My Kind of Country

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

Week ending 9/1/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

1952: It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels — Kitty Wells (Decca)

1962: Devil Woman — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1972: If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry — Jerry Wallace (Decca)

1982: Fool Hearted Memory — George Strait (MCA)

1992: I’ll Think Of Something — Mark Chesnutt (MCA)

2002: The Good Stuff — Kenny Chesney (BNA)

2012: Over — Blake Shelton (Warner Bros.)

2 responses to “Week ending 9/1/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

  1. Ken Johnson September 2, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Hank Thompson and Kitty Wells initially had similar attitudes toward their career hits. Neither believed that their recording would become as popular as it did. Hank recorded “The Wild Side Of Life” mostly due to his wife’s insistence because she thought that the line “I didn’t know God made honky-tonk angels” was a memorable lyric. Even Hank’s producer Ken Nelson was skeptical but deferred to Hank’s request and released it as the “B” side of the record. Producer Paul Cohen selected “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” for Kitty Wells to record at her debut session for Decca Records. Both Kitty and her husband Johnnie Wright were not impressed with the song. Her primary motivation to record it was the $125 recording fee. At that May 3, 1952 session Kitty never realized that she was creating her career record and making country music history. Sixty years ago this week Kitty’s famous recording began a second week in the #1 position on Billboard’s best selling country singles chart. “The Wild Side Of Life” spent it’s 15th and final week atop the jukebox survey while Eddy Arnold topped the disc jockey chart for a third week with “A Full Time Job.”

    Marty Robbins was blessed with a versatile voice that easily adapted to most every musical genre. By 1962 he had scored hits with traditional country music, rock & roll and western songs. He had also recorded albums of traditional Hawaiian songs and pop standards. That year he added another musical direction by using a calypso arrangement for his new composition “Devil Woman.” Marty said that the idea for the song had originated in a dream four years earlier. He wrote the song at a Nashville club late one night while the janitor was cleaning up. Recorded on April 10, 1962 at Columbia studios in Nashville, Grady Martin’s intricate acoustic guitar licks again surrounded Marty’s voice as it had for “El Paso” three years earlier. “Devil Woman” became Marty’s 8th number one hit fifty years ago this week.

    Jerry Wallace’s first truly big hit was in the rock & roll era when “Primrose Lane” became a top ten pop single for him in 1959. In the mid-1960’s he turned his attention to country music. Recordings for the Mercury and Liberty labels failed to gain significant traction with country fans but a move to Decca Records in 1971 brought a change to his fortune. “To Get To You” brought him a #12 hit in March 1972. His next single was a song used in an episode of the Rod Serling TV show “Night Gallery.” That program was an anthology of stories dealing with the occult and supernatural similar to Serling’s classic “Twilight Zone” series. The production company wanted a singer with a voice similar to Nat “King” Cole to perform a song that repeatedly played on a ghostly jukebox in an episode titled “The Tune In Dan’s Café.” Wallace’s smooth vocals won them over and he recorded a sparse traditional country arrangement of “If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry” that spotlighted just a fiddle and guitar. When the episode aired on January 5, 1972 it created a demand for the song which was not commercially available at the time. Jerry recorded a fully produced version complete with an orchestra and chorus in Hollywood on April 25, 1972. Released as a Decca single in late June the song quickly raced up the country chart and forty years ago this week “If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry” became Jerry Wallace’s first and only #1 country hit.

    George Strait bucked the trend of early 1980’s country music by avoiding overproduced, pop-flavored material in favor of traditional country songs with plenty of fiddles and steel guitar. His back-to-basics approach appealed to core country music fans that hungered for authenticity. Signed to MCA Records in 1981 his debut single “Unwound” was a top ten hit. Though his second single “Down And Out” stalled at #16 he quickly rebounded when his third single “If You’re Thinking You Want A Stranger (There’s One Coming Home)” rose to #3 in May 1982. His next release was “Fool Hearted Memory” written for the now-forgotten movie “The Soldier” that featured a barroom fight scene while Strait and his band performed that song onstage. Strait recorded the song in Nashville on September 9, 1981. Writers Byron Hill and Alan Mevis said that they wrote the song in just 20 minutes and were doubtful of any hit potential at the time. Ultimately it far exceeded their expectations when it became George Strait’s very first #1 single thirty years ago this week.

    Mark Chesnutt’s second #1 hit was a remake of a Hank Williams, Jr. single. “I’ll Think Of Something” peaked at #7 during the first week of September 1974 and was Hank’s final top hit for MGM Records. Using a similar arrangement Mark Chesnutt took the song to #1 twenty years ago this week.

  2. luckyoldsun September 2, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I say Mark Chesnutt ranks as the best of the hard-core, straight-ahead honky tonk singers of the New Traditional era. He didn’t quite become a superstar, but he had a bunch of No.1 and other top-10 hits.
    “I’ll Think of Something” is an instance where a singer managed to turn a pedestrian song in to a No. 1 hit through his own talents.

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