Showing posts with label tg sheppard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tg sheppard. Show all posts

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, 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."