Showing posts with label leroy van dyke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leroy van dyke. Show all posts

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shelby Singleton - How To Produce A Hit

On October 7 of this year, famed record producer Shelby Singleton passed away at the age of 77.

Folks who are younger than me won't recognize the name, but in the sixties, Shelby Singleton was a major force in the world of country music.

Right now, if I think of the Smash label and the Plantation label, I can still picture the 45's and albums that I spun on my cheap-ola turntables. And I think of names such as Roger Miller and Ray Stevens, not to mention, of course, Jeannie C. Riley ~ but we'll get to her later.

Before his producing days, however, Mr. Singleton worked as a record plugger for Mercury Records. Here is a sampling of the music he discovered:

Bruce Channel (featuring harp by Delbert McClinton on the original recording) ~ Hey Baby

As any chick-flick aficionado could tell you, this recording was also featured in the movie, "Dirty Dancing". (I like to throw in trivia, when I can.)

Paul and Paula (nee "Jill and Ray" ~ doesn't quite have the same ring, does it?) ~ Hey Paula

"Hey Paula" was a sappy song, but it was 1963 and sap was in style. Looking back, one might think, hey, wasn't Rock & Roll getting going in 1963? Sadly, not really. A quick check of the charts shows that the top songs of 1963 included "I Will Follow Him" by "Little" Peggy March, "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs, "Blue Velvet" (!) by Bobby Vinton; not to mention "Dominique" by the Singing Nun. A sapfest galore.

Running Bear ~ Johnny Preston

As you will note by the record being placed on the spindle, this song was written by J.P. Richardson (the "Big Bopper"). J.P. (or B.B.) was kind of politically incorrect, wasn't he? Well, it was the late fifties.

Later, as Shelby transitioned into a producer role with Mercury, he recorded LeRoy Van Dyke's seminal hit, "Walk On By":

LeRoy was known as the Singing Auctioneer, but that's a different song, another day. "Walk On By" was a huge hit in 1961. I was six years old. I didn't know why somebody would walk on by if they saw someone they knew on the corner, but I guess I figured it was one of those spy versus spy things, like in my brother's Mad Magazine.

On the same day in 1961, Shelby also produced this recording by Ray Stevens ~ Ahab The Arab:

Let me just say that I am a big fan of Ray Stevens' "serious music". I just can't get on board with this one, though. It's not so much that it's politically incorrect; it's just that it's stupid.

Shelby also produced this song, by Roger Miller ~ Dang Me:

Roger Miller - Dang Me (early 1970's)

Men In Black | MySpace Video

Sorry for the crappy Hee Haw video, but it's the only one I could find. Although if it wasn't for Hee Haw in the sixties, we country fans would have never found country music anywhere on our TV dial.

Roger Miller was a great songwriter, and this hit is from the album, "The Return of Roger Miller", which was a rather audacious title, considering that Roger really didn't have anywhere to return from at that time. But make no mistake; novelty tunes aside, Roger wrote great songs, such as, "Invitation to the Blues" and "Husbands and Wives", among many others.

Shelby Singleton will, of course, always be associated with this huge hit that he produced for Jeannie C. Riley, written by Tom T. Hall ~ Harper Valley P.T.A.

If you were alive in the year 1968, you could not escape this recording. It was played ad nauseam on the radio. I could repeat every riff, dobro and otherwise, of this song in my sleep. I bet even people who didn't listen to country music have this song seared into their brains. I guess that's the mark of a true hit!

And speaking of marks, Shelby Singleton definitely left his, in the annals of country music. And to top it all off, he went and bought Sun Records!

It's nice to look back and remember, and to acknowledge those who worked with little recognition, to create what became a snapshot of the history of popular music.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Blast From The Past - Top Country Songs Of 1961

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?


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.


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?


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."


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".


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.


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.


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.



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:


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.