Every time there is a country music award show broadcast on TV, like the Academy of Country Music Awards program earlier this month, you hear the rumblings about the current state of the genre.
Inevitably, in the mix of the many conversations about ‘Bro-Country’ and ‘Tractor Rap,’ there are references to the song “Murder On Music Row.” The tune, recorded by George Strait and Alan Jackson 15 years ago, is about the death of so-called “real country” music.
The controversial cut climbed the country music charts in 2000 and surprisingly won the CMA Song of the Year award. The writers of the song were Larry Cordle and Larry Shell. It is one of many original hit compositions that Cordle has created over the years.
Cordle also wrote “Highway 40 Blues,” which was a Number 1 chart topper for Ricky Skaggs, as well as other singles that were recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Trace Adkins, Reba McEntire and many others.
Cordle is a proud native of Lawrence County, Kentucky, and he has also made his mark in the music business as a singer and band leader. Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time have performed many times in the Tri-State, from the now-defunct Appalachian Uprising to his regular headlining slot at Rudyfest. And, Cordle and crew will be on the lineup of the first Jewel City Jamboree music festival which will take place in downtown Huntington at the Harris Riverfront Park on the first weekend in June.
After all of these years of songwriting and performing success, on April 10, Cordle was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. The other inductees included the country duo Montgomery Gentry, Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys, Clarence Spalding, Pete Stamper, Doc Hopkins and The Moonglows.
“Last summer, I was playing in Lexington, Kentucky, and I had a gig at one of those downtown clubs when they surprised me onstage and told me that I was going to be inducted,” said Cordle. “Right at the end of my set, they said that they had something that they wanted to say. I said, ‘Ok.’ So, they got up and announced it to me and to the crowd. It was a surprise. You just don’t think of something like that. I never gave something like that a second thought in my life. I just wanted to go and be in the music business, trying to make a living and working. That is what I tell everybody, that we were just working and I’m glad somebody thought it was all worthwhile. It was very humbling to me.”
Growing up Cordle did a stint in the Navy before enrolling in Morehead State University as an accounting major. But music was his true calling. With the encouragement of childhood friend Ricky Skaggs, Cordle made the move to Nashville.
The best way to get a sense of Cordle’s career is to grab up his latest album called “All Star Duets.” On the project, Cordle sings with the artists who recorded his songs over the years. The guest singers include Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Del McCoury, Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood, Ricky Skaggs and many more.
When Cordle was accepted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame earlier this month, he thought of the family members that did not live long enough to witness his induction. His mother died in 2006, and two of his brothers passed away recently with Chuck Cordle dying in 2014 and Mike Cordle leaving this world in January of this year. His father Charles Cordle, however, was able to make the trip to the Hall of Fame’s home in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, to see his son receive the honor.
“It meant a lot to me that my Daddy could be there,” said Cordle. “He is 88 years-old. Even I don’t think I am as big a deal as Bill Monroe (laughs), but I’m sure Dad probably thinks I am. That made it really worthwhile for me. If I could sit down and tell them what I really thought about it, I’d say, ‘Thank you so much for giving this to me while my Daddy was here to see it.’ It meant the world to me that he could be there, along with my sister and brother-in-law. She is my last sibling. And, my wife Wanda and daughter Kelvey were there. I wish that my mother and my brothers would have been there, but God had another plan and we can’t argue with that. I lost one brother in each of the last two years and both were younger than me. It is a strange thing because I never thought about outliving them. They were buried up there at the home place, right beside where we all grew up.”
Beginning today, April 27, Cordle will appear on a barnstorming tour of Kentucky towns on behalf of the Bluegrass State gubernatorial candidate Will T. Scott. He was hired along with fellow musicians Don Rigsby and Animal Planet TV star Turtle Man’s sidekick Neal James to open the campaign visits, which will entail up to 10 stops a day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. For Cordle, his efforts for Scott are about the issues concerning Eastern Kentucky.
“Scott is a mountain guy from Pikeville,” said Cordle. “Don and Neal and I went and met with this guy back in the winter, and I wanted to see what he had to say because musicians don’t mess with politics as a rule. I usually don’t like to be involved with it because I want everybody to be a fan of my music and I don’t want to offend anybody’s political or religious views. But, in Eastern Kentucky, and I’m sure it is the same in West Virginia, because my brother-in-law is a coal miner so I know it is, they are really putting the squeeze on these people. They can’t work. They don’t know what they are going to do. The federal government has no plan for all of these families that are out of work other than giving them a little existence money that will basically make another five or six generations of people who live off of the government. And, this guy says he has a plan to put these folks back to work and I believe him. That is what interested me about him. We’re going to go to 25 counties in three days.”