Showing posts with label crystal gayle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crystal gayle. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2022

A Quintessential Country Song ~ Nineteen Seventies Edition

For years I denigrated seventies country music. Bear in mind, though, all we had in those years was radio (mostly AM radio) and just like today, radio stations essentially spun the top twenty singles in constant rotation. So, for example, in 1976 we heard Dave and Sugar and Billy Crash Craddock and Freddy Fender with his plunky acoustic guitar. Over and over. 

Not to mention Mary MacGregor with her "Torn Between Two Lovers" (definitely not a country song) and Elvis's bombastic "Moody Blue". Seventies country radio accepted all comers. That was the problem.

That's not to say I didn't buy country singles. I was poor enough to barely afford those, but I plucked them from the Woolworth's end cap four or five at a time. Still, I was feeling surly toward country. I didn't buy Good Hearted Woman by Waylon and Willie on principle. I shuddered at the sight of Kenny Rogers singles. I never once purchased a John Denver record. Artists I'd loved for years, like Johnny Rodriguez and even Merle, were now issuing crap, and I refused to lay down money for an inferior track based solely on sentimentality. I was a stern musical taskmaster.

Crystal Gayle was kind of a freak of nature. I knew she was Loretta Lynn's little sister, but face it, the reason people stared in awe at Crystal on their TV's was because of her four-foot long locks. They were like a second person 

Everyone, I guess, needs a life goal, and Brenda Webb's (Crystal's) was growing her hair out as long as grotesquely possible. Catching her on the tube, it was hard for me to concentrate on the songs, because I was completely mesmerized by her hair.  

Crystal first caught my attention with a track that oozed like maple syrup into everyone's brain in 1977. Suddenly she was everywhere. The song wasn't exactly country. It was something, but it wasn't country.

I found her affectation artificial, especially since she started out sounding like this:

Nevertheless, this new Crystal Gayle was off to the races. 

But the artificiality of it all riled my purity senses. I wasn't ready to let country disappear, For the same reason that I abhorred John Denver and skirted past The Eagles, I rejected this woman who pretended to be something she wasn't. Yes, I enjoyed Olivia Newton-John's "Let Me Be There" and "After The Lovin'" by Engelbert Humperdinck, but I never claimed they were country.

Thus, I missed a few Crystal Gayle gems. Like this one:

But this next Crystal track is quintessential. Richard Leigh wrote it, like he wrote Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue and these:

I didn't recognize the perfect fusion of song, production, and performance until decades later. Interestingly, this is the most country song Crystal Gayle recorded in her fleeting career.

One must experience it on vinyl: 

And you don't even have to be distracted by her hair.

So, granted, seventies country wasn't all bad. In fact, the decade produced a ton of seminal music.

In future posts, I'm going to highlight that ~ if only to purge my demons.


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Hits From this Week In 1975

In my quest to review the top country singles from this week in years past, I realize I've neglected the seventies. Part of the problem lies with the limitations of available data. It seems the charts (the only historical charts I've found) only date back to 1975. Thus, as in previous posts, I will be reviewing the top ten singles as if I've never heard them before. As always, there are some I've never heard before or don't remember, so they will truly be new to me.

Given the fact that these singles are forty-seven years old, actual performance videos will be hit or miss.

Let's find out if today's hit are truly the worst ever created, by comparing them to yesterday's.

#10 ~ City Lights ~ Mickey Gilley

It's a bit unfair to throw a classic song into the mix. Obviously I've heard it before -- by a better singer. Staying objective is impossible when one is familiar with the original. I will say that, for Mickey Gilley the arrangement is fitting, highlighting his honky tonk piano. I'm not a fan of the female background singers. Clearly this is a solid song, written by Bill Anderson. It seems, however, that the singer could have given it the reverence it deserves.


#9 ~ Great Expectations ~ Buck Owens

Well, the first line is just ick. It immediately colors my impression of the song. That aside, the lyrics are pedestrian and the melody is overly familiar. I predict this track will be quickly forgotten, obscured by actual good songs recorded by Owens. This seems like more of a deep album cut than a single released to radio.


#8 ~ I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) ~ Linda Ronstadt

This is one of those instances in which a classic song can be improved upon. Obviously this is a Hank Williams hit, but I prefer this more updated sound. Ronstadt is a superb singer and she stays true to the country vibe. Great performance, nice harmonies from Emmylou, lovely steel guitar. I only deducted a half letter grade because this is a remake.



#7 ~ Wrong Road Again ~ Crystal Gayle

I like the chorus. Allen Reynolds wrote this song, among many, many other hits. He was also Crystal's producer. The song is solid, the singer's voice still exudes country, without the machinations that will plague her later tracks. Props to the unencumbered arrangement.


#6 ~ The Ties That Bind ~ Don Williams

While this song is not bad, there's something about it that's hard to get hold of. The verse has an elusive melody. This might simply be the way Williams chose to sing it or the simple acoustic arrangement. A drum beat might have helped. I would like the track more if it wasn't so frustrating. That's the drawback of acoustic songs. They allow for a bit too much introspection -- nice for the singer; annoying to the listener.


#5 ~ Rainy Day Woman ~ Waylon Jennings

Well. This is destined to be a Jennings classic. He has redefined country to his liking. Ralph Mooney is playing those classic Wynn Stewart steel licks, and the zydeco accordion is a nice touch. Waylon is one of the few artists of any genre who has a presence. He can't be ignored. Solid, classic track, written by the man himself.


#4 ~ I Care ~ Tom T. Hall

What's worse than a recitation? A half recitation. Granted, this is a children's song, which leads me to wonder how it made the country charts, which are not normally determined by children. I forced myself to listen to the entire track, since those are the rules I've imposed. It was, however, nerve-grating. Now I'm a mom, so I know that if I'd ever played this for my kids, they would have retched into the toilet, then wandered away to pursue more mature interests. There's nothing worse than pandering to kids.



#3 ~  It's Time To Pay The Fiddler ~ Cal Smith

Does this have the exact same melody as Country Bumpkin? I guess Cal is very attached to this particular chord progression. I like the singer, but Country Bumpkin has, at least, a more compelling story. This is, honestly, a country song any novice songwriter could pen. Cal can do better.


#2 ~ Devil In The Bottle ~ T.G. Sheppard


There's something about T.G. Sheppard that's kind of insidious. Songs I really shouldn't like (because they're not great songs) I find myself liking. I give the artist credit for mostly choosing compelling songs to record. No, I wouldn't purchase this single, but it's not something I would turn off if it streamed out of my car's speakers. What is the mark of a good song? My theory (as a failed songwriter) is -- a memorable chorus. Other sins can be forgiven. Sheppard doesn't have the country cred that Waylon has, but he's actually pretty good.


#1 ~ Then Who Am I ~ Charley Pride

When one records scores of songs, it's inevitable that they all won't be winners. It's not that this song is bad; it's simply forgettable. I've certainly forgotten it. I just played it and it's already erased from my memory. The late great Dallas Frazier and A.L. "Doodle" Owens co-wrote it, but again, they all can't be winners. I would like to give this a better rating, because I don't want to be harsh, but I can't in good conscience elevate it. Thus ~


It's impossible to recognize a classic song in real time. This particular chart wasn't the most brutal, but it was close. However, we found a Waylon track that will be with us forever.

Maybe that's all we can wish for.


Sunday, February 6, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Hits From This Week In 1987


As someone who considers myself quite the country music aficionado, the number of successful country hits I've forgotten is mind-boggling. In perusing the country singles chart from this week in 1987, thirty-five years ago, only two (two!) of the top ten are familiar to me. 1987 was a rather seminal year for me in country, since that was the year I came back, after a several-year foray into rock. My leaving wasn't my fault; it was country's. Naturally, however, while I was away, country got good again and I had a lot of catching up to do. No regrets. With music it's a snap to play catch-up. It's not like music suddenly disappears. And everything is new, even if it's old! 

But I digress. Scanning the totality of the top forty for this particular week, a few soon-to-be classics were scratching their way to the top. That, however, is not my job here. My designated task is to review the top ten as if I've never before heard them. In most cases, that's actually true. 

The usual disclaimer: Performance or music videos may not be available on YouTube. All I can do is my best.

Let's begin.

#10 ~ You Still Move Me ~ Dan Seals

I love this guy's voice. It reminds me of that seventies pop group, England Dan and John Ford Coley 😀. Truthfully, however, his voice belongs in country, not pop. That said, this song is forgettable. It's a middling ballad that without the soulful voice would be something a wannabe singer would strum on an acoustic guitar in his basement bedroom. I'm going to boost it half a grade solely due to the singer.


#9 ~ Mornin' Ride ~ Lee Greenwood

I'm not sure what to make of this. It has a comforting cadence that evokes the song's message. The chorus is relatively easy to memorize and thus is sing-alongable. But it's one of those tracks that doesn't say as much as the writers maybe thought it did. 


#8 ~ I Can't Win For Losin' You ~ Earl Thomas Conley

This song should remind today's songwriters that the best lines are not twelve words long. Five words, if they're the right words, are the mark of great songwriting. GREAT songwriting. Shout out to Robert Byrne and Rick Bowles. HUGE shout out to the late master Earl Thomas Conley who made this track magic. A great song, a great, soulful singer; a track that will pull couples onto the dance floor (trust me). What dos that add up to? A classic.


#7 ~ Fire In The Sky ~ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

This group is capable of so much more. I don't even know what this is, but it's a mistake. The track seems to have one foot in (bad) eighties pop and one toe in country. The key changes do nothing to improve it. And the Kenny G-type sax -- c'mon. Even Jeff Hanna's voice is buried in this rancid stew.


#6 ~ Right Hand Man ~ Eddy Raven

Never wear your boots outside your pants, but that has nothing to do with the track itself. I just felt a need to mention it after viewing the video. Hmmm, this is kind of a little nothing song, but it does have a pleasant melody. Surprisingly, this topped out at number three for Eddy. If I heard it once (which I just did now) I'd never care to hear it again.


#5 ~ Straight To The Heart ~ Crystal Gayle

While watching Crystal perform this song, my mind wandered. I wondered if she'd ever cut her hair (spoiler alert: no). A wandering mind is the mark of a bad song, which this most definitely is. They all can't be winners, I guess. But they all don't need to be this bad.


#4 ~ I'll Come Back As Another Woman ~ Tanya Tucker

It's near impossible for this woman to do a bad performance. This is but one of a ton of Tucker hits, and a minor one. In the hands of a lesser singer this song would be a mess. I would listen to it again, but it's not $-worthy. So, no, I wouldn't buy it. Or include it in a 1987 Spotify retrospective. Another half-grade bump based on the singer.


#3 ~ How Do I Turn You On ~ Ronnie Milsap

It's a sad fact of show biz that 99.9% of artists have a shelf life (the other .1% are named George Strait). This track reeks of desperation. I would never play this again and would celebrate my superior taste in successfully avoiding it. Love ya, though, Ronnie.



#2 ~ Half Past Forever (Till I'm Blue In The Heart) ~ T.G. Sheppard

See: "Shelf life (Ronnie Milsap)". The first thing Sheppard shouldn't have done was try to sing in a higher register. I think there's a reason I've never heard this track before. I'll just say it: this is putrid.


#1 ~ Leave Me Lonely ~ Gary Morris

A totally forgettable track. This makes me want to lie down and go to sleep. I don't know what this guy's deal is. I guess he performed on Broadway or something, and went slumming into country music and fooled some people. I don't get it and I don't get him. The only reason this track gets a bump is because T.G. Sheppard's song is so bad.



This was a fun experiment. Was. Now I'm simply depressed. I happen to know that country music wasn't this bad in 1987 as a whole. Maybe it's just that the year was new and listeners didn't know how much wondrous music was yet to come. Or maybe if one sorts out the chaff, they're left with one classic track. Is there only one classic country song released each year? That can't be right. I might have simply stumbled on the wrong year.

I should be celebrating Earl Thomas Conley's A+++ instead of dwelling on the absolute drivel. 

Celebrate the good. Forget the rest.

Friday, November 22, 2019

"Women of Country" ~ 2019 CMA Awards

I'd read that the Country Music Association had summarily dismissed Brad Paisley from his regular hosting gig in order to "highlight women". While the sentiment may have been laudable, when one thinks about it, it is rather an insult to female country singers. In what alternate universe were women artists not recognized? I've listened to country since sometime around 1967, which is more than fifty years, and I distinctly remember female singers getting tons of exposure, from Patsy to Loretta to Tammy to Lynn to Connie to Dolly; Tanya in the seventies; Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, Rosanne Cash and Paulette Carlson in the eighties; Mary Chapin Carpenter, Holly Dunn, Shania Twain, The Judds. The Dixie Chicks in the nineties. But somehow women got short shrift?

Regardless, if 2019 wanted to "right wrongs", there are several issues with this performance:

Number one, if you're "celebrating women", you might not want to have your three stars perform a song written by a man. "Those Memories Of You" was written by Alan O'Bryant and originally recorded by Bill Monroe. You know, women have written songs, too ~ take, for instance, Dolly Parton.

My second impression of this opening is that Carrie really needed to let her seamstress finish adding a skirt to that glittery gold blouson.

The harmonies weren't quite pitch-perfect, but since it was a live performance, a little slack should be granted.

Number three:  Is that Angelina Jolie in the audience, and if so, why?

Four:  Dolly Parton is the ultimate performer. She carried this.

Loretta Lynn is an icon. The gals (whoever they were) who sang "You're Lookin' At Country" are not good singers. Don't they make 'em anymore? I guess, nice hair, though. It seemed that Loretta was in the audience as a prop. One of her twins, Patsy or Peggy, had to whisper in her ear and tell her what was happening. That's sort of disrespectful. New gals, you need to thank your lucky stars Loretta Lynn plowed a path for you.

Some indiscriminate bad singers tackled Tammy's "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" next ~ poorly. The camera honed in on Natalie Maines in the audience, who could blow all these gals out of the water, even the obviously gay one. I'm not on board with The Dixie Chicks' politics, but talent doesn't belong in the peanut gallery.

Reese Witherspoon? Is this the CMA's or a Hallmark Channel marathon?

Thank goodness for Tanya Tucker. She's younger than me, and showing her age as all of us do, but she can still belt it out. Tanya is an actual star.

Is that goofy Billy Ray Cyrus the camera panned to? If I recall correctly, he hasn't been relevant since 1982, and the mullet, bad as it was, was preferable to...this. And did Billy Ray sire any offspring who aren't crazy?

Pam Tillis is also in the audience, as opposed to on-stage. WTF? Ran out of time?

Gretchen Wilson represented the nineties. Kudos. Not a big splash in the pantheon of country history, but each decade deserves representation.

I'll admit, my curiosity regarding Crystal Gayle was whether she'd kept her freakishly long hair. It seems she has.

Terri Clark, who is an actual bad-ass hat-wearing guitar strummer, is next, and aside from the producers making her sing her song in the wrong key, she is a reminder that some country girls at one time had balls.

Next, Sara Evans does "Born To Fly", irritatingly interspersed with some girl in the audience over-emoting for camera time.

Martina McBride appears onstage to sing a bit of "Independence Day". It is, admittedly, nice to see a few artists who actually impacted country.

Yep, there's Trisha Yearwood in the audience, kept under wraps lest she put the prancers on stage to shame. Kathy Mattea, too. Dang, I guess neither of them fit the predetermined song key.

If Patsy were alive today, she'd sit these ladies down and explain to them the facts of life. "Do you want pity or do you want to sing?" she'd ask. Loretta might talk to them about baking bread with one baby on her hip and three more chasing each other around the kitchen table; and then climbing into a '59 Ford with a guitar bigger than she was and driving fifteen miles on rutted roads to belt out two songs in a smoky dive bar. "What, now, are you squawkin' 'bout?" she might ask.

Dolly should know better. Reba should know better. Spare me the self-indulgence. Either you can compete with men for radio play or you can go sob in a corner. Better still, you can stand up on your own two feet and get judged on your merits.

No time in country music were female artists overlooked. It's a 2019 fiction.

It's admittedly nice to see remnants of the past. That's not a gender thing. For all its imperfections, I enjoyed this video. I personally would have nixed the nondescript artists and focused solely on the stars, but...ratings.

Thanks, CMA's. Next, let's do Clint and Travis and Randy and Alan and George.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Sixty-Four Years of Music ~ Why I Left Country

In the seventies, I was a singles buyer. Country albums, for the most part, didn't try too hard. In the late sixties Merle Haggard had done an album called, "Let Me Tell You About A Song", which is the first "themed" LP I can remember. That was an anomaly, however. Country albums generally consisted of one or two hits and nine filler songs. It was a cheat designed to get music lovers to plunk down four dollars and ninety-nine cents. I could never understand why artists, who had to go through the trouble of recording an album, didn't at least look for good songs. Thus, singles were king.

We didn't yet have a full-fledged music store in my town, so Woolworth's record department was my deliverance.Singles only cost a dollar, so even during my poor times, I could at least pick up one.

Gradually, however, riffling my fingers through the accordion of country singles in Woolworth's bins left me angry and frustrated. I bought a lot of crappy singles during that time, just to go home with something. Like anything a person tires of, it didn't happen overnight. Sometimes one doesn't even realize they're being played. Country label execs at some point decided that we hayseeds would buy anything, and they probably didn't like country music anyway, so it was a win-win for them.

The top artists in the late seventies were Crystal Gayle, Kenny Rogers, Dave and Sugar, Billy Crash Craddock, Johnny Lee, Sylvia, Charley Pride (who'd somehow lost his mojo), and Barbara Mandrell. Sure, there were some wonderful outliers ~ The Oak Ridge Boys, Eddie Rabbitt, Rosanne Cash, Gene Watson, The Kendalls ~ but the charts were hogged by mediocre artists' "country" tracks. I don't have anything against Kenny Rogers, per se, but except for The Gambler, he essentially bastardized country music. As for the others....

 Here's a sampling:

The sensation that Crystal Gayle was posturing never escaped my brain. Her singing seemed so stylized, with the way she pronounced her words. I think, had it not been for her freakishly long hair, she would have simply been a flash in the pan, regardless of who her sister was.

As I understand it, Sylvia is actually a good songwriter; and one must do what one needs to do to advance in the music biz, but her singles were like deadly earworms.

Ahh, Dave and be generous, this is actually country music, but something about that guy set my teeth on edge. He was too seventies-disco-cool, with his hair and chains. It also bothered me that they replaced the good girl singer with somebody else and acted like no one would notice, simply because she didn't quite fit the image Dave wanted to evoke (seventies-disco-cool).

I generally like Barbara Mandrell, but this song is putrid. Barbara also had a network TV show where she featured her sisters (Louise and the other one, who couldn't sing), and it was tedious. Every week Barb would do her shtick of playing the one song she knew on the steel guitar and then they'd do some goofy skits and sing a song together (the non-musical sister's mic was no doubt turned off). Every freakin' week was the same.

So, yes, I finally reached my breaking point. If the country music industry didn't respect me, ta-ta! I turned to MTV and hallelujah ~ they were playing actual music! I love, loved MTV. I loved it for many years, and I missed the resurgence of actual country music (thank you, Randy Travis). Those who hung in there through the lean times didn't miss it. I did. My patience had been snapped. And I had to play catch-up, once I discovered that the walls had been battened with clubs and fiddles and steel guitars.

The seventies music honchos should be ashamed of the tatters they ripped country music into. As well as those artists who blithely tottered along.

Even thinking about it makes me shudder.

Friday, February 15, 2019


It's not as if I haven't given Minnesota every benefit of the doubt ~ I've lived here for 20 years. That's a pretty fair trial. But now I'm over it. I once thought North Dakota weather was bad, but here's a revelation ~ western North Dakota is dry. Sure, it's cold in the winter, but one doesn't risk life and limb stepping out on the front stoop. If it's cold, one can come inside and warm up. If you have to drive to work at 5:00 a.m. on ice-packed roads while dodging belligerent pickup drivers, clutching the steering wheel until the blood drains from your hands and uttering Hail Marys are your only frenzied options.

Here are Minnesota's advantages:

  • The weather is nice the two months out of the year that are not winter.

Minnesota's disadvantages:

  • There is a tax on everything that moves...and everything that doesn't. The other day a deer said to me, "You mean I have to pay to cross this road? Government bastards."
  • The ten months of the year that are winter.
  • The roads are getting more congested by the day. Why people are moving here, I cannot fathom. Native Minnesotans are the second worst drivers in the nation, and now we also have imports from other bad-driving states. I'm guessing they're all from New Hampshire.
  • Its citizens keep voting for idiots who want to slap even more taxes on our daily necessities, including heat and water. On the plus side, all my mining equipment is tax-free.
  • The state's hapless government can't even manage to issue driver's licenses. Because all the government employees are tasked with finding new things to tax.
  • If you think this winter is bad, just wait 'til next year.
  • All the medical clinics are booked up with people who've taken a tumble on the ice, so your heart attack will just have to wait.
  • Once you've completed your tax return, you find that you owe the state one point two bazillion dollars to fund its "social programs".
  • Local news anchors are freakishly upbeat. Especially during ice storms. I believe they are clinically insane.
  • "Minnesota nice" is something the residents tell themselves while they passive-aggressively tailgate or cruise along at 35 miles an hour on a 55-mph freeway.
  • One could purchase a gated mansion in another state for the same price as the monthly rent on a one-bedroom loft apartment in Minneapolis. 
  • People worship local disc jockeys. And quote them.
  • Bicyclists think they are cars.
  • One depletes her meager vacation time taking "weather days". 
  • No one visits anyone, because it takes one and a half hours and a near-death experience to travel twenty miles to a friend's home.
  • Despite its conceit about haute cuisine, the most pernicious eating establishment in the metro complex is Jimmy John's.

I have approximately fifteen months left ~ and then I retire and move the hell out of Minnesota. I can't wait. I'm done ~ over it. My fervent hope is that the state doesn't steal all my money before I can escape.

We have not yet decided where to move. We have some prerequisites ~ low taxes are a given. But a more temperate climate would be awesome; and low crime. A slower pace of life.

If you have recommendations, I would love to hear them. Send them my way.

In the meantime:


Saturday, July 7, 2018


I'm a chronic non-sleeper.

When I was thirty, I had to work the day shift at the hospital on alternating weekends. My normal schedule was second shift, 3:30 p.m to 10:00 p.m. Invariably on Friday nights before that seven a.m. call, I remained excruciatingly conscious. I'm a guilt-ridden Catholic soul who has an aversion to calling in. However, for the majority of my first shift obligations, I staggered off the sofa sometime around four in the morning, dialed the automated mailbox number and declared that I was "sick". In retrospect, I could have sucked it up and just went to work (like I do now). At that time, though, I regarded sleeplessness as such a dire condition that at one point I actually considered killing myself.

I remember arising from my agonizing cocoon on the sofa, switching on the tiny kitchen nightlight and thumbing through the Yellow Pages to find the Suicide Hotline number. I was all ready to dial it, but then I imagined the conversation.

"Why do you want to kill yourself?"

"Well, I can't sleep."

Long pause.

"That's it?"

I didn't kill myself because I thought my reason wasn't good enough. That, plus I really had no means of accomplishing it. What was I going to use? Aspirin? How many tablets does one need to take to get the job done? There was no internet, so it would have been just a guess, and what if I guessed wrong?

Now here I am, thirty years later, and the scourge continues. The difference is, while it's still unbearable at three in the morning, I've accepted it as a fact of my life. And I buck up and plow through.

I used to think I was all alone, but I've since learned through offhand conversations that more people than not suffer right along with me. Selfishly, that makes me feel a little bit better. Nobody wants to feel alone.

I'll say right now that all the advice about how to sleep is utterly worthless. These "experts" a) never in their lives have had a sleeping problem; and b) are just spouting nonsense.

  • Don't consume caffeine after 12:00 noon.

  • Use your bedroom only for sleep.

  • Meditate or "journal" fifteen minutes prior to bedtime.
         I neither meditate nor jot thoughts down in a little notebook, and
         why would anyone do that? 

Here is the only advice that might work:  drugs. But good luck there. My doctor won't prescribe anything, such as Ambien, and I admit I'm not keen on that anyway. I don't want to find myself in the kitchen at 2:30 a.m., baking up a late-night entree of roasted boot. Or driving around aimlessly, firing up a cigarette and stubbing it out on my car's leather upholstery. Or even worse, posting nonsensical comments on social media, inadvertently starting a Twitter war over my professed hatred of Ariana Grande's shoes.

My doctor actually told me I'm going to bed too early. She said I should stay up until 11:30. I get up at 4:30 a.m. for work! Following her advice, assuming I fell asleep the minute my cranium alighted the pillow, I would get four complete hours of sleep.

The things I have tried:

Watching TV until my eyes flutter closed.
The way this works for me is, sure, I catch thirty seconds of snooze time; then a commercial jars me awake. I am then bleary-eyed for approximately three hours.

NOT watching TV. 
The whir of my bedroom fan, initially soothing, begins to grate on my nerves. The longer I lie awake, the more irritating it becomes. I get up and switch it off; but soon the room turns infuriatingly quiet.

Don ear plugs and a sleep mask.
Now I'm left alone with my thoughts. Plus my back hurts.  My mind WILL NOT SHUT OFF. I eventually begin to drift off, but the snort that wheezes through my nostrils jolts me awake and the cycle begins anew.

I only fall asleep after four or so hours once my body has acquiesced to utter exhaustion.

I believe I am genetically melatonin-deficient. And speaking of melatonin, ingest it at your peril. I tried it ONCE. I lay awake, bug-eyed, for an entire night.

My remedy is, there is no remedy.  Perhaps alcohol, but I can't function at my job while hungover. Thus, the real remedy is acceptance. Accept the things I cannot change.

I haven't tried these, and maybe they would work (but I doubt it):

These songs make sleep seem so romantic, wistful, enveloping; don't they? I wouldn't know.

The truth of the matter is, like John Lennon, who, from his songs I suspect was an inveterate non-sleeper like me, this is what it's really like at 3:00 a.m.:

I've decided I'm going to call it a "personality quirk"; one that I can regale strangers with for hours. If someone at work greets me brightly in the morning, instead of replying offhandedly, I will say, "Well, you know I only got two hours of sleep last night." Then I will sigh dejectedly. Granted, people will search for an excuse to slink away, but hey, spread the pain, I say. If I have to hear tales of your 2006 Alaskan cruise every freakin' day and how you spied a seal reposing on an ice floe, well, it's time to share MY world. And by the way, can you sit at my bedside and repeat those stories again? 

That just might work.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Me and Country Music in 1977

Music wasn't foremost in my mind in 1977. My son was born in November of 1976, so I was busy. I had known nothing about babies, but the old adage is actually true -- babies are resilient, despite their parents' ignorance. Unless, of course, you can actually kill them with love (you can't).

I had quit working -- which is sort of amusing. As if one can just quit and magically be able to sustain their family. It would be more accurate to say that I took a break. Considering that we were pitiably poor, taking a break was either a selfless act of motherly love or a dimwitted blunder. Honestly, though, how many material goods does one need? Most every newly-married couple I knew lived in a mobile home (it was the seventies -- thanks to Jimmy Carter, nobody could afford anything).  It's funny how people love to throw around the term "trailer trash", but much like commenters on news sites who are instant experts on health insurance, people in general are ignorant. My house was nice. It was new, for one thing. I guess people are put off by the "shape" of mobile homes. Inside, however, it's a regular home. Morons. I had actual appliances and everything -- a washer and dryer; not a washboard. I will grant you that heating and air conditioning costs were astronomical. That was thanks to the paper-thin walls. But it was a mobile home. If I'd wanted good insulation, I guess we could have rented an apartment -- if we could find one. Apartments in the seventies in my town were practically unheard of. Some homeowners had little apartments on the upper floors of their houses. There were a couple of squat brick buildings that were "apartment houses". They were generally situated in the less-than-desirable areas of town. And they were meant for singles; not for families. The working girls, the State employees who hadn't yet found a husband.

I bought baby clothes at Woolworth's. I was a big Woolworth's consumer. We had a TV and a stereo and a stroller. The drawback of living in a mobile home park was the habitat -- long, long streets that went on forever. And yea, there were undesirable people I encountered while pushing my baby in his stroller down that interminable street. The park was a conglomeration of regular working people, those on their third divorce and their fourth batch of kids, upwardly mobile couples who held their nose and padded their savings accounts until they could afford to get the hell out, groups of party-bros sharing the rent. Yet, in 1977 there was a pastoral horse pasture across the street from my home. A white picket fence and lazy mares sidling up for a snack. That didn't last long -- progress and more lots to develop -- but it was there for a while -- and my baby boy and I saw it.

Music hovered between background minutiae and rare gems. Country music was in flux in 1977 -- the Outlaws and the In-Laws. Sixties holdovers, urban cowboys, and new jewels. I was nearing the end of the line with country music, yet I wouldn't give up on it completely until 1984. I hated most of it, but I kept holding out hope that something magical would happen.

This is what I remember:

Apparently Waylon and Willie saw no need to do a live version of this song. This was the best video I could find, and all in all, it's not bad:

After a time, I grew tired of Crystal Gayle and her hair. I mean, how many times can one watch a girl flipping her four-foot-long tresses? It was odd and led to many questions, such as, how much did she pay for plumber visits? And how much must the plumbers hate getting that call? "Oh, it's Long Hair again. You wanna take this one, Bob?" Nevertheless, this was a nice song the first fifty times I heard it.

George and Tammy got back together briefly in 1977, because they knew a good thing when they heard it. And when we heard it. It's so nice to hear Tammy again. There are two female singers who knew, really knew, how to sing country -- Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. It's that indefinable, know-it-when-you-hear-it quality. Tammy had it:

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, many of the hits I remember from 1977 are unavailable on YouTube, so I will forego "The Wurlitzer Prize" Instead, let's take a look at a track that was truly country, and sustained my puny faith in country music. Unfortunately, no performance from 1977 can be found (and Emmylou had long black hair then -- not as long as Crystal Gayle's -- just sayin').

If one was to tick off the top singles from 1977, there would be these two. One is catchy -- really really catchy. The other is stuck in time. I'll let you be the judge:

But you know me. I'm a sucker for real country. This song, to me, will always represent 1977. My baby boy won't remember it, but I do:

If one is to remember the good times, music provides that nudge. When I hear these songs, I'm back in my mobile home kitchen with its frilly curtains, the FM radio blaring out of my faux-walnut console stereo, my baby nodding off in his play swing in the living room as I watch him from my perch in front of the avocado GE range. I was but a child then, playing at being a grownup. 

But I had my baby...and music.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The CMA Awards - 1977

Hey, are you still with me? I'm still here, counting down the CMA awards for each year. You thought I'd give up by now, didn't you? Ha! I haven't! Hey, I'm going to at least get through the seventies. And who knows? Maybe I'll even go on to the eighties!

What can one say about 1977? I don't know. I barely remember it myself. I guess I was busy changing diapers and being pregnant. That kind of takes your mind off music.

I think at that time I still had the console stereo (with the velvet inserts) that I'd been given by my parents. I'm thinking we moved up to the Bang & Olufsen sometime in 1979. On credit.

So, if you asked me to recall who actually were the big country music stars in 1977, I honestly couldn't have told you. Of course, I've looked now, so I know. The years kind of ran together for me around that time.

The sort of nice thing about that time period was that an artist could be famous for "awhile" before that fame was snatched away from them and bestowed upon the newest "thing". Unlike now. "Oh, Keith Urban? He's so 2007." At least in the seventies, they gave people a couple or three years.

Thus, some of the award winners were "repeats" from previous years. Such as:


The Statler Brothers


Roy Clark

There was a new contender, however, for VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR, which was sort of refreshing, after several years of Porter & Dolly and Conway & Loretta.

Jumping on the bandwagon of "duet singing" this year were good old Jim Ed Brown (of the Browns) and his partner Helen Cornelius.

Remember this one?

Oh sure. They're singing in the old folks' home. And they're a bit long in the tooth to be worrying about unintended pregnancy. But still. You gotta admit, Jim Ed and Helen can still sing it. I always liked this song. It was kind of a throwback to those fifties pop ditties, albeit with a completely different subject matter.


Crystal Gayle

Hey, this song was all over the radio in 1977. In fact, it was so "all over the radio" that I don't really care to hear it ever again.

That said, it was certainly a big hit for Crystal (of the long, long, flowing locks). Crystal (nee Brenda Webb) is, of course, Loretta Lynn's kid sister. So, that did help her get a recording contract. But she pulled her own weight, at least with this song. But you've gotta admit, Crystal was mostly famous for her really, really long hair. Which is a weird thing to be famous for, when you think about it.

And it kind of put her in a bind, I would think. Even if she wanted to go with the latest "do", it would be extremely bad publicity for her. I don't think she ever had the option of cutting her hair into a "shag". And just think of the extra weight she was carrying around. Yea, when she was 21, it was no big deal. But now she's old and arthritic, and she's still hauling that hair around. Kind of a burden.

Anyway, here's a performance by Crystal (Brenda) from 1977 of, of course, Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue:

Sadly, I saw Crystal about a year or so ago, doing one of those PBS specials, called "Hits of the Seventies" or something, and you could really tell that she just didn't give a damn about that song anymore. Basically, she sang it like this: "dontknowwhenivebeensoblue......youvefoundsomeonenew.....anddontitmakemybrowneyesblue". But you have to sing it in a really slurry voice. As if you've had one too many apple 'tini's. Which is probably what it took to make her sing that song again. Can't really blame her.


Original Texas Playboys

I can get aboard this! This is some really good music! Unfortunately, it was a couple of decades too late, but still! Bob Wills was famous in the forties and fifties. And here it was, 1977, and his band finally got an award. "Oops, we forgot!"

I think it was probably Asleep At The Wheel who reminded voters how good Texas swing music was. So, thanks, AATW!

This video is, of course, not the original Texas Playboys, cuz, first of all, it's from 2005, and secondly, they'd have to be about 108 years old to be still doing this, and I'm kind of leery about that. Anyway, here they are:



- recorded by Kenny Rogers; written by Roger Bowling and Hal Bynum

It's easy to forget how huge Kenny Rogers was in 1977. Cuz it was over 30 years ago, after all. But, trust me, he was huge. I saw him in concert around 1980 in Duluth, Minnesota, and the stadium was packed. And this was even before "The Gambler". Kenny had a knack for picking timeless songs, and "Lucille" is timeless. Kudos to the writers!

And it's nice to see Kenny pre-facelift. I mean, have you seen him lately?? He's got those weird eyes, sort of like the depictions of those space aliens who've kidnapped people and taken them aboard their spaceship. I think Kenny has a guaranteed class action suit there.

The big winner of 1977 was indisputably Ronnie Milsap. Here's what he won:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR - Ronnie Milsap Live



Obviously, I've posted a whole bunch of Ronnie Milsap videos in previous posts, but here's one I haven't yet posted. I'm a big, big Ronnie Milsap fan, so I don't mind searching out Ronnie videos.


Merle Travis

This is a really poor video, but this is the guy who wrote "Sixteen Tons", so he deserves his moment in the spotlight. Merle also wrote "Dark As A Dungeon". I'm a fan of those dark songs, so I'm on board with this, absolutely.

Of course, this is the famous version. Tennessee Ernie Ford. That's kind of a relic of the past, isn't it? I vaguely remember when ol' Tennessee was a big media star. I was about 4 or 5 years old at the time. So, that's basically the dark ages. But here he is:

Here's Guy Clark's version of Dark As A Dungeon:

I really enjoyed this performance!

Thus ends our look back to the year 1977 in CMA history.

Not bad, eh?