It seems to me that I never did finish off this series, the last installment being posted on February 11, 2014 (and the installment before that appeared April 9,2013). Here are some more songs from the 1980s that I liked. This is an expanded and revised version of the February 11, 2014 article which was a rush job :
“Shame On The Moon” – Bob Seger
Bob’s 1982 recording of a Rodney Crowell song charted on the country charts in early 1983, reaching #15 in the process. The song was a bigger hit on the pop charts, reaching #2 for four weeks.
“Finally” – T. G. Sheppard
He worked for Elvis, sang background for Travis Wammack, and eventually emerged with a solo career worth noting, racking up 42 chart singles from 1974-1991. This 1982 single was one of fourteen #1 record racked up by Sheppard, eleven of them reaching #1 during the 1980s.
“Doesn’t Anybody Get High On Love Anymore” – The Shoppe
The Shoppe was a Dallas based band that hung around for years after their 1968 formation. In the early 1980s they had eight chart records, but this was the only one to crack the top forty, reaching #33. They had a record deal with MTM Records in 1985, but that label vanished, taking the Shoppe with them.
“Crying My Heart Out Over You” – Ricky Skaggs
Ricky Skaggs was one of the dominant artists of the first half of the 1980s with his bluegrass/country hybrid. Starting with 1981’s “You May See Me Walking” and ending with 1986’s “Love’s Gonna Get You Some Day“, Skaggs ran off sixteen consecutive top ten singles with ten of them reaching number one, This 1982 classic was the first chart topper. Eventually Ricky returned to straight bluegrass, but I like the hybrid recordings better. In my original article I spotlighted “Honey (Open That Door)“, a straight forward country Mel Tillis song recorded by Webb Pierce.
“Don’t Stay If You Don’t Love Me” – Patsy Sledd
Stardom never really happened for Patsy, who was a good singer marooned early in her career on a bad label. She was part of the George Jones-Tammy Wynette show in the early 1970s. This song reached #79 in 1987.
“Nice To Be With You” – Slewfoot
This band replaced Alabama as the feature band at the Bowery Club in Myrtle Beach. This was their only chart single, a cover of Gallery’s #4 pop hit from 1972 that reached #85 in 1986.
“King Lear” – Cal Smith
The last chart hit for the former Texas Troubadour. This song reached #75 in 1986.
“A Far Cry From You” – Connie Smith
After a six year recording hiatus, the greatest female country recording artist of all time returned with this one-shot single on the Epic label. It’s a great song but received no promotional push at all from the label landing at #71 in 1985. Unfortunately, this single has never appeared on an album.
“The Shuffle Song” – Margo Smith
Exactly as described – a shuffle song that reached #13 for Margo in early 1980. Margo had a brief run of top ten hits in the middle and late 1970s but the string was about over. In my prior article I featured “He Gives Me Diamonds, You Give Me Chills” but The Shuffle song is actually my favorite 80s hit from Margo. She lives in The Villages in Florida and still performs occasionally.
“Cheatin’s A Two Way Street” – Sammi Smith
Her last top twenty song from 1981. Sammi only had three top ten hits but made many fine records. This was one of them.
“Hasn’t It Been good Together” – Hank Snow and Kelly Foxton
The last chart record for the ‘Singing Ranger’. The record only got to #78 for the 65 year old Snow in 1980 but I couldn’t let pass the opportunity to acknowledge the great career of the most successful Canadian country artist. By any legitimate means of chart tracking, his 1950 hit “I’m Moving On” is still the number one country hit of all time. Hank had perfect diction and was a great guitar player.
“Tear-Stained Letter” – Jo-El Sonnier
A late bloomer, this was the forty-two year old Jo-El’s second of two top ten records and my favorite. It reached #8 in 1988. There were brief periods in the past when Cajun music could break through for a hit or two. Eddy Raven was the most successful Cajun artist but most of his material was straight-ahead country.
“Sometimes You Just Can’t Win” – J.D. Souther and Linda Ronstadt
George Jones charted this record twice, but it’s such a good song it was worth covering. This version went to #27 in 1982. J.D had a big pop hit in 1980 with “You’re Only Lonely” which reached #7.
“Honey I Dare You” – Southern Pacific
Southern Pacific was a bunch of guys who previously played with other bands such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Doobie Brothers and Pablo Cruise, making some real good country music in the process. This was one of their four top ten hits of the 1980s. “A Girl Like Emmylou” from 1986 only reached #17 but the song tells you where this band’s heart was located.
“Lonely But Only For You” – Sissy Spacek
Loretta Lynn wanted to Spacek to portray her in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, and it turns out that Sissy can really can sing. This song reached #15 in 1983.
“Standing Tall” – Billie Jo Spears
Billie Jo Spears, from Beaumont, Texas, was incredibly popular in England and Ireland, where “Blanket On The Ground” and “What I’ve Got In Mind” were top five pop hits in the mid 1970s and she had many more lesser successes. Many of her later albums were not released in the US but she had a substantial US career with thirty-four charted records, including two #1 hits. “Standing Tall” reached #15 in 1980.
“Chain Gang” – Bobby Lee Springfield
More successful as a songwriter than as a performer, Springfield had two chart sings in 1987 with “Hank Drank” (#75) and “Chain Gang” (#66) which was NOT the Sam Cooke hit. Bobby Lee was both too country and too rockabilly for what was charting at the time. I really liked All Fired Up, the one album Epic released on him.
“Cow Patti” – Jim Stafford
A stupid song but it worked in the context of the Clint Eastwood movie Any Which Way You Can. This song reached #65 in 1981.
“So Good To Be In Love” – Karen Staley
Karen had more success as a songwriter than performer writing the Patty Loveless hits “Wicked Ways” and “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”. She toured with Faith Hill as a background singer for some years. This song reached #86 in 1988, the follow up “Now And Then” did slightly better reaching #85. After that – nothing.
“Where’s The Dress” – Joe Stampley & Moe Bandy
Ludicrous parody of Boy George and Culture Club. Apparently Boy George took umbrage at this parody but it was funny, and the video, with a cameo by Roy Acuff, which accompanied the song was a hoot.
“Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” – Joe Stampley.
Joe Stampley was a journeyman country singer in the best sense of the work. His biggest hits were in the 1970s but he continued to chart throughout the 1980s sometimes cutting original material, sometimes covers , but all to good effect. This 1984 cover of a Swingin’ Medallions pop hit from 1966 would be Joe’s last top ten solo record, reaching #8 in early 1984.
“Do You Know You Are My Sunshine” – The Statler Brothers
This song reached #1 in 1978 for the original Statler line up of Lew Dewitt, Don & Harold Reid and Phil Balsley. Dewitt would leave the group in 1982 due to Crohn’s disease (he would die of the disease in 1990), to be replaced by Jimmy Fortune. The Statler’s chart career shows forty-four chart hits (four #1 records) with Dewitt as high tenor and twenty-two (three #1 records) with Jimmy Fortune. Strangely enough, the group’s biggest record “Flowers On The Wall”, from 1965, failed to reach #1 on the country charts of either Billboard or Cashbox (it was #2 on both for several weeks) but it went #4 pop and sold millions of records and It did reach #1 on the Canadian pop charts.
“Oh Baby Mine” – The Statler Brothers This cover of a 1954 Four Knights pop hit was the first single to feature replacement tenor Jimmy Fortune. This one got to #2.
“3 Chord Country Song” – Red Steagall
Red is best known for discovering Reba McEntire, but he was an excellent singer, whose chosen subgenre, Western Swing, was not in vogue during the bulk of his major label career. This one, on the Elektra label, reached #31 in 1980. Red charted twenty–three singles but only two reached the top twenty.
“Pretty Lady” – Keith Stegall
Keith is much better known as a songwriter and record producer , producing acts such as George Strait, Zac Brown Band, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis and Clay Walker. He did have some success as a performer, charting eleven times, with this record reaching #10 in 1986. He is a third cousin of legendary country singer Johnny (“Battle of New Orleans”, “Sink The Bismarck”) Horton.
“Darlington County” – Jeff Stevens and the Bullets
Silly me – I actually thought that this West Virginia aggregation would make it big and I thought this Bruce Springsteen-penned song was the vehicle to launch them upward. It didn’t fizzling out at #69 in early 1987, one of only four chart hits for them. A cover of Michael Martin Murphey’s “Geronimo’s Cadillac” was their biggest hit reaching #53 later that same year.
“Would Jesus Wear A Rolex” – Ray Stevens
I rather doubt it. This record reached #41 in 1987. He did have bigger hits during the decade but this was one of the more meaningful. “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” from 1984 was his last top twenty radio hit although he still sells lots of videos and CDs.
“Brand New Whiskey” – Gary Stewart
Gary had a brief resurgence in the late 1980s on the Hightone Records label. The albums sold reasonably well but radio wasn’t buying the singles. This one topped out at #63.
“Wait Till I Get My Hands on You” – Wynn Stewart
This single was to have re-launched the career of the architect of the ‘Bakersfield Sound’. Unfortunately, Wynn passed away on July 17, 1985 at the age of fifty-one. The single was released a few weeks later and crept onto the charts at #98.
“All My Ex’s Live In Texas” – George Strait
George Strait was the dominant artist of the 1980s racking up eighteen #1 records. This one’s my favorite, from 1987. The song was written by Sanger D. “Whitey” Shafer and his fourth wife Linda J. Shafer. Whitey, along with his third wife Darlene they supplied George with “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind”. Whitey also co-wrote with Lefty Frizzell, most notably “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “I Never Go Around Mirrors”.
Personally, I like Strait best when he’s doing material such as “Right Or Wrong“, his #1 cover of a Bob Wills western swing classic. I would to hear George record an entire project of western swing classics, and now that radio is losing interest in him, perhaps he will tackle such a project.
“Slip Away” – Mel Street & Sandy Powell
One last chart hit from Mel Street, who died in 1978. This duet reached #48 in 1981.
“Arlene” – Marty Stuart
Marty reached #19 in early 1986 with this song, then wouldn’t hit the top twenty again until 1990’s “Hillbilly Rock” broke into the top ten.
“Bombed, Boozed and Busted” – Joe Sun
Joe Sun’s voice was too smoky for country radio so the hits for him were rather few. This one reached #21 , his biggest hit of the 1980s. Joe had the first and best version of “Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle to You)” back in 1978.
“I’ll Go Steppin’ Too” – Glenn Sutton
I have no idea why Sutton chose to release this cover of an old Flatt & Scruggs song, but it’s not bad. Glenn, of course, had his greatest success as a record producer and songwriter with “Almost Persuaded” being his biggest copyright as a songwriter.
“Midnight Girl/Sunset Town”– Sweethearts of the Rodeo
This was the biggest hit for sisters Janis Gill and Kristine Arnold, nee Oliver. This record reached #4 in 1986 and told it like it is for many marooned in a small town. Hal Ketchum would revisit the theme a few years later with “Small Town Saturday Night”. At the time of this record Janis was married to Vince Gill.
“(Turn Me Loose And) Let Me Swing” – The Swing Shift Band
This swinging 1988 number was the only chart hit for this band which featured Ray Pennington on vocals and Buddy Emmons on steel guitar. Pennington is better known as a record producer but is a fine vocalist with nione chart hits under his own name. Buddy Emmons played on thousands of recording sessions and was in the bands of Ray Price, Ernest Tubb and Little Jimmy Dickens among others.
“Drifter” – Sylvia
Sylvia was a very dramatic pop-country singer of the early 1980s whose brand of heavily orchestrated pop-country was wiped out by the new traditionalist movement of the mid 1980s. “Drifter” went to #1 in 1981. Her biggest hit was “Nobody” which wasn’t even remotely country, but went #1 country and #15 pop in 1982.
“Where You Gonna Hang Your Hat” – Sylvie and Her Silver Dollar Band
This song cracked the charts at #95 in 1989. I haven’t been able to find much information on her although I know she won several awards from Britain’s Country Music People magazine in 1990. I am aware of one US album Sylvie & Friends which featured guest appearances by Tommy Cash , Roy Drusky, Jimmy C. Newman Leroy Van Dyke and George Hamilton IV.
“Everyday” – James Taylor
James Taylor really isn’t a country singer although fans of country music tend to like his music. This was a slower version of Buddy Holley’s song. It reached #26 in 1986 and did no disservice to Buddy Holly’s memory.
“Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda Loved You” – Les Taylor
Les played rhythm guitar as part of Exile. Like many band members he got the itch to have a solo career, and like most of them, fell short of real success. This song reached #46 in 1989.
“Loving Arms” – Livingston Tayor with Leah Kunkel
One of James Taylor’s younger siblings – style very similar to that of James. This song reached #94 in 1988.
“Diamond In The Rough” Karen Taylor (later Karen Taylor-Good)
Karen was part of the group Phase II with Janie Fricke and Judy Rodman, and had the least success as a solo act. She, however, did find steady work in television commercials. This was Karen’s biggest hit reaching #38 in 1982.
“Whatever Happened To Old Fashioned Love” – B.J. Thomas
B.J. has flitted effortlessly from pop to adult contemporary to country to gospel throughout his career. This was his biggest country hit reaching #1 in 1983.
“Once In A Blue Moon” – Hank Thompson & The Brazos Valley Boys
This was Hank’s 78th and final chart hit from 1983. Hank was 58 at the time this was released – if he’d been 25 years younger I think it would have been a big hit.
“Deep Water” – Marsha Thornton
Marsha would have been a big hit in the 1960s – she had a fine voice reminiscent of Patsy Cline and a good feel for the type of music Patsy sang. This was a cover of a Carl Smith top ten record from 1967 (and before that a Bob Wills/Tommy Duncan classic). This reached #63 in 1989. She is best known for her 1990 recording of “A Bottle of Wine and Patsy Cline”.
“A Message to Khomeni” – The Thrasher Brothers
Topical number concerning the Iran hostage situation of 1979-1980. This reached #72 in early 1980. This is of little interest today, but I wanted to mention it anyway. Their biggest hit was in 1982 with “Still The One”, a cover of the Orleans pop hit from 1976.
“Southern Rains” – Mel Tillis
Mel’s last of ten #1 singles. This topped the charts in early 1981, although Mel would continue to chart through the end of the 1980s.
“Those Memories of You” – Pam Tillis
This was Pam’s biggest hit of the 1980s, reaching #55 in 1986. The trio of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, would have a top ten record the following year. Pam would reach high gear in the 1990s.
“(Lay Back) In The Arms of Someone” – Johnny Tillotson
Johnny was a big pop star in the 1960s but his covers of country songs occasionally charted on the country charts and he appeared on shows with country artists. This reached #91 in 1984.
We’ll finish off the alphabet with the next article