My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Paul Cohen

Country Heritage Redux: Goldie Hill (1933 – 2005)

Had Carl Smith and Goldie Hill been born 30 or 40 years later, they might have been like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw or lately Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert – the dominant married couple in country music. Carl Smith (1927-2010) was one of the biggest stars of the 1950s; much bigger than either Tim or Blake at their peaks. Goldie Hill was glamorous and talented, with a powerful and pleasing voice, unquestionably one of the three or four best female voices ever in country music history. Those were the days before sleek luxury tour buses and private jets made touring less of an ordeal, making it hard to raise a family. So when they married in 1957, it spelled the end of Hill’s career.

She was born Angolda Voncile Hill in Karnes County, Texas on January 11, 1933. Her brother Tommy Hill preceded her entry into country music, gaining prominence as a musician and songwriter. Goldie made her debut in 1952, joining her brother Tommy as a member in Webb Pierce’s band. That same year, when visiting Nashville with Pierce, she auditioned and was signed to Decca – the same label as Pierce – by Paul Cohen. Her first single, “Why Talk To My Heart,” backed with “Don’t Send Me No Roses,” failed to chart, but her second single, “I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes,” rocketed to the top, occupying the number one slot for three weeks in late 1952. It was an answer to “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes,” a hugely successful record for four different artists: Slim Willets, Skeets McDonald, Ray Price and Perry Como.
Dubbed “The Golden Hill Billy,” Goldie continued to record successfully.

The country charts were only ten positions deep in 1952 and 1953; although none of her records in 1953 charted, they sold well. In 1954 she was paired with fellow Decca artist Justin Tubb, the son of the legendary Ernest Tubb, for some successful duets, including “Looking Back To See” (#4) and “Sure Fire Kisses” (#11). A duet of “Are You Mine” with fellow Decca artist Red Sovine reached #14 in 1955. In 1959, “Yankee Go Home”, also with Red Sovine, reached #17.

In 1957 Goldie married Carl Smith, who had recently divorced June Carter. Goldie toured briefly with the Phillip Morris Country Music Caravan, but left the show to tend to her growing family. This marked the end of her career as a live performer, although she did return to the recording studio for Epic Records in the late-1960s, issuing her last recordings. Her final chart appearance was in 1968 when “Lovable Fool” charted at #73.

Carl Smith and Goldie Hill remained married until her death on February 26, 2005 after a long battle with cancer. Carl had basically retired by the end of the 1970s and he and Goldie spent their later years raising quarter horses and living the life of ranchers. Goldie lived long enough to witness her husband’s enshrinement into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003 (about 20 years later than should have been the case). Had she not chosen family over career, she probably would have joined him there.

Every now and then CMT, Country Universe or someone else will count down the Greatest Women of Country Music. Goldie’s name usually is conspicuous by its absence or low ranking, but know this: none of them were better singers than Goldie Hill Smith, and few of them were as good.

DISCOGRAPHY
VINYL
Because Goldie pulled the plug on her career at such a young age, the number of albums she released was small, especially when compared to other artists of her generation. As best as I can tell, there were four studio albums issued on Decca (Goldie Hill, Lonely Heartaches, According To My Heart and Country Hit Parade) plus two reissues on Decca’s cheapie label Vocalion (Country Songs and Sings Country which were re-releases of Goldie Hill and According To My Heart respectively, but with songs deleted from each album. The Decca albums were released between 1960 and 1964 and the Vocalion reissues were from 1967-1968. By the time Decca released any of these albums, Goldie already had been off the road for several years.

Goldie returned to the recording studio in 1968 for Epic Records with two albums released: Goldie Sings Again and The Country Gentleman’s Lady. Both albums are captioned as being by Goldie Hill Smith.

Other than 45 and 78 rpm singles, that‘s it. Worse yet, none of her biggest singles are collected on the Decca albums (the titles don’t appear on the Epic albums either).

CD
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop currently has one CD available – Don’t Send Me No More Roses, a fifteen track collection of songs released in the 1950s on Decca consisting of non-charting singles, B sides and stray tracks. Not as easy to find, but you can find it is I Let The Stars Get in My Eyes released in 2005 by an obsessive compulsive group of Brits who specialize in keeping old, obscure and forgotten roots music in print, be it American and Canadian country music, Australian bush music or country music from New Zealand. The label is British Archive of Country Music. This album contains 24 tracks – all 15 of the tracks on the CD listed above plus nine more tracks (including all of her hits). Caveat – because BACM titles are released in limited quantities, you may have to wait while they press you a disc and they are released in the format of very high quality CD-R recordings. Browse the BACM website – you’ll be amazed at what you can find there.

Spotlight Artist: Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) – Part 1

From time to time throughout 2010, we’ll be taking a look at some of country music’s legendary artists. We’re starting with the great Patsy Cline, who was one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed vocalists, and whose influence is felt to the current day.

She was born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia, on September 8, 1932. When she was 15, her father abandoned the family, and Ginny, as she was then known, dropped out of high school to help support her mother and two younger siblings. From an early age, she’d wanted to be a singer. She entered a number of local talent shows and sang live on Winchester’s WINC-AM radio. This eventually led to a stint on Connie B. Gay’s Town and Country television show, which originated from Washington, DC. Among the cast members of Town and Country was an up and rising star and future sausage magnate by the name of Jimmy Dean. She even managed to take a trip to Nashville in 1948, landing a guest appearance on Roy Acuff’s Dinner Bell program on WSM-AM.

In 1953 she married a contractor named Gerald Cline, but the marriage ended in divorce after four years, due mainly to Cline’s lack of support of his wife’s (now known as Patsy Cline) career aspirations. In 1954, she met Bill McCall, who owned a song publishing company called Four Star Music. In what would prove to be the biggest mistake of her professional career, Patsy signed a five-year contract with Four Star. She returned to Nashville with McCall, who arranged a leasing agreement with Decca Records, whereby Decca would produce and distribute Patsy’s records, but Four Star would promote and retain ownership of the recordings and would have sole discretion over what material she recorded. This was a very one-sided deal in which Decca did most of the work and saw very little in financial renumeration, but Decca executive Paul Cohen and producer Owen Bradley recognized Patsy’s potential and agreed to McCall’s terms, in order to have the opportunity to sign Patsy to Decca when her Four Star contract lapsed.

This proved to be a disastrous arrangement for all involved. McCall would only allow Patsy to record songs for which Four Star owned the publishing rights. Both Patsy and Owen Bradley felt that much of the Four Star material was substandard, and though they experimented with a variety of musical styles, commercial success eluded them. The sole exception was “Walkin’ After Midnight”, which Patsy performed on the nationally-telecast Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts on January 21, 1957. Not only did Patsy win the competition, “Walkin’ After Midnight” became a smash hit, rising to #3 on Billboard’s country chart and #17 on the pop chart. Patsy became a regular on the Godfrey program, but was eventually fired after she repeatedly clashed with Godfrey over song selection. She wanted to sing country; he wanted her to sing pop.

1957 was also the year that Patsy met and married her second husband, Charlie Dick. After giving birth to a daughter in 1958, the family moved permanently to Nashville, where Patsy and Owen Bradley continued in their quest to find the elusive follow-up hit to “Walkin’ After Midnight”. Success continued to evade them, and by 1959 Bill McCall had written Patsy off as a lost cause and stopped promoting her singles.

Patsy’s fortunes began to change in 1960, which was the year that she was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. It was also the year that her Four Star contract expired, and she was formally signed to Decca Records. In her first session for Decca, she recorded “I Fall To Pieces”, which was written by Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran. It had been turned down by a number of other singers, and Patsy began to have second thoughts about it herself, after initially agreeing to record it. She feared that it was too pop. Bradley was experimenting with a hybrid style of music that Chet Atkins had pioneered at RCA with great success for artists such as Eddy Arnold and Jim Reeves. A mixture of country and pop, it would eventually become known as “the Nashville Sound”. Bradley wanted to try this style with Patsy. Meanwhile, he and Patsy argued about cutting “I Fall to Pieces”; Bradley prevailed and was eventually vindicated when it became Patsy’s first #1 country hit, and a #12 pop hit in August 1961, ending a four-year dry spell.