Okay, fifty years ago - really? Geez, it seems like only yesterday, or maybe 20 years ago at the most. Okay, it doesn't really seem like yesterday, because I was only 3 years old in 1958, so I hardly remember these songs when they were hits.
I thought it might be fun to see what was hitting the charts, lo those 50 years ago. And to contrast the country music of then to the country music of now.
Well, we all sorta know where country music is now, and it's not pretty.
I think this quote from Jennifer Nettles (of Sugarland) in the latest Entertainment Weekly pretty much sums up the general attitude in Nashville today:
At the very least, Nettles sees Nashville changing.
"What is country anymore?" she asks.
The article goes on to call Sugarland's third album "an unusually diverse CD that attempts to expand the template of mainstream country by embracing old-school R.E.M, Marvin Gaye, even hair metal.
"We've earned the space to express ourselves," says (Kristian) Bush.
O-kay! So, now we know, I guess.
So, let's cleanse our palates with some offerings from the year 1958.
This first video is one of many hits for Johnny:
JOHNNY CASH - BIG RIVER
"We've earned the space to express ourselves". Give me a break.
Ray Price had a bunch of hits in 1958. Here's one of the best:
RAY PRICE - INVITATION TO THE BLUES
Recognize the harmony singer? Look closer. Why, it's the songwriter himself, ROGER MILLER!
Well, here is one of my all-time favorite singers:
FARON YOUNG - ALONE WITH YOU
Here is someone you don't see anymore (well, he's passed away, but you know what I mean.) Don Gibson had FOUR number one hits in 1958. Here's one:
DON GIBSON - OH, LONESOME ME
I think this song was covered numerous, numerous times by many artists. Good for Don.
Remember this? Yes, this is not the 1958 performance. Conway did re-record this song a few years after he made this song a HUGE hit. The 1958 performance was grainy and had poor sound quality. The one here will just make you dizzy (sorry). But I still like the sound better on this one:
CONWAY TWITTY - IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE
You know, people tend to forget Webb Pierce, but there was no one bigger in country music in the late 1950's. Not to cast any aspersions, but he did insist on a co-writing credit for any song that he recorded. But I guess it was a win-win situation for all. At least Mel Tillis holds no hard feelings about that (I read his autobiography). I guess either you accepted Webb as a "co-writer", or you didn't get your song recorded at all. Not a hard decision when you have a family to feed.
Here's one written by Mel:
WEBB PIERCE - TUPELO COUNTY JAIL
Again, not a video from 1958, but still worth watching! Yea, I'm a huge Marty Robbins fan. Here he is, singing:
THE STORY OF MY LIFE
Well, this is not a 1958 rendition of this song (because Hank Locklin wasn't old and bald in 1958), but you have to give this guy credit! Much like Ray Price, even at an advanced age, he's still going strong!
HANK LOCKLIN - SEND ME THE PILLOW THAT YOU DREAM ON
Interestingly, a lot of artists we think of as "rock" actually had big hits on the country charts in 1958. Elvis, for one. I can't find any of those videos, but his hit songs from that year were:
I Beg Of You
Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
By the same token, the Everly Brothers were major country stars that year:
All I Have To Do Is Dream
Devoted To You
And this one:
(No, this video is not from 1958. The one from '58 was very poor quality.)
THE EVERLY BROTHERS - BIRD DOG
Oh yea, there was one other guy who seemed to have racked up a bunch of hits that year. He was sort of country, then rock, then country again.
Let's have a gander, shall we?
Oh yea, and THIS one:
One more time:
Okay, so where were we? Oh yea.
"We've earned the space to express ourselves."
Ha ha ha ha!
You ain't earned nothin' yet, honey.