Showing posts with label 2011 country music hall of fame. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2011 country music hall of fame. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

On March 6, the 2012 inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame were announced.

I'm always interested in the inductee announcement, because, let's face it, these guys/gals are closer to my generation than someone named Dierks or Luke or Carrie or the gender-neutral name, Taylor.

And thus, they are naturally better.  But that goes without saying, although I just said it.

Every year, there are good surprises and "eh" surprises, I guess.  The only problem I have with the annual choices, in actuality, is that so many deserving artists are passed over (Bobby Bare).

But I can't quibble with the 2012 inductees.  I can quibble about the timing, in one case, but that's all.

So, let's begin.


The class of 1989 was comprised of a bunch of valedictorians.  People whose names now roll off the tongue were "these new guys that are pretty good", back then.

There was Clint Black; there was Alan Jackson; there was Travis Tritt.  There was also Lorrie Morgan, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Lionel Cartwright.

I was a rabid fan of country music back then (unlike now), and I two-stepped in the honky tonks, too.  I know what was being played the most, not only on the radio, but in the clubs.  It wasn't actually Garth Brooks.  It was Clint Black, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait, Highway 101, Rodney Crowell, and the Judds.

Garth was sort of an afterthought in 1989.  He had some tune about being much too young to feel so damn old.  That song was basically what any fan knew him by, if they knew him at all.

On the other hand, one could not escape "Better Man", even if they'd wanted to, which they didn't.  It was a good song, as was "Killin' Time".  There was, of course, "If Tomorrow Never Comes", but you couldn't really dance to it.  It was one of those, "let's admire it" songs, but not a "fun" song.  As was, "The Dance".

It wasn't really until 1990, when that ubiquitous ditty, "Friends In Low Places" began playing non-stop on one's car radio; so much so that, even if you finally had had enough, and you flipped the radio button to the "off" position, the damn song just kept playing.

I distinctly remember driving somewhere in my little town, and hearing that song for the five millionth time, and thinking, oh my God, I just can't take it anymore!

So, Garth, of course, hit us with both barrels, as they say.  He started out bland, and then became vociferous, and then finally just overwhelmed us with his "Garth-ness".  Face it, the albums weren't very good.  I bought them.  At least the first three.  Aside from the radio singles, the songs were throwaways.  Although to watch Garth in a TV interview, or read a magazine article, one would think these songs were chosen with the UTMOST care; they were the CREAM OF THE CROP, and if we (the fans) didn't "get" them, then there was something wrong with US.

Garth also overwhelmed us with his narcissism.  I wonder if he realizes that now, and possibly regrets it.  I wonder if maybe he decided to retire because he instinctively knew that we (the fans) just couldn't TAKE any more of his ego.  And meanwhile, good ol' Alan Jackson just kept steadily rolling along, doing his country songs; ones that weren't written by Billy Joel, but rather were written by Alan Jackson.

But, all ego aside, one cannot deny that Garth Brooks was THE biggest thing to hit country music in...well, a long least until Shania Twain came along.  So, that's why the Country Music Hall of Fame has now inducted him.  Gotta give the guy his ($$) due.

The other thing that I have found out, the hard way, is that it's really difficult to find Garth Brooks videos on the web.  Why that is, I can only speculate.  My deduction is that Garth does not WANT to make his videos available.  I don't know why.  I honestly don't know why any artist would not want to make his videos available.  I thought artists were all about the publicity.

But I did manage to find a couple, from the 1989-ish era.  Here is one:

Watch Garth Brooks "The Dance" in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Garth Brooks Central Park-Friends In Low Places by bigjmac0815

I obviously would include more videos, if there were any.


Anybody who ever bought a country album, and who ever read the liner notes, knows the name Hargus "Pig" Robbins.  Hargus "Pig" Robbins' name was listed on practically every country album, ever.

The greatest piano session player that Nashville ever saw.  That was Pig.

The first hit song that Pig played on was this one, in 1959:

Here are some of the other artists Pig has recorded with:  Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Connie Smith, Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Ernest Tubb, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare, the Statler Brothers, Gary Stewart, Kenny Rogers, Conway Twitty, Lynn Anderson (Rose Garden), Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan (on his 1966 classic Blonde on Blonde album), Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, John Denver, Doug Sahm, the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, etc., etc.  Obviously, I'm leaving out a bunch.

Let me tell you, it is IMPOSSIBLE to find any performance videos of Pig Robbins.  I tried, and I tried, and I tried for about half an hour, before finally giving in.

You're just going to have to take my word for it.  Or read your album liner notes.  He was there on all of them.

This is an award that is much deserved, and much too late.


Dolly Parton said:   "There's really only three real female singers in the world.  Straisand, Ronstadt, and Connie Smith.  The rest of us are only pretending." 

It's a truism about female country fans:  they (we) prefer male voices.  That's just the way it is.

The true female country fan does not enjoy the thin and reedy.  We like our female singers to sound full-bodied.  Soulful. 

Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn.  If you're going to sing, then sing!  Belt it out like you mean it!

I don't go for the whispery, breathless sound.  If I wanted to hear that, I could just record my own weak vocalizations, and listen back.

In the timeline of country music, after Patsy, and before Tammy, we had somebody who filled the void.  Her name was Connie Smith.

Connie began her career recording songs written by Bill Anderson.  Bill basically discovered Connie, and nurtured her career.  And what a run they had!

This is, I suppose, her biggest, written by Bill:

Connie and Bill had a bunch more, though.

Introduced by Bill:

From the Marty Stuart Show:

Doing a Gordon Lightfoot song:

One written by Bill Mack:

I just like this (with Merle and Johnny Gimble on fiddle):

An Everly Brothers song:

This song was written by Don Gibson, and it holds a special place in my heart.  Alice and I sang along to the radio to this song:

Really, I could go on and on, and on.

There are, thankfully, endless videos of Connie Smith performances.

I remember the black RCA label.  I remember the album, "The Best of Connie Smith".  I remember the album, "Clingin' To A Savin' Hand".

I remember the joy I felt, just listening to that voice.  I remember belting them out myself, when no one was around.  I really was an excellent country singer, in my mind, when I was singing along to Connie Smith records.

The female country singers of my formative years were Tammy, Lynn Anderson, and especially Connie Smith.

If I sing like anyone, or let's say, try to sing like anyone, it's Connie.  She's the role model.  Unconsciously, she's the one I emulate.

Tammy's already there, in the hall of fame; Lynn will never be there. But now Connie is there. 

Pig Robbins is a class act.  Garth is a big dollar sign.  Connie Smith is my influence.

Who outlasts who?  Silly question.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees

This topic used to aggravate me, but now I just think, eh.

My quarrel isn't so much with the selections, as it is with the omissions (more on that later).

But let's talk about the 2011 inductees.

MODERN ERA ~ Reba McEntire

When Reba first arrived on the scene, I was a big fan. She was pretty country (okay, really country), especially with that twang. I remember taking my mom to see her when she was still performing at rodeos (Reba; not my mom, although that does paint a funny picture).

I notice that Reba's YouTube channel doesn't include this single. Too country, most likely. But it's the one that first caught my attention. 1980:

And I like this one a lot (1984):

This one is probably my favorite (1986):

Reba's vocal stylings hadn't yet become a caricature (you know, how she turns a two-syllable word into sixteen syllables). She practiced restraint here.

I even sort of liked this one (although I will admit, I think I liked the video more than the actual recording). Also 1986:

Then something happened. Reba started recording songs like "Fancy" (which wasn't even a good song when Bobby Gentry did it) and, oh my God, "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia" (Vicki Lawrence?) And it just continued to go downhill.

Remember this? This video was made as a joke; at least I hope so. Recorded as a duet with Linda Davis (mom, by the way, to that girl from Lady Antebellum):

Okay, I really, really like this song, but I guess Reba wasn't interested in filming a video for it. Too country, again.

Let's not forget that when we are chronicling the downfall of country music as we know it, we should cut Garth Brooks a little slack, and heavens, please, cut Shania some slack.

No, if we want to trace the downfall of country music, let's talk about Reba's stage show and her many costume changes and theatrics. I knew someone who attended one of these "concerts" once, and she said it was just the ABSOLUTE BEST EVER! Ick. Call me old school, but I like a live show where performers just perform their songs. Oh, maybe a little pyrotechnics now and then, if it's the Rolling Stones, but I don't really care how many "cute outfits" Reba has. Call me cuckoo.

So, there's a bit of the good and a bit of the bad with Reba. Pre-1989, I'm fully on board with Reba's induction. You know, when she was country.

VETERAN'S ERA ~ Jean Shepard

Let's just say at the outset that if you are going to have a "veteran's era", can we PLEASE induct more than one artist? Time is running out. I'm serious about this. It's completely unfair that so many deserving artists are passed over, simply because of some arbitrary rule about ONE inductee per category. Let's have a mass induction, shall we? Willie said it a long time ago, and I guess if they won't listen to Willie, they're not going to listen to me. But I'll keep saying it.

But I digress.

I believe I saw Jean Shepard in concert once. One of those package shows, way back when. She comes across as a very classy lady, and let me say, I'm GLAD that she is being inducted.

Jean didn't have an abundance of hit songs, but she was (and is) a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry, and she paved the way for pretty much every other "girl singer", except Kitty Wells, of course.

Since Ferlin Husky passed away today, I think it's only fitting that I include the video of Jean's only number one song, a duet with Ferlin, called "Dear John Letter", originally recorded in 1953! (sorry for the poor sound quality ~ it's the only embeddable video I could find):

I also like this one (1969):

SONGWRITER (rotating category) ~ Bobby Braddock

What Bobby Braddock knows how to do is write hit songs. Mostly employing the "KISS" method (yay!), Bobby has had hit songs in every decade, from the '60's up to today.

One may listen to some of these songs and think, gee, they're dated. Well, yea! But they weren't dated when they were hits. Bobby adapted to the times for which he was writing. Styles change; tastes change. The mark of a master songwriter is to be flexible enough to write hits for any era. Well, he did it!

Where shall we start? How about with Bobby's first number one hit, in 1968 (I like to include a video from the time the song was popular, so thanks, Roy and Dale, for the introduction:

Jerry Lee always makes me happy:

Sorry again for the poor video quality, but I wanted to include this one by Tracy Lawrence (I miss Tracy Lawrence!):

2009 (most played song on radio for 2009!):

Okay, I didn't forget.

(Note to video posters - if you insist on inserting ads before the video, I'm not going to watch; same for your little personal logos that obscure the singer. Sorry for the tangent, but this is a "general crankiness blog, too, as you know.)

Well, Bobby Braddock can cry this song all the way to the bank, as everyone knows. Some say this is the best country song ever. I don't say that. I will say, however, that this is diabolically addicting to many.

I could deconstruct the diabolical-ness of the song, but that would just bore everyone, and people just want to get to the video. If you're a songwriting geek, however, note how Bobby pushed all the right buttons with this song. Kudos as well to the producer of the single, Billy Sherrill (who is a story unto himself!), for the soaring violins on the last chorus. No disrespect to George Jones, but it was the violins that did it.

My dad thought this was one of the best songs EVER, and I never disrespect my dad, so I will just stay silent and present the video here:

So, thanks, HOF, for the randomness of the "rotating category", which allowed a songwriter to be inducted this year. Look, singers, you ain't nowhere without the songwriters. Unless someone wants to download an mp3 of you humming (although that would have a melody, and thus would be considered a "song").

As I said at the start of this post, I have little quarrel with the selections, and I have already detailed my one and only reservation.

That said, c'mon, you guys! I'm not going to get into the whole Bobby Bare thing again; you can read it here. And I'm not going to mention Ronnie Milsap today.

I'm just really, really disappointed that you are passing over a whole bunch of deserving artists.

My latest dissertation is this: Ask any true country music fan who has any historical knowledge and/or taste, and they will name this guy almost every time, if only for just this one song (ask Alan Jackson, who will most likely be inducted before Gene Watson ever is):