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Professor Knowall

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We're nearing the end of the 1960's in the history, and about to cover a couple of very different artists than the ones I've just done who had their breakthrough in the sixties. But before I do, I've done an updated index to the history, including the sub-genre types of each artist or group. You can use this as a guide to peruse any artist or country sub-genre at your leisure (and I've covered far more artists than I ever intended to when last year's lockdown inspired me to do this - and here I still am, locked down again).

Name, Post/s number, State of origin, Key to sub-genre.
TF = Traditional and/or folk country (as established by Vernon Dalhart, The Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers)
G = Gospel
WC = Western Cowboy or trail songs
WM = Western movie music
WS = Western Swing
HT = Honky Tonk (baroom "adult" music - usually about breakups, heartaches, drinking, cheating etc) that generally appealed to the rural and working class base.
BG = Bluegrass (usually traditionally acoustic using traditional instruments including banjo and slap bass)
RR = Rockabilly and/or rock'n'roll (rockabilly generally retaining a more country flavour than straight out R&R) that in the 1950's was generally confined to the youth, mostly teenage base.
NS = Nashville Sound, a more sophisticated 'pop country' sound than honky tonk, deliberately appealing to a mass suburban, more middle class audience, thus expanding the country music market.
CB = Country Ballad, e.g. Marty Robbins' 'El Paso' and Johnny Hortons 'Battle of New Orleans', popular in the late fifties to early sixties.
PC= Pop Country. Appealing to beyond the traditional country market to middle clas suburbia, with Sonny James and particularly Glenn Campbell as breakthrough artists.

Vernon Dalhart 114-115 Texas TF
The Carter Family 117-119 Virginia TF, G
Jimmie Rodgers 120-122 Mississippi TF, HT
Sons of the Pioneers 123-124 California WC, WM
Gene Autry 125-126 Texas WC, WM
Bob Wills &
The Texas Playboys 132-140 Texas WS
Roy Acuff 147-149 Tennessee TF, G
Jimmie Davis 150-153 Louisiana TF
Roy Rogers 154-157 Ohio WC, WM
Elton Britt 159-160 Arkansas WC, TF
Ernest Tubb 161-165 Texas HT
Milton Brown 163 Texas WS
Al Dexter 166-168 Texas HT
Spade Cooley 169-171 Oklahoma WS
Tex Williams 172 Illinois WS
Red Foley 173 & 176-178 Kentucky TF, HT, RR, G
Tex Ritter 179-180 Texas TF, HT, WM
Bill Monroe &
The Bluegrass Boys 181-183 Kentucky BG
Merle Travis 184-186 Kentucky HT, TF
The Stanley Brothers 187-188 Virginia BG
Eddy Arnold 189-191 Tennessee TF, HT, NS, WC
Flatt & Scruggs 194-195 Tennessee BG
Tenessee Ernie Ford 196-197 Tennessee TF, RR
Moon Mullican 198-199 Texas HT, RR
Hank Snow 202-204 Novia Scotia (Can) TF, HT
Hank Williams 205-214 Alabama HT, TF, RR, G
Lefty Frizzell 216-219 Texas HT, TF
Mother Maybelle &
The Carter Sisters 222 Virginia TF, G
Anita Carter 225-232 Virginia TF
Carl Smith 233-234 Tennessee HT, RR
Hank Thompson 235-237 Texas WS, HT, RR
Kitty Wells 238-239 Tennessee HT
Webb Pierce 240-250 Louisiana HT, RR
Jean Shepard 251 Oklahoma HT
Slim Whitman 252-254 Texas WT
Frankie Laine 255-256 Illinois WM
Faron Young 261-262 & 266 Louisiana HT, TF
Ray Price 269-275 Texas HT, TF, NS
Elvis Presley 278-286 Alabama RR, TF, G
Carl Perkins 287-291 Tennessee RR, TF
The Louvin Brothers 294-295 Tennessee TF, G
Johnny Horton 296 & 301 & 308 California. HT, RR, CB
Sanford Clark 311-313 Arizona RR, WT
Marty Robbins 325-330 & 335 Arizona HT, RR, TF, WC, CB, WS, NS, G
Johnny Cash 338-345 Arkansas RR, HT, TF, CB, WT, NS, G
Charlie Feathers 346-348 Tennessee RR
Jerry Lee Lewis 349-352 & 365-367 Louisiana RR, HT, TF, G
Chet Atkins 353-356 Tennessee - world class guitarist and producer of NS
Ferlin Husky 362-364 Missouri NS, G
The Browns 368-369 Arkansas TF, G
Jim Ed Brown 371-372 Arkansas TF, HT
Helen Cornelius 372 Missouri TF, HT
Bobby Helms 377 Indiana RR, TF
Hank Locklin 378-379 Florida HT, TF
Jim Reeves 383-386 Texas NS
Patsy Cline 387-389 Virginia NS
Cowboy Copas 390 Oklahoma TF
The Everly Bros 393-399 Illinois RR, TF
Don Gibson 400-404 North Carolina HT
George Jones 405-412 Texas HT, TF
Western movie themes to 1962 416-419 WM
Leroy Van Dyke 423-424 Missouri RR, HT, TF
Jimmy Dean 428-429 Texas RR, TF, CB, NS
Porter Wagoner 430-432 Missouri TF, G
Roy Drusky 433-434 Georgia NS, TF
Claude King 440-441 Louisiana CB, WC, TF, HT
Ray Charles 443-445 Georgia Soul country
Skeeter Davis 446-448 Kentucky NS, TF
Bill Anderson 449-452 South Carolina TF, NS, BG, G
Bakersfield Sound 455 HT
Buck Owens 456-463 Texas HT
Bobby Bare 464-468 Ohio TF, HT
Nat King Cole 469 Alabama pop country influencer
Sonny James 474-478 Alabama NS PC (influenced by Nat King Cole)
Roger Miller 479-482 Texas TF
Connie Smith 483-486 Indiana NS, TF, G
David Houston 487-488 Louisiana HT, NS
Loretta Lynn 489-493 Kentucky TF, HT
Jack Greene 494-495 Tennessee TF, NS
Merle Haggard 497-502 California TF, HT
Tammy Wynette 503-506 Mississippi TF, HT
Glen Campbell 507-509 Arkansas TF, PC
Charley Pride 510-513 Mississippi NS, PC
Conway Twitty 514-520 Mississippi RR, NS, PC
Movie Themes 1964-1970
 

Professor Knowall

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It's time for another "where are we in this history post", the last being post # 404, broadly outlining the general popular (including country) music scene at around 1958/59 - including the death of rock and roll. Well, we have now reached the late sixties and how things have changed in the U.S (not just in music but in culture - which in turn is reflected in music). But if you've followed this thread with all those big stars who dominated the country charts, or broke through to sucess in the sixties - you would think nothing much has changed at all! In fact, country music, and its core audience in the South and mid-west, did hold out against the changes - and in so doing, lost the youth as it became the music their parents played. In short, while country music was always pitched at adults, it faced a danger of gradually becoming a relic of a past age with an aging audience - as rock'n'roll from 1964 onwards returned from the dead like a rampaging monster, even stronger than the fifties, devouring all the young in its path - and taking new paths never before seen (or heard).

In the 1950's, rock'n'roll's first wave never penetrated the colleges/universities, being seen as too simplistic and hicky (or bogan as we say in Australia). In the early 1960's, young people, especially the college/university class, were listening to folk music, first to Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez and then, blazing across the scene, Bob Dylan, who had studied the folk songs collected in his travels through the southern Appalachian regions by A.P. Carter (see # 117) and combining their melodies with his contemporary lyrics with it's cutting social commentary and his distinct nasal vocals.

Then came the British pop beat invasion in 1964. In the 1950's, young British kids were listening to American rock'n’roll and R&B and forming their own bands, even as the first wave of American rock'n'roll dried up in the late fifties. So in
the sixties, you had all these new British bands - The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who, etc conquered new frontiers, especially in the large Northern cities, even if, at first, their core audience were still young teenagers (mostly sexually frustrated girls) and not the college class (just listen to the Beatles music up to 1964 - while the harmonies (which they copied from the Everly Brothers) and drivng beat (the techniques taken from Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry) were top class, the song lyrics themselves were still nothing more than simple 2 minute teen love pop songs.

However, the Brits did show the Americans the idea of a totally self-contained band. Instead of having songs written for them, and using studio musicians, they were writing their own lyrics and music. They played all their own instruments and toured as a group, which meant they controlled what they’re expressing. Then in 1965, Dylan "went electric", going from folk to rock - combining folk music's expanding lyrical content with a rock beat. A turning point was reached, as rock'n'roll "invaded" even the most prestigious Ivy League Universities.

All this was happening against convulsive events and social changes as the baby boomers started becoming of age - the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the whole counter-culture movement, women's lib, then protests which soon became
riots - sometimes deadly. The 1967 "Summer Of Love" in San Franciso eventually descended into rampant psychedelic drug use, rampart crime and violence. Then in 1968 came the assassination of Martin Luther King Jnr in Memphis then Bobby Kennedy in LA. It seemed the country was being ripped apart.

Things were being expressed in ways they weren’t before. Now, not only was there suggested sexuality of rock'n'roll, there’s an actual free love movement. There was more talk of actual drugs, so instead of the suggestion that someone might be on pills or smoking pot, now they are very overtly making psychedelic music. The Beatles were admitting in interviews that they did LSD. A Harvard psychology professor, Timothy Leary told people to “tune in, turn on and drop out.” You had Jefferson Airplane in 1967 singing about “feeding your head” and smoking caterpillars. Suddenly the drugs and sexuality were overt. You had music connecting to the general hippie counterculture - free love, rejecting materialism and adult “square” society as groups like The Grateful Dead and The Byrds took the music of the counter-culture into college campuses across the nation. The Beatles took note and starting with their 1965 'Rubber Sould' album, to 1966's 'Revolver' album, left their teen music behind as their music matured and evolved along with their audience.

Meanwhile, harder edged rock sounds developed hand in hand, which at the time appealed to both college and blue
collar markets - the heavily blues influenced Rolling Stones leading the way, while Steppenwolf introduced the term "heavymetal" on 'Born To Be Wild', part of the score for the movie "Easy Rider" in 1968. While all this was happening, creeping with little publicity but set to shake up,the 1970's, thousands of garage rock bands were born through the suburbs across the nation through the late 1960's. Rock'n'roll puts its roots in deep, took over the popular music
scene (and hence the pop charts) and dominated until the end of the century.

In almost complete contrast, country music stood aloof to all this, as too did most of its audience. Hippies, junkies and
the like were not welcomed in most southern and midwestern areas, especially outside the big cities, and neither was their music. As we've already seen, the Nashville Sound, at least in modified form, lived on through the 1960's, with
chart topping artists like Ray Price (after he stopped being a honk tonk stalwart), Sonny James, Charley Price and on to Conway Twitty in the 1970's. The alternative rock influenced Bakersfied Sound was starting to sound dated as we move into the 1970's. And it was Merle Haggard's songs 'Okie From Miskogee' (even if written for irony but instead became a
hit by being taken literally) and 'The Fightin Side Of Me' (see post # 499), that best sums up the attitude of the typical country music fan at the time to all the social upheaval, chaos and even treason, as they saw it.

Yet, for all that, the changes sweeping the nation were even percolating down to the Deep South, ready to, albeit slowly at first, shake up the conservative and aging country music scene. It started quietly in the late 1960's - as we will very soon see.
 

Professor Knowall

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"It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty delta day ..." - so starts a very famous song from 1967. It's a line that evokes so much for me. Today, in preparation for the next instalment, I'm just going to give the briefest barest sketch
(as an alternative to an endlesss post) about the most important area to pretty much all modern popular music - and most certainly all music to do with the blues, country, jazz and rock'n'roll in all it's forms, from light pop to the heaviest heavymetal. All of these genres (including jazz) trace back to the birthplace of gospel and the blues - the Mississippi delta - for me the most fascinating area in all the U.S. (yet, even better, not overloaded with tourists).

In Italy, if one travels North to South, the more South you go, the more "Italian" it gets - and when you get to the "deep South", in Puglia and Calabria, one finally gets to the most culturally authentic Italian regions, not fatally altered by mass tourism - and thus they're the best regions to visit (bettered only by Sicily) for the "real" Italian experience - including the best food and wine. For the USA, I assume, if you're in this thread, you know a bit about the distinctive southern culture and it's music. But then there's the Deep South - a region, generally centred around Mississippi and Alabama, where this cultural difference is at it's strongest. But the Mississippi delta is the most deepest of the Deep South, it's very heartland. It's history is almost gothic and I love its sleepy dusty delta towns with their old brick Main Street buildings, often now deserted, a reminder they used to be a lot bigger than now.

Now the term "Mississippi delta" often confuses the uninitiated - for it ain't the real delta! Look at a map and you see the actual delta is southeast of New Orleans, where the river rolls into the Gulf of Mexico. But, in the many times I've already referred to the delta in this history (e.g. the birthplace of the last 2 featured artists in Charley Pride and Conway Twitty), or whenever you hear the term "delta blues", it means a flat, incredibly fertile, river flood plain area of western Mississippi State, west of Choctaw Ridge. The Mississippi Delta is actually the deltas of the Yazoo and Tallahatchie Rivers, in the eastern floodplain of the lower Mississippi River. It runs about 300 km from the state border at the edge of the southern suburbs of Memphis down to the historic antebellum town of Vicksburg, and west of the Choctaw Ridge, about 110 km's
at its widest point from the Yazoo to the Mississippi, in the shape of a badly drawn half oval.

Most of the delta, with it's 2 rivers snaking everywhere around the place, is devoted, as it has been for around the last
200 years, to cotton growing - originally with big slave labour plantations then after the civil war, with sharecropping, mostly by ex-slaves and their descendants, who comprised about 80% of the deltas' population. And so it was that the delta first became a centre of gospel music, then gave birth to the blues, a music that grew out of traditional cotton field work songs and articulated the sufferings of blacks and the way music could transcend them.

I can't overstate just how important the Mississippi delta - and one can include the Arkansas delta area on the other side - is to American and world popular music. To name just the greatest legends of the many blues greats from the delta - Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, BB King, Elmore James, Memphis Slim, John Lee Hooker, Bo Carter, T-Bone Walker and on it goes. The great migration of 400,000 delta residents (escaping abject poverty and the mechanisation of the cotton fields) to the big northern industrial cities like Detroit and Chicago spread the blues to these cities, where the
likes of Muddy Waters pioneered the electrified Chicago blues (which led on to The Rolling Stones and heavymetal etc).

But the delta and nearby areas also produced more than it share of country legends - from the heavily blues influenced Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, then Elvis Presley from just beyond the other side of Choctaw Ridge to Johnny Cash on the Arkansas side, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charley Pride and Conway Twitty. So, with so many blues and country legends hailing from this most southern heartland of the south, it's ground zero to visit, wander around and explore, places like the crossroads (in Clarksdale) where Robert Johnson supposedly "sold his sold to the devil" for his mastery of the guitar (and made famous by a later blues legend, Eric Clapton - a frequent delta visitor.

There's a whole lot more I could (but won't go on about the history of the delta - from it once having the biggest (and most brutal), slave plantations, to it being a militant and often vicious segregationist stronghold right up to the sixties,
its once abject poverty (apart from the cotton landowners with their mansions), the fact that some who grew up and
lived in the scattered African-American rural communities never even saw a white person in their life until the sixties
and the juke-joints where the African-Americans danced to the blues. For me, the delta, with it's flat cotton fields and
it's small languid towns, each with its honky tonk bars - and one surviving juke-joint in Clarksdale - has a sort of magic
in its very air. All this is just a bit of pre-reading for next posting.
 
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stax on the mull

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Another favourite. This one is courtesy of the Omni recording company - Australia company that's been around for about 20 years and have re-issued a lot of forgotten (un)popular country music of the 50s 60s and 70s, although they seem to market more to overseas as I can't seem to find a direct mail order online for Australian buyers. They do those Hillbillies in Hell compilations as well.

This is close to country funk of the early 70's - in a similar kind of vein to Tony Joe White but not as deep in the swamp.

Sheldon Churchyard - Larry Jon Wilson. (re-issued in 2011 on a 2 LP's on 1 CD compilation "New Beginnings / Let Me Sing My Song To You" )


 
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Professor Knowall

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In post # 528, I gave a brief sketch of the most "southern" (culturally that is) region of the US, the Mississippi delta. And the town of Greenwood, near Choctaw Ridge, was, and still is, the most deeply rooted "southern" town of the delta - and hence of the whole US. A few years back while staying in this still (albeit unofficially but effectively) segregated town, divided by both race and wealth, I went a few miles north to the Little Zion Baptist Church to pay my respects at the grave of blues legend Robert Johnson by the traditional offering of a bit of Mississippi moonshine. While there, I was
told that the bridge over the Tallahatchie River was just a few miles further north near Money (the location of the store that led to the infamous murder of 15 year old Edmond Tillman back in 1955). So on I went to see a very non-descript concrete bridge built in 1972 to replace the earlier one that collapsed. But returning to Greenwood, at it's northern entrance, there is a plaque about a very famous song at a much nicer bridge (albeit not the bridge). So what is this famous song? - read on.

Born Roberta Streeter in Chickasaw County, northern Mississippi in 1942, her parents divorced shortly after her birth and she was raised in poverty (of course) on her grandparents' cotton farm at Greenwood, in a 3 room shotgun house without electricity or plumbing. After her music loving grandma traded a cow for a neighbor's piano, she composed her first song at age 7. A turning point in her life came at age 13 when she moved to a Los Angeles suburb to live with her mother, and soon began her performing career in local country clubs. The 1952 film "Ruby Gentry" lent the singer her stage surname, becoming known as Bobbie Gentry.

After graduating high school, Gentry settled in Las Vegas, where she appeared in the Les Folies Bergère nightclub revue. She soon returned to California, studying philosophy at UCLA before transferring to the LA Conservatory of Music - far from the usual pathway for any country music artist. In 1964, she made her recorded debut, cutting a pair of duets -
'Ode to Love' and 'Stranger in the Mirror' with rockabilly singer Jody Reynolds. Gentry continued performing in clubs up
to 1967 when she signed with Capitol Records and issued her debut single 'Mississippi Delta'. However, DJ's soon began spinning the B-side, the strange and different self-penned 'Ode to Billie Joe', which soon became a massive hit.

When 'Ode To Billy Joe' was released in 1967, DJ's didn’t know if she was black or white, whether the single was stripped-back soul, funked-up country or some kind of new folk. Billboard couldn't tell what genre it was. When asked, Gentry said “I just sing southern”. With its eerily spare production and enigmatic, narrative (described as southern gothic) detailing the suicide of Billie Joe McAllister, who flings himself off the Tallahatchie Bridge, the single struck a chord on all the charts - no-one really knew what genre it was - reaching # 1 on the pop chart, # 7 on the Adult Contemporary, # 8 on the R&B and, ironically, only # 17 on the country charts, but overall selling 3 million copies, the third highest selling single of any genre in 1967.

Gentry's song takes the form of first-person narrative by the young daughter of a Mississippi Delta family. For me, the most brilliant part of the somg (apart from it's overall southern gothic mood and mystery) is the way it weaves it's story around ordinary family conversation over dinner - not a technique often seen in songwriting because it's damn difficult to get it right. But here, Gentry not only succeeded but wove in authentic phrases found in the Deep South in the fragments of everyday conversation embedded in the narrative. This song has timeless titbits of southern culture and attitudes - as well as it's mystery and pathos -


The A-side 'Mississippi Delta' is also well worth a listen, with its very different music style - check out all the influences from jazz and soul - but yet again it's lyrics come straight from delta -
"... Have me a little o’ that Johnny cake / A bit o’ that apple pan dowdy
Pickin’ them scuppernongs off that vine / Chigger bite, it’s goin’ to beat howdy
Ate me a bucket of muscadine / Sit on the riverbank after dark
Drop my line down a crawdad hole / Do him in with a scaly bark
..."


Gentry won 3 Grammy Awards in 1967 for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and an ACM Award for best new performer.

Following the success of her debut single and album, Gentry released her second album, "The Delta Sweete" in 1968,
in which she penned songs about her Mississippi delta roots. Gentry, played almost every instrument on the album, including piano, guitar, banjo, bass and vibes. It's sound, with influences from country, jazz, blues and soul, where
each track blurred, dream-like, into the next in a pungent evocation of her childhood, was too strange at the time to attain commercial success (though it's now recognised as a landmark album). The soulful single 'Okolona River Bottom Band', with it's distinctive horns, only reached # 54 back then on the pop charts - and wasn't even charted as a country song, so different was it's sound from the mainstream norm -

Having expanded the possibilities of what country music could be, there'll be a bit more on the rest of Bobby Gentry's career tomorrow.

Below, for any that want more detail of what made 'Ode To Billy Joe' such great song, is a basic deconstruction of its lyrics, one verse at a time, starting with it's perfect opening - a dusty, sleepy delta June (Summer - when it's usually hot and humid) day. Then typical farm chores are mentioned - chopin' cotton and bailin' hay (now it's all mechanised) before mama hollers them in for dinner - the main daily meal served just after midday - and delivers the news she got about Billy Joe MacAllister -

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton, and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, y'all, remember to wipe your feet
And then she said, I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge


The next 3 lines could only come from the South - "black eyed peas", "pass the biscuits please" (referring to a savoury scone peculiar to the South, not a biscuit as we know it), and "a lick of sense". But note how, in all this, papa shows nothing but contempt for Billie Joe, not an ounce of sympathy, and then talks about his farm chores to be done. Mama
is a little sympathetic to what happened - but not much, as "nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge" -

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow
And mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge


The narrator's brother reveals they were both acquainted with Billy Joe, having hung out with him in the past and also reveals the narrator had talked to him just last Sunday after church - but he too, despite his surprise at the news, ain't much affected as he greedily asks for another piece of apple pie -

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night?
I'll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don't seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge


And now the most famous verse, where it becomes obvious to us - yet not to the family - the narrator is upset at the news as she can't eat a single bite. And mama, without a shred of awareness, complaining about her sudden lost of appetite goes on about the nice young preacher (who she seems to trying to match with her daughter, inviting him to Sunday dinner) told her that "he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge / And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge". So she was with Billy Joe and he threw something off the bridge. What
it was has been debated for the last 54 years - popular choices being an engagement ring or a foetus (which I find far-fetched). Gentry has never revealed what it was and says it's not important - it ain't the point of the song. I take
her at her word. This song is about human disconnection and lack of empathy, even in a close family -

And mama said to me, child, what's happened to your appetite?
I've been cookin' all morning, and you haven't touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge


The last verse is different, as a year has past since that dinner and the family has dissipated. The narrator describes her brother marrying and moving to Tupelo (Elvis' childhood town), papa succumbing to a virus and her mother's intense grief and depression, but her description is devoid of any sense of sympathy - it seems a family trait. And then she reveals where her grief and sympathy still lies (and for me, what she and Billy Joe threw in the river the year before. But why
did Billy Joe jump? The narrator doesn't reveal, but surely she's carrying the guilt -

A year has come and gone since we heard the news 'bout Billy Joe
And brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going 'round; papa caught it, and he died last spring
And now mama doesn't seem to want to do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge
 
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Professor Knowall

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We left off yesterday with from the 1968 album "The Delta Sweete", in which all the songs were based in the Mississippi delta - except for one, located in the nearby Louisiana swamps. However in its use of local lingo and depiction of Cajun swamp life, Gentry decided that it fitted in with the remainder of the album. The autobiographical 'Louisiana Man' was originally written and recorded in 1961 by Cajun singer and multi instrumentalist (28 in all) Doug Kershaw, who grew
up literally on the Louisiana swamplands in a houseboat. It peaked at #10 in 1968 -


Due to Gentry's all-round abilities in singing, playing multiple instruments and presentation skills, in 1968 she was asked to host a variety show on the BBC. The first female songwriter to host a series on the network, she made six 30 minute episodes. As a result of this exposure, she had surprise big international hit with her cover of the Bert Bacharach pop song 'I’ll Never Fall In Love Again' (just too pop to to be featured here), which reached # 1 in the U.K. and Ireland and # 5 in Australia amongst other countries - but wasn't licensed for release in the US or Canada, leaving the way open for Diane Warwick to go to # 1 in both these markets some 3 months after Gentry hit # 1 in the U.K.

Bobbie’s next album "Fancy", released in 1970 was largely made up of cover versions, but working with producer Rick
Hall yielded a more sophisticated end result with a strong collection of covers focused around a country soul theme. Best of all was the self-penned title track, 'Fancy', one of Gentry’s most accomplished story songs - "Born ‘poor white trash", the beautiful Fancy is groomed as a hooker by her sickly impoverished mother, but ends up with an "elegant Georgia mansion" and "a New York townhouse flat" - no shame, no regrets. The song went on to become her most successful single since 'Ode To Billy Joe', a crossover pop hit, reaching # 8 on the Adult Contemporary chart, # 26 on the country chart (showing it wasn't fully accepted in the country music market back then) and earned her another Grammy nomination for ‘Best Female Pop Vocal’ -

In 1991, Reba McEntire's cover of Fancy went to # 8. McEntire also produced a memorable music video for the
song, expanding on the song's storyline. In 2019 she performed this song at the ACM Awards night to mark its
50th anniversary - in a red jump suit in honour of Gentry. Orville Peck covered this song on his 2020 'Show Pomy',
with a few gender bending lyric changes.

Written by John Hurley and Ronny Wilkins, 'Son Of A Preacher Man' was released by several artists in the late 1960's and early 1970's, most famously by Dusty Springfield who had an international hit with it in 1968/69 (though it only reached # 10 on the US pop charts - only to eventually become a soul standard. Gentry released her version on her 1969 "Touch 'Em With Love" album. Even though Gentry's version wasn't released as a single, I thought it too god of a song not to include in this history - even if it's somewhat more soul than country -


Gentry’s third album release of 1968 was a duets album with label mate Glen Campbell. The partnership was a great commercial success, resulting in 3 hit singles, even though artistically the conventional country sound and covers were perhaps her least creative satisfying releases. The album peaked at # 11 on the pop LP chart and # 1 on the country LP chart and earned Gentry and Campbell the ACM award for Album of the Year. Their most successful single was released shortly later, a cover of the Everly Brothers massive crossover international 1958 hit 'All I Have To Do Is Dream'. It paid off for them, reaching # 4 on the Adult Contemporary, # 6 on the country and # 26 on the pop charts in 1969. They kept the tight harmony of the ethereal original, but added a dosage of strings -


This beautiful story about a teenage girl's first heartbreak and the loss of innocence, 'He Made a Woman Out of Me' only went to # 72 on the pop chart and didn't even appear on the country chart, reflecting the problem Gentry had in finding an audience for her blending of music genres - there still wasn't much of a market for a white female singing country soul in 1970 - but 50 years on, her pioneering genre bending sound is being much better appreciated -


Gentry, with her fusion of music influences, had trouble settling on a style of music that charted commercially. But even
as her hits diminished, she became a major star on the Las Vegas circuit, mounting an elaborate nightclub revue that she not only headlined but also wrote and produced, even overseeing the choreography and costuming. In 1971, she issued her album final, "Patchwork", primarily confining her performing to her nightclub act as a Las Vegas headline act - and becoming very wealthy in the process, becoming an origin Nat co-owner of the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise and even having her own private jet.

A CBS TV series "The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour" aired for 4 episodes in 1974. Gentry next surfaced on the big screen, credited as co-writer for a 1976 film adaptation of 'Ode to Billie Joe'. Gentry gradually receded from public view, making her last public appearance at the CMA Awards in 1982 at age 40. Since then, she has not recorded, performed or been interviewed again, or even been seen in public. It's known, through her brother, that Gentry is alive but it's unknown where she lives - some reports say California, other sources have her somewhere in Florida. Like her signature song 'Billy Joe', her life has become a mystery.

Bobby Gentry is now recognised for her groundbreaking contribution to country music, expanding its horizons. Swamp rock singer Tony Joe White (of 'Rainy Night in Georgia' and 'Polk Salad Annie' fame) credits her with turning him into a songwriter - “I hadn’t started writing yet. I was listening to the radio one day and I heard 'Ode to Billie Joe'. Man, this girl with a great voice, playing a cool guitar, and I thought: ‘How real can you get?’ I thought, I am Billie Joe – I’ve picked cotton, and been in the river and been in the swamps. I thought if I ever write something it’s got to be as real as 'Ode to Billie Joe'. It wasn’t too long after that I started on 'Polk Salad Annie'. I remember the radio, listening to it, the whole thing - it was like a turn-around, you know."

In exactly 4 weeks time, on 1 November 2021, Bobbie Gentry will be admitted into the Songwriters HoF in a gala ceremony at Nashville. Will she break her 40 years of reclusiveness and actually make an appearance, given the
current revival of interest and appreciation of her music? I very much doubt it.
 

Taylor Moss

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The only genre I listen to. Even influenced my Big Footy username!

Couple of Aussie girls doing some very good things at the moment, (Taylor, obviously, Rachel Fahim, youngsters Emmagen Rain & Sammy White) but none as hot & as talented as Missy Lancaster. Dang, she’s a superfine specimen. I predict she will have a huge international career.
 

Professor Knowall

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As we saw, Bobbie Gentry's 1967 'Ode to Billie Joe' expanded the commercial limitations of country music and it even surpassed the Beatles on the pop charts. In 1968, record producer and promoter, Shelby Singleton had just launched
his new label, Plantation Records and asked up and coming songwriter, Tom T Hall to write a contemporary country song similar to Gentry's smash hit. Hall delivered perfectly. While "Ode to Billie Joe' told a swampy Delta mystery, Hall's song ripped into small town (especially southern) "high society" - a most popular subject and not just with your typical country music fan. Sung by a virtually unknown female singer (like Gentry was), it went even better than 'Ode to Billie Joe' - becoming the first female country singer to have a song top both the pop and country charts, as it become a cultural phenomenon of its time.

Born Jeanne C Stephenson in 1945 in a small Texas town near Abilene, her father a mechanic, hermother a nurse and (importantly) her uncle, Johnny Moore, a country singer who had had a few regional hits, Jeanne grew to love music and figured her talent could be the key to a better life. She made her public singing debut performing with her uncle and was soon singing regularly at Moore's monthly jamborees. In 1962, age 17 and still at school, she married Mickey Riley (and
if you've followed this history, you would know young marriage was the norm in the South back then) and had a daughter in 1966. Encouraged by pedal steel guitarist, Weldon Myrick who had played some of Riley's jamboree shows, Riley and Mickey moved to Music City. She worked as a secretary at Passkey Records while cutting demos in her spare time, signing with Little Darlin' Records, a Nashville label founded by Johnny Paycheck.

Riley's career seemed stuck until 1968 when Shelby Singleton heard a demo she had cut. Eager to record the song written by Tom T Hall about a woman confronting and ripping to shreds a bunch of uppity small-town hypocrites on her daughter's behalf, Singleton believed Riley had just the right strong vocal for the song, so he bought out her contract and brought her to the studio to cut the song. However, Riley didn't think much of the song (Halls demo tape was apparently pretty bad) and had to persuaded until she relented and agreed to give it a go. However, she was still angry with herself for agreeing to record what she thought was a dud song with another small label, and she took her aggression out in the recording - leaving the recording crew and Hall, who had arrived straight from Tootsies literally still holding a beer, spellbound. In less than an hour, in 2 takes, Riley cut 'Harper Valley PTA'.

Incredibly, the song’s release and ascension began just 2 hours after Riley's recording was completed. On a hunch, Riley took a tape of the song over to WSM Radio, where it was played on-air at 10 pm - the response was overwhelming. By
the next afternoon, other Nashville stations had the song in rotation, while Singleton and Riley were back at Plantation Records mastering and pressing promos to mail to stations around the country. By the following week, the song debuted on the Hot 100 at # 81. The next week, the song jumped all the way to # 7, the biggest one-week leap in the pop chart’s history. In no time at all it created history, rocketing to the top of both the pop and country charts (knocking off the Beatles 'Hey Jude' from # 1) -

The dobro player on 'Harper Valley PTA is Jerry Kennedy, who had previously played on recordings for Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis a d on Bob Dylan's 'Blonde On Blonde' album in 1966.

Based on the overwhelming success of the single, Riley's former recording company, Little Darlin' wasted no time releasing their Riley material on a 1968 album called Sock Soul (in 1969 Capitol repackaged the same LP under the title "The Songs of Jeannie C Riley"). It was trounced in the marketplace by Riley's first album for Plantation, called "Harper Valley USA" which went to # 1 on the country chart and to # 12 on th pop chart. The album was a concept album based with songs based around the PTA characters in the single, including Tom T Hall's sordid tale of 'Widow Jones' seducing or exposing herself to every young man aged over 13 in town and the rich but frantic Mr Harper, paying the price for marrying a hottie far too young for him. Jerry Kennedy's dobro features throughout -


'Harper Valley PTA', in just a matter of 2 weeks, made Riley into an instant hit, changing her life. She went from being a secretary to touring the country and performing on TV with Johnny Cash and her idol, Loretta Lynn She won a Grammy in 1969 for best female vocal performance and won Single Of The Year from the CMA. She became the first female country artist to receive a gold album for sales in excess of 4 million. Ultimately, it sold more than 10 million copies worldwide (going # 1 in Australia amongst others) and spawned a 1978 movie starring Barbara Eden, and a short-lived TV series shortly thereafter - one of only two series in TV history based on a hit song. More than a decade after the its release, in 1980, a study commissioned found that 'Harper Valley' had an extraordinary 98% recognition factor among Americans.

With her new found wealth, Riley bought a new family house, expensive perfumes and a big new Cadillac. But with her sudden fame and fortunes, she found herself becoming increasingly uncomfortable and unhappy. More on that as her story is concluded tomorrow.

For any interested, here's a bit more on 'Harper Valley PTA', a song that transports us to small-town America of 1968.
Tom T Hall always insisted 'Harper Valley PTA' was based on a true story from his childhood in Kentucky, saying that the single mum was "a free spirit" who challenged the small town's social conventions and it's upper echelon (to this day, towns in the South still preserve a stratified class system based on wealth and ancestry). Anyway, that single mum Hall knew really did show up at a PTA meeting and tore into the members for their own "indiscretions" and hypocrisy. As a boy of 9 or 10, Hall was impressed and never forgot the story.

Just a quick word about the term "PTA"- it stands for Parent Teacher Association and can be likened to our school councils. In towns in particular the parents on these councils are generally the ones who come from the "better" (i.e.richer) families. This was the case in 1968 and to some extent it still is.

So the song tells a fun story about Mrs Johnson, a "Harper Valley widowed wife" - note that she wasn't a divorceee or just a single mum, which would've diminished her status in 1968, whereas by the songwriter making her a widow made her a figure deserving of sympathy - though why she's a widow isn't revealed. So, her teenage daughter, a student at the school, comes home with a note for her mother from the PTA, in which they scold her for "wearing your dresses way too high" (mini-skirts being a fashion rage in 1968 - but would be considered a controversial choice for mothers of teenagers), her drinking, running around with multiple men and that she shouldn't be raising her daughter that way. Outraged, Mrs Johnson pays an unannounced visit to the PTA who conveniently happened to meeting that afternoon. To the PTA's surprise, Mrs Johnson, wearing a miniskirt, walks in and Rips them to shreds, exposing a long list of misbehaviours of their members, most of whom were in attendance -

Bobby Taylor, who, aroused by her mini-skirt, had asked Mrs. Johnson for a date 7 times (7 times! - I reckon I would've given up after no more than 3 times!). Mrs Johnson also mentions Bobby's wife, who "seems to use a lot of ice" in his absence - not today's meaning of being a meth head, but back then, some towns still had home delivered ice from the iceman (like the milkman), so the implied meaning is that she is enjoying a lover while hubbie is away.

Mr Baker, whose secretary had to leave town for an undisclosed reason - so surely she was pregnant with his child.

Widow Jones, who leaves her window blinds wide open and little to onlookers' imaginations.

Mr. Harper, who was absent from the meeting because "he stayed too long at Kelly's Bar again".

Shirley Thompson, who also has a drinking problem, as evidenced by gin on her breath - I think repeating the drinking problem again straight after Mr Harper was the one mistake here from Tom T Hall - perhaps he should've given her a pill addiction or some illicit drugs.

Mrs Johnson then rips them for having the audacity to declare her an unfit mother, referring to the town as "a little Peyton Place" and labeling the PTA a bunch of hypocrites - "Peyton Place" was a famous 1960's TV soapie - basically the mother of all soapies that have come ever since - set in a small town with lots of secrets, sex and sin.

In the final stanza of the song, Riley states that the story is true (as , and in the final line identifies herself as the daughter of Mrs Johnson when she sings, "...the day my mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA". In fact, Riley actually changed a lyric here. Capitalizing on one a catch phrase of the day - “Sock it to me!” - she replaced “gave it to” with the much punchier "socked it to", resulting in a line that would soon become just as ubiquitous - “The day my mama socked it to the Harper Valley PTA”.

Ironically, Jeannie Riley was a member of her daughters school PTA when she recorded this song.
 

Taylor Moss

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Decided to FRO to Europe in March.

Before I even bought my airline tickets (tomorrow, had to move some money around) looked at events in London the week we’re there…

Friday night: Miranda Lambert / Kip Moore / Russell Dickerson (Meh)

Saturday: will be going to Bournemouth for the Cherries v Derby match so miss out on Rucker & Brett Young (who I like but I’m
Not a real Rucker fan)

Sunday; my birthday….Luke effing Combes &
Ashley effing McBride!!!!

Can. Not. Wait.
 

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Gough

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Decided to FRO to Europe in March.

Before I even bought my airline tickets (tomorrow, had to move some money around) looked at events in London the week we’re there…

Friday night: Miranda Lambert / Kip Moore / Russell Dickerson (Meh)

Saturday: will be going to Bournemouth for the Cherries v Derby match so miss out on Rucker & Brett Young (who I like but I’m
Not a real Rucker fan)

Sunday; my birthday….Luke effing Combes &
Ashley effing McBride!!!!

Can. Not. Wait.
I had a similar experience in New Orleans nearly thirty years ago. In a week I saw Buckwheat Zydeco, the Blues Brothers Band with Eddie Floyd, Koko Taylor, The Band two nights running and rounded it off with the Rolling Stones at the Superdome. It was one of the greatest weeks of my life.
 

Professor Knowall

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'Harper Valley PTA' was Riley's first and last single to cross into the Pop Top 40, but she became a frequent presence on network television in 1969 and 1970, starring in her own TV special (titled, of course, Harper Valley PTA) and appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Johnny Cash Show, The Bob Hope Show, American Bandstand, and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, as well as touring frequently. Riley landed 10 more top 40 hits (5 tip 10) from 1969 to 1971, even as
her personal life fell apart at the height of her career, divorcing Mickey Riley in 1970 as she battled depression and disillusionment with her "sex kitten" image which she hated - and hitting the botttle to escape it all.

Though she never wore skirts above the knee before the success of 'Harper Valley' Riley’s manager and producers wanted to brand Riley as if she were the woman in the song. They didn't want her mentioning her husband in interviews and they only wanted to see her perform in a miniskirt. "Right off, I could see that I was being considered an image, not a person," Riley says. "A sassy sexpot instead of a singer. That just wasn't me". So they played up her sassy image by dressing her exclusively in mini-skirts and boots, and encouraging her to exploit her sexuality. Her mother remembers a distraught Riley exclaiming - “I‘m the little girl telling the story. I don’t know why they’re dressing me like this.” Riley herself later said she always identified herself with the daughter who passed the message on to her mother, not the mini-skirted mother herself.

So in this live clip of Riley's follow-up hit, 'The Girl Most Likely', which reached # 6 in 1968, the song matters a whole lot less than the image - which for country music was radical at the time (though it was soon copied by Tammy Wynette) -


And again for her top 40 1969 hit 'The Back Side of Dallas' Like 'Harper Valley PTA', it was one of several songs of the era which brought country music into the somewhat seedy realm of 1960s American culture. 'The Back Side of Dallas' is about a small-town girl who finds herself a lonesome sex worker in Dallas, chain-smoking king-size cigarettes, drinking in dingy bars and popping pills - this ain’t no Kitty Wells song, y’all. I like this song - it deserved more attention than what it got -


Riley finally cracked it with her "sex-bomb" image, and abandoned it for a more traditional wardrobe of floor-length gowns and ankle-length dresses typically worn by other female country artists of the time (this change can easily be traced on various videos of her live performances at the time - c1970 - on YouTube). Her music also became noticeably less pop
and more traditionally country, with this # 5 hit from 1969 being an early example -


Like 'There Never Was Another Time', this 1970 # 7 hit was written by notable songwriting pair, Margaret Lewis and Myra Smith. In some way, the lyrics of 'Country Girl' about a former country girl in the big city, unhappy, lonely, homesick and yearning for the friends, family and life she had left behind, somewhat reflected Riley's real life situation at this stage -


Again written by Margaret Lewis and Myra Smith and again on the theme of a big city person missing the cotton lands and the Mississippi (i.e. The Mississippi delta lands), 'Oh Singer' was Riley's last top 5 hit, reaching # 4 1971 -
"... Oh singer take me to the river / Let me ride the big river boat down to New Orleans / Let me lean up aboard and wash my hands in the Mississippi water / Cause singer I can only ride that boat in a song you sing ..." -


Depressed, disillusioned and with financial problems from getting ripped off by her manager, Riley left Plantation
Records for MGM Records in 1972, recording several albums, but only two of her singles cracked the top 30. However,
she remained in demand as a concert artist. In 1974 she became a born again Christian and began recording gospel music - she had moved a long way from her 'Harper Valley PTA image and for a decade she refused to sing 'PTA' due
to its content. However, in the early eighties she relented and even re-recorded a new version of her massive hit and
it remained part of her live set from then on . In 1980, she published her autobiography, "From Harper Valley to the Mountain Top" which told her story of stardom in pop music to moving into gospel music.

After Jeannie and Mickey Riley divorced in 1970, they remarried in 1975 after Jeannie had found religion and settled
near Nashville, where she now frequently performed at the Opry. Their teenage daughter, Kim, started singing back-up
for Jeannie from the mid 1980's. When Kim was in her late 20s, she worked with jeannie on her own (and only) album and released it under the name Riley Coyle. The record was titled "Country In My Genes" – a nod to her own musical upbringing.

After the release of her autobiography, Jeannie suffered another bout of depression and was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The Rileys divorced again in 1991, but 2 years later, Mickey moved back in to help take care of Jeannie, now suffering from severe depression, an arrangement that continued until he remarried 3 years later. Jeannie still performed occasionally, mainly on the gospel circuit. In 2012 she married a childhood friend. She still regularly performs concerts and is currently recording an album.

The artist in this history had a lot to do with - one could say he was responsible for - Jeannie C Riley's success.
 

Taylor Moss

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I had a similar experience in New Orleans nearly thirty years ago. In a week I saw Buckwheat Zydeco, the Blues Brothers Band with Eddie Floyd, Koko Taylor, The Band two nights running and rounded it off with the Rolling Stones at the Superdome. It was one of the greatest weeks of my life.
How good!!!
 

Professor Knowall

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Singer/songwriter Johnnie Wright was born in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, spent much of his career working with Jack Anglin in the popular duo "Johnnie & Jack". He first performed with Anglin in 1936. They teamed up full-time in the 1940s and, except for the time Anglin spent overseas during the war, remained together for over two decades to 1963 when Anglin was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to Patsy Cline's funeral.

Wright was also fairly well known (albeit not quite famous) as the husband of the first big female country star, Kitty Wells (see posts # 238-239). In 1952, the duo and Wells were invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, where they remained for 15 years. Following Anglin's death in 1963, Wright continued performing and making records. In 1964, he had 2 top 25 hits and in 1965 he had a # 1 hit with 'Hello Vietnam'.

Now it's one song alone that has Johnnie Wright appearing in this history. If I was doing a rock history, folk history or even (as I nearly did) a blues history, the 1960's, being a time when the country was increasingly rent by protests and riots as the decade progressed, would've had its fair share of anti-war protest songs - with plenty referring directly to Vietnam (far too many for me to mention any). But in country music? - not so much - and what songs there were about Vietnam tended to go the other way.

In 1968, a time when the American troop buildup in Vietnam was reaching its peak, casualties were rapidly mounting and opposition to the war and the draft was sweeping across American college campuses, John Wayne starred in the patriotic Vietnam War action (or propaganda) movie "The Green Berets", made with the full support and participation of the US Defence Dept. However, 3 years earlier, in 1965, the troop build-up was just ramping up and the big majority of the population, not yet scarred by the casualties to come and believing that victory would soon follow, supported the war - and none more so than in the South and Midwest, where many young men actually didn't bother with the draft - they volunteered! Meanwhile a young up and coming songwriter from Kentucky, who had already written a couple of top 10 honky tonk hits for other artists came up with this patriotic number, which, apart from the topical lyrics, sounds like it came straight out of the 1950's - and with sentiments to match -

This song was later used in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 Vietnam War movie 'Full Metal Jacket'.

As for the remainder of Johnny Wright's career, in 1968, he and his wife, Kitty Wells recorded an autobiographical duet, 'We'll Stick Together' - and they did, playing live shows together through the early 1980s, when they left music to run a souvenir shop. In 1992, the couple began playing together again with their son Bobby who, like their daughters, Carol Sue and Ruby, had some minor success as a country singer. In 2000, Wright and Kitty gave their farewell concert in Nashville. He died at age 97 in 2011, a year before his wife, Kitty Wells.

But enough of Johnny Wright who, unlike his wife, was never a major star - the real purpose of today's history bite was about the song, 'Hello Vietnam', reflecting on one the most important events of the 1960's, but even more, as an introduction to one of the greatest of country music songwriters (and did he change his mind on the Vietnam war?). Stay tuned.
 
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Professor Knowall

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No less than George Jones once described our next artist as “by far the greatest all-time songwriter and storyteller that country music has ever had”, while Johnny Cash once wrote to him, saying “You are my all-time favourite writer”. Along with songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, and James Talley, all of whom cited him as an influence on their songwriting, he helped usher in a new era of country music songwriting, bringing a new level of lyric and thematic sophistication and social consciousness (though I still prefer the honest straight forward cheatin' and drinkin' honky tonk songs of the 1950's, but that's just me). Though already having made a name for himself by writing the # 1 1965 hit 'Hello Vietnam' (see the post above), he was heavily influenced by Bobbie Gentry's 1967 smash narrative
hit 'Ode To Billie Joe'. Since then, he's written songs for greats including Johnny Cash, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Alan Jackson and Bobby Bare, among others. It was veteran Country Music Hall of Famer Tex Ritter who gave him the simple nickname that stuck - "The Songwriter".

Born in 1936 in Appalachian eastern Kentucky, Thomas Hall was one of 8 children, his father was a bricklayer and part-time preacher. Hall described the family home as "a frame house of pale-grey boards and a porch from which to view the dusty road and the promise of elsewhere beyond the hills - the birthplace of a dreamer". Hall showed interest in music at an early age, wroting his first song at 9, learning to play a friend’s guitar at age 10, influenced by a local musician who died of TB at 22 years old, hence his classic song, ‘The Year That Clayton Delaney Died’. Hall’s mother died of cancer
when he was 13 and 2 years later, his father was injured in a shooting accident, requiring Hall to leave school in order
to work to provide for his family. A neighbour, Hurley Curtis (who was later the subject of Hall’s ‘A Song For Uncle Curt’), had a small, travelling cinema and Hall accompanied him, playing bluegrass in his first band, the Kentucky Travelers, at local schools and radio. He wrote jingles for a radio sponsor and became a radio DJ before joining the Army in 1957. Stationed in Germany, he performed on the Armed Forces Radio Network, often singing original songs.

After military service, while working as a DJ in Virginia, Hall impressed Nashville publisher Jimmy Key with his songs,
and Key placed Hall’s 'DJ for a Day' with Cajun and Grand Ole Opry star Jimmy C. Newman, who had a Top 10 hit with
it in 1964. This prompted Hall’s move to Nashville in 1964 to pursue songwriting as a career. He wrote another top 10 hit with 'Mad', recorded by Dave Dudley in 1964, and then, as per yesterday's post, his first # 1 hit with Johnnie Wright's recording of 'Hello Vietnam'. Encouraged to record his own songs by noted dobro player, producer and Mercury Records executive Jerry Kennedy, Hall signed with the label in 1967, taking on a middle initial to separate himself from other performers with similar-sounding names. His first single, 'I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew' just reached the
top 30, but his next 2 singles failed to crack the Top 60.

Then, as we saw, Hall was asked to write her a song like Billie Gentry's ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ (see post # 531) and produced the classic ‘Harper Valley PTA’ (see post # 537), a massive 1968 cross-over # 1 hit Jeannie C. Riley, voted Single of the Year by the CMA. Its success brought attention to Hall's own recording career, which was evident from the success of a song prompted Hall, as many of his hits, from personal experience of working with his aunt in a graveyard when he had
to leave school at age 15, observing many funerals and the people coming. The song 'Ballad of Forty Dollars' became his first Top 10 hit, climbing all the way to # 4 in 1968.

The song is narrated by a cemetery caretaker who observes the funeral of a man and the people coming to bid him farewell, the preacher, the great-uncle’s limousine, his grieving wife, the military "Taps" (so he was a war veteran), the gossip about his estate then talking about the guy who owed him $40. He concluded - "You're certainly not going to go
to the widow and collect it. I guess it's lost"
-


In Hall’s 1969 story-song, ‘That’s How I Got To Memphis’, from his album "Ballad of Forty Dollars", the narrator recounts,
in rich detail, how he arrived in Memphis. The short answer? An undying love - mixed with an eternal hope against the odds. Sung from the perspective of someone who goes to Memphis on the off-chance that his lover has gone back there, it possesses Hall’s trademark simplicity, saying everything there is to say with a sparing lyric that echoes the narrator’s own lack of information. That trail leads all the way to the banks of the Mississippi, arriving hungry and exhausted, but committed - “... I haven’t eaten a bite or slept for three days and nights...”. But he isn’t complaining. He’s just spelling
out his dedication in simple, human language. One line explains it all - “... If you love somebody enough, you'll follow wherever they go / That’s how I got to Memphis ...” (though she probably doesn't want to be found). Like the rest of Hall’s songs, it’s the underlying sadness of the song that makes it so beautiful. That melancholy is always there in all
of his songs - “... If you tell me she’s not here, I’ll follow the trail of her tears...” -

‘That’s How I Got To Memphis’ became a country standard, including covers by Bobby Bare in 1970 (we saw his great
# 4 hit version in post # 465), Daryl Dodd in 1996 and Charley Crockett in 2018.

‘Homecoming’ bears all the hallmarks of a Tom T. Hall song. Sung from the one-sided perspective of a singer struggling
to carve out a career, who makes that most frightening of trips - back to his hometown where only his father , it’s one of Hall’s most exquisitely written conversation songs. Perfectly capturing that feeling of wistfulness, the returning son gently nudges for his father’s approval, awkwardly apologising for missing his mother’s funeral, outlining in some detail that he had just played a gig in San Antonio the night before and, you see, his guitar player, a woman asleep in the car, drove him straight there. Anyone who has ever struck out on their own path - especially against their parents’ wishes - knows what Hall was getting at here. Hall said of the song - “It’s about a son who comes home and tries to explain himself to his father. When you come home, it’s hard to explain what you’re doing.” -


Hall’s best songs describe people and situations, such as 'I Miss A Lot Of Trains' from the 1959 "Homecoming" album. The song's theme really reminds me of Glen Campbell's classic 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' in that the protagonist is the one who has left their ex (instead of being left) and imagines that his ex is awaiting his return - but he ain't doing that -
"You're standin' in the station, I can see you in my mind / You think that I'll forgive again, but you're so wrong this time / Your sleepless eyes and selfish heart are waiting there in vain / While I sleep good and miss a lot of trains ..." -


Having written # 1 hits for others, Hall scored his # 1 as a recording artist in 1969 with 'A Week in a Country Jail', a surprisingly upbeat song about being locked up for speeding, of all things. Like most of his tunes, it was written about a true life experience that took place near his home town. Hall was nabbed for speeding and lodged in the Couny jail. The judge was out of town attending a funeral and Tom had to enjoy the jail's hospitality for a week until the judge got back.
A few things in the song were embellished by Hall, such as the most entertaining part - his desire to run away with the jailer's wife, but the rest is basically true. In the song, Hall makes the mistake of calling his boss instead of someone
who will come bail him out, then dines on “hot bologna, eggs, and gravy” brought in by the jailer’s wife. He should be annoyed, but he sings it cheerfully, like he knows he’ll have a good story to tell one day -


As we move in to the seventies, we haven't finished with Tom T Hall - his best work is still to come.
 

PatsFitztrick

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Mum and Dad, Hank, Patsy, Slim and Fred.
Because my childhood was immersed in the fabulous music of the 1920s to the 1950s, I have always considered myself more than blessed. Our family was working poor, but the HMV radiogram in the living room of our rented inner-Melbourne cottage was an altar. From it, we heard the genius of Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Patsy Cline, Slim Dusty and so many others.
Hank, Patsy and Slim were Mum and Dad’s idols. During the rock’n’roll revolution of the fifties, they sometimes agreed that Elvis, Chuck, Jerry Lee and Fats Domino really were fun to dance to, but they only brought those records out when friends came over and there were drinks on the table.
When Bob Dylan exploded onto the world stage in 1962, I was in my early teens, and soon part a disparate group that met weekly to appreciate and discuss his songs. In turn, Dylan led me to his contemporaries and predecessors; Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bill Monroe, and the Blues masters Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. This was the dawn of the Beatles/Rolling Stones era, but by then I had realised that most of all, I loved the troubadours – the story-tellers who used words and melody the way impressionist painters used shape, colour and light.
Dylan ruled my record collection until the early 1970s, when Jim Croce deposed him. Jim released three acclaimed solo albums, then was tragically killed in a plane crash, aged just 30. He left behind a young family, and three of the most popular songs ever recorded; Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, Time In a Bottle and Operator. Had he lived for a decade or two longer, I have no doubt that Jim Croce would now be as respected (and certainly more loved) than Dylan himself.
To fill the void of Jim’s passing, I turned to a host of others like Johnny Cash, Gillian Welch, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Paul Kelly and Graeme Connors. But it wasn’t until I strolled into a liquor store on a balmy Gold Coast evening about 25 years ago, that fate introduced me to another extraordinary wordsmith.
There were no other customers that night, only a new manager behind the counter. As we greeted each other, he clicked a cassette into the store’s tape player, and I headed for the red wine aisle. About halfway along, a song about driving a truck with water in the fuel stopped me in my tracks, and I called out, “please, who is THIS?” He turned, and broke into a knowing smile.
Fred Eaglesmith (born Frederick John Elgersma in Southern Ontario, Canada in July, 1957) is one of nine children raised in a poor rural community. He began playing guitar aged 12, and left home in his teens by hopping a freight train, already equipped with a couple of original songs and a burning self-belief.
Over the following decade, Fred honed his craft by relentlessly performing whenever and wherever he could, throughout Canada and the USA. He formed a country/bluegrass co-operative with a floating line-up of musicians that performed under various names like the The Flying Squirrels and the Flathead Noodlers, and in 1980 released his first album.
Since then, there have been more than 20 others, liberally endowed with tales of life on the road or on the land, steam trains, cars, motorcycles, loves lost and found, farm machinery, horses, cattle, country towns, and ordinary, everyday people. All sung with absolute authority, honesty and a wicked sense of humour.
Fred has toured much of the world, and often visited Australia. Kasey Chambers and her father Bill (who have both recorded his songs) are regular guests at his annual charity picnic in rural Ontario. In 2014, Fred married his long-time collaborator Tiffani Ginn, a gifted vocalist and multi-instrumentalist in her own right. Since 2016 they have continued to tour as a duo.
So here, for your entertainment and/or enlightenment dear reader, is a list of 10 of my personal Fred Eaglesmith favourites, available on all the digital music platforms. If you haven’t yet made his acquaintance, get comfortable and have a listen.
Be careful, though. They can become addictive.
1. Rodeo Rose
"She wanted him crazy, but not that crazy. Wild, but not that wild."
2. Time To Get a Gun
"I could afford one, if I did a little less drinkin’."
3. The Rocket
"Hey, that’s the saddest train I ever heard."
4. Milly's Cafe
"And the roads just get rougher, out in West Texas."
5. Water In The Fuel
"I’ve got a left front tyre throwing tread, by tomorrow mornin' I could be dead."
6. Mrs. Hank Williams
"She was fightin’ with the band, and it was her or it was them."
7. White Rose
"I guess the White Rose fillin’ station’s just a memory now."
8. Summerlea
"She’s been in love a couple of times before, but never quite like this."
9. Soda Machine
"And the soda machine at Charlotte and Queen, is as empty as my heart."
10. Indian Motorcycles
"Northern boys and southern cars and one-pump stations."
 

Taylor Moss

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Anyone know why Bocephus had a falling out with Miss Audrey (his mum)

His Wiki lists that he fell out with her but he seems to talk about her fondly in ‘The Conversation’
 

Professor Knowall

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Anyone know why Bocephus had a falling out with Miss Audrey (his mum)

His Wiki lists that he fell out with her but he seems to talk about her fondly in ‘The Conversation’
In a nutshell, from when Hank Jnr was still a mere stripling of a boy, Audrey saw him as her way of staying in the limelight she always craved, and as a cash cow. She made sure he had the very best training in singing and learning
multi instruments (eg Earl Scruggs gave him banjo lessons and Jerry Lee Lewis taught him piano licks) - but she forced him to perform only as a touring clone of his father - singing Hank Snrs songs in the exact same style. This, of course, guaranteed a very good market back then, but once Bocephus reached legal age (18), be broke free to go his own way and develop his own sound, not just be an imitator of his then much more famous dead daddy. It took him a while to succeed on his own terms and he had to get through some dark times, but he got their eventually and then some.

I'm not aware if they ever really became fully reconciled before she died - maybe I'll find that out before I get to him in the history pieces.
 

Professor Knowall

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We now come to Tom T Hall's most productive songwriting period, from 1970 to 1975. So how did he come up with the ideas for his story-songs. It seems not so much from his personal life, which, having married bluegrass song-writer, Dixie Hall in 1965, was stable and by all accounts happy, with no suggestion of the cheating or desertion he was apt to write about (i.e. the great cheating song 'The Lincoln Park Inn', a # 1 hit he wrote for Bobby Bare in 1969 - see post # 465). But Hall liked having a yarn with everyday people he encountered on the road while searching for lyrical inspiration. “I’d get in my car and drive through small town America and stop off at little cafes, bars and pool halls, to look and listen. I got a lot of songs that way,” Hall said. That's my type of guy - such a great way to really get to know the people of the country as you travel through it.

Tucked away on Hall's 1970 "100 Children" album was this sarcastic - and sad - anti-war song (in stark contrast to the 1965 # 1 hit 'Hello Vietnam' we saw 2 days ago), sung by an implausibly breezy paralysed war veteran boarding a plane on a wheelchair, to return home from the war. He smiles at the air stewards and tells jokes to cover his embarrassment. Jason Isbell performed the song when Hall was inducted into the Songwriters HoF in NYC in 2019 -


Also from the 1970 Album "One Hundred Children" is another underrated story 'I Hope It Rains At My Funeral', this time of a country boy escaping from his cruel father on an isolated farm, poor and uneducated, unprepared for life - and finding happiness proves too elusive as he spends time in prison and loses in love and life in general. In Tom T Hall songs, one finds lines of simple truths, and this one is no exception, with this little gem -
"... Ain't no sense in wantin' my life to live over / I'd find different ways to make those mistakes again ..." -


'The Year That Clayton Delaney Died' reached # 1 in 1971. According to the song, Clayton Delaney was the best guitar picker in Hall’s home town, drank way too much, and suffered miserably during the final 2 weeks of his life. Or did he? Hall later revealed that Delaney was based on the whom Hall renamed bpairing Easterly’s hometown with the surname
of his next-door neighbors, who taught Hall to play guitar and inspiring him to be a musician and songwriter. Hall would always change the names of his characters when he took them from real life, protecting the people - and sometimes to protect him from them. The result is both an undeniable story-song and a Tom T. Hall classic. It was around this time
that people in country music began to call these sorts of songs "Tom T. Hall songs”.


The happy guy in Hall’s 1972 song 'Pamela Brown' is a ramblin’ man, just roamin’ around the world and having good times. He had a close shave all those years ago - if he’d married Pamela Brown, he’d probably be back home driving kids to school. He’s "the guy who didn’t marry pretty Pamela Brown", and he’s glad to be shot of all that. Of course the truth is the guy sounds kinda glum thinking about Pamela Brown. He might be trying to crack hearty, but it's clear he regrets not marrying Pamela Brown - maybe he wouldn’t have minded driving kids to school after all. When he sings “I guess the guy she married was the best part of my luck” he doesn’t sound like he's convinced -


Written during a particularly fertile patch of songwriting, the old style gospel-music sounding 1972 # 8 hit, ‘Me And Jesus’ was inspired by a favourite expression of Hall's mother - “Me and Jesus will work it out”. After listening to a particularly avaricious preacher (not uncommon in the good ole USA) on the radio one day while travelling around Georgia, Hall wrote the song, setting forth his view of life, organised religion and a more personal idea of faith, eschewing pious evangelizing (there's still a lot of that I need the South) for a more personal vision of faith - “... Me and Jesus got our own thing going / We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about...” he sang, accompanied by a buoyant traditional gospel music hand-clapping rhythm - along with a lively barroom piano. Like so many of Hall’s characters, Jesus seems just like a regular bloke who understands the problems of regular people, no “fancy preachin” required -


I ain't finished with Tom T Hall just yet - a couple of his most memorable songs are still to come as we move further I to the seventies - tomorrow.
 

Taylor Moss

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In a nutshell, from when Hank Jnr was still a mere stripling of a boy, Audrey saw him as her way of staying in the limelight she always craved, and as a cash cow. She made sure he had the very best training in singing and learning
multi instruments (eg Earl Scruggs gave him banjo lessons and Jerry Lee Lewis taught him piano licks) - but she forced him to perform only as a touring clone of his father - singing Hank Snrs songs in the exact same style. This, of course, guaranteed a very good market back then, but once Bocephus reached legal age (18), be broke free to go his own way and develop his own sound, not just be an imitator of his then much more famous dead daddy. It took him a while to succeed on his own terms and he had to get through some dark times, but he got their eventually and then some.

I'm not aware if they ever really became fully reconciled before she died - maybe I'll find that out before I get to him in the history pieces.
Sensational mate. Thank you.
 

Professor Knowall

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Tom T Hall’s trademarks were a keen sensitivity to the problems of plain folks, a gift for tale-spinning, acute attention
to detail, and an economical writing style, influenced by Ernest Hemingway (Hall also authored half a dozen books). With a genius for capturing the nuances and speech patterns of folks living in small southern towns, Hall is credited by music historian Bill Malone as having “restored the old tradition of storytelling” to country music. His plain-spoken delivery and minutiae filled slice-of-life character studies left footprints for students like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and John Prine
to follow.

One of Hall’s most well-loved songs 'Old Dogs and Children and 'Watermelon Wine' is a true account (so he said) of
his experience at the 1972 Democratic National Convention (where he performed with George Jones and Johnny Cash), when he fell into having a yarn with an old porter at a Miami Beach hotel bar. The porter proceeded to tell Hall his long-learned secret to a happy and contented life - “Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, but old dogs, children and watermelon wine". Hall wrote out the lyrics to the song on a sick bag on a flight to Atlanta the next day, recording it as soon as he arrived back in Nashville. Simple, but effective, going to # 1 in 1972. I must get around
to trying some watermelon wine one day -


Country music's greatest singer-songwriter, Hank Williams, known for the frantic pace of his songwriting, once famously said that any song that takes longer than 20 minutes to write ain't worth the writing. Hall wrote 'I Love' in 9 minutes and recorded in just 2 takes - “I invested a total of nine minutes into it, and it sold more than a million copies and was used
in a Coors Light commercial”, Hall later said. One of his simplest songs, 1973’s ‘I Love’ went on to be the most successful singles of his career, another # 1 and also crossed over to reach # 12 on the pop charts. The song is a softly sung, heart-warming list of everything that Hall loves about life, from baby ducks to old (not new) pick-up trucks, squirrels to puppies, little country streams, sleep without dreams, birds of the world, tomatoes on the vine and so on. Charming, almost tangible little images that Hall loves rolls in with the one other crucially important thing that he loves.

As for this being the "uncensored" (i.e. the original) version, an alternative version of Hall's recording replaced the
lyrics "bourbon in a glass and grass" with "old TV shows and snow" to avoid potential censorship issues on the many conservative country radio stations. Hall also said that he intended the "grass" in the lyrics to refer to a nice lawn.
Perhaps there were a few who actually believed him. This song is best enjoyed with a glass of bourbon and grass -


'I Like Beer' is the type of tune you sing raucously loud with friends after having a few. While at an old school honky tonk bar? Perfect. The sing-songy nature of the track makes it a anthem of sorts. 'Roll out the barrel and lend me your ears', Hall implores his listeners in Shakespearean style. Why? Because beer 'makes me a jolly good fellow'. It also helps him unwind and makes him feel mellow. 'I Like Beer' may be Hall’s sly observation on the blue collar beverage, but it sounds like a good advertising jingle too. Sure enough, beer giant, Michelob thought so too, having Jon Pardi sing the song in a Super Bowl ad for Michelob Ultra beer in 2018.

You've got to respect a straightforward song like this one: Hall likes beer. It makes him jolly and mellow. End of story. Along the way, he also manages to throw shade at other alcoholic options, reminding us that "whiskey's too rough, (his opinion, not mine), champagne costs too much, vodka puts my mouth in gear." Fair enough - beer it is.


Hall and his wife Dixie were also renowned as bluegrass musicians and songwriters. This brassy bluegrass stomper
'Faster Horses' tells the story of a young poet who meets a cowboy in a local bar. Thinking the cowboy might have some big universal truth to share, the poet (who seems to represent a navel gazing New Age bookish sort of guy) asks him about “the mysteries of life”. The cowboy spits between his boots and reveals that his great philosophy of life is simply "Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey and more money”. That sounds about right to me - especially the last 3 -

This song was famously referenced in US Congress in evidence given to a U.S. Senate subcommittee on banking practices by banking consultant Alex Sheshunof -
Sheshunoff - "... we recently did a lot of market research on what bank customers really want from the banks they do business with. We asked them what they really wanted and what do you think is important but unfortunately, just as we were able to publish our market research, it was preempted by a Mr Tom T. Hall from Nashville when he said "faster horses, younger women and older whiskey".
Senator McIntyre - "Say that again, did you say faster horses, younger women and older whiskey?"
Sheshunoff - "And more money".

Now for one Hall didn't write - the bluegrass standard, 'Fox On the Run', written by Tony Hazzard in 1968. Tony played
the song for Manfred Mann and in 1968, 'Fox On the Run' became a hit for them in the UK (not to be confused with the later glitter-rock song of the same name by UK glam-rock group, Sweet, which was a massive 1975 hit with Australian teenyboppers). Manfred Mann changed some some lyrics and modulated to a different key from verse to chorus, making
it more a ballad than a quick bluegrass tempo. Somehow, the Manfred Mann pop version was heard by Bill Emerson,
who first recorded the song. In 1976, Hall took he Run' to # 9. The song went on to be recorded many more times by bluegrass and country bands all over the US and is now pretty much considered to be a bluegrass standard. You can hardly walk past a festival jam without hearing a version of this beloved chestnut -


Between 1971 and 1976, Hall had 6 # 1 hits and regularly appeared on TV music shows, particularly Hee Haw. He also wrote a book on songwriting, which led to two more in the late 1970s and early '80s - the semi-autobiography "The Storyteller's Nashville" and the novel "The Laughing Man of Woodmont". Although he continued to have the occasional
top 10 hit in the late 1970's - most notably the # 4 'Your Man Loves You, Honey' in 1977, Hall didn't deliver hit singles
as consistently as he did during the first half of the decade. That pattern continued in the early 1980's, with his sound
and story-telling style now considered dated. Hall hosted the syndicated TV series "Pop! Goes the Country", and in 1984 he scored his last top 10 hit. In 1986, Hall retired from recording, although artists continued to record his songs. But there's still just a little bitty more to be told - tomorrow.
 

Professor Knowall

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By 1996, Tom T Hall Hall seemed washed up as he hadn't really been in the hit-making business for 12 years and had retired from writing any songs some 10 years earlier. Then out of nowhere, he returned with "Songs From Sopchoppy", a new album of (overly produced) originals named after the Florida panhandle town where he had his holiday home. Tucked away towards the end of the album was ‘Little Bitty’, a song he’d written on while out walking in Australia. Alan Jackson heard it on the road listening to country radio and, despite mostly writing his own material, liked it so much, he recorded a cover for his "Everything I Love" album, taking the song all the way to his 14th # 1 hit.

The song had been written by Hall while holidaying in Australia. Going out for a bush walk one day he came across a
typical suburban-style house that he considered as the “American Dream" - “I thought, ‘I’m in Australia, and here’s the
great American dream.’ The house with a picket fence, the dog, the flowers. It was almost like a painting. I said, ‘This is universal, this notion of having a contained domestic situation
,” Hall said. Walking back, he thought to himself - "So, it’s alright to be little bitty.” From there he started writing the song right away. Ending up in a cafe, he asked the waitress if she had ever heard the phrase “little bitty.” She said that it meant something very small or tiny. After realizing the term was universal to some extent, Hall decided to finish the song but got stumped on the last verse. After sitting in a drawer for years, he ended up just ending the song the same way it starts - “I got that song out of the drawer and looked at it - and no last verse. I said, ‘Well, after two years, I know how this thing ends. The way it started!’ It starts all over again. It’s a cyclical song,” Hall said.

'Little Bitty' is about the seemingly tiny individual lives and deeds that all add up to one very big whole - life is short and every simple moment and experience has meaning so you might as well make the most of it byliving in the moment and enjoying the small, yet satisfying parts of life in your own way -
Might as while share, might as well smile / Life goes on for a little bitty while.”


During his career Hall wrote 12 # 1 hits and 26 others that reached the Top 10. These include other # 1 hits by other artists such as 'That's How I Got To Memphis' and 'The Lincoln Park Inn', both by Bobby Bare (see post # 465) and of course, his biggest selling hit, the classic 'Harper Valley PTA' by Jeannie C Riley (see post # 537).

Hall joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in 1971 and the Nashville Songwriters HoF in 1978. In later decades, Hall
and his wife (and collaborator) Miss Dixie, whom he had met at the BMI Country Awards in 1964, focused on bluegrass music, advancing the careers of fledgling and established musicians and creating bluegrass music themselves. Operating from their farm outside Nashville, they ran music publishing companies and a state-of-the-art studio. In 2004 they each received the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award. Together, they also won the Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year awards for a dozen years between 2002 and 2015. Hall was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Kentucky Music HoF in 2011. In 2012 Hall was presented with the BMI Icon award
for songwriters who have had a “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.”

Tom T Hall and Dixie were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2018 (Dixie was inducted posthumously after passing in 2015). In what Hall described as the highest honour of his career, he was inducted as a member of the Songwriters HoF in 2019. At his induction in NEw York City, acolyte Jason Isbell sang Hall’s 'Mama, Bake
a Pie (Daddy Kill a Chicken)', which he described as "one of the most remarkable songs by one of country music’s greatest and most important songwriters".

Dixie passed away in 2015, after 57 years of marriage to Tom. Tom T Hall died just 2 months ago from when I posted this, on 25 August 2021, age 85, becoming the second great in this history after Charley Pride to have died since I started this history.

When I get to reurn to this history in a few days, it'll be to wrap up the 1960's with an enigmatic artist unlike any featured before - a one of a kind, very much a product of the sixties - and a very different sound in country music.
 

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