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June 10

Why today? Twenty-nine years ago, legendary producer Owen Bradley entered the studio that friendly competitor Chet Atkins had built and directed a new backing for an electronic joining of two of the most beloved voices of country music.

About the record: RCA Victor PB-12346, overdubbed on June 10 and 25, 1981, at Music City Music Hall in Nashville. Released in October of that year, it reached No. 5 on Billboard‘s country chart. First LP appearance was on Greatest Hits — Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline, RCA Victor AHL1-4127. Released in November 1981, it reached No. 8 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

I don’t know whose idea it was to perform this bit of studio trickery. Was it legendary producer and talented musician Owen Bradley, who’d recorded Cline so skillfully for Decca Records? Was it legendary producer and talented musician Chet Atkins, who’d recorded Reeves so skillfully at RCA Victor? Was it the occupant of some corporate office in New York or L.A. who’d never seen the inside of a recording studio and just thought, “Hey, here’s a great idea …”?

What I do know: Bradley gathered musicians John Christopher, Reggie Young, Weldon Myrick, Mike Leach, James Stroud and David Briggs into the former RCA Studio A and created new tracks for this song and “I Fall To Pieces.” (Here’s an overview of the process from start to finish.  UPDATE: As sometimes happens on Wikipedia, the linked article has some problems.  See the discussion in the Comments section below.)

It’s no secret that I’m a traditionalist; in a post just last week I slammed the Hank Williams With Strings project from the mid-‘60s. But, strangely, this particular contrivance doesn’t really bother me. Maybe because it started with two Nashville Sound records, and I don’t have as much invested in it. Here are thoughts on the general idea of “singing with the dead” from Nashville music journalist Edward Morris, expressed in a letter to the editor published in The New York Times several years ago.

About the originals: The two sources have two things in common: They were recorded on Music Row in 1961, and the legendary Bob Moore played bass on both records. Many of you might not have heard those original cuts. Here they are. It’s clear that the Reeves bites were manipulated more than Clines’ for the “duet.”  I prefer Patsy’s version to Reeves’, but they’re both good – just not country enough!

Patsy Cline’s version (click image to listen): Recorded Aug. 24, 1961, at Bradley Film & Recording Studio, Nashville. Appeared on the LP Showcase, Decca DL7-4202, released Nov. 27, 1961. Did not chart country; reached No. 73 on Billboard’s pop album chart.

Jim Reeves’ version (click image to listen): Recorded Nov. 20, 1961, at the label’s Nashville studio. Appeared on the LP A Touch Of Velvet, RCA Victor LSP/LPM-2487, released in April 1962. Did not chart country; reached No. 97 on Billboard’s pop album chart. First posthumous release was on RCA Victor single 447-0870 (1971). Did not chart.