Murder on Music Row: An off-key singer with $10K to burn helped solve a Nashville murder (2024)

Keith SharonNashville Tennessean

This is the seventh in an eight-part series exploring the 1989 murder of Kevin Hughes, a country music chart director who knew too much.

Sammy Sadler’s right arm wasn’t working well enough to play a guitar.

It was the middle of 1989 when he moved back to Texas. He said he was finished with Nashville. His friend was dead. He had been shot. No one was promoting his records. And his recording career had been cut short.

“My career was basically over,” Sadler said. “I believe what the police done to me put a cloud over my career. To me it’s just not fair. It’s not fair to Kevin Hughes. Kevin Hughes died for country music. I took a bullet for it.”

He was under suspicion for participating in Hughes’ death.

He said he was still afraid the person who killed Hughes and shot him would try to come back and finish the job.

And yet …

On June 10, 1989, his song “You Made It Easy” appeared in Cash Box magazine’s Indie Spotlight.

A week later, the song debuted on the chart at No. 87. Over 10 weeks in June, July and August 1989, “You Made It Easy” was on the charts 16 times, rising to No. 2 on the Country Indie Singles chart.

Sadler’s picture appeared in an advertisem*nt with the notation that he was promoted by Chuck Dixon.

In August, Sadler was named as Cash Box magazine’s No. 5 male vocalist.

In October, November and December, Sadler’s song “Once in a Lifetime Thing” was on the chart eight times.

He was nominated for Song of the Year for a cover of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” which he had not recorded.

Sadler’s photo appeared in Cash Box in December 1989 with the following words: “Thanks Country Radio for a Great Year 1989.”

In 1990, Sadler’s song “Mississippi’s Burning Tonight” was on the Country Singles chart (this is the superstar chart with Garth Brooks, Faith Hill and Reba McEntire) for nine weeks.

That song was co-written by Chuck Dixon.

Sadler said he had no idea how any of those songs got on the chart, or why a song he didn't sing was nominated. He said neither he nor his family paid for the chart positions or the advertisem*nts.

In all, Sadler had 26 chart positions in the 28 months before Kevin Hughes died, and he had 33 chart positions in the 19 months after.

The singer who couldn't sing

Beth Watts sang like — what’s the best way to describe it? — like someone who had never sung before.

Whispery, gravely, off-key. Not like a future country star.

Watts first appeared in Nashville in 2000. Before the end of the year, she heard someone wanted her dead.

Her story was familiar. She said she had come from Carthage, Tennessee with a couple of poorly written songs.

And $10,000 to spend trying to get famous.

“My husband and I made this awful demo tape,” she said.

It was just a sample song to entice someone in the music industry. It was called “Love Enough for Two,” and there is no way anyone, up to and including music industry professionals, could have thought it was good.

She snail mailed it to famous promoter Robert Metzgar, who had a list of country music accomplishments as long as Willie Nelson’s hair.

“Mr. Metzgar called me and said that he just loved my demo tape,” she said. “He had a little office down off of Music Row ... I went down there. He had an office with records on the wall just like you've seen on TV.

“He was real happy to see me, real friendly, and he just gushed over how wonderful my demo tape was. He thought he could really make me a star.”

Watts signed a recording contract with Metzgar, and agreed to pay him all of the $10,000 she had come with.

Not a singer, a stinger

Beth Watts wasn’t real.

She was a creation of the Nashville District Attorney’s Office after several complaints from wannabe country singers in 2000. They were coming to Nashville and being taken for all their money.

So the DA set up a sting operation.

Beth Watts was actually DA investigator Myra Langlois. She was chosen to play the role of a wide-eyed singer because her husband worked in the music industry. She knew the lingo, and how to act.

Her most important attribute: She couldn’t sing. The worse she was, the more preposterous it would be if someone like Metzgar told her he could make her a star.

When it was over, Langlois said her life was in danger.

'Tone deaf as a rock'

Pretending to be Beth Watts, Langlois wore a wire.

Metzgar, she said, was “huggy.”

“So he wants to hug me,” she said. “Luckily, the battery pack and stuff is in the small of the back. So I am kind of maneuvered so he wouldn't be touching me back there.”

The guys in the truck listening could hear Metzgar being very complimentary.

“He buttered me up about what a wonderful singer I was,” she said. “Believe me, I am tone deaf as a rock. It was awful.”

Metzgar told her to sing like she was drunk.

She said the only reason her voice was even listenable was because of auto-tune software. She sang a song called, “Hell Froze Over,” and another called “Every Time I Look For Love, I Go Blind.”

“Then it got time to leave, and so he walked me out,” she said. “He walked me down to my car and hugged me again and kissed me on the mouth. Which was not pleasant.”

Langlois recorded four songs with Robert Metzgar.

In 2000, Metzgar showed her an internet music chart (she forgot which one) in which “Hell Froze Over” was No. 3 with a bullet.

Metzgar said her next conquest would be appearances on more record charts. He was going to introduce her to a producer named Chuck Dixon. If they put Dixon on her record as a producer, Dixon could get her song recognized.

Beth Watts was on her way to stardom.

“Metzgar was a bombastic blowhard,” Langlois said. “He was extremely friendly, gregarious. He was about six foot tall and he had white hair. He was a little bit overweight, kind of reminded you of Santa Claus. I mean he had that Santa Claus personality that he could convince you to buy snow cones in a blizzard.”

More secrets revealed

Beth Watts never became a country star.

Her producer, Metzgar, was arrested and charged with fraud.

“Of course, he was shocked that I was not Beth Watts,” Langlois said. “He was truly flabbergasted. I mean, he didn't have any clue.”

As a bonus, the DA’s sting operation had a new focus of its fraud investigation: Chuck Dixon.

Langlois had no idea there was an 11-year-old murder investigation that involved Chuck Dixon.

Can you guess who else was surprised by her revelation?

Det. Bill Pridemore, investigating the murder on Music Row from 1989, had no idea his suspect was now the target of a DA sting operation.

Beth Watts was gone, but Myra Langlois participated in searches all over Nashville. She said they found records of Metzgar and Dixon scamming singers.

They also found Dixon was making payments to a woman named Audre Medlock, who was the mother of his child, Blayne.

Just as an aside for context, Dixon’s family didn’t know about the Medlock connection until the research for this seris began. When Dixon’s family found out about the secret son, the family was in denial at first. Then shock. Then sadness.

They declined to be interviewed on the record.

The Dixons have since struck up a telephone relationship with Blayne, who lives in another state.

Blayne Medlock was 8 years old when the DA’s investigators raided his house.

“He (Dixon) had another family that they didn't know about,” said Medlock, who is now 31. “Basically, the police came and raided our house when I was little. They took all of our computers. They took my mom's paperwork.”

Audre Medlock had once been the editor of a music chart called “Indie Bullet.” Then she became the editor of a magazine called "Indie Tracker," which was owned by Chuck Dixon.

Turning state's evidence

Metzgar didn’t want to go to prison.

So he gave investigators information that Pridemore had been waiting on for more than 10 years.

Court records show Metzgar said in 1988 and ‘89, he offered to pay $15,000 to Dixon to place two songs in the Cash Box chart.

Richard “Tony” D’Antonio was also in the room when Dixon agreed to take the money in return for the chart position.

But Metzgar mentioned there was a problem. He had heard Kevin Hughes was going to go to the media to expose the chart-fixing scheme.

According to Metzgar, Dixon declared, “I will handle Kevin Hughes, and if I can’t handle him, he’ll be gone.”

Langlois remembers her conversation with Metzgar.

“He (Metzgar) said that he knew something about a murder,” Langlois said. “Of course, I knew nothing about it. He said, Kevin Hughes, and I didn't know anything about Kevin Hughes or the history of that.

“So at that point I turned it over to the Nashville people (police) … And they took it from there.”

Here’s the thing about Metzgar, he didn’t stop talking.

Even after investigators had raided his homes and businesses and the homes of his friends, Metzgar got in touch with Langlois.

“He still wanted to be my friend,” Langlois said. “He was a very strange character. He would call me, and he came by the office to see me.”

In one of those conversations, Metzgar told her to watch out.

“He just wanted to let me know that Chuck Dixon wanted me dead,” Langlois said. “He (Dixon) put out a hit on me or a green light. Basically dead.”

Attention turns to Chuck Dixon

The major elements of the murder on Music Row, even though the investigation had taken more than a decade, seemed to be falling into place just as Pridemore had envisioned them.

It appeared Dixon had wanted Hughes dead.

It appeared Tony D had carried out the execution.

Metzgar agreed to testify in a trial and was given immunity.

But before Pridemore and the Murder Squad could swoop in for a splashy arrest, something happened that threatened to stop the case in its tracks.

Chuck Dixon died.

Dec. 23, 2001. Cirrhosis of the liver. He weighed 115 pounds at the time of his death.

“Dixon died a month before we would have arrested him,” Langlois said.

But instead of hindering the case, Dixon’s death provided a spark.

People who had been scared to cooperate suddenly began to come forward.

Coming next week: Nashville police 'thanked the Lord' after miracle evidence surfaced

Murder on Music Row: An off-key singer with $10K to burn helped solve a Nashville murder (2024)
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