Kitty Wells dies at 92 • House blocks new black lung regulations for another year during disease epidemic • Lawyers head to rural • Drought docks barges on the Mississippi River
Kitty Wells died Monday. She was 92 years old.
Wells was the first woman to have a No. 1 hit on the country charts with her 1952 hit It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. Look above and you can see her singing on the Grand Ole Opry. She’s doing a favorite of ours, Making Believe.
The best obituary is, of course, in the Nashville Tennessean, written by Dave Paulson, here. Paulson writes:
By 1952, Mrs. Wells was considering retiring from music to focus on home-making when she was persuaded to record the J.D. Miller-penned “Honky Tonk Angels.” The song was a response to Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life,” and while it borrowed the melody from the recent country hit, its lyrics turned the gender tables: Where “Wild Side of Life” blamed a carousing woman for a man’s sorrow, Wells’ version blamed men for “every heart that’s ever broken.”
Mrs. Wells’ song broke onto country charts that summer, and by August, it had knocked “Wild Side of Life” out of the No. 1 slot, making her the first solo female artist to top country charts.
In the wake of Mrs. Wells’ success, record labels began signing other women to recording contracts and marketing their singles with the same enthusiasm they’d shown for male artists.
As labels rushed to sign other female acts, Mrs. Wells continued having hits, and building a legacy of plaintive, unadorned country music. She was known for being similarly unadorned onstage — often wearing gingham dresses in concert. WSM DJ and family friend Eddie Stubbs told The Tennessean on Monday afternoon that in person, Mrs. Wells carried herself with “poise, professionalism, dignity and class.”
“This lady radiated those qualities,” Stubbs said. “She had it on the stage and she had those qualities off the stage. She had them in the grocery store when you saw her shopping. And she had them in her home. When you were in her home, you knew you were in the presence of someone very special and very great.”
• We reported in the story below that the House was using amendments in spending bills to enact national policy. One example was a block on regulations that could reduce coal dust in underground mines — and therefore reduce the incidence of black lung disease.
Ken Ward Jr. reports this morning that the House is at it again. He writes:
Language was released this morning for the Republican House leadership’s proposed budget for the next year for the Department of Labor, and there’s an interesting little tidbit stuck in there that says:
“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to continue the development of or to promulgate, administer, enforce, or otherwise implement the Lowering Miners’ Exposure to Coal Mine Dust, Including Continuous Personal Dust Monitors regulation (Regulatory Identification Number 1219-AB64) being developed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Labor.”
Not clear enough for you? Here’s what the House Appropriations Committee said in a news release:
“The legislation also includes a prohibition on funding for MSHA to continue the development or the implementation of a coal mine dust regulation.”
That’s right. The MSHA budget being proposed by the House GOP leaders would continue to block — for at least the 2013 budget year — the agency from finalizing landmark rules aimed at trying to end black lung, a deadly disease that’s on the rise again and has reached what experts call epidemic proportions among coal miners in parts of Central Appalachia.
• Leaders of the Catholic Relief Services and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference say that a proposed $16 billion cut in food stamp spending is “unjustified and wrong.”
• Regulators aren’t just flying over farms to look for violations of environmental laws. The AP’s Roger Alford reports that Kentucky officials have been using helicopters to look for problems at coal strip mines.
• The fund-raising race in Nebraska is about even. Democrat Bob Kerrey raised $1.58 million in the latest quarter in his bid to win an open U.S. Senate seat. His Republican opponent, Deb Fischer, raised $1.29 million.
• The Washington, D.C./New York axis has discovered that it’s damn dry out here. Sunday the Times had a story about drought and ranchers. Today the Washington Post says this is the worst drought in 50 years.
• More drought news, this story about the shrinking Mississippi River around St. Louis.
Low water in the river is causing problems for barges. At one barge company, 70 percent of the fleet is tied up at the dock.
• A farmer from Columbus Junction, Iowa, said yesterday that “this crop is in trouble.”
More than two-thirds of Iowa is now in a drought condition, according to state officials — although they don’t yet find this drought as bad as the 1988 edition. Hog producers, however, are already predicting that some raisers will go out of business because of the high feed costs that are likely to come with a poor corn crop.
• DTN’s Chris Clayton notes that out in the country, the drought is wrecking the financial lives of farmers and ranchers. But yet House ag leaders are having trouble getting a floor vote on the Farm Bill.
“The problem, apparently, with getting a farm bill to the floor before the August recess, is that it doesn’t fit with the messaging that House leaders want to send before the election,” Clayton writes.
• Some 3,000 ag and food groups have written a letter to Congress saying that automatic budget cuts now scheduled to go into effect on in January would be devastating to research and education funding for food, agriculture and environmental sciences.
• The Kansas City Star reports that newly minted lawyers are heading to rural. They are going because that’s where the jobs are and that’s what they are being told by law school deans.
“We are the state’s law school and we think we have an obligation to supply attorneys not just to the big urban and suburban areas but also to the rural areas,” said Arturo Thompson, assistant dean for Career Services at the University of Kansas Law School.