Bill Anderson

James Willaim Anderson III was born in November of 1937, in Columbia, South Carolina. Nevertheless, he spent his adaptational years in and around Atlanta, Georgia.

‘Bill Anderson’, as he became known, learned how to play the guitar while in his teens. He formed a hillbilly band, which he named The Avondale Playboys, in honour of his high school.

Bill obtained a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, while he worked as a disc jockey and wrote articles on sport for a local newspaper. Another string to his bow was that of a songwriter and, in this regard, he did not have to wait for long to taste success as Ray Price recorded “City Lights” which spent thirteen weeks at No.1 on the country charts, in 1958.

Moving to Nashville, Bill was signed to Decca Records as a recording artist in his own right. “The Tip Of My Fingers” awarded him with his first Top 10 hit, in 1960, and, in 1961, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

The songs and hits kept coming throughout the 1960s and the 1970s and, in the 1980s, Bill branched out to work on television. In 1989, his autobiography, ‘Whisperin’ Bill’, was published.

Many contemporary stars of country music have recorded material written by Bill Anderson. These artists include Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss.

My favourite recordings of Bill Anderson’s are “Walk Out Backwards” (No.9, in 1960), “I Love You Drops” (No.4, in 1966) and “Wild Weekend” (No.2, in 1968). His largest hits were “Mama Sang A Song” (1962) and “Still” (1963). Each spent seven weeks at No.1 in its respective year.

Buck Owens

Alvis Edgar Owens Jr., in conjunction with his band The Buckaroos, from the late 1950s until the late 1960s took country music to a wider audience. This was, in part, due to the fact that they were based in California. Their sound was to make the town of Bakersfield famous.

A child of the Great Depression, poverty and smothering dust storms had forced his family out of sharecropping in Texas, and to head westwards. “Buck” sang in honky tonks, in Bakersfield, drawing upon a style of hillbilly that had once been at the root of country music.

Whereas the likes of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell had drawn inspiration for their creativity from their lives of indulgence, Buck Owens was a man of principle who set high standards of professionalism. His love of rock and roll also influenced his music and made it stand out from what was being emitted from Nashville.

Buck visited Billboard’s country music charts for thirty years from 1959, racking up twenty-one No.1 hits. Recordings that contain the same vitality as when they were released.

The death of his leading guitarist, Don Rich, as the result of a motorcycle accident, in 1974, so affected Buck that he gradually drifted into semi-retirement, just as the film, ‘Urban Cowboy’, was being popularly received and bringing country music to the fore, in 1980. In 1987 he met Dwight Yoakam, a devotee of Buck’s music, and the pair recorded Buck’s recording from 1972, “The Streets Of Bakersfield”. The duet gave Buck his first No.1 since his original recording of the song.

I was firstly introduced to the music of Buck Owens in the 1970s when what was then radio station, 2KY, in Sydney, decided to play country music for a couple of years. His only hits, in Australia, coincided with that. These were “Made In Japan”, which reached a peak of No.7, in 1972, and “(It’s A) Monster’s Holiday” (No.4, in 1974); on the pop charts here.

Buck wrote or had a hand in writing many of his recordings. “Crying Time”, which he also wrote, rose as high as No.6 on Billboard’s singles pop chart, in early 1966, for Ray Charles, and No.5 on its rhythm and blues chart.

Coming from abject poverty made Buck determined to create wealth from other means than selling records. Thereby, he became a diverse and astute businessman. Buck died in March of 2006, at the age of seventy-six.

The names of more recordings by Buck Owens can be found in the suggested playlists.

Loretta Lynn

Loretta Webb was born, in Kentucky, in April of 1934 (or 1935, for I have seen both years mentioned). Her father was a coal miner and she was the second of eight children of whom singer, Crystal Gayle, was another.

When Loretta was just thirteen she married Oliver Lynn, who encouraged her to pursue a career in country music. She was signed to Decca Records, where she received much encouragement from Patsy Kline. Her first single to chart came in 1960, in the form of “I’m A Honky Tonk Girl” and her most successful, “One’s On The Way”, in 1971.

While she remained massively successful on the American country charts, Loretta scarcely made an impression on the pop charts there. Some small consolation might have come from the fact that “One’s On The Way” entered the pop charts in Australia, which did not have country charts, and peaked, at No.9, two years after its American release.

Sissy Spacek was to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Loretta in the autobiographical film, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. Loretta’s life is certainly a tale that took her from rags to riches!

Loretta wrote a number of her hits, most notably “Fist City”, “Rated X”, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough”. My favourite recordings are “Trouble In Paradise”, from 1974, “Love Is The Foundation” (1973) and “As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone”, one of the five No.1 hits she recorded in duet with Conway Twitty, from 1974.

Loretta also recorded with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette, in addition to one of the earliest stars of country music, Ernest Tubb.

The names of more recordings by Loretta Lynn can be found in the suggested playlists. Whilst you are there why not peruse the list of my favourite recordings? I shall be adding to it from time to time.

Freddie Hart

Frederick Segrest was born in December of 1926, in Alabama. He was one of fifteen children born into a family of sharecroppers.

At the age of fifteen, he lied about his age in order to join the United States Marines. Frederick consequently saw active duty in Guam and Iwo Jima during the Second World War.

After the War, Frederick moved to California where he joined the band of Lefty Frizzell, a star of country music. Lefty was responsible for Freddie Hart, as Frederick was professionally known, obtaining a contract to record for Capitol Records, in 1953.

Although Freddie recorded from that year, it was not until he was signed to Columbia Records that he firstly entered the charts, with “The Wall”, in 1959. In 1969, Freddie re-signed with Capitol Records and became a part of the Bakersfield sound when he became affiliated with a company owned by Buck Owens.

In 1971, Freddie released the self-penned single, “Easy Loving”, which he had actually recorded two years earlier. It spent three weeks at No.1 and crossed over to the pop charts and peaked at No.17 in the United States, and No. 10 in Australia. It was followed by a succession of hits that also topped the country charts: “My Hang-Up Is You”, “Bless Your Heart”, “Got The All Overs For You (All Over Me)”, “Super Kind Of Woman” and “Trip To Heaven”.

Freddie’s last hit to enter the Top 10 was “When Lovers Turn To Strangers”, in 1977. He continued to release singles until 1987, and, in 2001, was inducted into the Alabama’s Music Hall Of Fame.

Martial arts was another of Freddie’s passions. He opened a chain of studios for those wishing to learn self-defence and was, himself, a master of karate.

The names of more tracks by Freddie Hart can be found in the selected playlists. Whilst there, why not peruse the list of my favourite recordings? I shall be adding to it from time to time.

David Houston

Gene Austin, an early recording star of the 1920s and ’30s, with many hits which included “Yes Sir! That’s My Baby”, “Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue”, My Blue Heaven”, “Tonight, You Belong To Me”, “Ramona” and “Bye Bye Blackbird”, was David Houston’s godfather. It was he who encouraged him to become a singer and pianist.

David, whose ancestors included Robert E. Lee and Sam Houston, was born in December of 1938, in Bossier City, Louisiana. At the age of twelve he appeared on the ‘Louisiana Hayride’, a hugely popular country radio programme, which was second only to the ‘Grand Ole Opry’.

Even so, David had to wait until 1963 to have his first hit, a cover of Harold Dorman’s “Mountain Of Love”, from 1960, which sounds almost entirely dissimilar to the original. Over the next decade and a half, David Houston enjoyed much success by recording a long series of entries to the country charts, seven of which went to number one. Some crossed over to the pop charts, the most noticeable fittingly being his biggest country hit, “Almost Persuaded”, in 1966.

David Houston also recorded duets with Tammy Wynette and Barbara Mandrell. Sadly, his life was cut short in November of 1993, when a cerebral aneurysm ruptured.

The names of more tracks by David Houston can be found in the suggested playlists.

Wanda Jackson

Every now and then I come upon an artist whom I believe deserved to achieve a greater degree of success than their recordings actually did. Wanda Jackson is one such artist.

Wanda was born an only child to a pair of battlers in Oklahoma, in October of 1937. In search of a better life the family moved to Los Angeles, in 1942, where Wanda learned to play the the guitar, as well as the piano. By 1949 the trio had returned to Oklahoma, where Wanda came to the attention of the legendary country vocalist, Hank Thompson.

By 1954 Wanda had been signed to a recording contract and in the following year, became a full-time performer. She toured the South with Elvis Presley, before he burst on to both the national and international stages. Elvis was one of the people who encouraged her to try her hand at recording rock and roll, nevertheless, the only real success she had was to be in Japan, where “Fujiyama Mama” became a major hit, in 1958.

“Let’s Have A Party” — originally recorded by Elvis as “Party” and sung in his film, ‘Loving You’, in 1957 — revived her career, in 1960, when she had all but despaired of her future. Nonetheless, Wanda was to return to her roots, as a country artist, with such self-penned hits as “In The Middle Of A Heartache” and “Right Or Wrong”, in 1961.

The names of other recordings by Wanda Jackson are listed in the suggested playlists.

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