Marty Receives "Tex Ritter Award"

This appeared in Country Weekly - July 11, 1995

IFCO is all Loretta Lynn's fault, say the Johnson sisters (Loudilla, Loretta and Kay). She encouraged artists who wanted better fan clubs to talk to the Johnsons. When the sisters told her there should be an organization to help them, said Loudilla, "Loretta said, 'If you're gonna do it, do it right--make them pay for it!' " Since then, Loretta's fan club has grown to more than 70 branches; IFCO's original 40-plus clubs now number 373.

IFCO's annual concert has become an important part of Fan Fair and this year's show as a spectacular three-hour, 29-song concert at the Ryman Auditorium featuring Ricky Lynn Gregg, Holly Dunn, Marty Stuart, 4 Runner, Lisa Stewart, Davis Daniel, Dallas County Line, Susie Luchsinger and Billy Montana.

The Johnson sisters say everything started with the traveling Grand Ole Opry shows they attended in their teens where they told George Jones, still in his Marine uniform, how much they liked Loretta Lynn's voice. He suggested they write her in Custer, Washington where Loretta's husband Mooney worked in the lumber camps.

Four years later, the sisters were running Loretta's fan club. Soon, they began Tri-Son News, a newsletter aimed at disc jockeys. "We figured no one would know we ran Loretta's fan club," said Loudilla, tickled at the memory. Mixing news of Loretta with that of other country stars made it look as if they were only promoting country music. It worked.

At this year's concert, the night's surprise was IFCO's annual Tex Ritter Award. Marty Stuart had agreed to present it to Loretta Lynn--but Loretta was actually going to present it to him. When Mooney's health took a bad turn and Loretta had to bow out, Marty was asked to accept the award for her.

But as the Johnsons read off the winner's accomplishments, Nashville's youngest old pro realized what was happening. "You're giving this to me, aren't you?" he whispered to Kay Johnson.

Smiling his way offstage with the award, Stuart returned for a six-song set and two-song encore of fan favorites--"The Whiskey Ain't Workin',' "Hillbilly Rock" and the sexual tease of "Burn Me Down."

When longtime fan club members Cathi Roberts and Linda Bartholomew brought him a bird-of-paradise bouquet and boxes of Girl Scout cookies, Marty stepped down from the stage to hug them. It was a moment that captured the essence of both IFCO and Fan Fair.

By Catharine Rambeau

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