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Posts Tagged ‘Faith Hill’

(Flora Keller’s favorite song was Patsy Montana’s 1935 hit “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

In the corner of my record collection is a heavy black album. The spine is falling apart and the cover shows signs of mold. The thick pages hold aged 78s by Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Jimmy Webb, Kitty Wells and other old-time country favorites.

These heavy platters are all that’s left of my wife’s great grandmother’s personal music collection. The pistol-packin’ mama ran a bar and caroused around Marshall, Mo. for a spell in the 1960s. Although the singles in the album were released long after my wife’s grandma moved out, they were also the basis of her lifelong love of country music.

Flora Bullard was born Aug. 14, 1930, in Marshall. She was barely a teenager when her  father took the family tto San Francisco so he could work in the shipyards during the war. A few months after the family returned to Marshall, the 14-year-old Flora caught the eye of Virgil Keller, who was eight years her senior. The pair was married when she was 15; nine months later they had their first child.

Jobs were scarce, so Virgil re-enlisted in the early ‘50s and was sent to Germany for three years. When he was called to Ft. Leavenworth, the family permanently relocated. After an honorable discharge Virgil reported to the Kansas State Penitentiary (now Lansing Correctional Facility) where he worked as a corrections officer for 20 years. (Cool fact: Virgil was present the night Perry Smith and Dick Hickock of “In Cold Blood” notoriety were hanged.)

My wife's late grandmother bore a striking resemblence to Kitty Wells (above) in her later years.

Of course all of this happened long before I came onto the scene. When I arrived, Virgil had been dead for several years, and Flora would not be keeping house in Leavenworth much longer. A few weeks before my first Christmas with the family, I downloaded a collection of country Christmas songs. This wasn’t Brooks and Dunn, Faith Hill or what passes for country music today. These honky-tonkin’ tunes were loaded with so much twang you could feel grit forming between your teeth after a couple songs. Everyone in the house hated it. Flora loved it, which was good enough for me.

After an automobile accident accelerated her Alzheimer’s and necessitated her placement in the Tonganoxie Nursing Home, my wife and I would take her on day trips to Lawrence. Traveling U.S. 24/40 on the road to and from the home, she’d tell us stories about hanging outside of theaters in San Francisco, hoping to catch a glimpse (or more) of Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and other country stars of the day.

The two hallmarks of Flora’s favorite country songs were steel guitars and yodeling. She couldn’t play guitar, but she could yodel with the best of them. When my wife was a young girl, Flora taught her how, a talent that sadly did not take. Though my wife couldn’t sing with her, Flora was happy to yodel on her own (or with her youngest daughter). Her favorite song was Patsy Montana’s 1935 hit “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.”

Whenever she sang, I was transported to a dusty, one-horse town on the plains during the Depression. I imagined the family singing together to escape the bone-numbing hard work that needed to be done to make ends meet. I imagined someone out of a Frank Capra movie running into the room with a telegram inviting everyone to see the Carter Family that night in a big tent in the middle of an even bigger field.

I’ll have to dream even more now. Flora Keller died Tuesday morning, surrounded by her two daughters and three grand-daughters as they drank beer and toasted the good times. A smoker for 40 years, Flora kicked the habit cold turkey several decades ago, but not before her lungs were irreparably damaged. Now that she is free of her body, she is once again reunited with her Cowboy, forever his sweetheart.

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pat-green
By Joel Francis

The Kansas City Star

Pat Green may be a country singer from Texas, but his inspiration is a rock star from New Jersey.

“I’m trying to do what (Bruce) Springsteen did,” he said. “Jersey knew all about Springsteen before ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ came out and launched him.”

“Texas knows what I’m about. I can sell out as big of an arena as you want in Texas, but in Kansas City I’m playing a thousand-seater.”

Green will bring the music he describes as “if Springsteen and Willie Nelson had a kid” on Saturday to the Granada Theater in Lawrence. He’ll also be previewing his new album, “What I’m For,” which comes out Tuesday.

“When I get a new record out, I do like Springsteen and just make the shows longer. All the new stuff gets added to the old,” Green said. “You identify the bigger songs from that and throw them in the every-night pile.”

One new song he’s playing is “Country Star,” a country rewrite of Nickelback’s “Rock Star.” Green said he’s not sure if everyone will get the joke, and he’s fine with that.

“It’s a laughable notion to think of myself as a star,” he said. “Some of my guys know I’m kidding, that I’m not going to buy a shiny belt buckle and 10-gallon hat. But I like to write ambiguously, so that my songs can mean more than one thing to people. Others will laugh. Just picturing it is kind of funny.”

The flip side of that coin is “In It for the Money,” a soul-searching song about finding the right motivation.

“There is a quote by William Jennings I’m sure I’m going to butcher, but you have to do it for the right reasons. You have to care. This is not a dress rehearsal,” Green said. “Do you do it for love or do you do it for money?”

“What I’m For” also features a new arrangement of “Carry On,” a song Green has been carrying for more than a decade. The Police remake of their hit “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” inspired Green to take a different approach to his warhorse.

“That song is just part of my soul,” Green said. “Because I love it so much, I can move the furniture around without everyone getting upset with me. I never know how I’m going to play it in concert. Sometimes it’s just me and the guitar like a ballad. It’s been worn in every way you can wear it.”

Assisting Green for the first time is producer Dann Huff. The award-winning veteran has worked with artists as diverse as Bon Jovi, Megadeth and LeAnn Rimes.

“Keith Urban was mostly responsible for me hiring Dann Huff,” Green said. “I compared his work with Rascal Flatts and Faith Hill. Those albums sound completely different. They made me aware of Dan’s ability to wrap his hands around the individual artist and make the record toward them, rather than bending the artist to his vision.”

Pushing aside notions of trying to recapture the success of “Wave on Wave,” Green’s 2003 breakthrough hit, Green wrote an album that captured his life now as a father and family man.

“I’m not just going to sing anything to have a radio hit. I have to love it and believe it to sell it,” Green said. “I write about what I’m in tune with in this space, and that’s what Springsteen does, as well.”

Green, who happens to have his album coming out the same day as Springsteen’s “Working on a Dream,” has paid homage to the Boss by performing “Atlantic City” at his shows for years. For this tour he’s adding a new wrinkle.

“I think for this next tour I’m going to pull something off ‘The Rising’ for our encore,” Green said. “I have several songs in mind, but I don’t want to say what. If I go a different way, I won’t be caught lying.”

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