Posts Tagged With: Dolly Parton

The Wheel rolls on: No. 75 on the all-time hit parade

Congratulations are on order for “Comin’ Right at Ya” star/subject/co-writer Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, who just placed on a mightily impressive list — Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Country Artists of All Time.” The Wheel comes in at a solid No. 75, right behind Lee Ann Womack and just ahead of Marty Stuart. Further up, a number of other people who figure prominently in the “Comin’ Right at Ya Story” are in the top-10, including Waylon, Willie, Dolly and, of course, Merle (at No. 1, no less). Yes, Ray’s on a first-name basis with all of ’em.

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Dollywood: “Wild Texas Wind”

When I was interviewing subject/star/co-writer Ray Benson for “Comin’ Right at Ya,” he told a lot of very funny stories about the fabulous Dolly Parton, a buddy of his for decades. Most of Ray’s stories about her went into the book chapter titled “The Film Industry Is a Series of Peaks and Valleys.” And something that figured prominently into that chapter was “Wild Texas Wind,” a 1991 made-for-television movie starring Dolly as honkytonk singer “Big T” (hey, it was their joke, not mine) alongside co-stars Gary Busey as her abusive slimeball boyfriend Justice Parker, and Ray Benson as bandleader “Ben Rayson.”

I had a good laugh at that, and then I asked Ray if I should make a point of seeing “West Texas Wind” for research purposes. He kind of cringed.

“Aw, please don’t,” he said, we both laughed and that was that.

But then, wouldn’t you know it, darned if Ray himself didn’t recently post the opening segment of “West Texas Wind” to the Asleep at the Wheel Facebook page. And so I share it here with you. You can watch all six 15-minute segments of the film here. All I’ll say is it’s quite a period piece, down to the fonts used in the credits; and there are worse ways you could spend your Memorial Day.

 

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The Texas Book Festival: Hot like that

StateCap

Photo by Martha Burns.

I’ve had some decent bookstore-type events over the years reading from this book or that. But every last one on the list just moved down a notch after Sunday afternoon’s Texas Book Festival ‘do with Ray Benson, where he and I talked about “Comin’ Right at Ya” for a pretty solid crowd of close to 200 folks at the State Capitol Auditorium. It really was great, which shouldn’t be surprising given that Ray is a natural born showman who is most comfortable onstage. As was the case with co-writing the book, pretty much all I had to do was keep out of the way, throw in a few straight lines and let Ray be Ray.

DMTBGModerator Doug Freeman did a fine job leading the discussion, in which we talked a bit about the mechanics of co-writing a project like this, and I said a few things along the lines of that recent Walter magazine essay. Ray had just rolled back into Austin from an out-of-town gig the night before and brought along an acoustic guitar to play a few songs —  starting with the quietly reflective “A Little Piece,” moving on to the wink-and-a-nod humor of “Hot Like That” and closing with “Miles and Miles of Texas” as a rousing audience sing-along.

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Photo by Rush Evans.

I spent most of my time onstage listening with everyone else while Ray told a few tales, some tall but pretty much all true. While I had a few quips to add, I was happy to cede the floor to Ray, who was entertaining even when calling me out for a mistake (apparently, a dog from Asleep at the Wheel’s Bay Area period was misidentified — sorry!). I think my most on-point contribution to the discussion came when I told Ray after a hilarious Dolly Parton anecdote, “Dude, you really need to do an audiobook.” I hope that will someday come to pass.

Afterward, we went out to the book-signing tent, where it seemed like everyone who had been in the auditorium wanted a book and both our autographs. We were happy to oblige. Can’t beat a hometown crowd, even if it hasn’t been my hometown for 30 years. But it’s still Ray’s town. Thank you, Austin. I’ll be back in March for South By Southwest, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

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Photo by Jan Byrd.

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God Save The Queen

“Losering” has been out in the world for a couple of years, long enough that checking its Amazon sales ranking ceased being a daily ritual some time ago. But I’ll still look it up on occasion, mostly to see if anybody else has reviewed it (I’m still waiting for a review in Spain, Brazil and France, among other places, y’all). And it will still jump on up the sales list every now and then, too. The other day, in fact, it even hit No. 1 for “Biographies of Country Musicians” on Amazon.UK — nestled, as you can see below, ahead of books about Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Of course, this was short-lived. “Losering” slid on down very quickly and yielded the top spot to Johnny Cash, which seems only right. Still, I think I like this one even better than the book’s other summit appearances, in Canada.

UK#1


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Comin’ right at ya

RayCoverI am immensely pleased to report that my next book is not only finished and ready to go, it also has a fantastic cover. And here it is, another first-rate job by University of Texas Press designer Lindsay Starr (who also did the wonderful cover for “Losering”).

I co-wrote this with Ray Benson, founder/guiding light of Asleep at the Wheel. Below is a shot of the two of us last week at South By Southwest (which was the usual insanely fun madhouse), right before the Wheel took the stage. Ray is a man with a million tales to tell and we worked in as many of those anecdotes as we could, but I’d say we ran out of room before Ray ran out of stories. Note the testimonial blurb in the lower left corner from Dolly Parton, who figures into some of those stories. By the time this comes out, there will probably be a blurb from some other famous person in that space up at the top left, too.

Me&RayAs for the cover photo, it goes back to 1975 and shows the first time Ray was trying on a pair of boots he’d custom-ordered from the illustrious country-western tailor Nudie Cohn; I guess he was feeling a little flush from Asleep at the Wheel’s big breakthrough single, the top-10 country hit “The Letter That Johnny Walker Read.” As for the book’s main title, Comin’ Right at Ya was what Asleep at the Wheel called their first album way back in 1973.

Look for “Comin’ Right at Ya: How a Jewish Yankee Hippie Went Country, or, the Often Outrageous History of Asleep at the Wheel” in October. In the meantime, Asleep at the Wheel is playing in my neck of the woods on Wednesday, April 1 — no fooling, they’ll be at Durham’s Carolina Theatre that night; and hell yes, I’ll be there to watch.

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Ryan Adams by the numbers: Money, money, money in the bank

Ryan Adams has had a very fine career by the numbers as well as by the music, which is something that entered into the “Losering” story. While I was working on the book, I called upon a friend who worked at a music-business establishment with a subscription to Nielsen Soundscan, the service that tracks music sales in the U.S. He provided album-sales figures for Ryan’s catalog, both solo and with Whiskeytown, which was very useful data to have. While it would be unwise to put all the precise to-the-last-digit numbers for every album here (Soundscan is a subscription service, after all), Ryan’s sales figures through January 2012 can be summarized thusly:

Whiskeytown — 424,103 total sales. In terms of individual titles, the range was from just over 150,000 copies of the original 1997 version of Strangers Almanac down to just under 3,000 copies of the original 1996 independent-label version of Faithless Street. Whiskeytown’s 2001 swan song Pneumonia and the 1998 Outpost Records reissue of Faithless Street were both at over 100,000 copies.

Ryan Adams solo — 2,362,984 total sales, topped by 2001’s Gold at about 425,000 (a figure you’ll notice is greater than the entire Whiskeytown catalog combined) and followed by 2000’s Heartbreaker at about 309,000 and 2007’s Easy Tiger at just over 250,000. Of the rest, only 2003’s Rock N Roll was at more than 200,000 — although 2005’s Cold Roses was close. And bringing up the rear: 2005’s 29 at about 96,000, and 2010’s III/IV at just under 49,000.

NetWorthAdd it up, and it comes to almost 2.8 million in total U.S. album sales (which is probably at least in the neighborhood of 3 million by now, since that was 16 months ago). Nothing to rival U2, but a very healthy sum nevertheless. And while Whiskeytown didn’t make Ryan rich, his ensuing solo career certainly has. How rich? Well, according to the mavens at CelebrityNetWorth.com, Ryan’s estimated net worth is $24 million — a sum that obviously includes revenue from more than just domestic record sales, such as touring, Tim McGraw’s country-hit cover of “When The Stars Go Blue” and all the weird places “Come Pick Me Up” has appeared over the years.

(UPDATE, 3/9/16: Probably as a result of Ryan’s divorce from Mandy Moore, CelebrityNetWorth.com has halved its estimate of his net worth — from $24 million down to $12 million.)

I should note that I’m not sure how trustworthy that $24 million figure is. Not that I know anything about net worth of the rich and famous; but if I’d been asked to estimate Ryan’s fortune before seeing this, I probably would have guessed somewhere closer to the $9 million that Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy is said to be worth. And yet it’s just as possible that $24 million is a conservative estimate because CelebrityNetWorth.com’s summary of Ryan’s career is woefully out-of-date (not to mention sloppy). Here it is verbatim:

Ryan Adams is a North Carolina-born singer-songwriter, musician, and author with an estimated net worth of $24 million dollars. Originally recognized for his work with the alt-rock group, Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams left to pursue a solo career, and has since released five solo studio albums. He also performed with The Cardinals until 2009, when he decided to take a break from music. He is most widely recognized for his song, “New York, New York”.

(Note: This entry has since been updated, but the revised version at that link remains just as clue-impaired.)

Actually, “five solo studio albums” is less than half of what Ryan has released since Whiskeytown disbanded; he’s put out two albums (one a two-disc set) and appeared in a movie since that “break from music” ended; even though “New York, New York” got played on TV at Thursday night’s NFL draft (cha-ching!), I’d still say that “Come Pick Me Up,” “When the Stars Go Blue” and possibly even “Lucky Now” are all better-known by now; and while I’m at it, as descriptions go, “alt-rock group” is a pretty crappy one for Whiskeytown. At any rate, between Ryan’s bottom line and the $23 million that his singer-actress wife Mandy Moore is worth, it seems safe to say he’s not sweating next month’s electric bill.

So how does Ryan’s estimated net worth stack up with what other celebrities are worth, you ask? Well, it’s a fraction of the fortunes of old-school superstars who have been at it for 30 years or more, including Paul McCartney ($800 million), Madonna ($650 million), Dolly Parton ($450 million), Mick Jagger ($305 million), Bruce Springsteen ($200 million) and Robert Plant ($120 million).

But Ryan isn’t too far behind contemporaries like Jack White and Drake, who are both at $30 million. I was actually surprised that Adele didn’t come in higher than $45 million. The next level up is Justin Timberlake at $100 million and Usher at $110 million. Higher still is Foo Fighters main man Dave Grohl (managed, like Ryan, by John Silva) with $225 million, much of which originated from his early-1990s time in Nirvana; and hip-hop icon Jay-Z is in a class by himself with $500 million. Throw in his wife Beyonce’s $300 million, and that’s a household with some serious financial juice.

Returning to Ryan’s relatively modest end of the spectrum, I was a bit surprised at some of the artists he’s well ahead of, including Patti Smith ($15 million), Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas ($10 million) and “Call Me Maybe” hitmaker Carly Rae Jepsen (and if you’re wondering what that level of one-hit-wonder omnipresence is worth, $1 million is apparently the answer).

Narrow the field down to musicians from North Carolina, and about the only one ahead of Ryan is Ben Folds at $35 million (if you don’t count Massachusetts-born James Taylor, $60 million). Another interesting detail is just how far Ryan is ahead of all of North Carolina’s “American Idol” stars, a delegation led by Chris Daughtry at $8.5 million. Clay Aiken is next at $4 million, while Scotty McCreery, Kellie Pickler and Fantasia all come in at $1.5 million or less.

I think the lesson to be learned there is that “American Idol” is more likely to convey fame than fortune. But I still wouldn’t mind trying to scrape by on the bank account of anybody on this list.

ADDENDUM (2/5/15): Here’s more detail from a website called CelebrityGlory.com, although I wouldn’t put much stock in any of their figures. To cite just one questionable example, I’m not sure what they were smoking to have concluded that Ryan’s “1984” limited-edition seven-inch generated the suspiciously robust sum of $349,650.

SECOND ADDENDUM (12/9/15): According to divorce papers filed by Mandy Moore, Ryan earns $151,000 a month — which comes to more than $1.8 million a year, while she claims to be scraping by on “less than a quarter of that” (and is therefore asking for $37,000 a month in spousal support). Anyway, maybe he is worth $24 million…

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