Showing posts with label kitty wells. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kitty wells. Show all posts

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Nineteen Fifties in Country Music Were Ripe With Promise

It's not as if I'm so conceited as to think that music was invented in the nineteen sixties.  Sure, that's maybe when my musical education began, but I am vaguely aware that music actually existed before I was born.  Not good music (ha)....I'm being facetious.  I know there was good music in the fifties.  And I have the Ray Price albums to prove it.

But there's most likely a lot about the fifties that I don't know, so, since a person I work with is so enamored of it, I wanted to at least give it a shot.

My retrospective of the '40's was excruciating.  I have much higher hopes for the ten years hence.

1950 found us still HANKering for Hank Williams.  I'm sorry that no music videos exist of Hank.  I, as much as you, hate staring at a static picture while listening to a song.  The person who slapped this up on YouTube maybe could have put a smidgeon of effort into the project; I'm just sayin'.

Nevertheless, here is Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do:


An artist I know very little about is Lefty Frizzell.  I do know that he was most likely Merle Haggard's favorite singer, since Merle started out his career sounding just like Lefty, until someone pulled him aside and said, "Uh, you might want to just sing like yourself".  Merle was always adept at impressions, though.  He started off sounding a lot like Lefty; a lot like Wynn Stewart, somewhat like Bob Wills.  

I do not know why Merle Haggard always factors into every music post I make ~ I'm thinking I might as well just shoot for the stars and write a damn book about Merle Haggard.

But, Merle aside, 1951 found Lefty Frizzell hitting the top of the charts with this song:

1952 finally found a woman topping the charts!

Kitty Wells always struck me as being a reluctant star.  It was almost as if she was embarrassed to be up on the stage, when she had clothes to wash and dinner to fix at home.

That's always been the conundrum.  I'm no feminist, but I understand that women, as well as men, can have artistic leanings, and while the men have no compunction about expressing their artistic side, women feel the need to apologize for theirs.  I'm guessing that in 1952, it was almost shameful for someone like Kitty to have a career, although no doubt, her husband Johnnie didn't mind depositing the royalty checks.

Irrespective of Kitty's reluctance, this song sort of started it all for women in country music:

Webb Pierce was huge in the nineteen fifties.  I admit that I don't know why.  He had an odd voice; nasally.  But there is no denying that he was the king of kings in Nashville.  He even had a guitar-shaped swimming pool.  My theory is that he had a lot of dirt on a lot of people; and thus he ruled the Nashville culture with an iron fist.  Songwriters quivered in his doorway and practically pleaded on hands and knees for Webb to record their songs.  He got the pick of the litter; song-wise.  Probably like George Strait; except George can sing.

In 1953, Webb Pierce had a monstrous hit with this song, which anyone with a rudimentary acquaintance with an acoustic guitar can replicate, because the chord progression is so simple, my dog could play it.

Speaking of nasally voices, another big star of the 1950's was Hank Snow.  

I mainly remember Hank Snow because of the song, "I've Been Everywhere", which has a bunch of town names that one has to sing really fast, because, well, it's a fast song.  

As a challenge to myself once, I memorized the lyrics to that song, because I was young, and I didn't have hardly anything clogging up my brain at the time.  It's not as if that knowledge was ever any use to me.  It never came up in a trivia contest or anything.  Nowadays, I can barely remember my own phone number.  

But it wasn't "I've Been Everywhere" that had country fans singing along (as if) in 1954.  It was this song:

You may not think it's a good song, but you should hear Martina McBride sing it

Not to belabor this, but I have never been able to figure out if it's "I don't hurt anymore", or "It don't hurt anymore".  Wikipedia says it's "I", but then, why do they sing "it"?  Grammatically, of course, it should be "I", but since when did good grammar factor into country music?

In the year of my birth, 1955, we were once again entertained by Eddy Arnold, who definitely put the "western" in country and western with this song about doggies, which Clint Eastwood and John Wayne informed me were not actual doggies, but rather cows.

There were tons of great songs in 1956, such as Why Baby Why, I Walk the Line, Singin' the Blues; as well as Blue Suede Shoes and Heartbreak Hotel, which were not technically country songs, but rather, rockabilly.   Distinctions used to matter then.

I, however, feel that it's high time we feature some Ray Price.  My mom wasn't a real savvy music connoisseur, but she loved Ray Price.  She, in fact, had a giant crush on him; while my dad just appreciated his music.  I, too, appreciate Ray Price's music; especially from the time before he went all countrypolitan on us; when he just sang stone country songs.

Like this one:

1957 was another banner year for country music.  Again, like 1956, there are loads of hits from which to choose; like A White Sport CoatGone ("since you've gone..."), My Shoes Keep Walkin' Back to You.

But I've chosen this song, which could perhaps also be called rockabilly, but to me, is more of a rock 'n roll/country hybrid.

Why did I choose this one?  Silly ~ I always have to get a book plug in somewhere.  I wrote a bit about this song in my book, Rich Farmers; but even more than that, I have placed this song on my list of the 20 Best Country Songs of All Time; and that's a tough list to crack.

Here are the Everly Brothers:

I feel kind of (not really) bad featuring Ray Price again, but I can't let this song go unposted.  In 1958, Ray had a monster hit with a song written by Bill Anderson (the young'ns will recognize Bill by the song, "Whiskey Lullaby")

It was a tough choice, though.  1958 was swimming with great songs:  Great Balls of Fire (yes, technically, rockabilly again, but dang!  That song will get you up off your chair and dancing!  Alone With You (Faron Young ~ love Faron Young); All I Have to Do is Dream

Pick Me Up on Your Way Down by Charlie Walker (again, give a listen to Martina, if you think this song isn't quite your style.)  

This is such a great song, though; I could not, in good conscience, ignore it.

Once again, Ray Price:

By 1959, the winds of change were blowing.  Soon, Buck Owens and his Buckaroos would light a fire with a telecaster; Tammy Wynette would tear our hearts out with a crying steel and a voice like a wrenching sob.  Loretta would get all feisty about the man who did her wrong.

Kris would have one more beer for dessert.  Bobby (and Mel) would go to sleep in Detroit City.  Tom T. would gossip about the PTA.  Lynn would refuse to promise us a rose garden.


Yet, before the decade turned, a four-minute, thirty-eight second song would tell us a tale about a young man who fell in love with a girl named Felina; and about one little kiss.

Here is Marty Robbins:

While the 1940's were essentially a bust for me, country music-wise; the fifties were ripe with promise.  Granted, I never heard these songs (or don't remember hearing them) until a few years down the road; but I can thank artists like Martina for bringing some of them back.  And I can thank my "best of" albums for introducing the songs to me a couple (or ten) years later.

The nineteen fifties in country music were not throwaway years.  Nay, they were classic years; if  for no other artists than Ray Price, Marty Robbins, and the Everly Brothers.

Oh, but the winds of change; they were a'blowin'.......


Friday, July 20, 2012

Kitty Wells ~ A Good Life

Kitty Wells, the queen of country music, died Monday, July 16.  She was 92 years old!

It's hard, now, to imagine a country music world without female singers, but there was a time.  1952, to be exact.

To say that Kitty Wells opened doors for women singers is an understatement.  Without Kitty, there would be no Loretta, no Tammy, no Dolly, no Shania; certainly no Carrie or Taylor.

Apparently, in the world of country music, in 1952, women weren't only to be seen and not heard, they weren't even supposed to be seen!

Kitty only recorded her signature song in order to earn the $125.00 that the recording session paid.  She was a wife and a mom, and was looking forward to getting off the road, and staying home.

If only she'd known.

How many girl singers have covered that song?  Which ones haven't?

This is my favorite cover.  Why?   Well, there are four legends on this recording (sorry, no video to be found):

Tonight, I thought I'd let a couple who have followed in her footsteps pay their own tributes to Kitty:

Rest in peace, Kitty.  What an admirable life.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The CMA Awards - 1976

I guess 1976 was the year of the Outlaw. While the pop stylings of the Hollywood set still won their share of awards, hope was in the air.

I'll start by saying that the "regulars" won their usual awards. Not to diminish their achievements, but the same people just kept on winning in their "niche" categories.

I've exhausted YouTube's supply of videos for these folks, so I'll just say that the INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR were Roy Clark and Buck Trent; and the VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR was the Statler Brothers.

Fortunately, the MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR award went to someone new this time around, Hargus (Pig) Robbins.

For those who are unaware, Pig Robbins played piano on pretty much every song that was ever recorded in Nashville.

'bout time that one of the session players got some recognition!

As you can imagine, as a session player, there really aren't any videos, per se, of Pig Robbins. But here's one from Patty Loveless's latest CD that Robbins played on. Just to show you, he's still going strong!

The SONG OF THE YEAR was written by Larry Weiss, and it went a little something like this:


I've come to appreciate Glen Campbell more as the years have passed. I used to not care for him so much. But this song, I must say, was catchy at the time, and it still is.

The FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR was (again) Dolly Parton. Now, I think that Dolly is a good songwriter. Having said that, she had some really sukky songs during this time. We'll call it her "experimental period". "I Will Always Love You" was sappy enough, but then she did this one:

This was obviously done during Dolly's struggles with weight. Maybe that's why she wasn't at her best. It had to affect her self-esteem. Cuz this song is really crappy. Sorry.


Ronnie Milsap

As long as I can find videos of Ronnie, I'll keep posting them. I'm a pretty big Ronnie Milsap fan. He's one of those artists, like Ray Stevens or Bobby Bare, who don't get their just due.

This is a fun video, because it includes a medley of some of Ronnie's biggest hits. Enjoy.

And now we come to the Outlaw portion of our show. The SINGLE OF THE YEAR was recorded by two old pals, who, according to Willie's biography, tended to fight and fuss a lot, but they were still good friends. Willie, as you know, was generally very relaxed, while Waylon's medications tended to have the opposite affect. This, naturally, created some tension between the two. But watching this video leads one to believe that everything was quite all right, and regardless of their squabbles, they made some very nice music together.


I can't help but notice, though, that they keep a'showin' his hands, but not his face on TV (second reference to the Dukes of Hazzard - I'm keeping count.)

Oh, by the way, WAYLON and WILLIE were also named VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR. Chalk up another one for the Outlaws.


Wanted: The Outlaws

As I've written before, this was an album that none of the participants had a clue was being released until it was, well, released. The producer at RCA, Jerry Bradley (Owen Bradley's son) slapped the whole thing together from previously released material. He picked the songs; he picked the participants. They were: Waylon, Willie, Tompall Glaser, and Jessi Colter. And he decided to call them the "Outlaws". News to them! They didn't even know they were outlaws!

But once the money started rolling in, they were happy to call themselves anything the producer wanted....."old shoes", "peanut m & m's".......they didn't care. Fortuitously, the album wasn't titled, "Wanted: The Peanut M & M's".

Here is a track from that multi-$$$-selling album:

Regardless of the world-renown of the Outlaws album, the ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR award went to this f-f-f-fellow:


Truth be told, Mel didn't win for his singing. He won for his funny stories. Sort of like this:

But one should not let Mel's "entertaining" obscure his accomplishments as a songwriter. After all, he wrote "Detroit City", "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love To Town)", among many, many others, including a string of hits for Webb Pierce. And he also wrote one of my all-time favorite classic country songs, "Heart Over Mind".

Here's but a sampling of some of Mel's songs:


Paul Cohen

I admit, I didn't know anything about Paul Cohen, but when I looked him up, I found that he produced a whole lot of stars for Columbia Records. Here's a couple:

Later, at Kapp Records, he also produced Mel Tillis, so I guess what goes around comes around.

And he produced the second inductee from 1976:

Kitty Wells

Isn't this the quintessential country song? And this was recorded in 1952! That's even before I was born! Kitty is 89 years old now. Country singers, both male and female, owe a debt to Kitty Wells.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy 89th Birthday, Kitty Wells!

Many Candles

Wow, eighty-nine! Happy Birthday, Kitty!

For country music fans who are too young to remember Kitty Wells, suffice it to say that if it weren't for Kitty Wells, there probably wouldn't be a Carrie or a Taylor or a ______ (fill in the blank with any generic female country star of today).

There also wouldn't be a Tammy or a Loretta or a Tanya or a Barbara.

There might not even be a Patsy.

I could delve into the history of women in country music, but Chet Flippo explains it here far better than I could: What Kid Rock and Kitty Wells Can Teach Today's Country

For a more in depth analysis, you may want to read Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000

Or, we could just watch Kitty, doing her most memorable hit:


So, happy birthday, Kitty!

Maybe have a cup of coffee to go with that cake.

Kitty Wells Mug