Wednesday, April 10, 2013
The 1960's in Country Music ~ When Everything Changed
People may have selective (or rather, "limited") memories about the nineteen sixties in country music.
I was there.
Let me tell you about the 1960's in country music.
First of all, everything EXPLODED. Sure, it started out quite sedate and unobtrusive. But even at the beginning of the decade, something was different. The most obvious difference was that Nashville no longer had a stranglehold on country music. No, a town called Bakersfield was making itself known, whether Chet Atkins liked it or not.
Nobody (mostly) remembers Wynn Stewart, but I bet Merle remembers him, because, aside from Lefty Frizzell, Merle sounded like no one more than Wynn, who also wrote one of Merle's first hits, "(Sing Me A) Sad Song".
The top hits of 1960 were the somnambulistic, "He'll Have To Go", by Jim Reeves, of whom I never understood the attraction; frankly; Even as a five-year-old, I recognized that this song was sort of "icky"; and it disturbed me.
On the more righteous side, Ferlin Husky had a hit with "Wings of a Dove"..
And, in a continuation of the nasally-voiced singers of the 1950's, Hank Locklin had a hit with "Please Help Me, I'm Fallin'".
But, frankly, not too many people cared about Jim Reeves, or even Ferlin; and if they recognized Hank Locklin at all, it was only for a minute.
No, it was Bakersfield that the true music lovers latched onto. And here is Wynn Stewart, starting it all off:
1961 dropped a couple of monstrous hits on us.
Willie, in essence, sold this song to the highest bidder. And luckily, Faron Young was the winner of the lottery.
Willie's song was great, but if not for Faron's my-eye-eyen'd , the song would have been rather pedestrian. Clever, sure. But not heart-tugging. Faron did that.
Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard (bow down before them) wrote this next song for Patsy Cline.
I don't know what can be said about Patsy Cline that hasn't already been said. I say, just watch and listen:
Sure, 1962 may have been the year that Hank Snow created a hit with a song that I, in a fit of utter boredom, memorized the words to:
But let's face it: 1962 was Patsy's year.
This song, naturally, is at the top of my list of the Twenty Best Country Songs of All Time. And here's Willie again. I bet he didn't auction off this song, and if he did, he was a blithering idiot.
1963 was rather ripe with country hits. There was Ring of Fire, of course; written by June Carter and Merle Travis. There was Abilene, recorded by a guy who deigned to call himself George Hamilton IV (the first time I learned about Roman numerals).
There was this, and I dare you to not include it on your top twenty list:
I've decided to throw out my predetermined format and post a bunch of 1963 songs, because, speaking of ripe, 1963 in country music is the essence of ripe.
Here is Skeeter Davis:
I had absolutely no idea who Ned Miller was; never even saw a picture of him; but my dad loved this song. I'm guessing Ned was a recluse, which is fine, and completely acceptable to me. Even if he was in his basement, recording this song on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, that doesn't negate the fact that this was a huge hit in 1963; and mostly, it doesn't negate the fact that Dad loved it:
Dave Dudley had a hit with a song that he had absolutely no idea would become an alt-country lover's guilty pleasure, when re-recorded by Steve Earle in the eighties. No, Dave was an innocent traveling musician when he did this:
I could go on (and on and on and on) about the year 1963 in country music. I have no idea why everything went BLAM! that year. But it did.
Be that as it may, 1963, for me, is represented by Bobby Bare (and Mel Tillis) with this (and thank you, my good friend Alice, for teaching me how to play this intro on my guitar):
I'm plum exhausted, and exhilarated, from enumerating just the first four years of the sixties, so I think it's time to take a breather.
1964 will come later (and I'm thinking there will be a whole lot of Buck Owens and a bunch of Loretta Lynn; but who knows? I may surprise myself.)
Recalling the nineteen sixties in country music is exhilarating for me.
Maybe you had to be there.