Click to hear "Take An Old Cold 'Tater (And Wait)"

Click to hear "Candy Kisses"

Sunday, Jan. 16, 1949, was quite a day at the old Castle Studio at downtown Nashville’s Tulane Hotel. That afternoon, two artists with wildly varying sounds — wailer Little Jimmy Dickens and crooner George Morgan — cut their first music for Columbia Records. Each session generated a winner. With “Take An Old Cold ‘Tater (And Wait),” Dickens picked up a nickname and a Top 10 hit. With “Candy Kisses,” Morgan gained a country chart-topper and a career-defining record. It’s fun to listen to them both and fondly recall when there was stylistic diversity in country music.

Recording logs lead to some confusion, at least to me, in the logistics of that day. Dickens’ session ran from 12:30 to 3 p.m., and Morgan’s from 1:30-4 p.m. At 2 hours 30 minutes, those sessions are a half-hour shy of the normal length. Was that because it was Sunday and musician overtime was at issue? Also, I was under impression that Castle had a single “tracking room,” to use today’s parlance. If that’s true — and any musician or other expert who reads this, please correct me if I’m wrong — how could the sessions overlap? Is it possible one was held elsewhere — say, the stage of the Ryman Auditorium a few blocks away? If THAT’S true, how could producer Art Satherley, Columbia’s chief country A&R man, be in two places at once?

Those are a lot of assumptions, but I’ll pose a question based on one more. These sessions marked the end of a long strike by musicians against record companies. The labels were eager to get fresh product to market, and the musicians were eager to earn money. Is it possible that the sessions were lightning-fast, maybe 90 minutes or so each, and the logs were fudged to make sure the pickers got paid at or near full-session money? I could see that happening, with no concern that anyone would ever compare the times and discover the supposed overlap. Ah, well, we’ll probably never know. And I might be the only one who cares!

It’s also interesting to note that each artist used a superstar’s band on the recordings. Backing Dickens were Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys, along with hot guitarist Billy Byrd. Morgan’s musicians were borrowed from Red Foley, including guitar master Grady Martin.

From beginnings on the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, through those key recording sessions 61 years ago today and beyond, George Morgan and Little Jimmy Dickens reached the pinnacle of recognition in the genre: membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Let’s hear it for candy kisses and old cold taters.