Showing posts with label oak ridge boys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oak ridge boys. Show all posts

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Dallas Frazier

The first time I saw Dallas Frazier's name was in the liner notes of Connie Smith's "The Best Of Connie Smith" album in 1967.

Thereafter, his name kept popping up, like on this one:

Before long his name was everywhere. As one who was coming to country music as a neophyte, I paid attention to "important" names. It seemed this Dallas Frazier guy was important.


So, I met Dallas Frazier via Connie Smith.

Frazier started out as a prodigy vocalist, at age fourteen, then went on to write novelty songs like Alley Oop, recorded by the Hollywood Argyles in 1957. It wasn't until he moved to Nashville that his songwriting career took off -- and boy, did it. Different songwriters dominated the country scene depending upon the era. In the late fifties/early sixties it was Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard. By the mid-sixties/early seventies Dallas Frazier assumed the mantle.

A few examples:


(rendered by the songwriter himself)

Naturally, this is the song that is Dallas Frazier's claim to fame:
(Oh, you like it; admit it.)

I readily admit I don't know every single song Dallas Frazier ever wrote. But this one is probably my favorite:

(sorry, no decent live performance to be found)

In 1976 Dallas Frazier retired from the music business and became an ordained minister, which is sublimely cool. As poetic as his written words were, I bet he gave a helluva sermon.

Dallas Frazier passed away on January 14, 2022, and the country angels cried. I'm sure he saved some souls along the way, whether through his preaching or via my preferred way ~ a crisp, succinct musical message.

RIP, Dallas Frazier.

Friday, July 12, 2019

When Your Band's Name Gets You Fired

Some asshat at an event called the Du Quoin State Fair in Illinois decided to fire the band Confederate Railroad from its grandstand lineup (after signing a contract with them) because of their name. The band was scheduled to perform with Restless Heart and Shenandoah under the banner “90s Country Reloaded Day” (one of my all-time favorite country eras).

The "woke" imbecile went on to state:

“While every artist has a right to expression, we believe this decision is in the best interest of serving all the people in our state.”

Confederate Railroad was formed in 1987 and hit its stride in the early nineties with country hits like "Queen of Memphis", "She Took It Like a Man",  and "Trashy Women" (not a personal favorite). While not by any means one of my preferred bands, they were innocuous; and you know, I never gave the band's name a second thought. Every band needs a name, after all.

In the case of the Blah Blah Blah State Fair, apparently some annoying political blogger (is there any other kind?) complained that someone's (his) fragile feelings would be hurt by a band he'd never in his life heard of taking the stage in front know, people. And who reads blogs anyway? Apparently only beta boys from the Illinois Ag Department.

Here's the deal, Ag Dude:  It's just a name.

Coming up with a band name can be a tedious process or a spur-of-the-moment one. Sure, you could use a random word generator, which would produce a result like Fungus Quarry; or you could fret about it for months and quibble with your band mates until the resulting animus causes the group to break up. And if you do decide to stay together and ultimately land upon a name that everyone is okay with, then hit the big time, how could you know that some thirty years later a quivering mouse will pull the covers over his head and sob because your moniker has triggered infantile PTSD?

Sure, it starts with Confederate Railroad, but where does it end? We could dissect every country band name and find something to enrage us.

For instance, did you know that Oak Ridge, Tennessee was the place where in 1942 the first atomic bomb was built? Bye bye, Oak Ridge Boys. Sorry.

The name Asleep At The Wheel offends me because it promotes drowsy driving. Ray Benson, you had a great run. Now it's over.

I suppose you didn't know that The Statler Brothers were named after a brand of facial tissue. Is tissue bio-degradable? The environment is too precious to risk it. Harold, Don, et al ~ you've gotta go.

Restless Heart? Making fun of cardiac patients? Real sensitive.

Don't even get me started on Alabama. Roy Moore? Come on...

When it comes to Diamond Rio, I'm stringently opposed to sullying the earth to mine precious stones for the top one per cent to flash.

Oh, so you call yourselves Highway 101? I'd suggest Bike Lane 101 as an alternative. Need I explain?

The Judds ~ I don't know what "Judds" are, but I'm pretty certain I'm opposed to them.

Soon all the billboards will advertise, "Band ~ Your Name Here ~ Coming Soon!", and one can roll the dice on purchasing tickets for the show.

I'd vent my rage at the dolts who work for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, but it's all so silly (except not silly for the band, who lost a crucial paycheck).

I will calm everyone's nerves by posting this:

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Only Time I "Saw" A President

I've always been a political geek. You could say that politics is my sports. I follow my squad's standings; I cheer for my "home" team. I peruse the box scores. I never actually got to see a president outside the square box of my TV screen, except for one time.

My big brother had the opportunity to see a president up close, in 1963. I was eight and my brother was seventeen with a driver's license. President Kennedy was going to make an appearance at the Grand Forks Armory and my brother bragged to me that he was going to journey across the river to see him. As I remember it, it was only braggadocio. He never did go. In my brother's defense, it's a pain to try to get up close to a president, even in the innocent age of the early sixties. You gotta fight the crowds. You've got to deal with all that security (apparently not enough back then, alas). Then there's the inevitable traffic jam afterward.

One of the nice things about living in a small town is that politicians single them out for visits.

On April 24, 1989 (I looked it up), President George H.W. Bush was arriving in my town to plant a twelve-foot elm tree on the Capitol grounds, in honor of the state's centennial. It does seem like a president would have more pressing matters than turning over a couple shovels-full of dirt, but politicians have to do lots of corny stuff.

I was working second shift at the hospital and, dang it, I was scheduled to work that Monday. I knew the presidential limo would travel up Airport Road on its way to the State Capitol, and that was only five blocks from my house.

I called in sick.

It was shortly after lunch time and my kids were in school. I had a couple of hours free. I hiked the five blocks and situated myself in a prime spot along the Expressway. Behind me was the local bank building ~ an ugly building, molded like a brown sand pail castle. Aside from that sky-obscuring monstrosity, the sky was clear and blue. About forty other people had happened upon the same idea as me, but the street was long, so my only company was a scattered couple or the guy behind me, over-dressed for the occasion in a suit and dark glasses. It was a bit disconcerting to glance back, unable to tell if the man behind the glasses was staring back, but I imagine I didn't look like much of a threat.

Before long, a long black limousine sauntered up the street. I think little American flags flapped from the front and back fenders. Clearly, President George Bush was ensconced inside. He had some kind of microphone at his disposal, because, clear as the sky, "Hi, how'ya doin'" and "Good to see 'ya" boomed out into the crisp air. I didn't actually "see" him ~ the windows were tinted grey-black, but I know he was there. I waved my hand like a simpleton and most likely applauded and whooped. I don't know what all transpired on the Capitol grounds, but I preferred my vantage point over a clutch of over-eager zealots. I just wanted to see the president.

Sadly, the twelve-foot elm did not survive the winter. But that's politics, isn't it?

I don't know how I missed the fact that George H.W. Bush was a country music fan. I always viewed him (erroneously) as rather a patrician, but had I known he was down-home like me, his measure would have increased exponentially.

I truthfully didn't know much of anything about President Bush, except that he was my president. He wasn't Ronald Reagan, but he was the next best thing.

But George liked the Oak Ridge Boys!

President George H.W. Bush was a helluva man.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

1979 ~ Back To Real Life

I had no misconceptions regarding what work would be ~ a series of dead-end jobs; maybe I'd eventually land one with tenure and I could coast my way to retirement. I really didn't want a job. I wanted to be a mom, but President Jimmy saw things differently. Being poor wasn't all that bad, but I hated having to charge basic needs, plus the hospital let me know my five dollar-a-month payment for my new son's delivery just wasn't going to cut it. That telephone conversation convinced me I needed to find a job. Before I became a mom my work life was scattershot at best. I'd tried the real world and didn't like it. Being a clerk-typist for the state, I found, didn't mean sitting in a cubbyhole and typing all day. I had to interact with customers, which I guess was the "clerk" part. I didn't know what it was called then, but it turned out I had social phobia, which is in essence a fear of making an utter fool of oneself. Whenever I heard the front door of the State Health Department creak open, I had to steel myself for the inevitable person-to-person interaction. In retrospect, I am convinced I didn't instill confidence in my customer. I would toddle off and retrieve a copy of their birth certificate and mumble, "two dollars". I think I also said, "thank you", because while I was a near-mute, I was perpetually polite. After little more than a year I'd scurried back home to work for my parents. I quit working all together in November of 1976 and nested.

By the summer of '79, the fiscal writing was on the wall. As we pedaled down the expressway in our tin-can Chevy Malibu, I gazed at the building being erected, with a big sign out front that announced, "Future Home of LaBelle's". I said, I'm going to work there. I don't know why; maybe it was the close proximity to home, basically a zip up one street and one zip down another. Possibly it was because the one skill I was confident I possessed was ringing up a cash register. Plus I still retained the naive certainty that this place would be all my hopes and dreams tied up in an azure package; a retail nirvana. And it was part-time.

1979 began nine years of inhabiting second shift, forgoing toddler's bedtime baths, snuggling with little towheads, missing all my favorite TV shows, But life is a series of have-to's. I couldn't place Lego sets and Fisher-Price parking garages under the Christmas tree without the money to buy them and without my ten per-cent employee discount.

LaBelle's was a catalog store, which no longer exists in today's Amazon world. Customers would wander about with a stubby pencil and a pad and write down the number of the item they wanted to purchase; then hand their paper to an associate who'd punch it into a "computer" and the bored guys back in the warehouse would fetch the item from an eight-foot high wobbly shelf and dump it onto the conveyor belt. My job was to grab a hand mic and announce, "Johnny Jamsicle, your order is ready at Register Three. Johnny Jamsicle, Register Three." Johnny would step up to Register Three and I'd ring him up.

Some nights were excruciatingly quiet. Especially Tuesdays. Nobody ever seemed to shop on Tuesdays. So I'd stand behind the counter in my high heels and eye the one person in the store longingly, willing them to order something. Truthfully, LaBelle's was quiet most of the time, except during Christmas season. I would, of course, be scheduled to work Saturday days, and Christmas was the only time the hours whizzed by.

When I had my yearly review, my manager docked me for not coming up with a product display, which I didn't even know was a requirement! I subsequently visited a travel office and gave the girl behind the desk a line about a school project, and talked her out of a vacation poster, which I pasted in the luggage department, along with the words, "Flights of Fancy". Casey, my manager, didn't understand the saying and argued that my word choice was wrong. "It should be flights of fantasy," she proclaimed. I tried to explain to her what a flight of fancy meant. She finally gave up the ghost and let me keep my display. I didn't even get a five-cent raise for all my effort. I did, however, learn a valuable lesson about dealing with morons.

I frankly didn't have much free time to devote to music listening, but I couldn't escape the fact that Kenny Rogers was everywhere. This dude who'd had a minor career with The First Edition in the sixties had reinvented himself as a precursor to Lionel Richie.

The number one song of 1979:

Kenny had five, count 'em, top twenty hits in '79. And that wasn't even his best year. I'm not sure why, but I rolled with the flow. I even saw him in concert once, sitting in the nosebleed seats in Duluth, Minnesota. It was a spur-of-the-moment impulse on my mom's part. We were there; he was there ~ why not?

There were better country songs in 1979; for instance, Eddie Rabbitt:

The Dirt Band:

Don Williams:


T. G. Sheppard:

The Oaks:

I had my Bang and Olufson component stereo I'd bought on credit and a stack of country albums. Sometimes I'd come home from LaBelle's in the dark and slip the needle on one of those LP's, quietly, as to not awaken the kids snug in their beds, and relax with a cup of instant Sanka. 

And think about the pitiful state of my "career".

Sunday, May 27, 2018


(Can you imagine taking your music with you?)

1979 was in many ways a depressing year. We had a depressing, nay, dreary president. He could sap the fun out of any gathering. He lectured us on TV about our "malaise", not realizing that he was the one who caused it. It was as if by telling us how disappointing we were, we'd snap out of it.

One exciting event of that year was the exploding Ford Pinto. When you drove a Pinto, it definitely took you for a ride. Lucky for me, I had a Chevy Vega.

The Iranian Ayatollah decided to take 44 Americans hostage in December, which resulted in the launch of a 10:30 p.m. TV show called "Nightline", starring Ted Koppel's hair. Our hapless president only managed to make things worse by authorizing an ill-fated mission to rescue the prisoners. The operation went spectacularly wrong. 

In household news, Black and Decker introduced something called the "Dustbuster", It was ingenious. Everyone who was anyone raved about their little cordless vacuum. One pitfall of the new invention was that the batteries went dead right in the middle of sucking up toast crumbs from the shag carpet in front of the sofa. Yet we all felt so "with it". 

ESPN came into existence in '79. I never watched it, because---sports. On the other hand, a new network called Nickelodeon showed up on cable and we watched it religiously, because---kids. Otherwise we watched 60 Minutes on Sunday nights and followed Mike Wallace as he stalked some unsuspecting scofflaw around dark corners. 

Jack Tripper and Chrissy and Janet lived upstairs from the Ropers and sexual innuendo ensued. Eventually, Suzanne Somers wanted to leave the show because she felt her salary was a mere pittance; so thenceforth she phoned it in, literally. Every episode featured a shot of Chrissy on the phone with her apartment-mates, to convince the TV-watching rubes that all was all right on ABC Tuesday nights. 

Friday night was "Dukes of Hazzard" night. My three-year-old was obsessed with the show. I wasn't sure why. I did get a kick out of the fact that my son thought the sheriff's name was Roscoe PECO-Train. For my part, I liked the theme song that I surely knew was performed by Waylon Jennings, even though they only showed his hands, but not his face on TV.

Musically, we still possessed stereo components. Sure, Sony had this new gadget that claimed to let one port one's music, but that was kind of goofy; silly. Why did we need to carry our music with us? We had the car radio! This seemed to me akin to the Dustbuster; a sad trail of dead batteries.

Country music was sad, and not in the traditional way. Our big stars were Kenny Rogers and Dave and Sugar.

There were a few sparks, though. This song featured Linda Ronstadt on the original recording. This performance, however, does not. But she couldn't be everywhere. I do want to say, thank you, Rodney Crowell. If it wasn't for you, 1979 would have been lamer than it already was.

Speaking of the Dukes of Hazzard and Rodney Crowell:

In kids news, a McDonald's Happy Meal was a treat that was affordable, even for us, at $1.00. The Muppet Movie was the tenth highest grossing film of the year, and taking a one-year-old and a three-year-old to the movie theater was an experience no parent should miss, for the wailing and the seat-climbing and the chaotic showers of popcorn. Oh, and the movie was good, too.

To relieve the stress and relax my tendons, when we reached home I listened to this:

Anne Murray was still making hits, and I liked this one:

Fashion-wise, we favored bib overalls. Beneath those, we wore blouses with puffy sleeves and a tiny bow at the neck. Throughout the seventies, women wore one-piece contraptions that were hell to undo when one had to pee. Therefore, we were careful to limit our liquid intake. I worked part-time at a retail establishment, so I had to dress up. Since my hourly wage was $2.65, I shopped at K-Mart for work attire. I picked up some below-the-knee skirts and twin sets and high-heeled plastic slides. I purchased my pantyhose at Woolworths, however, because they carried the size that fit best. I honestly don't think I took home any money from that job, after laying out all my earnings to buy appropriate work attire. Wearing pants to work was unheard of. Velour was also the fabric of choice, but if I ever owned a piece of velour clothing, I've blocked it from my mind.

At 9:30 p.m., when I landed at home after work, I poured myself a glass of....Coke...because I didn't drink. I slipped the stereo needle on this:

One can't underestimate the influence the Oak Ridge Boys had on country music in 1979. Aside from Kenny Rogers, who wasn't country, no act was bigger. This video is notable for the lack of giant white beard on William Lee Golden's chin:

In a nutshell, the biggest country acts of the year, aside from Kenny and the ORB's, were Eddie Rabbitt, Crystal Gayle (yes), Moe Bandy, and Don Williams. Some were nearing the end of their careers, some were one-offs, some had a couple of decades yet to go. 

In the daytime hours, TV was what TV was -- game shows in the morning, Days of Our Lives in the afternoon. In between, advertisers took great pains to inform moms what they needed to feed their kids to keep them happy and healthy -- KoolAid, Ore-Ida french fries, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese -- all the nutritious choices. On the plus side, however, mothers were still a "thing" then. And kids. 

Also, AT&T urged us to reach out and touch someone. I didn't know many people with whom interaction required a long-distance phone call, but if I'd made any "friends" on vacation, trust me; I wouldn't have called them.

Generally with music, I chose to avoid chaos. Life was chaotic enough, with two kids under the age of four, and with my part-time job that ostensibly "contributed to the family coffers". Better days were to come, but that's what days generally do, if one is lucky. 

Meanwhile, I relaxed to this:

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Good People

I'm not as religious as I once was. Or maybe I'm more religious than I once was. See, when I was a pre-teen, I was lost and searching hard for some thread of deliverance. Raised a Catholic, I loved the rituals of the church -- the stations of the cross at Lenten time, when the priest, followed by his two altar boys, would stop at each statuette along his path and say a solemn prayer. I didn't exactly grasp the meaning, but it was such an august procession that it had to have deep significance. I prayed hard during that ceremony, and that couldn't have hurt, right? The Catholic mass also featured the priest swinging sensers of incense, which smelled "holy". Dipping one's fingers in a font of holy water and making the sign of the cross, and genuflecting before entering the church pew, seemed somber and sanctified.

The rituals of the church were sublime, but the incessant scolding didn't strike me as God-like. Silly transgressions, like eating meat on Friday, would damn me to hell. Taking communion without first slipping inside the dark airless chamber to confess my "sins" to some guy would also send me to the fiery depths. Poor babies who died before being baptized would be sentenced to a place called purgatory. And they didn't even get the chance to do anything wrong.

I hope the church doesn't preach that kind of nonsense anymore. I don't know, because I stopped attending mass sometime around age eighteen. I think confession was my line in the sand. I never ever thought it was right, even as an eight-year-old. I can understand talking to someone and getting some life counsel, but that whole recitation of made-up sins was pointless. And who were these "priests" anyway? They were cloistered and had no inkling of real life.

I needed someone to help me, and all the embroidered robes in the world weren't going to quiet my troubles.

Those who "raised" me weren't actually my parents. I had a few pseudo-parents; whomever was available and offered something I needed to learn -- my sister-in-law was one. People who worked for my parents. My friend's mom. Perhaps a teacher or two.

One sundown July evening my sister-in-law was manning the motel office when a Scottish couple with three redheaded kids checked in. I was eleven or twelve at the time, and lazing about, observing everyday life. The man asked about available babysitters. He and his wife wanted to have a nice dinner out. I wasn't a natural babysitter -- I despised it, actually. I don't know why everybody thinks pre-teen girls are natural baby-slingers. Is that supposed to be an innate talent? That twilight, however, I popped up off the sofa and proclaimed that I would be happy to babysit. Frankly, I was entranced by the couple's accent, and perhaps wanted to experience something "foreign".

I have no idea where my mom and dad were; why neither of them were working and why they had indentured my new sister-in-law to cover for them. My educated guess is that Dad was drunk in a bar and my mom had consumed a couple of tranquilizers and was blissfully snoring away in her bed. This was de riguer, so I didn't waste any brain cells contemplating it.

Regardless, I tromped over to room 33 at six p.m. and commenced to wrangle and entertain three bouncing tow-heads.

After an hour or so, they all drifted off to slumber and I clicked on the TV and perused the three available channels. My best option was a Billy Graham crusade.

That night, what Reverend Graham was saying made me sit up straight. He said things like, "God loves you". That was a new concept! Here I'd thought God had a checklist and made tick marks next to every task I'd failed at. The reverend said something about loving everybody or something, and that sinners were lambs of God. And that God satisfies every longing of our hearts.

Billy Graham was clearly an honest man. I had long ago cultivated an excellent BS detector, and this guy was honest and pure. And he made me feel like I was a worthwhile person. This was new!

When the Scot parents returned later, I practically skipped out of the room and took three or four laps around the complex, greeting every stranger I encountered with a hearty "Hi!". I was not one to speak to strangers, but I suddenly felt light-footed, aloft on an imaginary breeze.

That feeling didn't linger, but the concept of God's love did.

I haven't forgotten.

There aren't too many really good people in this world.

Reverend Billy Graham was a really good person.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


By1981 I had settled into my new routine, working second shift at the hospital, which was the best job I'd ever had up to that point. As a dedicated scaredy-cat, I'd dipped my toe into the waters of a couple of unknowns -- a year in retail, another year as a government employee, until I stumbled upon my true calling.

My hard and fast rule was that I refused to accede the raising of my kids to a miscellaneous daycare worker. Thus, I was relegated to evening positions that involved the requisite changing of the guard -- a husband who came home from his day job at 3:00 and bluffingly assumed family responsibilities while I trundled off to my clinical night job.

I blithely assumed that a father would have his kids' best interests at heart -- until I came home one night at 10:00 and found the Christmas tree askew and its decorations oddly-placed. Disassembled and reassembled into a half-assed facsimile of the decor I'd lovingly put together but one day before. Apparently Dad had been engrossed in a telephone call with one of his friends while two toddlers laid waste to my painstaking bauble-hanging. Before I'd left for work that day, as the final scenes of the movie "Nine To Five" pranced across my TV screen, I'd admired my prodigious decorating skills, and had decided all was right with the world.

Everyone was asleep, so I didn't interrogate anyone, but two and four-year-olds tend to lie anyway. Trust me, little kids are natural-born liars.

I'd apparently semi-abandoned country music by that time, because the songs I remember from that year are almost entirely pop (or what we referred to as "rock").

For a rock pop fan in 1981, the offerings were awesome. I hate purists. I'm not even a purist and I, of anyone, have the bona fides to be one, if we're talking sixties country. I don't know what rock purists remember from that particular year -- The Who? I always hated The Who. The Stones? The Rolling Stones were already old by then, but they refused to pack it in. I never was a Stones fan, either. I've tried.

No, the best singles from 1981 are songs such as these:

(Still one of the best pop songs ever)

If anyone tries to tell you Hall and Oates are not sublime, they are wrong. Just wrong. 

I didn't even know who Bruce Springsteen was in 1981. I would watch the $20,000 Pyramid in the mornings (remember that?) It was hosted by Dick Clark. Some celebrity contestant -- I don't remember who -- was being interviewed by Dick. Clark asked the guy who his favorite rock artist was, and the dude replied that the best rock artist in the whole wide world was Bruce Springsteen. Dick said, "Well, that's your opinion. A lot of people would disagree with you." I was like, who? That was the first time I'd ever heard the name Bruce Springsteen. I still don't think Bruce is the best rock artist in the whole wide world. He's pretty good, though.

(I could give you the secret to why Springsteen's recordings are so good, but then I'd have to kill you.)

I think we'd gotten a special deal on HBO. At the time, HBO replayed the six same movies approximately ten thousand times. That was great if one really liked the movie. Ask me anything about "Nine To Five". Go ahead. Around that time, somebody (hopefully not Harvey Weinstein) convinced Neil Diamond that what he really needed to do was act. That somebody was sorely mistaken. I love Neil Diamond and I love, love George Strait, but neither of them should have ever taken one step in front of a movie camera. Nevertheless, "The Jazz Singer" became one of HBO's six featured movies, and I watched it and watched it again. Lucie Arnaz played the female lead. It was wallowingly schmaltzy, but it featured some good songs:

Two artists from 1981 would later go on to form a super-group. Here's Jeff Lynne:

In case you don't know, the other was George Harrison. George deserves his own damn post, and his hit from that year doesn't have a decent video. Don't take my omission as disrespecting George, because I respect him to pieces.

Country was fully represented in 1981. Those "purists" probably didn't appreciate these two hits, but they can go to hell. These two singles, especially the second one, will live on forever.

I awoke one cold December morning to my AM radio and a disc jockey saying words that seemed like an awful dream. I think he'd just played Ticket To Ride, and I thought, in my haze, well, that's a blast from the past. 

Then he said John was dead. 

I rolled over and flipped the volume dial on my radio. I still recall that green comforter tucked up to my chin and touching its white-etched flowers with my fingertip. 

And then he played this song. 

This song hurt so much because it was exactly, distinctly, the John who had transformed my life. From the tender age of nine, the very first time I'd heard him through my transistor speakers, John became my first love. 

I'd never lost anyone before I lost John. I was twenty-five years old. You don't lose somebody at twenty-five.

1981 was a good year in so many ways. I had two cute but incorrigible sons who romped around in blue-flannel pajamas. I loved my job. I was finally seeing a way out of crushing debt. Pop music was fun -- like music is supposed to be. 

Life doesn't really care how happy or sad we are:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Buying Country Albums Was An Exercise In Futility

...yet I bought them.

Most people probably can't relate to my particular musical circumstances. I was one of the diehard country fans in the nineteen seventies who was not enamored with Johnny Cash. That left me options that were paltry. Johnny Cash was a persona. He wasn't a country artist; he was a folk singer. His three-chord ditties could be done by anyone -- heck, even I did them and I was a putrid guitar player. His songs were boom-chicka, boom-chicka, boom-chicka, boom-chicka. That's it. If it wasn't for the man that Cash was, he probably wouldn't have even gotten a recording contract. Country music, to me, was twin fiddles, steel guitar, and a voice that cried. I was a purist in a sea of muddy productions that yearned to be "relevant", which wasn't the allure of country music at all.

Looking back, John Denver was probably more country than the so-called country artists of the era. The Eagles were more country than the country hit-makers. No wonder Olivia Newton-John won Female Vocalist of the Year at the 1974 CMA's.

I liked Connie Smith, Faron Young, Merle, Johnny Rodriguez, and Gene Watson. In my early twenties, I was a fossil.

The new gal, Barbara Mandrell, had potential. There's no denying she was cute. She was tiny with huge hair. She could actually play an instrument. She liked real country, until she didn't. By the time she was sleeping single in a double bed, I was over her. Before that, though, she did songs that were "updated" country -- still country, but bowing to the hipness of the nineteen seventies. I wanted to be hip, too, so I decided Barbara would be my new go-to girl.

She did songs like this:

And this:

So I bought the Midnight Angel album. It had one good song, and that was the title track. That was my life of buying country albums, yet I persisted. It was apparently important to have that album cover on one's shelf. 

I bought Dave and Sugar. That's a relic of the seventies, if ever there was one.

Country albums were a retail lie. Stick the number one single on it and the rubes will buy it. Three dollars and ninety-nine cents in the bank!

The only artist who was making actual albums in the seventies was Merle. 

You can't count "Wanted:  The Outlaws". That was a slapped-together conglomeration of outtakes, the brainchild of a prescient record producer.

Certainly there were some other stellar albums released during the decade.

...but sadly, very few.

If one was to purchase albums, to, I guess, have on their shelf (singles were so much more prudent -- no waste -- and by the seventies, marked down to eighty-nine cents), here are some of the better bets:

Folks who don't know think the seventies were Kenny Rogers and Willie and Dolly. In fact, those artists were "almost eighties". There was a long-spanning decade between Tammy Wynette and Janie Fricke. One had to root out the Crystals and the Sylvias from the Gene Watsons. And trust me, there was a world of difference. If only for Gene Watson, the seventies were worth the pain.

Music is music is music. The vast majority of it is bad. We need to remember the jewels.

I still don't know what I'll ever do with my Barbara Mandrell albums, though.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Was Country In 1981 Really That Bad?

 Memories are strange, wondrous things. Sometimes a memory of a particular time in one's life is colored by a general "feeling"; perhaps a feeling of melancholy or boredom or apathy. At the ripe old age of twenty-six, I'd grown indifferent toward music. I'd actually begun listening to "oldies", which in that year consisted of fifties music I'd never heard the first time around. I know I'd grown cranky with country music, and it wasn't my fault. The production was sluggish -- soft tinkling pianos, a faint whiff of a violin; everything very quiet -- and producers were bending toward remakes of pop songs. Nashville wasn't even trying anymore; yet they expected me to buy their crap.

Granted, our country was as sluggish as the Nashville music scene, which didn't help. I might still be paying off the twenty-one per cent interest rate on my credit card purchases; I'm not sure. Anything I needed to buy -- for my kids or for the house -- essentially required a bank loan, which was nigh impossible to obtain, seeing as how everybody was defaulting so they could afford to fill their tanks with gas (thanks, Jimmy Carter). I could have done a better job running the country, and I was a dolt. Just when I was at my absolute poorest, our president was on TV lecturing me that it was my own damn fault, and that I just had a bad attitude. Just what I needed in my circumstances -- a stern lecture. He was like my mom. We had hostages in Iran, which Ted Koppel reminded us of every night on Nightline. "This is day four hundred and three."

MTV was created in 1981, but it hadn't hit my airwaves yet. Soon I would abandon country music for Dire Straits and Phil Collins.

What we remember from a particular year isn't necessarily what Google tells us to remember. In browsing the number one country hits from 1981, I find lots of gems. Why don't I remember those, instead of singles by Charly McClain and Sylvia and Crystal Gayle and Alabama? I don't think it's my fault. I blame my radio. It was as if the disc jockeys got together and conspired to play the absolute worst tracks over and over, because, frankly, they hated country and they needed to teach us a lesson. In hindsight, I turned away from country just as country was turning, and I missed the renaissance. I missed George Strait because of those damn DJ's. They kept feeding me, "Your nobody called today" until I found myself bent over the toilet bowl.

Here is a sampling of what the disc jockeys chose not to play over and over:

David Frizzell and Shelly West:

 Rosanne Cash:

The Oak Ridge Boys:

Eddie Rabbitt:

Anne Murray (sorry, no live performance video to be found, but I really like this):

Ronnie Milsap:

TG Sheppard (again, no live performance worth posting, but worth hearing in its glory):

Yes, Barbara Mandrell, when she was still country (when it wasn't cool):

This is what we (I) remember from 1981. Granted, I had a subscription to HBO and a second shift job, so I watched this movie approximately two thousand and fifty-one times in the pre-work afternoons, but the fact remains that this is what, like it or loathe it, will forever represent country music at that precise time:

Dolly Parton:


Country music in 1981 was better than I remember it, no thanks to my local DJ's. Truthfully, I would list at least three of these singles as classics. Which, once again, proves that my memory is woefully deficient and that Jimmy Carter messed with my brain.

I'm giving 1981 one thumb up.

Friday, June 23, 2017

1983 Was Not A Red-Letter Year In Country Music

In 1983 I was still driving my '76 Chevy Malibu. I liked it. It fit. It was also the first brand-new car I'd ever owned, so I felt like I had moved up in the world. I'd graduated from a used powder blue 1966 Chevrolet Impala to a they-saw-me-coming '74 Chevy Vega hatchback with the hue and texture of a can of Campbell's Cream of Tomato soup. Each of those cars had cost a couple hundred dollars at the most; the Malibu I had to finance! Sign papers for! The Malibu had a sometimes-it-works air conditioning system and tan folding faux leather seats. It was perfect, and it wasn't orange!

I didn't have far to travel in my tiny town -- my longest drive was north along Ninth Street to Mom and Dad's house; a fifteen-minute cruise if the stoplights didn't hit just right. I visited Mom and Dad a lot on sunny afternoons  -- my kids were in elementary school and I worked second shift. My days were free and Dad and Mom were my tether. Easing the Malibu into their driveway and spying Dad bent over in the front yard, yanking weeds from the flower bed, felt like home, even though I'd never ever lived in that house. I knew Mom would be upstairs in the kitchen, running a damp rag across the counter top, checking the Mr. Coffee to determine if it'd stopped dripping. I'd pull out a chair from the dining room table and Mom would offer me coffee and a slice of pie and we'd talk about nothing much. Dad would broach the stairs, swiping a handkerchief across his brow; pour himself a cup and ease his butt into an adjoining seat. I have no recollection of what those conversations entailed, but I remember that when I turned to go home, I always felt better -- stronger somehow.

Music was in the doldrums. I was on the verge of giving up on country, and soon I would. Shelly West was still basking in the after-glow of the Urban Cowboy fad and Crystal Gayle was a novelty, famous for her ridiculously long hair and the fact that she was Loretta Lynn's little sister. Sylvia was a producer's creation -- another try at Chet's Nashville Sound that was a long-time gone and hardly lamented. Alabama was still hanging around, as they were wont to do. Merle was on a down-slide; Charley Pride was still grasping onto the tattered shreds of his once-red-hot career. Even the artists I loved, like Ronnie Milsap and the Oaks, were looking at their careers in the rear-view mirror. John Conlee had exhausted his one big hit. Much like the late sixties, producers paired male and female voices, but the result was pop pap; as opposed to "After The Fire Is Gone". Country was lost and needed someone to save it. That someone hadn't yet ridden over the horizon.

Still, like any year in music, there were gems.

Alabama was on it's next-to-last gasp:

I think the first time I became aware of the Oak Ridge Boys was when they recorded Rodney Crowell's "Leavin' Louisiana In The Broad Daylight". Then I did a bit of digging and found that they were once a gospel band. As a Midwesterner, I was oblivious to gospel music. Alice and I, though, had seen the Statesmen as an opening act at one of the many country concerts we'd attended, and we'd gotten on board. The deep bass voice, the tenor, and the harmony parts had roped us in. The call and response.

For a time, country gospel became our new obsession. Of course, we were fourteen, so everything to us was brand new.

That history cemented my love for the Oak Ridge Boys, who had this hit song in 1983:

Along about July, a couple of old hands rode to the rescue:

Along about 1979, I talked Mom into attending an indoor rodeo with me. I told her that a new country artist would be performing in between the barrel racing and the calf roping. In the west, rodeos were not considered weird or corny. I'd been to lots of rodeos -- I was familiar with the eight-second rule for bull riders. It's not so much that I was a rodeo fan, but that live entertainment was sorely lacking in our town. We went to whatever the box office put forth. I was, however, enamored with Reba McEntire and had never seen her in person, so....

 Later, I would resent Reba for unnaturally expanding the boundaries of what could be called "country". She took advantage of her fame. She loved on-stage costume changes and male background dancers. But she was country once, and I'm happy I could introduce Mom to her voice.

The Number Eighty-Seven song of the year flew past me, because I'd by then long abandoned country music (as it had abandoned me).  It's funny how life works. Eighty-seven? Truly? This song rests firmly within my top twenty country songs of all time, and it only reached eighty-seven on the charts? Country fans needed a firm shake. (And speaking of rodeos):

The truth, though, sad as it may be, is that on my drive up Ninth Street to Mom and Dad's, with the seventeen-story Capitol Building casting its shadow across my sun visor, is that THIS is the song that 1983 will be remembered for. 

I remember that drive, and that day, so succinctly. I remember muttering to myself, "If I hear this song one more time, I'm going to stab my radio with a serrated carving knife."

Funny how time works. The song doesn't seem so bad now, thirty-four years after the fact. 


Friday, May 4, 2012

Back To Work ~ 1979 ~ And Music

When my youngest son was 6 months old, I knew the jig was up, and that I would have to go back to work.

It had been a nice sabbatical, if you call toddler/infant duty a sabbatical, but I enjoyed it.  I would have been happy to stay home awhile longer.  Alas, the checkbook spoke to me and told me otherwise, so off to find a job I scurried.

There was one of those signs along the street in front of our complex, advertising, "Future Site of LaBelle's".  And as we drove past it, I announced, "That's where I'm going to work.".  The pluses were that it was approximately 3 blocks from my home, and well, that's about it.  But I decided that I was going to get a job there.

Did you ever apply for a job for which you had no qualifications whatsoever, but you took what little experience you did have and twisted it into something that looked faintly like what the job required?  Well, who hasn't?  I had run a cash register at my mom and dad's business, so there you go.  Cash register experience.  Voila.

I don't know if anybody even remembers LaBelle's Catalog Showroom.  It apparently became defunct sometime in the mid-1980's.  But for awhile there, it was the thing.  It was a forerunner, I guess, of those warehouse stores, but on a much more pitiful scale.

There would be one of each object displayed on the shelves, and people would take one of those little stubby pencils and an order form and write down the item number, hand it to somebody, and the warehouse guys (who were just standing around with nothing much to do) would get right on it.

I worked in the "Will Call" department, which apparently meant that I would "call" people when their order came meandering up on the conveyer belt.  Another qualification I had for the job, now that I think about it, was a good speaking voice.  Because once the item finally trudged through those leather hanging strips, out to the front of the store, I would grab the little microphone off its wall mounting and announce, "Gary Pompandreaus, your order is ready at register three.  Gary Pompandreaus, register three please."

(Now that I think about it, I'm not so sure that everybody loved having everybody else in the store know that they were there, so that they'd all come running up to the cash register, clamoring, "What'd you get?", but that's how LaBelle's rolled.)

And the whole "register three" bit was sort of unnecessary.  There were generally two of us working the registers, and therefore, it didn't exactly matter which register somebody strolled up to.  We'd ring 'em up, regardless.  I wasn't going to be an ass and say to them, "No, I said register three!", and make them move one slot over.  Although, in hindsight, it would have been fun to grab that mic again and scold people publicly for their malfeasance.

I liked the job.  Sure, it got crazy at Christmas time, but that actually was much more interesting than standing around on a Wednesday night, ringing up a purchase every 20 minutes or so.  That could get boring and uncomfortable, seeing as how we had to wear high heels.  So more customers meant less time thinking about how much our feet hurt.

I even liked working the "returns" register.  Of course, times were different then.  Everybody (mostly) was polite, and we had a generous return policy.  It made me feel good to make customers happy, by just handing them their money back.  It's not like that now, is it?  They want you to bring three forms of ID, the original receipt, and heaven forbid if you've (gasp!) opened the package!  And then they begrudgingly hand you a slip of paper as "store credit".  But customer service is not exactly geared toward the "customer" anymore, is it?  They shouldn't even label the counter "Customer Service".  They should call it the, "What the hell do you want?  You're bothering me!" counter.

At the time I worked at LaBelle's, the cabbage patch doll craze was in full swing.  People were nuts about those dolls.  I sort of felt out of the loop, being a mother of boys.  And sadly, had I wanted one of those grotesque, large-headed babies, I could have had my pick.  I could have perused the shelves, picked out whichever cabbage baby was the least ugly, and had it set aside for me.  Too bad I wasn't working at LaBelle's when Transformers were popular.  I would have saved TONS of money.

Sadly, for me, retail didn't pay worth crap.  So, I didn't stay at LaBelle's long.  And apparently, LaBelle's didn't stay at LaBelle's long, either.  They folded up just a few years after I had moved on.  Their marketing concept was quaint, but they couldn't compete with the WalMarts, et al.  And really, when you think about it, would you like to stand around waiting for your item to come trudging up a conveyer belt, when you could much more quickly grab your crock pot from a WalMart shelf, and stand in line for 20 minutes, waiting to pay for it?

I don't even know if LaBelle's was a national chain.  I'm thinking it probably wasn't.  But for those of you who remember the store, here is one of their Christmas commercials (and really, cameras were dang expensive then!  I had me one of those SLR's, albeit a Minolta; not a Canon ~ purchased at LaBelle's with my employee discount ~ and I have lost all memory of the usurious amount I paid for that thing!  Now, we have digital crappy cameras, that you have to hold two feet from your face in order to focus on whatever object you're trying to snap, and you have little control, and generally, one lens, and you have to pull out your "memory card" and take it to a store and pick out your pics and have them print out, and most of them are throwaways, but dang!  Aren't those cameras cheap now!)

But 1979 wasn't just about getting back out into the working world.  There was also (country) music.

I have mostly foggy memories of many times of my life, but the music brings it all back.  That's what I love about music.

I will say, though, that nobody thought that 1979 country music was worth preserving on video, apparently, because most of it is just not there to share.  Maybe 1979 was a throwaway year?   I didn't think so.

But here is some of what I could find:

Don Williams ~ Tulsa Time

A haggard-looking Waylon Jennings ~ Amanda

Mel Tillis ~ Coca-Cola Cowboy

Charlie Daniels Band ~ The Devil Went Down To Georgia

T.G. Sheppard ~ Last Cheater's Waltz (sorry for the bad video quality)

Marty Robbins ~ All-Around Cowboy

Emmylou Harris ~ Blue Kentucky Girl (shhh, yes, you and I know that this was a Loretta Lynn song)

Oak Ridge Boys ~ Come On In

Hank Williams, Jr. ~ Family Tradition

(Hank, Jr. was always great at referring to himself in the third person ~ "Ol' Hank".  He couldn't quite pull it off like Jerry Lee did, though.  I once got up and walked out of a Hank Williams, Jr. concert.  Seriously, the only time I ever walked out of a concert.  In hindsight, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have walked out, but I would have stayed and been really bored.)

The Statler Brothers ~ How To Be a Country Star

Just give me some Jerry Lee Lewis any day (and he can call himself "Ol' Jerry Lee" as much as he wants, Hank.) ~ Rockin' My Life Away

Texas (When I Die) ~ Tanya Tucker

These videos, such as they are, remind me of how seminal 1979 really was in country music.  And those are just the videos I could find.  I couldn't find Eddie Rabbitt, nor Kenny Rogers, nor Anne Murray, among others.

I never before really put two and two together ~ my re-entry into the working life and my immersion in country radio.  But, you know, I had more important things on my mind then.

Two boys,

And not buying cabbage patch dolls.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Country Single

By 1981, I had had it with my parents' cast-off console stereo.  The sound that came out of it was a muffled, bassy grumble.  One could fiddle with the so-called controls, but nothing really ever changed, no matter how much I swirled those knobs around.

Also, by 1981, we had a little extra spending money.  We had finally paid off the hospital bills from my last maternity stay.  I remember the hospital calling me once, saying, "You have to give us more than $5.00 a month", and I replied, "That's all I have!"  And it was.  Often, the check register showed a balance of about $2.00 in those early days. 

We bought necessities at a discount store called "Tempo" (gee, wonder why that store went out of business).  The clothing items would practically fall to shreds before we got them into the trunk of our car.  We didn't have Target then, and certainly not WalMart.  We had Woolworth's...and Tempo.

But, by 1981, I was back at work, and we'd determined that we could afford to make payments on a new stereo "component system".  

So, off we went to a place called Pacific Sound, which was a little shop tucked inside what was generously called a mini-mall; a shop that you had to meander your way through some barely-lit hallways to find.  But it had a reputation as the place for audiophiles in my little town, and it wasn't Woolworth's, Sears, or JC Penney.

The sales guy obviously knew he had a "mark" when he saw us.  He dazzled us with his displays of various shiny sound things (which was basically what they were to me).  He spoke the language of output and channels and dynamics and equalization.  But all I could see was shiny sound things.

He told us we could mix and match different brands, which was just amazing to me, because my mixing and matching consisted of a JC Penney console stereo in a lovely artificial wood tone color that matched the faux-wood paneling in our living room.  But the one thing he insisted upon (insisted!) was that we purchase the Bang & Olufsen speakers, or B&O, as all the cool kids called them.  They were Swedish!  I guess that meant they were good.  Good, but wow ~ more than I wanted to spend ~ but then again, if you put something on credit, you're not actually paying for it, right?  I mean, not right now.  Our big worry was that we wouldn't get approved for credit.  How naive!  As I gained wisdom in my life, I realized that everybody gets approved for credit!  That's why we're all here where we are now, isn't it?

(And I still have those B&O speakers today.)

So, we got all the paperwork done, and got it all delivered and put together, and stood back and admired it all.

And then I played my country singles.

One memory I regret that I can't share with my husband is a reminiscence of favorite albums.

Country never was about albums.  It was about singles.  If I was asked what my favorite country album was from back in the 1960's/1970's, I would stammer something about, "The Best of......Buck Owens"?   The only concept albums I recall from the late 1960's were done by Merle Haggard, so maybe I would cite, "Hag", or "Let Me Tell You About a Song".  Even "Wanted:  The Outlaws" wasn't actually a concept album.  It was a bunch of leftover tracks thrown together by a producer and released as an after-thought.  Willie and Waylon didn't sit down together and decide how they were going to configure their new, great, groundbreaking release.  They didn't even know about it.

I bought a bunch of albums in the sixties by artists like Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Lynn Anderson, Buck Owens, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings, Porter & Dolly, Merle Haggard; and they all, except for Merle, just covered each others' songs.  Yes, Waylon, too.

I wasn't really all that keen on hearing Loretta's take on,  "I Don't Wanna Play House", or Tammy singing, "You Ain't Woman Enough".  I always figured (and still do) that the original version was (is) the best, so why bother or care? 

Music Row producers were focused on the next big hit single.  Then they would slap that on an album, and surround it with a bunch of filler.  They didn't give the public a whole lot of credit for being discerning, and, I guess they were sort of right, because we ate it all up.

Honestly, I owned (and still do) a whole ton of country albums from that period of time, and I can honestly say that there are maybe three or four that I've ever actually listened to all the way through.  Maybe five or six.

So, in 1981, after I got my new shiny sound machine, I slapped on some 45's.  Ones that I'd bought at Woolworth's.  I think you could get them for less than a buck, and I bought a lot of them.  But, in retrospect, I am now in possession of a bunch of singles that I can't even identify by their titles, because I just scooped up whatever was available, and the selection was woefully limited.  The singles were situated on an end cap; at the end of a long row of albums.  I didn't even shop the albums.  Which was strange, because I'd been a big album-buyer in my younger days.

It did seem like every time I went into Woolworth's to sift through the latest singles, my eye would catch this blue album with a cow's skull on the cover; something about the Best of the Eagles, and I thought, oh, another one of those rock groups that I'm not interested in.  I had no conception of the Eagles.  That was how splintered the musical genres were.  It's ironic that this so-called rock group that I turned my nose up at was more country than the country junk that I was piling up at the cash register.  I was late to the Eagles.

1981, though, did have some nice country singles.  And some bad country singles.  I bought all of them, willy-nilly.  I bought what I could find.

This song is one that has stayed with me, and I still love it. 

You're The Reason Got Made Oklahoma

Here are some other songs from 1981, that I'm sure I purchased.  That does not mean they have my stamp of approval.

I Was Country (When Country Wasn't Cool) ~ mmmm, no, but I still like Barbara.  It's just not a true statement.

Party Time ~ TG Sheppard

There is no decent performance video of this song.  I don't know why, because I love this.  So, I guess, listen to the record, like I used to do.

I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink 

Fancy Free  (I've posted a lot of videos on this blog, but this one, by far, has the best definition of any I have ever posted):

I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal

It's a Lovely, Lovely World (preceded by "I'll Be There") ~ Gail Davies

When I first heard "Lovely, Lovely World" on the radio, I was thrown, because I had no idea that my best friend, Alice, was on the radio.  Well, she wasn't.  It was Gail Davies.  But this is almost exactly what Alice sounded like.

Midnight Hauler ~ Razzy Bailey

Seven Year Ache

I can barely express how much I admire Rosanne Cash's music.  She had a few hits that year, but I like this one possibly the best.

Well after this next single was a hit, we got HBO.  I think it was one of those special deals ~ the first month free, and then $10.00 a month if you decide to keep it.  (Can you imagine?  $10.00?  I don't have HBO, but I bet it's way more than $10.00 now, and they don't even hardly have movies anymore!)

I watched the movie over and over, many times.  And it's still a fun film.  Sometimes it's available on "On Demand"; sometimes one can catch it on one of the free channels.  And I always pause and watch at least part of it. 

Kudos to the person who put this video together; "ifonlytheeighties".  It makes me want to watch the movie again, for the 89th time.

Waylon & Jessi ~ Storms Never Last

So, you see, there were a lot of nice singles for me to buy in 1981, and to play on my new shiny stereo system.

There are more that I remember (in scanning the list of top singles for the year), but, you know how it goes.  Videos are often impossible to find.  Other songs, well, I've featured them in other posts.  That doesn't mean they're not good; it actually means they're really good.  I just didn't want to repeat myself.

Sure, I'd slap on an album, if I was busy cooking, or cleaning.  But if I was really listening to music, and just listening to music, it was the singles, I'm afraid.

Billy Sherrill would say, "See?  I told you so."

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Music Cycle

I distinctly remember, around 1980 or so, desperately searching for some good music. Anything!

1980 was kind of a seminal year for me, because it was shortly after this time that I just finally GAVE UP on country music. I mean, gave up. I think Charley Pride did it. (Thanks, Charley!)

I remember house-sitting for my parents when they took their trip to Vegas. I had my four-year-old, and my two-year-old, and me just hanging around, kind of faux-housecleaning, and tuning the stupid console stereo to the country station, and longing...yes, LONGING for one, just ONE, decent country song.

I had gotten the Thorn Birds from the library, so that was a nice distraction, but something was still missing. And that missing piece was some decent country music.

You see, there was no such thing as DECENT country music in 1980.

You can look back now, and pinpoint some classic songs, but truthfully, if one is honest, it was all Crystal Gayle and Sylvia, and others. And this chart will point the way.

It was a sad, demoralizing time for country music.

I just scrolled through the chart, and I don't even recognize most of these songs. That's how bad it was.

Sure, I can pick out some good ones. But that really doesn't give you the flavor of 1980.

I would hate to be someone who charted in that year, because, well, if you were still doing concerts, you'd have approximately three people show up for your show, and two of them would have been dragged by their wives, just to keep peace in the family.

Country music in 1980 deserved what it got.

I wonder sometimes about cycles in popular music, and what causes them. Is it societal? Does the culture dictate what kind of music is created?

If we're feeling complacent, and not challenged, is the music complacent and unchallenging? The answer must be yes.

But what about music now?

One would think that the times we're living in would create angst and disharmony. Instead, it's blase. Maybe everyone has just given up.

In the sixties, everyone was ticked off. They were all mad about the war and about this and that, or at least they pretended to be mad, when they weren't prancing around with flowers in their hair. And look at the music of the sixties. It was great!

1980? I don't know. I'm thinking, we were at the tail end of that "long malaise" that the guy in the White House told us we were in. Way to buck everybody up, there, Jimmy! Such inspiring words!

And thus, the music on the radio was still malaise-ackal, as well. The music said, "Really, we just don't care. Don't listen to us ~ we're hideous! Just like the economy!"

Amazingly, after 1980, the music started looking up! Coincidence? I think not.

The nineteen eighties were really some of the best times country music has ever seen. If you don't believe me, check out these songs and artists.

So, maybe if things get better, the music will get better? There's always hope.

Like I said earlier, you can pick out the good songs from any year, even a crummy one. And that's what I'm going to do.

I don't feel like depressing myself, or you, and as you know, my motto is, music should be fun.

So, no Sylvia; no Crystal; no Charley Pride (sorry, Charley).



Sorry about the re-route. I don't know what's up with that, but at least this video works!

One of the best country voices EVER ~ GENE WATSON


Sorry, no performance video available of this song, but I still feel it needs to be included:



It's becoming an unfortunate pattern that I am not finding performance videos of some of the best songs of 1980, but to leave them out would be unthinkable:


I honestly didn't even remember that this song charted on the country charts in 1980, because this isn't a country song. Is it? Yes, to me, it's an homage to Roy Orbison, so I guess, since Roy charted on the country charts, why not JD SOUTHER? Plus, I love this song! So, fine by me!

My son probably wouldn't admit it, but he was obsessed with this TV show in 1980. Remember, he was four.

So, we had to rush home on Friday nights (from Happy Joe's Pizza Parlor) to tune in to CBS to watch Bo and Luke. This was one of the worst shows I was ever forced to watch (ha!), but I did it for my kid.

By the way, my son, Chris, thought the sheriff's name was Roscoe PEE-Co-Train, when, in fact, it was Roscoe P. Coltraine. I'm sure he knows the difference now.

Here is WAYLON JENNINGS (at least here are his hands):

(Note to YouTube posters ~ you can "disable embedding by request" all you want. One can find ANYTHING on the internet. It wasn't hard, really. And by the way, who is requesting that you disable embedding? CBS? This show was 32 years ago, for God's sake! Do you (CBS) think someone is going to steal your "intellectual property"? C'mon).

So, here we are. The best songs from a bad, bad year in country music.

Yes, you think, well, these are pretty good! Sure! I cherry-picked them! Just check out my Wikipedia link to see all the bad ones! You know, ten songs, out of all the records released in a year, is a woefully bad percentage.


Just trust me on this ~ it was a bad year. I was there.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. Aren't you forgetting one, oh Sage?

No, I didn't forget it.

Here's the deal. When anybody says, "This is the best song EVER. The best song that mankind ever created", well, I kind of bristle at that. The truth is, there is no such thing as the best song ever. There could be a best song today. A best song that you like a whole lot, because you heard it on the radio when you were driving to work, and you forgot how much you liked it, but now you think you should get home and download it, because it's the best song EVER. At least, that's how you feel today. Tomorrow, there will be a new best song.

So, I like Bobby Braddock's and Curly Putman's writing a lot. They wrote a ton of classic country songs.

And this is a good song. No doubt. But is it the best country song ever? No.

Because there is no such thing.

But no, I'm not going to leave out GEORGE JONES.

So, eleven. Eleven good songs from 1980. And you could quibble about whether a couple of them are even country songs. That's a bad average.

I guess, though, you could take any year and dissect it, and find that there weren't a whole lot of good songs. But music is meant to be taken in its entirety. Our brains don't sort songs by year (leave that job to me ~ ha).

I do find it interesting, however, that when you take even a bad year like 1980, the usual suspects pop up ~ the classic artists ~ Merle, Gene, Emmylou, Ronnie, George, Roy (of course), Waylon. There aren't any one-hit wonders (and JD Souther, by the way, wrote some classic songs for the Eagles, so no, he's not a one-hit wonder, either).

The cream rises to the top. Even in 1980.