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THE A5

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Well noticed and posted. It's very rare, maybe unique, for the passing of a drummer to be recognised in a country music thread, but Richie Albright had about the most prominent role alongside Waylon Jennings in the Outlaw Movement (as
did the recently departed Billy Joe Shaver as reported here just a few months ago). Albright was country music's most influential drummer and it ain't close. Sad to see another Outlaw gone.
Coincidentally only a couple days before Waylon's death anniversary.

Went back and listened to the whole Waylon live again and not only was Waylon on point but the fact both Ralph Mooney and Richie were on point, was what made that album so special. Waylon was truly lucky to be surrounded by the likes of Ralph, Richie and Billy Joe
 

Professor Knowall

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There's an old country saying - "Strike While the Iron is Hot" (taken literally from cattle branding). Well our next guest's iron wasn't hot for long - but at least he struck quickly and struck well while hot. Born in rural southern Indiana in 1933, Bobby Helms's career as a top-flight country star was in every sense meteoric. In 1957 he was named Country Singer of the Year by Cashbox magazine; little more than a year later charting success was over. But he still has one song played regularly every December - and even set a record by hitting # 3 on the US pop charts in 2019, more than 60 years after its release.

Helms was something of a child prodigy, singing a mixture of pop and country on local radio at age 12, billed as "Bouncing Bobby" Helms. He and his guitarist brother Freddie were a popular act on the Monroe County Jamboree before moving on to the Hayloft Frolic TV Show in Bloomington, Indiana, performing on TV from 1946 to 1954. He made his first records on Speed in 1954 - in this case Speed being a small Nashville label. His second single, 'Freedom Lovin' Guy', exhibited huge potential just as Speed went out of business. He then headed back to Nashville with an audition tape, intending to land a spot on Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree radio show, broadcast from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop (which still exists and in business since 1947). Tubb was so impressed with the tape, he passed it on to Decca Records, who signed him to the label.

Helms struck gold with his second release on the Decca label, 'Fraulein'. The Lawton Williams penned song was inspired
by a German-American girl he had worked with at a Houston radio station and had been rejected by most of the acts in Nashville before Helms cut it. Although slow to take off, it eventually reached # 1 for 4 weeks in 1957 and also remained charting for an extraordinary 52 weeks - and it crossed over to the pop listings, reaching the Pop top 40. The song had extra resonance as there were over 400,000 American servicemen (virtually all male) stationed in West Germany at that time, and of course many of these "hooked up" with local fräuleins while there. It also makes for a really good old school honky tonk (which there's still plenty of) drinking song when sung very loudly -


Helms followed it shortly afterwards with his biggest hit, the slick pop-country 'My Special Angel', featuring the Nashville Sound vocal group The Anita Kerr Singers, was a smash, breaking just after "Fraulein' had topped the charts. This was the closest he ever came to a teen-appeal hit and it was successful across the board, becoming his second country # 1
for 4 weeks and also climbing the pop charts, reaching # 7 and even charted # 22 in the UK. Helms later named his youngest daughter Angel in tribute to the record, which with the new Nashville Sound, sounds so much like 1957 -


By now heavily in demand, Helms became a regular guest on American television, appearing on the top rating American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. At the end of 1957 he had yet another smash with 'Jingle Bell Rock'. A response to the Christmas standard 'Jingle Bells' it became a mainstay of Christmas playlists and sold over a million copies within the first five years of its release and to this day it's still heard regularly on the soundtrack of Christmas films and television programmes. Despite it's title and lyrics, it isn't really a rock song and only partly country, but a lot pop. My apologies
for timing this way out of season -


Helms re-recorded 'Jingle Bell Rock' several times in the 1960's to 1980's. After the song was featured on the soundtrack album to the 1996 film "Jingle All the Way", the original version returned to the charts in late 1996 and again early 1997. It re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 2016, hitting # 29. In January 2019, the song again entered the Hot 100's top 10 for the first time reaching # 8 in 1958. With this feat, Helms broke the all time record for the longest wait to the Hot 100's top 10, achieving this in 60 years and 4 months and two after his first entry back in 1958. Helms' recording reached a new peak of #3 in January 2020.

Helms kick-started 1958 with yet another top 10 hit, the forth in as many months, "Just a Little Lonesome", as his
hot streak continued - but his 1958 hit was, in fact, a Nashville Sound "cover" of his own earlier original honky tonk version included on his 1957 album ". ... ". So if you're still in any doubt as to what the "Nashville Sound" was all about, here is the perfect example, as I'm going to give both versions here, starting with the 1957 original authentic country honky tonk version, never released as as a single -


And now the more sophisticated, suburban Nashville Sound version, almost a different song altogether with the Anita Kerr Singers, which was a top 10 hit in 1958 -

If anyone here has read much of my history, they would know which version I enjoy - and which one I struggle with. Of course, it's possible your taste may differ from mine, but this example shows how music is also a victim of the fashion of the day. Going by download numbers, the honky tonk version is now far and away the more popular of the two - but that wasn't the case in 1958.

Helms then made his movie debut alongside Darren McGavin and Warren Stevens in a now-forgotten, low-budget 1958 crime drama "The Case Against Brooklyn", his only onscreen film appearance. A song from the film, 'Jacqueline, on which he was again backed by the Anita Kerr Singers, gave him another hit at # 5 and also reached # 22 in the UK charts -


That was Helms' last major hit. The reasons for his failure to remain at the top, especially after such a sizzling start,
are difficult to pinpoint, but he never regained the popularity he had enjoyed during those 2 blazing years of 1957 and 1958. My own theory, FWIW, is that Helms had a very good country honky tonk voice, not so much pop - but, following
the fashion of the day, he wandered too far into the pop-country paddock, where his short term success obscured what longer term appeal he may have had with traditional country audiences. But at least his iron was hot for a little while and he's still played and remembered (and even still charts) each Christmas.

Helms continued to record sporadically, scoring a clutch of minor hits before making his final chart appearance in 1970. In the late 1960s, Helms left Decca and recorded for Little Darlin’ but still achieved no further major chart hits. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he continued to tour through the US and Europe, often with his wife Dori and he released an album in 1989, but apart from that he achieved little success and he remained until his death a figure remembered solely for brief past glories and his annual Christmas revival.

Near the end of his life, Bobby Helms suffered from emphysema but continued performing whenever possible, belting out his hits onstage while attached to an oxygen tank. He died in 1997 age 64 but his voice will likely be kept being heard every December ad infinitum.

So that's all for Bobby Helms, whose stardom shone brightly but briefly. Tomorrow will feature one of the best tenor voices in country music history, whose career didn't peak until he was in his forties when Chet Atkins took him in hand and applied the Nashville Sound production values to his recordings.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Now for another Hank - the fourth Hank after the legends Hank Williams (posts # 205-214) and Hank Snow (posts # 202-204) and another great in Hank Thompson (posts # 235-237). Hank Locklin, influenced by Roy Acuff (posts # 147-149) and Ernest Tubb (posts # 161-165), first applied his piercing, sorrowful, crystal-clear tenor voice to rock-solid honky-tonk, then helped shape the lusher, more refined Nashville sound of the late 1950's and 1960's. However, unlike the other Hank's, he had to wait until his forties before he reached his prime, in time gaining a worldwide reputation for his tenor voice.

Born Lawrence Hankins Locklin was born in rural far north Florida in 1918, and started playing guitar at age 6. At age 8, he was run over and nearly killed by a bus and then hit with rheumatic fever. Locklin's recovery therapy included intensive guitar practice. During his recuperation, he learned to play the guitar. He had already begun singing at the local church. He won amateur contests and by his teens was a featured performer on a radio station in Pensacol. He dropped out of high school to become a traveling musician, often taking jobs on farms or at shipyards to supplement his income.

For the next 10 years or so, Locklin worked many jobs (musical and otherwise), played with a variety of groups and gradually worked his way up the country music ladder. His old leg injury from the bus prevented him from serving in WW2, so he performed on Radio, first in Mobile, Alabama then Houston. Basing his singing stulemfirst on Ernest Tubb,
he spent much of 1945 and 1946 playing gigs across the Southeast, from Florida to Alabama, sometimes even shared a stage with a young Hank Williams. He formed his own group, The Rocky Mountain Playboys, in 1947 and started recording with a couple of small labels without success.

In 1949, Locklin joined the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport and achieved his first country success with a honky tonk number 'The Same Sweet Girl', a song he wrote for his wife, Willa with lovely lyrics such as - "... And if we should ever reach a hundred years dear / You will be the same sweet girl as when we met ..." - they divorced a few years later -


At this stage, Locklin had a rougher, harder honky-tonk brand of music, derived from Texas dance-band roots, in complete contrast to the Nashville sound with which he achieved lasting fame - compared to his later, softer material, this stuff kinda rocks. He then relocated back to Houston, performing on radio and, after failing to trouble the charts for 4 years,
he finally struck with his first big hit, 'Let Me Be the One', reaching # 1 in 1953 -


Locklin soon realised that the label owner, Bill McCall, was a rogue once he realised the contract he signed meant he wasn't paid a cent of royalties - even though he had to pay all the recording costs! He began writing songs under his name, so that McCall could not claim them. After an argument with McCall, Locklin quit but then had the really good fortune to be signed by major label, RCA, where his records were produced by Chet Atkins and recorded with the top
Nashville session musicians. His first RCA hit was a cover of George Jones 1955 hit 'Why Baby Why', which to me has
a lot of similarities with the 1953 Hank Williams song 'Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used To Do'). This lighthearted upbeat honky tonk cheating song cover reached # 9 in 1956 -


In 1957, Locklin Struck it big with 'Geisha Girl', written by Lawton Williams who also wrote the big Bobby Helms hit, 'Fräulein' - and the theme and context of both songs were the same. Just like West Germany at the time, there were hundreds of thousands of American serviceman based in Japan, so naturally there were many thousands of conctacts
or hook-ups with Japanese women (the subject of the James Michener novel "Sirowana"). In August 1957, it peaked at
# 4 and spent 39 weeks on the charts and was subsequently covered by many artists, most notably by Hank Snow -


The success of 'Geisha Girl' let to Locklin recording a concept album, "Foreign Love" in 1958, aimed at the nearly one million American servicemen based overseas at the time. Not released as a single by Locklin, 'Fräulein' was the popular opening number on the album - and was also the first cover of the Bobby Helms # 4 hit we heard just yesterday. I think this is an even better version than Helms as he really let's go with his strong, piercing tenor (basically Locklin was a better country singer, with a far stronger tenor voice, which is why he ultimate had more success than Helms). Play
it (and even sing it) loud, especially the chorus - people go right off on this in old school Texan honky tonks! -


So, at age 40, after trying for 2 decades with several bands, several record labels in several states, Hank Locklin
was finally getting sustained success - and the best was still ahead of him, including his signature song - now
under the new Nashville Sound - but that's for tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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We left Hank Locklin off in 1957 riding high. Eight years earlier, in 1951, he wrote and recorded 'Send Me the Pillow You Dream On', another song for overseas based servicemen. However, the song, sang at too quick a tempo in an unromantic honky tonk dance style, bombed. A re-recording in 1951 also failed for the same reason, though when he first performed the "pillow song" on his Houston radio show at the time, the station was deluged with over 200 pillows.

Chet Atkins, as Hank's producer at RCA in 1957 obviously thought this song just needed the right treatment to succeed. He got Hank Locklin to slow the tempo and thus wring out more expression with his superb tenor voice. He also gave the song the full Nashville Sound treatment, and the result was Locklin's second top 5 hit in 1957 and transforming this formerly failed song into a standard -


Now running hot in his fortieth year, in April 1958, 'Its a Little More Like Heaven' peaked at # 3 and spent 23 weeks on the charts. The lead guitar is by none other than the great Chet Atkins -


Now for Locklin's signature song. The story of his biggest hit begins when songwriter Don Robertson wrote a cheating song with a difference - in it, the man's conscience wouldn't allow him cheat - but the temptation was becoming too much for him so he begs for the temptress to desist. Locklin had discussed it with Hal Blair, who had confronted his own marital problems in 'One Has My Name (the Other Has My Heart)', a hit in 1948. The result here was 'Please Help Me, I'm Falling'.

Although the song was turned down by Jim Reeves (keep remembering this name), Locklin recognised its potential. The single was Locklin's most successful ever, becoming his second # 1. Spending 14 weeks at the top spot and 9 months on the charts, it also crossed over to the Hot 100 peaking at # 8 in 1960 and was also a Top 10 pop hit in the UK. It was also notable as the recording that famed session pianist Floyd Cramer developed his celebrated version of the “slip-note” piano style, in which the piano seems almost to slur notes. That style became Locklin’s signature backup sound in many more recordings. Locklin's signature song, from 1960 -


If one judges a country song on the basis that the sadder and more miserable it is, the better it is (a there's some truth
in this), then the next song of rejection and loneliness must rate as a classic. Written by singer-songwriter, Bill Anderson, and, once again, produced by Chet Atkins, 'Happy Birthday To Me' reached # 7 in 1961. It was later released on Locklin's 1962 studio album "Happy Journey" -


While no longer topping the charts, Locklin was still consistently hitting the charts through the 1960's. In 1968, 6 years before Freddy Fender made this song famous (or the song made Freddy Fender famous - whichever), Locklin recorded 'Before the Next Teardrop Falls' - but for some reason didn't release it as a single, probably costing himself another hit
as his tenor voice was perfect for this. It appeared on the album "Love Song For You" in 1968 -


As the years went by, Locklin retained his singing voice, attributing his good fortune to not smoking and not drinking g heavily (unlike so many other of our country heroes). He hosted his own television series in Houston and Dallas in the 1970s and during his career, toured extensively in the USA, Canada and in Europe. He was particularly popular in Ireland, which he toured many times, having recorded an album of Irish songs in 1964. Although a popular artist in Nashville, he always resisted settling there. In the early 1960s, he returned to his native Florida and built his home, the "Singing L" on the same cotton field where he once worked as a boy. His popularity saw him elected mayor of his home town of McLellan, just a few miles from where he grew up.

Although Locklin’s last chart success was a minor hit in 1971, he remained a firm favourite with the fans and regularly appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. He continued to record into his late 80's. His grandson, Hank Adam, produced 2 albums for him, "Generations in Song" in 2001, which also featured Dolly Parton and Vince Gill, and "By the Grace of God" in 2006. At the time of his death in 2009, age 91, Locklin was the oldest member of the Grand Ole Opry and a 47 year member. In November 2020, PBS aired a documentary on Locklin's career and legacy called "Hank Locklin: Country Music's Timeless Tenor". On it, artists such as Dolly Parton and Dwight Yoakam speak of his influence on their careers.
I'm hoping SBS might pick it up, like they did the Ken Burns "Country Music' doco.

When the history returns, it'll be about a singing great or even a legend, depending on one's taste, and the singer most synonymous with The Nashville Sound - which divided the country music fanbase at the time (still does), but eventually he won over most critics with an all time classic before his early tragic death.
 
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Professor Knowall

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"I'm gettin' wasted with all my country heroes "
Late night playlist on brandy and coke:
Hank III
Rebel Son
Now that's living. Rebel Son I rate as my favourite 21st century album (and probably the most influential for creating contemporary country music while still retaining key traditional elements). It's a shame subsequent events resulted in Hank's music being sidelined - his music should've become far more recognised, but I better not go on about this for now. The funny thing about 'I'm gettin' wasted with all my country Heroes' is that all of the artists he mentioned in that song (most whom I haven't yet covered) all had a reputation for getting wasted one way or another.

As for Orville Peck - or whatever his real name is - I haven't yet got around to listening to him, so I have to make the time - I've pretty much got to the stage where I'm running a couple of years behind whatever's happening now.
 

Professor Knowall

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Jim Reeves was a true anomaly. He grew up in rural east Texas in the 1920s and 1930s, but rarely sang western swing or Texas honky tonk music - possibly turned off by the rough and often violent East Texas oilfield honky tonks where Ernest Tubb and Ray Price, amongst others, cut their teeth, Reeves instead sang smooth and sweet pop-country music, thereby becoming the biggest star of the Nashville Sound. ‘Gentleman Jim’ Reeves, with his rich, smooth, resonant velvet voice, transcended his country music roots and captured fans worldwide with his new soft sound.

Reeves was born in rural East Texas, right on the Louisiana border, in 1923. His father died when he was 10 months old and his mother was left to raise 9 children on the family farm. At aged 5, Reeves was entranced when a brother played
a Jimmie Rodgers record and at age 9, he traded stolen pears to a neighbor for an old guitar. An oilfield worker showed him the basic chords and at age 12 he appeared on a radio show in Shreveport, Louisiana. At high school he was just as interested in sport as in music and won a baseball scholarship to the University of Texas, where he enrolled at the school to study speech and drama (he overcame a stammer and his singing was later renowned for perfect diction and delivery). After university he played in the semi-professional leagues and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944, staying with the team for 3 years before seriously injuring his ankle thereby putting an end to his baseball career.

In 1947 he met and married schoolteacher Mary White, who encouraged his musical interest. He began singing as an amateur, appearing both as a solo artist and as the frontman for Moon Mullican’s band. He recorded 2 unsuccessful singles for a chain store’s label in 1949. In November 1952 Reeves moved to Shreveport, hosting The Louisiana Hayride. He stood in as a performer when Hank Williams failed to arrive and was signed immediately to Abbott Records by the label's owner who happened to be in the audience. Success soon appeared.

Now a warning before we go to Reeves pre-Nashville Sound music (the first and maybe only time I'll make any subjective caution in this history ) - I wasn't impressed. I found the songs here, despite their popularity at the time, to be light and bordering on novelty - and in one case, downright childish. They're also very different than his later, more enduring songs (one of which became a country classic). However, as they were big hits, and first established Reeves as a major name, I've included them for historical purposes and objectivity. So with that off my chest, let's proceed -

'Mexican Joe', Reeves second Abbott release, went all the way to # 1 for 6 weeks and charted for 26 weeks in 1953 - though it's hard to say why, for the song is very lightweight, though catchy for some, it seems. It obviously found an alternative audience to all the great honky tonk songs and artists of that era, as shown by it also crossing to the pop charts. It's about Reeves' only Western Swing influenced melody and the subject of the song seems to be an agreeable role-model - apart from his lack of pesos -
"... In old Mexico, they call him the Rhumba King / Leads all the women around on a string,
When they go out, they get a million thrills, / But the lovely senoritas wind up with the bills
. ..."


If you didn't like 'Mexican Joe', then you're gonna really hate Reeves follow-up hit, 'Bimbo', a song really suitable only for children. The only way I can explain this also reaching # 1 in 1953 is that by then the US was 8 years into the great post war baby boom (the baby boomer generation), hence their were loads of young families with rugrats everywhere - and this bouncy little piece of nonsense found its market with them. The video here seems appropriate -


In 1955, after a couple of more novelty like top 5 hits, Reeves made the key move to Nashville, joined the Grand Ole
Opry and started recording for RCA Records, having his first hit with a song based on the ‘Railroad Steamboat ’ game,
and denouncing an unfaithful girl - ‘Yonder Comes A Sucker’, a # 4 hit. A better song than before, but still lightweight, lacking any sort of depth - so I've chosen a live version from 1955 to make this more interesting -


It's December 1955 and new RCA producer Chet Atkins has just assembled his 'A-Team' of session musicians (see post
# 354) including, in this recording, himself on guitar along with Reeves, and Floyd Cramer on piano, in a song that was nearly honky tonk, nearly a good song - but still not quite there and overall unsatisfying, but getting closer. It reached
# 4 in 1956 -


And here, recorded in December 1956, is a taste of what's to come. At his own insistence, against Chet Atkins advice, Reeves lowered and softened his voice, singing close to the mike to get a more intimate sound. His sound isn't quite yet perfected here (he later re-recorded this song in 1960 with strings and backing vocals and it's the 1960 version that's far more popular now) and the song is a bit dull (best listened to with ... some weed??), but significantly, it reached # 3 in early 1957, showing the way to Reeves future greatness -


If you feel underwhelmed by today's songlist, I'm with you (then again, maybe you actually liked them). Anyway I felt compelled to include Reeves' pre-Nashville Sound numbers, which included 2 at # 1, the remainder top 5 hits, as they established Reeves as a star before the Nashville Sound really propelled him to the very top. However, I don't think
these songs have dated so well (you might think differently of course) Tomorrow will feature his early Nashville Sound hits.
 

Professor Knowall

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The Nashville Sound unlocked a new audience for country music - the suburban middle class, albeit at the cost of musical traditions and conventions that made country music ... country. And though it was Ferlin Husky that was the first with the Nashville Sound with its use of symphonic strings and backing chorus for his biggest hit 'Gone' (see post # 362), it was Jim Reeves that became its biggest star - and took the new sound worldwide.

The honky tonk "heroes I've covered such as Red Foley, Tex Ritter, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce and Faron Young rushed to
re-record their hits of the early 1950's with the new sound - and the result was almost always for the worse (which is why I never bothered to include their re-recordings). Jim Reeves was unusual in that his Nashville Sound songs were clearly an improvement (even to me) over his more traditional country songs, which in his case, were mostly tepid.

It's time to introduce Reeves first Nashville Sound recording, a major turning point in Reeves music. Chet Atkins considered ‘Four Walls’ a "girl’s song" but Reeves persisted and used the song to change his approach to singing. He pitched his voice lower and sang close to the microphone, thus creating a warm ballad style which was far removed from his earlier recordings. It became an enormous hit, hitting # 1, crossing over to the pop market at # 12 and becoming a template for his future work. From then on, Atkins recorded Reeves as a mellow balladeer, giving him pop standards and usually replacing fiddles and steel guitar with piano and strings. So here's the Nashville Sound 1957 # 1 hit, 'Four Walls' -


Reeves was on a European tour and was unaware that 'Four Walls' had hit both the pop and country charts. On his return was soon on national television and radio and also hosted his own weekly ABC-TV show. Early in his career he abandoned cowboy outfits for uptown suits. In the process, he (and Atkins) succeeded in country music to a new, suburban audience, which he catered for in his follow-up soft romantic song, Anna Marie, which featured the backing of famed soprano, Millie Kirkham (who also featured on Ferlin Husky's historic first Nashvillle Sound hit 'Gone' and with Elvis on 'Blue Christmas'). Not exactly traditional country, would never be played in any honky tonk - but obviously popular in quiet suburban living rooms, a # 3 hit in 1958 -


Anita Carter (see posts # 225-232) had a hit with this the previous year as 'Blue Doll'. The versions are very similar but, obviously, with very different voices. It's basically a very commercial song and it worked well for both of them, the Reeves version reaching # 2 and spending 22 weeks in the charts, with its relaxed, laidback, sound. Best listened to alone, late at night, not with beer or even whiskey but maybe a fine old port - or some good weed -


Billy Bayou, written by Roger Miller shows Reeves was still capable of traditional country, without the Nashville Sound strings and chorus. This is more like much of Reeves pre-Nashville Sound songs but was much better sung and produced, with Chet Atkins providing a masterful guitar backing, holding # 1 for 5 weeks and on the charts for 25 weeks in 1958. It's just a light hearted somewhat humorous ballad, the moral of the story seems to be that you can be a mighty big
man, but if you don't learn to say no to a woman you'll find trouble quickly -
"... One day in eighteen seventy-eight / A pretty girl walked through Bill's front gate /
He didn't know whether to stand there or run / He wound up married 'cuz he didn't either one
..."


Reeves next major hit was another song was also written by Roger Miller - and sounds like it, with its finger clickin beat.
A bit different from any other Reeves song, and like his previous Roger Miller written hit, not indicative of the Nashville Sound, this reached # 2 in 1959 -


Though Reeves was, by the end of the fifties, entrenched as a major star, having won over a mainly suburban audience to his softer country music, he was also openly disliked by a large hard core honky tonk base who saw his music as a sellout to pop. Next we will see how Reeves won over a lot of this hard core traditionalists with what became a country classic, as his most memorable, enduring work is still to come.
 

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In 2019, a very detailed (672 page) and acclaimed Jim Reeves biography - not the first, but by far the best - by Larry Jordan was published, providing much source material, and coinciding with a revival in Jim Reeves' music and his very interesting life (hint - his 'Gentleman' public image wasn't matched by his Tiger Woodish private life). Reeves is now recognised as a visionary, being the the first to use pop instruments like the oboe and flute on his country recordings.
He was very experimental, trying new things and by 1960 he had achieved a sound like no-one before or since. He was also a perfectionist, with an ambition to be the world's greatest singer - but this ambition was mixed with his insecurities in the studio. "He was never satisfied with his records no matter how close to perfection he came," relates Jordan.

When asked about the reasons for those insecurities, Jordan said "That's a complex question to answer. I think it dates
all the way back to his early years. He was the only member of his family to graduate from high school. It was very important to him how the world perceived him. He came from a very impoverished background. Even when he was booked at country clubs or Vegas, he wasn't comfortable in those surroundings. Of course, he wore the tuxedos, and presented the 'Gentleman Jim' image, but he didn't feel like he was worthy. He would comment to his band, the Blue Boys, 'What is it about me that people like? I can't sing.' Band member Leo Jackson was flabbergasted by that, and couldn't believe it". A result of this was that Reeves drove himself through constant voice control practice and drove
the Blue Boys to a high level of excellence - so much so, they went on to record 4 successful albums of their own and several hit singles.

Speaking of excellence, by 1960, after years of practice, striving for the perfect sound, Reeves finally arrived at his definitive sound, and even won over most of his harshest traditionalist honky tonk critics with a country classic, 'He'll
Have To Go', one of those adult themed songs that country does better than any other. This song asks questions, doesn't provide all (or any) of the answers (thereby still causing debates to this day on what caused the call), as the caller asks the caller to choose between him or another, not apologising for anything - yet saying he'll understand if she chooses against him. Now all this wouldn't matter if the song didn't have other essential ingredients to make it great - but it does - a great melody, lyrics, mystery and most of all, it's absolutely perfectly delivered by Reeves. Here he shows for the first time, and despite having a somewhat limited vocal range, he was a world class singer, able to hold a note pitch perfect while delivering the lyrics with crystal clear diction - sounds easy but it ain't. Perfecting this technique takes many years.

This song, with the A-Team Chet Atkins organised backing including Floyd Cramer on piano and Harland Garland on guitar along with the Anita Kerr singers, topped both the country chart for 14 weeks, crossed over and reached # 2 on the pop charts, and went worldwide e.g. # 1 in Australia, Canada and Norway, #12 in the U.K. in 1960 -


A song about a lifelong friendship sundered by the love of a woman, the (typically) laidback, almost hypnotic 'Adios Amigo' didn't reach #1 but spent 9 weeks at # 2 spot, and charted for 21 weeks, becoming the 5th highest selling
song of 1962. This is, like all the others, no sort of party song but best listened to alone at night -


Reeves quickly followed up with 'I'm Gonna Change Everything', a song with some sage advise about removing all the memories of the ex. This also reached # 2 in 1962 -
"Yeah, i'm gonna change everything / That holds a memory of you, oh yeah /
I'm gonna start with the walls / Take the pictures off the walls, and burn 'em
..." -


'Welcome To My World' has been covered by many greats, including Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson, Faron Young, Ray Price and Val Doonican, but it was Reeves, with his velvet and silk pitch-perfect delivery that made his version the standard - but this is also about the furtherest Reeves strayed from pop-country towards pure pop, reaching # 2 in mid 1964. He also once again charted worldwide e.g. # 6 in U.K., # 3 in Norway, # 1 in Ireland, as his popularity reached
new heights -


'I Guess I'm Crazy' was first recorded in 1955 by Tommy Collins and peaked at # 13. Reeves far superior cover, with its distinctive bass backing was at # 1 in the US for 7 weeks and a total of 24 weeks on the charts and also reached # 1 in Canada -


Not released as a single in North America at the time (probably because Al Martino had a # 3 hit with his 1963 cover) Reeves cover of 'I Love You Because' was a # 1 hit in several European countries, reached # 5 in the UK and hung
around the chart for 39 weeks in 1964 and ultimately became one of Reeves most enduring (and hence now one of
his most downloaded) songs, and once again, it was ultimately the impeccable Reeves version that overshadowed
the Al Martino cover to become the enduring standard -


Reeves did not like flying but after being a passenger in a South African plane that developed engine trouble, he obtained his own pilot’s licence. In July 1964, at the peak of his popularity,pilot Reeves and his pianist/manager, Dean Manuel, were killed when their small plane ran into a summer storm shortly after take-off and, mainly due to the inexperienced pilot error, crashed into dense forest outside Nashville. The bodies were not found for 2 days, despite 500 people, including his personal friends Ernest Tubb and Marty Robbins, who heard the crash being involved in the search. Reeves was buried in a specially landscaped highway area near his Texas birthplace. His beloved collie, Cheyenne, was buried at his feet in 1967.

Reeves' shock death at age 40 (not the first but in fact one of a number of big stars killed in plane or car accidents in that era) didn't stop him hitting the charts with new (ie unreleased) songs every year for the next 21 years, including 6 more # 1 hits - so there's more to come tomorrow on Reeves, as his posthumous career continued on as if he was still alive.
 
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Professor Knowall

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At first glance, 'Gentleman' Jim Reeves didn't appear that interesting a character. He didn't smoke, drank in moderation, didn't pop uppers and downers like most of our hard touring country heroes at that time and definitely no hard drugs.
He didn't gamble, indulge in barroom fights like Lefty Frizzell or shoot out a bar like Faron Young or drunkenly shoot at
a record executive like Ernest Tubb. He was also married just the once til death did he part. As well as his hit singles presented here, he also released a series of top selling gospel and Christmas albums. So he was as pure and smooth
as his singing, right? Well, not quite - he wasn't without vice.

I'm not talking about Reeves' $200 toupee - afterall others such as Hank Snow, Carl Perkins and Johnny Horton also covered up their baldness to keep up appearances. However Reeves was a constant womaniser when touring (his wife never toured with him) rarely sleeping alone. But that was par for the course for touring musicians, so I won't count that as a vice. He also managed to maintain ongoing affairs with not one, but two women, both who bore him a child, both without the knowledge of each other or his wife. At the time of his death, both had been expecting him to leave his wife for them, but as far as his wife was concerned, they were still happily married. How he came to juggle all this (with the help of a couple of close friends) was some achievement so I won't declare it a vice.

Reeves also had a Tiger Wood taste in certain acts long before Woods appeared - he liked hiring two prostitutes whom he enjoyed watching interacting with each other before including him (page 470 of his biography, with sources given). But I won't even count that as a vice - except he liked his working girls to be young - real young. While touring in South Africa he insisted his working girls be only at the legal age of consent back then - age 12 and complained vigorously if he found any too old for his taste. Underage girls - that was the happily married, gospel singing, smooth as silk, velvet voiced 'Gentleman Jim's vice.

We left off in 1964 off with Reeves dead, killed by his inability to pilot his plane through a storm. However, he had left a rich treasure chest of over a hundred unreleased recordings. After his death, his fan base grew larger and larger. Several of his posthumous hits actually outsold his earlier singles. He had 6 # 1 singles arrived in the 3 years after his burial.
He left behind a rich legacy of recordings, including more than one hundred songs that hadn’t been released during his lifetime. It turned out a substantial revenue generator for his widow as the flow of unreleased Reeves material did not cease during the 1970's or '80's - in fact, there wasn't a year between 1964 and 1984 when there wasn't a Reeves single in the charts, often near the top, and his albums were top sellers in such diverse places as England (having the top selling album of 1975), Germany, Norway, Ireland, Australia and even India and Sri Lanka. By 1975, Reeves even had millions of fans worldwide who had no idea he had been dead for over 10 years!

So let's look at the most enduring of his posthumous releases, all recorded at RCA's famous Studio B at Nashville -
'I Won't Forget You' peaked at # 3 in the US and the UK singles chart in early 1965 -


The ironically named 'This Is It' was Reeves' second posthumous single to reach # 1, staying at the top for 3 weeks and charting for 22 weeks in 1965, as well as reaching # 28 of the pop chart. This nice number was written by Cindy Walker specifically for Reeves. I have to admit, I've had a couple of 'This Is It' days over the years -


Just like the previous song, this has an ironical title, given it's posthumous release in 1965, the Reeves written 'Is It Really Over' was his third posthumous release to hit # 1, staying at the top for 3 weeks and spending 19 weeks on the chart -


Although Reeves had not recorded ‘Distant Drums’ officially - the song had gone to Roy Orbison - he had made a
demo for songwriter Candy Walker, but Chet Atkins had decided to can it. However, in 1966, given Reeves popularity, accompaniment was added and, in 1966, ‘Distant Drums’ became Reeves’ first UK # 1, beating the Beatles’ 'Yellow Submarine' and remaining in the chart for 25 weeks. The single also topped the US charts for 4 weeks, becoming his
most successful posthumous single. A ballad about a soldier asking his girlfriend, Mary, to "love me now, for now is all
the time there may be
", the song struck a chord in 1966 during the height of the Vietnam War -


This is my favourite Reeves song - it's the nearest he got to traditional honky tonk with this break-up heartbreaker,
where he sings about sitting on a barstool not doing so well - drinking normally being a taboo topic for Reeves. 'Blue
Side of Lonesome' was written and recorded by Leon Payne in 1960. Reeves had previously recorded this song on his 1962 album, "The Country Side of Jim Reeves". The single was Reeves' fifth posthumous release to reach # 1 and spent 19 weeks on the chart in 1966. Once again, Reeves shows why he was so well known for being a perfectionist - all you ever hear is flawless, pitch perfect, smooth and seamless delivery -
"... I'm just on the blue side of lonesome / Right next to the Heartbreak Hotel /
In a tavern that's known as Three Teardrops/ On a barstool, not doin' so well
..."


'I Won't Come In While He's There' was recorded in RCA Studio B in May 1964, one of the last songs he recorded - the flip side 'Maureen' was the last (recorded 2 July 1964). The single was Reeves' sixth and final posthumous release to hit # 1, though he continued to chart regularly with newly releases material to the mid 1980's, when the new material finally ran dry -


Reeves was inducted into the Country Music HoF in 1967, and 2 years later, the Academy of Country Music instituted
the Jim Reeves Memorial Award, still presented annually to an artist who has contributed to the growth of country music around the world. In 1998 he was one of the inaugural inductees to the new Texas Country Music HoF, the others being Cindy Walker, Tex Ritter, Willie Nelson and Gene Autry.

Though the flood of unreleased material ceased in the mid-'80s, the cult surrounding Reeves only gradually declined
e.g. he had the top selling album in the UK in 1975, with many new fans blissfully unaware he had been dead for over
a decade. His technical perfection, honed by years of constant practice, of the silky smooth, timbre laden, pitch-perfect delivery of the slow ballad has never been matched - and in the era of the auto-tuned microphone, will definitely not now be matched.

When I return, it will be with another great whose life, just like Jim Reeves (and Johnny Horton), was tragically cut down at the height of their career.
 

Professor Knowall

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One of the greatest singers in the history of country music and without any doubt the greatest female vocalist, Patsy Cline blazed a trail for female singers to assert themselves as an integral part of the country music industry. We've already seen Jean Shepard with the first # 1 female hit and Kitty Wells become the first genuine major female star, but it was Cline that become the first female superstar, as big a name as any male in the early 1960's in what had been traditionally a male dominated industry. To this day, Cline has the most legendary aura of any female country singer,

Cline’s short, albeit legendary, life reads like the heart-torn lyrics of many of the ballads she recorded. Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia, she demonstrated musical proclivity at an early age - a talent inherited from
her father, an accomplished amateur singer who, Cline later confided to Loretta Lyn (and confirmed by her younger sister), sexually abused her as a child. At age 4, Cline was influenced by a Shirley Temple film and, without tuition, learned tap-dancing and showed an interest in music that was encouraged by the piano-playing of her step-sister. In
spite of financial hardships, her parents gave her a piano for her 7th birthday, which she soon learned to play by ear.

Patsy's parents couldn't understand her affinity with country music, since neither parent had any interest. At age 10, Patsy avidly listened to Grand Ole Opry broadcasts and told everyone that one day she too would be an Opry star. At
age 13, she was hospitalised with a throat infection and rheumatic fever and almost died. According to Patsy, “The fever affected my throat and when I recovered I had this booming voice.” The family moved 19 times around Virginia as her father chased work before they returned to the Shenandoah Valley town of Winchester, where Patsy dropped out of school at 14 to help support her family by slitting the throats of chickens at a meat-packing plant, after her father (to her relief) deserted them.

Haunted by her early experiences, the teenaged Cline directed herself toward a career as a singer with unbending single-mindedness. She sang in honky tonks in the Winchester area and did a nightclub cabaret act. By age 20, Cline connected (in more ways than one) with local country bandleader Bill Peer, an association that nurtured her strong desire to become a country music star. Encouraged to adopt a more palatable stage name than Virginia, she took the name “Patsy” after
her middle name, possibly in a nod to singer Patsy Montana, whose feisty cowgirl persona influenced Cline’s early stage costuming. She married her first husband, Gerald Cline in 1953, thus becoming Patsy Cline, but they divorced in 1957.
For the whole marriage, Cline had maintained a sexual affair with her bandleader, Bill Peer, finding her husband to be basically too boring.

During this period Cline made inroads into the Washington, DC country music scene, spotlighting Cline as a featured soloist on the Town & Country regional TV broadcasts, hosted by Jimmy Dean. Through her web of Washington contacts, Cline landed her first recording contract in 1954, but unfortunately signed a one sided 6 year contract with rogue Bill McCall’s 4 Star Records, an association that became a great hindrance to her career. McCall swindled her out of record earnings (just like he also did to Hank Locklin amongst others) and forced her to record substandard material.

Cline’s first 4 singles flopped but her TV and personal appearances earned her regional fame. Her recording career turned around when she made her TV, landing a spot on a nationally telecacast CBS show in 1957. Cline wowed audiences with her performance of 'Walkin' After Midnight', winning the program's competition with a song she ironically disliked at first and had only agreed to perform on the condition she could also record 'A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)', a song she actually liked (which reached # 14).

This became her first big-time hit, melding together country and jazz with undertones of pop and R&B, reaching #2 and crossing over to the pop charts with its unique jazz flavoured country sound reaching #12 -


Cline rode high on the hit for the next year, doing personal appearances and performing regularly on the CBS broadcast Arthur Godfrey and Friends and on ABC’s Country Music Jubilee, but, thanks to McCalls incompetence, there were no follow-up hits. Her September 1957 marriage to second husband Charlie Dick resulted in a tumultuous relationship glamorized in Sweet Dreams, the 1985 film of Cline’s life, starring Jessica Lange.

Critics and fans remain very much divided on Cline’s 1955-60 recordings for McCall at Four Star Records. Some feel that the material was very much inadequate, others feel anything Cline recorded was a classic. I noticed that though this didn't chart at the time, based on downloads it's popular now. Listening to this song of aching loneliness is perhaps the closest to what Cline would achieve during her tragically-brief run at Decca. The guitar here is by Hank Garland -


It was a big surprise to me that Patsy Cline even recorded a string of rockabilly songs while still with Four Star Records, none of which charted. I also noted that music critics tend to dismiss all of them, correctly noting that they were a waste
of Cline's supreme vocal skills, which were capable of so much more. Nevertheless this number now has a good level of popularity so I thought I'd include it to show Vline's versatility and a side of her music I was completely unaware of. The recording also features the A-Team that Chet Atkins first put together, including Hank Garland and Grady Martin on guitar, Bob Moore on bass, Floyd Cramer on piano and the Jordanaires. However, the producer here was Owen Bradley, emerging as Decca's rival to Chet Atkins and soon to become the conduit through which Cline finally reached the heights her ability demanded. 'Gotta Lot of Rythm In My Soul' from 1959 -


After giving birth to a daughter in 1958, Cline moved to Nashville and signed with manager Randy Hughes, who
attempted to revive her stone-cold career by booking one-nighters across the country and helping her ride out her
4 Star contract. Back to working $50 gigs, she was at the nadir of her career when the Grand Ole Opry belatedly made her a member in January 1960 - after she asked them. She then signed with Decca, and Owen Bradley began to direct
her towards becoming a leading exponent of the emergent Nashville Sound, beginning with her recording of the Harlan Howard-Hank Cochran tune 'I Fall To Pieces'.

Ironically, it almost didn’t happen. Just like 'Walking After Midnight', Cline didn’t think much of the song at first, as it
was turned down by Decca labelmates Brenda Lee and Roy Drusky. But a song usually finds its’ true home, one way or another, and this song became an artistic triumph, although Cline initially fought Bradley’s lush arrangements, which featured backings by the Jordanaires. For all her great vocal skills, it seems Cline didn't have a good nose for what
was a great song, and needed to be told by those with better judgement - such as Owen Bradley.

'I Fall to Pieces' cut at the very first session where Cline was at liberty to record what she wanted, was an instant classic, and propelled Cline to superstardom. Reaching # 1 (and # 12 on the pop charts), it was the first of several country-pop crossovers she was to enjoy over the next couple of years. More important, it set a prototype for the commercial Nashville Sound at its best, the Owen Bradley crafted lush orchestral arrangements, with weeping strings and backup vocals by the Jordanaires -


In June 1961, Cline and her brother were involved in a near-fatal head-on collision in Nashville, in which she was thrown out of the car headfirst through the windshield. She would have permanent scars and chronic pain for the rest of her life, but just 6 weeks later she appeared onstage at the Grand Ole Opry supported by crutches - her voice thankfully intact and she was given repeated standing ovations by her now devoted fans.

Cline followed up with not just another big hit, but another all-time country classic (rated # 2 by Rolling Stone magazine best songs of the 20th century list). And yet again, at first, Cline balked when the song was pitched to her. The demo singer of the song had a very unique singing style on the recording, half-talking and half-singing, before and then after the beat, jazz style. But Owen Bradley persisted, and came up with a new arrangement that was straight out of the then-current Nashville Sound playbook.

The song wound up becoming an American standard, though incredibly hitting only # 2 on the Country chart (being knocked off by a long forgotten rubbishy doo-wop number) but giving Cline her only top 10 hit on the Pop chart. And
the writer whose unique style took some getting used to for Cline? He wound up doing okay for himself - Willie Nelson (whome we've already seen several times writing big hits for others like Faron Young, but not yet regarded for his singing). Cline masterfully brought the song to the mainstream, transforming the story of finding true love and then foolishly losing that person and being totally heartbroken into matchless beauty. Willie has said it was his favorite ever
cover of any of his music -


So we leave off in 1961 with Patsy Cline the first out and out female superstar of country music, with 2 huge hits each destined to become amongst the genres greatest ever enduring classics. She has also cheated death twice - first beating the then often fatal rheumatic fever aged 13, then being thrown through the windshield onto the road in a head on collision in between recording her two greatest hits. What happens next is left for tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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In 1962, Cline was a big a name as any in country music and again hit # 1 with 'She's Got You'. She became the first female country singer to have a regular gig at Las Vegas and the first to sing at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall.
She started touring with Johnny Cash, performing with June Carter and George Jones. She was very supportive of other female country artists, such as Loretta Lynn, and tried to help them with their careers. The pair's friendship is documented in the 2019 movie Patsy & Loretta.

Cline, probably as a result of her difficult upbringing (though she was always very close to her mother who was just
16 years older than her) was no shrinking violet - she was known for her swearing, didn't mind a drink (though not a hopeless drunk) and while on the road, just like most of her touring male colleagues, she enjoyed one night stands. She also kept up an enduring affair with Faron Young, putting her second marriage under strain. She had a fierce temper with just about everyone but was also known for her strong loyalty to her friends.

Hank Cochran called Cline one day to tell her he had just written her next # 1 song. She told him to come over to her house and play it for her and Dottie West, who was visiting her at the time. Upon hearing the song, she knew it was something special. She called both her manager and producer the same day to sing the song to them, and the 1962 release, 'She's Got You', became her next # 1 hit -


One of the Patsy Cline songs that has grown in popularity over the years, The Hank Cochran song 'Why Can't He Be
You' was originally released as the B-side to her 1962 single 'Heartaches' and never made it onto an album until her
1967 'Greatest Hits' album. Cline’s friend Loretta Lynn gave the song widespread popularity on her 1977 tribute disc 'I Remember Patsy', as the song was released as a single and made it to # 7. It does stray a lot towards straight out pop -


Also released as a B-side to the single 'So Wrong' in 1962, 'You're Stronger Than Me', one of Cline’s last released before her death, this is an example of Cline's ability to wring so much emotion out of a heartbreak song -


'Leavin' On Your Mind' was the last single released during her lifetime, climbing the charts at her death. Cline was in
Owen Bradley's office when she heard unknown new Canadian singer, Joyce Smith's recording of it and immediately
fell for it. Despite some initial pushback to obtaining the rights to the song (Bradley wouldn't allow her to record it until Smith's release had run its course - it didn't make the top 40 but did sell over 100,000), she ultimately recorded it in late 1962 and it reached # 7 in 1963. It has lived on to become something of a classic and once again, Cline wrung every bit of emotion out of the song with her amazing vocal control -


Cline had begun recording tracks for an album to be entitled Faded Love in February 1963. 'He Called Me Baby' was 1 of 4 tracks cut in Cline's final recording session. Famed songwriter Harlan Howard penned and even recorded it as 'She Called Me Baby', having a regional hit in Texas but, with Howard's encouragement, Patsy Cline took it and made it all her own, with a take that stands as perhaps her most sensual performance. The singer evokes a sense of longing for a former
lover that sets her recording of the song apart from the many other covers -


Cline appeared in Birmingham, Alabama, with Tex Ritter and Jerry Lee Lewis in March 1963, followed by a benefit concert in Kansas City the next day. Bad weather prevented any flights on 4 March, but she refused friend Dottie West's offer to return to Nashville via car, saying "Don't worry about me, Hoss. When it's my time to go, it's my time to go". On 5 March, in spite of further adverse weather forecasts, Cline along with country singers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, set off on the 500 mile flight to Nashville in a small aircraft piloted by Randy Hughes, the son-in-law of Copas and also Cline’s latest lover and manager. Hughes first landed at Little Rock to avoid rain and sleet and then at Dyersburg to refuel, where he was warned of further bad weather ahead. However, Hughes said they'd be in Nashville in no time, so they took off and headed straight towards the bad weather.

Having cheated death twice before, Patsy Cline's life came to an end some 50 minutes later, when the aircraft came
down in a forest near Camden, Tennessee. She was aged just 30 and survived by her husband and 2 children, aged 4
and 2 respectively. She had become the first female to become the biggest star in country music and much of the nation went into mourning. But we'll look at a little more of Cline's posthumous career tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Nashville was left reeling from the plane crash that not only took out one of it's biggest stars but also 2 other Grand Ole Opry members in Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, singing veterans who had both also recently just had their biggest ever hits after years in the industry.

Patsy Cline recorded 'Sweet Dreams' in February 1963, a month before her death. The song's writer, Don Gibson, and Cline's most enduring lover, Faron Young both recorded versions of the song that made the top 10. However, Cline's treatment rendered any previous version almost obsolete. Owen Bradley's genius was in full force on the song that became her first posthumous release, with a chilling string section. 'Sweet Dreams' became her first posthumous hit, reaching # 5 and crossing over to the new "Contemporary Adult" chart.

In 1985, the song served as the title of a film starring Jessica Lange as Cline, and Ed Harris as Charlie Dick, her husband. In an interview, Dick said "It’s a good film ... if you like fiction". Cline's hit version of 'Sweet Dreams' was included on the film's soundtrack so here is Jessica Lange lip synching this song, but the sound itself is the genuine Patsy Cline voice (as there was no way Patsy Cline's vocals could be imitated) -


Cline’s death was still in the news when Decca released her version of this Bob Wills classic in 1963. This Patsy Cline version speaks for itself, as the 1960-1963 Decca years with Owen Bradley stand as the best female artist - producer union ever (similar to Jim Reeves with Chet Atkins). What completes this song, recorded at a time when Cline's second marriage was on the rocks, is the breath you hear Cline take before the final line. The song was powerful enough without it, but that moment made this song a no-brainer to be on this list. When Patsy Cline sang a song she sang it with pure heart and emotion. What was recorded in this session of Faded Love was sheer perfection defined -


Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, who both died in separate plane crashes, Patsy in 1963 & Jim in 1964, never recorded together during their lifetimes. In 1961 both singers had recorded their own solo versions of 'Have You Ever Been Lonely' and released it on various albums. In 1981 Owen Bradley electronically created a "duet" featuring both of these great vocalists, by lifting the solo vocal performances off their original tapes, synchronizing them and recording a new backing track. In 1982 it became a # 5 hit on the Billboard chart and # 1 on the RPM Magazine chart, proving the enduring popularity of both Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves nearly 2 decades after their respective deaths from light plane crashes -


And finally I thought it appropriate to finish with a "duet" of Patsy and the person who provided her with her biggest hit (and one of the greatest all time country classics) 'Crazy', but here the two legends (one dead for 58 years, the other still performing to this day) do a gospel favourite -


Patsy Cline's influence lived on long after her death. She figures prominently as Loretta Lynn’s mentor in Lynn’s autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter (1976). In addition to the 1985 movie, Cline has had 2 musicals based on
her life and music - "Always...Patsy Cline" premiered in 1988 and in 1991 "A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline", which
has since twice toured through Australia. The 2019 television film "Patsy & Loretta chronicles Cline's friendship with Loretta Lynn. If there's still any doubt of Patsy Cline’s standing, the Billboard back-catalogue country chart shows her "Greatest Hits" album stood at #1 for over 4 years, in addition to over 10 million sales and 13 years actually on the chart!

If you ever get to Nashville (you should if you can), take some time out from all the honky tonks and live music on offer and, apart from the usual big attractions like the Grand Ole Opry, the Hall of Fame (to which Cline was the first ever female admitted in 1973) and, of course, the motherchurch of country music, the Ryeman Auditorium, check out the
Patsy Cline Museum located on the second floor above The Johnny Cash Museum, Third Ave. Many make the pilgrimage
to her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, to visit the Patsy Cline Historic Home.
 
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Professor Knowall

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One of the 4 victims in Cline's final fatal flight, Cowboy Copas claimed he was born and raised in cowboy country on a Muskogee, Oklahoma, ranch. He also said he made his first radio appearance at age 14 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Apart from the appearing on radio at 14 bit, none of these claims was true. He was a"fake" cowboy, bit a genuine and popular TV
and radio performer - even though his records didn't always sell so well, having a sustained mid-career career slump, followed by a big revival, having a massive 1960 hit, only to have his life tragically ended at a career high at age 49.

Born Lloyd Copas in 1913 in rural Ohio, he dropped out of school at age of 14 and began playing fiddle in several bands around his Ohio home. On a dare, Copas traveled to Cincinnati to enter a contest and ended up performing on Cincinnati radio shows. In 1940 he moved to Knoxville Tennessee radio with a new band,the Gold Star Rangers. Three years later, Copas got his big break, replacing Eddy Arnold as the vocalist for Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys on WSM-Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. He signed with King Records in 1946, and his debut single, 'Filipino Baby', promptly hit # 4 in 1947, sparking the most successful period of his career -


'Signed, Sealed and Delivered' was written by Copas and delivered #2 in 1948. Copas later re-recorded the song in 1961 in Stereo with a more modern (for the times) style. This version also charted, reaching #10 -


From 1946 to 1952, Copas had 10 top 15 hits, 5 of which made the top 5. This included the original version of 'Tenessee Waltz' in 1948 (later a huge # 1 hit for pop singer Patti Page in 1950 - it being better suited for a female singer). Copas did not maintain this level of popularity as changing tastes resulted in him not charting at all for the following 8 years. Despite this, he continued to be a regular and popular performer at the Grand Ole Opry and appeared on ABC-TV's
"Ozark Jubilee". His King contract expired in 1955, and a brief time with the Dot label also failed, but not before he
was encouraged to record rockabilly.

'Circle Rock' was recorded for Dot in 1958 and although it didn't sell at the time (probably not helped that Copa was aged 45 at the time but rockabilly was a genre for the young) it was remastered and released during the great rockabilly revival in 1977, entitled "Rockin' Rollin' Copas", (aka "Hot Wax"!). Many don't know Cowboy Copas, at the insistence of his label, recorded rockabilly but here's proof. The humming backing adds a real drive to this song which seems to be a rock version of a barn dance -


Now for Copas' biggest hit that revived his recording career - one of only 4 songs to hit # 1 in 1960 (the others being 'He'll Have To Go' by Jim Reeves (post # 385), 'Please Help Me, I'm Falling' by Hank Locklin (post # 379) and 'Wings
Of A Dove' by Ferlin Husky (post # 362)).

During the late 1950's, Copas bided his time on the Opry, and he finally signed to Starday in 1960. His first single for the label, 'Alabam' became by far the biggest of his career, spending a whopping 3 months at # 1 and 34 weeks on the chart, and even crossed over to the pop charts, despite it being 100% country, not a bit pop. The song itself is basically an ode to Alabama - somewhat ironically, given that Copas was, in fact, a northerner "Yankee" from Ohio - but most back then fell for his stage persona of being a cowboy from Oklahoma. Regardless, it is a rollicking good song -


'Flat Top' hit the Top 10 in April 1961. This live version again shows Copas skilled fingerpicking style - not quite the same as the all time great masters, Chet Atkins and Hank's Snow, but still pretty darn good -


Cowboy Copas' last single, 'Goodbye Kisses', hit the Top 15 in April 1963, one month after his death. However, the "Oklahoman" cowboy from Ohio is, a little sadly, perhaps best known now for being one of the other passengers in
Patsy Cline's final flight. He deserves better, writing most of his own hits, one of the best guitar pickers in the business and his smash 1960 hit 'Alabam' was well worth the listen.

I'll take a break for a few days, taking care of other things, before returning with more history.
 
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mr bagcroft

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There's an old country saying - "Strike While the Iron is Hot" (taken literally from cattle branding). Well our next guest's iron wasn't hot for long - but at least he struck quickly and struck well while hot. Born in rural southern Indiana in 1933, Bobby Helms's career as a top-flight country star was in every sense meteoric. In 1957 he was named Country Singer of the Year by Cashbox magazine; little more than a year later charting success was over. But he still has one song played regularly every December - and even set a record by hitting # 3 on the US pop charts in 2019, more than 60 years after its release.

Helms was something of a child prodigy, singing a mixture of pop and country on local radio at age 12, billed as "Bouncing Bobby" Helms. He and his guitarist brother Freddie were a popular act on the Monroe County Jamboree before moving on to the Hayloft Frolic TV Show in Bloomington, Indiana, performing on TV from 1946 to 1954. He made his first records on Speed in 1954 - in this case Speed being a small Nashville label. His second single, 'Freedom Lovin' Guy', exhibited huge potential just as Speed went out of business. He then headed back to Nashville with an audition tape, intending to land a spot on Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree radio show, broadcast from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop (which still exists and in business since 1947). Tubb was so impressed with the tape, he passed it on to Decca Records, who signed him to the label.

Helms struck gold with his second release on the Decca label, 'Fraulein'. The Lawton Williams penned song was inspired
by a German-American girl he had worked with at a Houston radio station and had been rejected by most of the acts in Nashville before Helms cut it. Although slow to take off, it eventually reached # 1 for 4 weeks in 1957 and also remained charting for an extraordinary 52 weeks - and it crossed over to the pop listings, reaching the Pop top 40. The song had extra resonance as there were over 400,000 American servicemen (virtually all male) stationed in West Germany at that time, and of course many of these "hooked up" with local fräuleins while there. It also makes for a really good old school honky tonk (which there's still plenty of) drinking song when sung very loudly -


Helms followed it shortly afterwards with his biggest hit, the slick pop-country 'My Special Angel', featuring the Nashville Sound vocal group The Anita Kerr Singers, was a smash, breaking just after "Fraulein' had topped the charts. This was the closest he ever came to a teen-appeal hit and it was successful across the board, becoming his second country # 1
for 4 weeks and also climbing the pop charts, reaching # 7 and even charted # 22 in the UK. Helms later named his youngest daughter Angel in tribute to the record, which with the new Nashville Sound, sounds so much like 1957 -


By now heavily in demand, Helms became a regular guest on American television, appearing on the top rating American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show. At the end of 1957 he had yet another smash with 'Jingle Bell Rock'. A response to the Christmas standard 'Jingle Bells' it became a mainstay of Christmas playlists and sold over a million copies within the first five years of its release and to this day it's still heard regularly on the soundtrack of Christmas films and television programmes. Despite it's title and lyrics, it isn't really a rock song and only partly country, but a lot pop. My apologies
for timing this way out of season -


Helms re-recorded 'Jingle Bell Rock' several times in the 1960's to 1980's. After the song was featured on the soundtrack album to the 1996 film "Jingle All the Way", the original version returned to the charts in late 1996 and again early 1997. It re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 2016, hitting # 29. In January 2019, the song again entered the Hot 100's top 10 for the first time reaching # 8 in 1958. With this feat, Helms broke the all time record for the longest wait to the Hot 100's top 10, achieving this in 60 years and 4 months and two after his first entry back in 1958. Helms' recording reached a new peak of #3 in January 2020.

Helms kick-started 1958 with yet another top 10 hit, the forth in as many months, "Just a Little Lonesome", as his
hot streak continued - but his 1958 hit was, in fact, a Nashville Sound "cover" of his own earlier original honky tonk version included on his 1957 album ". ... ". So if you're still in any doubt as to what the "Nashville Sound" was all about, here is the perfect example, as I'm going to give both versions here, starting with the 1957 original authentic country honky tonk version, never released as as a single -


And now the more sophisticated, suburban Nashville Sound version, almost a different song altogether with the Anita Kerr Singers, which was a top 10 hit in 1958 -

If anyone here has read much of my history, they would know which version I enjoy - and which one I struggle with. Of course, it's possible your taste may differ from mine, but this example shows how music is also a victim of the fashion of the day. Going by download numbers, the honky tonk version is now far and away the more popular of the two - but that wasn't the case in 1958.

Helms then made his movie debut alongside Darren McGavin and Warren Stevens in a now-forgotten, low-budget 1958 crime drama "The Case Against Brooklyn", his only onscreen film appearance. A song from the film, 'Jacqueline, on which he was again backed by the Anita Kerr Singers, gave him another hit at # 5 and also reached # 22 in the UK charts -


That was Helms' last major hit. The reasons for his failure to remain at the top, especially after such a sizzling start,
are difficult to pinpoint, but he never regained the popularity he had enjoyed during those 2 blazing years of 1957 and 1958. My own theory, FWIW, is that Helms had a very good country honky tonk voice, not so much pop - but, following
the fashion of the day, he wandered too far into the pop-country paddock, where his short term success obscured what longer term appeal he may have had with traditional country audiences. But at least his iron was hot for a little while and he's still played and remembered (and even still charts) each Christmas.

Helms continued to record sporadically, scoring a clutch of minor hits before making his final chart appearance in 1970. In the late 1960s, Helms left Decca and recorded for Little Darlin’ but still achieved no further major chart hits. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he continued to tour through the US and Europe, often with his wife Dori and he released an album in 1989, but apart from that he achieved little success and he remained until his death a figure remembered solely for brief past glories and his annual Christmas revival.

Near the end of his life, Bobby Helms suffered from emphysema but continued performing whenever possible, belting out his hits onstage while attached to an oxygen tank. He died in 1997 age 64 but his voice will likely be kept being heard every December ad infinitum.

So that's all for Bobby Helms, whose stardom shone brightly but briefly. Tomorrow will feature one of the best tenor voices in country music history, whose career didn't peak until he was in his forties when Chet Atkins took him in hand and applied the Nashville Sound production values to his recordings.
What happened ? Rock happened, thats what.
Elvis, The Beatles and on from there..
There was a new sherriff in town, and this kind of old school cutsey honky tonk quaint stuff never stood a chance.It had had its day.
 

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What happened ? Rock happened, thats what.
Elvis, The Beatles and on from there..
There was a new sherriff in town, and this kind of old school cutsey honky tonk quaint stuff never stood a chance.It had had its day.
I'm back in town again, with a bit of a late reply. I've already covered the rise of rock'n'roll as an off-shoot from its country music roots (albeit with a healthy does of R&B thrown in) with the rock pioneers Elvis Presley (posts # 278-286), Carl Perkins (#287-291), Johnny Horton (#296), Sanford Clark (#311-313), Charlie Feathers (#346-348) and Jerry Lee Lewis (#349-352). I also looked at the ways "traditional" country music either competed with rock'n'roll (eg. the Ray Price beat - #269) or appealed to new suburban markets (the very highly successful, albeit not so very traditional, "Nashville Sound" - see Chet Atkins # 354 in particular).

Over the coming weeks as I proceed through the years (my next history piece starts back at 1957) I'll look at the on-going success of this "fightback" (but it's also a bit illusionary as rock'n'roll was really little more than trivial teenage or party music in contrast to honky tonk music which (as I've said quite a few times) was really strictly for adults all along, with it's themes of adult life experiences, often involving heartbreak, adultery and cheating, family break-up, drinking and misery etc - in short they appealed to different markets. Hence all the rock pioneers listed above reverted back to their country music roots as they aged - even Elvis.

For Bobby Helms specifically, the case of rock'n'roll destroying his career doesn't stand scrutiny - if anything, the opposite was true. Helms hit the charts big time when the rock'n'roll craze was at its absolute peak in 1957. Helms' very first hit, 'Fräulein' replaced Jerry Lee Lewis' biggest hit, 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin on' at # 1, and his second hit, the pop-country 'My Special Angel' knocked off Elvis' 'Jailhouse Rock' from # 1. However, when the first (and for what many now regard as the only true 'rock'n'roll) craze collapsed, Helms career also sank, which is why I surmised that he might've been better off abandoning pop-country for a harder edged honky tonk sound, like Johnny Cash (# 338-335) successfully did. Of course, that's only a speculative opinion, given in hindsight decades later and can't be proven or disproven so it doesn't really matter - but the fact remains, Helms (who was more pop-country than honky tonk) was successful at the height of the rock craze, and wasn't when it died off, so that wasn't the cause of his decline.

Enough for now - it's time to get back to work on the history - I'll be back before too long with yet another inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee - and once again having total country music roots but with an enormous future influence on rock'n'roll, even when it later transformed from "true" rock'n'roll to the imported pop-beat of the 1960's.
 

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We've now returned straight back to 1957 and for a duo hugely influenced by The Louvin Brothers (see posts # 294-295) - but by straddling that hazy dividing line between country and it's youthful offspring of rock'n'roll, they in turn became the most influential duo in rock'n'roll history, including some big B's - the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees and also Simon & Garfunkel (who not only covered there first hit but also recorded an album with them), as well as roots rockers like Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe (who recorded an EP of their songs together). They sang songs of youth angst with a rock beat but in a style of close country harmony derived from the Louvin Brothers, their vocal approach based on the high, lonesome sound of bluegrass and Appalachian music, supporting the lead vocal with a moving secondary line to create the effect of intertwined melodies.

Their big hits, beginning from 1957, created a whole new music scene for the teenage audience not only in The U.S. but also the U.K. and Australia for the next 5 years. But while forging a career that saw them as the only duo inducted into the inaugural rock and roll HoF in 1986, they retained their rock solid country music roots, leading them to also being Country Music HoF inductees in 2001 - quite the achievement considering the master harmonisers loathed each other intensely and spent much of their spare time arguing.

Born to popular country artists Ike and Margaret Everly, Isaac Donald Everly in 1937 in Kentucky and Phillip Everly in 1939 in Chicago, the world’s most famous rock ‘n’ roll duo were pushed into the limelight from an early age, regularly appearing on their parents’ radio shows throughout the 1940s and accompanied them on their many tours. Their father, Ike, an accomplished finger picking guitarist and a neighbor and friend of guitar pioneer Merle Travis, went to Chicago trying to sustain a career in country radio (hence why Phil was born there) but ended up in Shenandoah, Iowa. He moved his family to Nashville in 1955, hoping his boys could find the success that had eluded him. Don found some success as
a songwriter, writing a minor hit for Kitty Wells, 2 songs for Justin Tubb, and another for Anita Carter, but a recording session arranged with Columbia Records by close family friend, Chet Atkins in 1955 yielded just one mediocre single,
after which they were promptly dropped.

The brothers began to experiment with their musical up-bringing and the new rock rhythms that were capturing the
youth market. They appeared at local shows in Tennessee and toured with and opened for Elvis Presley. Chet Atkins, a good friend of the Everly family, was most impressed by the sounds they were creating. At the time RCA Victor had Elvis Presley signed to them and traditional country recordings were going through a slump period. The Everly Brothers were basically a country group and Chet Atkins wasn’t prepard to risk signing a completely unknown country duo to the label.

Chet had heard that Cadence Label boss Archie Bleyer was opening up in Nashville and was looking for new acts, and suggested that Archie sign the Everlys and he even threw in a song as well. The successful writing team of Boudleaux
and Felice Bryant had put forward several songs for Chet to record at RCA. One of these songs, 'Bye Bye Love' had
been rejected by some 30 other artists, but Atkins thought it would be perfect for the close harmonies of Don and Phil. Archie Bleyer, being new to country music and Nashville, followed Atkins’ advice, so in fact it was Atkins who set up the recording session and produced the Everly Brothers first big hit for a rival recording company, even playing the electric guitar on it.

The track’s catchiness, overlaid with a Bo Diddley R&B rhythm pattern and cross genre nature, helped it appeal to both country and pop audiences, as well as teenagers swept up in the rock'n'roll craze. Their record reached # 1 and then crossed over, hitting # 2 on the pop charts, # 5 on the R&B charts, then internationally # 2 in Canada and # 6 in the
UK, thus becoming the Everly Brothers' first million-seller -

Don was age 20, Phil only 18 when they rocketed to the top. As teenagers, Simon & Garfunkel had their first minor success with 'Hey Schoolgirl', a song imitating their idols the Everly Brothers. At the peak of their popularity (and just before their break-up) the duo, paying homage to their major influencer, recorded a popular live cover of 'Bye Bye Love' for their 1970 album 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters'. In 1974, George Harrison recorded 'Bye Bye, Love' for his "Dark Horse" album, inserting a comma in the song title, additional lyrics and a different melody line. The new words were
In reference to his wife Pattie Boyd having left him for their mutual friend Eric Clapton.

Still in 1957 and if anything the Everlys' follow-up was an even better and bigger hit. Despite only reaching # 8 on the country chart, it reached # 1 on the more youth oriented pop and R&B charts as well as the jukebox and radio airplay charts, and also # 1 in the U.K, # 2 in Canada and # 3 in Australia, leading to their induction into the Grand Ole Opry. Again written by the Bryants, 'Wake Up Little Susie' contains a memorable guitar lick by Don, married to those great harmonies, but the song itself is more complex lyrically and melodically with its cute story about the innocent couple
(or are they? - it was suggestive enough of pre-marital sex to see it condemned and banned by some radio stations) falling asleep on a date. There's also some nice Chet Atkins electric guitar picking just to stop it becoming too sugar-sweet. Don was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2019, earning the first "Iconic Riff Award"
for his distinctive rhythm guitar intro to this massive 1957 hit -


After having run into some trouble with the do-gooders over 'Wake Up Little Suzie', the Everly Brothers were much more subtle next time as we roll into 1958. The romantic, lightly rocking chorus helped the song be the second (and last) to top all 3 country, pop and R&B charts and go # 1 in the U.K, # 2 in Canada and # 3 in Australia. Once again, the legendary Chet Atkins plays guitar on the recording. Some reviews infer dark meanings into this song, claiming it's about sexual obsession and stalking (akin to The Police's 'Every Breathe You Take' which many morons used for their wedding song)
but I ain't buying it - it simply wasn't seen that way back then. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has listed it as one of the songs that shaped rock and roll (though it's as much pop-country as rock'n'roll) and it was inducted into the Grammy HoF in 2004. The song itself has a dreamy ethereal feel to it, so sit back and just think of someone you really desire strongly - but is totally unattainable -


A change of pace to some degree for the Everlys with a comedy number this time, again by their songwriting champion Boudkeaux Bryant. 'Bird Dog' rocks a bit harder than the Everly Brothers' earlier hits. It is memorable for the spoken
word segments that add up to the main character in the song being a "bird dog" (thus the song also preserves some 1950's teenage slang and attitudes that wouldn't be allowed for new songs in our now censorious times). The song was another smash hit for the duo reaching #1 on the country as well as #2 on both pop and R&B charts and another big international smash hit, again hitting #1 in the U.K., their first Australian #1 and #2 in Canada, confirming the Everly Brothers as the world's most popular act in 1958. However, for all that, I don't think this number has aged as well as
their other great hits -


Chet Atkins, as already mentioned a close family friend and crucial an early supporter of the Everly Brothers' career,
plays guitar on this classic. Buddy Harman, a legendary country session musician with more than 18,000 appearances, also played on the number. With its gentle bounce, 'Til I Kissed You', written by Don Everly, was the Everly Brothers' final top 10 hit on the country chart, reaching #8. It also peaked at # 4 on the pop chart and #22 on the R&B chart, #2 in Australia, #3 in Canada and #2 UK in 1959 -


While my history format mainly looks at the best selling or best remembered singles, in 1958 the Everly's recorded what is now regarded as one of country music's most classic albums - the treasured "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us", containing
a dozen ultra traditional country (mostly Appalachian) music standards that used to be sung by their father, all given a simple, but attractive accompaniment of acoustic guitars with Chet Atkins contribution being immense. Among the tracks was Gene Autry’s immortal 'Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine', Karl Harty’s 'Kentucky' and the stand out 'Lightning Express'. The Everly Brothers proved on this album that at heart, they were 100% country - they understood the music and knew how to put it down.

The end of the 1950's marked the end of the Everly Brothers success across all 3 different genres, however they
were still enormously popular, not just the U.S. but, if anything, even more so in the UK, Australia and Canada, which
they toured - their first Australian Tour (just a month after Johnny Cash supported by Col Joye had toured) was as the headline act in the 4th "Big Show" 1959 concert tour at Festival Hall, Melbourne, Sydney Stadium and Brisbane, with support acts including Col Joye and the Joy Boys, Johnny Rebb and the Rebels, The Delltones, Johnny O'Keefe and the
Dee Jays and Johnny Devlin.

Next time will show some changes in the Everlys' music and how they fared with their non-stop touring and recording schedule as we move on into the sixties.
 
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Nashville was left reeling from the plane crash that not only took out one of it's biggest stars but also 2 other Grand Ole Opry members in Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, singing veterans who had both also recently just had their biggest ever hits after years in the industry.

Patsy Cline recorded 'Sweet Dreams' in February 1963, a month before her death. The song's writer, Don Gibson, and Cline's most enduring lover, Faron Young both recorded versions of the song that made the top 10. However, Cline's treatment rendered any previous version almost obsolete. Owen Bradley's genius was in full force on the song that became her first posthumous release, with a chilling string section. 'Sweet Dreams' became her first posthumous hit, reaching # 5 and crossing over to the new "Contemporary Adult" chart.

In 1985, the song served as the title of a film starring Jessica Lange as Cline, and Ed Harris as Charlie Dick, her husband. In an interview, Dick said "It’s a good film ... if you like fiction". Cline's hit version of 'Sweet Dreams' was included on the film's soundtrack so here is Jessica Lange lip synching this song, but the sound itself is the genuine Patsy Cline voice (as there was no way Patsy Cline's vocals could be imitated) -


Cline’s death was still in the news when Decca released her version of this Bob Wills classic in 1963. This Patsy Cline version speaks for itself, as the 1960-1963 Decca years with Owen Bradley stand as the best female artist - producer union ever (similar to Jim Reeves with Chet Atkins). What completes this song, recorded at a time when Cline's second marriage was on the rocks, is the breath you hear Cline take before the final line. The song was powerful enough without it, but that moment made this song a no-brainer to be on this list. When Patsy Cline sang a song she sang it with pure heart and emotion. What was recorded in this session of Faded Love was sheer perfection defined -


Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, who both died in separate plane crashes, Patsy in 1963 & Jim in 1964, never recorded together during their lifetimes. In 1961 both singers had recorded their own solo versions of 'Have You Ever Been Lonely' and released it on various albums. In 1981 Owen Bradley, Cline's electronically created a "duet" featuring both these great vocalists, by lifting the solo vocal performances off their original tapes, synchronizing them and recording a new backing track. In 1982 it became a # 5 hit on the Billboard chart and # 1 on the RPM Magazine chart, proving the enduring popularity of both Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves nearly 2 decades after their respective deaths from light plane crashes -


And finally I thought it appropriate to finish with a "duet" of Patsy and the person who provided her with her biggest hit (and one of the greatest all time country classics) 'Crazy', but here the two legends (one dead for 58 years, the other still performing to this day) do a gospel favourite -


Patsy Cline's influence lived on long after her death. She figures prominently as Loretta Lynn’s mentor in Lynn’s autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter (1976). In addition to the 1985 movie, Cline has had 2 musicals based on
her life and music - "Always...Patsy Cline" premiered in 1988 and in 1991 "A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline", which
has since twice toured through Australia. The 2019 television film "Patsy & Loretta chronicles Cline's friendship with Loretta Lynn. If there's still any doubt of Patsy Cline’s standing, the Billboard back-catalogue country chart shows her "Greatest Hits" album stood at #1 for over 4 years, in addition to over 10 million sales and 13 years actually on the chart!

If you ever get to Nashville (you should if you can), take some time out from all the honky tonks and live music on offer and, apart from the usual big attractions like the Grand Ole Opera, the Hall of Fame (to which Cline was the first ever female admitted in 1973) and, of course, the motherchurch of country music, the Ryeman Auditorium, check out the
Patsy Cline Museum located on the second floor above The Johnny Cash Museum, Third Ave. Many make the pilgrimage
to her hometown of Winchester, Virginia, to visit the Patsy Cline Historic Home.
First time I heard Patsy Cline was "Back In Baby's Arms" off the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.
 

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The Everly Brothers left Cadence Records in 1960 over a royalty dispute and signed with Warner Brothers for a million dollar, contract. Their contract was reported to be the first million dollar recording contract in history. Although this meant they lost their production team, the Bryants' songwriting and a move away from their country roots in Nashville to New York City, everything went well at first.

Warner Brothers might've been a big-time movie production company, but they were new to the music recording industry and the Everly Brothers were there first major signing. Their NYC recordings were there most techinally sophisticated
and some regard their early 1960's sound as their best. Other, however, lament the loss of their simple yet effective heartfelt countryfied 1950's sound. There's no doubt the Everlys' NYC recordings lost some of their previous country
feel and were more pop influenced. This at least served them well in the short term.

'Let It Be Me' was the first single the Everly Brothers worked on in New York instead of Nashville, and you can't half tell, for the orchestration here ain't a bit country, just straight out pop. I've still included here for narrative purposes - and it's quite a beautiful song, even if it isn't country - or even American. French singer-songwriter Gilbert Becaud recorded the song under the title 'Je t'appartiens' in 1955. American pop standards singer Jill Corey released an English language version of the song in 1957, reaching #57.

'Let It Be Me' has a more lush orchestration than their previous hits, using 8 violins and a cello and it hit #7 on the pop chart in early 1960. It was the duo's final single for Cadence before moving to Warner Bros. The Everly Brothers were so steeped in the traditions of country music they could never shrug off their roots. Even when they recorded this beautiful French song, it still in their own distinctive Appalachian close harmony sound, honed since their childhood. The Everly's harmonies were not New York harmonies, and this is what their imitators couldn't replicate.

A 1964 duet version by soul singers Betty Everett and Jerry Butler climbed to # 5, and later versions by Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry as a duet and a solo recording by Willie Nelson all hit the pop top 40 as well. Bob Dylan included his own version of 'Let It Be Me' on his 1970 album "Self Portrait".

'Cathy's Clown' was the first single released by the Everly Brothers after moving to Warner Brothers. The towering chorus helped make it the biggest hit single of the pair's career. The persistent drum rolls also add to the power of the emotions experienced by the song's protagonist who can't seem to rid himself of a manipulative and domineering girlfriend, even though he's aware of the humiliation she causes him (I guess she must've been too hot to resist). The double drum sound was obtained by recording the drums on a tape loop and creating the illusion of two drummers. The rhythmic elements of 'Cathy's Clown' helped it hit #1 on both the pop and R&B singles charts and was the first song to top the the US and UK charts simultaneously, spending 5 weeks at #1 in the US and 7 weeks at #1 in the UK, as well as #2 in Canada and #3
in Australia. Legendary piano player Floyd Cramer also performs on the record -

The Beatles later acknowledged the vocal arrangements on 'Cathy's Clown' as the major influence on their early single 'Please Please Me' - in fact, the similarities are very obvious, though Lennon and McCartney's harmony weren't as tight
as the Everly Brothers (apart from the Louvin Brothers, no-one could match them, drilled as they were since childhood).

'When Will I Be Loved' finds the Everly Brothers in swaying rockabilly style. The song is probably best known today by the later Linda Ronstadt hit version. However, the original recording carries plenty of charm including the harmonies that lead into and carry through the song's chorus. Phil Everly wrote the song and it peaked at #8 on the Hot 100, #4 in the UK and #3 in Australia. This was actually a Cadence label recording from 1959, but it was only released after their first #1 Warner Bros. smash 'Cathy's Clown' in 1960, hence why I have it here and not earlier. Legendary session musicians Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, and Buddy Harman all played on the record -

Linda Ronstadt recorded 'When Will I Be Loved' for her album "Heart Like a Wheel" in 1975. She changed the order of the lyric verses and took her version to #1 on the country chart, #2 on the pop chart, #3 on the adult contemporary chart.

When songwriter Sonny Curtis played this song for the Everly Brothers, he had only written one verse of lyrics. The duo told him they would record the song if he wrote another. However, the Everly Brothers were so into the song they made a recording with the sole verse repeated before Sonny Curtis had a chance to finish a second one. Nevertheless, 'Walk Right Back' was another top 10 pop hit for the duo - #8 US, #3 Australia, #4 UK -

Later recordings by Perry Como and Andy Williams among others included the second verse to the song. However, it wasn't until Anne Murray recorded it in recorded it in the same fashion as the Everly Brothers, leaving out the second verse, that the song again became a chart hit, peaking at #4 - thus justifying the Everly's decision not to wait for the second verse.

The song 'Crying In the Rain' is the result of a one-off collaboration between songwriters Howard Greenfield and Carole King. The pair had switched away from their usual collaborators for just one day and 'Crying In the Rain' was the result - the pair never wrote together again. The Everly Brothers hit the pop top 10 with this song shortly before their service in the US Marines that signaled a shift in the pair's commercial pop fortunes. They performed the song live in full uniform on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1962 -

Tammy Wynette covered 'Crying In the Rain'in 1981 and took it to the top 20. In 1990 the Norwegian pop band A-ha covered 'Crying In the Rain' and it was an international hit reaching the top 10 in several countries and reached #26 on the adult contemporary chart in the US.

At the end of 1961 both Brothers were drafted into the US Marines, albeit for only six months, and resumed by embarking on a European tour. Don became dependent on drugs, and the pressures from constant touring and recording began to show; like so many other country singers on the road, Don had resorted to amphetamines to get him up to perform, became addicted and during one historic night in London, a nervous Phil had to perform solo. The stock standard ‘food poisoning/exhaustion’ excuse was used, but what was kept secret at the time was that Don had attempted a suicidal drug overdose twice in 48 hours. Phil completed the tour solo. Don’s addiction continued for another 3 years and although they were able to work during part of this time, it heavily impacted their output and quality in that period - and hence their popularity.

Music tastes changed - the Everlys' peak popularity coincided with the great folk music revival, led by young artists
like Bob Dylan, which promoted traditional "roots" music and the Everly's Appalachian derived close harmony was seen
as a great example. Then Dylan went electric ... harmony, no matter how perfectly delivered, was suddenly no longer fashionable with the young, and it was the young the Everly's music had been (mostly) aimed at, with it's songs of teenage angst. By the time of the British pop-beat onslaught in 1964, their days as major hit makers had already pretty much run their course. They only reached the top 40 twice more in the U.S., with 'Gone, Gone, Gone' (#31 in 1964) and 'Bowling Green' (#40 in 1967 and #1 in Canada), although they remained incredibly popular in the UK, having big hits like 'Ebony Eyes' and 'Temptation' (both #1 in 1962), 'The Price Of Love' (#2).

Tomorrow (or the day after) I'll look at some of the Everly's lesser hits and forgotten songs - which I regard as some of their best music, but a victim of fashion and/or circumstances for not "hitting", as well as their very last hit.
 
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Professor Knowall

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First time I heard Patsy Cline was "Back In Baby's Arms" off the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.
Yeah - sometimes if time allows, I read the comments about the old songs on YouTube, and they often say they got into it because of a movie soundtrack or TV series or video game (e.g. "Rebel Radio" on Grand Theft Auto and the Fallout series seem popular sources). It seems to have opened up a whole new world of music for many (another random example is Webb Pierce's 'More and More' from the movie "The Hills Have Eyes" - I recall heaps of comments about that one).
 

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Yeah - sometimes if time allows, I read the comments about the old songs on YouTube, and they often say they got into it because of a movie soundtrack or TV series or video game (e.g. "Rebel Radio" on Grand Theft Auto and the Fallout series seem popular sources). It seems to have opened up a whole new world of music for many (another random example is Webb Pierce's 'More and More' from the movie "The Hills Have Eyes" - I recall heaps of comments about that one).
Freaks and Geeks introduced a whole new generation to the Dead's American Beauty.
 

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Today won't be about the Everly's big hits but instead looks at some of their other music that has lived on, perhaps better appreciated now than at the time they were recorded, as they were different from their big commercial hits - but more authentic to their musical roots.

After their incredible run of big hit singles like 'Bye Bye Love' and 'Wake Up Little Susie', the Everly Brothers fulfilled
their contract with Cadence Records in 1958 with something very different - an album of old traditional country songs titled "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us" (as already mentioned, their father, Ike, was an accomplished singer and expert guitarist, neighbor of guitar great Merle Travis and friend of guitar great Chet Atkins) who played in a country duo
with their mother). The highlight of this album is 'Lightning Express', a long, heartbreaking ballad about a penniless
boy who boards a train to see his dying mother - thus including some key country song ingredients. The Everlys, like
their heroes the Louvin Brothers, weren’t afraid to evoke chilling loneliness laced with sentiment. -


The Everly Brothers' close-voiced harmonies derived directly from the traditional Appalachian music taught to them as young boys by their father, Ike, with the Louvin Brothers providing the perfected template. Their rendition of Gene Autry's 1931 hit 'Silver Haired Daddy of Mine' (see post #125) also appeared on the appropriately titled 'Songs Our Daddy Taught Us' album in 1958. The track's continuing influence led to renditions by Simon & Garfunkel; most recently, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones re-recorded the entire "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us" album in new versions and titled the resulting 2013 album Foreverly.

Here I chose this live version, despite there being better quality audio versions on offer, because it features the Everly's performing it on the Johnny Cash Show (hence c1970) with their silver haired daddy, Ike, playing guitar -


The underrated 1959 minor hit (#16), 'Take a Message To Mary' is a sad ballad about a man separated from his lover
after a careless gunshot lands him in jail for life. The Everlys' - who always used spare arrangements during this period - really went back to barebone basics in this, tapping a screwdriver against a coke bottle as percussion. Years later, Waddy Wachtel, who joined the Everly Brothers band as guitarist in 1972 and later worked with everyone from Warren Zevon to Keith Richards, said - "I don't believe in perfection. But this record is the closest that anyone has ever come to singing in perfect harmony. I do believe every word and syllable are as close to perfect as is humanly – or in their case, inhumanly possible – because I feel humans could never sing this well. It's a miraculous record". -


The Everlys again dug deep into their country roots for the 1963 album "The Everly Brothers Sing Great Country Hits", which features their interpretations of classics by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Don Gibson and more. 'Silver Threads
and Golden Needles' had already been recorded by Skeeter Davis, but it is their cut that arguably most influenced the
hit cover by Linda Ronstadt, which became one of her touchstones -


In 1966 the Everly's incorporated jangling Beatles/Byrds-esque guitars into some of their songs and recorded a fine
album with the Hollies (who were probably more blatantly influenced by the Everlys than any other British band of
the time). They soon jumped full-on into the late-Sixties country-rock revival with their now acclaimed (though at
the time mostly ignored - apart from fellow musicians) 1968 album, "Roots". They recorded hits by Glen Campbell
and Merle Haggard plus new songwriters like Randy Newman, who was working as an LA-based songwriter when he
wrote this brilliant, romantic ode to "... the heart of the nation, the start of the West ...." 'Illinois'. Newman also played piano on the recording.

Gram Parsons became obsessed with the album and recalled spending many late nights spinning it with friend (and expert country music devotee) Keith Richards. -


The Everly Brothers enlisted a session band including Warren Zevon, Wachtel and John Sebastian for 1972's "Stories We Could Tell" album, which featured Don Everly's twangy 'I'm Tired of Singing My Song in Las Vegas'. The Everlys' had spent plenty of time playing oldies shows in Vegas by this point, and the track perfectly expressed the frustrations of being on this circuit - aspecially when they were age just 35 and 33 at this time, hardly old, and getting more and more fed up
with each other -


After a few years of declining fortunes (despite still producing what's now regarded as some of the very best pioneering country rock music), the brothers parted acrimoniously. Phil once said in 1970: "We only ever had one argument. It’s been lasting for 25 years". That feud reached its peak in 1973 when Don triggered a bitter 10 year separation by turning up drunk for a gig in California. After mangling the lyrics of 'Cathy’s Clown', soon they were arguing on stage. Then Don smashed one of his beloved Gibsons, saying: ‘I’m through with being an Everly Brother" and stormed off. Phil ploughed
on alone through the rest of the show until, aggravated by hecklers, he shouted back: "The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago".

After the break-up, both embarked on largely unsuccessful solo careers, seemingly proving they needed each other -
no matter how much they fought. The only time they met over the next 10 years was at their father’s funeral - but this one meeting culminated in their reuniting in 1983, even though they immediately resumed their constant arguing, being opposites in just about everything - politics, religion, you name it - ironically the only time they were in harmony was when they sang - just like their heroes, the Louvin Brothers. Anyway, they reunited - so I haven't yet finished with the Everly Brothers.
 

Professor Knowall

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The Everly Brothers were immensely admired by other musicians, who were well aware how difficult it was to achieve
their tight harmony sound - yet they seemed to do it effortlessly and instinctively. Paul McCartney once said "we (the Beatles) wanted to sound like the Everly Brothers". When McCartney and Lennon went hitchhiking to London to win a talent competition, they called themselves "The British Everly's". They based the vocal arrangement of their early hit, 'Please Please Me' on 'Cathy's Clown'. Keith Richards called Don Everly "one of the finest rhythm players". Paul Simon, who worked with the pair on "Graceland", said on the day after Phil's death, "Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and
R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.
"

After a decade of inactivity, the brothers, having met for the first time in a decade at their father's funeral, reunited to perform a comeback TV special in London in 1983 before recording a new album "EB 84" with producer Dave Edmunds. He enlisted Everly fanatic Paul McCartney to write this strummy throwback country rocker. "Dave said it was the hardest phone call he ever made, because McCartney is always being asked for something," Don Everly told Rolling Stone in
1986. "Paul said if he could come up with anything, he'd give a call. Dave forgot about it, but about six weeks later,
the phone rang and it was McCartney. He said. 'I Think I've got one."

In October 1984 the Everly Brothers visited the Netherlands to headline the annual Dutch television show 'AVRO's Platengala' on the very day that 'On The Wings Of A Nightingale' reached its highest position of #4 on the Dutch
charts, highlighting their international appeal (like many other early rock pioneers who were better appreciated
through the 1960's to 1980's outside the US, mainly the U.K. And Europe). It reached #9 in the US, their last
big hit -


To farewell the Everly's, here's them performing at the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne as part of the "Legends of Rock" Tour. They were introduced by Col Joye, who had performed along with them 30 years earlier on "The Big Show" 1959 tour. The years of hard touring, drug abuse, divorces, poor diets etc have taken their toll on them physically - but they still had that harmony -


One of the more successful reunions, the Everlys continued to perform live, although they didn't release albums after the late '80s. Phil Everly died in 2014 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; aged 74 and a life long smoker. After his brother's death, Don has made the occasional public appearance, including joining Paul Simon on-stage to sing 'Bye Bye Love' on the Nashville stop of Simon's 2018 farewell tour.

The one real tragedy of the Everly Brothers (and another thing they had with there heroes, the Louvin Brothers) is there basic dislike, even loathing, of each other. Whether this was from being forced to perform together from early childhood, some mutual jealousy or the dependency both had for each other for commercial success or just different outlooks on life (Phil was a conservative, Don a left winger), they just couldn't enjoy each other company off-stage and stories of their endless arguments are common. Even after their 1983 comeback, they refused to be interviewed together and even wouldn't record together, so both lay down their tracks separately, even though it wouldn't sound so good. Only on
stage did they understand and "read" each other. Phil's death hasn't stopped this rift - Don as sued Phil's surviving
family members over the authorship of 'Cathies Clown' (it's a long story, but it appears to me that Don bullied younger brother Phil over the years and still misses bullying him, even at age 84).

The Everly Brothers were among the first 10 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll HoF in 1986. They were introduced by Neil Young, who said that every musical group he had ever belonged to had tried, and failed, to copy the Everly Brothers' harmonies. In 1997, the brothers were awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. They were inducted into the Country Music HoF in 2001 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, amongst many other awards.

Next time the history returns (which might take up to a week), as we move on to the late 1950's, I'll introduce an artist who was just a good singer - but one of the great song-writers of country music history.
 
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Professor Knowall

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We're back in 1958 and it's time to introduce a shy, reclusive, troubled songwriter/singer who transformed his loneliness into piercing timeless classics of heartache and separation. “... If loneliness meant world acclaim / Then everyone would know my name / I’d be a legend in my time...” he wrote in '(I’d Be A) Legend in My Time', a 1960 song that seemingly distilled his life and career (and later became a #1 hit in 1975 for Ronnie Milsap). He always considered himself first
and foremost a songwriter - who also sang. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Ike & Tina Turner, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, Conway Twitty, Count Basie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Reba McEntire, Marie Osmond and Marilyn Manson are among the hundreds of musicians who recorded his songs and he gave Ray Charles the biggest hit of his career. Yet he remained an insecure, troubled soul, self-conscious of his looks (he was not a handsome man) and while he performed publicly, just like Lefty Frizzell he shunned the celebrity lifestyle.

Born in 1928 in Shelby, rural North Carolina, into a family of sharecroppers (if you've followed this history, you already know they were the poorest of the dirt-poor southerners). Don Gibson learnt the guitar as a child and dropped out of school after second grade because, later saying - “The only thing I was any good at was music.” Still a young teenager
he helped form the "Sons of the Soil", which played western songs popularized by the "Sons of the Pioneers" (see posts 123-124). By 1948 they had their own radio show in Shelby, although Gibson held on to his jukebox company day job. The group recorded a few songs without success in the late 1940's, including his first self-penned recorded song 'Why
Am I So Lonely?' (thus setting the theme of much of his future song-writing), before disbanding.

Gibson was then offered a contract with RCA in 1950. He put together a new group called the King Cotton Kinfolks, but again success eluded him. He moved to Knoxville, playing in clubs and honkytonks for 4 years, gaining wide exposure on radio and recording with Columbia - but still his records didn't sell. He was finally spotted by music publisher Wesley Rose, who heard him singing 'Sweet Dreams' and offered him a songwriting deal. Gibson held out for a recording contract as well. Gibson got that deal with MGM Records in 1955 and in 1956 'Sweet Dreams' became his first top 10 hit, even
though (not for the last time) others artists had even more success covering. This is Gibson's original pre-Nashville
Sound honkytonk style recording of what became a country music standard -

Faron Young did even better with the same song a few months later, taking it to # 2, and other covers include Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette and Elvis Costello but, as already seen, it was Patsy Cline who made it her own, with her cover being beyond compare (see post #389). Following the success of 'Sweet Dreams' Gibson was signed to RCA Victor in
1957 by Chet Atkins, his producer for the next 7 years.

Despite the chart successes of 'Sweet Dreams', Gibson’s fortunes didn’t change dramatically. By 1957 he was living alone in a caravan outside Knoxville and already descending into alcoholism, until one afternoon just after his TV and vacuum cleaner had been repossessed, finding inspiration in his own despair he dashed off two of the greatest country songs of
all time - 'I Can’t Stop Loving You' and 'Oh Lonesome Me'. He once said - “When I wrote those two songs, I couldn’t have been any closer to the bottom ...”. Released early in 1958, Gibson's first RCA single, 'Oh Lonesome Me', (which Gibson had originally intended for George Jones) was a blockbuster, 8 weeks at #1 and crossing over to #7 on the pop chart -


And then there was the B-side! Now regarded as one of the greatest (and most covered) country classics, Chet Atkins,
in a very rare but definite error of judgement, didn't think much of the song, hence his consigning it to a B-side (thus limiting its initial exposure and sales, though it still reached # 7, and unwittingly making it possibly the greatest 2-sided release of all time).

The song was most famously covered by Ray Charles in 1962, featured on Charles' "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" album and released as a single, it became the first song to top all the Billboard Top 100, the country,
R&B and the Adult Contemporary Music charts as well as reaching # 1 in the U.K. and Australia.

These recordings, made in 1957, though released in 1958, were also significant because Chet Atkins ditched the steel guitars and fiddles that were the hallmarks of most country records at the time, instead using just guitar (which he himself played, along with Gibson on rhythm), piano, drums and the background Jordanaire singers. Having already pioneered this with Jim Reeves, he laid the foundation for the Nashville Sound that dominated recordings from the country-music capital for almost 2 decades. On the back of his great double-sided success, Gibson fulfilled a life long ambition when he was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Chet Atkins’ skilful productions (deliberately) appealed to both pop and country fans and the double sided hit was followed by ‘Blue Blue Day’ which again took Gibson to #1 and a top 20 pop hit, remaining in the charts for 6months. The song continued Gibson's themes of heartbreak, loneliness and sadness, at a time when America was at its most optimistic -


In yet another song of loneliness and heartbreak, 'Give Myself A Party' one can clearly hear the influence of Elvis Presley, while still retaining a country feel. Again written by Gibson and released in 1958 from the album "I Wrote a Song", it reached #5 -


For all his skill and experience in the entertainment business (he was 30 years old and a 15 year veteran professional musician in 1958), Don Gibson struggled with stage nerves, profound shyness and aloofness and always with a sense
of isolation and loneliness (which he expressed through his song-writing). He became yet another of our country heroes
to resort to alcohol and pills for relief - and sure enough he developed an addiction. But for now, we'll leave of until tomorrow with his career riding high, mainly thanks to his great song-writing (not to dismiss his ability to deliver a
song as well as being an accomplished rhythm guitarist).
 
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