Today’s Single Of The Day looks back to one of Kitty Wells’ top 10 hits, “Left To Right”. Released by Decca in March, 1960, the single debuted on the chart on April 18, beginning a climb that would eventually make it to the number 5 position on the Billboard rankings. “Left To Right” was Kitty’s 37th chart single, and the 24th to make it into the top 10.
As songs go, it’s pretty standard fare for Kitty and for country music of that era, in general. The jilted wife who has learned her spouse is leaving, rather than completely letting go, will continue to show her love for him by wearing her wedding band on her right hand, instead of the left.
This is the kind of song that Kitty did so well and successfully, that her fans expected. While the accompaniment is still dead-on country, by this time, you are starting to hear a little softening in Kitty’s vocal style, likely a combination of the maturation of the voice as it aged, along with the then-newer method of placing the microphone closer to the singer. You could say she lost some of that nasal sound, basically.
A good, solid record from one of country music’s all-time great legends.
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Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable, in the CD player, or in the MP3 files. Today’s Classic Album Review looks back into the discography of country music hall of famer Kitty Wells, as we pull out her 1962 effort, Singing On Sunday. Decca Records issued the album in June, making it her ninth studio album and twelfth, overall. Country albums were not yet given their own charts in 1962, so this album has no chart performance. There were also no singles released from this album.
The album opens with the catchy title track, “Singing On Sunday”. I’d have to say it’s one of the album’s best tracks. Great melody, just an irresistible piece.
“Paul’s Ministry” is the next track. A slower tempo piece, telling the story of Paul. An okay track, but not anything particularly special.
On the other hand, you have to like “Too Far From God”. Nice, bouncy piece, and of course, an outstanding performance from Kitty Wells, which is to be expected. I’d argue that Kitty is one of country music’s most underrated vocalists, when it comes to the inspirational side.
The mid tempo’d “Do You Expect A Reward From God” is a nice track; nothing too spectacular, just a solid composition from Johnny and Walter Bailes, with a great message.
Of course, “The Wings Of A Dove” is one of the all-time great country sacred pieces, having spent ten weeks at number one in 1960 for Ferlin Husky. While no one can touch the Husky version, Kitty’s take on the track is a more-than-solid effort, worthy of praise.
Side one ends with “The Footsteps Of My Lord”, comparing the thunder to being the Lord’s footsteps (along with other things such as babies crying. I like this track, a good end to the first side.
Side two opens with “Wait A Little Longer, Please Jesus”, which certainly has to be one of the more recorded pieces in country-sacred music history. And this is one of the best versions I have heard of this track. Great piece, which Kitty performs flawlessly.
“I’ll Reap My Harvest In Heaven” has that old-time church feel to it, feeling like a song that might have been performed in a little country church, somewhere. Not quite a hymn, but it has that feel.
“How Far Is Heaven” was culled from Kitstty’s discography, having been a number eleven single in late Spring, 1956. Featuring Kitty’s daughter, Carol Sue, singing the child’s part. A sad song, typical of that era, the little girl wants to go to Heaven, where her daddy has just gone (we’re not told how). While it’s a little too morbid for me, I’m sure that it ranks highly among many of Kitty Wells’ fans.
Another often-heard track, over the years, especially in the 1950’s-1960’s era of country music is “Gathering Flowers For The Master’s Bouquet”. Again, it’s hard to find a version much better than Kitty’s.
“Sinner, Kneel Down And Pray”, a bouncy track from the pen of Johnny Bailes. I’d rank it almost has good as The Bailes Brothers’ classics “Dust On The Bible” and “(I’ve Got) My One-Way Ticket To The Sky”. Great track.
The album wraps with the quick moving “That Glory Bound Train”. I really like this one (and not just because it includes a railroad theme, though that helps). Great ending track for this very good album.
This album is out of print, but did last long enough to make it at least into the 8-track era. Originally, this album was released in both mono and stereo versions. I did find a few used copies, but a little pricey, most at least $15, and a couple as high as $50.
My Standout Track pick is the title cut, “Singing On Sunday”, while I give “Sinner, Kneel Down And Pray” the Hidden Gem. “Paul’s Ministry” gets the Weakest Track, simply just didn’t do much for me.
Overall, a very good collection of sacred country music from The Queen Of Country Music. This was her second sacred collection, following the 1959 classic Dust On The Bible, an album I rank as one of the three best sacred country albums of all-time. While this collection isn’t quite as good, it’s still strong enough to merit a 4 out of 5.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1962, classic country, country albums, country gospel, Country Music, country oldies, Decca Records, Gathering Flowers For The Master's Bouquet, Kitty Wells, Singing On Sunday, Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always around. It’s a various artists collection for today’s Classic Album Review. Classic Country Duets, a 1985 MCA release, featured ten tracks from artists affiliated with MCA, as well as it’s predecessors, Decca and Dot.
The album starts out with a hit from Don Williams and Emmylou Harris, their 1982 top five hit, “If I Needed You”. Their voices work pretty well, together, but the real highlight of this track, is the composition, itself. Great piece of writing.
Next, a track lifted from the Barbara Mandrell Spun Gold album, is a Mandrell duet with Steve Wariner, “Overnight Sensation”. An average piece that really has very little country to it, the sound is mainly 1980’s Adult Contemporary.
While the previous track really couldn’t be considered a “classic”, the next track has not problem falling into that category. “For Loving You”, the first in a series of duets for Bill Anderson and Jan Howard, spent a month at number one, at the end of 1967. Great track.
Remember, this album was released in 1985, when older performances weren’t nearly as readily available as they are now, so it was great to see the inclusion of the Jack Greene and Jeannie Seely hit “Wish I Didn’t Have To Miss You”. Easily the best of their duets, together, this just missed number one, at the start of 1970. Hank Cochran co-wrote the song; he and co-writer Dave Kirby surely had these two in mind when writing it, as it’s perfect for their vocals.
Side one ends with a track that features Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn. I guess using the term “classic”, they were referring more to the performers, as opposed to the performances. “Sweet Thang” was a single, but missed the Country 40 in 1968 (whereas the version by Nat Stuckey was a top five hit). While it’s a decent performance, I would have rather seen “Mr. And Mrs. Used To Be” included.
The other really inexplicable addition opens side two, a Lee Greenwood and Barbara Mandrell duet from their Meant For Each Other album titled “Soft Shoulder”. Not even the best track on their album, why someone at MCA would use this over, say their hit, “To Me”, is beyond me. A fast-paced track, the performance is good, but the song is average.
There is a level of redemption, though, with the inclusion of the Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn number one classic “After The Fire Is Gone”. Do I really need to say anything about this outstanding recording?
Though not a hit, I am glad they did include the 1956 single from Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells, “Goodbye Mr. Brown”. Great piece of country music; one has to wonder why it wasn’t a hit.
While The Kendalls didn’t have any real success until “Heaven’s Just A Sin Away” on the Ovation label, they did spend time with Dot in the early 1970’s, releasing several singles, including three minor chart entries on covers of “Leavin’ On A Jet Plane”, “Two Divided By Love”, and “Everything I Own”. Yet, rather than one of those, a track from their only Dot album, a cover of “Never Ending Song Of Love”, was used, instead. Actually, the strongest of the three non-singles included on this album. Good bouncy, infectious track.
The album ends with a 1978 top ten hit for Merle Haggard and then-wife, Leona Williams. “The Bull And The Beaver” is an up-tempo piece of a man and woman flirting (to say the least) on their CB’s. Not the greatest song of Merle’s career, but it is a likable song.
Now out of print, I did run across a few used copies, most in the $5-$10 range. I found used copies on vinyl, cassette, as well as compact disc.
Albums like this are difficult to pick a Standout or Hidden Gem (though you could argue the Kendalls track, here), since there are usually a plethora of hits, though not so much, here.
Overall, it’s a decent compilation that really could have been better, by simply exchanging a couple of tracks, but still utilizing the same artists. With the advent of digital technologies, most, if not all of these tracks are available, elsewhere. I rate it a 3 out of 5.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1985, After The Fire Is Gone, Barbara Mandrell, Bill Anderson, classic country, Classic Country Duets, Conway Twitty, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Decca Records, Don Williams, Dot Records, Emmylou Harris, Ernest Tubb, For Loving You, If I Needed You, Jack Greene, Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely, Kitty Wells, Lee Greenwood, Leona Williams, Loretta Lynn, MCA Records, Merle Haggard, Roy Acuff, Steve Wariner, Sweet Thang, The Bull And The Beaver, The Kendalls, Wish I Didn't Have To Miss You
Greetings from Asheville. Well, by now, you have likely heard of the passing of the Queen Of Country Music, Kitty Wells. Kitty passed away on Monday, from stroke complications, at the age of 92. Kitty, born Muriel Deason, had been married to Johnny Wright, of Johnny & Jack, who had passed away, just under ten months ago.
For anyone who may not be overly familiar with Kitty, she was the first female superstar soloist in Country music. Patsy Montana, Cousin Emmy, and Rosalie Allen were a few preceding acts who had gained some level of popularity, but none had reached the level that Kitty Wells was about to reach, during the Summer of 1952. Kitty had been performing since the late 1930’s (largely with her husband), and had even made a few records during the latter part of the 1940’s, but the sides had met with little success. As 1952 dawned, she was considering retirement, when, according to several sources, she was approached by Decca’s Paul Cohen about recording the song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”. She agreed, and in early May, the track was laid down. “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” was an answer song to “The Wild Side Of Life”, itself a huge hit for Hank Thompson, at the time. Both songs shared the same melody, along with earlier Country hits “I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes” and “The Great Speckled Bird”. Kitty’s record made it’s debut on the charts, sixty years ago, this week, July 19th, to be exact. In late August, it ascended to number one, where it would spend six total weeks, and became the first-ever number one hit for a female vocalist.
Kitty’s next to chart hits were also answer songs; “Paying For That Back Street Affair”, which was an answer to the Webb Pierce hit, “Back Street Affair”. That record would climb as high as six in the Spring of 1953, while her next chart hit, “Hey Joe” (an answer song to the Carl Smith hit), would peak at eight in the Fall. Kitty’s next big hit came in the Summer of 1954, when she teamed with Decca label-mate Red Foley, on the number one hit, “One By One”. In 1955, eight Kitty Wells records would make the charts, including big hits with Red Foley (“As Long As I Live”, “Make Believe (Til We Can Make It Come True)”, as well as yet another of her classics, “Making Believe”. “Making Believe” holds a mark of it’s own, with a fifteen week run at number two, never hitting number one, thanks to Webb Pierce’s “In The Jailhouse Now”, interestingly enough, also a Decca release.
1956 saw the start of tumultuous times in Country music, thanks largely to Rock ‘N Roll. Nearly all of Country music’s top acts were adversely affected, some more than others, in fact, some were never able to recover, while others eventually were able to adapt to the differing sounds exploding onto the Country scene, caused not only by the Rock, but also the new smooth style soon-to-be-known as The Nashville Sound. It’s interesting to note that during this time, Kitty Wells continued to be a regular presence on the chart, with 10 appearances during that 1956-57 period, including another of her big hits, “Searching”, which peaked at three, during the Summer of 1956.
While there was never any doubt as to what kind of singer Kitty Wells was, even she adapted to the newer sounds as her career progressed. As the 1960’s dawned, the hard edge was gone, replaced by a slightly softer style, both in her vocals and the production of Owen Bradley. No doubt that the adjustment helped keep Kitty as a chart and top ten regular, during the first half of the decade, scoring top ten hits such as “”Unloved, Unwanted” (1962), “Will Your Lawyer Talk To God” (1962), “This White Circle On My Finger” (1964), and “I’ll Repossess My Heart” (1965). And there was also one more number one hit, “Heartbreak U. S. A.”, which spent a month on top in 1961.
Kitty Wells made her last Country 40 appearance in 1968 with “My Big Truck Drivin’ Man”, a recent Ultimate Twang Single Of The Day (read about it, here), which peaked at thirty-five. In all, there were sixty-four country 40 singles for Kitty Wells, with thirty-five making the top ten, and three hitting number one. Ironically, Kitty never had a duet hit with her husband, Johnny Wright, yet did chart duet hits with Red Foley and Webb Pierce, and also made a Country 40 appearance with Roy Drusky. Album-wise, she recorded thirty-six long plays (excluding compilations and reissues), with twelve charting. 2 hits packages (The Kitty Wells Story, Kitty Wells’ Greatest Hits) also charted. Of the fourteen total, five would make the top ten, with 1967’s Queen Of The Honky Tonk Street achieving the highest peak, at five.
This Thursday’s edition of the Ultimate Twang Radio Show will feature several hits from Kitty Wells. The show can be heard, worldwide, on the Asheville Free Media site (click here), beginning at 4p EST.
For more on the life and passing of Kitty Wells, here is the story from Yahoo! Click here.
And here is CMT’s coverage of her passing. Click here.
Several of Kitty’s albums have also been featured on our Classic Album Review, including…
Categories: Artists, Music, & Radio Tags: Decca Records, Heartbreak USA, It Was't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, Makin' Believe, One By One, Owen Bradley, Paying For That Back Street Affair, Red Foley, Searching, Webb Pierce
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable. Today, it’s a look back at some incredible career achievements in Country music, that, frankly, aren’t going to happen, again; or at least, very unlikely. The number one hit is something that nearly every artist, who decides to make music for a living, strives for, yet so few achieve. Almost as difficult, is the hit song. Yes, there are thousands of tracks and singles that have made the Country charts since 1944, but even that pales in comparison to the number that haven’t, not to mention the thousands of men and women who, despite their efforts, never even make it into a recording studio. With all of that, it makes these achievements even more incredible.
5. George Jones 145 Country 40 Appearances.
While it might not be completely inconceivable that George Strait could challenge this mark, I say it’s highly unlikely, given that Strait, at age 60, is sitting at 96, as of this writing. He’d have to chart 3 tracks a year for the next fourteen years, maybe a little sooner if he were to get credit as a guest on someone else’s release. George Jones, either as a solo, part of a duet, or as a guest, set this mark between 1955 and 2005, a fifty year spread. Seventy-eight of those tracks and singles made the top ten, and George is one of the very few who can lay claim to have made the Country 40 with singles that were released, during his time, on 78, 45, and CD single.
4. Kitty Wells Spends Fifteen Weeks At Number Two.
It happened in 1955, when her hit, “Making Believe” climbed to the runner-up spot, but was denied a number one placing by Webb Pierce’s “In The Jailhouse Now”, a twenty-one week number one hit. That takes us to number three.
3. A Track Spends Twenty Or More Weeks At Number One.
It’s only happened five times; “I’ll Hold You In My Heart” by Eddy Arnold, “I’m Movin’ On” by Hank Snow, and the aforementioned Webb Pierce “In The Jailhouse Now” have all claimed twenty-one weeks on top, while Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms” and Hank Snow’s “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” spent twenty. Why won’t it happen again? Well, consider that the Ray Price record was the last to do it…in 1956. The last time a record spent at least ten weeks on top was when Buck Owens’ “Love’s Gonna Live Here” topped the charts for sixteen weeks in 1963.
2. Eddy Arnold has 5 Of the Top 10 Songs.
It’s true. One week in June, 1948, The Tennessee Plowboy could count five tracks in the top ten. They included “Bouquet Of Roses”, “Anytime”, What A Fool I Was”, “I’ll Hold You In My Heart”, and “Texarkana Baby”.
1. Hank Williams Jr. Charts 9 Albums Simultaneously.
Unless Billboard changes it’s methodology, this will not happen, again, as after a certain amount of time passes, albums automatically leave the main chart for the catalog chart. But it was different in the 1980’s, when at one point, nine of Hank’s albums were on the Country charts. Others may have scored more number one singles, but when it came to selling albums and tapes, Hank Jr. was the man of the ’80’s in Country music.
There are some other interesting feats to consider, that didn’t make the top five. For instance, Eddy Arnold’s five uninterrupted number one hits in 1948, where each one replaced the previous single at the top spot. Very unlikely to happen, again, as well. There is also the year of 1960, where only five number one hits were recorded. All spending ten or more weeks at number one. Unlikely to happen again? Yes. Impossible? No. Two other marks of note, that are unlikely to fall, anytime soon, but can’t completely rule it out, are George Burns’ mark of scoring a Country 20 hit at 84 years of age, as well as Willie Nelson topping the charts at 70, courtesy of his duet with Toby Keith on “Beer For My Horses”. With Willie still around, it may be unlikely, but wouldn’t be totally shocking if he were to top either one of those marks.
Categories: History Tags: Anytime, Bouquet Of Roses, classic country, Country Music, country oldies, Eddy Arnold, George Burns, George Jones, George Strait, Hank Snow, Hank Williams Jr., History, I'll Hold You In My Heart, I'm Movin' On, Kitty Wells, Ray Price, Texarkana Baby, Webb Pierce, What A Fool I Was, Willie Nelson