My Kind of Country

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

Category Archives: Opry Legends

Ray Price Remembered

Ray PriceWith the recent passing of legendary singer Ray Price, the chapter closes on the last of the great male honky-tonk singers of the 1950s. At times overshadowed by contemporaries such as Webb Pierce, Carl Smith, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky and Hank Locklin, Ray Price adapted and persevered, outlasting all of his contemporaries and continuing as an active performer until the end of 2012. His singles and albums encompassed a wide array of styles from shuffles, western swing and pure honky-tonk through to “Nashville Sound”, countrypolitan and pure classic pop standards. Willie Nelson calls him the greatest country singer ever and he certainly is in the top two or three for many of his fellow country artists.

Along the way he left a catalog brimming full of great music, charting 109 singles along the way, with 80 of them reaching the top forty and 46 reaching the top ten.

Born in 1926, and labeled as the “Cherokee Cowboy” because he hailed from Cherokee County Texas, Ray Price was part of what Tom Brokaw called the Greatest Generation, serving in the US Marines from 1944-1946 before starting his musical career in Dallas in 1948, recording a few singles for the small Bullet label.

Price’s big break came when he moved to Nashville, signing in late 1951 with Columbia Records and becoming the roommate and only real protégé of Hank Williams. When Hank died on New Years Day 1953, Ray inherited Hank’s band, the “Drifting Cowboys”, which was renamed and expanded to become the “Cherokee Cowboys”.

The hits started coming shortly after Price after signing with Columbia starting with 1953’s “Talk To Your Heart” which reached #3 on Billboard’s DJ charts. From that point through 1989 at least one of Rays singles would appear on the country charts every year.

Always a bit of a contrarian, when Rock ‘n Roll was beginning to hurt country music, Ray hit it really big with the retro sounds of “Crazy Arms” which featured a heavy bass, twin fiddles and introduced the world to the ‘Ray Price 4/4 beat’. “Crazy Arms” topped the charts for 20 weeks in 1956, staying on the charts for 45 weeks. For the next few years Ray scored big with such hard-core honky-tonk classics as “You Done Me Wrong”, I’ve Got A New Heartache”, “Heartaches By The Number”, “City Lights” and “Heart Over Mind”.

In 1963, having proved to the world that it was indeed possible to sell hard-core country in the age of rock ‘n roll and the “Nashville Sound”, Ray changed directions and started softening his sound with “You Took Her Off My Hands (Now Please Take Her Off My Mind)” followed by “Make The World Go Away” and a bluesy number written by a fellow who had been in his band, Willie Nelson. That song “Night Life” kicked off a new direction of more heavily orchestrated sounds for Ray culminating in his huge 1970 record “Grazing In Greener Pastures” b/w “For The Good Times”. This record sold close to a million copies and the B-side “For The Good Times” reached #11 on Billboard all genres chart.

The top ten records ended for Ray in 1975 by which time he was forty-nine years old, but Ray kept recording and experimenting giving exposure to new songwriters and following his own muse. Eventually Ray returned to his honky-tonk roots in his live performances

Ray Price was an innovator and collector/developer of new talent recording songs from new songwriters and giving valuable stage experience to new talent during his earlier days. Ray was among the first to record songs by Bill Anderson, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Conway Twitty. Among the future stars of country music to pass through his band were singers Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Darrell McCall, Van Howard, Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Bush,and instrumentalists Buddy Emmons, Pete Wade, Jan Kurtis, Shorty Lavender and Buddy Spicher.

I could rattle on about the albums of Ray Price but will simply say that each album contains its share of treasures, although I am especially fond of his 1980 album with Willie Nelson, San Antonio Rose which contains one of my all-time favorite tracks the exquisite “Faded Love” with Ray and Willie joined by Crystal Gayle as part of a trio on the choruses.

In 2007 Ray and fellow legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded an album, Last of The Breed and toured in support of the album.

Now the great Ray Price is gone, truly the last of the breed.

Country Heritage: Jean Shepard

jean shepard 1You gaze at that guitar on your knee
In a way that you never look at me
This love affair of yours has gone too far
And I’m tired of playing second fiddle to an old guitar

– From “Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar),” Capitol Records, 1964

Kitty Wells may have been the reigning Queen of Country Music during the 1950s, but in the eyes of many (including myself) Jean Shepard had at least as good a claim to the title. Whereas Kitty Wells, after the uncharacteristically defiant “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” reverted back to songs of domestic bliss and of being the “wronged woman,” Jean Shepard kept pushing the boundaries for female country singers. Jean may not have pushed things as far as Loretta Lynn did during the late 1960s and 70s, but she laid the groundwork for Loretta and those to follow. Among Europeans, whose tastes in country music run to more traditional sounds, many regard her as the greatest of all female country singers, a sentiment that was echoed by such leading British county music journalists as Pat Campbell, Bob Powell, and David Allen. While I don’t regard Shepard quite that highly, on my personal list of the greatest female country singers of all time, she would be in my top three (greatest, as opposed to most popular or most influential) singers. During her peak years (roughly 1953-75) she was a definite force of nature

Born Ollie Imogene Shepard on November 21, 1933 in Oklahoma, she was the child of parents who moved to Bakersfield, California, as a result of the Dust Bowl that engulfed the midwest during the 1930s. Since Shepard has been staunchly performing modern traditional country music for over sixty years, it seems only fitting that she grew up and started her career in the area surrounding Bakersfield, California.

Jean began her career as a bass player in the Melody Ranch Girls, an all-female band formed in 1948. Not long thereafter, she came to the attention of Hank Thompson, who, impressed by her talents, helped her get a record deal with Capitol Records–where she worked with Thompson’s producer, Ken Nelson. At the time she inked her deal, Shepard was still a teenager.

On her Capitol recordings, Shepard was a honky-tonker whose hard-core sound could rival any of her male counterparts. While her first single “Crying Steel Guitar Waltz” failed to chart, it showed enough promise for Capitol to team her with another promising singer, Ferlin Husky, for the 1953 chart-topper “A Dear John Letter,” a song which resonated with many returning Korean War veterans. After this, the solo hits started coming with “Beautiful Lies” and “A Satisfied Mind” being among the biggest hits of 1955 ( “A Satisfied Mind” was also a major hit for Porter Wagoner and Red Foley, but after you’ve heard Jean Shepard’s version, you will forget about the others).

Along the way, Shepard became a part of Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee (broadcast from Springfield, MO on ABC TV) from 1955 to 1957, and she was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, where she has remained a member to this day. It was during this period that Jean released what may have been country music’s first album centered around a theme in Songs of a Love Affair. Shepard had a hand in writing all twelve songs on this album.

She continued to have hits throughout the fifties and sixties, although like many other traditional country singers her hits became increasingly smaller as rock ‘n roll and the Nashville sound came into prominence. Lost in the shuffle were such excellent singles as “Act Like A Married Man,” “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone,” “I Used To Love You,” and “Have Heart, Will Love.”

In 1960 Shepard married Hawkshaw Hawkins, a minor star whose forte was his live stage shows rather than recording success. Jean was pregnant with his son Hawkshaw Hawkins, Jr. at the time of the 1963 plane crash that claimed Hawkins’ life (as well as those of Lloyd “Cowboy” Copas and Patsy Cline).

After her son’s birth, Shepard dealt with the tragedy of her husband’s death by pouring herself back into her career. In 1964 she rebounded back near the top of the charts with the feisty “Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar),” a song which spotlighted her yodeling ability. The next few years would produce more hits including “Seven Lonely Days,” “Many Happy Hangovers To You,” and a rare ballad “Another Lonely Night.” She also teamed up with Ray Pillow for several duets, including the big hit “I’ll Take the Dog” in 1966.

Between 1965 and 1970 Shepard charted fifteen Top 40 hits. Eventually, though, Capitol –- blessed with a deep roster that included Wanda Jackson, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell and Sonny James –quit pushing her recordings to radio.

A switch to United Artists (UA) in 1973 re-ignited her career as her first single for the label, the Bill Anderson-penned “Slippin’ Away,” went to #4  Billboard /#1 Cashbox /#1 Record World  , and was followed by such great singles as “At The Time,” “I’ll Do Anything It Takes (To Stay With You),” “Poor Sweet Baby,” “Tip of My Fingers,” and “Another Neon Night.” One of her UA albums, Poor Sweet Baby, was composed entirely of songs written by Bill Anderson.  Shepard remained with UA for five years.  Since then she has recorded only occasionally for various minor labels.

Along the way, Shepard married Benny Birchfield, (best known for his tenor harmonies during his tenure with the Osborne Brothers bluegrass group). She also served as president of the Association of Country Entertainers, the perfect spokesperson for this very traditionalist organization.

In 2010, Jean was inducted into the Oklahoma Country Music Hall of Fame. Then in 2011, Jean was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, an honor three decades overdue.

Jean Shepard has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1955 and continues to perform regularly on the Grand Old Opry where she is indeed, the “Grand Lady of the Opry,” and a national treasure. She also tours occasionally, (in the past she sometimes performed with her son Hawkshaw Hawkins, Jr. but I haven’t heard much about him recently).  She’s lost a little off her vocal ‘chops’ over the course of time, but even 85% of Jean Shepard is a lot more than 100% of most singers.

Discography

Vinyl

Capitol Records issued twenty-one albums on Jean Shepard from 1956 to 1975 (one of these was a duet album with Ray Pillow) plus there were some budget reissues released on the Hilltop label. United Artists issued five albums plus a Greatest Hits collection from 1973 to 1976.

Albums on either Capitol or United Artist  will capture Jean at the peak of her vocal prowess. Later albums will still catch Jean in good voice but with less care given to the accompaniment and production, although the album Stars of the Grand Ole Opry issued in 1981 on Pete Drake’s First Generation Records, is a pretty good effort.

CD / Digital

The CD catalog for Shepard isn’t what it should be, although the Bear Family boxed set titled Melody Ranch Girl is available. The folks at Collector’s Choice Music described it thus, “151 legendary Capitol sides from the woman who broke through the thick gender barrier in country music without looking back! This is everything Jean recorded from 1952–1964—from ‘A Dear John Letter’ up through ‘Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar)’—including her landmark album Songs of a Love Affair, the first concept album recorded by a female country artist, plus her Got You on My Mind, Lonesome Love and Heartaches and Tears albums. A 36-page book with a newly researched biography, discography and rare photos completes the story.”

For folks wanting to sample Jean’s work without shelling out over $100, there are some decent alternatives available.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop currently lists nine titles available, including the above-mentioned Melody Ranch Girl boxed set and the CD version of Stars of the Grand Ole Opry and an outstanding two disc set released recently by the UK label Jasmine titled The First Lady of Country, which is composed of four of Jean’s early Capitol albums (Songs of A Love Affair, Lonesome Love, This Is Jean Shepard, and Got You On My Mind).

I am not sure of the vintage of the recordings on the other sets available from Ernest Tubb, but if you call them, the folks taking your order often can give useful information.

The Country Music Foundation in 1995 issued the stellar Jean Shepard: Honky-Tonk Heroine, which has 24 songs taken from her tenure at Capitol. It may still be possible to obtain this disc. That same year Castle Communications (Australasia) issued A Satisfied Mind which has 26 tracks (17 Capitol recordings and 9 United Artist recordings)– this is the only set (of which I am aware) that contains original United Artist recordings.

Other collections available are of uncertain vintage. Jean has issued some CDs herself (Jean, Personal Favorites, and perhaps other titles) that are often remakes but contain some song titles otherwise unavailable. I have several of these discs and they are worth obtaining.

Amazon (and probably other sites, as well) have some of Jean’s music available as digital downloads. The available music appears to be a mixed bag of originals and remakes but fortunately you can hear samples before purchasing.   While recording quality can vary, there are no bad Jean Shepard vocal performances on any of the recordings that I’ve heard.

George Jones remembered

george-jones-200a-072408mbWith the passing of George, all the radio heroes of my early childhood, except Ray Price, have gone from the scene. I can’t tell you exactly when I became cognizant of George Jones, as he seemed to have always been there. I remember radio playing songs such as “White Lightning”, “Who Shot Sam?”, “Don’t Stop The Music” , “Just One More” and You Gotta Be My Baby” during the 1950’s and liking the sound of the records, although not necessarily understanding what they were about.

I can tell you when I became a real fan of George Jones and when I started understanding what his music was about. In 1961 I turned nine years old and lived across the street from a kid whose father manifested all of the bad behavior that was revealed in George’s songs. While many sang “the endless ballads of booze and broads” in those less politically correct days, George brought a depth of emotion that few could achieve. But while many singers mined those same waters, few were also as good at singing of other matters such as love and faith. Let’s face it, George Jones could sing even the most mediocre and most maudlin songs with convincing sincerity, so when he had good material to work with, the results transcended what everyone else was doing.

For my money, the very best recordings George Jones ever recorded came during the 1960s. Yes, he became a more nuanced singer later, but he was already 98% at his nuanced peak and his voice was at its absolute peak.

During the 1950s George recorded for Starday and/or Mercury (there were some collaborative efforts between the two labels) and while there was considerable youthful enthusiasm there, the polish had not yet been applied. Towards the end of his run on Mercury a few songs were released that heralded the direction George was going – “The Window Up Above”, “She Thinks I Still Care”, “Tender Years”, and “You’re Still On My Mind”. These songs exhibited a little more careful production than was often the case and were far more introspective than the usual “ballads of booze and broads”. While “You’re Still On My Mind” was not released as a single until after George left Mercury (and accordingly received no promotional push) it was an impressive effort and earned the songwriter Luke McDaniel some additional money when the Byrds included it on their Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album.

I have said many times the 1960s were my favorite era for George Jones recordings. In 1961 George’s recordings started appearing on the United Artists label. While perhaps a bit heavy on the strings and vocal choruses, these recordings feature strong material and find George in fine voice throughout. This era kicked off with a magnificent single, “She Thinks I Still Care” b/w “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win” as the B side. The A side shot to #1 where it stayed for six weeks. I thought the song on the B side was the stronger song – and it proved its worth by shooting to #17. (A new recording of the song would reach the top ten in 1971 for Musicor, plus it would be covered by many other artists) . What better description can you have of despair than

Just when the suns shines the brightest
And the world looks alright again
Then the clouds fill the skies
You can’t believe your eyes
Sometimes you just can’t win

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Classic Rewind – Flatt and Scruggs – ‘Dim Lights Thick Smoke’

Classic Rewind – Porter Wagoner – ‘A Picture From Life’s Other Side’

Here’s Porter Wagoner singing ‘A Picture From Life’s Other Side’ which closes Marty Stuart’s latest album Nashville Volume 1: Tear The Woodpile Down as a duet with Hank III:

Classic Rewind – Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Joe Diffie and Porter Wagoner – ‘Can I Trust You With My Heart’

Here’s a Grand Ole Opry performance of Travis Tritt’s #1 single from early 1993. The original version can be found on his T-R-O-U-B-L-E album. It was the second single from that project:

Spotlight Artist: George Jones (Part 3 of 3)

When George Jones married Nancy Sepulveda in 1983, he finally began to put his personal demons behind him and started the long road to recovery. He quit drinking and got off drugs and started working on rebuilding his reputation which had suffered from missing too many concert dates; though Jones pointed out in his 1996 memoirs that he was never actually booked for a number of appearances he “missed”. Unscrupulous promoters capitalized on his “No Show Jones” reputation by selling tickets to concerts for which Jones had never been slated to appear, and then claimed that Jones had gone a drinking binge and wouldn’t be appearing.

Though his years of drug and alcohol abuse had taken its toll on George’s financial well-being, his records continued to sell well. Rick Blackburn, who was the label head for CBS’s Nashville division in the 1980s claimed that the worse Jones behaved, the better his records sold. In 1991, Jones signed a new record deal with MCA, ending a 20-year association with Epic Records. His first release for his new label was 1991′s And Along Came Jones. Produced by Kyle Lehning, it was the first George Jones album in two decades not produced by the now retired Billy Sherrill.

By this time, the “Young Country” movement had firmly taken hold, and older artists were, for the most part, put out to pasture by country radio. During this time, George began to be regarded as country music’s elder statesman, as nearly every hot new act from Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt to Pam Tillis and Patty Loveless, named him as a major influence on their work. In 1992, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and was also joined by Brooks, Tritt, Tillis, and Loveless, along with Joe Diffie, T. Graham Brown, Mark Chesnutt, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson and Clint Black for “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”, said to be a rebuke for being replaced by Ricky Van Shelton on the Dolly Parton duet “Rockin’ Years.” “Rockin’ Chair” was named Vocal Event of the Year in 1993 by the CMA. That same year, the ACM presented Jones with its Pioneer Award. In 1998, he won the CMA’s Vocal Event of the Year award again, this time for “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me”, a collaboration with Patty Loveless.

Although he didn’t rack up any big radio hits during his tenure with MCA, George’s albums continued to sell well; both 1992′s Walls Can Fall and 1993′s High Tech Redneck were certified gold. However, in the late 90s, Nashville labels had become accustomed to platinum and multi-platinum level sales; and artists who only sold 500,000 units had a hard time keeping their record deals. Jones was dropped from the MCA roster in 1999, amidst a huge outcry from his fans from both inside and outside the music industry.

He quickly landed a new deal with Asylum and released Cold Hard Truth, which was both a critical and commercial success, earning gold certification. The lead single “Choices” won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1999. It is probably best remembered for the controversy that ensued when the CMA invited Jones to perform the song on its 1999 awards telecast, but would not allot him enough time to sing the song in its entirety. George considered this an affront and refused to peform the song. Alan Jackson famously protested the CMA’s decision by singing the song on the air himself, halfway into the peformance of his own “Pop A Top.”

1999 was also the year that George suffered a setback in his sobriety. Just prior to the release of his Asylum debut album, he crashed his Lexus utility truck. It took rescue workers two hours to dig him out of the wreckage, and he later spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from his near-fatal injuries. At the time, it had been reported that George was talking to his label head on his cell phone, and was distracted by the truck’s cassette deck, which wasn’t working properly. However, it was later revealed that an empty vodka bottle was found in the vehicle.

Despite the newfound success surrounding Cold Hard Truth, it was Jones’ last studio album for a major label, as Asylum closed its Nashville division in late 1999. Once again without a record deal, George opted to start his own label, Bandit Records, which has released all of his music since 2001.

Jones was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2008, and although at age 78 his voice is no longer what it once was, he continues to be revered as country music’s greatest living singer. He is arguably the most important male singer in the genre’s history after Hank Williams. We hope that you enjoy this month’s coverage, and that you will be inspired to delve into portions of the vast George Jones catalog that you may have missed.

Spotlight Artist: George Jones (Part 2 of 3)

George Jones and Tammy Wynette met in 1966 when they were part of the same package show. They first performed together in 1967 when they were part of a package show with country star David Houston, who had a hit duet with Tammy (“My Elusive Dreams”) on the charts at the time. Tammy had been the opening act; one night Houston’s manager had asked her to allow Houston to go on first, since the singer had something else he’d wanted to later that evening. They wanted Tammy to come on stage during Houston’s segment of the show to perform their duet, and then come back and do her own segment later. Tammy objected and an argument ensued. She had been using Houston’s band because she couldn’t yet afford one of her own. Her refusal to change the sequence of the program resulted in Houston’s manager refusing to allow her to use the band. George Jones quickly came to the rescue; he allowed her to use his band, and also performed Houston’s part of their duet with her.

George had been Tammy’s childhood idol, but although there was a mutual attraction, both were married to other people, and their relationship remained platonic — at first. George’s second divorce was finalized in 1968, and one day he stopped by unannounced at the home of Tammy and her second husband Don Chapel. The couple were having an argument, and when Chapel insulted Tammy, a drunken George took offense. He angrily overturned the dining room table and declared his love for Tammy, who responded in kind. Jones left the house with Tammy and her three children. Shortly thereafter, the Chapels’ marriage was annulled on the grounds that Tammy had violated Alabama law by not waiting a full year after her first divorce before entering into another marriage. George and Tammy announced that they had eloped, though they did not actually get married until the following year.

It was the beginning of a stormy, made-for-the-tabloids relationship, which produced a daughter (Tamala Georgette, born in 1969) and a series of hit duets after Jones signed with Epic Records and Tammy’s producer Billy Sherrill, his 18-year association with Pappy Dailey having deteriorated beyond repair. The marriage ended in divorce in 1975. Jones acknowledged in his 1996 memoirs that his alcohol abuse was largely responsible for the breakdown of the relationship, though he disputed many of the claims that Tammy made in her 1979 memoirs.

Though his marriage to Tammy lasted only six years, his relationship with Epic Records and Billy Sherrill endured for two decades. Many industry insiders were skeptical that Sherrill — who had a reputation as a control freak in the studio — and Jones would be able to get along. Not only did they get along, together they raised George’s career to new heights with classic recordings such as “A Picture Of Me (Without You)”, “The Grand Tour” and “Bartender’s Blues.” But their greatest moment on record came in 1980 with “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, the biggest record of Jones’ career, which earned him another #1 hit, his first platinum album, and a Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Country Performance in 1980. It was also named Single of the Year and Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 1980 and Song of the Year by the Country Music Association in both 1980 and 1981. It ended a dry spell that had begun as Jones’ alcoholism and drug abuse worsened in the aftermath of his divorce from Tammy. Jones stated that “a four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.” Written by Bobby Braddock and Curly Putnam, it has frequently been named as the greatest country song of all time.

Jones continued to abuse alcohol and cocaine, often missing concert dates, which earned him the nickname “No Show Jones.” Although his recording career had been revived, he continued on a downward spiral personally until 1983, when he met Nancy Sepulveda, who would become the fourth Mrs. Jones, and the woman that George credits with rescuing him from drug and alcohol addiction.

Spotlight Artist: George Jones (Part 1 of 3)

“If we all sounded like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones” — Waylon Jennings

Country music has produced many legends, but one name in particular is at the top of nearly everyone’s list — George Jones. Frequently acclaimed as country music’s greatest living singer, we are proud to announce that he is our spotlight artist for the month of July.

George Glenn Jones was born in a log cabin in Saratoga, Texas, near Beaumont, on September 12, 1931, the youngest of eight children. The family got its first radio when George was seven years old, and when he was nine, his father bought him a guitar, and his lifelong love affair with country music began. He quickly learned that he could earn money through his music, often getting free bus rides in exchange for entertaining the other passengers. By age eleven, he was busking in the streets of Beaumont, earning as much as twenty-five dollars a day — and in what was to become a lifelong habit — blowing the money in an arcade as soon as it was earned.

When George was 17, he married Dorothy Bonvillion. The union lasted less than a year; they were divorced by the time their daughter Susan was born. In order to make the court-mandated child support payments, George joined the Marine Corps. He didn’t see combat, but he obtained some gigs singing on Saturday nights and continued to hone his craft.

After leaving the Marine Corp in 1953, Jones returned to Beaumont and got a job as a disc jockey at radio station KTRM. He caught the attention of Jack Starnes and H.W. “Pappy” Dailey, the owners of Starday Records. His earliest records didn’t have much impact beyond East Texas, but by 1955 he had his first bonafide hit with “Why Baby Why”, which peaked at #4 on the Billboard chart, and might have charted higher had it not been that Red Sovine and Webb Pierce recorded a cover version for Decca Records (their version went to #1). In 1956, Jones was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry.

Starday was eventually sold to Mercury Records, and George remained with the label until 1962. Pappy Dailey continued to be George’s manager and record producer (although Jones later said that Dailey had done very little in his role as producer and that Jones himself performed most of the production duties). While he was at Mercury, George had such hits as “White Lightnin’”,(his first #1), “Color Of The Blues” , and “The Window Up Above.” During that time, he developed a more polished vocal style, and his records’ production shifted from a raw honky-tonk style to the more sophisticated Nashville Sound of the day. In 1962, he followed Pappy Dailey to United Artists Records, where he scored such classic hits as “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Race Is On” and a number of memorable duets with Melba Montgomery, including “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds.”

In 1964, Pappy Dailey and former Mercury executive Art Talmadge bought out United Artists’ share in New York-based Musicor Records, and Dailey’s clients, including Jones and Melba Montgomery, were transferred to the new label. Jones’ first sessions at Musicor were duets with the label’s flagship artist, Gene Pitney. Their hit duets together included “Things Have Gone To Pieces” and “I’ve Got Five Dollars And It’s Saturday Night.” As a solo artist, George recorded almost 300 songs during his Musicor tenure, and scored 25 hits, including “Love Bug”, “Walk Through This World With Me”, “If My Heart Had Windows”, “Say It’s Not You”, “When The Grass Grows Over Me”, and “A Good Year For The Roses.”

George had remarried in 1954 to Shirley Corley. Although the marriage lasted fourteen years and produced two sons, the two were not well suited for each other. Shirley showed little interest in George’s career and opted to remain in Texas when he moved to Nashville. Her lack of support, combined George’s alcohol abuse took its toll on the marriage, and the couple divorced in 1968. Shortly thereafter, George met a young up-and-coming singer named Tammy Wynette.

Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’

Spotlight Artist: Loretta Lynn (Part 2)

The 1970s were Loretta Lynn’s most productive and most successful decade. She opened the decade by releasing her signature hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “After The Fire Is Gone”, the first of a long string of successful duets with Conway Twitty. In 1972, she won her second Female Vocalist of the Year award from the Country Music Association. She’d previously won in 1967; Tammy Wynette took the trophy home for the next three years, and in 1971 it was awarded to Lynn Anderson. Conway and Loretta also took home the Vocal Duo of the Year trophy in 1972, but the icing on the cake that year was when Loretta Lynn became the first female artist to become the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year. To commemorate the occasion, her label released an album in 1973 called Entertainer of the Year, which produced another #1 hit, “Rated X”. It was Loretta’s first release on the MCA label, which had purchased Decca and absorbed its artist roster. In 1973 she also became the first country artist to grace the cover of Newsweek.

The hits kept coming; it was during this period that Loretta released “One’s On The Way”, “I Wanna Be Free”, “You’re Lookin’ At Country”, and “Love Is The Foundation”, among others. In 1975 she released “The Pill”, her most controversial record, completely eclipsing the controversy that had surrounded “Rated X” two years earlier. Believed to be the first song about birth control, “The Pill” was considered very risque and was banned by many radio stations. Nevertheless, it managed to crack the Top 5.

During the early part of the 70s, Loretta severed her ties with the Wilburn Brothers. As her song publishers, they owned the rights to all of her compositions and Loretta saw very little in financial renumeration. While the matter was being fought out in court, Loretta stopped writing songs altogether, rather than to continue lining the Wiburns’ pockets. As a result, the music she released in the latter part of the 70s had a more polished, pop influenced sound in comparison to her earlier work.

In 1976, Loretta published her autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, which became a New York Times bestseller. A film based on the book was released in 1980, earning some high-profile mainstream attention for Loretta, and an Academy Award for Sissy Spacek for her portrayal of the country star. Tommy Lee Jones co-starred as Mooney. As the 70s came to a close, she was named Artist of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music.

The 1980s were marred by the beginnings of a career decline and personal tragedy. It was the age of the Urban Cowboy, and Loretta’s style of country had begun to fall out of favor with country radio. Her records continued to chart, but she was no longer consistently making the Top 10 with her solo efforts. “I Lie” became her final Top 10 solo hit in 1982. She fought with her label, which wanted to push her in a more pop direction. She refused to renew her contract; MCA eventually relented, but by that time it was clear that Loretta’s reign at the top of the charts was over. She racked up her final Top 20 hit, “Heart Don’t Do This To Me” in 1985, and in 1988 she released her final album for MCA. That same year she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

A few years earlier, in 1984, Loretta’s 34-year-old son, Jack Benny Lynn drowned in a river near the family ranch. In her second book, Loretta says that she believes she suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of this tragedy, but she did not receive any medical treatment for it. She became less focused on her career, and although she continued to tour, she recorded less frequently.

Loretta spent most of the 1990s out of the spotlight. She no longer had a record deal and she stopped touring for the most part in order to care for Mooney, whose health had begun to fail. In 1993 she collaborated with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette for the Honky Tonk Angels album. Though it received virtually no radio airplay, the album reached #6 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and earned gold certification. In 1995 she did a brief series for TNN called Loretta Lynn & Friends. Mooney Lynn died in 1996 from complications from diabetes.

In 2000, Loretta released her first solo album in twelve years, titled Still Country. It was produced by Randy Scruggs and released on the Audium label. The lead single, “Country In My Genes”, on which she was joined by half of Nashville on the chorus, received enough airplay to reach #72 in Billboard. The subsequent singles, which included “I Can’t Hear The Music”, which she’d written as a tribute to Mooney, did not chart. Despite being largely ignored by country radio, the album was generally well received by critics. However, it was her next album, 2004′s Van Lear Rose, that is considered her true comeback. Produced by Jack White of the White Stripes, it was an interesting fusion of country and alternative rock and a radical departure from her previous work. At nearly 70 years of age, Loretta Lynn was suddenly hip again. Van Lear Rose earned her two Grammy Awards in 2005: one for Best Country Album, and one for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Portland, Oregon”, a duet with producer Jack White.

In between Still Country and Van Lear Rose, Loretta found time to publish a second autobiography, Still Woman Enough in 2002. In 2001, CMT ranked her at #3, behind Patsy Cline (#1) and Tammy Wynette (#2) on their 40 Greatest Women of Country Music special. She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2003, and in 2008 she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She received a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010.

At age 75, Loretta is showing no signs of slowing down. She remains a concert draw and is reportedly working on two new albums which will tentatively be released later this year, though no dates have been announced.

The term legend is used much too freely these days, but Loretta Lynn truly belongs to an elite inner circle of performers, without whom it is difficult to imagine what country music would have been like. We hope that you will enjoy our look back at the life and career of a woman who has become an American icon, and who is arguably the most important female artist in the history of country music.

Spotlight Artist: Loretta Lynn (Part 1)

Our look back at the legends of country music continues as we turn the spotlight on Loretta Lynn.

The story of her hardscrabble origin and subsequent rise to fame is well known. She was born in Van Lear, Kentucky, on April 14 in 1934 or 1935. (There is conflicting information about the year of her birth, but most evidence points to 1934 being the correct year). The second of eight children, she grew up in extreme poverty, “in a cabin on a hill” without electricity or running water. Her father was a coal miner. When she was only 13 years old, she married Oliver “Mooney” Lynn (always referred to as “Doolittle” or “Doo” by Loretta), and gave birth to four of her six children before she was 19.

A year after their marriage, in an effort to break away from poverty-stricken Kentucky, Mooney relocated his young family to Washington State, breaking a promise he’d made to Loretta’s father not to take her too far from home. Mooney’s shortcomings as a husband and father were considerable; however, it was he who recognized Loretta’s potential and practically forced her into the music business. He bought her a $17 guitar for her eighteenth birthday and told her to learn how to play it. She did, and soon was singing in honky-tonks on weekends for $5 a night. Eventually she earned a guest spot on Buck Owens’ television show, which originated from Tacoma, Washington. A wealthy Canadian businessman named Norm Burley saw the show and offered to finance Loretta’s career. He formed a label called Zero Records, and signed Loretta, promising to release her from her contract if she ever managed to secure a deal from a major label.

The Lynns traveled to Los Angeles for Loretta’s first recording session, where she recorded her own compositions “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” and “Whispering Sea”, which became the A and B sides of her first single. The Lynns themselves mailed out 3,500 copies of the record to radio stations, and traveled by car down the west coast to promote it, visiting radio stations along the way. By July 1960, “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” had reached #14 in Billboard, and Loretta Lynn was on her way to Nashville.

In October 1960, Loretta made her debut appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and was such a hit with the both the audience and the Opry management, she was invited back for 17 consecutive weekends. She would become an Opry member in 1962. She signed a songwriting and management contract with the Wilburn Brothers, who offered her a spot on their syndicated television show. They also took a demo recording of one her songs to Owen Bradley and secured a six-month contract with Decca Records. Bradley wasn’t initially interested in signing Loretta; he felt she sounded too much like Kitty Wells, who was already on the Decca roster. Bradley was interested in the song on the demo, but the Wilburns would not allow him to have it unless he offered Loretta a contract. Bradley relented and signed Loretta to Decca. The song on the demo, “Fool #1″ went on to become a smash pop hit for Brenda Lee.

Loretta’s first release for Decca, “I Walked Away From The Wreck” did not chart, but her next release, Johnny Mullins’ “Success” reached #6. The vast majority of her subsequent releases reached the Top 20, and most of those reached the Top 10. She hit the #1 spot for the first of 16 times in 1966 with “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind)”, which she co-wrote with her sister Peggy Sue Wells. The album of the same title became the first by a female country artist to earn gold certification from the RIAA.

In 1970, Loretta released the autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which became her signature hit. Unlike anything she’d previously recorded, it told the story of her humble origins in Kentucky. It became her fourth #1 single and second gold album. Also that year she recorded a duet with Conway Twitty called “After The Fire Is Gone”, which also went to #1 and earned a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Her partnership with Twitty was one of the most successful, if not the most successful, duos in country music history.

I Remember Patsy … a conversation

In 1977 Loretta Lynn released the tribute album I Remember Patsy. The album concludes with this conversation between Loretta and Owen Bradley, as they reminisce about Patsy:

Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 3

After a successful run in Las Vegas, Patsy Cline returned to Nashville and Owen Bradley’s recording studio for what would be her last sessions. In February 1963 she recorded twelve new tracks, including a cover of Don Gibson’s “Sweet Dreams” and the Bob Wills classic “Faded Love”. She was unusually emotional and wept throughout the session; the emotion can be heard on both of these tracks. Bradley assumed that she’d had an argument with her husband, and when Charlie stopped by to see how things were going, he was quickly ushered out of the studio before Patsy saw him, so as not to break the mood.

“Leavin’ On Your Mind” had been released about a month before Patsy’s final recording sessions, in January 1963. It was the last single released during her lifetime. It reached #8 on the country chart, but unlike most of her previous hits, it was not a crossover success, stalling at #83 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Patsy Cline died on March 5, 1963 when the Piper Comanche aircraft carrying her back to Nashville from a charity concert in Kansas City, Missouri crashed amidst deteriorating weather conditions near Camden, Tennessee. Also on board were Grand Ole Opry stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Patsy’s manager Randy Hughes, who had piloted the plane. There were no survivors. Patsy was interred near her home in Virginia, at the Shenandoah Memorial Park.

Decca continued to release Patsy’s singles and albums in the years following her death. “Sweet Dreams”, her first posthumous release, was a #5 country hit, and despite having been recorded previously by both Faron Young and Don Gibson, it is Patsy’s interpretation that is considered the definitive version. The follow-up single “Faded Love” reached #7 on the charts and was her last solo Top 10 hit. After that, her singles charted lower, if they charted at all. She returned to the Top 5 one final time in 1981, when RCA Records released an electronic duet of Patsy and Jim Reeves singing “Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)”.

In 1967, Decca released Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits, which eventually sold more than 10 million copies. It held the record as the best-selling country album of all-time by a female artist, until the 1990s when it was overtaken by Shania Twain’s The Woman In Me. In 1973, Patsy became the first female solo artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her name began to fade from the public consciousness, but was brought back to the forefront in 1980 when she was portrayed on the silver screen by actress Beverly D’Angelo in the Loretta Lynn bio-film Coal Miner’s Daughter. Five years later, Hollywood told its version of the Patsy Cline story in the film Sweet Dreams, starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris.

Although her recording career lasted a mere eight years, Patsy Cline cast a long shadow over the country music landscape. Virtually every female country vocalist who has emerged since her death has named Patsy as an influence. Her songs have been covered by such artists as Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes and Sara Evans. Her Greatest Hits still holds the record for the longest run on the Billboard Country Albums chart for an album by a female artist, and she remains a best-selling artist for MCA, the successor company to Decca Records. We hope that you’ll enjoy our coverage as we look back at Patsy’s life and career throughout the month of January.

Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 2

Patsy Cline finally found her breakthrough hit, “I Fall to Pieces” in the summer of 1961. She had given birth to a son that January and for once things were looking up. Unfortunately, her happiness was quickly overshadowed when she was seriously injured in a near-fatal head-on automobile accident in June of that year. While she was recuperating in the hospital, “I Fall To Pieces” continued to climb the charts. One Saturday evening on the Opry, an up-and-coming singer named Loretta Lynn sang the song and dedicated to Patsy. Patsy, who was listening to the broadcast, was so touched that she asked her husband Charlie to bring Loretta to the hospital so she could meet her and thank her. The two women became close and remained good friends for the remainder of Patsy’s life.

Patsy returned to the recording studio in August 1961 and quickly got into another battle with Owen Bradley over her next single. Faron Young had recently had a smash hit with “Hello, Walls”, a tune written by a 27-year-old songwriter named Willie Nelson. Patsy was interested in recording another Nelson song, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, but it had been put on hold for Billy Walker. Patsy tried to sweet-talk Walker into giving up the song, but he proved resistant to her charms. Instead, he gave her another Nelson composition called “Crazy” as a consolation prize. Patsy hated it, but Bradley was convinced that it would be a big hit. Willie Nelson’s demo recording had been in a honky-tonk style. Bradley re-worked it as a torch song, with a more sophisticated arrangement, and finally persuaded Patsy to record it. She was still not fully recovered from her injuries and had difficulty hitting all of the notes. After four hours of trying, Bradley persuaded her to give up. He recorded the basic tracks and had her come back a week later to overdub her vocal track, and she nailed the song in one take. Despite her initial apprehension about recording the song, Owen Bradley was once again proven right. “Crazy” reached #2 on the Billboard country chart in October of 1961, and by December it had reached #9 on the pop chart. Today, it is the song for which Patsy is best remembered. In 1997 it was named the #1 jukebox song of all time.

Patsy ended 1961 on a high note. In November, she traveled to New York with some of her fellow Opry stars to play to a sold-out house at Carnegie Hall, and then went back into the recording studio in December. Among the songs she cut at those sessions was Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You”. Unlike her other big hits — “Walkin’ After Midnight”, “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy” — Patsy immediately loved “She’s Got You”. It became her second and final #1 country hit in May 1962. It also reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later in 1962 she became the first female country star to headline a show in Las Vegas, when the Mint Casino engaged her for a 35-day run. She had been nervous about playing Vegas, but her fears proved to be unfounded; she was a hit with both critics and audiences alike. Not sure that Patsy would want to return to Las Vegas, her manager Randy Hughes decided to let her return to Nashville to rest for a few months before telling her that he’d booked her for a return engagement. Unfortunately, fate would intervene and deny Patsy the opportunity to accept.

Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 1

From time to time throughout 2010, we’ll be taking a look at some of country music’s legendary artists. We’re starting with the great Patsy Cline, who was one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed vocalists, and whose influence is felt to the current day.

She was born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia, on September 8, 1932. When she was 15, her father abandoned the family, and Ginny, as she was then known, dropped out of high school to help support her mother and two younger siblings. From an early age, she’d wanted to be a singer. She entered a number of local talent shows and sang live on Winchester’s WINC-AM radio. This eventually led to a stint on Connie B. Gay’s Town and Country television show, which originated from Washington, DC. Among the cast members of Town and Country was an up and rising star and future sausage magnate by the name of Jimmy Dean. She even managed to take a trip to Nashville in 1948, landing a guest appearance on Roy Acuff’s Dinner Bell program on WSM-AM.

In 1953 she married a contractor named Gerald Cline, but the marriage ended in divorce after four years, due mainly to Cline’s lack of support of his wife’s (now known as Patsy Cline) career aspirations. In 1954, she met Bill McCall, who owned a song publishing company called Four Star Music. In what would prove to be the biggest mistake of her professional career, Patsy signed a five-year contract with Four Star. She returned to Nashville with McCall, who arranged a leasing agreement with Decca Records, whereby Decca would produce and distribute Patsy’s records, but Four Star would promote and retain ownership of the recordings and would have sole discretion over what material she recorded. This was a very one-sided deal in which Decca did most of the work and saw very little in financial renumeration, but Decca executive Paul Cohen and producer Owen Bradley recognized Patsy’s potential and agreed to McCall’s terms, in order to have the opportunity to sign Patsy to Decca when her Four Star contract lapsed.

This proved to be a disastrous arrangement for all involved. McCall would only allow Patsy to record songs for which Four Star owned the publishing rights. Both Patsy and Owen Bradley felt that much of the Four Star material was substandard, and though they experimented with a variety of musical styles, commercial success eluded them. The sole exception was “Walkin’ After Midnight”, which Patsy performed on the nationally-telecast Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts on January 21, 1957. Not only did Patsy win the competition, “Walkin’ After Midnight” became a smash hit, rising to #3 on Billboard’s country chart and #17 on the pop chart. Patsy became a regular on the Godfrey program, but was eventually fired after she repeatedly clashed with Godfrey over song selection. She wanted to sing country; he wanted her to sing pop.

1957 was also the year that Patsy met and married her second husband, Charlie Dick. After giving birth to a daughter in 1958, the family moved permanently to Nashville, where Patsy and Owen Bradley continued in their quest to find the elusive follow-up hit to “Walkin’ After Midnight”. Success continued to evade them, and by 1959 Bill McCall had written Patsy off as a lost cause and stopped promoting her singles.

Patsy’s fortunes began to change in 1960, which was the year that she was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. It was also the year that her Four Star contract expired, and she was formally signed to Decca Records. In her first session for Decca, she recorded “I Fall To Pieces”, which was written by Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran. It had been turned down by a number of other singers, and Patsy began to have second thoughts about it herself, after initially agreeing to record it. She feared that it was too pop. Bradley was experimenting with a hybrid style of music that Chet Atkins had pioneered at RCA with great success for artists such as Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves. A mixture of country and pop, it would eventually become known as “the Nashville Sound”. Bradley wanted to try this style with Patsy. Meanwhile, he and Patsy argued about cutting “I Fall to Pieces”; Bradley prevailed and was eventually vindicated when it became Patsy’s first #1 country hit, and a #12 pop hit in August 1961, ending a four-year dry spell.

Happy birthday, Kitty Wells!

My Kind of Country salutes the Queen of Country Music on her 90th birthday. Kitty Wells was the first female artist to have a #1 country hit back in 1952 with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” and in doing so paved the way for other women such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette.   In 1956 she became the first female country artist to release an LP with Kitty Wells’ Country Hit Parade.  She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976.  We wish her continued health and happiness and thank her for her invaluable contributions to this genre that we all love.

Heart, soul and talent: Connie Smith’s recipe for great country music

conniesmithmyspace1A few days ago, I had the great honor and privilege of sitting down for a conversation with the legendary Connie Smith:

RX: Your entry into the country music world seems to be something that just sort of happened, instead of something that you spent a lot of time pursuing. Prior to meeting Bill Anderson, had you given any serious thought to going to Nashville to pursue a career in country music?

CS: No. It was always a dream I had to sing on the Grand Ole Opry. I remember when I was about 5 saying that, but I never thought I really would. If I hadn’t met Bill I probably wouldn’t have pursued it because I already had a young son. The way I met him was I went up to that park because I’d heard that George Jones would be there. But they’d given my husband and me the wrong date, so when we got there Bill was there. I hadn’t gone to sing, I just wanted to hear George because he was my favorite male singer. When we got there we found out that they had a talent contest every week, and my husband and friends talked me into entering. The biggest holdback was that you had to do your own accompaniment, and I can only play the guitar in the key of C, so I had to pick a song that I could do in C. And I think the reason I won was because the winner for the prior seven weeks was a seven-year-old banjo player and I guess they just wanted something different. I’d like to think it was my talent that won but I’m really not so sure. I know it wasn’t my guitar playing (laughs).

RX: But it was definitely your talent that caught the attention of Bill Anderson. You went to Nashville at his invitation, and “Once a Day”, your debut record, was a megahit – the kind that every new artist dreams of having right out of the box. Was it difficult to adjust to that kind of overnight success?

CS: I was just very lucky to have come along at the right time and to have gotten such a great, great song. But it was difficult being thrust into the spotlight so quickly. I just wanted to hear my record on the radio but I was never really career-driven.

RX: Most artists from that era, particularly women, seem to have been almost completely controlled by their labels and producers.  Did you have any say in what you got to record or how your records sounded?

downtown-country CS (emphatically):  Absolutely. I never recorded anything I didn’t want to. I was very fortunate to get to work with Bob Ferguson as my producer for the first 9 years. Any attempts to force me to record something I didn’t want to wouldn’t have gone down well with me. If he really, really wanted me to do something, I did it but I was never forced. RCA did say to me, “You can do things besides just country,” and I said, “I’m not sure that I want to.”  That wasn’t Bob or Chet forcing me – that was coming more from New York. They really wanted me to do some middle-of-the-road stuff. So we did the whole Downtown Country album. But those really weren’t the best songs for me.

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Legends of the Grand Ole Opry: Connie Smith

conniesmith

Constance June Meador was born on August 14, 1941 in Elkhart, Indiana. Her father’s alcoholism led to the breakup of her parents’ marriage when Connie was seven years old. After her mother remarried, Connie found herself in the middle of an extended family that included 14 children. Her stepfather played the mandolin and performed in square dances with his brothers who played fiddle and guitar. The family moved frequently, making it difficult for Connie to form friendships in school. Eventually they settled in Ohio. Connie grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry, as well as singers like Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald, when country music wasn’t available on the local radio stations.

In 1961, Connie married Jerry Smith, and began singing in grange halls and at local fairs to make extra money. In 1963, they drove to a country music park near Columbus to see a Grand Ole Opry package show where George Jones, Connie’s favorite singer, had been scheduled to appear. When the Smiths arrived, they discovered that George Jones had actually headlined the show the previous week, so they had to make do with a different headliner – one named Bill Anderson. The mistake about the show’s scheduled roster was a fateful one. There was a talent contest that evening, which Connie entered and won, which also got the attention of Bill Anderson. He invited her to Nashville to perform on the Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop radio program. She was initially reluctant, but eventually accepted the offer. While in Nashville, Anderson tried to persuade his producer Owen Bradley to sign Connie to a Decca Records contract. Bradley declined, since Decca already had Loretta Lynn on its roster, and didn’t feel the need for another “girl singer”. So Anderson instead talked to Chet Atkins at RCA , who did offer Smith a contract.

In 1964, country music was still recovering from the untimely death of its only female superstar, Patsy Cline, who had lost her life in a plane crash the previous year. There was no one else to fill the void. The next female superstar, Loretta Lynn, wouldn’t have her first #1 hit until 1966, and a young singer-songwriter named Dolly Parton wouldn’t arrive in Nashville until later in 1964, so the timing was just right for Connie Smith to take Nashville by storm. And take it by storm, she did. Her first single was a song written by Anderson, called “Once A Day”. (Click on the link to listen). It was a song that Bill Anderson had started writing years earlier. He quickly finished it upon learning that Connie needed a few more songs for her first RCA album. It quickly shot to #1, staying there for 8 weeks, a first for a female country artist. To this day, it remains the record holder for the most weeks at #1 by a female artist. It was the first time a debut record by a female artist reached #1 and it wouldn’t happen again until 1991 when Trisha Yearwood reached the top spot with “She’s In Love With the Boy”.

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