Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable. Webb Pierce. Of the most unique voices ever put to vinyl, tape, or CD. He possessed a nasally, somewhat twangy, higher pitched voice that admittedly, is not for everyone. But for those of us who are fans (that would include myself), it’s the voice behind some of the best records to come out of country music in the 1950’s. During the 1950’s, he was one of the hottest acts in country music, scoring no less than forty-seven chart entries, including twelve number one hits. In the 1960’s, he continued to be a chart regular, making thirty-five more appearances, with fifteen more top tens. Like country music in general, the 1960’s Webb was a softer, slicker version of what had been heard in the previous decade. That is very apparent on today’s album, “Sweet Memories”, from February 1966.
Webb kicks things off with a decent version of the Claude King hit, “Wolverton Mountain”. It’s more up tempo than the hit version, but the singing seems a bit uninspired.
“Send Me the Pillow You Dream On” is better. The song, a hit for Hank Locklin and pop hit for Dean Martin, works rather well with Webb’s vocal style. This track improves significantly over the opening track. You’ll notice that Webb pretty much reaches his upper vocal limit on this track. An interesting thing about Webb, is that unlike most other singers, when Webb reaches that limit, he usually doesn’t sound like he’s struggling to get there.
“Who Do I Think I Am” is the best track on the album. It was the main single, reaching the Billboard country top fifteen in the fall of 1965. A midtempo ballad, I like this recording; it should have been a bigger hit.
“Life’s Gone and Slipped Away” is typical 1960’s country, which isn’t a bad thing. While there’s nothing particularly special about this track, it’s not a bad number. Very listenable.
Think “Welcome to My World”, and you think Jim Reeves. Not a terrible track, but it doesn’t quite Webb’s twangy, nasally style. But he pulls it off better than one might expect.
“Ready” wraps up side 1. A cut that Webb also wrote, it is one of the album’s best tracks. Good country, right here. One of those “should have been a single” cuts.
For those keeping score at home, we’ve come to side 2. Here, Webb opens with his version of the Buck Owens classic “Love’s Gonna Live Here”. Webb does a sterling version that does not disappoint the listener.
On the other hand, the listener may be disappointed with “Here Comes My Baby”; I know I was. Webb’s cover of the Dottie West hit, misses badly, right down to turning “baby” into “baaugghhbeee”, about halfway through the song.
“The Hobo And The Rose” was a minor chart entry for Webb that uses the oft-used subject matter of the rich young girl and poor young boy falling in love, only to be prevented from being together by the girl’s father, so he winds up becoming a hobo, and they are only reunited briefly, as he lay dying after a beating. These kinds of songs do nothing for me, but many love those kinds of songs. For them, this is a great recording well done by Webb.
On the other hand, we have “The Champ”. Another story song, this one a recitation about a fighter who’s told by doctors he will die if he returns to the ring. But he does, anyway, to make money to pay for his daughter’s life-saving surgery. He wins, then dies. The recitation is by Jackie Fargo, a popular wrestler in the southeast in the ’60’s and ’70’s. This one misses badly.
A nice recovery, though, with “Fool”. A great song that Webb performs well, though I like a later version he did, better. That later version appeared in the fall, 1967, renamed “Fool Fool Fool”, and became Webb’s last top ten hit. Compared to the single version, this one is not as heavy with the arrangements or backing vocals. That’s usually good, but in this case, I like the bigger arrangement, better.
Lastly, we come upon the title cut, “Sweet Memories”, one of the better cuts on the disc. We are reminded that Webb is not limited to twangy, traditional, honky tonk sounds. He could also handle a ballad very well, when given the right one. “Sweet Memories”, released as a single in November 1965, it failed to chart in Billboard. The story was different in Cashbox, though. There the record peaked at 13.
This isn’t Webb’s best album. But it’s not a terrible album, either. While it may not be an album that would win Webb new fans, unlike his earlier material, for those already entrenched in the Webb Pierce fan corner, it is an album you should like. There Are some good tracks, as well as a couple of not-so-good ones.
But what say you? Think I’m on target or off base? Either way, I’d love to read your comments.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
ABOUT THIS GUY WHO THINKS HE’S A BLOGGER
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, model railroader, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.