For part seven of this series, as always, just some songs I liked, one song per artist, not necessarily the biggest hit, (although I feel free to comment on other songs by the artist).
“I’m Having Your Baby” – Sunday Sharpe (1974)
Female answer to a rather lame Paul Anka hit with the answer song being better (or at least more believable) than the original. Ms. Sharpe originally was from Orlando, FL, but seemingly has disappeared from view. This song reached #10 on Cashbox, her only Top 10 hit (#11 Billboard). A few years later she had one more top twenty hit with “A Little At A Time”.
“I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” – Billy Joe Shaver (1973)
For a guy whose only two charting records charted at 88 and 80, and who can’t sing a lick, Billy Joe Shaver has had a heck of a career as a recording artist, issuing several acclaimed albums. Of course, his main claim to fame is as a songwriter.
“Slippin’ Away” – Jean Shepard (1973)
Jean took this Bill Anderson composition to #1 (Cashbox) reviving a career that Capitol had abandoned. Jean was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, an honor two decades overdue.
“Devil In The Bottle” – T.G. Sheppard (1975)
T.G. kicked off his career as a singer under the T.G. Sheppard name (real name Bill Browder, and recorded also as Brian Stacey) with consecutive #1s. T.G. would have fourteen #1 singles between 1975 and ’86, along with three more that reached #2 . He worked for Elvis at one point, before kicking off his solo career.
“Greystone Chapel” – Glen Sherley (1970)
This song first saw the light of day when Johnny Cash recorded it for the Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison album in 1968. At the time Glen Sherley was a prisoner at Folsom. This was his only chart record, reaching #63. In addition to this song, Sherley had several other songs he’d written recorded, most notably Eddy Arnold’s recording of “Portrait of My Woman.” Johnny Cash helped get Glen Sherley released from prison, and even had him as part of his road show for a while. Unfortunately, Glen Sherley was unable to adapt to life outside of prison, and committed suicide in 1978.
“Dog Tired of Cattin’ Around” – Shylo (1976)
An amusing tune, Shylo recorded for Columbia during the years 1976-1979. This single charted at #75. Columbia would release eight charting singles but none went higher than #63.
“I’m A Truck” – Red Simpson (1971)
A truck tells its side of the story:
There’d be no truck drivers if it wasn’t for us trucks
No double-clutching gear- jamming coffee drinking nuts
They’ll drive their way to glory and they have all the luck
There’d be no truck drivers if it wasn’t for us trucks.
Red’s biggest hit, in fact his only top 30 record, reaching #1 Cashbox/#4 Billboard. Simpson was from Bakersfield and co-wrote a number of songs with Buck Owens, many of which Buck recorded, including “Sam’s Place” and “Kansas City Song.” Junior Brown recently recorded Red’s “Highway Patrol.” Curiously enough, “I’m A Truck” was not written by Red Simpson, but came from the pen of Bob Stanton, who worked as a mailman and sent Red the song.
“Nothing Can Stop My Loving You” – Patsy Sledd (1972)
Great debut recording – it only reached #68 but unknown to Ms. Sledd, her record label was created as a tax write off, so that there was no promotional push for anyone by the label. The next single “Chip Chip” reached #33 but from there it was all downhill. Patsy was part of the George Jones-Tammy Wynette show for a few years.
“The Lord Knows I’m Drinking” – Cal Smith (1973)
Bill Anderson wrote it and Cal Smith took it to #1 on March 3, 1973. Cal only had four Top 10 records, but three of them went to #1. His biggest chart hit was “It’s Time To Pay The Fiddler,” but this song and “Country Bumpkin” are probably the best remembered songs for the former member of Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours. Cal actually changed a few of the words from what Bill had written, probably a change for the better.
“Mama Bear” – Carl Smith (1972)
Carl only had one Top 10 song after 1959 and this song wasn’t it, dying at #46. By the time this record was issued, Carl was 45 years old and his career as a recording artist was stone-cold dead but that doesn’t mean he quit making good records. Carl issued many good records in the 1970s, but only “Pull My String and Wind Me Up” and “How I Love Them Old Songs” would reach the top twenty.
“Just One Time” – Connie Smith (1971)
My favorite female country vocalist ever, Connie took this Don Gibson classic to #1 on Cashbox (#2 Billboard). In 1973 she would leave RCA, where her classic hits were recorded, and her recording career would never really regain momentum.
“Take My Breath Away” – Margo Smith (1976)
Margo is a great yodeler but this is not a yodeling record. This remains my favorite Margo Smith song, reaching #7. Margo would have two #1 records this decade “Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You” and “It Only Hurts For A Little While” both remakes of pop hits from 15-20 years before.
“I’ve Got To Have You” – Sammi Smith (1972)
She had bigger hits, but I was always partial to this recording. I had purchased a ticket to see Sammi perform in January 2005, but the show was cancelled and she was dead within a few weeks. Unfortunately, her breakthrough record “Help Me Make It Through The Night” (1970) was recorded for Mega Records, an under-funded label that gave little promotional effort to its artists and closed its doors in 1976. By the day she got onto a viable label her career momentum had been lost.
“Hello Love” – Hank Snow (1974)
Hank Snow was a few months short of 60 years old when this song reached #1, his first #1 in 11 years. For many years, Garrison Keillor would perform this song on Prairie Home Companion. In his career, Hank’s records spent 56 weeks at #1, with “I’m Moving On” being the biggest hit in the history of Billboard’s Country charts spending 21 weeks at #1, with 44 weeks in the Top 10. His best remembered song today is probably 1962’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” which was the first American recorded American version of the song and went to #1 for two weeks. Hank was also a top-flight guitar picker, who played his own lead guitar and cut five instrumental albums including two with Chet Atkins.
“Walk A Mile In My Shoes” – Joe South (1970)
Joe South had much more success as a songwriter (“Rose Garden”) than as a performer. This record went #12 pop/#56 country.
“You’re Only Lonely” – John David Souther (1979)
An Orbison-esque song, this song actually peaked in 1980, reaching #7 pop/#56 country.
“Lay Down Sally” – Red Sovine (1978)
A nice cover of an Eric Clapton song, it only reached #70. The big hit for Sovine, of course, was the tear-jerker “Teddy Bear,” a huge pop and country hit that sold well over a million copies. During the 1960s Red recorded two of the classic truck driver songs with “Giddyup Go” (#1 for six weeks) and “Phantom 309”.
“Blanket On The Ground”– Billie Jo Spears (1975)
This ode to married romance reached #1 and also charted on the pop charts. A year later “What I’ve Got In Mind” continued the theme. Billie Jo was a very distinctive singer whose impact abroad was greater than her impact in the USA. I saw her on a Capitol Caravan Show in London in 1970, but she experienced vocal problems that shortly thereafter shelved her for a few years. In 1975 Billie Jo reemerged on United Artists, where she had twelve top twenty records. In 1977 she appeared at the International Festival of Country Music at Wembley Arena in London, a booking that would be repeated often. Indeed, her British admirers remained so loyal that she continued to tour in the UK until 2005 and she made most of her later albums exclusively for the British market. Billie Jo passed away in December 2011, a month shy of her 75th birthday.
“Spiders and Snakes” – Jim Stafford (1974)
An amusing song, and a bigger pop hit (#3) than a country hit (#69). Conway and Loretta recorded this song for one of their albums, a version that still gets some airplay today.
“Amarillo By Morning” – Terry Stafford (1974)
Yes – that “Amarillo By Morning”, Stafford’s version only reached #31. Stafford’s biggest hit was “Suspicion” which was a #3 pop hit in 1964. In addition to Amarillo By Morning” Stafford also wrote “Big In Vegas” which Buck Owens took to #1 (Record World) in 1969.
“Billy, Get Me A Woman” – Joe Stampley (1975)
It’s been years since I heard this one on a country oldies program, a victim of the PC thought police. This song got to #12 Billboard/#7 Cashbox. Joe had 32 solo chart hits during the 1970s.
“The Blind Man In The Bleachers” – Kenny Starr (1976)
His only #1 hit (#1 Cashbox/#2 Billboard). Great story line; a rather unique song.
“I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You” – The Statler Brothers (1975)
The Statler Brothers lost much of their unique sound when high tenor Lew DeWitt was forced to retire due to illness in 1982. Jimmy Fortune was a great singer but he was no Lew DeWitt. This record went to #1 on Cashbox, but was marooned at #2 for four weeks on Billboard. This is my favorite Statler Brothers song.
“Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music”– Red Steagall (1976)
What more could you ask for?
Red’s music was always too western swing to have much success on country radio. This song was his career best reaching #11. He is more famous today for having discovered Reba McEntire.
“The Streak” – Ray Stevens (1973)
Streaking was a national fad during the early ’70s and no one could capture an absurdity quite like Ray Stevens. This song went to #1 on pop charts for three weeks but only to #3 on Billboard’s country chart (it did reach #1 on Cashbox).
“Out of Hand” – Gary Stewart (1975)
The middle song of Gary’s three similarly themed songs from 1974-1975, and one of the greatest honky-tonk songs ever, but I could say the same for “Drinkin’ Thing” and “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)”. This Cashbox #1 is my favorite of the three by just a hair.
“After The Storm” – Wynn Stewart (1976)
This was the last top 10 record for this Bakersfield legend. Wynn received a recent burst of popularity when “Another Day, Another Dollar” was used in a VW Jetta commercial.
“Borrowed Angel” – Mel Street (1972)
George Jones called King Malachi “Mel” Street his favorite singer. Small wonder, since only Vern Gosdin and Mel Street ever approached George Jones as soulful interpreters of country songs. This song reached #7 on a small label, one of three top 10 records for Street. Always plagued by depression, Mel Street committed suicide on October 21, 1978, his 45th birthday. George Jones sang at his funeral.
“A Daisy A Day” – Jud Strunk (1973)
A very gentle and tender love song, it only reached #33, but got to #14 on the pop charts. Strunk was more of an actor (on Broadway and on television’s Rowan Martin’s Laugh-In) than a singer. He died in a plane crash in 1981 at the age of 45.
“She Wakes Me With A Kiss Every Morning” – Nat Stuckey (1971)
This was Nat’s second biggest hit reaching #5 Cashbox/#11 Billboard. Nat was a bigger success as a songwriter than as a performer, although he was an excellent singer, signed to a major label (RCA) . Alan Jackson took his composition “Pop –A-Top” to the top of the charts a few years back.
“Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)” – Joe Sun (1978)
Joe had the original recording of this song. Others have since tackled the song, but none as well as this version. Signed to a minor label, Joe’s version only reached #14 but his smoky voice was perfect for the song. The song was covered in 1980 by Brian Collins and then later that same year someone named Dolly, who took it to #1.
“I Can Help” – Billy Swan (1974)
His only top 10 recording, this record reached #1 on both Billboard’s country and pop charts. Swan is a former member of Kris Kristofferson’s band. In 1976 he recorded a nice version of “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” the old Bill Haley hit from 1954. Billy’s version barely cracked the top 100.