Rich Kienzle

Rich Kienzle


blakeshelton-texomashore cover

Award-winning star Blake Shelton's new album Texoma Shore appears November 3. Lake Texoma is an Oklahoma reservoir in that state between Dallas and Oklahoma City. A sequel to his 2016 album If Im Honest. Shelton promises a mix of contemporary and tradtional material.

The album's first single, the traditional "I'll Name The Dogs," has stirred considerable attention



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Art Rupe turned 100 on September 5th.

Rupe, the oldest living Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and founder of the iconic Specialty Records, joined the elite group in 2011 in their non-performer category awarded to individuals who did pivotal work on the other side of the mike. He also received the HOF's Ahmet Ertegun Award. Rupe was inducted by R&B legend Lloyd Price, whose breakthrough recording of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," a hit with both R&B and pop audiences, was released on Specialty in 1952.

What tends to be overlooked: Art Rupe is a native Western Pennsylvania.

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Celebrating the 100th Birthday of blues icon John Lee Hooker.  His birth year is in dispute, but since his tomb shows the year 1917, I'll go with that.  I did screw up the date--August 22nd, 1917, not August 12th.  Will fix that soon

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Frank Vincent, whose memorable portrayal of Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos accounted for some memorable moments in the show's later seasons, died today at 78 (or 80, depending on what media reports you believe) during heart surgery.  Vincent was a longtime friend of Joe Pesci who had prominent roles in two landmark Martin Scorsese films. Playing "Billy Batts" in Goodfellas, he told Pesci's mobster Tommy DeVito, a former shoeshine boy to ("Go home and get your ***ing shine box" and got murdered for it.  Vincent, playing Frankie Marino, had the pleasure of dispatching Pesci's Nicky Santoro in Casino.

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 Photo: Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP

Troy Gentry's tragic death in a Friday helicopter crash brought a brutal, unexpected end to nearly two decades working with Eddie Montgomery (brother of John Michael Montgomery) as Montgomery Gentry, a duo never lost touch with their Kentucky roots MG kept the southern rock sound alive in their music, continuing a tradition that began in the 1970's with southern rock-flavored country by Hank Williams Jr. and the Charlie Daniels Band. The duo were high energy all the way.  

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Don Williams: Requiem For A Gentle Giant

Saturday, 09 September 2017 10:54


Last year, following a powerful run of Top Ten and # 1 singles that began in 1974 and didn't end until the 90's, Don Williams, who died at 78 on Friday after a brief illness, announced his retirement last year, the year of his Country Music Hall of Fame induction.  After a period of inactivity, Williams had resumed his recording career for the Sugar Hill label in 2012, working with longtime co-producer Garth Fundis, retaining the trademark Williams sound of his glory years.  He recorded two albums for them.

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After a career-threatening shoulder and hand injuries last year, contemporary jazz great Mike Stern returns with all-star sidemen on "Trip"

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With Nashville trio Rascal Flatts opening a restaurant at Station Square and Toby Keith almost opening one on the North Shore, it may not be clear that country stars lending their names to restaurant franchises is a tradition stretching back a good half-century.  It kicked into high gear in the late 60's when several stars of that era got the franchise bug, mostly involving fried chicken. We'll explore some of these. It's not a comprehensive list.  Buck Owens, Little Jimmy Dickens and others jumped on the bandwagon for a while.

Note: Johnny Cash, riding high in the late 60's with his top-selling Folsom Prison and San Quentin albums, was asked if he would jump into the fried chicken business. In typical renegade fashion, Cash responded, "You ain't gonna find my name on no greasy sack of s***!"


Beloved Grand Ole Opry comic Minnie Pearl (1912-1996), a college graduate from an affluent, educated Tennessee family, became the public image of a chain inspired by Kentucky Fried Chicken's success and attracted national attention. Minnie Pearl's Fried Chicken opened in 1967, spurred by Tennessee businessmen with no food experience. They sold franchises like crazy, even started a chain fronted by black gospel great Mahalia Jackson ("Glori-Fried Chicken"), but through bad business practices (selling franchises became the profit center), and the executives' ignorance of the fast food industry, the venture collapsed in the early 1970s. Miss Minnie did well, but was deeply embarrassed about the failure


Arnold jumped in soon after Pearl did. Considered one of the smarter businessmen of the country singers in his time, he too opened Eddy Arnold's Chicken Shops in the late 60's. Locations in Nashville and elsewhere opened, but didn't last long.



Hank Williams Jr. was still "Little Hank" to many of his daddy's fans (note the clean-shaven image in the ad) when in 1969, he opened the Hank Williams Jr. barbecue pits. This one didn't last either.


But his passion for food did. Today, his name appears on the Hank Williams Jr. Family Tradition Barbecue Sauces.


Opened by the Marriott Corporation in 1968, Roy Rogers (1911-1998) restaurants, with the Western legend's name and face prominently featured, became institutions around the country/ Eventually the chain went independent and thrived, but was laer sold and hit harder times in the 1990's. Today they're attempting a resurgence. The chain has six locations on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and 49 other locations.

This late 1970 ad demonstrates Roy's early involvement.


The man who put the song "Sixteen Tons" on the map, the first country star with a weekly network TV show and took the first country music show to the Soviet Union, Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) was one of the best-known country entertainers of his day. Around the time of the Nashville fried chicken boom, Ford, who lived in California, announced this short-lived chain.  The image of Ernie in the ad was drawn by the renowned caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.



"Whispering Bill" Anderson, one of the top singers of the 60's (the nickname comes from his low-volume vocal style) was one of the great country songwriters of any  "Po' Folks" became his third Top Ten single in 1961.  Anderson is seen here performing the song soon after his 1961 Opry induction. Host T. Tommy Cutrer mistakenly introduces "Johnny" McCoy on harmonica, actually future Country Hall of Famer and Nashville A-Team session player Charlie McCoy. Anderson also named his touring band "The Po' Folks."  

The founders of the Po' Folks restaurant chain, which opened in 1975, initially appropriated the name without Anderson's permission. The singer intended to sue but in the end, it turned out amicably. Anderson sold them the rights to use the song and became their longtime spokesman.


While the chain survived a 1988 bankruptcy, according to the restaurant's website , only eight Po' Folks locations remain. Anderson's relationship with them ended long ago.


Kenny Rogers co-founded Kenny Rogers Roasters with ex-Kentucky Governor and veteran KFC investor John Y. Brown. Like Bill Anderson and other stars, Rogers was prominent in the chain's TV ads like this one from 1995.

A year later, the chain was sold to a Malaysian corporation. Over time, its US profile gradually faded. The owners focus their efforts on the Asian market.


Despite a lot of hype, Toby Keith lent his name to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, named for his hit single "I Love This Bar." Unfortunately, despite all the hype, the growth didn't last long. Judging from their website, it appears only three are still open.

The Pittsburgh location, located on North Shore Drive in the same building as the Post-Gazette, never even opened. The Tequila Cowboy Bar & Grill occupies the site. This coverage of the closing of the Folsom, CA location, comes from KCRA in Sacramento.

On a personal note, I wish Rascal Flatts all the best with their Pittsburgh location. I also hope the food is better than the Nashville Pop sludge they call "country music."


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My review of Classic/Traditional Bluegrassers Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver's just-released album Life Is A Story T

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jerry lee CMHOf HITS COVER

1969 LP released after his revival as a country hitmaker.

I don’t know why I am not in (the Country Music Hall of Fame),” Lewis said. “I mean, they got it stirred up and talking about it. I don’t know why they don’t put me in it. I don’t understand that.”

Kristen Hall of the Associated Press recently interviewed Jerry Lee Lewis, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Sun Records rockabilly icon, one quarter of the famous "Million Dollar Quartet" jam session with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, about this very thing. An online petition exists, aimed at the Country Music Association, urging them to make this move (not all the facts stated are accurate).

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