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Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1961

About the record: B-side of MGM K10932, recorded Dec. 21, 1950, at Castle Studio in downtown Nashville. Released March 16, 1951, under artist name Luke The Drifter.

I’m of the opinion that death was a great career move for Hank Williams. He was a super peformer, for sure, and a top-notch songwriter. But with a personal life in shambles and some rough hillbilly edges that were certain to resist smoothing, it’s not clear he’d have fared well in the coming Nashville Sound and countrypolitan eras.

In that vein, here’s one of a series of performances that were so preachy and un-commercial that he and his mentor Fred Rose developed a separate personna and nom de sermon under which to market them: Luke The Drifter. I suppose you could say ol’ Hank was a charter Hall of Famer despite works like this. But they do point to his ability to paint a picture with his lyrics, and it’s hard to get long-gone-lonesomer than this recitation.

Longtime followers here know that a song can’t be too treacly for me; “Men With Broken Hearts” is proof. After all, as Luke himself says, it’s written that the greatest men never get too big to cry.

Hank Williams’ Hall of Fame profile.

Next up: Roy Acuff

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Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1961

Fred Rose (1898-1954) progressed from vaudeville performer to Tin Pan Alley songwriter, then after collaborating on some cowboy-type songs with Western movie actor Ray Whitley began to consider the possibilities in the world of country music. That was a good career move, eventually landing him in the Hall of Fame as one of the three inaugural inductees.

About the record: Brunswick 3714, recorded Nov. 21, 1927, in Chicago. Release date unknown, possibly 1928.

This song isn’t country. It’s an example of the Chicago jazzy pop style that Rose favored back in the late 1920s. (That’s him on the piano, too.)  But how about that title, and those lyrics – pretty durned suggestive of the often less sophisticated but more blatantly emotional material that he’d master as a prime songwriter, pioneer publisher and patient producer, all in the country field. Compare “So Tired” to the later “Tears On My Pillow”; see if you don’t agree they’re quite interchangeable.

Fred Rose’s Hall of Fame profile

Next up: Hank Williams

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Dec. 1: Willie Nelson is a universe-class songwriter, his portfolio containing many classics in the Great Country Songbook. So it’s ironic that his breakout record as an artist was an old chestnut that had come from the pen of another. Of course, that other was no slouch: Fred Rose, the former Tin Pan Alley composer who found a home in country music as a writer, a businessman and a key postwar figure. The first cut on his song was Roy Acuff’s in 1945. But it was Nelson’s version 30 years later that the world would remember.

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foley_chatta-asv

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Nov. 7: It’s not often that a musician comes home with bruises after a recording session. But 60 years ago today, Nashville drummer Farris Coursey did just that, after slapping his thigh over and over and over again, through several takes, to create the sound of a rag popping. It’s one — but just one — of the elements that sent “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” to previously unscaled heights for a country record.

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Williams_CrazyHeart

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Nov. 3: The Country Music Hall of Fame was born 48 years ago today, with the induction of its first three members. One was Jimmie Rodgers, the first big star of commercial country music. The other two are represented here, in a song written by Fred Rose and recorded by his superstar protege, Hank Williams, in 1951.

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