A revised and expanded version of a post first published on The 9513:
The 1970s were not my favorite decade for country music but it was the decade in which I did my largest amount of listening to country radio, having the good fortune to have such country giants as WSUN AM- 620 in St. Petersburg, FL, WHOO AM-1090 in Orlando and WCMS AM-1050 in Norfolk, VA for my listening pleasure, plus I could tune in WSM AM – 650 in Nashville at night. I did a lot of shift-work during this decade so my radio was on constantly. This list is meant neither to be a comprehensive list of great country songs from the 1970s, nor any sort of ranking of records. It’s just a list of some songs that I liked and remember. See if you recall any of these records:
“Cowboy Convention” – Buddy Alan
A silly record with some great trumpet work, “Cowboy Convention” is a cover of a Lovin’ Spoonful record from the mid 60s, about the villains of the silent movie era who were always tying Sweet Nell to the railroad track. The Buddy Alan title credit on the label is misleading as this is really a Buddy Alan/Don Rich duet with the Buckaroos. Buddy Alan, of course, is the son of Buck Owens.
“Goodbye” – Rex Allen Jr.
The best record made by the son of a western movie legend (although “The Great Mail Robbery” and “Can You Hear Those Pioneers” were nearly as good). Eddy Arnold covered the song a few years later and also had a hit with it.
“Where Have All Our Heroes Gone” – Bill Anderson
Whispering Bill mostly stayed away from politics, but finally spoke out with this eloquent song. Less jingoistic than “Okie From Muskogee” or “Fighting Side of Me,” it also was a lot less controversial.
“Too Fast For Rapid City” – Sheila Andrews
Sheila Andrews recorded for Ovation Records, a label that was able to break out the Kendalls and almost no one else, so none of her songs became major hits. Sheila was quite pretty and had a powerful voice. She died in late 1984, but I have no information on her death.
“Boney Fingers” – Hoyt Axton
Hoyt was the son of Mae Boren Axton who wrote “Heartbreak Hotel”, the breakthrough hit for Elvis Presley. Hoyt was a pretty fair writer himself having written such hit songs as “Joy to the World” and “Never Been to Spain” (Three Dog Night),”Greenback Dollar” (Kingston Trio), “The Pusher” and “Snowblind Friend” (Steppenwolf) and “No-No Song” (Ringo Starr). This was Hoyt’s biggest solo hit, reaching #8 in 1974. A sentiment with which we can all identify – work your fingers to the bone what do you get ?
“I Just Started Hating Cheating Songs Today” – Moe Bandy
Just when the Nashville Sound was turning squishy, along came Moe Bandy to inject some hardcore honky-tonk back into the genre. Every line of this classic novelty references a major country hit of the half decade immediately prior.
“Today the midnight oil’s all over someone
And those forbidden places aren’t forbidden anymore
If my back door could talk it would tell me
That my borrowed angel’s been this far before
I just threw my last bottle at the jukebox
When I heard that woman sing let’s go all the way
I just found out my woman is the devil
I just started hatin’ cheatin’ songs today”
“Unexpected Goodbye” – Glenn Barber
This is a tender song by a completely forgotten artist. During the late 60s Barber had a modest hit with “Don’t Worry About The Mule (Just Load The Wagon).”
“That’s How I Got To Memphis” – Bobby Bare
This was recorded during Bare’s brief stay at Mercury, where he recorded a bunch of fine songs written by his pal Tom T. Hall. This was one of them. “Memphis” has been revived many times, most recently by Deryl Dodd. This, however, remains my favorite version of the song.
“No Memories Hanging ‘Round” – Bobby Bare & Rosanne Cash
The first hit for Ms. Cash. Written by Rodney Crowell, the songsmith had originally planned to record it himself as a duet with Roseanne, but then decided that Bare could do it better. Rodney was correct.
“Catch The Wind” – Jack Barlow
Jack had a deep rumbling voice, very similar to Dave Dudley. He recorded for Dot Records, which was not a major player and spent little effort promoting him. This was a cover of the Donovan Leitch hit from the 1960s, and reached #26 for Jack.
“Sweet Melinda” – Randy Barlow
Randy Barlow was Detroit’s contribution to country music of the 1970s. Recording for the small label Republic Records, Randy had four consecutive records reach #10 during 1978-1979, a major accomplishment for such a small label. This was my favorite of the four.
“If I Said you Had A Beautiful Body” – The Bellamy Brothers
“…Would you hold it against me?” This rather politically incorrect song expresses a thought every man has harbored at one time or another. Quite a bit of wordplay here (silly and otherwise) turned this into a #1 hit.
“Tennessee Bird Walk” – Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan
One of the oddest and silliest songs ever to grace the Country charts, this novelty even became a major pop hit. Jack and Misty has been around the Orlando, Florida, area for the last 30 years, basically performing as a cocktail lounge act. As strange as this song is, I can assure you it is not the oddest part of their repertoire.
“Morning” – Jim Ed Brown
This was a very romantic ballad that crossed over to the pop charts and reached #1 on the Cashbox Country Chart. This was “country cocktail” production – strings and steel guitar and Jim Ed’s warm, Reeves/Arnold-like voice.
“Come Monday” – Jimmy Buffett
A bigger pop than country hit, this remains my favorite Buffett record, a song of loneliness and longing.
“Whiskey River” – Johnny Bush
This is a lonely and slow honky-tonk ballad, written by Bush. The song was later recorded (and completely ruined) by his old pal Willie Nelson. I’m sure Bush didn’t mind, however, given the royalties this song generates from the many Willie albums it appears on. Willie’s recordings kept Johnny Bush afloat until effective treatment for Spastic Dysphonia – which tormented the artist for years – finally became available.
Johnny is still out there performing, a mentor to generations of Texas singers. His Who’ll Buy My Memories album was one of my ten best of 2011.
“I’m Gonna Love You” – Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell recorded a lot of garbage during the 70s, most of which bore financial (if not artistic) success. This is one of the few of his 70s songs I can stand; it’s a tender love ballad featuring understated production and a gentle bagpipe. This was not the first time Campbell used bagpipes on a single, having featured the instrument earlier in the decade on his marvelous single of “Bonaparte’s Retreat”.
“Ready Mixed Revenge” – Lance Carpenter
This is a song that was a huge hit for Johnny Chester in Australia. Recorded on a small independent label, Carpenter’s version received a little airplay in some markets but not nearly what it deserved. The hero of this revenge-ballad is the driver of a cement-mixer truck. You can fill in the blanks.
“What Is Truth” – Johnny Cash
In the hands of anyone else, this song would be a throwaway–in the hands of Johnny Cash, the voice of truth itself, it is a minor classic.
“So This Is Love” – Tommy Cash
Tommy Cash had a modest string of hits during the late 60s and early 70s. This is my favorite of his songs, although “Young New Mexican Puppeteer” is also outstanding. His biggest hit, of course, was “Six White Horses” (which hit #1 on Cashbox).
“The Lawrence Welk Hee-Haw Counter Revolution Polka” – Roy Clark
In late 1970, CBS canceled Hee Haw and other “rural-based” shows. Similarly, ABC gave long-time polka favorite Lawrence Welk the axe. Neither cancellation was due to poor ratings – both had huge audiences of “the wrong people” (an older and/or rural demographic). Both shows promptly went into syndication and were carried on even more stations than during their network heydays – virtually every CBS affiliate chose to carry Hee Haw (as did a number of independent stations) which ran for many years more. This song tells that story. As Clark tells it, Hee Haw may have set his music (and recording career) back, but it also set him up for life as a personality and a box office draw.
“Knock Three Times” – Billy “Crash” Craddock
This was Crash Craddock’s first country hit, an energetic cover of a then-recent pop hit by Dawn (later billed as Tony Orlando & Dawn, once Tony found some singers to serve as Dawn). The fiddles and steel guitar lend a sense of urgency to this version that was lacking in the Dawn original. This song went to #1 on Cashbox’s Country Chart. More than simply a cover act, Craddock would have 19 top ten hits over the course of the next decade and a half.