ELVIS NEW KING OF C&W & CRYSTAL SHINES
 

TOP 10 COUNTRY – MARCH 1956

 

I FORGOT TO REMEMBER TO FORGET – ELVIS PRESLEY- SUN

WHY BABY WHY – RED SOVINE & WEBB PIERCE  DECCA

HEARTBREAK HOTEL – ELVIS PRESLEY  RCA

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE - WEBB PIERCE  DECCA

BLUE SUEDE SHOES – CARL PERKINS  SUN

I DON’T BELIEVE YOU’VE MET MY BABY – LOUVIN BROTHERS  CAPITOL

YOU’RE FREE TO GO - CARL SMITH  COLUMBIA

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY (TOMORROW YOU’LL CRY)- PORTER WAGONER  RCA

SIXTEEN TONS – TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD  CAPITOL

FOLSOM PRISON BLUES – JOHNNY CASH  SUN

 

In this Flashback we look at one of the most momentous months in country music history – the month that rockabilly truly made its presence felt in country music. In March 1956,“Hillbillly Cat” Elvis Presley topped the chart for the first time, with his last Sun single, the Charlie Feathers’ penned ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’. Additionally, as the month ended, his groundbreaking first RCA release, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ (which featured RCA Nashville’s finest country musicians including pianist Floyd Cramer), took over at No. 1 and he held the top two slots. This single took residency at the top for 17 weeks and was only dislodged by his follow up, ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You’. Elvis was not the only Sun star cracking the chart, Carl Perkins’ classic ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ also rocketed up the chart as Johnny Cash made his Top 10 debut with his composition ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – the flipside of which, ‘So Doggone Lonesome’, was soon to join it.

 

Elvis made his last two appearances on the Dorsey Brothers nationwide TV series, Stage Show, that month and amongst the songs he performed was ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, which Carl sang on his first nationwide TV show, Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee. Perkins also planned to perform it on the very popular Perry Como TV show on March 24. However, while driving to New York for the show (after headlining a sell out concert in Norfolk, Virginia) Carl incurred a fractured skull and broken shoulder in a fatal car crash in Delaware. These injuries kept him out of action for the next six weeks, which naturally haltered his promotion of the single which possibly affected his future career.

 





Nonetheless, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ became the first record ever to reach the Top 10 on the C&W, R&B and Pop charts (‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was the second). It was Johnny Cash who suggested to Carl, at a gig in Parkin, Arkansas, that the footwear of “sharp dressed cats” might make a good topic for a song. Few would have prophesised at that time his record would one day be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame alongside singles by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby. The record was truly a milestone and was covered at the time by acts from every area of music including country stars Pee Wee King (who penned ‘Tennessee Waltz’ and ‘Slow Poke’ amongst others), Roy Hall and Sid King as well as crossover acts like Jim Lowe (who drank his “cider” from an old fruit jar), Boyd Bennett  and even champagne music maestro Lawrence Welk . Carl’s flip side ‘Honey Don’t’ also became a rock classic, with versions by numerous acts including The Beatles.

 

It would not be wrong to say that most of the country music industry disliked rockabilly records being played on country stations and being listed on the country charts, and there was a strong movement within the C&W industry to have them excluded. The cries of “This isn’t real Country music” were as loud as any we have heard recently. The reaction was not unlike that of many pop music people in 1956 when C&W artists Presley & Perkins began to infiltrate their airwaves. To quote NME at the time “The US record industry is shocked that two C&W Artists are tops in pops’.

 

 

ON THE CHARTS

In the UK Tennessee Ernie Ford’s million selling revival of Merle Travis’ late 1940s mining song ’16 Tons’ was on its way down from the top spot. The record, which has broken all sales records in the USA with 600,000 shifted in just nine days, reached No. 1 despite a BBC ban (they objected to references to St. Peter). During its tenure at the top it stopped Bill Hayes from repeating his US chart topping success with the tale of the Tennessee backwoodsman turned American hero, ‘The Ballad Of Davy Crockett’ – a song that had been a country Top 10 entry for both Tennessee Ernie Ford and Mac Wiseman. Lonnie Donegan was enjoying Top 10 success on both sides of the Atlantic with his debut solo single ‘Rock Island Line’, which had been covered Stateside by several country acts including Grandpa Jones. Also scoring in the UK Top 20 that month was the ever popular Slim Whitman with his revival of The Sons Of The Pioneers favourite ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds’. In the US Top 100 ‘Release Me’ hitmaker Jimmy Heap and his Melody Makers (featuring vocalist Perk Williams) found themselves with a Top 100 pop hit on their hands ‘Butternut’, whose composers included George Harrison – no it couldn’t be.

 

 

 

THE NEWS IS OUT

 

One time C&W performer Bill Haley was the hottest act in the land. The singer, whose country band The Saddlemen had evolved into The Comets, were presented this month with a gold single for ‘See You Later Alligator’ on the Arthur Godfrey TV show - they received a staggering $2,500 for their appearance. The month also saw the US launch of Haley’s first film, ‘Rock Around The Clock’ and rock’n’roll riots were reported almost daily. On the subject, The Jodimars, made up of former members of Haley’s Saddlemen, were appearing in an Alan Freed r’n’r package show which was breaking records at Brooklyn’s famous Paramount theatre…Eddie Cochran, half of western duo The Cochran Brothers, became a regular on the weekly Hollywood Jubilee show, where he appeared alongside other newcomers Tom T. Hall, Terry Fell and Jerry Capehart (who became Cochran’s writing partner)…Just outside the Top 10 were Sonny James’ first Top 10 best seller,‘For Rent’ and yet another Presley platter ‘My Baby Left Me’… Interesting releases this month included ‘Cindy Lou’ by The Boogie Ramblers on Goldband, Bonnie Lou’s ‘Little Miss Bobby Sox’ on King and honky tonk singer/pianist Moon Mullican’s ‘Seven Nights To Rock’  also on King. Also issued were Rudy Grayzell’s ‘The Moon Is Up’ (Starday), ‘I’m A Lover, Not A Fighter’ by Jerry Reed and Johnny Horton’s ‘Honky Tonk Man’. The latter being recorded the day after ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, using the same studio and bass player - Bill Black. Other rock related C&W singles this month included Eddie Bond’s ‘Rockin’ Daddy’ on Mercury, Homer & Jethro’s Presley parody, ‘Heartbreak Motel’ and Marty Robbins’ timely cover of Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’. The Robbins' recording followed his covers of Elvis’ ‘That’s All Right’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybelline’…Sheb Wooley, who is acknowledged as the first country artist to record in Nashville, released ‘The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and in the UK his song ‘Are You Satisfied’ was covered by the Four Jones Boys (one of whom later married Ruby Murray).. On the last day of the month the first advert for Elvis appeared in the UK music press and in the US he ended the month with six of RCA’s 25 best selling singles (all his Sun releases had been re-issued on RCA) and his eponymous debut LP charted. It included such country favourites as ‘I Love You Because’, ‘Just Because’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. It went on to top the chart and helped turn the King of the Western Bop into the King of Rock’n’Roll.

 

 

 

 

 COUNTRY FLASHBACK NOVEMBER 1979

 

1. HALF THE WAY – CRYSTAL GAYLE   COLUMBIA

2. COME WITH ME – WAYLON JENNINGS RCA

3. SHOULD I COME HOME (OR SHOULD I GO CRAZY) – GENE WATSON CAPITOL

4. BROKEN HEARTED ME – ANNE MURRAY

5. MY OWN KIND OF HAT/HEAVEN WAS A DRINK OF WINE – MERLE HAGGARD MCA

6. YOU DECORATED MY LIFE – KENNY ROGERS UA

7. BLIND IN LOVE – MEL TILLIS ELEKTRA

8. BLUE KENTUCKY GIRL – EMMYLOU HARRIS   WARNER

9. WHISKEY BENT AND HELL BOUND – HANK WILLIAMS JR. ELEKTRA

10. ALL THE GOLD IN CALIFORNIA – LARRY GATLIN   COLUMBIA

 

Female singers held three of the chart placings with Crystal Gayle’s biggest hit of the year, ‘Half The Way’, going all the way to the top of the month’s hits. The other leading ladies were Canada’s then queen of pop/country, Anne Murray, and future Trio member, Emmylou Harris. Miss Murray scored her third No. 1 of 1979 with ‘Broken Hearted Me’ – a song earlier recorded by England Dan (Seals) & John Ford Coley. Like Anne’s 1978 Top 5 hit, ‘You Needed Me’, it was composed by Randy Goodrum, and is probably being considered as a new single by Boyzone right now! Emmylou’s tenth Top 10 entry came with her revival of Loretta’s Lynn’s 1965 Top 10 hit, ‘Blue Kentucky Girl’. The month’s males were led by Waylon Jennings, whose was joined by female Carter Robinson on ‘ Come With Me’. It was his follow up to another top notch ballad, ‘Amanda’, and it gave the outlaw his tenth chart topper. Hot on his heels was another Texan, Gene Watson with ‘Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy)’ – his fourth Top 5 hit of the year. Kenny Rogers and Larry Gatlin completed the Texas contingent on the chart and both had award winning records. ‘You Decorated My Life’, which was Kenny’s eighth chart topper since 1976, picked up the Grammy for Best Song Of The Year, while Larry’s self-penned and produced ‘All The Gold In California’ won the award for Academy of Country Music Single of the Year. Incidentally the latter was the act’s first release on Columbia Records and the first issued under the name Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers Band. Nowadays, drinking songs are as rare as Shania Twain country radio interviews, but back then there were a couple in the Top 10: Merle Haggard’s ‘Heaven Was A Drink Of Wine’ (which was proving almost as popular as the official ‘A’ side, ‘My Own Kind Of Hat’) and Hank Williams Jr’s self-penned ‘Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound’. To wrap up this survey, I wonder how many readers spotted Pam’s pa, Mel Tillis, in the audience at the CMA Awards show? Back then he was enjoying his 28th Top 10 entry, ‘Blind In Love’ – Pam, as Crystal Gayle would say, is “half the way“ to that total.

 

CHART CHAT

Kenny Rogers current Top 10 hit also graced the US Pop Top 10 and his ‘Coward Of The County’ headed upwards. He was joined in the Top 40 by Anne Murray and Crystal Gayle’s current country hits. Also in the US Hot 100 were Ronnie Milsap’s ‘Get It Up’ and Barbara Mandrell’s ‘ Fooled By A Feeling’. Meanwhile in the UK, the Charlie Daniels Band were in the Top 20 with ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ and The Bellamy Brothers were scoring with ‘If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body…’

 

THE NEWS IS OUT

Dolly Parton signed one of the most lucrative entertainment deals ever in Las Vegas. It committed her to six weeks a year at the Riviera Hotel for the next three years. She also signed a three film deal with 20th Century Fox, the first being 9 to 5… Reportedly a lot of country DJs were spinning Dolly Parton’s disco-fied ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ at 33 rpm … Filming started on the TV Special Great Ladies of Country, which starred Barbara Mandrell, Janie Fricke and Dottie West… Pop songs clicking on the country chart included ‘Say You Love Me’ (Fleetwood Mac) by Stephanie Winslow, ‘Sail On’ (Commodores) by Tom Grant, ‘Squeeze Box’ (Who) by Freddy Fender and ‘Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool’ (Connie Francis) by Pat Boone’s daughter Debbie … Mervyn Conn announced that he was bringing over the Bellamy Brothers, Charlie Daniels Band, Dr. Hook and Commander Cody for a series of European concerts… Dottie West said that she would be joining Elton John, Cher and Charlie Daniels as hosts of TV’s American Music Awards (on the subject of Elton, his recent Nashville show was seen by Don Williams, Brenda Lee and John Conlee)… Buck Owens joined the Doobie Brothers on stage in Nashville for a version of ‘Together Again’… Songs returning to the country chart included, Hank Williams’ ‘I’m A Long Gone Daddy’ by Norman Wade, Ernest Tubb’s ‘Walkin’ The Floor Over You’ by E.T. (& friends), Ray Price’s ‘Crazy Arms’ by Willie Nelson, one time Elvis clone, Conway Twitty’s ‘There’s A Honky Tonk Angel’ was charting by Presley and Don Gibson’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ and ‘Sea of Heartbreak’ by Reba McEntire and Lynn Anderson respectively… Hank Williams Jr. published his long awaited autobiography Living Proof as Tom T. Hall’s new book The Storyteller’s Nashville received rave reviews from the New York Times… Billboard noted that 11 country artists monopolised 54% of the country album chart, the most frequent visitor being Kenny Rogers with four albums and Crystal Gayle, Willie Nelson and Don Williams with three a piece…Newcomers Alabama were notching up their first Top 40 entry with ‘I Wanna Come Over’ on the MDJ label … Over twenty years after he first recorded, African American singer Big Al Downing was celebrating being named Best New Country Singer by the CMA… Nashille was buzzing about the success that Don Williams’ recent UK tour had been… It was revealed that John Travolta’s next film Urban Cowboy was filmed at Gilley’s Club in Texas.