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...