9/29/19 Western Music, 1960-1979

I’m going with a very loose definition here. I include singing cowboys, western swing, Nashville country with western themes, Texas and outlaw country, movie soundtracks (including spaghetti westerns), and assorted novelty songs, such as comedy versions of western songs, and early electronic covers of country and western https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0-zwHDHQlgGhLMsKG4EzqjG

This is an interesting era of transition, where some of the generation of stars who popularized various western styles a generation earlier were still around to make late-career recordings, new styles emerged like western-influenced outlaw country, and some acts who are still going today made their first recordings.

This Moog Foundation article mentions the early moog country and western albums: https://moogfoundation.org/moog-a-history-in-recordings-moog-obscura-some-little-known-moog-recordings-worth-discovering/

“Rick Powell (1935-2006) is a familiar name to enthusiasts of early Moog history. Powell was a composer, producer, and arranger of Christian music who bought a Moog Modular of his own in 1969 and recorded at his company Athena Records in Nashville. His studio became the hub of early country Moog albums, helping professor Gil Trythall with his two Moog albums of country music (Country Moog, 1972; Nashville Gold, 1973) and Rick¬ís own Switched-on Country (1970).”

9/28/19 Western Music Before 1960

Library Of Congress article: https://www.loc.gov/collections/songs-of-america/articles-and-essays/musical-styles/popular-songs-of-the-day/western-and-cowboy-songs/

“Although it is often spoken of in the same breath as “Country” music, “Western” is a distinct area of American popular music whose roots reach into the frontier era of the 19th century.”

I expanded my “old western songs” list from 50 songs to 200 entries: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ09fOAMoP5dQFLW-de24vp5P

The Wikipedia article on “country crooners” mentions the influence of Bing Crosby and other “crooners” from popular music on Eddy Arnold and other country and western acts. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crooner#Country_crooners

I included a block of Bing Crosby western songs on my list. Here’s the CMHOF write-up on Eddy Arnold: http://countrymusichalloffame.org/artist/eddy-arnold/

Library Of Congress article about the timeline of recording technology: https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-recording-preservation-plan/tools-and-resources/history/timeline/

One of the early songs of interest is “Blue Juniata,” published in 1841, and it is still performed by western groups today https://www.library.upenn.edu/collections/rbm/keffer/b29n3.html

I’ll mention a few more specifics from the old western list:

Arthur Miles’ pair of songs from 1927/8 include throat singing technique, so that’s really cool and different.

I include some western-themed songs from before 1915 by “Denver Nightingale” Billy Murray and others. Note his “Texas Tommy Swing” amberol from 1912 http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/6276/. Here’s the west-coast origins of that one: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Tommy_(dance)

Edison recorded yodellers at least as far back as 1892 (but I haven’t heard those earliest ones) https://www.richmond.com/arts-entertainment/sonic-boom/article_4ffd934f-8573-533c-9541-61a4924434c0.html

Spike Jones named his group the “City Slickers” after a Cindy Walker song. Most don’t think of Spike Jones in relation to country and western music, but there are some fun examples. Cindy Walker’s CMHOF profile https://countrymusichalloffame.org/artist/cindy-walker/

Some western swing groups from the 1930s are still in existence (after many, many, many lineup changes). The Light Crust Doughboys released a box set recently of 90 songs over 90 years. The Sons of the Pioneers still tour. Jason Roberts still does shows with Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys.

The Ken Burns documentary did a fine job highlighting the Maddox Brothers and Rose. Don Maddox will be 97 on December 7th.

Cartoon character Yosemite Sam recorded in the 1950s, so there’s something you’ll find on my western list that you might not see included in a lot of more “serious” collections.

I cut this list off at 1960, because I didn’t want the older material to be completely overwhelmed by the newer and more familiar offerings. The famous Marty Robbins album was released September of 1959, so those songs are possibly the newest material on my list, at over 60 years.

I might add lists for newer western recordings at some point, but there’s so much cool music from early on that doesn’t get much attention in 2019 that I will place the newer material in a different pile.

For those mostly interested in new music, my September Country Plus Showcase of new music includes 200 entries: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP

9/27/19 New Playlist Additions

There are dozens of new releases this week, and I didn’t have a block of time yesterday to put together a list like I do most weeks, but I am digging into the new releases as I type this, and adding to my 180-artist-strong September Country Plus Showcase: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP

Since the list has just 115 views, I realize that few wish to dig through such a big pile of music to find the bits they might like, so I’ll just point out a few of today’s releases specifically:

Colter Wall sings western: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH9tGAfs2zc&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP&index=6&t=0s

Billy Strings’ new album is out today, but a video from one of the songs was released at the beginning of the month, and has been a part of my September list ever since: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qaaA_umhcc&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP&index=12&t=0s&pbjreload=10

Mick Mullin’s new album includes a song called “The Grand Procrastinator,” which I have to include in today’s post since I dragged my feet putting together a list of new releases: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI-JrnNzaBU&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP&index=39

“Bad Weather” is my pick from the Whiskey Myers album, and it fits nicely in a block of weather-related songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfE9I8cbmSY&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP&index=121&t=0s

I also have entries from new albums from Jon Pardi, Dori Freeman, Zoe & Cloyd, and many more.

I have seen only the first two episodes of the Burns documentary so far (and look forward to the rest). I don’t want to nitpick a very good project too much, but I do believe that the early popularity of Hawaiian music and the role of the steel guitar deserved stronger emphasis. Here’s a relevant Smithsonian Magazine article: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/how-hawaiian-steel-guitar-changed-american-music-180972028/

“In 1916, 78 rpm records featuring an indigenous Hawaiian instrument outsold every other genre of music in the United States.”

I include some songs on my Island Country Vibe playlist from early country stars singing about Hawaii (including the Jimmie Rodgers song that was included in the documentary): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ09gcNdHaAXRxhYc8-scNOUi

9/26/19 Africa

Bandcamp’s feature article today is “A Guide to African Country Music,” so there’s a different topic to explore: https://daily.bandcamp.com/2019/09/25/african-country-music-list/

Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards are October 17-20, and a few African acts are scheduled: http://texassounds.org/

Jamplay article about African influences in modern popular music: https://www.jamplay.com/articles/1-general/161-the-powerful-influence-of-african-culture-on-modern-music

Frugal Fun article “The Role of Blacks in Country Music” is “Adapted from My Country: The African Diaspora’s Country Music Heritage (c) 1998 by Pamela E. Foster” https://www.frugalfun.com/blackcountry.html

“Hambone” (that most country music fans know from the eefing & hambone act by Riddle & Phelps on Hee-Haw) is said to be derived from African juba dance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juba_dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBY46v1xKcU&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0-V1Zm3r_8zuhMVhWlU0O00&index=77

9/25/19 Texas Music Scene

Monday evening, we attended the triple-header television taping for the Texas Music Scene. Garth Brooks was playing at Gruene Hall at the same time, but the only way into that was to win tickets. The Texas Music Scene tapings, however, are free for the public to attend. We saw Micky & The Motorcars, Shinyribs, and Jack Ingram.

Micky & The Motorcars are among the 168 entries on my September Country Plus Showcase of new music. “Road To You” is the lead song from their upcoming album, which is their first in five years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNGJgjwIuJI&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP&index=81&t=0s

I have seen Shinyribs several times. This taping covered songs from his recent album. One of the songs he performed, “Highway Of Diamonds,” is on my June Country Plus Showcase: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ou7waGNf-Fk&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0-wdHepjkgDCr8-Sp2DsYTJ&index=69&t=0s

One he didn’t perform Monday is this Rihanna cover, “Bitch Betta Have My Money” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHelQ3AKSEI&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0-V1Zm3r_8zuhMVhWlU0O00&index=48&t=0s

It is one of over a hundred songs on my “Hip Hop Meets Country Plus” specialty list, followed by a cover of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” that Shiny did with his old band, The Gourds.

Jack Ingram is the current host of the Texas Music Scene television program, and I’ve seen him several times. He talked about how “Tin Man” came to be, with Miranda Lambert calling him to schedule a writing session, and they went to the remote town of Marfa, Texas. The first Texas Music Scene taping I attended was three years ago with Zane Williams and Jack Ingram. I was still living in Alabama at the time, but visiting my brother in San Marcos. Since moving out here, I have attended several more tapings. I’ll close with one of Jack’s songs from that taping: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UW5qf9gkd1g

9/24/19 Country Sitar

The Beatles’ use of the sitar on songs like “Norwegian Wood” in 1965 led to a boom for the instrument (and anything that sounded remotely like it) in rock and roll music and beyond for the next few years.

Waylon Jennings covered “Norwegian Wood” in 1966: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ukrKpl1f5E

In the late 1960s, Vinnie Bell created a new instrument called the “electric sitar” that was played much like an electric guitar, but mimicked the sound of an actual sitar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE3C1bX-6yk

Several country and country-adjacent artists included the new instrument in recordings over the next few years. I’ll share a couple of examples of this mostly forgotten little fad in country music:

Don Gibson and Dottie West released an album of duets in 1969, and the most successful song was “Rings of Gold,” featuring Jerry Reed on electric sitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnRurwrAgZw

Elvis Presley’s 1971 cover of the Anne Murray hit “Snowbird” included Harold Bradley playing electric sitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcdUsRwUtMI

BJ Thomas’ 1968 pop hit “Hooked On A Feeling” featuring Reggie Young on electric sitar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqt_iZBvtCo

I think this sounds like electric sitar on Jeannie C Riley’s 1969 album ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzdWbiAm7uQ

I’ll close with a modern bit of fun, “Dueling Sitars” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SBue1DuCyc&list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_pvQKkaTWk_mMuZBq0AHJC&index=42&t=0s

9/23/19 Danny Davis and Speed Racer

Danny Davis and The Nashville Brass won CMA awards six consecutive years (1969-1974) and won one of eleven Grammy Awards that they were nominated for: https://www.grammy.com/grammys/artists/danny-davis

For whatever reasons, this prolific and influential act isn’t nearly as well known by today’s country fans as the group’s accomplishments merit. This group was not just a big part of the Nashville scene of the day, but also influenced the Bakersfield sound, and Danny Davis also worked with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. https://www.allmusic.com/artist/danny-davis-mn0000675017/biography

CMT article from 2008 after Danny Davis’ passing http://www.cmt.com/news/1589258/danny-davis-leader-of-the-nashville-brass-dead-at-83/

KXRB 2018 article, “Danny Davis Kicked Some Country Music Brass” https://kxrb.com/whatever-happened-to-danny-davis/

In 1967, animated show “Mach GoGoGo” debuted in Japan. The appearance of the main character is based in part on Elvis Presley in “Viva Las Vegas.” The American adaptation of the very popular show quickly followed, and was called “Speed Racer.” Danny Davis and The Nashville Brass performed the theme song: https://youtu.be/J2RNfFo29nI

This is currently on my Odds and Ends YouTube list, though I change songs on there from time to time https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_pvQKkaTWk_mMuZBq0AHJC

9/22/19 Esther Phillips, 1960s

Ray Charles’ 1962 album of R&B covers of country hits is often mentioned in country music history discussions, but today’s main topic is Esther Phillips, who released the same type of material months later. Her discography is confusing, with albums released different years under different names, etc.

In 1961, Kenny Rogers heard her singing a cover of Charlie Rich’s “No Headstone On My Grave” in Houston, and she signed with Kenny Rogers’ brother’s label in 1962. Source: Barney Hoskyns’ book “Say It One Time For The Broken Hearted: Country Soul In The American South.”

Here’s the album listing for “Little” Esther Phillips’ album “Release Me” in 1962: https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/little-esther-phillips/release-me.p/

Here are photos of the album, which featured the Anita Kerr Singers: http://www.45worlds.com/vinyl/album/lx227

Here’s where it gets confusing. Here’s a different album listing for “Release Me” in 1963: https://www.allmusic.com/album/release-me-mw0000508352

Here’s a YouTube list for this album: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8a8cutYP7frf26eeclf9IEbsVEQUPnt9

In 1966, she released “The Country Side Of Esther Phillips,” which appears to have the same song list as the first link, so here’s that YouTube for it: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mncbHv2iOqJAqsxO3BXdKngeUfSD_uiKQ

Her version of “Release Me” hit number one on the R&B chart on December 8, 1962: https://www.billboard.com/music/little-esther-phillips-1

The song also hit number 8 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 a couple of weeks later https://www.billboard.com/music/esther-phillips/chart-history/hot-100

The song was written by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount in 1949, and was released in 1954 by country stars such as Ray Price and Kitty Wells. Here’s Esther’s version https://youtu.be/R5yYwiYEJ_8

Esther Phillips also recorded various duets with Big Al Downing, like this one: https://youtu.be/TQ8OmSuG8H0

Big Al was in Wanda Jackson’s band in the late 1950s, and his career included a lot of country credits, including performing on Hee Haw and the Grand Ole Opry, so be sure to check out his discography, too. http://www.rockabillyhall.com/bigal.html

In 1962, Big Al released a cover of the 1957 Marty Robbins hit, “The Story Of My Life” https://youtu.be/4tIxdorL2fA

Here’s Big Al singing “Down On The Farm” in 1958: https://youtu.be/hnAGwWLdcbo

I’ll also mention the 1968 album “Soul Country” by Joe Tex, which would fit the “R&B-covers-of-country-hits” theme of the Ray Charles and Esther Phillips albums: https://www.allmusic.com/album/soul-country-mw0000437096

Clarence Carter covered “Harper Valley PTA” in 1969: https://youtu.be/3-X2jzEgsPU

Of course, R&B and country were foundations of rock and roll, and there are countless examples of crossovers between country and rock and roll. Here’s an article about Chuck Berry’s country influence: http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/get-rhythm/item/40741-country-music-influenced-chuck-berry-and-vice-versa

Linda Martell was in R&B in the early 1960s, but by the end of the decade, she had moved to country, and sang at the Grand Ole Opry in 1969. Here’s Linda Martell on Hee Haw in 1970: https://youtu.be/ETQTDgZA9Vo

Of course, in addition to the various R&B and soul singers crossing over to sing country songs in the 1960s, there were also artists of color playing straight up country music for their whole career, most notably Charley Pride: https://countrymusichalloffame.org/artist/charley-pride/

Starting in 1970, Stoney Edwards was also in the “very country” category, and he collaborated with Asleep At The Wheel when they were also just starting out: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/edwards-stoney

9/21/19 Country Harpsichord

I haven’t had the time to check this out in detail, but I found a Spotify list called “Heart Baroque Hillbillies” dedicated to country songs that include harpsichord: https://open.spotify.com/user/brian_mansfield/playlist/5xI2ZpCIPSqLhpxWCyVkwA?si=0X-XUoAaTiCS3bjFeyM1Ug

2010 Guardian article, “Hey, what’s that sound: Harpsichord” https://www.theguardian.com/music/2009/dec/14/whats-that-sound-harpsichord

“In the 1960s, the harpsichord had something of a resurgence.”

An American Songwriter article in 2008 mentions the use of the harpsichord in Dolly Parton’s 1967 hit “Dumb Blonde” https://americansongwriter.com/2008/01/dolly-parton-queen-of-the-backwoods/

On a tangent, here’s the history of the square grand pianohttps://antiquepianoshop.com/square-grand-pianos/

Note the role of harpsichords and similar instruments in the evolution of the piano. I don’t often think of the hammered dulcimer in that context.

9/20/19 New Albums This Week

TG Sheppard, Jericho Woods,Charley Crockett, Darrin Bradbury, Riley Green, Zac Brown, Bruce Cockburn, Chance McCoy, Swearingen and Kelli, Lisa Bastoni, Kevin Daniel, Quebe Sisters, Del Barber, Samantha Fish, Sunny Cowgirls, Jetty Road, Angus Gill, Dallas Burrow, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Alice Peacock, Hiss Golden Messenger, Eric Paslay, Brandon Rohr, Kevin and Alyssia Serey, Cale Tyson, Madi Meeks, Shivery Shakes, Lonesome Billies, Kate Teague, JS Ondara, Karen Dahlstrom, Cassidy Dickens, Tashay Lee, Arthur Hancock, Andrew Combs, Colt Ford, Emma White, Ryan Hurd, Dan Tyminski, Micah Howard, Jon Campbell, Pieta Brown, Eddie Berman, Christopher Brown, Jenna Paulette, Dave Adkins, Jessica Rhaye & The Ramshackle Parade,Joel Paterson,Jonathan Allen Wright,Ghalia, Bror Gunnar Jansson, California State Flower, Chris While and Julie Matthews, Grant Gilbert, Smithsonian Folkways’ Just Around the Bend: Survival and Revival in Southern Banjo Sounds, Brittany Howard, Robbie Robertson, Gerry Beckley, Rick Estrin and The Nightcats, The Sensational Barnes Brothers, Elizabeth King and The Gospel Souls, Toronzo Cannon and The Chicago Way, Don Gallardo, Keane, Lauran Hibberd, Heather Mae, and John Schneider.

I have over 150 songs on the September Country Plus Showcase:https//www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_FemLPcAnqZM3UUNrx8AUP