Click to hear "Oh Lonesome Me"

Click to hear "I Can't Stop Lovin' You"

Dec. 3: I recently promised to feature Don Gibson, one of country music’s key singer-songwriters. Let’s do it, going back 52 years ago today, to RCA Victor’s brand new studio on Hawkins Street at 17th Avenue South in Nashville. Gibson cut four numbers that day — including this double-sided smash that announced to the world the Nashville Sound was here to stay.

Gibson, a Knoxville-area native a North Carolina native, had made a name for himself in the Knoxville area. He’d begun recording in the late 1940s, notching an early stint with RCA and brief stays on Columbia and MGM. He was developing as a singer, a guitarist (his archtop rhythm was a key feature of many of his records) and as a songwriter. His first big hit was Faron Young’s version of “Sweet Dreams Of You.”

Meanwhile, rock ‘n’ roll’s assault on country music sales had led Nashville’s key producers — including Chet Atkins, who handled Don Gibson after his return to Victor — to file some of the rough edges off country music in an attempt to make it more palatable to pop-favoring audiences. That effort, still in its infancy in late 1957, had beget in the past year records like Ferlin Husky’s “Gone” and Sonny James’ “Young Love” on Capitol, and Jim Reeves’ “Four Walls” on RCA.

And that was the vibe at Gibson’s session on Dec. 3. Atkins pulled double duty as producer and lead guitarist. Gibson and Velma Smith provided rhythm guitar, Floyd Cramer was at the piano, Joe Zinkan’s bass and Troy Hatcher’s drums kept the time, and the Jordanaires backed it all up with “ahhhs” and “boddilly-opp-opp-opps.” Paired on a single in ’58, A-side “Oh Lonesome Me” topped the Billboard country chart and went Top 10 pop, with flip side “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” reaching No. 7 country and No. 81 pop. That’s exactly what the Nashville Sound was intended to do.

(Feel free to share your thoughts on whether Atkins, et al., saved country music from certain oblivion by chasing the pop audience, or shamelessly and needlessly sold out. Don’t forget to relate it to the current state of the genre, as exhibited on the recent CMA Awards show.)

Learn more about the great Don Gibson, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, here.

Gibson's debut album for RCA contained one other huge hit: "Blue, Blue Day," recorded a few months before the similar-sounding "Oh Lonesome Me."

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