Category: country

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On this day in music history: November 23, 1974 – “I Can Help” by Billy Swan hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Country singles chart for 1 week on December 14, 1974. Written and produced by Billy Swan, it is the biggest hit for the Missouri born native. Already a veteran of the music business, the singer, songwriter, and musician writes his first big hit while still a teenager. The song, “Lover Please” is a top 10 single in 1962 for former Drifters lead singer Clyde McPhatter when Swan is only sixteen years old. By the 70’s, Swan is signed to Monument Records as an artist in his own right. Swan composes “I Can Help” on an RMI organ (used on the recording) that is given to him as a wedding gift from musician friends and label mate Kris Kristofferson and wife Rita Coolidge. He comes up with the songs’ hook, all of the lyrics and bridge in only twenty minutes. Entering the Hot 100 at #90 on September 28, 1974, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. It is also a huge international hit, topping the charts in more than a dozen foreign countries. “Help” is covered numerous times over the years including a version recorded by Elvis Presley in 1975. The song is also later heard in a series of commercials for big box retailer Wal-Mart. “I Can Help” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 15, 1980 – “Lady” by Kenny Rogers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks on the same date, topping the Country singles chart for 1 week on November 22, 1980, and peaking at #42 on the R&B singles chart on December 20, 1980. Written and produced by Lionel Richie, is the first pop and eighth country chart topper for the country superstar. After a steady stream of hits on the country music charts, from 1977 to 1979, Kenny Rogers scores a string major crossover hits on the pop charts with “Lucille” (#5 Pop), “The Gambler” (#3 Pop), “She Believes In Me” (#5 Pop), and “You Decorated My Life” (#7 Pop). By the turn of the decade, he is a bonafide crossover star. His label Liberty Records will decide to compile a new hits compilation featuring three new songs in addition to nine previous hits. A fan of The Commodores recent hit “Sail On”, Rogers contacts Jobete Music, the publishing arm of Motown Records who put him in contact with Lionel Richie. Kenny asks Lionel if he will write and produce some new material for him, and Richie agrees to the project while The Commodores are on a brief hiatus from touring. Lionel presents the song “Lady”, which Rogers immediately loves. The pair go into the studio and cut “Lady” (arranged by Gene Page) and “Goin’ Back To Alabama” (the latter is featured on Rogers next studio album “Share Your Love” (featuring Michael Jackson on background vocals) in 1981) in one eight and a half hour session. Released as the first single from “Greatest Hits” in September of 1980, it is an immediate across the board smash, becoming the first single of the new decade to chart on the pop, country, AC and R&B charts simultaneously. On the US release of the single, some copies come with a picture sleeve featuring the same photo of Rogers used on the cover of his greatest hits album, with a smaller inset photo of his then wife Marianne. Entering the Hot 100 at #39 on October 4, 1980, it rockets to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Lady" also marks the beginning of Lionel Richie’s exodus from The Commodores into a hugely successful solo career. The huge success of the single drives sales of Rogers’ “Greatest Hits” album to 12x Platinum status in the US alone. “Lady” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 16, 1961 – “Crazy” by Patsy Cline is released. Written by Willie Nelson, it is the nineteenth single release for the country music icon from Winchester, VA. By the early 60’s, singer Patsy Cline is a major star in country music. She scores her second major hit with “I Fall To Pieces” (#1 Country, #12 Pop) in August of 1961. As it’s climbing the charts, Cline and her brother Sam are involved in a near fatal car accident on June 14, 1961. Patsy is seriously hurt, suffering multiple injuries. She spends a month in the hospital, before returning to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry just six weeks later. Looking for a follow up to “I Fall To Pieces”, Cline and producer Owen Bradley begin looking for songs to extend her run of hits. While drinking at a Nashville bar called Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Patsy’s husband Charlie Dick hears the song “Crazy” on the jukebox. Originally titled “Stupid”, it’s written by future country music icon Willie Nelson. At the time he has recently landed his first major hit as a songwriter, when Faron Young records his song “Hello Walls”, which tops the country singles chart for nine weeks and crosses over to the pop chart. When Willie meets Charlie, he suggests that Patsy record it. But when she hears Nelson’s original demo recording, she hates it. However, when her producer Owen Bradley hears it, he convinces her to record it. Patsy agrees to record “Crazy” and they make their first attempt in mid August of 1961, at Bradley’s recording studio in Nashville, TN. The track features a number of veteran country studio players including Floyd Cramer (piano), Bob Moore (bass), Harold Bradley (guitar), Buddy Harmon (drums) and The Jordanaires (background vocals). On crutches and continuing to recover, Patsy attempts to put her vocal on the track. Her still mending broken ribs make it difficult to hit the high notes in the song, so after four hours of trying, they stop. Feeling considerably better, Cline returns to the studio on August 21, 1961, and records her final vocal in a single take. Released almost two months later, “Crazy” is an across the board smash, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 27, 1961, #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart on the same date, and at #2 on the Country singles chart on January 20, 1962. Becoming one of Patsy Cline’s signature songs, “Crazy” becomes a country and pop music standard being widely covered across several musical genres. Cline’s own version holds the distinction of being the most played recording ever on jukeboxes, according to the Amusement and Music Operators Association. Patsy’s recording is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1992, and is added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2003. The song is also featured on the video games Twisted Metal, Deadpool and Mafia III.

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Remembering singer, songwriter, musician, environmental activist, philanthropist and humanitarian John Denver (born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in Roswell, NM) – December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997

On this day in music history: September 6, 1975 – “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the Country chart for 3 weeks (non-consecutive) on August 23, 1975. Written by Larry Weiss, it is the first pop chart topper for the veteran studio musician turned country/pop superstar. A well established songwriter since the early 60’s Larry Weiss has co-written several major hits for other artists, including The American Breed’s “Bend Me, Shape Me” (#5 Pop) and R&B singer Jerry Butler’s “Mr. Dream Merchant (#23 R&B, #38 Pop), before becoming a recording artist in his own right. Weiss is signed to 20th Century Records in 1974, recording his debut album "Black & Blue Suite”. The song “Rhinestone Cowboy” is released as a single, but does not attract any significant attention, except from Adult Contemporary radio, where the song peaks at #24 on that chart.  Glen Campbell hears Weiss’ original version while on a tour of Australia in late 1974. Liking what he hears, Campbell records it shortly after in Los Angeles with producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter (The Four Tops, The Righteous Brothers). Entering the Hot 100 at #81, climbing to the top of the chart fourteen weeks later. On the country singles chart, “Rhinestone” spends two consecutive weeks at the top before being displaced by “Feelins” by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn for one week. Surprisingly it rebounds and returns to the top for one more week on September 13, 1975. “Rhinestone Cowboy” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 30, 1968 – “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo”, the sixth album by The Byrds is released. Produced by Gary Usher, it is recorded at Columbia Studios in Nashville, TN from March 9 – 15, 1968, and Columbia Studios in Hollywood, CA from April 4 – May 27, 1968. Their first album following the departure of original founding members David Crosby (leaving to form Crosby, Stills & Nash) and Michael Clarke. The Byrds move further away from their trademark electric folk-rock/pop sound, and go in a completely different musical direction. This evolution, having begun on their previous album “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”, sees them experimenting with bluegrass and Appalachian music. The album introduces guitarist and vocalist Gram Parsons as well as guitarist Clarence White as permanent members of the band. While in Nashville, The Byrds perform on Grand Ole Opry, where they are met with derision from the conservative audience who sees the band as “hippie longhairs”. They also have a similar reaction from WSM DJ Ralph Emery when he interviews the band on his show, acting in a condescending matter toward them and initially refusing to play an acetate copy of the just recorded “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” on the air. Though not a commercial success upon its release, its hybrid sound of country and rock music is highly influential on many musicians in the years that follow including the Eagles, Poco, Emmylou Harris and Pure Prairie League to name a few. “Sweetheart” is reissued twice on CD over the years. First in 1997, as a remastered CD with eight bonus tracks, and again in 2003 as 2 CD Legacy Edition featuring more rehearsal takes and alternate recordings. In August of 2016, it is also remastered and reissued by Sundazed Music as a 180 gram vinyl LP (black vinyl), and by Friday Music, pressed on gold vinyl and limited to 1,000 copies. “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” peaks at number seventy seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2000.

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Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris photographed by Ed Thrasher, February 1978.

On this day in music history: August 26, 1967 – “Ode To Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also peaking at #8 on the R&B singles chart on October 21, 1967. Written by Bobbie Gentry, it is the biggest hit for the Mississippi born singer, songwriter and musician born Roberta Lee Streeter. The cryptic story song about a young man committing suicide for unknown reasons is an immediate smash. Recorded at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood, CA in Studio C on July 10, 1967, the track is completed in less than an hour of studio time. Arranger Jimmie Haskell adds the songs crowning touch by overdubbing violins and cellos to the spare arrangement. The unedited version runs over seven minutes and it pared down to just over four minutes. Originally issued as the B-side to her debut single “Mississippi Delta”, DJ’s very quickly favor the flip side. Entering the Hot 100 at #71 on August 5, 1967 it rockets to the top of the chart just three weeks later. The song also propels Gentry’s album (also titled “Ode To Billie Joe”) to number one for five weeks (unseating The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), and winning her two Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1968. In 1976, “Billie Joe” inspires a feature film titled “Ode To Billy Joe” based on the songs story line starring Robby Benson in the title role and is produced and directed by Max Baer, Jr. (“The Beverly Hillbillies”). The song is also widely covered by numerous artists including Howard Roberts, Cal Tjader, Tammy Wynette, Frank Sinatra & Ella Fitzgerald, Lou Donaldson, Lorrie Morgan, and Sinead O’Connor among them. As Bobbie Gentry’s original version is on the R&B singles chart, it is surpassed by a competing instrumental version by King Curtis, which peaks at #6 on October 28, 1967. “Ode To Billie Joe” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.

Help support the Behind The Grooves music blog with a donation at: PayPal.Me/jharris1228