My Kind of Country

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

Fellow Travelers: Anne Murray

annemurrayThis is the third in a series of short articles about artists who, although not country artists, were of some importance to country music.

Anne Murray was born in 1945 in Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada. She and Hank Snow are the two Nova Scotians to have had the most impact on the country music charts, although Hank was unabashed country and Anne was a folk/middle of the road singer, whose thick contralto and unaffected single style found great favor with American country audiences. She started out as a folk performer on the Canadian television show Singalong Jubilee. Her initial recorded hits were on the Canadian adult contemporary charts. In 1970 Capitol Records issued her first US single “Snowbird” which went #1 on the US adult contemporary charts and #8 on the pop charts. Along the way country audiences discovered the song and it started getting airplay on country radio reaching #10 (Cashbox had it reach #1 on their country chart). Subsequent singles were marketed to country and pop audiences by Capitol. Some songs, such as “You Needed Me” and “Danny’s Song” charted higher on the pop charts than the country charts. Trying to maximize Anne’s chart activity, Capitol went so far as to issue singles with two A sides, one side being marketed pop/adult contemporary and the other side marketed country, the two most notable examples being “He Thinks I Still Care (#1 country) backed with “You Won’t See Me (#8 pop) and “Son of A Rotten Gambler” (#3 country) backed with “Just One Look” (#50 adult contemporary/#86 pop). Anne also had a number of songs that did not chart country but charted pop and/or adult contemporary. Anne fell off the US country charts after 1991, although she continued to chart on the Canadian country and adult contemporary charts.

Anne Murray was on the country top forty forty-one times placing her second to Hank Snow among Canadian-born artists. She had ten Billboard #1 country songs. While few of these songs were very country or featured steel guitar or fiddle, there were many story songs (“Cotton Jenny”) among them and those songs fit comfortably within the loose definition of country during the period 1970-1984.

After 1984, the chart hits on any of the charts became fewer and smaller although country radio remained fairly loyal to her.

In 1993 Anne released Croonin’, an album of pop standards from artists such as Patti Page, Peggy Lee, and other pop standard acts of the 1940s and 1950s. This was to remain her general direction for future albums, although not quite as decidedly retro as Croonin’. Anne largely retired from performing about five years ago, although she remains busy with various charitable commitments.

You can check Anne’s official website for charitable events and merchandise – she has recorded little in recent years, and those recordings have either been religious, Christmas or adult contemporary/pop standard albums.

While I don’t consider Anne Murray to be country, she was the most successful artist to ever cross over and receive country airplay from the adult contemporary/easy listening side of the business. She was a great singer, regardless of genre.

4 responses to “Fellow Travelers: Anne Murray

  1. J.R. Journey June 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    I’ve heard Anne Murray’s biggest hits, but not much else from her. Actually, I just checked into her music a few months ago when she was a guest star on Family Guy, and the episode featured several of her songs.

  2. Razor X June 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Anne Murray was my gateway to country music back in the days when there were no country radio stations in my neck of the woods. Her Greatest Hits album (on cassette) was the first “adult” album I owned. I got it for Christmas in 1980. I’ve owned pretty much all of her albums from 1981 through the early 90s, though not all of them made the upgrade to CD in my collection.

  3. Ken Johnson June 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Anne’s voice has a warm, unique quality that found easy acceptance on multiple formats. She sounded as comfortable singing a country ballad as she did performing a Beatle’s re-make. Quite remarkable.

    One of Anne’s most important contributions to country music was that she acted as a “gateway” act to introduce mainstream pop & adult contemporary audiences to country music. Along with Charlie Rich, Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt & John Denver, Anne embodied the new direction that country music was taking in the early 1970’s. Folks who never thought they would like country music were encouraged by acts like her to sample the format and many stayed providing country music with one of it’s biggest growth spurts prior to the Urban Cowboy era.

    To expand on Paul’s point about some of Anne’s singles receiving split airplay – one side for country radio and the flip side for pop stations – quite a few country stations, especially those in the Northeast played BOTH sides of those singles. In a few cases some major market country outlets opted to play just the pop side of those records.

    Very nice spotlight choice Paul.

  4. Pingback: Sunday Music – A Little Good News | PA Pundits - International

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