My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Anita Kerr Singers

Album Review: Patsy Cline – ‘The Rockin’ Side: Her First Recordings, Volume 3′

Commercial success eluded Patsy Cline throughout the 1950s in no small part due to Owen Bradley’s sometimes radical (for the day) experimentation with a wide variety of musical styles, as they searched to find her niche. In an era in which Kitty Wells was the primary example of what a girl singer, as they were known at the time, should sound like, Patsy’s more polished vocal style was a hard sell to country audiences, despite her obvious talent. Patsy resisted Bradley’s efforts to push her in a more pop direction, for which he felt her voice was better suited. The emergence of rock and roll and the tremendous success of Elvis Presley perhaps made it inevitable that Patsy and Bradley would experiment with rockabilly. The final volume of Rhino Records’ trilogy of Patsy’s early recordings for Four Star, titled The Rockin’ Side, focuses on those rockabilly efforts.

The thirteen tracks were recorded between 1955 and 1959, spanning the duration of Patsy’s Four Star contract. W.S. Stevenson, which was the pseudonym for Four Star Music’s owner Bill McCall, shares songwriting credits on eight of the tracks. Despite her expressed preference for singing honky-tonk, Patsy sounds perfectly at ease with the rockabilly material, and one suspects that had any of these recordings caught on commercially, her career might well have taken a very different direction. She could easily have been a rival for Wanda Jackson and Rose Maddox for the title Queen of Rockabilly.
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Album Review – Patsy Cline – ‘Walkin’ Dreams: Her First Recordings Volume One’

In 1989 Rhino Records licensed Patsy’s recordings for the Four Star label, and released three compilation albums. This first volume concentrates on her very earliest sessions, with thirteen songs recorded between 1955 and 1957, with one later track added on for contrast. The selection offers an intriguing glimpse into a young artist struggling to find her musical direction. The earliest cuts reveal Patsy’s hillbilly roots in a way her more sophisticated later work perhaps glosses over.

Much has been written criticising label boss Bill McCall, but one benefit resulting from Patsy signing with him was that she was teamed up with producer Owen Bradley right from the start, and her first sessions were at Bradley’s Quonset studio in Nashville. Less beneficially, she was restricted to songs published by Four Star, but that did not mean that her material was poor, even the songs credited to McCall himself under the pseudonym W S Stevenson (I understand that in many cases these copyrights were purchased from the real writers). Indeed, an early highlight is the opening track, recorded at Patsy’s very first recording session on June 1, 1955, ‘A Church, A Courtroom And Then Goodbye’, which is credited to Stevenson and Eddie Miller. This song was suggested for Patsy by Ernest Tubb, and is a very traditional country song typical of its period with prominent fiddle, recounting the sad tale of a hurried marriage followed by divorce. Even at this early stage of her career, it was clear that Patsy had a great voice, and a natural ability to convey emotion, as she declares,

I hate the sight of that courtroom
Where man-made laws push God’s laws aside

The B-side of that single, which was recorded at the same time, was the sprightly ‘Honky Tonk Merry Go Round’, with Patsy sounding as though she is biting back laughter despite a lost-love lyric. A third song recorded at this first session, another Miller/Stevenson credit to be released as a single, was the excellent cheating song, ‘Hidin’ Out’, with honky tonk piano.

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