Since Ray Charles was inducted into the CMHOF yesterday, here’s a quick look at a couple of other artists best known for R&B who made an impact on country music.
Ivory Joe Hunter and Brook Benton both covered country songs and wrote songs that were covered by country artists. Sonny James had two country number ones with songs written by Brook Benton in 1970 and also two country number ones with songs written by Ivory Joe Hunter (1969 and 1971).
Brook Benton released an album in 1961 called “The Boll Weevil Song and 11 Other Great Hits.” Some of these were older songs that had been recorded by country and blues artists. To put the timeline in perspective, Ray Charles’ famous R&B/country album was in 1962. Brook Benton also released the albums “On the Countryside” in 1964 and “My Country” in 1966. As you can see on Second Hand Songs, some top country artists covered songs written by Brook Benton, too: Tammy Wynette, Red Sovine, Gene Watson, Mickey Gilley, Glen Campbell, Randy Travis, Brenda Lee, Barbara Mandrell, Patti Page, Don Gibson, et al.
Brook Benton had a major hit with Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night In Georgia” in 1970 (#1 R&B, #4 pop), and Hank Williams Jr covered it in 1974 (#13 country).
Ivory Joe Hunter released the album “I’ve Always Been Country” in 1973 and the album “Live At The Grand Ole Opry” in 1974, the year he passed away. Ivory made frequent Opry appearances in the late sixties and early seventies. Ivory Joe Hunter was an extremely prolific songwriter, with literally thousands of songs to his credit, and his earliest credit was Jimmie Davis’ “Love Please Don’t Let Me Down” in 1944.
Let’s again consult Second Hand Songs. Here are some artists who covered songs written by Ivory Joe Hunter: Floyd Tillman, Elton Britt, Hank Snow, Leroy Van Dyke, Conway Twitty, Everly Brothers, Carl Smith, Bonnie Guitar, Charlie Rich, Barbara Mandrell, Hank Williams Jr, Eddy Arnold,Willie Nelson, Roy Clark, Wanda Jackson, Wilburn Brothers, Reba McEntire, BJ Thomas, Elvis Presley, Molly Bee, Freddy Fender, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Anderson and Jan Howard, Ray Stevens, et al.
Note that Clyde Otis was a cowriter on a few of Ivory Joe Hunter’s songs. Clyde Otis often collaborated with Brook Benton, too. Clyde Otis also produced Nashville recording sessions by Charlie Rich and Sonny James.
Ivory Joe Hunter covered several notable country songs:
Jealous Heart (1949), cover of Tex Ritter hit that was written by Jenny Lou Carson
It’s a Sin (1950), cover of Eddy Arnold hit
I’m Sorry For You, My Friend (1952) by Hank Williams
City Lights (1958) by Whispering Bill Anderson
Worried Mind (1958) by Ted Daffan and Jimmie Davis
If you’re interested in more R&B/country crossovers, past and present, check out my very large playlist Country Soul and R&B