I thought we might look back to the year 1961 tonight. I sort of grabbed that year at random; however, it occurred to me that there could well have been some classic country songs that were hits in 1961, so, in consulting my trusty Wikipedia, I found that I was right! There were a bunch of them!
Oddly, my old friend, Wikipedia, does not seem to want to tell me which song was the TOP hit of 1961, but I could take an educated guess. More on that later.
Let's start with this one, shall we?
DON'T WORRY - MARTY ROBBINS
What can I say about Marty Robbins that I haven't already said in a previous post? But, without even reading that, this video speaks for itself. It captures the essence of Marty in concert; his personality, and above all, his wonderful voice.
Merle Haggard cites Marty Robbins as one of his influences. You can hear a bit of Marty in Merle's singing. Merle always did have excellent taste.
CRAZY - PATSY CLINE
Sorry about the buzzing in this video. This was the only one I could find. Old Willie is still counting his money from Patsy's recording of this song - the money he's hidden from the IRS, of course.
Patsy also had another number one hit in 1961 - I Fall To Pieces. There is, unfortunately, no video available of that one.
You'll notice that Patsy is wearing some kind of weird headband in this performance. That's because she was injured in a car crash shortly before this song became a hit. You remember the scene in Coal Miner's Daughter - Beverly D'Angelo lying in her hospital bed, drinking beer from a straw. Ahh, if we didn't have movies, how would we learn about history?
WALK ON BY - LEROY VAN DYKE
Talk about a blast from the past! Here's Leroy in all his long sideburned glory and his patchwork sweater and Elvis bouffant, hiding behind some sliding panels, to sing his big hit song from 1961.
Have you ever seen a more disinterested audience? One girl actually looked away, trying to get the barmaid's attention, because, alas, no one had any drinks on their tables. What kind of b***sh** bar is this?? And the main act doesn't even work from a stage. He has to sneak out from the coat closet to sing his song.
And that one helmet-haired woman right next to him will barely make eye contact. She really doesn't approve of the subject matter of the song. She gives him some tepid applause at the end, but she's steaming. "Where'd he meet this hussy, she's wondering. Probably at some sleazy bar. Oh wait, I'M at some sleazy bar."
JIMMY DEAN - BIG BAD JOHN
Sorry, but this was the only video I could find. He starts out with that old chestnut, "Bill Bailey", but eventually, if you stick with it, he does get to "Big Bad John".
Whatever happened to Jimmy Dean? I mean, yea, he's got his sausages and his breakfast bowls, but what about the man himself? Remember when he had a variety show on ABC? He even had one of the earliest Muppets as a regular on his show. Okay, yes, I'm dating myself, but is Jimmy still around? Still out doing grocery conventions, hawking his wares? He does have good sausage, I'll grant you that. But, you know, he did music, too. Or at least, "talk-music".
ELVIS PRESLEY - ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT
Here's Elvis, with the Leroy Van Dyke sideburns and bouffant -- oh wait, that's the ELVIS sideburns and bouffant.
I could have used the clip of the bloated, drug-addled Elvis doing this song, but that seems kind of disrespectful. Let's remember Elvis in his more youthful days.
And yes, this was a hit on the COUNTRY charts.
BUCK OWENS & THE BUCKAROOS - FOOLIN' AROUND
Yes, this is a later version, but I always like to include the Buckaroos, featuring Don Rich, whenever possible.
I wonder, in watching this, if Dwight Yoakam is imitating Buck, or is he actually imitating Don Rich, in his singing style? Listen to some of the phrasing and compare.
This song and performance is a prime example of simplicity in songwriting. Nothing much to it, really, but it made a big impact. We really don't need to over-think these things.
WANDA JACKSON - RIGHT OR WRONG
At one time, Wanda Jackson was considered the "Female Elvis". Long before Tanya Tucker.
This clip proves that the voice is still as strong as ever. Yes, she now sings the song in a lower key, but give me a break! We all get older. Geez!
I'm not crazy about the spangled plus-sized blouse, but you know, it's not easy losing weight when you get to a certain age. Believe me. I'm fighting valiantly against that. I've lost 26.4 pounds in the last 4 months, but it's hard work! But kudos to Wanda Jackson! She still sounds great.
Here's a couple of top hits from 1961 for which I cannot find performances by the original artists, but I didn't want to exclude these songs, because they're really good. So, I'll label these with the artists performing in the video, but I'll also list the original artist in parentheses.
HANK WILLIAMS III - YOU'RE THE REASON (BOBBY EDWARDS)
LEANN RIMES - I FALL TO PIECES (PATSY CLINE)
I really hate to leave out Don Gibson (Sea Of Heartbreak and Sweet Dreams) and Roger Miller (When Two Worlds Collide), because they are both classic, CLASSIC songwriters. But I couldn't find any videos of these songs.
Which leads me, finally, to what I THINK was the top song from 1961. I don't know this for a fact, but I'm willing (willie) to bet money on it:
FARON YOUNG - HELLO WALLS
It just doesn't get much better than that. One of my favorite singers; one of the world's best songwriters.
I guess 1961 was a red-letter year for country music.