Showing posts with label don rich. Show all posts
Showing posts with label don rich. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

2021 Country Music Hall Of Fame Inductees ~ Part Three


Watch this:

And this:

No, Don Rich wasn't inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in the Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician category (again). That anti-Bakersfield bias lives strong within the mysterious HOF voters. But is there any other sideman more famous than Don Rich? (answer: no) But of course, Don Rich died in 1974, so those mysterious voters no doubt assume that everyone's forgotten him.

So, we have a tie this year: Pete Drake and Eddie Bayers. Funny how the HOF can sometimes induct more than just a single artist.

Before Lloyd Green came along, Pete Drake was the most famous studio steel guitar player in country music. He played on hits such as Rose Garden, Behind Closed Doors, and Stand By Your Man, among innumerable other tracks, hits and non-hits. His fingers must have gotten awfully sore. 

Drake passed away in 1988, which means Jerry Lee Lewis only has about thirty-three years (at age one hundred and eighteen) until, he, too, gets honored.

I almost didn't include Pete Drake's more creepy side, but any summation of his career would be incomplete without his infamous "talk box". Of course I was a kid when I first heard this on the radio, and it was the stuff of nightmares. Nice little novelty, though, I guess. 

Regardless, Pete Drake deserves his due.

Eddie Bayers, on the other hand, has no creepy proclivities that I'm aware of. Eddie has played on tracks by artists ranging from Tanya Tucker to Reba to Garth to George Strait. He also was a member of the Notorious Cherry Bombs, and played on tracks such as this:

On the plus side, at least Eddie is still alive to enjoy the honor.

Studio musicians, like Hargus (Pig) Robbins (2012) and Lloyd Green (not yet!) absolutely deserve any accolade bestowed upon them. So many of the tracks we love and cherish wouldn't be the tracks we love and cherish without these musicians' contributions. 

Still mad about Don Rich, though.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Sixties Country Album Recommendations ~ For The Uninitiated

 If non-country viewers of Ken Burns' "Country Music" are still with me after my previous post highlighting country album recommendations, congrats! You're ready to take the next step!

It's not necessarily that country music became more refined in the decades that followed the sixties, but recording techniques evolved and the music wasn't as "crunchy". That may or may not be a good thing, but to me it made all the difference between seeing a great bar band and dropping an opaque curtain to separate the audience from the artist.

Country albums in the nineteen sixties were a dull lot. Nashville decreed that the rundown of an album was, two hits (tops) and nine cover tracks. Female artists' albums were the most predictable. I got to hear "You Ain't Woman Enough" rendered by at least three vocalists other than Loretta Lynn. Tammy covered Loretta's songs and Loretta covered Tammy's. Lynn Anderson covered both. I bought a lot of greatest hits albums then, because anything else was a waste of scarce dollars.

The first concept album I recall discovering was "Let Me Tell You About A Song", by Merle Haggard. Naturally it took someone outside of Nashville to shatter the mold.

Some people like live albums; others despise them. Today a live album is filler, a contract satisfier. In the sixties, though, a live album was an event. It takes a deft touch for a producer to deliver a superior live product and capture the thrill of a once-in-a-lifetime happening.

Capitol Records' Ken Nelson achieved the ultimate in recording Buck Owens and The Buckaroos performing live at Carnegie Hall. In his AllMusic review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote:

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos' 1966 concert at Carnegie Hall was a landmark not only for the band, but for country music: It signaled that it had firmly integrated itself not only into America's popular music mainstream, but also urban centers like New York. Buck and the Buckaroos had to deliver a stellar performance, and they did -- the group sounded like dynamite, tearing through a selection of their classic hits with vigor. Several decades removed from the performance itself, what really comes through is how musical and gifted the Buckaroos were, particularly Don Rich. For dedicated fans, it's a necessary addition to their collection.

When I was eleven, I didn't read reviews, had there actually been any. I just knew what I liked. I like, however, that the reviewer gives Don Rich his due. The true leader of the band, Don Rich was the glue. That's not to negate the pure perfection of Tom Brumley on steel and Doyle Holly's bass and stage presence. Willie Cantu was the Buckaroos' drummer on the album; the band's glue.

Don Rich, ladies and gentlemen:

Live "bar band" music:

Merle Haggard, not to be outdone, in 1970 recorded a live album at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Officially titled, "The Fightin' Side Of Me", I will always know it as "Live In Philadelphia". I'd seen Merle with Bonnie and the Strangers live in 1968, a life-altering experience in many, many ways; but this album captured the experience of sitting in the first row of a Haggard concert, only flashier. Merle was on top of the world in '70, and rightfully so.

"The Fightin' Side Of Me" was recorded on Valentine's Day, and has been derided by music critics -- which affirms my opinion of critics. To them every single solitary song ever recorded must have profound meaning, which is beside the point of music. It's as if reviewers are mathematicians ~ dry and humorless...and a bore to be around. As the saying goes (in my interpretation), if you can't do, nitpick. Any critic who misses the sheer joy in this album is missing the point of music.

Before I offer a few tasty selections from the album, I want to give props to The Strangers, the best country band outside of the Buckaroos. Roy Nichols (who Merle judiciously stole away from The Maddox Brothers and Rose and Wynn Stewart, as Ken Burns' documentary series told us) was a singular lead guitarist. As Merle said, Nichols, (along with legendary guitarist Chet Atkins) "were the two most influential guitar players in [the last] century. Because of Roy, my career commenced, He was the stylist that set the pace of the records I recorded in my high period."

Norman (Norm) Hamlet, aside from Pete Drake and Lloyd Green, and let me add, Sonny Garrish, is the creme de la creme of steel players.

On this album, Biff Adams kept the beat, Dennis Hromek played bass, and Bobby Wayne played rhythm and sang harmony. Combined, these five guys created a country band pinnacle.

And then there was Bonnie Owens. One may not know that Bonnie was the ex-wife of Buck Owens. Relationships were unnaturally close in Bakersfield, I guess. That's neither here nor there. It's about time that Bonnie gets her due. Bonnie's contribution to Merle's success cannot be underestimated. When one hears Merle, they're subconsciously hearing Bonnie's spot-on harmonies. As a soloist, Bonnie wasn't strong; her forte was adding harmonic touches that shot a song into the stratosphere.

Bonnie (so she forgot the words?):

The Strangers (by the way, their solo album was superb):

The most oft-remembered segment of this performance is Merle's impersonations. In hindsight, the impressions were middling, but we loved them:

Everybody obsesses over this song ~ it was just a song; get over it. But it is the "official" title of the album, so here you go:

Country albums in the late sixties/early seventies didn't offer much. These two are different. They capture the sheer joy of live music. One can't go wrong buying these (if you can get your hands on them). Luckily, I have the originally-pressed LP's; not to brag.

These are two that sum up the decade for me.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

"Country Music" ~ What Ken Missed

At the outset, Ken determined that the focus of his country music series would be Johnny Cash. I don't know why, but I can guess. As a non-country fan who probably is a subscriber to Rolling Stone Magazine, Cash took on a sheen; became a sort of demigod in Burns' eyes. Ken needed someone to wrap his episodes around, and who better? Cash led a melodramatic life. He had it all ~ family tragedy, rockabilly roots, substance abuse, infidelity; plus he sired a hugely successful daughter. The continuum.

The commenters on the one country music site I frequent invariably mentioned their dismay with Burns' absorption with Johnny Cash, to the exclusion of many deserving artists. It's a shame, really. A lost opportunity.

I've already talked about the complete disrespect shown to George Strait, but there are others.

Here, to me, are the most glaring omissions:

Jerry Lee Lewis ~ Ken spent a lot of time, quizzically on Elvis Presley. Not once was there a time when Elvis was even remotely country. His label-mate on Sun Records, however, not only is one of the most phenomenal artists of all time, but Jerry Lee Lewis actually had a successful country career. Nowhere in this eight-part series did Jerry Lee get a single mention. And, unlike Elvis, Jerry Lee actually loves music, country or otherwise. Jerry Lee is not a caricature.

Ray Price ~ We caught a glimpse of Ray Price somewhere within episode five or six, or something. I don't remember, but it was in the context of talking about some other artist. Had Ken been at all curious, he would have found that Ray Price was the country singer of the fifties and early sixties. No, not Hank Snow or Roy Acuff ~ Ray Price. And since Ken seems to have a fascination with Nudie suits, who better? But let's be frank:  Willie can thank his lucky stars that Ray Price recorded Night Life, and Roger Miller would not have had a career at all without Invitation To The Blues. Bill Anderson? How about City Lights? I could go on, but Ray can speak for himself:


Don Gibson ~ I'm not a fan of Don's singing, but that's not what made him iconic. He wrote many of the songs that were heavily featured (by other artists) in the series: I Can't Stop Loving You (Ray Charles), Sweet Dreams (Patsy Cline); as well as (I'd Be A) Legend In My Time (Ronnie Milsap) and Just One Time (Connie Smith), and many others. To feature those artists and not include the man who wrote the songs is inexcusable.

Don Rich ~ I've heard Buck Owens' recording of Together Again when he sang harmony with himself. Trust me, Don Rich hit that song out of the park. There wasn't enough focus on iconic bands overall in this series. The Strangers (and Bonnie Owens' contribution to Merle's sound) received no mention. The declaration that Roy Nichols was in someone else's band when Merle snatched him up went mostly unnoticed.

Don Rich was the heart of the Buckaroos, and if Buck was still alive, he'd say the same. Everything changed after Don died. He was the bandleader, he was the Telecaster master, he was the harmony singer extraordinaire.

Gene Watson ~ Country music was soooo in the doldrums in 1975. We had Tanya Tucker and...well, that's about it. I was working a menial job that allowed me to carry my portable radio around with me when I heard Love In The Hot Afternoon, and I was transfixed. This guy could sing, and he hadn't even yet shown off his best stuff:

Glen Campbell ~ Glen wasn't just some guy who had a network television show, but that's what one would glean from Ken Burns' dismissive reference to him. In the late sixties, one could not flip on their radio without hearing a Campbell song, ad nauseum, I would add. But damn ~ he deserved some love in this series, and he got zero.

Marty Robbins ~ come on! I know Ken is not a country aficionado, but Marty Robbins? Did Ken at least watch Breaking Bad?

Tanya Tucker ~ She was thirteen and I was seventeen and hotly jealous when my radio started playing Delta Dawn. Ken talked about Brenda Lee (who I love), but no reference to this phenom? Ken, Ken.

There are other niggling points, but these are the standouts to me; in addition to George, of course, who deserved far better. I could forgive a few, but it seems so obvious to me that country icons, regardless of whether they did or didn't sing about prisons, shouldn't have been ignored.

A couple less seconds about Johnny's Rick Rubin recordings and a few more about artists that country fans revere could have sent this series into the stratosphere.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

People Who Don't Like Country Music...

My husband, no country music fan, remarked the other day that the reason early-to-mid-sixties rock was so good was because of the harmonies. "That's when producers were still in charge," he said. His unspoken conclusion was that the rock artists of the late sixties weren't overly concerned with production. It's true. There were exceptions, but the late sixties were an anarchic time; artists were naive in their "let it all hang out" mindset toward music. Unlike now, which is essentially an anarchic time, too, but artists are now willing to bend a knee in worship of dollars and "likes". Perhaps that's why I find modern music tiresome -- it's so blatantly manipulative. I'll gladly take the naive badly produced song. At least it was honest.

But as my husband uttered the word, "harmonies", I thought, exactly! That's country music!

If the Everly Brothers had begun their career only a few years later than they did, they would have been country artists. Because country music is (or was) all about harmony.

There is an innate reason why humans are drawn to harmony. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know the reason for that. Maybe the answer is found in nature -- the way the flutter of the wind through the trees mingles with a bird's trills; and we feel alive and soft, cradled inside the earth's hands.

We're drawn to harmony and yearn to sing along. Even if we do it badly, it doesn't matter because it feels so good, so natural.

When I was sixteen or so, I'd recently purchased my first "real" reel-to-reel tape recorder, and I impressed myself with my wondrous ability to sing three-part harmony to this song, by bouncing tracks (the recording itself only featured two-part harmonies, but I said, let's go all out!):

In the early sixties, country music featured not only two-part, but three-part harmonies, where I no doubt got the idea for my "Silver Wings" rendition.

For example:

The absolute master of harmonies was Ray Price. Ray had his Cherokee Cowboys, of which a guy named Roger Miller was once a part. As an added bonus, Roger wrote this song and added his half-step to Ray's vocals:

And don't forget Buck Owens and Don Rich. In the early sixties, country music basically drizzled down to Buck Owens. The Grand Ol' Opry kept doing its thing, but nobody could compete with Bakersfield, and Nashville keenly knew it. If it wasn't for Don Rich, well...

There is no question what my favorite harmony song from the late sixties was. I know I recently featured this video in another post, but bear with me -- I can't find an original performance video of Mel Tillis doing:

From the Everlys to Porter and Dolly to Restless Heart to Brad and Dolly to Waylon and Willie, to Naomi and Wynonna, up to Vince and Patty, harmony is what country music is known for:

My visceral reaction to harmony singing, when it's good, is that it stabs me in the heart.

Everybody needs that little stab sometimes. That's how we know we're alive.

Friday, January 11, 2008

20 Best Country Songs Of All Time - Continued

This is, I think, number four in a continuing series of (in my opinion) the twenty best country songs of all time.

This song was (allegedly) written by Buck Owens, and was recorded by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos on Capitol Records in 1964. This song was actually the "B" side of "My Heart Skips A Beat". "Together Again" went to number one on June 6, 1964. The song has been recorded approximately 2,532,159 times (okay, I don't know how many times, but it's a lot).

I like this video, because it shows the Buckaroos, who were an integral part of Buck's popularity. Don Rich (naturally), Tom Brumley, Doyle Holly.

This seems like the appropriate time to note the passing of Ken Nelson, Capitol Records producer, who launched the career of Buck Owens, and who also discovered Merle Haggard.

Ken also produced "The Wild Side Of Life" for Hank Thompson in 1952. He recorded hits for Wynn Stewart, Ferlin Husky, Jean Shepard, among many others.

I remember the album, "Live At Carnegie Hall" by Buck & The Buckaroos (you should buy this one; trust me). Buck gives a shout out to Ken Nelson on the recording.

Ken Nelson was 96 years old, so he lived a long and, thankfully for country fans, a very productive life.

Here is the link to the LA Times article about Ken Nelson:

Ken Nelson