My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Rodney Lay

Favorite country songs of the 1980s, Part 3

The 1980s got off to a poor start with the early 1980s producing some of the lamest country music ever recorded, as the Urban Cowboy movie wreaked havoc on the genre. Fortunately, there was still good country music being released. The first flowering of the late 1980s “New Traditionalist” movement arrived in 1981 with the first hits of Ricky Skaggs and George Strait, but they remained outliers until 1986 as far as good new artists were concerned. The latter part of the decade, however, produced some truly excellent country music with the 1986 arrival of Randy Travis and company.

Here are some more songs that I liked and remember. See if you recall any of these records.

Blue Blooded Woman
Alan Jackson
This 1989 ballad was the opening salvo for the career of Alan Jackson. While the song only reached #45, the next year it was released as the flip side of Alan’s first top five record “Here In The Real World”.

She’s Gone, Gone, GoneCarl Jackson
This 1984 cover of a Lefty Frizzell classic reached #44, the top chart performance for an incredibly talented musician better known for his work in bluegrass/ Americana.

Innocent Lies
Sonny James
After a two year chart absence, the Southern Gentleman resurfaced on the Dimension label for one last top twenty tune in early 1982. According to Billboard, Sonny had and forty-three top tens recordings of which twenty-three went all the way to the top.

Just Give Me What You Think Is FairTommy Jennings with Vern Gosdin
Tommy was Waylon’s younger brother. This was the biggest of his three chart hits, reaching #51 in mid-1980.

Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard
Waylon Jennings
Fess up – we all watched the show, mindless as it was at times . This song would reach the top slot in the fall of 1980, also reaching #21 on Billboard’s Pop Charts.

North WindJim & Jesse with Charlie Louvin
This song reached #56, a very good showing for a bluegrass act in 1982.

Give Me Wings Michael Johnson
The late 1970s-early 1980s were Johnson’s peak as a pop artist with “Bluer Than Blue”, reaching #12 Pop/#1 Easy Listening in 1978. A very talented guitarist and songwriter, Johnson found himself classified as country during the mid-1980s although his basic style remained unchanged. “Give Me Wings” and its follow up “The Moon Is Still On Her Shoulders” would both reach #1 in 1987.

Wine Colored RosesGeorge Jones
The 1980s were a huge decade for King George with three number one records and another fifteen songs that reached the top ten. George is at his best with sad songs and this wistful ballad from 1986 is one of my favorites.

Two Story House George Jones & Tammy Wynette
No longer a married couple, George and Tammy still had enough vocal chemistry to take this 1980 entry to #1 on Cashbox. There would be one more single released on Epic but this marked the end for a remarkable duo.

Why Not MeNaomi & Wynonna Judd
I was not a big fan of the Judds, but I liked this #1 record from 1984.

It’s Who You Love Kieran Kane
Basically an Americana artist, this 1982 hit was one of only two top twenty records Kane would have as a solo artist. A few years later he would be part of a more successful duo.

Thank God For The RadioThe Kendalls
I have no idea why the Kendalls faded away during the 1980s as I would have expected the “New Traditionalist” movement to have resurrected their career. The Kendalls had already started to fade away when this 1984 #1 hit returned them to the top ten for one last visit. Jeannie Kendall is about as good a female vocalist as the genre has seen in the last thirty years.

Oklahoma BorderlineVince Gill
It took Vince a while for his solo career to take off after leaving Pure Prairie League. This song reached #9 in early 1986 and was his second top ten recording. The really big hits would start in 1990 with “When I Call Your Name”.

Walk Softly On This Heart of Mine Kentucky Headhunters
This rocked up cover of a Bill Monroe song landed the group their first top thirty hit in 1989. While they would only have one top ten record, the Kentucky Headhunters brought something different and distinctive to county radio.

Cajun BabyDoug Kershaw with Hank Williams Jr.
This song was set to music by Hank Jr., from some lyrics he found among his father’s papers. Hank got to #3 with the song in 1969, but this time it topped out at #52.

Mister GarfieldMerle Kilgore with Hank Williams Jr. & Johnny Cash
Diehard Johnny Cash fans may remember the song from a 1960s album about the Old West. This 1982 record reached #52. Kilgore didn’t have a lot of chart success as a performer, but he wrote or co-wrote a number of huge hits for others such as “More and More”, “Wolverton Mountain” and “Ring of Fire”.

I Still Miss Someone
Don King
A nice take on a Johnny Cash classic, this 1981 recording topped out at #38 in 1981. Don King was a successful songwriter and publisher who was not wild about touring. When he quit working the road, his road band kept going, changing their name to “Sawyer Brown” and had considerable success.

Killin’ TimeFred Knoblock & Susan Anton
Fred Knoblock is a talented singer; Susan Anton was (is) really pretty. This record made it to #10 in 1981. Go figure.

They Killed HimKris Kristofferson
Most of Kris’s best songs date back to when he was a starving songwriter. This 1987 tribute to Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King was one of his few later songs that reached his earlier standards. This song deserved a better fate than to be marooned at #67 in 1987, but back then, religious (or even quasi-religious) themes were normally the kiss of death for radio.

Sweet Sexy EyesCristy Lane
The follow up to “One Day At A Time “ (Cristy’s lone #1) this 1980 single saw Cristy returning to the shimmering pop country she had been recording. This record reached #8 in late 1980. This would be Cristy’s last top ten record. She would continue to record pop country for a few more years before turning into a largely religious performer.

Lock Stock and TeardropsKathy Dawn Lang (k.d. lang)
Lang was always a little too left field to have much success at country radio. This single reached #53 in 1988, her third of five charting singles. This song was penned by Roger Miller and this recording is the quintessential recording of the song.

Lady, Lady
Kelly Lang
Her father was Conway Twitty’s road manager, she is married to T.G. Sheppard and she is a very fine singer. Despite all that, this was Kelly’s sole chart entry reaching #88 in 1982.

That’s How You Know When Love’s RightNicolette Larson with Steve Wariner
Basically a pop artist, her “Lotta Love went to #1 on the AC charts in 1978. This song reached #9 in 1986, her only top ten country record. Nicolette sang background on may pop and country recordings. She died in 1997 at the age of 45.

I Wish I Had A Job To ShoveRodney Lay
His biggest hit, this song reached #45 in 1982. Rodney was better known as a musician and was on Hee Haw for a number of years as a member of the house band.

Ten Seconds In The SaddleChris LeDoux
This song reached #96 in 1980, no small feat considering it was pressed on LeDoux’s own label and sold at rodeos. The Garth Brooks tune mentioning him was still five years in the future

Broken TrustBrenda Lee with The Oak Ridge Boys
Brenda’s last top ten record, reaching #9 in 1980. Brenda would continue to chart for another five years, but even if she had ceased charting a decade earlier, she still had a remarkable career.

Cherokee Fiddle
Johnny Lee
Johnny Lee was the ultimate beneficiary of the Urban Cowboy movie. Johnny’s career had gone nowhere in he five years prior to the movie (six chart singles, only one reaching the top twenty). “Looking For Love” kicked off a strong five year run with five #1 records and a bunch more top twenty hits. This record reached #10 in 1982 and remains my favorite of all of his records. Charlie Daniels and Michael Martin Murphey provide backing vocals on this record.

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Album Review: Vern Gosdin – ‘Never My Love’

In 1976 Gary S. Paxton coaxed Vern Gosdin out of his self-imposed retirement and got Vern into the recording studio, producing the excellent Till The End, which was released in August 1976. Of course, even then the world of country operated on a ‘what have you done lately’ basis and in those days that meant issuing albums annually.

‘What Have You Done Lately’ arrived in the form of Never My Love, released in June 1978. Unlike Till The End, which featured a bunch of Gary S. Paxton originals plus the title cut written by his then-wife Cathy, Never My Love featured a diverse bunch of songs, taken from sources both pop and country.

“Never My Love” was a #2 pop hit for The Association in 1967. The Association’s version is good, but Gosdin gives the song a more dramatic reading.

You ask me if there’ll come a time
When I grow tired of you
Never my love
Never my love

You wonder if this heart of mine
Will lose its desire for you
Never my love
Never my love

The production for all of these songs has the “Nashville Sound” feel with strings and voices. For this song there is a prominent backing performance by rising star Janie Fricke, whose first chart single would arrive three months after the release of this album. Released as a single, this song was Vern’s third top ten hit, reaching #9.

“Catch The Wind” was, of course a massive world-wide hit for Donovan Leitch, and has been covered by nearly every folk singer on the planet.

In the chilly hours and minutes
Of uncertainty, I want to be
In the warm hold of your loving mind

To feel you all around me
And to take your hand along the sand
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind

Vern’s version of the song is simply different from every other version of the song that I’ve heard. Rather than the soft gossamer treatment usually accorded the song, Vern gives it a soulful but wry reading, which gives strong emphasis to the lyrics. I think this could have been a major hit had it been released as a single.

“Anita You’re Dreaming” was a minor hit for Waylon Jennings in 1966. I listened to his version and Waylon’s version while writing this article. The arrangement on Vern’s version is very similar to that on Waylon’s record, but Vern has the better voice.

“When I Need You” was a wimpy Carole Bayer-Sager / Albert Hammond ballad that Leo Sayer took to #1 in the US, UK and Canada. I don’t much like the song, but I guess Vern Gosdin can turn anything into a worthwhile recording.

“I Sure Can Love You” is a slow ballad written by Gary S. Paxton and R. Karen Paxton. The song is nothing special, but again, Vern can render even indifferent material worth hearing.

The five songs listed above constituted Side 1 of the album as it was released on vinyl. All five were in the medium-slow tempo that Gosdin seemed to prefer.

Side two of the original vinyl release opened with “Break My Mind”, a medium-fast John D Loudermilk composition that everyone recorded in the late 1960s, but none scored a huge hit with it. George Hamilton IV came closest reaching # 6 in 1967. The lyrics to this tune sound a bit dated, having a definite sixties feel to them:

Baby oh baby
Tell the man at the ticket stand that you changed your mind
Go and run outside and tell the man to keep his meter flying
Cause if you say goodbye to me, babe you’re gonna break my mind

Break my mind, break my mind
Lord I just can’t stand to hear the big jet engines whine
Break my mind, break my mind, oh Lord
Cause if you leave you’re gonna leave a babbling fool behind

The faster tempo comes at just the right time and the use of horns in the arrangement enhances the feel of the song. This was the second single released from this album, reaching # 13.

“Forget Yesterday” was written by Wayne Bradford and is just another slow ballad. The trailing call and chorus effect and other vocal harmonies supplied by Janie Fricke make the song seem more interesting than actually is the case.

Vern’s then-wife Cathy never did Vern wrong with any of the songs she supplied him, and “Without You There’s A Sadness In My Song” is just another example.

Brother Rex Gosdin co-wrote “The Lady She’s Right” with Vernon Reed. I don’t know the vintage of the song, but it is clear that Rex’s early death robbed Vern of a good source of songs. This is another mid-tempo song that Vern wraps his voice around to good effect.

“Something’s Wrong In California” comes from the pen of Rodney Lay, a fine songwriter and singer who never quite broke through to be a star but had a long career as part of Roy Clark’s organization. Yet another slow ballad that sounds fine coming from Vern Gosdin.

Something’s wrong in California, I can tell by the letters she don’t write
Gotta get back to California, something’s just not right in California
Stranded here in Kansas, ain’t got a nickel to my name
Gotta get back to see my baby, just the same to California
.

Waylon Jennings also recorded this song, albeit with slightly different lyrics

I wouldn’t regard this as one of Vern’s better albums, mostly due to the lack of up-tempo material. Granted, Vern could probably sing the Orlando Yellow Pages and make it sound acceptable, but I did find myself wishing for a few more tempo changes. This album was made at the end of the “Nashville Sound” era so there are strings and background singers on most of the material, but they are not overused and so do no harm to the sound of the recordings. Anyway, I’d much rather hear the trappings of the “Nashville Sound” than put up with the Southern Rock guitars that mess up so much of today’s country music. The one thing that is true of the production of this album, whatever the embellishments used, the voice of Vern Gosdin is front and center throughout. That is a very good thing. I would give this album a B+.

This album originally was released on Elektra, one of three albums Vern would release for the label. Rhino, in conjunction with the British label Edsel, released this as part of a three albums on two CDs set encompassing all three of the Elektra albums (no bonus tracks, just the tracks from the original albums Till The End, Never My Love and You’ve Got Somebody.