For part five 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).
“Let’s All Go Down To The River” – Jody Miller & Johnny Paycheck (1972)
A nice country cover of an old gospel song – how could you go wrong with this duo? Jody Miller would have a number of hits during the 1970s, although her single biggest record was in 1965 when “Queen of The House” (an answer song to Roger Miller’s “King of The Road”) went #12 pop / #5 country. I don’t know that Jody viewed herself as a country singer, but she had a sassy & sexy voice and was quite easy on the eyes.
“Tom Green County Fair” – Roger Miller (1970)
Roger Miller’s career had largely run out of steam by this time, but the imagery in this song makes it one of my favorites. Alas, this song only reached #38. Roger would experience a significant renaissance in the mid-1980s writing the music for the Broadway play Big River.
“Music Box Dancer” – Frank Mills (1979)
I have no idea why this song charted country as Frank Mills was an orchestra leader and this instrumental song was no more country than Lady Gaga. It was a huge pop hit reaching #3 and selling millions in the process.
“Pure Love” – Ronnie Milsap (1974)
Written by Eddie Rabbitt, this was Ronnie’s first #1. How can you not like a song that contains a line like “Milk and honey and Captain Krunch and you in the morning?”
“Personality” – Price Mitchell (1975)
A nice cover of an old Lloyd Price hit, it reached #29 making it Mitchell’s biggest hit. Price never landed on a major label but he was a good singer.
“No Charge” – Melba Montgomery (1974)
Never a top tier star, Melba was regarded as the female George Jones, and recorded a number of tracks with George during the 1960s on both United Artists and Musicor. She never caught the breaks, but this sappy Mother’s Day favorite did reach #1 and still receives airplay during every Mother’s Day weekend. She cut a nice series of duets with Charlie Louvin during the 1970s with “Something To Brag About” cracking the top 20, and she had another solo top twenty in 1975 with “Don’t Let The Good Times Fool You”.
“Red Rose From The Blue Side of Town” – George Morgan (1974)
This was a nice song that deserved a better placing than #21. Featuring ‘Little’ Roy Wiggins on steel guitar, this was George’s last top 40 hit.
“A Girl Named Johnny Cash” – Jane Morgan (1970)
A ridiculous answer song to “A Boy Named Sue”, it represents the only real country chart success for a very popular pop singer from the 1950s.
“Cherokee Fiddle” – Michael Martin Murphey (1977)
MMM’s 1970s success came with songs such as “Wildfire” and “Carolina In The Pines” which charted pop rather than country. This only got to #58, but remains my favorite version of the song.
“Snowbird” – Anne Murray (1970)
This is the song that jump-started Anne’s career. The song was a million-seller but only got to #10 on the country charts and #8 on the pop charts. Anne was the undoubted queen of Countrypolitan music, basically an adult contemporary artist with strong appeal to country audiences.
“Garden Party” – Rick Nelson (1972)
This is the song that introduced American to the ‘new’ Ricky Nelson. The song received only limited country airplay, reaching #44. It did reach #6 pop while selling over a million copies.
“Shotgun Willie” – Willie Nelson (1973)
Although it only reached #63, this was the first song to give America a taste of what Willie could do freed from the shackles of the ‘Nashville Sound’ production.
“Running Bare” – Jim Nesbitt (1970)
“Running Bare” was a spoof of the earlier Sonny James hit (and Johnny Preston before that) “Running Bear”. Never much of a vocalist, this was Jim’s last chart hit reaching #20. Jim had a series of comedy and novelty numbers in the 1960s, some focused on politics such as “Looking For More In ‘64”, “Still Alive In 65” and “Heck of a Fix in 66”.
“If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” – Olivia Newton-John (1974)
Her second country hit and her only #1 (according to Cashbox) country hit. I really liked her first two American albums. She did a terrific job on the uncharted single “Banks Of The Ohio”, then on her second single “Let Me Be There“, and on this song. After that I completely lost interest in her and her music.
“I Saw The Light” – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Roy Acuff (1971)
It only got to #56, but it was on the strength of songs like this that the first Will The Circle Be Unbroken album reached legendary status. Acuff, of course, was (and forever will be) the King of Country Music.
“Never Ending Song of Love” – Mayf Nutter (1971)
One of several artists to cover the Delaney and Bonnie hit, this version wasn’t a big hit, but I liked it. Dickey Lee’s version of the song went to #8, Mayf’s version only to #57. Mayf Nutter had far greater success as a comic and an actor appearing in shows such as The Waltons and Charlie’s Angels.
“Y’all Come Back Saloon” – The Oak Ridge Boys (1977)
This song proved that a successful gospel group could also be a successful country group. The 1980s would be their biggest decade.
“Let’s Shake Hands and Come Out Lovin’ “– Kenny O’Dell (1978)
This was Kenny’s only top ten record reaching #9. His most noteworthy success was as a songwriter, writing the classic “Behind Closed Doors”.
“Ebony Eyes” – Orion a/k/a Jimmy Ellis (1979)
The song was an old Everly Brothers hit; the singer, an Elvis sound-alike who wore a mask, the inference being that Elvis was alive and well and in hiding.
“Georgia Pineywoods” – The Osborne Brothers (1971)
Bluegrass artists rarely have big hit records. This one got to #37, and was the duo’s biggest hit of the 1970. A nice nostalgic song, as was the follow up “Muddy Bottom.”
“Paper Roses” – Marie Osmond (1973)
Marie was not quite 14 when this song was recorded, but she sure could sing. This Sonny James-produced cover of an Anita Bryant pop hit soared all the way to #1, staying there for two weeks. It would take Marie another dozen years to again reach the top of the country charts.
“I Don’t Know You (Anymore)” – Tommy Overstreet (1971)
Tommy Overstreet, a distant cousin of 1920s pop star Gene Austin, had a five year run of terrific records, with eleven Billboard top 10 records and four number ones (according to Cashbox and/or Record World). This is my favorite of his hits, a record that doesn’t sound like any other record issued during the decade.
“I Wouldn’t Live In New York City” – Buck Owens (1970)
My feelings exactly.
“Redneck!” – Vernon Oxford (1976)
Vernon was always too country for country radio and this song proved it.
“Make Me Your Kind of Woman”– Patti Page (1971)
Patti Page was one of the biggest pop stars of the 1950s, with a resume of dozens of songs everyone over age sixty-five knows by heart. Her first country hit was 1951’s “Tennessee Waltz” which spent three weeks at #2 on the country charts (and 13 weeks at #1 on the pop charts). During the 1970s she made a conscious effort to focus on the country market. While her country records weren’t that successful, most of them were pretty good records.
“It’s Bad When You’re Caught With The Goods” – Billy Parker (1976)
I’m sure it is.
“Washday Blues” – Dolly Parton (1972)
This was not one of Dolly’s bigger hits, stalling out at #20, but it’s as good an example of Dolly’s sense of humor as exists anywhere.
“Standard Lie Number One” – Stella Parton (1949)
Stella was at least as pretty as her older sister, but not as talented. This song was one of Stella’s four top twenty hits.
“She’s All I Got” – Johnny Paycheck (1971)
This #1 (Cashbox) record launched Johnny’s comeback and was the first phase of his career with Epic Records, with Paycheck being cast as a romantic balladeer. Johnny had been off the charts for over two years when this record resurrected his career. Personally, I prefer the earlier 70s Paycheck to the bombastic outlaw posturing that came later in the decade.
“It Takes Two” – Dave Peel & Connie Eaton” (1970)
Nice cover of a Kim Weston-Marvin Gaye pop hit from 1967. Had this been released on a real label it might have scored much higher than #57 on the charts. By 1970 the Chart label was almost dead.
“All American Husband” – Peggy Sue (1970)
Peggy Sue Wright was too similar to older sister Loretta Lynn to be able to break out of her sister’s shadow. This song reached #37, one of six Top 40 records for her.
“The Good Lord Giveth (And Uncle Sam Taketh Away)” – Webb Pierce (1975)
By 1975, Webb was over the hill and recording for Plantation Records. Even so, this song deserved a better fate than only reach #57. Webb, who was the number one country artist of the 1950s, had records stay at #1 for 113 weeks. Only Eddy Arnold has done better. George Strait, in third place, is still a long way behind Pierce and unlikely to ever catch him.
“Why Don’t We Go Somewhere And Love” – Sandy Posey (1972)
This song was a bit much for 1970s country radio programmers, so it got uneven airplay across the nation, winding up at #51. Posey had a significant career as a pop singer during the 1960s, with “Born A Woman” reaching gold record status.
“Fraulein (The Texas National Anthem)” – Curtis Potter with Darrell McCall (1970)
It really ticks me off that great singers like Curtis Potter, Darrell McCall, Johnny Bush and Tony Booth really had to struggle to get any airplay while far less talented acts scored hit after hit. This one got only to #92. Potter has an impressive tenor and still sounds better than anyone you are likely to hear on country radio.
“Kentucky Rain” – Elvis Presley (1970)
Another song penned by Eddie Rabbitt, this recording did better on the pop charts than on the country chart where it languished at #31. It did sell over a million copies so Rabbitt did see some significant income from the song.
“I’d Rather Be Sorry” – Ray Price (1971)
Ray had a string of big hits during the early 1970s. This one reached #1 on Cashbox and is my favorite Ray Price song since his 1950s classics:
I’ll never know until it’s over
If I’m right or if I’m wrong in loving you
But I’d rather be sorry for something I’ve done
Than for something I didn’t do
“Sea of Heartbreak” – Kenny Price (1972)
From Kenny’s Don Gibson tribute album, this fine recording only reached #24 but is my favorite version of the song.
“It’s Gonna Take A Little Bit Longer” – Charley Pride (1972)
This song had more fiddle and steel on it than the rest of the Top 40 combined during its three week run at #1.
“Satin Sheets” – Jeanne Pruett (1973)
Her husband played guitar for Marty Robbins, and Marty recorded several of the songs she wrote. This one she saved for herself.
Good to see Patti Page mentioned. She is an underrated singer. Her record Detour is a classic and so is the movie.
Paul once again you’ve uncovered some real “deep catalogue” chestnuts here.
I definitely share your affection for that Jody Miller/Johnny Paycheck duet. Heads up for Jody Miller fans – that duet and 24 more of Jody’s solo charted Epic singles have been reissued on CD by Real Gone Music. That’s the new label founded by former Collector’s Choice Sr. VP/GM Gordon Anderson. “Jody Miller – Complete Epic Hits” (RGM-0017) covers her Epic career from 1970-1979. However it does not include any of her Capitol sides such as “Queen Of The House” as the now out-of-print “Jody Miller -Anthology” released in 2000 on the Renaissance label did.
To date Roger Miller’s “Tom Green County Fair” seems to have escaped a CD reissue which is too bad. You’re so right that it does bring back great images of the country fairs from long ago. For many of us that was the highlight of our entire summer and something we looked forward to for months.
“Georgia Pineywoods” by the Osborne Brothers proved that backing a bluegrass band with an orchestra could be very effective. Great sound.
Loved George Morgan’s “Red Rose From The Blue Side Of Town” and it’s predecessor “Mr. Ting-A-Ling (Steel Guitar Man.” Unfortunately the dated sound of Roy Wiggins’ non-pedal steel guitar was out of tune with early 1970’s country music trends. Had they been released about 20 years earlier both could’ve been huge country hits.
Tommy Overstreet is a forgotten name today but he recorded some really catchy tunes in the ’70’s. “I Don’t Know You Anymore” really stood out on country radio playlists. My other favorite by him is “(Jeannie Marie) You Were A Lady” It features another unique musical arrangement.
My early 70’s Patti Page pick is her duet with Tom T. Hall “Hello We’re Lonely.” LOVE that one especially because of the tasty Jerry Kennedy production.
I’m in full agreement that Johnny Paycheck’s transformation to an outlaw did not produce better music. My favorite of his Epic output is “For A Minute There” (#12/1975) It doesn’t get any better than Paycheck singing a sad ballad framed by twin fiddles & a steel guitar.
Sandy Posey SHOULD have been a big country star. Her voice was made for country music. Unfortunately the suits at Columbia did not share our passion for her music and she wasn’t a priority act for them.
“Kentucky Rain” is indeed excellent but my early ’70’s Elvis pick is “It’s A Matter Of Time” which made the country charts while it’s flip side “Burning Love” was climbing the pop surveys. Country radio hadn’t quite figured out whether or not it should play Elvis in that era. Too many stations just opted out.
Bought the Kenny Price 45 because I like it so much. The rhythm guitar track is superb.
Charley Pride’s “It’s Gonna Take A Little Bit Longer” just sparkled on AM country radio during the summer of ’72. Love the twangy lead guitar riff on that one.
One correction – “Satin Sheets” was not a song that Jeanne Pruitt wrote. Minneapolis amateur songwriter John Volinkaty penned that one. Jeanne did write “Love Me” which became a hit for Marty Robbins later in 1973. Jeanne had released her own version of that song the previous year but her Decca single stalled out at #34.