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Feb. 19-21: There was little love lost between the undisputed top country star of the 1950s and the premier radio barn dance. In fact, Webb Pierce and the Grand Ole Opry parted ways for the second and last time 53 years ago Friday. Rest assured that all those things he sings about in “That’s Me Without You” don’t apply to the Opry. He did pretty danged well before he got there, and he did all right for a long time after he left.

Read Billboard‘s 1957 news story about Pierce’s resignation, but it boils down to this: the Opry expected its artists to attend at least half the Saturday nights in a year, and they had to pay the Opry’s concert promotion arm for services rendered and the promotional use of the Opry name when on the road. Pierce chafed at both of those requirements. One, he had to give up many lucrative Saturday-night concert appearances in exchange for scale wages from the Opry. Two, why should he (or any artist) have to pay a license fee to the Opry when its corporate owner didn’t compensate artists for use of their names and photos in its insurance sales material?

Pierce was his own man, and good on him for that. But what some saw as his bull-headedness cost him: He was 10 years dead before gaining entrance to the Country Music Hall of Fame, an honor that was about a quarter-century overdue. After all …

    “According to Billboard, Webb Pierce was the No. 1 country artist of the 1950s and the No. 7 artist of the 1960s. He charted 96 songs, 80 of which reached the Top 40, and 54 of which reached the Top Ten. His thirteen number one records stayed there for a cumulative total of 113 weeks–second only to Eddy Arnold.”

So says Paul W. Dennis, in his “Forgotten Artist” installment about Pierce on The 9513 blog. Give it a look as you give a spin to the No. 4 gem from 1953, “That’s Me Without You.”

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