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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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Feb. 16: It was 41 years ago today, in Ringgold, Ga., that George Jones and Tammy Wynette told each other “I do.” Luckily for you, I passed over their mawkish 1972 number “The Ceremony,” whose setting is a wedding complete with organ and the exchange of vows, in favor of this one from four years — and one divorce — later. “Golden Ring,” a fine piece of work by songwriters Bobby Braddock and Rafe VanHoy, always seemed to me a neat summation of the Jones-Wynette saga.

By the time Jones, Wynette and the musicians laid this down in April 1976, the stars’ marriage had been over for 13 months. The heartache in the vocals, especially the Possum’s, is palpable. In his Allmusic.com review of the album that contained this song, Thom Jurek says: “Golden Ring is one of those country albums that is essential. It is a perfect document of ’70s Nashville’s most polished and tasteful records, and stands as a high point for both Jones and Wynette.”

As for “The Ceremony” … since you asked, here it is, in all its sappy glory. At least the hair-dos are a sight to behold!

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Jan. 11: The Tammy Wynette Highway, a stretch of road in her hometown of Red Bay, Ala., was dedicated on this date in 1990. Here’s the song that, 24 years earlier, started Wynette down the road to her position as the First Lady of Country Music, “the best female country singer of her time.”

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Sept. 12: In honor of George Jones’ 78th birthday today, here’s a gem from his Epic years. The title suggests apathy, but the Possum clearly didn’t phone it in when he cut this song. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sept. 2: Tammy Wynette, a Mississippi-born former hairdresser, was making a name for herself in country music in the mid- to late 1960s. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” was her fifth solo record, and the third of six straight singles that topped the charts. Her second single reached the top 5; her third began a series of six straight solo No. 1’s, including this one. Says the Country Music Hall of Fame Web site: In the Read the rest of this entry »

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