twitty "fat and fortyish." One of Colonel Tom Parker's rare interviews, including his best advice for music managers. How Brooks & Dunn kick-started the country dance craze. The story behind the Roy Orbison/Mick Jagger feud. Loretta's secret admirer: Buck Owens confesses. The day Vince Gill faced armed robbers on the golf course! Travis Tritt's Immutable Law of Honky Tonk -- or, How to Bust Up a Barroom Brawl. Ray Charles's country roots When Burt Reynolds begged Tammy Wynette to take Hillary Clinton's telephone call. Johnny Horton's message from beyond the grave.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Ralph Emery is a walking, talking font of country music history. For more than four decades, Emery's been at the center of the industry as a DJ, a television host, and even a musician. Having rubbed shoulders with the greatest stars of the last 40 years, including Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Vince Gill, and dozens more, Emery now pauses to share remembrances of these musical giants and to recall his own storied career, in The View from Nashville.
Birmingham News
"Emery has accumulated a wealth of anecdotes...longtime stars and promising newcomers have told Emery the inside scoop about their lives."
CNN
Longtime TV and radio host Ralph Emery has a lifetime of stories to tell about the country music business -- and he's made a good head start with The View from Nashville: On the Record with Country Music's Greatest Stars. … This blend of oral history and photographs is a great insider's look at Nashville and the country scene.
The Tennessean
"Move over, Howard Stern: Ralph Emery is...the new King of All Country Media."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Over the past four decades, country-music DJ Emery has played the music of the genre's stars and interviewed them for his shows On the Air and Nashville Now. The armchair vignettes in this collection portray some of the artists Emery has met over the years: Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, Patsy Cline and many others. Perhaps because of Emery's friendships with many of his subjects, the portraits have an easygoing and nostalgic tone, an approach that has mixed results. His close relationship to his subjects often results in flat praise: Dolly Parton is "the most extraordinary, larger-than-life star I've seen"; Brenda Lee "is one of the funniest people I know." He often refers to Vince Gill's humor, but his examples of the singer's jokes don't translate to the page. But Emery's insider role also results in very moving accounts of the tragedies he has witnessed, from untimely deaths to ruined careers. His elegiac profile of Conway Twitty offers a heartfelt appreciation for the prolific songwriter; his good-bye to Tammy Wynette recalls the singer's confrontation with Hillary Clinton, who has used the song "Stand by Your Man" as an example of subordinate femininity; and his chapter on Patsy Cline shows how her initial record contract forced her into poverty and, at times, debilitating depression. Emery assumes that his subjects are inherently interesting, a view that many, including country-music buffs, will share. Those looking for a well-rounded portrayal of the Nashville industry, however, may find Emery's View myopic. (Nov.)
Library Journal
A successful country music career as a radio broadcaster and television host has afforded Emery the unique opportunity to build a close rapport with some of the industry's most famous stars. Winner of six Country Disc Jockey of the Year awards and an inductee into the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame, Emery has earned his rightful place in the annals of country music. In his folksy, down-to-earth style, he updates readers on Nashville happenings. He visits with some of the city's most famous residents and reminisces about those who have recently passed on (Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Carl Perkins, Faron Young, Colonel Tom Parker, and Mooney, Loretta Lynn's husband). Expect demand; Emery's first two books (Memories, Pocket, 1992; More Memories, Putnam, 1993) were best sellers.--Kathleen Sparkman, Baylor Univ., Waco, TX
Kirkus Reviews
This collection of memoirs from the veteran Nashville musician, disc jockey, and broadcast personality is full of good-natured humor and thoughtful insights. Emery begins on a somber note, with a recap of Conway Twitty's untimely death and the ensuing battle of his estate with his third wife, Dee, and his children, who viewed Dee as opportunistic and flighty—-particularly when she moved to have his body exhumed and cremated, only to withdraw the request a few days later. While many of his subjects (Patsy Cline, Tex Ritter, Carl Perkins) are likewise dead, Emery's tone seldom sounds morose after the Twitty section. Instead, he's apt to recall humorous instances, such as Maverick Records founder Fred Foster's run-in with old-time Nashville bigshot Wesley Rose, who objected to Foster's making "race records," and how Foster was reassured by legend-in-the-making Owen Bradley, who told him, "You keep doing what you're doing—-making great records." Some of Emery's best stories concern unlikely country music figures, such as Ray Charles, who recorded a crossover hit with "I Can't Stop Loving You," and George Bush, who defends his taste for country music despite his patrician background. Emery's perspective is refreshing: though no longer young, and obviously a conservative politically, he keeps alive a positive attitude toward change. He can condemn the "reverse discrimination" of a word like "hillbilly" and at the same time express indignation over some Nashville establishment icon's treatment of black country musician Charley Pride and never lose his credibility. His telling of white country singer Faron Young's support of Pride is among the most poignant vignettes in thecollection. (Co-author Cox also co-authored Tanya Tucker's autobiography.) Fans of any kind of music can open this at any page—-and enjoy it. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688151508
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/21/1998
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.68 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Conway, are you all right?" Dee Jenkins called through the door of the bathroom. There was no answer.

"Conway?" she called again. With a tight feeling in her stomach, Dee pushed the door open. There, sprawled on the floor, lay one of country music's most legendary stars, her husband, Conway Twitty.

It was 6:42 PM. on Friday, June 4, 1993. The two had been in Branson, Missouri, where Conway was playing a series of matinees at Jim Stafford's Theater. Just before an intense afternoon show, Conway packed up the car and drove to his bus. Since his schedule called for a hundred dates in Branson that year, Conway had brought his favorite vehicle to drive, a 1980 Pacer station wagon. It wasn't what anybody would call a "star vehicle" at first glance, but Conway loved it and drove it everywhere. He loved that car so much, in fact, that he'd just had a coat of classic car paint applied and replaced the vinyl seats with leather. He unpacked the Pacer and loaded up the bus for the trip back to Nashville.

Shortly after they were on the road, Conway turned to Dee and said he was experiencing an odd sensation in his side.

"I feel a kind of pressure," he said. "I just don't know how to explain the feeling to you."

"Well, I'm going to get the driver to stop," Dee said. "Let's go into Springfield and get it checked."

"No, it's not that bad," Conway answered. His lack of concern worried Dee, since earlier that day, before his show, he'd mentioned having a slight feeling of discomfort. It didn't stop him from performing, though. With Conway, almost nothing stopped him from fulfilling a concert date.

Dee usually kept the bus stocked with food, butthis particular run had been a long one and the refrigerator was bare. When it was time for dinner, they stopped at a food mart so the band and crew could eat. Conway didn't feel hungry, so he and Dee stayed behind. He hadn't complained, but Dee knew he wasn't feeling well. When he went into the bathroom and didn't come back out for some time, she became concerned and called in to him. Conway didn't answer. She opened the door and screamed for help.

The band and crew scrambled back on the bus, and called 911. By the time the ambulance and paramedic team arrived, Conway was conscious and trying to reassure Dee. Cox Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri, was alerted that Conway Twitty was being rushed to their emergency room.

Dee felt more confident after the emergency room doctor finished his examination, because he said Conway appeared to have a textbook case of kidney stones. Several years earlier, Conway had suffered problems with kidney crystals that caused him to cancel several shows. He could be in for a painful night, but he would be all right. The ER personnel continued routine procedure. Conway's blood was checked for allergies, then he was wheeled into X-ray to be injected with the dye that could confirm the preliminary diagnosis.

Conway insisted Dee accompany him to X-ray, and once there, her confidence was short-lived. The doctor soon gave her terrifying news: Conway had an abdominal aortic aneurysm and had already lost a dangerously large amount of blood. Dee's first reaction was disbelief. Conway had recently undergone an extensive physical for a new life insurance policy and been pronounced fine. And although he was taking blood pressure medicine, it was down to just a half a pill a day. Conway had developed high blood pressure ten years earlier and since that time he had taken pains to stay in shape. He was watching what he ate, working out and walking. His weight was down to 168 pounds, the least he'd weighed in years. Their strategy seemed to be working, because until the episode on the bus, Conway appeared to be in excellent health.

Frantically, she attempted to locate their family doctor in Nashville so he could consult with the Springfield doctors. Failing that, there was nothing she could do but wait. When they wheeled Conway into emergency surgery, one of the band members began phoning Conway's children to alert them.

Dee knew how dangerous this condition could be. Aneurysms form when pressure from the blood flow causes a weak artery wall to distend. If that distention bursts, the condition becomes life-threatening in minutes. And she realized that in Conway's case, the condition was probably genetic, since a few years earlier Conway's brother Howard had been diagnosed with the same condition. "Don't even sneeze," his doctors had told Howard as they rushed him to surgery. Dee also knew that her husband had that day performed his usual intense, hard-hitting show, a show that obviously would strain his abdomen.

Ironically, Conway's friend and duet partner, Loretta Lynn, was also at the Springfield hospital, where her husband, Mooney, was a patient. Loretta was sitting with Mooney when a local newscast reported that Conway Twitty was undergoing emergency surgery at Cox Medical Center. She sat up straight in her chair, wondering if she'd fallen asleep and dreamed such a thing. Just then the hospital chaplain walked in and confirmed the news.

Loretta stumbled out of Mooney's room to find Dee. Loretta's nerves were already on edge from a sleepless bedside vigil with Mooney. She stayed with Dee until Conway was out of surgery, then finally went back to Mooney's room to try and sleep. Loretta remembers a chaplain rushing into Mooney's room to tell her that Conway was gone.

"I'd always heard that the spirit stays right there above the body for a while," Loretta says. "So when I went back to intensive care, I stood beside Conway's body and tried to talk him back down. I said, 'Conway, don't you die on me! You know you don't want to go!' I cut such a shine they had to take me out of the room."

"I was lucky she was there because Loretta is the strongest woman I know," Dee later acknowledged.

Subsequent events proved to me that Dee Jenkins is herself an unusually strong woman. Her husband didn't make it through the surgery, and June 5, 1993, the final day of my friend Conway Twitty's life, marked the beginning of a nightmare for his widow.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Conway Twitty: The Uncrowned King of Country Music 1
2 One Big Happy Family 14
3 Loretta Lynn: Keeping Country Honest 31
4 Alan Jackson: The Art of the Deal 47
5 Carl Perkins: "Singing was a way of surviving." 67
6 Brooks & Dunn: The Next Big Deal 87
7 The Golfer Formerly Known as Vince 102
8 Faron Young: The Next Big Deal - 1953 111
9 The Four Horsemen: Bradley, Atkins, Law and Nelson 130
10 Travis Tritt: A New Generation of Outlaws 159
11 Ray Charles: Country's Improbable Hero 172
12 Patsy Cline: In Search of a Song 182
13 Dolly and Friends: At Tootsie's Orchid Lounge 192
14 The Drummer Is a Rummer and Can't Hold the Beat 205
15 Hillbilly Music? 220
16 Monument: Foster's Maverick Label 227
17 Olivia Newton-John: New Beginnings 245
18 Brenda Lee: Legends Among Us 253
19 Colonel Tom Parker: How Much Does It Cost If It's Free? 275
20 Barbara Mandrell: The Queen of Blue-Eyed Soul Refuses to Rest on Her Laurels 289
21 It Was a Very Good Year 299
Acknowledgments 306
Index 311
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