7 Scandals Classic Country Saw From 1953-1993
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Anywhere from murder, to drugs, to provocative song lyrics and risqué outfits, classic country music has them all. An era of exploration, adventure, creativity, and wildly outrageous scandals, classic country music is unlike anything else.
Some of the scandals outlined here may catch you off guard and some you may have heard about – after all, they are scandals! But, all of them really did happen…and all of them had people in fits once the news hit the press!
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1. Hank Williams’ Controversial Death
Long regarded as one of the most important and influential artists to grace the airwaves of country music, Hank Williams Sr. was a true country legend, but when he tragically passed away on New Year’s Day 1953, rumors sparked controversy, which then sparked more rumors surrounding the circumstances of his death.
Only 29 years old, Williams was said to have passed away from an “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart”, suggesting he had a heart attack, but others have suggested that the country star actually died from a lethal mixture of drugs and booze. Even others have accused the college student serving as his driver of foul play.
Sadly, the truth may never be known in this tragic tale of a legend lost.
2. Charlie Rich Sends A Message To John Denver On Live TV
During the 1975 CMA Awards, the defending ‘Entertainer of the Year’, Charlie Rich, sent a literally fiery message to fellow country singer John Denver when he went to announce the winner of that year’s highest honor.
Casually strolling out toward the podium to make the announcement, he blows a kiss to the audience and slurs a few lines of speech before revealing the winner as John Denver, takes out his lighter and sets the ballot card on fire!
Needless to say, the CMA took action and blacklisted Rich from future shows.
3. Reba McEntire’s Risqué Red Gown
Known for pushing the envelope before this, country legend Reba McEntire appeared at the 1993 CMA Awards in a gown that caught more than just the audience’s eye.
Draped in a sparkling red gown with a deep, plunging neckline, Reba turned heads as she walked the red carpet and wondered if her stylist had made the alterations she requested…
“I got more press off that dress than if I’d won Entertainer of the Year,” Reba says looking back on the moment. “I told lots of people I had it on backwards.”
Truth be told, Reba was at an unfair disadvantage because the lights in her dressing room were far dimmer than the spotlights on stage or the beams flooding the red carpet, and she couldn’t tell it was so sheer.
When she walked out on stage to sing with Linda Davis, there was a gasp as everyone saw her dress – but Reba wasn’t willing to let that get in the way of her performance and the show went on!
4. Johnny Cash Goes To War With The Opry
Back in 1965, legendary singer and country music pioneer, Johnny Cash, had a run-in with the Opry that left him on their blacklist and their stage all broken up.
As depicted in the biographical movie Walk The Line, a drunk and disorderly Cash kicked and smashed all the lights at the front of the Grand Ole Opry stage during a performance. That same night, they informed Cash he was no longer welcome at the Opry.
“I don’t know how bad they wanted me in the first place,” he says of the incident, “but the night I broke all the lights on the stage with the microphone stand, they said they couldn’t use me anymore. So I left and used that as an excuse to really get wild and wound up in the hospital with my third time I broke my nose.”
Lucky for him, Cash was able to make amends with the Opry and return just a short time later.
5. Loretta Lynn’s Sassy Lyrics
One of the front-running pioneers of women in country music, Loretta Lynn was never afraid to sing about what was on her mind, but back in the 60s and 70s that got her into a bit of hot water!
Singing about divorce, birth control, and other touchy subjects saw mixed reviews, bans from radio stations, and contracts that forbade her to sing it during certain performances.
“The Pill” was one of the most controversial songs she ever penned and had lines about miniskirts, hot pants, and a few fancy frills.
Other songs of hers saw her get banned from singing them on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, NBC Radio, and many more.
Today, we honor her by listening to all of her music and appreciating her talent as a songwriter, singer, and women’s rights activist!
6. Spade Cooley Beats His Wife To Death
Known for singing mostly Western swing and big band music, Spade Cooley also became known for murder after the 1961 brutal beating of his second wife, Ella Mae Evans.
After admitting to an affair with Roy Rogers, she asked for a divorce from Cooley (who had his own issues with infidelity) and sought custody of their three children.
In early April of 1961, Cooley beat Evans to death in front of his 14-year-old daughter, who later told the jury that she watched as he beat her head against the floor, stomped her, and burned her with a cigarette to ensure she was dead.
He claimed she had been injured after falling in the shower, but was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
7. George Jones Tangles With The Law Over Drunk Driving
The extent of his problems were brought to the public eye in 1980 when a video of George Jones drunk and disorderly after getting pulled over surfaced. In the clip, Jones and his former road manager talk about the incident in which he looks disheveled and struggles with the officers multiple times.
His longstanding abuse problems had come to a head, and his drunken encounter with law enforcement actually helped Jones seek help in the end when he sought out a rehab facility in Birmingham, Alabama.