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


Harlan Taylor said...

Great selection of songs, Joaquin! Working on the Songwriter Series post with you has shown me how truly versatile a writer she was! Thanks, as always, for the great write-up.


mrb394ever said...

Thank you for this -- many great songs by many great folk, including quite a few versions by artists I didn't have doing the tunes. And the Three Little Kittens is perfect for my three-year-old Bob Wills fan.

Don said...

What a rich collection of songs! Cindy Walker sure has the goods... from the tender and reflective to the funny and ridiculous! Your bio information is very interesting and leaves me wanting to learn more about her and her songs.

Between you and Harlan we have a choice selection of her work.

Thanks much.

Lester said...

What an amazing sample of this gifted songwriter's work. You've done a great service & I'm indebted.

RoadHawg said...

Joaquin — Thanks for your great write-up of Cindy Walker. And for your tasty selection of her songs. Got a question: I'm a beginning Steel player. The amazing sound of the steel on the intro to "Take Me In Your Arms and Hold Me", here sung by Eddy Arnold, got my attention. It has that throaty Rickenbacher-magnetic-pickup sound. Do you know who played what kind of steel on that amazing intro? Thanks!

Joaquin LeFleur said...

@RoadHawg - Howdy Hawg! So glad you like the post! To answer your question, that's the legendary Little Roy Wiggins on steel guitar with Eddy Arnold - the signature sound of so many of Arnold's hits.

I'm not sure what kind of steel Little Roy played, but one reference I found mentioned a Gibson. There's a Mel Bay book on his playing style with tablature, etc. I would think there's a good chance they may talk about the instruments he played in the book. Here's a link:


Thanks for visiting and for the kind comments!