Country Music

Remove this Banner Ad

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
By the end of the 1970's, Bill Anderson was one of the most decorated songwriters in music history. But the iconic
singer, songwriter, performer, and TV host came to a point in his career where he questioned if what he had to say mattered anymore. Music Row had changed, a new generation of artists and songwriters had transformed the genre.
The HoF member and long time Grand Ole Opry star was no longer "relevant" (i.e. in vogue). By 1990, he wasn't even writing anymore. Bad investments left him teetering at bankruptcy's edge. His second marriage was falling apart. And in Nashville, a music town (no longer just country music) where youth now carried the day, he was a museum piece-only seen as a nostalgia act, waving from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Anderson was only in his fifties when he assumed he had climbed all the mountains he was intended to scale. But in those moments plagued with self-doubt, little did he know, his most rewarding climb lie still lay ahead.

A versatile entertainer, Anderson hosted his own syndicated TV show, "The Bill Anderson Show" (1965–73), he was the first country star to host a network game show (ABC’s "The Better Sex", 1977–78), followed by "Fandango" (1983–89). He co-hosted the long-running "Opry Backstage", appeared in several country-oriented movies and a soap opera (ABC’s "One Life to Live"). He is the author of 1989 and 2016 autobiographies and a 1993 memoir, "I Hope You’re Living as High on the Hog as the Pig You Turned Out to Be", wrote a column for "Country Song Roundup" magazine for many years. For
7 years from 2006 he hosted the acclaimed “Bill Anderson Visits With The Legends” show and for 23 years has headlined the popular "Country’s Family Reunion".

'The Corner of My Life' was released in 1973, from the album "Bill". The song peaked at # 2 (# 1 in Canada). It's one of those country songs sung by a "maturing" singer (now 36 years old) for an adult audience, basically saying what his idea of a "lady friend" now is - with a description better appreciated through with age and experience-
"... You're a number I can phone you're a letter I can write / You're my water when I'm thirsty in the middle of the night
You're a warm and tender body you're a woman not a wife / And just knowing you has brightened the corner of my life
..."


In 1976 Anderson enlisted Mary Lou Turner as duet partner for the recording of 'Sometimes', a playful, back-and-forth duet. It opens with Anderson speak-singing questions such as “Hello, beautiful, are you married?” and “Tell me, are you happy?” with Turner responding each time, “Sometimes.” With lines like “But you haven’t thought of cheating, have you?
/ Yes, sometimes
,” the track was fairly risque for the mid-'70s and the core southern market - but not risque enough to stop it from becoming a # 1 hit -


In 1977, Anderson's longtime producer, Owen Bradley was replaced by Buddy Killen. With Killen, Anderson's musical sound shifted from Nashville Sound ballads towards uptempo Countrypolitan. The new sound was reflected in his latest albums and singles. In 1977, Anderson had two major hits with the uptempo 'Head to Toe' and 'Still the One'

Anderson then had a major hit in 1978 with the disco-flavored 'I Can't Wait Any Longer'. The song actually peaked at # 4, reflecting the invasive influence of disco even into country at that time - as well as the lengths Anderson would go to to stay "relevant" - but I had to include this song here because it's so ... strange. No Nashville Sound or country rock here, but good old country disco! - with Anderson whispering a countryfied imitation of Barry White! After this song came out, Anderson was briefly nicknamed "Barely White" -


The disco-tinged 'I Can't Wait Any Longer' was Anderson's last top 10 hit. As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, a new
pop flavor invaded country music. By 1982, his inability to score a follow-up hit led him away from both songwriting
and recording. Instead, he became a regular presence on television, hosting game shows (ABC's "The Better Sex",
TNN's "Fandango") and spending several years in the cast of the soap opera One Life to Live; he also hosted the TNN
talk show "Opry Backstage".

After a decade of striving to update his musical style, Anderson recognized not to compromise the country flavour
of his music in order to accommodate the fickle whims of short-lived music fads. When Steve Wariner hit the top 5
in 1992 with his cover of 'Tip of My Fingers' (the first Anderson song featured 2 days ago) he returned to songwriting.
Partnerin with various Nashville pros, his songs were recorded by various contemporary artists. In 1998, Anderson also returned to recording, with the album "Fine Wine". In 2001, he released "A Lot of Things Different", which featured Anderson's version of the title track (a hit for Kenny Chesney). 'The Way I Feel followed In 2005

The studio album "Songwriter" was released in 2010 and in this number from it, the then 73 year old Anderson shows he still had his songwriting skills - and his sense of humour. Here he reverses the normal country music reaction of grief and despair over being dumped to that of relief. Anderson, who by this stage in his life, after 2 failed marriages, had several relationships with much younger women (of which one endured until her death by cancer in 2016), insisted this song was literally true in every way - but he never named the woman it was about. From my own life experience, I fully believe Bill on this being true - but still get a laugh out of it -
"... She told me you ain't nothing like my daddy / She told me how to dress and how to drive
She told me you don't kiss like my old boyfriend / But my favorite thing she ever told me was goodbye
..."


Still going strong at age 83, Anderson released 'It's a Good Day to Have a Good Day' in October 2020 following the debut of his 73rd album, "The Hits Re-Imagined", -


That's enough for today, but I haven't yet finished with Whisperin Bill just yet - actually I have with his singing, but Anderson himself rightly regards himself as a song-writer first and foremost, and many, probably most in fact, of his
best songs were written not for himself (and his limited vocal range) but for others. So tomorrow, for something
different in this history, we'll look at some of the biggest Bill Anderson written hits recorded by other artists.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Whisperin' Bill Anderson has a massive catalog of his own hits like 'Still' 'Mama Sang a Song' 'Po Foks' and 'Bright Lights and Country Music.' More impressively, he is the most recorded songwriter in Country Music History. Therefore, with this list, we honor the Top 10 Bill Anderson Songs recorded and made hits by other artists. Starting in 1959, as the writer of Ray Price's 'City Lights,' Bill Anderson continues to enjoy success throughout all the changes and trends in Country Music. This list is just a small selection of his contributions to Country Music through the years, starting today with his first 2 decades of songwriting.

Anderson wrote his first really big hit, "City Lights" at age 19, while working as a radio DJ in the small town of Commerce, Georgia. To quote his first autobiography - "... I was living in the tallest building in town, which was a little three-story hotel, and at night in the summer, I would take my guitar and go up onto the roof of the hotel and just sit up there and strum and sing to the night. I was up there one night in 1957 – I was nineteen years old – and I managed to write the “bright array of city lights as far as I can see.” My dad told me later, “I should have known you were going to be a songwriter if you had the imagination to look at Commerce, Georgia, and sing about the bright array of city lights” – which were two traffic lights and the flashing sign at the drugstore! ..."

Anderson’s 'City Lights' became a huge hit for Ray Price (see post # 272), spending 32 weeks on the country charts, including 13 weeks at # 1 1958. It first established Bill Anderson's reputation in the music industry -


Anderson discovered Connie Smith in 1963 when she won a talent contest in Ohio. Among the audience, Anderson was impressed by her voice and shortly later invited her to perform with him on Ernest Tubb's Midnite Jamboree show in Nashville. Anderson then hired Smith to record demos that he planned on pitching to other artists. The demos were brought to RCA, where producer Chet Atkins heard them and, also impressed by her vocals, offered Smith a recording contract.

On Smith's first session in July 1964, she recorded 4 songs, of which 3 were written by Anderson, and 'Once a Day' was chosen as her debut single. It was an instant smash hit, becoming the first ever debut single by a female country artist to reach # 1, where it remained for 8 weeks. For nearly 50 years the single held the record for the most weeks spent at # 1 by a female artist. Anderson wrote a series of songs that were released as follow-up singles to 'Once a Day', which also became major hits. But here is the the record breaking 'Once A Day' by Connie Smith in 1964 -


Despite being past his prime, his chronic alcoholism and penchant for barroom punch-ups taking their toll, the legendary and hugely influential Lefty Frizzell had a # 1 hit in 1964 with the Anderson penned ballad, 'Saginaw, Michigan' (see post # 218). Ironically, Saginaw is now a dirty, rust-belt, corrupt, drug addled, violent crime infested, third world sh*t hole of
a city, but in 1964, before the US shipped off most of its factories to cheap overseas sweatshops, mostly to China, it was still a vibrant working class place. So here's Lefty's masterful rendition of Anderson's classic composition of a son of a Saginaw fisherman that got the better of his greedy father-in-law -


Anderson and Buddy Killen wrote 'I May Never Get to Heaven' and a number of famous names cut it. It was originally recorded way back in 1960 by Don Gibson, covered by Wanda Jackson in 1961, memorably covered by Aretha Franklin in 1967, by B.J. Thomas in 1968 and finally by Conway Twitty in 1979, who had a big # 1 hit. The song’s 2 decade-spanning popularity was thanks to the songwriting team of Anderson and Killen, but your taste in music might determine which recording you prefer. Much as I love Don Gibson (not so much Twitty) I may upset some country music stalwarts here
by my preferred choice - the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, from 1967 -


Female country singer pioneer, Heath Shepard, had her first # 1 hit, a duet with Ferlin Husky, way back in 1953 (see post # 362). After later carving out a successful solo career and performing at the Grand Ole Opry since 1955, she had her biggest hit in a decade with the Anderson penned 'Slippin Away' in 1973.

The live performance here was one of several events marking Bill Anderson's 50 years performing at the Grand Ole Opry, in 2011 (hence Anderson's prominence in this video). Shepard's history went even further back, having had her first solo # 1 in and joining the Opry, both in 1955. Even at the age of 77 her voice still held up for what had become her most enduring song, written for her by Anderson - hence why I chose this live video rather than the actual 1973 recording
as it's so appropriate here -


By 1990, Anderson wasn't writing anymore. Bad investments left him teetering at bankruptcy's edge. His marriage was falling apart. And in Nashville, a music town where youth usually carries the day, he was a museum piece-only seen as
a nostalgia act, waving from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, his music dated. Anderson was only in his fifties when he assumed he had climbed all the mountains he was intended to scale, and apart from his TV work, his music, particularly his song-writing, days were behind him. Little did he - or anyone else know, his most rewarding climb still lay ahead.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
It's a well known fact, universally acknowledged, that in song-writing (in common with other creative arts), a person's most creative period is usually between the ages of 20 to 40 and by age 50, their best work is most often behind
them. This definitely appeared to be the case with Bill Anderson. As mentioned just 2 days ago, his ability to write hits seemingly dried up in the 1980's as he entered his fifties, and he gave up writing altogether in 1985 to concentrate on
his TV and radio career.

Little did he or anyone else realise his best selling songs were still ahead in an amazing late-career turnaround.

It was when Steve Wariner hit the Top Five in 1992 with his cover of 'Tip of My Fingers' that Anderson was galvanized into returning to songwriting. But realising he needed assistance to give his lyrics a contemporary sound, he partnered with various Nashville pros and saw his songs old and new, recorded by Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Lorrie Morgan, Collin Raye, John Michael Montgomery, Mark Wills, Brad Paisley, Jamie Johnson and many others.

Co-written with Vince Gill, and with a theme similar to Roy Drusky's 1961 # 2 hit '3 Hearts In A Tangle' (see post # 433, with my comments on its realism to me - and also includes the Anderson written 'Peel Me A Nana), this real country song of the heart rending task of having to choose between 2 lovers reached # 4 in 1995 -


Mark Wills had his one and only # 1 hit in 1999 with the mushy, sentimental 'Wish You Were Here'. Anderson's lyrics was augmented with melodic assistance from Skip Ewing and Debbie Moore. The result is something of a tearjerker, though the whiff of the supernatural and afterlife doesn't quite do it for me -


As mentioned, it was Steven Wariner's successful 1992 cover of 'Tip of My Fingers' that inspired Anderson's return
to songwriting. Anderson provided another hit (# 2 in 1999) for Wariner, this time a new song 'Two Teardrops', where Anderson revived an old country music theme of a wedding providing joy and happiness to one, but at the expense of heartbreak to another (e.g. Marty Robbins' 'Just Married' in 1957 - see post # 328). Anderson's lyrics here show his imaginative approach to this theme -


Here Anderson pulls out all stops in making one of the saddest, sentimental (even by country music standards) song with 'I'll Wait For You', which Joe Nichols took to # 7 in 2006. This is one for those who secretly enjoy a real weeper -


Jamey Johnson's career flew high from 2005 to 2012 but has receded since, his high point being his # 1 album "The Guitar Song", released in 2010. This is an outstanding country double album (though sadly he hasn't reached the same standard since), and, of course, it was Anderson that co-wrote the title song from the album.

There’s no doubt that Anderson is an incredible songwriter, but with 'The Guitar Song', he seemingly proved he might also be able to predict the future. This song tells the story of an old guitar hanging forgotten in a pawn shop - and, in a twist of fate, shortly before a 2015 Grand Ole Opry performance, the owner of an Arizona pawn shop contacted Anderson to let him know that he had found a guitar belonging to Anderson - one that had been missing for 50 years! The pawn shop owner returned the guitar to Anderson, and he used it to perform 'The Guitar Song' at the Opry in an especially emotional and memorable performance.


I still haven't quite yet finished with country music's best-selling songwriter, Bill Anderson (afterall, he still hasn't finished his career). Tomorrow's farewell will feature the 2 best selling songs of Anderson's extraordinary career - and both are from the 21st century.
 
Last edited:

Log in to remove this ad.

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Today will feature the 2 biggest selling songs written by country music's biggest selling song-writer in Bill Anderson, followed by a wrap of his continuing career.

Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss deliver an incredible performance with their 2003 mega-hit 'Whiskey Lullaby', but so
much of what gives this song its emotional staying power is the writing of Anderson with Jon Randall. The song is a
dark, haunting story about heartbreak, addiction and loss, and Anderson packed it full of memorable images, starting
with the unforgettable opening line to each chorus - “... He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger...” -


George Strait’s 2006 big # 1 hit, 'Give It Away' was penned by Anderson with Jamey Johnson and Buddy Cannon. The
# 1 hit was an instant classic, a breakup song anchored to a chorus that says - “There ain’t nothin’ in this house worth fighting over / Oh, we’re tired of fighting anyway / Just give it away...", but, in true country style, it builds to a sad irony. The song not only won a swag of awards and became an instant standard, it, along with 'Whiskey Lullaby' ensured Anderson status as the most successful songwriter in country music history -


Probably the most awarded singer-songwriter of all time, Anderson has been awarded "Songwriter Of The Year" a record
6 times, "Male Vocalist Of The Year", half of the "Duet Of The Year" with both Jan Howard and Mary Lou Turner, inducted into and in 1975 inducted into the Nashville Songwriters HoF. In 1985, the State of Georgia chose him as only the 7th living performer inducted into the Georgia Music HoF and in 1993, the Georgia Broadcasters’ HoF. In 1994, South Carolina inducted him into their Music and Entertainment HoF. In 2001, he was admitted into the Country Music HoF.

In 2002, Broadcast Music Inc. named Anderson its first country music songwriting Icon, placing him alongside R&B legends Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and James Brown as the only recipients of that prestigious award at the time. In 2008, the Academy of Country Music honored him with their inaugural Poets Award. In 2018, he was inducted intothe all-genre Songwriters HoF and became only the second recipient of the Kris Kristofferson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nashville Songwriters’ Association (after Willie Nelson in 2012). In 2021, his composition, 'Once A Day' (see post # 452) was awarded a place in the Library Of Congress’ National Recording Registry, alongside such legendary composers as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Bob Dylan, and Hank Williams.

Whisperin' Bill is still working. He continued releasing music through his own TWI record label, including gospel and bluegrass material. He continues to write and to record, his latest release being vocal and instrumental versions of some of his best known songs, titled “Bill Anderson – The Hits Re-Imagined". He is currently working on a new album at age 83, 64 years after he wrote his first # 1 hit.

Next time I return to this history, it'll be with a brand new country music sound that challenged the "Nashville Sound" in the sixties as it found its audience amongst the honky tonk crowd and country music traditionalists.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
It seems a while back now, but on 2/2/21, in post # 354, I introduced the "Nashville Sound" with the genius of Chet Atkins being it's principal pioneer (and, together with Owen Bradley, remained its driver well into the 1970's). Since then, we've looked at a string of Nashville Sound artists, starting with Ferlin Husky (ironically from Bakersfield), headlined by Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and Don Gibson and others like Roy Drusky, Skeeter Davis, Bill Anderson etc. In the 1950’s into the 1960's, the post war economy boomed, life seemed great for most and the future now, including for those in country. Chet Atkins had taken country music to the top with his "Nashville Sound” that relied heavily on pop elements to make itself a commercial success among the booming suburban middle class.

But in further discussing the Nashville Sound, I also stated (post # 355) "...Some said the Nashville sound was great music but that it took away authenticity and tradition and ultimately would result in an opposing style emerging (which, as we shall see providing I keep this history going, is precisely what happened in time)...". Well that time has now finally arrived. The Nashville sound implemented pianos, choirs, orchestras and had done away in large part with the story telling elements of working class America, all hallmarks of the genre at the time. Eventually this sound became a little
too poppy for many rural and blue collar workers as well as lovers of the traditional roots of American folk and country music and several movements gained traction, most notably the Outlaw movement in the 70’s but first of all came the Bakersfield movement in the 50’s and 60’s. So it's time we take a trip a long way west of Nashville - all the way to California and the small 1950's city of Bakersfield, about the same size then as Ballarat now.

Bakersfield is an interesting place to visit - although it's grown a helluva lot over the last decades to about 700k in its metro area, it's still a pretty rough, gritty working class city, relying on oil and agriculture. But it main (or only) claim to fame is in music - in the 1990's it spawned the Nu-metal sound through the band Korn, but go back a few decades earlier and it actually earned the title "Nashville West", such was its influence for a decade or so on country music.

So why was Bakersfield, out in central California, a long, long way from the country music heartland of the South, and not at all big, such a powerhouse in country music? Well the best way around this is to simply ignore it's location, don't think of Bakersfield as being Californian but instead, culturally speaking, as a totally southern city - because culturally speaking it's even more "purely southern" than most southern cities. There's a reason for this.

During the Great Depression a great migration of families moved west to look for work. Many of these migrant workers, with their families, were "Dust Bowl refugees" (google this if you don't know the reference) who flocked to California
and the farm belt of the San Joaquin Valley in their hundreds of thousands. Of those migrants, a big number settled in
or around Bakersfield, known for its agricultural and oil wealth. These recent transplants from Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas brought along their southern culture and their rustic music - and by their sheer numbers, they dominated the city and the surrounding valley. In Bakersfield, some found wealth but most remained in or just above poverty - but they clung on to the southern culture they grew up in.

In the years after WW2 Bakersfield became home to several honky-tonks, including the infamous Blackboard Cafe. People drank, danced and fought to the Western swing music made famous by Bob Wills (see post # 132-140). Though he was born in Texas, Wills was a primary influence on the emerging Bakersfield sound, especially when he moved to California during the war and regularly performed at Bakersfield every week in 1946 - an influence which I think has largely been overlooked.

Now I won't do an overall history of the Bakersfield Sound as it'll take too long (if you're interested enough, just google "Bakersfield Sound History" or a few similar variations and lots will appear). Instead I'll just make a few comments and look at 2 important pioneers today.

* The Bakersfield Sound was spawned in the rough and ready Bakersfield honky tonks, where, just like their counterparts in the Texan oilfields (see post # 161) were infamous places as boozing, fighting, hooking up with honky tonk angels and hitting the dance floor.
* Though often overlooked in most accounts, to me the Western swing influence of Bob Wills is fundamental.
* The music developed in a similar way to the Texan honky tonks, being electrified and amplified, characterized by the electric guitar (typically a Fender Telecaster), pedal steel, fiddle and strong vocals. The music was simple and powerful,
so as to be heard above the din of a noisy bar.
* Rockabilly/Rock'n'roll strongly influenced the Bakersfield Sound (which later, as it "broke through" to nationwide prominence, went on to influence 1960's rock'n'roll).
* It's stated all over the place that the gritty, unpolished Bakersfield Sound was a direct response to the smooth, lush pop-country of the Nashville Sound, but this wasn't so - it developed organically and independently in the honky tonks
in the years prior to when the Nashville Sound came along in 1958. However, the popularisation and spread of the Bakersfield Sound in the 1960's can be attributed in part to the overreach of the Nashville Sound.
* Broadly, Nashville's arrangements were smooth, polished and harmonized. Bakersfield country was made of much harder stuff. Stewed in the cauldron of the local honky tonks and roadhouses, the music was powered by an explosive electric guitar, a honky tonk beat, and a tough, rockabilly attitude.

Out of all the early Bakersfield Sound pioneers (there's a few - actually two of the biggest in Ferlin Husky (posts # 362-364) and Jean Shepard (post # 251) both took off to Nashville before the Bakersfield Sound had fully matured) two stand out a bit more than the others for their influence on what was to come -

Bill Woods was born in 1924 in rural Texas and moved with his family to California at age 16. He worked in San Francisco Before heading south to play music in Bakersfield and Las Vegas. He played piano and fiddle in the 1940's for Tommy Duncan, the singer for Bob Wills' "Texan Playboys". Woods' formed his own band, the "Orange Blossom Playboys", playing at the famed BlackBoard Cafe in Bakersfield from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s. He performed on local TV in 1955 and was a DJ on local stations from 1956 onwards . He never achieved great fame, but helped others to do so, among them Ferlin Husky (see post # 362) and Buck Owens, who played his Telecaster Fender with the Playboys in the 1950's. As for his influence on Merle Haggard, amongst others, well this is best told in this 1972 tribute song (after a 1 minute narration) by Haggard -


For an example of Woods music, this number from 1957 shows the very strong rockabilly influence on the emerging Bakersfield sound -


Born in Missouri in 1934, Winford (Wyn) Stewart did some local radio work before moving to Bakersfield with his family. He formed a band while still in high school, and soon enlisted steel player Ralph Mooney and guitarist Roy Nichols, both from Lefty Frizzell's band. After a slow start, Stewart signed with Capitol in 1956, where he achieved modest success, scoring with singles in various styles, with “Wishful Thinking” going to number 5 in 1960.

Stewart moved to Las Vegas in the early 1960s, where he part-owned a nightclub at which he played 6 nights a week.
A young Merle Haggard played bass in his band and filled in as a singer when Wyn was indisposed and once recalled - “Wynn had written this song called 'Sing a Sad Song' and I felt like it was a charter…and one day I asked Wynn out of
the clear blue, we were both on stage, ‘Wynn if you had it within your power to make me a star would you do it?’ and he looked at me kind of funny and said ‘well sure I would’ I said ‘well you can’ and he had written this song and he was fixin to record it on his next record’… and I said “let me have 'Sing a Sad Song' and he just paused and said ‘you got it’
.” This became Haggards's first hit and set him on the road to the top.

Often named as Haggard and Buck Owen’s biggest influence, Stewart would also be revered by the musicians who he had worked with to create the Bakersfield sound. Ralph Mooney, who would go on to play with Haggard, Owens, and Waylon Jennings, among others, would refer to himself as Wynn Stewart’s steel guitar player for the rest of his life. Here's one of Stewart's pioneering Bakersfield Sound, with its distinctive beat. This reached # 5 in 1959, showing the Bakersfield Sound was emerging from its local roots -


It took a few more years for the Bakersfield Sound to really challenge the dominance of Nashville. Our next artist will be the one that took the Bakersfield Sound to the world and became one of country music's biggest ever stars - the first of 2 superstars that burst out of Bakersfield.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Our next artist took the Bakersfield Sound around the world and defined its sound - but not before he paid his dues, having worked as a professional musician for some 15 years before he broke through to stardom - and it took another
5 years and a couple of happy coincidences for him to ascend to superstardom.

Born Alvin Owens in rural Texas in 1929, Owens gave himself the nickname "Buck" at age 4, after the farm mule. When he was 10, his family moved to Mesa, Arizona, where Owens picked cotton (I've mentioned a few times how tough and painful this was, especially for children). Like so many others in this history, seeing music as a way out of abject poverty, he began playing the mandolin at age 13 and soon learned guitar, horns and drums. He was performing professionally by the age of 16 in his own radio programme. He also worked with the group Mac’s Skillet Lickers, and at 17 married their singer, Bonnie Campbell, who later launched her own career as Bonnie Owens. This was his first of 6 marriages, his weakness for too many pretty women being the usual cause of his divorces.

In 1951, age 22, Owens and his growing family moved from Texas to Bakersfield at the suggestion of an uncle who said work was plentiful for good musicians. Owens joined the Bill Woods band "Orange Blossom Playboys", with whom he both sang and played guitar for the first time, and then formed his own band, the "Schoolhouse Playboys". Owens made ends meet by taking on work as a session guitarist in L.A., appearing on recordings by Sonny James, Wanda Jackson, Tommy Sands and Gene Vincent. When the Playboys disbanded in the mid-50s Owens joined country artist Tommy Collins as singer and guitarist, recording a few tracks with him.

In 1955-56 Owens was a guitarist and singer in the house band at Bakersfield’s storied Blackboard Café. In search of broader horizons, Buck released a handful of singles on the small Pep label in L.A. and recorded his first singles under
his own name. The 1957 single 'Hot Dog' was penned by Owens, but the credit went to "Corky Jones" … which we now know was a pseudonym Owens was using at the time. Why? In short, because 'Hot Dog' was a solid rockabilly song that fell outside of the country mainstream, and Owens didn’t want to get in trouble with his label.

'Hot Dog' is a reminder that Buck and his fellow architects of the Bakersfield Sound were paying attention to plenty of music beyond the Western Swing and dance hall twang that are most often cited as the core ingredients of the genre. “I think guys like Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino had as much influence on my music as Bob Wills did,” Owens once said. Thanks largely to Buck’s own influence, rockabilly sounds were eventually embraced by the country mainstream. When Owens re-recorded the song under his own name in 1988, it hit the national country charts, falling
just shy of the Top 40. However, here is his original 1957 recording, an enjoyable early rockabilly track about falling in love with a girl at a hot dog stand -


In 1956, 2 wives and 3 children later, Buck had his first stroke of luck or fortune when he met Harlan Howard, an aspiring songwriter who had moved to the West Coast, where he’d met his wife, singer Jan Howard, just beginning her country music career. Buck and Harlan started writing songs together, Buck putting Harlan’s lyrics to music. They also founded "Blue Book Music" to publish their songs. No one at the ti e realised that Blue Book would play a major role in Buck Owens’ career.

After years of slogging it out in the honky-tonk trenches as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter, Buck’s big break came in 1957 when legendary producer Ken Nelson signed him to an artist deal at Capitol Records. But fame wasn’t soon to follow. His first couple of singles, lacking a defining sound, struck out. Discouraged, Buck, in what turned out to his second great stroke of luck, moved to Washington state to work on a radio gig. It was there that he met a talented teenage fiddler and guitarist, Don Rich.

In 1958, Nelson persuaded Buck to have another go, so he returned to Bakersfield and recorded 4 of his own songs,
this time using fiddle and steel guitar, including 'Second Fiddle', an insistent country shuffle which became his first charting single. The success of 'Second Fiddle' led to another session in 1959, yielding 'Under Your Spell Again' which became his first Top 5 hit. In 1960, utilising Harmon Howard's songwriting skills, Buck had his biggest hit yet with
'Above and Beyond (The Call of Love)', reaching # 3 -


When Buck returned to Bakersfield, Don Rich had decided to remain in Washington and attend College in hopes of becoming a music teacher, but bored with college, and at Buck's open invitation, Rich moved to Bakersfield in late
1960, bunked at Buck's home and joined his band. He became Buck’s musical alter ego, a major component of his
best recordings, singing backup duet as well as a first rate guitarist and fiddle - as well as Buxk's chief advisor and closest, most loyal friend. With Don Rich by his side, it seems Buck could do no wrong. Rich first appeared on 1960's 'Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)' and from that point on, the two were inseparable as friends and collaborators, developing the driving, electrified honky tonk variant Buck called the "freight train sound" but which everybody else knew as the sound of Bakersfield. This reached # 2 in 1960 -


At age 31, Buck was named Billboard Magazine’s Most Promising Singer of the Year in 1960, and he promptly followed up with an even bigger hit in 1961, 'Foolin’ Around', again written by Harland Howard, which spent 8 weeks at # 2 without breaking through to the top spot. While that first # 1 single was an elusive milestone for Buck in the early years, there was no doubt that 'Foolin’ Around' was a massive hit that perfectly represented what came to be called the Bakersfield Sound. Drummer Pee Wee Adams included a couple of fills in the chorus that, though minor, called particular attention
to the drums. And calling attention to the drums was an oddity in country music in the early 1960s. That little flourish, coupled with Ralph Mooney’s aggressive pedal steel guitar, signaled that something different was happening on the West Coast. It attracted enough attention that the single also became the first Owens offering to cross over to the pop charts. Although Wynn Stewart had already pioneered a similar sound, nobody took it to the masses like Buck Owens. When most people refer to the Bakersfield Sound today, what they have in mind is the Buck Owens sound -


'Under The Influence Of Love' was yet another # 2 hit - Buck unlucky again not to crack # 1. Ralph Mooney's frantic steel helps make the song -


So we leave off today with Buck Owens, after 15 years of trying, having finally established himself as a major star, with 5 top 5 hits (the last 3 reaching # 2), as his driving pared back electrified sound found a ready market as an alternative to the more polished but pop like Nashville Sound. However, he still hadn't cracked # 1 and present a major challenge to the dominance of Nashville. But stay tuned for Buck to catch the attention of the music world ...
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
After the run of 5 top 5 hits through 1960/61, Owens and Rich began touring the country together, playing with pickup bands in each honky tonk they visited, playing Fender Telecasters, electric guitars with a bright, punchy twang, with Rich becoming the lead guitarist. This change was evident in Owens' 2 Top 10 hits in 1962, 'Kickin' Our Hearts Around' and 'You're for Me'. Instead of being the shuffling honky tonk numbers that had been Owens' signature, the songs were
bright, driving tracks in a 2/4 beat that showed a strong hint of rock & roll influence. By the beginning of 1963, Owens had assembled his own band, all high quality musicians featuring a drummer, bassist, and a pedal steel guitarist. The group had no name until the bass player, a talented Bakersfield born musician named Merle Haggard, dubbed them
"The Buckaroos". All was now set in place for Buck and the band to dominate the charts.

After 3 # 2 hits, Owens finally hit the # 1 position on the country chart in 1963 with a new sound. By the time that 'Act Naturally' was recorded, fiddler Don Rich had switched to lead Telecaster, the bottom end was supplied by an electric bass guitar (rather than an upright), and the drums drove the songs with a tightly closed high-hat cymbal played precisely on top of the beat. Because Rich described the sound of the uptempo recordings as "a runaway locomotive coming right through the radio". Buck came to call his string of hits from that era his “freight train songs".

It just needed the right song for Buck to hit # 1. Some may be used to hearing country music and Buck Owens
devotee, Ringo Starr sing this on the Beatles cover, but the original of 'Act Naturally'was made in 1963 by Owens
and the Buckaroos. Ironically, Owens did not like it when it was first pitched at him. But Don Rich heard the writer
Johnny Russell's demo version, liked it and eventually persuaded Owens to record it - probably Rich's best ever advice
to Buck. The song, which is about an aspiring movie star doing a version of method acting - by just being his miserable self following a break-up, became an instant hit. It was Owens’ first song to hit # 1, and it almost instantly transformed him into a bona fide music superstar -
"They're gonna put me in the movies / They're gonna make a big star out of me
We'll make a film about a man that's sad and lonely / And all I gotta do is act naturally
..."


Having worked in radio himself, Buck fine-tuned his approach to the recording process to make sure his music sounded great coming from the then tinny speakers of AM transistor and car radios. Of those carefully-crafted hits, 'Love’s Gonna Live Here' was the most popular with radio audiences. Once it reached the top spot on the charts, it stayed there for an astounding 16 weeks in 1963. It would be almost 50 years before another country single topped the charts for that long -


'My Heart Skips a Beat' from 1964 was Owens's third number # 1, spending 7 weeks at the top with a total of 26 weeks on the chart -


Three weeks after 'My Heart Skips a Beat' reached #1 in 1964, the B-side of the single, 'Together Again' knocked it out of the # 1 slot and took its place at the top of the heap until 'My Heart Skips a Beat' reclaimed the top spot yet again. Buck was so popular in the mid-1960s that he was fighting himself for chart dominance!

'Together Again' is now a country classic, one that has spawned dozens upon dozens of covers. But the original belongs
to Owens, who wrote the song. While his “freight train” sound was wildly popular, 'Together Again' is a testament to his skills with a tender ballad. Pedal steel guitarist Tom Brumley, who had recently joined Buck’s band, played a memorably mournful solo that stood in stark contrast to the positive lyrics. Brumley's performance on 'Together Again' is widely regarded as the finest steel guitar solo in history - so impressive, in fact, that it inspired Jerry Garcia to learn the instrument. Once again, Owens showed that by tweaking the rules of the game he could blaze his own hit-making
path of music innovation -


I'll finish today not with another # 1 - it wasn't even released as a single, but well worth a listen (actually it's about my favourite Buck Owens song). This Red Simpson-penned standard 'Close Up The Honky Tonks' was the first song Owens tackled at his June 1964 recording session. It didn’t become a hit for Buck, but the session marked the first time what became the classic lineup of the Buckaroos, worked together in the studio. With guitarist Don Rich, bassist Doyle Holly (who usually played guitar in the studio, leaving bass duties to session man Bob Morris), steel guitarist Tom Brumley
and drummer Willie Cantu, the Buckaroos became the most revered band in country music history -

In an era when most performers relied on a small handful of professional musicians, Buck insisted on using his own players in the studio so that his recordings would capture the immediacy of his live shows (a decade before Waylon Jennings followed suite). Owens (similarly to James Brown) only hired the best and insisted on the highest standards
and expectations of his band, but he readily admitted the musicians with whom he worked were a significant factor in shaping the sound that kept him on top.

For now we'll leave Buck Owens and the Buckaroos in 1964 dominating the charts and, by remaining based in Bakersfield and recording in L.A., had launched a full-on assault to Nashville's control of country music - and there's more to come.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Welcome back to 1964 with Buck Owens having a string of # 1 hits. His 1960's recordings remain a great document in country music’s modern development. He helped create and popularise a spirited, rocking alternative to the dominant strains of 1950s and 1960s Nashville country. The energetic, electrified Bakersfield sound was predominantly honky tonk, yet also incorporated elements of r&b, rock’n’roll and Tex-Mex. Amid the smooth, sophisticated country of Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves, Buck’s records sounded fresh, streamlined, unvarnished and modern. In the studio, Buck and the well drilled Buckaroos were rehearsed and ready, and he insisted on getting an acceptable version in just a few takes, the better to preserve a sense of spontaneity.

The Nashville community tried to ignore what was happening out on the West Coast, but there were a few who not only took notice, but utilised element of the Bakersfield sound in their own recordings. Among the first was George Hamilton IV, who recorded a complete album of Bakersfield style country and had a hit with 'Truck Drivin’ Man'. Also, Roger Miller’s breakthrough hits were more in keeping with Buck Owens’ sound than the smoother Nashville Sound. Anyway, back to the music, including just some of Buck's # 1 hits of the 1960's -

Still in 1964 and written by Buck, 'I Don't Care (Just as Long as You Love Me)' was Owen's 4th consecutive # 1 hit, spending 6 weeks at # 1 and 27 weeks on the chart. This is what a Fender Telecaster is supposed to sound like -


Buck and songwriting legend Harlan Howard collaborated on many songs together, but the most successful of them was 'I’ve Got a Tiger By the tail', released in 1965. Buck and Harlan were traveling down a highway when an Esso service station sign that advertised “Put a tiger in your tank” sparked the idea. Not only did the song become the 5th in an unbelievable streak of 14 consecutive # 1 hits, it also hit # 25 on the pop charts, a major step in making Buck a household name. The song features one of of his most memorable opening lines - “I’ve got a tiger by the tail, it’s
plain to see
.” The song, of course, is about the narrator’s dealings with a wild woman than an actual tiger, so the slideshow here features my former girlfriends -


With a slower tempo than most of his work, 'Crying Time', written by Owens, was released it as the B side to single 'I've Got a Tiger By the Tail'. It gained greater success in the cover version recorded by Ray Charles, which won two Grammy Awards in 1967. Numerous other cover versions have been performed and recorded over the intervening years, making it a standard, despite it not being amongst Buck's dozens of big hits.


'Only You (Can Break My Heart)' from 1965 was Owens's 7th consecutive # 1 as his dominance through the 1960's continued unabated. Tom Brumley's brilliance on the pedal steel once again comes to the fore on this slower number -


Coming in at just over 2 minutes long, 'Buckaroo' was Buck's 4th # 1 in 1965 alone. In his posthumous autobiography, Owens revealed - “When Capitol put out ‘Buckaroo’ as my next single, I figured my streak of chart-topping singles was finally going to come to an end. I mean, whoever heard of a country instrumental making it to number one?” But that’s exactly what happened. The infectiously bouncy melody was a reminder that, not only was Buck an accomplished singer and songwriter, he was also a top-notch musician. He might have been a superstar by that time, but Buck was also a guitar slinger who still had a great love for the instrument and a passion for making records that showed off both his chops and the talents of his fantastic band

The track opens with a cheerful electric guitar solo, and when the drums and the rest of the band fall in, you might expect the singing to start - but it never does. That’s actually what’s most impressive about 'Buckaroo' - It’s an instrumental that still became a chart-topping hit. No instrumental song has ever topped the Billboard chart since -


By the end of 1965, Buck Owens had become the biggest name in country music and his band, the Buckaroos, headed by Don Rich, without doubt acknowledged as the best band. His fans even included the Beatles, who recorded their last ever full cover, 'Act Naturally' (suggested and sung by Ringo Starr) on their 1965 "Help" album. More is to come on Buck tomorrow.
 

Engimal v3

AAAAAAAAHH AAAAAAgoblins insIDe me getAAAAHHH AHHH
Sep 21, 2017
7,783
15,100
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
Tasmania
I'm a sucker for American C&W. My dad was a big Charlie Pride fan and used to chuck on Crystal Chandelier on when he got home from the pub. I used to hate it then, and I'd never thought I'd be listening to the same music as an adult.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
In 1966 and country music's top selling artist, Buck hosted his own weekly half-hour TV show, "Buck Owens Ranch". Taped in Oklahoma City, it was syndicated to more than 100 markets across the U.S.. Many top country acts guested on the show which, though heavily corn-balled, was immensely popular. In 1969 he became co-host of "Hee Haw", a popular CBS TV series that ran for more than 20 years. Owens was one of the few country artists familiar to general audiences that didn’t typically buy country records. The show, co-hosted by Roy Clarke (at Buck's insistence) mixed quick-cut, cornball humour with country music and attracted a bigger audience than even the Grand Ole Opry - thus it was that
Buck became the first major star in a generation to spurn, and in turn be soured by, the Opry.

Meanwhile, Buck and his Buckaroos continued to churn out a production line of # 1 hits.

'Waitin' in Your Welfare Line' is a 1966 single co-written by Buck, Nat Stuckey and Don Rich and was Owens 10th # 1
hit, spending 7 weeks at the top and 18 weeks on the chart. This draws from other musical influences - there’s a bit of a folksy, bluesy rock undertone - but the way its central premise is structured around a single, repeating metaphor (“I got the hungries for your love / And I’m waitin’ in your welfare line") is pure classic country. Owens sings it first in the song’s opening line, and then again and again as the tag in this hungry love song -


'Where Does the Good Times Go', written by Owens, was his 13th # 1 hit, spending 4 weeks at the top spot in 1967. With the now ubiquitous Buck Owens Sound, the song itself deals with another of those classic themes country music loves to tackle - when the one you still love no longer loves you back -
"... Lips that used to burn with love / Now are cold beneath my touch
Still I love you, Oh, so much! / Where does the good times go
? ..."


'Sam's Place' is a 1967 rockin' honky tonker written by another Bakersfield Sound pioneer, Red Simpso, and became Owen's 14th # 1 hit. The song is about a honky tonk called "Sam's Place," of which the singer is a regular all-night patron - "... You can always find me down at Sam's Place from the setting sun until the break of day" ... Other regulars include two women who are nicknamed for their dancing abilities and whose real names happen to rhyme with their respective hometowns - "Shimmy-Shakin'" Tina from Pasadena and "Hootchie-Kootchie" Hattie from Cincinnati -


Buck began experimenting musically in 1968 pulling away from his patented driving Bakersfield sound. 'How Long Will
My Baby Be Gone' was conventional enough; the ballad 'Sweet Rosie Jones' was a bit more dramatic, but 'I’ve Got You
On My Mind Again' was a much greater departure. Its R&B feel was unlike anything he’d previously recorded. His desire
to experiment beyond his well-known Bakersfield sound grew with numbers like the waltz-tempo 'Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass', which boasted the rock-style fuzztone guitar, and 'Tall Dark Stranger', both reached # 1 in 1969.

It sounds markedly different from many of Owens' early ‘60s singles, but there’s no denying how fun 1969’s 'Who’s
Gonna Mow Your Grass?' is. With an opening electric guitar riff that would sound at home on an early Beatles album, 'Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass?' features a narrator cleverly pleading his case to his lover - If you leave me, he asks her, “Who’s gonna bring you breakfast in bed? Who’s gonna whisper goodnight?- and, of course, most importantly, “Who’s gonna mow your grass?” country purists were outraged at Buck and Don for using a Fuzz sound in a country song


The 1970s may not be when most of Owens’ best-known work was recorded, but it would be a mistake to forget about 1971’s “Ruby (Are You Mad).” A successful #3 hit in its time, it’s nevertheless often overshadowed by his 21 # 1 hits or his earlier singles, but not here. Having added string banjoist Ronnie Jackson to the Buckaroos, this song has everything - big, echoey gang vocals, blistering guitar picking and a toe-tapping rhythm line -


Already a very wealthy man due to his music publishing company and ownership of a string of Californian radio stations (e.g. he owned both Bakersfield's leading rock and country music stations), he also founded "Performance Management" which was soon managing a score of young artists. In 1969, he opened "Buck Owens Studios" in an old movie theatre in downtown Bakersfield. Buck’s stature with Capitol permitted him extraordinary clout. A deal between Capitol and "Buck Owens Productions" allowed Buck to record not only himself but other artists under his management company in his Bakersfield studios. Capitol merely packaged and released the recordings. No other singer back then had a similar deal.

In 1971, Buck signed his final 4 year contract with Capitol, giving him something few artists ever received - outright ownership of all his Capitol recordings at the end of the contract. He continued to diversify musically. He followed his 1971 hit recording of Simon and Garfunkel’s 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' with an album featuring more Simon and Garfunkel songs and numbers by folk-rockers Donovan and Bob Dylan. He shifted musical directions again, adding 5 string banjoist Ronnie Jackson to the Buckaroos and recording two hit bluegrass numbers (as featured above).

Just when Buck seemed to have achieved everything he could, he was cut to the core by a tragedy that had a profound impact on him - both personally and professionally. But more on that on tomorrow's farewell to the great Buck Owens.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
I'm a sucker for American C&W. My dad was a big Charlie Pride fan and used to chuck on Crystal Chandelier on when he got home from the pub. I used to hate it then, and I'd never thought I'd be listening to the same music as an adult.
Ha ha - totally relate to that, right down to the Charlie Pride (and in my case, Johnny Cash) records - which I ignored as a teen. As I've said here a few times - real country music ain't so much for the young (not including the fake pop country stuff that Nashville markets to suburbia), but the best country songs are far better appreciated by adults with life's experiences. As for me, I was following the Blues Trail through the American South when I fell in with the right people who took me to the right honky tonks that got me into it (though I also still like other mostly 20th century American music - blues and jazz etc).
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Now for the remainder of Buck Owens and his music, starting with 'Made In Japan', released in 1972. It was Owens'
last # 1 as a solo artist. Notice how well the Buckaroos blended pure American country with a kind of Japanese feel.
The slideshow has photos of girls I've met on my Japanese trips -


In 1974 Buck suffered a sudden, tragic blow from which it took him years to recover. His right-hand man and best friend, Don Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident. Owens was devastated and for a long time he suffered bouts of depression and later admitted that his heart was not really into making music, stating - "He was like a brother, a son and a best friend. Something I never said before, maybe I couldn't, but I think my music life ended when he died. Oh yeah, I
carried on and I existed, but the real joy and love, the real lightning and thunder is gone forever
." Owens never fully recovered from the tragedy, either emotionally or professionally, and his epic run of chart topping hits dried up.

In 1975, Andy Wickham of Warner, a long time Buck Owens fan, signed him to Warners. For the first time in his career he was recording in Nashville with session players and his music began to sound more like Nashville style country-pop than the hard-edged Bakersfield sound he had become famous for, but that’s because he relinquished creative control of his records to the producers. None of his Warners’ singles cracked the top 10 and in 1980 Buck quit performing altogether. For the first time in 23 years, Buck Owens was no longer recording, concentrating instead on his many business interests.

Buck was lured back in by Dwight Yoakam, a longtime fan, in 1988. Owens was arguably the most powerful man in Bakersfield , and his dominance over the local music scene earned the town the nickname "Buckersfield". “Bakersfield
will always be home to me
,” Owens often said when asked about his decision to build his empire outside the Nashville establishment. It’s fitting then, that he would paid his chosen city by recording Homer Joy’s 'Streets of Bakersfield'. Although only an album cut in 1973, Dwight Yoakam suggested that he and Buck revive the song in the late 1980'.
Their duet version of the now-classic tune, with Scott Joss on mandolin and Flaco Jiménez on accordion, reached
the top of the charts in 1988, marking Buck’s final # 1 hit -
"... You don't know me but you don't like me, / You say you care less how I feel /
How many of you that sit and judge me / Ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?
..."


Now I could end the Buck Owens story on that note, but I have a few extras. When Buck was invited to play NYC's hallowed Carnegie Hall, he at first declined the honour. He assumed the venue wouldn't sell well as the Manhattan
crowd wouldn’t be interested in his music. However when producer Ken Nelson suggested they record the performance and release it as Buck’s first live album, he reconsidered. The now-legendary performance occurred in March 1966. Any fears Owens might have had about being accepted in New York were quickly put to rest when he and the classic lineup
of the Buckaroos ripped into the opening song, 'Act Naturally'. The crowd responded so enthusiastically the band had to extend the introduction so the audience could quiet down enough for Buck to start singing. The fans loved the live version just as enthusiastically. The Carnegie Hall Concert with Buck Owens and his Buckaroos LP hit # 1 in 1966 and although he recorded several live albums afterwards (including one at the Sydney Opera House, another at the Palladium in London), this is regarded as THE classic Buck Owens album -


In an era when country music was still very much regionalised, Buck and the Buckaroos were widening their appeal way outside the usual country music confines. They had become firm favourites of the Beatles, especially Ringo, who was a country music fan. From Ringo's autobiography, "Let It Be" - "I love country music and country rock". As related in his book, "Ticket To Ride", Larry Kane asked Ringo in 1965 - “What were some of the influences on you as a musician?” He replied, “Well, been listening to American country songs since I was a kid, y’know. Think all of us love the sound. Maybe John and Paul put a little of that in their sound, y’know.” In fact, both John and Paul revealed in interviews that some of their songs were written with country music in mind

In return Buck and his right-hand man Don Rich were fans of the Beatles’ early music, even before they covered
'Act Naturally'. The pair had every Beatles album, and onstage did an imitation of the Liverpool accent. The mutual admiration society of the two acts was so strong that Capitol Records always ensured that a new Buck Owens album
was sent immediately to the Beatles. Finally, Buck and Ringo got together and it seemed they had a fair bit of fun
making this video, which resulted in Buck's last top 40 hit (# 27) in 1989 -


'Streets of Bakersfield' was Buck’s last # 1 hit, but he remained a mainstay on the country scene as a mentor, performer, and statesman, battling health problems over the final years of his career. He’d undergone surgery for throat cancer in 1993, was hospitalised with pneumonia in 1997 and suffered a stroke in early 2004 and for several months was physically impaired. In 1996 he was finally, by overwhelming popular demand, inducted into the Country Music HoF, despite its secret committee known to be the scions of the Nashville music establishment which Buck was never a part of, keeping
his home and business empire in Bakersfield.

The legendary singer, guitarist, songwriter and astute businessman died in his sleep from a heart attack in 2006 The previous evening, just hours earlier, he played an hour-long set at his famed Crystal Palace nightclub in Bakersfield.

Buck Owens’ impact on country music was enormous not only in the performing area, but also in terms of songwriting and business. It’s been said that the mark of a great artist is the apparent ease with which they perform their craft. In country music, few have ever made it look easier than Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. For over three decades, he had infused country music with his aw-shucks humour, but behind the laughs, Buck Owens made a lasting impact on the country scene, with his no-frills, energetic, exuberant Bakersfield sound. He made some of the greatest, most exciting records in modern country music history. He was a genuine country legend, both as a performer and in his many other achievments. The biggest country star of the 1960s, Owens was a colossus, and should be remembered in the same breath as Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, George Jones, Merle Haggard and
Willie Nelson.

Anyway, after 6 straight days of the Bakersfield Sound and Buck Owens, I'm hitting the road again for at least another week, which might allow a chance for some to catch up on the history.
 
Last edited:

(Log in to remove this ad.)

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
I'm back again and ready with more country music history as we make our way through the 1960's. The time has finally arrived to introduce the artist that inspired the Outlaw Movement and remains one of country music’s most unique artists, with a laid-back vocal style and a free, creative approach that he has used for traditional country ballads, rowdy honky tonkers and folk-story over 60 hits, he helped Waylon Jennings get his first record deal, and was among the first to champion country singer/songwriters Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Shel Silverstein, and Rodney Crowell. His low-key, laid-back personality may be one of the reasons he didn't receive the recognition he deserved until the last decade his status soar. His rise to stardom makes for an interesting story, and I'll use his words
to tell a just a few key points of it all.

Born in 1935 in Ohio, but raised on a farm in Kentucky, Bobby Bare had a rough early life, stating - "Well, my mother died when I was 5. ... I had 2 sisters, age 7 and 2. My dad couldn't take care of all us. So my younger sister was adopted out, my other sister stayed with my grandparents ..." To cope with the unease of being shifted around so much, the youngster dreamed of being a country singer and even made his first guitar - "Yeah. I'd get me a coffee can, put a flat stick in it, get some screen wires to make some strings - your imagination really works good when you're young. It sounded like sh*t."

Although he lived and worked on a farm, Bare picked up some eclectic musical influences during his youth - "We didn't have any rock 'n' roll or other country, really all we had was the Grand Ole Opry, that was my favorite, but I always listened to the big bands of the '40s and I liked different songs - and then, of course, there came Hank Williams, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce, Hank Thompson, and Little Jimmy Dickens. I loved all of that, still do".

Bare quit school at age 15, despite being a gifted student - "I couldn't get along with my stepmother. So, I left home and stayed with my grandmother and put a little band together." He and his group began playing on a morning radio show
in Springfield, Ohio, which led on to a much better weekly radio gig in Wilston. "Looking back, I was really hot. We were broadcasting live from a radio station which was a farm house out in the middle of a field. This was before TV completely took over in about '52 or '53. On Saturday afternoons, it wasn't unusual to look out the window of the radio station while we were broadcasting and see a 100 cars parked in that field watching the farm house."

After going as far as he could in Ohio, Bare got a ride to the West Coast with a man who claimed to know famed
country instrumentalists Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West - "The reason he wanted us to go was because he didn't
have any money and he needed someone to pay for gas.
" After an adventurous ride that necessitated playing for tips
to raise petrol money, Bare arrived in California to a pleasant surprise: "... it turns out this old boy we were riding with really did know Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West. Speedy loved my singing and started taking me around ... Speedy was the one who got me a record deal with Capitol".

Recording for legendary producer Ken Nelson (who worked with Wanda Jackson, Buck Owens, Gene Vincent, etc.), Bare's future seemed assured. However, the young singer's first single - a cover of Buck Owens's 'Down On the Corner of Love' bombed, so Nelson decided to make his next outing a rockabilly record - "That didn't work ... They weren't very good records." As Nelson wouldn't let him pursue his own musical ideas, Bare quit Capitol, signed with the small Challenge
label and recorded with his friends "The Champs" (of 'Tequila' fame), but these didn't click either. Friend and Bakersfield Sound pioneer, Wynn Stewart helped keep him employed in California clubs, but just as he was making headway in his own nightspot, Bare was drafted into the army.

Back in Ohio awaiting army induction, Bare ran into his friend Bill Parsons who was just being discharged. Parsons wanted a record deal and Bare advised him to cut some demos - "So, we got some musicians off the streets of Dayton, Ohio, I got this old boy who bought the club I used to work in - his name was Cherokee - and he wanted to be in the record business. So, he was paying for the studio time and the musicians. We went to King Records in Cincinnati and did some demos, spent most of the 3 hours working on a thing called 'Rubber Dolly,' with Bill [Parsons] singing it. In the meantime, I was making up this talking blues song about going into the army. We had 15 minutes left and I said, 'Let me put this down real quick so I don't forget it.' So, I did. That was 'The All-American Boy'. ... Bill and I went back up to Dayton to
a bar we used to hang out in and Cherokee went down to the record company to get an acetate made and they heard it and wanted to put it out. While he was there, he called us at the club and said that they had offered him 500 bucks, I said, 'Hell, take it. Just don't put my name on it'."
They didn't.

The next time Bare heard 'The All-American Boy' was during his basic training stint at Fort Knox. By the time he came home on leave, the satirical allusion to both his and Elvis Presley's rise to fame and subsequent army hitch was one of
the hottest records in the country, hitting # 2 on the pop charts in 1959. Fraternity had put Bill Parsons' name on the
label - Bare was still under contract to Challenge - and had Parsons lip-synch the record on tour -

Although he never received any royalties for the song, Bare didn't begrudge his friend the hit. "No. No, not at all," Bare stated. "Fact is, it was really good that my name wasn't on that record. Because then I probably wouldn't have had any serious hits like 'Detroit City.' I would've been pegged as a novelty type guy."

During his 2 year army hitch, Bare entered several talent competitions and even appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show with an instrumental combo called the "Latin Five". Fraternity had discovered it was his voice on their biggest hit and began recording sides crediting Bare on the label. None became hits, but 'Book of Love" was a near-miss in 1961. Bare recorded 3 "twist" songs for the teen flick "Teenage Millionaire", but he ached to record country music - "I made records for about
a year or so for Fraternity. By then all my friends that I started out with in California - Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran, all them people had moved to Nashville and became really successful ... But, they all ganged up and told [RCA vice-president and guitarist extraordinaire] Chet [Atkins] how great I was and he wanted to meet me. So, I met Chet who said, 'Come back in a week and we'll have you a contract and look for songs, cut you a record.'"


At RCA, Atkins listened to Bare's ideas. When he wanted to use horns on a country record - a first for Nashville - and strings, Atkins made it happen. The result was Bare's breakout hit 'Shame On Me'. Better still was his Grammy-winning rendition of the Mel Tillis and Danny Dill-penned 'Detroit City' which became a classic anthem for displaced southerners everywhere - "I heard Billy Grammer's record of 'Detroit City' while I was driving down the street one day and I damn near wrecked my car. I thought it was the greatest song I ever heard in my life."

Bare hailed from Ironton, Ohio on the West Virginia-Kentucky border, a hard-luck region that sent tens of thousands of of its citizens (and millions, both black and whites, from the South in general) north after WW2 to seek work in such factory hubs like Dayton, Cleveland and Detroit. All the loneliness and homesickness these immigrant “hillbillies” endured seep through in this recording. It reached # 16 on the pop charts (Bare was still regarded as a pop artist rather than country) and # 6 on the country charts in 1963 (yes - this now country standard didn't reach # 1 at the time, but it rightfully netted Bare a Grammy for best country single) -

'Detroit City' is definitely a song for a period in time which no longer exists. These days, those formerly great Northern industrial cities full of thriving factories keeping millions in secure employment, have seen most of their factories closed, their products replaced by Chinese imports. They have become filthy, crime, drug and rat infested shitholes run by totally corrupt mayors or councils, so the grandsons and daughters of those migrant Southerners are now fleeing these cesspits and heading back to the now prosperous South (except the still poor Appalachian area), the original home of their ancestors.

During his early period with RCA, one that rode the wave of folk music that became so popular in the early 1960s, Bare's records were as much folk as country - "That was just the taste I had in songs at the time. I wrote '500 Miles away from Home,' that's an old folk song. I was driving back home from San Diego one night when I lived in California and I heard Peter, Paul, & Mary sing that and I said, 'godamn that's great!' I remembered that title, so I just wrote a new set of lyrics and recorded it".

Like 'Detroit City', this is another classic lyrical essay on homesickness. In an era when long-distance phone calls were
a luxury, interstate highways were rare and email nonexistent, 500 miles was a world away from family and the familiar. This re-working of Hedy West’s re-working of even older fragments of folk songs reached # 5 (and # 10 on the pop chart) in 1963 -


Bare's music became increasingly country with such hits as the ballad 'Millers Cave', which got to # 4 and was also Bare's third consecutive top 40 pop chart hit (all produced by Chet Atkins) -
"... They laughed at me and then I shot 'em / I took their cheatin', schemin' bones to Miller's Cave ..."


'Four Strong Winds' was a Top 10 song in Canada in 1963 for the Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia, but it didn’t make the U.S. charts until Bare released his slightly more uptempo country cover. The song falls into the “drifting lover’" category in which a man’s wanderlust is invariably more compelling than his love for any girl he romances on his travels -
“... But my good times all are gone / And I’m bound for moving on / I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way...”
Bare’s version reached # 3 in 1965 -


I'll leave off now until tomorrow with Bobby Bare at the zenith of his career, but with interesting times still ahead.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
As the 1960's progressed, Bare continued to blur the lines between country and folk, influenced by songwriters like Bob Dylan, recording his material and several of his contemporaries. Not only did he explore American folk, but Bare traveled to England, where he was popular. In 1968 he recorded an album with a Liverpool country band called "The Hillsiders (The English Country Side)".

The Streets of Baltimore, a # 3 hit in 1965, featured Waylon Jennings singing backing bass and Jerry Reed (Hubbard) playing guitar. The song itself has a familiar liar theme - country = simplicity and virtue; city = corruption and evil. This was the equation for many early country songs, and it certainly holds true for this one. Here the husband reluctantly gives in to his wife’s entreaties to move where the bright lights are. And, at first, even he’s charmed by them. But eventually, he comes home from his factory job “with every muscle sore” only to have her “drag” him through the streets of Baltimore. So he leaves her immersed in the nightlife and heads back to the farm alone. The city has done him in -

Ironically, just like yesterday's 'Detroit City', Baltimore is now a filthy, rat infested, corrupt hell-hole that no-one wants to go to. It's pretty much the worst place to go to these days in the whole U.S.A.

Bare used his power as a hitmaker to introduce his friend Waylon Jennings to RCA, and to craft unusual projects such as the narrative-oriented 'Bird Named Yesterday'. By decade's end, he scored a major hit with his former bass player Tom T. Hall's song, '(Maggie's at) The Lincoln Park Inn', which shocked listeners with its matter-of-fact approach to adultery.

This is country music at it's best - telling what really goes on in life. A string section undergirds a scene of domestic harmony as the singer daydreams about the woman who waits for him at the local motel. Quite aware of the disconnect between what he seems to be (a regular, happily married church-going family man and what he really is - an adulterer - the singer ends with the scene of his little son in bed and his wife baking cookies. However, he’s conveniently “... almost out of cigarettes and Margie’s at the Lincoln Park Inn.” Some radio stations refused to program this song because it didn’t overtly condemn the man’s cheating. Despite this, it still reached # 4 in 1969 -

It's hard to imagine now, but Bare wasn't allowed to sing this then controversial hit on a scheduled American Bandstand appearance. But the times were changing.

In 1970, Bare switched to Mercury Records where he recorded Kris Kristofferson's 'Come Sundown' and 'Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends' along with another Tom T. Hall composition, 'How I Got To Memphis'. The song has another of those classic country music themes (e.g. Elvis' 'Kentucky Rain') - the quest to find a former lover (who probably doesn't want to be found). This reached # 3 in 1970 -


Keenly appreciative of the great country songwriters, Bare produced albums on such legendary songsmiths as Harlan Howard, Mickey Newberry, and Billy Joe Shaver. That said, the songwriter most in tune with his own sensibilities was Shel Silverstein. "Well, I loved Shel's songs before I even knew he wrote them," Bare disclosed. "Years ago I heard Burl Ives singing a song on TV called, 'Time.' I had no idea that Shel wrote that but I loved that song, eventually I cut it a couple of times. Once I was in Europe and I heard Marianne Faithfull sing 'The Ballad of Lucy Jordan' and I said, 'God, that's great!' I found out years later that Shel wrote that. Then, of course, I heard 'Sylvia's Mother' and I thought, 'Man that's great!' Anyway, Shel is the greatest lyricist there ever was."

In 1973, Chet Atkins invited Bare back to RCA, where he signed on condition that he could produce his own records. Bare recorded and self-produced the album "Ride Me Down Easy" (titled from the Shaver song). That album set the precedent of artistic control that other artists, particularly Waylon Jennings, would take and craft into the "Outlaw" movement. Silverstein figured prominently upon Bare's return to RCA, where he wrote Bare's first country music concept album, "Lullabys, Legends & Lies" in 1973, which has since become a classic country album. It contained the singer's duet
with his 5 year old son Bobby, Jr., 'Daddy What If' and his lone chart-topper 'Marie Laveau'.

Later to follow in his father's footsteps as a singer/songwriter, Bobby Bare Jr. poses a series of cosmic questions to his
dad in the Silverstein written 'Daddy What If?' - What would happen if the sun stopped shining, the wind stopped blowing and the grass stopped growing? The father’s answers are gentle and reassuring. Then comes the toughest question of all - What if he stopped loving his dad? The success of this single, which went to # 2, set the stage for the 1974 album "Bobby Bare and the Family Singin’ in the Kitchen" -


The message is clear in 'Marie Laveau' - Don’t mess around with voodoo queen Marie Laveau or you’ll never leave the swamp where she practices her black arts. Originally recorded by Dr. Hook for the band’s self-titled 1972 debut album, amazingly, given the status now accorded to his earlier hits like 'Detroit City' and '500 Miles Away From Home' etc) this was Bare’s only song to attain # 1, in 1974 -


More tomorrow where we see, even as Bare fades from the mainstream, he gains a new younger audience non-traditional college audience and the respect of a new generation of country artists.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Yesterday we left Bobby Bare in 1974 having a successful collaboration with poet and songwriter, Shel Silverstein.
Many other Silverstein songs figured prominently during Bare's renewed chart run, most notably 'The Winner' and the controversial 'Drop Kick Me, Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life)', the latter former President Clinton's favorite song.

'The Winner' is baroom song about Pyrrhic victories, which reached # 13 in 1976. The singer of the song wants to pick
a fight with the legendary Tiger Man McCool to see who’s the tougher. But before the challenger can land his first shot, McCool takes him on a wound-by-wound tour of his own battered body to show what being a winner gets you. All in all
it's a cautionary tale for those who like their drunken barroom fights (which ain't such a thing now as they used to be back in the day) -


'Drop-kick Me Jesus' is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to America’s greatest passions - Christianity (though now fading) and (American) football. Bare sings it with the seriousness of an evangelist who’s picked a metaphor that runs away with him. Some actually took this song seriously or literally and it reached # 17 in 1976 -


In 'Red-Neck Hippie Romance', Bare goes with a topical theme, but in a style that seems a throwback to his very first 1958 hit 'All-American Boy'. This song also shows how times have changed - these days, listening to the Rolling Stones and rolling a reefer is what rednecks do. However not liking Hank Williams remains a relationship breaker -


Due to his outsider stance and willingness to record material by Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, and the Rolling Stones, Bare has always had credibility with rock audiences. Acknowledging his ability to convey a song's story, famed promoter Bill Graham christened Bare the "Bruce Springsteen of country" in 1977. One of the few country veterans to regularly receive airplay on FM rock radio, he garnered a surprisingly strong following among college audiences of the era -
though in truth, it was probably helped by his beerdrinking songs.

Bare’s 1980 album "Down & Dirty" sounded like a live concert album, but it was actually recorded in a studio with a live audience. This fun, rowdy, rockin’ collection included such tunes as 'Numbers' and 'Tequila Sheila'. 'Numbers' wouldn't be allowed in our censorious times, but from a freer age, when a popular movie was titled 'Ten', it explains why woman can be ranked thus. This reached # 11 in 1980 -


One of the great barroom singalong songs, 'Tequila Sheila' -


Although Bare had done much to widen the parameters of mainstream country music, country AM radio playlists
couldn't find room for his work during the neotraditional 1980's as Bare's music explored new horizons - "I like
everything I record. I’m afraid that if I recorded something that I didn’t like, it might be a big hit and I’d be stuck
with it every night for the rest of my life. That’s a real nightmare
".

From 1983 to 1988 Bare hosted the TV show "Bobby Bare and Friends" on The Nashville Network. Thanks to Bare’s easygoing manner, the series captured American musicians and songwriters in an intimate way that few televised programs have. The show was based on what Bare called “guitar pulling”: “That’s where somebody plays and then someone can’t wait to pull the guitar away and sing his song.” This series displayed his gift for gathering diverse poets, songwriters, musicians, and actors together to exchange ideas and swap tunes. Guests included cultural icons such as Emmylou Harris, B.B. King, John Prine, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins, and Roger Miller. The interviews, often conducted casually around a recording console or a piano, resulted in frank conversations about the guests’ personal
and artistic lives (there's some great YouTube clips for anyone interested). In 2018, Bare launched a podcast with the same name.

In 1998, Bare recorded an album of Silverstein songs titled "Old Dogs" with his friends Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed,
and Mel Tillis. Most of the songs focused on the idea of aging. By the 2000s, Bare was mostly in retirement, doing a
lot of fishing but still played a number of live shows. In 2005, he released the album "The Moon Was Blue", produced
by his son Bobby Jr. In 2012, he released the album "Darker Than Light", a collection of folk songs and a cover of U2’s
'I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For'. The album "Things Change", featuring a duet with Chris Stapleton on a new version of Bare’s classic 'Detroit City' was released in 2017. This album also includes 'Trophy Girl' the last song written by much-admired Texas songsmith Guy Clark. Early in 2018, Bare released his version of Mary Gauthier's 'I Drink' as a single.

Bare was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 - "The gods have always smiled on me. I’m just a singer - and ain’t I something!” he said at his induction. In 2018, Bare was re-inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, having been originally admitted in the early 1960s, but drifted away from during the 1970s.

In 2020, Bare’s album "Great American Saturday Night", with all songs written by Shel Silverstein, was released after 42 years of living in a record company vault. Recorded in 1978, it didn’t disintegrate into ashes but it did disappear from the memories of everyone except Bare, who knew the songs were timeless - “I had one album left on my contract with RCA so Shel and I got together and we did this one. Columbia Records had already told me they wanted me to come over there, and Chet was gone from RCA. I turned the album in to Jerry Bradley and he told me if I left RCA the album would never see the light of day. So I left RCA and went to Columbia and they were true to their word – it never came out. Then a few years ago all those labels merged. One day I was talking to the people at Columbia and I said, ‘You know I have an album that I recorded back in the ‘70’s for RCA and it was never released.’ So they went looking for it and found it, and now it’s finally going to be released.

Bobby Bare, at age 86, when he's not out fishing, continues to record a variety of compelling material some 70 years after he started.
 

Contra Mundum

To Know Nothing is the Happiest Life
Aug 1, 2002
22,628
10,230
North Melbourne
AFL Club
North Melbourne
Other Teams
NMFC
I think you are a bit harsh on Merle Haggard. He is not one of my favourites but he has plenty of credibility and you make him sound like an early version of Billy Ray Cyrus !!!!

I agree with your love of Gillian Welch, she is amazing.

I grew up listening to Tom T Hall. He was my Dad's favourite singer and remains one of mine. His songwriting is brilliant. The son of a preacher, he has a great social conscience and it shows in his writing and singing. He loves small town America and it's people but rails against small minded people.A tribute album of his work came out a few years back and Whiskeytown, Johnny Cash, Victoria Williams, Iris DeMent and Calexico were only some of the artists to appear on there. Gram Parsons And Jeannie C Riley also covered his songs.

If you live in Perth which I think you do, get along to The Norfolk Basement on August 7 to see local girl Natalie D Napoleon who has just returned from the US where she has recorded a new album of alt country. She is fabulous. (Disclaimer - she is my cousin, but I would not recommend her if she wasn't as good as she is!)





I have 2 kids live in Wichita. Great song !
Except Glenn Campbell did not write it - Wichita Lineman, Galveston and By the Time I Get to Phoenix were all written by Jimmy Webb - who is a complete genius. Jimmy did great paired back versions of his own songs on the amazing "Ten Easy Pieces" album
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Though finished with Bobby Bare's story (at age 86 there's probably not a whole lot more to come), I have some bonus extras. For those who like 1960's "classic country" (as it's now termed) I've included a couple of songs from Bare and Skeeter Davis (see posts # 447-448 for her story), together. They recorded 2 duet albums, the first of which was 1965's top-selling "Tunes for Two". The album's big hit was a remake of Jean Shepard and Ferlin Husky's 'A Dear John Letter'
(see post # 251), originally a Korean War era song that seemed timely again in light of the growing conflict in Vietnam. But I thought I'd include a couple of other songs from that album.

Starting with a song that wasn't originally country, or even American, French singer-songwriter Gilbert Becaud recorded this 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, titled 'Let It Be Me', reaching #57 on the pop charts. The Everly Brothers popularized the song with their 1959 which reached # 7 on the pop charts - it still wasn't really a "country" version (see post # 395),
then in 1964, soul singers Betty Everett and Jerry Butler released their soulful cover which reached # 5. But it was
Bobby Bare and Skeeter Davis who first "countrified" the beautiful 'Let It Be Me' -


'We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds' was a # 3 hit for as a duet by George Jones and Melba Montgomery and became a country music standard - a perfect example of the "1960's classic country". It's also (IMO) technically the best that Bare and Skeeter sung as a duet -


We've seen in the last few days that Bobby Bare laden the groundwork of his future success in California where he was heavily influenced by the Bakersfield Sound and Buck Owen. In the Buck Owens history (post # 457), I wrote - "'Together Again' is now a country classic, one that has spawned dozens upon dozens of covers. But the original belongs to Owens, who wrote the song". Those covers include Ray Charles, Glenn Campbell, Wanda Jackson, Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakham and Vince Gill. But before any of them was this from Bobby and Skeeter, with it's Ray Price shuffle beat,
from the "Tunes for Two" album -


At age 84, Bare released his forlorn new song, 'Snowflake In The Wind'. Attended by moody acoustic guitar line and his aged, quavering, sorrowful vocals, the song encapsulates the feeling of loneliness that follows the loss of a relationship, exploring his options and broken heart post breakup. The now legendary singer asks his mother for help, then thinks about packing up and moving somewhere else, feeling lost like a snowflake blowing aimlessly in the wind. Instead of opting to move to another location, Bare decides to stay put, because the pain would follow him anywhere. Bare still knows how to write and deliver a song of loneliness-


So that's all for Bobby Bare (you can probably tell I've enjoyed the last two in Buck Owens and Bobby Bare). When I'm next back, it be with another all time legend of American music - but not one usually associated with country music.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Now for another legend, one of the greatest American musicians - though like a select few I've covered (Frankie Lane
posts # 255-257, Ray Charles, # 443-445) not noted for country music. But, similar to Ray Charles and his album 'Modern Sounds in Country Music', this artist brought out an album in 1963 that not only produced a smash country hit but had a profound impact on the sound of pop-country (as opposed to the Bakersfield Sound) going forward into the 1960's. As with Ray Charles, I will omit much of his music history as being outside the scope of country music history
and just skim over the surface.

Although born a southerner in Alabama in 1919, the son of a Baptist minister, Nathaniel Cole moved with his family to Chicago at age 4, so unlike Ray Charles he didn't listen to the Grand Ole Opry growing up in the south. Instead he got into the happening Chicago jazz scene, as did his 3 brothers, in time all becoming professional jazz musicians. Nat 'King' Cole started out playing jazz piano, and established himself as one of the very best. His trio - piano, bass and guitar - turned rhythm and melody into a seamless mix and when he found a Californian bride and settled in L.A. he developed the famed "West Coast" Jazz Sound. For that alone, we would celebrate Nat King Cole as a master musician. But there was much more to come.

But what ultimately defined Coles' greatness and his groundbreaking success, wasn't his playing. It was his voice - arguably there was non better in the 20th century. Nat King Cole's voice was liquid, soothing. His pitch was impeccable. And there's a word you hear a lot when people talk about Nat King Cole: relaxed - "When you start listening to him, one of the most important things is he keeps you relaxed," said Cole's younger brother, Freddie Cole. "The amazing thing about Nat's voice is that it has this kind of incandescent quality to it, it's like some kind of magic spell is being cast." music historian Will Friedwald says. And singer Aaron Neville - "He just hypnotized me. It was like medicine to me."

Nat King Cole was more than just successful. In the the 15 years between Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley, Cole was the world's most successful singer. "He is, without a doubt, the single biggest record-seller of his generation," Friedwald said. "The only one that comes close is - a generation later - is Elvis. I mean, Nat Cole just has hit single after hit single, and nobody could come near him, not even Sinatra". So successful was he that the iconic round Hollywood office tower of Capital Records has been for decades dubbed "Nats Tower", as it was Cole as it's major star that transformed the once fledgling recording company into one of the nation's biggest.

Nat King Cole broke another color line - TV, which back then was basically all white people until Cole got a show in 1956 on NBC - and it topped the ratings, attracting a bevy of top performers. However The "Nat King Cole Show" aired without commercial sponsorship as agencies could not persuade a national client to buy time on, despite its success. They were afraid white Southerners would boycott their products. The show didn't survive, but a taboo was broken.

In 1963, having moved ever more away from his jazz forte towards more commercial pop oriented material to maximise his commercial success, Cole released an album with a distinct country feel - not just in the song selection but also the musical arrangements. The album, released several months after Ray Charles groundbreaking "Modern Sounds in Country Music".

The great hit, # 1 or 2 across the charts and a world wide hit from the album was 'Ramblin' Rose'. The full impact of
this song wasn't truly appreciated until an interview with our next artist in 2014 revealed just how pivotal its musical arrangement was to the Nashville Sound as it subtly changed through the 1960's - but I'll tell that story when the time comes. It's enough to know to now that the musical accompaniment of this song had a very direct influence on the success of our next artist. It's also the reason why Nat King Cole appears in this country music history - without this
song, there'd be no Cole here, no matter how great a jazz and pop artist he was.

The song itself, beautifully sung of course as only Nat King Cole could, is thoroughly in the great tradition of country
songs about those who can't be "tied down" - e.g Hank Williams 'Ramblin Man', Merle Haggard's 'Ramblin' Fever', Roger Millers 'King of the Road', only in this case it's about a female - one who the singer can't but help desiring, even though he wonders why (... why I want you, heaven knows.. ), but being a free spirit, she stays beyond his grasp, playing the field (not quite the done thing for most females in 1963) - hence he poses the question -
"... Who will love you, with a love true / When your ramblin' days are gone? ..."


Now, as I said, Nat King Cole really only got into this here history because of 'Ramblin Rose'. However, being the legendary singer he was, I have to include some of his covers, starting with the standard 'He'll Have To Go'. As we've seen, the original was by country music master vocalist, Jim Reeves (see post 385) and to this day there's still online debate about who delivered the best version. Both are great -


Next we have Claude King's 'Wolverton Mountain' (see post # 440) which not only has King's original, but also has the back-story behind the song, being based on an actual real person, Clifton Clowers, albeit with a fanciful story about him -


'One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)' was first recorded by Singing Cowboy, Jimmy Wakely (who alas didn't
make the cut to appear in this history), and was a # 1 hit in 1948. The most successful cover was by Jerry Lee Lewis (posts 349-352) which reached # 3 in 1969 -


'Goodnight, Irene' or 'Irene, Goodnight' (just take your pick) is a 19th century song written and published in 1886 by Gussie Lord Davis, an African American songwriter. The song (by then much altered) was first recorded in 1932 by Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, who claimed he learned the song from his uncle. The lyrics tell of the singer's troubled past with his love, Irene, and express his sadness and frustration. Several verses make explicit reference to contemplated suicide, most famously in the line "... sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown ..." which was the inspiration for the 1964 Ken Kesey novel "Sometimes a Great Notion". In 1950, US folk group The Weavers recorded a version which went to #1. Although generally faithful, the Weavers chose to omit some of Leadbelly's more controversial lyrics, leading Time magazine to label it a "dehydrated" and "prettied up" version of the original. However, due to it's popularity, The Weavers' lyrics are the ones generally generally used now and here -


A long time heavy smoker and a performer in so many smoky jazz venues, Nat King Cole died in 1965 of lung cancer. His reputation as one of the all time greats of American music - particularly, but not limited to jazz - lives on unabated.

The next artist to be featured had a massive 1950's hit that is oh so 1950's - but he couldn't back it up and looked to be just another one hit wonder (albeit a huge one) - that is until an extensive collaboration with Nat King Cole set him on the path to be the most successful country artist in the 2 decades 1961 to 1980. Yet his reputation hasn't really endured the passing of years, being largely forgotten now apart from his 1950's mega-hit.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
... And this one is huge for me as well:

Not pc and a physical release is hard to get by. Sadly.
That song is really bleak - but it reflects a reality for so many - especially in the deindustrialised "rust belt" of rural and middle America, who livelihoods and even purpose in life have been sacrificed by the corporate elites for the greater profits for a few from cheap off-shore labour. Then there's others that have their own reasons to escape reality. The bleakness is real.

As for drinking songs, between Hank Jnr & Hank 3, they had some great ones - but for Hank Snr it was all too much. Here's the Texan band, Midland, with their throwback sound, a bit like The Eagles meeting George Strait, at the iconic Gruene Hall, just out of San Antonio on the road to Austin -
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
We've seen how Buck Owens had # 1 hit after # 1 hit through the 1960's with the driving beat of "The Bakersfield Sound" (see posts # 455-463). However our next artist went toe to toe with him in racking up # 1 hits through the sixties and early seventies - though in truth they weren't really competing for the same audience. Buck Owens and his music appealed to a traditional rural and blue collar audiences. We now have an artist who filled the suburban pop-country vacancy left by the tragic demise of Jim Reeves - and fill it he did with his already extensive lifelong experience in the music business, possessing great vocals, an accomplished guitarist and one who found a formula for sustained success.

Born James Loden in 1928, in rural Alabama to musician parents, “Sonny” as he was nicknamed, began performing as a child with his family. At age 3, he received his first mandolin, handmade by his father from a molasses bucket. He soon also learned to play the guitar and fiddle and win fiddle championships as a teen. The Loden family were reasonably successful, playing on radio stations and in schoolhouses around the South. During their travels, James met and briefly roomed with another young musician named Chet Atkins (yep - his name just keeps appearing in this history), which in time became most fortuitous.

In 1950, James was sent to the Korean War. While stationed there, he began seriously writing songs. After leaving the service, he went to Nashville to pursue a career in music. He looked up his old roommate, Atkins, who was impressed enough to introduce him to Ken Nelson of Capitol Records. Nelson suggested that he adopt the stage name Sonny James, which was easier for DJs and fans to remember. The singer would soon get the nickname “the Southern Gentleman”; as a soft-spoken and humble man with impeccable manners. James lived up to that description on stage and off for the rest of his life. Try as I did to find some vice or scandal about him, whether it be with booze, drugs, brawling, women or young girls (like Jim Reeves), I found nothing at all - it looks like he really was just an all round nice guy.

We now, for about the last time, take a quick trip back to the 1950's. After having his first top 10 hit in 1953 with
'That’s Me Without You', James scored a massive worldwide crossover hit in late 1956. This was an era of songs celebrating teenage love and marriage (e.g. Marty Robbins' 'She Was Only Seventeen And He Was One Year More'
and Nat King Coles 'Too Young'. I think this requires an explanation to be able to appreciate these songs that come
from a very different era from today.

Some songs reflect (albeit unintentionally) much of the era it came out - and 'Young Love' is one of those songs. To understand why this became such a big crossover country and pop hit in 1956/57, you need to use your imagination. First, cast yourself back to being a teenager - for some here, that may be going back a long way but at least we've all been there before, so that's the easy part. Next remember your first teen romance - again it shouldn't be too hard, for despite all the ones since, one always remember the first. Now comes the hard part - put yourself into the 1950's - a
time when I didn't even exist let alone remember. This is a time before the pill and the resulting sexual revolution of the sixties, where the majority still had no sex before marriage and when marrying young was normal and even encouraged - and this was especially so in the Bible Belt American South, where most females were married by age 21 - a third by age 18, with males just a couple of years older on average. Even in this history series, Jerry Lee Lewis had a bride age 13, Elvis (secretly) lived with Priscilla when she was 14 and many of our other country heroes here had teenage brides -
that was just seen as normal back then.

All these factors added up to teenage romances - "young love" - being taken very seriously indeed, which very often led to marriage, unlike today where it's just a first fling of many to come, with no seriousness and with the emphasis on hot (often drug assisted) sex instead of any real love or relationship. So this song (and for that matter nearly all I've posted so far) comes from a completely (and far more innocent) time than ours. Young Love back then was seemingly treated as having an almost sacred element about it - hence the lyrics to this song, which were actually written by a teenage couple in love - though the song was developed further in the studio and Sonny James worked on improving it by giving the vocal strength, guitar and brush drum touches it needed to make it a monster hit -
"... Young love, first love / Filled with true devotion
Young love, our love / We share with deep emotion
..."

Ironically, the teen couple that wrote this song of undying devotion split up just as this song started its rise to the top of the country and pop charts.

James couldn't emulate the success he had with 'Young Love', despite trying with similarity material. He had some success with the similar themed 'First Date, First Kiss, First Love' that reached # 9 in 1957, but after that, uncomfortable being a "teen idol" (and getting too old to be one), he faded from the charts and looked set to be remembered only for his one big hit - which ultimately remained his signature song. He was dropped by Capitol and unsuccessfully recorded
for several labels. However he still managed regular TV appearances on country music shows like the Ozark Jubilee and returned to Capitol in 1963, after he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1962. Ken Nelson then brought Sonny to Hollywood to have him collaborate directly with Nat King Cole and work out a deeper musical approach and production understanding of how Cole had arranged and recorded 'Ramblin Rose'. He told Sonny that if he could find an original song and record it with the same qualities for Country Music, new opportunities awaited for him at Capitol. James took up the challenge and forged a close professional relationship with Nat King Cole.

Both Cole and Capitol knew the 'Ramblin Rose' approach to the right song was a formula for making hit records at that time but it was a formula Cole himself couldn't fully adopt because it would redefine him as a country music singer, which just wasn't quite right for this jazz and pop legend. As both Nat and Sonny were born and raised in Alabama, their kinship was natural. Nat was also a favorite singer of Sonny and his father. Energized by this collaborative effort, Sonny returned to Nashville to begin his search for “the” song for the new sound pioneered by Cole and found what he was looking for with Jimmy Gately’s 'The Minute You’re Gone'. Sonny then called upon the artist and arranger Ray Stevens and they worked out the arrangement. Upon it’s release “The Minute You’re Gone” was promoted as “Sonny James Returns To Capitol” and reached #9 in 1963 -


The accompaniment is readily identifiable as a sound developed from 'Ramblin Rose' and its success let Sonny know he had found the formula he and Capitol were looking for. How James fared with that formula as we moved on through the sixties will be for tomorrow to see.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Once James had settled on his distinctive sound he had first developed by his collaboration with Nat King Cole and first utilised on his 1963 # 9 hit, 'The Minute You're Gone', James further refined his sound and carefully selected his material to record. At the age of 36, with decades of experience behind him, he now knew what he needed to do to succeed. He proceeded to score a stunning string of hits that included an unprecedented 16 consecutive #1 singles. Thus began the greatest tear in country music history - 21 of his next 25 singles hit # 1 and the other 4 were near-misses, hitting either # 2 or 3 (and using today's methods would also all be rated as # 1 hits). James dominated the chart from 1964 to 1972 even more than Buck Owens' harder edged Bakersfield Sound.

The final key to the success of Sonny James came with what had started as a college quartet called The Parsons. This group of extraordinary harmonies had replaced The Jordanaires as the resident backup vocal group on the Grand Ole Opry in early 1963. The Opry was so impressed with their energy and quality they also received their own spot on the show and were performing as The Chordsmen. However they were immediately re-named The Southern Gentlemen after meeting Sonny at the Opry in 1964. James recruited them all to back his recordings, and gave them the name to match his own title "The Southern Gentleman"

So all the Sonny James songs here and to come were all # 1 hits, starting with his his second # 1, 8 years after the mega-hit 'Young Love' back in 1956, but marking the start of his sustained chart domination. 'You're The Only World I Know' from 1964 was co-written by James and Robert Tubert. This is a live version from the Grand Ole Opry with "The Southern Gentlemen". Though the audio is scratchy in a few parts, I chose this as being a bit more interesting as it
shows James performing live - he was also one of the best flat-top guitar pickers -


Written by Sonny James and released in 1965, the title track from his album 'Behind The Tears ' shows James had mastered the knack for giving his fans exactly what they wanted -


'Take Good Care of Her' was an 1961 R&B song recorded by Adam Wade, reaching # 20 on the R&B chart and # 7 on the Pop chart. In the midst of the American Civil Rights era, with his #1 release in 1966, Sonny was the first country artist to record and deliver an R&B song into the country music mainstream. In the song, the narrator speaks to the groom of his ex-girlfriend in a theme remanicent of the Carole King written, Bobby Vee recorded 'Take Good Care of My Baby', also from 1961 -


Now one with a strong Australian connection. Written by folk/pop singer-songwriter (but more a writer than singer) Tom Springfield, 'I'll Never Find Another You' became a world wide hit for the Seekers in 1965, reaching # 1 in the U.K. and Australia and also # 1 on the U.S. pop and # 2 on Easy Listening chart. Like Bob Dylan, Springfield hunted down old and often forgotten folk melodies - but in Springfield case, he hunted them down through Europe and Russia, then wrote his lyrics to these old tunes. After his sister, Dusty, left his folk group The Springfields to go solo, Springfield wrote a string of big hits for the Seekers. James said he chose this song so he could utilise his guitar skills better than he had in past hit singles, particularly the fast flat-top picking style he mastered. His fast guitar picking allied with his slower singing tempo adds intensity to his version which hit # 1 in 1967 -


'It's the Little Things' from 1967. This song of domestic bliss (Sonny was married for 57 years until death) was #1 for 5 weeks -


That's enough for today - if you've listened to Buck Owens and then these, the contrast between The Bakersfield Sound of Buck and Sonny's modified Nashville Sound is clear - depending on your taste you're sure to like more than the other, but it was these two that really dominated country music through the 1960's.
 

Remove this Banner Ad

Remove this Banner Ad