My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Country Heritage: Roy Drusky

I am not sure why this should be true, but the 1960s produced an enormous number of silky-smooth male vocalists. Perhaps it was due to the crossover success of artists such as Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves. More likely it was the result of the Rock ‘n Roll revolution of the mid-50s wiping out the radio market for classic pop, so that artists who would have aspired to become the next Eddy Howard, Johnny Ray, Julius LaRosa or Frank Sinatra, found themselves looking toward a Nashville that was attempting to broaden its appeal by co-opting the easy listening market.

The end result often was some of the blandest music Nashville ever produced – no fiddle, no steel, pleasant but unmemorable voices and songs played at slow to medium-slow tempos. Most of these pleasant male voices made an album or two and faded from sight. This, not Hank and Lefty and ET, was the music that fueled the outlaw revolt of the mid-1970s.

Still, there were a few of the pleasant crooners who had something to distinguish themselves from the crowd – a little grit in their voice, some soul in their musical interpretations and something that set their voice apart from the crowd. Roy Drusky — the country Perry Como — was one of those few.

A true southerner, Drusky was born on June 22, 1930, in Atlanta, GA. His mother, a church organist, attempted to interest her son in music but like most boys of his era, Drusky’s first love was baseball. It wasn’t until he enlisted in the US Navy in the late 1940s that he shifted his focus to music, although even after leaving the Navy, he first tried out for the Cleveland Indians. In 1951, he put together a country band, the Southern Ranch Boys, who played in the Decatur, GA area. In Decatur, Drusky landed a job as a disc jockey. He continued to perform in local clubs after his band broke up, and on the strength of a 1953 Starday single, “Such a Fool,” he was signed to Columbia Records in 1955. Several singles were issued for Columbia, but now album until 1965 when an album, The Great Roy Drusky Sings,  was released on the budget Harmony label. This album is of interest mostly to fans and collectors of Roy Drusky recordings.

From Georgia, Roy moved to Minneapolis to continue his work in radio. Shortly after arriving, Drusky began headlining at the Flame Club, where he was able to showcase his talent as a singer and a songwriter. His songs came to the attention of Faron Young, who recorded two of Roy’s songs: “Alone With You,” released in 1958, was Young’s biggest Billboard chart hit spending 13 weeks at #1 (oddly, it only reached #2 on Cash Box’s country chart), and “Country Girl,” released in 1959, which also reached #1.

Soon thereafter, Roy moved to Nashville, signed with Decca and worked with legendary producer Owen Bradley. In 1960, a pair of successful ballads, “Another” (#2) and “Anymore” (#3), led to an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. That same year, he also released a Top 30 duet with Kitty Wells, “I Can’t Tell My Heart That.”

In 1961, Drusky released the double-sided hit “I’d Rather Loan You Out” (#10)/”Three Hearts in a Tangle (#2)” and also issued his first LP, Anymore With Roy Drusky. The next year, he reached the Top 10 again with “Second Hand Rose” (#3), and after a 1963 switch to Mercury records, the amusing “Peel Me A Nanner” (#10). Drusky continued to chart records, finally achieving that elusive #1 in 1965 with the “Yes, Mr. Peters,” a duet with Priscilla Mitchell (aka Mrs. Jerry Reed). Interestingly enough, in 1965, Roy’s version of the Liz Anderson-penned “Strangers” outperformed Merle Haggard’s version of the same song. Both versions reached the Top 10 (Roy’s reached #6, Hag’s reached #7), even though the song seems tailor-made for Haggard.

Roy Drusky appeared in his first film, White Lightnin’ Express, in 1965 and also sang the feature’s title song. He later appeared in two other films: The Golden Guitar and Forty Acre Feud. Roy also served as a producer for several acts, most notably Brenda Byers.

His recording success faded after 1965. Although he released 11 chart hits between 1966 and 1969, only two (“Where the Blue and Lonely Go” and “Such a Fool”) reached the Top 10. In 1970, he had a brief renaissance with “Long, Long Texas Road” (#5 Billboard/#3 Cash Box /#1 Record World) and “All My Hard Times” (#9). In 1971 he made his last trip to the Top 20 with a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Red, Red, Wine,” which reached #17. After that it was all downhill.

Drusky’s last Mercury album was released in 1973, followed by a pair of albums on Capitol in 1974 and ’75. After that period he recorded for smaller labels, including a stint on Plantation, where he re-recorded his biggest hits. In all, he had 42 charted singles on Billboard’s country charts.

He continued to perform and record, increasingly turning to gospel music in his later years. He also appeared on various country reunion projects. Roy Drusky passed away September 23, 2004 at the age of 74.

Discography

Vinyl

Roy Drusky was never a major star so his output was not quite as prolific as some performers of his generation. He released 18 albums on Mercury (plus 3 hit collections). On Decca there were two albums released, and on Capitol, two more for a total of 22 major label albums. There are also a number of off-label recordings and budget releases on labels such as Vocalion and Hilltop. Since Roy was recording during the era in which albums consisted of one or two hits singles, some covers of other artist’s hits, and some filler, the song titles should tell you whether or not a particular Roy Drusky album will be of interest to you. Please note that Roy’s recordings never went so far ‘uptown’ as to eliminate steel guitar and other country instrumentation. If you like Roy’s voice and the song selections, you will like his albums, especially the ones on Decca and Mercury.

Here are some representative albums:

Songs of The Cities (Mercury, 1964) – Detroit City | Columbus Stockade Blues | Kansas City | El Paso | Abilene | Battle Of New Orleans |Texarkana Baby |St. Louis Blues | Down In The Valley (Birmingham Jail)| I Left My Heart In San Francisco | Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy|Waterloo

In A New Dimension (Mercury, 1966) – Rainbows And Roses |Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurtin’ Me) | Workin’ My Way Up To The Bottom | You’re My World | Today | I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry | Unless You Make Him Set You Free| Crying Time |Try To Remember |Unchained Melody | World Is Round |You Don’t Know Me

Jody and The Kid (Mercury 1968) – Jody And The Kid | Let’s Put Our World Back Together | By The Time I Get To Phoenix | When The Snow Is On The Roses | Your Little Deeds | You’d Better Sit Down Kids |You’ve Still Got A Place In My Heart | When I Loved Her | Shadows Of Her Mind |Through The Eyes Of Love | Yesterday

A Portrait of Roy Drusky (Mercury, 1969) – Where The Blue And Lonely Go |Little Green Apples | Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife | I’m Gonna Get You Off My Mind |Today I Started Loving You Again | Memphis Morning | Portrait Of Me |I Wouldn’t Be Alone | Set Me Free | Country’s Gone | True And Lasting Kind

Roy was always adept with gospel music and his first Capitol album includes Peaceful Easy Feeling includes nice versions of “One Day At  A Time” and “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor”. The rest of this album is secular music, a little more pop than his Mercury albums, the title track being a recent Eagles hit.

CD

Drusky is very poorly represented in the digital era. Currently only one collection is available: Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2. This is a straight reissue of two albums which catch his Mercury hits through 1967 and have a few remakes of earlier Decca hits. This disc was released in 2007 by Collectors Choice Music.

In 1995, Polygram released a collection titled Roy Drusky: Songs of Love and Life. This CD is out of print but can be found with a little effort. It contains 13 songs, including the three later hits “Long, Long Texas Road,” “All My Hard Times” and “Jody and The Kid”–the latter is a nice early recording of a Kristofferson song. Only five of the songs overlap with Greatest Hits Volumes 1 & 2 so this disc is a worthwhile acquisition.

There are some digital downloads available via Amazon.com plus a couple of albums described as CD-R (manufactured upon demand).

About these ads

7 responses to “Country Heritage: Roy Drusky

  1. Ken Johnson February 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for spotlighting Roy. I too am a big fan. His “Perry Como” vocal style served as a great counterpoint to the decidedly country sounding vocal approach of his contemporaries such as Buck Owens, Stonewall Jackson, George Jones and Webb Pierce. That was the beauty of 1960’s country music – a wide variety of songs, styles and instrumentation. Probably one of the best eras for country music and thanks to such diversity country radio stations were never boring back then.

    To your point I believe that the record producers were the major catalyst for the transition to non-country sounding vocalists in the 1950’s/60’s. Owen Bradley had roots in popular music so his ear was tuned to that direction. Thankfully he also appreciated the appeal of singers like Ernest Tubb & Webb Pierce and framed their vocals with appropriately updated instrumentation. Chet Atkins leaned toward jazz and pop and approached his RCA VIctor artists with that sensibility yet kept very stylized acts like Hank Snow & Porter Wagoner. Meanwhile he transformed Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, The Browns, Skeeter Davis, Hank Locklin and Don Gibson into crossover acts. Had they not made this transition at that time country music may have had a much dimmer future.

    Too bad that Roy Drusky’s Decca recordings have not been comprehensively reissued on CD. Precious few have trickled out via various artist compilations. His 1969-1970 Mercury hits rank among my favorites with “Long Long Texas Road” topping the list. That song sparkled on the radio. “I’ll Make Amends” gets an honorable mention too. Drusky could really hold a note with the best of ‘em.

    Just a brief addition to your discography summary. As mentioned Drusky released just two albums while signed to the Decca label (1958-1963). However an album released on Decca’s budget subsidiary Vocalion label in 1965 titled “Roy Drusky” (VL 73742) could be regarded as his third Decca LP. The album compiles several uncharted Decca singles including his first two releases from 1958 & 1959 plus several flip sides of singles and three chart hits “Second Hand Rose,” “I Went Out Of My Way” & “There’s Always One.” Like the Harmony album referenced above this is one of the rare times that a budget release offered recordings previously unavailable on LP rather than just a repackage of previously issued album tracks.

  2. Rick March 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Paul, thanks for this nice article on Roy Drusky! Of the male country crooners in the 1960’s, Roy is one of my favorites. I consider his voice a cross between Eddy Arnold and Burl Ives and the Perry Como comparison is spot on.

    I purchased the “Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2″ CD and was quite disappointed in the production approach to most songs, and especially on the Decca hit re-recordings! Most of the song choices aren’t very interesting either. I am thankful that Time Life had the Decca label era original “Another” on one of their Classic Country cds and I found the Decca version of “Anymore” on Amazon. I think its about time Bear Family took a serious interest in Roy Drusky! (lol)

    Connie Smith thankfully covered “Anymore” on her recent “Long Line of Heartaches” CD and sings it on the Opry now and then as well.

    Sometimes when Eddy Stubbs id absent from WSM “on assignment” one of the fill in DJ’s is a big Roy Drusky fan who plays one of his songs during his shift literally every show! If only Eddy had such good taste in country music… (lol)

    • luckyoldsun March 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      I’ve never heard of the guy–or just barely heard of him–but I pulled up the video and I can defitnitely hear the Burl and Como and Eddy influence/similarities.

      The only way I can imagine Roy Drusky being played in public again is if some director makes a gritty movie that’s set in 1960s small-town America and decides to use some of these records to set the scene and add some authenticity. It definitely evoke a part of its era.

  3. Rick March 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I just went to Amazon and they have a recently released MP3 only album collection titled “Greatest Hits 1955-1960″ that kicks some real country butt! I must say I totally pefer these early songs and recordings of the Decca era over his later output. But that’s just me…

    • Paul W Dennis March 4, 2012 at 5:13 am

      I obtained the digital download album GREATEST HITS 1955-1960 (it actually should be labeled as 1955-1961) . It is quite good. It includes the ten songs released on the Harmony album THE GREAT ROY DRUSKY SINGS (Harmony HL-7354, 1965) which is comprised of material recorded by Columbia. I think the remaining twenty tracks are Decca material. I’m not sure that I prefer these to the later material as Drusky became a more confident vocalist as his career progressed. In general I prefer a more stripped down approach but Drusky’s voice fit quite well with the “Nashville Sound” approach.

      As for the Mercury recordings, I think most of Roy’s best Mercury recordings came after the two GREATEST HITS collections were released. A Ken noted, “Long Long Texas Road” was really great and I’ve always been fond of such songs as “Jody and The Kid”, “Where The Blue and Lonely Go” , “My Grass Is Green” and “All My Hard Times”

      I was remiss in not mentioning the 1970 Mercury album THE BEST OF ROY DRUSKY which caught some later Roy Drusky hits including a pair of songs “I’ll Make Amends” and Such A Fool” that were originally recorded for Columbia and re-recorded for Mercury and released as singles. In both cases I prefer the Mercury recording..

      • Ken Johnson March 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

        Paul:

        I took a listen to the samples of that “Greatest Hits 1955-1960″ album. My guess is that the collection is of European origin where copyrights expire after 50 years. That’s why as you correctly pointed out there are recordings up until 1961. Sadly it’s the same old story once again. These recordings were not licensed from legitimate sources rather they are needle drops (recordings converted to mp3’s from vinyl records) instead of digital remasters of the original Decca master tape recordings. The distortion and groove noise is quite extreme on the Decca audio samples so this presentation truly does not do them justice. Perhaps one day we will get a proper reissue of the Decca recordings.

        And I completely concur with your opinion of “The Best Of Roy Drusky” on Mercury. Sure wish that Mercury/Polygram would have done a CD reissue of that one. The major problem with the Collector’s Choice “Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2″ reissue was that half or more of the songs on each of the original albums were not actually single hits. Yes it did include some Drusky hits unavailable elsewhere but there sure was a lot of “filler.” A much better concept would have been to cherry pick Roy’s hits during his entire Mercury tenure which could’ve includes the late 1960’s/early 1970’s material.

        • Paul W Dennis March 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

          I agree that the Decca downloads are not pristine, but I think the distortion is more in the audio samples than in the actual downloads as the CD I put together from the downloads sounds okay, and the songs are not to be had elsewhere.

          Now if Bear Family would put out some box sets on people like Roy Drusky, David Houston, David Rodgers, Dave Dudley, Wilma Burgess and other mid-level (and lower) stars that would be great, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 124 other followers

%d bloggers like this: