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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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July 9-11

Why this weekend? It was a year ago Friday that I and several of my friends and colleagues received pink slips from the word factory. This seems as good a song as any to mark the anniversary.

About the record: Columbia 4-45660, recorded June 5, 1972, at House of Cash Studios, Hendersonville, Tenn. Released the following month, eventually reaching No. 2 on Billboard‘s country chart. LP debut was on Any Old Wind That Blows, Columbia KC-32091, released January 1973. Eventually reached No. 5 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

In the ’50s, budding songwriter Jerry Chesnut lived in Florida and for a time worked for a man named Oney. Fast-forward 20 years, and here’s Oney immortalized in Chesnut’s ode to the working man. It’s kinda scary, the degree to which Cash seems to relish how he’s about to go out with a bang. But, not altogether unsatisfying, if you know what I mean.

Special note: It’s good to be back at it here at 3 Chords a Day, after a couple of weeks off. I’m still not completely caught up, so I won’t be posting daily just yet — you can expect 6 or maybe 9 chords a week for the next little while. Whatever the frequency, I’m going to celebrate the Country Music Hall of Fame by linking each post with the roster of inductees, in order of enshrinement. So when next you hear from me, it will be in the nasal voice of Hall of Famer No. 1: Jimmie Rodgers.

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June 25-27

Why this weekend? Forty-three years ago Sunday, Tammy Wynette was in the studio recording her first chart-topping record.

About the record: Epic 5-10211, recorded June 27, 1967, at Columbia Studios in Nashville. Released the following month, it eventually reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s country chart. First LP appearance was on Take Me To Your World/I Don’t Wanna Play House, Epic BN-26353, released Jan. 5, 1968. It reached No. 3 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

Tammy Wynette and Billy Sherrill were quite a team. As a producer, he was the first person in Nashville to give the Alabama hairdresser a chance with her songs, and he helped her become a singer to be reckoned with. As a songwriter, he created several of her big hits, some with her collaboration, some not. This one he wrote with Nashville tunesmith Glenn Sutton. It’s a great song, but Tammy’s performance sells it.

Dynamics were key to those early Wynette records; the way her quiet, lower-register delivery in the verses gave way to higher notes and a louder voice in the chorus reminds me of Big Band arrangements from 20 years earlier. That pattern is exhibited here, and it wasn’t limited to the recording studio. Steve Earle once said of seeing Tammy perform this song at the Grand Ole Opry when he was a child in the ’60s: “It was dynamic. She was so tiny and the chorus would hit and wow!”

About the artist: Revisit this 3 Chords post from January for more on Tammy Wynette, including her first single and a book passage in which Sherrill talks about the impact she made right out of the gate.

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June 24

Why today? Whisperin’ Bill Anderson cut the song that would become his theme on this date in 1965.

About the record: Decca 31825, recorded on June 24, 1965, at Columbia Studios in Nashville. Released Aug. 2, 1965, eventually reaching No. 11 on Billboard‘s country chart. First LP appearance was on Bright Lights And Country Music, Decca DL7- 4686, released Nov. 15, 1965. It eventually reached No. 6 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

Anderson wrote this song with his right-hand man and leader of the Po’ Boys band, fiddler and bassist Jimmy Gateley. Though it didn’t make the Billboard Top 10, it has become one of the numbers most associated with him, and it’s his theme song on stage.

Music blogger Michael McDowell recently posted an extensive article and Q&A on the Country Music Hall of Famer, on the occasion of Anderson’s Songwriter album. Here’s what the artist had to say about “Bright Lights And Country Music”:

    Q: By 1965, you hit an artistic zenith with your “Bright Lights And Country Music” single and album. Of course the title track was a collaboration with Jimmy Gateley. Aside from the obvious story line in the lyrics, what was the background behind the creation of that song?

    A: We were working at a little nightclub in Toronto called the Horseshoe Tavern. When you worked at the Horseshoe, you went in there for an entire week. I played every night, Monday through Friday.Then on Saturday, you had a matinee show in the afternoon. I don’t think they sold alcohol during the afternoon show, so kids could come. It was like a family thing in the afternoon. Then on Saturday nights, you went back to doing your regular show.

    I had a big fan who lived in London, Ontario. She wrote me a letter at the Horseshoe. It was waiting for me when I got there that week. She said, “I just want you to know that I’m coming to see you on Saturday. But I’m not coming to the afternoon show. I’m coming to the night show, because I like bright lights with my country music!”

    When I read that line, I told Jimmy, “That’s a song idea if I ever heard one!” We actually wrote the song downstairs in the dressing room at the Horseshoe Tavern. We had about, golly, I don’t know, about fifty or sixty people standing outside the door after one of the shows.

    Jimmy and I started writing the song. But these people were wanting autographs! I said, “Folks, you’re just gonna have to wait.” It’s the only song that I’ve ever written in front of an audience!

As for me, I’m not much on the bright lights. But I do love that country music.

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June 16

Why today? Bob Nolan, a founder of the Sons of the Pioneers, owner of one of the most distinctive voices in all of music, and among the best and most prolific Western-music songwriters ever, died on this date 30 years ago.

About the record: RCA Victor 20-2076, recorded Aug. 15, 1946, at the label’s Hollywood studio. Released the following January. First LP appearance was on Cowboy Classics, RCA Victor LPM-3032 (10-inch), released in 1952.

Steve Huey, in his Allmusic.com biography of Bob Nolan, notes that the Canada-born singer became the clear leader of the Sons of the Pioneers after co-founder Leonard Slye left to make movies as Roy Rogers. “Chant of the Wanderer” was one of the many songs he wrote, an extensive catalog that includes the classics “Cool Water” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”

The group’s move to RCA Victor from Decca in the mid-’40s meant an update from the simple guitar-and-fiddle accompaniment of their early records, as our featured selection shows. Isn’t this a great sound?

About the artist: Read Huey’s biography to learn more about the great Bob Nolan, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and, as one of the original Sons of the Pioneers, the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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June 14

Why today? It was on Flag Day in 1977 that Johnny Cash went to the U.S. Capitol to recite before Congress his self-penned tribute to our national standard.

About the record: Columbia 4-46028, recorded Jan. 28, 1974, at the House of Cash complex in Hendersonville, Tenn. Released that April, eventually reaching No. 31 on Billboard‘s country chart. First LP appearance was on Ragged Old Flag, Columbia KC-32917. Released April 5, 1974, it eventually reached No. 16 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

In early 1974, the Man in Black had been recording more than 18 years, with a whopping 56 albums to his credit. But as great a composer as he was, not one of those LPs was all his; each contained at least one song he didn’t write. “It’s something I always wanted to do,” Cash declared in the liner notes to Ragged Old Flag, “write an album of all my own songs and for some reason, I just never got around to it.”

By ’74, he’d gotten around to it: “In the last year or two, these songs started bubbling out of me more than ever and I started putting down everything that came out. I sang them for my family and my friends, and all they had to do was say they liked one and I’d go write another one.”

Twelve of them became the album Ragged Old Flag. The title cut, Cash said, practically wrote itself: “You’ve heard of people who write songs in ten minutes? ‘Ragged Old Flag’ was one of those songs.”

It was recorded at the family’s business headquarters, the House of Cash complex not far from his lakeside home northeast of Nashville. The occasion was a luncheon for CBS Records folks, and it’s their applause you hear as big John completes his stirring recitation. That’s Cash’s labelmate Earl Scruggs on the banjo, and an orchestra and chorus arranged by Chuck Cochran.

While not a huge hit, the song made an impression during those tumultuous days of Watergate and the Vietnam War’s last gasp. And so, three years later, on June 14, Johnny Cash was in Washington, declaring before Congress his mighty pride in that ragged old flag.

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June 11-13

Why this weekend? They say Miss Dolly cut this key song in her career on Saturday’s date in 1973.

About the record: RCA Victor APBO-0145, recorded June 12, 1973, at RCA Studio B in Nashville. Released the following September, it topped Billboard‘s country chart and reached No. 60 on the pop chart. First LP appearance was on Jolene, RCA Victor APL1-0473. Releaed in February 1974, it reached No. 6 on Billboard‘s country album chart.

(* My primary recording session source lists May 22, 1973, as the session date. There WAS a Parton session on June 12, so perhaps my source is wrong, or perhaps overdubs on “Jolene” were recorded on the later date.) UPDATE: Session date confirmed. See Comments section below.

This is my favorite example of Parton’s early solo work. A haunting melody and a great acoustic arrangement, along with Dolly’s singing and songwriting talent, combine to create an undisputed classic. More praise can be found in Barry Weber’s review of the record on Allmusic.com. And here’s Dolly’s thoughts on her song, as reported by National Public Radio. It’s no wonder “Jolene” is her most covered composition, and not just in the country field.

Have a great weekend. See y’all Monday.

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