4/29/21 New Music This Week

There are new albums out tomorrow from Ronnie Milsap, Thomas Rhett, The Shootouts, Emi Sunshine/Strong Armed Robbers, Ashley Monroe, Jackson Dean, and Priscilla Block.

Ronnie Milsap was one of the most dominant artists when I was growing up, yet for whatever reasons, he doesn’t get mentioned a whole lot in discussions of living legends or country greats. He is a member of the CMHOF and the Grand Ole Opry, and will play the Opry this weekend. The five artists with the most Billboard country number one hits are George Strait, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Milsap, and Alabama.

There are different ways of counting number ones, and there are box sets of “40 number one hits” for Ronnie Milsap and for Merle Haggard, and a box set of “41 number one hits” for Alabama. Any way you slice it, these five artists had a tremendous amount of success on the country charts.

Some “country traditionalists” dismiss Milsap as “pop” for not sounding like a typical classic country artist, but he didn’t sound like a typical pop artist, either. In the early eighties, pop was Michael Jackson, Madonna, first generation hip hop, hair metal, etc. He sounded nothing like those, but he got some play on MTV, anyway. Milsap is probably the country artist most associated with electric piano, organ, and synthesizer.

4/22/21 New Music This Week

There are new albums from Justin Moore, Eric Church, Ray Stevens, Nick Shoulders, Tracy Lawrence, Elvie Shane, Danny Burns, Andy Johnson, and Jameson Rodgers. There’s also the Freddy Powers project that I mentioned in the last post.

As usual, I’ll keep an eye open for individual songs to add to my 2021 new music list. Artists like Country Side of Harmonica Sam have been releasing individual songs.

In other news, here in San Marcos, the annual Summer in the Park series announced its lineup of free shows, including familiar names like Dale Watson and Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis. It’s great to see things getting back to normal around here.

On my own YouTube page Link, I’ve been tinkering with some quick covers of old cowboy songs, sea shanties, etc.

4/20/21 Freddy Powers Memoir

I was struggling to find anything to write about that I haven’t already covered. Music Row Magazine came through with an article about a new Freddy Powers memoir.

I never saw Freddy Powers, but his daughter in law works with my brother. The world really is a small place sometimes.

In other news, the ACM awards had record low ratings.

The James T Jordan 1 YouTube Channel recently uploaded some 1970s Ralph Emery Show episodes.

The Mrblindfreddy9999 YouTube Channel uploaded a good many Frank Luther records from the late 1920s-1930s. He was a very prolific recording artist for a while. He later settled into making children’s music.

The KCWax YouTube Channel uploaded a lot of early recordings, so if you like the really early stuff, give this a look.

Here’s my own half-minute keyboard cover of Big Rock Candy Mountain, the signature song of Haywire Mac McClintock. I’m not a musician, obviously, but I enjoy playing around with the old songs like this.

4/19/21 Current Thoughts

I taped last night’s ACM awards, but haven’t had the chance to watch yet. I didn’t want to sit through hours of useless crap like Maren Morris just to get to the few bits of possible interest. Looking through the list of winners, Chris Stapleton is the only one I particularly enjoy. I don’t care for most of the darlings of the “indie scene,” either. Most of them can’t sing worth a shit, and their fan cults are at least as annoying as the pop people.

On Saturday, Alabama’s football scrimmage announced attendance of 47,218, which is claimed to be the largest sports crowd in the US since before Covid. By contrast, major country music artists are still postponing shows and the country awards in Nashville didn’t have fans. Here in Texas, live music is happening all over the place. Go figure.

Let’s take a look back a quarter of a century to 1996. Here’s a list of 100 Country Hits on Playback.fm. Some of the artists are still going strong. Others have passed on. Others are still around, but far from the spotlight.

April 15th, 2021 Country Rhumba, Samba, Etc

Since I have playlists for Country Mambo and Country Tango, I added a playlist for Country Rhumba. I have thirty or so entries on each of these playlists. I have additional Latin country crossover material on my Latin Country and Island Country playlists. I also added a Country Samba & Bossa Nova list (see later in this article).

Hank Snow figures prominently with the country/Latin dance hybrid trends in the 1950s. Hank Snow released “Rhumba Boogie” on January 1951 and had a number one country hit with it. Spade Cooley and others covered it. “I Love Lucy” also debuted in 1951, and one might recall Ricky (Desi Arnaz) singing that Cuban Pete was the king of the rumba beat. In 1953, Hank Snow had a number three country hit with “Spanish Fireball,” which mentions rhumba in one line. In 1967, Hank Snow released an album named “Spanish Fireball,” which also included songs like “Cuban Rhumba.” Jim Reeves had his first number one with “Mexican Joe” in 1953, and it mentions the rhumba, too. Hank Snow quickly recorded a follow up called “When Mexican Joe Met Jole Blon,” written by Sheb Wooley. You might remember him for “Flying Purple People Eater.”

So, we’ve established that “country rhumba” was a big enough deal in the early fifties that Hank Snow and Jim Reeves had number one hits with it, yet you’ll probably get blank stares if you mention “country rhumba” to anyone. My Country Rhumba playlist includes Flatt and Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Johnny Horton, The Browns, Chet Atkins, and Elvis Presley. I also included Roy Clark’s version of “MalagueƱa,” because even though one might argue the classification, it’s too good not to include somewhere.

Pee Wee King released “Tennessee Tango” in 1951, and several other country tango songs were released over the next couple or three years. Hank Snow and Chet Atkins released “Blue Tango” in 1964, so that’s well after the main wave. See my Country Tango playlist.

1954-1955 was the hot spot for country mambo. Hank Snow, Sheb Wooley, June Carter, Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl, Bob Wills, and Homer and Jethro are among the names you’ll find on my Country Mambo playlist. As a fun fact, Perez Prado’s “Patricia” was a number one pop and R&B hit, but it also crossed over to number 18 on the country chart.

I don’t have a separate playlist for Country Conga, but I’ll mention Hank Snow yet again for his 1955 cover of “Caribbean,” a song that mentions the conga line.

I do have a new playlist for Country Samba (including Bossa Nova). In 1951, Bob Williams released “Hillbilly Samba,” but I couldn’t find it on YouTube. Samba great Carmen Miranda did a comedic western-themed number in 1950 called “Yipsee-I-O.” Chet Atkins covered “One Note Samba” in 1964. Willie Nelson shows up on my Country Samba list, too. In 1963, CMHOF member Harold Bradley released a whole album of bossa nova versions of country songs.

Bossa Nova is a samba derivative. I found an interesting Country Bossa Nova playlist that features some major American country hits influenced by bossa nova. There’s very little overlap with my own list, so it’s yet another collection of songs to check out.

4/14/21 Country Tango

Especially in the fifties, there were a lot of attempts to combine country music and every imaginable form of dance music. I already had a Country Mambo playlist, so I’ll follow that up with my new Country Tango playlist.

Although many of the entries were from the fifties, I did find a few modern examples, too, like the entrance music to the Marty Stuart Show a few years ago, “El Tingo Tango.”

One real outlier on my Country Tango playlist is Byron Harlan’s “Reuben Tango Huskin’ Bee” skit from 1914 !

Tom Lehrer turned 93 recently, and I found an Appalachian dulcimer cover of “Masochism Tango.” How’s that for different ?

YouTube apparently has a limit of displaying just 200 playlists at a time, and I have close to 250 YouTube playlists. Robert’s Huge List Of Playlists has direct links to the invidual playlists, so that it’s still possible to find the individual lists that might not show up directly on my channel.

4/13/21 The Tennessee Wig Walk

There were plenty of oddball dance songs in the 1950s. Bonnie Lou was primarily a country artist, but her 1950s catalog had a bit of everything from polka to mambo to rock and roll. Her most interesting hit is Tennessee Wig Walk in 1953.

The song had some success on the country chart, but was probably bigger internationally.

Big band leader Russ Morgan covered it, and so did Scottish child star Lena Zavaroni. Nancy Kaye and others covered it, as well.

The most interesting cover, though, is by Cacki Israelsson in 1954. He was a Swedish Olympic long jumper turned country and western singer. He sang in both Swedish and English. He covered many classic American country and western songs.

4/12/21 Recent Uploads

I found a couple of cool, old songs online that I uploaded to my YouTube channel, so that I can include the songs on playlists.

As I’ve mentioned here in detail, Bentley Ball collected and performed folk songs, often in an educational context. Jesse James was already on YouTube, but I uploaded the flip side The Dying Cowboy. This song is also known as “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie.” According to some sources, these were recorded in early 1920, but I’ve seen others mention 1919. In any case, these are listed as cowboy songs that Bentley Ball was the first to record. Most of the cowboy songs recorded before this were Tin Pan Alley creations: songs like Red Wing, Cheyenne, San Antonio, Snow Deer, etc. I really like those, too, but if you’re building a timeline of so-called “real western folk songs,” then the Bentley Ball records deserve mention.

The other one I uploaded is the White City Jazzers version of Turkey In The Straw from 1929 or early 1930. Despite the “city jazzers” name, these folks had a cool hillbilly sound, and on this song, they featured a style of overtone singing similar to Richard Burnett on “Ladies On The Steamboat.” Apparently, the White City Jazzers also recorded under other names such as Home Folk Fiddlers and Small Town Players. I didn’t hear any overtone singing on the other recordings I could find from this group. If you look up country throat singing, you probably won’t find many articles, but I have a pretty sizable collection on my Throat Country playlist.

4/11/21 Observations

There were zero Grand Ole Opry members on last night’s televised Opry show. There are over sixty Opry members. What is wrong with this picture ? Is management simply not asking the members or are the members unwilling or unable to show up ? That’s nothing against the guests they do have. It’s not their fault, so don’t blame them for showing up when invited to perform. It’s just weird that the Opry makes a gigantic deal out of official membership, then turns around and has zero members on a show.

Since I’ve mentioned yesterday’s televised Opry show, I’ll throw in a word or two about the guests who did perform. Jordan Davis and Runaway June are “today’s radio country,” but Jordan did a John Prine tribute and Runaway June did a Johnny Cash tribute. Speaking of Runaway June, has anyone seen or heard anything from Hannah Mulholland since she left the group last year ? Zach Bryan is one of the top young indie acts, based on streaming numbers, but he showed that he is also a very capable performer live. Christian artist Matthew West had a strong showing, and did a duet with Carly Pearce. Carly has probably raised her profile with Opry viewers more than any other individual in the last year, and she has performed at the Opry over eighty times as a guest. Is she a future Opry member ?

Let’s take a look at live music. Those who want vaccinations are getting them, and things are opening back up. Here in Texas, live music is back. In my old home state of Alabama, events are coming back, too. In Tuscaloosa, the Alabama football scrimmage coming up Saturday will allow 50% attendance at Bryant-Denny Stadium. That’s about 50,000 people a few days from now ! Over in Denver, Red Rocks is limited to 25% capacity, and there aren’t nearly as many shows scheduled as in an average season. By contrast, 100 miles north of Denver, Cheyenne Frontier Days will have full capacity shows with A-list country superstars in July with no mask requirement. I present these facts to show how uneven the situation is, depending where you are. In general, sporting events have had thousands of fans regularly since last fall, yet major concerts have been much, much slower to come back.

Gabby Barrett and Jimmie Allen won ACM new artist awards. Jimmie Allen is a curious case, since he was nominated for the same new artist award the year before. He is on the CMA Board Of Directors, Directors At Large. Isn’t it something how someone can somehow be both such an experienced veteran that he’s on the CMA board of directors, yet he’s also a “new” artist two years in a row for the ACM ? I’ve nothing against the guy, but how is anyone supposed to take any of this industry shit seriously ? See also Mickey Guyton’s “ACM new artist” nominations five years apart. Either you’re new now or you were new then. It’s impossible to be both.

4/9/21 Recent YouTube Finds

Here’s a look at some of the cool things that have been uploaded to YouTube in the last week:

AdamCWM is a versatile entertainer who is especially gifted with whips and lassos. A couple of his recent uploads feature fire, juggling, and unicycle.

MrBlindFreddy9999 is always posting cool records from many decades ago. He uploaded a ton of Carson Robison records in the last week.

Tim Gracyk also uploads cool, old records all the time. One of the ones he posted this week is Marc Williams’ “Sing, Poor Devil, Sing.” The cowboy crooner Marc Williams is a perfect fit for my Crooner Country playlist.

Hankfan Hankfan is another prolific record uploader. He added a lot of Moon Mullican this week. There are also several Acorn Sisters records from 1960.

I’ll close today’s post with a bit of today’s music. Triston Marez released a couple of songs today, and one of those features the Squeezebox Bandits, an act I’ve seen perform here in Texas.