Archive for the ‘Passings’ Category

Rest in paradise, Kenny Rogers

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Rest in Peace, Jerry Retzloff

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Paul English, Willie Nelson’s friend, drummer, enforcer, dies at 87

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020
“If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead,” Paul English, shown here in 2011, once said of his best friend.  (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)
“If I hadn’t gone with Willie, I would be in the penitentiary or dead,” Paul English, shown here in 2011, once said of his best friend. (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

By Meagan Flynn

It was 1955 when Paul English, transitioning between roles as a gang leader and a Fort Worth pimp, met Willie Nelson on a small-time country radio show.

One of the most storied friendships in country music history began that afternoon by accident, really. English had tagged along to the station with his older brother, who scored a gig playing steel guitar on Nelson’s “Western Express” radio program. But Nelson’s drummer didn’t show, and so he looked to English to fill in. He had never beat a drum in his life. “They just told me to keep patting my foot,” English told Oxford American in 2015.

From that day forward, English never stopped tapping his foot for Nelson.

English, who would go on to become Nelson’s best friend, bodyguard, accountant, road manager and one of the most formidable gun-toting drummers in country music, has died at the age of 87, Nelson’s publicist, Elaine Schock, confirmed to The Washington Post on Wednesday night.

Schock said she was notified of English’s death on Tuesday. She said that she did not know the exact cause, but knew from close family friends that English had been battling pneumonia.

Nicknamed “the Devil” for his famous black-satin cape and matching hat, English toured with Nelson and Family right up until the end. The two friends’ escapades, immortalized in Nelson’s “Me and Paul,” would take them from the underbelly of Fort Worth honky-tonks to some of the world’s biggest stages. “We received our education/In the cities of the nation, me and Paul,” as Nelson sings in the titular track of his 1985 album “Me and Paul.”AD

After decades on the road with Nelson, English told Rolling Stone in 2014 that Nelson saved his life.

“If I hadn’t gone with Willie,” he said, “I would be in the penitentiary or dead.”AD

The drummer was born on Nov. 6, 1932, in Vernon, Tex., to devoutly religious parents active in the Assembly of God Church, where English played the trumpet, he said in Nelson’s 1988 autobiography. He soon got into gangs as a teenager once he started hanging on Hell’s Half Acre, a wild strip of honky-tonks in Fort Worth. He beat up a couple guys who tried to jump him and won praise from the Peroxide Gang, a group of outlaw cowboys named for the chemicals they slicked into their hair, as Oxford American reported.AD

After sometimes committing up to a dozen break-ins a day, English took pride in being named on a Fort Worth tabloid’s list of “10 Most Unwanted” criminals for five years in a row, he said in the autobiography. But after getting jailed for a burglary, he tried to get back on the straight and narrow.

And that’s about the time he met Nelson.AD

English knew of him only from hearing his show on KCNC, and from Nelson’s voice and persona, English “thought he was an old man,” he told Oxford American. He said Nelson reminded him of an “ol’ cotton-picking, snuff-dipping, tobacco-chewing, stump-jumping, gravy-pot sopping, coffee pot dodging, dumpling-eating, frog-giggin’ hillbilly from Hill County, Texas.” But when he showed up to the station that afternoon in 1955, he was surprised to see Nelson was his own age.AD

Despite his lack of experience, Nelson liked him. He invited English to play a six-week gig at a bar for $8 a night, English recalled in a 1981 interview with Modern Drummer magazine. After that, English knew he had found what he wanted to do.

“The money wasn’t that great, but I loved playing, and I got to play in front of the girls,” English told Oxford American. “The girls loved musicians.”AD

It was an era when clubs stretched chicken wire across the bandstand so the bands wouldn’t get hit with beer bottles, Modern Drummer reported. After Nelson moved to Nashville to pursue his own career — the only real hiatus in the relationship — English found work playing with Good Time Charlie Taylor & His Famous Rock and Roll Cowboys. They played Elvis Presley and Nat King Cole at rough clubs prone to brawls, like the County Dump, which was literally located next to the county dump, he told Modern Drummer.AD

Short on cash, he made his living as a pimp, prostituting women from Fort Worth to Houston, where he purchased several rental houses. He insisted to Oxford American, “I was a good pimp. I never did beat a girl.”

Finally, though, Nelson returned to Houston in 1966, and yet again, he was looking for a drummer.AD

“He knew I was making a lot of money. He asked me how to get a hold of a certain drummer we both knew in Fort Worth,” English told Modern Drummer, referring, incidentally, to the same drummer who didn’t show up to Nelson’s radio show. “I said, ‘S— Willie! I’m better’n him!’”

English was hired — for the next five decades.

They toured all over the country as Nelson and Family exploded onto the country music scene, driving in a station wagon with a trailer hitched to the back that once blew a tire on the side of the road. He told Modern Drummer that on one occasion they traveled 15,000 miles in 18 days, for nine gigs, their longest route ever. At stops from Los Angeles to New York, Nelson and English shared motel rooms, and when Nelson got too drunk, English made sure he got home safe, sometimes sitting on the end of his bed to make sure he was okay.AD

But English wasn’t just a road manager and a drummer and an accountant. He was an enforcer, too, pulling guns and swinging fists at anyone who dared cross the Family.

“Willie feels safe with me behind him,” English, who also served as a board member for Farm Aid, the benefit concert for farmers co-founded by Nelson in 1985, said in the autobiography. “I carry two guns, for one thing.”

He once shot at Nelson’s son-in-law’s car for laying a hand on the artist’s daughter, Lana, and once shot at steel pedal player Jimmy Day for insulting English’s dead wife, Oxford American reported. Once he “commandeered a forklift” and used it on a club owner’s Ford Thunderbird, attempting to force the guy into coughing up the band’s performance fee, the magazine reported.AD

“Without Paul, Willie’s story is half as interesting,” Paul’s son, Robert Paul Jr., told Oxford American. “The music’s still gorgeous, but there’s no shootout at Lana’s house. All these stories are part of the legend and serve to define outlaw as outlaw, legitimately outside the law. He was the real deal.”AD

Reflecting on their friendship in the interview with Modern Drummer in 1981, English recalled the first time he ever saw Nelson cry onstage. They were playing “On The Road Again” to a sold-out crowd of 18,000 people in Kansas City, Mo. Thousands took out lighters or lit matches, waving them in the air, and English looked over to see Nelson wiping tears.

Celebrating Paul English

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Thank you, Ashley Morales, for sharing picture of pamphlet at Paul English’s memorial service on Tuesday.

Paul English

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

Janis Tillerson sent this photo from the memorial for Paul English yesterday at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth. Paul passed away February 11th.

  “Displayed on stage were Paul’s cape, red patent leather boots,
a leather purse hand tooled that Paul made for his precious sister.”

From: www.oxfordamerican.org
by:  Joe Nicki Patoski

At Willie’s urging, Paul purchased a black satin cape with red satin lining at Sy Devore’s in Hollywood and started wearing it onstage, cultivating his image as the Devil, “the prettiest angel in heaven,” as Paul liked to say. Shortly after he bought it, he was wearing the full-length cape on the elevator of the Holiday Inn in Hollywood where the band was staying, along with a black shirt, black pants, red patent leather boots, and his sculpted goatee, when the elevator door opened up.

Paul stepped off the elevator just as Little Richard was entering, wearing his own cape. “But Little Richard’s cape only came to his waist,” said harmonica man Mickey Raphael. “Paul walked out, head held high. Little Richard walked in, and did a double take.”

When Paul added some dry ice to create a smoke effect around his drum kit for a gig at Panther Hall in Fort Worth, he discovered the cape getup was a chick magnet. “When I got offstage, there were fifteen girls waitin’ for me, wanting my autograph,” he smiled.

Paul English to be celebrated at Billy Bob’s Texas (March 3, 2020)

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020
photo: Alexandria Olivia

www.DallasNews.com
by: Michael Granberry

For as long as we can remember, Willie Nelson has opened his shows by singing “Whiskey River,” as in, “Whiskey river, take my mind / Don’t let her memory torture me.” And many of those “Whiskey River” moments happened in Fort Worth, where the songs of a country music icon gyrated off the walls of honky-tonks all over Cowtown. The man behind Willie, providing the percussion, was Paul English.

So, it’s fitting that on Tuesday, March 3, at 2 p.m., Fort Worth’s reigning honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, will host a “Celebration of Life” for English, who died on Feb. 12 at 87.

It was no secret to anyone that English’s job description went well beyond drumming. He reveled in being Nelson’s gun-toting, de facto bodyguard. He once used a forklift as a weapon, damaging the car of a club owner who’d refused to pay Nelson what he owed him. English became a full-time member of the Nelson Family Band in 1966, but the two shared a stage together — in Fort Worth — as far back as the 1950s.

Billy Bob’s made the announcement of English’s upcoming memorial on Thursday, when, in its press release, it noted the following:

“Paul was proud of his Fort Worth heritage. He grew up on the North Side and as a youngster boxed in the Golden Gloves and played trumpet in the Fort Worth Salvation Army band. After graduating from Fort Worth Polytechnic High School, he became a regular at some of our city’s more infamous establishments in Hell’s Half Acre, along Jacksboro Highway and, of course, the Fort Worth Stockyards, where he organized some of the area’s more notorious activities.

he release notes that English met Willie Nelson in the mid-1950s “and has been his drummer, protector, bookkeeper and most trusted friend for the last 60-plus years. It’s only fitting that his memorial be held right here in the heart of his beloved Cowtown at the honky-tonk he loved so much.”

The memorial is open to the public, with Billy Bob’s saying that it’s “important to the family that all of Paul’s local friends, musicians and supporters are welcome as we celebrate his life.”

Rest in Peace, Paul English

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

www.Austin360.com
by: Peter Blackstock

Paul English, who played drums with Willie Nelson for more than 50 years, died Tuesday night after a recent bout with pneumonia. He was 87.

English died at a hospital near his home in Dallas with family members at his bedside, according to Nelson’s daughter, Amy.

Born Nov. 6, 1932, in the North Texas town of Vernon and raised in Fort Worth, English first drummed for Nelson on a Fort Worth radio show in 1955 and became his regular drummer in 1966. He’s best known to Nelson fans as the subject of the song “Me and Paul,” which chronicled their lifetime of adventures together: “We received our education in the cities of the nation, me and Paul.”

“If I were to tell a story,” Nelson wrote in his 2015 memoir, “It’s a Long Story: My Life,” “there was none better than the adventures of ‘Me and Paul,’ a song that described the road that my drummer and best friend, Paul English, and I had been riding together.”

Nelson performed Tuesday night in Savannah, Ga., and planned to proceed with a Wednesday night show in Melbourne, Fla., according to his publicist, Elaine Schock. Nelson’s next scheduled Austin-area performance is the annual Luck Reunion on March 19 at his ranch in Spicewood.

English’s brother, Billy, joined Nelson’s Family band in 1983 and has shared drums and percussion duties since, becoming increasingly involved in recent years. Paul suffered a minor stroke in 2010 and broke his hip in a 2013 bus crash, but he continued to tour with Nelson throughout the decade. He was part of Nelson’s most recent taping of the “Austin City Limits” TV program at ACL Live in November 2018.

“He always had our backs,” said Amy Nelson, who knew English all of her life. “He was like the co-patriarch of our family. Nobody can fill Paul’s shoes, ever.”

She recalled Paul’s keen fashion sense, including how he would show up at Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic in “head-to-toe black, when it was 108 degrees, like he was not human. Nothing got in the way of his style and his class.”

A 2015 article in Oxford American magazine by Wimberley author Joe Nick Patoski profiled English’s life and adventures with Willie extensively. English recounted to Patoski his memories of that fateful 1955 radio gig with Nelson: “Someone gave me a bass Salvation Army drum, and I hooked a pedal up to it and sat on a Coke box and managed to hook some bongo drums to the bass drum. They told me to just keep patting my foot.”

Noting English’s reputation for run-ins with the law in his younger days, Patoski observed that “in the musical subgenre known as outlaw music, where country and rock have mixed it up ever since Waylon and Willie and the boys stepped forward, Paul English is that rare bird who really is an outlaw, a hoodlum-made-good as sideman.”

Farm Aid, the annual benefit concert for American farmers that Nelson co-founded, issued a statement about English: “Paul gave his talent and passion to Farm Aid in every way since 1985. Paul English joined Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young as the first members of Farm Aid’s Board of Directors, and he served as Farm Aid’s treasurer for many years. He was a wholehearted champion for family farmers and Farm Aid.”

English is the third member of Nelson’s storied Family band to die in the last 10 years, following bassist Bee Spears in 2011 and guitarist Jody Payne in 2013.

Tentative plans are in the works for a memorial event at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth in early March.

Rest in Peace, Paul English

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

Sad, sad, sad news. Paul English passed away. He was feeling poorly earlier in week and had not gone out on tour with the band this. He saw his doctor and was admitted to hospital, with pneumonia where he passed away Tuesday night. Paul turned 87 last November.

Thanks for all the great music, Paul. That band in heaven has got a great new drummer, but we are sure missing you down here.

Willie Nelson, Bobbie Nelson and Paul English

janisfiddelrs2

photo: Janis Tillerson

Grady Martin (January 17, 1929 – December 3, 2001)

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

Session guitarist Grady Martin was born on January 17, 1929, was born in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. Before he joined Willie Nelson & Family, Grady had played with Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley and Ray Price. He also wrote the song sung by Ronnie Milsap, “Snap Your Fingers.”

grady2

*Article originally printed in the August, 1984 edition of Country Song Roundup magazine.

Young country fans know Grady Martin as the lead guitarist in Willie Nelson’s band, but he is much, much more. His contributions to the development of the Nashville Sound as a studio musician in the 1950’s and 1960’s have been incalculable.

Put bluntly, there would be no Nashville music industry as we know it, were it not for Grady Martin. Country entrepreneur Tillman Franks thinks Grady belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame. “There are five great musical geniuses that made Nashville Music City U.S.A.,” he says. “They are: recording studio innovator Owen Bradley, music publisher Fred Rose, Grand Ole Opry superstar Roy Acuff, and musicians Chet Atkins and Grady Martin. Of these five, Grady MArtin is the only one not in the Country Music Hall of Fame. As a charter member of the Country Music Association, I hereby nominate Grady Martin for the Hall of Fame in 1984.”

Franks said that in December 1983, at a tribute dinner held in Martin’s honor by the Nashville Music Association On that occasion, Grady was lauded by his peers and given the first Master Tribute Award, designed to honor the unsung heroes of music: the backup instrumentalists. On hand were Brenda Lee, Floyd Cramer, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, The Jordonaires, and a ballroom of other celebrities. Willie Nelson hosted the tribute to his friend and bandmember.

Studio musicians got their due at long last that night. Finally it was stated publicly that Grady Martin was the session leader for the hundreds of hit productions that put Nashville on the map. He was a chief architect in the building of Music City.

Grady Martin was born 55 years ago, Jan. 17, 1929, 50 miles south of Nashville on a farm between Lewisburg and Chapel Hill, Tennessee. He grew into a strapping six-footer, but he always preferred making music to doing his farm chores. “My dad played the jug,” he chuckles, remembering his musical youth. “And my mother played the piano. My brother had bought a guitar for eight dollars and he wouldn’t let me fool with it much. I had to slip away to get it.” Maybe that’s why he took up the fiddle at age 13. “There was an old fella down the road named John Davis who played his fiddle at night on his porch. He went down to all the local dances and played.”

He inspired Grady so much that the youngster was soon one of the most accomplished fiddlers in the area. When Nashville radio star Big Jeff Bess came south for a show, Martin was played for him backstage. Impressed, Bess offered the 15 year-old a job.

“We had an early-morning radio show, and just played schoolhouses and anywhere we could. Four or five dollars a night was a good night’s pay. This was during World War II.” Bess was the husband of the legendary Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess, later immortalized as the owner of Nashville’s Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge Bar, across the alley from the Ryman Auditorium downtown, mother church of the Grand Ole Opry.

“I went up to the Opry one Saturday night and met manager Jim Denny. I was just askin’ for a job with somebody on the show. And he turned me on to The Bailes Brothers. So I traveled and appeared with them for awhile.” At the time the group was riding the crest of a wave of hits that included Dust on the Bible, I Wanna Be Loved (But Only By You), and As Long As I Live.

Martin toured with such Opry headliners as Jamup & Honey and Uncle Dave Macon. When he began appearing with trick fiddler Curly Fox and “The Sophie Tucker of Cowgirl Singers,” Texas Ruby, he switched to guitar. Thus, on that instrument he made his recording debut when Fox took him into a studio in Chicago.

He joined the band of Red Foley then about to become the biggest star of his generation of country vocalists. [A] 1949 Nashville recording session produced Foley’s huge number-one hit Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy. It was the first of many million-sellers that were to feature Grady’s guitar. “We recorded that at the Old Castle Studio that was in the Tulane Hotel on Church Street in Nashville.”

Artists like Carl Smith, George Morgan, and Little Jimmy Dickens began using him on their sessions. Hall of Fame member credits Martin and guitarist Jabbo Arrington for developing his hit sounds= with their twin-guitar playing.

Martin even played (fiddle) on a Hank Williams session. He also accompanied Williams to “The Kate Smith Show” in New York in 1952, country music’s debut on prime-time, nationwide network TV.

As Red Foley’s airplane pilot and lead guitarist, Grady Martin accompanied Foley on his commutes to Springfield, Missouri. There he became the band leader on the Foley-hosted “Ozark Jubilee,” the first network TV country variety series.

He maintained his ties to the infant recording center in Nashville, however. Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, and dozens of other Nashville pioneers featured him on their hit records.

“I guess the person I played the most hit licks for was Marty Robbins,” says Martin wistfully of his old friend. That’s Grady’s Spanish-style picking embellishing El Paso, and on Don’t Worry he developed the electric fuzz-tone sound that was to influence an entire generation of psychedelic electric-guitar stylists.

He played vibes on Floyd Cramer’s timeless Last Date. He played dobro/guitar on Wilma Burgess’ lovely Tear Time. He banged tambourine and played the banjo lick on Wings Of A Dove by Ferlin Husky.

“On sessions that produced, like Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans or Jimmy Dean’s Big John, I just went ahead and started it up without the producer. He trusted me and I loved it. When he’d come in later, we’d have a hit arrangement worked out.”

Grady also arranged (and wrote) Joe Henderson’s Snap Your Fingers (1962), perhaps Nashville’s first black top pop hit. The following year, he arranged and published Our Winter Love, one of Music City’s biggest ever pop instrumentals.

He played on all the hits of Patsy Cline and on all the worldwide million-sellers of Brenda Lee. He’s on Elvis Presley’s movie soundtracks. He’s on Gone (Ferlin Husky), Saginaw Michigan (Lefty Frizzell), Waterloo (Stonewall Jackson), Uncle Pen (Porter Wagoner, Grady’s last major session as a fiddler), Devil in Disguise (Elvis), Oh Pretty Woman (Orbison), I’m Sorry (Brenda) and For the Good Times (Ray Price).

Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Dottie West , Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Larry Gatlin, and Kris Kristofferson records all feature Grady Martin. In fact, it would be easier to name the Nashville stars that he has not accompanied in the studios than it would be to list all he has.

“We worked round-the-clock back then. It was like being in a submarine. You’d ‘submerge’ and stay ‘down’ for hours, all night long and sometimes the next day, too. If you got tired you curled up under a piano for awhile and got up and played some more.”

Surrounded by such “A-Team” pickers as Bb Moore, Buddy Harman, Ray Edenton, Harold Bradley, Hank Garland, Pig Robbins, Pete Drake, Floyd Cramer, Tommy Jackson, The Anita Kerr Singers, The Jordonaires, and a handful of others, Grady Martin forged a sound and style. Never before or since in the annals of popular music have so few been so responsible for so many hits.

It was hard work, but what Grady remembers most are the good times the pickers shared in the good old days of Nashville recording. Today, he says those historic sessions are “all a blur to me. You can ask me anything except about dates and song titles.”

At his peak, his reputation spread to pop musicians like Perry Como, Al Hirt, Theresa Brewer, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Henry Mancini, Tab Hunter and Burl Ives, all of whom used his talent on records, Martin’s own recording group, The Slewfoot Five, was a pop/jazz act.

As the 1970’s dawned , Grady MArtin returned to playing live on the road. He served a stint in Jerry Reed’s band before Reed made so many movie-making commitments. Requested by Willie Nelson to play on the soundtrack of the film Honeysuckle Rose in 1979, Martin wound up serving as the model for the Slim Pickens character in the movie. He has remained with Nelson in the 1980’s, both touring and recording with the superstar. Nelson remembers Grady from when he played on a then-green songwriter’s first album. Now Martin plays guitar on such huge Nelson hits as the Merle Haggard duet, Pancho & Lefty.

That the spotlight is finally falling on him after years in the darkness of recording studios won’t change good ole Grady a bit. He remains a Buddah-like, lovable, modest country character without a trace of pretense. “Chet’s a star. I’m not a star,” he says. “Makin’ a good record and havin’ it accepted, just bein’ part of havin’ a hit record, that’s what mattered to me.”

Martin’s modesty might be one reason he has received so little recognition before now. “I really don’t do interviews. I never saw why anybody would want to write anything about me. I’m just a factory worker in the studio.”

He’s wrong. He’s much more than a “factory worker.” He’s 0ne of the creative geniuses in the history of country music.

Rest in Peace, Bill Wittliff, and thanks

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

www.CowboysIndians.com
by: Joe Leydon

We tip our hats to the talented screenwriter, author, and photographer.

WILLIAM D. WITTLIFF?—?often billed in TV and movie credits, and addressed by friends and collaborators, simply as Bill Wittliff?—?ensured for himself a prominent position in the pantheon of great western storytellers as the award-winning screenwriter of Lonesome Dove, the classic 1989 miniseries based on Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a cattle drive led by retired Texas Rangers Woodrow F. Call and Captain Augustus “Gus” McCrae.

Tommy Lee Jones, who befriended Wittliff while playing Call in the epic drama, spoke for millions of admirers when he described Wittliff’s handiwork thusly to Texas Monthly writer John Spong: “It wasn’t an adaptation. It was a derivation, a condensation. You’ve got to let the book be your guide, and that’s not easy. It requires a confidence in your own creativity, along with a selflessness that not a lot of people have. Bill had it in abundance.”

Wittliff, who passed away June 9 at age 79 in Austin, lived an enviably full life as a prolific author and screenwriter, an accomplished photographer, and a tireless champion of the arts. A native of Taft, Texas, he and his wife, Sally, founded Encino Press, a Dallas-based publishing house devoted to fiction and nonfiction about life in Texas and the Southwest, in 1964. He kicked off his show business career in 1978 by writing Thaddeus Rose and Eddie, a TV movie starring Johnny Cash and Bo Hopkins as reckless Texas buddies that was praised by People Magazine for having “a Last Picture Show authenticity.”

Wittliff went on to write or co-write several feature film screenplays, including Honeysuckle Rose (1980), Raggedy Man (1981), Barbarosa (1982), Legends of the Fall (1994), The Perfect Storm (2000), and A Night in Old Mexico (2013). In 1986, he wrote and directed Red Headed Stranger, a western based on Willie Nelson’s 1975 album, starring Nelson, Morgan Fairchild, and Katharine Ross.

Also in 1986, Bill and Sally Wittliff established at Texas State University what would become known as the Wittliff Collections, a wide-ranging archive and research center devoted to collecting, preserving, and celebrating the creative legacy of the Southwest. Among the items included in the Albert B. Alkek Library on the university’s San Marcos campus: More than 19,000 photographs of the Southwest and Mexico, including historical images, 20th-century masters, and emerging 21st-century artists; a Texas music collection that runs the gamut from country and Western swing to blues, polka, rock ’n’ roll, conjunto, and Tejano; and the  private papers and original manuscripts of authors, playwrights, screenwriters, and songwriters such as Sam Shepard, Cormac McCarthy, Bud Shrake, Larry McMurtry, Willie Nelson, and J. Frank Dobie.

And, yes, rest assured: There’s also an entire room devoted to memorabilia from the Lonesome Dove miniseries.


Photography: Ted Albracht/Courtesy Texas State University

From the October 2019 issue.


Willie Nelson and Rip Torn in, “The Songwriter”

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Rest in Peace, Rip Torn

www.RollingStone.com
by: Stephen L. Betts

With the hundreds of film and television roles actor Rip Torn played throughout his career, some are so memorable and well-known (The Larry Sanders Show’s Arthur, for instance) that many others are relegated to “I forgot he was in that one” territory. Born Elmore Rual Torn Jr. in Temple, Texas, in 1931, Rip Torn died Tuesday in Lakeville, Connecticut, at age 88.

Among Torn’s many roles, and indeed, in his personal life, are numerous connections to country music. Coal Miner’s Daughter Oscar winner Sissy Spacek was his first cousin, and Torn’s first wife, actress Ann Wedgeworth, would go on to play Patsy Cline’s mother, Hilda Hensley, in the 1985 biopic Sweet Dreams. Torn would inhabit the roles of both country-music artist and manager with two films a decade apart, one in which he was the lead and another as supporting character to two country icons: Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

In 1984’s Songwriter, Torn plays Dino McLeish, the slick and sleazy manager of Kristofferson’s character, country star Blackie Buck, who is best friend to songwriter Doc Jenkins, played by Nelson. In the above scene from the film, Nelson and Torn are joined by Lesley Ann Warren as Gilda, an aspiring, neurotic singer also being managed by Dino. The hilarious exchange between Doc and Dino is, quite literally, a bit of fast-talking wheeling-and-dealing as the two negotiate Gilda’s musical future. It’s a stellar bit of acting from Torn and Nelson, especially, with their tough-as-leather Texas roots informing both characters. (There’s a mostly unrelated scene in the clip, in which Doc, wearing a borrowed suit and brandishing a vacuum cleaner, visits his ex-wife, singer Honey Carder, who is mentioned briefly by the self-doubting Gilda in the previous scene.)

Rest in Peace, Elliot Roberts

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

www.FarmAid.org

The Farm Aid family lost an important member and friend last week with the death of Elliot Roberts. As Neil Young’s manager, Elliot has always been there at Farm Aid, watching from the side of the stage as so many—including Farm Aid board members Neil Young and Mark Rothbaum—have noted.

Over the years, Elliot’s knowledge and guidance has helped to strengthen Farm Aid. A renowned deal-maker with his artists’ best interests always at heart, Elliot set an essential example for Farm Aid to follow. Each year, backstage at the Farm Aid festival, he’d greet Farm Aid staff with a warm, “Happy Farm Aid!”

All of us here at Farm Aid will miss him dearly.

Dr. John & Friends, final album

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Bill Wittliff stories

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

www.Galveston.com

Bill Wittliff, the Texas screenwriter who wrote the teleplay for the iconic miniseries Lonesome Dove, died on Sunday in Austin at age 79.

Witliff co-wrote Honeysuckle Rose (1980) and wrote Red Headed Stranger (1986) starring Willie Nelson.  He wrote Barbarosa (1982) starring both Willie Nelson and Gary Busey.

Witliff joined J.P. Bryan for a conversation at The Bryan Museum in Galveston on August 4, 2018. He shared stories of growing up during World War II with his mother, who ran a small telephone office in Gregory, Texas. He used that as the foundation for Raggedy Man, a film starring Sissy Spacek playing a version of his mom. He also shared a couple of slightly off-color stories about Willie Nelson and Gary Busey. Watch the video below if you don’t mind a few curse words.

After he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, Wittliff and his wife founded The Encino Press, an Austin-based book publishing company that specialized in tales about Texas and the Southwest, in 1964. 

To preserve the creative process of authors and artists in this region, Witliff and his wife Sally created The Wittliff Collections, including manuscripts from Larry McMurtry, Horton Foote, and J. Frank Dobie; more than 19,000 photographs of the Southwest and Mexico, and music from Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

According to reports, Wittliff and Sally had celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary Saturday, and he died after visiting their Plum Creek ranch near Luling, Texas.

His survivors also include his children, William and Allison; his brother, James, and several grandchildren. Article written by Galveston.com

Bill Wittliff passes

Monday, June 10th, 2019
Willie Nelson with Bill Witliff
Photo: Michael O’Brien

www.HollywoodReporter.com
by: Mike Barnes

The Emmy-nominated Texan also wrote ‘The Perfect Storm,’ three films starring Willie Nelson and two toplined by Sam Shepard.

William D. Wittliff, the elegant Texas screenwriter who penned the teleplay for the acclaimed miniseries Lonesome Dove and worked on such features as Legends of the Fall, Honeysuckle Rose and The Perfect Storm, has died. He was 79.

Wittliff died Sunday in Austin of a heart attack, Hector Saldana of Texas State University told The Hollywood Reporter. In 1986, he and his wife, attorney Sally Wittliff, founded The Wittliff Collections, a research center and archive at the San Marcos school that is home to more than 500 collections of literature, photography, music and film.

Wittliff’s wonderful body of work also includes The Black Stallion (1979), starring Mickey Rooney; Raggedy Man (1981), starring Sissy Spacek, Eric Roberts and Sam Shepard; Country (1984), featuring Shepard and Jessica Lange; The Cowboy Way (1994), starring Woody Harrelson and Kiefer Sutherland; and A Night in Old Mexico (2013), starring Robert Duvall.

Wittliff co-wrote Honeysuckle Rose (1980), directed by Jerry Schatzberg and starring Willie Nelson, Dyan Cannon and Amy Irving. He then wrote two other features that starred Nelson: the Fred Schepisi-helmed Barbarosa (1982) and Red Headed Stranger (1986), which he also directed.

The four-part Lonesome Dove, based on Larry McMurtry’s 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, collected seven Emmy Awards and was a ratings smash for CBS in 1989. Wittliff earned nominations for writing and producing, two of the project’s 18 noms.

Wittliff was born in 1940 in Taft, Texas. During World War II, his mother ran a small telephone office in Gregory, Texas, and he used that as the foundation for Raggedy Man, with Spacek playing a version of his mom.

After he graduated from the University of Texas, Wittliff and his wife founded The Encino Press, an Austin-based book publishing company that specialized in tales about Texas and the Southwest, in 1964. 

He and Susan Shilliday combined for the screenplay to Edward Zwick’s Legends of the Fall (1994), starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, and he adapted Sebastian Junger’s book for Wolfgang Petersen’s The Perfect Storm (2000), starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.

He also wrote Ned Blessing: The True Story of My Life, a pilot for a CBS series that starring Daniel Baldwin.

The Wittliff Collections include manuscripts from the likes of McMurtry, J. Frank Dobie and Horton Foote; more than 19,000 photographs of the Southwest and Mexico (Wittliff was an accomplished photographer in his own right); and music from Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others. 

Wittliff and his wife had celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary Saturday, and he died after visiting their Plum Creek ranch near Luling, Texas, said Saldana, who serves as Texas music curator for The Wittliff Collections.

His survivors also include his children, William and Allison; his brother, James; and several grandchildren.