My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Connie Smith – ‘The Lost Tapes’

lost tapesDuring the 1960s and 1970s it was not uncommon for the various branches of the US Military to put together fifteen or thirty minute radio shows for use on country radio stations. Mostly these shows aired on smaller radio stations, usually in air slots where it was difficult for them to sell advertising. Some of these shows, such as COUNTRY MUSIC TIME (a recruiting tool for the US Air Force) and COUNTRY COOKING WITH LEE ARNOLD ( a recruiting program for the Army Reserves) featured some chatter with the weeks’ musical guests followed by some records by the musical guest. Others, such as NAVY HOEDOWN, featured chatter with the featured artist playing with the program’s band.

CONNIE SMITH – THE LOST TAPES comes from the NAVY HOEDOWN radio programs. Unlike most of the military recruiter programs, NAVY HOEDOWN would feature the same artist for four consecutive weeks. Each program was fifteen minutes long, and would feature some chatter with host Hal Durham (later to become the general manager of the Grand Ole Opry), some recruitment plugs and four songs. Marty Stuart is the producer of this reissue project. I remember hearing these programs sometime during 1973 or 1974 so they were probably recorded in 1972 or 1973, which was about the time Connie was moving from RCA to Columbia.

There are no revelations here, as the NAVY HOEDOWN program focused upon the artists’ hits and other songs familiar to the artist. What we do have is eleven excellent recordings of Connie Smith at her vocal peak singing songs. Below is the list of the songs on this project:

1. Just One Time
2. I Never Once Stopped Loving You
3. Louisiana Man
4. Cincinnati, Ohio
5. Just For What I Am
6. Once a Day
7. If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave It Alone)
8. Long Black Limousine
9. The Race Is On
10. Amazing Grace
11. How Great Thou Art

Songs 1-7 were songs that were singles for Connie Smith on RCA. Tracks 8 & 9 were hits for other artists and tracks 10 & 11 were gospel songs Ms. Smith has always sung. Cracker Barrel has a CD version with two additional songs, “Where Is My Castle ? ” (my favorite Connie Smith song) and the gospel song “He Touched Me”. The sound quality of the CD is better than the mp3 download.

There are no personnel listings with the digital downloads I obtained so I am guessing as to who plays on the sessions. The steel guitar player clearly is NOT Weldon Myrick, so that alone is enough to give the recordings a different feel than her RCA recordings. My best guess is that Pete Drake is playing the steel guitar. I think the fiddler is Johnny Gimble. From the liner notes, it seems that Marty Stuart is sure that Pete Drake was the steel player and Johnny Gimble was the fiddle player. I have no idea as to the identity of the other musicians on the sessions, but they are clearly members of Nashville’s A-Team.

Regardless of who is playing on the sessions, this is Connie Smith at the absolute peak of her powers with appropriate, but different enough instrumental backing to make this a desirable purchase for her fans. Definitely an A+ recording.

5 responses to “Album Review: Connie Smith – ‘The Lost Tapes’

  1. Razor X May 28, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Why did they bother to re-record these songs instead of just using the existing recordings? Was it a rights or licensing issue?

    • Ken May 28, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Navy Hoedown made brand new studio recordings of the songs to create programs more appealing to radio program directors. Radio stations played the commercially released recordings of hits all of the time but to have a “live” program with unique versions of the songs plus interviews with the stars made it something very special indeed. At that time the Navy had the budget to pay for the studio time & the musicians so the cost was not an issue. Because top notch recording studios and pickers were used the audio quality of the performances was always superb.

      Between the songs were messages about career opportunities in the U.S. Navy encouraging young men and women to contact the local recruiter in their town. The Navy did not purchase the broadcast time on the radio stations but they did furnish the shows for free. Stations were under no obligation to air them but most did under the guise of “public service” programming. In the case of Navy Hoedown the new live recordings added immensely to the appeal. Four programs were pressed onto two vinyl albums and delivered to radio stations each month along with a cue sheet listing the performances. Each side of a 33 RPM record contained one 15 minute program.

      Shows such as these generally aired in “fringe” hours on radio stations wherever they had time to fill. Programs often aired during the early morning hours especially on weekends. In the summer when “daytime only” AM radio stations had hours extending into late evening, many stations aired the shows just prior to their “sign-off.” Also many stations played the programs multiple times as there were no restrictions regarding repeat airings.

      Early in my radio career I hosted an all night show from 12 midnight to 6am. My station scheduled one of these types of shows every morning at 3:05 am following the 5 minute network newscast. It was a nice treat for our overnight listeners and gave the announcers an extended lunch and/or bathroom break. Back in those days we played music from vinyl records so you could not leave the studio for longer than the duration of one record because you had to be there to flip the switch to start the next one. Yes technology was a long long way from the digital world of today but country music was 100% better in those days! Imagine tuning in to your local country station and hearing a 15 minute show with Connie Smith singing new versions of her great songs! Those were the days.

      • Paul W Dennis May 28, 2015 at 10:35 pm

        I usually heard programs of this kind on Sunday afternoons or early on Saturday morning around 6 AM. In theory, the records were to be returned to the supplier or destroyed after use, but I find copies of the shows at record shows and conventions occasionally.

        The Navy Hoedown shows turn up less frequently than do some of the other military shows, probably because the band they had on hand was top-flight. I have some recordings from other shows featuring very pedestrian bands. I have four of the Navy Hoedown shows (but not the Connie Smith sessions) in my record collection and will continue buy them whenever they show up at a reasonable price which is seldom.

  2. Pingback: The best reissues of 2015 | My Kind of Country

  3. sszorin December 10, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Yes, yes, An ‘A’ and a double plus for this album. One for Connie Smith’s singing and the other one for the good sound mastering of the CD release of these recordings

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