“The Girl Who Waits on Tables”

I’m on vacation, spending a few days with my parents, who live very far away but whom I see a few times a year.  We’ve talked a bit about country music and the artists that some purists complain about.  Like Ronnie Milsap.

It’s pretty country, isn’t it?  Not exactly like this.

See that strings section?  Nonetheless, I personally believe that is still good music.  Just like much of Kenny Rogers’ music wasn’t hardcore country, but was pretty good.

Listen to those background vocals.  Recognize them?  (Hint:  Barry Gibb wrote this song.)

And speaking of pop music’s infiltration of country music, this one is still one of my favorites.

Love that.  Love that a lot.

More soon.  Maybe after I return from vacation.

I Let the Stars Get in My Eyes

I talked yesterday about Goldie Hill.  Perry Como had a pop hit with “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” which was written by Slim Willet.  At the time the song was popular in the early 1950’s, answer songs were a big thing.  Slim Willet and Goldie Hill’s brother Tommy Hill co-wrote the answer song to “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” titled “I Let the Stars Get in My Eyes.”  Goldie recorded it.

She sang it at a Country Reunion show many moons later.  I love her interaction with a young Craig Morgan.

I also enjoyed the huge hit Skeets McDonald had with the original “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.”

It was produced by Ken Nelson, who is my favorite producer ever, but if I had to tell you my favorite version of this song, Jones’s is better.

But back to Craig Morgan.  I met Craig in 1999 at a Country Radio Seminar, before he had any hits–or failures at radio.  He was such a personable guy, and I liked him instantly.  Although some of his later music wouldn’t thrill me, my household enjoyed multiple copies of his first CD.  This particular song was my favorite:

That perfect representation of country music was written by Bill Anderson.  Bill was writing great songs back in those days.  Was there a time when Bill wasn’t writing great songs?  How about Connie Smith’s first hit, “Once a Day”, from the 1960’s?

And “The Corner of My Life” from the 1970’s?

That is my favorite Bill Anderson song.  The steel is gorgeous when it’s done live.

And as I said, Bill is still writing great songs.  While you won’t hear me rave much about Kenny Chesney’s recent work, Bill (and Dean Dillon) gave him a stunning song with “A Lot of Things Different.”

Stars?  Bill Anderson is definitely one, don’t you think?

Falling Leaves

My preschooler was playing with her Calico Critters this morning and in the process said something about falling leaves.  If you know me at all, you know I pulled out my phone and played this gem, my favorite Grandpa Jones song:

How many people recorded “Falling Leaves”?  Porter Wagoner did, as “Fallen Leaves.”

It’s a good version–but not as good as Grandpa’s.  Grandpa Jones wrote it.  I do love a video on YouTube of Jack Greene singing it, as it has so many of our country legends that have since passed on.  I can’t embed it by the uploader’s request, so you’ll have to search for it.  But you can watch this lovely interview by Grandpa Jones’ wife, Ramona.

Speaking of leaves, Ms. Ramona mentioned Grandpa’s love of “Tying the Leaves.”  It’s a beautifully sad song.  Check out Wilma Lee Cooper’s version.

It is, like Wilma Lee’s music in general, very rootsy, perfectly fitting for the song’s lyrics.  But I might actually prefer Kenny Roberts’ version, recorded on the Starday label and produced by Tommy Hill.

You see from that song why Kenny Roberts sometimes recorded the same songs as Slim Whitman, right?  And do you know who Tommy Hill is?  If not, you at least should know his sister.

Wasn’t she a beauty?  I saw her once at the Golden Voice Awards and was so in awe of her class and the way she carried herself.  I was thrilled to see her, but I won’t lie that I hung around hoping to see her husband, Carl Smith.  I would like to point out, though, that she had a career before she married Carl.  I hate to see “Wife of Carl Smith” emblazoned across the Country Reunion videos because she was so much more, even if she was proudest of her role as wife and mother.

You thought from my previous posts that I primarily listened to 1980’s country?  Oh, dear goodness, no, although 1980’s country is my favorite because it’s what I grew up on.  But I might bust out some Jimmie Rodgers and Carter Family for you soon.  Come again and see.

Tip Your Hat to the Teachers

Greg Allman passed away a few days ago, immediately reminding me of some musical history in the Southern rock genre.  Almost immediately, I recalled this song:

Did you catch the reference of Dickey Betts in the middle?  This isn’t the only country-related song tipping its hat to Dickey Betts, is it?

“Artists” like to pay spoken lip service to the forefathers who built genres, even if their music couldn’t be any further from what the forefathers built.  A few years Brad Paisley turned some thoughts about the genre and a few classic country song titles into a hit song that actually made it on radio.

 

This song was one of Paisley’s last good songs in my humble but educated opinion.  It reminds me of how much I love country music.  Almost as much as this song, not really country or even a well-written song, does:

Hank Williams . . . goes without saying.  Exactly.

More Than a Name on a Wall

Today will bring sales, barbecues, and pool parties.  But Memorial Day isn’t about that.  And while even hot new country radio stations will pull out Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Some Gave All,” for me, the ultimate Memorial Day song is a Jimmy Fortune-penned classic from the 1980’s.

I was just a child when I first heard it, and I didn’t even know what The Wall was.  But I remember shedding tears about the song even as a child.  If you can listen to it and not, check your heart.

A newer one that my military husband loves:

And one more that I remember Trace Adkins debuting at the Grand Ole Opry over a decade ago.

If you haven’t been to Arlington, save up and go.

Nope, no “Happy Memorial Day” here.  Some people gave the ultimate sacrifice.  This “holiday” is about them.

Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?

Remember country music in the 1980’s? Okay, so disregard the Urban Cowboy era for a few minutes. Think back to around the mid-1980’s, when Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs, and Keith Whitley were making traditionalism cool again–and doing the same songs in a lot of instances. Remember “Nobody In His Right Mind Would Have Left Her”? It was a hit for George Strait.

It’s a beautiful, smooth rendition of a great song. I prefer Keith Whitley’s version, though.

Remember I told you yesterday that I generally prefer Keith Whitley’s renditions of songs over any others? There is at least one exception to the rule: “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.” George Strait’s hit was gorgeously done:

Keith Whitley’s would have been fine had there been nothing to compare it to. It does have a nice turnaround, though, doesn’t it? (Also, if memory serves me correctly, Keith’s version may have actually been a demo repurposed after he passed away. Correct me if you know for a fact otherwise. It’s good nonetheless.)

Anyway, back to “Nobody In His Right Mind.” Garth Brooks sang it for something or another in 1986, before he became a star. His cover (partial) is pretty good.

But in my opinion, his version isn’t even as good as Dean Dillon’s. Dean Dillon was the songwriter. Does his version remind you of Gary Stewart? (There’s a reason for that, just in case you didn’t know. They were sometimes duet partners.)

And speaking of Gary Stewart . . .

And speaking of covers, Wade Hayes has done a great job of covering Gary Stewart songs. There are no great versions of Wade’s cover of “Drinkin’ Thing” on YouTube, but you can find his cover of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles).”

More covers tomorrow? We’ll see.

Highways & Heartaches

YouTube is an old country back road, a place where I go to relive the music that I love so much and the life that I’ve experienced up to this point.  These are trips I don’t make enough, but journeys I spend lots of time on when I make them.  Sometimes I simply listen to good music that I’m too lazy to pull out of my collection.  Other times, I revisit the history of a genre I’ve grown to love like a close family member.  I frequently feel ambivalent about these jaunts through time–happy about such wonderful contributions to an art form I have been in love with for the better part of forty years, but also heartbroken about what I now consider the complete death of the genre as I knew it.

I listen to music like Ricky Skaggs, and this gem from his 1980’s album (yes, I have it on album) Highways & Heartaches:  

That song reminds me of the early 1980’s and my life as I grew up in a Southern country town, buying Country Song Roundup every week at the grocery store’s magazine rack.  It also reminds me of my 20’s and weekends in Nashville, cruising the streets looking for forgotten legends’ homes and other landmarks and listening to Bill Cody on 650 WSM.  And then Ricky Skaggs causes me to think of his friend, Keith Whitley, who recorded a beautiful song that, 30 years later, speaks volumes about the “country music” scene:

“A true song as real as my tears.  There’s no need to fear it; for no one will hear it, for sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year.”  With all respect due to George Strait and Alan Jackson and certainly to Larry Cordle and Larry Shell, Willie Nelson wrote “Sad Songs and Waltzes” a bit more differently than “Murder on Music Row,” didn’t he?

(Trivia:  Cake recorded this song, too.  No, Cake isn’t country, but the rock group had Charlie Louvin open for it way back in 2003, so I’ll tip my hat to the group for that.  Also, Bob Dylan sang the song one time in 2015.  Rare audio is on YouTube, but you’ll want to punch some people in the face for talking while he sings. And I can’t be responsible for such violence)

Who did it best?  I’m putting my money on Keith Whitley.  Although I have much respect for songwriters and definitely Willie, in my book Keith Whitley wins–most of the time.  Visit again tomorrow when I elaborate.

But for now, I close with one more video, a Wade Hayes song from around the end of my country music radio years, one referencing, like Ricky Skaggs’ album, “Highways & Heartaches”: