DIARY - 20 APRIL 2004 - DAVE KIRBY RIP
KIRBY RIP AT 65
BORN BRADY, TEXAS, JULY 10, 1938.
DIED BRANSON, MISSOURI, SATURDAY APRIL 17, 2004
DAVE KIRBY DIES IN BRANSON
Kirby (right) Leona Williams (centre)
photo credit Ron Newcomer
troubadour Dave Kirby died at 65 from multimyloma cancer, diagnosed on
March 20, he left a legacy of 307 songs.
He was also a prolific session musician for artists diverse as Merle Haggard,
Ringo Starr, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Waylon and Willie.
The albums included Nelson's Yesterday's Wine, Jennings' Ladies
Love Outlaws, George Strait's Strait Country and Neil Young's
Kirby was best known for writing the oft-covered Is Anybody Goin' To
But, like many prolific peers, he wrote a companion song - Is Anybody
Leavin' San Antone?
The Kirby-Glenn Martin tune was a #1 hit for fellow Texan Charley Pride
in 1970 but another Lone Star legend Doug Sahm's version won more airplay
here on community radio.
Sahm, who died 12 days after his 58th birthday on November 18, 1999, cut
the song as a solo artist and with the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas
It was also recorded by Texan veteran Ray Price and Floridian Mel Tillis.
the nephew of Big Bill Lister, who often opened shows for Hank Williams.
Dave moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1955 and landed a job at a local
radio station playing country music.
He was influenced by the music of Carl Smith, Mac Wiseman, Ernest Tubb
and the guitar playing of Merle Travis.
Buck Owens recorded Kirby's first song Down By the River.
Rose Maddox cut the same song and shortly after Owens and Maddox recorded
it as a duet.
Johnny and Jonie Mosby and Porter Wagoner also added their vocals to Kirby
tunes while he was living in New Mexico.
"During the 1960's, Willie Nelson used to come out to Albuquerque
and he got me to go and play in the band," Kirby said in a 2000 interview.
"Willie got to liking my songs, and I don't remember how, but Hank
Cochran got to liking them too. They both wrote me saying 'Come to Nashville'
so in 1967, I made the big move."
Kirby began writing for Pamper Music publishing, owned in part by Ray
Other writers for Pamper at this time included Roger Miller, Harlan Howard,
Nelson and Cochran.
"I got a few things cut, and then I wrote Is Anybody Going To San
Antone?," Kirby said. "It has become my biggest hit, but it
just lay there at the Pamper shelf for three years before it ever got
His best-known compositions include Haggard hits Back To The Barrooms,
Sidewalks of Chicago and What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana?
Kirby tunes There Ain't No Good Chain Gang (with Hal Bynum) was
a #2 hit for Johnny Cash and Waylon in 1978.
And God's Gonna Getcha (For That) (with Red Lane) was Top 25 for
George Jones and Tammy Wynette in 1975.
He also wrote Where Are You Going Billy Boy? for Bill Anderson
and Mary Lou Turner, Leavin's Been Coming For A Long Long Time
for George Strait and I'll Go To A Stranger for Johnny Bush.
Others included Wish I Didn't Have To Miss You by Jack Greene and
Jeannie Seely, April's Fool and You Wouldn't Know Love by
Ray Charles, Moe Bandy, Norma Jean, Porter Wagoner, Johnny Russell, Faron
Young, Charley Walker, Johnny Rodriguez, Cal Smith, John Anderson, Kitty
Wells, Razzy Bailey, Jo-El Sonnier, Curtis Potter, Hank Thompson and others
have recorded Kirby compositions,
the third singing spouse of Leona Williams whom he wed in 1985 - they
lived in Branson, Missouri.
was survived by Leona, now 61, his sons, Wade and Paul Kirby and Ron
and Brady Williams; daughters, Janice Ross and Kathy Lee; and 10 grandchildren.
Kirby was also a solo artist - he charted his first single, Her
and the Car and the Mobile Home, in 1969 on Monument Records.
In 1981, he returned to the charts with North Alabama and Moccasin
Man on Dimension.
The highest-ranking of these efforts, however, rose only to the No.
Dot Records released his album This Is Dave Kirby - Singer, Picker,
His singles included Cantaloupe Jones, The Rumor, Cowboy Connection
and Better Off When I Was Hungry for Boone, Capitol, Dimension
and Monument Records.
Kirby just completed work on his first solo album in 20 years.
Mr. Songwriter contains 10 of Kirby's biggest writing successes
and is released on Heart of Texas Records on May 15.
session work in Nashville during the early 1970's.
His first session was with Country Music Hall of Famer Granpa Jones.
"Granpa walked in the studio and looked at me," Kirby said.
"I had kind of long hair and the first thing he said was 'Son, don't
play any of those hippie licks on my record'."
Kirby successful session career includes playing lead guitar for Dolly
Parton, Merle Haggard, Janie Fricke, Ringo Star, Emmylou Harris, Don Williams,
Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Crystal Gayle, Wynn Stewart, Ray Price, Moe
Bandy, Ronnie Milsap, Connie Smith and Kenny Price.
late peer Max D Barnes, had a deep catalogue of stone country songs.
Leona, Ray Price, Gene Watson and Billy Taylor also recorded his tune
Memories To Burn.
Kirby wrote Alice In Dallas with Haggard - former singing spouse
of Williams - and Dixie Dynamite with son Wade Kirby.
Song titles give a hint to his humour - Even A Wino Has A Home, Waylaid
in Waycross, Georgia, Hefty Women and Holly Would for Leona's
Kirby also liked to hedge his bets - he penned Going To California
and Going To St Louis, Heaven Bound, Heaven For The Weekend,
Heaven High, Texas In Me, Texas Saturday Night, Midnight Cowboy and
Midnight Cowboy Rides Again.
was born Leona Belle Helton in Vienna, Missouri, in a large family - all
of whom were musicians.
At 15, KWOS in Jefferson City gave Helton her own radio show, Leona
The following year she married her first husband, a drummer named Ron
Williams, and the moved to St. Louis and later Nashville where Leona joined
Loretta Lynn's band.
Loretta recorded the Williams' composition Get What 'Cha Got and Go
in 1967 on her Don't Come Home a Drinkin' album.
Leona only had one major hit as a vocalist The Bull and the Beaver
- a duet with then-husband Merle Haggard - reached #8.
But she was a regular mid-level chart fixture from the late '60s until
Just as importantly, Williams' compositions appeared regularly on other
artists' albums in those days, most notably on records by Merle.
George Jones, Gene Watson, Johnny Bush, Moe Bandy, Tammy Wynette, Connie
Smith, Hank Thompson, Willie Nelson, Randy Travis, Lynn and others cut
Williams has just released her first new album of new music in about a
decade, Honorary Texan, on Texas-based Heart of Texas Label.
"I moved to Nashville in 1966 to be a musician" Williams revealed
in a recent interview. "I knew I wanted to sing. And I played upright
bass and sang with Loretta Lynn on the road for almost a year. Then I
was wanting to do something myself, so I got with Hickory Records. I also
signed with them as a writer, and I wrote several songs, including Connie
Smith's Dallas and Tammy Wynette's version of Broadminded.
Williams scored minor hits on Hickory, including 1969's Once More
and 1971's Country Girl With Hot Pants On.
"I cried for two weeks when they were getting ready for me to record
that," Leona said. "Because I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm gonna
have to wear those old hot pants.' I didn't like that because I'm pretty
countrified. But I learned to love that song after we'd done it a
little bit. I'd wear a little skirt where you could maybe see hot pants
on the side. I was kind of bashful, but it did real good for me. I stayed
with Hickory for about six years, and then I moved over to RCA. I had
a couple of singles over there that really didn't do anything. I had just
joined with Merle and I asked if Merle could produce me, and they said
no. I was getting nowhere on that label, so I asked to be released."
a decade - from 1975 to 1984 - Leona and Merle worked together closely
and were married from 1978 to 1984.
Williams was a vocalist in Haggard's band during that period and was also
an important source of songs for Haggard.
Well-known numbers such as You Take Me For Granted and Someday
When Things Are Good came from Williams' pen, either in collaboration
with Haggard or by herself. Haggard produced Williams' solo albums and
recorded a number of duets with Williams.
One of the highlights of Williams' early career was San Quentin's First
Lady, which appeared on MCA in 1976.
Reportedly the first live album recorded by a female artist at a men's
prison Leona was backed by Merle Haggard's Strangers, with whom she was
touring at the time.
"I'd thought for a long time that it'd be a great idea for a lady
to go to a prison and do an album," says Williams. "So I got
to be that lady."
Haggard had served nearly three years in San Quentin in the late '50s
for armed robbery and accompanied Williams on the trip to the penitentiary.
Williams also wrote with another of Haggard's wives Bonnie Owens - former
singing spouse of Buck Owens.
"Merle showed me around. He showed me where his old cell was. Then
we all played prison songs. I did that song I'm Just Here to Get My
Baby Out of Jail. Bonnie Owens and I had written a song called San
Quentin, You've Taken the One and Only Man I'll Ever Love. There are
several on there that talk about prison."
Williams also chanced her voice on war zones - more dangerous than prisons.
"I was a little bit nervous," Williams said. "You can tell
that when I sing - I can, anyway. I don't mean to compare it to anything
else in my life, but in 1968 I went overseas to Vietnam and Japan. For
nine weeks, I spent my time in Far East entertaining servicemen. And I
don't know what it was, but that day it all came back, so many people
applauding and hollering and screaming and rooting you on. It took my
mind back to when I was overseas and how they appreciated me."
combined with Kirby to write new songs for her latest Justin Trevino produced
album Honorary Texan.
She recorded Kirby's song Memories To Burn - a hit for Texan Gene
They collaborated on Things I Almost Had With You and Dance
Till The Cows Come Home.
Also included was Don't Sing Me No Songs About Texas, a song she
wrote with Merle.
Johnny Bush, Hank Thompson and Charlie Walker recorded the song but neither
Leona or Merle had cut it before though it's been a staple of Williams'
live act for years.
Leona also covered You'd Be Home By Now- also recently recorded
Others include classics from the Jimmie Davis, Lefty Frizzell, Jimmie
Rodgers and Bob Wills hit catalogues.
1999 autobiography, My House of Memories, he never referred to
Leona by name, but always as "my third wife".
Williams says that today she and Haggard are friends again and she might
tour with him again in 2004 as Bonnie Owens retired from touring early
"As a matter of fact, I hadn't seen Merle for 18 years. I'd talked
to him once or twice on the phone, but a while back he called my husband,
"He wrote Merle's song What Have You Got Planned Tonight, Diana,
and he'd written a song called Colorado that Merle had also recorded.
Merle called Dave because he was going to re-record Colorado, and
he needed the words to it. Then later on, they were fixing to work down
here in Branson at the Grand Palace and he wanted Dave and me to come
to the show. So I said, 'Let's go.'"
"We went to the Grand Palace, he was waiting for us, and the first
thing I said to him was, 'Well, there's Merle Haggard!' That broke the
ice, and we laughed and hugged. He's had his life, and I've had mine.
He said, 'I'm going to get a microphone fixed - I want you to sing with
me.' And I said, 'Okay. I know my parts.' So we went out there, and I
did the show with him. Then when he came through here again about a month
later, he wanted me to sing with him again, so I did. And he's even asked
me to work some dates on the road with him next year. I told him I might
like to do that. That might be really fun."
performs a few days a week at the Grand Country Theatre in Branson.
"The show I'm doing right now is called Down Home Country,
and it's real classic country,' says Williams.
"They feature me through the show doing my own songs and then at
the end of the show we do some of the duets that Merle and I had."
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