Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable. This Classic Album Review remembers a various artist collection from 1966. Columbia’s Welcome To Music City U. S. A. features fourteen tracks from most of Columbia’s roster of the day. Included are superstars like Johnny Cash, Ray Price, and Marty Robbins. Now here’s the deal on this album; it’s billed as a live album, designed to make the consumer think it was an actual show featuring all these acts, with veteran Carl Smith providing the hosting duties. Truth is, though, Columbia had Smith record the intros, then mixed them, along with audience sound effects, with studio recordings, trying to simulate a concert sound. This was a normal practice in that era.
As for the hits, there are several, here. They include a stereo re-record of Carl Smith’s “Let’s Live A Little”, along with Marty Robbins’ “Ribbon Of Darkness”. Also, Carl & Pearl Butler’s “Loving Arms” and Claude King’s classic “Wolverton Mountain”. Plus the chart single “Slipping Around” from George Morgan and Marion Worth.
The additional recordings include Little Jimmy Dickens’ take on the Roy Acuff classic “Night Train to Memphis”, a version I’ve always thought is among the best of the stereo era. An exciting sound that is among Dickens’ best work.
Another great track that happens to be an Acuff classic, as well, is Flatt & Scruggs’ take on “Wabash Cannonball”. Simply put, Lester and Earl never did a bad track.
While those outside of the West Coast may not be familiar with the name Billy Mize, you’ve heard his work with the steel guitar on several records, particularly those of Merle Haggard. Also, he’s been a popular TV host in Bakersfield, California, as well as enjoying some success as a singer and songwriter, including 2 Country 40 hits. Here, he sings a song he wrote, “Terrible Tangled Web”. A catchy piece, Billy had a good voice that is somewhat reminiscent of Roger Miller or Jimmy Wakely.
There is a track from piano great, Del Wood. “(Down At) Papa Joe’s” is more Dixieland than Country, but it shows Wood at her best, which is playing that style of music. The song had been a top 10 pop hit in 1963 for the Dixiebelles, who were actually the Anita Kerr Singers.
The Stonewall Jackson track used, is a rather ordinary title, “Poor Red Georgia Dirt”. Despite the song being rather ordinary, Stonewall shows, once again, that he is one of country music’s most underrated vocalists.
The Harden Trio’s take on George Jones’ hit “The Race Is On” is the weakest track on the album. The track, itself, isn’t bad, but whoever did the audience overdubs, didn’t do a great job, here, in their placement.
The Tommy Collins track used here, is a track titled “A Man Gotta Do What A Man Gotta Do”, is an alright track, nothing special, though.
The album wraps with a couple of extremely good tracks. First, Johnny Cash & The Carter Family’s take on “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)”. Great song, to begin with, and their version is awesome. Then, the last track is Ray Price’s version of the Floyd Tillman song “This Cold War with You”. All I can say is its vintage Ray Price.
Long out of print, I did find a few used copies for sale. Both mono and stereo copies have been ranging between $3 and $20.
Overall, this is a very good mix of hits and album cuts from a good mix of artists. From the musical selection, standpoint, credit must be given to whomever made those decisions. From this aspect, the album comes off as a nice various artist compilation. On the other hand, the attempt to make it sound like a live show doesn’t come off well. Still, not a bad album to pick up, if you can get it at a good price.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
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ABOUT THE GUY WHO WRITES THESE THINGS
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.