Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable, or in the CD player. Today’s Single Of The Day was a 1958 double-sided hit for Webb Pierce. One of the most unique voices ever to be heard in Country music, Webb Pierce enjoyed quite a career that would culminate in induction to the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2001. Eighty-four times between 1952 and 1971, Webb could be seen on the Country 40, with fifty-four making the top ten, and thirteen climbing to number one, all on the Decca label. Today’s single counts for two of his top ten hits, as the sides were tabulated by Billboard as separate entries.
The ballad “Cryin’ Over You” was the first side to chart, debuting in early May. It would also be the higher peaking side, climbing number three. The flip-side, “You’ll Come Back”, was a bouncy up-tempo song that made a brief top ten appearance, peaking at ten, following it’s early June debut. Both tracks were a bit of a throwback for Webb, going back to his harder edged sound that first brought him fame, before the onslaught of Rock ‘N’ Roll, which forced Webb, like many other artists, to make some changes to his sound to try to sell records, with mixed results.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable or in the CD player. Today’s Classic Album Review looks back to a vintage Webb Pierce piece, from January, 1964. Sands Of Gold was the fifteenth album to be released on Webb, by Decca Records. Never charting, the album contained three hit singles, including two top tens, “Those Wonderful Years”, as well as the title cut.
The album kicks off with one of several covers found on the collection, Webb’s take on the Hank Locklin classic “Please Help Me I’m Falling”. Given that Webb Pierce and Hank Locklin had vocal styles that were similar, it’s no real surprise that Webb does a version comparable to the hit.
The Summer of 1963 saw Webb in the top ten, with the title cut, “Sands Of Gold”. One of Webb’s more pop-sounding hits, the medium tempo is mixed with a rhythm that has a slight Caribbean feel. It may be the only Webb Pierce hit, where bongo’s can be heard.
One of the album’s Hidden Gem contenders is next, in the pure country bouncer, “Blue Mood”. While Webb does a credible job on the more pop sounding tracks, it’s here that he really excels.
Another decent cover is Webb’s version of the Carl and Pearl Butler hit, “Don’t Let Me Cross Over”. Not quite as hard-edged as the Butler version, but still straight country music.c
Webb Pierce singing Bobby Vinton??? It’s true, as Webb tackles “Roses Are Red (Violets Are Blue)”. A bit surprising is that it’s not nearly as awkward as one might imaging. While it doesn’t rate the same level as the Vinton classic, Credit must be given to Webb Pierce for doing a decent take.
Side one ends with another Hidden Gem contender. I really like the R & B-influenced rhythm of “My Love For You”. This medium tempo’d track is nailed by Webb Pierce.
Side two opens with one of the big hits of 1963, just not for Webb. ”Detroit City” scored twice; early in the year as a Country twenty hit for Billy Grammer (under the title “I Wanna Go Home”), then as a top ten country/pop hit for Bobby Bare. It’s a solid piece, under the production of Owen Bradley. Webb takes elements of both hit versions and melds them together, well.
Another Webb hit that has a strong pop feel, is “Those Wonderful Years”, in fact, take out the steel guitar, it’s a pure top 40 sound for that era. Somewhat surprisingly, though, Webb doesn’t sound out of place, here, handling the track, pretty well.
The tempo picks up, some, with Webb’s cover labelmate Jimmie Davis’ classic “Nobody’s Darling But Mind”. Good, solid effort, here.
The only single to miss the top ten was “If The Back Door Could Talk”, which, in the Fall of 1963, just missed the top ten, while the flip, “Those Wonderful Years”, was breaking into the top ten. One of my favorite Webb Pierce 1960′s works, here. Simply a classic.
“True Love Never Dies” feels oddly out of place, here. The track, recorded in October, 1958, harkens back to Webb’s sound of that period, which, by 1963, had softened considerably, as had many other veteran acts. Still, it’s a nice piece of vintage Webb Pierce honky tonk sound.
The album ends with the swinging “The Smile Of A Clown”. Not the strongest track on the album, but it is a catchy piece that will grow on you.
While it doesn’t appear to be currently available, this album has been on the market in compact disc form, as a “two-fer” with Webb’s Sweet Memories album. Used vinyl copies can be found, what I found was generally within a couple of dollars of ten dollars.
My Standout Track, here, goes to the title cut, while I have to give the Hidden Gem to “Blue Mood”. Even though “The Smile Of A Clown” is a catchy track, it’s also The Weakest Track.
Overall, there’s nothing groundbreaking, here. It’s a fairly typical album of the era; a couple of hits, a few covers, and a couple of originals. That said, if you like Webb Pierce, it’s a good album to listen to. There’s no really bad tracks, here, and the sound varies enough between tracks to keep any monotony at bay. I’d rate it a 3.5 out of 5.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
Categories: Classic Album Reviews Tags: 1964, classic country, country albums, Country Music, country oldies, Decca Records, If The Back Door Could Talk, Sands Of Gold, Those Wonderful Years, Webb Pierce
As Spring, 1957 dawns, Kentucky natives Phil and Don Everly are among the newest acts to join the Cadence Record roster. They had previously cut one single in 1955 for Columbia, a non-charting effort. This time, the results would be vastly different. It was March, when they entered RCA’s Nashville studios, with Cadence owner Archie Bleyer producing and session men including Chet Atkins and Buddy Harman, and by the sessions’ end, three songs were cut, including both sides of their Cadence debut.
It’s been reported that one of those sides, “Bye Bye Love”, had been rejected by many artists, including, allegedly, Elvis Presley and The Wilburn Brothers. ”Bye Bye Love” was released in March, but wouldn’t make it’s debut until May, when it first appeared on the country charts, a couple of weeks before hitting the Pop Top 40. The record caught fire and, despite a competing version by Webb Pierce, would spend seven weeks (July and August) on top of the country charts, while peaking at two on the pop side.
It’s interesting to note that even though the Everly Brothers would ultimately have the largest part of their success as rock ‘n’ rollers, their version of this classic is easily the more country version of the two hits from 1957. Webb Pierce’s version has a much stronger rocking sound to it.
Saving vinyl, one record at a time.
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