Murder, She Wrote 7.9 “Ballad for a Blue Lady”

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Jessica Fletcher is in Nashville, attending a special concert given by one of her long-time friends. Her friend confesses that she is having some marital problems, and Jessica investigates when the couple become victims of poisoning.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Bobby Diamond, a country star and husband to Jessica’s friend!
Click to reveal the killer It was his wife, Patti Sue!
Click to reveal the weapon It was strychnine poisoning in a bottle of bourbon!
Click to reveal the location It was in Bobby Diamond’s studio!
Click to reveal the motive Bobby was going to leave Patti Sue for a younger woman!

Cast of characters:

At the heart of the episode is Jessica Fletcher’s friend and her family:

  • Florence Henderson plays Patti Sue Diamond, Jessica’s friend and country music star. Henderson is best known for playing Mrs. Carol Brady on ‘The Brady Bunch‘. This is Henderson’s second appearance on MSW. She previously appeared in the two-part episode “Death Stalks the Big Top”.
  • Jimmy Dean plays Bobby Diamond, Patti Sue’s husband — a former country music star and currently a songwriter. In real life, Jimmy Dean was a country music star who had a #1 hit with his song “Big Bad John” (and also created his own brand of breakfast sausages). This episode marked Dean’s last ever on-screen acting appearance. He previously had a recurring role on the detective show “J.J. Starbuck”.
  • Daphne Ashbrook plays Alice Diamond, Bobby’s daughter from his first marriage and his songwriting partner. This is Ashbrook’s first of three total appearances on MSW.

The cast of characters includes other members of the country music business:

  • Sheb Wooley plays Billy Ray Parker, a record producer. Wooley had a prolific career acting in westerns and had a major recurring role in ‘Rawhide’.
  • Tom Hallick plays Preston Wardell, a lawyer for the Diamond family and Alice Diamond’s boyfriend. This is Hallick’s second of three total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Murder in a Minor Key“.
  • Gary Grubbs plays Mark Berringer, Bobby’s manager.
  • Mickey Gilley plays Conrad Booker, another country music singer and Bobby’s former writing partner. Gilley was also a country music star in real life.
  • Jeri Gaile plays Brittany Brown, an up-and-coming singer.
  • Blake Gibbons plays Garth, Brittany’s boyfriend. This is Gibbons’ first of two total appearances on MSW.

The case is investigated by Lieutenant Jackson (played by Brandon Maggart), who is also an aspiring country music songwriter. (In real life, Maggart is the father of singer-songwriter Fiona Apple!)

Other minor characters include:

  • Marji Martin as Mirabelle, a J.B. Fletcher fan. This is Martin’s first of two total appearances on MSW.
  • Cary J. Pitts as First Guard.
  • John Christy Ewing as Dr. Benson.
  • Bob Swain as Forensic Man.

Final thoughts:

In keeping with the theme of the episode, several of the guest stars either already had ties to Country & Western Music, or had gone on to release their own albums:

  • Jimmy Dean, as I’ve already mentioned, was a big star with his hit “Big Bad John”.
  • Sheb Wooley had several hits with funny novelty songs like “The Purple People Eater”.
  • Mickey Gilley was a country music star from the 1960s onwards, and was quite popular in the genre in the ’70s and ’80s.
  • Daphne Ashbrook, in addition to acting, is also a singer and released her own album ‘Grace Notes‘ in 2010.

You can check out some of their albums and greatest-hits compilations by clicking on the images below:

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