Country Music Broke My Brain (10 page)

BOOK: Country Music Broke My Brain
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All this aside, however,
nothing
beats the toxic combination of mother and daughter as a loving hillbilly couple. It's that wonderful mix of twang, grandpa, beauty, and seething, boiling, red-eyed jealousy. Which, of course, brings us to . . . The JUDDS!

If you
really
want to kick things up a notch, be sure and make the
mom
a stunner. A heart-stopping looker who demands to be in the spotlight. Then create a shorter, wider, full-backier daughter who can actually sing.

The joy that particular mom and baby girl duo have brought to me over the years is incalculable. For off-the-charts drama and soap opera histrionics nothing beats
As The Judds Twang.
Mom twirls and sashays around onstage, dropping one-liners and life advice as if she's Rodney Dangerfield and Dr. Phil all rolled up into one red-haired package. The daughter wails and moans and thrills and channels Elvis. Give her a biting sense of honesty and a battle of the bulge, and, friends, you've got yourself a hit-and-hate-making machine.

For those of you taking notes and looking at your little sweetie singing like a bird in the kitchen, I beg of you, please don't do it. Be a stage mother. Be a taskmaster. Be Joan Crawford, but for all that's holy do
not
rent a bus and sing harmony with your kid in front of people for money. It's not part of the normal order of things. It's against the laws of nature.

I see that comedienne (who's had so many face-lifts she looks like a Picasso) with her daughter on TV, and I think at least they can spit at each other if they want to. Singing together requires some semblance of a loving relationship unless you're in a church choir. Actually, we all know the ratio of choir rehearsals and affairs, but that's for another discussion. I know it's none of my business, but I recommend either quilting or Greco-Roman wrestling over singing together as mom and daughter.

I've often heard doctors say that estrogen, ovaries, and a steel guitar are as deadly together as hard liquor and wing-walking. There are some things you just don't do.

However
, if you go against all the good advice and common sense in the world and do decide to embark on a warbling career with one of your units, here's what you do to keep the wheels turning: pick hit songs. Hit songs are always good because flop songs tend to make you more likely to stay at home a lot.

Choose a hair color carefully. If you can't make your music bigger and louder, then, by God, make sure your hairdo is. The most popular is something the color and consistency of molten lava—orange-red and flowing.

And when things slow down a bit and nobody is paying as much attention as they used to, throw in a couple of near-death experiences. Choose one of you to tell how you “like to have died.” Then set out on a well-planned, eight- to ten-year
See 'Em Before They Croak Tour.

Fight offstage as much as possible. Do a lot of TV talk shows where you have dueling interventions. If somebody in the family starts telling the truth about some tragedy, always interrupt and say
you
had that first and it was much worse.

The public is nothing if not a sucker for paying to see what can go wrong during a concert. Demolition derbies are popular for a reason, you know.

I actually did a live, nationwide radio show with Wynonna and Naomi the Sunday night before Naomi announced she had hepatitis. She seemed good the night before, but that's an insidious disease and dangerous. The timing did make it difficult for folks to not at least “wonder” if it was all on the level.

Allyson and I actually went to that “final” concert of the Judds'. Last time together. Final moment to see them. They passed out little electronic candles so we could wave them good-bye. I did indeed seem to have the feeling they did a “good-bye” tour about every ten years. I'm confused and, frankly, quit keeping count after awhile. Every family has troubles; they just happened to make it the family business. The TV show on Oprah's network was hilarious. Each week, they would end with a cliffhanger. Will Wynonna shove Mom into a concrete mixer? Tune in next week for
The Edge of Nut.

I think Wy called me a nut in one of her books. I had dinner with her the other night at a table full of showbiz types during an awards event. She and her new husband, Cactus Moser, had plopped down beside Allyson and me. Cactus was a member of a great group called Highway 101. A lot of hits came out of that band. I loved 'em and Cactus. Just two months after he and Wynonna got hitched in 2012, Cactus had a terrible motorcycle accident and lost a leg. Just horrible.

Here's the side of Wynonna I love: when Cactus' name was announced to come onstage and receive an award, they called for her to join him. While helping Cactus slowly make his way toward the stage, she said, “Nope, this is his night.” With tears in her eyes, she stood by the side of the bright lights as her guy beamed like the Hollywood sign with his songwriting award.

Underneath all that glamour and cool and “Juddness” beats the heart of a loving, caring woman and wife. And Lord, what a singer!

Ashley Judd is amazing. I just remember her head bobbing around at press parties and gold record celebrations. She was gorgeous, smart, and lost. It was like watching a thoroughbred colt run 'til it gave out because the little thing never knew where the barn was.

Finally, be sure and throw in a life coach. (Whatever the hell that is! Do normal people have a life coach?) Also, announcing you are no longer speaking to anyone in your family is a nice touch. If things slow down, have a pow-wow with Oprah and go on tour!

Oh, and have a little “work” done. Nothing too extreme, you know, to where your family doesn't recognize you anymore. But, over the years, do a little tweakin'. Believe me, I have no problem with getting some work done. However, for the best possible outcome, have Mom slowly look younger than the daughter, if possible.

Great Love Stories

THEY
HAVE RELEASED the “new” version of
Titanic.
Leo and Kate are on the ship's bow, and “king of the world” is shouted to the open sea. Film buffs always declare, “It's the greatest love story of all time.” My wife always laughs at that. She contends, and I agree,
Titanic
is more like a quickie on
The Love Boat.
Greatest love of all time? They hardly knew each other. I know love at first sight and all that, but the
greatest
love story of all time? They met and fell in love that deep, that quickly? What about
the
love story of Loretta and “Doo”?

Loretta Lynn and “DooLittle” Lynn's story was made famous in the film
Coal Miner's Daughter.
Loretta is hilarious. She just tells you what she thinks, and it always comes out to somehow make you laugh.

I once got lost in the Opryland Hotel with Loretta. If you've never been to the Opryland Hotel, you should go gawk at it at least once. It's immense. It has a “conservatory” in it, which is sort of a rain forest/hothouse under glass. I think most of the rooms in the Opryland Hotel are taken up by people who can't find their way out of the damn hotel. It's a maze with curtains. You can check out, but you can never leave.

Late one night after some event, Loretta and I got on the same elevator and then wandered for hours down one dead-end hall after another. She was typical Loretta. Laughing about what dumbasses we were for not being able to get out.

She married Doo when she was just a teenager. You all know the story: coal mining, Butcher Holler, and the struggle to get her songs heard. Years after she was a star and things sort of calmed down, I used to have a drink or ten with DooLittle Lynn at the Hall of Fame Motor Lodge. Of course, we all cleverly called it the Hall of Shame. DooLittle was also a hoot. He was pure country. He was smart, but not the college smart kind. Usually, he was in some kind of feud with Loretta—not showin' up, not comin' home on time, not rememberin' their anniversary, not not having one more highball—the usual stuff women don't seem to be able to understand. Women are just unreasonable.

I am positive that “Don't Come Home A' Drinkin'(With Lovin' on Your Mind)” was a direct response to Doo. Doo was also called Mooney. Mooney was short for Moonshine, and I have a nagging suspicion it was more than a nickname.

Allyson and I went to the premiere of
Coal Miner's Daughter.
It was a grand night for Nashville at the Belle Meade Theater. I didn't go to Belle Meade much. It's the rich side of town, and alarms still go off whenever I drive through. You have to have that deep, genteel Southern accent to live in Belle Meade. I was once standing in a hardware store when one of the grand matrons of Belle Meade announced to anyone within earshot, which included people in the parking lot, “I have
got
to have a hammah!” Even I started to look for one for her.

On this one night, the hoity and the toity had to mingle with the riff and the raff. I represented the riff. I saw the director get out of a Rolls-Royce limo and sweep into the theater wearing a cape. I didn't know anybody except Batman wore a cape, but there he was. Strictly by chance, Allyson and I sat directly behind the real-life stars of the movie.

I liked the movie, but all I can remember is Loretta and Doo getting into some kind of fight
during the film.
For a brief moment, Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones were fighting on-screen, and the people they were playing were fighting in front of me off-screen. For all their fussin', however, I think they had a love story to be told. It deserved to be a movie. Reba and Martina absolutely worship Loretta. Just the other day, Reba was telling me she called Loretta to check on her. It was a scorcher in Nashville, and Reba said, “Loretta wanted to go outside and pick some 'maters, but she told me it was too hot and them 'maters wasn't worth dyin' fer.” That's how Loretta talks.

Sometimes, when you hear old songs by the Coal Miner's Daughter, they sound so dated and simple you don't appreciate them. Lots of music is like that. Upon closer examination, you hear what's going on underneath the words. The fury in “You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” is palpable. This is one ticked-off country hellion who is about to send a girl to Fist City. These songs are hilarious and shocking and twangy and honest to the bone. So's Loretta. I think Loretta and Mooney went around every iceberg in their path.

Minnie Pearl, Hank Jr., Phil Walden, and Me

I
SAT ON THE SET of
Nashville Now
with her during a commercial. She leaned over and said in a stage whisper, “You're doin' a great job, honey. Keep it up.”

It was like being blessed by the Queen.

Filling in for Ralph Emery on his nighttime
Nashville Network
show was nerve-racking. Television is a touchy thing. It's like the camera can sense the inner soul of a person. Time slows down sometimes when you're on the tube. It took me awhile to learn that a pause or gathering my thoughts only took a blip of time. It
feels
, however, like you've gone mute and that a tiny pause is forever. I really never got very good at TV. I was better off in a quiet studio with just a microphone and nobody staring at me.

Minnie Pearl, however, became electric in front of a crowd. As she said, “If you love them, they'll love you back.”

I adored the stories that Minnie shared with me. I'm certain she made everybody feel like they were part of her inner circle. Sarah Cannon (Cousin Minnie's real name) wore the Minnie Pearl hat with a price tag and matronly dresses like the pro she was. She also gave me one of the best life lessons of all time. This from a woman who wrote the great joke, “Marriage is like a hot bath. Once you get used to it, it ain't so hot.” Isn't that classic? Since I write jokes, we talked every chance we got about construction, timing, and performing. For twenty-five years, I called it “doing a Minnie.” She told me that her husband, Henry, stood beside the stage nearly every night when she was on tour and afterward gave her input on her act.

BOOK: Country Music Broke My Brain
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