News for the ‘Country’ Category

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #67–Jeannie C. Riley: “Harper Valley PTA” b/w “Yesterday All Day Long Today” – Plantation #3 (N7/P7)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #67–Jeannie C. Riley: “Harper Valley PTA” b/w “Yesterday All Day Long Today” – Plantation #3 (N7/P7)

Today’s jukebox classic goes out to all of those “Harper Valley hypocrites” who scorn mini-skirts, casual sex and social drinking.

Jeannie C. Riley’s recording of “Harper Valley P.T.A.” sold six million copies worldwide in 1968 and catapulted her to instant notoriety, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and the Country Music Association Single of the Year award. The Tom T. Hall-written ditty topped both the Country and Pop charts in 1968, a feat that would not be repeated by a song until Dolly Parton did the trick with “9 to 5″ in 1981.

Jeannie C. Riley had been a receptionist at Passkey Music on Music Row in Nashville before recording the song. She came to the attention of Plantation Records chief Shelby Singleton from a demo she recorded called “Old Town Drunk.” Singleton thought that Riley would be perfect for another demo he was sitting on called “Harper Valley P.T.A.” written by a then-unknown Tom T. Hall.

The song was literally recorded in 15 minutes right after Riley left work at Passkey and walked into the studio that just happened to be next door. After it was recorded, it was suggested that Riley change the song’s final line from “the day that momma broke up the Harper Valley P.T.A.” to “the day my momma socked it to, the Harper Valley P.T.A.” The line sealed the deal on the song, as well as Jeannie C. Riley’s fate as the notorious vixen of Harper Valley.

Before the song got to Riley, it was originally given to Skeeter Davis who passed on it. In the meantime Billie Jo Spears and Margie Singleton also recorded versions of the song, but Riley’s recording not only topped the charts, but gave her a TV variety show of her own to star in. Later, it was turned into a 1978 major motion picture and a 1981 TV series, both starring Barbara Eden.

While Riley went on to have hit records with “The Girl Most Likely,” “There Never Was A Time,” “The Rib,” “The Back Side of Dallas,” “Country Girl,” “Oh Singer” and “Good Enough to Be Your Wife,” she will always be remembered by today’s Song Of The Day.

The flip of today’s single is a Clark Bentley-penned tune that was featured on her 1970 album, Country Girl. Today’s video is not the actual 45 rpm version. This one has some great dobro work of Harold Morrison.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: August 19th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #60– Bobbie Gentry: “Ode To Billie Joe” b/w “Mississippi Delta” – Capitol 45-5950 (U6/V6)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #60– Bobbie Gentry: “Ode To Billie Joe” b/w “Mississippi Delta” – Capitol 45-5950 (U6/V6)

Over 45 years after its release, people still wonder what Billie Joe McAllister and his girlfriend threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge which led to Billie Joe’s suicide the following day in today’s jukebox classic, “Ode To Billie Joe.” The song is perhaps one of the greatest story songs of all time, and it unfolds over a family dinner conversation about Billie Joe’s suicide that might implicate one of the members sitting around the table.

It is one of the most asked questions Bobbie Gentry gets when people meet her, and over 45 years later, she’s still not telling. When the song was turned into a novel and then a screenplay for the 1976 movie by Herman Raucher, he met with Gentry who stated that she had no idea what was thrown off the bridge. In the book and film, Billie Joe kills himself after a homosexual experience and the object he’s seen throwing off the bridge is the narrator’s rag doll.

Gentry has gone on to say that the song was really about the indifference reflected during the casual dinner conversation relating the tale of a suicide by someone the family sitting around the table apparently knew well. Gentry: “The story of Billie Joe has two more interesting underlying themes. First, the illustration of a group of peoples’ reactions to the life and death of Billie Joe, and its subsequent effect on their lives, is made. Second, the obvious gap between the girl and her mother is shown when both women experience a common loss (first Billie Joe, and later, Papa), and yet Mama and the girl are unable to recognize their mutual loss or share their grief.” (Wikipedia)

Nevertheless, “Ode To Billie Joe” earned eight Grammy nominations, and won three for Gentry and one for arranger Jimmy Haskell in 1968.

Bobbie Gentry performed one of the greatest disappearing acts in all of music history. Unlike Elvis Presley and the still persistent Elvis sightings, Gentry really is alive and well and living in California…in glorious obscurity.

But back in 1967, you couldn’t turn a radio on without hearing her single “Ode To Billie Joe,” or tune into a variety show on TV without seeing her performing it. In her wake, Gentry left seven interesting albums of varying quality including Ode To Billie Joe, the album that established her, a duet album with Glen Campbell, and one bona-fide lost classic, The Delta Sweete, which is the criminally unknown concept album she released in 1968 about growing up in the deep South of the Mississippi Delta.

While “Ode” established Gentry with the American public, the song pretty much overshadowed the album it was culled from, as well as everything else that came after it. However, the album does hold the distinction for being the record that knocked The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper off the top of the charts after holding that position for 15 weeks in 1967.

The song was originally the B-side of a demo recording of “Mississippi Delta” that Gentry made as an audition record for Capitol. It was said to be a straight guitar and voice recording that lasted over seven minutes, encompassing eleven verses. Capitol Records realized how strong “Ode” was and had Gentry cut the song’s length in half and re-record it with strings. It was then released as the A-side with “Mississippi Delta” on the flip. The original long version of the song has never been released and it is questionable if it actually still exists at all. (songfacts.com)

Bob Dylan paid tribute to Gentry’s “Ode” with the song “Clothes Line Saga” which was recorded with The Band during the 1967 sessions for what became The Basement Tapes. The song carried the working title of “Answer To Ode” and in it Dylan parodies the conversational tone of Gentry’s song. (songfacts.com)

Gentry would go on to release six more albums before removing herself from the spotlight entirely after years of performing in Vegas and a failed TV career. She retired in 1978 at the age of 36, never to be professionally heard from again.

Both of today’s songs were culled from Gentry’s first studio album Ode To Billie Joe, and the flip of today’s single is the swampy confection “Mississippi Delta,” that kicked off the album with a very sinister horn part and infectious hook spelling Mississippi as “MI-double S-I-double S-I-double P-I.”

Today, Bobbie Gentry’s career is ripe for rediscovery. Come back Bobbie, the world is still waiting…

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: August 2nd, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #56– Waylon Jennings: “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” b/w “Right Before My Eyes” – RCA Victor 47-9561 (K6/L6)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #56– Waylon Jennings: “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” b/w “Right Before My Eyes” – RCA Victor 47-9561 (K6/L6)

He chartered and most famously gave up his seat to The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) on the plane that took the lives of The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens on “The Day the Music Died” in February of 1959. He was also one of the lead purveyors of the 1970s Outlaw Movement in country music, crossing country music into the world of rock ‘n’ roll. His album Wanted! The Outlaws, that he recorded with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter, went on to become the first platinum country album, and he recorded as one fourth of the country super group, The Highwaymen along with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.

Waylon Jennings’ over-thirty year list of hits includes such classics as “Stop The World (And Let Me Off), “(That’s What You Get) For Loving Me,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “The Taker,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Sweet Dream Woman,” “This Time,” “I’m a Ramblin’ Man,” “Rainy Day woman,” “We Had It All,” “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “Are You Ready For The Country,” “Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love),” “The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want To Get Over You),” “I’ve Always Been Crazy,” “Amanda,” “Come With Me,” “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” “Theme From The Dukes Of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys),” “Lucille,” “Will The Wolf Survive,” and dozens of others.

Today’s jukebox classic was written by “The Fastest Guitar in the Country,” Jimmy Bryant, who was a well-known session guitarist. (He also played the fiddle on The Monkees’ “Sweet Young Thing” from their debut album.) “Only Daddy” was released as a single in 1968 from Jennings’ Only The Greatest album which also included his #5 hit “Walk On Out Of My Mind” and Jennings’ cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman.” During the recording of the album, Jennings was at odds with producer Chet Atkins and the brass at RCA Victor Records over their penchant of using studio musicians instead of his touring band.

As a result, the record features members of Jennings’ band and a host of studio greats including Wayne Moss, Fred Carter, Pete Wade, Ray Edenton and Chip Young on guitars, Roy Huskey, Norman Putman and Bobby Dyson on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel, Buddy Harman, Jerry Carrigan and Richie Albright on drums, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, David Briggs and Larry Butler on piano, Charlie McCoy on trumpet and organ and Harold Ragsdale on vibes.

The track peaked at #2 on the Country charts for five weeks in September of 1968 and features Jennings’ plainspoken straightforward delivery atop a chugging honky-tonk guitar intro, and some down-home front porch harmonica playing. It has been covered by the likes of Linda Ronstadt (who changed the gender of the song) and toured with it as part of her repertoire for years, and The Kentucky Headhunters who brought the song back to the country charts (#60) in 1991.

The flip of the single, “Right Before My Eyes” was written by Don Bowman and Jackson King and was featured on Jennings’ previous album from 1968 called Hangin’ On. Bowman is also known as the recording artist who brought the song “Chit Atkins, Make Me A Star” to the country charts in 1964. In 2001, Jennings was inducted into The Country Music Hall Of Fame. He died from complications of diabetes in February of 2002.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over 14 years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: July 26th, 2015

4th Of July Playlist

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4th Of July Playlist

Here’s my own personal 4th Of July Playlist. I’m sure there are songs you feel deserving of such an endeavor. If so, add them and let me know…

 

  1. Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaI5IRuS2aE
  2. Ray Charles: America The Beautiful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRUjr8EVgBg
  3. The Beach Boys: Spirit Of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc0cvsSwvs0
  4. Grateful Dead: U.S. Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPBLfzTPCDc
  5. Chicago: Saturday In The Park https://youtu.be/PLiMy4NaSKc
  6. John Mellencamp: Pink Houses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOfkpu6749w
  7. Los Lobos: One Time One Night https://youtu.be/cjq4y9EFLMA
  8. X: 4th Of July https://youtu.be/lhu807VUY24
  9. Aimee Mann: 4th Of July https://youtu.be/vOYI85anqmQ
  10. Bruce Springsteen: 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) https://youtu.be/KgFHM8HMbWQ
  11. Hair Original Cast: Don’t Put It Down https://youtu.be/_w2gyWE0M0k
  12. West Side Story Original Soundtrack: America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy6wo2wpT2k
  13. David Bowie: Young Americans http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFudBQcplj4
  14. The Clash: I’m So Bored With The U.S.A. https://youtu.be/A13vj5vdlCU
  15. Devo: Freedom Of Choice http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVGINIsLnqU
  16. Neil Diamond: America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3S7mlRYL-8
  17. Paul Simon: American Tune http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE3kKUEY5WU
  18. Johnny Cash: Ragged Old Flag http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbbGi3mTjCo
  19. Jimi Hendrix: The Star Spangled Banner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_3uHYd7pV0

 

Edited: July 4th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #47 – Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band: “Garden Party” b/w “So Long Mama” – Decca 45 32980 (N5/P5)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #47 – Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band: “Garden Party” b/w “So Long Mama” – Decca 45 32980 (N5/P5)

There are only a few artists that have more than one record in my jukebox, and today’s song is the second record by Rick Nelson. Previously, The Jukebox Series #30 focused on a double slab of rockabilly by way of Ricky Nelson’s “Stood Up”/”Waitin’ In School” single from the late 1950s when he was at the pinnacle of his popularity recording for Imperial Records. Today’s jukebox classic looks at “Garden Party,” Nelson’s last big hit single from the early 1970s.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson scored 30 Top-40 hits including “A Teenager’s Romance (#2 Pop), “I’m Walkin’” (#4 Pop), “Be Bop Baby” (#3 Pop ), “Stood Up” ( #2 Pop/#8 Country), “Poor Little Fool” (#1 Pop/#3 Country), “Lonesome Town” (#7 Pop), “It’s Late” (#9 Pop), “Never Be Anyone Else But You” (#6 Pop), “Just A Little Too Much” (#9 Pop), “Sweeter Than You” (#9 Pop), “Travelin’ Man” (#1 Pop), “Hello Mary Lou” (#9 Pop), “Young World” (#5 Pop), “Teen Age Idol” (#5 Pop) and “For You” (#6 Pop).

In 1963, Nelson signed a long-term deal with Decca Records. Although his Decca era produced some solidly great albums and singles, his standing on the charts was dismal. As the 1960s came to a close, you pretty much could not give a Rick Nelson record away and things got so bad that Nelson began performing shows on the oldies circuit at county fairs.

By 1972, Nelson had released 15 albums for Decca Records, each one with increasingly diminished sales. Without the radio and TV exposure that Nelson had benefitted from in the past, he was deeply entrenched in a commercial slump that it seemed at the time he would never recover from.

Nelson had formed a sturdy country rock outfit to back him called The Stone Canyon Band that included Nelson on guitar and vocals, Allen Kemp on guitar, Tom Brumley on steel guitar, Stephen A. Love on bass and Patrick Shanahan on drums. The band focused on playing original country rock material that was very much in step with the times, but played against the sensibility of his older fan base who wanted to see their hero only play his hits of the past. His sets usually consisted of mostly originals with a few oldies thrown in for good measure. Even so, oldies like “Hello Mary Lou” were totally reworked as country songs.

In October of 1971, Nelson performed on a rock and roll oldies bill with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Nelson appeared on stage wearing bell-bottomed pants and a purple velvet shirt with hair down to his shoulders. The band launched into a set that featured mostly new material which was roundly met with boos from the audience. Disgusted by the response his new material received by the audience, Nelson went home, licked his wounds and wrote today’s jukebox classic “Garden Party.”

The song’s lyrics summed up the entire experience thusly: “But it’s all right now, I’ve learned my lesson well. You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

There were many veiled references throughout the song about the people who attended the concert, the songs Nelson performed on stage, and the other artists on the bill. One lyric speaks about Yoko bringing her walrus (which was John Lennon) and another, “Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes, wearing his disguise” referred to another Beatle. The Mr. Hughes in the song was not Howard Hughes, but Nelson’s good friend George Harrison who was also his next door neighbor. Harrison used the “Hughes” alias when he traveled. The Dylan’s shoes line is a reference to an album of Dylan covers Harrison was planning to record which never materialized.

The line “I said hello to Mary Lou, she belongs to me” is a reference to two songs that Nelson preformed that night, his own hit “Hello Mary Lou” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me,” and the line “I sang a song about a Honky-Tonk” refers to Nelson’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Country Honk” he also performed. The last line of the song, “But if memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck,” is a reference to Elvis Presley and the job he had before he became a star.

When released as a single, “Garden Party” became Nelson’s first top ten hit since “For You” in 1963, climbing to #6 on the Billboard Singles charts and topping the Adult Contemporary list. The song has been covered by Johnny Lee, John Fogerty and Phish.

The flip of today’s single is a somewhat nondescript country romp written by Nelson from the Garden Party album that features some great picking in the intro. Nelson died in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve in 1985. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: June 30th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

I previously posted a brief piece on Marty Robbins’ recording of “El Paso” in conjunction with the last episode of Breaking Bad. It was great to see the song gain all kinds of new popularity on the heels of its use in the show. Today’s double A-sided Jukebox classic duplicates some of what I posted before, plus adds information about the equally big song on the flip of this single, “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation).”

Marty Robbins was a singer/songwriter who had dabbled in Rockabilly, Pop and Country recordings. Back in 1959, America was having a love affair with the Wild West with shows like Gunsmoke and The Riflemen lighting up millions of TV screens. It was against this backdrop that Robbins released the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs featuring today’s self-penned jukebox classic “El Paso.” It was by far one of the most compelling story songs of its time, buoyed by the great guitar work of Grady Martin with background vocals by The Glaser Brothers.

The record was easily twice as long as any other record to hit the radio airwaves, yet it managed to top both the Pop and Country charts. Later on, it was widely covered by rock groups like X, Meat Puppets and the Grateful Dead, who made it a staple of their concert sets from the early 1970s on.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single is “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation),” another Marty Robbins smash that reached number one on the country charts, yet only number two on the pop charts in 1958. The song was written by Robbins after seeing a group of high school students all dressed up for their prom dates. The track was produced by Ray Conniff, the purveyor of dozens of easy listening vocal albums from the ‘50s and ‘60s, who was charged with making sure the record would cross over to the pop charts. (Mission accomplished!) In 1973, Jimmy Buffett paid homage to Robbins and this song by titling one of his albums A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Crustacean).

Robbins, a race car enthusiast, went on to place 47 records in the Top Ten of the Country charts and to record several more Gunfighter Ballad albums before his death in 1982 at the age of 57.

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over fourteen years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Edited: April 5th, 2015

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Golden Gate Gospel Train” by The Golden Gate Quartet

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “Golden Gate Gospel Train” by The Golden Gate Quartet

Today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman shines a spotlight on what I like to call holy rollin’ prehistoric Doo Wop, which is better known as Gospel Jubilee.

The Golden Gate Quartet started out as a Barbershop Quartet in Virginia back in the early 1930s comprised of two friends from the Booker Washington High School glee club, the barber and a one-legged bass singer. By the time the group began to perform for audiences during the late 1930s, the quartet featured Orlandus Wilson, Willie Johnson, Henry Owens and Clyde Riddick who soon migrated to North Carolina where their brand of Jubilee Gospel was featured all over the radio airwaves.

By 1937, they came to the attention of the Victor Record company who began recording their sides (including this 1937 track) for the Bluebird label. The Golden Gate Jubilee sound was a heady brew melding barbershop harmonies, jazz and scat singing and country hillbilly music with a healthy helping of old time religion. Their sound was a great influence on groups like The Ink Spots and many of the Doo Wop groups of the 1950s. The quartet performed for close to 70 years with Riddick staying in the group until he retired in 1995 and Wilson’s death in 1998, and the group still exists in some form today. Incredible, their most recent album was released in 2010.

Listen closely and you can also here a sample of this very song in Paul Simon’s “Love and Blessings,” from his latest studio album So Beautiful or So What.

Edited: November 16th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

Still a mystery to me why these recordings have never been officially released…and now that The Complete Basement Tapes have finally seen the light of day, maybe their time has come…

The Dylan-Cash Sessions took place in Nashville’s Columbia Studio A on February 17-18, 1969 at the tail end of the Nashville Skyline recording sessions. During the same week that Dylan turned in such indelible recordings as “I Threw It All Away,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” Johnny Cash, who had been recording in an adjoining studio, turned up for some recording fun.

What transpired were several days of session in which the two traded songs and laid some duets down on tape with an eye toward making a record together. In the studio with Dylan and Cash were the cream of the Nashville session elite including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel, Marshall Grant on bass, W.S. Holland on drums, Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson on the crucial organ and piano work and Bob Wootton on electric guitar.

The fifteen selections that have been widely circulated include jovial run-throughs of Cash standards like “Big River,” “I Walk The Line,” “Ring Of Fire,” “Guess Things Happen That Way” and “I Still Miss Someone,” plus Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman, “One Too Many Mornings,” plus versions the rock and roll classics “Matchbox,” “That’s All Right Mama” and “Mystery Train.”

Not enough music came out of the loose sessions deemed worthy of release at the time except “Girl from the North Country,” which opened Nashville Skyline. So the rest sat on the shelves at Columbia and in the hands of lucky collectors.

It totally knocks me out that footage exists of these sessions at all, but here is a YouTube clip of the two in the studio. Cash handles the lion share of the lead vocals here and on most of the recordings, and Dylan seem somewhat out of his element with his vocals. That said, you can hear the mutual respect the two artists have for each other in every note of the joyful music they made.

Nashville Skyline went on to be a big success, giving Dylan his biggest hit to date with “Lay Lady Lay.”

Edited: November 13th, 2014

Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Mercy Seat” by Johnny Cash

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Song of the Day by Eric Berman – “The Mercy Seat” by Johnny Cash

By the year 2000 and the third album in the American series, Johnny Cash had reestablished himself as one of the greatest singers, not just in country music, but in all music. Producer, Rick Rubin, began working with him several years before and allowed Johnny Cash do what he did best in the studio…be JOHNNY CASH!

Cash began working with Rick Rubin in 1994. Rubin was the founder of Def Jam Records, and was responsible for producing seminal recordings by Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys. It must have taken quite a leap of faith for Johnny Cash to, not only work with Rick Rubin who was much younger than him, but to put his career in his hands.

When they first began working together, Cash’s career was pretty much over. He had recorded several ho-hum records for the Mercury label during the mid-to-late 1980s that were nothing special, and even resorted to re-recording some of his older hits for the label. I caught Cash in concert in a small New York City bar back in 1986 when he was touring behind the album Water from the Wells of Home. His career was so far off the mark, that the place was not even half full, although I must say that he was terrific. The performance was marred by his proclivity to allow his son and wife to take precious concert time away from the main attraction, in order for them to perform their own material.

Rubin’s whole modus operandi with Cash was to make bare guitar and voice recordings that would highlight what a great interpreter of material he was. In doing so, Rubin sent Cash tapes of songs he liked, exposing him to material he had never heard by the likes of Tom Petty, Beck, Soundgarden, U2 and Nick Cave, who wrote today’s Song of the Day by Eric Berman.

For American III: Solitary Man, Rubin assembled an all-star list of backing musicians including Norman Blake, Mike Campbell, Randy Scruggs and Marty Stuart on guitar, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard and Shreyl Crow on backing vocals and Bentmont Tench on organ. “The Mercy Seat” is probably Cash’s most harrowing recording, even more so than Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ original from their 1988 album Tender Prey.

Of the five American Recordings albums, not to mention the five CD Cash Unearthed box set with more Rubin/Cash collaborations, the American III: Solitary Man album is one of the most enjoyable on every level mainly because of its superb choice of cover songs by Tom Petty (“I Won’t Back Down”), Neil Diamond (“Solitary Man”) and U2 (“One”). Together, Cash and Rubin formulated a record that kept Johnny Cash not only relevant with the hip cognoscenti, but also true to himself as a recording artist.

And as for what Nick Cave thought about Cash’s cover, his pride oozes out of every word in the following quote… “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, Johnny Cash recorded my song.”

Edited: October 15th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sebbin Come Elebbin” by Jimmy Heap

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Sebbin Come Elebbin” by Jimmy Heap

I recently spent some time with the first volume of A Capitol Rockabilly Party. The three-part compilation spans over 90 tracks and was released in the late 1990s by a CD reissue company in the Netherlands called Disky. Disky’s forte was extensively reissuing lots of great rare sides from the storied vaults of Capitol Records, and one of Capitol’s fortes was the wealth of superb rockabilly sides they recorded throughout the 1950s.

One of the tracks that stood out is today’s Song Of The Day by Eric Berman, “Sebbin Come Elebbin” by Jimmy Heap.

Heap was probably best known for writing two standards: Hank Thompson’s classic honky-tonk hit “The Wild Side Of Life,” which climbed to the top of the charts in 1952, and “Release Me,” which was a huge hit for both Engelbert Humperdinck (1967) and Esther Phillips (1962).

But Heap had a prolific career for over three decades making records with his group The Melody Masters. Although Heap was generally better known for his smooth delivery a la “Release Me,” and his many Western Swing and Honky Tonk recordings, he occasionally liked to cross over to the “dark side” with some unhinged, greasy rockabilly, like this one from 1955.

Edited: September 4th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Half A Man” by Willie Nelson

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Half A Man” by Willie Nelson

Right from the outset everything was in place…timbre of voice…unique phrasing…clever lyrics…it was all there back in 1965…everything perhaps, except his beard was fully formed. The arrangement was standard for Nashville at the time with heaping helpings of strings and anonymous female background vocals. Nevertheless, it still works for me.

Edited: July 27th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “He’s My Baby” by Jean Shepard

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “He’s My Baby” by Jean Shepard

There was an interesting time during the late 1950s where straight Country and Western music melded with then-burgeoning Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, giving birth to a new form of music called Rockabilly. Capitol records was a hotbed for Rockabilly recording crossover artists like Ferlin Husky, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Hank Thompson, Jerry Reed, Gene Vincent and Skeets McDonald.

Jean Shepard was a member of The Grand Ole Opry who scored her first #1 hit back in 1953 as a duet with Ferlin Husky called “A Dear John Letter” and followed it with the top 10 hit “A Satisfied Mind” a few years later. She went on to become a star of recorded music and TV variety shows during the 1950s and recorded this early Rockabilly gem in 1958.

She married Hawkshaw Hawkins in 1960 who would perish in the same plane crash that took Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas and went on to have country chart hits throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2011.

Edited: June 22nd, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #93 – Jim Stafford: “Wildwood Weed” b/w “The Last Chant”– MGM M-14737

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #93 – Jim Stafford: “Wildwood Weed” b/w “The Last Chant”– MGM M-14737

Welcome back my friends, to the series that never ends…

Jim Stafford is an accomplished singer, songwriter, hit maker, comedian and all around good-time, good ol’ boy Branson, Missouri entertainer. He got his start playing in a high school band down in Winter Haven, Florida called The Legends that also included future country star Bobby Braddock, Kent LaVoie (who is better known as Lobo) and the late great, Gram Parsons.

However, it was his keen sense of humor that brought him to the world’s attention via songs like “My Girl Bill,” his biggest hit “Spiders And Snakes,” “I Ain’t Sharin’ Sharon,” “16 Little Red Noses And A Horse that Sweats,” “Swamp Witch” and today’s jukebox classic, “Wildwood Weed.” He also wrote songs for the soundtrack to Disney’s The Fox And The Hound and Clint Eastwood’s Any Which Way You Can (in which he also appeared).

Throughout his career he dabbled in TV, comedy and writing, including a stint on his own comedy variety show, The Jim Stafford Show that ran for six weeks during the summer of 1975. It was during the show that Stafford met Bobbie Gentry whom he later married and had a child with. (Several years later they were divorced.)

Today’s smokin’ jukebox classic was written by Don Bowman and Jim Stafford, and was released as a single from his self-titled 1974 debut album, climbing to #7 on the pop charts. The album was a huge success due to the inclusion of four top 40 singles (“Wildwood Weed,” “My Girl Bill,” “Swamp Witch” and “Spiders And Snakes”). The flip is a Stafford-penned rocker called “The Last Chant” that is the polar opposite of the A-side, completely dropping all the good ol’ boy charm in favor of a lowdown and heavy swamp rock vibe.

During the 1980s, Stafford returned to TV as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Revival Show and he opened The Jim Stafford Theater in Branson, Missouri with his second wife Ann in 1990. Stafford was a big draw in Branson playing over 350 shows a year for 23 successful years until this past December when he closed the theater. Stafford, now retired, currently lives in Florida.

“Take a trip and never leave the farm…indeed!”

“The Jukebox Series” focused on the 80 records that currently inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within. Over the years, records have come and gone out of the ranks of the juke, but they were all at one time juke-worthy. I’ve decided to expand “The Jukebox Series” to include many of the “juke-worthy” records that are no longer currently in the mix, but at one time inhabited a coveted slot.

Edited: March 26th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #67–Jeannie C. Riley: “Harper Valley PTA” b/w “Yesterday All Day Long Today” – Plantation #3 (N7/P7)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #67–Jeannie C. Riley: “Harper Valley PTA” b/w “Yesterday All Day Long Today” – Plantation #3 (N7/P7)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

Today’s jukebox classic goes out to all of those “Harper Valley hypocrites” who scorn mini-skirts, casual sex and social drinking.

Jeannie C. Riley’s recording of “Harper Valley P.T.A.” sold six million copies worldwide in 1968 and catapulted her to instant notoriety, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and the Country Music Association Single of the Year award.  The Tom T. Hall-written ditty topped both the Country and Pop charts in 1968, a feat that would not be repeated by a song until Dolly Parton did the trick with “9 To 5″ in 1981.

Jeannie C. Riley had been a receptionist at Passkey Music on Music Row in Nashville before recording the song. She came to the attention of Plantation Records chief Shelby Singleton from a demo she recorded called “Old Town Drunk.”  Singleton thought that Riley would be perfect for another demo he was sitting on called “Harper Valley P.T.A.” written by a then-unknown Tom T. Hall.

The song was literally recorded in 15 minutes right after Riley left work at Passkey and walked into the studio that just happened to be next door. After it was recorded, it was suggested that Riley change the song’s final line from “the day that momma broke up the Harper Valley P.T.A.” to “the day my momma socked it to, the Harper Valley P.T.A.” The line sealed the deal on the song, as well as Jeannie C. Riley’s fate as the notorious vixen of Harper Valley.

Before the song got to Riley, it was originally given to Skeeter Davis who passed on it. In the meantime Billie Jo Spears and Margie Singleton also recorded versions of the song, but Riley’s recording not only topped the charts, but gave her a TV variety show of her own to star in. Later, it was turned into a 1978 major motion picture and a 1981 TV series, both starring Barbara Eden.

While Riley went on to have hit records with “The Girl Most Likely,” “There Never Was A Time,” “The Rib,” “The Back Side of Dallas,” “Country Girl,” “Oh Singer” and “Good Enough to Be Your Wife,” she will always be remembered by today’s Song Of The Day.

The flip of today’s single is a Clark Bentley-penned tune that was featured on her 1970 album, Country Girl.

Edited: January 28th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #56– Waylon Jennings: “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” b/w “Right Before My Eyes” – RCA Victor 47-9561 (K6/L6)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #56– Waylon Jennings: “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line” b/w “Right Before My Eyes” – RCA Victor 47-9561 (K6/L6)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

He chartered and most famously gave up his seat to The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) on the plane that took the lives of The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens on “The Day The Music Died” in February of 1959. He was also one of the lead purveyors of the 1970s Outlaw Movement in country music, crossing country music into the world of rock ‘n’ roll. His album Wanted! The Outlaws, that he recorded with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter, went on to become the first platinum country album, and he recorded as one fourth of the country super group, The Highwaymen along with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.

Waylon Jennings’ over-thirty year list of hits includes such classics as “Stop The World (And Let Me Off), “(That’s What You Get) For Loving Me,” “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” “The Taker,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Sweet Dream Woman,” “This Time,” “I’m a Ramblin’ Man,” “Rainy Day woman,” “We Had It All,” “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “Are You Ready For The Country,” “Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love),” “The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want To Get Over You),” “I’ve Always Been Crazy,” “Amanda,” “Come With Me,” “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” “Theme From The Dukes Of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys),” “Lucille,” “Will The Wolf Survive,” and dozens of others.

Today’s jukebox classic was written by “The Fastest Guitar In The Country,” Jimmy Bryant, who was a well-known session guitarist. (He also played the fiddle on The Monkees’ “Sweet Young Thing” from their debut album.) The song was released as a single in 1968 from Jennings’ Only The Greatest album which also included his #5 hit “Walk On Out Of My Mind” and Jennings’ cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman.” During the recording of the album, Jennings was at odds with producer Chet Atkins and the brass at RCA Victor Records over their penchant of using studio musicians instead of his touring band.

As a result, the record features members of Jennings’ band and a host of studio greats including Wayne Moss, Fred Carter, Pete Wade, Ray Edenton and Chip Young on guitars, Roy Huskey, Norman Putman and Bobby Dyson on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel, Buddy Harman, Jerry Carrigan and Richie Albright on drums, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, David Briggs and Larry Butler on piano, Charlie McCoy on trumpet and organ and Harold Ragsdale on vibes.

The track peaked at #2 on the Country charts for five weeks in September of 1968 and features Jennings’ plainspoken straightforward delivery atop a chugging honky-tonk guitar intro, and some down-home front porch harmonica playing. It has been covered by the likes of Linda Ronstadt (who changed the gender of the song) and toured with it as part of her repertoire for years, and The Kentucky Headhunters who brought the song back to the country charts (#60) in 1991.

The flip of the single, “Right Before My Eyes” was written by Don Bowman and Jackson King and was featured on Jennings’ previous album from 1968 called Hangin’ On. Bowman is also known as the recording artist who brought the song “Chit Atkins, Make Me A Star” to the country charts in 1964. In 2001, Jennings was inducted into The Country Music Hall Of Fame, He died from complications of diabetes in February of 2002.

Edited: January 12th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #14 – Marty Robbins: “El Paso” b/w “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)” – Columbia 45 RPM Single 4-33013 (G2/H2)

“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.

It wasn’t too long ago that I posted a brief piece on Marty Robbins’ recording of “El Paso” in conjunction with the last episode of Breaking Bad. It was great to see the song gain all kinds of new popularity on the heels of its use in the show. Today’s double A-sided Jukebox classic duplicates some of what I posted before, plus adds information about the equally big song on the flip of this single, “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation).”

Marty Robbins was a singer/songwriter who had dabbled in Rockabilly, Pop and Country recordings. Back in 1959, America was having a love affair with the Wild West with shows like Gunsmoke and The Riflemen lighting up millions of TV screens. It was against this backdrop that Robbins released the album Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs featuring today’s self-penned jukebox classic “El Paso.” It was by far one of the most compelling story songs of its time, buoyed by the great guitar work of Grady Martin with background vocals by The Glaser Brothers.

The record was easily twice as long as any other record to hit the radio airwaves, yet it managed to top both the Pop and Country charts. Later on, it was widely covered by rock groups like X, Meat Puppets and the Grateful Dead, who made it a staple of their concert sets from the early 1970s on.

The flip of today’s double A-sided single is “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation),” another Marty Robbins smash that reached number one on the country charts, yet only number two on the pop charts in 1958. The song was written by Robbins after seeing a group of high school students all dressed up for their prom dates. The track was produced by Ray Conniff , the purveyor of dozens of easy listening vocal albums from the ‘50s and ‘60s, who was charged with making sure the record would cross over to the pop charts. (Mission accomplished!) In 1973, Jimmy Buffett paid homage to Robbins and this song by titling one of his albums A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Crustacean).

Robbins, a race car enthusiast, went on to place 47 records in the Top Ten of the Country charts and to record several more Gunfighter Ballad albums before his death in 1982 at the age of 57.

Edited: October 24th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/27/13 – “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman - “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley

Today’s Song Of The Day goes out to all of those “Harper Valley hypocrites” who scorn mini-skirts, casual sex and casual drinking.

Jeannie C. Riley’s recording of “Harper Valley P.T.A.” sold six million copies worldwide in 1968 and catapulted her to instant notoriety, earning her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and the Country Music Association Single of the Year award.  The Tom T. Hall-written ditty topped both the Country and Pop charts in 1968, a feat that would not be repeated by a song until Dolly Parton did the trick with “9 To 5″ in 1981.

Jeannie C. Riley had been a receptionist at Passkey Music on Music Row in Nashville before recording the song. She came to the attention of Plantation Records chief Shelby Singleton from a demo she recorded called “Old Town Drunk.”  Singleton thought that Riley would be perfect for another demo he was sitting on called “Harper Valley P.T.A.” written by a then-unknown Tom Hall.

The song was literally recorded in 15 minutes right after Riley left work at Passkey and walked into the studio that just happened to be next door. After it was recorded, it was suggested that Riley change the song’s final line from “the day that momma broke up the Harper Valley P.T.A.” to “the day my momma socked it to, the Harper Valley P.T.A.” The line sealed the deal on the song, as well as Jeannie C. Riley’s fate as the notorious vixen of Harper Valley.

Before the song got to Riley, it was originally given to Skeeter Davis who passed on it. In the meantime Billie Jo Spears and Margie Singleton also recorded versions of the song, but Riley’s recording not only topped the charts, but gave her a TV variety show of her own to star in. Later, it was turned into a 1978 major motion picture and a 1981 TV series, both starring Barbara Eden.

While Riley went on to have hit records with “The Girl Most Likely,” “There Never Was A Time,” “The Rib,” “The Back Side of Dallas,” “Country Girl,” “Oh Singer” and “Good Enough to Be Your Wife,” she will always be remembered by today’s Song Of The Day.

Edited: September 26th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/5/13 – “He’ll Have To Go” by Jim Reeves

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They called him “Gentleman Jim,” but it wasn’t always that way.

When Jim Reeves began his singing career, he was a reedy-voiced country bumpkin who specialized in novelty songs like “Bimbo” and “Mexican Joe.” A shift came in 1957 during the recording sessions for the song “Four Walls.” Reeves decided he wanted to set the session up differently, leaving pedal steels and fiddles by the wayside in favor of a more uptown sound featuring smooth background vocals by The Jordanaires, tasteful slip-note piano fills courtesy of Floyd Cramer and spare guitar strumming courtesy of Chet Atkins.

But the real change came in Reeves’ approach to his singing. With his mouth up close to the microphone, he sang in a smooth, intimate whisper-deep croon more akin to Perry Como than Hank Williams. The result was a single that topped the charts and sold 750,000 copies. Along with his change in performing style, Reeves left the Nudie styled suits on the hanger, and adopted a new cosmopolitan look complete with business suit and tie.

Today’s Song Of The Day took Reeves’ new approach to even greater heights. “He’ll Have To Go” was written by Joe and Audrey Allison and was first recorded by singer Billy Brown. When Brown’s version failed to make waves, Reeves recorded it using a small studio group featuring Floyd Cramer on piano, Marvin Hughes on the vibraphone, Bob Moore on bass, Buddy Harman on drums, Hank Garland on guitar and the Anita Kerr Singers on the background vocals.

Reeves had his intimate way with the song’s intimate lyrics: “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone/Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone/I’ll tell the man to turn the juke box way down low/And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go,” genuflecting his voice way down low to match the lyrics.

The song was originally released as the B-side of a single with “In a Mansion Stands My Love” on the A-side, however DJs flipped it over resulting in a country hit that stayed at the top of the charts for 14 consecutive weeks! (The song also climbed to the #2 slot on the pop charts and #13 on the R&B charts.) Over the years, it has been covered by the likes of Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Ry Cooder, Elton John, Mark Knopfler and Bryan Ferry, to name but a few.

Unfortunately, Reeves reign on the charts was short-lived; he died, along with his manager and pianist, in a plane that he was piloting in Brentwood, TN on July 31, 1964 at the young age of 40 years old. Reeves widow continued to work with RCA Records to supply a steady stream of recordings through the pipeline and onto a public who couldn’t get enough. Many of the records had re-recorded backing tracks including a few posthumous duets with Patsy Cline, resulting in more than fifteen top-ten hits well into the 1980s and long after his death.

Edited: September 4th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/4/13 – “Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man” by Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man” by Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn

They were two of the biggest stars in all of country music during the 1970s, and together they made electrifying one-of-a-kind duets that spoke of the highs and lows of couples in and out of love. Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn sent countless duets to the top of the country charts including “After The Fire Is Gone,” “Lead Me On,” “As Soon As I Hang Up the Phone,” “Feelin’s,” “The Letter,” “I Can’t Love You Enough” and “Makin’ Believe.”

Today’s Song Of The Day is perhaps the duet they’re best known for and it topped the charts in 1973. The song was written by Becki Bluefield and Jim Owen, and it served as the title track from their 1973 chart-topping album of the same name.

Conway Twitty was born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, but took his stage name from two locations on a road map; Conway, AK and Twitty, TX. His earliest success was on the pop charts with his 1958 #1 single “It’s Only Make Believe,” which gave Elvis Presley a run for his money. He continued making pop records until 1965, when he found his calling in country music. He went on to score 55 number one singles on the Billboard Country Charts, a record that was broken by George Strait in 2006.

Some of his most indelible hits include “Hello Darlin’,” “I Love You More Today,” “How Much More Can She Stand,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “She Needs Someone to Hold Her (When She Cries),” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” “I’m Not Through Loving You Yet,” “Linda on My Mind,” “Touch The Hand,” “I Don’t Know a Thing About Love (The Moon Song),” “I’d Just Love to Lay You Down,” “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” and “The Rose” to name but a few.

Loretta Lynn is the coal miner’s daughter from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky who has also scored countless country hits including the classics “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Fist City,” and her signature song “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

She released a string of singles dealing with women’s issues during the 1970s that met with resistance from country radio, including “The Pill” (birth control), “One’s On The Way” (women who repeatedly have children), “Rated X” (the double standards for men and women) and “Dear Uncle Sam” (women left behind by the Vietnam War). The songs established her as the poster child for the women’s movement, particularly within the conservative confines of country music.

Her autobiography was made into an Academy Award-winning film, Coal Miner’s Daughter, in 1980 starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. Lynn’s most recent album is the Jack White produced Van Lear Rose from 2004. Conway Twitty died in 1993 while on tour from an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Edited: September 3rd, 2013

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – 9/3/13 – “Foolin’ Around” by Patsy Cline

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Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “Foolin’ Around” by Patsy Cline

I wrote about this song no more than a month ago when Bakersfield, the Buck Owens tribute album by Vince Gill and Paul Franklin came out. However while barbecuing earlier this evening; I revisited the wonderful recordings of Patsy Cline. When her version of this Buck Owens classic came on, I knew I wanted to share Cline’s soulful version as well.

I can name only two, maybe three singers ever that could do Patsy Cline as well as Patsy Cline. I suppose this is a testament to how rare it is that a voice so pure and emotive comes along. Certainly k.d. lang instantly comes to mind, but to me, so do Linda Ronstadt and Karen Carpenter when it comes to the emotional depth and pure vocal tone it takes to even come close to Cline.

Buck Owens co-wrote today’s Song Of The Day with Harlan Howard and scored a #2 hit with it in 1961. Patsy Cline covered the Bakersfield classic while recuperating from her near-fatal car accident in 1961 and released it on her Patsy Cline Showcase album, and also on the four song Crazy ep in 1962.

For those interested, Cline’s studio band included Harold Bradley on 6-string electric bass, producer Owen Bradley on organ, Floyd Cramer on piano, Buddy Harman on drums, Walter Haynes on steel guitar, Randy Hughes on acoustic guitar, The Jordanaires on background vocals, Grady Martin on electric guitar, Bob Moore on acoustic bass and Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano. This is the same aggregation of musicians who played on hundreds of country hits during the early 1960s.

Edited: September 2nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/8/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Foolin’ Around” by Vince Gill & Paul Franklin

Paying homage to those who have come before you is nothing new in Country music. Merle Haggard paid tribute to Jimmie Rodgers on his classic 1969 album Same Train Different Time, and also recorded tribute albums to Bob Wills and Elvis Presley.  Buck Owens also did it on albums that saluted the influence that Tommy Collins and Harlan Howard had on him.

It’s a tradition that has continued throughout the years with one notable entry being Dwight Yoakam’s 2008 Buck Owens tribute album Dwight Sings Buck. Dwight and Buck were also very good friends who toured together in 1988 (I was lucky enough to see that tour).

This past week, country music star Vince Gill and ace steel guitarist Paul Franklin released a new album called Bakersfield which pays homage to both Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, and the Bakersfield California country sound they created. The Bakersfield sound was a guitar-driven Honky Tonk style popularized by artists like Owens, Haggard, Wynn Stewart, Jean Shepard and Freddie Hart, that came as a reaction to the string laden country hits that were pouring forth from Nashville during the 1960s.

Gill’s storied career has seen him sell more than 26 million albums, and win 20 Grammy and 18 CMA awards. Franklin is one of the most recorded pedal steel guitar session players in Nashville, whose pedal steel and dobro has been heard on over 500 records including sessions for Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, George Strait, and even Barbra Streisand and Megadeth. The two artists have also performed together before in their recurring Western Swing side project, The Time Jumpers.

Rather than record carbon copies of the originals on Bakersfield, Gill and Franklin have lengthened the solos to emphasize the interplay between Gill’s Fender Telecaster and Franklin’s pedal steel.

Today’s Song Of The Day was a #2 hit for Buck Owens in 1961. It is one of five Owens songs on the album that also includes “Together Again,” a 1964 chart-topping B-Side that features one of the greatest pedal steel solos of all time (that inspired Jerry Garcia to pick up the instrument),  “Nobody’s Fool But Yours,” a #11 hit from 1962, “But I Do,” which was originally from the 1963 tribute album Buck Owens Sings Tommy Collins, and “He Don’t Deserve You Anymore,” a 1966 track that was never released as a single from the album Roll Out The Red Carpet.

The Haggard tracks include “The Fightin’ Side Of Me,” one of Hag’s most popular singles that originally topped the charts in 1970, “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down,” a #3 hit from 1966 that was covered by Elvis Costello in 1980, “Branded Man,” another chart topping single originally from 1967, “I Can’t Be Myself” which climbed all the way to #3 in 1970 and “Holding Things Together,” which was originally a 1974 LP track from the album Merle Haggard Presents His 30th Album.

Together, Gill and Franklin have fashioned an album that cuts through the jingoistic ‘70s rock crap that passes for Country music today, with something that is far more rewarding and down to earth.

 

Edited: August 7th, 2013

Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – 5/26/13

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Song Of the Day by Eric Berman – “Stop The World And Let Me Off” by John Doe And The Sadies

I got an email a few weeks ago from Yep Roc Records alerting me to a $5.00 CD sale they were having for a limited time. Well, since I may be one of the last few hold outs in music for physical product over downloads, I couldn’t pass up a look see to find out what they had to offer. Well, several of the featured titles were interesting to me, and at that price I figured how could I go wrong, so I took the plunge and ordered myself a handful of semi-new music.

The $5.00 treats that I chose included a Chris Stamey album featuring Yo La Tengo as guests from 2004 called A Question Of Temperature, the Gang Of Four reunion album from a few years ago called Content, an album by The Minus Five collective featuring members of Young Fresh Fellows, The Decemberists, The Posies, R.E.M., Mudhoney and M. Ward’s band from 2009 called Killingsworth, the first album by The Baseball Project featuring members of the aforementioned bands above, an album by Wilco side project, The Autumn Defense from 2010 called Once Around and the album that today’s Song Of The Day hails from  by John Doe & The Sadies called Country Club. By far, the real find out of the bunch is the John Doe project…

What blossomed from a back stage jam session while on tour with the reunited Knitters in 2005, finally spawned the straight-ahead country album John Doe fans had always wished he recorded all along.

John Doe is a founding member of X, and while that band’s roots grew out of the L.A. punk scene, Doe has always been the country lonely heart stuck in the middle of all the havoc with one of the most soulful and plaintive voices of all time.

When X originally launched their side project, The Knitters with Dave Alvin on board for D.J. Bonebrake in 1985, it really was our first inkling that Doe could wrap his voice around a set of simpler Country-tinged tunes with acoustic backing and do a credible job at conveying the inherent emotions of the songs.

The Sadies are a Canadian roots group consisting of brothers Travis Good on guitars, fiddles and mandolins, Dallas Good on guitar and keyboards, Sean Dean on bass and Mike Belitsky on Drums, that offer Doe a highly sympathetic, superbly performed approximation of the Nashville Countrypolitan Sound of the 1960s on this collection of country standards.

Country Club is a heartfelt rollicking troll through the classic Country songbook featuring weather-worn favorites by the likes of Willie Nelson (“Night Life”), Roger Miller (“Husbands And Wives”), Johnny Cash (I Still Miss Someone”), Patsy Cline by way of Dwight Yoakam (“Stop The World And Let Me Off”), Bobby Bare (“Detroit City”), Elvis Presley (“(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I”), Porter Wagoner (“The Cold Hard Facts Of Life”), Hank Williams (“Take These Chains From My Heart”), Merle Haggard (“Are The Good Times Really Over For Good”) and Kris Krisofferson (“Help Me Make It Through The Night”).

The album also features four original tunes, one by Doe and X-band mate Exene Cervenka, called “It Just Dawned On Me,” plus three from the Sadies: “Pink Mountain Rag,” “The Sudbury Nickel” and “Before I Wake,” that blend in so well with the standards, you’d be hard pressed to pick them out from the rest of the bunch.

And just when you thought you’d heard these songs so many times that there would be nothing anyone could do to improve them in any way, John Doe comes along and records the record he was meant to make all along, and makes them his own.

Edited: May 26th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/23/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Guitar Man” by Jerry Reed

It was difficult to take Jerry Reed seriously, and one suspects it was all by his own design. Reed’s larger than life persona was that of a goofy country hick who sure could tell a tall tale, and numerous TV appearances on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and The Johnny Cash Show, novelty story-song records like “Lord, Mr. Ford” and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” and numerous movie appearances with the likes of Burt Reynolds and Adam Sandler cemented this notion in the psyche of the American music loving public. But Jerry Reed was a C.G.P.

The C.G.P., or Certified Guitar Player, was a title originated by the first C.G.P., Chet Atkins, and was only bestowed upon folks who not only totally mastered the guitar, but also contributed to the legacy of the instrument. Jerry Reed was one of only five pickers awarded the C.G.P. title. The other four were Chet Atkins, Steve Wariner, John Knowles and Tommy Emmanuel. But more than being a C.G.P., Reed was a showman with a flashy guitar style.

Reed possessed a singular staccato finger picking style that was often imitated, but hard to duplicate. When Elvis Presley chose to cover today’s Song Of The Day in 1967, he summoned Reed to the studio for the session because Presley was dissatisfied with the sound his band was getting on the track. As soon as Reed arrived and began playing, Presley’s face lit up and the session continued, garnering Presley and Reed a hit with the song.

Here’s an account of the circumstances of that session in Reed’s own words: “See, I had my own tuning, and they were trying to record “Guitar Man,” and they couldn’t make it feel like my record. And I forget if it was Pete Drake or Charlie McCoy or Chip Young – one of those musicians said, ‘Well, these guitar players in here are playing with straight picks, and, you know, Reed plays with his fingers. So they called me, and I went down, and I hooked up that electric gut string, tuned the B-string up a whole tone, and I toned the low E-string down a whole tone, so I could bar straight across, and as soon as we hit the intro, you could see Elvis’ eyes light up he knew we had it.”

After Presley recorded another Reed song, “U.S. Male,” Reed wrote and recorded a tribute to Elvis called “Tupelo Mississippi Flash,” which resulted in his first Top 20 hit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Reed got his start after Atlanta music publisher Bill Lowery helped him secure a songwriting and recording contract with Capitol Records when he was 16 years old.  And while he didn’t have any hits of his own during this period, his songs were covered by Brenda Lee and Gene Vincent, who scored a 1958 hit with his song ”Crazy Legs.”

Reed relocated to Nashville in 1961 to pursue his songwriting career and he garnered some success when Porter Wagoner scored a 1962 No. 1 country hit with his song “Misery Loves Company.”  It was around this time that Reed released his own singles “Goodnight Irene” and “Hully Gully Guitar” which brought him to the attention of musician and record label chief of RCA Nashville, Chet Atkins who began producing his sessions including the 1967 session that produced “Guitar Man.”

Reed continued to land hits on the charts throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including “Amos Moses” (#16/1970), “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” (#1/1971), “Ko-Ko Joe” (#11/ 1971), “Lord, Mr. Ford” (#1/1973), “I Love You (What Can I Say)” (#10/1978), “Sugar Foot Rag” (#12/1979), “She Got the Goldmine (I Got The Shaft)” (#1/1982), “The Bird” (# 2/1982), and “Down The Corner” (#13/1983). He also scored clout and credibility as a musician by recording a pair of popular albums (Me & Jerry and Me & Chet) with Chet Atkins in the early 1970s that have become a must-hear for all aspiring country pickers.

By the late ‘70s, Reed had gained recognition not only for a successful solo career but also as an ace session player. But this was never enough for Reed and Hollywood was beckoning, so he answered the call and became, you guessed it, a movie star. After appearing in the 1976 film Gator, Reed struck box office gold with Burt Reynolds in the 1977 film Smokey And The Bandit. The film also spawned another #1 hit for Reed with “East Bound And Down.”

Reed appeared as Reynolds’ sidekick, Cledus Snow in three Smokey And The Bandit movies as well as garnering parts in other films of dubious distinction including High-Ballin’ (1978), Stroker Ace (1983), What Comes Around (1985, of which he also directed), Bat*21 (1988) and The Waterboy  (1998) which also starred Adam Sandler. While none of these movies helped his credibility as a recording artist, he did score several novelty hits and also made a boat-load of money.

Reed died in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 1, 2008, of complications from emphysema.

Edited: May 22nd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/7/13

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Undo The Right” by Willie Nelson

“If you can’t say you love me say you hate me,

And that you regret each time you held me tight,

If you can’t be mine forever then forsake me,

If you can’t undo the wrong, undo the right.”

Totally brilliant in its simplicity!

And so is this demo recording made for Pamper Music, the music publishing company owned by Ray Price and Hal Smith. Only Willie Nelson could put this song over so matter of fact, and that’s why he is not only considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time, but also one of the greatest song stylists bar none. His vocals are unique and utterly resourceful so as not to over sing a single note. There’s a lesson to be learned here for all of the American Idols out there who believe putting a song over means over singing, and never hitting a note square on the head.

The Pamper demos were all one-take affairs recorded primarily between 1961 and 1966. “We would cut fifteen; sometimes twenty songs in one session…The publisher would make us wait until we had that many songs before we’d be allowed to go into the studio.” (Willie Nelson)

Some of the later Pamper sides had backing by a crack band with Willie Ackerman and Buddy Harmon on drums, Bob Moore, Roy ‘Junior’ Huskey and Floyd ‘Lightnin’ Chance on bass, Hargus ‘Pig’ Robinson on piano, Ray Edenton and Pete Wade on guitars and Jimmy Day and Buddy Emmons on pedal steel guitar.

That’s Jimmy Day on the pedal steel here, both he and Nelson were members of The Cherokee Cowboys, which was Ray Price’s backing group in 1961 when this was committed to tape.

Record Store Day this year saw the release of the Willie Nelson vinyl album Crazy – The Demo Sessions on Sugar Hill Records, featuring fifteen of the Pamper Demos including the Nelson classics “Are You Sure,” “Crazy,” “Things To Remember,” “Are You Sure,” “Three Days” (a #3 hit for Faron Young) and “I’ve Destroyed The World” that Ray Price took to the top twenty of the charts.

Edited: May 6th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/26/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “One Too Many Mornings” by Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash

Still a mystery to me why these recordings have never been officially released…

The Dylan-Cash Sessions took place in Nashville’s Columbia Studio A on February 17-18, 1969 at the tail end of the Nashville Skyline recording sessions. During the same week that Dylan turned in such indelible recordings as “I Threw It All Away,” “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You,” Johnny Cash, who had been recording in an adjoining  studio turned up for some recording fun.

What transpired was several days of session in which the two traded songs and laid some duets down on tape with an eye toward making a record together. In the studio with Dylan and Cash were the cream of the Nashville session elite including Norman Blake on guitar and dobro, Kenny Buttrey on drums, Fred Carter, Jr. on guitar, Charlie Daniels on bass, Pete Drake on pedal steel, Marshall Grant on bass, W.S. Holland on drums,  Charlie McCoy on guitar and harmonica, Bob Wilson (crucially) on the organ and piano and Bob Wootton on electric guitar.

The fifteen selections that have been widely circulated include jovial run-throughs of Cash standards like “Big River,” “I Walk The Line,” “Ring Of Fire,” “Guess Things Happen That Way” and “I Still Miss Someone,” plus Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and today’s Song Of The Day, “One Too Many Mornings,” and versions the rock and roll classics “Matchbox,” “That’s All Right Mama” and “Mystery Train.”

Not enough music came out of the loose sessions deemed worthy of release at the time except “Girl From The North Country,” which opened Nashville Skyline. So the rest sat on the shelves at Columbia and in the hands of lucky collectors.

It totally knocks me out that footage exists of these sessions at all, but here is a YouTube clip of the two in the studio. Cash handles the lion share of the lead vocals here and on most of the recordings, and Dylan seem somewhat out of his element with his vocals. That said, you can hear the mutual respect the two artists have for each other in every note of the joyful music they made.

Nashville Skyline  went on to be a big success, giving Dylan his biggest hit to date with “Lay Lady Lay.”

Edited: February 25th, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/4/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Mercy Seat” by Johnny Cash

By the year 2000 and the third album in the American series, Johnny Cash had reestablished himself as one of the greatest singers, not just in country music, but in all music. Producer, Rick Rubin, began working with him several years before and allowed Johnny Cash do what he did best in the studio…be JOHNNY CASH!

Cash began working with Rick Rubin in 1994. Rubin was the founder  of Def Jam Records, and was responsible for producing seminal recordings by Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys. It must have taken quite a leap of faith for Johnny Cash to, not only work with Rick Rubin who was much younger than him, but to put his career in hia hands.

When they first began working together, Cash’s career was pretty much over. He had recorded several ho-hum records for Mercury Records during the mid-to-late 1980s that were nothing special, and even resorted to re-recording some of his older hits for the label. I caught Cash in concert in a small New York City bar back in 1986 when he was touring behind the album Water From The Wells Of Home. His career was so far off the mark, that the place was not even half full, although I must say that he was terrific. The performance was marred by his proclivity to allow his son and wife to take precious concert time away from the main attraction, in order for them to perform their own second-rate material.

Rubin’s whole modus operandi  with Cash was to make bare guitar and voice recordings that would highlight what a great interpreter of material he was. In doing so, Rubin sent Cash tapes of songs he liked, exposing him to material he had never heard by the likes of Tom Petty, Beck, Soundgarden, U2 and Nick Cave, who wrote today’s Song Of The Day.

For American III: Solitary Man,  Rubin assembled an all-star list of backing musicians including Norman Blake, Mike Campbell, Randy Scruggs and Marty Stuart on guitar, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard and Shreyl Crow on backing vocals and Bentmont Tench on organ. “The Mercy Seat”  is probably Cash’s most harrowing recording, even more so than Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ original from their 1988 album Tender Prey.

Of the five American Recordings albums, not to mention the five CD Cash Unearthed box set with more Rubin/Cash collaborations, the American III: Solitary Man album is one of the most enjoyable on every level mainly because of its superb choice of cover songs by Tom Petty (“I Won’t Back Down”), Neil Diamond (“Solitary Man”) and U2 (“One”).  Together, Cash and Rubin formulated a record that kept Johnny Cash not only relevant with the hip cognoscenti,  but also true to himself as a recording artist.

And as for what Nick Cave thought about Cash’s cover, his pride oozes out of every word in the following quote… “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, Johnny Cash recorded my song.”

Edited: February 3rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 1/2/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” by The Seldom Scene

They sure love their bluegrass in Virginia! I lived in Alexandria for five years, and during that time I was exposed lots of great bluegrass music via a weekly local Sunday morning radio show. As is still the case now, the best venue to go see live bluegrass music was at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. And from the late ‘60s through the late ‘80s, The Seldom Scene played there every Thursday night to mostly sold out audiences with guest like Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, John Prine, Lowell George and Vince Gill sitting in.

I was saddened to hear of the loss of Mike Auldridge, one of the greatest dobro players in all of bluegrass music, who died this past Saturday. Auldridge was a founding member of The Seldom Scene. The classic lineup of the Scene formed in Bethesda, Maryland in 1971 and included Auldridge on dobro and vocals, John Starling on lead vocals and guitar, John Duffey (originally of Country Gentlemen) on mandolin, Ben Eldridge on banjo and Tom Gray (also of Country Gentlemen) on bass.

When they formed, it was decided that the group would be a non-touring band who performed once a week, first at the Red Fox Inn in Bethesda, MD (for the first 6 years), and then at The Birchmere in Alexandria. Each member of the group kept their day jobs as well – Starling was a doctor, Duffey repaired musical instruments, Auldridge was a graphic artist, Eldridge a mathematician and Gray made maps for “National Geographic.”

While their album “Live At The Cellar Door” (1974) is the best representation of what it was like to attend a gig by the original lineup, this essential lineup of musicians also recorded a clutch of great studio albums including the classic “Act I,” “Act II” & ”Act III” albums (1972-3), “Old Train” (1973) and “The New Seldom Scene Album” (1976). While the Scene performed their fair share of the classic bluegrass repertoire, their appeal was more to college educated urban types due to their penchant of amply mixing songs by James Taylor, Steve Goodman, Bobby Darin, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan into their mix.

By the time I first caught them at The Birchmere in the early 1980s; Starling had left the group and was replaced by the equally talented singer Phil Rosenthal. This was the only lineup of the group that I had the pleasure to experience on several occasions. The level of musicianship in this group was astoundingly high, and in John Duffy, the group had an amicable performer with a larger-than-life personality who was responsible for most the group’s between song patter. Duffy passed away in 1996 after suffering a heart attack. The group still performs regularly today with a lineup helmed by original member Ben Eldridge.

This past year, Mike Auldridge was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship and completed a trio album with fellow Dobro players Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes. Today’s Song Of The Day was recorded at The Lisner Auditorium in Washington DC on March 1, 1973.

Edited: January 1st, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 12/21/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I Lost My Job Of Loving You” by Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale

Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale are superb songwriters and troubadours. They are country music journeymen who spend their life on the road making music, supporting other musicians and supporting each other.

Miller has recorded many records with his wife Julie (under the moniker Buddy & Julie Miller), and has worked with Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Solomon Burke and numerous others. Grammy Award winner, Lauderdale has has worked with and or written songs for George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, The Dixie Chicks, Ralph Stanley (of The Stanley Brothers), Dave Edmunds, Donna The Buffalo, Larry Campbell, Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead lyricist), Hot Tuna, Elvis Costello, Mary Chapin Carpenter and a whole host of others as well.

Together, they’ve sessioned on each other’s albums over the years and they host The Buddy And Jim Show, a roots country radio show on the Sirius Radio network. It was only a matter of time before both Miller and Lauderdale would join forces for a proper duo album, Buddy And Jim, just released on the New West record label.

The record was recorded at Miller’s home studio and you can feel the comfortable vibe of camaraderie that runs through songs like the finger-popping “South In New Orleans,” the sinuously rocking “Vampire Girl,” the off-kilter goof that is “The Wobble,” and the chugging bluegrass of “The Train That Carried My Girl Away.” Too bad this record didn’t come out earlier in the year, because a record this fun would have surely made my top albums list. Today’s Song Of The Day video is a live version of the record’s lead-off track.

Edited: December 20th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 12/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Good Year For The Roses” by Elvis Costello & The Attractions

They were young, drunk, marketed as punk rockers and cut loose in Nashville, Tennessee, behaving very badly. Such was the backdrop for Elvis Costello and the Attraction’s album-length foray into straight-ahead Country music back in 1981. Costello was coming off a white-hot streak of records including 1977’s “My Aim Is True,” followed by “This Year’s Model” in 1978, “Armed Forces” in 1979, and both “Trust” and the 20-track “Get Happy” record in 1980, all stuffed to the gills with self-penned classic songs. Add to that the 20-track “Taking Liberties” album that gathered up the rest of the stray British singles and B-sides, and Costello fans had a ton of consistently great material to sink their teeth into. Although the idea and reality of Costello releasing a full-blown Country collection, especially one of covers, came as a shock to his fans in 1981, it really shouldn’t have. Right from the beginning, Costello had flirted with Country music, recording songs like “Alison” on his debut album in 1977, “Different Finger” for “Trust” in 1980, “Motel Matches” on “Get Happy,” (also 1980) and “Stranger In The House,” which was originally recorded for “My Aim Is True” and left off only to turn up on a bonus single included with first pressings of the British version of “This Year’s Model.” He’d also recorded a duet version of “Stranger” with the song’s composer, country legend George Jones, for a TV special called “My Special Friends.” (The footage of their duet shows a very under-the-weather Elvis Costello deep in the throes of the mumps with glands that are visibly swollen.) When “Almost Blue” was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public, it was met with utter disbelief that Costello would do something that seemed so radical. And, indeed, the record was pretty unfairly shrugged off by much of his fan-base, becoming the black sheep of his catalog for many years (only later to be replaced by “The Juliet Letters,” but that’s for another time). For the album, Legendary producer Billy Sherrill (best known for his string-laden production work with Tammy Wynette) was brought in to helm the project, and the Attractions were augmented by pedal steel player, John McFee, who had sessioned on a whole host of records by the likes of Van Morrison, Steve Miller Band, Grateful Dead, The Doobie Brothers (where he replaced Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter in 1979) and numerous others. McFee had also previously played the pedal steel with Costello on his first U.S. hit, “Alison.” The album included credible and inspired cover versions of songs by Gram Parsons (“I’m Your Toy” and “How Much I Lied”), Hank Williams (“Why Don’t You Love Me”), Merle Haggard (“Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”), Patsy Cline (“Sweet Dreams”) (written by Don Gibson), Charlie Rich (“Sittin’ And Thinkin’”) and George Jones who wrote this song, which was one of the album’s singles. On tour for the album, Costello performed the single “I’m Your Toy” at The Royal Albert Hall backed by a full orchestra and released the resultant recordings on British 12” and 7” singles for the F-Beat label. I caught the “Almost Blue” tour on New Year’s Eve 1981-1982 at the now-defunct Palladium in New York City. Elvis and the Attractions came out for the first set and played 90-minutes of Country hits with John McFee on pedal steel, and then came back at the stroke of midnight launched into “Lipstick Vogue” and followed it with a 90 minute set of solid rock ‘n’ roll…a great way to begin 1982. When the album first came out, it was accompanied by a promotional vinyl version with Elvis offering spoken introductions to each song. Almost Blue” has been reissued on CD several times over the years with incarnations on Columbia, Rykodisc, Rhino and Universal Music. The Rhino two-disc version is the one to own because it includes 27 bonus tracks, easily tripling the length of the record. Costello would dip his toes into Country Music many times over the years, most recently on his “Secret, Profane and Sugarcane” album in 2009.

Edited: December 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/30/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Five Feet High And Rising” by Johnny Cash

Here’s another one for family and friends on the East Coast who are enduring the big storm. While Sandy blows through your town, I hope you are hangin’ tight with enough food, water, booze and most importantly, electricity! While “Frankenstorm” is indeed a force of nature not to be messed with, so was Johnny Cash, and here’s a song that may cut a little too close to the bone for you all back east. This autobiographical account of a flood the Cash family endured on their Arkansas farm when Johnny was a child first appeared on the 1959 album “Songs Of The Soil.” With spare boom-chicka-boom accompaniment, a repetitive chorus and a modulation in key every time the flood waters of the song rise, Cash manages to capture the drama of a devastating event in song.

Edited: October 29th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 10/9/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Long Haired Country Boy” by Charlie Daniels Band

Before he became a right-wing zealot, recording TV-sold religious records, Charlie Daniels was a superb session musician, songwriter and producer. Daniels wrote songs for Elvis Presley (“It Hurts Me”) in the early 1960s, and played on numerous late ‘60s sessions for producer Bob Johnston including on records by Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Marshall Tucker Band and three Bob Dylan albums (“New Morning,” “Nashville Skyline” and “Self Portrait”). With his own Charlie Daniels Band, he scored numerous hits including “Uneasy Rider” (‘Ol Green Teeth, anyone?), “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” the jingoistic “In America” and the number one smash “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” for which he won a 1979 Grammy Award. This song is from “Fire On The Mountain,” his most consistent album recorded in 1974. First pressings of the album came with a free 7” EP featuring live recordings from the first Volunteer Jam concert. Daniels’ Volunteer Jam concerts began in 1974 highlighting him and many others in his Southern Rock cohort and still continue today.

Edited: October 8th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/26/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee

Well, it is Yom Kippur…and what better way to atone for sins than to apologize with a little help from Little Miss Dynamite and her 1960 smash hit. Brenda Lee was 15 years old when she recorded the song and Decca Records held back the release of the single because they thought she was too young to be sorry for, well, anything. When it was finally released on a single, it was the flip-side to the up-tempo hit “That’s All You Gotta Do” until DJs flipped the record over and landed it directly on the top of the charts. So, there you have it…a deeply felt “I’m Sorry.”

Edited: September 25th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/22/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Trying” by Dwight Yoakam

It’s been seven years since Dwight Yoakam’s last album of original material and although time has moved on, it has seemingly stood still when it comes to this album…and that, of course, is a good thing. Yoakam has been treading the line between honky-tonk country and roots rock ‘n’ roll for over 30 years and his approach and sound on the 12 sturdy tracks of “3 Pears” is chock full of the rockin’ soul and painful ache we’ve come to love him for. It was a meeting with Beck Hanson (aka Beck) that got him back into the recording studio in the first place, and Beck turns up here as producer of two tracks. Elsewhere, Kid Rock collaborates on the album’s opener, “Take Hold Of My Heart,” a song that Yoakam began writing 19 years ago and sounds like an outtake from Bruce Springsteen’s “The River.” And no Yoakam album would be complete without at least one full-on honky-tonk cover, and “3 Pears’” offering is the Joe Maphis classic “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” which is probably better known to rock fans by the Flying Burrito Brothers recording. Elsewhere dashes of horn flourishes provide a soulful bed for “It’s Never Alright” to sleep in, Springsteen-ish bells light up the title track and Beatle-esque touches abound on “Long Way To Go,” adding up to a welcome return for Yoakam on “3 Pairs.”

Edited: September 22nd, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 9/11/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Plank” by The Devil Makes Three

I enjoy going to music festivals even at my advanced age (for festivals) of 51 years old. Sure there’s lots of crap you’ve got to put up with…audience surges…crowd surfers…extreme weather…lethal body odor…but discovering music you would have never heard otherwise far outweighs the aforementioned disadvantages of putting yourself out there for three days at a clip. Such was the case at Lollapalooza this past summer when early on the Sunday schedule I walked up to the stage where Devil Makes Three’s set was already in progress. The trio from Santa Cruz, California of guitarist/vocalist Pete Bernhardt, banjo, vocalist and guitarist Cooper McBean and stand-up bass and vocalist Lucia Turino were already well into their set of self-penned tunes that melded bluegrass, folk, country and blues together into a roots brew that was a breath of fresh air against the steady din of electronica and metal that most of the Lolla acts offered. That’s not to say that Lollapalooza didn’t offer its share of great moments and music this summer, it’s just that it was nice to see an acoustic trio with well written songs getting some early afternoon appreciation. This song is the lead track on the group’s 2002 self-titled debut album. They’ve since released three more long players, including their latest which is a live album. In addition, Pete Bernhardt has released two solo records.

Edited: September 10th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 5/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Delia’s Gone” by Johnny Cash

Stark, stately and positively harrowing is this murder ballad from Johnny Cash’s first Rick Rubin-produced “American Recordings” album from 1994. The song stems from the actual murder of Delia Green by Moses “Cooney” Houston which took place in Savannah, Georgia in 1900. Both the victim and the murderer were 14 years old and had been dating each other for a few months. One night Cooney was very drunk and began teasing Delia. Delia called Cooney a son of a bitch which held much wait back in those times and Cooney replied by pulling his gun out and shooting Delia. Cooney was sentenced to life in prison but served only twelve years before being pardoned in 1913. The song became a popular murder ballad first recorded by Blind Willie McTell where he blamed Delia’s demise on her flirting with gamblers. In subsequent recordings by Pete Seeger, The Kingston Trio, David Bromberg, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash the facts become a little more distorted. This version has Cooney tying Delia up and shooting her point blank with his sub-machine gun.

Edited: May 14th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/16/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Barracuda” by Cliffie Stone

Talk about your double entendre record…well, I’ve never! This rude but somewhat right Rockabilly stomper by Cliffie Stone would never get passed the censors of today. Perhaps they didn’t know any better back in the late 1950s… Country musician, Stone was one of the first A&R guys at Capitol Records back in the late 1940s discovering Tennessee Ernie Ford and Hank Thompson. His TV show, “Hometown Jamboree,” became a launching pad for Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, Jim Reeves, Merle Travis, Tex Ritter and dozens of other artist who gained notoriety by appearing. He was also a pioneer of Rockabilly music recording numerous sides for Capitol that bridged the gap between country and rhythm ‘n’ blues.

Edited: April 15th, 2012

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 4/15/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “He’s My Baby” by Jean Shepard

There was an interesting time during the late 1950s where straight Country ‘n’ Western music melded with then-burgeoning Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues, giving birth to classic Rockabilly. Capitol records was a hotbed for Rockabilly recording crossover artists like Ferlin Husky, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Hank Thompson, Jerry Reed, Gene Vincent and Skeets McDonald. Jean Shepard was a member of The Grand Ole Opry who scored her first #1 hit back in 1953 as a duet with Ferlin Husky called “A Dear John Letter” and followed it with the top 10 hit “A Satisfied Mind” a few years later. She went on to become a star of recorded music and variety show TV during the 1950s and recorded this early Rockabilly gem in 1958. She married Hawkshaw Hawkins in 1960 who would perish in the same plane crash that took Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas. She went on to have country chart hits throughout the 1960s and 1970s and was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame last year.

Edited: April 14th, 2012

Song Of The Day – 11/3/11

Song Of The Day – “Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley

This Grammy-winning ditty written by Tom T. Hall topped the Country and Pop charts in 1968, a feat that would not be repeated by a song until Dolly Parton did the trick with “9 To 5″ in 1981. The song catapulted Riley to instant fame resulting in her own variety show on TV. It also spurred a 1978 movie and a 1981 TV series starring Barbara Eden. The song was given to Skeeter Davis first who declined to record it.

Edited: November 3rd, 2011

Song Of The Day – 10/28/11

Song Of The Day – “How Many Times Have You Broke My Heart” by Norah Jones with Kris Kristofferson & Elvis Costello

The lyrics to this song were written by Hank Williams and were left behind unrecorded in one of his “Lost Notebooks” of lyrics. The performance comes from Elvis Costello’s music interview TV show “Spectacle.” Norah’s studio version of this song can be found on the album “The Lost Notebooks Of Hank Williams.”

Edited: October 28th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 10/14/11

Song Of The Day – “Locomotive Man” by Johnny Cash

This 1960 single written by The Man In Black himself recently turned up on the “Bootleg Series II – From Memphis To Hollywood,” a collection of rare singles, outtakes and demos. “Bootleg Series III” was just released this week focusing on live performances from the 1950s through the 1970s…can’t wait to turn my ears in that direction.

Edited: October 14th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 8/26/11

Song Of The Day – “Half A Man” by Willie Nelson

Right from the outset everything was in place…timbre of voice…unique phrasing…clever lyrics…it was all there back in 1965…everything perhaps, except his beard was fully formed. The arrangement was standard for Nashville at the time with heaping helpings of strings and anonymous female background vocals. It still works for me.

Edited: August 26th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 8/24/11

Song Of The Day – “There Stands The Glass” by Webb Pierce

Along with Hank Williams, he was the epitome of Honky Tonk music in the 1950s. With his Nudie suits, garish guitars and guitar-shaped swimming pools, he provided a window into the high life of a Country star of his day. In the early ’50s he formed a band with then-unknown Floyd Cramer on piano and Faron Young on guitar…now that’s something!

Edited: August 24th, 2011

Song Of The Day – 5/21/11

Song Of The Day – “In The Jailhouse Now” by Jimmie Rodgers

If there was a Mt. Rushmore for Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers’ would be right next to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. Although his life was cut short by tuberculosis a scant 6 years after it started, Country music begins and ends with “The Singing Brakeman.” He was also the first artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame.

Edited: May 21st, 2011

Song Of The Day – 5/2/11

Song Of The Day – “Wildwood Weed” by Jim Stafford

Stafford got his start playing in a band that also included the late great, Gram Parsons. Throughout his career he dabbled in TV, comedy and writing. It was his keen sense of humor that brought him to the world’s attention via songs like this one, “My Girl Bill” and “Spiders And Snakes.” “Take a trip and never leave the farm…”

Edited: May 2nd, 2011

Song Of The Day – 4/4/11

Song Of The Day - “The Mercy Seat” by Johnny Cash

From Cash’s Rick Rubin-produced 2000 album “American III: Solitary Man,” comes this unsettling tale written by Nick Cave.  In the hands of its creator, this song is disturbing enough…in the hands of Cash it is harrowing. Did the song’s protagonist do it? You decide…

Edited: April 4th, 2011