Music Industry Nashville

Peter Cooper RIP

I was heavily saddened this past Thursday morning as I woke to learn of the death of Peter Cooper. If you do not know who Peter was, you definitely should know of him.

Peter worked as a music writer and editor for the Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper, for nearly 15 years starting in 2000. During this time, he interviewed dozens of legendary country artists, including Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Bobby Bare. Kris Kristofferson once said he “looks at the world with an artist’s eye, and a human heart and soul,” He was also a vocal supporter of the rising tide of the Americana format, yet still was able intellectually critique and praise the modern artists such as Taylor Swift. You knew that whatever he wrote, it was well thought out and came from his heart.

His words were the type that impressed people. Johnny Cash told Peter during an interview that he read everything that Peter wrote. George Jones’ grave marker has a few of Peter’s words etched into the stone. He had his enemies, as does any journalist (Google “Peter Cooper Toby Keith” to find out more).

He left the newspaper in 2014 to become senior director at the Country Music Hall of Fame. No other person deserved it more, and no one but Peter Cooper could truly handle such a position while still being totally creative with his writing. In 2017 he wrote the critically acclaimed book, Johnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride. His position at the HOF helped him network with many songwriters, which in turn perfected his songwriting talent. He became close friends with Tom T. Hall, Mac Wiseman, and Todd Snider just to name a few.

Peter put out a number of solo albums, as well as discs with songwriter Eric Brace. They produced a tribute album to Tom T. Hall, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2012. Along with all of that, he also hosted the HOF’s podcast, “Voices in the Hall.”

What I loved most about Peter is that he never used his position in the Nashville music industry as a badge. He treated everyone, from the biggest names in country music to the Joe on the street, with the same courtesy. I met up with him many-a-times in Nashville during either the IBMA or AMA music conferences. Each time we talked, it was always interesting. He was a true journalist, listening to every word that you said to him, knowing that something might come across that he could follow-up on for a story.

He was also extremely humble and courteous. Even if you weren’t talking to him, just passing by and he was talking to someone else, if he recognized you, he would give you a friendly nod or a small wave. He like people, but more than tat, he loved to hear what people had to say.

Earlier in the week, Peter had fallen and severely injured himself, and never fully regained consciousness. He was 52 years old, and leaves behind a son. He also leaves behind a wealth of amazing stories and songs. Nashville will not be the same without Peter checking out a new face on Music Row, showing up at a music conference held in town, or even trying out a new song at a local open mic. I will feel a bit of emptiness the next time that I go to Nashville, knowing that a good, trusted friend will not be there to talk about who is the next artist to watch in bluegrass or Americana. I will definitely miss you, sir. But I do hope that you are up there doing a guitar pull with Johnny, George, Tom T. and Mac.

Chew on it and comment.

Comedy Music Industry

Bil VornDick/Larry Storch RIP

This past week, a stalwart in the bluegrass community passed away. Someone who was better known for being behind the mixing board. Bil VornDick had spent over four decades getting the most clear acoustic sounds from instruments as an engineer and producer.

He started work with Marty Robbins and Loretta Lynn back in the late 1970s after graduating from Belmont University, and helped bring in the new acoustic sound in the 1980s, working with Marc O’Connor, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Alison Brown to name a few. After working with Alison Krauss on her first two albums, he continued to work many newgrass-style artists, including New Grass Revival, Peter Rowan, and the Country Gentlemen. He also worked with a number of mainstream country and bluegrass artists, including Marty Stuart, Trace Adkins, Del McCoury, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, and Rhonda Vincent.

His work totaled 40 Grammy nominations and nine wins. He produced the critically-acclaimed Clinch Mountain Country, which showcased Ralph Stanley singing duets with Bob Dylan, George Jones, Gillian Welch, Patty Loveless, and Vince Gill among others. He also campaigned to save the famous RCA Studio A in Nashville from demolition.

I talked with Bil a number of times. I interviewed him for an article on a Jom Lauderdale album he was producing, and met up with him a number of times when the IBMA World of Bluegrass conferences were still in Nashville. He was always laid back, and was very open about his techniques on engineering in the studio. He will definitely be missed by so many bluegrass and Americana artists who relied on him to get the best sound on record.

Comedic actor Larry Storch passed away Friday at the age of 99. This guy could portray any character needed. He was an amazing actor to say the least. Probably one of the most underrated actors ever. His list of film and television appearances, as well as cartoon voice-overs, is endless.

However, he is probably best known as Corporal Randolph Agarn in the 1960s television comedy F-Troop. That series only lasted two seasons, but each episode was a gem. His dialogue interplay with Sergeant O’Rourke (played by Forrest Tucker) was comparable to any great comedy team. He was the butt of many jokes on the show, and would dress up in any costume to make sure that the scene would get the greatest laugh. His comedic greatness was great in dialogue, physical slapstick, and facial expressions.

I have always loved his work, and always thought that he was not given his dues, often taking lousy roles in cheap horror movies and sub-par television shows in the 70s and 80s. True fans of the Golden Age of Television knew of his talent, and that talent can never be replaced.

Chew on it and comment.

Music Industry

The Print Magazines That I Miss

I love writing for a music magazine! I currently am a regular contributor to Fiddler. I work with a great editor (Mary Larsen), I have learned to appreciate the violin more, so much so that I have gone from a disgruntled beginner to a disgruntled intermediate player, and most important, I have become friends with a number of musicians in the bluegrass, klezmer, folk, and Americana folds.

I have written for a number of other magazines over the years, but that has dropped off due to a number of reasons such as difficult editors/not getting paid, financial situations ceasing publication, or the decision to go strictly online (which results in lack of pay many times as well).
Hitting the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble is pathetic. The choice for music-related magazines is minimal, and what is there is more trendy/gossipy than intellectual or industry oriented (with a few exceptions like Guitar Player).

Yes, times change, and perhaps the current young generation is content with getting its information from the web instead of a hard-copy magazine. When I was a young and easily influenced beginning musician, I salivated over the numerous music magazines that were available, either as intelligent criticism of the current music trends or as helpful mentoring in becoming a better musician. One can get any lesson for any instrument on YouTube, as well as personal reviews of equipment. However, it just isn’t the same as relying on that monthly music ‘zine that either came to your door or was waiting for you at the bookstore to get valued information and advice.

I have been thinking lately of some of the print magazines that I miss getting my hands on over the years. Here are a few of them, and I hope that it may bring back some fond memories for you.

Blitz – As a teenager in the early 1980s, I was getting into the punk/new wave scene both as a listener and musician. When I discovered Blitz, I thought that I had found the Holy Grail! It hailed itself as “The Rock and Roll Magazine for Thinking People,” and it was. This was more than the local fanzine, even though it covered musicians primarily from California. However, those were the bands that I was into at that time. The Plimsouls, The Blasters, X, The Long Ryders, Green on Red, The Dream Syndicate, The Bangles, Blood on the Saddle, the list goes on. They also covered a lot of European bands that were making a name for themselves in the US, as well as bands from the 1960s that still had a cult following. I remember the first issue that I got. Josie Cotton was on the cover. The writing was not pretentious like Rolling Stone, more down to Earth without being moronic. There were three or four artist articles, then a ton of album reviews that I relied on heavily. It started in 1975, but was no longer being printed by the mid 1990s. There is a Facebook page run by the old staff, but I don’t do FB, so I pass.

Frets – This was (and still is, I believe) a sister publication to Guitar Player (which also had another sister called Keyboard for those interested in that instrument family). Started in 1979, this was a magazine for those interested in acoustic music, no matter what the genre. While most of it seemed to lean toward bluegrass artists, there was also ample coverage of jazz, international, acoustic pop, and folk. Also in variance were the musical instruments covered. Besides guitar, there were regular articles on players of mandolin, banjo, fiddle, even autoharp, sitar, and bouzuki. That may have been its weakness, as it is very hard to find a large readership that is into many acoustic instruments from many musical formats. By 1985, the content seemed to lean mostly with acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars, although there were some great stories on the New Grass Revival and Mark O’Connor. The original magazine folded in August 1989, but was brought back about a decade later covering almost only acoustic guitars, most likely to compete against Acoustic Guitar magazine and to keep that audience that wasn’t interested in electric guitars satisfied (like the original publication in 1979). I haven’t seen hide nor hair of this magazine in over a decade, and the website ( has information dating from 2006.

Bluegrass Now – This was an alternative to Bluegrass Unlimited when it was alive. It was bi-monthly, so it was not as timely as BU. During its last few years in the early 2000s, I wrote a few articles for it. I got along great with the editorial staff, but there were some financial difficulties within the magazine. In 2003, it chose to go online-only, but could not garnish enough interest from the bluegrass community to survive (trust me, this community will always love its hard-copy reading). There were one or two other bluegrass-centric magazines that dropped by the wayside as well. BU was fortunate to partner with the Bluegrass Hall of Fame to ensure its continuance. BN was more in-depth with its interviews, a quality that BU seems to be moving toward. However, snagging an authorship in BU is nearly impossible, as it has its regular contributors. So I do wish that there were more bluegrass print publications out there, but I can understand the financial reasons why there are not.

These are just three of the many magazines that I miss. Getting information off of the internet is not the same. I enjoyed getting a different magazine each week and reading it cover-to-cover, keeping it with me so that I could read a little at school, at a restaurant, at home, waiting in the car, or a dozen other situations. Surfing on your phone is irritating.

Chew on it and comment.

Music Industry Social Media

Glarry and Its Loyalty to Facebook

Some of you readers have seen in my previous blogs how I have talked mostly positive about Glarry, the musical instrument company out of China that produces decent-quality guitars, basses, and violins at very affordable prices. Well, my most recent experience with the company’s PR end has changed my mind considerably about it, and not for the better.

Now, this negative reaction has nothing to do with the instruments themselves. I still feel that they are worth the money for beginner musicians. Moreover, what I am about to discuss is not only a reflection of Glarry, but of many companies promoting products by having contests.

During the past two weeks, Glarry had a contest in which they were giving away 15 instruments. The stipulation was that one had to take a photo of oneself holding his/her Glarry musical instrument, then post it on Facebook or Instagram.

Here’s my situation: I do not have a Facebook or Instagram account. In fact, I have very few accounts in the social media world. I refuse to have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tik Tok account (the four most popular) for two main reasons:

  1. I do not support these networks’ stifling the free speech of one side of the political spectrum
  2. I do not waste my time posting mundane and uninteresting news about myself or others

I have a LinkedIn account for my employment networking (which unfortunately has become a dumping ground for Facebook-like postings), a ReverbNation account for songwriting networking, a YouTube account to post songwriting clips (which is also becoming like Facebook and Twitter in its censorship; I’m considering moving to Rumble), and a rarely used Parler account, which is used even less after the whole take-down scandal.

We have seen in the news over the past year or two how these social media companies are controlling the thought process of much of the population by their censorship. I won’t get into that end of it here. I have my opinions, and do not feel like debating that with anyone.

What I do want to talk about is that Glarry, as well as many other companies out there, feel that their customers, especially the most loyal ones, MUST have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account in order to be rewarded.

I contacted Glarry by email about this. I wanted to take a humorous photo of me with my Glarry guitar and bass strapped around my shoulders, as well as holding my Glarry violin. I was told that I could only enter the contest through Facebook or Instagram because that is how most of their customers communicate. Well, not ALL of your customers communicate that way. I am sure that any company that to enter a certain contest, one must wear a certain type of clothing or cut his/her hair a certain way, that company would be ostracized, boycotted, or taken to court.

But this is a trend among a lot of companies, and the masses are allowing it without recourse. The world is full of people that cannot live without a Facebook account. Everyone thinks that his/her voice must be heard, no matter how boring, dumb, or obnoxious the statement is. We don’t count the friends that we have around us, but instead count the amount of Likes we have on our last post. We destroy other people’s lives with the click of a mouse button, and have no remorse if we were wrong about the facts.

As for Glarry, when I wrote back stating that I did not have an account, would not open an account just to enter the contest, and would be dealing other companies in the future because of this, Glarry wrote back with a “have a nice day” reply. All right, so they won’t miss my future business, I am just one customer out of thousands. However, if more people would take a similar action, perhaps companies would take notice and make such contests available to all walks of life. Glarry is not the only company that handles its contests as such, and unfortunately, the social media world has become so popular that those who do not wish to be lemmings are treated as less important.

Chew on it and comment.

Americana Music Bluegrass Music Music Industry

Billy Strings & The Grammys / Tom Stevens RIP

The Grammys were last week, and guitarist Billy Strings won the Best Bluegrass Album Category for his recording Home. I don’t watch the Grammys, but I congratulate him winning the award. He totally deserves the recognition.

So as expected, there would be those that claim an amount of unfairness. When the news was posted on the Bluegrass Today website (, there were a few that stated that, not only was Billy Strings NOT bluegrass, but neither were the other nominees. That list included:
Man On Fire – Danny Barnes
To Live In Two Worlds, Vol 1 – Thomm Jutz
North Carolina Songbook – Steep Canyon Rangers
Home – Billy Strings
The John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project, Vol 1 – Various Artists

The complaint was that there were no “real” bluegrass artists in the list. Of course, the debate began, with about an even amount of Billy Strings is/isn’t bluegrass. I sided with the “is” party, mostly because I feel that I have a bigger acceptance of what the format entails. There will always be the debate of what instruments can or cannot be included in a bluegrass ensemble. Some feel that if there is no banjo, or if there is an electric bass, or if there is any type of percussion or keyboard, then it is not bluegrass.

I look at bluegrass not as a structure, but as a feeling. It doesn’t matter what kind of bass is playing in the background, or if there is a banjo on the song. A bluegrass song moves me in a different way that a rock song, or a blues song, or a jazz song moves me. Doc Watson played guitar either solo or with his son Merle. What Doc kicked out may not be bluegrass to some, but it sure was to me.

My problem with what one person said on the discussion was that others knew nothing about bluegrass, including calling out another participant who has won numerous awards for his bluegrass songwriting and journalism work. This person continued to state certain ideas, then a few entries later would say that he never said that. He continued to post statements that only a few people know what bluegrass is, and that others just follow bad examples.

Bluegrass music, in fact, all music, is not mathematics. There is no definite answer to what is good or bad. There is no definite answer to what bluegrass music is. As I stated in that discussion, no one person, no small group of people, not even organizations such as the IBMA or SPGBMA, can truly define bluegrass music. It is up to the listener. There can “perhaps” be some directional suggestions, such as “may have a three-finger banjo picking” or “lack of drums,” but those should only be suggestions. The Steep Canyon Rangers have a percussionist, yet their songs have a groove that is definitely more bluegrass than any other format. The Lonesome River Band often uses an electric bass. I haven’t heard a single LRB album that cannot be considered bluegrass.

Maybe what Billy Strings is playing, or Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, Mile Twelve, or Hawktail isn’t nuance for nuance a Bill Monroe version of a song, but I would hate for that to be so. Do not clip the wings of the young.

I just learned today while writing this that Tom Stevens, bassist for the Long Ryders (one of the best and most underrated bands of the 1980s), passed away in late January. I don’t keep in touch much with my connections in the old days of cowpunk/Paisley Underground, so I am disappointed in myself that I am just learning the news.

If you never heard of the Long Ryders, you should have, especially if you are a fan of the Americana music format. The band was keeping alive that country-rock/electric folk sound in between the days of the Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons and the early stages of Americana/alt-country of Uncle Tupelo/Jayhawks. They had their fan base in California where they headquartered (although members were form different parts of the country), had cult followings around most of the rest of the US, but were highly revered in Europe. There were a few bassists that passed through the ranks, but Tom was the one that remained closest. He wrote many of the band’s songs as well as shared lead vocals with guitarists Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy. His bass playing was totally in the pocket. Tom left the band in 1988, and the band broke up shortly thereafter. They reunited in 2004 and 2019, put out another album, and toured the US and Europe. I stayed in touch with Tom for a while in the 80s and 90s, but as with most relationships in the business, they sometimes drift apart.

Unfortunately, I was not able to see the reunion show here in Detroit two years ago, as I was out of town at a music conference. I am still kicking myself for that. I was able to talk s friend into going to the show, and he was totally floored by the band. They were not flashy, but were straight-ahead rock-n-roll. The band also had a great sense of humor. I was a member of the Long Ryders Fan Club, and upon the breakup, the band sent their fans a cassette called Metallic B.O. (tip of the hat to Iggy Pop), which contained a number of their outtakes, demos, and banter that is just hilarious. I still have that cassette, and I cherish it.

Tom did some solo recordings as well as appeared on other artists’ albums (a lot of his stuff is available on YouTube and other sites). He moved back to his home state of Indiana, got a computer degree and job, raised a family, and became a regular guy for the most part. I do hope that he knows how much his art and talent was appreciated by those who listened. You will be dearly missed, Tom.

Chew on it and comment.

Music Industry

More on Peavey and the Music Business

I’m not a television watcher. Other than the news occasionally, Jeopardy, and a few shows on the History Channel, I rarely have the thing on. I would rather read or practice one of my musical instruments.

So it came as a surprise to me when, doing some research on Peavey guitars (see last week’s blog), I came upon some information on the company that had me taken aback. It seems that the company was highlighted on an episode of the reality show Undercover Boss a few years ago, and what is worse, had some bad fallout prior to the finished production airing on TV.

It seems that the COO of the company (Courtland Gray) went undercover at Peavey Electronics to see what was happening with quality control. During the show, Gray learned that one employee had numerous bills to pay due to cutbacks, and another was turning in his two-week notice for better employment. At the end, Gray was able to give the first some financial assistance, and convince the second to stay with Peavey. Happy ending?

Not really. After the filming but before the airing, Peavey announced that it would be closing the factory that these two employees worked at, screwing them and others royally. The second employee got transferred to another facility, but he was pissed to say the least. The first lost her job entirely. Now this was all back in 2014. I can only hope that the both of them found better opportunities. A number of YouTube channels are showing this episode, so just Google “Peavey Undercover Boss.” Here is Casino Guitars talking about the situation:

Peavey was not alone during the past decade of music instrument soap opera drama. In 2018, Gibson (home of the Les Paul guitar and Bill Monroe’s F5 mandolin) filed for bankruptcy protection. The company has proceeded on, but news like that does not just get pushed under the rug.

So many companies have gone overseas for operations to save costs, with varying amounts of success (Fender = big rewards!, Peavey = way too late for the bus). Also, think about the music stores that have had varying amounts of success. Mars went belly up (again, see my previous blog on that company), Guitar Center keeps surviving despite multiple bankruptcies and legal woes, yet Sweetwater proved to be one of the most successful businesses out there, not just of music businesses, but of ALL businesses, during this last year with the pandemic.

With the interest in learning musical instruments while stuck at home this past year, one can see that an online music store would be successful. The downside was that in-store shopping was temporarily halted, and many stores, especially independents, are starving or closed altogether. As I stated in last week’s blog, prices for used equipment has also skyrocketed, I guess due to a renewed interest in musical instruments.

As for Peavey and its history, it makes me sad. Hartley Peavey started this company to bring affordable, durable products into the hands of blue-collar musicians. Between overseas competition, a drop in quality, and a change in the taste of musicians, it has become nearly a joke of what it once was. I still swear by those old bass guitars and the durable amps, but I know of so many people who look down on that equipment as lame.

What about the rise in learning a musical instrument? It is great to see, but will it last long-term? Everyone is stuck in the house, and after getting burned out on TV and video games, some people want to be educated, even if it means learning a guitar or some other instrument. Heck, I am sure that other hobbies are booming just as much. But what about a year from now, when it is expected that there will be a full return to going out, attending shows and restaurants, and not having to be forced to stay at home? I do see a small benefit for those of us who are passionate about the music. There will be a lot of guitars, basses, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and keyboards for sale on the cheap.

Chew on it and comment.

Music Industry

Bruce Swedien and Phil Ramone

I am currently reading Make Mine Music by Bruce Swedien. You probably have never heard the name, but you have definitely heard his work. He engineered hundreds of hit records and albums, with his most famous being Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Bruce has worked with Quincy Jones and dozens of other great producers over the last few decades. Unfortunately, Bruce passed away last year, but his work will live on forever.

The reason I bring up his autobiography is that it does not read like other life stories. This isn’t written like a chronological “this is what I did and what happened to me” type of book. Instead, Bruce presented his chapters as anecdotes of his experience in the recording studios that he worked at during his lifetime. He talks about famous artists he engineered, but from the perspective of how he captured their sounds on tape more so than what they were like as people. He has chapters on what equipment he used over the years, like the changes in technology from cutting wax discs to tape machines to digital trends. He talks about the different microphones he has used, what made them unique, and in what situations he put them through.

This is the type of autobiography that I enjoy reading. Someone listening to Jackson’s “Billie Jean” will like the beat, or the storyline or the groove. I, on the other hand, like to go much deeper. I like to know HOW certain sound were captured, why songs were arranged the way they were, and what was going on in the minds of the people behind the studio glass. Bruce does give some perspective of how he got into the business, his parents’ attitude and where he got his training, but he knows that his audience is interested in more in his actual work and how he created it.

Another great book in this vein is Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music by Phil Ramone. The record-buying public may consider Michael Jackson the “King of Pop,” but from a production standpoint, Phil deserved that title. Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones and Elton John are just a few of the superstars that he produced or engineered. He passed away in 2013, leaving behind a list of artists that other producers could only dream of working with. His autobiography has a similar take. Instead of the usual childhood-to-success-story movement, each chapter is its own little story of an anecdote that happened in his musical life. Incidents like running sound for John F Kennedy’s birthday party and setting up the microphone for Marilyn Monroe, or his work with Sinatra. People like me who love the behind-the-scenes stories of the music industry, especially from a production standpoint, tend to love these type of books.

The general music-listening public tend to forget, or are apathetic to, the amount of manpower that goes into recording a hit song. We see the artist standing in front of the microphone belting out a vocal treasure and think that is all that needs to be done. It is the heroes behind that artist that intrigue me the most. That is why I rarely download or stream music. I like to have that album in my had to see the whole story. The writers, producers and engineers, which studios were used, guest musicians, the mastering of the album – all of that is important to a listener like me. Skyscrapers were not designed and built by one person, and neither were million-seller records.

I recommend that, if you are into learning about stories of popular music recordings and basic technology, then snag one or both of these books.

Chew on it and comment.

Music Industry Musical Instruments

Are You Sure That It’s a Shure?

I guess this has been a problem for a few years, but I only became aware of it recently. While checking out the website, I came across something that made me to a double-take. The site was selling Shure microphones for about 20% of their cost at a music store. The famous SM58 vocal mic retails for about $100 at Sweetwater or Guitar Center. The same can be said for the SM57, and the Beta 87a goes for around $250. If you shop Amazon, you may find it for a buck or two cheaper.

However, one search on the Wish site shows that you can snag a 57 or 58 for about $20, and a Beta 87a for around $30. Depending on when you go to the site, the prices can sometimes be cheaper!

I knew there had to be a catch, but I decided to purchase a 58 anyway to see what would happen. Of course, shipping and taxes added about $10 to the cost, and it took about three weeks for the package to arrive (it was shipped from China).

I have always felt that the Shure SM58 is the best all-around microphone available. Comparing price, durability, and response, it would be the obvious choice if I were to have only one microphone. When I opened up the package of my new 58, I could tell right away that it was a fake. Just by holding it, it was a lot lighter than the true Shure 58. Putting them both on a scale, the real 58 came in at about 0.6 lb., while the fake 58 weighed in at 0.4 lb. Taking off the windscreens, the real 58 capsule has a slight cushion to it in order to sustain some shock. The fake 58 had no cushion to the capsule.

Testing it out on a small PA system, I noticed that the fake 58 did not have the same warmth from the low end frequencies as the real 58. It just seems to have a bit of distortion from that end. Its response was more like the lower-cost SM48. It did have the same sound level as the true 58, just not as warm.

In short, it seemed to be about worth the money of the purchase. It was a lot cheaper than the true 58, but it definitely is not of the same high quality. I am sure that the SM57 and Beta 87a that are available on Wish are of the same quality. Here is a video that I found that provides more information on comparing the two:

My main concern with this marketing is that I am questioning why Shure has not proceeded with large-scale legal action against the manufacturers of fake microphones. We have seen such action taken by guitar manufacturers, with results leading to mislabeled guitars not being available in the US as well as legal action being taken against anyone bringing one into the country. However, a Google search on the Shure situation shows that there has only been one serious attempt at legal action, and that was in the UK about 10 years ago.

I would think that Shure would take a stronger action against the sale and distribution of these fake microphones for two big reasons:

  1. The lower cost of the fake microphones will lead to more sales, which will kill Shure’s sales.
  2. The lack of quality with the fake microphones will reflect poorly on Shure, as consumers would blame Shure for the problems, even though it had nothing to do with the manufacturing of that fake mic.

Perhaps I am out of the loop and am missing something. However, my advice to anyone interested in one of these fake Shure microphones, if you purchase one, do not expect the quality and customer service you can expect from the Shure company. You will be getting a second-class product with a first-class label on the body. If you want the best, you need to go directly into purchasing as true Shure microphone.

Chew on it and comment.

Americana Music Bluegrass Music Music Industry

Jerry Jeff Walker RIP/Sturgill Simpson and Downloads

Two things.

First, my heart dropped this morning when a buddy texted me that Jerry Jeff Walker passed away at 79 years of age. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t heard his classic song “Mr. Bojangles.” It is a standard up there with “Gentle On My Mind” and “Yesterday.” But Jerry (real name Ronald Clyde Crosby) was way more than that. His catalog was amazing to say the least. There were the humorous and crazy tunes like “Trashy Women” and “Pissing In the Wind.” Then there were the tender and heartfelt songs like “Navajo Rug” and “Morning Song to Sally.”

He was from New York, did some time in Greenwich Village, but moved to Austin, Texas and helped to create the city’s live music scene. Once could say that he was Texas’ favorite adopted son. He lived the rowdy lifestyle (he wrote “Mr. Bojangles” after an experience in a jail cell arrested for intoxication), but was always humble and giving. He helped Guy Clark get noticed by recording Clark’s songs “L.A. Freeway.” Legend has it that he influenced Jimmy Buffett to move to Key West, Florida.

Jerry spent his last few years in the grips of throat cancer, the one ailment that only the Devil could place on a singer-songwriter. He continued to write until this past week when he died. His songs are timeless, stories that are not so much feel-good/happy-ending types, but ones that are truly descriptive, soul-wrenching, and life-like.

Thank you, Jerry, for showing all of us other songwriters how it is done.

Late last week Sturgill Simpson released Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1, a collection of his own songs done bluegrass style. I love Sturgill! Not just the fact that his songs are fantastic, but I love his attitude that he has taken toward the country music industry. After winning “Best Country Album” at the Grammy Awards in 2017, the industry didn’t even bother to invite him to the following year’s CMA awards. So what did he do? He busked in front of the theatre that evening. That takes balls!

With the release of the bluegrass album, he did some crazy stuff like putting lawncare signs on music biz buildings in Music Row ( He has also been very vocal on the way Merle Haggard was treated by the industry in the years before Haggard’s death. Well done! And while I’m not in agreement with a lot of Sturgill’s politics, I do applaud him for doing legwork and not just talking the talk.

However, my gripe here is how he has chosen to release his bluegrass album. While the streaming version was released last week, the CD will not be available until December, and vinyl is not available until January! While mainstream pop markets are pretty much going the streaming/download route, there is still a large fan base in the roots-music formats that crave the physical part of owning music, myself included. We want to be able to hold in our hands something that is attached to the music. The album cover means a lot to us. We soak in the liner notes, the musician lineup, the choice of photos and artwork. We involve our sight and touch sensory functions along with hearing. This becomes a disappointment to say the least, and may involve me forgetting to purchase the album next month.

This is not to say that streaming and downloading should be banished. If there is an audience for it, then by all means, market that as well! It also serves its purpose in the music business area. I was contacted by a musician who was releasing her album in two months, but wanted me to listen to the songs beforehand so that I could review it for a magazine. She sent me the download link, and I was able to get the review published right about the time the CD was becoming available. Perfect!

But with downloading as a primary or only way to purchase music, especially with bluegrass or other roots music formats, it is one way to lose music fans like me. I am from the old school. Like I said above, I like the physical aspect of being a music fan. I also like having a big stereo system. Downloading music to your iPhone or MP3 player and wearing ear buds makes that music private and closed in. The stereo system lets others know what I am listening to as well. It fills the room, not just my head.

CD sales are down because of the music industry, not the music fans. The industry will still charge you a dollar for a download, which when considering that the average album has about 12 or 13 songs, it’s the cost of a CD anyway, but they don’t have to manufacture anything. They save that cost. It is also more difficult to track download sales for the performance right organizations like ASCAP and BMI. Thus, songwriters get cheated out of royalties. Vinyl sales are still rising thanks to hipster audiophiles. However, that rise is still not enough to get the money collected by the record companies into the hands of the workers that deserve and earn it. Besides, I like having a wall of CDs towering over me.

Sturgill has a lot of top-notch bluegrass artists like Tim O’Brien, Sierra Hull and Stuart Duncan appearing on his album. Fans of these musicians will gladly bring Sturgill into the bluegrass fold. Most of the bluegrass fans still rely on CDs. He is making a big mistake by not making his bluegrass album available in CD so that roots-music audiences can fully enjoy his work.

Chew on it and comment.

Music Industry

The Hypocrisy of the Music Industry

I’m keeping this one short.

We all know what a senseless act it was for George Floyd to die the way he did. Now every corporation and industry is standing up against racial injustice.

On Tuesday, June 2, a number of music-related organizations and companies participated in the Blackout Tuesday to show their support for the racial injustice. These included musical instrument companies like Gibson and Epiphone, and perfromance rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP and BMI.

Fine, but what are they doing to help those smaller businesses that have kept these companies and organizations in their high-rise towers over the years? NOTHING. Hundreds of restaurants and boutiques were destroyed in the ensuing riots. These shops and restaurants have paid fees to the PROs over the years as royalty payments. If these were not paid, most likely the businesses would be fined or closed down. Now that these businesses have been ruined (on top of the months that they were closed down due to the Coronavirus panic), the PROs are doing NOTHING to help out. But, if these restaurants and shops are able to open up again, you can rest assured that the PROs will be the first people knocking on their doors to collect money.

In Emeryville, California, a Guitar Center was vandalized and looted of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of music equipment. Looters were seen carrying two guitars at a time leaving the destroyed store. Guitar Center stores are also known for selling other people’s equipment on consignment. I am sure that there were a few pieces like that stolen. What are Gibson and Epiphone doing to help out the store? NOTHING.

Think about it.

While you are thinking about it, remember David Dorn, Dave Patrick Underwood, Chris Beaty, Italia Kelly, and about a dozen others killed during this past week’s riots. Also keep Las Vegas officer Shay Mikalonis in your prayers. He was deliberately shot in the back of the head by Edgar Samaniego during violent protests in that city and is still in critical condition as of this writing.

Chew on it and comment.

6/7/20 Addendum: Now keep the family of Santa Cruz County (CA) officer Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in your prayers. He was shot and killed yesterday (along with two other officers being injured) in an ambush set up by Steven Carrillo.