My Kind of Country

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

Week ending 9/15/12: #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: She Got The Goldmine (I Got The Shaft) — Jerry Reed (RCA)

1992: I Still Believe In You — Vince Gill (MCA)

2002: Unbroken — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2012: Pontoon — Little Big Town (Capitol)

8 responses to “Week ending 9/15/12: #1 singles this week in country music history

  1. Ken Johnson September 16, 2012 at 8:58 am

    The very first #1 hit for a female country singer also marked a significant milestone in the career of one of Nashville’s most influential record producers. Decca Record Executive Paul Cohen signed Kitty Wells to the label in early 1952. But on May 3, the day of her first Decca recording session Cohen could not be in Nashville so he turned over production duties to his right hand man Owen Bradley. Bradley was quoted that “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” meant as much to him as it did to Kitty because that session gave him his start as a producer. Though Bradley’s background was popular music he had easily adapted to country music and in the years that followed country music adapted to Owen Bradley as he added more sophisticated musical arrangements and instrumentation on his way to becoming a major architect of “The Nashville Sound.” In 1957 Bradley became Kitty’s regular record producer and later added dozens of other acts to his roster including Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. This week in 1952 “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” remained the best selling country single for a fifth week while it also continued at #1 on the country jukebox survey.

    Hank Williams wrote or co-wrote most of his biggest hits often with some fine-tuning provided by his producer/publisher Fred Rose. But in the case of “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” though Hank claimed the writer’s credit he didn’t create it. The lyrics were penned by Moon Mulligan who borrowed the melody from “Grand Texas,” a 1949 Cajun recording by Chuck Guillory and His Rhythm Boys. Hank ultimately did right by Moon as he purportedly had his publisher Acuff-Rose pay the writer’s royalty to Mulligan. Sixty years ago this week “Jambalaya” topped the disc jockey survey for a second week.

    In 1962 Marty Robbins began his 3rd week at #1 with “Devil Woman.” Today albums are recorded many months ahead of their scheduled release. And in most cases the single releases are already chosen by the time that the album hits the market. That was not the practice half a century ago. The “Devil Woman” single was poised to enter the top ten when Marty entered Columbia Studios in Nashville to record songs for the title album. Sessions on August 8, 9 & 10 produced 11 recordings for the “Devil Woman” album released that November. Albums at that time were usually comprised of a dozen tracks. Marty’s love of auto racing was proudly displayed on that album’s cover photo – his purple 1934 Ford race car emblazoned with “Devil Woman” in yellow letters.

    Beyond the mid-1960’s few country singles attained the #1 position, dropped down and then rebounded to the top spot. This week in 1972 Jerry Wallace achieved that rare distinction. Edged out by Don Gibson’s “Woman (Sensuous Woman)”the previous week, “If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry” slid to #2 but gained a second wind to return to the top. The original title of the song was “Words” but Wallace changed it believing that the very first line of the song delivered far more impact. That single became the apex of his country career. He scored just three more significant hits “Do You Know What It’s Like To Be Lonesome” (#2/1973), “Don’t Give Up On Me” (#3/1973) and “My Wife’s House” (#9/1974) Jerry Wallace died on May 5, 2008.

    Jerry Reed was regarded as a “triple threat” in Nashville – an excellent songwriter, a versatile vocalist and a superb guitarist. His natural acting ability won him several TV and movie roles including the “Smoky & The Bandit” franchise. Despite his multi-talented abilities Jerry was inconsistent as a hit maker. Several years of “misses” often separated his biggest hits. By 1982 Jerry had been absent from the top ten for four years and his biggest previous success was the Smoky & The Bandit theme song “Eastbound And Down” (#2/1977) Producer Rick Hall provided a fresh perspective and songwriter Tim DuBois provided a clever song written just to amuse himself several years earlier. The title was based on a similar statement from Tim’s friend concerning the aftermath of a failed first marriage. Recorded on December 11, 1981 at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama the single became Jerry’s final number one hit thirty years ago this week.

    • luckyoldsun September 16, 2012 at 11:11 am

      “Today…And in most cases the single releases are already chosen by the time that the album hits the market.”

      That’s not how I know it. From what I’ve read, the labels do market research all the time before deciding what to release as a single. It would make no sense at all to ignore information that’s available today and to release a single based on a decision that somebody made a year ago.

      Also, for whatever it’s worth, the guy who originated the lyrics on “Jambalaya” was named Moon Mullican.

      • Ken Johnson September 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm

        That’s why I said “in most cases” when it comes to choosing single releases. Most are already mapped well ahead of an album release. Occasionally a song that had not been designated as a single is selected due to substantial response from radio programmers, concert exposure or internet buzz. Criteria for singles include the writing/publishing credit with the greatest weight accorded to songs that provide the greatest financial return to the artist, their management and their publishing interests. As with most things in the music business it’s not really about the art, It’s about the money. Research is not as big a factor as you may have been lead to believe.

        • luckyoldsun September 17, 2012 at 2:58 am

          In the old days, with the chart moving quickly, there were plenty of artists–Haggard, Conway, Pride, etc.–who could pretty much be sure that whatever they released was going to go top-5 and quite likely #1. Maybe they could decide what to relaease based on who wrote or published it.
          Nowadays with the chart moving so slowly, most artists don’t get to release more than three singles a year, and almost no-one is an “automatic.” I’m sure even a Chesney, say, is going to release as a single whichever song he thinks gives him the best shot at a #1 hit..
          And they go by what’s creating a buzz, or getting a good response at concerts or what tests well in call-out research.

      • Ken Johnson September 17, 2012 at 9:21 am

        “A” list artists continue to receive “automatic” adds to radio playlists today. Not so with artists on the “B” or “C” lists. Same as it’s always been. Closely monitor the charts for a few months paying close attention to newly added songs and you’ll see that this indeed remains true today. Also track the writing/publishing credits for each individual artist’s singles and you will see the pattern.

        Call-out research is not applicable to deciding which songs to release as singles. That form of research is only used to determine the popularity of songs that have already established a very high percentage of familiarity. You cannot successfully research music that is unfamiliar to respondents.

        • luckyoldsun September 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm

          There was a time, a couple of decades back, when there used to be upwards of 40 or even 50 #1 country hits per year. Then, A list artists weren’t just sure of being added–they were sure of going top-3 or better. That’s definitely not the same now as it’s always been. But this is interesting.

  2. Paul W Dennis September 16, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Of course, Jerry Reed wasn’t really about hit records. There are many who consider him to be one of the top guitar-slingers of all time. I’m not sure who I regard as the top picker of all time, but names such as Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, Jerry Reed, Hank Garland and James Burton are always in the mix

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