My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Pee Wee King

BREAKING: Harold Bradley passes at 93

Guitarist Harold Bradley of Owen Bradley’s Studio, here in the studio May 10, 1961, is one of six local musicians taking part in a demonstration of Nashville’s music as a part of the upcoming Nashville Arts Festival. Joe Rudis / The Tennessean

Bradley’s daughters announced on Facebook this morning their father passed peacefully in his sleep. Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, Bradley was a key member of Nashville’s “A-Team” of studio session musicians. As a guitarist, he played on legendary records from “Stand By Your Man” to “Crazy” and “Battle of New Orleans.” He was the younger brother of country music legend Owen Bradley, the famed record producer, who died twenty years ago.

Stephen L. Betts of Rolling Stone magazine wrote this about Bradley’s life and career:

Born in Nashville in 1926, Harold Ray Bradley was the younger brother of fellow Hall of Fame member Owen Bradley, who produced records by Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and many others. Although he first played banjo, the younger Bradley was given a six-dollar guitar purchased by his father in a junk store. By high school he was playing well enough to earn a spot in Ernest Tubb’s band the Texas Troubadours and also played in his brother’s popular dance band. Bradley served in the Navy and after his return began playing in the Grand Ole Opry house band, while also doing session work playing lead and rhythm guitar as well as bass. It was on the latter instrument that he popularized the “tic-tac” method, a muted style of playing that involved doubling a melody on six-string bass. Bradley’s first session took place in Chicago, playing on Pee Wee King’s “Tennessee Central No. 9” in 1946.

In the early Fifties, Owen and Harold opened several recording studios in Nashville, the most famous being the Quonset Hut on 16th Avenue South, part of the city’s then-burgeoning Music Row. Bradley would be among the most recorded musicians working in the style that would be known as “countrypolitan” or the “Nashville sound,” a blend of smooth pop and traditional country music. Among the more notable songs that include his work are the holiday classic, “Jingle Bell Rock,” which opens with his distinctive guitar riff and “The Battle of New Orleans,” which kicks off with a memorable banjo lick. Bradley also recorded a trio of instrumental LPs for Columbia Records in the early Sixties.

In 1978, Bradley was one of the organizers of a concert at the White House, given by Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty and Tom T. Hall to honor the Country Music Association. In 1999, he co-produced Mandy Barnett’s second LP, I’ve Got a Right to Cry, which featured four tracks produced by Owen Bradley just prior to his death in January 1998.

Bradley served as president of Nashville’s American Federation of Musicians from 1991 to 2008 and was the AFM’s International Vice President from 1999 to 2010. The first president of Nashville’s chapter of the Recording Academy, he was honored with a special Grammy Trustees Award in 2010.

Click here to read what Barnett had to say about Bradley’s passing.

Ray Stevens had this to say, as well.

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Album Review: Willie Nelson – ‘Red Headed Stranger’

redheadedstrangerWillie Nelson’s brief stint with Atlantic Records yielded only modest commercial success, but the two albums he recorded for the label helped him land his deal with Columbia, where his labors finally began to bear some fruit. His first single for the label, a remake of “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”, written by Fred Rose and recorded by Roy Acuff thirty years earlier, reached #1, becoming the first of 25 Nelson chart-toppers.

His contract with Columbia gave Willie complete creative control over his records, a decision that initially resulted in some buyer’s remorse for the label when Willie submitted his first project, Red Headed Stranger. The album had been recorded on a shoestring budget in Garland, Texas and was produced by Willie himself. In stark contrast to the heavily produced fare that dominated country music at the time, Red Headed Stranger was a stripped-down affair, that used only eight musicians. Most of the arrangements consisted only of Willie’s vocals and guitar, some harmonica and occasional percussion, and the piano-playing of Willie’s sister Bobbie. Upon hearing the finished product, the executives at Columbia thought they were listening to a demo recording and were understandably reluctant to release what seemed at the time to be a decidedly non-commercial album. But release it they did, and to their credit, they did their job promoting it because Red Headed Stranger was blockbuster success, far exceeding everyone’s expectations. It’s hard to imagine an album in this vein being released today, especially by a major label, and even harder imagining it achieving a similar level of success.

Red Headed Stranger is built around the title track, which Willie had performed at his live shows in Austin. Encouraged by his then-wife, Connie Koepke, he wrote a backstory for the song’s protagonist and incorporated some of his own orignal compostions and some classic country songs, and created a western concept album that played a huge role in changing the country music landscape. The album opens with Willie’s self-penned “Time Of The Preacher”, which tells of a preacher who suspects his wife of infidelity. In the next track, Eddy Arnold and Wally Fowler’s “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True”, his suspicions are confirmed. A brief reprise of “Time Of The Preacher” follows, and then a medley of “Blue Rock Montana” and “Red Headed Stranger”, in which the cuckolded husband kills his unfaithful wife and her lover, and then becomes a fugitive. The preacher laments the loss of his wife in “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” before committing another murder in the full-length version of “Red Headed Stranger”. The fugitive kills a woman whom he mistakenly believes is trying to steal his pony, to which he attached great sentimental value because it had belonged to his late wife. He avoids prosecution because apparently according to frontier justice, “you can’t hang a man for killin’ a woman who’s tryin’ to steal your horse.”

Another brief 27-second reprise of “Time Of The Preacher” comes next, followed by the instrumental “Just As I Am” and another short number, “Denver”, which tells the listener that the Preacher has traveled south, where another woman catches his fancy. Another pair of brief instrumental numbers help to make the transition to a very nice version of Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms Tonight” and Melba Mable Bourgeois’ “Remember Me”, which show that the Preacher is ready to bury his past and begin a new relationship. “Remember Me” was the album’s second and final single, landing at #2. “Hands On The Wheel”, which finds the Preacher as an old man with a new love and a young boy, concludes the story. The instrumental “Bandera” closes out the original album.

Sony’s Legacy imprint reissued a remastered version of Red Headed Stranger in 2000, along with four new tracks, which though very enjoyable, don’t add to the story and certainly don’t blend as seamlessly as the album’s original tracks do. They do have merit as standalone tracks, however. I particularly like Willie’s take on the Hank Williams classic “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” and “Bonaparte’s Retreat”, a Pee Wee King number that had been a hit for Glen Campbell in 1974.

A sparsely-produced album such as Red Headed Stranger was as huge a commercial risk in 1975 as it would be today, and as I noted earlier, such a risk would not likely be undertaken today. However, Nashville record executives might be well served to look back as projects such as this one, which sold more than two million copies and is now regarded as a landmark album for country music. It is essential listening that deserves a place in the library of every country music fan.

Grade: A+

Week ending 12/17/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: Slow Poke — Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys (feat. Redd Stewart) (RCA)

1961: Walk On By — Leroy Van Dyke (Mercury)

1971: Kiss An Angel Good Morning — Charley Pride (RCA)

1981: Still Doin’ Time — George Jones (Epic)

1991: For My Broken Heart — Reba McEntire (MCA)

2001: I Wanna Talk About Me — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2011: We Owned The Night — Lady Antebellum (Capitol)

Week ending 12/10/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: Slow Poke — Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys (feat. Redd Stewart) (RCA)

1961: Walk On By — Leroy Van Dyke (Mercury)

1971: Kiss An Angel Good Morning — Charley Pride (RCA)

1981: Bet Your Heart On Me — Johnny Lee (Warner Bros.)

1991: For My Broken Heart — Reba McEntire (MCA)

2001: I Wanna Talk About Me — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2011: We Owned The Night — Lady Antebellum (Capitol)

Week ending 12/3/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: Slow Poke — Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys (feat. Redd Stewart) (RCA)

1961: Big Bad John — Jimmy Dean (Columbia)

1971: Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)— Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1981: My Favorite Memory — Merle Haggard (Epic)

1991: Forever Together — Randy Travis (Warner Bros.)

2001: I Wanna Talk About Me — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2011: Country Must Be Country Wide — Brantley Gilbert (Valory)

Week ending 11/26/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: Slow Poke — Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys (feat. Redd Stewart) (RCA)

1961: Big Bad John — Jimmy Dean (Columbia)

1971: Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)— Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1981: All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down)— Hank Williams, Jr. (Elektra/Curb)

1991: Shameless — Garth Brooks (Liberty)

2001: I Wanna Talk About Me — Toby Keith (DreamWorks Nashville)

2011: Sparks Fly — Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

Week ending 11/19/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: Slow Poke — Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys (feat. Redd Stewart) (RCA)

1961: Walk On By — Leroy Van Dyke (Mercury)

1971: Lead Me On — Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn (Decca)

1981: My Baby Thinks He’s a Train — Rosanne Cash (Columbia)

1991: Shameless — Garth Brooks (Liberty)

2001: Angry All The Time — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2011: Crazy Girl — Eli Young Band (Republic Nashville)

Week ending 11/12/11: #1 singles this week in country music history

1951: Slow Poke — Pee Wee King & His Golden West Cowboys (feat. Redd Stewart) (RCA)

1961: Walk On By — Leroy Van Dyke (Mercury)

1971: Here Comes Honey Again — Sonny James (Capitol)

1981: (I’m Settin’) Fancy Free — The Oak Ridge Boys (MCA)

1991: Someday — Alan Jackson (Arista)

2001: Angry All The Time — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2011: God Gave Me You — Blake Shelton (Warner Bros.)

Album Review: Rosanne Cash – ‘King’s Record Shop’

Released in August 1987, King’s Record Shop was one of Rosanne’s most successful albums and her last collection of all-new mainstream country material before she parted ways with Nashville and began to release less commercial music in the singer-songwriter mode. Named after a record shop in Louisville, Kentucky, owned by Gene King, the younger brother of Pee Wee King (of “Tennessee Waltz” fame), it became her second gold album — her first since 1981’s Seven Year Ache, and the first time in country music history that an album by a female artist produced four #1 hits.

Like most of her previous albums, King’s Record Shop was produced by Rodney Crowell and is an eclectic mix of country, rock, and pop, drawing upon the talents of songwriters from both inside and outside the Nashville community, as well as some of Cash’s and Crowell’s original compositions, and one from Rosanne’s famous father, the Man In Black himself. The first single, “The Way We Make A Broken Heart” had been recorded a few years ago as a duet between Rosanne and the song’s writer John Hiatt. Rosanne’s solo version is pop-country perfection; something about the arrangement and Rosanne’s performance is reminiscent of Patsy Cline. It quickly became her sixth #1 hit and remains my all-time favorite Rosanne Cash recording. The second single, a cover of Johnny Cash’s 1961 hit “Tennessee Flat Top Box”, has become one of Rosanne’s best-loved recordings. She recorded it at Crowell’s suggestion, unaware that her father had written it; she had been under the impression that it was an old song that had long been in the public domain. Today it is one of her best-remembered hits, along with “Seven Year Ache”, and is one of the most traditional offerings in her catalog.

“If You Change Your Mind”, written by Rosanne with Hank DeVito, was the album’s third single. It hasn’t aged as well  as some of the other songs on the album, primarily due to the somewhat intrusive drum machine that is present throughout the track, but it is nonetheless a very well-written and well-performed song. I recall being initially somewhat less enthusiastic about the fourth and final single, “Runaway Train”, but over the years I have come to appreciate it for the well-written masterpiece that it is. Though less rooted in country music than the other singles, its lyrics are rich with imagery, using a runaway train as a metaphor for a relationship spiraling out of control. It was written by John Stewart (not the guy from The Daily Show on Comedy Central), who had become well-known as a member of The Kingston Trio in the 60s, and as the writer of the 1967 Monkees hit “Daydream Believer”.

The success of King’s Record Shop is impressive, partly because it does not fit the neotraditionalist template that had a firm grasp on Nashville at the time. It’s a carefully assembled collection of pop, rock, and a handful of songs that were just country enough to be accepted by country radio. Columbia made wise decisions in choosing the singles — as evidenced by the fact that all four were chart-toppers — in stark contrast to today, when an album’s worst and least-interesting tracks are commonly sent to radio. The album cuts of King’s Record Shop are more experimental in nature (though “Rosie Strikes Back” had the potential to be a hit single), reflecting Rosanne’s tastes which often fell outside the realm of country music. Among the more interesting cuts are her own composition, the introspective “The Real Me” and Rodney Crowell’s “I Don’t Have To Crawl”, which had previously been recorded by Emmylou Harris. Also enjoyable is “Rosie Strikes Back” in which the narrator urges a battered woman to flee from an abusive relationship. Less interesting are “Somewhere, Sometime”, which was written by Rosanne, the rocker “Green, Yellow and Red” and Benmont Tench’s “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone”, which closed out the original version of the album.

The album’s 2005 re-release includes three bonus tracks: “707”, which had been the B-side of “The Way We Make A Broken Heart”, and live versions of “Runaway Train” and “Green, Yellow and Red”. None of these tracks is worth buying the album over again if you already have the 10-track original version.

Prior to 1987, I’d enjoyed listening to Rosanne’s radio hits, but it was King’s Record Shop, or more specifically “The Way We Make A Broken Heart”, that finally compelled me to buy one of her albums. It remains the best album in her catalog, and I’ve always thought it was a pity that she didn’t do more music in this vein before changing direction.

Grade: A-

It is easy to find, if you don’t already have it, from vendors such as Amazon and iTunes, and worth adding to your collection.

Country Heritage: Patti Page

People such as Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and the Byrds all are occasionally credited as being the catalyst for breaking country music to the larger pop markets. No doubt, all were of some significance in introducing country music to a portion of the pop market, but long before any of them came along, there was “the singing rage”, Miss Patti Page.

Most of today’s listeners look no further back than 1955 when rock ‘n roll began to emerge. Consequently, aside from a specific few, such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Perry Como, most of the great pop singers of the immediate post-WW2 period largely have been forgotten.

Born in 1927 as Clara Ann Fowler, a product of Oklahoma, Patti Page would serve an apprenticeship as a country singer with Al Clauser’s Oklahoma Outlaws during the early 1940s. Clauser’s band appeared on KTUL in Tulsa; as a result of this exposure, Patti Became the featured vocal on a program sponsored by the Page Milk Company. It was as a result of this program that she became known as Patti Page. From here she moved to the Jimmy Joy Band, a pop swing band which toured the Midwest. While in Chicago she became friends with members of Benny Goodman’s orchestra, which in turn led to a recording contract with Mercury.

Patti’s first single, “Confess” came out during one of the Petrillo strikes in 1947, meaning that background singers were not available for recording purposes. Mercury thought that Patti’s voice was sufficiently versatile that she could do her own harmony backgrounds, and so developed the practice of Patti overdubbing her own harmony vocals on record, the first artist with which this was done. “Confess” was one of three top twenty records she would chart from 1947-1949.

1950 was Patti’s breakthrough year as “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming” became her first million selling single, quickly followed by another million seller “All My Love (Bolero)” and then a song that would represent a career for anyone, her cover of the Pee Wee King-Redd Stewart classic “Tennessee Waltz”. Not only did this record reach #1 on Billboard’s Pop charts, staying there for 13 weeks, but it would reach #2 on Billboard’s country chart selling over six million copies in the United States alone.

While Patti Page is primarily thought of as a pop singer, and a very successful one with over 100 million singles sold world-wide, she continued to record country songs for the pop market having hits with such titles “Detour”, “Down The Trail of Aching Heart”, “Mister and Mississippi”, “I Went To Your Wedding”, “You Belong To Me” (another Pee Wee King-Redd Stewart collaboration). So popular was she with country audiences that country comics Homer & Jethro even lampooned her pop hit “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window”. All told, Patti Page would have 16 gold singles.

Even after the onset of the rock and roll blight, Patti continued to chart on the pop charts, although after 1958 the really big hits were a thing of the past, with the exception of her 1964 hit “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte”, from the movie of the same name. Since she always had sung and recorded country songs as part of her repertoire, Patti made the natural turn to recording straight country songs during the late 1960s, with sixteen songs charting on Billboard’s country charts between 1970-1982 including the #14 duet with Tom T. Hall “Hello We’re Lonely” in late 1972.

After the 1980’s Patti focused more on jazz in her recorded music. Since Patti is now over 83 years old, I am not sure how active she is as a live performer, but she was quite active until very recently.

I wouldn’t try to convince anyone that Patti Page was a great country artist, but she was a great recording artist and did as much as (and probably more than) any other non-country performer to help spread the popularity of country music around the world

DISCOGRAPHY


VINYL

A search of used record shops will turn up a huge number of Patti Page vinyl albums – there were at least thirty albums released on Mercury, at least another ten or so on Columbia and then for miscellaneous other labels over the years. Her best pop recordings were on Mercury – any of her Mercury albums will reveal a consummate professional at work – if you like the songs, you’ll like the albums.

CD

Patti Page is not as well represented on CD as should be the case – she does have a website which offers some titles for sale

http://www.misspattipage.com/

Collectors Choice Music currently has 19 CDs and a DVD available

SINGLES 1946-1952 gives you 84 of her Mercury hits
LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL: THE 50th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT demonstrates that Patti still could bring it
HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE / GENTLE ON MY MIND is a two-fer of Columbia albums, a 1965 pop album and a country flavored album from 1968. It’s an odd pairing but a good value

Other titles have been in and out of print over the years.