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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 bended 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 quickly and 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 on during Charlie's final Sun session, engineered by future master producer (and Chet Atkins chief professional rival and personal friend) Bill 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
. 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.
 

CliffMcTainshaw

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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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