Country Music

Professor Knowall

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Johnny Horton's 1956 chart successes came at a time country music was struggling for breath under the stranglehold
of the new rockin' sounds which infiltrating the scene. Led by that young Memphis duo, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, rockabilly was becoming more common both on record and country bills, with the Louisiana Hayride one of the most forward looking, riding a new wave of popularity as the Grand Ole Opry became the bastion of traditional country. It
was as a Hayride regular that Horton first saw Elvis, and was immediately taken by the singer and his style.

Already aged over 30, balding (don't be fooled by the wig he started wearing shortly later), and sick of his traditional country songs not charting much against stiff competition, it's unsurprising Horton turned to Hayride stalwart Tillman Franks for inspiration. Five years older than Horton, Franks had played bass for Webb Pierce, managed several acts, worked as a booking agent, a car salesman in Houston and in the police force. He too was between jobs when Horton appeared, later recalling - "I hadn't worked in four or five weeks when Johnny Horton come to the door. He was broke too. He and Billie Jean had spent the money they got after Hank died, and she'd told him to get his ass out and make some more." He said "If I can get Tillman Franks to manage me, I'll get to number one". He came to my house, and I
told him that I just didn't like the way he sang. He said, "No problem. I'll sing any way you want me to". And he was serious
!".

So essentially, Horton's change from traditional country to rockabilly was a business decision - and one that worked. He wouldn't be the only one to change their musical output to suit current tastes or expand their market (Eddy Arnold and Ray Price were 2 of the most obvious examples, but there's plenty more). Nor was it to be the last time Horton would change direction in his music, as we shall see. But for today, we're staying in the mid phase of Horton's career, enjoying his rockabilly, as we've moved on to 1957/58.

The song 'Honky Tonk Mind' had been given to Horton by it's writer, Tommy Blake, who cut the song for RCA himself,
two days later. Blake told Horton he couldn't release the song so Franks put Lee Emerson's name down as composer
and called it 'The Woman I Need'. Blake then threatened to kill Horton and Franks and sued. In the mean time, Columbia released the song leaving RCA to can Blake's Recording. Horton's version is spot on with playful singing and the obligatory guitar fills and two fine solos from Grady Martin. So here is more pure rockabilly 'The Woman I Need (Honky Tonk Mind) from April 1957 - I also really approve of the lyrics in this -


And on the B-side is a neat mid tempo affair which composer Claude King reckons was to have been cut by the great Hank Williams himself had he lived. 'She Knows Why' -


When Horton next entered the studio in December 1957, the band included Tomlinson on guitar, Jesse Sparks on
bass and Allen Harris on piano. Grady Martin was present and played guitar and electric bass. The first song, 'Honky
Tonk Hardwood Floor', was an old country tune but Horton's version, driven by biting electric bass work from Martin
(later to become famous for accidentally "inventing" heavy rock, but that's a story for another day soon to come) is
prime time rockabilly and Harris' piano pounding helps make this Horton's rockiest performance -


Released in early February 1958, there was much expectation and more than a little excitement in the Horton camp when Billboard called it out as one to watch. But despite apparently going to # 1 in Billings, Montana (?) it amazingly became Horton's third consecutive failure. By now an aging, balding Horton was having trouble connecting to the teen audience that rockabilly was aimed at, and rockabilly itself was being squeezed out by rock'n'roll on one side and a traditional country music blowback on the other (more on this another day).

When Horton next ventured into the studio in June 1958, it was again at Bradley's Barn, with Martin, Chance and Harman joined by the new young guitar whiz, Reggie Young who'd just arrived from Memphis. This gem 'I've Got the Bull by the Horns', with Horton really cutting loose, should surely have been released as a single - but unbelievably it wasn't, with 'All Grown Up' chosen instead. Yet this is now regarded as one of his best (and the video shows 1930's style linedancing) -


The 1958 # 8 hit 'All Grown Up' follows the latest trend with guitar work that's great - and backing vocals that grate, but was very much in fashion by then. Horton was getting well into his thirties by now and wigging up to cover his baldness. In short, he was getting too old to hold on to the youth market against much younger acts coming on. The song, lighter than his pure rockabilly, was obviously aimed at the pop teen market, but it only kept him in a middle zone, unable to climb any higher in the country field and to remain unoticed in the wider pop market -


By 1959, the whole rockabilly market had run out of steam. Horton realised it was time to change his music style again - and change he did, with a subject matter that sent him to the very top as a country charts while also at last breaking through to the mainstream. But that's all for tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Any love for the sadly departed Justin Townes Earle? (I need to listen to some of his songs his Dad is covering)
Now there's a name - and yes, he was definitely one of the good ones. I only wished I took more notice of him while he was still alive. He spoke a lot of truth in his songs, especially in his last album "The Saint of Lost Causes" which basically laments and mourns the decline (or sell-out) of rural and working class America over the past generation, and the resultant consequences of despair.

Seeing as I've just been delivering some fifties rockabilly in my 'history marathon' I'll post a song on his last album whose upbeat style pays homage to the rockabilly era and reflecting the optimism of the fifties when Flint (an industrial city in Michigan) was booming. But listen to the lyrics, which contrast the optimism of the past with today's problems and despair after most of the industry departed (to China etc) -
 

blackshadow

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Now there's a name - and yes, he was definitely one of the good ones. I only wished I took more notice of him while he was still alive. He spoke a lot of truth in his songs, especially in his last album "The Saint of Lost Causes" which basically laments and mourns the decline (or sell-out) of rural and working class America over the past generation, and the resultant consequences of despair.

I was lucky enough to have seen him several times here and in the US and to hang out with him a little.

Very poignant songwriter and also could pull out a killer cover when he wanted and make them his own.

So sad that his lifestyle caught up with him.
 

PoopingHindi

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I've never listened to a whole album on Bigfooty before and didn't intend to now - but I just did - the sweet first track kept me listening, loved the mandolin on the second and the third 'Hometown' was the standout for me, being both a Texas lover and from a small town - and the most traditional country number.All up a very nice, soothing album - and
I also liked your 'country-lite' label to sum it all up.

As for your "I don't listen much to country music" comment, well if by that you refer to the suburban-pop pap that Nashville has marketed to the suburban middle class as so-called "country music" over the last 20 years, then I don't blame you - I can't stomach much of it either (I've repeated that little rant a few times here). But if you scratch just a little below the surface, perhaps start by googling 'real country', 'traditional country' or (for some heavier stuff) 'rebel country', then, depending on your own tastes of course, you might be pleasantly surprised with what you find.

Some contemporary ones I like include Tyler Childers, Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, Dillon Carmichael, Charley Crockett, Colter Wall, Caroline Spence, Mo Pitney, Lara Lynn, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen.
Thanks for the recommendations. :thumbsu:
Sturgill Simpson I’m familiar with (he’s another guy that does good cover art) but the rest is all new territory for me to explore.
 

stax on the mull

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Bought a mixed genre 2CD compilation of Memphis music many years ago and this Sid Selvidge song was included near the end of the 1st disc. Its in a country troupador style - similar to the likes of Townes Van Zandt or John Prine - maybe as good as. I think its a great story song that paints a picture in a few words of an outlaws life and death through an event.

Note: if you do play I should alert you that there's a small amount of yodeling.

 
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Schauermann

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Bought a mixed genre 2CD compilation of Memphis music many years ago and this Sid Selvidge song was included near the end of the 1st disc. Its in a country troupador style - similar to the likes of Townes Van Zandt or John Prine - maybe as good as. I think its a great story song that paints a picture in a few words of an outlaws life and death through an event.

Note: if you do play I should alert you that there's a small amount of yodeling.

The yodeling really is a strange thing. Find it pretty annoying in that song. But interesting artist. Checking out I few other songs atm.
 

Professor Knowall

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Sid Selvidge was a something of a Memphis local legend and, amongst other things, was into traditional cowboy trail songs (which had loads of yodelling). Maybe his yodels in that song (which he did well) was to enhance the "outlaw has to free" theme in the lyrics by evoking the image of the freedom of the cowboy on the trail??
Thanks for the recommendations. :thumbsu:
Sturgill Simpson I’m familiar with (he’s another guy that does good cover art) but the rest is all new territory for me to explore.
Actually, from that list, Mo Pitney is the odd one out - raised immersed exclusively in country music in a deeply conservative southern baptist family, his father a professional pedal steel player, Mo started by playing guitar in a bluegrass group before going mainstream - but he's an old school tradionalist, basing his vowel bending singing style
from Keith Whitley (another who who departed too young), Merle Haggard and George Jones, and by far his best work
is his covers of old standards (his latest album, released this year with his original work is more contemporary but I found it mundane). He ought to do more of the old standards because his own songs ain't that special.

Here's a sample of Mo (surrounded by some well known veteran Nashville musicians) doing a cover of the Mel Street 1972 honky tonk standard 'Borrowed Angel'. If you like this old school style of honky tonk (I've really got to like it just over the last couple of years) then proceed on to his cover of Ray Prices' 'Don't You Ever Get Tired of Loving Me'. But if you don't like this (it ultimately comes down to your taste) then he just ain't for you so just scrub him from the list and check out the others -
 

Professor Knowall

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A thing that struck me when reading up on Johnny Horton's life for this was that once he married Billie Jean, they frequently seemed to find themselves broke - even when he had his run of top 10 rockabilly hits (though none hit the
top 5). At one stage Horton was making up to $200 per day playing pinball - a big load of living money back then. He
and Franks got involved in several dodgy money making schemes that only seemed to cost more than they made - and they never seemed to learn as time went on. Anyway, by 1959, Horton, still financially struggling, was desperate to expand his audience beyond his country base, at a time when rockabilly was a fading force and rock and roll itself appeared to be dying right off.

With saga ballads now coming to the fore, in late 1958, manager Franks came up with a song Horton could relate to, having spent at least one lengthy stretch fishing in the frozen north. With 'When It's Springtime in Alaska (It's Forty Below)', a ballad which named locations like Point Barrow, Fairbanks and Kodiak in a love triangle that doesn't end well
in a place called the Red Dog Saloon, he struck gold (and he didn't have to mine for it). Grady Martin suggested a slower tempo and the use of Harold Bradley's banjo. This was a master-stroke; it's hard now to imagine the song without the banjo. Coupled with story-line lyrics with the outcome held back to the last line, backing vocals adding a foreboding effect and a strong performance from Horton, this became by far his biggest hit yet, the song getting to # 1 in March 1959. It helped that Alaska had just become the 49th state in January and was a hot topic of popular conversation at the time of the single's release. -


Many around Horton's circle thought he'd finally reached the pinnacle, but Horton expected (and financially needed)
more - he wanted a big crossover pop hit. And he got it with his verynext record, a humorous, banjo-pickin', drum beating, high energy retelling of a historical conflict. The final battle of the War of 1812 occurred In 1815 when future
U.S. president Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson and his troops defeated the British in New Orleans. Shortly afterwards,
an instrumental tune commemorating the event, 'The Eighth of January' was popular. Jimmy Driftwood added lyrics
to the song in 1936 to help a high school class he was teaching become interested in the event, giving it the obvious
title 'The Battle of New Orleans'. He recorded it in 1957, and it was then pitched to Horton, who cut out several verses
and re-worked the rest to make it radio friendly. Martin again played a crucial role, suggesting the use of the military drumming which adds so much to the song's cadence. Horton's version became a runaway smash, holding # 1 on both the country (10 weeks) and pop charts (6 weeks) from May to July 1959, one of the year's biggest hits, selling 2.5 million. It won two Grammys: one for Best Country Performance and the other to Driftwood for Song of the Year and made Horton a national star even beyond the confines of country music.

Part saga, part military beat, part novelty with simple straight forward chords and even part rockabilly when he
describes just how those British ran "... where the rabbits wouldn't go ...", I doubt it's all totally historically accurate -
"... We fired our cannon 'till the barrel melted down / So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round /
We filled his head with cannonballs 'n' powdered his behind / And when we touched the powder off, the gator lost
his mind ..." -



'Cherokee Boogie' was written by Chief William Redbird (a real Cherokee but only an honorary "chief") and Moon Mullican, who recorded and released it in 1951. Horton released it on the album "The Spectacular Johnny Horton" in June 1959. This harks back to some of Horton's great rockabilly stuff, giving Martin and Harman a chance to shine again -


In January 1960, just a week after first trying it, Horton laid down another musical history lesson 'Sink The Bismark', hoping to cash in on the movie of the same title and theme (the sinking of the German battleship during World War II).
It had been agreed that Horton would write the theme song for the movie, but his and Franks version was so factually wrong, Fox didn't want to use it and offered to pay them off for $5,000. Franks insisted that Fox use the song in some form, and finally it was played before the movie was shown as an advertisement. Helped by appearing on the Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan TV shows, the song reached # 6 in the country charts and # 3 in the pop charts, a great outcome for a song which had started with problems -


After the success of 'Sink the Bismark' 20th Century Fox approached Horton to record the title song for their new John Wayne epic, "North To Alaska". Learning from the 'Sink the Bismark' debacle, assurances were sought and given that
the song would be used whatever it sounded like and after several attempts, they finally got the song they wanted and recorded it on August 9th, 1960. It was to be Horton's last ever session. They got $10,000 for the rights to use the song and Franks used this to run trade adverts when the song came out in September. The advert was a great one, it showed John Wayne kicking someone's ass, and the caption read "This'll teach you to swipe my copy of Johnny Horton's latest - North To Alaska". Wayne didn't see the funny side and his attorney threatened to sue!

From August 1960, his last recording 'North To Alaska' was also a massive hit, topping the country charts for 5 weeks, and reaching number 4 in the pop charts -


It's late 1960 and Johnny Horton is at at the peak of his career, with worldwide fame and popularity. But all was not well as he started having persistent premonitions of impending death. He'd started telling friends and family that he would soon die at the hands of a drunk. He asked his sister to pray and care for Billie Jean and their girls and he had his mum visit for the week. He cancelled his scheduled attendance at the premiere of "North To Alaska" and tried to back out of
his next gig, a club date at the Skyline in Austin, Texas on November 4th. A bigtime star should never have been playing such a gig for such little reward ($800), but alas, he was broke yet again, this time investing his newly made fortune in another dodgy venture, the Cane River Bait Company in Louisiana, which promptly disappeared with all his money. Horton had an uncanny knack of getting very poor out of 'get rich quick' scams.

When they got to the Skyline, Horton stayed in his dressing room, convinced that a drunk would kill him if he hung around the bar. After the show, on November 5th 1960, they started the 350 km journey back to Shreveport. About
2am, near Milano, Texas they were crossing a bridge when a truck came at them, hitting both sides of the bridge before plunging into Horton's Cadillac. Horton died on the way to hospital. Tillman Franks received head and chest injuries that required hospital treatment and guitarist Tommy Tomlinson suffered a very serious leg injury which failed to heal and a few months later the leg was amputated. The truck driver was uninjured but was found to be nine times over the legal limit. So, as Johnny Horton had foretold, he died at the hands of a drunk.

Horton's last gig at the Austin Skyline was also the last venue Hank Williams performed before he died on the road.
Billie Jean (who later stated that before he left for the last time, Horton kissed her on exactly the same place on the
same cheek that Hank Williams had kissed her when he set off for his final trip) became a country star’s widow for
the second time in 7 years. Horton was the last major star of The Louisiana Hayride. However, his ‘saga’ songs have guaranteed he is not forgotten, and he's also still revered by traditional rockabilly fans.
 
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Schauermann

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Some sad songs on now. Lera and Townes. My only birthday visitor lies in my bed wasted. Something didn't went perfect I'd say. I'll spent the night on the floor now. But that is is the situation those songs were made for....l
 

Professor Knowall

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Some sad songs on now. Lera and Townes. My only birthday visitor lies in my bed wasted. Something didn't went perfect I'd say. I'll spent the night on the floor now. But that is is the situation those songs were made for....l
There's your first 3 song lines almost done -
"... My only birthday visitor lies in my bed wasted.
Something didn't went perfect there I'd say.
I've spent the night on the floor totally basted
..."

Anyway, Happy Birthday, and, depending on your mood, you can choose one of the following for your birthday song -
Going from your post, you may relate to this-


Then again, it is your birthday so there's this -
 

Professor Knowall

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And now, at last, I bring to you a guest who hasn't died!! (one of the incentives to keep this history going was to get to cover a living artist). Now Sanford Clark isn't and never was a household name as he only ever had one solitary hit - and even that wasn't such a big hit at the time. But the sound in that one hit was so ... different, an ethereal, almost alien
like sound that, like the artist himself, has lived on and grown in popularity as the decades have rolled by - especially
so in the rockabilly sub-culture. Clark didn't hang around rockabilly central in Memphis or even Nashville. Instead his unique western rockabilly sound arose out of a small studio in the music outpost of Phoenix, Arizona - whose make do innovations account for why Sanford's sound stood out from the rest - but also limited his access to the mass markets that Nashville could've provided. Thus, Sanford Clark remained something of a mystery man. Seldom was he seen and almost never were his recordings given mass airings, being in a virtually uncategorizeable style.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1935, at age 9 he and his family moved to Phoenix and he got his first guitar at age 12. He played around honky tonks in Phoenix until 1953, then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force for four years, but he still played music when off-duty, forming a band and winning a talent contest in Hawaii. The Air Force assigned back home to
Phoenix where he returned to playing honky tonks again.

Al Casey, a friend since school and talented guitarist told then local dj Lee Hazlewood, who hadn't yet made his mark
as a songwriter, to go listen to Sanford. Hazlewood was looking for somebody to record a song he had just written and
was impressed with Sanford's voice. A week later he took Sanford into Floyd Ramsey's studio with Al Casey. Trying to
get something different with there sound, they made the reverb "drum sound" on the recording, beating a piece of
split bamboo on the guitar case, until Casey insisted the drummer use a drumstick. The riff by Casey is taken from
Howlin' Wolf's 'Smokestack. Clark's upfront yet understated laid back vocal perfectly fits the folky ballad about a
romantic mistake. Through perseverance, Hazlewood achieved an echo sound in the small studio similar to what
Sam Phillips had done at Sun in Memphis; not having echo chambers, he tried various combinations of tape echos, stretching them and plugging them into each other. The end result was quite unique for its time.

Nothing happened with the song at first. Clark went back to the Air Force, but soon got an early discharge and then a delivery job. Then things suddenly started to happen with the record. Up to that point the record was only sold locally
on Phoenix label MCI, but Hazelwood had sent the single to Dot Records and to various radio stations. Dot signed Clark and re-released 'The Fool' that summer. The hugely influential Bill Randle, the top-rated personality on Cleveland radio (and who coined the term "rock and roll music" to promote the new back beat music) played the record early and often, helping to break it nationally. By August 1956 'The Fool' reached # 15 on the country chart and, much more impressively, # 7 on the pop charts. Here is the memorable sound the 'The Fool', released June 1956 -


Afterward Clark and Casey began a promotional tour opening for stars Ray Price and Roy Orbison. At this point Sanford and Hazelwood needed a follow up single. Hazlewood began preparing what they were certain must be the next major
hit. In November 1956, Al Casey and Sanford returned to Phoenix and recorded 'A Cheat'. It deserved a better response than it received, reaching # 74 on the popchart and went uncharted on the country, reflecting the limits of the record company's reach. The song itself had the same mystery as "The Fool" and Al Casey's guitar complimented Sanford's vocals. If anything it had an even more eerie sound than 'The Fool'' as Clark delivers a bitter, vexed vocal as he
ruefully berates his adulterous woman. Is there an obsessed stalker in the making here? -
"... When I am walking, down some dark street / Shadows still whisper, she was a cheat ..." -


After recording 'The Cheat' Clark and Casey toured with Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins and made a screen test for Universal International, but nothing came of it, before recording an agreeable remake of Merle Travis' 'Nine Pound Hammer' (see posts # 184-186) in January 1957, which made the Cash Box top 50 -


'Modern Romance' is a frantic shoulda-been-a-hit shuffler penned by underrated rocker Danny Wolfe, recorded in
April 1958. But it seems the company didn't have the capacity to mass market its material, as this also didn't sell -


After the repeated failures to chart another hit, Clark left Dot and joined Jamie Records in 1958. Guitarist Duane Eddy already had a hit with them; 'Rebel Rouser'. In July 1958, Clark & Duane recorded 'Still As The Night', another variation on 'The Fool', but it didn't sell well, spending just one week on the Cash Box chart in September 1958 -


Tomorrow we'll follow Clark as he plays on after the rockabilly era ends.
 

Gough

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There's your first 3 song lines almost done -
"... My only birthday visitor lies in my bed wasted.
Something didn't went perfect there I'd say.
I've spent the night on the floor totally basted
..."

Anyway, Happy Birthday, and, depending on your mood, you can choose one of the following for your birthday song -
Going from your post, you may relate to this-


Then again, it is your birthday so there's this -
It's been one of the thrills of my life to see Kris Kristofferson sing Sunday Morning Coming Down live. He's a Renaissance Man for his generation, Army Captain, Rhodes Scholar with a Boxing Blue, pilot, singer, songwriter, activist and a man who's vowed to keep smoking pot "til they throw dirt on me"
"I'm sure that it slows me down and doesn't make me the sharpest-witted person in the room, but I'll probably be smoking till they throw dirt on me."
My man.
 

Professor Knowall

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As we've just seen, Sanford struggled to score future hits after the success of 'The Fool', despite having recorded more good material. In contrast, the disc jockey-songwriter-record producer and ultimately singer, Lee Hazlewood, had great success with "twangy" guitar man Duane Eddy in the late '50s and early '60s then left for Hollywood where he made it
big time at Warner Bros, writing and producing for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin at Frank's Reprise label. He became something of a household name after the pleasurable experience of writing and producing hits for Nancy Sinatra, including the mega hit 'These Boots Are Made For Walkin' with Nancy Sinatra. leading to a four-pronged series of hit duets with the "Boots" girl that, to anyone who hadn't heard him sing (which was practically ... everyone), revealed a deep, western-movie-like baritone. Perhaps this level of stardom would never have been reached if, years before, he hadn't taken a chance and made a record with the hesitant unknown Sanford Clark.

As for the talented guitarist on those Sanford recordings, Al Casey, he finally managed a few chart hits of his own in 1962 and '63, the infectious guitar-star mimicry of 'Surfin' Hootenanny' foremost among them. But Sanford bit by bit slunk back to obscurity. He never worked too hard to promote his own material, was happy just to "hang out with the boys", partying and playing cards (which he was something of an expert at), didn't develop any stage presence, just stood and sang while everyone else was seemingly trying to copy Elvis' slick moves. He also missed a few opportunities e.g. he became friendly with a local sideman and struggling songwriter named Roger Miller. Roger asked Sanford to record a song called 'Dang Me', he declined so Roger recorded it himself, thus becoming one of the biggest singers in the 1960's. Sanford tried again at Warner Bros in 1964 and 1965, nearly having a hit with the Lee Hazlewood written 'Houston'. Sanford recorded it, but Hazlewood produced another version with Dean Martin. Sanford said his version was doing fine, until they released Dean Martin's version and they just stopped playing Sanford's (in truth, Dino's version is much the better one).

With rockabilly having run its course, Sanford turned to a distinctly heavy western sound, delivered in that laidback style that produces a air of menace far more effectively then any wailing, shouting or screaming can do. But it was all released on minor record labels (and in one case not until years later) and died quiet musical deaths. A real pity, because they're good songs, well delivered and worth a listen.

The Jamie Label recordings, all produced by Hazlewood, utilized a few new tricks. From August 1959 'Run Boy Run'
was an excellent western song with a distinctly Johnny Cash flavoured sound achieved using just guitar and bass -
"... Think you're a man 'cause you're twenty-one / Shot a man for nothin' and away you ran / You're wanted in
most every state from here to Tennessee / And if you're caught, you'll do your runnin' / Hangin' from a tree
..."


From November 1959, "Son Of A Gun" was a real cowboy number, a complete play on words. The slideshows features Hollywood cowboy images, finishing with our first great singing cowboy (and real life war hero), Gene Autry (see posts 125-126) -


Sanford's last Jamie session was in March 1960, 'Go On Home' (the title on the clip below ain't quite right) emulates the western tales popular at the time by the likes of Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash and is very interesting because of the distorting guitar. The ingenious Al Casey got this sound before he invented the fuzzbox and effects as we know it now -
"... I ain't a bad man / That's plain to see / But bad men don't mess around with me /
... I wasn't lookin' for trouble / I never do / But the man I killed acted just like you ..." -



In 1967 Sanford signed with Ramco Records and re-recorded 'The Fool' with Waylon Jennings playing lead guitar. Now
you might think that'd be good, but it ain't - the rockabilly element was all but removed to give it a more regular country sound and the whole thing was over-produced (just the sort of thing Waylon later rebelled against). However, in this 1967 number, borrowing Bakersfield’s outlaw sound and ignoring Nashville’s countrypolitan flair, Clark’s booming baritone tells a tale of heartache and drinking til you can’t stand, while Waylon Jennings provides a backdrop of fuzzed out guitar twang -


Also from 1967 is this perfect shot of mid '60s country garage, with a layer of psych guitar draped over the chorus. Recorded in Hazelwood's Arizona studio. Lee used a big steel round tank with holes drilled in it for the reverb effect.
Roy Clark and Waylon Jennings on guitars, Zane Beck on pedal steel. That funny monster mosquito sound is not a
kazoo. Zane Beck used a fiddle bow on his pedal steel to create that eerie sound. As for the gunshot - I guess they
used a gun -


Soured on the highly competitive music industry and its built-in challenges, his "backup plan" kicked in, in the early 1970s, Clark returned to his birthplace, Tulsa, and set to the task of making an honest living by labour and skill. One
was construction, a trade he had pursued on and off since the 1950s. The other was gambling, being a highly skilled blackjack player. With both talents he has made himself a comfortable living. Sanford continued doing some performing and recording. In 1985 he made a LP for his own label "Desert Sun". On that session he teamed up with his old friends Al Casey and Lee Hazlewood. In later years, as his reputation as a rockabilly legend grew amongst its ever loyal fan base, Sanford got back into playing dates. Some of the highlight were performing at the Ryman in Nashville, and at the Hemsby Rock and Roll weekender in the UK. He also performed in Las Vegas on the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame's stage at Viva Las Vegas 2002 and at the Green Bay Rockabilly Show with Al Casey (standing room only!). Today Sanford lives in Louisiana with his wife Marsha.

“I never made any money to speak of,” said Sanford. “I did a lot of record hops and then when I got my royalties, I owed all these damn airplane fares and the clothes I hadda buy and hotels…and what not”. Asked if he knew then that he’d be considered one of rockabillies finest acts, Clark said, “sh*t no. We was just havin’ a good time. We partied all the time. No thought to it, we just knew how to do it and had a lotta fun doin’ it.” Amen!
 

Professor Knowall

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Well, the time has come for me to take a break from the history series for the Christmas and New Year Period. I'll be heading off to the country (appropriately enough here) as I do each Christmas, sitting around the campfire at night, looking for falling stars and hitting a lonely trail or two. I started the history thing when I felt imprisoned by the lockdown and with too much time on my hand - and it grew to be bigger than I ever anticipated . Things are better now, but in true country style, I've become sort of addicted and therefore I intend to return with some more history on a couple more legends sometime in the new year - how long I'll continue it for I simply don't know.

I may (or it may not be possible - I dunno) still post a few short "normal" posts here over the break, but for now, I wish everyone here a Happy Christmas and let's hope for a better 2021 than the crap of 2020.

And here's some country Christmas songs for y'all to enjoy, or reflect or be consoled by, depending on your own circumstances -
As I'm getting to the later 1950's in the history, here's a favourite from that era - originally released in 1958,
when Brenda Lee, at age 13, was already a seasoned professional singer (!) 'Rocking Around the Christmas Tree'
first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1960. After 59 years and 2 weeks, it completed the longest
climb ever from a song's chart debut to its' highest peak - in just the last 3 years, it's reached #3 in December 2018,
#2 in December 2019 and, dogone if it hasn't got to #2 again just last week. Brenda is still going strong -


Out of all the music genres, none deals with the heartaches, pain, separation, loneliness, depression, betrayal, addiction and all the other frailties of the human condition like country music, so there's no way I can ignore that at Christmas, when there is so much good cheer for some ... and loneliness and sadness for others. So this one's for those out there doing it tough and not feeling so good - I had a hundred country songs I could've chosen for you, but this got the nod -


We've already seen a few of his great songs from the 1950's, this one written by Willie Nelson in 1963 after he went Christmas shopping in Fort Worth, Texas, and was a hit that year for Roy Orbison and covered by many since. The song
is about a real man who had spinal meningitis as a child, leaving his legs severely deformed and useless, so he moved around by crawling. He sold the items Willie sings about in front of a Fort Worth department store and supported his family of six children by this in the era before there was any government assistance - so it's just a nice simple song on
the surface but it explores the "true meaning of Christmas" (sorry for the clique) as the busy shoppers bearing their just purchased gifts, ignore the person on the street selling the pretty ribbons - a reminder of the little things we can do to help someone out -
 

blackshadow

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Well, the time has come for me to take a break from the history series for the Christmas and New Year Period. I'll be heading off to the country (appropriately enough here) as I do each Christmas, sitting around the campfire at night, looking for falling stars and hitting a lonely trail or two. I started the history thing when I felt imprisoned by the lockdown and with too much time on my hand - and it grew to be bigger than I ever anticipated . Things are better now, but in true country style, I've become sort of addicted and therefore I intend to return with some more history on a couple more legends sometime in the new year - how long I'll continue it for I simply don't know.

I may (or it may not be possible - I dunno) still post a few short "normal" posts here over the break, but for now, I wish everyone here a Happy Christmas and let's hope for a better 2021 than the crap of 2020.

And here's some country Christmas songs for y'all to enjoy, or reflect or be consoled by, depending on your own circumstances -
As I'm getting to the later 1950's in the history, here's a favourite from that era - originally released in 1958,
when Brenda Lee, at age 13, was already a seasoned professional singer (!) 'Rocking Around the Christmas Tree'
first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1960. After 59 years and 2 weeks, it completed the longest
climb ever from a song's chart debut to its' highest peak - in just the last 3 years, it's reached #3 in December 2018,
#2 in December 2019 and, dogone if it hasn't got to #2 again just last week. Brenda is still going strong -


Out of all the music genres, none deals with the heartaches, pain, separation, loneliness, depression, betrayal, addiction and all the other frailties of the human condition like country music, so there's no way I can ignore that at Christmas, when there is so much good cheer for some ... and loneliness and sadness for others. So this one's for those out there doing it tough and not feeling so good - I had a hundred country songs I could've chosen for you, but this got the nod -


We've already seen a few of his great songs from the 1950's, this one written by Willie Nelson in 1963 after he went Christmas shopping in Fort Worth, Texas, and was a hit that year for Roy Orbison and covered by many since. The song
is about a real man who had spinal meningitis as a child, leaving his legs severely deformed and useless, so he moved around by crawling. He sold the items Willie sings about in front of a Fort Worth department store and supported his family of six children by this in the era before there was any government assistance - so it's just a nice simple song on
the surface but it explores the "true meaning of Christmas" (sorry for the clique) as the busy shoppers bearing their just purchased gifts, ignore the person on the street selling the pretty ribbons - a reminder of the little things we can do to help someone out -
Merry Christmas Prof! Thanks for the wonderful history lessons this year, they've been a highlight.

While I'm much more into rock I definitely have a love and appreciation of country, especially the real stuff and you've opened my eyes and ears to more of the good stuff.
 

Professor Knowall

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Thanks for that, blackshadow (now I'm back into wi-fi range). Actually, country music (at least the real stuff) is just one of my music loves - I almost did a blues history instead, as up until the last few years that was more my field, and also jazz and soul - in other words a lot of 20th century American music (which came to dominate world popular music), apart from rap/hip-hop which I've not developed any real interest in.

Anyway, when I get home in a few days, I'll resume the series, starting the new year with a couple of absolute country music legends ("legend" being my top echelon, ranking above "great").
 

No eye deer

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Thanks for that, blackshadow (now I'm back into wi-fi range). Actually, country music (at least the real stuff) is just one of my music loves - I almost did a blues history instead, as up until the last few years that was more my field, and also jazz and soul - in other words a lot of 20th century American music (which came to dominate world popular music), apart from rap/hip-hop which I've not developed any real interest in.

Anyway, when I get home in a few days, I'll resume the series, starting the new year with a couple of absolute country music legends ("legend" being my top echelon, ranking above "great").
Please, please, a blues series would be awesome! Maybe in 2022!😊
 

Gough

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Thanks for that, blackshadow (now I'm back into wi-fi range). Actually, country music (at least the real stuff) is just one of my music loves - I almost did a blues history instead, as up until the last few years that was more my field, and also jazz and soul - in other words a lot of 20th century American music (which came to dominate world popular music), apart from rap/hip-hop which I've not developed any real interest in.

Anyway, when I get home in a few days, I'll resume the series, starting the new year with a couple of absolute country music legends ("legend" being my top echelon, ranking above "great").
I've always loved this quote from Levon Helm in The Last Waltz.
Levon Helm - Drums [Talking about the region around Memphis, Tennessee where Levon grew up]: That's kind of the middle of the country, you know. back there. So, when bluegrass or country music, you know, if it comes down to that area and if it mixes there with rhythm and dances, then you've got a combination of all those different kinds of music. Country. Bluegrass. Blues music.
Martin Scorsese - Interviewer: The melting pot.
Levon Helm - Drums: Show music.
Martin Scorsese - Interviewer: What's it called then?
Levon Helm - Drums: Rock-n-Roll.
 

Professor Knowall

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Please, please, a blues series would be awesome! Maybe in 2022!😊
I won't say no to that - I've got kind of hooked on the country history, so if time and travel allows, I'd like to do the same for a Blues history - eventually. It's been good for the soul to resurrect some long forgotten gems - it's reinforces my belief that music doesn't really get better or worse through time, but just reflects the culture (and to some degree the technology) of each particular era, and it's worth listening to the best of the past.

As for choosing country over blues or jazz, it was mainly because when I stumbled into this thread, I found this as the very first post -
... most think of the 50's and 60's and the blonde bimbo's who were good for a perve singing it, while the males were just untalented hillbillies. The Music has changed a lot since then, ...
Posted 11 years ago, it was pointless to directly reply to that poster now, but I was staggered no-one called this load
of ignorant sh*t out at the time (apart from the music having changed a lot since then - but what major music genre hasn't?). I'm confident anyone who has followed the history to now can see (or listen) to what a load of crap that post
was - especially in a time when the auto-tune microphone is doing so much to undermine the talent of being a great vocalist.
... I've always loved this quote from Levon Helm in The Last Waltz....
Growing up not that far from Memphis, on the other side of the Mississippi, Helm knew what he was talking about. There's no doubt that Memphis' river location, drawing in the Delta Blues musicians, mixing with the big city black jazz influence to create rhythm and blues then, allied with the influence of country music, on to rock'n'roll and rockabilly with whites like Feathers, Perkins and Elvis catching on, then to soul music with Stax Studio in the 1960's, Memphis is a stand out city in the development and changes in American (and thus world popular) music.
 

Kram

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****in hate country BUT love John Denver and Kenny Rogers. Denver just has a great voice and Kenny's songs are simply fun and catchy.
 

Professor Knowall

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It's not actually possible to be interested in the history of rock and roll and not end up with an intense fascination for the South.
That's spot on - despite all the official segregation at the time, it was in the South where the cross fertilisation
of European and African music heritages led on to much of modern popular music as we now know it - to give just
two of many examples, the adoption of the African origin banjo into "white" country music, and the adoption of the European origin guitar into the "black" blues. It all happened in the South, and bluegrass, Western swing, rhythm
and blues, rock, soul, funk all followed on from this cultural mix.
 

Gough

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That's spot on - despite all the official segregation at the time, it was in the South where the cross fertilisation
of European and African music heritages led on to much of modern popular music as we now know it - to give just
two of many examples, the adoption of the African origin banjo into "white" country music, and the adoption of the European origin guitar into the "black" blues. It all happened in the South, and bluegrass, Western swing, rhythm
and blues, rock, soul, funk all followed on from this cultural mix.
The interesting thing for me is that wave of American musicians that arrived in the wake of the British invasion, white Americans playing black American music as interpreted by skinny British kids. It took the Brits to overcome the inherent racism that existed at the time in America and get them listening to their own music. I read an interview with a Stax/Volt musician who said that when their revue first toured England he'd never been in a room with so many white people at once and the response to the music just blew them away.
 

Professor Knowall

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As advertised, I'm now resuming the history in 2021 with a legend of country - or more accurately, country & western -
music. He was one of those who wasn't afraid of trying different things and seemed to have a natural talent to succeed
in whatever he tried - even becoming an accomplished NASCAR racer in his later years, despite continuing his immensely successful music career - in time earning hall of fame inductions in both the country music HoF and the song-writers HoF.

No artist in the history of country music has had a more stylistically diverse career than Martin Robinson aka Marty Robbins. From old school honky tonk, rockabilly and rock'n'roll, blues, pop country to straight out contemporary pop to hard core western cowboy ballads and more, Robbins performed successfully in a dazzling array of styles during more than 30 years in the business. He had a knack for detecting the latest trend and taking off in a direction that stunned
both his peers and fans - and sometimes not pleasing them (e.g. hard core honky tonk fans never quite forgave him for his forays to pop and not all pop fans followed him to his western cowboy ballads). Plainly Robbins was not hemmed in by anyone's definition of country music and this is reflected in the wide range of material he recorded - even to teen angst ballads of the 1950's, Spanish love songs and Hawaiian (though he was a talented steel guitarist on top of everything else, he only sang, not play, the Hawaiian steel on his Hawaiian recordings). With his superb pop leaning vocal skills,
right up there with the very best, Robbins mastered all these styles of music (and still had enough spare time to
become good enough to race in the Daytona 500)

Born in 1925 in Glendale Arizona, he was part of a 10-child impoverished family (has anyone noticed how nearly all the artists of this era grew up dirt poor) headed by a drunken, physically father, and was amongst those with scarred hands from picking cotton as a child. His parents divorced when he was 12, his mother moving them all from their ramshackle hovel to Phoenix. His boyhood imagination was fired up by his grandfather, 'Texas Bob' Heckle, a travelling salesman
and a teller of grand old Western tales, which provided much material and inspiration for what are now Robbins' most memorable songs and arguably (some say unarguably) the greatest album in country & western music history.

As a teenager, Robbins worked on his older brother's ranch, concentrating more on his cowboy duties than his studies. He soon quit high school, and by his late teens lived off the proceeds of petty theft and burglary while living as a hobo. Once old enough to serve in WW2, in 1943 Robbins enlisted in the Navy, where he learned to play guitar and began singing and songwriting. After his days in the Pacific Theater were through, he returned home to do odd jobs, joined a local band and in 1947 was hired to sing at a radio station in Mesa, Arizona. As his fan base grew, he soon moved on to Phoenix radio, hosting a one-hour show, then venturing into TV for 15 minute shows, 4 times a week, Marty entertained on “Country Caravan". Little Jimmy Dickens, already a Nashville success and influencer, made an appearance on the show and was
so impressed that it led to Marty being signed by CBS records in 1951 and a move to Nashville.

Robbins' first hit was his third song, 'I'll Go On Alone', a honky tonk heartbreaker about a woman wanting to change
him into something he ain't (a perfect honky tonk theme) which reached # 1 in 1952, despite all the stiff honky tonk competition at that time from the immortal Hank Williams, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce and Ray Price -


Robbins joined the Grand Ol' Opry in 1953 and through that decade appeared in a handful of movies, one of which, "Buffalo Gun" also included Webb Pierce and Carl Smith. He backed up his first hit with another old school honky tonk number in early 1953. Though clearly aimed at the youth market of the time (so you may skip this if you want), this tearjerker with the Hawaiian sound of the slide steel guitar, which Robbins loved, and later recorded several albums,
reached # 4 -


By 1955, Robbins was working and touring with most of the big stars of the time and also alongside newer artists trying, like him, to get a break. In early 1955 he came under the first influence of rock’n’roll. He worked a few dates with Elvis Presley, who was just starting out his career, and creating a lot of interest and continuous headline news. Robbins was
quick to appreciate the potential that Elvis had, drawing the large crowds, the swooning young girls and creating all of
the excitement, and Marty noticed all this was happening without a hit record. Yet Elvis was basically singing a beat and bluesy form of country music. So now we have a complete new sound from Robbins, as he shows his blues credentials. This 1949 Arthur Crudup song is best known now as Elvis' first success in 1954, but the limited marketing range of Sun Records ensured the Elvis cover was only a regional hit, whereas Robbins recording, keeping the country fiddle, reached #7 on the national charts in early 1955 -


The resultant blend of country and weestern and blues into the emerging rockabilly/rock'n'roll sound became one of
the dominant sounds of the 1950's and Marty Robbins was one of the first straight country artists to turn to this. So
keeping up to date with the latest musical trends, Robbins didn't miss with this cover of Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline', reaching # 4 in late 1955 -


It's December 1956 and another new sound from Robbins, as he abandons rockabilly and rock'n'roll (but not before releasing one of the early rock'n'roll albums in 1956). This song really made Robbins' reputation and sent him to enduring country stardom, remaining at # 1 for 13 weeks from late 1956. The song was also doing well in the pop charts, however songwriter Melvin Endsley also allowed a more light hearted whistling pop version by Guy Mitchell, which smashed the pop charts, robbing Robbins of further crossover appeal. However, though the cheerful whistling Guy Mitchell version became the more popular standard outside the country heartland, I much prefer Robbins' version, which was more faithful in mood to the lyrics - i.e. it ain't meant to be cheerful -


For tomorrow, we'll see Robbins change his music direction yet again as his popularity increases and his music of that time lived on to symbolise much about the fifties
 

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