Country Music

Remove this Banner Ad

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Was Haggard an "Outlaw"? Well given his youthful crimes and prison terms, then he was in a literal sense, more an outlaw than the mostly law abiding "outlaw" musicians like Waylon and Willie. Like fellow Bakersfield product, Buck Owens, being aloof from the Nashville music scene meant he had no need to rebel against its conformist studio system. And like Buck Owens and, to a lesser extent, Johnny Cash, his music and image was never tied to the Nashville Sound. So, in a sense, like Cash and Owns, Haggard already had "street cred", wearing jeans through the 1960's instead of the rhinestone splashed Nudie suit. Cash's image was helped by his recorded prison concerts. But long before Cash became famous for his prison concerts in the late 1960s, Merle had regularly performed for prisoners without anyone noticing (or recording), including San Quentin. It was just something he did to help the down-and-out. He expected nothing in return and never publicised them. He also never glamourised his criminal past - something he wasn't proud of, as the lyrics in 'Mama Tried' make clear.

While Merle never played any part in the "formal" outlaw movement, his image towards the late 1970's aligned more
and more, growing his hair longer and a beard, his attire became scruffy and the "Okie From Muskogee" even started smoking dope from 1978, in addition to his unfiltered Camel cigarettes. By then he had become very good friends with Willie Nelson and George Jones. But the Outlaw movement really didn't change Merle's music - he steered his own course, using influences from the blues and jazz, but always, with his song-writing, staying with the real life problems of the every day person.

It was during this late 1970's stage that Haggard's 13 year marriage to Bonnie Owens ended. Owens was one of his most trusted companions and she even helped raise Haggard's 4 kids from his first marriage, having been previously married to fellow Buck Owens. When Haggard was smitten by Leona Williams, the normally decisive Hag couldn't make up his mind between the two women. On stage, Haggard cracked a joke as to how he tried to avoid the song, 'I’ve Got a Darlin’ (for
a Wife)' because his fans may get confused about who he was talking about. Owens realized his feelings for Williams and stopped coming back home to him. Yet when he married Williams, Bonnie stayed by his side and was even the the maid-of-honor at the wedding. Their friendship continued and she continued as his back-up singer and close friend for many more years and through two more Haggard marriages, until Alzheimer's disease took her away in 2006.

But now for Merle's 1980's music. Two legends are better than one, we always say - and when the song is written by a third legend (Willie Nelson) even better! The title track of Haggard and George Jones' 1982 album, "Yesterday's Wine" hit # 1 and stayed on the charts for 10 weeks. It was originally written and recorded by Willie Nelson as the title track of his 1971 album. The tune tells the story of two old friends unexpectedly running into each other at a bar after many years - which wasn't too far fetched at all for these two -


In so many of his songs, Haggard expressed a desire to return to a simpler time when things weren’t as complicated. The lyrics of this 198 # 2 single had many Country fans doing just that. Whether listeners perceive Haggard's lead character as an older man behind the times or as someone rightfully missing a better time, this lament about changes in society revisits the type of sentimentality that's often close to the surface in country music. While the specific examples in the song are now, of course, dated, they can easily be replaced with contemporary examples -


A great #1 song, 'You Take Me For Granted" is off Merle's 1983 album, "Going Where the Lonely Go". If the songs title suggests a female point of view, there's a good reason - it was written with wife, Leona Williams. The 6 year 1978 - 1983 union of Haggard and Leona Williams was a tumultuous one at times and maybe Williams was trying to tell her husband something with the direct lyrics of this one. Whether he took her advice can be debated (Haggard was always his own man and wasn't the type that cared too much about the opinion of others) as they divorced shortly after its release,
but he did take it to # 1 -


'What Am I Going To Do With The Rest Of My Life' was only a # 3 hit in 1983, but too good not to include here, In a catalog filled with some of the most crushing breakup ballads ever authored, few are more impactful than this wry, devastating rumination on the internal bargaining that occurs when you are living through real-time heartbreak, hour
by aching hour. Here the narrator engages in the simple task of listing various distractions from his lost love - smoking, drinking, hanging out with friends - only to realize that the sum total of these diversions will only get him through one more night, with only more dark days to follow. The quietly knowing chorus brings with it the hellish implication that
rock-bottom misery is the singer’s new normal. This live 1985 performance has a fine example of Merle's guitar picking -


By the time this song was recorded, Merle Haggard was considered a legend in country music. With nearly 20 years of
hits already to his credit, he took a moment to honor one of his main musical influences, Lefty Frizzell. Haggard had loved Lefty's 'That's the Way Love Goes' (see post # 219) since he first heard it and he took a stab at recording it in the mid 1970's with unsatisfactory results, that version being too lighthearted and whimsical. However the more reflective and poignant version Haggard recorded in 1983 became his 30th # 1, spending 21 weeks on the charts and won him that year's Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance -
"I've spent most all my life searching for that four leaf clover / Yet you run with me chasing my rainbows honey ..." -


Haggard's legendary career will be concluded tomorrow, as he approaches a mid-life crisis in the mid1980's.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
We're in 1983 and Haggard is still the biggest name in country music as he chalks up more # 1 hits than any other in history, with his hard core country sound, refusing to bend to the current pop tastes. But the first signs of trouble and decline start as his third marriage to Leona Williams fall apart and he takes up a cocaine binge - though, helped by Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, he was able to give it up after 6 months, and fall back to his now usual stress relief of weed and tobacco - and an increasing dose of beer and whiskey. But for a few more years, he still topped the charts, even as he became more selective in what he did and started to scale down his recording and touring and spending more time
fishing and at his ranch.

Haggard and his old friend Willie Nelson furthered their image as modern-day drifters with this stellar interpretation
of a Townes Van Zandt classic. You see the legendary song writer throughout this video. (in the last scene, he’s the
man wearing a yellow shirt and playing a guitar). The song is about Poncho Villa, who had a friend called Lefty. This
was Van Zandt's most enduring and well known song, recorded by several artists, but the Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard version is the most well known and hit # 1 in 1983 - and it's a great song. Both legends had the needed storytelling
chops to expand the cultural reach of Van Zandt's masterpiece. 'Pancho & Lefty', the title track of their album, was
the first of the numerous collaborations that helped cement Haggard and Nelson's places in country music history -


Haggard teamed up with his still then-wife Leona Williams to compose this gripping ballad, 'Someday When Things Are Good' about a relationship that was dead in the water. This song turned out to be prophetic, for, in true country music show business style, by the time this topped the chart in 1984, the couple had already been divorced for close to a year -


Though not the singer’s biggest hit, only reaching # 10 in 1985, there’s no doubting the emotional depth of 'Kern River', now recognised as his best late charting career songs. Written about the drowning death of his lover, and set around his Northern California home, where he was by now spending an increasing amount of time fishing, Haggard gave a chilling performance of this one -


In 1983, Haggard and his third wife Leona Williams divorced after 5 stormy years of marriage. The split seemed to trigger what he later described as a mid-life crisis, leading to him progressively, over the next few years, cut back his workload, write less songs (until he basically stopped his songwriting), touring and eventually his recording, while he spent more time at his ranch fishing, partying, drinking and smoking camels and dope - and marrying twice more. His last # 1 hit, 'Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star', was in 1987, his last # 10 hit, 'A Better Love Next Rime, in 1989.

So Haggard was unproductive in the 1990's and seemed to be settling into the role of living legend, a stature recognised by his induction to the Country Music HoF in 1994. But in 2000, emerging from his stupor, he started making albums again and, in "Roots, Vol 1", returned to honouring his country heroes like Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams. He too was receiving respectful nods from younger artists, being mentioned by name in songs by George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, Hank lll (in his great drinking song 'Country Heroes') - "... And I'm drinkin' some George Jones and a little bit of Coe. Haggard's easin' my misery and Waylon's keepin' me from home ..." - and Brooks & Dunn - “Turn off that rap and play me some Haggard”. Merle's 2005 album "Chicago Wind" was notable for the song 'America First', reflecting national disillusion with the Iraq war (and not to be confused with the Donald Trump slogan years later).

Haggard had an unprecedented 38 # 1 hits and continued to release successful albums - his last, with Willie Nelson, reaching # 1 in 2015. Among Haggard’s hundreds of awards and honors are his induction into the Country Music HoF in 1994 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. He accepted a prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in 2010, for his “outstanding contribution to American culture.” His childhood home – a converted boxcar in Bakersfield – is today part of the Kern County Museum, having been preserved and restored as a monument to MOf erle and the thousands of other hard-working Okies who came to California to build new lives.

Haggard had a total of 6 children from his 5 marriages, 4 of whom were from his first wife but his second wife, Bonnie Owens, helped to raise. Of thes 2, full brothers Marty and Noel from his first marriage, went on to become professional country artists with some sucess, while another, Scott, from a one night stand (but confirmed through DNA) also went on to commercial sucess. Ben, the youngest of Haggard's sons, from his fifth wife, took Merle's songs, bus and band on the road following the legend's 2016 passing. That makes Ben the most visible Haggard heir. Plus, he's the best vocalist and guitarist of the bunch.

A 40 year chain smoker of unfiltered camels, Haggard contacted Lung Cancer in 2008 and had surgery to remove a part of his lung containing the tumor. Post the surgery, he recovered rapidly and began touring and performing again, though his vocal range was now more limited, no longer able to hit those lower notes he so often ended a stanza with. Haggard kept performing to the end, though just before his death, Toby Keith got up for the audience to complete the song set when breathing difficulties forced Merle to stop. Shortly after, he died from complications of pneumonia at his home in California on the morning of his 79th birthday in 2016. I still remember

Back in post # 344, we concluded Johnny Cash's history with Merle and Willie Nelson's (slightly irreverent) tribute song, written by Haggard for their joint album "Django and Jimmie", released 2015, 12 years after Cash's departure. Over the decades, Merle considered Willie one of his closest friends, and Willie felt the same about Merle. So being the last one standing, Willie honoured his friend of 50 years the best way he knew how, by singing a hauntingly beautiful song together with Merle's youngest son, Ben Haggard, who sings backup and plays guitar throughout the song -


So ends one of the most celebrated country music stars; a true icon. The iconic songwriter Kris Kristofferson, called Haggard “the greatest artist in American music history” and “the most successfully rehabilitated prisoner in American history. From San Quentin prison to the Hall of Fame,” Kristofferson said. “Nobody’s come so far.”
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
One of music's most compelling rags-to-riches figures, our next artist rose from dire poverty and obscurity, a sole mother with 3 toddlers at age 21 to become the first female performer to sell a million albums in her genre. Like almost all the artists covered in this history, it seems a combination of a musical family background, including an early exposure to musical instruments and to singing in public, combined with a fierce ambition to use music as an escape from a dreary impoverished life, led her to the rarified heights of stardom. Yet, for all her immense success, there is an underlying
sense of tragedy that followed her through her life and on to a death before her time.

Born Virginia Wynette Pugh in 1942, in rural Mississippi, she was the daughter of a local musician William Pugh, who recorded briefly in 1939/40. When she was only 8 months old, her father died of a brain tumor. Subsequently her mother, Mildred, left her with grandparents while she took off to a wartime factory job in Alabama. At age 7, she began working long days picking cotton with her family, a childhood lesson in painful hard work she never forgot. Even after she found fame and fortune as a singer, she kept a crystal bowl full of cotton at home to remind herself of those arduous days in
the cotton fields. Living in a log cabin without electricity or plumbing, the youngster began picking out little tunes on her father's old instruments. She first sang publicly in church and liked it so well that she began attending two churches so she could sing even more. Teaming with high school friend Linda Cayson, she sang gospel tunes at church events, on
local radio, and even attempted a little Everly Brothers style rock'n'roll on local television.

As Pugh listened to such Grand Ole Opry stars on the radio as George Jones, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, Wynette dreamed of stardom. However, at age 17, she married an itinerant construction worker and the routine of a housewife and mother seemed to bury her career ambitions. The marriage was a hard, rocky one, heavy
on financial burdens and light on luxuries and enjoyment, with her husband stopping her performing. He had trouble keeping a job so the couple moved from place to place. But Pugh never shied away from hard work and held a variety
of jobs, including as a waitress, shoe-factory employee, cocktail waitress, beautician and hair stylist. In fact, the she renewed her cosmetology license every year until her death, just in case she ever had to go back to earning a living
as a beautician - a sign of her lasting insecurity derived from her impoverished upbringing.

Pugh had 2 daughters by the time she was 20 and then left her first husband while she was pregnant with their third daughter, who developed life threatening spinal meningitis not long after her birth. By now living in Alabama, Pugh
worked as a hairdresser and, in order to get the money for expensive doctors bills, started to sing again, getting up
at 4 a.m. every morning to sing on a local country music TV show before her fulltime job, working 12 hours per day. However, the positive reactions she got from her TV appearances got her on a 10-day tour with Porter Wagoner, which built her confidence sufficiently so she could pack up her young kids and move to Nashville to try her luck.

After suffering rejections from several major recording labels, being new and unknown in town, producer Billy Sherrill
took pity on the desperate singer - but also recognised her vocal powers - and signed her to Epic Records. Billy Sherrill had previously "made" a star of David Houston (see posts # 487) was a gifted songwriter as well as commercial music visionary who knew how to pick songs that fit his artist's style and often helped writers hone their material to make it catchier and more direct. He would eventually write or co-write many of her biggest hits while grooming her to be a fine songwriter in her own right. Moreover, he knew how to craft a singer's image on record and off, and with Virginia Pugh he started with her name. Pugh reminded him of Debbie Reynolds in the film "Tammy and the Bachelor", and thus, in 1966 Virgina Pugh became Tammy Wynette - and a star was born.

'Apartment No. 9', co-penned by Johnny Paycheck, was not a major hit, but it opened the door for the former Mississippi child cotton picker who dreamed of a glamorous life as a singer. While 'Apartment No. 9' only reached No. 44 in 1966,
it’s important for being Wynette’s first single. The song, about loneliness and heartbreak introduced Wynette and her powerful and often heart rending voice, to the world, and surely would've charted far higher had she already been a known star -
"... Loneliness surrounds me without your arms around me / And the sun will never shine in apartment number 9 ..." -


After her first modest-charting debut single she followed-up with 'Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad'. Wynette forcefully tells her partying good-time partner that if he wants a wild woman like the ones hanging out at the bars, she'll spitefully give him just that with the attitude of "if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em" (now that's my kind of woman). This was Wynette’s first # 10 hit, peaking at # 3 in 1967. Ironically, the strong feminine lyrics were written by two men - producer Billy Sherrill and Glenn Sutton - both members of the Nashville Songwriter’s HoF -


While Wynette is far better known for her duets with George Jones, 'My Elusive Dreams' saw her partnering up with another singer, David Houston (see post # 488), for her first (and his 4th) # 1 hit in 1967. Little did fans know that a
far bigger name than Houston would eventually help ensure Tammy's lasting fame. This was Wynette and Houston's
most successful recording as the duo brought to life the story of a woman following a man across the country as he
tries, and fails, to find happiness.

The road song follows a restless dreamer and his wife, as he attempts to find an ever-elusive and lasting happiness pursuing various dreams and schemes, all which fail. His futile attempts at success include stops in at least 6 states - Texas, Utah, Birmingham Alabama, Memphis Tennessee (where the wife gave birth to their child) and later Nashville, Nebraska and finally Alaska (it seems their child died and was buried there). He finally admits to his resigned wife that
he recognizes she's tired of following him around the country as he chases his useless dreams - I've met a few along
the way that fit this solid, sad country song of unfulfilled dreams -

In her autobiography, Tammy later said she would never record another song with David Houston again "even if he was the last man left alive". This seemed to have the kernel of a good story but alas it was only about the money - Houston, as the incumbent star, had a contract which screwed Tammy out of virtually all the royalties - par for the course in the music industry. Tammy should've blamed her manager instead. Wynette later told Jones what had happened, to which
he said - "Screw Houston, we'll record our own to bury his" - and so they did.

After scoring her first # 1 with 'My Elusive Dreams', Wynette soon scored her first of solo # 1 in 1967 with a song that brought her career to the next level. 'I Don’t Wanna Play House' was penned by the same pair - Sherrill and Sutton - who wrote 'Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad'. The swiftest and most stinging gut punch in Wynette's repertoire explores how broken relationships impact innocent little kids' view of their own interactions with others. This was the first of a number of Wynette songs using interactions between parents and children to spotlight damaged adult relationships, and this song is a perfect example of that style - and is a subject Wynette would've had plenty of first hand experience with her three daughters. In the song a mother overhears her young daughter telling a friend - “I don’t wanna play house / It makes my mommy cry / ‘Cause when she played house / My daddy said goodbye...” Not a great advertisement for imaginative play, but nevertheless a # 1 hit - and no wonder, given what Wynette's vocals could deliver (all without the aid of an auto-tune microphone) -

Wynette won the 1968 Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance for her incredibly strong, emotive rendition
and helped her build a legion of loyal fans who were moved by her voice and happy she was singing and telling
their stories in song.

Only Aretha Franklin herself gained more err r-e-s-p-e-c-t respect for spelling out the truth. For Wynette, the truth was ugly, especially since a child was part of the failing marriage in question. Wynette was already known for singing sad songs about complicated relationships. In 1968’s # 1 "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," she made a hit out of a everyday thing that many parents actually did (do they still?), which is spell out uncomfortable words in front of their children. The song struck a chord with families everywhere. It was penned by legendary songwriters Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam. Wynette
was married 5 times, so she comes from a place of real pain when she sang about how dealing with “d-i-v-o-r-c-e” and “c-u-s-t-o-d-y” is “h-e-double-L.” -


So we leave Tammy Wynette in 1968 as she has, in just 2 years, gone from poverty and obscurity to rival Loretta Lyn as the biggest female star in country music - and she I return, it'll be with her all-time classic that propelled her career to the very top -albeit with dark clouds on the horizon as she finds that happiness is her elusive dream - harder to find than fame and fortune
 
Last edited:

Log in to remove this ad.

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
As Tammy Wynette was achieving major success in her music career, she was struggling when it came to love - she seemed a poor judge of the right marriage material. She split from her first husband, an itinerant labourer who tried to
tie Tammy to the kitchen and stop performing, before she headed to Nashville with the 3 young kids. The next man she married in 1967, songwriter and motel clerk Don Chapel, within a few weeks shocked and disgusted Tammy by secretly taking and selling nude photos of her to his friends. Fortunately, as they had married before Wynette's first divorce had fully legally taken effect, the marriage was found to be invalid and thus annulled. Meanwhile, after two divorces, the second one of which took place in 1968, major star George Jones, then age 37, had sworn he wouldn't marry again
until turning 69.

Now, as we've already seen (see posts # 405-412), Jones, for all his greatness as a singer, was notorious for his long standing binge drinking alcoholism. He was also strongly self-opiniated and stubborn - and a long time idol of a young Tammy. Anyway, in 1967 they fell for each other and eloped to Mexico where they got married - thus becoming the most famous married couple in country music history. Wynette once described their dynamic as - "I was naggin' and he was nippin'," a reference to Jones' binge drinking (which, as women tend to do, they think they can put a stop to -until they find they can't) and the loud shouting fights that ensued. However, their turbulent time together encompassed much
more than conflict. They created powerful country duets, found huge success on tour, being known as the King and
Queen of country music - and they had a daughter in. - but it was never smooth sailing.

In the meantime, Tammy had delivered her Opus Dei - a song that secured her title as the "Queen of Country Music" (even surpassing the great Lynette Lyn) and will long remain her signature song.

Who else could've wrung more emotion from this truly great song about true love overcoming the odds? 'Stand by Your Man', a # 1 in 1968, is a timeless classic in the American Songbook that is unarguably Wynette’s most popular recording - is there a better hook anywhere? The song received backlash from the nation’s fat ugly feminists. However, Wynette and co-writer Billy Sherrill defended the song, saying, "'Stand by Your Man' is just simple way of saying ‘I love you - without reservations." Due to Wynette's outstanding vocals, it’s considered one of the greatest country songs of all time and was an international hit in the UK, Europe and Australia -

In 1999, 'Stand By Your Man' was inducted into the Grammy HoF. In 2010, the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry; it's also rated # 1 on CMT's list of Top 100 Country Music Songs.

Maybe an unlikely pick, given this wasn't a hit, but instead was on Tammy and George's first duet album released in 1971, this natty number channels, tongue-in-cheek, the then chart topping love song duets made famous by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. With all of the teasing and biting comments, they sound like a real bogan couple - the only difference being that in real life they were much richer than the po' folks in the song, but apart from that, not that much different, given their humble backgrounds. One other thing - scribes agree that at the time the album came out in 1971, Tammy and George really were still happy together -


Wynette's role as the brutally honest voice shines here as she does more than brag about the neighborhood kids and local schools. Like yesterday's 'I Don't Wanna Play House' and 'D-I-V-O-R-C-E', this # 1 hit from 1973 (her 14th), is another of her songs which uses the voice of children to make to make biting adult points -


Wynette and Jones released 9 studio albums together, but from all that music, only one of their # 1 hits - this one - came while they were actually married. In 1973, Tammy temporarily walked out on George after one of their many fierce fights, stemming, of course, by George going on another bender and raising cane when he finally got home and Tammy giving him another almighty tongue lashing. After Wynette left him, he begged and pleaded for forgiveness until she returned. For days after the big argument, he kept singing this one line over and over: "We’re gonna hold on." Jones and songwriter Earl Montgomery developed lyrics around the phrase and turned the episode into a # 1 hit (genius - have a big fight and ... profit). 'We’re Gonna Hold On' hints at the tension and back and forth that would characterize the couple’s relationship in lyrics such as “Some loves lives / And some love don’t". In the end, they tried hard but - thanks to George's increasing descent into self-destructive bingeing - Tammy found she couldn't hold on and stand by her man -


'I Still Believe in Fairy Tales' is the 14th studio album, released in 1975. The iconic title song, though it only reached # 13, the first time a Wynettte song hadn't hit the top 10 since 1967, stands out because of its lullaby-style backing track and its barely disguised autobiographical imagery to explain her relationship expectation - and George's ultimate failure to meet it - and the specific reason why. Yet the song ends with Wynette still keeping her belief, despite everything-
"... You were my knight in shining armor / And you stole my heart with a song /
You gave me a castle and a princess /And I was the world's proudest queen
And then came the dragon in the bottle / And I watched as it slowly slayed the king
And we all live happy never after / For we just put the castle up for sale
But I guess that I will always be a dreamer / For I still believe in fairy tales
..." -


For Jones and Wynette, marriage (in general) was never an easy affair. Although both were wildly successful as solo and duo artists, this never translated into marital bliss. As all country music fans well knew, Jones' excessive substance abuse problems complicated andruined all his relationships except his last. This was especially true of his marriage to Wynette. They often had vicious yelling matches and Wynette herself recounted in her autobiography that Jones drunkenly “chased her through their home with a loaded rifle".

After Wynette finally admitted defeat and divorced Jones in 1975, George descended even further into a sinkhole of
self-loathing misery and despair, losing his money on a mad scheme for George Jones Theme Park and a prodigious consumption of cocaine to match his drinking (but I've already told his story). Meanwhile, Tammy went straight from
one bad marriage to another. The tragedy here is that George and Tammy really did love each other - but just couldn't
live together.

Tomorrow will conclude the brilliant career of Tammy Wynette - a life in which she fulfilled all her childhood ambitions of being a great singing star - but found her own domestic fairytale never did come true.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
After their divorce in 1975, Tammy and George resumed their friendship a year later and always remain a part of each other's personal and professional lives to the end - despite the massive ups and downs to come, including Jone's cocaine addiction and being reduced to living in his car before his amazing resurrection (see posts # 405-412). The relationship between George Jones and Tammy Wynette remains the most famous in country music history - and the very embodiment of so many country songs.

After the rocky and stormy marriage to Jones, Wynette was ready to start a new life. Already known for singing about heartbreak, relationship troubles, independence and strength, Wynette penned what she calls her favorite piece, 'Til I
Can Make It on My Own'. The song made a statement that she was ready to embark on a new chapter after her divorce. Wynette once said (actually it's on this live video from the 1980's) that 'Til I Can Make It on My Own', was her favorite song she wrote and recorded. She wasn't the only one - her song about trying to slowly move on from a broken relationship spent a whopping 11 weeks at # 1 in 1976 -


'Golden Ring' is an interesting story about the day in the life of a wedding ring. This George and Tammy duet was actually recorded after they divorced, and it’s full of unique connections. The song was written by Bobby Braddock, who penned Jones all-time classic 'He Stopped Loving Her Today'. The single featured her future husband George Richey on piano, as well as background vocals by the Gatlin Brothers, including Rudy Gatlin, who was dating Wynette. The duet lays out why a wedding band doesn't mean anything apart from a loving relationship. Story songs are (or were) the backbone of country music, but most of them are about people - this story song, however, is about a thing. One of Wynette and Jones’ best-loved songs, 'Golden Ring' tracks the beginning and end of a relationship by following the thing at the center of it - a golden ring. It went # 1 in 1976.

In 1977, in a remarkable and special arrangement, the producers and cast of the Nashville TV show, 'Pop Goes The Country' managed to get Tammy and George to sing together live in public for the time since their divorce – they even
got "No Show" George to show up sober! And show up he did. The resulting performance is incredible even now to watch. Together, the couple slowly work back into their rhythm after years of hard times. Once they hit their stride, however, it’s like nothing ever happened. Their voices melt together perfectly as their body language completely changes. By the end
of the song, Tammy has to wipe tears from her face as her voice begins trembling under the emotional words of their powerful country duet. The emotional, tear-filled performance of 'Golden Ring' spells out the simple truth that “... only love can make a golden wedding ring.” -


Written by Wynette from the 1977 album "One Of A Kind", 'That's The Way It Could Have Been' was re-recorded in 1993 for the "Honky Tonk Angels" album with the two other female country music legends, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. But I prefer the original 1977 version. By now it seems Wynette no longer believes in fairytales, and in pretty much her saddest song of all, she describes her vision of a life of domestic love and happiness - only to shatter the illusion - "...
"... And that's the way it could have been / Oh, that's the way it should have been..." - but it wasn't -


After she divorced George, Wynette married two more times, first to businessman Michael Tomlin in 1977, which lasted all of 44 days then, in 1978, to singer-songwriter George Richey, who served as her manager in the 1980's. The union, which lasted until her death in 1998, was revealed years later to be an abusive one. Shortly after they married, Wynette was found badly bruised all around her face bound and claimed she had been the victim of a kidnapping attempt. Yet, decades later, Tammy's daughter, Georgette Jones wrote in her memoir "The Three of Us: Growing Up With Tammy and George" that the story was a coverup designed to the truth that Richey had badly beaten Wynette.
He threatened to destroy her life and write a tell-all book so she decided to stay with him.

By the time Wynette released her "Your Love" album in 1987, she was already a legend worthy of HoF induction, but her career, hampered by changing audience tastes, declining health and a dodgy husband, had slowed down. This comeback album featured collaborations that would remind everyone of her awesome vocal power. 1987’s 'Higher Ground' featured the voices of Emmylou Harris, Gene Watson and the Gatlin Brothers. The title track, 'Your Love' lyrics, backed by the voice of Ricky Skaggs, sounds like a straight forward love song, but for a person who never found happiness in 5 marriages, but had built up a big, fiercely loyal fan base, this works as a song dedicated to her many fiercely loyal fans for their years of unwavering support. Tammy insists she “never would have made it without your love!” The honest lyrics help make this one of the top Wynette songs -
"Well, I've been washed in the rain and dried in the sun / Had to fight a few rounds with the devil and I'm still not done
When I finally hit the bottom I thought my luck was through / There was one ray of hope shinin' down and it was you
..."


And now to finish with something completely different - so different in fact, it doesn't really belong in any country music thread - but, fu** it, here it is! When you hear the name “Tammy Wynette,” you don’t typically think of British house remixes. But that’s what makes Wynette’s unexpected appearance in 'Justified and Ancient (Stand by the Jam)' by
the KLF song so weird, with of Tammy's country vocal mixed with some rap, hip hop, disco beat and African harmony
(and whatever else). However, one can't ignore the impact this song had on her career. When KLF featured the Queen
of Country Music (sitting on a throne and wearing a crown) front and center on lead vocals, her voice soared through the contemporary music stations, her face was on MTV in the international hit video. Her name appeared at # 1 in 18 different countries - making the country music legend a hit with anew generation of music fans. Her vocals (though she confessed she had no idea what she was singing about, but had great fun doing it) soar over the house beats and (I'm serious) white British rapping - and who could argue with the lyrics -
"... They're justified, and they're ancient / And they drive an ice cream van..." -


Wynette suffered from a variety of health problems for much of her life, including chronic intestinal pain, and underwent some 30 surgeries. But she always managed to work through the pain - but with an increasing dependence on painkillers. Many believe her fifth husband, Richey, by encouraging Wynette's use of drugs, was indirectly responsible for her death.

I've heard a few accounts of Tammy backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in agony, but when summoned on to the stage,
she would manage to cover it up and give a fully professional performance - and then collapse in pain once off-stage - performing and getting love from her fans was what she lived for. Wynette's band and back-up singers became used to covering for her in her later years when she went on stage impaired -"The band even had a saying to clue one another in that Tammy was seriously under the influence: 'Virginia's in the house.' Virginia Pugh was Tammy's real name, and when Virginia's name was invoked, it indicated an overmedicated Wynette," according to the 2010 biography "Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen" by Jimmy McDonough. "There are some people who witnessed mum saying she didn't want any pain medication, to not give her anymore and Richey would continue to inject her anyway," her daughter Georgette wrote in her 2011 book - "There were times when she did want it because she was in pain and he refused to give it to her..."

To complete the triumph and tragedy of Tammy Wynette, shedied in her sleep at her home in Nashville in 1998, reported as caused by a blood clot in her lungs. She was just 55. In all, Wynette racked up more than 20 # 1 hits, several of which she co-wrote, and 11 of her albums went to # 1. She won 2 Grammys, for 'I Don't Wanna Play House' and 'Stand By Your Man' and 3 CMA "Female Vocalist of the Year" awards. Later in 1998, Wynette was inducted into the Country Music HoF.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Here's a "bonus extra" today, not part of the history as such, but seeing as I've just covered 2 legends in Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette (including a couple of her duets with another legend, George Jones), I thought I'd include this clip of Merle and Tammy performing together at the International Country Music Festival at Wembley Stadium in 1988 -


And just for the shits and giggles - back to the Blues Brothers. we've them here's once before doing their rendition of Frankie Lane's 'Rawhide' (see post # 257), but here, showing the enduring fame of Lynette's classic 'Stand By Your Man' - I present the Blues Brothers "cover" from the 1980 movie in the honky tonk setting - chicken wire and all, with every clique covered -


And this being Big Footy, I couldn't omit this famous clip - even 19 years after the song came out, the most famous Australian version of 'Stand By Your Man' was delivered live by a maggoted Sticks Kernahan on the mad Monday after the 1987 GF. This excellent rendition, including the spectacular ending pouring the beer over his head (what a waste) later led to him becoming the President of the Carlton FC -


When I next return, having just covered legends Loretta Lyn, Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette, it'll be with another huge country music star (if not quite a legend) but one who also had enourmous pop crossover success, becoming a household name.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
We've reached 1968 in our history and covered traditional country and hard-core honky tonk as well as the softer, pop influenced Nashville Sound and countrypolitan. But no-one (back then) blurred the lines between the pop and country genres like our next artist (and so paved the way where today, the country charts are basically all pop without a trace
of actual country). His best friend was Alice Cooper, he lived and recorded in L.A., not Nashville and he was a long way from being "pure" country, but his fusion of country mannerisms and lyrics with pop melodies and L.A. pop production techniques as well as having his own TV show made him one of the most popular musicians of the late 1960s and '70s - and not just in the U.S. country charts (such as more hard-core country heroes like George Jones and Loretta Lyn) but also on the U.S and internatiomal pop charts (such as Australia). And if the very obvious pop overlay on his music sometimes made country music fans feel somewhat ambivalent, nevertheless his outrageous talent and crossover
pop appeal must be admitted and admired - and he delivered some truely great songs, he was a great vocalist and
there's no question he was one of the most skilled guitarists of them all - as we will see.

For all his pop sucess, his story starts in what has now become the usual country music style in this history - in fact he was one of the most starkest of our dozens of rags to riches stories of escaping brutal rural poverty through music. The 12th child and 7th son of a dirt poor sharecropper (who, as I've said a few times, were the poorest of the poor), Glenn Campbell was born in the depths of the depression in 1936 in rural Arkansas. For his 4th birthday he got a $5 guitar. A budding guitarist at the age 6 and a prodigy by age 10, who said he was "able to play anything", he dropped out of school and moved to Albuquerque in his early teens to join his uncle's western swing band. A few years later he formed his own outfit, the Western Wranglers, touring the Southwest. At age 17 he married the first of his four wives, who was age 15 (about the usual marriage age in the south back then, as readers of this history would already know).

Already recognised as a virtuoso guitarist, in 1958 he made his first recordings in Dallas, accompanying pianist
Stan Capps on 5 instrumentals. Armed with his 6-string, he moved to LA in 1960 and joined The Champs, a popular instrumental combo that had success with 'Tequila'. He stayed with them for about a year and played on a couple of
their sessions including the minor hit 'Limbo Rock'. His virtuosity on the guitar soon became known and he became a member of the renowned team of instrumentalists known as "The Wrecking Crew". They played on hits by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, the Righteous Brothers, Bobby Vee, the Beach Boys, the Monkees and Merle Haggard amongst the host of stars.

The drummer Hal Blaine, a key member of the Wrecking Crew, said of Campbell - “He was one of those great guitarists who could hear a part once and he had it down pat. Arrangers just loved that he could play off-the-wall solos, just the wildest sounds you ever heard". His most famous studio contribution came on the Beach Boys 'I Get Around'. He played acoustic, electric or 12-string guitar on numerous Beach Boys recordings, including 'Help Me, Rhonda' and 'Dance, Dance, Dance'. Though Campbell’s inability to read music occasionally made him the butt of jokes, the esteem in which he was held by the Beach Boys was such that he temporarily replaced Brian Wilson after his breakdown in 1965, playing and singing on stage with the group.

Through all this time, burned by his childhood poverty (a familiar theme with our country greats), Campbell hankered after his own solo success. His first recording as a singer was 'Turn Around, Look At Me', for a small label in 1961, which reached # 15 and led to a contract with Capitol Records. Campbell’s early efforts for Capitol included bluegrass, folk, old country standards and even a rock'n'roll album and a single cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s 'The Universal Soldier' in 1965, while maintaining his in-demand studio work as a guitarist. But major solo success eluded him.

Campbell’s breakthrough came with John Hartford’s hobo song 'Gentle on My Mind' in 1967. Though it only reached
# 30 on the country and #39 on the pop charts (showing Campbell's crossover appeal), the song struck an enduring chord with listeners. Campbell turned this tune into an era-defining country music hit. It's a beautifully written song that previews the fleshed-out stories that great songwriters like Jimmy Webb, Townes Van Zandt and Kris Kristoffosen would roll out in the '70s in reaction to formulaic and repetitive pop. Filled with imagery and illusion, the lyrics nearly disguising the message, which is all about a formers lover’s hold on the singer’s subconscious. Campbell speeds up the tempo from Hartford's original version, which adds a certain urgency that’s both personal and profound. This live version includes a "bonus" guitar solo in front of a host of country music greats including guitar legends Chet Atkins and Roy Clark.

'Gentle On My Mind' isn’t just packed full of great lyrical devices. It tells a story too. Quite a sad story in many ways. The story of a man who can’t settle down and doesn’t know when to stop travelling. But once, a long time ago, he met the most special person he encountered in his entire life. And everywhere he goes he takes his memories of this special person with him. We never find out what happened there, why they didn’t lead a “happy ever after” life, why she’s
just someone he can stash his sleeping bag with when he needs to -
"... And it’s knowing that I’m not shackled / By forgotten words and bonds /
And the ink stains that are dried upon some line / That keeps you in the backroads /
By the rivers of my memory / That keeps you ever gentle on my mind
..."

Ironically, though it was only a modest charting single, 'Gentle on My Mind' dominated the 1968 Grammy Awards. Songwriter John Hartford won a Grammy for his own version of the song for Best Folk Performance. Then, the song earned Single, Song and Best Male Vocal Performance thanks to the (far superior) uptempo hit recording by Campbell. The song was made even more popular when its banjo driven arrangement was heard as the opening to his television show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, from 1969 to 1972. Legendary musicians such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin and others have covered the song, totaling at over 300 covers by different artists - quite
the feat for one song, but Campbell's recording remains "the cover", by far the best-known. In 1990, in a testament to
its abundant radio airplay with over 5 million plays, BMI named the song its fourth-most-played song ever to that date. Finally, in 2014, The Band Perry released their version of 'Gentle On My Mind' to celebrate Glen Campbell’s life and work. Their version pulled in its fifth Grammy, an incredible achievement for any song.

The floodgates were opened for Campbell in 1967 when he teamed up with legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb, who provided him with most of his biggest hits. It's no wonder that Campbell often said in concert that if it weren't for Webb, people wouldn't have known who he was. 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix', a pop-orchestrated country ballad, reached # 2. Penned by Webb after a breakup, the song tells the story of a man's decision to leave a relationship as he hits the road after leaving a goodbye note. Few songs have better conveyed the sadness that comes when relationships are suddenly severed, but fewer still have described it from the point of view of the one who is doing the leaving. There’s no animosity and very little regret, but the ability to share the sadness from that perspective, while also offering empathy for the one left behind, made this song as poignant as it was powerful.

Campbell’s voice mirrors the high, lonesome strings that start the track. Together, they capture the sound of someone displaced, appropriate for a song about a man on the run from a relationship. The lyrics shuttle between the narrator’s flight across the country and his lover’s routine back home, reflecting her loss in his escape. Campbell’s aching vocals establish the character’s empathy, as well as his guilt. The lyrics especially hit home when Campbell sings - "... And she'll cry, just to think, I'd really leave her / Though time and time I've tried to tell her so / She just didn't know / I would really go." -

'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' established Campbell as a major star. The following year he was named the CMA's Entertainer of the Year. Frank Sinatra considered it as an all-time great song - and it truly is, being the third most-performed song from 1940 to 1990.

Now for the song with the best single line of any song. Jimmy Webb penned the classic 'Wichita Lineman' after a long roadtrip visiting family in Oklahoma, once saying - "I was drivin' along there, just blinkin' and tryin' to stay awake, and
all of a sudden there was somebody on top of one of those telephone poles - out of thousands of telephone poles, there's one that has a guy on it, and he had one of those little telephones hooked into the wires. I could see him on top of this pole talkin' or listenin' or doin' somethin' with this telephone. For some reason, the starkness of the image stayed with
me like photography
".

The song’s opening line “I am a lineman for the county,” is surely one of the greatest of opening melodies of any song
and Campbell delivered it perfectly. The song’s ending is also so classic. One of Webb’s most enigmatic songs chronicles the desires of a mysterious telephone worker who listens in on conversations he can never be part of. Filled with ethereal moments, cutting between the first and third person, loneliness and longing are stirred up as the listener is mentally put in the lineman's shoes. He imagined what he himself would say atop the pole, phone in his hand - and 'Wichita Lineman' was birthed from that imagined story. Campbell himself has said that Webb drew on his own broken feelings of wanting a woman who married someone else.

The bass line and couldn’t be warmer, nor Campbell’s vocal more full of want. Here, Campbell and Webb capture love-sickness that, like the lineman's work schedule, always comes rain or shine. This massive hit, it not only topped the country charts but crossed over to # 1 on the adult contemporary and # 3 on the pop charts in 1968, becoming a worldwide hit.

Oh, that greatest single line I mentioned? I could write 10,000 words on this line (but not today). There is so much truth in this single line, about the nature of desire and love (and the unspoken devastation of losing it) when Campbell sings - “... I need you more than want you / and I want you for all time,...” - desire and desperation become one.


In addition to hosting the "Goodtime Hour" at a time when variety television made national stars, Glen Campbell and his music were featured in several movies through the 1970s and '80s, including 'Everything a Man Could Ever Need' from "Norwood", 'Another Fine Mess' from "The End" and 'Any Which Way You Can' from the movie starring Clint Eastwood.
But it was the movie "True Grit" that stands out for a number of reasons - John Wayne won his only best actor Academy Award for his performance, Campbell, showing his acting chops, played a memorable role as La Boeuf, and the title song still lives on today. The song 'True Grit' received nominations for both the Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Song. The song was released as a single in 1969 and was a top 10 hit on both the Country and Adult Contemporary charts. Great film, great song! -


Webb was also responsible for writing the evocatively yearning 'Galveston', another massive crossover hit, reaching # 1 on the country and adult contemporary charts and # 4 on the Pop chart in 1969. Campbell’s voice sails with grace and aching yearning over the word "Galveston" a crucial elongation since the city’s name needs to evoke a significant back story. Webb’s melody requires whoever sings it to fly. Campbell soars. Written at the height of the Vietnam War, (in which 55,000 American servicemen were killed), 'Galveston' is the story of a soldier thinking both of his hometown and of his love back their awaiting his return, while he preparies to go into battle. The lyrics and melody are so evocative you can practically feel the wind and hear the rippling sea tide of this laid back, relaxed, gulf coast town (another great Texan place to visit).

Few studio creations from any genre match the near-perfect sound and feel of perhaps Campbell's greatest song. Since its release, it has become the official anthem of Galveston Island and Galveston city. While the song is certainly uptempo and catchy, the subject matter (written by Webb) is a much less happy - Sung from the point of view of the soldier, he thinks of his love that he's leaving behind in the coastal city, remembering how her dark eyes glowed even as he prepares for battle. And then comes the chilling part, as he admits his fear of not returning alive -
"... Galveston, oh Galveston / I am so afraid of dying / Before I dry the tears she's crying /
Before I watch your sea birds flying in the sun / At Galveston, at Galveston.
"


So that was Glen Campbell in the 1960's - far from "pure" country, but just pure genius (along with Jimmy Webb). And his biggest hit - and his biggest troubles (in true country music tradition, as we've seen so often in this history) are still to come - tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Glen Campbell’s success helped him cross over into a new arena – television host. “The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour” ran from 1969-72, and was also aired by the BBC in the U.K. and Australia along with 5 specials, giving Campbell a truly international presence and catapulting him to worldwide stardom. As a result, he became the most well known, popular country singer in Australia in the 1970's, even as he was overshadowed by more hard core country artists like George Jones and Nerle Haggard in the U.S. Using his industry connections, Campbell landed some of music’s biggest stars - from The Beatles to Johnny Cash - and highlighted lesser-known musicians who would go on to wider acclaim. He also moved into the film world as the hand-picked co-star of John Wayne in the film “True Grit,” and his song for the soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award. However, the celebrity lifestyle was catching up with Campbell ... and not in a good way. But time for some more music.

Unlike many of his country music peers, Glen Campbell recorded most of his hits in L.A., not Nashville - with lots of strings heavy pop values infused into the production. 'Try a Little Kindness' was another multi-genre hit recorded in Hollywood. Even with (or maybe because of) its horns and slick production values, 'Try a Little Kindness' is a perfect example of Campbell's versatility in music. Not only did this song peak at # 2 on the country chart, it also hit # 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song has a simple message that everyone of all walks of life can benefit from -
"... Don't you walk around the down and out / Lend a helping hand instead of doubt /
And the kindness that you show every day / Will help someone along their way ..."



Campbell's signature song, 'Rhinestone Cowboy' was penned and originally recorded by Larry Weiss, who said the song was written about the spirit of a bunch of new artists on Broadway (where he started out), who all had dreams of making it big. Weiss’ version failed to make an impact, but it caught the attention of Campbell, who heard one of the rare spins it received. Attracted to the tale of a country boy trying to make it in the city, Campbell got immediate approval to cut his own version. The gem became Billboard’s # 1 single of 1975, returning Campbell to a prominence he last enjoyed in the late 1960s.

I have to admit, this isn't my favourite Campbell song - it always sounded a bit to jauntily pop for my taste - and I thus didn't really listen to the lyrics and thus misunderstood it, missing its darker side. But 'Rhinestone Cowboy' has endured over the years. Even Bruce Springsteen closed his 2021 special on Apple TV with a wonderful version of it. It hasn't gone unnoticed that the lyrics, which focus on survival, hustle and smiling through the pain, closely identify with the singer -
Well, I really don't mind the rain / And a smile can hide all the pain /
But you're down when you're ridin' the train / That's takin' the long way ..." -



This song from the "Rhinestone Cowboy" album seems to argue that Campbell never stopped being a country boy, even when personal issues (namely booze and cocaine addiction) and scathing rumors hogged tabloid headlines. 'Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.)' wasn't penned by Campbell, but the 1975 song almost sounds autobiographical. After all,
he was raised in a tiny Arkansas community - a small-town boy at heart - and turned into a massively successful and recognized celebrity, living in L.A.. In this song, he goes back to his roots, acknowledging that while he may have grown business-savvy and successful in the big city of L.A., his heart is still in the country -"Country boy, you got your feet in L.A. / But your mind's on Tennessee / Lookin' back, I can remember the time / When I sang my songs for free / Country boy, you got your feet in L.A. / Take a look at everything you own / But now and then, my heart keeps goin' home" -


Five years after his television show went off the air and 9 years after winning Entertainer of the Year at the CMAs, Campbell was still producing major crossover hits. 'Southern Nights' hit # 1 in 1977, celebrating growing up in the
south. Songwriter Allen Toussaint was reminiscing of his Louisiana upbringing, and Campbell incorporated his memories
of growing up in rural Arkansas. The infectious guitar melody made this an instantly recognizable hit - Country music, but with traces of jazz, funk and other popular sounds (and reminding me of Elton John's 'Benny and the Jets'). The infectious Campbell learned the unique guitar lick from friend and fellow master guitarist (and actor) Jerry Reed. It was his 5th song to top of the country chart and second # 1 on the pop chart.

This sounds nothing like the music Campbell released in the 1960s and early 1970s. There is a little bit of everything in this one. The song defines some of that New Orleans rhythm and blues style while also incorporating a country guitar twang backed by a big bass drum sound perfect for the disco era dance floors of the disco era -


Campbell wasn’t just a fine singer, but a precise guitarist, reflecting his rich history as a session player. So just how good a guitarist was Campbell? As stated yesterday, he was the lead guitarist on the elite studio group, the "Wrecking Crew", playing from 1959 to 1967 on recordings of the biggest stars of the day. We also saw him live playing the solo in 'Gentle On My Mind', in front of an audience including guitar greats Chet Atkins and Roy Clark. His closest friend, Alice Cooper, said - “He was one of the premier guitar players in rock and country. A lot of people don’t know the respect he had in the rock & roll world. Eddie Van Halen asked me one time, he said, ‘Could you get me a guitar lesson with Glen?’ Most rockers would go, ‘What?’ That’s the kind of guitar player he was. He was considered one of the best guitar players out there". Or to quote Willie Nelson “When God created talent, Glen Campbell got in line twice". That's how good he was!

In 1966, Campbell displayed his guitar mastery in the instrumental only album "The 12 String Guitar of Glen Campbell'. His version of Mason Williams’ instrumental hit from 1968 (which was included on his 1977 live album, 'Live at the Royal Festival Hall' with the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra) allows him to show off his great mastery, as he adds highly skilled elaborations and modal variations not found in the Mason Williams original. I chose this version, showing Campbell with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra narrowly over another clip with him performing with Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Pops -


Campbell's 1977 'Southern Nights' would be the last time he topped the charts, as his success was stalled by an increasingly excessive and out of control lifestyle - not helped by some poor women choices. His first marriage, at
age 17, which yielded a daughter, ended in 1959 after 4 years. That same year he wed beautician Billie Jean Nunley.
They were together for 17 years and had 3 children. But during this time Glen was seduced by booze and cocaine, later
writing in his autobiography - “I spent some time in hell. It was a stupid place, I drowned.” Cocaine was his drug of choice because “pot made me go to sleep”. His third marriage, to Sarah Barg, lasted 4 years and produced son Dillon, a singer songwriter.

There then followed a stormy year-long fling in 1980 with country singer Tanya Tucker - who was 21 to his 44. Campbell admitted - “Tanya and I were terrible for each other. We were drowning in a sea of white powder. I was a light cocaine user. She was a heavy cocaine user. My time with Tanya was turbulent, the most chaotic period of my life. It was a poisoned relationship. I wish I hadn't had that relationship". Campbell's closest friend, Alice Cooper later said - "He
did cocaine more than just about anybody out there during what we called the 'LA Blizzard,' when everybody was into cocaine. But he had a real problem with it, I mean a huge problem. He navigated through that, I navigated through that, we both came out the other end ...what we had in common was that we were survivors of that cocaine drenched LA world and we both moved to Phoenix to get away from that world. And we were still in the business
."

A turning point came when he woke up in a confused state in a Las Vegas hotel room. Glen said - “I didn’t know who
I was. It was really, really strange. Nobody else was there but somebody was talking - it was if God had sent an angel
to rescue me. I didn’t want any whisky, any drugs, anything. That was the end of it
.” With the help of his fourth wife, dancer Kim Woollen, who he married in 1982 and with whom he had 3 children, he mostly beat his demon addictions
and recovered his tarnished reputation. However his chart topping days were over - but not his career. That will be concluded tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
For most of the 1970's - up until he when hooked up with Tanya Tucker and his alcoholism and cocaine addiction was publicly blown, Glen Campbell's public image was that of a clean cut, fresh faced, well mannered country man with neatly parted hair - in contrast to the most popular rock star of the day, Bruce Springsteen. Yet it was Campbell who, behind the scenes, was indulging in the rock'n'roll lifestyle of sex and drugs (albeit with pop-country-music, not rock'n'roll), whereas the rocker, Springsteen didn't drink, didn't do drugs, had a fitness regime before it was fashionable and was faithful to his well chosen wife. I just like the irony of that.

Glen Campbell's coke soaked affair with Tanya Tucker ended up lasted just a year, and after public exposures across the tabloids, he split from her and set about repairing his tarnished reputation and rebuilding his career with the help of his fourth wife, Kim Woollen, who he married in 1981. Although he never returned to the top of the charts again, apart from a couple of top ten hits in the late 1980's, and some of his music was very pedestrian, by the time he was inducted into the prestigious Country Music HoF in 2005, he had finally arrived at a good place in his life. He had survived and overcome the alcoholism and cocaine addiction and the harsh reality of a celebrity lifestyle and continued to make appearances before sold-out crowds across America, the U.K. and Australia, where he had a strong fan base.

For today's music, I'm starting with another guitar number, from a 2001 live performance, with Campbell playing a 12 string Gibson. The music is, of course, a western piece that was the introduction to the movie "The Lone Ranger" (I'm saying this just in case you think this is a classical piece by Rossini that isn't country music). Watch as does a little party trick almost worthy of Stevic Ray Vaughan -


Inspired by Johnny Cash’s late-period recordings with Rick Rubin, the producer Julian Raymond convinced Campbell to
go back into the studio, starting in 2008, to record a series of albums that made full use of his experience. Aimed at a younger audience, his 2008 album "Meet Glen Campbell" featured contemporary classics by the likes of Travis - 'Sing',
the Replacements - 'Sadly Beautiful', U2 - 'All I Want Is You' and Foao Fighters - 'Times Like These'. Other artists who joined him in the studio, includied Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., Jason Faulkner from Jellyfish, and Chris Chaney from Jane’s Addiction.

Raymond brought in the classic Jackson Browne song 'These Days', but Campbell elected to switch a key lyric. Instead of singing about the character “losing” so long, he had him “healing” so long, emphasizing his enduring positivity. Although it’s been covered innumerable times since Browne first penned it in the late 1960s, Campbell manages to sing 'These Days' with the kind of reverence and reflection that only a veteran artist like himself can bring, in a way that aptly
sums up his career - before the onset of his disease, but well after his run of hits had ended -


Also on the album "Meeting Glen Campbell" was Paul Westerberg’s heartbreaking ballad 'Sadly Beautiful', voicing the regrets of a parent who missed his daughter’s childhood. Campbell’s vocal communicates a depth of love that transcends time, demonstrating that the singer's mind never wandered from the child, no matter the physical distance -


The album "Meet Glen Campbell" rejuvenated Campbell's career, particularly to a younger audience, but during his concerts after the album came out, he would often stumble over his introductions. Rumours were rampant that he’d started drinking again following years of sobriety. Following the release of the hauntingly named "Ghost On The Canvas" album on Surfdog Records in 2011, Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He had been suffering from short-term memory loss for years. He embarked on a final Goodbye Tour, with three of his children joining him in his backup band including shows across the UK.

Despite the fact that by 2014 Campbell was deteriorating fast and was being cared full time at home by his family (who
by now he was forgetting who they were) and nursing staff, he still somehow knew what to do in a studio to make music, remembering lines even as forgot who he was. Astonishingly, the last song Campbell recorded many consider as one of
his best. 'I'm Not Gonna Miss You' is one of the most poignant and personal songs of Campbell's career. Released in 2014 as a track from his documentary chronicling a personal journey with Alzheimer's, "Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me" this song is incredibly honest, realistic and moving. Just as powerful as the video's images, revealing the stark reality of his physical and mental descent are the lyrics that Campbell sings, foreshadowing the complete loss of his memory -
"I'm still here, but yet I'm gone / I don't play guitar or sing my songs / They never defined who I am /
The man that loves you 'til the end / You're the last person I will love / You're the last face I will recall /
And best of all, I'm not gonna miss you." -


'I'm Not Gonna Miss' earned an Oscar nomination in 2015, but more importantly, it brought attention to Alzheimer's in a way no song had before. The powerful song and its equally stirring music video remind us how talented this man once was. Sadly, it's also a reminder of how much this terrible disease takes away.

Campbell recorded his final album "Adios", in 2012-2013 but it wasn’t released until June 2017, just before he died.
The album featured a dozen songs that Glen had always wanted to record, but had never got around to. Vince Gill,
Willie Nelson and Roger Miller sang duets with him and 3 of his children were on background vocals. It proved to be a stunning epitaph to a great career. Inevitably, it culminated in this farewell song, appropriately penned by Jimmy Webb back in the 1990s. The track, which acknowledges a love that was “too grandiose,” begs the listener not to turn morose in the experience of loss. It’s a song of sweet parting, leading to a final crescendo from Campbell that can’t help but bring a tear -


Campbell spent his final years in an assisted living facility as his mind and memory departed before his body. His wife and children would often spend days with him playing or singing to him his old songs - which was the only thing he reacted to. His body finally quietly gave up in August 2017.

A self-taught prodigy, Glen Campbell rose from a desperately poor rural childhood to release over 70 albums and sell 45 million records. He won too awards to mention them all but he was inducted into the Country Music HoF in 2005 and in 2012 he won a Grammy lifetime achievement award.

Campbell's music wasn't the country music of the traditionalists, but to the world at large it was country. He was pop-country crossover before the term had been coined, and in his own way, he introduced millions around the world to country music - and for many, it was the door to the "real" country music by the likes of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Gene Autry, all singers he idolised and talked about in glowing terms. In reality, the string-heavy arrangements were not too dis-similar to recordings of the time by Eddy Arnold and Ray Price and those of a few years earlier by Jim Reeves. A master guitarist, gifted vocalist and superb entertainer, Glen Campbell was, in his prime, one of the true icons of country music.

My next artist was different than any we've had before - a popular, top-selling great that broke new ground in the country music industry - even though his actual music was always conventionally country.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
As promised, I said our next artist was a first for this history. It's not because he was the first (Don Everly being the second) to have passed away (from covid) after I commenced this country music history last year (I can't believe for
how long this has gone). Nor is it because he played professional baseball for almost a decade and nearly made the
major league. It's more significant.

When his first singles were released, early publicity photos were withheld. At his first big concert, before 10,000 fans
in Detroit, the preliminary applause after he was announced faded to a confused silence when He walked onstage. He recalled - "... You could drop a pin. I said - “Ladies and gentlemen, I realize it’s kind of unique, me coming out here on
a country music show wearing this permanent tan”. The minute I said that, big applause. I guess they said, “Well - let’s sit back and see what he’s got to offer".
He was more than able to get the crowd cheering again when he began to sing. So we now welcome our first African-American to make a highly successful career as a country music singer. And what a career it was - and what a great vocalist he was.

Apart from being black, his story starts in a very familiar - born in the rural northern Mississippi in 1934, the 4th of
11 children, Charley Pride grew up in a shotgun shack (so named because you can fire a gun through the front to the
back door without hitting anything). His father was a dirt poor but stern, hardworking sharecropper of 40 acres of cotton crop in the Mississippi Delta - the heartland of the delta blues (in fact where the blues were born) from which came blues legends such as Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and the Kings (BB and Albert).

So, in an era and place where blacks went for the blues and whites for country music, how on earth did Charley "get
into" country? Thank his straightlaced father who, disapproving of the "loose morality" of secular blues, limited his large family to listening to country and gospel music, including (of course) the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, and Charley was thus musically schooled on the likes of Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, and Roy Acuff. Charley, more than anyone else in the crowded house, fell in love with the country music he listened to as a child and started singing constantly around the house. At age 14, Pride picked cotton to buy his first guitar, a $10 Sears and Roebuck mail order model.

Like so many other artists in this history, Charley’s earliest memories always included dreams of doing something other than the painful drudgery of picking cotton - but with one major exception - a talented sportsman, he saw a way out that didn't involve music - "I used to sit on the porch and I’d look up at the clouds. And I said, “Boy how’d it be to float on them clouds?” And I’d think of that, you know, when I was little. So when I saw Jackie Robinson go to the major leagues, I said, “There’s my way out of the cotton field.” (Jackie Robinson was the first black baseballer allowed to play in the major league).

At age just 16, Pride left home to play professional baseball for the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro American League.
After 2 years he married Rozene Cohran - an ambitious and highly motivated Memphis woman who oversaw his business interests for the rest of his life end of his career - but was drafted the Army for a 2 year stint. Discharged in 1958, Pride returned to Memphis but was prevented from rejoining the Red Sox by a chronic arm injury. He then approached Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley was discovered. The studio made a recording of him, but never released it.

Continuing in pro baseball in the minor and Negro leagues, he was barely making ends meet so in 1960 he moved all the way to Helena, Montana, to play in a semi-pro team that guaranteed the players employment in a lead smelter. The work was hard and dangerous but Pride enjoyed the more relaxed racial atmosphere in what was still a country music area, but without the racial issues of the South. Here, his musical talent was quickly recognised and he was paid $10 to sing for 15 minutes before each game and at company picnics while also performing in local bars.

One evening, in 1962, he had the lucky break that altered his life when country star Red Sovine and heard Pride at a Helena bar in and advised him to go to Nashville and gave him some contacts. But Pride still held on to his dream of becoming a major league ballplayer, and did not heed Sovine until a 1964 tryout with the New York Mets convinced
him that, after 11 years of trying, he wouldn't make it to major league baseball. So, going to plan B, onthe way back
to Montana after his rejection by the Mets, Pride detoured to Nashville and sang for manager Jack Johnson, and, in the words of Ebony magazine -"Impressed that a Black man could sing country music, Johnson asked Pride to sing in his natural voice. Pride said that he had just done so."

Johnson arranged for Pride to meet with renegade producer Cowboy Jack Clement, an iconoclast who had worked with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others at Sun Records during the early days of rock’n’roll. Introduced to Pride by manager Jack Johnson, Clement gave Pride some songs to learn and ushered the singer into several major studios who rejected him - until an RCA studio recording audition caught the ear of RCA’s Chet Atkins,
who immediately signed him up, only revealing Pride’s race to the senior execs in LA after the deal was agreed upon.

Pride's debut single, released by RCA in 1966, without any publicity photos in order to hide his race, 'Snakes Crawl at Night', written by Mel Tillis and produced by Cowboy Jack Clement, made for a hell of an introduction - a chilling honky-tonker about a man waiting in the shadows for his wife and her lover. Despite not becoming a hit at the time (Pride was just a no-name "new" artist), he continued to perform 'The Snakes Crawl at Night' throughout his career -
"... So I waited in the shadows until morning / and the gun I held was trembling in my hand /
I did not plan to give them any warning / for the devil on my shoulder had command
...”


After Pride's first 2 singles didn't chart, Chet Atkins got involved with the third. The master of the Nashville Sound knew how to layer his strings and steel guitar alongside Pride’s room-filling baritone. The result, his first hit, 'Just Between You and Me', reached # 9 and was nominated for a Grammy. The song, a heartbroken ode to time’s inability to heal romantic wounds gentle, sung in a rich, warm but downtrodden tone, brimming with sadness with soft-glow backing harmonies established his country/pop bona fides, as his vocals sold the song -
".. Just between you and me / You're too much to forget..." -


Pride’s race was shielded from country radio dj's for his first 3 single releases, with no publicity photos distributed, so that even after his first top 10 hit in 1966, it wasn't until the cover of his gold-selling first album, 'Country Charley Pride' in 1967, that many fans found out he was Black. Once they did find out, it didn't seem to matter as his popularity (and record sales) grew.

'Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger' released in 1967 as the first single from the album "The Country Way", was Pride's third major hit, peaking at # 4. One of the more devastating marriage songs in country music, sung with desolation and fear but also a certan amount of empathy (thus adding to the sadness) - “I understand sometimes we all need time alone,” Pride offers, adding, “But why do you always leave your ring at home?” Pride’s gentle, forlorn delivery brings you inside his pain, adding characteristic gravity to a song that probably would’ve done just fine based on its title alone.

Decades later, married songwriting team Buddy and Julie Miller added another dagger twist to the song’s theme with 'Does My Ring Burn Your Finger' recorded by Lee Ann Womack in 2001.

Now for the song that was a big hit in the UK, Australia and a huge # 1 in Ireland (where Pride was especially esteemed because he performed in Belfast when it was roiled by violent political unrest and paved the way for other musicians to come to the city), but strangely wasn't a charting hit for Pride in the U.S. The original rendition was 'Crystal Chandeliers' was sung by Carl Belew and reached # 12 in 1965, before it was popularized by Pride in 1967, included on his # 1 selling album, "The Country Way". It was produced by Chet Atkins, who had also produced Belew's original rendition. Although Pride's cover received heavy airplay on radio, it was never a hit on the U.S. singles charts. Yet it's Pride's cover that is the recognizable and enduring version of the song.

The song is a lament about a former love that was out of the singer's league choosing the rich highlife over what he could offer - laced with a stinging prediction that she will come to regret her choice -
"... I see your picture in the news most every day / You're the chosen girl of the social world so the stories say /
But a paper smile only lasts a while then it fades away / And the love we knew will come home to you someday
..." -

Pride's groundbreaking Belfast concert in 1976 broke an unofficial touring ban their due to political violence, and brought both sides of the community together. Pride subsequently became a hero to both sides of the conflict for breaking the informal touring ban and other music acts such as Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones followed suit. Shortly thereafter, 'Crystal Chandeliers' became considered a "unity song" in Ireland and the UK.

Pride made history with 'All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)', written by Dallas Frazier and Doodle Owens, went to # 1 in 1969, making Pride the first black artist to go # 1 since Louis Jordan in 1944. It was the first of 29 # 1 hits. Produced
by Jack Clement and Chet Atkins, the song is a perfect example of the late 1960's era Nashville Sound, with Pride’s voice soaring over pedal steel and backup vocals, a tremble in his voice making clear what he can and can’t afford to offer to his love.

Serving like a sequel to 'Crystal Chandaliers', the song, about a man having a conversation with the woman he wants to marry, is self-deprecating and almost bashful, maybe just too honest, as he admits he doesn't have have a whole lot going for him beyond just himself -
"...There's something you should know / About the years ahead and how they'll be / You'll be living in a world /
Where roses hardly ever grow / ... There’ll be no mansion waiting on the hill with crystal chandeliers /
And there’ll be no fancy clothes for you to wear
...” -


So we've seen Charley Pride go from the poverty of one of 11 children of a Mississippi sharecropper, to ultimately unsuccessfully trying for 9 years (interrupted by 2 years of army service, in which he represented the US army baseball team) to crack the major league baseball (at one stage becoming the only known baseballer to be traded for a new team bus) to becoming, through pure natural talent and a maginificent country music voice. In 1967 the first African-American to perform at the Grand Ole Opry since Deford Bailey in 1941. Then in 1969 he had the first of his 29 # 1 hits. Tomorrow will look at his career peak in the 1970's.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Though Charley Pride is not the first black artist to be featured in this history, neither Ray Charles or Nat King Cole were country singers, but southerners who thus grew up hearing and having a knowledge and liking for country music - and both recorded influential country music albums. But though Charley grew up in the heartland of the delta blues, he was totally devoted to country music - despite it being (especially in its southern heartland) white dominated. So how did he cope as the only major Black Country music singer? During a 1968 concert in Fort Worth, Texas (which was recorded for
a 1969 RCA release), Pride told the audience - “I get a lot of questions asked me - ‘Charley, how’d you get into country music and why you don’t sound like you’re supposed to sound? “It’s a little unique, I admit. But I’ve been singing country music since I was about 5 years old. This is why I sound like I sound.”

As with Jackie Robinson, who broke the colour line in major-league baseball in 1947, Pride responded to discrimination with square jawed silence for the most part, convinced that talent would overcome prejudice. In interviews, he played down the role that his Blackness played in his career, especially when confronted with racial prejudice, saying - “People thought it was going to be hard, but it wasn’t. I never got any flak or anything. And that’s what’s been astonishing to most reporters, especially since I came along at the height of the sit-ins and bus boycotts.”

Pride had a fruitful partnership with songwriters Dallas Frazier and Doodle Owens that resulted in several # 1 hits, starting with 'All I Have To Offer You (Is Me). Pride's 2nd # 1 single in 1969 was the vulnerable ballad '(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again'. With its rich harmonies, keening pedal steel and slow-trot tempo, the song embodied the "countrypolitan" sound dominating the charts in the late 1960's and early 1970's. A heartbreaking ballad about a man paralyzed by lost love, it's the kind of song Pride was meant to record with his rich, resonant voice -
“... Being close to you revives the sorrow / That wakes me up and tells me I can’t win /
I’d love to wake up in your arms tomorrow / But I’m so afraid of losing you again
...” -


One of Pride’s signature tunes was this up-tempo fiddle ode to heartsick hitchhiking. Pride's second best-known song about the sort of downtrodden character you might expect from Kristofferson, became his 3rd # 1 in 1970. Written by Jack Kirby and Glenn Martin, Pride’s version became the definitive blueprint for this country standard, later recorded
by everyone from Ray Price and Nancy Sinatra to Tanya Tucker and Doug Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes.

From the very first line - “Rain dripping off the brim of my hat” - Pride’s unmistakable baritone added a deep pathos to this lonesome wanderer’s tale, haplessly hitchhiking far away from a broken relationship. Strings and pedal steel dip up and down throughout this deceptively upbeat song, as the singer attempts to hit the open road and flee, ostensibly by hitchhiking. Though the narrator isn't picky about a destination, he seems to realize, on some level, that running away won't solve his heartbreak. - "Is anybody goin' to San Antone / Or Phoenix, Arizona? / Anyplace is alright as long as I / Can forget I've ever known her ..." -


Pride spoke for everyday people as effectively as his peer Tom T. Hall and other master storytellers with the title track from a 1971 album. Perhaps 'I'm Just Me' was a biography of the charming, talented optimist from Mississippi. Fiddle and steel guitar saturated this pleasing country arrangement - one that allowed Pride to share his world view. This upbeat, brisk ode to being true to yourself spent 4 weeks at # 1 in 1971. "I was just born to be exactly what you see," he sings, as a chorus of background singers bolsters his expressions of individualism. "Nothing more or less; I'm not the worst or the best / I just try to be exactly what you see / Today and every day, I'm just me." -


Charley Pride’s warm, honey-butter vocals were tailor-made for early 1970's AM pop radio, and everyone finally got a taste of what country fans had been enjoying for a half-decade with the release of this gloriously cheerful and cheeky
'Kiss An Angel Good Morning' penned by Pride’s fellow Mississippian Ben Peters. After 13 albums and # 7 # 1 hits, Pride’s 8th chart-topper, from the 1972 Grammy-winning "Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs", crossed over to # 21 on the pop charts and # 7 Adult Comtemprary. It became the his signature tune because it beautifully showcased his artistry, from his welcoming voice to his eyes-glinting sense of humour.

Pride's booming voice and the influence of Hank Williams and George Jones drew him to honky-tonk hardness, but few blended hard honky tonk and soft pop modes as deftly as Pride, and did he blend them successfully on the biggest hit
of his career. The secret is in its simplicity - The lyrics reveal the secret to a happy life - treating a woman right (though
it assumes you have an angel of a woman), so that you have a loving relationship. The music combines a jaunty piano and perky fiddle and Pride ties it all together with an understated vocal that exudes hard-earned wisdom - the voice of
a contented man who knows exactly of which he sings -


Small southern towns have a particular fascination for me - and especially the ones in the delta, where the blues were born on the surrounding cotton fields, and the ultra slow pace and empty shops and old barrooms recall a different era, before the machines took over the cotton picking. Hence this is my favourite Pride song, in which Pride recalls his own upbringing in Sledge, Mississippi, evoking the poverty and struggle of life in the rural South, including a subtle reminder
of the harsh economic reality blacks (but not just blacks, as we've seen so often in this history) experienced within the sharecropping system - "... Ain't a lot of money in cotton bale / At least when you try to sell ..."

While not a # 1 song for Pride, 'Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town' is essential to understanding where he came from. Pride didn't write this song, but his performance convinces you otherwise. The struggles of the rural South didn't find room in many of his songs prior to this Top 5 single, so in some ways this signaled a desire to be known as something more than a smiling suave crooner capable of great love and heartbreak songs.

Songwriter Harold Dorman actually grew up in Sledge along with Pride and filled the song with vivid details, such as
the memorable line about going into town to sit on a porch and eat a “dust-covered ice cream” on a hot Saturday night. Pride’s delivery perfectly splits the difference between a tender evocation of home and a stark memory of the harsh reality of the world he was happy to leave behind. Modern country music loves to romanticize the small-town roots it pretends to champion, but here was Pride’s (or Dorman's) expert description of the kind of deprivation that country music saved him from. His voice spares unnecessary editorializing - Pride lets the picture tell his tale.
"..On Saturday night, we'd get dressed up / Catch us a ride on a pickup truck / On a gravel road that nearly strangled us / That cotton pickin' delta dust / We'd sit across the street on the depot porch / Lookin' at the folks lookin' back at us / Munchin' on a dust covered ice cream cone / Wondering how we'd get back home ..."


So we leave off in 1974 with Pride at his peak of his career, having won the CMA's awards as both the entertainer of the year and also the top male vocalist in 1971 (winning the latter award again in 1972) and the 1972 Grammy for best male vocal performance. Nor was his stardom limited to the U.S. - in fact he was even more popular, clearly the most popular country singer of them all through the 1970's in the U.K., Ireland, Australia and Canada.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Charley Pride’s music often gets pegged as nostalgic and perhaps overly dominated by straightforward songs of romantic devotion. The music of his era definitely has it’s own feel and sound and this could be why so many think that country music is all the same. But keep in mind this is old school back when old school was still considered to be the coolest thing around. One of the biggest country stars of the 1970's (and internationally, the biggest - more popular than George Jones, Lynette Lyn and even Merle Haggard outside the US) Charley Pride was there, creating a buzz about country music that
a lot of people had to yet to catch on to. But I can easily hear how his music would have been the kind of stereotypical country music that would have give rise to the Outlaw movement as we progress through the 1970's - but for now,
it's back to Charley, from 1978.

'Someone Loves You Honey' is a swooning, romantic, sleek, upwardly mobile ballad, the way Pride handled it, and his
20th # 1 hit in 1978. Further proof that a good song's a good song, regardless of its genre, it became the signature international hit for reggae singer J.C. Lodge in 1982 and a dance sensation for Lutricia McNeal in 1998 -


Perhaps the best cross between Pride's honky-tonk roots and his penchant for singing Kenny Rogers-style love ballads appears on his classic album "Burgers and Fries". Jim Weatherly wrote this must-hear example of Pride lamenting the lovesick blues - and this one leaves a bruise! Take 'Where Do I Put Her Memory' as a breakup song or a mournful song after a good woman's death, this weeping ballad - Pride's 21st # 1 in 1979 - is among his best-written and smartly produced songs -


Pride enjoyed a huge following across the UK and Ireland, where he was easily the most popular country singer through the 1970's. In 1976 he played a concert in Belfast – the first artist to perform in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles - so winning him enduring affection. Pride did his best Jimmy Buffett with the calypso tinged 'You're My Jamaica', an island-life love song complete with steel drums and beachside swagger. Strings fill out an arrangement that was more progressive than many of his other hits. This is the first # 1 country record to be recorded in the U.K. The escapist beach bum appeal of Jimmy Buffett informs this chart-topper from 1979 is a prime example of what we would now call yacht rock. Over 25 years later, Pride re-recorded the song as a duet with Neal McCoy for McCoy's 2005 album "That's Life" -


Another song close to Charley's Mississippi Delta upbringing, though the writers of 'Roll on Mississippi', Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan, were from Minnesota and Florida, respectively, but between the two of them and Pride, the trio imbued this 1981 # 7 hit with gentle waves of nostalgia and wanderlust worthy of a classic Southern novel. Moving along to acoustic guitar and harmonica accompaniment, Pride’s sweet, yearning vocal is a reaches dreamy high notes and then offers a subtle, yet loving homage to “Ol’ Man River” (both the song and the mighty body of water itself) in the tune’s closing moments. So the video here has a man from Mississippi, singing about the Mississippi on the Mississippi Queen
as it travels down the mighty Mississippi -


In early 1981, 21 years after it was first released by its writer Harold Dorman and 7 years after Bruce Springsteen performed it during his shows, Pride topped the chart for the 26th time with his rousing, bluesy rendition of 'Mountain of Love' (a major hit for Johnny Rivers in 1960). There would only be 3 more # hits for Pride after this. Pride's chart-topping version of the song, which expresses regret that a former love is marrying someone else, hews toward easygoing country-soul with a hint of blues and gospel, and is driven by his expressive, always resonant voice. Although lyrically morose, his delivery is almost jaunty and optimistic - a signal that the protagonist will survive his loneliness. When you contrast the style with his early hits, you see just how versatile he could be. The production dates it a bit now but Pride’s impassioned performance gets to the heart of the songs prevailing misery as he stands atop the mountain, surveying the city below and noting the church where - “wedding bells are ringin’ and they shoulda been ours" -


In 1967 Charley made his Grand Ole Opry debut and decades later recalled - “I was so nervous I don’t know how I got through those two songs,” he says of that night. “It’s hard to remember that far back because it’s been a while, but I remember how nervous I was – that, I can tell you. It was something.” However, though invited to join the Opry, he actually declined, as he had moved to Dallas and years later explained - "It was purely an economical decision for me. When I was first invited to join the Opry, they had a requirement at the time that you had to perform 26 Saturdays per year. Fridays and Saturdays were the best days for drawing people to shows and making money out on the road–and my career was starting to take off. So I had to politely decline.”

In 1993, 26 years after he first played the show as a guest, Charley finally joined the Grand Ole Opry. Remembering his initial dream of baseball stardom, Charley said, “It’s as if I had made it in baseball and they came up to me and took me to Cooperstown and said, ‘This is where your plaque is going to be - beside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron".

Tomorrow will conclude Charley Pride's career.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
During the 1970s Charley Pride was like a one-man industry, pumping out the albums faster than anyone else in town. The measure of his success was that he became the second biggest selling artist of all time for the biggest selling record red label, RCA. The only artist who outsold him? Elvis. However, at times, it seemed as if Pride's songs were being computer-written, becoming formulaic, and by 1984 his record sales tapered off alarmingly.

Like so many other long-established country stars, Pride’s real problem was the lack of radio plays for his records. He recalled - “When I first came to Nashville, everybody got airplay. There was Waylon, Merle and myself, then Conway came along. Then there were the older artists like Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and Eddy Arnold and they were all still getting airplay. But when some of us got to the age of the older people I’ve mentioned, something changed in the business. The music has become so big that moguls from the east and west coasts have piled into Nashville and said - ‘Let’s give MTV a run
for their money.’ So they started throwing all these new young singers against the wall, and whoever stuck, stuck. But along the way they stopped playing us older guys who had made this music so much bigger.”


Charley Pride was the first black artist to have a # 1 country record - and the first artist of any race to win the CMA’s male vocalist award 2 years in a row. One of the most successful country singers ever, he would go on to have 29 # 1 hits, 52 Top 10s, and 12 gold albums. Even as his singing career gradually declined from about 1985 onwards, he parlayed his entertainment successes into equally successful business ventures, making millions out of highly lucrative business deals including broadcasting, real estate and banking, including the major stockholder in the First Texas Bank, the largest bank in Texas (which is more populous than Australia). He owned and sold 4 radio stations for big profits, and had extensive real estate holdings include office buildings in Dallas (where he lived with his wife and 2 children) and Nashville, a farm
in Mississippi, a ranch in Texas, a condominium in Maui and the Charley Pride Theatre in Branson, Missouri, his final home. He also owned his music publishing company, the Pride Group and Chardon, his management and booking agency.

In 2000, Charley Pride became the first African-American to be inducted into the Country Music HoF. In 2017 he received a lifetime achievement Grammy. Despite being now independently very wealthy, Pride continued to tour around the world and record, just for the love of it. He regularly performed at both Branson and the Grand Ole Opry. Though he no longer heard on the youth and pop focussed so-called "country" radio, Pride continued to be a popular concert attraction, with
his son Dion Pride, playing lead guitar. In 1994, Pride was given the ACM's Pioneer Award. He also continued to record occasionally in the 21st century, his last album being "Music in My Heart" in 2018. From that album comes this video of 'Standing I'm My Way', which shows Pride, at age 85 here, was true to his style of country music right to the end -
"... Why you stand beside me, I don't know / There's so many places a girl like you could go
I hope you see enough in me to make you wanna stay / 'Cause it seems I'm always standing in my way
..."


On 11 November 2020, the CMA presented Pride with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, with the head of
the CMA declaring, "Charley Pride is the epitome of a trailblazer." For the CMA Awards broadcast, he sang his biggest
hit, 'Kiss an Angel Good Mornin' as a duet with Jimmie Allen, albeit his voice no longer had the strength and resonance
of his prime. What no-one expected then was that it proved to be Pride's last public appearance; he died in Dallas just
1 month later on December 12 due to complications from COVID-19, at age 86. So here is his last ever performance
(exactly 10 months past from this posting) -


Now the final narrative here should be that Charley Pride opened door for, if not a flood, but at least a stream of black singers to follow in his footsteps, right? Well, yes, it happened - only it took another 40 years! Charley was very much
the exception and almost all African-Americans neither sang or had an interest in country music, staying instead with
the blues and later the urban sounds and attitude of rap and hip-hop. But over the last 15 years, much has changed.

Just 2 weeks ago, 25th August, the CMT held a special nationally televised concert "CMT Giant : Charley Pride", which celebrated Charley Pride's life, career and music, through performances of his songs by a who's-who of country artists including African-Americans Darius Rucker, Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton, Reyna Roberts and Neal McCoy as well as Alan Jackson, George Strait, Ronnie Milsap, Garth Brooks, Lee Ann Womack, Luke Combs, Reba McEntire and Wynonna Judd
as well as gospel artist Robert Randolph, pop legend Gladys Knight, baseball icon Nolan Ryan plus Pride's son Dion and widow, Rozene.

Darius Rucker, the former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman who has had the most commercial success of any Black country music act since Pride’s heyday, on hearing the news of his death, said - “My heart is so heavy. Charley Pride was an icon, a legend and any other word you wanna use for his greatness. He destroyed barriers and did things that no one had ever done. But today I’m thinking of my friend. Heaven just got one of the finest people I know ...". Here he is from the CMT concert on 25 August 2021, performing Charley's 1978 # 1 hit 'Somebody Loves You Honey' -


As we saw above, Jimmie Allen had the honour of sharing the stage with Charley Pridenon what turned out to be his very last performance. After Pride's death, Allen remembered the trailblazing star as the “Superman of country music”, saying - “Here’s the truth - I might never have had a career in country music if it wasn’t for a truly groundbreaking artist who took his best shot and made the best kinda history in our genre. He unquestionably had skin made of steel to fly through all
of the turbulence he had to deal with while chasing his dream, but he had a heart of gold too. He taught me to never be ashamed of who I am and to make music I love for the people that I love. Talking with Mr. Charley Pride was like sitting and talking to your grandfather. I’m just glad I got a chance to do it
.”
Two weeks ago, Allen took the stage to perform 'All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)', Pride’s very first # 1 single -


So the great Charley Pride passed from covid 19 - but not before influencing a new generation of country artists.

The next artist to appear, also from Mississippi, not far from where Charley Pride grew up, was, after starting his career as a late 1950's rock star, every bit a big - or even bigger - country star than George Jones, Merle Haggard and Charley Pride through the 1970's and 80's - yet his name hasn't endured like these legends.
 

(Log in to remove this ad.)

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
There's similarities between Charley Pride and our next artist. They were born just 6 months and 40 km apart in
the Mississippi delta, the birthplace of the blues. Both were aspiring to a career in professional baseball when they
were drafted, into the Army for 2 years of service. Both ended up pursuing a music career after their army discharge
and although our latest artist found a lot of success in the late 1950's, both really "made it" in country music in the late 1960's then dominated the charts through the 1970's and '80's - at least for the adult market.

Born Harold Jenkins in Friars Point (where Muddy Waters once only saw the legendary Robert Johnson play live) on
the banks of the Mississippi in 1933, his mother was the breadwinner while his father found spotty work as a Mississippi riverboat pilot. Given his first guitar at the age 4, Harold demonstrated a musical gift (which seemed endemic in the delta in that era). At age 10, his family had moved just across the river to Helena, Arkansas (which was then pretty much the Blues capital of the world), so he was influenced not only country, but also blues and gospel music. At age just 10, he formed his first first group, the Phillips Country Ramblers, who performed on local radio.

Jenkins loved music, but saw performing strictly as a hobby. He had another profession in mind - baseball. At 18, just out of high school, he was offered a contract by the MLB Philadelphia Phillies, but just before he could join the team he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He spent most of his Army years in Japan, where he performed in a country band to entertain furloughed troops. When he was discharged, he was astonished by the first music he heard on the radio, Elvis Presley's 'Mystery Train'. Later he was thrilled by the Carl Perkins hit 'Blue Suede Shoes', later saying - "I thought this was a young type of music and I thought I could do this. So I got a little group together and we started playing in nightclubs and on street corners and under shade trees - anywhere they'd let us play down in the Delta area."

In 1956, Jenkins headed to Memphis and auditioned for Sun Records. Sam Phillips signed him to a recording contract, and a single but none of the tracks he cut were released as Phillips considered his sound as too imitative of Elvis. However, his self-penned song 'Rockhouse' was a minor hit for labelmate Roy Orbison. But 41 years later, in 1997, his 1956 Sun Studio cuts were finally released as part of a box set, "The Rock'N'Roll Years", and one of the tracks really stood out - so much so it was subsequently included on his 2003 album "Country Boy" then his 2011 album that was even named after the song - 'Just In Time'.

It seems, given its popularity decades later, Sam Phillips made a big mistake in not releasing this gem of a song back
in 1956 - I suspect he thought it was too country sounding at the time, just when he (thanks to Elvis and Perkins) was riding the rock'n'roll wave. In fact the song is a highly relatable honky tonker and, despite the sparse accompaniment,
the vocal performance is exceptional -


In early 1957, Jenkins signed to Mercury Records with a producer who urged him to change his name. He was reluctant at first, because he wanted the folks in his hometown to see that "Harold Jenkins" had made the big time but was eventually convinced that only a distinctive name would assure his singles air time in the competitive pop market. He used maps of the South to come up with his stage name - Conway, from Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, from Twitty, Texas. However, his handful of released singles didn’t make much of an impact, though I Need Your Lovin’ scraped the very bottom of the pop charts.

In 1958, Twitty moved to MGM Records, where he finally achieved success with 'It’s Only Make Believe', one of 1958’s biggest selling world-wide hits. A teen-targeted song co-written with Jack Nance it featured vocal support by Presley’s back-up group The Jordanaires. It turned Twitty into an instant rock'n'roll star, hitting # 1 on the pop charts in the U.S., the UK and Canada and # 5 in Australia. There are numerous cover versions, from Glen Campbell, Clay Aiken to Twitty himself (12 years after the original recording, with Loretta Lynn), but there’s nothing like Conway’s doo-wop-tinged original which rocked audiences so hard that a good many believed "Conway Twitty" was just Elvis Presley recording
under a different alias (an early example of a conspiracy theory).

Let’s break it down - we have the quiet opening, which is done in Conway’s best Elvis mutter. Then we get 3 crescendos, the song rising in pitch, and Conway sounding louder and more impassioned as they go along. All 3 end in the title phrase, and he deftly pivots on the last syllable the first 2 times, bringing the song back down to a lower pitch and intensity in a masterful recording - albeit he does sound like Elvis -


'Lonely Blue Boy' was originally entitled 'Danny' and sung by Elvis Presley in the 1958 movie King Creole - but it was never released as Elvis' version was considered to lack punch. The title track of an album and first released as a single
in 1960, this finds Twitty still with a strong foothold in rock’n’roll, sounding uncannily like Elvis on the title track, which reached #6 on the U.S. pop chart and # 14 in Australia -


What do you get when you mix a famous and revered old Irish ballad, an eventual country singer and a song that # 10
in 1959 on the Pop chart. You get, surprisingly, Twitty’s unique version of 'Danny Boy'. Twitty opens the song in the usual way - somber and mournful - but don't be fooled by the first 35 seconds, as it transforms into a joyful, late-1950's style rocker. Not everyone was a fan of Twitty’s version, though (in fact I don't really like it either but others loved it and it's
too original and different to ignore). Due to its perceived irreverence to the beloved Irish unofficial anthem, it was even banned by the BBC and never charted in the U.K. or Ireland, but it reached # 12 in Australia -


Twitty’s rock’n’roll fame arrived suddenly and it went just as quickly with no more top 40 pop singles by 1961. He continued to tour, but having been raised on country music, he hankered after a career in country, and when the rock’n’roll bubble burst (see post # 404), he started pitching his self-penned country tunes to Nashville. Ray Price recorded his 'Walk Me To The Door 'in 1960, but Conway didn’t actively pursue a full on country music career change
until 1965, when, tired of singing pop/rock, which he considered as being just basic teen music, he walked out in the middle of a concert at a New Jersey nightclub and, at age 32, declared himself as a singer of adult country music.

In 1965, Twitty hooked up with record producer Owen Bradley, one of the cornerstones, along with Chet Atkins' of the Nashville Sound'. However, despite 5 singles, none which didn't yield a top 20 hit, and 3 modest selling albums, major success eluded him until, in 1968, with his first top 5 country hit, 'The Image of Me'. The song was written by Wayne Kemp who at the time was a struggling artist trying to launch his own recording career, but instead had run out of money. Close to bankruptcy, Kemp offered to sell Twitty the song for $500 in an effort to scrape up some quick cash and keep his electricity on. Twitty agreed it should be a hit, but insiste Kemp retain his publishing rights and even loaned him the $500 so Kemp could record it, on the proviso that if it didn't sell, Twitty would record it. Sure enough, Kemp's cut bombed, so after waiting 3 months, Twitty put his heart into this solid honky tonk number that hit # 5 in 1968.

The song is a classic country tale of dissolution and regret, but with a twist - instead of bemoaning one's own loss of innocence and being betrayed, the narrator rues his corruption of the love of his life, a "...simple, old-fashioned girl ..." that he remade in his own hard drinking, hard living manner (which sounds OK by me - and I've seen this happen) -

Kemp was extra thankful that Twitty had insisted he keep the songwriting rights, worth thousands. The song performed so well for Twitty, he went back to Kemp for his next two singles - 'Next In Line' (Twitty's first # 1) followed by 'Darling You Know I Wouldn’t Lie' which peaked at # 2 in early 1969. Then came his most enduring hit - but that's for tomorrow.
 
Last edited:

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
So after his stint as a rock'n'roll star of the late 1950's and early 60's, we've seen Twitty return to his country music
roots in the mid 1960's and finally really breaking through into the country market with his 1968 hit 'The Image Of Me'. By adding subtle r&b, pop, and rock’n’roll influences he defined and expanded the limitations of country-pop. He (quite correctly - especially at that time) saw country music as an adult music for an adult audience, in contrast to the youth oriented rock'n'roll genre and it was to the adult market that he aimed his music at. In the early 1970s the increased sexual suggestiveness in much of his material, especially on 'You’ve Never Been This Far Before' (see below), which was banned on many country music radio stations, made Twitty country music's first adult contemporary star - though some labelled his music "country porn".

As can be seen in videos of his live performances, Conway had a very minimalist performance style. Like Roy Orbison,
he just stood there, playing lead guitar and singing one song after another - saying absolutely nothing apart from the occasional thank you, leaving all the announcements and banter to his band members. For years Twitty didn't speak onstage, do any interviews, attend music business parties or award shoes, appear on TV shows or perform encores - which no doubt resulted in a lower profile than he otherwise would have had amongst the music media, with long
term effects on his music legacy - but enough of that, let's slip back to 1969 as we continue through his music.

Twitty wrote this song way back in 1950, but he didn’t release it until 1969, waiting almost 2 decades to introduce the
world to a song that would become a country standard. This incredible song alone might've made Twitty a great, without the benefit of his 39 other # 1 hits. 'Hello Darlin’ was named the # 1 song of 1970. Considering the song has no chorus and the title is only mentioned only once, at its very start, the release was considered risky. But after hitting # 1, 'Hello Darlin' made history after being played in space on the Apollo/Soyuz space mission. Twitty witnessed the U.S. and Soviet crews linked in space with the song playing in the background in (phonetic) Russian as 'Privet Rados'.

One of the most famous spoken first words in the history of country music lyrics set the stage for one of the genre's greatest tales of heartbreak. Nothing in Twitty's daunting catalog quite touches his defining signature hit, with its classic country instrumentation. Nor do covers by such legends as Charley Pride capture the believable pain in Twitty's voice -

If you’re wondering where else - besides old LPs, the radio and karaoke bars - you might have heard this song, fans
of the cartoon Family Guy may remember that an episode of the show closes with a live performance of 'Hello Darlin’.

Twitty and Loretta Lynn (see post # 491 for 2 of there # 1 duos not included here) were a formidable team, and 'After
The Fire Has Gone' was their first of 5 #1 hits as a duo. It’s not the song to listen to if you need a pick-me-up - instead,
is about 2 people who fall in love while still married to other people, and their trying to justify their cheating by explaining by the usual excuse - how bad things are at home -
“... We know it’s wrong for us to meet / But the fire’s gone out at home /
And there’s nothin’ cold as ashes / After the fire is gone...” -


If there was an award for the most horny lyrics of the 1980’s, it would have to go to this one. No modern-day so-called pop-country star's raps, nor any outlaw's more explicit material resides on the same carnal plain as Twitty's steamiest 1973 # 1 hit. Its success came despite (or because) a host of radio stations banned the song due to its racy lyrics. Twitty penned 'You’ve Never Been This Far Before' to tell the story of a person stepping outside of marriage for the first time. But it was misunderstood that the controversial single was about deflowering a virgin, when it was really about finding a new love after a breakup - at least that was Conway's excuse. To "prove" this wasn’t just a "dirty" love song sung by a 40 year old about "breaking in" a virgin, Twitty always pointed to the lyrics - "... I don’t know and I don’t care what made you tell him you don’t love him anymore..". But in the Bible Belt South back then, first time relationships often didn't involve full-on sex, so the jury is out on this.

In any case, even if it's not about a virgin, the characters in the song are literally in the process of f*****g, with lines like - "... And I can feel your body tremble as you wonder what this moment holds in store ..." and "... I don't know what I'm saying as my trembling fingers touch forbidden places..." It's a sweet sentiment, but it doesn't change the fact that the song went further than about every other love song at the time - especially in country music. Instead of just hinting at sex, or talking about sex, the song actively narrates the sex in progress - the reason this song was labelled by many as "country porn". It became Twitty's 10th # 1 single in 1973 - perhaps due to the "dirty lyrics" or maybe just due to its catchy “bom bom bom” refrain -


'I See the Want To in Your Eyes' was first recorded by honky-tonk outlaw singer Gary Stewart. Twitty heard Stewart's version on the radio and rightly decided it was the perfect song for himself. Twitty's version was his 11th # 1 in 1974. A filmed performance of Twitty singing the song on "That Good Ole Nashville Music" TV show is aired in its entirety on the "The Juice Is Loose" episode of Family Guy - and shown here. The subject matter of the song itself had by now become become standard fare for Twitty - in this case it's a lesson in how to persuade a married woman (most likely at a bar) to follow their desires, for at least for a night (we don't get these type of lyrics anymore) -
"... How many women just like you have silent schemes / How many men like me do they sleep with in their dreams? /
You can stay or you can go and although I sympathize / I still see the want to in your eyes
..."


Conway Twitty’s songs were often considered too risque for radio back in the day. 'Linda on My Mind', a honky tonk inspired hit of a guilt-ridden man sadly fantasizing about his friend’s wife, Linda, while lying next to another woman
(his wife or girlfriend) who he is about to leave - and he knows that she knows - was seen by some as morally dubious and another example of a song he wrote that got the conservative religious people riled up. Twitty defended the lyrics, saying - “There are tons of songs like that. You
can’t take sex out of country music. If you did, it wouldn’t be country music. But you can tell the story without being vulgar
". But something about the song, whether it was the content or the harmonies, resonated, earning Twitty his
12th # 1 in 1975 -
"Now I'm lying here with Linda on my mind / And next to me, my soon to be, the one I left behind /
And Lord it's killing me to see her crying / She knows I'm lying here beside her with Linda on my mind
..."
Been there ... done that (albeit her name wasn't Linda) -


We leave off until tomorrow with Conway Twitty in 1975 contending with George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Merle Haggard (traditional country), Charley Pride (conservative country) and Dolly Parton (pop-country) with his adult contemporary - yet still decidedly country - sound, as among the biggest stars in country music. A major part of his success was to subtly change his sound over the years to keep it contemporary - but continue to aim squarely at the prime adult market.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Twitty had an uncanny ear for picking hit songs - a natural hard-worker, he used to listen to as many as 3,000 tunes before choosing just 10 to record, and once saying - "If there's any so-called secret to my success and longevity in this business, it is that talent. I can just tell a hit when I write one or when I hear one. That's the one thing that's sustained me down through the years". He was pitched top shelf songs for the 2 decades. Much of it he turned away, even passing eventual smash singles on to other artists. One of his many gifts, beyond the elusive art of knowing which songs would be hits, was knowing which of those songs would specifically work for him. But. Of course, he was also one of Music Row’s best songwriters in his own right, writing no fewer than 19 of his 45 # 1 hits.

In the late 1970s Twitty began experimenting, adding elements of rock ('Boogie Grass Band'), R&B ('Don’t Take it Away'), and Outlaw sounds ('Play Guitar Play') - though his adult audience was a very different market than the younger Outlaw demographic. He also began producing his own albums. As his music evolved with the times, though still directed to the adult market, he adopted a more contemporary sound, and a more open, less guilt-ridden sexuality. Time to get on with the music.

Conway Twitty's greatest duet outside of his work with Loretta Lynn came when he recorded this 1975 # 4 with his then 16 year old daughter, Joni Lee Jenkins, on a song he had written years earlier and was perfect for a duet with a young female singer, given its subject matter. The song itself unwittingly shows up some changing social values in the South, with the older love interest of the girl next door rejecting her as too young at age 15, whereas in this history, this was
not an unusual marrying age for females in the South up to the 1960's. I won't put a spoiler about the ending - you'll have to listen for either the happy or tearful conclusion of this simple and cute country ballad -


In 1976, Twitty revisited his Sun Records roots with a # 1 performance that sounded like it came straight from the 1950s. It came out at a time where nearly every Conway Twitty song topped the charts, so it sometimes gets ignored in terms of overall importance. But, there’s no arguing the passion and grit that Twitty instilled in the song, making it a classic for me (if for few others) -


We've already seen Tammy Wynette use the voice or perspective of children to make biting adult points (e.g. 'I Don't Want To Play House', D.I.V.O.R.C.E and 'Kids Say the Darnest Things' - see posts # 503 & 504). Here, Twitty sings of a young boy in search of a father figure - and his mother, distraught on realising what her son was missing - and the pain
of recalling the betrayal of his father, with this touching single. This 1976 # 1 proves Conway's range when it comes to interpreting different subjects. He sang about more than just adult struggles with love, lust and sex, betrayal and loss, telling the truth as the best of country music does -


Twitty and Lynn played off each other so well when it came to tales of true love lost (e.g. 'Crazy in Love') or countrified living (e.g. 'Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man' - see post # 404). Comedy worked for them, too, with Lynn's vocal wit providing the perfect match for Twitty's equally unshakable way with words. 'You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly' is, somehow, a love song - of sorts - a begrudging love song, but a love song nonetheless. You can thank the musical chemistry and the lighthearted banter between Lynn and Twitty for that. The entire song is devoted to teasing and insulting each other, all in "Southern strine" - “... Conway, why in the devil don’t you gon’ and shave and put on a
clean pair of pants?... ”
Lynn sings, while Twitty responds - “... I wish you’d take them curlers out of your hair an’
go put on a little bit of makeup...”.
While they both accuse the other of being “...the reason our kids are ugly...”,
the heart of this 1978 # 6 B-side hit is simple and sweet in a very 1970's traditional country way -


One thing Twitty did so well throughout his career was straddling different styles and genres. From 1974/75, new frontiers in country music were being forged by the Outlaw movement, particularly appealing to a younger market that had been largely neglected by the genre for well over a decade (as you may have noticed if you've followed this history through the 1960's). Inevitably, the commercial successes of the Outlaws spilled over to influence other country musicians including Conway, who updated his image, losing his permed bouffant and his music. In 'Don’t Take It Away' he goes full-on R&B and the result is a powerful, dynamic vocal performance from 1979 earned Twitty his 21st # 1 single -


We leave off with Twitty a dominant force in American country music with 21 # 1 singles, as we're about to proceed not the 1980's, with his strong vocals and his ability to sense the ever shifting trends for maintaining popular success and giving his adult fan base what they want. Will he maintain his success i to the 1980's? We'll see tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Don't think I've really got into modern country act as much as I have for Turnpike Troubadours...
I know I've said this a few times now (and might go into a big rant one day), but a lot of what the Nashville music industry (long controlled now by big multinationals like Sony) market as "country music" ain't no such thing, but just
soft pop with more urban (e.g. rap/hip-hop) than country influences, aimed at a young suburban market. But by its nature, country music, just like the blues, should at least have some connection of one sort or another with its heritage - e.g. the Turnpike Troubadours had plenty). These days the true country music (and there's plenty of it - but you have to look for it now beyond the billboard charts) is more often sidelined under the "Americana" or "Outlaw" or just "Roots" genre labels.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
I started the Conway Twitty history by outlining the many similarities his life and career had with fellow Mississippi delta product, Charley Pride, whose careers coincided through the 1970's and 80's. Another thing they had in common was that both also had great success in business, making millions. Through the 1970s, Twitty expanded into property, banking and fast food, although his Twittyburgers came to a greasy end. In 1982, Conway opened one of the largest tourist attractions in the state of Tennessee. Twitty City was suburban Nashville's answer to Memphis' Graceland and attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors year round to its extensive landscaped gardens with water falls and a pavilion area taking in views that included Conway's mansion (and home to his wife, his mother his 4 adult children. It also had a museum and a theatrical showcase of Conway’s life - and, of course, a huge gift shop.

Once again, Twitty managed to find another # 1 hit from 1980 that offended certain people. Like other Twitty recordings, 'I’d Love to Lay You Down' was considered too risque (how times have changed!) and was even banned from a number of country radio station playlists, being widely labeled as "porno country". However, Twitty defended the song, saying - “It’s not an off-color song. It’s a love song about a couple who have been married for several years...”. It's really just a simple love song that happens to include a natural reference to sex, but also the promise of an enduring relationship, with sweet lyrics -
"... When a whole lot of Decembers are showin’ in your face / Your auburn hair has faded and silver takes its place /
You’ll be just as lovely, and I’ll still be around...”
-


'A Bridge That Just Won't Burn', a # 3 hit in 1980 - a relative failure by Twitty's standard at the time - just oozes that divey western themed honky tonk piano bar, smoke to the ceiling, steel guitars, lots of denim sort of sound -


For further proof that Twitty sang much more than sad, slow country songs, check out this with its uptempo, boogie-woodie influenced dance number, his 27th # 1 in 1981 -


The song 'Tight Fittin’ Jeans" was born at Charley Pride’s publishing company, and in the end, Pride regretted he didn’t record the song first when it became a staple on country radio in the early 1980's. The song describes a very specific fantasy - that of an unhappy, frustrated rich woman (a woman “used to wearin’ pearls”) who shows up at a bar to live
out her dream of living like a honky tonk cowgirl angel for one night. All she wants, apparently, is to wear jeans, drink beer and dance, and so the song’s narrator obliges her. Is it a strange scenario? Yeah, it's a bit weird, but then again
I've met a few along the way ... it was also Twitty’s 26th # 1 hit in 1981 -


In anyone else’s hands, the decision to cover a recent hit from the R&B/soul group, the Pointer Sisters, might have been career suicide for a country artist. But, in Twitty’s hands, the song underwent a change in sound (and a few minor lyric changes to account for a male singer) - adapting the slick, smooth soul sound of the original and transforming it into a country song that bordered on Southern Erotica - and went to # 1 in 1982 -


We leave Twitty for now in 1982, going on 50 but still chalking up # 1 hits as his sound subtly adjusts with the times, in good health and no end to his career in sight. But tomorrow will be the final instalment for Conway Twitty.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Twitty became the most consistent country chart-maker of all time in the US, although none of his country records made the Australian or UK charts. He was among a set of great country singers that appealed primarily just to the American country market (Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Faron Young, Don Gibson and George Jones being the most obvious examples), but didn't have the lighter pop country appeal of international selling artists like Slim Whitman, The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell or Charley Pride.

In 36 years of touring, Twitty never missed a single show - something no other long term artist could match (especially "no-show Jones"). This came from a man who refused even to take an aspirin from an era when entertainers were often encouraged to medicate with uppers and downers by their own doctors, to their long term detriment (and we've seen so many in this history with chronic drink and/or drug problems e.g. Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, Don Gibson, Faron Young, George Jones. Twitty's one vice was smoking, which he managed to quit in the early 1980's and gained new vocal power and finally began to do interviews and TV appearances. His authorized biography, "The Conway Twitty Story" was published in 1986 - and meanwhile his record breaking chart sucess continued unabated to the end of the 1980's, by which time he had accumulated an unprecedented 45 # 1 hits (most sources claim 55 # 1 hits, depending on the counting method, but I'll stick with Billboard)

In 1984, as Twitty neared his 20th anniversary as a country artist (and 30th as a musician), he notched yet another
# 1 hit with this decidedly soul take on heartbreak -
"... In some little corner of the world / A forgotten soul, is waitin' by the phone
And right down the hall someone's in there feelin' / Like cryin', 'cause they're livin' all alone
..." -


Harlan Howard is easily considered one of the greatest country songwriters in history. Howard classics include Charlie Walker’s 'Pick Me Up on Your Way Down,' Ray Charles and John Conlee’s 'Busted',Ray Price’s 'Heartaches by the Number' and Buck Owens’ 'I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail'. The cute little story in 'I Don’t Know a Thing About Love" (aka 'The Moon Song) finds the singer looking to the moon and stars for advice about relationships. Twitty’s interpretation once again found him at # 1 in 1984 and helped remind everyone of the great timeless music penned by Harlan Howard -


Songwriter Johnny MacRae had the idea for 'Don’t Call Him a Cowboy' during the "Urban Cowboy" craze of the early 1980s. After the John Travolta movie became a hit, city people from all walks of life were wearing cowboy hats and learning how to two-step (which in turn led to the horrible line-dancing craze). Twitty turned the idea into a # 1 hit
in 1985, with it's obvious double entendre questioning the wannabe city cowboys ability to ride on the saddle -
"... I see you've got your eye on something / Leaning on the bar /
But the toughest ride he's ever had / Was in his foreign car
..."


Although he would continue to record and tour until his death, Twitty's final # 1 came a year later in 1986 with
'Desperado Love'. He adapted to changing times without abandoning his core audience, sustaining his relevance
for decades, continuing to define the charts and his own vast legacy well into the late 1980s. He started recording
songs slightly different than what his audience was accustomed to hearing on the radio. It suited country radio's need
for the next new thing while maintaining key elements of Twitty's classic sound. Here, he took a gamble to tell a story song about a typical father-son relationship - or at least what such a relationship ought to be. The sparse production and deep story song struck a chord, reaching # 6 in 1987. 'That’s My Job' is still one of the most-requested and downloaded Father’s Day songs on country radio in the U.S. -


And to finish Conway Twitty's music, this honky tonk barroom classic is often ranked as a fan favorite - well, maybe not, but it's MY favourite Twitty song, being a sucker for a good honky tonk song of barroom seduction - and this great # 1 from 1974 has been held back to last just for that reason - this conjures up so many good memories -


Though Twitty continued to have top 10 hits through the end of the 1980's,, his success began to slip slightly in the early 1990's. Nevertheless, he remained popular, still charting and touring with George Jones and Merle Haggard as "The Living Legends". But while performing in Missouri in 1993, Twitty collapsed on stage. He was rushed to hospital where he was seen by Dolly Parton who happened to be visiting her sister. He died next morning due to a stomach aneurysm. He was age 59.

When people discuss legendary song catalogs in country music, the names of George Jones, Merle Haggard or Willie Nelson are usually cited for their greatness while the career of Conway Twitty seems to get overlooked. But Conway’s career matches up or exceeds anybody’s. And, unlike many of his contemporaries, he was very adept with the art of musical transition. A Conway Twitty record from 1980 sounds very different from one from 1965, and he continued to evolve his sound until the recording of his final album, the sadly ironically named "Final Touches", released just before
his sudden death in 1993.

Twitty won the prestigious ACM award a record 7 times, 5 of them with Loretta Lynn. He was inducted into the Country Music HoF in 1999. He record sales exceeded 50 million and a record of # 1 singles. Yet, despite all his success and achievements, unlike the likes of Jones, Haggard, Nelson or Cash, his legacy has faded away over the years - and
here are the reasons -

Unlike some legends such as the still living Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson or the relatively recently
departed George Jones and Merle Haggard amongst others, Conway Twitty, dead suddenly at age 59, didn't get to
enjoy that victory lap - that swan song that helps solidify their legacy in country music. Nor did he have any redemptive comeback story to tell - once he reached the top, he just stayed at the top almost to the end.

Then there was the way "Twitty City" crumbled, which was originally set up to be the place where Conway’s legacy would be enshrined forever, to be the Graceland of country music. The sprawling multi-million dollar complex had his mansion as the centerpiece. He and his 4 adult children lived there until his death in 1993. Twitty died without a will and his third wife and 4 children from his second marriage tore into each like rabid hyenas in a 15 year bitter and vicious legal war, a result of which, early in the epic legal battle, all his assets, including Twitty City, despite it being one of Tenessee's top tourist attractions, was ordered by a judge to be closed and sold off 1994. The on-going family dispute meant they spent a decade and a half trashing Twitt's legacy instead of helping to preserve it.

Finally, though Twitty always kept abreast of the latest music trends and changed his sound accordingly, and had an uncanny knack of choosing the right songs to record for commercial success, his music wasn't exactly innovative - as
we saw, even in his early rock'n'roll days, he sounded so much like Elvis it was widely believed that he actually was Elvis. Once he switched to country music, his sound was conventional enough to be "safe", even if the sexual lyrics of some of his songs sparked controversy at the time. In short, his music was very much a product of the times, lacking that "edgy" timeless element to make it enduring.

Twitty also, in his last decade of life, became known for helping young artists starting off, helping then young artists such as Vincent Gill, Randy Travis - who he insisted on opening concerts for instead of vice-versa - and Tim McGraw, who, in gratitude, named his band the "Dancehall Doctors" after a line in one of Conway’s hits. And just over the last year, there's finally been a sustained campaign in country music circles to properly remember Twitty's achievements and enormous contribution to the genre, as so many younger true country fans, sick of the mass produced sub-standard tripe dished
up by Nashville and passed off as so-called "country music" these days are instead rediscovering the works of past
giants such as Conway Twitty.

When I return, signalling another change in direction in this thread, it's back to the movies of the old west.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
This history has reached the stage of the late sixties when big cultural changes were sweeping through American society and (not that you would know it by this history here to date, even reached the traditional bastion of country music. So this history is about to be shaken up a bit to reflect those changes. To mark the occasion (just as I marked the end of
the fifties) I'm including some of the best western movies theme music of the 1960's - even if it isn't technically country music - and, especially in the 1960's, thanks to one prominent composer, not even American. But, as I've said before
(see post # 416) it's association with the western genre and some of the classic westerns is good enough for me to
bend (or totally break) the rules of where to draw the line on what's country music.

Actually, this ain't my first Hollywood westerns related post - recall the singing cowboys Gene Autry (posts # 125-126), Roy Rogers (# 154-157), the Rex Ritter intro song 'Do Not Forsake Me' for the classic western "High Noon" (# 180) and then the pop singer Frankie Laine and his series of 1950's western movie intro theme songs (# 255-257). The fifties movies and up to 1962 (with some TV shows) were on posts # 416-419. Movie themes up to then on the big budget movies had full on symphony orchestras and the music themes were accordingly grand, reflecting the sweeping vistas
of great unfenced plains (e.g. 'A Big Country'), epic heroic conflicts (e.g. 'The Alamo') or the epochal "conquest" of the west (e.g. 'How The West Was Won'). The music was focussed on the grand and heroic.

But now, from a composer, living in Rome and barely speaking a word of English, came a great change, focussed on
the individual, the ever present danger and the harshness of the landscape. Now it's way beyond my scope here to
give a history of the "Spaghetti Western", directed by Italians - the most famous being Sergio Leone, the plots set
in the American West but filmed in Italy and very often in Spain (for the desert scenery), with a few Hollywood stars
(most famously Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef), and, of course, Ennio Morricone.

Maybe one of the only film composers whose style was so distinctive that you recognised it as soon as you heard the first few notes, Morricone revolutionised the way movies sounded across more than 500 classic soundtracks. A workaholic who covered everything from grand choral operas, claustrophobic synth horrors and beautiful romantic ballads, Morricone’s work reshaped the way that films used music to power their emotional beats - and none more famous than his snarly electric westerns, especially his work for Sergio Leone.

The desolate atmosphere of the first Sergio Leone–Ennio Morricone–Clint Eastwood spagetti Western, 1964's "A Fistful
of Dollars", reflects both budget realities and the emptiness of its setting - a frightened, dying town, squeezed by rival murderous gangs, just waiting for a nameless loner to come and save it. And Morricone’s score for the film is often appropriately minimalist (actually there wasn't much choice - the low budget didn't allow for an orchestra) utilizing Alessandro Alessandroni’s whistling, an echoing electric guitar, whip cracks, and those legendary choral blasts (“We
can fight!”) -


Though much of "A Fistful of Dollars" score is quite spare, for the final showdown, Morricone gives us something more melodic and traditional. This ornate trumpet dirge popped up earlier in the film as well, but here, it fits perfectly - as
the clouds of dynamite smoke and dust blow away to reveal Clint Eastwood’s character, seemingly back from the dead
to exact retribution on Ramon Rojo and his gang. This has become established as one of Morricone’s signature pieces, which is somewhat ironic, as it’s also an homage to Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for "Rio Bravo" (see post # 419) -


A man. A horse. A gun. A desert. Director Sergio Leone kept his frames as empty as possible when he made his early spaghetti westerns – letting Clint Eastwood’s squint and Morricone’s flamboyant, melodramatic scores do all the work. The middle chapter of the trilogy, 1965's "A Few Dollars More" has some of the composer’s best and most iconic work – mixing whistles, twangy Jew’s harps, angry jangly guitar riffs, church bells, organs and chanting to slowly build the tension during some of cinema’s greatest shootouts -


A musical pocket watch is a recurring element in "A Few Dollars More", and Morricone musically puts it to many uses. The watch itself is an object that unites one of the good guys (played by Lee Van Cleef) with the villain, the deranged bandit Indio (played by Gian-Maria Volonté). A musical pocket watch showdown that builds from the simplest of tunes to the grandest of operatic finales. The final showdown, with its dueling watches, plays with our anticipation beautifully - we’ve heard the watch’s tune before and think we know exactly when it’s going to end. The tune changes slightly whenever it’s played in the film - reflecting the characters’ inner states -


Morricone indelibly changed western music scores with his work on "The Man With No Name" triology - but not instantly. Despite being made in 1964/65, they weren't actually shown in the US until, one after the other, 1967 - and so until then they were little known outside of Europe apart from the relatively few foreign film buffs. So when, in 1966, the latest big budget Hollywood western "El Dorado" was released, itself a remake of sorts of the 1950 "Rio Grande" (both starring John Wayne), it's plot, bunch of characters, format and music were all still very much in the grand Hollywood western tradition that we saw in the previous movie posts (# 419). The theme's lyrics were by John Gabriel, music by Nelson Riddle and sung by George Alexander and accompanied by The Mellowmen Quartet (as the Mellomen) -


For Morricone's most famous western music - stay tuned for tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Now for the theme recognizable from a mile, such a unique piece of western film music from Ennio Morricone. 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' from 1966 (though it wasn't released in the US until December 1967) has Morricone’s most famous score, combining a classic theme with electric guitars and dramatic vocal shrieks, which represent the howling of coyotes. For many (though not all), this is Morricone’s masterpiece, but he never wrote anything more memorable, more evocative and more downright iconic than 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly'. The first refrain is so simple you can whistle it and the final showdown builds on the same setup as "For A Few Dollars More", but in Morricone’s hands it becomes something almost biblical – screaming desert winds rising to apocalyptic rock opera, all played with a wink and a smile to the greatest, longest, slowest shootout in western movie history -


Another of Morricone’s most famous pieces, 'The Ecstasy Of Gold', a lengthy, unforgettable, driving orchestral and choral freakout is a perfect example of the Leone - Morricone collaboration. Who else but those two would give so much screen time just to shots of Eli Wallach running through a cemetery, extended to the point of abstraction? Leone knows at this moment that the music is the real star, and he lets Morricone carry the day -


Though it’s sometimes upstaged by 'The Ecstasy of Gold' run through the cemetery that precedes it, the final showdown
in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" also features some of Morricone’s finest, most complex work. Listen to this one all
the way through, as the beautiful trumpet solos and clacking castanets give way about halfway through to something altogether more experimental, atonal, and synthesized. Are those meant to be futuristic gunshots, maybe anticipating
the gunfire to come? And are those other sounds meant to sound like space-age water droplets, highlighting the sweat
on the actors’ faces? It’s as if the score gets deconstructed halfway through - along with the images, as the camera gets closer to the actors and the editing becomes more fragmentary - before building back to a thundering, rolling crescendo. And then, after all thatthe damn thing cuts out before the music finishes, as Clint Eastwood shoots Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach discovers his gun has no bullets -


Morricone’s score to this Burt Reynolds starring 1966 Western 'Navajo Joe' directed by Sergio Corbucci is it's one saving grace. Critics remain divided between those that consider the movie so bad that it's good, and those that consider it just plain terrible - Burt Reynolds always dissed it as the worst movie he ever appeared in. Corbucci was no Leone. But at least Morricone's music was still great. With its bold combination of wails, rolling piano, and howling drums, it’s truly primal - at least until the guitar, choir, and orchestra kick in, at which point it becomes downright mythic -


"Navajo Joe's" scores most common motif is repeated throughout - We first hear it right at the beginning, as we see
Joe’s wife killed and scalped by the villains, so that when it comes back, right here at the end, we feel some of Joe’s
own bloodlust and vengeance -


Though, as set out above, most probably consider "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, as Morricone's greatest western score, for me the best, his most sublime masterpiece is still to come - tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
Ennio Morricone didn't just provide music for Sergio Leone westerns - Leone was neither the first or last spaghetti
western director, just the best. Morricone’s score for Sergio Sollima’s 1966 western "The Big Gundown" - which stars
Lee Van Cleef as a stoic lawman and Tomas Milian as the knife-throwing bandit Cuchillo, whom he first chases, then
joins forces with - is justifiably famous, as it’s one of the composer’s most moving and explosive works. There are
several notable piecesfrom this soundtrack, but this one, 'La Cacia' which plays during a third-act chase, is one of Morricone’s finest actual cues -


"Run Man Run", the 1968 sequel to the better known "The Big Gundown" was inferior, missing Lee Van Cleef. The link between the 2 movies is Tomas Milian, reprising his role as Cuchillo Sanchez, the knife-wielding Mexican peon. Now for the big controversy - in the 2003 documentary "Run Man Run 35 Years Later", Sergio Sollima claimed Morricone, who was then contracted with Universal Pictures wasn't allowed to work for any other company, actually composed the score to the film without credit. This has been disputed with some experts insisting the music is far more akin to that of the "official" composer Bruno Nicolas (who oftened conducted Morricone's movie scores). But whatever the truth, Morricone or Nicolai, all agree it's still a great score, highlighted by it's atmospheric finale -


After the "Man With No Name" trilogy, Leone and Morricone collaborated on what would be one of the most ambitious Westerns ever - with a much bigger budget to boot. "Once Upon A Time In The West" of 1968 is Morricone’s absolute masterpiece - right from the opening scene, where we hear the harmonica before we see Charles Bronson's character playing it. Nothing gives my spine a chill as this sound of harmonica with eco effects. This lyrical, harmonica-tinged soundtrack helped make director Sergio Leone’s brutal Western, starring Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson, the 'Man
With a Harmonica', an all-time classic -


This time, Morricone composed the score beforehand, so that Leone would play tapes of his music on set both to get
the actors into the scene and to time his camera movements. This sublime scene shows the fruits of that approach. In it, Claudia Cardinale’s Jill stands by herself in a train station, waiting for someone to come meet her. As she begins to realize that nobody’s coming, we hear a melancholy, solo female singer on the soundtrack. Then Jill enters the station house, the music begins to swell, and the camera cranes up and over the roof … so that we see, on the other side, a bustling, almost dreamlike vision of the American West. And then, the ambient sound of people and carts and horses, curiously absent until now, suddenly comes charging into the soundtrack -


The sound of rushed footsteps, the POV tracking shot, cutting to that sudden close-up, timed to that sudden, distorted, echoing chord. We watch this kid (whom we’ve never met, and never will) look around and realize that his entire family has been gunned down. And then these grim, dusty figures emerge out of the shrubs as the wailing harmonica merges with the howling wind. They look like they’re from another world - which they are, since this moment perfectly captures the Western’s classic theme of civilization versus savagery. And then the final, perfect coup de grâce - The camera dollies around the figure leading the men to reveal that Henry Fonda - Henry Fonda! American cinema’s paragon of decency and moral authority! - is the monster at the center of this slaughter. And all this carefully choreographed to Morricone's score -


So that's most of the 1960's movie themes - dominated by Ennio Morricone - covered. Just a little bit left over for tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

Premiership Player
Sep 24, 2006
3,352
2,140
Wimmera
AFL Club
Collingwood
I haven't quite finished with Ennio Morricone's crowning achievement - the score to Sergio Leone's 1968 classic, "Once Upon a Time in the West" (actually released in 1969 in the US & Australia). In the "Man With No Name" triology, he showed his genius in what he could do on a very limited budget. But in "Once Upon a Time in the West", the budget allowed for a full symphony orchestra and Morricone exceeded himself. The resulting film score sold a massive 10 million copies worldwide. This final scene features yet another memorable piece from the score, the 'Farewell To Cheyenne'. The men realize this is the parting of the ways, which Morricone supports with an extended exposition of Cheyenne’s Theme. In the scene, the forced stop at 2:24 supports his death as Harmonica looks on. The movies end credits are supported by an extended rendering of Cheyenne’s Theme, which is augmented with whistling -


And one last one from "Once Upon a Time in the West" - I won't even try to describe it - just look and listen to excerpts from the greatest score in western movie history -

Now to show how Ennio Morricone influenced and altered the course of Hollywood movie scores. Sam Peckinpah's
1969 movie "The Wild Bunch" boasted a powerful, Oscar-nominated score - the greatest achievement of composer
Jerry Fielding. Peckinpah wanted music that departed from Hollywood Western tradition and got music that exposes
the characters thoughts and emotions - now where, or from whom, did he get that idea from?

'La Golondrina' (in English -'The Swallow'), is a song about the grief of exile and missing one's homeland, written in
1862 by Mexican physician Narciso Sevilla, who at the time was exiled to France. The lyrics come from a poem written
in Arabic by the exiled Grenadan Morisco, Aben Humeya, using the image of a migrating swallow to evoke the longing
for his homeland. It became the signature song of exiled Mexicans in various revolutions. In 1948, Gene Autry sang
the song in his movie, "The Big Sombrero". A Spanish guitar instrumental was recorded by Chet Atkins in 1955.

Fielding recorded several instrumental versions of the song for the end credits, one of which wound up on the soundtrack album. But Peckinpah ultimately opted to use a raw source-music rendition to close his bittersweet film - which, set in 1913, also served as a farewell to the old west. So here (in the absence of any surviving master track with vocals) the music comes directly from the finished film, including sound effects. Coming at the end of the movie, the local people serenade the bandit protagonists with 'La Golodrina' as they leave Angel's Mexican village -


The Nashville husband and wife song-writing team, Felice & Boudleaux Bryant wrote English lyrics to the melody, as 'She Wears My Ring", which was first recorded by Jimmy Sweeney in 1960 but most famously by Roy Orbison in 1962, with other covers by Australia's own Johnny O'Keefe in 1964), Ray Price and Solomon King in 1968 and Elvis in 1973. But
the English lyrics lack the pathos (as well as the meaning) of the Spanish language original.

"The Wild Bunch" from 1969 seems an appropriate way to end my western movie themes, as an overarching theme of
the movie, set in 1913, was the passing of the "old west", as the technological and modernising forces of the 20th century relentlessly swept aside its last vestiges even in the last remote areas - with the bandits having the flee the US deep into Mexico. As we move into the 1970's the era of great western movie dominance has mostly come to an end - there's still an occasional good one through the 1970's and beyond, but they become rarer and far less a part of popular culture.
Thus, this is likely to be my last western movie music themes instalment in this history.
 

Remove this Banner Ad

Remove this Banner Ad