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Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1962

It’s difficult for the modern-day country fan – or even one grounded in the half-century-old Nashville Sound and even older electrified honky-tonk style as I am – to appreciate the appeal and popularity of Roy Claxton Acuff back in the day. I’ve mentioned before the taunt Japanese soldiers issued to American G.I.’s in the Pacific: “To hell with FDR, to hell with Babe Ruth and to hell with Roy Acuff.”

If all you know of the King of Country Music is his work on Hee Haw, he’s worth some study. Which is what Nathan Rabin, head writer for the website A.V. Club and a hip-hop specialist, did recently as part of his “immersing himself in the canon of country music, a genre he knew little about, but was keen to explore.” Here’s his take, an urban music fan’s view of pure hillbilly, performed by the man who 17 years later would become the Hall of Fame’s first living member.

About the record: Columbia 20003 and 36586, recorded Aug. 2, 1945, at the studios of WBBM Radio in Chicago. Released the following month. First LP appearance was on Songs Of The Smokey Mountains, Columbia HL-9004, released 1949.

Roy Acuff’s Hall of Fame profile.

Next up: Tex Ritter

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Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1961

About the record: B-side of MGM K10932, recorded Dec. 21, 1950, at Castle Studio in downtown Nashville. Released March 16, 1951, under artist name Luke The Drifter.

I’m of the opinion that death was a great career move for Hank Williams. He was a super peformer, for sure, and a top-notch songwriter. But with a personal life in shambles and some rough hillbilly edges that were certain to resist smoothing, it’s not clear he’d have fared well in the coming Nashville Sound and countrypolitan eras.

In that vein, here’s one of a series of performances that were so preachy and un-commercial that he and his mentor Fred Rose developed a separate personna and nom de sermon under which to market them: Luke The Drifter. I suppose you could say ol’ Hank was a charter Hall of Famer despite works like this. But they do point to his ability to paint a picture with his lyrics, and it’s hard to get long-gone-lonesomer than this recitation.

Longtime followers here know that a song can’t be too treacly for me; “Men With Broken Hearts” is proof. After all, as Luke himself says, it’s written that the greatest men never get too big to cry.

Hank Williams’ Hall of Fame profile.

Next up: Roy Acuff

Click to listen

Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1961

Fred Rose (1898-1954) progressed from vaudeville performer to Tin Pan Alley songwriter, then after collaborating on some cowboy-type songs with Western movie actor Ray Whitley began to consider the possibilities in the world of country music. That was a good career move, eventually landing him in the Hall of Fame as one of the three inaugural inductees.

About the record: Brunswick 3714, recorded Nov. 21, 1927, in Chicago. Release date unknown, possibly 1928.

This song isn’t country. It’s an example of the Chicago jazzy pop style that Rose favored back in the late 1920s. (That’s him on the piano, too.)  But how about that title, and those lyrics – pretty durned suggestive of the often less sophisticated but more blatantly emotional material that he’d master as a prime songwriter, pioneer publisher and patient producer, all in the country field. Compare “So Tired” to the later “Tears On My Pillow”; see if you don’t agree they’re quite interchangeable.

Fred Rose’s Hall of Fame profile

Next up: Hank Williams

Click to listen

Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1961

The inaugural members of the Country Music Hall of Fame were Rodgers (1897-1933), songwriter/producer/music publisher Fred Rose, and singer/songwriter Hank Williams. I’m profiling them, and all subsequent multi-member classes, alphabetically.

About the record: Victor 21142, recorded Nov. 30, 1927, in the Victor Studio in Camden, N.J. Released March 2, 1928.

Jimmie Rodgers’ first record consisted of the two songs recorded in August 1927 at country music’s Big Bang, in Bristol, Va., and sold moderately well. “Blue Yodel,” the A side of his second record, is the song that made the Mississippian a star.

Jimmie Rodgers’ Hall of Fame profile

Next up: Fred Rose

Click to listen

July 9-11

Why this weekend? It was a year ago Friday that I and several of my friends and colleagues received pink slips from the word factory. This seems as good a song as any to mark the anniversary.

About the record: Columbia 4-45660, recorded June 5, 1972, at House of Cash Studios, Hendersonville, Tenn. Released the following month, eventually reaching No. 2 on Billboard‘s country chart. LP debut was on Any Old Wind That Blows, Columbia KC-32091, released January 1973. Eventually reached No. 5 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

In the ’50s, budding songwriter Jerry Chesnut lived in Florida and for a time worked for a man named Oney. Fast-forward 20 years, and here’s Oney immortalized in Chesnut’s ode to the working man. It’s kinda scary, the degree to which Cash seems to relish how he’s about to go out with a bang. But, not altogether unsatisfying, if you know what I mean.

Special note: It’s good to be back at it here at 3 Chords a Day, after a couple of weeks off. I’m still not completely caught up, so I won’t be posting daily just yet — you can expect 6 or maybe 9 chords a week for the next little while. Whatever the frequency, I’m going to celebrate the Country Music Hall of Fame by linking each post with the roster of inductees, in order of enshrinement. So when next you hear from me, it will be in the nasal voice of Hall of Famer No. 1: Jimmie Rodgers.

3 Chords a Day is taking a break to allow me to catch up on some other fronts.  See you when I return.

Click to listen

June 25-27

Why this weekend? Forty-three years ago Sunday, Tammy Wynette was in the studio recording her first chart-topping record.

About the record: Epic 5-10211, recorded June 27, 1967, at Columbia Studios in Nashville. Released the following month, it eventually reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s country chart. First LP appearance was on Take Me To Your World/I Don’t Wanna Play House, Epic BN-26353, released Jan. 5, 1968. It reached No. 3 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill were quite a team. As a producer, he was the first person in Nashville to give the Alabama hairdresser a chance with her songs, and he helped her become a singer to be reckoned with. As a songwriter, he created several of her big hits, some with her collaboration, some not. This one he wrote with Nashville tunesmith Glenn Sutton. It’s a great song, but Tammy’s performance sells it.

Dynamics were key to those early Wynette records; the way her quiet, lower-register delivery in the verses gave way to higher notes and a louder voice in the chorus reminds me of Big Band arrangements from 20 years earlier. That pattern is exhibited here, and it wasn’t limited to the recording studio. Steve Earle once said of seeing Tammy perform this song at the Grand Ole Opry when he was a child in the ’60s: “It was dynamic. She was so tiny and the chorus would hit and wow!”

About the artist: Revisit this 3 Chords post from January for more on Tammy Wynette, including her first single and a book passage in which Sherrill talks about the impact she made right out of the gate.

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