My Kind of Country

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

Country Heritage: Tommy Overstreet

During the early 1970s the airwaves of country radio electrified listeners with the sound of “Gwen (Congratulations)” and “I Don’t Know You Anymore,” records that did not sound like anything else playing on radio at the time.

Tommy Overstreet was born September 10, 1937, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but raised in Houston and Abilene, Texas. While growing up, he was always around music and was hugely influenced by a relative of his, Gene Austin, who was a major pop star during the 1920s, with one of his hits, “My Blue Heaven,” selling over 5 million copies. Austin, sometimes reported as being Overstreet’s uncle but was actually his third cousin, encouraged him in his musical endeavors. Paul Overstreet, a country songwriter of some significance, if related at all, would be a very distant relative of Tommy Overstreet.

During his teen years, he began performing pop music on radio stations in the Houston, TX area and appeared in a musical titled Hit the Road. While studying broadcasting at the University of Texas, he began playing in local clubs under the name Tommy Dean and toured frequently with Austin.

After time in the US Army, Overstreet moved to Los Angeles in the early ’60s to begin his songwriting (he has written over 500 songs) and recording career. He then returned to Texas and began appearing on the Abilene TV program The Slim Willet Show and formed his own group to play club dates and venues throughout western Texas.

His big break came in 1967 when he was hired to manage Dot Records in Nashville, TN. His connections at Dot enabled him to pursue his recording career. His first two Dot singles, issued in late 1969 and late 1970, barely made a dent, reaching #73 and #56, but in 1971 the third and fourth singles “Gwen (Congratulations)” and “I Don’t Know You Anymore” exploded on the scene both reaching #1 on Record World’s country charts (and becoming Top 5 records on Billboard and Cashbox). In 1972 Overstreet continued his streak with his biggest record “Ann (Don’t Go Runnin’)” (#2 Billboard/#1 Cashbox), “A Seed Before The Rose” only reached #16, then back into the Top 10 with 7 consecutive Top 10 singles, topped by “Heaven Is My Woman’s Love” (#3 Billboard/#1 Cashbox). Tommy’s last Top 10 occurred in 1977 when “Don’t Go City Girl on Me” reached #5; however, he continued to chart records until 1986, although nothing after early 1980 reached the top forty.

 Other Top 40 Records

  • “Send Me No Roses” (#7 in 1973)
  •  “I’ll Never Break These Chains” (#7 in 1973)
  •  “(Jeannie Marie) You Were a Lady” (#7 in 1974)
  •  “If I Miss You Again Tonight” (#8 in 1974)
  •  “I’m a Believer” (#9 in 1975)
  •  “That’s When My Woman Begins” (#6 in 1976)
  •  “If Love was a Bottle of Wine” (#11 in 1976)
  • “Young Girl” (#29 in 1976)
  • “This Time I’m In It For The Love” (#20 in 1977)
  • “Yes, Ma’am” (#12 in 1978)
  •  “Fadin’ In, Fadin’ Out” (#11 in 1978)
  • “I’ll Never Let You Down” (#27 in 1979)
  • “What More Could A Man Need” (#23 in 1979)
  • “Fadin’ Renegade” (#36 in 1980)

Overstreet remains active as a concert performer and is still an occasional recording artist, including recording gospel music. His popularity in Europe continued long past his American success and he toured Europe many times over the years.

 Discography

Vinyl

There were 12 Tommy Overstreet Albums issued by Dot/ABC and three on the Elektra label. All of these albums find Tommy in good voice; however, the albums seem to become less country as time progresses. I consider the Dot albums issued through 1975 as being substantially better than those that came later. After his runs with Dot and Elektra, Overstreet landed on minor labels where he either remade his earlier hits, or dipped back into the days of vaudeville for material such as his 1984 album Memories Old and New (Deja Vu DJV-137 1984).

CD

Like many country artists of the 1970s, Tommy Overstreet is poorly represented on CD. In 1998 Varese issued The Best of Tommy Overstreet, which collects Tomnmy’s 16 biggest hits, in their original versions. Unfortunately, this CD has gone out of print and has been replaced with another and inferior Varese CD Twenty Classic Hits, issued in 2008 and consisting of remakes.

The Ernest Tubb Record Shop has one other CD available of Tommy’s secular material Heaven Is My  Woman’s Love. This CD contains twenty songs with half the titles being Tommy’s hits and half being miscellaneous songs. From the samples on Amazon, these appear to be remakes.

Speaking of Amazon,   www.amazon.com has ten of Tommy’s CDs titles available (new and/or used)   plus some digital downloads

Tommy is on My Space   www.myspace.com/tommyoverstreet  and apparently an official website is under construction.

3 responses to “Country Heritage: Tommy Overstreet

  1. Ken Johnson May 29, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Very nice overview of a talented but generally forgotten country star. Tommy seemed to be in the right place at the right time for success. The early 1970’s “Nashville Sound” homogenization of country music allowed his pop-influenced style to flourish. Working inside the music business Tommy was keenly aware of the type of songs that easily received radio airplay. So he recorded catchy, uptempo songs that usually contained positive lyrics so that radio programmers could use them to balance their playlists against the sad country ballads that were always in abundance. Producer Ricci Mareno deserves much credit for creating Tommy’s sound in the studio and co-writing many of his hits. I agree that his early hits were quite unlike most of what was heard on country radio but were still very compatible. Unlike today when disparate styles of music create constant train wrecks on country radio.

    Perhaps these are missing from your discography info but Tommy issued three uncharted Dot singles prior to his first chart success. “Every Day I Fall More In Love With You” (Dot 17118 -1968) “Watching The Trains Go By” (Dot 17189 -1968) and the Joe South song “Games People Play” (Dot 17228 -1969) Two singles that followed “Rocking A Memory” (#73) also missed the charts. “Painted By The Wine” (Dot 17331 -1969) and a duet remake of a Beatles song with Peggy Little “Good Day Sunshine” (Dot 17350 – 1970) preceded “If You’re Looking For A Fool” (#56)

    I believe that you are correct that no family relationship exists between Tommy & Paul Overstreet. Never seen anything to make a connection.

  2. Pingback: Country Heritage: Tommy Overstreet « My Kind Of Country | Sad Country Music

  3. Pingback: Classic Rewind: Tommy Overstreet – ‘Heaven is My Woman’s Love’ | My Kind of Country

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