Monday, August 23, 2010

Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys: Reunited

Here, by request, is the entire Reunited album by Ray Price and The Cherokee Cowboys. I'm not in the habit of posting full albums here at Honky-Tonk Merry-Go-Round, but we had a request, and this album is currently otherwise unavailable. (And I must give credit to the original uploader. Sorry I don't remember where exactly I got it...)

I'd have to say that I'm not sure the quality of the entire album is up to the standard of the previously posted lead-off track, "Different Kind Of Flower," but it's still a very enjoyable album. And again, more like what I love from Ray Price than anything he had done for more than 10 years at the point the album was released. He remakes some of his old hits, which are mostly enjoyable, but never top the originals. And his cover of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" is a nice bid to have some modern touches, but as much as I love Ray Price, this is one of my least favorite interpretations by him. In fact, it actually borders on being downright creepy. I don't know about you ladies out there, but I'm guessing that smirking, leering vocal isn't winning over anybody I'd want to spend the night with...

But with all those caveats, I still think this is an enjoyable album, and I hope you all enjoy it too...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Song Of The Day: Different Kind Of Flower

Hello Rounders! I'm doing a very brief little post today just to keep the train running on the tracks. I apologize for the lack of posts of late, but sometimes life takes over, and it's been a busy summer around these parts. But I didn't want anyone to think I'd gone away for good, so here's a song for your enjoyment.

To give you a little background on today's choice, this is a wonderful track recorded in 1977 by a reunited Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys. Price had spent several years by this point in his crooner phase and pretty far removed from the classic honky tonk sound he forged with the Cherokee Cowboys in the '50s and early '60s.

This is the leadoff track from their Reunited album recorded for ABC Records. The song was released as a single but only made a very modest showing on the Billboard Country charts. I really love this song. It has the familiar Ray Price honky tonk shuffle, but the song, written by Gary Sefton, is more modern and keeps it from being a self-concious nod back to the old days. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Cindy Walker!

Today is legendary songwriter Cindy Walker's birthday, and in tribute I've put together a sampling of some of her songs. Cindy Walker was born on July 20, 1918 near a town named Mexia, Texas which is east of Waco. She came from a musical family, and loved poetry as a child. As such, Cindy was a natural for a songwriter, although it was certainly less common to see successful women songwriters in her early years. One of the first songs she wrote was "Dusty Skies" after reading a story about the Oklahoma dust bowl. The song was later recorded by Bob Wills and is featured in today's post.

There's a great story about Cindy traveling to Los Angeles on vacation with her parents and making a gutsy approach to Bing Crosby to pitch him a song she'd written for him called "The Lone Star Trail." Bing ended up recording the song (also featured in today's post), and that basically launched her career in Hollywood. Walker appeared in movies and did recordings under her own name, but it was also in Hollywood that she began her association with Bob Wills providing songs for his records and movies. Wills recorded almost 50 of her songs, including several they wrote together, and they had an association that lasted from 1941 until Bob's death in 1973.

Cindy also had successful relationships with other artists like Ernest Tubb, Jim Reeves, and Eddy Arnold (with whom she co-wrote the standard, "You Don't Know Me") who all recorded, and in many cases had big hits with her songs.

In 1954, Cindy moved back to Texas and lived with her mother until her mother's death in 1991. Cindy was an only child and was very close to her parents throughout her life. Her mother was a piano player, and helped Cindy write her songs. When Cindy was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997, she recited this verse in tribute to her mother:

In the 1980s, my mother bought me a dress for a BMI affair
and she said “when they put you in the Hall of Fame, that's the dress I want you to wear.”
And I said “Oh Mama, the Hall of Fame? Why that will never be.”
And the years went by, but my mother's words remained in my memory.
And I know tonight she'd be happy, though she's gone now to her rest.
But I think of all that she did for me, and tonight I'm wearing this dress.

She received a standing ovation and after blowing a kiss to the crowd left the stage in joyous tears. Cindy died on March 23, 2006 at the age of 87. Cindy Walker just seems like someone I wish I'd known. Through her songs, I feel I do a little bit. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do...

Cindy Walker's typewriter on which she wrote many songs

Thursday, July 15, 2010

In Memory of Hank Cochran (1935-2010)

I was in the midst of preparing a post celebrating the upcoming birthday of one of my favorite country music songwriters when I heard the sad news that today we lost another of my favorites, Hank Cochran. So today's post is in tribute to a man I consider to be one of modern country music's finest songwriters. There will be a lot written in the next few days about the life and songs of Hank Cochran, so I won't bother to fill up space with my version of that here. I'll let the man's songs do the talking. Here is a healthy sampling of Hank Cochran songs from the early '60s through the early '70s, including some of his biggest hits, and some a little more out of the way. Some of the songs he wrote by himself, and others he wrote with other legendary songwriters of the era, like Harlan Howard and Willie Nelson. The first song was not actually written by him, but to him by Johnny Paycheck and Aubrey Mayhew, begging for a follow-up to "A-11" (also included here). Thanks for the great tunes, Hank. Peace be with you...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America

Today is Independence Day in America. So, in typical American fashion, I thought I'd post some songs of people pounding their chests and bragging to the world about how great it is to live in this country. Not to say that it isn't, but I can't think of too many other countries that have so many songs telling you so. But even if you're not American, you can still appreciate one of our finest truly American art forms, Bluegrass Music. Happy 4th of July! Hope you enjoy the tunes...

Jimmy Martin (pledging allegiance to his Cadillac) • Jim & Jesse • Flatt & Scruggs • Bill Clifton

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (7/1)

George McCormick - 56 years ago
Thursday, July 1, 1954 (1:30 pm - 4:30 pm)
Castle Studio, The Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN
George McCormick: vocal, guitar; Sam Pruett: lead guitar; Don Helms: steel guitar; Jerry Rivers: fiddle; Cedric Rainwater: bass.
Producer: Fred Rose

Today's recording session may be of particular interest to Hank Williams fans. George McCormick was a Nashville musician that played with a variety of bands in the late '40s and early '50s including a gig with Big Jeff Bess (the husband of Tootsie of Orchid Lounge fame) and his Radio Playboys. George was eventually featured on occasional solo vocals emulating his favorite, and recently deceased country singer, Hank Williams. While the Radio Playboys were playing a run at the Starlite Club in Nashville, George was heard by Jimmy Rule who was a songwriter and the co-author with Hank Williams of his book on country songwriting. Rule brought McCormick to the attention of his employer Fred Rose who was impressed enough to sign McCormick to MGM Records and give him songs that were planned for Hank Williams. Rose produced at least three sessions on George McCormick - two in 1953, and the one from today in 1954. McCormick's MGM records were obvious and conscious nods to Hank Williams, but this third session recorded today is particularly Williams-like in that it utilized Hank's Drifting Cowboys, including the great Don Helms on steel guitar who co-wrote "Don't Fix Up The Doghouse" which was intended for Hank as a followup to "Move It On Over" (much after the fact, as "Move It" was originally recorded in 1947). None of these songs were hits, but I think they're thoroughly enjoyable recordings that have a definite Hank Williams sound to them. I hope you enjoy them too...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Song Of The Day: Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)

The Blackboard Cafe, Bakersfield, CA

Joe & Rose Lee Maphis • Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs
The Flying Burrito Brothers • Vern Gosdin

From the Flatt & Scruggs 1955 songbook

Today we have five versions of one of the all-time classic honky tonk songs, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)." The story goes that Joe Maphis wrote the song one Saturday night (presumably in 1952) while driving home to Los Angeles from Bakersfield after seeing Buck Owens perform at the Blackboard Cafe. The Blackboard had a reputation for being a pretty hardcore honky tonk bar, and the title alone is very evocative of what it must have been like. The song has been covered many times over the years by a variety of artists, but I picked five versions today that I think are significant for various reasons.

The first version is the one recorded by two of the songs three credited composers, husband and wife team Joe and Rose Lee Maphis (Max Fidler, a Los Angeles based accordionist, is the third composer). This version done for OKeh Records in April of 1953 isn't the first recorded as the next version by Flatt & Scruggs was recorded the previous November.

The Flatt & Scruggs version is certainly one of the most well known and was responsible for introducing the song into the bluegrass repertoire where it's been covered many times. I'd love to know how the song got to them.

Margie Collie's version is interesting in that it's almost an answer song as she turns it around to the woman's perspective. Her version made for Decca was also probably recorded before the Maphis's sometime around late March or early April 1953. She's a somewhat limited vocalist, but it's interesting to hear another version from the era when the song was written.

While I love and idolize Gram Parsons, you could argue that in many ways he's a somewhat limited vocalist himself, and his vocal on the Flying Burrito Brothers version of "Dim Lights" is one of his lazier ones. But like many of his better vocal performances, that tortured vulnerability still comes through. To be fair, this recording was done as a demo and wasn't originally released in Gram's lifetime. I think a lot of people know the song from the FBB version, particularly those less familiar with traditional country and bluegrass. (Many versions over the years by New Riders of the Purple Sage could also share some of that responsibility - especially for Dead Heads.)

From two somewhat limited vocalists to one of modern country's most gifted, Vern Gosdin. Though the song is seemingly quite well known and has been covered a multitude of times, Gosdin's 1985 version is the only version to chart so far on Billboard's Country charts, and even then only peaking at #20. Also in contrast to the previous FBB demo version which is somewhat sparse and straightforward, Gosdin's version is quite heavily produced - a bit too much for my taste, in fact, but his vocal is outstanding as usual.

As I've mentioned, there are plenty of other versions of this song including ones by Porter Wagoner, Rose Maddox, Earl Scruggs & Tom T. Hall and many others. I hope you like the five I've chosen for today...

As an added bonus, here's a video clip of Joe & Rose Lee Maphis performing the song live on the Los Angeles television show Town Hall Party from 1959. Also featured here on fiddle is the great Gordon Terry.

Joe & Rose Lee Maphis live on Town Hall Party (1959)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Album Roots: The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Roots of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo
Original versions of the songs that inspired the Byrds' landmark country rock album.

Bob Dylan & The Band • Merle Travis • The Louvin Brothers
William Bell • George Jones • Woody Guthrie
Gene Autry • Merle Haggard

I've always loved the Byrds' Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Over the years, I've come to appreciate it in different ways, but one thing I've always enjoyed doing is seeking out the original versions of the songs and compiling them into the playing order of the album. So for today's post, that's what I've done. Since there are two original Gram Parsons songs on the album, those songs have been omitted.

The source material for the album is quite varied. Though there are a number of country songs and artists that the band drew from, as they often did, they also culled a couple of songs from the pen of Bob Dylan. The two songs they covered for Sweetheart were both newly written and recorded songs from Dylan & The Band's legendary Basement Tapes sessions. The Byrds probably weren't the first artists to record songs from those sessions, but they were certainly among the earliest. As they had also done before, they drew from older folk material as well, in this case Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd," and "I Am A Pilgrim" from Merle Travis's Folk Songs Of The Hills album. Though the Byrds had not previously looked to the world of R&B for cover material, for Sweetheart they took Stax artist William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water" and made a southern soul ballad into a credible country song.

It's interesting to hear the wide variety of influences that made up this groundbreaking album. I think it also makes for a very enjoyable listen. I hope you do too...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

That Silver-Haired Daddy Of Mine
Gene Autry & Jimmy Long

In celebration of Father's Day, I'm posting six versions of the classic father tribute song, "That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine." We lead off with the original version by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long. Obviously, the wonderful Everlys version is here as well. But do you know who the other four are (without downloading and looking at the artist names)?

I wish all you fathers out there the happiest of days today. We deserve it! Hope you enjoy the tunes...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Classic Radio Broadcasts - On This Date (6/18)

Hank Williams - 61 years ago
Saturday, June 18, 1949 (first Prince Albert Opry appearance)
Ryman Auditorium, 116 5th Ave. North, Nashville, TN
Hank Williams: vocal, guitar; Red Foley: emcee; other musicians unknown.

As country music fans, I think we're incredibly lucky to have had a performance as important as Hank Williams's first nationally broadcast appearance on the Grand Ole Opry preserved for all time. And that's what we're presenting for today's post. We all are probably too familiar with Hank's up and down relationship with WSM and the Grand Ole Opry, but to hear him on these performances, he's confident and ready to take on the world. His first #1 hit, "Lovesick Blues," has put him on top and his followup single, "Wedding Bells," is just hitting the charts. We're fortunate to have both songs as performed on the Ryman Auditorium stage 61 years ago today. I hope you enjoy this Opry broadcast as much as I do...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (6/17)

The Carter Family
Saturday, June 17, 1933 - 77 years ago
Camden, NJ
Sara Carter: vocal, autoharp, guitar; Maybelle Carter: guitar, vocal; A.P. Carter: vocal
Producer: Ralph Peer
Victor Records

Thursday, June 17, 1937 - 73 years ago
New York, NY
Sara Carter: vocal, autoharp, guitar; Maybelle Carter: guitar, vocal; A.P. Carter: vocal
Decca Records

Today we have 26 songs from the Carter Family from two sessions exactly four years apart. The first session is a significant one for the Carter Family in that it almost didn't happen. This was the first session after Sara and A.P. had separated following Sara's initial "flings" with A.P.'s cousin Coy Bays (who she would ultimately marry), and A.P.'s becoming aware of it. Sara had moved back with her aunt and uncle and initially refused to do any more recordings with the group. A.P. wrote letters back and forth with their producer/manager Ralph Peer until ultimately he convinced Peer to have his wife Anita write a personal letter to Sara making a plea in favor of the recordings. It worked, because Sara realized it was her only way to make money for her and her children. Sara moved back to Maces Springs in advance of the recordings to rehearse with the group, but stayed with Maybelle and Eck's family rather than at home with A.P. and the children. The trip to New Jersey for the sessions (and New York where they would also do a radio broadcast from Radio City Music Hall) could well have been strained, but the performances from the session don't suffer. Several classics, including "Give Me Roses While I Live," "Gold Watch And Chain," and "School House On The Hill" are recorded at today's session. Significantly, another classic Carter Family song recorded at today's session, but that still remains unissued is an early version of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken." The Carters would record two more sessions in 1934 to wrap up their initial run at Victor before moving on to the American Record Corporation (ARC) in 1935.

By our second session, four years later, much has changed. Sara and A.P. are now divorced. They've left ARC for Decca Records where they would do sessions each June for three years running from 1936 to 1938. Today's session is the first day of the second year of the Decca sessions. At ARC they would re-record much of their Victor material, but at Decca all the material was new. Twelve songs were recorded today including the classics, "In The Shadow Of Clinch Mountain" and "Hello Stranger."

It's a lot of Carter Family to listen to, but I hope enjoy both of these sessions as much as I do...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (6/16)

The Blue Sky Boys - 74 years ago (1st session)
Tuesday, June 16, 1936
Charlotte, NC
Bill Bolick: vocal, mandolin; Earl Bolick: vocal, guitar.
Producer: Eli Oberstein

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the debut recordings by Earl & Bill Bolick, the Blue Sky Boys. I'm a big fan of country brother duets, and as much as I love the Monroe Brothers and Delmore Brothers, I'd have to say that my favorite brother act of the '30s has to be the Blue Sky Boys. The Monroes and Delmores played faster and were hotter instrumentalists, but that thing that makes the blending of siblings so sublime seems to be in particular abundance when it comes to the Bolick Brothers. They have such a sweet sound, and that sound went on to influence two of the greatest brother acts of the '50s: Charlie & Ira Louvin, and Don & Phil Everly.

Charles K. Wolfe in his chapter on the Blue Sky Boys from his book Classic Country: Legends of Country Music has the following to say about the session recorded today:

It was a late spring morning on June 16, 1936, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Two teenage boys sat reading a newspaper in a waiting room in the old Southern Radio Building on South Tryon Street. Inside, engineers from the Victor recording company had draped the walls with heavy curtains to create a temporary recording studio. A big moon-faced man named Eli Oberstein was in charge, and he was making records for Victor’s new Bluebird label – a cut-rate record subsidiary that featured blues and country music, and sold in those Depression-era times for 35 cents apiece. He had recently discovered that Charlotte was a good location to find both kinds of talent – he had already recorded hit acts like Mainer’s Mountaineers and the Monroe Brothers there – and now he was racing through another marathon session, cutting as many as twenty or twenty-five masters in a day, and hoping that lightning would strike again.

The two teenagers in the waiting room were named Bill and Earl Bolick. They were from Hickory, North Carolina, and though they were only eighteen (Bill) and sixteen (Earl), they had been playing on radio stations in Asheville and Atlanta for a year. It was an age of duet harmony singing, and groups like the Monroe Brothers (Bill and Charlie), the Callahan Brothers, and the Delmore Brothers were winning radio fans throughout the South. Soon the Bolicks too had begun attracting fans, and while they were at Atlanta’s WGST an offer had come to record for Bluebird. Now that they were here, though, there seemed to be some confusion.

One hour dragged into two, and then three, and still nobody had spoken to the boys. Finally Oberstein brushed through the room and noticed Earl reading his newspaper. “What do you think this is, a reading room?” he snapped. “I don’t care what it is,” Earl snapped back. Oberstein then asked them what they thought they were doing there, and seemed surprised when they said their names were Bolick and they had been told to come and make records. “We understood that you had broken up,” he said. He had given their spot to somebody else. “You’re the boys who copy the Monroe Brothers, aren’t you?” he said. Again the brothers protested; they had replaced the Monroe Brothers on WGST, but they had never even heard them, let alone copied them. “Being that you’re here, I’ll give you an audition,” Oberstein finally said.

Oberstein went back into the little room that he had rigged up as a control room, and the brothers unpacked their guitar and mandolin. They checked their tuning, and then began singing into the big carbon microphone.

There’s a sunny side, where no ills betide,

On the road that we must go,

There are pleasant vales, verdant hills and dales,

Where flowers ever grow.

After a few more lines of “On The Sunny Side Of Life,” Obserstein was running out of his control room. “That’s enough,” he said. “That’s good. That’s nothing like the Monroes. It’s very different, and I think we’ll just go ahead and record you.” By now it was afternoon, and the boys began recording the material they had worked up for the session – all songs that were proven favorites with radio fans, and songs that, the boys felt, were new to records. In addition to “Sunny Side Of Life,” they did nine other pieces, ranging from old Victorian loves songs to prison songs like “I’m Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail.” Of the ten songs preserved that afternoon, five were gospel tunes; the resulting Bluebird records were to write a new chapter in the history of country gospel music.

After the session, Eli Oberstein debated about what name to use for his new discovery. “At that time there were a lot of brothers recording,” recalls Bill. “So he suggested we use another name besides the Bolick Brothers. Eli and I sat down and kicked it around and came up with the name Blue Sky Boys, mainly because we were from the western part of the state, which was known as the Land of the Blue Sky.” Thus was born the name that for many came to stand for the very essence of old-time brother duet harmony singing – the Blue Sky Boys.

What a fabulous start to a recording career! I love these recordings, and I hope you enjoy them too...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (6/13)

Castle Studio, Tulane Hotel
206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN
Friday, June 13, 1952 - 58 years ago

Hank Williams
Hank Williams: vocal, guitar; Chet Atkins: guitar; Jack Shook: guitar; Don Helms: steel guitar; Charles Wright: bass; Jerry Rivers: fiddle.

(10:00 am - 1:00 pm)

Jim & Jesse McReynolds
Jim McReynolds: vocal, guitar; Jesse McReynolds: vocal, mandolin; Curley Seckler: guitar; Hoke Jenkins: banjo; Bob Moore: bass; Sonny James: fiddle.

(2:00 pm - 5:00 pm) & (7:00 pm - 9:00 pm)

The first of Nashville's recording studios began in 1946 when three of WSM's engineers, Carl Jenkins, George Reynolds, and Aaron Shelton started Castle Recording Studios. Their initial recordings were done in WSM's studios, but by 1947 they had moved their operation to the Tulane Hotel. Today we have three back-to-back sessions recorded at Castle Studios. A morning session with country music legend Hank Williams, and afternoon and evening sessions with up-and-coming bluegrass artists Jim & Jesse McReynolds.

These are two acts in almost opposite phases of their careers. Hank is on top, and has only two sessions after this left for MGM before his passing at the end of the year. This session yields three significant hits for him, including one of his biggest, "Jambalaya." Jim and Jesse McReynolds, on the other hand, are at the very beginning of their recording career. They had previously recorded with Larry Roll as the Virginia Trio for the small Kentucky label in 1951, but these are their first bluegrass recordings as Jim & Jesse & The Virginia Boys. Today they recorded two sessions for Capitol Records. Among the songs they recorded today was the Louvin Brothers composition "Are You Missing Me" which was to became a standard for Jim & Jesse.

It's an interesting opportunity to reconstruct a day at the famous Castle Studios in the early years of the Nashville recording scene. And what an amazing it day it was too! I hope you enjoy these recordings as much as I do...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (6/12)

Ernest Tubb - 61 years ago
Sunday, June 12, 1949 (3:00 pm - 6:00 pm / 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm)
Castle Studio, Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN
Ernest Tubb: vocal, guitar; Owen Bradley: piano; Jack Drake: bass; Dickie Harris: steel guitar;
Mack McGarr: mandolin; Butterball Paige: lead guitar; Jack Shook: guitar.
Producer: Paul Cohen

Yesterday's post featured George Jones recording 3 top 20 records in one four-song session. Today, Ernest Tubb tops even that considerable achievement. 61 years ago today, Ernest Tubb recorded five songs in a split session (two before dinner, three after) that would all hit the top 10 on Billboard's C&W charts. Four of the songs would be issued among two singles concurrent with the sessions, while the fifth ("Driftwood On The River") was held until then end of 1951. Among the songs recorded this day are Tubb's composition for his soon-to-be second wife, "My Tennessee Baby" and Floyd Tillman's groundbreaking cheating song "Slipping Around" which would be a #1 hit for Tubb, as well as for Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely, and a #5 hit for Tillman as well.

This session differs from some other Tubb sessions of the era in that the recordings feature the mandolin, not something commonly heard on Tubb records. One of the reasons for this was apparently a humanitarian gesture on ET's part. Mack McGarr was a 19-year-old mandolin player with some health issues that caused Tubb to kindly extend an offer to feature McGarr on these recordings. Tubb said:

This was one of the things you do because you like someone and the man wasn't in too good health, and I wanted to give him work. I didn't want the fiddle... so I said, "Mack, can you play something else? Play mandolin." So I let him play on "Warm Red Wine," and this was one of the highlights of his life. He said, "...I've been playing all my life, and this is the first time anybody ever called my name on a record." And he was just thrilled to death. He didn't live too long after that... He had asthma so bad he couldn't hardly breathe. He went west and it was too late. He started having hemorrhages and finally came back home and died.

It's a sad story, but it was a kind act on Tubb's part. Tubb was a very successful artist in this era, and it's heartwarming that he was so willing to help out a fellow musician. This is a pretty historic recording session, and I hope you enjoy as much as I do...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (6/11)

George Jones - 48 years ago
Monday, June 11, 1962
Columbia Recording Studio, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville 3, TN
George Jones: vocal, guitar, other musicians unknown.
Producer: Pappy Daily

Any session that produces three top 20 hits (and two of them top 10) would have to be considered a pretty successful session. And that's just what George Jones did on this day in 1962. George was pretty fresh into his new label association with United Artists, and it was off to a great start. His first single for the label ("She Thinks I Still Care"/"Sometimes You Just Can't Win"), had both sides chart at #1 and #17 respectively, and he nearly repeated that success with a single released from today's session ("A Girl I Used To Know"/"Big Fool Of The Year") which charted at #3 and #13 respectively. That, and "Not What I Had In Mind" charted at #7 as well. That's a lot of numbers, but the point is, during this era George was really knocking them out of the park, and this session was particularly productive. "A Girl I Used To Know" was a song that George would revisit as a duet with Tammy Wynette in 1980, as "Just Someone I Used Know" which previously had been a #5 hit for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton in 1969. There are those numbers again. The bottom line is, this is a really fruitful and enjoyable George Jones session. I hope you enjoy it too...

The three hits from this session, as well the rest of his United Artists singles are contained on Omnivore Recordings' recent release The Complete United Artists Solo Singles.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (6/10)

Jimmie Rodgers & Sara Carter - 79 years ago
Wednesday, June 10, 1931
Louisville, KY
Jimmie Rodgers: vocal, guitar; Sara Carter: vocal, guitar.

I guess it goes without saying that this is a pretty monumentally historic recording session. Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family both made their recording debuts a little less than 4 years before this session at the legendary Bristol Sessions in August of 1927. The astounding success of the Carter Family, and particularly Jimmie Rodgers, caused Victor to pair the two acts for this session, and the next day's session that featured the entire Carter Family with Rodgers for two sides of skits that try to imagine what it would be like for the Carters to visit Jimmie in Texas, and vice versa for Jimmie in Virginia. Interestingly, the reformed Carters (sans Maybelle, and adding children of A.P. and Sara) would record unusual sequels to these records with Mrs. Jimmie (Carrie) Rodgers for Acme Records in April of 1956. While those records are interesting, to me they can't compare to the wonderful chance we have to hear two of the era's most influential vocalists singing together - when they yodel together, life just lightens up for me a bit. I hope you enjoy these recordings as much as I do...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (6/8)

Carl Smith - 59 years ago
Friday, June 8, 1951 (1:00 pm - 4:00 pm)
Castle Studio, The Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN
Carl Smith: vocal, guitar; Grady Martin: guitar; Velma Smith: guitar; Bob Foster: steel guitar; Hal Smith: bass.
Producer: Don Law

Wanda Jackson - 54 years ago
Friday, June 8, 1956 (Session #4414, 11:00 am - 3:30 pm)
Capitol Recording Studio, 1710 North Vine St., Hollywood 28, CA
Wanda Jackson: vocal, guitar; Joe Maphis: guitar; Buck Owens: guitar; Lewis Talley: guitar;
Ralph Mooney: steel guitar; Clarence Dooley: bass; Marion Adams: drums; Jelly Sanders: fiddle.
Producer: Ken Nelson

Today's sessions differ for the sake of comparison from yesterday's in that they're only 5 years apart as opposed to 20. Today's session for Carl Smith finds him as his career is taking off in a big way. His first Billboard hit has just entered the charts this month, and today he's recording what will prove to be his second #1 hit, "(When You Feel Like You're In Love) Don't Just Stand There." Carl's style of country is still very much in vogue and several other '50s post-Hank Williams stars are launching their careers around this time with similar styles as well. The arrangements on these tracks are relatively sparse and straightforward with a small group of Nashville studio players, including the ubiquitous Grady Martin on lead guitar. Again, fairly representative of the style of country being produced in Nashville at the time.

But five years later, the dawn of rock and roll is upon us. And that's where we find Wanda Jackson today. Five years later, and in California. Though Wanda would ultimately have most of her success as a country artist (and today's session is primarily in that vein), she's most lauded for her rockabilly recordings from this era. Even during her prime rockabilly period, Wanda stepped back and forth between country and rockabilly, sometimes even on the same song, a perfect example of which is "I Gotta Know" recorded at today's session, and one of my all-time favorite Wanda Jackson recordings. This session features several of Bakersfield and Hollywood's prime studio players from the era too with Ralph Mooney, the West Coast's premier pedal steel player, and guitartists Joe Maphis and Buck Owens, a full year before his first recordings for Capitol. Also on guitar and from Bakersfield is Lewis Talley who would figure prominently in the career of Merle Haggard, particularly early on.

Not as much has changed between today's two sessions as yesterday's. But the change is worth noting. The impact that Elvis and rock & roll had on country music both in Nashville and on the West Coast was significant. If you listen to previous posts that feature post-rock & roll country recordings like the 1957 Porter Wagoner session from yesterday and the 1960 Lefty Frizzell session from a while back, those help illustrate the point.

Or, just listen and enjoy the music. I hope you do...

Tracks from today's Wanda Jackson session, as well as many of her other prime era recordings, are available on Omnivore Recordings' recent release The Best Of The Classic Capitol Singles.