By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Whitney Houston dominated last week’s Grammy Awards. The outpouring made sense in the wake of her sudden death at age 48.
Though I respected her talent, Houston wasn’t one of my favorites. She was known for her pyrotechnic rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” but Dolly Parton’s far subtler version set the standard for me.
That might be because of the way I was raised. Mom was born in Spring Hill, Tenn., effectively in Nashville’s shadow. Country music was her music, so that’s what we listened to when she drove me to school or practice or wherever.
Her car radio was perpetually tuned to 1230 AM WBHP, where The Statler Brothers, Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins and the rest sang about love, loss and El Paso.
Mom would be upset if I didn’t spotlight Willie Nelson here. “Let Willie sing!” was a common refrain in those days.
After getting a driver’s license, I found myself leaning toward classic rock. There was always room for Willie, but I began a crash course in The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.
Years passed, as they do, and I stuck with the rock ’n’ roll side of things, but I’d experiment here and there with Shelby Lynne and the soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
For a time, Kudzu 102 played a lot of the artists and songs I recalled from my growing-up days, and I’d occasionally enjoy static-infused versions of “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” “Delta Dawn” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
That station changed format, but I recently found out the owners resurrected classic country on Kudzu 104.9 in Iuka.
My most recent taste of Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings came from Mom and her Sirius XM Satellite Radio. During her short visit to Tupelo last weekend, she kept the radio on a channel called “Willie’s Roadhouse.”
So I was caught up in a classic country music mood for the Grammy Awards, and was especially primed for the salute to the great Glen Campbell, another star from Mom’s car.
Campbell is very much alive, but he’s not well. Alzheimer’s disease is slowly ripping through his brain. The illness probably had something to do with that wild, messy-haired arrest photo of Campbell that made the news a few years ago.
Despite the ravages of Alzheimer’s, Campbell took the stage on Sunday and sang “Rhinestone Cowboy” like someone fully in his element. He connected with the audience, thanks to well-worn, hard-to-kill neural pathways that he’d built over a lifetime.
Whitney Houston’s memory dominated the show, and rightly so. There’s no denying her talent or influence.
But Campbell’s moment was the one that slipped into my heart, as he sang a tribute to himself and everyone else slammed by dementia.
God bless Glen Campbell and good, old country music. May they thrive in their own, bittersweet ways.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.