Click to listen

Click to listen

Oct. 27: Floyd Cramer, whose piano prowess provided a key element to the pop-leaning Nashville Sound, would have been 72 years old today. In honor of his birthday, here’s the first record on which he used the “slip note” style that would make him famous. It was a country chart-topper and a major pop hit as well.

Cramer actually picked up that lick from the writer of “Please Help Me I’m Falling,” Don Robertson, who played it on the demo that led Hank Locklin to record it in the early days of 1960. Cramer had been a busy session man for a few years by this time, having left his native Louisiana (where he worked on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport) to come to Nashville. His work can be heard on “Crazy” (Patsy Cline), “Heartbreak Hotel” and “It’s Now Or Never” (Elvis Presley), “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” (Brenda Lee), “Am I Losing You” (Jim Reeves), “Don’t Worry” (Marty Robbins) and hundreds more.

Cramer

Floyd Cramer, 1937-1997

He also had a successful solo career, with his monster hit “Last Date,” along with “San Antonio Rose” and many others. He died on New Year’s Eve in 1997 and was inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Here’s a video shot by my friend Renee Hopkins at Cramer’s grave in Nashville. She and I talk about Cramer and his impact on the Nashville recording scene.

Hank Locklin, 1918-2009

Locklin

Hank Locklin

Florida-born Hank Locklin began recording in 1949 for small labels in Texas and elsewhere in the South, and had a No. 1 Billboard country hit in 1953 with “Let Me Be The One.” When he joined RCA Victor in 1955, his career really took off. He had 70 chart singles, with six of them going No. 1 country. “Please Help Me I’m Falling” stayed there for 14 weeks, out of 36 weeks total on the chart. It also climbed to No. 8 on the Hot 100.

Upon his death in March at age 91, he was the oldest member of the Grand Ole Opry. Read more about the great Hank Locklin in obituaries from The Tennessean (via Vince Gill’s Web site) and The New York Times.

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