ray fulcher

Ramblin’s Roads: Grammy Awards featured songwriters with local ties

Featured photo is of Ray Fulcher

One of the highlights of the 65th annual Grammy Awards show broadcast Sunday night, Feb. 5, on the CBS network was North Carolina singer Luke Combs performing his recent single “Going, Going, Gone” backed by his band and supplemental musicians.

The song was co-authored by Combs, James McNair and also Ray Fulcher, who grew up in Harlem, Ga.  

Fulcher and Combs, who both moved to Nashville in 2014, made several local appearances in the Augusta area when they began collaborating on what has become a long string of No. 1 hits.

Other than “Going, Going, Gone,” they have included “When It Rains It Pours,” “Lovin On You,” “Even Though I’m Leaving,” “Does To Me” and “I Got Away With You.”

Combs on March 25 begins his 2023 world tour which is scheduled to take him to 35 cities in 16 countries on three continents.  

But just a few years ago in May of 2015, Combs and Fulcher entertained as part of a free concert at Evans Towne Center Park sponsored by the Columbia County Exchange Club.

Among Combs other local appearances have been in James Brown Arena with Luke Bryan, Rodney Atkins, Runaway June and Riley Green in November of 2019 for the WKXC-FM Guitar Pull.

And in another local note, the 2023 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album went to “Crooked Tree” recorded by Molly Tuttle, who grew up in Palo Alto, Calif., around San Francisco.

Tuttle, as local bluegrass music fans will remember, opened the 2022-2023 Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song series last September in the Imperial Theatre.

“We sold about 300 tickets and had maybe 400 people in the house,” said Morris Museum of Art Executive Director Kevin Grogan, who organizes the series.  “This was after she’d sold out every night of a four-night run in New York City in a 1,500-seat venue.  Everyone who heard her loved her.”

Also among those honored at the 65th annual Grammy Awards show was rhythm & blues legend Smokey Robinson who sang his self-composed classic 60’s hit “Tears of a Clown” that he co-wrote in 1967 with Stevie Wonder and Hank Cosby.

Local fans heard him sing the same song in person last October in Bell Auditorium.

For many viewers of the Grammy show, the highlight of the night came during the tribute to Robinson segment when Stevie Wonder was joined by Kentucky-reared country star Chris Stapleton to sing and play Wonder’s 1973-released song “Higher Ground.”

It was just as electrifying as when Stapleton joined rock superstar Justin Timberlake in 2015 on the Country Music Association Awards Show to perform Stapleton’s version of “(You’re As Smooth As) Tennessee Whiskey.”

Although that song co-authored by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove has become identified in recent years with Stapleton due to his gritty, growling style, it originally was recorded in 1981 by country music outlaw David Allan Coe after George Strait reportedly turned it down.

Two years later, the legendary George Jones recorded his own special version of the song, which became a favorite of Jones’ fans.  He performed in on many shows in his final years.

You can catch Chris Stapleton this coming Sunday (Feb. 12) singing live at the Super Bowl, but he won’t be singing “Tennessee Whiskey” or “Higher Ground.”  He will be singing the “National Anthem.”

This will be the third time in three consecutive years that country music artists have sung the “National Anthem” at the Super Bowl with Mickey Guyton performing it in 2022 and Eric Church joining Jazmine Sullivan to perform it in 2021.

And, by the way, it was country music legend Charley Pride who became the first celebrity vocalist to perform the “National Anthem” at any Super Bowl with his strong rendition in 1974 at Super Bowl VIII at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas.  He also sang “America The Beautiful” at the same game.

Prior to that, the “National Anthem” was performed at prior Super Bowls by marching bands, various vocal groups and trumpet players like the “Tonight” show’s bandleader Doc Severinsen in 1970 while actor Pat O’Brien recited the words.

O’Brien had been the star of the 1940 football-theme movie “Knute Rockne: All American.”

Don Rhodes has been a by-line journalist since 1963 writing for his Chamblee, Ga., High School newspaper and two weeklies in Decatur.  He has worked for Morris Communications Co. since joining the Savannah Evening Press in March of 1967.  He also has authored four national books, four regional books, national magazine articles and album notes for several music artists. 

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