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Professor Knowall

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Bob Dylan has made no secret he has long big fan of Gordon Lightfoot and has covered manny of his songs. Dylan even got star struck when he was chosen to induct him into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986. He once famously said when listening to Lightfoot songs one hoped they “would go on forever”.

Lightfoot had a knack of drawing on real-life events, often from his personal life, for some of his best songs, like 'If You Could Read My Mind', 'Sundown' and 'Rainy Day People'. His personal life certainly provided some good fodder for songs, given his 3 marriages, (the most recent in 2014), a well deserved reputation for constant womanising and 6 children to 4 different women, including his first and second wives and two other randoms. Like so many of other artists, he also had his battles with alcohol (which he gave up in 1982) and substance abuse at times.

But for now, back to Lightfoot's music. 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald', from 1976, became the second biggest hit of his career, peaking at # 2 on the U.S. pop charts and # 1 in Canada. The song was based on the real-life sinking of
the ore carrier in Lake Superior that took the lives of 29 crew members in 1975. Wistful but not maudlin, beautifully arranged, and blessed with some truly stupendous lyrics, it remains one of his most poignant and popular songs - a profoundly moving and affected piece, given the nature of its original content. After more than 45 years, this remains
one of his best written songs -


Released on Lightfoot’s last 1970's album, 1978's 'Daylight Katy' was the opening track to Lightfoot’s "Endless Wire" album - not to be confused with The Who album of the same name. 'Daylight Katy', was released as a single and did fairly well on the AC chart, reaching # 14. The ethereal 'Daylight Katy' doesn't seem to have a 9 to 5 job but has a constant relationship with the sea, walking by it, walking to it, living by it and talking to the sea. Her “old man” is likely fast asleep, as he has to put bread on the table while she’s enjoying another day sleeping in and taking care of her hair so soft and long -


The 1980 album "Dream Street Rose" still has the country folk-pop sound that Lightfoot established during the previous decade. In addition to the title song, it includes more sea based songs such as 'Ghosts of Cape Horn' and 'On the High Seas'. The title cut from the album found Lightfoot in fine musical form. The guitar work adds a layer of breeziness to the track, and his vocal - as usual - was spot on. Lightfoot brought a definite warmth to the lyrics of the song, all about the positive effect the right one can have on someone’s life, opening up a world of new possibilities -


We now track Lightfoot's career into the 1980's. I was hesitant about including this song, as it isn't really country - and
it isn't really good. But this being a history series of artists, I feel compelled to include it as part of Lightfoot's career course. In the 1980's, as Lightfoot entered middle age, he was no longer considered "cool" amongst the new generation of college educated youth and as pop music tastes changed to a smoother saccharine soft-rock sound, Lightfoot found he had to change his material to still hit the charts. So as the 1980's moved on, Lightfoot moved along with it - for better or (IMO) for worse. His 1986 track ‘Anything for Love’ saw the him move right away from his folk country roots and turn his attention to the adult contemporary market with this soft-rock sound.

Now I can really try and be positive, throw in some adjectives like melodious and romantic, and perhaps some here, depending on one's taste, may find this number enjoyable on the ear, smooth in the brain and pleasant everywhere. But
if so, your music taste is somewhat different than mine. Nevertheless, it reached # 14 on the U.S. AC charts in 1986, and also earned him his last ranking (albeit only # 71) on the country charts. So you've been warned - listen at your peril -

I find it ironical this was also on the country chart (if only just) as well as an AC hit, considering this is about his least country influenced single - whereas many of his earlier country folk hits didn't make the country charts at all.

Although a lucrative moment in Lightfoot’s career, this smooth but formulaic 1980's soft-rock adult contemporary sound also saw Lightfoot transition from vital player to bit-part as he seemingly lost a chunk of his credibility. From 1987 he faded from the charts, though he continued to record and tour regularly and his annual run of shows at Massey Hall confirmed he still had a loyal audience in Canada. Lightfoot also dabbled in acting, starring in the 1982 films "Harry
Tracy" and "Desperado", and playing a country singer on the short-lived American television series "Hotel" in 1988.

Lightfoot began experiencing a creative revival in the 1990's, recording 2 of his best-reviewed albums in decades, 1993's "Waiting for You" and 1998's "A Painter Passing Through", but his career nearly came to a halt in early 2002 when he suffered an aneurysm, was in a coma for 6 weeks and hospitalised for 3 months. He survived and 2004 saw the release
of "Harmony", an album Lightfoot began working before he fell ill and by the end of the year, he was back on the road. In 2006, Lightfoot had a minor stroke, costing him some mobility in his right hand, but within 6 months he was able to play guitar again and continued to perform on a regular basis. In 2012, Lightfoot released "All Live", a collection of recordings from his many appearances at Massey Hall and only his second live album in a career lasting over 50 years. Lightfoot toured regularly into the late 2010's and in 2019 the double-disc collection "The Complete Singles 1970-1980" was released.

After discovering a cache of demos of unreleased songs written in 2001 and 2002, Lightfoot decided the songs deserved an audience, and he recorded 10 of them, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, for 2020's "Solo", his first studio album in 16 years. Released in March 2020, just before the lockdowns, its highlight 'Oh So Sweet' proves he can still sing almost as well as he could in his heyday and if anything his guitar playing is now even better. Finally, ‘Oh So Sweet’ has kind've given us the ballad of Gordon Lightfoot. It's a retrospective of a man with a 60-year career who is happy with the life he has had even with its twists. Gordon Lightfoot’s entire career can be seen in the lyric from this song -
“... Wasn’t it good, wasn’t it bad? / Or the best you ever had? / But sometimes it was, oh, so sweet ...” -


At age 83, Lightfoot's career isn't over yet. Described by Robbie Robertson of the Band as a “national treasure” and by Bob Dylan as one of the greatest ever songwriters, along the way he has collected a numerous awards, especially in Canada - to many to mention so I'll just give a highly select few. In 1986, he was inducted Byblos none other than his great admirer, Bob Dylan, into the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame. In 2003, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest honor the nation bestows on civilians. He was also immortalized on a limited edition postage stamp issued by Canada Post in 2007. In 2012, despite never living in the U.S., Lightfoot was inducted into the U.S. Songwriters Hall of Fame in a New York City ceremony alongside Stevie Nicks and Bob Seger. In 2015, he was honoured with a giant 4-metre tall bronze sculpture in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Today, with no time to start on another artist before I have to depart again, I have a bit of a bonus extra on Gordon Lightfoot.

I had Marty Robbins 1965 cover of Lightfoot's 'Ribbon Of Darkness' as the first song in his history because it was a # 1
hit and, as such, it was what launched Lightfoot in prominence - at least as a songwriter, if not yet as a performer (it was also a good excuse just to include Marty Robbins again). However, I did feel a bit bad by not including Lightfoot's original of this great song, which Robbins cover was mostly faithful to - right down to the whistling. One could argue that Lightfoot's version, though technically less sophisticated, sounds more heartfelt -

Almost 40 years later, Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn paid his respects to the song with a stirring rendition for the 2003 tribute album, "Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot".

It also didn't fit my history narrative to include Lightfoot's first Canadian # 1 hit into this history, which focussed a lot
on his song-writing - because, ironically, he didn't write it - one of the very rare times he recorded someone else's work. OK, so we've seen the Kris Kristofferson written 'Me and Bobby McGee' a couple of times in this history already - firstly, originally recorded by Roger Miller (posts # 482 & 661) and later Janis Joplin's ultimate cover on her posthumous album "Pearl", recording it only a few days before her death in October 1970 (post # 665).

So how and why did Lightfoot get to record it so early (before Kristofferson himself had recorded it)? The story goes that Kristofferson popped his head into the recording studio with freshly written verses as Roger Miller was recording the song - and Lightfoot just happened to be visiting the studio at the exact same time, listening to Miller and liking very much what he heard. So when he returned to his Canadian home, Lightfoot wasted no time recording his own cover. Miller was (just) the first to have a hit with the song, peaking with it at #12 on the US country charts in 1969. But Lightfoot's version had even better success in Canada, hitting #13 on the pop chart and going all the way to #1 on the country charts in 1970, becoming his first # 1, months before the release of the first of his 3 worldwide hits, 'If You Could Read My Mind'. The hand-clapping that Lightfoot introduced to his version relates directly to the lyrics -
"... With those windshield wipers slappin' time / And bobby clappin' hands ..."


If you still want a bit more of Lightfoot - and you like trains like i do (I come from a railway family) then I have one
last offering. Lightfoot was commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to write a song for a televised celebration of Canada's 100th birthday in 1967. It describes the building of the trans-Canada Canadian Pacific Railway, the construction work on which was completed in 1886. With it's well crafted changing tempo and the way in tells the story, it's well worth the listen (though I'm biased) -


Having returned from 2 weeks in the N.T. a week ago, I'm now being sent up to Cape York Peninsula in far North Queensland - this time for at least 3 weeks, maybe more, so that means another break from the history. When I (eventually) return, I have a rich artist in mind.
 

Professor Knowall

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We're now up to about 1972-73 in the history (roughly based upon when an artist breaks through to sustained prominence/stardom), and as I'm heading off again for a few weeks, I've updated the 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 the lockdown inspired me to do this).

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.
OC= Music associated with the Outlaw era of the mid to late seventies.

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, OC
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
Western Movie Themes 1964-1970 521-524
Bobby Gentry 531-535 Mississippi TF, PC
Jeannie Riley 537-540 Texas PC, G
Tom T. Hall 543-550 Tennessee TF, BG, CB
Townes Van Zandt 551-555 Texas TF,
Gram Parsons 560-570 Florida HT, TF
Lynn Anderson 573-575 North Dakota, TF, PC, BG, WC, G
Dolly Parton 581-607 Tennessee TF, PC, BG, WC, HT, CB, G
Tom T Hall 611-617 Tennessee TF, BG, CB
Freddie Hart 622-625 Alabama TF, PC, G
Mal Street 627-631 Tennessee HT, TF
Donna Fargo 647 North Carolina PC
Mel Tillis 648-657 Florida RR, HT, TF, PC, OC
Kris Kristofferson 661-667 Texas TF, NS, HT, PC, RR, G, OC
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band California 674-680 TF, BG, RR
John Prine Illinois 685-691+695 TF, CB
Gordon Lightfoot Ontario 696-702 TF, CB, PC
 
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Professor Knowall

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I'm back in town again after a few hectic weeks way up in the warmth of the Torres Strait and Cape York, and ready for the next history instalment, about an artist who was simultaneously one of the most critically acclaimed and most erratic genre bending singers. Rich had all the elements of being one of the great country stars of the 1960s and '70s, but for almost 20 years until his massive breakthrough hits in 1973, his public popularity never matched his critical reviews. What made him a critical favorite amongst musicians also kept him from mass public success as throughout his career
he willfully blended genres, fusing jazz, blues, gospel, R&B and country, thereby not appealing to the "purists" in any of these genres, despite his obvious all-round musical talent. But eventually, public taste changed and came to align with
his musical output.

Yet another in this history raised by poor cotton growing share-croppers in the Mississippi delta (e.g. Johnny Cash), born in eastern Arkansas in 1932, Charlie Rich's parents instilled an early appreciation of music. His mother was a talented pianist and his father a singer in Baptist Church gospel choirs. A black tenant farmer, C.J. Allen, also played an influential role in Rich’s early life, training him to play blues piano. From age 10 he was earning money in the painful occupation of cotton picking for his father and other local farmers. Music was a sideline - one that was strictly monitored by his strict Baptist parents. Rich was allowed to play the tenor saxophone in the high school band, but playing at dances and playing for money were forbidden.

But Rich was a serious music student who developed a taste for jazz, especially the works of greats Stan Kenton and Oscar Peterson. Also a talented sportsman, he attended the University of Arkansas on a football scholarship, where, as
a music major, he perfected his blues and jazz techniques on horn and piano. Like so many of our other musicians in this history of this era, in 1952 he enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Oklahoma. There he formed a jazz group and began moonlighting in local honky tonks and clubs. He met and married Margaret Ann, also a jazz buff and his group's lead singer. Upon his discharge, he returned to his father's cotton farm, but also began performing in clubs around the Memphis area, playing both jazz and R&B and writing his own songs. Around this time, saxophonist and Sun recording artist Bill Justis heard Rich play at a club and asked him to write arrangements for him. Armed with his own original compositions and escorted in by Justis, Rich arrived at the famed Sun Studio to meet with Sam Phillips.

Phillips found Rich’s music “too jazzy and elegant” for widespread commercial success - a criticism that would follow
him for almost the next 20 years. But after absorbing some Jerry Lee Lewis records Justis had given him - as well as advice he should "learn to sing as bad as Jerry" - Rich returned to Sun and quickly became a regular session musician
and songwriter at the label in 1958, playing and/or singing on records including Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. He
was also writing songs, including 'Break Up, for Jerry Lee Lewis, 'The Ways of a Woman in Love' for Cash, and 'I'm
Comin' Home' for Carl Mann, later cut by Elvis Presley.

Although he had started at the studio as a saxophone player, Rich quickly chose to focus solely on the piano for a reason both pragmatic and simple - “Piano players made more money”. Furthermore, Rich’s time at Sun allowed him to gain a newfound appreciation for country music, which would become his bread and butter - "At first I didn't dig country. As a matter of fact, we put it down because we wanted to be jazz pickers. I had to make a drastic change at Sun Records as I didn't really appreciate country music until I went there".

In 1958, Rich released his first single, 'Whirlwind'. Throughout 1959, he recorded a number of songs at Sun, though only a handful were actually released, due to doubts about the market for his unusual fusion of jazz, blues, gospel sound and country. Rich didn't have a hit until 1960, with the gospel/soul/rockabilly infused 'Lonely Weekends', a piano-driven track that showcased Rich’s balance of power and finesse. The record would go on to sell over a million copies and climb to
# 22 on the pop charts -


After the success of 'Lonely Weekends', Rich recorded several songs but, not really sticking to any one genre and hence building a loyal genre driven fan base, none of them, each sounding very different from each other, was a hit, despite favourable reviews from music critics. This includes this great bluesy tune recorded in 1960, 'Who Will The Next Fool Be?', which IMO deserved to be a hit - but its piano driven mix of blues/soul/jazz just didn't quite fit into any commercial genre sound of that era -


Recorded during Charlie's final Sun session, engineered by future master producer (and Chet Atkins chief professional rival and personal friend) Billy Sherrill, the distinctly country sounding (in both music and lyrics) 'Sittin' And Thinkin', refers to his own chronoc drinking problem he had before (and long after) its release. Rich put so much feeling into his material that even if he wasn't an alcoholic, one could assume he was anyways. Alas, no one yet considered Rich, given his musically diverse background, as a country star at this stage, and once again, it bombed at its release, although it became, in time, a favourite enduring staple of his catalogue -


Despite his early success with 'Lonely Weekends', the 1960’s were a largely lean and trying decade for Rich as he
struggled to break into the mainstream, still groping for a marketable style. He left Sun Records in 1964, signing
with Groove, an RCA subsidiary. His first single, 'Big Boss Man', was an underground, word-of-mouth hit, but it's
Chet Atkins produced follow-ups all flopped. He jazzily interpreted standards, but he also performed some originals
such as 'I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Anymore', which wasn't even released as a single - but as we will see (but not
today), time eventually showed his Groove Chet Atkins produced sessions were ahead of their time. But Groove
went out of business in 1965, leaving Rich without a record contract.

After a frustrating period of idleness, Under the direction of Shelby Singleton, Smash Records signed Rich in 1965. Singleton and Rich's producer, Jerry Kennedy, encouraged him to emphasize his country and R&B sound. Rich had
a brief period of success, recording the gospel/soul influenced R&B hit 'Mohair Sam' (with Charlie McCoy on bass) in
1965. Written by Dallas Frazier, this was one of Elvis's favorite songs (he probably thought it was all about himself)
- Paul McCartney said Elvis played Rich singing this on his jukebox when the Beatles were first introduced to him at Gracelands. It reached # 21 on the pop charts (#6 in Canada) -


Yet again, Rich, with his varying genre fusion offerings, and now going into his late thirties, far too old now to be
a pop/rock idol, struggled for further chart success - none of his follow-ups were successful. So Rich again changed
labels, moving over to Hi Records, where he recorded straight country, but none charted. Despite this, Epic Records
signed Rich in 1967 on the recommendation of producer Billy Sherrill, who, already knowing Rich and his diverse
musical talent, helped Rich refashion himself as a Nashville-based, smooth, middle-of-the-road balladeer.

At first, the singles were only moderately successful - 'Set Me Free' and 'Raggedy Ann' charted in the mid-40s on the country charts in 1968, and 'Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs' didn't chart that much better - but it showed the way to the future with a song clearly aimed at an older audience who had experienced a lot of life, Rich now leaving behind forever his previous attempts at winning over a younger market. 'Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs' was written by Charlie's wife Margaret Ann and was released in 1969 when Rich was trying to find his way around Nashville. But it's evident there was still a lot of Memphis and a lot of jazz in Charlie's music, albeit it was now clearly country oriented -

Once again, musicians and music critics heaped praise on Charlie Rich, with Rolling Stone magazine, in its review
upon its release, calling it "as good as anything he's ever done" and predicting that the song "could make it on all
the charts at once: R&B, Pop, Easy Listening and Country". But yet again, it missed its mark with the wider public,
charting only in the country chart and even their only reaching # 41.

Like some other artists of that era such as Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and John Prine, Rich seemed destined to
be mostly appreciated by other musicians and music critics but not have major chart success. However, master producer Billy Sherrill knew first hand just how all-round talented a musician Charlie Rich was - just as the "Countrypolitan" era was gathering strength as we enter the 1970's - and was determined to persist with him, even branding Rich as "The Silver Fox", given that his big crop of hair had turned grey while still in his twenties. Tomorrow will see The Silver Fox
in the early 1970's as he enters into his forties - and his career heights
 
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Professor Knowall

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In the late 1960s, the Nashville sound (see posts # 354 & 404 for a potted history - I won't rehash it here) had metamorphosed into the even more refined "countrypolitan" sound, openly marketed to a middle class suburban and even urban audience as the alternative to the then pervasive youth oriented rock'n'roll genre. Featuring high and complex production techniques (by now, Nashville led the world in recording technology) with layers of keyboards, guitars, strings, and vocals, countrypolitan records were designed to cross over to pop radio - which they frequently did.

The Countrypolitan sound dominated the country charts in the early 1970's until the inevitable reaction set in at the mid 1970's- but it still stayed quite popular with its targeted market until the early 1980's. Artists such as Sonny Young, Tammy Wynette, former traditionalist stalwarts Ray Price and George Jones, Lynn Anderson, Conway Twitty and Dolly Parton amongst others were some of the artists who were caught up in this sound (at least while it dominated), but it is probably The Silver Fox, Charlie Rich, with his diverse musical talents, that became it's ultimate exponent.

As we left him in 1969, major chart success was still eluding Rich. But as the 1970's began and Countrypolitan came to the fore, Rich gradually began to integrate his jazz, blues, soul, rock, and country influences into a cohesive sound. Sherrill directed him more toward country music, feeling that country fans would respond to his mature years (he turned 40 in 1972) better than the youth-oriented rock audience. Although Rich’s attitude to the music was ambivalent at best, it would prove to be the winning recipe that had eluded him thus far. The countrypolitan sound that Sherrill crafted for Rich was lush, but also emotional, it was easy-listening pop-country yet still possessing credibility and integrity, with Rich infusing his jazz and soul influences into his vocals. Rich possessed strong and very pure vocals and his phrasing was intimate and direct.

Billy Sherrill's persistence with Charlie Rich finally paid off with the release of 'I Take It On Home' in 1972 when it climbed to # 6. The song, though totally different in sound and production, has basically the same classic country theme as Johnny Cash's 'I Walk The Line' i.e. vowing to be faithful despite all the temptations one encounters when travelling away from home. Unlike Cash (at least up until he married June Carter), it seems, by all accounts, that Rich might've actually meant it - unlike so many in this history, I couldn't find any whiff of him being unfaithful to his song-writing wife and they remained married to the end. Here we have a live version on the "Hee Haw" country music TV show - which also serves as a reminder that Rich also played piano on both his recordings and stage performances -


The success of 'I Take It On Home' set the stage for Rich's massive cross genre breakthrough 1973's "Behind Closed Doors" album. The title track became one of Charlie Rich’s 2 signature songs as it not only went to # 1 on the U.S. and Canadian country music charts, it also peaked at # 15 on the pop chart, # 8 on the Adult Contemporary chart and went international, reaching #16 in the UK and # 18 in Australian pop charts. it also earned Rich the most amount of music awards he’d ever experience in his career. As a single and as an album, “Behind Closed Doors” earned Rich the ACM Album of the Year, Single of the Year and Top Male Music Vocalist -

'Behind Closed Doors' was written by Oklahoman singer-songwriter Kenny O'Dell, during the Watergate scandal, the lyrics inspired by how the Congressional Investigatong Committee, had a number of non-public sessions. O'Dell explained "They're always talking about no one know what goes on behind closed doors. Having the sessions, another session, behind closed doors. And I'm thinking, I like the title, 'Behind Closed Doors'." Asked how Rich ended up recording the song, O'Dell said - "Well, Billy Sherrill was producing him and they were trying to get a huge hit, and things weren't working out very well…I took it to Billy and I had his ear at the time." O'Dell played rhythm guitar on the recording. Ironically, despite the lyrics "...for nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors ...", the song makes it fairly clear in this case what does!

Charlie Rich followed up the immense success of 'Behind Closed Doors' with an even bigger hit. 'The Most Beautiful Girl' was written by Rich and released in 1973 as a single from the album "Behind Closed Doors", becoming Rich’s other signature song, soaring all the way to # 1 across all 3 pop, country and adult contemporary charts as Rich now found himself, after almost 20 years in the music business, a "sudden" superstar. As well as its U.S. success, 'The Most Beautiful Girl' also topped the Canadian pop, country and adult contemporary charts, # 2 in the U.K, # 3 in the Netherlands and # 7 in the Australian Top 40 chart, amongst a host of other countries. The song is about a man trying to come to grips with the fact that his love has left him - due to his own actions. Rich’s vocals are sad and heartfelt, making the song all the more poignant. The lyrics are simple, but incredibly effective -

'The Most Beautiful Girl' earned Rich another swagful of awards - as well as "Favourite Single" winner at the 1975 AMA awards, it was also instrumental in his 1974 win as Entertainer of the Year with the CMA as well as Album of the Year, Single of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year. Rich also won the 1974 Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, and later a 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame Award. It has also since been certified platinum by the RIAA and remains as the best-selling single he’s ever produced. Rich's song was covered by many strong vocalists, including Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty, and Ronnie Milsap.

You may remember from yesterday that Rich left Sun Records in 1964 and signed with RCA subsidiary Groove with only limited success, but time eventually showed these Chet Atkins produced sessions were ahead of their time. With Rich now topping the charts across genres, Atkins, now vice-president of RCA, hadn't forgotten these sessions and now had them dug out from the RCA archives and pressed into release. 'There Won't Be Anymore' was originally released as a single in 1965 but went nowhere. Nine years later, with Countrypolitan now ruling the airwaves, it sold like crazy and became Rich's 3rd # 1 hit in a row in both the U.S. and Canada. Here, the saxophone solo serves as a jazzy introduction, as well as a mid-song bridge, showing the original music roots that followed Rich into his transition as a country music star. This breakup song sees the singer informing his former lover she won’t be hearing from him anymore as whatever they shared together is now no more - and the blame is on her -


Although recorded by Chet Atkins at Groove Records in 1965, 'I Don’t See Me in Your Eyes' wasn't even released as a single (which I find staggering - it's that good) until 1974 when Rich was dominating the charts, which included the old Groove recording 'There Won't Be Anymore', so Atkins dug into the old RCA archives again and came out with this absolute gem. This promptly became yet another # 1 hit - his 4th in just 6 months and 6th overall and also reached # 9 hit on the Adult Contemporary chart. Rich infuses this sad break-up country song with soul, blues, jazz and even Western swing, while the Nashville Sound era of the recording is betrayed by the Anita Kerr singers doing the backing. It was fortunate that, 9 years later, it finally came to the publics attention -


Around the same time that Chet Atkins at RCA dug up and released their old 1965 recordings of 'There Won't Be Anymore' and 'I Don't See Me In Your Eyes Anymore', Billy Sherrill released 2 brand new Rich recordings, both being ultra saccharine syrupy slow romance songs - 'I Really Love You' and 'I Love My Friend' - and both also went to # 1 in 1974 as well as being both pop and Adult Contemporary charts hits, as everything Rich touched seemed to turn to gold. Yet I haven't included those then contemporary songs in this history as I frankly just find them room syrupy and it seems even Rich himself didn't think much of them, despite their commercial success. It's kinda interesting that his Chet Atkins produced songs from 1965 released in 1974 were clearly better.

So we leave The Silver Fox off in 1974 with him being pretty much the biggest name in American music, riding a huge wave with 6 consecutive # 1 hits within the previous 12 months. Still more success was ahead of him - and then a sudden case of unintentional career self-sabotage . More on that tomorrow.
 

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We're now up to about 1972-73 in the history (roughly based upon when an artist breaks through to sustained prominence/stardom), and as I'm heading off again for a few weeks, I've updated the 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 the lockdown inspired me to do this).

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.
OC= Music associated with the Outlaw era of the mid to late seventies.

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, OC
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
Western Movie Themes 1964-1970 521-524
Bobby Gentry 531-535 Mississippi TF, PC
Jeannie Riley 537-540 Texas PC, G
Tom T. Hall 543-550 Tennessee TF, BG, CB
Townes Van Zandt 551-555 Texas TF,
Gram Parsons 560-570 Florida HT, TF
Lynn Anderson 573-575 North Dakota, TF, PC, BG, WC, G
Dolly Parton 581-607 Tennessee TF, PC, BG, WC, HT, CB, G
Tom T Hall 611-617 Tennessee TF, BG, CB
Freddie Hart 622-625 Alabama TF, PC, G
Mal Street 627-631 Tennessee HT, TF
Donna Fargo 647 North Carolina PC
Mel Tillis 648-657 Florida RR, HT, TF, PC, OC
Kris Kristofferson 661-667 Texas TF, NS, HT, PC, RR, G, OC
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band California 674-680 TF, BG, RR
John Prine Illinois 685-691+695 TF, CB
Gordon Lightfoot Ontario 696-702 TF, CB, PC
What!!!!!
No Australians Prof. How could you?
 

Professor Knowall

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What!!!!!
No Australians Prof. How could you?

Ha ha - by posting The Sheik as an example, you've probably justified my complete lack of Aussies in the history!

Actually (being serious now), though I've included 2 Canadians (so far) in Hank Snow and Gordon Lightfoot, there simply haven't been any home grown talent in the eras so far covered that made enough impact outside Australia to qualify for inclusion. I reckon Reg Lindsay might've made it in the States had he moved to Nashville like Hank Snow did (Snow and Lindsay toured Australia together in 1974) or, decades later, Keith Urban. Reg certainly had the talent and personality - his Grand Ole Opry performances were well received but he chose not to move there. And as I've no intention of covering any 21st century performers - it's just too recent - Keith Urban won't get a gig here either.
 

Professor Knowall

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Today we're straight back to where we left off in 1974, with The Silver Fox just having had 6th successive # 1 hits, including his 2 cross-genre signature songs, 'Behind Closed Doors' and 'The Most Beautiful Girl', and about to have his
7th # 1 in 12 months. Yet behind the scenes, Rich, was starting to battle against all the extra attention that comes with sudden major stardom - especially after being used to a reasonable degree of anonymity for the first 20 years of his professional career. Always reliant on a bit of alcohol to steady his nerves for performances - and with his liquor of
choice being straight spirits - bourbon or vodka shots - his drinking was increasing as noticeably as his fame and he started to gain a certain reputation amongst insiders as someone to avoid when drinking. All this was kept from the public, of course, until one infamous (but very funny) incident at the 1975 CMA awards - watched by millions. But
before we get to that, first some more of his music while he was at the zenith of his success.

'She Called Me Baby' was first recorded by renowned country songwriter, Harlan Howard, from his 1962 album, "Harlan Howard Sings Harlan Howard". It was covered by Patsy Cline at her very last recording session in February 1963, 3 weeks before her tragic death (see post # 388). For Charlie Rich, his 1964 Chet Atkins produced Groove 1964 recording was yet another dug out of the archives and released by RCA in 1974 when Rich hit superstar status and had finally proved his jazz/soul infused style was country enough to find a big market. Just like his other old RCA recordings release at this time (as seen yesterday) this was another Rich # 1 hit on both the U.S. and Canadian charts. For Rich, his vocal talent was eerily similar to Elvis Presley at times, which was noted many times, mostly in a favorable way -


'My Elusive Dreams' had been written by Rich's producer, Billy Sherrill and was first recorded by Curly Putman in 1967, peaking at # 41. The song was quickly recorded by several artists (as was the norm in that era) but by far best-known version was the duet by David Houston and Tammy Wynette, which went all the way to # 1 (see post # 388). Rich took the song again onto the country and pop charts, taking it to #3.

This 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 country song of unfulfilled dreams -


The title track from the 1975 album, 'Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High) - I wonder how many back then noticed
any double, or even triple, entendre in the title - saw yet another # 1 on the Adult Contemporary and Canadian Country charts, but "only" peaked at # 3 on the U.S. country chart and a # 19 hit on the pop chart. It was during this time Rich's music style drifted away from a style that had him dominate the country music genre for 2 years as this playful love song openly displays Rich’s jazz background to such an extent it barely passes as "country". By this stage, given all his success and fortune, Rich probably felt more secure and empowered to indulge his own musical jazz tastes in his recordings -


In 1975, Chet Atkins at RCA was still at it, digging up yet enother 1965 previously unreleased recording 'It's All Over Now' and releasing it as a single at a time when Rich's new material started to reduce -


Rich was basically a private, inward looking man, who never comfortable being interviewed and rarely interacted with
a live audience, never enjoyed dealing with all the professional hangers-on and glad handlers of the music business. Throughout his career he continued to rely heavily on a drop of the hard stuff and as Rich was at the height of his
career, he had begun to drinking straight spirits even more heavily than the past, his way of coping with the extra
stress of stardom - but causing considerable problems off-stage as he wasn't a good drunk. His destructive behavior culminated at the CMA ceremony for 1975, when he presented the award for that year's Entertainer of the Year.

When Rich walked on stage during the final minutes of the 1975 CMA awards to present the most prestigious award of the night, which he had won in 1974, he was clearly plastered. He arrived at the podium, took a pause, muttered to himself, and looked lovingly at the trophy in his hand. “This is the most beautiful thing in the world right here,” he slurred. “Most beautiful thing. Thank you very much". The audience was silent. “I know the people who are up for [this award] are suffering right now, the way I did last year,” he empathized, with some nervous chuckles from the crowd. “I mean, suffering, you know, like in the gut.”

The nominees for the country music Entertainer of the Year are John Denver, Waylon Jennings,” he cut himself off and went on a tangent: “The reason I’m talking so correct is ’cause I just got back from London. I’d rather be in Nashville.” Continuing - “Loretta Lynn. Loretta, would you like to go out tonight?” Nervous laughter. “Ronnie Milsap. First time I saw Ronnie, our bandstand broke. 18-foot bandstand. Bam.” The camera cut to the final nominee and his wife, who shook her head in embarrassment. “And my friend from Arkansas, Mississippi, wherever he wanna be - Mr Conway Twitty.” And then after ripping the winner’s slip from its envelope and fumbling with the paper, Rich slowly pulled out a lighter. “The winner is,” he said, lighting the corner of the page, briefly admiring the flame and while the paper burned - “my friend, Mr John Denver.

It was widely reported (or mis-reported) at the time and is still widely believed to this day (based on YouTube comments and various internet articles) the incident was Rich's bold protest against the infiltration of country music by pop acts like Denver, but that wasn't true at all - Rich himself, as I've emphasised in his history, was the embodiment of the genre’s expanding boundaries and never a country purist, incorporating jazz, soul, pop, and rock ’n’ roll elements. Not exactly
the prime candidate for a reactionary revolt against John Denver.

The actual evidence clearly shows he was just very inebriated (mixed with pain medication for an injured foot) and
hence not exhibiting the best judgment. Rich’s son (Rich himself never spoke about it afterwards - he probably couldn't remember much) later explained his father was on an combination of pain medication for a foot injury and had a dozen or so too many gins backstage that evening before the presentation, and simply thought it would be a great joke to set the envelope alight while everyone was eagerly waiting with baited breath for the announcement - “I know the last thing my father would have wanted to do was set himself up as judge of another musician. He felt badly that people thought it was a statement against John Denver.”.

To be fair to the inebriated Rich, it was a pretty hilarious thing to do and has gone down into CMA folklore. Waylon Jennings, who had his own reasons to be pissed off with the whole awards scene, despite winning the best male vocalist award
that year, later wrote - "I was happier watching Charlie Rich get drunk and burn up the Entertainer of the Year award, holding a cigarette lighter to the envelope. They went to grab him, but when Charlie was drunk, it was best to stay out of his way… Oh, yeah. John Denver won Entertainer of the Year. Now that’s what I call country".


Many of Rich's conservative fans and industry insiders, failing to see the funny side of it, were outraged. He was banned from all future CMA events and his career was never the same. The following year, after dominating the charts for the previous 2 years, he didn't even score a top 20 hit. But, contrary to much that is written about him, his career wasn't over, despite his increasingly erratic, unpredictable behaviour. So we will check in again with The Silver Fox tomorrow
to track his career to its end.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Today we look at the final phase of The Silver Fox's career following his spectacular drunken shenanigans at the 1975 CMA awards night led to him being cancelled for a time. The slump in Rich's career couldn't be completely attributed to his behavior. His records had begun to sound increasingly similar, as he and Billy Sherrill were still basically working over the same music territory they began exploring in 1968. But there were exceptions - such as 1976's acclaimed gospel album, "Silver Linings" - but it took Rich until 1977 to break back into the Top 10 with the # 1 hit 'Rollin’ With The Flow’

In 1977, “Rollin’ With the Flow” was just the comeback song Rich needed to bounce himself back to star-quality level among his peers, This mid-tempo distinctly country sound - but still with some countrypolitan flourishes, has a man seeing his peers raising families of their own while he continues to party on. It makes reference to his faith as a Christian, knowing this sort of behavior isn’t welcome in the eyes of a heavenly host.
"... While guys my age are raising kids / But I'm raisin' hell just like I did /
I've got a lot of crazy friends / And they forgive me of my sins
..."


‘On My Knees’ was Rich's 10th - and final - # 1 hit as he, along with Janie Fricke, performed this ballad in 1978. While this was Rich’s final # 1 single, it marked the first of 8 for Fricke. The lyrical plea from Rich to the love interest in this tale, performed by Fricke, sees a man see the error of his ways, wanting to reunite with his lover in hopes their second round at romance will bring back the magic they once shared together. In my experience, that never quite works in reality -

fTR - The person pictured on this song and in the slide-show is Charlies' wife, Margaret Ann, not the younger, blonder, Janie Fricke. Despite his thirst for hard liquor and the problems it caused, Rich and his wife remained married for 43 years til death did they part.

1979 was a quiet year for Rich, who was now apparently tired of producing more countrypolitan material. However, he did appear in the Clint Eastwood hit movie "Every Which Way But Loose", which featured a stellar soundtrack of successful country music hits, of which 2 new songs reached # 1 - the title track 'Every Which Way but Loose' by Eddie Rabbitt and 'Coca-Cola Cowboy' by Mel Tillis (see post # 650). Also included was Rich's 1973 # 1 hit, 'Behind Closed Doors'. Both Rich and Tillis also had other songs from the album reach the top 5 - Tillis' 'Send Me Down to Tucson' at # 2, while Rich's 'I’ll Wake You Up When I Get Home' reached # 3. It was the last top 10 single of Rich’s career -


'Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues' was written and originally performed by folk singer, Danny O'Keefe in 1972, reaching # 5 on the pop chart. It has since been covered by dozens of artists, including Rich, Rich (who, given his own troubles with alcohol, may have related to the Charlie in the song and also served as a sort of answer song to 'Rollin With The Flow'). Here we find Rich's once pure, smooth strong jazz vocals becoming roughened by years of alcohol and tobacco (something I haven't mentioned until now - he was a heavy smoker as well as drinker). But this impure voice of experience only adds to the poignancy of this song in 1980 -


in 1981, Rich stopped performing and went into semi-retirement, living off his investments and memories, amid rumours his occasionally self-destructive lifestyle had taken its toll. However, he returned triumphantly at age 60 in 1992 with the critically acclaimed 'Pictures And Paintings', an album overseen by his long-time champion, journalist Peter Guralnick. Mixing jazzy originals with with reinterpretations of songs from his past, the album proved to be Rich’s most artistically satisfying (though not, of course, the most commercial) work since "The Fabulous Charlie Rich". This album did much to remind, or restore, Rich's reputation as a serious all round musician

The pick of the songs from this album has to be 'I Feel Like Going Home', which, though sang now with a weathered yet still strong voice, flows with all of Rich's background of gospel, blues, soul. You can feel and sense the sadness and world wearnines in his voice, liked he lived the very lyrics - and perhaps he sensed, given his penchant for alcohol and tobacco, he wasn't destined to live into old age. This goes right through -


The 1992 "Pictures And Paintings" album was Rich's last recording. As mentioned, He was a heavy smoker as well as drinker. In 1995, while en route to Florida for a holiday, after he and his wife of 43 years and music collaborator, Margaret Ann, had watched there son’s stage show in the beautiful delta town of Natchez, Mississippi, he experienced a severe coughing bout. He was given antibiotics after briefly seeing a doctor and moved on. When he and his wife pulled over to call it a night at a motel in Louisiana, he went to sleep and never woke up - due to a blood clot in his lung. The Silver Fox passed peacefully in his sleep at age 62.

I'll leave the last words to Tom Waits, in his song 'Putnam County' -
"... The radio spittin' out Charlie Rich / Sure can sing that sonofabitch ..."

So after 6 days at home, it's time to hit the highway again, but this time only for a week, and instead of the remote parts of the tropical far north, this time it's the familiar country roads and small towns of the Wimmera. When i get back, it'll be to take a deep dive down into the Southern heart of Texas - no more countrypolitan but the most traditional Texan honky tonk - by an artist unlike any before him, in fact, an historic first, with the most perfect vocals for country music - yet mostly unheard of in Australia, but remains a living legend down near the Mexican border.
 
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Professor Knowall

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I'm back again for only a few days - just enough time to squeeze in another history instalment - and this time a hardcore traditional country artist - despite his youth - whose emotional style harked back to the honky tonk of 1950's. Mel Street had started the honky tonk revival in 1972 with his classic 'Stolen Angel' (see post #627) but today's artist, blessed with just the most perfect honky tonk vocals, took it to another level in his breakthrough debut 1973 album. He also became the first Chicano (Texan-Mexican) artist and fluent Spanish speaker to top the American charts - and hence to be featured in this history series.

His rise to the top was a textbook American dream story all the way. Juan Raul Rodriguez grew up in Sabinal, Southern Texas, a tiny town about 130 km from the Mexican border, where the overwhelming majority are Chicano. The second youngest of a family of 10, he was the only member to show a lasting interest in music, having been gifted a guitar at age 7. His musical influences included the mariachi and honky-tonk music reflective of his upbringing in South Texas. Growing up, he listed avidly to such country legends as Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Marty Robbins, George Jones and Merle Haggard - "I never really got involved with Mexican music apart from Marty Robbins' tunes like 'Don't Worry' and 'Devil Woman' and of course his Gunfighter Ballads. I mainly listened to Hank Williams, George Jones and Ray Charles. Williams is the main influence on my own writing. ... I listened to Merle Haggard and Jimmie Rodgers, of course. I was drawn to country music because I could relate more to what they were singing about. And also it was just like the music of our people. In Mexican music, you have stories. Mexican music and country music said almost the same thing, just in different languages".

The captain of his junior high school football team and a church alter boy, Rodriguez's world was turned upside down when his father died of cancer and his older brother Andres died in an car accident all within a year. The 16-year-old went off the rails, being involved in a string of petty crimes (similar to Merle Haggard after his father also died at a young age) and in 1969 he ended up in jail. The popular story was that he and some friends were caught stealing and barbecuing a goat, but the local sheriff later said it was only for an unpaid fine (I much preferred the BBQ goat story, regardless of its actual truth). In any case, being jailed was, as it turned out, his first lucky break.

Taking his guitar to jail, Rodriguez frequently sang in his cell and was overheard by Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, who was impressed with his singing and told local promoter 'Happy' Shahan about him - his second lucky break. Shahan was so enthralled by Rodriguez's vocals that upon his release, he hired Rodriguez to perform at his local tourist attraction called "Alamo Village", the site of a complete Western movie set built in 1960 for the movie, "The Alamo" - his next lucky break. Sheahan also became his manager and changed his name from “Juan Rodriguez” to “Johnny Rogers.” It was under that name, while performing at Alamo Village, Rodriguez, in another really lucky break, came to the attention of 2 visitors in particular - Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare, who, amazed at Rodriguez's vocals, encouraged the young singer to fly up to Nashville to audition for record labels

Rodriguez arrived in Nashville with a guitar and just $8 in his pocket and called Tom T Hall, who offered him the lead guitar spot in his road band, but insisted he change his surname back to Rodriguez (something Rodriguez is forever thankful to Tom T Hall) but keeping “Johnny", and introduced him to Mercury Records A&R man, Roy Dea. Halfway through his first audition song, the Don Gibson classic 'I Can't Stop Loving You', Johnny broke into a Spanish verse.
Dea was so overcome with his voice, he offered him a recording contract on the spot. Rodriguez had just turned 21
and been a performer for just 18 months.

Now it's time to pour the smoothest whiskey you have over ice as we head back to the honky tonk. A month after Rodriguez's first recording session, Mercury released 'Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through)' in October 1972,
and, despite being by a totally unknown artist, the song, helped along by word-of-mouth and radio listener requests for air-play, peaked at # 9 in January 1973. Rodriguez thus became the first Latin-American person to have a top 10 single on the country charts. The song itself was written by Tom T Hall's brother, H.B. Hall and centres on the classic honky tonk theme of the rambling lover -


It was backed on the B-side by a cover of the country standard, 'Jealous Heart', a country standard first popularised back in 1946 by Tex Ritter (see post #179). Rodriguez's had a tendency to mix his own songs with country standards creating a nice blend of new and old. Usually, the standards like 'Jealous Heart' have Rodriguez seemingly naturally slipping into Spanish mid-song. The effect is stunning in itself (through previous travels through Latin America, I've picked up a useful knowledge of Spanish, though I'm not yet fluent - it's a great language, especially for music) and also a reminder that country music is not solely American in South Texas -


Rodriguez's next single, that he co-wrote with Tom T Hall and released in March 1973, went even better than his first, becoming Rodriguez's first # 1 hit. The song's title, 'You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)' as well as its theme, is reminiscent of the Hank Cochrane written honky tonk classic, 'Don't You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me' which Ray Price had a hit with in 1965 (and later Ronnie Milsap took it to # 1 in 1989). 'You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)' is, in true honky tonk tradition, a heartbreaker, plain and simple. Rodriguez sings of a love that just won’t die, no matter how many times it’s been hurt. The lyrics are simple, but powerful, about a love that the singer knows is wrong, but he can’t help himself. He’s been hurt so many times, but he keeps going back for more -
"... Wanting you, I know I'm throwing good love after bad /
But I'll admit the worst of you is still the best I've had
..." -


The B-side has another great country standard, the 1941 Johnny Bond written 'I Wonder Where You are Tonight', which has since been covered by dozens of artists, even becoming established as a bluegrass standard in 1963 by Jim and
Jesse and The Virginia Boys with Earl Scruggs on banjo. But for me, it still works better as a honky tonk than bluegrass standard and once again, Rodriguez's vocals - along with his seamless Spanish infusion - gives me the perfect excuse to include this classic in the country music history series -
"... Your heart was cold, you never loved me / Although you often said you cared /
And now you've gone to find another / Someone who knows the love I shared
..." -


The album "Introducing Johnny Rodriguez", like nearly all debut albums from new, previously unknown singers, was expected to be a modest seller at best. Instead, with the 2 singles from the album both exceeding expectations, it went all the way to an unprecedented # 1 spot. This was despite - or more probably, partly because - the album was simply produced, with no bells and whistles like the then in fashion countrypolitan recordings. It featured just the traditional country sounds of the pedal slide guitar and fiddles, along with the obligatory lead guitar and drums, but nothing more - no lush strings or backing choruses. But key to its immense success lay ultimately with Rodriguez's perfect honeyed honky tonk vocals and song choices.

What better way to finish Johnny Rodriguez's music today than a Billy Joe Shaver written song from the debut album - and even more so when it's a great road song (so one I instantly relate to). Now, if you happen to know Billy Joe Shaver written songs, you may be puzzled by not recognising the title of this one - 'Easy Come, Easy Go'. It's actually 'Ride Me Down Easy', as popularised by Bobby Bare and the slower tempo Waylon Jennings version, but under a different title (and no, I wasn't able to find out why the differing title). Regardless of the title, it's just one helluva great road song, and Rodriguez, with his vocals, does it justice -
"... Been a good month of Sunday's and a guitar ago / I had a tall drink of yesterday's wine /
Left a long string of friends, some sheets in the wind / And some satisfied women behind
..." -


In contrast to most in this history series who, as we've seen, had to ply their trade for years (e.g. Charlie Rich tried
for almost 20 years before tasting major success), Rodriguez, within 2 years from his first public performance as an unknown, hired to sing in the relatively obscure Alamo Village, had suddenly, in early 1973, found himself the toast of Music City, taking song after song, many of which included verses sung in Spanish, to the top of the country charts. He was also, at age just 21, comfortably the youngest chart topping country star going around. His career from 1973 will be continued tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Having yesterday charted the youthful Johnny Rodriguez's rapid rise to success, I'm starting today with some selected transcripts of a contemporary 1974 article by the well known English country music writer, Alan Cackett, who interviewed Rodriguez when he first toured the U.K. He touches on how unusual in country music was Rodriguez's sudden rise to fame but also talks about him being mobbed by youthful fans - something that surprised me for, despite his being aged just 21 - unusually young for a country music star at that time - his music, especially in his earlier albums, were very traditionally based and not obviously appealing to a youth market. Anyway, here's the excerpt -
"Overnight success in country music is very rare, yet that appears to be the way Johnny Rodriguez has carved a name
for himself. Two years ago he was unknown, today he is verging on super-star status, mobbed everywhere he goes by teenage country fans, who for the first time have a hero from their own age group. Johnny appreciates the position he has landed himself in and seems to take the mobbings and adulation in his stride. ..."

The article also touches on something that also stood out to me - Rodriguez's vocals were very similar to Merle Haggard, who at that time was still at his peak before his mid 1980's downward spiral into alcohol and cocaine -
"He has a sincere love for country music, and this love almost jumps out of the grooves of his first three albums. He has
a warm, clear Merle Haggard like voice, which puts him right in the middle of Nashville country singers, only he’s much better than most of the current crop. After the release of his first album, "Introducing Johnny Rodriguez" and the success of his debut single 'Pass Me By' he came under a lot of criticism for sounding like Haggard. He explained - “It wasn’t intentional, it’s just the way I sound. If I had it my way I would come out like George Jones, he’s my all-time favourite singer. Always has been!”

Given I've already declared George Jones as having the best vocals for country music, Rodriguez obviously had a good ear for quality and sounding like Merle Haggard (who in turn, just like George Jones, based his sound on the legendary Lefty Frizzell), was the next best thing. Another excerpt is about Rodriguez's songwriting -
It’s as a writer that I can really appreciate young Johnny’s talent. He is a natural creator of straightforward love songs that have a basic earthiness that so typified work of the legendary Hank Williams. “My favourite song of the ones I’ve written is 'Ridin’ My Thumb To Mexico'. I always wanted to write a number one song, and that was it,” Johnny added proudly.

'Ridin' My Thumb To Mexico', from his second album, "All I Ever Meant To Do Was Sing" was Rodriguez's 2nd # 1 hit on both the American and Canadian charts in 1973. The accompiament features Spanish guitar and the sound more Western than honk tonk. The lyrics though are classic country - hitting the road to escape a heartbreak. This speaks to me - as a young lad of 17, just finished school and with a girl problem, I hit the road with my just a few dollars, a bag of clothes and using my thumb, made it around the country - encountering some of the best - and at other times some of the scariest - situations ever. Living by my wits and meeting lots of interesting people, it sure made me grow up quickly. Rodriguez was still just a21 when he wrote this gem -
"... Well, the reason why she left me's / Not the reason that I'm here /
I'm a travelin' kind of man / Just need a change of atmosphere /
If there's any place I haven't been / At all that's where I'll go / So I'm ridin' my thumb to Mexico
..."


Rodriguez (in a clip on YouTube) has explained how he got his next # 1 hit (and his 3rd consecutive # 1) from the
great Lefty Frizzell (see post # 219) at a meeting of songwriters (called a guitar-pull - a Nashville ritual), despite
Merle Haggard, who was also at the meeting, wanting it). In 1973, the alcoholic Lefty, his health in visible decline
and perhaps looking back at his own life of chasing rainbows and battling demons, wrote an instant classic - a song
perfect for Rodriguez's vocal and he, in turn, sang it perfectly. The one criticism was that the song, with a melody
to die for, one of the best in country music, was over all too quickly -
"I've been throwin' horseshoes over my left shoulder /
I've spent most all my life / searching for that four leaf clover /
Yet you run with me / Chasing my rainbow /
Honey, I love you too and that's the way love goes
-

This was the last song Lefty wrote and recorded (in a now frail voice) before his death. Nine years later, in 1983, Merle Haggard, after 6 attempts to record a version he was happy with, finally scored a # 1 hit with the same song - sensibly adding a bridge and repeating the verse to extend its length. However, IMO, Rodriguez still sang it best.

'Dance With Me (One More Time) peaked at # 2 in 1974 and even crossed over to the pop charts, reaching # 16. The song is about wanting to recapture a lost love. It talks about having regrets about things said and done and has that wistful, longing feeling, suitable for both the honky tonk bar and the honky tonk dance floor, with a slow tempo Western swing -

Rodriguez was nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Vocal Performance for 1974.

'I Just Can't Get Her Out Of My Mind' from 1975 is a perfect example of Rodriguez’s ability to take a simple idea and turn it into a catchy, memorable tune. The idea behind this song is so simple – a man who can’t get a woman out of his mind – but it’s the way that Rodriguez delivers it that makes it special. It was produced by Pete Anderson, who also produced Rodriguez’s debut album and became Rodriguez's 4th # 1 hit. It has been featured in movies and TV shows over the years, including "Thelma & Louise" and "Friday Night Lights" -


The title cut from the 1975 album, 'Just Get Up And Close The Door' was written by Rodriguez and Jerry Chesnut. It's about making a choice - basically an ultimation to choose between the singer and the other - and, of course, urging the lover to choose himself. It also suggests that sometimes it’s better to just walk away from a situation and not look back. It became Rodriguez's 5th # 1 hit. Some of its success is attributed to it being used on the soundtrack for the film, “The Exorcist” -


So we leave off with Rodriguez at his career peak, with 5 # 1 hits now behind him at age 24. more tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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We're back and in the year 1975 - Johnny Rodriguez's biggest year, in terms of chart success, with 3 # 1 hits - 'I Just Can't Get Her Out of My Mind' and 'Just Get Up and Close the Door', which featured yesterday, and the quite different 'Love Put a Song In My Heart'. By now, Rodriguez was considered a member of the outlaw country market in country music, like his fellow musicians that "discovered" him, Bobby Bare and Tom T Hall. This wasn't because of the type of music he performed, which never had the harder edge outlaw sound (his vocals weren't best suited to that) but simply because he started hanging out with other outlaw musicians. However, for his music, he generally stuck to the slower honky tonk like ballads, for which he had an exquisite voice and style - though his recordings now sometimes featured strings and backing choruses that he may have been better without.

'Love Put A Song In My Heart' was Rodriguez's 3rd # 1 for 1975 and his 6th overall. It's also his most unusual big
hit, being an openly light, trite, happy, trivial song with a quasi-calypso sound - not at all suitable for any decent
honky tonk - and with a repetitive melody, the sort of tune that once listened to can annoyingly stay inside one's
head. More positively, I could also call it an infectious, uptempo feel-good melody and song. This was his first single
on which he sang in Spanish, despite his penchant for reinterpreting country classics in both English and Spanish
on his albums. It was his final # 1. But what really got me listening to this song a few times was the distinct feeling
I'd heard this melody before - and it took some minutes but eventually I got it - it's the same melody as Billy Joel's
big pop hit, 'My Life', that came out 3 years later, in 1978. See what you think -


Hanging out with outlaw musicians like Waylon Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver and Willie Neilson paid off for Rodriguez, for though Waylon got much of his best material from Shaver, Rodriguez was thrown some of Shavers slow ballads that more suited his vocals and style than the more harder edged sound of Waylon. So here we have a slow tempo romantic Billy Joe Shaver ballad, 'I Couldn't Be Me Without You', which reached #3 in 1976. This is just the sort of thing for the honky tonk dance floor -


'Makes Me Wonder If I've Ever Said Goodbye' is a classic Johnny Rodriguez tune. Written by Mickey Newbury, the song went nowhere until Rodriguez got hold f It and took it to # 2 in 1976. It's a sad, reflective song that makes one think about what could have been. Being produced under the guidance of Willie Nelson, it’s no wonder that this song has lived on. It has been covered by many artists since. The singer confesses his inability to get over the breakup and is on a downward spiral - while his ex has obviously moved onwards and upwards. Willie Nelson had a big impact on Johnny Rodriguez’s career, and this song is a great example of that. Here I've finally found a live video version with acceptable sound -
"... Night and day, it's all the same / Pour some whiskey on my flame / And burn another memory in my mind / Through the years she's moved up town / While I come a long way down ..."


Country music - and especially honky tonk - has loads of cheating songs - mostly from the perspective of the cheater. But 'If Practice Makes Perfect', written by Larry Gatlin and a # 5 hit in 1977, the singer is the self-confessed cheater - and a well practiced expert at it, who seems to have been given multiple "second" chances - which makes me wonder if he'll be given yet another chance to say goodbye again (you can skip the ad at the end) -


'We Believe in Happy Endings' - Well, don't we all! Written by Bob McDill, I'm guessing not quite so many back then sniggered at the title as they would these days. Actually, it's a beautifully written song about the peace and happiness
to be found through a simple act of forgiveness (as opposed to the usual country theme of fighting and resulting heartbreak). Foreshadowing that Rodriguez's days of reliably delivering big hits we're drawing to a close, this only reached # 7 in 1978, despite it now being recognised as one of his better songs -
"Who can tell just how it starts / Angry words and broken hearts / Till silently we sit apart / You and I /
But in awhile the anger's gone / And we forget who's right or wrong / Then one of us will end it all / With just a smile
..."

In 1988, a duet by Earl Thomas Conley and Emmylou Harris deservedly took this beautiful song all the way to # 1.

Rodriguez explored singing in Spanish further, submitting his take on the massive Eurovision hit 'Eres Tu' to country
radio in 1977. It wasn’t received all that well outside the Spanish speaking majority in South Texas, but remains one
of the best examples of his bi-lingual singing talent. He returned to a bi-lingual approach with 'Calienta El Sol' which, though originally written in Spanish, had already been a hit in English stateside. Later in his career, he worked with
Tejano musicians on the 1990 Spanish-language album "Coming Home".

That's it for today. By 1978, though still charting songs into the top 10, he was no longer charting # 1 hits. Some
very difficult days lay ahead for him as we move on into the 1980's. But though past his commercial peak, unable
to keep pace with the publics (or record companies) changing tastes, he was still capable of delivering some great
songs, as will be seen tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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After 6 years of unprecedented success, by 1979 Johnny Rodriguez was close to burning out. His life had become stages, motel rooms, the inside of buses and airplanes and cocaine binges that caused him to go 2 and 3 nights in a row without sleep. It seemed that his heart and soul has been eroded whilst striving for perfection. Concentrating more intensely on arrangements and greater technical proficiency, his music had lost much of the exuberance and feeling that characterised his early work.

He had never felt comfortable in a crowd and turned to cocaine and alcohol to prop himself up when he went on stage. His addiction to alcohol and drugs cost him his financial well-being, his health and family. Even his voice began to suffer - "It was during a time when it was fashionable to be living like that, but then I woke up and realised it wasn't cool to be living like that. We made some good records there, but I think I had a little too much rein. I got to experimenting around and almost experimented myself out of the business."

By this time he had moved on from Mercury and signed with Epic Records where he worked in the studio with the legendary Billy Sherrill (who, as we saw, had cemented his own reputation by producing the huge Charlie Rich hits), a brilliant producer, but some critics not the right choice for Rodriguez, not the type to guide Rodriguez back to the basic country sounds that first established him as a major star. As it turned out, Sherrill wasn't adverse to returning Rodriguez back to basic country the hits still continued - for now.

'Down By Rio Grande' is a “Margaritaville” like tribute to the iconic river, complete with steel pan adornments, which reached # 6 hit in 1979. The song nostalgically looks back to good times spent with his Mexican lover down on the Rio Grande - then confesses he can't wait to get back there to be with her. Rodriguez's vocals really convey the emotions of the protagonist -


With country’s new neotraditional genre now starting dominating the charts, led by the looming Texan jugganaut George Strait, 'Foolin', written by iconic Bakersfield steel guitar player Ralph Mooney, found Rodriguez riding classic honky tonk country sounds back to # 4 in 1983 -


And another, albeit more uptempo, classic country number also written by Ralph Mooney, 'How Could I Love Her So Much' got to # 6 in 1983 - but this would be Rodriguez's last top 10 hit. Here we have a live performance on Austin City Limits -


By the mid-1980s, Rodriguez was becoming less successful and in 1986, he left Epic Records. The following year he signed with Capitol Records for a brief 2 year stay. He had his last major hit in 1988 with 'I Didn't (Every Chance I Had)', which reached # 12 -
"... I had every chance to love her but I didn't like I should /
And the last time that I didn't, she found someone who would /
He'll be holding her tonight, but what hurts me so bad / is I didn't / every chance I had /
If
only I had cared for her the way I should have done / Instead of him beside her, I'd still be the one..."


Despite only being in his late 30's (the age that Charlie Rich finally found major success), Rodriguez had no more hits after 1988. My own theory for his fading from the charts is the neo-traditional dominance of country music at that time, led by the genius of George Strait (only a year younger than Rodriguez but only breaking through to the mainstream 10 years after), and joined by others like Alan Jackson, Keith Whitley and Dwight Yoakam, cut deep into the honky tonk market previously cornered by Rodriguez.

In 1993, Rodriguez recorded the album "Run For the Border". In the mid-1990s, the indie label High-Tone released
his album, "You Can Say That Again". He continued to tour around the country during this time. In 1996, he turned
to another label, Paula Records, which issued 'One Bar At a Time', but it was unsuccessful. By this time his musical presence and his very name was fading from the public view and memory - though he was still in his forties.

Rodriguez occasionally integrated outlaw-esque stylings into his own writing, as in 'Bossier City Backyard Blues', an eclectic song about a song that finds him name-checking Tom T Hall in the same way his outlaw peers constantly cited each other. He brought his Texan and outlaw roots into his later work as well, with his own take on Robert Earl Keen’s newer classic, 'Corpus Christi Bay' in 1996 -
"... I lived in Corpus with my brother / We were always on the run /
We were bad for one another / But we were good at having fun /
We got stoned along the seawall / We got drunk and rolled a car /
We knew the girls at every dance hall / Had a tab at every bar
..."


Rodriguez first married in 1976 but divorced in 1994, apparently over his drinking. In 1995, he married Willie Nelson's daughter, Lana Nelson and it lasted a whole 7 months before she left, also apparently over his drinking. In 1998, he married a hair-salon owner after he agreed to her ultimation to give up the booze. They are still married and have a daughter. Also in 1998, he shot and killed an unwelcome aquaintance at around 2am. He said he thought it was a burglar entering his house and was duly acquitted of the charge of murder by a Texan jury on the grounds of self-defence.

Over the last 25 years, Rodriguez has continued to perform and tour the US and various parts of the world, often performing in Europe. He moved back to his old home town of Sabinal, to be near his greatest fan base of South Texas. Some critics maintain Rodriguez never quite realised his enormous early potential after his brilliant beginning at a young age. However he has remained a hero to the Hispanic population of South Texas, as even at the height of his popularity and celebrity in the wider Anglo world, he always publicly and proudly retained his Hispanic identity. He continues to tour at age 71 (still young compared to a few others), though his voice is not now what it was in his prime, and he relies now more on good technique to deliver the songs.

Rodriguez was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2010 received the Institute of
Hispanic Culture Pioneer Award, in recognition of his accomplishment as the first major Hispanic singer in country
music. There are current active campaigns to have him and Charlie Rich inducted into the Country Music HoF.

Tomorrow I hit the road again - this time for at least 3 weeks, first a couple of days in Western NSW then deep into
the outback wild west of Queensland. When I eventually make it back here, it'll be with another rather unique artist
- one who (briefly) became a big star in Australia (but not in country music), before dissapearing from view for a
decade, only to re-emerge as a country star in the U.S. with a sound very much his own.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Andy Golledge from Sydney. What a voice.

Great find - it seems to me that these days, many, maybe even most, of the best (not to be confused with best-selling) contemporary country artists had a punk and/or metal background in their youth. These are the ones that ain't doing the pop fake country crap that we've had too much of for the last 20 years.
 

CliffMcTainshaw

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Great find - it seems to me that these days, many, maybe even most, of the best (not to be confused with best-selling) contemporary country artists had a punk and/or metal background in their youth. These are the ones that ain't doing the pop fake country crap that we've had too much of for the last 20 years.
He has a really nice album out at the moment - "Strength Of A Queen"
 

Professor Knowall

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I'm back again, this time from the NSW/Qld outback (where the weather, for the most part, was cool to cold and often freezing in the mornings for just a week), driving 570 km's on Sunday to get home then rush to the 'G, arriving at 1/4 time to see the Pies get pumped for 2 1/2 quarters - then the last 12 minutes made it all worth it. Now I've got just enough time before I have to depart again for another 3 weeks to feature a singer who played his part in Australia's
early rock'n'roll history - years before he broke through back home in the U.S. - with a peculiar, yet commercially successful, country music style that was all of his own. But today will focus on his earlier rock'n'roll history in Australia.

In 1960, our artist left the U.S. on the new Qantas 707 jet to Australia as a minor, basically unknown struggling
singer, added at the last minute by his record company to a group tour of American music pop stars. He thought it
would basically be a good opportunity to visit a foreign country and have a holiday with a few gigs, though his tour
contract paid him stuff all. But arriving at Sydney Airport, he looked out the window to see thousands of screaming
teenagers breaking through the barriers and surrounding the jet (this being 4 years before Beatlemania!).

As he descended the plane, the crowd went into a frenzy and he asked the flight Stewart who they were there for, thinking there was some big star arriving as well. He got the shock of his life (and later that day had to be counselled) when he was told the frenzied teenage crowd of thousands was there for him! He was also completely unaware that he had any record released in Australia - let alone the # 1 smash hit in the country!! He suddenly found himself, though still unknown in the U.S., the most popular teen idol in the Australia (and is still remembered by many aged 70+ today). More on this below.

Billy Craddock was born in 1939 in Greensboro, the youngest of 13 children (again - not that unusual in the South at
that time). The Craddock’s were a tight-knit poor working class clan, knit with the love of music. Craddock’s dad played harmonica, spoons, wash board and buck danced. His whole family harmonized as they sang old gospel song and folk tunes. At age 6, he learned how to play guitar from his oldest brother and grew up a huge fan of the Grand Ole Opry. At age 11, he entered a local television talent contest and was voted winner for an unprecedented 15 consecutive weeks.
His early influences included Hank Williams, Faron Young and Ray Price. He received the nickname "Crash" while playing running back for the Rankin High School football team, due to his habit of recklessly charging straight into and through opposing players instead of dodging them. After he left high school, inspired by Elvis but also retaining his country roots, he formed a rockabilly band with one of his brothers called The Four Rebels.

Soon after, Crash Craddock got a record deal with the local Sky Castle Records in Greensboro and released a single
titled 'Smacky-Mouth' in 1957. Craddock’s second release that year was with Colonial Records in Durham, called 'Birddoggin’. We've featured a number of 1950's rockabilly artists in this history (e.g. Tennessee Ernie Ford # 196,
Carl Perkins #287-291, Johnny Horton #296, Sanford Clark # 311, Charlie Feathers # 346-348, Leroy Van Dyke # 423,
Jimmy Dean # 428). For rockabilly lovers, I reckon this catchy tune is well worth a listen, though (unfortunately at the time) it was only released in the relative backwater of Durham -


His third rockabilly single was 'Ah, Poor Little Baby'. Both his original and the UK cover version by Adam Faith, failed to chart in 1958 (it being an inferior song to 'Birddoggin' IMO). Switching labels for a third time, but this time to a major label, he signed with Columbia in 1958, who, instead of marketing him as a country singer, tried to make him a teen idol as they needed an artist to compete with Elvis at RCA (having previously rejected recruiting Elvis to their stable, allowing him to slip through to RCA). They had Crash record a mix of Elvis-style rockabilly tunes and pop ballads. He appeared twice on American Bandstand but failed to have a hit in the U.S. The only song that charted in the U.S. was the soft B-side ballad 'Don't Destroy Me', which barely made the charts at all, peaking at # 94 for 1 week only in November 1959, as the rock'n'roll "craze" died off in the U.S.

The A-side of the soft 'Don't Destroy Me' was the solid rock'n'roll 'Boom Boom Baby', written by Dave Burgess of the instrumental group, The Champs (who had a #1 hit in 1958 with 'Tequila'). However 'Boom Boom Baby' didn't get airplay any radio stations across the U.S, it's harder edge rock'n'roll sound now banished from the airwaves (see post # 404). But news of the demise of hard core rock'n'roll hadn't yet reached Australia, where it was still the latest, greatest sound of and for youth, and the likes of Johnny O'Keefe ruled the airwaves.

American born and raised but now Sydney based promoter Lee Gordon had, since 1955, been bringing topline American stars out to Australia for his Big Show tours. In February 1960 he brought out well known artists Duane Eddy, The Diamonds, Santo & Johnny and Floyd Robinson. Columbia also arranged with Gordon for the unknown Craddock to be added to the tour. Craddock, despite being paid peanuts for the tour but with his career in American going nowhere, agreed to go, basically seeing it as a free holiday to a foreign country, with a few gigs thrown in.

Gordon Lee, in his advertising, made up that Crash Craddock was a huge star in the U.S., a rival to Elvis and had him headlining The Big Show tour along with the actual U.S. stars - none of whom had never heard of him to now! This remains one of the greatest (of many) cons of the Australian rock industry. Prior to Craddocks arrival in Australia, Gordon also sent a promotional video of Crash singing 'Boom Boom Baby' to Brian Henderson, the host of "Australian Bandstand". This video was repeatedly played on "Australian Bandstand" (a forerunner to "Countdown") and certainly helped the song go all the way to # 1. This was the first time in Australia, and probably the world, where a video clip was responsible for making a # 1 hit -

After spending 4 weeks at # 1, it was replaced by a song by another Big Show performer - Johnny O'Keefe's 'She's My Baby'

Unfortunately for Craddock, still a nobody back home in America despite his sudden stardom in Australia, he had already signed the contract to do his Big Show gigs in Australia for peanuts. However he returned to Australia just over 2 months later, in May 1960, this time much better paid, for another Lee Gordon Big Show tour, now a genuine star, albeit only in Australia, headlining with the Everly Brothers, Bobby Rydell, Marv Johnson, The Champs, The Crickets and Lonnie Lee.

'Boom Boom Baby' was the first of 6 singles Crash released with Columbia Records. The next single was another rockabilly classic, 'I Want That', that again, with its rock sound, got no airplay in the USA, only just scraping into the Top 40 solely in Baton Rouge, but reaching #7 nationally in Australia -

The song was also covered by the UK band Johnny Kid & The Pirates in 1962.

Craddock's third hit in Australia, 'Well, Don’t You Know' climbed to #8 in 1960, though it was not released at all in North America, it being another rockabilly tune which, with rock'n'roll, were now effectively, albeit unofficially, banned on U.S. airwaves. However, at least for a while longer, real rock still ruled the Australian airwaves -


Craddock’s string of hits in Australia, where he was by now regarded as a bigger star than Elvis (who of course, despite Lee Gordon's best efforts, never toured anywhere outside the U.S.) continued with 'One Last Kiss', a #1 hit in 1961. It was also uniquely a Top 10 hit in Jacksonville, Florida, peaking at #9 but charted nowhere else in the U.S, where Bobby Vee had already released his version a month earlier in April 1961 and was included in the Broadway musical "Bye Bye Birdie". However, Australia was lucky to have Crash's cover a month later, as it's far superior to Vee's sickly, saccharine effort, and it ain't even close -


When Craddock left Australia again in 1960 as its biggest teen idol and returned back to the USA, he also returned
back to pretty much total obscurity, though the lame ballad 'Heavenly Love' (keep in mind R&R was no longer on
U.S. airwaves) charted in the Top 50 in Phoenix, Jacksonville and Atlanta in 1960, and (of course) in Australia in
1961. Craddock made the mistake of not returning to Australia (a decision he publicly lamented years later) but
instead moved on to Mercury Records who released 'Ole King Cole' in 1962 but San Bernadino was the only radio
market to spin the disc. He released the King Records album, "I’m Tore Up" that included several non-charting
singles.

For the rest of the 1960's Crash Craddock was missing-in-action, still pretty much unknown in most of the USA, while plenty of Australians, most of whom assumed (thanks to The Big Show's advertising and his big star status in Australia) that Craddock must also be a big star in the USA, were puzzled by the seemingly mysterious disappearance of this "Elvis rival", wondering what the hell happened to him. We will find out tomorrow.
 
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Professor Knowall

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We left off yesterday with Crash Craddock's having a string of big hits in Australia in 1960/61, including 2 going to # 1, but then returning to relative obscurity in the States. In fact, Craddock has since said, more than once, that he regretted not staying on in Australia for some years and fully cashing in on his popularity, instead of returning to the U.S. where he was basically ignored. In the mid sixties he even spent several years out of the music business altogether while working in a cigarette factory and hanging drywall. His insistence on living in his home town of Greensboro, North Carolina, instead of relocating to Nashville (he never lived in Nashville at any stage of his life), like so many others did, was
also a factor that hindered his success, at least for a while.

The second stage of Crash's music career began in 1967 when he reinventedv himself as a country singer - his first
love. But he still struggled, major success still eluding him. With Chart Records he took 'There Oughta Be A Law' to
#15 in Sacramento. His next single, 'The Love We Live Without', was a minor hit across Utah, 'Go On Home Girl'
was a #5 hit in Decatur, northern Alabama while 'Anything That’s Part Of You' got to # 30 in Charlotte. But none
got anywhere near the national charts. Finally, 4 years later, he signed with Cartwheel Records and in 1971 and
at last cracked the formula to success in the USA (11 years after he was the biggest rock star in Australia).

Now, be warned - sources often cite Craddock in the early seventies being hailed by his fans as being the "The King
Of Country Rock Music" or "Mr. Country Rock". However, at least until 1974, I find little rock but a lot of light pop -
I'd best describe it as country pop - a peculiar blend of pop covers, sung in a pop manner, but to a thoroughly
country accompiament of fiddles and pedal steel guitar - and to me it sounds ... peculiar. Not necessarily good
and I'm unsure if anyone here will like it, but it's certainly ... different. My very first post in this history said I'd
cover all genres. It seems to me that Craddock, in this second phase of his career, aged 32 in 1971, developed
a sound of his own - and more to the point, a sizeable market for his sound.

'Knock Three Time' was a huge worldwide pop hit Tony Orlando, supported by Toni Wine, and Linda November -
not the group Dawn as per the record label (due to Orlando being with a rival label at the time), reaching # 1 in
the U.S, U.K, Canada, Australia and elsewhere in early 1971, selling well over 6 million. The song lyrics are a hoot -
a guy falls in lust with his downstairs neighbor. She doesn't know him, but he obsesses over her and leaves her a
note one day with the elaborate plan to pursue a relationship - she is instructed to knock 3 times on the ceiling if
she wants him, and to bang twice on the pipe if not. We don't find out how she responds, but surely he would have
better luck if he just went down, introduced himself, talked to her, asked her out for a coffee etc ... but I guess that
wouldn't made much of a song story.

Craddock ups the tempo in his 1971 cover, recorded as Orlando's version dominated the world charts. Crash's
uptempo version is basically sung as a light, catchy, danceable pop tune but sung to a fiddle and steel guitar.
Whatever it's strangeness, it worked, becoming his first national U.S. hit, going to #3 nationally. See what you think -


Craddock, having finally unlocked the formula for American success with his country-pop, next went back to the past for his next hit. 'Dream Lover' was a 1959 hit for singer/songwriter great, Bobby Darin (featuring Neil Sedaka on piano). It was a multi-million seller, reaching #2 on the pop charts - held out of the # 1 spot by Johnny Horton's 'Battle Of New Orleans' (see post # 308). Once again, Craddock up's the tempo and with the fiddle and steel, makes the song less dreamy, but a bit of light agreeable (for some) danceable fluff. The formula worked again, as it reached # 5 in 1971 -


The success of 'Dreamlover' led Craddock to release a string of covers of late 50's/early 60's R&B and pop hits - 'You Better Move On' was a 1962 R&B # 21 hit by Arthur Alexander. Craddock took to # 10 in 1972. 'Nothin' Shakin' (But
the Leaves on the Trees)' a rockabilly song by Eddie Fontaine only got to # 64 in 1958 (and was later covered by The Beatles). Crash achieved # 10 in the U.S. and it went all the way to # 1 in Canada, his first # 1 hit in 12 years and his first outside Australia. 'I'm Gonna Knock on Your Door', a light pop song, was originally released by the Isley Brothers in 1959 but became a hit for teenage actor Eddie Hodges in 1961, peaking at # 12. Craddock took it to # 5 in the U.S. and topped the charts again in Canada in 1972. 'Slippin and Slidin' is a 1956 R&B/R&R song by Little Richard and was the B-side of 'Long Tall Sally'. Crash took it to # 14 in the U.S. and # 13 in Canada in 1973.

Now come some actual country rock and a contemporary composition (it would've been banned a few years earlier) 'Sweet Magnolia Blossom', written by Rory Michael Bourke and released by Crash as a single from the album "Mr. Country Rock" (so the title was self given). It reached #3 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada in early 1974. The song itself is a light hearted description of how the singer successfully plotted to seduce and deflower a virgin - not the sort of lyrics that would fly these days -


Early rock'n'roll pioneer legend, Chuck Berry, often lamented in later years that his biggest selling hit was actually a novelty/comedy song 'My Dingaling', featuring primary schoolboy level juvenile double entendre, a simple, singalong chorus and not much else - yet it outsold all his earlier classic rock songs. 'Rub It In', with not even a double entrende,
no real humour and it never rises above novelty level, yet it became Craddock's biggest ever seller, topping the country charts but also crossing over to the pop charts, reaching # 16 in 1974. Besides a catchy chorus of sorts, it's now wonderfully non PC (actually some radio stations banned it back in the day) which maybe it's saving grace these days -

Craddock eventually recorded a sequel to the song, 'You Rubbed It In All Wrong', which borrows heavily from the original song's melody but instead replaces the lotion with sand, as the singer's lover is discovered to be cheating on him. The sequel was also a # 4 hit on both the U.S. and Canadian charts in 1976. A third version, in 1999 by country singer Matt King also charted on the country charts, from his album "Hard Country". The song's melody was adapted by Glade to advertise their plug-in air fresheners ("plug it in, plug it in").

Craddock again reached back in time for his next single. 'Ruby Baby', written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was originally recorded by the Drifters in 1956 and got to # 10 on the R&B chart. However, a cover by Dion in 1962 was a worldwide success, reaching # 2 on the pop chart and peaked at # 5 on the R&B chart. It's been covered by many other artists since. In 1974, Craddock released a cover from his album "Rub It In" that reached # 2 and also crossed over to #33 on the pop chart, helping make Craddock (albeit briefly) the American pop/rock star he had tried to be 15 years previously. It was also released on his 2009 live album "Live-N-Kickin" -


So Craddock, with his own blend of pop set to a country accompiament, morphing into country rock in 1974, consistently hit the top 10 in the 1970s and he became, along with the much younger Sonny Rodriguez, one of country music's first male sex symbols, unusually handsome for a male country star of the era and dressed in garish tight sequinned jump suits, exposing his hairy, muscular chest, with a stage persona strongly influenced by Elvis Presley - over 15 years after he was first signed by Columbia in 1958 to be the Elvis' rival, which as we saw yesterday, worked perfectly - but only in Australia.

In the mid seventies, the whole country music scene was shook up by the outbreak of the outlaws. As tastes rapidly changed, Crash Craddock, now in his mid thirties by 1975, had a choice to make in order to stay relevant in the charts. Tomorrow will see the choice he made and how it carried out for him for the third and final phase of his career.
 
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Professor Knowall

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Welcome back to 1975 and the third phase of Craddock's career. We left Crash yesterday in 1974, having had successive # 1 hits with the novelty original (and his biggest ever seller) 'Rub It In' and the R&B classic, 'Ruby Baby'. His run of success continued with the rocky 'Still Thinkin' 'bout You' which got to # 4 in the U.S. and # 7 in Canada, followed by another top 10 hit, and # 6 in Canada, 'I Love the Blues And The Boogie Woogie'. However, though strangely none of
my sources make mention of it, I found his music style markedly changed in late 1975. No longer do the hits have the country pop or country rock sound, but instead we get slow ballads and in the more mainstream countrypolitan sound
of the era.

My (totally unproven) theory for this change in sound is to attribute it to the outbreak of the Outlaw movement, which had reached its climax in 1975. The tighter and heavier rock sound of Waylon Jennings band made Crash's own country rock seem pale in comparison. Now given Craddock's own background in rockabilly and early rock'n'roll (though this was mostly unknown in the U.S. though still remembered in Australia) and his age (he was 2 years younger than Waylon) must've tempted him to follow the others that went down the Outlaw path and chase a more youthful audience. However he was no doubt right to go in the opposite direction and chase the mature age market, given his vocals and also his temprement - when not on stage, he was a quiet, even shy, family man who has lived all his life (so far) in suburban Greensboro. Crash Craddock wasn't about to ditch his sequinned jump suits for an untidy denim outfit, scraggy hair, a beard and the often wild outlaw lifestyle. Crash played rock'n'roll - but he never lived it.

The change in music style is immediately apparent in late 1975 with a slow, soft and supposedly romantic ballad, though Craddock retained his Elvis lookalike appearance (at least he wasn't as fat, and was clearly much fitter than Elvis at this stage). 'Easy As Pie' was written by Rory Bourke, Gene Dobbins and Johnny Wilson. It was released in October 1975
as the first and title track from the album, "Easy as Pie". The song was a #1 hit in both the U.S. and Canada and also crossed to the pop charts. A live version was also released on 1977's "Live!" and 2009's "Live -N- Kickin". The sound
is smooth, the melody quite nice - but is it enough to overcome the ludicrous (in 2022) lyrics? -


'Think I'll Go Somewhere (And Cry Myself To Sleep) is the only song I've selected for Crash that wasn't released as a single. Taken from the 1976 album "Easy As Pie" and writen by one of the very best country songwriters, Whispering
Bill Anderson (see posts # 449-454) in 1966. It soon became a country standard, covered by dozens of artists. Crash's version, from the 1976 album "Easy As Pie", though never released as a single, is rightfully now one of his most popular downloads. The slideshow here, showing tiny, decaying, Appalachian towns seems to match the sense of desolation of the singer, mourning the passing of his partner -


Not at all country rock but country soul now. I think any song from songwriting great, Van McCoy is a good song. And Craddock, showing his versatility, does a pretty good job of delivering the mellow and relaxing 'Walk Softly', taking it to # 7 in 1976 and # 4 in Canada. This is a red wine sort of song -


'Broken Down In Tiny Pieces', is, as the title indicated, a ballad of a person broken by heartbreak (a common country music theme). It was written by John Adrian and features Janie Fricke performing background vocals on the song. Fricke was regarded as Nashville's best female backing vocalist at this time. However I'm unconvinced her backing improves this song )or is it just my own taste imposing?), but the effect for me is just a bit too much syrup. Nevertheless, released as the first single from the album, "Crash", it reached all the way # 1 - his 6th # 1 in the U.S. - and # 2 in Canada in 1976 -


'A Tear Fell', as indicated by the title another tear jerker, was written by Eugene Randolph and Dorian Burton, was released in 1956. The best-known version of the song was recorded by Teresa Brewer the same year, peaking at # 2 in the U.K. and # 5 in the U.S. Other notable covers have been from recorded by Jill Day and Edna Savage in the U.K, Ivory Joe Hunter, Anita Carter, Ray Charles, another Soul singer Solomon Burke and Jamaican reggae singer, Eric Donaldson. Craddock's cover again reached # 4 in the U.S. and # 7 in Canada -


Crash last 2 top 5 hits were ballads seemingly aimed at the female market - 'I Cheated On A Good Woman's Love in 1978, reaching # 4 in both the U.S. and Canada and another # 4 with 'If I Could Write a Song as Beautiful As You' in 1979. These were among the 24 additional Top 30 hits Craddock had along with his 8 #1 hits in the U.S. His singles began to be less successful in the early 1980s as the neo-traditional era took hold, though he still cracked the charts every year until 1989.

After an absence of 39 years, Craddock finally renewed his old Australian ties with a highly successful tour in 1999. Being a loyal sort of person, he insisted on bringing his full band over - but the band had to learn a whole new retinue of the old rock'n'roll/rockabilly hits Crash had originally performed (and topped the charts with) in his 1960 Australian tour - as most of his Australian fan base didn't know about his 1970's country music hits in the U.S. and Canada as they were never released here. Craddock returned again in 2003 and these Australian concerts also led to a change in his American concert playlists as he decided to incorporate his old Australian R&R/rockabilly hits like 'Boom Boom Baby', that were previously unknown to his U.S. fan base, into his U.S. concerts. They went over well and in 2019, Craddock released a compilation album "Boom Boom Billy - The Rock 'N' Roll Years".

Craddock was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2011. He has often sung on the Grand Ole’ Opry and donated memorabilia to the Country Music Hall of Fame. At age 83, continues to record (though his voice sure ain't what it was) - his last single 'Paint Your Toes' was released in 2021 and he still performs, most regularly at the Don Gibson Theatre, Shelby, near his Greensboro home. He's apparently always up for a chat from passing fans when out the front mowing the lawn. He married his childhood sweetheart 56 years ago and they're still together and have 3 children.

As for Australia (for if it wasn't for his role in Australian music history, I mightn't have included Crash in this history series), in the early 1960's, boys with the surname of Craddock were liable to get the nickname "Crash", such was his popularity. So if you ever wondered why prominent cricket journalist, Robert Craddock, is known as Crash, well know you know.

Now I'm having to head off yet again for a few weeks, this time over to the Kimberley's in W.A. When I get back, it'll be with a major country star - a great vocalist, who was inspired by Ray Charles and Charlie Pride.
 
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Professor Knowall

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One more thing before I go (to the MCG right now today, then to the Kimberleys in 2 days), is something I've had on my mind to say something about for a while, but the Crash Craddock instalment of the history was the perfect example of - namely the exposure - or more to the point, the lack of exposure - a number of the artists covered in this history had in Australia at the relevant time of their popularity. Actually, it's a point not limited to country music but to all mainstream music genres through the 1960's right up to the 1980's when things changed.

In the Craddock history, we saw how he became a huge rock star in Australia in 1960, being greeted by 5,000 screaming, frenzied teenagers at his arrival at Sydney airport, touring twice, topping the charts and having a string of hits before, like a meteor flaming out, quickly disappearing from the Australian music scene, never to trouble the charts again - and left his many thousands of then young fans puzzled as to what happened to him.

The strange thing is - this puzzlement remained in Australia even after Craddock established himself as a top seeking country music star in both the U.S. and Canada in the 1970's (and is still reflected in many YouTube comments about his early Australian rock hits). For the thing is - none of his country music was ever released in Australia in the 1970's - and with international travel, especially to the U.S. still a relative rarity to the general population (and no Internet of course), there was simply no way of knowing for most people.

The reason for this was the Australian music industry at this time was very highly protected, with TV and radio stations having strict quotas on the amount of foreign music they can broadcast, and record companies having to pay high tariffs on imported recordings. This protectionism was to assist the local music industry - by limiting the amount of foreign competition - and it certainly achieved its purpose, as the 1960's to the 1980's are now seen as a golden era for Australian music. One example is the TV show Countdown, which is now lauded for giving so much exposure to, and encouraging Australian rock music for the youth - but legally that had no other choice!

But one down side from all this protectionism was that radio, TV and record companies were forced into being highly selective as to what foreign music was broadcast or recorded in Australia, with generally only very popular overseas artists - and ones that were judged as also likely to be equally popular in Australia - got exposure. As such, Australia was never exposed to many British and European musicians in this era (not just country but all genres), but even much more so, a lot, and I mean a real lot, of American artists (for there was a definite pro-British cultural bias in this era), even though were very well known top selling artists in the States, never had their music released in Australia - or even if they did, just a very small sample of their output. I always check the discography for each artist covered in this history and I've got used to often seeing very little action in Australia compared to other countries in this era.

So, of you'Ve ever wondered why you perhaps haven't heard of, or known very little about, some or even many of the artists in this country music history, then perhaps this post might provide some explanation.

Anyway, I 'll leave you for now with a heartbreak song I like, from an artist I like, and a video that intrigues me - for as you might know by now, I've travelled countless kilometres of country roads. This video here shows a country road that was definitely filmed somewhere in Australia - I suspect Victoria - but I can't pinpoint just where. I just have a strange feeling watching it, that I've travelled that on same road -
 
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